Friday, October 10, 2014

Speak to the Storm

Storms are always a part of our lives.  Sometimes we see them coming in the distance and sometimes they shatter our world rolling in on thunder out of nowhere.  No matter how the storms come, it’s how we face them that matters.

Do we speak to our life’s storms or do we allow them to speak to us?

I’m no stranger to storms.  In science class, I learned how to create my tornadoes in a plastic soda bottle.  I was really good at creating plastic tornadoes but even better at creating them in my non-plastic world.  In high school, my tornadoes were always treacherous because everyone’s tornadoes are treacherous in high school.  Not having the right clothes to wear or the right hair style or the right boyfriend could bring on a monster tornado that could last for a week or longer.  My high school age daughter brings tornadoes into our house on a daily, if not hourly, basis.  I could allow her tornadoes to become my tornadoes.  I could allow them to wreak havoc in the family.  God knows, there were days when I did allow those tornadoes to spin wickedly out of control.  On those days, I was like a mad scientist adding my debris to the whirling mess just to see how big the storm could get.  It got big.  Fast.

Here’s the thing, a wickedly spinning out of control tornado can do a lot of damage in a very short period of time.  Damage control isn’t easy.  Storm control isn’t always easy either.  Sometimes we cannot control the storm because it is not of our own making.  That’s okay.  God doesn’t expect us to control the storm.  He does expect us to ride it out with Him in control.

Isn’t it true that our life’s storms are what make us stronger?

I can only speak from my own life’s history about my storms.  I have had a few.  My first storm came when I was not yet two when my mother died suddenly.  When I was five, a new storm entered my life as I left my aunt, the only mother I knew, to go live with a new mother.  My childhood path was riddled with storms; some so wicked that they are unspeakable; Yet, I survived them and emerged from them stronger.

My young adult years ushered in raging storms of anger and defiance.  Sometimes, I look back on those years and wonder how I’m even still alive.  I know now that I am alive only because of God’s grace.  In those days, I did not speak to my storms. Instead, I allowed my storms to speak to me.  I allowed them to tell me I was worthless and unlovable as they storm-tossed me in a hapless black sea of turmoil.

I cannot point to a day or time when my storms stopped.  They didn’t.  I’d like to say that I learned to stop allowing the storms to control me, but that would not be true.  As the pilot of my life, I experienced constant turbulence. I always kept my seat belt fastened because I knew the next doozy of a storm was right around the corner.  Sure enough, every new storm assured me that there would be bigger and badder storms to come.

The truth is, there will always be storms.  The question is; How will you handle your storms?  Will you allow your storms to speak to you?  Will you let them toss and turn your life?  Will you throw more debris into the spinning tornado?  Will you throw more debris into other people’s tornadoes?

These are questions that I had to ask myself just the other day when my fourteen-year-old tornado whirled into the house with wild fury.  Before I reacted, I asked myself these questions: Am I going to add to this storm?  Am I going to allow this storm to become my storm?  Am I going to allow this storm to steal my peace?  I didn’t allow it.  It took some time, but the storm subsided.

Some storms are mighty.  They threaten to throw us overboard without a life vest.  The storms of loss, sadness, doubt and despair are awful and heart wrenching.  Don’t let them control you.  Reach for the life vest.  Reach for God.  Often, you’ll find out down the road that God allowed that very storm into your life to make you who you are today.  It might be because of that storm that you can help someone else through their storm.

I know we’d all be better off if we spoke to our storms.

This is what I’m going to scream to my storms:  “Hey storm, God’s got me covered!  You cannot control me because I am controlled by a higher power!  You cannot and will not steal my joy, my peace or my soul!”

When my next storm blows in, I’ll remember the words of Matthew 8:26

He said to them, "Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?" Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm.

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Spoiled Rotten Child Who Wants a Bed!

It’s no secret that a while ago my family made the difficult decision to move out of our four bedroom 2 1/2 bath 2400 square foot home for a more affordable two bedroom 1 bath 300 square foot RV. 

The move has gone swimmingly.  We have learned to maneuver our small quarters so much so that we’re considering downsizing again.  


Just kidding.  Since our move, our daughter, Paola, has grown a foot a week.  Well, maybe not that much but she went from a 12-year-old little girl with pigtails and braces to a 14-year-old young lady with long black flowing hair and braces.  I think she doubled in size.  In any case, she no longer fits in any of the four bunk beds in her small but quaint bedroom. 

It’s actually quite sad that all the child is asking for is a bed to sleep on.  I told her she is spoiled rotten.  I mean there are children somewhere I’m sure who don’t have a bed to sleep on.  She has a pull-out couch after all! 

Today, my husband came in with the groceries while Paola was still asleep on the pull-out couch.  There’s a problem with this because the pull-out couch reaches to the refrigerator and there is no way to open the refrigerator door when the couch is in the sleeping position.  Who am I kidding?  Most of the groceries wouldn’t fit in the refrigerator anyway!  I told him to take the groceries out to the other refrigerator that we keep in the storage unit.  The only problem with that refrigerator is that the door falls off of it.  Honestly!  Such issues are so minor in the scheme of things.

Okay, so here we are on year two in the miniature living space.  It was supposed to be a maximum of one year.  There are things I have learned about living in an RV.  My friend used to RV a lot and she always laughed and joked, “If the trailer is rocking, don’t come knocking!”  That’s true.  I’ll just leave it at that. 

Our shower mysteriously decided to only allow water out of two holes.  Have you ever taken a two hole shower?  Let me tell you, that water pressure is brutal!  I’ve never had a shower that’s like a thousand little stinging bees pelting you into the teeny tiny corner!  Luckily, I watched a commercial about the miracle product, CLR.  Wouldn’t you know it, it really does work! We now have a shower that no longer leaves lesions, but you have to be a midget to use it.  I’m the only one who really fits under the shower in our family.  It’s a source of great pride for me. 

Speaking of the bathroom...I cannot even go here - no pun intended.  There was the time when the toilet kept backing up and we couldn’t use it for weeks on end.  It was after the port-a-potty left, unfortunately.  Luckily, we had McDonald’s right down the street.  The toilet cannot be plunged because it is not that kind of toilet.  We actually resorted to buying a shop vac and vacuuming it out.  Now, if that doesn’t make you want to puke, I don’t know what will!  I’m happy to report that we solved the problem, though and can now sit on the throne with the door shut if you’re short.  If you’re tall, you have to close the door to the bedroom, leave the bathroom door open and hang your feet out.

Why don’t sheets stay on the bed in the master bedrooms of RVs?  Just wondering.  Oh, and don’t ever forget about the overhead storage in the master bedroom - especially when the trailer is rocking!  I’ll just leave it at that.

Climbing into bed at night takes on a whole new meaning in an RV.  You literally have to “climb” into bed.  Personally, I think Paola has it easier.  All she has to do is move the couch cushions and pull out the bed and she’s there.  Her dad and I, on the other hand, have to move the computer chair away from the bathroom sink and fold it up in the corner.  Then, I have to enter the bed from the foot of the bed before Bill.  This is essential because our master bedroom TV takes up my half of the foot of the bed.  I cannot get to “my side” of the bed - although I believe “side” is really an oxymoron.  There is a minuscule space on either side of the bed that is supposed to serve as a path.  Unfortunately, that path is no longer available because our computer printer and my guitar are on my side and a bookshelf is on Bill’s side.  As I was saying, I have to climb into bed first from the foot of the bed on Bill’s side and move diagonally to my side.  Try doing this after knee surgery when one knee is completely out of commission!  It’s hell when I have to go to the bathroom at night - especially if the stupid fold-up chair has unfolded. 

I looked up “RV” in Wikipedia just for the heck of it.  Here’s their definition: "a recreational vehicle equipped for camping out while traveling."  We’re traveling alright.  We’re traveling from here to there.  Here is where we are because of our choices.  I made the choice, and my family agreed, to sacrifice by downsizing.  We sacrificed so that I could leave my salaried teaching job to follow a dream.  My dream was to run a program for special needs adults so that they could experience empowerment through employment. 

I am so blessed to have a family that supported this decision and I’m so blessed to be actually running such a program; Exceptional Entrepreneurs.  I know that here in this RV is not where we want to be forever, but it is the road less traveled that will give us all stories to tell, laughs and some tears along the way...
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

                                       Robert Frost

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dance Mom

When I entered the living room the two of them were sitting side by side; eyes affixed to the television.  They hardly noticed my entrance. 

“Do you think Chloe is going to be at the top of the pyramid this week?”  My husband asked.

“She deserves it, but I bet Abby will pick Nia just to see what Christi does.” 

I looked at the two of them sitting there watching the Abby Lee Dance Company’s weekly drama and I had to wonder when my husband went from Mr. soccer, tennis, volleyball coach extraordinaire to dance mom?  I started to ask the two of them what they wanted for dinner but was immediately shushed into silence. 

“Fine”  I said to myself, “I’ll just make my own dinner and you two can starve.” 

They continued to be transfixed by Abby’s pyramid of rising and falling stars and the drama mommas contending for top billing with their daughters. 

“Girl, you could dance circles around Kendall!” My husband joked with Lulu.

“Daaad, you’re just saying that!” Lulu rolled her eyes at her father.

Taking in this scene, I suddenly felt so left out!  Isn’t it supposed to be ME that’s the dance mom?  Aren’t I supposed to fill this vital role of living vicariously through my daughter’s life?  Again, I wondered when I moved to the outside and my husband moved to the inside of Lulu’s life.

It really happened slowly.  I kept getting sicker and sicker and unable to do all the things I used to do.  I had trouble going places due to my constant stomach problems and frequent need for a nearby bathroom.  Add to that a knee that enjoyed giving out on me on the stairs and in the grocery store necessitating my turning over the everyday reigns to my husband. 

When I went into the hospital for the third time in three months, I think a part of me just gave up inside.  I guess it was then that Bill became the dance mom and I just faded out of the picture. 

I don’t give my husband half the credit he deserves.  When others might have cracked under the pressure, he just took up the slack and never complained.  Over these past months, he has taken over the laundry, the cleaning and the shopping.  He’s run all the errands and has run me from one doctor to the other.  He has nursed me and my knee - catering to my every need.  He has taken care of Lulu too - again never complaining or making me feel bad.

He didn’t have to make me feel bad; I was doing a great job of that all by myself.  In fact, I have elevated “pity party” to a whole new level.  While he was breaking a sweat running hither and thither, I was breaking down in my bed crying over my inability to get anything done. 

“Lulu, Where’s dad?” I’d yell from my bedroom.  Then I’d hear the tractor going and I’d know he was mowing the five acres.  Later, I’d ask Lulu the same question and she’d say he’s grocery shopping for gluten free food for me or doing laundry. 

So, what did I do for this man during this time of trouble?  I complained of course!  I complained that he and I had no “quality time” together.  I said I missed him.  Missed him!  Of course I missed him!  He didn’t stay still for more than five seconds and when he finally crawled into bed at the end of the day, he passed out from exhaustion. 

Today, I was finally able to drive Lulu to dance.  Sitting in the waiting room, it occurred to me that I was sitting in the waiting room!  That was a big victory in my life.  I wasn’t looking frantically for a bathroom to run to and, if the need arose for me to run to the bathroom, I’d be able to at least walk on my new knee. 

I know that I can never repay my husband for being a great dance mom.  I know that words would never be adequate to express to him how much I appreciate his loyalty to me during these difficult months.  All I know is that I am blessed to have someone who loves me through my grouchy, pitiful, complaining, nagging self.  He loves me in spite of me. 

It hasn’t been easy.  I know that he has given up so much of his time willingly and freely to care for me.  I know that he took the vow, “in sickness and in health” earnestly and for that I am eternally grateful.  We just celebrated 29 years of marriage with a walk in the park; something that I couldn’t do just a few weeks ago because I was still unable to put weight on my knee.  Many of those 29 years were not walks in the park but we muddled through somehow.  Isn’t that what marriage is all about?  You muddle through the rough spots and learn to appreciate and love each other along the way. 

I know I am on the road to recovery now.  As I go down this road, I want the number one dance mom by my side.  I just hope and pray the he wants to be by my side too - always and forever. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Walter

I have the best job in the world!  Almost every day at work something happens that feeds my soul and renews my spirit.  Even on the days when I drag myself heavy burdened through the door, I most certainly leave lighter. 

I leave lighter because my burdens are lifted by joy and laughter.  Peace infuses the atmosphere and lifts up everyone who enters.  It is as if smiles are contagious and delight is the infection.

Yesterday, I was late to work because I had a meeting to attend first.  When I walked through the door, I felt like a celebrity.  Everyone came up and hugged me as if I was returning from a month long absence.  Walter looked at me with his laughing eyes and beatific smile, “I missed you, Miss Betty!” He said as he gave me a big bear hug. 

Walter is black as the ace of spades with a smile that lights up the room with its brilliance.  I often joke that we’d certainly be able to find Walter in a blackout.  It’s true - few smiles could match the intensity of Walter’s radiance. 

One might question what Walter has to smile about.  He has little to his name.  With his bent frame, he relies on his walker to assist his slow movements.  He is considered “developmentally disabled” - a label that has defined and marred his life.  Yet, despite these limitations, Walter is always cheerful. His good humor is contagious to everyone who has the pleasure to be in his company. He especially lights up when I enter the room.  His greeting and my response are always the same:

“I love YOU, Miss Betty!” Walter says as his enthusiastic smile fills the room with radiant joy. 

“I love you, too, Walter!” is always my response.

For a time, there was a sadness - an empty vacancy that hung in the air at the workshop.  I was told by the volunteers that things just weren’t the same.  I was out for about three weeks due to knee surgery.  Walter seemed to miss me most - according to the volunteers, even his smile lost some of its sparkle. 

He didn’t despair, though.  He prayed.  His humble and trusting prayer was a simple request to bring me healing so that I could return to the workshop.  Then, one day, I came through the door with a walker - just like Walters.  His face immediately lit up.

Of course, the first words out of his mouth were: “I love YOU, Miss Betty!”

I hugged him, taking his calloused hand in mine.  “I love you too, Walter.” 

“I prayed for you, Miss Betty.”  He tells me in his resolute voice.  “I knew you’d get better!”

He holds on tight as if his grip on me is the only thing keeping me from melting away.  In his grip I sense a special connection between us.  Kindred spirits perhaps from some bygone soul bond.

“Thank you, Walter for your prayers.”  My words sound so inadequate as I speak them.

I knew that Walter’s prayers were the prayers of a humble childlike spirit - the kind of prayers that God longs to hear from all of us.  I knew, too, that it wasn’t just Walter’s prayers that brought me back to the helm of the workshop.  It was the prayers of all my Exceptional Entrepreneurs and my volunteers to whom I am forever grateful. 

As I survey my surroundings, I see Josh painstakingly painting his flowers with such intensity that he appears oblivious to the commotion of the workshop.  He looks up momentarily from his painting and gives me a wave and a smile as if to say, “I’m so glad you’re back.” 

Tina and Terri (sisters) are by my side awaiting instructions - I call them my shadows.  Allison is gluing beads on vinyl fish, Jason is sewing on the industrial machine, Tito is watering worms, Chris is feeding worms and Ricky is vacuuming.  To the casual observer, it appears like a regular workplace, but there is nothing regular about this workplace.  None of the Exceptional Entrepreneurs could get a job elsewhere so they’ve come here.  Here they are all busy and productive.  Here, everyone is happy.

“Walter, you better get back to work.  You have orders to fill”  I tell him as I take a seat and Terri magically appears with a pillow for me to prop up my sore knee.

Walter takes up his loom and returns to his patient work making potholders to sell for $2.00 each.  He works with steady intent knowing that each potholder has a special person anticipating the finished creation.  And, indeed, each potholder is sold daily as Walter rides his three-wheeled bike through his neighborhood peddling his wares. 

Walter is a simple man with a pure heart.  He is the embodiment of all the special people who work at the Exceptional Entrepreneurs workshop. It is a place of great joy and great love and great peace. 

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  Matthew 5: 8-9

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Fearless


Late my first night in the hospital, in the flickering lights and the rat-a-tat-tat of dripping IV fluids, I pondered many things: Rat-a-tat; fear; rat-a-tat; loneliness; rat-a-tat; family; rat-a-tat bills; rat-a-tat illness… the endless chorus sung in my brain in tandem with the midnight light show.

The second night, a man’s agonizing voice from the adjoining room added to the chorus.  His obscenity laced screams shattered the relative tranquility of my IV laced music and bounced, rattled and rolled through my brain for hours.  Sleepless, scared and exhausted, I succumbed to the fact that, tethered to an IV pole, it would be impossible for me to chase down sleep. 

Instead, I prayed for the pitifully tortured man in the next room; something akin to a captive praying for his captors.  This man was robbing me of the one thing I desperately sought – sleep.  And yet, I prayed for him instead of the prayer I would have normally said which would have gone something like this:

“Dear God, please make that man shut up so I can sleep!” 

Not this time.  This time, I thought long and hard about the agony I was hearing in the stranger’s voice.  I didn’t know what the poor man was experiencing and I truly hoped that he’d find peace.  So, that is what I prayed; that God would bring peace to the man’s soul.   I don’t know when the screaming stopped except to say that I didn’t notice it anymore because God had reawakened me in a way that I would not have expected to happen in a hospital room.

If my hospital room could talk I believe it would speak volumes of fear.  I didn’t want to add that kind of karma this go-around.  So, in the still of the night under the muted glow of red and green lights, I prayed another simple prayer.  I gave thanks for the room.  I gave thanks for my bed and for the doctors and for all the people who cared about me.  Then, I asked God to erase the fear from my hospital room and from my soul. 

What now?  I wondered.  Does God, like Mr. Clean, have a magic eraser?  Can He just wipe it over my bed and expunge the oozing fear I was sensing both in my room and inside of me?  When will He answer this prayer; days, weeks, months, years?

Knowing that sleep would still elude me, I turned on the television hoping the white noise might provide some quietude.  I really wasn’t paying much attention to the man on the television, Dr. Wayne Dyer speaking about his book, I Can See Clearly Now.  His voice droned in the background while I tossed and turned trying to get comfortable. 

Every so often, one word from the television would break into my consciousness…fearless.  That word, fearless, seemed to dance in the air of the hospital room, so I decided to pay attention for a moment to what Dr. Dyer was saying.  It was then that I realized that perhaps God was trying to answer my prayer right here, right now through this very television show.  Dr. Dyer was speaking of the freedom that comes from living courageously and boldly.  I took it one step further; living fearlessly means living through your soul.  In other words, you don’t look at life through seeing eyes but through a knowing soul. 

Wow! That was quick.  I’m certain that God just answered my prayer because I would never have thought of this stuff myself.

Isn’t it true that everyone has a soul that longs to be freed?  Yet, we keep it captured by fear; fear of the future, fear of losing someone or something, fear of failing, fear of falling…endless fear.  On the contrary, living fearlessly means living soulfully. 

All this contemplating was beginning to hurt my brain! 

Ok, God, since you have brought me full circle from a somewhat sleepy brain to a wide-awake screaming brain on steroids – tell me just how it is that I live a fearless soulful life!

Take your inventory…that came from the guy on the television.  Think about everything that keeps you fearful and stuck. 

The first “think” on my list was my marriage.  I had to acknowledge that my self-talk went something like this; “Why would my husband still love me when I am constantly sick, tired and unable to do all the things we used to love to do together?”   I had to be brutally honest with myself because I knew that honesty was the only way I’d get to the root of my soul.  If I wasn’t honest, it would be like weeding a garden and leaving just a few weeds behind.  Sooner than you think, the weeds will multiply.  Weeds beget weeds and negative thinking begets negative thinking. 

I went from my marriage to my family to my friends and my work.  By 3 AM, I figured I had it all covered.  I was wrong.  I left out me.  I looked at the circle of my influence, but I failed to look at the center of this circle – the heart if you will; the soul.

My soul has been sick for a long time.  In a sense, I believe it mimicked my physical illness.  The word “disease” describes an absence of “ease” in one’s life.  That is how my life has been – uneasy.  I’ve allowed my soul to become infected along with my body causing fear to creep in little by little like a thief in the night robbing me of my soul eyes.

Sometime, during my wee hour contemplation, my darkened room was visited by a single glimmer of light bouncing off the walls.  I became fascinated by what looked like a flitting firefly. 

Where the heck is that light coming from?

I scoured the room in search of the source.  I got out of bed, grabbed my IV pole and walked the entire room.  The light appeared to be following me.  Perhaps a half hour went by before I found the source of the light.  It was reflecting off a little glass angel that I had hung on my IV pole.  The pole was next to an air vent causing the angel to sway back a forth in front of the IV lights.  

Okay, God, now you have my full attention! I spoke into the darkness.

The angel was a gift from one of my volunteers at the Exceptional Entrepreneurs program that I manage for special needs adults.  Seeing the angel’s light made me think of how the light of my exceptional entrepreneurs shines every moment of every day that I am with them.  They are earth’s angels! 

At that moment, the tormented man’s screams shattered the calm of my room.  “What the f… are you doing to me? He shrieked.  Get your f…ing hand off me!” 

My thoughts instantly exploded and crashed into shards of brain rubble.  All I could do was think about the suffering man in the room next to me.  I thought about how terrified he sounded under the bluster of his profanity laced tirade and I wished there was something I could do for him.

“There is something you could do for him.” Came a quiet voice on a wave of calm that settled my brain.

“What?” I replied as if it was perfectly normal to be talking to a voice in the gloom of my room.

“You could help him and many others by spreading some cheer.”

Okay, I felt really stupid now as I asked the voice, “How?”

“Have your earth’s angels deliver their flowers to people in need – no charge, no strings attached.  Just deliver the flowers to brighten someone’s day.”

I wanted to ask more questions but I sensed that the source of the voice had left my room or at least had said all that needed to be said.   I instantly felt a sense of peace and serenity come over me as I thought about the prospect of my special needs folks delivering flowers to people in need.

I don’t think it was my rational brain that birthed this idea.  I think it was my soul; my fearless soul speaking to me.  Such a simple idea: Deliver our vinyl record “forever flowers” free of charge to nursing homes, hospitals, shut-ins; whomever.  Bring some hope and joy to anyone who just needs to know that there are angels among us and there is nothing to fear.

It may be a long time before my soulsight returns completely.  But this I know, it will require that I muster the courage to live fearlessly every day.  So, as soon as I leave this hospital I am going to honor God by following Him fearlessly into this new venture.   I can’t wait to see the faces of my special needs exceptional entrepreneurs as they bring a moment of joy into someone’s life.  I can’t wait to see the reactions of the people to whom we will deliver our flowers. 

It is my fervent prayer that each flower will bring a simple peace to those who receive them.

No doubts, no worries, no uncertainty…fearless.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wash, Rinse, Repeat


I can’t read the shampoo bottle anymore because I don’t shower with my reading glasses on. That is unless I forget that they are on top of my head when I get in the shower - but I digress.  If I recall correctly, the directions on the shampoo bottle used to say: wash, rinse, repeat. 

When I was in the shower this morning washing, rinsing and repeating it occurred to me that life is like a shampoo bottle.  Stay with me here - I am going somewhere with this, I’m just not sure how long it will take before I get there. 


Think about it for a minute; Don’t we all travel through life doing some of the same things over and over again while expecting different results?  For example, I continually nag my husband about little things that aggravate me to no end (the list is endless).  I nag, he doesn’t stop and I nag again.  He doesn't stop again!  Wash, rinse, repeat.

I tell my daughter to clean her room.  She cleans her room halfheartedly and I tell her to clean her room again.  She cleans her room halfheartedly again.  Wash rinse, repeat.

When I’m driving in the car I have a tendency to yell and scream at the slow driver in front of me.  No matter how much I yell and scream, the slow driver continues to go slow or slower.  I yell some more and they slow down even more.  Wash rinse, repeat.

I ran out of shampoo this morning just as I was about to repeat.  I don’t usually wax philosophical in the shower, but running out of shampoo made me think about the fact that I really didn’t need to repeat.  Come to think of it, wouldn’t it be really nice if I could stop washing, rinsing and repeating in life? 

How great would it be to stop nagging my husband?  What would he do?  How would he react if he slurped his cereal and I didn’t say a word?   I’ll have to try that.  I wonder what my daughter would do if she came home to find all the clothes she leaves on the floor missing from her room.  No arguing.  No comment.  Just missing clothes. 

What if I stopped yelling at the slow drivers?  Would my blood pressure go down?  Would my day be calmer?  I wonder? 

Just for the heck of it, I got my reading glasses out and read the directions on the shampoo bottle.  This is what it says now: Massage through wet hair and rinse well.  Follow with conditioner.  When did the directions change???

Here I’ve been washing, rinsing and repeating my whole life when I could have been massaging and conditioning!  The conditioner bottle says: Enjoy the revitalizing scent of clean ocean air as gentle conditioners bring out the natural beauty of your hair. 

Okay, so I’m going to use the directions on the shampoo/conditioner bottle to come up with my new directions for life: Revitalize and reinvigorate your life by not washing, rinsing and repeating.  Instead, gently condition your soul which will bring out your natural beauty.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Mona and Me


I have an old horse, Mona.  We don’t know her exact horse age (around 33-36 years old).  In people years Mona would be somewhere between 90 and 105. We call her bony Mony because she is skin and bones and refuses to put on any weight.  Mona still gets around well considering her age.  Occasionally, she might even gallop (really a slow trot) in the pasture.   I was watching her in the pasture today and I had to laugh when she took off after one of the other horses.  Every time Mona’s back legs hit the ground she backfired.  It sounded like she had a pellet gun strapped to her behind. 

As I watched Mona, it reminded me of, well, me!  I get out of bed in the morning and the walking farts practically propel me to the bathroom.  It’s not just the farting problem that plaques old biddies like me and Mona.  Come to think of it, I wonder if anyone has ever done a study on whether old female horses have bladder control issues?  I’ve never seen Mona laugh, but I bet she’d pee herself if she did!   I don’t think it’s just me that has these problems.  Some of my closest friends have admitted that they are considering buying stock in bladder control products.  No one wants to admit to the farting problem but I know it exists because I’ve walked behind a group of old people and it sounds like the orchestra trumpet section warming up.  If it’s not old age, then it must be heredity because my much older sister seems to have some exhaust issues as well. 

Just the other day we were leaving a restaurant when my 250 lb. brother-in-law, John, took a dive off a short step.   He didn’t see the step and went flailing into another table of diners.  I cannot find the words to describe the look of terror on their faces as John was hurling himself headfirst into their salads.  It was a scary scene – to say the least.  John’s fall was broken by a quick thinking man at the table who attempted to catch him.  Luckily, the man was able to maintain some semblance of control and did not end up under John as he face planted on the ground.  Thankfully, the only thing John injured was his pride.  After assuring the manager that John wasn’t going to sue the restaurant, we made a discreet exit.

By the time we got to the sidewalk, my sister, Lorraine, and I had started to laugh (we just couldn’t help ourselves).  My daughter, Lulu, gave me a sharp look and told me I’d better stop laughing right away.

  “Mom!” she reprimanded, “You know what happens when you laugh too hard!” 

Well, as soon as Lulu reminded me of my laughing problem, my sister started hiccupping which made us all laugh harder.  We looked like a bunch of drunks who couldn’t hold our liquor as we laughed our way to the parking lot.  When we reached the parking lot, my sister started farting.  Every laugh and hiccup was followed by a fart.  This, of course, caused me to laugh even more.   I just couldn’t stop myself and, despite wrapping my legs in knots, I peed my pants.  It was humiliating!  There we stood - Lorraine laughing, farting and hiccupping and me laughing and peeing while Lulu and John looked desperate to escape the whole scene.  They quickly took off for the car leaving Lorraine and I in the middle of the parking lot unable to move for fear of farting and peeing even more.  Thankfully, no one was around to witness this humiliation.

John must have felt bad for us because he pulled the car up and asked if we needed a ride.  Lulu had put plastic over the back seat so I could sit.  Lorraine and I managed to throw ourselves in the car – still laughing.  Lulu looked mortified and John sarcastically commented that he was glad we all had a good laugh at his expense. 

“Hey, Lulu.”  I said, “Do you think Mona pees herself when she laughs?” 

“Mommmmm!”  Lulu rolled her eyes. “You’re embarrassing!” 

Maybe I am embarrassing.  Maybe I do have a few plumbing issues.  But, at least I can laugh about it.  I can laugh all I want and fart and pee as much as I want because I have an AARP card and I’ve done my time.  Come to think of it, Mona and I have a lot in common.  I bet if I trotted around the pasture, I’d sound like a pellet gun too.  And, frankly, I don’t give a damn!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Txt Me


It seems tht all we do these days is txt.  We hardly ever speak to each other on the phone or in person.  I txted my daughter the other day and I felt like I was writing in a forin language:  OMW.  See u soon.  Luv u.  

Wht has happnd to the English language?  My daughter usd to be a great spller.  Now, she has trouble splling simple wrds.  I cant imagine why ths has happened to her.  It seems all her friends hav the same prblm.  

She is takng the FCAT writing test this week and shes a nervous wreck tht she wont pass.  I tld her to txt me whn shes done and let me no hw she did.  im sur shell do just fine.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Present

I used to think that I didn’t have an answer for people when they’d ask me how I know there is a God.  I struggled with this question my entire life.  It wasn’t until I reached my 40’s that I think the question became more pressing.  I may not have the best answer to this question but I do have one answer that has clarified God for me.  God isn’t just a “He” to me anymore.  God isn’t a being in the sky or an omnipotent power that controls my thoughts and actions.  No, God has been revealed to me in so many ways that I cannot define “Him” as just “Him”. 

Perhaps this story will convince others that God is real, perhaps it won’t, but it is a story worth telling because it convinced me of His mighty power to answer our prayers - especially when we least expect it. 

Anyone who has read my blog knows that my husband and I haunt flea markets and auctions on a regular basis.  We take bargain hunting to a whole new level – even attending a garage sale on our wedding day (ok, maybe it was just Bill attending the garage sale, but you get the drift).  So, auctions are in our blood so to speak.  It doesn’t matter the town or state, if there is an auction around, you can bet we’ll sniff it out.  From Florida to New Jersey, and every state in between, we have found treasures galore!

NJ is where our roots are, but Florida is where we planted ourselves 26 years ago.  About eight years ago I made a very special trip to NJ to visit my mother’s grave.  It was the first time that I visited her grave since her death in 1960. It took me years to discover the name of her cemetery because her death, her very existence, was something that was never spoken of in our family.  I don’t think anyone can truly comprehend the struggle I’ve experienced over my mother’s death.  For most of my life I harbored bitterness over losing her and not knowing anything about her.  When I visited her grave I made a promise to God and to myself that I would move on and spend time with the living.  I left my heavy heart at the cemetery that day and returned home with peace in my soul.

In fact, I wrote a story about that trip on this blog: Be Still. 

Now, more than ever, I believe that it was perfect timing that brought me to her grave eight years ago and it was perfect timing that brought me to the auction in FL shortly after I visited her grave.

The auction house was one that we frequented regularly.  On this night, they were auctioning the entire estate of a Time-Life photographer who hailed from North Jersey.  I don’t know how his estate ended up in Cape Coral, FL, but it was clear that this was his private collection of photographs and the collection completely filled the auction house.

There was one gentleman at the auction that was bidding on every photograph.  No matter how high the bidding went, super bidder (the name Bill and I dubbed him) clearly had unlimited cash.  He undoubtedly had a vested interest in winning back the entire collection and wasn’t about to let even one item slip from his grasp.  We quickly discerned that it was useless to bid against this guy.

Towards the end of the auction we made our way back to the box lots where we figured we had a chance to bid on something – anything.  It wasn’t like us to leave an auction empty handed, after all.

While Bill was busy buying his share of box lots, I was eying a briefcase shoved under the table.  I assumed everyone’s attention was diverted by the current booty up for bid, so I stealthily pulled it out and opened it to find more Time-Life photographs.  Before I had a chance to sneak the case back under the table, super bidder appeared at my side.  I did my best to pretend the case was devoid of anything worthy of a bid but I think I may have blown my cover by my reaction to his looming presence.

 “Oh, just a bunch of old papers in that thing.”  I stammered as I shoved the case back under the table, “Nothing I’d be interested in.” 

His glare told me that he wasn’t buying it for a minute.  I knew then that he had seen the contents of the briefcase and any hope of my owning it vaporized in that realization. 

Well, to make a long story short, every item in the box lots that had even one photograph was bought up by super bidder.  I had resigned myself to not getting the briefcase but I decided to bid on it anyway. 

It was the very last thing to go up for auction that night.  It was just Bill and I, the super bidder and few stragglers left in the auction house.  The briefcase was placed on the table and the bidding began with super bidder throwing out the first bid.  I waited until the last possible moment before I placed my bid.  Super bidder didn’t bat an eye as he nodded his head indicating he was in it to win it.  Well, so was I!  I bid again and waited for his nod.  I waited.  This couldn’t be happening, my mind raced, Am I actually going to win this bid!

It was as if everyone left in the auction house held a collective breath as the auctioneer counted down, “Going once, twice, all in all done…” I looked at super bidder in astonishment as I heard those glorious words…“Sold to the lady in the yellow shirt.” 

The place erupted into applause as if I had spent a fortune to win the briefcase.  In reality, I only spent $15.00.  It was, at the time, a complete mystery as to why super bidder bequeathed the briefcase to me that night.

 All I remember is his faint smile as I took possession of the case.  It was as if he was saying to me, “It was yours from the beginning.  I was just having a little fun with you.”

I was so excited!  I couldn’t believe my luck.  All the way home, I held onto the briefcase as if it contained a momentous treasure.  As soon as we came in the door, Bill and I started rifling through the briefcase like two little kids on Christmas morning.

 I noticed right away that these pictures were taken in NJ where the photographer lived as they were more personal than the others.  Some were labeled with town names that I know are in North Jersey.  As we got to the last few photographs, my heart took a little leap. 

“I remember this place, Bill” I told my husband.  “It’s the duck pond we used to visit when I was a kid.  I passed by it when I was visiting my mom’s grave.  How weird is that!”

“Wow, that’s cool.” Bill said as he moved the photograph from the briefcase to the pile on the table.

I stared into the briefcase as the next photograph was revealed.  As the photograph came into focus, my heart didn’t just take a little leap, it about bounced out of my chest.  I don’t know how long I stared at the picture staring back at me, but it took Bill’s voice to pull me out of my trance.

“Honey, what’s wrong?”

I was barely aware of the tears streaming down my cheeks as I tried to answer him. 

“I…I…I…” For about five minutes, I couldn’t put a coherent sentence together.

Finally, I picked up the picture and looked at the one below it and the one below that.  I really couldn’t believe my eyes.  There in the briefcase…the very last three photographs were pictures of the three pillars at each of the entrances of my mother’s cemetery. 

Here’s the thing, I would never had known that these pictures were from her cemetery had I not recently visited her grave.

I don’t wonder any more if there is a God.  I know there is.  I know there is because only He can answer a prayer that hasn’t even been spoken yet.  Only God can show you something in such a profound way that it is fathomless…how?  How is it that I ended up with those photographs on that night in that auction house in Cape Coral, FL just a few weeks after visiting my mother’s grave in NJ?

 I’ll tell you how.  It was God’s mighty hand reminding me that He is always in charge.  He knows just what we need exactly when we need it.  I didn’t even know I needed those pictures, but I did.  I needed them to remind me that letting go of the past doesn’t mean that you don’t grieve a loss – you just look at the loss differently.  It’s kind of like a photograph forever etched in your mind’s eye, a part of your life’s tapestry.  But, the photograph becomes a reminder that the tapestry is still being woven.  It’s a reminder that there will be more photographs to fill the tapestry.  Now, every time I look at those cemetery pictures I am reminded that, had I stayed stuck in the past, I would most certainly have lost the present. 

 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Who Would Have Thunk It!

Who would have thunk it?  Worms!  I’ve always been an “out of the box” thinker, but even I was a bit taken aback by this calling.  I knew very little about worms; nor did I understand how worms would provide jobs for the least and invisible among us. Yet, the thought stuck in my brain and nagged me like a pebble in a shoe.



Six years after the thought was planted in my brain, I knew it was time to pitch the vermiculture operation (worm farm for short). So, I went to the Grace Community Center and said, “I want to run a worm farm that employs special needs adults.”  



Imagine my surprise when they responded, albeit laced with a healthy degree of skepticism, “We’ll give it a try.”



It actually makes sense to me now - almost a year after Exceptional Entrepreneurs launched.  Why shouldn’t our most precious vulnerable people in our community champion the lowly worm?  Think about it for a moment.  Without worms our world would be a dirty, unhealthy and unhappy place.  In fact, without worms the world would not be fit for habitation.  No one ever notices worms - the cleaning machines that eat our garbage and turn it into something wonderful and useful.  Worms do their job and we reap the rewards with nary a thought.  



Nary a thought is something that I wanted to change when it came to worms and employment for folks who wheel themselves in a wheelchair at work or who cannot communicate well enough to have a “real” job. Now, a year later, people are noticing this joy filled workplace where the least among us show up everyday to care for the least among us - worms.  Today,  our exceptional entrepreneurs beamed over their first paychecks.  I cried.
  


Who would have thunk it!