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The Language of Our Fathers

The first time I truly understood why I had married my husband, we had already celebrated more than 15 wedding anniversaries.

The moment of my realization wasn’t romantic nor was it private.

In fact, we were surrounded by others at a neighborhood Halloween party.

mlk 1The dads were standing in a small circle talking, and I just happened to be nearby when one of them pulled out his phone and read a joke to the other dads. I can’t recall the punchline, but it had something to do with President Obama being black. As the other dads laughed, my husband turned his back on them and started to walk away.

“What’s wrong?” one of the other dads asked. “Do you support Obama?”

“This has nothing to do with politics,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if I support him or not. That was a racist joke and laughing at it was racist behavior.”

After their initial silence, they mumbled excuses mixed with denials.

My husband walked away anyway.

That is the exact moment when I realized why I decided he was “the one” all those years ago.

Despite our extreme personality differences, he speaks my language.

It is a language that embraces differences and dismisses labels. It’s a language that appreciates the incredible beauty of being unique and despises the use of violence.

Most of all, it is a language that conveys the perils of remaining silent at even the smallest acts of bigotry.

I was thinking of this lansilence of our enemiesguage when I woke up Thursday morning to the news that nine people had been slaughtered at a historical African-American church in Charleston South Carolina because of the color of their skin.

I couldn’t help but wonder if their killer had told racist jokes and if people who claim they are not racist had laughed at them.

My gut told me they had.

Apathy can be as dangerous as a gun, and yet it is something many of us use on a regular basis to help us “get along” and “not make waves.

It is also something that can be broken with only a few words, like those my husband spoke at a Halloween party years ago

On Father’s Day, as most of us take time to thank our dads for all they’ve done, I want to thank my husband for teaching my children his language.

It is  a beautiful language because it is also full of hope. When all the voices who speak it join together, maybe, just maybe, they can begin to change the world.
































































































































































































365 Reasons to Smile – Day 344

Father-Day-Quotes-I admit there are times when I feel sorry for myself or covet what others have. Try as I might, I have yet to conquer my desire to have what others have and I only wish for.

And then I remember what a friend once told me.

” The best way to deal with thinking others have more than you do is to consider the following scenario: what If we were all honest and wrote our greatest problem on a slip a paper then put the  paper in a pile with everyone else’s,.” she asked. “If we were all instructed to randomly pick slips of paper out of that  pile and read them, we’d quickly want our own piece of paper back.”

She was right. What she didn’t mention is the reverse: what if we all wrote down the greatest gifts in our life and willingly put them in a pile for someone else to pick up. I know I wouldn’t want to give up the good things in my life.

For example, there aren’t many people who are fortunate to grow up with a great dad and then marry a man who is a great father.

On this Father’s Day, recognizing that is making me smile

Day 344:  Great Dads

Day 343: The Ability to Heal  Day 342: Realizing Humanity Will Always Triumph Technology

Day 341:  Summer Reading Programs Day 340: Margaret Thatcher’s Great Quote Day 339:  Chalk Art  Day 338: Tom Petty Day 337:  Dogs in Cars Day 336: Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! Day 335:  The Sound of a Harmonic  Day 334: Significant Dates in Our Lives Day 333: Rocking Chairs  Day 332: Lemonade from Fresh Lemons Day 331: Feeling at Peace  Day 330:  Not Letting Age Slow You Down  Day 329: Raindrops on Roses  Day 328: Old Newspapers  Day 327: When My Pets Get Attention  Day 326:  Odd Little Distractions from Every Day Life  Day 325: Wearing White before Memorial Day Day 324:  Avoiding a Poison Ivy Rash  Day 323: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off  Day 322: Breezes Blowing Through my Kitchen Window  Day 321: Iris Gardens  Day 320: Ginger’s Ridiculous Wardrobe  Day 319: Wildlife in My Midst  Day 318: Teamwork  Day 317: The Golden Rule   Day 316: When Weather Cooperates  Day 315:  When Humans Respect Nature  Day 314: Books We Pass on to Our Children Day 313: Wildflowers Day 312:  The Right to Vote Day 311: Staying True to Your BeliefDay 310: Doris Day and “Que Sera Sera” Day 309: Lessons Learned from Motherhood  Day 308: When a Difficult Problem is Solved Day 307:  Living Near Hills and Mountains  Day 306: Recognizing How Far Women Have Come Day 305: Creative House and Yard Decorations Day 304:  The Power to Forgive Day 303: Marrying Someone Who Always Knows How to Make Me Smile  Day 302: People Who Sport the Breaking Bad Car Magnet Day 301:  The song of the whippoorwill  Day 300: Coming Home Day 299: Clean Water Day 298: Blue Bells Day 297: Listening to Books When Driving Long Distances Day 296: Walking in the Woods Day 295: The Warm Sun on My Face Day 294: Turning Loud Shoes into a Conversation Item  Day 293: Seeing Something New in the Every Day  Day 292: Dreams Day 291:  “What a Wonderful World”  Day 290: Softly Falling Petals During Spring Day 289: Home king with Love Day 288: Coloring Easter Eggs  Day 287: The View From Above Day 286:  The Wisdom of Mr. RogerDay 285: The Princess Bride    Day 284: All Creatures Great and Small  Day 283: The Legend of the Dogwood  Day 282: Sleeping with the Windows Open  Day 281: Four Significant Birthdays in One Year Day 280: Discovering Great Music Day 279: Funny Names for Wi-Fi connections  Day 278: Sad Cat Diary Day 277:  The Smiling Cow  Day 276: Celebrating 16 years of motherhood  Day 275: Seeing Potential in Our Children  Day 274: Stained Glass Day 273: Naturalization Ceremonies Day 272: “Let It Be” by the Beatles Day 271: Sharing Meals with Great Friends Day 270: Daffodils  Day 269:  April Fool’s Day Day 268: Acoustic Music  Day 267: Country Roads  Day 266: Sunsets on Pamlico Sound  Day 265: The Sound and Smell of the Ocean  Day 264: Crossing the Bonner Bridge Day 263: Mark Twain Quotes Day 262: Old-fashion Fun Day 261: The Far Side Cartoons by Gary Larson Day 260:  Nostalgic Theme Songs  Day 259:  Appreciating Life’s Rewards  Day 258: Awkward Conversations With Strangers  Day 257:  The arrival of Spring  Day 256:  Being Saved by Buffy the Vampire Slayer  Day 255:  Thoughtful Husbands Day 254:  The Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow Day 253: When Kids Want to Clean  Day 252: Conversations in Cars  Day 251: Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day  Day 250: Bonnie Bell Over-sized LipSmackers versus Egg-Shaped Eos Lip Balm  Day 249: Watching Those I Cherish Sleep  Day 248: Getting Back on My Bike after the Longest Winter  ay 247: “Don’t Worry. Be Happy.”  Day 246: Multiple Reminders of Beauty  Day 245: Being Nice to Total Strangers Day 244: The Perfect PhrasDay 243:  Little Girls With AttitudeDay 242: The Soup Nazi  Day 241: Contagious Smiles  Day 240: Oklahoma  Day 239: Dr. Seuss’ Persistence  Day 238: Over-Dependence on Spell Check  Day 237: Only 28 days  in February  Day 236: Genuine Signatures  Day 235: Television Personalities Who Don’t Take Themselves Too Seriously Day 234:  The Words “Happy Birthday”  Day 233: Teenagers Who Care about Their Grandparents  Day 232:  “Morning Has Broken”Day 231: Avoiding Jury Duty  Day 230: Melting Snow after a Long Winter  Day 229: Hungry Teenage Boys   Day 228: Having a DreamDay 227: Mispronunciations  Day 226: Awkward Animal MomentsDay 225: Shaking Hands With Scott HamiltonDay 224:  Having an Office With Windows Day 223: Watching Our Children Mature  Day 222: Getting the Upper Hand Over Life’s Challenges  Day 221: St. Teresa’s Prayer  Day 220: Children Who Are True to Self    Day 219: Frosted Sugar Cookies Day 218: Children with a Global Perspective Day 217: Enchanted  Day 216: Having a “secret weapon” Day 215: Jack and Diane  Day 214: The Volkswagen Beetle Day 213: Moments that Can’t Be Recreated  Day 212: “The Soul” Quote   Day 211: Rubber Ducky  Day 210: Tracks in the Snow   Day 209: Finding a Penny on the Ground Day 208: Kids who Use Their Manners  Day 207: Reminders of Warm Sunny Days  Day 206:  Dogs Playing in the Snow  Day 205:  Descriptive Phrases  Day 204: Arsenic and Old Lace  Day 203: Reminders of Resiliency  Day 102: Stephanie’s Ponytail Day 201: Being Asked to Help  Day 200: Boys and Their Toys  Day 199: The Most Important Person  Day 198: People With Courage to Do What is Right  Day 197: Being Pleasantly Surprised by My Children  Day 196: Being Told I’m Young  Day 195: Good News  Day 194: Meaningful Eye Contact   Day 193: A Sense of Accomplishment Day 192: Growing Into the Person I’ll Someday Be  Day 191:  Matt Groening  Day 190: Tuning Out Bad News and Tuning In to What We Enjoy  Day 189: Parents Who Encourage Independence  Day 188: Watching Young Minds at Work  Day 187: Funny Phone Calls  Day 186: Healthy Lungs  Day 185: Reality Checks Day  184: Coincidence  Day 183: Lame Attempts to Go Retro  Day 182: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 181: Goofy Childhood Memories  Day 180: A soak in a bathtub  Day 179: Optimism  Day 178: The Year’s Top Baby Names  Day 177: Reading on a Rainy Day   Day 176: “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey  Day 175: Watching the Torch Pass  Day 174: Converse Tennis Shoes  Day 173: Family Acceptance  Day 172: Christmas Day 171: The Mr. Grinch Song  Day 170: Positive People  Day 169: Watching Movies From my Childhood With My Kids  Day 168:  Jealous Pets   Day 167:  Family Christmas Recipes  Day 166:  Church BellsDay 165:  School Holiday   164: Unexpected Grace  Day 163: Letting Go of Things We Can’t Control  Day 162: Anticipating a good story   Day 161: Hope  Day 160:  When Dogs Try to Avoid Embarrassment  Day 159: Surprises in the Mail  Day 158: Kids who aren’t superficial  Day 157:  A Garage on Winter Days    Day 156:  Real Christmas Trees    Day 155: Being a Parent   Day 154: Selfless People Day 153:  Nelson Mandela  Day 152: Memorable Road Trips  Day 151: Great Neighbors  Day 150: Oscar Wilde’s quote about being yourself   Day 149:  Love Letters  Day 148:  The first day of Advent  Day 147: The Breakfast Club   Day 146: Marriage and Shared Anniversaries 145: JFK’s quote about gratitude  Day 144:  Watching My Dog Play   Day 143: Having my Family’s Basic Needs Met  Day 142:  When Our Children Become Role Models  Day 141: Random Acts of Kindness  Day 140; People Watching  Day 139: Sharing Interests with My Children  Day 138: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Best Advice  Day 137: Weird Human Behavior about Garbage  Day 136: Postcards from Heaven  Day 135: Mickey Mouse  Day 134: Generous Souls  Day 133: I’m Moving On  Day 132: A Family That is Really Family  Day 131:   A Personal Motto  Day 130:  Mork and Mindy  Day 129: The Bears’ House  Day 128:  Veterans  Day 127: Doppelgangers  Day 126: Letting Life Unfold as It Should  Day 125: The Constantly Changing Sky  Day 124: When History Repeats Itself   Day 123: The Love Scene in The Sound of Music Day 122:  Helen Keller  Day 121:  The Welcome Back Kotter Theme Song  Day 120: Sheldon Cooper  Day 119: Having Permission to Make Mistakes  Day 118: A Diverse Group of Friends  Day 117:  Family Traditions Day 116: The Haunting Season  Day 115; Life Experience Day 114:  Changes  Day 113:  The Wooly Bear Caterpillar  Day 112: The National Anthem  Day 111: Parents Who Care   Day 110: Good Friends Day 109:  My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss  Day 108:  A.A. Milne QuotesDay 107: Spending Time Wisely Day 106: Parades  Day 105:  The Peanuts Gang Dancing   Day 104:  Sharing a Secret Language   Day 103:  The Electric Company  Day 102:  Doing the Right Thing  Day 101:  When Siblings Agree  Day 100: Being Optimistic  Day 99: Trying Something New   Day 98:  The Sound of Children on a Playground  Day97: Good Advice  Day 96: Red and white peppermint candy  Day 95:  The Soundtrack from the Movie Shrek Day 94:  Accepting Change    Day 93:  True Love     Day 92: Camera Phones   Day 91: Bicycle Brakes    Day 90:  HeroesDay 89: The Cricket in Times Square  Day 88:  The Grand Canyon  Day 87: Unanswered Prayers Day 86: Apples Fresh from the Orchard Day 85: Being Human  Day 84: Captain Underpants  Day 83: The Diary of Anne Frank  Day 82: In Cold Blood Day 81: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry  Day 80: The Outsiders   Day 79:  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Day 78: The First Amendment Day77: People Who Touch Our Lives   Day 76:  The Rewards of Parenting    Day 75:  Improvements   Day 74:  Family Traditions   Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 72: Live Music  Day 71:  Sleeping In  Day 70:  Grover  Day 69:  A Good Hair Day   Day 68:  A Sense of Community   Day 67: Kindness   Day 66: Living in a Place You Love   Day 65: Gifts from the Heart   Day 64: The Arrival of Fall  Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird   Day 62: Green LightsDay 61:  My Canine Friends  Day 60:  Differences   Day 59:  A New Box of Crayons   Day 58: Bookworms  Day 57: Being Oblivious  Day 56: Three-day Weekends  Day 55:  A Cat Purring  Day 54: Being a Unique Individual   Day 53: Children’s Artwork  Day 52: Lefties  Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer  Day 50: Campfires  Day 49: Childhood Crushes  Day  48: The Words “Miss You”  Day 47:  Birthday Stories   Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us  Day 45:  Play-Doh   Day 44: First Day of School Pictures  Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes  Day 42: Appreciative Readers  Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote   Day 40:  Being Silly  Day 39:  Being Happy Exactly Where You Are  Day 38: Proud Grandparents  Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies   Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories  Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want  Day 34:  Accepting the Fog    Day 33: I See the Moon  Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap  Day 31: Perspective  Day 30:  Unlikely Friendships  Day 29: Good Samaritans  Day 28:  Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet?    Day 27: Shadows  Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads  Day 25: When Harry Met Sally  Day 24: Hibiscus   Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck  Day 22:  The Wonderful World of Disney   Day 21: Puppy love  Day 20 Personal Theme Songs  Day 19:  Summer Clouds  Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s VictoryDay 17:  A Royal Birth    Day 16:  Creative Kids  Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle   Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His MasculinityDay 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter     Day 12:  Round Bales of HayDay 11:  Water Fountains for Dogs    Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers  Day 8: Great Teachers We Still RememberDay  7:  Finding the missing sock   Day 6:  Children’s books that teach life-long lessonsDay 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment   Day 4:  Jumping in Puddles  Day   3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill    Day 2: Old Photographs  Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street

Here’s Looking at You, Dad

evadna and kenMy parents have been married nearly 51 years, and I still wonder how they ever got together.

I’ve heard stories about when they first met during their Peace Corps training at Notre Dame University. As my dad’s theater voice boomed Spanish words perfectly from the back of the classroom, my mother sat diligently in the front row trying to learn the language while simultaneously fuming at my dad’s easy grasp of it.

Nothing else captures the difference between my parents more clearly.

My mom is serious, studious and a perfectionist. She went to college because that is what was expected. She has never claimed she has any natural talent. Instead she credits any accomplishment to practice and diligence. And she, like her daughter, is more comfortable doing something productive than simply relaxing. That’s not to say she doesn’t take time to enjoy the beauty of the world around her. She does. She just enjoys it more when it has a purpose.Ken Bartlett

babykenMy dad, on the other hand, has devoted his life to ensuring everyone around him understands the importance of  joy. While my mom taught me how to persevere, my dad taught me how to make the most of every opportunity.

From what he says, no one ever believed he could go to college. Upon graduating from high school, he joined the Navy because he knew it would take him places that he would never otherwise go. Following that, he did manage to go to college, where he received a degree in forestry. He loved the natural world and recognized what the earth can give people if we treat it right.

And then he joined the Peace Corps and met my mother.

And then he got married and became a father.

As a little girl, I never realized how lucky I was to have a dad who encouraged my mother to be the person she wanted to be, just as he encouraged my brother and me to pursue what made us happy. In elementary school, I never thought twice about the man who spent his free time on the stage and in his gardens rather than succumbing to stereotypical male interests.  And as a teenager, I never appreciated all he sacrificed and tolerated for the sake of his family.

Now that I’m adult, I appreciate all of that.



Even though I’ve often questioned how my parents ever got together, I’ve always been grateful they did. I owe my life to them. I’m not referring to the fact that I wouldn’t be alive without them. I’m referring to the fact that I am extremely fortunate that the two most influential people in my life provided me with a sense of balance.

While my mom was my greatest teacher, my dad was my greatest cheerleader. More importantly, they both served as examples of being true to yourself rather than true to societal expectations. And they stood side by side while they each did this in his/her own unique way.

Because of that, they deserve more recognition than I give them.

For example, my dad is celebrating his 49th Father’s Day this year, and I wish I could say I remembered to send his card on time or that I got him a gift that conveys my appreciation.

Unfortunately, I didn’t do either.

So instead, I’m writing these words. I’m sure that is something my dad, who always encouraged me to pursue  my interests, my passions and most of all my heart, completely understands.

And if that doesn’t make him a great dad, I don’t know what does.



A Piece of Your Dad

Summer 1998

Summer 1998

A message to my 15 year-old son:

The moment you were born, your dad grinned wider than I’ve ever seen. Then he said,”This is the best day of my life.”

And he meant it.

While my mind was spinning with worry, and I wasn’t even sure if I was even cut out to be a mother, your dad knew he had arrived at the place he was always meant to be – fatherhood.

Since then, he’s never left that place. Not even once. And that hasn’t always been an easy thing to do.

Not all men have the fortitude to be a father, and, and as you should well know, it is often a thankless job. It’s even harder when you grow up without much of a role model.

But your father has something a lot of men don’t – the ability to put his ego aside and focus on what he believes is most important – always being available for you and your sister.

From the moment you were born, you have been his priority. He’s never stopped believing in you or being your number one champion. Ever.

At those times when I’ve cried over your behavior or questioned what I did wrong, your dad always spoke up for you. And he was always the voice of reason.

On those days when I worried that you weren’t like other boys – that you weren’t particularly interested in playing sports or being overly social – he always praised you for being comfortable in your own skin and being true to yourself. And he was always right.

Summer 2013

Summer 2013

And all those times when you were being the total and complete goof you are, he was proud of you and never hid his face in embarrassment.

Well, almost never.

I know we often joke about your blood line and about your genealogy, but, in all honesty, you should be proud of being your father’s son.

You may not have his brown eyes or his poker straight hair, but you have something much more important.

You have pieces of his heart and pieces of his soul.

Treasure them and make good use of them. Your dad sacrificed a great deal so you could have them.

Real Men Wear Aprons… and Sometimes Even Tights

Ken Bartlett

I’ve wished for a lot of things in my life.  But the one thing I don’t remember ever wishing for was a different dad.

Admittedly, there were times I wished I belonged to a different family, but I’m pretty sure even in those fantasies, my dad was still around.

That’s because I always needed my dad to be around.

I still do.

My dad was never the most macho dad. Or the most protective dad. Or the coolest dad.

But I have absolutely no doubt that God intended for him to be my dad, because there is no other man who could have taken that job on and still come out sane on the other side.

And yes, he is still sane. At least he was last time I talked to him, although he likes to pretend otherwise.

But then, my dad has always enjoyed pretending, which is why I always appreciated him so much.

Sometimes my dad would pretend that he didn’t care about my Mom’s strict rules about food.  My overly health conscious mother would have been shocked had she known about the secret stash my dad kept and would sneak to my brother and me on special occasions.

Sometimes my dad would pretend that he wasn’t as excited as we kids about a new toy, like when he secretly bought our family’s first color television while my mom was out-of-town. We were a one, black and white television family and that time, and he did do his best to hide the new TV from my mother as long as he possibly could. And, as I recall, a great deal of time passed before she actually discovered our new prized possession.

And most importantly? When I was a teenager? My dad would pretend that he didn’t see and know all the things I shouldn’t have been doing.

But my Dad also liked to pretend even in non-real life situations. Dad has always loved being on stage. One of my first memories is of my Dad playing Winnie-the-Pooh. But in general, he played more mature roles. . .even those that required him to stretch a bit. Literally.

When he took a role in Romeo and Juliet, he actually had to wear tights. He’s the only Dad I know who ever wore tights. And more importantly, he wore them so well,I’m probably the only teenage girl who wasn’t embarrassed that her father was wearing tights.

But then again, I don’t remember being embarrassed by my father, with the exception of one significant event—when my dad took early retirement to avoid requiring our family to move (again), when I was a teenager. At the time I resented the fact that, while in all the other houses in our neighborhood dads got up and went to work, in my house, it was my mom who went to work.

Yet through all this resentment, I was also grateful.

I was grateful that my dad was always interested in whatever interested me. I was grateful that my dad attended whatever event I was part of.    And yes, I was grateful that my dad was doing the cooking instead of my mom.

Actually, grateful doesn’t even begin to cover my appreciation that he took over that chore.

But, here’s the thing about my dad, and I say this with absolutely no disrespect to my mom, he made the better mom.

When I was sick? My dad was always the one who was up all night with me. When I upset? My dad always sensed the problem and dealt with the situation in a sensitive manner. When it came to building my self-esteem? My dad who knew just what was required to build it up. And when it came to worrying about my brother or me? Yes… my dad always put a lot of energy into that too.

But the most important thing my dad ever did for me? He demonstrated what real man, and a real husband, is.

Granted, my husband would never be caught dead in tights.. or an apron for that matter… but other than that? He’s got a lot of the same great qualities. And for that I’m thankful to my mom for marrying my dad and I’m thankful for my dad for just being himself.

Happy Father’s Day!