Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sunday Dinner: Happy Father's Day

Dad and Me

My Dad was only 18 when I was born. By today's standards this is extremely young, but in the 60s it wasn't all that unusual. When my youngest brother was born in 1984, my Dad was 36 years old. I thought he was crazy. He was too old to be a father. I can laugh about that now.

My Dad is the most patient man I know. I don't ever remember him getting too excited about much of anything. I've heard stories, but I've never actually seen it. He is always calm.

I rarely remember him punishing me, but when he did it was awful. The worst was when he would say, "I'm disappointed in you." I strived to avoid those words.

Dad always encouraged me to go back to school. I finally did. It took me years, but I now have the diploma to prove it.

Things I Remember About My Dad (somethings he likes to tease me with that never happened, but I know it did)

Dad sang in the car, in the shower, and just about anywhere. Delta Dawn and The Sugar Shack were too of his favorites.

He had a blue 66' Ford Falcon he called Nellie. He bought the car new before I was born with cash he earned from his paper route and driving the school bus. Can you believe they used to let teenagers drive a school bus?

One night he was making cornbread muffins and all we had left was chocolate milk; he used it. They were awful, but my sister, Dawn loved them.

We had a race one night, me and Dad against Mom and Dawn. Since Randall and Dennis were babies and we couldn't leave them, my parents timed each other. I remember a dog getting after us as we ran, but Dad scooped me up and fussed at the dog. It only slowed us a minute or two. Mom and Dawn lost. Mom claimed they had to stop by grandmother's for Dawn to use the bathroom, which was probably true. Dawn always had to go to the bathroom.

My parents were always competitive with each other. Scrabble was one of their favorite games. They were brutal and played for high points. In my Mom's stacks of pictures, there are several of their games at conclusion showing the words and points they had made, often the game went well above 400 points for both of them.

Dad, Amanda, Elizabeth, Randall, Ethan
Dad loved Star Trek, Daniel Boone, and Emergency 51. I can remember watching all of those with him on our new console color television.

Several years ago we were at the movies, Dad, me, Randall, and Dennis. We had some of the kids with us, but I'm not sure which ones. I think my kids thought they were too cool to go to the movies with their Mom. Dad looks down the row and laughs. "I never thought I'd be taking my kids to see a cartoon  when they're over 30." We saw The Incredibles.

Dad, Me, Dennis
I haven't always appreciated my father as I should. I was very upset with him for divorcing my mother. It took a long time to come to terms with that. He didn't abandon me, but it seemed that way to my ten year old self. When Mom got cancer and I learned she was dying, I was overwhelmed. The one person I would share such awful news with I couldn't because she was dying. I went to my Dad. He was there for me. He was there for all of us. He still us. I've come to understand, he was always there, but out of respect for Mom, he let her remain center stage in our lives. I'll always miss my Mom, but I'm thankful for the wonderful father I'm blessed with.

Today we'll be having one of Dad's favorites, brownies. My Dad sure loves chocolate. Happy Father's Day Daddy!

Happy Father's Day to my brothers, Randall and Dennis. I appreciate how you stepped in to be father figures to my children.

Happy Father's Day Chuck. You're such a wonderful man and I'm so thankful to be marrying you next week. Five more days.

Elizabeth, Dad, Ethan
Dad and Zachary

Thursday, June 6, 2013

On Waiting for the Right One

This week I met a young woman, Leslie. She is 22 and single. Loneliness is her constant companion. She's not found the one and she wants to find the one.

There she is having dinner with a happily married couple of eleven years, a married woman of five years, and me, engaged to be married June 21st. Love is all around, but not for her (at least not right now).

We all had some interesting advice to give her.

Movies: He's Just Not That Into You and Runaway Bride

If a man is truly interested, he will get in touch with you. Don't put your life on hold while you wait by the phone.

Quit looking so hard. He will find you. Her brother-in-law told her that the one is out there right now running as hard as he can to her. He just hasn't found her yet.

Don't get too upset if after a couple of weeks things cool off and he stops calling. Let it go. As my brother once told me, sometimes you didn't do anything wrong. It just isn't the right time for him to have a girlfriend. And what if there is something he doesn't like? Do you honestly want to makeover yourself to make him happy?

This is where Runaway Bride comes in. Maggie wants to get married. She's famous at finding men, but when the wedding day comes, she runs.

The reporter following her around as she prepares for her next wedding asks all her previous fiancés "How did she take her eggs?"

"Just like me," they all reply. They all had different preferences for eggs.

Maggie becomes the woman she thinks a man wants her to be rather than allowing them to see the woman she is.

Be yourself. If he doesn't like you for you, do you truly want to build a life with him?

Just because, we said not to be looking, doesn't mean she should put her life on hold. We encouraged her to do things she likes. Join groups. Go to events. Enjoy life.

When needing advice about men, sorry ladies, but turn to the men in your life — brother, father, uncle, trusted friend. Women do not know what men are thinking. Ask a man. He'll give you some exceptional insight. Sometimes when a guy has that zoned out look, and you ask him what he's thinking. He isn't thinking anything — men can do this. Or he may be thinking about when was the last time he had his oil changed.

A first date is an opportunity to get to know someone not a marriage proposal.

My fiancé, Chuck teases me that our first two weeks of dating was the longest job interview of his life. I asked him a million questions and I was very honest when answering his questions. Dating is an opportunity to get to know someone. Have fun, but get to know them. It is a lot easier to let go in the first few weeks then later when you've built a life together only to find that you're just, not into each other.

Be patient Leslie. When you don't have a man in your life, it is the perfect opportunity to get to know yourself. Make good girlfriends. I know one day that a wonderful guy will meet you and know that you're what he's been waiting for all along.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Review: The Wishing Tree

Every little girl dreams of her wedding day, but what happens when that dream doesn't come true?

Ivy Marshall has made a life for herself in the mountains of Asheville six hours away from her beloved Sunset Beach, North Carolina, where her mother, sister, and aunt still reside.

Five years earlier a family rift sent her packing, running away, and straight into the strong arms of Elliot, who became her husband.

Ivy finds out that her job is ending on the same day she finds out her sister, Shea is being proposed to on national television, and Ivy fears her husband is having an affair.

Ivy returns home to help plan the wedding, which now will also be televised. Her sister is having the wedding Ivy always dreamed of, well minus the television coverage. Ivy certainly would not want that. Ivy finds that more than just the landscape has changed. A new bridge has replaced the old drawbridge allowing traffic to flow under and over without impeding either. While this is more efficient, things are just not the same.

Her aunt Leah laughs and flirts with Lester, the man who works for her in the bakery and also helps deliver wedding cakes.

Her mother is always laughing and talking with friends on the phone and leaving her daughters to join these friends for coffee.

Her sister Shea seems to be running away from her own wedding, a wedding that Ivy can't help but wish she had. And Ivy's mother has delegated the job of taking care of the wishing tree, a long standing family tradition where guests, family, and friends write down wishes for the happy couple. The tree was originally Ivy's when she was engaged to marry Michael, her childhood sweetheart. But Ivy met Elliot and everything changed.

And now Ivy can't help but wonder if she should have chosen Michael. Was he the one? Is there still something there? Should she leave her husband and be with the first man who asked for her hand in marriage?

Ivy tries to fix things while also seeking divine help. Faith in God has always been a strong part of her life. Will God see things the way she does? Should she go after Michael or try to work things out with her husband? 

When Ivy left, she cut off all ties with her husband — she changed her email address, phone number, and blocked him from her Facebook. The only way he can reach out to her is through Twitter, where he tweets asking for her forgiveness. And while Ivy isn't responding, other people are including women who let Elliot know that they would love to give him a chance if his wife won't.

This is a delightful read. You feel Ivy's pain and frustration. You see the life she could have as well as the life she does have. This time she can't run, she's at a crossroad and a decision must be made.

Mary Beth Whalen has written three other novels. She is the wife of Curt and the mom of six children. She is the director of She Reads, an online book club  focusing on spotlighting the best in women's fiction.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sunday Dinner: Family Pictures and Stories

When I was a little girl, my paternal grandfather, Papa Clyde would allow me to look through his family book, a most prized possession his Aunt Daisy had written, assembled, and illustrated. In it were family pictures, records of births, deaths, and marriages, and family stories.

I've read that book cover to cover. I would look into the pictures searching for familiar family traits in them. At the time, I didn't always see it. Now when I look I see my father when I look at the image of his great great grandfather. When I look at my Aunt Daisy's childhood photo, I see a little of myself, but not too much for I am my mother's daughter and my features are more like hers.

A page from the family album
What a treasure this book has been to me. The original book is stored away at my uncle's house, but I convinced him years ago to let me borrow it. I scanned all the pages and returned it to him. A treasure like that is so priceless, I was terrified my daughter might find it, and if you know her, you know she is accident prone. That child, woman now, has broken more things than anyone I know. Perhaps she is misfortunate, but I try not to let her near anything with sentimental value.

I was in a writer's craft lecture yesterday and the author, Cary Holladay talked about a family diary she had come across. I immediately thought of my own family's and then I realized that all those years ago while perusing those pages and reading the history influenced me more than I knew.

When I was a little girl, I wanted to learn to read because I watched my grandmother's face transform as she read. I saw the tears she brushed away and heard her giggle and often laugh at loud at something she had read. I pestered her and she taught me. My mother didn't realize I could read until one day I picked up the TV guide and told her what was coming on television that night. Watching my grandmother was the birth of a dream, a little girl who wanted to write books in order to make people cry and laugh out loud.

But it was my Aunt Daisy's family history book that further infused this dream. When I introduced myself to the class on the first day, I told them my name, about my children, but most importantly that now with my children grown, I have the opportunity to bring that little girl's dream true.

We won't be having Sunday dinner today since I will be at lectures and workshops with the Converse College low residency MFA. Check back next week. We'll be celebrating a couple of birthdays and anniversaries - a little late, but I'm sure my family understands.