Happy Birthday, Dad!

Well… I had a different topic planned for today but the pictures for the post are MIA so we’re changing it up.

Since today is my dad’s birthday and we’re remarkably similar, I thought I’d highlight some of my favorite traits that I got from him which I hope to pass down to my kid.

I’m not kidding when I say my dad and I are similar. His name is Kenny and he shares that name with his father so K calls my dad KJ or Kenny Jr. (usually just to me). When I act like my dad, K calls me KJJ. Before we knew if this baby was a boy or girl, K gave it the nickname KJJJ. I kid you not, that’s what she’s called in our pregnancy app. Lol

My dad and I think similarly, learn similarly, argue discuss politics with each other similarly. We carry our own burdens and the burdens of others similarly. We mostly have the same humor & sometimes we say the same thing at the same time. We often spill food on our shirts in the same place. Lol.

You get the point. It’s no wonder I adopted these ideals and characteristics from him.

Pets are our family.
When I was born we had a family dog. Since then my parents have welcomed two more dogs (plus Ly when I lived at home), two rabbits, and five cats. Bristol & Enzo are always welcome at their house. Dad’s also rescued a baby owl, squirrel, and rabbit. Additionally, unless the animal is dangerous or threatening our pets, he traps and releases pests because he knows I value that. My dad felt Lylee’s loss so deeply- damn near as badly as K and I.

Girls can do anything.
I have a little brother. I could have easily been dismissed when he was born. Instead, my dad bought us both four wheelers. He gave us both shooting lessons. He took me camping and trucking. He took me fishing and he’d have taken me hunting if I hadn’t turned him down, lol. I’d give him credit for teaching me to drive stick but that was actually my mom 😉

Forming your own opinions is important & changing your mind isn’t a weakness.
Years ago a friend told me about how her dad’s word was law in their house and she wasn’t allowed to disagree or argue about anything. Another person in the conversation nodded her head in agreement and shared similar stories. Even as adults, they were expected to curb their thoughts and opinions. I can’t relate to that. My parents have never told me how to feel about anything. And if you’ve spent a decent amount of time with my dad and I, you’ve probably heard us discuss/argue politics. I know he takes pride in the brain in my head- even when it believes differently than his. And I’m really proud of my dad because I think he’s changed some of his opinions and beliefs because of things we’ve discussed.

Working hard and breaking your back doesn’t entitle you to a damn thing.
I think my dad might be the least entitled person I know. He went to college, graduated, and jumped into the family business as a truck driver. When the family retired the business, my dad continued to drive independently. His industry is dying and his week-to-week looks different but he doesn’t quit and he doesn’t complain about the unknown. Don’t get me wrong, he does complain about other things but I have never heard my dad complain about being owed anything.
*I actually don’t have this characteristic. Hopefully my kid does.

I can credit my love of history and learning to my dad, too. On top of these things, I hope my daughter enjoys watching old westerns with him and riding along in his semi truck just like I did. My dad is one of my favorite people- and I’m sure it has nothing to do with how similar we are 😉

Happy Birthday, Dad!

(C)Ryan Armbrust Sniper Photo LLC


If you’ve been living under a rock, you might’ve missed that the world is a messy place. I can’t watch the news or scroll Twitter or listen to a podcast without feeling intense emotions.

I could rage wax poetically about all the crap going on right now, but I’m going to take a different approach.

I grew up in a mostly (politically) like-minded family, although my parents never pushed their beliefs on me or my brother when we were young. (We banter occasionally now.) I thought I went to a somewhat liberal school, but the very liberal students would’ve likely disagreed with me. Regardless, I don’t know that college shaped my actual perspective much.

But I think it’s important to recognize what does change us and shape us. And when we’re in those difficult or uncomfortable situations, it’s beneficial to embrace the moment and reflect on it later. So that’s what I’m sharing today.

I categorized this post as “spiritual” because I think that’s where these experiences have most affected me. It’s not a religious perspective or a political perspective, though. It’s just… my constantly changing outlook. And it’s something I feel needs revisited and reflected upon often.

We’re already at 200 words and I haven’t even shared yet. Sorry.

In 2012 I went to Bangalore, India for a month. It was a tough month;. I wasn’t mentally, emotionally, or physically prepared for the trip. I was in shock for the first 10 ten days. The country has its beauty, but there was trash & stray dogs & loose cows & tent homes everywhere. It was tough to see, but even harder when I realized that, after 2 weeks of it, I’d adjusted to it all. Our accommodations were a rough apartment in the heart of city- nothing luxurious. We walked roughly 2 miles to classes at the college and we shopped in the markets on the way home. We were fully immersed from the moment we left the airport.

After I got home I remember the moment our wealth and excess and privilege hit me. I was in church and completely floored by the intricate brickwork, well maintained pews, and beautiful stained glass. I left the sanctuary and started bawling in the lobby. It was the conflicting thoughts of knowing that our church worked/paid for and maintained those comfortable and elaborate things, but also it was PURE COINCIDENCE that I was born to my parents with my skin color in this country. And it put a lot into perspective when it came other others and their situations and how I could help them.

Those feelings have stuck with me.

A more recent lightbulb went off when my mom and I delivered dinner to the local homeless shelter one night.

When we were unloading the serving dishes a few shelter patrons approached our cars to help us. I turn to hand off a dish and came face to face with the boy I had lined danced with in 5th grade gym class. He didn’t recognize me and we didn’t have any kind of relationship outside that gym activity, but I remembered and recognized him.

A man who lived in the same town and went to the same school as me… asking for and accepting help during a vulnerable time in his life. After we finished unloading and said our goodbyes, I drove a few blocks and parked my car and cried. When you’re in 5th grade you don’t picture interactions like that 20 years in the future. I didn’t feel pity for him or anything- I just felt shocked. Grateful that he was in place with warm food and a bed, but sad that anyone ever feels so displaced.

For me, compassion comes much much easier for animals. But now and then there are moments that open my mind and heart to the human plight. And they usually hit me pretty hard and stick around for years (if not forever).

When you get smacked in the face with the uncomfortable truth, I hope you take the time to reflect on it and let it change you, too. It’s a really tough thing for me, but I know it positively influences my behavior and outlook. Today I thought I’d share some of those tough moments that have profoundly changed me.