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Monday, November 7, 2011

Joni and Friends

A year ago our family was introduced to an amazing group of people here in the central valley. Joni and Friends is a national organization that focuses on accelerating christian ministry in the disability community and one of the main focuses at JAF is providing resources to strengthen families who live with disability on a daily basis. Our local chapter provides respite care nights once a month (that's how we met) and hosts one of the regional retreats. Last spring we had the pleasure of attending what will be the first of many retreats. It changed our lives. I'm not exaggerating for effect either, our lives are not the same. I don't think any family can be the same after an experience like it. Jeff and I HIGHLY recommend any and all families who are affected by disability go at least once in their lifetime. This year our family had the privilege of being the featured family at the Joni and Friends Central California fundraising luncheon. We were asked to give a testimony about our experience at the Joni and Friends Family Retreat. This year's theme for the fundraiser was "Running Strong, Reaching Forward" and here is what I was honored to share at the fundraiser last week.

My name is Launa Grunau and my husband Jeff and I are long distance runners. We run for fun and for fitness, we run because it’s WAY cheaper than therapy. We are also running the marathon that is raising a child with special needs. We have four children. Levi age 6 ½, Mila is 5 1/2 , Autumn is 2 and, our most recent addition, Asher is 3 months old. Our oldest daughter came to us when she was 2 ½ years old through the foster care system. When we adopted her we named her Mila Hope. Mila comes from the Spanish word for miracle, her history was a miracle and joining our family gave her future a hope. Mila was born to a 13 year-old girl who didn’t know she was pregnant. She was born at home, in the shower, at approximately 24 weeks gestation. She weighed 1 lb. 10 oz., was 13 inches long, her eyelids were still fused. Mila had a severe brain hemorrhage which has left her with cerebral palsy quadriplegia and an intellectual disability.  Mila is remarkably high functioning considering all she has been through, but she has a very difficult time communicating and self-regulating, which leads to outbursts and tantrums. She is constantly seeking sensory input; drumming, rocking, singing, pounding, jumping and so on. She is in perpetual motion. We joke that the only time she is still is in her sleep, and even that is debatable. Much of the time providing care for Mila feels like running a 5K, it is simply exhausting.

As you can imagine, all of her issues have made her dependent on us for her care  and this makes it difficult to leave her in the care of someone else.   We often feel guilty asking someone else to watch her because we know how difficult she can be. While all our family and friends love her dearly, not many are equipped to care for her. So, when we heard from a family member about Joni and Friends Family Retreat which offers a place where we could go and have some help with her and get a chance to spend some quality time together as a family we were so excited.  

During Family Retreat we experienced the rest and relaxation we so desperately needed. We had so much fun canoeing, riding the zip line, going up in the hot air balloon, swimming, going down watersides, the boys raced go-carts, Mila rode a pony, and everyone jumped on the trampolines. All the activities were made accessible to Mila, but if she didn't want to or wasn't willing to participate, we had our Short Term Missionary, a volunteer, stay with her while the rest of us enjoyed ourselves. This was a huge blessing. So many times our other kids miss out on things because Mila can't or won't join us.  But, this is not the case at Joni and Friends Family Retreat.  Having volunteers to care for our children was so nice, they enabled us to spend one on one time with each of our kids, eat with two hands, eat a complete meal, take a nap, I even squeezed in a run! Becky and Sarah, our volunteers, were so gracious, patient, eager to help, and kind.  Although it took us a while to get used to having the extra help, it was much appreciated. 

We came away from Family Retreat with so many great lessons and experiences. God showed us that we are not alone in this journey. He showed us how we can be His hands and feet, helping, encouraging and praying for each other. Just as the bible says in Galatians 6 we learned to, “Carry each others burdens”. Meeting and sharing experiences with other families, like ours, made us feel so normal. I don't think either my husband or I realized how abnormal we felt until we felt normal again.  Raising a special needs child often makes us feel like outcasts. But at Joni and Friends Family Retreat no one looks at me like I'm a bad parent when my child throws a tantrum, no one shows disdain when she throws food across the room. I don't have to explain why she is disrobing on the patio. They get it. They know exactly what it's like to be in my shoes.  We made friends that we have kept in touch with since retreat and we continue to share the heartaches, frustrations, accomplishments, joys and triumphs that come with our children. We can’t wait to see them again at the next Family Retreat. After we left Family Retreat, we immediately decided that for the foreseeable future this is the only way our family can and will be able to reconnect and refresh. Whatever it takes, we will make it back. We absolutely can’t imagine life without Joni and Friends; much like we couldn’t imagine running a race without an aid station providing water and nourishment. We could not endure this parenthood marathon without the aid of Joni and Friends. Joni and Friends Family Retreat gives us the encouragement and refreshment we need to hang in there, to keep “Running Strong, Reaching Forward…Let us run with endurance that race marked out for us.” -Hebrews 12:1


If anyone is interested in joining us on retreat this spring or wants more information about respite care nights let me know and I will connect you with our local office. Please pass this on to anyone you know who could use it!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Mother of Four

I have found myself doing things lately that I never thought I would do. These things might solely be attributed to my personality but I think it's because I'm now a mother of four. I'm not sure where the tipping point was, probably somewhere between kids 2 and 4, but desperate times call for desperate measures!

You know you are a mother of four when...
  • You can feed a baby and change its diaper without lifting your head off the pillow. 
  • A small smear of infant poop on your shirt isn't a good enough reason to change it. (I would have changed if it had been stinky, big kid poop, but the newborn variety seems so benign).
  • Your neighbors don't recognize you when you don't have your brood with you. 
  • You can go through three wrong names before you remember the name of the child standing in front of you. 
  • You try using the 3-2-1 countdown on your husband. 
  • You fake having to go to the bathroom to get a few minutes to yourself. (Not that it matters because someone always follows you and sticks their fingers under the door or knocks on it like Sheldon Cooper)
  • You carry your baby upstairs in a basket of laundry to save yourself a second trip.
  • You are in a public place and can take child number 3 to the bathroom and the drinking fountain with out taking child number 4 off the boob or exposing yourself. Twice. 
  • 4 out of 7 days during the week you trade your shower for an extra 30 min of sleep. 
  • Your infant drops the pacifier under the dinner table for the third time you use your toes to pick it up by the handle, wipe it off on your pants and had it back. 
  • You feel entitled to the Nobel Peace prize when you can get them all to take an afternoon nap at the same time. 
  • Going to the dentist or doctor by yourself feels like a mini vacay. 
  • If the the temperature is right, you park in the garage and let the kiddos continue their nap there rather than take the chance they won't stay asleep if you try and transfer them to their beds. 
  • You are walking hand in hand with your hubby and you can't get used to holding a hand larger than your own. 
  • You find yourself clearing the dishes from one meal so you can set the table for the next. 
  • Your kids see you cleaning up and want to know who is coming over. 
  • You get your kids to help by playing Simon Says. "Simon says touch your nose! Simon says pick up two books and put them in the book case!"
  • You dress your children from the laundry basket more often than from their dresser
  • It takes you a week to finish this blog because you only get to blog on your phone while you nurse and that means doing it 20 minutes at a time and all with one thumb.   

I'm sure there are lots more too. Feel free to add any that you find yourself doing as well!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Veggie Tales Theology

Wednesday was a rough homework day. I'm not sure why homework time often brings me to tears, but it does. I probably cry more about my kid's homework than anything else. Maybe it's because I am brought face to face with the challenges my kids with special needs have. Maybe it's because I'm faced with my own inadequacy to help them overcome them. It's probably both.

I was working with Mila on her homework for kindergarten. This is a new thing for both of us and Mila, as in all things, presents challenges when it comes to accomplishing the task. The brain hemorrhage she experienced at birth has caused significant cognitive impairment. Her recent EEG shows that she has episodes of slow brain function. While we honestly feel like there is more going on in that little brain of hers than she, at times, would have us privy to, her inability to focus prevents us from knowing what's really going on in there. Mila sat, flapping her hands and wringing her fingers, eyes darting in every which way as I repeatedly asked her to tell me something that started with an S. Mila has all her letters and their sounds down pat, yet in the 5 mins I patiently sat and asked her again and again, she said nothing. We moved on. I pointed to the drawing of a sock and asked her what it was and what letter it started with. Still nothing. I know she knows this!! As I sat and watched her, flapping, wiggling, head bobbing around, the image of a group of middle aged people from an adult day care center that frequent our local mall came to my mind. That's not exactly what I had in mind when we brought her home. While her progress since joining our family has been remarkable, I was hoping more for the miraculous. Her life itself is a miracle. Couldn't I...shouldn't I expect God to perform more of them? It's not like there is a limit... "Gee, I'm sorry, fresh out of miracles!". So why was I sitting there beating my head against a wall? Why, despite my redirecting, begging and pleading, was she on another planet. She's as dumb as a door nail (I'm just being honest, that is literally the thought that ran through my mind). God, what am I doing? Better yet, what are you doing? Why isn't she doing better than this? I don't know what to do with her!! The tears began to fall as I imagined her as a grown woman on her weekly field trip to the mall's food court. And then I heard God calling to me from the living room. Ok, so it wasn't ACTUALLY His voice, it was the DVD player, but it might as well have been. Veggie Tales was on, again.

Don't cry, Daniel
Fear not, Daniel
Don't you know you're not alone
There is One who is watching you
He hears you when you pray
And though it seems like there is no way out
God has made a way

God you are so faithful to speak to me, even if it is through a bunch of vegetables.

I don't know what "a way" means exactly. I don't know when "a way" will become apparent. But it will. I was reminded of this again in worship that night as we sang Healer.

You hold my very moment
You calm my raging seas
You walk with me through fire
And heal all my disease
I trust in You, I trust in You

I believe You're my healer
I believe You are all I need
I believe

And I believe You're my portion
I believe You're more than enough for me
Jesus You're all I need

Nothing is impossible for You
Nothing is impossible
Nothing is impossible for You
You hold my world in Your hands

So true. While I know all these things in my head, sometimes it's honestly hard to believe it in my heart. I know that God is fully capable of restoring Mila's brain, but will He? Why wouldn't He? Wouldn't that be the best thing for her? Or am I being selfish, wanting what is best for me, so I don't feel like a failure? Ah, there's the kicker. Maybe this is about my pride, I struggle with it so often. But God if this is about my pride, don't make her suffer to make me humble. Isn't there a better way to teach me this? Hmmm... Sounds like I'm about to start bargaining with Him. But I know better.

In every trial I've faced in life I've taken the perspective that God wants me to learn something from them. But as I sit on the floor of the office, huddled next to the homework table, I'm tired of learning. Of course if I was done learning, if God was finished with me then what would be the point of my life? And besides God is more concerned with my character than my comfort. I know that He doesn't always answer the way I want Him to and I've been through enough to know that He is God and I am not. I trust that He knows what's best for me, I may not always like it, but I trust him. He has never failed me.

So, as I learn to reconcile my faith to His will I'll continue to let the wisdom of Bob and Larry resonate in my soul and proclaim that nothing is impossible while I earnestly pray for a complete and miraculous healing of my daughter.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Epic Fail

Ok, so last year's goal of blogging once a week was an epic failure. My last post was in July and even then I was several weeks behind. After starting Plum Crazy Cake Co. with a good friend there just wasn't time to both blog and make cakes. And then I was pregnant again, there really wasn't any time or energy to blog. Not to mention we still had crappy Internet service. So with a fledgling business and a bun in the oven I resolved myself to use making cakes a my creative catharsis. Only it's not cutting it. I've been thinking for a while how I have missed putting pen to paper, or fingers to keys. Making cakes is great and fun but there isn't as much creativity involved as I thought there would be. Most of the time people come to me with specific ideas in mind and generally it doesn't leave much to my imagination. I'm still waiting for the client that comes to me with an unlimited budget and a theme and says, "Go for it!" Someday... someday.

So, for the past few weeks I've been getting the itch to write again. Especially when 2 close friends went to a blogging conference and came home inspired. One if them remind me I've got a lot to say (very true!) and should get back to it. Then this week I needed the fruit salad recipe I posted last summer. When I began reading through that post and others my heart almost ached. I missed my writing so much! It was like visiting with a long lost friend. And as I sat crying yesterday during homework time (which deserves a whole post unto itself) I just wanted to emotionally spew onto paper or some piece of cyber space. So here I am. No promises this time of how often, but I'm going to blog again. I need to. For my sanity and the therefore the well-being of my children and husband I will write again. Now, where to begin...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Run Your Race

18/52 (Yeah, yeah, I know I'm behind)

For any of you who know me or knew me back in high school, you know I'm not a stellar athlete. While I'm reasonably coordinated and generally athletic, I was never scouted by coaches like my siblings. And I was ok with that. 5 years on JV gymnastics and a injury shortened stint on the pole vault team were enough for me and so my physical activity dwindled after high school. I became a sedentary couch potato. However, when the summer of 2008 came around I was determined to get my self back in shape. The first week Jeff was on summer vacation I began a "Couch to 5K" (C25K) program. Its a running podcast that takes ordinary couch potatoes, like myself, and gradually turns them into 5K runners. I have never run longer than 1 mile at a time, and that was 10 years ago! I've got to get to 3? What the heck am I doing? But as most of you know, what I lack in ability, I make up for in determination. So, as my 9 week podcast wore on, I began to feel like I was eventually going to be able to do it. I might drop dead at the end of the run, but I would finish. And then there was trouble. Two of my friends who began running with me decided they were going to run an half marathon. Crap. 13.1 miles? That's psycho. They are out of their freakin' minds? Who in their right minds CHOOSES to run 13.1 miles? No one! They are nuts! But of course, being the competitive being that I am, I was not about to let them do it with out me. I'd never hear the end of it, all from that annoying little voice in my head of course, my friends wouldn't ever rub it in.

So there I was, waking up at the butt crack of dawn and running. And every time I would drag myself out of bed to run, I whined. I'm sooooo not a morning person. I want to go back to bed! But week after week I did it and amazingly I began to love it. I loved the feeling of sweat running in my eyes, my skin itching as the blood pumped through its surface. The feeling of my body kicking into auto pilot as I ran 6,8,10 miles. The feeling of my body kicking into overdrive as I sprinted the last of each run. I loved the camaraderie of running with my girls. I was slowly going insane. I was becoming one of those crazy people who runs for fun.

By the time the race arrived, I had done all I could to prepare my body and mind. It was, after all, more mental than physical. When I learned to turn my brain off and let my body do what I had trained for I amazed even myself. I finished my first half marathon in 2:28, averaging just under 11 minute and 30 seconds per mile. Each of us girls had our own goals for the race; finish, finish under 2:30, not stop at all. I accomplished my goal of not stopping the whole way. Crossing that finish line, knowing I had made it, was surreal. I couldn't pretend I wasn't a runner anymore.

After being side-lined in 2009 with my pregnancy I was a little worried about getting back into it. I was out of shape all over again. But I was in good company. I roped Jeff into joining me this year, and he is doing great. It's those long legs of his! And our team of 4 from year one had grown. We were now a full fledged running team. The Run Your Race team is 21 strong and counting as we move towards our November 7 race day. And we aren't just running for fun, we are running for a cause too. We are running for an organization called African Moons, which is helping to provide educational opportunities for children in Tanzania. Check out our great promo video to see photos of me and my team mates training, racing and finishing, as well as pictures of the kids we are running for.

Of our $140 registration fee, $45 will go towards allowing the children in this video to attend school for one month in the city of Arusha. Jeff and I have paid our first installment of $70 each but would like to offer you the opportunity to join with us in this great adventure. We are asking that if you donate, that it NOT be more than $10.

If you would like to donate, you can send funds through PayPal to the team email address: . You can send money via a credit card or directly from your checking account (it’s a secure transaction). Please make a note in the transaction that the donation is for me or Jeff. Or you can send a check to:

Run Your Race Team

c/o Northeast Assembly

4386 N. Chestnut Ave.

Fresno, CA 93726

Please write the check out to Northeast Assembly, but make sure to write “RYR Team” and my or Jeff's name in the memo portion of your check.

You can also check us out and learn more at

So, if you see anyone around Fresno wearing the yellow, green and blue wristbands, give them a pat on the back and tell them to keep up the good work. If you want to buy a wristband ($3) to show your support of our team, I'll be glad to get one to you! And if you wake up on a Saturday morning around 8:00, remember I've been up and running for the last 1-2 hours. Let that either make you wrap your covers around you tightly or give you a swift kick in the hiney to get out there and Run Your Race. If I can do it, so can you!

Monday, July 5, 2010

I Think Someone is Trying to Tell Me Something


Cake decorating has always been a hobby for me and in the last 10 years I have grown quite a bit in my skill. From the plain white cake with stencil letters and the olympic rings piped on it to the towering inferno, castle cake has been quite a journey.

When Jeff and I first got married I used some wedding money to buy a few decorating necessities. After all, if I was going to follow in my mother's footsteps and make my future children's birthday cakes, I was going to need a few bags, tips and colors. Over the years I have bought a few additional tools now and then, but have mostly waited for birthdays and Christmases to bring me new toys. A few years ago I coordinated a wedding for a woman who used to decorate cakes as a hobby. As we went through her storage unit looking for wedding decorations we found a few boxes of her cake stuff and since she was moving after the wedding and didn't want to take it with her she gave them to me. I had more tips, pans, and rose nails than I knew what to do with. And having never actually taken a class, I stared at the tools slightly intimidated by the thought of using them, but I was so grateful and excited to expand my collection. Since then I have just kept plugging away, birthday cake after birthday cake, baby shower after baby shower, never giving a thought to making cakes for money.

That all started to change recently though. After my last cake adventure my friends really started to hound me about marketing my cakes. I groaned at the thought. I'd had a bad experience when I donated gift certificate for a custom cake to a silent auction. There was a miscommunication with the the person who won it, and she wasn't happy with what I had done. Even though it was one of my better cakes and I had painstakingly cut out hundreds of tiny polka dots to embellish the fondant ribbon. My friends insisted that I shouldn't let that one incident keep me from pursuing this. We just kind of left it at that and while I thought more about it, I didn't DO much of anything. And it's not so much because of the thought of making cakes, its more the business aspect of it; license, contracts, what to charge, commercial grade kitchen. My throat is closing just thinking about that stuff.

One thing I did do though was to teach my very first class, which is slightly ironic since I've never taken a single class myself. Our church's women's ministry began offering workshops on anything and everything from house cleaning tips and container gardening, to eye brow grooming and 30 minute meals. So, I offered to teach a class on making novelty cupcakes without any special tips, just zipper lock bags and candy to decorate them. As my class chatted, giggled and licked the frosting off our fingers (shame on us!) A few people asked me about cakes for their kid's birthdays. And I, ashamedly, waffled. I didn't know what to say. I don't know what to charge people! What if that week is crazy and I have to stay up till 2 in the morning to finish because its a harder cake than I thought? What will my dishwasher have to say about this? I make more than enough dishes to keep him busy just cooking dinner! I managed to get out of there that night with out committing to anything. And while I felt a little guilty, my mind was preoccupied with my next big cake.

Decorating often does that to me. The class just whet my appetite for another project. The next afternoon I found myself taking my decorating books with me in the van so I could brainstorm. I'm surprised there wasn't thunder and lightning following us around town that day; ideas were swirling around like an F5 inside my head. By the time I was done I sat there and thought there is no way I could do something this big without help. Well, at least I had a group of eager students the night before, some of them might be willing to help. But still, I would have my work cut out for me. The next night at church the women's bible study that a friend and I had volunteered to babysit for called us in to thank us for the past couple months of serving. Little did I know I was being set up. Heather and I sat down for a few minutes and waited while they did announcements. Then they said Heather had a story to share with everyone. I gave her a look that earned the response, " Oh yeah, I'm here for this too. " Odd. She began talking about times in our lives when God "winks" at us. He does something special for us, winking his approval and that someone in our church had called her and said God was asking her to bless to someone else. God wanted her to be his hands and feet (or eyes in this case) and deliver a "wink" to one of His children. I still had no idea what she was talking about. Then she called me up and I noticed a large box covered by a table cloth. She said the person who wanted to bless me was doing it anonymously but wanted to give me something. I looked at the hidden box. I recognized the shape and thought... it can't be, there is no way. And there it was. Heather threw back the cloth to reveal my very own Cricut Cake. I fell backwards into the wall and began to cry. "This person wants you to know that God sees you and sees what you do and wants you to have this." Heather's words were mind numbing. Another woman chimed in and said "God sees the desires of your heart". It was the truth. Someone once asked me if I had ever seen the Cri-cut Cake and I jokingly said lusted when I saw it. Ok, so maybe it wasn't a joke. The first time I saw this beautiful machine I thought of all the things I could do with it and how much time it would save me. For Levi's Robin Hood cake I hand cut over 300 1"x1" squares to make the castle stones, just imagine a machine that would cut them all for me! It took my breath away. All the women clapped honestly and politely, although I doubt any of them knew what it was, how much it was worth and why I wanted it so badly. Only Heather and the woman who generously gave it knew what it meant to me. It would have taken me a long time to save for this machine and no doubt it was not high on our family budget's priority list. I can never thank my anonymous donor enough for this amazing gift.

After Heather and I went back to nursery duty I sat and stared in shock at the lavish gift before me and we talked about that this meant to me. My benevolent benefactor hoped this would encourage me to use my God-given talent and take a step of faith and see what I could to with it. Moment by moment I felt my confidence growing. I COULD tackle my next big creation, although extra hands would still be nice. I COULD, someday, make my sisters' wedding cakes. I COULD have my own business. Maybe. No, I could. I don't know exactly what it will look like yet, but I'm working on it. It's almost like being pregnant. It's like i just found out that I have a baby on the way and I'm still trying to wrap my head around the idea. But I'm sure over the next season of my life the idea will take root and begin to grow. And just like having a baby there will be a gestation period, growing pains, thankfully no heartburn, labor and delivery. And, I hope, on the other side, there will be great pride and joy in using my talents to His glory. Until this "baby" comes I'll be busy thinking of names, marketing strategies and how big or little this adventure will be. While I have no desire to have a storefront or be on the Food Network (although a Betty Crocker baking contest sounds fun) I'll leave that up to Him. I'm just going to be obedient, step forward and enjoy the confirmations along the way, like when we got home Wednesday night. Jeff called his mom to tell her what had happened at church and she told him she had just been talking with a retired woman who used to have her own cake shop. This woman asked my mother-in-law if she knew anyone who might want the boxes of her equipment. My mother-in-law showed her my cake album on Facebook and the woman decided she wants me to have every box. Yeah, I think someone is trying to tell me something and I am listening.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Happy Father's Day


Just as I did with Mother's Day, I wrote a tribute to my dad for Father's day. And again I encourage you to write one of your own and share it with your dad or, if he has already passed, with your siblings, his siblings or anyone else who knew and loved him. I hope all of you who know my dad will enjoy this as much as he did.

Dear Dad,

Over the years you have taught me so many lessons in so many ways. Most happened while we just spent time together, some from hearing of your own experiences, some came from your sage advice and others from some embarrassing moments. All of them, though, have influenced my life. I find myself trying to recreate some of those memories with my own kids, I can’t wait to tell them stories about myself as a child, sometimes I scare myself when I sound just like you and I giggle to myself when I think of how my kids will roll their eyes at me someday.

One of my first distinct memories is following you down the driveway. I remember staring at my bright blue shoes with the yellow stripes on the sides as I followed your footsteps. No doubt we were on our way to the garage to work in the shop. Sitting in the sawdust with a pile of nails, a hammer and a scrap 2x4 taught me the value of working with my own two hands. The play house and sea-saw you made us taught me that homemade toys are just as good as store bought, probably better. The notorious incident when I tried to jump to you off the porch and foolishly stuck my feet out into your stomach taught me that cement porches are really hard and that butterfly bandages and a French braid are a good fix for scalp wounds. I remember hiding behind the front door to surprise you when you came home from work. Although I’m pretty sure you knew I was there (top to bottom windows and sheer curtains don’t hide much) you feigned shock every time. You taught me the importance of humoring your children. I still remember going shopping for my first compact of blush and my Hot Miss Daisy bike. I learned you could see my future better than I could; someday I would grow up and wear makeup and someday I would ride a two-wheeler. After you punished me for the crimes of drawing on the wall and lying about it, you showed me how to ask for forgiveness when new evidence came to light, namely Victor’s confession. You taught me that God is a god of second chances when we sat listening to Benny Hester’s record and you passionately sang along to When God Ran. I remember the retractable colored pencils you gave me before you left to take the job in Fresno and how I cried at school when someone broke one. I learned gifts are more than gifts when there is sentimental value in them. I remember the night Uncle Craig told us that Alan Jeli was killed in a car accident. I learned that daddies cry too. I can still remember listening to you read the poem you wrote for Alan’s funeral, it was then that I learned that “stepping stones lead down paths unknown” and that they can “give us bumps and bruises” and putting my pen to the paper is a wonderful salve. When we heard that Clarice was killed that same year I remember sitting on your lap in the entry way and crying on your chest. Years later I watched you hold Shauna after her sister was murdered. You held her just like you held me and let her cry on your chest as if she were your very own little girl.

One of my favorite things to do as a kid was lie in bed as you told us stories from your childhood. I’m sure it wasn’t always easy to tell about the wrong decisions you made, but your honesty about your mistakes and the pain they caused you kept me from making many of the same. I learned that when your mom tells you not to play football while she is gone, you should listen. While your little brother might not bite his tongue in half every time, your mom will find out and make good on her threats of punishment. While drugs and alcohol may make for some crazy stories they aren’t worth the trouble you will find yourself in. When you took the cop’s billy club away during a brawl I learned you should defend yourself against excessive force. When you did the harder, but right, thing and turned yourself in after the fight, I learned about integrity. When you defended yourself in court you taught me about standing up for truth and injustice. And most importantly being found not guilty by the court and the Savior who met you in your jail cell is both redemptive and priceless.

I remember lying on the living room floor with you, practicing my handwriting and crying because you wanted me to do it again, neatly. I definitely learned that “El flojo trabajo doble” (The lazy man works twice). I remember you coming in from the garage and asking Mom if she had seen your pencil. We giggled when we saw you had one behind each ear. No doubt you needed them so you could “Measure twice and cut once”. I can’t count the number of times you spotted me on a back-hand spring and if I ever made an excuse for why I couldn’t do it, you were quick to warn me that “Excuses are like armpits and feet, everybody has them and they all stink!” When you found out I had decided not to take the entrance exam for honors English and later the AP test for Government you promptly called the teachers in each case. After short discussions with both of them you told me not to sell myself short and take them. It was good advice. Those 2 tests enabled me to graduate high school with 9 units of college credit. Pretty much, when it came down to it, I just needed to “Stop being a knucklehead” and “Fly right”!

I’ll never forget the day you walked into my work wearing black socks with your brown sandals, bright, mint green, corduroy shorts, a white t-shirt with a red and blue logo, and a black and purple hat with a green frog on it. I thought I would die of embarrassment. You taught me that, while I should not trust your fashion sense, Dad’s are entitled to embarrass their kids every once and a while. Like the time we brought some friends to meet you at Buchanan to watch the fireworks on Fourth of July. I don’t think any of us were quite prepared to find you in the parking lot, standing on top of The Yak (his 1970's motorhome) with out your shirt on. Or when we were at Dodger’s Stadium celebrating our win over the Giant’s to clinch the division, I turned around to find you after Finley’s grand-slam and there you were with your shirt off, swinging it wildly around over your head. I may have hung my head in shame, but you taught me to have pride in my country and my team.

As a dad you taught me all of these things and so many more. But one of the most valuable lessons I learned was on my wedding day. I’ll never forget the way you hugged me before you walked me down the aisle. You cried and said you were going to miss me so much. I ‘m sorry I tried to minimize your statement by saying I wasn’t moving out of town and that you would still see me all the time, I was trying to keep my make-up from running. But I knew exactly what you meant because you taught me that there is nothing like being daddy’s little girl.

I love you, Happy Father’s Day.