Author Archives: Melissa Halsey Caudill

More Than Words

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.”
– Georgia O’Keeffe

I was just recently given an awesome opportunity to be a part of an art exhibit.  Yep, you heard that right.  An art exhibit.  Me…the girl who can’t even draw stick figures…in an ART exhibit!  How do ya like them apples?!

Okay, so there was a bit of a catch. I wasn’t allowed to draw. Or paint. Or color. Or create stick figures. They just wanted my words.

Words. In an art exhibit!

When I first heard about this idea, I was a little confused. Um…you want my words in your art exhibit? Come again? But once I started getting into and realizing what this whole thing was about, I was blown away by the idea.

So, here’s how it worked.  Our local Ashe County Arts Council paired up local writers with local artists. (What their criteria was in this selection process is beyond me, but somehow they managed to pair me with exactly the right person. I know that without a doubt.  My artist partner Gerry and I clicked from the get-go.)  Once our pairs were determined, we were given a “project.”  I was to give Gerry something I had written, and she was to give me something she had painted.  She was to use the writing I had given her to inspire a new work of art.  And I, in turn, was to use her painting to inspire a new written work of art.

Pretty cool, huh?

And then, as part of an exhibit that opened up on September 10, each artist/writer pair’s work was hung in the art gallery together – side-by-side with the piece of art that inspired their creation.  The official reception for the artists and writers and anyone who wanted to view their works was on the night of Friday, September 12. Gerry and I found each other and, while standing near our display, found ourselves overcome with the emotional responses our work brought about.

Now, I can’t speak for Gerry, but as a writer – this was pretty new to me.  I’m not used to “watching” people read my work.  You know?  I write it – I send it out in the world – and then I just hope it touches someone somewhere who may have needed to hear it. I may get feedback sometimes, but it’s rare that I get to actually see their responses.  This night, though?  Oh, this night was so different.

morethanwords

Photo by Chris Arvidson

This picture here to the right is a photo that my dear friend and fellow writer Chris Arvidson took that night.  I would have remembered this moment forever even without the photographic evidence, but I can’t believe that she was so eloquently able to capture it at just the right time.  This woman, among others, was actually moved to tears after reading what I had written and seeing Gerry’s painting that accompanied it.  The photo captured her turning back to us to tell us how much it had meant to her.

Wow.

Isn’t that the coolest?

This is why I do what I do, people. This is why musicians make music. Why singers sing. Why painters paint. Why actors act.  We do these things for this moment right here.  To know that for just one moment in time, two human beings became one in their emotions. Someone out there looked at what we created and said, “Yes.”  That’s it.  Just yes. Yes, I have felt that.  Yes, I know that feeling.  Yes, I know you.  Thank you.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I’m telling you people, there’s nothing like it.

morethanwords2So, if you’re local, do yourself a favor.  Go by and check out this exhibit.  It will be on display through October 4th at the Ashe Arts Center, located at 303 School Avenue, West Jefferson, North Carolina. Gerry and I are just one of many pairs that have contributed to this, and each story, poem, painting, and piece of artwork tells a story that you need to hear.  Come by and have your emotions reawakened.  After all, that’s the beauty of art in all its forms, isn’t it?

(And by the way, you’ll definitely want to see what Gerry created from my poem Escape.  A photo just wouldn’t do it justice. You’re going to want to see this one in person.)

And now, in closing, I’ll leave you with the poem Gerry’s market painting inspired me to write.  It’s entitled “Market Visitor.”

Thanks for being here, my fellow humans!  Stop to notice something special today, won’t you?

Market Visitor

What’s that I see coming near?
She must be lost. Why’s she here?
She stops to stare—is it at me?
Oh how I wonder what she sees.

What’s that she’s taking—a photograph?
She wants my picture? What a laugh!
Surely there must be some mistake,
What image is here for her to take?

“Hello there, old girl,” she says with glee,
“Oh, what a sight you are to see.
The forgotten beauty of a long-lost saint—
Ah, what a joy you’ll be to paint.”

An artist? With an interest in me?
Underneath all this ruin, could she see?
The people I’ve seen come and go,
The life I’ve lived—how does she know?

Does she see beyond the tattered boards,
The broken windows, rotting doors?
As she gazes at outer walls worn thin,
Does she know of all the life within?

Can she hear the laughter of children at play,
Hear the hustle and bustle from back in the day?
Does she see the past once filled with life
The fun-filled days, the peaceful nights?

The pleasantries once exchanged within
The constant motion, ceaseless din—
Are now only memories in this silent shrine
Slowly fading away with the passage of time.

And yet with one visit, something feels refreshed
I pull myself together, try to look my very best
For the story behind these shadows might finally be seen
All because one artist took the time to stop and notice me.

- Melissa Halsey Caudill, 2014

Girls on the Run

“Running has given me the courage to start, the determination to keep trying, and the childlike spirit to have fun along the way.”
– Julie Isphording, Marathon winner

So, how many of you have heard of Girls on the Run?

logo_girlsontherunNow, wait a minute. All you non-runners…get back here. Not so fast.  I know how you are. “Oh great, another blog about running. I’m not a runner. I’m out.”  Well, hold it there, missy. (Or mister.)  Stick around for a second.  I want to tell you about something pretty awesome. (Especially those of you with daughters…you’re going to want to hear this.)

I spent my day today getting to know about Girls on the Run. Now, I had heard of it before, of course, as I’m sure many of you have. And, like many of you, I assumed that this was some kind of school “running team.” I mean, it’s called Girls on the Run. It must be girls running, right?

Well, yeah. That’s partly true. But, wow. There is soooo much more to it than that.

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Girls on the Run – Westwood site coaches

I have recently been given the awesome opportunity to be an assistant coach for a Girls on the Run team in my area – Ashe County, North Carolina.  See this pretty lady here to the right?  That’s Natalie Foreman. Although the two of us didn’t know each other that well, our shared love of writing caused our paths to cross a short while back. She’s a local editor who happened to be the one reviewing an essay I’ve written for an upcoming anthology. And that essay just happened to be about…you guessed it…running.  And just before Natalie had read that essay, she had been toying with the idea of getting a Girls on the Run program started in our area. She had done all the research, checked into all the details of securing a location, etc. But what was she missing? An assistant coach. And Fate, as she so often does, just happened to drop a runner’s essay on her desk.

So, Natalie gave me a call.

And here we were today, two practical strangers, headed to a coaches’ meeting.

Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. I had done a little research on my own, of course, but I still didn’t realize what all was involved with the program.  Again, I had it in my head that we were going to go to this coaches’ meeting and they were going to teach about us about different exercises, different methods to teach the girls to increase their running distances week-by-week, etc.  But nope. That’s not what happened at all.

I walked away from that coaches’ meeting feeling like I knew everyone in the room.  Especially Natalie.  And I walked away feeling like I could actually succeed at coaching for this Girls on the Run program.

How did that happen?  Well, it’s like this.

The program director taught us how to teach the kids. She put us in a setting that the girls would be in. She showed us the different games, conversations, techniques, etc., that the students would be going through in our program.  For today, we were the students.

We got to know each other. We got to know our likes, our dislikes. We got to know our vast array of personalities and how each of us could still get along and come together for a common goal…not only despite our differences, but because of them.  We came away from that meeting knowing that a group of drastically different strangers, could walk away a few hours later as friends.  We walked away feeling confident in ourselves, feeling special because of the little idiosyncrasies that made each of us different from one another, and feeling beautifully unique.  And most importantly, we walked away excited for the next time that we could all be together.

And that, my friends, is what Girls on the Run is all about.

Do you know a 3rd-5th grade girl that lives in or around the Ashe County area? Well, I know two women who started the day as strangers and ended it as friends, who absolutely can’t wait to show that little girl how that happens.  Life is so hard for girls these days.  Maybe it always has been, but I just feel like it’s just a tad harder now. There’s so much media and peer pressure to be a certain way, or act a certain way, or…worst of all…to look a certain way. What these girls need is an outlet. A place to come to feel safe. To feel like they can be themselves…where differences are celebrated, not shunned. And where they will get to have a fun, playful workout in the process.

Here’s a quick rundown of the details for you local peeps:

  • Meetings will be Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30 – 4:45 p.m. at Westwood Elementary School.  (Students do not have to attend Westwood Elementary to participate – that is just the meeting location.)
  • Meetings technically start this Tuesday, September 9, but if you haven’t signed up by then, it’s not too late! (We have about two weeks to get all the registrations in.)
  • This is a 12-week program, that will culminate in a 5K race for the girls in all area Girls on the Run programs on December 6, 2014.
  • Coaches are head coach, Natalie Foreman (who is a runner and has a third grade girl herself), and myself (who wishes her daughter was still young enough to participate, but who is also a runner and absolutely adores working with kids!).  We will also have a part-time assistant coach, Thea Van Sickle Young, who will be available to help out on Tuesdays.
  • Sign-up and other info can be found by clicking here.  (There is a cost to the program, but reduced fees are available to kids who receive free/reduced price school lunches.)
  • Girls on the Run of the High Country Facebook link can be found here.

And there you have it, folks.

If you have read this blog and are local, please do Natalie and me a favor.  Will you share this? We just know that there is a girl out there who needs this program. (We know there are many girls who need it actually.)  And the only way they’ll know about it is if they hear about it. Help us spread the word. Without a certain number of girls signed up, we will not be able to proceed with the program. We really don’t want to see that happen.  Our hearts are in this, and we know how much the girls need it.

Help us make a difference, won’t you?

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Click on the flyer below for a little more info and…share, share, share!  And, of course, let me know if you have any questions or need more info!

Let’s start a new generation of healthy, happy, confident girls, shall we?

***

“The woman who starts the race is not the same woman who finishes the race.”
-Sign at the Nike Women’s Marathon

gotrfler

 

Ice Bucket Challenge? No, thank you.

[DISCLAIMER: I'm fully prepared for the onslaught of criticism I will receive for this post. Know ahead of time that I'm cool with that. And I get it.]

I hesitated to write this blog. But the more I hesitated, the more I couldn’t get it off my mind. And, as anyone who is a writer knows, if something is in a writer’s mind that needs to come out, it will not stop until it gets out there. If I was ever going to write anything again (including a project that I have due that I need to be working on), I need to get this out and move on. So, here goes.

icebucketSo, if you’re reading this blog, I can just about 100% guarantee you that you’ve heard about the Ice Bucket Challenge.  Why do I say that? Well, if you’re reading this blog, that means you have a computer with internet access. And that is the only criteria you need to have heard about this viral phenomenon. In fact, even if you weren’t sitting here on your computer or cell phone reading this blog, I’m sure you would have seen it on TV or heard of it by word of mouth. Somehow, some way you have heard of the ice bucket challenge. I guarantee you.

Now, which version of it you’ve actually heard might vary. Which version you participated in probably varied. Or hey, like about 75% of the world (I totally just made up that statistic and it has no factual basis whatsoever other than my cynical brainwaves spitting it out there), you probably just dumped some ice water on your head so you could make a video of it and show your friends. Hey, whatever floats your boat. But here is what it is supposed to be.  What started as a challenge geared at donating to a variety of random causes, has now been adopted as the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” to raise money specifically for ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s Disease as some may know it). There are a variety of theories floating around as to how that part of the story happened (here’s one for instance), so I won’t get into that aspect of it. The point is – there is a challenge that is supposed to go like this: You get “challenged” (i.e. tagged on Facebook by one of your friends) to either (a) dump a bucket of ice water on your head, take a video, post it to Facebook, and then donate $10 to the ALS Association; or (b) don’t do the ice bucket thing and donate a full $100 to ALS.

[Before I go any further, let me go ahead and post the link to donate directly to ALS - it's found here. You know, if you actually want to do that instead of pouring ice water on your head. I know clicking a button privately is not as fun as broadcasting your participation for the world to see.  But hey - the option is here for you crazy rebels who so choose.]

Now, as you can probably gather from my snippy comment above, I have found a little bit of an issue with this challenge. Am I denying that it was an ingenious concept?  Heck no!  It’s apparently working…and working quite well.  (This article says that $22.9 million has been raised for ALS alone.)  And that’s awesome. Anything you can do to bring attention to a cause that needs it and raise money for it is fantastic. I’m glad that worked out (and is still working out).  I really am. But the problem I have with it goes a little deeper than that. This is one of those “Do the ends justify the means?” kind of deals.

group bucket challengeFirst of all, I have a serious problem with hypocrisy. I mean, a serious problem with it. I am a pretty honest, straight-forward person (too much so at times, I know), and the thing about we straight-forward people is that we kind of expect the same in return. And are most often disappointed with that expectation. This challenge? This challenge goes against everything about that aspect of my personality. No, let me rephrase that. Not the challenge itself, but the way people have taken it and run with it. Now, I know that every social phenomena can be taken advantage of. Every good deed, every good cause, every everything has someone somewhere that can be using it for personal gain. But I feel like this particular cause is actually set up to allow people to do that. I mean, check it out. You get to post a ridiculous video of yourself dumping water on your head. Look at all the attention you’re getting! And depending upon which version of this challenge people have heard about, posting this video means that you did what? You donated!

Now, I’m not the most religious person in the world (at least not in the way most people define it). But there’s a Bible verse that just keeps popping into my head lately.

“That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” – Matthew 6:4 KJV

(Or, if you’re not of the mindset that the King James Version is the one that descended from the heavens, then maybe this version will make it a little more clear: “Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” – Matthew 6:4 NLT)

The problem I have with this aspect of the challenge is two-fold. 1) I think (no, know) that many of the people posting these videos did not donate. In fact, they probably didn’t even receive any instructions as to how to donate even if they had wanted to. But did that stop them from doing it? No way. They were challenged. They had to. (This is where the hypocrisy comes in.)  The other thing that bothers me? The verse I posted above. Even if the people posting the videos did donate, aren’t they broadcasting to the world that they did so? Isn’t that…I don’t know…wrong somehow? And while I’m on this train of thought, let’s look at another Bible verse:

“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7 KJV

(Again, for you heathen alternate-version users:  “You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7 NLT)

I’m thinking that’s pretty self-explanatory isn’t it?  Should you be giving because you were told to? Because you were challenged to?  I just don’t know, man. I just don’t know.

Now, aside from all of that, let me get back down to the other problem I have with this. This is back to that “Does the ends justify the means?” conundrum. Did this challenge raise tons of money for charity?  Yep, it sure did. The “end” was a total success. But were the “means” the right way to go about it? Was telling someone to give or face public humiliation for not doing so the right thing to do? Ok, maybe that’s a little harsh. Maybe you’re not exactly “publicly humiliated” if you don’t give. But everyone sees those posts you’re tagged in. And everyone sees that you didn’t post a video. Is the assumption they gather from that that you gave $100 instead of posting a video?  I think not. Their assumption is that you didn’t participate at all. And how does that make you look?

The same way writing this blog makes me look. Like a big fat selfish fuddy dud who doesn’t know how to have to fun or give to charity.

Don’t lie. You know darn good and well that’s how it looks. But here’s what you’re probably not thinking about when you’re tagging all these people in these posts. These are some very, very hard times for a lot of people. In case you haven’t noticed, our economy sucks. The area I live in has an unemployment rate that would blow your mind. People are treading water just to get by, and now you want to add insult to injury by making them feel like a jerk if they don’t donate to charity?  And aside from that, just because they don’t dump buckets on their head or donate to ALS specifically, how do you know that they aren’t privately donating (as it should be done, in my humble, big-mouthed opinion) to causes that hold their heart? I have a child who, because of a genetic disease, is going to have children that are sick. Unlike a lot of you who are looking forward to grandchildren one day, I am dreading it. I am dreading the doctor’s visits, the genetic counseling, the horrendous choices my little girl is going to have to make. When/if I can afford to donate to a charity – I’m sorry, but that‘s the one I’m donating to. And I’m not going to post a video about it, or broadcast it, or “challenge” you to do the same. I’m just not made that way.  And frankly, I just don’t think other people should be either.

I understand that your charity is important. And I wish you the best, I truly do. But my charity is just a tad bit more important to me. It hits closer to home and when my heart leads me and my bank account allows me, I will donate to it. Not because someone told me to, but because I feel like it’s what I need to do.

So, am I a bad sport for not participating in this ALS Ice Bucket Challenge?  I guess so. Sorry about that. But now you know why.

And I can guarantee you I’m not the only one who feels this way.

***

Robin Williams

“This news hit me as if I actually knew him.” – random Facebook poster

Robin%20Williams-7I want to talk about Robin Williams.

But I don’t just want to talk about him per se. I want to talk about why the news of his death yesterday hit so many people in such profound ways.

Now, first of all, I’m no psychologist. I have no degrees in psychology or sociology or psychiatry or anything else that ends in a “y.” I’m no expert. But now that those disclaimers are out of the way, let me tell what I am.

Human.

And being human [See what I did there?], that makes me somewhat adept at understanding my fellow humans. (Well, sometimes….) In fact, I’m pretty fascinated with other humans. Why they do what they do, what motivates them, what makes them so different, so alike, etc. And a few of my fellow humans have had a response to Robin Williams’s death that is reminiscent of the responses to many other previous celebrity deaths. What response is that, you ask?  Let me summarize:

Why do people care so much about a celebrity death? Stop posting all of these “RIP” messages on Facebook for someone you don’t even know. What about all the senseless deaths in Gaza, Iraq, etc. etc. Get your priorities straight, people! Being famous doesn’t make his life any more meaningful than anyone else’s. What about the soldiers that die every day? What about this, what about that…why is he getting so much attention? It’s a shame you people don’t put as much thought into the real problems of the world as you do into some celebrity’s death…

And so on and so forth.

You’ve seen them, right?  Maybe you’ve even posted them? Or at least thought them.  And hey, I get it. I do. I hear what you’re saying. I really do.

But I want to tell you why you’re wrong.

I used to be the same way. Seeing the outpouring of grief over a celebrity used to fill me with almost a bitterness in a way. I had all those above thoughts, and more. But this time is just different somehow. Hearing of the death of Robin Williams suddenly made me understand something that I didn’t understand before about celebrity death grief.

I just lost someone I know.

Now, of course, I don’t really know Robin Williams. I’ve never met the man. But, like my fiancé Richard said when he heard the news, “I feel like I grew up with him.” See, that’s just it. Robin Williams, and other celebrities, are people that have impacted our lives in one way or another. We turn on the TV, and there they are. We watch a movie, and there they are. They portray situations and events in their roles that give us something to identify with. We remember them.  Especially actors like Robin Williams – the ones who have been around for quite a while. We connect them to events from our past because they were there.

Let me explain.

When I think of Robin Williams, the first thing that immediately pops into my head is Mrs. Doubtfire.  And let me tell you why.  The movie Mrs. Doubtfire first became popular right around the time that I was living in Germany. There’s a scene in the end of Mrs. Doubtfire where Robin Williams, dressed as the old lady “nanny,” gives a speech about parents and children.  He talks about their physical location and the love that remains between a parent and child no matter the distance that may be between them. I hadn’t seen the movie, but I can remember opening a letter from my dad back in the states (my step-dad was the one in the military and I lived primarily with him and my mom), and in the letter my dad told me to be sure to watch that movie. He said there was something at the end that he wanted me to pay special attention to.  So, when I watched it, and heard that part, I cried.  I knew my daddy loved me…even though I had only seen him twice in three years.

And you know who was there for that moment that I remember so well?  Robin Williams.

I know that’s a stretch. But psychologically speaking, I don’t think I’m the only one who connects these people to events from my past. They’ve always been there. We’ve always known them.

And then they’re gone.

And in the case of Robin Williams – here we have lost this man who, on the surface, appeared to be full of happiness and laughter. And what took his life?  Depression. Oh, how we can relate with that.  Don’t lie – you know you can.  Who among us hasn’t felt depression?  Obviously not to the extent that he must have, poor man, but we know that feeling. We know the overwhelming sadness. And, we know what it feels like to paint a smile on to cover it up. We identify with Robin Williams. We identify with his family, with his pain, with their pain. We have lost one of our own.

It’s not a sadness that needs to be belittled.

Now, I’m not saying that the other events of the world are not worthy of our attention. Of course, we need to be saddened by all of the atrocities that are occurring overseas right now. But, thank the good Lord, we can’t identify with those atrocities like we can with the death of Robin Williams. We feel the most deeply over things that affect us. Maybe that’s selfish, but it’s just human nature.

Think how silly it sounds if you put it this way. What if mine and your fathers both passed away at the same time, and I got downright angry at you because you weren’t as sad over my father’s death as you were over your own father’s death. How ridiculous is that?  Of course, you’re not going to be as saddened over my family member as you would be over your own. You know your father, you don’t know mine. Both are human lives that are lost, but one affects you more than the other. It’s just the way it is.

See the connection?

And that’s all I want to say about that.

Rest in peace, Robin Williams. I am so sorry for the loss that your family is facing right now and for the pain that you felt while you were here on this Earth. I hope you know what a legacy you have left behind you, and I hope you and your family will get the respect that you deserve through this devastating time.

Thank you for being here.

Thank you for the memories.

Thank you for giving us the laughter that you couldn’t seem to find for yourself.

***

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”
– Robin Williams

I do.

“Happily ever after is not a fairy tale. It’s a choice.”
– Fawn Weaver

Well, hey there strangers!

So, I knew it had been a while since I had written a blog post, but I just checked the calendar and realized it has been almost a full month!  Whoa.  That is officially the longest I have gone without a post since I started this blog in February 2013.  Bad girl, Mel.  Bad. Girl.  *hand smack*

Ok, now that the punishment has been doled out, let’s get back to business.

First, thank you all for still being here.  Much to my surprise, when I finally came back and checked my blog stats, there wasn’t a single day in the last month that didn’t have at least 10 views or so.  That’s pretty awesome.  You guys are still checking out my stuff, even while I’m AWOL. My readers rock.

Secondly, a bit of an explanation. (Or, maybe I should say, excuses? Eh. Tomato, Tomahto…)

Let me start out by saying that my absence from the blog has not exactly meant that I haven’t been writing at all per se. I actually have been working on a “project,” so to speak. I was asked to contribute to an upcoming anthology of local writers in the county. How cool is that!? I’ll provide more details as the publication date gets closer, which is April 2015 as of now. When I was first asked to contribute, my first thought was, Say what? Um, hellllo? An anthology about this county? Ahhem. You do realize I’m a gypsy, right? I’m a military brat…from everywhere and nowhere…a nomad…a wanderer…(I’m out of words…) Basically, you realize that it’s hard to write about any place as if I actually belonged there. Right?

But, you know what happened? The same thing that always happens when I sit down to write something (this blog you’re reading now being no exception). The words just poured out of my heart. And through that writing, I realized something. Maybe I have finally found a place to belong.

Well. How about that.

And using that realization as an awesome segue into that other little bitty tidbit of information that I haven’t filled my readers in on during my absence…I’ll give you a bit more info as to what has been keeping me so busy over the past few weeks. Oh ya know, it’s nothing major. No biggie. Just this tiny little change that is getting ready to take place in my life….

RICHARD AND I ARE GETTING MARRIED!!!

EEEEEEEEK!

Yup. It’s official, people. On July 10, 2014, Richard asked me to be his wife.

Okay, that’s a total lie. That’s not how it went down at all. I mean, come on. Nothing about our relationship has been traditional up to this point, so why should the engagement be any different? Here’s how it really went down (or something to this effect…)

Me: (jokingly – like I’ve done many times before…) We should get married.
Richard: We should.
Me: Uh huh.
Richard: Let’s do it.
Me: *Laughter*
Richard: No, really. Let’s do it.
Me: Are you drinking?
Richard: It’s 10:00 a.m.
Me: Are you drinking?

Or something like that. (Pretty darn close to that actually.) Yes, folks, that’s the romantic way in which Richard and I came to the decision to tie the knot. Awwwwwww.

USbeachAnd while we’re speaking about the whole non-traditional thing, get this. No engagement ring. I’ve told Richard 5,716 times that if we ever did decide to get married, I really and truly do NOT want an engagement ring. My reasons are numerous, but at the top of the list are (1) been there, done that; (2) bling is not really my thing; (3) I want to spend all that money on something way more awesome. Not sure what, but anything would be better than a ring that I don’t really want; and (4) I want a wedding band. Just a wedding band. That’s it. No “rock.” Just a sweet, meaningful wedding band. And that’s it.

[Insert little aside here about Richard’s response to my “I just want a wedding band” comment… “I could probably get a few of the boys together to play if that’s what you really want.” Grrrr. Not that kind of band, doofus!! Sheesh….Musicians, I tell ya….]

Okay, back to the non-traditional wedding details.

So, am I weird? No? Okay, well about this. I think I’ve also decided to wear a RED wedding dress. Now am I weird?

Dude…me and “traditional” just never have seen eye-to-eye, ya know? I just don’t tend to be a by-the-book kind of gal. And if I ever am, it’s just because I think that’s what is expected of me. How much of tradition do we really even understand anyway? Most of that stuff, we just do because everyone else does. And, in my humble opinion, that has been the cause of lots of problems in this ol’ world as time passes. So, nope. None of that on my wedding day.

Oh, and as for my wedding day? The date will be November 1. Richard wanted a Fall wedding (at our home) so I glanced at the calendar and that date shone like a beacon. It would have been my grandpa’s birthday…the grandpa that passed away just months before I met Richard. The grandpa that Richard reminds me of so often. The grandpa that I think would have really liked him. So, there you go. November 1 it is. It will be a very small, family-only kind of ceremony, with what we hope will be a much larger, very non-formal “reception” (read: cookout) later in the day.

Eeeek! I’m getting married!!!

For those of you that have followed my blog from its early days (and let me pause here to thank you from the bottom of my heart for that), you know well that the road to this day has not been smooth. The love was always there. Always. But the common sense? Eh, notsomuch. It has taken us a very long time to finally smooth out our paths in a way that they are finally able to blend together and head in the same direction. The best things in life are worth waiting for though, right?

Oh yeah, and one more thing!  Another reason I’ve been a tad busy lately?  I started training for my first full marathon.  Guess when it is?  November 15. Two short weeks after my wedding.  So, guess what our honeymoon is going to be?  Yep, you guessed it, people. I’m marrying a man who is willing to let my first full marathon be our honeymoon.

Am I a lucky girl or what?

And there you have it, folks! The reasons (aka excuses) for my blog absence, and a quick run-down of what’s been going on in the meantime. Thanks for still being here. I hope you all know how much you mean to me.

See you soon! (And this time, I mean that!…*Ahhem*…I hope…)

***

“Where there is love, there is life.”
– -Mahatma Gandhi

The Company You Keep

“You are known by the company you keep.”
– Heather Dubrow

I noticed something this week that I would like to share with you.

See that quote up there?  I’ve heard that sort of thing all my life. I always applied it to friendships and the workplace and things of that nature.  But something else has just recently dawned on me. The company that I keep is not really friends or coworkers at all. The people I’m around the most is my family.  And I want to tell you a little something about a few of them.

kelrich

Richard and Kelly

See these gorgeous creatures right here?  This is my boyfriend Richard and my daughter Kelly. Now, between Richard and I, we have a total of four children.  But for various reasons (other parents, summer commitments, etc.), the other three aren’t around quite as much as Kelly is these days. So, more often than not, it’s just the three of us spending time together. That makes them the two people that I spend most of my life with.  The “company I keep” if you will.

And I want to tell you a little something about them.

This week my community theatre is putting on a marvelous production of Les Misérables. This is a massive musical that is not known to be done by small community theatres…but ours didn’t let that silly little fact stop them.  Now, usually, I would be involved in the show since I’m the actor in the family.  But I decided to sit this one out for a while. I just didn’t think I had the energy to put into it (you can’t imagine the time and dedication it takes to put on any musical – much less this one! – unless you’ve been involved in one before).  But, as it turns out, I ended up being the only one of our little threesome that wasn’t involved.  Both Richard and Kelly volunteered their time to be “techies.”

Now, for this past week (the week that has lead up to the show), Richard and Kelly have been scarce.  They have spent their every waking moment at the theatre.  This is quite a turn of events for me.  Usually I’m the one at the theatre while the rest of my family sits at home wondering how late I’ll be coming home. It was odd being on the receiving end of that for a change. However, I honestly haven’t minded the time alone. I was able to catch up on some laundry, some cleaning, some reading…and some thinking.  While piddling around the house last night (opening night!), a thought crept into my mind:  My boyfriend and my daughter are just friggin awesome.

richardmusic

The Southern House in Transit

Now, I’ve always known this, of course.  This wasn’t a “new” thought.  But last night, I had something specific to apply it to.

For those of you who don’t know, Richard is a musician.  He’ll tell you he plays the drums but just owns a guitar – but he’s full of it. He plays them both and is wonderful at it.  Oh, and he sings, too.  This man who has the ability and talent to get up in front of audiences and make beautiful music (even making some decent money at it at times), has spent the past few weeks of his life volunteering to help others sound their best. He’s the one you won’t see when you go see this phenomenal performance, but everything you hear will be because of him. The man who makes music is just as happy (if not happier) this week in the shadows watching as he makes sure you can hear the actors making music.

I don’t know, man.  There’s just something about that.  Such humility. Such a lack of need for attention or applause.  The ability to derive pleasure from helping others receive recognition.  That’s no small feat, in my little book.

annie2

Kelly as Annie

And then there’s my little Kelly.

Kelly is no stranger to the spotlight.  This is the girl who played the role of Annie last year to five straight sold-out audiences.  She got up in front of hundreds of people and sang her heart out, while “Sandy” jumped on her, licked her face, sniffed in her pockets for the treats she knew were there…etc.  I’m telling you, Kelly was a pro. It’s hard enough to trust other actors when you’re onstage, but to get through an entire scene with just you and a canine as your co-star…and while singing!?…let’s just say this kid earned some serious points in my respect book for those awesome skills.  But you know what I respect even more?

The role she’s playing now.

That’s right.  This week, little Annie’s redhead is nowhere to be seen.  That spotlight that she knew so well last year?  She’s now sitting behind it.  She’s the follow spot operator.  She is making sure that you can see others as they shine.  And you know what?  She loves it.  Like I mentioned before – that takes a special kind of person.  A person who is not looking for recognition, but just wants to help.  She’s just as happy shining the light on others as she was feeling it on her own face as she played a title role to a sold-out audience. In fact, I think she’s a bit happier doing what she’s doing now.

Wow.

I hope you don’t mind the fact that I took an entire blog to give a shout-out to these two wonderful people in my life.  If that old saying is true – if you really are known by the company you keep – then I can’t even begin to tell you how proud I am to be known as the mom to that hard-working little girl and the one who is loved by that humble, talented man.

What a lucky lady am I.

***

company

 

 

…You Lose Some

“The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.”
– Robert Green Ingersoll

I’m a Loser.

loserThat’s right.  Capital “L” and all.  La-hooooo-za-heeer. (Said in my best Jim Carrey/Ace Ventura voice.)

I often blog about my writing successes on here.  Last year, I wrote about winning first place in the essay category at the Chautauqua Festival Creative Writing Competition.  Then, I went on to tell you about my first published work appearing in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and now I have a second story appearing in another Chicken Soup for the Soul book, which will be available in August of this year.  Pretty awesome stuff, huh?

But you know what I don’t often blog about?  All the other submissions I’ve sent in.  Or better yet, all the rejections I’ve received.  And trust me, there are PLENTY of them.

Yesterday, in fact, I received two rejections in one day.  That contest I won first place in last year?  Didn’t even place this year.  The next Chicken Soup for the Soul book that’s coming out after the one in August?  My story wasn’t chosen.  These are just two loser-ish examples (did I mention they happened in ONE DAY?) but there are many more where those came from.  I sent my boyfriend Richard a message yesterday saying “Okay, I’ve received two writing rejections in one day. Tell me I’m pretty.”  (Yeah, I probably won’t be winning any awards for my sense of humor anytime soon either…)

Why am I telling you this?  Well, after my rejection-filled day yesterday, something dawned on me.  I had some pretty good luck straight out of the gate last year.  Now, mind you, I’ve written all my life – as early as I can remember I was giving poems to people as Christmas gifts (did I mention that I’m also cheap?…)  But it wasn’t until a few years ago that I started sharing my writing publicly- starting with this very blog site you’re looking at now.  After the positive feedback I received on my blog posts, I decided to take a chance at submissions.  Lo and behold, I won that essay contest (my first submission EVER!) and then it was shortly followed by a call from Chicken Soup asking to print the story I submitted to them. Whoa! Talk about your beginner’s luck! But soon after those first boosts to the ego, the rejections started coming in.  Magazines didn’t want my essays. I didn’t place in other local writing contests. My blog stats started dropping. And for a brief moment, I sort of felt like giving up.  But you know what?

I didn’t.

And why didn’t I?  Well, I was one of the lucky ones who had been blessed with the feeling of winning.  I knew that just because I “lost” a few times, that doesn’t mean that my stuff wasn’t “good.” It just didn’t get chosen this time.

I kind of have this theory.  I think every life is filled with a certain pre-destined number of wins and losses. And I’m not just talking about writing submissions here.  I’m talking about all that life has to offer – in your professional life, your creative life, your personal life – all of it. They’re not all going to be losses, but they’re not all going to be wins either.  As far as this writing thing is concerned, I was honored with a few of those wins upfront. But in other aspects of my life?  Those wins took a little while longer. I had to go through quite a few defeats before I got to the winning portion. In fact, I’m in the middle of a few defeats now.  But you know what gives me hope?

I know that my time to shine is coming.  I just haven’t gotten to the winning portion yet.

You get it?  You buying what I’m selling here?

We don’t always get the wins up front. But that doesn’t mean they’re not coming. It’s so tempting to give up, isn’t it?  It’s so hard to believe that the good stuff really is out there somewhere.  But it is.

It is.

A few years ago, after my second divorce, I had pretty much decided that a “win” in the love department wasn’t possible.  And then, out of the blue, I met Richard.  And you know what?  That wasn’t a “win” either.  Oh, it is now, don’t get me wrong.  But at first?  Phew.  Let’s just say ours isn’t your typical “their eyes met and it was love at first sight” story.  (Well, it was for one of us…but I won’t get into that right now…)  I could’ve given up on this too.  And trust me, I wanted to. But somewhere deep down, I had a feeling that a win was coming. And you know what?

I was right.

us3Richard and I have what I’ve only dreamed about in the past. I honestly had no idea that a relationship could be this good.  This sweet. This tender.  This supportive.  (WINNING!)  But believe me when I tell you this – it was NOT easy.  I had to take the losses before the win.  Sometimes that’s just how these things work.

I’m so very glad I didn’t give up.  Look at all the love I’d have missed.

Are you going through a loser phase right now?  Hang in there, my friend. I have a feeling a win may be just around the corner.  Just don’t give up before it gets here.

***

“Defeat doesn’t finish a man, quit does. A man is not finished when he’s defeated. He’s finished when he quits.”
- Richard M. Nixon