Not your average {Joe}

Let me tell you a little about Joe.

Joe Buckley is my little brother…

…and he is truly one of the most interesting people I have the pleasure of knowing.

{And yes, that may or may not be a mullet-esque hairdo I’m sporting. Though mom claims otherwise… “Dorothy Hamill” my foot.}

{Senior Pic… Stud}

Named for two great men: Our great-grandfather who lived his days bringing life to the land on his Ohio farm, Joe Washington; and our rural Kentucky-born grandfather who ended up directing a Children’s home he ran away from as a boy, Robert Buckley. Joe was born in 1990, just shy of four years after me, and he has always loved his name.


Like most of us, I think, he’s made up of an interesting combination of contradictions, accomplishments, small tragedies and large joys. We fought, like brothers and sisters do, but I remember eagerly awaiting the day that he could read so we could play Monopoly… and there were bike races, 4-H meetings, barbies (he liked Ariel from the little mermaid because she also had red hair… or maybe it was the shell bra…), birthday parties and all of the normal childhood joys we raced through together.

Including dressing up in period costumes on family vacations…

Don’t let him tell you he didn’t do it of his own free will. We were the envy of all other children, and tourists stopped to take photos with us. It’s the truth.

{Gotta love us}

We’ve always had a good relationship, but in the past year or so I would say that our friendship has ‘grown up’. Joe is about to graduate from college, and enter a new, exciting, successful stage of his life, and there is something about both of us arriving at adulthood that has made each conversation a little more meaningful, and each memory a little bit sweeter.

And so, this post. Each of my family and friends have taught me important lessons, but here are a few that are “uniquely Joe”…

Lesson’s from Joe:

1. It‘s OK to suffer a little bit: Joe has the highest pain tolerance of anyone I know. Bleeding/oozing gash, no biggie. Misaligned/sprained joints, another game of ultimate Frisbee is still on the agenda. Beyond enduring weird physical pain, he’s amazing a pushing is natural limits and more healthy ways as well. Example: We are not “math people.” Growing up, we both shed tears over algebra, but when he went to college he knew that an understanding of finance could further his future career…. so he majored in it. Talk. About. Pain. He put in extra time, and suffered through classes that we not his forte to achieve a greater goal. And, it’s paying off. So, push your limits. Be ok with discomfort. Go for the big picture.

2. It’s Ok to have happy secrets: I am not a person that likes to keep things to myself. I can take a best friend’s secret to the grave, but I LIKE to talk about myself. I think I’m pretty fascinating, so why wouldn’t I share my every thought with the world? Joe, not so much. He doesn’t broadcast his feelings, but when you get to know him, it’s like opening a treasure chest. He looks smart, athletic, funny and outgoing, but you’d never guess that when he comes home he reads dusty old Zane Grey novels in his room instead of always watching a game on TV; he reaches for grapes and feta cheese for a snack instead of Doritos; and he can converse about dairy goats or dog showmanship just as easily as politics or the Cleveland Indians starting lineup. Be deep. And be okay with the entire world not knowing it.

3. It’s OK to care: Joe feels deeply. He thinks about his family, his friends and his dog, and he makes sure to let them know that they matter in his life. His birthday cards to the family usually come in the form of a sheet of plain white copy paper folded in half, and four lines of text scrawled in pen on the inside, but those words are always thoughtfully crafted and more beautiful and honest than anything Hallmark has ever produced. My mom called him a “snuggler”, and others say he’s just a good, sweet-natured friend (but with a razor-sharp wit and the fastest come-backs known to man). I say, he’s a good guy to have in your corner. Show simple kindnesses, make people feel cared for. Back them up when it counts.

He also knows how to be loyal to one of the most disappointing teams in baseball…

…but that’s a story for another day :)

These lessons might be simple, but they are often overlooked. Take the time to think about applying these concepts in your life, or think about how a brother or sister or cousin or friend has taught you something without even realizing it…. just by being a {not so average} Joe.

Bekah Claire {Age 9}

This is Rebekah Claire. She is 9.

Bekah is my little sister. I am the oldest of four, and she is the youngest. Some quick mental math, and you’ll realize that I am 16 years older than she is.

Yep, That’s a lot. Yep, same parents. Nope, she wasn’t an accident. And no, I wasn’t mortified when mom and dad told me I’d have a new sibling.

We all thought it was the coolest thing ever…

The spread in our ages does mean when I am ‘over the hill’, she will be a bubbly, perky 24, and when I pushed her stroller at the mall when she was a baby, I got the “teen mom look” from passers-by.  But, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You can learn a lot from a little sister. But, I think Bekah has more to offer than most. I might be biased, but she has a lot of freedom, wisdom and spunk. A great combination…

While Bekah and I have some similar family traits (hellooo…it’s 10:45p.m. Where is my nightly dessert?!), in other ways we aren’t very much alike.

She likes her hair short (mine is long), her favorite colors are blue and green (ummm…pink?), she watches super hero shows on television (I.Love. Lucy.), she cares deeply about other peoples’ feelings (not my strong point), her physique could be called ‘willowy’ (something I will never be accused of), and she goes from a “little black raincloud” (literally…she has a picture of a black raincloud she holds over her head when she’s mad) to the most sweet, sincere, lovable, apologetic angel in 3.2 seconds (only in the Husband’s dreams could I pull a 180 like that)

What do you like to do?

Bekah: I like to draw.

What do you like to draw?

Bekah: Robots and dresses.

In those splashes of sameness, it is fun for me to watch her and to bask in my own nine-year-old-memories. We did fall in love with the same “Prince Charming” daddy, after all…. and mama made us Mickey Mouse-shaped pancakes in the same kitchen. But, the delightful, surprising moments of “Bekah being Bekah” might be even more fun. We all laugh and grin and poke each other with the joy of her words, songs and games. And I feel like I learn a little more about life every time I make a trip home…

{Lessons from Bekah}:

Different is fun. Bekah has the simple joy of being totally herself. Why shouldn’t she like drawing robots and dresses equally as much? One delight doesn’t exclude her from another, no matter how “opposite” it may be. Princess by day, Cleveland Indians fan by night. The juxtaposition is surprising and fun. In our own lives, those contrasts are often what makes us most interesting.

Messy Doesn’t Really Matter. My old bedroom went to Bekah the minute I left home. By now, it is used to resting quietly under a mass of dress-up clothes, dollhouse friends, dried up markers, plastic dishes and forgotten popsicle sticks. The space gets cleaned up for company and when things start getting really lost… but when you walk into that cozy space, you rarely feel like tossing things into their proper places. Instead, I’m always reminded of afternoons lost in American Girl books, make-believe with girlfriends and crafts made in secret to show dad when he gets home. If I took the same approach to my house – letting the “lived in” look reside for a few minutes before I start feeling “behind” because of a few papers and shoes on the floor –  my stress level might go down a bit, and I’m pretty sure my friends would still like me.

Be Proud of the Little Things. Look what I did!… a picture, cookies, doll blanket, 100% math test, melted-bead-christmas-ornament-thing… Bekah reminds me that it is okay to silently cry tears of joy when I finally finish “Grapes of Wrath”, and when I call my mom to tell her that I conquered my latest recipe. When I run to the Husband and tell him I remembered to take out the trash when he was out of town, and that I smile to myself when I can converse about a story I read in the local paper this morning over breakfast (because I read it diligently every day…). Sometimes, the little things don’t have to be so little. Go ahead and bask in the things you’re proud of.

Eat the Good Stuff. Ice cream and bread. I think Bekah could live off of those two items…and maybe some wheat thins and Craisins (her favorite go-to snack combo) and the occasional baked potato. Couldn’t we all?! Now, she does eat what mom puts in front of her eventually, but she always saves a little room for her favorite things. I’m not advocating the all-carb dessert diet by any means, but savoring your favorite things is not only good for you, but necessary for your sanity and the success of any healthy-eating regimen. Never eliminate whole food groups, and never give up your favorites.

Fall in love with Daddy. Bekah and I had the luxury of having a father that whisked us off our feet like queens, told us stories that enchanted us, taught us British accents and the rules of baseball, made us read tough books, and bought us chickens so we could gather fresh eggs in our aprons like pioneers. He saved us the biggest raspberries off of the bushes in the back yard, made it impossible not to love Simon & Garfunkle, and called us “punkin pie” and “dolly”. Bekah’s long Saturday walks with Dad to get donuts are some of her most precious moments, and my conversations about life and faith and dreams bring my world into focus. You never outgrow a father’s influence… and letting myself fall in love with daddy first (like Bekah is now) made all of the difference in my life.

Bekah has the gift of being yet unspoiled by the world’s expectations.

I’d like to be more like that, wouldn’t you?

Here’s to little sisters…