Ten Things My Dad Taught Me

June 1, 2021 | My Jottings

Another one from the archives…

A few months ago I published a post about some of the things I learned from my mom. If you didn’t read it, it’s here. I thought it only right that I write a post about some of the things I learned from my dad.

1.  Always snap your wrist to the right when shooting a basketball. My father was a successful and well-known basketball coach in our community, and it seemed like no matter where I went, if someone learned my last name, they always asked if I was related to Doc Sooter. One of the distinctive things his players always talked about was the odd way he taught them to forcefully snap their wrist to the right (if they were right-handed) when taking a jump shot, as soon as the ball rolled off their finger-tips. I have never forgotten this. Most players I see today do snap their wrists in a pronounced way, but I don’t see them snap it out to the right, with fingers splayed and wrist turned. If you’re going to play basketball anytime soon, you might want to take note as well.

2.  How to parallel park. Along with coaching, being a high school counselor and a math teacher, my dad taught Drivers Education for years. That was back when the schools offered it to 15 1/2 year-olds in preparation for getting their Driver’s License at age 16. I wasn’t allowed to have my dad for a teacher, but from the time I was about ten years old, he let me drive in parking lots, and he taught me many things I still think of today as I drive.

“When you make a turn, you should be sufficiently slowed down enough to accelerate into a turn. Never brake into a turn.”

“Always check your side mirrors every few seconds, not just your rear view mirror.”

“Never assume anyone else on the road is going to be a good driver. Anticipate the mistakes they could make.”

“Parallel parking is a skill worth having, and when it’s done right, you can slip right into a tight spot with one try. None of this in and out, forward and backward, turn this way and that way kind of stuff.”

And today, over 40 years after learning how to drive, I can still perfectly parallel park in one try. Is that boasting? I hope it’s not bad to say that. Just last week Michael and I drove to this restaurant to meet my family to celebrate my 56th birthday, and there was one place remaining on the street to park. The space between the two cars was tight. I remembered all the steps my dad drilled into my head about parallel parking, put them into practice, and slipped into the space like a glove in one try. Michael always smiles at me when I do this and says “I’m impressed.” And I always say, “Thanks Dad!”

3.  Reading a book a day is a worthwhile pursuit. My dad was an avid reader. When I was little, books were rewards. I hated going to the doctor and getting shots when I was young, and my father would say to me, “We have to take you to Dr. Klink’s office today, and you may have to get a shot. If you’re good and don’t raise a fuss, we’ll stop and buy you a book on the way home!” I still love the idea today of books being a reward. By the time Dad retired, he was going to the Morro Bay, CA library once a week, checking out five or six books, and finishing those books in time to return them all a week later. I cannot imagine my life without books. I would truly be bereft without them.

4.  Not saying you’re sorry is a big mistake. Our family was not the most dysfunctional I’ve ever known, but we had some big problems. Some of these problems could have been hugely alleviated if my dad had apologized in a truly humble way. He wasn’t the only one at fault, of course. But I think if I could talk to him now, he would say the same thing. I think it’s so important to say the words “I’m sorry” and truly mean it. I’ve heard many people say, “Well, ‘sorry’ just doesn’t cut it!” and I understand what they’re implying, but I think that a genuine apology heals and helps much more than we think it might. sc00021674

5. Say peoples’ names. My dad, like my mom, had scores of friends. One of the things I saw him do over and over again was listen carefully as people conversed with him, and to speak their names when he talked to them.

6. Be genuinely interested in people. Ask them questions about themselves. My dad was good at this too. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had a one-sided conversation with someone, and when it ended I’ve thought to myself, “Well, they didn’t take lessons from Doc in that area.” (And to be fair, I have probably done the same to my friends since I’m known to be the long-winded chatty sort.)

7.  Enjoy the company of your children. I can’t remember one time in my entire life when my dad shushed me, told me in any way to be quiet, acted like he didn’t want to be around me, or considered me a pest. I didn’t know it so much then, but in looking back now I can see how remarkable that is for a parent. I felt that he valued my company even when I was a little girl. If I walked into a room, his face lit up. If I wanted to go with him someplace he always welcomed that. He listened to me chatter, asked me questions, patiently answered my questions, and spoke to me a few levels above what I was probably capable of fully understanding. 

8.  Peanut butter is delicious with many things. My dad loved peanut butter—Skippy crunchy peanut butter. He ate it on Wonder white bread, smeared it on saltine crackers, dipped pickles in it, and often just ate a spoonful right out of the jar. I am a huge peanut butter fan as well. I prefer my peanut butter without sugar and hydrogenated oil, but I could eat it every day of my life. I like it with apples, with a slice of swiss cheese, on toast, in cake frostings and on top of ice cream.

9.  Going to church can change your life. My father was the son of an itinerant Missouri preacher, and heard the Gospel preached all during his growing up years. By the time I came along in the family he was no longer attending church much, but he wanted to make sure I went. From the time I was about three years old, he drove me to Covina First Baptist Church every Sunday and dropped me off for Sunday School, for many years. I know it would have been more authentic for my dad to go to church with me, but all these years later I’m grateful he did what he did. He meant for me to catch the Gospel message there, and catch it I did. I can’t ever remember a time in my life when I haven’t believed in Jesus, that He died for me and took on my many sins, and loves and helps me every hour of every day. I remember the songs, the verses we memorized, the flannel board stories, the little painted chairs and the baskets full of crayons. I remember my Sunday School teachers, the clothes they wore, can still picture their high heels and beehive hairdos, their smiles, love and dedication. They made me want to know Jesus, and I still want to know Him.

10. Don’t ever say I told you so. My dad was a strong man with black and white opinions he rarely kept to himself. This wasn’t always the funnest thing to live with. But I am grateful that when he was right (at least with me), he didn’t say “I told you so.” For example, my dad didn’t like my first husband much, and in that 20/20 hindsight that comes with wisdom and years, I can now see why. I refused to look at it when I was eighteen years old, and just stubbornly married my handsome boyfriend of three years even though red flags the size of king-sized bed sheets were waving three feet in front of my nose. My dad attended my wedding, embraced Glenn, rejoiced when two beautiful granddaughters were born, and cried with me when the marriage suddenly ended in Germany four years later. My husband had been just who my dad suspected he was, but Dad never said, “I knew this would happen. I told you so!” I was very thankful for his restraint.

I learned other things from my father too, but these are the ten I thought of today. How about you? What are some things your father taught you?


  1. Mike Russell says:

    Hi Julie,

    These are great rememberances of your Dad. You are right on point. They put a smile on my face. I hope that your knee is progressing well.



  2. Just Julie says:

    What a nice surprise to see your comment here, Mike! You made my day — thank you. I’m sure you saw these traits in my dad too. I hope you’re doing well Mike! xoxo

  3. Tauni says:

    Oh Julie, what a thoughtful post. Love the photo! I adored your father and respected him as a professional. He did far more than win Basketball trophies, he truly shaped lives. I am grateful I knew him. I especially love reading and hearing your childhood stories as I remember some of them so well. He always made me feel welcome in your home (as did your mother) and I believe out of all my friends’ parents yours were the ones I was the closest to. Many fond memories my dear friend.

    As I ponder your question of things I learned from my dad my mind floods with so many things. Too numerous to document truly. But here are a few ~ 1) Never go to bed angry, especially with a family member. Agree to disagree or table the talk until another time but never go to bed angry. The other person may not be there in the morning and you will never have a chance to reconcile if that be the case. 2) Never pass up an opportunity to say I love you. This includes every phone conversation and conversation ~ period. For the same reasons noted in number 1. 3) It is no good to get all worked up over things that may never happen. I would have a tendency to get a little (or a lot) anxious over something seemingly big but truthfully trivial. Daddy always reminded me that using energy reacting to the fear of things that may never happen is a huge waste of energy. Save it for the reality. It is a lot less taxing on the mind and body and far more productive. 4) Be very careful in passing judgement on anyone before knowing the facts. Things are never as they seem, and we frequently do not have enough information to know the reality of things. There are always two sides to a story and rarely can one person involved in the situation relay things from both sides without a bias. Seeking to understand different perspectives makes it easier to see the other side of any situation. 5) My father taught me about patience. Patience is a form of perseverance for me. Waiting to see how things unfold and not jumping to conclusions helped me to make wiser and more informed decisions. 6) Try to vary the paths you take when you travel to places, especially places you frequent. It is a good strategy to keep the brain engaged, AND that way the Indians won’t find you. I have taught this strategy to both my kids 🙂 !

    The thing I miss the most about my dad not being here on earth now, is navigating owning my own business. I wish he were hear to not only advise me but share in the experience.

    Thanks for asking 🙂 ~ I love you Julie!!

  4. Just Julie says:

    Tauni, your words always take me back and make me so happy we grew up together. There’s just something about a friend who knows everything and all about your family and still loves you and them. That’s you. I have such rich memories of your parents too. Your dad had a sense of humor that made me laugh more than a few times. I know how much you miss him, and how incredibly proud he was and would be of you. What a daughter you are to your parents! The best. Sure love you…thank you for your words of blessing. xoxo

  5. Kay in Cornwall says:

    Julie and Tauni, you both had very wise fathers. I can relate to all the advice from your dads apart from the basketball point. (My dad and I were/are rugby fans.:)) I wish I could parallel park – I managed to complete the manoeuvre for my driving test, but I really don’t know how I did it! I haven’t tried to do it for years and years now.
    My father was/is a huge worrier and suffers from OCD. He dearly loves me and is inexplicably proud of me. However, because of his problems, he wasn’t a good role model.

  6. Just Julie says:

    Thank you for always sharing so much of yourself here, Kay. I think regular readers know you are a kind, detailed, transparent, funny, faithful woman, and it always lifts my heart to sign on and see you’ve left a comment. Thank you! It doesn’t surprise me a bit that your father is so proud of you, dear friend. xoxo

  7. Pat says:

    What a beautiful post, Julie – your Dad had some wonderful traits! A few things I learned from my Dad – never charge anything on a credit card you can’t immediately pay, never go in a business partnership with anyone, remember to thank God for everything, and blackberry brandy is good for stomach upset. 🙂

  8. Just Julie says:

    Such good advice from your dad, Pat! I haven’t tried the last one yet, though… 😉 xoxo

  9. Dorothy Sooter says:

    Loved the picture. Your dad was my driving instructor on all of our
    trips and as a result am a pretty good driver. The first time he ever
    said he was sorry was two days before he went home to be with the
    Lord. We discussed things many times and I said I was sorry many
    times. Miss him terribly and more so this time of the year cause he
    got sick in late August and I truly believed he was going to get well.
    Love all of your posts and the writings of your friends.

  10. Just Julie says:

    Your words made me smile then almost cry Dorothy. Dad was blessed to have you. You have been a gift to our family…. xoxo

  11. Nancy A Roney says:

    Reading AND parallel parking. How I wish. I always have to look for space to drive in. It seems he gave you many gifts Julie. My Dad was kind to people. I try to imitate him. That is his greatest gift to me. God bless your Dad in Heaven.

  12. Just Julie says:

    Your father’s kindness has most definitely rubbed off on you, Nancy. That is a gift to the world. Thank you for your love and words, as always. xo

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