Friday, August 23, 2013

Five years later....


Anniversaries come and go and often times I don't remember them.  But today's anniversary, I remember.  Five years ago today, my dad died.  I was racing across the country on a plane to say goodbye.  I never made it.  He died before I got there. It is a date I remember clear and well even these five years later.

I have sat in my grief for the past five years and thought about a lot of things concerning my dad's death. I have sat in traffic and cried in my car alone. I have laughed and grieved with my family about my father and all his antics. I have shared pictures and stories with my boys. I have thought of and missed my dad everyday.

Five years later, I have come to realize that grief was along the ride to teach me. Not to torture or to drive me crazy, just to teach.  Grief has been a simple teacher.  I haven't learned anything complicated or high intellectual.  Just some basic stuff.  In fact, as I sit here and write this I wonder if it is even worth it to write about the lessons that I have learned because they are basic run of the mill stuff filled with cliques and Hallmark moments.  But I can't remember any other lessons that have rung clearer to me or that now seem to be more real.

1. Life does not stand still for you.  It rolls right over you and doesn't look back.  I had to decide if I was going to hang out by a window in my house and watch it go by or if I was going to run out and play with it.  It has taken me a while and I am still working on it, but I have decided that grabbing a seat on the that roller coaster is a good idea.  I have started outfitting my life in a way that I can savor a lot in every day.  I take a picture most days to remember each day as something that was unique in and of itself. And I share it with people that I care about.  As if to say, "Hey you, this is my day...how was yours? "  I scrapbook actively to remember and cherish. I actively remember that day flying across the country and racing to say goodbye to my dad and losing the race. As my mom said, you will never win the race against death. So don't try. Love now. Say what you need to say now. Learn to be at peace with it all...now. Start creating a life that in the end makes you smile and you love no matter what...now. That is my goal.

2. In the end, there is so little that really matters.  Let it go.  Pick your battles.  People can be really stupid and say stupid things.  They can be catty and mean.  They can be what I call "justice seekers" and try to right the wrongs of all that has happened, which in the end leads to one thing...more drama.  They can judge in the name of religion or politics or for the mere fact that they think they are right. Whatever.  As I stood at my father's grave and couldn't bear to sit down to face the casket, my cousin came and stood next to me and hugged me.  That mattered.  Caring about someone else's feelings matters. Even if you don't like them. Seeing the other side of the story matters.  Saying your sorry matters. Drop the drama and grow some compassion. True compassion.  The kind that is hard because it may not fit in with all the rules that you have set forth, but in the end it feels right with your heart. And if you can't do that, then find a hobby that takes up the time you have been spending on that stupid drama!

3. Love who you are and be cool with it. In the past five years, I have thought a lot about my dad's life and truly believe that my dad lived his to the fullest.  He didn't give a rat's ass if someone liked him or not.  He was a cowboy boot wearing, book reading, Truman lovin', pack rat happenin', Mississippi boy who could tell a mean story while smoking Sir Walter Raleigh tobacco in his pipe and cheap scotch in his glass. He could be abrasive, opinionated, and hard to live with sometimes. He cooked me the best breakfast potatoes, took out my splinters, combed my hair, and quizzed me on my world capitals. He was my dad.  MY dad.  The only one I had.  And he loved me.  For me.  This realization has given me the freedom to start being cool with who I am. Love yourself a little bit more.

4.Actions speak louder than words, BUT your words still do matter. After my dad died, my family received cards, flowers, food, hugs, memories of others about my dad, visits from friends. Those things mattered. They were actions taken to show us that we mattered and that this wonderful man mattered and was loved and missed. And for those who didn't "show up".  Well that also mattered. Or for those who had harsh things to say because they felt slighted or because we missed something or who were selfish with their words, that also mattered. You may feel that you "just have to" say something.  That is when you should be questioning your motive and intention.  What are you getting out of saying or doing something?  Act in a way that you are proud of, speak up for what matters, say it with love and compassion, and think of the other person.

On that plane five years ago, as I sat next to a really nice man who bought me a glass of wine and talked to me the entire flight when I told him the purpose in my journey, I could never have imagined sitting here today and saying all of this.  I was mad, nervous, terrified of what was happening to my world. But here I sit, still learning and chugging along with life.  Life is good. I still cry in my car at times, although not as much. I keep one of my dad's signature red handkerchiefs in my sock drawer. I am working on a Shutterfly book of all my dad's pictures for my mom and brothers. I still think of my friend Jennifer and what she said to me the day my dad died.  "No matter how old we are, we still want our parents to be proud of us".  That still gets me with its truth.

Five years later...I miss my dad. I miss the smell of his pipe tobacco. I miss joking with my brothers about "the beast awakens" when my father would loudly get up in the morning. It breaks my heart that my boys don't get to see their grandfather. I miss his horseradish. But I have come to realize that he is here with me.  I can feel him at times. Sunshine on my face.  That is how he comes to me. And when all is said in done, I was lucky to have him in my life.  And I hope he is proud of me.  Love you dad!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Book Report: Outliers The Story of Success

Author: Malcolm  Gladwell

Pages: 285

What is it about: How people become successful.  The author's point of view is told by telling stories of successful people and how he believes that they became successful using research and facts.
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What did I think of this book:  I have a pretty large collection of unread nonfiction books that I have decided to focus on getting read.  And this is the first one.  I REALLY liked this book.  The funny thing is it took me about a month to finish.  Yes, I was reading other books at the same time that I was spending more time on and I was reading it on vacation with three children.  Excuses aside.  I have learned something about myself and reading nonfiction.  I need to read it slower than fiction.  For the absorption.  Not that I am stupid.....although I have several algebra teachers that may not agree with  me on that.  I just need to read a chapter and think about it for a day or two.  That is how I came to love this book.


This book is filled with numbers and scientific research (yes..I did scream a little bit inside at this) but it also filled with practical knowledge and the author writes about how these people or groups of people became successful and overcame obstacles. It was truly fascinating and very well WEAVED together.

Here are some of the tidbits I learned or that truly stuck out to me:

1. Hard work does help you become successful
2. However, luck does have something to do with it
3. Successful people do not attain success by themselves; they have a lot of help along the way
4. Ambiguity can be detrimental to success
5. Rice Farming is very hard...seriously...there is a whole chapter on this that is pretty fascinating

Favorite Quote (from a rice farmer in China) : "No one who can rise before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich".  I have been trying for years to continue getting up at 5 every morning.  Motivation perhaps?

Who would like this book? Anyone interested in "reasons why things are the way they are".  People interested in business or success...or rice farming.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Book Report: My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands

Author: Chelsea Handler

Pages: 213

What it is about:  A lot of sex.  A lot of one night stands.

What I thought:  I am a fan of Chelsea, so I thought for the most part it was funny.  Chelsea is very good at giving descriptions of people and her candor about situtaions is hilarious.  However, by the end of the book, the whole premise of the book was getting a bit old.  Which is ironic looking at the way it ends...you will have to read the book to see what i mean..no spoilers here!

Who would like this book: Anyone who does not mind crude language.  Anyone looking for a couple of laughs.  Anyone who likes Chelsea.


Monday, June 4, 2012

The Story of Forgetting

Author: Stefan Merrill Block


Number of pages: 320 pages


What it is about:  Alzheimer's Disease.  More specifically, Early Onset/familial Alzheimer's Disease (EOA).  It is told from the perspective of two people whose lives have been touched dramatically by this disease.  Abel, the hunchback, who lives on his family's farm in Texas and Seth, a teenager whose mother has EOA. And then there is the fantasy land of Isidora. Yeah.... We will get to that part in a minute. 


What did I think?: I always am cautious about saying I don't like a book (unless I REALLY didn't like it) because even if a book doesn't quite do it for me, I  often get something out of reading the book.  But lets cut to the chase. I did not like this book.  It is well written.  In fact, it was so well written, that I thought I must be stupid.  There were a number of times where I just didn't get it. I often felt that the book didn't flow well.  The stories of Abel and Seth flowed, but then the parts of Isidora would come in and I felt like I was in that nightmare where you show up to class and realize you have missed weeks of class and there is a test and you don't get anything.  


However, as I said above, I usually get something out of a book.  For me this book gave me a whole new appreciation as to how a genetic disease moves through our culture and how it affects families.  I also felt a great deal of empathy for the two main characters, Abel and Seth.  


Who would like this book: Someone smarter than me.  And if that person reads this book, we need to talk so you can explain somethings to me.  

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Book Report: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Author: Jamie Ford

Pages: 290

What it is about:  A twelve year old Chinese boy named Henry who lives in Seattle during WWII who meets a Japanese girl named Keiko whose family is eventually shipped off to one of the Japanese Labor Camps.

What I thought about this book: WWII is one of those subjects that I seem to read a great deal about.  WWII was such a major world event and there are MILLIONS of stories to be told.  All of them interesting and as I read more and more about WWII, the large story of that time just seems to broaden and almost become overwhelming.  This is a very touching story of the struggles of how two cultures interact with each other and how two children overcame obstacles set up by society.

Cool thing I learned: There were Girl Scout troops in the Japanese Labor Camps

Something I loved:  The relationship between Sheldon, the African American sax player and Henry and how it carries on through the years.

Who would like this book:  Anyone who likes history, especially WWII.  Anyone who likes a good love story.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Book Report: The Swan Thieves and The 100 Pages That Changed My Opinion

Author: Elizabeth Kostova, who wrote one of my all time favorite books, The Historian

Pages: 500+

One sentence synopsis: A story about an artist who is obsessed with a woman from the past.

Thoughts:  I started this book with high expectations since I loved The Historian.  I have to admit that I spent the first 400 pages questioning why I was still reading the book.  But something kept me going.  Glad I did.  The last hundred pages made the first 400 pages make total sense. And made them worth it.

Who this book would interest (in my humble opinion): Lovers of art and those who like to know the history behind paintings. Anyone who is good with reading a longer book.

Advice about reading this book: There are flashbacks to the past.  I didn't pay as close attention to these as I should have.  Pay attention to these.

Quotes from the book: I forgot to write this one down, but it had to do with the fact that someone commented on being English and feeling like an outsider.  I, being mainly from the English Isles, often joke that I think most people think of me as being cold, impersonal and aloof and that it is due to my heritage.  Nice to know it is not just me!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sliced Bread and Pinterest

Yes, I can honestly say that Pinterest is almost as good as sliced bread. And if I could put some chocolate on Pinterest...well we might have a real debate on our hands as to which was better.

For those who are not familiar with Pinterest.  Take a look.

It is like being able to rip out the pages of many magazines without the mess or the guilt of never doing anything with all those magazine pages.  And being able to organize them and feel all good and bubbly inside about doing that.  

But as with everything there is the flaw.  

The flaw with Pinterest is one of the same flaws that I have always had with the magazine ripping.  Will I ever actually do anything with the things I pin?  

The magazines pages will sit in a pile for days/months/years and never actually reach their full potential of having been utilized.  

So, I set out this past weekend to prove myself wrong and actually "use" a pin.  

For the my first real leap, I choose something that would be relatively easy and that would make me happy.  And it helped me out since I was having a little get together and needed a drink to serve.  So, I went straight to my "Food" board and find this:


This is not my recipe nor was I the original pinner.  Just sayin'

One of my reasons for doing this?  Sometimes I wonder if something is as easy as it says it is.  You can read in a magazine or a website that something can be accomplished in three simple steps and come to find out the three simple steps each involve five smalller steps and each step takes a hour to complete.  

So the question that always comes to mind right before I rip that magazine page or hit "Repin"?

I can pin stuff all I want on Pinterest, but in the end, will I actually do it? 

So, the verdict on the margaritas? 

These were well worth the try.   

I followed the instructions and it came out just as I would have liked.  The recipe was perfect.  And the tip about only using Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice?  Totally agree! 

Next week?  I think I may venture onto my "Crafts I want to make Board"