Monday, October 3, 2011

Honoring His Life

(this post is being updated daily)

October 3, 2011

Two years ago today my Dad took his life. I miss him very much. On November 25, 2011 he would have celebrated his 53rd birthday. From today through November 25, I plan to celebrate his life and honor his legacy through good works in his name. I am my Dad’s only child and would be forever grateful if you would take this journey with me.

Today I donated money to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in memory of my father, Jefferson Davis Keathley.

In the United States, a person dies by suicide every sixteen minutes. In this country, approximately twenty million people suffer from serious depression and one million people attempt suicide each year. However, most Americans remain unaware that suicide is a major national health problem that takes an enormous toll on family, friends, and the entire community.
Silence is the voice of despair and I am determined to break the quiet and work to erase the shame associated with mental illness and depression. My dad was taking no medication and was not, to my knowledge, ever diagnosed with a mental disease. But, he was in despair and felt he had nowhere to turn. By supporting organizations like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, I hope to be part of the process of change that prevents more tragedies.

October 4, 2011

My Dad loved to reminisce and tell funny stories. He used to laugh until tears streamed down his cheeks as he recalled a time he had to change one of my dirty diapers. My dad was a real lightweight when it came to gross smells, a trait I inherited. Once, when I was an infant he was alone with me and I soiled my diaper. With no other option he was forced "to go in." He used to laugh as he mimicked a gag and described how he wrapped a wet towel around his head to cover his face and undressed me completely. He held his breath as if he was trying to avoid mustard gas and moved as quickly as he could toward the nearest bathroom. He held me an arms length away before he {carefully} dropped me in the tub and washed me with the detachable shower head. He told me that story a million times and would laugh and laugh when I would tell him my own dirty diaper tales.

In honor of my dad, today I chose to focus on new life. I donated packs of diapers to Birthright in Lawrence. I attached a note to the new mom that will be using them for her newborn that I am proud she chose to have her baby and do her best for her family. I commended her for having the strength to ask for help when she needed it and the courage to accept what was offered.
Two years ago today I found out that my dad had died very late the night before. Julietta was just six months old. Her newness, purity, and innocence gave me great solace in the most difficult period of my life. She and my other children brought me great joy despite my overwhelming sorrow. I pray that we can each recognize the light in our lives and find the strength to ask for help when cannot.

October 5, 2011

My Dad was an amazing artist {His drawing is above}. He loved to draw and was always tickled to receive pictures from his grandchildren. He also saved every scrap I ever constructed for him - homemade father's day cards, art projects, notes - he cherished them all. Along with my mom, my dad inspired a great reverence in me for art. Today I was thrilled to give drawing paper requested by their art teacher to the art program at Jack, Ella, and Liliana's school. I know my dad would be so happy to know that their school has an art program after several years without. Art education not only helps cultivate essential creative outlets, it allows us all see the world through different lenses and from various perspectives. I believe that children who value diversity and uniqueness are likely to be compassionate and accepting adults.

October 6, 2011

My dad was always willing to say how proud he was of me, my husband, and his grandchildren. His paternal pride would often embarrass me and I would work to downplay his words. He'd write notes to me expressing the joy we brought him and would often leave phone messages simply to say he loved us. A few days before he passed away I had a long phone conversation with my dad. As he often did, during the phone call he took the time to say how proud he was of me. He told me I was an amazing mother, daughter, teacher, and person. Like usual I downplayed what he was saying and listed several of my short comings. My dad reminded me again that I was incredible and I muttered an embarrassed thanks.

Today I decided to listen to my dad. I focused on graciously accepting compliments and ignoring gestures intended to hurt me. I think my dad would be pleased that I am drawing attention to the amazing parts of his life and following his inspiration to honor his legacy instead of focusing on his death. I also believe whole heartedly that he'd be proud that through our grief and pain, together with my family, I am trying to bring awareness to a silent epidemic. I hope that we can each be glad for our talents and use them to affect one another in a positive way while working to build our character and leave behind the negative.

[photos from my 2005 trip to Mozambique]
October 7, 2011

Like most, my dad made some decisions as a young person he later regretted. One decision he hoped I would never repeat was his lack of formal education. My dad left high school before graduation. He earned a GED but never graduated from college. My dad always stressed the importance of education to me.

When I graduated from college my dad was by my side, bursting with pride. A year later, after I completed my Master's Degree, my dad came from Texas to Montana and cheered wildly as I walked across the stage and accepted my diploma. In 2007, when I was in the midst of my PhD program, he came to Kansas and sat in on a lecture I was giving about the social construction of race and ethnicity and it's relation to the Rwandan Genocide. He talked and talked about the class and how proud he was that his little girl was teaching a class of 200 at a major university.

My dad came far from his humble beginnings. After several years working in the oil industry as a oil well driller and maintainer, my dad moved to Texas and worked for companies specializing in environmental analysis at oil drilling sites. He became acquainted will all parts of the oil industry and became passionate about helping oil companies who drill off shore keep our earth's oceans clean. In his forties, my dad opened his own business, Oilfield Analytics. In the months before he died my dad he was working with a partner to develop an efficient, precise, water analyzer. His enthusiasm was contagious. As he presented his ideas and concepts to PhDs and executives, my dad would laugh and tell me how he couldn't believe that the guy who was too cool for high school was a well respected, self taught scientist.

My dad's passion for clean water and his pride for my enthusiasm for Africa inspired today's good deed. Nearly one billion people suffer needlessly without access to safe water. One out of every 5 deaths under the age of 5 worldwide is due to a water-related disease. Close to eighty percent of illness in developing countries is linked to poor water and sanitation conditions. Many girls either don't start or leave school too early because they spend so much time fetching and collecting water for their families.

In my dad's name, I gave to The Water Project. Just $10 can supply clean, living, safe water to one person for a year! I am thankful for all the luxuries I have and am happy I can do something to help others because of the lessons I learned from my dad.

October 8, 2011

Growing up I didn't get to spend a lot of time with my dad because he lived in a different state . When I would see him I would always write lots of little notes and stash them throughout his house and car for him to find while I was away. When I was in college he told me how much that meant. He loved shoving his hand in a pocket or getting a new box of tissue and finding a little love letter from his favorite gal.

Today I took a moment to write a letter to someone in my life that makes a difference to my children. I often wait until the end of the season, an activity, or the school year to offer a formal thank you. But, why wait? You never know if you'll have tomorrow to express today's joy and gratitude.


October 9, 2011

Today I made the decision to celebrate the blessings in my life.  I am grateful - for my amazing children - who I would not have without my wonderful parents and incredible husband. I am grateful to have something to celebrate and so many with whom to celebrate. I am glad for all the family and friends who share in my joy and my grief. I am thankful for my beautiful sis and ├╝ber talented friends who helped make a great day even better! May we all be grateful for each day and always find something to celebrate!!

October 10, 2011
Today Liliana, Julietta, and I took cupcakes to our local fire house. First responders see a lot of people at their lowest, in their worst moments.  We wanted to show a few of them a smile.  It was fun including some of the kiddos in this mission.  The firemen were thrilled (and cute). Random acts of kindness = full heart! Flashback photo = Jack in 2006.

October 11, 2011

My dad was always full of surprises. He loved sending gifts - ten or fifteen at a time. With him, the size of the gift really did matter - the bigger the dimensions the better! Our house is filled with big, noisy toys - a huge Barbie house, an electric piano fit for an 80s hair band, a giant stuffed duck, extra large Tonka trucks, and big blow up toys to name a few. Every "just because" surprise from Grandpa delighted our kiddos and acts as a reminder of their fantastic grandpa.

Today I surprised a stranger hoping to brighten their day. I walked into a restaurant, bought a gift card, and wrote a note that said "I hope you have a fantastic day and will do something to make someone else's as great." Then I turned around with a smile, handed it to the person behind me and said "this is for you."  He looked shocked and muttered a thanks as I walked away thinking about my dad's generous spirit.

October 12, 2011

My dad had lots of "big fish" stories. He never told a boring tale. I wish I had the chance to learn more about him and his past. Yesterday, I took the time to write down a bit of my family's history for my children. I wrote about how my dad's parents met and how my hubby and I met. 

I cherish and find great comfort in the memories I have with my dad. I love to reminisce over photos and listen to funny, sentimental, or interesting stories about him. I am resolved to write more of these memories and family anecdotes as a gift for my children and their children to come.

October 13, 2011

A few days ago I opened a Dove chocolate and the wrapper said "Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?" Today I brought a dove bar and a little note to someone in my life that definitely has an attitude worth catching.  She never hesitates to help and more importantly, always offers to help in specific ways. She can always see the bright side and has a smile for everyone. She's a great friend, mother, wife, and teacher. I'm glad I took a second to let her know how amazing I think she is.

Join me! Let someone in your life know how incredible you think they are.  I hope we can all find a way to let the important people in our lives know how much they mean to us. Adding a little chocolate never hurts. {grin}
October 14, 2011

So . . . I have this addiction. I currently have 697 pins and just realized that I have never said thanks to any of the authors of the images I have pinned. Today I went to several of the sites from which I pinned some lovely images and left positive comments. We all love positive feedback right? 

I hope you will join me and give someone in your life {or maybe a stranger} some positive feedback!

October 15, 2011

I've already said that my dad loved to tell stories - he especially enjoyed the embarrassing ones. Today I shared some of my dad's most told funny stories with Ella and Liliana. Then, we talked about their favorite stories. I asked them what they would share with their baby sister, Julietta, about Grandpa. They unanimously agreed that their most beloved memory with their Grandpa was finding their much adored treasure chest on the shores of Galveston. 

My dad spent months collecting gold coins, tiaras, crowns, gilded boxes, crosses, and jewelry to fill a treasure chest. Then, he made a map and buried the chest on the beach. On a visit to Texas in 2007, Grandpa told the tale of the long lost treasure and how he came upon the fragile treasure map. He took us on a treasure hunt and we found an entire carload! That treasure chest is still overflowing in Ella and Liliana's room.

I hope that you will feel inspired to think about your happiest moments with the ones you love. Then, share those thoughts with your dearest friends and family.

October 16, 2011

Today I told my children the story of Busoga, a village in Uganda, in which people drink this water, cook with this water, allow their animals to consume this water, and bathe with this water. A friend is celebrating her 32 birthday today. She lives in Indiana and together with her husband has SEVEN beautiful children! Her three boys were all adopted from Uganda. She just returned to the US from an extended stay in Uganda where she visited Busoga. It was on this trip that she formally adopted her two oldest boys, Nico and Jude!

For her birthday she asked that 250 people donate $32 toward building a well for the 550 people of Busoga and their neighboring communities. Upon hearing this wish, one by one, my children happily volunteered to give their treasure. Ella was the first to say she would like to give $10. Liliana chimed in that she had $10 to offer as well. And, my sweet Jack said, "take twelve of my birthday dollars - I want to be sure it is $32." 

Today's "good works" have been the most rewarding thus far. I have received the gift of cheerful givers! Without my dad the world would be less these amazing people. His legacy will continue to touch people throughout the world one gift and one drink at a time. If you'd like to give too, click HERE [be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page - you can pay securely via PayPal] and please let us know by leaving a comment below!

October 17, 2011

Today's good deed doesn't quite measure to yesterday's.  Before leaving for a doctor's appointment I gathered a stack of {recently published} magazines to leave in the waiting room. I left a few in the main lobby and took a few into the exam room. Now people can learn about Ashton's love life, oogle over a Traditional Home, or read the recipe for a cake pop while they wait!  

October 18, 2011

My dad and I loved going to movies together. We'd share a big bucket of buttery popcorn and enjoy the flick. Today I was at the market and noticed someone was at the redbox choosing a movie to bring home. I thought of my dad and our shared love. Then, I told the gal at the redbox and the people behind her to use the code DVDONME and the movie would be free. I got lots of "thank yous" and smiles! Now you know too - go to your favorite redbox, check a DVD, snuggle up with your favorite person, and watch a movie on me! {grin}

{me and my dad on the day of my birth}

October 19, 2011

Every time I visited my dad in Texas, he had the camera in my face all. the. time. There was about a five-year period where I am pretty sure that every photo was of me scowling at the camera because I was so tired of my portrait being taken. Now, I wish I had access to all those old photos because the pictures I do have bring to mind such fond memories.

Today, on my dad's behalf. I am asking something of you!

Take some photos! They don't have to be anything fancy - just make sure you can see someone! Then, PRINT and ENJOY them. Put a picture on your fridge, start an album, hang one on your wall, or display one on a table. I promise, you'll never regret your photos - even if the person in them is scowling at you.

To get you started - here is a code for a free 8x10 collage at Walgreens. Click HERE and enter CLG8x10 at checkout for your FREE 8x10 photo collage – your photo will be ready for you to enjoy in just one hour. {You can also pay a shipping fee to  have it mailed to your home.}  Click pay at the store to avoid having to enter any credit card information. This code is good through Oct. 22.


October 20, 2011

Our children are not allowed to have soda. We have our reasons, but my dad always thought they were silly. Once, when Ella and Liliana were six or seven he offered Liliana a drink of Coke. She politely declined and said it was against the rules. He said it was okay - he wouldn't tell. Liliana wryly took the can and guzzled a big gulp. Then my dad said "ooooh, I'm gonna tell!" And, Liliana started to cry and shouted "I hate you!"

My dad laughed and laughed every time he told that story. He eventually added how he calmed her down with another swig of Coke and promised not to tell again. {He told} 

Today, inspired by my dad's love of treats, with Ella, Liliana, and Jack, I gave away 240 popsicles – one to every child at Corpus Christi Catholic School. It took two coolers and a vinyl bag to hold all those sweets. I’m sure my dad enjoyed the view from Heaven. {grin}

October 21, 2011 

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. We all know someone who has been affected by the disease. I hope my children will never have to face it's devastating effects.

Yesterday we supported the cause by going with a friend to a fundraiser at LHM. Ella, Liliana, and Sidney all had cute pink extensions put in their hair. All proceeds go to breast cancer research and awareness. The girls had lots of fun doing a good deed. {pink grin}

October 22, 2011 

Today's good deed is something I try to do but don't always accomplish. I take lots of photos and video at our children's activities. (Like my dad would.) Whenever I see the opportunity to catch a memory for someone else, I take it. But, despite my good intentions, I am not the best at getting it to the other family. 

Today, at Jack's soccer game, I caught a big moment for another little mister. When I got home I made sure to take it off my SD card and get it to them. Jack has already watched the video above about fifty times so I know his buddy will enjoy watching his shining moment as well. The video above is of Jack's big goal at today's game - please don't mind the mommy/baby conversation going on in the background - ha ha}

October 23, 2011

Today Ella, Liliana, Jack, Julietta and I spent a few minutes at the cemetery cleaning tombstones. As we swept away dust and leaves, we spoke about how while for the living death is sad because it marks the end of a temporary life on earth; it is also a celebration because it is the beginning of a permanent, perfect life with God where we will one day be reunited in Heaven.

May we each be grateful for the time we have on earth and live like each day is a precious gift from God.

October 24, 2011

Ever since my dad took his life I have thought about what could have changed that day so that my dad could still be here. I know my dad knew I love him, but I think maybe if I would have called that day or if someone would have looked my dad in the eye and said "Thank You!" he would not have fallen into such despair. So, I find that I want to be a person who acknowledges people and shows them through my actions and words that they are important.   

The past few days I took the time to REALLY acknowledge kind acts by others. Instead of simply saying a quick "thanks" as I walked through a door someone was holding or retrieved a sack someone had filled for me, I took care to look at the person with a smile and verbally acknowledge what they had done for me. It made me realize how often I thank someone without really giving him or her more than glance and that just a small change in my method can create more of a human connection. I also saw my children imitate my model without a discussion about what I was doing. A {small} change can make a {big} difference!

October 25, 2011 

Along the same lines as yesterday, today I went out of my way to the small things I sometimes ignore. When a shopping cart blew into the middle of the road I stopped the car and Liliana declared "Good Deed! I'll get it!" - she pushed it up to the store. At the next store I pushed the grocery cart all the way back to the store. It's a small gesture, but if we each reach out to do something to make another's life a bit easier, our world will only be better!


October 26, 2011

I lost a parent when my youngest child was just six months old. In many ways, it was my darkest hour. Despite my deep sorrow and grief, I found great joy each day. My friends, family, and most of all, my children chased away the dark with their unending light.
I can't imagine coping with the loss of a child. Every victim of suicide is someone's child. Regardless of their age, the loss is tragic and painful. Yesterday, in honor of my dad, we gave to the Children's Miracle Network. I love that CMN gives to hospitals and lets them decide where to invest the funds. I know my Republican father would like that as well. I pray that every child will grow with health, dignity, and reverence and mature into a loving and compassionate adult.


October 27, 2011

When I set out to celebrate my Dad's life and honor his legacy through good works in his name each day for 53 days in a row, I didn't know what I would do each day. I decided to let the memory of my dad's life and my commitment to honor it guide my good deeds. As each new day unfolds it is obvious what I should do. 

Today I bought canned vegetables to donate to a local food pantry. Ella chose them. Our church collects the food and delivers it to the pantry. If each of us bought just one item every time we went to the market there would be no hungry bellies in our hometowns. I hope you will join me in making life better for someone who needs a hand. Let your child choose a box of cereal, pick up a jar of preserves, or buy a box of Girl Scout cookies to donate. You'll feel great and someone else will too!

October 28, 2011

My dad loved to tell the chocolate chip cookie story. According to him, when I was nine or ten he took me and some family friends to the tallest building in Houston. He bought us each a big chocolate chip cookie from the bakery in the lobby to eat on the viewing deck above. I carried the sack with the goodies into the elevator and once we reached the top floor my dad asked me to pass the cookies to our guests. According to him, with my face covered in chocolate and licking my fingers I said, "I don't have their cookies!"

My dad would laugh and laugh at the thought of scrawny little old me eating four huge cookies that quickly. Today, inspired my {alleged} cookie heist, I decided to share the world's most delicious cookies. I baked from scratch two batches of chocolate chip cookies made with yummy Ghiradelli chocolate and the finest ingredients. Today I gave them to all of Ella, Liliana, and Jack's teachers at parent teacher conferences. I even rode the elevator to the second floor. {grin} I might have snuck a few in the mail for another deserving person or two as well. 

I miss my dad every day. Today I could hear his laugh as I told the principal's assistant the story of why I was I was trying to "sweeten up" my kiddos teachers.

October 29, 2011 

Today we were all over the place. Ella and Liliana had their end of the season volleyball tournament in Olathe. Afterward, we had an ice cream cone to celebrate their hard work. We sent a yummy Sonic cone to another car with a note that said "We hope you have a fantastic day and will do something to make someone else's day great too!" As we drove away the girls giggled with delight as we watched a lady licking her cone. What a fun way to end the season!

October 30, 2011 

Today we put together a little "thank you" for the people who volunteer their time for our children. We want to be sure that our Ella, Liliana, Jack, and Julietta understand how many people work to make their lives enriching and special. Instead of simply buying a gift we encourage them to create a handmade card or write a special note and include a homemade gift. I think it helps our children better understand the effort and time it takes for others to do good works if they do one or two in return. They are learning that the best gift is truly in the giving!

October 31, 2011

Yesterday I put together a few little goodies and a note to my mom and dad in Russell. The first thing I can remember saying after my husband helped me comprehend the devastating news of my father's untimely death was, "I want my mom." And, my poor mom and dad had to start their Sunday with me hysterical on the phone. I had a lot of hysterical days in the months following and my parents were there to listen and live those moments by my side. 

Call your mom and dad and tell them you love them. Squeeze them tight and be thankful for their sacrifices. I pray that I will rarely have to walk by my children as they cope with life's pain, but when I do, I hope my shoulder can be as soft as those on which I lean in my days of sorrow.

November 1, 2011

My dad was a crazy driver. He drove fast and would weave in out of traffic. He wanted to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Some of my favorite memories with my dad were in the car, but sometimes his driving got in the way. When we went to New Orleans together in 1999 my dad got a ticket for going more than 100 mph on the highway - yikes!! Another time I got quite upset with him for running a stop sign with my family in the car. He felt terrible and promised to slow down.

With four children in 962 million activities, we do a lot of driving. And, we are always in a hurry. My children's lessons and practices sometimes overlap and are often across town from each other. I get frustrated with my children, other drivers, and even stop lights. Today I decided to work on my road rage - ha! In honor of my dad I am committed to working on my driving attitude. So, if my kiddos are five minutes late to practice, don't blame them - blame their laid back mom {and the grandpa who inspired the attitude}.

November 2, 2011

My dad always tried to give Derek his old duds. My dad was about four sizes bigger than Derek, but he always said he thought an old blazer or polo would look great on his son-in-law. Derek was a great sport and took lots of too big clothes home. 

In honor of my dad I put together a pile of clothes to give away yesterday. Now I need to get them to the Salvation Army! I hope someone who can wear them will feel wrapped in warmth in love.

November 2, 2011

Today Julietta and I went to the park to "swing-a-ling high." We noticed some garbage laying in the leaves and decided to do something about it. We grabbed a sack and filled it with litter. After we pitched the full sack, Julietta and I ran to the swing set. A few minutes later Julietta said "Mommy, I like you."

I like Julietta.

November 3, 2011

It has been one month since I began my journey to honor my dad through good works. Some days I feel like I haven't accomplished much with my life. I think, "what have I achieved?" If I died today what would I have given to the world? On those days I remind myself of Mother Therese's words, “At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by "I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.” 

I can't feed a hundred people every day. But, today I chose to feed a few. I donated to AMAZIMA MINISTRIES' feeding program. You might recognize Amazima from Ella and Liliana's Cupcakes for Kiddos - Yesterday was Amazima's founder and Executive Director, Katie's, birthday. She is an amazing young woman and such an inspiration. I am so thankful to be a part of the Amazima community. This Sunday is Orphan Sunday. Africa is home to the world's largest orphan population. There is an estimated 200 million orphans worldwide. None of us can save the world alone. But if you "can't feed a hundred people, feed just one" and the world will better for it. {Mother Theresa}

November 4, 2011 
My dad did not live in the same state as me when I was going to school. He never went to a parent teacher conference, saw me win a race, lose a spelling bee, or pose for prom photos. I am so grateful for the time I have with my children. I get to be part of every birthday, cheer at every game, and wipe every tear. Since Julietta is at home I don't spend much time at Ella, Liliana, and Jack's school. Today I volunteered there. My children love the time I spend at their school and I enjoy seeing them in their academic environment. And, I traded days with another mom so she could have a day out - so two good deeds, right? {grin}

November 5, 2011

I grew up always knowing that my mom and TWO dads loved me very much. There is nothing I could do or say to make them waiver in their love. This is Joanie. She's a five-year-old little girl living with HIV. She is waiting for her mom and dad to find her. On Saturday I contributed to her  adoption fund in memory of my dad. There are so many children waiting for their families. Find a few HERE. As my hero and inspiration, Mother Teresa, would say "Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time."

The first day I started this journey to publicly honor my dad someone left four negative comments here. That person, who did not attach their name to their comments, made me second guess myself. Those words left me in tears. But, I knew in my heart that my dad would support my decision and be proud of what I was doing to honor him and celebrate his LIFE. Good deeds should not be done for praise or reward, but good deeds should not go undone because you fear some people might accuse you of doing them for an ulterior motive. 

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. 
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. 
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway. 
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway. 
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway. 
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway. 
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. 
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway. 
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
― Mother Teresa

November 6, 2011

Today is Orphan Sunday. It is a day to remember and serve those without the shelter of a mother's embrace or the protection of a father's strong arms. UNICEF estimates that between 143,000,000 and 210,000,000 children are orphans. A child in Africa becomes an AIDS orphan every 15 seconds. There are more orphans in Sub Saharan Africa than ALL of the children in Denmark, Ireland, Norway, Canada, and Sweden combined! Worldwide 5,760 more children in the world become orphans and every 2.2 SECONDS another orphan ages out, with no family and no home. 

Many of these children are waiting for their forever family. Mother Theresa reminds us "the greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love." In honor of my dad, my family and I chose two orphans to support through an amazing organization called Reece's Rainbow. I hope Lizzy and Joanie's families find them soon. These precious girls and so many others are two of God's most beautiful and perfect children. If you'd like to give or feel called to find your child, click HERE.  

November 7, 2011

I believe that the greatest gift we can give our children is happy parents. I am not a patient person. I get frustrated easily with myself and others and I am not great at hiding it. I can't always have a smile, but I can always find something in my life that makes me happy. And, I can work to focus on those things instead of the parts that leave me feeling hopeless, scared, angry, or frustrated. 

Mother Teresa says "What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family." This week, loving my family {and showing it} is my mission. Today the children and I put on paper 100 reasons why we love Derek. We surprised him with our reasons at dinner. Ella, Liliana, Jack, and Julietta each wrote ten reasons why they love their Daddy and I wrote sixty! We filled a big glass container with our cards and when Derek sat to eat we turned the jar (that said "100 reasons why we love you" and was sitting in the center of the table) toward him. One by one he pulled out each note and read it out loud.

I love Derek for lots more than sixty reasons, but a few of them are because he believes in himself. I love him because he is the kind of dad that changes diapers, coaches soccer, baseball, and basketball, and will dress like a princess. I love him because he looks good in a suit and hot in jeans and sneakers. I love Derek because he will eat the left overs no one else wants. I love his scruffy face and the way he laughs at his own dumb jokes. I love him when he holds my hand and I love, love, love the way he kisses me.

Julietta loves her Daddy because he snuggles her and cleans her booty. Ella loves him because he lets her listen to her favorite radio station in the car and teaches her all about sports. Liliana loves her Dad because he chauffeurs her and because they play sports together. Jack loves his Daddy because he makes the world go round and well, he just loves him. {Really, see the photo above.}

November 8, 2011

Jack is my little man. He's smart, funny, and so adorable. He's exactly the boy I would choose if I could pick a son. I'm one lucky mama!

This week is Jack's week to bring snacks for his class. I wanted him to have lots of fun being the snack kid so I'm doing a little extra for my guy. I have printed jokes to hide in his pockets and chosen fun treats for him to share.

I love Jack for many reasons. Since he's eight I thought I'd list as many. I love that Jack loves to hold hands. Whenever we go anywhere together he always grabs my hand, sometimes he holds my hand with both of his. And, his hands are always hot. I'm sure it is because of his warm heart. ♥

I love that Jack loves to read. Before Jack was born I wrote him a letter about the kind of person I hoped he would grow to be. I wrote that I hoped he would be a reader. He is! See - he's just the boy I would chose if I could.

I love the kind of brother Jack is. He plays Barbies and babies and will even dress up if it will bring a smile to one of his sisters. He plays catch and tag and love, love, loves his girls.

I love that Jack loves math. We don't know where he gets it, but his mathematical ability stuns and amazes his mommy and daddy.

I love Jack's compassionate nature. Jack empathizes with people who are hurting and celebrates with others when they do well. Jack had just turned six when my dad passed away. I was inconsolable after finding out. Jack's big brown eyes looked so sad when he saw me and his sisters weeping together. He found a DVD of our treasure hunt with Grandpa and put it on for us in an effort to cheer us up as soon as he saw me cry. He's an amazing boy.

I love Jack's silly side. He is a jokster who has perfect timing (for the laugh anyway - not necessarily for the appropriate time) and isn't afraid to use physicality in his clown-ness. All of Jack's teachers have smiled as they relay Jack's onery antics in class. They praise his studiousness and laugh at his sense of humor.

I love Jack's big brown eyes. They melt my heart. And, the long eye lashes don't hurt.

I love Jack's confidence. He believes in himself and knows he can make a difference.

I love you Jack!

November 9, 2011

Any time I was with my dad at a locked door he would look at me with an expression of worry as he patted his pockets. After a couple of seconds he'd say "uh-oh - do you have my keys?" I'd roll my eyes and say "ha ha Dad." For him, the joke never got old. Now every time I am at a locked car door digging for my keys I smile and think of my dad.

Today I kept the let my family know how much I love them through actions theme going. I took the time to make Jack's school day really fun even though I can't be there. Today I sent bananas for Jack's class. These were no ordinary bananas! Each banana had a silly illustration, fun fact, or something funny carved into the skin. And, every one had a banana joke wrapped on it's stem. Jack was excited! {But I'm not sure how his teacher will feel . . .} 

November 10, 2011

When I was in the third grade my dad sent me a tin of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, flowers, and a balloon at my school in Manhattan. It was a "just because I'm thinking of you" gift. I remember feeling so happy that I had received something at school. I felt so special! 

Yesterday Julietta and I brought balloons and an Eileen's Cookie with a note attached to Ella and Liliana at their school. I also took the time to fix their American Girl Dolls' hair, and took Ella and Liliana for pizza - just us three. I hope my girls feel as special as I did in the third grade. {grin}

Julietta also gave balloons and a little note to her dance friends. She chose a chocolate cake donut for her fantastic teacher, Miss Betsy. She loves dance so much and was beyond excited to give her little gifts. She chose an orange balloon with an orange string for herself and pink balloons with white strings for her dance friends -- just because


November 11, 2011 

Today I hope you will join me in my good deed. All you have to do is share THIS link on your Facebook page. In many countries girls don't have sanitary protection items. Let me spell it out. No tampons or pads. Not cool. For every person who shares the message about Huru International’s cause via the o.b. Outreach FB page, the o.b. Brand will donate one dollar to Huru International, with a minimum donation of $10,000 and a maximum donation of $25,000. That's enough money to provide kits for 1000 girls and women!

I found the following information on the o.b. Brand Facebook page and Huru International's website. The lack of affordable sanitary protection can have devastating lifelong consequences for adolescent girls in developing countries. Unable to afford sanitary protection, countless girls resort to dangerous alternatives, such as finding and recycling used pads, or improvising their own from unsafe materials. Many more simply avoid school for the duration of their periods, missing as much as an entire month each school year. This creates insurmountable gaps in their education, which leads many young girls to abandon school altogether, and increases their vulnerability to poverty and disease, including HIV infection.

In Swahili, the word huru means freedom. It signifies independence and personal growth. Huru International has developed a cost-effective solution to this often-overlooked crisis. Huru produces kits that aim to provide girls with the resources and knowledge they need to complete their education and safeguard their health. Huru Kits are provided to at-risk girls at no cost, and they are produced locally, which creates job opportunities, awareness, and a stronger sense of community involvement. Each Huru® Kit comes packaged in a drawstring bag that doubles as a backpack, and includes:
  • Eight reusable sanitary pads
  • Three pairs of underwear
  • Detergent-grade soap to wash the sanitary pads
  • A resealable, waterproof bag to safely store used sanitary pads
  • Educational insert on proper Huru pad care and usage, and life-saving HIV/AIDS prevention information
For more information about the efforts of Huru International and how you can help, visit

Remember, all you have to do is share THIS link on Facebook! It'll only take a few seconds. Ready, set, go! 

November 12, 2011

Today I used social media to help others! My dad loved checking our family blog for new photos and sent lots of email love notes. I wish we would have taken more time to learn how to use services like Skype and G-chat when he was alive. 

Sometimes doing something to help someone takes lots of time and effort and sometimes it takes just a second and a "Like!" Today I "Liked" Pepto Bismol's turkey on Facebook and sent 8 meals to hungry people! You can do it too! Like the turkey by clicking THIS link and Pepto will provide Feeding America with 8 meals to serve hungry people in need. Together we can help Feeding America receive TWO MILLION meals!

November 13, 2011 

I know I have said it before, but my Dad loved photos! My love for photography began when my twins, Ella and Liliana, were born. My dad gave me my first SLR camera. Each time he would see me snapping away he'd smile give me an "I told you so" kind of look. I feel like today's "good deed" is kind of a cop out because it was so fun. {big grin} This afternoon I took photos of some friends' new baby. Seeing new life is such a gift. Baby Sam is just perfect and gorgeous. I loved being able to gift his mommy and daddy images of these special moments. Welcome to the world Baby Samuel! We are so glad you are here.

November 14, 2011

Today I sent some yummy Girl Scout cookies to my favorite brother, Miles! A girl couldn't ask for a better brother. Not only is he the smartest guy I know, he's loyal, humble, thoughtful, and kind. He's a pretty great uncle as well. 

The day I found out that my dad had passed away Miles dropped everything and came to be by my side. Nothing anyone said or did could take away the pain, but having him near helped more than I can say. I'm amazed that the little stinker who was born when I was ten has grown into such an incredible man. Love you Miles!

November 15, 2011

My sister Rena was valedictorian of her class four years ago. In her speech she thanked me for inspiring her. I wish I had an occassion to give a speech about Rena! I decided to make one to at least let her know I was thinking of her. On Tuesday, I swung by campus and brought my baby sister dinner. We invited her to our table, but she was too busy. Rena lives in town but goes to school full time, works, has friends, and a boyfriend. She was out of the country for half of this year. Needless to say, we don't see a lot of Rena Liz.  Nevertheless, Rena is an amazing sister and aunt. These past few weeks have been tough. Rena has heard me vent, cry, and laugh, and has done the same by my side. 

My dad didn't have two girls, but he was so glad I had a brother and sister. He would ask how they were and celebrate their acheivments with me. I might be my father's only child, but his love certainly extended beyond me. I love you Rena Liz!

November 16, 2011

My father always believed I could do anything. When I was young I wanted to be an astronaut. He knew I'd be one. My dad brought me to the space center in Houston, sent me articles about space voyages from the Houston Chronicle, and took photos when astronauts returned from their space missions. My father even helped orchestrate a visit by an astronaut to my middle school in central Kansas! He was over the moon when I won a space camp scholarship. My dad believed my possibilities were limitless even when I questioned myself.

On Wednesday, in memory of my father, Jefferson Davis Keathley, I donated to the Make a Wish Foundation. I hope that the small contribution I made in honor of my dad will help children who are facing hurdles that seem insurmountable see that anything is possible. 

"Reach for the moon. Even if you miss, you will be among stars" ~ class of 1997 motto {grin}

November 17, 2011

It seemed like everywhere my dad and I went there was a claw machine. My dad was a pro at winning stuffed animals from those machines and I loved it! I'm sure he lost a few times, but I can only remember him winning. He won dozens of prizes for me. I still snuggle in bed with a sweet stuffed grey elephant he snagged long ago. On Thursday, I taped quarters onto a claw machine with a note for the lucky recipient. I got teary-eyed thinking of my dad laughing as another surprise dropped down the chute for my eager hands to grab and cuddle. I am reminded of those happy memories every time I see a silly claw machine and hope that a child will recall fondly the time they found quarters taped to a machine for them to use.

November 18, 2011 
The last gifts Ella, Liliana, Jack, and Julietta received from my dad were Easter baskets. They got the baskets in the mail in November, months after Easter. My dad kept telling us he had them but always forgot to send the sweet surprise. Grandpa TX was notorious for his belated gifts - it was quite the joke in our family. Even though my dad was gone, we could feel the love he put into finding just the right basket for each grandchild. Among other goodies, Julietta's basket held a little grey elephant similar to the toy my dad won for me when I was a little girl.
Today, Julietta and I filled ten Easter eggs and hid them in our neighborhood park for a lucky child to find. Julietta giggled with delight as we put coins, candy, and gum in the colorful eggs. We left a sack in which to place the eggs with a note that sad "Have fun finding ten Easter eggs! Remember to do something kind for someone today." Julietta ran through the Kansas wind to hide the eggs in a swing, at the bottom of the slide, and under the monkey bars. I wish I could have seen the face of the little one who found our surprise!

November 19, 2011

Both my mom and dad almost did not survive their infancy. On both sides, my grandparents lost infants within days and months of their births. While I am so glad that my parents were nursed to health, my heart aches for the babies lost. In honor of my mom, dad, and their combined loss of six siblings, today I gave to the March of Dimes.

The March of Dimes' mission is to help moms have full-term pregnancies and research the problems that threaten the health of babies. In the United States, 1 in 8 babies is born prematurely. Our country’s rate is higher than that of most developed nations. Today I am praying for all the babies fighting for their lives and for those who are rejoicing in Jesus' arms.

*The photo is of my dad as an infant in 1959. {grin}

November 20, 2011

Growing up I spent every other Christmas with my dad. When I was with him, he was just my dad. He dropped everything and we did only what I wanted to do. It was a magical time spent laughing together, opening gifts, eating out, staying up late, shopping at the mall, going to the movie, and enjoying each other. When I was not with my dad on Christmas he would send gifts and we would chat on the phone. When I was in the seventh or eighth grade my dad sent me an over sized red stocking with Rudolph as the top. The stocking was filled with crumpled dollar bills. I think it was $200, but I felt rich! I still have the stocking. {See Jack above}

That Christmas memory of my dad inspired me to help fill stockings for children in need. Today I bought items to donate to CASA ( as they work to fill the stockings of vulnerable children. I hope that all children will feel the magic of Christmas this year.
November 21, 2011
Today I was running around town much of the day. I made it a point to drop a dollar into every Salvation Army bucket I saw. As we prepare to share a Turkey feast with family and my children write their wish lists, many are struggling. The ringing bell of the Salvation Army volunteers is a backdrop to many of my holiday memories. Even when I have nothing to give I can offer a smile. I pray that all the lost souls of the world find their way home.

November 22, 2011 

Tonight we boxed some delicious donuts for a few of our neighbors. We don't know a lot of the people who live around us, but the ones we do know are alright. {grin} We have the kind of neighbors that always buy raffle tickets and Girl Scout cookies. They will jump our car when we forget to turn off the lights and help move heavy stuff when we can't go it alone. Our neighbor, David, is an accomplished musician. He helped me select the music for my father's memorial service. David patiently played the ten songs I had narrowed by their lyrics and aided in my selection of the four songs that will be played on Saturday.

Our girls delivered our pastries around the hood and reported that all three households were giddy to receive the delicious surprise. It is such a delight to see them excited to do something nice for a neighbor, a friend in need, or a complete stranger. I know my dad is very proud of his favorite kiddos.

November 23, 2011

My dad had a big heart. It swelled with pride every time he talked about his grandchildren. He was very proud of his family. Three or four years ago, when my dad was 49 or 50, he had a heart attack. It was very scary for him and for us.

The American Heart Association's mission is to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. According to AHA (, parental history of an early heart attack doubles the risk of a heart attack in men and increases the risk in women by about 70 percent.

Today, I not only had a cardiology appointment to check some irregular heart palpitations, I also gave to the American Heart Association. My heart aches for my dad. I miss his laugh, his silly jokes, and the smiles he put on my children's faces. I am eternally grateful for the time we had together and hope that the research the AHA funds will allow more families to live healthy lives.

November  24, 2011

My dad was an Air Force brat. My Grandaddy Jack served in Vietnam and was often away from his family for long periods of time. Like most military families, my dad's moved every two to three years and sacrificed much for our country. My dad was very proud of his father's service. He admired his dad and said one day he hoped our little Jack would wear his Great Grandaddy's flight jacket. I think my dad's enthusiasm wore off onto me. I always knew I would have a boy called Jack and planned his nursery when I was just seven or eight. Today I have a boy named Jack after my Grandaddy and his bedroom has an aviation theme with oversized model planes hanging from the ceiling and vintage airplane toys here and there.

Today I took the time to write several cards to some of our wounded warriors. I found the proper channels to make sure my gifts were received on THIS site. This holiday many families are separated because their loved ones are overseas on our behalf. I am thankful for the sacrifice of all of our service men and women and their families, past and present.

*{That's my dad on the left with his sister Ginger and brother John}

November 24, 2011

My dad made clear that he loved me and was so thankful I was his daughter. He was just twenty years old when I was born. I was the first Keathley grandchild. When I was three, I met my Papa. I can’t remember my life without him in it. He chose to be my other dad. I have two. Without my dad I wouldn’t be here. There would be no Ella, Liliana, Jack, or Julietta. But without my Papa, I wouldn’t be who I am.

My Papa, Gene, raised me as his own daughter. There was never a step or a half involved in my family. I had my dad in Texas and my dad in Kansas. When I started this journey to honor my dad, my Papa called me and told me what a lovely idea he thought it was. He commented on the first photo I chose  and told me how happy he saw my dad was on my wedding day. This week I gifted my Papa some framed portraits of his grandchildren and thanked him for choosing me and being so wonderful. These past weeks have been all about celebrating my dad’s life and honoring his legacy, and I know that my dad was glad I had my Papa to be with me when he couldn't. I'm certain my dad is thankful that my Papa can hug me now when he can't.


November  25, 2011

Today is my dad's 53rd birthday. He was born on November 25, 1958. Tomorrow we will finally say good-bye with a memorial service. I lost my dad too early. Celebrating his life these past 53 days has been a gift beyond words. My dad was bigger than life and had a heart of gold despite any flaws. He was generous in his words and actions. I've struggled with my father's death, but I have never had a day where his life hasn't inspired me to do good, be better, and cherish the moments I have.

Today I thought it fitting to choose gifts for children in need. I plan to donate the toys to Toys for Tots. After all, it's not just Black Friday, it's my dad's birthday! It was he who first taught me that the gift really is in the giving. I adore gifting the perfect present and know that enthusiasm comes from my dad and the lessons he taught me. I see my children light up when they give as well. I am certain that my dad's heart has found it's way into each one of theirs.

November 26, 2011

I lost my dad 784 days ago. I had him for thirty years. The world got him for fifty. Today we held a memorial service for my father. Together, my extended family and a few close friends gathered to celebrate my father's life and rejoice in knowing that he is in God's loving arms. The service was beautifully simple, the way my dad would have liked. Ella and Liliana sang, Jack read the first reading, Liliana delivered the second, and Ella offered petitions to God on our behalf as Julietta scooted between pews. Our pastor, Father Mick, captured the best parts of my dad on which we could reflect as we prayed for his peace and joy.

Father Mick reminded us that my dad lives not only in God's Kingdom, but here on earth as well. The greatest parts of my dad are in me, Ella, Liliana, Jack, and Julietta. We carry his legacy. I have written here before that traditional African religions maintain that a person's spirit remains alive in this realm as long as they are remembered by name. In most parts of Africa it is common for people to know ten generations of their ancestry by heart. At special occasions or when a person misses their beloved, Africans often offer respect to their departed by calling their names and praying for them. The elegance of the African reverence for elders and spirits of ancestors resonates with me. I feel a deep and special connection to that tradition and am most happy when I remember in words, thoughts, and actions those most important to me, whether they are near or far in body or spirit. I like talking about my dad, reminiscing over photos, and honoring his life and legacy.
At today's service I imagined my dad as a baby bouncing on his father's knee, pulling his mother's long black hair, and as a child playing with sister Ginger and brother John in the green hills of Kentucky. I thought about him as a young man, falling in love with my mom and holding me for the first time. I remembered his smile when he walked into the hospital room the day after Ella and Liliana were born and looked at their tiny faces with sheer amazement. I saw his eyes twinkle when Jack was being silly and heard his laugh when I told him about Jack's reaction to the news that we were expecting a new baby. I felt his enthusiasm when we told him that Julietta Annabelle was here and healthy and perfect.

As Jack recited Isaiah 25:6a, 7-9 "The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces," I thought of my dad content in His kingdom, healed and happy. I felt at peace knowing my dad has been welcomed home and is waiting for me when Liliana delivered a reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans: "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate is from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." I hoped my dad could feel our love as Ella led us in prayer and said "We are assembled here in faith and confidence to pray for our brother Jefferson. Strengthen our hope so that we may live in the expectation of you Son's coming."

After the service we gathered at our home and ate a lunch filled my father's favorites. I made the infamous chocolate chip cookies, his favorite blueberry muffins, potato soup, and bierocks. We had fresh bread and sandwiches and Coke, my dad's favorite soda. People who love him and people who love me and my family joined hands in prayer to thank God for the life he gave us in my dad.

I hope that if you are reading this you got to know my dad through my words and deeds these past 54 days. I hope that you can see and feel him now. He was more than I can say here. He was a son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, and friend. He was funny, loyal, thoughtful, and generous in words and deeds. My dad was an artist. He loved music and science and exploring the unknown. He was thoughtful and curious. My dad was amazing.

I am still working to forgive and to move forward. I won't let go of my dad or his life or his memory, but I will let go of my anger and my sorrow. I am sad that my dad can't hold me in his arms, tell me he loves me, or laugh at his grandchildren's silly antics. But, I have grown closer to him these past eight weeks and moved further from anger and hurt. I know my dad is with me not because I can see him or hear his voice, but because I can feel him. I can't hold my dad's hand, but I can feel his love, and I know without a single doubt that he is with God in Heaven. The angels are protecting him and pain has forgotten him forever. I can rejoice and be glad that day has come that my dad is free of darkness, grief, and despair. He is healed in God's loving arms. 

We ended the service with a song called "There's a Wideness in God's Mercy." I think I'll end this essay in the same way. I believe God is good, loving, and forgiving. If we follow the path He has set for us one day we will in paradise with Him forever. When we stray, he carries us home and forgives our transgressions. My dad has been carried home. I hope he heard the angelic voices of his grandchildren singing this song for him.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea; 
There’s a kindness in God's justice, Which is more than liberty.
There is plentiful redemption, In the blood that has been shed;
There is joy for all the members, In the sorrow of the Head.

 For the love of God is broader, Than the measure of the mind,
And the heart of the Eternal, Is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more simple, We should take him at his word,
And our lives would be thanksgiving, For the goodness of the Lord.

Troubled souls, why will you scatter, Like a crowd of frightened sheep?
Foolish hearts, why will you wander, From a love so true and deep?
There is welcome for the sinner, And more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Savior, There is healing in his blood.

I love you dad.