Climbing Rock: A Father’s Day Tribute

All vital human relationships are complex, and this one is no exception. Some think of their fathers with pain, some with loss, some not at all. My story, though, is one of love and strength for which I will be forever grateful.

Here is a picture of my father from around 1949, when he and my mother married. He was already a veteran of WWII, having served as a radioman in Paris after it was liberated from German occupation. He had graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Electrical Engineering and been hired by AT&T, the company that held a monopoly on telephone services for decades. Working for a big company like that meant frequent reassignments, and he and my mother moved every two years until I was in middle school, at which point his career took him to corporate headquarters in New York City and we settled in New Jersey.

This is a more recent picture, from around 1970. This is my father as I remember him. After my mother’s death he remarried, and after he retired they moved to Florida where he lived until his death in 2005.

For most of my early life, my father was my rock. Since we moved so much, and since I’m an introvert at heart and don’t make friends easily, family was the main constant in my life. This mostly translated to a reliance on my father. Mom started showing signs of the illness that killed her while I was in grade school, and the only other family I had was a younger sister who looked up to me, rather than the other way around. In this environment my father was a source of strength and stability I relied on every day. My rock.

That metaphor has a problem, though. Rocks are strong and dependable, but they also weigh you down. That doesn’t describe my father at all. Without any specific words being said, I knew my future could hold whatever dreams I wanted. For instance, he had no hesitation about sharing his love of science and engineering with his daughters. I remember when I was maybe 10 years old sitting at the kitchen table while he drew diagrams and we worked through what would happen if someone fell into a hole that went all the way through the center of the earth and out the other side. After discussing the ideal case, which leads to perpetual oscillation as you fall down one side and up the other and back again, he brought in the idea of wind resistance, and then the final closing argument about the impossibility of such a hole in the first place. That was the engineer in him, focused on practicality.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized how unusual it was for a man of his generation to treat his girls with respect for their minds and their hands. He let me and my sister play around with the oscilloscope in his workshop and taught us about frequencies. We were his assistants as he re-wired electrical circuits in the house. I could barely hold a hammer when he gave me some scrap wood and a box of nails and coached me until I could drive them straight and true. I still bristle when I see pliers in the jewelry section of craft stores, marketed to women, with built-in springs to open them up again after gripping something. They don’t think I know how to use pliers? This wasn’t just his attitude toward his daughters, either, but toward women in general. He told with glee about the time when he and my mother were building a small electric organ from a kit that included basic electrical components, including resistors. One of my father’s colleagues from work called the house one day asking for Dad, but Mom said he wasn’t home. After dinner the colleague called back and told Dad he was embarrassed to say he couldn’t remember the resistor color code (a system of using little colored stripes that specify the resistance value in ohms). Dad answered his question, but added, “Judy could have told you.” Yes, way back in the 1950s my father called out a colleague for his casual assumption that a woman couldn’t know a basic feature of electrical engineering. He never, not once, implied that I might be limited by my gender.

So here’s to all fathers who give their children, boy or girl, the tools and confidence to reach their dreams. Rocks made for climbing, for launching into a bright future. Happy Father’s Day.

WW Photo Challenge: Unbroken Family

U is for Unbroken

This soapstone sculpture is a stylized representation of a family with two adults and two children. It was carved in Peru, and purchased at One World Goods, a local store selling free-trade and sustainable sourced merchandise created by artisans around the world. My daughter, who volunteers there, gave it to me for Mothers Day years ago. Then, disaster struck – my family was broken!Everyone pulled together. I did some Internet research about soapstone and what adhesives might work. My son-in-law, who worked for years at a craft store, helped me buy the right stuff. Then four days ago we joined forces to mix the epoxy, assemble the pieces, wipe the excess, and hold it all in place while it set. I’m happy to report that the photo at the top shows how it is right now. If you look closely you can see the seams, but it’s all in one piece.

I don’t want to blow this incident out of proportion. I know there are families that are truly broken, and I mean no disrespect to people living that painful reality. I see you, and my heart aches for you. But this little sculpture story has some metaphorical weight for me. My daughter gave it to me after she had moved out of the house, not long before she married. My son had also moved out, leaving my husband and me in the big house alone. There are moments when I feel like my family is in pieces, my children scattered. But my family is absolutely unbroken. I’m the most fortunate of empty-nesters because they all live nearby and come over once a week for dinner and gaming. They were around our table yesterday for Thanksgiving, as they are every year. There is nothing I’m more thankful for.

What about you? Do you have the opportunity to join hands with your family? Are there broken places, held together with epoxy and determination? What are you most thankful for?

You can join in on the photo challenge! Pick any image you created you can label with the letter U. Show us your umbrella, your Uncle Joe, even your underwear if you’re feeling bold! Here’s how to participate.

  • Post an image on your own blog or website.* All types of images are welcome. If you have serious equipment and serious skills, that’s awesome! If you snap pics on your phone (like me), that’s also awesome!
  • Post a comment on this page with a link back to your post. If you post a comment that includes a link to your blog, I will add a link to your post below.
  • Check back over the next week to follow the links. That way you can see what other people did with the theme and join in the fun.

Once again, Olga Odim shares a custom cover for the week, based on umbrellas. Check it out here.


*Just so we’re all clear, you post your photos on your own site, which means you aren’t giving control to me or to anyone else. We’re all invited to view the images you post (and comment if your site allows for comments), but nobody has the right to use your images in any way without your permission. Got it? Great!

WW Photo Challenge: Quality Quilt

Q is for Quality Quilt

My father was born in 1922, and his grandmother (my great-grandmother) made this quilt for him then. She used a fan pattern, and though it’s hard to see in this image, there is extensive quilting in all the blocks and a little ring embroidered at the point of each fan. It’s almost 100 years old, and it still looks terrific! Though I’ve shown it here on the bed, mostly we hang it on the wall, using a system of rings and webbing to make sure not to put too much stress on the hand stitching. I love having such a beautiful, skillfully-made thing in my home, bringing me closer to my father and my family history.

What do you have that connects you to your family and your past? I’d love to hear about it.

You can join in on the photo challenge! Pick any image you created you can label with the letter Q. Show us a shiny quarter, a tree-lined quad on a college campus, even a thrilling game of quidditch!  Here’s how to participate.

  • Post an image on your own blog or website.* All types of images are welcome. If you have serious equipment and serious skills, that’s awesome! If you snap pics on your phone (like me), that’s also awesome!
  • Post a comment on this page with a link back to your post. If you post a comment that includes a link to your blog, I will add a link to your post below.
  • Check back over the next week to follow the links. That way you can see what other people did with the theme and join in the fun.

Another lovely custom book cover from Olga Godim for the letter Q: a queen! Check it out here.


*Just so we’re all clear, you post your photos on your own site, which means you aren’t giving control to me or to anyone else. We’re all invited to view the images you post (and comment if your site allows for comments), but nobody has the right to use your images in any way without your permission. Got it? Great!

Live Long and Prosper

I haven’t been posting much lately (it’s been over 3 weeks), for a very good reason: Yesterday my daughter married a wonderful man in a delightful ceremony in an actual planetarium (complete with a star show), followed by a terrific party in the science museum. To give you a bit of a flavor of the day, the pastor’s message began, “You are about to boldly go where many people have gone before,” and everyone got it. He reminded them that they are not Time Lords, so they can’t try to go back and fix the past or skip directly to an imagined future, but have to take the slow way through life side by side. He wished for them that if they get angry and try to hurt each other, their attack rolls should all be botches and their saving throws against heart wounds should all be nat 20s.

The nerdy goodness continued into the reception, with a dragon theme. The couple drank their toasts out of dragon goblets. The most popular favors on the guest tables were the little plastic mini-dragons. They cut the cake with a dragon dagger. Their cake was designed to look like a medieval castle, and these are the cake toppers that were designed by the groom, 3D printed, and painted by the bride:

I was the primary wedding planner for this event, so I’m happy to say that things went off with just a few minor glitches. Everyone had a good time. Most importantly, the young couple were launched into their new life together surrounded by love, laughter, friends, and family. (And dragons.) Now that it’s done, my participation in the rest of my life can resume, and I wish my daughter and her fiance husband the same thing everyone there last night wishes for them: Live long and prosper.

Counting Down to the Big Day

dress-2Look what’s hanging in my closet!

It will soon be 2017, which is a very important year in my family – my daughter will be getting married! I’m happy to say that the man she’s chosen is terrific and they are terrific together, making it easy to look ahead to their wedding with a glad heart.  I’ll try to keep it from taking over the blog, but as the Big Day gets closer I can’t make any promises! In the meantime, this was an easy choice for this week’s photo challenge. Yes, Christmas is coming up, and the new year, and a new semester – but the main thing I’m looking forward to right now is her wedding day.

Posted in response to the WordPress photo challenge: Anticipation

Mom’s Glass Menagerie

animals

My mother collected glass animals, the kind you could buy at the Corning Museum of Glass in New York. She loved their elegant beauty, and we loved that it made it easy to think of gifts for her at birthdays and Christmas. My father made a set of shelves with nooks of various sizes for various creatures, walnut on the outside, flocked matte black inside, which hung on the wall in our living room as I was growing up. I was fascinated, not only by how they looked, but the smooth weight of them, and by the humor of an elegant glass snail or mouse. I’ve snapped a picture of a few of them here, but not all. There’s also a bear, a penguin, a whale — a whole menagerie indeed.

Mom died in 1975. My sister and I split up her collection between us, and I was lucky enough to get the set of shelves as well. I filled in the empty spaces with my own set of class paperweights, which have the same smooth weight but not the quirky personality of her glass animals. The shelves are a link with my mother that I get to look at every day.

Posted in response to the WordPress Photo Challenge: Nostalgia