12/30/2010

The Christmas Story


The church was small, the congregation young. They were all Catholic but more conventional than most Catholics in the area. The Men’s group hosted every year a Lunch with Santa free for all parishioners that wanted to attend. Included was a hot dog lunch, chips, soft drinks and a chance to sit on Santa’s lap for each boy and girl that attended. It was announced. Lunch With Santa, through the community so that any child could attend in the area, all were welcome, not just members of the parish. The goal of the Men’s Club was not one child would be left out of God’s house nor be missed from sitting on Santa’s lap. Christmas was simply weeks away.

Two young women, both moms with two small children of their own decided to make this year’s event slightly more memorable. Seeming as how they had just got involved with the youth group, they thought it was the perfect opportunity to get the young adults they were leading to truly see the light of Christmas through the eyes of the children. Too often that wide eyed innocence is lost. These two best friends, in their jeans and t shirts, with no assistance, and two youngsters each, began meeting with a plan to bring a play to life and week by week planned it with the youth group.

At first, it was met with much resistance. What teenager wants to get up in front of his/her peers in costume, look out of the norm and perform? Who wants to be silly in public and act interested in younger children? So they began with simply assigning stage duties, help to build stage scenery, as the play was Twas the Night Before Christmas, a fireplace was needed to be made, a Christmas tree had to be constructed, etc….. Quickly progress was made and a life force took hold.

Suddenly donations started coming in from nowhere. A costume was donated for Mrs. Santa, materials were donated for the construction of the chimney, and the young teens grew excited. Before the adults had a chance to discuss and re-approach the subject and ask individuals who should play what part, the group decided amongst themselves who should play what! The project took on a live of its own. Yes, God brought this story to life….the two women quickly realized they were nothing more but the catalyst and they were blessed to be there to enjoy the unfolding of a Christmas miracle.

As the rehearsals grew more frequent, the laughter abounded out of that hallway. As miscues happened, lost lines, hugs and songs were added, friendships formed, cookies were brought in to be shared, a real kinship was formed by all. It was a given that the moment the play would end, all present would lapse into a Christian Christmas song. It seemed only fitting.

Finally, the Sunday came for the play; lunch was served. The lights went down after plates were cleared. The two women stepped to the front of the crowd to introduce the play and then stepped off stage, where they silently held hands and prayed that God would let the play go without a hitch and more importantly, touch those present in a special way. Before their eyes were even open, they knew, , the prayer was not needed….they were in God’s house and He alone was in control. Surely, as God had drawn them together in friendship, the young people together for this project, the young children to be here this day, this play would indeed touch all present with its message of Christmas joy.

With all the practices under their belt, the play, that day was unlike ever before. It began and ended much the same way, pure perfection! Lines were said perfectly, the crowd laughed frequently and hard, the children were interactive and sat well throughout the show. Then, without a word, without a hesitation, once the play ended, the youth group in its entirety gathered on stage. They quietly assembled, joined hands and began to sing. As they sang in unison, with voices raised with joy and a light in their eyes, all present that day in the church hall joined in and sang with loud abandonment. Oh, did the sound of singing fill that hall? Oh yes, what a beautiful sound it was! Surely the angels came down from heaven just a moment or two to hear the praise given to Jesus that day.

And through the crowd, I dare say, I saw a tear or two come from both of the women’s eyes. They were smiling and singing, one slightly off key and one singing just as beautifully as can be as they smiled and held hands all the tighter. That tear, I realized, was a tear of joy. They knew, in that instant, in that fleeting moment, that they had been an instrument for God’s message that special Christmas.

Sing Alleluia. Sing. Sing it loud, sing it proud!

10/13/2010

The Irony of Cancer


How can a man serve in the armed forces for years, drop behind enemy lines countless times in the dead of night with nothing but a small bag of provisions and a few other men beside him and not be caught? How can this man be shot at, wounded and yet come home alive to be with his family until called to duty again for another mission? Eventually, he was caught by the enemies, escaped and finished out his term of service, retired and within one year, he was diagnosed with cancer. He died year later, at home, in his bed surrounded by his family without his uniform on. An American hero, gone too soon.

A woman in Michigan longed for a child of her own but had been told for years she would never be able to conceive. Her husband and her had many years before gave up trying. She found out, quite accidentally, at the stage in her life when most women are going thru menopause, she was pregnant. Shocked, at 50, to find out her hot flashes were actually pregnancy symptoms at her doctors, she was also told she had breast cancer. Is there such a thing as good timing for a cancer diagnosis?

A friend recently celebrated her body scan that showed no cancer anywhere in her bones. She was elated and proudly shared her news with those that have been her cheering squad. When the noise died down, and her life went on as normal, it stopped again. Her young daughter was diagnosed with cancer. Thus the cycle continues for this family, just when they thought the all clear sign was here.

She finally hit the 5-year mark of being cancer free. With a genetic trait for cancer in her family, it was a God sent sign to hit this moment in time. She was not sure it would come. She rejoiced in it, cautiously though, because she knew the sky could drop at any time for her, or one of her loved ones, and she wanted to be prepared so, if it did, it would not hit her hard. But it did, hit her hard that is, deep down inside, because honestly, who can ever be prepared or ok in their heart to hear their sister they love has cancer that has metastasized to their bones?

I pray every day for those that have cancer and are in treatment. I pray for those that will be diagnosed today with the dreadful disease. I then add on a prayer for those, like me, that are survivors. I never ever forget those that have died before us from cancer that they will see that their life truly did make a difference and that the torch of finding a cure is being lit by others and carried on partly because of them. I do not leave out those that have been touched by cancer either, directly or indirectly. I suppose, in a sense, given this litany list, I pray for us all because who is not on this list?

Cancer makes no sense; it does not distinguish between the rich or the poor, the weak or the strong. It makes us all face mortality and in facing death, we appreciate life on this earth; we cherish the moments and understand the importance of deepening our faith in God and all that He holds dear NOW. Don't wait, the present is here, right now, grab it!

8/10/2010

Are you Bored?


When I was in college, I recall walking in for a final in Composition class and being handed the classic ‘blue book.’ Four or five topics were on the board to select from and we were to pick one topic from the list to write about. For some strange reason, I picked the topic boredom.

Maybe I selected it because it was a foreign concept to my life, at the time. I was a single mother of two school aged children, home owner, and working 30 hours a week. When I was not working at a book publishing company as an assistant editor, I was either attending college or studying for classes as I carried 18 credit hours to ensure a quick graduation. I had active children also that played soccer year round. I had a calendar that had more arrows on it to fit all activities on it that is looked more like an illegible city map!

To this day, I wish I had a copy of that term paper to read! I thought of it the other day, as I lay in the pool on a float just relaxing. I remember thinking to myself, ‘If someone would just pay me to do this, I would be eternally grateful and happy as can be!” I wondered then why I am never really bored.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word bore as “to weary with tedious dullness.” Maybe therein lays the issue because I find life exhilarating. Signs of life are miracles, God’s little whispers to us that all is as it should be. So I am not sure I have ever found myself in too many situations that are innately blah, e.g. boring.

Given my age, I thought back to younger days in my life. In particular, long summer breaks from school spent for days on end at the local pool recreational center. Many a day I was there from dawn to dusk, swimming, playing ‘keep a way’ and flirting with the boys. And yet, as fun as it was, by the end of July, I did not want to admit it but I was ready for school to start. Seeing day after day the limited number of kids that came to that particular pool was getting monotonous. Soaking in the sun was getting, boring! That word was applicable at that point in my life. I think I am representative of most at that age, our youthful years, we are always wanting to run away from boredom. We thrive on excitement and drama!

When I look at the time period of my twenties and thirties, there was no time to schedule boredom. Too little time and too much to do with it! My career, my marriage, parenthood and just facing the adult world was time consuming . When I was not on the go, I was sleeping out of exhaustion. And the sleeping came in short supply.

About the age of mid forties, I begun to get a life that was not spiraling with a constant influx of new stimuli to adjust to and I was slowly down. I begun to see that stillness can be healing, and soothing to the soul. I realized that now I run more to that state I use to call boredom instead of away from it! I cherish serenity in a way in my youth, I simply could not. I rejoice in that which is stable, an d steer clear of chaos and drama. Funny how time changes one’s perspectives. I would much rather be bored yet happy than not bored and over stimulated.

As I look to the future, approaching old age, I wonder how my views will change towards having empty hours on my hands. It is hard to predict. Time changes all of us. It is hard to walk by the elderly, as a child, and even contemplate ourselves being, one day, that image. But we will, most certainly, God willing.

In a world of changes and noise, dull moments should be embraced and rejoiced. These are the times we can reflect and grow. Boredom is a temporary state if you find the fine line, the balance, between living and just being.

*** Don Bergfors once said, “ I do not consider myself old. Old age is anyone that is ten years older than me, at any given age!”

8/03/2010

Mommy can Mow!


Years ago, one hot summer, I had to go out and buy a lawnmower. I had never even cut the grass in my life, up to that point. And then in a split second, I found myself smack dab at the Sears department store, in the section where mowers are sold. Standing in the middle of all this heavy duty equipment with large price tags made me take stock of my life. I was feeling somewhat lost., Here I stood, divorced and trying to raise two kids on my own. I was in college full time and working part time. And, one more thing on my to do list, cutting the grass?!

The backyard in question to cut was treacherously steep. The children were not allowed to sled down it in the winter time or they would land up in the neighbor’s yard. I contemplated this while reviewing model after model in Sears that day of mowers. I quickly transitioned in my mind wondering if I had long to live. The image of myself in tennis shoes going back and forth a steep hill with two gradients that were hard to walk up, pushing a heavy lawn mower sounded like a deadly combination.

I knew that day, in Sears, contrary to women libbers everywhere, I had to find a man and I had to find him fast! Not one to marry, mind you, but one to help me decide which lawn mower I should buy as I saw, if it did its job well, as my new best friend. Especially if there was one that could cut the lawn all by itself.

As luck would have it, my man appeared. He was godlike, even though his baggy yellow shorts and beer gut did not do much for me romantically. He looked dirty so I figured, he was a man’s man and I quickly latched my eyes on his. Honestly, though, I think seeing me standing there with two kids drooling chocolate chip cookies everywhere, was a sure sign to him. I was a damsel in distress and even he could not pass up the opportunity to be my knight in shining armor. We chatted briefly and he gave me pointers on things to take into account when deciding on mowers to purchase. I am not sure he was listening to well as I thought I had made it clear I could care about the value proposition statement of each of the countless metal beasts. I only wanted to know, based on my yard’s description, which mower would make my job easier. He eventually obliged and what seemed like record time, my new mower was bought, put in a large box in the back of our little car and we were heading home.

My car was a small black Chevette stick shift, complete with faded red and orange racing stripes up the back side panels. Even as my children’s young ages, they knew this was not a cool car. Our vehicle would do nothing for our images around town. They were insisting already that, when I drove them anywhere, drop them off a block away so they were not seen in the car that looked like a black trash can on its side. The bucket seats in the front meant they were both sandwiched in the seat together. If that wasn’t uncomfortable enough, they also had to hang on to the edges of the box containing our new purchase for dear life. And then I drove slow home, trying to avoid any bumps.

Once home, the man of the house, my fourth grade son, helped me haul the box out. Silly me, I thought when I opened the box it would be assembled. No such luck, I had to put it together myself, the women who could not build a house out of Lincoln logs. Much to the amusement of the men gathered across the street my neighbor’s front yard, I had to read the directions. And read them I did, over and over again, till they made some semblance of sense. And that evening, before dark, I managed to put it together , our brand new mower.

Then came the scary part, would it start? When it did, wow, was I impressed with me. I tried hard to ignore the chanting from across the street as the men not only laughed amongst themselves, but yelled comments at me while I had attempted to do what they said was the impossible. And in the end, I did do it. I sat back and stared at my mower in admiration. This starry eyed glaze did not last long as my son reminded me that it was near bedtime and they wanted a snack. How could they think of such trivial things as eating when we had this wonderful new mower just begging to be used?

The next day, at the crack of dawn, I was out there in the backyard. It was a slow start as I had to learn how to leverage my body lower on the hill than the mower so I could direct the mower across the yard without it, and me, landing in a heap at the base of the hill. I was just about getting the knack of it when my kids popped out the back door and quickly shouted me how proud they were of me. As I looked over my shoulder, I recall seeing them in just about direct line with the mower and visions of me losing my grip came to mind. I quickly shouted back, please go back in the house. I told them the truth, with me behind the mower in our yard, it was not safe to be outside. They ran in as quickly as they could. I am not sure if this was a sign of good faith in my advice or lack of faith in me in controlling our power mower.

That summer flew by but the memories of that experience live on in me. I was out there countless times, cutting the grass alone. My neighbors all had burly husbands to do this manly work but not I. The first few times, the men gathered again and sat in lawn chairs just to watch me cut the grass. As they teased me, and I acted as if I did not hear a word, I begun to find humor in their inability to find something more worthy of their time than me cutting the grass.

Later in the summer, I learned something quite amusing. The neighbors husbands, the same ones that saw fit to tease and taunt me, began to resent me too. Apparently they had used the day they cut the grass at their homes as a convenient excuse to not do anything else around the house. Many times, they felt, since the job was so difficult, they should be allowed to play eighteen holes of golf the following day Sunday verses spending time with their wives and children. However, the day I started cutting the lawn also, things begun to change. These wives saw me out there, bright and early with as much lawn to cut as their husbands. They saw me later, washing the car and playing with the kids. I was taking them back and forth to soccer games, helping them collect leaves and bugs for science projects, and grilling dinner out. There was not room in my life, at that time, to be tired and have down time. But, the women knew, it was no longer just ok for their husbands to make feeble excuses for not helping out more. Cutting the grass was only one chore of many!

I look back on memories like this fondly and with laughter. I had such a big hill to walk up and cut. Much like life, lots of uphill walks are taken. The steps we take are not always on steady ground either but more on faith and motivation. Those days are long gone. Today, I live on even more property than I did back in those days. Yes, the acreage of my current yard far surpasses that steep hill in Kentucky. When I met my present husband, and we began corresponding, early on the subject of mowing came up, of all topics! I learned, coincidentally he enjoys it and feels reenergized riding his large mower. It takes literally hours each week to cut his lawn here in Tennessee. And when I reflect on this, I think I knew back then, especially when I saw his big tractor, I was smitten for life!

7/29/2010

The Gift


It has been said throughout the years that a gift is in the eyes of the beholder. For what matters not what is in the gift but what it does to the receiver….what emotions it evokes, what it does to their soul. Does it send their spirit soaring?

To a dying man, a gift is a smile.

To a hospital patient confined to a bed, a gift may be hand delivered flowers to remind them that beauty lies right outside the door and someone cared enough to break a sprig of it inside!

On holidays, my favorite gift to give, when I travel and have to stop for gas, the attendant in the store that has to work the holiday shift, money out of my wallet, usually at least a twenty dollar bill. The look on their face, seeing it light up with surprise is priceless!

Getting a card from a stranger that just says they are sorry you are hurting, in pain or in sympathy for a lost loved one is a gift. Unexpected compassion from a stranger that wants not recognition but wants, simply to give you a piece of their heart…no strings attached!

A gift of priceless value is the gift of an organ. Being an organ donor gives life to so many others that might, otherwise, not have that opportunity to thrive.
I heard a priest say recently a gift is anything we do that causes someone else to have faith. Simply passing someone on the street and wishing them a nice day for no reason is hope. Helping someone cross the street that is feeble is respectful and gives praise to the life they have led. Giving someone that cannot bear children a child gives faith, that they can provide a child a loving home.

Some of the best gifts are the anonymous ones. I remember a friend that had to have an expensive procedure done when he was terminal with cancer. He reached out to his church family and asked for assistance. They all pitched in to help this man, this child of God, this dad of two small children, have one more chance to fight to live. When all the money was collected, the day it was all due to his home, a big envelope was found on the front porch. When he opened it, inside was a small note, signed anonymous donor. It was a cashier’s check for the entire amount that had been raised! Hence, all the money was returned to the donors but that check not only let him get the treatment but that gift instilled everyone associated with this man to realize God truly does work in mysterious ways!

The importance of gifts was even mentioned in the Bible. The New Testament tells the story of three wise kings that traveled from afar to bring a gift to the feet of the baby Jesus, while he lay in the stable in the manager. These were three wise men who knew that the scripture spelled out the birth of a king. They were in awe of the glory and when he was born, wanted to give a symbolic gift in reverence to him.
Our faith tells us to believe in our fellow men, our body of believers. But it also tells us we should shower others with our blessings. What good are riches if they are not shared? Hoarded riches serve no real purpose except to put oneself higher than others.

Riches are also not only monetary items. Spiritual riches can be anything that warms the soul, softens the spirit and instills God’s light into others. Giving of one’s time to elders in a nursing home is rich and a gift, to both the giver and the receiver. Rich is telling moralistic tales to children to help them see that good character breeds contentment.

To give is to receive. In tough times, when money is tight and time is a precious commodity in short supply, compel your heart to look around and take notice. Give of yourself if you can’t afford to give of your purse. Helping others makes us at one with God. The best gift in life IS the gift of giving.

7/20/2010

A Still Moment



I once worked with such a wonderful young spirited girl named Carrie. We quickly bonded and, in spite of our age differences, found we had so much in common, especially a love of laughter in our lives! We both worked in the high pressure business of printing and promotional products working with large corporations that wanted everything yesterday. We worked diligently, long hours and lots of stress and yet, still found time to share parts of our lives with one another.

Carrie had grown up in Middle Tennessee where I was a northern girl. When we started working together, she was a newlywed. Yes, she had just come back from her honeymoon and within weeks was interviewing and then offered the position. She worked as my customer service/project manager/back up sales person and did everything needed to help me be successful from making collection calls, to invoicing, trouble shooting, etc… I lost count of how many times I said to her “I would not want your job if it was the last job on earth!”

When I left that position, we remained in contact with each other. We kept communicating so we would know what was going on in each other’s lives. Never did a phone call or email slip between us without the words I miss you and I love you expressed.

I look back with fondness remembering the stories she shared, her husband’s surprise Christmas gift their first married holiday together, her first purchase for the new home. A beautiful couch she agonized on the perfect color combination to get and then went on to trying to decide what color she should use for throw pillows. She put her decorating questions to the test by asking each of us in the office our thoughts. Naturally, all being women, none of us agreed which only served to add more stress to Carrie’s decision! Her husband Greg was not into this sort of thing. I think his only requirement was to not incorporate pink!

The marriage had its usual share of ups and downs, misunderstandings, joy, laughter and tears. But over time this couple built a strong solid foundation upon which they were excited to bring a child into the picture. Greg had an adorable son from a previous marriage that Carrie spoke so fondly of also. She knew, after watching Greg’s parental skills with this young son, he would indeed make a wonderful partner for raising a child with her in the future.

Fast forward to present day. Carrie is eight months pregnant with a little boy soon to come and add laughter and mischief to the household. Baby showers are happening, friends are talking and getting excited. The world is waiting for that special moment, the miracle of birth.

In the real world, dreams sometimes get shattered in a way only God truly understands the whys. This story indeed has a major fork in the road. Greg went on a motorcycle ride the other night and did not make it home alive. His spirit will live on in his son and the son due in a month. His love will live on in his darling Carrie and all of us that are blessed to know Carrie, our wonderful spirited bubbly friend. But for a moment, the world will stop just long enough tomorrow and on Thursday to reflect on this young man’s live and family.

Greg, we thank you for your contribution to this world. We thank you for making our friend Carrie spill over with delight at your presence in her life. You had the ability to make her eyes light up with excitement and the rest of us were slightly envious with what we saw in Carrie. Thank you Greg for the love you bought into this world and may God keep you in the light of his presence. May God’s love be overflowing in you.

A moment will indeed come, in time, when you will be joined in heaven with your beloved Carrie and your two boys for all of eternity.

Click on title for link to obituary for Greg Van Dette.

7/18/2010

Happy Birthday dear Niece Elizabeth!




The day you were born,
I never heard such a content sigh
Come from my sister Terri
As she gazed at your eyes.

Your eyes are pools of blue,
Reflecting adventure and wit,
They are keys to your soul
And reveal you cannot be licked!
No matter how you get kicked,
You will come back stronger!

You have tenacity girl
And a heart of gold,
So no matter how many years go by
Do not be afraid to be bold.

From the ends of your long blonde hair
To the tips of your toes,
God made every cell in your body,
And because of you he Rose.



May this year go by
And thru it all, feel God’s breath on your face...
I wish you joy, peace and laughter
And above all, heavenly grace.

Take my gift,
And please use it as you will,
Know that it is sent with much compassion and love
Since you, dear Lizi, are getting one step closer to over the hill!

Love knows no limits....has no boundaries....

6/22/2010

Breath of New Life




I attended a funeral on Friday for a dear friend’s brother in law. I did not know the man personally, other than hearing the story of how his life had played out through my friend. He was young, 41, and seemed much too young to be called back up into the heavens. I was attending to let my friend and her husband know their sorrow touched me. Also, even without knowing the man, I too was impacted by his life, his story.

Sitting there at the funeral, watching the family shuffle in to their seats in the front row, immediately what caught my eye was an adorable baby being held by one of the deceased man’s loved ones.

The site of the innocent young baby made me think back to the last several funerals I have attended. When I reflected back, the realization came to me that every single funeral I have attended there is always a small child or baby present. I find this soothing.

Many years ago, when my children were small, I told them that for every person God calls back to heaven, he places another human life on this earth to experience our world. This new baby grows and thrives, touching others throughout this process of aging; much as the deceased person he has called home.

I think this is so symbolic of the circle of life, we are born, we live, we die and we are raised back up. Perhaps in this way we make room on earth for another. It is almost as if the deceased person leaves their body and their spirit breathes life into another thus life is created again.And again…..

In times of sorrow, when death is at a dear friend or loved one’s door, perhaps reflecting on this circle of life may give solace. God does not take away, he is a giver. To question death is human. But, to have faith, when at those defining moments in life when things do not seem to make sense, is divine. God has a plan for us all. Though we may not understand, it is enacted in our lives. He is in control not us.

Seeing that baby at a stranger’s funeral compels me to reflect and write. May you all find, that in facing someone’s death, it gives you renewed vigor for life. And when the day comes to face your own mortality, and you are slowly gliding towards the light, think of this : Your last breath will be someone’s first.

PICTURE OF CHILD ABOVE THAT ATTENDED FUNERAL: Kinley Ann Pulley, she was Eric's first and only great niece. Eric's brother is also the other family member holding Kinley.

6/02/2010

Lazy Days of Summer, Remembering Michelle Bell


Years ago, a dear friend of mine, Michelle Bell suddenly died at the tender age of 40. I did not hear about her passing until long after her funeral so never really got to say good bye or share some of my best memories with her family. With summer here and this representing some of our best times together, it seemed perfect to talk about those long ago lazy days of summer I spent with Michelle.

Michelle and I met in 1st grade at Saville Elementary. We had a connection right off the bat; we were the two tallest kids in the class. Some days it felt like in the entire school. She got the nickname Beanpole and because she was slightly taller than me, I was spared. But none the less on picture day, when kids line up by height, every year, Michelle and I would just head to the back of the class knowing full well our place, last in line.

We both lived in Saville Estates, a subdivision named after the elementary school that was at the opening of the neighborhood. She lived a few streets over. By today’s standards, the distance was a long walk, but in days gone by, it was not considered far at all. Our routine was the same, one of us would call the other and off we would trot in the direction of each other’s house. When we met, somewhere in the middle, we would decide what the day’s adventure was going to be.

I loved seeing what Michelle was wearing. She was much more fashion savvy than me. Her creativity was expressed in everything she wore, from her hair, to her jewelry and to what she came up to wear on her body! I remember her taking scraps of material and tying them around her midsection as a self created body top. She tied fabric all different ways and to the bystander, it looked like fashion right off the runway show. I tried to mimic this style, wanting to look cool like her. It was not easy, there was only one Michelle. What she could pull off, others just simply could not.

Those self made tops that involved not a stitch of sewing were commonplace for us in the summer. We were both so thin and flat, in those days, that it did not take much fabric to fit around our skinny midsections. We traded fabric with each other to make it look as if we were fashionable and rich with a wide selection of clothes. I sometimes wonder if our parents shuddered at the sight of us walking outdoors with those thinly clad tops on our bodies!

Long days were spent over summer at the most popular swimming pool in our area, Eastview Pool. The days there were mixed with splashing in the pool, ogling over cute life guards and also moments where we laid flat on our backs soaking in the sun. Those days were some of my favorites as we both bore our souls to one another, our shortcomings and our dreams for our future. We knew we had in each other a friend for life, a willing caring confidant while in the tough stage of trying to build our own identity and self worth.

Taking breaks from swimming and walking around the pool area, we would spread out brightly colored beach towels on the grass and plop down on our backs. Michelle and I would spend what seemed like hours looking up at the clouds rolling by. Those big billowy white clouds that seemed to just fill the summer sky were artwork, in our eyes, that God created just for us. We saw images in different cloud formations and would discuss what each one represented long before either of us had ever heard of the inkblot tests of psychology. I wonder if our visualizations we saw were windows to our souls. It is funny, looking back, how time stood still at times like this with Michelle and me.

Careful and no consideration of sunscreen were on our minds back then! I don’t even recall it being in an issue in those days. Our agenda was to simply enjoy the long lazy summer day. We didn’t care about getting a tan, but it happened inevitably from so much time spent outdoors. We would both get as dark as can be by midsummer. We would spend whole days there at the pool, eating lunch and dinner some days and not returning home to it was dark. Meals would consist of buying a grilled cheese at the snack bar and as a fill in, of course, ice cream and candy. Yet, we both remained skinny as rails no matter what we ate. Metabolism, back then, was a good friend to us both.
There were also the active days, when we would bike ride everywhere. We would head to a local shopping center, Airway Shopping Center, with not a penny to our name. We would go through the stores as if we had a huge allowance that was unspent, trying on things, going through departments pretending we mattered as, in those days; I think both of us felt like we didn’t matter much to anyone. Living vicariously through pretend shopping made us feel powerful and passed time. It also was a fun creative way to waste away an afternoon at a time when television was boring and video games were not created.
Michelle had a hammock for awhile and we thought we had died and gone to heaven laying in that! It did not matter how hot it was, we would both squeeze in there together, and just enjoy it. If the wind swayed it some, we would giggle with delight. We would sing songs together in that hammock as loud as if we were in the shower. Unfortunately, neither of us had the vocal chords to make music sound beautiful but we didn’t care. We were young, carefree and enjoying the moment.

Looking back, we were both poor losers when it came to board game playing. If we fought at all, it was usually over whoever lost. One of us would leave crying like a baby that had been badly bruised and going home upset over the loss. The one that won the game never really felt very victorious as each of us had our turns of watching the other’s backside walking away, heading home with the sounds of muffled crying. How willing we were to let our sensitivity show. The compromise was the winner would call the other and essentially apologize for winning. How funny we were back then!

At night time, we would often catch fireflies. I would provide the coffee cans with the holes punched in the lids so they could breathe. Michelle was so soft hearted she could not bear the thought of them staying in the jar. She always talked me into letting them loose. I think she found that, the unleashing of them into the night, just as exhilarating as catching them.
As the years went by, Michelle and I stay connected. Our relationship faded in and out as times changed, new friendships were formed and life just moved on. I moved away and started a family. The last time I heard from Michelle was a phone call, out of the blue. Somehow she had tracked me down to Northern Kentucky, where I lived at the time.

I picked up the phone and was met with a vaguely familiar voice telling me I was a hard person to reach. She identified herself quickly but by then I knew who it was. All these years had passed by and hearing her, the memories came rushing back. We laughed on the phone recounting all those days gone by, in particular the summer months spent together. I learned a few new things about Michelle’s life, but as always, she was somewhat reclusive and slow to confide in others. It was as if she was more interested in hearing about me and if I was happy with my life.
I wanted to arrange to meet her somewhere but she refused. Michelle still lived somewhere in the Dayton Ohio area, where we had grown up but she refused to give me her phone number or address. She assured me that her number was unlisted as she wanted to live as obscure as possible. She said that a lot had changed; she did not look the same at all and wanted to be remembered by everyone that knew her in the past as she was back then and not now. There was a heavy sadness in her voice as if a part of her had already given up on life. The sensitivity of Michelle and possibly all the years of feeling different made her choose to alienate somewhat from life. I tried, in vain, to change the course of the conversation. I told her that day that the change did not matter to me at all, what we had was the foundation of our relationship and that was constant, unchanging and unwavering. But she was adamant, if she wanted to reach out, it would be on her terms and she just wanted me to know she missed me. That call left a hole in my heart.

A few years passed and then the news. Finding out of her passing made me stop and reflect on that last call, but not for long. I am certain, all those long wonderful summer days of past we spent together is how she would want me to remember her and so it is in just that way I memorialize my dear friend Michelle. Human nature and emotion kicks in from time to time, making me want, no matter how rich my life has become, that I could spend one more day together with my dear friend and kindred soul mate Michelle.
Lazy crazy days of summer are some of the best times in our lives. Too often we run around and do not find time to just be still with others, dear friends and loved ones. I know in my heart that Michelle’s days are now filled with moments like these. She is probably in heave, in a hammock with a cute outfit on and a big smile enjoying a spiritual life where there is no pain or heartache. No more does my friend cry over losing a game, have her feelings hurt over being teased about being tall and skinny or want for more than she has. Yes, my dear friend Michelle Bell is eternally happy.

Until I see you again Michelle, please save a spot on the hammock for me.

5/25/2010

What is in an age?




What is in an age? Does it tell you anything much about a person? I am not so sure these days. Some people take their experiences in life and allow themselves to grow, in fact strive for that greater wisdom that comes from digesting all of their experiences and those others share with them. Their attitude is life is a journey of discovery.

But it is not a given that growth equates to age. Many of us have met grown adults whom we refer to as teen agers, not ready to face the inevitable fact they are aging and should act age appropriate. Party behavior is great for dorm parties in college but on a middle aged adult, it seems somewhat silly. I think it is entirely possible to have fun, cut up and enjoy life while aging but in a more responsible way. I also think some folks are self centered and think the only experiences in life that truly have value are the ones they have had, firsthand. They miss out on others insights. Thus, they remain somewhat locked in their own perceptions and biases to the world. This stunts personal growth and makes these types of people less interesting.

I thought of this a great deal on Saturday as I attended a party for my husband’s birthday. It was amazing to sit back and see, not only him enjoying himself, but everyone present. I have never heard of a party where everyone that was invited showed up. In fact, people that were not invited asked to attend! I think this is because of my husband’s ability, even at his age close to 60, he sees value in everyone and people he meets sense that quality. He enjoys not only sharing his life but hearing, in depth, about others. Folks respect him for that and value him in their lives.
Yes, he is indeed a great teacher on life for so many that have gotten to know him and spend time with him. His wisdom is immense as he has made a lifetime of concerted choices to continue to learn. He believes in change, in openness and also that young people have as much to contribute to our lives as older adults. He is not close minded and feels everyone has a voice that should be heard,

My husband has mastered that long ago art of storytelling. He can tell a story on practically any topic. The material he uses comes from people he has met who are as diverse as they come. From the man who lived in Vietnam, to the close friend shot down at point blank range when he tried to help an older woman being accosted, to the early days of flying on small Cessna planes. Yes, he lives a rich full life and he practices active listening. Anyone that has a story they want to share will find a worthy audience in him. This information is fodder he uses for later recanting stories of human interest to others that have not met the wide range of people he has met in his lifetime, and continues to meet.

Adults that have this attitude are young at heart. They see limitless possibilities of learning with each brand new day and with everyone they come in contact with, no matter what their station in life. Are you like this, like the toddler exploring your surroundings with abandonment, reaching for more truths and widening your knowledge base? If not, trust me, you will age quickly and be less interesting. Friends will not flock to your birthday party and you will deprive only yourself of the joys on this earth and life’s greatest lessons, those we learn and impart to others.

5/09/2010

Precious Moments Bubble Over







As I stood on the front porch in May with the sun streaming down on the front yard,
my eyes were fixated on my little granddaughter. She was bent over with her bottom practically touching the concrete she was standing on. So intent was she on the little pink bottle containing her biggest delight since ice cream cones. She was in another world, or as my kids say, “in the zone.”

With her right hand grasping so tightly an orange wand that her fingers were drained of color, she dipped the wand down. Her hands were shaking in anticipation as she tried hard to focus on navigating the wand thru the opening on the top of the bottle.

When she succeeded in getting the wand all the way inside, she laughed out loud knowing what she was pulling out, a wand full of bubble formula, which in her mind, was bubble magic. Lucky for her it was a slightly windy day so as the wand came out of the jar, quickly bubbles were dispensed and filled the area around her head. She screamed with delight as she watched the bubbles dance on air and slowly but surely float away along the front lawn. She stood gazing in amazement as the sun hit the bubbles and showed the slightest hint of a rainbow on their edge.

Quickly she ran down the length of the lawn, chasing the bubbles at will and praying she could touch one. She ran with not a care in the world, no hesitation for tripping or missing one but with the high hope, anticipation and joy of knowing she was living in the moment. Oh, the sheer ecstasy she felt each time her little fingers reached out and touched one and she saw it pop. Some escaped, and away they floated, as far as the eye could see, with the wind carrying them like a sailboat on a stormy day, no real destination in mind but sheer force of the wind whipping the bubbles this way and that.

Moment after moment, I watched this same scene play out. My husband and I took turns helping her make more bubbles, cheering her on so she knew we believed she was capable of not only making beautiful bubbles but of catching and chasing them all down. We all laughed, screamed with abandonment with her success, and giggled at the failures but moved right on to the next wand wave. We knew that just like a bubble that suddenly bursts without warning, one day, our grand daughter would grow up, with lightening speed. We wanted to make certain she knew that this day, this moment in time, our world was wrapped about her. That she was special enough to make bubbles that even we, as adults, her grandma and grandpa could laugh outloud at, enjoy and yes find sheer joy in her success.

We hope this approach, that of cheering and sharing happiness with our grand daughter, is a constant reminder to her of what God created - her unique personna. We can be, as grandparents, the back up support system, and fill in when needed. We can and will let our granddaughter know that we will always make time and enjoy the little moments in her life. Moments that mean so much to our Ava will always mean the world to us too.

Yes, indeed, we know that one day our only granddaughter, Ava Alysee will find herself just as happy as we are, watching her granddaughter blow bubbles in May on the front porch one lazy afternoon….

5/04/2010

Campside Heroes




I attended a wonderful camp this weekend for cancer survivors and was spell bound with what I witnessed! It was called Camp Bluebird and was held at Lakeshore Campgrounds in Eva, TN. The surroundings were beautiful and peaceful, even amidst rain storms and clouds.

Heros were everywhere, each with a special unique story to tell. Folks from all walks of life in and around the area came to celebrate life after having been diagnosed with cancer. The venue gave a voice to the disease ‘cancer’ spoken purposely by its victims.

There were also several nurses, care takers and volunteers to help with the weekend’s activities, including crafts as well as a good old fashion costume contest. Each activity was embraced with smiles and joy to be alive and have one more precious memory.

This crowd was one that was grounded, one where friends are made for life. The wall of secrecy is down at all times and folks talk openly, honestly and with heartfelt thanks. The listening skills of all that attended were at full tilt as we took turns talking and telling our story, what we still struggle with and how our lives have changed.

I heard the story of the beautiful marketing director who survived a horrendous marriage only to be confronted with a cancer diagnosis. There was the lady who survived horrible child abuse to grow up, regain personal strength and then triumphantly beat cancer. There were men in attendance too, each unique but with one common thread ..cancer. One newcomer had survived cancer only to have his wife diagnosed and in less than two years, die. There were more tears for the woman who is now fighting her fourth or fifth battle with a different type of cancer and she just remains strong. She is like a batter that strikes out every time at bat and yet walks up to the plate with the same level determination as if it is the first at bat. She is just waiting for that big swing that makes others simply stand back and watch her ball sail out of the ballpark. Those of us who met her pray that hit comes soon.

The sharing and caring was more than just about cancer, it was about humanity. I met a young woman, close to my daughter’s age, that was from another country and had not completely mastered the English language. She was there to give back, because she cared about others hurting. She felt cancer was an unfairly given, life changing diagnosis. She had her share of hard knocks in her own life, including a childhood were she was made to feel less than everyone else, simply because she was different. Why is it the world does not embrace diversity anymore? Everyone is quick to judge and point out differences of others verses celebrate them. This girl should not have been overlooked as a child. She has so much to offer, and in time, she will continue to touch so many lives with her kind gentle nature and loving heart. Those that never gave her a chance missed out on truly seeing that blessing.

I had been asked to attend this several times and never felt I really had the time to spare. After having gone, I now giggle inside that I ever thought something else on my plate was more important than this. My weekend was filled with memories to sustain a lifetime. I met one hero after another. Each one was willing to be real,with no pretense or reservations about sharing their successes, failures and struggles. I learned so much from listening. I was provided an opportunity to share as well and offer some advice to others. This experience was, as someone there said, life altering.

Heroes come in all sizes and shapes. Truly take the time to learn other’s stories. You may find the differences you once thought you had are minor compared to the similarities. Learning from each other is more what God had in mind for us all. Let down your wall, open your ears and ask for the story behind the person. Then sit back, take it in and thank God for another blessing brought in your life! Heroes want to share. Heroes persevere. Heroes are among us all. May their strength and determination light a path for us all!

4/28/2010

Domestic Engineers Deserve RESPECT



Does anyone call home makers domestic engineers anymore? Instead, they are just referred to as stay at home partners. I have to wonder why. It is as if the art of maintaining a household has become a lost art form and bears little value to the real world. Why is that, this lack of appreciation for stay at home spouses, when marriages are ending in divorce at a continued high rate and the pace of our society is accelerating at such a speed that time literally flies by?

What they are not doing is as important as what they are doing. To date, I have no friends or relatives that do not work outside of the home that watch soap operas regularly. In fact, the only ones I know that watch it tape it during the day, while working and sit on their couch watching them in the evening. They are not also spending a mint on fancy clothes or gasoline or four star lunches. Most unemployed spouses live a very frugal lifestyle infact and save their working partner tons of money by staying put!

Spouses that have small children and are homebound are doing the job child care providers do, that is, attending to the needs of their children. Between changing diapers, feedings and teaching life’s lessons (e.g. sharing toys, learning limits, etc) there is really no such thing as a fifteen or half hour break. This break only comes in the form of a quiet hour or two, naptime, when the spouse home runs around like a manic cleaning house as quickly and quietly as they can! They are masters at scheduling, listening to conversations simultaneously and often times, handling finances. They are counselors for their working spouse’s issues that are brought home daily. Their rate is free and they do not cut you off when your hour is up!

Engineers’ forte is planning and designing. They guide the course of what they are creating and are trouble shooters as well. Show me one stay at home spouse that does not do this as well. They plan the household events, design the schedule and make sure everyone is in sync. They look for issues and dispel them before they become an issue, e.g. having the laundry done before everyone in the household is out of socks, suits and worse yet, soap to bathe with before heading outdoors

Not to belabor the point but it does bear repeating, stay at home partners are domestic engineers. They do have value and they do enrich the lives of their family and friends. Their benefit may not correlate directly with a paycheck but more so with a reduction in household spending. They contribute in a different way. Some are at home not by choice, but more so due to a sluggish economy and job market. Others choose to put their career aspirations and love of being out with others on hold to focus solely on their children and marriage when they can afford to do so. Maybe we all need to sit back and recognize, though times have changed, the art of having someone in our world dedicated to our homes is a blessing indeed.

4/22/2010

Good and Bad Light





How you pick those that you choose to associate with affects you deeply. If you surround yourself with healthy personalities, you are more inclined to have a healthy outlook on life. On the other hand, if you choose to associate with mean spirited, condescending people who look down on others, be careful. You can get desensitized to this type of attitude and worse yet, find it rubbing off on you.

I have always found it amazing how some folks give off such a positive energy. They go thru life smiling, laughing at so many things, including themselves and are just a continual joy to be around. Emulating these type of people in your day to day life is a great precursor to happiness and self satisfaction at the end of the day.

On the flip side of this, though, are the negative energy folks. These people always seem to be surrounded by drama. When it is not there, they create it. They go from one problem to another without ever looking at the common denominator. They are also the type, when given good sound advice from friends on how to change things; they merely pay lip service to suggestions and keep right on trucking down the wrong road.

The key to relationships with these types of people, if you feel inclined to have them in your circle of friends, is detachment or better said, boundary lines clearly drawn. Make sure lines you set are firm and enforced. Their problems cannot become yours as it is a losing proposition. You can quickly fall into an enabler, someone who unknowingly is helping them continue. There is less of a motivation for change when you are totally acquiescent of their choices in life. Also, if they don’t want change enough to make it happen, you will drive yourself nuts trying to convince them of the need. We all must accept responsibility for our actions or lack of initiative to create change. You can be a role model for others by how you live your life.

When it comes to family, the same principles apply. We can choose, as adults, who we want in our inner circle of life. There is the family of origin and there is the family of choice. Blood relations can be held at bay if they are negative energy sources. The type of family members who constantly take you back to feeling as if you are a children again that feels bullied by their wicked tongue, avoid whenever possible. God put you on this earth and wants you to enjoy it and make the most of it. Someone who constantly demeans you is not someone you need to have regular contact with. Try to be less reactive to these types. It matters not whether it is family or friends. These types are crossing into your boundaries and are creating hurts. We must consider the source of criticism before taking it to heart.

Some of us are blessed with family members that truly practice unconditional love. They give without the hope of receiving. They love and pray for others, even those people in their lives that are more fortunate than they themselves are. They feel a sense of pride in other’s accomplishments and no real sense of envy. They celebrate other’s good luck and promote good will to others. These family members are to be treasured. There are not hidden agendas going on in their heads where they are playing games to try to get closer to you only to use you or make others think they care. These people, whether family or friends, are the real deal.

Hold closely in your life positive people. In a world full of negativity and a crowd of insecurity, personal strength and perseverance is vital. This comes from within but also can be compounded by the inner circle of friends and family you create. You are the one that draws the line in the sand; you are the one that decides who you let in that inner circle. Choose wisely.

At the end of the day, ask yourself are you producing light or darkness in your life and others? If you are unsure of how to respond, do a reality check. At the end of the day, do you like the image of what you see in the mirror? Is it someone who emits goodness and joy into our world? Can you think of others that you touched with your kindness, consideration or your smile? Who are you emulating?

If you are producing darkness, change does come from within you but strength can be built from a good support system. You can draw strength from others and use them as a healthy point of reference, mentor their spirit. It is often said in sports, if you play with stronger players, you will, in turn, find your game improves. In the game of life, you only have one shot at getting it right. Why not improve the odds and hang out with winners? Ask yourself if you and your circle of friends and family truly make this world a better place for everyone? If you do but find yourself around others that do not, be mindful and wary. Do not let anyone dim your light, it is meant to be fueled and shining!

4/14/2010

Other Marital Legs of Support





The other night, I was involved in an interesting conversation about children. A group was discussing why everyone says a son leaves his family for his wife but does not say the same about a daughter. Marriage is a bond that is above all others; a commitment to the spouse is first and foremost, even above children and parents. Thus, it is really the same, for both sexes, or it should be.

A marriage is a celebration of a new blended family, not the desertion of the origin of family for either individual. Being involved or uninvolved with in laws is a personal choice. Each individual and couple must make this together. I have always felt the family of origin made it possible for this man or woman to be able to commit. The parents of both sides of holy matrimony contributed and helped form the person saying “I do.” Thus, in-laws are part of the union, a small part but they are most definitely a contributor.

Everyone hears the stories of the wicked in-laws. The jokes abound! In my experience, parents of married individuals want their children’s marriages to work out. Most parents want their children happy in marriage, their grandkids raised in a loving home and with their natural biological parents whenever possible.

It is not easy on either side of the page, to be an in-law or bond with a parental figure that is not from your family of origin. When it does happen, it can deepen the commitment made in marriage. It can widen the legs of support for the relationship to prosper and grow. It can unite two families into one. In spite of the differences between in-laws and ones natural parents, there can always be found some commonalities, if one just looks hard enough. Those commonalities can begin to help forge a bond, one that can prosper and grow much as the marriage does. This is important for the family unit at large. With unity, love abounds.

Sharing your life with others that have created your spouse can open doors of growth within yourself. Sharing your life with a parental figure that helped create your spouse can give you a glimpse into your partner’s past, present and future. Working the bond can be a foundation that can make a marriage stronger, hardier and happier. Marriage is tough work. Why not reach out and build that bond of support?!

4/05/2010

Hello Spring, Welcome Back!


Spring is in the air and is a reminder of the growth of all living things,
including us!

Get outside; enjoy it and may you shine as the flower that opens its petals to the sun’s rays so that all those around you will want what you have!

3/16/2010

Finding the Perfect Mate, Reality Style?



Last night I watched a show about where have all the past bachelor, bachelorettes and potential suitors gone from past reality shows. This reality phenomenon, the Bachelor and The Bachelorette is about finding your mate, your one true live, in prime time. I have watched it a time or two but not been an avid viewer. Why not? My reasons have a lot to do with not buying it, the whole concept. When I saw this episode pop up on network television last night, Where Are They Now, I sat down to take it all in. If it is on during prime time, I must be missing something by not checking it out. So, I watched it with an open mind.

What I learned during this two hour program is that the same thing happens every season. Women with incredible bodies wear bikinis and flaunt their assets, and I don't mean anything outside of their physical attributes. Forget the fact many are gorgeous and should have no trouble getting folks lined up on their dancing cards, apparently they are now looking for love. I wondered, why if they were so hell-bent on finding love, were they not looking in the real world? Could it be getting air time on national television in prime time was more appealing, you think?

Last night was all about giving insight into the show’s premise, the rave over it and updates on all involved. But to me, learning every season has it beach show, its visit the parents show, its steamy hot tub scene and its overnight date episode seems too contrite for my taste. It was amusing to learn even the host has questioned the scriptedness of continuing to say the line "This is your final rose" when only one rose is left on the table. Come on, as if no one can count. This is sheer dramatics and ridiculous to point out the obvious. Maybe the thinking in repeating the verbiage over and over each time the contestants on the show are so star struck and dumb founded in love they can’t count roses. One never knows how love strikes others.

The premise of this show is just an updated fairy tale. Each season has its modern day prince or princess who gets to pick out from the crowd of avid admirers that swoon over them who they want as a permanent fixture. Put another way, they get to pick who gets to make the show circuit with them after the show airs, appear on the celebrity mags and tout the show. Oh yeah, the ultimate price is they are to be committed for life, in holy matrimony so they can grow old together. The only problem with this concept is that most of the relationships from this show barely last long enough to be together when the next season's show starts.

Is this representative at all of what it is like to fall in love? As my husband sat next to me half watching this show with me, it became clear to me to question his dating style. Why did he not treat me like royalty when we were dating? If he had taken me to the Caribbean, or on a carriage ride and a picnic overlooking a beautiful mountainous view, I would have fallen in love with him quite a bit sooner. Actually with any man that had courted me in that fashion. That scenario of romance is conducive to creating an environment wet for love, or as my husband said, lust. And most of the shows, from the recap last night, involve drinking and I do not mean soft drinks and water. Altered states can cause red flags to be ignored as many country songs can attest to. Drunk with love or just plain drunk?

I freely admit I have watched a few episodes during past seasons. Occasionally I got my husband to even watch a few minutes with me. We enjoyed taking turns poking fun at the folks on the show. That certainly, for us, made it worthwhile. He duly noted just out how many pharmaceutical reps and general marketing women were on the show. Oh also, the "I still live at home with mom" or as he put it the 'token virgin.' In turn, I pointed out the men that were rich. Come now, we all know it is easier to fall in life with a rich man than a poor one! I also commented on the physique of the men, the standard typecast for this show. Requirement: must look like a cover model and appear to be every girl’s knight in shining armor. And there was always a token minority too. Why, we both wondered, are no minorities picked as the bachelor or bachelorette? Could it be about ratings and demographics and not about real honest soul search mating?

Back to my reality, I have never dated a pilot, a millionaire or a guy with abs that look better than Janet Jackson in her prime. In fact, most of my friends haven’t either, male or female! I do however love the concept of romance and roses but want to know is this a real portrayal of the way to find true love? I mean really, the statistics of survival rates of the couples off this show are worse than the national average (which is not good!).

I am writing this with tongue in cheek as I do not chastise anyone who watches these shows. I do think though there should be some caution. Reading romance novels obsessively may set the reader up for unrealistic expectations for a union with a soul mate. Most of us do not get swept off our feet nor taken on a pirate ship and held hostage by a dashing man built like GQ's best prospect. This reality show may do the same for your dating scene expectations. Dates like those on this show, bungee jumping, helicopter rides and couple massages may happen once in a blue moon but do not except this to be the norm. And ladies, just because he doesn’t do this does not mean he does not love you! Relationships are more likely built on dates to Taco Bell, catching a movie or sharing popcorn in front of the tube. Exciting dates are going to a gala in town, attending a football game, going clubbing or big scale parties. In fact, about the closest most of us get to getting dolled up for our dates in princess like dresses or sexy get ups is to attend a wedding, someone else's!

Shows like this are apparently, according to the show's statistics given last night, getting high viewer ratings. Hence, folks are watching it. My bet is mostly women! My husband has never heard of one single man watching this show from his man cave. I can see some merit to this venue for it is certainly a person watching at its best. But please don't get so drawn in that you are writing hate letters on the web about people on the show. I mean, really, you are only seeing clips that the producers want you to see. Let me state the obvious, people it is just television not true reality. The behind the scenes editing is meant to make you love and hate contestants.

For example, on last night’s recap, it was shown how one bachelor, when he was on the bachelorette version was likeable, funny and just an all around good guy, your guy to bring home to conservative mom. Later, this gentleman got his own opportunity to be the prince, the dashing eligible bachelor. Thus began the rumor mill, which worked overtime. Apparently, Mr. Clean and Wholesome was known by all as Mr. Kissy Face, even at his own admission. That is not the bothersome part but how about the fact that he consistently pushed for more than just a light hearted kiss to be sure, as he put it defensively the 'chemistry' was there. Note, gentlemen wait and do not invade ladies space. Which image is closer to the truth of who he is. Who knows who cares?

My thoughts, if you are avidly watching this show for its entertainment value, for a relief from stress of everyday real life, no harm will be done. However, if you are watching it to figure out what true romance is and how to find your Mr. Right or Mr. Wrong, do not take notes. Your time might be better spent reading by experts in the field, conversing with well versed honest friends or just getting out there and experiencing life firsthand! At the end of the day, only you can decide if it is truly worth kissing frogs to see if they do turn into princes.

3/13/2010

Always a Mother, Sometimes an Outcast



I find it fascinating to compare stories with other women that have adult children. I am not sure at what age the parameters of the relationship change, but everyone agrees, it does change.

No longer are you, the mom, consulted on major decisions. Infact, it is more likely that news is dropped on you like an atomic bomb. With no advance warning, you are told things like “I am getting married; I am buying a new house; I am pregnant, I want to get divorced.” There is usually no precursor to the news flash it is just blurted out. Young adults simply want their moms to say “That is great, I am happy for you” even if you are thinking “Oh no, what a bad move!”

During the formative years, teens, kids chose frequently to alienate their parents. Their parents epitomize ‘ uncoolness’. For some reason, moms think, when they their children graduate from high school, this stage will end and this attitude will also. Sometimes it does, but more often, it does not. This then becomes even more hurtful as mothers are first dealing with the empty nest syndrome and are now even less kept in the loop of what is going on in children’s lives. No matter what age a child becomes, they still, in the eyes of the moms, are a child.

I think adult children see it differently though. A friend recently said, “Thank goodness for facebook! I can know learn what is going on in my children’s lives. Before facebook, I sat waiting for the phone to ring. “How sad is it that, after all the years of sacrifice, parents are left sitting waiting on their adult children to find time to call them?

A lot of my friends complain that their opinions are not sought out anymore at all by their adult children. When they give their viewpoinjts, whether it be verbally or by today’s main course of communication, email, the advice is met with anger. The adult children today perceive this input as interference in their live and unsolicited advice they do not want nor respect. It is fine to give adult children money when they hit hard times and need it but it is a totally different scenario when it comes to giving advice. The advice can be the death kiss to a relationship,
Amazing that all those years of changing diapers, taking children to sports events, and holding hands and broken hearts lead to this, a feeling, at times, as if a parent is a stranger and on the sidelines of their adult children’s lives. Any interjection on your part, as the parent, in particular moms, is met with animosity so you slowly learn to pull back and just totally keep opinions to yourself and learn to deal with the hurt.

A good illustration of this is was from my daughter in law recently. She said via text to my phone when it came to mothers in her life and support, “I don’t ask or need anyone’s advice.” When did this happen? That a young mother needs no one else’s input? It is not a far stretch to say inputs from elders is not respected nor considered good advice. Otherwise, why would so many young adults turn away from loving advice given with nothing but a desire to help, not enabling advice but just input.

I guess it is a lot like riding a bike. As a young parent, we had to let go and watch our children go down the street eventually, on their own, all the while praying they don’t fall. They looked to us for training, and then looked at us to celebrate their great ride on the bike and for input on how to stay on. But, in life, when they are on the ride, if and when they fall, as all of us have some failures, it all changes, even with the adult child. All of the sudden, the first person they want to call is a parent. It is as if the emotional distance was nothing more than an illusion. But when it comes to all else, stay put and stay out. It is like they all belong to a club and you are forbidden to join.

Every parent I know with adult children gets called when there are troubles in their children’s lives or, if they have things to boast about. Our role as a parent is to be called upon only in these circumstances. Our adult children are more diplomatic in rejecting advice as they get older , but it is still a rejection. Too often we are silenced and told our opinions are not valued. It is seen simply as interference that is unwarranted. I admit there are those that do have adult children that seek out their parents advice for their honest viewpoints. This appears to not be the norm, in my circle. Either that or I am hanging with the wrong group of friends!

Whatever happened to the sentiment in the past, elders were, without question, given respect? In days gone by, hearing an occasional no or constructive criticism was a parent’s way of showing love and concern. A close friend of mine, years ago, left her job and her family to care for her elderly dying grandfather. In the worst of circumstances, as he lay on his death bed, she recants all the lessons in life she learned from him. She never stopped believing he, her grandfather, had knowledge and wisdom and she wanted to tap into while he was still alive. Yet, when it came to her own daughter, as soon as she grew up, it is as if her own mother was denied access to her inner circle. What a shock to a mother who spent her living as a living role model to family unity.

The generation of adult children only wants to hear affirmation for everything they decide to do. They want a world with resounding yeses to everything they do, nothing but positive affirmation. When, in reality feedback, positive and negative, provides insight and growth opportunities.

How odd too that the adult child seeks out other’s opinions that they are not related to but won’t listen to their own parents. In my case, I have many young friends who frequently like to use me as a sounding board for their lives, much more so than my own children. These young people will listen with an open mind. Those relationships often seem as strong if not stronger than those with my biological children.

I am not alone in this observation. The premise of this viewpoint is something many have shared with me over the years. Input into life’s decisions are valued and sought out by young adults but just not by our children. Somehow parents have become an obligatory call, when things are going well and a sounding board only when things are going major array.

It makes me wonder about the future. No one lives forever, parents that are here today could be gone tomorrow. When they die, all that is not expressed dies with them. Too many people my age wish they had one more day, one more conversation with their deceased parent. They long for the honest open dialogue they will never have. And yet, all around me, I see young people that just take it for granted their parents will always be there. The relationships they are forming are based on solely what their needs are, not on what their parents need and want in the relationship. Honest feedback is constructive and does not demonstrate parents wanting to meddle in lives but perhaps something greater, love and a better understanding of part of who they are. Once a parent is gone, the question will never get the chance to be asked. Open the door while you still can. Embrace your parents, they need and want that and yes, at the end of the day, miss it.

3/07/2010

Big Joy in Small Package


The pitter patter of little feet,
And sounds of giggles fill the air,
Is there any sweeter sound
than that of my granddaughter around?

The sun is shining,
It is a gorgeous new day,
The rays of the sun catch her highlights
And look as white as her starch tights.

Ava is in the house,
And never quiet as a mouse.
...Unless she is hiding
Waiting for Grandma to find her.
Then, there is not a stir.
For nothing delights her more,
Even though she hides in the same place as before!

I go thru the motions,
“Oh where has my Ava gone?
I can’t find her!” As I feverishly look
Behind every nook and crook,
For my pretty little girl.

When I open a door
That she is perched behind,
Her face lights up with glee
And her smile is as big as can be.

I am met with sounds of music
As her laughter fills the air
Ah, God knew what he was doing.
When he brought us this little care bear.

And when the sun stops shining,
And the stars fill the sky,
Ava begins to rub her eyes,
This is a sure sign my little darling is tiring
And about to be retiring
To a soft bed, a cuddly blanket and sweet dreams
Of all the next day will bring.

3/01/2010

Grace for Julie

Wow, another friend dies of breast cancer! The phone call came and when I heard the news I didn't really react. Though I expected it, it just didn't sound right, and I felt shocked. I took the news, at first well but as the evening wore up, and the finality of it hit me, I was speechless.

Today, at home with her husband by her side and her two sons, both in their early 20’s to say their final good byes, Julie passed over. The three men's final good bye’s were said and felt on this earth to a wonderful wife and loving mother. But, it was not a good bye forever. They will unite again, in another place…

I can’t help but reflect on the timing of this death. How fitting, God took Julie out of her pain during Lent. With Lent being a Christian time to remember Jesus’ death for our sins and thus, giving us eternal salvation, he took Julie out of her misery. Her body has been raging with pain as her incurable cancer spread through out all of her bones causing her increasing chronic pain with no end in sight. God to the rescue, she is now free of pain. Heaven frees her from the misery, the sorrow and the hurt. Such a good kind loving woman that brought so many happy memories to those of us that knew her well is now at the final destination. She believed in God and in good and now has what she deserves. Yet, those of us left behind are filled with heavy hearts. We shall miss our friend, until the day comes when we see her again.

In facing death, we are all reminded of how short life truly is. And also of God’s promise to us.

I am so grateful I had the chance to tell Julie what was in my heart, when I sensed her passing was inevitable. I sat with her one day not long ago, while she was in the chemotherapy treatment room, a place somber and sterile, void of personality. I swallowed hard and quit worrying about if it was the right time to say it or not. I then started to slowly talk to her about how she had touched my life, how I felt about our friendship. I will never forget the sparkle in her eyes as I espounded on my feelings. I told her just how much she meant to me.

I reflected with her about how, when our hair had came back after being out of treatment, we both felt alive again. I told Julie that day I saw her with her beautiful curly redish hair, I saw the beauty in her face, the life that had seemed lacking in both of us when we met years before in treatment. I told Julie that, no matter what, I will never forget her. A piece of her will remain in my heart as she has deeply touched my life. I meant it when I said it to her and she knew it too. I think she felt likewise.

I had not a clue that would be the last time I would see my friend. Oh, how many times we hear life is short and pay little credence to it.

Don’t wait to say what is in your heart to others. Trust me, tomorrow doesn't always come. Don't wait till the very last day on earth to recognize the best healer of all - Faith. Get some now and plenty of it!

2/22/2010

Olympic Gold for all Nations


As I watch the Olympic games of 2010, I cannot help but be struck by the solidarity among the athletes. Such a vast number of countries are represented but yet all with a common goal, to win a medal or perform their personal best. Just to be there, in attendance, a competitor or spectator, is a thrill in and of itself.

The harmony shown during these winter games is apparent to television viewers al over the world. In our prospective companies, we have deep abiding pride in our athletes and joy when they win but yet we still marvel at other country’s men and women’s accomplishments. We are in awe of the winners, standing on top of the podium in each event, even if our own flag is not front and center. Each of us recognizes athlete greatness is those participants receiving gold. Regardless of the differences of their respective country’s politics, and their own individual beliefs, all the athletes seamlessly come together to compete in good spirit. There are a few exceptions but, by and large, most are unique and supportive. Crowds cheer on all competitors and all victors. The camaraderie is apparent even to the occasional viewer.

This makes me wonder at the paradox we all are witnessing, as I pull back and look at the big picture, the world front. Why is there not a greater sense of peace among nations? The peace and tranquility of games played on the wide world stage is full of fairness in rules. This code of ethics should be followed by all, in their country’s politics and rhetoric approach to other nations. And yet, the diversity seems to be the very element that creates fractures in unity on every other stage but the Olympic Games. On the world’s political scene, there is clearly a lack of respect for varying viewpoints. The United Nations seems incapable of making it happen as hard as they might try.

My hope is that, more so than remembering winning medals, the legacy of this year’s winter Olympic Games will be the solidarity among nations. If we can hold fast to the personal interest stories we have seen and heard, just maybe the animosity between nations can slightly disintegrate. Maybe we can encourage our political representation respectively to acquiesce. The personal interest stories of many of these athletes are touching and yet similar of the struggles of each of our respective nations. These stories, these men and women of courage and drive, show the perseverance to rise above, to make the ordinary exceptional. They serve a prime example of how our countries must approach world peace.

With solidarity in mission, openness to diverse cultures and a willingness to belong, our world can be more unified. Then we all can win gold!

2/20/2010

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2/18/2010

Find the Time for an Ole Friend


Have you ever lost a friendship only to capture it back years later? Isn’t it amazing when that connection, the chemistry, remains present today, even with the passage of time? What initially brought you both close together may not be there anymore, but the bond still remains untarnished.

I recently connected with some friends from days gone by. Initially I thought it might be awkward but as soon as we were together, the distance disappeared. It was as if we had remained connected all these years and we quickly jumped in to the business of filing each other in on what was going on in our lives, what had changed, etc..much as we did in years gone by. In those days, we were consumed with trying to find our way. At our ages now, we realize we got lost several times along the way and now, as long as we are moving forward in personal growth, all is well in our worlds.

I think this is part of the joy with Facebook. Where else can you so easily connect with so many friends from high school that you haven’t seen in years? If you have left the area, the chances of running into any of them are nil. Even a great networker is hard pressed to find, with the passage of time, a long ago lost friend hanging in the exact same circles as you.

The case can certainly be made that social media outlets do a lot more than just brand images. They give us a chance to reach out to people from our past and make that far away connection. It helps us gain closure with some of those past friendships. Even if some of those memories of days gone by are painful, finding out that most of us have not hardened with age is refreshing. The most popular kid in high school does not equate, often times, to the most successful either. Somehow for those that were not high up in the pecking order, this reflection gives much comfort and yes, even some vindication.

Life goes go on and moves forward. With it, many of us have formed many new wonderful friendships. But even with the passage of time, it is still important to never forget our roots. Much as our family is part of who we are, they helped move and shape us, so did our friends of long ago. Those relationships impacted our perception of the world we live in and more importantly, our reflections of ourselves in that moment of time we were connected. Enough moments put together make up reality. Our reality is who we are.

Take the time to reach out to some of those ole friends of days gone by and touch base. You may simply find closure and then again, you may luck out. The friendship that was there before may very well be just as exciting and mutually satisfying as ever! In our busy lives, we need to make the time to find out.