Messy Mamahood

March 14, 2013

Remembering My Papa...

Eulogy for My Beloved Papa
Sylvester H. "Ves" Lathen
1-26-1918 to 2-21-2013
Given at Leavenworth National Cemetery
March 1, 2013

At 2:04 this morning, I finally sat down to write what I’m about to share. It’s not that I hadn't been thinking about it non-stop or that I haven’t been playing, quite literally, thousands of memories in my mind since last Thursday. My problem: How do I sum up, in five minutes, the entirety of what this amazing man accomplished in his 95 years, much less the impact he’s had on my life?

Sylvester H. Lathen…affectionately known to most people as Ves. Some of you knew him as Dad, some as Grandpa or Great-Grandpa. But to me, he was Papa…always in my heart synonymous for HERO.

He was the first man I ever loved. He’d wrap me up in those big sailor arms, scented with Old Spice. Highlights of my childhood were summers spent on the farm with Papa & Gran. I’d watch countless hours of Popeye, Bugs Bunny and Sylvester & Tweety while playing paper dolls with Papa. He had the patience of a saint as he answered my plethora of questions about every imaginable topic. I’m sure he must have been counting the seconds until Gran would return to help entertain me, but he never once showed it. He always made me feel like the most important little girl in the world.

He continued that love with my children, welcoming each one with his warm hugs and his warm belly, the best baby napping place in the world, as countless photos with all seven of us grandkids and 30 great-grandkids bear witness. I feel blessed, as I know my brothers and my cousins do, to have been loved by this extraordinary man for so many years, and I hope you great-grandkids realize how rare it is that you've experienced this treasure as well.

He welcomed not only our children as we expanded (and expanded and expanded) his legacy, but also each of our spouses. Papa and my husband became fast friends and buddies when we married on his 94th birthday, and Scott was the lucky one in the family to last hear Papa’s voice. After joking that he was going to look like “Santie Claus” from his lack of shaving during his hospital stay, Papa let out his contagious belly laugh and gave Scott a playful, “Ho, ho, ho!”   

He sure made us laugh every day with his ornery sense of humor. Sharp as a tack, he tossed his wit around so quick you’d be doubled over laughing before you ever knew what hit you. And there he’d sit…with his sly little grin. I sometimes think he missed his calling….he would have made one heck of a comedian.

Papa loved his BBQ, a good medium rare steak, peanut butter & onion sandwiches…and maybe just a hint of Ancient Age. “You are My Sunshine” was one of his favorite tunes. He cherished growing up on the farm with his parents, Frank & Bertha, and his brother Gene. He had a soft spot for his little curly blonde-haired daughter, Generia, and also treasured his 16-year-old daughter, Ann, whom he later inherited when he married Billye Sue Berryhill in 1963. He took great pleasure in being a long-time Mason and Shriner, and traveling the 50 states with his beautiful Sue. And he always looked forward to Lathen family reunions with his beloved cousins, nephews and extended family.

Papa had a heart of gold and, despite his sometimes crusty Navy exterior, he was really just a big ol’ softy, who could be reduced to tears at any sentimental moment.

He was, hands-down, the most patriotic man I've ever known, a dedicated Navy Chief so incredibly proud to have served his country for 30 years. And he shared the best stories about his times at sea. I can never listen to “The Star-Spangled Banner” or watch the American flag fly without thinking of Papa. I loved following him to the flagpole at dusk to witness the pure ceremony with which he would lower “Old Glory,” and then raise her again at sunrise.   

He cared for my Gran with this same reverence. She was the “Sunshine” with whom he spent nearly 44 years. The last several years of Gran’s life, I witnessed him devotedly cared for her throughout her courageous battle with Alzheimer’s, a disease that robbed her of so very much…yet she always knew his face, his voice and his touch. He would sit beside her and hold her hand for hours.

On one of those occasions, I overheard him whisper to her: “We sure have had a good life, haven’t we?”

“We sure have,” she said.

“I’d do it all over again, wouldn't you?” he asked.

She smiled and said, “I sure would.”

Many times following Gran’s death, I’d notice Papa staring pensively out the window and ask what he was thinking. I already knew the answer. “I miss my Sunshine,” he’d say.

I once asked Papa to finish this sentence: If I had my life to live over, I would…

His words?

“I’m pretty well satisfied, Suzy. I've had a pretty good life all around.”

I know there must have been a remarkable reunion in heaven last Thursday morning as Sue threw her arms around her husband and welcomed him Home, and I know this time he’s never letting go of his Sunshine.

May 29, 2012

Becoming a Delk

 The judge officially declared Blane's adoption final this morning. And she got the rare privilege to sit in the judge's chair for a photo op! She looks quite comfortable there, don't you think? :0)

Ladies and Gentlemen...Miss Blane Delk.

She's so excited! And that makes me so happy!! Thank you to my amazing husband, Scott, for making Blane his own.

The three of us celebrated afterward at Winstead's, where Daddy enjoyed his first-ever Skyscraper!!

I'm so blessed...

Blane woke up this morning and decided to wear her "wedding" dress for the big occasion. She wanted to look like a princess for Daddy. The two of them are going swimming this afternoon to celebrate. Just Daddy and his girl!

Happy, happy, happy...

April 6, 2012

Becoming "Messy Mamahood"

Yep. Knot's tied. Move's over. Adoption's in-process. Let the messiness begin! For clarification, Scott and I were married on January 26, 2012. Actually, that was the date of our wedding and reception. We applied for and picked up our marriage license on December 16, 2011...and, what do you know - it was burning a hole in our pockets. So...we walked in to our church on December 18 and asked our pastor to marry us right there in his office. Merry Christmas to us! That means that each year we'll celebrate Anniversary - Christmas - Anniversary - Valentine's Day, all within a 60-day period. Woohoo! Think I can snag four romantic dinners, flowers and a gift out of each of those? Yeah, me either. ;0)

That was Event #1 (followed immediately by a short but AWESOME mini-honeymoon in Weston. If you've never stayed there, I highly recommend it.) Event #2 was our move to a bigger, newer and more wonderful home the end of February. We are totally digging our new digs. Planning a housewarming party as soon as things settle down. Ha! That made me giggle (and cringe) as I typed it. Settle down. What do those words even mean?

Event #3 - The Adoption. Yes, I'm married to an amazing man who is adopting my 8-year-old daughter as his own. She's soon-to-be Blane Delk, and boy, is that girl excited!! It will be final in May.

Once we got the adoption going, Scott and I headed off to Catalina Island for an extended honeymoon. Our friends, the Valverdes, joined us and the boys ran the Catalina Marathon while we were there. Beautiful and FUN vacation. So many great memories.

Still loving my job at Kansas City Hospice. My first TV campaign is currently airing on major networks and cable, and I'm beginning the creative process for directing/producing at least three more spots to start in September.

Oh, and did I mention the kids?? ;0) Taege is almost a senior and working at Culver's. Keile is 14 and just got her learner's permit (two kids behind the wheel does NOT rock). Sophie and Blane are finishing up third grade and the twins, kindergarten. We're gearing up for our annual trip to Tan-tar-a with Heartland. This will be my first year at OFA as a no-longer-solo mama. Yeah, me!

I have lots of stuff stored up in my head...ready to start purging onto these blog pages again. Good times!

September 2, 2010

Back to work...finally

After six months of being unemployed, I'm finally going back to work. I'm the new Public Relations Specialist for Kansas City Hospice and Palliative Care. Of course, for monetary reasons, I'm excited to be back in the work force. However, I'll miss the freedom I've come to know in these last few months.

And I'm a bit worried that I'll be a little rusty after so long out of the professional world. Sure, there have been freelance opportunities here and there, but nothing like a full-time gig. It sure doesn't seem like six months could make that much of a difference, but since my brain's been wired for full-time mommy duty (which I've thoroughly enjoyed), it's going to take some time to get back in the swing of things.

Like a lot of people in this economy, I also took a TREMENDOUS pay cut. So, we're going to be cutting corners a LOT more than usual now, which sucks. One benefit of this job is that I'll only be working 8:30 to 3 p.m. in the office and the rest from home, so I'll be with the kids before and after school. A big plus for me. And no daycare bill!

And, of course, there's the fact that I'm working for a company which provides an invaluable service to those in need. No more working just to put money in "the man's" pocket. What I do will be making a difference in people's lives. And that feels amazing!

August 18, 2010

Back to school

Yes, it's that time of year again. We're all asking the same questions - Where did the summer go? Back to school already? This year, my kids are at three different school - 2nd, 7th and 10th grades. It's going to be a whirlwind of activity. But I'm looking forward to it.

They all came home from the first day of school excited about the year. Keile said, "Mom, I LOVE middle school!" I know she'll continue in her enthusiasm. No question. Taege thought the first day was a blast. I hope that feeling lasts throughout the year. You know teenagers. And Blane absolutely loves second grade.

Taege and Keile were teasing her about loving a certain boy who's in her class, to which she cried, "No, I don't! I'm going to find love when I'm 39." I think that's an appropriate age, don't you?

Keile told me about a new friend she made. She said the girl was looking for a place to sit during lunch, and Keile invited to her sit with her and her friends. That's my girl.

Taege isn't excited about homework, but he digs seeing his friends every day and is looking forward to wrestling season. And he's really happy about his schedule of classes.

All in all, a great start to the year. Now, if only I could find a job so I'm not sitting here lonely at home.

August 10, 2010

What a blessing!

This will be short and sweet, but what a blessing to talk with my son Matt for the first time. I placed him for adoption in 1985, when I was 16. We spent about two hours asking questions and sharing stories back and forth. I'm so impressed with the man he's grown to be and so thankful for his parents and the amazing home they've created for him. His life turned out exactly as I had hoped. For his privacy, I'm not going to share details here, but I wanted to keep you all updated on this most wonderful experience. It continues to be a huge blessing in my life. Thanks for your prayers!

July 23, 2010

Did they like me?

If you've ever been laid off, you know how golden each interview becomes. Especially when it's a job you really, really want. That's how I'm feeling right now. I'm in the process of interviewing for a senior writer position at a wonderful company. A company that is all about helping people, which was my goal when I started looking for positions.

I first had a phone interview, followed by a face-to-face with the hiring manager. That went very well. I really liked her and believe we'd have a great working relationship. That was followed by a writing "test" in which I was required to write an article for the company's internal publication. Apparently I did well on that because I made it to the top three for second and final interviews with four different people, including the director of the department. Those interviews were yesterday and I feel pretty confident about them. And I even found out that I'm being considered for two different positions.

But you know how you feel after an interview - anxious, nervous, impatient and those self-doubts start creeping in. Did I make a good impression? Did I answer their questions sufficiently? Did they find me engaging? Were they impressed with my experience? And, most important at times, did they like me?

That question takes me all the way back to grade school - waiting to be picked for kickball teams. I always longed to be picked first, but those lucky spaces were reserved for the popular kids. I dreaded being picked last, but thankfully I had some skill and was liked by the popular kids, so that wasn't a real worry. So that left me in the middle. Which was okay for kickball, but not for a job.

So, I sit and wait. Hoping I'll be picked first. Hoping they'll see I'm the perfect candidate for one of the positions. And, like in kickball, hoping they liked me.

July 7, 2010


Sugar cookies with gumdrop middles
Hot from the old gas stove.

Smothering hugs,
Cuddled up in her bosom,
Watching Sylvester chase Tweetie
On the ancient black & white.

Simple dresses made by her own tender hands, checkered plaids and ginghams.

Mason jars stowed away for winter
The green beans and okra we picked by hand.

Laura Ingalls’ bonnets with scarlet bows
Kept away the scorching sun.

Silver triangle struck for six o’clock supper.
"What’s for dinner?" I asked.
"S.O.S." she replied.
I giggled.

Swinging on the porch at twilight,
My feet couldn’t touch the wooden slats.

Catching fireflies in the same jars
We used for canning

A voice whispers in the dark,
"Set them free so they can
Return another night."

Great-Grandma – she returned to me tonight.


I was catching fireflies with Blane last night and was reminded of this poem I wrote about my Great-Grandma Lathen one summer evening a few years ago. Isn't it amazing how the mind works through memories so dear to us? And how the simplest activities live on through generations?