"Daughters @ Home"    [ 04 ]   
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Apr 2016

A long oak table in our dining room serves as our Center Of Operations. Well, so does the living room, the island in the kitchen, and/or gathering chairs around my computer ... OK, so it's one center of communal activities in our home. But a moment comes to mind years ago when I, seated at the head of this table at dinnertime, laughing with all my chicklettes over our daily "high's and low's", looked lovingly at each one of them and observed aloud how these days together would some day evaporate... Of course, my three daughters took no measurable notice of my comment. Things had just sort of always been like this, with me leading our little family as a single father of these three precious little birds. I could see their lack of concern clearly in their smiling eyes, and truth be told, I felt the same way: it would always be this way for the four of us. Facing life's up's and down's together as a family, cheering each other on as they all grew up and through whatever challenges might come our way! And yet I * knew * that once Danielle graduated from high school, the clock would strike a sort of Midnight hour and begin winding down for the rest of us. Each of my children, in turn, would grow up and cartwheel right out our hallowed front door. Our endless days together would translate into nothing more than a long, beautiful tapestry of memories. But back then, not one of us could imagine such radical changes... yet this is exactly what is happening..!

  "Why you want to leave me..?"
 Gus Portokalos

And, you know, it's OK, I assure myself... it's all just a Natural Part Of Life — right? I mean, the Very Goal of parenting is to watch over, teach, guide, and prepare our children to grow up and manage their way(s) successfully out into the world. ~ ~ yeah . . . it reads so Easy and Simple on paper (or onscreen), but living through it all, and then feeling the keen loss of each child as they make their way out of our home, scooting back and away from our great table one final time ... no longer dancing in their rooms or laughing in the halls... it's like waking up to find one of your arms has been stealthily removed during the night . . and on another night sometime later, a leg... — they're just * gone * . . .

I turn 50 this year [W00T!] so wandering into Empty Nest Territory should come as no surprise. This experience will simply pile atop the rest of life's high-level achievements like graduating from high school / college, getting married, having those precious babies, buying a home, moving around a bit, clicking through cars, raising those kids, managing life's myriad assaults, and now ~ this... You raise them up to be Glorious Fantastic Human Beings - and then they leave.   O.o   It seems so profoundly unfair somehow, as if the Great Grand Prize for all your years of loving care and dedication, guidance, costs, activities, trips, schools, prayers, worries, and patience .. your Fantastic Reward for all of your faithful parenting is ABANDONMENT.  Jeez.. I'm starting to sound like Gus Portokalos from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" . . .

In all seriousness, though, it truly is an incredible thing to watch your grown children take flight and begin their young adult lives!  :-D  Danielle graduated from high school in 2011, joined the Air Force, met a fine young man (also USAF), they got married, and now they are about to have their second baby! (That's right ~ I'm a Texas Ranger 2nd Level Grandpa..) And then Jessica was followed home one day by some gangly mop-topped kid, and a couple of years later, just like that, he hitched into our family as son-in-law #2!  He has also just joined the Air Force —( what is it with our apparent Air Force recruiting household? I dunno...honestly... )— and will be taking our sweet Cricket away for good in another month or so . .. Ann, my little Lion♥heart, still remains at home as she completes high school, but in just a couple of short years, she also hopes to launch into the world courtesy of the USAF! Her ambitions currently include dragging me along to whatever European duty station to which she may be assigned, but I have made it abundantly clear that, should she get assigned someplace like Kansas or Nebraska, all bets are off!!   :-|  One way or another, though, I understand that even my remaining days with her are marked and numbered . . .

This blog entry in a way marks the real end of an era for our family, and most assuredly in my life. Jessi lingers here at home with us for now, packing up their things with a spring in her step and a song on her lips, or flowing from her fingertips to the strings of her harp. I shall miss all of her Cricketness when she's gone, just as Danielle's departure fractured a place deep in my heart back in 2011. It must be this way ~ I know. I understand... But what a rock-bottom heartbreak to stand in the doorway with a wave and encouraging smile while the very joys of your soul dance off to that hazy horizon . . .


Ann is busy racking up awards in ROTC and throwing herself into a like-clockwork weekly tizzy over one boy or another. For my part, I just keep on working, playing piano on-call (a lot more lately), and dodging retirement-planning meetings at work. I will never retire. Not that I really can — given what I've had to contend with most of my adult life — but seriously never desired to entertain it all that much. I love working and being creative, and plan to be busy with as much as I can up until the day I check out.  :-]  ( Proverbs 3:5-6, eh? )

When Danielle (my Golden Girl ~ she's blonde, and just wonderful!) moved up and out, it took us all some months to find our proper adjustments within our diminished household. I guess that's the way it goes when a precious teammate just leaps out of the lifeboat convinced she can make it to that distant shoreline! Everyone remaining just sort of looks back at one another wondering, "Wow! Did that really just happen?" We eventually found our way, of course, but not without modifying our life of FOUR down to a life of THREE... (What a weird deal that is) And soon it will be just the two of usAnn & I — but I think we're much more prepared this time around, as Jessi has taken a much slower approach to paddling away from our little lifeboat. Collectively, we have had lots of time to adjust to her growing up and graduating from college, getting married, and determining her own path .. . Besides, my Anna·banana & I get along quite famously when it's just the two of us.  :-)  We'll be OK, I assure myself .. .

To capture this adjusting moment in time, I'm gonna throw a few pix online to show what life is like during this next transition, beginning with some from Philip & Jessi's wedding! Rather than wait another year for him to complete his meteorologist training in the Air Force, they surprised everyone by deciding to Just Get Married NOW.. which is not uncommon at their age. I remember... :-] (This was actually back in January) So they just flung it all together, relying on Philip's extended family for a beautiful location, a fantastic dinner, and invited everyone they could think of! It was, I think, the BEST wedding I have ever attended! So stress-free, tons of family and friends, young pastor Josh officiating (the worship leader for our church band) ~ such wonderful company! I told them that if I ever marry again, I am going to follow their simple sweet example!

Jessi getting ready for her Wedding Day!   :-)
 Jessi getting ready
Walking my lovely daughter Down The Aisle . . .
 Down the Aisle
Praying during the ceremony
Sharing Vows for their Life together
 Josh presiding
Younger Sister looks on . . .
 Ann looks on
~     Wedding Kiss    ~
 Wedding Kiss
Catering provided by FAMILY!
 Great Food!
      Cool Wedding Cake
 Wedding Cake
Their first 'together slice' . . .
 The First Slice
Ann got Philip's crazy cake eye
 Cake Eye
·   Those Wedding Night Blues   ·
 Wedding Night Blues

Ann also turned 16 this February. I had promised for the better part of a year to take her to SIX FLAGS for her birthday, so we drove to California to check in with our lifelong friends and hit those coasters! (Philip & Jessi remained at home) Of course we all had a great time there — perfect weather and everything — but it got even better Saturday night when we all decided to go see STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS in the TCL (Grauman's/Mann's) Chinese Theatre!! This is the world famous Hollywood Theatre featured in countless movies and reports from the heart of Tinseltown, where scores of stars have imprinted their hands (and sometimes shoes/feet) into the cement out front. We've come here many times before just for kicks, but never dreamed of actually going into the theatre and, you know, Watching A Movie ~ until now! Though it has played host to innumerable premieres and gala events, it was converted to the single largest IMAX auditorium in the entire world just a couple of years ago. The lobby is lavishly painted and decorated with high vaulted ceilings and fancy drapes. Props encased in glass are set up all around the place, ranging from Dorothy's actual dress from "The Wizard of Oz" to all sorts of costumes and things from whatever feature they happen to be showing. And I am here to tell you: Star Wars never looked so good!!! AND in 3D!!

Hard not to do this at Six Flags, CA!
 Six Flags 1
          Hey, look — there really are SIX FLAGS !    :-]
 Six Flags 2
GOLIATH: an awesome first ride!
 Six Flags 3
Our about-to-plunge-over-the-very-top-of-GOLIATH selfie!
 Six Flags 4
This sign totally put us in the mood for Ren·Fest!
 Six Flags 5
Bat/Flash Ann
 Six Flags 5
~      Dad & Ann     ~
 Six Flags 7
A great day to just hang out, stroll around, and try some INSANE RIDES!
 Six Flags 8
Friends for, like, EVER ~ (L to R):   Alex  ·  Brianna (Bree)  ·  Ann (Lion♥Heart)  ·  Tombo  ·  Anthony (Ant·man)  ·  Gabriel
 Le Crüe
Famous TCL (Grauman's) Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard
 TCL (Grauman's) Chinese Theatre
           Just before cruisin' on inside . . .
 Dad & L♥H
The foyer just opens right into the opulent theater — it is So Cool
 Chinese Theatre (inside) 1
 Chinese Theatre (inside) 2
Ann ran down to the foot of the curtain
 Chinese Theatre (inside) 3
Decorative façades and ornate motifs abound
 Chinese Theatre (inside) 4
The chandelier cycles through blue and purple hues before showtime
 Chinese Theatre (inside) 5
Partial view of the interior of this oh-so famous Theatre
 Chinese Theatre (inside) 6

It has been a while since we've hit the AZ Renaissance Festival, so we took a Saturday and conquered that ~ Huzzah!  Didn't take too many photos, though, after years of capturing so many of them... Besides, there's a bazillion Ren·Fest pix all over the internet from all around the U.S. if you've never been and just wanna get a flavor for it. I am including just a few fun ones that I liked . ..  Oh! And the Valley Art theater located on Mill Avenue in Tempe has been featuring a bunch of Miyazaki films lately. If you've never seen "Princess Mononoke" or "Spirited Away" or "Howl's Moving Castle" on the silver screen, you are really missing out!

Topping off Stryder for another road trip!
A prominent world map featured in our home
 World Map
Jessi & Philip & Ann (and everyone else) waiting for Ren·Fest to open
 Ren-Fest 1
♪  Jessi plays her harp a lot  ♫  :-)
 Ren-Fest 2
~   My Beautiful Cricket   ~
 Ren-Fest 3
Lion♥Heart & Daddy-o
 Ren-Fest 4
A cool Dragon.. dude . . chick(?) . . person . .
 Ren-Fest 5
Pseudo Gandalf-looking Ren·Fest totem pole
 Ren-Fest 6
Ann & Ded Bob hung out for a little while
 Ren-Fest 7
Ann ♥'s The Flash!
 Ann & Flash
Jessi with her Mona Lisa Smile ~ and katana
 Jessi's Mona Lisa
ROTC cadet Ann with our friend Cassandra
 Ann & Cassandra (ROTC)
Valley Art Theater / Mill Avenue (Tempe) — [ ROLLOVER ]
 Mill Avenue marquee
Miyazaki-fest! — [ ROLLOVER ]
 Mill Avenue (Valley Art)

I could have easily doubled over these photos for all the stuff we've done in the past few months, including taking Philip to Disneyland (his first time ever!) and all sorts of other coolio trips and things, but one must Move On . . . right? . . . The seasons change and these kids all grow up . .. and it's OK... .  Heh.. it's funny in a way, how 30 years ago I was so positively * terrified * at the prospect of someday becoming a father! I felt so unqualified and ill-prepared! But as it turns out, I think I have a bit of a knack for it.  :-]  God has unquestionably blessed my efforts in this most precious of Callings! (And for that I am exceedingly grateful!) And I know, I know .. I will get to continue being a Dad as my grown children continue seeking my advice and stuff — but also I know my place at this point in their lives. My decades of hands-on parenting are coming to an end as I stride into a new season of wondrous duality: I am now a counselor/advisor for my adult children as they soar into their early years of marriage and babies, and I am now also a beloved grandfather! — What an incredible Honor . .. Saddened as I may feel at times about the disappearance of our once so-closely-shared season in life, I find my new roles to be just as exciting and full of love and happiness as those earlier years ~ maybe even moreso..! Perhaps this is what the Bible means when it describes the blessed latter years in a man's life..?  I suppose I will find out!  :-D

However, in no way am I slowing down! If anything, I'm healthier now and more crazy/active than I've ever been before! As [all] my kids eagerly anticipate the next few years of their lives, I can also seek broader horizons to explore now, exciting new dimensions of Living .. . full of ellipses, no doubt . . .   :-)   I love my expanding family and all of my kids!!  I love getting older and being their Dad/Grandpa!  Got a couple of precious years left with the dread pirate "Lion♥Heart" — Knowing us, we'll probably finish this time in our lives together with a whole lotta fun and adventures!

 Dread Pirate Ann
(2016)  05