Liz, Mom, and the Witch

Today’s post is written by Dr. Teresa Burns Murphy, one of my writing mentors and former professors. Every time Dr. Murphy contributes to this blog and sends me a post, I cannot wait to read it. I know I’ll enjoy the story–and I know the story will speak to me. 

Bethany asked us to share stories about love during the month of February.  While this isn’t a typical February love story, I believe there is a kind of love in it.  This love is present when someone in an older generation takes the time to teach those in a younger generation a thing or two about how to live. There is, however, a link to the month of February.  One of the major players in this story is my grandmother, Ona Burns, who was born on Valentine’s Day in 1905.  Not only was she a sweetheart, she was also pretty clever when it came to keeping my sister and me in line. I am grateful for the life she lived and for the opportunity I had to spend time with her during her lifetime.

Liz, Mom, and the Witch

By Teresa Burns Murphy

The chickens strutted and clucked, pecking for bugs in the dusty barn lot just beyond my grandparents’ fenced-in backyard where my big sister, Liz, and I lingered.  Mom, our grandmother, had told us to come inside the house, but Liz decided we didn’t have to do what Mom said.  As I placed my chubby little hand on the back door handle, I cut my eyes over at Liz.  She pulled her shoulders back, tucked her chin to one side, and shot me a menacing look.  I froze, not sure whose wrath I preferred to incur – Liz’s or Mom’s.

I had known them both for six years, in other words, my entire life.  At eight, Liz was slim, agile, and fearless.  I admired the way she could stroll out into our grandparents’ pasture and coax the horses (huge horses!) into coming to her.  When one ambled over, she’d take hold of the horse’s halter and hoist herself onto its bare back, her long, brown curls bouncing to the beat of the horse’s gait as she rode across the field.  Mom sometimes gave us sugar cubes to feed the horses when they came up to the backyard fence.  When I saw those giant horse teeth coming toward my outstretched hand, I always dropped my sugar cubes on the ground, causing the horses to have to lick them up out of the dirt.  Maybe this is why they always bucked me off when Liz caught one of them and boosted me onto its back.  Liz, on the other hand, held the sugar cubes in her unwavering palm and waited for the horses to slurp them up.  I cringed watching those horses’ tongues whisk the sugar cubes from her hand, but Liz never flinched.

Mom and LizIn contrast to Liz, Mom was short and plump. For the most part, she stayed indoors – doing needlework, reading the newspaper, or putting together jigsaw puzzles once her household chores were completed.  I’d heard stories about how Mom’s father had been required to take her to an elementary school that employed a male teacher after she’d proven to be too feisty for the female teacher at her old school to manage.  I’d also heard about how she’d staked out her territory at the new school with a few choice words delivered to the other girls who believed they could bully her. Though I was aware that Mom had been pretty fearless herself, I figured most of her pluck had been used up now that she was in her late fifties, which, at the time, I thought of as old.  So, I cast my lot with Liz and released the door handle.

Clearly, I had forgotten the course these battles of will between Liz and Mom generally took.  I’d heard about one of their first clashes enough times to believe I remembered it even though I was a baby when it happened.  On the day that skirmish occurred, Liz and I were spending the day with Mom, and Mom had placed me in a playpen while she prepared our lunch.  A pocket door that could be made to disappear into the wall with a gentle push separated Mom’s kitchen from her den where I’d been situated.  As long as that door remained open, I could see Mom and I was content.  Liz, always one to shake things up, decided she’d close the door.  When she flung it shut, I set up a howl.

“Liz,” Mom said.  “Keep the door open so the baby can see me.”

“No!” Liz said, folding her arms across her chest and glaring at Mom in a way that only a defiant three-year-old can.

“Liz Ann, now you open that door so the baby won’t cry.”

Liz shook her head.

I don’t know how long Mom’s cajoling campaign continued before she issued Liz an ultimatum – either open the door or get a spanking.

“You better not spank me,” Liz said.  “If you do, I’ll tell my mother, and she’s really a fighter.”

I guess Liz figured threatening Mom with our mother was more effective than threatening her with our father since he was Mom’s son.  Somehow, without cracking up laughing or swatting Liz’s little behind, Mom lifted her eyebrows, opened her dark eyes wide and said, “Well, I’m really a fighter too.”

Seeing that Mom wasn’t going to back down and possibly realizing she had met her match, Liz opened the door.

I have a more vivid memory of the next incident of Liz’s pitting her will against Mom’s.  Mom’s house was a treasure trove of fascinating things for Liz and me – mahogany gargoyles whose mouths were open just wide enough for a couple of little girls to pretend to get bitten by their pointy teeth when they jabbed their fingers into the gargoyles’ mouths; boxes of fancy, old-fashioned Valentine cards Mom’s mother had sent to her during the first half of the twentieth century; and always – wonderful food.  Usually, Mom’s food was something she’d prepared herself – a pot of hamburger soup chock-full of vegetables, a pan of thick cornbread, a pedestaled plate of three-layer coconut cake.   One day, when we arrived at Mom’s house, Liz and I spied something Mom generally didn’t have – store-bought candy.  On that day, a candy bar was lying on her kitchen countertop, and Liz and I both wanted it – all of it!

“I just have one,” Mom said, unwrapping the candy bar, placing it on a plate, and pulling a knife from a drawer.  “You can each have half.”

“I’ll cut it!” Liz said, reaching for the plate and grabbing the knife.

I watched as Liz slid the knife through the skin of that chocolate bar.  It didn’t escape my notice that one piece was more-than-slightly larger than the other.  Apparently, it didn’t escape Mom’s notice either.

When Liz finished cutting the candy bar in “half,” Mom took the plate from her and said, “Okay, Liz, you got to divide it.  Now, Teresa, you pick the piece you want.”

A picture (sweeter than any candy) of Liz’s face is permanently etched in my memory.  Her brown eyes widened and her mouth popped open as Mom held the plate out to me.  Having raised four children, Mom had been down this “sharing” path before.  The only word I have to describe the feeling I had as I snagged the larger piece of candy and bit into it is joy.

Considering this history with Mom and Liz, I’m not sure why I chose to side with Liz when Mom told us to come back inside the house, but I vividly remember what happened next.  In the little Arkansas town where Mom lived, there was an old woman who wore long black dresses and old-timey black boots.  Not many people scared Liz, but she was scared of this woman whose pinched face and beak-like nose gave her a witchy appearance.  We didn’t know the woman’s name, so we simply referred to her as “the witch.”  Having listened to far too many fairy tales and having overactive imaginations, we had no trouble at all envisioning the witch flying through the air on her broomstick, scouring the town for little girls she could swoop down on and possibly eat.

Standing outside Mom’s house that day, we had forgotten all about the witch until the air was saturated with the sound of a spooky voice that shrieked, “I’m gonna get me two little girls.”

Liz almost knocked me down as she made a beeline for the back door.  In a flash, we scurried across the concrete floor of the screened-in porch and into the den where Mom sat in her rocking chair, calmly crocheting.

For days afterward, Liz and I puzzled over how Mom could have thrown her voice in such a way to make it sound as if it were coming from outside her house.  We thought maybe she had gone to an open window at the back of her house and screeched out that threat, but we dismissed this notion because we didn’t think a woman of her advanced age could have possibly made it back to her rocking chair so fast.  That left us with only one logical explanation – Mom must have gotten the witch to do it, which meant she actually knew the witch.

Liz and I never asked Mom how she managed to send us that witchy threat.  I suspect as we got older, we realized that Mom was much faster and shrewder than we’d given her credit for being.  But on that long-ago day, the belief that our grandmother had enough power to convince a witch to do her bidding was enough to keep the two of us in line.

Gift list

Today’s post is an essay by one of my English Composition I students, Hannah Shell. Hannah is a true ray of sunshine. After spending a semester observing her in class and getting to know her through her writing, I completely understand why her parents would want to bless her by surprising her with a car on her 16th birthday. I hope my daughter has as lovely a spirit as Hannah someday. 

I have been given numerous amazing gifts that I am beyond thankful for. The first most memorable gift that I have received this year was on June 27, my 16th birthday. I had just finished a rigorous cross country practice that took place in the hilly trails behind Batesville High School. It was a scorching hot summer day, and after that long run, my legs felt as if they would collapse any second.

As I stumbled to the parking lot, searching for my dad’s white farm truck, I realized that there were no cars in the parking lot, and he was running 15 minutes late. I sighed and began to dial his number when I heard three honks that came from a car pulling right up in front of me.

photo (1)My stepmom, her short blonde hair bobbing up and down, was clasping her hands together in the passenger’s seat, and my father, who sat in the driver’s seat, was waving his hand out the window, almost as if his arm was about to fall off. The radio was blaring, making the mirrors shake, and there was a giant red bow that sat on the hood of the maroon Pontiac G6. I threw my hands over my mouth and started jumping up and down out of control. I was completely surprised and immediately ran to give my parents a huge hug. My first car was more than perfect, and I am so grateful for such a wonderful gift.

The second favorite gift that I have received this year was on Christmas morning. My whole family was gathered around the Christmas tree with so many gifts underneath. The gifts were wrapped in  all kinds of beautiful wrapping paper and brightly colored ribbons. Christmas music was playing softly, and we were all drinking hot chocolate with fluffy marshmallows scattered on top. I had a red fuzzy blanket wrapped around me and a permanent smile on my face because I just love the happy atmosphere and warm feeling of Christmas morning.

After unwrapping many wonderful gifts of clothes, makeup, and jewelry, I held my last present in my hands. It was my turn to open, and my family looked at me with just as much anticipation to see what was inside. I eagerly ripped off the wrapping paper. It was a white box with the Apple symbol on the outside, and I immediately knew what it was. I looked at my parents with an even bigger smile. I opened the white box, and an iPhone 5 was perfectly placed in the center. I picked it up out of the box, and the cold screen felt so wonderful in my warm hands. I flipped it over on its side to pet it as if it were a cat. The smooth back had absolutely no scratches. It was exactly what I had been wanting, and I am very thankful for it as well.

The third greatest gift I received this year happened one evening when I was at Colton’s Steakhouse. Although I had spent most of my money on gas for the week, I was craving Colton’s buttery rolls, and I was willing to spend what was left of my money on some delicious food.  After inhaling three oozing, hot rolls, I ate a fresh dinner salad topped with tomatoes, cheese, and my favorite salad dressing, ranch. Then I proceeded onto the main entrée of a sizzling sirloin and crispy French fries. The steak was cooked perfectly with only a little pink in the middle, and the thick, warm fries melted in my mouth. As I leaned back in the booth, feeling full and content, suddenly the friendly brunette waitress with red lipstick and extremely white teeth came to my table. She informed me that some gentleman had paid for my dinner and then briskly walked away with a smile.

My jaw dropped; I was in complete shock. My heart was so full fo happiness that someone was so generous to pay for my meal. This was not a new car or brand new iPhone 5. However, it was a random act of kindness, and sometimes, the gifts that cost little to nothing are what can make you the happiest.

Dear Daniel

*Today’s letter is written by fellow blogger and writer Mary Agrusa. Thank you, Mary, for your willingness to share your gifts with the world!*

Dear Daniel,

blog mary agrusa nov 14From the first time Mikael demurely admitted she was seeing someone, her tone of voice told me you were special. For the longest time she tantalized me with this well kept mystery – like a decorated gift under the Christmas tree. The suspense exhilarated me.

Every now and then she’d let something slip, “Daniel’s soooo.” My gift appeared to be exquisitely wrapped…but what was inside? Hmm. She’d drop clues, share tidbits. I’d pick up the box, feel its weight and shake it for any revealing noises. Still the contents eluded me. Who was this person who’d captivated my little girl’s heart?

Finally the trip to Boston came. In addition to time spent with Mikael the opportunity to begin to unwrap my gift arrived. What would I find? I rooted for fireworks and shooting stars, and I wasn’t disappointed. When you casually mentioned that the two of you had discussed marriage, my heart soared. “He’s a keeper!” it proclaimed.

That afternoon in March I was only privy to half of the phone conversation between you and Joe. I could read between the remarks on our end that a wedding was in the works. I spent the next six weeks with my head in the clouds. Mikael had found her Prince Charming and I couldn’t be happier.

On that Friday in May at the Marriage Bureau in New York City, the gift was totally revealed – a son, and what a son he is! It was an honor to stand as a witness to your commitment to Mikael, complete with a non-return clause LOL. Blessed with a kind, compassionate heart, a great sense of humor, a profound love of God, coffee, all things Irish and Boston sports teams, you are Mikael’s perfect counter-balance. I marvel daily at God’s gracious addition to our family. He thought of everything.

Daniel, thank you for being “the one.” You took Mikael into your heart and made her (and Joe and I by default) an integral part of your life. In you I’ve received a gift of immeasurable worth and one I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.

Love,

Mary

Dear Maggie

*During the month of November, I like to write letters–and feature guest writers who write letters–to thank people and to express gratitude. Since my entire blog centers on gratitude, this letter writing project during November is just another way to express my gratitude. The act of living in gratitude is something I practice as part of my lifestyle already, but it never hurts to kick it up a notch.*

Dear Maggie,

IMG_4819It seems appropriate that I’m writing this letter to you minutes after spending a painful hour putting you to bed tonight. I changed your diaper twice at your request, fed you grapes in your high chair, opened a miniature wheel of Babybel cheese (which you then refused to touch), put said wheel of cheese into a baggie for lunch tomorrow, and prompted you to take sips of milk. I allowed you to sit on your little potty (fully clothed) simply because I don’t want to discourage you from potty training, but I can’t help but wonder if you have learned that it’s a great way to distract me from putting you to bed. I even paused to scribble a red heart for you because I cannot resist your little voice when you hand me a crayon and beg for hearts. 

You clearly have mine.

After I finally carried you into your room and began singing quiet songs to you, songs of God’s love for you and my love for you, your little body began to relax. You requested a book. Be still, my beating heart. I turned on the white milk glass lamp and let you stand atop the dresser, searching for the perfect book to take to bed. This process always takes longer than anticipated, but who am I to question another girl’s taste in literature?

Photo by Say Cheese Photography

Photo by Say Cheese Photography

Before I put your tiny frame into the crib, you wrapped your arms around me and nestled your head into my chest tonight and let me sing a little longer than usual. You always demand “hugs” and constantly repeat “I love you” when we put you to bed, but you could never demand too much affection from me; I will always want to give back to you tenfold.

As I sat down to write this letter to you, I realized that I was already completely exhausted and that my best writing would not be done tonight. If I wanted to produce a brilliant letter, something captivating for the world to read, I’d better wait until tomorrow after sleep, coffee, and sinus medication had done their jobs.

But I decided to write this letter to you anyway—just as I am, wearing pajamas, looking wretched, and feeling similar. Thirty minutes ago, before you fell asleep, you held me and told me you loved me, just as I am.

And that has been the greatest gift you have given me, Maggie—the ability to become even more of who God made me to be, to let go of all of my plans, to be right where my hands are with you every single day, and to be just who I am.

Thank you, Maggie.

Mama loves you.

 

Day 10: Dear Caroline

*Day 10’s post comes from my college friend Kelly Williams Barnett, who has become a great mom of a beautiful little girl.*

Dear Caroline,

CarolineThank you for making most days crazy socks day.

Thank you for helping me avoid stepping on hot lava.

Thank you for placing the bookmark in my book before closing it and climbing into my lap.

Thank you for reintroducing me to the awesome art of Lisa Frank.

Thank you for giving the best hugs.

Thank you for enjoying going to the movies as much as I do.

Thank you for sharing your Halloween candy.

Thank you for choosing to drink water instead of cokes 99 percent of the time.

Thank you for loving hot pink boots, rainbow zebra print, peace signs and glitter lip gloss.

Thank you for thinking I’m always right.

Thank you for getting me back in church.

Thank you for loving school.

Thank you for your kind, caring heart.

Most of all, I thank you for bringing so much joy into my life. caroline 1

You are my favorite!

 

To my stepdaughter

*Big thanks to a friend of mine who gave me permission to post this letter he wrote to his stepdaughter recently. Thank God for  step parents who do engage and don’t choose apathy.*

Kylie,

This is long. You will find it annoying and will likely skip entire paragraphs the first time you read it.  I ask that you please do me one favor: keep it, and revisit it again sometime in the future.

The truth can often be awkward, uncomfortable and even painful.  Life in the absence of truth often seems easier.  A little white lie, a misleading statement, an exaggeration or invented story, an ignored phone call, or simply failing to reveal what should be revealed all serve to selfishly better our positions in whatever circumstances that each moment presents us.  We are all guilty, each and every one of us.

Most people speak of the importance of the truth with the idea that a lack of truth will compound upon itself and create burdens and ever-increasing problems that ultimately collapses under its own weight.  This thinking is, for the most part, true.  However, examples of a lack of truth personally benefiting an individual and having no long-term negative results are also plentiful (politics is rife with examples).  Children, like politicians and everyone else, do not live a life guided entirely by truth.  The reason, despite what people claim, is simply because it is an effective strategy.  Dishonesty sometimes works out just fine.  It seems logical that if no benefit were to ever come from dishonesty, then dishonesty would slowly disappear.  That is not what I see.  I see a world that puts the truth on a pedestal, as if it is truly special and to be cherished.  This implies that genuine truth is more rare than dishonesty.  The problem, as I see it, is this: to not speak the truth is to stop genuine conversation, to have such little respect for another that you deny them the fundamental right to know, be it a good or bad truth.  A lack of truth is usually no more than a display of loving oneself more than another.

Without question, words can hurt.  Words are often designed specifically to hurt.  The words I spoke to you the other night were an example of exactly the kind of language that is designed and used to hurt another person; for that, I am truly sorry.  I am sorry that they came out of my mouth aimed at the young girl I try so hard to make feel exceptional.  It is the hurtful wording that I regret.  As for the message behind that wording – the simple truth is – I do not genuinely feel sorry.

I asked your Mother that night, “Why the hell would the guy that spoils her say that to her?”  She didn’t have an answer, and neither did I.  I have thought a lot about that question I asked your Mother, and I want to take a moment to explain what I believe is the answer.

Despite my questionable choice of words, my timing, and my tone of voice, I spoke the truth at that moment.  That doesn’t mean that you are forever labeled in my head as that person.  It simply means that in describing your treatment of your Mother at that very moment, I spoke with honesty.  What I said has come up a couple of times since, which tells me that you have thought about it.  You likely disagree, but it affected you enough to dwell a bit on it.  You likely called me a few choice names to your friends.  You probably got angry, maybe sad; the point is that you reacted with emotion just as I reacted with emotion.  Reacting with emotion is the opposite of not reacting at all, or apathy.  At the risk of sounding like a Hallmark card, apathy is essentially the opposite of love, which oddly puts love and anger on the same team and apathy on the opposing.  A child with a parent who truly doesn’t care about her actions is one of the saddest things.  It is a sin against that child, and against humanity.  You may know of such a child.  A child with apathetic parents can hide among their peers as a child with relaxed, or easy parents.  But they often feel unloved and unwanted, and sadly, to varying degrees, they are.

Our simplest, most basic of all desires is safety.  True safety is felt in a loving, respectful home.  It may not make sense right now, but reasonable expectations, discipline and punishment are critical in establishing a sense of safety.  Behavioral boundaries are set, children (specifically ages 2 and 13) consistently test those boundaries, and good parents consistently reinforce them.  Failure to establish and consistently reinforce behavioral boundaries results in chaos.  Inconsistent, unpredictable parenting makes for ill-behaved children. A parent who simply doesn’t care causes exceedingly more damage.  It is said that overly harsh disciplinarian style parents create children who need therapy, but apathetic parents create adults who need therapy.

The truth is subjective, meaning that the same event described by two witnesses may differ, not due to dishonesty but to individual differences.  In your world, in your subjective opinion, is the disrespectful attitude shown to your family any different from the way any other 13 year-old treats theirs with?  The answer is… I don’t have any idea.  Nor did it occur to me to even consider how other children speak to their mothers.

I have felt bad after our conversation, but not for you or my son or myself. I feel bad for your brother.  He seemed to listen intently when we sat down and spoke.  He seemed concerned, not about being grounded, but about his mother.  I was shocked.  I expected the disrespectful disobedience that I have come to expect since meeting him.  He is older, not around much, and we never formed any sort of bond, but he cared.  I felt like he wanted me to be as upset with him as I was with you.  I really don’t know.  I have always thought I was doing everyone a favor by treating him as an adult.

I don’t know how this ends, or where things go from here.  Just know that it was anger and love that guided my words the other night, just as it was anger and love that guided my hand into your door.  People can question how that anger and love were displayed, but they cannot question their existence.  I’ll never lay an angry hand on any child, but where there is love and disappointment, there will be anger.  To not be angry at disrespect, to not be let down at finding an inappropriate video of you online, is fundamentally the same as not smiling at your dance moves, or feeling pride in your accomplishments.  Likewise, to provide for you and make no demands of your treatment of others is not only unjust to others but also to you.  There are only two ways that a stepparent cannot have the same expectations and make the same demands of their stepchild as they do their biological child…  apathy towards that child or ignorance of raising children in general (sadly, not uncommon).  This may sound harsh, but it is reality.

The truth is not in what’s said, but can be seen in the actions (or inactions) of many.  The idea that “She isn’t really mine, so how she ends up isn’t my problem” is sadly more common than not. You may even prefer that I feel that way.  If I could somehow care just enough about you to provide for you a good quality-of-life but refrain from caring enough to discipline you, you would have a great few years.  But the long-term consequences that your lack of discipline and lack of respect combined with receiving -without effort- the things you wish would be very damaging and very real.  You likely do not feel that way (neither does anyone else at 13), but I assure you, eventually you will.

In short, it is only my apathy, my ignorance, or your compliance to reasonable expectations that will ensure that the poorly worded sentence that came out of my mouth the other night will never come out again.  I care very much about you and about what and who you become.  Regardless of right or wrong, regardless of your own wishes, it is too late for apathy and ignorance.  I am not making an apathetic suggestion; I am making a demand, guided by love, that you change your current treatment of people in my home, or you will find yourself not welcome in it.

To demand any less from you is to not love you.

With much thought and love,

Your stepdad

Bad to the bone

My poor stepdad.

Celebrating my birthday, circa 1998

Celebrating my birthday, circa 1998

I know he loves my mom. Why else would you willingly marry a woman with FOUR little girls under the age of 12?

After our cat Ralph died, my poor stepdad was the lone male ranger in the ongoing and increasing estrogen fest. Even our dog, Watson, was a female (and yes, we named her Watson before we checked).

Until I was 13 years old, we had one bathroom. That’s right. One bathroom, five females, and poor Walter Allen. Needless to say, his potty time didn’t include thumbing through a stack of magazines. He had to get in and get out because all of us needed time for much more important things–crimping our hair, curling our hair, blow drying our hair, shaving our legs, applying makeup, and fussing over our troubled teenage skin in the mirror.

To add the mix, he has a daughter of his own, Sarah. Sarah lived with us periodically. So at times, poor Walt had FIVE teenage girls in the house. I have always loved the definition of insanity I heard in the rooms of recovery–doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. But being the stepdad of four teenage girls AND the dad of another teenage girl, all living in the same house (at that point, thank God, we had two bathrooms), might be even closer to true insanity.

Bless his heart. For real.

Lucky for him, he had me :). I’m not what you’d call a girly girl. I do shave my armpits, have an unhealthy fear of moths, and have a few dresses. I’m not a total tomboy, but I was my stepdad’s best bet at an opportunity to enjoy more manly pastimes and pass on his love for said pastimes to one of his kids. While I didn’t enjoy camping due to the serious off-the-grid nature of my parents’ camping mentality–doesn’t work very well with five little girls, just so you know–I did enjoy fishing. I liked getting dirty. I wanted to play softball in the open lot with all the neighborhood boys instead of playing with dolls. I leaped out of a swing at its highest height and deliberately let my body free fall face first just to see what would happen (what happens, in case you’re wondering, is a face full of cuts, bruises, and gravel and mud in your mouth).

I also pooh-poohed the idea of puberty. I was disgusted at the idea of the birds and the bees, having a period, or any of the other sick stuff that goes along with being an Eve rather than an Adam. So disgusted, in fact, that I cried when I started my period. Not because I was hormonal–because I knew it was a life sentence of misery, complications, and yuckiness. And I was grounded for two months at the beginning of sixth grade due to my refusal to wear a bra. I did my best to avoid the reality of growing into a woman. Unfortunately, my best efforts failed me. It happened.

My stepdad, when he started dating my mom, was a real manly man. Grizzly Adams has nothing on the beard my stepdad sported. He wore wife beaters almost every day. He smelled like dirt and sweat. He liked steak. I remember once riding with him in his old beat up 70s model Chevy pick-up truck, half white and half rust. He cranked up the crackly radio, and “Bad To The Bone” came blaring out. This guy is super cool, I thought.

And even when I morphed into a hormonal, cranky teenage girl, my stepdad was willing to teach me how to throw a softball in the backyard when I decided to play ball after years of cheerleading, dancing, and gymnastics. He played “slap fight” with me, in spite of my mom’s protests. And for those of you who’ve wondered how I developed such an immature sense of humor and  13 year-old boy mentality regarding bodily functions, you have Walt to thank.

My parents showing off their moves, February 2013

My parents showing off their moves, February 2013

My relationship with my stepdad was not emotional or touchy feely or huggy or lovey dovey growing up. He always worked his tail off to pay our bills, but he wasn’t really ready to invest in us emotionally until I was in high school. I remember noticing a change in his behavior and attitude after he attended a Promise Keepers convention. It wasn’t an overnight change–just a slow evolution into a more caring, compassionate, spiritually minded, and patient father.

Today, we’re pretty close. He’s never going to be the mushiest guy on the block–thank God! But he coos over my daughter. And he tells me he is praying for me. And he works on his own spiritual and personal growth all the time. And–yes, this is true–he takes dancing lessons with my mom.

I love him for who he is. And I’m grateful for who he is. And I’m thankful that he survived the estrogen fest and now has a little more time to thumb through magazines in the bathroom.

Happy Father’s Day to the best and baddest guy on the block.