Friday, August 07, 2009

Slowing Down the Inner Dad

A few years ago I created The Inner Dad out of a desire to separate my familial writings from the cynical and sarcastic posts I've been writing over at Woody's Woundup for over five years now.

At the time it seemed like the thing to do. The Inner Dad became the yin to the Woundup's yang (or vice versa - I never really have understood that concept, to be honest). But as both blogs have matured, as, hopefully, the author also, it has become increasingly clear to me that both blogs have limited scope.

Woody's Woundup is a socio-political opinion blog, meaning that I have to write about things that I don't appreciate and about which I know next to nothing. Yet I have very strong feelings about them because I'm an old-school conservative and believe that the country has been sliding inexorably down a path towards socialism. The Woundup has become angry, and I said so in my not-quite-a-farewell post over there this evening.

Meanwhile, The Inner Dad was based on a concept I originally had for a book. A draft of that book actually exists, believe it or not. It will never be published in my life time, I suspect, but I wrote it. I based my concept of this blog on that book. It was supposed to not only document my own journey through fatherhood, but perhaps help other non-Dads know how wonderful a journey it can be. Never really hit my stride on that concept, I'm afraid.

Yet, neither have I decided to completely abandon it. Hence my decision to keep The Inner Dad alive for the time being, while at the same time beginning a new blog that I call WriteWood Notes. (For now, anyway. There actually is someone using the moniker "WriteWood" as part of his business of script consulting for Hollywood. If he squawks, I may have to rethink that name.)

WriteWood Notes is more of a Lileks approach to blogging. A chance to write about the things I know, which are my life experiences, yet written as if someone other than myself may actually care about them. I know at least a small handful of people do, so they become my target audience.

If you'd like to check out my new home, I'll be spending most of my blogging time over there. The address is, and I'll even be happy to link to your blog if you think it's a good fit.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Mostly Happy Father's Day

As Father's Days go, it was a nice one. I received breakfast from the Woodyettes and took calls from both of my grown children later in the day. Church was fun, with the Woodyettes both participating with the Primary kids in the traditional singing of two or three Daddy's Day songs. Jelly participated because she's still got one foot in both camps. She's officially in Young Women now, but still attends Primary opening exercises for her Sunday School hour.

Jelly was also recognized by the Bishop this week for advancing from Primary into Young Women. She had that look that folks used to get when stake presidents would call folks up to speak during ward conferences years ago. Bishop would have done this last week, but her certificate from Primary wasn't ready yet, so we deferred. Plus it was Ward Conference last week, so her first Sunday in Young Women wasn't exactly normal anyway. Now we're deep in the throes of preparing for Girls Camp this week. Our baby will be leaving us for four days! Yikes!

To cap our day, we drove up to Ventura County to visit our newest nephew. He was born early last week, and this was our first opportunity to drive up and have a little snuggle time with the tot. The kid's name is longer than he is right now, but this is a tall family and he'll grow into it. Cute as the proverbial button, and already exhibiting plenty of personality at the tender age of 5 days.

There was only one tiny bit of melancholy for me on this day of remembrance. I missed my Dad.

Mrs. Woody does our ward bulletins for Sunday, and she generally uses a picture from the Church's online library for the cover, depending on the theme. For Father's Day, however, she decided (after asking, of course) to use a wonderful 4 generation photo of me with my then-baby son, my Dad, and my grandfather. (All I will say about my appearance in said photo is that I had more hair and more teeth.)

It's a wonderful shot, and shows my Dad — who was never one for outward affection — looking down with grandfatherly pride on his newest grandson. I, on the other hand, look like I'd just received 10,000 volts by dropping the toaster in the bathtub, but I hear that's normal for new fathers.

The photo reminded me that there are still plenty of times that I miss my Dad. Given the fact that he was not a people-person in the classic sense, it is his presence more than anything else that is missed. Yes, he was always good for some succinctly stated advice when called for. ("Dad, I'm going to marry Mrs. Woody." "About d*mned time.") And of course his musicianship was second to none.

In truth, one of the constants in my life as a youngster, and even later, was Dad's strength of conviction. You pretty much always knew where you stood with Dad. (Generally upwind so as not to attract too much attention to yourself.) Dad was also fairly unapologetic about who he was and why he tended to be that way. Whether kid or co-worker, Dad treated everyone very much the same way.

So what did I miss yesterday? I missed seeing Dad sitting in his accustomed spot on the couch, watching whatever show had caught his attention. I missed his wry sense of humor. I missed his occasional snarl about some idiot who should never have been made a manager at work. I missed his unsolicited comments about my latest missteps as a kid in an adult's body trying to make my way in the world. I even missed him retreating to the sanctuary of his bathroom, which we jokingly called his "library." It was the only solitude he could find in a house with five very active kids. It also prevented him from having to socialize with pesky characters like relatives, home or visiting teachers, or even the Avon lady.

It also struck me, not for the first time, that I find myself walking more and more in Dad's own shoes. I have kids at home and abroad who need my advice, and who receive the occasional snarl (lovingly offered, of course). I have a long-suffering wife who puts up with my churlishness because she knows I love her more than life itself. I have adoring daughters at home who still love to snuggle with Daddy, even though Daddy is generally about as cuddly as a wolverine.

It's not sadness that I feel. My testimony of our eternal nature is far too strong for that. I just miss having him around. As wonderful as my step-Dad is, I miss being able to call Mom and hear Dad snarling in the background. Really. I miss that. (Official Woody Step-Dad ZeeMeister® never snarls, so far as I can tell. He opines, certainly, but I've never heard him snarl.)

But there are many times, when I'm in a contemplative mood, that I can hear Dad snarling in the spirit world, telling dead ancestors that his kid needs something to do. This would be his idea of keeping his kid gainfully employed in his absence.

Then he probably locks himself away in his eternal mansion's "library" and secretly smiles at how well his kids are doing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Larger Picture

It's easy to forget those experiences that make family life the joy that it is. We get so busy with our day to day activities that we get distracted from the larger picture. We (by which I mean "I") need to step back a pace or two from time to time and scan the spiritual horizon on which my family is perched; ready to go forward, but simply waiting for Daddy to catch up so he can go with them.

There are significant things happening in our family right now. Jelly turned 12 this month, for one thing. While 12 can be a milestone in itself, the spiritual significance of this age cannot be overstated. This is a veritable rite of passage for our young lady (yes, a young lady now; not a primary kid anymore!) as she enters the Young Women program as a Beehive. My little blond-haired, blue-eyed child of promise, a Beehive. Wow. She got to ride in the front seat with Daddy tonight as she accompanied me to Chorale rehearsal. Rites of passage.

The baby, meanwhile, is no baby anymore. She, too, is advancing right along with her older sibling. While Jelly moves into the rank of Beehive froshes, Doodle takes her sister's place in the upper echelons of the Primary organization. Jelly may have done her last Primary program in Sacrament Meeting, but Doodle only has three left herself.

On the other end of the scale are my grown-up kids. My son has turned 22. Yikes. On the plus side, he appears to be calming down somewhat. He's beginning to lose a bit of that post-adolescent edge that makes some kids his age absolutely hideous to be around. The brief time I spent with him when we traveled up that way last month, though, helped me see that he really can (and likely will) do just fine. The long view definitely helps while watching my son.

My oldest daughter, meanwhile, is facing her own life challenges head on. She finds herself at one of those unenviable crossroads of life; placed there by a man she should have been able to trust, but ultimately could not. The rapidity with which she is rebuilding her life, however, astonishes and pleases me tremendously. Not only did she get her own daughter baptized last month, but she is now taking Temple Prep classes herself.

Ol' Woody cranked his Jubilee Year up a notch by celebrating 25 years of working for more or less the same company. That is to say, I have worked for 25 uninterrupted years for whatever company put their logo on the building I was working in at any given time. So, even though the company name is different from the one that hired me 25 years ago, all my benefits and pension have grandfathered in. Another 15 and I am history.

(I got the watch, by the way. Cliché it may be, but it looks nice.)

But it is my Sweetheart that reminds me just how precious my family experience truly is. She is the one constant in my life. My kids keep growing, with or without me, and watching them is the only thing that ever makes me feel "old." Not my gorgeous wife, though. If ever anyone makes me feel young at heart, Mrs. Woody can and does.

Yet she grows, too. This evening we shared a wonderful epiphany of sorts. She had received an answer on a question that was troubling her somewhat. A couple of answers, really; both coming from Conference talks of several years ago. This was not by any means a testimony-challenging question, but was of the type that had not been sufficiently resolved in her own heart so as to warrant the need of guidance and comfort from the Spirit. And it came. Talking about this question together served to further strengthen our relationship, and reminded me just how truly blessed I am. For my wife, for my kids, and for my life in general.

It's good to take the larger view of things. Very good, indeed.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sweet Experience

It's not often that Woody has one of those blindingly wonderful spiritual experiences that just seem to radiate through one's entire being. I wrote briefly about one such experience last year.

Having just returned from a lovely three week vacation, I need to write about another such experience.

The impetus for this trip was my granddaughter. She had decided to get baptized, and wanted her Grandpa to come and baptize her. Since we live in California and they live in Minnesota, a road trip was planned.

The baptism was wonderful. Mrs. Woody, who became an instant Grandma when we got married, was asked to bear her testimony as part of the meeting, and it was wonderful. One of those moments when dry eyes were not much in evidence. It took Grandpa a couple of tries to get the poor girl properly immersed, but she ultimately went under and came out clean as the proverbial whistle.

In this part of the vineyard they choose to do the confirmations on the following Sabbath, so we went to Church the next day with high spirits and great anticipation. Grandpa was once again asked to perform the ordinance, so I sat quietly through the opening of the meeting pondering the things that I might say by way of counsel in her blessing.

We were to follow the blessing of a baby that day. I love to listen to baby blessings because it always fascinates me to see how the Spirit moves each father to voice the will of the Lord on behalf of that child. While I was listening, however, the most wonderful thing happened.

I saw Heavenly Father smiling. I won't say it was a vision, per se. More of a strong mental image and perception that at that particular moment, Heavenly Father and the Savior both had wonderful smiles on their faces. I knew in my own spirit that this was the message I needed to convey to my darling granddaughter.

When I laid my hands on her head with the others who had been asked to assist, I very nearly choked up when giving the blessing. There were words of comfort, certainly, because of the changes she and her mother are experiencing. There was counsel given that she would yet be able to help soften hearts towards the Gospel that have previously resisted. But the lasting impression that will remain with me forever is that of a smiling Heavenly Father.

What a gift for my granddaughter's baptism!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Savior of the World Update

I mentioned a few months ago that the entire Woody clan had auditioned for our Stake's production of "Savior of the World." Thought it might be a chuckle to see what ol' Woody looks like with a few months' worth of growth on his face:


Is this:

a) Zacharias praying in the Temple?

b) Woody reminding someone in authority that the request was NO kids with personality? Or

c) Make up your own. Be creative. Just remember that this is a family-friendly blog.

By the way, for those who know and still love us, the Stake has called a photographer to chronicle the entire production. The snap above was taken by Kathy Willis who set up a blog over at Browse around. You'll notice that I appear to have two wives. This is not an attempt to inject obscure early LDS practices into the bibical account, I assure you. We had a casting change after a couple of weeks and I am now working with another Elizabeth. Really.

Anyway, scan through and you may even see a few snaps of the Woodyettes here and there.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

You Can't Beat Mom's Recipe

One of the innumerable reasons why I married Mrs. Woody is that she reminds me a lot of my own Mom. She has many of the same wonderful qualities that Mom possesses, along with not a few of her own. This combination of qualities means that Woody is a happy man indeed.

Take, for instance, food. I'm big (har!) on comfort foods. There are certain foods that always work for me, no matter what my mood. Lasagna is one such. Mrs. Woody discovered a crock-pot version that we enjoy tremendously. Six hours on "Low" and we have a comfort food dinner.

One of my favorite holiday memories involves the seemingly gigantic pot of clam chowder that Mom would make every year. She would make it early in the day, then leave it on the stove for anyone who got a little peckish for shellfish throughout the day. No schedule; just good tasting food.

Mrs. Woody discovered this tradition during one of our early Christmases together. Mom was still living in the old house in Simi Valley and we were living just down the highway a few miles. Mrs. Woody thoroughly enjoyed the chowder and naturally asked Mom about the recipe. When she discovered just how easy it was, a new (old) comfort food was introduced at Hacienda Woody.

So Friday night (a tad late, but we've been sick) we put together Mom's Clam Chowder™. Got a couple of meals out of it, except for Jelly who is more than a little suspicious of rubbery foods. For Woody it was a chance to zoom back in time to Mom's kitchen which was always more than just a food preparation area. Mom's kitchen was the nerve center of the family. It was the Gathering Place where we could hang out and (because the statute of limitations had long since run out) tell embarrassing stories about each other so Mom could pretend to be horrified about what awful children we were.

Mrs. Woody also picked up on Mom's pumpkin pie recipe. No big secret there, I'm afraid, because it's the same recipe that comes straight off the can of pumpkin. But it holds that one secret ingredient that instantly identifies it as Mom's (or Mrs. Woody's) recipe: lots of love. It's another one of those tastes that instantly transports me to other times and places, always with terrific memories attached. A few funny ones, too, but Woody is far too galant to share them with his bloggy audience.

As Mrs. Woody said, "You can't beat Mom's recipe!" It just works.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

As I Get Older... daughters age as well. Fortunately for them, the aging is still graceful. As in, "she is aging gracefully." Whereas Woody just ages. Even Mrs. Woody ages more like a savings account: she just gets more and more valuable as the years progress. Woody, on the other hand, begins to look more like an "after" photo from a Thompson's Wood Sealer® commercial. Or maybe that's just the beard.

Anyway, we visited with our families over the holiday break and had a wonderful time. But I had to tell you one story in particular that just tickled everyone's funny bone.

We were visiting my youngest sister in their new home. They've recently moved back to California after living for a couple of years in Texas. Whatever brain disease they had suffered apparently dissapated and they left the Tornado Belt for good ol' Shake and Bake country. Their realtor who is named (really) Cookie decided to help them host a house-warming party last Saturday.

Family and friends began appearing at the appointed hour, and most of us had kids of various ages. Our young nephews have a "secret" room upstairs, and they immediately conducted their cousins and acquaintances thereunto.

After eating and schmoozing with the adult contingent, a few of us were naturally curious as to why it seemed so quiet upstairs. One of us (I believe it was my sister's step-father-in-law) made so bold as to go up and investigate and came back down chuckling. Apparently several of them, ranging in age from teenagers belonging to my other sister down to a few eight-year-olds had Nintendo DS® devices, and were busily engaged in a cluster PictoChat session. The youngster equivalent of a hot texting session for teenagers.

So I had to investigate for myself. Sure enough, my two Woodyettes were among the participants, and it was eerie to see about a half-dozen kids sitting quietly while communicating with electronic drawings.

I'm sure there's a larger lesson here dealing with loss of interpersonal communication skills, but, hey, this was family. Jelly even renewed an acquaintance with my sister's sister-in-law that's about Jelly's age. "I found a new friend!" was how she put it. So I score this one as a good thing.

Happy New Year to you all!