Wednesday, December 26, 2018

A Few Words for my Dad

Several of you have asked me if I'd share what I said at my dad's funeral with you, and I will do that after today's card.

But the most important thing you should know is that my dad was a very positive person, which is something I believe he gave to all three of his kids.

He wasn't positive in a Pollyanna way, or for the sake of being positive. He had two things that worked together to make him positive. He had a very strong sense of agency - he knew that he and only he was responsible for his happiness and his situation, and so he was responsible for it, and made the sensible choice to make it good and happy. But he also had a sense of perspective that's lacking in this world. He believed there are a very small number of things worth getting your tail in a knot over, and our current environment seems to be quite the opposite. Sometimes it puzzles people why I won't talk about politics, or listen to endless, over-hyped news stories that have zero impact on my daily life - this is why. I feel centered in my own life as my dad did, and I know what I can control, and attempts to manipulate my feelings about things fail miserably with me. I'm grateful for that, among the other things you'll read below.

My dad has life in my love of routine as well. His routine was pretty sacred - he used the same toothpaste and Listerine all his life - ate Cheerios pretty much every day, along with other breakfasty things, some of which were horrifying but he loved them. The same brands of food were on his table when he died as were in my first memories as a kid in our kitchen.

Most scientists have a lot of disorder around them - their offices or working spaces, but there was also a lot of order, and I have that too. I like the same pattern to my days, and I love nothing more than to work on what I love all day and night, and he did too - right until his literal last moments. I hope I exit with a paintbrush in my hand.

So my card today is for that positivity, sense of practicality and centeredness, and that love of a daily ritual. I hope the subject matter makes sense. If not, give me a little grace, as I am still in shock, but I thought the image was a perfect summary.

I used this sweet heart egg image, stamped in Fadeout Ink. I discovered an egg is actually pretty hard to color since it's mostly NOT colored. I added just a hint of a grey shadow that you see in the egg white here and there, and some crispy brown at the edges. The yolk is my beloved Aussie Red Gold, and I was careful to leave some highlights. The "sky" around the sunny egg is Manganese Blue Hue. All of it is done with Daniel Smith on Cold Press watercolor paper.

The sentiment is from this set and is stamped in Nocturne - so crisp. I matted the watercolor paper in Lemon Drop cardstock.

Impression Obsession Rubber Stamps...
[ IST ]
Impression Obsession Rubber Stamps...
[ IST ]
Fadeout No Line coloring Detail Ink
[ INK ]
VersaFine Clair Ink Pad, Nocturne -...
[ ELH | SSS ]
Heavy Base Weight Card Stock- White -...
[ GNK ]
Heavy Base Weight Card Stock- Lemon...
[ GNK ]
Fabriano Extra White Cold Press...
[ BLIC ]
Aussie Red Gold
[ BLIC ]
Manganese Blue Hue - Daniel Smith...
[ BLIC ]
Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors
[ BLIC ]
Escoda Versatil Brushes, Travel Round...
[ UTR | BLIC | INK ]
Da Vinci Cosmotop Sable Mix F Brushes...
[ BLIC | ELH ]
MISTI Stamping Tool
[ MSW | HA | SSS | ELH | MFT | UNT ]
Lawn Fawn STAMP SHAMMY Cleaner LF1045
[ SSS | ELH | CST | ART ]
Rotatrim Professional Series Cutter -...
[ BLIC ]
Nesting Porcelain Bowls - BLICK art...
[ BLIC ]
My Favorite Watercolor Sketchbook
[ UTR ]
Tombow MONO MULTI Liquid Glue Two...
[ SSS | MFT | ART | BLIC | ELH ]
LightView 2in1 LED Magnifier for...
[ BRG ]
Mudder 10 Pack White Buffer Sanding...
Essentials by Ellen Storage...
[ ELH ]
Die Storage - Clear Storage Pockets...
[ CHC ]
XL Stamp Storage Pockets
[ ELH ]
Teflon Bone Folder - Ellen Hutson LLC
[ ELH | SSS ]

So here's what I said at his service.


My dad would not want us to be sad today, so I’m going to try really hard not to be sad.

You already know how accomplished my dad was as a giant of mathematics and cryptography, but that’s just a part of what a father gives a child, so I want to tell you what my dad gave me.

My dad’s favorite color was orange. It was probably my least favorite color as a child - my favorite color has always been blue - specifically a turquoise blue. One of the most re-told stories from my childhood took place in a Howard Johnson’s - whose color scheme was orange and blue - a combo I did not like as a kid. It was in a Howard Johnson’s that my parents forced me to eat some rotten spaghetti despite my complaints. My sister finally tasted it, and went white as a sheet as she told my parents something was very, very wrong. My dad, who felt really bad about making me eat it, put me on his shoulders for the walk to the car, during which I exacted revenge by beginning my 48 hours of barfing by throwing the spaghetti up all over his head. I think in the end, he accepted his punishment humbly and it was a story we loved to retell. I did not eat spaghetti again until I was nearly 40.

My dad read to me every night when I was little - he’d rub my back and take me to worlds filled with Hobbits and Mad Hatters and black panthers who befriended little boys. His love of language and the written and spoken word shaped everything that’s in my world that I cherish. His love of cryptography became my love of true crime and puzzles, cards, games and mysteries. Although he liked to gently tease us liberal arts types - my sister and I - we actually found our passions were branches of the same tree. He was probably my most faithful blog reader, and sometimes I’d write or say things he said made him feel like I was his journalist father, shape shifted into his strong-willed and arty female child. I love that through my writing I got to repay the gift he gave me of reading to me daily. He was a fantastic, poetic writer himself, and I’ve saved every philosophical email he’s sent me.

He had a quality that could be maddening at a restaurant, but is the key to life, the universe and everything, and that was that he was filled with wonder. He ended a lot more sentences with a question mark than with any other type of punctuation, and the world could use more of that. This will make some family members chuckle - but he had the most open mind I think I’ve ever run across - open in the sense of being willing to question and study and consider all the things. He loved nothing more than to hear about the strange behavioral quirks of my two kitties or to hear stories from my work he could puzzle over. His first instinct was never to judge something - just to ask questions until he understood. Again, the world could use more of that.

He loved his family deeply, and we had a long conversation about that at the last lunch we ever had a little while ago - and I think he knew there were important things he had to tell me because I think he knew he had to go. He took care of all of us in a million ways, especially my mom, and I will be forever grateful for that. He gave great, simple advice - and here are some of my favorites. Those of you who are younger than me - pay attention.

  • Live east of where you work.
  • Nothing good happens after midnight.
  • Never have a personalized license plate and vary your routine.
  • Always back into a parking space.
  • Take vitamins.
  • No unprotected left turns.
  • Don’t heat plastic or store food in it. In general, avoid plastic.
  • TV and plastic are mostly garbage.

As my artist brain developed after college, and I began to understand complementary colors, I realized the real value of contrast in art and in life. I look around my little orange and turquoise office and studio I work in daily, and I think of our two favorite colors and how they make each other better. Now and then I think of HoJo and it makes me smile.

I’m glad I named my website based on the last line of a Carl Sandburg story I requested he read to me often. It ends like this: “Only the fireborn understand blue.” He loved Carl Sandburg, so that’s how I will close - with one of his favorite scenes from the Rootabaga stories.

“Do you wish a ticket to go away and come back or do you wish a ticket to
go away and never come back?” the ticket agent asked wiping sleep out of his eyes.
   “We wish a ticket to ride where the railroad tracks run off into the sky and never
come back—send us far as the railroad rails go and then forty ways farther yet,”
was the reply of Gimme the Ax.
   “So far? So early? So soon?” asked the ticket agent wiping more sleep out of his
eyes. “Then I will give you a new ticket. It blew in. It is a long slick yellow leather
slab ticket with a blue spanch across it.”




  1. Thank you for sharing all of that. Your Dad was a fine man. I love his advice. I actually follow a lot of it. You also gave me some confidence in that I do not allow the "stuff" of the day to affect me deeply. I sometimes wonder what is wrong with me that I can keep my balance when others cannot. I see it's not wrong, but a cultivated gift.

  2. I am crying... but not tears of sadness, for he would not want that. I am crying tears of gratitude. Gratitude for all that your father was, and all that he created, and all that he passed along to you. I am so very thankful for your father. He was a special man, indeed. Thank you, Mr. Blakley, for your positive presence and contribution to this world. You will be sorely missed. I love you, Lydia. ๐Ÿงก๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿงก

  3. Such a beautiful tribute to your were blessed to have him, and he you, in your lives for so long. Prayers and hugs!

  4. Lydia, what a special man! Beautiful words for him.

  5. It was even more beautiful and poignant than I knew it would be... I only wish I’d been there for you telling of the stories, but I invision and hear them ... love you.

  6. Thank you for sharing these tidbits of your Dad that feel like sprinkles of starbursts - little sparkles of wonder. Love you my friend.

  7. Thank you for sharing with us. Teary-eyed.

  8. Your wonderful tribute to your dad shows how greatly he impacted you and your family. The world is indeed a better place for his being here... not just his scientific work but for the children he left behind. Thank you Lydia for showing us how wonderful a man your dad was... and it completely explains your gentle touch in the world. Love and hugs to you. Gail

    1. I second Gail's comment and many of the other comments! I also know it can be quite difficult to speak about your father when you are grieving. Your words are so beautiful and eloquent (which also describes you!). Thank you so much for sharing everything. Prayers for healing. Kim in Round Rock

  9. Tears are rolling down my cheeks. I’m honored to be privy to these memories and advice. Thank you for sharing your wonderful daddy with us. ❤️ And the card, it’s prefect.

  10. Lydia, I wish I could have known your dad. He sounds like a remarkable man who truly left a mark on this world, as is evidenced in you. Thank you for sharing a bit of his story and for your humor in all things, even the sad ones. You are gifted and continually share your gifts with us. Onward in his honor!

  11. Such a loving tribute to a man who raised and most importantly nurtured you. How lucky to have had such a person in your life. I'm so glad you have the wonderful memories - and routines- to help you through your loss, Lydia. ♥

  12. Lydia, your words about your Dad are so beautiful. I'm sure he listened to it all. I'm sure you've instilled all of his qualities into your own family. I pray He rests in peace. God Bless.

  13. I love your writings. This is especially touching and I thank you for sharing it. I'm so sorry you have to experience this shock. It's difficult on the ones left behind and a very good way to come to the end of life for those leaving. Your card is perfect. Hugs n love to you.

  14. Such a beautiful tribute to your Dad Lydia- he sounds like he was an amazing Father- it’s important to focus on all the good memories- it really helps deal with grief

  15. That was so BEAUTIFUL and touching - Thank you for sharing. Continued prayers for you and your family. LOVE you soooo much Lydia! (((BIG HUGS)))

  16. That is such a beautiful tribute to your dad. Now I understand why you have such an amazing talent in storytelling and the written word. Now, I have to google unprotected left turn.

  17. Lydia, that was such a lovely tribute to your dad, and you are blessed to have such great memories. I agree that this world could use more like him, striving to understand more and judge less. So very sorry for your loss. May your memories give you peace and comfort.

  18. What a beautiful tribute to your father! What special memories to fill your heart.

  19. Heartfelt sympathy and awe of his accomplishments and life, especially the gifts he passed on to you.

    How lucky you were to have such a father,

  20. Such beautiful words, Lydia! I love that you have such fond memories with your Dad, and I can tell how much his life has been woven into yours. So sweet. I love you.

  21. Yes, thank you for sharing about your Dad and how wonderful he was. Condolences to you and I hope you can smile through your tears.

  22. Beautiful words, beautifully said Lydia.

  23. It was wonderful. It was insightful, touching, funny at parts, and nostalgic. And many more lovely things. It was classic you. About endearing him.

    Thank you for sharing it. I was very moved. Made me wish I had spent time with him myself; and don't we all want to think that is how we are remembered, even by total strangers. I think he would have been pleased.

    I also dig the card a lot.

  24. Lydia, this blog post makes me smile. Your dad sounds like an awesome individual and I can tell that the acorn didn’t fall too far from the tree. I loved meeting you in Austin a few years ago I hope to be able to see you again soon. Sending hugs and prayers your way and blessings for a Happy New Year!

  25. Such a beautiful tribute to your dad. Tears in my eyes. Thank you for sharing!

  26. Thank you for sharing. Beautifully told...


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