Author Archives: Melissa Halsey Caudill

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Curtsy

“Embarrassment is a villain to be crushed.”
- Robert B. Cialdini

So, have you heard about Stefanie Dolson?

Stefanie, bless her heart, had something happen to her earlier this week that would absolutely mortify most of us.  As a member of the UConn women’s basketball team who had made a trip to the white house to be honored by the President himself for their NCAA national championship, Stefanie had … um … well, let’s just call it a little mishap.  Oh heck, here, let me just let you see for yourself:

Yikes!

AP OBAMA A BKC BKW USA DC

(AP Photos/Susan Walsh)

And as if it happening weren’t bad enough…of course, it had to happen on national TV.  And, of course, newscasters everywhere had to run it on their news segments.  And you can see the reporters’ reactions in the lower left corner of the screen in the video – cameras clicking, flashes everywhere, etc.  Whew.  If Stefanie was going to embarrass herself, by golly she was going to do it right.  Get it, girl.

But you want to know my favorite part of this whole ordeal?  The reason why I’m blogging about the incident?  It’s what happens just after the above video clip ends – the part that most video clips I have found on the subject have managed to leave out.  After the initial embarrassment, after the nervous laughter, after being helped up by the friggin President of the United States for Heaven’s sakes, you know what Stefanie did?

She composed herself, looked right out at one of the cameras and…ready for this?…she curtsied.  Yep.  Curtsied.

Check her out.

AP OBAMA UCONN NCAA A S USA DC

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

After facing what was probably the most embarrassing thing to have happened to her thus far in her life, she got herself together, looked the embarrassment right in the face, and basically bowed to it.  That curtsy said, “Yep. There ya go. I’m human, and I just proved it. You’re welcome. Carry on.”

It’s pretty safe to say that Stefanie Dolson is one of my favorite people in the world right now.  What a lesson there is to learn from this awesome lady.  I don’t know about you, but I think I’m going to be thinking about that Dolson curtsy for many years to come.  The next time life knocks you down?  Hey, just get right back up, and give life the ol’ Dolson curtsy.  You know?  You can either be remembered for the embarrassment you felt while you were stumbling, or you can be remembered for the classy way you carried yourself after you regained your balance.  It’s that simple.

Really.  It’s just that simple.

(And another little secret – you’re actually probably the only one that’s really going to remember anyway. Unless of course you were on national TV… But isn’t what you remember about yourself the most important thing anyway?)

Remember the curtsy, people – not the stumble.

Got it?

***

“Relax; the world’s not watching that closely. It’s too busy contemplating itself in the mirror.”
- Richelle E. Goodrich

 

I Am Woman

“A woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt

I’m a woman. Through and through.

And here’s how I know.

I think I may have broken a bone in my hand. *sigh* (Ok, no, that’s not why I know I’m a woman. Men break their hands all the time. Just be patient…I’m getting to the point.) So, why do I think my hand is broken?  Well, I tripped and fell playing basketball in flip-flops. (Ok, that’s closer to being how I know I’m a woman, but that’s still not the point.)  In a last-minute, mindless motion, I put my hand out to break my fall.  A lot of weight fell on my tiny little wrist (my wrist is the only thing that’s tiny, mind you) and it didn’t feel too great, to put it mildly.

Now, this flip-flop basketball incident happened over two weeks ago, and I still haven’t been to the doctor. Why not? Well, a couple of reasons. One, money. (Money is the underlying factor to just about everything these days…can I get an Amen?)

But mostly, the real reason is just that I figured I had just bruised something somewhere and it would get better with time.

Well, it hasn’t.

In fact, it’s getting worse. And being the Google Doctor that I am, it looks like I may have done a little more damage than I originally had thought.  So, today, I’m off to the doctor to find out.

And here’s the thing.  I really DON’T want to have a broken hand.  Having a broken hand would suck. I do so much crap with my hand. For one thing, I’m typing this blog right now. (It’s actually a little painful to type, but I’m willing to suffer for you guys. That’s just the kind of gal I am…) But seriously, I do an awful lot of typing – both with my extracurricular writing, and with my business writing. I’m a legal assistant. I spend all day typing on the computer.  I kinda need my hand.

meselfBut even more important than that?  Helllllo…how am I going to straighten my hair?  No kidding, I spent extra time straightening my hair this morning and making sure it looked decent (no matter how much it hurt to grip the straightener) because I had a feeling that today might be my last cast-less day for a while. How shallow am I, people?  (But hey, doesn’t my hair look great?…)

And you know what else I did last night on what may be my last cast-less 24 hours?  I cleaned the bathroom.  Yep.  I looked down at the floor and at the toothpaste-speckled mirror and decided that it would be pretty dang hard to scrub anything with a cast on my hand.  So, I got to work. Yep, it hurt, but at least it got done.  I also knocked out a few loads of laundry while I was at it.

Now, see why I know I’m a woman? Pardon my French here, but we women? Oh, we’re badasses. I’m here to tell ya. We know our worth, we know our value, and we know that when it’s time for crap to get done, we’re the ones to do it. Now, I’m not trying to down men or anything. And not trying to be stereotypical (there are always exceptions to every rule), but isn’t that a pretty cool thing about us chicks? We’re planners. We take charge. We see to it that things get done, no matter the sacrifice.

I think that’s kinda cool myself.

So, here’s to the women out there. Celebrate your awesomeness.  Right now – do it.  Pat yourself on the back (Lord knows no one else is going to do it), and remind yourself that you are a rock star. Get it, girl!

(I’d high-five all of you if I could, but I guess that would hurt….)

Ok.  Time to go find out if Dr. Google is right.  (This is one of those rare few times that I’d be happy to be wrong about something.) So…my hand and I are off to the doctor.  I’ll keep ya posted.

(P.S. Anyone want to volunteer to come straighten my hair for six weeks if my hand is broken?…)

***

“Strong women need not declare they can carry all the burdens in life. They just quietly do it and survive with a smile.”
- Princess Maleiha Bajunaid Candao

 

Slippery Muse

“I feel like I am allowed to share with the world what I see.”
- Joel Robison, photographer

A while back, I saw the above quote when I was reading an article about Joel Robison, a photographer whose career had taken off practically overnight because of his photos that were noticed and purchased by the Coca-Cola company. While I’m not a photographer, that quote spoken by Joel with regard to his new booming career struck a chord with me. I knew exactly what he meant.  That’s how I feel about my writing – that beautiful feeling of seeing something and knowing that there is a story in it.  And then having the freedom and means to share that story with others.  I was excited to see someone put so simply into words exactly what I feel so often.  So, I quickly copied and pasted the quote into a new blog entry and saved it to my drafts to write about later.

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“Stuck Inside” by Joel Robison

And there it sat.

And sat.

*sigh*

And sat some more.

The quote was phenomenal and I knew I wanted to expand on it and blog about it, but I’ve just been kind of stuck.  Not only stuck on knowing what to write about regarding this particular quote, but just stuck in general.  I briefly mentioned my case of writer’s block in my last blog, but I sort of blamed it on how busy I’ve been lately.  (Which, mind you, I’m not saying doesn’t play a big role in it.)  But honestly, I don’t think that’s the only thing.  Once in a while, I just can’t quite grab on to that muse, you know?  I know she’s there.  She’s always there.  She sits there waiting patiently for me…whistling, twiddling her thumbs, trying not to be a nuisance.  But yet, for some unknown reason, my hands just can’t get the grip I need on that slippery little booger.  I try to reach for her, even think I’ve got a good hold every now and then, but lo and behold, she manages to slither right out of my hands. Oh, it’s not her fault. She hasn’t done anything wrong – hasn’t changed.

It’s me who can’t get a grip.

Well, a few weeks ago, I was honored to be a speaker at a local event called Night of the Spoken Word.  Eleven local writers were introduced individually and asked to read a 5-minute portion of one of their works. While I was excited to participate, I was also looking forward to the inspiration that I knew the night would bring.  For a writer stuck in a rut, there would be nothing better than to be surrounded by fellow writers - hearing their magical words flow through the room and feel them seep into my soul. I just knew this would be what would jumpstart my writing and get me back on track.

Well, guess what?  It didn’t.

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“Bookworm” by Joel Robison

Oh, I was inspired of course. I was in awe and full of admiration at all the talent that surrounded me, and beyond honored to be included among them.  But I got home and sat down at the computer and still…

Nothing.

Well, except maybe this one thing.

Something I had heard that night kept playing over and over in my mind. A fellow writer got up to read a poem he had written about a trip that he and his daughter had taken together when she was younger. As he gave the introduction to his poem – describing why he had written what he had - he said he had just had such a wonderful time with his daughter on the trip that when he got home, he sat down with pen and paper to write about it.  Specifically, the phrase he used was this:

I wanted to remember what that felt like.”
- Scot Pope

If it wouldn’t have been massively rude to whip out my cell phone during his reading, I would have done just that.  I would have went to my “notes” app on my phone and typed in what he said to remind me to go back and read it again later. (Oh, how many blogs I have written based on short, practically unintelligible “notes” from my phone…).  But, as luck would have it, I didn’t need to be rude and type it into my phone after all. I remembered it. I remembered it as I was leaving, I remembered it when I got home, and here I was remembering it almost two weeks later. I didn’t know why that meant so much to me, but it just wouldn’t leave my mind.

joelrobinson

“Short Stories” by Joel Robinson

And then, suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, one day it hit me.

Inspiration.

I hurried to my blog site and dug out that dusty old draft with the Joel Robison quote in it.  Looking at his quote, and comparing it with Scot Pope’s quote, I realized why I write. And realizing it made me appreciate it.  And appreciating it made me want to do it again. I hope these two remarkable, talented men won’t mind my combining their quotes by saying that writing, for me, is not only a way to remember what I felt when I saw something in this big, awesome world, but to also be able to tell people about it.  I feel something, and I no longer have to hold it inside.  I pour it out onto the computer screen, hit that little “publish” button, and suddenly, I’ve shared a piece of myself with you.  I’ve invited you into my memories.  Into my life lessons.

Into my heart.

Writing is who I am.  It just is.  When it’s missing, a piece of me is missing. And sometimes that does happen…sometimes I lose touch temporarily with who I am.  (As I’m sure we all are prone to do.)  But then, inevitably, Inspiration comes slipping in that door I left ajar yet again.  And quietly, without any noise or fanfare to speak of, she plants her little seed once more- whether through the eloquent words of a fellow writer, the majestic beauty of a talented photographer, or the kind words from a blog reader who lets me know that my words meant something to them - and I once again find myself back on the path towards home.

In closing, and as a thank you to each and every one of you, my vast array of seed-planters, I’d like to once again quote Joel Robison:

“So with that, I’d like to thank YOU for being a part of this big and small world. For looking at, enjoying, commenting and appreciating my work and what I do and for helping me find the path that I’ve found.”
- Joel Robison

Thank you all for your part in helping me to reach out and grasp that elusive muse with both hands, and hold her tight to me where she belongs. Thank you for helping me to find my way back to where I belong.  Thank you for helping me to remember who I am.

Ahhh.

All is well.

joelrobinson2

“Wordly Balance” by Joel Robison

10-Minute Rule

“Each day should have a clearly marked emergency exit sign.”
- Dr. SunWolf

Whew. These past few weeks have been somewhat Stressful. (Yes, I capitalized stressful in that sentence. That word deserved a capital S in this case.)  Between work stress, financial worries, worrying over a friend’s medical issues…it just seems like it has been one thing right after the other. And amid all the stresses, there have also been time-consuming good things as well – softball games, getting a house ready for renters, taking care of that precious new puppy of ours, watching my handsome son turn 16.  All good things, of course, but whew….after a few weeks like this, I’m beat!

So, here I am (exhaustion-induced grumpy mood = check!) and suddenly it dawns on me.  I know what I’ve been doing wrong.

I have let my 10-minute rule slip.

10minuteruleWhat is the 10-minute rule?  So sweet of you to ask.

I have decided that there are a few things in my life that I absolutely love that are only about ME.  Sure, I love spending time with my family and with that wonderful man I love, etc. But that’s not what I’m talking about here.  I’m talking about the things that are about and for me only.  And for me personally, those things are acting, running, reading, and writing. (I’m guessing your list probably varies somewhat from mine.)  When I’m doing those four particular things, I am doing them for me only. They are the fundamentals of what make me me. They are my escapes, so to speak.  The places I go where I’m no one’s mother, sister, daughter, partner, employee, etc.  I’m just doing what I want to do…the things that I feel make me a better person because I’m being true to myself.

Well, obviously I can’t spend all day doing these things.  I have a job and responsibilities that I can’t neglect.  But a while back, I made a promise to myself that in every given day, I would make certain that I spent at least ten minutes every single day doing one of these four things.  A 10-minute soul tap, so to speak.

Now, luckily, I have four things on my list, so it shouldn’t be all that hard to find ten minutes in a day to do at least one of them.  Now granted, I can’t just jump on a stage on any given day and act for 10 minutes (I know some community theatres that would frown upon someone just showing up and doing a random 10-minute monologue during a performance), but I can pick up a book and read for ten minutes, right? That doesn’t require any special circumstances…just a book and some downtime. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

Well, it’s not.  And these past few weeks have proven it.

I have not posted on this blog in two weeks. Two weeks. I think this may very well be the longest stretch of time I have gone without posting since I started this thing in February 2012. Not only that, but I haven’t been working on my novel either. (It’s starting to feel like I may possibly have an eight-chapter novel with a horrible ending sitting on my computer for the rest of my natural life.) My running has been very sporadic (too much on my mind to dedicate the time I needed to it), I’m not involved in any theatre shows at the moment, and I’ve been carrying around a book that I have barely cracked open at all.

And you know what?  It shows.

I’m stressed. I’m grumpy. I’m overwhelmed. And, of course, I’m no doctor by any means, but I wonder if maybe skipping that 10-minute rule of mine has something to do with that?  I’ve forgotten to “take my medicine.”  Forgotten my soul tap.  Forgotten to check in with me. Is that really why things have felt so haywire lately?  Heck, I don’t know.  But I don’t think I want to roll the dice anymore. I think it’s time to pick it back up and stick to it this time.

It obviously can’t hurt anything, right?

Anyone else out there need to implement your own 10-minute rule?  Hey, who knows? It may be just what the doctor ordered.

***

“Tension is who you think you should be.  Relaxation is who you are.”
- Chinese Proverb

Richard’s Hands

The final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”
- Anne Frank

So, I’m guessing your response to reading this title is about the same response Richard had when I asked him for a picture of his hand for my blog.

“You want to write about what?”

But yep.  ‘Tis true. I want to tell you a story about Richard’s hands.

Now let me start out by saying this: If you know me, you’ll know that it is rare for me to be especially observant of anything. Ever. (I’m the girl who drove by a wreck once without seeing it.)  And yet, even with this being the case, those sexy man-hands of the man I love have especially caught my attention in the past few days. So much so that I knew I wanted to write about them. And even I wondered myself where I was going to go with that idea - how in the world would I write a whole blog on a man’s hands?  And who in their right mind would actually want to read the dang thing? But finally, I sat down and started to write and, as is often the case, the words started coming out on their own without my help.

I now know exactly why I wanted to write this blog.

Richardshand1First of all, see this picture?  This is the “you want to take picture of what?” picture that I asked Richard for.  If you’ll notice, his poor little thumb is kinda shattered. You want to know why that is?  Well, this sweet guy of mine has spent the past week or so building a chicken coop.  Has he ever built a chicken coop before? Nope. Is he a carpenter? Nope. (Note the smashed thumb…) Do we even have a farm? Nope again. But by golly, this fella wanted some chickens, and he got them. And then he wanted them to have a nice place to live. So he built it.

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Chicken coup a la Richard

Watching him spend hours of his time and go through cuts and scrapes and bruises in the process over six little chickens that he has grown to love kind of touched a soft spot in my heart all on its own. But then, after looking at his hands and seeing the work they went through for those silly little chickens, I started thinking about all of the other things those hands have done in the past few days.

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Sweet little Sassy

I moved in with Richard about six months ago. Part of this move involved leaving behind a sweet little neighbor doggy named Sassy whom I had grown to love over the years. It was hard leaving her behind, even though we had no shortage of animals at Richard’s house. Between my cat, his cat and dog, his four horses, and our newly acquired six chickens, we were definitely doing okay in the pet department.  And yet…I still missed that sweet little Sassy. I found myself looking at pictures of dogs that were up for adoption – something I had never done before in my life. Sometimes, half jokingly, I would forward these pictures on to Richard with the standard “Awwww, look, Richard…we NEED this dog!” message and he would playfully, but not-so-jokingly, respond with, “We don’t need another dog.” To which I would remind him each and every time that we were all evenly paired up – he and I, my son and daughter, his son and daughter, his male cat and my female cat – all that was left was to find a boy playmate for sweet little lonely Lucy, his female German shepherd. He never took the bait though.

That is, until this week.

doggy

Facebook ad pic

In what was strictly an accident (really), I clicked on a link by mistake on Facebook that took me into a buy/sale group for the area I used to live in. When I realized my error and started to click out of it, a picture caught my attention.  There, in all his adorable sweet glory, was a little dog that needed a home soon, or else he was being sent to the pound.  A little boy.  A little boy who happened to look like a brown version of the little Sassy that I missed so much. I read the details about him and the more I read, the more I realized that this really was the dog that would complete our family. I prepared myself to beg Richard.  I sent him the standard “We neeeeeeeeeed this dog” (added a few more E’s for emphasis this time) to which I expected to receive the “We don’t need another dog” message.  But, much to my surprise, that’s not what popped up on my screen.

Those sexy man hands?  They typed this message back to me: “He sure does look like a sweet little fella.”

Whoa.  What did he just say?  Where’s the “No?”  Did I actually have a chance?

So I immediately responded with all the “Here’s why he’d be perfect for us” specs.  The next message those glorious hands typed?

“Well, looks like we have a new dog.”

I was ecstatic!  We were getting a dog!!

richardshand4

Little John safe in the hands of his new daddy

The next few days were a whirlwind.  Those hands of his drove us over an hour and a half one-way that very day to pick up my new baby.  [We named him Little John Sampson. I know, I know, what kind of name is that?  Long story. Basically it started as a joke - if you're a James Patterson fan, you'll recognize the character name - but the "joke" kind of stuck.  Little John it was!]

We were absolutely in love.

And then, the very next day, something horrible happened. Little John went missing.

He had just been outside playing with Lucy (the two were getting along perfectly) and then – just like that – he was gone.  Those hands of Richard’s had to do something that I know broke his heart…they had to type me the message that said, “Sweetheart, I’m sorry, but I can’t find Little John…”

I left work and headed home to help look for him. He was gone.  Just…gone.

I couldn’t believe how quickly I had fallen in love with that little boy. His being missing broke my heart in two. I cried and cried and then cried some more. I was so mad at myself. I questioned our ever going to get him in the first place and beat myself up over not taking care of him like I should have. How did I let him disappear like that?

richardshand6Those hands of Richard’s held me while I cried. They wiped off the tears, they patted my back. And then, feeling like they weren’t doing enough, they went to the computer and typed out a “Lost Dog” flier.  Then, they went out and hung the flier up at all the local stores and at the fire department that happens to be at the end of our long driveway.

That night, a storm came. All I could think about was how sweet Little John would never find his way back now that the rains would have washed the scent of his trail away.  (I was convinced that he has just run off and had gotten lost in the woods behind our home…I had little hope that the fliers would work or that anyone would actually find him.) Richard and I spent a restless, sad night, missing the sweet little dog that had already stolen both our hearts in the short time that he had been with us.

The next morning, I sullenly went off to work while Richard got to work in his home office. After being at work for a few hours, I somewhat reluctantly decided to post a “Have you seen our dog” picture on Facebook, ashamed to admit that he was already lost so soon after we had gotten him. I just had to do something. I didn’t know if it would work, but it was worth a try.

Within minutes, those hands of Richard’s that I so adore typed the following comment on my picture: “Guess who made it home?” Following the comment, was a picture of my sweet Little John all wet and muddy, but safe and sound.

Our baby was home.

Turns out, those fliers that those sweet hands made had actually worked. Sweet Little John had made his way to the fire department at the end of our driveway and, after realizing he was lost and a storm was coming, had planted himself under the back porch of the fire house and refused to budge. Prior to seeing Richard’s flier, one of the firefighters had been attempting to catch him, but he was hiding and wouldn’t come out. Once the man saw the flier, he called Richard and told him to come get our baby. Once Little John realized it was his daddy calling for him this time, he made his way out and right back into daddy’s waiting hands.

richardshand5That night, Richard’s hands went to work again cleaning up our sweet baby and getting him ready for mommy snuggles again. Our Little John was right back in his rightful place – the last little piece of the puzzle that made our family complete.

And all of this happened because of Richard’s hands.  Those hard-working hands that are so full of love, compassion, tenderness, and strength. Those hands that are strong enough to take care of the tough work that needs to be done, and can then turn around and be tender enough to take care of the gentle tasks like wiping away a woman’s tears and cradling a scared puppy.

Yes sir, I gotta hand it to him (see what I did there?)…that man sure is something special. And I will be more than honored to hold on to those beautiful hands for the rest of my life.

Welcome to a life full of love, sweet Little John. You’re gonna have the best daddy around.

***

doggyfam

 

 

 

 

 

Out of the Mouths of Babes

“I don’t give a shit if kids take too many selfies or listen to bands I don’t like. They’re smarter, braver and care more than we give them credit for, and that’s pretty much always been the case.”
- Zack Foley

(I hope you’ll pardon my French with that quote above, but censoring it just wouldn’t have packed the same punch.)

I had been toying with a blog idea in my head for a while when I scrolled through Facebook and the above quote caught my attention.  A friend of mine was quoting a friend of his and what he had to say fit right along with the blog I had in my head. So, I asked permission to share it and there you have it.  And here’s why I liked it so much.

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My brilliant little Kelly in all her selfie glory

It’s true.

So incredibly true.

Case in point: my daughter, Kelly.  Those kids Mr. Foley refers to in his quote?  Oh yeah, my kiddo fits it to a tee. That little selfie-taking, weird-music-loving teenager of mine is everything that quote describes.  Especially that last part.

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend Richard and I were…um, let’s say…having some “issues.”  Okay, let’s just call it what it was. We were fighting. And it was bad. Now, if you haven’t heard me mention this before, Richard is a very quiet man. VERY quiet. So, when I say “fighting,” what I mean is…we weren’t speaking to each other. (Even I get tired of yelling when no one yells back.)  These non-communication fights have a tendency to drag on forever, as I’m sure you can imagine, since nothing ever gets talked about or worked on, and this particular fight was no exception. And while we try to hide our arguments from the kids, they aren’t dummies. We go from being the happiest, cuddliest couple in the world to not wanting to be in the same room? Yeah, they kinda figure something is up.

Well, this time, Kelly wasn’t having it.

She sent both of us a group Facebook message.  And I want to show it to you.  Now, I’m editing it a bit to keep out the details of the argument (I’d hate to broadcast publicly how WRONG Richard was, ya know…bless his heart…), but I’ll put enough here for you to get the gist.  Check this out:

“Okay. Y’all are getting on my nerves again. Fighting over really stupid stuff…..To be honest, you both are acting like middle schoolers. You guys get in a fight, don’t try to fix it or don’t want to talk about it, and just act like you don’t care. You do. I know I’m only 14 but I have sense….I know you both love each other and I know you care about each other, so start acting like it…Suck it up and be the couple all of us know you are.”

Okay, so I’m aware that I could be mad that she spoke to adults like that.  The whole “ya’ll are getting on my nerves” and “suck it up” parts aren’t the most respectful terms she could’ve used, of course.  But you know what? She was absolutely right.  Absolutely 100% right.

She didn’t know every detail of the argument we were having, but it really didn’t matter. The details aren’t the point. The point is that, even at 14, she could see that we weren’t handling things the way we were supposed to. She could see the love that he and I were forgetting during our anger. She could see that we needed a reminder to “be the couple that everyone knows we are.”

Now, I’m not sure how Richard immediately felt when he read this (after all – we weren’t speaking), but me?  I instantly felt the tears coming to my eyes. Not only because I knew she was right…I so love that big doofus-head boyfriend of mine with every ounce of my being…but because she cared enough to stick her nose in and try to get us back on track.  That took guts. And a heart.

And I’m so proud of her.

(By the way, Richard’s written response to her message?  “No fair – why do you get to be the smartest one in the family?”)  Heh.

Now, with all this said, I just want to clarify: I’m not saying the kid knows everything.  (Although if you ask her, she’d probably disagree with that statement.)  She still has lots and lots to learn yet.  (Don’t we all?)  But what I am saying is this: sometimes it sure does help to look at things through the simple, caring, knowing eyes of a child.  They see a lot more than we give them credit for, and they have a lot to tell us if we’ll take the time to listen.

Sometimes the details just don’t matter. Sometimes, you just have to get back to the heart of the matter…the love that lies dormant underneath all the chaos. And sometimes…a lot of times, actually…it takes a child to help you do that.

***
“In youth men are apt to write more wisely than they really know or feel; and the remainder of life may be not idly spent in realizing and convincing themselves of the wisdom which they uttered long ago.”
- Nathaniel Hawthorne

To the Girl at the Bar

“He’s not your prince charming if he doesn’t make sure you know that you’re his princess.”
― Demi Lovato

Dear Girl from the Bar,

I’m sure you don’t remember me.  But I certainly remember you.  In fact, I don’t think a day has gone by since I saw you over a month ago that you haven’t crossed my mind.

“Saw you?”  Hmmm.  That’s probably not the right term.  “Stalked you” might be more like it.  I could not stop watching you.  You commanded my attention and it has taken me weeks to figure out why that is.  That’s why I’m writing you this letter today.

womaninbarI’m sure you didn’t notice me.  I was the girl sitting with the other wives/girlfriends of the band.  We weren’t typical attendees of this particular bar, so we sort of grouped together in our little corner – just there to watch the guys in our lives do what they love.  But I couldn’t help but notice you.  I’m not sure at what point it was that you caught my attention exactly.  I just know that at some time during the night, I started watching you paying an awful lot of attention to some guy.

Now, see, I’m a people watcher. When I first noticed this attention you were giving this guy, I assumed you were a couple.  Why wouldn’t I? You were draped across him, rubbing his back, standing right next to him…things like that.  But the more I watched, the more I started to see that my initial assumption was incorrect.

This guy just flat out didn’t like you.

I know that may sound harsh, but I have to call it like I see it.  The more you touched him, the more he pulled away.  The more you asked him to dance, the more he seemed to not want to.  You would practically barge your way into his line of sight, and he would physically turn his body so that he wasn’t looking at you.

Now, I know that sometimes it’s easier to see things when you’re “out of the box” so to speak. I know that maybe my vantage point called for a better view than yours, but surely you couldn’t have been entirely immune to this treatment.  Could you?

I even saw you kiss him at one point, for Heaven’s sake. The guy was completely taken aback.  By this point, you had become a laughing stock among he and his friends. Once you turned your back to him, he made a show of wiping the kiss off of his face and laughing with the guys about it.  I don’t know how else to tell you this, other than to just come out and say it…

You made an absolute fool of yourself.

Now, why have you stayed on my mind?  Why have I thought of you almost daily since that night?  Why did your embarrassing scenario strike such a chord with me?

Oh, I know why.

Lord, honey, I’ve been there.  I’ve soooo been there.

Now, granted, I’ve never planted a kiss on a stranger at a bar, per se.  And I suppose I’ve never exactly thrown myself at a guy I barely know. But you know what I have done?

Stayed somewhere I wasn’t wanted.

I have hung around in relationships way past their expiration date.  And why?  Because I was idiot.  Like you.  (No offense.)  I thought if I just tried a little harder, maybe he’d finally see me.  You know?  If I just did this a little better, or that a little better, maybe then he’d finally realize I was worthy of his attention. Of his affection.  But you know what?

It never worked.  Not once.

I wonder what happened when you got home.  Did you cry? Did you wonder what you did wrong?  Did you wonder what’s wrong with you?  Oh yeah, been there.  I’ve looked at myself in the mirror with such confusion and hatred before that it was scary. I’ve picked myself apart…my fuzzy curly hair, my flawed complexion, my crooked teeth. I’ve yelled at myself for being too outspoken, too demanding, too talkative.  Too this.  Too that.  I’ve been more mean to me than anyone else ever has.  And why did I do that?

Because some guy didn’t like me.

Some stupid, inconsequential guy.  I let a stranger’s value of me replace my own value of myself.  I adopted their view of me and replaced it for my own.

What an idiot I was.  What an idiot you are.

Anyway.  I know you won’t see this.  I know you don’t remember me.  But again, I just wanted to let you know that you’re on my mind.  I wanted to let you know that for a moment, our lives crossed, and I saw myself in your defeat.  You reminded me of how I never want to feel again. You reminded me of how ridiculous it is to place my worth in someone else’s hands.

You reminded me that when I’m loved, I’ll know it.  I won’t have to chase it.  It will chase me.

And better yet, you reminded me that the real love I should be worried about – is the love I have for myself.

Thank you for crossing my path.  I hope you learn to love yourself one day too.

Love,

One Who Gets It

[P.S.  You are waaaaay too good for that guy.  He was a dork.]

***

“When your self-worth goes up, your net worth goes up with it.”
- Mark Victor Hansen

Flower Garden Theory

heartgarden

Flower Garden Theory

Our hearts are flower gardens.
Each morning we arise and tend to them -
Water
Soil
Fertilizer
…and out we step into the world.
People pass by.
Hurriedly, we share our garden with pride
“Look!
Isn’t it beautiful?
Here, take a flower for a while!
Just bring it back, ok?”

And what happens?

Some bring the flowers back
Beautiful and bright as ever
Well–tended
Sometimes in even better shape than before
We put them back in their rightful place -
The garden is as perfect as ever.

But sometimes.

Some bring the flowers back…not so beautiful
They haven’t taken care of them at all
They are wilted
Withered
Thirsty
We put them back in as best we can
But they no longer belong.
They are changed.

And sometimes still.

Some don’t bring the flowers back at all.
They didn’t realize they weren’t theirs to keep
They have cast them aside
Forgotten
(Or maybe they are thieves)
The garden now has an empty spot.

Our hearts are flower gardens.
Each morning we arise and tend to them -
Water
Soil
We make adjustments.
We remove the dead flowers from yesterday
(They didn’t make it through the night)
We adjust the borders to fill in the empty spots
Our garden is smaller
But still beautiful
…and out we step into the world.
People pass by.
We share our garden with pride
(Perhaps a little less pride than yesterday, however)
“Look!
Isn’t it beautiful?
Here, take a flower for a while!
Just bring it back, ok?”

The cycle repeats.

Our hearts are flower gardens.
Each morning we arise and tend to them -
Water
Soil
We make further adjustments.
We remove more dead flowers
Adjust the borders for even more empty spots.
Our garden is smaller
But still beautiful
(Sort of)
…and out we step into the world.
People pass by.
We start to share our garden…
But the pride has decreased
(Is it worth showing anymore?
Can they be trusted?)

We change our minds.
We keep our gardens to ourselves

For if we keep sharing…
They may disappear.

Our hearts are flower gardens.
Fenced-in.
Private.
Secure.