Friday, February 12, 2016


It seems strange that I won't hear his voice anymore.  I am still functioning in a surreal world where I will go home to Memphis and he will be sitting on the couch watching baseball.  We knew he was sick for a long time, but it progressed at the end so rapidly, that I don't think we had a chance to realize what was happening.

I can write about how he held on until all four of his kids made it (Cheri flew from NYC and literally sprinted to the hospital to get there in time, while Joey and Dani abandoned their cars in illegal spots to run in) and passed peacefully in his sleep while all of us and mom held his hands.  It was beautiful and I will never forget it.  I could also write about how 30 minutes before that he scared the ever-loving shit out of me and made me scream and leap across the room.  Thanks, Dad.  Had to get one more in, didn't you?

But here is what I am actually going to write about: my Dad and the impact he has had on me as a person, a parent, and a professional.

I have to start with baseball, don't I?  It wouldn't seem right somehow if I didn't.  I have slept in the Jim Edmonds Cardinals jersey I got him every night since I found it in the closet.  Here he is wearing it when I took him on the train from Memphis to Chicago one summer as a Father's Day present.

Neither of us had ever seen a game in Wrigley Field, so we went, just the two of us, and had a great time watching the Cubs beat the Brewers.  Naturally, I kept score (in a scorebook Dad bought me 15 years ago) and Dad almost got us in a fight thanks to that damned Cardinals jersey and some rather inebriated Cubs fans who were not excited about the intrusion of Cardinal fans on their turf.  Ah, good times.

What made that trip so good, though, and what made all of our baseball memories so good, is that it was more than that.  We spent hours on the train, and I remember I was studying for my graduate school comprehensive exams.  Dad asked me all about school, gave me tips for the flashcards I was creating, and got me to open up about this new guy I was dating (and ended up marrying).  He never had overt "parental" talks with me, but he would slip it in among conversations about on-base percentages and ERAs.

I have so many memories of Dad and baseball.  Him coaching my and Cheri's teams when we were kids.  Him taking me to Tim McCarver Stadium when I worked as an usher for the Memphis Chicks in high school, and he would be one of the like 100 people in attendance at the game while I did the chicken dance on the dugouts at the 7th inning stretch.  Touring the construction of AutoZone Park the summer I worked with him downtown before I left for college.
I drove in from Knoxville to attend the opening game a year later (below), and tons of others, with him.  I would sneak in a baggie of cut up apples and a bottle of water.  Dad would get beer, and we would each buy one hotdog in the 5th.  We always sat on the third base side behind the dugout.  Home field.  I would keep score, and between the two of us, not a single ball or strike would go unmarked in my book. He taught me to score, and I can remember sitting on the porch listening to Jack Buck and Mike Shannon call the Cardinal games back in the day.  Jeremy is already a pretty decent scorekeeper, and I am proud of that.

I think he was always confused by my obsession with the Atlanta Braves, but what can you do?  I was a teenage girl, and I could actually see the Braves on TBS every single day.  Javy Lopez was my first husband, and Dad literally saved my life once when he pulled me up by my backpack when I almost fell over the right field wall at Busch Stadium when John Smoltz threw me a ball during batting practice.

Two of the most important things my Dad taught me: always get there in time for batting practice, and a ball from a future Hall of Fame pitcher is totally worth risking your life for.

And that baseball is a thinking man's sport.  It is not about home runs, but about "small ball" - one hit, one sacrifice bunt, one blooper "ball with eyes" - and together you have a team-earned run.  So much more satisfying than a one-man show of power.  That's good, smart baseball.  So many life lessons hidden in our many baseball talks - never overt, but always there and sneaking into the very foundation of who he raised me to be.

And all this current talk about the DH potentially heading to the National League?  Well, Dad, I'm glad you don't have to see it.  Just horrible.

Did you know Dad made extra sure the room for my wedding night overlooked AutoZone Park and had enough room for me to spin around in my dress?  He did.  And I am told he even made them switch rooms that night when he personally went to check that it was perfect.  I spun in my dress and ate wedding cake with my new husband overlooking the lights of my ball park.  It was perfection.  Thanks, Dad.

And that was him to a tee.  He knew that view would mean something to me, and he knew I would be a total girl and spin around like a fool in my ballgown.  Of course he did.  Again, he was not obvious with his parenting style, but he was always keeping tabs.  He knew when I brought home a B+ on a paper, I would be pissed off.  He knew all my friend's names and how to make them laugh when they visited.  As I look back through this blog, he commented on almost every post until recently.  His kids mattered to him so much, and he invested huge amounts of time and energy into our upbringing.  He was never a PTA guy, but he attended one - only one - Men's Club meeting at our elementary school.  He was trying to get new uniforms for the girl's softball teams that he coached (we wore the old boy's uniforms - gross).  Well, long story short, we did not get the uniforms, and Dad never attended a meeting again.  People who did not respect or value his daughters were not worth his time.  But the fact that he went to that club of stupid men and fought for his girls means so much.

My Dad was a writer and a poet. And a hell of a hard worker. All of his children have college degrees in the Arts - poor Mom and her love of math and science was lost on all of us.  Cheri holds a PhD and is a tenture-track professor of philosophy.  Joey has a degree in Communications and is now helping to run the independent film industry in Memphis. Dani has a Performance degree and is getting closer and closer to her dream of professional acting and practically runs a community theatre.  I am not as directly using my master of arts degree, but I have a great career working with college students, hold a top position in my field, and have published extensively.  Dad shared his creativity with us, and his work ethic.  We knew homework had to be done.  Period.  We knew grades mattered, and we knew college degrees were mandatory.  We all held jobs at young ages and have worked hard for everything we ever earned.  My parents did not pay my way through college, but I was prepared by my parents and earned multiple scholarships and held jobs to get me through school.

Dad taught us to be generous with friends and family always, but never expect something for ourselves.  If you are offered a helping hand, you pay it back in full as soon as you can.  Right before I moved in November of last year, Dad called me to offer money to help with the move.  I tearfully accepted because he knew I needed it (and would never have asked for it), but every dime was paid back to him and Mom before New Year's.  They would never have asked for it back, but they taught me better than that.  I am an adult and I honor the commitments I make and the people I love.

Books are a huge part of all of our lives.  My master's degree is in English Literature and I have studied with the Royal Shakespeare Academy in London.  Books will always be a safe and treasured place.  We read The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter as a family.  A few of those were when we were children and one was when we were adults.  Dad was the best at reading out loud to us.  He did all the voices and made books come alive to us as little kids.  My own children will refuse bed until we read to them.  Just last night, Brian and I tag-teamed to complete a full month of Diary of a Wimpy Kid for the monsters at bedtime: it is a non-negotiable routine.  I can't imagine what my life would have been like without some of my best friends, Elizabeth Bennet, Dill Harris, Anne Shirley, Nancy Drew, Archie Goodwin.  I thank my lucky stars Dad introduced them all to me at such a young age.

Even more than the baseball and the books, though, I will remember the utter goofiness that was my Dad. He was seriously the strangest person I ever met.  He won Best Actor awards at Murder Mystery weekends.  He wrote family poems in 30 seconds that were full of imagery and humor.  He loved a good costume (hell yeah!) and he won countless Halloween Best Couples Costume Awards with my Mom.  He could quote the strangest movies and knew the lyrics to what seemed like every single song ever.  He was the life of the party.  In making the slideshow for his funeral, I found myself laughing at all the photos of him pole dancing or hamming it up with cute girls at parties.  He could make anyone feel at home, and, man, could he tell a joke.  He inexplicably loved The Three Stooges, and the nonsense of Groucho Marx and Yogi Berra are mainstays in our family lexicon.  I had to include quotes in his slideshow because there are just so many things that stick out in our minds as being uniquely Dad.

I have been typing for hours and I feel like I have barely touched on what I want to say.  I will never turn off an Elton John song, I will always keep score at a baseball game, I will read to my children every night, and I will dress up in crazy costumes for ridiculous family events.

And I will do it all because my Dad told me to.

And he was the best.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Christmas for the Kiddos

I really am trying to get my blogging back on a normal schedule, but I am still adjusting to what my life looks like these days.  Here we go...

Christmas was absolutely fantastic this year!  When we unpacked our house, we immediately put up our decorations and since they are still up, I have not actually seen our home without them.  I will be sad to see them go since Christmas fun makes the whole house just seem cozier, don't you think?
Vi has to put the star on the tree every year.

They love decorating the tree so much!

Our horrible attempt at gingerbread houses - next year we are just going with flat gingerbread people.

I am loving our current family time since both the kids are very into the magic of Christmas at the moment.  I fear those days are numbered for Jeremy, so I really soaked it in this year.
Christmas Eve night in their new jammies!!

And mommy in her new jammies from her mommy - of course

Santa came!
 Jeremy had his heart set on an iPhone for Christmas.  The first time he told me this, I literally laughed in his face.  I am such a good mom.  But, the magic of Santa is strong and it turns out that a completely free iPhone 4 opportunity presented itself for Mr. Claus thanks to his amazing friends and family up there in the North Pole.  So, it has really strong restrictions on the internet and for apps and is tied to my account and does not actually have a phone number associated with it to make calls, but he now has an iPhone to play various games on, which was his intended purpose anyway.  He also got a ton of Lego and Star Wars merchandise to his never-ending glee.  And, Jeremy being Jeremy, books also factored in big time, and he had his new Wimpy Kid book completed before it even got dark on Christmas day.
Jeremy!  Santa got them both these huge posters (like $3 online) and it made for a big impact.
The excitement was real over that silly phone.

Teenager already.

The Darth Vader phone case was also a hit.

Violet was very non-specific this year about most things.  She wants everything she sees, basically.  The only thing she really honed in on was an Ella (what she calls the live-action Cinderella to differentiate from the cartoon) Funko Pop doll. She is also currently obsessed with Taylor Swift and tea parties.  So, we got the doll, Santa had the brilliant idea for a huge Ella poster for her bedroom, and then a free kid kitchen fell in his North Pole lap much like the phone did for Jeremy.  So great! Brian and I thought a lot about how kids today listen to music, so we re-purposed an old iPod shuffle collecting dust in the house and it was gifted full of Taylor Swift music and some new kid-safe headphones.  Assorted Barbies and games completed her Christmas joy.
She cooks a lot in her kitchen these days.

Ignore her inability to smile - she was floating on cloud 9 all day.

She named her Barbie "Buffy" and had a pool party with Buffy, Elsa, and Funko Pop Ella.

Taylor Swift on the iPod and new headphones for the win!

The kids had such a great time and enjoyed giving gifts this year more than in the past, which was really nice to see.  They picked out some specific presents on their own to give to Daddy, Penelope, and their Aunt Megan.  They were coming up to me all month with new ideas for what we should get certain people, mostly each other, for the holiday.
I make a big breakfast every Christmas and they love it.  We usually eat around 1pm because you simply can't leave presents for something as trivial as food.

I am just so lucky to have such a wonderful family.  I will have a separate post detailing the amazing holiday celebrations we had with grandparents and cousins, but this specific holiday has always been about our immediate family to me.  I want Christmas morning memories for my kids to be specific and cozy.  I want them to remember the stockings, the presents, the jokes, the games, the huge pancake brunch, the mess, and the love.  I want them in their pajamas all day.  I love these moments with my family, and I am so happy to have added another perfect memory to my bank in our new home, which seems to be even more full of love and magic than our last!
Mommy at the end of a great day (No, I did not get dressed, what?)

Friday, December 18, 2015

"Obi Wan has taught you well, young Jeremy"

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a young boy turned 8 years old and enjoyed a fun-filled Star Wars birthday party.

I drew this myself in one try and was insanely proud.  I need to get out more.

My little man is currently obsessed with Star Wars, and I must admit it was not a hardship to plan a themed party around a nerd topic that I happen to know a lot about.  The problem was that we just moved here less than a month ago, and Jeremy had only been in school for two weeks at the time of his party.  That meant no friends.  He has made friends, but I don't have a class roster, don't know any parents, and basically did not have time to start a new job, move the family to a new state and invite 2nd graders to my house.  Instead, we invited our Memphis family and enjoyed a little of the we-moved-400-miles-closer-to-home perks.

Jeremy specifically asked for three things, and I delivered:
1.  A Darth Vader head cake (I hate store-bought cakes, but he really wanted it):

2. A pin the Vader head on the Death Star game (which I hand drew, thank you very much):

3. A game where you can use a lightsaber to block nerf gun bullets (hilariously dangerous - thanks to Uncle Joey for taking one for the team!):

Usually, I do a scavenger hunt for the kids to find their goodie bags at the end of a party.  Well, we had no kids, so instead, as we were eating cake and ice cream, Jeremy noticed the presents were all missing and became instantly horrified.  It turns out they were stolen and a note was left in their place.  A hilarious scavenger hunt ensued to reveal Daddy at the front door with the missing presents (he obviously beat up the thief who took them and did not steal them himself).  Jeremy loved it, and I appreciate my family running around the house with him as he solved the clues.

He got some great gifts, and Aunt Cheri sent him tickets to the opening night, first showing of the new Star Wars movie!  He chose to go with Dad instead of Mom (I am not cool anymore), but they had an AMAZING time.

Jeremy at 8 years old is definitely a Jeremy that has my heart.  He is hilarious, smart, quick, and kind.  He makes friends easily, smiles all the time, and loves to read.  He is by far my favorite son!

Happy Birthday, Little Man - thanks, as always, for making me a mom.