30 Days of Thanks: Life Lessons from Lala and Poppe

Typically, I take a more light-hearted approach to my 30 Days of Thanks post, in the past professing my gratitude to our clients, the Dallas Cowboys and Kodak Moments. Topics that are seemingly less “tug at your heart strings” and more…globally grateful.

This year is different, and no it is not because of the Mayan Calendar hoopla. This year, I am thankful for my parents, Laura (Lala) and Russell (Poppe) Pemberton. I have always been thankful for them and I believe they know that. But this year, I have truly felt the culmination of 26 years (and 11 months) of love, support, friendship and encouragement. These attributes span far beyond the parental definition and more into lessons that have paved my day-to-day life. And for that, I am incredibly thankful…

[Cue the montage]

Work Hard

My parents always communicated the bigger picture…beyond sports, beyond high school and beyond college. If you want something, you sure as hell better be willing to work for it. And let’s be honest, as a kid, you “want” A LOT.

I wanted to be lead-off batter in the line-up. “Ok, I will take you to Decker Prairie Elementary so you can take reps everyday outside of practice.”

I wanted the Docs [Martins] with neon lacing. “Ok, you can iron your Dad’s shirts at 50 cents/piece.”

I wanted to go to Washington D.C. for the Presidential Classroom. “Ok, let’s draft up a letter asking people for donations towards your travel expenses.”

I am thankful that my parents not only made me work, but made me work hard for what I wanted. They were preparing me for my future and unknowingly instilled an unwavering drive and determination that makes me want to do better every day.

Raise the Roof and Celebrate

The Pembertons celebrate everything. Have you ever heard of a non-birthday? Well now you have – Happy Non-Birthday anonymous reader! My parents have always gone out of their way to let me and my brother know how proud they are of us. Whether it was through their words or partaking in a death defying 21st birthday stunt, they were there with their party hats in tow.

I am thankful that my parents celebrated our accomplishments, and encouraged us to celebrate in others. It is amazing what someone can accomplish when they have unconditional support.

Don’t Forget to Laugh at Yourself

My dad is famous for getting a laugh through his grandiose stories. You know, the one where the ball rick-o-shays off 5 trees, gets swallowed by a Big Fish and somehow lands in the hole for birdie. And my mother, bless her heart, has heard each one about a 100 times and laughs just as hard like it’s his first rendition.

I am thankful my parents taught me to enjoy the “funny” in life, embrace humility and laugh at yourself. Yes, that even means laugh at the time you looked like a little boy in a tacky Christmas sweater…it’s makes for a great story right?!

Happy Thanksgiving Lala and Poppe! Love you both!

30 Days of Thanks: Sweet Memories

I have so much to be thankful for. So much more than I could ever articulate or capture in a blog post. Even while I’m drafting this entry in my bedroom, I hear my boyfriend, his son, and our niece and nephew giggle over a movie they are watching in the living room. Between the laughter, I hear them recounting their favorite parts of the festival we attended today, and every couple of minutes my sweet dog, Stanley, punctuates their snickering with a good squeak of his toy from behind the couch. The distinct smell of “taco night” is still strong in our apartment even though the dishes have been done for hours. My life is full. I am blessed.

Of all these blessings, this year I am choosing to document some of my simplest and sweetest memories of my father. Dad was unexpectedly taken from us this summer, and while my heart is broken that he is gone, I am abundantly grateful for his love, his lessons, and all the sweet, sweet memories.

The Haunting on Glenmeadow Drive

Like most small kids, my little brother and I loved to play good guy/bad guy games. We were four and five, respectively, and it was his turn to be bad guy. He had me tied up with a jump rope in a bedroom closet and aggressively robbed me at finger point, shouting demands in his best “bad guy” voice. It was all in good fun until Dad, doing some handy work in the attic, heard us playing through the ceiling vents. Dad threw the breaker switch, knocking out the power in that part of the house, leaned facedown into the vent in the bedroom, and let out his loudest, scariest “MUWAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!” Toby ran screaming and probably scarred for life, while I tried furiously to squirm out of the triple-knotted jump ropes. Terror doesn’t get more pure than that, and Dads just don’t laugh harder than that.

Roughhousing With Class

When we played, we played classy. Tummies had to be settled, all dangerous furniture was moved out of the living room, and my Dad blasted his record (yes, as in a RECORD) of the William Tell Overture through my parents’s turntable with surround sound audio. Games of choice included, but were not limited to, Bunkin’ Bronco, Tick Tock, and of course, the Tickle Fight. Dad would take my siblings and I (four total) all on at once. The Universe stopped and bedtime was forgotten about. We would play until our cheeks were burning and our sides were sore from laughter, and after awhile, without us even knowing it, our eyelids would start to fall. He’d gather us all up at the same time (he was the strongest man in the whole, wide world), and drop us each into our respective beds with a kiss on the forehead. I’ll never sleep so well again.

The Playground Dad Built

Snack time on the see saw.

I had friends with cool swingsets, or even a neat pool slide, but no one had a backyard like ours. Each piece of that backyard was

truly assembled with love, sweat and tears. There was the seesaw Dad built with his own hands. Kids from all over the neighborhood came just to take a turn on that seesaw.

We also had the Sesame Street swingset, because it just doesn’t get cooler than swinging with Big Bird. And we had the four-seater spinny thing we never really knew what to call. We just called it “Mayonnaise-Mustard-Ketchup” because it was white, yellow and red, but it was AWESOME! And the tire swing, you just can’t have enough fun on a tire swing.

Then there was the beautiful sandbox Dad built us from scratch. It really was a work of art, handcrafted and flawless. But before he installed the masterpiece he worked so hard on, he bought every color of paint he could find, gave us each a paint brush, and just let us go, and somehow, it was a little more beautiful when we were done.

 

Dad’s New Best Friend

Dad and Rufus
Dad and his best bud, Rufus.

We had a relatively strict no pet policy growing up. We were able to weasel our way into a couple of small rodents here and there, even ducks, but Dad was particularly adamant about no dogs. We would beg, and we would cry, but Dad would squint his eyes and curl his lips under, and we knew his decision was final.

That all changed in my sixth grade year. Each day my Mom came to pick me up from school, my little brother already in tow, and each day she saw the neglected litter of new puppies born at the house across the street. They were dirty, flea-ridden, hungry, and just so cute. One afternoon Mom hit her breaking point. Instead of just pulling up in front of the school for me to jump in the van, she parked the car and hopped out with my brother. With a determined look on her face, she marched across the street and knocked on the dog owner’s door. A brief chat and twenty dollars later, we had a puppy.

We played with him all afternoon in the front yard. He was frightened and excited at the same, and so were we. How would Dad react when he got home? When Dad finally pulled into the driveway that evening, we hid the puppy underneath a blanket and between boxes in the garage. We tried so hard to keep our faces straight and act normal, but Dad could of course sense the giddy anxiety in us all, and the frightened puppy shaking violently beneath the sheet didn’t help much either. Dad glanced across all of our “straight” faces, looked down at the quivering sheet, and pulled it back with a swift, hard tug. Dad couldn’t even be mad. In that moment, he knew he had just met his new best friend. He named him Rufus, and that second began a 15 year journey the twosome would enjoy together, side-by-side every step of the way.

I am so grateful for my father, the time we had, and all the sweet memories. These are by no means all of my memories of my father, or even my favorite. They are just the ones that are making me smile today. Thanks, Dad.

30 Days of Thanks – Skype!

Year after year, I’m thankful for the same things…

  • Family
    Family

    • In less than two years, we’ve welcomed two new additions to our family!
      Nicholas I. Gomez and Taylor E. Nguyen!
       

  • Friends

    • This year I’ve made so many new friends at school, work and even out of thin air! I can’t imagine going a whole day without some of them!
       

  • Food

    • Sweets are definitely my weakness.. I’ve been able to limit myself from too much sugar consumption.. but there are just times when you need to down a dozen of the best cupcakes in the world!..just kidding, I shared them! They were from Georgetown Cupcakes!

    •   
      I was so lucky to experience Uchi in Houston,TX this year with my sister for my birthday! It was right after the Schipul Zombie Photoshoot (just imagine splotches of red ‘blood’ around my face and neck as I enjoy some uncooked fish)
  • and other things that start with the letter “F”… like flip-flops

However, this year I’ve added another item to be really thankful for..and no, it doesn’t start with the letter “F”.

For the year 2012, I am also thankful for SKYPE! It’s such a great way to keep in touch with the people we care about, especially getting to ‘see’ them even if they’re miles and miles away. And ‘the best things in life are free‘..right?

And I guess no matter how you try to explain it.. a long-distance relationship is a LONG-distance relationship when you’re not in the same city as someone else.. whether it be family members, friends, co-workers, or so on.  Not being a big ‘phone-person’ (check me out with my Samsung Behold).. Skype is definitely the next best thing for me when it comes to having a conversation with someone.. ‘face-to-face’.

All in all, I’m very thankful for the life I have..filled with so many people that I genuinely care for and for all the memories and experiences we’ve all shared with each other. Until next Thanksgiving!

 

Cheers,

Jan!