Two Things My Dad Taught Me Without Telling Me

My dad’s wisdom is 1950’s-meets-Emily-Post.  Be kind. Be thoughtful. Be proper. Do the right thing.  Family first. He never said any of these words. He just showed me what he expected.

 Dad

“Be safe”

Since I was four (likely earlier but who remembers) my dad has been sternly cautioning me to “be safe” and “don’t do anything stupid”. These statements don’t have any qualifiers or explanations. When I was 10 “be safe” meant “don’t ride your bike in the middle of the street”. I assume now at 40 he means “don’t drive your car on the sidewalk” but who knows, he never actually defined safety.

When I was young he showed me how to be safe by:

  • Sitting in the car for extended periods of time until I figured out to buckle up.
  • Standing on the side of the road for minutes until I figured out to look both ways.
  • Lightly smacking my hand when I tried to touch anything hot or sharp.

When I was a teenager his safety lessons were more of an interrogation:

  • Who are you going out with?
  • Will parents be there?
  • What will you do if someone you don’t know offers you a ride home?

Fun fact: when my first date picked me up to go out my dad snuck out of the house and wrote down the guy’s license plate number.

When I moved out of the house his safety lessons evolved into observational questions:

  • When I traveled, particularly to a city he had been to, “do you know which streets to avoid?”
  • When I moved into my own home, “do you check to see if everything looks ‘right’ before you go in?”

My dad’s prompts led me to seek out information on how to be safe in every situation. And insist my kids do the same. As my kids leave the house I call after them, “BE SAFE! I mean, look both ways before you cross the street…if you get lost, ask a mom for help…” My kids are long gone before I finish my list.

Perhaps my dad was on to something. “Be Safe” is vague but succinct.

 

It’s the little things we remember forever

When I was little I chanted, “It’s so nice to have a daddy around the house” (which I’m sure was a line fed to me by my dad but it was true so I happily sang it). And now? I still call on him to:

  • Remove dead birds from my door step.
  • Find someone to snowplow my driveway.
  • Remove hornets from my house.
  • Take the kids to various inconvenient places at inconvenient times.
  • Fix things around my house and/or supervise electricians and plumbers.
  • Rescue me when I lock myself out of my house.

Whether I ask or not, my dad:

  • Checks the tires of all cars in my driveway. Even guests. If your car is parked in my driveways, he is making sure it’s safe
  • Monitors all doors to make sure they are locked (see “be safe” above)
  • Brings me half-moons from my favorite bakery
  • Opens every door for me (chivalrous, charming, and completely annoying but I love it)
  • Insists we drive as many places together as possible even when it completely inconveniences him
  • Reminds me about upcoming birthdays, anniversaries, and milestones

My dad never sat me down to say, “make sure you do a lot of little things for people you love. They might not thank you until they are 40. They might not notice in the moment. But over time all of these little things add up to a lot of love.”

 

A bonus lesson: gratitude

Brene Brown (must.watch.ted.talk.) recently said the emotion people have the most difficulty feeling is joy. And people who are able to experience joy the most deeply — and without remorse — have one thing in common.

Gratitude.

The most important lesson my dad showed me was that:

People who are grateful feel more joy.

People who are grateful feel more joy.

I am grateful for the countless things my dad is teaching me. And even more grateful that he is still teaching me.

 

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What’s it all about?

There’s so much to think about.

 Why do smoke detector batteries begin chirping alerts in the middle of the night? Do they sense I am sleeping? Why do my kids litter in my house? Being KIND trumps being nice. It doesn’t matter how many years I parent, I am always learning something new. And I always feel a little bit behind. Being a mom without a mom is repetitively heartbreaking. Dog greeting = daily reminder that simple things make me happy. What is BEEPING? Did the smoke detectors conspire with some other technology in my house? Not everyone is meant to be my friend forever. Conversely, everyone that enters my life has a purpose. Holy shit, I am doing what I said I want to be when I grow up. Mom is the title I’m most proud to have. Choosing to be happy is freaking hard. But totally worth it. I don’t need someone to say “I’m sorry” to forgive them. Mean girls suck. Mosquitos too. Equal and fair aren’t the same thing. Bacon makes everything better. Kittens too. Grief doesn’t last a lifetime but it always lasts a year. The things I dislike about others are often the things I dislike about myself. Hair color is meant to be changed. It’s ok to splurge on coffee, mascara, yarn, and books (not necessarily in that order). Self-reflection isn’t the same as self-awareness. Dogs are boys; cats are girls. Hand-written thank you cards are lovely. Care packages too. The best compliment ever is “your kids are kind”. Whoa. I’m not the youngest person in the room anymore. “How we live our days is how we live our lives,” thanks Annie Dillard for these wise words. Begin with the end in mind. Always. My calm exterior isn’t always reflective of the chaos in my mind (as this blog clearly reflects). My four core values are be kind, be happy, be grateful, be truthful. It’s ok to say “no” but learn how to do it graciously. Often making things right is more important than being right. The hardest lessons to learn are also the hardest lessons to teach. Sometimes the journey is more fulfilling than the ending. Yada yada yada…this is what it’s all about:

 

 

family4

Family. That’s what it’s all about. Predictable yet true.

To My Daughters: The Most Important Choice You Will Ever Make

I want my daughters to know that what they choose to think is the most important choice they make.

I want them to choose thoughts that are kind, compassionate, and forgiving to everyone, including themselves.

I want them to know that choosing positive, happy thoughts is hard and takes a tremendous amount of practice.

I want them to know that I spent half of my life trying to do this for myself and it’s freaking hard.

I want them to know that swirl of thoughts in their head that resembles being on a carousel that never stops has an off button. They need to choose to turn it off.

I want them to understand that others mirror the love and respect they have for themselves.

I want them to choose the thoughts that feel good.

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Reason # 2: Why we can’t get out of the house quickly

My little fashionista can put together an outfit that personal shoppers envy. In a snap she pairs a shirt with pants and accessories the way a sommelier pairs the perfect wine with food. She gets stumped with the perplexing problem of finishing the outfit with…

SOCKS.

Picking socks sparks controversy, debate, tears, and tantrums. It delays our morning routine up to 15 minutes. You read that right, IT TAKES FIFTEEN MINUTES TO SETTLE ON SOCKS some mornings.

Why? WHY? WHY?

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Growing Apart, Together

The romance began 15 years ago. It was love at first sight.

As I sat in the waiting room at my doctor’s office, leafing through Fortune Magazine, I was hooked. It wasn’t a person but a company that caught my eye. They were innovative and on the cutting edge. They were philanthropic. They were changing the world. I closed my eyes and imagined working there. My heart filled with hope.

Fate stepped in. A month later The Company announced its intent to acquire the start-up where I worked. I anticipated the deal closing the same way I had anticipated the first date with my husband: with impatient confidence that this was THE ONE.

As the relationship blossomed I became smitten. Up until this moment I always felt like an outsider. An imposter. The child who stands at the edge of the playground hoping for an invitation to play.  This relationship welcomed me with open arms into an exciting, fulfilling, and safe inner circle.

The harder I worked the more support I got.

This relationship cheered me on when I got married.

It embraced me when I had two beautiful children. It held my hand through post-partum depression. It violently threw me from my graceful entrance into motherhood into the chaos of becoming a working mom.

It supported me through years of therapy to overcome anxiety – and many times was the subject of my sessions.

It forgave my mistakes.

It accelerated my personal and professional growth and pushed me past my personal limits.

My relationship with The Company was everything I imagined it would be. It was everything I longed for. I was part of a team who had a passion for changing the world.

Each day my love for The Company grew. Even on the rare days when I hated my job, I LOVED The Company. Year after year it lived up to its ranking as one of the top companies to work for.

I expected to grow old with The Company.

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Moving Through, Not Moving On

Dreaming.

We were in the car. He was driving too fast.  We started to swerve. My mom yelled. He gasped.  As he lost control I braced for the crash.

Brrrrriiiiing.

The phone rang and snapped me awake.

My stepmom answered it. “Oh hi Pauline. Yes. Oh no. Oh that’s terrible. Ok… Ok…. Ok…Bye.”

She sunk onto my bed. With a big sigh she started to talk. Her words were clear yet they blended together into something unintelligible. I knew what she was trying to say but I needed to hear the words.

She gently put her hand on mine as she said, “Honey I am so sorry. Your mom is in heaven.”

I was 16.

What now? I wondered.

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Why “Tomorrow” is the Best.Song.Ever.

“Tomorrow” is the best.song.ever (not to be confused with my favorite song ever).

A young girl who was left on the doorstep of a drunk, chain-smoking haggard belts this song out with a heart-warming smile. She lives day after day with a woman whose general viewpoint is apathetic at best. She lacks compassion. She despises kids. Her love is bankrupt. Yet Annie is optimistic despite this woman and the circumstances.

“Tomorrow” captures so much about Annie – her mindset, her hopes, her dreams, and her beliefs. Annie’s tomorrow hasn’t gotten better in years yet she still believes things *will* improve if she just hangs on ‘til tomorrow. Her optimism oozes every time she sings it.

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