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The Other Deep End

Yesterday I had one of those moments of perspective that you sometimes are given in life. I was at my mom’s house in the pool with Z, who just turned 3.

We have spent a lot of time in the water this summer since it is hotter than fried hell in Texas right now.

So, one of the things Z loves to do is to go to the deep end of the pool with me. Because of her age, we spend most of our time splashing around in the shallow end, but at least once or twice while we are swimming, I will ask her if she wants to go to the deep end with me. She always answers “YES!” with a lot of excitement.

Then we will paddle down to the other end of the pool and touch the side and call back to everyone in the shallow end, “Hello! We are here in the deep end!” Then we paddle back. It’s a little mini adventure and it is a delight to see her joy in it. She isn’t at all afraid.

So yesterday, same thing. We went down to the deep end, talked about how fun it was to be there, and paddled back. When we got back to the shallow water, Z looked at me, and then pointed across the pool the other direction- to the other side of the shallow part of the pool- and said, “I want to go to that other deep end over there now.”

Well.

I realized at that moment that of course to her, the entire pool is the deep end. All of it is over her head. And she is not fearful. We have safeguards in place. But she also knows she is not alone. We are always nearby to help her navigate and to let her safely try things on her own. If she gets in any sort of trouble though, one of us is never more than an arm’s reach away.

Oh friends.

To be more like Z.

How often do I feel afraid in the deep water of life when really, I am never anywhere that I am out of the reach of God, who is always there to hold me up. How often am I only in the “other deep end” that is only deep because it looks that way to me with my limited perception of the world, and my faith that needs to continue to grow and stretch.

And how fortunate are we all that God does not require us to understand the world in order to help us navigate through it.

Today, and in the coming weeks, as we begin a new school year, I pray I will be reminded that when I am feeling overwhelmed, I am only in the other deep end. I do not need to worry. I do not need to panic. I do not need to do it all alone.

I just need to take joy being in the water.

Happy Sunday.

Crumb Coat

Cake decorating is a little bit of a hobby of mine. I started learning how to do cakes many years ago when my kids were small as a way to save some money and add a personalized touch to celebrations. Lately I have been watching some cake decorating videos to get ideas for Z’s upcoming birthday.

Watching those videos has reminded me of one of the steps that is standard procedure in decorating cakes: the crumb coat.

The crumb coat is the first layer of icing that you put on a cake and, after you have done it, you usually still see some cake crumbs showing through.

Hence the name.

The second layer of icing goes on and is much smoother and prettier because the crumb coat is holding al the crumbs.

The crumb coat doesn’t make any difference in how the cake tastes. Sometimes I skip it, sometimes not. Just depends on the cake and the occasion. It can still be a delicious cake if you don’t make it beautiful.

And a beautiful cake can still taste like crap.

Last week I had lunch with my friend Pam and we had great conversation about so many things as we always do. Pam was my boss for many years and has always challenged and pushed my thinking in ways that helped me grow, both professionally and personally.

We have a lot in common, but we are different enough to keep it interesting. She hates my tattoos and we don’t always like the same books. I don’t really love Mac N Cheese like she does.

I could go on about how we are different, but in the big things, like how we should love our fellow man, we are the same.

We both feel like it is our job to love and not to judge.

We also agree on cussing. We are fine with it for the most part.

While we were having lunch the other day Pam asked me, “Do you think a person can use the F word and still be a good person?” I just started to laugh. She knows what I think about that. Over the past twenty or so years she has known me, Pam has heard me use that word dozens of times.

Now I know everyone doesn’t approve of cussing. Good news. If I know you don’t like it, I will try not to cuss around you. I know when to be professional. Also, I will never require you to cuss to be my friend. You do you boo.

And I’ll do me.

I do protest when people say, “Only uneducated people who don’t have a good vocabulary swear.”

Dammit. I have a great vocabulary and sometimes the cuss word is just the perfect word!

Anyway, I’ve been bouncing that conversation around in my head since last week.

Then a few nights ago, I had a super fun opportunity to host Open Mic night at a great local venue. It was a blast! There was great music, and my fabulously talented niece headlined and just knocked everyone’s socks off. Seriously I don’t think she knows how good she is!

It was laid back and everyone was friendly- like there was this great sense of community and support. I just love musicians.

There were only a very few moments I didn’t enjoy.

There was one act that was not musical. It was a stand-up comedy routine and I found it extremely offensive. I was going to describe some of the content- but no. I’m not going to do that.

Those who know me in person know I’m not that easily offended. (See above discussion on cussing for example) but, I was offended and I didn’t find the material funny at all. It was crude and stereotypical of several different groups of people.

I sat there for a while (longer than I should have) not laughing.

I tried giving him the teacher look, but that didn’t work.

I glanced around at the audience and felt somewhat better about the world because MOST people were not laughing.

I realized that I was feeling an obligation as the host to stay, but finally, I got up and walked out anyway.

And I’ve been reflecting on that today.

I know why I walked- It was my way of ’speaking up’ about what I thought.

I would have been fine with some cussing...
But not ridiculing people for who they are.

Here is what I am reflecting on: Should I have walked out sooner? Is there anything else I could have done differently in that moment to show that I was not complicit with his words?

Because, the fact is, you are just not going to get through this world liking everything anyone has to say, and you aren’t going to change everyone.

Probably, for example, you won’t get me to stop cussing.

I think it’s okay to cuss sometimes, and this guy obviously thought what he was saying was okay too.

What do I do with this?

Part of me feels sorry for him.

I’m struggling with how to approach people like this with love.

I’m struggling with how to not judge those who are cruel.

And I’m struggling with making sure I am not silent in the face of hate.

I like to give people the benefit of doubt. Just because some crumbs are showing doesn’t mean you aren’t a great cake! Just because you drop the F bomb sometimes doesn’t mean you aren’t a good person.

But.

Conversely.

It doesn’t matter how many layers of icing and beautiful buttercream roses a cake has if when you take a bite it is stale and moldy on the inside.

And.

We aren’t required to pretend that cake is good.

So that is where I am today. Feeling a little crummy, like maybe I didn’t do enough.

I welcome your thoughts and ideas on the subject.

Happy Sunday

Where God Is

I want to blog about my fabulous vacation but first off I have to start with what happened today, a week or so after vacation was over.

So my friend Kathy, is going through chemo. She is a total badass at kicking cancer’s butt. I get to sit with her during some of her treatments and I was there for some today.

Woo. The oncology center was busy. I thought perhaps because tomorrow is a holiday and they are closed it added to the usual busy-ness because it seemed extra crowded. I actually arrived before K did because she got caught at work for a bit. You read that right. She came to her treatment from work. Drove herself. She’s pretty amazing.

Anyway, I got there first so I just sat down to wait for her and I pulled out my yarn and crochet hook and got started on a scarf. In just a minute an interesting fellow sat down in one of the few remaining seats close to me. We smiled at each other- you know how you do in public like that.

He asked me how I was doing and I told him I was doing alright and I asked how he was. He didn’t say anything, but he smiled and nodded.

Now this fellow was interesting to me for a couple of reasons. One, he was maybe in his 70s I would guess, although it can be really hard for me to tell how old people are, and he was dressed in bright colors, in sort of tropical attire. He was a black man, and had this great white hair in a short afro and a wild white beard. He put me in mind of kind of an island Santa. He had a great smile too. And then the next thing he said to me was (I’m not kidding…) “Are you being good?” Dude! I was already thinking about Santa and then you ask that!?

I told him I was trying my best to be good. He said, “Well I see you are working on something.” Indicating the scarf.

Okay. Second reason I found him so interesting was that this wasn’t the usual small talk you know? I told him I was making a scarf and he told me he liked the yellow color I was using. Then he looked at me very seriously and said, “God is with you right now.”

Well.

I teared up a little you know? I mean, I KNOW God is always with us, but just to hear it put so simply and matter-of-factly was really touching. I nodded yes. He nodded yes and then K showed up and his friend showed up and we each started talking to our respective friends. We didn’t have anymore conversation with each other.
It was just one of those interactions that stayed with me. Just a little out of the ordinary. Not like, weird or anything, but unique.

When K and I got back into the infusion room we were talking with her nurse all about our girls beach trip. Four of us who have been friends for over forty years went to Destin and spent time with each other and the sea. It was the first trip we had all been on together and we had so much fun. We celebrated our long friendship- it's such a gift- and had these long conversations over coffee or wine, and remembered old times and made new memories. Some healing took place. We ate too much, We got sunburned. We laughed until we cried. And I’m just so glad we went. All the fun, fizzy, sandy memories of the trip bubbled up again.

God was certainly with us at the sea and in the infusion room too.

Coming back from our trip through airport security I got a pat down and hand swab. I usually get the pat down. I got one when we left out for vacation too. Kathy commented on it to me and I told her it usually happens. She said, “You are the least threatening looking person I saw. You even had on a Free Mom Hugs t-shirt.” Laughing I told her, “Maybe they think I am in disguise.”

But anyway.

God is even with us in the TSA line.

Now back at home reflecting on the day, the conversation from the waiting room comes back to me. Such a few simple words but, I wondered would I say that to someone? I believe it. But I don’t know that in my whole life I have ever just simply said to a stranger, for no apparent reason, “God is with you.” It was quiet and short and simple but I think that is just a disguise.

What powerful words that simple reminder can be. Sure, God can show off. He can be flashy if He wants to be. He can send us signs and wonders.

Or. He can send us a calm, smiling stranger who with no fuss and no fanfare, just quietly reminds us He is there.

I’m so glad.

So I’m here to tell you, where ever you are right now, God is with you too.

Happy Fourth.
Happy birthday Courtney!
10 down 8 to go Kathy- you got this!!
Thanks for reading.

Truthtellers

May is finally over. For educators, May lasts about 18 weeks. A smart colleague of mine compared it to tax season for accountants. I agree.

It is that time of year when we are saying goodbye. Because our school years have a definite end, often retirements are grouped about this time of year.

Friday it kind of hit me all at once. I had another retirement party and messages of thanks from two incredible educators who are leaving that I had the honor of working with over the years. I was a little teary when my friend Whitten walked into my office to ask me a question about something. I can’t remember what our brief conversation was about now, but the last thing she said as she left has stuck with me. She said something like, “The world needs truthtellers.”

She’s right.

That applies to whatever we were talking about that I can’t remember because, May, and it applies to a lot of other things as well.

It is June now and that means Father’s Day is barreling toward us and I can’t hardly breathe to think about it because it will be the first one without my dad.

I’m going to try to write now about some of the harder moments around my dad passing away. I have always processed by writing, but there are a lot of moments I am still not ready to look at hard yet. I guess I will just take a few at a time.

There are three truthtellers that figure into this part of the story and they all told the truth in different ways.

The first was with chocolate.

There was a minister who visited the ICU waiting room on more than one occasion while we spent time waiting to know if Dad was going to be okay. He had what he referred to as a chocolate ministry. He made this truly incredible homemade chocolate that he brought to people who were waiting. He offered conversation and prayer too- but the chocolate- ghost pepper, raspberry, mint…all kinds… was offered with no expectations. As I took the shiny little blue box from his outstretched hands, he explained that he was there if we needed him. I remember opening that box and being surprised at the chocolate and I thanked him for it. He said that sometimes we needed to be reminded of the goodness and sweetness in life. Or words to that effect. It is a blur in many ways. I do remember telling him that chocolate was also good for keeping dementors away. I appreciated his belly laugh at that. I told him a little about Dad’s condition and he told the truth by what he didn’t say. He didn’t say it would all be okay. He didn’t say I shouldn’t feel sad. He didn’t ask me to examine my faith. He didn’t pretend that the situation didn’t totally suck. I am thankful for that truthtelling… and for the chocolate.

The next truthteller was my brother. My sister is a truthteller too, but I can’t write her part yet. I don’t look too good in that part of the story, and I’m still too tender to share it.

So, my little brother told the truth in many ways. Two of them are burned into my memory. The last time my brother and sister and I were going into the hospital to see Dad, when there was not a lot of hope for recovery, I remember Steven saying, “Today there is going to be a miracle at this hospital. Either Dad is going to be okay, or he is going to go to Heaven. Either way, that is a miracle.” After Dad died, when we were leaving the hospital in the early hours of the morning, my giant little brother, who had been our rock so much of the time, fell to his knees, for just a moment. You know, sometimes great pain is physically overwhelming. I remember thinking how much respect I had for him in that moment. He was not afraid to tell the truth to himself- it hurt so much- and then he got up and carried on. He was not afraid to be human and vulnerable. I knew my kid brother was a great guy. I didn’t know just exactly how strong and wise he was until we went though this experience together.

And finally.

The neurologist.

We listened carefully to what all of the doctors and nurses on Dad’s care team had to say. But, when the neurologist arrived to talk about my Dad’s amazing brain, we dropped- literally- whatever we were doing or eating or saying to run and hear what he was going to tell us. His job could not have been easy, faced with a sleep-deprived, scared family hanging on to what hope he might hold out. He gave us the bad news calmly and clearly, but with human warmth. When we tried to spin it, he didn’t spin. Brene Brown says clear is kind. That neurologist did not say what I wanted him to say, but he did not hold out false hope. He told the truth. He was clear. It was time to say goodbye to our dad.

So that is it. Three truthtellers.

Thank you for taking time to read my self-therapy. I hope you will take time to give thanks for the truthtellers in your life. They are precious, even if the situation is not so dramatic. Can you think of a time someone told you that you had a hair sticking up or broccoli in your teeth in a way that let you know they cared? That is a gift. I am blessed to be surrounded by kind-spirited truthtellers in my life.

We do need truthtellers even when we don’t want to hear what they have to tell us.

Especially when we don’t want to hear.

That’s all I got tonight. It’s messy, but sometimes that is how life is.

Speak the truth in love, and have a sweet Saturday.

Three Of Us

Yesterday we had a retirement party for my friend Julie. (I’m going to miss her so much!) and as I looked at the pictures from the event, there is one I just love of our team together.

In the pic there are 11 of us. Some are missing. One is out because she has a new grandbaby. Some were there but had to leave before the picture was taken. In this picture, we don’t look all that diverse. We are all white (but that is only because everyone isn’t there) and there is only one male (also due to missing members) but let me tell you about my amazing and diverse team:

We are not all alike.

In the picture, four of us are wearing glasses.

One of us is a redhead.

10 of us have dogs.

One of us is losing hair and wearing a hat.

Eight of us are parents.

One of us kicked cancer’s ass.

One of us walked the 3 day.

One of us has bungee jumped in New Zealand.

Three of us have been divorced.

One of us is a grandparent.

Three of us are gay.

Some of us like wine.

Some of us don’t drink.

Some of us are Democrats.

Some of us are Republicans.

Some of us are Independents.

Some of us are native Texans.

Some of us are not.

Some of us have lost parents.

All of us are married.

All. Of. Us. Are. Married.

But… for three of us, marriage was not legal until 2015.
Because three of us are gay.

It doesn’t matter which three. You can’t tell by looking. I mean, I’m not posting a picture, but trust me. You. Can’t. Tell.

Here’s the thing I’m thinking of right now: I’m looking at this picture of people I love…people I have laughed with, cried with, planned with, agonized with, and some of them are gay…and when somebody comes at the rights and dignity of people who are gay (In 2019, good grief) they come at my friends.

And honestly, I hate that. So. Damn. Much.

It has only been four years since my friends have had the same right as me about marrying the person they love.

I almost still can’t get my mind around it.

I look at each face in the picture-

All of us are smart.

All of us have strong opinions.

All of us care deeply about our families.

All of us are dedicated to our profession.

All of us have wonderful, interesting stories to tell.

And all of us are pretty good-looking if I do say so myself. (Some of us are smart-asses… I’ll let you work out that for yourselves.)

All of us deserve to be treated with the same human dignity and rights. All of us in the picture do, and all of us on the planet do.

I would say more, but there is a two year old who doesn’t care one bit about my right to blog.

So until next time.
Happy Friday.
We will miss you Julie!

A Man Named Alex

I just killed a mosquito on my forearm. He landed there while I was contemplating life and not writing. Like, I’ve been staring at a work in progress for 47 minutes and I literally only added a hyphen and then later removed it.

Then the mosquito..uh..distracted me from all the not writing and I smashed it with a little extra vengeance and…this is gross…when I brushed the carcass off my arm, the stinger was still there STUCK IN MY ARM. Blech mosquitoes.

And then, because my brain apparently works like those If You Give a Mouse a Cookie books, that made me think of an encounter I had Friday afternoon. Before I tell the story, I want to be sure to make it clear that I am NOT comparing this guy to a mosquito in any philosophical way. You know – I don’t mean that he was a bloodsucker. I am not making a judgement of the guy at all. It WAS however a very interesting interaction.

Okay, so Friday after work I was stopped at the light at Davis and Division. I was on Davis heading south, so I was facing the railroad tracks. I was the first, and for a time the only, car at the intersection. I was keeping an eye on the railroad crossing because I always seem to get stopped by the train there after work and I really just wanted to get home. I had a terrible splitting headache that had come on suddenly. My ears were ringing and I felt like I had a couple of spikes in my head. I didn’t even have the radio on because of this.

At this intersection to the left there is a little convenience store, and to the right are some apartment/hotel rooms that are … not nice. If you live in my town you know what I mean and if you don’t, well you still know what I mean. They have a reputation for being a place you keep your doors locked around. The convenience store serves as a grocery for some of the people who live in this place. I often see folks carrying food from the store to the apartments because it is in walking distance. There is often at least one person on foot at this intersection.

Friday was no exception.

As I sat watching the train tracks and waiting for the light to change, a flash of neon green from the left caught my attention. A man, I’d say early 20s in age, though who can tell these days, was crossing the street in front of my car. He looked younger than most of my kids. He was wearing a neon green shirt, and jeans that were sagging so low they were barely clinging to his body. I mean, this sag style just defies the laws of physics sometimes! He had a normal build- neither overweight or very thin. He was bald.

He also had a small star-shaped face tattoo.

I know that bit of information because as he crossed the street in front of me, he turned and made eye contact, then changed direction and walked over to my driver side window- which was up- and leaned in to look at me. I felt a little bit like a fish in an aquarium.

He stood close enough to the car that he brushed against it as he moved, which he did constantly. He shifted his weight from foot to foot, bobbing from side to side and somehow up and down. Kinda like… a mosquito. He made quick, jerky movements, flailing his arms a bit and nodding his head up and down and side to side. It just put me in mind of some sort of evasive maneuvers…as if he were trying to avoid unseen swats.

He stood there for a moment, possibly waiting for me to roll down my window. I did not. He leaned in and began talking to me through the glass. “MY NAME IS ALEX!!”

I nodded.
I waved.
Not a wave to indicate he should go away, but a wave to show I had heard him, and I was friendly but I was not going to roll down the window. I know that is asking a lot from a small wave, but I was trying to make sort of a lot of decisions in the moment. I added a smile. Alex began to talk very quickly. I could not understand most of the words because he was mumbling. I heard “Represent and drug and addicts.”

Then, mid-sentence…or possibly mid-word, I couldn’t tell, another car drove up behind me and Alex, jerked toward it with his whole body and then ran away from my car and across the intersection toward the hotel/apartment building.

I watched him go filled with curiosity. A moment ago he had been intent on communicating with me. I felt…unsure of how to feel. The light turned green and I drove off. Now I realize I may have been in some danger, but he didn’t try my door- which was locked, he didn’t hit my window, he didn’t threaten me, and I did not see any sort of weapon. I did see a person, I am sure, who was in some sort of need.

I turned the moments over in my head thinking what I might have done differently. Slip a dollar through a cracked window? Offer to call someone for him? Neither of those seemed too helpful and as much as I want to lend a helping hand, I also want to get my own self home safe.

I was a couple of blocks away when I began to pray for him. I earnestly prayed for Alex and whatever his needs might be the rest of the way home. He may have been a slightly intimidating person, but I had looked into his eyes for several minutes. I felt a connection to him as a human being on the planet. Alex is a child of God, just like me. God loves him, just like me, and God knows his every need…just like He does mine.

And that was the end of it until Alex crossed my mind again today.

I wonder about him and so many other people who are walking through the world with challenges I do not know. Maybe he was put in my path so I would pray for him. Or maybe so he would pray for me. Or maybe both.

Whatever the reason, here I am now, asking you to join me in praying for Alex in whatever way you are led. As always, feel free to throw in a prayer for me as well.

I am comforted that God has us all in the hollow of His hand and that He knows our every need, even when we do not. He knows when we are unsure and He knows our hearts when we do not know what to do. And He is good all the time.

Even though He made mosquitoes.

Now I’m going back to staring at my manuscript. Maybe it does need that hyphen after all…

Happy Sunday.

Ugly Easter Eggs

Ugly Easter Eggs.

Earlier this week I boiled some eggs so Z could dye them for Easter. So yesterday, on Easter, I peeled them to make deviled eggs.

If you have ever made deviled eggs, you know that sometimes the peel comes off effortlessly. It will pull off almost in one piece with the membrane attached and you have a beautiful, smooth boiled egg to use in your dish. A thing of beauty.

And sometimes it does not peel off easily. You crack it and every little piece sticks, or worse digs into the egg. Sometimes you pull a piece of shell off and it takes some of the egg with it, leaving a rough, cracked surface to work with.

Usually with a dozen or so eggs, I have one or maybe two that are difficult like this. Sometimes I can grab the membrane and get it going okay even if it starts badly, but usually, once it starts to go bad, it stays that way.

Most eggs peel nice and easy.

I have heard different tricks about water temperature and method of cracking to make it go smoothly. I have no action research to support these methods as effective.

Sometimes, it's just not a good peel.

Yesterday this happened to me with EVERY. SINGLE. EGG. Every one of them. I ended up with the ugliest batch of deviled eggs I have ever made. Sure they tasted fine, but they looked like I had put them through a cheese grater.

And I was so frustrated while I peeled those eggs.

Since March, it has been one bad peel after another.

My dad died.

I have lost two friends and another friend has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

I jacked up my knee.

I’m fighting with my husband.

My fourteen-year-old is a butt-head.

...Well, actually, that last part isn’t new…

Zoe has been in trouble for cussing at daycare and I’m pretty sure that is my fault.

I feel like I’m walking around with pieces of hard shell sticking out of me.

Are there bright spots? Of COURSE there are. God is good all the time.

But I’m cracked.

My dad is not coming back. Cancer is never not going to suck. Fourteen-year-olds will always be butt-heads. (Fight me on that one…)

I can’t write. Can’t seem to get anything done. Every little thing seems overwhelming. A day has not yet come since March 6, in which I have not, at some point, cried.

What is God doing?

Why am I in this bad egg season?

I don’t know.

And…

it doesn’t matter.

There is a reason. Of that I am sure.

Perhaps it is time for me to grow and stretch.

Perhaps it is time for me to be quiet and listen.

Perhaps there are lessons I need to learn in the small every day moments that I have blown past in a hurry for the last few years of making shit happen in my life.

For example-- last week I had all this stuff for Z’s Easter basket and I kept just looking at the pile of it thinking, “I have GOT to put that basket together!”

It was just one more thing you know?

And I was feeling overwhelmed by it. I WANTED to do it. But it was too much.

Then I saw a post on FB that a friend had made. A picture of the Easter Basket she put together for her new son…a child she and her husband had prayed and waited for for many years. She wrote: Every year for the past decade I’ve dreamed of making this basket for Baby J. Sometimes I still feel like it’s a dream.

How beautiful is that?

I read her words and looked over at Z’s basket and I thought, “I GET to do that.”

God is doing something intentionally for me and I KNOW it is for my good, because I know HIM. And I know He loves me…even with hard, broken bits sticking out all over, He loves me.

That is an amazing gift.

What I want, is to get to the end of this…lesson or what ever it is…and come out wiser and full of grace, and you know…smooth. But I’m not sure it is going to happen like that at all. So. I am giving up my vision of how I think it should be and just… trusting in God.

On Wednesday, I GET to go to Chemo with my friend. I GET to be with her. She has been there for me so many times. I’m thankful for the opportunity to get to show her in some way how much I love her. And I GET to watch her kick cancer’s ass, because I have no doubt she will continue to do that.

So. That’s all I guess. For now.

I’m an ugly Easter egg. But it’s okay.

And the undeniable truth wrapped in that fact, is that Easter happened and, even though this is a messy, confusing chapter, its still part of the story with the same happy ending. The tomb was empty. It was empty for all of us- good, cracked, rough, smooth, whatever.

I can’t wait to see what God does next.
Happy Monday.

Eulogy for my Father

My Dad’s last day on this planet was March 6, 2019. I had him in my life for 55 years. It was a great blessing and it was not long enough. My sister and brother and I spoke at his memorial service on March 16 and I have had some people ask me about my speech. I’m sharing it here for those people, and also because I want the world to understand what an incredible man my father was. This is a big hurt. It is a different grief than I have experienced before, and I have not yet arrived at a new normal. I feel all of the prayers and wishes and am so thankful for my circle of people.

At Dad’s service my brother and sister both told stories about Dad that I had not heard before. They were small moments, that now are big moments. My brother told of a time Dad threw him in the pool and he sank to the bottom- where he kicked off. My sister told of a time Dad was waiting with his hand outstretched to help her. I treasure both of their stories because now I have those memories of Dad to add to the trove of wonderful things I will always remember. Dad really did teach us to kick off when we reached bottom, and he was also there holding out a hand to help.

So here is my eulogy for Dad. For those of you who knew him, I think you will smile at these stories, and for those of you who didn’t, I’m sorry you missed out on knowing such an exceptional human being. Dad really lived, and he taught us to do the same. He did not waste his time here. I do not plan to waste mine.

Eulogy for My Dad

I have so many great memories of Dad. He gave me a lot of good advice over the years. He told me to trust myself. He told me life could be hard but it was worth it. And he told me that if you argue about furniture long enough when you are getting a divorce, that the only person who will be able to afford a new couch will be your lawyer.

No offense to any attorneys present.

Dad also told me that if anyone was ever trying to hurt me, I should do whatever I needed to do to keep myself safe, including running the person over in my big old car.

That car was a 1966 Chevy Bel Aire that we towed home from my grandparent’s barn when I was 16. Dad fixed it, of course, and as he worked on it I stood and watched. He told me, “You know Sherry, this car has air conditioning.” I was shocked because the car didn’t have a radio, or power windows, or seat covers, or even very much paint. So I said, “It does!?” Dad replied, “Yes! It has 460 air conditioning.” I asked excitedly, “What’s 460 air conditioning!?” Dad said, “You roll down all 4 windows, hit 60 miles an hours, BAM, air conditioning.”

Dad taught us to be independent, but he also saved us. I remember him running into the ocean with a sand pail to scoop up a big jellyfish that we thought was a balloon, and then carrying it to the sand where we could study it safely.

Another time when I cut my foot open in a lake, he ran into the water fully clothed, scooped me up and put me in the car to take me to get stitched up.

And when I was little in the hospital and terrified during a procedure I had to be awake for, I screamed so long and loud for my dad, that they let him scrub in and come hold my hand. After that, I wasn’t afraid anymore. I knew I would be safe no matter what because my dad was there.

Full disclosure, I also had to bite one of the doctors, but it was worth it.

Over the years I called Dad with lots of questions- we all did. I remember one time I was watching a baseball game and the catcher made this beautiful throw from home plate, past the pitcher’s mound, all the way to second base. I called Dad and told him about it and then asked, “How far was that Dad?” He said, “Well Sherry, a baseball diamond is a square and it is 90 feet between all the bases- from home to 1st, 1st to 2nd, 2nd to 3rd and 3rd to home.” I waited. You see sometimes when you asked Dad a question, you got bonus information. But he didn’t say anything else so I asked again, “But Dad, what about from home plate to second?” Dad replied, “You already have all the information you need to figure that out.” I thought for a minute and then told him I was going to need a hint. He said, “Home plate, 1st and 2nd are points on a right triangle. You know the length of two of the sides. If you want the third side just use the Pythagorean Theorum!”


So, I did. It’s about 127 feet by the way.

The last time I called Dad was February 9th. I had a question about binary code. That seems fitting because so much of life seems like it is written in code, and Dad helped us figure a lot of that out.

We finished talking and Dad told me he would see me soon.
I am going to have to wait longer than I planned for that meeting, but I know I will see him again. I have so much more I want to talk to him about. But for now, I will just say, I love you Dad. I will miss you every day.

Folding Towels

Folding Towels

Grief is a funny thing and I was reminded this past week just how awful and beautiful it can be. My last blog I wrote about an ordinary Tuesday. I sort of took the day hour by hour and chronicled it. Since then, nothing has been ordinary.

One of the last things I did that day was post the blog and I got ready for an early bedtime. Around 10 or 11 the phone rang and it was my sister. She never calls at that time just to chat. I answered quickly. Our dad had had a heart attack in Austin, Tx and was in an ambulance en route to the hospital. We did not know his condition, but we soon learned it was very serious and my sister, my brother and I began to prepare to drive to Austin.

I remember trying to pack that night and I couldn’t make sense of my stuff. I would put something on my bed, like deodorant or a pair of socks and then just sort of stare at it. Finally, I grabbed a bag and kind of tossed some things in. We got on the road about 2 am and drove though fog and mist straight to the hospital.

When I say we drove, I mean my brother drove us. He is ten years younger than me and if you had told me growing up when we were all kids, and I was the oldest, that my rotten little brother would one day drive me through awful weather in the middle of the night hours from home to anywhere I never would have believed you, but not only did he drive us, I never worried about that once.

The next few days were a blur. We stayed by Dad’s side as much as we could with his wife Barb and other family- our step-brother Brian and his family, and our cousin David who none of us had seen in years. My brother’s wife Amanda drove in the next day and all of us went through these uncertain hours together with a mixture of grace, panic, tears, snot, hope and faith.

One night my brother and sister and I sat in a hotel room and just talked for hours. I heard stories from their lives I had never heard and I felt so grateful for the time with those two amazing people.

We talked to Dad and told him we loved him. We told him all the things we needed to say. We prayed he could hear us. Then with more tests pending we returned home for a day and a half when we had to go back…to say goodbye.

These were the hours and moments I will never forget. I can’t write about them now and I am not sure I ever will be able to. Some of them were horrible. Some were sacred. Some were peaceful. All were sad.

Since then, March 6, when Dad took his last breath in the early hours of the morning, I have been grieving along with the rest of my family. Grief is hard to watch. Some people have turned to look the other way. That’s okay. I know it isn’t pretty. But some people stay right in there with you accepting whatever emotion washes over you. Those people are a true blessing.

I went back to work. Made it to Spring Break and have been busy preparing to go out of town for Dad’s memorial service. I had a full list of things to accomplish today and then- full stop. I sat on a chair unable to move. As an hour dragged by, I began to feel panic. My Dad is never, ever coming back. How can I do all the things? I didn’t even know where or how to start.

I picked up the phone and sent a text to my mom and she prayed for me. I prayed. Then I saw a way.

Towels.

There was a pile of laundry on my bed. I would start there. I approached it…so much laundry! I decided to start with just the towels. Just fold the towels. I folded each one as neatly as I could and then picked one next thing- just one more and slowly, one thing at a time, refusing to think about all the things, I got most of what I needed to do done.

I think part of it is that when your world shifts so suddenly and so hard, it just doesn’t seem like laundry and errands should go on. I’m kinda pissed about that truth be told. I’ve been kinda pissed at God some moments too but I know He can handle my little temper tantrums. And the thing is, one of the last things I said to my Dad was, I don’t want you to go, but it is okay if you do, you taught us well and we will be okay.
So, I have to be okay. And I will be. But life will always be different and somedays I might not do anything but fold some towels.

That’s all I’ve got for today.

Fold one towel.
And breathe.

Thanks for reading and thank you for your prayers.

Tuesday

Tuesday.

People ask me often how I do all the stuff I do. I usually just say something like “I don’t watch TV” which is true, I rarely watch TV…but it’s not really the whole answer. The thing is, I’m not sure people really want to know. But today I woke up to another message asking the same thing and I thought I would keep track of my day. Here is how Tuesday went:

I woke up at 5:25 before my alarm went off. I saw I had slept through some minor problems the night before that I had texts about- I think I fell asleep rather early. I’m not always up at 5:25, but I usually am up before 6. I talked to God, talked to my dog, talked to my husband, checked social media, checked work email, read a chapter in a book I am in a book study for, worked on a manuscript, showered and got ready for work. I left the house at 7:30. During this 2 hour block of time I also drank strong coffee.

I arrived at my first stop- a campus closer than my office- at 7:48. I had 12 minutes of ‘personal time’ before my work day officially started, so I emailed a ms draft to an editor, responded to some work texts, posted a response to my reading from earlier in the online group, and took a phone call from my 3rd child on his way to the passport office asking for his original birth certificate. I explained to him that waiting until nearly 8:00 on the day he needed his birth certificate was akin to being in 4th grade and letting me know at 10:00 pm that he had a diorama due the next day at school. I made a note to look for it later.

At 8:22 I got to see a student use communication technology to request what he wanted for breakfast for the first time…a student who previously had no way to communicate. I teared up at the wonderfulness of the moment and how honored I felt to witness it. Then, I got to work with another student on reading. Happy happy happy.

My next stop was a campus across town to install some math software on a teacher’s computer. In my “mobile office” I then answered emails, drafted a follow up report from my morning visit, took my blood pressure pill and looked for some advil.

I stopped at my mom’s house at lunch. She fed me while I worked on some professional development material prep for a session I am presenting later this week. I make a note to purchase spaghetti noodles and marshmallows for the team building part of that session.

I’m early to my next campus, a staffing around noon. We have difficult discussions and I am again honored to get to work with the wonderful educators I work with.

I have one more campus today. I am tired. On the drive over I turn off the radio and pray for several friends and for myself. At the last minute, this staffing is canceled so I visit with some staff, fill in my mileage report and text with my boss about some things for tomorrow.

After work I pick up Z from the sitter and head home with her. After she eats a snack she is down for a nap. It’s time for school with Gav. I toss some pork chops and potatoes in the oven and start a scarf while we go over his math, history and geography for the day. Z takes a short nap so we head outside to play until dinner. Then it’s books and letters for her and more school for G.

Z didn’t sleep much today so I put her to bed about 8:00, finish the scarf, find Tyler’s birth certificate and text second daughter to let her know her wedding invitations have shipped.

Stacy called and said she is stopping for one errand on her way home from work. She may need help with an income tax issue when she gets here so I am blogging this and waiting for her to get home. It is 9:00.

There is still time to do something else. But I will probably have another early night since I was up so early today.

Sound like a lot?

I bet it isn’t more than anyone else’s day who works and has a family to care for. If you wrote down and typed out everything you did each day, it would be impressive. For the big things- the books for example—it’s just little bites of time that add up.

I did not watch TV. I didn’t spend a lot of time on dinner. I did pick up a few things and run the washing machine (mostly because the dog threw up on a blanket…) but I did not worry about my house being spotless.

I’m not superwoman.

I’m not even close.

I wasn’t even pleasant to my husband when I got home. I was a big old crab in fact.

Tomorrow will be similar in some ways and different in others. I might get more done. I might get less done. Either way it’s okay.

I don’t know what the take away is really except maybe, if you feel you don’t get enough done, take a day and write down what you do. I bet you will be surprised! I think you will find that you are in fact quite amazing. I know this because I have incredible friends.

Happy Tuesday!