Month: August 2014

Memories of Mom #33

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Dearest Emi and Ava,

IMG_7963Yesterday was National Dog Day, and although I missed the day with this post, I thought I would tell you how Mika came to be with us.

For years after we were married, your mom and I talked about getting a pet.

We tried fish for a while, but had trouble keeping them alive.  Except for Rocket and Big Red who turned in to Koi, but that’s another story.

She wasn’t a cat person, so cats were out.

We both liked dogs, but it was a huge debate.

She wanted something small, like Sassy (Mimi and Papa’s dog at the time).  I didn’t like small dogs.

I preferred something larger like a German Shepard.  She didn’t like big dogs.

And then one day, I came home from work and she said, “I figured it out.  I know what kind of a dog we’re going to get.”

I gave her that “tell me more” look.

She said, “One of the local news anchors had his dogs on TV and I love them.  I want one.”

I asked her what kind and she said, “A shiba inu.”

Never heard of it.

Then she showed me a picture.

Not too small.  Not too big.  Cute like a fox with a curly tail.

IMG_7825I smiled and said, “Okay.”

She responded with a, “That’s it?”

I said, “Yep.”

She said, “I thought you were going to give me more trouble than that.”

I told her that I was fine with it.

Then she said, “Can we have two?”

I said, “No, let’s deal with one first.”

So she researched and found a local breeder in Missouri and checked them out.

They had a litter being born in October of 2012.

We got pictures and started working on names.  I must say the name choices were not coming a long well (I think I remember – Fluffy, Sarah, and Beagle), but we decided to wait until we saw the pups in person.

We went out as a family to visit and played with the pups.  Your mom let you girls choose which pup was to go home with us.  You chose the one that snuggled the most with you.

We named her Mika that day.

IMG_9209We actually took her home a couple weeks later and you two were so excited!  It was our first family dog.

Your mom was equally (if not more) excited.  She loved Mika very much.  In fact, I think Mika loved your mom than the rest of us.

Your mom knew that Mika was going to turn heads everywhere she went and loved taking her out to the downtown square and watch everyone dote all over her.

There are tons of Mika stories to tell, but my favorite simply is the day we took her home.  It put such a huge smile on your mom’s face.  I will never forget – just look at the first photo in this post.

Mika has grown up nicely and has been a great companion for all of us.  In fact, when she snuggles up with me, I think about your mom and smile. 🙂

It’s been fun watching you two with Mika.  You two have done well in caring for the dog too. Lots of good lessons there.  Just remember to use the little rake to scoop the dog poop in to the bucket, not your hand. 🙂

I love you!

~Dad

Memories of Mom #32

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Dearest Emi and Ava,

I wanted to tell you a story about your mom and I moving to Bentonville.

All you girls have known is growing up in this area, but your mom and I didn’t always live here….and we almost didn’t move here.

When your mom and I got married, we lived in a “housette” in Gravel Ridge, Arkansas – just outside of Sherwood.  I was working for the fire department and the state police.  Your mom worked for a title company.  When Walmart called me in for an interview, your mom and I drove up to NW Arkansas for the first time together.  I had been here a couple times before, but really didn’t know the area.

I drove your mom to the downtown Bentonville square, which looked nothing like what it does today.  It was even more “small-town-esque”.  When we pulled on to the square and parked, she started to cry.  She said, “I can’t move here.  It’s so small.  I’m a big city girl.”  I couldn’t contain myself and started to laugh.  I responded, “Big city?  You’re from Little Rock.  That’s NOT big city.”  She shot me a look and said, “You know what I mean.”  I did.  She wanted something more than what she was seeing. But it was still funny.

I called one of the only people I knew – Doug Doug.  He came and picked us up and showed us around.  And your mom found out that Bentonville (even back then) wasn’t near as bad as she had thought.  Total credit to Doug for saving the day.

The whole “I’m a big city girl” thing became an inside joke between the two of us for our entire marriage.  She thought it was funny…..after the fact.  I still get a kick out of it when I think about it because I remember how serious your mom was when she said it.  LOL!

Photo Aug 16, 10 57 33 AMAfter I got the job with Walmart, we sold our house, packed up, and moved in to an apartment in Rogers.  I hadn’t lived in an apartment for years and your mom never had.  It was quite an adjustment.  I couldn’t find ANY pictures of the apartment for you, but did find one of the sign.  🙂

We lived in the Lost Springs apartment complex.  Your mom’s biggest hangup there wasn’t that we lived in an apartment (versus a house), but rather that the address was in “Little Flock” Arkansas.  She said, “I can’t go from Little ROCK to Little FLOCK.  That’s embarrassing.”  I told her, “Well if it’s embarrassing for you, just think about being a cop here……”FREEZE – LITTLE FLOCK POLICE!”….noone would stop for that.”  She didn’t find that reassuring.

We made the apartment work, although thanks to our neighbors it always smelled like curry.  It didn’t matter though, because we had each other, a roof over our head, and a great future in front of us.

The thing I loved about your mom was that she took things in stride.   At least in this area of her life, your mom was pretty easy going and laid back.  She didn’t get uppity about things (at least not after she found out that Bentonville was a pretty decent place to live).

She took our little cruddy apartment and turned it in to a home for us.  And we were happy.  She had a knack for that too.  Always finding a way to turn the place that we lived into a warm and comfortable home.

First Razorback Game after moving to NW Arkansas in 2002!
First Razorback Game after moving to NW Arkansas in 2002!

We also found that we loved Bentonville and Northwest Arkansas.  It was an ideal place for us to live and raise you two.  And it has done nothing but improve since we’ve been here.

If you learn anything from this post, I hope it’s that YOU are NOT “big city girls”.  🙂

Just kidding!

I hope that you both inherit this easy going nature and ability to take the place that you live and turn it in to a home for you and your families.

I love you dearly!

~Dad

Memories of Mom #31

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Dearest Emi and Ava,Photo Aug 19, 4 21 03 PM

Well….we did it!  We successfully got you two kicked off in to a new school year.

You know, this was going to be a year of firsts for us without your mom around.  And to be honest, your first day of school was a bit tougher for me than I thought it was going to be.  And for a few reasons too.

First, I think I underestimated all that your mom did for you before school started each year.  Boy did I learn a thing or two or a hundred this year.

Photo Aug 19, 7 52 20 AMSecond, I used to be the strong one when we sent you off to school each year and your mom was a little more emotional.  I found it hard not to get a little choked up this year as I watched you two head off to your classes.

Third, I missed having your mom there.  Every year, we took you two to school together.  Every year, we walked back to the car together talking about the year ahead.  I know she was smiling today and proud of you two, but I missed having her at my side.

But, I want to share with you what struck me today.

In years passed, your mom and I did the best we could to help you be “well adjusted” in any situation (like going back to school or to a new school).  We talked about it.  We tried to let you fly a little further from the nest each year, so that you’d be comfortable to take off on your own when the time called for it.

Photo Aug 19, 7 52 51 AMToday, I watched two very confident, independent, and strong young ladies take on a new school year, new teachers, a new school altogether, and new friends with total grace and poise.  Your mom would be SO PROUD!

Emi, while I understand you’re getting older, you didn’t even hesitate to head on in to a new year of rotating classes, lockers, and new processes.  I was left on the sidewalk amazed with your positive attitude as you walked off to your entry door.   There wasn’t even a flinch.  In fact, we had a conversation about your first year at Shiloh and what it meant as a foundation to your future years.  You’re only response was, “That’s a lot of responsibility. (pause)  Okay.” with a confident nod.  Impressive!

Ava, when I dropped you off in class today you were all about it!  Once your teacher walked us to where we needed to be, you were ready to head out. You gave me a hug and a wink and off you went to talk with friends.  Independent!  Equally impressive!

Photo Aug 19, 7 56 07 AM
Ava and Mrs. Nantze

I don’t think it’s by accident that you two are this way.

While I’ll claim a little credit, it was really your mom that instilled this confidence, independence and strength in you.  She wanted you to be able to “stand on your own two feet” and make good choices when you needed to.  She wanted you to be strong when peer pressure says to go the wrong way.  She wanted you to be compassionate and loving to others.  She wanted you to not be afraid of new things and to face challenges head on.

Gladly, what I witnessed today would have made her extremely proud!

Coming home from school, it was great to see you two so excited!  You beamed and told stories about how great your day was!  Great teachers!  New friends!  and Big Smiles!  I love to see you two like this.  And I know your mom does too.

As you get older, I hope that you neither of you lose this spark of confidence, independence and strength.  I hope that you only build on this great foundation for future years to come.

I love you!

~Dad

 

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Memories of Mom #30

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Dearest Emi and Ava,

IMG_9657What a week it has been getting ready for a new school year!

Admittedly, this is not one of my strong suits.  It’s one of those things that your mom did really really well.

In fact, there have been many times throughout each of the last few days that I asked myself, “What would your mom do in this situation?”

But as it is the eve of the new school year, I think that I have everything in order and ready to go.  I just wasn’t as smooth about getting it done.

If I compared your mom’s versus my efforts – she would be like a graceful ballerina dancer gliding across the stage and I was more like one of the three stooges getting tazered.

Summer 2008 160Either or, here you are, already tucked in your beds and sound asleep and I’m putting the final touches on getting everything ready.

You know, your mom used to tell me all the things she was doing to get you two ready in years past.  I wish I would have wrote those things down, but in the process of trying to remember all of her words of wisdom, I found myself lost in memories about how she cared for you two.

It reminded me again and made me think, “Your mom was a really great mom!”

She was so attentive to your needs and good at managing the complexity of a new school year.  Granted, she had a few years practice over me.  But attentive and detailed.  That’s what comes to mind.

There was never anything missed.  You always had the clothes and supplies you needed.  Shots and records were squared away.  Schedules and agendas were memorized.  Pickup and drop-off secured.  School lunches were planned out.  Nothing was missed.

IMG_7150I listened today during orientation time to other moms talking to your teachers and I was like, “Oh, April would have asked that.  And that.  Oh…missed that one, but she wouldn’t have.”

More than just attentive and detailed, your mom LOVED getting you ready for school. She had this twinkle in her eye when everything was set and ready to go.  And I think this is important.  For all the craziness that goes on in shopping, organizing and prepping for the new year, she was really good at setting you two up to do the very best you could and be the best you could be.  She wasn’t going to leave anything to chance, because she loved you so much.

She wanted the very best for you, so she gave the very best of herself.

If there were no other lessons in this post, the last sentence would be more than enough.  I hope that one day, when you have children, you take this lesson to heart and apply it with vigor in to your life.

I love you both!  Sleep well!  You have school in the morning! 🙂

~Dad

Memories of Mom #29

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Dearest Emi and Ava,

IMG_4368Something I desperately hope that you remember about your mom is that she loved adventuring outdoors!

I have many stories to tell about biking, swimming, walking, and hiking, but what I want to focus in on here is her simple love of  the ‘outside’.

Places where the wind blew and sun shined.  Places where you could hear the rustling of the trees, see animal life, and beautiful flowers.  Places where you could just be quiet with your thoughts or share a smile with a loved one.

One of our favorite things about Bentonville over the last several years was the development of their trail system.

We would spend hours walking the trails.  Sometimes talking.  Sometimes holding hands.  Often laughing!  Sometimes chasing after you two.  Sometimes chasing after each other.  And sometimes just being quiet and taking it all in.

She would get this really peaceful look in her eyes as she walked.  It was just serene.

IMG_4466I loved this look.  It made everything feel as though it was in its right place.

She also liked getting you two out to explore with her.  While we both cringed when you walked too near a drop off or wanted to climb all over the tall rocks, we both held each other in check to let you two ‘be kids’ and experiment – all the while being close by to ensure you didn’t get hurt.

Your mom was the “throw the rock in the water” kind of girl.  She wasn’t afraid to get dirty or “go off the trail”.  Every so often she’d test her own balance in walking on the rock wall or get down and see what was in the water.

She loved the natural beauty of her surroundings and appreciated God’s brushstrokes.

Her favorite trail was the North Bentonville Trail (near our home) that led in to the Crystal Bridges Trail.  Such a beautiful walk or ride.

IMG_7186Interestingly, it was those same trails near Crystal Bridges Museum where she chose for us to take (what would be) our final official family photos together.  Although it was getting later in the year, it was still beautiful!

I thoroughly enjoyed and looked forward to those times when she’d say, “Let’s get out of here and get outside.”  I always knew we would be in for a good time.

Girls, I hope you grow up with your mom’s sense of adventure and love for the outdoors.  Being able to admire and appreciate God’s beauty in nature was something that your mom was very good at and partly made her who she was. I hope that some of that is in you too. 🙂

I promise that we’ll walk these trails often and whenever we get a chance, we’ll throw a rock in the water and think of your mom. 🙂

I love you!

~Dad

 

When God Says No

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IMG_7030.1Today, while standing in the rain at the cemetery, I came to the realization that I certainly do ask God for a lot of things.

On a daily basis, I ask for grace and peace, strength and stamina, patience and mercy for the girls and I.

I ask for protection and health.  I ask for understanding and wisdom and a glimpse in to His plan for my and our lives.

And of course, among many other things, I ask for forgiveness – constantly.

In the quietest and most still moments of my prayers, I find myself asking for April back.  It usually comes out in a barely audible “Lord, I would really love to have my wife back.  I miss her.”

And even in the moments of uttering it, (at least for now) I know the answer is ‘no’.  I know that may sound silly to some because we comprehend finality when it comes to bodily death, but I also know our God is a God of miracles and nothing is beyond Him.  So, anything is possible.  Plus, the heart wants what the heart wants.

BUT God doesn’t always give us everything we want – even the things that we hold most dearly.  Whether we hear him say it, read it in scripture, or it just doesn’t manifest, He sometimes just says ‘no’.

And you know what?  That’s okay.

It certainly doesn’t always feel okay as our human desire wrestles against our spirit.  In fact, it can be downright ugly and painful.

But what I’ve come to find, and quite frankly have always believed,  is that there is purpose for the times that God says no.

What purpose?  That of fulfilling a greater kingdom purpose.

My theory is that even as smart as we humans think we are, we aren’t even seeing an iota of God’s greater plan or wonders.  I believe that we are connected and divinely guided to each other at the right time to play a part in each others lives with that one tidbit, interaction or piece of information that allows someone to move on, evolve, grow or resolve their own issue for a future greater purpose.

And through all of the times that God has said ‘no’ or ‘not yet’ to me, I am always amazed later down the road when His plan comes in to better focus and it’s easier to see how things unfolded – and what part he had me or others play.

While standing in the rain, thinking about God saying, “No, you can’t have your wife.”, I was quickly reminded of all the things that He has said YES to.

“Yes, Jason, you have two beautiful daughters that I’ve given you the joy to care over.”

“Yes, Jason, I’ve given you a tremendous family that you get to be a part of that will both support you and you need to support too.”

“Yes, Jason, I’ve put many great friends in your life to live life with that will both nurture you and you will nurture.”

“Yes, Jason, I’ve given you a great church family that will minister to you and you will minister to, and you will team up to spread my word.”

“Yes, Jason, I’ve given you a great career, awesome co-workers, and another place that you can influence, grow, and minister to those in need.”

In Jeremiah 29, the author of this passage talks about God’s promise to the Israelites of restoration following exile.  In verse 11 (one of my favorites), he says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

I”ve always found this passage interesting because He is speaking to a broad group of people (the Israelites), not to just one person.  However, to me, it speaks to both the individual plans and overall plans for His people. (Which by the way he fulfilled.)  And today, post Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection, WE are HIS people. And He has a plan for us individually and collectively.

But this is just the kind of God that He is; sovereign, meticulous, and all-knowing.  His plans connect us.

Notice the five “Yes, Jason…” statements above – each of them connects to other people.  None of them for me solely.  While saying ‘no’ to me in one area of life, He has blessed me by saying ‘yes’ in so many others.  While I could dwell on the ‘no’, there is so much greatness and opportunity in the ‘yes’.

And maybe…..the things He is teaching me through this season of my life are for the benefit of someone (or many someones) that desperately need it that will later go on to help someone else, who will help someone else, who will help someone else…just like someone who went through something so they could help me.

I have no doubts that I will continue to miss April every day.  That’s just part of who I am and the journey I’m on.  However, the realization that He had purpose for calling her home and still has purpose for me to fulfill are enough for me to lift my head, dry my eyes and move forward in the areas of life where He has said, “YES”.

Undoubtedly, God has said ‘no’ to you regarding some desire of your heart, but rather than focus there, answer this question, “Where has God said YES in my life?”

Then answer, “What am I doing with it?”

Memories of Mom #28

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Dearest Emi and Ava,

Did you know that your mom loved……

….alligators?

Whaaaatttttt??

Yes!  Alligators!

IMG_7568
Little Rock Zoo – 2012

Crazy as it sounds, your mom had this incredible fascination with those long jawed, cold blooded, swamp monsters.

Ever since we were dating she talked about how cool they were.  Every time we went to a zoo, she’d linger just a little longer around the alligator pit to watch her reptilian friends.

I’m not sure why she was so attracted to them, but I remember one year (earlier in our marriage) we were going to go to an alligator farm in Arkansas and she was soooo excited.  Unfortunately, we had to cancel that portion of the trip and was soooo bummed.

BUT – in 2010, your mom had come down to visit me after a work meeting in Orlando.  We spent the weekend together doing all kinds of cool stuff….and on that Sunday I surprised her with a visit to Gatorland!

OH MY GOODNESS!  You would have thought I just won the best husband of the year award or something!  She was soooo excited (again)!

We walked around the park for hours looking at exhibits and watching the shows.  She was completely enthralled!

There was one large exhibit where we saw an alligator actually eat a big turtle.  We didn’t think it was planned – just nature taking it’s course.  Kind of gross, but you couldn’t look away with the tactics the alligator was taking to crack the turtle shell.  We’d never seen anything like it.

We also saw an albino alligator.  Had never seen one of those either.

The shows were a little hokey, but fun enough to watch.  We kept speculating what would happen if that alligator wrestler lost his grip just a little. 🙂

The sheer power of an alligator is amazing.

Back Camera
Gatorland – 2010

There are two things that I loved the most about this trip.

The first was the smile on your mom’s face the entire time.  She beamed and glowed the whole time.  I could tell she was really excited.

The second was the picture to the right.  It’s the one that we used for a lot of your mom’s Team April stuff.  The exposure on the picture was just such that she looked kind of angelic.  What most people don’t know about that “Team April” photo was that there was a very large alligator behind her.  I love this pic.

Oh…and if there was a third place, it would be when we posed for a pic holding a baby alligator and they decided to throw a snake around my neck.  We both about came out of our chairs!! (pic below in the slideshow)

I loved surprising your mom…..even with reptiles.

I don’t know what your favorite animal is going to be by the time you get to adulthood, but I hope that you take the time to appreciate God’s creatures and the beauty of each one ….even if they have lots of teeth…..and are ferocious…….and apparently eat turtles.  🙂

I love you both dearly!

~Dad

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