Tag Archives: loss

Loving Lenny

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
– Anatole France

“Something is wrong.”

It was three years ago today on a bright, cold winter Saturday morning in February. I had popped out of bed early and hurriedly thrown on a pair of old jeans and a comfy sweatshirt, excited that this much-anticipated day had finally arrived. After six full days of this animal-lover’s pleading and begging on Facebook for someone to adopt a sweet, lonely pit bull mix that had found his way to our local animal shelter, my prayer had finally been answered. Little “Lenny” (the name I promptly bestowed upon him after observing his ‘gentle giant’ ways that mirrored his namesake in the classic Of Mice and Men) was going home! And who had adopted him?

Lenny’s shelter photo – Facebook, Feb 2015

You guessed it—me!

After seeing that there was no public interest in saving this sweet boy from his ever looming demise date, my big-hearted husband finally gave in. Lenny was coming home to join our family. Lenny would be pet number five.

The only problem we faced was timing. The shelter (which was unfortunately not a no-kill shelter) had scheduled sweet Lenny to be put to sleep on Friday. But because of mine and my husband’s out-of-town work schedules, neither of us could work it out to go pick up our sweet boy before closing time on Friday. So, the shelter graciously agreed to extend his date to Saturday—with our promise that we’d definitely show up by the time they closed at noon. No problem! I rose with the sun with my happy heart pounding out of my chest. Our baby was coming home!

And then I walked into the living room and everything changed.

There lied my precious fat calico kitty Patches on her little pet bed, struggling for air.

“Something is wrong.”

At first the words came out in a whisper, but as I realized the seriousness of the situation, they gained strength.

“Something is wrong!”

I called out to my husband, “Richard! Something is wrong with Patches!”

My husband came into the room and said, “Let’s get her to the vet. Hurry.”

I began scrambling for my shoes and for a large towel to wrap my sweet cat in. We rushed to the car and started the thirty minute drive to town, with me all the while holding my fluffy girl like a baby in my arms in the passenger seat. We made it to the emergency vet and while my husband ran to the counter to explain what was happening, my beautiful cat’s gentle sweet soul left her body as she lay in my arms in the waiting room.

My girl was gone.

The last photo of Patches – February 6, 2015

Just like that. This day that was supposed to be filled with such anticipated joy was just bombarded with a soul-crushing sadness that I couldn’t possibly have seen coming. I heard voices swirling around me, offering help–burial services, cremation–but all I could do was look at the lifeless eyes lying in my aching arms. My sweet girl had seen me through so much over the past few years. She had watched my children grow with me. She saw my marriage fall apart. She saw me fall in love again and welcomed this new, amazing man into our world. She had been my constant through all the changes swirling around me.

And now she was gone.

I looked up into my husband’s empathetic eyes and saw the pain I was feeling reflecting back at me. He gently took my arm and led me to the car. I wouldn’t let Patches go. I held onto her lifeless body and couldn’t bring myself to put her down.

“Honey. We have to get to the shelter.”

My husband’s sobering words pulled me out of my stupor and I glanced at the clock. 11:00 a.m. In the rush of the morning’s tragic events, time had slipped away from me. We lost my baby that morning but we still had work to do. We didn’t have time to take my sweet Patches home and bury her and come back to get Lenny. We had no choice. We had to go straight to the shelter or we’d be too late.

We pulled into the parking lot of the shelter and my strong, stable husband finally convinced me to turn my kitty over to him. He gently took her from my arms, covered her lifeless body with the towel, and placed her into a box. We had no choice but to lay her sweet body in the trunk until we could get her home to her proper burial. After we got her in place, my husband took my hand and walked me into the shelter. There, we found our Lenny.

And he was terrified.

My eyes locked onto his and I saw his fear of the unknown. I saw the uncertainty and questions that I was feeling too. Could I do this? Could I switch gears so suddenly? From the heartbreaking pain of loss straight into the joy of a new adoption?

No. I couldn’t. And my sweet Lenny didn’t expect me to.

Dragging our terrified new pet to our car, my husband placed him in the backseat. And, in a last minute mindless decision, I climbed back there with him. We both cried all the way home. Both of us were scared. Both of us were leaving what was familiar to us and embarking on a journey where nothing would ever be the same. Both of us were shaking, sad, and weak.

Lenny’s ride home from the shelter – 2/7/2015

We needed each other more than ever.

Now, three years later, here we are. We’ve adjusted. My sweet Lenny helped me through one of the hardest days of my life back then. And I think I helped him through his, too. We snuggled on the couch on that cold Saturday back in February until our pain began to subside. We held onto each other until we realized that our broken hearts had just enough room for each other. My gentle giant coaxed me back to happiness and taught me to open my heart to another furry soul. And I taught him that some people just won’t ever leave you.

They just won’t.

We’re a team now, sweet Lenny and me. We didn’t have the happiest of starts, but we’ve promised each other that we’ll have a happy ending. Instead of me saving him, he saved me.

Someone told me once that they believed that my precious Patches chose February 7, 2015 to leave me on purpose. She knew that this would be the day that I would be able to accept her departure. I don’t know about all that. But I do know this.

A whole big furry ball of gentleness and love immediately filled the spot that she left behind. Was that divine intervention? I don’t know.

But I certainly know who’s a good boy.  My Lenny, that’s who.

Lenny and mom. February 2018.

***

“When we adopt a dog or any pet, we know it is going to end with us having to say goodbye, but we still do it. And we do it for a very good reason: They bring so much joy and optimism and happiness. They attack every moment of every day with that attitude.”
– Bruce Cameron

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I’m a Vigilante. And Here’s Why.

“Sometimes justice is better served by those who have experienced the pain.”
― Mark W. Boyer

October 1. We all remember it, and will for years to come. The day that a lone madman decided to rain down bullets on an unsuspecting crowd of country music fans at a concert in Las Vegas, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more. Our hearts broke for our brothers and sisters as we could only imagine what they must have been going through.

And then, as some idiots among us never fail to do these days, some decided to turn this horrid, random incident into a political one. No, not just to discuss gun rights (which is a worthy discussion that needs to be had) – but to place the blame on one “side” or the other.

Cue a local preacher rant.

I live in a small, highly conservative town in North Carolina and one man – a man of “God” – decided to post on Facebook about what happened. He posted a news link to the shooting and used the following words as his caption:

“Welcome to multiculturalism. Thank you Democrats, the media, and liberal education.”

Okay, let me give you a minute to let that sink in.

Take all the time you need.

Yes, my friends, you read that right. This PREACHER – a man of “God,” – decided to place the blame for this lone, white, unaffiliated, non-religious madman’s actions on multiculturalism (different races and religions living amongst one another), democrats (you know – most of whom want to tighten gun safety laws), the media (because um…yeah…I got nothing), and liberal education (whatever the hell he wants to claim that is – acceptance of LGBTQ? Beats me.)

So, needless to say…this pissed me right the hell off.

I screenshotted this atrocity and shared it on social media. I posted it to the church’s website (to no avail because it didn’t seem to bother them).  I contacted the preacher directly who told me, and I quote, that this was “none of my business” and that he would not “stand by and watch liberals destroy his county.”

*Ahhem.*

And then, as some would enjoy telling me over the next few weeks, I became a “vigilante.” I continued to post about it – to remind people of who this man was and what he was teaching his congregation. I continued to post on the church’s website, even though they continued to delete my posts. I even thought about posting a sign on their church to show them who their preacher was. (I decided against that one because it was blatantly obvious that the powers that be didn’t care who he was – they apparently agree with him. Or at least they don’t disagree with him enough to do anything about it.)

Eventually, I was told even by people who agree with my stance on this that “vigilante justice” was not the way to go.

Now, before we go any further, I have to just go ahead and admit that I’ve never been one to listen to anyone else when they try to tell me what to do. Whether they’re on my “side” or not, and whether they’re even “right” or not. Is it healthy for me to continue to feel this anger towards this preacher? Maybe not. Is it productive? Maybe not.

But am I going to stop? Nope. And here’s why.

You know what “vigilante justice” is? I looked it up. While it’s often accompanied by ‘destruction’ (I haven’t torn anything up…yet…) it’s basically just simply taking “justice” into your own hands….whatever that justice may be. It’s also defined as being rationalized by: “the concept that proper legal forms of criminal punishment are either nonexistent, insufficient, or inefficient.”

Okay. I can dig it.

So, basically, what everyone is saying is that since there is no “law” against what this man has done – then I’m taking the nonexistent law into my own hands and seeking some other form of “punishment.” Some other rectification.

Well, hell yeah!

That’s exactly what I’m doing.

This man is leading a congregation. He is shaping minds. Some minds are already formed and agree with what he has to say, but the ones I’m concerned with are the ones that aren’t shaped yet. The young minds. The children.

Let me tell you my story.

I have two children. I have a 19-year-old son and a 17-year-old daughter. For a large part of their childhood, I was a single mom. I was tough and I did what had to be done, but I’ll admit it: I was lonely. I was lost. I had a very religious grandmother who had a large hand in my raising who had instilled in me that it would be wrong of me not to raise my children up in a church. So, for the most part, I did just that. Now, granted, I skipped around to different churches and never really found one that suited me or my beliefs so I didn’t stay in any for very long. But I did go. And I drug my kids along with me.

My daughter? Let’s just say the church thing never really stuck with her. She has always been wise beyond her years and was always a ‘questioner.’ She was a bit like her mom – just didn’t quite “fit it” anywhere. I’m not saying she doesn’t believe in a higher power – that’s between her and her god if she chooses to believe in one. I’m just saying that she was always a questioner of the “rules,” – especially the ones that didn’t make any sense.

But my son? Now that was another story. I honestly thought (and still do sometimes) that he’d end up becoming a preacher. He has such a deep sense of belief and a black and white sense of “right” and “wrong” that leaves no room whatsoever for questioning. He knows what “is” and “isn’t” and that’s just all there is to it. Period.

So here I have two very different children, now almost grown adults.  One who’d end up leaning towards the conservative, Christian way of life, and the other who’d lean toward the progressive, open-minded way of life. One strict rule follower and one champion of the underdog. Very different people, to put it mildly.

And then…bam. A few years ago, my daughter announces that she’s gay.

Suddenly, momma has to put her money where her mouth is. I’d spent my life running from this religious teaching that being gay was a “sin” because I just didn’t believe it. And now, I had the chance to look all that indoctrination right in the face and decide, once and for all, what I was going to do with those heaps of spoon-fed “knowledge” I’d been given all my life.  What did I choose?

To hell with it.

This was a turning point for me. No longer would I drag my children into a place that was going to tell one of them that she was “dirty.” No longer was I going to open up a dusty old book written by men a couple thousand years ago and that told me that my child was going to burn in hell. Screw that noise.

I’m out.

But that posed a problem. I still had a son.

As of this writing, I have not seen my son in a month. We have not spoken – in person or by text – in over two weeks. He has decided (after a multitude of disagreements – not just his sister’s sexuality) to “cut ties with his liberal family.”

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I don’t care. Because I do. When I allow myself to think about it, I can’t stop the tears. But here’s the thing. I’ve spent my entire life overcoming men who have told me who and what to be and think. It has taken me years to discover who I really am and to teach my children to be who they really are. Am I going to undo all of that so my son will love me?

I can’t.

I just can’t.

So, why am I so angry at this preacher?  Why can I not leave well enough alone and let it go?

Because I’m angry at myself. I want to prevent other mothers from making the same mistake I did. I want the scared, lonely single mothers of the world who are looking for a place of refuge to know that places like the one where that man spouts off his vile hatred have the capacity to turn your children against you. I want to give them the knowledge that I didn’t have. I want to stop them from leading their child by the hand into a place that tells them that their cult-like beliefs are worth more than their own family.

I want to stop them from doing what I did.

Vigilante justice, huh? When you have a personal connection to something, you are more passionate about it. I am a Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor. When I hear of a fundraiser to raise money to help fight this disease, I’m more apt to donate to it because of my personal history with the disease. Am a “vigilante” against lymphoma? Sure. There’s no “law” against lymphoma, but you can bet your tushy that I’m going to fight it when and how I can, even if it’s just with a small donation when I can afford it.

The same goes for bigotry.

If you’re an individual who believes in everything the Bible says – if you believe that homosexuals are going to hell and “liberals” are evil – then here’s the thing: I’m just not going to like you. That’s all there is to it.  I don’t think you’re a good person and I don’t want to be your friend. Sure, you’re allowed to be who you are. Go ahead. But I don’t want to be around you and I don’t want you to be around my children. However, my children aren’t children anymore.  They are grown and they can make their own choices. My son can make his own choices and he might very well chose to have people like you as his best friend. And he can choose to shut out the people like myself and his sister.

But would he have made these choices if I hadn’t exposed him to this line of thinking?

I don’t owe anyone an explanation. But here it is nonetheless. I just can’t stand down. I can’t watch this man slowly inch his way in between more mothers and sons of the world. I can’t watch him welcome more innocent minds into his cult and not at least warn them about it before they step into his fold.

I just can’t.

Call me a vigilante if you must. But I want to stop this from happening anymore than it has to.  If I prevent just one child from being indoctrinated into that madness, then I will have done what I set out to do.

I miss my son.  And this is all I know to do.

***

That Time I Shut Up

“The world is filled with people who, no matter what you do, will point blank not like you. But it is also filled with those who will love you fiercely. They are your people. You are not for everyone and that’s ok. Talk to the people who can hear you. Don’t waste your precious time and gifts trying to convince them of your value, they won’t ever want what you’re selling. Don’t convince them to walk alongside you. You’ll be wasting both your time and theirs and will likely inflict unnecessary wounds, which will take precious time to heal. You are not for them and they are not for you; politely wave them on, and continue along your way. Sharing your path with someone is a sacred gift; don’t cheapen this gift by rolling yours in the wrong direction. Keep facing your true north.”
– Rebecca Campbell, from her book, Light is the New Black

Make sure you read that quote up there. Read it very carefully.

Did you read it?  Good. Now, go back and read it again. I’ll wait. Really, go on.

There.

[See? Still here. Told you I’d wait.]

I read that quote yesterday for the first time and it really got to me. And I mean really. I went back and read it again. And then again. And then one more time for good measure. Seeing those words, and then committing them to my heart and mind, reminded me of something that I don’t talk about very  much.

And today, I’m going to change that.

I want to tell you about the time I shut up.

I know, I know. Sounds like fiction, right? Me? Shutting up? But nope – this story I’m going to tell you is all true. Every last word of it.

Unfortunately.

Most of you who read this blog either don’t know me at all, or know me through the wonderful world of social media. With that being said, you know the “me” who is a talker. The me who posts a Facebook status or a blog post every time a thought enters my mind. The me who is a performer, a writer, an extrovert in every sense of the word.

But there was a time before all of this. A time before Facebook. A time before the writing and the sharing and the openness.

A time between performances. An intermission, so to speak.

I was involved in a bad relationship. Now, don’t take that as my saying I was in a relationship with a bad man. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying I was in a bad relationship. A really bad one. And what made it so bad was this: I was with someone who didn’t like me.

It’s true. I spent almost five years involved with a man who didn’t like me. Oh, he loved me, I suppose. But he didn’t like me. There’s a difference, ya know. He didn’t like who I was.

For example, he didn’t like when I told people things. Anything. Because, of course, I could have been telling them our problems and those things needed to remain private. So, I stopped telling people anything, good or bad, in person or on social media. I just stopped reaching out; kept to myself.

He didn’t like my writing because I might make him the subject of it and, again, that needed to remain private. My views were so outlandish anyway, no one would ever possibly identify with anything I had to say. I should just be quiet and save myself the embarrassment.

So I stopped writing.

intermissionHe didn’t like my acting. After being involved with community theatres for as long as I could remember, I let the curtain fall on those aspirations. Theatre took time and time was something I didn’t have. I needed to be with him, not out doing God knows what with God knows who for all of those hours. A woman belonged with her family, not on a stage. What was wrong with me?

So I stopped acting.

For someone as bold and blunt and hardheaded as I am, I’m sure it’s hard for you to believe this when I tell you. How could this have happened? How could someone like me become someone like that? But folks, I’m here to tell you – it happened. I wore my hair the way he required. (He once refused to look at me for an entire day because I straightened it and he wanted the natural curls.) I dressed the way he required. I obeyed the way he required.  (Until the time I didn’t – but that’s a story for another day.)

I became so entranced with trying to please him and be what he wanted that I lost me. I had no idea who I was anymore. I became depressed. I slept for hours at a time. I gained weight. In short, I was miserable.

Why does this matter now? Why am I writing about it all these years later?

A few reasons.

First, I posted a blog earlier this week that wasn’t popular with a few people. (Okay, a lot of people.) My viewpoint didn’t jive with some others…including that of my own brother. I don’t like disagreeing with people I love, and for a moment, I did what I used to do. I stopped talking. I got off of the internet for a few hours and didn’t say a word. I didn’t stand my ground, I didn’t argue my point. I ran.

In other words, I shut up.

But then a few hours later, with a sudden jolt, I immediately realized what I was doing. I was once again allowing the sound of me to disappear because someone didn’t like what they heard.

Second reason I’m telling this story: I saw something a week or so ago that I can’t seem to shake from my mind. There was a news story going around about a woman whose husband was being prosecuted because of forcing her to have sex with many men over a period of years. While the story itself was atrocious, the comments that followed the posting of the story were almost worse. I saw so many people saying, “she obviously wanted it or she wouldn’t have participated” and “why doesn’t she go to jail too? She is the one who did it.” Etc. etc. I saw the woman called every unsavory name under the sun, followed ironically by the question of, “Why didn’t she leave?”

Ah, yes. The “why didn’t she leave?” stance. My favorite.

Sigh. What is wrong with us? What is wrong with people today? Why are we so full of ourselves that we think we know everything? Why do we feel like we know the true story of something that happens behind closed doors that we’ve never even peeked around? Why do we feel that we know the obvious answer when this poor victim didn’t? Do we think we are that much better than her? That much smarter? That much wiser?

I don’t know, guys. I really don’t know.

But I do know this.

I am now someone who tries to recognize the ones who are between performances. I know too well what that feels like. I try hard not to judge. I try hard to remember that I don’t know what happened that put them where they are today. Until you’ve been there, you don’t know how easy it is to slip down that slippery slope of people pleasing. You want so badly to be loved…to be liked…that you find the pieces of you that they don’t like slipping away a little at a time until you don’t even recognize yourself anymore. If you haven’t been there, you don’t know. But trust me, it doesn’t happen overnight. It happens in fits and starts and the further you go down the rabbit hole, the harder it is to turn around and crawl your way out.

Back to that quote at the beginning.

Are you someone who’s between performances? Is it intermission time in your life? I’m here to tell you that I understand. I truly do. But I also want to tell you that I finally…finally…also understand what it feels like on the other side.

“Talk to the people who can hear you.”

Find your song again, friends. Find it and sing it loud. Sing your heart out. For the ones who like you, your song will be music to their ears. Your song will be the best one they’ve ever heard. To them, all other music stops when you start singing. Your voice is beautiful.

And for the ones who don’t like you? They won’t be able to hear you at all. They just won’t. And you can’t make them. It’s such a hard lesson to learn, but it is a necessary one.

Never, ever, let yourself believe what I did. Never tell yourself that the answer is to stop singing. Believe me, dear ones. There is a place for your song. A place that would be empty without it.

Find it. Okay? Promise me. Find it.

And don’t let anyone, or anything, ever shut you up again.

Intermission is over, my friends. It’s time for the second act.

BR9KJP Empty movie theater

***

Confessions of a Last-Place Finisher

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”
– Michael Jordan

I want to show you a picture I took just before I started a 10-mile race this morning. I want you to pay particular attention to one part of the picture, okay? Here, let me point it out for you….

mesmile

Did you catch that? The smile…see it? Well, let me tell you my dears, that was the last time that bad boy was on my face until much later in the day. Why’s that, you ask?

I’ve been running for three and a half years now and today – “it” happened for the first time.

I, Melissa Edmondson, finished dead last in a race.

That’s right. LAST. 

So…as is the usual custom for me, I’ve decided to write about it.  You know – take an embarrassing situation and make it public. Because that seems to help.

I’m going to take you on a little trip. You ready? Now, you may want to sit back and prepare yourself – seatbelts and whatnot – because you, my friends, are about to take a little journey through my brain. Gentlemen, start your engines….

One heaping helping of humility coming right up!

Thoughts That Run Through a Last-Place Finisher’s Brain:

1. Man, that first mile was FAST! Get it, girl. Should we slow down? Nahhhh…we’ll need that time we just saved. You’re killing it!

2. Second mile? Fast again! Dang, girl. Now, you know you have 8 more of these to do, right? And it’s going to start going uphill. Think we should slow down a bit?  Heck no, this is a race! Rev it, baby!

3. Oh, here comes the finish line for the 5K runners. If I only did the 5K, I’d be finished now. But no way – not me! I’m a distance runner! A big, bad distance runner! Good-bye, 5Kers, I’m moving on. Woohoo!

4. Hmmm. Is it just me, or is it really quiet now that the 5K people are gone? Where’s everyone at?

5. *Cricket. Cricket. Cricket.*

6. I’m just going to take a quick peek behind me and see what’s back there. This is a long straight-stretch so I should be able to get a good feel for who is behind me.

7. WTF?! Where are the other racers? No, seriously. Where are they?

8. Oh God, here come the hills. You can do this, you can do this. You’re a distance runner. You’re a distance runner.

9. It’s frickin hot out here.

10. Okay, mile 5. That wasn’t too bad. Half-way through. You can do this, you can do this.

11. *Another peek back.*

12. I’m seriously the last person.

13. Okay, here comes mile 7. Yay, a water stop!  An excuse to walk! At least I don’t know anyone out here…I’m just a stranger finishing last, no biggie.

14. Oh crap. Is that my friend running the water station?  WHAT!? Yep, that’s her. Oh no. And look at the sweet little girl handing out water. Act happy. Act happy.

15. Take the water and smile. Take the water and smile. Take the water and smile.

16. I think my friend may have just taken a picture. I hope I smiled. And I hope the cops weren’t behind me in the picture since I’m last. Oh, did I mention I’m in last place?

DEATH

17.  I bet I didn’t smile. *Turning to look behind me.* And yep, there’s the po-po. Great.

18. Mile 8. You’re not dead. Keep going. You can do this. You can do this.

19. You can’t do this. You suck. Just quit now.

20. Good God are these hills ever going to stop!? Who runs a race in the mountains? And where are all the other people in this thing? Seriously!? What are they, aliens? Who runs this fast in the heat and hills? I hate them. I hate me. I hate everyone and everything.

21. I’m totally going to blog about this.

22. I’m totally not going to blog about this. This is embarrassing.

23. I need Coke. (The liquid kind.)

23. Mile 9. My phone is dying. OMG – seriously? All this work and my phone is dying? Now, how am I going to post on Facebook about how miserable I am?

photo

24. Oh, good – another aid station!  I hope there’s Coke.

25. No Coke. Jerks.

26. I’m kidding, they’re not jerks. These volunteers are so dang nice. I wish I wasn’t almost dead so I could actually tell them how much I appreciate them.

27. Phone just died. My life is over.

28. For the love of God, here comes another hill. Screw it. I’m walking.

29. You’re going to walk in the last mile? Hell, yeah I am.

30. You shouldn’t walk in the last mile. You’re almost there.

31. SHUT UP!

32. I know these volunteers want to go home, and I’m the sole reason they’re still out here. I suck.

33. I KNOW that has been more than a mile. Am I being punked?

34. Oh good, a cop escort. Wave at him. Wave at him. Smile. Be nice. It’s not his fault you’re last – he’s just doing his job.

35. THANK GOD! I see the finish line! I hope the cop doesn’t turn his siren on. I’ve seen them do that at the end of a race. How embarrassing that would be.  Please, please, please, let me just slip across the finish line quietly with no fanfare.

36. *SIREN*

37. I hate my life.

*Sigh*

And there you have it, folks. A dead last race finish.

I was fully prepared to head home and throw my running shoes in the trash. Okay, maybe that’s a wee bit dramatic, but I had seriously decided that distance running was no longer in the cards for me. I just didn’t have what it took and that was all there was to it.

But then…the next few hours passed.  And in those few hours, a few things happened.

First, I had this conversation by text with my teenage daughter:

photo2

*sniff* What an awesome kid.

Then, I texted a friend who completely understood me and let me vent. That was nice. Yes, I finished. No, I didn’t quit. But sometimes we need those friends in our lives who “get it.” You know? The ones who just let you rant and swear you’ll never run again, but who know you’ll come crawling back like you always do.

Then, I got a message from the friend who was handing out water. (The po-po picture-taker.) This is what it said:

I am not as elegant with words as you but I will try to express my feelings. I was honored to cheer you on this morning and offer water to those who passed by. The race is only possible because of runners like you. Thank you. Running is not a gift of mine, and I would stand out there for 6 hours if it meant serving someone who is serving others. Grateful to call you friend.

Here come the sniffles again….

I’m not even going to pretend that I am happy with my performance in this race. That would be a lie. But geez, it’s not the end of the world. I was alive to run. And in this race, in particular, I should especially remember that. This race was done in honor of those who have lost their lives in the line of duty. It started three years ago as a small honorary race for a fallen police officer, and has now grown into a wonderful thing that lets so many family members of other lost heroes know that the community cares for their loss and appreciates their sacrifice.

Sure, I was last. But I am alive. I was running. I was moving. I could come home and whine and complain and then wake up tomorrow morning and start all over. Some people don’t have that luxury.

I will live to run again. It was just a bad race, that’s all. It happens. I just need to take a breath, relax my aching muscles, and get up and try again.

I suppose that’s what life is all about, right?

***

“I complained that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”
– Proverb

Drama Break

 “Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.”
– Isaac Asimov

Last month was a month of  many changes for me.

If any of you are regular readers, you’ll probably notice that my posts have dropped dramatically lately. In fact, I only posted one last month, which was in honor of the death of a friend.  I’ve had many things to write about – too many, in fact – but I just couldn’t seem to find the words.  Everything that was happening was big stuff. Big changes – some good, some bad. Lots of “blog bling” as I like to call it….but the words just weren’t rising to the occasion.  And I couldn’t figure out why that was.

liz

Meeting Elizabeth Gilbert…Squeeee!

But then I stumbled across some notes I had taken last year when I went to a talk by my favorite author, Elizabeth Gilbert.  Something she said had resonated with me at the time, so I jotted it down. She said:

“I have found that I cannot write drama while I’m living drama.”

Oh.  Okay, I get it now.

How right she was about that. I’m the same way. When I write, there has to be calm. The room has to be quiet, the chores have to be done, there can’t be anything pressing that needs my attention…there just needs to be calm.  And my life lately?  Heh.  There’s not much calm going on here.

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Patches – February 6, 2015

First of all, on February 7, I lost my beloved cat, Patches. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ve probably heard about Patches a time or two. In fact, she helped me make it into Chicken Soup for the Soul for the second time with the article I wrote about her and her “step-brother” entitled Tattle Tail. Patches was my girl. She had been with me through a lot over the past six years. She was a rescue kitty and I wasn’t exactly sure how old she was when I got her – but her age had really started showing in the past few months. And on February 7, she gave up the fight…while laying in my arms.

There was so much I wanted to write about Patches. I lost my little buddy – surely she deserved a blog post, didn’t she?  But I just couldn’t find the words. Me – the person who has “words” for everything, had no words for the loss of my sweet little pet.

And to add to the “drama” – see this picture?

meLenny

This picture was taken literally within an hour of my losing Patches.  This is Lenny – the rescue pup that we were on our way to pick up from animal control when Patches died in my arms. Talk about drama. My emotions were all over the place. I had to switch emotional gears in a way I don’t think I’ve ever had to do before. To go from such grief to such happiness within minutes…it was just too much.

meLenny3

Lenny and I on the car ride home

But Lenny helped me out.

See, Lenny was scared too. And confused. He had no idea what was happening. We practically had to drag him into the car because the poor little thing didn’t know what was waiting for him. Once we finally got him in, I climbed in the back with him – teary eyes and all – and he immediately just made his way into my lap and snuggled. We both needed that. No excited tail wagging or licking or any of that puppy stuff – nope. Just calm, confused, scared snuggling. Oh, how we needed each other that morning. I’m not exactly sure who saved who, to tell you the truth.

(By the way – once Lenny got home and settled, that puppy nature came out full force!  He’s such a happy boy and our lives are so much happier with him here. Ain’t he a cutie?)

meLenny2

Lenny lovin’

So, here I was with another major life event to write about – a new little furry member of the family – and still…nothing.

And then came even more changes.

A new job.

I have had a major commute for work for most of my life. In fact, the last time that I lived and worked in the same county, I was eighteen years old. EIGHTEEN. (Now, I’m not going to tell you how long ago that was exactly, but just trust me…it was a long time ago.) And suddenly, I was faced with the opportunity to switch jobs and take a position that was only 14 miles from home. It was such a hard decision to make – I loved my old job and loved the people there. But really, work was the only thing I had in that town. When I was faced with the opportunity to do the same work (with a bit more responsibility…which, for me, is a good thing) and do it closer to home, I just had to take it.

Today was my first day.

And, again, more blog bling. Loss of a pet. A new furball to love. And now a job change. Blog bonanza, man. And what did I have to say about it all?

A big fat nothing. *sigh*

So, I return to the words of my mentor – “I cannot write drama while I’m living drama.” Writing is a way for me to process things. I see things, I feel them, and then I process them through a blinking cursor on a blank computer screen. Sometimes, that process is a quick one. And then other times…the real times…the times that shake me up a bit – well, those are the times that may take just a bit longer.  And you know what?

That’s okay.

No more fussing at myself for not writing. For not running. For not reading. For not….well, whatever. Sometimes my heart just needs a little time to get back to its regular rhythm before it lets my brain in on the secret that it’s time to get back to normal. I’ll be back. Heck, I just wrote this. I guess I am back.

I just needed a little downtime, that’s all.

Thank you all for still being here.  I’m just human, I suppose. Life happens. And eventually, I get back in the swing of things and start putting those happenings into words again.  That’s the thing about writing. It never goes away. It’s there. It’s always there…just waiting on the green light from its human container.

Hopefully, traffic is flowing again now.

***

“I think what makes people fascinating is conflict, it’s drama, it’s the human condition. Nobody wants to watch perfection.”
– Nicholas Cage

Traces

“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
– Albert Pike

Traces

Leave behind a legacy, friends
Carve your names in stone;
Be remembered for what matters
For what is you and you alone.

For the artist, be remembered
For a canvas filled with swirls;
For the dancers, make your memories
Of pirouettes and twirls.

For the writer, leave the beautiful words
That you were born to say;
For the actor, leave those scenes to last
Far beyond the stage.

Musicians leave your music,
Singers leave your songs;
For when we leave behind these parts of us
We’re never really gone.

***

In memory of our friend and fellow actor, Michael Yelton.
Your legacy lives on.

oliver2

***

“Choosing to be in the theatre was a way to put my roots down somewhere with other people.
It was a way to choose a new family.”
– Juliette Binoche

Greed

“Greed is not a financial issue. It’s a heart issue.”
– Andy Stanley

Christmastime is here, ya’ll! The time of love and friendship and family and happiness and….greed. Wait, did she just say greed?

Why, yes. Yes, she did.

Greed.

[Now, bear with me here, folks.. This isn’t going to be a Debbie Downer post. I promise. There’s a method to my madness. Sometimes.]

As much as I’d love to think that life is all sunshine and rainbows, sometimes…well, sometimes it’s just not. And there’s something about Christmastime that brings out that horrid green-eyed monster of greed. (Yes, I know “green-eyed monster” is supposed to refer to jealousy, but I couldn’t think of a better analogy so I stole that one. I mean, green = money, right? I think it works better here anyway. So there.)

Think about it: it’s all about spending, spending, spending this time of year. And while, yes, you may be spending money on others, look at what it takes to do it. Black Friday – the notorious day of doom. Trampled customers, fist fights over a food processor or a $99 TV or whatever, miserable store employees getting yelled at by miserable customers. And on, and on, and on.

And aside from the shopping, you see greed in family life as well. Divorced families arguing over where the kids are during which times. Different sides competing over the prime Christmastime slots with the young’uns. Oh yeah, the monster definitely comes out in divorced families with kids during the holidays. Heck, I’ve even recently seen a very financially well-off ex-wife decide that Christmas is a good time to decide to spring a custody/child support suit on the not-so-well-off, devoted father of her children. That’ll teach him, right? Revenge. Greed.

Evil.

I’m telling you, people, it’s enough to make your skin crawl.

I was standing in a gas station the other day during my lunch break from work contemplating which fountain soda I wanted to pollute my body with this time, and which size cup of pollution I was going to spring for, when the concept of greed presented itself to me in full force. After choosing the biggest cup I could find, I put just a bit of ice in the cup (hey, can’t take up room in the cup with ice…sheesh…) and proceeded to fill the cup up to the tippy top rim so I could acquire the absolute biggest bang for my buck. Then, after a cat-and-mouse game of finally finding the right lid for said cup, I sat the cup down on the counter and went to snap the lid down. And…..guess what happened?  The cup was too full (of my greed) and the lid caused the syrupy, toxic liquid to spill out over the top. All over my hands, my shirt, the counter, the floor…you name it, Coke was on it.

Dang it.

(And you can bet that lazy, green-eyed monster didn’t stick around to help me clean that crap up either.)

Because of my wanting just absolutely as much as I could get, my greed spilled over onto me and caused a huge mess that I was left to clean up alone. And something tells me that concept is not only going to apply to fountain drinks…you catch my drift?

So, there I was back at work after my lunch break, covered in sticky Coke remnants,  when I logged onto Facebook to see if anyone else was having as crappy a day as I was.  (Misery loves company, ya know.)  And that’s when I saw the post that stopped me right in my tracks. It was a “group post,” meaning that I didn’t know the person from Adam but it showed up in my newsfeed since I was part of the group, and it said simply this: “I am afraid I can’t buy my four kids anything at Christmas.”

Wow.

She went on to explain that she had thought she was going to be able to cover it, but with Christmas just around the corner, it was looking like she wasn’t going to be able to pull it together. Four kids, a single mom, and no money.

My greedy Coke spill quickly because a distant memory as my thoughts immediately went to this woman and Christmastime. What was she going to do? I empathized with her situation. I too know that feeling…I’ve been there many times myself. But somehow, with the help of family and friends, Christmas always managed to be a success for my own kids in the end.  We have been very lucky.  Very blessed.  But I know too well that “momma” feeling of worry and stress over your kids at Christmas. And what if this woman didn’t have family to pitch in to help like I always did? What if she really truly was alone and had no way of providing a Christmas for those four eager, expecting kids?

I just had to do something. I just HAD to.

That’s when the emails started. Emails between myself and this mother (finding out clothes sizes, Christmas list wishes, etc) and emails reaching out to people in the community for help. I posted on Facebook, made some phone calls to local organizations, got some help from the women’s group at the church I attend, and….within hours (HOURS, people)…I had an army of people ready to help this mom.

Wow.

Now, this was only four days ago, mind you. Four short days ago. And as of this moment, Richard and I are going to have to take his truck to be able to fit everything to deliver to this woman tomorrow. For a few days out of this Christmas season, greed was completely forgotten. All around the county (and even surrounding counties thanks to some of my non-local friends), people dropped what they were doing and went out and Christmas shopped for children they had never met in their lives and, frankly, that they probably never would.

In a communication yesterday with this mom, she made this statement, “I just can’t believe this is real.” And you know what? I have to say I agree. That hardhearted, pessimistic woman who stood at that drink fountain cleaning up Coke and thinking about all the greed surrounding her this time of year (including her own) was no more. Now, here she is…not believing that this is actually real. Not believing that a plea for help from one slightly jaded, disgruntled, Coke-covered grinch has managed to turn itself into a crusade. A mission. A swelling of love and generosity that will be soon be turning into a beautiful, happy Christmas in one little mountain home in North Carolina, filled with four smiling faces and one very, very grateful and relieved mom.

Wow.  (Have I said, “Wow” yet?)

So, am I changed by this? Oh, you can bet I am. Like you wouldn’t believe. Does greed still exist in this world? Well, of course it does. But from now on, I am going to do my very best to practice a different kind of greed in my own life. From now on I am going to be greedy for things that aren’t things. I am going to start being greedy for human kindness. Greedy for compassion. Greedy for love. I’m going to soak up as much of it as I can.  And then do you know what I’m going to do?

I’m going to come back here and I’m going to tell you about it.  And I want you to do the same. Let’s start sharing the good stories, shall we?

Get out there and be greedy, my friends.

Merry Christmas.

greed

***