Thursday, November 1, 2012

"Rick or reat!"

About a month ago, I decided I’d make Calvin’s Halloween costume for the first time.  He’s crazy about fish these days, so I figured it’d be safe to make a little goldfish costume he couldn’t possibly reject.  And, thankfully, he loved it.  As the day approached, we practiced wearing the costume to a few events we had planned with friends and family.  We talked about the concept of “trick-or-treating” but understood that it probably wouldn’t completely sink in until we were actually engaged in the act of doing so. 
On Halloween, our community organizes something called a Munchkin Masquerade where all the restaurants and shops downtown on Pearl Street hand out candy to young trick-or-treaters.  This was our first year going, and I had no idea what to expect, so I told Angus to stay at work, that I’d take Calvin down myself.  Little did I know that this event is HUGE and there are massive crowds, families dressed up in coordinating costumes, fire trucks and buses parked for kids to climb on, and gooey, sugary candy being handed out in droves.  Needless to say, I was a tad overwhelmed, and I think at a few points, namely the ones where adults in weird costumes got too close, Calvin was too.  And despite being surrounded by ghosts, monsters, and aliens on all sides, I felt strangely lonely as we meandered down the street.  There’s something about being in a crowd of people that calls to attention what or who is missing.  Maybe that’s a pessimist’s way of looking at the world, and I’ll admit, there are moments that I tend to fall a bit more on the glass-is-half-empty end of viewing things.  But, as I watched the commotion ensue around me and Calvin, I couldn’t help but miss the one who took me trick-or-treating for the first time, the one who dressed up as a scary pirate and sat on our front step, the one who made events like Halloween fun, and the one who would have eaten up every moment of yesterday –  the proud grandpa of my little fish. 
         It wasn’t just my dad that I missed.  It was that feeling of being a child and seeing my parent more excited about something than I was.  The comfort of ritual and tradition is what I found myself longing for, and part of me felt crappy for downplaying this event, for not dressing up like the other parents, for telling Angus to just skip it.  But there was a full night ahead, so I brushed it off, gave Calvin a lolli-pop and took off for home. 
When we got home after our downtown adventure, and it was nearing the time for trick-or-treating in our neighborhood, I had pizza to assemble, a house to pick-up, and friends to socialize with.  And a sweet, sweet husband, who just came off a stressful day, to hug and kiss.  Something tells me that as I did hug and kiss him, he sensed in me what I couldn’t put to words at the time.  He said with a smile, “You go trick-or-treating with him.  I’ll stay here and man the door and the pizzas.”  And what he was really saying was, “Even though I’d really like to go trick-or-treating with our son since I worked all day, you go because I know you need it right now.  Go out there and have fun with Calvin.”
         And selfishly I said, “OK…if you’re sure…” and went.
         It was magical.  That is neither an exaggeration nor a sarcastic remark.  It really was magical.  I watched my son and his friend, both freshly 2-years-old, learn house-by-house what this trick-or-treat tradition is all about.  I watched them ding doorbells, say, “Happy Hall-ween” and “Rick or Reat” and “Thank you.” I watched them boldly attempt to grab multiple pieces of candy versus one piece at the later houses and shriek with delight as they ran down the dark street.  I saw our friends’ daughter take two candies when a woman told her to take one for her mommy, which makes perfect sense as she has two mommies.  My heart wanted to reach around that small moment and protect and shout out its beauty.  I saw my son bite into a Tootsie Roll with the paper still on and drool the sticky goodness of the sugar he has so rarely tasted.  I saw neighbors and kids dressed up and heard the sounds of laughter and sugar-highs bouncing up and down the streets.
And in this magic, I saw my dad.  I realized that this is the start of where I get to be like him in all the ways that he shined brightest: exuding this excitement for childhood traditions that cannot be feigned but instead comes naturally.  This is where my children expect me to live in the moment with them and love that I actually do…or at least give it my best.  And aren’t the rewards of doing so the absolute greatest?  When I agree to play trains with my son, he does the Arsenio Hall fist pump.  When I play peek-a-boo with him, his smile is enormous when he uncovers his face.  When I eat breakfast next to him, he feeds me pieces of his precious granola.  When I read him books at bedtime, he asks for “just one more” but lets Mommy pick. 
So, this afternoon after his nap, when my son asked, “Rick or Reat?”, pointed to his fish costume, and carried around his empty candy basket, I knew he too felt the magic of last night.  He felt the magic of the moment.  He felt the magic of my dad.  Of me.  Of our family creating ritual and being together.  And that is worth everything to me.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Lesson from my Father.

*This is a piece I wrote for Mama Moderne in honor of Father's Day.  I'm reposting it here because today is my dad's birthday.  Today I celebrate the fun he brought to every situation.

When my sister and I were little girls, my parents would take us to amusement parks for summer fun.  Mostly, we loved the ride with the little cars, trucks, and planes that went round and round and up and down.  Inside the vehicles there were small red buttons, and when pushed, they’d send out a loud “beep, beep” or “buzz, buzz” sound.  While we rode, my parents stood on the perimeter, and every single time we rounded the curve and approached them, my sister and I would press our red buttons and wave frantically.  And every single time, my dad would make silly faces at us or fall to the ground, pretending to be shot by our invisible beeping and buzzing lasers.  This would inevitably send my sister and I into fits of giggles as we positioned our fingers to do it again in 2.5 seconds.  My dad never quit, and when we’d hop off the ride full of energy, he’d run with us to the next line, laughing all the way.

In elementary and middle school, my dad coached my basketball and soccer teams, and he might as well have coached my high school teams too because he was always along the sidelines cheering me on.  He wasn’t one of those embarrassing dads who yelled a lot or disagreed with the ref, though.  Rather, he was the life of the party, making jokes with my coaches, and lifting up my teammates.  He was one of the only parents who came to the “away” games, and as I’d sprint past him, he’d holler, “Get ‘em, Ker!”  My friends were constantly telling me how “cool” my dad was, and inside, my heart soared. 

Growing up, we went to the beach every summer for family vacation.  When we were young, the sand and seashells were entertaining enough, but as we approached the “too cool” high school years, that kind of simplicity just didn’t cut it.  One year, my dad bought a water balloon launcher and taught us how to launch balloons off our balcony onto the rooftops of other beach homes.  Looking back, it was probably extremely unsafe and irresponsible, but oh how we loved it when that balloon would smash onto a rooftop down the block.  When the other grown-ups shook their heads in disgust, it was my dad who yelled, “YEAH! WOO!” as he high-fived the launcher. 

As I moved into adulthood, my dad moved right along with me, remaining my biggest fan.  On my wedding day, he went to the salon with my bridesmaids and me.  Let me say that again: HE WENT TO THE SALON.  Not because my mom roped him into it, but because he wanted to be there with his baby girl on the most important day of her life.  He gave me a card that day, and in it he wrote about how much he valued our father-daughter relationship.  He wrote, “Your happiness means everything to me,” and we wept over the card together.

The greatest day of my dad’s life was when he became a grandfather (“Poppy”).  The week he spent out in Colorado with us after my son Calvin was born, he began to relive his days as a young father only this time from a new vantage point.  Day after day, my dad would sit in our loft, Calvin’s tiny body swaddled in his lap.  When my dad wasn’t watching Calvin sleep, making up sweet songs for him, or demanding to take over diaper changes, he was making nutritious lunches and running errands for us.  When I went through the post-partum emotions and nursing difficulties, my dad told me over and over again how proud he was.  “You’re a great mother, Ker,” he said, and he meant it with every ounce of his soul. 

Today, I know that I am a great mother largely because of what my father taught me about parenting: Be in the moment WITH your children.  Read with them, laugh with them, play with them, and live with them.  It sounds so simple, but I’m still working on ways to put it into practice as genuinely and naturally as my dad was able to do. It’s the small things  - Calvin’s amazement over an ant crawling on the sidewalk, his desire to chase a dandelion puff blowing in the breeze, or when he says, “Yay, Mommy!” as we pull into the garage after a bike ride – that remind me to be fully present.

Last year, a few weeks after Father’s day, my dad passed away after a courageous battle with cancer.  My husband, Calvin, and I, along with my sister and brother-in-law, were lucky enough to be able to live with him during the last few months of his life; each of us can bear witness to the fact that my dad continued, even while facing his worst fears, to exude all that made him an amazing person and father.  His greatest joy as well as his greatest gift was being present with us every day of his life, and for that, I will be forever grateful.

Happy Father’s day, Dad.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Kenneth Walkowiak Memorial Golf Tournament

This weekend is the memorial golf tournament for my dad.  To say the least, I have a mixture of emotions as I sit in my mom's living room creating this post.  My sister just found this photo and sent it to me, and it is just too freakin' sweet not to share.  My dad was amazing.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

On turning 31. (Better late than never.)

I have a picture of my tenth birthday in an old photo album somewhere in my basement.  For this particular birthday, my parents set up a wooden picnic table underneath an enormous oak tree that shaded most of our backyard.  Pastel colored streamers and balloons hung in the tree’s leafy boughs swaying in the light breeze of that late-May afternoon.  A silver boom box sat on the corner of the weathered table.  My best friend, sister and I excitedly awaited the arrival of my guests, and to pass the time, I hit “play” on the tape deck.  Early 90’s dance jams emanated from the speakers.  I danced under that large oak, swinging my hips from side to side and running my hands through my crimped hair like Madonna did in her music videos I wasn’t supposed to watch.  Soon my best friend and sister joined in; holding pretend microphones in our hands, we closed our eyes and felt the music course through our bodies, the wind brush our skin, and the blades of cool grass tickle our toes. The photograph captures this very moment  - little girls dancing, decorations hanging, guests en route. It captures a moment of absolute and pure bliss. It was my birthday, and although it wasn’t a huge over-the-top bash, I was the happiest girl in the world.

Really, I don’t know if I remember this birthday because I’ve seen this picture so many times or because it was that poignant of a memory.  It doesn’t matter, I suppose, because what I remember is the joy that came with turning another year older.  What is it about being young that makes us want to be older?  To young minds, being older means having more privileges and less supervision.  It means coming closer to being independent, which sounds so flippin’ cool when you’re an angst-filled teen with door-size New Kids on the Block posters plastering your walls. But, when do we make the switch?  When do we, as a culture, start freaking out over our age and grasping for earlier days?  Is it gradual or sudden?  Conscious or sub-conscious?  Healthy or detrimental?  Why can’t we embrace our years like a child does?  “I CAN’T WAIT TO BE OLDER!” we should be screaming from the mountaintop.

Recently, one of my friends told me something that struck me funny yet was so completely true.  “If you’re not older, you’re dead,” she said matter-of-factly as she sipped her cucumber mojito on our most recent “Mommy’s Night Out.”  We continued on to discuss the importance of celebrating every day of our lives and enjoying each moment, which, let’s face it, is tough in this busy life full of kids, careers, relationships, etc.  After our conversation, I began to consider how to embrace getting older versus fall into the stereotype of the bitter, aging American woman. I started to think about all of the big deal, joyous events, like my son’s first birthday and making the commitment to be a stay-at-home-mom, that have brought me to this birthday so grateful and content.  And then, inevitably, I reflected on all the pain and sorrow I’ve faced head-on this year, like my mother’s stroke and my father’s death, which has brought me to this birthday so grown-up and strong.  Then, there are all the moments in between, which I refer to as “normal,” and I realized that this is where I fall short.  What’s crazy is that bumbling around in “normal” is where I spent most of my life this year, yet I’m unable to define what traits I have gained from living through it.

Why do we blow through “normal,” sometimes at top-speed, juggling diapers, cell phones, appointments, and jobs, and neglect to remain fully present?  We’re all guilty of it.  We don’t stop and pay attention until something amazing takes our breath away or something tragic steals someone or something away too soon.  But when you stop and think about it, isn’t “normal” awesome?  Isn’t “normal” spectacular?  Isn’t “normal” WHERE IT’S AT?!  Sure, those really joyous moments make us happy and those painful ones teach us something, but think about what it would be like to arrive just as fully and intensely to every situation no matter how “normal” it seems.  I think this is the secret to embracing our climbing ages, and as simple as it sounds, it clearly is not, or more of us would be doing it.  My focus for this coming year is to discover and experience how beautiful “normal” is and truly appreciate how amazing it is to grow one year older in this life.

Just like on my tenth birthday, this year on my birthday, I danced.  Only it wasn’t under a tree with streamers and balloons, and it wasn’t to 90’s pop, and I don’t have a photograph to document the event.  But I did let loose and dance, next to my sister, a good portion of it in tears, celebrating this year and all the impressions it has left on my heart.  It was a real “normal” moment, and I was in it, all the way, one hundred percent. And you know what?  It felt damn good.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I cry during Savasana.

The practice of yoga grounds and reconnects me to who I am in this great big world.  Yoga is my church, my therapy, and my safe haven; besides being outside, it's the closest I come to understanding my true purpose.  After my weekly yoga class, I feel a sense of renewal, and by the time the week passes and class is on the horizon, I can feel what I call “the crazy” creeping back in.  The final pose of every yoga class is Savasana, and the experiences can vary depending on the instructor, music vs. no music, state of the body, temperature of the room, sneezes, coughs and farts, etc.  The one variable that remains the same is that during Savasana, we rest the body, mind, and spirit.

The first time I cried during Savasana was one year ago at a post-natal yoga class.  As I rested on my purple mat, I felt a strange sensation swirling in my belly and around my heart.  I had a split second to notice a burning feeling, before suddenly, as if someone flicked a switch, I erupted into sobs.  It caught me completely off guard, and I felt embarrassed by the obvious noise I was making in the completely silent room.  The instructor, a sweet, sweet soul, quietly walked over to me, knelt down, and whispered, "Let it out."  Of course, this made me cry harder and more intensely, which in retrospect was probably exactly what I needed.  However, what I felt right then was extremely self-conscious and aware that I had turned a beautiful moment into quite an awkward one.  After all, an integral part of yoga involves watching and noticing thoughts and emotions without engaging with them, and I had just epically failed.

At yoga classes following this incident, I would occasionally feel that same sensation picking up speed as it moved through my body, but I learned how to suppress it, will it away, and hold it back until I stopped feeling it at all.  Soon, I was back in my comfort zone, resting at peace in Savasana along with all the others.

It wasn't until a few weeks ago, at my Thursday night yoga class, that it happened again.  Just like the first time.  Out of nowhere.  Resting, eyes closed, thoughts still, allowing the "So Hum*" chants to wash over me, and then WHAM!  I'm crying.  Tears welling under my eyelids and pouring down the sides of my face, creating little pools in my ears.  I’m shaking and overwhelmed with emotion, but this time, for some reason, I allow myself to feel it, experience it, and own it.  And you know what?  It feels all right.  Good, even?  Necessary. 

Ever since, I’ve been trying to determine what it is about this moment of stillness, about Savasana or yoga in general, that makes me cry.  What is it about Savasana that evokes this stir of emotions inside my being?  It’s not as if I'm thinking sad thoughts or about difficult times before I spill over.  It just seems to happen.   

After class that Thursday, I spoke briefly with my instructor and told her about these experiences.  “I’m laying there, focusing on my breath, emptying my mind, and suddenly I’m so overwhelmed with emotion that I have to release it by crying.  I don’t know what’s going on,” I explained.  I told her the brief version of my past year – birth of a child, death of a parent, loss of a job, gain of (what feels like) a hundred new roles – and asked her if it could be related. 
“It’s absolutely normal,” she assured me. 
I must have looked worried. 
She continued, “It’s when we really allow ourselves to let go that we are confronted with the soul’s truth.”

Her words deeply resonated with me, and I’ve been thinking about them a lot recently.  It’s when we really allow ourselves to let go that we are confronted with the soul’s truth.  What is my truth?  Is it that I have unresolved feelings about times I’ve been through?  Maybe, but who doesn’t? I think it’s deeper than that.  Something is happening at that moment.  Something “soulular” vs. “cellular.”  It’s a ceremonial sort of event where the body and mind allow the soul to step back, recognize, and acknowledge what humanity has had to endure.   I believe it’s the soul’s way of honoring our own sufferings as well as the sufferings of those around us.  There’s both a discomfort and pleasure in creating spaces in our lives where this can happen – an oxymoronic place.  It may not occur for all of us in Savasana or yoga even, but chances are, if you’ve found yourself in this quiet space whether in nature, church, your car, or lying in bed at night, you might have experienced something deeper than you can explain.

Just because many of my quiet moments have resulted in tears doesn’t mean yours will.  I’ve had other experiences where I’m filled with joyousness and celebration, especially in that soft space right after (my pathetic excuse for) dancing where I can feel my energy radiating outward to reach others.  Part of the intense emotion I’m experiencing while I’m alone, I believe, stems from the fact that in my daily life, I’m so rarely alone without an agenda.  I don’t allow myself to meditate regularly (or even not-so-regularly) or pray often (or even not-so-often).  In fact, the meditating or praying I do happens because it’s been scheduled!  For now, though, that’s OK with me because I’m letting go of my inhibitions and allowing myself to feel it, trying not to analyze it, and arriving closer to understanding my truth by way of letting go.

I wrote the above post and then became curious about whether other people have had similar experiences while practicing yoga or laying in Savasana.  After a quick Google search, I found that indeed, I am not alone.  Check out these links:

And many more…

*"The So Hum (aka So Ham, Soham or Sohum) Mantra Meditation, done sincerely, is very effective in bringing about a complete transformation of individual consciousness.  So Hum literally means "I am That" (So = "That" or "Thou" or "Divinity"; Hum = "I am") and the mantra’s aim is to bring about this union (yoga) between your individual consciousness and Divine Consciousness.  Another way to interpret this purpose, is that the meditation brings about the realization that all that you see is yourself — The Observer is the Observed."  -

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dear daughter.

After my dad died this past summer, my mom, sister, Angus, Mike, and I had to take on the ugly task of cleaning out closets, donating clothes, organizing the office, locating important paperwork, and making the necessary contacts to take care of financial and logistical issues. Digging through the personal items of someone so close to us was an odd experience. We learned some things about my dad those few days - he saved EVERY bank statement, received $.49/month in royalties from his father's brief music career, and bought into the healing power of magnets. And, what we already knew about him - his immaculate fashion sense, matching colognes and deodorants, and plethora of golf gear - was reaffirmed.

Many of his belongings still remain in the house because it just didn't seem right to get rid of it all - especially the lefty golf clubs, his prized possessions, which are propped in the corner of the garage just how he left them, now collecting dust and waiting for the next lefty in the family to pick them up. For me, it was his contact lenses and glasses that I couldn't dispose of. Part of me hoped he'd come back and knew he'd need them when he did.

Over the holidays, we were back in my parents' house for the first time since the summer. A few more "secrets" were uncovered like the Rubbermaid tubs of Beanie Baby bears my dad collected for his future grandchildren. As we searched and rummaged, I kept daydreaming about finding some sort of written letter from my dad, a sort of documentation of his love. (I watch way too many sappy movies.) This would be a bonus, I realize, because anyone who knew my dad understood that his love for his family trumped all else. And, I know that, too. I think the part of me that longs to hear from him, talk to him, and hug him, other than in the occasional dream, has conjured up these fantasies to fulfill those desires.

I'd like to think if I did find a letter, this is something how it would go:

Dear daughter,

If you are reading this, I am probably gone from this life, and while that makes me sad, it also brings me peace because I am no longer suffering. To be honest with you, I don't really want to talk about those days other than to say, thank you - for being there with me, for holding my hand, for comforting me and Mom, for being you.

When we found out we were pregnant with you, we were ecstatic. I still remember the moment Mom told me she was pregnant; I cried tears of joy. And then when you turned out to be a little baby girl, I couldn't contain myself. I had always wanted to have all girls, and when it was time to name you, "Keri" seemed just perfect. (I thought of your name, by the way.) I loved your big eyes, chubby cheeks, and contagious smile. I loved seeing you splash in the yellow plastic bathtub and laying with you on the floor surrounded by stuffed animals and toys. I made silly faces at you, talked in funny voices, and watched you light up. For the first time in my life, I felt truly purposeful and needed, and I vowed I would protect and watch over you always.

Watching you grow up and become a child, so curious about the world around you, was breathtaking. Even though I traveled a lot for work, I tried to become involved in as many areas of your life as I could. I remember coaching your basketball and soccer teams and cheering you on. "Hustle, Ker!" I'd yell from the sidelines as you pushed yourself to be better. I meant to cheer you on, but sometimes you frustrated me. All the time, my actions stemmed from my love for you and only ever wanting the best for you. You wanted me there and were proud of your dad, and I felt that. I don't know if words can explain how it feels to know that your daughter thinks her dad is cool.

One day, when you were around 10 years old, we were shopping at Staples. Mom needed crates for her classroom, but they were on a really high shelf. I thought I could reach them, and when I did, I lost my grasp, and the crates came crashing down on your head. You were alright but had a slice of skin hanging from your cheek and were bawling. I looked at your face and felt sick; I did this to you. I cried that day. I'm not sure if you saw me, but I felt terrible. I had hurt my baby girl. We went to the video store later that week, one of your favorite things to do, and I let you pick out three movies. You smiled and touched the scab on your cheek as if remembering then letting go.

When you got to high school, you went through the typical teenage drama. Looking back, I probably should have stepped in more often, but I didn't know what to do. I had a rough childhood in some ways, so I didn't do much of the discipline with you and Katy for fear of being too harsh. I always tried to tell you how proud I was of you and that it wasn't worth worrying about the petty things in life. I'm not sure how much sank in then, but I think telling you this advice over and over again into your adult years had to help somewhat. I was amazed at your perseverance, hard work, and goal-oriented attitude as a high schooler. You always seemed to have it together, whether in school, on the field, in the pool, or on the track. You gave it your all, and I stood and watched and was so proud of you. I remember standing at the end of the lane of the pool with my stopwatch trying to contain my excitement as you'd come close to winning a race. The timers weren't supposed to cheer for anyone in particular, but I always gave you a thumbs-up or high-five. Man, those were the days.

When you were looking at colleges, I drove you up to Connecticut in the fall of your junior year. The colors of the leaves were vibrant, and I watched you worry about what it would be like to be that far from home. When we went to Elizabethtown, I saw you immediately feel at home, and I just knew you would be accepted and go there. Tuition was more expensive than we wanted to pay, but I decided that I'd pay a bill for the rest of my life to see you happy and embarked on your chosen path. Even though Etown was 45 minutes from home, we didn't see you all that often. I loved coming up to visit you, but I hated leaving and knowing you were homesick. I remember feeling that way the summer I was 15 and worked in Wildwood, NJ at the sub shop. It was fun and exciting to be out on my own yet lonely at times, too. I could see this in you: a desire to be independent yet an intense longing for familiarity.

You graduated and moved to Baltimore, and I was scared shitless. My daughter, the one I vowed to protect and watch over, was moving to inner city Baltimore full of crime, and God knows what else. One night, your cell phone called our house. It must have been in your pocket or purse. It called our house over and over, and all we could hear on the other end was screaming and loud music. I frantically tried to call you back again and again, but you never answered. I knew you were in trouble, and I couldn't do anything to help you. I cried and laid on the bed and envisioned all the horrible things that must have been happening to you. In that moment, I thought I lost you. It was the worst moment of my life. I started putting on my sneakers and was about to drive to Baltimore when our phone rang. It was you. You were happy, probably drinking, and asked what was going on. I couldn't even talk to you, so you talked to Mom and told her you were at a concert with some friends. I curled up and cried and thanked God that you were OK.

You got your first job at Hopkins, and I loved telling people that you worked there. "Wow," they responded, just in awe of you as I was. You had been through your fair share of high school heartbreak, and apparently were dating someone you met through work. I met him, and I didn't like him. I could see from the way that he looked at you that he wasn't in love. He wasn't the one. He left you and moved to California, and you were distraught. I told you over and over again that summer that you deserved better. "The man you will marry will think you walk on water," I said. I knew that there was at least a shred of you that believed me and hoped you would hold out and never settle for less.

Then, you met Angus. We met him for the first time at Woody's Crabshack in Maryland for dinner. I knew from the moment I saw you two together that this was it. He was special, and he looked at you like you were the only person in the room - the only person on Earth. You were yourself that night, smiling and happy, very proud to introduce us to Angus. On the way out of the restaurant, you walked to our car with Mom because she brought you a bunch of her old clothes. I stood with Angus, and we shook hands. I hoped and hoped...and hoped that you wouldn't let this one get away.

Angus drove up to Lancaster one night without telling you. Mom and I had a feeling there was something up. He told us he wanted to take us to dinner. My heart was pounding that night as I got ready for his arrival. Could this be the moment every father fears/dreams of? Before going to dinner, we sat in the living room, and Angus started his speech. His voice was a little shaky, and he was nervous, but he told us that he loved you, wanted to be with you forever, promised to take care of you and asked us for your hand in marriage. Mom cried, and I tried to hold back my tears - you know, to play the Dad role - and asked him if he knew what he was getting into. He laughed, said yes, he was sure you were the one. We had dinner together, and I really felt in that moment that I had gained a son, and you had gained a husband who would be your soulmate and friend.

I loved Angus's parents. They were some of the nicest people I had ever met, and they embraced you as their daughter. I thanked them for that in my toast on your wedding day. The day you got married, I was in my glory. I danced and sang and partied my ass off. It was one of the highlights of my life. A lot of fathers feel sad to "give away" their daughters, but I felt only joy. I had no doubt that Angus was the man for you; you finally got what I'd been saying you deserved. That said, you'll always be my little girl. ;)

In your adult life, you called me a lot for advice or to chat, sometimes in tears, other times with good news. I am a man of few words, and our phone conversations were never lengthy or drawn out. But, I promise you, I was listening. I always had faith that you would figure it out, whatever it was you were going through. You and Angus were careful with your decisions, and though you didn't really need me, I was flattered to be involved.

The day you Skyped Mom and me to tell us you were pregnant goes down in history as being one of the most exciting of my life. Then, I found out I was going to have a baby boy grandson, and my heart soared. Those 9 months were the longest of my life. By the time your due date drew near, I had to resist calling you every day to find out if it was "time." When you finally did call us, early in the morning, to let us know, every ounce of my body wanted to jump on the next plane and see you in the hospital. But, you told us you needed some space, and I understood that, although you felt guilty for feeling that way. We arrived when my baby boy was only a few days old, and I remember climbing up your stairs, meeting you halfway down the hallway, and holding you and Calvin in my arms as you cried tears onto my shoulder. That week I will cherish forever. Staring into his tiny face as we sat together day after day on the chair in your loft, I fell in love. I found myself reliving my days as a new father, only this time from a new vantage point. If I thought I felt pride as a father, this was a million times more intense. Calvin and I were connected, there's no doubt about it. When Mom and I left after that week, you held onto me for a long time, not wanting to let go. All the feelings of "needing your space" melted away, and you felt homesick. I looked at you and said, "You can do this, Ker. You are a great mother," and I meant it.

I was not perfect. I know you thought I was for a long time and maybe still do. But, I was not. I was just a father who did his best to love his daughter with every bit of his heart and soul, support her goals and dreams, and pick her up when she fell. I hope that was enough for you. I hope you can always hold onto who I was and how much I loved you and still do.

I'll see you soon, baby girl.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

The moments where everything changed.

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about moments in my life where everything changed. Much of this thinking has been prompted from reading Journey of Souls: Case Studies of Life Between Lives, a book about our soul's past lives as well as life in the spirit world. I'm sure most of this won't jive with some of you who hold strong spiritual or religious beliefs of your own, so feel free to stop reading now. Honestly, I'm not sure what I believe to be true, but for sure, the author offers compelling information about life beyond "here" that I'm open to considering or at least writing about. One of the most fascinating ideas the author presents is that we are all a part of a "soul group" - a group of souls we encounter in most of our lives on Earth who are meant to teach us something which moves us closer to the "Source" (God). Apparently, in the spirit world, between lives, we meet with these souls and decide on "signs" that will occur on Earth that will tell us, "This person is important. This moment is significant. I need to stop and pay attention." We may not know it's a sign in our human body on Earth, but somewhere deep inside, we are called to notice and respond.

Deep stuff, eh?

I kind of like this idea of certain people, places, moments being pre-arranged by our souls to teach us something which is essential to helping us on our journey. Whether or not I believe all of Michael Newton's ideas is to be determined. But, I do, and always have, believed that certain things are just meant to be. Sometimes I've known in the actual moment that it is going to affect me for a lifetime. Other times, I haven't known it until later when I look back and can say, "Ah, NOW I see why."


Here are just a few of mine:

Leaving my mother in the hospital after she had Katy. It was the first time I felt the pain of separation from those we love. I saw Katy's tiny red face and didn't ever want to leave her side. I rode out of the hospital on my dad's shoulders screaming and crying to go back.

Writing and completing my first story as a middle schooler. It was called "Naomi", and it was inspired by Dances with Wolves.

Witnessing a horrible act of racism in my high school and having no idea how to handle it. Witnessing a horrible act of racism as an adult and knowing - at least a little bit - how to handle it.

Learning that adults can hurt children deeply. They can even hurt children that they love. Standing in our garage that fall night before the football game and hugging my best friend as she cried tears of anguish and shock.

A discussion about God and all things bigger on a golf course at night in Lancaster County helped me to see beyond my closed-off view of the world.

Finding out a good friend was gay and was struggling with her identity and staying by her side through it. Meeting new friends who are gay and loving them intensely for who they are: friends to us, aunts to Calvin, mothers to a sweet baby girl, so much more.

Meeting my special college friends. It all started with a movie in a dorm room. Then came pong, and the rest is history.

Making eye contact with Angus in Mad River on that Saturday night, I knew my life was about to change. I knew I had to know him, and I wanted to be near him. He says he knew I was the one he wanted to marry that night. Now, literally every time we touch, make eye contact, or connect in other ways...I still get butterflies.

Dancing with my dad on my wedding day. Singing the words to the song as we danced. Feeling a strange sense of sadness for losing him even though he wasn't gone. Listening to the same song at his funeral five years later.

Being in Taiwan. Eating the food. Experiencing the culture. Holding Angus's hand through it all. Loving every minute of it.

Taking a course at CU titled "African American and Latino Issues in Education." I learned about our country's history of oppression, was able to relate that to our current educational situation, and finally saw the truth.

Being outside with my friends as a kid...all the time. Using our imaginations and PLAYING. Loving the water. Hiking Mt. Rainier in Seattle with Angus. Moving to Boulder. Being outside as an adult...all the time (I can). Nature is my sanctuary.

My best friend and I know each other's thoughts without a single word. She can sense when I need help and when someone or something is there to help me. I really can't explain it, but she will know what I mean. How about it, Abe? ;)

A middle school boy wrote a letter to me and read it in front of the class. He hated to read and write before he met me. Now, he can call Reading and Language Arts his favorite subjects.

Meeting her for the first time. Spilling beer on a rug. Talking about running. She was nice. I knew I had met a new friend. Someone who would turn out to be a mentor in so many ways.

Living with my sister and caring for my father. There was a moment over the weekend he died - 4th of July weekend - where fireworks exploded outside his bedroom windows. He laid in bed, and Katy I held him and told him everything would be OK.

Enduring natural childbirth and looking into Calvin's deep gray-blue eyes for the first time. Now, the moments where we look at one another and crack up laughing. It's like we are on the same wavelength. I think our souls have known each other before.


Were some of these moments pre-arranged by my soul and others in the spirit world? Or, are they just really cool moments I've had that have changed my life? Maybe they are something in between that can never be explained? I don't know... I do know that every moment, to some degree, was life-altering and that I could probably think of a thousand more.

Random interactions with strangers, the twists and turns of our relationships, huge life decisions, stories we hear: these are the things that make us who we are and help us grow into who we want to become.

These are the moments where we need to stop, take notice, and allow in whatever it is that is knocking.

At the very least, they could interesting blog post. :)