Thursday, May 22, 2014

Forty Reasons We Love Heather

Sometimes, there just aren't enough reasons to love others.

Sometimes, there isn't enough space, or enough words, to tell all the reasons that you do.

Today is our darling friend, Heather's, birthday. It's a big milestone birthday that I'm probably not allowed to tell you. Not because she feels old but rather I'm worried there's some sort of age limit on the acceptability of fart jokes. I hope not. Dinner conversations will never be as funny again.

So instead, I'm using this space to not only share my words about the wonder of Heather, but I'm also sharing the words of some other friends. And I shall reveal the FORTY reasons we all love her.

1. She likes fart jokes.

2. She cackles when she laughs really hard.

3. I love Heather's dry wit and kind heart. She is so very funny and giving. -- Debi Campbell

4. She is adventurous and has traveled the world.

5. The sarcasm. Oh, the sarcasm.

6. Heather will tackle any challenge without fear.
Okay. Maybe a little fear.
7. Heather was the first person that made me feel like part of a team at Nichols.  She made team meetings fun, and I loved that she was just this side of crazy. XLR8Rs 4 life, yo! -- Angela Kaker

8. She's a badass nerd.

9. Loyalty. If she's got your back, she's got your back. Always.

10. She's tough. As nails.

11. My first awkward moment with Heather was during a team potluck lunch.  I brought deviled eggs, with bacon. I had no idea she ate meat-free! She was gracious, even after she took a bite! oh how she loved our Brain Busters. I so appreciated her sensitive way she motivated or mentored all kids, but she sure had a special way to love on a student even at their hard-to-love moments. -- Annie Garza

12. She's a vegetarian who is cool enough to take you out for a steak dinner.

13. Heather can fix anything. I mean, I can fix anything with duct tape, but she can really, really fix it. Like, for real. -- Me

14. She weighs less when she's drunk. Honest. #Science

15. Heather is not intimidated by head lice, broken wells, or pee in a Gatorade bottle. If you're a teenage boy, and you've done something unbelievably stupid, she will own you.

16. I love that she was always unflappable. No matter what the kid did at camp or how much they were bleeding, Heather would stay calm and take care of the situation. I also love her ability to be a kid.... I think that is why the kids loved her so. -- Denis Cranford


17. One of only two adult that I know, in real life, that can rock some pigtails. With attitude.

18. Her generosity of time, money, and spirit. There is not an hour of the day you cannot call her. There is not a moment she will not be there.

19. Vegetarian or not, she will hunt down the big daddy rat in your shitty camp apartment and feed him to the snake living in the hall closet. Word.

20. She was always so much fun to be around. Her wit and charm were delightful. One of my favorite memories of her is when she was one of the back-up singers with Sally and me (the de la Vida singers), and we used rubber gloves to make our boobs bigger and we used small stones taped to the gloves to make nipples. Heather was game for anything, and we had so much fun. Heather, you are awesome!!! -- Nurse Barbara

21. Heather is apparently unafraid to have big ol' fake boobs with stony nipples.

22. I guarantee that Heather is laughing so hard she is wheezing and searching for her inhaler right now after 20 and 21.

23. She does not know the meaning of "that's a SIPPIN' shot".

24. One of my favorite Heather stories is when I went with the girls to her graduation in Abilene. It was my first introduction to "Blue Tattoo" (an intensely blue-colored schnapps). We did consume some adult beverages that weekend. It was my first experience of partying with people that could be my kids. There are so many wonderful memories of Heather and camp that are too numerous to mention, but I do clearly remember her 30th birthday party when I learned how much Heather loves PINK! Happy Birthday, precious girl. I love and miss you to pieces!!! -- Nurse Sally

25. Checking the after effects of Blue Tattoo is considered an experiment. #science

26. She is a rockstar teacher and coach. She spends hundreds and thousands of hours raising other people's children because she will love the unlovable. She will teach the unteachable. And she manages the unmanageable. 

27. She is one hell of a mentor.

28. I love Heather's ability to see the silver lining and do so with the most wicked, yet delightful, sense of humour.  -- Jamie Fletcher

29. Whenever I think of Heather, the first thing that comes to mind is her smile. You almost never see her not smiling! She is so encouraging and happy -- she brings light into any room she's in. -- Stephanie Shackelford

30. Heather, you are one of the most loving people I know. Not only are you loving, but you are real! And that is so hard to come by! To let you know just how awesome you are, I created a poem:

Oh Heather, oh Heather,
No matter what the weather
You are always real, 
probably the realest person ever
At Mt. Loma or Fossil Hill
Your friends are close like birds of a feather.
Marcus is so cool,
You're raising a trendsetter.
Happy Birthday to you,
stay awesome and cool
And your years will keep getting better and better.

Love, Jarrett

31. She's a fantastic mom. And she didn't let anything stop her from being a mom to someone who really needed her. They save each other every day. And it's amazing.

32. Heather, you are amazing. You have truly influenced me in the kind of teacher I am today. You have the kindest heart, and watching you raise Marcus really inspires me in my everyday life with my kids who need a hero. -- Katie Krambeer

33. I love that Heather because she is so loving and compassionate. She loves animals, special needs children and people in general. I've also always loved her passion for sports... especially soccer. One of my favorite memories of Heather is being able to joke around with her in ways you couldn't with most girls and seeing her face when someone says something that could be taken a few ways and watching her try to contain herself is priceless. I still have the post card she sent me. :) Heather is one of a kind and will always be special to me. -- Ryan Willey

34. She believes that a dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste.

35. She suffers no fools. And she does not mind telling you if you're acting like one.
This. This is the look you'll get, fools.

36. Heather is crunchy outer shell, soft gooey inside. She is secretly sentimental and delighted by the small things.

37. Heather is one of the smartest people that I know.  Yet she doesn't hold that over anyone's head -- unless they are truly stupid. She has no patience for stupid people. However, she has incredible patience with young children. Especially those that are difficult to deal with. I often turned over a challenging child, saying, "You're going to have to deal with him/her. I don't know what to do!" And she's pretty hilarious too. But most of all, I would say she's loyal, and I know that she always has my back. -- LJ

38. Heather is a firecracker! A tiny but mighty spirit with an engaging, devilish smile that instantly makes you want to join her team. Whether it's her sports team, department team, or team of friends -- she's spunky and vivacious, and forever branded in my NJH "Good Stuff" memory bank. -- Angela Stidham

39. She throws a mean set of dice. There's a one-eyed Pit Boss at the Horseshoe Casino and Hotel who can verify this.

40. Heather, you are steadfast. When the winds are wild, you anchor us. When seas are calm, you push us. You steer the ship. You fix the broken parts. You dive in when any of us go overboard. You are the sturdy life jacket, the whimsical umbrella in our cocktail, and the lighthouse guiding us home. 
--D, C, and L

Happy Birthday, Heather-Feather. We love you fiercely.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Three is a Magic Number

Three is a magic number. It always has been. It always will be.

Our Brooklyn Claire turns 3 today. And she's pretty magic.

In the tradition of 3rd birthdays, a series of haiku poems.

Hair bows and tutus
Pearls, curls, and rowdy, wild girls
This is Brooklyn Claire.

Sunshine and giggles
This is our ladybug wish
Mostly, you comply.

Fierce independence,
The world is too small, I fear
For the likes of you.

Who dares defy you?
Rain your fury upon them,
Little Pink Storm Cloud.

But when there is peace,
There are pouty lips, sweet sighs
The world rights itself.

Such a little girl
Standing in a sea of boys,
steering your own ship.

Blue eyes and big hopes
Guide you on your merry way
Let us come with you.

Today is special.
Three is a magic number,
Just like you, sweet girl.

Happy Birthday, Brooklyn. I hope today is all birthday cake, belly laughs, and beauty. I love you.

*Photo credits, as always, to the Mullaney and Hopkins families who, unlike me, always have their cameras and who cannot stop snapping photos of their gorgeous children, thank goodness.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

What Love Is

When I was 5 or 6, I went with my mother for a portrait sitting. A local artist at the rundown Pampa mall created a beautiful portrait in chalk. I don't really remember the actual sitting; I'm sure it felt like it took forever and a day. But I remember my father's reaction when he unwrapped it. It stole his breath, and it is one of the only moments in my childhood I can recall in which I saw my father cry. It is, to this day, his favorite gift.

I thought, "That is what love is." Attention to detail. The element of surprise.

When I was 7, my father bought our family a VCR. We thought it was our big gift until he told us to go outside. There, with snow falling gently, sat a brand new white station wagon with a big red bow. All for my mom. I did not think, "Wow. Who on Earth wants to be surprised with a station wagon?"

I thought, "That is what love is." Big moments. Red bows. Extravagance and newness.

As a child, I loved to watch my mother and father dance. They would twirl around the dance floor of the night club they managed while I roller-skated past them, calling for them to watch me. But when they danced they did not take their eyes from one another.

I thought, "That is what love is." Slow dances. George Jones. Letting the world melt away.

All my life, I would watch my dad come in from working out in the cold. He would take off his work gloves and put his cold hands on the back of my mom's neck to make her jump and squeal. She always knew he would, and she never tried to avoid it. And then, he would stand behind her at the kitchen sink and kiss her.

I thought, "That is what love is." Shared jokes. Cold hands. Warm kisses.

My entire life, my dad would tell jokes. Some were long and complicated. Others were short and corny. A few were downright filthy. But they were all followed with a sharp, surprised laugh. And when it was really good... a short snort. When my mother laughs, her whole face laughs. When my father smiles, his eyes dance. No one can make my mother laugh like my father. And nothing makes him smile like her laugh.

I thought, "That is what love is." More smiles and laughter than shouts and tears.

Sometimes there were shouts and tears and stony silence. But there were apologies and warm kisses and letting go, too.

I thought, "That is what love is." Forgiving. Second chances. Moving on. Making it work.

And now, six days a week, my mother gets into her battered old Buick and drives 60 miles, round trip, to see my father. There are days full of domino games in which she always shuffles and sometimes plays for both him and herself. The only day she misses are Thursday card games with her friends. My dad teases her by calling it her "work day". Thursdays are hardest for him, but he never asks her to miss it. There are no more giant red bows or slow dances or hands freezing from the cold. There are tears some days, but there are also smiles. There are kisses hello but there are now always kisses goodbye. There has been health; there has been sickness. There are unanswered questions and there are unsure futures. There are hardships and heartache, but there is sacrifice and strength as well.

And sometimes, even now -- even through everything -- when they hold hands and look at one another, I think, "No. I was wrong. This is what love is."

Forty-one years worth.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Road

Today is graduation day for a wonderful friend of mine. When I first met him, he was just a skinny little kid in a Superman t-shirt. He was funny and kind and far too responsible and reliable for a 12 year-old. When you would look at him, you could see the leader he was becoming. He was smart and silly and always knew which the situation called for. He asked questions and sought my advice and put others ahead of himself.

Now, all these years later, the only thing that has changed is his age and the fact that he is no longer becoming a leader. He has become.

Jarrett grew up in front of my eyes at summer camp, from camper to LIT to joining my staff as a counselor and then to training future counselors. He found a home at camp, and camp found a home in him. Watching him journey from boy to man has been one of the closest things I've ever known to being a mom.

Well, maybe an older sister. Or just a really wise and cool aunt.

Today marks the end of a long road, Jarrett. You probably could have reached the end more quickly, but where is the beauty in that? The freeway is fast, but it is drab and devoid of hidden treasures.

The road has not always been smooth, especially this past year, yet life is full of pot holes and traffic jams. Everyone would rather just ignore those obstacles, but you have the patience to wait it out and the knowledge that traffic eventually clears. And you understand what to do when the wheels fly off. It is astounding the number of people in this world, sitting on the side of the road, unable to go on.

This hasn't always been an easy trip. There have been detours and wrong turns and missed exits. But sometimes, I believe, the only way to truly find your path is to get lost a few times first.

Yes, it's been a long road to this day, Jarrett. But I hope the journey has been worthwhile. And although I can't be there to root you on in person today, when you cross that stage, just know that, in my heart, I'm in the audience, waving a big ol' glittery sign and embarrassing the hell out of you.

Because that's what moms and big sisters and cool, wise aunts really do.

Happy Graduation Day, Superman. I am so very, very proud of you.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Little Sister

At work, there is always someone who everyone loves to pick on, mess with, tease. Not in a mean-spirited way, of course, but more in the older sibling-little sister sort of way. For us at work, that is often our friend Jenny.

We are sort of merciless. We tease her about her selfies and sorority girl poses. We steal her keys and cup and try to stage Facebook interventions. We interrogate her about her love life and give the side eye to any boy who comes a-callin'. We feed her fibs to try to fool her and delight when she falls for it yet again. I don't think anyone's given her a noogie though. Or at least not in the last week.

But Jenny is an indomitable spirit. She sees the best in others and helps anyone in need. She adores her students and leads them through math that, quite honestly, makes my head spin. She indulges us our sh*ts and giggles and very rarely gets any more mad than an eyeroll and an exasperated "Y'alllll..."

Jenny is a happy daisy blooming through a yard full of weeds at times.

And, this year, she told me that she loved reading my blog. At first I thought she was teasing me. (Being older doesn't necessarily make you more confident, after all.) But, time after time, she would tell me specifically about things I had written that made her laugh or think or cry.  It's a big compliment when someone tells you that she and her twin sister stayed up late, not to go out to a party, but to go through your old posts.

It's been a while since I've been here. The end of the school year is exhausting, and this year is no different. But I couldn't resist coming to my little place on the internet to wish my favorite cyber stalker a very happy birthday, no matter how tired I might be. Especially since I forgot the customary lunchtime cupcakes today.

Happy Birthday, Roopester. Thanks for putting up with all of us, butting into your life every day. This post is all for you.