The Best Dad.

BTM_9950


My precious dad passed away early Monday morning. He adored his wife, kids, and grandkids more than anything else in his fascinating and adventurous life. He always prioritized making memories, imparting wisdom, and causing smiles and giggles.

He had a spectacularly infinite range of talents. He was an expert on antique automobiles and their engines (and wrote two books on how to rebuild them), built antique race cars and crewed or navigated some of the most epic races (including ones across Mexico and a 45 day road rally from Beijing to Paris), drew gorgeous pen and ink drawings that were published in magazines and other forms, wrote short stories, raised bees, built coops for my mom’s chickens, built his own house (including gorgeous woodworking and light fixtures), organized grand events and organizations, and so, so much more.

There are so very many things about who I am that came from my Dad. He taught me to never doubt myself, and to take on any big project that I felt led to do. He imparted to me his renegade spirit – if you have a vision for the way something should work or the kind of group you’d like to be a part of, create it. I have so many more things to say about all that my Dad taught me, and I will share it at a later time.

Dad was given time after his diagnosis, which he used to purposefully make memories with his grandkids – it was so important to him to do special things with them and give them handmade gifts. He was first diagnosed with Ocular Melanoma six years ago, and found out that it had spread two years ago. In these six years, I have watched him take time with each of his five grandchildren, teaching them skills like driving and creating and building, sharing with them wisdom and character traits, and loving them so very well. He found out three weeks ago that he had a very short time left, and that there was nothing else that could be done for his failing liver. The first thing he did when he came home with that news was to ask Ali if she’d play a game of chess with him. As they played, I heard him telling her things that applied to the game, but also to life, like “No, I’m not going easy on you. I always play to win. No matter what you do, you should always play to win.” Dad did beat Ali in that chess game, but he complimented her on her good game.

IMG_5867bw

On Saturday, Dad knew he had extremely little time left. He asked my mom to call us all to come see him. We all spent Saturday with him, giving him time with each of his grandchildren. From Saturday on, my brothers and I rotated staying with he and my Mom through the agonizing process of dying. My Dad is the strongest, most resilient person I’ve ever known, and it was anguishing to watch him suffer so greatly. But I was glad to be able to be there for him in some small way, because of the 36+ years he’s been there for me in all of the ways. He became very calm in the early a.m. hours of Monday, and I am thankful that when he passed away, he met Jesus peacefully and restfully. My dad has been confident from the beginning of this journey that as much as he wanted to stay with us, meeting Jesus would be beautiful, and I know it was.

God has been so gracious to our family in the past few weeks and has made his love and care known in so many beautiful and individual ways. He has sent obvious and loving messages to us that have been such a comfort – even as we walk through this painful time, He is clearly with us, caring for us, and hurting with us.

We have also had so many friends who have loved us well, helping with our kids and errands and food and every tiny detail of life. I thank you all so much for your help, your love, and your prayers.

There will be an interment at 12:30 on Monday, September 24 at Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo. A celebration of life service will be held at 2:30 on Monday, September 24 in the worship center at Shades Mountain Community Church, with refreshments and visitation to follow in the fellowship hall.

IMG_2214

BTM_9411

BTM_9922

IMG_0373 s_1

IMG_9091

Noah Riding Lawnmower Lessons from Pop 180419 IMG_1067

T Model 4

Zannis-Family-Vacation-2016-Picture_MG_5915

 

 

An Update on The Pause.

I have written more in the past week than I have written in months.

But first, let me tell you how I got there.

This process of pausing has been very bizarre and not at all what I expected. Last week’s post was something I’ve dreaded publishing for quite some time because I feared that once I decided to take a break, I’d never write again. I assumed the freedom from it would make me not think about writing, not want to write (even more that I already didn’t), and totally separate me from the process of thinking through writing about things. After I hit the publish button, the hurt hit me hard.

I published it before I had time to think about it, and before I really decided that yes, this is the day to do this. I guess that was best because otherwise I would have overthunk it (that’s a legit phrase) for days and never posted it, and then gotten another blog post idea and decided to put it off. Because that’s what I’ve done for the last three summers.

As soon as I hit publish and then shared it in my Blog Facebook Group, I felt sick. My head started pounding, my stomach revolted, I got chills, I felt nauseous. The full brunt of the fact that dysautonomia had won this particular battle (I fight it so hard in other areas of my life) greatly distressed me.

I texted Chris and told him all that, and that I kinda felt like crying. Which, admitting that you need to cry always does the trick. I totally started crying. And so I laid in bed and cried for a while.

I did not see any of that coming.

I had been thinking through that decision for five months, had talked to multiple friends about it, and had, I thought, processed the decision. But something about actually cutting off the arm that is my blog, rather than just thinking about cutting it off, was agonizing. (“It’s just a flesh wound!!”, they say. But it kinda wasn’t.)

Everyone’s kind and encouraging words were helpful. Everyone’s appreciation of the writing I had done was wonderful. (Blogging can be somewhat of a thankless job, but many of my readers have gone out of their way over the years to tell me how much they appreciated it.) But it still hurt like crazy. I went for a run in the woods alone, which is always a healing place for me. It was super humid from just raining, and there were gorgeous sunbeams floating through the humidity on the trails.

180725 sunbeams at red mountain park IMG_4651 2 s

 

One trail was covered in Black-Eyed Susans – thousands of them.

Noah had told me earlier that it looked like there would be a rainbow and I should go look for one, and sure enough, when I stepped off the trails, there was a rainbow there waiting for me.

180725 rainbow at red mountain park IMG_4654 s

All of these beautiful signs of creation were the encouragement I needed – along with some introvert time in the woods.

The next day, I tried not to think about it. I was busy and pushed it out of my brain. But as I was driving home that afternoon, I had the strangest feeling. A familiar, yet long ago feeling…

I wanted to write.

I had all these thoughts popping into my head – turns of phrase, analogies, and more – and I needed to sit down at my computer and type them out.

So I did.

I started an offline journal. I wrote three “posts” that day. The freedom of writing without having to prepare it for publishing felt fantastic. I have written every day since. I have experienced the feelings freedom and creativity that have been gone for quite some time. Even my captions on Instagram and Facebook felt fresh to me (I was especially proud of that Pink Floyd reference that I’m not really old enough to understand.) It was the most unexpected turn of events – somehow typing the words I had dreaded on Tuesday broke some sort of chains on my brain, and it was actually working again. I was sure my creative inabilities had been due to my dysautonomia – but it turns out that at least part of it may have been more related to self-inflicted publishing pressure and stress.

Also known as…overthinking everything.

I quickly formed a plan: I clearly need some time to just write without the pressures of editing, hyperlinking, sharing, worrying about offending anyone, worrying about not making sense or not being as entertaining as I used to be. I made the decision that I would keep my journal offline for a month or two, then reassess where I am after that. At some point, I am going to have plenty of posts to share that I’ve written offline, if indeed I keep being able to write at this pace. And hopefully after a break from the pressures, I can reset my expectations and not worry so much.

So in summary, last week, my writing was in its Phoenix incineration phase.

tumblr_inline_mt0o2dxZdv1qz4rgp

And this week, it’s an ugly, ashy, baby Phoenix. But it is happy and hopeful.

dfd3679231b98eda2480769ccc17f3d544103c08_hq
Hopeful that soon, it will be my magical sidekick again.

tenor-18

Random Analogies of Life.

I had a groundbreaking realization the other day while running – which makes sense, since that’s when my brain is most oxygenated. (Too bad I can’t write while running or I might write as often as I used to.) But seriously – this breakthrough could change the economic direction of the American public – are you ready?

New cars are like puppies. Or at least they are while you have young kids.

New cars are so fantastically adorable when you first get one. They smell delightful. They’re clean and lovely and snuggly and fresh and feel so so good to be with. They make precious noises and snuggle with you just right. You delight in their presence and revel in their newness.

But within a year, or maybe a few hours, the kids spill Cheez-its in the seatbelt crack, drop a sucker (and leave it) on the floormat, crunch Chick-Fil-A crumbs into the now sticky sucker puddle, and can’t manage to take a single piece of trash with them. Ever.

Within a year, your adorable puppy is now a mangy mutt. It smells of dog breath and licks you with its gunk if you get too close to it. You try and clean it, but it only stays clean for about a day (and you can’t *really* ever get into all its crevices and have a completely sterile creature ever again.) It has lost all its cuteness and is now just another mouth to feed (unleaded, regular, please.) Every time someone new gets in your car, you have to say, “Sorry for the smell. I hope you don’t get licked. And don’t scratch that spot or it will soil you.”

As cute as puppies are, they’re not worth the smelly dogs they become.


The kids were watching The Trolls Movie the morning of Independence Day. I sat down watched the opening sequence with them.

Let’s review…

Against the advice of wise and paranoid Branch, Princess Poppy throws a giant party.

trolls-ariana

At Poppy’s party, they’re celebrating 20 years since they escaped from the Bergen (those evil villains who love to eat Trolls.)

So basically, they’re celebrating their Independence Day. I thought, as I sat there on July Fourth with my children, “what a perfect time to watch this movie.”

They’re shooting off fireworks and partying and …. all a bit too loudly, because pretty soon, who comes stomping through the forest, but the Grand Huntress Bergen Chef herself – she pounds through, rattling the forest, then towers over the Trolls.

Trolls-movie

She curls her lips into a wicked smile and says “Gotcha.”

Trolls-seven

That night, I was taking pictures of our own Independence Day fireworks. We were right below Vulcan, where the show takes place, closer than we’ve ever been, reveling in the beauty and party and also the loudness of it.

180704-Fireworks-at-Vulcan-IMG_9376 s

But instead of reveling in the patriotic beauty of our independence, I could not help but picture a giant, massive, ground-shaking Queen Elizabeth stomping up 20th Street, pushing past Vulcan, staring down at me,

Queen Elizabeth Gotcha sb 180704-Fireworks-at-Vulcan-straightened-IMG_9377.jpg

then curling her lips evilly down at me and saying “Gotcha.”

queen elizabeth 180704 Vulcan In Gold Dust bIMG_9317 s

I really felt like we should have learned from the Trolls movie and celebrated our Independence just a tad bit quieter. I don’t want to be fed to the British.