“Because I Said So” – Reflections on My Dad and Two Free Downloadable Note Cards

When I was a kid, I had a towering figure I called Dad. Later in life, my two brothers and I would call him “Big Man,” or “The Big Man.”  He was a truck driver, who traveled the entire width and length of the country. He would disappear for a week or two weeks at a time and then come home and sleep. Before leaving on his trips, he’d make us all stand facing this wall that had a large crucifix and we’d all pray for his safety while on his next work trip.

Sara Howard
Me and My Dad circa 1981.

Besides driving, one of his favorite things to do was eat. And boy did he love the not-so-great-stuff – bologna deli sandwiches, canned soups, hamburgers, and pizza.  I acquired some-not-so-great habits from him. For example, I love bologna.

Two things I remember the most about my dad were his ability to give you directions to any state in the US without much research. Sometimes, he’d pull out his maps, because he always had maps, but he could tell me within minutes what highways and local roads (to bypass tolls) I could take to get anywhere.  Every road trip I did while he was alive, always involved a call to my dad beforehand to go over his maps and directions.

The second thing is more of a memory.  When I was in middle school, so around 14, I remember walking through the mall holding my dad’s hand. I recall people looking at him. During those times he wore a lot of gold and people were constantly throwing glances at this tall, confident, and slightly intimidating black man.  Anyhow, I remember walking with him holding his hand thinking, nobody can hurt me, “I’m with my dad.”  This proves to be one of the strongest feelings I’ve ever felt about my dad because his death left me with this feeling that I had lost that protection; that safety that only he provided.

Growing up with my dad wasn’t the easiest thing. I loved him and feared him and judged him. We had some fights. We even had a few times when we didn’t speak. When I told him I was moving to New York in 2006, he told me he didn’t think I should move and I told him, “too bad, I’m moving anyway.”  He respected my decisions, mostly, and the distance I created, even though I think it pained him, but my dad could be a difficult person and as he got older and moodier and more unhappy with not being able to drive and not having his family around him, I had to create space.

My dad died five years ago today. I’ve always been open about his death. In fact, the night of the day he died, I sent an email out to 400 of my contacts letting them know. It was part of a Marathon training update email, but I still shared the news with 400 people I had come in contact with to that point in my life.  I was 28 and extremely sad. I still have my days of extreme sadness.

They say grief never goes away and it doesn’t. It gets easier and most days are good. I don’t cry as much as I used to and I don’t feel the same as I did in those first days and weeks and months five years ago.  See, I feel my dad around me every day. Sometimes it is as quickly as a glance in the mirror that I see him in my face and I smile.  It provides a comfort that I wasn’t prepared to experience.

My dad, spiritually, has appeared and stays connected in ways that I didn’t expect. For example, whenever I travel (international destinations excluded), I inevitably find something named “Howard” – it could be a street that is a couple of blocks away from my location, or a nearby shop. While I was in Japan in December 2012, I walked past a store that had a mannequin in the window that was wearing a sweater that had the word “Dad” inside a heart.  That particular day, in Japan, I had been mentally beating myself up. I was upset and going around and around in a conversation with myself and I finally stopped and said to my dad (because I speak to him), “Dad, I really need your help. I really need you to help me get over this. Why aren’t you helping me?!” And that was my answer. It makes me cry to talk about this.

Today, isn’t a day to cry, it’s more a day to celebrate. Celebrate who he is and was and all the people his life touched. It is also a day for me to reflect on my ancestry. On the beauty of his life and all that has been passed on to me.  Death really is a humbling experience and it’s eye opening for those who watch it and understand the fragility of our lives and the importance of them, too.

To stop this from being a sad post, I’m going to share a few anecdotes about my dad and tie this all back to the title of this post.  When we were little, my brother, Dominick and I would ask my dad all the time “Why can’t we do this?” and “Why can’t we have that?” and his response would always be a resounding, “Because I said so. That’s why.”  We knew that the topic was dead and nothing would resuscitate it back to life.  Going to my Mom would be of no help because she would just repeat what my dad had said.

A few years ago on Father’s Day, I created two cards and packaged them up in sets that I sell at markets and in my shop on Etsy. One card set says “Because I Said So.” The other simply says, “Dad.”  In honor of my dad’s memory and my appreciation for having a flawed, but amazingly kind and generous father figure, I’m providing these cards as a downloadable PDF for you to print out yourself, write a note on and send to someone of your choosing.

They are both incredibly simple and the reason is for you to write freely and communicate with intention.  Maybe you’ll print them out and send them to your dad, or gift them to your dad? I don’t know, but I hope you do.  If you’re a dad, maybe you’ll print these and write notes to your kids? The files are up and good for ever. Please note that the PDFs have cropping marks so you can cut them after you print them in the correct A2 size.

BecauseISaidSo
DAD

One more anecdote. When my brother, Dominick, went through my father’s possessions after he passed, he found a box filled with movie ticket stubs and cards from his kids.  I used to send him a postcard from all of my travels and they were all in that box.  One of my favorite possessions that I have from my dad is a card he wrote to me while I was in high school looking at colleges. It was a card he bought while on one of his trucking routes and I carry it with my every day. It has his signature, his writing and it means the world to me.

Do yourself a favor, print out these cards and use them. You’ll be glad you did in the long run. Please feel free to share them with your friends and loved ones, too.

Enjoy and XO,
S2

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A Guy Named Chris and the Word Dream

Last year, I landed upon the most magical blog ever created: The Art of Non-Conformity. I’ve discussed this blog several times here, I know.

I was at the peak of a depression. I hate the word depression, but the reality is that I was depressed. Majorly depressed. I couldn’t see the clearing in the clouds at all. Everyday seemed to start the same way–no excitement for the day, no enthusiasm for going to work, or seeing friends, etc. I just wanted to wallow.

Just for the record, I am not a wallower. I dislike wallowers immensely, so I started to dislike myself a lot. Needless to say, I got help and started to get things back on track, but one of the things that really helped me was a guy named Chris Guillebeau. Again, I’ve talked about him before, but his website came to me through an Etsy article.

That one suggested reading article, led me to a world where I felt I truly belonged. I started reading EVERYTHING he wrote. I went back in time to see where he started. I commented on a few posts. And I started sharing his thoughts with friends.

Back in September I had the fantastic opportunity to meet Chris at a Borders while on his book tour for the book quite appropriately titled, “The Art of Non-Conformity.” I wrote a blog on my other (personal blog) about meeting him and then a week or two later a blog reviewing his book. You can read both of the postings on my other blog, “Strides With a Smile.” As a matter of fact, my book review is the last posting I’ve done in a while. (I don’t suggest having more than one blog, By-the-way, it’s tough work, especially when you’re making invitations, designing cards and working a full-time gig.)

While at the book reading, Chris discussed the book and why he wrote it and then opened the floor to questions. Many, like me, knew Chris and loved his work, and many had just wandered in and were curious. One of the people in the crowd, who I got the impression knew of Chris, was looking for direction, for more help and so she started rambling on about the things she likes to do and how could she figure out what she’s supposed to do in life. A very large question to ask, not to mention, to ask of someone who doesn’t know you, but Chris offered some advice and then simply stated “if you dream about it, that’s what you’re supposed to be doing.”

I share this with you today, not just to give continued props and adulation to Chris, but because this morning, I woke up restless around 5. I was up and out of bed by 5:30. This is a rarity, even in my post-depression state. I just don’t like waking up early! But I got up because in my head, I was visualizing all the things I wanted to get done stationery wise. In my restlessness, I had developed an idea for a Valentine’s Day Card (I have romance on the brain, people!) and I was trying to figure out how the hell I would put two cards together and include a heart. Don’t ask (I’ll share more once I get it figured out) and so I simply could NOT stay sleeping.

I should have you know that this morning already included painting a vineyard theme on an invitation, cutting card stock out and trying to figure out the final touches for these cards invitations I’ve been sample designing.

What I’m saying is, if you EVER, EVER, EVER, wake up from a sleep with a dream very clearly in your head, explore it. Don’t let it get away. Even if what you dreamt about is an idea that seems obtuse, or no longer relevant in the world (paper? Who needs paper?!) follow it and see where it takes you.

Special thanks to the Universe, my father’s spirit, and Chris Guillebeau for all being part of my morning already.