Wednesday, October 31, 2007
One Friday evening Lisa’s dad announced he was going into the forest the next morning in search of morel mushrooms. Planning to begin college soon and hoping to spend as much time with her dad as she could before leaving home, she asked to go along. Delighted by her request, he welcomed her company.
The next day and long before sunrise, dad slipped into Lisa’s room and awakened her. It was important that they be in the forest early, he explained, before other gourmands got there first and picked all of the best mushrooms.
She got ready as quickly as she could and, still half-asleep, stumbled toward the car. On their way to the planned breakfast stop, she looked out her window and saw the sun cresting the horizon, a sight she rarely had the opportunity to enjoy. It gave her a great feeling. It signaled a wonderful day lay ahead. After talking over a hearty country breakfast, they arrived at the forest and trekked in under the canopy of trees in search of mushrooms.
Hours later, they hadn't found a single one. Disappointed, they turned around to walk out of the woods and back to the car. The hike had grown tiresome so the pair decided to stop and rest for a while. Dad chose a log to sit on, one at the top of a hill with a view of a lush meadow below. Birds sang overhead and blades of grass danced in the cool breeze. Dad and daughter sat quietly, unaware of how much time was passing, simply enjoying the natural beauty and sounds that surrounded them.
Lisa breathed in the fresh air. The sun shone through the branches overhead and onto her face. She felt blessed, in a rush to do nothing but sit, and be alone with her dad.
She looked at him and he smiled at her. His eyes reassured her that he loved her and cherished her companionship. He reached out and scratched her back, blew a kiss toward her, and winked. It was, Lisa was convinced, a moment God had given them to enjoy. As the sunrise had predicted earlier that morning, it was indeed a wonderful day.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Faith is daring the soul to go beyond what the eyes can see.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Darla’s dad is an avid sports fan; she remembers sitting on his lap while watching a sporting event of one kind or another on TV. He didn’t mind her constant questions throughout the game and patiently explained to her the rules of basketball, baseball, football, and boxing. Maybe it was because of her enthusiasm for the competition, or maybe she simply enjoyed the shouting and excitement of their daddy-daughter time, but one thing was certain – Darla loved all things related to sports, especially if it meant spending time with her dad.
During the early 1970's girls didn’t have the opportunity to play sports on little league teams. However, Darla’s dad was a baseball and football coach and, not wanting to leave his daughter out of the very games she had learned while sitting in his lap, he let her practice with his teams. He didn’t show her any favoritism, though. He praised her when she played well and gave her constructive criticism when she made a mistake. He even took her of the field a time or two, just like he did to the boys on his teams.
Darla never missed a practice.
Even though she knew her dad could not let her go onto the field during an actual game, it didn’t matter much to her. She didn’t have to be on the field to fully realize the degree of self-confidence her dad had helped her to build. Besides, she knew that she was one of his best players; he had told her so and that was all the proof she needed.
It was all the proof she needed because to Darla, being able to practice with the boys’ team was more than just evidence of her dad’s willingness to break from convention. It was a simple act of love that demonstrated the depth of their friendship, and the lengths to which he would go to help her enjoy her passions.
Today Darla has five boys of her own. She plays hard and often with them; she knows just what they like to do. Her dad had taught her well.
Monday, October 29, 2007
So swamped today; a brief story and then off to the races:
A dad will let his little girl sit in his lap and cry in his arms whenever she wants to.
Shelley’s heart was broken after a painful break-up with her longtime boyfriend. Her dad, a man who usually remained emotionally distant from those who reached for him, just held his daughter in his lap and let her cry on his shoulder. She was wet with tears, red-faced and sniffling, but he never let her go. This time, he did not try to escape.
He sat with Shelley as she blew her nose again and again and cried her eyes out. It must have seemed like an eternity, but her dad stayed there in the chair with her, his willing presence giving her more comfort than any words ever could.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Natalie and her younger sister, Nancy, loved bedtime, that special time when their dad would cuddle with his little girls and tell them stories while they used his belly for a pillow. Their favorite story was Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Each time their dad told that story, he told a different version. Instead of three bowls of porridge, there might be three steaks or three taco platters. Instead of three arm chairs, there might be three Lazy Boy recliners, each with its own TV. He also added extra stops for Goldilocks throughout the house. Sometimes she went to the bathroom and made the toilet overflow or used the bears' toothbrushes. Another time, in her attempt to escape, Goldilocks jumped out the window, landed on a motorcycle and rode off into the sunset.
Natalie and Nancy’s dad did more than perform for his daughters as he read to them, he made it an event. Whenever he read Natalie’s favorite book, Daddy Makes the Best Spaghetti, he not only spoke in a different voice for each character, he also made heaping plates of spaghetti and meatballs for dinner.
But if the truth were to be told, Natalie and Nancy’s favorite thing about story time was what happened when their dad finished reading. That was when he tucked them in, kissed them goodnight, and told them of how much he loved his two little girls.
It always made Natalie feel loved when dad read to her, and as she got older, it made him happy that she still wanted him to read to her. For him, too, it was a sign of being loved.
When Natalie went to college it was the first time she had been so far away from her parents. One evening, feeling homesick, she called home.
Dad, detecting sadness in her voice as soon as he answered her call, began to read Daddy Makes the Best Spaghetti over the phone, including making “yummy” noises as if he were also eating a plate of spaghetti. As always, it was a special moment with dad that put a smile back on Natalie’s face. It left her feeling as if she had just been tucked in for a good night of sleep.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
A daughter can return home to Dad whenever she wants to.
Lorinda was her father’s fourth child and the most difficult to manage of his children; she had a terrible rebellious streak, always sassy and defiant to the nth degree. Whether it was ignoring homework or feigning sickness to get out of her household responsibilities, Lorinda did what she could to spend more time with her friends, especially those her father didn’t approve of.
Dad was the vessel of reason and wisdom in their home, and Lorinda fought him at every turn. She either ignored his advice or appeased him with a cursory agreement that she never intended to live up to. By the time she became a high school senior she had grown tired of being dishonest with her parents. Deciding to be all the more defiant, she left home to live with friends, much to her parents’ considerable heartache and disappointment.
However, she wasn't gone long. One week later her dad came to her and admitted that while in his frustration he has wished he could just sit back and let her make her own mistakes, he couldn’t bring himself to let her go, especially when it was so obvious to him that she was headed for trouble. He couldn't give up on his daughter, and he begged her to listen to his concerns and come back home with him.
Lorinda, still defiant, declined his request. For a few hours.
Later that evening, feeling the need for a little support and compassion, she looked around for the friends she thought she could count on. No one was there for her; her friends turned out not to be friends at all. In the loneliness of that moment she realized her parents were the people who loved her more and wanted only what they thought was best for her.
Remembering her dad’s pleas and the look of worry in his eyes, she decided to go home though was apprehensive about how she would be greeted once she got there.
Her dad met her at the door with a smile and open arms. He embraced his daughter, told her he loved her, and then carried on as though nothing had happened. On that day, Lorinda’s life began to return to normal, and her relationship with her father began to turn sweeter. For the first time she understood that he had never tried to oppress her; he simply wanted to protect her from her own naïve judgment.
Today, nearly twenty years later, Lorinda knows that if she ever needed to, she can still go home to her dad, and he would welcome her once more with open arms. Her judgment is much better, too, thanks to her dad, the mentor she has emulated since that day when she came home.
A book update:
I received the copyedit version of the book yesterday. Believe me; it has plenty of red-line in it, but rightly so. I’ve never won an award for correct spelling or use of punctuation. I have to read it through, deciding whether to agree or not with each edit, make a few requested revisions, and answer some questions to help the Copy Editor decide if certain sentences or paragraphs are written well enough to remain in the book.
It’s funny how the editing process has evolved. I once labored so hard to write a paragraph, I did everything possible to save each word, even when an Editor said it was awful. I ended up restating the same idea but with synonyms, hoping it read better. Today I just hit delete and start over. Better to be fresh than regurgitated, I’ve learned.
Anyway, I shed a few tears in Linley’s orthodontist’s waiting room while I read the quotes (they are wonderful!) and replayed memories of my conversations with you as I read back over a few of your stories. I’m very happy with this book; I hope you will be, too.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
“My father is a Christian man of few words, but he has taught many lessons in the way he has chosen to live his life. He is a husband of 48 years. He is a father of 5, a grandfather of 16, and great grandfather of 2. He is a father-in-law to 5. He is loved and respected by all.
I could talk about the penny candy he brought home every Friday after getting off work, or him playing a joke on one of us to make us laugh, or even him willing to risk his life to teach me to drive, but more important I would like to share the lessons in life that I hope to pass on to my children one day.
He taught me that on my journey through life things will not always go the way I plan, but I do have a choice on how I deal with what comes my way. With God’s strength, positive thinking, and character you can make it through. Lesson learned, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
He worked to support his family, sometimes 2 jobs and on occasion three. I don’t recall, him being home sick from work, although I do recall him being sick on occasion. Never heard him complain about going to work. He believed if you are hired to do a job, than you give the employer an honest days work. Lesson learned, that a man’s word and deed is the man/woman.
He believed in family and unconditional love. This did not mean if you made a mistake he would bail you out, it meant he was there to love you, and guide you, and walk with you, and if needed loan you money. Lesson learned, that in order to learn from our mistakes we must understand and accept the consequences that come with the mistake. Then we will grow and become stronger.
As I grow older, I realize more each year the treasure I have accumulated over the years in life is not what I wear, not the car I drive, or the house I live in, but the relationships that have been built by working together, sharing in each other’s triumphs and being there for those we love during their disappointments and struggles.
He would not say he is a great man, but that is not how I see him. My dad, though not rich in material possession, has given me more than I could ever repay.
My Dad is James Edward Johnson, and I love him and respect him dearly.”
Today’s photo is another from my fine art photography efforts of late. This one is called “In the Shadows of the Valley.” I was selected to hang five images, including this one, in a show called “Out of the South” at the Atlanta Photography Group gallery from Dec. 12 – Feb. 1 2008. Eight photographers were selected from over sixty who submitted portfolios; Diana Edkins of the Aperture Foundation in New York, was the juror. This is how I described my work:
“As an author, I love stories, particularly Southern fiction. Each photograph in the “Southern Allegories” series is a montage of images that represent a spiritual or emotionally provocative idea relevant to the Southern experience. Each is titled with either a Flannery O’Conner or Biblical reference, alluding to a story represented by the photograph but not revealing it entirely. The viewer is invited to find abstract symbols in each image and complete the story to his own liking. Each image in this series is a multi-layered digital composite created from found vintage photographs that have been scanned and original photographs taken with Holga and digital cameras.”
This is my first opportunity to participate in a major show. I’m excited!
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Dads are daughters’ teachers of the rewards of giving.
Amy enjoys many memories of the things her dad has done. When she was young he would lie on the floor and let her walk on his back, making it “crack.” Some days he bit the air trying to get a mouthful of “witch’s claws,” the Bugles she wore on her fingers and waved in his face. When she was a teen he spent hours trying to teach her how to pitch a softball. He cried at her wedding, and again, but more profusely, when his grandson was born.
But the memory she treasures most is something he did yet has attempted to hide. He doesn't talk about the fourteen inch bright red scar that starts just below his left nipple and crosses over his belly. It is a scar he has borne for nearly ten years.Her father, Dan, was the second born in a line up of seven boys. All the brothers played hockey, but her dad was the most talented and well known for his skill on the ice. So dedicated to the sport, during hockey season he and his brothers packed down the snow in their back yard and practiced skating on their makeshift rink.Even as an adult, the sport was still a large part of Dan’s life. Amy remembers many weekends getting bundled up against the Pittsburg cold to go outside and watch her dad play hockey. When in high school, Amy learned of her dad’s brother’s kidney disease, a condition he had dealt with for years but which had suddenly worsened. He was placed on a kidney transplant waiting list and began to take steroids to keep his body from shutting down. Even though the brothers were somewhat estranged, Dan volunteered to be tested to see if he were a donor candidate. They were a near perfect match.
His brother told him to carefully consider the possible consequences of becoming a donor, but Dan ignored the suggestion. His mind was made up, his brother needed his help. A few hours later, the surgery was scheduled.
The surgery was a success and Amy stayed home with her dad for a few days after he was released from the hospital. He recovered quickly and by summer’s end, when his daughter was preparing to leave home to attend college, he was back in tip-top shape.Living in the college dorm was Amy’s first time being so far removed from her family. To comfort herself when lonely she called home to hear about familiar household routines. One day in late fall, when avid hockey players were usually on the ice nearly everyday, it occurred to her that no one had mentioned her dad's hockey games.
Her mother quietly told her that her dad wasn't playing anymore. Now that he had only one kidney, he wasn't supposed to play contact sports. An injury could be life-threatening. Amy asked if he knew of that limitation before he agreed to the operation.
“It was the first thing the doctors told him,” her mom said.
Her father had not only willingly given away a part of his body; he also forfeited an important aspect of his life for the benefit of someone else. With his decision to donate a kidney, he showed all just how much one can do for family and someone you love. Inspired by her dad’s example, Amy has since become an organ donor, and now more than ever, understands the rewards of giving unselfishly, from the heart.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Andrew, father of two year old Grace, enjoys taking his little girl on a date now and then. They usually walk to a nearby restaurant, holding hands and laughing at things the other has said during the day. Grace, energetic and excited, calls back for her dad to hurry and catch up as she skips down the sidewalk.
Upon arriving at the restaurant Grace makes a beeline to the pastry case and tries to decide what she will have for dessert. One evening she selected a blueberry tart. It was the last one and Andrew asked the waitress to bring it to their table if Grace finished her meal.
As she ate Grace couldn’t help but to look at the pastry case from time to time. She managed to slurp down the last bite of pasta as the dishes were taken from the table, and again she looked toward the pastry case. When the tart finally arrived, her eyes grew as big as saucers when it was placed before her. “It’s all yours,” her dad said, “I’m full.” He knew she could eat every bite by herself, and she did.
While she licked sugar crystals from her fingers, Andrew paid the bill. On the walk home, Grace happily skipped ahead again and dad ran to keep up with her. Back at home, they stood together at the sink and brushed their teeth, laughing as they made faces at each other in the mirror. When bedtime came, dad read to his daughter from one of her favorite books. She tried to stay awake, but with a full belly and tired legs, soon drifted off to sleep in his arms.
It was a date that will be remembered for years to come. What dad could forget it?
Friday, October 19, 2007
Meagan got her first acceptance letter from a college yesterday. Oh my Lord, my heart stopped. Where has my little girl gone? I knew the day of departure was coming, and I thought I was ready, but I’ve found out - I’m not.
Dads help daughters to savor the simple pleasures life has to offer.
Although his family was decidedly lower-middle class in urban Detroit during the 1960's, Alvin made sure his daughter, Jeannine, felt rich while growing up. Through his example, he showed her how to enjoy and appreciate what others took for granted. Even if it was something as simple as eating a bag of steaming hot, roasted peanuts while sitting in the bleachers watching a baseball game, to Alvin, those were the best peanuts he had ever eaten, on the best day of his life at the best baseball game he had ever seen, especially when his little girl was sitting there right alongside him.
Jeannine saw that her dad showed the same enthusiasm whether he was fishing in an old row boat on a hot summer afternoon, taking his first bite of a newly discovered candy bar, or breathing in the aroma of homemade stew. In her dad’s opinion, the glass was always at least half-full.
Jeannine watched as her friends and acquaintances came to believe they had to have material possessions in order to be happy. She also saw how easily those people became bored with what things they acquired, and, eventually, with their lives. They failed to appreciate all the small, though never insignificant, things she had been taught to recognize and savor.
As her friends became more disenchanted with how their lives were turning out, Jeannine only grew more aware of and thankful for how rich and abundant her life had become. She knew a bag of roasted peanuts was so much more than a simple snack; it was another of the many wonderful, little things life had offered her to enjoy, just as her dad had taught her to do.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
“There were two Bethany's with me this weekend. The young Bethany with the hat and the gloves being a young, silly, soon to be 13 year old girl. Then there was a more mature looking Bethany as several people who saw the photos pointed out to me. She could "almost" pass for a student and for the first time I saw her at a new level...a girl 5 years from going to college.”
As coincidence would have it, I had already planned to post a story about this father and daughter pair today. Here it is:
A dad’s actions and words help shape who his daughter will become.
Raymond is a Thoroughbred breeder in New York; his twelve year old daughter Bethany enjoys many fine things and experiences because of his success. Yet Raymond is concerned with making sure his daughter understands she is blessed and fortunate to have, rather than is entitled to, the lifestyle he provides her. Aiming to raise his daughter not to be spoiled and materialistic, and wanting her to be kind and respectful to people from all walks of life, he looks for opportunities to model the conduct he expects from her. To that end, father and daughter have taken Gil into their lives.
Gil has lived on the streets of Long Island and depended on the generosity of the locals for nearly twenty-years. Raymond takes Bethany with him when he buys food, a winter coat or a blanket, and then sets out in search of Gil. Upon finding him, they sit and talk with him awhile even though they aren’t certain he remembers them from their previous visit.
Although Gil is a little rough around the edges and at times in a world of his own, Bethany is not afraid of him. To her, Gil is a reminder of the very lesson her dad has taught her – she has a moral responsibility to share what she has with those who may have nothing. She has come to believe that Gil is really an angel sent by God to make sure those he has blessed are doing their part to help others.
As each visit with Gil comes to an end, Raymond always places a few dollars in his hand and then leads Bethany back to their car. On their drive home they talk about the importance of being compassionate and affording dignity to all, not matter what their station, and doing good deeds whether you have anything to gain from your actions, or not.
Taking this lesson to heart, one day Bethany announced her claim to the returnable cans and bottles that were stored in the garage waiting to be exchanged for a deposit refund. She began saving all the cans and bottles she could get her hands on, and when there were so many Raymond feared he could not get them all into his trunk, they returned them. Bethany received a hand full of cash.
When he asked what she was going to do with her newfound fortune, Raymond expected his daughter to ask for a trip to the mall to purchase a new pair of jeans or earrings. The answer she gave instead couldn’t have pleased him more. “I’m going to give it all to Gil,” she said.
Raymond watched as his daughter gave her money to Gil, moved by the smile on her face, and the even bigger smile on Gil’s. They were, indeed, he believed, the smiles of angels.
Bethany recently had to write a brief story about her Christian experiences as she approached receiving Confirmation. In it she said, “I understand God and my religion even better because helping others makes me feel like I am being the best person that I can be.”
And that is just what Raymond was hoping for.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
I took Meagan to dinner one evening while Jill and Linley went on a mother-daughter outing. As we were eating I decided to text Jill with a message of affection. I typed it out while talking to Meagan about this and that, pressed Send, and resumed dining.
A few minutes later Meagan’s cell phone received a text message. I looked up and saw that she was making gagging sounds and grabbing her throat, the universal sign for choking. I jumped up and pulled the table back, ready to position her for the Heimlich maneuver, when she started laughing and held up her phone for me to see.
Scanning it quickly, I suddenly realized what I had done; trying to split my attention between my wife and my daughter, I mistakenly sent the message meant for Jill to Meagan.
As I was trying to overcome my embarrassment, I heard my daughter say, “I hope my husband is as crazy about me as you are about Jill.”
So do I. I want the girls to be deliriously happy in good, solid marriages. To that end, I try to make sure the girls understand what genuine romantic love looks and feels like. I don’t want them to give themselves to someone who thinks a relationship is more about deriving personal pleasure and gain than giving unselfish affection and support.
Rather than fulfill this goal with parental lectures about love and relationships, I try to be an example of what I hope they will want in their boyfriends. I wear my heart on my sleeve; I show them as often as I can how much I love my wife. It is a way for me to help them set appropriately high expectations about how they should be treated, and hopefully to convince them of what they should wait for before surrendering their hearts to someone.
While spending a summer vacation last year at a bed and breakfast in Booth Bay, Maine, Linley discovered she left something essential for living in the trunk of the rental car. I went outside to get it for her; it seems I was the only one dressed well enough for a public appearance. Standing on the street by the open car trunk, I looked up at the house and saw that all the windows were open in our rooms on the second floor. I could hear the girls’ laughter and a chatty exchange between the sitcom characters on the TV show Jill was watching.
Suddenly realizing I wanted to be an American Idol contestant, I started to sing, “You Light Up My Life.” Jill came to our window to listen, and when I finished singing she called out, “I love my husband.” As I stood outside looking up at my smiling wife, one of the girls yelled out, “You’re such a dork,” while the other laughed so hard I’m sure she was on the verge of wetting her pants.
It didn’t matter to me that I had made a fool of myself and fellow boarders at the inn would snicker at me during breakfast the next morning. I had accomplished what I set out to do – tell my wife how much I love her, and let the girls hear me say it.
It is something I do for all of them. It is something I hope they will find their husbands doing for them.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Watching Hannah, her nearly ten year old, red-headed and freckled daughter, play with her grandfather reminded Kimberly of how much she loved and appreciated the same man, her dad.
Back when she was her daughter’s age, Harold, her dad, never failed to tell her how beautiful she was. He pointed to each model, actress or newswoman on TV and in the magazines and made sure Kimberly saw that they also had freckles. He let his daughter know he saw beauty in what she thought were her physical imperfections. She was timid and shy, too, and dad encouraged her to push herself beyond the limits of where she had convinced herself she could never go.
He inspired her to stand before an audience and sing even though she wanted to run and hide behind the stage curtain. He spoke up and pointed out the truth about the boys she wanted to date and convinced her better choices would come along if she would just wait. He made her believe that she was important, worthy, and special, strawberry freckles and all.
As a child, Kimberly did not, could not yet, appreciate the time and effort her dad put into raising his children. It didn't occur to her that he might have been too tired to play puppets or watch the newest dance she had choreographed, or answer all the many questions she just had to ask right before bedtime.
But now, as he spends time with Hannah, Kimberly can see, and treasures, how much her dad continues to impart the same positive influence on those he loves. She sees that her daughter is just as important to him as she was when she was his little girl, and for that, she loves him even more.
Whether they are working together on an oil painting, making wooden toys or capturing on video even more footage of Hannah dancing through the house, Grandpa, still tireless, spends hours with his granddaughter. There was nothing Harold would rather do than be with her, to tell her she’s pretty and praise her talents and accomplishments.
Spending time with his granddaughter reminds him of time spent in years past with his little Kimberly. More than once he’s been known to “accidentally” call Hannah by her mother’s name, always just loud enough for Kimberly to hear.
Monday, October 15, 2007
I've posted an earlier version of this story; this one is new and improved. Unfortunately it didn't make it into the book. I'm posting it again because I think it is a sweet story and so representative of the everyday, low-profile things a loving dad does for his child:
A dad’s gentle hand gives his daughter confidence and strength.
Each morning Linda eats the top half of a chocolate chip muffin, the only part of the pastry she really likes, and saves the bottom half for her dad to eat later. What began on her part as an effort to eat light and on dad’s part as an attempt to rescue Linda from mom’s displeasure about wasting food, the muffin sharing scenario has become a ritual in their household. Not only is the ritual an easy way to share a quick breakfast, it is, at least for Linda, an important symbol of their dad-daughter relationship.
In her way of thinking, the bottom half of the muffin represents her dad; she is the upper half. She rises and flourishes, stabilized and supported, standing on the shoulders of her dad, Mike.
Throughout her life, Mike has been devoted to his daughter. When she was five years old and told him of her plans to have eighty children when she grew up, he promised to be a helpful grandfather. Both competitive types, they played tennis together as often as they could, Mike helping Linda to become a good tennis player and eventually captain of her high school team. He also became the coach of her softball All-Star team and practiced with her as often as she wanted.
While they loved spending time together playing sports, academics always came first. Mike spent as much time editing papers, listening to speeches and reviewing and quizzing vocabulary words as he did on the tennis court or softball field. He was there to help Linda succeed, urging her along but never pushing her more than he should. She began to excel in school just as she had in other aspects of her life.
Equally concerned for Linda’s moral aptitude, Mike sought out opportunities to be good example for his daughter. He was known among friends as the cookie guy. Beginning after Thanksgiving, their family baked cookies and delivered them to the public servants in the area. Since the age of six, Linda has helped her dad find decorative cookie tins at yard sales and then bake hundreds of chocolate chip and old fashioned sugar cookies. She carefully packed them in the tins along with a Thank You note they had written.
Just before Christmas, the pair spends most of a day driving through town to deliver the cookies to the fire, police, and emergency departments, as well as a few of their lucky neighbors and relatives. They have been doing this now for fifteen years, and Linda plans to continue the tradition with her own family one day.
She is about to graduate from college and begin her career. A capable and confident young woman, she has accomplished much because of the support her dad has given her. And yes, he still eats the bottom half of her chocolate chip muffins, even though blueberry is his favorite kind.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Dad is a daughter’s constant source of encouragement.
Stanley has four daughters. The second, Marie, has been active in fundraising for breast cancer research, always in remembrance of her grandmother, Stanley’s mom.
One summer Marie and her sister Amy traveled to San Diego to participate in a three day fundraiser walk, flying in from Atlanta the day before the walk began. Although they were excited about the event, they were also a little disheartened knowing there wouldn’t be any familiar faces along the route to cheer them on.
As they were settling into their hotel room and discussing where in San Diego to explore, they heard a loud pounding on the door.
Marie opened it and found her dad standing there. He had flown in for the weekend to make sure his daughters had the emotional support they needed to complete the grueling sixty mile walk.
In spite of jetlag, Stanley got up at 5:00 in the morning to drive Marie and Lynn to the opening ceremonies and see them off. Throughout the day they spotted him along the route, clapping and cheering them on. Somehow hearing their names called out over the crowd gave them a boost; they trudged on, forgetting about their tired and swollen feet. He would be there in the crowd again the next day, sometimes acting like he had just seen his favorite football team complete an impossible touchdown, giving his daughters much needed and heartfelt support.
Each night at the end of that twenty mile segment, Stanley waited at the finish line to pick his girls up and take them back to the hotel. He made sure they ended their day with a good meal, plenty of water, and a fresh pair of dry socks.
On the last day of the walk, Stanley needed to go back to work so he dropped his daughters off at the starting line on his way to the airport. He, almost never sentimental, looked at them and said, “I’m really proud of you two for doing this. And my mother would be proud of you, too.”
To Marie, hearing of her father’s pride was almost the moment that meant the most to her that weekend, bested only by how good it felt to look up and see him cheering as she marched past.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
His daughter’s happiness is all a dad ever really wants.
Laraine grew up a little tomboy. The youngest of Robert’s four daughters, she had long been his weekend sidekick. She helped him to chop wood for the fireplace, watched football with him whenever a game was on TV, and kept pace with his stride as they hiked through the nearby foothills. Her dad was her teacher, her hero, and the best friend with whom she enjoyed spending her free time.
In addition to being the youngest child, Laraine was also something of an only child for a while, being the last of her sisters to leave home. During her adolescent and young adult years, she continued to spend time with her dad, sometimes hiking or watching football, and other times, sitting and talking about the past events of their lives and her plans for the future.
It was during one of those conversations when Loraine promised her dad that in the unlikely event she was to get married, she wouldn’t change her last name. To her, keeping her maiden name was a gesture meant to honor her beloved dad, the only man to whom her heart had ever belonged.
When she was just four years old Laraine announced to her sisters that she planned to marry her father when she was old enough. Although she eventually outgrew that plan, she didn’t think much about getting married to anyone else. The relationship she witnessed between her mother and father was rare, its passionate intensity as palpable as a heartbeat. Determined not to accept less for herself than the kind of romance her parents shared, she skipped from boyfriend to boyfriend, noncommittal and carefree, caring only about what her father thought of her behavior.
Sometimes Robert worried about his youngest child, wondering if she would follow the way of her older sisters who had already gotten married and started their own families. He wanted her to have love in her life; he wanted her to have all that life had to offer.
One day Robert got what he hoped for. Laraine, by then twenty-five years old, found a man who reminded her of her dad. She surprised everyone, most of all her dad, when she announced her plans to get married. He was thrilled that his little tomboy would soon be a bride.
During the evening before the wedding, Laraine reminded her father of the promise she had made years ago; she would keep her maiden name. Surprised, Robert asked if she was sure she wanted to do that. He assured her she didn’t have to if she’d rather take her husband’s name. He would understand her change of mind.
Laraine, as determined as always, did keep her maiden name. And later she named her son, her first-born child, after her father, too.
Robert sleeps well knowing now all his daughters lead happy lives in the company of the men who love them, and when he thinks of his grandchildren before he nods off, he knows that he, too, is enjoying all that life has to offer.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
An editied version of this story will appear in the book, but I wanted you to see the original, submitted story, too:
Daughters are comforted by the protection only a dad can give.
In 1995 a new comet was discovered outside of Jupiter's orbit. Steve, a dad in Southern California who is fascinated with astronomy, found out when and where the comet would be visible in his area. He planned to take Kelly, his six year old daughter, with him to see it pass through the night sky.
The evening of the comet’s appearance came and, hand in hand, they climbed to the top of a steep hill in the middle of town where a water tower stood. This was the spot Steve had selected, one from where he was certain they would have a great view as the comet made its way through the heavens. With a little time to spare, they talked as they waited for dusk to come, and gazed now and then into the northwest where the comet was supposed to appear.
Kelly was young, restless and growing bored, but Steve wanted her to understand how unique and memorable the celestial event would be. He began to explain how far away the comet actually was and how long it probably took for its light to reach earth.
He also used the time to talk about how creative God is, making all the stars, planets, and even comets, for simple humans to enjoy, just as he and Kelly would witness that evening.
Kelly looked at her dad and asked if the comet would fall out of the sky and hit the earth, maybe them there on that hill. He paused a moment, smiled, and reassured her that, no, it would not. She looked back into the twilight, feeling safe, just because her dad had said that she would be.
Near to its predicted time of arrival, they saw the comet streak across the northwestern sky, traveling low over the hills on the outskirts of Pasadena. It was faint in the distance, partially obscured by the lights of the city below, but they saw it travel past nonetheless.
The event lasted only moments, but at least for Steve, the memory of that night will last for years to come. Now, nearly ten years later, he still thinks about that comet and the night he shared a once in a lifetime experience with his precious daughter, the evening when she, while holding his hand, looked up at him and believed that he would do anything and everything he could to protect her.
And, just as he did that night, Steve still prays, asking God to keep his daughter safe, and give him the wisdom and ability to do whatever it is she needs of him.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
I had the opportunity to speak with a Brownie Troop yesterday about writing. A few hours later there was a knock at my door. When I opened it I found Hannah holding a stack of Thank You notes, each hand made by one of the girls. Today’s image is an example. Thanks little ladies! I got a kick out of reading your notes!
Anything important to his daughter becomes important to dad, too.
Much to Meagan’s embarrassment, I once volunteered to monitor the safety of her classmates as they were dropped off in the school parking lot each morning. One day I saw a white-haired and bearded portly elderly gentleman walking across the parking lot with a few children in tow. He looked a lot like Santa Claus, I thought, but without the suit.
I later learned he was indeed Santa Claus and had been for ten years in a Nashville shopping mall during the Christmas season. In his early seventies and with that long white beard it’s no wonder children would tell him their Christmas wishes while he waited in the carpool line for his grandchildren to finish their day at kindergarten.
As I got to know about this kind and interesting gentleman I also got to know one of his daughters. In addition to being known as Santa Claus, this man was also known to Sabrena as Big Otter.
Sabrena was one of six children; there were five daughters and one son in her childhood home. Mindful of the unique needs of young men, her dad made a special effort to do “boy only” things with his son. Not wanting to be left out of the fun, Sabrena tried to do everything her brother did with her dad. As hard as she tried to be involved, though, she was excluded from one particular activity. She could only watch as her brother and father put on their head bands and Indian costumes, and left the home to attend Indian Guides meetings. Big Otter and Little Otter would not let her follow along then, it was their special time to spend together, just the two of them.
As her brother became a teenager and joined the school diving team, he lost interest in being an Indian Guide, but not Dad. Remembering Sabrena’s interest in the Guide’s outings and wanting to spend as much time with his daughters as he had with his son, he started an Indian Princess chapter for Sabrena.
At last, Sabrena had an Indian name: Swimming Otter, given to her by her father because she loved to swim. Wearing head bands and painted faces, and going canoeing and swimming at the Indian camp, were her dreams come true. She could hardly wait for the big end of the year campout, to participate in the ritual she had seen her brother and dad leave home for so many times before.
The time of the campout finally came. Even though she had grown up quite a bit by then, Sabrena sat in awe as she watched Big Otter gather his tribe around the big bon fire for the opening ritual. He was the chief and it was his role to tell the others of the importance of their coming activities, and the meaning they were to derive from the dad and daughter games and adventures he had planned.
As Big Otter stood in the glow of the fire to speak, his voice boomed while the fire crackled in the background. Everyone was entranced by his story of love and friendship between Indian braves and their daughters, but no one was more mesmerized and proud of the chief than Swimming Otter. She knew that this was the special moment he had created for them to share, just the two of them.
Monday, October 08, 2007
Dads teach daughters to do the right thing.
Years ago while playing pool with a few friends, Doug missed a winning shot and in a fit of rage, thrust the cue stick into the wall of a church youth center. His father, the church pastor, became angry at his son’s actions but rather than demonstrate it, calmly helped Doug patch the wall. He turned it into a learning experience about taking responsibility for your actions and facing consequences.
A number of years later Doug was driving too fast on an icy road, slid into a yard and destroyed a beautiful wrought iron fence. His mishap caused over $3,000 in damages. Remembering his father’s lesson, he went to the homeowner, explained what happened and paid for the repair of the fence.
As fate would have it, Katherine, his teen-aged daughter, late for band practice and in a big hurry, backed her car into a neighbor’s fence one afternoon and knocked a section of it to the ground. Doug was intent on making sure he, just as his father had, turned the accident into an opportunity for his daughter to learn from her mistake. Taking the same disciplinary approach he had once benefited from, he required Katherine to work with him to mend the fence.
Together they went to a hardware store and he showed her how to select wood fencing. In the late afternoon sunlight they set fence posts in concrete, and, suffering through the Texas summer heat, nailed fence pickets into place for over three hours. At first Katherine voiced her annoyance about having to do the work themselves, but with her dad’s coaxing, eventually began to understand why they did. She worked alongside him, laboring nearly as hard as he did, until the job was finished and the neighbor was satisfied with the result.
As they got into their car to drive home, she took one last look at the fence. Rather than hate the sight of it, the cause of the blisters on her hands and sunburn on her neck, she felt proud of what they had done.
When they had put the tools away and washed the sweat and grime from their hands and faces, dad and daughter sat down to eat dinner. As they ate, he praised Katherine’s hard work and, to her relief, didn’t impose any other punishment. He simply reminded her to drive carefully.
“You’re a good teacher, Dad,” she said with a smile as she reached across the table to sneak a bite of his dessert.
Friday, October 05, 2007
Each afternoon Teresa listened for the front door to open, knowing well what she would hear next – her father’s voice calling out her name. When she heard the creak of the door and even before he had said a word, she dropped everything and ran to him. He stooped down, wrapped his arms around his little girl, and picked her up and spun around, her feet flying through the air, her shoes sometimes scuffing the walls. She laughed uncontrollably but never took her eyes off his smiling face.
Never failing, after a few turns he put her down, grabbed her shoulders and looked into her little blue sparkling eyes. That was when he said the words Teresa had waited all day to hear: “I just can’t believe how beautiful you are becoming.”
Thursday, October 04, 2007
When Kourtney was eleven years old he gave her a pet pig; she named it named Reba. One day she came home from school and discovered Reba was sick. With her father’s help, she tried desperately to nurse her pet back to health. Morning and night they tended to the little animal, giving her food, backrubs, medication, and their attentive company.
A few days later Reba’s condition suddenly worsened and Kourtney found her having a convulsion in her stall. In spite of their best efforts to save the pet pig, Reba died that afternoon as the sun went down on the farm.
The loss of her beloved pet was nearly too much for young Kourtney to bear; she sat in her dad’s lap that evening and cried her eyes out. He pulled her closer, rocked her in his arms and cried along with her, heartbroken himself seeing his little girl so distraught and inconsolable, knowing how much she loved her little pig. They sat together in that chair until Kourtney fell asleep, and dad then carried her to bed and kissed her forehead one more time before tip-toeing out of her room.
When Kourtney woke up the next morning and wandered into the kitchen for breakfast, she found that her dad had taken the day off from work. He planned to spend it with her, to give her company as she continued to grieve the loss of her pet.
Together they planned a proper burial for Reba. They fashioned a coffin from several large cardboard boxes they had taped together and placed her inside, swaddled in a pink blanket. Next they made a cross to place at the grave that still needed to be dug.
As her dad dug the hole where Reba was to be buried, beneath a young pecan tree in the grassy field behind their house, Kourtney began to cry again. Her pain only intensified with each shovel full of dirt, one scoop closer to placing the box and Reba into the ground.
Looking up and seeing tears roll down his daughter’s cheeks, Dad suddenly lost his footing and fell into the hole meant for Reba. As he laid on his back peering up at Kourtney, he said the only thing he could think of, “See, even when you’re sad, God can find a way to make you laugh.”
Kourtney smiled, wiped her tears away and began to snicker. Yes, her dad looked funny lying there in a hole in the ground, dirt clinging to the sweat around his neck and his feet sticking up in the air, but that wasn’t the reason for her laughter.
As he had always done, he had managed to pick her up when she was down, even while squeezed into a hole meant for a pig. And for the first time in her life, she saw the opportunity to brush him off for a change.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
2. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt.
3. It is always darkest before dawn. So if you're going to steal your neighbor's newspaper, that's the time to do it.
4. Don't be irreplaceable. If you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted.
5. Always remember that you're unique. Just like everyone else.
6. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.
7. If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments.
8. Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.
9. If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is probably not for you.
10. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.
11. If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably a wise investment.
12. If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.
13. Some days you're the bug; some days you're the windshield.
14. Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.
15. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.
16. A closed mouth gathers no feet.
17. Duct tape is like 'The Force'. It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.
18. There are two theories to arguing with women. Neither one works.
19. Generally speaking, you aren't learning much when your lips are moving.
20. Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.
21. Never miss a good chance to shut up.
22. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.
Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
A few of the chapters I submitted have been deleted, a necessary measure to make the book fit within the page limit that can be accommodated within the production budget. Twenty-seven photos are going to be included, about half of what I sent, but I won’t know which ones until I see the proof copy. I’ll post on this blog those photos that were dropped from the book once I know which they are. I’ll also post those chapters that were dropped beginning this Thursday.
As some of you know, I used pseudonyms when story-tellers had common names like Ron, Steve, Amy and Jenny. This was done to make sure the reader didn’t get confused and think the same person named Amy told three or four different stories. I’ve come to realize that all the stories in the book include at least two people, sometimes more, and to avoid identifying someone against their wishes, all names are being changed to pseudonyms. I hope you understand.
Here is another unedited story for your entertainment:
“The public scene happened when I was a few years older than 12. I had a full time job at this point at our local grocery store. I worked at the customer service counter and at the registers, so I was quite a busy gal, especially at the end of the workday…which just happened to be the time that mom & dad stopped in. Dad works for the local telephone company where they live, so he is well known by many people in the community. I’m not sure, though, if that would have really stopped him in this situation. I was working away, knowing that mom & dad where somewhere in the store, when all of a sudden I heard dad’s whistle. I looked up at him across the front register area (there were six register’s in this area, so not so big, but big enough to have a lot of people there!) and when I made eye contact with him, he proceeded to holler, “Jenny! Do you want me to buy more of these band-aid things for you?!?” What was he holding up in the air? A package of maxi pads. I smiled and hollered back, “No, thanks, Dad! I’m good!” “Okay,” he said. Of course, everyone chuckled. Amazingly, I wasn’t too embarrassed. I remember thinking at that moment that I was quite lucky to have the dad that I do.
So, that’s a small picture of my dad. Of course, there are several other things that I have appreciated his help for through the years. I jokingly call him my financial advisor, because I know that I never have to be afraid to ask him financial questions and to get his advice. No matter how bad my debt is, I always enjoy talking to dad about it and figuring out how to tackle things in a sensible manner. Truthfully, I can talk to my dad about anything. We often have good heart-to-hearts and I’m so thankful for that!
A few years ago I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and it about tore my dad apart. It was completely curable, but at 21, it’s not the kind of news you or your family expect to hear. It was the first time in my life that I saw my dad cry on a regular basis. I have no doubt that if he could, he would have taken the cancer battle away and dealt with it himself. Anything to protect his daughter. It makes me cry just thinking about all that dad would do just to protect me. Not many girls/women have ever experienced that and it makes my heart ache to think of what they’ve missed out on.”
Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!
Monday, October 01, 2007
It was an ordinary Sunday morning breakfast with everyone unusually present. The prayer was said, and eating was about to commence when my Dad threw out one of his great ‘I dare you’ questions. “So, do you believe in God?”
It’s a dare because whoever ventures out into his sea of thought must then answer all resultant questions that are bound to come from the initial question; a daunting task for a philosophy major at 25, let alone a sophomore in high school. Be that as it may, I took the unappetizing bait and answered in the affirmative.
He didn’t even wait a second to pull the water from underneath me, “Why?”
I’m sure I looked every bit the fish I felt like as my mouth hung open … a long time.
At the time I was angry that he’d even posed the initial question as the answer to it should have been obvious seeing as HE had raised me and my siblings in the Judeo Christian tradition. We all knew God existed, so WHY ask Why?
His answer was tough to hear, “There will come a day when saying ‘because my Dad/Pastor says He exists’, will NOT be enough.”
It took less than two years, at a philosophy major meeting to be exact, that the rightness of his questions hit me square between the eyes. In philosophy as in society one’s beliefs are not nearly as important as is the why we choose to stand by them. My Dad understood this fact and passed it on to his children in a way that still sends chills down my spine. I was prepared at that meeting for the tough questions because I had had to prepare for those same questions from my non-philosophy majoring Dad.
I have met too many religious people who not only cannot answer “why”, but do not even know fully what it is that they profess to stand by. These religious kids usually end up as atheists or agnostics after sitting in a couple of philosophy classes. In contrast these same classes managed to strengthen my belief in God. I am not afraid of the question “why” anymore, in fact I welcome it because I can share that which is most important to me, and to think it all began on an ordinary Sunday.
Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!