Wake Up Calls

They come loudly right in the middle of life…wake up calls. We all get them. Sometimes we sit up and pay attention. Sometimes we go back to doing whatever we were doing. This week I got a wake up call and was reminded that we do not have the promise of tomorrow. We’re not even promised the rest of the day.

Everyone leaves footprints in your memory, but the ones that leave footprints in your heart are the ones you will truly remember.”
~Nicholas Sperling.

She could be rather bossy and sometimes just down right bitchy. She was opinionated and not afraid to share that with you. She was extremely organized and neat and really…you could eat off of her floors. She was THAT clean! And she had one of the biggest hearts I’d ever known. Her door was always open. She would go into debt to get you those tires for your truck that you needed. She would spend her last dollar to feed your silly face. She took care of everyone, no matter who you were or what you’d done. She loved to grill and she was a really really good cook. Her name was Debra.

We spent countless hours on her patio, laughing and talking til all hours of the night. Eating everything under the sun cooked on the grill. Telling jokes…but sometimes getting serious and really sharing our hearts.

Twice in the past Debra had opened up her home to us while we were looking for a home. Or…more correctly…while we were homeless. The last time we lived with her we didn’t even have jobs. Hard times for sure, but Debra had a big heart.

This past Monday, Memorial Day, while I was honoring the brave soldiers who had given their lives for our country, I also learned that Debra had died that morning. Today I attended a Memorial for her. She was only 54.

And with a little time, I should be able to move on. But it had been 3 years since I’d seen Debra. It had probably been over a year since I’d even talked to her on the phone.

Years ago, on a Saturday morning, while Debra was finishing up the laundry and sweeping the floor (she sure could multi-task), and I was bouncing Little Miss ASIJ on my hip, she said something to me that hurt me. Bad. I tried to let it go but couldn’t.

Then one night I met her for a drink. Debra had already been drinking for awhile. Through all her laughter, Debra really had a troubled soul and sometimes just needed to talk it out. We got to talking and then she said something that just blew me away. I couldn’t believe she said it. She’d been drinking and probably didn’t even remember she said it the next day…I should have let it go. But I nursed that wound like a war wound. For years when I’d talk to her it would always be in the back of my mind. Three years ago we went to see her because I was trying to find some help for Big Son ASIJ and she had connections. That was the last time I saw her.

She would call and leave voice mails and I would never return them. She finally stopped calling. But I always thought I’d talk to her again.

Debra was always there for me and my family when we needed her. During the last painful months of her life when she was very ill…I didn’t even know it and was nowhere to be found. When she could have used a friend – I wasn’t there.

I learned about her death on Facebook for Pete’s sake.

Now I know if Debra were sitting beside me out on the patio tonight, she would laugh and say “Good grief, stop beating yourself up. Let it go. Here…are you sure you don’t want another piece of steak?”

~

One thing I know…if there are grills in Heaven…her and God’s sure eatin’ good tonight.

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A Perfect Life

Recently, I became involved with yet another online time consumer.

Facebook.

I have found family members and its so nice to connect with them in this way. I’ve been having a blast searching and finding so many! Also, I have found so many friends from my past. I have learned things I didn’t know. One of my long ago friends had passed away and I was shocked to learn of this.

I have looked at friends’ photos and at first glance all I see is their perfect lives.

The life I wanted but didn’t get.

The life I had planned.

The large happy family – all the smiling faces. The grandkids all gathered around the happy grandparents.

So I have to stop and ask myself, “What is a perfect life?”

The answer I come up with is “The life I’m living”. This is MY perfect life. May not be the one I planned but its the one I got and the one I’m most comfortable in. It’s the one I really wouldn’t trade a million bucks for.

Is there anyone who would look at my life and say “gosh I wish my life had turned out like hers?” Probably not. I have times in my life I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But I have had golden moments that defined the course of my life in the most amazing and miraculous ways. I have beautiful miracles in my life that make me gasp each time I think of them or sense their presence or feel their hugs.

And who’s to know what sadness and tragedy lies behind the smiles and laughter of other’s lives? Life rarely goes as planned. We become masters at managing curve balls thrown at us from all angles. We become masters at living lives we never planned. No matter what life has turned out to be for us, we’ve become stronger just from the living of it.

If life had gone the way I planned, I would have missed so many wonderful times – missed meeting so many wonderful people. People who have filled my life with so much love and joy. Life really is absolutely amazing.

I have so much love in my small family. And tenderness that brings tears to my eyes. Even each ordinary day is so full of love from those around me.

I love my perfect life. I am thankful you have yours. And that we can all cherish these moments together.

Stealing Nickels and Smelling Palmolive Dish Detergent

Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains; another, a moonlit beach; a third, a family dinner of pot roast and sweet potatoes during a myrtle-mad August in a Midwestern town. Smells detonate softly in our memory like poignant land mines hidden under the weedy mass of years. Hit a tripwire of smell and memories explode all at once. A complex vision leaps out of the undergrowth.

~Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses

Earlier today while sitting at the park with Little Miss ASIJ, before the wind and rain came, and while watching her swing so high I thought a couple of times she had touched the sky, I remembered when I used to come to this park as a teenager. On Sunday after church sometimes in the summer, me and a bunch of friends would come here and just walk around and sit and relax and enjoy the flowers and drink coke and eat potato chips. I wondered where all of them might have gotten off to in life and who might be dead and who might still be alive. And what would all of our lives be like if we had made different choices. Oh I got lost in that one and came to the same conclusion I always come to…if things had been different, if I had made different choices, I might not have Mr. ASIJ and Little Miss ASIJ in my life today. I can’t stand that thought so I always think of something else real fast. Then all of a sudden Little Miss ASIJ was beside me saying let’s go to the slides.

Walking over to the slides, I caught a scent in the air and instantly I felt Pensacola, Florida. Scents can do that to me ~ whisk me away to another place and time. I was about 8 yrs. old I think and was in the car with my Aunt E and Uncle J, Cousin R and Cousin J. I had swiped some of Cousin R’s nickels, then lied to my Aunt E about where I got them. I have never told anyone this and I don’t know why I remembered it today. There now…I said it…I stole some of my cousin’s nickels one time when I was a kid. Sure felt good to get it out. Good grief, I didn’t steal all of them – I left her some.

I try to always have a bottle of Palmolive Dish Detergent in my kitchen. If I’m missing my Mom really bad, I fill the sink full of hot sudsy Palmolive water. Just one whiff and I’m standing in my childhood home kitchen, washing dishes and laughing with Momma.

The way the air feels can do that too. Sometimes when I walk outside, the air will feel the way it did when I was in another city and I can close my eyes and just let myself go back. It’s hard to describe how air feels and sometimes its lighter than other times. Different cities have different feeling air. Even different areas of the same city might have different feeling air. It’s always very brief when this happens and I sometimes wonder how the air from one city can just happen to make an appearance in another city for only a minute or two. But always, the air goes back to feeling like its supposed to and the memories are gone.

I just read back over that last paragraph and I think I must be very weird.

But I enjoy being able to do that.

After Little Miss ASIJ got through at the slides, while walking back to our truck, I caught the scent of honeysuckles. For just a split second I was standing out behind the car in the parking lot of my Mom’s chiropractor, waiting for her appointment to be over. I was pulling the little stems out of the flowers and sucking the nectar off.

I sure do miss my Mom…and I miss being a kid.

Growing Pains

When I was a child, I was plagued horribly with what my Mom called “growing pains”. My skinny little legs would feel like they were being ripped apart. It REALLY hurt. Momma would have to massage my legs almost every night with something called Watkins Liniment. I don’t know if it was the liniment or Momma’s gentle hands, but soon I would be able to drift off to sleep, only to wake up in the middle of the night and have to do it all over again.

When Little Miss ASIJ’s tiny legs started aching about the time she was 3, I instantly knew what was going on. Mr. ASIJ wrapped her little legs in warm wet towels to ease the pain. And I would massage them until my fingers ached. It gave me a new appreciation for what my Mom did almost nightly.

My legs don’t have growing pains anymore. But I still experience very painful growing pains of a different sort. I believe all of us do. Some handle these pains better than others. Some cry. Some yell. Some become more silent. Sometimes the pain seems unbearable. But it must be necessary for us to go through growing pains in order to GROW. Sometimes expansion and growth seems to rip apart things in our lives that need to leave. But growth always brings about a new beauty. A calmer Spirit.

As I’ve gotten older, I understand these growing pains a lot better. I can almost welcome them because I know when its all over, I’ll be a better person. I will have maybe found a piece of the puzzle that I thought was missing. I may be able to look at another person and understand things I didn’t understand before. I may be able to love when before I just didn’t know how to.

Maybe growing pains are what a lot of people on Planet Earth are going through. We have to experience THIS to get THAT. We have to get to HERE before we can go over THERE. There’s lots of joy along the way, but spurts of growth can still be painful. Days may turn into weeks, and weeks into months, and months into years. We may not know how we got to where we are, probably because we pushed the growing pains down inside or medicated them, thinking that was the way to cope. I know I did for years. And then when I finally gave myself permission to grow, I found myself wishing I had not tried to mask the pain when I was younger. I would have grown so much faster.

But ultimately, something happens. We go through a crisis. We meet someone sent our way by God or the angels or the Universe. We finally almost get to where we’re going. And we realize the “medication” for our growing pains all along was as close to us as our hearts, as close as the air that we breathe. If we had only massaged our hearts with LOVE…growing would have been so much faster and smoother and a LOT less painful.

Opening our hearts and realizing that its ok to be loved, and its ok to let someone else see us cry out in pain, is a very good beginning. We can’t get it wrong. If someone else doesn’t understand, then they have growing pains of their own to go through. And luckily, we are there to hold hands and walk with them through the pain.

Holding Hands
Holding Hands

This One’s For You

“I read your blog today”, he says. “I read all of it but couldn’t find where you’d written anything about me in there. Not once did you mention how we met when I worked in another state. Or how I transferred to this office and we’ve become such good buddies”.

I knew he was kidding. But why haven’t I written about someone who has become so important to me? I haven’t been able to find enough words that fit…that’s why.

Even now, I wonder if I can do justice to our unlikely relationship. Looking at us, you’d think we have nothing in common. And honestly, even I don’t know what it is that makes us click. He’s black, I’m white. He’s young, I’m…ummm…a little bit older. So we’re not the same race. We’re not the same age. We’re not the same gender. We’re not family but I can’t think of anyone outside of Mr. ASIJ and Little Miss ASIJ that I want spend time with. In fact, I would love for him to meet Mr. ASIJ, I think they’d get along great 🙂

And honestly, none of our differences amount to a hill of beans but if I could change anything, I’d change our age.

I feel I can trust him completely. He doesn’t judge me when I tell him stupid stuff. He touches something in me that most people never even get close to. How does he do that?

He asks nothing of me. Unlike even the people who don’t know they’re always asking for something from me – he never does. Well…except food…he always wants food. When he first started working with me, I asked someone from his former office how I could make him happy. She said, “give him food”. And so I’ve tried. Experimenting with what he likes and doesn’t like. He’s very picky. Not me, I’ll eat anything.

I am completely at ease with him. I don’t have to weigh out each word before it comes out of my mouth. And I read something the other day that fits – he makes me laugh when I don’t even feel like smiling. He never puts me down but lifts me up and makes me feel good about ME.

Neither of us are morning people, so we wait for awhile before talking after we get to the office. Sometimes we can’t help but see each other so we say hi and that’s about it. Later on, after coffee, we talk. And laugh. And talk about what we did last night. Or didn’t do. Or wanted to do but couldn’t.

I like to be with people who make me happy.

He makes me happy. That’s what I’ll call him. Mr. He Makes Me Happy 🙂

And he’s never called me old.

He’s definitely a keeper.

Operation Reconnect

Operation Reconnect
Operation Reconnect

Growing up I always had LOTS of friends.  My teenage years were filled with friends and activity.  Never a dull moment.  I was the silly one, the clown.  There was not a shy bone in my body. I was everybody’s friend and a voice for the underdog.

These days I have two, maybe three friends that I trust and not even one that I hang out with when I’m not at work or home.  For the past 11 years or so, I’d much rather just quietly fly under the radar and lay low.  Not cause waves and keep my mouth shut.  Don’t even look ’em in the eyes.  Why is this?  How did this happen?

In April of 1998, the divorce was final.  I breathed a sigh of relief that it was over and I was free of the drama but at the same time, my spirit had been crushed.

And I was drowning.

Up until that time, as a minister’s wife, I was always surrounded by friends, members of the congregation, other ministers and their families.  If I wasn’t cooking for someone at our house, we were at their house.  Never alone.  But always lonely.

Such a drastic change, going from everything to nothing in the time frame of a few short months, knocked the wind right out of me.  All of a sudden I had started to believe what I had been told for over 21 years.  You’re a bad wife.  You’re a bad mother.  You’re a bad person. I’m sure Mr. Ex doesn’t remember it that way.  We have a way of justifying our actions while we tread on others.

And I had committed what is whispered in Christian circles and amongst ministers to be an unpardonable sin.  I had divorced.

Now I found myself alone.

Everything I’d ever known was gone.  The shelter I called my family was gone.  I felt I was nothing without the life I had just left behind.

Then along comes Mr. ASIJ.  At the time I think we both were so lost that we didn’t even realize what was happening.  We saved each other from drowning but fought each other every lap of the way.  Especially me.  Maybe I didn’t want to be saved.  I think I actually enjoyed wallowing in my misery.  But Mr. ASIJ wouldn’t let me.  So I took a deep breath and survived.

Fast forward 11 years and here we are.

It’s been a long journey back but I think I’m finally ready to reconnect to life…to friends…to extended family.

I am a good wife.  I am a good mother.  I am a good person.  Not perfect by any means but good.

I’m not lonely anymore.  Even when I’m alone, I’m not lonely.

I think I’m ready to reconnect.

Now I seek a circle of friends.  Friends that will stick by me when I commit an “unpardonable sin”.  Friends that won’t gasp when they find out I’m not perfect.

Know of anybody?

Friends - The Ones That Never Should Have Got Away
Friends - The Ones That Never Should Have Got Away

And reconnecting with the ones from lost years – where do I even begin?