Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Eulogy



Tomorrow is my Dad's birthday. He would have been 63. He's been gone now for a little over three years and there are no words to express how much I miss him. Knowing that you will never see someone again, especially a parent, is a very hard reality for your brain to absorb. It actually took me about 9 months to truly process and believe that he was gone.

The surprising converse of that is that he will never leave me. One of the things that frankly sucks the most is that I can't call and share good news with him or tell him about my adventures, good and bad. But I can still hear his voice on the other end of the line saying that's fantastic baby girl and I can see his face as he says it. I know what advice he would give and the questions he would ask. He will always be with me.

I find myself still needing to keep his memory alive in little ways. In time that might lessen but for now it helps. So after much thought I decided I wanted to share his Eulogy. Partially as kind of a birthday present but also because I want more than just the people in the church that day to remember him. I want people in my life now that I love, who will never meet him, to know who he was. My father wasn't perfect though and he wouldn't want me to tell you he was. 

I wrote this very quickly actually the night before the funeral in my sister's living room in Atlanta. It was about midnight and we'd gotten home from the wake a bit earlier. It was the first moment I'd sat down to think in about 2 days. Death and funerals immerse you in decisions, details and planning-there's not much time to mourn. That comes later. As I started typing I thought to myself....how do you sum up a human life in 3 minutes? This was my attempt and I hope he liked it. I remember walking up to the lectern and saying to myself don't cry you can do this. Just get through it. I also remember thinking that the pantyhose I had on were completely wrong for the dress but I didn't have time to buy anything new. Silly but true. My hands were shaking as I unfolded the paper......

When I began thinking about what I wanted to say about my father today I realized fairly quickly that I didn't want to simply recite his resume. I didn't want to rattle off facts and figures that told you what he did in his lifetime but didn't show you who he was. I realized that the best way to show you who my father was would be to tell you what he believed in.

I used to teach confirmation class which, for all of you non-Catholics in the audience, is a sacrament in the Catholic religion where you really come of age and decide for yourself that you want to be Catholic; you affirm everything that your parents pledged for you when you were baptized. I used to tell my kids that my one goal for them was that by the end of the year I wanted them to be able to tell me what they believed in. Not what their parents told them was right or what they thought I wanted to hear, but what they really truly believed in. 

I think the greatest measure of who my father was was that if you stopped him on the street and asked him to tell you what he believed in, he would have been able to without missing a beat.
  • He believed in the concept of Social Justice.
  • He believed in equality for all people. That no matter who you were or where you came from you had the same rights as everyone else and no one had the right to discriminate against you.
  • He believed in education, that a good one meant that you could achieve anything you wanted in life. 
  • He believed in God. Being Catholic defined a huge part of him.
  • He believed in history, he loved it. He believed that if we forget it we are doomed to repeat it.
  • He believed in good music and it's power to affect us as people either through pleasure or protest.
  • He believed in having a beer and telling stories. Some of the best memories I have of him are nights that my brother and sisters and my friends sat around and had a beer with him and told stories.
  • He believed in family and tradition, ritual and reverence.
  • He believed in love. He was always searching for it. Found it a few times. (At this point I have to add some commentary. When I said that the whole church erupted into laughter, even the priest. I guess I meant for it to be cheeky. I had no idea people would laugh that hard but it was wonderful. He was married twice and had two other major relationships. To his credit, they were all in attendance including my mother who was his first wife. Marriage, divorce, life, blah, blah....what matters is love and that time heals everything).
  • He believed in helping others and I was extremely touched last night to hear some of the wonderful stories about him. It reaffirmed what I already knew, that he really did have one of the biggest hearts of anyone I ever met.
  • He believed in laughter and always did it exactly three seconds after everybody else.
  • And finally, he believed in his children and loved us the best way he knew how.
We love him and will miss him every day. Love you Daddy...

Monday, July 29, 2013

Chocolate Häagen-Dazs



Ice cream makes everything better. EVERYTHING. I think it's because somehow {magically} that rich, sugary creaminess makes you feel special- as if it were made just for you. I actually have a new found love, admiration, lust, fondness and desire for chocolate Häagen-Dazs. So what the heck....I thought I'd write about it.

I've actually been having writers block these last few weeks. A combination of factors have probably contributed; a little burn out, a busy schedule and trying to navigate a situation that, while absolutely amazing, leaves me in limbo quite a bit of the time. That's hard. Not knowing where I stand. Not knowing what will happen. It takes a toll. But nothing will be resolved today so I wait...patiently....because it's worth the wait and because I hope it will turn out the way I want it to.

When I think I don't have the strength to be patient I remember a game of checkers I once played that lasted for an hour and a half. My friend Michael thought he would dispatch me quickly and began his onslaught with several aggressive moves and quite a bit of trash talk in between his sips of Mocha Latte. I immediately panicked and thought crap he's going to beat me in under 5 minutes! This is sad. I don't mind being beaten by a better opponent, but publicly humiliated in a Starbucks is something all together different.

Then something kicked in and I realized I might have a chance to beat him. I could match his strategy and fire back with my own aggressive moves or I could use his bravado against him. And so I moved my piece from the bottom left black square to the one immediately diagonal and back again.....in complete silence........ for 20 minutes. Eventually Michael broke down in a sea of frustration and confusion and little by little I took my equal share of pieces. Eventually it was 3 to 3 and it took me another hour or so.....but I beat him.

I have no opponent in this situation. In fact the opposite. But this game reminds me that in any difficult situation, where my first instinct is to get frustrated and run, I need to be patient and strong. And even more so that I can be, by being supportive while also standing up for myself. Life doesn't give us many chances to be truly happy and if we don't seize them when they come our way, even if they're scary and difficult, we don't have anyone to blame for our unhappiness but ourselves. I believe we'll actually be better people, partners, parents, children and friends because we're happy, not in spite of it. Everything will be alright, I know it will.

So what does any of this have to do with chocolate Häagen-Dazs? Well not much....but yet everything. A friend was trying to help me with post ideas and suggested this as a topic. It's sort of an inside joke. But I thought...well nothing else is coming so I'll give it a go. This is what actually came out so I guess it's what I needed to write about. So much of life is a happy accident. As soon as I wrote this I felt better and I have a few more ideas for upcoming posts I'd like to do. Writer's block officially vanquished for the foreseeable future!

I bought 4 more pints of ice cream just in case though:).

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Things I Learned From Jack



I know, I know I said no more cute pictures of my nephew Jack...but guess what.... I lied:). I miss this little guy so much it hurts. I miss his smile, I miss his laugh, I miss the way he gets so excited about something and grabs my arm to come see.

While we were at the beach we would put on some music and have a bit of a dance party before bed each night. When he was leaving I actually got a little teary I'll admit (I'm a weeper so this is nothing out of the ordinary). He saw I was crying, gave me a kiss and said don't worry Aunt Kel I'll come back to the beach and dance with you, I promise. Yea I'm smitten.

He's also pretty slick which frankly impresses me. He can diffuse any situation and usually gets his way. Your first instinct is that a three year old doesn't know what's going on but then you see that twinkle in his eye and realize he knows exactly what's up. He's actually maneuvering you all around like chess pieces, very similar to the planning and implementation of the D-Day invasion. I need some of his mojo....I thought to myself. So after countless hours of keen observation here's what I learned from Jack.

  1. It's important to have a catch phrase. Jack's is Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Probably not Jack. Catch phrases are important though. They're sort of a signature move and can fill up any awkward silence. I'm still working out what mine should be but contenders include: How about those Yankees? or Did you know that you'll ingest 8 spiders in your lifetime? As I said I'm still working it out and am soliciting suggestions. 
  2. If you tilt your head and speak in a soft, high-pitched voice when you say you're sorry you will be forgiven immediately. I've already used this three times this week and it works like a charm! Your welcome!
  3. If you don't like who you're having dinner with just start playing with your napkin and/or your utensils and they will leave you alone. When a child is occupied and looks happy whatever you do don't make eye contact. If you lock eyes they will realize you were using this time to think and relax. They don't like this and will immediately request you take them for a walk somewhere. This is also true for wild animals, although the walk is actually a chase and you will get eaten in the end.
  4. Eat what you want. Jack stays alive, and seems to be growing normally, on a diet of crackers, milk, ice cream, more crackers and O'eeeoo's (or Oreos). Heck, I'm jumping on this band wagon! The government has clearly lied about the adverse health effects of Yellow Dye Number 5 and sodium. My new diet will consist of wine, ramen noodles and steak. 
  5. If you ask someone to carry something for you they'll do it. If Jack picked up a thimble three seconds later he would ask someone to carry it for him. Do children not have pockets? I've asked someone to carry an umbrella, a laptop and a drink for me in the past week and every time they did it! Magic!
  6. Men prefer some things about a woman to remain a mystery. Well that's not true, frankly they're scared. Even at three Jack is already displaying signs of this. I closed the bathroom door to use the ladies room when Jack burst in to tell me there was a bird on the porch. I calmly said Jack, you need to knock before you open the door when someone is in the bathroom. His eyes got very big and he said oh, do you need private lady time? I said yes, I need private lady time. He gasped and immediately closed the door and ran far, far away. Men never change:). 

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Book of Mormon


{ Photo by Alan Crawford ]
We celebrated my dear friend Kristen's birthday this weekend and went to see The Book of Mormon in DC at the Kennedy Center. It was an absolutely amazing show and a great weekend. Happy Birthday lady we love you! 

EES Forever!!!!!












{ Photo by Alan Crawford }


Friday, July 19, 2013

It's Friday, Love


{ Blog planning and girl talk at Lemaire }

The first week back from vacation is always tough. It tends to be filled with work catch up, laundry and the oppressive heat of Richmond in late July. I find myself saying...where did the first half of the year go? How am I already scheduled through October? Good lord it's going to be Halloween in 3 months??? Any relaxation I might have managed to store up also quickly evaporates. If anyone has suggestions on how to make it last a bit longer please let me know:).

On the bright side I've had a great time with friends who I sorely missed while I was on vacation and I'm very excited about an upcoming blog post that just took shape this week. I absolutely can't wait to share this very special profile of an amazing woman with you so stay tuned! 

{ One more cute picture of my nephew Jack because I miss him like crazy }

{ I'm not a big tumbler fan but this one speaks to me }

{ Living in them right now }

{ Missing the water and the wind }

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Bakers



Last week at the beach I did a little family photo shoot for my sister. I hope you enjoy them. Here's The Bakers - Josh, Genie, Jack and Olivia.....

If you missed Monday's post, Postcard, you can find it here.











Monday, July 15, 2013

Postcard




I’m playing chicken with the sand. My feet sink further and further into it as each blue wave ebbs and flows over them. I’m hedging my bets I can outlast the sand. I can stand resolute as I get deeper and deeper, knowing that if I wait just a second too long I won’t be able to get out. It’s a chance I’m willing to take to feel the cool envelopment of the sand on my feet.

The wind is whipping my hair around and stinging my face as I play this rather dangerous game.  It’s a harsh reminder of the world above the sand. It’s loud and rough. See….it has a mind of it’s own the wind. It can fill my sails or ensure that my travels fall flat, all with no empathy for the simple goal of my journey. An entity that can’t be bribed, cajoled or worked upon is indeed a formidable foe. It has earned my respect if not my affection.

Without turning around I know there is a child building sandcastles nearby. He laughs as he works-talking to his companions while he builds his very own Duomo. It is a laugh that I envy. He has no cares, no decisions to make and no thoughts to sort out. It allows him to laugh with a freedom we adults left behind long ago.

The sun is beating down and making my skin burn. It smells of sun tan lotion and has a sheen of salt left behind from the ocean. Somehow I know the salt has pulled out any impurities and will leave behind a fresh start as it always does. I have visited this stretch of beach for almost twenty-five years. I can measure my life by the photographs I’ve taken and the dreams I’ve dreamed while walking its shores. But this time feels different. It feels like saying goodbye. I need a new shoreline, a new adventure. There are only a few more doors to close from what seems like a completely different life. Then new ones can be opened.

The ice in my drink clinks as it melts. My beach chair beckons.

Miss you….wish you were here




















{ Photo by Genie Baker }













 

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