Why having the building you live in on the market is more stressful than it may seem.

•April 5, 2014 • Leave a Comment

In February, I found out that the building I’m living in is being sold. This did not come as a shock to me, as the owner lives in California and is, reportedly, broke. The property manager at the time, I’ll call him M to protect privacy, assured me that our lease was fine, and that this would likely be a seamless process.

Fast forward a couple weeks, and the owner decided to hire a completely new property manager to sell the property. This also didn’t shock me, though it has been nothing but inconvenient for me.

You see, the new property manager doesn’t seem to have any regard for my life or my schedule. My dog is not in a crate during the day, which means that he is waiting at the door when I get home from work. This would also tend to indicate that if random strangers were to walk into my house, he could very possibly run right out the door when they open it. I do not trust the new property manager, mostly on the fact that he is new (therefore I have no working relationship with him) and he does not seem to care in particular about me or my circumstances.

Due to all of this, I have been very insistent about being present for every showing of the house, of which there have been no fewer than ten. I have given this man my and David’s schedule, multiple times, and time and time again he has scheduled viewings on days when I indicated I could not be present. So far, he has mostly played by the rules of the RLTO, which means that legally I have to allow him to enter the property, either by being here to let him in, or by giving him a key (which he should have, but doesn’t — long story).

All of this was stressful enough, as somehow I am the primary contact here (likely because I moved in first and was always in contact with our old property manager, M), but now there is a greater problem that I have not been able to solve. On March 17, I took a very chilly shower. There was no laundry going, and no one was running water. An off night, I deemed it. The next night, I took another chilly shower. On March 19, I contacted the new property manager (we’ll call him W) and told him there was a problem with the water heater. He said he would have someone look at it on Friday (the 21).

On Friday, a handyman (not a plumber!) came out, looked at the water heater, turned the thermostat up one notch, to its highest setting. He stuck his hand in my shower, felt “warm” water, and said it was fine.

Let me tell you, it was not fine. That Sunday, two days later, I contacted W to tell him that the water was still not hot enough. He said we would have to wait until the following Friday (March 28) before he would send anyone out. While the water did not get hot, it is also not always ice cold – it sort of feels like pool water, which is definitely not comfortable, but not the end of the world.

On March 28, I contacted him again to let him know the water heater was still an issue. He said he spoke to a plumber and the plumber said the problem was with the water line, because of the cold weather. Now, in the week that elapsed we had many days in the 50s and 60s, not to mention the water line from the water heater to my shower does not run outside the house, nor is it below ground to my knowledge.

He told me I had to wait an ADDITIONAL week before he would contact a plumber. I tried everything, expressing my disgust and discomfort, and even citing my disability (arthritis) as a reason to make this a priority. I offered to have my rheumatologist call him, to which he said there was nothing he could do – we had to wait another week, ‘for the weather to warm up.’

Yesterday, 4/4, that week was up. I contacted W on Thursday, to let him know that the water heater was still an issue, and that it would be ideal for someone to come out on Friday, as David had the day off (and I wouldn’t have to miss any work). Last night, he responded that he still “hadn’t heard back from the plumber about his availability” and that he would hear back hopefully today, Saturday. In the meanwhile, instead of finding an available plumber, he did schedule two showings for this weekend, one today and one tomorrow, both directly in the middle of the day (11 am and 1:30 pm) so that I really can’t do anything super involved. Well, not a problem, I wanted to relax this weekend anyways, but it is still stressful to have your home on display for complete strangers to view… especially when you have no hot water and aren’t washing your hair as often as you should be!

W was here today, to show the house, and he made no mention of a plumber. He actually didn’t even speak to me, and did not thank me for accommodating him. I have vowed to email him on a daily basis to check in on the status of the plumber.

I suppose I’m writing this in part to get it off my chest, but also to explain the intense desire to own my own condo or home. When something breaks, I would like to be able to contact a repair person and have it fixed. However, that is all ‘included’ in our rent, here. It is just very unfair that we have such a lackluster person who is sealing our fate (or in my case, fate to have greasy hair and practically hyperventilate while showering!).

I do value others, and I expect that same respect and valuing in return. Right now, the property manager does not seem to value our presence at all. He is so very focused on selling this house, which is his job, but it is also his job to manage the property. When a tenant has no hot water for almost 3 weeks, that is a case of improper management. I not only feel uncomfortable on a daily basis, but I also feel disrespected. I’ve been patronized and been made to feel like a child. I have little to no control over my situation, which is ultimately frustrating considering the huge amount of action I take in other areas to make my life great (such as choosing an amazing partner, dog, and advancing my career whenever possible). Having such a shoddy housing experience has been horrible; regardless of how great a ‘deal’ we’re getting here, if I can’t feel comfortable in my own home, it’s no ‘deal’ to me. Hopefully this is resolved soon, so I can go back to long hot showers as per usual. In the meanwhile, I’m stuck here feeling very frustrated and helpless.


Wait… I have a blog?

•March 23, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Oh, hai guys! Err, um… hi, blog?

It’s been an egregious four or more months since I’ve posted, which in blog years is probably eons. I got really caught up in work, and the holidays, and then more work and a few family related thing and then… Well. You know how life is.

One of the reasons I’ve been so caught up with work is due to my semi-recent change in job titles. Though I’ve been doing “testing” at work for probably a year now, in December “Quality Assurance” became my job title. And honestly, it feels like the most fitting thing for me. While it can be stressful (especially with the newfound responsibility), it’s also been very rewarding.

To really explain this, I suppose you’d have to have a brief (promise!) understanding of my background and career choices thus far. When I was in fifth grade, I wanted to be a criminal prosecutor for the state of Illinois when I grew up. I knew I had what it took to make it through law school and work my way to the top. I was intelligent, well spoken (could present evidence in the most convincing of ways, even at age 10), logical, and had a developing but solid ethical code. I wanted to make the world a better place.

Fast forward to my sophomore year of high school. I had a chemistry teacher that looked exactly like Mario (you know, from Super Mario Bros) who told me that I was one of the best students he had ever taught, and that if I worked my ass off, I could have a career in science. I decided on surgery, specifically cardio-thoracic surgery, and went off to college to declare a major in biochemistry. I was on my way to helping people; instead of locking them up, I’d be keeping them alive.

In December of 2008, upon concluding my freshman year of college, I signed my first student loan and changed my major to education. My family is not rich, and I didn’t exactly have a “college fund” or anything waiting for me. My mom helped by paying as much as she could, but after signing my name to a legally binding contract and having someone give me $12,000 knowing I’d be legally responsible for returning it plus over 10% in interest after I graduated, I had a change of heart. I wanted to be a surgeon for many reasons, but I knew I could not spend more than four years in school. Despite the fact that I was pulling As in my science classes (and the rest of them), I felt like something was missing. I could help people in another way, a more natural way — a way I had been developing for years. I could be a teacher.

I spent the next three and a half years studying elementary subjects as well as how to teach them to younger children – specifically, to middle schoolers. I loved all of my clinical work and my student teaching experience was fantastic. I had every intention of finding a classroom of my own, and helping hundreds if not thousands of kids become proficient and excel in math and science throughout my lifetime. I would be helping people, and using a lot of my natural talent at the same time.

A few weeks before graduation, I began to reconsider going into the classroom. There are so many 20-something and even 30-something year old teachers that are already burned out. That, combined with the political nature of the job, told me that perhaps I had other options to consider. I had been working at WyzAnt since my sophomore year of college, doing part time work in several different fields. To my knowledge, my boss(es) liked me – I mean hey, they kept me around, right? I enjoyed working in an office with other competent adults. I enjoyed not having to worry about a kid puking on me, or about having to schedule and reschedule parent teacher conferences. I liked not having to worry about going on strike over some new legislation or proposed legislation. I liked the idea of performance based raises — they work in the field I’m in. And most of all, I loved the attitude of the company. A bootstrapped company, focusing on education (so I wouldn’t be out of the sphere altogether) to make the world a better place.

I was sold. I accepted a job offer for what I thought was a relatively prestigious amount directly out of college and started full time a mere three weeks after I graduated. My job was to curate educational content the company puts out (for free!) on the internet. After about a year, I got my first raise (yay!) and continued to pick up other tasks as the company needed someone to complete them. This job was in line with my code: it was helping people. Even if the instruction wasn’t directly coming from me, I felt like I was upholding my bargain by making educational content available to the masses.

One of the “tasks” I picked up as it was needed was “testing.” Now, not having every really worked for a company before, I had no idea what would happen when my boss asked me to “take a look at this and tell me what you think.” Doing things the only way I know how, I made him a list of what worked/what didn’t, and then gave my opinion(s) on the product in general. I edited language, gave what little artistic advice I can offer, and spoke from a general user perspective – this makes sense, this doesn’t, and so on. I tested multiple scenarios and made sure to include any unforeseen effects of the new product – how it may change interaction with the rest of the site, and so on. I continued “testing” for a few months, figuring it was not a big deal – just something my boss gave me to break up the monotony. Somewhere in there it went from “testing” to “QA” (which I did, in fact, have to look up), and soon it was the task that took the majority of my time. I began to look forward to days when I had something to test. By September, I told my boss that my workload wasn’t exactly sustainable, and that soon I’d have to choose, and I wanted to continue with QA. It felt good – again, using natural talents – to help others in this way. In December, our company continued to grow and was able to hire someone into my “old” position, so that I could focus my time and efforts on developing a QA routine and some best practices.

I have to say, while I never would have imagined myself here on my graduation day (any of the three thus far), I am so happy with where I am right now. I get to work with an amazing and innovative team of developers. I am learning a ton (and getting ready to hopefully learn a lot more this year!), and I feel like I am valued in the workplace. Not that it’s about the money, but I’m now making a very nice ‘living’ wage, and have been able to be more comfortable the past couple months… enough so that I’m finally able to see an end to my debt (though not for some years) as well as a bigger condo/house in my future.

I’m so glad that I wake up every (okay, most) days, really excited to go to work. I know that somehow, I’m making a difference. And really, that always has been, and always will be, my life’s work.

Why saying “I’m sure you’ll be fine” is not helpful (specifically to a person with anxiety issues)

•November 13, 2013 • Leave a Comment

1. It invalidates my concerns.

Telling me I’ll be fine makes me feel like you’re looking for a quick way to keep me from expressing my feelings. As a person with anxiety, it is important for me to seek out support from people that I look up to, and am close to (sorry for those end of sentence prepositions).

2. It gives you authority that you don’t actually have.

You can’t guarantee that I will be fine. Even those closest to me cannot guarantee that something I’m worrying about will turn out for the better for me. Aside from pushing me off to the side, it gives me a pseudo-false sense of hope and encourages me not to accept the chance of failure. It takes away an aspect of reality that is necessary to being successful.

3. It encourages me to not talk to you about this (or other important things) anymore.

When I share a concern or worry, it means that I trust you will listen to me and help me mentally work through something I’m not feeling good about. I don’t express my concerns out of the need for idle chatter. When I start a conversation with “I’m really worried about…” or “I don’t feel good about…”, I’m trying to open the door to a larger discussion that helps me process what’s happening in my life.

Some handy alternatives to “I’m sure you’ll be fine”:
-I have confidence in your ability, and I appreciate your concern/worry. Is there anything I can do to support you?
-That sounds like an intricate situation. Do you want to talk more about it?
-It’s good that you’re concerned – I can see how invested you are in this project/job/etc.. If you’d like to talk more about how you may handle the situation, I’m here to listen.

If you don’t want to listen to the conversation, or aren’t comfortable with the conversation, here are some helpful alternatives:
-I’m not sure I’m the right person to be discussing this with.
-I don’t feel comfortable listening to this situation. I’d encourage you to find another person to talk to who can offer you more support.

Remember, guys, sometimes just listening is enough. Being an active conversationalist with an open mind can be life-changing to someone in need of your support.

When reality takes you by surprise

•April 7, 2013 • 3 Comments

Do you ever just stop and think about your life sometimes? Do you ever stop in fascination at what you’re experiencing? Sometimes, life takes me by surprise, and I think, “Holy shit, this is real.” 

On July 4, 2012, my life changed significantly. I had previously ended a stale, unproductive relationship. I was broken and being seemingly rescued too fast. I was very unsure what was to come for me, but I knew I wanted it to be different. 

And oh, has it been different. 

I find that I am finally paired with another person that is equally as excited and willing to work for this relationship as I am. Colloquially, I have “met my match,” in that I finally feel I’m in a relationship where the feelings, effort, time, and so on are all mutual. It mystifies me and encourages me on a daily basis.

But, this blog isn’t really intended to be boastful about how happy or lucky I am.

On a bit of a whim, I suggested to D that we either celebrate Easter (we’re both atheists) or our “9 month anniversary.” Anything less than a year is somewhat fun to acknowledge. We’re not one of those crazy couples that celebrates every month, but we celebrated six (a nice landmark), and there are really no celebratory holidays between January and July (aside from Valentines Day, I suppose). So, we decided to celebrate nine months, for fun. A few days before 4/4, D mentioned that he was planning a surprise. Unsure of what to expect, I was intrigued and considerably excited. 

D had that day off, and set up possibly one of the most extensive surprises I’ve ever been a part of. 

I got home to find a dish towel covering our coffee table. I figured something was beneath it, but it was left covered. D suggested I wash my hands (as I typically do when I get home from work). Behind the faucet, I found a metallic silver egg. (hehe) I was instructed to open it, and inside I found a die and a card to organize my “clues.” D unveiled what was on the coffee table – a set up of a board game we’ve played called the Legend of Drizzt. It’s a D&D game, and it’s actually really fun! So, I was given my “hero,” and a monster was summoned. ImageThe game set up looked like this. My hero first opened the treasure chest (on the left), and found a clue that said “13, tea pot.” I got up and looked in the teapot and found this: 

ImageIt was a necklace with our initials, L & D, and the date we started officially dating. D named it the “Amulet of Anniversary,” and it was my “weapon” to continue on in the game. With this weapon, I got to fight a big ugly green monster, pictured here: 

ImageI took him out quickly thanks to a lucky roll on a d20, and was given the last clue. The “clues” were numbers, and I was able to open that combination lock. The box was the Treasure of Feral Blackheart. Because I defeated the monster, the treasure was mine! And, here’s what was inside: 

ImageIt’s a black diamond promise ring. It is so beautiful in person – even prettier than in this picture. I never expected something quite so elaborate and thoughtful. 

I love D with all my heart, and our relationship grows stronger every day. I can assuredly say I’ve never been happier. Each time I stop and think, “Holy hell…this is all real,” I have such a good reason to be surprised, and thankful. 

This I promise you – you will always be my treasure. ❤ 




A standard by which I can live

•March 6, 2013 • 3 Comments

The last thing I ever intended was to be offensive. 

However, it was recently brought to my attention that sometimes, what I call “brutal honesty” is interpreted as mean-spirited and hurtful. The really alarming part of the situation is that this issue was not pointed out to me at work, or even by a friend… it was pointed out by the love of my life, the last person on earth I would ever wish to hurt. 

So, I started thinking (really thinking and reflecting, and not just putting up my defenses) about what I say and how I say it. I suppose that, largely due to the people I work with and the past relationships I’ve been in, I do tend to not only “say it like it is,” but I also do not mince words to protect others’ feelings. At work, this is a handy tool because people can come to me and I will edit what they’ve written and make it better, without regard for how much they “liked it” the first time around. I will concisely tell them when things are grammatically incorrect or don’t make sense; I find myself often correcting people on their usage of grammar and punctuation, as well as their representation of knowledge. 

However, when applied to a relationship, I can see how this would become a little… aggressive? What’s the word I want here… hurtful? Upsetting? Unsettling? Anyway, it’s become bothersome, and it’s finally been brought to my attention. 

I tell you the absolute unadulterated truth when I say that I truly had no idea. 

My jaw doesn’t often hit the floor out of pure shock, but yesterday it did. And, that gave way to a few other thoughts: am I unlikeable? Hard to deal/put up with? And, the even bigger question: at what point are my family, friends, coworkers and (most importantly) boyfriend going to decide that I’m no worthy of their time because I’ve offended them “one too many” times? 

Fear motivated me, and due to sheer coincidence, I ended up reading SEOmoz’s mission statement (apparently WordPress won’t let me create a hyperlink using html here, so I’m at a loss…) and YOU can read it here: http://www.seomoz.org/about/mission

They have what they call the TAGFEE mission. Here’s what it is: 

TA – Transparent and Authentic – Am I being as open/honest as possible without causing harm? Am I accurately representing my opinions and my values?

G – Generous – Am I being as helpful as I can? Am I giving back to the community?

F – Fun – Are we celebrating our strengths? Are we having fun yet?

E – Empathetic – Am I being respectful of the thoughts and feelings of others? Can I proudly stand behind my work and my statements?

E – Exceptional – Is it uniquely, magically weird? Are we the exception to the rule?

Some may view this as a company’s mission statement. That’s clearly the way in which it was intended. I see it as a way of life. I’ve tried to reflect these same values in my life, but somewhere along the line, I got more caught up with “Fun” and “Exceptional” and less concerned with “Generous” and “Empathetic.” I do try to be as open/honest as possible…but I don’t always avoid causing harm. I suppose that sometimes, I am disrespectful. 

In short, I need to start thinking more before blindly making statements (regardless of how much truth they carry). My intentions are good, but my implementation has gotten sloppy. I know I’m better than this, and I’m going to work to get back to the “not being an asshole” point in my life. Because honestly, the people in my life are worth so much more than that. 

When words could be enough.

•February 3, 2013 • 2 Comments

EDIT: While reading this, please do not think that I am in any way saying I am unhappy with my relationship. If anything, I want the takeaway from this post to be that I am totally and completely, and seemingly helplessly, in love, with the slight lack of a way to express myself. On the other hand, D and I have made a lot (A LOT) of progress in our relationship in the past few months, and for that I am truly grateful. I realize that some  people believe this is a way of me to “air my dirty laundry” – however, I can assure you that is not the case. I look at this blog as a form of self expression, not a POOR ME or a LOOK AT ME kind of writing. It’s simply a place for me to record my ideas at the time, and to mentally work through things through writing.

While worrying about and dealing with a dog with diarrhea (and now vomiting) all weekend, I’ve had some time to consider one aspect of my relationship.

As far as I’m concerned, I’m with someone who is great for me. I wouldn’t go so far as to call D “perfect” – I’m not either, but we’ve worked so well together these past few months – at least in my opinion – that I can honestly say I’m happy and wouldn’t want anything more.

Well, sort of. D warned me ahead of time that (to be vague) he’s had issues in the past with, what he calls, “reassurance.” In other words, I don’t always know what he’s thinking. Which, in some ways, can be good – I mean, no one would ever want to know EVERYTHING I’m thinking. But, sometimes, it would be nice to have an extra reinforcement saying, “Yes, this is good, I want this.”

And, here’s my rationale. The questions arise, in my mind, like this: Does D love me? Does he want to be here with me? Can he say this is the best relationship he’s been in? What could I/we do to make it better? One could say/argue that, if he’s still here with me, of course he wants to be here with me.

In my mind, no dice. You see, I’m all to well aware of the fact that people do things that they don’t always want to do. I go grocery shopping. I almost never want to go grocery shopping; in fact, grocery shopping is one of my most loathed activities, because I don’t really get to “pick” what I want, it’s not something that will last (like buying shoes or an outfit); food is something that is absolutely necessary you buy, and within 24-48 hours of consumption, it’s gone. Money wasted? Well, not if you like being alive.

Anyways, that’s a bit sidetracked. So, I go grocery shopping, but not because I want to. And you know what? I don’t say anything about it either. I don’t really express my love or hate for grocery shopping because, in my mind, it’s just something that is done.

I sometimes worry that’s how D feels about our relationship. Now, I’ll preface this articulation of my ideas with this fact: D has NEVER once said anything negative about our relationship (to my face). In fact, in the past few months, we’ve grown a lot and gotten a lot better about expressing our feelings when something’s bothering us. Even if the result is terse words (or a “fight”), and then a resolution, the fact that we’re talking about the “bad” and working through it is, to me, a great leap in the right direction.

But what if you only ever talk about the bad?

There are times when D and I express our feelings to each other. Every now and again, we’ll have a serious moment and he’ll say how happy he is to be with me, how he loves me, and so on. But those moments are few and far between, and sometimes I just get the idea that…maybe he’s really not into all this.

Which I hope is wrong.

Last night, after sharing an (erm) intimate moment, I wanted to express my feelings to D. To tell him how happy I was we were together, how grateful I am for all the amazing moments he adds to my life. I wanted to tell him that every day I spend with him, I fall more in love with him, and that I want to spend all of my future moments with him, for a very long time. I feel all these things inside me, and I want to express them; however, after our (erm) intimate moment… the mood just kind of died. I mean, it committed suicide. I don’t know. Maybe it was suddenly pushed off a cliff (the mood, that is), but it disappeared and all of a sudden he was joking around about the most trivial bullshit.

And I mean, on the one hand, it’s great that he can be so open, funny, and carefree around me. One of the things I value most is his quirky sense of humor and how (usually) he can make me laugh.

On the other hand, I spend a lot of days thinking, “Hmm. I wonder when the last time we said ‘I love you’ was. I wonder if it’s too soon to say it again? I wonder if he’d appreciate this openness I want to offer to him?” I know we can’t and shouldn’t be serious all the time, but when I worry about it to this extent…well. It makes me wonder.

And yet on another hand (that’s right – three hands if you’re counting) – D says that he doesn’t want those words, those expressions we use to convey our feelings, to lose meaning with repetition. My question is, why do they have to? If I love you, whether or not I say it one time or one thousand times, I still love you. Saying it aloud isn’t desensitizing me to it, and I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it. I’m more of the mindset of, if I feel this way, and I want you to know, why SHOULDN’T I say it? Even if I say it every day?

I still don’t think it’ll lose meaning.

For a long time (pretty much my entire childhood, until I moved out of my parents house), every night before bed I would tell my dad I loved him. It would go something like this:

Dad: Goodnight, Lana.

Me: Night, Dad.

Dad: Love you.

Me: I love you too.

We had that exchange probably every single day (or close to it) from the time I can remember until I moved into my dorm my freshman year of college.

And you know what? I still love my dad!

In my mind, I’m not asking for “a whole lot.” Okay, I guess I am. Maybe. But picture it this way: if you truly love someone, it shouldn’t be a burden to tell them that, right? If you truly care for someone, you should be able to tell them that, no matter how often, right?

It’s gotten to the point where I, someone who can usually be pretty open about her feelings, have gotten to the point where I stop myself short of saying anything, because I don’t want to a) seem cliche, b) seem like I’m overusing these special words, or c) seem like I’m expressing unreturned feelings.

I don’t know, I’m probably making a mountain out of a molehill, so to speak. I thought that I had to get this out there, somewhere, so that someone would know.

A letter to my grandfather

•January 27, 2013 • 1 Comment

Dear Grandpa,

Sometimes I think about conversations in my head that I may have had, or be having, with you if you were still alive. I daydream of calling you to tell you about my accomplishments, or ask you for advice. Our talks ended long before they were over.

You died in June of 2004, two months before I turned 14. You likely died on the night I graduated from 8th grade. As one of your only two grandchildren, the eldest and only girl, it was never surprising how exceptionally proud you were of me. You knew I was going places in life before I knew. You also were one of the few adults I knew your age that recognized your own mortality. When asked if you wanted a pacemaker, you replied “How many more years do you think you can squeeze out of me?”

Your life with my grandmother, and your wife, was truly inspirational. I’m realizing that more and more now. You stayed alive long enough to take care of her until the end – just several months before you passed as well. You took  your marriage vows seriously. You were far from the perfect man – they don’t exist, by the way – but you were honest, loyal, and true to her. You were dedicated to your family. Although you were a victim of social norms (never believing it was worthwhile for my mom to attend college), you had changed so much by the time I knew you. You respected me and thought the world of me.

Even in your last few months, you made financial arrangements for my brother and I to attend one of the best high schools in the area. It’s doubtful that my parents could have paid for that on their own accord. You valued our educations, and our lives, and wanted us to have the opportunity to achieve our full potential.

I’ve been thinking about you so much for the past few months. I graduated from Loyola last may with a Bachelor’s degree in Education. A little less than one month after I graduated, I began working full time for a company that had gone “out on a limb” to hire me nearly two years prior. They appreciated me enough to keep me on board.

About a month after that, I started dating the love of my life. The situation itself was slightly undesirable – a lot of feelings were hurt in the process of our “beginning.” Somehow, it all worked out for the better. We’ve been together almost seven months now. I’ve honestly never been happier, nor have I felt more right about something. I have my doubts on occasion, as we all do, but somehow we’ve made it through. I can truly tell you that I will be very happy if I spend the rest of my life with him, and I sincerely hope he feels the same way. I suppose only time will tell. I love him very much.

My finances, like many just graduated, are a bit of a mess. It’s never easy to pay all my bills, but I manage. I might not have the newest clothes, or even be able to afford TV, but I always have a full stomach and a roof over my head. I’m surrounded by my boyfriend and dog (yes, dog!), and I know that they love me dearly.

I wish you were still around to see all this. I still remember some of the lessons I’ve learned from you, like when you were helping me learn the states and capitals (Idaho – where all the “girlsies” go – to meet their “boises!”, or Salem – where the witches live). I’ll never forget our talk about when you served in World War II – I was one of the only people you had ever opened up to about that. I never knew you had been drafted, and actually did not want to go to war. It must have killed you when my uncle, your only son, signed up for Vietnam. Luckily, he returned unscathed.

In your time, knowingly or unknowingly, you taught me so many lessons that I still bear in mind today. You were the prime example of a life of hard work. You did not have a “white collar” job by any means, but you still made sure that you were always employed and able to support your family. Your hard work ethic was instilled in me; it is one of the prime contributing factors to any “success” I can claim today.

You also showed me what a loyal, faithful husband and father should be like. Although you were, at times, quiet, reserved, and distant, you made sure to show your love for us in whatever ways possible. You were not always flowers and candy – what I saw of your relationship with Grandma was never exceptionally romantic. But you made it a point to stay. After decades of marriage, you stayed until the end.

I also learned from you to be strong and stand up for myself. You were, as I knew you, a level headed man who stood his ground. You never let anyone take advantage of you; likewise, you didn’t take advantage of anyone else. If you wanted to know about something, you’d look it up. You may not have been the smartest person on the planet (I’m not either), but your search for knowledge and justice was instilled in me at a young age, and it’s something I’ll never lose.

I wish you were still around, Gramps, but I realize more and more that you don’t need to be. Somehow, in 13 years of knowing you, I learned enough from you to get me this far, and likely farther. I don’t believe in any gods, or in heaven, or in life after death in any way, so I won’t say “hi” to you from down here. But, I’ll tell the Grandpa that lives on in me that you did one helluva job setting an example for your grandkids. I honestly couldn’t ask for more.

With unending love,