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Lessons from Dad

My Dad died suddenly and unexpectedly on September 19. When I heard the news it knocked the breath out of me.  It was a terrible shock that I couldn’t process at all for several moments. How could it be true of my dad who was supposed to live forever – or at least until 90 like his mom and grandparents. For some time I was in a daze. As I began preparing some memories to share at Dad’s memorial, it was hard to know what to say. How could I capture what he had been to me and how he had influenced me in just a few minutes? It’s been 10 weeks since his death and my eyes still tear up every day. Some days I blink and they’re gone. Other days they spill over. And other days I’m overcome with body shaking sobs.

Here’s what I shared at the memorial.  

Like a lot of little girls, I always adored my Dad. Now that I’m a parent of two little girls, I realize he demonstrated a lot of parenting techniques (general life lessons, really) that I want to display with my own girls and in my own life.

My Dad and me

1 – Be There

Dad did his best to be there – even when it probably wasn’t his first choice of places to be. My sister and I were on swim team – he got up early, drove us to the meet, and sat around in the desert heat most of the day on a lot of Saturdays for the chance to watch us compete in a handful of 30-60 second events. He went to my T-ball games and helped me with additional practice. In fact, he was so involved with the T-ball team that at the end of year party, he received a little baseball trophy too that he was pretty proud of. He attended my first year band concerts and even sat through private “concerts” that my friend and I put on for my family. He went to the end of year recital for my tumbling class. But it wasn’t just my class – it involved sitting through a multi-hour recital to see my 5 minute performance. He made trips to see me when I was away at college. And after he moved back to Illinois, he drove cross country to visit me and my family in California. When the girls were little, we would FaceTime and he would just sit and watch the girls play. 

Junior High Band
Dad was proud of his twin granddaughters.

2 – Celebrate

I remember his smile and his congratulatory bear hug when he was proud of me: when I stuck the landing in tumbling; when I beat my best time in swimming; when I did well in school; when I learned something new and earned a new badge in Girl Scouts; my wedding day; when my girls were born (he really liked being a grandpa). He loved to see me face my challenges and accomplish my goals.

High School Graduation

3 – Encourage

I didn’t always fit into the stereotype for little girls. But I always believed that with enough hard work, I could do anything I wanted. Dad taught me to target shoot – starting when I was around four. He did a lot of his own auto maintenance and I was his chief assistant. We changed oil, spark plugs, and two water pumps. He helped me with my math homework. I think he would have been really pleased if I had followed in his footsteps and become an engineer. But he never forced the issue and let me find my own way. 

Mechanic’s Assistant

4 – Impact Others

When I shared about Dad’s passing with some high school friends, one said “I have such good memories of your dad. He was always such a sweet and gentle guy. He always seemed happy to have a bunch of silly giggling girls in his house.” She’s right. Our friends were always welcome at our house. It seems like no matter how loud or wild and crazy we got he never minded the house full of giggling girls. Well, we did have to TRY and respect the quiet hours during slumber parties. And for my friends who, for whatever reason, had absent fathers – Dad would do what he could. He gave encouragement, correction, and celebrated their successes too.

When we learned of Dad’s passing, I asked my girls what some of their favorite memories of Grandpa were. Elizabeth shared about how Grandpa would make her give him a hug before he would let her past him. She remembers his smile when he said it. Dad did enjoy playful teasing. Carolyn shared about something from this summer when Grandpa and Grandma arranged for the girls to go horseback riding for the first time. It was a super awesome gift for 10 year old girls who absolutely adore horses. But part of the memory for her was how he was smiling when he told them. Bringing joy to others made him happy — happy enough for a child to notice in the midst of her own excitement.

Storytime with Grandpa

I’ll never feel my Dad wrap me in a big bear hug again. But I’ll always know he loved me. And I can do my best to model the lessons he taught.

Oildorado Days

Dungeons & Twinimals

When I was first introduced to Roleplaying Games as a kid in the early 80s (in the form of Dungeons & Dragons), it fired my imagination like nothing else. I loved it!  The only problem was that most of my friends weren’t that into it, so I only got to really play a few times. Nevertheless, the lack of playing companions didn’t stop me from buying and poring over countless game rulebooks and adventure modules. Over the years, my collection grew and grew, encompassing Dungeons & Dragons as well as RPG systems based on Tolkien’s Middle Earth and Niven’s Ringworld.  I think I had mostly stopped collecting this stuff by the time I got into college, finally accepting that I simply wasn’t ever going to have other people to play with…

But fast forward 30 years or so. Janet and I got married, and eventually our girls came along. I think that from almost the very beginning, when I heard we were having twins, there may have been the spark of a thought that maybe someday when they were old enough, I could introduce them to RPG gaming and finally get to play some of these games I’d always dreamed of playing. (There’s nothing wrong with using your kids to fulfill your dreams, right?)

Well, I’m happy to say that time finally arrived a couple weeks ago. The girls are almost 9 years old now. They read just about as much as they possibly can, and they’re creative enough that they frequently write their own stories. What’s more, they’re already basically always involved in some type of role-playing game of their own… (For example, one of the games they play quite often is called The Woodchopper Children. In this game they each take on the roles of orphan siblings who live in the forest and chop lumber to sell to nearby villagers in order to support themselves. They’ve been playing it for at least a year, and it seems quite elaborate. Basically anything that they’re doing together in real life can be transformed into a scene from the lives of The Woodchopper Children. Was I this imaginative when I was a kid? Probably? I mean, I hope so!)

I figured the easiest way to introduce them to the game (and get reacquainted with it myself) would be to use a simple adventure module that was designed to be played solo. It’s basically just a “Choose Your Own Adventure” with some die rolling for combat and some randomization. Their first couple experiences with The Ghost of Lion Castle ended swiftly and tragically due to some truly horrible die rolls. But they were undeterred and eventually prevailed, and as I expected they totally loved it!

The Ghost of Lion Castle

The Ghost of Lion Castle

In fact, they loved it so much that mere minutes after completing their first adventure, they went right to work co-writing their very own sequel adventure for Janet and I to play through, complete with detailed maps of every room! Of course, it was eerily similar to the adventure they had just played, but it was so much fun to see their imaginations at work as they tag-teamed as the Game Master! A few times I made sure my character checked for very specific traps, just to give them ideas for the future. And there were plenty of times we could see them inventing creative new details on the fly — an essential quality of a good Game Master, to be sure!

One of the highlights came when we were exploring the castle brewery and encountered a Giant Beer Monster! Fortunately, I remembered that earlier in the adventure I had come across an unlabeled potion that I strongly suspected was poison — so I unstoppered the flask and hurled it right into the Giant Beer Monster, promptly killing it. Another big highlight that induced a good ten minutes of belly-aching laughter from the girls was when Janet and I were sorting through some treasure and discovered magical Elven Nose Dinglers. In case you didn’t know, an Elven Nose Dingler is a small magical item that is worn over the nose which greatly enhances a person’s ability to smell things. I wonder if a super-powerful sense of smell might actually be more of a curse than a boon when you’re adventuring in a castle dungeon filled with monsters.

I think we’re all looking forward to our next adventure together!

Carolyn’s Fantastic Cinnamon Bread

Carolyn had mentioned several times that she wanted to make cinnamon bread. I’ve never made cinnamon bread so I didn’t really think much about her suggestion. Until the day I found her going through my recipe cards. She didn’t find one (remember – I’ve never made cinnamon bread). So we asked “Mr. Google” (as my Grandpa Wright would say) and easily found many to choose from. We found one for a quick bread that had 5 stars and decided to give it a try. Carolyn found the bowls, measuring cups and utensils, and the ingredients. She read the recipe, measured and mixed. She reminded me very much of her Great Grandma Wright, whose motto is to “take a recipe (or pattern) and go FROM it.” Having never made cinnamon bread, Carolyn decided that her bread needed more cinnamon. And wouldn’t it be better with brown sugar instead of white sugar? She made her modifications, mixed it, and baked it. And it was very yummy!

Carolyn with her Fantastic Cinnamon Bread



A Lesson on Sovereignty

In November 2008, Dan and I learned we were expecting twins. Once we got past the shock (and I was very shocked!), we were really excited. All things considered, the pregnancy went quite smoothly. It’s truly amazing how a little life can grow inside you. But it’s an amazing amount of work too, and can really be a challenge for the body systems. In general, those pregnancy related side-effects tend to be even more common, and extreme, with multiples. However, other than fatigue and some discomfort and constant hunger (almost from day one) I felt pretty good throughout my pregnancy.

In May of 2009, our beautiful twin daughters were born unexpectedly at only 32 weeks – fully 8 weeks early. They weighed in at only 4 lbs each and spent 6 weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Walnut Creek before they were able to come home.

Over the years, I have known a number of other families who have experienced an extended NICU stay following the premature birth of a child. Because of my own experiences, these stories touch me deeply. They never fail to remind me of the weeks we spent traveling to Walnut Creek each day, praying for our girls to get stronger. I rejoice with those families over each step of progress, share their disappointment over each set back, and grieve with the families who don’t get to bring their baby home.

These stories touch me partly because I understand more than most some of what those families are going through. But also because it recalls to me a lesson that I learned during my own experience – God is Sovereign!

Those first few weeks after the girls were born were hard! But I know now that in a lot of ways we had it easy. While our girls weren’t fully developed, for premies they were pretty big and healthy. So while the needed some extra round-the-clock attention and help from the NICU staff in those early weeks, barring some unexpected development there was never much question that they would come home, they would “catch-up,” and they would be healthy.

Those first six weeks we were traveling back and forth to the hospital to visit our daughters each day; I was pumping breastmilk for them day and night so I was only sleeping a few hours at a stretch; and I was wildly emotional thanks to pregnancy hormones, lack of sleep, and the added stress of having to go to the hospital each day to visit my amazing daughters. I tend to be pretty stable and even-keeled. I could tell that my emotions were a roller coaster, but I was powerless – and I do like being in control. Not sure how Dan felt about my wild emotions. Either it didn’t bother him, or he had the good sense to keep it to himself.

By the time the girls were a couple weeks old, I was emotionally drained and physically exhausted. And I felt guilty. You see, I thought it was somehow my fault that that the girls had been born early. By every logical standard, this was completely ridiculous. I had experienced a delightfully simple pregnancy almost devoid of the typical difficulties women experience during pregnancy. Everything was going smoothly. The babies were healthy and growing well. Other than some discomfort from pressure on my lowest rib, I felt pretty good. In fact, the day before they were born, I had a routine appointment with my OB followed by a routine “non-stress test”. At that time, there was absolutely no indication of any problem. But just 12 hours after leaving the doctor’s office I was in labor, and another 12 hours later I was in a recovery room – the mother of twin girls born at 32 weeks plus 1 day. One evening I burst into tears and confessed to Dan that it was “my fault”. He reminded me of God’s sovereignty; that God was not surprised by the early arrival of our girls. He reminded me that even if I had made bad choices – God would still be sovereign. And it clicked for me in a way that it never had before; in a way that I still remember.  And I remember even more strongly when I walk that same path again with someone else.

God is Sovereign. He is in control. He is never surprised or caught off guard. Medically, there was no explanation for our premature delivery. But I do know I gained a deeper understanding of God. And I’ve shared my story, my testimony, with others.

The whole family

This is one of my favorite family photos.  I like it because it’s our FIRST family photo – taken when the girls were three weeks old.

Snapshots from 2016

Somehow we neglected to make any posts here during 2016! In lieu of the many thousands of words it would take to describe it all, here are a few of my favorite pictures.

Geocaching hike in Morgan Territory


Big Trees!

Hiking in Las Trampas

Beautiful Girls!

Showing off their flowery birthday dresses

While on a summer vacation to the midwest, we hiked on some beautifully green forest trails!

This was a nice fountain in front of a Bed & Breakfast we stayed at in Carmi, IL.

Our other summer vacation in July was visiting the Oregon coast.

Twins at the park

Rainy day puddle jumping!

Pumpkin Patch Portrait

Carolyn and Elizabeth’s Christmas portrait

Christmas morning