JEN'S ZEN ~ Dad-given


I set up my first email address while in college.

Unlike our children of this cyber-age who receive a social security number and email address upon birth (kidding, but marketing-minded folk are finding the idea brilliant), I’m of the generation who doesn’t breathe technology but must learn and take notes from my kids about how to post on Instagram. You, too?

My first email address was, which I used right up until last November when I added But a first is a first, and mine was lifeisgoodj in honor of one of two simple phrases my dad has spoken throughout my life.

Simple yet powerful, they’re phrases and words that I now use, thanks to him, and speak to my children in hopes of offering the same Dad-given gift I’ve received, and offer you here.


Life is good.


Spoken after a great ball game when I was a kid, where I’d batted a triple, or in a moment of stillness, stargazing while camping … at a grand time like celebrating my graduation from NMU, or precisely what he said to me while holding his firstborn granddaughter in the hospital room: Life is good, kid.

He doesn’t use the sentiment as an end-all about life; it’s not his statement toward whether the glass is half-full or half-empty all the time. Rather, he speaks it when life is, indeed, good. When life is moving along, and something worth noting—something worth taking a slight pause at—warrants a: Life is good. 


Life’s tough.


After an embarrassment of the kind only uttered to parents or a poor decision that resulted in a poor outcome … telling him of a friendship painfully ending, one I thought would be life-long. When it’s difficult, when life hands out situations that have no black and white answers, when we have to eat dirt, he’ll say: Life’s tough, kid.

Again, he doesn’t speak this to say this life is always hard, that life is one big letdown. He speaks it when life is, indeed, tough—when something bad enough worth taking a pause has happened—and warrants a look in the eye and a: Life’s tough.


The other day, taking a country drive with the kids for no real reason, a red-winged blackbird flew up from the ditch in front of our van. A common bird, not a rare sighting, but its dark wings and brilliant band of red fluttered right in front of us, offering a split-second vision of undeniable beauty.

Can two phrases become a framework for all that is Life, and teach one how best to acknowledge it? Hard to say, but my Dad-given gift is more than go-to phrases. It’s that, through these two simple phrases, he taught me to notice.

He gave me “Life is good”, and the ability to recognize and celebrate the moments, big and small. And—like my grandma who said she had no use for a person who couldn’t say ‘shit when they had a mouthful—he gave me “Life’s tough” to recognize and accept when times are flat-out hard and the ability to face it, own it, rather than pretending that dark and difficult don’t happen.

As that red-winged blackbird flew away and that fleeting moment passed, I said—just as my daughter looked at me and spoke the same—“Life is good.”

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Life is good, and life’s tough. Thank you for showing me to recognize both. And to all of the Dads in my life and yours, thank you for your Dad-given gifts and all that they continually give.


 Because the damn dishes are never done. Laundry is a cruel joke. And because children are beautiful lessons in patience and counting. 10, 9, 8, 7 … Breathe.

Jen W. O'Deay