Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dos Amigos

Last night we went to dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant, El Rancho.
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We always celebrate our birthdays there because the staff comes out singing, then takes your picture wearing a sombrero.
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And they serve you deep-fried ice cream in a cinnamon-drenched tortilla bowl--for free!

This was an annual tradition for Mark and me. When Sarah turned 16 we began taking her on her birthday.
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We took Jacob there for his 16th birthday also, but since he was at Camp Geronimo for his 17th, we took Dylan in his place.
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So this year I decided, what the heck, let's split the difference and take both boys, 3 days after Jacob's birthday and 2 days before Dylan's!

Their happily stuffed faces tell the whole story!

Actually, the restaurant's camera was broken, so Sarah offered to go home and get ours. She almost missed dinner!

One of the owners offered to print copies of the pictures from my memory card, and she did. Here are the results.

Great memories!

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Fresh Coat

Long ago we had a leak in the roof over my office, which is adjacent to my bedroom.
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Sadly, we were unaware of it for months, because it ran down the wall behind some shelves and boxes and puddled beneath them.
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Those shelves held scrap books, photos, family history books, and journals. Some were damaged.
After a good cry, I salvaged what I could and had Mark tear out the section of wall that had mildewed.
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A friend came and put up new drywall during Christmas break. The shelves had to come down. All the items from the shelves were stacked here and there.
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Over the past 6 months, those stacks have shifted to various locations and become quite unsightly.
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I'd decided the shelves would not go back up until we painted my office. The new drywall was obvious and the wall behind the shelves was badly water-stained.
All the work that goes into moving furniture and painting a room is simply not an option for a single working mom of my advanced years while school is in session.
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So this is the mess I've been enduring for 6 months. This is where I blog and email and write my novels. It's been killing my hyper-organized OCD soul!
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Until today!
Well maybe not today, but by the end of this week for sure!
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Today we started painting. So where did all the stacks from the office go? Into my bedroom, of course!
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Can you see my bed buried under the mountain of miscellania? I'm not sure where this will all go tonight when I'm ready to crawl into bed.
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Still, now I can at least envision a lovely day of organized shelves and neatly stacked food storage boxes, a wonderful time of books and photos and files that will be exactly where I want them to be.
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Dylan bailed on us, but Sarah and Jacob worked hard all day with me. Sarah was an especially stalwart trooper, continuing until almost 11pm.
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In the 3rd photo, notice the little desk extension to the left of my desk. Jacob decided that would be a good place to stand while painting the ceiling. He broke through all 3 shelves, demolishing the whole thing.
My desk is much smaller now. Luckily all the books had been removed from that section beforehand.
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Oh--and Jacob's okay, too. Just a little embarrassed.
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So the work is underway! When the construction dust has cleared and my OCD whims have been satisfied, I will share my newly refurbished office on this blog. I can't wait!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Zen Gardens

Remember when these mini zen gardens became all the rage for the desks of busy executives? They were supposed to help people find serenity during their crazy days.
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I didn't really get it. Big deal. As if that little square on your desk could make a real difference.
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Then, while doing summer cleaning, I suddenly realized that I've filled my home with many "zen gardens."
These are small areas of focus, places where I find my eyes wandering when I'm stressed. If life gets overwhelming, sometimes I'll sit in my favorite chair or lay on my bed, and my eyes will stray to this group of pictures or that shelf of mementos.
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It helps me regain perspective. It reminds me of what I hold dear and why I continue the struggle when all I really want to do is give up or run away from it all.
Each little oasis seems to have a theme, all of which are related.
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An image of the Mesa Temple--where I was endowed and served as an ordinance worker for 2 years (1983-1985)--hangs beside "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," issued by the First Presidency of our church in 1995.
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I'm reminded of the importance of my role as Mother and that I can be with my family in the eternities.
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Paintings of Jesus Christ on the wall beside my bed are a reminder of faith: faith in my Savior; faith in His power to redeem; faith that He loves us and is willing to forgive our sins and use our weaknesses to strengthen us.
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Perhaps most of all, faith that He suffered all for me and knows me personally, that He will comfort me and sit beside me in times of distress.
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My favorite scripture is on the living room wall:
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"Choose you this day whom ye will serve; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:15)
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My other serenity gardens, placed here and there throughout the house, feature Sarah, Jacob, and Dylan.
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Though they can be challenging and disruptive at times, my children represent my most important purpose in life. Every sorrow, every pain, every disappointment, every struggle is bearable because I would gladly walk through fire for them. They are worth it.
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I once read: "Choosing to having a child is choosing to have your heart walk around outside your body."
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I believe that is true!

On the desk in the above picture is a frame featuring my bronzed baby shoes and a picture of me when I was 2 years old.
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Sometimes I look at the picture above it, the one of 2-year-old Sarah and 4-month-old Jacob, and sometimes I think I see a hint of my features in Sarah's little face. Just a hint. She really looks like Mark's dad.


I suppose a little tray of clean sand to rake and smooth stones to arrange can be relaxing.
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If I had a zen garden with the sounds of waves on the shore, and the feel of a breeze in my hair, it could be a great way to step outside the hectic world and become renewed.
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But my little gardens remind me why I stay in this world. They bring eternal perspective back to my life.
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And I press forward for another day.

Friday, June 26, 2009

My Son the Adult

Today Jacob turned 18.
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For the past year he has grumbled several times, "I can't wait until I'm 18 so you can't tell me what to do anymore!"
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Now that day is finally here, and he's realizing that being an adult isn't about getting to do whatever you want, it's about making responsible decisions on your own so others won't be forced to make those choices for you.
Yesterday he told me, "I don't think I'm ready to be 18."
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Ah, if only we could keep them babies forever!
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Here we are on June 26, 1991, dropping Sarah off at the home of our friends Kim and Jona, before heading to the hospital to have Jacob delivered by c-section.
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Mark was 23, Sarah was 20 months, and I was 36.

Jacob Timothy was born at 8:13 that morning. Here he is the next day, one day old.

Unlike his sister, Jacob was perfectly healthy even though he was born 3 weeks early. 8 lbs 5 oz. It was a rough ride, though.

I wanted a normal delivery this time, but I developed gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.

Mark gave me insulin shots 3 times a day. I was on bed rest most of the month before Jacob's birth.

The doctor did an amnio to make sure Jacob's lungs were mature; then they delivered him right away. Dr. Jackson felt a c-section was safer for me.

Other than a case of jaundice (I called him my pumpkin baby), Jacob was beautiful and perfect, so it all ended happily.

He is 4 months old in this bouncy chair photo.

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Here he is at 8 months old, enjoying his breakfast toast.

Jacob was an easy baby for about 7 months. Then one day he discovered that his doting big sister wasn't going to satisfy his every whim. He got angry and held his breath--until he passed out.
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Luckily, I'd been a nanny for many years and knew there was no need to panic. They pass out, they start breathing again.
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He kept it up for the next two years. After he turned 2 he finally figured out that holding his breath was uncomfortable, and it wasn't even working for him.
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Other than that, Jacob was a very happy, cuddly baby who brought great joy to our home. Sarah adored him and loved to mother him, which he endured well but didn't always appreciate.
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Now, at ages 18 and 19, Sarah and Jacob are good friends. They have their disagreements--usually about whose turn it is to feed the rabbits or sweep the kitchen--but they get along well and are there for each other in a pinch.
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Here we have Jacob at 9 months. He'd woken from a nap in a portable crib at Great Grandma Carter's house in Mesa. Jacob always woke up in a happy mood. (He didn't get that from me!)
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This is me with Jacob in May 1992. He was 10 months old and I was 37. I think we were on a camping trip.
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We really seemed to like these high chair poses for Jacob! But he was so darn cute at meal time!
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This is June 1992, about 2 weeks before his first birthday.
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It looks like Butler goulash (a recipe my mother created) and saltine crackers were on the menu.
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July 1992: One-year-old Jacob decided to take a nose dive from atop his high chair.
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Still adorable anyway!
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Motherhood certainly presents its challenges, but I can't imagine life without my children. I feel so blessed to be the mother of 3 such great kids!
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It was magical when Sarah was born and I experienced the joy of nurturing one of the sweet spirits sent from heaven to our family.
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When Jacob entered our world, that magic doubled and overflowed.
Here is 14-month-old Jacob in September 1992.
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I'm very proud of the young man Jacob has become. He has a gift for reaching out and touching those around him. His heart is compassionate and generous. He is conscientious and diligent in his leadership responsibilities.
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I'm so grateful to have enjoyed the past 18 years as his mother. What a blessing he is to me and our family.
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Happy Birthday, Jacob! We love you!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Party for Two

This time of year is packed with birthdays in our family. Mark was born June 21; 5 days later is Jacob's birthday on June 26; and 5 days after his is Dylan's birthday on July 1.
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To keep costs down, we always alternate who gets the party each year. Last year was Jacob's year, but he worked at Camp Geronimo all summer and missed out.
This is Dylan's year, and turning 12 is a big deal. He'll be a full-fledged Scout and become a Deacon in church.
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On the other hand, Jacob will be 18 tomorrow. You only legally become an adult once in your life.
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The boys put their heads together and decided to solve the problem by having a joint party this year.
These pictures show the top and side views of my attempt to create a cake to commemorate the occasion for both boys, with two complementary designs.
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I'm no great talent at cake decorating, but I think I achieved an (ahem) unique look! 18 candles on the left for Jacob and 12 on the right for Dylan, with motifs to match their candles, sort of.
We had their party yesterday because they both had friends leaving town before their actual birthdates. Jacob and Dylan planned out the party themselves.
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We began at noon with Jacob grilling hot dogs, and then their guests enjoyed a lunch of hot dogs, chips, and soda.

This is Jacob with his Little Brother, Dylan. Not his actual, related-by-blood little brother Dylan, but his official Little Brother from the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program.

It's a bit confusing with Jacob's little brother and Little Brother both having the same name, even spelled the same.

Dylan (my son, not the other boy) was excited to have his own Big Sister, Chanda (also from the Bigs program), stop by his party.

Thank goodness her parents named her Chanda instead of Sarah or we would really be confused!

Actually, we've known Chanda's family since before Dylan was born. Her mom Charla has the real cake decorating skills! Hi, Charla!

After lunch, the boys headed outside for water games. It started with water balloons and soon involved super soakers, hoses, and buckets of water. I don't look forward to my next water bill!

The younger boys lined up on one side of the yard and threw everything they had at the teenagers.

The older boys mostly just ducked and covered in the beginning.

However, they retaliated later with a sneak attack when the younger boys were filling up another batch of balloons.






Once everyone was well soaked, after about an hour of water play, they decided to come in and play a rousing game of Super Smash Brothers Brawl on the Wii gaming system while they dried out a bit.

Then they moved on to a new game, Balloon Stomp. There's a game that will burn off some energy! I filmed a 1-minute video of the action, which I'll attach below. They loved it so much, they played 3 rounds!

By this time, Dylan was itching to open his presents and see what his friends brought him. Jacob graciously allowed him to go first.

Dylan got several nice gifts. His favorite was a new pack of 60 Pokemon cards, which he immediately filed into his Pokemon binder. He's very into that stuff. I'm always amazed by how he can tell you every little pocket monster's name, battle attributes, and the new monster it will evolve into.




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After Dylan was done, Jacob took his turn. Among his gifts were a new fishing pole and fishing supplies.

His favorite, though, may have been this teddy bear and box of Godiva chocolates from his girl buddies, Chelsea and Jamie, who stopped by briefly.

This is an extremely rare photo of Jacob smiling with his teeth showing! He dislikes his smile, but I think he's very handsome. And I'm not biased at all!

Lastly, it was time for cake and ice cream.

In order to avoid burning down the house with all those candles, we took turns lighting them.

Since Jacob's birthday comes first, we lit his 18 candles, sang "Happy Birthday to You," and watched him make a wish before blowing out the candles.

Then it was Dylan's turn. He was so fast at wishing and blowing that he had all the candles out before I snapped the picture!

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The massive energy of all these boys finally began to wind down as they sat to enjoy their chocolate cake. (Jacob and Dylan are always in agreement when it comes to choosing cake and frosting flavors.)

For ice creams, they selected cookie dough and chocolate chip. Personally, I would have gone with rocky road and mint-chip.

The party ended at 4pm and the guests gradually dwindled away. Three of Jacob's friends stayed an extra hour. Several of Dylan's friends returned that evening. The house always seems to be full of boys.

We got ice cream smears off the counters, cake crumbs off the table, tortilla chips off the carpet, and muddy footprints off the kitchen floor. Then I sat back to breathe a sigh of relief.

A two-for-one completed in 2009. That means 2010 will be my year off, right? Uh...right?
video***Let's do the Balloon Stomp!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Grandma's Rocking Chair

This rocker and sewing chest were handed down to me by my mother before she passed away. They used to belong to my mom's mom, Alta Haley.
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The rocking chair is tiny, maybe about 3/4 the size of a regular rocker. It was a perfect fit for Grandma Haley, who was a tiny little lady, just 4'11" tall.
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I remember the rocker in her living room, with a small cushion tied to the seat, and the sewing chest on the floor right beside it.
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She once told me the sewing chest was made by hand, a gift to her from her father-in-law, Sam Haley.
Some of her mending materials, crochet hooks and hoops and such, are still in the chest.
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The rocking chair and sewing chest are about 80 years old now. As you can imagine, they require a lot of care to keep from falling apart.
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Only very little people are allowed to sit in the rocker these days.
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The photo above was taken at my parents' wedding reception. From left to right: my mom's uncle Buster Beierschmitt (Grandma Haley's brother), her father Loyd Haley (age 47), my mother Jane Butler (age 15), and her mother Alta Haley (age 47).
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In the very short video clip below, my grand-niece Analyce has the dubious honor of sitting in Grandma's rocking chair, with unexpected results. She was embarrassed at first, but after seeing the clip she decided it was funny enough to watch over and over. She's been anxiously awaiting this post.
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So here you go, sweet Analyce. This post is for you!
video

Monday, June 22, 2009

Post-Father's Day Tribute

And now, a word about my dad, Myron Butler.
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Or maybe four words. If I could sum up my dad in 4 words, they would be: smart, funny, talented, and industrious.
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Dad was very much a product of his time (and the fact that he was the doted-upon baby of 11 children, including 8 older sisters who spoiled him).
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He didn't do "women's work." Housework, cooking, and childcare were my mother's domain. But he took very seriously his role as provider and man of the house.
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This is us in April 1958. I was 3, Dad was 23.

When we lived in Los Angeles, Dad built plane parts at North American Aviation and Douglas Aircraft for about 6 years.

In April 1960 we moved to Fresno when he became a bus driver for that city, and commercial driving became his lifelong career. This is Dad in uniform in February 1962 at age 27.

In February 1967 he began driving long-distance for Greyhound Bus Lines. He worked 23 years for Greyhound before he retired. Then he began trucking for Swift Transportation over the next 8 years. My mom enjoyed traveling the country with him during those years.

Even after he quit the road, Dad needed to keep busy, so he went to work behind the counter at Sentry Fire & Welding for 4 years.

When I describe my father as industrious, I'm not exaggerating. When he wasn't at work, he always had multiple projects going.

At left is Dad with his father-in-law, Loyd Haley, working on an engine in November 1955. Dad was 21 and Grandpa was 49.

Our cars rarely saw the inside of an auto repair shop. In the days before computerized engines, there wasn't much my dad couldn't fix himself.

My brothers spent thousands of hours under the hood with him. All three are now very talented at car repair.

That's not all. Dad handled his own home repairs, too. Except for major electrical work--which he felt was better handled by professionals--my dad could fix anything.

He's also a gifted carpenter, a talent he passed on to Darryl. At right: Dad at 31, June 1966.

He worked hard outside the house, too.

Dad does great cement work. Over the years he made our yards look tidy with cement edgings around the lawns, flower gardens, and trees. He taught himself to lay brick for the same purpose.
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He built retaining walls and garden boxes for our mom's beautiful gardens. He put up sheds and cemented in our swingsets to keep them solidly safe. (July 1971, age 36)
As hard as Dad worked, he was always up for some recreation.
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We enjoyed trips to Disneyland, the county fair, the beach, and the mountains. There was time for sports, camp-outs, root beer floats at A&Ws, and chocolate-dipped ice cream cones at Foster's Freeze.
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This was a visit to Uncle Gene and Aunt Bertha's house in Santa Cruz, CA, December 1970. Jeff was 9, LeRoy was 11, and Dad was 36.
What can I say about Dad's sense of humor? He could find humor in the most mundane moments of everyday life.
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In our family, jokes that make you roll your eyes and/or groan out loud became known as "Myron jokes." They were always silly and sometimes outright gross.
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Don't ask him to tell you about the Woolly-booger. And for heaven's sake, never ask him about the bet a man made with a bartender regarding a spittoon. And never, never pull his finger!
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Making odd use of pliers in December 1969 at age 35.
Dad dropped out of high school 2 weeks before graduation because a teacher offended him. Yet he valued education, and when I was a baby he went to night school and earned his diploma.
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If we ever had questions, we knew Dad would have the answers. He stayed informed and could think through any problems. To this day, he is a creative problem-solver.
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He also encouraged us to think for ourselves. How many times did we hear, "Look it up!" or "Figure it out!" (May 1969, age 34)
When we bragged to the neighborhood kids, "My Dad's smarter than your dad!" we truly believed it!
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At the end of a tough, busy day, Dad would sometimes be so beat that he'd fall asleep sitting up.
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Our cat Boots often took advantage of the situation and curled up on Dad's shoulder or chest to join him in a little--you guessed it--cat nap!
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This was in December 1964, when Dad was 30.
When we were small, Dad avoided the distasteful chores of childhood, like diaper changing and potty training, but he was an important figure in our lives. We looked up to him and trusted him to take care of us, and he provided for us well.
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After my mom's first stroke, Dad really stepped up to the plate. He began doing dishes and laundry, cooking meals, and cleaning house. I was impressed by how this leopard changed his spots!
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The above picture was taken in October 1993. Dad was 59 and Mom was 56. Below is Dad and Kathy, ages 74 and 64, on New Years Day 2009.
Now, unbelievably, Dad is 2 months away from his 75th birthday. Yet he still fills his time with many projects around his home, building sheds, putting up fences, pouring cement, tending the yard, and making repairs.
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And that's when he has time for it between their many road trips and bowling tournaments!
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When you're a kid, you think your dad is all-powerful and immortal. It can be hard to come to terms with the reality.
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Reality be hanged! I hope you're around for a long time, Dad. Here's wishing your Father's Day was a great one!