Monday, August 22, 2016

Fake It Till You Make It

Spaghetti. Jelly Bellies. Lasagna. Pumpkin pie. Strawberry pie. Chocolate pie. Banana cream pie. Cherry pie. Pecan pie. Apple pie. Key lime pie. Every kind of pie. Meghann's mashed potatoes. Garlic bread. Real ice cream. Sweet potatoes with brown sugar and caramel. Anything with caramel in it, on it or around it, especially caramel apples and Starbucks cafe vanilla frapuccinos. That green jello stuff with Eagle Brand Milk and marshmallows and pineapple. French fries with ketchup. Hot chocolate with lots and lots of marshmallows. Stuffed shells. Creamy tacos. Crunchy tacos. Taco Bell burrito supremes. Life cereal. Fresh peaches. Sweet tea. Caramelized onions. Green Goddess salad dressing. Apple cider slushes from the cider mill. Doritos. Popcorn. Raisins. Dressing with gravy. Biscuits and gravy. Hash browns with gravy. Anything with gravy. And last but most certainly not least in any way, shape, form or fashion, pizza.

Other than being on every human's list of sheer and utter deliciousness ... and if they aren't, they most certainly should be ... all of those items I mentioned in my opening paragraph moved quickly into the "off-limits" category for me a few years ago when I was diagnosed with diabetes. I'm 100+ pounds lighter now that I don't eat any of those yummy things anymore, which means I'm much healthier than I was when I did eat them. It's good that I don't eat three bowls of Meghann's mashed potatoes for breakfast anymore, washed down with a giant sugar-laden frappucino with a chaser of a half a bag of Rollos candy ... oh, man, how did I leave Rollos off of my aforementioned list? For the most part, I don't crave those off-limits foods, but every now and again I'll have a day when I'd give everything I own to have a gigantic bowl of Meghann's mashed potatoes or a big, tall glass of sweet tea or a couple ... OK, OK, 10 ... bags of Doritos or a few dozen slices of ooey-gooey pizza. I definitely miss Meghann's mashed potatoes the most of all, but a chicken and spinach Alfredo pizza sure comes in at a close second. 

As you may have surmised from my previous post, I was pretty worn out by the time last week was over ... so much so that I spent a good amount of time Friday evening laying on my couch and surfing the Internet. I rarely look at recipes or cooking blogs or anything food related, but something caught my eye that night that caused me to get up off my beloved couch and dig out a diabetic cookbook that Matt and Becca gave me for Christmas not long after I was diagnosed. As I browsed through the book, one particular recipe title jumped off the page at me ... Cauliflower Fake Pizza Crust. I'll readily admit that I was skeptical when I read the words, "So close to flour crust, you won't be able to tell the difference," but you can bet your butt that when I went to the grocery store on Saturday, I bought the necessary ingredients to give that sucker a try. After the crust was finished baking, I topped it with a little bit of Alfredo sauce, frozen spinach, grilled chicken and a healthy dose of cheese, popped it back in the oven for another 15 minutes and waited rather impatiently for it to be done so I could taste it. I'll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that I had to cut myself off or I would have eaten the entire "pizza" in one sitting. Unlike a lot of substitute foods for those of us on low-carb, low-sugar diets, the fake crust really did taste like real pizza crust.

So why am I writing about my most delicious fake pizza crust? I'm sure you've heard the saying, "Fake it till you make it," haven't you? I'm guessing most of us have heard that phrase used multiple times in multiple contexts during the course of our lives ... at least I know I have anyway. I think I've probably heard it more ... no,wait ... I know I've definitely heard it more than ever since I was diagnosed with depression. I've learned that it's merely a lack of understanding concerning the illness that is depression that causes people to say things like, "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps," or "Just choose to be happy," or "Count your blessings instead of your sorrows," or my personal favorite, "You can get glad in the same britches you got sad in if you just put your mind to it." But the "Fake it till you make it" phrase? Well, those words fall into an entirely different category for me ... those words make me think and consider and ponder and mull over the basic precept of what they're encouraging me to do, or not do, as the case may be.

Perhaps part of the reason those words cause me to think so deeply is because I lived five decades of my life trying with everything in me to fake it until I made it ... trying so desperately to believe that if I just faked it long enough, I would wake up one day and miraculously be straight instead of gay. Maybe that's why I struggle with the concept of faking it till I make it ... maybe it's because I know what it feels like to hide who I am and to bury what I feel. But then there are times when I want to do just that ... fake it until I make it and believe with everything within me that it will work. Those are the times when I wish I could just take a scalpel to my soul and slice away my aversion to pretending ... times when I wish I could just turn off that "be open, honest, real and transparent" mantra within my brain and fake it till I make it. Trust me when I say, you have absolutely no idea how many times I wish I could fake it till I make it ... you have absolutely no idea.

So here's the thing, friends ... even though the cauliflower pizza crust is really, really, really good and I'll definitely be eating a lot more of it, I will always know it's not the real deal. No matter how many times I consume the cauliflower crust or how great it tastes, I'll always know the truth ... I'll always know what's really inside that crust ... and I'll know what's not. And for tonight, that's good enough for me ... that's good enough for me, sweet friends ... that's good enough for me.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Name This Post

When I was out walking with Ollie this evening, I had what I think might just be a darn good idea ... and yes, I do have those once every decade or two. I'll write a list of things and then you gals and guys can name the post. Cool, right? Genius, eh? I'm the most creative, fun writer you've ever known? Why, thank you! Now that we've agreed upon the greatness of my literary skills and talent, have at it, friends ... go ahead and name this post.

The rushing water of a mountain stream. The feel of baby toes in the palm of my hand. The sound of crunchy autumn leaves under my feet. Building fires in the fireplace at work. The smell of a puppy's breath. A cool breeze on a hot day. The sound my boots make when I walk in the snow. The look in Coraline and Amelie's eyes when they see me at the airport. No sugar added ice cream from Coldstone's. The friend at work who goes out of their way to come to my corner to say hi because they miss seeing me. A tall glass of iced tea after I mow the lawn. A cold beer after I mow the lawn on a really hot day. Waking up with Ollie's paw on my face. Hearing the words "I love you." Saying the words "I love you." Driving a Jeep Wrangler with the top off when the temperature is in the mid-70s. Giving clothes and food to my homeless pals under the bridge. Getting a phone call or text in the evening or on the weekend from a friend at work who knows I get lonely. Helping a friend who's going through a rough time. Listening to someone who needs someone to talk to. Spending time with my kids. The smell of clean sheets fresh from the dryer. Walking on the trail with my wiener dog. Kansas sunsets. Giving and caring and helping and loving, period. Getting a message from a friend I haven't seen in years. Snuggling with my granddaughters while I read to them. Rich Hill on the 4th of July. Maine. Canada. Seeing a moose in Colorado. Seeing anything in Colorado. Watching Coraline learn to ice skate. Pulling Amelie in the sled. Bulk Barn. Breakfast at First Watch. When someone tells me I matter to them. Writing. Falling asleep with Ollie's paw on my face. Laughing until I can't catch my breath. Watching Meghann run. Watching Brad film. Watching Matt be a daddy. The brightness of a full moon in the night sky. Giving away hams in the hood. Holding a friend's hand when they need someone to hold their hand. The first taste when I bite into a big, juicy blackberry. The smell of cookies baking in the oven. Getting a "just because" card from a friend. Little kid laughter and baby giggles. Hearing the words "I trust you." Saying the words "I trust you." Going home to Tennessee to be with my family who loves me. Being there for a friend when they need me. Singing in the shower and no one can hear me except Ollie. Dog kisses from Ollie even after he hears me sing. Reading a book by candlelight. Friends who promise not to leave. Friends who promise not to leave and keep their promise. The blooms on the tiger lilies in my yard. Watching Michael Phelps swim. The sound of the ocean crashing into the rocks. The smell of the air in the mountains. Matt's smile. Becca's smile. Brad's smile. Shelby's smile. Meghann's smile. Barrett's smile. Coraline's smile. Amelie's smile. My family's smiles. My friends smiles. When someone trusts me enough to tell me their story. The way Ollie hops when we go for a walk. Openness. Honesty. Realness. Transparency. When people do what they say they will do. When I do what I say I will do. Sleeping in on Saturday mornings. My life-saving head doctor. My regular doctor. Medication that keeps me alive. Wearing bow ties and suspenders. Helping Coraline catch her first fish. Laying on my couch watching a good movie on a cold, rainy day. The feel of the water on my skin in the shower. Decaf coffee. Scallops. Sugar-free chocolate syrup. Reading the stories of people who've overcome great obstacles. Having Ollie with me on an airplane. Having Ollie with me in the car. Having Ollie with me anywhere. When someone tells me they appreciate me. When I tell someone I appreciate them. When I wake up and thank God for giving me another day. Counting blessings instead of sorrows. Believing in someone. Having someone believe in me. Laughing ... loving ... living.

Name this post, friends ... name this post. And then write one of your own.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

That Face

Remember that one time you were sitting at your desk on a Wednesday morning working away and you hear someone say your name and you turn around and it's your son who lives in Maine who you didn't think you were going to see until Thursday evening because you knew he was filming at a hospital in a little town about 20 miles away and when you turn around and see him you hug the living daylights out of him for a really long time and he hugs the living daylights out of you, too, and you try really hard not to cry but you do anyway and you don't give a crap who sees you? Oh wait ... that wasn't you, that was me and all of that happened today. True story.

For those of you who are empty-nesters, and particularly those of you whose adult kiddos live far away from you, my guess is you completely understand the feeling that swept through me when I turned around in my chair this morning and saw my Brad's face. And I'd bet my last penny that you totally get it when I tell you that my first thought was, "He's home." And though I'm certain it goes without saying, that thought was followed closely by the next one ... "That face ... I miss that face so much."

As Brad visited with some of the folks in my office, I couldn't help but notice how at ease he was and that he had a new sense of confidence about him. My mind swirled as the thoughts rolled in ... "Look at him smile ... he has such a beautiful smile" ... "He's matured so much in the last year," ... "I'm so proud of the man he's become," ... "That face ... I miss that face so very much," ... "God have mercy on my soul ... do not let me cry in front of the co-CEOs and the managing partner and the vice president," ... "Remember when he wore a fireman costume for like three years?" ... "Where has all the time gone?" ... "Look at him smile," ... "Look at that face," ... "Look at his heart," ... "Look at my son," ... "God, oh God, please don't let me cry in front of Ali and JJ and Rand and Jim ... please God ... just this once, please don't let me cry."

Brad's visit this morning was a short one because he needed to get to his shoot, but we'll have some quality time together over the weekend before he heads back to Maine on Monday. For as long as I hugged him when I first saw him this morning, I hugged him equally as long when he left my office. As I watched him walk down the stairs, another thought came crashing into my mind ... one I can't shake ... one I think may hang around for a while ... one I hope will make me appreciate more deeply the moments I have with my children, my grandchildren, my extended family and my friends. "You don't know what you have until it's gone."

That face, my friends ... that face.

Monday, August 8, 2016

You May Be Obsessed With the Olympics if ...

I'm pretty certain that most first-time parents will agree with me that for a couple of weeks after your baby arrives, you can barely take your eyes off of that little screaming, pooping, wiggling little human. I mean seriously, it's hard to look away from that adorable face even for a moment, isn't it? Unless, of course, your first child just happens to make his entrance into the world at the same time as the summer Olympics are taking place in Los Angeles and you spend a couple of weeks at your mom's house and have a television in the bedroom. Go ahead and say it ... I'm a terrible mother because I didn't spend every waking moment staring at my firstborn son in the first couple of weeks of his life ... sorry, Mattie. Before you judge me too terribly harshly, let me assure you that I didn't ignore my  beloved baby boy, I just alternated between looking at him and looking at the athletes who were competing in the Olympic games.

It doesn't make sense to me that I enjoy watching the Olympics as much as I do because I just don't watch sports on television. Well, I did watch some of the World Series games last year because I was afraid I'd get kicked out of Kansas City if I didn't ... you know, go Royals and all that stuff. Heck, I'll watch some totally sappy movie on Lifetime before I'll watch sports on TV, but when it comes to the Olympics ... well, that's an entirely different ball game. Yes, you should be laughing out loud at what I did there ... I don't like to watch sports on television but the Olympics is an entirely different ball game ... get it? I'm sitting here cracking up at my cleverness, which totally means that you should be, too. But I digress ... back to what I was saying about watching the Olympics on TV. I've done a lot of that since Friday evening's opening ceremony ... watched the Olympics, that is ... and after what happened when I mowed my yard this evening, I think I may possibly have to admit that my obsession with the Olympics might be just a tad bit out of control.

I'm not quite sure what possessed me to do so, but when I pushed the lawnmower out of my garage, I decided that I was going to set a new record time for how long it took me to mow the yard. I even went back inside and got my phone so that I could set the stopwatch to accurately time myself down to the second. And as I filled the mower tank with gas, I said out loud, "And now competing for the U.S. in the lawn mowing event is Terrie Johnson. She holds the world record in this event at 45 minutes 13 seconds. No one has ever come close to that time so it will be interesting to see if she can actually break the record she set in 2014." Yep ... I know ... just one more feather to toss in the "Terrie really is crazy" bucket. But you know what? I mowed the yard tonight in a record-shattering 42 minutes 51 seconds, so there.

Seriously though ... the real reason I love watching the Olympics has absolutely nothing to do with the events the athletes are competing in and absolutely everything to do with the athletes themselves. It's their stories ... the swimmer with Crohn's disease ... the gymnast who was told he would never walk again ... every single member of the first Refugee Olympic Team ... the athletes themselves are the reason I watch the Olympics. To see the sacrifices so many of them have made and the discipline they possess to push themselves beyond what most of us would consider humanly possible is truly inspirational to me. Watching the athletes pursue their dreams makes me hope ... even if it's only for a moment ... watching the dreams they have chased for so long come true makes me hope that maybe, just maybe, it's not too late for one or two of my own dreams to come true, too.

"Unbelievable! Terrie Johnson has broken her own lawn mowing world record with a time of 42:51 ... we didn't think it was possible but she did it!"

And the crowd of squirrels and rabbits and my faithful wiener dog go wild ...

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Special Deliveries

It doesn't matter how young or old you are, there's a special feeling that accompanies getting something in the mail from someone you love. And if you're one of two very special little Canadians and that something that comes in the mail just happens to be from your beloved Ghee ... well, that pretty much ensures that it's going to be an extra special delivery. And I'll tell you a secret ... one of the best things in life is Skyping with those two girlsies and watching them when they open the packages I send them. The looks on their faces, the excitement in their eyes, the high-pitched squeal from Amelie when she discovers the pretend bacon ... yes, it's true ... I did indeed send my littlest granddaughter some fake bacon as part of her gift for her second birthday. Don't judge me ... the kid loves to play like she's cooking in her little kitchen, and it just so happens that she especially loves to pretend that she's cooking bacon. I will admit, however, that when my daughter-in-law told me that little Miss Ambo sneaks the pretend bacon into bed with her at night, it made me worry that my littlest grandgal may have inherited just a touch of her Ghee's craziness.

Last week was filled with special deliveries from, for and to the people I love most in this world. The package I sent to my son Matt arrived just in time for his 32nd birthday on Wednesday. I cried like a baby on Thursday when I opened a very special gift from a very special person back home in Tennessee. My nephew Charlie had a blast giving his daughter Caroline and his nephew Ahmed a science lesson with the dry ice that protected the famous Joe's KC Barbecue I sent him. And I was abundantly pleased with myself on Friday when the way cool gifts I had ordered for my son-in-law's upcoming birthday were delivered to my office. Different deliveries with different items for different people but all for the same reason, and that reason is love.

In thinking about last week's package bonanza, I took a little stroll down memory lane and thought about various cards and gifts I've received over the years and as I did, I realized something. It's never been what was inside the special deliveries that meant so very much to me ... even though what was inside was usually pretty freaking awesome. It was knowing that someone was thinking about me ... that I mattered enough to my family or my friends that they took time out of their busy lives to do something extra special just for me. It was, still is and will always be the love behind the delivery that matters most to me. Wait a sec ... I guess that means it is what's inside that matters most to me ... inside their hearts, that is.

You know what, friends? Life can be a real bitch sometimes, and it's awfully easy to let the tyranny of the urgent cause us to forget what's most important in life ... each other. Think about it ... think about it and then be someone's special delivery this week.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

You Want It?

First things first ... thank you for your kind words of encouragement and support after reading my previous post. I am overwhelmed by all the love you guys and gals have sent my way over the last few days ... I truly am blessed beyond measure. In the spirit of being open, honest, real and transparent, however, I want you to know that my intention in writing about what took place in the pharmacy last Monday evening was not an attempt in any way to elicit sympathy for myself. I wrote the post with the hope that it would help others who might find themselves in a similar situation to know that they are not alone and that no one deserves to be treated with such disrespect and animosity. I wrote it hoping that it would make all of us, myself most definitely included, really think about the way we treat people who may be different from us in some way. Again, thank you so very much for your outpouring of love and compassion ... some of your messages had me bawling my eyes out and some had me giggling like a little girl. What would make me super duper happy is if all of you would do something for me over the next few days ... step out of your comfort zone and give away some hugs to folks who aren't the same as you. I know you can do it ... I believe in you ... hug away, friends ... hug away, and make someone's day or week or month or year a little brighter.

If you've been reading along with me for a while, you know that I'm a hat lover, and more specifically, I love ball caps. If I could, I'd wear a cap 24/7 for the rest of my days here on earth ... I really do love them that much. I would imagine I inherited my love of hat wearing from my dear old Daddy ... that man surely did love his hats. From felt fedoras to straw hats to ball caps, it was a rare occurrence to see my dad without some sort of hat or cap atop his balding noggin. Since I pretty much thought the sun rose and set in Daddy, it makes perfect sense to me that I possess such an affinity for various head-toppers myself and that I, like my dad, have quite the collection of them. Me being the weirdo that I am, of course, I have my favorite hats or caps for different activities ... I have lawn-mowing caps, walking caps, snowy days hats, reading hats and caps, and so on. And believe me when I tell you that I will never ever wear my lawn-mowing cap when I go on a walk or wear my snowy day hat if it's raining. Sheesh ... just typing those words makes me sound even more like a weirdo, eh?

Like I said, I have quite a collection of hats and caps, some I purchased myself and some that have been given to me as gifts over the years. I think one of the things I love most about wearing my hats and caps is that each one of them has its own special story. Like my most recent cap purchase when I visited Brad and Shelby in Maine ... a dark green cap with a small embroidered lobster on the front. We had stopped at an adorable little store called The Maine Cheese Company, which just happened to sell t-shirts and caps in addition to cheese. Or my almost completely worn-out Chattanooga Mocs hat I bought at the UTC bookstore many years ago when I took my three children to show them where I went to college. As to the hats and caps I've received as gifts ... oh, my ... it would take way more than this one post to recount all the love and memories that accompany those. But I am going to tell you about one particular cap I was given ... a cap that's become even more special to me over the last three weeks.

It's hard to believe I've had the cap for 23 years, and it's even harder to believe that's how long it's been since my sweet dad passed away. I can't remember if it was on the day of Daddy's funeral or perhaps the day after that I walked outside with my nephew Charlie as he was leaving Mom and Dad's house. We were standing on the sidewalk next to one of the trees Daddy and I had planted in the front yard when I was young, and I remember thinking how very proud Daddy would have been of Charlie. There was an extra special bond between Daddy and my nephew ... they were much more like father and son than grandfather and grandson. Yep, Daddy would have been so very proud to see the young man that Charlie had become ... I would have given anything in that moment for Daddy to have been able to see Charlie standing under that tree ... standing under that tree with his black and yellow United States Army cap planted firmly atop his head.

"I like your cap," I said to my nephew in an attempt to stall having to tell him goodbye.

Without blinking an eye, Charlie reached up and took off his cap and extended it toward me. 

"You want it?" he said as he smiled.

"For real?" I asked with more than a trace of doubt in my voice. "Are you kidding me?"

"Try it on and see if it fits," my nephew said, he smile growing even bigger and his eyes twinkling. His eyes twinkling ... Charlie's eyes twinkle just like my dad's did ... they surely do.

I put the cap on my head and not only did it fit, it fit perfectly.

"Well, look at that," Charlie said. "It's like it was made for you."

I pulled the cap off my head and said, "No, buddy, I can't take it ... this is your Army cap. Thank you, but I can't."

Charlie took the cap from my hands and placed it back on my head as he hugged me.

"It's yours."

I texted my nephew a few days ago and asked him if he remembered giving me his Army cap and I'm going to close tonight's post with his reply, but I have just a couple of other thoughts before I do. Every single time I wear the cap my nephew gave me, I don't only think of the day he gave me his cap. I think about when my daughter and I drove to Nashville to attend his commissioning ceremony before he went to Iraq. I think about him dressed in his military uniform as he carried the caskets of my mom and dad. I think about him coming home safely after his tour of duty. I think about how very proud I am of the man he has become. I think about how very proud Daddy would have been of his grandson ... of his sense of honor and integrity ... of his strength of character ... of his love for his family. 

If you read the post "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," you know that my nephew was in a freak accident three weeks ago when he fell through a steel grate and suffered a serious injury to his leg. Many of you have messaged me asking how he is and to let me know you're praying for him, and both he and I appreciate your continued concern for his well-being as well as your ongoing prayers for his recovery. His most recent surgery was a little over a week ago in which additional necrotic muscle tissue was removed from his calf, thus increasing the size and depth of the original wound. His spirits remain high and his crazy sense of humor is most definitely intact ... he thinks it's absolutely hilarious that his wound vac makes a noise that sounds very much like a person passing gas. Please continue to send healing thoughts and prayers his way ... for relief from the pain, for new tissue to grow over the exposed tendons and ligaments, for protection from infection and for successful skin grafts once his leg is healed enough for him to have the surgery.

Oh, and by the way, I'm pretty sure Charlie's reply to my text about the cap means I can add Best Aunt in the Universe to my Best Ghee Ever title. When you finish reading tonight's post, go find someone to hug. Tell the people you love that you love them and don't ever, ever, ever take them for granted. Remember that life really is short and it truly is precious, friends ... it really and truly is indeed.

"I do remember giving you that cap. I actually didn't have many Army hats at the time and that one was my favorite. By the way, I've never given anyone else one of my Army hats."


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

It's Not Just Hello

Yesterday morning I woke up with an earache. I didn't think too much about it because one of my ears pretty much always has an ache. If I had a nickel for every time I've gone to my doctor and said, "I think I have another ear infection," only to have her tell me I didn't, I'd be one rich gal. And if I had a nickel for every time I've been at the doctor for a different reason and my doctor said, "Your ear has to be killing you because it's badly infected," I'd be even richer. I think my ear pain can be likened to the frog in the boiling water story ... you know the one ... you put a frog into cold water in a pot on the stove and slowly turn up the heat, and old Mr. Frog doesn't even try to jump out. By the time Mr. Frog realizes his goose, or frog as the case may be, is cooked, he's already a goner. It's the same thing with my ear ... it's generally hard for me to know when I have a legitimate or full-blown ear infection because I'm so accustomed to having pain that I often don't realize the water, or my eardrum as the case may be, is beginning to boil.

I went on to work yesterday, telling myself that I was fine and that my ear was just doing its normal painful thing and that the pain would lessen after a while. But as the day wore on, so did my ear pain, and by the end of the day, all I wanted to do was go home, put hot rags on my ear, snuggle on the couch with Ollie and watch television. Thankfully, every once in a while, I actually listen to my gut and I make a smart decision, which is why I decided to stop at the walk-in clinic on my way home last night. When the nurse told me I was running a slight fever, my first thought was, "Well, crap," followed shortly by, "I bet it's my stupid ear." The doctor only had to take a quick peek inside my ear to confirm my suspicion ... stupid, stupid ear. Two prescriptions and a shot in my butt later, I was on my way to the pharmacy hoping there wouldn't be many people waiting because all I wanted to do was ... well, you know.

Since it was going to be only a 15-minute wait for my prescriptions, and since by then I was feeling pretty darn lousy, I sat down in one of the chairs in the small waiting area near the pharmacy windows. I had been sitting there for about 5 minutes when I noticed two women walk up to the counter to drop off a prescription. I noticed them because I knew them ... I noticed them because we used to attend the same church ... I noticed them because there was I time when I believed we were close friends. It's been almost four years since I've seen the two women, and as you might guess, our friendships didn't exactly end under the best of circumstances. I sat glued to the chair in the waiting area with my palms sweating and my stomach churning, praying they would leave the counter and go the other way. The moment I saw them turn in my direction, I knew there was no way they wouldn't see me ... there was nowhere for me to run ... there was nowhere for me to hide. The moment they saw me, I knew I had a decision to make ... I could allow the judgment they had once imposed upon me cause me to lower my head in shame and stare down at the floor beneath my feet, or I could muster up every ounce of courage and strength within me, ignore the fact that the ache in my heart had quickly surpassed the ache in my ear, stand up, look them in the eye and say hello.

I chose to do the latter ... I stood up from the chair and walked toward the two women, and I can assure you that each one of those five steps felt as though it was a mile. I even managed a smile as I extended my hand and said, "Hi ... how are you?" I wish with all my heart that my pharmacy encounter with my former friends last night had a happy ending ... you have no idea how desperately I wish I could tell you that time had indeed healed all the wounds and that the three of us embraced and engaged in polite conversation. But the truth is that the two women stopped and looked at me standing there with my outstretched hand and a smile on my face and they turned and walked away. Two women who once ate meals in my home, came to my children's weddings, attended Christian women's conferences with me, walked with me, spent hours and hours and hours talking with me, laughing with me, crying with me ... those two women stopped close enough to me last night to look directly into my eyes and then they turned and walked away without saying a word. 

For one brief moment, I thought about shouting, "Hey! It's just hello, you know ... that's all, just hello. You won't get any of my gay germs by just saying hello." But of course, I didn't. I lowered my head and went back to the waiting area and sat down. When the gal at the counter said my prescriptions were ready, I paid, picked up the bag, walked to my car and drove home. When I opened the door to come inside, my little Ollie came running to me as fast as his little wiener dog legs could run ... tail wagging, tags jingling, ears flapping. I scooped him up into my arms and finally let loose the tears I'd been struggling to hold in since the encounter at the pharmacy. It took a few minutes, but I pulled myself together, fixed something to eat, heated up a hot pack for my ear, curled up on the couch and went to sleep. 

I stayed home from work today because I was still running a fever this morning and my ear felt as though it might explode ... the first sick day I've taken in more than a year and a half. I've been asleep a good part of the day, and I'm feeling much better ... thank God for antibiotics, hot packs and a faithful little wiener dog to keep me company. During the time I've been awake today, I've thought a lot about what happened last night at the pharmacy, and there's something I need to say. That exchange last night wasn't about just saying hello ... it wasn't about that at all, friends. It's not just hello ... it's common courtesy. It's not just hello ... it's being a decent human being. It's not just hello ... it's practicing what you preach. It's not just hello at all, my friends ... it's knowing that everyone has value and worth. It's not just hello at all ... not at all ... not at all ... not at all. It's honor and integrity and strength of character and respect. It's being able to look at myself in the mirror last night and know that I did the right thing ... it's being able to look at myself in the mirror today and tomorrow and the day after that and all the rest of my days and know that it's always far, far, far more than just hello.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

When All it Takes is Tires

One of the things I detest most in life is dealing with car issues ... always have and always will. Maybe it's because my knowledge of the mechanical workings of my car is that I have to put gas in the tank and have the oil changed every so often or it won't continue to operate. I know nothing about spark plugs or sensors or fuses or radiators or timing belts or any of the plethora of other car-related terminology I've heard tossed about in conversations among car type guys and gals. I wish I could tell you that my lack of automotive intelligence has to do with a lack of training, but that would not be entirely true because my dad tried his best to teach me the basics of car maintenance and repair. Nope ... the reason I know nothing about car stuff is because I choose to know nothing about car stuff. And I choose to know nothing about car stuff because I really, really, really detest dealing with car issues. I want to get in my car, turn it on and drive wherever I need to go. It's a bad, bad day when one of those stupid warning lights comes on to signal that there's a problem with my car ... boy, oh, boy is that a bad, bad day indeed.

The last couple of times I've taken my beloved Subaru Legacy in for an oil change, the guys have mentioned to me that I would need to buy new tires soon. We all know that the use of the word "soon" in regard to buying new tires often means different amounts of time for different people, hence the reason I've been driving on very, very worn tires for the last few months. Well, my interpretation of the word "soon" ... and the fact that I knew that new tires were going to cost me upwards of $500 (that I didn't have, by the way) ... caused me to push my luck to the limit with every extra mile I logged. And I do mean pushed my luck to the very ultimate limit ... when the guys showed me my old tires yesterday after replacing them with a new set, one of them said, "I really don't know why one of these didn't blow out on you when you were driving 70 going down the highway." I didn't tell him, but the reason I finally decided I had to bite the bullet and get new tires was because when I was driving home from work on Friday, my car was shimmying so badly I thought I was going to have to pull over and have it towed. Yeah, yeah ... I know what you're thinking, but I managed to get 63,000 miles out of the original tires on my car, so there.

It only took driving a short distance when I left the tire place yesterday for me to realize just how bad my old tires must have been ... the difference in the ride, the handling and even the braking on my car was like night and day from what it had been just a few short hours earlier. Which, of course, me being me, made me start thinking about how true that is with so many things in life ... we put off fixing things or ignoring problems because we don't realize just how bad they really are. We take big chances with our relationships and our health and all kinds of other important areas of life by not doing what needs to be done to take care of them. When we just continue to ignore the worn out tires ... when we don't take the time to talk to the people we love or spend time with them ... when we don't notice that their hearts are dangerously close to blowing out ... when we think they will just keep rolling along without being cared for ... well, friends, that's every bit as dumb as me driving down the interstate every day on worn-out tires. No ... that's even dumber.

I had to go out and run several errands today and as I drove from one place to another, I kept thinking that my car felt like new again ... it's most definitely not, but the new tires sure do make it feel like it is. I'll leave you to think on that for a while ... all it took for my car to be special to me again, to feel new to me again, to make me proud of it again was for me to give it the tender loving care it needed. People are way more important than cars, friends ... way, way, way more. Think about it ... think about it indeed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

You Win

Though they are the best of friends as adults, there was a time when my two young sons couldn't manage to get through an entire day without arguing over something. I well remember those days of shouting and shoving ... just when I'd think maybe their fighting stage had passed, they'd start going at it again. I think all three of my kiddos would tell you that it took a lot to make me lose my cool back when they were all youngsters. I was ... and still am, for that matter ... a pretty easygoing, laid-back kind of mom. If I had a nickel for every time I said the words, "You guys just calm down and talk it out," ... well ... suffice it to say I'd be rich enough that I'd never have to work another day for the rest of my life. But even easygoing, laid-back, calm down and talk it out moms have their breaking point ... that one moment when the bickering and arguing and shouting and yelling and shoving pushes them over the edge and they head to the store and buy two pairs of red and white boxing gloves. And for those of you who are shaking your heads in judgment and saying that I was encouraging violence between my sons, I have one thing to say ... it was the freaking smartest parenting thing I ever did.

I still remember the looks on my sons' faces the next time an argument erupted between the two of them and I pulled out the recently purchased boxing gloves. They didn't know whether to be terrified of what I had in mind for the gloves or to be confident that they had the coolest mom ever ... not really on the coolest mom ever part, those boys of mine looked like deer in the headlights when I put the gloves on their little boy hands and started lacing them up. And they both looked like they might hurl when I turned them around, opened the door to the basement and calmly said, "Go downstairs and fight it out ... just don't kill each other. And don't ask me for help unless one of you is bleeding." And with that, I pushed them toward the door and closed it behind them. Let me say it again ... freaking smartest parenting thing I ever did.

For those of you who are completely appalled by my lack of compassion and supervision toward my fighting sons, let me assure you that once I was sure my little guys were indeed in the basement throwing punches at one another, I quietly opened the door and crept to the third step of the staircase and sat down. That step was my vantage point not only for monitoring the sounds and intensity of the punches that flew between my two unwary boys, but also for hearing the conversations they had as they fought. Most of their fights didn't last very long, usually less than 15 minutes or so, and neither of my boys ever sustained any injuries ... unless you count some pretty significant beatings of their little boy man pride as injuries, that is. And just in case my sons read this evening's post, I didn't sit on the third step to spy on you guys. I sat on the step to make sure that you didn't hurt each other, physically with the punches you threw or emotionally with the words you said.

It took a while for it to happen, but eventually all of my boys' boxing glove fights ended in the same manner. One of my sons ... and no, I won't tell you which one ... would always say, "Okay, okay ... you win." For a long time, I worried about my son who always bowed out of the fight by conceding defeat to his brother. I worried that he was giving up too easily and that he believed he didn't deserve to win. Many years later when I mentioned my worries to him and asked if the boxing glove fights had done serious damage to his self-esteem, he said, "Mom, I started telling him 'You win' because I was tired of getting the crap beat out of me. One day I realized I was never going to win against him because I wasn't as good of a fighter as he was. He was stronger and better than me from the start. I finally wised up and just told him he won ... I just wish I would have done it before he punched the hell out of me all those times."

I've been thinking a lot in recent weeks about how hard that is for me to do ... to come to a point when the only thing left for me to do is say, "You win." I'm sure there are plenty of you who totally get what I'm saying. You get it because you've been there yourselves ... you've experienced the gut-wrenching pain that comes with accepting and admitting certain truths in your own lives. For me, some of the hardest "You win" times center around friendship ... when I'm forced to take a step back and see a friendship for what it truly is, or what it truly is not, as the case may be. I think those may be two of the hardest choices in life ... choosing whether to stay in the fight even though you know your heart is going to get the crap beaten out of it time and time again to say, "You win," and walk away.

I'd like to believe that I'm a good friend ... I'd like to believe that I'm a friend people are proud of ... I'd like to believe that I'm a friend people enjoy spending time with ... I'd like to believe I'm a friend people know they can depend on to be there for them no matter what ... I'd like to believe I'm a friend who has a kind and caring and good and honest and open and real and transparent heart ... I'd like to believe I'm a friend who would be missed if I weren't there. But honestly, I'm feeling kind of beaten up in the friendship area tonight ... tonight, I'm having a hard time believing any of those things are true. I read a quote the other day, and it seems to be a fitting way to end my post this evening ... "It hurts because it matters."

You win, friend ... or do you?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown

I was almost 10 years old when he was born, and I've loved him since the first time I held him in my arms. When he was old enough to talk, he called me "Ree Ree" because he couldn't say "Terrie." By the time I was old enough to drive, he harassed the heck out of me ... always wanting to go with me everywhere, begging me to take him for ice cream at the Dairy Delight, hitting me up for an extra large Icee at the Golden Gallon, swiping my Big Chew bubble gum out of the glove box of my car. When he was a teenager, we would sit on the roof of the garage at night and talk for hours about everything under the sun ... or moon, as the case may be.

When he started dating the girl who would eventually became his wife, he would get this goofy look on his face whenever he talked about her and I knew he was falling in love. When he called to tell me they were expecting their first child after nine years of disappointment, we cried happy tears together over the news that he was finally going to be a dad. And those memories are only the tip of the iceberg ... I've loved him since the day he was born, and that bond of love between us is unbreakable.

He's my sister's only son, the youngest of my five nephews, and his name is Charlie. If you've been reading along with me for a while, you may remember him because I write about him from time to time. Charlie is a truly good man ... a man of honor and integrity ... a man who would fight to the death to protect his family, his friends and his freedom ... a man who has a heart that reminds me so much of my dad. He is kind and caring and compassionate, and he has this crazy, infectious laugh that can cause the saddest person in the world to smile. I know that Charlie will always stand beside me ... no matter what the future may hold, I know he'll be there.

I know he'll be there ... the events of this past week have had me thinking a lot about those words ... I know he'll be there ... they've had me pondering how I so often take for granted that those I love will be there. You see, my nephew Charlie was in a freak accident last Monday evening while he was at church helping out with Vacation Bible School. He fell through a rusted steel grate and suffered a very serious injury to his leg. Falling through the metal grate was an accident for sure, but my nephew would tell you really quickly that not one thing that happened following his fall was accidental in any way. The pieces of heavy metal grate that fell in on top of him didn't hit his head or puncture his lungs or pierce his heart or abdomen. He stayed conscious and calm even though he knew he was in shock and that he was in danger of bleeding out from the wound on his leg. There were people on the scene who knew what to do to help him until the paramedics arrived ... people who quite literally saved my nephew's life. Charlie would tell you that God was watching over him and protecting him from the second the grate began to crumble beneath his feet ... and I would wholeheartedly agree with him.

My nephew is home from the hospital this evening, and, in his words, "is doing as well as can be expected." Needless to say, he's in a great deal of pain ... the rusted steel grating pierced his leg just to the right of his shin bone and tore away a significant amount of tissue and muscle. He's had one surgery to remove additional tissue and repair as much as possible, and to have a wound vacuum inserted. He'll have additional surgery in the coming weeks to place skin grafts over the baseball-sized wound, and I'm sure he'll have to endure some painful physical therapy to regain the full use of his leg. As I Skyped with Charlie and his wife and precious little daughter last night, chills ran up my spine as he told me the details of his accident. I managed to hold back my tears while we were chatting, but you can be assured that I cried like a baby after our conversation ended because I knew ... I knew that I could have lost my sweet nephew last Monday night, friends ... had the steel fallen in a different direction, I could have been saying a whole different kind of goodbye. 

I know I say it a lot ... I know I say it a whole, whole lot ... but I'm saying it again tonight, and I'll say again and again and again for as long as I breathe. Life is short, and we need to stop taking one another for granted ... I need to stop taking the people I love for granted ... because not a single one of us is guaranteed a tomorrow. We need to remember that what truly matters most in this life is each other. It's not things ... it's not money ... it's not power ... it's not success ... what truly matters most in this life is each other.

In case I haven't told you in a while, you're a good man, Charlie Brown ... you're a good, good man indeed, and I will love you forever. Do what the doctors tell you to do, take it easy and get lots of rest, don't push it and for gosh sake's, don't try to be a tough guy. Take care of you, nephew, and feel better soon. I'm proud of you for the man you are ... the husband, the father, the son, the brother, the nephew ... you're a good man, Charlie Brown ... you truly are a good man indeed. I love you to the moon and back, buddy, and I always will.