12/29/2009

Give it to me Straight



Ever wonder why folks are so reluctant, as adults, to be totally honest with each other? Yes, often times, what is said is what the recipient wants to hear; an endorsement, of sorts, of the asker’s opinions so as to avoid any confrontation. Sometimes these white lies can build to the point where the communication is so far from the truth, it is almost as if a rubber band has been stretched to the breaking point.

We can all take a lesson from children. As the saying goes, “out of the mouth of babes. ” Children are honest, at times, brutally honest. If you ask a child if he or she likes something, you will get the truth. It does not matter if you have slaved in the kitchen breaking out in hot sweats for hours. If they don’t like the meal, they are going to tell you, with or without your prompting. Wouldn’t we all rather hear the truth though that a fabrication of reality?

I often watch my grandchildren interact with each other just to see these phenomena. There are two of them, relatively close in age, and when one does not want to share, the other one knows it without a doubt. Even as children age, they still tend to be quite honest. I will never forget, years ago, when my darling nephew, around 7 years old at the time , Nic Taylor said to me, after opening his present for his birthday, “Please Aunt Ronni, don’t buy me more clothes!” His mother looked dismayed but I was overjoyed. I do not want to spend money on something someone does not appreciate. From that day forward, I seldom have bought him one article of clothing, except for a football jersey he asked for! How much better is that than not knowing what someone is really thinking?

There is a lesson to be learned, quite simply, from children. Be upfront and honest with others. We can be more diplomatic than children often are and show more sensitivity but yet speak the truth. There is no need to rip something out of someone’s hands we want or throw a temper tantrum if we are not getting the attention we want. But, imagine a world where adults care enough about each other to be honest. Imagine, when someone asks our input, we tell them quite simply, objectively, what we feel without filtering down so badly it does not really resemble more than just a mirror of what they just said. Also, are you really helping others discern the truth from fiction in their life if you are not honest with them?

12/25/2009

O Come All Ye Faithful


Months ago, I was working with a team of women for the Relay for Life event in Williamson County. The day of the event, I happened to be at local mall in that area and was pretty excited about the upcoming festivities. Hence, I was telling the store clerks in New York & Company about it and inviting them to attend.

A young man behind the counter told me he was scheduled to work that weekend and could not attend. While he was saying this, he was unhooking the clasp of the beautiful chain he had around his neck, sterling silver with a sparkle when the lights hit it directly. This was not custom jewelry. Without a word, he handed it to me. I looked down at the chain and back at the young man’s face and asked why he was giving it to me. He simply said “My grandfather was a wonderful loving man who died years ago of cancer. I always wanted to do something to let him know how profoundly he touched my life. This is my opportunity. Take this chain that is so dear to me and expensive and use it to raise money to find a cure so no one else has to suffer the same fate my grandfather did.”

I was humbled by his generosity. Here was someone quite young, working in retail and offering up something near and dear to him to help others. I was so excited I quickly got on my cell phone and called our team captain to recant the story.
An hour later I arrived at our tent, home base, for the Relay with my fellow team members. They had, by then, all heard the story about the necklace.

One of our team members was not going to be able to join us though. We were saddened because her cancer had returned and we all wanted to set our eyes on her and let her know she remains steadfast in our prayers. We decided, as a group, instead of auctioning the necklace we would give it to her, with the story told to me, and hopefully give her a new leash on life. God works in mysterious ways and maybe, by passing on this necklace we could instill even more faith and hope in our dear friend’s heart.

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Fast forward to yesterday, Christmas Eve. I was doing the last minute run to the mall and happened to be in the same store and lo and behold, the same young man was there behind the counter. I told him what was done with his necklace. He asked for an update on her current situation. I told him she was still in the heat of the battle. Reluctant to give up, her determination was guiding her to continue fighting even harder, with another round of chemotherapy with an ‘experimental’ treatment she was to begin shortly.

The young man thanked me repeatedly for letting him know who his chain had gone to and her story. Then, without a word, he removed a gorgeous bracelet he was wearing and held it out to me. He asked me simply to give it to her and let her know it is a Hail Mary bracelet. He went on to tell me he is a Catholic, devout in his faith. He said the bracelet signifies to him prayers are being said by all and he wanted her to know, with this gift, he will continue praying for her.

I tried to refuse as the bracelet was gorgeous. It had images of Virgin Mary, the crucifix, stations of the cross, etc…beautifully painted on each bead. As I looked it over and scanned the back of the beads, they also have painted images on them and were completely different than the images on the front of the beads. It was , simply said, gorgeous. Full of Christian meaning with those images staring back at me. He told me he could easily get another and it would mean far more to him to know where it was going than to wear it. He said he believes in the Hail Mary prayer and has used it repeatedly through out his life. He simply said “I want to give the gift or prayer to your friend and let her know, with this bracelet, others are praying for her.”

I took down his email, at my request, because I felt I wanted to follow up with him with updates on her condition. He was humbled that I asked to stay in contact with him as his gift had no strings attached. He did not even give me his name, merely his email. He was simply a servant of God not interested in attention or praise. Yet, when I told him I would indeed take it to her this holiday season, his face lit up like I had given him the gift! He thanked me repeatedly as I repeated his words to me, thanking him! The line was beginning to back up in the front of the store, but all present within an earshot of this conversation that heard this encounter moved or said a word. I think all were taken in by this simple gesture and gift of this young man to some woman fighting to stay alive this Christmas.

I walked out of the store, once again, reminded God is alive and well. He is showing himself in the strangest of places. Just like the movie years ago George Burns starred in Oh God, the almighty really does reveal himself in the simplest of places. Here in the face of this young man working retail was a love of mankind so pure and a gift given freely with no expectation in return. How wondrous!

I thought about this young man many times yesterday and in particular when I attended a candle light service. As the lights were dimmed in our church, illumination in the church only by burning candles each member of the congregation was holding, I again reflected on this gift. I was reminded, just as the wise men brought gifts to our baby Jesus laying in a manger, this young man was bringing life to a complete stranger through me. This man’s gift represents hope, love and faith.

I hope, after reading this account, you all will remember that the true meaning of Christmas comes in no set size package, no particular form or person but solely from God. If we open our hearts, the gift is there not only at Christmas time but always.

Merry Christmas to all! Rejoice! Do you doubt the magic of the season? Look no further……

12/19/2009

You can help cure the world this Christmas

We need alittle Christmas year around. We need to take that giving attitude and let it be incorporated in day to day living. Think of the difference in the world with just a little bit more thoughtfulness, a little more compassion towards others and lending a helping hand to those in need.

I sit here and imagine a world with this helpfulness played out. I see a world with more smiles and less tears. I see more healthy lives and less people dying needlessly. I see more neighbors being neighborly, verses battling it out in civil court where no one truly wins. Who instills the peace when hatred brews?

Yes, this season is full of happy stories. My sister’s quest for getting her college degree, after many years, has finally been realized. More solidiers are coming home from overseas. But I also see such horror stories abound! A Bengals football player died this week after falling out of a truck during a scuffle with his fiance. Three young children will never get to know their father growing up. Christmas this year will not be with daddy there. Was no one aware of the turmoil brewing in his relationship with his fiancĂ© so that this event could have been prevented? Now that he is gone, do folks care?

How about all the children fighting illness in the hospital, is that worthy of our time and attention? They are millions of donors waiting for organs so they can see another Christmas. And yet, when you turn on the television this week, one week before Christmas, we are repeatedly hit with images of Tiger Woods infidelities. Stories that we are hearing from questionable sources out to smear his name and get their couple minutes of fame. The media seems hell bent on smearing his name. Forget the fact he has a wife and two children, it is more important to networks and magazine publications to boost ratings. He wanted privacy to deal with his indiscretion. What benefit is it to any of us to continue hearing all this smut? Is anyone's live being enriched with this knowledge? What ever happened to the days when this season, Christmas, brought happy stories to the air ways, to our homes, to help warm our hearts?

Please push back. Too many people are sitting by the sideliness waiting or avoiding the difficult tasking of taking up a stance. Saying the words, enough, we want change, we want responsiblity by all. I have seen family members sit idly by while loved ones fight cancer, not saying a word to a loved one. Not a peep about the differance a cancer fighter has made in being alive and impacting others lives. More concerend with living their own lives, whether that person be a mother, son, friend's child. Do you think the cancer victim does not sense this? Do you think it is any less painful because they are fighting to stay alive that others avoid them and don't let them know they are loved and they will be fighting for a cure long after they are gone? Be strong and be supportive of others going thru tough times. Have the direct conversations, don't let things go unsaid, seize the moment. God might have made it just for you. Are you listening?

You have a voice not just this season, but always. Use it. If the show you are watching is doing nothing to advance our world, is it worth watching? Are you slandering others when you yourself have sinned? Are you caring enough about humanity to help others? Do you make a positive difference? If not, let that be your Christmas gift to the world and yes to yourself. God asks very little of us, please give. The world is waiting. We need you to care. Will you step up?

12/14/2009

The World's Christmas Wish List


Friday night began, what I hope will become a holiday tradition for me. This was on my bucket list for many years, a Christmas party in my home for my close friends. It was my way of celebrating the season, having them connect with one another and give them a night to remember. For is not the season of Christmas the season of giving? This was my gift to me, giving them a forum to enjoy life, celebrate our diversity and come together in prayer for things that really matter to us all.

The festivities were planned to the utmost. Games were preplanned by me with details reviewed way too many times. I think my eyes were growing weary reviewing my list to make sure not a thing was remiss. I created the games myself and made certain there was a complicated one, involving the need for a project manager on each team. It was my version of the Great Race in my home, but with activity challenges planned that tied in with the holidays. The groans could be heard around the room as I explained the lay out of their team building/bonding adventure. It went without a hitch and I stood back and reveled in the personalities present, the childlike abandonment of healthy competition among women!

Though the evening was a celebration it was also a time for reflection and prayful thought as to what this world truly needs. I could not begin the evening festivities without having a moment of silence and prayer thanking each of them for what they bring to my life and to this world. This was followed by what I felt was the most inspiring dialogue of the evening. Each person was asked to add to an adult Christmas wish list, one item they wish for our world.

As the progression around the room began, each time someone had to reflect on a wish for the world and add to our adult Christmas wish list, the room became somber, thoughtful and silent. Hearts felt heavy with sadness on what is needed in our world. I imagine this is how our Father must feel looking down from the heavens. How can I have created so many people with so many talents and yet they so easily forget to share them or to consider their neighbor’s needs?

Several party goers jokingly asked for tissues. Some commented this seemed too sad to be a part of our party. However, not one person failed to come up with a suggestion that would truly make this world a better place, be closer to what God had envisioned for all his children.

My original thoughts for my blog were to detail this fun evening of love and laughter. After looking at the list in the light of the next day, I knew in my heart what God intended…that is, this list should be shared. When I think of my friends, I want to remember their wishes for the world. They speak volumes…about human compassion, suffering and how to advance our people as we are all interconnected.

Our wish list included the following:
• Peace in the Middle East and an end to senseless fighting and killing of others.
• It included several requests for our military personnel to be able to be home, on safe soil, with their families to enjoy the holidays and live out all the days of their life in stability in the world.
• We also want homeless people to have a place to call ‘home’, a bed to sleep in and their basic needs met.
• Many felt the spirit of volunteerism needs to be revitalized, asking each of us to carry a torch for something that matters to us as each of us can make a difference and more of us need to try to do just that. Nomatter how busy are our lives are, we all agreed, volunteerism is the spirit of giving at work.
• A reoccurring theme was the eradication of cancer, of diseases that are killing innocent people often times in a horrific painful way. With all the attention given to media scandals, why cannot this time and attention be spent on saving lives?
• The request was made to add to our growing list to help everyone everywhere be real with each other, leave biases aside and learn to be open and listen with a forgiving mind and loving heart. Someone else expanded on this thought by stating how the world needs to foster more compassion for our fellow man. Think of the difference this would make to our world!
• One of my friends stated a wish she tries to live by, learning live each day with no regrets at the closing of the day. The power of this request hit everyone present. It would force everyone to think before reacting, and be more deliberate in what we do as to make this world a better place. It implies accountability for our choices and responsibility, virtues that often get lost in the hustle of the everyday live.
• Some spoke of tolerance and of embracing diversity. One friend expanded on this stating her own silent prayer that children everywhere, nomatter who or what they are or stand for be given a chance for a rich education and adequate health care so that they can have a future. They are our future, the children of the world.
• Last said but certainly not least was freedom, in every sense of the word. We pray for this civil right for all.
Yes, my best Christmas gift has already been received. Knowing that I brought friends together and that out of that friendship came so many words of wisdom and reflection for the world warms my soul.
I know each and everyone present Friday evening will forever remember that experience of sitting still, in a room full of Christmas lights and listening to hearts open up as never before. Strangers became friends in those quiet moments of reflection.
I wish I could express in writing the power of the moment, the and the impact of the wishes spoken we all felt but anything I write will fall shy of the mark. But, I can say, God was among us. He attended my party. I know God was smiling as we opened our hearts, one by one and let each others prayerful wish list reach our soul. We prayed that night that these wishes stated above, would be heard above all other wish lists for material things. A new vacuum cleaner, a new video game and a gift card are wonderful items but do they change the world?

Please open your heart to pray this holiday season for things that matter and can make our star, this world, shine a little bit brighter!

12/10/2009

Plan B


Not everything in life turns out the way we expect it to be or the way we desire it to. That is part of the challenge in life, truly learning to roll with the punches so that we avoid them on the next round! When I look at the faces of my grandkids, so inquisitive about life, I am struck by how early on we learn this principle. And we truly are survival of the fittest!

On that note, my career has taken a turn. I am no longer working for the American Cancer Society and wanted to update any of you that have followed my blog in the past. I realize now that giving to a cause can take many forms and there are always options. I am choosing another option. End of story.

With the closing of a year and the starting of a new one, I am invigorated about life. I see many doors to choose from to open, sort of like “Let’s Make a Deal”, the deal of life, of choices of opportunities. Which door are you choosing to walk through and why? Are your reasons the right reasons for making that choice? If so, I would love to hear from you! I find the best learning in my life is from stopping and listening to others, hence I am all ears.

As I embark on a new chapter, I am hoping to have the flexibility with my schedule to blog more regularly again. The writing process is something I enjoy and the feedback from others, priceless!

9/19/2009

American Cancer Society's Signature Pink Event


Hard to believe for all those steadfast participants of last year that this year's Making Strides against Breast Cancer is upon us again. The walk is again scheduled at LP Field and will be held on Oct. 24, a Saturday in Nashville TN. Something tells me the sun will be shining because God will certainly be smiling!

Seeing people from all walks of live join together for one common cause is truly inspirational. It shows what the true meaning of community is and what the power of community can be. I love to see the faces of new comers to the event, as they stare in wonderment at the sheer volume of folks standing in the street, hearing the cheerleaders shout long before they are seen and as music is blasted throught out the downtown streets.

The flurry of 15,000 walkers, knowing that each step is putting them one closer to better treatments, more money for services and greater awareness to decrease diagnosed cases is divine.

Pink is the chosen color of the day to commerate little girls, though males can and do get diagnosed with breast cancer! I encourage each and every one that hears of this event to consider participating in some fashion. My team is Make Some Noise but the best gift of all is heightened awareness for everyone and a quiet moment of prayer. If you do that, trust me, God will smile even brighter and as the rays of the sun pierce down that day, truly we will all know and feel His warmth!

7/09/2009

False Faces

I find it amazing how deceptive folks can be. I heard a Bishop tonight imply someting along my sentiments on a televised funeral. How many times do we hear folks quoting the Bible and not living by the Word? How many times do folks go to Church regularly and label folks freely and negatively all week?

Why do people live their lives by decieving others? The amount of energy invested in all this deception could be put to far better use by being honest, open and real. I heard someone say this week, "CEOs value candor." I think we all do. Be real, to decieve is self destructive and dishonest.

How you conduct yourself in day to day live is your legacy. Ask yourself what is yours? Are you truly accepting responsibility when you err? Don't wait till you are on your deathbed to right a wrong. Do it now!

Do yourself and others a blessing, express your true feelings. Let down your walls to those that matter in your life. Don't wait till someone you love is gone to tell them about how they have enriched your life. You won't get to see, first hand, the joy in their face.

I see cancer patients every day going to and from treatment. Folks that are not always sure tomorrow will come...in this world. I see them eager to do the things so many others take for granted, walk to the car unaided, take a shower, sit outside, talk to a friend.

Leaving work, each day, I then see this one man on the ramp to the expressway. Yes, every day he is there, no matter what the weather is like. He looks weary, coatless, ragged and with little on but tattered dirty clothes. Oh, one thing he always has on, a smile. It surprises me, each day, that smile. I sometimes wonder if he gets it better than so many others. He smiles...one with so little. Yet, many have so much and don't bother using their facial muscles for anything but grimacing over little challenges that shall pass! We truly need to take cues from those with less around us, enjoy your world, your life!

As I sit and reflect on a man that just died who did what we all do and continue to do, sinned, I am reminded of what defines our lives. One by one, individuals touched by his life eulogized him. Most of the most poignant moments were not about his sports records, nor his celebrity status. Nope, they spoke of his love of family, his quiet times fishing with his young sons, his love of his wife, his desire to visit children in need and give back. He would indeed of been proud that the small steps he took in life, things done out of the limelight, items that were not recorded by a sports announcer were what his legacy was and is. His accomplishments stand out in the record books and can't be taken away. But how he served the Lord, was using his giving nature. Oh, everyone knew and felt that tonight in their soul, his gift to the world was not when he held a football but what those loving hands did to help others score...socre in the game called LIFE.

We are not remembered but what we did not do. The unfinished items on your list will not define you nor create your legacy. What folks will remember are your smile, your honesty, your gifts....so give plenty, often, freely and without any sort of malice, self love and recognition. We all are given the choice to serve the Lord or ourselves. We have a limited time to make the choice. You could be one day away from hearing the words 'cancer' or a headline in tomorrow's paper. Do you know when you are going to be called to join the angels in heaven?

God taught us, thru His son Jesus, our time here is limited. Honestly, be real, are you making good use of yours?

4/18/2009

Gym Googlers


I was in the gym yesterday and I could not help but notice the men women at work frequently talk about on break. The ‘googlers’ – the guys Carly Simon sings about in the old song “You’re so Vain”…

Let me describe them to any of you that do not know what I am referring to:

Picture this: He walks into the gym and signs heavy so everyone knows He is there and ready to PUMP iron. He drops his gym bag, very ceremonial, and loudly onto the floor as if the sheer weight of it is comparable to a bowling ball. He slowly stands up now, stretching as he does so, drawing in his breath so his stomach is sucked in and you can’t help but notice the muscle shirt he has on. It is two sizes too small to give the look that his upper body is ripped like The Terminator. He glares at the television screen, upset that anything would distract others from looking at him and his fine stature. Cautiously, so others can’t see, he uses his peripheral vision in the mirrors that surround the gym to one, admire his physique. God, he says to him, I look damn good. He then kind of glances around, step two, to see how many want-to-be-men are staring at him enviously. Then, with little regard for how obvious he is to on lookers, he does step three, checks out the babes in the gym. Not the ones like me that are grandmas in sweats but the women that are truly worthy of his advances. He then begins his work out, repeating steps 1, 2 and 3 in no particular order through out his hours in the gym. Yes, hours, he can’t retain this body without paying a price…time!

I wonder why Jesus, who was as close to perfect in every way as any of us could ever dream to be, did not behave in this fashion? Why are there no accounts of him staring at himself, spending hours in the gym, flexing his muscles for all to see, dressing scantily? Infact the one time we hear He was dressed as close to naked as you can get was when He was hung on the cross for you and I’s sins. Yet, Jesus has a power that devies our wildest dreams. It was and is encompassing and limitless. He showed us all that vanity has no real power..it just gives an illusion of power. The ones with all the vanity do not often realize it is a false sense of security, worshiping your own appearance does not get you into Heaven. Nor does it get folks admiring you for the right reasons.

Ah, as my husband so eloquently puts it, these guys are always in the gym. Why don’t they take a break and mow the lawn, fix a car or better yet, walk the dog? Simply said, these are the work out opportunities for real men. Real men, in my humble opinion, intermix gym work out time with playtime with the kids, helping around the house and taking care of their families needs.
Good health and exercise is important but these men get obsessive about it! Real men care more about how their front yards look like than having a set of 6 Pack Abs.

Back at the gym, I am thinking this all through in my mind, realizing that I have not seen one of my neighbors outside in his yard for years! I catch another woman’s eye close by me and she says, as if reading my thoughts, “They should not be allowed in here!” I know exactly who the they is – gym worshippers. The men that google at themselves during long tedious work out routines and have bodies that make us all feel like we are candidate for The Biggest Losers next season.

I leave the gym smiling to myself. One day, sooner or later, we all get it. One day, they too, will wake up with a inflatable tire around their mid section and find, wearing low rider pants reveals an unsightly plumbers crack. Only then, they will get it. Real men do not have to wear muscle shirts or stare at themselves in the mirror to smile.

4/11/2009

Family - A Choice?


"There are two types of family, the family of origin and the family of choice." I have heard this statement from a wise lady many times and it always gives me cause to think about what family means to me. What the family of choice should be for us all.

As my daughter and I drove to my parents house today for a family dinner, we found ourselves deeply immersed in this conversation. We discussed who in life is truly there for us, who has compassion and continually comes thru when we need our needs put first. Do you take the time to ask yourself that? Are you vesting time in the folks that matter most to you and care about you above all others?

We have such little time in today's world to be caught up on winning a popularity war. We scarcely have time to get our own basic needs taken care, wash, laundry, prepare meals, etc. Hence, it is more imperative than ever that we find the time to evaluate our relationships, our family. Gone are the days when family all lives close by...we are scattered around the globe so being together is much more difficult. If we are going to make the effort and find the time, we all need to make certain our family of choice is the right people and not just assume it is our family of origin. Blood is thicker than water, but loyalty and true compassion is priceless. I think Jesus showed us all....what true love is. Ask yourself, who is your family of choice? More importantly, do your actions and the choice of your time show that they are front and center in your life? If not, start showing them now...

3/22/2009

Spring into Easter


The sun was streaming in the computer room window as I tried to decide what to write about for my blog. I heard the sound of children laughing next door as they were playing ball. The sight of the trees slightly bending in the wind made me smile. As I got up and peered out the window, I could see the two beautiful horses grazing just beyond the fence that backs up against our property. They always look so majestic and so content merely standing there grazing and soaking up the sun. Looking out in the distance I saw a neighbor walking his dog, a lady watering her newly planted flowers in the garden pot by her stoop and two kids riding on a four wheeler down our hill.

Oh, the sounds and sights of spring! Can there be anything more beautiful? How fitting it is that Lent goes thru the period when the world is just waking up from winter’s darkness. Right around the corner from Lent is Easter. This is the true Christians’ everywhere celebration of the resurrection timed perfectly with the blossoming of our outside world, almost a metaphor for our own internal awakening of sorts of the revelation of not just spring but life everlasting.

For God so loved the world that He gave us all things beautiful to see and adore!

I remember during a dark period in my own recovery from cancer a dear friend told me; when you doubt faith, take a walk. Look around on that walk and see how many examples you can find of God’s presence, His very existence. I found quickly, within two houses, He is everywhere. The signs are always there, we just fail to take time to notice or look.

Celebrate life this week. I challenge you to take a walk and look for how many signs are in your world around you of God’s existence. Whatever one stands out the most in your mind, hold that thought in your memory bank. The next day you feel a black cloud is hanging over your head, remember that image of what you saw that day…hold it close to your heart as a reminder, rain clouds are followed by rainbows…. Something else God created to show the vivid colors of the world He created, the diversity and the blending of all that is good.

May this Lenten period bring you to peer out your window, open it up, and close your eyes. May all of your senses see, smell and hear the sounds of life. And in that moment, when all your senses are invigorated and challenged, may it remind you, thanks to God, you have life everlasting!

3/16/2009

When to Say Good Bye?

When is the right time to say good bye? I am not even sure I like the sound of that word. If said in care, good bye implies absence of someone dear. Our spirits are far greater than our human bodies, so in that sense, we are joined, those of us that choice Jesus as our Savior and God Almighty our Father always. Hence, perhaps we never really need to say good bye?

As I rode to church this morning, I found myself suddenly reminiscing about Friday. That was a long two days ago. I had read the update on caring bridge about my friend late Thursday and learned, due to some complications he had been moved into hospice. The note sounded hopeful, that he would be out in a few days but my heart sank as the odds seem to continually be stacking against this wonderful man who came into my life over a year ago. I told myself visitors would probably be frowned on. To cement my desire to not go see him, I told myself I am so bad at directions I would probably get lost even finding the place.

On I went about my day Thursday, trying as hard as I could to put it out my mind, my friend’s deteriorating battle with Stage 4 cancer. It was no good, it kept reappearing in my thoughts as I went about my day and my work at the cancer society. Besides, was it not for men like Mike we were waging this battle against cancer? I let myself, through the day, remember the sound of his laughter, how his face lit up when he said something funny, knowing a robust chuckle was sure to follow! Mike is blessed with humor, at every step of his journey. As I left work that day, I mentioned to our receptionist which hospice he was in, and she told me it was within blocks of our offices. I still managed to come up with some reason or other not to go…

The next morning, another update appeared on my email. This time, Michelle, his wife, was asking for visitors. She wanted people that cared to come and see them both there. Where some folks would shy away from others when facing difficult times, Michelle has this uncanny ability to embrace them. And I knew, as I read that update, I needed to rethink my reluctance to go visit. I went to a meeting that opened and closed in prayer that morning, as if God was signaling me to go…..see my friend in need.

With wariness inside me, I drove the path that took me the hospice. Partly due to nerves and partly due to my horrible sense of direction, I circled the hospice three times before entering the parking lot. I went in the front door and was greeted by a receptionist of sorts. I signed the guest book and was told the direction to walk to his room.

Thus, began a long walk. The sound of the heels on my boots sounded deafening as they clicked on the hallway. Why could Mike not have gotten a closer room, one to the front so I would not have to walk so long. All around me were hushed voices, and many closed doors. I pictured in my mind folks on the other side, each with a story to tell, lying there awaiting God’s outstretched hand to take them to the heaven. I felt strange, out of place and uncomfortable. I, who has always said I fear not death felt afraid to be here. I kept walking but found my pace get slower and slower as I turned the corner and began down another corridor. Then, there it was, his room number. And the door was open…another sign I was meant to be there and go in. I think I half hoped it would be closed and I could only assume he was sleeping and it would be best to not disturb him or his wife.

I walked in and was immediately greeted by Michelle’s outstretched arms, comforting me. How can that be, when I am not the one living this nightmare but the cancer survivor? The softness of her smile and her voice showed such joy I had come to be there, if only for a moment. I looked past Michelle to Mike and saw a shadow of the man I once use to eagerly look for in the treatment room. He would sit there, laptop opened up, grinning ear to ear and I can still hear his booming hello as if I was the last one to arrive at a party! Now, what I saw before me was someone in the deep throes of cancer, someone in intense pain and discomfort, Mike hanging on by a thread.

Words escaped me at first. What to say? I had so much emotion flooding my insides that I thought my heart pounding must be audible to them both in this small room. Mike lay curled up on the bed and I said a quick prayer asking if now was the time.

God smiled, I felt it inside. Speak from the heart is what I felt God say, and so I did. I told this dear man lying curled up like a baby with a face as white as the sheets carelessly loose around him, how much he meant to me. I told him he will always live inside of me for I am forever changed for the privilege of having had him come into my life. I told him that his strength amazes me continually and I pray that I can one day have that kind of strength he has to fight this battle. I told him how lucky I thought his children were to have such a wonderful daddy to love and to have a daddy that so loved them. I poured my heart out to both him and Michelle so afraid, if I left without saying it, maybe another opportunity would not present itself. I saw a few tears escape from Michelle’s eyes and I saw the twinkle in Mike’s eyes, even in his current state that told me, at some level, my words had registered. I loved them both and wanted them to know my heart is heavy with the painful cross they have to bear. But I am certain God is there, with them every step of the way. And will eventually lead them home.

As Michelle and I embraced and I retreated out of the room, I walked with a more sure step than how I had progressed initially down that hallway. I thanked God for giving me the push to come here and to open my heart to them and say what weighed heavy on my mind. I think God knew this walk had to be done by me and my words needed to be said.

As I walked into church this morning, I saw the Vicar, standing on crutches from a broken ankle but the same smile on his face he wore on days when he was on solid on both feet. For a second, the face of Mike popped into my mind and I was struck by how both men seem to be able to laugh and truly enjoy life even when adversity hits them. I went over to him, and asked him this question “When is the right time to say your final words to someone you know is dying?” I thought certainly a godly man would know the precise answer. He didn’t know, he contemplated on it and said he could not relate to the situation I described. He reflected on a situation he had been in where he did get that kind of opportunity but it was quite different than a man, only 30ish with two small children at home that was laying in a hospice curled up in pain and wanting to live yet facing death. I wondered if he met Mike if he would be able to give me a more precise answer. I wonder if Mike’s life affected him? I wanted so badly for others to know this man and be touched by his story. I think, in asking the question, I was really merely trying to tell the story of Mike.

I walked into church, sat down and looked at the beautiful front of the church. I felt the warmth of the Christian community surrounding me. I saw the smile on the faces of all present knowing they were as happy as I to be in God's home. I listened closely as I knew, if I did that, I could sense God’s presence. I knew, in that instant, God was keeping a vigil over Mike Lanius. As I was here in this holy place paying my respects to God, God was watching over Mike 24/7 until the time is right to put him back in the palm of His hand, our Father, and pull Mike up to heaven.

3/05/2009

One More Day


If only for today, I shall take time to truly be grateful for my health. If only for today, I will realize how blessed I am to have the gift of a life free of serious debilitating pain. If only for a moment, I shall reflect on my own personal journey with cancer and remember its devastating effect. If only for one second I will rejoice that so many are being saved from this nasty disease we call cancer.

But then, once that moment is over, at the close of the day, I will think of a dear friend I met in days gone by named Mike Lanius. I continually hear about him through his caring bridge updates. That was the site, www.caringbridge.org; I use to visit frequently to post my own updates on for everyone, the good days, the bad and my interpretation of medical jargon associated with my case. I would run up to the computer, eager to let folks know I had crossed another bridge and was one step closer to the other side…a life free of living in treatment for cancer.

Mike still has a need to update us all. Many days now, he is too sick, too weak or in too much pain to post anything so Michelle, his wonderful soul mate does it for us all. We need reminded of the journey he is on so we continue to pray. For a man such as Mike, we know God has Mike in His vision but we pray anyways so that God hears us recognizing his precious child is in our hearts also.

Mike’s battle with colon cancer is a prime example of the realities of cancer treatment for Stage 4 cancer patients everywhere. This is no cake walk. This disease that will not die, at times, even with poison put into the body. It is unpredictable, as changeable as the weather and as unpredictable as a summer storm that comes up on you, quite by surprise. One minute your tumors respond favorably and the next, you are left hanging by a thread wondering why the cruel twist of fate. Having cancer can be like looking down the barrel of a shot gun and not being sure if someone should put you out of your misery and pull the trigger. It alone will bring you to your knees and question your faith in God.

If only for today, may people be touched by this disease enough to want to show support for finding a cure. If only for a moment, may they think of Mike and think of him as their dear friend they met in treatment and see the warm smile that lights up his face when he talks about his wife and kids. Even only for a second, may they realize how blessed they are. And, if only for a few moments today, may Mike have felt God’s warmth like the sunshine and His strength in his soul to make it one more day.

2/25/2009

Ordinary Extraordinary Man, James R. Green III

Years ago, I had a very dear friend. We went to the same high school, Walter E. Stebbins in Dayton, Ohio. He was in marching bank and I was on a marching/ dancing drill team. I can’t even remember where we met or how we developed our relationship to be so close, but it was special. When I think back to that time in my life, those teenage days, the ‘challenging years’, never do I reflect on them and not think of him, my dear friend James. I think we found in each other soul mates.

James was a Christian, and proud of it. He was different in so many ways than other young men his age. He had principles and integrity, even at that tender age. I knew he was destined to be something bigger and better than many of the other boys I knew from school. He was honest, compassionate and a great listener. I can’t even guess how many times we spent outside the driveway of his house, just a stone’s throw away from Spinning Road, or outside my house chatting…about life, about religion, about hypocrisy and yep, even about love interests we each had. Those love interests were never for each other, mind you, that never entered the picture as the friendship was too precious to us to ever want to risk ruining it. Once we crossed that bridge, there would have been no turning back. Some friends are just too priceless to risk losing.

I lived in what was referred to the rich kids’ neighborhood at the time, Saville Estates. James grew up in the meager neighborhood with a small house with lots of siblings to feed. He held a job, in addition to his school activities. Most of us that did school functions did not work but he did and never once complained about it. I remember seeing him at Krogers any day school was not in session and there was nothing going on with school functions, there he was, working. He even seemed to enjoy it!


When I moved away, my senior year, we lost touch. I thought about him often, wondering what bridges he was building in the world and what ones needed tore down he was trying to destroy. He was a man who cared too much about his fellow men to sit idly by and not be a vocal piece for change and provide the leg work, if needed.

I got connected to facebook and through a high school friend, found out where James lived and worked. We began to recently communicate again. It truly was no surprise to me to learn he was an attorney in Dayton, Ohio and made a career out of injustices.

James always did represent the hard working man, the man that went to church on Sunday and provided for his wife and kids Monday through Friday (Saturdays if needed). He went on to law school and eventually made a career out of representing the ‘everybodys’ in our towns that nobody wanted or cared about, regular people that need to work. Some of his clients are the ones that companies foolishly throw by the wayside, without a second thought, not honoring their rights as an employee when they either dismiss them or discriminate against them. He is concerned with the law and with everyone’s entitled legal rights.

In years gone by, James was behind a new law in Ohio that had to do with cracking down on ‘crack houses’ as he wanted the community to be a better place for our young people to live. James eventually opened his own legal practice, all the while, supporting a family and dealing with health issues of his own. It did not matter what James was faced with, be it the death of his beloved mother, the cut backs of a company forcing him to lose his job, being flat on his back with health matters, he remained true to the young man I remember, a man with a fierce spirit and a strong powerful faith in God.

My parents still live in the town where James lives, to this day, and I grew up in, Dayton, Ohio. This town has been affected, as every town in the US has, by a downward economy. Without the multitude of choices a big city offers, Dayton relies even more heavily on the success of its business partners. They too are being affected by the economy. It is discerning that there is a pervasive feeling in this city by many ordinary folks that the city truly does need a change. Much as Washington DC needed one and it passed like wild flower through our country, this same ‘fever’ and need for change is felt in Dayton, Ohio.

It was with happiness, but not great surprise that I recently learned my dear friend has chosen to run for Mayor of Dayton. He has many folks that know him and can vouch for his sincerity and his record towards improvement and instituting changes. James represents a working man’s son, the eldest of many siblings that grew up poor in bank funds and rich in love and spirit. He grew up and stay inspired towards common good for mankind. I feel the city is blessed to have an opportunity to put him on the ballot, that James R. Greene III. (Click on title to link to his blog page)

James represents the American Dream, reaching down deep, having a hard work ethic and pushing to be all that you can be. He was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth and asked for no hand outs. James did not ask for sympathy for any set back that has befallen him in life, he just met them each, one at a time, head on. He is that rare breed that we do not have the opportunity to vote for often in political elections, a genuine man with integrity. I pray he makes it in to office as, not only will this do great things for my home town of Dayton, but once the word gets out, it may help pave the way for a new breed of politicians. Is this not long overdue? He is one of us, as he would say. But I personally feel he is more than most!

I am so inspired to learn of his political aspirations. I ask all of you that read this, please offer him your praise and prayer. He can do so much good for the city, if given the chance. Dayton needs a change; we all do in our cities. What he is trying to do in his town is something we all hunger for. Ordinary people can rise above and impact policy! If a man like James can make it into office, there is hope alive and well in the world; God surely must be smiling!

Signed,

Dear everlasting friend

2/13/2009

My Story


A friend suggested to me months ago I begin keeping a journal. It took me all this time to quit coming up with excuses and just do it. She told me to make it as routine as brushing my teeth. “Come up with a time of day to do it and stick with it” she said. I am doing it, now for several weeks. It is the last thing I do before I go to sleep. If you have never given it a shot, I think you should try it too! Become your own Dear Abby, advisor, spiritual counselor..

Funny how when you start off journaling, it begins with just a few mundane entries much like “Today was just like any other day, and thank God I was in it.” Okay, maybe most people don’t put that last part in but those that are cancer survivors trust me, they do! After a few days of recording boring meaningless items, I quickly found myself yawning at my own writings. I begun to think deeper as I wrote, doing more than just recording events but thinking about the feelings and emotions I felt during the day. I reflected on what felt good, what hurt, what made me angry, what, if nothing else, stood out each day… Oh, then I turned the curve and my journal came to life. I have not looked back since.

Taking the time to record your perceptions of your life becomes an adventure into the inner depths of your mind and soul. Your journal entries become a safe haven to let your uncensored thoughts and feelings free flow. It fosters that child in each of us to rise to the surface and be allowed once again, like in days gone by, to speak with a freedom that society does not allow for.

Political adversaries can’t say such things in public like “Praise God for whom all blessings flow.” Society doesn’t allow for us anymore to comment on our differences because there is such a fear of offending someone. God made us unique but society does not want us to point that out. Diversity is acceptance of that which is different, ignorance is not being perceptive to even noticing it. Acceptance is noticing diversity and embracing it. A journal will allow you to do that. It provides an opportunity comment on what is different and unique not only with you but with others and celebrate those differences.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I think pictures do have value but honestly, I have never had one picture taken of myself where I felt anyone looking at it could come up with a 1,000 words to either describe me or imagine what I was thinking! Hence, the written word is priceless. If it were not so, would Christians everywhere hold the Bible in such high regard? We all need a record of history documented. Create the documentation of your history, write it down!

I promise you, if you entertain the child in yourself, you will find that you still have that wide eyed child that looks at Christmas lights for the first time with awe. You will also find areas in your life where you have possibly been avoiding confrontation and by seeing it, in writing it down routinely, you can create the inner strength to resolve it. Many issues can be solved in taking the time to think things through. This daily exercise of your mind will tap into reservoirs of insightfulness you have buried.

A daily entry will question your faith and understanding of God’s presence in your life. It increases awareness. Much like a blog, when something noteworthy happens in your life, you can discuss it with yourself in a journal. No one but you will be reading it so you are free to express yourself any way you like. Take note of the miracles that happen every day, record them. When you do, you will find a litany of proof of the Lord’s very existence.

Most importantly of all, having a journal leaves something priceless behind to those that care about you long after you are gone. Not only will you come to know yourself better but your history will not go untold! For aren’t we all a story?

2/06/2009

Memorial Service for Linda Shultz


We were greeted by a vase that simply held a few exquisite yellow roses. They were lying on a table as you entered the church, no fan fare, no collection of flower arrangements for everyone to stand around gazing at and critiquing. There was a cross about the size of an 8 x 10 picture frame, laying flat down on the table. Someone had made it from hand, with tons of colorful earrings, each one having different colored rocks and they were somehow strung together with a beautiful silver filigree broach in the center - where Jesus would have laid. Thus began the memorial for Linda Shultz, a woman that died a few short days ago of cancer.


One by one, a diverse group of folks walked up to the mike to talk about a woman that had touched their lives. Each one's testimonial tribute was more beautifully worded and heartfelt than the last!Linda had breathed life into their souls in a way that made them know, from their very core, she was sent from God and was destined to teach us all what it means to live in the likeness of our Savior. She gave, she laughed, she cared and she prayed…oh, how she prayed. She put herself in the hands of doctors who knew not what they could do to keep her cancer growth at bay. Linda did it anyways to help others that might follow her footsteps, so that they might be able to live one day longer than she was able. That is what a true disciple of Christ does, gives to others with very little forethought to themselves.

The music began to play, at one point, and it was as if the angels in heaven were singing in chorus too. Out rang words of streets bathed in gold in heaven and feet barely touching the ground, dancing as they realized they were close to meeting the Almighty Father and having life everlasting. What a perfect song choice for a woman who loved dance, was full of motion and loved to smile. The song made the entire crowd smile with joy…..

As speaker after speaker got up this morning, in the front of a Baptist Chuch in Middle Tennessee, I tried hard to soak up all of the stories I was hearing. I listened and cried as I heard voices choking back sobs, saw tissues being passed down rows, total strangers embracing each other in mutual respect and love for this life. I watched in wonder, knowing full well that God was rejoicing everyone there really understood Linda’s wish, we knew Jesus was our savior and that He died for a reason. Where He went after he died on that cross was where our dear friend Linda was hanging out now. She had done all that was asked of her and more and there was not much more to say.

Close to the end of the memorial service a video screen came down. Music floated through the air as images of Linda flashed before our eyes. Black and white portraits of her as a child, her growing up, her doing somersaults, the blushing bride, the gushing mother holding her baby, and all the wonderful moments captured on film in her later days…..as the music lifted our souls the pictures captured hers.

Yes, it was a touching memorial, one that was filled with scripture, as Linda would have wished. Mrs. Shultz was a true testimony of what God meant when He called us to love one another. At this event, Linda indeed had the best seat in the house. While we walked out the doors of that church at noon, with the sun glaring in our eyes, it was as if God was rejoicing in His beloved daughter being brought home. We all knew, as we left, we would never forget this day, nor this life, Linda will stay alive in us all.

1/30/2009

Old Friend - New LIght


Dear friend of long ago,
Dear friend you entered my mind,
At the timing of what I thought was my death,
when I found myself quite short of breath.

Just like a rose that suddenly blooms,
Or a familiar beloved tune,
The image of you caused me to smile.

I sat in awe and silence -
Reflecting on the warmth I felt
When we were together
Our walls seemed to simply melt.


We had a safeness in each other,
Something youth doesn't often find
We had a shared faith in God,
That surpassed the moment, surpassed us.
It made our foundation something we could trust.

As the winds changed, we let it slip away.
Choices took us in different directions,
Far from our beautiful connection.

God is stronger than we,
He is watchful of His children,
He was watchful of you and me.

He let us have our space,
He let us contribute to the human race.


We moved on with our lives
With our own unique experiences,
Letting our diversity and uniqueness
Keep us both on a growing journey -

To self fulfillment of some sort.

But then,
Sure as the sun sets each day,
A message came our way,
From Him.

Remember, be connected.
Why? We individually asked
After all these years?
Why are we to reconnect?
What are we meant to reflect?
Oh, so many years and tears have gone by?

This seems hard to do Father,
Are you sure we should bother?

The answer is in the sunrise and the sunset.
Even with the passage of time
True bonding, real friendship and kindred spirits
Stay connected, stay reflective and still care.

Reconnect ....that special place still exists.

1/25/2009

For the Love of a Dog?




Years ago, I use to hear about all the money families spent on their beloved family pet and never got it. I think inside my head I was thinking “All that and for a dog!” I mean you know the animal does not have a human life expectancy so it is not like the owners are getting another ten years out of their pet by spending money on medical care for them.

All that changed dramatically when I found my own lab injured after taking a quick spill up the staircase and had a leg that he could not walk on. I found it odd that he got injured going up as opposed to going down like most people or pets! But that is our Charley, there is just not that much normal about him. And when I saw him walking on three legs crying in pain and looking up at me with innocent eyes that said “Help me” the decision was made. Whatever the vet said he needed I was going to find a way to pay for it.

Fast forward to five weeks later, Charley is healing from ACL surgery. Can you believe the same surgery many athletes have done from sports injuries my Charley needed? My four legged; full of life yellow Labrador that spends a good majority of his day sleeping had a torn ACL from his spill up the steps. I wish I was convinced he learned his lesson and will never again run up the steps again, much less miss a step when he races up them. For now, a baby gate remains at the foot of the steps to prevent him from even having the option. Yeah, essentially we have, at least temporarily made the decision for him, no large staircases for you! At least until he officially is released from the veterinarian’s care. And the baby gate was another expense. Funny how we disagree on finances when it comes to things that seem essential to me as clothes but when it comes to Charley, without question, my husband and I are on the same side of the argument, Charley’s side.

Many times we took our dog back and forth to the vet’s office to be rechecked and for various complications and each time; I was much more noticeable of the other folks bringing their pets in for care. I saw camaraderie in the lobby area, everyone looked at their pet with the same look parents have when they are at the pediatrician with a sick child. There are no attempts to hide the concern and love from their faces; it is right out there, front and center for anyone with half way decent perception skills to see!

Having a pet animal touches something soft inside of us all, the child in us. And society has made it ok to be touched by it too. Technology may bring new toys to homes for young and old to partake but nothing replaces the heart and soul of having a beloved dog in the house. For that, some of us will pay almost anything to keep them around!

1/18/2009

The Necklace


A few years back, I met a very special lady. It was at my husband’s family reunion. We spoke briefly but I could sense the warmth in her eyes. She was on of those women you just know were born with a golden heart that has no limits. She continually lives to do unto others in ways that only she can. Her uniqueness of giving and her thoughtfulness with her words show her spirit.

She started writing me as soon as I was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2007. She wrote as if we were best friends. We have communicated religiously since that time. It did not matter what was going on in her life, including her dad’s health deteriorating, her house not selling, building a new house in a new state, health issues of her own, she was always there for me. Other friends have come and gone, finding my journey too long to stay the path with me.

It did not matter how well received her emails, notes and cards were, she kept writing them asking for nothing in return. She wrote words of inspiration, messages of sadness for my suffering, gifts of hope for my future and above all, she shared a deep abiding faith that good truly does come from evil, if we work thru it. Thus, her guidance was one of those lights that shined so brightly in my darkest days reminding me that I can and will be a survivor.

I am now approaching my last infusion and lo and behold, I get a package in the mail. Just like all the others, no fanfare, no notes telling me it is coming. I open it, like all the others, with wonder on what inspiration this one is and inside is a little box with an inscription on a necklace.

“Just when the caterpillar thought that the world was over, it became a butterfly.” (Author unknown)


Yes, indeed I am blessed because she is a living breathing butterfly to me.

1/08/2009

Facing Facebook

"Snowballs were thrown at me last night", my new boss proclaimed at the start of my second day of intense training with the American Cancer Society. I looked in shock at her as there was no snow on the ground in the area, though we were meeting in the north but she seemed as serious as she was when she delivered the mission statement I am living and fighting for. It took a second and then it hit me....facebook. She must have a page!

Facebook has the most unusual oddities. I think it is developing a phenomena all of its own. It is like an easy way to make us all celebrities, allow us to post our pictures proudly on display as if we were this week's choice for the front of People Magazine. We can partake in voyeurism legally and without reservation as we quickly pop in and out, at will, onto others page to see what they are doing.

We are updated as if we are on CNN except these news releases we are subscribing to do not announce major cut backs in jobs, decrease pricing at the pumps or the newest politician in the news but rather announce, Pat is watching Seinfeld reruns, Beth is preparing an appetizer and my attorney is getting ready to play a game of Trouble with his daughter. His page is propagated by funny remarks from folks like me that wonder about the irony of an attorney that works at mediation playing a game with his daughter of chance, Trouble that involves none of his skill sets. I silently pray his daughter beats him soundly so he is reminded what it feels like to lose!

Just yesterday I was awarded Mardi Grai beads upon entering the site. I had associated this fine gift with the art of flashing one's chest at others but yet, here I sat, in the comfort of my home in comfy PJ's being given beads from a long time high school friend. What am I to think or make of these beads? I ask my boss the next day. Rather than answer my question, she proposes one of her own, telling me she was awarded, the previous evening with a former associate sending her flying sheep. (Yes, you read that right as I made her say it repeatedly to make certain I heard her right.) My response to her question as to what that might mean was "You must have been really BAAAA..D!" How could I resist not saying that?

Which leads me to this question. I would love to hear more about the oddities of life in this new year, 2009, in the world of Facebook. My intention was to connect with a few old friends long gone from my life. Also, I thought it would be neat to find a few folks willing to help be 'gate openers' for me to companie. This would allow me a chance to talk about choice campaigns, when they roll out their annual employee giving programs, this year. What I have found, instead, is a whole new world to experience!