Dad’s Story: Snapdragons, Duct Tape, and Tomato Soup

I recently read a short piece called “Grandpa’s Story: A Comb, Penknife, and Handkerchief.”

Jack Bruschetti was born in 1999, the same year his grandfather, Leonard Carpenter, died from Alzheimer’s disease.
But 13-year-old Jack wanted to know more about his grandfather, who worked as a tire builder for BFGoodrich in Akron, Ohio, where he also raised his family.
“It was very important for him to be in control at all times,” Jack’s mom, Lynne Bruschetti, said to him during a visit to StoryCorps in Atlanta. “We lived in the city, and we had very tiny yards, and he didn’t use a lawnmower. He used clippers because he wanted every blade of grass to be exactly the same height. We could play in the driveway, on the sidewalk, in the middle of the street, but we were not allowed in that showplace yard of his.”
Lynne said her father — who was 86 when he died — always kept a comb, handkerchief and penknife in his pockets.
“And the handkerchief was always clean and pressed, and he would use a handkerchief not to blow his nose but to clean. If there was like a mark on the side of our house, he would wipe it,” she recounted. “And when I was a teenager, I was starting to lose respect for your grandpa Leonard.”
Lynne said she resented her father for “always wanting to keep the house perfect and always being in control, and I was starting to realize that he wasn’t that educated.”
Carpenter became president of the board of trustees of Park United Methodist Church and served as president for a few years. When the trustees met, he would take apples.
“First he would pull out his handkerchief and he would wipe the apples and make them shiny,” said Lynne, who is 51. “And then he would pull out his penknife. And he’d always cut so that there was just one long apple peel. And as they’re arguing, he would slice the apple, put it on the penknife, and hold it out to each member of the trustees. And every meeting, they would eat apples together.
“And they started getting trust back. And so he had that ability,” she continued. “He didn’t have a lot of money. He didn’t have a lot of education. But he had that handkerchief, and he had that penknife in the trustee meetings.
“And people did start to get along. He was an important part of that.”
                             ~ Copied from http://www.npr.org (originally posted July 1, 2013)

Unlike this woman’s father, my dad is an educated man and just recently retired.  He now spends his day doing all the things on his To Do list that he hasn’t had time for. He also got involved with the local Rotary and does volunteer work all over town, from placing flags on holidays to landscaping the local park.

My dad is a funny, loyal, creative, and compassionate guy. As I tried to think of this year’s Father’s Day post, three things came to mind: Snapdragons, Duct tape, and Tomato soup.

Snapdragons 

My grandpa, Dad’s dad, had these amazing little flowers that lined his front walkway.  Fascinating yet terrifying, their little mouths opened up when you pinched them in just the right place.  Such an ironic little flower; not what one would expect. This summer, I bought my first snapdragons and put them in pots in the yard. I wish Grandpa was here to tell me what I was doing wrong, because all the little flowers have dried up and have not come back.  Still, every time I walk out my door,  I am reminded of him and I smile.

Taken from flowerinfo.org, because mine don't look anything like this!

Taken from flowerinfo.org, because mine don’t look anything like this!

 Duct Tape

What great dad doesn’t have a million uses for duct tape? It is the universal fix-it tool.  So many times my dad has come to the rescue with a trusty roll of duct tape. Most recently, he temporarily patched my front window with styrofoam and duct tape after someone shattered it into a million pieces. While it wasn’t pretty, I only had to look at it for three days while the new window was made.  There is nothing duct tape (or a dad) can’t fix.

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No matter how many times things in my life shatter, my dad is always there to pick up the pieces.

Tomato Soup

My dad always saves his Campbell soup labels for the kids to take to school. He’s more of a chicken noodle kind of dad, but this story does not involve chicken noodle soup.

When I was very young and married to someone who was not quite handy, we had a problem with a second story door that kept blowing open during high winds.  We had a dresser in front of the door, so we were not worried about someone getting into the house. However, the cold air blowing in was a problem.

After waiting several days for my husband to fix the door with a sliding bolt/lock type thing (forgive me for not knowing the technical name), I decided to take matters into my own hands.   Looking around the house for something that I could wedge between the dresser and the door, I found the perfect object.  I stuck that can of tomato soup right there and there it stayed until Dad was able to fix it for me with the appropriate tools. Because of my dad, I’ve learned how to be my own problem solver. He has taught me that sometimes you just have to improvise.

I can’t ever remember a time when my dad just fixed something without me being right there watching and learning.  When I am working on things around the house, like hanging curtain rods or putting together a t.v. stand, I always think of how thankful I am for the times that he spent teaching me how to follow directions, assemble things, and use power tools. If there is one gift that a dad should give his children, it’s taking care of them, but at the same time, making sure they learn how to take care of themselves.

http://daddytypes.com/2008/05/29/interesting_kids_stuff_coming_at_wright20.php

How perfect! Italian tomato soup for my Italian dad! Felice Giorno del Padre!

Father’s Day 2013 post: All Things Grow With Love (A Father’s Day Tribute)

Father’s Day 2012 post: Big Shoes to Fill

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Writing 101: Day 3 It Comes and Goes in Waves

There was this random line from a song that I could not identify. I just could not get it out of my head. I found myself saying it over and over to myself.  It came to me at times when I wanted to throw my hands up in the air, which seemed to be a lot lately.

Instead of saying “I give up!” or throwing in the towel, I heard this quiet whisper, as if a little guardian angel was sitting on my shoulder reminding me everything would be ok.

“It comes and goes in waves….”

Sometimes it comes and goes in violent, crashing waves.

Waves that slam into me like a brick wall.

Waves that pull me under.

And then sometimes life is a little more merciful, and it comes and goes in gentle waves.

Up and down, up and down, almost rolling.

Up and down, up and down.

I ride them out.

Because I know the waves will never stop.

Blood sugars, papers to grade, piles of laundry, memories, things breaking down and things needing fixed up, sadness and happiness, boredom and motivation, stress and peace, bills and surprises, loneliness and contentment….

It comes and goes in waves….

Sacrifices Moms Must Make

This weekend has been a fabulous weekend for MJ. She was reunited with her “sister” and “brother.” (My ex-boyfriend’s kids.)  With Instagram and texting, they are still in touch, but they haven’t seen each other in person since November.

Some people may think I’m crazy for allowing them to get together.

Well, I guess I am crazy.

I am crazy about these kids.

I loved them like my own and I loved the relationship that all four of them shared.  That they still share.

I spent almost 2 hours in the car this weekend driving MJ up and back.  I had to swallow my pride, take a deep breath, put on a brave face, calm my nerves and do what would make them happiest….

Give them some time together.

Just because we can’t all be together like we were before, it isn’t fair to halt their friendship.

Reading their Instagram posts, receiving texts and pics, and negotiating the pick-up time, I knew I made the right choice.

It’s not an easy spot to be in. And the tears I have fought this weekend come from many places.

But as a mom, you have to be brave and strong, and be willing to make sacrifices for your children. Sometimes what is painful for you, is wonderful for them.  It’s not the part of motherhood I thought about 15 years ago and it’s not a part I enjoy.

But it’s love.

I think of someday not that long from now when MJ goes away to college.  Don’t I want her to go? Of course I do, but at the same time…NO, I don’t want her to leave!!!

Obviously, I can’t keep her at home forever.  But I will do what I’ve seen a few of my friends already do, be brave and strong and pack her up and drop her off.  And I’ll live to tell about it, even if I shed a lot of tears.

Just as I would give up my own healthy pancreas and take on the burden of Ian’s diabetes, this weekend I let my heart hurt for just a little while, so that their hearts could be happy.

Two girls, two hearts, 1 wish for them: A lifelong friendship that stays strong, no matter the distance and time.

dandelion

 

 

 

 

The Struggles of Being a Mother

Between being sick and fighting Ian’s highs and lows (major mood swings) it has been a long day. It was interesting to read all the Mother’s Day posts today – so many stories and so many great tributes. Some people were missing their moms. Some moms were missing their children. Some people are still waiting to be moms and some are *like* moms to many without ever giving birth.

No mom is perfect, and every mom has a battle or two to fight. Most of the moms I know do the best they can to make the best lives for their kids – whatever it takes, they’ll do it.

So to all the moms who are going to bed exhausted, frustrated, or worried, who face illness or financial strain, who have sassy-pants kids, troubled teenagers, clueless husbands, or who are complexly on their own, who work long hours outside the home or work at home without tangible pay, Happy Mother’s Day.

It’s not an easy job, but someone has to do it!

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The Mouse and the Bird

What is it with me and wildlife?

Friday night MJ said that she thought there was a squirrel or bird in the attic. I blew it off.

Saturday morning she texted me while we were at a basketball celebrations – “I really truly think there is a bird in the attic.”

Saturday afternoon I saw the bird – sticking his disgusting, oily head out of the ornate, metal fan on the top of my slate roof.  His claws were scratching the metal and his wings would slip out between the bent metal slats, but his body would not slip through. His panic and his screeches still haunt me.

I am deathly afraid of birds. I also have issues with rodents.

Wait…did I share the mouse story here?  Or just on Facebook?

Oh my…let’s rewind….

It was October of last year, and my parents and I were moving my full size bed up to MJ’s room, because I was getting a king-size bed from my aunt and uncle.

We moved the top mattress up the steep staircase to her room, came back to my room, and as I stood in the doorway, I let out a blood curdling shriek, which made my step-mom let out a shriek, which made my dad start yelling something along the lines of  (but probably more explicit) “OMG…what is with you two? Settle down!”

What did I see?

I shudder at the very thought of it.

On the box springs, right under where my head would be during a restful night’s sleep, was the perfect flat-as-a-pancake silhouette of a mouse.  Although I was 20 feet away, I had no doubt in my mind that I was looking at a deflated, dehydrated, petrified mouse corpse.

Well, my stepmom and I run out of the house screaming…because you know, a deflated, dehydrated, petrified mouse corpse CAN do a lot of serious damage.

After my dad, my HERO, cleaned up the little mouse body and put him in the trash can outside, we proceeded to move the box springs upstairs.

If you’ve ever moved box springs up steep steps, you know it’s not easy. Imagine being so freaked out, you don’t want to TOUCH the box springs because it just feels…well, dirty.

Long story short, the bed is now in MJ’s room, she never heard the tale (nor will she until she no longer has that bed!) and I still have no idea how long that little thing was under my head.

For several nights, I had trouble sleeping because I could not imagine it wiggling its way between the mattresses and getting stuck and just DYING there…right beneath my head!!!!

Back to the current wildlife situation….The bird, who MJ has named Ernie, is not in the attic anymore.

Nope…he is in the wall.

Yes, stuck in the wall between the kids’ bedrooms.

No longer having the strength to fly up out of the wall, he’s stuck there….for good.

Scratching, flapping, clawing, and squawking.  He’s been in there for 24 hours.

I can hear him right now. It. Creeps. Me. Out.

Ian slept with me last night. MJ said he was quiet all night and it didn’t bug her. In fact, she’d rather have him in the wall, than running across her ceiling as he was the day before.

I just talked to a pest control fellow…he said that he will send somebody by to take a look from the outside and figure out where he got in.

As far as being in the wall, he said there is little I can do at this point.

Ernie will just have to die in there.

When I asked about the smell of a dead bird in a wall, he said, “Nah, there isn’t much to a bird. It’ll be fine.”

Yeah, it’ll be fine.

How encouraging.

If you’ve read Divergent, which I just finished a week ago, imagine that horrific scene…you know the one.

It’s all I can think about.

I’m not a heartless person. I just have issues with wildlife invading my personal space.

Bless MJ’s heart for naming the little guy. She has made me feel a tiny bit bad for him. But she has also created a vision in my head that just won’t go away. A vision of a pathetic, helpless bird who has no chance.

Right now, I am just trying to picture a pretty little tombstone on a grassy little hill with a few simple words:

“RIP Ernie. May you be happier than a bird with a french fry.”

 

When I made this artwork this summer, it was somewhat ironic since I detest birds. Still, I tried to focus on the feeling of the little bird at the beach. Now I find it an appropriate epitaph for little Ernie.

 

The Chicken or the Egg?

Oh, heavens!

This day.  This unbelievably exhausting day.

The kind of day that, after a while, all you can do is laugh.

I arrive at work at 7:15.

Ian is with me today because he has band.

He eats in my classroom before school starts.  His breakfast blood sugar is 374?!?!

Awesome.

Throw in moderate ketones, the inability to finish breakfast because he feels too sick to eat, an insulin  > carb intake, a hunt for juice in the cafeteria to try to compensate for some of the missing carbs….

And it’s now 7:55.

Class starts at 8:03. I haven’t even turned on my computer.

Awesome.

Oh yeah, and then the office does an all-call at 8:00 because they can’t find me…

An observer from an elementary school – which I completely forgot about – is here waiting in the office for me.

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome.

It was clearly going to be one of those days.

Better just roll with it.

I pull it together. She’s a first year teacher, I tell myself. I can fake her out. I can look good even though I am completely and totally flustered and frazzled.

I pull it off. We read an emotional chapter from our novel. It calms me down.

The next two periods are fine. I shuffle Ian out to the bus which will take him to his elementary school.

The observer leaves.

Then I see the email she sent last night to remind me she was coming.

I make a mental note to check why my work email is not coming to my phone.

I teach a couple more periods, get my sub plans ready for tomorrow during my prep, run home for lunch.

I arrive back from lunch, ready to tackle the last three periods.

Apparently I’ve missed some unmentionable craziness in the land of 7th grade during lunch.

What I wouldn’t give to have been there to see what happened…I’m still laughing out loud when I picture what has been described to me.

But it really isn’t funny; it’s an issue that must be dealt with.

Sometimes you just have to laugh.

I take a few phone calls from Ian…who is coming down off his high….and feels like crap.

Then a blood sugar crash of 65 an hour after lunch.

Awesome has left the building.

And then we get to the inspiration for this post. The story behind the title that seems completely random and nonsensical.

Because that’s just the kind of day it is.

You see, after the above-mentioned, unmentionable lunch period antics…my study hall is quietly working and I’m helping one student with his math when another student has a “REALLY IMPORTANT QUESTION.”

I think he’s going to burst if he doesn’t get an answer.

You know the question that is coming….

“Ms. K, what came first – the chicken or the egg?”

I don’t have the energy for this, yet it seems like the simplest thing that’s happened all day, and I am more than happy to have the debate.

Oh, This Blogging Thing…

As I lay here with the pup, watching the snow, satisfied with the ending of book I just finished….I feel relaxed and happy.

I’ve posted more on my two blogs in the past few days than I have in the past month.

Oh, this blogging thing…

This way with words…

The way a sentence flows and feels.

Or doesn’t.

The way I shuffle the words to make it right.

The Word Nerd in me, being creative with my punctuation and phrasing, but also wanting to play by the rules of The Grammar Game.

Unwrapping the thoughts inside my head, carefully peeling back what everyone sees on the outside, choosing the right way to share the gift.

Telling the stories.

Preserving the memories.

Reflecting on the experiences.

Seeing the truth spill out on the screen.

Blinking back tears.

Letting out a sigh of relief.

Feeling the smile that stretches clear up into the corners of my eyes.

Oh, this blogging thing….

How can there be no words?