Monday, January 16, 2017

Watching My Pocket

Back in the late 1800s, there was a string of train collisions that were caused in part by the inaccuracy of the timekeeping pieces of engineers and conductors. When one of those collisions took the lives of several people, a commission was appointed and tasked with developing a universal set of timekeeping standards for all railroads. It took two years, but in 1893 the General Railroad Timepiece Standards went into effect and railroad officials scurried to place their orders with William Bond & Sons, the American agent for Barroud & Lund of London. And that, friends, was the birth of one of the most valued and treasured watches in all of history ... the railroad pocket watch.

I remember my dad saying that once the love of trains and railroading got in your blood, it was there forever. That statement was certainly true for Daddy ... he worked for the Southern Railway for 50 years. I never understood what a big deal that was until now, you know ... working at the same place for 50 years ... that kind of loyalty and commitment to a company is pretty rare in many workplaces today. While I would never claim to love all things trains as much as Daddy did, I think he's probably smiling in heaven as I type these words ... I really, really, really love pocket watches, especially the railroad pocket watches of days gone by.

Several people have given me pocket watches down through the years, and I treasure every one of them just as I do the people who gave them to me. Though I love all of my pocket watches, there's one in particular that is extra special to me. It's not a railroad watch, and it's not a fancy, expensive, made by a Swiss watchmaker watch. It's the one that most often resides within my pocket, however, and it is without question one of my most-loved possessions. I don't know why, but there's something about the watch that's calming to me. When I'm afraid or anxious about the future or feeling all alone, having the watch in my pocket helps me to remember that, in time, whatever is troubling me at that moment will indeed pass.

There's something else that my beloved pocket watch helps me to remember ... something that, as weird as it may sound, may well be the reason I've always been so infatuated with the old-fashioned timepieces. See, here's the thing ... no matter what I'm doing, I have to take time out every day to wind my watch or it doesn't work. If I don't do my part ... if I don't wind my watch so that the gears continue to move ... if I don't put in the effort required to keep my watch going, it dies. And every time I wind my old watch, friends, I can't help but think about people ... people I love and care about. I can't help but think about how important it is that I do my part ... that I keep the gears of my relationships with others moving ... that if I don't put in the effort required to keep those relationships going, they will most surely die.

Think about it, friends ... are you winding your watch?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Road to Home

A little more than a month ago, I walked through my little house with the Goldilocks deck for the last time. My daughter walked with me from room to room that evening ... bless her sweet heart, she drew the short straw on being the one of my three children to live close enough to me to be the designated "help Mom get through moving day because we all know she's going to lose it" kiddo. I must say, however, that my children's assessment as to what my emotional state would be on moving weekend wasn't entirely accurate ... I barely cried at all on Saturday. I sobbed my heart out pretty much all day on Sunday, though, and I do mean sobbed. I knew it would be hard when the time finally arrived for me to leave my little house, but I had no idea it would be as difficult as it was.

When I began writing my post this evening, I intended to write about things I miss a lot about my house ... like my garage, my fenced-in back yard and my beloved walking trail ... and things I don't miss even a little bit ... like worrying about repairs that needed to made and not having the money to make them or the long commute to and from work. I intended to write about how the road to home now is so very different than the road to home was before. I intended to write something that would inspire you ... something that would cause you to search your heart and think about which road you're traveling.

That's what I intended to write, but then I watched and listened as President Obama gave his farewell address to the nation. If you've been reading along with me for a while, you know that I have a fairly strict code when it comes to not writing about political issues ... should you go away tonight thinking this post is about politics, then it's time for me to hang up my pen and never write another word. This post isn't about political parties or societal issues or any of the plethora of other hotbeds of disagreement that threaten to consume our country. This post is about the respect, humility, grace, honor, appreciation and dignity demonstrated by the President of the United States in his farewell speech this evening to the American people ... his speech to all Americans ... let me say that again, friends ... his speech to all Americans.

"Show up, dive in, stay at it. Sometimes you'll win, sometimes you'll lose."

"My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you. I won't stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my remaining days."

"We're all in this together. We rise or fall as one." --- President Barack Obama

Monday, January 2, 2017

Great Expectations

I've really never been a big fan of making New Year's resolutions ... or revolutions as my daughter used to call them when she was a little girl. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for setting goals or getting rid of harmful habits or striving to be a better person. I'm absolutely in favor of participating in some good old-fashioned introspection from time to time. And speaking of introspection, here's an interesting little tidbit for you to mull over ... consider it a freebie for this evening's post or it could be fodder for my beloved head doctor's unending questions as she seeks to dig her way into the recesses of my ever-challenging mind. But back to the tidbit that is perhaps worthy of a certain amount of mulling ... I generally come away from those times of personal reflection and reevaluation even more convinced that resolving to eat healthier foods or exercise harder or devote more time and attention to the people I love and care about shouldn't be made at the beginning of a new year, but rather every single day of my life.

Even if you only check in on your social media accounts once a week, I'd bet you've still seen more posts than you ever wanted to see that were lamenting what a bad year 2016 was ... I know I sure have. I have to agree that 2016 wasn't the greatest year I've ever had, both for me personally and for my extended family as well, but I also have to say that it wasn't the worst one I've ever experienced either. I had a lot of major life changes that took place last year, some good and some not, and sometimes they were a mixture of both good and bad. Take selling my house and moving into an apartment, for example ... there are way too many goods and not goods and mixtures involved in that major life event to even attempt to share with you. But I will tell you this ... I expected it would be that way even before I actually made the decision to put my house on the market. And I'll tell you this, too ... I think the fact that I expected there to be good, not good and a mixture of both helped me get through the process with far less trauma than most people thought I would.

I've been thinking a great deal over the last couple of months about expectations ... about what I expect from myself, what I expect from others and what others expect from me. And in the course of all that thinking, I realized something that I consider to be rather profound. Expectations, whether self-imposed or instituted by another, can serve as a catalyst that spurs me on to tremendous personal growth or they can be a mechanism that delivers defeat and despair. And sometimes ... well ... sometimes they can be, whether self-imposed or instituted by another, a murky mixture of both.

Even though some of you won't agree with me, I'm not going to wish you a happy new year and I don't want you to wish me one either. It's not because I don't want you to be happy and it's most definitely not because I don't want to be happy myself. It's because wishing you to have a year filled with complete happiness is not only an unrealistic wish, it's one that's impossible for anyone to attain. So instead, I wish you a year of the good, the not good and the mixture of both. I wish you a year that grows your heart and expands your compassion for others ... a year that teaches you to value people more than things ... a year that brings you understanding for who and what really and truly matter most in this life. 

So here's to the year ahead, friends ... here's to the good, the not good and the mixture of both. Here's to being open, honest, real and transparent. Here's to taking care of each other. Here's to being better people than we were before.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

I Can't Make You

When I was young, New Year's Eve was all about parties, booze and whom I would kiss when the clock struck midnight. When my children were little guys, New Year's Eve was about getting together with other parents and their kiddos, junk food and banging pots and pans with spoons out on the front yard at midnight. When my children were teenagers, New Year's Eve was about church parties, playing games and being thankful my kids were safe and sound under my watchful eye. Tonight, New Year's Eve is about a crackling fire, a snoring wiener dog, a fleece blanket and a cup of hot tea.

As I'm sure is true for many of you, I've done a lot of thinking over the last few days about what the new year may bring. And in doing so, I couldn't help but think about the year past as it draws to a close. I've learned things over the last year that I never imagined I would learn, both good and not so good alike. If I tried to share with you every one of those lessons ... well ... I'd miss my fast-approaching midnight deadline for sure. But there's one ... one huge lesson ... I'd like to leave with you as this year ends and another begins.

I can't make you believe in me, and I can't make you believe in yourself. I can't make you embark on the new year with the hope that it will bring you happiness. I can't make you trust me, and I can't make you see that I have a good heart. I can't make you look at the year ahead as one that will be filled with challenges that will grow you and make you a better person. I can't make you like me or understand that I'm a loyal and faithful friend. I can't make you embrace the good things the new year will bring, nor can I make you believe that you'll overcome the not so good things. I can't make you believe that I care or that I'll listen or that I'll be there in your darkest hour. 

I can't make you hope, friends ... but I can hope for you. I pray the new year brings you peace and joy ... take care of each other.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

One Person's Trash

Yep, I know it's Christmas, and yep, I know my choice of the title for this evening's post probably will have some of you scratching your heads and wondering if I've completely lost my marbles. Guess you'll just have to trust me on two things ... the title makes perfect sense to me and I still have my marbles, at least for the time being anyway.

If someone would have told me that one of my greatest sources of frustration in moving from my house to an apartment would involve trash, I would have told said someone that he or she was the one who had most certainly lost their marbles. Believe me, I fretted and worried about a whole sleigh-full of house vs. apartment problems or concerns that would await me once I made the big move, but I can honestly say that trash was not one of them. And yet, the great trash dilemma is, beyond the shadow of even a trace of any doubt, frustrating the living daylights out of me in a gigantic way. 

I suppose I should clarify a bit ... it's not the actual trash itself that's derailing my otherwise relatively smooth transition from house to apartment living. What's making me crazy is that there's absolutely nowhere in my teeny-tiny apartment kitchen to put a trash can, and I do mean nowhere. Because the kitchen is galley-style, the only open floor space is what's in the center of the cabinets and appliances. There is a tiny bit of space against the back wall, but if I put the trash can there, I would have to move it every time I needed to open the lower cabinet or get food out of the fridge.

Originally, I thought the solution would be simple ... I'd just get a trash can that would fit inside the cabinet under the kitchen sink, but that's proving not to be such an easy task. So far, I've bought and returned three different trash cans ... I was so sure the last one would work, but alas, it did not. And so for now, the trash can from my former house stands in the corner of the dining area annoying the crap out of me because a kitchen trash can should be in the kitchen and not in the dining area.

A couple of months ago, I began sending an email called "Grammar Goodies from Ghee" to all of my co-workers. In those emails, I give tips and advice for how to guard against some of the more commonly made grammatical and/or spelling errors in writing. Sometimes people reply to the grammar emails to let me know they're enjoying them or to give me ideas for future notes, and their feedback always means a lot to me. But last week I received a reply I didn't expect ... a reply that touched me so deeply ... a reply that came when I needed it desperately ... a reply that brought tears to my eyes when I read it.

"Terrie you a treasure on so many levels. I will miss you, but will keep reading your awesome blog. Have a great Christmas and a wonderful 2017."

I wanted so badly to go to her desk that day and thank her for her kind words, but I knew I couldn't do so without crying like a baby. Thankfully, the next day I was finally able to congratulate her on her new position and tell her how much her words had meant to me. She was surprised when I told her that I was deeply touched by her words, but I didn't tell her why they moved me the way they did. See here's the thing, friends, and I know you know the following words are true because a whole ton of you have written me and said exactly what I'm about to say ... there are times in life when you feel way more like trash than you do treasure ... times when you feel as though you've been crumbled up and thrown away. The day I received my friend's sweet reply to my email was right smack dab in the middle of one of those times for me. Somehow I don't think it was coincidence that her note came when it did ... I don't think it was coincidence at all, friends, not at all. 

So why write about trash and treasure on Christmas? Because I want you all to think about the true meaning of Christmas and not just the presents and food and decorations and all the other things so many of us will focus our attention on today. Because I want you to never forget that one person's trash is another person's treasure. Because I want you to think about what a difference just a few words of encouragement or appreciation can make in someone's life. Because I want you to spend today treasure hunting instead of trash collecting. Because I want you to never, never ever forget that one person's trash is another person's treasure. Today would be a really great day to let someone know they are a treasure to you ... today would be a really great day indeed. 

God bless you, friends, and I hope you have a blessed and joyful Christmas.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Big Chill

Last week was cold here in Kansas City, but not nearly as cold it's been this weekend ... temperatures in the single digits, wind chills of -20 and a couple of inches of snow. I sure have missed my garage the last couple of days, not only because it kept my car a little bit warmer on these frigid winter nights but also because I could just stand inside of it while Ollie went potty in our fenced-in back yard. Now I have to put on my coat and my boots and my cousin Eddie hat and my gloves and my scarf and then carry my shivering little wiener dog down the sidewalk and out into the snow so he can pee and poop. And yes, I'm already worried about how that's going to work when thunderstorm and tornado season gets here in the spring ... hmmmm ... I wonder if I could buy one of those Ikea kid toilets like my little Canadians have and just teach him to use it? But alas, once again I digress ... back to how cold it is here. Ollie starts limping as soon as I put him down on the snow-covered ground because it's so cold that his tiny wiener dog paws freeze almost instantly ... poor little guy.

A few years ago when I was back home in Chattanooga for a visit, I went to dinner with an old friend at a restaurant called The Big Chill. It wasn't long after I'd been diagnosed with diabetes, and eating out was still sort of a frightening challenge for me in that I wasn't always sure what I should or shouldn't eat. I had no idea that my friend was a regular at The Big Chill, nor did I know she was good buddies with the owner ... the owner who also just so happened to be the main chef. Seeing the panicked look in my eyes as I looked over the menu, my friend excused herself from the table and went to the kitchen to ask the owner if she could prepare a diabetic-friendly meal for me. To this day, that remains one of the best meals I've ever had in my life ... grilled chicken breast that was so tender and juicy it almost melted in my mouth and stir-fried broccoli and cauliflower seasoned with cracked Italian pepper and topped with toasted mozzarella cheese.

I've been thinking a lot lately about my family and friends, maybe in part because it's almost Christmas. I think a lot of folks get nostalgic and a little sad around the holidays, but those feelings seem to be extra intense for me this year for some reason. Maybe it's because I'm living in a new place that doesn't quite feel like home yet, and I miss my friends from my old neighborhood. Perhaps it's because I'm grieving with my family back in Tennessee ... just last week, my sister lost her best friend of 70 plus years, and my niece-in-law's father unexpectedly passed away. And a few weeks ago, a sweet young member of our family received the devastating confirmation of the ALS diagnosis he was given earlier in the fall. Or maybe I'm feeling the way I do because I've been forced to wake up and smell the coffee when it comes to certain people and admit that actions really do speak louder than words, especially when it comes to friendship.

See here's the thing ... the thing that ties all of my seemingly random and unconnected thoughts above together, or at least I hope it will anyway. When it's as cold outside as it is tonight ... when the cold from that polar vortex thing zaps every bit of warmth from every single fiber of my being ... when it's this cold, I need to remind myself that it won't stay this cold forever. When I'm scared and questioning what I should or shouldn't do, I need to remind myself that there are people who continue to look out for me. When the pain of loss or the hurt of betrayal scream with all their might that I am completely alone, I need to remind myself to love more ... to care more ... to listen more ... to talk more ... to do what I say I'll do and to be who I say I'll be. 

Remember, friends, you only get one life ... live it well ... live it well indeed.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Guesting 1, 2, 3 ... Guesting

Have you ever known someone whose very existence is an inspiration to every person who knows them? Someone who truly understands and appreciates how precious life is? Someone whose attitude of joy and spirit of compassion lights up the hearts of everyone in his presence? I know someone who is all of those things and more, and I'm so very honored to have him as my guest blogger this evening. If his words inspire you only half as much as they do me, you'll come away from tonight's post a better person than you were before you began reading. Thank you, my dear friend, for all the life lessons you teach me. Thank you for reminding me how precious life is, how important it is to take care of those we love and that true friends never, ever give up on each other.

"I like to speak in sarcasm and generalities because one can bring a smile to another’s face and the other lessens the tension in the room. As a human race, I’m of the opinion we are entirely too high-strung for our own good. We worry about things we can’t control, like what others think about us, how much money we make, how skinny we are or how cool we seem…wait, that’s what I worry about if I let myself.

To guard against this disease of worry, I try to keep things as simple as possible. What do I care about most? The answer is family, friends and laughter (and sports and music). Now this sounds all well and good, but the downside to this way of life is a complete an utter avoidance of conflict of any kind. If this sounds familiar, you too are blessed and stricken...apologies where they are not needed and in your younger days, an almost permanent reservation in the friend zone.

I’ve always admired those people who let it all hang it out and in fact I moonlight as one of these people when I’m feeling salty. There is nothing better than when you convince yourself to do something just to do it, no matter what. I think I read somewhere that your initial instinct is usually the correct one. I’ve had a battle with my initial instinct for years. Too many times I have been burned by my gut telling me to go one direction when the correct path was just around the corner but I wasn’t patient enough to see it through.

So what’s my point? Being fearless and scared at the same time has its positives and negatives but we all have out own style, don’t we?"

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Busy Is as Busy Does

When I first began penning this blog in 2008, I never thought anyone would actually read it much less take the time to let me know they miss my words when I go for a while without posting. Heck, some of you message me religiously if I don't write for more than an couple of days, which means my inbox has been exploding since my last post was way back on November 18. I apologize for not writing a short "I'm not dead" post, and I do appreciate that so many of you care whether I am indeed still in the land of the living.

This evening when I sat down in my recliner next to Ollie the wiener dog, I thought I knew exactly how I was going to respond to your questions regarding why I haven't been writing in recent weeks. I fully intended to tell you that I've simply been far too busy to write, and to some degree, that's true.

As many of you know, my house sold in early October while I was in Maine visiting my son Brad and his girlfriend Shelby, and I started the laborious packing process as soon as I returned to Kansas City. Then I went to Canada for a week and a half over Thanksgiving to see my son Matt and his little family. And just in case you're wondering, my granddaughters remain the most adorable little geniuses on the planet ... of course they do. A flight delay in Edmonton caused me to have to spend an extra day trying to get home, which in turn meant I only had four days rather than five to finish packing and move out of my house. Oh, and two of those four days I had to work. So yes, I have been very, very, very busy and therefore could justifiably cite being too busy as the primary reason as to the lapse in my writing. 

The truth, however, is that if I conveyed to you that my busyness was the real reason behind my lack of posting I wouldn't be living up to my commitment to strive to be as open, honest, real and transparent as I possibly can. Yes, I've been busy, but I haven't been too busy to write. The cold, hard truth is that I haven't written because I didn't want to write. The harsh reality is that even though I've been super busy for the last last few weeks, I could have easily found the time to write had I truly wanted to write. I managed to find time to do other things like talk on the phone or go for walks ... I even read a couple of books.

Just like it wasn't busyness that kept me from writing for the last few weeks, it's not busyness that keeps me caring about others or listening to those I love or helping someone in need. It's not about being too busy to do those things or to feel those feelings ... it's about not having the desire or the compassion or the love. 

Busy is as busy does, my friends ... busy is as busy does. Ponder on that for a while ... ponder on that for a good long while.


Friday, November 18, 2016

Being Wilder

When my son Brad first told me he was taking me to an island for two days when I came to visit in October, I thought he was just kidding around. Even the night before we were scheduled to climb aboard the lobster boat that would take us to the island, I kept expecting Brad to say, "Joke's on you, Mom! Did you seriously think I would spend two days on an island with you?" But when Brad's girlfriend Shelby dropped us off at the dock with our backpacks filled with clothes, sleeping bags and pillows, I realized that my sweet son was indeed taking me to an island ... Hurricane Island. And no, I didn't ask how the island got its name ... of course I didn't ask, I'm terrified of storms. As I'm sure Brad would tell you, however, I did ask a million other questions during our two-day stay on the rocky, wooded chunk of land in the middle of the ocean ... a million questions that he answered patiently, even the ones I asked multiple times.

Brad's reason for going to the island was to do some filming for the Hurricane Island Foundation, a nonprofit science and education foundation based on the island. He explained that we would be meeting up with another young filmmaker who had been awarded a grant to produce a documentary about the work of the foundation. Brad would be filming with his drone while the young man filmed with his regular camera, and later weaving the two together to help tell the story of the foundation and the people who make it up.

I knew there was something special about the young filmmaker the moment he extended his hand to greet me as he introduced himself. The gentleness in his eyes and the softness of his voice drew me in, and I quickly found myself wanting to hear more of this young man's story. I watched as he and Brad scampered across the rocky coastline in search of the perfect shot, and I smiled as they moved through the forest with a confidence I knew I'd never be able to match. The young filmmaker sauntered easily along the path as he chatted with us about the history of the island, his family back on the mainland, his passion for film and his dreams for the future. By the time we headed back to the dining hall for dinner, I knew  ... I knew this kid was the real deal.

There are times in life when someone unexpected comes along ... times when someone comes along who changes you and makes you a better person. Someone like the young filmmaker I met on an island off the coast of Maine. The young man whose kind heart and gentle spirit touched my heart and warmed my soul ... the young man who inspired me to live every moment to the fullest ... the young man who reminded me that it's never too late to follow your dreams. There are times when someone comes along who changes you and makes you a better person than you were before ... someone like a young filmmaker named Wilder. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

But I Was Wrong

Before you read another word of my post this evening, I'd like to remind those of you who've been reading along with me for a while that I rarely write about political topics. The reason I don't write about politics isn't because I don't care about political issues, but rather because I do care ... in fact, I care more than any of you will ever know. I've received thousands of emails over the last months asking me to weigh in on the candidates in our recent presidential election, and I've adamantly refused to do so. But in response to the outcome of the election and the flood of emails I've received over the last couple of days, I have a few thoughts I'd like to share.

I was 10 when I realized I was different than other girls, and I spent the next 42 years of my life trying to hide that realization from my family, from my friends and from myself. My life-saving head doctor would say there are multiple factors that keep gay people like myself desperately locked inside the closet, some of us for a lifetime. But she would also tell you that the most paralyzing of those factors is fear, and believe it or not, that is one thing on which I'm in complete agreement with the good doctor. I was afraid to tell the truth about my sexuality because I was terrified of losing everyone I loved. I was afraid of losing my reputation, my job, my place in the church, sometimes even my life. Those words are filled with irony, by the way, because that same fear pushed me to the point of believing that committing suicide would be better than admitting I was gay. Think about that for a minute ... I was so terrified of letting others know who I really was ... I was so afraid of their judgment and rejection that I was ready to take my own life.

It's been a little more than four years since I came falling out of the closet, and since then I've worked diligently to get past the fear that kept me locked away for more than four decades. And while there were still times when the old terror would wash through me, the fearful days grew less frequent with each passing day. I watched as legislation was passed to protect the rights of the LGBT community, and I thought that hate and prejudice based on race or sexuality or gender or nationality would soon be a thing of the past. But I was wrong. I thought I could finally put my fear to rest and know that I was safe and accepted and cherished for the person I am. But I was wrong. I thought that respect for all people and love would win the long, hard fight for equality. But I was wrong. In the blink of an eye, I now live in a country in which the newly elected President and Vice President have vowed to make eliminating pro-LGBT legislation one of their first orders of business when they take office. In the blink of an eye, the fear that held me captive for so many years is raging within my soul. I truly believed that I would never have to be afraid of being the real me again. But I was wrong.

I wore a bow tie to work today ... a very special orange and blue bow tie given to me by a friend a couple of years ago. I had to stop on my way home from work tonight and put gas in my car. As I was waiting on the tank to fill, a man at the pump next to me said, "Bet you aren't too happy about our new President, are you? He's going to make America great again and put you homo queers back where you belong and the real Americans are going to help him. Your days are numbered, ----." 

I thought the hate was finally ending. But I was wrong. I thought the fear was finally going away. But I was wrong. I still believe I'm right about the most important thing, though ... God's ways are higher than those of any man. Even the President of the United States of America.