The CHERISHED Life of Heather Leigh

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Little Things

Stole these journaling prompts from Ali Edwards and decided to spend five minutes documenting my Little Things right now:

•warming | wearing my warm, comfy Oxford Girls Golf hooded sweatshirt today
•waking | Ashton keeps waking up at 6:30 instead of 7:30 because his internal clock has not “fallen back”, yet
•eating | my mom’s white chicken chili for lunch that she brought over on Sunday when she found out I was sick
•seeing | the leaves on my Bradford pear trees out front have finally turned yellow-ish orange-ish
•snuggling | with the remote control ALL day yesterday as I continued to recover from this throat infection
•playing | Liam and Owen have been playing a lot of chess lately even though I don’t think they know all (or many) of the rules
•knowing | that we won’t spend Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or New Year’s with my dad this year makes me sad
•planning | Jordyn’s Sweet Sixteen and the City party
•asking | Owen is already asking for things for Christmas, like his own TV and Wii for his bedroom (dream on, fella)
•anticipating | the upcoming weekend with absolutely no plans, no parties to host, and no places we have to be

Friday, August 19, 2011

Food Inc. Friday - Waste Not

Today concludes my fourth week in the journey of Food Inc. living. I have to admit that week three had me being pretty lazy. I went out to eat a LOT, but didn't order meat...OK, I ordered tuna a couple times. I don't know enough about seafood manufacturing practices to know whether or not there is something I should be concerned about. It's on my list of TO DO's to research that. But, I'd like to occasionally sleep and go to the bathroom once in a while, so time has not allowed me to check that TO DO off the list yet. I'll get to it. I will.

Anyway, this Food Inc. living is very time consuming. The planning and the shopping (at not JUST Meijer, but a thousand different' markets and online and everywhere in between) and the chopping and the research, oooooooh the research! Which explains why after two solid weeks of living this way, I was exhausted. Hence, my week three laziness. But, by the end of week three, I was back on track with grilling my organic chicken and sauteing yellow squash for dinner.

So, one of my goals that I mentioned from my last Food Inc. post was to not waste any food....something I have been extremely guilty of in the past. However, the organic carrots I purchased from the Clarkston Farmer's market....limp before I could peel them. The organic grapes I bought from Meijer...moldy on day three of sitting on my counter (store them in the fridge next time, I know). The left over roasted chicken and corn on the cob and green beans from dinner....add some whole wheat pasta and chicken stock and make it a soup (frozen for a crisp fall day).

But the broccoli? The broccoli that was left over from a veggie tray?? What to do with that when you really aren't a raw broccoli eater and when steaming broccoli just isn't your speed? TURN IT INTO BROCCOLI SOUP!!! Which you love!!

So, I researched how to make broccoli soup and I came across a formula that a blogger had posted. For any veggie soup you can imagine...3 parts stock, 2 parts veggies, 1 part dairy. Simple Simon.....except when you get the math wrong and you DOUBLE the amount of stock. Which meant that I had broccoli water after puree-ing the soup in batches in my blender, which previously had only seen use for smoothies and daiquiris.

WHAT?! Broccoli WATER? So, this morning I got up early to add some more veggies to the water, I mean soup. I cooked some more potatoes, cooked some cauliflower (which would have gone bad had I not used them), realized that HEY! I have two bags of frozen broccoli, I can add those to the soup!!! I did ALL of that work. More pureeing in batches in my blender, I added the purees to the water, I mean soup, and it turned out to be the PERFECT consistency! Cue choir of angels! The soup was saved!!

But since I added more veggies, I figured I should add some more dairy. Out of whipping cream, I threw in a couple dollops of sour cream and turned the enormous stock pot on medium heat (just so that I could melt the sour cream a little)....and then I left for the gym. And FORGOT. ABOUT. MY. SOUP. I returned an hour later to a boiling pot of waaaaaaaaaay overcooked soup. It was back to a watery consistency and the broccoli smelled burnt.

And I'm going to have to dump the whole damn thing. Easily two hours of my time, and a ton of FOOD, down the drain.

At least I'm trying to Waste not.

And guess what? I will NOT make this mistake again.

(Hits and Misses will be included in the next installment of Food Inc. Friday!)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Food, Inc. Friday - The lesser of evils

As I've continued my Food, Inc. journey this past week, I've discovered that choosing the lesser of evils, in most cases, is really what this journey is all about for me.

For example, I want to eat meat that is hormone free, free range/pastured, grass fed (beef), and treated as respectfully as one would treat something that is about to become dinner. I also want to eat locally grown, organic fruits and vegetables with out the use of GMOs.

This, of course, only occurs 100% of the time in Food, Inc. Utopia. However, we do not live in a perfect world. So, I recognize that in many cases, especially at the beginning of this journey, it's about choosing the lesser of the food evils that are in front of me.

For example, when at a restaurant - Do I order the meat that I have no idea what's in it (probably hormones) nor how it was treated (probably poorly)? Or do I choose a veggie option that I have no idea what's in it (probably not organic) nor where the vegetables came from (probably not from Michigan)?

From my personal opinion, the vegetable option is the lesser of these evils. And that's what I've tried to do when I've gone out this week: veggie pizza after golf on Tuesday (and no, I wasn't golfing at a pesticide or chemical free course), side salad and potato wedges at BW3's this afternoon as the rest of the family (except for Jordyn) all chowed down on the evil chicken.

But even when I'm going for an all fruit/veggie option, I've found that I still have to choose between the lesser of evils. For example, at our local Farm Market, Harvest Time, I was hard pressed to find ANYTHING that was labeled organic. Although I did find several items that were from Michigan. So, do I go with the Michigan blueberries or the California organic oranges? OK, in this case I bought both, because I haven't really decided which of these two is the lesser of the evils. I'm leaning towards organic over locally grown. But, I need to do some more research to come to a conclusion that I'm comfortable with. For now, I'm comfortable with both choices, because at least I now have an awareness about my food that I didn't have before. And that's empowering.

OK, enough about evil schmevil....onto this week's Hits and Misses:

I went to the Clarkston Farmer's market (HIT!) on Saturday and found the Fresh Source Farm booth where I met Lindsay Maybee (HIT!), the owner and farmer who raised the organic, pastured chicken that I made for dinner on Monday. I found it very gratifying to be on a first name basis (OK, she probably forgot my name) with the person who raised my chicken. And - GET THIS! I roasted a whole chicken. ME! All by myself!! For the first time ever!!! When I mentioned this to my girlfriend Kim, that I ROASTED MY FIRST WHOLE CHICKEN CAN YOU BELIEVE IT!! I'm pushing 40 and I just roasted my very first chicken!!!! She confided that she also had never roasted a whole chicken. I'm not alone! Well, I wasn't alone. Let me just tell you, the meal was absolutely delicious, even though we only got two meals out of the 4lb, $12.75 chicken when Lindsay told me that she usually gets four meals out of her chickens (my mom turned the left over chicken and rice into a soup that we all ate for lunch through out the week). I am heading back to the Clarkston Farmers market tomorrow to put my down payment on a fall poultry share (12 chickens). And last week I put down the deposit on our Thanksgiving turkey. Super excited. Like, beyond excited. Actually, no one should be this excited about chicken. But, here I am. Excited about my chickens.

On Sunday, my cousin Glenn (who plants a garden in Utica that's roughly an acre) brought some of his bounty to our family reunion....zucchini, yellow squash, mini tomatoes, green beans, & jalapenos. Most of which we've consumed already this week (we had jalapenos on our nachos tonight, and WOW! were they spicy, fresh, and delicious!!) My mom recently told me about how my grandma (my dad's mom), used to slice zucchini, dip it in egg, and then dip it in cornmeal and she would fry it up. This is now on my summer bucket list. Fried zucchini slices a la Lennie. Maybe not the epitome of clean or healthy eating, but it sounds YUMMO to me and will connect me to my roots. I also was given a couple of green peppers and cucumbers from a friend and a tomato from another friend's daughter, bless her heart. Produce from friends and family is definitely a HIT!

When I was at the Clarkston Farmers market on Saturday, the selection of organic lettuces was out of this world; the variety and the quantity was just amazing. But, of course I didn't buy any then! And, of course, I wanted to make a steak salad for dinner Wednesday night (using beef that my brother in law had bought from a grass fed cow). So, on my way home from work I made a point to go off the beaten path, through the mess of construction, to hit the Lake Orion's Farmers market. MISS! What a disappointment. No lettuce. Maybe half a dozen booths. It was quite sad, actually.

Organic pea pods that I had purchased a week before at the Oxford Farmers Market went bad before I ate them. Wasting food is a TOTAL MISS! And, ashamedly, something that I am guilty of all too often. I am now on a mission to only buy what I think we will eat, rather than buying in bulk and having things go bad before I get to them. I want to waste as little as possible. This, I think, might be my toughest challenge, yet since it will involve more frequent trips to markets, a task that I used to dread, but now I'm not minding all that much.

Hoping for more hits than misses this week. And hoping for more good than evil.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Food, Inc. Friday

If you've never watched the documentary Food, Inc.....DON'T! Unless you're prepared to change the way you think about and consume food.

Before I watched this film (a little over a week ago), I didn't think about, nor did I care about where my food came from. As a matter of fact, I was one of those people who would say, "Don't tell me, I DON'T want to know!" Ignorance is bliss, no? So, when my daughter and I were looking through Netflix for a film to watch together, I stumbled across the documentaries genre. There were several other documentaries that I wanted to see, ones that I had heard about on NPR and had filed away in my someday category, right there at my fingertips. I passed up on those films, figuring that Jordyn would have no interest in them. But being a body conscious teenager, Food, Inc., while not one that really appealed to ME, seemed like one that she would enjoy. Little did I know, that it would complete change the way I look at my food.

And there's no going back.

So, here I am, about to embark upon this journey. This journey of caring about and knowing where my food comes from, how it's prepared, understanding what's in it, and how the production of this food impacts the planet...and not just the earth, but the people on it.

In sharing this new found awareness with others, one of my girlfriends suggested that I keep a food journal, to track how easy or hard it is to follow some of my new, self imposed guidelines for eating. Voila, the idea for a "Food, Inc. Friday" blog post was born.

These posts are not intended to preach, but rather to record what I'm learning and what I'm doing as it relates to food. And also to share the resources that I've found to be helpful in my journey.

One thing I'm trying to do more of is to support local farmers. In that effort, I visited the Oxford Farmer's Market yesterday. I had some hits and some visits during my trip.

Let me deconstruct this photo for you, top to bottom:

TOP - Michigan Sweet Corn - I bought some of this earlier in the week from Harvest time, and it was so sweet and juicy that I didn't need to season it at all! It was perfect, just the way nature (plus some boiling water) made it. Hoping this stuff is just as good. HIT

MIDDLE Left - Zucchini and String Beans - Ready for the second of two stir fry's. I made the first stir fry for dinner last night (which also included one small yellow squash which we ate before taking this photo). Delish. HIT

MIDDLE Center & Right - Spinach pasta and whole wheat pasta from Pasta e' Pasta in Chesterfield Township. Ingredients in the Spinach package: Wheat flour, eggs, spinach, water, olive oil, salt. Recognize the names of all of those ingredients? Can you pronounce them all? Yeah, me too. HIT

BOTTOM Left - The Ultimate Pretzel Company's Tots pretzel balls with blended chocolates - At $2 for 4 oz, the price was better than what I found online, but why did I buy this? They didn't taste all that great, and when I looked at the ingredients (AFTER I got home...note to self, even at a farmers market, read the ingredients BEFORE you buy!) there were a boatload of unrecognizable things listed...things that had only initials or ended in '-erol' or '-ide'. And don't even get me started on the fact that it contained soybean oil. A total MISS!

BOTTOM Center/Left - 13 Bean soup - I don't know where the beans came from. Next time I will ask. But they offered free samples and it was delicious. Sold. JURY IS STILL OUT.

BOTTOM Center/Right - Uncle Peter's Pasties from Clarkston, whose is USDA approved and grown locally as well as hormone and antibiotic free. Hopefully they taste good. Assuming this will be a HIT.

BOTTOM Right - Tomatoes. Nuff said. HIT

NOT PICTURED - Apples and oranges. OK, this one had me thinking...are apples and oranges even in season in Michigan right now? I wanted to ask the farmer, but I thought I would look stupid. So, I bought three of each and Googled it when I got home. Apples are in season in Michigan July through October. Oranges? According to the list of seasonal produce in Michigan that I found online....Yeah, not even on the list. So, did these "farmers" hit Meijer before hitting the Farmer's Market? Next time I WILL ask. Better to ask and "look" like you're dumb than to make a purchase and prove it. MISS

Friday, July 22, 2011

I'm no Yogi, but I AM a Varti

Having recently joined a gym in an effort to hold myself accountable in my fitness journey, I attended a one hour yoga class this morning. I had attended this same class a couple of weeks ago, and the forty something instructor was very gentle and encouraging, using mostly seated, not too difficult poses.

However, today's class was being taught by a substitute teacher, a fit and "perky" young thing who apparently had vision problems because she failed to recognize that this was geriatrics hour at the gym. At 38, I was the youngest member of the class by easily 15 years, excluding the energetic and very flexible instructor, of course.

Now, I've been doing yoga off and on for about 15 years. Never in my experience with Yoga has it been done with U2 or Lee Ann Womack playing in the background. Not once did the sub ask us to set an intention, or to repeat a mantra, or to OHM, or to "go within for a moment". This chick meant business. As in, "I'm going to kick your ass" in a very friendly way business.

Most of my previous yoga experience has been at home with DVDs or the Wii, and while I am by NO means a Yogi, I consider myself pretty proficient at the basic, and some of the not so basic, poses. During one of the DVD's I have used at home, Tony Horton's Power Half Hour Stretch, there is a 10 minute section of "Power Yoga" which is pretty intense. Yeah, well, the sub gave us 45 minutes of "Power Yoga" today. Downward dog, plank, chaturanga, cobra, plank, forward fold, repeat, and repeat, aaaaaaaaand repeat. And repeat again. Between that neverending segment and the warrior II, triangle, warrior II, triangle, warrior II limbs were on fire. And, remember, I'm the YOUNG one here!

I kept up pretty well until the instructor showed us how to invert ourselves where our thighs were resting on our arms kind of like a mini handstand, except you keep your head up and you don't kick your legs up into the air above your let the weight of your legs (which are supposed to be OFF the ground), rest on your arms along with the entire weight of your body. Are you kidding me? Have you SEEN your audience?

During the last 15 minutes of class, we were asked to lower ourselves to our mats for some seated poses. Relief! FINALLY! As I lowered myself to the mat, I let out one of the loudest varts the world has ever heard. Nice. Thank you Jordyn, Liam, Owen, and Ashton. Thank you very much. Hopefully the old people in class left their hearing aids at home. That's what I've convinced myself of, anyway.

As we laid there in shavasana (dead man's pose) at the very end of class, I wondered how many students the instructor had managed to actually kill in the last 60 minutes. Fortunately, and surprisingly, everyone arose at the end of class. One of the students asked the sub, "Are you going to be subbing again on Monday?" When she replied with an enthusiastic, "YES!" I could hear everyone's thoughts silently screaming through the looks of dread on their faces...they are totally not showing up for Monday's class. Guaranteed. And while I don't have it on my calendar to attend on Monday, I kind of want to show up just to see how many people don't return.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Perspective on Distractions

I've mentioned before that I love the Duggars. Would I ever want to BE a Duggar? No effing WAY!! Ok, maybe a little.

The other day I was watching one of the recent 19 Kids and Counting episodes (yes, I DVR the show, but please don’t tell anyone…. I can even name all of the kids: Josh-with his wife Anna and their kids McKynzie and I think the new baby is named Michael- then there are Jana, JohnDavid, Jill, Jessa, Jinger, Joseph, Josiah, JoyAnna, Jedidiah, Jeremiah, James, Justin, Jackson, Johanna, Jennifer, Jordyn, and their tiny, precious addition, Josie. Oh shoot, I forgot one. I always forget one. Just like Maria forgot Curt when she said her bedtime prayers for the VonTrapp family. But, I know that their adorable cousin’s name is Amy, do I get points for knowing that? Talk about a fun party trick.)

As I was saying, I was watching the show a few weeks ago while JimBob and Michelle were writing their latest book. They sat together, focused at the kitchen table, poring over the last draft with a deadline to their publishers looming as chaos from their offspring erupted all around them. Someone off camera asked if the kids were a distraction to finishing the book.

Michelle’s response really struck a chord with me. While this isn’t her response verbatim, you’ll get the gist of it. She said that raising the kids was their job and that the book was a distraction to raising their family. Not the other way around.

Wow. What a perspective.

How many times have I said no to playing a board game because I was paging through Facebook?
How many times have I said no to reading a book because I was flipping through US magazine?
How many times have I said “tuck yourselves in” because I was glued to the snuggler watching Real Housewives of some city that I don't live in?
How many times have I said “not now” because I was doing dishes or folding laundry or re-organizing the junk drawer for the bazillionth time?

Certainly enough to eliminate me from the running for any Mother of the Year awards, but, fortunately not enough to warrant a call to CPS, either. Most definitely more than I’d like to admit, though.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to do anything dramatic like quit my job so that I can focus on raising my 4 kids and not counting. I, personally, enjoy the lifestyle that my career provides. But, next time my kids interrupt me, I’m going to ask myself, “What is the distraction here?” And turn my attention away from the distraction to focus on what is most important. At least that’s what I’m going to try and do.

So, next time you hear me say that I am channeling my inner Michelle, you’ll know what I mean. It doesn’t mean that I’m trying to get knocked up again (LORD knows). It simply means that I’m trying to be a better, more patient, more focused parent, with fewer distractions.

BTW – I Googled it….I forgot to mention Jason in between Jeremiah and James.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

O-WENsday Chill Pill

The sarcastic things that Owen says from time to time, really are funny. But, he’s starting to get a little big for his britches. And it’s all our fault. His wit is biting and his timing is spot on. How can you help but laugh?

The other day, Owen was tired. Let me rephrase that, Owen was the ringleader of the crankmeister convention. He had stayed up until GOD KNOWS WHEN the night before (yeah, it was one of those awesome parenting nights where Kev and I consume alcohol in the Hillary Tavern with friends, while the kids have the run of the house until they collapse in a heap somewhere from utter exhaustion) and still managed to get up around his normal time the next day (7am – ish). He was a whiny mess the entire next day. And it was all our fault.

After I responded to a question of his or asked him to do some small menial task (I can’t even remember what, but believe me when I say that it was something inconsequential) he exploded into the ugliest whining fit ever…and not a cute ugly... as in Ugly Doll ugly. But ugly as in dear gawd please stick ice picks in my ears instead of make me listen to this irrational child ugly. So not cute.

“Owen, Relax. Take a chill pill, dude.” What? This phrase, coined in the 1980’s as a result of ADHD medication and its calming effect on people, is a totally appropriate behavior correction response to such an ugly fit of whine, right?

“Mom, I would take a chill pill. But, I. Don’t. Even. Know. Where. Those. Are.” Not WHAT those are, but WHERE those are. Can someone say “Dripping with Sarcasm”?

So, of course, I laughed.

What would you do?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Rock in my pocket

It's been longer than I'd like since my last post. I think writing the last time took a lot out of me, and the night after I wrote the last post, I had my first (and only, thus far) dream about my dad since he passed away.

He was lying on a couch in my basement and we were all milling about, sad and talking about how he had just passed away. But then he got up, and asked us why we were all crying. We couldn't believe that he wasn't dead! We hugged him and kissed him. But then he laid back down on the couch, and died. And we were all sad again.

What's interesting about this dream is the location. While the basement was being finished (December/January), I often had feelings of sadness with the realization that my dad would never be able to see the basement and witness the amazing handy work of my brother. And that's where my dad chose to appear in my dream. In the basement that I knew he would never see in his lifetime.

Yesterday marked the 3 month anniversary of my dad's death. For some reason, the last week has been more difficult on me than the first 11 weeks. It's as if three months worth of tears were shed in one week's time.

I think it's because last year in Jan-Feb-March, my parents were in Florida. It was last April when we started to see them regularly. So, I have only recently started going through the feelings and sorrows of "Last year at this time, Dad was .... (fill in the blank)."

...the one to bring the kids up to the hospital when Ashton was born
...watching westerns (loudly) on my couch when Kevin went back to work after Ash was born because Dad came out to the house to help take care of me and the kids for a couple of days
...with me when I took Ashton to his first Target portrait session
...joined us at Jordyn's honors night and told her how proud he was that she was just as smart as her grandma

On this first quarter anniversary of dad's death, my sister thought it would be a good idea for my mom and I to join her at my dad's grave.

I have mixed feelings about visiting graves. I know my dad's not there. His remains might be. But he's not there. Last time we visited his grave, I made snow angels.

But, despite my feelings about cemeteries and the wind advisory yesterday, I went.

And we stood at my dad's grave and wept. Tears fell silently and slowly as we stared at the churned up rectangle of earth that had been disturbed when the grave digging was done back in January. Clumps of dirt, chunks of sod, a couple of rocks.


For anyone that knows me, you might know that I have a bit of a love affair with rocks. Maybe it's because I live in the former gravel capital of the world. This fetish is inexplicable and inconsequential. But, it compelled me to bend over and pluck a small rock, about the size of my palm, from the hardened mud. Round and flat, and the color of a blue racer snake, I dusted the crusty dirt from the surface of this ordinary gem, and put it in my pocket.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My Eyes Are Always On You

Ever have one of those days where a certain string of events happens through out the day, and that string of events goes unnoticed until the last event when you realize there has been a trend...and there's a moment that takes your breath away because you GET the connection? And receive the message.

That happened to me today.

It started out as a normal Wednesday. Busy with work. And in between my many meetings and emails, my phone rings. Assuming it's a work call, I answer. It was the grief counseling group from Beaumont Hospice calling during one of my very few breaks through out the day asking how I was doing. Wondering if I would like to join a support group or get individual counseling. I kindly declined. I have an amazing support network and healthy coping mechanisms. Did I tear up a little? Sure. And that's OK.

The day progressed. Work ended. I took Liam to wrestling and Owen to Big Boy and on the way home, I stopped to get the mail, which hasn't been picked up since Saturday. Three days worth of mail, but I picked it up and opened it all today. The sympathy cards stopped flowing in a couple of weeks ago, and I had already gotten a sympathy card from my friend Kelly shortly after my dad passed away. This was a second card from her, a card of encouragement. A card of hope and love. A simple act of kindness.

Later on, as I tucked the boys into bed, I decided to sift through Liam's Valentine's cards that were sitting in his red, heart covered bag at the side of his bed. Those cards have been sitting next to his bed for a week and a half, but I chose to look through them today. I reached my hand in and pulled one out. ONE valentine. And there it was. The moment that took my breath away. My message.

And on TOP of this message, what also choked me up was Brendan's note to Liam, in his fourth grade handwriting, "sary abot your grampa". Out of the mouths of babes.

Thanks for watching over me Dad.

I love you so much.

Monday, February 14, 2011

What do you love about....

Owen - He's the cutest boy on earth! (make sure you put an exclamation point at the end!)
Liam - That he's part of the family.
Jordyn - When he smiles when he sees me (99.9% of the time).
Kevin - That he's happy and healthy

Liam - That he scratches me and all that and makes me look tough.
Jordyn - How funny he is, when he doesn't try to be.
Kevin - That he's his own person in his own world.
Heather - The funny things he says.

Owen - He gives me so many laughs.
Jordyn - He's always nice.
Kevin - His eyelashes.
Heather - That he's the best big brother ever.

Owen - That she takes care of us.
Liam - That she will take me places and she's always nice to me...well not always.
Kevin - That she is generally a sweet, sweet person.
Heather - That she's such a girly-girl.

Owen - That he's so loveful.
Liam - That he loves to come outside with me and that he's really active.
Jordyn - That he's funny and fun to be around.
Heather - How much he loves his family.

Owen - That you are so nice and that you give me so many treats.
Liam - That she's loving and caring.
Jordyn - That she has style still.
Kevin - That you're adventurous and willing to take chances.

Tell the ones you love what it is that you love about them.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

God put his hands on your shoulders way too soon

For those that attended the funeral, here is how the Eulogy was written. I did not want my dad to be entered into the Guinness World Book of Records (Amy, that was for YOU!) for having the longest funeral ever so I cut some thing out during delivery.

For those of you that didn't attend the funeral, you missed a good show. We'll charge a cover next time.

Happy (shouldabeen) 67th Birthday, Dad.

The Eulogy:

Brain Tumors Suck.

It’s true. If you don’t believe me, just Google it. The search results will show you that there are stickers, tote bags, coffee mugs, and t-shirts all emblazoned with this sentiment. And folks, everybody knows that if it’s on a t-shirt, then it must be true. Brain tumors do indeed suck.

When we first found out that there was a suspicious mass on Dad’s thalamus, we were all shocked and devastated. We didn’t fully understand what “suspicious mass” meant in those first few days Dad was in the hospital, we just knew that it could not be good. And even before we learned that it would end up being a brain tumor that would eventually claim Dad’s life, it just didn’t seem fair.

I am so thankful that during that time, when we had one of our first family huddles in the private waiting room of Royal Oak Beaumont’s Surgical Intensive Care Unit, that my mom said this to us….”If life was such that bad things ONLY happened to bad people, then it would be understandable for us to be mad and get angry at this situation. But life doesn’t work that way.” In Dad’s case, a terrible thing happened to a terrific person. Thank you, Mom, for saying that. I have called upon those words of wisdom many, many times during these last four and a half months. And thank you for not only saying those words, but for living them as well. I did not see you get angry AT ALL during this very difficult time…OK, well, maybe once or twice when Shawn or I was irritating you. But during this whole thing, you have never been bitter or angry at life or at God. Your grace and faithfulness is amazing.

Mom, I know that you have lost your very best friend. Dad loved you with a passion and a loyalty that fairytale romances are made of. How lucky you are to have been loved so completely by such a wonderful and loyal man.

Not only was my mom a pillar of grace and faith during Dad’s illness, but my sister, Shawn was, as well. Shawn, you and the Spry kids basically moved in with mom and dad for the last several months. I know how important it was to you that mom never feel alone, and how important it was to you to spend as much quality time with Dad as possible. You sacrificed so much of yourself to be there for them. Whether it was helping Dad with his physical therapy, or singing hymns with him, or stretching out his body as it got weaker and weaker, your selfless acts of service were an honor to witness.

Shawn, I know that you have lost your coach and your mentor. Your commitment to Christ was one of the true joys of Dad’s life. He was so very proud of you as you demonstrated daily to your kids and to all those around you how to live your life filled with purpose and faith.

And Jeremy, I know that you have lost your biggest fan. How many other dads out there have turned their front yards into dirt bike tracks for their kids? Motorcross was your passion growing up and Dad did everything possible to help you pursue your favorite past time. When your chips were down, Dad was always on your side and always gave you the benefit of the doubt. Whether you needed help watching the kids or advice on how to build something, Dad was there for you. He was constantly rooting for you to become the best man and father that you could be. You surely had a shining example of how to provide for and love your family above all else.

And to all of the grandkids, Jordyn, Bailey, Jacob, Aaron, Liam, Kayla, Owen, Bella, Lillian, and Ashton, I know that you have lost the best Poppa ever. Each and every one of you were the lights of his life. We expected Poppa to witness high school graduations and weddings. We expected him to attend many more plays, concerts, dance recitals, tea parties, and ball games. While he might no longer be here in body, he will continue to be with each one of you in spirit. Even when baby Ashton takes his first steps and has his first birthday, Poppa will surely be with us.

And for those that might not know, please bear with me as I digress a bit. When I found out that I was pregnant with Ashton, I was extremely upset. I was DONE having babies!! My youngest at the time was five and we were OUT of the diaper phase and infant stages. I didn’t want a fourth baby. I was depressed during my entire pregnancy. And then Ashton arrived. And we all fell in love with him. He was perfect. And four months after Ash was born, Dad got sick. Dad lost his ability to communicate or initiate emotion pretty early on in the illness. During that time, Ashton was the only thing that would make Dad smile without being prompted. Dad would make duck noises at him and interact with him in such a lively way. It was such a blessing to see Dad’s personality shine through when Ashton was around. Ashton may have been an “accident”, but he was most certainly meant to be.

Someone mentioned to me yesterday that they were impressed with how well the family was holding up. It’s not that we aren’t sad. We are. We all are. But, for me, personally, I have been grieving and mourning the loss of my father for many months now. While his illness was most definitely a burden, we have had many blessings as a result. We have been showered with an outpouring of love from all of our friends and family – visits, food, flowers, cards, prayers, kind words. I cannot thank you enough. We were given this precious gift of time to properly say goodbye to Dad. I take comfort in the fact that we were able to surround him with love, that he- for the most part- had no pain, and because he didn’t realize that he was dying, he wasn’t bitter, scared, or angry. I take great comfort in knowing that Dad lived his life in such a way that he had no fences left to mend. Back in September, when we were planning Dad’s celebration of life party, several of my girlfriends pitched in to help. One of them said to me that while she was going through pictures of my dad, she (who is typically NOT a “crier”) found herself crying as she went through the photos. Even though she didn’t know my Dad all that well, she said to me “Heather, as I was going through the photos I could just tell that he loved you all SO much. And I never had that with my father.” How fortunate we are to have had this man who loved us so much.

Shortly after Dad passed away, I was surprised to learn from my mom that he never felt like he made much of an impact or contributed much. Ludicrous, I know. Especially because one of Dad’s favorite movies was “It’s A Wonderful Life”. He identified with the scene in which George Bailey saves his younger brother from drowning because Dad’s older brother Carie had saved Dad from drowning when they were young. In the movie, George thinks that the world would have been better off without him in it. George’s guardian angel shows George how different life would have been had he not been born, including the fact that had he not been born, there would have been no one there to save his younger brother from drowning. Dad certainly had an impact…just look at this room. There are people here from over nine states…Arkansas, Texas, Tennessee, Kansas, Florida, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and of course, Michigan. I’d say that’s a pretty big impact.

After Ashton was born in April, Dad came and spent a few nights with me to help take care of me and the baby and the other kids while my husband was out of town for work. After Dad passed away, a friend shared this with me which demonstrates the impact that Dad had on people, even those he only knew for a few minutes. She wrote: “I am happy to have met your dad, albeit just briefly, when Ashton came home. Our visit was short and not at all intimate in nature, but his tone was gentle, his laughter deep, and his eyes kind.” She was able to capture Dad in a nutshell after meeting him just that one time.

For everyone here today, I know that Dad has had an impact on each and every one of you, and that you all have lost your “favorite”. Your favorite uncle. Your favorite cousin. Your favorite brother-in-law. Dad was quite simply everybody’s favorite. And while there has been a lot of lively debate amongst some of the nieces and nephews (you know who you are), as to which one of you was Dad’s favorite - I would like to settle that debate right now by revealing to you the answer….EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU. Dad genuinely liked people. He was happy to help in any way he could and he did so without any fanfare or desire for recognition. I can’t think of a time where Dad has had anything negative to say about anyone (except for maybe a crooked politician or a criminal). He took joy in others’ successes and cheered for each of you to be the very best you could be….just as long as the best that YOU could be did not surpass HIS best in a game of dominoes or a round of golf!! And speaking of golf, one of Dad’s friends said to me yesterday that Dad is surely now on the most beautiful fairway he has ever seen. …and if anyone could get Jesus to play golf, it would be Dad.

As for me, I have lost my strong, brave, sweet Hero.

When I was young, I remember how Dad used to lie on the floor on his back, with his arms stretched towards the ceiling, holding tightly onto my 4, 5, 6 year old little feet. I would stand there with my arms out for balance, suspended in the air, in the palm of his hands. Just like it was yesterday, I can see his smile and hear his laughter as he playfully exclaimed, “Don’t look down, now! You’re NOT gonna fall! Stand still! YOU’RE not gonna fall, I’ve GOT ya!” Sure enough, Dad, you never let me fall. I thought you were the strongest man alive.

But Dad possessed more than physical strength, he had an amazing strength of character. I remember the story he used to tell about the woman he picked up on the side of the road. He asked her where she needed to go and she responded “Anywhere you want to take me.” He quickly realized that his intention to HELP this woman by giving her a ride was not the same intention that she had had for that ride. He apologized to the woman for the mix up and promptly dropped her off at the next corner. His strong character included a work ethic like none of I’ve ever seen. Not only was he a full time firefighter, but he did several other “jobs” to provide the best life possible for us. He cleaned houses, he laid tile, he helped Uncle Jimmie and Uncle Hurley lay brick, he drove the school bus on field trips. How many of us have had Dad fix something or build something? He has built Bailey’s desk, bed, and bookshelves, my desk, shelves, and a storage bench, Aaron’s train table, Jordyn’s desk, my hope chest, Shawn’s hope chest. He built the house we grew up in. He was Mr. Fixit. Whatever needed to be done, Dad would do it. And dad would do it right. If you wanted it done fast, Dad was not the person to call, but if you wanted it to be perfect, he was the one for the job.

And even though Dad was so much more than a firefighter, I was always proud to tell kids at school that MY dad was a fireman. He didn’t talk much about the fires he fought, but I always imagined him saving lives EVERY single day, even though some of his days at the fire hall were probably spent making spaghetti or pushing a broom, in MY mind he was saving lives. I remember asking Dad once upon a time, “What was the worst fire you ever fought?” He told me that while the lumber yard fire he helped fight on his second night on the job was definitely the biggest, the worst fire was the one in which a couple of kids were found hiding in a closet because they probably got scared and thought that would be a safe place to go get away from the smoke. Just like it was yesterday, I can see the sorrow on his face as he told me that story and I can hear the concern in his voice as I recall what he said to me, “If there’s ever a fire, don’t you go hide in a closet, now. You better just get down and get out.” There were times in my “tween” years when I would get myself all worked up with worry that Dad might not survive one of his shifts at the fire hall. But, Dad, you always came home unscathed. I thought you were the bravest man alive.

While Dad didn’t talk much about fighting fires, he DID talk a lot about delivering babies, something he got to do on three occasions as a firefighter and EMT. With all of my pregnancies, I can remember him telling me that if I needed him to, he could deliver my baby. I know I’m not the only one here that he has said that to! Just like it was yesterday, I can see the twinkle in his eye and hear the excitement in his voice as he eagerly told me, “Now, you just give me a call in case you can’t get to the hospital in time. I’m only 20 minutes away. I’ve delivered three babies, I can deliver yours, too.” And while it never came to that, I know he would have delivered any one of my babies. Dad, remember when I was in labor with Liam and you came to the hospital and rubbed my feet? I thought you were the sweetest man alive.
Dad, for your strength, your bravery, and your sweetness, you are…and always will be, quite simply, my hero.

If we all could have an even ounce of Dad’s strength, bravery, and sweetness, the world would be a much better place.

Before I go, I’d like to ask that if you have any memories of Dad that you want to share with us, please write them down and send them to us. Email them, send them in a letter, send them in a text, just put them in writing. They truly are gems for us. Even something as simple as two sentences can bring a smile to our faces. For example, a friend of mine shared with me on Facebook that she remembered when we were young and learning to drive, she was nervous about driving and Dad said to her – Driving a car is EASIER than riding a bike because you have FOUR wheels instead of TWO! Please, share those memories with us.

And finally, I’d like to leave you with this quote that a friend shared with me earlier this week. The quote is from Kahlil Gibran and it goes like this. ‎"When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight"
Dad was certainly a delight to everyone he met. And we can all honor him by delighting in our friends and family the same way that Dad has delighted in each one of us.

I love you, Dad.
Make sure Aunt Marie makes you a coconut cream pie today,

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


For our first installment of O-WENsday, I give you an oldie, but a goodie. This is easily from a year ago (wish I would have dated my chicken scratch notes).

So, when Owen was 5, turning 6, he was eating french fries. He dipped the end of the fry into ketchup and said, "Hey look, it's a match." We all giggled and agreed, that yes, indeed, it did look exactly like a match.

He proceeded to eat the fry and immediately after putting it in his mouth he animatedly exclaimed, "AAAAAHHHHH! My neck's on FIRE!!" Pronouncing fire as a two syllable word as he grasped at his neck with both hands.

I think more than one of us spat our food out with laughter.

That kid keeps us in stitches.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

What a difference 365 days make

It has been one whole year sine my last blog entry. How's that for a hiatus?

I've been meaning to get back to my blog for quite some time now. Even before this friend and that friend "nominated" me for blogging awards (Kreativ and Sunshine, to be exact).

Don't get me wrong, I HAVE been blogging on my Project 365 blog (but even there I am two months behind). But, lately I've felt like I've been missing out on recording my family's stories. I kept a list of future blog topics but in looking back at the list, I am not sure what the story is. For example:

  • Knock 'em out stick

  • Ahhh...Home Sweet Home

  • Bug swapper

  • Red & peach - Cereal before dinner

I do know however, that most of the things in the list are O-isms, and the story behind them was probably really funny. And then today, Owen struck me with another one of his O-isms as he emerged from the bathroom...."Mom, can poop be greasy?" I knew right then as I was unsuccessfully stifling my laughter that I had to start blogging again. So that I don't forget the story.

And because my list of blog topics is made up primarily of shit my son says, I've decided to create a weekly entry dedicated to the things that come out of his mouth. I know that a lot of bloggers do Wordless Wednesday. Well, I am going to do O-WEdNesday. I hope it catches on!! ;P

What a difference 365 days make!

A year ago:

  • Our basement wasn't finished

  • Jordyn couldn't drive

  • Liam had never been disqualified from wrestling meet

  • We didn't have a nanny

  • Owen couldn't read (he still can't read fluently, but he's getting there!)

  • Prince William and Kate Middleton weren't engaged

  • Sarah Palin didn't own Alaska

  • Ashton wasn't born

  • My dad was alive

Obviously, those last two have the greatest significance for me, and I expect I will write many a post about those subjects, and one or two posts about the other subjects in this list. But until then, I bid you all a fond good night.

I will be back again soon. Well, at least sooner than 365 days...