Moments Matter

Learning From Life’s Bumps in the Road

While driving in the car recently my five-year-old daughter began filling the colors of each figure and element in her new coloring book. We suddenly hit a speed bump. She complained from the backseat to my husband who was driving: “Dad, you made me mess up!”images

I looked back at my daughter, and smiled. I noticed two more speed bumps. I blurted out, “Sweetie, there are two more bumps coming up, so look ahead in the road.”

Her eyes scanned ahead, and she shook her head, “Got it, Mom.” I then thought of the bumps in the road of life. The twists and turns. I thought of how I will not always be there for my children. They will have to make their own decisions, and their own mistakes.

I thought of my own life growing up. Some of those decisions – those bumps in the road flashed before my eyes.

I remembered a math class I struggled in during my freshman year of college. After failing the math final (and the class), I collapsed on the grass, and cried. My parents were not there, and I did not call them. But my mother’s words of perseverance were with me. I brushed off the grass, and came back stronger than ever. Hiring a tutor with tips from my waitress job, I eventually passed the class with flying colors.

I thought about my first house in college. Moving in, I was nervous I wouldn’t make rent, or someone might break in. Then, I would catch a glance of the puffy white and black paisley curtains my mom had sewn for the living room. Once again, even though my Mom wasn’t there, she was actually there all the time – framing the windows of the tiny living room. I could sense her love and protection.

Now as a mother, I know that preparing my daughters for the bumps and curves of life will be challenging. I want to warn them of the dangers – of the bad guys. Furthermore, I know that they will have to learn from their own bumps and turns in the road. I won’t always be there. The letting go is already hard.

During infancy, then the toddler, preschool, to elementary, middle school stages, they count on you as a parent for many of their every-day needs and wants. But, someday that will change. Part of life is allowing our children to grow and learn. I get that. If my parents didn’t allow me the opportunity to drive my car over the speed bumps at full speed, and hit my head on the roof of my car, then I would not have grown stronger in many other ways.

But that doesn’t seem to make letting go any easier. As a parent, it is our natural tendency to protect and guide…

So, as we drove in the car, and passed over the two bumps, I noticed a sharp turn in the distance. In the backseat, my daughter was quietly coloring. I couldn’t help myself. “Sweetie, there’s a turn coming up, so watch out, okay?” I said.

Stopping her coloring, and looking up ahead, she said, “Thanks, Mom.”

I guess that’s what I’d want to tell my Mom too.

Do you have some memorable bumps in the road of life that you’d like to share when your parent(s) voice, or thoughts helped/encouraged you? I’d love to hear!

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31-Minutes of Catch

Thirty-one minutes. That was how long I spoke to my dad on the phone when I called him this last Father’s Day.

It was a beautiful thing. I soaked it up. We chatted.

An old photo of my Dad holding me - his first born in front of our farmhouse/commune. (Terre my sister from my mom's first marriage standing to the left).

1971 – An old photo of my Dad holding me, his first born, in front of our farmhouse/commune. (Terre my sister from my mom’s first marriage standing to the left).

Why were our conversations so rare? Well, for many reasons. First, my Dad and I, well, don’t really chat, you see. He’s not the chatting type. (Read this The Hunter’s Dance post to learn more about his rough exterior).

Second, my Dad was never the listener, the talker, the entertainer, the socialite. For the most part, he wasn’t present. The rare times he was sober and lucid, he was my Dad.

I remember when I joined a softball team in sixth grade. He bought me an inexpensive vinyl glove from Sears. I beamed when he handed it to me with my name Kristal written in his old-fashioned elegant-looking handwriting. I would run my finger over the penned name with pride.

He cared.

I remember the single time he came to my softball game. We did a pre-game warm-up catch on the grass. The sun was shining. My hand burned when he threw the ball. But I didn’t care. It was just my Dad and I for that short time.

Lastly, during most Father’s Days when I call, his phone goes to voicemail, or he is off metal detecting on the beach. Not this time. My Father picked up the phone.

“Happy Father’s Day, Dad!” I said. In his deep voice, he answered, “Thank you, Kristal.”

He confessed to being a bit lonely as my mom was not home at the moment. We chatted about music and concerts – some of our shared favorites. He talked about the glory days of music like the Grateful Dead, the Beatles and Three Dog Night. He was in shock about how time had flown, and he’s feeling old lately.

He also mentioned that I was a “good writer,” but that I had a tendency to exaggerate. We then discussed perceptions of memories versus facts. I argued that my memories and perceptions were my own, which made them real. I had the feeling he was trying to give me a compliment, but perhaps it went awry. He closed out the subject of my writing by saying: “Good writers exaggerate – that’s just what they do.”

The chat then turned deeper. We talked about a distant, elderly family member who is ill. The conversation evolved into the importance of health and vitality of those “later years.” He talked about his own Dad’s last days when succumbing to throat and lung cancer. We discussed the difficult balance between the resignation of life and twisted dignity involved with death. There was both sadness and wisdom in his voice.

At that moment it donned on me: I was having a conversation with my Dad. We were tossing the ball once again – only 30 years later. He finally ended the call – as if he had pushed his introverted personality to the limit.

“Kristal, I’ve got to go now,” he said.

“Okay, Dad, I understand…sure,” I said.

“I love you,” I said.

“I love you too,” he said.

“Happy Father’s Day,” I said, before hanging up my phone. I looked at my cell phone in shock at the number of minutes.

31.

So, you could say it was a great Father’s Day with my Dad. Maybe the best – ever.

What type of relationship do (did) you have with your father? Do you soak up those precious moments? What is one of your most memorable times with your father as a child and/or grown up? I’d love to hear!

Editor’s Sidenote: I’d love to introduce you to a new favorite blogger/writer/artist Cindy Ricksgers. I am falling in blogging love with her writing and insights, and I think you will too. Her post entitled “In the Garden With Dad” is absolutely beautiful. That specific post inspired me to write this one. Thank you, Cindy. You are inspiring.

 

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Wanted: Pet Who Will Not Break My Heart

Darkness fell on the bumpy frontage road. The warm summer breeze blew through the open car window. The headlights caught glimpses of swarming bugs. Driving home after watching the new movie “Grease” during the summer of 1978, life seemed perfect at age six.

My mom in 1976 standing outside our station wagon with  my dog Snowmy to her right.

My mom in 1976 standing behind our station wagon with my dog Snowmy to her right.

We often drove this two-lane road back and forth from our farm commune rather than use the main highway. The road was also a direct route to the animal shelter, which was adjacent to a beautiful park. My mom being a “Doctor Doolittle” of sorts would often approach people in front of the shelter who were giving up their cat or dog. I knew when we arrived at the shelter that we’d inevitably be leaving with a new member of the family.

But the perfectness of this night faded quickly. The lights of the car reflected off a dark object on the side of the road. My mom flashed her high beams only to spot a large trash bag. Her usual chipper smile disappeared.

It was as if she knew.

“What is it, mom?” I asked, from the backseat of the station wagon. “I don’t know honey. Stay in the car,” she said, pulling the car aside. Peering through the back window, I could see her open the bag, and then quickly close it. Walking back to the car, she put the bag in the trunk. Her face was sullen, grim.

Her eyes filled with tears, she explained the bag was full of dead puppies. My heart sunk. I gripped the back of the headrest and felt sick. “But how? Why would someone do that?” I asked.

We buried those precious puppies that summer night.

That was my first brush with animal cruelty. No, they weren’t “my” animals, but it didn’t matter. I was raised to care for God’s living creatures. Reflecting back, this moment had to be particularly hard on my mother as she would not squash even a spider.

Growing up, I lived on a farm with nearly every animal imaginable, and they had always been a significant part of my life. From the moment I woke up in the morning to feed the chickens out of a brown paper bag, to the time I would fill the water troughs for the horses – animals were always there. They never let me down. They never judged.

That Special Pet
I’ve written about death and animals before in this post “Wind Beneath My Wings.” However, most people recall that one special pet who captures their heart. You are “one” with the animal, and the true love that felt is undeniable. My white Alaskan dog “Snowmy” was that special pet. Unfortunately, while unloading the groceries on Sunday morning with my family, Snowmy (unbeknownst to us) crawled into the back of our station wagon and fell asleep with the doors closed and windows rolled up. I never quite “recovered” from the loss of Snowmy.

Now, as a wife and mother of two small children, and living in a rather quaint suburban home with a tiny cement-filled backyard, I’ve struggled with having a pet. I have no cat or dog. No fish. No hamster. How could animals not be a part of my life? I ask myself this question repeatedly. The answer?

I fear their inevitable death. I fear the heartbreak, pain and loss.

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains un-awakened. “
– Anatole France

Recently, my daughters and I visited the local animal shelter. I slowly walked by each caged cat and dog. I looked into their frightened eyes. I read their names and abbreviated bios…

“Good with kids.” “Great family dog.” “Sweet personality.” “Good companion dog for elderly.”

At the shelter, I couldn’t help but think of my mom, and her deep love for animals. I thought of the days spent at the shelter to rescue at-risk animals. I thought of those puppies on that fateful night. I thought of my Snowmy.

It broke my heart to not bring home a pet. But my heart could not take it. My two daughters would love a dog or cat as a pet. I just don’t know if I’m ready.

Maybe I need to write my own bio, or “wanted” ad when I am ready to adopt a pet, which could read something like:

“Owner looking for pet who loves kids and enjoys small backyard. In need of a pet who will not break her heart. A pet she can love unconditionally. A pet to love her back.”

According to the Humane Society, about 2.7 million healthy, adoptable cats and dogs – about one every 11 seconds – are put down in U.S. shelters each year. Often these animals are the offspring of cherished family pets. Spay/neuter is a proven way to reduce pet overpopulation, ensuring that every pet has a family to love them.

Did you know June is Adopt a Shelter Cat Month?

Prevent Animal Cruelty! To learn more about how to prevent animal cruelty, visit the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or the Humane Society today.

Blogger/Writer Erin Margolin recently shared her real-life story of animal rescue with a touching and inspiring post Stop, Drop & Help. We all have a part to play in helping God’s creatures. Wouldn’t you want the same done for you?

Do you have an animal who played (or continues to play) a special role in your life? I’d love to hear your memory.

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Lasso Those Dreams

Editor’s Note: This post is dedicated to my niece Courteney. I love you.

My niece Courteney and I following her high school graduation.

My niece Courteney and I following her high school graduation.

I could still sense the same excitement and exhilaration nearly 14 years later. Those young wide eyes of innocence. Girls were tipping in their high heels, while strapping boys with sprinkles of acne walked with confidence.

Last night, I attended my niece’s high school graduation – class of 2013. Even though it had been many, many years since my own graduation, I could sense the same excitement and exhilaration. The world seemed mine for the taking.

Now, with tears in my eyes, we awaited her name to be called. I flashed to her firsts. The first breath, her totters, and leaps. Now, she sat in her blazing red cap and gown a beautiful strong young woman.

With my five-year-old daughter sitting on my lap, I held her tighter. I know in just a few years, she’ll be sitting across from me in cap and gown. I am soaking in these moments.

In the heat of summer, we sat through the speeches and ceremonial traditions. In the end, I was surprisingly impressed with the class of 2013. Most of the graduates spoke with intellect, motivation and wittiness. I felt a sense of hope for the future. For our children.

Finally, her name was called, and we jumped to our feet with applause and hollers. In that moment, I knew she’d be just fine.

So, class of 2013, lasso that dream – make it yours. Make those moments matter.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau

 

 

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