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. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

I Wonder Sometimes

There aren't a lot of people on this earth that I'd stand in line for a half-hour to buy a cup of coffee for ... well, outside of my family anyway. That's definitely something my dear old mom passed on to me ... I am not a good waiting in line kind of gal at all. But this morning, not only did I stand in line for 30 full minutes to buy an iced mocha for someone, I did it willingly and with the utmost patience. Why would I wait so long for a coffee, you ask? Because I was taking that iced mocha to my friend who recently returned home after having open heart surgery at Mayo Clinic. Seeing my dear friend Debbie this morning was worth every single minute that I spent waiting in line plus a million more.

As is always the case with true friends, the time flew by as we sat in the living room of the apartment she and her husband moved into a little over a week ago after their house sold while they were still in Minnesota following her surgery. It's more than a wee bit ironic that we both felt the need to downsize at the same time, and it's a whole bunch ironic that both of our houses sold within days of each other. We talked about how scary it is to move from a house to an apartment, about all of the big life changes we're experiencing and about how much emotion is wrapped up in leaving the homes we've lived in for so many years. We talked about washers and dryers and square footage and recovering couch cushions and fixing the cane bottoms of old chairs and floor rugs and dogs being confused by their new places to live and closets and storage space and selling our furniture.

Our conversation this morning, however, included a topic that was far more important and meaningful to both of us than all the ups and downs of downsizing and moving. We talked a lot about friendship ... about the friendship we've shared for more than 20 years. We don't always agree on everything, but we do agree on the most important thing ... we will always be there for each other no matter what. We agreed that we'll never understand how people who've been a huge part of your life can suddenly, without warning, just disappear. Trust me, I know the pain of that kind of loss and it isn't fun. I've experienced that hurt more than once in my life and it isn't fun, friends ... it isn't fun at all.

Even though I know I shouldn't, I wonder sometimes if those friends who decided to pull the plug on the friendship we shared ... or the friendship I thought we shared anyway ... I wonder sometimes if they ever think about me. I wonder if they ever wonder how I am or how my kids and grandkids are. I wonder sometimes if they've ever regretting bailing out on our friendship or if they ever wish they would have done things differently. I wonder sometimes if they ever miss talking to me or laughing with me or going shopping with me ... yeah, yeah, I know ... no one in their right mind would ever miss going shopping with me. And the worst part of wondering all those things is that I even wonder those things at all ... no, wait ... the worst part of wondering all those things is that I still care about people who obviously never wonder those same things about me. 

I got teary this morning as I told my friend how much she means to me ... how very, very, very much her loyalty and unconditional love have meant to me all these years and how very, very, very much they continue to mean to me today. I know I'll never have to wonder anytime about what I mean to her or if she cares about me because I know she'll never walk away ... no matter what, she will never walk away. And you know what? She knows I won't either. 

I know if my sweet friend were sitting here with me tonight, she would tell me to tell you that life is short ... she would tell me to tell you that true friends are hard to find ... she would tell me to tell you that friendship is a precious, precious gift to be appreciated and treasured ... she would tell me to tell you not to ever let it go. I hope I'm half the friend to her that she is to me. I know her ... she'd stand in line for a whole day to get me a soy decaf latte with sugar-free vanilla ... you bet your iced mocha she would ... she surely would.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Last Halloween

No ghosts or witches knocked on my door Monday evening, but I was visited by several Ninja Turtles, a whole slew of princesses, a gaggle of zombies, a few cheerleaders and a most adorable little teddy bear. I'm pretty sure a couple of the princesses and three or four of the zombies visited my house more than once because I gave out the good stuff ... at least that's what I heard a lot of the kids say as they walked back down my sidewalk. Truth be told, not only did I give away good candy this year, I gave the kiddos an extra big portion. It was, after all, the last Halloween I'll ever spend in the little house I've called home for the past 15 years, and I wanted to go out with a bang.

It's funny how much more meaningful things become when you know it's the last time you'll ever experience them. Even standing in the doorway of your home on Halloween handing out candy to the kids in your neighborhood takes on all new significance. I'm pretty sure I've never gotten teary doing that before, but I surely had to fight those pesky liquid emotions back on Monday evening. Yep, you read that right ... it took everything in me not to bawl my eyes out every single time my doorbell rang, and you can bet that when I finally turned out my porch light and closed the door, I sat in the floor with Ollie in my lap and boo-hooed big time. And yes, I know it's a dumb thing to cry about, but I most certainly did just that.

I received a call a few days ago from someone in my extended family whom I love dearly. We were only a moment or two into the conversation when she told me that her best friend in the world ... they've been friends since they were babies ... had been told last week by the doctors that she had only three months to live. The pain in her voice was muted only by the pain in her heart as she said, "This will be her last Thanksgiving and her last Christmas ... if she makes it that long ... these will be her last." Tears welled in my eyes as she spoke about their years of friendship and all they have experienced together ... good and bad alike ... and those tears poured down my cheeks and plopped onto my shirt when she said, "I thought we'd have more time ... I thought she would beat this and we'd have more time."

Tonight as I drove home from work, the horizon glowed in the warmth of the setting sun. It was one of those beautiful Kansas sunsets ... a sunset that made me think of how my mom always said the sky was bigger out here in Kansas than it was back in Tennessee. Don't waste one moment, friends ... not one single moment. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Where the Ragged People Go

First things first ... this whole downsizing and moving thing is much harder than I thought it would be, especially now that I've started looking for an apartment to rent. As much as it pains me to admit it, I think my children are dead-on correct with their new mantra I mentioned in my previous post. I walk into those two-bedroom apartments that are advertised as "spacious" or "open and airy" and I feel like I'm in a box. My heart beats so hard I wonder if it sounds like Jumanji ... my palms itch as though they've been soaked in poison ivy juice ... my stomach feels like someone has unleashed a power tool inside of it ... my head spins even worse than it does when I'm on a plane. I know downsizing and moving is absolutely the right thing for me to do at this point in my life, but man, oh, man, I'm going to have to get rid of a bunch of stuff between now and the first of December.

For all the sucky parts of downsizing, one sort of cool side effect is that I've discovered things that I'd forgotten I even had. Like my Simon and Garfunkel's greatest hits CD ... seriously, how in the world have I existed for all these years without the boys who sang me through the angst of my teenage years? Sometimes I wonder just how many hundreds of hours I spent sprawled out on the floor of my mustard yellow bedroom listening to "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and all of their other awesome songs. Though I can't begin to tell you how many hours of my youth were spent in the company of Mr. Simon and Mr. Garfunkel, but I can tell you that my morning and evening commutes this week have been filled to overflowing with the melodic and moving harmony of these two fine gentlemen.

My song of choice today was "The Boxer," and by song of choice I mean the song that I hit repeat on over and over and over again. I know I've heard that song a gazillion times over the years, but today one certain set of lyrics really struck me and I couldn't quite figure out why until this evening as Ollie and I walked home surrounded by the cool dark air of the night.

"In the company of strangers
In the quiet of the railway station 
Running scared
Laying low
Seeking out the poorer quarters 
Where the ragged people go
Looking for the places
Only they would know."

Several years ago, I ran across a short story called "The Ragman" written by Walter Wangerin. Words can't describe the powerful impact the story had on me the first time I read it or the impact it's had on me each time I've read it since. It only took one time of reading the story aloud at various speaking engagements for me to understand that I wasn't the only one who was deeply moved by the tale. I realized tonight on my walk with my beloved little hound that the reason I'd been unable to get the words of the Simon and Garfunkel tune "The Boxer" out of my head today ... "Where the ragged people go looking for the places only they would know" ... was because they reminded me of the story of The Ragman. I read the story again when I got home, and it's seems only fitting to close by sharing it with you. As you read, remember ... we all have rags we need to let go of, friends ... every single one of us has rags we need to exchange for good. Think about that for a while ... think about that for a good long while indeed.

"I saw a strange sight. I stumbled upon a story most strange, like nothing in my life, my street sense, my sly tongue had ever prepared me for. Hush, child. hush now, and I will tell it to you.

Even before the dawn one Friday morning I noticed a young man, handsome and strong, walking the alleys of our City. He was pulling an old cart filled with clothes both bright and new, and he was calling in a clear tenor voice: 'Rags!' Ah, the air was foul and the first light filthy to be crossed by such sweet music.

'Rags! New rags for old! I take your tired rags! Rags!'

'Now this is a wonder,' I thought to myself, for the man stood six-feet-four, and his arms were like tree limbs, hard and muscular, and his eyes flashed intelligence. Could he find no better job than this, to be a ragman in the inner city?

I followed him. My curiosity drove me. And I wasn't disappointed. Soon the ragman saw a woman sitting on her back porch. She was sobbing into a handkerchief, signing, and shedding a thousand tears. Her knees and elbows made a sad X. Her shoulders shook. Her heart was breaking.

The Ragman stopped his cart. Quietly, he walked to the woman, stepping round tin cans, dead toys, and Pampers.

'Give me your rag,' he said gently. 'and I'll give you another.'

He slipped the handkerchief from her eyes. She looked up, and he laid across her palm a linen cloth so clean and new that it shined. She blinked from the gift to the giver.
Then, as he began to pull his cart again, the Ragman did a strange thing: he put her stained handkerchief to his own face; and then he began to weep, to sob as grievously as she had done, his shoulders shaking. Yet she was left without a tear.

'This is a wonder,' I breathed to myself, and I followed the sobbing Ragman like a child who cannot turn away from mystery.

'Rags! Rags! New Rags for old!'

In a little while, when the sky showed grey behind the rooftops and I could see the shredded curtains hanging out black windows, the Ragman came upon a girl whose head was wrapped in a bandage, whose eyes were empty. Blood soaked her bandage. A single line of blood ran down her cheek.

Now the tall Ragman looked upon this child with pity, and he drew a lovely yellow bonnet from his cart. 'Give me your rag,' he said, tracing his own line on her cheek, 'and I'll give you mine.'

The child could only gaze at him while he loosened the bandage, removed it, and tied it to his own head. The bonnet he set on hers. And I gasped at what I saw: for with the bandage went the wound! Against his brow it ran a darker, more substantial blood -- his own!

'Rags! Rags! I take old rags!' cried the sobbing, bleeding, strong, intelligent Ragman.
The sun hurt both the sky, now, and my eyes; the Ragman seemed more and more to hurry.
'Are you going to work?' he asked a man who leaned against a telephone pole. The man shook his head. The Ragman pressed him: 'Do you have a job?' 'Are you crazy?' sneered the other. He pulled away from the pole, revealing the right sleeve of his jacket -- flat, the cuff stuffed into the pocket. He had no arm.

'So,' said the Ragman. 'Give me your jacket, and I'll give you mine.'

So much quiet authority in his voice! The one-armed man took off his jacket. So did the Ragman -- and I trembled at what I saw: for the Ragman's arm stayed in its sleeve, and when the other put it on, he had two good arms, thick as tree limbs; but the Ragman had only one.

'Go to work,' he said.

After that he found a drunk, lying unconscious beneath an army blanket, an old man, hunched, wizened, and sick. He took that blanket and wrapped it round himself, but for the drunk he left new clothes. And now I had to run to keep up with the Ragman. Though he was weeping uncontrollably, and bleeding freely at the forehead, pulling his cart with one arm, stumbling for drunkenness, falling again and again, exhausted, old, old, and sick, yet he went with terrible speed. On spider's legs he skittered through the alleys of the City, this mile and the next, until he came to its limits, and then he rushed beyond.

I wept to see the change in this man. I hurt to see his sorrow. And yet I need to see where he was going in such haste, perhaps to know what drove him so. The little old Ragman -- he came to a landfill. He came to the garbage pits. And I waited to help him in what he did but I hung back, hiding. He climbed a hill. With tormented labor he cleared a little space on that hill. Then he signed. He lay down. He pillowed his head on a handkerchief and a jacket. He covered his bones with an army blanket. And he died.

Oh how I cried to witness that death! I slumped in a junked car and wailed and mourned as one who has no hope -- because I had come to love the Ragman. Every other face had faded in the wonder of this man, and I cherished him; but he died. I sobbed myself to sleep.
I did not know -- how could I know? -- that I slept through Friday night and Saturday and its night too.

But then, on Sunday morning, I was wakened by a violence. Light -- pure, hard, demanding light -- slammed against my sour face, and I blinked, and I looked, and I saw the first wonder of all. There was the Ragman, folding the blanket most carefully, a scar on his forehead, but alive! And, besides that, healthy! There was no sign of sorrow or age, and all the rags that he had gathered shined for cleanliness.

Then I lowered my head and, trembling for all that I had seen, I myself walked up to the Ragman. I told him my name with shame, for I was a sorry figure next to him. Then I took off all my clothes in that place, and I said to him with dear yearning in my voice: 'Dress me.'
He dressed me. My Lord, he put new rags on me, and I am a wonder beside him. The Ragman, the Ragman, the Christ!"

Monday, October 24, 2016

Not Enough Room

In case you haven't heard, my house sold while I was in Maine visiting my son Brad and his girlfriend Shelby. Yep ... my little house across the street from the trail ... my little house with my Goldilocks deck ... my little house with my awesome handmade storm fort ... my little house where my kids grew into teenagers and young adults ... come December 5, my little house will no longer be mine. Though it probably goes without saying, I have very mixed emotions about my upcoming relocation to a new abode. I've never lived in an apartment before, so naturally I'm more than a bit nervous about Ollie barking during the day while I'm at work and getting us thrown out of the complex, not having a garage to park in, finding a safe place to walk each evening, where I'll keep my bicycle and all kinds of other things.

My newest worry about apartment living, however, is a big one ... one that fits in well with my fear of storms, a sinkhole in the grass swallowing me up or being sucked out of an airplane while I'm trying to pee in one of those stupid little boxes they call restrooms. My newest fear makes my normal ... yes, I said normal ... worries and fears seem ... well ... more normal than they ever have before. These days what keeps me awake at night is my fear that I'll end up living above or below a meth head who ends up blowing us all up or that my next door neighbor will be a serial killer who's on a mission to off gray-haired 50-something women who love wiener dogs or that my apartment will be some sort of alien abduction headquarters and Ollie and I will be sucked up into a spaceship in full-on War of the Worlds fashion. What's that you say? Irrational thinking on my part? Nope ... perfectly valid, totally sane scenarios to fear.

My daughter Meghann graciously spent last weekend manning a garage/moving sale at my little house, and let me tell you ... that little gal of mine is one tough cookie when it comes to standing her ground on garage sale prices. All I have to say is good luck if you're trying to bargain with her ... geez, Louise, my baby girl is serious about garage sale revenues for sure, which is good for me because she managed to make a nice chunk of change for me over the weekend. My emotions were all over the place as I watched my stuff being sold ... one minute I was feeling good about getting rid of things that I've hung onto for way too long, and the next minute I was bawling my eyes out as a nice older couple loaded up my patio furniture and drove away. By the way, don't ask me any questions about my patio furniture ... it deserves a post all its own someday when I can type it without soaking my keyboard in tears.

All three of my children have been after me to sell my house for several years and now that it's sold, they've adopted a new mantra ... a mantra that I know in my mind is true ... a mantra that my heart is resisting big time. Three words that are quite difficult for me to process right now ... not enough room. My kiddos keep telling me that I won't have enough room for some of my things when I move and that I have to get rid of them. In the spirit of being as open, honest, real and transparent as I know how to be ... I'm kind of having a rough time with that reality. Lest you think I'm just a materialistic old bag, let me assure you that it's not letting go of the things themselves that has me reeling ... it's the memories and the feelings and the love that those things represent that has my gut churning and my heart aching. Letting go of the things isn't the problem, it's letting go of all the moments that are wrapped up inside of those things that's hard ... moments with my children ... moments with my mom and my extended family ... moments with my friends. It's the moments that are hard to part with, friends ... it's not the things at all ... it's the moments tucked deep within them.

This week my assignment from my children is to come home from work each evening and tackle one cabinet or one drawer and choose what I'll have room for and what I won't. Which I might add is rather tough to do since I've never lived in an apartment. Oh, and by children I really mean Meghann since she's the only who lives near enough to me to actually see how much stuff is in my house. Earlier tonight as I sat putting the things I want to keep in one pile and the things that need to go in another pile, I began thinking about those three words ... not enough room ... I thought about those words and the intensely deep lesson they've caused me to learn in recent weeks. Not having enough room in an apartment to house all the stuff in a house is one thing, but not having enough room in a heart for people who love and care about someone is another thing altogether. It hurts like hell to know there won't be enough room in my new apartment for the dining room set my mom gave me more than 27 years ago. Truth is, though, that hurt will eventually go away ... that hurt won't take up permanent residence in my heart and soul or gnaw at my mind for the rest of my life. But the hurt that comes from knowing there's no longer enough room for me in someone's heart? That's the hurt that feels as though it will last forever ... that's the hurt I never ever want to bring upon the people I care for, because ... well ... because the hurt of being kicked out of someone's heart is the worst kind of hurt there is.

Think there's not enough room in your life? Measure again, friends ... there are some things you should never discard or give up. Think there's not enough room in your heart? Measure again, friends ... please measure again. Trust me ... there are things ... and so much more important, there are people you should hold onto forever. Measure again, friends ... please measure again.

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Week of Firsts

When you get to be my age, there aren't many weeks in life that involve experiencing something you've never experienced before. And there sure as heck aren't many weeks that are filled to the brim with all sorts of things you haven't done or seen or tasted or smelled or touched or climbed or heard before. I mean seriously ... you'd think someone as old as I am would have pretty experienced everything by now, or at least everything they thought they wanted to experience anyway. Most of us have some sort of bucket list or wish list of things we want to do before we're six feet under, but for a whole lot of us, myself included, I don't really believe I'll actually get to cross those things off my list before my time is up. But then last week happened. Last week I did and saw and tasted and smelled and touched and climbed and heard things I never had before. And it was without question one of the most incredible weeks of my life. My son Brad and his girlfriend Shelby pushed and pulled me out of pretty much every comfort zone I have ... and ... it ... was ... awesome. Since I'm still pondering many of the huge life lessons I learned last week, I decided to simply list some of my firsts tonight and share more about some of the experiences later on. Hopefully, you'll enjoy them and maybe you'll want to read more about them in future posts. At the very least, maybe one or two of them might just make you smile a little, and if so, I'll count that as a job well done ... or a blog well written, as the case may be.

Last week was the first time I ... saw the New York City skyline from an airplane ... found my way through the LaGuardia airport twice ... took Ollie inside the gigantic LL Bean store ... saw J.J. Abrams house and private studio (from the car window as we drove by, of course) ... walked through acres of blueberry fields on Beech Hill and down a long, winding path in the woods ... cracked my own lobster ... touched the same lighthouse that Tom Hanks touched in the movie Forrest Gump ... took Max and Ollie to see the ocean ... ate at the Sea Dog restaurant and got some cool coasters ... climbed Mt. Battie all the way to the top ... saw stacks of cairns ... spent two hours at the Maine Lighthouse Museum ... rode on a lobster boat in the ocean ... saw cruise ships in a harbor ... rode on a ferry in the ocean ... spent two days on an island ... peed and pooped in a compost toilet ... ate food prepared by a chef from New York City ... slept on an air mattress in Brad and Shelby's living room for a week (best sleep I've had in months, by the way) ... fell and scraped my elbow when I was almost to the bottom of a mountain ... ... saw the full moon's glow reflected across the ocean water ... flew into and out of Portland, Maine ... went into the woods on the island and took off my t-shirt to wrap my bleeding hand after I fell onto a big rock ... caught Brad's drone in my hands when he brought it in for a landing ... met a medic named Sam who looked like Robin Williams ... took Ollie to see the sun come up over the ocean ... ate lunch with Brad and Shelby in Bar Harbor ... saw and heard the ocean crash into Thunder Hole ... stood on the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park ... saw two bald eagles ... spent two days on an island with no cell phone or laptop ... met a sweet young filmmaker named Wilder ... played trivia with Brad and Shelby's friends at an Irish pub ... tasted beers I'd never heard of ... celebrated Brad's 29th birthday on an island in Maine ... watched a scientist transfer aquaculture scallops into bigger baskets so they would have room to grow ... saw hundreds of itsy bitsy skeleton shrimp ... sat next to a Broadway producer on an airplane ... sat on a rock in the cool evening air and watched the setting sun sizzle its way into the ocean.

Maybe I'll get to cross off at least a few things on my bucket list after all, friends ... maybe I will indeed.  

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Brad Squared

My thoughts and prayers tonight are with my friends who live along the southeastern coast as they face hurricane Matthew. You all know how terrified I am of storms ... I can't even begin to imagine how you guys are feeling. Just know that I am one of many praying not only for your safety but for peace and comfort as you weather the storm.

Though it's nothing like what my friends along the coast are experiencing, it's a stormy night here in Kansas as well. There have been a couple of times in the last hour that I thought for sure the wind was going to blow my little house down around me. And the worst part of the storms haven't even gotten here yet ... ugh. I really and truly am terrified of stormy weather which also makes me think I am really and truly insane because I live in Kansas. Why on earth would a person who is as afraid of thunderstorms as I am live right smack dab in the middle of thunderstorm and tornado land? Because he or she is really and truly insane, that's why.

I will say that I've learned a lot about storms since I moved to the Midwest more than 25 years ago, not the least of which is that it can be almost impossible to see the road ahead if you get caught in one. You can be tooling along on a calm sunny day thinking everything is hunky-dory and before you realize what's happening, the winds start howling, the skies turn black and the rain comes pouring down. In an instant, you go from feeling safe and secure to wondering if you'll live to see the light of another day. I've learned that when you find yourself in the midst of one of those big old gigantic storms, it's awfully easy to think you're going to be trapped inside that storm forever. 

On Monday evening I got a call from my son-in-law Barrett asking me if I'd consider doing a favor for a member of the church where he's the pastor. He explained to me that the young man is currently working 12 hours a day on the construction of the new Amazon distribution center in North Kansas City, and that he had been driving two hours each way every day back and forth to work. I'll spare you the details of the rest of my conversation with my kind-hearted son-in-law and my subsequent conversation with the young man himself, but I will tell you that as of Tuesday evening, I now have a temporary roommate for the next couple of months. And should my house sell during that time and I need to move, my roomie and I have already decided that he'll just move with me until his job in KC is over.

Now I know you're wondering what being in the middle of a storm has to do with my new house guest, and sorry, but you'll just have to keep on wondering. All I'll tell you is that my new house guest's arrival has brought some much-needed light into a very stormy time in my life. I know it sounds cliche, but he really is like a ray of sunshine and a breath of fresh air. His smile lights up my little house, and we've stayed up way too late for the last couple of nights talking about all kinds of different things. He would fight to the death to protect his children, and his love for his mom reminds me of the love my own kiddos have for me ... at least I hope they do anyway. His life hasn't been an easy one by any means, but there's a goodness in him that is absolutely undeniable. I'll be honest ... I was more than a little nervous about how I'd feel having someone staying here for a few weeks, but it has proven to be one of the best decisions I've made in a long, long time. Which means my son-in-law was absolutely right when he said, "I think you'll love this guy, Terrie, and I think this will be good for both of you." Yes, Barrett, I am publicly declaring for all the world to know that you were indeed very, very right ... this time.

So now I know you're wondering about the title of tonight's post ... this incredibly kind and respectful young man's name is Brad. He reminds me of another Brad I know ... another Brad who is truly a beacon of light in the midst of my storms.

Brad squared, friends ... Brad squared indeed.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Let Them Listen and Let Them Learn

The last time I lived in a house that was for sale was more than 15 years ago ... the house we bought when we first moved to Kansas City. Looking back, I wonder how in the world I ever managed to keep that huge house in show-ready condition with three teenagers and two dogs living there with me. It's just Ollie and me in my much smaller little house now, and it's a challenge to keep everything looking as perfect as possible every single day. There are so many things I didn't have to worry about before the for sale sign went up in my yard. Things like remembering not to leave the bra I wear when I exercise hanging on my closet door handle like I often do under normal conditions ... normal as in my house not being for sale. Even though "no bras on closet doors" wasn't on the list my realtor sent me of things I should or shouldn't do each morning before I leave the house, I'm pretty sure that leaving any type of undergarment on display would be frowned upon. Yep, it's a whole different ball game when that for sale sign goes up in the front yard ... a whole different way of living and a whole different set of standards.

I've learned a lot over the last few weeks as I've worked to get my house ready to sell, not the least of which is that every single task on my list of things to clean or repair takes way more time to accomplish than I think it will. For example, yesterday I spent 5 hours power washing my Goldilocks deck ... which, by the way, looks freaking awesome now. I thought re-staining the wood trim and doors inside the house would take me half a day, but instead it took 17 hours. My estimate for washing the interior walls to get rid of all the scuff marks, kid handprints and dog pawprints? Five hours tops. Amount of time it actually took? Thirteen and a half hours. Again I say, every single task on my list of things to clean or repair takes way more time to accomplish than I think it will.

Something else I've learned in this process that ranks way up there on the most important life lessons list is this ... living alone and rarely having anyone visit me has caused me to have on blinders when it comes to certain things around my house. Things like scuff marks on the walls or dings in the paint or dusty light fixtures or a deck desperately in need of a good cleaning that really didn't matter all that much to me a couple of weeks ago have now declared their importance in a big, big way. All of a sudden things like broken handles on my kitchen cabinets ... handles that have been broken for years, I might add ... screamed "Fix me!" every time I opened a door to grab a plate or tugged on a drawer to get a spoon. In the blink of an eye, I couldn't ignore those things that needed to be cleaned or repaired any longer ... I had to take action.

This morning my son Brad sent me a link to a video titled "The Future," which features a spoken poetry competition performance by a young man named Neil Hilborn. If you haven't heard of him, you should go to YouTube and pull up some of his videos and watch them. Neil lives each and every day of his life with OCD and bipolar disorder, and he's truly inspiring and giving hope to millions of people through both his poetry and his spirit. It was late this afternoon before I finally took a break and clicked on the link Brad sent, and though I fully intended to watch only that particular video, I found myself a half-hour later clicking on the Ted Talk of a young woman who was sharing about her struggle with depression and anxiety.

I'm happy to tell you that one of my errands this morning was to buy handles to replace the broken ones on my kitchen cabinets, and I still had that task ahead of me. Knowing myself well enough to know that I could easily end up spending way more time than I had to spend sitting on the couch watching Ted Talks, I placed my laptop on the table, turned up the volume and headed to the kitchen to get to work on replacing cabinet and drawer handles. I thought for sure it wouldn't take longer than a half-hour to replace the handles, which was about the length of the gal's Ted Talk. Three hours and several Ted Talks later, I had successfully switched out 32 cabinet and drawer handles ... don't even say it ... and they look great even if I do say so myself. 

Because I had watched the video Brad sent and subsequently listened to the one I had bunny-hopped to afterward, and because I was busy changing handles, YouTube automatically played other Ted Talks about depression and/or anxiety. From everyday people explaining how depression has affected them personally to doctors discussing treatment options and recent breakthroughs, there was one common thread they all shared ... depression sucks. While I just listened to most of the videos as I worked and didn't actually view them, the words of one gentleman struck me deeply enough to make me put down my screwdriver, sit down at the table and watch the guy's presentation in full. Tears streamed down my cheeks as he talked about how all the people in his life begged him not to go public with the news of his battle with major depressive disorder, warning him that because he's a well-known public figure, he would be shunned and rejected and that he would forever have to deal with the judgment that would ensue. He recounted one particular conversation with his best friend who pleaded with him repeatedly not to share his story, saying, "I'm imploring you not to do this, John. You don't get it, man, everyone in the world will be listening ... please don't do this." 

I can think of no greater way to close tonight's post than with John's reply to his friend's plea for him to keep silent about his struggle with an illness ... yes, an illness ... that carries with it a stigma that is often harder to bear than the illness itself. Read John's words over and over, friends, and then read them over and over and over again. And as you do, think long and hard about this ... vulnerability is not born out of weakness, friends, but rather out of strength.

"Let them listen. Let them listen and let them learn."