Where to Find Grace: A Lesson Learned by Eating Slowly

Philosophy: Slow down and keep your hands steady with your pen, hammer and prayers.

Lunchbox got his first taste of baby food a couple weeks ago. It was a huge hit. After he got the hang of the spoon and the rhythm of his tongue down, the little chow hound was off to the races. I couldn’t shovel it in fast enough.

Tyler has my last name and I see a lot of Doak in him. He’s fairly laid back. He likes to study things and watch them work. He’s happy. His happiness makes me happy. It’s contagious.

The speed at which he eats, however, is not Doak, I learned. Since I lost my grandfathers, I find them with me in the strangest, most subtle places. My Grandpa Doak was the absolute slowest eater I think anyone ever saw, and I loved it.

He was always the last one to finish and everyone knew it. My dad is the same way. When my dad was a baby, it took him so long to eat, he fell asleep. My grandma had to flick the bottom of his feet to keep him awake.

I had the honor of delivering the eulogy at my grandpa’s funeral. It was the second one I’d done in four months. Writing those words was quite possibly one of the hardest things I’ve done and not for the reasons you might think.

It’s always hard to say goodbye. We trick ourselves into thinking we have time; that there will be tomorrow to learn what we need from the ones we love most. We’re also experts at fooling ourselves.

Goodbye was only part of the hard part. The worst of it was trying to take the huge feelings a man of his caliber created in my heart – in all our hearts- and put them into words on paper. I did my best.

What lasts when a person passes away are the lessons they leave. The way they carry on is through the tools we use that were once theirs. My grandpa left me with so many beautiful things in my head, my heart and my home.

I have some of his screwdrivers and a rake that was his. I have a clock he made and an Acme Thunder whistle that was in his drawer, but the only thing I truly wanted was a framed picture.

It was a reprint of Grace by Eric Enstrom. I remembered seeing it hang over his kitchen table when I was little and when I think of him, it’s what I picture. It’s just a man, with a book, praying over bread. It’s that simple. So is life according to Bob Doak.

It’s not, at least life doesn’t feel that simple, but he made it look that way. His philosophy was not complicated. Drink your coffee black. Find the right tool for the job and get to work. Take your time when you eat and especially when you cut in with a paint brush. Keep your hands steady with your pen, hammer and prayers. Your age does not limit you. Wear out your Bible and break in your patience.

I wish my kids got the chance to learn from him the way my cousins and I did. I wish they were old enough to have fun with him and to watch him tinker with things until he achieved a level of perfection only he could master. I wish they knew that when he passed, so did a little bit of the last generation of grace. They may never get to see that anywhere else.

I could let that make me sad. I don’t. Instead, I try to pass a little Bob Doak onto them through me. Afterall, we’re part of him. When I use his tools, I show them. When they’re fascinated by watching me paint or strip wallpaper, I tell them how good Papa Bob used to be with his paint brush (my version of painting includes swearing and taping, his did not).

Lately, though, I find him the most when I start wishing karma would get to work. When life feels especially unfair and I have a second to stop and think about how I got to where I am right now, I try to stop myself from wanting to make the people who hurt me, hurt just as bad. I think about Grace.

I’m able to pray and I have things to pray for. That’s my grace. That was Grandpa’s grace. That’s the grace I find in Elise’s tenacity, Jack’s quirks and Tyler’s smile. I get to teach them all about life and there’s no better lessons than the one’s Grandpa left with me.

One thing he never missed was my birthday. I got a card every single year, right on time. I remember thinking on one of our trips to see him at the hospital that it would be the first year in 32 I wouldn’t get a card from him. I had a hard time accepting that. He died three weeks after my birthday.

It wasn’t long after that, I grabbed the mail one day and saw a pink envelope with his handwriting on the front. It was my birthday card. He signed it in the hospital, my uncle mailed it and somehow, it took that long to get to me. I prefer to think that it was just a little wink from him to show me he was with me.

Tyler’s high chair sits underneath my Grace print. I feed him his baby food there and tell him to slow down. I tell him dinner is nothing to rush through.  I see it every time I feed him, every time I head out the back door to leave and start another day. It reminds me when I start to lose my place or patience, there is grace everywhere and it’s so simple to find if you look.

Just like Bob Doak.

A Letter to Myself at 16: To Whom it May Concern

Philosophy: What’s coming will come and life goes on…even if it’s the hard way.

I know you’re a nose away from signing the papers, but you’re not going to do it. In a year, or so, you’ll thank your lucky stars your dad told you the Air Force won’t let you paint your nails. After all, that’s really what kept you away…in early 2001. Nail polish kept you from being deployed to the Iraq war.

You’re running your heart out now, but you won’t take the offer to run for Walsh College. You’ll think back when you’re 26 and wish you had, but you won’t lose sleep over it.

You will run in the Akron Marathon one day. You’ll see the coach, even in the thousands of people running, that told you you would never have it in you to finish road races. You’ll remember that conversation in 7th grade and you’ll dig deep to pass her.

When you do, that’s what will give you the last wind you need to cross the finish line. You’ll also lose two toenails because of it. A small price to pay.

A smooth-talking professor will pull you aside and tell you you have a gift for Philosophy. He won’t tell you how impractical it is. Neither will your mom. When you ask her why she didn’t force you into business school, she’ll tell you it was because you liked what you were doing. You won’t understand that until you have a daughter.

Your dad knows what it looks like when you jack knife a trailer into the side of his F150. You know that, but you’ll still tell him it was a shopping cart. Even when you’re 35, you’ll wonder why he ever let you drive that thing with a trailer on it.

You’re doing your best to convince yourself you’ll have no problem replacing your first love who just left you for Ashland College. You’ll feel better in the years ahead, but you never will replace him completely, nor should you.

You’ll spend some time hell-bent on proving everyone wrong and living like you know it all. You don’t. But time spent living that way will come in handy later when realize you didn’t know it all, but you were learning most of the things that will get you through the hard times.

Even though you missed the Air Force, you’ll take flying lessons from an arrogant French instructor. He’ll tell you you can’t fly in high heels, so you’ll do it just to prove him wrong.

You’ll pray to die when he teaches stalls and he’ll call you ricochet rabbit because of the way you land. You’ll never get your license, though. You’ll never solo and you’ll wish you had.

When you leave for Texas, turn back around as you drive away. What you see waving to you is what will bring you back home in a year and a half.

Speaking of Texas, you’ll make it through the homesickness. You’ll graduate up at the top, but you won’t stick around to walk across the stage. You won’t regret that either. Oh, and about homesickness, don’t bother crying to your dad about it. He was in Viet Nam.

You’ll fall in love again. When you do, say yes. Even though it falls apart and burns worse than a wrecked semi full of diesel, say yes. You’ll get two of the most precious gifts you’ve ever laid eyes on out of it.

When you lose your grandpas, you’ll find it in you to write again and you’ll find it in you to stand up and deliver the words you owe them. So when your mom and dad ask you to speak, don’t think twice.

When you’re out on your own, doing the work of two people alone, you’ll resent the people and reasons that put you there, for maybe all of five minutes. There isn’t time to dwell on it. You’ll be content for the first time knowing what’s coming is going to come and life goes on.

And do it again. Fall in love, that is. Even though you know you shouldn’t. That time, you won’t break. And, you’ll get to raise a son the hard way because…

despite everything you’ve learned in all the lessons the good Lord gave you in the past 18 years, you’ll still insist on doing things the hard way.

How to Make a House a Home

Philosophy: You and the little ones tethered to you. That’s what makes a house a home.

Almost literally in my backyard is the house I bought when I was getting divorced. It was tiny and dated in spots, but it was all mine and the kids loved it. I loved it. I loved that it was full of promises and warm light and potential. It stood for freedom.

We’ve moved twice since then. We needed more space. But it was in that house that I learned what makes a house a home. It turns out, it’s not two parents, rigid rules, perfection or brand new appliances.

Countertops? I’d trade granite counter tops for the light blue Formica I had there any day. I used to have granite counter tops. They were nice. But, it was on the blue Formica that the kids and I had just enough room to stand side by side and make dinner together.

Bedroom Size? My bedroom had precisely enough room for a double bed, one dresser and a night stand.  There was still enough room in my bed for two extra little people who had bad dreams, though and that was all that was important.

Finished Basement? The basement was nothing special. Paint was peeling off the floor. In the winter, it was the perfect spot for riding scooters in circles and bouncing tennis balls off the walls for the dog.

Walk-In Shower? The ceiling above the shower slanted. If I was another half inch taller, I would have to duck to get in. I painted it my favorite shade of lavender and left all the original hardware. There was a window above the bath tub, so the kids would stand up during their baths and try to see outside.

Needless to say, it was far from perfect., but its scars are what gave it so much charm.

To answer the question of what makes a house a home, it’s having a place to make dinner together. It’s having enough room in your bed in case of bad dreams. It’s a place to play when it’s snowing outside. It’s a room that’s painted your favorite color that reminds you each time you walk in that your have your niche carved out in the world.

It’s not something you have to own. It’s anywhere you can walk over the threshold and feel the world’s weight leave your shoulders.

Our house has four floors. It has more than 11 rooms. Our nights go like this: I sit down on the couch with Tyler. A few minutes later, Jack makes his way up there. The Elise bounces down on the other side of me. Four of us are crammed onto on couch cushion (give or take) and when she calls for Angie, the dog makes 5.

I solved this problem by getting a bigger couch.

I find myself wondering why everyone always needs to be right on top of me. I read a quote somewhere once that said, “Kids know nothing about personal space. They’d crawl right inside your eyeball if they could.”

I think it’s because the world out there seems so big when you’re very little. They need to be tethered to something to anchor them down. Those first few wobbly steps as babies are the beginning of a long sequence of going and coming.

The older they get, the farther they go. Each time they return, they lose a little wariness. So do we; until as parents we forget what it was like the first time their baby feet touched the ground.

A house is where we live. A home is a harbor to which the people we love want to return. A home is what keeps the tethers strong.

Heaven: Remembering Candace Fettuccine

Philosophy: All guinea pigs go to heaven, and yes Jack, there are ball pits there.

The first experience I ever had with trying to explain heaven was when Candace Fettuccine passed away.

Jack and Elise each got a guinea pig last year. Ginger, Elise’s pig, is alive and well; Candace is not.

Where he got the name, I don’t know. Jack wanted me to name his brother “Trashbag Milkjug”. I digress.

We called her Candy. Jack wrapped her in a receiving blanket and carried her everywhere. She laid on him while he watched TV, she played with him in his room. Then, one day, I came home from work and realized Candy met her maker.

I braced myself for the inevitable. I was completely prepared for devastation from Jack.  I told him Candy went to guinea pig heaven.

When you have kids, you’re forced to talk about heaven at some point, whether you want to or not.

It’s one of those things I never thought about trying to explain until I had to do it. To use the analogy of Alan Watts, trying to explain heaven is like trying to “bite your own teeth”.

I had my own thoughts and opinions about what heaven is and isn’t and what it’s like, but I never had a reason or opportunity to put the thoughts into words.

I told him Candy went to guinea pig heaven and held my breath for what was surely about to be an explosion. I watched the wheels turning while he made sense of what I was saying.

Then, he asked, “When will she be back?”

Little man clearly had no idea what I meant when I said heaven. I guess he wouldn’t. He was too little to remember anyone dying.

“She isn’t coming back. It’s like Jimmy when he went up to dog heaven.”

“Oh. How did she get up there? Did she fly?”

Here’s where I let it get tricky. I should’ve said yes and been done with it. “No. She has a spirit like we do. Her spirit went to heaven, but her body stayed down here.” I waited for the onslaught of questions. I got…crickets.

“Oh. Does she have food there?”


“Yes. She has all the food she could ever want.”

“Does she have water?”

“Sure. She probably has a huge water bottle that’s always full.”

“Is heaven fun?”

“Jacky, if there is such a thing as more than fun, that’s what heaven is, I think.”

“Can we go there and see her?”

“No, not today, but someday, when you go to heaven, I believe you’ll get to see everyone you know that’s there; even your animals.”

“But I want to go today.” The sheer innocence of his inability to comprehend finality – that going to heaven meant dying- made me smile inside.

“I know you do, buddy, but I don’t want you to. Someday you’ll get there.”

“Mommy, do they have ball pits in heaven?”

“Absolutely. There are definitely ball pits in heaven.”

It was about here that Elise yelled at both of us to quit talking about it because it was making her sad. She was a little more familiar with the whole losing pets and great-grandparents and talking about heaven routine.

“But Sissy, heaven has ball pits. It’s not sad.”

And there you have it. Heaven has ball pits. It’s not sad.

I’m not sure which part of this I thought about the longest. For starters, I realized just how much little ones trust their parents’ word. Then again, why wouldn’t they?

It made me realize, in his eyes, I had all the answers. I was prepared for a debate that didn’t happen. He asked, I answered. I knew what I was talking about because I was mom and for now, my word was gospel. End of story.

It isn’t until we’re adults that we require proof of every little thing. It made me wonder when blind trust stops and hard proof begins to be required. Not everything has to be complicated, maybe. Maybe, we need a little more blind trust; a little more faith.

It also made me realize one of the purposes of heaven here on earth. I’m sure there are many. I know there are. I’m not here to debate religion (I’d rather do that with my 6-year-old). But one of the purposes of heaven is to make life bearable.

Life means death and death is hard. It’s final. I think we’re much older before we can wrap our minds around the concept of “final”. I realize there are people who believe in reincarnation or that death is rebirth into the afterlife that would want to argue over finality, but I’m talking about dealing with something you love going away for the rest of your days here on earth.

It’s comforting to the point of almost being necessary to have heaven.

Heaven softens the blow of death for kids. But it does the same for adults.

I don’t know about you, but I would much rather believe that all of my grandparents, and all of the dogs I lost, are reunited and playing in a great big ball pit, having a blast, than to think that death was the end-all.

I prefer to believe I’ll see them again; that they’re just passing the time doing all of the things they loved doing here on earth, but without the suffering, until I get there to meet them.

I like to think of death being nothing more than a steward into the next phase of being. Of course, that’s only what I like to think.

What I know for sure, though, is if heaven exists, there will be ball pits.

To My Daughter: 26 Things I Want You to Know

I always dreamed of having a daughter that was a little extension of me. Now that I do, I wish I could take some of the me out of her. Even though she got my rigid perfectionism, she also got a lot of things I wish I’d had at her age.

She keeps me grounded. Her eight-year-old logic astounds me at times. Maybe that comes from pure childish innocence that we lose as adults. If so, I think a little regression would do us all some good.

She helps me in ways she may never know, and sometimes, I admit, I rely on her too much. She’s my extra set of hands in this single mother life, and I always make sure she knows just how much I appreciate her.

Like a young me, she thinks she has all the answers. As much as I can, I let her learn things for herself. It was hard to learn to choose my battles, but sometimes, you just have to let them fall so they can learn how to get back up.

One thing I have always told her was that I don’t know much, but I’ll always tell her what I know for sure. For Elise and all our daughters, this is what I know for sure:

I could not do what you do at your age. You’re brave and beautiful. You have stars in your eyes and flames in your heart and you don’t care who sees them.

Read 14 Things I Love About Being a Single Mom

You will be jealous of your friends. Just remember you also have traits and talents they don’t. Life is a lot more fun when you learn to build people up instead of tearing them down. I promise.

Less is more. Unless it’s mascara, in which case, more is never enough. But you don’t need mascara anyway.

Speaking of mascara, don’t pay more than $10.00 for it. Ever.

You should stay up all night at a sleep-over, but don’t take it out on your mom when you’re tired the next day.

You’ll feel defeated every now and then. It’s ok. Walk in like you own the place.

Find a hobby and get good at it. The time is going to pass anyway. You might as well have something to show for it.

Be nice to your siblings. Someday, they’ll be your only link to your past and the only ones who lived through the same memories you did.

If you’re ever on the fence about cutting your hair, do it. It grows back.

If you think your nails are dry, wait one minute longer than that before trying to use your hands.

Every little thing that makes you self-conscious now will turn into your greatest assets later. Appreciate them before age takes them away.

Weight is nothing more than a number. Being healthy is far more important than the size you wear.

Take care of your favorite dolls and books. Someday, you’ll want to give them to your little girl.

Read Full-Tilt Boy: The Wreckage of Raising Sons

Slamming your bedroom door will get you attention. It just won’t be the kind you want.

I know you’ll make fun of me and the music I listen to and the clothes I wear. It’s a rite of passage for daughters and moms. But, just remember, someday, your kids will do the same.

If you’re thinking of using hair dye of any kind, pay someone at a salon to do it and please, oh please, pick a natural color.

You have more courage than I do when it comes to singing and dancing. Don’t lose it.

You’ll swear there are days I don’t love you because I keep you from going somewhere or doing something you really want to. It will always be my job to protect you first.

On those days, you’ll tell me you hate me. You’ll think you do, but you don’t really mean it.

You don’t understand why your dad and I are divorced. Someday you might know the reasons, but I’ll pray you never learn the lessons first-hand.

If there’s a breath in me, I’ll worry about you.

Find other ways thank skimpy clothes to get people’s attention…like your mind.

You don’t have to be the loudest girl in the room to be heard.

Never underestimate a good bubble bath and a good French manicure.

It will always feel like yesterday I held you in my arms for the first time. No matter how old you are, how big you get, how far you go, I will still see you as my baby.

You’ll never know just how much I rely on you. You’ll never know how many times you kept me from being scared or losing my mind. The boys are the reason I have no choice but to be grounded, but you help me figure out to stay there.

You’re so good at doing some things I should be doing for you. One of these is understanding when I don’t always have enough hands or enough time.

On the days I have exceptional doubt about myself and my abilities to make anything good, one look at you proves I did something right somewhere to deserve to call you my little girl.

Full-Tilt Boy: The Wreckage of Raising Sons

Philosophy: When snips and snails and puppy dog tails turn into a one-man wrecking crew, all you can do is hold your breath and batten down the hatches.

Part of being an only-child-single-boy-mom is learning wreckage.

I had no brothers (or sisters), so not only do I notunderstand sibling rivalry, I had to learn to mother boys. This was tough forme.

Growing up, I was shy, quiet and into books. Sports didn’t interest me until I ran track and cross country much later, and even then, Ichose the most solitary form of athletics there is.

I still hate dirt. Chaos, noise and disorganization drove me crazy. Then along came Jack.

Jack spent 9 days in the NICU when he was born. Meconium,intubation, seizures and the night he was born, I checked myself out of thematernity ward to follow my 5-pound preemie on his first car ride; in anambulance.

He pulled through. Other than following his own growth-curve, he can see, speak and walk on his own (we weren’t so sure thatwould happen) and he’s all boy.

He runs everywhere. He’s fascinated with wheels, motors and guns. He’s loud, oh so very loud. While he has an odd propensity for cleaning things, he’s almost always covered in something sticky and dirty himself, though.

Tyler is laid back. More so than Jack at three months old, but his appetite is more like that of a full-grown man. Jack can’t wait for the day Tyler can walk and talk and he can have a partner in crime. I can wait. I certainly can wait.

Most of the time, I wonder where Elise is in the house. Since she needs me less and less, she disappears for long stretches and plays in her room or reads and I actually have to go looking for her.

That is not the case with boys. I always know exactly where Jack is. If he’s not following at my heels asking questions, I just have to listen to where the noise is coming from.

The big booms that make me think the second floor is caving in is him rearranging his closet. The slamming from the kitchen means it’s snack time. The bing-bing-bing that drives me mad means he left the refrigerator open. Again. Yelling means he’s trying to get into Elise’s room and Lord help me, when I hear the toilet flush, I still hope against hope nothing went down that wasn’t supposed to.

It’s when there’s silence that I go looking. In the past, silence led me to open paint cans, a couch full of Fruity Pebbles, Sharpie down the walls and sponges in the toilet. Silence is not golden. Silence means Trouble.

If silence doesn’t mean trouble, it means Jack is with his dad. Even with Tyler’s baby noises, the house is so quiet when the kids leave. There are times, I admit, when things are extra wild, that I count the hours in my head until I can get a break from the one-woman show that is my life.

I can’t wait for the plate-spinning act to be over. But the minute they leave, the silence almost eats me alive and I miss them down to my bones. I have Tyler. He occupies me, but as any parent of more than one kid knows, you love them equally and you love them equally for different reasons, in different ways. None of the three can fill the gaps of the others when they’re not there.

When the noise gets to me now, I think about the silence that follows and it stops bothering me. Soon enough the noise won’t be strewn toys and slamming cupboards, it’ll be the sound of crashing cars and breaking hearts and packing for college.

It’ll be wreckage of a different kind; a more mature kind and that kind hits harder and hurts more. That kind is harder to clean up and I don’t think I’ll ever be ready for it.

That leaves me in the here and now with all the mud and moonbeams. It leaves me in the midst of ramshackle forts and piles of laundry; a funnel cloud of full-decibel noise that never stops.

It’s all part of being a boy mom and if it means I get to ride the river with these two, I’ll gladly float with all the wreckage.

Steal the Plate and Take the Wheel: Why it’s OK to Break Rules

Philosophy: Steal the damn plates. Steal them every time.

I love thrift stores and old things. That’s how my Etsy shop came about. Racks and shelves of things, none of which are the same, each with its own past and story.

 I have to slow down and spend time looking and rummaging. The thrill of the hunt. I get very excited when I find exactly what I want, not knowing when I walk in the door just what that might be, but hopeful there’s a chance at something that fits perfectly, or I haven’t seen in years.

I was hurrying through Goodwill after I dropped off some clothes last week (Tyler wasn’t in a bargain-hunting mood), looking for some Harlan Coban books I hadn’t read yet. Some of my favorite authors, I found by looking for books at thrift stores. “What the heck…” turned into the enormous book collection I have in my back room.

Across from the books are all the wares. There they were, in all their glory. Fiesta salt and pepper shakers. I grabbed them. Serendipity. Salt and pepper shakers aren’t my thing. My best friend collects them. She also collects Fiesta dishes. This collection began when we were about 17.

Chi-Chi’s was a Mexican restaurant by our mall. We were cool. We could drive to the mall by ourselves, so we did; the way seventeen-year-olds do all kinds of things just because they can. We ended up at Chi-Chi’s and Chi-Chi’s used Fiesta dishes.

One or two of said dishes may or may not have ended up in our take-home containers, and so, not only was a collection born, but also an eighteen-year long challenge. Although we’ve been out to eat hundreds of times together since then, the conditions aren’t always right for swiping a small dish or silverware. Quite frankly, a lot of times, we don’t even want what they’re using, but who can resist a Fiesta dish?

Mine was orange. If memory serves, Kelly got yellow. That dish is in my mom’s cupboard to this day. When I use it, I think of the silent look we still give each other when one of us slips a particularly nice ramekin into our Styrofoam box.

Fiestaware…the real deal

It makes me smile. It makes me remember the white lies that come with being 17 and how we just tried to have fun without hurting anyone. That was the kind of fun that sticks. Those memories are solid.

Those memories, I recall in the split second before I stop Jack from applying stickers to his window in the car or before I punish Elise for carving her name into the back of her bedroom door. I also committed sins that didn’t hurt anyone as a kid. I still do. It’s part of claiming space in the world, in a way.

Sometimes I realize I’m saying no to the kids more than yes. It’s my standard response to almost any question they ask because the question is already predetermined in my mind to be some outrageous request. That’s not fair to them.

Even though I despise slime with every fiber of my being, I begrudgingly give in and let them make it. For some reason, Jack can’t find anything unless he dumps every toy out of every bin in his room. He asks first and my answer was always no, but now I let him – on the condition he picks it up. It’s his choice, then, and sometimes that makes him change his mind.

(To be sure, some requests definitely are outrageous. Jack insisted for awhile on going "RIGHT NOW" to go get a "REAL" dirt bike. That was a great big "NO". )

The memories of the stolen plates are what I think of when I give in and let the kids be kids. The memories of the stolen plates are what give me ideas to do things every once in awhile that surprise them and even me; things that are just the right amount of reckless.

My own dad once took me out to the cemetery in his truck. I was about 13. He didn’t tell me where we were going and I was very confused. He got out, told me to switch sides and he let me drive all by myself for awhile. I will never forget that. I owe those same memories to my kids. Out-of-the-blue adventures that even they, in their wildest dreams, wouldn’t think to ask about.

The roads of Maple Grove

Is it wrong to drive at 13 and take dishes? Probably. A felony? Nope. These stolen souvenirs of the last years of my childhood are worth every Hail Mary and day in jail.

If I had that magical chance to go back in time and give myself advice with 20/20, I’d still tell me to steal the damn plates. Steal them every time.

Mortuary Science School Drop-Out

Philosophy: Sometimes you have to try quitting before you quit trying.

You just gotta know when to fold ‘em. That is, of course, courtesy of Kenny Rogers, which, I’m not too proud to say I’ve heard a time or two thousand. My love for Kenny comes straight from my dad’s old vinyl records.

Speaking of my dad, he didn’t raise a quitter. He tells me this often. He always knows exactly when I need to hear that straight from him, too.

I knew during my freshman year at Kent State that I wanted to major in philosophy. I had huge plans of being a professor surrounded by books or graduating at the top of my law school class and opening an office (also surrounded by books). But…well…life.

Philosophy sustained and interested me, but what always fascinated me was death. Of course, death is part of philosophy, but I’m talking about funerals and science.

I happened to listen to Three Minutes That Will Change Your Life by Alan Watts when I was between the anchor of marriage and the freedom of divorce and it compelled me to think about what I would really love to do if money were no object.

If I could drop everything and be anything I wanted, what would it be? A funeral director. I had always wanted to own a funeral home. While it sounds creepy and weird, it fascinated me.

When I had my temporary lapse in sanity, just prior to my second marriage, I enrolled in the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science online. I loved it. I loved the classes, I loved the feeling of working toward something I never thought I would do. I loved arranging places to intern part-time on the weekends.

Then I woke up early one morning (literally) alone and pregnant. Not only did I realize I couldn’t financially afford to stay in school and care for three kids, I couldn’t afford the time it would take away from them to have to intern and be called out in the middle of the night.

I quit.

I quit three quarters of the way through a term. Didn’t even see it through until the grading period ended. I quit.

I thought I would be too embarrassed to admit that to everyone who started asking how school was, but the truth goes a long way. My money and time were going to be needed somewhere else and there was nothing wrong with that.

In that sense, I wasn’t quitting anything. I was just rerouting.

Yes, I’m still a mortuary science school drop-out. But if there’s anything that sounds cooler than mortuary science school, it’s adding drop-out to the end of it.

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