Holy Week 2019: Palm Sunday

This is the week. This is the week that changed everything for those who follow Jesus. For me and my fellow Liturginerds, we get stupid excited when Holy Week begins. It’s the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Our journey is wrapped in everything from celebration to sorrow and back again. This year I have jumped headlong into a study and use of the Enneagram in my personal growth. One of the most fun moments of the joking and learning process was the identifications of the corresponding Enneagram numbers and Liturical Seasons. I am a passionate 8. I am also a living breathing story of Holy Week. I love the party, I need the meal, I depend on the darkness and I hope in the light. All in a 7 day period. You will hear from me daily this week, and some of this is not new information, but it is the great story of the Greatest story and we need each day.

I need just a moment to express some personal thoughts on this week. Well, perhaps they are more than thoughts. They are my not so subtle suggestions. Please hear them with the appropriate amount of love and grace and firmness. PLEASE do not skip from Sunday to Sunday. The story of Jesus is not complete with just palms and lilies. We need the bread and the cup. We need the nails and the grief. We need to hear and feel the stone closing of the tomb. When we wave palm branches on Palm Sunday and skip past the week to a sunrise egg hunt and matching family pastels, we miss the WHY.

I missed worship today. I was at a swim meet this morning with my youngest. Between some great swims and a live stream of a historic round of golf, we were throwing our own party. I was with my dad, and if you know him, you know that Tiger and his Ally-Gator are two of his favorite athletes. Watching the cheering and yelling and precious reverence was a holy moment for me.

While we were cheering our sports things, I was reminded that around the world people were gathering together and shouting Hosannah and celebrating that the King is riding the donkey into Jerusalem in Glory.  There were children whacking each other with leaves and reminders of parties and glory. There were picnics and egg hunts. Today was a celebratory time for so many. I was terribly sad that I was not with my community this morning, and I took a few moments of stillness to usher myself into this week. This is important. We have much to celebrate and grieve about and hope for in the days to come. Be present and connect in ways that are meaningful for you.

Over the next few days, I am going to write about stories that are found in the Gospels between the entry of Jesus to Jerusalem and the Last Supper. On Thursday, we will remember a holy meal. Friday is the day that hope seems lost as we witness the pain of death. And then we wait.

You can do this in many ways, but I find it especially valuable to do this in the context of community. For my local friends, I would be honored to have you as a part of our community at ECL. On Thursday, we will share the Eucharist in the context of a potluck meal. Join us at 6:30pm under the oak trees at 218 Clear Creek Ave. Friday, we will journey with the Gospel writer John and be reminded of the pain of death. This service will draw on the hopelessness on the day of Crucifixion.  That service begins at 6:30pm, as well. Sunday morning, all are welcome for our Easter Vigil at 6am. We will gather by firelight under the oak tree for reading, listening and anticipation of resurrection. And at 10am Sunday we will celebrate all that is Resurrection. All of it!

This week is intentionally painful. The road is not easy. My prayer for you is that you can find a space and time and way to be on a journey this week. If the journey of Jesus seems like a far away story from a far away time, I pray that it will come alive for you this week. May we see the road leading into Jerusalem as our invitation to hope.

Sober by the Dozen

Unlike years past, this day seemed like the many others surrounding it on the calendar. There was no fanfare. There was no cake. It started with an “I’m proud of you” call courtesy of my husband and ended with carpools and dinner prep. The best part of my sobriety date is the annual giggle that April Fool’s Day marks the day that I thought the imagegood times were over. Because I know that forgetting to remember is a dangerous thing for those of us that are wired to deny, in the midst of the norm, I took time to reflect on the significance of 12 years. Here are my 12 musings for this trip around the sun:

  1. I have 4,383 days of sobriety, but just like I did on day 1, I choose this way of life every hour of every day. Without making that choice, I won’t have 4,384.
  2. There are days when I wish I could drink like “normal people.” It is in those moments that I remind myself that in no other area of my life do I like normal, so why should this one be any different?
  3. In early sobriety I was told that this way of life was a gift. I was sure it was a lie. Today, I’m more aware than ever that not all gifts are pretty and shiny and perfect.  Sometimes the best gifts come by way of pain and a good come back story.
  4. In the beginning, I got sober for my kids. Today I am sober in spite of the hardest days of parenting.
  5. I wanted nothing to do with God in my early sobriety journey. Today, I know that sobriety is mindful work and the core of being rooted deeply is the Creator that formed my being.
  6. Much like everything else in my life, there are seasons in sobriety that require different things of me. Learning to accept the seasons of my life is still one of the most challenging aspects of my existence.
  7. The more I share my journey, the more I see the progress that I have made.
  8. Sobriety reminds me that I am a life learner. Just because I have completed a lesson does not mean that I have graduated from that subject – it’s likely to reappear.
  9. There is nothing in this world – not one single experience – that would be better with alcohol or drugs in my body.
  10. If I choose to live this life, my girls will never have to care for a drunk mom, drive their mom because she can’t or fear that she will end up in jail. I cannot protect my kids from most things, but I can this one.
  11. Not drinking was just the beginning of this journey. I’m thankful for the many ways that taking that first step cleared the path for the real growth to occur.
  12. The fun doesn’t stop when the drinking does. I have more laughs, truer relationships, more inside jokes and waaaaay better memories than I did before. Good people, good stories and great experiences are the most fun things in life – and sobriety heightens all of the above!

It’s not lost on me that 12 is an important number in my faith. Complete. Full. Whole. I will cling to those words today and be forever grateful for this journey.

Teenage Invincibility: The Stakes are Higher Than Ever Before

When I was 17, I had a fear of getting in trouble. That single motivation was one of the few things that prevented me from making stupid(er) decisions. I knew, that should I have financial or legal or disciplinary consequences, my parents were not going to save me. They would have helped me, but they would not have prevented me from facing the natural consequences of my behavior. That was 1992. We are not in 1992 anymore. The stakes are higher, the consequences are more permanent and yet, the more I observe teenagers today the more convinced I am that their perceived invincibility is arrogantly increasing.

I have teenagers in my home. I gravitate towards them naturally. When most adults are moving away from the hormones and drama, I run into the chaos like I was created for it. It is not news to those that know me that I would rather spend a day with a drug addicted 16 year-old than a 4 year-old. Any freaking day. I love the instability and maturing and immaturity and growing pains. Sure, this is hard and weighty work, but they can talk to me. I can yell at them. We can throw smack talk with vigor. And I can look them in the eye and (in a very real and no BS kind of way) hold their feet to the fire of truth and reality.

I have quite a few teenagers in my world right now. Some by way of my connections with my own kids, but not all. I don’t stay in the surface of teenage world. When we are talking about any given topic, it is never just about that subject. I’m a detective of sorts, always trying to determine what is lurking underneath the surface of their actions and angst. And, oh, do they have angst. And, oh, do I love to walk through it with them.

Recently, I have grown increasingly frustrated with what I see as an over-developed sense of being above all consequences. We could spend the next decade arguing over the cause, but that’s not really my concern. I’m more interested in the adults in their lives waking up to this reality and calling this crap on the carpet. I’m less concerned about the eye rolling and the snarky teenage responses than I am the fact that there is not a fear of getting in trouble because they don’t get in trouble.

grayscale photography of five people walking on road

I dabble in Snapchat. Recently, I was snapping with some teenagers (like you do). Of course, this happens while we are sitting in the same room together, so really it is like we were talking… but not. As we snapped, I realized they were receiving snaps and streaks from other friends. The content of some of these images had me in disbelief. So I pressed. The stories that their fellow classmates were sending were mind-blowing. I sat as a parent of a 13 and 17-year-old thinking to myself WHERE ARE THE ADULTS?!?! Many sent images that you would not want your college admissions counselor, teacher or parent to see. Multiple kids sent pictures of themselves doing things that were illegal. But the most shocking was the number of kids that sent pictures of their drug stash that was for sale. Piles of weed. Dime bags. Complete with prices texted over the top like they were selling Fun Dip out of their junior high locker. I. Just. Can’t. Even.

woman taking selfie while smoking

I know that pot is no big deal in the minds of so many today, but can we just stop for a second? These are teenagers. In Texas. Where pot is not legal. Selling controlled substances. Online. Like it is nothing. And for the record, pot is something. It is something. Moms and dads of the 80’s and 90’s, today’s weed is not the joint of 1989. “In the 1970s and 1980s, marijuana generally contained less than 5 percent THC. Today, the marijuana sold at legal dispensaries often contains 25 percent THC. Many people use extracts that are nearly pure THC.” With the popularity of vaping, the use of dab pens is skyrocketing and this simple addition to the cannabis scene has substantial legal and health consequences. **If you are reading this and and you don’t know what a vape or dab pen is or you are not sure about concentrates, waxes or oils, please read up. We have to know what we are up against, and eduacation is key.**

I cannot imagine being a teenager today – with the social media nightmare and instant and constant contact with the world – but this is the reality of today’s life. And with the increase of information and access, comes the increase reality of hard consequences when you mess up. That’s where the serious disconnect happens for me. ‘It’s just the way it is’ and ‘kids will be kids’ and ‘it’s not that big of a deal’ messages are placing our kids in the mindset of invincibility like never before. They think the rules don’t apply to them. They think they won’t get in trouble. They think their parents will protect them should they get caught. And the really sad part is that for many kids, this is a truth that is killing them.

So parents and teachers and mentors and coaches and pastors, we must do better. Not only do we have to teach them differently, we have to call them out and show them that they are not above the rules. They are not invincible in the eyes of injury and punishment. If we see “ads” for quality merchandise being sold in ‘D’ pod, may we be brave enough to turn them in. Even if it means they may lose a scholarship or title or a special award. Even if it means that they may lose the starting position on the team. Even if it means that you become THAT parent. May we show the kids that are choosing to play by the rules that we will not continue to cover for those that it seems easier to protect. May we encourage doing the right thing, even when the right thing feels so very hard. Our kids are worth it. And they need us to remind them everyday and in every way that we have their back, even if having their back means calling them to face very hard and real consequences.

 

 

Uncomfortable

How is your Lenten journey going?  We are 5 days into the season and I wonder if your days look any different from this time last week? Have you connected with the Divine? Have you practiced your presence? Have you opened your eyes in new ways to new things? If you haven’t, it is not too late to start.

I had an acute awareness today of the need to be uncomfortable. Like many seasons before, I was being stretched to let go. Letting go, most often means that I have to consciously remind myself that I am not in charge. As my daughter reminded me recently, this is a control freak’s worst nightmare. On days like today, I have to make frequent attempts (recognizing that they are not always successful) to close my mouth, hold my opinion and remember that my way is not always the only or best way. For many, these seem like simple, daily tasks. For someone like me, this is hard, mindful work.

I wonder, in these uncomfortable moments what I am being asked to observe and learn?Today, I was graciously gifted with the knowledge that the intended lesson is vulnerability. This much misunderstood, ever necessary gift is one that I am hardwired to reject and yet I am blessed to scratch the surface. If the desire is to cultivate new, uncomfortable ways of entering into life and intended movement toward vulnerability, there is no one more well equipped to lead the way down the path than Brene Brown. If you have not read the book Daring Greatly, you must. I am so far from where I want to be in this area, and yet I am thankful for every uncomfortable stretching that leads me back to who I am created to be.

Stretching Your Thoughts

As we continue to explore the journey of Lent, I can’t help but think about how this particular liturgical season has defined my own spiritual growth. It is through that growth that my views on my place and my role in the Church have completely transformed. Today, I bring you an offering of some of the authors and writings that have paved those steps. Warning: There is no author with which I 100% agree. As a matter of fact, I enjoy a good read that challenges my beliefs – one that makes me say ‘do I really believe that?’ One that makes me want to sit down and have a long chat with the author because I can’t see where they are coming from.

With that in mind, please know that not every sentence and directive in these books comes from my own frame of reference. Rather these are authors and believers that have shaped critical thinking within my own life and therefore have helped define what my faith looks like today. Unapologetically, my library has a generous wealth of female voices. I am grateful for these women of faith that are on the forefront of my growth and wholeness.

I would not call myself a reader until about the age of 30. Up to that point in my life, I could have cared less about reading, much less reading non-fiction. It was only because I had heard this guy Rob Bell speak at a conference that I picked up his creatively named first book. But something happened when I picked up those pages. The words came alive in a way that my faith needed. I realized that I longed for the written word to help me understand the shift that was going on internally. You’ve heard me talk about Rob before in my blog, but Velvet Elvis was the starting place. You can read Velvet Elvis in a few hours. It is easy to read but there is so much to digest. More than anything, it was an opportunity for me to know that I was not the only one that thought these things, felt this way or asked these questions. That was a gift. A close second to Velvet Elvis was a book by author Brian McLaren. A Generous Orthodoxy help me go deeper in my thought process – examining my own theology. A Generous Orthodoxy helped me define my theology as one that was open to growth and new discovery. I haven’t touched this book in years, and yet I can still remember the words as they leapt off the page.

After I spent some time trying to discern my own understanding of faith and whether I wanted anything to do with it anymore, I took a good, long hard look at the Church. This still continues today. The most profound Church journey book I have read to-date is Rachel Held Evans’ Searching For Sunday. I was standing in line to have my copy of this book signed at a conference recently when I got to visit with a young woman who was exactly where I had been in years past. As we stood for 30 minutes or so, I realized I didn’t need my copy of Searching for Sunday anymore because that book was imprinted in my heart. I gave my copy, instead, to this new friend trusting that perhaps through reading my tear-stained pages, she too would realize there was a place for her in the Church. If you have felt un-included, if you have felt like the church of your childhood doesn’t fit, if you have felt like there was no relevancy in the institution of the Church, Searching for Sunday should be at the top of your reading list.

Here are a few more quick MUST READS by topic:

Messy Faith and Doubt: Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber, Carry on Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton,

Women and Faith: A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband ‘Master’ by Rachel Held Evans, Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women by Sarah Bessey

Sexuality: Sex God by Rob Bell (I especially recommend this one for those that need a new lens for hurts and hangups in their own story), Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free by Linda Kay Klein (tough, tough read because of the truth in the pages), Shameless: A Sexual Reformation by Nadia Bolz-Weber (get ready…this one is wonderfully challenging)

There are many authors that have joined my journey and even more that I missed and have picked up years later. This is just a smattering of some of my favorites. I do, however, have multiple copies of many of these books and I will gladly buy anyone that is interested a copy of your book of choice and a cup of coffee if you want to discuss. These are my favorite things: faith, doubt, Church, Jesus, messy, belonging. We need each other and the journey of discovery that comes from allowing the quiet musings of our own thoughts to be affirmed in the pages and lives of others. Let’s do this together.

Happy Lent!

This morning was a heartbreaking scene at our home.

“Guess what day it is?” I excitedly exclaimed as I made my coffee.

“HUUUMP day?” Ally grinned.

Immediately my heart sank. How could this child of mine even joke about such a thing? Today is my day. This is my favorite. And she was joking…or was she? I looked at her – half angry, half broken-hearted – and said, “Seriously, do you know what day it is?” Looking at the half eaten King Cake on the counter, she responded, “It’s really bad planning for Ash Wednesday to be scheduled the same week as TAGS.” (definition: my swim meet should always hold priority to your spiritual weirdness.)

I collected my coffee, keys, and pride and prepared for carpool. As we pulled out of the driveway, she continued with her litany of instructions about things that I needed to schedule into the next two days of preparation. She expressed disgust that we may be “late” (aka she might have to wait an extra 10 min at practice) so that the rest of the family can attend the service tonight. My mind was numbly listening to her to-do’s but I had yet to move past the irritation. Just as my blood pressure began to slow, I asked her if she would like me bring home some ashes from worship for her. Are you ready for the response? No, you are not…nqwfjotlefrvfdqcsyfa.jpg

“Mom, I don’t think I have actually had ashes on my head in years. I don’t want zits.” All the while, she was smirking like 13 year-olds do when they know they are holding their parent’s hearts captive.

Here’s the big win: I didn’t yell. I didn’t throw anything. I did not even run in the house to get my anointing oil and smear it all over her hormonal, acne prone forehead. I just died a little inside.

I know that not everyone loves Lent. I have enough church-y experience to know that plenty of people think that this season is dark and depressing and weird. But for me, there is a unique and precious moment that happens when someone literally reminds me of my mortality. And to be on the imposing end of the Ash Wednesday experience is a treasured gift. On more than one occasion I have made the sign of the cross on the forehead of one whose mortality was waning. To mark a child with ashes literally takes my breath away, yet it is necessary and holy to remember the starting and returning point for all of creation.

Today we are reminded that we are God’s. We are but dust and ashes, formed from the breath of a life-giving, powerful source. And from that strength, we are invited into holy co-creation with the Divine. Whatever the hard work of the Lenten season may bring you, know that you are joined by countless fellow travelers on the road of maturity in the Spirit. May the inward journey of Lent push you closer and closer to the revelation of your wholeness in Christ.

Happy Lent!

 

 

 

A New Adventure

In my early thirties, I made a commitment to keep learning. When I looked around at the “grown ups” that I wanted to model my life after, everyone that I longed to emulate was a life learner. They did not graduate from trying new things when they turned 18. They found joy in new adventures in their 50s and 80s. In the same season of life, I had a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old. I saw them learning to read and walk. I saw them adapting to new schools and pushing their own bodies to overcome setbacks. I made a decision that I had to force myself, even when it was uncomfortable, to do new things.

At first, I pierced my nose and added tattoos. These seemed to be valuable new lessons. Then I moved on to things like preaching more, smoking cigars and learning to play the bass. These were badass moves in my mind. I was a hip, Jesus loving misfit that could utilize all mediums to add to my diverse reputation of intrigue and mystery. I scored big points with myself.

As I became more comfortable in becoming, I often dreamed about the next level of learning. My teaching duties had diversified and I was speaking to groups in and out of the church world. This pushed me to tell my story with an authenticity and rawness that required a more significant, dedicated time of preparation. I found myself writing 10-15 pages per talk and I began to find writing rhythms. I found a love of writing. I even found more freedom when I was alone than the times I was in front of people. This was new. This was growth. Two years ago, I took on a Lenten practice of daily writing. It was a challenge and a gift. I shared my writing with my village and they were gracious with encouragement. It was in that season that I began to dream.

I was never a great student. I was never excellent in English or stellar in the use of words. The best sign of my linguistic prowess was my ability to BS an essay test or pull off a research paper in a 10 hour all night cram session. Applying myself to reading and writing was a lost art – until I found the ability to be unapologetically myself. I write in incomplete sentences. I use slang. I regularly start my sentences with prepositions and I don’t let my “editors” change them. This is what makes my writing mine.

Over the last year and a half, my life has taken some big ups and downs. My hardest moments have happened in doctor’s offices and hospital rooms. I have learned to think outside the box in areas that were never questioned. This has been true in my health, my faith and my family. The one place that I have found wholeness, no matter the season, is The View From The Bathroom Floor. In my writing, I process and dream and pray. I am able to cry and laugh and sit in discomfort. There are times when I cannot people, but on those days I can write.

I tried for a long time to say that I am not a “real” writer. I recently, however, have been reminded, time and again, that my words matter. There are friends and strangers that have read my writings about depression and parenting and addiction and faith. Through my writing, a small ounce of light entered into the darkness they were carrying. I’m fully enbracing this gig.

In November, we took our oldest daughter on a 2,000 mile adventure to dream about college. For a week, my husband and I talked and drove and listened to my brilliant and creative 16-year-old dream about learning. On day 6 of that trip, I was reminded of an ad I saw on Facebook. It was an open call from Houston Moms Blog for contributing writers. I had 1,000,000 reasons why I should not apply – and the #1 excuse was because I was not a “real” writer. The day that we went on her 3rd college tour, I told my doubting brain to shove it, and I filled out the application. From our VRBO in New Orleans, and with a huge lump in my throat, I hit submit. What was I thinking? 

I told exactly 6 people. The next week I told 2 more. That was it. I was terrified. I just knew this was a bad idea. Until it wasn’t. Today, I am thrilled to share that I am a new CONTRIBUTING WRITER with HMB. I am beside myself with JOY as I get to know a new group of amazing, talented and incredibly diverse women. If you don’t already follow this blog, YOU MUST! The content is strong and vulnerable and ever so handy. Sure, it is especially appealing to those in the Houston area, but as img_8055you will see, it is so much more than just a local events blog. I will be attending my first team event this weekend. My posts on both my personal and TVFTBF social media sites will have pictures and more. I’m just a little excited, and I am thrilled to announce it here first. You, my faithful readers and dear friends, have given me an incredible lesson in life learning.

I believe that choosing to grow and continually evolve as a human is one of the best parenting decisions I ever made. My girls need to see their mom model the nerves and excitement of risking failure. They have seen it as I waited for this announcement. They were two of the original 8 and they were my biggest cheerleaders when the invitation email arrived. We are never too old to reach for a new goal. May 2019 be a year of new adventures for us all.

 

 

joy: day four

Tonight’s post will not be a lengthy one. Instead, I hope it is but a short reminder that we all joy differently. Let me give you an example…

The way that my sister, the extrovert extraordinaire, shows holiday joy is wig wearing. All the wigs. And all of the costumes. She is an elementary school principal and cannot contain her love for people and a good time. If you have a tambourine at your party, she is likely to shut the place down. img_7668

My many attempts to define my I or E on the Meyer’s Briggs Type Inventory has yet to yield a clear result. Every time I take it, from high school to more recent years, I sit directly in the middle. More often than not, I lean a little to the introvert side. I love to talk on a deep, relational level with people. But I can’t stand surface for the sake of chit-chat. That makes me a less than stellar date to the party. And if I don’t really know the other guests, beware. I will need a full 24 hours to recover.

I say all of this to remind us to be gracious. The next 5 days will be filled with so many people. Many of them may find joy in the family dinner. Some of them will even look forward to the work holiday party. And yet there are others that are worn out at the thought of what to wear. To all of my introverts, may we have good boundaries. May we refuel as we need to. And may we all remember that however we are wired, there is a place for us. It just may not be as the hostess. KNOWING OUR PLACE IS JOY!

 

the first day of love

I want to unpack this Advent theme more in the coming days, but for today, it seems only fitting that the first day of love happens to fall on my love’s birthday. For the past 21 December 9th’s, my hubby has endured whatever celebration I have concocted, many of img_7666which are anything but what he actually wanted to do. My favorite birthday story was our first year of marriage when I surprised him by filling our tiny apartment for a party. This brilliantly coincided with the Aggie’s playing in the Big 12 title game. I thought this would be a win. It was, however, his worst nightmare as he was forced to give up his lounging couch for my friends to have a place to sit. He watched the entire game from his desk chair. And I have never been allowed to forget it.

Over the past many years, we have learned that love is rarely the Hallmark moments and picture perfect stories of romance. It is not even the happy ending tales of precious parenting and easy life. Love, real love, is the hardest of the hard. Its boundary setting and saying “no” and tears. It’s the times when you stand helpless by your partner’s side as they are in pain. It’s the moments when you have to speak an unwelcome word. Love is standing with, and advocating for, in the times of illness. Love is choosing each other daily.

If we are really honest, these are all self-sacrificing moments. That’s the heart of love. 1931349_1045665737932_3359_nAnd in our come and go, quick to leave, I don’t want to do the hard things society, love is hard to find. The number of relationships – and I don’t just mean romantic ones – that are broken and derailed are many. Our world is filled with examples of people who are frantically searching for the feeling of love and are unwilling to choose the work of love.

I’d like to tell you that 20 years of marriage has been filled with all smooshy loves. That is not the case. I would go so far as to say that we have had 14 great years. And the other 6 have been filled with the hard work of building the blocks of hope and love and joy and peace that are evident when we are operating in our best selves. We are one hell of a team, but we have grown up together and that is not easy work. In doing that, we have chosen each other again and again and again.

So, to the hottest 42-year-old that I know; To the man who I trust with my past and my future; To the one who loves me – crazy, messy, glitter and all, Happy Birthday. You make me want to work at love everyday and the world is better because of it.

JOURNEY: The Best Smile

Today is Father’s Day. I absolutely adore my Daddy. He is literally the King of our crazy family. I am married to a man who brings more joy to my life than I knew was possible. img_4163.jpgHe is all things to me and my girls and anyone we love. I have also been given the gift of a bonus dad named Goat. What I’m trying to say is that I am overflowing with reasons to smile on a day like today.

As I scroll through Facebook and Instagram today, I see all the “I have the best…” posts. I also feel acutely aware of those that are not posting. Those for which this day is especially hard. Those for whom the mention of a great father is salt on a gaping wound. Perhaps the pain of loss is too fresh to celebrate or even smile. I sit with you today. Because behind the smile, the joy, is a big lump in my daddy’s girl throat.

2018 has been a hard year for my Dad. There are all kinds of diagnostic codes and medical terms for what is happening. He has lost 60 pounds in less than 6 months. He has spent more time in a medical care facilities than with friends. He has endured me following him around prodding into his CBC counts and becoming fluent in all things healthcare. Just last Thursday, I convinced his doctor that I could give him shots at home – I mean, why not?

Speaking of last Thursday, we began our 10th annual Cousin Camp that same day. For the last decade, my mom has planned a weekend of over the top fun for the 3 IMG_2275kids, their spouses and the 6 grandkids. We move into my parent’s upstairs, invade their space and camp. We have games and competitions and laugh and we always have a family photo session one evening in the backyard. We have a little bit of competitive sibling fire. We may enjoy trash talking a bit too much. We may have also taught our children some wonderful life skills – no fun, fair, positive, everyone gets a trophy kinda nonsense.

Leading into Cousin Camp this year, Dad and Mom made the decision to sell their house. We knew that this would be a unique and probably different weekend. With the house already on the market, my mom’s usual family pictures were off the walls and much of the house had been staged for simplicity. Mom had a list of things she wanted us to go through as a group, as well. From Thursday night on, we packed storytelling and laughter and perhaps a few tears (I mean allergy eyes) into the non-stop crazy action. We would tell stories and remind each other of our ‘favorite’ status – BTW, it’s me. In the midst of playing and eating and talking, I found myself worried about my dad’s food or energy or medicine. I knew that he was accustomed to rest after dialysis and instead, pool drenched grandchildren were running though the living room.

At one point in the weekend, I took him to get an injection in Katy and we had a few minutes alone. I asked how he was handling the chaos and if he felt ok. His response was classic. “I’m good. This is just about as good as I look these days.” That’s my dad. He would rather fuss about yard care or a future home project – that is completely unnecessary to 98% of homeowners – than complain about his muscle weakness or extreme fatigue. More than anything, he just wants to sit and watch with love and pride, the beauty and uniqueness of his kids and grandkids.

The highlight of the weekend came last night when I was SURE that we were beyond IMG_2587.JPGhis ability to tolerate our nonsense. We were an hour into pictures and he had already taken a mid-shoot break, because we had taken too long to stage a silly yet hilarious shot. Let’s stop for a shout out to Nicole Pawlowski for always putting up with our crazy ideas. You are the best. Seriously.

As we tried to take a special kids/grandkids picture in the entry of Mom and Dad’s house, we had to work out the lighting, so posing was a little longer than usual. Mom and Dad were not in the shot, and Dad (in a seemingly annoyed voice) said, “Ok, everyone look here…” Being the obedient children that we are, we looked. And he DROPPED HIS PANTS. In the front yard. Before God, the neighbors and his grandchildren, my father stood in his boxers with his Docker’s around his ankles – cracking himself up.

That’s Frank.

Just when you think that he is too tired, too weak, too frail. Just when you think he is too formal or too business. Just when you least expect it, Papa King shows the side that we all adore. He has this smile. Even in his most vibrant days, you did not see it daily. He saves it. And when your guard is down and you are on your very best behavior, he takes a sharp left turn down Cut Up Blvd. He gets you every time with the twinkle of mischief in his eye.

This is not new. By all accounts it very present in his younger days. But as a kid, to see your dad belly laugh with friends and stir up nonsense with his grandkids is the best. These are moments of over the top laughter and priceless love. Today, I will cling to those memories of my Dad. And on the days that seem more serious and require fewer giggles, please remind me of the smile on the front porch the last time we were all together at 13603 Lakeshore Way Ct. It was a classic.

Well played, Franko, well played.