Day 21: A look back

*Thanks to my friend Brandon Davidson for serving as the guest writer for Day 21  of the Dear Gratitude project. His post is guaranteed to make you laugh. It will probably cause you to pause and give thanks for all the people and circumstances that brought you where you are in your own life, too.*

Dear Bethany,

When you asked me to write a blog post, I agreed without really thinking about what in the world I would share with your readers.

I typically fly by the seat of my pants.

This is the story of my life.

One week after watching Batman Forever, I packed a trash bag full of clothes and hopped in a buddy’s truck. We were moving to Hollywood. We didn’t have the bankroll to get to Hollywood, CA, so we went for the next best thing–Hollywood, FL. (Newsflash, this is NOT the next best thing.) I spent a few months there and then tucked my tail between my legs and decided to move back to Arkansas and go to college.

I lasted one semester.

It was the classic story. Boy goes to college. Boy doesn’t go to class. Boy drinks way too much. Boy wakes up completely nude in a field, only to realize that he is just outside the outfield fence of a softball field while two high school teams battle it out.

Nothing to see here, just a dude cupping himself waddling back to campus.

Don’t worry, I’ll get thankful soon.

A few weeks later, I was asked to leave the school after mooning the Dean of the school’s wife and daughter.

The next year was a blur of playing semi-pro rugby, naked Trivial Pursuit, and trying to get back on track.

1. KathyI went back to school only to leave again when my Mom became disabled. I moved back home to be with my mom and brother. It was while in Batesville that I met Kathy and knew that she was the one. I asked her to marry me a little over a month after I met her. People thought we were crazy. We were, but we were also in love. Almost 15 years later, I can tell you without a doubt that I am who I am because of her.

I am thankful for Kathy.

After we got married, I spent the next few years in full time ministry in the Church.

I felt like I had a purpose, and it was intoxicating.

 

2. EmilyKathy and I welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world in 2003.  From the moment I met Emily Grace, she has brought light into the world and filled my heart with love.

I am thankful for Emily.

When Kathy and I were first engaged, I was diagnosed with a pretty severe liver disease. The doctor told me that my prognosis was 10 years max and that I probably shouldn’t get married or have kids. I laid all this out for Kathy and told her that I loved her and that I had no plan other than to be with her. I asked her if she wanted to keep flying by the seat of our pants.

SHE SAID YES, YOU GUYS.

Not long after Emily was born, I got very sick. As a last resort the doctors tried a new treatment option. To my surprise, almost 20 weeks later I was cured. That was 10 years ago. Kathy had a newborn baby and a weakened husband, but we made it. She was unbelievably strong.

I am thankful for my family.

3. ChurchWorking for the church was demanding and I was horrible at balancing work/home. I was rewarded for being a bad dad and a shitty husband. Something had to give.

I walked away from my career in the church, and I haven’t looked back. I can always find another church if I want, but I can’t find another family.

A couple of weeks later, with no insurance and no jobs (Kathy was fired from her job at the church after I resigned. It’s a cool story; I’ll share it sometime), Kathy found out she was pregnant.

WHAT.

We had been trying for years. That miracle cure that healed my liver also supposedly made me sterile.

NOT SO MUCH.

I had a wife and a daughter and a baby the size of a strawberry on the way. (Side note: why do we use fruit when we are giving reference to babies’ sizes?)

4. buttJosh is 3 years old now and painted the most amazing Butt watercolor last night.

Pretty great, huh?

Josh is sweet, funny and a little bit of a dumpster fire. I wouldn’t have it any other way. 5. Josh

I sure didn’t plan it this way, but somehow I ended up with an amazing life.

I am thankful.

 

Plotting Hope,

Brandon

 

Brandon Davidson is stand-up comic and social media strategist based out of Tyler, Texas. He is a husband, a dad, and a disappointment to many. He used to have to drink to have a good time; now he doesn’t need to have a good time. Follow @brandondavidson on Twitter if you love carbs.

 

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.

Finding the funny

Yesterday, as I wandered about the dim kitchen, attempting to tidy things up minus electricity in the middle of a thunderstorm, I heard a solid knock at the back door. I jumped and wondered who it could be since I wasn’t expecting any company. I glanced around the corner and saw my father-in-law, who I like to call Big Jim, standing on the back porch, investigating our tomato plants.

I let him in and took a break from cleaning for a while as we sat in the semi-dark living room talking. He’d stopped by to deliver a half-gallon bucket full of freshly picked blackberries, which he’d spontaneously decided to gather while fishing on the White River. Our conversation meandered around the weather, small-mouth bass, berry picking, stories from the weekend, and church and religion. I’m not sure how we arrived, but somehow we landed at the Vietnam War.

“You know, you hear all these guys who’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan talking about how bad it was, but I guess I just don’t think of it that way,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I asked. I was waiting for a joke of some kind to slip out since Big Jim is notorious for his pranks and wise cracks.

Big Jim hamming it up on Independence Day 2011

“Well, sure, when I was in Vietnam, I saw some bad stuff, and some bad stuff happened. But I guess I just don’t think about that stuff. I think about the funny things that happened. There’s humor in every situation. Even in a war, when guys are shooting at you, some funny stuff happens, so that’s what I like to think about instead,” he explained.

He then proceeded to tell me a somewhat off-color but hilarious story about some of his wartime buddies. The story was set in the middle of a battle, while digging foxholes on the beach in Vietnam. Amidst all that, what he remembers and likes to tell people about is the bit of funny he found while hunkered down for the night, dodging bullets.

I gained more than just blackberries for my first-ever homemade blackberry pie yesterday. I gained a greater understanding of who Big Jim really is and a deeper respect for him as well. And I was reminded that in every situation, we ultimately choose our focus. I need to find the funny more often.