Sunday, December 13, 2009

cascabeles, cascabeles, tra la la la la!

Boy band or not, I am reminded every year of the vocal talent of 98 Degrees when I listen to their Christmas album. Yes, a few of the songs are original pop and not especially wonderful (did we really need two versions of This Gift?), but they do pleasant versions of many classics. They're rarely overworked, there's not excessive use of a drumset beat, and the two a capella songs on the album (I'll Be Home for Christmas and Ave Maria) display beautiful harmony. The voices of this group blend so well, and I love that they gave the bass voice a solo for once!

Cheesy as it may be at times, I love getting out this CD every year.

Other top Christmas music:
- Mannheim Steamroller- my dad's music of choice on Christmas morning.
- The Nutcracker Suite- the regular one, and the version by the Brian Setzer Orchestra (after years of ballet and band, I can't resist it)
- Celine Dion- These Are Special Times
- Josh Groban- Noel (as well as O Holy Night, Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring, and Believe, all of which can fit as Christmas music but just aren't on that CD)
- Sleigh Ride- another one that I like more for having been in band
- Silent Night/ Night of Silence. (Night of Silence is a song meant to be sung with Silent Night, and it gives the original some gorgeous overlapping harmony.)

I'm also anxious to hear Andrea Bocelli's Christmas CD, because- well, it's Andrea Bocelli. He's a bit too classical for my taste usually, but I imagine his voice will be perfect with Christmas music.

Anyway- I'm starting to get way in a Christmasy mood. Any Christmas/ holiday music recommendations for me to look up?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Review Games

If you're a teacher and need some kind of review game, please consider this:

I created a math review for the past six weeks, and the kids loved it. Of course, you can really only use this if you have a projector of some kind. This worked wonderfully on a SmartBoard, and didn't take me much time at all to set up.

I've made PowerPoint Jeopardy games before, and even with a template, they take some time. Plus, the Flash game keeps score for you. The kids got a huge kick of seeing the score change (of course, it probably would have been good for the students to add up their scores for practice- but I only thought of that now).

The kids love playing a game, of course, but this particular one was a great way to spend a rambunctious Friday afternoon reviewing math concepts. The SmartBoard made the questions huge and easy for everyone to read, and all I had to do was tap once on the screen to move to the next page.

On Friday, I tried out the game while I was leading the class. Normally there's a lead teacher, but she was gone and so the sub was mostly observing as I taught. It went so well, and really confirmed that almost every student really knows these concepts. I'm so glad I found this site, and excited to move on to some new standards!

*One hint: If you're working with second graders like I am, I wouldn't try to follow the traditional Jeopardy format of answer and then question. They didn't know the show, so I think it would have been extremely confusing.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

almost there

This summer was full of dread. I was worried I wouldn't get a job. And then, beneath that, there was an even bigger worry. I would get a job, but I would be terrible.

Student teaching wasn't super smooth. I discovered quickly that while I'm a natural at the teaching aspect, the organizational side of teaching- which is every bit as important- is seriously lacking. I quickly found myself to have piles of papers, I nearly forgot to put a chunk of grades in the official gradebook, and I was swimming in too much work.

One of my biggest realizations was that every lesson doesn't have to be the brilliant, show-stopping, groundbreaking lesson. I would have a lesson mostly planned out, go to finish the final touches a few days before, and think of a new and much better idea. I'd completely revamp the lesson, which of course required immense preparation, and stay up late the night before finishing it.

I couldn't keep this up. At the end of student teaching, I was doing a lot more basic, simple lessons. The extravagant lessons just weren't viable to do often, and I had to reign in my ideas to be more reasonable. Had I continued the way I was teaching, I would have easily been burnt out, but it was really hard for me to stop. It felt like giving up on my best ideas to not teach them.

I had to simplify things and figure out a better system for me. I improved by the end of student teaching, but I knew I still had a lot to learn. The thought of my own classroom was exciting, but after student teaching wasn't perfect, it was also incredibly terrifying.

What if I'm not good enough? What if my students don't do well? What if I can't control the classroom? What will the parents think? Will I keep my job?

Finally, after increasing worry all summer, I heard something back from one of the tens of schools to which I applied. I had landed an interview. Time to show the principal that I felt confident and competent- joy.

But I did okay. I explained to the principal that I'd learned a lot during student teaching about the art of teaching, but more importantly about myself as a teacher. I had learned many things I wanted to do or not do in my own classroom to make it work for me. I also came away from student teaching knowing that I have a lot more still to learn, and so I emphasized to the principal that while my youth and inexperience might be a weakness, my passion for improving was a definite strength.

As it turns out, I'm now in an interventionist position. It's amazingly well-fitted for me at this point. I am essentially an assistant teacher in a specific classroom, which feels very similar to student teaching. I have opportunities to lead the entire class, and many opportunities to work with struggling individuals and small groups. I'm still teaching, but I don't have all of the responsibilities of my own classroom just yet. I have a tremendous opportunity to keep learning from a more experienced teacher, and at the end of the year I'll be teaching my own class for six weeks.

I can't think of a better job to help me transition to a full-time classroom leader. Obviously, there are times I wish for my own room. I feel like an almost-teacher at times, but for now I'm hoping to take everything I can from the experience. So many qualified people I know simply haven't found a teaching job this year (including my own mom), and I'm thankful to have a job. Especially one where I can teach!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Football Predictions

I love professional football. The NFL eats up a very good deal of my weekend time each season, and I get sad for the end of the season.

My family's full of Packers fans, so I know I have strong bias- but I also think I do a pretty great job of staying abreast of the NFL in general. I'd hoped to read up a bit more and watch more preseason games before doing this, but having a real job has gotten in the way. That said, right before the season really begins, here are my season predictions:

AFC East (Bills, Dolphins, Patriots, Jets):
Patriots will dominate, sadly. I don't like them (and they lost one of the few players I liked in Tedy Bruschi through retirement), but their division is just plain weak. I do think Mark Sanchez will significantly help the Jets- they looked much better last year while Brett Favre was healthy, and I'm excited to see Dustin Keller (Boiler Up!) become an increasingly dominant tight end. Little sad they let Bubba Franks go, but that's just some old Packers loyalties :). T.O. just doesn't have the talent around him on the Bills to make a huge impact on the team, but I'm sure his numbers will still look nice for fantasy. Dolphins will continue to climb, which I don't think many people will suspect, but won't improve near enough for a wild-card spot, much less beating Tom Brady & Co. They'll be consistent, but not annoyingly perfect. Dang it.
Winner: Patriots
Runner-Up: Dolphins

AFC South (Texans, Colts, Jaguars, Titans):
I like the Colts- I do. But this is a tough division in the past few years, they're aging and without Dungy or Harrison, and I think they've lacked the kind of precision they had before in the preseason. Maurice Jones-Drew, barring injury, ought to finally get the numbers he deserves now that Fred Taylor is out (although I was very sad to see him go- the two had a fantastic on-and-off-field relationship and he was a classy guy). I think the Texans have been building for some greatness the past few years, but I think the Titans will hold on. Yes, Haynesworth is a big loss- but Nate Washington and some DT depth are good gains, and one of the Titans' strengths last year was a solid, well-rounded team. With less superstars, you have less vulnerability to personnel changes.
Winner: Titans
Runner-Up: Colts

AFC West (Broncos, Chiefs, Raiders, Chargers):
Broncos are seriously going to miss their old offense. When shootout style play is a commonality and you suddenly replace Jay Cutler with Kyle Orton, your team is going to have to change. (I'm a Purdue fan- but Orton is just not on the same level as Cutler right now.) Never mind Brandon Marshall's serious discontent, which will surely lead to less chemistry, if not a trade of one of the league's top receivers. I've hardly heard of any big Raiders changes, and considering their position last year, that's not good. Let's see as much passion on the field as in the stands, Oakland. Chargers are overrated as usual- I just don't see Philip Rivers as a top QB, and L.T. is aging and always injured, or so it feels. Lucky for them, they are solid enough to beat out a weak division. I think the Chiefs will be a surprising challenge, though- Matt Cassel has shown some strength and I think a fresh coach and GM might help shake up the team in a good way.
Winner: Chargers
Runner-Up: Chiefs

AFC North (Ravens, Bengals, Browns, Steelers):
I'll admit- Ryan completely surprised me with a statistic about the Bengals' defense last year. Almost top ten?! But that makes their record a little scarier still to me- if Carson Palmer goes out, an otherwise solid offense with a good defense still looked pretty rough. Assuming Palmer stays healthy, though, I think the Bengals have had a fantastic draft and offseason that might pay off. Chad Ocho Cinco's team attitude is telling, I think. I still think the team management leaves a lot to be desired, but the talent level should push them far. The Steelers, though, have 20 of 22 starters returning, plus a few strong newcomers (or IR-returners). As much as I don't like them, I just don't see them losing this division, even with the Bengals finally giving themselves a shot and the Ravens becoming more than just a defense. (I think Joe Flacco will prove to be a little flake-o.)
Winner: Steelers
Runner-Up: Bengals

NFC East (Cowboys, Giants, Eagles, Redskins): Still an incredibly strong division this year. The Cowboys earn a lot of flak, but I think they have the talent if they don't fall short. I think the loss of T.O. will end up hurting only a little, because the Cowboys really needed to ditch the drama. Tony Romo will really have to step up if he wants to make headlines for anything but his girlfriends, and I think he just may do it. Plus, Wade Phillips is seriously on the line, so hopefully desperation from him and embarrassment from a disappointing end of last season will lead to stepping up. Redskins are another team that have improved significantly in the past year and Albert Haynesworth ought to be a big addition, but I can't place them as a contender against these other teams. The Giants are barely removed from a Super Bowl, and other than the loss of Plaxico Burress, seem to be hiding under the radar as usual. That seems to bode well for them, especially if they can still get into playing the underdog- but I wonder who in their offense can bring the potential to score that Burress had. Eagles still look good, though, but so much depends on not getting injured. Brian Westbrook is great- or completely out. That's not going to cut it, especially when your passing game isn't consistent. I think this division is crazy close, and a critical injury or acquisition on any team could throw my predictions haywire immediately. And they may well be wrong.
Winner: Cowboys
Runner-Up: Eagles

NFC South (Falcons, Panthers, Saints, Buccaneers): The Falcons were seriously good last year. A rookie quarterback took hold of the offense with stability and strength, and a balanced offense made things all the better. Add Tony Gonzalez into the mix, and everyone else in the division should be a little scared. Look at what Gonzalez has done in his career, and the caliber of offenses that he's been doing it on- and then imagine what he'll do here. Unfortunately, my confidence ends with the Falcons' offense. Defense is a big worry. Similarly, I love Drew Brees' play. I think the team is SO CLOSE to being phenomenal, but it's bad when you have Drew Brees' almost-record-breaking numbers and your defense still can't keep you in the game. The Buccaneers are making some serious rebuilding strides, but they don't have a QB that will really be able to take advantage of Antonio Bryant just yet. Their defense isn't the worst in the league, but it will have to compete with some amazing offense and I don't think it has much of a chance. The Panthers still have Julius Peppers and Jake Delhomme, plus they just picked up Tyrell Sutton (a Packers recruit who I really liked at RB). I think a 12-4 season isn't likely to go that far downhill.
Winner: Panthers
Super-Close Runner-Up: Falcons

NFC West (Cardinals, Rams, 49ers, Seahawks):
I want the Seahawks to do well, and I think they'll be a lot more respectable than last year. Unfortunately, Matt Hasselbeck isn't out of the woods injury-wise, and I'm not sure the 'Hawks have enough backup to do decently once he's gone. I miss Mike Holmgren, too. Cardinals will be strong. They probably won't make it as far as last year, but I don't expect them to be a one-hit-wonder. Kurt Warner's old, but he can still play, and Larry Fitzgerald and the rest of the offense are a major boon to the team as a whole. The Rams just aren't doing enough, and the 49ers are trying, but Michael Crabtree is being frustrating. I think this division will honestly be pretty boring.
Winner: Cardinals
Runner-Up: 49ers

NFC North (Bears, Lions, Packers, Vikings):
I think the NFC North is going to suddenly be one of the best in the league, which is somewhat surprising considering last year's close but relatively mediocre records. I think the strength of teams should lead to two NFC North teams making the playoffs, but I'm unsure if it will really happen. I think the strength of the other teams will make all records a little lower and might make it difficult to fit into a wildcard spot. Playing the AFC North will help in some ways (Browns, anyone?), but also means playing the Steelers (ouch). Anyway, the Bears have brought in Jay Cutler and may have a truly great QB for the first time in... a long, long time, if not ever. He's going to throw a lot to the TE, and Devin Hester will finally seem like the speedy receiver that everyone has predicted for so long. The Bears have tried to improve their receiving situation and repair their defense, and they'll be good- but I still think their receiving core pales in comparison to others in the division. The Vikings, on the other hand, were a solid team that wasn't missing much except for a quarterback. The addition of Brett Favre perturbs me on a personal level, sure- but it also made the Vikings a much stronger team. I think he'll likely suffer from injury again, but in the meantime he'll do just enough to make the Vikings a top team. Finally, I am completely biased, but I think the Packers are going to eek this one out. Looking at their preseason, they have really impressed me. I was the first to admit that I thought the Packers would struggle early on due to their switch to a 3-4 defense. Even at the beginning of the preseason, I told myself that we were only looking this good against crappy teams- but then we played the Cardinals. And we weren't perfect, but we held our own against the Super Bowl runner-ups. The sheer number of turnovers the Packers have managed to cause and recover in the preaseason have given me a lot more confidence. Oh, and of course there's also the fact that Aaron Rodgers and the offense have looked sharper than anyone else the entire preseason. I don't think it's a stretch by any means to consider the Packers for the win, even without my cheesehead bias. It'll be close, though.
Winner: Packers
Runner-Up: Vikings

To recap...

AFC Division Winners:

AFC Wild Card: Colts

NFC Division Winners:

NFC Wild Card: Vikings (with Falcons sooo close)

AFC Champ: Steelers
NFC Champ: Packers
Super Bowl Champ: Packers

MVP: Aaron Rodgers
Rookie of the Year: Mark Sanchez

Okay, so by the end of this I think my predictions were getting seriously affected by my personal fandoms, but whatever. I don't think any of them are unreasonable, even so. Gametime in less than an hour. Let's do this!

Saturday, July 25, 2009


A couple of years ago, I wrote about some of my religious background and current struggles:

Recently, I found an article here that caught my interest because it reminded me of my own religious views at the moment. I think it's valuable for any person to read that has struggled with doubting faith at some point.

Below is an excerpt that I found interesting:

I took a class called “The Problem of Religious Diversity” that quickly had me believing that just about any belief system could be true and that no one could prove anything. It never occurred to me until then that people who believed something other than Christianity had the same reason for believing their faith as I did for believing mine.
I don't think these things were that hard for me to realize, but I do think they're much of the reasoning I have for looking at things the way that I do, in general. (Even when I've been my most religious, I've never felt that people who believed another religion were necessarily wrong.)

[H]onestly, I didn’t know anything anymore and nothing was real.
This- this is how I've felt. It's not that I disbelieve, or staunchly believe. I just don't know, and it's a strange feeling when I have always believed so strongly.

God won’t fit inside our heads, and if He does, we’re missing something. And I knew all I’d been waiting for was to know that to admit doubt was not to lose faith.
And this- well, I found it to be a profound expression of things that I believe. I don't have to have God all figured out, and I'm really not sure that it's possible anyway. I firmly believe that doubt is a part of any real faith. Thomas is the noted example, but there is, and should be, some Thomas inside of us.

Some people want to find 'proof' of God. There is a 'museum' dedicated to creationism. There are so many people who tell me they believe in God because it's written in the Bible.

Who says the Bible is any more truthful than any other book, and particularly any other Holy book the world over? Who is to say that the Bible is more reliable? The Bible is merely a book, and a book of words that have been translated throughout languages and cultures and thousands of years. There are many different translations of the Bible that say different things or at the least have different connotations. Who is to say that one single Bible, one single denomination, one single faith is correct?

The thing is, you can't prove the existence of God, and I think that's the whole point. If you could prove God, believing wouldn't be a choice. If God was like, say, gravity- that everyone can experience for themselves and feel for sure- it would take no leap of faith to believe. But instead, we have free will, and the only evidence we have is an old book and some feelings. You can't quantify the evidence, or know 100% for sure, and therefore it takes some effort and some hope to really, truly believe.

It is my belief that if you don't have some reasonable doubt once in awhile, you're only going through the motions and doing what someone told you to do. This may be a very, very occasional doubt for you- but I think if you don't challenge what you believe, you're not being honest with yourself. And you're not allowing yourself to change your faith, which means you can't be growing in it.

Then again... while I'm not afraid to doubt, doubt of the magnitude I have felt for awhile now is extremely uncomfortable. It feels awkward and foreign, even now to some extent. More and more lately, I have found myself fighting against the religious conventions some people believe so strongly but with which I disagree. It frustrates me incredibly that so many people are so vehemently close-minded, and I think this frustration has only served to drive me further from the church. I don't want to be a part of anything like that.

Since graduating this year, I've joined the droves of Americans that are searching for a job to no avail. In the past week, just as I began to consider accepting a situation I really didn't want for many reasons, I received a call about an interview for a much preferable position. Both interviews for this job could not have been scheduled more perfectly around my time-consuming summer work. Things are looking incredibly positive at this point that I will have a job next week.

I have been praying more lately than I had anytime in the past few years, both for myself and friends. It could well be a coincidence, of course, but things are really seeming to turn around. Whatever the reason, I am thankful and hopeful it will continue. Despite my doubt, I can't shake all of my faith. I'm still struggling with indecision, almost two years after writing my initial entries here, but I'm doing okay. If nothing else, I'm more accustomed to this new position in the middle of the religious spectrum.

At Mass, I wrote in my journal, “God, see that I’m trying.”

I could not echo his sentiment more.

Monday, June 15, 2009

pomp & circumstance

Graduation is a funny thing.

It's an arbitrary day, where we're handed a piece of paper that somehow represents 4+ years of work at some level. We wear a gown and funny hats, and everyone cheers that we made it. We managed to get through the requirements that someone said we should.

And then it's celebrated wildly.

For me, graduation has always felt funny. I'm sure that part of the issue in high school was that, as a band member, I had attended three other graduations, and this felt just like another one, really. It was long, it was boring, and I walked across a stage and shook someone's hand and suddenly I was supposed to feel different.

Well, I didn't. And I didn't again for my college graduation. I think graduating is an accomplishment, but I guess it's hard for me in both cases to feel like I was challenged. In high school and in college, a few classes were difficult, but not most. College can be difficult, but most of my education classes just plain weren't. It was expected I would do fine in both high school and college, and that I would graduate. And I did.

High school graduation was a bit more exciting. I was never a kid who wanted desperately to escape my hometown, but college was still an enticing prospect in my mind. College graduation was somewhat different in that I wasn't a big enough part of any group on campus to get a send-off of any kind (unlike high school, where there were a few special graduate events), and I didn't have any plans lined up for the future. High school graduation was a step towards something new and different, and college is, too- but it's a lot scarier.

I'm in no hurry to grow up and be an adult. I've graduated, I'm engaged, but there's a part of me that would love to spend another year or two just like I am now, without having to start a real job or pay for everything myself or deal with all the real world things that come with adulthood.

I think that could all be exciting, don't get me wrong. If I had a job, and I could start setting up a classroom and planning great curriculum and decorating a new apartment- it'd be scary, but there would be an element of fun.

Without the job, I can't start setting up or planning, and I don't want to commit to a new place to live. Without having a job, I have to experience all of the aspects of the real world except for the fun ones.

And no one seems to understand why I can't get too into celebrating my graduation. Completing my major doesn't feel like a particularly surprising or commendable accomplishment for me personally, and now that I've graduated, I have little to look forward to besides a so-far-fruitless job search in the current economic times. Congratulations to me?

Friday, June 05, 2009

June 4th, 1998

Note: This is an extremely long post, written more for me than for any reader.

I was eleven years old, and it was the last day of school. The last day of elementary school, even! I woke up with one of those Christmas-morning sort of moods, where you don't care that it's early because it's going to be a good day!

And the morning was going swimmingly. For once, the first outfit I tried on looked great, and I was ready with enough time to spare to have breakfast before the bus came. Even in fifth grade, I was rarely ready to leave early- but that day, eleven years ago today, I was. It was a good day- no, a great day- and I was so excited.

The last day of school was a blast, too. Mr. Quinn must've known that there was no way he'd get us to do much of anything that day. I remember spending the morning helping him move things to his new room downstairs and then playing games. At one point, the principal came to our room.

My brothers and I had never liked her. Mrs. Kinder could be kind of scary, stern woman and whenever we saw a "KinderCare" we made jokes. We were probably too mean, but even though I didn't like her much, I wasn't at all scared when my teacher asked me to leave with her.

I wish I could remember what his face looked like when he told me, but I was too busy brushing off the taunts of my friends. I wasn't worried- I was a "good kid" and knew I hadn't done anything to get myself in trouble- but they still "ooohed" at the fact that I was sent out with the principal.

When I got to the hallway, Mrs. Kinder told me that we'd go pick my brother up from class, but otherwise remained fairly stoic. It wasn't out of the ordinary for her, so I followed without a worry. When Bill wasn't in his classroom but instead outside, she led me out the door. We walked around the school, passing my classroom's window. I waved to my friends, grinning that I was outside in the beautiful weather while they were stuck in class. Eventually, we'd circled the school and discovered that Bill's class must have gone inside. As we came in, we realized someone else must have sent a message to his class, and Bill was walking in the hallway ahead of us towards the office.

A single student was in the hallway, getting something out of his locker, and Mrs. Kinder told him, "Go stop Bill," so he started to walk. And only then, when our strict principal told him to run in the hallway, did I realize that something might be wrong.

The boy stopped Bill, and he walked in with us. Mrs. Kinder led us to her office and opened the door. Inside sat my mother, with tears streaming down her face, and my pastor. My first thought was that my aunt or uncle had died. They were always in and out of the hospital with sudden and serious health problems. To this day I don't know why it didn't cross my mind that my dad wasn't in the room.

We were told to sit down, and we did, but we were both on edge. My mom took a deep breath, and she told us that our dad had had a heart attack that morning. I can't remember her exact words, but I know she choked on the words a little when she told us he had died at the hospital.

I burst into tears immediately, and my brother sat, rigid, without a word.

After a few minutes, I returned to my classroom. Thankfully, the class was gone and I could clear out my desk without seeing anyone. Before I left, I pulled out a piece of paper and wrote a quick note to one of my friends telling her what had happened. It had barely sunk in, and I remember struggling to put it into words.

We went home, and my little brother was waiting with my grandma. He was just finishing first grade and was excited to be home early. My family stood awkwardly by our front door, almost like visitors, as my mom told Steve. Watching him take the news was harder, I think, than being told myself. His tiny body seemed to crumple with the news, and he bawled. I wrapped him in a hug as tightly as I could. I think we all did.

My memories of the next few days are spotty. Mom and I underwent the painful task of going through photo albums to make a couple of poster boards, and she went to make arrangements. I remember going in to see my dad in the casket before the viewing. It didn’t upset me as much as I thought it would- he didn’t look like himself, really, although we did have him dressed in a shirt he wore often and the suspenders he wore almost constantly. Lots of people sent flowers, including my class at school (I still have the flowers in my room) and my dance studio.

During the viewing, I can remember my extended family trying to distract my brothers and me in a back room. At one point, they took us across the street for ice cream just so we could get away for a break. I also remember, in a very fifth-grade fashion, trying to avoid being out with my mom when boy classmates came to the viewing. Instead, hiding in the back just prompted my uncles’ teasing that a boy was there to see me. But lots of people came- our close friends, lots of people from church, and even business associates of my dad’s. The biggest surprise, for sure, was one of my dad’s teachers from when he was in school- he’d remembered him being a good kid and wanted to come.

At the viewing, I learned that the worst thing to ask someone after they’ve lost a loved one is “How are you?” … because, really, what are you supposed to say? “I’m great, thanks!” sounds terrible, but you don’t want to make the person feel bad by replying “Absolutely awful; thanks for bringing it up.” There’s no answer that feels both honest and kind, but somehow that’s all anyone can think of to say to you.

The funeral was the next day, and before it, my family got one more chance to spend a little time alone with my dad’s body before they closed the casket. I remember this, and each taking a moment to say a goodbye of sorts, but the actual funeral is completely blocked from my memory. I know “On Eagle’s Wings” was played, mainly because both of my parents love that hymn and my mom still cries just about every single time she hears it. I don’t remember any sort of eulogy, or what happened as a part of the service. I just remember the casket being carried out at the end and our family getting into a crappy limousine to go to the cemetery.

Times like those- in between the serious times- it seems like we tried to talk about anything but my dad. It was awkward and it was hard, but joking around was easier than stewing in grief any more than we already were. So we did- we joked, and tried to mean it when we laughed.

We did laugh a little, genuinely, when my uncle pulled on a handle to get out of the limo and it broke. None of us were sure what to do with the handle, so he snuck it back into place and we all got out of the limo.

It didn’t take long for everything to hit home again, and after waiting on a string of cars to arrive, we watched my dad’s casket descend with red roses on top.

The rest of the summer is a blur. My family cancelled our vacation, and ended up scheduling one for December instead so we could avoid being home through Christmas and my dad’s birthday (the 26th). We never spent all that much time talking about things as a family. In general, I think it was easier for all of us to pretend, for awhile, that nothing was different, and after we were used to dealing with it on our own, it was even harder to bring up. In the fall, I started middle school and while my class knew what had happened, not everyone in the school did, and that helped. I didn’t want people to know, to pity me, to treat me differently. I didn’t want anyone to see me as fragile, because I wasn’t. I could take care of myself, and even if things were rough, no one else had to see it. I much preferred to control it- to keep it all inside until later, when I could deal with it alone and on my own terms.

It’s still sometimes hard to think about how sudden the whole thing was. My dad had been healthy. He wasn’t as skinny as he could have been, but he’d been to a physical two weeks before he died and the doctor saw nothing wrong. The autopsy said a heart arrhythmia- an uneven heartbeat- caused cardiac arrest. There was no clot, no clear reason for the sudden arrhythmia. I know enough about biology to realize that it probably wasn’t, but it seemed, by all accounts, an entirely random occurrence.

The memories I have of my dad are spotty and fading, which makes me feel guilty (although I know I shouldn’t). But I still get upset from time to time, especially when other things trigger it. The tiny bit of wedding planning I’ve done has been a joy- I would love to do something to honor my dad, like play Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again (a song from Phantom of the Opera, which he loved, sung by a girl about missing her dead father) or something- but I’m afraid that I’ll start crying and never stop.

I don’t think I deal with things in the healthiest way I could, but I feel like I do what tends to work for me and, at this point, what I’m used to. By now, I’ve lived as many years without my dad in my life as I have with. It’s hard to… miss him, exactly, when it’s not like I’m used to having him here. Life is just really different at this point. My memories of my dad come from when I was an elementary school student, and now I’m old enough to be an elementary teacher.

My dad’s death is without a doubt the most influential event in my life, but it’s hard to say exactly what influence it has had. I mean, I know I’d be really different if it hadn’t happened, but hell if I know how. And while things get easier as time goes on, they are never easy. (If they start to feel that way, I just feel guilty about not being more upset.) June 4th is usually rough, especially if- like today- I don’t have anything keeping me too
busy to think much.

Simply put, at this point I’m not sure I’m missing my dad as much as I’m missing the opportunity to have him in my life. I don’t know if that makes any sense to anyone else, but I feel like… I don’t even know what I’m missing, and I’m jealous of people that get the chance to have their dads around. Eleven years is long enough that it’s already hard for me to remember what that’s like.