Here are things I learned from my dad (that’s him in his college days in the picture), and ways he influenced me, to make me what I am today (and I consider what I am today to be a good thing!):
1. He and my mom always emphasized education and had high expectations for me and my three siblings. These high expectations were kind of hard to deal with sometimes, but it became ingrained in me that I’m capable of excellence if I work at it. I haven’t always been very good at the whole work ethic thing, but when I do find something I want to work hard at, it’s there.
2. He read “The Hobbit” out loud to us when we were little kids, along with other books – I seem to recall “The Wind in the Willows,” and definitely “A Christmas Carol.” He and my mom also gave me a box set of the Earthsea Trilogy when I was 11 or 12 years old (either for my birthday or for Christmas, I don’t remember.) This launched my love of fantasy and imaginative literature at an early age and let me know that it’s ok to explore the imagination and to invent worlds and things that don’t exist in the “real world.”
3. Although he made a career as a research physicist and physics professor, he has always worked with his hands. He grew up working as a carpenter with his father and grandfather, and has continued to do carpentry along with vegetable gardening and yardwork through his adult life. That taught me that manual labor is as fulfilling and worthwhile as work that’s done with the mind, and any kind of work done honestly and to the best of your ability is something to be proud of.
4. He did also teach me – I’m not sure if this was inadvertant or not – that some jobs just aren’t worth doing and that you want to do whatever it takes to make sure those kinds of jobs are not your only option. When I was 11 or 12 he strongly “encouraged” (I recall it as “forced” but my memory might not be correct on that) me to get a paper route. The old-fashioned kind, where the kid rode around on a bike tossing papers onto driveways and then knocking on strangers’ doors once a month to collect the money. For the afternoon paper. In Phoenix, Arizona. In the summer. I hated it. I delivered papers for two or three years and hated every minute of it. And the pay worked out to maybe pennies per hour. It’s worth it to do whatever you have to do to learn and acquire skills so that a crappy job like that isn’t your only option. (Sometimes you have to take whatever you can get in order to pay the bills, but you want to be able to move to something better if the opportunity comes along.)
5. He’s very musical (so is my mom; they first got to know each other in their high school pep band; not sure how my mom, being a pianist, fit into that, but that’s what happened) and music was important in our home. When I was in 5th grade, he “encouraged” (there’s that word again) me to take up the flute. I enjoyed music and got pretty serious about it, with the result that I majored in music in college and that’s how I met my wonderful husband. So, thanks for that, Dad 😀
6. Even after he retired from his position as a professor, he still remains a scientist and a teacher, with the motto, “You retire from what you do, not from what you are.” Because of this, I’m able to think of myself as a writer, even if I don’t make any money at it (which isn’t the case, I am making some money, not a lot so far but some) and even if some external agency or organization doesn’t validate me with that title.
7. There’s a saying that the best thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother, and my dad embodies this. He and my mom have been together as friends, sweethearts, and husband and wife for probably sixty years now. Because of this (and because of my own marriage), I believe in true love and happily ever after, and that’s why I write about those things. Some writers say that happily ever after is unrealistic – it doesn’t work that way in love or in life. Yeah, life is hard, there are always going to be challenges, and in my books, even when the hero and heroine end up happily together they still face challenges and difficulties. But challenges are better faced with your best friend, lover, and sweetheart at your side, and you come out stronger at the end for going through them together.
8. When it comes to politics, my dad and I disagree probably 95% of the time (the one thing we seem to agree on consistently is on having no desire to belong to a political party). From my dad, I’ve learned that someone can disagree with you and still be a good person.
9. My dad gave me my first computer as a combination First Mother’s Day/Grad School Graduation gift in 1989. It was one of those where you had to start it up by inserting a 5-inch floppy with the OS on it. When I decided to try my hand at writing novels some months later, I quickly discovered how much easier it is to write stuff on a computer than by hand or on a typewriter. I still have my original writing from that old computer, transferred from disk type to disk type and format to format at least five or six times since then. Some pretty darn good ideas, too, including my first two complete novels which one day I will revise and release. Urdaisunia was initially written on that old computer, too.
10. My dad’s faith has always been an inspiration and example to me. He’s a scientist, and probably the most intelligent person I know, and he’s living proof that reason and intelligence and deep, devout faith are perfectly compatible – not just that, but they build on and increase each other. I wandered a bit for some years in my early adulthood, but I eventually came to fully embrace the beliefs and faith that he and my mom taught us and raised us in, and that’s a gift as great as any other he’s ever given me.