Tag Archives: family

Dads I love with my whole heart

Where do I even begin? Saying my dad is the best is an understatement. This is the man who worked up to 3 jobs at a time to provide for myself, my mom, my 2 siblings and our dog.  This is the man who expresses his affection for those he loves freely and openly. This is the man who has a knack for coming up with nicknames for his loving family members to express his unabashed love for us all. I loved when he would refer to me as being “Yoon-a-que” (a clever play on the word “unique”). He is more likely though to call me “Rhoda Joda”, which he’s been doing for most of my life. My sister, Kelly, is referred to by him as “Kel Kel Poo Poo” and mom is “Mama Buns”. I think it is fair to say his original nicknames for each of us made us feel beloved by him. And he is so beloved by so many. He taught me through example the importance of honesty, integrity, patriotism, hard work, teamwork, and determination.  He had a keen interest in what I was learning in college and the work I did as a social worker. He taught me how to appreciate nature and all the critters (especially dogs) within it. We shared a love of ice cream at the Dairy Queen. Often he’d sneak me off to scarf down hot fudge sundaes in the summertime, followed by a peaceful drive in the country.  His existence raised my standards in who I would choose as my partner in life, and for that I am forever grateful. While I won’t be able to spend Father’s Day with him, I hope he truly knows how much I love, admire, and respect him.

My dad groovin’ out with his mardi gras beads in Alabama circa 1990 something


My father in law, Jim,  is the best second dad I could have ever hoped for. He is patient, funny,  and one of the most generous people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. He loves to talk politics/conspiracy theories. He is well known by all who love him for his great sayings like “You win some, you lose some”. Hubs tells me as a teenager, Jim’s one piece of advice to him was to “wear a raincoat if you’re going to play in the mud” (you get it right?). He is fun loving and a very involved Grandpa to our two kids. He has always had a habit of napping in his big comfy recliner, even amidst the chatter of those around him and the t.v. on. When the kids were in elementary school and they would spend weekends at Grandpa Jim and Grandma Alice’s house, he wouldn’t even flinch (though I highly suspect he was really awake) as the kids would adorn him with funny hats and lipstick. He has a deep love of animals and an uncanny ability to communicate with them. He has been known to take his cat Chester (whom was rescued as a wee kitten from the bushes in front of his house by our youngest) on a walk around the neighborhood with a leash. He is great at fixing cars, and along with my dad, got our old black Oldsmobile into good running condition the day Hubs and I were to leave on our honeymoon road trip to Mackinac Island 27 years ago.  A gift of labor we appreciated more than words could say. I am blessed that Hubs was raised by this guy. He was an excellent role model for how to be a good man. I won’t be seeing Jim on Father’s Day this year either, but I hope he’s able to spend time doing his favorite things like spending time outdoors and watching Nascar on the tube.

Classic Jim from circa 1970 something


Hubs-the love of my life and the best dad my kiddos could have had. Patient, just like his dad, which is much appreciated since I am quite certain living with the kiddos and I all these years would have been challenging even for Job. Hubs at his core is fun-loving, affectionate, and a wonderful teacher of life lessons. He is the dad that spent hours upon hours helping our kids with their homework. He is the dad who taught them how to fish and how to ride a bike.  He is the dad who  modeled how a good spouse operates by always working in partnership with me to ensure the house was kept up, supporting me in my career/job choices, treating me respectfully, and not shying away from showing his affection for me each and every day. He is the dad who modeled for our kids how to be a good citizen and human through taking them to see Obama speak, chaperoning church youth mission trips, volunteering,  and writing thoughtful, heartfelt, and thought-provoking editorials in the local newspaper. He’s always encouraged the kids to further their education and delights in celebrating with them when they’ve achieved milestones in their lives. He is a great communicator and his listening skills are admirable, which I’m sure the kids would attest to. He loves having conversations with them about life and love. He learned much about how to be the wonderful dad he is from both our dads, which is a great blessing. I will be spending this Father’s Day with Hubs and plan to do everything in my power to make it a day he will appreciate and enjoy, because well, I love him and he deserves it.

Hubs in his happy place…fishing on the Mississippi River


Dear Moms

Dear moms of children ages 12-22,

It gets better. You don’t have to take my word for it, but you should. I have been in your shoes. I’ve experienced unnecessary dressing room drama, engaged in numerous battles over the refusal to eat lovely and nutritious meals put in front of my children (child really-you know who you are), and hosted multiple obnoxious “friends” for sleep overs.

And I survived it all. Fortunately my two kids came out relatively unscathed as well.

These two children I speak of are not perfect. Neither achieved straight A’s in any grade between 1st through 12th. Neither were gifted athletes (they can thank my genes for this as one who was consistently picked last for team sports in gym class back in the day and cannot safely ride a bike). Neither were hard workers.

Slowly but surely though, between the ages of about 21 and 24, I started to see them shine. My oldest managed to graduate with her Associates degree from technical college at the age of 23, while simultaneously juggling a full time job at a fast food chain and becoming a mother for the first time. My youngest, the artist in the family, bounced around a few places (including a stint in college which lasted a solid two years), before landing in Indianapolis where she is making a (albeit meager)  living on her art. She also learned how to speak Japanese and spent time there during her college years.

These two former knotheads are now hardworking, appreciative, resilient, intelligent and thoughtful young adults. I treasure my relationships with them now and am beyond proud of who they are becoming.

If anyone had been able to foresee the future back in about 2008 in respect to my children, I can’t say for certain I would have believed them. At the time, I figured clown college or digging ditches were more likely in their future than what they have now achieved at ages 23 and 24.

Instead, they went and surpassed my expectations. Kids are full of surprises.

So, hang in there moms. It will get better despite what may or may not be occurring in the present. You’ve got this. SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA


I’m a really good “chicken outer”. The first solid memory I have of allowing fear to control my actions was in about 5th grade. It happened in gym class. This was back in the day when all the kids had to wear, for lack of a better descriptor, a swimming “uniform” along with the dreaded skull cap to keep our hair out of our faces. Despite feeling horribly self conscious with my developing body and naked face, I absolutely loved this section of gym class because I was pretty good at swimming. I really enjoyed it, and still do. But diving into the pool….not so much.

I vividly recall the feeling of utter panic when our gym teacher, a short freckled woman somewhere in her 40’s (at the time she was probably only 30 something, but as a kid every adult seemed as if they were much older than they actually were), sharply ordered me to dive off the diving board into the pool. Standing there, freezing cold and dripping wet at the end of the diving board with my classmates looking on, I felt paralyzed. All I could envision was going in headfirst into the chilly water to my death. I was convinced that my head would hit the bottom of the pool and that would be that. Dead at age 11. So I chickened out. I instead went in feet first, plunging in, falling deeper into the water and frantically kicking my legs to propel my pubescent body to the surface. The sense of relief I felt was all encompassing. But shortly after, as I swam to the other end of the pool and hoisted myself up and out, I felt horribly ashamed and embarrassed about myself. Unfortunately, though I had multiple opportunities to attempt diving again throughout the rest of the swimming section of our gym class, I stuck with the chickening out method of jumping in feet first every single time. I’ve periodically wondered over the years how different my life would have been if I had had the guts to dive into that pool headfirst, for real.

Now, for those who know anything about my upbringing, it would be easy to conclude that as the youngest child (my next oldest sibling is 8 1/2 years older than me), whose father was always overly cautious in all things (true stories: growing up, I was not allowed to mow the lawn or ride my bike beyond the busiest main street of our town as dad deemed these activities to be too dangerous for me),  I was predisposed to chickening out when something scared me. While that may be true, I am now a grown woman of 50 with a husband, two kids and a grandson, so there is no point whatsoever in playing any sort of “blame game” here.  For all I know, my dad preventing me from participating in some activities could have saved me from serious injury or even death. His overly cautious nature was directly linked to the abundance of love he had for me. I totally get it.  However, in a lot of aspects of my life I remain a “chicken outer” (my refusal to drive in big city traffic is one prime example).

As a slightly neurotic, people pleasing overthinker, blogging brings up a boatload of fears for me, such as:

That I will inadvertently share something about someone in my life whom I care about that will cause them emotional harm and negatively impact the way they feel about me.

That I will express an opinion in a post that could be conceived as too controversial by some, causing others to shun me or harshly criticize me.

That I will come across as self-absorbed and share too much of my personal life, thereby embarrassing my family.

That I will simply run out of topics to blog about and fail miserably as a blogger.

I am quite certain I could sit here all day, tapping away on my keyboard as I come up with a million and eight reasons to be afraid of blogging with my authentic voice. But really, what a horrible waste of time that would be.

I’ve heard it said that people on their death beds often do not speak of regrets for those things they had done, but rather for those things in life they hadn’t done. This makes great sense to me. That is why I’m making the decision, right here and right now, to dive head first into blogging. At least I’m guaranteed to not hit my head on the bottom of the pool, right?


It’s that time of the year

I love that spring is now afoot. Especially delightful hallmarks of this season for me include more hours of daylight, birds chirping away in the trees in our neighborhood, and the promise of new life. Spring also makes me a little antsy for a good old fashioned road trip. Over the course of my life, I have been fortunate enough to have several memorable road trips in the spring, some with family and some with friends.

My earliest recollection of a spring road trip was in 1974, when I was 7. My parents decided to take me and my siblings, who were 15 and 17 at the time, and my Grandma (aka Pearl Pearl the Party Girl), on a road trip to visit family in Phoenix. We drove from our home in northern Minnesota in a family caravan of sorts, with my aunt and uncle and their kids in their own car. My sister, brother (who was six feet tall with the longest, skinniest legs you have ever seen), and I sat squished together in the backseat of Dad’s sedan ( I think it was a Chevy Impala) for the long trek to Arizona, with the two family’s cars switching out Grandma Pearl for a kid during pit stops along the way. I remember singing along to songs like “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”, “Knock Three Times”, and “Cracklin’ Rosie” while gazing at the totally foreign-to -me landscape of cacti-infused deserts. As this was long before portable DVD players and Iphones, we played “car games” to prevent boredom. If someone smelled a skunk on the road, we would play “I smell a skunk” with someone responding “I won it”, the someone else would chime in “I two it”, and so on until the last responder would exclaim “I eight it!” (get it? “I ate it!) Or we’d play the “alphabet game” where we’d spy letters from a-z on road signs and license plates. The winner was whoever got to “z” first. Or we’d count how many red, blue, or black cars we could find. Ah, those were simple times!  The most memorable part of this trip, however, is when we lost Grandma at Disneyland. What a stellar moment for our family.  I can never hope to tell this story in as much glorious detail as my mother could, but suffice it to say that my parents thought my aunt, uncle and cousins transported Grandma back to the motel we were all staying at, and vice versa. Everyone was confused and horrified to learn that Grandma was nowhere to be found. She came back a few hours later in a taxi and she was not a happy woman. Apparently, she made sure to tell the story of her family abandoning her at Disneyland to the motel owner upon her return. This is not a surprise as she tended to be a pretty ornery (I say this with love) broad. According to my mom,  several years later, when she and dad  went to check into the same motel on a trip to California, the motel owner exclaimed “I know you! You are the ones that lost Grandma in Disneyland”.

My one and only college springtime road trip involved a harrowing drive with my roommate/sorority sister from Minnesota to Pascagoula, Mississippi, during which the driver (not me) decided on a couple of occasions that it was a good idea to read her map whilst speeding down unfamiliar highways. I’m pretty certain that was the first time my life actually flashed before my eyes. Fortunately, we made it to Pascagoula, where we partied the nights away with my friend’s boyfriend and his Marine buddies, and soaked up the Mississippi sun on our plastic loungers during the day.

Alabama 2002

As a wife and mom through the 90’s and 00’s, I recall many fun family road trips. There was the time when our girls were still in elementary school, and the four of us drove to see my folks, who were staying in Alabama for the winter. The trip down was a blur of crummy fast food, stopping every hour or two for our youngest to use the facilities (mostly out of boredom we suspected), singing along to the radio (before there was Sirius XM), and playing the “alphabet game”. We spent a lot of quality time with my folks and all got to swim in the ocean together for the first time. And my husband bought a (mismarked) surfboard with a “Corona” logo on it for $9.99. He only used it while we were there, since we lived in Minnesota at the time, where of course there are no oceans.

As an empty nester couple for the past 4 years or so, we have enjoyed some really cool road trips as well. Like the times we drove from our home in Wisconsin to visit Colorado, stopping over in places like Omaha and North Platte, where we discovered some great restaurants, wine bars, and tap rooms. With spring upon us, I’m looking forward to some shorter road trips with the hubs to explore parts of Colorado and nearby states. I am relatively confident that these trips will not include crummy fast food, near death driving experiences, or one of us being abandoned at an amusement park. We shall see…

Road Tripping

Things that make my heart smile (in list form)


  1. Communicating non-verbally with babies in public (think church, the airport, grocery stores)
  2. The alluring smell of Thanksgiving turkey coming out of my oven.
  3. Listening to Stevie Wonder songs. Literally any of them.
  4. Looking at funny pics of my spawn in their younger days.
  5. Watching news stories about faith communities helping each other out in times of trouble (think recent stories about Jews helping Muslims and vice versa after experiencing vandalism in cemeteries and fires in mosques). These stories increase my faith in humanity and in God.
  6. Watching quirky, uplifting movies (ex: Moonrise Kingdom, St. Vincent, Love Actually)
  7. Petting dogs.
  8. Positive adoption stories (both the two legged and four legged kind)
  9. Shopping at thrift stores (often it’s a win-win as many, such as Goodwill or Arc employ people with developmental disabilities and I save tons of money and reduce my impact on the environment).
  10. Gazing at the beautiful Colorado skies.
  11.  Sipping a lovely glass of red wine at the end of a long day.
  12. Finding a great self help book and actually getting something out of it!
  13. Older women in public that are dressed to the nines. Reminds me of my Grandma on my dad’s side (my cousins nicknamed her “Pearl Pearl the Party Girl” but “Glamma” would have been an appropriate moniker too).
  14. Exploring new cities with my exceedingly amazing other half.
  15. Sitting  with the other half in a boat on a lake in Wisconsin or Minnesota on a warm sunny day. Or on a beach in Florida on a warm sunny day.
  16. Volunteering (food banks, Habitat for Humanity, serving meals to the homeless)
  17. Redheads (not sure what that’s about to be honest)
  18. When I make someone laugh!
  19. When I see strangers doing kind things for other strangers in public (holding the door for an elderly person, people that  happily allow someone that has way fewer things in their grocery cart cut ahead of them,  those awesome millennial gals who were providing free hugs to those of us on our way to a rally supporting Muslims a few Saturdays ago).
  20. The smell of freshly brewed coffee in the morning.
  21. Spending quality time with the other half of me, our  spawn, our beautiful grandson, extended family near and far, and all those friends we’ve collected along the way.

My sincere hope for anyone reading this is that you are able to, despite all your personal day to day stressors and the fear inspired noise going on in the world today, remain in touch with those things that make your heart smile too. Your heart and soul will be so much better for it. Trust me.