Lessons Learned from My Dad

Kendall Patterson 1953-2015

Kendall Patterson 1953-2015

I lost my dad last year.

He was the rock in my life that I took for granted; not realizing the true weight of his presence until he was gone.

His death was surreal. I can still feel the plastic of the ICU waiting room chairs as the trauma surgeon began to say words that I couldn’t process. The phrases ricocheted in my head, as my mind refused to accept the grisly truth. The bullet had torn his abdominal aorta. The team did everything they could, but the blood loss was too great.

He was gone. No warning. No chance to say goodbye.

The year that he died, I felt like I was stumbling through a numbing fog that would be randomly interrupted with intense raw painful sorrow. My grief was like a wound, ripped open repeatedly by the most random memories. This year the fog is lifting. The wounds are still aching, but slowing healing as I begin to come to grips with the reality that this is the new normal of my life.

There are a million things I miss about him, like the way he greeted me as “Daughter” in a mockingly formal clipped tone with a half smirk and a side hug. I miss his almost daily phone calls, “just to check in”. My heart hurts when I think of all the times I swiped “ignore” on his calls because I was in the middle of something. I told myself I would call him later, but often never quite got around to it.

I have found comfort in his memories and meaning in the lessons I learned from him through the years. My parents were divorced so I lived mostly with my mom (and wonderful stepdad) growing up, but was extremely fortunate to spend the last 10 years living in Tennessee near my dad. He and I were always connected, but I’m so thankful that he was able to have to a close special relationship with his grand kids these last 10 years as well. In honor of father’s day I wanted to share some of the lessons learned over the years from my no where near perfect, but pretty wonderful dad.

 

Me and my dad

Me and my dad

 

1. Birthdays are special

Dad and Tom at one of Ryan's birthdays

Dad and Tom at one of Ryan’s birthdays

I was raised in family where birthdays were a pretty big deal. Everyone gets to feel special on their birthday. I assumed all families were this way until I got married and my husband found it strange that all of my extended family sent him birthday cards.

My dad used to call me crazy early on my birthday. He said he wanted to be the first one to wish me “Happy Birthday”, but really he was just being ornery. He did this to everyone in the family. On HIS birthday, he also called me obnoxiously early so I could get “The privilege of being the first to wish him a Happy Birthday”.

Everyone in our family, not only felt the pain of his loss on his birthday, but we all missed that brief dependable 6 am call on our own birthdays as well. On my husband’s birthday last fall, he mentioned sadly as we headed to bed that he didn’t get any phone calls to wish him happy birthday. Sure there were texts, cards and Facebook messages, but that special early morning old school phone call was painfully missing.

Dad the jokester

Dad the jokester

2. Lonesome Dove is the best

My dad was a true cowboy and he was obsessed with all things horse related. He had a rule that he would only watch a movie if it has horses in it and the mini series Lonesome Dove was his legendary favorite.

He knew the story word for word and could quote every clever Augustus McCray line perfectly. He even had a horse named “Lori Darling”.

Much to my teenage annoyance, he made me watch the mini series many times when it premiered. I reluctantly agreed that it was a tolerable story, but honestly didn’t think much about it until he left us.

Last year I read the book. It was beautifully written ( I really hope he read the book while he was still alive). I didn’t really plan it but I finished the book and then watched the miniseries on the week of the anniversary of his death. Hearing Robert Duvall deliver all the witty lines that I heard my dad say over the years was oddly comforting.

My dad's love of Lonesome Dove inspired one of his friends to make this sign which is an homage to the series. The sign hung in his barn for years and now it hangs in my house to remind me of my dad.

My dad’s love of Lonesome Dove inspired one of his friends to make this sign which is an homage to the series. The sign hung in his barn for years and now it hangs in my house to remind me of my dad.

3. Do What you Love

My dad was a hard worker. He toiled for years on the GM assembly line full time during the days, while tending to his farm in his spare time. He was an outdoors man and needed to be outside for his sanity. He hated the assembly line, but nevertheless put in his time, providing for his family until he could take early retirement. He enjoyed several years of retirement/ farming until he went back to work at something he enjoyed, helping his friend and cousin at Lewisburg Heating and Air. I am so glad that he took those years off to enjoy his farm and spend extra time with the grand kids.

Dad worked for years on the line at GM

Dad worked for years on the line at GM

He always encouraged me to find a job that I really loved. “You spend a lot of time working, you don’t want to be miserable”. This simple but wise advice was key in my choice to be an OB/GYN.

Dad having fun with the boys on the farm

Dad having fun with the boys on the farm

4. Enjoy nature

When I think about my dad, I usually picture him sitting on the porch. It’s sunrise and he’s holding a steaming cup of coffee, watching his cows mill around the field in the morning mist. Sometimes, I see him in the afternoon. He’s sitting with his chair kicked back on 2 legs enjoying a sweat tea or a natural light, while he jokes with friends or watches the kids run around the yard. Other times, I think back to the many hours that he and I spent on horseback, riding on one of the many trail rides we did when I was growing up (he had me riding a horse before I could walk). All my favorite memories of my dad are when he was outside, because that is where he was happiest.

Trail riding

Trail riding

6. There’s no place like home

There are many traits they say I got from my dad. It’s said that I walk like him, I work hard like he did and I know I mumble like him (half of our phone conversations where the other person saying “What?” over and over). One thing I didn’t get from him is my wanderlust. While my dad loved nature, he loved the nature in Tennessee and had no desire to travel any where else. Well, the only place he wanted to go but didn’t was Montana, but other than that he was perfectly happy to stay home. All. the. time. He was content with his farm and his life. The only power strong enough to pull him away was family (mainly grand kids).

Each summer dad would have sevreal loads of sand hauled in to his spring fed pond to create "Papa' beach". The boys would spend hours playing in the sand and the best part for dad was that he didn't have to go all the way to Florida.

Each summer dad would have several loads of sand hauled in to his spring fed pond to create “Papa’s beach”. The boys would spend hours playing in the sand and the best part for dad was that he didn’t have to go all the way to Florida.

Love the look on dad's face as he watches Carson on the pony.

Love the look on dad’s face as he watches Carson on the pony.

7. Carry Cash

My dad always carried around an obnoxious amount of money in his wallet “just in case” he needed it. I on the other hand rarely have a twenty and put everything on my credit card. This frustrated him excessively, especially when I would travel. I would usually stop and get a some emergency cash to appease him if I was taking a road trip (he would always ask if I had enough money…. even when when I had a real job). This year since he’s gone I always think of him when I hit the atm before I travel. One of the many mundane things that remind me of him.

We had a million bon fires at the farm. Perfect crisp fall evening, where we roasted hot dogs and eating way too many smores.

We had a million bonfires at the farm. Perfect crisp fall evenings, where we roasted hot dogs and eating way too many smores.

8. Family first

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 is the scripture that I read at my dad’s standing room only funeral.

In his life and his death he put his family first. He loved us all fiercely and completely. He cared for us all and gave sacrificially to provide for his family

He was always looking out for us. I never needed to check the weather, because I knew dad was glued to the weather channel and would call me if a storm was even remotely close. He was fairly obsessed with the weather. Once on vacation, after my dad had spent an hour watching the weather channel, my son Ryan asked him ,”Papa why don’t you just walk outside and see what the weather is instead of watching it on TV”.

I knew that my dad would do anything for me or my kids. I remember a few months before he died, we were staying at his house and I woke up at 2 am to the smell of bacon cooking. I drug myself into the kitchen to see what was going on, only to find Carson perched on the counter and my dad bent over the stove. When I inquired as to what the heck was going on, I was informed that Carson was hungry and wanted bacon and eggs. The fact that it was 2 am did not seem to bother either of them.

The time we went to see Willie Nelson perform a benefit concert in a field in Leper's Fork.

The time we went to see Willie Nelson perform a benefit concert in a field in Leper’s Fork.

I keep rewriting this post, each time failing to find the perfect words that his memories deserve. But these are the stories that have brought me comfort and put a teary smile on my face. I want to share them with others who also loved him, if I can muster the courage to actually hit “publish” on this post.

This father’s day I’ll celebrate the wonderful father that my husband has become and the blessing of my (step) father who did most of my raising. But every father’s day from this time forward will always be bittersweet. I will always greatly miss my dad, but I am continually thankful for the years that he was a part of our lives. 

 

The power of grandchildren even got my dad to go to

The power of grandchildren even got my dad to go to Disney

Orange Beach

Orange Beach

 

 

April/May in Review

I decided to combine my April and May writing updates due to April’s writing being a little sparse. With two races back to back, I didn’t get quite enough done as I hoped.

While, this I didn’t actually write this post, I did get quoted in this article, which I found to be quite amusing. Does getting misquoted in Cosmopolitan Magazine make me famous?

An article I wrote on skin to skin at the time of c-section was featured in the Tennessean, our local paper (print and online). Somehow having an article in an actual newspaper seems so grown up.

Speaking of grownups, my April post for WebMD was on the very grown up topic of nipples: Know Your Nipple Changes: 5 Changes to Watch For.

I also had an article over at Grace for Mom’s where I tried to answer the question of when it’s “safe” to tell people you are expecting.

Chicago marathon training starts next week. Hopefully I will get a post on here soon about my Ragnar Relay adventures in May.

 

 

 

I

Dear Nashville Country Music Half Marathon

Dear Nashville Country Music Marathon (CMM),

We need to talk.

First off, Yes, I’m aware that you have pretentiously changed your name this year and you are now preferring to be called the ” St. Jude  Rock ‘n Roll Nashville Marathon and half Marathon.” But Nashville, is the home of country music and you and I, we have a long history together. In my heart you will always be “The Country Music Marathon.” So, CMM, let’s move on.

I’m simply going to come right out and say it: I’m breaking up with you.

I would like to say that it’s not you, it’s me; but we both know that it’s you.

It’s not that we haven’t had some good times together. We have. There was 2013 when, despite the torrential rain and 45 degree temperatures, I set a PR of 1:53. When I crossed the finished line and saw my time, I was so ecstatic I could barely contain my joy. However, the hypothermia I got while waiting for my ride in the rain did put a damper on the overall experience.

This year was our fifth year together and despite my better judgement, I once again decided to race your awful course. As is our tradition, I gathered the night before with my running buddies. We planned our splits and ate Christina’s magic teriyaki noodles that we superstitiously devour before each race. My head hit the pillow meticulously early with last minute prayers for good weather and no injuries.

5 years together...

5 years together…

On race morning, I arrived at your course giddy with anticipation, only to discover there was a weather delay. CMM, I know it technically wasn’t your fault that it was storming, but it did really stink to be all carbed up and carefully hydrated only to have to wait around additional hour in the drizzle. The good news was that I was lucky enough to find a nice restroom to use at the last minute before the race in the Holiday Inn Express (thank you Holiday Inn Express, I’m totally NOT breaking up. You rock!). The bad news was I had to “identify as a man” to use it. (Ain’t nobody got time to wait in line for the ladies room on race day.)

The storm delay was finally lifted

The storm delay was finally lifted

My friend Abby and I were aiming to finish you in under 1:53. We had been training our quads off getting ready for The Ragnar Relay, and we felt great. When our corral took off we went out strong. We were trying to pace 9:00 min/mile to start, while hoping for negative splits near the end. There was just a few problems: your crowds and your hills. The course was so thick that our first split was 10:04. We were constantly weaving back and forth through all the walkers. Yes, there were people walking at 1 mile. I think the rain delay caused the racers to completely abandon the corral system leading to total chaos. While it was exhilarating to not get passed once in the race, it was also exhausting and frustrating to expend so much energy weaving around slower runners.

I know, CMM, that you think you are so awesome for attracting so many first time racers, but it’s a little annoying when they walk in a full width line in the middle of the road going uphill. It was impossible to keep my stride. Twice during the race I accidentally ran into other runners.

Which brings me to the other issue I have with our relationship: Your hills. Every year I think to myself, “I train on hills all the time, I’ll be fine on the country music course” and every year I curse you and your excessive elevation changes. You were especially nasty this year by adding that curved hill at mile 12. Because turns and hills aren’t enough on their own, you thought you would combine them in the last mile to make sure that both my lungs and thighs were searing with equal amounts of pain as I cross the finish line. I think mile 12 was when I decided that we would have this little talk.

While I did finish with a respectable time of 1:54. I could have easily been a minute or two quicker on even a slightly less crowded, hilly or weaving course than yours. My friends Shannon and Christina both finished the full 26.2. They did an awesome job despite your hilly drama, but I think they may be finished with you as well.

My friend Shannon rocked the full 26.2. (although I think she is breaking up with you as well)

My friend Shannon rocked the full 26.2.

I’m not saying that we can’t still be friends. You will always be special to me. You were my first marathon. I do love running the streets of Nashville, I just don’t love running them as fast as I possibly can. We’ll still hang out. If we didn’t, I’d miss the bands at each mile, music row, the Gulch and my favorite: the awesome retired couple that sit in their lawn in all dressed up drinking champagne while cheering on the runners.

We're questioning our sanity in this picture

We’re questioning our sanity in this picture

So sorry sweetie, we’ve had a good run, but it’s over. And, yes if you must know, there is someone new in my life. His name is Chicago and I am running him in October. Don’t worry, you will always be my first, and we have had a lot of great memories together–but it’s time to move on to a course that is doesn’t have such hilly drama. It is a long distance relationship, so that could cause some issues. I promise to keep you updated.

We are never, ever, ever getting back together. (but I am keeping your t-shirt because its super cute this year)

We are never, ever, ever getting back together (but I am keeping your t-shirt because it’s super cute this year)

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Crazy Spring Break

I inhaled the crisp mountain air, as I swooshed down the mountain. The panoramic view of snow capped mountains and giant evergreens was so perfect it looked like a cheeesy 70’s landscape painting. The edge of my skis cut through the powdery snow, which provided the perfect amount of resistance as I sailed down the mountain. Adrenaline pulsed through my veins, as I fought to maintain the delicate balance between speed and control…

“Mom! Moooooom! Is it time to go yet?” Carson, my 6 year old, elbowed me in the stomach, obnoxiously pulling me back to reality. I wiped the drool from my chin and realized that we were not in Colorado. We were in the Tampa airport, where we had been for the past 5 hours.

The morning had started smoothly enough. We had made it to Nashville airport on time, all children and luggage accounted for. We sailed through security, without any “special screening” for my ethnicity vague looking husband. However on arrival at our gate, we discovered our carefully planned direct flight to Denver had been cancelled due to weather. Our best chance to get to Denver was to fly to Tampa and catch a flight from there later that afternoon. So away we went, on what was to be one of the strangest travel experiences of my life.

Shortly after I was awakened from my snowy dream, I was informed by my Hubs that the Denver airport was shut down due to a nasty blizzard. Our flight from Tampa to Denver was also cancelled. Our choices were: return to Nashville (with no chance to get to Denver) or stay in Tampa for 2 days and fly to Denver on Friday afternoon. I did not like either of these choices. During my 30 minutes of denial and tears, the direct flight to Denver filled, and we got the last remaining seats on a connecting jet through St. Louis.

We were all ridiculously disappointed. This was our first Colorado ski trip in 8 years and we (and by “we”, I really mean “Russ”) had been tediously planning it for months. We quickly realized though, that if we were going to be stranded somewhere, Tampa was not a bad place. So we rented a car and checked into a hotel while wearing our puffy ski jackets and carrying 2 giant suitcases full of fleece. Luckily we had packed swimsuits (for the hot tub at the condo), so the first thing my travel exhausted boys did was cannonball into the pool. Then we made a trip to Sears to buy shorts and t-shirts.

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When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.

My first thought was to go to Disney (about an hour away), but the planner in me was already so frazzled by this hiccup, I didn’t think I could handle going to Disney during spring break with only 1 day notice (I need months to plan my fast passes!). We realized we were staying 10 minutes from Busch Gardens, so that was our new destination.

We arrived at Busch Gardens right when the park opened then next morning, hoping to be first in line for the rides. Beating the crowds was great, except that several of the major attractions didn’t open until a couple hours after the park opened {insert sad trombone}. Busch Gardens is half zoo, half amusement park. The bigger roller coasters were a little too intense for my gang, but the boys enjoyed the animals and the tamer rides. It was frustrating that they charge extra for fast passes and the safari tour (both included in price at Animal Kingdom). We also kept missing the train which takes you through the park to see the animals in the fields.The kids had a great time, despite not being able to ride a ton of rides due to long lines and my youngest being vertically challenged.

I loved the “Gardens” at Busch Gardens. The park is decorated with several elaborate topiaries shaped like various animals. I made my gang mimic the bushes for the photo ops.

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My Octopii

Our flight didn’t leave till 4 o’clock the next day, so we decided to visit nearby Clearwater Beach and go to The Clearwater aquarium. This is the home of the dolphins Hope and Winter from the Dolphin’s Tale movies. The drive across Tampa Bay was gorgeous. It was quite surreal to be driving a thin bridge across the ocean lined with palm trees when we were supposed to be in the mountains. The actual aquarium was interesting but Winter was shy that day, so it was difficult to get a good look at the dolphins. I enjoyed the experience, but honestly my boys were underwhelmed.

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Tampa Bay

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Hope the dolpin

We got to the Tampa airport around 2 and finally arrived at our Condo in Keystone at midnight, where my brother and sister were waiting for us. It had taken us 2.5 days to get there. I could almost hear the hallelujah chorus playing in the background as we unloaded our suitcases.

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View from Condo

The next morning we dropped our young ‘un at ski school (it was his first time), but then discovered that our pre-rented skis did not get dropped at our condo as ordered. We grudgingly ventured out to rent equipment, which seemed especially painful, because I JUST WANTED TO GO SKIING AND NOT WASTE YET ANOTHER HOUR OF MY LIFE. Alas, I took a deep breath and realized I was finally inhaling that crisp mountain air I had been dreaming about and all was good.

When we finally got on the the slopes, the snow was perfect. The lift lines were not bad and Keystone itself was phenomenal. The blizzard that had delayed us was at least thoughtful enough to leave us the most fantastic powder. At the bottom of the first run I was able to catch up with a friend from high school who also happened to be there (the wonders of FB), but as we were chatting I noticed my older son was acting a little off. He and the hubs both had awful headaches and headed back to the condo. They texted me later that they had altitude sickness. Seriously people, you can’t make this stuff up.

I then went back to the condo to care for my family. I then took advantage of the afternoon with no kids and skied my quads off with my brother.  Please don’t judge me, I promise that I did text frequently to make sure they were still OK.

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Keystone with my brother (to whom I am currently making payments to ensuring the go-pro videos of me skiing are never released)

Luckily, everyone felt better with some rest and fluids and the whole family was ready to ski together on Sunday. Finally.

On day 2 of skiing I decided to work with Carson instead of sending him to ski school. Not sure if this was my best idea. There were many tears and tantrums. And Carson got frustrated too. Eventually, he got it figured out and by the end of the day he made it down the mountain, albeit falling a million times. Even when he would fall, he would shout “This is soooo awesome!”

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My ski buddy

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The last day, everything seemed to finally come together. I skied with my boys in the morning and they both zipped down the mountain like it was nothing. Their grins were epic. Watching them have so much fun together was worth all the drama getting to the mountain. Russ and I also remember how much we loved to ski. We all can’t wait to go back.

So how was my spring break? Not what I planned, not relaxing, not cheap and definitely not low stress. Despite all the drama, it was pretty awesome. I got home with some great stories and special family memories that I think we’ll be talking about for a long time.

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February in Review

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First long run of the year

It’s time to start training again. I love spending my Saturday mornings pounding out the distance and chatting it up with my girlfriends. If we also catch a marvelous sunrise, then that’s the gravy. If we still have time, we grab eggs and coffee at the Frothy Monkey Coffee Shop. Our post run body odor usually assures us an isolated table.

This spring I’m running the Nashville Country Music Half at the end of April. No PR goal for that one, simply going to enjoy the race. Next up will be Ragnar Tennessee in May and *fingers crossed* the Chicago Marathon in the fall.

Writing:

My WedMD Post this month was on herpes. I wanted to call it “Is This Burning an Eternal Flame?…. No, It’s Herpes!”  Sadly, my editor nixed that. (Sorry,now I’ve forever ruined that song for you).

Could it be Herpes? 

I also posted over at Mother in Medicine about my recent realization that I am old:

That One Time When You Unknowingly Insulted Me  

 

Now onto March.

 

January in Review

Belated Happy New Year!

January in Nashville was a little extra fantastic this year. We had some full blown snow days, complete with sledding and snowmen. This is a rare treat for us, so we relished every snow ball and cup of hot cocoa.

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January also marked by oldest son 12th birthday. We have a tradition at our house where my husband tries his best to honor our kids often extremely specific birthday cake requests. This year Ryan requested a chocolate cake with white icing and sprinkles that contained an optical illusion.

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He nailed it!

I was feeling sentimental so I linked to my own birth story on our FB page and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

January is also cervical cancer awareness month. My article for WebMD ‘How to Avoid Cervical Cancer’ went over really well.

Remember the first of the year is a great time to schedule your annual exam!