I’m so excited to be in the middle of The Penny Collector Release Tour! Please take a look at my tour page to see where we’ll be and when! We just finished up the Southeast part of the tour and are headed to the Northeast and then through the midwest. After this US stint, we’ll be in the Netherlands and the UK for a month. WOOHOO!!! Danny is opening all these shows. It’s been so special to be on the road as a family.
Good Morning, Dad!
It’s been a while since I’ve written. Life has been busy (in a good way)! I woke up so many times throughout the night thinking of you, and realized upon waking this morning it’s September 16th. It’s been three months since we said goodbye to you. I’ve been inspired to write to you many times during the past month, and every time I think about it, it feels too difficult. But today, it feels right, so here goes…..
I received a book from a friend called “A Grief Observed” by C.S. Lewis and it is the most healing book to me. I got all teary eyed from the very beginning. He said. “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” This is so very true to me. Really. It is. That’s exactly how it feels. And I think this feeling starts to dissipate, but at the beginning, it’s unbearable. I highly recommend this book to anyone that has lost someone close to them. Thank you to my friend Carolyn for sending it to me. I believe C.S. Lewis was doing what I’m trying to do, which is to find healing in the writing. He was SO GOOD AT IT! Thank you Mister Lewis for the raw emotion you expressed so perfectly. I am inspired by you. Trying to figure out where God is in all of this is the hardest part for me. It’s difficult not to think God is such an asshole sometimes. And that sounds harsh, I know. But who hasn’t felt that way before?? Where is GOD? Why did you die, dad? UGH!
DAD! You would love it here. I always wanted to bring you on tour with us….especially over seas, but never got around to it. SO, I’ve decide not to waste such time anymore. Mom will be coming back to Europe with me for my next tour here beginning on October 19th! I keep gently reminding myself to make things happen NOW instead of making excuses of being too busy, or saying we can just do it next year, etc…..We just never know what will happen, right? For now though, Danny and I are in the Netherlands playing beautiful shows. You’ll be happy to know, when I first landed in Amsterdam, I thought to call you. You always liked when I checked in straight away. You always wanted to know I was okay. And safe. I am. We have the most kind driver named Koos. He’s getting us to our destinations safely. Next up, we fly to the UK for a couple more weeks. Then flying home on October 12th. Then flying right back here on the 19th with Sam Baker (and with Mom!). WHOAH WORLD! It’s good to back out and singing. It would make you happy, dad. OH, and we’re here celebrating the release of Danny’s new album, so I’m just singing with him (which you know I love). BUT, I had one festival performance of my own and I shared the song I wrote for you. Every time I sing that song, I can feel you with me. It makes me want to sing it all day long. I miss you and love when I feel you so close.
*YOUR CELEBRATION OF LIFE!*
WOW WOW WOW. Thank you to everyone that helped me write your celebration of life ceremony. I took pieces from all the suggestions y’all made, and it was a joyous occasion. I hope you think so, dad. I mean, how could it NOT be joyful? It was all about you. And your best friends from childhood are just the most wonderful group of guys. And, all the cousins were together in one place for the first time in probably 20 years! You were always so good at bringing people together in life. In death, you do the same. Thank you for encouraging me to have life long friendships. AND, I think all the cousins will get together next year again. We will continue to have joyous occasions in your memory, dad. On a side note, we scattered your ashes on second base of the little league field you grew up playing on and it was so great.
*ON HAVING A BABY*
Well, in three months, we lost two pregnancies and you, dad. We’re hopeful though. Found our new egg and sperm donors and are moving right along. Jeeeeesh……….what a ride this has been. Taking a break from all the hormones for another six or so weeks. Will be back to normal just in time to start on all the hormones again!!!!! I guess we have the choice to lose hope or have hope……so I’m sticking with having hope. I’m sticking with believing it will happen.
*SENSE OF PURPOSE*
I’m still working on this one. I’m excited to be home in November. Excited to be still for a little while. Excited for rest. I believe this is when the light will shine on the thing it is I’m meant to be doing right now. I know music is part of that, but I also think getting involved in helping others with grief is a part of it. I’m not sure what that will look like.
I guess it’s time to hit the road here in he Netherlands. I wish you were here with us, dad…..
I love you.
Good Morning, Dad….
It’s the one year mark today. I can’t believe it’s been a year. And I can’t believe I haven’t written in five months. I have so much to share with you. But first, let me just tell you how much I miss you. How not a day goes by that I don’t tell someone about you. How I STILL pick up the phone to call you. How much I miss your laugh. How much I miss hearing about how many reps you did at the gym. How much I miss having you as my cheerleader. I miss all of those things. Every Single Day.
And in the same breath as missing you (mainly because I don’t think I really take a breath without missing you), I think of all the things that have gone on in this past year, and I smile about so much. Just as you would have wanted.
BUT FIRST, a story about the day after you died……
The day after you died, Danny and I were sorting through some of your things and found ourselves in the basement looking through boxes of paperwork (I’m not sure why you had check registers from 1979, btw,but you did). As we moved all those boxes, we found more boxes behind them. Inside of those hidden boxes were pennies. We all knew you had a large penny collection. But really, a large penny collection can mean so many things. As it turns out, your collection was OUTRAGEOUS! You had 600,000 pennies, dad. SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND. I mean, seriously. That’s crazy. We knew those pennies couldn’t stick around any longer. They had to go to the bank. Danny and I joked this was your last word about exercise to us. “Oh, here you go, kids……time to carry 3 TONS of pennies upstairs and to the car. And then carry them again into the bank. Oh, and while you’re at it, you’ll have to unroll them all, because the bank doesn’t take rolled coins anymore.” So Danny and I (mostly Danny) carried the pennies upstairs and to the car (we took four separate trips to many banks). We didn’t realize the fact we had to unroll the pennies until we got to the bank. So we stood at the change machine and set up shop. We broke open the pennies into big containers and then dumped them into the machine. Over and over and over again. Until we broke the machine. And then we went to a different bank. Until we broke that machine. And then we ended up at a bank in Alabama. Where we broke that machine. And then back to the original bank, because they fixed their machine. And then we broke that one. It was insane. But all the while, YOU continued to connect with people. Everyone was curious about our penny collection. And so we told them about you. And they walked away with the biggest smile on their faces. And I gave little collections to kids that came in the bank. When we broke the change machine at your home bank for the last time, I gave your favorite banker one of your lucky pennies to remember you by. She loved you. And me giving her that penny will come back around to more recent days (that’s foreshadowing, which Danny says I’m not very good at). But really, the story of the penny I gave to the teller will become a story later in this letter to you. Before I get to all that, let me just say that depositing 6K in pennies is a wild journey. One of the best parts is that the change machine spit out the wheat back pennies, and those were always your favorites. And mine, too. So we’ve been able to share those wheat backs with your friends and family. I even got a tattoo of one. In your memory. Every time I pick up my guitar to play, that penny is looking right at me, and I love it. You’re with me. Always.
Okay, back to present day……We’re having a baby
We’re pregnant, dad! 26 weeks and 1 day to be exact. I want to tell you the story of all the fertility stuff in a letter one day, but it’s so long and involved, I can’t get into now. I can’t believe this kid doesn’t get to meet you. I can’t believe you don’t get to meet this kid. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around that for months now. There’s no wrapping my head around it though. You’re going to be an amazing story to this child. In the meantime, here’s a photo of all the medicine I took to have this baby. OMG.
On making a new record….
I had anxiety about the one year anniversary of your dying. I didn’t know what that day would look like. So I decided to record a new album, and we’re smack dab in the middle of the recording process today. I feel so close to you. It’s a pretty confessional record. In the vain of this blog, actually. (you inspired me to do that, by the way). I’ve never been so excited about a project. You know why? Because I have a producer that is rocking my world. And I have musicians I’m meeting for the first time that are totally getting what this project means to me, and they’re playing their asses off. And, most importantly, I have you with me. Literally. I have a little altar set up with your ashes and photos and a candle. And I have this tattoo. And the songs. It’s not a hit record, by all means. It’s beautiful though. Raw. I can’t wait to share it with you. It’s for you, dad. It’s for the rest of the world, too. Because I think the rest of the world can connect with these songs in some way. Thank you for inspiring me, dad. You’ve made me a more connected and thoughtful musician.
And isn’t it cool the way the life cycle is working? I’m here making this new thing with a baby in the belly and you’re in this jar next to my work station. The cycle of life. It really is beautiful.
And so today I’m going to record with the amazing band I’m working with. I’m probably going to laugh a lot. And cry a bunch, too.
And back to the penny I gave your favorite banker……
Once your taxes and all that fun stuff were completed, it was time to distribute the money from your bank accounts as the final thing on your “to do” list. So I wrote the checks from the account and distributed them to the family. Although it wasn’t all that much money, it was still significant. So I wrote the checks and everything was fine until I received notice of bouncing one of the checks. I was STRESSED, because I had worked so hard to do everything correctly. Lo and behold, the statement said we were one cent short in your account. ONCE CENT. ONE PENNY. I laughed so hard. So I called the bank and spoke with your favorite teller. She remembered me giving her a lucky penny and immediately deposited it into your account. And so it goes. You continue to be helpful and make people laugh.
Okay, it’s time to get to work in the studio. Dad, I love you and miss you. I can’t believe it’s been a year already. I feel you with me now more than ever. I cannot thank you enough for being the brightest shining star….
I love you.
Here’s some of the photos from your final days that still help me heal from all of this……
Good morning, dad!
I woke up this morning, and before opening my eyes all the way, opened a book of Mary Oliver’s poetry. She reminds me of the miracle of all that is life. Of all that is present in my world….whether it’s dead or alive. And then I put the book down and look at the view from my bed and I see the mountains and tattered prayer flags and snow and sage brush. I am myself for the first time in eight months. I sleep again. I’m in Taos. You know how much I love it here.
So I woke up and read Mary Oliver and had a spectacular view of the mountains and prayer flags, and got out of bed and put the kettle on for tea. It’s early. Lucy is with me, and she’s frolicking in the snow. I think she feels like herself for the first time in eight months, too. Daily walks into the hills across the street from where I’m staying. And just being with me. She’s happy. And there’s nothing like being with a happy dog.
I’m spending three weeks here. It’s a solo writers retreat. I’m surrounded by beauty. My best friend and her husband live in the main house and I have a little apartment just next door. The light is beautiful. And when the sun starts on it’s way down, the glow on the mountains makes my heart jump. And then it’s night time. And the stars are unbelievable. There’s no light pollution here. Just stars. And the howling of the animals of the night. And I go to sleep early.
I spend my days writing. Mostly working on songs, but the occasional journal entry, too. I’ve spent very little time on business stuff. Keeping my brain clear for the writing I want to do. For the longest time, I’ve felt bad for not having new material. I mean, it’s been years. But now, I just remember who I am. I’m pretty slow when it comes to writing songs. I’m not one of those people that can wake up in the middle of a tour and whip out a song. I’m not inspired on the road. I’m tired and disconnected on the road. Except during the actual show, when I come alive for a few hours. But then the anxiety creeps in. And I have to face the people. It is my choice to put myself out there to the world. To be vulnerable. It’s who I am. But with that comes a lot of chatting after a show, and while I so rarely feel anything but love toward people at any particular moment, it’s the end of the night, after talking with 5o or more people, that I feel like there’s nothing left to give. I have nothing left for myself. So I sit up in bed, anxious and missing home. It’s just the way the road is. I think a lot of musicians feel it. I think a lot of musicians probably don’t. I also think it’s important to pay attention to this stuff and make life decisions based on how we spend the majority of our time. This brings me to my next point….
Dad, I’ve decided, after April, to take most of 2016 off from the road. I want to create and connect with home. I want to have a garden and I want to sew and make my own dresses and have time with Miss Lucy into her old age. I want to be more relaxed about all our fertility stuff. I want to have a home life with Danny. I want to have quality time with people. Not panicked time. I want to ease back into my relationships and not feel like I’m rushed to see everyone at a particular time while I’m home. I just want to be home. And I want my friends to know I’m home. So I can be helpful in their lives. I want to volunteer at hospice. I want to take care of my body and eat food that I make for myself. And sometimes, I want to sit on the couch and watch romantic comedies all day long. And I want to record a new album. I’m so excited to release new work to the world come 2017.
My heart is so open right now and I am full of joy. When I’m in Taos, I’m taken back to when I was 25. SO FREE! (and so broke). But reminded of how lucky I am to have experienced such a strangely beautiful place for a few years. And now I come back and feel grounded and inspired. My friends here have made beautiful lives for themselves. I’m in awe of the quality of their existence. They chose to push through here. To be survivalists until they became settled. And then they became home owners and found partners and many of them had children and those children are the most adventurous kids I’ve ever met. They spend their lives on the river and on skis and in the woods hunting rattle snakes, and camping and hiking. They spend their lives like their parents do. With a true connection to this earth. It’s just what Mary Oliver talks about in her poems. It fills me with gratitude and makes me thankful for everything I have been given in this life. I’m so glad you were my dad. I believe you looked at the world through miracle glasses. And while a day doesn’t go by that I don’t miss you so badly it hurts, there’s also not a day that goes by that I’m not thankful for all the years we had together.
Tonight I will raise a glass of milk to you. Because that’s what we do for you. And it makes me smile so big it hurts.
I love you, dad. And I am healing. Thank you for teaching me about joy.
A few photos from Taos:
Happy Birthday, Dad! You would have been 74 today and you would have said,”Isn’t life just GREAT? I feel younger every year! Isn’t that great, care?!?!” I would have laughed and made some comment about how much I love you and how you were going to outlive us all. I love you, dad. And I’m sorry you didn’t outlive us all. You deserved to. Yesterday I was running errands and I picked up my phone to call you. That’s what I do when I run errands. I call you. It’s so strange now. Everything is strange. I don’t have an understanding of the world. I miss you. I miss hearing about your bike rides and about how many reps you did at the gym and about who you met that day and about how friendly everyone is in Peachtree City and about how every day is the most beautiful day EVER. And I miss you stating the facts with no commentary. Like “wow, there’s a lot of traffic.” And it would stop there. You wouldn’t complain about it. You would just get it off your chest and sit there being all positive. Thanks for doing that. I’m really good in traffic because of you. I’m still working on Danny though…..
I went for a bike ride in your honor today! My first time ever on a road bike. Thanks for passing that sweet ass bike onto me (did you noticed how I swore??? I thought that might make you smile). It’s fast! I’m now on the hunt for some folks that’ll teach me to ride that thing.
On my bike ride I was thinking about how beautiful it was to take care of you during your final few weeks. You never complained. Not one time. And you ALWAYS thanked me. Even when I sat on the floor crying not knowing what to do to help you. You said,”I don’t know what I’m doing either. We’ll work through this together.” I realized, from this experience, what the definition of GRACE actually is. Thank you for showing that to me.
Danny took some photos of our final two days together and I’m going to share them with the world if you don’t mind. I actually know you don’t mind, because I asked you before you died. They’re difficult for me to look at, but so healing….I’m thankful to have them….
Oh, and your ashes were delivered today. You knew something big was going to happen on your birthday…..you kept talking about that throughout this process…..now we know what it was all about.
I miss you. Happy Birthday. Their are actually still no words…..this is just a bunch of gibberish, it feels like. But I’m trying, dad. It’s hard to talk to you sometimes. I really want to hear your voice…..
Good Morning, Dad
A blog in memory of the sweetest man on earth to let him know about my travels and time at home….
I’ve been waiting for the perfect moment to start a blog. This past Tuesday, June 16th, my sweet papa died peacefully at home and I’d like to continue talking to him…..continue to let him know what’s going on in our lives. To tell him about our journey to have a baby, to tell him about my life on the road as a singer/songwriter, to tell him about what craft projects or house projects I’m getting into while at home. My dad has inspired me to live the life that best suits me. The most honest life I can live. He told me the world would be a better place if we all did what we love to do. He said it was the most responsible way to live. My dad was the healthiest man on earth until he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer three weeks ago. He died one month to the day of his last bike ride of 13 miles. He was a champion sprint triathlete, never had a drink in his life, ate a perfect diet, was a champion weight lifter in his younger years, was a guidance counselor to his entire family and his friends, was the most positive man on earth…..no joke, he was. He never had a health problem. Not one. Never took a prescription drug, never had a headache, and only vomited one time in his life after having bad pizza. That was 30 years ago. My dad was my favorite person on this planet. He was incredibly kind and generous. He was pure joy and anyone that spent even a second with him knew it. He was a special force in this world and when his energy was leaving his body over this past week, I could feel it. It was impossible not to feel it. He gave me the strength to take care of him. We had some nights of no sleep during this past week. He said he was never in pain, but was having trouble getting comfortable, so night time was difficult. When I was a little girl and couldn’t sleep, my dad would sit on the end of my bed and run his fingers between my toes. It’s one of my first memories of his care and love for me. Six days ago, after a night of no sleep, dad was sitting at the end of the couch and I was napping on the couch with my feet toward him. When I woke up, he was running his fingers between my toes. He literally had no energy left and that’s what he was doing. He cared for me while I cared for him until the very end. That’s the kind of man he was. When my dad was diagnosed with late stage pancreatic cancer, the doctor said he probably had three months to live. My dad asked if there was any way to make it faster. It actually made us laugh. His body was not his own, he couldn’t exercise, he couldn’t eat, he lost all his muscle mass in what seemed like a matter of minutes. Fourteen days after his diagnosis, he couldn’t walk on his own anymore. He had no interest in living in his new body. We didn’t want to watch him live like that for long either. We wanted him to die quickly and he did. He died just like he wanted to. We joked that it was like a sprint triathlon. On Tuesday morning, we called Hospice and let them know we thought he was getting close. Our nurse and social worker came over straight away. I’d like to say, having hospice around is like having a bunch of angels in the house. They were amazing over the past couple weeks. And they loved my dad and were amazed at how quickly he made dying happen. My cousin, Dave arrived at around 10AM the morning of my dad’s passing. I believe he was waiting for him to arrive. Dave looks just like my papa and is goofy like him, too. Once Dave arrived, we each took turns saying goodbye to him and letting him know it was okay to let go. My brother and his kids were a huge part of this process. We were all caregivers together. My husband, Danny, opened his heart so big I’m surprised it didn’t explode from love for all of us. He was our rock. After we all said our goodbyes and sang him a few songs, Dave, Danny and my brother, Rick sat on the bed and told stories, just chatted a bit, and then looked over at around 4:00PM and noticed he wasn’t breathing anymore. Just like that. He willed himself to die. That’s how true he was to his own life. That’s how connected he was to his body and to his spirit. So with his family present, his spirit lifted. I swear the world must have felt it.
For the two mornings since his death, I found myself saying,”Good morning, Dad” as I was waking up. It’s the strangest feeling knowing he’s not part of our physical world anymore. Knowing this Father’s day will be my first without a father. My heart is broken. But I promised him we’d be okay and I meant it. For he passed his joy onto me and I am committed to spreading it……..
Thanks, Dad. For being my biggest inspiration, for spreading so much joy, for being a father figure to so many of my childhood friends, for your generosity, for your honesty, for your unwavering commitment to leading a healthy life in every way. Thank you for being a beautiful father for the 41 years I’ve been on this planet. I haven’t wrapped my heart around what life will be like now, but I promise to do my best to follow in your footsteps…..
Thank you, also, for always letting me order the biggest, most expensive steak on the menu starting at the age of six.