Retirement: So Long Honorary Mom

13 Jan

Almost 40 years ago, my parents moved to Wichita, KS when my father accepted a marketing position at the corporate headquarters of Pizza Hut.  I was born soon after and the rest, they say, is history.  The story of my father’s rise to pizza and rent-to-own infamy is well documented…but this story isn’t about him.  Its about another rising star named Linda Wyatt.  I won’t dare butcher the telling of her story as I only have a small role in it, but I’d like to tell you about that role as it has had a profound impact on my life.

Linda and my dad began working together in the early 80’s.  Secretary?  Executive Assistant?  Business Executive?  Super Woman who does everything?  Wearer of many hats?  My dad’s right arm?  (or was my dad her right arm?)  Again, I’m not going to butcher the story and I don’t know all the titles nor how they evolved, but I do know the role she played in my life, my family’s life, my dad’s life, my businesses, and more.  I want to recognize one of the titles she has had in my life…one they don’t put on plaques over office doorways:

MOTHER FIGURE

My family is very close and we pride ourselves on how emotionally available we are for each other.  We also have a lot of honorary uncles, aunts, brothers, and sisters.  My mom is my mom, but there is one other person who has looked at me and cared for me the same way my mother does…and that’s Linda.  She played with me as a child, helped me with my homework while I waited for my dad at the office, taught me proper grammar, met my girlfriends, proofread my resumes, called to check on me while I was away at college, hugged me when I got married, brought me soup when I was ill, stood up for me when I was not strong, plays with my children just like she used to play with me, and has always been there for me when I need her.  She prays for me, my parents, my sister, and my children.  She is part of the family.  Her daughter was my baby sitter when I was a child.  Now we’re all grown up with kids of our own.  She used to help keep me in line when I was a child playing at the office.  Now she reminds me every day that I can do what I want and should play more in life.  She was once the person who assisted my dad with everything he did.  Now I think of her more as a partner in the family business and a bigger partner in our family.

She is intertwined with my family and business…and today is her retirement.

Linda has worked with my dad for over 30 years.  Over 60% of her professional career has been spent working with him…and with that comes working with the family.  Linda has done everything from scheduling airlines for my school travel to debating marketing tactics in the board room.  She seamlessly weaves between the role of business executive and maternal figure at our office.  If asked to describe Linda with one word I think most people I know would say, “professional.”  And I would agree.  I have never met someone with so much integrity, patience, knowledge, and professionalism in all my life.  However, I think the word I might choose would be “loving.”  I say this because I know Linda has loved her work, loved her co-workers, loved my family, and loved her family.  It is clear she does what she does out of love…steadfast, truthfulness…humble, authentic care.

I also know that she is likely reading this right now and blushing with shyness or red with anger…so I’ll keep it short so as not to cross her boundaries of professionalism.

I just wanted to say publicly, to the woman who is also one of my most ardent readers, that I love you dearly and appreciate everything you have done for me, my family, and my father.  I know this is not goodbye.  I know this is simply the end of you working every day.  However, I would be lying if I said I won’t miss you dearly and I feel extremely sad.  I’m not sad because you are retiring…I’m selfishly sad because I will miss you and I’ll miss seeing you every day and I miss how you make me feel.  You make me feel at home.  When I see you it is like a hug in my heart.  No matter how stressful my day, no matter how much life throws at me, no matter how rough I feel when I’m having anxiety…seeing you centers me and reminds me that things are going to be okay.  You have always seen through me and recognized when I’m having a rough time…and you have always been in my office a few minutes later to embrace me in a hug and remind me that you’re there for me and that you believe in me.  I know I’ll likely never find that again in business.  This has been a very, very special time.

I am excited for your retirement.  I see how hard you work.  I know the long hours you put in.  I know that you take your work home with you.  I know how much care you put into your work.  I see all of it and have an idea about the things I don’t see.  I am excited for you to start to let those things go and focus on yourself, your family, and your faith.  I believe that in your retirement you will channel those traits into a cause, an organization, a family member, or something else…and someone else will get to see how amazing you are.  I truly believe this is the beginning of something special for you and I’m proud of you for being brave enough to seize it.  You will be missed in business…but business is business and we’ll figure it out.  Family is family…and that is different.

You are family.

So, from an honorary son-like guy…to an honorary mother-like role model; I love you Linda.  This is not, “Goodbye”…this is, “Let’s grab lunch.”  This is, “See you at Max’s birthday.”  This is, “Call me when you need me.”  This is, “I’ll call you when I need you.”  This is the beginning of us being family, which we’ve always been, but now we get to focus on it more.

As I wrote this last sentence you emailed me…we are clearly thinking about each other right now…and thinking about each other in the same way.  You addressed your letter,

“Ryan,

You are like a son to me.  You are very special in my eyes and always will be.  Please remember I am a safe place to land when needed.”

This was when I started crying…so thank you for that.  I won’t share your email as it is just for you and me but I do want to quote your last sentence because the same rings true from me to you:

“Take care of yourself.  It’s okay for you to be who you are.  I am always available to you.  Love you.”

I love you too Linda…like a mom.

See you soon.

Congratulations on your retirement.

Kids Comprehension Of Puns & Play On Words

1 Dec

I’ll never forget the time my son Max watched with disappointment as I cautiously climbed into the shower. He sat there and stared at me…waiting. “What’s up buddy?”  I asked.  He replied, “When you gonna start jumping?” I looked at him in confusion then remembered I had said I was going to “jump in the shower.” This is an interaction I have had for years with my son because he’s been a toddler and therefore takes everything as literal. English is a funny language; its hard to learn. I study a few languages and nothing is more fickle than English. Watching my boys learn it has been humbling and I have wondered at what age kids learn things like puns and play on words. Today, my boys answered that question.

*Max is now 5 (though he’d tell you he’s 5 3/4) and Dodge is 3.

MAX: “Hey Dada?”

ME: “Yes Max?”

MAX: “Why do seagulls fly over the sea?”

ME: “Well…I suppose its because…”

MAX: “…Because if they flew over the bay they’d be bagels!”

(laughs hysterically and runs away)

DODGE: “Hey Dada?”

ME: “Yes Dodge?”

DODGE: “Why DON’T seagulls fly over the bay?”

ME: “Because they’re seagulls?”

DODGE: (offended by my stupidity) “No! Because if they flew over land they’d be sandwiches!”

(laughs hysterically and runs away)


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First Day Of Kindergarten or (My Total Failure In Parenthood)

30 Aug IMG_20160829_090518

Much has changed with my growing boys this year.  Max is now 5 and a half (that “half” is very important to him) and going to kindergarten while Dodge is now 3 and a half (could care less about the “half”) and just starting to lose the baby fat in his cheeks, giving us a glimpse into what he’ll look like as a big kid.  They love Star Wars, wrestling, arguing, and anything that has massive potential to knock over everything in the house or accidentally burn the house down…so…they’re pretty typical little boys.  Max is a tall, rule-following gallump who can’t stop wiggling and talking throughout the day while Dodge is a stocky, rule-breaking cuddle-monkey who prefers to play quietly alone and pretend he’s a baby kitty, or a baby fox, or a baby cheetah, or a baby…anything.

August has been a race to the finish line to get these kids back in school and out of my wife’s hair, who impressively this summer didn’t drown either of them in the tub, leave them on the side of the highway, or simply sneak away during nap time never to return again.  They are great little guys…but being home with them all summer was a test of patience that Kate survived somehow.  I would have lost my shit.  No, patience is not one of my virtues and thus parenting is a lifelong challenge for me that I greet with both excited resolve and depressing defeat.  This is about the latter. Continue reading

Lice To The Max!

12 Feb

Max has lice.  Show of hands…who just got the creepy crawlies up their neck.  Yeah.  There are bug living in my 5-year old’s hair…and laying eggs.  When you put it like that, it’s friggin disgusting.  However, according to the CDC “an estimated 6 million to 12 million infestations occur each year in the United States among children 3 to 11 years of age.”  That means, and this is my own stupid math, about 25% of kids under the age of 10 will get lice…or 1 in 4 kids if you prefer to think of it that way.  Max has come home from school before with that note telling parents that someone at school has lice and we should take precautions.  Well…today, that’s my kid.  Your kid gets the note because my kid has the bugs!

Great.

Lice CombInstead of going to work, my wife and I got to get that weird lice shampoo and a lice comb from the pharmacy and got to work preening him.  I made the executive decision we were buzzing Max’s head.  He had been intentionally growing it out and it looked cool…but it smelled since he hates to wash his hair and we battle him on it every night at bath time or when I make him shower with me.  He said he didn’t want to do it and so I backed off.  Its his hair.  His hair with tiny bugs crawling along his scalp and laying eggs.  Gah!!!  Creepy crawlies for me.  Lice has nothing to do with being dirty, having unclean hair, or coming from an unclean home so I actually congratulated him for having such clean hair that the lice wanted to make it their home.  Then I asked him if he wanted them to stay for a while, get itchier, and not be able to go to activities -OR- buzz his head and make them move out much faster.  He thought about this long and hard.  He was leaning towards the buzz cut but he hates clippers.

You’ll look like Isaac.” Said Kate, referring to one of his best friends.

Buzz it!” Max said, and I did.

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Now he looks older than he did before and considerably more Midwestern.  This is Kansas, where the buzz cut still roams freely among the prairie unaffected by the styles & trends of major cities.  Seriously Kansas, I’ve lived here 7 years and I’m getting fed up with the buzz cuts and brown shoes.  Spice it up a bit!

Lice_0Kate volunteered to stay home with the boys so I could go to work.  I went about my morning and dammit if I couldn’t stop scratching my head and checking the mirror.  Ghost lice.  Are you itching right now?  Imagining those tiny dirt-like bugs crawling along your scalp?  Laying those white eggs that stick to your hair?  Itching.  Scratching.  But most of all…the feeling that something is MOVING along your scalp!!!  Yeah, you’ re welcome.

All hair from the buzz cut was contained and is getting tossed.  All sheets, stuffed animals, clothes, etc. are getting washed in hot water.  Everything is getting vacuumed.  Dodge (my 2-year old) is getting the lice shampoo as well.  So is Kate.  So am I.  My mom, dad and I survived my sister having lice for weeks when I was little…Kate, dodge and I will survive this as well.  Lice only live for 1-2 days after falling off a person’s head…so we can kick this thing over the weekend or so!  The list of things to avoid are:

  • Avoid head-to-head (hair-to-hair) contact during play and other activities
  • Do not share clothing such as hats, scarves, coats, sports uniforms, hair ribbons, or barrettes.
  • Do not share combs, brushes, or towels. Disinfest combs and brushes used by an infested person by soaking them in hot water (at least 130°F) for 5–10 minutes.
  • Do not lie on beds, couches, pillows, carpets, or stuffed animals that have recently been in contact with an infested person.
  • Machine wash and dry clothing, bed linens, and other items that an infested person wore or used during the 2 days before treatment using the hot water (130°F) laundry cycle and the high heat drying cycle. Clothing and items that are not washable can be dry-cleaned OR sealed in a plastic bag and stored for 2 weeks.
  • Vacuum the floor and furniture, particularly where the infested person sat or lay. However, spending much time and money on housecleaning activities is not necessary to avoid reinfestation by lice or nits that may have fallen off the head or crawled onto furniture or clothing.
  • Do not use fumigant sprays or fogs; they are not necessary to control head lice and can be toxic if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

What has me worried is Max took a nap in my bed the other day.  Getting the creepy crawlies again.  Pleeeeeeease let this be confined to my son.  First sign of itching I’m shaving my head…like, bald shaving.  Its just hair…it’ll grow back.  I’m buzzing Dodge tonight too I think.  Kate does not want a buzz.  I have brown shoes…at last I’ll finally fit in out here in the Midwest…

…and it’s all thanks to lice!

Special lice shampoo & Max's new buzz cut

Special lice shampoo & Max’s new buzz cut

Dodge getting lice shampoo...just in case.

Dodge getting lice shampoo…just in case.

Dealing with lice in your home?  Here are some helpful links:

lice-penny

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Kids Turning 5

26 Jan

Today my oldest son (Max) turned 5.  It seems like he has been 5 for a while…but that may be due to the fact that he’s been reminding us of his birthday since Halloween.  He was keenly aware that Thanksgiving came after Halloween, then Christmas, then New Year’s, then his birthday.  He even asked if we could celebrate his birthday at his cousin’s birthday in December since it was almost his birthday too.  On January 1 he announced it was his birthday month and asked if we could have fireworks every day.  I explained it was my birthday year which apparently wasn’t very funny judging by the look on his face.  While understanding of the fact that we couldn’t celebrate EVERY day in January, he was slightly saddened and requested we use the Christmas advent calendar to countdown the days till his birthday.  That seemed okay…and here we are: January 26.

He has been very patient.  As patient as an “almost 5-year old” can be.  So we have been celebrating for 5 days and it has been hysterically awesome and exhausting.

DAY 1 (Friday) We got the ball rolling with his grandparents driving into town and partying at our house.  The boys are always so excited to see them and love showing them all the books they want them to read.  My wife Kate and I are always excited to have another set of adults to help with them and then after they go to bed the bourbon and wine flows freely!  Uncle Mark is a fan of not having to babysit.  Having outgrown his old Wichita State Shocker Basketball jersey I surprised him with a new jersey, hat, and sweatshirt which I think he slept in that night.  Kate and I revealed that tomorrow he’d be going to the game and sitting with Dada and both his grandpas.  This was greeted with insane dancing and excitement that roughly translates to “Hell yes!!!”

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DAY 2 (Saturday) The guys took Max out for lunch, ice cream, and sodas before the game and then watched the Shocks thump Bradley.  Max always wears his “headphones” which are sound mufflers when we go somewhere loud.  He begs for them if there are fireworks.  A few minutes into the game he took them off and handed them to me.  “You can give those to Dodge, I’m 5 now and I don’t think I need them anymore.”  Well alright then.

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After the game Max got to go into the locker room and help lead the team in song and high-five all the players.  He even got to meet his idol Fred VanVleet who gave him a big birthday hug, snapped a few photos with him, and signed his jersey.  Awesomeness overload!

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Max even got to snap a few photos with Coach Gregg Marshall on the court!

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After the game we went to Max’s favorite restaurant, Stearman’s in Benton, KS.  Its attached to the small airport and he likes to watch the planes takeoff and land.  He also likes all the plane parts and model planes inside.  Grandpa liked all of this too.  I’m not sure who had more fun…maybe Grandpa.  Max was pretty exhausted by that point and started to fall asleep half way through the first book at bedtime.  Hang on buddy…Day 3 is gonna blow your mind.

DAY 3 (Sunday) Was the day he had been planning and asking for since last year.  Max wanted to go cosmic bowling at The Alley.  They put the bumpers up, dropped the lights, turned on the disco music, we filled them full of sugar, and insanity ensued.  Bowling turned into less of knocking down the pins, and more into who could roll the ball in the funniest way or hit the bumpers the most.

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The Alley also has video games and indoor go-carts.  We piled into the carts for a race with all Max’s birthday buddies and off we went!  Max was really upset that we were in 3rd place so Dada spun Isaac’s mom out and passed Kellen’s mom on the straight away before lapping Liam’s dad before the pits.  This made Max happy…and Dada too.

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He got exactly what he wanted for his birthday and slept like a hibernating bear that afternoon before partying with all grandparents, parents and Uncle Mark that night.  Pretty epic Sunday!

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DAY 4 (Monday) It was back to reality as Kate and I had to work and Max and Dodge went to school.  However, he was crowned the Birthday Boy at school by his classmates and surprised with cupcakes, songs, and birthday games.  Its good to be king!  He told me all about it at the dinner table that night where we played his new Star Wars board game.

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DAY 5 (Tuesday) The actual day.  Today.  Max is finally 5…and with everything we’ve done leading up to today we sheepishly let the day begin like any other as if nothing were going on.  Per tradition, I told Max the story of his birth the night before (which is a very different story than what we tell adults or doctors).  The short story is, it was the day Mommy and Daddy met Max in person for the first time and we became a family.  There are songs, there are cuddles, there are hugs, and I get teary every time…I’m just an old softy who blubbers anytime I think about how lucky I am to be “dad” to these boys.

Dammit!  Tearing up now!  Keep it together Ryan.

Tonight I will leave work early, Dodge will stay home with a sitter, and Kate and I will take Max to the movie theater.  He won’t know what we are going to see but he’ll figure it out pretty fast.  Max is going to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  I can only assume this will be greeted with the same happy dance he did on Friday.  He has watched all 6 previous movies and in my opinion proved he’s a real fan when he explained that Hoth was his favorite planet and therefore Empire Strikes Back was the best movie.  He also leaned over to me during Revenge of the Sith and said, “There’s a lot of these love scenes and not a lot of action.”  Agreed Mr. Max…agreed.  This is how Hayden Christensen’s acting career fizzled out…Jumper just sealed the deal.  Anyhow, Max is a superfan of Star Wars and honestly with as much marketing and merchandising as Disney has done I don’t know what kid isn’t?  Seriously…kudos Disney.  Almost EVERY gift Max got this year was Star Wars themed.  Even the birthday cards.  He even got a Darth Vader costume and lightsabers.

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…and that’s how you do 5 days of birthday celebration for a kid turning 5.  All that’s left to do is measure how tall he is (he’s a giant) and listen to him ask how many days till he turns 6.  Easy buddy…enjoy 5 first, 6 will be here before you know it.  Real school, more independence, more rules, and your brother hopefully emerging from the terrible three’s.  Oh please let Dodge emerge.  Max is proof they do.

Cheers!  Here’s to another year!

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