Monday, January 30, 2017

Dad

My Dad died on January 22nd after a long battle with congestive heart failure.  The days and hours preceding his passing have been seared onto my heart and finding the words to provide comfort and share a portion of Dad's legacy was one of the most difficult things I've done.

We celebrated Dad's life on January 28th, and I had the honor of sharing my thoughts with the friends and family that came to pay their respects.  Below, is the talk I gave, edited to reflect a blog post.
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I probably shouldn’t have waited until Friday night to finally compose my thoughts with some semblance of clarity for my talk at Dad's funeral on Saturday.  But if I’d done it earlier, Mom wouldn’t have been able to roll her eyes while I was typing at midnight and even as a 39 year old, that’s something I like to experience. 

Dad was sick for a long time.  Longer than any of us realized.  But even when he went into hospice last month, I didn’t really believe that anything could actually take down Dad.  The man that used to throw me through the air at the pool without so much as a grunt?  The man who would let me hang off his bicep as he would lift his arm until my feet didn’t touch the floor anymore?  The man who, on more than one occasion - and once during my wedding rehearsal dinner surrounded by city folk - punched a horse whose attitude he didn’t appreciate?

THIS is no ordinary man.  I didn't believe that anything can take down a tough old bird like that.


Dad was a true miracle who shouldn’t have made it past the age of 5 due to the quarter-sized hole in his heart… which they found when he was 70. 70!!!!  But because of his unbelievable grit and determination, he worked a farm, married the woman of his dreams, raised three headstrong and stubborn daughters, survived the hijinks of hundreds of high school boys in 29-years of bus driving, and lived to see the birth of his two granddaughters.



As I was procrastinating the talk I would give at his funeral all last week -- you know, when the family is tasked with comforting the people who are coming to comfort the family? I thought about all of the things I learned from my Dad.  And thought that would be the best way to honor him and to give everyone a glimpse into the legacy he has left behind. 

Dad taught us to be tough.  He taught us to be fearless.  He taught us how to work hard.  And most importantly, he taught us to stand up for what we believe, even if it wasn’t popular to do so.  

Everyone that grew up on a farm knows that if a horse bucks you off, you get right back on.  I didn’t even really like horses so I felt that when I got bucked off, well, the horse and I were clearly in agreement about this happening so let’s just call it good.  But, it didn’t matter how much I cried or stomped my feet, Dad insisted that I get back on. When I was in the 6th grade, my horse reared up and rolled over on top of me. It was very scary and not at all something I would ever want to repeat. After it happened, the horse took off one way, and I took off the other. Dad caught up with me before I made it to Mexico, made sure that there weren’t any broken bones.  And then made me get back on and sit on that stupid animal.  Just for 30 seconds, but it may as well have been 30 years.  Today, whenever I have a professional or personal setback, I have to decide if I’m going to run to Mexico, or get back on the horse and handle my business.   Mexico would be fun…  and given the winter we’re having right now, I’m thinking Cabo?  But I know I’d always have that horse on my mind if I didn’t get back on.



Humor and laughter were a big part of life on the farm. Dad had a great sense of humor.  The day after that horse rolled on me, it was gone and I decided that my new ride would be our Shetland pony who didn’t buck or rear.  But in the off chance that she did, I could just put my legs down on the ground. And Dad sure got a kick out of watching me run barrels on that Shetland.  If you’ve never seen a Shetland run barrels with a 70 pound, lanky 12-year-old, with a perm, riding sans saddle and holding on for dear life, then you haven’t really lived. 



And for just a second, let me digress and talk about the perms.  We need to talk about the perms. Dad took over hair duties when mom broke her wrist.  We all have naturally straight hair and none of us were known for our ability to do our hair… a trait that has been passed down to my girls.   I’m not sure why dad thought it would be a good idea to cut our hair into mullets and then perm it… but I can tell you that it was a really rough year for the three of us socially.  But everything was a lesson… this one being that if I can get through the perm femullet (female mullet), with any semblance of confidence, I can survive anything.



Dad was determined to make sure that I had every opportunity to excel and be the best at whatever I set my sights on.  When I was in junior high, I found an ad in sports illustrated that said:  “Somewhere, someone is out there training harder than you.  And when you meet her, she’ll beat you.”  I took offense to this ad and made it my goal to outwork anyone I ever came across.  Dad knew this, and decided it was his chance to cure me of this little problem I had of not being able to jump.  We didn’t have a jump rope when I started my little summer jumping workshop, so Dad gave me a straw rope he kept in the back of his old GMC.  I kept getting little slivers in my hands from the rope because it wasn’t exactly for jump roping.  But for about a week, that was my rope.  I had also brought back a workout from one of the many basketball camps I had attended, and one of the things that it called for was box jumps.  I’m sure you’re probably thinking that dad went ahead and built me a couple of boxes to jump on. And that’s cute.  Surely, you are thinking to yourself, surely he wouldn’t have found an old wood-burning stove in the barn - one with two different levels and covered in rust on the very sharp edges - and told her to jump on it. 


When he presented my new workout equipment, I remember asking him with not a small amount of incredulity: “What if I miss???” 

He was on his 4-wheeler and just kind of looked at me and said:   “Well, I would recommend not missing.”   And then he drove off.   


And that’s how I spent my summer… jumping on to a tetanus shot waiting to happen and becoming a great jumper in the process. 


One of the best lessons I learned from Dad was not being afraid to stand up for myself.  If I had a problem with a coach or a teacher, I would tell my Dad about it, with the hope that he would step in, use his size and his scary voice and handle it.  But, he’d just look at me and say:  

“Well, what are you going to do about that?” 

And so, I had to do something about that.  And the sense of empowerment and confidence it gave me to know that my dad believed in me enough to do that on my own?  Immeasurable. 


This also extended to the boys I grew up with.  I don’t think that it was very often that I didn’t get the last word with them… and yet I couldn’t figure out why I never dated.  I blamed the perm.  Dad blamed my tongue.  But again, he got a kick out of every time I handled my own against a boy.  All the same, he was relieved when I finally found one that appreciated this little personality trait, and could handle the tough job that is dealing with my attitude.



Dad believed in his girls.  He trusted me.  And knowing that I had his trust was an amazing and empowering feeling.  Last week when I had to have one of the most difficult conversations that a child will ever have with their parent - when I told him that we needed to think about his safety and that of mom’s, and that I needed him to get into that hospice bed -  well, let’s just say he was less than thrilled.  I didn’t blame him.  

“Dad… it’s not like you’re giving up.  You just have to think about your safety.  It will be okay. ”   

He closed his eyes and I held his hand and asked him:  “Do you trust me?”   

He got that little Kirk-Smirk of his and simply said:  “NOPE”.  

And then we argued about who would have the last say at his funeral.   



One of my favorite memories of Dad is sitting with him on our porch during a storm.  We would look to the east and watch the lightening over the hill.  We didn’t talk when we’re watching the storm.  This was not the place for high school drama, or complaining about my sister cheating at monopoly again.  This was a place for quiet stillness.  I loved that time of quiet reflection and meditation, although I’m sure that he would scoff at the word meditation.  But as I look at it from my grown up, admittedly liberal perspective, that’s what it was.  I’m sure that when Dad went out to the porch during that storm, he was stressed about something.  More than likely, he was worried that the storm wouldn’t bring enough water.  Or, maybe it would bring too much water.  Or maybe he was worried about how in the world he was going to pay for new shoes for all of us girls because our feet grew faster than the crops.   

But usually, sitting out there in that storm brought him a sense of peace that was palpable.  To this day, I love storms and feel a sense of peace when I hear the rolling of the thunder or the howling of the wind.   Because of Dad, I learned to lean into the storm and enjoy it.



Leaning in was something dad was a master of.  Dad was such a strong supporter and advocate of Mom.  I was so blessed to grow up watching how my parent’s marriage worked.  How they were equal partners.  How they would lovingly flip each other the bird when one of them would pull something over on the other.  Which was daily.  And I think that it broke his heart to know that he was leaving her and that’s why he just fought so hard to stay.  He was a fighter.



My parent's marriage taught me the importance of picking the right person to share your life with.  More specifically, watching how my Dad loved and supported my Mom through thick and thin taught me a valuable lesson about how I should expect to be treated. Through his unwavering support and fierce loyalty to my mom, I grew to expect the same of my future husband.   The last week of Dad’s life was rough on him.  It was rough on all of us.  But one thing I’ll never forget was one of the last times he was conscious and lucid.  He was talking to mom while she was holding his hand.  All of the sudden he said:  “How about a kiss?”  And pulled her down to him for a big old kiss.  

That right there… that was everything.   

I had asked Dad on one of his better days what some of his favorite memories from his life were.  He looked at me and simply said:  “Your mom.” 


And then like the Gambler, he faded off to sleep. 



Toughness. Grit. Courage.  That’s what Dad wanted for us.  These are just a few of the great memories and lessons I learned from my dad, and there are just so many more that I could tell you.  Like how he never missed a single game in my high school career.  How he would purposely not sit next to other parents because he just wanted to watch the game and not listen to complaints about the coaching or playing time.  How he would pay me a dollar to sweep the school bus.  How he never listened when I asked him to please stop texting me in all upper case because that meant he was yelling at me.  How he never judged me when I told him I was thinking of becoming a Democrat.  And how he always left me a voice mail with the words:  "This is your dear old Dad.  Call me please."  

I'll miss all of this, and more. 


I love you, Dad.   
Thank you for surviving and giving us life.  For giving your grandaughters life.   
Thank you for being a shining example of perseverance and kindness.   
Thank you for putting up with everything we put you through.   
Thank you for passing on your feet to me because anytime I put on my shoes and woe is me about their size and shape, I’ll think of you. 
Thank you for making sure that our home was a safe place. 


But more than anything, thank you for loving mom. 


"Do you know, you are my sunshine?  Do you know what your smile did to me?  Do you know you are my sunshine and it looks like you’re always gonna be." 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

In My Defense, I'm Just Incredibly Lazy

Last night, I woke up in a cold sweat because I realized that it's been over a year since my last post.  And Blogger has a reputation for deleting my blog if I haven't posted in a while... looking at you, tech who deleted "Life Is Nuts" and therefore made it as though 2005-2010 never even happened.

I'm not exactly sure how long Blogger's "Hasn't Posted Shit So Let's Delete" time frame is.  A year?  18 months? So at 3 a.m., I asked myself what I would do if the blog had been deleted? Sue?  Murder?  Curl up into the fetal position under the coffee table and blame the world for my year-long writers block?  Because I'm pretty sure it was spring of 2015 when I last posted.  And how pathetic is that?  What, like NOTHING interesting has happened since then?  Are you kidding me?  I now have a 5 and 6 year old, an elected official for a spouse, have helped launch a new non-profit, am incoming President for the Junior League of Ogden AND have made a resolution to write a book this year.

YEA. A book. Can't find time to write a blog post about The Bean's 5th birthday, but sure... I'm gonna write a book this year.

So, in an effort to make sure the blog doesn't get deleted - and maybe play a little catch-up on my life - here we are.  Mother's Day, 2016.  I'm currently sitting in my favorite coffee shop, drinking my favorite coffee drink which is not really coffee according to most human beings... and borderlines on candy bar status... but you can just go ahead and shove it if you think I care at all what you think about it.

And yes... I'm at the coffee shop sans kids on Mother's Day.  Because that's exactly what I need right now.  Something that's JUST for me.  Not them.  And I'm not going to lie, it's effing glorious.  Second only to a massage... but until Utah gets its shit together and has something open on Sunday besides a coffee shop for us heathens, this will have to do.

Since spring of 2015, a lot has happened.  The Benny was elected to City Council (despite the political liability that is yours truly). Being involved with a campaign is... well, SUPER weird.  You know what I DON'T like?  Seeing our last name all over town.  You know what I dislike even more?  People treating us differently because of our last name now.  You all should know by now that even if he was elected President of the Universe, I'm still the same chick who peed down her leg during the bike portion of a triathlon in St. George... and I'm PROUD of it.  And will TOTALLY bring up uncomfortable topics like that at any time and in any place.  Including a fancy art auction .  So you're probably gonna need to adjust your expectations.

The Bird turned 6 and started Kindergarten.  She was so excited the first day when she put on her uniform and went to class.  And THAT totally got old for her aboooouuutttt day 4.  "You mean I have to wear a uniform EVERY. SINGLE. DAY?"  

I keep waiting for her to figure out that this is like... a  thing.  But here we are.  Two weeks left of school and she STILL hasn't accepted it.  Maybe next year.

One of the things that has been tough for us this year with The Bird is that she already took Kindergarten at a private school last year.  So, she was a bit overqualified for the class and was really bored at the beginning of the year.  But, she was allowed to work at her level and things changed for the better.  Somewhat.  I mean, she lied about not having homework more than once... and seriously? What Kindergartener does that? But despite those little hiccups, I have to give props to the YMCA after school program that she attends, which helps her with her homework so that our evenings when we get home are only filled with fights over what we're serving for dinner ("Chicken nuggets, again???") and whether or not she has to wear her uniform to school tomorrow. 

The Bean entered private Kindergarten this year and OMG, has this kid flourished.  We had to get special permission to put her in the class because she didn't turn 5 until February.  We were never concerned about the academic part of it... rather, we were worried about her maturity and temperment with the older kids.  Turns out?  Not so much of a problem and her maturity has reflected the kids that she is around.  (Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.  Like marriage.)

For being the youngest, she's kicking ass.  She's currently neck and neck with another little girl in class for having read the most books.  And because she's exact opposite of The Bird in every way, she absolutely devours her homework every night.  Where often we would have to take 2-3 days for The Bird to focus enough to do her homework before a butterfly flitted by and SQUIRREL!, The Bean is alllllll about making sure her homework gets done in one night.  And then the next night, she's all:  "But I don't have ANY homework and I WANT more homework!" She's a little sick in the head, but at least she's not lying about having homework.

This year, we also became likely the only parents in the history of AYSO soccer to lie about their kid's age to get her to play up a level with her sister.  Our reasons were fully practical:  10% because she's pretty athletic and 90% because we didn't want to have to go to two soccer practices and two soccer games every Saturday.  Because at the end of the day, it really is just all about us.  And she loves it.  And when her sister isn't scoring all the goals because she's a freakin' gazelle who sometimes gets distracted by SQUIRREL!, she then gets a chance to score some goals and runs down the field like so: 


And no.  We didn't teach her that. 

And no.  We don't encourage that type of behavior.

 But... YAAASSS!!

This year has been rather challenging for me personally.  I often feel as though I'm just barely holding my shit together and life is just going to fast right now.  And it feels like all it takes is one ill-advised comment from someone and I'm going to either murder them outright, or burst into tears.  Luckily, neither has happened... but it's been close a couple of times.



For the most part, I try to stay positive and optimistic when things don't go as expected or shit hits the proverbial fan.  But when your bucket is already empty because you were up until 1 a.m. writing an email to send out to campaign supporters, your travel schedule has you gone almost every-other-week, the kiddos fought over who got more milk in their Cheerios that morning and you've got 3 deadlines in the next 4 days that you're not ready for?  It gets tough.

Parenthood is not for the weak.  And I fail every. single. day.  I actually think that's pretty healthy.  Within reason.  I mean, today I read about a mom who kept her 3 and 4 year-old's chained in the front yard in San Antonio which is off the scale FAIL.

No, my fails are a bit more mild, but nonetheless confidence shaking.  To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, here are a few key talking points from my running list.

JAYNEE'S SAMPLE LIST OF 2015-16 MOMMY FAILS
  • When we haven't gone grocery shopping in weeks and all we legit have in the house are Eggos and when we feed your kids Eggos to the point that they don't want Eggos anymore... maybe we've fed them too much Eggos and we should buy some mother-effing meat, fruit and veggies so their bones don't get brittle and break when they play soccer?
  • Dropping the F-bomb when I think they're not around.  Here's a secret about having kids that no one ever tells you:  THEY'RE ALWAYS AROUND.
  • Yelling at the kids to stop yelling.  Yea... I HEARD IT.
  • Taking The Bean up the ski-mountain that she wasn't ready for... and having to ask ski-patrol to take her down in the sled with me following behind.  
  • Not insisting at looking at the toe The Bird said was hurting, but wouldn't let me look at... only to wake up a few days later and discover it was infected.  With strep.  In my defense, who knew THAT was a thing?
So, yea... it's been a good year.  And at least I've bought myself another year before I get deleted.  Who knows... maybe this will be the start of continuous blogging.

Not likely, but it's a nice thought.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

One Braid At A Time

"Hey, babe?  I need to learn how to braid so I can do the girls hair. Can you show me?"

These words could have easily been followed by the sound of a needle sliding off a record player.  And in many homes, it probably would have.

But not ours.

Here, it is as common as it being Daddy's turn to cook, or to give the girls a bath, or to iron his own clothes.

And honestly, it's not because I've made a big deal about any of it. It's all him.  And it's amazing.  Not just because it gets me out of ironing extra clothes so I can work on my crush on all of the firemen on Chicago Fire without any distraction.  But because when he busted out the ironing board last week and I offered to do it for him, he said:

"It's important that the girls see my ironing my own clothes, babe.  They need to see that this is something men can do."

Uh.  YEA IT IS.  Because also?  This Daddy?  The one ironing his pink shirt out in front of God and everyone?  The one who wants to learn how to braid?  This Daddy also single-handedly lifted 20 tons of asphalt and concrete onto a trailer with nothing but his hands (and a lot of blood, sweat and cursing) during our remodel.  This Daddy helped build a river in town.  This Daddy brings home river bugs for the girls to play with.  This Daddy bought his girls fishing poles for Christmas and works with them on their cast technique. This Daddy is teaching his daughters how to ride a bike without training wheels. This Daddy built a room in our house by himself.  You know... the one I get all the credit for because everyone likes how I painted the bricks?

And this Daddy?  He wants to learn how to braid his girls' hair.

So, we sat The Bean down and I showed him how to do a French braid.  I explained that he could tell it was French because it was stylish and snobby.  Because I love stereotypes. And because I've convinced The Bean that having her hair done to look like a sister-wife is super stylish.  And snobby.  And it looks gooood.

The French braid was a bit too complicated for him at this early stage in the game.  But I reminded him that this is also how you can tell it's French... its complexity.  Like a fine wine and... Oh... look!  Another stereotype!

So, we decided that he should focus his efforts on mastering a regular braid.  I may have made fun of encouraged him by noting that if he can tie a fly, he can most certainly braid our daughters' hair and "Seriously babe... what's wrong with your hands?  Have you always lacked dexterity or did your hands get run over by a truck??"


Despite my taunting With my encouragement, he actually caught on to the technique pretty quickly, although his large hands and fingers weren't quite as nimble as they need to be to deal with fine hair like The Bean's.  But, he compensated and pretty soon he was on a roll.



The Bean, who is usually adamant that her braid look like she's a sister-wife, was perfectly content to let Daddy do some... things to her hair.  And she was beyond thrilled with how it turned out since she got more than one braid and "I WUV deez bwaidz, Mama!!"  Needless to say, it didn't go over well with her later that night when I explained that we would need to take all of the braids out for her shower.  But that's what vodka is for.


I drew a little pic for The Bean after she was done.  She took one look at it and exclaimed:  "It wooks wike MEEEE!"  Because I'm a good artist and also... because it does.


She then asked me to draw Waldo and I'll be damned if I actually didn't do a semi-decent job. Although in reality, he should have had vapors coming out of his butt because... you know.


But, I digress with my fancy artwork.  The Bird was so pleased that Daddy was working on her hair.  And not just because of the Daddy worship that she practices 24/7.  Only MOSTLY because of that.  Seriously, given the choice between being a princess living in a castle made of chocolate, or having a Daddy-Daughter fishing date in the rain, she'll choose Daddy every. single. time.  (Although she would insist on wearing her princess dress while fishing.  Because what is she?  An animal?)


Since his dexterity had improved in the 20 minutes it took to do The Bean's hair, The Bird's hair was finished rather quickly and looked marvelous.


I'm telling you, this little girl loves her Daddy more than anything in this whole world.  More than ice cream. More than Monster High. More than the braids he gave her.  And she LOVED those.


And honestly, he's either spoiling her for other men, or doing exactly what he needs to do to make sure she doesn't bring home a loser. Either way works for me.


It takes a special man to raise daughters.  It takes an even more special man to understand that what they see him do and say every day, how he treats them every day, how he treats their Mommy every day... THAT is what they will expect from the other men that eventually come into their lives.

So, let's talk about stereotypes.  Not the French stereotypes. Those are for my own twisted amusement and very much showcase my inner Republican. Aha!  Another stereotype!  I'm on a roll!!!

Let's talk about the stereotypes we hear all of the time about men and what being a real man is.  The kind that say that men have to be macho. That it isn't their responsibility to cook or clean. That they don't have as much responsibility in raising daughters as mothers do. That what they think or do or say carries more weight than their wives thoughts and actions. That their worth is defined by their strength or the paycheck they bring home, rather than what they do with their family every day.  That girls don't have as much potential as boys.

These stereotypes.. they're simply not true.

And this man?  He knows it. 

This man... the one that felt it was important to learn how to braid, the one who supports this Mommy in everything she does and dreams of doing, the one who irons his own pink shirts, the one who will color with The Bean while helping The Bird do her homework, the one that will go into work late because he feels like he hasn't had enough time with his kids, the one who they tackle every night when he walks in the door, the one who can fall asleep while they are using him as a trampoline, the one who can fix anything from an owie on their toe, to a toy that isn't working, to a sprinkler system to a freakin' house.

This man is the definition of what a man should be. This man shatters stereotypes.  And in the process, is raising daughters that like him, are going to change the world.

One braid at a time.