Dead Dad Day #7

Today marks the seventh anniversary of my father’s death, the most life-changing event I have experienced that now serves as my “before” and “after” marker. I have always honored Dead Dad Day, as I refer to it, as a kind of Sabbath, a day I do not conduct business as usual but spend time reflecting on the painfully beautiful unraveling it caused me.

I have written about my rituals on DDD before. Some years I didn’t work on February 11, some I did. Some years I reread sympathy cards, some years I didn’t. What has always been the tradition, though, is a family dinner with my crew and my mother, sister, and brother-in-law. We have a margarita, one of my dad’s favorite adult drinks, toast to a wonderful, complicated man, and share memories.

This year is different. A shared meal is not possible now that we’ve moved 1,000 miles away. Had we been home, it would not have happened anyway, as my sister is in the home stretch of her nurse practitioner program and has class from 1-8 tonight. And though I have always kept the evening of February 11 clear, tonight Owen has a make-up basketball game. Having him skip it would be a very UN-Tom-Pesola move.

Life has changed for us all, as life tends to do. And for the first time since that terrible day on February 11, 2009, when my 59-year-old father unexpectedly died in the middle of the night due, in essence, to Type 1 diabetes, February 11 feels…normal.

I will continue to honor this day, of course. I am looking forward to a great day at work. I will attend a College Board workshop on examining PSAT data, participate in a lower school PLC meeting on math curriculum, finish the annual report to our endowed fund donors, and discuss ways we might compbasketballact the curriculum for our advanced upper school students. After school, I will help coach the middle school Girls on the Run team, our first meeting of the year. Then, we will squeeze in a family dinner before heading to Owen’s game to watch #66, the next generation of my father’s #33, play a great game.


I am also donating $33 to Spare a Rose, a foundation I fortuitously learned about last night. My father and Owen were lucky to have been born after the discovery of insulin, but just because insulin exists does not mean all children have access to it. To coincide with Valentine’s Day (the day we buried my father), Spare a Rose asks people to give the value of one rose to help provide diabetes supplies and insulin to children in degoofyveloping countries. How can I not support that?

So, cheers to you, all of my family and friends who have supported us on our journey of grief these last 7 years. And, cheers to a father who consistently supported me with love and kindness and encouragement. I hold my memories a little closer and dearer today.

Five-Minute Friday: Omnivore

Kate is letting us pick our own word this week, and normally I would rise to that creative challenge and throw out a word on whim, but I am tired and weary and ready for Christmas break to start, and I have no energy to think of my own. So, I googled “Random Word Generator,” clicked a few links, and I got the word “omnivore.”

How apropos.

Food consumption at my house has always been “a thing.” Let’s briefly start when I was growing up. We had multiple types of breakfast cereal – all the best sugary kinds, and no generic brands, either – and any roadtrips we took meant a packed cooler bag for the car, filled with plenty of options. I am not sure where this plentiful attitude came from, or if, many lives ago, my parents starved to death and so were using this life to make sure that never happened to them again.

Either way, what I eat, why I eat it, how much I eat of it has always been a “thing” for me. A few years ago, I cut out sugar as an experiment. Actually, I would never take on such a drastic move on my own – it was a dare. I had returned to running, training for my first half marathon, and was not seeing the improvement in my times that I wanted. My coach asked me to start recording what I ate. He was appalled. In fact, his exact words (or thereabouts) were, “You eat like a NARP. Do you want to be a NARP?”

I wasn’t sure what this meant, but it did not seem like something I should want to be, so I shook my head vigorously and said I would do whatever he told me to do to avoid being a NARP. (Turns out, that means Non-Athletic Regular Person.)

He told me to cut sugar. I laughed. I have had a bowl of ice cream every night since I was maybe 10. (Okay, so maybe I was eating like a NARP…but a life without ice cream is no life for me.) He said cutting sugar would improve my time. I told him I did not believe him. (I am SOOO COACHABLE!) He said I should try it for a month and I would see. I said I would do it to prove him wrong. (I drew the line at cutting out fruit, and my coach acquiesced on this point.)

This conversation occurred at the tail end of August. September brings hectic back to school time and both of my kids’ birthdays, so choosing to make a drastic dietary change for this month was an added challenge.

But I did it. I love a challenge. (FYI: They do make vegan ice cream, and it is actually quite tasty.)

And my coach was right. Damn him.

What I noticed rather quickly – maybe after a week – was how my “I AM HUNGRY AND I MUST EAT 5 MINUTES AGO!” feelings were gone. And, yes, my running times improved.

Because I was cutting out sugar, I started to read labels to make sure I wasn’t eating sugar inadvertently. I learned that sugar is in EVERYTHING. Bread? Sugar. Ketchup? Sugar. Milk? Sugar.

The more I read, the more sources I was pointed to for further food info. And it was depressing. I figured that to avoid sugar, it would be easier to go vegan, so I did.

But remember the prompt? Omnivore was the prompt. I’m getting to it.

When I went vegan, my daughter in particular wanted to know why I wasn’t eating milk or consuming dairy. I was fascinated and freaked by what I was learning about not only how animals were treated, but also how unhealthy the animals we can eat often are. So I shared what I was learning. Her eyes got huge. She told me that she didn’t think she would give up dairy, but she would never eat another animal again.

Fast forward a few months to after my half marathon. I did keep up my no sugar rule for the race and stuck pretty faithfully to it post-race, though I wasn’t as militant. To be honest, I thought going vegan would make me feel AWESOME.

It did not. And it’s hard to keep doing something if it’s more of a pain than a benefit. Still, I was practicing vegetarianism with relative ease.

And then came my son’s diabetes diagnosis. The hospitalization was short, but not so short we weren’t relegated to whatever was available on the bottom level of Children’s Hospital. And as those with diabetes experience know, you need to know the carb counts of food for insulin dosing.

For me, this was the hardest part of having a newly diagnosed son. It’s simple math, yes, but when it’s new to you, getting the blood sugar reading, figuring out the correction and then adding it to the carb ratio just added another element of stress to meal time, which was already kind of crazy because my daughter was still a militant vegetarian, my son and husband leaned more toward the carnivore side, and I was the omnivore in the middle. (What a GREAT memoir title! DON’T steal that…I am gonna use it someday!)

We’re now two years out from that stressful meal time scenario, and my daughter remains committed to a vegetarian lifestyle, having never eaten meat since I scared her with my tales of cows. She will not even eat a dish that meat has touched (i.e., a pizza that is half cheese and half pepperoni is definitely out!). I admire her commitment, though it means the rest of us also eat mostly vegetarian, as it is a little ridiculous to cook two versions of a family meal.

I continue to read about food and what we (should) eat, why we (should) eat it, and how much we (should) eat. I remain the omnivore in the middle.

20 minutes in my head – random, rapid-fire style…

for Scott…you asked for it…

It is a BEAUTIFUL day out, and I wish I could go for a run, but I have not been able to run for the last 21 weeks. The fact that it’s been so long surprises me. The time has flown, but yet it hasn’t been fun.

Runner’s World interviewed Julie Bowen, Claire from Modern Family, and she said she is a “recreational” runner because she suffered a major injury when training for a marathon. Her doctor sister told her she could be a runner who finished a marathon but never ran another step, or a casual runner for the rest of her life. She chose the latter. When – or, G-d forbid, IF – I can run again, I will need to make a similar choice, I am afraid.

I am a lot like Claire from Modern Family. Brendan is a lot like Phil. We both see the similarities in each other’s character counterparts, but we don’t want to admit that we also see it in ourselves. But they’re funny and it’s working out well for them, so we’re good, right? Life is a big sitcom, no?

Where is my laugh track, then? What would be my soundtrack? Hmm. Right now, I am listening to “Wild Ones” by Flo-Rida featuring Sia. I heard it at my barre class, which is where I get most of my information on current, popular music that the younger folk like. I like it, too, though, so that must mean I am young.

But I am 33. How did that happen? Shit.

Why is it that Australia is the only country to enact a national gender equity policy as it pertains to education (to my knowledge, which, I will toot my own horn here, on this subject is pretty vast), but yet the girls there still significantly outscore the boys in literacy? I can see, developmentally, that girls might outperform boys regardless of country or policy, but one might hypothesize that a country with a concerted effort to achieve gender equity in educational achievement would have a less eye-opening gap between the two groups. Hmm. I am not sure what this means.

And females in Australia, as in most other countries (maybe all? I don’t know – my knowledge here is NOT as vast) outlive the men by 5 years or so. I wonder if reading is related to longevity. That would be an English teacher’s dream! How’s that for a selling point – read: you’ll live longer.

What is this movie, Sanctum, about? I have now heard two students in two different classes in two different grades talk about it on two separate days. This intrigues me. The one kid stayed up so late watching it that he was quite bleary-eyed the next morning. This does not intrigue me. Why are we so sleep-deprived? Do you notice how frequently people talk about their sleeping patterns – the quality, the length, the resulting feelings from the quality and the length? This intrigues me. Why do we talk about it so much?

I have been making a concerted effort to get 7 hours of sleep. I wonder if it really would positively affect my productivity. I have yet to attain this during the work week, though I have come close. I am trying to be in my bed by 10 so that I can read a little and then fall asleep. I get up around 5:30, though, so this does not leave me much reading time or wiggle room to achieve 7 hours. I am working on it.

I am also working on NO coffee! One upshot of my stomach bug on Monday – that still lingers just a bit – is that I went a full 24 hours without coffee on that terrible day. So, on Tuesday, when I was feeling well-rested given Monday’s couch time and still queasy given the bug, I skipped the 2 cups (okay, sometimes 3) of coffee I have in the morning. It didn’t kill me, so I did it again on Wednesday. And again today. How many days do I have to do this before I think, “Coffee?! Ugh! How do you drink that stuff?” I wonder how long I have to go before I also notice a difference in my sleep patterns and energy levels. Will I get to a point when, if I have a cup of coffee, I actually notice the caffeine coursing through my veins? I will keep you posted.

Speaking of posted, a grade from one of my independent studies in 2009 never did, and it has now turned to an F. *Sigh* This does not faze me too much. This shows me I have made progress. Progress in what area, I am not sure, but I like to believe it shows I have evolved. I wrote to the professors, to whom I submitted a paper 2 years ago, and they vaguely remembered it, but of course, none of us can find the paper now, nevermind remember what grade did not get submitted. So I have to rewrite the paper. This is fair, albeit a bit silly, because I am not sure the first paper was that good anyway…or even finished, for that matter. It was 2 years ago – how do I know? It was on Australian educational policy and how its focus on gender equity has affected the educational research in that country. I have done the work. I know I have because, otherwise, how would I know that I want to be just like Dr. Amanda Keddie, a researcher who has conducted studies and commented on gender extensively in articles I’d love to call my own.

I know a surprisingly large number of people named Amanda. It used to be my middle name before I changed it to my maiden name. Why did I do that? Probably because it was obnoxious to have four names: Kirstin Amanda Pesola McEachern. That does not roll off the tongue. Amanda is not an unusual name, but I do think it is on the uncommon side.

I named my children uncommon names – at least, at the time of their births they were uncommon. Now, Avery is in the top 30 in the country. When my Avery was born in 2002, the name was in the 200s! I like to think of myself as a trendsetter. And, yes, I realize there is a certain delusion of grandeur in that statement – as if I named my daughter this fabulous name and the rest of the country took notice and followed my lead. But it’s a nice thought.

I don’t think I’d like to lead the country. Think of the stress. There must be a lot of fecal matter on the wall at the White House, that’s all I gotta say.