remembering for him: a tribute to my Daddy

I lost my Dad almost a decade ago.

But really I lost him long before that… to that terrible thief Alzheimer’s.

And so today, on Father’s Day, I want to take some time and do the thing that he was robbed of: remembering.

My Daddy loved the water. Every time we visited West Virginia, he made sure to take me canoeing at Babcock State Park. In all our family travels, there wasn’t a hotel pool that we didn’t enjoy together. I remember in the beginning stages of his sickness when he confided in me: “I feel something special when I’m moving through water; I can’t explain it.” He was shy to say it, thinking it was one more confusing curse of his disease. But I got it. I get it. I share this with him always.

My Daddy loved being outside. He climbed rocks and played with abandon. He always pointed weeping willows out to me. He toyed with snakes while my Mom screamed in the background. I remember taking walks with him around our neighborhood. Every time we were visited by a cardinal, we stopped and he called to it. I still do that.

My Daddy loved music. I remember dancing with him in the living room. We would twirl and then he would shoot me through his legs and rocket me up in the air; it was magical. He had this special whistle melody that he sang wherever he went; to this day I kick myself for not recording it. During the holiday seasons, we would play Christmas tunes in the car and we would sing and whistle along. He loved Frank Sinatra and Yanni. Even near the end of his decaying mind, he would sit on the couch and put in his CDs and close his eyes and tip his head back and disappear into the sounds; music was one thing he could remember. And now music reminds me of him.

My Daddy loved being active. He taught me how to catch, putting in hours with me tossing around baseballs with our tried and true gloves. I remember how much he loved golf, and how much he loved it even more when his family was involved. When I was a child, he would tip a cup over on the shag carpet and we would lie on our bellies and pool-shoot the golf ball into it. Later in life, I’ll never forget that one time I chipped in for a birdie… both of us were surprised and overjoyed. My athleticism reminds me of him.

My Daddy loved being adventurous. He loved traveling and road trips. As I look back at pictures, I have so many with him all around the country. I remember a white water rafting trip that bumped him out of the boat into the rapids. I was paranoid but we just got him back in and moved on downstream. Horses were my Mom’s and my thing. But, despite not being interested and slightly afraid, he did it anyways on one of our yearly trips to Kentucky. I’ll never forget when his horse neared home and took off and galloped down the hill and my Dad was sprawled-eagle with arms and legs flailing in the wind and reins everywhere but in his hands and then he was on the ground. We laughed at that story for years. I live a life of adventure now, too.

My Daddy was selfless. When I was a teenager, despite him not really supporting my religious fervor, he drove me back and forth from Oak Park several times a week for various meetings. He had this mocking way of saying “Oakkkkkk Parrrrrrk” when I would ask, because it was so common and so ridiculous. But he still did it. He always asked me true questions about how I was doing and what was going on. (I still have regrets for not answering him when I could. Maybe this is why my love language is questions.) He was selfless even in his sickness. I was so scared he would be too far gone to walk me down the aisle. But he did it, even though he didn’t fully understand what was happening…and I’m sure he was afraid.

My Daddy LOVED my Mom. When we would fight, all he ever said was: “don’t talk to your Mother like that.” It was never about him, but about her. When they weren’t doing well, he would talk to me about it and what was wrong and how it could change and why was it like that; he was petrified of losing her. In his sickness, the conversations revolved around us taking care of her when he was gone. This shaped my pursuit of a husband, and I am blessed to have found someone that evokes this strength of my Dad.

I love you Daddy.

I remember you Daddy.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

that’s what she (would’ve) said

Today my mother would have turned 80 years old.

Now, I just see her in my face, looking back at me looking at her. Now that I’ve cut my hair short, the strong curve of the cheekbones, set of the eyes and prominent arc of the nose remind me even more of her.

And this is good. Because, as much as I hate to admit it, grief turns into vague recollection, which eventually fades into forgetting, which always ends in gut-sinking guilt.

The days when I could barely breath because the loss was sitting on my chest are almost nonexistent. Some days I don’t even think about her.

Isn’t that terrible?

I don’t know. Maybe it’s a crime against the mother-daughter bond. Maybe it’s natural. (Maybe it’s Maybelline, which was her eyebrow pencil of choice, burnt with a cigarette lighter of course.)

Maybe I’m too busy becoming her. More and more I’m finding my voice, not rolling over and taking it. More and more, I’m thinking about the art of storytelling, which was her specialty. But in a way that her stories are now becoming my own stories. (Isn’t that weird and beautiful, the way a narrative blurs time and people and place? In stories, we are all one.) More and more, I find myself making her food. (Though, sorry Mom, I have perfected your deviled eggs with the secret ingredient of pickle juice! You would have loved them.)

On this day, or during this month, we would have celebrated by going to the casino, all the sisters and her.

I miss that.

558315_10151943817017813_208365568_n

Mom’s last trip to the casino

So today I’m going to do my own betting, if you will.

Here are 5 things I bet my Mom would have said, between long draws of Salems, were she alive during this crazy and historical pandemic.

  1. How’s the weather?
  2. Do you have enough groceries? Aldi had butter on sale and so I stocked up. I had to drive all the way to the one in Indiana, but it was worth it because the gas was so cheap. So I filled up. Yes suree.
  3. Have you seen the news?
  4. Don’t you leave your house now, you hear me?
  5. CAN YOU BELIEVE THE GAS PRICES? <insert Southern-twang-gasp>

weight and Light

My heart has been heavy recently.

As Timehop likes to remind me, this week’s history carries its own weight. Three years ago: our cat died. Five years ago: we were cleaning out my Mom’s house to put it on the market after she died. Six years ago: one year before she died, she had part of her lung removed to combat cancer. I carry all this with me, in my bones, in my blood, viscerally, almost as if the years are on parallel planes. And…in the future, this week will now carry the weight of a heavy diagnosis for someone I care about.

I carry the weight of my students. Senior year is not easy. Senior year as an IB student is definitely not easy. Senior year suffocating under pressure of your parents’ expectations is heartbreakingly not easy. I stopped curriculum last week to have a circle with my students as a time to process, to cry, to hug, to sit. still. I asked them the question: how is your heart? Oh the weight. My students are grieving the future they do not have access to while simultaneously mourning the impending loss of their childhood home and comfort. All this with deadlines and fatigue and sports and college applications and rising rates of depression and hard looks in the mirror and… the list goes on. Sometimes the most important thing we can do as teachers is to carry some of our students’ baggage.

I carry the weight of my colleagues. Tomorrow, Brazil will probably experience an election similar to the US’s most recent: where the people elect a man who prioritizes national identity and fiscal gain at the cost of the marginalized. I now carry the weight of my students on scholarship. The weight of my homosexual friends. The weight of the “other” who is, in essence, me. And you. And us. I am tempted to be angry, to be bitter–exactly my response after Trump’s election. But then I think about the energy I put into the world

and so I pick up Light and carry its weight.

 

 

 

 

gates and guardians: a reflection on the state of a sorrowful heart

Dave and I have spent the last seven days in silence.

No, we’re not in a fight.

Well…

Not with each other at least.

Rather, we have spent the last week at a six-night meditation retreat. I did something similar a few years back and wrote about here (in prose) and here (in verse).

This retreat was a completely different experience and style, but no less impacting. Reflecting with Dave on the way back (finally out of silence!), I remarked on the oddest thing: to see forty people sitting in various states of stillness–some on cushions, some on chairs, some on benches–all poised like little perfect, quiet, quaint Buddha statues. But beneath that serene image, a war wages! Thoughts, “come back to the breath,” distractions, “be here now,” stories, “just breath,” narratives, “what am I aware of?,” memories, “inhale, exhale,” plans, “damn it, just stop thinking already,”–oh my! It is like this most placid, peaceful lake, but below the still surface, sharks are devouring triathletes piece by latex-laden-one-piece swimsuits (oh, can you see what I’m worried about…).

I spent a lot of (uncomfortable) time sitting at this retreat with these questions:

How is the quality of my heart? How open is my heart?

It wasn’t pretty.

After an emotional meltdown the final day of school, for some reasons fathomed and others only felt, I have been thinking a lot about a sense of deadening I have had lately. My highs aren’t quite as high and my lows aren’t quite as low. I wondered if this is a result of my solidifying meditation practice? I mean, that can be a good thing, right? But what I know to be true about my most authentic self is passion: rip-roaring laughter followed by belly-aching bawling (not to mention a few pants-splitting farts; did I mention this retreat was vegetarian and I’ve had a lot of roughage lately?!).

Anyway, back to the matters of the heart. Literally (how about that transition?).

I also reflected on the quality of my relationships with people. After all, isn’t this the sign of an open heart? I care for people–it’s my job after all–but all too often, it is on my own terms and when I can control it. I’m not very good at accepting gestures of kindness or affection (as demonstrated on this retreat, where I felt guilty and lazy [“I must not be working hard enough,” she thought to herself, “oh wait, stop thinking…”] because it just felt too nourishing–what IS that?!).

And though I’m still sitting with it (yep, trust me, my butt hurts, and brain, and heart), I can only explore the answer to these questions (at least at this point) through the lens of grief. My mere third decade of life has been defined by the razored edges of loss and grief. Prepared, but no less heartbroken, I lost my dad in 2011. Unprepared, and all the more heartbroken, I lost my mom less than two years later. Then our very old cat. Then our very young dog. (Which, really, come on, pets? What does that matter? But when the wound is open and raw, even a faint breeze stings deeply. Not to mention the odd parallels between my parents’ and pets’ deaths [read about that bizarre connection here]).

Who am I?

am grief.

And so, I coped. I’d like to say pretty well. I have not lost the roots of gratitude nor faith to the black hole of bitterness.

But I come back to the questions at hand:

How is the quality of my heart? How open is my heart?

How could I not, on some level–hidden, deep, essential, true–close my heart after all that heartbreak?

Perhaps the loss-womb birthed a Guardian who stands at the entrance with an iron grip on the pulsing blood-veined gates.

He is fierce. He is loyal. He is protective.

But maybe it’s time I bid him farewell. In peace. In gratitude. In honor.

Dear Guardian of my heart, you came unbidden, but ached for.

Thank you for the gift of one sure, slow step at a time in the dark, tear-damp forest of the grieving soul.

Thank you for the preservation of what is good while so. much. bad. gnawed at my bones.

I bow to you. But, alas, it is time I send you on your way.

May you protect another vulnerable heart.

But for now, it is time I open the gates.

I open the gates.

I open my heart.

 

 

 

 

 

my compass and North Star

I grew up taking road trips in vans. You know the kind. Long, bulky, with a back seat that served simultaneously as a trampoline for no more monkeys jumping in the bed and a torture chamber for big brothers to pick on their siblings. There wasn’t a road trip we went on where we didn’t lay that back seat down and camp out there.

No matter the budget, my Mom made sure we traveled. We left before the sun rose, just like she worked. And our trips were always fully stocked. She was sure to pack a cooler with ice-cold beverages and several bags of goodies–salty (for her) and sweet (for my Dad). (Both for me.) Not that this meant we didn’t stop at gas stations to get our favorite treats. We did. (And promptly left brothers-in-law behind.) However, when we didn’t have that luxury, you can bet this 8-year old was learning to pee in a Mountain Dew can.

Our destinations were all over the United States. We drove West, South, North, and East. I will always treasure visiting the Badlands, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Glenwood Springs, Mount Rushmore, Wall Drug with my parents; trips carved on the map of memory. Most often our destination was my Mom’s hills of West Virginia, where now she rests in peace. Or part of her does.

Much of her rests in me.

As Dave and I spend our ninth month in a foreign country, I can’t help but feel I inherited my Mom’s travel bug. In our short time here, we have already traveled around to several beaches and mountain towns in Brazil, not to mention internationally to Argentina. Our trip to Patagonia is reserved, and we’re figuring out Mendoza and Machu Picchu.

I guess she’s not resting that much after all.

Yesterday, she would have turned 78. But she didn’t. She’s gone. Too soon, and too brutally. But what loss isn’t? I am left with grief, a constant companion.

But I am also left with her, the ever-present sailor at the helm pointing onward to new shores. Actually, she hated water; she would hate that metaphor. I can hear her “no,” which sounds more like a creek-hollar-“knnnnewwwwwwww.”

But I am left with her, the wandering compass and the North Star: adventure and home, map and mailbox, there and here.

206098_10150324149377813_6882215_n

 

holidays: the rhythm of life

I sit here in the glow of a twinkling tree. It is my in-law’s tree. It is Dave’s parent’s tree. It is the tree of the only parents I have anymore.

My eyes feast upon the bird feeders that gather feathery visitors of brown, yellow, blue, and grey. Flashes of red draw my attention to a couple-eternal of cardinals.

Acoustic Christmas music caresses my ears, wrapping my heart in a bow. A melody of holiday angels.

It is the first time this season I have let myself feel Christmas. Nostalgia drips from my eyes and rolls down my cheeks. My folded hands are now wet.


Back “home” in Brazil, the ocean calls to me.

I hear its thunderous heartbeat from miles away. I feel its rolling cadence kneading my spirit. I meditate on my breath, thinking of concentric inhales and exhales, waves kissing the sandy shore of my soul. I bathe in the monthly light of the moon, a recurrent concealing and unveiling of a divine mystery–the slow, secret wink of a goddess.


Our modern-day technology deceives us.

There is no calendar app to sync with the ancient, enduring, authentic meter of life. There is no alarm that vibrates when it is time to reconnect with nature, family, death, or–worst yet–ourselves.

There is so much noise and very little listening. Cars and radios and TVs and fireworks and honking and cranes and complaining and evasive eyes and white noise and racist poses and Pavlov’s bells and to-dos and exhausted yeses and meaningless nos and.

and


The holidays are an anchor, tethering us to the rhythm of life.

They demand us to stop.

They force us to grieve.

They invite us to connect.

They remind us to breathe.

They demand us to remember.

They urge us to reflect.

They inspire us to be.

 

tidings of comfort

When I think of God, I think of Love.

When I think of Love, I think of Comfort.

And when I think of Comfort, I think of the holidays.

In the past year, we’ve lost both our pets. Our Christmas tree sits undisturbed in the corner of our living room, the sun through the windows its only companion. We don’t come home and play the game we so loved to be annoyed by: six ornaments rolling around on the ground, one broken, moving them further and further up the tree in some Jenga strategy to protect them from wagging hazards and pawing attacks.

Comfort.

Tomorrow marks the 5th anniversary of my Dad’s passing. My Dad loved Christmas music. He would sing along to it, or whistle along to it, from the deepest places of joy in his heart. To this day, I can’t hear “Silent Night” or “Jingle Bell Rock” without hearing his voice from some secret distance.

Comfort.

Two years later, my Mom joined my Dad. I miss her Christmasness. Peanut butter balls, fudge, all on a plate saran-wrapped, sitting cold on the porch. The buffets of food and a family packed around a festive tablecloth in an ivy-wallpapered kitchen. Mom, sitting near a frosty window cracked open so her cigarette smoke could escape.

Comfort.

And still we celebrate. There is joy in the holiday season. We are surrounded by those who love us and those whom we love. We live lives dripping with reasons to be grateful.

But there is also a sadness. An indescribable and inexplicable and inapproachable loneliness wraps around our heart like a scarf against the cold. A narrative of Christmas pasts of bonding and fighting reflects back at us from the twinkling lights. A deep ache to pick up the phone and hear that voice, that laugh, just once more burns as a candle on the windowsill. A longing for all the lost Christmases that will never be had drops in the belly, heavy like too many cookies.

Grief multiplies like frost on a window, intricate and beautiful and shattering lines of connection that disappear with the touch of a warm finger on lifeless glass.

Comfort.

I write this for me.

But, I write this for you, too: Jennifer and Jenny and Jen. Pam and Jo Ann. Mark and Regina. Cheryl. Erica. Fernanda. Heather. Doyle and Laina. Kathryn. Brandon. Dad and Mom. Juli. Jan. My family. Mel. Chris. Cara. Hilary. Melissa. Those of you not named, but nonetheless with me in sorrow during this season.

We stand together in the snow, icicles of crystal tears, and we hold each other up. Like wreaths, we circle in love and welcome those weights that break us and make us. We look for the light in the Bethlehems of each others’ hearts. We huddle together around the fire of comfort.

Comfort. For you. For me.


 

 

 

the ghost of grief past

I am haunted by grief. Like a ghost that fades in and out of the bedroom corner, sometimes it is silent, hovering beneath the floorboards; but sometimes it is devastatingly near, ice freezing through my veins.

Recently…I shiver.

Last year, I watched my cat die a long, slow death. His silky steel grey fur turned bristlecone; his oversized athletic body turned gristly; his ferocious appetite for salmon turned into aching refusal to eat; his impeccable potty and self-grooming habits turned sloppy spills all over the house. The cat who walked around the block with us could no longer hop up on our bed. He wandered the house, unsure of where he was, crying in confusion. Life oozed out of him, leaving a trail of tears.

Six years ago, I watched my Dad die a long, slow death. His consistent commitment to a healthy breakfast of Total cereal faded into choking on undigested food; his appetite for walks in the neighborhood faded to police rides back to a home he could no longer remember; his strong able body faded into a bony skeleton; his obsessive daily grooming with an electric razor faded into a unoccupied man playing with his feces. The man who drove my teenage self all over creation could no longer remember my name. He wandered the house, unsure of where he was, looking and laughing at a stranger’s reflection in the mirror. Life oozed out of him, leaving a trail of fears.

I am haunted by the molasses pace of death, its grief sticky and icky.

This year, I watched my dog disappear in the blink of an eye. Just the weekend before, we were camping and hiking and playing in alpine lakes with his girlfriend. He was strong. Full of life. Then, sickness. Then, death. My house is empty.

Three years ago, I watched my Mom disappear in the blink of an eye. Just the weekend before, we were laughing and buffeting and playing the slots with the family. She was strong. Full of life. Then, sickness. Then, death. My heart is empty.

I am haunted by the wind-sucking swiftness of death, its grief whiplash and heartcrash.

I am haunted.1690184_10152245507652813_202266945_n

225740_10150324148857813_2122403_n

 

 

 

 

 

here’s to the dog

Here’s to the dog who transformed from a scared, skinny, reserved mess into a brave, athletic, playful son. When we first met you at the pound, we took you into the yard to see how you’d interact with us. As Dad threw a ball, rather than fetching, you cowered, trying desperately to disappear into yourself.  Our hearts broke at the invisible story that brought you to such a sad place. For years, we didn’t think you had a voice at all. Maybe your box had been removed? Dad would give me such shit for trying to teach you to speak. But you learned, didn’t you. You found your voice and the courage to use it to protect us, to laugh with us, to tell us you were there, to tell us you were hungry. Our hearts applauded your self-discovery. We knew you came into your own when we’d let you loose on at the local park, and you would run like a freak. Unabashed. Insanely. Comically. Gleefully. Our hearts celebrated at the freedom you finally felt in love.

541314_10150851107927813_1581715725_n 562799_10150851107747813_1902215786_n 10398608_72240252812_8237673_n 10399598_53520152812_9512_n

Here’s to the dog who transformed us into ninjas in the morning. As our bodies eased out of deep slumber, we’d stealthily adjust in the bed so as not to awaken your bladder. Our even worst was when our bladders were awake. We’d lie there in pain, just so we didn’t give you the false impression that our day was, indeed, actually starting. Or sometimes, you went into the ninja business with one of us. So as not to awaken the other parent, one of us would coax you out of the bedroom as sneakingly as possible. But alas, your hummingbird tail always drummed the bed, the walls, the door, our souls: the imperfect perfect alarm clock.

195825_10150151340002813_2213917_n 28780_10151346288317813_1478527559_n 10665833_10153295538442813_6495603892658744560_n 10470571_10153119531812813_7069197862796896120_n 282260_10151262884607813_2074466239_n

Here’s to the dog who was my dancing companion. You know as well I do, Momma don’t clean without some good music. And so there I’d be in the living room, blasting Rihanna or Britney Spears or Juanes, and well of course my feet and hips would catch on. And so would yours. You’d look at me from your bed, then your tail would mark time, then you’d raise to your feet and bow your chest to the ground, then you’d come to me, then I’d pat my chest, and what do you know, I’m in my living room dancing with a four-legged companion, upright on your hind quarters, paws on my shoulders, mouth panting in rhythmed ecstasy.

1930457_33430112812_8591_n 1919160_192461262812_7397308_n 38418_439971082812_4160013_n 73041_492507727812_2398029_n 73694_492508172812_1248683_n 261853_10150308992172813_6826574_n 425146_10150641017682813_1306980350_n 1044143_10151737797722813_1331969970_nHere’s to the dog who never met a rock you didn’t conquer. No matter what trail, what state, what adventure, the nearest rock would eventually become your throne as you explored it and scratchily fell off it and climbed atop again and eventually planted your paws like Armstrong on the moon, standing tall and regal, tail in the wind like a flag’s declaration, surveying the conquest.

1931066_43891197812_2981_n 37842_441107472812_7236805_n 7796_10151722193852813_666867922_n 969471_10151722193892813_930223529_n 12919771_10154050889902813_2579220908863884397_n944708_10151722194207813_1109988568_n

Here’s to the dog who was just the goofiest kid who just wanted desperately to be liked by his peers. You hated water until you saw one of the cool kids running around in it. You didn’t understand fetch until you saw another dog doing it, then you tried out for the team but didn’t make the cut. Oh, you’ll eat a treat because that dog ate a treat. You loved to stick your nose in anything, even when you found it being exploded back into your face by a sneeze. You playfully wrestled with the ground. You looked like you were seizing when you tried to roll over on command.

10398608_72240302812_1406073_n 14841_183354347812_3012529_n 1012737_10151722193652813_1521828108_n 1426538_10152120892192813_1425703883_n 13327423_10154223939032813_8806188645809152740_n 12733574_10153949416757813_4004263113128945089_n 10475523_10152619792837813_2436204602763481656_n 1011240_10152240035357813_507314066_n

Here’s to the dog who was loved by all those we loved. You were the calm dog everyone felt comfortable being around. You protected the Doyle girls like they were your own. Your were gentle with my aging parents. You let puppies have their space (we’ll pretend this was your honor, instead of the fact that you were petrified by them). You cradled yourself into our families and into our friendships. You were our son, and everybody knew it. And they loved you.

20443_239316942812_7079097_n 20443_239317122812_2390385_n 263753_10150308993802813_1633720_n 248914_10150272013502813_3389252_n 531892_10151850472432813_1167198811_n 12189834_10153734968882813_5909811412041738840_n 10533812_10154004097597813_8714969450399039191_n 1508207_10152152521122813_1791053365_n 1506027_10152152428382813_1925312932_n 1149027_10151851383052813_1681196665_n199546_10150198499222813_1303715_n

Here’s to the dog who loved his brother beautifully. You’d fight, and then you’d paw and makeup. You’d share your toys and your treats and your bed. You kept on eye on him when he walked around the block with us. You were compassionate and kind to him as he aged, and then as he died, and then, you stood steady for us our in grief.

1928867_57530052812_8657_n 1930464_30926292812_9363_n 1918173_206439792812_7635429_n 527467_10151254500312813_1768274460_n 385687_10150954450867813_581611412_n 391984_10150454184232813_437833145_n 1690184_10152245507652813_202266945_n 1505390_10152288877992813_402535110_n10399598_53520207812_2319_n

Here’s to the dog who was your Dad’s favorite. When you’d piss me off, he’d defend you. When I didn’t want to get fur bombed, he’d gather you between his legs and pet you. When I looked and looked and looked, he’d go right for that perfect spot around your ears that made you smile like a druggie. You were his dog, and he was your idol.

1934104_30468822812_3389_n 5174_108927977812_551635_n 1919160_192461267812_1319158_n 23845_358222557812_1007866_n 523747_10151104584607813_2017975347_n 548107_10151104586042813_2146956522_n 580740_10151104599172813_1388848269_n 936267_10151658250817813_2100800538_n 998679_10151737801682813_2042642992_n 13895068_10154366819172813_7382328138409256955_n 1508064_10152876666912813_8218981781037590602_n 10459108_10152876401872813_6456170745803744218_n 1011240_10152240035357813_507314066_n12512397_10154050891162813_411138245580856898_n

Here’s to the dog who was the soul mate for our lifestyle. When we ran, you ran. When we hiked, you hiked. When we camped, you camped. When we melded into the TV, you slept in your bed. When we took road trips, you curled up in the back seat. When we took naps, you snored. When we lounged outside, you curled up in the grass. When we ate, you waited at our feet. When adventure called, you sat politely while we put on your collar. When home beckoned, you greeted us at the door with that one of a kind hip wiggle of yours.

1930457_33430132812_9804_n 4644_97858967812_109828_n (1) 41120_455911897812_6077888_n 283287_10150308993532813_958454_n 318198_10150851105477813_1303365033_n 539731_10151104595062813_72160146_n 1013078_10151737801827813_324865233_n 1013370_10151737801737813_232213888_n 998023_10151765868467813_1879688662_n 1964992_10152367023592813_195322362_n

Here’s to the dog who made our life complete. Here’s to the dog whom we miss with all of the broken pieces of our heart. May you run, smile, rest, and wag in peace.

532550_10151104590137813_148131134_n

happy birthday Mom

Today my Mom would have been 76.

She lived a big life.

She drove a semi across state lines with no training, all for a bushel of nuts.

She beat the sun up most days of her life.

She drank her coffee with so much cream and sugar, it looked more like the remnant of a painter’s cup of cleaning water.

She spent every Sunday morning doing all of our laundry.

She gambled. First with pennies and quarters. But then as her bravery grew, so did the deposited coin. But always, always, she kept within her allotted budget.

She went after a man with a hammer because he threatened her. Once. Only once.

She ensured our van was packed with family and coolers of snacks to venture throughout the country. She might have forgotten her son-in-law at a gas station in Kentucky.  Maybe.

She was obsessed with chewing ice–the right kind of ice–and Lipton powdered ice tea.

She was a master at fixing vacuums.

She ate pounds of crabs legs, slathered in butter and “mmmmmms.”

She hated flowers. A fact she hid from my Dad for a while.

She overcame her fear of flying, visiting us in Colorado at least yearly.

She hunted for pennies in the parking lot as a child to buy food.

She laughed so hard she had to raise up her glasses and pat her eyes with tissues.

She taught me to speak up for what’s right.

She explored caves below the ground and fourteeners in the sky.

She loved to sit in the backyard under the warm Midwestern sun, with her sleeves rolled up to her shoulders. She never wore sunblock or sunglasses.

She loved Pacman and Bejeweled Blitz.

She refused to swim because her brother nearly drowned her as a kid.

She made the best homemade grape juice.

She watched my Dad die two deaths: the loss of his memory of a life spent with her, then finally the loss of a heartbeat.

She bought us groceries, as grown children, when we needed it. Or when we didn’t.

She played entire golf courses with a nine iron.

She loaded her ham with syrupy peaches at Golden Corral.

She escaped from charging bulls over West Virginia fences just. in. the. nick. of. time.

She made the world’s best peanut butter balls. And she wasn’t afraid to talk dirty about them.

She sewed the curtains in our kitchen.

She gave me my love of horses. When visiting West Virginia, she would race the neighbor’s horse down the street, all the while her Mom yelled two syllables from the porch in warning and fear: “Mi-ke!”

She was given the name Aletha, but known by Molly or Mike or Mom or MaMa.

She loved Dave as her own.

She collected bells, postcards and cookbooks from the 18th century. Or at least that’s what they looked like.

She turned her basement into an art studio.

She walked miles to school, barefoot, whilst cougars hovered in the trees looking. All the while her pet pig followed her, the same pet pig that soon became bacon for her family. She couldn’t eat it.

She rapped in our swing on our back porch.

She lived. A big life.

Happy birthday Mom.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Previous Older Entries

Tried and True Teaching Tools

writing into meaning

Reflections

An archive of reflective pieces included in school memos and publications.

gadflyonthewallblog

"To sting people and whip them into a fury, all in the service of truth."

Escaping Bars

Writings on Love, Pain, Overcoming, Hope, Longing, Justice, and Injustice

juliaetorres.blog

Strength \ Vision \ Service \ Exploration

A Tree On Fire With Love

But it's still scary sometimes because most people think love only looks like one thing, instead of the whole world

teaching With "Ang-sigh-eh-tea"

The life of a teacher who struggles with anxiety and depression.

Sampa Sympatico

A Yankee Teacher's Experience of Sao Paulo, Brazil

LINDSAY JILL

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

Once Upon a Time in México

Living my dream of teaching, traveling, and discovering culture

Teach. Travel. Taste.

A peek into the life of an American teacher in Colombia

2seetheglobe

Adventures in Globetrotting

Nomad Notions

Tales of Expat Living, Teaching, and Tramping in Taiwan and Beyond.

Sojourners' Journal

“Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people." —Albert Einstein

Middle East by Midwest

Observations and Experiences of Bahrain

Ex(pat) and the City

The life of a twenty-something Canadian living & teaching in Korea.

International Schools Review

ISR Discussion Boards are open to site members and visitors alike. Your Voice Counts.

Teaching & Traveling

The Life of An International Teacher

EAT~PRAY~TRAVEL

THE ADVENTURES OF A NOMADIC EDUCATOR

pedagogyofthereformed

Teaching in Brooklyn in Spite of Everything

Actively Dying

by Peter Fall Ranger

Practicing Presence

An attempt at mindfulness in life, learning, and love

chanyado

by Aleya Kassam

Words Half Heard

writing into meaning

Greatfull

A snapshot of my journey to living each day with gratitude and striving to be full of greatness

Imperfect Happiness

Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. ~ Mary Oliver

tspelczech

"I'm too old to live my life in fear of dumb people." - Charlie Skinner, The Newsroom

Perfectly Pleased

Finding joy and beauty in the simple things

Cultivate Clarity

creative writing and mindfulness-based coaching, workshops, and retreats

Crawling Out of the Classroom

In everything that my students and I do together, we strive to find ways to use reading and writing to make the world outside of our classroom a better place for all of us to be

ADVENTURES ON THE YOGA MAT

writing into meaning

affectiveliving.wordpress.com/

Purpose, Perspective, and Perseverance for thriving in a challenging world

candidkay

Taking the journey, bumps and all

jenny's lark

the beauty of an ordinary life

Nonlinear Compilations

Parenting, teaching, writing, and learning to find beauty in the present

talk from chalk

What I've learned while teaching

Thoughtful teaching

Thoughts on teaching in the modern world.

Hope, Honor, and Happiness

A blog for the book “Kingdom of the Sun” and discussions on finding the Hope, Honor, and Happiness in education, life, and the seemingly impossible.

Secret Teacher

Life inside the primary classroom

A Confederacy of Spinsters

Sex, Dating, and Surviving Your Twenties

Miss Four Eyes

Seeing twice as much absolutely counts as a super power.