It Has to Start Somewhere…

I’ve struggled this morning with whether or not to respond to the deaths of the 5 officers last night or the death of the suspect that lead to the protest that ended in 5 officers’ deaths. Here are my thoughts; if you scroll past, no problem.

I’m tired of this. My heart breaks for communities that have become so divided, for families who live in areas rampant with violence because economics don’t permit them to choose security, for families who have watched their once “whole village” streets filled with kids playing under the street lights under the watchful eye of their elders, disintegrate into places where their children can’t play without being taught to be afraid of slow moving cars that may signal a drive-by or “hunt”.
My heart breaks further when friends become enemies over reports of actions, to which neither of them were personally involved or witnessed: reports that, if you’re a discriminating reader, will eventually show themselves as often hasty and inaccurate. But the damage will have already been done and the seeds of hate planted and watered.
I am disgusted at what the media is doing, and the role social media plays in this dumbing down of our people and culture. I am reminded of that one kid in school who would take a small fact and sensationalize it in order to gain attention for themselves. It’s all about the ratings, right?
I’m angered by those suggestions that this is a problem, fixable by creating more restrictive legislation…monitor this, take away that, and suddenly the problems will disappear. I could throw legitimate statistics from actual research at you now, but it’s not the intent of this rant to persuade you as to the right or wrong of use of one object over another.
My base thoughts are this: we are losing our touch with our most basic of character traits. We are becoming lazy: we want things now before having to work for them as our parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents did. There is value in learning patience, how to overcome obstacles, and how to work together to achieve a goal for someone other than ourselves. We want our information now, even if it’s unchecked or untrue: just give it to me now! We’ve grown to expect and demand a handout…rather than ask for a “hand up” when we need a boost. Or even worse, we often fail to learn to live without something until we can afford it, confusing our “wants” with “needs”. Our priorities are skewed: the latest phone, bigger tattoos, flashy cars, expensive clothes have replaced feeding our families nourishing, healthy food and needed medical care. We have become desensitized to violence in our movies, tv shows, music, games, and everyday words. We tolerate degrading portrayals of women as sexual objects and justify it by calling it “artistic expression” or “sexual freedom”. We put pressure on men to be “macho” or primary providers for the family when the economy makes that a challenge or an impossibility for many. We are quick to lump all into a category based on the poor decisions or actions of a small percentage of the many.
And compassion, forgiveness, and understanding….when did we dump these in favor of furthering our own agenda? WHY do we look in disgust at the homeless man or woman, head down, dirty, maybe drunk, and decide it was our privilege to judge them? WHY do we avoid eye contact with strangers who dress differently, look differently from ourselves? WHY do we interpret the actions of others, no matter how truly insignificant, as a personal assault?
Before I finish this, let me preface the final paragraph with a definition. To me, “love” is this: thinking of others, forgiveness whether it is deserved or not (not my call to make according to my beliefs), tolerance, compassion, and even being firm and having to tell someone “no” for their own good. I also, personally believe, that my faith holds me to these principles; although as a fallible human, I don’t always live up to those teachings. I know that though my Father’s grace, I am forgiven though, and try harder.
I believe the solution is this: we stand up, as a nation, and speak up. Love our neighbor as (or better than) we love ourselves. That means the drunk, the little kid throwing rocks at your car, the lonely woman on her front porch watching through cloudy eyes as the last years of her life slip away unnoticed…the construction worker, blocking the road for the 4th week in a row, just trying to do a job to feed his family…and yes, the kid who broke into your car to steal your change. Yes, the kid who had no guidance from a strong support system growing up, who just shot another person for their phone. Yes, the officer who drew his weapon before thinking. Yes, please love the lady in front of you at the grocery store, yelling at her kids that they can’t have candy while her cart is filled with steaks and beer. Yes, please love that college kid, barfing his guts behind your house at 4 in the morning. If we take back our nation by modeling and teaching “love” for ALL our fellow man, I believe we CAN start a peaceful “revolution”. That means we start in the home, on the streets, and in our schools and workplace.
But we have to start. Are you with me? I can’t do this alone. You can’t do this alone. But WE can do this together…all we have to do, is start.

 

A Fork in the Road

 

If you’ve been following along this journey for the past couple of years, you know I’ve made some major life changes. Divorced, moved, lost a great deal of weight then faced health challenges, and finally, and quietly, welcomed an amazing man into my life, an event I neither anticipated nor actively pursued. But it happened. Now, sitting here on the first day of the year that will see me turn 50, I have once again felt a calming resolve that this year will be the year I take my journey in a new direction.

As I stood over the stove making breakfast, it was suggested I was going to too much trouble. How confusing…it is in my kitchen where I feel most relaxed. I love to cook and bake, creating a dish simply with flavor is one of my most treasured activities. Being in the kitchen, and in particular, this kitchen, brings back memories of my Grandmothers’ kitchens, so very different in design and function from each other, each teaching me unique culinary skills. On reflection, these hearts of the home were my first classrooms. I learned to read by searching the neatly labeled jars for the correct ingredient to bring to the prep space on the white Hoosier cabinet in my Dad’s mother’s kitchen. Estimation, weights, substitutions, and straight from the farmyard resourcefulness were practiced and perfected around a crackling woodstove and well-worn and oiled farmhouse table, lovingly built by my Mother’s father in his workshop. At times, I am convinced I was born in the wrong era; at heart, I am convinced I am a pioneer, plunked down by happenstance in the heart of my city.

The kitchen is also where I create my candles and other products. There is such satisfaction in turning out a new lip balm or solid lotion that soothes the skin naturally. The creative process pushes me to blend and calculate, inhale and sample each batch, exploring how to make each successive recipe closer to all natural and wholesome. It’s a learning curve. Recently I’ve dragged a small folding chair to the kitchen beside my great-grandmother’s prep table, allowing me a place to rest an aching back or simply pause and reflect with a cup of tea in hand or a pen and journal at the ready to capture thoughts and observations for my novel. It occurs to me as I flip bread in the pan that I seem to be taking on some of the traits and goals of my main character; perhaps I am just realizing that I’ve written her from my subconscious more than I had intended.

So while stirring the sun-dried tomatoes into the translucent onions that formed the base of this morning’s scrambled eggs, a vision of my ideal life began to form in my head, playing out around me like a hologram I am watching from the corner. So many details need to be put onto paper for a reality-check. I’m not prepared to share just yet…to cast these thoughts and dreams out now would be as awkward for me as it would be for me continually post selfies on social media. Fine for others, just not for me. Although it could reasonably be suggested that my writing is my version of a selfie…fair enough. Oh, in time, there will be a “reveal” when there is a stop along my journey I feel is ready to share as a lesson learned. But for this moment, my “share” is this: we are never too old to stand at the fork in the road and chose, by heart, by faith, or wonder, to step with excitement, resolve, and even a touch of fear onto a path that has faint tracks of those whom have traveled before.

Happy travels wherever the road may lead you in 2016!

Serenity

photo credit to Christian Hastings

photo credit to Christian Hastings

First off, this post is completely unedited; sometimes, you just gotta roll with it.

If you’ve been following along up to this point, you know we’ve relocated from the ‘burbs to the city. Not a high-rise block of flats overlooking busy streets choked with blaring horns and a mass of human-ants scurrying below as one might envision the view from a walk-up in Manhattan, but a third floor 110 year old historic building with an incredible view of the Confederate Memorial at Hollywood Cemetery out the front and the droning of an expressway to the right, banked by my school to the left. For a small city like Richmond, this is pretty peaceful a place to hang my hats. But I’ve been restless. Unsettled. At times, I feel as if the walls are closing in, attempting to squash me into some mold I’ll never fit. As I spill my thoughts onto the keyboard though, I’m not in there, even though its beautiful walls safely hold in slumber two of the many people in my life I cherish. I’m on the front porch, coffee and smokes (don’t judge) on the rail, bare feet up on the table, taking in the light breeze as I sit tucked in the cool nook of the brick and stone walls and rails that invite me to pull up a rocker, sit, and do nothing but watch life wander down the brick sidewalk in front of me.

So I do just that. I sit. I watch. I listen. I type.

I breathe.

More so that just about any other place I’ve lived in my adulthood, this neighborhood feeds my soul. There is such a diversity of life: college students just stretching their wings for the first time; young couples, perhaps beginning their forever journey together; sometimes, sharing the agony of a relationship whose time has come to an end too soon; laughter of friends gathered for no reason other than it is the end of a Tuesday; older residents who have spent their entire lives on the Hill here, and who will most likely rest eternally in one of the hills or bottoms that grace Hollywood. Then there are the homeless who live here, some choosing this life, others dumped into it rather tragically. There are stories here, all around, if I’m willing to open my eyes and ears to hear them. For a writer, this is potentially the mother-load of material passing by my windows and self, countless times a day and night. So why am I so restless?

This photo. This photo taken by my love’s son of his roommate, just this morning, as they made an early morning trip along the James just below them. The same James River that winds through boulders and fallen trees, crashes over the Fall Line, and lies still in pools along its shore. The same James that is a mere four blocks or so from where I sit now. The same James where Christopher Newport planted his cross on a small island below in 1604 in route to Jamestown to drop his weary passengers. The trees, light streaming through their summer greenery as the sun begins its daily march across the heavens. The birds, tiny sparrows sit on the rail not two feet away, heads twisting to see if I’ve brought them an easy catch for breakfast, or fighting for branch space in the overgrown boxwood blocking my view of the street.

It’s not enough to throw open my windows, sit on the sill with my laptop balanced precariously on my knees, although that has been a sanity saver. I need that ability to flow in and out of my spaces, surely as I need oxygen to breathe. When I’m flustered, or thinking, or bored, I need to step outside if only for a moment, to dig in the dirt, pick up sandpaper and a hunk of wood, or just sit on the steps with my eyes closed and feel sunlight. I can pray anywhere. But it is in the outside spaces that I can truly feel connected with my Father and at peace. The stresses of life dissipate, if only for a few moments, and allow me to recharge my own batteries. Don’t take me for an ungrateful brat, whining about what I don’t have. I don’t need acres of land and a huge home to avoid feeling compressed and squished. A studio apartment would be space enough if it had an outside deck or balcony. A place where I can watch my dog snuggle its bulky self against my leg and snore without feeling persecuted for daring to have a four-legged hairy companion is required. Noisy neighbors are even tolerable if I have “my space” (see prior posts about the home in Bon Air). But it’s that instant, brief moment of stepping outside the man-made into the God-created that gives me my peace.

Anyone have serenity to rent on the Hill in February?

Bright Side of Life

On Tuesday, June 7, 2015, I stood in front of gathered family and friends, and said “till we meet again” to my father, my Dad.  I can’t find the words again to express how I felt then, much less how I am still feeling.  Instead, I’ll share the “long version” of the eulogy I pared down, not trusting myself to make it through anything longer.

On Father’s Day, I spoke to Dad for what would turn out to be the last time. I was getting ready to go into church that Sunday morning. It felt a bit odd; none of the men in my life were going to be there. Dad was in South Carolina, David was at work, my boys were still asleep I’m sure, Ed was still at Conference. Kelly and Mike had even left after Sunday School. So it was just me. I don’t know why I chose to call him before walking in; normally, I would have called him after. But I didn’t. I sat on the steps and told him about stopping by the Bellwood Flea Market that morning. Again, I can’t explain why I stopped there that morning; it was hot as blazes and I always feel I need a shower after I leave that place. But there are so many fun memories tied to the blacktop and gravel converted drive-in theater; when Kelly and I were little, we used to go most weekends with Dad, stopping at Hardee’s to grab a sausage biscuit with grape jelly and a coffee to take to Grandpa, my Dad’s dad, as he manned his stall selling old tools, electronics he had meticulously restored, and old radio parts. As I told Dad about stopping there this morning, we laughed about how it had changed; not so many folks just unloading the overflow of basements and garages, but nearly half of it an amazing assortment of fresh produce. Seriously, cactus leaves alongside other fruits I can’t even identify, but am still tempted by, all the same. I did manage, for old time’s sake, to score a lovely coffee table and tin tray, just begging for a makeover. Guess that “thrill of the hunt” and the urge to renew something old, runs in the blood. Dad seemed excited to hear my plans for the items. David and I have started a side business “flipping” and creating home furnishings, and Dad wanted to know my plans for these pieces.  Just as he had done two days prior, he imparted his words of advice for getting our fledgling enterprise up and running.  He was pleased to hear David seemed to have caught my contagious love of looking at all things old with a new vision.  Or, as he remarked, at least David was humoring me.

As he always did, he asked about my boys and if they were behaving. Dad was amused to hear Lee had finally decided he could drive the full-sized F150 in the city without running over everyone and everything in his path. I drive that truck now.  See, it was Dad’s truck, and he had recently sent it up the coast to Lee, as his car had croaked.  Dad was no longer driving and didn’t want it to sit there.  I can feel Dad riding co-pilot everytime my short-legged self crawls into the cab.  Sorry, Lee. He wanted to know how Ryan’s most recent broken body part was, and told me to tell the boy, to “Quit breaking shit!” Dad wanted to know how Morgan was doing, and told me give Noah and Peyton a hug and a kiss from Big Grandpa. He has such a soft spot for his first grandchild, Morgan, and would always tell me make sure I give her a hug, and tell her I love her, even when I felt like choking her, as all mother’s and daughters tend to do at times. He asked about Martin (my ex) and said he commented on the Father’s Day post Martin had made: a great picture of my former father-in-law, drink in hand, in the tub. He said he missed Pete. I got choked up; those two were great friends and the source of much embarrassment to “the women folk” when we dared take the two of them out in public together.

We laughed about it being June 21st: Father’s Day, first day of summer, and David’s birthday all in one. Dad was laughing as he said something along the lines of “Good grief! Bet he thinks this weekend is all about him! Well, he’s a good man; let him have a day to do what he wants before he goes back to work.” Me: “Dad, he had to work today.” Dad: “Well, can’t have everything. Give him a hug from me and tell him happy birthday, Father’s Day, and all that happy crap.”

We talked briefly about the storms the night before and the oppressive heat. I was grasping at small talk, not wanting to get off the phone. That’s not usual for me; I hate talking on the phone normally. But that Sunday morning, I just seemed to bring up any little topic to keep the conversation going, even when it was clear that Dad was having a hard time talking. I kept talking. I told him about the furniture we were working on now, and once he again felt compelled to give me business advice, just as he had 10 minutes ago. I listened…again. I told him David’s kids were taking us to Jurassic World tonight for Father’s Day…he asked about them, again laughing at our modern-day Brady Bunch. I told him I wish he had been able to meet Christian especially; they could have quoted lines from Monty Python and shared highly inappropriate jokes, just as he did with Lee and Ryan, and I’m certain he would have eventually with Noah.

Which leads me to this; I learned compassion, forgiveness, humility, and passion for the written word from Mom. Dad, on the other hand, taught me to be curious, to be fearless when faced with the risk of failure, to spin a great story, to make use of the “flow chart of life” as he called it, and above all else, to laugh….a lot…and to not take life so seriously as to miss out on all the truly hysterical minutia that make up the every day. As a teacher, that particular piece of advice has turned out to be the single most important nugget of wisdom that wasn’t taught in a single one of my degree programs. As long as I was affiliated with VCU first as a student, and later as faculty, you think they might have mentioned that one. Dad’s advice to me at times of angst or confusion were always the same…Lay your burdens in God’s hands, pray about them, maybe have a good cry, apply the “flow chart” to it to make a plan, then find the humor in the situation and laugh your ass off.

As Kelly and I prepared for today, we grieved each in our own way. I came to understand that Dad had prepared us for this day, each in the manner that would bring us the most comfort. They were just quite different; it took me a few days, and venting to a few folks wiser than I to understand that. Many thanks go out to Keith and many, many others for keeping me sane these past two weeks.

But thanks to Dad, beyond the first initial gut-punch shock that had me doubled over in a parking lot outside of my car wailing, I’ve chosen to find the humor in the situation, and I’d like to share a small sample of those moments. Before I could even make it back home from the movies, I remarked that I was fairly certain the first thing Dad did after the initial check-in and hugs all around, was to meet up with his brother, Jon and my former father-in-law, Pete, and t.p. the Pearly Gates. After the gathering at Dad’s church in South Carolina with Johnnie, Lonnie & Susan, and Charles among others, we went back to Lonnie and Susan’s for lunch, as Lonnie had pleaded with us to help dispose of an extreme excess of Baptist women’s food. On the way up the walk, Johnnie turned to me, spied my hat, which was firmly on my head at the time, and informed me that she wanted my hat. She very matter of factly told me Dad had been after her to get a hat to protect her skin when she was out walking, and my hat was perfect and she wanted that hat. She wanted that hat. No discussion.  She.  Wanted.  That.  HAT!

Obviously, I handed over the hat.

Johnnie, thank you from the bottom of my heart; that moment was the best gift you could have given me that day…you made me smile. I will forever think of that second hand straw hat as Dad’s way of ensuring we stay connected over the miles. Wear it often; it looks beautiful on you. Then there was the “little brown jug” as an urn misunderstanding. You’ll have to catch me at Kelly’s if you want to hear that story. (I’ll share that story in a future post).

Let me leave you with a few final thoughts on Dad’s behalf as we draw to a close. Today is a respectful, dignified, and loving “till we see you again” to our Dad, Mickey Newell. We’ve had readings of favorite passages and the playing of hymns that moved him the most. We’ve been comforted by the Word of God and His promises in our time of grief. But I cannot return to my seat today without leaving you a nugget of take-home wisdom from Dad and thereby keeping a promise to him I made so many years ago. A promise to read at least a portion of the lyrics to a favorite song, which incidentally, is the 3rd most requested song at funerals in Great Britain…I’ll refrain from inflicting my singing on you, but feel free to sing along or whistle the tune if you know it. I’ve taken the liberty of rearranging ever so slightly, these words composed by the gifted lyricist, the late Eric Idle; if you don’t know his name…they have Google for that…

Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse
When you’re chewing on life’s gristle
Don’t grumble, give a whistle
And this’ll help things turn out for the best

And always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the light side of life

If life seems jolly rotten
There’s something you’ve forgotten
And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing
When you’re feeling in the dumps
Don’t be silly chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle, that’s the thing

For life is quite absurd
And death’s the final word
You must always face the curtain with a bow
Forget about your sin
Give the audience a grin
Enjoy it, it’s your last chance anyhow
And always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the light side of life

The Old Married Couple

Not being able to sleep tonight, I dusted off a draft from about six weeks ago.   At the time, I was in a snit about something from work, and everything seemed to irk me in the worst kind of way: the coffee was too weak/strong, the laundry was taking too long to dry, the dog had the audacity to start showing her age, dishes kept appearing in the sink, and work just turned into countless hours of chasing my tail with little to show for it.  Did I mention women at a certain stage of their lives are, well, prone to exaggeration and crabbiness?  Doesn’t help the feminists’ cause, but biology is unrelenting like that.

So I nearly threw a dish at his head that night. It started off innocuously enough…he was making plans to join two of his kids for a night at the movies, and my middleton and I decided we needed to take a wander over to the nearly-all-night cookie spot a few blocks away. This is what we do: carve out time for our kids both together and separately. We all need that. So I’m putzing around in the kitchen after dinner while he’s on the couch surfing Facebook or something when I hear, “We haven’t been to a movie in a while.” Before I can respond, he tacks on this zinger…

“We’re turning into an old married couple.”

Now there are a couple of ways to take this. Either you can think to yourself: How sweet! He thinks we’re one of those adorable older couples you see wandering around town, holding hands, him grinning at her every word (even if he isn’t really paying attention to what she’s saying). She looks adoringly at him when he gently steers her around an obstacle. Or…you take it like I did (remember, hormones at play):

He thinks we’ve become boring and predicable.

Hence, the potential encounter his noggin had with the dinnerware. See, my first marriage ended in a whimper when I’d finally grown tired of redrawing that line in the sand. We never made it, incredibly, to even being boring and predictable; we just, well, quit being a couple. At one point after our separation, we talked about why the marriage ended, and the ex told me that during one of our attempts at reconciliation, I commented on an elderly couple walking towards us holding hands and laughing. I remembered telling him as they passed that I wanted to be that couple. Apparently when I said that, he knew that we were done, because he just couldn’t be that. Fair enough. I just wish he had said that then, instead of three years later. But back to the story…

I’m a romantic at heart, and like a dolt, it took me nearly 28 years to get it through my thick skull that I was married to someone who wasn’t. I love writing mushy little notes and leaving them for BW to find. I love walking around town holding hands. I love just sitting on a wall outside the shops, sipping coffee, and people watching. Walks around our new neighborhood, spotting previously unseen details in the homes or gardens, or just chatting to the neighbors around the block, these are all activities that make me feel all warm and fuzzy when we’re together. Cuddling is good for the soul too. Hugs from behind when I’m in the kitchen will put a smile on my face every time. And I give really great back rubs (seriously, they will put you right to sleep)! These simple activities seem like a recipe for “growing old together” I could embrace for eternity.

But here lately, we’ve both been under some pretty heavy stressors for any couple to have to endure: parent in failing health, first of his children to marry, we officially moved in together by moving to a third floor apartment in the city (as opposed to living in a house with space and yard and room and a commute), juggling finances to cover kids and college and medical and vehicles, major project beginning at work, church commitments…the list  of situations and circumstances we are learning to balance seems to go on forever, all while learning to be together as a couple. But apparently, we weren’t doing such a swift job of that last one, at least, not recently. But as my Dad has always been fond of saying:

Lessons that we learn in pain, we seldom have to learn again.

 So rather than smash ceramics, we talked. In my first marriage, I know I was guilty of just clamming up and doing the whole “stomp and huff” routine if I was frustrated. It seemed to me that it would not be wise to try that approach again (after all, look where it got me). I shared my frustration of feeling as if we were just coasting through our days, and thankfully, he could see it too. No hurt feelings on either side, just talking and acknowledging how the other felt. So simple, right? It seemed it…so why was this so difficult to do the first time around? Why did we not speak up out of kindness and a desire to help our partners help us, instead choosing more passive and confrontational ways of showing just how “wrong” we felt our spouses were in their behavior/thoughts/ideas? I don’t have an answer for that. All I can do, going forward, is learn from past mistakes, and do all I can to not repeat them. In hindsight, though, perhaps BW is on to something. Maybe the target should be the “old married couple”. After all, they’re still together through all of their shared life’s challenges and joys.

Old married couple….yes, that is an cliché I could embrace after all.

Moments in Time

Sixteen months…

Eleven months…

Only a moment…

These are measures of time with significance in the second half of my adult life.  Certainly, the birth of my children and grandchildren are beyond measure in their impact on my life, but when I contemplate recent events, these measures of time are landmarks of sorts.

Sixteen months ago, I made the decision to end a broken marriage, and make a fresh start in my life.  In an instant, I left behind uncertainty, self-doubt, and sadness. In their place, I filled my heart and actions with hope, confidence, and faith. I didn’t shed a single tear, instead choosing to wake up each morning and find the joy of the moment. True, some days I found myself exaggerating the mundane to give it a positive spin, as life would seem to just take an obscene amount of effort to maintain. But the more I made this the first thing I did every morning, the easier it became. It really didn’t take too long before the new point of view became the norm, and the change in attitude seemed to follow an upward tick in circumstances. Posts to Facebook would reflect the affirmation that indeed, in spite of major life changes, “…every little thing, gonna be alright…” (https://youtu.be/mACqcZZwG0k Bob Marley). Ah, Bob Marley…it’s tough to stay in a foul mood when you listen to this song. I dare you to listen to it and refrain from half-closing your eyes and nodding your head to the beat. Go ahead. Try it. I’ll still be here when you get back.

Welcome back! Let’s continue the story…during the months following my separation, I made the choice to just let dating happen if it happened, but I wasn’t going to pursue it. Coffee dates were the perfect “re-entry” into the world so to speak: casual, no pressure, and relatively easy to bail out if it was uncomfortable. I had one with a friend who needed to stay a friend; a few that seemed to make the coffee bitter, and a couple that warranted repeated trips for caffeine. How great is coffee (or tea or hot chocolate)? It seems to soothe, relax, and just encourage conversation between friends. You can have serious discussions or knee-slapping, pants-wetting fits of laughter, and it’s all perfectly appropriate. You can enjoy a cup in solitude, and no one will question your mental health or sobriety.

So when I accepted an invite to coffee on May 23, 2014 with a former high school alum, I had no expectations about it being any more than a chance to touch base with someone from 30 years in my past. Shoot, we were only really acquaintances then, but I did remember him as being a nice guy…a year behind me, tall, played football and basketball, dark curly hair, and always seemed to be smiling or up to something a tad bit mischievous, but never malicious. Five hours later, coffee had turned into dinner and walking laps around the parking lot because we couldn’t stop talking. Holding hands happened naturally, as did our first kiss. We were just standing in silence after that tender moment, me snuggled with my back against his chest, staring across the parking lot at the western wear store on the other side. He took me completely by surprise when he announced, “I’m going to wear cowboy boots to our wedding. Thought you should know.” I didn’t panic. I didn’t bolt and run. I just smiled.

Eleven months later, we’re counting down the days now to the marriage of his oldest daughter. It is such a special time for him and his ex-wife. Giving away his first daughter to a great man will be a bittersweet moment in time, I know, but her fiancé is wonderful. I know they will be very happy together! We’ve shared some incredible times while learning a lot about trust, faith, and forgiveness together. I’ve had some health scares that have been easier to navigate with him always comforting and positive by my side; we’ve had some trying financial hiccups and so many, many sweet moments of just “being”. We’re getting to really know each other’s friends, children and families, and consider ourselves beyond blessed with how well each has been welcomed by the others. We recently moved into a new home in a totally new setting for us both, but the city seems to suit us both so well, constantly changing, always entertaining. Being the “elders” in a building full of twenty and thirty somethings has been energizing, even if the three flights of stairs are exhausting at times!

The final point in time…only a moment.

When you’re content, happy, and in love with someone, time passes effortlessly and quietly. Each day feels like an elusively passing instant you wish to be eternal. To me, this is how we are meant to be.

Absence of “Face Time”

Disclaimer: This post is probably going to cheese-off a few folks. Good. It’s my opinion and you are welcome to share it or reject it. Now on with the show…

Scrolling Facebook this morning (aka, “procrastinating”), I ran across a post from Sun Gazing (all cartoons below are from their page), a site known for both its inspirational and amusing updates. Today’s offering really struck a nerve. It is a series of cartoons depicting how social media and personal technology have taken over our lives, and not for the better. I know what I do for a living is teach children how to use tech as a tool, but it is just that: a tool. It should never be a substitute for spending real time in real conversation…or even just silence with someone.  Don’t get me wrong; I can be just as guilty as the next person of spending too much of my free time looking for DIY ideas to save to my Pinterest boards, sharing cat videos or obnoxiously delicious looking recipes on Facebook, and on occasion, Tweeting what I’m up to professionally or Instagramming that iPhone shot that took my breath away. But I find I grow more and more resentful of the blasted smart phone. Admittedly I would not be as efficient in my job without it (“Ding!” Text from the 3rd floor while I’m on the playground outside and not in my Lab which is on the 2nd floor, telling me the internet has gone kerput again). It is even a wonder tool for the boys to shoot me messages quickly (out of toilet paper…again…) or a photo from their first day on campus.

However, I find the hairs on my neck start to stand up when I’m talking with someone..anyone…and their phone starts to ding or whistle or sing AND THEY ANSWER IT!! If in the middle of our conversation (or non-conversation as it may be), church, movies, dinner, your child’s play, you name it, your phone goes off and you check it, I’m going to get annoyed. At least turn off the ringer! Notifications from apps (your turn to play Trivia Crack or check your 500th “like” on your photo) make me nuts, although I was grateful for banking notifications when my card was hacked and used, meaning we were able to block, report, and change security within minutes of the card being used. Beats the crap I had to go through 20 odd years ago when my checkbook was stolen! But I digress. I’ve got a gazillion notifications on my phone for dates, times, and the damned ones for Facebook that I can never tweak enough to just give me the few things I care about (thanks for changing your settings so frequently Facebook!). I find it amusing though that some folks feel the need to point out to me that my phone has just dinged; I know. I’m ignoring it.

Personally, when someone whips out his/her phone at dinner, during a movie, while we’re chatting face to face, I often feel second best. If watching that adorbs cat video or checking the scores is more interesting than the person/people you’re with then:

  1. That someone is apparently boring, or
  2. That someone is boring because they’re sick of looking at the top of your head bent over a phone and quit trying to share anything interesting, or
  3. You’re just being rude as f&#*.

Think about it, when someone left your life (death, moved, changed jobs, got fed up with you), did you regret not checking Facebook or playing an app while with them more often? Or…did you regret not taking a walk, hearing their voice, or telling them how much they meant to you every chance you had? That’s what I thought…

However, I can be just as guilty as the next guy of these same transgressions. Every. Last. One of them. So don’t go getting your knickers all in a twist that I’m bashing everyone else except me; I’m just not afraid to vent my frustration and vow to work harder at being more considerate. And…if you think my mind is wandering elsewhere or I keep glancing at my phone when I’m with you, tell me! I’d rather be called to the carpet and perhaps a bit embarrassed for a moment, than risk not hearing the excitement in your voice when you tell me about the amazing story you just heard from a new friend or watched the most incredible sunset with a friend. So here is what I propose, and these are nothing original, but perhaps if we keep hearing and seeing that too much of a good thing can be bad for you, then perhaps we’ll start changing some of these “instant gratification” and “attention span of a flea” behaviors we’ve picked up. Please share your own pet peeves or suggestions for what to do instead of checking your “Likes”. I’d love to hear from you!

 dinner entertainment

Put the phone down at meals. Period. No one likes feeling as if they have to compete for your attention.

 

quality time with family

“Together” doesn’t exactly mean “in the same air space”. Do something together, even if that something is watching a movie while piled on top of each other on the couch. And for goodness sake, don’t do a Four Square check in from living room!

 

tweeting

Talk about it, or experience it? The choice is yours.

 

He is risen update

Fine. Snap a picture. But upload it later and get back to being in awe of what you’re seeing.

 

final profile update

Ok, I’ll concede this one.

Again, I hope I’ve touched a nerve, and I’d love to have you comment on this.