Dear Dad…

Smiling to my toes and happy… I got ready for work with the music blasting, dancing through the house between the bathroom and my bedroom looking for something to wear. High on love and anticipation.

Make-up done, hair in pigtails… and my phone rings. My little brother!!! I love him the best and we connect even though we didn’t grow up together. I answer and he’s quiet.

B- I have bad news. Dad died.

Time stops for a second when you hear this sort of news. Everything seems too loud….and I have 20 minutes to get to work. Totally and completely in shock and facing a busy night with the BCS Championship game on.

I was on autopilot all night. Coasting through a packed restaurant and somehow ending up with all the little tables. Thank God too, because I’m definitely not very chipper. Everybody was happy and watching the game, so it was easily managed chaos all night. My last table was my favorite Ms. Sassypants- who I’ve missed. I swear she tipped me more than the total of her tab, lol… I sat down at the bar with a beer and sunk into it finally. Grief… such an overwhelming feeling.

I met my Dad for the first time when I was 8 years old. I’d asked my mom if I could meet him and we were visiting family in Utah. He agreed and we had lunch at Wendy’s. First time I ever had a chocolate frosty and a cheeseburger. He didn’t know we were vegetarians and didn’t ask what I wanted. My only clear memory beyond the food was that nobody said anything. Super awkward… and we parted with a wave. He sued my mom for custody a month later, and won holiday visitation with me every year. Spring break, summer vacation & Christmas.

I remember it being a strange feeling to see someone that I looked so much like, and didn’t know. I was never comfortable with him, ever. He just never really was my dad. My dad was the one who drove me to school and baked my birthday cake.

He blessed me with a brother and two sisters that I love more than anything. He gave me another mom in my siblings mother. Then he divorced her and never took care of any of us ever again. No child support, no call on your birthday. Nada. King Deadbeat.

There’s really no other way to put it. These are facts…

I bought myself a ticket to go see him when I was sixteen. It was Christmas, and I missed my siblings and knew he’d have them for the holiday. He spent the entire time with his girlfriend and I left and went to stay with my Aunt instead. He never forgave me for it.

I tried to mend things with him after my son was born, about 4 years later. We stopped by my grandparents house for a visit and he spent a half hour calling himself Grandpa to a two year old that clung to my thigh and eyed him warily. For good reason, considering it was the only time he ever saw him.

He never met my daughter. I sent pictures when she was born, and we sent him a Christmas package. I sewed him a quilt, and tried one last time to salvage some sort of relationship with him. Something about the birth of my own children made me want to fix everything. He said he never got it… but the confirmation came through that he had. I’m not sure why he’d lie about it… but he did… and it was the last straw.

I wrote him one last letter, and never spoke to or saw him again. I told him about all the holes his absence left in my childhood, and about the dad I made up to tell people because he was so unmentionable. I gave all the hurt and the pain and disappointment every kid with a deadbeat dad can empathize with- back to him. I told him how much I hated him for what he made my mother go through & thanked him for my promiscuity and early entry into parenthood.

Not necessarily what every dad wants to read, and certainly not entirely his fault on every level… but I went above and beyond to hurt him in return.

I never heard from him again…. so those angry hurtful words are the last thing my dad heard from me. He was 56, and died alone, when he had four of the most loving people in the world as his children. Talk about the definition of tragic.

I’m too happy and too much in love to be angry or hurt by him anymore. I feel sorry for him more than anything, and I wish I’d left him with nice words in his heart instead of the rant he got. He deserved it- for sure- but on a personal level it’s hard to fathom that there’s not time to fix it anymore. He’s gone, never having been my dad… or my children’s grandfather.

I can’t mourn him like I should because I don’t have any way of knowing what a loss it is.

So I’m tossing words on up to heaven… or down to hell if that’s where he ended up. I’m on the fence about either place but if the rumors are true and you have to be virtuous to get in? He’s heading south. Sorry, but it’s true.

Dearest Dad,

Whoa… time ran out, huh? I didn’t see that coming, and I’m sorry that you died alone like I told you I hoped you would. It could have been so different, and I’m sorry you died with so many things left undone and so many apologies left unsaid.

You missed all of your children’s weddings. All three of your daughters were given away by someone else. You didn’t know any of your seven grandchildren, many of whom look like you. I am so sorry for you that you missed so much.

Thank you for our beautiful smiles- that look just like yours. Thank you for the strength you taught all of us in not being reliable. Thank you for the fine examples of women you gave us by forcing our mothers to raise us alone. You had amazing taste in women, truly.

You fed me steak and crawdads for the first time. Thank you- I love both ♥  You taught me how to fish in the summer and spent days in the sun chasing lizards with us at Flaming Gorge. You were a pretty awesome Disneyland dad when you wanted to be. You bought me my first designer jeans… bright red even. You spoiled me rotten when I was in front of you, and you always told me you loved me.

More than anything though… you get out of life what you put into it. You taught me to love out loud and sincerely, and to follow up my words with actions because integrity is rare.

Though you didn’t help much in the shaping of who I’ve become, you gave me life and the tools I needed to make mine a happy one. I love you- and I hope your soul is at peace.

Yummy

What’s a self respecting sun worshiper to do? I’m FREEZING to death. Ok so perhaps that’s a tad bit dramatic, but still… it’s ridiculously cold and I hate it.

Thankfully I have the answer… and it comes in a glorious 9X13 Pyrex pan of coconutty goodness. Behold!

My very own toasted coconut marshmallows… and because I love you all so much, the recipe.

Toasted Coconut Marshmallows

Soften 4 envelopes of gelatin in 3/4 cup cold water in your mixer. Give it a half hour or so before you start with the cooked mixture.

(If you don’t have a mixer, you can’t have marshmallows, sorry.)

In a saucepan, combine:

3/4 cup water

3 cups granulated sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/4 cup corn syrup

Bust out your handy dandy candy thermometer (again… not optional) and clip it securely on the side of the pan. I’m not messing around when I say securely- I melted my flip flops to my foot once because I was being careless and the sugary molten lava spilled. Ouch and a half… oh and weeks wearing the same melted shoes because anything else bothered the blisters. Do not be careless making these, you will suffer as a result if you do.

Cook the combined ingredients to 244*. Pay attention. Too low a temp will result with you having a ridiculous amount of marshmallow cream. Too long and they’ll be tough and chewy. Eww. Do not walk away and leave them, although it will feel like forever while you stand there, it happens in seconds when you’re not paying attention.

Pour the lava into your mixing bowl and start slow, then build up (without a lava shower) to the highest speed on your mixer. Let it whip for 8-10 minutes.

Add (slowly)

1 tsp vanilla (and don’t buy the cheap stuff, sheesh!)

1 tsp coconut flavor.

Oil a 9X13 Pyrex pan while you wait for them to blend (you can color them too if you want at this point).

Dump the heavenly sticky goo into your pan and top with toasted coconut. Then wait.

Overnight. 😦

My daughter came home while I was making them yesterday and said

I- I wish I had two mouths right now so the mouth explosion was doubled. I wish everything could taste this good.

She’s not exaggerating, they’re THAT good.

Dust your entire life in powdered sugar and cut them with an oiled pizza wheel, being sure to dust each marshmallow on all sides or else your hard work will result in a giant disastrous marshmallow snake. Bag them up and enjoy.

The smell of coconut wafting through the house is almost as good as smelling it on your skin after a day in the sun with tanning lotion. The taste is enough to transport you back in time to your favorite pina colada. They are divine.

Make some, enjoy… and don’t forget to toast one. If you think you’ve had smores before? You haven’t until you’ve made them with a toasted coconut marshmallow.

Mmmm. Yummy…. and let’s all look on the bright side, Punxsutawney Phil says an early spring is on the way!

God love that strange little animal for not seeing his shadow.

30 Days of Truth, Day 28

Day 28 – What if you were pregnant or got someone pregnant, what would you do?

Aside from shoot myself in the face?

All joking aside, I’m only half kidding. Don’t get me wrong, I love my babies. Love them with my whole soul. I’m one of those old fashioned die-hard breastfeeding, cloth diapering super moms. I cross my t’s and dot my i’s when it comes to being a mom.

But…

I’m in the home stretch. I gave my twenties to being a mommy. I gave my perfect body to my adorable son at 18. He took it and destroyed it a little… Ouch.

24 hours of natural childbirth and a million stretch marks guarantee me a merit badge somewhere…. and he was completely worth every single painful second.

But….

I’ve worked my ass off to reclaim it and although the tummy tuck eludes me… I have amazing kids and a wonderful life to show for it. I have no regrets…

But…

If I peed on a stick tomorrow and it turned pink or blue? I’d really regret being a non-gun-toting mama.

Because I’d want a 12 gauge to the face.

30 Days of Truth, Day 21

30 Days of Truth, Day 21 – (scenario) Your best friend is in an accident and you two got into a fight an hour before. What do you do?

This is one of those days I’ve had to avoid for a while. It hit a little too close to home and I didn’t want to write about it. One more reason to blog… my blog= my universe. I’ve gotten 3 emails asking me to continue… ok ok ok.

My best friend died in 2002.She was 68 and incredibly important to me.

I met her in 1995… 18 years old , pregnant and living with my high school sweetheart. She became like a best friend, teacher & Grandmother all in one. She lived in the trailer next to ours and I was 8 1/2 months pregnant with our son (@ 18 years old) and mowing the lawn. I thought she was going to have a heart attack when she looked out the window and saw how pregnant I was. She came running out with lemonade and an offer to finish it for me and we were best friends from then on. She was a grandmother to our son, and our daughter 5 years later. Vera was … words fail me actually- sometimes it’s impossible to describe how important some people are in your life.

Losing her made me reconsider everything in my life.

She always worried I wasn’t happy. She always said I was doing/giving/being someone I wasn’t… too much. She was right. Her death marked the beginning of my marriage’s unraveling. I’d been planning on having lunch with her the next day- and she’d gotten mad at me the last time we talked.

V- I hate your house. I want you to sell it and move back here.

J- I know you do. I miss you too. But you don’t mean that. How about we put your trailer here?

V- I’m sorry. I love you.

J- I love you too.

She died that night.  The neighbor called me the next day. Absolutely the saddest day of my life. A day that will make me appreciate and be kind to my ex-husband forever. He came home and took care of everything that day. He helped remind me that everything would be ok. He drove me to pick out her clothes. He was there for me in the hardest moment of my life when I felt like the world had come to a screeching halt. I couldn’t understand why people still drove around and the evening news was still on. It really devastated me.

and if I hadn’t called and talked to her, she would have died being angry at me…. and I don’t know how anyone could live with that. I’ve learned a great lesson in losing Vera.

I say “I Love You” too much. I smile at everybody (ok, not all the time, but most) I give people extra change if they need it. I buy the shitty over-priced cookies from the school cookie dough fundraiser because it’s important to my daughter (even though mine are much better and an 1/8th of the cost). Because I’d rather go out on good terms with everyone and I’d rather lose someone who knows in their soul that I love them. I’d rather err on the side of loving too much, too easily and out loud.

Thanks to Vera Lou- who used to sing “My Buddy” to me on my answering machine when she missed me.

🙂

30 Days of Truth, Day 12

30 Days of Truth, Day 12 – Something you never get compliments on.

Hmm. My laundry skills? Ok seriously.

I never get complimented on my methods of parenting my teenager. Everyone thinks I”m too strict, too rigid and inflexible. I expect a lot. He has to have A’s & B’s to have a cell phone, he is expected to call- every time- and I force him to wear a bike helmet. He keeps his room clean, he’s pleasant and agreeable, and I would not accept any less.

Consequently? He’s wonderful. Truly. He says “I love you” every time he gets off the phone with me- even if he’s with his friends- and even since I told him he didn’t have to.

J- You know, you don’t have to say it if you don’t want- I know you love me- and I hope you know how much I love you.

A- It’s not a big deal, Mom.

I worry endlessly- I ask him constantly if he’s going to be getting into trouble with his friends. He laughs and guarantees me they’ll be playing video games. I know I’m overprotective- I know it’s not necessary- but when I look back at my life?

I wish someone had been that way for me. After all- he’s here because I was doing things I shouldn’t be 🙂 He is the best thing I will ever have done with my life. He is my greatest accomplishment- in a nutshell. I knew from the moment I saw the line turn pink that he was meant to be. I knew that day that I would guard his little life and his big future with every fiber of my being. Knowing full well that teenage pregnancy turns into a family legacy if you’re not careful.

Nobody would ever compliment me for being an easygoing understanding mother.

I’m a dictator. I’m the law. I double check your story. I call other parents. I read your messages- I check your coat pockets.

I’m the queen of overprotective mothers.

As a result, I have a wonderful teenager that tells me about his life, whose friends feel comfortable hanging out here but who also know to be respectful. He’s responsible (usually) and has a really kind heart. He’s a good friend, and a good brother…but he’s truly the very best son, any mom could ask for.