A Present Father.

The final post for the Dads are Awesome! series is dedicated to my husband, called JD on here. I definitely saved the best for last. I hope that you feel the love not just from this post, but from all the contributors this week. Dads are indeed awesome! They are the backbones of our families, the stars in their daughters eyes, and the super hero that their sons dream to be. I thank God for dads. They simply rock!

When I found out I was pregnant with Johanna I was ecstatic! Over the moon. I didn’t quite know why but I could not stop giggling. I immediately went to get a real test done, then ran to CVS to buy JD a card. That evening he met me at the metro to walk me home and I handed him the card that was signed congratulations, we’re pregnant. He had a nervous smirk on his face, and we found a bench where he sat down to take it all in.

When it comes to pregnancy, the bond is more immediate for moms than it is for dads, whether it’s emotional, or simply physical. We feel them and they feel us. We feel their movements, and they react to the things we do. What we eat, what we smell, and sometimes even what we say. We learn what makes them move and they learn how to get our attention. I think that because of this there were times where I could see JD trying to wrap his mind around the situation. A baby. It wasn’t quite real just yet. She was here, but she wasn’t here. I often saw him mentally preparing, seeming unsure, at least that’s what it looked like to me. But then, Johanna was born.

@JohannasmamaAs the months went by and she became a real human being, babbling, giving sass, and full of personality, my list of wants for her continued to grow. At the very top of that list was that I wanted her to be a daddy’s girl. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted a very close relationship with my daughter, of course I did, and I have it. But I never, ever wanted her to go around in life acting out because she needed male attention to make her feel secure. I wanted her to have that at home. I wanted him to adore her.

And he did. My God, he did.

There are times when I sit back and watch them together. Like when Johanna was a newborn and JD would look weary, yet he would beam about the walk they took together on the waterfront.  Or when JD would play call of duty or watch Breaking Bad while holding her. And ok, yeah, I found that weird too, but she seemed to love it just as much as he did. Then there are the times when Johanna is crying and acting like a 2 year old. I look over at JD and roll my eyes while he smirks and then goes to see what’s wrong with the baby. I just smile and thank God. That is the relationship I prayed for.

@johannsmama(1)He is super dad. He is present. He is not an absentee father. He is not just another body in the house. He is present.He takes her to soccer and dance practice. He gives her baths, flosses her teeth, tucks her in bed, and prays with us. He fixes her plate, washes her clothes, and cleans booboos. He takes her outside to play, buys her clothes and shoes, loves on her. He makes it clear to us that he knows that fatherhood should be more than a noun. It should be a verb too. He is steadfast, a rock, a soft place. He is the word “daddy” personified.

I am thankful that I don’t know what it is like to have to wake up by myself every morning at 3am to feed a crying baby. My husband has been my true partner experiencing this whole parenthood journey with me and I appreciate that. I do not take this blessing for granted at all. Jesus picked the perfect mate for me and that makes me feel so proud and so honored.

Johanna is a bonafied daddy’s girl and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Dadseries(1)This post is a part of the week long series Dads are Awesome!, which runs from June 15-21 in honor of dads that rock everywhere.

Real Men May Not Cry, But REAL Daddys DO!

angieIt thrills me to introduce my sister-in-law, Angela Johnson Ayers, to the Dads are Awesome! series. Ever since Angela could speak, she has been using her voice to encourage, persuade, debate, challenge, influence, and educate people on how to reach their social, emotional, relational, physical, professional, weight and educational dreams. She does this through books she has authored, such as “Blast Off! Launching You into Motherhood- A 21 Day Devotional for the New Mom”, as well as her one woman play she wrote and stars in titled, “I’ll Be Darn, I’m Okay After All!”  Whether you are attending one of her ” Enhancing Beauty from the Inside/Out” workshops, or viewing her YouTube site “Life Can Not Weight,” the common theme is; nothing has to keep a person down. Angie says that “having once been 150 lbs heavier, I know what it feels like to feel trapped.  I use my voice to help others help themselves break free.”  Being a mom is another area that caused Angela some challenges.  You can read more on her blog.

My husband Larry has the ability to love like no human being I have ever met. When I was single, I prayed for a man that would love me in a supernatural way. Although I trusted that God heard my prayers, I must be honest; I found and still find myself surprised at how exact God was at adhering to my request. My husband is the personification of what true love embodies. He has seen and experienced me at my worst and yet, all he seems to pour back is forgiveness and love. Is he a perfect man, no, but his love is perfect towards me……..

angielarryAnd if he could not get any sweeter, there have been moments when I see him crying while gazing at our two daughters, Aunna who is 6 and Lillian Grace who is 3. When I notice him during these emotional expressions, I battle whether to hug him, ask if he is ok, or simply tip toe away. The first time I observed this occurrence, I assumed he was sad. Later he explained to me that sometimes his love for our children just overflows his heart.

larrygirlsWhat I admire most about Larry as a dad is his ability to verbally, physically, and emotionally display his true feelings to and in front of our children. Many men in my husband’s age group were taught that “real” men do not cry, do not say I love you and definitely do not do both in eyes view for others to witness. As a mother, but even deeper, as a woman, I know firsthand how detrimental it is for a female child to recognize what true, healthy male love is. A little girl’s first image of male love is and should be from their dad, and I am extremely thankful that Aunna and Lillian Grace have a walking, talking, living and breathing example of what love from a man looks and feels like. So many times young girls go out searching for male love and acceptance in ways that are not always positive, simply because they did not have a constructive male figure to validate, nurture and encourage them.

Although our daughters are young, I often have images in my head of Larry walking our daughters down the long, flowing isle to be wed. I anxiously await that moment, for reasons that most mothers normally do not anticipate. Yes, I know that Aunna will look gorgeous in her gown of choice, the wedding venue will be elegant, the scent of fresh flowers will radiate an ambiance of sweetness, and tons of family and friends will encompass the space, but I long to see the beauty of Larry’s tears that I know without a shadow of a doubt, will drape his eyes, cheeks, and face like a vail of true, unashamed, and unapologetic love!

Dadseries(1)This post is a part of the week long series Dads are Awesome!, which runs from June 15-21 in honor of dads that rock everywhere.Signature

The Top 10 Reasons My Husband Makes a Great Father

20141229_073211Today the wonderful Teresa is sharing her wonderful story for the Dads are Awesome! Series. Teresa graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a BA in Psychology and a Minor in Creative Writing. During her time at UNC-Chapel Hill, she received writing instruction from well-known authors like Sarah Dessen and Tom Whedon. She worked as a Caseworker for Social Services for three years before deciding to become a teacher and has worked as a Special Education teacher for seven years with certifications in Special Education, Secondary Math, and Middle School Language Arts. She is now married and has two children, ages three and seven. One child has autism, so she is a huge advocate for children with disabilities. She also writes about raising a child with autism at www.embracingthespectrum.com.

I knew my husband would make a great father from the moment I met him. He has all the qualities you need in a good father. He’s kind, patient, loving, and has a great sense of humor. When we had our first child, I swear that he had the glow of happiness around him that you see in a new mother. He’s just that kind of guy – the one that doesn’t fear showing emotion. When I saw him hold our firstborn child for the first time, I knew my suspicions that he’d make a fabulous father were true. As it turns out, his patience, his love, and his sense of humor have worked out well for us, as our lives would change forever with my son’s diagnosis of autism. The decision to have a second child proved challenging for him, but I knew we could handle it because I knew I’d have him by my side. I can think of so many reasons he makes a great father, but I’ll list the top ten here.

The Top 10 Reasons My Husband Makes a Great Father

1. He’s patient. My husband rarely loses his cool with our kids. He’s human and occasionally it happens, but he keeps calm and handles the worst situations with grace.

2. He’s totally hands-on. You won’t see him sitting on the sidelines while I take care of the kids. He always chips in and we parent together.

3. He’s playful. Watching him play with our kids probably brings me the most joy. Sometimes I take a step back just to take a picture in my mind of him playing with our kids. The laughter the results from his ability to totally let go of inhibitions and put everything he’s got into it makes me love him more every time I see it.

4. He’s got a great sense of humor. He jokes around with our kids and with me. My favorite? He has taught them the interrupting cow joke. My youngest gets a huge kick out of doing the interrupting cow and gets totally carried away with his moos. It’s awesome.

5. He gets the whole autism thing. Once we found out our son had autism, we both did research on ways to help our boy. He not only understands as much about autism as you can with all the differences you find in children, but he listens to my advice on how to change our son’s behavior.

6. He’s kind. This matters a whole bunch when you have kids and when you interact with kids because of that. When we go to the playground, he not only helps out our kids with things like swings and merry-go-rounds but he includes any kids around us in his efforts. He once picked up a child that wanted to get on the tire swing and helped push him until the child’s brother came to chip in. 7. He’s loving. We’re big on hugs and kisses in our family. In fact, our oldest does a lot of kissing. Sometimes it’s an overwhelming amount, and my husband doesn’t mind. He will hug and kiss the kids whenever they want it. It’s so nice seeing him do this because my father was never big on hugs and kisses and I know our kids will always feel loved because my husband lets them know through his words and actions.

8. He’s understanding. We don’t jump to conclusions with our kids. When we do misjudge a situation, we apologize for it. That’s hard for some men to do, but my husband does it. He understands that our kids have feelings and that they need us to consider how they feel when we react. Through this, we model the importance of accepting when we do something wrong and apologizing for it.

9. He’s strong. I know that sounds like a strange quality to consider as great for fatherhood, but it matters. Sometimes our kids need someone to pick them up and take them where we need to go and I cannot do it because of my back problems. He will pick up our kids and take them to time-out if necessary. He’ll also give piggy-back rides to our youngest when we go on walks that last too long for his little legs. It’s wonderful to know that I’ve got back-up when I need it.

10. He’s forgiving. Children make mistakes all the time just like adults do. It’s important to acknowledge that we all make mistakes and that as long as we apologize and change our actions, it’s okay. He’s good at not only accepting that our children will make mistakes, but reminding our children the importance of apologies. He never holds a grudge and he always gives them a chance to make up for their mistakes, even if we recognize that our children will likely make that mistake again at some point. He sees the best in our kids and that’s important.

I cannot think of a better father than my husband. If I could package up all of the moments that make my heart sing when he’s with our children, I’d need a huge box and it would overflow with memories. He demonstrates the qualities of a good father so many times during the day that it’s impossible to count them all up. I just know that I’m lucky to have such a great partner in parenting and our children certainly benefit from his loving, patient, easygoing, good-humored ways. I just hope he knows how much he means to us.

Dadseries(1)This post is a part of the week long series Dads are Awesome!, which runs from June 15-21 in honor of dads that rock everywhere.Signature


editedToday I’m introducing Kristina Hammer. Kristina is a Coca-Cola guzzling sahm of 4. She has a passion for writing, dating back to her early childhood where she wrote “books” about all the grown-up business her nose didn’t belong in. She spends most of her days, now, angrivated with the day to day challenges of raising kids in a house-turned-zoo. When she’s not too busy wrangling her brood, she can be found writing her soul away for the sake of sanity. You can find her on Facebook at The Daily Rantings of an Angrivated Mom, on Twitter @angrivatedmom, or on her blog chronicling her rantings & ravings in lieu of going to therapy.

As old as time, in nursery rhymes and fairy tales, lullabies and fables, the magical bond shared between a father and a daughter has been passed down over and over again. With every passing century, these stories and songs have grown in number and changed in detail, having been added to by the extraordinary fathers and daughters that have all come to experience this endearing enchantment of a very special kinship before now. These relationships are one in a million.

Little girls create the foundation for their future dreams and fantasies from these tales of once upon a time, sugar and spice, and happy endings. Where the daughter is always the apple of her father’s eye, his self-declared princess. The kind of tale where the father tenderly dotes upon his daughter, as though she is merely a delicate flower reaching for the sunlight which sustains her bloom. The light of the sun coming from her father’s love-filled eyes, of course. It is the kind of relationship fathers and daughters alike would want to have with one another, but most are never able to find the mystical key to unlock the magic, no matter how close they seem to one another. For all those, it remains just a dream to experience what it’s like to be Daddy’s Little Girl.

Not my daughters, though.

My daughters have found the key. They have unlocked the sortilege, binding their hearts with their father’s in a way that I’ve only been privileged enough to read about in my lifetime. They are Daddy’s Little Girls to the epitome of the phrase. My husband is far from being the perfect ideal of a successful man, by the standards of today. He has made more than his fair share of not so easily forgotten mistakes in life. His path has been a wayward one, full of speed bumps and potholes, possibly even a manhole or two. Even a few cells in the local county lockup. Despite all of his shortcomings, though, his love for his girls is unconditional, forged with the same strength and tenacity as the strongest of steels.

These two little girls look to their dad as if he is a real-life King or Superhero, no matter what. They don’t see him for anything that he has done outside of their relationship with one another. His past mistakes and the affects they continue to have on him in the real world, don’t matter a bit to them. Aren’t even taken into consideration as they declare his perfection as a father to all those near and far that haven’t gone deaf from their screeching. Their father is the first love of their lives. The protector of all of their feelings and their hearts and the keeper of their whispered secrets from sticky popsicle lips. The first best friend they’ve made in life, who is always ready to play with, confide in, and be crazy silly around. It’s such a beautiful, heartwarming thing to witness from the sidelines.

This bewitching relationship between my husband and each of his daughters hasn’t always been so easy for me to accept. Sometimes, I even struggle with a tinge of jealousy over their special connection. Though I do know, very much, that my father loved and adored me as a very small child, we were never able to discover where the magic came from. We were never able to grow that everlasting bond of fairytale proportions. Maybe, he just didn’t want to find it, because he had recently divorced my mother and moved in his secret lover… but, that is another story all together. He was a good father, without a doubt, and loves me in his own way but, nevertheless, I didn’t become Daddy’s Little Girl. My daughters, by some destiny of the universe, did become such.

Now, my two youngest children have stolen their father’s heart, the way I wished I could’ve done to mine so long ago. It is an endearing endeavor for me to help nurture this flourishing between my husband and his girls. His work schedule doesn’t allot him much time with them on weekdays, so I make a point to take a step back any chance I can to give them quality time, as often as possible. The intense, deep-belly giggles and high-pitched shrieks of pure joy that radiate from the living room where they are enthralled with the game Daddy has made up, would never get the same response if it were me playing instead. The sounds reverberating beneath my bare feet, wind into and wrap around my heart. Fill it with love for this man who honors and admires the life gifted of him out of his true love for me with such careful devotion.

My daughters have yet to realize the magnitude of this relationship they share with their Daddy. They get through to him in ways no one else ever has, not even his own mother. When he’s falling behind in bad times, they lift him up and keep the fire lit under his motivation to push ahead, cheering him along farther during the good. When his days bring on those dreaded anxiety attacks, his girls can snap him right out of the blackhole that his mind warps into and blockades the rest of the world out. They just push their little faces between his hands, where his head is slung onto, and talk to him in their tiny, sweet, baby-accented voices, ever so softly, and he melts like ice on a ninety degree day, right there in their arms.

They tangle into a jumbled heap of entwined limbs, in some sort of messy group hug, which soon dissolves into another fit of giggles. Before I can even make my way into the fun, he’s already sniffing four erratically waving feet, for “the stink”, arousing laughter that could pierce through the coldest of souls, bringing an abundance of light into their bleak, gray world. They climb over his back, on to his shoulders, around his neck, and down his legs, like two little monkeys. They shout for him to continue on, to bring out more of his captivating daddy tricks. They beg him for more until they all collapse in a giant huddle on our oversized recliner chair, overdosed on love.

None of them notice that I’m anywhere near them, they are so enveloped in their moment together. Just daddy and his girls. I don’t mind, though I wish I knew what it felt like. To have a daddy that would buy the mockingbird, the horse and cart, and the diamond ring all at once if it made me smile. To have a daddy who would slay any dragons, boogeymen, or monsters that were hiding under my bed. Or to hold me in his strong, muscular arms, because I’m too deathly afraid to let go of the edge of the pool.

As I hover over the sight of my husband, drowned beneath layers of sparkly pink tutus, baby dolls and stuffed animals, and soft bunny blankets, with a forgotten tiara lopside on his head, I’m smitten and smug, humbled and proud, and glowing in-love with this man, all over again. I’m taken back through memories of all of those fairytales and fables I once read, grateful that my daughters will one day be able to look back themselves, and know without a doubt that they were indeed his little princesses. Daddy’s Little Girls.

Dadseries(1)This post is a part of the week long series Dads are Awesome!, which runs from June 15-21 in honor of dads that rock everywhere.Signature

The One Word You Can’t Yell on a Crowded Playground

I a10364273_10206684135602945_594108455_nm ecstatic to introduce you to Jessica Rapisarda for the Dads Are Awesome! series. Not only is she an awesome human being, but she’s also a darn good writer as well.  Jessica wanted to be Donna Summer when she grew up. So, naturally, she studied poetry. Failing to take her rhymes all the way to the bank, Jess gave in to motherhood, humor writing, and snack chip addiction. She blogs about parenting, guilt, and other redundancies at Welcome to the Bundle. She has been featured on Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, MSN Living, Mamapedia, and more. You can also find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

1984 was a tough year. I had a bowl haircut, I read dictionaries for fun, and I lost my mom to cancer. I wanted so badly to feel normal. After school let out for the day, I’d hang back from the mass of kids swarming the parking lot of St. Dominic’s Catholic school. I studied the crowd like I studied the dictionary, eager to learn something new, something that might make me just a little bit cool. And, to me, the 8th graders were a bottomless font of cool. I let my socks slouch like they did. I doused myself in Love’s Baby Soft cologne like they did. I tried to talk like they did, even though most of what they said was a complete mystery: Why were they always discussing the time of the month? And what made a kiss French, as opposed to American or, say, Mexican?

But if 1984 was a tough year for me, it had to be downright unbearable for my dad. He was suddenly the single father of three little girls, ages 8, 6, and 2. But even through the grief and the fear and the exhaustion, my dad made time to play – to toss a softball in the backyard, to hold impromptu Michael Jackson dance parties in our living room, to go to the park. Our favorite destination was Baltimore’s Burdick Park, just a block from my grandparent’s row home. On the outskirts of the city, it was a few bucolic acres of oak trees and wide, grassy fields. The park featured a much beloved twisty sliding board, rows of swings, and enough 80s-era metal playground equipment to simultaneously break the bones of a hundred different kids. It was paradise.

So on a sun-drenched Saturday afternoon, my dad packed us into the Chevy Chevette and headed to Burdick. Kids lined up twenty-deep for the sliding board and the swings were occupied, but my dad was unfazed. He challenged us to a game of tag.

While my youngest sister, Sarah, contentedly ate playground mulch, my middle sister and I crouched at the ready.

“On your marks. Get set. Go!”

Kim and I rocketed around the see-saw and toward the park maintenance building.

“I’m gonna get you guys!” my dad shouted, sprinting after us.

“No way!” Kim shouted back as she suddenly peeled off, cutting through the middle of a basketball game.

Left alone, with my dad gaining on me, I double-timed it toward the corner of the maintenance building. As he neared, my chest buzzed with adrenalin. I’d covertly eaten two packages of Little Debbie Swiss rolls after lunch. My head buzzed with white sugar. Time and space took on a fluorescent, Kubrickian quality.

I turned boldly toward my father and called to mind a word I’d heard the 8th-grade girls lob at the 8th-grade boys — a word with heft, a word with a short fuse, a very cool word.

“Get away from me, you pervert!” I yelled. Then I disappeared around the side of the building.

A young mom pushing a stroller stopped dead in her tracks to stare at me.

“Ha! You’ll never catch me, you pervert!” I screamed as I rounded the back of the building.

“Pervert, pervert, pervert!” I chanted as I took off toward the merry-go-round, drunk on speed and the vocabulary of abandon.

A group of kids near the monkey bars fell strangely quiet.

My dad finally caught up with me as I reached the merry-go-round. His face was red. His mouth looked stiff. “Geez, he’s taking this game pretty seriously,” I thought, just as he grabbed me by the arm.

“Let go of me, you pervert,” I laughed.

With his eyes wide, he leaned down and hissed, “For the love of Christ, Jessie, shut up!”

Suffice it to say that our day at the park ended then and there. On the ride home, my dad wanted to know where I’d picked up “an expression like that,” but I guess he was just too tapped out to explain what the word actually meant. I had to sleuth out the definition on my own during recess later that week. It was a gut-churning revelation.

After thirty years, I still remember how my dad hustled us out of the park that day, his hand held gently at my back, urging me to walk a bit more quickly. I remember hearing him sigh as he sank into the driver’s seat, pausing before he put the key into the ignition. “What are ya gonna do?” I heard him mumble to himself. I didn’t know what any of it meant. And neither, I guess, did he.

Dadseries(1)This post is a part of the week long series Dads are Awesome!, which runs from June 15-21 in honor of dads that rock everywhere.Signature

Girl Meets Lauren

Callie readingI am so happy to introduce you to Callie Feyen who is sharing a story that shows her special bond with her dad and how he encouraged her to write as part of the Dads Are Awesome! series. Callie lives in the Washington DC suburbs with her husband Jesse and their two daughters Hadley and Harper. Callie is an 8th grade English teacher who recently earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Seattle Pacific University. Her work has appeared in AltarworkCoffee + Crumbs, and The Banner. You’ll also find Callie on www.calliefeyen.com. Her Twitter handle is: @calliefeyen.

When I’m reading a book, I often daydream about how I would teach it. If I were teaching Girl Meets God, I would make sure to read the chapter “Albermarle Pilgrimage” out loud. I would suggest my students pair up and read it interpretively because the trip Winner and her mother take in an attempt to locate Jan Karon is delightful and hilarious. It would be fun to watch one of my students be the mother, explaining to Lauren how impossible it is to locate Karon’s home while another student plays Winner jumping up and down screaming, “I know! I know! We can go on a drive and find her farm! It’ll be like a pilgrimage!” (262) We would discuss why this is so funny: the mother calmly explaining why this is a ridiculous idea while her graduate school daughter exuberantly ignores her; the use of explanation points (you can hear the screaming); the confession that Winner regresses when she’s at her mom’s.

I’d have my students make tour guide pamphlets of Albermarle County using only what they read from Winner’s chapter in order to show them how well she knows the area: They could draw pictures of Thomas Jefferson, William Faulkner, and maybe Rita Mae Brown’s “feline sleuth, ‘Sneaky Pie Brown.” (261) They could put an ad or coupon in the brochure for Toliver House, one of Winner’s mom’s favorite restaurants, or Spudnuts, “the locally famed establishment that makes doughnuts from potato flour.” (264) I would point out how Winner’s ability to bring the reader into the setting enhances the story. We are not just looking for Jan Karon with Winner and her mother. We are wondering about Grace Episcopal Church and it’s Blessing of Hounds service. We are looking out the window from the car at “the estate from which Benjamin Franklin’s grandson executed his short-lived Virginia medical career.” (265)

I’d point out that this story isn’t really about Jan Karon, rather, it’s about Winner and her mother. We’d talk about what we learn from the quick rhythm of the dialogue: the two are funny,  and they riff off each other’s quirks. I’d point out Winner’s last sentences; that being with her mom driving through Albermarle County was what this trip was really about.

I’d give my students a writing assignment: write about a time you and a parent set out to do something, but reveal character through setting and dialogue so that the story ends up not really being about the thing you set out to do.

Finally, if I were teaching today, I’d tell them the story of the time I met Lauren Winner. It was at the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College. I was sitting in a lounge chair by the fireplace eating a chocolate chip cookie, and making doodles in the margins a piece of paper that listed the names of speakers and sessions for the day, when Winner sat down next to me. She sort of plopped down, actually, and looked my way because I was staring at her.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hey,” I said back. And then I walked away to call my dad and tell him I just talked to Lauren Winner.

Nobody would ever know from looking at him or even talking to him that my dad is a Big Important Guy at a medical university in Chicago. I’m not even sure he knows this about himself. He is not charismatic. He’s not aggressive or loud. He’s slow to speak and has a quiet confidence that people assume is timidity and docility. But he is a Big Important Guy and you can’t just call him at work in the middle of the day and expect he’ll answer. He won’t. His secretary answers all his calls and rarely puts people through. Unless you are his daughter, a title I loved claiming when she answered.

“This is Callie,” I sort of whispered into the phone. I was outside, crouched behind some bushes. I must’ve thought I was relaying top-secret information.

When he answered, I shot up from behind the bushes like a groundhog, or mole, or one of those squirrely critters. “Dad!” I said breathlessly, and then realized I was standing and sank back down behind the bushes. Apparently none of those other writers and readers walking around Calvin College’s campus could know of the words that Lauren Winner and I exchanged.

“I just talked to Lauren Winner!”

“Ha! That’s great! What’d you talk about?”

“Nothing!” Admitting this did not squash my excitement at all. “She said, ‘hey,’ and then I said, ‘hey.”

“And then what happened?”

“I came out here and called you!”

We both laughed. I, at the ridiculousness of my non-anecdote, and probably my dad was laughing at that, too. But he knew my enthusiasm for Girl Meets God and he knew how much I wanted to write. I think he was laughing because he knew I was enjoying myself.

The tickets to the Festival were a Christmas present from him along with Frederick Buechner’s book, Speak What We Feel (Not What We Ought to Say): Reflections on Literature and Faith. On the receipt for the tickets, he wrote, “Have fun listening to your friends.” He always called the writers I loved my friends, a joke, I knew, but I also think he understood that their stories became a part of, grew with, and changed me, as the best of friends can do.

“You should stop by the IMAGE table and see if they have information on their MFA program,” my dad suggested.

I told him OK but I’d never consider applying for an MFA.

I would call my dad three more times at work over the next eight years. Two of those phone calls would be to tell him that his granddaughters, first Hadley and then Harper, had been born. And one of them would be to tell him that I’d been accepted to Seattle Pacific University’s MFA program, where I’d be working with Lauren Winner.

“Maybe you’ll say more to her than, ‘hey,” he said, laughing.

*This was originally posted on Callie’s blog: http://www.calliefeyen.com.

Dadseries(1)This post is a part of the week long series Dads are Awesome!, which runs from June 15-21 in honor of dads that rock everywhere.


You Chose Me and I Chose You.

I am starting the Johanna’s Mama  Dads are Awesome! series 2015 with a reflection on my own father.Although my family isn’t exactly traditional, my hope is that you see God’s grace in my life throughout this post.

The year was 1980. After months of trying to become pregnant, Sylvia gave up and concentrated on weightloss instead. It was going beautifully! She was enjoying the new body she was beginning to cultivate. Unfortunately she noticed she was getting queasy and something wasn’t quite right. She sat in the doctor’s office and they said the three little words she had given up on hearing: You are pregnant. And at that very moment her life changed forever. Her marriage too.

The relationship she had with her husband was rocky and continued to decline due to his alcoholism. While pregnant, Sylvia was verbally and physically abused. Finally she decided that she had enough. She asked God that if it was his will, that he end it. Show her a way out. The very next day her husband left her. 30, very much pregnant, and alone away from her family, she finally found peace. She washed her hands of her marriage and kept moving forward. That cold December, I was born.

That is part of the story of my birth that my mother told me a few times in life. She held it in until I was older and able to understand and handle the circumstances. She never wanted me to hate my biological father. She wanted me to love him in spite of. In spite of how he treated her. In spite of the fact that I barely knew him. In spite of the fact that he was still a functioning alcoholic. And I did, love him. I loved him with the love of God, as she had taught me to do. Honestly, I think there are three factors that kept me from hating my biological father – My mother, my God, my dad.

dadnme2Some folks call him Mack, but since I was a baby I’ve only known him as dad. He came into my life when I was about 1 1/2 years old. My mom tells me that he actually sat her down and told her how much he loved me and wanted to be apart of my life. They weren’t married. They never married. It was the oddest relationship on Earth, admittedly. He lived ten minutes away from us. They courted, but 18 years later decided that it was best they parted. They remained saved individuals while courting. I honestly believe that my mother enjoyed the idea of not having to worry about sharing her space or having real intimacy, but that’s another story for another day. I’ve been told that babies would look at my dad and cry out of fear because he looked stern, but not me. I just smiled and laughed. It seems like I chose him as much as he chose me.

dadnme4Because of him, I never knew what it was like to be a fatherless girl. Some of my fondest memories are tied to him. He made sure that I went to every circus, every monster truck rally, every event in the DC area that was kid friendly. He helped make my memories. And he loved me. For 18 years of my life I never heard him say I love you. I didn’t even realize that until it was haphazardly brought to my attention. It didn’t matter. I knew it. I never second guessed whether or not he loved me. He showed me so overwhelmingly well that I knew. He was there for me all the time. He was present. He didn’t live in the house with me, but he came running when I needed him.

When I was 7 years old I sat up screaming in my mothers bed. That night I had a monster of an Ear ache and it was trying to take me out! I cried and cried and cried. My mother tried to sooth me, but all I could say was “I want daddy!” It was 1am. My mother made the phone call to my dad letting him know what was happening and that I was screaming for him. And he came. Of course he came. That was the kind of father he was. He came and we all went to children’s hospital where I was given antibiotics and eventually drifted off to sleep.

dadnme1I rarely remember my dad saying no to me. He spoiled me real good. He also took time with me. We would go on rides through the country, getting bbq in some far off place surrounded by nothing but clear land. He took me to school every morning, and helped pay for my schooling too. He took me to my eye appointments, the dentist, and to parties. He showed up for every recital, every performance, everything involving me. The way he loved me was perfection.

My dad and I don’t have many heart to hearts because I don’t think either of us are that sappy, but he was always my safe place. A place of calm in the rocky storms of my life. I go to him when I need to hear the familiar because it makes me smile and I instantly begin to feel better. Every time he calls and I have a cold or strep throat, I can count on him to say “have you taken your vitamin c? Get you some tea and squeeze some lemon into it. That’ll cut that stuff right out!” Oh, that makes me smile so. Sometimes I quietly say the words along with him, happy that he hasn’t changed in all these years.

dadnme3He was there on my first day of school, he was there at the father daughter dance. He drove me away to college, and moved me every single time I needed to. He gave me an allowance when I was fresh out of college and broke, and he gave me away on my wedding day. He was there to hold my babygirl the day after she was born, and he has fallen in love with her too. He may not be a perfect man, because no one but Jesus is, but he sure is the perfect father. Because of him, I don’t know what it’s like not to have male attention. Because of him I know more about who I am, what I will accept, and what I won’t. Because of him I’ve learned to be a little more patient,and a lot less angry. He has shaped and molded me as much as my mother did and for that I am forever thankful.

dadnme5For the past year I have had quite a few dinners with my biological father. It was strange to me in the beginning that it was much more like two acquaintances getting to know each other. I thought getting to know him would fill something inside of me that I didn’t know needed to be filled. It didn’t. It didn’t because my dad had already done that work. Isn’t that God’s grace?

dadnme6My story is rare. A man that comes into a woman’s life and decides that he is going to be a father to her daughter, no matter what, and commits himself to that role for life. You don’t have to tell me that I’m blessed, I know it. I don’t take it for granted, and my heart will always hold my dad in the highest regard.

Dadseries(1)This post is a part of the week long series Dads are Awesome!, which runs from June 15-21 in honor of dads that rock everywhere.