on being kind.

I wish this story was about me. Unfortunately, It is not.

Long before Brad, Peggy and instagramming in-between there were Monday nights. Monday nights were a night where myself and my two best friends/roommates would open our home to anyone and everyone that wanted to come over, literally. Often times the street was so full of cars, the yard would become the parking lot.  We always had chocolate cookies and Chili's chips and salsa. I cooked a home-cooked meal for everyone (I had in my head that all these male musician friends we had were hungry...) It started as something small and when it ended we would sometimes have upwards of 50 people some Monday nights. Some nights, we were gathered around watching The Bachelor with groups paired off in the kitchen and then some nights we just talked, hung out, fellowshipped.

Everyone that came was different, but similar. All about the same age, demographic, etc. Just a group of college something, young professionals getting together to start off the week with friends.

There was one guy that was different though. He was older than we were, often he didn't smell very good and he never said much. He was very different. But somehow in this group, he found something that kept him coming back Monday after Monday. I'm in the school of thought "be kind, we are all going through something hard..." but when I would see him walking up to the door I would shrug my shoulders and honestly wish he hadn't come. Maybe he was a little "creepy?" I am confident I was just judging him.

Week after week, he came back. I never really noticed anyone really conversing with him ever. He was just there. Sure, we were all nice to him, but on my end it was more of a tolerated him than anything.

One of the guys that came on Monday nights was cooler than most of us, though (at least in my opinion). He was a song writer and musician, and just a cool guy. Maybe he was a little different too.

One night this "group" was hanging out at someone elses house, it was pretty much the same group of people that were around on Monday nights and he was there. Laid back on the couch, arm over the back of the sofa.  He smelt bad and seemed sad like usual. I chose to just ignore him.  

Then I watched as this cool guy mentioned above walked over and sat right beside him and patted him on the leg like he was an old friend and started up a conversation. The wealth of information that I heard about Star Wars and movies, you would have never believed. He engaged with him, talked to him and was interested in him. Interested in what he said. Truly. He listened and hung on to every word he said.

I remember that it was even time for him to leave and his cool posse called his name and said, "Hey, its time to go!" and he replied without missing a beat "Hold on, I'm talking to _____." And continued on with their conversation until it was genuinely over.

I watched in awe. A true true kindness was displayed right before my eyes. Finally, when ______ got up to leave, and said, "It was great talking to you ______."  He shrugged and kind of smiled and as _____ walked away and _____ threw his arm back on the back of the couch again, he relaxed back into his seat from their riveting conversation - he looked full and happy.

And in that moment, I thought to myself and later told him, "You know, I think you may have saved _____ life tonight just by being kind to him and truly being interested in what he had to say."

I think about this often, but especially something tragic happens like suicide and wonder how it could have been prevented.

Let us be kind to one another and love each other a little better and truly listen and be interested in what people have to say.  Give them time. You could save someones life.

A case of the Mondays.

Yesterday was the definition of why Mondays are deemed Mondays.

It is a new day.  And I just sent some pictures (including these three photographs) to their sweet Mama, and Tuesday is already looking better.  I mean, how can you have a bad day looking at these sweet faces?
 
Let's make a deal Tuesday.  I'll be good to you and you be good to me.
Deal?
Deal.

Fixer.

My dad was a humble man.

A man of little words.

When he spoke, you wanted to listen. IF he was ever funny, he was really funny.

He was a mechanic most all of his life. No scholar by the books standards, but he could build anything and repair whatever was broken.

Except his body.

But because his body was broken, he made the choice to give his body to science to, even in his death, fix other bodies riddled with Parkinson's Disease.

Today, mom got his ashes. Which made me so sad and so proud of him. He was a good man, a kind man, a fixer.

I'd like to think his last act of himself was his finest.

I'm proud to be his daughter.

XO


jessica dukes
[photography]
-jessicadukes.com-

I'm so happy to be stuck with you. || three.

Yes, it's true.  I'm so happy to be stuck with you.

I heard that song on the radio the other day and thought about you.

Happy to be stuck with you.
Happy to get to do this life with you.

Every day I'm thankful for you.  I tell you that a lot, but I hope you know it's true and feel my love for you grow stronger every day.  We are a good team.

SO here's to 1,095 days of marital bliss TOGETHER add a Peggy in the mix and it's one good life.

Yes, it's true.  I'm so happy to be stuck with you.


Awkward Family Photos

It's only April and I have learned a ton this year.

One thing I have learned is there is no such thing as a bad picture.

I took some pictures at Thanksgiving of our entire family, at moms prodding.  They were terrible deemed by me, and probably to anyone else.  But since dad's death, I decided to revisit those things and actually found some gems.  All of them.

And even though we are misplaced, I look like I am married to my nephew Seth in most of the pictures, my nephew Bens eye only is showing, we look kinda like the Herdman family, I am sweating because I have a heavy sweater on AND because I was back and forth between the 10 second and go timer while the camera sat on a rickety table with 15 books under it...until my sister-in-law's sister took over...you get it.  Bad photos.

But then when you know you can never get this picture back again, it becomes golden.

join me for comedy hour.

ready?

Nice socks mom while striking your model pose.  Lookin' good gurl.
Dad - I'm here, but I don't wanna be.
He always was the favorite child.  That's by brother, Trampas. And look, we are centered.  It's a GO.  Everyone, timers on!  Hurry!!!
You can't make this stuff up, y'all.  
Brad's taken over the model pose. Seth (red sweater) is like "dude, how you do that? like, this?" Ethan (random arm) who is hiding behind my brother (purple) clearly is about to put earrings on his mom.  Atticus (baby) says, "How did I end up in this family?"
Mom and Dad are like "ALL OF YOU! Out of our picture!"
and then, obviously, I need to work on my sprint.  
 Mom and Dad have settled into their family.  "Oh look, Roy, we might as well smile, they ain't going anywhere."  Everyone and GO.  Jessica?  Jessica?  Jess....
 Something is really funny.  Let's be honest, they're just laughing from cheering for me because I made it in the picture.  Go me.  
 Atticus is getting an ear infection from all the chatter.  And look, everyone is smiling and accounted for.  The picture is crooked but faces, faces are accounted for.  BOOM.
And then when you make it black and white and remember, we are all there, together.  
It's okay that I look like I am married to Seth.  
It's okay that Bens eye is only showing.
We are happy and we are together.  And this would be the last picture we ever took together.  
So, it's the best picture.  


And because he's cute, here's a closer look at my great nephew Atticus.  
Take pictures people.
On your phone.
bad pictures, good pictures, lots of pictures,
just take them.
you won't regret it.

And that is no April Fools. 
Happy Day, friends.


Paleo for Dummies.

I will be the first to admit I like a good project.  The weirder, often times, the better.  Late last year, I began researching The Paleo Diet, the more I read and became familiar with the paleo lifestyle (let me also mentioned that i am reallllllly good at hyper focusing on something.  some may call it obsessing), I decided the health benefits alone was a reason to try it.  Brad jumped on board and we both decided to try it for one month.  

Simply put:  NO grains, gluten, dairy, peanuts, legumes
ALL THE meat, nuts, seeds, veggies and fruits you can bear.
(fruit has a ton of natural sugar, so limit your intake)

It's a little more refined than that, but that is the general idea.

We started in January, and have allowed ourselves one cheat (cupcakes from whole foods on my birthday) in February and then last sunday we allowed ourselves another cheat.  

I am a convert to the paleo lifestyle.  As I learn and find out more information it makes me excited about the good things that are going on inside of my body.  And that is nothing but a good good thing.

As an added bonus, I have lost twenty pounds, like it literally just fell off me.  So, that alone, is awesome.  I am excited to see what this next year brings as I embark on my first year as a newbe paleo-ite.  

Wanna try it?  Shoot me an email, I will tell you all I know.

I WILL tell you this, thepaleomom.com is my very favorite resource.  If you are interested in paleo, I would start with her website.

P.S. My very thing to do is google something I am craving,or a request from Brad but with 'paleo' in front of it --- example:  paleo pizza --- and then search for the best, but simplest recipe and create it for dinner.  Promise, we have yet to have a bad meal.  

Mom.

On Saturday, we had dad's memorial service.

On Wednesday, we celebrated the day I was born.

On Wednesday, I received my first birthday card signed 'I love you, Mama."

That's the first card I have received in my thirty-eight years of life that excluded my father. It made my gut hurt and made my throat immediately burn. The note from my mom said 'I'm making you a quilt out of all your daddy's flannel shirts.' I can think of nothing in this world I want more.

Let's go back to Wednesday, when I checked the mail on my birthday and there was a happy card in the mail from my mom. Three days previous we had said good-bye to my dad. And yes, he was my nearly perfect dad but before that he was my moms best friend, love, and partner for 52 years. For 52 years, they were inseparable even until the very end. Literally. And if any year there was a year she got a pass in mailing me a card to receive on my actual birthday, this was the year.

My mom is amazing. She has always been but still, she continues to blow me away. She got up Sunday, went to church alone and then has continued to be upbeat and positive. She's alone now in a house that my dad built so long ago.

When dad started getting "bad" meaning his legs starting to fail him more and his mind worse and worse she remained by his side. As a man that stood over 6 foot tall who was all legs, it's hard. He should have been in a wheelchair long ago, but he walked until the very end because of my mom. She got him out and about, even though getting him to, and then into the car was a days work, she still took him places. His mind stayed sharp as long as it did because of my mom. His body stayed healthy as long as it did because of my mom. He was clean and well taken care of because...of my mom.

Often during the course of the last few weeks, I'm asked "how's your mom?" And the person asking looks as though they are prepared for a story of sadness but 9 times out of 10 I have found myself saying. "You know, my dad gave her a gift. A gift of life. Because of his passing, she is going to be able to live again."

Sure, we're going to miss him like crazy. Fathers Day, Christmas, and all the holidays that your dad should be there will take a different tone this year. But his legacy will forever live on.

Through me, through my children, through my brother, my nephews, all who knew him and loved him.

Mom though. She's amazing. She's tough. She's...the strongest woman I know.
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