Father’s Day, 2022.

I remember the very last time I got to tell my dad, “Happy Father’s Day.” It was in June, 1988. So long ago, but I remember it vividly. A guy I was dating and I took the kids to South Dakota, Mount Rushmore to be specific. We loaded my station wagon with all the gear, and I drove us all. By the second night, I was ready to send him home on a bus, directly to his mother. He was pretty self-centered. The kids had fun, and I did with them, but not with him.

I had just attended my best friend’s funeral. Angie died of lung cancer in early June. Her daughter got married the day after the funeral. I hurt so badly I ached. I’d lost grandparents and old aunts before, but never a friend. The boyfriend couldn’t understand my need to grieve. He thought in two weeks I’d be back to normal, and I wouldn’t be sad anymore. I was finished with him by the end of the summer, and never to look back. The other thing that summer trip taught me was never pitch your tent downhill at a campground. After months of drought, the first night we camped, the skies opened up like history was repeating the rains for Noah’s Ark. It was the worst rain I’ve ever experienced. In a tent.

So Father’s Day came, the kids and I walked to the pay phone near the camp office. I had a bunch of change in hand. (Explain to the children what that was. I’ll wait!) I dialed my parents phone number, and Dad answered. He always sounded a little embarrassed when I called to with him Happy Birthday, Happy Father’s Day or Merry Christmas. He was such a humble man. The kids all talked with him, and told him what we had been up to. I got back on the phone, told him I missed him, and we’d be home soon. Looking back, I can hardly believe we would be getting ready for his funeral in six short months.

He would retire, become ill, be diagnosed with lung cancer in October, and die 51 days later. He died on December 7, and was buried on the 10th. What a shock. What a raw deal for him. Finally retire and look forward to doing whatever he wanted, and he got cheated. Wow. I’m sure he was rewarded for his devotion to God, his family, his job, and to being the good example he was to my children. Especially Frankie. Once in awhile even now, he’ll talk about something he and Grandpa did together. I’ll never forget how kind he was to Frankie.

It’s a void, but when eternity comes to mind, I picture getting to be with my dad and his mother again. They were the two most powerful examples to me growing up. I am fortunate to have had a father who was the quintessential gentleman, full of respect for women, and full of love for his family. Sure, he wasn’t a saint, but no one is. His many lessons still live in my heart today.

It’s been said before; if you have your parents, call them. Every time you get the chance. You may not be able to the next time it comes into your mind. Never let regrets have a chance to take root. Say you’re sorry; mend those fences. Life is way too short.

For those of you who still have your dad’s, hug them for me. I hope you all have a beautiful evening, and we’ll see each other tomorrow. Stay hydrated! It’s brutal out there, again.

Fifth Step: Always Do Your Best.

Imagine my surprise this morning, as I turned to The Fourth Agreement of the Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz: Always Do Your Best. We think we do, but we really don’t. My dad preached to all of us to do our best. Whatever we do, do it with every bit of our being; homework, building a science project, or as adults at work. Do it to the best of our ability. Why?

Ruiz says if we do our best, we live intensely. We’re more productive (I’m all for that!). You’ll be good to yourself as you give yourself to your family, friends, community and everyone else. It’s in the act you feel good. I can tell for myself, as I’ve rearranged my morning time spent, I’m creating more. I’m getting started on feeling accomplished. I’m getting things done. My stress is less. Yes, I can see the future I’ve been working so hard at for the past few years.

Most people have jobs instead of careers. They are miserable and can’t wait for whenever payday is, welcome the weekend with open arms, and dread Monday morning. During my single mom years, I suppose I was a bit of a workaholic. I’d work for the OT on Saturday mornings. My kids were old enough to stay alone, watch cartoons, and pour milk on their own cereal, while I worked 4 hours from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Once home, we’d start on cleaning, laundry, doing yard work, etc. I miss the energy but not the stress that came with it.

Yes, many people misuse those two days called the weekend. Chances are, deep down, we’re unhappy. The work is dull and boring but we need the benefits. When you’re unhappy, you try to escape; into more work, going to the bar, and the rest of the story isn’t pretty. Sure, I visited drinking establishments; I had to see what the hype was all about. It took about a year for the luster to wear off. I quit going out, looked forward to staying home with the kids on Friday nights, doing laundry, and being grateful.

Once we accept ourselves, learning from each mistake, we develop stronger personalities. We learn to stand up for ourselves. Things don’t bother us. We can say with total honesty of our word, “I did my best.” I can tell you, living a life with chronic pain and disability since 1995, many days, my best is disappointing. No one but me is judging, but I’m learning to know it’s nothing I’m doing on purpose, it’s simply the hand I was dealt at age 43. Yes I’m used to it; I know what to expect. About every five years, I become significantly worse. Part of it is aging, a lot of it is my condition. I remain grateful to God I can still walk, drive, see, and create beauty for my world.

Further, Ruiz tells us when we enjoy what we’re doing, it isn’t work, you’re doing it because you want to, not because you’re forced to do it. Sure, there are minor things required of us to live in society, living with others, we just do them. Laundry, cleaning, mowing the yard, they’re must do’s to live in a neighborhood with others. I consider them to be necessary evils. I thank God I have many nice clothes, a nice home, and we can see what we’ve worked for. The Babe helps a lot. It’s how his mom raised him. Thanks, Liz!

When we are in the process of action, we are living. We are experiencing living fully. Inaction is siting on the couch watching TV. Sure, I succumb to it now an then, but then realize how fruitless that is. I enjoy a good Netflix binge just as much as the next person. I just don’t allow it all day, every day. I can’t. If I would, I may as well cancel my website, my blog, my works in progress, give away all my fabric, art supplies . . .

Ruiz also says when you live, keep your word, never assume, don’t take anything personally, and do your best, your life will be happier, fuller, and reach further into the universe. Who could hope for more than that? What a great way to live.

Last summer, while our friend Lenny was experiencing declining health, I came upon the company, “Live a Great Story.” I have lots of their stickers, magnets, and shirts. It’s a motto I love, and it’s one that makes me remember Lenny. He was generous to a fault, and kept it hidden. He was somewhat of a curmudgeon until he saw a little kid. Then he lit up. At his funeral, I learned what a generous man he was. He lived a great story, that’s for sure. Dang, we miss you, Lenny. It’s so quiet at our table on Wednesday nights.

These four agreements are staying in a handy place. I will refer to this book often. It will certainly help me putting my kid book out and returning to my novel. I have grown to love my life, despite it’s areas of loss. We were not prepared how to live life older, less agile, and less energy. You cannot make a machine out of the human body, to defy it’s limits – whether the limits are age, accident, illness, disability.

We can conquer doubt and fear by learning to take risks – putting your art out there, your written word, your quilts, your creations. It is possible, and probably the best thing you can do for yourself. Art heals. Quilting heals. Writing heals. I believe it’s my purpose now. Write and help others heal.

My schedule is changed for today. The Babe called to meet for lunch. I’d adjust. It’s what you do when there are two of you. Someday, one of us will not be here. We need to enjoy each other now. No regrets. Have a beautiful afternoon, we’ll see each other tomorrow.

Dad with Grandpa Jewell. Had to have been after WWII.

This Date Shall Live in Infamy

This date not only commemorates the day the United States of America was purposely attacked by the Japanese military. Chaos reigned in the area, until we gathered our senses, made our plans, and locations like Midway, Guam, and other islands became key areas to defend and win back for freedom. Whatever the other history is, where we made serious mistakes and overlooked intelligence, many young men were lost in this horrible attack. Those who survived never forgot. The people of America united easily to support their military in not only Europe, and Africa, but now in the Pacific. The Japanese awakened the sleeping dragon.

This date is also the birthday of my first mother-in-law, Josephine Gerdun Tomasek. I often thought how difficult it must have been to have this terrible event happen on your birthday. Her family was still growing in numbers, and her husband Frank eventually worked at the Martin Bomber Plant in Bellevue, Nebraska. Offutt Air Force Base was built on the property and became home to the Strategic Air Command.

Josephine had a hard life, many children, and many challenges with life with her husband. She took her marriage vows seriously. Til death do us part meant something to her. Some relationships thrive with struggle. She was a creative woman, fed seven children, clothed them, and made sure they all had a Catholic education. God meant the world to her. She was always kind to me after her son and I divorced. She felt it was important to keep me in her life, and I always appreciated that. She loved that my kids came first to me. Happy Birthday in heaven, Josephine.

The third event on this day has caused my family it’s own day of infamy. In 1988, my father, Thomas M. Jewell, Jr. died of lung cancer. It was a horribly fast moving cancer. He lost 51 pounds in the 51 days from diagnosis to death. He was only 64 years old, had just retired, and was looking forward to traveling for the first time in his life. He made reservations to a European Campaign of his Army Blackhawk Division, following the route he and other soldiers took following General Patton through Europe, liberating each country from Nazi takeover. He never got to take the trip. Mom did.

So today, as America remembers, I’ll remember a lovely lady along with my dad, who Josephine called a gentleman. He was. And yet, he was a badass, too. When I received his medals from the Army, there were many, and also two bronze stars. Badass, indeed. I’m so proud to be his daughter. Remember today. Remember freedom. Remember our military, still sacrificing for our freedom. Thank them if you see someone in uniform today. Be kind to the old gentlemen in their VFW hats. Respect the Honor Guards as they lay heroes to rest. Be grateful. And we’ll see each other tomorrow.

Dear Dad,

Things are coming along here. It’s been a long time since you’ve seen how crazy this planet is, and especially the country we live in. I’d love to get your opinion on all the goings on, from the Pandemic to Politics, to our Military, to technology. I’d love to linger with you over a keyboard and show you what you could read, right at your fingertips.

I know how you loved Kaiser’s Book Store in downtown Omaha. You’d most likely still want to hold the books in your hands to read, I prefer that, too. It’s an option, though. As quickly as you read, you might enjoy it. Speaking of books, I’m writing several. Too many ideas that seem good. I couldn’t pick a favorite, it would be like picking your favorite child.

I’m also working with an attorney to establish a publishing company. I want to have control over my publications. I’m concerned if I publish traditionally, I’d may not recognize my work. If someone makes me an offer, I can’t refuse, great. Otherwise, I’ll go it alone. I think you’d be proud; I am. That’s hard for me to get used to saying; I’m not used to saying it. It’s not ego talking, it’s confidence. I’ve gained more of that since you died. I remember where we all came from. Humble roots. I thank you for all you provided; not just physical things, but also the example you set every day. It is one I try to follow, and one I hope my kids remember.

Writing a book or several has been a dream of mine for a long time. My Becky encouraged me to get going. She’s a wise young woman, married with two beautiful children, a girl and a boy. You would love them. Nick married and lives in Kansas City. Frankie still lives in Omaha, he’s still cooking. He’s quite good at it. They’re all good.

Today would have been your Happy 97th Birthday! What an accomplishment it would be! Maybe I’ll make it to that age. I’m hoping. You weren’t born yet during the Spanish Flu, and I can tell you, living during a pandemic is scary. I don’t need to tell you that. You always kept us away from harm, in your own way. Even though other kids went barefoot and wore thongs, oops, Dad, thongs now refer to underwear, I mean sandals or flip-flops. Yes, I’m serious, Dad. You wouldn’t believe some things people are doing.

We’re actually wearing masks when we’re around other people; I know with your medical knowledge, you’d be all for that. Masks, questionnaires, drive up testing sites, and people just staying home from March last year through December 31, 2020. It came from China, and I know you wouldn’t approve being friendly with them, or with Russia. Even North Korea. Yes, that god-forsaken place where you served your country during the “Conflict.” I know a couple Korean Veterans, and I tell them about you. I’m still proud to be your daughter. You left an imprint on my heart and my being, and I miss you, but not weirdly. I just wanted more good times with you. Conversations. Sharing. And you seeing your grandkids grow up. They’re up there in age now (but then I am too!)

Mom let me send for your military medals. You were a badass! Sorry, I know I shouldn’t talk like that. It’s true. Yes, you never called attention to yourself. For anything. I didn’t know you carried a black rosary in your trouser pocket every day, just like you did in WWII and Korea. You were deeply spiritual, and no one knew. It was between you and God. I like that. You always were a very “do it, move on, and don’t brag about it.” That is one of your best qualities. I hope to be that way, too. I don’t enjoy talking about myself and the Babe. He’s got to be the one you pulled strings for to meet me. It wouldn’t surprise me. He has a lot of your qualities, including loving me unconditionally. You’d love him, too. Thanks.

I’m going to keep writing in 2021. I want to publish some books. It would be so cool to hold a book with my name as the author. It’s not to make a living, it’s to make something in my life. It’s the achievement I’m going for. You taught me well; I’m just going to go for it. Doing my homework all along the way. Learning all I can. It’s enjoyable. I love it. Stretching, reaching, serving. Thank you. Happy Birthday, Dad.

The Babe and I Wish You All a Happy New Year!

Tactical Tuesday

Good Morning to you from the Home Office in Gretna, Nebraska. Tuesday’s are the rare day the Babe is home and not working at the Post. So, of course, we need to do errands today, like most folks do on Saturday. The trick is, it’s not crowded. And we get done in record time, and still get to have lunch before picking up Addison from school. Yes, her Cross Country season is over. She did well for a first timer. Now it’s back to whatever normal used to be for us, before school was called.

My Yesterday and Today “Ugly Christmas Sweater” Merch.

I had to show you the whole photo of the entire piece of art hanging in my studio/office entrance. I had to buy this when I saw it, and every time I enter the room, I can hear my dad tell me, “Just keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll get there.” He told me that when he was dying of cancer. I had just told him the only regret I had was I hadn’t graduated from college. At that time, I had a couple associate degrees and certificates.

He died in 1988, and in Summer, 1995, I finished my Bachelor’s Degree, Management of Human Resources. We graduated from Bellevue University in January of 1996. It was bittersweet, I had just survived a December 1995 ten hour spine surgery to perforate a cyst on my spinal cord. I was still having home IV treatment for disk infection and nearly full bed rest. The Doc told me I needed to go to the graduation. I could rest before and after. It was great for my mental well being. And God really knows what He’s doing – I met the Babe in March, 1996. Right after I shed my “turtle shell” I had to wear constantly.

Anyway, if you want a cute, fun, sweatshirt for the colder weather, these are only $15. Check them out. I wear an XL. It’s just fun. We all need some fun at this point in time.

This morning is Day 2 of the Confirmation Hearings. I was aghast at some of the questions Diane Feinstein asked. “How do you do it, with your large family and work.” Excusssssssseeeee me? That question is illegal in an everyday job interview. It’s a Federal Law, Diane! How dare you!! Would you have asked a man the same question? If not, you need to issue an apology. Stat.

While I am working on my daily writing, the Babe is working to finish the bench he’s building for the patio next spring. It will be fun to have something new to display and use. I need to get the rest of the plants inside in the next couple days before the cold nights zap them. They did well as long as Goldie couldn’t touch them. She uprooted my Hibiscus plant from it’s pot and played with it before I saw her. The wind knocked the pot off the table, and she figured whatever was on the ground was hers. Silly puppy. Note to self: When it’s windy, check to see if anything fell into dog territory.

How do you like this meme?


Truth!

There are many people who comment to me about my blog. Yet, they don’t put a “like” on it. And that’s ok. I know they read. And they may even mention one to a friend. And the friend reads it. That’s cool, too. I love it, and I would guess that happens, too. I do this because I love doing it. I’ve always wanted to write. And, a blog counts as being “published,” just as a physical book does. I have to accept more people will probably read my book as an e-book or Kindle edition than who will buy and read a physical copy. That’s ok, too.

When I think how I think it will feel to hold a book that I wrote in my hand, and to read my name as the author, it makes my eyes teary. And as long as I keep doing what I’m doing, I’ll get there. And I’ll see my dad, off in the background, smiling at me, whether it be at a book signing, a craft fair, or a writers guild conference. We’re getting closer, boys and girls! Let’s keep each other going. Slow gets there, don’t lose hope. You can do it. Just keep doing what you’re doing, too. Thanks. See you tomorrow!