Fascinating Family Fables

Memories of Mom #42

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Dearest Emi and Ava,

Thanksgiving has long been a favorite holiday of ours.

It’s always been a time to come together with family and friends, enjoy each others’ company, eat some great food, and reflect on the things that we are truly thankful for.

This year is no different….but we’ll get to that in a minute.

2014-11-28 11.17.48Your mom and I decided early on in our marriage that we would always try to be around family for this holiday….and as far as I can recollect, we’ve done that every year.  We’ve taken turns hosting or traveling to family’s homes for this special weekend.

We’ve always enjoyed some great eats and Thanksgiving Day football, then we’d usually begin the annual ritual of decorating our house for Christmas!  🙂

One thing neither of us liked was trying to shop on Black Friday, which has now rolled itself backwards on to Thanksgiving Day.  We went a few times together and would always come home and go, “WHY did we do that?  Next home we’re sleeping in!

One of my favorite Thanksgiving’s was last year (2013) at Frank and Tina’s.  It was only a handful of weeks after your mom was diagnosed, so family (on your mom’s side) rallied around and we had a grand time!  There is always so much laughing and craziness, that it would probably require it’s own dedicated blog for posterity’s sake just to do it justice.

IMG_0347     IMG_0381     IMG_0351

So fast forward to this year.

How much difference a single little year makes.

It’s been over 8 months since your mom went to Heaven.

I’ve been so proud of how you and your sister have handled this change in our lives.  God has most certainly blessed us in an amazing and tremendous way!

It still takes me a little aback when people tell me that they “Know they holidays are going to be tough for us.” or that “They know we’re hurting and sad.”  And while this is true to a degree, it’s also not.  We have to respect other’s though in that they don’t always know how to approach us or what to say.  So a simple, ‘thank you’ or smile usually suffices.

We resolved early this year that we were going to make our holiday’s extra special and they would be something we would LOOK FORWARD TO and not shy away from.  Granted, we miss your mom.  I miss your mom every day.

But the thing is, we always will.  And THAT’s OK!

We will also always have sad moments.  And THAT’s OK TOO!

But we can also choose how to live our lives!  And we have chosen to LIVE!  And honor her by living!

So, as with holiday’s past this year, we dedicated time to do something special.

Our first activity, for you two and your cousin Destiny, was to write words that reminded you of your mom on to some leaves I cut from construction paper.  We then constructed a tree with all the words you all listed.  I loved how you all dove right in and didn’t hesitate in coming up with such descriptive words!  It was beautiful!

Photo Nov 27, 4 39 52 PM

Photo Nov 27, 3 47 45 PM

Photo Nov 27, 3 54 11 PM

Photo Nov 27, 4 15 42 PMOnce we were done, I asked you to write down 5 people that you were thankful for and to think about why you were thankful.  Again, none of you hesitated.  I then handed out thank you cards and you spent time writing to those people that mean the most to you.

Then we made a trip to the cemetery to spend a little time in reverence and offered up prayers of thanks for your mom.

Being that it’s Thanksgiving it is easy to reflect on those things that we appreciate, because truly truly, we have much to be thankful for.  And I hope you remember this throughout your years!

Photo Nov 27, 5 00 36 PMOur prayers were simple, but were basically this –  We are thankful that God blessed us with your mom for the amount of time that he did.  We are thankful for all that she poured in to each of us.  We are thankful for her example of godliness, grace, and courage.    We are thankful for the experiences we had and memories we have of your mom.  She was a truly special woman and we are thankful that she was such a big part of our lives.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1 Thessalonians 5:18

I love you!

~Dad

Memories of Mom #37

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Dearest Emi and Ava,

As I was walking through the house the other day watering the plants and realized, “Wow, we have a lot of plants.”

That may not be unusual for you, but it certainly is for me.

Why?

Because your mom was horrible with plants!

And she knew it!

Photo Sep 20, 8 59 06 AMThe mere thought of that makes me laugh out loud!  I was telling some of our friends about this last night!  While your mom was good at much, it’s sometimes funny to talk about the things she wasn’t good at too! 🙂

Over our marriage, the only thing your mom managed to keep alive (and for a pretty long period of time) was this one little bamboo plant (pictured).

It wasn’t for lack of trying either.  We would get plants from time to time and I’d eventually come home from work and look around and ask, “Where’s that plant?”  And I’d either get a “It died weeks ago”, or a shoulder shrug and a smirk, or a “don’t ask me because you know I killed it” look.  LOL!

Maybe we didn’t put enough attention in how to take care of them or maybe it was just a serious case of “brown thumb”.  They just weren’t your mom’s “thing”.

Interestingly, we have several plants in our house now – most came from your mom’s celebration last March.  And they are all thriving and doing well (as long as I remember to water them).

My favorite plant though?  That little bamboo plant that your mom kept alive for all those years.  Every time I look at I think about your mom.

And even though everything points to the fact that this plant too should have met it’s fate long ago, it has shown tenacity to overcome the odds and thrive regardless.  Kind of like us.

I hope that as you get older that you have a green thumb like Buela, because there is much beauty and enjoyment in being around God’s creations.  But more importantly, I hope that you thrive regardless of your odds and circumstances like that little bamboo plant.

I love you both!

~Dad

Memories of Mom #36

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Dearest Emi and Ava,

080Tonight, as we were flipping channels, we watched the very tail end of the movie We Bought a Zoo.

And there were so many wonderful things that came to mind.

First, your mom loved movies.  She loved the stories and would get wrapped up in them.

We loved watching movies together.  We could watch any style – except horror.  Neither of us did horror flicks.  We tried a couple times, but both found ourselves hiding our eyes.  I was a bigger baby about them than your mom.

Our favorite thing though was cuddling up together and watching a good movie.  We didn’t have to talk, just enjoy the movie and being near each other.  It brings a smile to my face just to think about it.

Second, your mom ALWAYS made fun of me because I loved watching the ends of movies.  Like before we’d go to bed, I’d just flip on HBO and watch the ending of a movie.  She thought it was so bizarre, but it didn’t discourage me from doing it all the time.  Watching the end of the movie tonight made me laugh, because I could just picture your mom rolling her eyes at me and giving me that famous smirk of hers.

downloadThird, the movie itself.  We Bought a Zoo.  April and I watched it together a couple times.  I saw the end of it several times. 😀    It wasn’t an all time favorite, but we both thought it was a good cute movie.

The last time I saw this movie, I was with your mom.  The storyline of the movie though means more to me now than ever before.  And until the moment that we were watching it tonight, I didn’t realize the impact of it.

You see, in the movie, Benjamin Mee’s wife passes away after a bout with an illness, leaving him behind to care for his 14 and 7 year old children.  He decides to buy a dilapidated old zoo and restore it with his family.  The movie continues on about the struggles in their journey to do so and find themselves and find new happiness in the process.

While we aren’t going to buy a zoo (so don’t get your hopes up), I can see the parallels in our own lives with this movie.

One of the most important parts of the movie is when Benjamin is talking with his son about 20 seconds of courage and encouraging him to be strong – just for a little bit – to accomplish something amazing.  And I think about you girls and how you (and your mom) have shown incredible bursts of courage over the last year.  I didn’t have to pep talk you (much).  You did it innately, which proves to me how truly strong and amazing both of you really are.

At the very end of the movie though is one of my very favorite parts, especially now.  He was showing his kids how he met their mother and had his 20 seconds of courage to introduce himself.   He was walking through the actual steps in a mostly empty restaurant that he and his wife had met to show his kids how he spoke to her for the first time.

The camera flashes to him saying, “Excuse me…”, then the camera flashes to a once empty seat, but this time ….like a dream….his wife is there.  Looking up at him.  He says, “Why would an amazing woman like you, even talk to someone like me?” She smiles and says, “Why not?”  And whether it was because of his good storytelling or some magic, the kids can see the whole scene play out with their mom there.

Tears!

Which brings me to the final point, your mom loved happy endings.  I think we all do, but there is just something about how good you feel when there is a happy ending.  If it was a tear-jerker, like this movie, your mom and I would just look at each other afterwards and smile at each other and not say a word.  If I could see she was crying, I would hand her a tissue without her even asking.  I loved this soft side of your mom.

The good news for all of us?  There is a happy ending in sight.  God has much planned for us, girls!  And while he blessed us with your mom for a time, I believe he is going to keep blessing us and the best is yet to come!  Plus – our happy ending will also involve reuniting with your mom in heaven one day! 🙂

So, in the future, if you see me crying a little during these movies – give your dad a little latitude and just smile and pass me a tissue without saying anything.  😉

I love you!

~Dad

Memories of Mom #35

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Dearest Emi and Ava,

Front CameraYesterday was the first Arkansas Razorback home game of 2014!  And what an exciting day!

You know, since 2003, your mom and I went to just about every Razorbacks football home game.  It was kind of “our thing”.

Your mom wasn’t always a football fan, but there was something about the roar of the crowd at Razorback Stadium and the excitement in the air that made her fall in love with the Razorbacks.  I’ve always been a football fan, so it wasn’t as much of a stretch for me.

But it became something that we did together, every year.  It was kind of a tradition.

We didn’t tailgate a lot, but spent the time together just enjoying each other’s company and talking about how we thought the team would do, or how they did after the game.

Photo Sep 06, 2 57 02 PMWin or lose, we were always there and always cheering on the Hogs!

Your mom and I had this thing – whether at a live game or watching the Razorbacks on TV, we would always high five after every touch down, extra point, and/or field goal.  Of course, extra awesome plays got a double high five or better!  But we did this EVERY time – without fail.

When I was thinking about this season, I knew it was going to be harder for me because I was missing my football buddy.  Who was I going to slap high five with?  Some random stranger?

Nope, I resolved that its time to start a new tradition.

Instead of your mom and I, it’s now YOU and ME.

As we’ve already talked, I’m going to alternate taking you two to games this year.

Photo Sep 06, 2 06 39 PMI also resolved, that like other holidays and events, Razorback football is going to be a joyful time!  Your mom would have wanted it that way.

So Ava, you were first up for the game on September 6, 2014.

And boy oh boy you were up for it!

Your little legs walked all the way from Lot 56 to the stadium until I swooped you up on to my shoulders.

You cheered!  You danced!  You ate a hot dog and nachos!  And you did the crazy little movements to songs that the student section was doing!  I loved it!  You were an awesome football buddy!

Photo Sep 06, 2 31 47 PMBest of all…..you slapped me high five after every touchdown, extra point and field goal!!  And there were a lot of them on this day when they beat Nicholls State 73-7.

I was so happy!  Our old tradition, slightly modified to new tradition is underway!

I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season holds!  And I can’t wait to spend the time with you two!

While I hope that you fall in love with the Arkansas Razorbacks like your mom and I did, my deeper hope is that you two develop love for some team that you can root and cheer on with others throughout your years.  Have fun at sporting events!  Be a good sport!  And soak in the energy and experience!  #WPS!

I love you both!

~Dad

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Memories of Mom #34

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Dearest Emi and Ava,

THE FRESH BEAT BANDI was rummaging through your closets this weekend when I spotted something that brought back an AWESOME memory!

When you both were little, you had an infatuation with the Fresh Beat Band.

The Fresh Beat Band (in case you don’t remember) was a television show about some very musical teenagers on Nickelodeon back in 2009-2013.

At some point, the Fresh Beat Band took it on the road and started doing concerts.

In February 2012, your mom surprised us all with tickets to a show in Kansas City!

054You guys were sooooo excited!  BUT, you both wanted these FBB style jackets.

Your mom looked everywhere for them, but then decided to make them.  She studied and found patterns and shopped everywhere for the pieces.   Now what’s important to understand here is that your mom is not a seamstress.  It wasn’t one of her better skills.  But she poured in to this project with lots of love so that you two would enjoy your self at the concert to the fullest.

On the day of the concert, we made the 3 1/2 hour trek to downtown Kansas City.  The lights in the Power and Light District had you two excited!

We had pretty good seats for the show and once the lights went down – you guys got really oddly quiet.  When the lights came up and the first song powered in, you both had these looks of terror on your face.  It was soooo loud!

Your mom and I laughed so hard.  All the hard work to get you there and dress you up and you two were freaked out!

So your mom and I started dancing and singing to the songs, which loosened you two up a bit.

055After we left….thinking the evening was a bust…Ava, you said, “That was the greatest concert ever!”

Which both puzzled and pleased your mom and I.

Girls, the think I loved the most is how much effort your mom put in to making this night special for you too.  She even stretched way outside her comfort zone in doing so.  I hope when you two have kiddos of your own that you constantly push yourself to do awesome things for them that make amazing memories.

I love you!

~Dad

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