Category Archives: Dad

Hey Dad, I Miss You…

It seems like I just wrote this post the other day. I can hardly believe it’s been a year since my dad passed away. I’m not really sure how I thought I would feel a year later. I don’t miss him any more or any less today, I just miss him. I don’t want to spend today crying about how much I miss him though. He wouldn’t want that. Instead, I want to spend today thinking about all of the wonderful memories I had with my dad.

A lot of things have changed over the past year, both good and bad. Some things I’m glad Dad wasn’t here for; for others my heart hurts that he is missing out.

I guess I thought I would have some profound writing ready for this day. Maybe I would’ve if I planned this post out a little more. I really don’t have any profound thoughts though. I just feel really fortunate for the 25 years I had my dad in my life. 25 years of laughter, tears, celebrations, and good food. 25 years that my dad taught me to be the person I am today. I’ll forever cherish those years and use them with each decision I make.

So today I won’t cry, I won’t be angry. Instead, I’ll be thankful for what I have and who I’ve become and I’ll remember all of the good times we shared.

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Happy Birthday Dad

Unfortunately, this post is a lot later than I had planned. I don’t know what happened last week, but I did cook. Tuesday, the 8th, would have been my dad’s 59th birthday. My stepmom and I talked last week about all of the “firsts” that occur after a loved-one dies. Thankfully, we’re almost done with all of those firsts, and family will be around for the ones that remain (birthdays and the first anniversary of him passing), so that eases the pain a bit. I knew Dad’s birthday was coming up, but it really kind of snuck up on me and I started the morning feeling a little down. My friend Jamie made a wonderful suggestion. She knew I’ve been doing my weekly recipes, so she suggested I go home and cook one of my dad’s favorite recipes. It was the perfect way to celebrate my dad’s birthday, doing something that he loved to do.

I wasn’t able to cook the meal on his actual birthday, but it gave me more time to plan, so it actually worked out pretty well. I decided to cook his chicken and dumplings recipe and then his strawberry pie for a bonus recipe and dessert! My stepmom sent me his recipes and I made a few slight modifications.

I’ll start with the chicken and dumplings. I decided to scale down the recipe because I didn’t really need to feed an army. I also decided to make my own dumplings instead of buying them from the store. I’d never made dumplings before, so I’m sure my dad would’ve approved of that change.

Here’s what I used:

4 chicken thighs
1 qt. Chicken broth
Salt
Pepper

1 c. Flour
1/2 c. Milk
2 tsp. Baking powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
2 tbsp. Butter

Boil the chicken and pull the meat from the bone. Heat the chicken broth and after a few minutes, add the chicken. Cook on medium while you make your dumplings. Don’t try to also make your pie while this is going on. You’ll end up going insane and might burn a perfectly good pie crust (not that that happened or anything). For the dumplings, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter (make sure it’s around room temperature). Finally, add the milk until it reaches a doughy consistency. Drop globs into your chicken and broth, they don’t need to be perfectly shaped, they look better with a little bit of character! Simmer for 10-15 minutes and add salt and pepper to taste!

Now for the pie you’ll need:

1 qt. Strawberries
1 baked pie crust
3 c. Heavy cream
1/3 c. Powdered sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla

I decided to make my own whipped cream for the pie, but to be honest, I wish I had just bought a tub of cool whip. So if you do that, forget those last three ingredients.  First, wash and quarter your strawberries. Don’t forget to sample a few as you go along! Sprinkle with a bit of powdered sugar (maybe 1/4 cup) and let them marinate in the fridge for at least an hour. Bake your pie crust as directed. Then combine your whipped cream and strawberries and fill your cooled pie crust.

If you’re making the whipped cream, start by whipping the heavy cream. I was using my hand mixer and really wished I had a stand mixer. I was getting impatient and didn’t want to ruin my chicken and dumplings, but then I remembered hearing about using a food processor to make whipped cream. Ho-ly crap. After standing there with my hand mixer for a good 10 minutes, I broke out the food processor…10 seconds later it was whipped. Add 1/3 c. powdered sugar and tsp. of vanilla and blend well.

Now my problem was that my whipped cream just wasn’t quite right, it tasted good, but it wasn’t completely smooth and it just didn’t look as pretty as store-bought. I also didn’t eat any of the pie until the next day and it had soaked through the bottom of the crust. Overall, the pie was kind of a flop, but I think if I did it a little differently, it would’ve been amazing. I still ate some and it tasted delicious, despite how it looked!

 

Now, embarrassingly enough I forgot to take a picture of the pie when it was done. Oops! Overall, chicken and dumplings were quite successful. The pie…could be improved, but that was my fault. My dad’s was always delicious! I had fun cooking these and trying some things I hadn’t done before. More than anything though, it was really nice to cook foods I knew my dad loved and to just spend a few hours in the kitchen with my dad again.

Dad, I miss you tons, but I’m thankful for the things we have here to keep us connected and celebrating the wonderful father you were. ❤

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One last trip with Dad

I’ve been thinking for the past few days about this post. Should I write it? Would it weird people out? Most of you know that my dad passed away this summer. It’s been difficult dealing with losing him, but one thing that has helped has been just talking about him. I love telling people about my dad. The first post I wrote about my dad really helped me a lot with the healing process.

So I went on a journey over the weekend with my sister…and my dad (I’ll explain). I knew I was going to want to write about this trip because it meant a lot to me, but then I thought, is this going to weird people out? I think in general, people don’t like talking about death. It makes people uncomfortable.  We’ve talked about this in a few of my classes. Prior to the 20th century (and probably even in the early 20th century) people talked about death. They were comfortable with it. Death was a part of life and they didn’t shy away from it. What did they not talk about? S-E-X. Sex. Too scandalous! Now look at today…it’s the exact opposite, sex is everywhere! Death is what we avoid. I just find that so fascinating. I wish I could research it more thoroughly, but grad student duties call this weekend (and for the next few months…sigh). I did find an interesting source about how death has become taboo in American culture. Herman Feifel, one of the pioneers of this subject, came up with four trends responsible for the shift in the view on death (in case you don’t click the link):

(1) the abdication of community to a pervasive sense of individualism

(2) the replacement of a predominantly religious worldview with one that is secular

(3) the sweeping power that materialism holds on the values, interests, and behaviors in modern society

(4) the influential place of science and technology in daily life.

Yes, yes, yes, and yes. I agree wholeheartedly. It makes me sad though. I agree that these changes have happened, but I don’t think that means that our view on death has to change too. Bottom line — I think we should be more open about death…to help each other in the grieving process and to think about and understand death. This has all been on my mind all week about writing this post and basically I decided I should write it. I knew it would help me and it’s something that I really feel comfortable talking about.

I mentioned that I went on a trip with my sister and my dad. He had a few wishes for when he died. He wanted to be cremated and he wanted us to have a place to visit. Dad died pretty unexpectedly, so we didn’t get to go into more detail, so we made a few decisions from there. We decided to bury some of his ashes in a place where we could all visit and the rest we decided to spread in a few different places that had meant a lot to my dad during his life. We picked five places, all water locations, because my dad loved the water. He loved going fishing. Each of us kids picked a location (it was going to be hard to coordinate us all going to them) and we were in charge of that location. Twila and I decided to do ours together because they were the farthest. I picked Savannah, GA, where my dad was born. Twila picked Wilmington, NC, where my dad lived for a while and where a lot of our family still lives.

I should mention that a few years ago my mom, siblings, and I spread my grandparents ashes. My grandfather died in 1993 and my grandmother in 2005. They wanted their ashes spread together in the mountains of North Carolina where they first met. I thought that was so romantic. While my dad’s isn’t really romantic, it is really unique and I like that cremation allows for that (are you weirded out yet?).

As strange as it was to be excited about this trip, I really was. I didn’t see it as a really sad thing. I saw it as a way to fulfill his last wishes. A way to connect with my dad. A Gator Adventure. We both had tons of memories of Wilmington with my dad…family trips there since we were little, spending time with family, going to the beach, going fishing. My dad’s mom and sister still live there too. Our aunt (also Twila) came with us to spread dad’s ashes. Mike and my sister’s husband, Andy, came with us too, I don’t want to leave them out! After a large breakfast at Cracker Barrel (yum!), we found a nice spot where the ocean and the sound met. My dad used to go fishing out in the sound all the time. It was so peaceful that morning, there weren’t too many people out on the beach, and just a few boats out. We rolled up our pant-legs and went out into the water to spread Dad’s ashes. Now the water in this section is relatively calm. As soon as my sister handed me the ashes to spread though, a bigger wave came and drenched my pants. My aunt said “you know that was your dad messing with you.” It was just so perfect, and so true. He would’ve gotten such a kick out of that. We spent some time walking around, picking up shells, and enjoying the view.

We said goodbye to my aunt and started down towards Savannah. We had never been to Savannah. My grandfather was stationed there when my dad was born. My dad always gushed over how pretty Savannah was and what a neat city it was. I so wish that I had gotten to go there with him. We only had about 24 hours in Savannah, but we hoped to make the most of it. We did a lot of walking Friday night before our ghost tour (!!!!). Savannah is known as the most haunted city in America. It’s a city built on its dead because so many buildings and roads are built over old cemeteries. I’m a ghost freak. I’ll admit it. There are a number of ghost tours to go on in  Savannah. We went on the one at the Sorrel-Weed House. Ghost Hunters filmed an episode here.

We got to walk by the cemetery too:

Sadly, we didn’t see any ghosts, but we did hear some pretty cool stories. I swear half of my pictures are random shots inside the house that I took hoping to see a ghost, no luck.  The next day, we ate an awesome southern breakfast on River Street and headed further down the river to spread dad’s ashes. We got honked at by a ferry, I don’t think we were supposed to be where we were…again my dad would’ve laughed at this! We spent the afternoon exploring the city some more. We made good use of the tour trolleys, hopping on and off at interesting spots. We saw so quickly why my dad loved Savannah so much. There is so much charm (and history!) there. It really was a great trip, for all of us I think. All four of us were ready to pack up and move to Savannah. For me at least though, it was really special getting to see where my dad grew up and to fulfill his wishes. Doing all of this with my sister made it all the more meaningful. I really felt like it was an adventure we were going on, it wasn’t a task or a chore that we had to do. It was a special connection to my dad that I’ll always have now. What are your thoughts on death and grieving?

I’ll leave you with a few more pictures from Savannah.





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Remembering My Dad

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything. Anyone reading this probably already knows, but if not, my father passed away very suddenly last month. I knew I would want to write something about my dad, but it’s been really difficult both to come up with the right words to describe how I’m feeling and to actually make myself sit down and type it all out. My dad was one of the most important people in my life and it’s been a hard few weeks dealing with losing him and accepting the fact that he’s gone.

Dad and me at my graduation from JMU

My dad was so fun to be around. That’s one of the best ways I can describe him. Anytime I was going to visit him, I knew I was going to have fun. Looking back, it’s really amazing to me because I know my dad was probably always in pain, either with his back or his constant migraines, but when his kids were there, he hid it as much as he could.  I really admire him for that, because I know how much he must have been hurting, but he sure didn’t show it. He would sit there and spend time with us and just laugh. He had the best, most infectious laugh of anyone I’ve ever known. I’ll always be able to hear that laugh of his.

I also always knew I’d eat well (maybe not healthy, but I would eat WELL) when I went to visit my dad. That man knew how to cook! He got it from his father and it’s something that he was very passionate about. I’ve never met anyone in my life that spent so much time making a salad. It had to look just perfect.  By the time he was done with it and put it on the table, none of us wanted to eat it because it looked too pretty. He was such a perfectionist. He loved to cook so much that we actually put his steak recipe on the prayer cards at his memorial service. (I’ll be sure to share that one in a later post.) We thought it would be really fitting to share that with his close friends and family since cooking meant so much to him.

Dad grilling in his gator apron

There are so many things I could tell you about my dad, so many great stories and memories, but it’s the really simple things I’ll miss the most about him. I lived too far away to visit as often as I would’ve liked, so Dad and I talked a lot on the phone. We didn’t really have a specific time of week that we talked. We would just call each other whenever we had a chance. I called him a lot when I was coming home from work or class and we would just chat while I sat in traffic or while I walked home. It’s been really difficult these past few weeks to break the habit of pulling out my phone and calling him. That has been really difficult. We would always talk about nothing in particular, but they were always the best conversations.

Dad and me

My siblings and I are all interested in pretty different things, but my dad always was enthusiastic in what we were all doing and he was always so proud of us, and was sure to tell us that. He took a genuine interest in what we were doing and wanted to know all about it. He was always asking me about the different classes I was taking and about my internships. He was so excited about my internship at the Air and Space Museum. I started that internship a week after he died and I hate that I don’t get to call him when I get off work and tell him all about it.  He loved talking about history and museums with me. He loved talking to Rebecca about nursing and talking to Twila about animals. He loved talking to Chris about cooking (and eating!) and I know how much we all miss talking to him too.

At my sister, Twila's wedding last fall

There are probably a million more things I could tell you about my dad, and perhaps more things will come with time. It’s been a hard month for us all to figure out how to cope with losing my dad. It’s certainly brought us all closer together, which I know my dad would appreciate. There are things I see and think of that remind me of him every day, for which I am very grateful. I know that I’m so lucky for the time that I had with him. One thing my wonderful stepmom, Kathy, said is that his legacy is his children and because of that he’ll always be here with us. I think all four of us will surely keep his legacy alive in every way we can.

Dad, it’s been a long, sad month without you. More than anything, I wish I could just give you a call and talk, make you laugh, and tell you I love you, and just how much I miss you.

Someday when we meet up yonder
We’ll stroll hand in hand again
In the land that knows no parting
Blue eyes crying in the rain

Dad fishing in NC


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