Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Nettie's 2013 Brag-n-Gag: We've Gone Electronic!

About a year ago, I discovered a wonderful poignant CD titled Enjoy Every Sandwich. It was a tribute album to the late Warren Zevon (of “Werewolves of London” fame). The title comes from a remark he made to David Letterman in his last appearance on that show, not too long after he announced his diagnosis of terminal mesothelioma. Letterman asked him what sort of knowledge he’d learned from his illness, and this was his response:

"You know I always kinda thought I did that. I really always enjoyed myself. But it’s more valuable now. You’re reminded to enjoy every sandwich and every minute.” ― Warren Zevon

"Enjoy every sandwich": the words are few but powerful. Nothing in life can ever be taken for granted. Every moment is a golden opportunity for love, kindness, growth, compassion, empathy. It is a moment to embrace the hopeful, the uplifting — and to walk away from all that would drag us into dark and despair. I admit that there have been way too many times when I have failed in this. Most mornings, I try to post something positive on Facebook, an uplifting thought or quote. I do this as my small contribution to making the world a better place, but I also do it sometimes to needle the person who needs it most: ME.

This year has been trying for me and I haven’t talked much about it except with my closest of friends. I've had some health issues rear their ugly heads all year long, especially between multiple sinus infections and recurrent migraines. There are still no answers yet, and you can imagine this is creating even more unnecessary stress (which leads to another headache round, on and on in a vicious cycle it goes).

"The Year of Change”: a perfect way to describe my 2013. Somewhere the Universe got the idea to say, “Let’s see what we can sling at her this year and see how much she can take." But guess what? I was able to take a good bit. I am not defeated. I am a little discouraged at times, but I am a fighter. I may stumble around the ring a bit, but I will get up again if I fall. And I will strive each day to be a better person than I was the day before. I will do whatever is in my power to make the world a better place, to make even one person smile, to make him or her think for just a moment. If for some people, I’m simply an example of what not to do or who they don’t want to be, so be it. I will bless them and wish them well. What they think of me, at day’s end, is not my concern. What I think of me, when I see my reflection just before I turn out the light …. that, that is my business.

And I will enjoy every sandwich, every laugh, every tear, every person, every moment. I will treasure every encounter. I will hold fast to the good and ignore the bad. I will savor life, in all its glories and its trials. Make 2014 the year that you do so as well

So what really happened in my 2013?

Well, for starters I still have a job, for which I am very grateful, having gone through yet another transition. Just a few weeks ago, we had to do a re-alignment of roles and responsibilities, and so I have moved to customer service, assisting in a wide variety of areas: everything from orders to onsite repairs. I’m still learning the ins and outs of that job, and helping with payroll upload as we continue to transition. It's been neat to see exactly how it all ties in with a lot of the work I'd done before.

I also still work for Weight Watchers, at my Saturday morning meeting. There’s something about helping people: it’s not just the weight loss or the healthier lifestyles they embrace. For so many, it’s about finding themselves, perhaps as a re-discovery and sometimes as a person they didn’t even know they could be. That’s what makes that 2 hours a week so rewarding. To play even a small role in their journey makes it all worthwhile.

For all the travel I did last year, this year was more a stay-at-home time. I made another trip to beautiful Damascus, Virginia this spring to finish the other portion of the Virginia Creeper Trail that I began last fall. That second half of the trail was a doozy (very, very flat!), but it was worth all the pedaling to be out there in some of the prettiest countryside! My other big trip this year was a camping adventure on Hunting Island with my dog, Maddox. If you want the real skinny on the trip, just check out the October 14 post below — it details all the hilarity and hijinks. Let me preview in a few words: Migraine. Raccoon. No-see-ums. And the fun ensues...

Earlier this year, I got the bright idea that I needed to have some pictures made of myself—at least a photo shoot that didn’t involve the words, “And now which picture would you like to go into the church directory?” So I booked a session with an outfit called “Trashy Betty Photography” specializing in vintage-style/pinup photos. Melissa (the photographer) was awesome! She dolled me up and we took pictures around Liberty with just a few props and some old abandoned buildings. I got to see myself in a whole different perspective, a face I don’t always recognize when I look in the mirror. Sure, there are a few more lines than when I was 20, but I’ve also gotten a lot wiser since then. So ladies especially, I encourage you to have some photos made of just yourself sometime, without the kids, without the hubs, and just revel in the beauty that you possess and don’t always recognize.

Only a few 5K’s this year: it’s very hard to work them in when most are held on Saturday mornings, and you work at that time! I did the Resolution Run on New Year’s Eve. And this spring, I took part in a very special race called “Emily’s OWL (Opportunity Without Limits) Run” — a benefit run for the daughter of some folks with whom I went to high school, a young lady battling brain cancer at age 12. So very, very glad to report that Emily’s Run was a success, and so was Emily’s treatment. She is now cancer-free, and getting back in the swing of life. The organizers hope to do it again this coming year, to benefit another child battling cancer. I didn’t get to do my Jingle Bell Jog that I always look forward to — it was still run, but in the middle of a pouring rain. As much as I love it, I’m not driving a half-hour to walk in the rain! :)  But I’m looking forward to doing a few more 5K’s in 2014...

As always, if you find yourself in the Upstate SC area even for a short time, please let me know — I would dearly love to see you! Please stay in touch, and never fail to take the time and opportunity to tell others how much they mean to you. I am so blessed to know that you have crossed my path and made a difference!

With that, I wish you all a wonderful holiday season filled with goodness, light, warmth, and grateful hearts! And really, make time to enjoy every sandwich...


Thursday, December 05, 2013

Journey through my head....

It usually starts with a little tightness in my shoulders and neck.... that steadily increases. And then yawning, when I'm not tired. Face-ache? Maybe.... A little ear pain? Sure, why not? And the awful sense that maybe this is yet another sinus infection, or even an ear infection. Everything feels blocked, somehow.

Then the soldiers march...... They go up my right side of my neck and park themselves squarely behind my eyes, and my only response is to squint -- just what I need for the tension in my neck and shoulders too. Lights hurt. Sounds don't hurt but I just wish they'd diminish a little..... whisper please. If you looked at me head-on, you might think it was the hangover from a hellacious bender. And smells? Oh God no!!! I need air. Deep breathing isn't possible, only normalish that somehow phases into shallower breathing. And ALL you want to do is sleep. Precious, precious sleep might be what helps this infernal beast subside.

Neck and shoulder massages at this point don't really help at all ..... sometimes, it makes it even worse, almost like the tension and knots are holding back a dam of toxins or nerve signals. Heat? Oh gosh no, that will cause a violent reaction. Cold, yes, please. Ice packs to the neck and shoulders. Yes, I'm shivering now but the alternative is worse. I'd rather BE cold right now. It might freeze out everything.

And just when you think a certain physical reaction should, could, ought to happen...... no. No. Nothing happens. You almost pray to please, please, just let it happen so you can sleep it off, but no. It doesn't come. All you can do is remain perfectly still except for your own breathing. You dare not move a pinkie finger for fear that it will trigger that particular reaction. You don't move your head because the room may spin. You just lie still. Silent prayers of "Please, please, please" echoing from your heart .......

A well-meaning person comes and asks if you're okay and all you can do is grunt disapprovingly, as if to say, "DO I LOOK IT?" but it's more a plea of "please, go, go, go. I love you but GO! Every noise you make pounds and echoes like a cannon in my brain and ears!"

After a while, you do fall asleep..... you may wake up fine. You may not. This may be a short episode. It may last for days. It may reach that lovely sick-as-a-dog level (which means it is finally broken and on the way to leaving you) or it may stay that annoying little sibling in the backseat with you who says, "I'm not touching you! I'm not touching you...." while his/her finger circles within millimeters of your face.

This, friends, is the guts of what happens to me during a migraine. I've experienced more of them this year than I can count, it seems. My only sure trigger? Changing weather patterns. Everything else is fair game, but not necessarily guaranteed to induce one..... strong smells. Too much stress. Hot weather. Cold weather. Most of my attacks tend to begin in the afternoon and carry through the evening, but I've woken with them before. I've been at work at 10:00 AM and had one hit. I never know. I've had them hit me like a ton of bricks, and others have built for hours or days, even.

And almost always the right side.

Twice so far this week. My meds are a muscle relaxant combined with an analgesic/caffeine combo. It's not working anymore.

I have nearly had it. Except I'm a fighter. I'm a detective. I am determined to find out why, and how I can fix this (as much as possible). But right now, all I can do is hate it with the heat of a thousand white-hot suns.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A weepy, crumpled heap

Want to make me cry? Ask me to count my blessings.

I am overwhelmed by gratitude for every gift, large and small. It really is enough to make me misty, then leaky, and on to downright sobby to even begin to consider how lucky, how blessed, how absolutely awesome my life has been. Has it been a smooth road? Not in the least, and I know now that I wouldn't have it any other way. I've had moments that could have been tagged "the charmed life" but I'm here to tell you it's pure illusion. A truly charmed life is full of imperfections and mistakes that make us real.

I don't have everything I want, but I have all I need and a little more.
I don't have it all, but I have enough.
I have the ability to hear the alarm, I can intake a deep breath which causes my body to rise and my arm to move and turn off the alarm. I can move my legs to stand, to pick one foot and leg up to move forward and down and then repeat with the other leg, and again as I alternate and find myself walking around.
I have the ability to think enough in the morning fog to make coffee, elixir of the gods. And then to figure out a nutritious breakfast.
I have the ability for self-care to prepare for work. I have work to do and a place to go that pays me for my time and my abilities and my knowledge (such as it is). I have a reliable method of transportation to get me there. I have meaningful work to do when I arrive.
I have a family to whom I go home each evening.
I have activities and hobbies that give me pleasure and leisure after a day of work.
I have dear friends of all makes, models, shapes, sizes, background, genders, ethnicities, belief systems, you name whatever "difference" we might name......
I have a pet who thinks I hung the moon.
Well, perhaps I do have it all, after all.....

How can I not weep for joy at this? How can I not feel as if I've hit the jackpot, and almost why was I so lucky to stumble into so many riches? Tears. Tears, tears, and more tears. A heart that is so swollen with gratitude that it could truly burst out of my frame.

As my friend Lisa calls it, the gift of tears. Another blessing.

So blessed. So, so, so blessed. And "thank you" to my family, friends, God, everyone and everything just seems such an inadequate response to such love and generosity. But as they say, "If 'thank you' was the only prayer you ever prayed, it would be enough." And so it must be.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

There Oughta Be A Law

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know my absolute loathing of the Christmas Creep. We now begin Halloween in August and before the candy corn goes on sale on November 1, they've already long trotted out the red and green. Entire sections of store shelves look as if they've thrown up a bad salad.

And so it is with Christmas music on the radio. There needs to be a law that says, "The FCC outlaws the playing of holiday music by any licensed station prior to the celebration of Thanksgiving Holidays in the United States, its territories, etc. etc. Yeah, this means YOU...."

How many bad versions of "Little Drummer Boy" must we endure? And so help me God, I cannot take Mariah Carey's mauling of an otherwise lovely hymn ("O Holy Night") even one more time. Or we're up to .... what, 35 years now? ... of Linda McCartney (God rest her soul) and her horrific two-fingered synth playing on "Wonderful Christmastime"?

And I absolutely want to poke out my eardrums with the BIG knitting needles every single blasted time I hear Yoko Ono bleating out "A vewwy mewwy Cwissmaaaaaahhhhhhssss........."

WHY don't we have a law for this yet???

Saturday, November 02, 2013


In my chosen faith tradition, the church year begins at Advent, just before Christmas (late November/early December), so the weeks of November leading up to this focus on things winding down -- including the ultimate unwinding called death. On November 1, we remember all those in heaven, both the named saints of the church calendar and all the unnamed ones whose acts of kindness and piety are known to God. On November 2, it is All Souls' Day. In Latino cultures, it is celebrated as Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) -- a day to remember those particular family members and friends who had special meaning to us.

And if you grew up as a Southerner, then you know that we treat the whole funeral/death thing with a special flair. From the second lines in jazz funerals to the notion of "sittin' up with the dead" we have our own unique way of looking at it. Little old ladies who fry up a chicken in the mornings or make a funeral casserole -- in case someone dies that day whom they know, they'll be ready! It's almost guaranteed that as soon as word gets out about a death in the neighborhood or the church, food will show up at the family's house within the hour. I have my own tradition of taking breakfast foods, borne of a need from my days as a church secretary. We had a death in the parish, and my coworker and I asked the widow what she needed from us (besides a visit from the pastor); could we bring some food for the evening, or....? She replied that she thought she had enough in the house but.... OH NO! She realized that her whole family would be descending on the house and she didn't have anything for breakfast the next day for the grandkids (you know kids aren't exactly keen on eggs and toast, not when they can have the Cap'n). So we put together a little breakfast package -- mini cereal boxes, juice, milk, bagels and cream cheese for the adults. It was a huge hit, and since then, whenever I am taking food to a family, that's usually what I take.

As a child, I went to more funerals than you would believe. In the first few years of my parents' marriage, it seemed that there was a family death nearly every December. The first one I remember was December 1975 for a cousin who passed far too young (just short of his third birthday). The next spring, it was my neighbor. Two more years, it was my mother's aunt, who was like another grandparent to me. Even if I didn't go to the funeral itself because of school, you always went to the visitation the night before. I had funeral home etiquette down cold by the time I was 10.

There have been tough ones -- older people, you expect. You prepare and you know what to say, the words about living a long, beautiful life, "he/she looks good" (even though you're thinking, "Wow, I didn't realize how much he/she had aged!") The worst are when it's someone gone way too soon -- classmates before you've graduated or years down the pike when their kids are still kids and not adults. Friends gone in accidents or by diseases which rob them too soon of life and leave their families hurt and broken, and friends wondering what the heck happened. Coworkers whom you just saw the day before. Those are the ones which don't seem real, the ones which stick with you.

The first one of those funerals came in the summer between 8th and 9th grades -- a classmate who died in an accident, who dated one of the girls from my church. Here it is 30 years later and it still seems so strange. Another one just before my senior year. As I get older, there are more of them. One of my BFF's from high school who died at 36. Three friends from college in the last four years, all of them gone way too soon and without any warning, all less than 50 (obviously).

And no matter how many of these I have attended, will attend over the years, none will be adequate preparation for the day when it hits too close to home. As much as I want to think they'll last forever, I know all too well that this is a pipe dream, a fruitless wish. My parents are older -- late-60s and mid-70s. I've lost both uncles-by-marriage and now one aunt-by-marriage. My oldest uncle just turned 81; the youngest is 68. They will not always be here. I know the time is getting ever shorter until that first phone call comes of "I have bad news....... (name) is gone."

But this is what is important, so important to recall: "Death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the lamp because dawn has come." -- Rabindranath Tagore

This is the great lesson of the feasts of saints and souls that my faith imparts to me -- that for the faithful, life has only changed, not ended. They are still alive. They have left one port and crossed the ocean to another. They are still with us, in memories, in spirit, in the legacies they have left us. It has been 31 years since I lost my grandmother but I still have her stories in my heart, the memories of certain ways she had of doing things -- I see it still present in my mother. It is never the same as having her here, there is nothing that could ever compare. But I take comfort in my belief that she is not gone forever. As long as I have breath, she still alive in me.

And this gives me reason to be grateful this November -- for their presence in my life and for the things they are still teaching me.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Tent Camping for Two

So..... back in the early summer, I got the bright idea that Maddox (my dog) and I needed to go on vacation together. And the only way to really do that on the cheap is to tent camp at one of our state parks. So I chose the farthest one on the coast (Hunting Island, near Beaufort) and made my reservations for a long weekend. It would be glorious!

I hadn't been tent camping since college, and not for more than an overnight since childhood, but hey, I had a good idea what I was getting into, right? I had acquired a 4-person tent (plenty of room for me and the dog), and planned the weekend. I borrowed a campstove from some friends, packed my car up, and took off on Friday around noon (later than planned). With that, I also got to my destination a little later than planned -- plus, did you know rest stops with pets in tow take longer than they do for just me.... huh, imagine that, right?

Got to the state park, found my trailside parking space, and started hauling stuff into the campsite. Oh yeah, see when I made my reservations, I saw the 10 trailside tent spaces, and promptly booked one. But that meant you lugged your stuff in from the parking spot into the area. It was about 100 feet from the parking area into the campsite. So once I finally got all the stuff there, I fed Maddox and then set about getting it all ready for our big weekend.

I should mention this: the bugs started biting the minute I got out of the car. I wish I were joking. Seriously. I started scratching from minute one. It is 72+ hours later and I haven't stopped. Again, I wish I were joking. But that is only some of the fiascos I have to share with you.

Fiasco #1: Wrong instructions in the tent box. I got a neighboring camper to help, and the instructions' item #5 should have been #3 instead! Would have made things MUCH easier (not to mention make more sense). So the tent went up with no problem after that.....

Fiasco #2: Couldn't start a fire for love or money. I was at least able to get the campstove started as I was in desperate need of coffee. I could feel a migraine building and thought some caffeine would help matters. I'm not much of a Starbucks fan, but I was pretty grateful for the Via sticks I'd brought along.

So I decided to just have a very light supper of a turkey & cheese wrap and some chips. I didn't feel up to dealing with trying to do more. The headache was winning..... so I went to bed early, forgetting a few key things such as:

Fiasco #3: Forgetting to move ALL the food into the tent with me. Or putting it back in the car. About 12:00 my bladder suddenly decided that it had to be emptied NOW. So I got up in the dark, stumbled my way to the bathrooms about a football field away. When I was done, I just got back into the tent and promptly fell asleep again.... only to be awakened at 3:00 AM by my bladder yet again. Repeat. Maddox was in the tent asleep the whole time. Around 3:20, I heard a noise that sounded an awful lot like Maddox's nibbling.... what's that, you ask? Maddox has a very bad habit of nibbling on himself when he has an itch that just cannot be remedied in any other fashion. So I heard the noise, tapped him and said, "No nibbles, buddy. No nibbles!" That usually stops him .... but then I heard "crunch crunch, smack, crunch." After realizing that, no, Maddox was very much not nibbling nor crunching, it hit me: SOMETHING OUTSIDE. Now at this point, I'm praying, "Sweet baby Jesus, do NOT let it be a bear, if it is a bear, I will flat out DIE right here on the spot." No, it was a raccoon: and that little sorry rat fish-poop (bass-turd) had the gollblasted nerve to LOOK at me like, "Yeah. I'm here, nibbling on your food. Whatcha gonna do about it?" I swung the lantern at him and scared him off but saw where he'd eaten nearly two and a half of the remaining 5 baggies of dog food I'd brought for Maddox. So here I am at 3:30 AM, moving junk (including cooler) into the tent. The only thing I left out was an unopened gallon of drinking water and a box of firewood. And damn his sorry hide, if that little SOB didn't come back and try to rummage through the wood!

Then at 5:00 AM, ANOTHER bathroom trip. I finally had the last one of the night when I woke around 7:45 or so. As soon as that was done, I got Maddox out of the tent for his morning potty break. We walked down to the parking area, and out through the rest of the campground. I took some baggies just in case he had to TCB, but luckily, he just needed the other at this time. So when we returned, I fed him and set about to start the water for my morning coffee.

Fiasco #4: I could not get the campstove going. I changed propane bottles. I changed burners. NOTHING. So I walked down to the park store and bought another propane tank. Let me also say that charging double for the item I can buy back in town is ludicrous. I could see another dollar or two for the convenience, but DOUBLE? #RIPOFF, South Carolina State Parks. Big ripoff. And guess what, it didn't work either. By this point, I was to the cussing phase, and figured an Egg McMuffin would be in order. I would also go to a hardware store to try to figure out the problem or get some advice. Oh, and coffee. MUST have coffee. So into town I went, Maddox in tow, and got to Mickey D's where PRAISE BE, breakfast waited. I darted into the hardware store up the street to get extra propane, and the idea that, "well, it's probably a bad bottle you got, try one of those." You can see where this is going, can't you? I got back, tried one of the BRAND NEW bottles I'd just purchased and.............. I figured what the hell, girl can eat on turkey wraps all weekend long and do without coffee. It was at that moment I realized that .....

Fiasco #5: That little stinkin' idiot raccoon took my Via packs. ALL SIX OF WHAT WAS LEFT. That was going to be one wired little animal. Seriously wired. Hope he had caffeine OD'd by this point. Nothing left to do except keep scratching and take Maddox to the beach.

At this point you're probably wondering why this is a big deal. Maddox is one of the few Labs in the world scared crapless of water. He hates it. He tolerates baths, he'll drink water until the cows come home but he purely hates puddled water. So my thought process was "maybe if he feels the nice cool ocean water lapping over his feet, he'll enjoy it and get accustomed to it."

The big ol' 120-pound wussydog BACKED UP. Every single time a wave would come in, he freaked and went backward. This cannot be my child of another species. Cannot be. As much as I love the ocean, my dog is petrified of it. SAD. Just Sad.

In the afternoon, my friends Russell & Amy were coming over with their doggie, Junot -- a cute little Chihuahua. And thus ensued.....

Fiasco #6: What happens when two alphas meet. Maddox is now also a senior citizen doggie, so he thinks he alone rules the roost. He was not in a playful mood, which made me sad. Then Mama got totally embarrassed when he growled and snarled and showed teeth. DUDE!!! I raised you better than that. So after being eaten alive by those CONTINUALLY PESKY little flying creatures, we meandered to the beach where Wussydog continued to prove his wussiness, but tried to redeem himself by chasing sand crabs popping up out of beach holes. Go on witcha bad self, King Maddox. You show that crab who's boss.

The good news was that Amy gave me tremendously helpful advice on fire-starting, and after their exit, I proceeded to build one beautiful fire!! Yes, it was the Tom-Hanks-in-Cast-Away moment.... HA!!!! And I got a tremendously bright idea that I could put my water kettle on the grill grate over the fire. OF COURSE!!!! What an awesome idea, never mind that I couldn't have coffee! I could have hot water! I could make oatmeal for dinner.... until:

Fiasco #7: You know how that smart little dude in the back of your brain -- with all the really important details -- suddenly comes rushing to the front of your brain screaming, "HOLD IT!!!!!" Yeah, he showed up screaming, "HOLD IT!!!! That kettle has a plastic handle and YOU don't have a pot holder, dipweed!" Oh holy crap. LUCKILY, the occupants of the tentsite before me had left a metal weenie roasting stick that served very well as a way to safely pull the kettle to the ground to cool. What the hell had I been thinking??? On top of that, the kettle was now scorched from a nice stainless finish to a charred blackened thing. I don't know that it will ever be cleaned. Luckily at home, I have an electric kettle but really, this was super stupid of me.

Finally, the fire died down and the clock on the phone told me it was time for bed. I was tired! And I still had two mornings to go.... I had to figure something out, but what? Go back to the hardware store to find a single burner stove? Ask a neighboring campsite with electric for permission to borrow from them a few volts?

So Sunday morning, I got up at a normal time and took Maddox for his morning stroll. I wore a hoodie to cover my already well-dotted arms -- and by the time I got back, my HANDS were covered in welts. THAT DID IT! I was beyond done. I fed Maddox and started decamping. I was over it. If I lost my money for the third night, I'd just lose it (and I did, thank you SC State Parks). But I was outta there by 10:00 AM -- and Mickey D's once again got my business.

And that bottle of Caladryl Clear that I bought last summer and used once is being used extensively now. OY!!!!

And I'd camp with my buddy again there in a heartbeat. As long as it's January or February. And snowing.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Paradox in Life

Each day, I get a variety of inspirational quotes or other words of wisdom. Earlier this week, here was my "Daily Flame" from "Your Inner Pilot Light":

"You know how sometimes you feel inferior to others, and other times you feel superior?  Darling, this only stems from a misguided notion that we are not all One.  So many suffer from the illusion of separateness, and it leaves you feeling different, special, and unworthy, like everyone else belongs - except you.  But know this. You belong. We all belong. You are not less than or better than. You are equal to every other soul on this planet because every one of us has within us a little spark of divinity that makes us worthy. Know who that little spark of divinity is?  Moi! 

When I read that, it was not long after I had posted THIS gem as my Facebook quote of the day: "Criticism is just someone else's opinion. Even people who are experts in their fields are sometimes wrong. It is up to you to choose whether to believe some of it, none of it, or all of it. What you think is what counts." ― Rodolfo Costa

A moment of raw honesty: I have always struggled with my relationships to others, particularly in feeling "less than....." I don't know when it started, only that I've seemingly always lived with it. If you have never faced this, God bless you. If you've lived it (like me), then you know. I don't have to say a thing for you to know how this feels. Why ..... Why do we torture ourselves with the belief that we are somehow greater than or lesser than another human, also made in the image and likeness of the Creator? Why do we allow ourselves to feel as if the person standing in front of us is somehow more special or a better person than we are?

A few years ago, I would have felt that way but never dreamed of telling anyone else. I dared not show my perceived weakness to another soul. No, no, no...... showing weakness was how you got wounded in the first place. Don't give the enemy out there any additional ammo, right?

Over and over again, in the last year, I have seen countless meditations, thoughts, books, etc. about the power and strength found in vulnerability. To be able to open yourself up to another person (or to many others) and risk everything to be exactly who you are. It is only from a position of true strength that you can say, "Façades are exhausting. I'd rather you see who I am behind the mask -- and if you don't like me, then I hate it for both of us. But I have to be me, regardless."

This is me: a little crazy, a lot tired and worn-out. I laugh too hard and too loud. I cry openly and often -- which amazes me, given that my heart is still tender after some of the beatings it has taken! I'm loyal to a fault unless you do something so painful that I cut you out from my life. And don't think I wouldn't; I have before with some others. I try to be as positive as possible and yet I worry when I shouldn't. I'm unabashedly a person of faith, and yet very open to reason and education, with a healthy dash of cynicism thrown in. I love my godchildren to the moon and back. I have the best girlfriends you could ever hope for. My families are big and insane and I wouldn't have it any other way. I know who I am, where my people are from, who they were, and where my heart lies.

I have been hurt badly enough to be a little gun-shy around people. I don't trust easily, and when that trust is damaged, it is hard to repair. Too often, my willingness to please and my kindnesses have been perceived as weakness. So I got tougher, less kind or less inclined to show it (especially when it hasn't been returned or even acknowledged). This has been a wrong approach......................

Strong is an awesome word. But real strength comes from being open to others, to be willing and able to be vulnerable, to risk rejection and being misunderstood to be real. To belong. To matter. To simply be you, the wonderful person that you were divinely created to be. A one-time-only way that God has smiled at the world again.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

When there are no words

Today, September 15, marks the 50th anniversary of a horrific event in our nation's history: the bombing at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama which took the lives of 4 young girls. All in the name of hatred.

Several years back, friends and I drove to Memphis for a wedding, and as such, had the opportunity to go through Birmingham as part of our drive. We drove right by the site, and I found that I could not say a word, except for a quietly muttered "wow" ....... I felt a sense of history, of significance. But more than that, I thought of it as holy ground, of sacred space, a place where there were no words that could possibly match what I felt in my heart. Later that weekend, while we were in Memphis, we drove by the Lorraine Motel, now the National Civil Rights Museum, and again, I couldn't utter a coherent phrase -- and felt the same gravity I felt at the church.

Sometimes, there are no words that can convey what the heart feels. I grew up after these events, was born a full 18 months after Dr. King's assassination. I'm a child of the South, but I think of myself as a child of the New South. My parents were part of that generation with one foot in their history and one foot in the future. They grew up in the era where segregation was the norm, but you were still expected to treat everyone kindly. I suppose the families were like many during that time -- more concerned with survival than with the larger questions of social justice.

Holy ground. The phrase isn't quite right, but it is all I can think of. My heart didn't have the right words. How do you succinctly speak of a sorrow for something that happened only 6 years before your birth but which seems like a distant incident on another world? How do you say how sad you are without it coming across as patronizing or condescending -- after all, you are still a Caucasian from the South, no matter that you have nothing to do with that horrid past. What phrase conveys all that, and the sorrow for the lives lost there, and all the lives lost due to hatred?

And even now, how do we deal with the hatred that still exists -- hatred that still makes brother kill brother, that makes us hate the other because (insert silly reason here). Because he or she is a different race, different religion, different belief system? Just because he or she reminds us of someone in our past who wronged us, and therefore we don't give them the chance? Or of the hatred that never expresses itself to the point of actual physical wrong, but which weaves its way into our thinking?

I'd like to believe that words have no power except that which we assign to them -- for example, there are certain words that I *hate* to hear, which means in some way that word has power over me -- but there are some phrases in any language which are hate words: slurs about someone's orientation, religion, background, or any other differentiation. Words that certain groups use among themselves to denote someone of another (fill in the blank). I read one of those words in a recent FB post, and since it was in another language, I looked it up. Per Urban Dictionary, it was a word of derogatory slang. Instantly, I was crushed. This person had suddenly lumped people into a category based on their background -- I'm sure the rationale was "well, it's been done to us." In one word, it became Us vs. Them. To say I was hurt was an understatement, and honestly, it's made me rethink a lot of things.

It took me back to Birmingham to a solemn brick building, to a cinderblock motel in Memphis. To a place where I am an outsider but one with a broken heart for all the hatred that existed then -- a hatred enough to kill four little girls who just happened to be at church a little early that day. A hatred that still turns the world into Us vs. Them.

And for that sort of sorrow, there are no words.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Days Gone By

A post on Facebook from a college friend about a trip home and seeing old neighborhood friends made me think about my childhood. She had mentioned how lucky she was to have grown up when she did where she did -- and I could not agree more for myself as well.

I grew up in a small Southern town. I think the population finally crept over 3000 when I was in high school.... everyone knew everyone (or at least everyone's "people") and subsequently everyone's business too. My mom grew up here, my dad did not but is from an area within an hour's drive. We lived in the same house that my great-aunt bought for my grandparents and my mom in the late 40s (it's a long story). My mom has lived here 65 years in the same spot, my dad now for 45.

When I grew up here, I knew every neighbor on this block, the one up from us, and the ones around the corners. It was a mix of ages -- quite a few elderly neighbors, and only a few young(er) families. There were only 7 or 8 of us "kids" in the neighborhood, but that didn't really matter ...... in those much different times, during the summers, we were sent out as soon as breakfast was over, and expected to come home at noon for lunch, and dinner/supper whenever it was ready and your mama yelled your name out the door as loudly as possible....... or if she knew exactly where you were, she'd just call. She had the library's number memorized (this was before speed dial, and way before a contacts list she could just scroll through).

This scene was by no means unique to my hometown -- good Lord, I daresay every town for many years had a similar scenario. However, there was one thing very unique to my hometown: we'd already been visited by the idea that children were not necessarily safe. In late 1973, a young lady who lived a block away (yes, one block from my house, on the other side of my church) was kidnapped in early December. They didn't find her body until after the New Year. It was a horrible crime, and even as young as I was, I got the vibe from the talk between my parents and grandmother that what happened with Tammy was a very bad thing. Quite honestly, I am surprised especially that we girls got to gallivant all over town. But we did.

I remember Tee and I walking from our houses (next door neighbors) to the Speedy Mart, about a block and a half away but across a very busy highway -- and right at the railroad tracks, the busiest intersection around. We'd walk to the store, dash very quickly across the highway and take out our hard-earned silver coins or saved pennies and head right for the candy aisle. Or if we were being really adventurous, we'd go the other way, out past the mill, and go the half-mile to Mr. Owen's store for Astro Pops. (Mmmmm. Astro Pops!) My mother thought nothing of me riding my bike over to Em's house, about a half-mile away in the other direction. My brother and I walked uptown at least once a week (if not more often) to the library. I can still remember the cool air rushing out from the Speedy Mart and the smell of the Icee machines churning out that yumminess.

My neighbors -- to them, it wasn't "oh that's THEIR kid" ..... I was THEIR kid too. My neighbor and "third grandma" Granny B would not have thought twice about popping my fanny if I did something inappropriate. But more often than not, all they had to do was say something to invoke guilt and shame in me -- something like "Do you want your mama to know how you're acting out?" Oh my Lord, another childhood saying (do people still use this one): "Act like you've been somewhere before!" meaning, "I do NOT want people thinking you were raised by wolves so straighten up and fly right -- or I'll pop your fanny!"

It was a great childhood. The sad part is that even if I did have kids, I would never be able to give them the awesome experiences I had. I don't know my neighbors -- not many of them anyway -- by name. There are just a few that have been here for more than 5 years. The houses are changing, mostly by additions and remodelings. It's not the same neighborhood. And I would never allow my child to go to any of the places I went to, at least not by himself or herself until he/she was a teen (and even then, on a case basis). Biking around town? Only with me along for the ride.

Never the same. Time marching on, and stomping all over my past.

But it was nice, those days gone by.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Invisible Illness Week

Please note: this is a repeat of my blogpost from September 2010 on the same subject. As Dan Pearce at Single Dad Laughing states, "Old posts need love too!" :)

This is National "Invisible Illnesses" Week -- a way to educate/advocate for all of us who do deal with an illness, just not an obvious or visible one. Or a way to remind others that we are so much more than our illnesses. I actually have two, since I also deal with migraines; however, the headaches are so mild by comparison that I would rather let those who deal with them on a daily basis speak on that topic. But this is the 24-7-365 one for me.......


  1. The illness I live with is: Primary Lymphedema (I shall abbreviate as PLE). It is a condition in which the lymphatic system does not circulate properly and swelling can occur at the site of damage. Primary is congenital and most likely hereditary. It can manifest itself in early childhood, after puberty, or after age 35. Secondary lymphedema is caused by some trauma or removal of lymph nodes (example: cancer surgery). In so many women, they develope SLE in the arms or sides because of mastectomy. In my own particular case, it was probably present all along, is definitely hereditary (have a cousin with the same condition, just recently diagnosed as well in her late 60s!), and began to manifest itself sometime between ages 14 and 19. I can't pinpoint an exact time.
  2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: 2008.
  3. But I had symptoms since: Who knows? First manifest around 1985-ish?
  4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: needing support garments almost 24/7 (not in the shower or pool).
  5. Most people assume: that it's more of a cosmetic problem or an annoying discomfort than a medical condition.
  6. The hardest part about mornings is: needing the extra time to unravel bandages, re-roll, remove additional compression aids, AND put on the compression wear after showering. I've managed to get the compression hose on in about 5 minutes, but when I get a new pair, it's a few extra minutes for that.....
  7. My favorite medical TV show is: does "Forensic Files" count?
  8. A gadget I couldn't live without is: well, nothing that directly affects my condition.
  9. The hardest part about nights are: summer nights, when I'm wearing tubiform stockings, compression aids, AND 2-3 sets of bandages per leg. SWELTER!!!
  10. Each day I take __ pills & vitamins. Okay, about 10 vitamin/supplements, and 1-2 pills each day (not related to lymphedema; no pills for that!)
  11. Regarding alternative treatments I: am already utilizing them.... well, I don't consider MLD (manual lymphatic drainage) an alternative treatment, but some physicians do, I'm sure.....
  12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: I don't know which I would choose. There are times "invisible" is better, but you get so weary of explaining, "yes, I have an illness; no, it's not some quacked-up quasi-illness.... do you want to see information on it, because I can give you more than you'd ever want.
  13. Regarding working and career: I still get to work, but I have PT every two weeks, and so I work it as my lunch hour .... and if there's a difference, I make it up by staying late or coming in early.....
  14. People would be surprised to know: lymphedema isn't just a "cosmetic" condition but if untreated, it can lead to serious issues.
  15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: this is 24/7/365 for the rest of my life. In my case, it's congenital and so I have to manage it, the same way that anyone with a chronic condition has to manage theirs.
  16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: nothing. I didn't realize I had this condition until I was 38 and so I just always DID with it anyway.
  17. The commercials about my illness: What commercials? Totally not on the commercial radar .... and thank God because there's not a drug out there to be advertised for it.... so none of the "what a wonder drug, here are the 40 million ways it could kill you" ads.
  18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: Going support-hoseless.... I do in the shower, and a couple of times when I have had a migraine develop, I've gone to bed unwrapped or unhosed. And I won't be able to do hot tubs, saunas, steamrooms, etc. again. But otherwise......
  19. It was really hard to have to give up: my razor. Yep, I'm not allowed to use a single-blade, double-blade, quatro-blade, or any blade. Electric razors, those are fine. But if I nick the skin and infection sets in, the protein-rich lymphatic fluid is nothing but a breeding haven for bacteria..... :( Le sigh. So I don't get quite that silky smoooooooooooooth closeness. Hmm, wonder if lasering my legs would be okay! And Nair/Neet STINK (literally).
  20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: hmm.... cooking? Nothing really. It's a condition but not necessarily life-limiting. It's as limiting as I allow it to be. If I don't take care of myself and do the right thing, then yeah, it's limiting.....
  21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: go hoseless!! :D But then again, after 5 years, it's a weird feeling even being hoseless in the pool!
  22. My illness has taught me: more about the way the human body works. I had so little knowledge (still do, I think) about the body's many, varied, interesting detox/elimination processes.
  23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: well, about the condition: nothing. Not that I'm not ready to advocate, but most people don't ask much more than "so what do you have to go to PT for?" You do a short explanation, and it's like, "Oh. Wow. Didn't know there was such a thing...." and that's as far as it gets.
  24. BUT I love it when people: ASK QUESTIONS! and WANT to learn. What, a little extra knowledge will kill you?
  25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: my thought is that I have this condition, it does not have me.
  26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: do not hesitate to learn about the condition, and DO NOT miss an MLD treatment, and FOLLOW THEIR INSTRUCTIONS. Yes, it's a colossal pain in the @$$ to bandage every night or use a pump (if you have fibrotic skin), but it beats bout after bout of cellulitis all to hell. I had ONE bout, extremely mild, no open wound -- and it STILL took 3 weeks of antibiotics to get it under control.
  27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: well, for me, it was the fact that after 20-ish years of untreated and undiagnosed PLE, my skin had not become fibrotic, or otherwise horridly disfigured. I consider myself TREMENDOUSLY lucky in that respect. Even my physical therapist was VERY surprised. In some ways, it was almost like it had just recently started happening, instead of having 20 years or so of this condition.......
  28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: Just listening to me.
  29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: I believe in advocating and educating. The more you know......
  30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: happy -- and that I have made a little difference in helping people learn and understand

Do you have an "invisible illness"???? Click http://invisibleillnessweek.com/ to learn about Invisible Illness Week

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

So Not A Junkie

Allow me to introduce myself as apparently the only person left in America who doesn't give one single solitary hoot about Duck Dynasty. Or Breaking Bad. Or True Blood.

I have never seen a complete episode of Toddlers & Tiaras, or its crazy trainwreck relative, Honey Boo Boo. Then again, I never saw a single episode of Deadwood, The Sopranos, The L Word, or anything else that was big in the last decade. I flat refuse to watch anything about any Housewives anywhere, because I have zero in common with them except that we both have Double-X chromosomes.

I gave up on American Idol long ago. I don't watch America's Got Talent, So You Think You Can Dance, "God I Hope My Mama's Right And I Do Sound Just Like Whitney" or any of the other shows. I have caught snippets of The Voice, but never a full show let alone a full season.

DD is wholesome, people say. It talks of family values and faith. That's great, and I daresay they're probably more sincere than your average televangelist who does the same thing (on the surface anyway), but I'm still not interested. I don't do hunting. I have no desire to kill an animal, let alone freeze my butt off in a deer stand at 3:30 in the morning. No thank you. I don't eat duck either, so there. Decoys are kind of creepy to me anyway.

My guilty TV obsession? Chopped. Oh, and Restaurant: Impossible ........... but not during the middle of a pennant race (or lack of race, given that the Braves are 14 games up as I type). Come football season (15 more days!!), then my viewership of regular television will go even further down.

My favorite shows? The 4:30 AM news report. The 10:00 evening news. Any Braves game. Any football game (except the CFL, that's just NOT football). I was so desperate for sports one night when the Braves had an off-night, I freakin' listened to the NBA Draft, and I don't give a damn for the NBA. I even watched a few portions of the Stanley Cup, for cryin' out loud. Chopped. RI. American Pickers. And if I am feeling particularly in need of sordid entertainment, there's Snapped. The only serial/episodic show I follow to any extent is Parenthood..... I even stopped watching SVU after a while. Good show, but it's kind of jumped the shark a little.

I have all the ESPN family, FoxSportsSouth, and the NFL Network on my remote's speed dial (so to speak). That and the local affiliates, and I'm a happy clam.

Now, if they spoofed DD starring the AFLAC duck, I might watch the first episode.........

Sunday, August 11, 2013

"Doesn't Play Well With Others"

I am an introvert. And I'm surprised the title phrase never appeared on my report cards.

The first time I learned about my introversion was back in the early 90s, fresh out of college, and I took the MBTI (Myers-Briggs) for the first time. It came back INFP. I was a little taken aback: INFP?? ME? No, no, they have this wrong. Granted, I had been in a pretty down mood just before I took the test (thanks to a very spiteful coworker at the time), so maybe that's why the I part came in but no, no, no, I was a very outgoing person.

I had no idea.

I took it again a few years later: same result. I took another one that my new job did as part of an administrative team training. It wasn't the classic Myers-Briggs but I got similar results. I didn't end up in the "people person" quadrant. I was quite surprised again..... what was I answering incorrectly, I thought, to skew these answers? Over the years I've come to realize that there were no wrong answers -- only honesty.

I am an introvert. And these days, I embrace that label. It doesn't mean that I can't be social -- indeed, when I'm in a small group, and especially one in which I am very comfortable, I am THE motormouth of the group. But I have to work up to that level of comfort with you before I can get to that stage. It doesn't mean I'm slow on the draw, backward, shy, or a misanthrope (though I have my days when Grumpy Cat and I would be quite a pair). It does not mean I wish to be a hermit in every non-working waking hour. It means that I need quiet private time to myself in order to function well.

What it means is that I derive my energy from an internal source instead of external stimuli. Extroverts need to be around people in order to recharge. I need to withdraw from everyone to recharge. Think of it this way: extroverts need a Vegas strip hotel; introverts need a mountain cabin, off the main road, and maybe (maybe) a few close friends. The thought of a silent weekend retreat would petrify many extroverts; introverts are screaming, "OOOH! Where do I sign up?"

When I read Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus (because I was trying to understand someone in my life) and reading the portion about men needing "cave time" I wondered briefly if I was really a guy -- because the idea of having "cave time" was absolutely delicious. I realize now that it should have been a sure sign that I was an introvert.

Truth? I actually rather enjoy public speaking and performance, and trust me, I can improvise on the fly, take things as they roll, and never think twice about it.

But I don't schmooze well. I enjoy social functions but I will not work the room. I will speak to a small group of people, or dart between people with whom I am comfortable. The word "networking" makes me wretch; there's a connotation there of people determining if and how someone will be useful to them in the future..... I don't do small talk very well. And woe be unto ye if you get inside my personal space...... if you are in line next to me, stay back, please. I don't want you over my shoulder when I'm buying a pack of gum!

If you would like to learn more about introversion or introverted people, I highly recommend Quiet by Susan Cain. And just remember that we're people too, we just operate slightly differently in a world that sees it in a negative light while trumpeting extroversion as a positive value.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Strong The Circle We

It breaks my heart that for the third time in just short of 48 months, another Brother has left us. David Singleton, for whom my pledge class was named, left us far too soon along with Carolyn Keller (Fall '89, passed Sept. 2009) and Karen Mitchell (Spring '89, passed Oct. 2010). It does not seem real, still, that we've lost three of the finest people I've ever had the occasion to know.

But this week, I have been reminded of my time in Alpha Phi Omega. Allow me to turn back the clock, even if only here and in my mind, to early September 1987. I had been in school about 2 weeks and wondering at times if I'd made the biggest mistake of my life. I knew a whole 5 people on campus, besides my roommates and the Peer Mentors who'd ushered me around at orientation -- a girl named Rita (whom I met at orientation), a guy named Bryce who was from my home county, another guy named Kirby who was hanging out in the pool room and who might have been at orientation with me, a girl named Jennifer who I met at the welcome back dance, and Lisa who was my HS classmate. I wasn't adjusting very well to my roommate/suitemates. We were in an off-campus apartment because Housing had overbooked and they basically rented these on our behalf. But we had an RA/RD just like every other dorm -- with a lot more freedom. But I needed some guidance and structure. I enjoyed my classes, but was floundering.

I remembered quite a few of the Peer Mentors had mentioned that they were part of a group called Alpha Phi Omega. The whole idea of Greek stuff was not appealing to me at the time. My roommate was pledging a sorority and treating me like a complete pariah because I wasn't going Greek. Another suitemate was pledging a different sorority and the third was absolutely bereft because she couldn't pledge this year as a provisional student. But this group seemed different. I happened to see one of the Peer Mentors as I strolled across campus that day, and she invited me to the A Phi O rush party that afternoon.

When they told us more about what they did -- lots of community service, while developing leadership skills and forming lifelong friendships -- I was very intrigued. I went back the next day -- only to discover that one of my old friends from another school was there too!! Finally, someone I really KNEW! I met some other people from nearer my hometown .... including some chick from Greer who seemed pretty cool. And that was that -- I decided I would pledge.

I came back to our apartment, very excited for the first time since I'd gotten to campus. My roommate immediately derided my choice: "UGH! Really?" to which AW (my pledging suitemate) told her, "Okay, you know something? Maybe it's not for you and fine. But this is the first time her face has lit up in two weeks, so just let her enjoy it. It seems to be right up her alley, regardless of your opinion." I still like AW to this day.......

The decision to pledge has been one I've never regretted. From it, I gained the opportunity to make a difference during a time when I could have easily lost my way. I learned to lead projects and be part of a leadership committee. But most importantly, I not only gained lifelong friends, I gained brothers, in the truest sense of the word.

Did we always agree? No.
Did we always get along? Of course not.
Did we love each other? Yes, very much so.

If I were stranded on the side of the road in St. Louis, I could call Tina -- whom I have not physically seen in 25 years -- and if she couldn't help me herself, she would point me in the right direction. If my flight from Seattle to home were cancelled and I had no place else to stay, I could call two brothers there and either have a place on their sofa or they could again help me figure out what to do. And if by some odd chance a brother were stranded in my hometown, I would offer them the same -- a ride, a sofa to sleep on, or just to go there and sit with them until their assistance arrived, maybe even dinner on me. Whatever it took. This is brotherhood.

I've watched their babies come into the world and grow up and are now heading to college (or in college, in some cases). I've cried as they've posted news that a parent has passed. I've rejoiced in their good fortunes, and prayed for them when it hasn't been good. This is brotherhood.

This week, we said goodbye to David. And one of the brothers had a phenomenal idea. She created a Facebook group called the Virtual Circle. You see, at the end of every weekly meeting, we would form a circle and sing our Toast Song .... it even contained the lyric: "Strong the circle we....." Nowhere was that more evident than in our Virtual Circle this week. David's funeral was Tuesday -- so her idea was that on Tuesday (especially for those of us who could not make the funeral), we would do a kind deed, remember the beauty and joy in life, and somehow memorialize it, dedicating it to David.

I had jury duty (and lucky me, was in the middle of serving on a jury) -- no way could I get to the funeral. On Monday, when we got to the jury room, we noticed that the snacks they'd mentioned were basically potato chips and Little Debbie cakes. Sorry, but no, not for me. And I remembered that one of David's last photos that he'd posted were of his homegrown figs. So the idea hit me to take some in, and some other fruit as a healthy snack. Of course, the store I went to (given the time constraints) didn't have fresh figs. A farmer's market would have, but none were open at that time...... So I just got a variety of things -- nectarines, apples, bananas, oranges -- and took them to court with me. It wasn't much -- I wish I could have done so much more, and I plan to take the opportunity to do so later this week. But it was what I could do at the time.

We came back to the virtual circle and told what we'd done .... there were beautiful stories: a mom taking her daughter on a walk around Charleston, the city David loved (and so many of us); flowers given to employees, photos of gorgeous home-grown flowers, the kind David would have loved and used in some of his arrangements (an avocation he pursued in addition to his regular job). Remembrances and poems, pictures of days gone by. Realizations of what our friendships have meant to us, though time has marched on and our pictures have changed.

Earlier today, I wrote this at the Virtual Circle page, in a response to a thank you for the brother who started the page: "There are quite a number of you I never got the chance to meet in person.... Just a picture on the wall in a composite. This week it feels different, and for that, I thank you!" And I mean it. It really does feel like David -- in life and in death -- has brought people together.

When I think of them all -- Carolyn, Karen and David -- I think of brothers. They were three people who loved life more than anything, whose laughter and shenanigans and warmth and caring were evident in every action. I can only hope to live up to such a legacy that they have left.

Godspeed, David, until we meet again. Keep Carolyn and Karen straight, will ya? Wait a minute .... you three have probably already started playing tricks on all us brothers. We who remain are in for some serious shenanigans afoot. Watch out, David -- your heavenly cell phone will be full of "Shotgun Selfies" and Karen will be good until she sees a cow in a pasture: that's why we call her Mookie!

And strong the circle we, for all time.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Last week's Quotes That Grab Ya

Well, I meant to post this yesterday but one big thing happened: I woke with a migraine. You know it is bad when it's 7:00 AM on a Sunday morning, you've been up for an hour with a pounding brain and yuck feeling, and you decide that you better attend the 8:00 Mass if you plan to make it at all. I didn't even post a quote yesterday..... but I figure there are enough gems from the end of June that can carry you through! :)

So here they are, from Monday, 6/24 through Saturday, 6/29...... ENJOY!

6/24: "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." ― Meg Cabot

6/25: "Sometimes we behave as though there was something more important than life. But what?" -- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

6/26: "Change might not be fast and it isn't always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped." ― Charles Duhigg

6/27: "This isn't just 'another day, another dollar.' It's more like 'another day, another miracle'!" -- Victoria Moran

6/28: "Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment." -- Jim Rohn

6/29: "You were born with potential. You were born with goodness and trust. You were born with ideals and dreams. You were born with greatness. You were born with wings. You are not meant for crawling, so don't. You have wings. Learn to use them and fly." ― Rumi

6/30 .... no quote.

I hope these are as thought-provoking or inspiring for you as they are for me. And remember, kindness to others springs from kindness to self -- and vice versa. A beautiful circle of lovingkindness......

Sunday, June 23, 2013

This week's Quotes That Grab Ya

Need a little boost or some motivation? Need a little encouragement or even just a reminder of your beauty and worth? Sure, we all do ..... hope you find a kernel of wisdom or even a word that resonates with you in some of these quotes:

6/16: "I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom." ― Umberto Eco, Foucault's Pendulum

6/17: "I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." -- Douglas Adams

6/18: "Everything works out in the end. if it hasn't worked out yet, then it's not the end." ― Tracy McMillan

6/19: "It's not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What's hard, she said, is figuring out what you're willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about." ― Shauna Niequist

6/20: "If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else." ― Yogi Berra ........... AND BONUS QUOTE: "Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.” -- Donald Miller

6/21: "A man can be as great as he wants to be. If you believe in yourself and have the courage, the determination, the dedication, the competitive drive and if you are willing to sacrifice the little things in life and pay the price for the things that are worthwhile, it can be done." -- Vince Lombardi

6/22: "To be nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting." – ee cummings

6/23: "Good works is giving to the poor and the helpless, but divine works is showing them their worth to the One who matters." — Criss Jami

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Quotes That Grab Ya

As most of you know, I start out most mornings on Facebook by posting a quote of the day. I get them from a variety of sources -- e-mailed newsletters, Twitter, all sorts of books that I have, Goodreads, or sometimes just a plain ol' Google search. And lately it seems that mine all seem to focus on a few key themes: hope, love, self-worth, healing, determination, destiny, change, surrender/trust, etc. They may seem a little varied, but these are the ones where God/The Universe/The Force, call it whatever you like, has said, "THIS ONE. It's for you today. Everyday. Pay attention."

And yes, I need to start paying more attention. So I've decided to at least keep a record of them here. Once a week, I plan to do a digest of quotes with the label QuotesThatGrabYa (sans hashtag but you get it)...... Since Saturdays seem to be the day I have a little more time (albeit not much) to the morning, that's when I'll post them.

Feel free to grab as you like. I took them from somewhere else, and I usually post at least to whom it has been attributed. I figure they're out there for a reason and we all need to hear these messages resonate within our own lives and situations. Each of us needs comfort, hope, guidance, reassurance, redirection, and sometimes just a  good smack in the hiney or a huge hug from God/etc. that says, "Oh precious one....."

So here's the digest from June 9-15:

6/9: "In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others." ― Brennan Manning

6/10: "No art takes places without inspiration. Every artist also needs effective knowledge of his or her tools (e.g., does a certain brush function well with a particular kind of paint?). What’s more, artists need effective techniques for using those tools. Likewise, to express ourselves skillfully with maximum efficiency and minimum effort, we need to investigate the most effective ways of using the mind and body since, in the end, they are the only 'tools' we truly possess in life." ― H. E. Davey

6/11: "Life is a collection of a million, billion moments, tiny little moments and choices, like a handful of luminous, glowing pearl. It takes so much time, and so much work, and those beads and moments are so small, and so much less fabulous and dramatic than the movies. But this is what I’m finding, in glimpses and flashes: this is it. This is it, in the best possible way. That thing I’m waiting for, that adventure, that movie-score-worthy experience unfolding gracefully. This is it. Normal, daily life ticking by on our streets and sidewalks, in our houses and apartments, in our beds and at our dinner tables, in our dreams and prayers and fights and secrets -- this pedestrian life is the most precious thing any of us will ever experience." ― Shauna Niequist

6/12: "And I can tell by the way you're searching / For something you can't even name / That you haven't been able to come to the table, simply glad that you came / And when you feel like this try to imagine / That we're all like frail boats on the sea / Just scanning the night for that great guiding light, announcing the jubilee...." -- -- Mary Chapin Carpenter, "Jubilee" (from the CD, Stones In The Road)

6/13: "Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you're going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are." ― Anne Lamott

6/14: Found on Twitter this morning from @QuotesNSmiles: "Life isn’t about waiting for the time to come. It’s all about making the most of things in the time that is given to you." -- Joel Brown

6/15: "We can't look to the world to restore our worth; we're here to restore our worth to the world. The world outside us can reflect our glory, but it cannot create it. It cannot crown us. Only God can crown us, and he already has." ― Marianne Williamson

Remainder of 2013 to follow in separate posts, probably at the end of each month (I'll fiddle with the dates to get it to work, but henceforth at the end of the week). Just look for the label QuotesThatGrabYa and find something to speak to your heart, your soul, your essence, the portion of the Divine within you. And know that I am cheering you on from here (and only ask the same of you).

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Thoughts on Rain

It was July 1984, and our area set a record for July rainfall: 13 inches. I remember that as the Summer of Slosh. No going outside and having fun with friends. Definitely no need to buy sunscreen, except to plan for our beach vacation coming up in August. No, it was definitely "stay inside and hibernate with a good book or twelve."

Two summers later, we were praying for rain, literally. Whatever reserve we had was used up very quickly. Farmers from Michigan and other parts of the upper Midwest literally saved the farmers around here with truckloads of hay for the livestock. Summer '86 was hot, horrifically dry, and it was the first time I became familiar with the term drought. Sadly, my familiarity with it would not go away as I moved from adolescence into my adult life.

Now, we're not a farm family -- no, we're townspeople, but in my small town, everyone has a garden of some sort, whether for fruits and veggies for themselves, flora and shrubbery (!) to make their house prettier or both. While I had a vague idea about how important rainwater was to these things, a lack of summer veggies and watching Daddy work over an unproductive garden drove it home. And this was only the beginning. For years on end, we watched the usual summer weather pattern develop: unbearably sticky humid air, only to develop into small pop-up storms that were just enough to "settle the dust" but which did nothing to alleviate the situation. Watching our local lakes go from gorgeously full to dangerously low .... getting the "no boats in these areas" and "no swimming allowed" alerts. To use current parlance, "Sh*t got real."

Off and on, rains would come and restore things a little, but the overall drought continued for years on end. There might be a couple of years that would relieve us here and there, but never the way it was in the mid-1980s. Until.......

2004. It was an Atlantic hurricane season that sent torrents of rain and destruction along the Gulf Coast. And it did not stop that year, but continued right on through that awful summer of 2005 that devastated the Gulf with Katrina and Rita...... but did our area so much good. See, apparently most of our rain comes via tropical systems in the summer and fall. Systems that come in via the west and northwest never make it over the mountains to us. Does a ton of good for eastern Tennessee, western NC, and even northeast GA, but us? ZIP. But if it comes in via the southwest (Gulf) or southeast (Atlantic): booyah! Good rain for us and happy land. It indeed becomes precious rain, in the deepest sense of the word. What is such benefit for us usually brings such destruction or disaster in other areas.

It wasn't all that long ago -- maybe just a couple of years -- that all the benefits we received as a result of those two horrid seasons along the Gulf had gone away. We were yet again facing that ugly D word. Which stage were we in -- incipient? early? moderate? We weren't on the edge of severe again yet (thank God) but it wasn't very good either. Lakes were again low. Boat warnings to look out for shallow areas and sandbars were again issued.

This year, so far, so good. In fact, we're at an abundance again, and the tropical season just started. On May 31, we had gone 9 days without rain, and yet were still at a 2" surplus for the year. The lakes are looking normal again. And now, with the first storm of the season -- albeit less a "storm" than just a good soaking rainmaker -- we're definitely above average!

And I promised myself a few years back that after all those years of drought, I would never complain about rain again. I try very hard to keep that promise. Although after this May and so-far-in-June, I may change my mind.......

Friday, May 31, 2013

Quotes That Grab Ya: May Digest

Here's the collection of May quotes I posted on FB -- enjoy!

1-May "The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are." ― C.G. Jung
2-May "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone." ― Audrey Hepburn
3-May "My motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging." ― Hank Aaron
(out of town on 4th and 5th)
6-May "I feel keeping a promise to yourself is a direct reflection of the love you have for yourself. I used to make promises to myself and find them easy to break. Today, I love myself enough to not only make a promise to myself, but I love myself enough to keep that promise." ― Steve Maraboli
7-May "A wonderful gift may not be wrapped as you expect." ― Jonathan Lockwood Huie
8-May "Never lose a holy curiosity." ― Albert Einstein
9-May "To the people who love you, you are beautiful already. This is not because they’re blind to your shortcomings but because they so clearly see your soul. Your shortcomings then dim by comparison. The people who care about you are willing to let you be imperfect and beautiful, too." ― Victoria Moran
10-May "Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do." ― Pope John XXIII
11-May From one of my very favorite songs and CD's ever:  "And in this world there's a whole lot of golden / In this world there's a whole lot of plain / In this world you've a soul for a compass and a heart for a pair of wings / There's a star on the far horizon / Shining bright in an azure sky / For the rest of the time that you're given / Why walk when you can fly" ― Mary Chapin Carpenter, "Why Walk When You Can Fly" (from Stones in the Road)
(5/12 - Mother's Day)
13-May "Life is filled with unanswered questions, but it is the courage to seek those answers that continues to give meaning to life. You can spend your life wallowing in despair, wondering why you were the one who was led towards the road strewn with pain, or you can be grateful that you are strong enough to survive it." ― J.D. Stroube
14-May "Vulnerability is the only authentic state. Being vulnerable means being open, for wounding, but also for pleasure. Being open to the wounds of life means also being open to the bounty and beauty. Don’t mask or deny your vulnerability: it is your greatest asset. Be vulnerable: quake and shake in your boots with it. the new goodness that is coming to you, in the form of people, situations, and things can only come to you when you are vulnerable, i.e. open." ― Stephen Russell
15-May "Tell yourself often: I am going to tackle my aspirations head on with the passion and dedication necessary to exceed even my expectations." ― Lori Myers
16-May "I live for those who love me, for those who know me true; for the heaven that smiles above me and awaits my spirit too. For the cause that lacks assistance, for the wrong that needs resistance, for the future in the distance, and the good that I can do." ― George Linnaeus Banks
17-May "Become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see possibilities: always see them, for they're always there." ― Norman Vincent Peale
18-May "Would you like to know your future? If your answer is yes, think again. Not knowing is the greatest life motivator. So enjoy, endure, survive each moment as it comes to you in its proper sequence -- a surprise." ― Vera Nazarian
19-May "After the resurrection of Jesus, his disciples are unable to pick up the spirit of his new presence. They want, instead, to have their old earthly Jesus back. Eventually, they are reduced to huddling in fear in a locked room, paralyzed. When they do receive the spirit of the resurrected Christ, they burst from that room, now alive with the spirit for their actual lives. When we live in restless unhappiness, not satisfied with our situation in life because we are unmarried, or because we are not married to whom we would like to be, or because we would want a different job, or different family, or different body, or a different set of friends, or a different city to live it, we live, like the Apostles, huddled in fear.... Pentecost is not an abstract mystery. We are asked to accept the spirit of our actual lives. When we do this, then we no longer belittle our own lives but know that even with all our inferiorities and frustrations, just by ourselves, we are something." ― Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, OMI
20-May "The 'what should be' never did exist, but people keep trying to live up to it. There is no 'what should be,' there is only 'what is.'" ― Lenny Bruce
21-May "One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn't as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence and inner healing." ― Jean Vanier
22-May "True discipline is really just self-remembering; no forcing or fighting is necessary." ― Charles Eisenstein .... BONUS QUOTE: "Except our own thoughts, there is nothing absolutely in our power." ― René Descartes
23-May "The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown." ― Carl Sagan
24-May "Most people are searching for happiness. They're looking for it. They're trying to find it in someone or something outside of themselves. That's a fundamental mistake. Happiness is something that you are, and it comes from the way you think." ― Dr. Wayne Dyer
25-May "Heroes are selfless people who perform extraordinary acts. The mark of heroes is not necessarily the result of their action, but what they are willing to do for others and for their chosen cause. Even if they fail, their determination lives on for others to follow. The glory lies not in the achievement, but in the sacrifice." ― Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
26-May "All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful." ― Flannery O'Connor
27-May Flanders Fields
28-May "If life is not a celebration, why remember it ? If life -- mine or that of my fellow man -- is not an offering to the other, what are we doing on this earth?" ― Elie Wiesel
29-May "The purpose of art is the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity." ― Glenn Gould
30-May "Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude." ― Dennis Waitley
31-May "Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation." ― Walter Cronkite

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Let me tell you about a little town I know

There's a quaint, picturesque little place about 3 hours from me with which I have fallen in love. It's tucked in the mountains of Virginia, and yet it's well known in certain circles. And last weekend, the nation got to see just a peek inside Damascus, albeit due to some very scary news.

Damascus, Virginia is a well-known oasis on the Appalachian Trail, billing itself as "Trail Town, USA" and every third weekend in May hosts a festival entitled "Trail Days" -- a huge extravaganza for a town of less than 1000 people. Their hearts are friendly, open and warm, and there's not a yearly resident I've met yet who doesn't embody hospitality and kindness. I was just up there the first weekend of the month for some riding along another of their trails (the Virginia Creeper Multi-Use Trail -- mostly for biking but good for walking/running as well, and even the occasional horse ride).

Last weekend, however, during the Trail Days parade, this little beautiful crossroads made the national newsclips for a sad accident that injured 60 people in the parade. An older gentleman driving one of the parade cars suffered a medical crisis, and hit the accelerator, plowing into a huge crowd. Some of them were injured critically, but fortunately no one died as a result, including the driver.

I hate that this is how the world discovered Damascus. Everyone should know it for what it really is: a town of friendly people, who have welcomed the transients and strangers among them, the people who come to enjoy the beauty of the town and its surroundings. Each time I have been to this area, whether in Damascus or in Abingdon or any of the places along the Creeper Trail, I have witnessed faces where the smile goes all the way into the eyes and radiates out from the heart, not just a mechanical widening of the mouth. But there's something about that little town that grabbed me and isn't letting me go.

I'm a beach girl -- God knows, I love the ocean as it calls to me with a primal beat, something seared deep in me. But in the last few years especially, I have finally grown to love the mountains, especially the Appalachians that are close to my home and my heart. And the Rockies..... oh, my! But that's another story.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Quotes That Grab Ya: April Digest


1-Apr "Hearts rebuilt from hope resurrect dreams killed by hate." ― Aberjhani, "The River of Winged Dreams"
2-Apr "When people are ready to, they change. They never do it before then, and sometimes they die before they get around to it. You can't make them change if they don't want to, just like when they do want to, you can't stop them." ― Andy Warhol
3-Apr "If we can just let go and trust that things will work out they way they're supposed to, without trying to control the outcome, then we can begin to enjoy the moment more fully. The joy of the freedom it brings becomes more pleasurable than the experience itself." ― Goldie Hawn
4-Apr "We should notice that we are already supported at every moment. There is the earth below our feet and there is the air, filling our lungs and emptying them. We should begin from this when we need support." ― Natalie Goldberg, from "Writing Down the Bones"
5-Apr "Don't shrink your dreams. Super-size your courage and abilities." ― Karen Salmonsohn
6-Apr "I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out." ― Roger Ebert, "Life Itself"
7-Apr "Those who believe that they believe in God, but without passion in their hearts, without anguish in mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, without an element of despair even in their consolation, believe only in the God idea, not God Himself." — Miguel de Unamuno
8-Apr "I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud. And I don't want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, and realize that my life is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes. I want to eat cold tangerines and sing out loud in the car with the windows open and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact color of the sky right now. I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down, and I want my everyday to make God belly laugh, glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift." ― Shauna Niequist
9-Apr "Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are." ― St. Augustine of Hippo
10-Apr "How would your life be different if…You stopped allowing other people to dilute or poison your day with their words or opinions? Let today be the day…You stand strong in the truth of your beauty and journey through your day without attachment to the validation of others." ― Steve Maraboli
11-Apr "Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive." ― Elbert Hubbard
12-Apr "The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and their destination." ― John Schaar
13-Apr May all the artworks we produce -- in whatever category -- follow this idea: "Sometimes I arrive just when God's ready to have somone click the shutter." ― Ansel Adams
14-Apr "God is the comic shepherd who gets more of a kick out of that one lost sheep once he finds it again than out of the ninety and nine who had the good sense not to get lost in the first place. God is the eccentric host who, when the country-club crowd all turned out to have other things more important to do that come live it up with him, goes out into the skid rows and soup kitchens and charity wards and brings home a freak show. The man with no legs who sells shoelaces at the corner. The old woman in the moth-eaten fur coat who makes her daily rounds of the garbage cans. The old wino with his pint in a brown paper bag. The pusher, the whore, the village idiot who stands at the blinker light waving his hand as the cars go by. They are seated at the damask-laid table in the great hall. The candles are all lit and the champagne glasses filled. At a sign from the host, the musicians in their gallery strike up 'Amazing Grace.'" ― Frederick Buechner
15-Apr "So. Monday. We meet again. We will never be friends - but maybe we can move past our mutual enmity toward a more positive partnership." ― Julio-Alexi Genao
16-Apr "Violence is a disease, a disease that corrupts all who use it regardless of the cause." ― Chris Hedges
17-Apr "People tend to be generous when sharing their nonsense, fear, and ignorance. And while they seem quite eager to feed you their negativity, please remember that sometimes the diet we need to be on is a spiritual and emotional one. Be cautious with what you feed your mind and soul. Fuel yourself with positivity and let that fuel propel you into positive action." ― Steve Maraboli
(no quotes for April 18-20)
21-Apr "If I didn't get lost, my master wouldn't seek me." ― Toba Beta
22-Apr "You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind. The rational mind doesn't nourish you. You assume that it gives you the truth, because the rational mind is the golden calf that this culture worships, but this is not true. Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating." ― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
23-Apr "To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don't grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float." ― Alan Wilson Watts
24-Apr "A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words." ― Unknown
25-Apr "Forget yesterday: it has already forgotten you. Don't sweat tomorrow: you haven't even met. Instead, open your eyes and your heart to a truly precious gift: today." ― Steve Maraboli
26-Apr (none)
27-Apr So in honor of my old college pals The Killer B's: "With the interconnectedness of it all, the world is more fluid than ever. I blame it on the rain. Milli Vanilli was ahead of their time." ― Jarod Kintz
28-Apr "Love one another and help others to rise to the higher levels, simply by pouring out love. Love is infectious and the greatest healing energy." ― Sai Baba
29-Apr "The expression 'my life' is actually an oxymoron, a result of ignorance and mistaken assumption. You don’t posses life; life expresses itself through you. Your body is a flower that life let bloom, a phenomenon created by life." ― Ilchi Lee
30-Apr "I'd rather take coffee than compliments just now." ― Louisa May Alcott ......... BONUS QUOTE: "Coffee - the favorite drink of the civilized world." ― Thomas Jefferson
"Even bad coffee is better than no coffee at all." ― David Lynch (I will TOTALLY disagree with this one...)
"The powers of a man's mind are directly proportioned to the quantity of coffee he drinks." ― James Mackintosh (a/k/a You're Not Drinking Enough)
"Coffee and chocolate—the inventor of mocha should be sainted." ― Cherise Sinclair

There Is No Try, Only Do

So I was driving back from lunch when I saw a sign reading, "Learn to Sing; Call xxx-yyyy." And I thought, "Really??"

The way I see it, you cannot learn to sing. Oh, you can learn how to improve your vocal skills so that you're more on pitch and I rhythm. But you cannot LEARN to sing.

It is already there. Life has given you a song if you are brave enough to open up your mouth, your vocal cords and just let things fly. There is no "learning" to sing but just giving voice to what is already in your spirit and your heart. The song is there; the voice is there; is your bravery there?

That is what must be learned, it seems. Finding the courage to sing your song...

There is no try, only do.

Friday, April 12, 2013

A big reveal....

Today, I had a photo shoot.... okay, the first one I ever had that wasn't followed by the words, "Now go over there and pick the one you'd like to appear in the yearbook (church directory, etc.)." I found a local photographer who does vintage/pin-up style photography and decided I had to do this.

So the photographer and I drove in town and found a house to use.... to be fair, I thought it was vacant, but I found out later (after it was all over) that nope, people do live there, they just weren't there at the time. Oh well! We also used the front/roadside steps of the parents of some of my brother's friends - they were very kind enough to say yes to Melissa's request and their red and yellow flowers worked very nicely with my white-and-purple floral dress. Then I changed into another outfit and we used some empty buildings right on one of the primary business streets. Hey, a whole block of empty buildings and a few props and it was awesome!

Melissa showed me some of the shots on the camera, and I was in awe. But more than that, I noticed something I never had until today.........

All my life, I have wondered why I didn't really look like either of my parents. I don't necessarily "favor" one or the other, I have enough elements from both that it's a blend. But a couple of years back, one of the people I grew up with noted to me on Facebook that I looked like a younger, thinner version of my mom.

My mom? Really? I didn't see it. I have the lightest hair in the family, more like my dad's. I have his blue eyes. I definitely have his personality. But my mom, no. I have a coworker whose wife said, "I guess I was just an incubator" because when they were little, they both looked far more like their dad than their mom. And I could relate.

But looking at those photos today, I could really see it. I have my mom's senior yearbook (mid-50s) and seeing her in those pictures ... and seeing my own today ... was rather jarring. Obviously I'll always have my dad's eyes, his wit, his personality, but when I speak sometimes, I hear my mother's words or her inflections or tone coming out my mouth. I once saw a pillow that said, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, I've become my mother after all." I used to roll my eyes and think, "Oh, no!" And now......

Very interesting day.