Lessons from Dad

I haven’t written most of the year. It’s been busy–a new job and a new position taking up most of my time since when I last wrote on here in February.

It’s also a year that I’ve experienced emotions that made me feel like I had my insides scooped out with a metal spoon. It left me so exhausted that every time that I wanted to write, I figured that what I put down in words was trite, or I just didn’t feel like sharing because these kind of feelings are a bit hard to understand until you go through them. I certainly didn’t understand the depth of those feelings that others had in the same situation until I experienced them myself.

My father in college

My father in college

So, when my sister suggested the family create a book about our memories of Dad to share with Mom for Christmas, I had a hard time sorting out what I wanted to write.

The one common thing that did come up over these past few months is how much I called upon my father’s usually unspoken lessons when things got tough for me. Below is my contribution about my father.

“Lessons from Dad”

Because Dad worked so much and at all hours, when he was home, he was exhausted. He reverted to his room to rest and get his energy back, either by sleeping or reading books. So, our time at home with him was usually either around the kitchen table at breakfast while he drank his coffee and read one of the two or three newspapers that were delivered to the house, or at dinner when we all talked about what happened during the day.

A trip after church on Sundays to either Chuck’s Donuts or Ed’s Smoke Shop for magazines and sweets was one of the few times during the week that we got to spend time with him outside of home, but even that depended on if he was on call at the hospital that day or not. Overall, there wasn’t a lot of talking on these outings, but even when I was young, I knew that the time I had with Dad and what he said was special because it wasn’t frequent.

Now when I think of Dad, I think of someone who taught me lessons during the few moments that he could, often without words, and instead by example. Here are just a few of the lessons that Dad taught me:

  1. People are…not always good or reasonable (that’s a nice way to put what he actually said). You just have to learn to deal with them and get on with what you have to do.
  2. Do the best job you can do and take pride in it, but don’t expect an award or praise for it. Do it because you want to do it.
  3. Be financially independent. While Dad was generous with money, it was clear he believed it was important to support yourself. No one else will do it for you.
  4. Work will take its toll on you. Take time to go off and be by yourself when you are tired mentally and/or physically, even if it doesn’t seem to be the socially correct thing to do at the time.
  5. Cycling is one of the most practical ways to get around. Dad rode his bike to Kaiser every day for some years. I now don’t own a car and rarely drive. Though, he taught me to drive a car, too. Of course, as the automobile lover he was, not being a car owner isn’t something that Dad would have necessarily encouraged.
  6. Gardening and yard work is a great way to keep busy and be outdoors at the same time. With Dad, it was a social time, listening to the baseball game on the radio while we all dug in the dirt or raked the leaves.
  7. Learn how to read a map. I think he taught me how to read a map on our family trips to keep me quiet in the car, but now I have a pretty good sense of direction and don’t have to rely on GPS to get me places.

Of course he taught me so much more than what is written above. In the end, I think he led by action because he wanted to make sure we had the tools necessary to be responsible and independent people and so he could be proud of us. I’d like to think that he was successful.

 

 

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Consistent Cycles

Consistency is not what I have exhibited on my blog these past two months. I’d like to be more consistent, if not in my writing, at least in my physical activity, which includes cycling.

What keeps me on track is if I set goals. This time, my goal is riding at least 40 miles on one day in the Waves to Wine ride on September 21-22. It’s not a lot, but it’s more than I’ve done before.

800px-Sonoma_vines

My boyfriend Michael has been bugging me about taking a proper ride for some time, but I still refuse to climb the hills like he does. Self abuse isn’t my thing. Though, it’s time to push myself. I’m inspired to do it because MS affects my friends and family and I want a cure to be found.

Michael and I have created a team called “Healing Myelins.” We’d love others to join our team. Of course, we’d love donations. But mostly, we’d like your support so we can reach our goals. It doesn’t have to be monetarily, just words of encouragement is enough.

I need a little push to ride further than I have before. Join, sponsor or send words of encouragement!

 

 

Of sisters-in-law and cheese bread

Growing up, I never felt I missed a sisterhood, despite the fact that I have five brothers. My mom, my aunts, my sister and my female cousins were all good female role models.

It was the seventies–feminism, Gloria Steinem, Roe v. Wade, and black is beautiful (I grew up in lily-white suburb and my mom bought me black dolls to show me not everyone looks or needs to look like Barbie). The women in my family took time to school me on equality for all, and I soaked it up. Some of my best memories are of peeking through the stairway slats at my cousin’s house to watch and listen to my mom, dad, Aunt Toni and Uncle Jerry debate, discuss and bullshit about the topics of the day.

I was captivated by my aunt–a strong, tough, intelligent, and kind woman, who always took time to check in with me to see how I was doing and ask me what I was thinking (if you don’t think that kind of minor stuff counts for a child, think again).

As a child, I was also surrounded by boys and men–tough, athletic, talented, intelligent and good-hearted. Because of their character, I felt they should be with the same kind of caring, kind, strong, respectful women that I grew up with.

Poor Toni (yes, another Toni!) came first. She had to face all of us when she was just a young 20-something. Even my adolescent ass was ready to judge. But here we are, 20 plus years later, and I feel like she’s been a sister all along.

My brother Pete took his time, and found a woman I once thought timid, but is probably fiercer than most. Rebecca is the person you want on your side. She’s been the best listener and so patient with me, and because of it she means the world to me.

Matt’s girlfriends got it the worst from me. Because he’s close in age, I scrutinized his girlfriends the most. I thought he needed someone who would be sensitive, independent, kind-hearted and funny (a tall bill). I kept my eyes open for someone who would be a fit, and I looked and I hoped, but never expected him to marry a friend of mine, Tina (who I thought would be a good fit), but I am glad he did.

At this point, I am chronologically out-of-order, as Luke married before Matt. Be that as it may, the first time I met Katka in Munich, I knew it made sense my brother would be patient and wait for a woman like her.

Luke’s wife Katka is the impetus for this story. Today, my parents brought me a container packed with these cheese breads that Katka made. These same little cheese breads helped my brother Marc and I travel cheaply and well fed from Bratislava to Prague. It’s a good memory for me. It’s not all that she is, but it’s a sweet, kind thing that she did for me.

So lucky me–Five nephews, four nieces, and a bunch of awesome sister-in-laws. Doesn’t hurt that they can cook, too!

P.S. My brother Marc’s girlfriend, Amber, is pretty awesome, too…

Networking is not a dirty word

I used to hate the term “networking.”  I still do in some sense, but when I think about what it does mean, I’m not opposed to it. In essence, it’s about building a community of people who you can call upon if you need something, but also that you are prepared to help these same people when they need something, too.

I’ve always had a community, my family, which is pretty darn big. I’m lucky in the fact that they are all people who I can go to for anything, and I will be there for them. I have friends, too, but my threshold for nonsense is lower with those who are not blood related, so there are some people I’ve cut out of my life when things got bad. I may be right, I may be wrong, but it has happened.

In the past I thought it was enough to have my family and friends, but now I’ve found myself connecting to other communities around me.  Some of it is because I am more open to reaching out to others around me, but I’ve also sought out people to whom I know I could commit my time and energy because it makes sense for my life.

Now I’ve got the people I train capoeira with, my co-workers at a job that I love (never thought I’d say that!), and a new set of friends that I’ve made because of shared interests (writing, art, etc.). I have all these new circles revolving around me, and I am part of others’ circles. I feel better because of it.

To point out the obvious, “com” means “with.”  “Community”, “commit” and “communicate” all have “com” at the root of each word.  And that’s where I am going with this–wanting to explore my life with others, sharing, and being there for them as they are for me.  Seeing what doors these relationships open in my life, and taking pride and pleasure in how I can change or make things better for them, and having my life enriched by it all, the discussions, the turmoils, the fun. Some selfish, yes, but I do want to be good to others, too.

Despite the fact that I don’t go with this quote word for word, this bit of wisdom from John Donne‘s about how “no man is an island” overall makes sense for me:

“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness….No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Even if I am not a person with a legend that will live on for generations, my daily actions will affect others, and theirs affect me.  Why not take advantage of this and make the best of these connections while I am alive?

Am I cheesy?  Perhaps, but I love my communities.

 

New year, new post

After attending a cousin’s son’s wedding on New Year’s Eve, I’ve been thinking about how fortunate I am that I was born into this specific family.

You don’t get much choice when it comes to family, and some people are not as lucky as I, especially those who faced physical and mental abuse by people that they should be able to trust. But I can say that even if things aren’t always perfect, because of my family, growing up I never had to go hungry, always had a warm bed to sleep in,  freshly laundered clothes, etc.  And as an adult, I still know I can call a cousin, or an uncle if I need a place to stay for the night, or just meet up with someone for a meal.

I could write for hours about how important my family is to me, but I won’t bore you. Just something to mull over the next time you find yourself among family, be it yours or the brood of someone else.

 

There’s more where that came from

Originally I planned on writing more about patronizing local stores, or even the Occupy Oakland movement, but I think we’re all tired of it.  I will keep going on my merry way spending money at local shops in silence.  Let my actions speak for me.

As tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I will say that I am thankful for my relative health, my family, my boyfriend, my dog, a place to rest my head, clothes to keep me warm, food to nourish me and more. What are you thankful for?

“He likes to butt things…with his head.”

There are a few movies I can watch over and over again because they take my mind off the world around me and make me happy for at least as long as the movie lasts. Because of the repeated viewings, I can recite random lines from movies such as “The Blues Brothers,” “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” and also the film from which I pulled the above quote, “Parenthood,” which I found myself watching yet again this past weekend.

The ensemble cast, made up of actors like Steve Martin, Dianne Weist and Jason Robards, create characters that feel like real people, even if they are caricatures, such as the wayward youngest sibling, the frazzled mom of three, and the wise but dotty old grandma. Take a look and I bet you can see a bit of these personalities in the family that surrounds you.

The characters are not faced with extraordinary circumstances, like rare childhood diseases, but mundane events that happen in everyone’s lives: birthday parties, family dinners, school plays, etc. To borrow a word from Mary Steenburgen’s character in the movie, what makes it interesting to watch is how each character tackles the “messy” situations that arise, be it literal, like puke, or figurative, such as teen pregnancy.

Next time “Parenthood” pops up on TBS or another movie channel, watch it and don’t be surprised if you find yourself trying to hide from your companion on the couch that you are tearing up just a bit.