what I learned from my family


1. It’s okay to cry once a day, even if it’s over a good song. Durhams have loose tear-ducts, it’s just the way it goes.

2. “Oh, Heck” is the best card game ever invented.

3. It’s perfectly acceptable to get emotionally wrapped up in trashy shows like The Bachelorette.

4. Everything is more fun when everyone decides to be low-maintenance.

5. Barking out commands isn’t really that bossy… some of us just struggle saying “please.”

6. You’re as happy as you make your mind up to be.

7. The beach, cold drinks, umbrellas & chairs are the perfect recipe for an afternoon of reminiscing.

8. Durham women… we get it from our Gram.

Thanks, Durhams, for always making family so much fun.



I’ve always loved my family. Since I was a little toddler with blonde curls and freckles, I’ve looked forward to summertime because it means time with the Durham family.

We are on our way to Watersound, Florida to spend 5 days relaxing, laughing, eating, etc. with people who have largely contributed, in the best ways, to who I am today. I love my family. The older I get, the more I appreciate them.

So far on our little journey with my dad, we have listened to Tony Bennett, Billy Joel, The Eagles, The Mamas & Papas, you get the drift. We stopped to see Lincoln’s birthplace and see a close friend in Nashville. I can’t help but think about how grateful I am for this phase of life… where I get to take part in old memories while making new ones.

Whoever family is to you… love them well. Drive 12 hours to laugh with each other. Plan time to just sit around and play cards together. Because they’re your home team. And they love you for who you really are… and remind you of how far you’ve come.

Here’s to you, family vacation. You are much more than a few days in Florida.

Father’s Day (from Kyle)

Today we have an unusual occurence–a guest post from the Husband. Hope you enjoy.
I am often asked why I am such a big Michigan fan. You may as well ask why the sky is blue or why maize has its color.  Bob Ufer famously said that “Michigan football is a religion, and Saturday’s the holy day of obligation.” I believe this—many in my life do not.

Growing up, Saturdays were reserved for Michigan football.  I got hooked in 1995; I became fanatical in 1997. No friend or event could tear me away from the television. I remember watching the 1995 Michigan-Virginia game (score 18-17) at a friend’s birthday party at Discovery Zone. Mercury Hayes caught a touchdown with no time left. I cheered while my friends played in some obstacle course. I remember taping the Michigan-OSU game because my dad had to work (It was worth it. Tim Biakabutuka ran for 313 yards; my brother, who likes OSU, did not talk to me for 2 days).  The first time I cried after a Michigan loss occurred on January 1, 1997. Alabama won 17-14. I had a lucky shirt and still do (commence jokes about how lucky it’s been the past 3 years).

But I crossed the barrier from fanhood to obsession in 1997. Multiple factors played into this development: the undefeated season, a Heisman trophy winner, etc. The main reason though was I attended my first game at Michigan Stadium.

Growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, you typically do not find a lot of Michigan connections. My mother was heavily involved with the PTA and, luckily for us, so was the Howard family.  I grew up with their daughter and her dad just happened to be a Michigan alum. Not only that, he played cornerback there in the 70s.  The Howard’s had season tickets and offered to sell my parents a game they were not attending.  My parents decided to give me these tickets as a birthday present—despite the fact the game was in October and my birth took place in November. I received this present at a PTA dinner function at my sister’s elementary school. We ate spaghetti. My mom handed me an envelope with a University of Michigan seal. Confused, I opened the best birthday present I have ever received.

It was set that my father would attend the game with me. We left Cincinnati at 6 am. Ann Arbor is 4 hours away. The game started at noon. We arrived a tad early. Having never been to Ann Arbor, Dad and I walked around the stadium area. My excitement was palpable.  Life not be better for a twelve-year-old.

Michigan played Northwestern that day. Northwestern had beaten Michigan the two earlier years (I watched both and was crushed). I felt nervous. But the game was wonderful. I remember some details vividly (like the people who sat in front of us and kept flipping off the NW band; the heat of the day; taking off my jersey when Michigan was doing poorly so my lucky shirt could do its work). What I remember most though is my dad. It continues as one of my favorite memories with him—the excitement, the closeness, that it was he and I and no one else.

Since that game we have been to one almost every year. It’s a pilgrimage we make together.  We have had some hard times in our family. Dad and I are extremely alike—we internalize and avoid emotional conversation. But those Saturdays in the fall connect us in an unspeakable way.  Despite that I am now married and live in a different state, we are kept close by Michigan football. We talk and text continually throughout games.

My first Michigan game was the last present my mother ever gave me. It did immeasurable things for my relationship with my father. After her death, my father raised three children alone. I can think of no one better suited for the task. Every noble trait I have is a direct result of my parents. Someday I’ll be a father. I will make mistakes and probably give them complexes they’ll have to deal with later in life. But everything I do right will be because of my dad.

What will my son’s birthday gift be when he turns twelve? A fall Saturday in Ann Arbor with his dad and Pop Pop.

Happy Father’s Day and Go Blue.

super nintendo, monopoly, and talking to strangers

I overhead this conversation while standing in line at an airport Starbucks:

Little red-head boy: Taps shoulder of girl in front of him. Hi, what’s your name?
Little blonde-haired girl: Amelia. What’s yours? And why are you wearing Spiderman?
Little red-head boy: I’m Ian. I have Spiderman everything. Spiderman is all over my room and look at my Spiderman bookbag. Ian turns around to show off his sweet bag, clearly something he had asked for for Christmas, his birthday, or July 4th.
Little blonde-haired girl: Oh. Do you like Batman, too?
Little red-head boy: No. Who’s Batman? I love Spiderman. I even painted my walls Spiderman.

I chuckled to myself, and then imagined what that conversation would look like if it existed in adult-land. We’re all standing here, pretending not to notice each other, typing on our phones or looking over the menu for the 47th time, acting as if none of us exist.

Tall red-haired man: Hey there, you’re a stranger in line in front of me. What’s your name?
Blonde woman, looking baffled that a stranger is talking to her: Um, Jenny, what’s yours?
Tall red-haired man: Tim. Why are you wearing that purple dress?
Blonde woman, clearly offended: I’m sorry what? (But really thinking, Why are you staring at my dress?)
Tall red-haired man: Oh, I’m sorry, I just think it’s a pretty dress. Didn’t mean to offend you.
Blonde woman, attempting to end the conversation: It’s okay. Have a great day! (Obviously an inappropriate remark and no way to continue the conversation, but something we’ve just learned to say to cut things off.)

…and you see my point. Kids clearly win when it comes to talking to strangers, striking up conversation with those they do not know, and asking questions about things that would otherwise be offensive (unless you’re 3, of course).

One of my friends, Lyndsey, is a kindergarten teacher. She told me last summer that the most rewarding time for her is around Martin Luther King Jr. day. I found that surprising–not because I don’t love MLK (we all know I do), but because it’s only one day off school vs. say, winter break. She brushed off my question and said, “No, you don’t understand. I have to explain to the kids why it even exists, why MLK did what he did, and why people would ever hate people because of the color of their skin. They don’t understand, their little minds cannot comprehend it. They’re all different races and colors and none of them can fathom why that would make anyone hate someone else.”

Most of us can remember when the tide turned in elementary school–and the social rules of nerdy, girl scout, popular, and geek became more clearly defined. That was only the beginning of a dynamic that unfortunately continues to grow into adulthood. I’m finding–now more than ever–that social rules still apply. Sit up straight. Don’t ask questions that make people squirm. Say only shallow things, go with the flow of traffic, and don’t ruffle feathers. If gossip is happening, don’t challenge it–what else are we going to talk about? Don’t cross boundary lines. Don’t mix your worlds together. And, my least favorite: Why would you ever be friends with someone who is in a different life stage than you? They don’t know anything.

In these ways, I long for childhood sometimes. Who cares if you disagree about how our country is run? That’s not going to affect the way we play Nintendo together. Why does it matter if we’re into different things? We can all play Crazy Eights.

When I was little, I spent most summers on my grandparents’ lake house in Cadiz, Kentucky… a small, tiny little town in Western Kentucky. Our whole family showed up. Most of the cousins were around the same age, and we always played together. We made up skits to put on for the adults, water-skied, went tubing, played Nintendo and silly card games, etc. And for the life of me, I can’t ever remember thinking, “Wow, we see the world very differently, I doubt we will be friends.” Thinking back on it, none of us really had anything in common, but we didn’t know that. Nor did we care.

How stupid is that? How backwards that we older we get, the less we know how to sit across the table from someone with a different worldview than us? That as we grow older, we really just grow more narrow, making our worlds smaller and smaller and select the people we want to influence us or invite into our every day lives?

I doubt this is what Jesus ever meant when he talked about having childlike faith. Surely even He knew how silly and childish adults can be. That’s the kind of childish way I long for–being able to keep conversation with a stranger, love people without judgment, and know how to play Monopoly with someone that sees the world a lot differently.