Sunday, April 29, 2018

Tell me a Story

(This is the speech I gave to my students on the last day of the semester,
Spring 2018.)

Over the weekend, I attended several "end of year" events and banquets at the high school. At one of them, the teacher read the words of the famous "Wear Sunscreen" essay that has become rather a cultural icon in terms of graduation speeches.

"Your choices are half chance," she read. And immediately, I thought of the best job I've ever had- the one I have right now, the one I got by chance.

Or was it? Because when I think back, there is a pretty sturdy chain of people and events that leads to me teaching Speech at Bradley. I don't think I can quite pinpoint its origin either. It's tempting to say that it all began the day I decided the best way to get over my fear of public speaking would be to try out for the speech team in high school. (Oh, how I miss the naive bravery of youth.)

But recently as I was looking through my Facebook feed, I found a post from earlier this year in which I described how my dad used to joke about my gift of gab saying that I "loved to hear the sound of my own voice" and how I had come to realize that he was only partly right because what I really loved was the sound of *anyone's* voice- so long as it was talking. So I think it started much earlier than I used to think.

The first semester I taught speech at Bradley, I decided that it would be appropriate if I ended class on the last day with a speech of my own. Each subsequent semester, I debated doing it again but then some bit of inspiration would strike me like a lightning bolt and I'd feel compelled. So I guess that by now, it's practically a tradition.

But I admit that while I spend the whole semester pushing and prodding my students not to procrastinate, I am the absolute worst at heeding my own advice. This time though, the problem wasn't coming up with *what* to say. It was figuring out how to tell them everything that has been swimming around in my head for the last week or so.

And if that isn't a perfect metaphor for what it's like to be a teacher at the end of the semester- drowning in the things you still want to impart to your students, I don't know what is.

I suspect it's the same for parents come graduation time, and part of why May is filled with so much personal angst in general.  There is so much "but I still have so much to tell you/show you/ teach you" in the air.

So, back to my speech.

Last week, my sister found a box of my old things in her attic and in there was a diary I started at the age of 14 and completed when I was nearly 16, though I did add a few notes in a few years later during college. I sat down eagerly to read through it but quickly became fairly horrified with that version of myself, who seemed - at best - well, fickle. She displayed a stunning lack of judgment, some questionable character choices, and just showed a different person than I thought I had been. It's not an exaggeration to say it sent me into a bit of a, shall we say, tizzy?

Essentially, the entire journal is about boys and relationships.  And one in particular that stood out and continued to haunt me through the evening, because in among all the stories of the boys who so clearly treated me so very badly was one - yes, just one- who did not. He said lovely things to me and pulled off incredibly romantic gestures (I mean, as romantic as 15-year olds can be really) and while I had kept these memories tucked safely in my heart all these years, there was one big problem; I felt I hadn't been as kind to this boy as I should have been. And despite trying a few times over the past 25 years, I'd never been able to find him.

So of course, I did what any sane person would do- I tried again. When a search on Facebook proved fruitless (I mean really, who isn't on Facebook these days?) I turned to our old friend Google and saw that in fact, this particular boy- sorry, man- had created an account on a reunion website not so long ago. And after some clumsy navigating of the site that had me embarrassed about ever making fun of old people and technology, I was able to send him an e-mail. Well, sort of, because the website made it clear that he would only be able to see it if one of us had paid for a membership and I had not done so. Still- I figured that after all this time, fate would step in if the universe deemed it to be so.

The next morning I woke and grabbed my phone to snooze the alarm and saw the Facebook notification at the top of the screen that I had a friend request from... guess who. I'll spare you the details of the parts where I doubted it was actually him, scanned his page, determined it was him and that I had not been searching for his proper first name all these years (yes, really), and then sat stumped for what to do next. I texted both my husband and my best friend like a silly teenager because really, there's no etiquette book for this stuff is there?

The sunscreen essay advises us to "do one thing that scares you every day." Hitting send on that message definitely qualified.

So to wrap up what has become an example MUCH longer than any I would ever recommend any of my speech students use, I feel blessed that I have been able to reconnect with this person because he is an important part of my story and it's one that was missing some pages. Being able to fill them in is a great gift.

And THAT brings me to my point. (I know, just when you thought it wasn't possible that I was getting to one.) When I think about why we do this- why we insist that college students take a speech class and put them through the process, we sometimes talk about how it will benefit them in their future careers. They'll be so good at giving presentations, we say. They'll be able to pitch proposals and ideas, we say. They'll be able to talk to co-workers and be social. Interpersonal skills.

But I think it's so much more than that. I think it's about telling your story. About speaking up and sharing who you are. It's arguably the most powerful thing you'll learn not just here in college, but in life. And that's a skill you're going to need your entire life because you - and your story- is going to keep changing. Right now, 15-year old you is still pretty fresh in your minds and he or she doesn't seem so bad. Trust me, that will change and if you have written a journal all I can say is, save it - but prepare yourself.

In an effort to try to ease your fears, I joke all the time that we are just giving speeches, we aren't doing surgery. No life and death actions in speech class. But recently a friend told me that high school speech changed her life, saved her life, and shaped who she is and as I started to reflect on that in my own life, I realized that maybe I should stop downplaying it so much.

It's important. Using words as tools to tell your story is important.

That's where the magic in life is. What you're experiencing right now- this place, this school, this season of life- it's magic. And there will be people who cross your path here who may disappear and then reappear 25 years later and as the line in that sunscreen essay says, "the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young."

I didn't attend school here. But the man I told you about? Nope, he didn't go to school here either. He didn't even live in Illinois. I met him through mutual friends, and they met him here. At a camp for speech team kids, that I attended here with him and many others that following summer. That story? It starts here. As does my story with many other people, including now- all of you.

Chance? Maybe not.

Go, tell your stories. They matter.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Thank you Mr. G

I may be one of the last people left still playing "Candy Crush," but I'm pretty faithful about it. It's become a nightly bedtime ritual to use up my allotted "lives" to try to pass yet another level. I don't know that I'm especially good at the game, but I'm diligent.

A lot of the levels I've played lately have this challenge where if you clear enough of the "jelly" of a 3x3 square, a hammer will come down and shatter what's left, thereby jostling every piece of candy on the board into a different position. Sometimes it's jolting because the next match my eye just saw is suddenly knocked out of place and not there anymore. You kind of get used to where the pieces are and then suddenly, they all get knocked around.

The game stays the same, but everything changes in that one moment.

That was exactly what came to my mind early this morning. I was just starting to get moving for the day and with nothing pressing to do on these lazy summer mornings, I often just grab my phone and take a quick look at my Facebook feed before the day starts. I was scrolling through when suddenly I saw a post in which one of my favorite teachers was tagged. My stomach dropped when I realized he hadn't written it. I thought something was wrong and immediately a voice inside my head started to silently scream, "No."

And then I read the words his son had typed - that Mr. Grodjesk had died this morning.

Boom - the hammer hit - and suddenly everything changed and I am grieving a great loss.

Mr. Grodjesk was my science teacher in junior high, for both 7th and 8th grades. I was not particularly strong in science (I mean, I went on to get a college degree in Journalism, need I say more?) but Mr. Grodjesk definitely made it fun. He was always eager to get started, always so passionate about what he was teaching us, and never really willing to let anyone be less than completely engaged. He would do experiments with dry ice that were impressive. One time, he showed us DNA. I don't think any of us really understood what he was so excited about but thinking back on it, he was showing us DNA in junior high science in the late 80's. That seems pretty impressive and the sign of a lifelong learner sharing his passion.

I remember spending extra time in Mr. Grodjesk's lab working on my science project (does the size of the environment affect the growth of a goldfish - yes, for real) and I remember working so hard to get an A and getting within a couple of tenths of a point and him rounding up on my behalf in recognition of the effort I'd put forth. (That's a lesson that several of my own students at Bradley have benefitted from.)

It isn't so much the stories or lessons in class I remember, it's more the way this teacher made me feel.  I'm not even sure I can properly articulate it, he was just one of those rare and wonderful teachers who stays with you over the years and always comes to mind when someone says the words "favorite teachers."

A few years ago, he happened to come to mind one night and so I did what we all do in this day and age- I looked for him on Facebook and sure enough, there he was. We officially reconnected in December of 2014 and in February of 2015 we met one day for coffee. Do you know how amazing it is to grow up and connect with one of your role models like that? I hadn't started teaching yet but I knew I wanted to and I think we talked about that. I know we talked about our families. My dad. His wife and children.

I must have been working on a story for the paper about high school graduates. I remember being struck by some of the difficult life circumstances many of them faced and I think we talked about that. In a message on Messenger he asked me, "Are these students the ________ of our community? If all the students were in a Kaleidoscope. . . what would one see?"

I messaged him on Facebook when I was planning to talk to someone at Bradley about grad school so I could teach (a meeting that fell through) and then again after I (somewhat ironically here) had started teaching at Bradley a few months later. He himself had taught at the college level (after teaching junior high) and he offered to help me navigate the world of academia.

He messaged me while visiting his sister in Carmel Valley because they were watching KSBW and he knew we had worked there. He messaged again around my Spain trip last year, to mention a 101-year old cousin he had there and I promise, had the trip been mine to plan and execute, I would have gone to meet her.

In September of 2016, he wrote that he had been "sidelined, temporarily" with brain lesions and that had slowed down his work as a paramedic. He offered to connect that week to talk about me going to graduate school but I was busy with Marigold Festival work that week. He asked for my e-mail address so he could send me some things, and that is where our chats ended.

In reading the thread on Messenger, there are times the messages seem disjointed. He would see something I had posted and then take a moment to send me a personal note - just a quick thought or words of encouragement. The writings back and forth read like something between two good friends who could pick up and put down the conversation on a whim. How blessed was I.

Mr. G came back into my life as a father figure at a time I really needed one and that, I'm sure, was no accident.

I've always felt that the true gift of a teacher often goes unnoticed. Often by the teacher themselves, sometimes by the students. Because the true gift is the impact teachers can have on their students' lives, the ways they can empower and embolden and enrich without even knowing it has happened.

The way they can linger in the shadows of a person's life story forever.

It is both beautiful and tragic to me to see the many posts of fellow students who share sorrow in the news that we received today. We are all from another time, another chapter in Mr. Grodjesk's life.

How lucky are we that Mr. G was part of our story. I am forever changed because of it, and I am forever changed by his loss.

Thank you, Mr. G.

Friday, April 28, 2017

When the Time is Right

Recently, I read the book “The Last Letter from your Lover” by Jo Jo Moyes. It’s a bit of a haunting story that revolves around missed opportunities for love, largely due to timing.

It reaffirmed for me a theory that my husband and I have long had about that very subject, and how often timing plays a critical - yet unseen - role, until the benefit of hindsight becomes available.

But it’s not just love stories that rely on timing. I think so much in life really does.

And so that brings me to the story of how we added a third car to our family. (Yes, seriously. Bear with me!)

I've been wanting to add a 3rd car to our household ever since we got our 3rd licensed driver, or about 3 months ago now. But the timing wasn't right and - warning - full honest parent mode here - our newly licensed driver hasn't always made the most responsible decisions with that privilege and so, we put it off - er- waited.

Then this week we were faced with what I had feared, a reduction in usable vehicles during an especially busy time (even by our insane standards.) So I looked online at the dealership we love, saw a vehicle that fit our needs, and pretty much decided we were going to buy it and put an end to this. And let me tell you- when I make up my mind on something I've been deliberating on for 3 months, it's going to happen. (Just ask my poor husband!)

So today, we bought a third car. Literally while my car was getting a new battery and new brake pads 100 feet away, (and while my husband was riding a bus to Iowa with the soccer team) I test drove and then signed the papers for that “new to us” car. I shuffled between the service dept. and the finance dept. and probably earned a new level of crazy - er- loyal customer in the 3 hours it took to get all of that done. I mean, when the service department calls to tell you your car is done and you tell them you're just down the hall buying another- yeah, that was my afternoon.

What I have learned in this life is that we need to have good, reliable people we can count on to help us navigate some of the trickier moments. I’m lucky enough to count on my team a good lawyer, a good accountant, a good financial investment advisor, and a good mechanic. All of them have helped me navigate so much and their presence in my life has helped fill some of the void left by my dad. 

Another one of those is Brad May - who has seen us through the "minivan to SUV back to minivan (x3) transitions of our growing family.  We always knew one day he'd help us find the "kid car." - a concept that used to seem so laughably far off in our future. Over the years we have bought six cars from Brad. Yes, six. Once we even bought two at once but that’s another story. Brad has always been to us exactly the kind of salesperson I love- never pushy, taking the time to listen and help us find a vehicle that met our needs and budget, honest, and dependable. He’s treated us exactly the same whether we were buying a brand new car or making an even trade for a different one. The level of ease we’ve always felt with him is a gift.

But today, in the flurry of e-mails back and forth to him as we tried to hammer out some details of this latest purchase, another e-mail came in. This one was sent out to a group and it explained that Brad is leaving the dealership and the area in order to begin a new chapter in his life as his wife's job has them re-locating with the opportunity to also be closer to his adult daughters.

For him, the move is about - you guessed it, timing.

For us, the timing was good because as it turns out, if we had waited even a week longer, it wouldn’t have been Brad who helped us buy this car. In fact, ours might be the last car he sells. 

Maybe it seems silly to feel emotional about that but I suspect if you’re lucky enough to have a “Brad” in your life, you understand. 

And then, there’s more.

I was filling out the finance paperwork when I noticed our loan rate of 7.09%. I smiled and explained to the woman that I suddenly felt very peaceful that we were doing this at the right time, because that was a message from my dad. 709 has long been a “signal” and I don’t believe in coincidences. Then (and I didn't realize the significance of this until later) she asked me what color the car is because it's called "Whistler" and she wasn't sure what that meant?  It didn’t actually hit me until Ethan was looking the car over in the falling darkness and innocently asked, “what color is it?” As I answered, “It’s called Whistler,” I gasped a little. (My dad was famous for his love for whistling.) Oh, and Whistler is basically silver, in case you’re wondering.

So, here I sit. I didn't fully anticipate all the emotions this purchase would bring up in me today. I thought we were making a practical purchase and more than once I've explained how a third vehicle isn't so much for the teenager as it is for us. But I actually had butterflies of anticipation as I drove it home, eager for Ethan to be let in on the secret we'd been keeping. And while on the surface it may seem like just another family who bought their kid a car, the reality is we've had to work hard and shift some things and make some sacrifices to make this happen today and I'm feeling very blessed for the ability to do so. I certainly don’t take it for granted. I wonder if it's how my dad felt when he changed his mind on the "no teenager should have their 'own' car" stance and parked that 1986 Pontiac Sunbird on the driveway for me to find when I got off the bus that February morning of my junior year of high school.  

I wish I could ask him.

I suspect he's already given me the answer.

So- timing. I’m not a patient person (see above re: mind made up/must act now) but I do recognize and appreciate these little lessons when I experience them. Yes, it’s just a car. Of course. I guess. But that doesn’t mean it can’t also be a vehicle (see what I did there?) to convey a little life lesson, complete with a few reassuring signs that the time was right.

Thanks Brad. We’ll miss you. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

What I'm hearing on Facebook these days

When you say, "Please can we just stop the fighting and unify as the great country we are?"

I hear, "I am not listening to your concerns."

When you say, "Please can we just go back to posting pictures of what we're eating and cats?"

I hear, "I have accepted and moved on and so I need you to do the same, whether you are ready or not."

When you say, "It's time to move on past this."

I hear, "I do not respect or understand that you need more time to grieve and process."

When you say, "Stop posting all these hateful things."

I hear, "I have seen some truly hateful things being posted. And they are keeping me from hearing the message you are trying to send because I have lost faith in my ability to discern truth from fiction or reason from hyperbole."

When you say, "He won the election because a majority voted for him."

I hear, "I don't actually understand how our election process works."

When you say, "The protests should stop because they look like whining crybabies."

I hear, "I do not understand that people are truly hurting and very afraid."
(or maybe if we're being really honest it's "I am afraid I have contributed to these peoples' hurt and anger.")

When you say, "Protests have never happened before after an election."

I hear, "I do not know how to use Google to fact-check before I make an absolute statement."

When you say, "Keep it off Facebook."

I hear, "I need a break from reading things I do not agree with."
Also: "I do not know the difference between "unfollowing" and "unfriending" someone on Facebook.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Do you ever have one of those moments that seems kind of insignificant at first, then seems to suddenly take on some meaning and then before you know it, your brain is turning it over and over so much that you have to go and write it down just to be able to focus on something else?

No? Just me?

The grocery situation in our house is at code “you’re really just better off going out to eat” and since I was alone for dinner, I stopped at Culver’s while running a few errands tonight. At first I pulled into the drive-thru but then I changed my mind and was going to go somewhere else. Then I changed it again, so I decided to go in and get my food to go. (Yes, this is typical behavior for me and yes, my husband is a saint.) 

I walked in behind two older gentlemen. I’m terrible at guessing ages but the older of the two seemed to be in his 80’s and was walking with a cane. The other man appeared to be his son so for the sake of the story, that’s just how I’ll refer to him from here out. The son was helping his father to walk along and when I saw him struggling to hold the door with one hand and his father with the other, I jumped in and grabbed the door. 

And just like that, it hit me.

I miss the days of taking my grandparents out to eat. Even if it was something as simple as a dinner at Culver’s. 

I continued to watch these two as they ordered and the older gentleman joked with the cashier, pulling a handful of change from his pocket and asking her to find the 17-cents needed for their bill. As I observed all of this, I flashed back to the numerous times I would take my grandma out to eat after driving her to a doctor’s appointment or to the grocery store. It wasn’t easy to manage her and her walker along with a baby and then toddler but I just figured out the multiple steps we needed to get it done and did it. I knew the day would come that I would miss it.

I was right.

When I ordered my food the cashier asked if it was for “here” and I smiled and said, “sure.” Just like that, I decided not to take the food home. I felt compelled to stay.

So I sat several booths behind the two men and pulled out my phone while I waited for my food. Soon, their voices carried over to my direction and I could hear the older man telling a story while his son nodded his head and followed along patiently.

For the last several years of his life, whenever my dad and I would say “good-bye” he would thank me for spending time with him. I always thought that was kind of odd.

I understand it now, after watching the two men at Culver’s share the gift of their time with each other.

And then, it hit me that I will never get to take my elderly father to Culver’s on a Sunday night to have dinner. I will never have the privilege of having him hold on to my arm for support as I lead him to the booth and listen to him talk about the medical things that are ailing him or hear him tell a story I’ve heard dozens of times before. 

You can probably guess what happened next... I turned in to a blubbering mess right there in Culver’s and had to make a hasty exit to retreat to the safety and solitude of my car for a good cry.

I guess you could say I’m not a person who really believes much in chance. I tend to think things happen for a reason and when I’m in the midst of the most complicated or even the most seemingly simple of experiences, I often find myself wondering, “what does this mean? What is the message I’m supposed to be getting here?”

So as I sat and cried in the car while my custard was melting, I searched for the significance of the moment. I never really eat at Culver’s and if I do, I certainly don’t go in and sit in the restaurant by myself. So why had I done all of that tonight?

The gift of time. 

The luxury of growing old.

The reminder that no matter how much we appreciate it and soak it in, we never have enough time with our loved ones.

And suddenly, I knew.

We are on the cusp of a summer family vacation that will include a long road trip. We are a busy family with a hectic schedule and as such, we tend to welcome the slowing down of time that a long drive together brings. So while most people think it sounds awful to drive 18 hours with 4 kids, I am like a kid on Christmas with anticipation for the journey.

But I haven’t had such a great attitude about the drive home. You see, this vacation is going to be spent with my in-laws. They are flying to our destination but decided they’d like to drive home with us instead of flying back.

And I’ll just be blunt: I have not had a good attitude about this “plan.”

To begin with, it just didn’t make sense to my logical loving brain. Our car will seat us all, but just barely and not comfortably. Part of the key to success for long road trips for my kids is that they each have their own corner of the car to retreat to and namely that they not have to be touching each other. With all of us in the car, that won’t be possible.

This plan has meant an entirely new set of logistics for us to work out - now we need a roof top luggage carrier, we’re not sure if we’ll stop along the way or drive straight through (because we potentially have another driver now), and then there is the matter of getting my in-laws to their house, which adds a lot more time to the trip.

And I couldn’t help but wonder if my in-laws had really thought through the ramifications of driving 18+ hours with the 4 grandchildren they had just spent a week with?

I’ve told lots of people about this plan. It’s made for a great story as I made new friends this past weekend and gotten a lot of laughs and good luck wishes. I was trying to adopt a good attitude about it, but I was kind of failing.

I’ll admit it.

But now - message received. It will be ok. It will be precious, special time that my kids will get to spend with their grandparents. Time spent together isn’t always convenient. It rarely happens without effort and even sacrifice. My children may retreat to their rooms and collapse in a frenzied state of relief when we return home and they may be miserable for much of the drive.

But they will always remember the trip, and the time spent together and if we’re very, very lucky - there will be lots of stories they’ll have to tell as a result.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Moving, Moving, Moving

I am not a runner. In fact, I am not an athletic person at all. Growing up, the only sport I really participated in was swimming and really I only did that in the "I swim on the country club's summer swim team mostly so my parents can socialize" kind of way.

I didn't like balls coming at me, or balls that I had to chase (really? what's the point of that?) and so I just avoided most sports completely and willingly accepted myself as "non-athletic."

As a mother with children who are athletic (and of course now I'm also the wife of a soccer coach), I have learned to appreciate sports but still mostly in the "I'm just here to sit on the sidelines and socialize" kind of way.

And I was fine with all of this.

But earlier this summer, a friend who is helping to organize the Pekin to Peoria St. Jude Run (a satellite event to the Memphis to Peoria run) tried to convince me to sign up. At first, I just laughed but she insisted the event isn't about running, it's about raising money. And she insisted anyone - runner or not - would be able to participate. But still, I balked. Too many other things going on this summer. I didn't need one more thing to fill my schedule.

But then I had two friends who unexpectedly found themselves St. Jude parents. One of them was the friend working so hard to convince me to join the run. Another has a 4-year old diagnosed with a brain tumor. In the back of my head, I kept hearing a voice.

"Why are you resisting? So running is hard, so what? It's no harder than what these kids are doing. Don't turn your back from this opportunity. You have something to give, and you have something much larger here to receive. Do it."

So, I signed up. And in the roughly two weeks since I started "training" (boy, do I use that term loosely!) I have racked up about 16 miles. That is approximately twice as many miles as I have run in my entire lifetime prior to this point. (Probably not as exaggerated as you may think. :) )

And guess what? I like running. Or more specifically, I like the way I feel after a run. I like that I have discovered I CAN run, a lot further than I ever imagined - up to 3 miles at a time without stopping so far. I like the quiet time to myself, and I like the camraderie of running with friends.

I do run slowly though. Partly I think because I am such a terrible runner and partly because I have a lot of slower music on my iPhone. I like to pull up the playlist and hit "shuffle" and then get lost in the songs that show up and the meaning they have in my life.

There are a lot of songs on my phone right now that relate to my dad.

Earlier tonight, I was clipping right along in my run... just about to reach the 2-mile mark and only a few blocks from my stopping point. I was doing great, focusing on my breathing, enjoying the spirit lift that comes when you know a good workout is coming to an end.

And then the song on my phone changed and suddenly Josh Groban's "To Where You Are" began to play.

Who can say for certain
Maybe you're still here
I feel you all around me
Your memory, so clear

It's such a beautiful song, and it speaks right to my heart.

And right there, I stopped running and started sobbing. In the middle of the block, right there in the street, sweat pouring down my face amidst the tears. Gut-wrenching, ripping your heart out sobbing.

You see, just before I left for my run tonight, I got a text that my little sister is engaged.


This is GREAT, happy, WONDERFUL news! It's the kind of engagement that makes you say, "finally!" because you've known it was coming for many years now. My dad knew Ben, my dad loved Ben, my dad knew Ben and Tiffany would get married one day.

But now it's happening and my dad isn't here.

And I jump back on the grief roller coaster again.

I felt the same way last May when my other sister graduated from high school. There are certain life events that you just *expect* your parents to be present for. High school graduations, college graduations, and weddings are not out of this realm. Many people take them for granted.

I never did.

With each passing milestone in my life, I thanked God for the presence of my family. My dad started chemotherapy two weeks before my wedding and as he walked me down the aisle, he brushed away hair that was just starting to fall out from his eyes.

But he was there.

I don't have any pictures of myself with my dad at my college graduation (an unfortunate slip-up that still haunts me to this day) and only one of us together at our house before I left for my high school graduation.

But he was there.

And when my first three children were born and I was miscarrying my second baby in the emergency room of the local hospital, my dad was there. The hand holding mine in the photo just after Elisabeth was born (while I braced for a shot for stitches) was my dad's.

Again and again and again, my dad was there. Because he wanted to be.

And I know he'd want to be here for my sisters too. And sometimes, I just get so mad at the unfairness of it all. It's not fair to them, it's not fair to him. It's not fair to my children.

Fly me up to where you are
Beyond the distant star
I wish upon tonight
To see you smile
If only for awhile to know you're there
A breath away not far
To where you are

It's not fair.


And I feel guilty too. Guilty for the experiences I got to have that they won't. Guilty for wanting more. Guilty knowing some people don't ever have the kind of relationship we had with a parent, let alone get to have it for 34 years.

Are you gently sleeping
Here inside my dream
And isn't faith believing
All power can't be seen

As my heart holds you
Just one beat away
I cherish all you gave me everyday
'Cause you are my
Forever love
Watching me from up above

Just yesterday, I was emailing with a friend who lost her father a few weeks ago. As I explained the concept of "grief bursts," I thought about how long it had been since I'd experienced one. They're the sudden, unforseen things that suddenly set you off and they happen when you least expect it. I cried when I heard a stranger whistling at Wal-Mart, but did just fine when my 10-year old son made sure to include his Papa Tebben's birthday on his new planner. Sometimes, the happiest of events are the ones that evoke the strongest, aching longing deep in the soul.

That's how I'm feeling tonight.

Life is moving on. And of course I know my dad is watching and smiling. I know he's even smiling as he watches me, the emotional one, work through and process all of this with excitement, tears, and finally... writing.

I know he'll be there. I suspect he will even make his presence known.

And I know he's proud that we all keep moving. That we all face the challenges in our lives and keep moving, moving, moving, trying new things and not shying away from the things that seem hard.

We all just... keep... running.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Day in the Life of Ainsley - age (almost) 16 months

7:20am - Hey! What was that? Sounded like my big brother Aidan slamming the toilet lid! Thank goodness he did that or I might have slept in today and since everyone else is already up and leaving for wherever it is they go all day, I KNOW mommy wants me to get up too! Some days I don’t get up until after everyone else has already left and mommy always looks so lonely. I’d better start yelling so she knows to come and get me!

8:30am - Better start asking for some breakfast. Nursing was great but it’s time to sink my teeth into some toast too!

9:30am - Mommy is dozing on the couch. I don’t know why Sesame Street puts her to sleep, it’s one of the few shows I find really fascinating! Oh well, I will sit here in my little chair and watch... but just for a little bit.

10:00am - Got my exercise done for the day. I crawled all over mommy on the couch for about 20 minutes... phew, what a workout!

10:30am - I see mommy’s heading to the bathroom. I’d better go with her and be sure to shut the door behind us! I don’t want her to be lonely in there. But while I’m there, I’ll try reorganizing the garbage can to keep me busy.

11:00am - Mommy opened the refrigerator to make lunch. Oh boy the things I can get into in there! I found a bottle of strawberry syrup and drank some. Mommy just laughed and took my picture. Kind of feeling a little sugar rush now...

11:15am - Turns out, I like egg salad too! Who knew? I ate 2 little egg salad sandwiches... got to keep my energy up!

1:00pm - Mommy thought it was probably time for me to take a nap, and really I’m too tired to arrrggguuuee...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

3:45pm - I’m up! Looks like the “guys” are all back home from wherever it is they go every day too, and we’re off to Wal-Mart. Mommy says Elisabeth needs a birthday gift for a friend and we need a few things for dinner and some new socks for the boys. Boy, we sure spend a lot of time in this store! I’ve learned that mommy moves faster when I start standing up in my seat in the cart. And don’t think that strap thing is any use... I know just how to get out of it in no time flat! It makes the old ladies in the aisles nervous but I usually just smile and wave at them so they stop and talk to us anyway. Today we got all the way back out to the car with our stuff when mommy realized she hadn’t paid for something on the bottom of the cart. So, back in we went. Guess mommy got her exercise today too!

5:15pm - Time to drop Elisabeth off at soccer practice. Ethan is going to stay here too, but I’m going to stay with mommy. She said we have to go buy some stuff at Elisabeth’s dance studio, and then we are going home! I guess Elisabeth has a big dance event coming up... geez these brothers and sister of mine are busy! It’s a good thing my car seat is so comfortable because I spend a LOT of time in it! (Don't worry, this picture is a few weeks old and my mommy fixed that turned around strap protector thing!)

6:15pm - We’re home now and I’m trying really hard to help mommy. I noticed that earlier she messed up all the work I did decorating the family room and the kitchen with my toys, so I’m going to work on that. I think mommy is feeling a little lonely without me right by her too so I’m making sure to cry every time she walks out of my sight, even for just a minute. This girl who comes by a lot (I think her name is Jordan and mommy must be helping her get ready for some big competition or something?) came over for a few minutes tonight. She wasn’t here long, but I showed her how good I am at knocking things off of shelves while she was here. I also showed her how good I am at holding on to mommy’s legs and crying. Luckily, mommy took the cue pretty quickly and found something for me to play with right next to her. I guess she needed to get some paperwork done or something, so I finally let her do it.

7:00pm - Mommy gave me some green beans and cheese. Nobody else is eating yet but she must have realized I’m getting really hungry. I wonder how she knows? Eventually everybody got home and sat down to eat and she gave me some more beans and some fish. I ate all of that, plus a roll and some Pringles I sweet talked daddy into later.

8:00pm - These other kids sure are fun. They messed up my family room decorations too (mommy told them to) but they made up for it by playing hide ‘n seek with me. Daddy tickled me and made me laugh really loud - mommy said that was kind of a surprise because daddy is not usually a good tickler.

8:30pm - For some reason, everybody seems to laugh a lot when I make these faces. Ethan taught it to me. First, you tuck your chin way down in to your neck and then you look up at the person in front of you without smiling. Then you stick your chin and neck way out and make a “pa pa pa” sound with your lips, and then you start giggling. I don’t know why they like it so much but it sure is funny every time I do it! I also gave a bunch of kisses on the lips tonight, they love it when I do that too. I guess I’m pretty good entertainment sometimes.

9:00pm - Heading upstairs now. I sure love these warm, soft and fuzzy pink pajamas mommy put on me. I think she said Elisabeth used to wear them too? I don’t know, but they sure are comfy! Mommy and I sat in the recliner in her room and nursed for a few minutes. Now that I’m older, it’s harder and harder for me to sit still very long so I got a nice drink and then tried to get down and play. Mommy said it was time for bed though, so she laid me down with my blanket and my favorite toy “Violet” and turned out the lights. I guess I am pretty tired, because I didn’t even make a sound. Sometimes I fuss for a few minutes but never very long. I guess mommy doesn’t like that Ferber guy very much so she just waits until I’m good and tired and it usually works out ok. At least it’s fine when we’re at home but when we stay in a hotel I really try to switch things up on her.

You know, mommy seemed kind of tired today and I’m not sure why because I haven’t gotten her up at night for a couple of weeks now. Hmmm. I think that big wedding in England is happening tonight so maybe if I wake her up tonight she won’t even mind so much? Well, we’ll see what the night briiinngggsszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.