Somewhere Up Ahead

We visited Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glenn Rose, Texas a few weeks ago. There we found a wonderful trail that makes its way along a steep cliff and across some rocky terrain and it led us to several amazing fossilized footprints of dinosaurs.

Our younger daughters took the lead from the moment we stepped out of the car.  It was fascinating to me because they don’t often do that in new situations.

As we wound our way down into the riverbed, they hollered for me several times from somewhere up ahead, “Dad, are you still there?” and, “Dad, use the path to your left, it’s easier than the one on the right.” and, “Dad, you won’t believe what we found!”

I hear them say these things from somewhere up ahead and I am mesmerized by the boundless joy and growing sense of Indiana-Jones-style adventure that compels them.

They are speaking to me with more than words though; it is the sounding bells of growing up, of taking just a few more steps away from their mother and me, a few more paths that are of their own making.

I am following them, a few steps back, but always listening, listening, listening…somewhere up ahead.

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These Are My People

Claire and I took a trip this past weekend, and I do mean a trip! We drove into the heart of downtown Dallas, Texas to attend the celebrated “Comic Con,” a convention devoted to fans of everything from Star Wars to Superman and X-Men to Back to the Future and every “cool and geeky” thing in between. Claire even dressed up as Wonder Woman!

At one point while we were enjoying the festivities and buying more than a few collector comic books in the grand marketplace, Claire turned to me with the biggest grin and with the most satisfied sound in her voice said, “Dad, look around! These are our people!”

I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. It was an epiphany of sorts that was bubbling around in my teenage daughter’s mind, this sense that different might not be so bad after all, that quirkiness and passion and fun can make for quite a fascinating world.

I remember years ago my wife and I met an older couple who were sharing their life story with us. When he proposed marriage to her, he said, “Darling, would you be buried with my people?”

It was his way of inviting her to join his tribe, his culture, his home, his world. And it clearly worked!

In this massive, crowded world of the 21st century, there is nothing quite like finding “your people”…even if they’re dressed as a hobbit with a long grey beard or are sporting a large red “s” across their chest.

There’s just nothing quite like it.

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The Family That Flips Together…

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Snow days out of school and work allow all kinds of things to happen at home. Monday was definitely one of those days!

Our youngest was up earlier than usual for a day off and so she piled into bed and covered up between us. She talked with me about the snow outside, the icicles hanging from the roof over the back porch, when we would be sledding today, what time I wanted to get up, and, finally, if she could be totally in charge of making pancakes.

We agreed to that and we were off to the kitchen in no time. She even coined a new phrase to commemorate her hard work at the griddle – “chips and flips.” The “chips” stand for the mountainous volume of chocolate chips she and her sister have come to love in their pancakes; the “flips” stand for how much she has grown up in this past year to be able to now successfully flip a pancake to cook on both sides (not an easy task!).

There is a favorite book about home life by Robert Wolgemuth entitled The Most Important Place on Earth. In it he writes about all the ways in which parents can build a strong family. He says, “We thought we were [making pancakes]; we were really doing what families have done for centuries: working together, laughing together, and learning to love each other in the process.”

It makes me stop and think harder about the little things, the chores, the meals of our sometimes ho-hum life at home. It’s even the chips and flips that are bringing us together. The life of a family is lived every day of the week…snow days, too.

P.S. Here are a few of our favorite children’s books about pancakes…Pancakes, Pancakes! by Eric Carle, Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola, and If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Numeroff.

82 Stories

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We drove to the top of Mount Scott yesterday. It’s about two hours southeast of us and a place I had never visited but often heard about. We took this drive for one reason – my 82-year old grandparents. It is near the epicenter of their 69-year love affair; a beautiful area of the world they visited on teenage dates in the 1940′s. They called us earlier in the week and asked if we would like to visit the place and see it all through their memories. We were glad to – and now more than glad that we did.

As we approached the top of the mountain in our SUV, I asked them what had changed and they looked around for a moment. “Nothing really…except the route up here,” my grandmother admitted. “It was all dirt and gravel roads back then, nothing quite so manicured and perfect and painted as it looks now. But the view, that hasn’t changed a bit. The sky is still blue, the white clouds still roll over us, the rocks and flowers are still the same browns and greens and purples, and those boats there on the lake…right there…they still look like little toys from way up here.” My grandfather, never a fan of heights, added, “Still too high up if you ask me.”

For a bit of an adventure, the kids and I decided to climb down onto the rocks below the scenic viewing path that encircles the top of Mount Scott. These rocks were slippery smooth and the purple flowers that grew between them were enticing to our youngest. The kids took pictures and laughed and poked around, being as safe as three girls in flip-flops standing on the side of a mountain can be.

When I looked back up the path to see from where we had come, I caught a glimpse of my grandparents. They may have been talking, I’m not sure, but they were holding hands and clearly peering out onto the land below, their eyes squinting through the blazing sun that was nearly at its peak in the sky above them. I told the girls to look and to remember what they were seeing. For in that moment, we were transported in time to the teenage chapters of a long-written storybook, to a portion of my grandparent’s lives lived so long ago and yet living now so close to us that all we had to do to read it was drive them up a mountain just off I-44 and Highway 49.

The stories are everywhere my friends. They just keep coming…

 

Food Surrounded by Books

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Books and food – in the same place! When my daughters surprised me at the office today with a lunch invitation, I knew there was only one restaurant on their mind…the Garden Cafe inside and surrounded by the two-story high bookcases of Oklahoma City’s Full Circle Bookstore.
Nestled in a corner of 50 Penn Place, this legendary spot is home to all kinds of books and fireplaces and reading chairs…but our reason for being here is the most creative, dreamlike children’s book section we have ever seen. Replete with tall red ladders and two “coves” filled with more childhood to older teen book pages than you can imagine, this is our kind of place!
While I was taking these photos, the sales lady was stocking a shelf nearby and I asked her if it was alright to take a photo. She said of course and told us that many grown-ups now visit this very section and tell her, “My parents used to bring me here all the time when I was little, and it is so good just to see it and be in the middle of it all now as an adult.”
I like that kind of memory created in part by a place filled with books. When my kids come here for a visit 20 years from now (in 2033!), we’ll sit together to enjoy the awesome food, the gourmet gelato…and surround ourselves once again with the sweet smell of books that stretch as far as the eye can see.

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