life

My Dad

This was originally published over at Medium.com, but I wanted to share it here too. 

My dad is the cool dad.

The one that all my friends tell me they wish they had.

My dad is the brave dad.

The one that baits the hook and handles all the scary jobs, like catching spiders.

My dad is the protector dad.

The one I can always call, no matter the time of day or where he may be.

My dad is the strong dad.

He stands up to the bullies, even when they try to knock him down.

My dad is the example of who I want to be when I grow up.

My dad is weakening,

the strength he once had no longer what it used to be.

My dad is a body being ravaged by an invader,

being overtaken, cell by cell.

Now it’s my turn to be the cool one, put on the brave face, be his protector, and his strength.

Now it’s my turn to be there whenever and wherever he needs me.

Because this is the example he has set for me, and I am, after all, my father’s daughter.

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Pass It On

This morning while shopping at my local grocery store, I encountered an employee who was the epitome of how we all should be acting these days. What he did wasn’t a grand display or over the top gesture that caught my attention, it was simply a “good morning” and a genuine smile that you could tell that it began from within him and radiated out to the world. That was it. We had no other interaction, other than my returning the smile and reply of “good morning” to him as well. But in that brief moment, it was a ray of sunshine, in a rather normal day of running mundane errands.

Such a simple thing changed my outlook for the day. I, in turn, greeted everyone else that I came in contact with in the store in that same manner. Expecting nothing in return, just passing along a simple greeting and a smile. And you know what, everyone I met, did the same.

Imagine what the world be like if we chose to practice such simple acts of kindness every day.

Chicken Fingers or Spaghetti?

After watching, reading, and talking with others over the past days I am left with one question. Well more than one, but this one is front and center on my mind right now.

Why can’t we have different beliefs? Do we have to agree on everything? If we disagree on something, why is what you believe right and what I believe wrong?

My sixteen-year-old daughter and I were having a conversation the other night and she came up with this analogy. I thought it was very insightful and addresses this question in a non-political, non-religious way.

She said, “I thought about this when I was eight years old and we were out for dinner somewhere. I wanted to order chicken fingers because I like chicken fingers. I saw someone else order spaghetti and I wondered why did they do that? Why didn’t they order chicken fingers? Because chicken fingers are so much better than spaghetti.”

She went on to say, “I couldn’t understand why someone would choose something other than chicken fingers. But then again maybe they were craving spaghetti all day and so that’s what they ordered. But how could they possibly like something different? I thought about this for a very long time. It made me wonder, were they right and I was wrong? Or was I right and they were wrong? Eventually, I realized everyone has different tastes and that’s okay.”

Side note – she has since moved on from her love of chicken fingers to expand her palate to enjoy many other foods, including spaghetti.

But it brings me back to the question I hope you will take the time to consider and share your answer.

Why can’t we have different beliefs, opinions, views, and still get along?

 

 

 

How Rude

I am always amazed at how rude some people can be.

First example happened at my local gym. There was a woman in the locker room who decided this was a good place to take a phone call. While she was on the phone, she walked back to the area where the toilet stalls are located. She continued her conversation back there, when someone, yes, flushed the toilet. When this person walked out, the first woman stopped her phone call and said to the person exiting said stall “can’t you see I’m on the phone?” Okay, there are so many things wrong with this, but I couldn’t believe she had the audacity to think this, much less say it out loud. First of all, the woman already in the stall had no idea that the other woman was on the phone (the doors are not see through for a reason). Second, why on earth would you take a call in a locker room and then walk around, especially back to the area where the toilets and showers are located.  And why would she think that a toilet is more mobile than a phone? Um, hello, but use your brain, say to the caller “excuse me for a moment, I’m in the locker room, let me go outside so we can talk unimpeded” if the call is that important that you must take it at that exact moment. The world does not revolve around you, nor should you expect it to.

The next example hits closer to home. As a parent of a girl adopted from China I have encountered many people who feel it’s okay to ask me the most personal of questions. Or make assumptions about my child bearing capabilities. The fact that I’m even writing that sentence is a sad commentary on peoples manners these days.

I would have people say, “oh, I’m so sorry you couldn’t have a child of your own.” Or “how much did she cost?” “You know, there are treatments that you or your husband could try.” And the kicker “how can you love her, she’s not really your own child.” And what made it that much worse was they would ask in front of my daughter, not taking in to account that she has ears, she can hear what they are saying. Now at the age of two maybe she couldn’t understand the question, but as she got older and we would still get asked these questions, she began to wonder and then ask me what these people meant.

Most of the time I would just look at them in bewilderment, astounded that they could even formulate these ideas, much less speak them into existence. On occasion I would think not nice words in my head and then politely responded with an “oh, okay” and walk away. Then there were a few times, when my daughter wasn’t around, my sarcastic side would take over and I would ask them about their financial situation or sex life or any other completely inappropriate question just to see how they would respond. That usually shut down the conversation pretty quickly.

I admit, there were those people that were asking because they genuinely wanted to know and understand the entire international adoption process. And you could tell that they weren’t meaning to be rude, they simply were trying to engage in a conversation. But that was a small percentage of the people. The rude ones, well it was like meeting a real life troll. Maybe it made them feel better about themselves to put others down. Maybe this is just what they were taught and they didn’t know any better. Maybe it was just their prejudice and ignorance showing. I don’t know. But it broke my heart, every time. The fact that someone could think that I didn’t love my daughter just as much as they loved their own child, just because I didn’t go through what they thought of as the normal the physical of having a baby, astounded me and still does to this day.

So on behalf of all adoptive families out there, please, if you want to ask us about it, think before you speak. Actually, that really should just be the rule that we all follow in any given situation. The world would be a much better place.

What’s That Smell?

In keeping with the theme that I seem to have been creating here lately, I kept on thinking more about the things that trigger certain memories. Smells seem to be the most compelling trigger for me.

We have two rose bushes in front of the house. I didn’t plant them, they were here when we moved in. I had no idea what color they were going to bloom, so I was awaiting the display once spring came around. They turned out to be a beautiful yellow with just a hint of pink on the buds before they opened and very fragrant. In this case it was the color that brought back to mind my first “crush” in 4th or maybe 5th grade. For my birthday that year he gave me a choker necklace – I’m sure his mom picked it out – but it was a gold wire with 3 beads in the middle. They were heart shaped white beads with yellow roses painted on either side. To this day when I see yellow roses I am reminded of him.

Any time I smell burnt toast I am reminded of childhood and our neighbors across the street. They had a big family, 5 or 6 kids depending on who was home from school at the time. When ever I would go to their house, no matter the time of day, there was a lingering smell of burnt toast. When I smell that today, I can vividly picture their house in my mind, the plastic slip covers over the furniture, the vinyl chairs around the kitchen table, the laughter and shouting that came along with such a big family.

Honeysuckle is one of my all time favorite scents. The memories that surround that smell are many. Ask my parents or other close family members and they will certainly relate the story of my trying to make honeysuckle flower honey and wanting to sell it to the neighbors. When the process became to tedious, the friend that was helping me and I came up with the plan to stuff the baby food jars we were using with the blossoms and sell them as “do it yourself” kits. 5 cents a piece, it was a bargain for sure. And don’t you know, we sold out of those kits that same afternoon.

The late summer nights spent playing with friends, the air heavy with the scent of honeysuckle, cut grass, a charcoal grill, and the many other fragrances of flowers blooming around the neighborhood – any of those take me back to a simpler time. Because we lived close enough to the zoo we could hear the lions roar at night and the peacocks squawk during the day. The animal noises from the zoo, along with the whirring of the box fan in my window, was the soundtrack to my childhood bedtime routine.

Tell me, what are some of the smells, sounds, or tastes that bring back memories for you?

honeysuckle

Memories, regrets, and choices…

A dear friend sent me a text a while back that said “Guess who I saw at my school today?” Now this is someone I have known for almost 30 years so the possibilities were many. When she told me who it was (and all the people in most of this story will remain nameless so as to not embarrass anyone other than myself), it brought back a flood of memories. Some good, some funny, some sad, and some that made me sit and wonder “what were you thinking?”

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized, those experiences made me who I am today. While I may not have made great choices during this particular time in my life, I wouldn’t change those decisions. I didn’t break any laws, (unless you count the time I ran that red light with a cop behind me and another one next to me and somehow didn’t get a ticket), but I did break some hearts, I did manage to screw up the trust between people, and I did put myself through some hurt.

Even so, there were good things that came out of this time as well. Friendships that have stood the test, not only of time, but of good and bad judgment, or many miles and years in between. These are the friends that I know will always be there, till the end of our days, regardless of where life may take us. These are also the friends that will keep the secrets that we shared, the tears that were shed, the fears that were faced, and know where the bodies are buried. I treasure them all and I hope that they know that too.

Then there are those that should probably stay in the past. They say you should never google old loves. For the most part, they are right. There is usually a good reason they are “old” loves and the past should stay in the past. But over the past week I’ve been looking up childhood friends, reconnecting with some on facebook, and finding some have gone on to do some pretty cool things. This of course led me down the rabbit trail of googling said old boyfriends. Some have almost zero digital footprint, which I find amazing in these days of oversharing and everything being online. Others have volumes written about them, that fills many of the results pages of the google search. And then there was Harry.

Harry will be the only one I name because I came across this.

h stauffer (Click here to read the entire tribute)

I met Harry during my “Rocky Horror” days, or should I say weekends, in the early to mid 1980’s. I spent many Friday and Saturday nights at the old Kings Court Theater, dressing up in costume, acting out various parts or just participating in the audience. Many friendships were forged in this misfit band that came together for this crazy cult classic. And over time some of these friendships blossomed into more romantic relationships.

Regardless of how risque and revealing the costumes were, Harry was always the gentleman. Looking back on it, his was probably the most revealing of all, since he was pretty much running around in a gold speedo most of the night. But he always looked out for the girls in the group. He made sure we were walked to our cars, he hung out nearby, watching, and if it seemed like a guy was trying something inappropriate, he stepped in and made sure everything was okay. We dated for less than a year, and then I went off to college out of town. We tried to make the long distance relationship work, but it didn’t happen. It ended rather abruptly, a phone message on the dorm phone, saying goodbye. I was hurt, angry, miserable, and then life went on. Other guys came and went, school ended for the year, I went home, dropping out for the time and moving on to what would be the next phase in life.

About a year later, he called again on day, out of the blue, asking if we could meet. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, the old hurt came back to haunt me. But I agreed. We met up where I was working at the time and had a polite conversation, catching up on what had happened in both our lives. It made me realize just how much growing up I had done in that years time, and how much it seemed he hadn’t changed. I suppose the age difference between us (7 years) was a part of that. But the other part was just life experiences that I had gone through, both good and bad, that made me the person I was becoming. Abruptly I asked him to leave and not contact me again. I could see the hurt in his eyes, but he agreed and wished me well. With a hug, he was gone.

Fast forward 25+ years and you find me googling him, purely out of curiosity as to what ever became of him, hoping for the best, not knowing what I would find. I was saddened to read of his passing, even though it’s been over 10 years since he died and over 25 since the last time we spoke, the news was fresh to me. Reading over the tribute I see he lived a full life. He accomplished what he set out to do, making his part of the world a better place. His life and memory still touch many due to the fact that a scholarship has been created in his name.

And I think back over the time we had together, and I realize I have no regrets. I have memories of good times, funny stories, and the impact he made on my life. Because he was a part of my life, I made choices that have brought me to where I am today. And this is true of all of those that have crossed my path over the past 48 years. So I can honestly say, no regrets, just the memories are what I take with me throughout my life.

Miss me?

Okay, so I said a while ago that I was making some changes. Then life happened. And this little corner of my world was neglected and set aside. I did make some behind the scenes changes. Nothing that the average reader would notice. Yet, for some strange reason there has been a lot of traffic through here lately. Not sure why. But hello again. I’m back.

dandelion_small

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about memories. Not anything on a scientific level, as in what makes a memory, why do we remember some things but not others. But of actual memories. Events from my childhood, my high school years, and into my adult years. Although I’m still  not convinced I’m actually an adult yet. But that’s for another post.

I grew up in an amazing neighborhood. It was a dead end street. Everyone knew each other, all the kids played together. The older kids would babysit the younger kids, and as the younger ones grew up, the responsibility was passed on. We would walk to the zoo, play in the park nearby, run in and out of each others houses whenever we were awake. The parents would get together on someone’s front porch during summer evenings while the kids tore up and down the street on their bikes, played kick the can, hide and seek or any other game we could come up with. We weren’t worried about kidnappers, predators, or any other scary monster, other than the old man that lived in that house. I don’t know why all the kids were afraid of him. I’m sure he was a very nice man.

We had block parties every 4th of July. The street would be closed off, the kids would decorate their bikes for a parade, games were organized, the fire hydrant opened up for everyone to cool off in, and food would be served. One side of the street was responsible for dessert, the other side for the vegetable/salad/side dish. That responsibility would alternate every year, and you could always count on certain families to bring their specialty creations. Each house would bring their own meat to grill. Hot dogs, hamburgers, steaks, kielbasa, chicken, anything that could be cooked on grill probably was represented there. We would set up tables and chairs in big rows. Families combining to make even bigger groups, until you couldn’t tell where one ended and the next one began. After the fun and festivities of the day, the evening would be filled with more games, a pinata, square dancing, sparklers, and even some fireworks. Laughter filled the night air, and no one wanted the day to end. I’m happy to say the tradition of the block party continues, with the old families that remain sharing the tradition with the new families that have embraced the neighborhood.

It definitely was a different time back then, and the neighborhood has gone through some changes. I’ve been gone from there for many years, as have many of the other families I grew up with. But taking a trip back through, walking down the old cobblestone street, there are still certain aspects that remain the same.  And while the street looks smaller to my grown up eyes, the memories are just as big as if it was yesterday, and not so many years ago.