Father’s Day

Happiness Depends on a Good Breakfast

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The author William Martin wrote a book on parenting, The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents, and in it he shares the poem above.  I’m not a parent, not yet, but I do suppose I’ve been parented (that’s a word right?).

Well I’ve seen the poem before and I’m sure I nodded along saying ‘yes, yes, those words make sense.’ This week I saw the words again, and they oozed into my being. I accept the lie that I am NOT extraordinary much too easily. My thoughts bounce and roll upon gritty terrain in my head as I beat myself up for not having the right career, not being travelled enough, not yet earning those expensive letters behind my name. I get stuck staring at choices and wonder if MBA, or LPN, or LCSW, or MFA would fit me best. Sure, sure, I can appreciate a great peach, but I haven’t published a novel and I haven’t been listed on the ‘thirty under thirty’ list of young, successful business leaders in my community.

Stop!

When I come to the surface again, and can calm that pounding drum of a thing called my heart, I remember to reevaluate. Like Martin says, ‘striving seems admirable, but it is a way of foolishness’. Silly me, how foolish. No one wants the letters F-O-O-L-I-S-H on a resume.

The letters that suite me right now are as follows.

W-R-I-T-E-R

I’m growing into these letters and embracing the truth that these letters are a gift. Being able to eloquently communicate thoughts, observations, human emotions. What a beautiful thing.

W-I-F-E

I used to roll my eyes at the women who used those letters to define themselves. Psh – MBA is much better. Nope. Nope. Wrong again. This journey called wife is immensely extraordinary.

E-M-P-A-T-H

I am one sensitive stinker and sometimes this hurts. As I’ve written over and over, the world is a hurting place. Being empathetic, sensitive, and observant means you can’t ignore the world’s suffering. It like walking through sandpaper, always living with some level of texture in the air. The ever present grains of sand rub away at the calloused layers of pain that try to make your heart hard. I can’t do it. I refuse to turn off my sensors that allow me the ability to view other’s pain.

This sensational quality of being an E-M-P-A-T-H gives fuel to my other letters. It makes it easier to be a W-R-I-T-E-R.

Take off the smudged glasses of striving, and the world begins to be a remarkable place. Andy Rooney captures this so well when he says,

“For most of life, nothing wonderful happens. If you don’t enjoy getting up and working and finishing your work and sitting down to a meal with family or friends, then the chances are that you’re not going to be very happy. If someone bases his happiness or unhappiness on major events like a great new job, huge amounts of money, a flawlessly happy marriage or a trip to Paris, that person isn’t going to be happy much of the time. If, on the other hand, happiness depends on a good breakfast, flowers in the yard, a drink or a nap, then we are more likely to live with quite a bit of happiness.”

Put on the hiking boots of extraordinary and you can travel well through all terrain.

This week I went to water aerobics for the first time. The youngest in the pool by twenty years, I walked the lanes, and did my lunges, and water rolls with a funny group of older people. Have you ever thought about the magic that is a swimming pool? Someone figured out how to get hundreds gallons of water inside, how to keep it clean (we hope) and a decent temperature, and some fitness instructor figured out that we can jog laps with low impact on our knees. I’m not sure if I’ll go back, but trying something new with people you’ve never met, while intimidating, can be a beautiful thing.

I also brought dinner to one of my friends from high school who just had her second baby. Meet Evelyn.

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What an extraordinary thing that the people God gave you to be your friends can create tiny humans! No really, they made TWO babies! As I was walking around Trader Joes, picking ingredients for their dinner, it stopped me in my tracks to realize how extraordinary it is that we have the potential to bring babies into the world. I put a small bouquet of flowers in the basket, and Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups too, because dessert. A beautiful thing. Tiny toes, and delicate fingernails, and baby snuggles, even more amazing. Let us walk together through all stages of life.

I go back to Martin’s poem and I reflect on the way I was parented. Sure, there was a large amount of encouragement to strive. I was an over-productive high school student with amazing amounts of ambition and extra-curricular activities. I remember sitting in a Harvard informational session at the age of 13. I blame Gilmore Girls for that experience.

Yet, as I continued to grow into adulthood, lessons of empathy and emotional intelligence and self-acceptance rose to the top. My parents were really good at getting me to calm down, to stay grounded, to keep my crazy striving in check.

Another set of letters that describes me is D-A-U-G-H-T-E-R. I have this horrible thought that because we lost my dad, I’m maybe half of that now. A daughter only to one parent, not two. Like maybe the letters should not be capitalized, or truncated to half of the word.

F-A-T-H-E-R-L-E-S-S

These letters sting a little. I became fatherless just over fifteen months ago.

Stop!  The grandest of magnificent lies.

Yes, it’s true that my dad left this world.

However, I will always always be Roy’s D-A-U-G-H-T-E-R.

The lessons he gave me will always be extraordinary.

I’ve thought a lot about how I wanted to honor him on this second Father’s Day without him. Last year I spent the day in tears – my sweet in-laws being amazingly supportive as I snuck away, not once, but twice to call my mom. I sat on the porch wiping my tears and snot on the grass (sorry Mike, the smears on your lawn probably washed away).

This year, I become green with envy every time I see an article that was published in a magazine about another W-R-I-T-E-R’s father, or loss, or grief, or missed chances with their paternal person. I’m not yet ready to submit my story to a formal publication (here I go striving again).  I plan to stay off of Facebook, and will spend time with the best father-in-law a D-A-U-G-H-T-E-R-I-N-L-A-W could ask for.

I can, however, leave you this list of the things I ache for as my dad made the ordinary come alive.

  • Waffles on Sunday mornings. He would shuffle into the kitchen in his nasty plaid pajamas and make beautiful, fluffy waffles for us. Chocolate chip for me, topped with strawberries and whipped cream. He was good at weekend breakfast.
  • Fishing on the river – he always made us be enthusiastic outdoor adventurers. He would smile at us as my brother and I grimaced, lugging our fishing gear to some remote spot to put a fly in the water. He wouldn’t get too mad when we splashed upstream, probably scaring away all of his fish friends. Splashing brought joy. Casting did not.
  • He taught me to follow through. When I was getting my driver’s license he made me drive up to Wyoming and back at night so I could get my night hours. “Most parents just sign off on these Dad,” I grumbled. “Well, I’m not most parents,” he replied, “let’s get in the car.”
  • He drove me to junior high every morning. I’d be sleepy and cranky in the front seat, yet he always tried to have conversation. Not the best timing for connecting with a thirteen year old, but the effort was there.
  • Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 8.47.33 AMToaster hash browns. My favorite breakfast for years. Morning routines were Dad’s responsibility and he kinda sucked at weekday breakfast. Over-cooked eggs and toast with peanut butter smeared with mayonnaise because he always forgot to wash the knife between making our sandwiches and our morning meal. It was hard for him to screw up toaster hash browns. I’m going to go find a box. Dad loved breakfast. Like Andy Rooney, he knew, happiness depends on a good breakfast.

Happy Father’s Day papa. I miss you so very much.

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Papa

Take a moment to think of the ways in which you are influenced by others. What some of your mentors, friends, coaches have taught you along the way. This week, in honor of Father’s Day, I was reflecting on the ways in which my dad has influenced me. Maybe you get nostalgic in stages, maybe it’s just me, but this year was one of the better Father’s Day experiences our family has had. I know, not everyone has happy memories with their parents. If Father’s Day is painful for you, my heart expands as I send compassion and light your way. I hope you can find connection to the positive interactions with people who have supported you as you became who you are today.

My dad and I have not always been the closest. As I’ve gotten older and tried to separate from my family like normal adults do, my appreciation for my parents has grown ten fold. This week, I’m grateful for the beautiful parts of my dad that I see in myself.

Here are a few:

My love of coffee, road trips, potato chips. A chocolate chip cookie does constitute as breakfast. So does cold pizza.

While preparing dinner we sneak little pieces of cheese, or chicken, or nibbles or bread crusts with butter. Sometimes these snacks fill us up before the meal reaches the table.

We are both “thrifty”, or ok fine, cheap. We reuse, we recycle, we have holes in our sneakers until my mom tells us it’s time to get new things.

My dad can be the quiet, pensive type. He taught me to observe before speaking, and to choose my words wisely. He can also talk to anyone  in the grocery store and connect over bacon, or a bag of onions. I watch this skill, and observe wisely, trying to pick up his ability to talk anyone who cares to make eye contact. Private processor, publicly friendly. I want to be better at this.

My dad never doubted my dreams because I was a girl. Thank you for teaching me to play ball, hold a hockey stick,  how to fill the car with gas, answer my insurance questions, wipe my tears, and encourage me to catch creatures in boxes if they aren’t supposed to be living in your house. Remember the mice incident? Thank you for letting me be afraid of birds.

My dad has taught me to find things to laugh about. We text back and forth jokes that are witty and stupid and charming. It’s a way to stay in touch and remain wired through laughter. Isn’t that a beautiful image? What if the whole world was wired through laughter. Positive energy wandering the waves over our heads and into our hearts. He is the goofy in my blood, the wiggle in my dance, and the quiet reminder to be proud of myself.

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I don’t say this often, and we don’t always connect, but I am immensely grateful for his presence in my life. Thank you for wanting to choreograph our father daughter dance at my wedding, for walking me down the aisle, for teaching me how to walk.

Happy Father’s Day Dad. You are beautiful.