Grief

That’s Going to Be Fun for You?

I read fast. My eyes scan pages and absorb words quickly, inviting me into worlds not my own. Don’t ask me for details about story or memoir, though, because once I’ve finished a title I seem to forget. My reading comprehension sucks. The pleasure is in the journey, not the destination.

On our most recent road trip I read four books. Four. Last week I spent 38 hours in the backseat of a Subaru and there is not much to see from Wyoming to East Oregon. Enter books. Thank goodness I don’t get car sick.

Before the trip I sat down at our kitchen table and opened up a new browser to search for books to download to my Kindle. Picking out books to read is what I live for! I selected five titles and tucked my little e-reader in my travel bag.

Our trip was an amazing break from the day to day grind. When I told some of my friends that I was driving 38 hours across the country, they looked at me like I was crazy. When I told them we were driving with my in-laws, their mouths dropped a little more, and eyes got bigger seeming to ask, ‘That’s going to be fun for you?’

Yes! Fun for me. I am incredibly lucky in that I like my in-laws! My father-in-law drove the whole time. My mother-in-law packed delicious snacks and navigated our route, picking our hotels, restaurants and day trip itineraries. While Dylan and I are both grown people, these two parents continue to extend their love for us as we dozed in the backseat. After a hard year of taking care of hurting, searching people –  ie. myself, my husband, my mom – riding along in the backseat where all my needs were met was just the heart medicine I needed. It is nice to be cared for and out of your routine.

A list of beautiful things from our time in Oregon:

  • New breweries: these people like to drink beer as much as we do in Northern Colorado. I now know how tourists must feel when they come to our town. Another brewery on that corner! No time to fit in all those delicious pints of craft beer.
  • Kite Surfing on the River: no, no, I didn’t try, but we did watch hundreds of colorful kites kiss the sky as surfers handled the wind on the Columbia River. We stuck our toes in the water and laughed as the ripples lapped at our legs.
  • Salt and Straw & good friends: One of my oldest friends Jenny now lives in Portland. She took us to her neighborhood food trucks (THAT’S A THING PEOPLE!) and out to the trendiest ice cream store I’ve ever been to. Apparently Oprah endorses their Arbequina Olive Oil flavor. I couldn’t mentally stomach spooning olive oil into my mouth over and over, but the creamy concoction was delicious on a small metal tea spoon. Instead I turned to the beautiful combination of Carrot Cake Batter with Hazelnut Praline. For those easily overwhelmed types like my husband, they also have vanilla.
  • Canon Beach: We went to the ocean. Nothing like having your feet in the sand with cold water running over your toes. Wind in the hair, sand pushing back against the arches of your feet, reminding you that you wear shoes all too often. Cloud cover and waves crashed together in a soothing blanket of gray. The ocean is big. It makes me feel connected to the edge of something. I loved walking on the sand and exploring that quaint little town.
  • A family wedding: Dylan’s cousin got married and I was honored to be a part of the celebration. As we walked up to the rehearsal dinner which was held in a neighborhood park, huge trees sheltered us from intense sun. Who knew it could be 105 degrees in the Northwest. Rays of sunshine trickled through the leaves. We approached from about fifty yards away watching the bride practice going down the aisle with her dad. I stopped and stood still, catching my breath at the beautiful scene unfolding in front of me. Other members of the family kept walking ahead. One breath. Two. I swatted at a tear starting to trickle down my cheek, escaping my from my sunglasses of protection. I missed my dad as a flood of memories from my own experience down the aisle came back. More though, I was overwhelmed with the truth that I am living in the light again. Grief still exists, yes, but that’s not all. I sent up a silent whisper of thanks in realizing I am returning to living in joy. The choices to be taken care of, to explore, to love and feel loved, those are all beautiful, beautiful things.

 

Here is a list of books I read on the trip:

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America

Vinegar Girl: A Novel

Someday, Someday, Maybe: A Novel

The Here and Now

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Blue

I’ve been listening to podcasts. This is a new development, as I have a hard time sitting down and focusing on audio for more than ten minutes at a time. I guess I’m more of a visual learner. A few weeks ago my mom sent me this one on grief. Counselor and Author Patrick O’Malley shares patterns found in his work counseling grieving people. His biggest take away – people don’t want to forever move away from grief, but rather they want people who are safe to talk to. Safe to process with. Safe to listen to their story.

I want people to listen to my story. I know, as they all have been damn well telling me, this is going to affect me for the rest of my life.

Mr. O’Malley also says that our culture gets grief wrong because we attach negative or positive labels to the process. If a person is grieving and they are having trouble getting out of bed, can’t go to work, or continues to be sad, this is bad. Negative emotions = negative experiences of grief.

If the opposite is true, and a person is functioning well – working, going out with friends, remaining connected – we equate that with a successful handling of loss. Congrats, snap your hands, you’ve moved on. The reality of living with grief lies somewhere in the middle.

Over the last year and a half I DID function. I went to work, spent time with friends, and the grief gremlin still lived within. I can still be really sad, foggy, and confused. On the outside, I was living in the positive. On the inside, I was struggling, yet because I wasn’t visibly falling apart or unable to function it seemed like things were moving along just fine. This spectrum of grief as bad and healing as good is damaging to those who are working their way through it.

Today, I listened to this new podcast “The Other F Word – Conversations About Failure.”  The title drew me in immediately, as any opportunity to reference the REAL F word makes me curious. But no, here they are talking about the other one – failure.

Sam Lamott’s Episode hones in on how harmful our projections of perfect can be. How when we hold in our stories we miss out on honest, authentic living. His approach suggests that, as humans, we are all going to flow through positive and negative. We need to be more honest in our responses to the question ‘How are you today?’

He says, and I’m paraphrasing here, that it can be freeing to answer with ‘I’m feeling a little blue today.’

“BLUE IS BEAUTIFUL,” he said, “the sky is blue, and the ocean, and many beautiful things.”

My eyes filled with tears and I nodded along. Blue is beautiful too.

Mountains. Clouds. Rain drops. Flowers. Plums. Peacocks. Ice. Sharks. Payphones. Jazz. Blueberries. Birds. Emotions.

All blue.

I’m trying to give myself grace and combine Mr. O’Malley and Mr. Lamott’s wisdom. Because today, I feel a little blue. This does not mean I am bad. An important distinction. It is ok to feel shitty, to not be living in bliss. Grief and experiences of emotion are not negative.

My mom is back where we spread my Dad’s ashes and I didn’t go this year. I ache for family vacations that will never be the same. I miss that mountain valley. I wish I was there and I could read Dad a poem or two. Thursdays I work out of the office and my heart usually feels a bit heavier when I’m working alone. Every time I turn on the news something ridiculous is happening in our country. People are hurting. This makes me sad as well.

I will get up after I click publish, and I’ll go sit outside to watch a softball game. Life will continue and my emotions will pass. I’m learning though, that there is beauty in the bravery it takes to say ‘Today, I’m just a little bit blue.”

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Learn more about Patrick O’Malley’s new book Getting Grief Right by clicking below.

The Office Phone Rang

The office phone rang yesterday. Once. Twice. Glance at the caller ID.

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Photo by Davidson Luna

I picked up the black office phone, untangled the snaggled cord, and tucked the receiver (oh dear, that is what it’s called right) between my raised shoulder and my left ear.

“American Family Insurance, this is Katie how can I help you?”

How many times have I repeated that phrase? I started when I was sixteen, working in my Dad’s office. And now, after his death, have spent over 365 days living out his legacy, still with the company, working for a different agent.

“Hi, this is …… and I’m calling to let you know that my husband died this past weekend.”

I paused. Death sucks your breath out of your bones, even when you don’t know the person who has passed.

“Oh no, ” I am sure I said “I am so sorry.”

I didn’t know this customer and I didn’t know her husband. I do know just how jolting death can be for the living. The ones left behind.

We continued the conversation.

I began to notice, in this customer call, there lived signs of personal progress.

My stomach didn’t drop. Huh. That’s different.

For the last year anytime someone told me another person left this planet my stomach would crumple. My body would sweat, my heart would drop deep into my already aching gut. Empathetic wavelengths would extend like squid, squeezing remnants of emotional energy I didn’t have to spare out to other people.

This didn’t happen yesterday.

We proceeded to talk logistics and I was shocked by this woman’s resolve. Her ability to speak coherently, to share her concern. “He used to handle these things,” she said, “how am I supposed to now know what’s best?”

I hmm’d along empathetically, flashing back to many conversations with my own mom who instantly acquired the title ‘widow’. We spent a better part of a year rebuilding, coaching, working together on learning again to know what’s best. You certainly can’t know in the first few days. Sure you can take action, make decisions, pick a song for a funeral. But what’s best? Baby, that takes a really long time.

I clicked through our computer system and managed to rework this woman’s policies. New options saved her money on her monthly premium. Changing coverage, that’s easy.

I gracefully offered to remove her husband’s name from her policies. Erasing a person from a policy, that’s harder.

Robotically, I clicked an “x” into the Deceased box next to her husbands name, and changed her marital status to widowed.

How quickly our society allows you to mark a box, change a status, erase a name on a billing account. The process of grief is no where near this simple. I still hate this word – deceased. I hate knowing that my dad falls into that category. One simply does not erase a loved one from your own being.

I never once mentioned my own loss in that conversation. I learned quickly that saying, ‘Oh yes, I lost someone too’ doesn’t bring comfort. Instead it brings awkwardness and an urgency to change the subject. I listened and asked if she had someone nearby to help her with these decisions. Support remains vital.

As I hung up that black office phone I felt strong and empowered. For the first time, I noticed how Dad’s death had purpose in changing ME. I was empathetic, calm, and collected when absorbing other people’s stories. I could offer support, problem solve, listen and see, just for ten minutes, her situation and perspective. Her pain was separate from my pain.

This is new. This is healing.

We keep saying in our household just how true it is that people die. People die. This doesn’t remove emotion, downplay trauma, or remove loving connection. These words just make it easier for me to live with the truth of death.

This phone call brought beautiful awareness. A gift from my job that can bring comfort and pain at the same time. A deeper understanding of how Dad once worked with customers. The realization that my approach to the world has forever changed with this pulsing absence of Dad. An American Family insurance agent for almost twenty years.

 

ps. Do you know hard it is to find stock photos of office phones? Ha! No one takes pictures of these anymore. Maybe the use of an old office phone is also a beautiful thing.

 

 

One Little Piece of the Pie

Patriotism.

A buzz word these days. The concept is sure to spark a conversation, or perhaps simply a stirring in your stomach because the challenges now facing America have a lot of ‘not quite rights’. Maybe this post will piss you off, start an argument, make you throw your expensive mobile phone to the floor. Or maybe you’ll scratch your head, nod along, and think hmm. I’m hoping for the later.

I’m not one to consider myself overly patriotic. The red, white, and blue is something I respect, certainly, yet I haven’t given much thought to what it means to be an American. I’ve taken freedom for granted. I’ve been angry with our government, our culture and the unspoken rules in which we operate. I have a degree in Sociology and I’ve been trained to look for the gaps in equality. I see the ways systems benefit some while leaving others out. I know I have immense privilege, but I’m not exempt from feeling that our culture counts my skills and potential as less than because of my gender. We live in the grey where ‘isms’ overlap causing pain and confusion.

Patriotism is not simple – it can be a loaded word. I wave a yellow flag of friendship (is that symbolism wrong?) and say hang with me here. This America stuff can be tough but let’s dialogue together. As with all things – God, faith, country – I just have a lot of questions.

The New York Times released an article last week called “A Patriotic Fourth: What Does That Mean Now?” and these shared perspectives got me thinking. Journalists stationed themselves across the country and asked travelers what the holiday means for them. Many ages, many backgrounds, many perspectives of the real America presented by those journalists – not just the ones we glamorize or relate to.

What is it I feel about our nation, our land, our challenges? Big, beautiful, important questions that are hard to answer in one blog post. 

Cataloguing my swirling thoughts I’ve made a list of the reasons I’m thankful and proud to be an American. For every bullet point listed below, there could be thousands of ‘buts’ that follow. Take a moment to let each statement to sink in before we go contesting and looking for the negative. Yes, my friends, there are paradoxes. The ‘buts’ exist, yet so does the beginning of these thoughts.

  • I can share my heart freely on the internet for the whole world wide web to see. Freedom of speech is a powerful thing.
  • Our land is immensely beautiful. The Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains, coastlines, prairies, and fields of sunflowers. Giant forests and desert cactuses. We have something to enjoy in creation.
  • People can wear our colors proudly. Classy they may not be, but we have flag pants, and bro-tanks, and shorty shorts, and swimsuits and jackets and hats that boast our colors. We are allowed to indulge in the wearing of the red, white, and blue. We can share our pride on our shoulders – literally.
  • I have access to clean water, healthy food, and supportive community. I haven’t seen war on my doorstep.
  • I have been given the opportunity to work and to write.
  • Green chili. Sushi. Naan. Spring Rolls. Exposure to different cultures through the reality of the ‘melting pot’ has brought me delightful experiences with food. Sorry folks, but I’m not sure the hot dog is something to be proud of on a culinary scale.
  • Creativity and innovation. Mix those with access to resources and we have technology that holds so much power. Channel music, painting, writing, and poetry with passion and make humanity weep happy tears. Variety in creative expression remains of utmost importance.

We aren’t perfect, but there is good here in the United States. Coming up with a list that doesn’t cause anger or leave people out is immensely challenging.

My family spent the 4th of July hiking in open space just a half-hour away from our house. The sun beat down on our necks, and sweat dripped underneath t-shirts. Wild flowers grazed my ankles and dirt came home with me on my calves. We ate lunch at a small business in a smaller town outside my bigger city. Locals slinging pie and sandwiches out of an old gas station. I sipped on an iced vanilla latte (of course) out of a disposable plastic cup.

We went to a bigger outdoor store, still local, and searched for flip flops to wear – hundreds of choices that symbolize abundance at our fingertips. We went to a bigger box outdoor store and joked that we don’t actually spend time outside on days off, but instead wander around gear stores and buy a bunch of outdoor gear that sits in our garage (another, more embarrassing American trait). We came home and showered in clean water and fell asleep on the couch. Rest is revolutionary.

We ate a dinner of avocado toast with salmon – hot dogs be damned – and when it came time to decide about fireworks, this year we passed. Riding bikes to the park and fighting crowds felt too hard. Freedom in opting out.

Dylan got out our ladder and we climbed up on our roof. Well he climbed, I slowly crawled as my heart pounded in my chest. I decided I hate going on the roof. We tried to watch the city’s fireworks from our own home (a beautiful gift – homeownership) and saw bursts of color through our neighbors trees.

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Photo by Kimson Doan on Unsplash

Since the big fireworks display was hard to see, I directed my attention to the young family across the street. A dad and his son, probably five or six, were lighting little fireworks off in the driveway. Whirring light mixed with cracking, sizzling flames lasted thirty seconds at most. The boy was delighted with each repetition – light, boom, repeat. Down the street another set of children lazily grasped sparklers in their sweaty palms. Circling the sticks of fire into the dark, the wands produced smiles on these kids faces, and a tickle of joy in my stomach. Time moved slowly up on the roof.

I climbed down the ladder with an ache in my heart, missing my dad and the summers he was with us. Standing with shaking feet on our deck, I sent a wish his way.

One story of an American holiday. One little piece of the pie.

Being American can mean so many things. It is messy, painful, zealous and enticing at the same time. Sitting of the roof helped me remember to be thankful for the freedoms we are given. To bless with a kiss the multitudes of beauty we can choose to embrace.

“Groceries…”

Groceries. What a nickname. I don’t really remember why Richard’s character in Eat Pray Love calls Elizabeth that name. Quippy sure, but powerful all the same. What we call each other out of affection matters.

This week I have been drawn to this video clip from the movie, and I imagine myself sitting in Elizabeth’s spot. What would it feel like to have someone rush their hands into your face like that? More importantly, why is it so challenging to remember the truth that the universe wants, aches, and desires to fill our lives with abundance and love.

No, I’m not recovering from a failed marriage and I’m not stuck dwelling in shards of love for a person that I shouldn’t be. I do see myself in that red headed character, though. The way she has her chin in her hands, twirling her hair around her fingers, weaving her hurt through the strands. Arms crossed across her body in protection.

Like Elizabeth, I walked into unanticipated loss and beat myself miserably over my inability to prevent such horror from happening. My life changed drastically fifteen months ago. That change felt bad. Really, horribly, achingly bad. Losing a pillar of a person in your life rocks you to the core.

I lost my job. A dream job on paper and that shook me too. Confidence went out the window. Panic and pressure filled my brain – I constantly scoured my writing for extra commas, and squeezed my hands red each time I made a mistake. I had never doubted myself so much, retreating inside for fear of errors, or interacting with a person who could hurt me again.

“Your life’s changing and that’s not a bad thing. And you’re in a perfect place for it. Surrounded by grace.”

‘Not a bad thing?’, I ask, ‘Whatever could you mean.’ I have always been a critic of change.

I now realize I’ve been living in this space of fear and regret for too long. I’m trying to change my perspective. Grant permission to sink into a warm pool of self-forgiveness, of compassion, and of promise. I want to change to embrace my next phase of life with expansion and hope and love. The universe forced, squeezed, smashed me, but I survived. Grace and mercy oozed in clumps in the process, like Play-Dough going through angry fingers in fists.

“So miss him. Send him some light and love every time you think of him, then drop it.”

If someone told me this about my dad I think I’d bite my lip, and mentally punch them in the face.  But when Richard says it, I slowly smile. I’ve spent many months in pain when thinking of Dad’s memory. Tears flowed freely and I’ve gotten stuck not knowing what to do with loss. This line though, this is wisdom. A perfect prescription for living with grief on a daily basis. A formula for healthy adapting. I want to send Dad light and love and smile his way, then drop it. I’ve got living to do.

“You know if you could, uggh, clear out all that space in your mind that you’re using to obsess over this guy and your failed marriage, you’d have a vacuum with a doorway and you know what the universe would do with that doorway? Whoom! Rush in. Rush in and fill you with more love than you’d ever dreamed of. Man.”

Whoa Richard. Calm down.

This is the line that keeps rolling through my brain. Well when I’m not filling it with fear and disappointment and sadness. What happens when I let go, and let love in? I’m not sure, but I’m giving it a try.

Here’s what I found this week:

We traded our neighbors a plant for their used outdoor dining patio set. They simply weren’t using the table and chairs, and they said we could have it, just have it, if they could have the little plant growing in our rocks. You mean the only ‘wildflower’ growing in our rocks? Sure! Done. Trade. Abundance.

I went to a fundraiser for a little boy who has cancer. One hundred and fifty people gave their time, talents, and resources to support a child who is sick. Who has been through fire. Watching community come together made my heart beat fast. Gratitude that I am well. Thankfulness for being raised to give. You can donate to Sam here. Abundance.

An old colleague of mine sent me an email full of beautiful things. She shared of her journey from divorce to living the travelers life. She encouraged me in my writing, shared her inspiration for her stories, and reminded me to listen to the words in my own heart. Across the country, through the waves of wifi, she sent love saying, ” Don’t expect that you have to know now what kind of a writer you want to be. Don’t pigeon hole yourself or expect too much. Do give yourself permission to try and try and try and try again and to change and ebb and flow. Not even try and fail. There is no fail if you are writing. You only fail when you don’t write.”

The words I want to believe, but have trouble accepting because of all the other ick rolling around in my brain. The stuff I should clear out. She wrote them out and sent them to me, without evening know where I stood.

Whoom! Love. Abundance. Gifts.

“Groceries….. I think you have the capacity some day, to love the whole world.”

Boy I hope so. Love is my goal. For myself, and for others, and for the journey.

What can you clear out that will lead to more love, abundance, confidence and gifts in your own life? What examples of bountiful provision and beauty have you encountered? How do you choose to turn off your brain?

 

On Doubts

Oh yes, I have them too. Big, fat, ugly, warty doubts that sit on my heart and squash my finger’s desire to type. Little wispy doubts that wear tutus and dance among my strands of hair, swinging along and whispering as they pass by my ears. “You shouldn’t write” they say. “Your stories, your truths – they are going to keep you from getting a job, or make your friends run the other direction. Give it up, no one tends to give a damn.”

I wonder, almost daily, if it is worth being vulnerable on the internet. I doubt the sharing of my tears, my heart, my hopes and my grief on this space. I filter my failures and minimize my successes.

And then, beautiful people like Anne Lamott give a Ted Talk and post on Facebook and I remember, once again, that I’ve got to. I’ve got to write.

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So today, my beautiful thing is Anne Lamott’s reminder that she shared. Take that world, I’m going to continue telling my story.  I don’t want to feel like hell.

I personally like #6 on her list. Take heed world, take heed.

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.