Tag Archives: memories

The Heart of the Matter

“There are people in your life who’ve come and gone
They’ve let you down, you know they’ve hurt your pride
You better put those behind ya, baby, ’cause life goes on
You keep carrying that anger, it’ll eat you up inside…”
– lyrics from Heart of the Matter by Don Henley

This past weekend, I sat outside at a local restaurant listening to my sexy husband sing those lyrics up there from the song Heart of the Matter by Don Henley. Listening to him sing, being so proud to be his wife, and glancing at my surroundings, suddenly my memories started getting the best of me.

I started remembering our past with this song.

Photo of drummer, Richard Edmondson, of the band Restless. Photo credit: friend and fan, Jim Maloney

When I first started dating my husband, about five years ago, we had a pretty rocky start.  I don’t think he minds that I tell you this (and I’ve probably referenced it in previous blogs anyway), but when I met Richard he was still in love with someone else.  He was fresh out of a long-term relationship and the cut still stung, so to speak.

Now that I know him so well, I know this about him – when he loves, he loves hard. And a strong love like that doesn’t just go away overnight because a blunt, pushy redhead has entered your life and said it had to.

It took a while. Even longer than he admitted to me.

So, basically, for the first year of our relationship I had to share him with a memory that he couldn’t get past. But see – here’s the thing about those “memories” in a small town: THEY DON’T GO AWAY.

Oh no, those memories are everywhere. You run into Miss Memory at Walmart, at the bank, at get-togethers. And, the thing that used to sting the worst? We’d run into her at his music gigs.

Yep. There I’d sit falling even harder in love with my music man, all the while knowing that the woman who still had a piece of his heart was sitting there watching him too. And boy did I HATE that. Sure, she was innocent in this whole thing – what did she ever do to me?  (Besides existing. And being gorgeous. Grrrrrrr.) But why did she have to be there? I didn’t want her there.

But, ha. Try not wanting to run into someone in a small town. As my bonus dad used to say to me growing up, “You can want in one hand and shit in the other and see which one fills up fastest.” In other words, want all you want – it’s not going to happen. (Okay, actually, I’m not sure at all what that particular saying means. But when I picture a handful of shit, it kinda makes me not want to hold out my hand at all, you know? Oh, okay. So maybe that is the point…)

Anyway.

Back to the song.

I specifically remember the first time I heard him sing it. Of course, it was a time that she was there. There my boyfriend sat singing “I’m learning to live without you now, but I miss you baby…” and my blood was boiling. I just knew he was thinking of her. (Knowing this man who is now my husband as well as I do, he was not thinking of her – at least not while singing that song. He wasn’t thinking about me either. Or any human for that matter. He was thinking, “dear God, don’t let me forget these words. Are my drums too loud? I think the sound is a little off, I need to push some buttons. Boy, I’d love another beer. Oh crap, what’s the next line? I need to mow the yard…”)

[I interrupt here for the disclaimer that “I need to push some buttons” was my own words. My husband, the sound man extraordinaire would never call them “some buttons.” But you get my drift…]

I’m sure we fought about the song later that night.  We fought about a lot of things back then (all pretty much having to do with the same subject…) In fact, we even broke up once over it. (Well, once officially. We broke up a million times in our heads.)

Basically, life was pretty hard back then. I was the poor little victim of circumstance. And Richard was the poor victim of my tirades about that circumstance. There were many times that we both just thought we weren’t going to make it. And as far as I was concerned, if we didn’t make it – he’d know whose fault it was.

His.

So now that I’ve set the scene for what life used to be like for us, I’m going to switch gears here for a minute. In what will seem like a random and drastic change of subject, I want to tell you about an argument I got into recently with a friend.

[Hang in here with me – I promise there’s a method to my madness and I’ll come back to the other “Melissa is a jealous crazy woman” story in a minute.]

I was very involved and very stressed out by the last theatre performance I took part in. Not only was I an actor in the production, I was also the producer. It was my first time producing, and I had no idea what I was doing. On the night before opening night, things were still not ready – and I pretty much went off. Coming from my place as the producer, but also from my place as an actor and a perfectionist, I threw a fit over things not being ready as they should be. What started as a quiet, yet firm, talk with the director, turned into a frustrated yell fest with anyone who would listen. And one such person who not only listened, but participated, was someone who was a friend of mine. We both let out our frustrations by raising our voices. At one point, she started talking about something that was happening with her personal life and I retorted with, “I don’t care!”

Now, of course, I didn’t mean I don’t care at all. Or that I won’t care ever. What I meant was that I didn’t care at that moment because that’s not what was being discussed. But…as it goes sometimes…what I ‘meant’ doesn’t seem to matter. What I said did.

Cue the “breakup.”

I got deleted on Facebook. I got a gift to her returned to me. Etc.

Someone close to us told me that I hurt her deeply and this was the final straw for her with being involved in our theatre.

*sigh*

Okay. Here’s something that has always infuriated me…people playing the ‘victim.’ I mean, come on, people. If you have any interactions with people ever in your life – you’re going to get disappointed. You’re going to get hurt and you’re going to get mad. We’re all humans – we suck. But to let something someone else does affect you in such a deep way? To make you shut them out – to turn your back on your passions? To give them that much power?

How ridiculous!

Right??

Oh.

Wait a minute…

So. Back to the song.

There I sat this past weekend listening to my husband sing The Heart of the Matter. And though it has been over five years now since the first time I heard him sing it, there I was….still thinking those same old silly thoughts. (And incidentally – she was there listening too.  Yes, the she of our past. Right there in the gorgeous flesh. Small town, remember?  We still find ourselves in the same places at the same times, and probably always will…)

I’ve always been fascinated with the phenomenon that the things that irritate you the most about other people – tend to be things that you do yourself. Have you ever noticed that? It drives my husband nuts when people leave a room and don’t turn off the lights. And what does he do sometimes? Leaves rooms and doesn’t turn off the lights. He doesn’t even realize he does it! Really – think about it sometime. Think about something that really aggravates you that other people do, and then ask yourself honestly if you do it too. You might be surprised.

People playing the victim and making too much out of something has always infuriated me. Using some small thing as leverage to paint yourself in a victim light so that others see you as the “good guy” and the other one as the “bad guy” – when you know that’s not the case – drives me up a nut tree.

And yet…

What have I been doing? Exactly the same thing.

As all of this went through my head sitting there at that restaurant this past weekend, I had a brilliant discovery. I don’t want to be the victim anymore. Everyone in our situation has moved on. They moved on a long time ago. The only one still stuck in the past is myself.

The only person making me the victim…is me.

So, therefore, who would be the only person who could remove that victim cloak? You guessed it.  Also me.

The next time you find yourself the ‘victim’ of a situation, let this blog cross your mind. Ask yourself who really has the power to keep you there.

I’m betting it’s not who you think.

***

“What are all these voices outside love’s open door
Make us throw off our contentment and beg for something more?….
I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the heart of the matter
But my will gets weak, and my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness, forgiveness…”

 

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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.

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***

“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

That Was Hard

“To describe the agony of a marathon to someone who’s never run it is like trying to explain color to someone who was born blind.”
– Jerome Drayton

Okay, here it is….a blog post about my first full marathon!  Now, I know that people who have just run their first marathon don’t generally like to talk about it much.  I mean, surely this is the first time most of you have even heard about this, right?  What?  Melissa ran a marathon?  You’re kidding!  I know, I know, we marathoners are generally kind of quiet about such accomplishments and all….

NOT!

AHHHH!!! I ran a friggin marathon, people!!!

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Anthem Richmond Marathon – finisher photo

And I cannot. stop. talking. about. it.  My friends and family are going to hate me.  I just can’t stop.  Coworker: “Hey, Melissa, you want a piece of gum?” Me: “No, thanks. You know, I can’t chew gum when I run. It’s weird. Oh, hey, did you know I just ran a marathon?…”  Oh yeah, it’s that bad.

But, in a meek attempt at trying to reign in the length of this blog, I’m going to narrow down my recap a little for you.  I’m going to tell you the top 10 most important, most memorable things about my first full marathon experience.  Okay?  Sound fair?  Short and sweet, right? Good.  Then, here we go.

Marathon Memory Number 1The friendship. Oh, hands down, this makes the list. I was so blessed to be able to make this marathon trip with two good friends and fellow marathoners, Tammy and Teresa.  This was Teresa’s second marathon and Tammy’s fourth. Not only were they incredibly supportive, but they were also knowledgeable and helped me know what to expect.  It also helped to know that they would be at the end waiting for me!  (They both PR’ed in this race, by the way!  Go Tammy and Teresa!)  It also didn’t hurt to have buddies to hit up the Cheesecake Factory with after the race!  Mmmmmm.

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Me, Teresa, and Tammy – before and after

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I would have stood up for this picture, but…. :/

Marathon Memory Number 2The awesome bling!  Okay, I know I’m not going in chronological order here.  I didn’t get the bling until the end of the race. But hey, it was important enough to throw in here at the top of the list, okay?  This race had so much cool stuff for the finishers!  I got a finisher’s hat, a finisher’s fleece blanket, and a butt-kickin’ medal.  Oh, and a bagel.

Marathon Memory Number 3The funniest sign I’ve ever seen in a race.  Now, granted, I’ve never done a marathon before this one. But I’ve done quite a few races and have seen quite a few signs. Not to mention the signs I’ve seen online.  But the dude that was waiting for us at the bottom of a hill during this race takes the cake.  Now, mind you, it was 26 degrees or so at the beginning of this race, and it didn’t warm up a whole heck of a lot throughout the day.  But there, standing at the bottom of a hill that I had decided to just walk through, was a man…buck naked…holding a, um, strategically placed sign that said “Run faster, or I’m dropping the sign.”  Oh my gosh, that was the funniest thing ever!  I managed to pick up the pace a tad, believe it or not, and ran up the whole hill.  How about that?  So, thank you, naked stranger man.  Job well done.  (Okay – and don’t tell Richard – but I actually peeked when I ran by and he wasn’t actually naked.  False advertising….)

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Starting line

Marathon Memory Number 4The feeling at the starting line.  Oh, there is nothing like it, my friends. Knowing that all that hard work and daydreaming had lead me to that moment.  Standing there amongst thousands of other people that I thought I’d never stand among. It was quite humbling. And oh so awesome.

marathonme10Marathon Memory Number 5: The running. Of course. The running. I wouldn’t have been there if I didn’t love to run, right? That feeling of soaring along…knowing that I was about to go a distance I’d never gone before…ahhh.  It’s hard to explain if you’re not a runner. Just trust me. Unchartered territory is a beautiful thing to a runner. And I knew that’s where I was headed.

Marathon Memory Number 6Mile 20.  Although I was already tired and starting to hurt, Mile 20 was such a beautiful sight. My longest run to-date up to that point had been a 20-mile training run. I knew that the moment I stepped across that 20 mile point, I was somewhere I had never been before. And that was really cool.

marathonme9Marathon Memory Number 7The pain. Oh, the pain.  Hey, I didn’t say that every moment I remembered from the marathon would be pleasant, did I? I will never tell the story of my first marathon without remembering that pain. Oh my gosh! When all those marathon articles I read said, “Be prepared, it’s gonna hurt,” by golly, they meant it. It did. It was intense.  See this picture? Obviously not the most flattering picture of me there ever was. But it’s definitely the most real. You can even see it in my hands…they are balled into fists of determination. Honestly, I love this picture. It shows what it took to keep putting one foot in front of the other and get myself to that finish line. My legs did not want to continue, but my heart did. And this picture shows that.

marathonme11Marathon Memory Number 8The unbelievable amount of support.  Oh my gosh…I couldn’t believe all of the texts, Facebook messages and posts, phone calls, etc. that I received with regard to the marathon. It was amazing how many of you had my back through this. And believe me, I thought of all of you as I ran. I got a message from my mom during the race telling me how proud she was of me. From my fantastic husband saying the same and how much he loved and believed in me. From my teenage daughter who…okay, time to drop the sentimentality here…who said, “Have fun running and stuff.”  Hey, you take what you can get, right?  I got a phone call from my dad after the race checking on me and making sure I had made it okay, and telling me he was proud of me.  This is what life is all about really. Knowing that family and friends are there with you through it all. I never felt that as much as I felt it while I was running that race.  In fact, I broke each mile down to pick a particular person in my life and thank God for them.  That’s what got me through some of those last miles, believe me.

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About 0.05 away from the finish line

Marathon Memory Number 9Seeing the finish line.  Oh, people, let me tell you – there is nothing like that.  Knowing that the pain was so close to being over!  Knowing that I was about to join the less than 1% of people that know what it’s like to run a 26.2-mile race. (After seeing this crowd, I still just can’t fathom how that statistic can be right, but I guess it is! There was a moment after the race when I was explaining the feelings I was having to Richard and he commented, “There are very few people in this world who really know how you feel right now.” Wow. Such a humbling thought.)

And finally, here we are.  The end of the list.  (See?  That didn’t take too long, did it?) 😉

The final most important memory about my first full marathon experience?  The thing that I won’t ever forget for as long as I live?

Marathon Memory Number 10That feeling I got when I crossed the finish line. That feeling that even I, a blabbermouth writer, can’t seem to put into the right words. That knowing, deep down in my soul, that I did not give up. That I set my mind to do something so extremely difficult…so unbelievably hard…and that I actually succeeded at it.  That feeling of pride in myself.

As I crossed that finish line, I left so many things behind on that marathon course. Past heartbreaks, mistakes, health problems, self-doubt, insecurities….you name it. At that moment in time, as I crossed that finish line, I was one thing, and one thing only.

I was a marathoner.

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Anthem Richmond Marathon finish line – 5:28:12

So thank you, readers.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.  Thank you for reading through this and for humoring me as I went through the memories that this experience has left me with. Thank you for letting me show you how very much this means to me and how it has literally changed my life.

Now, you go out and find something that gives you this feeling, okay?  I mean it.  Go.  Right now.

Life is way too short not to have moments like this one.

***

“I’ve learned that finishing a marathon isn’t just an athletic achievement. It’s a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible.”
– John Hanc

 

I did!

“The highest happiness on earth is the happiness of marriage.”
—William Lyon Phelps

So, remember that post I wrote a while back called “I do?”  Well, guess what?

I did!

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Our family

On November 1, 2014, Richard and I were married.  FINALLY!

I wanted to wait until I got the professional pics back to write a blog about our wedding, but I just decided that I couldn’t wait anymore.  There were so many magical moments that I don’t want to let slip out of my memory.  I figured I better get them out here before they’re lost…I’m not a spring chicken anymore, ya know.  So, here goes!

Well, first of all, for those of you who aren’t local, or who weren’t present, November 1 dawned with a slight surprise.  After mid-week temps in the 70s, November 1 decided to be the day that the first snow fell.  And we’re not talking flurries here, people.  We’re talking Snow. With a capital S.  Wanna see?

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Our house on Wedding Day

Yep, we got a good 3-4 inches of snow overnight, and it was still falling. Now, mind you, our wedding was to be held right here at our house. In our living room. We couldn’t help but wonder how this was going to affect the turnout, but honestly we weren’t all that worried.  We had a very small wedding planned that consisted of mostly family and a few close friends…it was the reception later that might be affected by the weather.  As for the wedding, most of the people who were going to be present were already safe and secure inside our home anyway, so we were good to go!  No worries, right?

And then comes the call from the hairdresser.

“Um, yeah, the weather is a little too rough for me. I’m not going to make it.”

*Sigh*  So, I’m not the “hire a hair dresser” type anyway, but I was actually looking forward to this.  This lady had offered to come to our house and get myself and my daughter and my step-daughter (awww…”step-daughter”…yay!) ready so that it would be at least one less stressor on my plate. So, I hadn’t done anything to “plan” any kind of hairstyle for any of us, because it didn’t have to be my problem. Ha…wrong. Welcome to “this is your problem now.”  Crap!

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My niece Emaree…stepping in as hairdresser extraordinaire

No worries, though.  With family surrounding me, we had this covered.  First, up stepped my five-year-old niece Emaree.  She got me all brushed out and ready to go.  What more could a bride need, right? 😉  And then, after she had us all tangle-free, her mom – my saintly sister Cathy – stepped in and finished the job.  Thank God for sisters!  I think we ladies probably looked even better than we would have if the hairdresser would have shown up, don’t you?  WeddingE(Thank you, Cathy!!!)

So, hairstyle catastrophe averted, it was on to the ceremony.

After my fantastic husband-to-be drove to town to pick up our photographer and bring her to the house to keep her from having to drive in the snow, everyone was officially present and accounted for, including our three impromptu flower girls.  Impromptu flower girls, you ask?  Well, let’s just say that we had three little girls that were bound and determined that a wedding is just not a wedding without flower girls.

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Bridal party…WITH flower girls

So, my wonderful aunt Stacey made a last minute dash to Walmart for some flower petals and…voila!  Flower girls.

(Hey, if the ladies aren’t happy….no one is happy.  Capisce?)

[Thank you, Kenzie, Emaree, and Elise….you girls were perfect!!!]

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Fireplace

The ceremony was short and simple, but not without that special Edmondson sentimentality thrown in here and there. For one thing, we got married in the very spot that Richard’s mother and late father were married in – in front of the fireplace in the living room.

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Photo display

At the beginning of the ceremony, Richard lit a candle in front of a picture of his father to honor his memory and make him a part of our special day.  Also, together with the picture of Richard’s father, we placed photos in the window of all of the weddings and receptions before ours that took place in and around this home.  (Ours was definitely not the first union of love in this spot, and I have a feeling it won’t be the last.)

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The Edmondson/Halsey family

After many tears were shed and rings were exchanged, we then joined as a family to participate in a sand ceremony, with each of us adding our own color sand to the glass jar representing the joining of our two families.   And there it was….the deed was done.  Our new family was officially complete.

Then, a few hours later, it was on to the reception!  Here’s where we were surprised by the turnout.  Apparently the weather didn’t stop many people, we had a house FULL of love and laughter that evening. So many people dropped by to celebrate with us…and oh, the food!  So much food!

Speaking of food…I almost forgot to mention our wedding “cake!”  Instead of going with a cake, we decided to do cupcakes.  I had that in my head from the beginning (seemed less formal somehow and that was kind of the theme to this whole thing) so an idea hit me one day.  One of our little theatre buddies, Rowan (age 14), is quite the little baker.  Oh, who am I kidding?  We’re talking child prodigy here, people.  For real.  So, I asked Richard a few months ago how he would feel about us hiring a 14-year-old as our wedding cupcake maker.  His response?  He absolutely loved the idea.  And the finished result?

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Cupcake tower a la Rowan

WOW!

The kid’s got some mad skillz, yo.  We were thrilled….and so were our guests!

Oh, there were just so many wonderful, unique, amazing things that happened as part of my wedding day, that I just don’t know how to list them all in one blog post. From a winter-storm related power outage during the reception (yep…that happened), to my former theatre director giving me “notes” after the wedding (yep…that happened too…”Okay, next time a little less weepy and a little more in control of your emotions”…), this wedding had it all, my friends.  Memories, galore.

And then some.

If you were a part of my wedding day, near or far, I thank you, from the bottom of my heart.  We felt the love that day, for sure.  Not only the massive amount of love that we felt for each other, but the outpouring of love from our friends and family as well. We have never felt so honored.

It was the perfect day…winter storm and all.

Check back for another blog post after we get our professional photos back!  I want to give mad props to my friend and photographer Bobbi Jo in that post and showcase her and her excellent work.  I can’t wait to show you!

Thank you for traveling through my wedding day with me by reading this blog. I can’t wait to come back and read this over and over throughout the years and remember how very happy I was on November 1, 2014.  And how very “right” it all felt.

Here’s to many, many years of bliss!

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My love

***
“I think a lot of people get so obsessed with the wedding and the expense of the wedding that they miss out on what the real purpose is. It’s not about a production number, it’s about a meaningful moment between two people that is witnessed by people that they actually really know and care about.”
– Jane Seymour

Take The Cookie

“The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Yesterday, was one of those ‘take the cookie’ days in my life.

Ok, let me explain what the heck I’m talking about.

A while back, I decided to go on a diet.  Well, sort of.  By diet, I mean I’m just going to try to watch what I’m doing and not put so much crap into my body.  Back when I was running regularly, it was easy to somewhat ignore what I was eating because I’d just work it off.  But now that I’ve been injured for a while (torn/strained ligament in my right foot), all that junk eating combined with no exercise was starting to show on my thighs, if ya know what I mean.  So, I decided to buckle down and do something about it.

And then one day my daughter and I were headed to her dance class and she decided she wanted a cookie from Subway.  So, we swung by and I gave her some money and sent her in to grab one for herself.  When she came back, she not only had hers, but she also had one for me – a scrumptious raspberry/white chocolate – my FAVORITE.  Immediately, guilt rushed over me since I’m not ‘supposed’ to be eating that kind of stuff, but how could I turn it down after she brought it back just for me knowing that it was my favorite?  Of course I couldn’t do that.  So, I took the cookie.

(And it was YUMMY!)

Since that day, I’ve decided to use that phrase periodically.  Anytime I have to veer from the ‘rules’ a little, I call it “taking the cookie.”  It’s basically my way of reminding myself that there are going to be exceptions.  Sometimes, you just need to take the cookie.

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Ready to ride

And yesterday?  Well, yesterday was one of those times.  And boy, was that cookie awesome.

My boyfriend Richard and I had a rare day free from responsibility.  Our kids were at their other parents’ houses for the day (ahhh, the dynamics of the modern-day blended families…), neither of us had to work, and there were no other pressing engagements that we had to be involved in.  So, of course, we both started piddling with our own hobbies.  He started learning a new song to play (he’s a musician), and I started thinking about all the things I needed to be writing (I need to work on my novel, get a blog done, etc.).  But before either of us could get too far in, we made an impulsive decision to just head outside and take a ride on the four-wheeler, something we very rarely ever have time to do.

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Tag-along

I mulled over the decision for a bit because I knew this would be a perfect opportunity to get some writing done, but finally I decided that this was one of those times when I just needed to ‘take the cookie.’  (Really – I actually said that to myself.)  No more thinking of what I ‘should’ be doing – just hop on the four-wheeler and take a break.

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Back we go!

So, off we went!  Well, our first attempt was somewhat short-lived since we had a tag-along.  We had to turn back and lead her back to the house and tie her up.  Bless her heart.  Oh, and we also had to go put more gas in the four-wheeler.  Oops.

But then we were finally ready.  So, off we went again!

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Gorgeous creek that runs by our house

Richard took me around and showed me the land that he grew up on – showed me all the places he played as a kid and even told me some of the stories of trouble he got into (not sweet little Richard!).  I was amazed that I had known him so long and have lived in this area for months now and had no idea how beautiful it was.  All the memories that are tied to this place and that make the man I love who he is – I’m so glad I didn’t miss out on this day of getting to know him and this land that he loves so much.

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The Peak

The whole time we were riding along, I was overcome with how blessed I am.  I live in this gorgeous area, I’m in love with an even more gorgeous guy (with a heart to match), I’m healthy, my kids are healthy…the list goes on and on.  Sometimes I get too busy and too loaded down with worries (money, scheduling, etc. etc. etc.) to remember to take the time to realize all the things that are good in my life.

No, not just good.  Fantastic.

And if I hadn’t allowed myself to “take the cookie,” I would have missed out on such an awesome reminder.

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Wind in my hair 🙂

Yes, I could have been at home getting some writing done.  But what I did end up getting done was more important.  I was falling even more in love with the guy who stole my heart over two years ago.  And I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

There is an old Doug Stone song called Too Busy Being in Love.  The lyrics kept running through my mind while we were riding along:

“I could have written a play so sweet and so funny
Given old Mr. Shakespeare a run for his money
Written the words to the prettiest tune
That would never leave a dry eye in the room
My only excuse for not doing enough…
I was too busy being in love.
Yes, I was too busy being in love.”

IMG_20140406_205853Yes, who knows what I may have written if I had stayed at home and took the time to be doing what I ‘should have’ been doing.  Better yet, though…who cares? 🙂  I think what Richard wrote was better than anything I could have ever written anyway…

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Don’t forget to take the cookie on occasion, my friends.  Trust me.  You’ll be glad you did.

“I could have written a poem to make young lovers crazy
Written a movie for Hepburn and Tracy
A beautiful song and it starts with your name
Written my way into fortune and fame
But I have no regrets for not doing enough
I was too busy being in love
Yes, I was too busy being in love.”

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Laughter

“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”
– e. e. cummings

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about our dog, Lucy, and a lesson I learned from her one day.  Well, apparently, Lucy hasn’t hung up her teaching hat just yet – she had yet another tutorial for me this week.

lucy3If I didn’t describe Lucy well enough in my last blog, let me give you a few more details.  Lucy is one seriously happy dog.  I mean…seriously.  That girl LOVES everything.  She loves me, she loves my boyfriend Richard, she loves our kids, she loves squirrels, birds, the mailman, the UPS guy, the cats….(ok, that may be pushing it a little – she loves torturing them, does that count?)

But I noticed something else about her the other day that made me smile.  Apparently, Lucy’s happiness isn’t just dependent upon someone or something else being around.  I was walking through the house and just happened to glance out the window and there stood Lucy in the middle of the yard – not looking at anything in particular, not doing anything noteworthy, just standing there – and that tail of hers was just wagging to beat the band.  No one else around, and Lucy was just as happy as she could be.  Just because.

I told Richard about it later and said, “I want to be just like Lucy. I want to be so happy that I wag my tail even when nobody’s looking, don’t you?”

He laughed and agreed, the subject was dropped, and we went on about our business.  Situation forgotten.

Until a few days later.  I was driving along in my car listening to the audio books that I always listen to when I’m traveling anywhere, and I realized that I wasn’t retaining much of what I was hearing.  I was just stressed and distracted and not in the mood to try to follow along with a book.  So, I ejected the audio book CD and started looking for something else to pop in, when I came across a CD that my ex-husband bought me the other day.  Yes, you read that right – my ex-husband bought me a CD.  Ok, it was a $1 CD that he saw at Goodwill, but still.  It was nice of him to think of me. What was the CD, you ask?  New Kids on the Block’s greatest hits.  Yup.  He remembered that I used to be an NKOTB freak (their last known fan actually – I have a tendency to hold on a little too long), and he thought I’d like it.  Up to this point, I hadn’t listened to it yet, but I just decided to go ahead and throw it in the player and see what they sounded like after all these years.  And boy, was I glad I did.  I was immediately transformed back to the late 80s/early 90s and I still remembered just about every word to every song.  Before long, I was signing at the top of my lungs like nobody’s business – and with a goofy smile on my face to boot.

That’s when I noticed the car that had pulled up beside me at the red light.

And what did I do?  *sigh*  I turned the music down, wiped the smile off my face, and sat staring straight ahead until the light changed.

Now, what the heck did I do that for?

Isn’t that dumb?  What’s wrong with wagging my tail when I thought no one was looking, you know?  I was just so darn afraid of how I looked to someone else.  Why are people like that?  It’s just plain silly.  I don’t even think I gave it much thought at the time – I think it was just instinct to pull it together and look like a decent, non-crazy, non-NKOTB fan girl and make myself ‘presentable’ once I knew I had an audience.

I so need to stop that.

I’m like that with pictures too.  I am the queen of “Wait – don’t take the picture yet, I’m not ready.”  Or, “Ew, that one looks like crap, let’s take another one.”  My family just loooooves that too, let me tell ya.  And my boyfriend Richard and I couldn’t be more different when it comes to that kind of thing.  He is crazy about the candid photos – the ones that no one knew were coming or that we weren’t exactly ‘ready’ for.  Me?  I think I look like a doofus.  Especially the pictures where I’m laughing.

laughter2See this picture?  For some dumb reason, I never posted this picture on Facebook or had it framed.  I wasn’t “ready” when the picture was taken.  Instead, I posted the version where we were standing up straight, both looking at the camera, smiling, with just one arm around each other.  I even have it framed and sitting on my bookshelf at home.  But this one?  This one was just sitting on my phone as one of the ‘mess ups.’  I ask myself now, “What the heck were you thinking, woman!?”  I mean, look at that picture.  My daughter is all snuggled up to me and I’m laughing.  I think I had told her to stand closer just before the picture was snapped, so she bear hugged me being silly.

Good grief, Me.  Get it together.  *These* are the memories you want to hold on to.

laughter3Or, how about this one?  We were trying to take a ‘selfie’ just before we had gotten all dressed up to go to the theatre together.  It took about 30 shots before we finally got the ‘right’ one – you know, the one where we’re both smiling sweetly and looking straight the camera.  This funny, goofy one where I was laughing so hard my eyes disappeared was never posted.  This shows so much more of our personalities than the one that I did deem ‘post-able.’ Kelly being silly, me laughing like a dork – this is ‘us.’

But I was just so afraid of it not looking ‘right.’  Not looking good enough.  Not being posed and ‘perfect.’

Silly, silly me.

So, today, I ask you this – are you like me?  Do you make sure the picture looks ‘just right’ before you take it?  Do you hold back on laughing so that you don’t like an open-mouthed hyena?  Do you stifle your happiness so that you look decent and presentable to strangers that don’t even matter?  Do you only publicly post the pictures where you’re smiling perfectly and everything is in order?

Or are you like Lucy?  Do you express your joy, no matter the circumstances…laugh until you cry when you see the ones you love…stay so happy that you wag your tail even when you’re alone?  And for Heaven’s sakes, not stop just because someone is looking?

Well, here’s my advice.  Be like Lucy.

We only get one go-around, you know?   Just one.  Don’t waste it.  Wag your tail, people.  Just wag it.

Life sure is a heck of a lot better that way.

Thanks for yet another lesson learned, Lucy dear.

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My Veteran

“The willingness of American’s veterans to sacrifice for our country has earned them our lasting gratitude.”
– Jeff Miller

So, it’s Veterans’ Day.  And in honor of Veterans’ Day, I want to take the time to talk about one of them.  My favorite one, actually.

My step-dad.

DAD7(And just for the record, that’s the last time I’ll refer to him as that for the rest of the blog.  Just wanted you to know that he is my step-father for informational purposes.  As you will see from the story I’m about to tell you, I have dropped the “step-” part of his name because that is no longer necessary.  He is my dad.)

So, when I was about 5 years old, my mom met this great guy named David.  I thought he was pretty cool, to be honest.  It was kind of nice having someone else around when it had only been myself and my mom for all those years.  My mom and real dad had divorced when I was a baby and though my dad was definitely in my life, I only saw him on the occasional weekend.  I lived primarily with my mom.  Just the two of us.  Suddenly, this new guy was around quite a bit.  I remember him taking me along with them when they went places and such.  One particular early memory that sticks out in my mind is the time I got to go to the movies with them.  There’s a Brad Paisley song called “He Didn’t Have to Be” and in it there’s a line that says, “he took my mom out to the movies and, for once, I got to go.”  Yep.  That line gets me every time.  Because that was me – the new guy was just as happy to have me along as he was my mom.

And then came the day when I was about 6 years old.  I came home from school and my mom and David were sitting in the living room and said they wanted to tell me something.  I was young, so the memory is somewhat hazy, but there are two things that really stand out.  One – I remember sitting on David’s lap.  They told me that they were getting married (I don’t remember the exact words – just have that memory of sitting on his lap) and apparently I was pretty happy about the news.  All was well.  A new person to join our family.  Yay!

But then comes the second memory.

My new room.

Now, mind you, my mom and I had lived alone all of these years in a small two-bedroom apartment.  And with it being just the two of us, I had sort of decided that my mom’s bed was my bed too.  And she had allowed that.  So that “extra” bedroom back there was just that.  Extra.  A place for storage and my toys and whatnot.  Not a place where I actually slept.  Duh.  I slept with my mommy.

Until now.

They walked me back to the room and opened the door.  There was a new bed, a few new toys, and (I distinctly remember this) some new little workbooks on my bed.  I LOVED those workbooks.  They were the kind that taught you how to write in cursive by tracing the little dots.  I was such a nerd – writing was my favorite thing in the world to do (not much has changed actually).  So, with them knowing how much I liked those little workbooks, what was wrong with a little bribe to sweeten the deal, right?  Well, it worked.  I loved my new room!

Until bedtime, that is.

Bedtime rolled around, and I wanted to sleep with my mom.  Like always.  But, alas, that was a no-go.

Now, I’m no psychologist.  But I’m willing to bet that that bedroom moment was the one that planted the seed.  This man that I really did secretly like, was now to become the enemy.  He took my mommy!  Thus, began the years of the “you’re not my real dad”s and the “I don’t have to listen to you”s and the “I hate you”s.  Oh, my poor poor mom.  The hell I must have put her through.  (Funny how that becomes so clear once you have children of your own.)

DAD5Eventually, my dad joined the Army and that’s when the new brothers and sisters started to arrive.  I went from being an only child at age 7, to being the oldest of five by age 13.   Now, that part was pretty cool.  I adored being a big sister.  The part that wasn’t cool, however?  The moving.  The endless, ENDLESS, moving.  The girl who had lived in the same small town her whole life was now being uprooted and sent to God only knows where.  Yep, I was to become a “brat” – in every sense of the word.  I made sure the whole world knew how I felt about that, too.

Well, let’s fast forward a bit.  To age 17.

Not much had changed in all those years.  I still fought with my dad every chance we got – and I’m sure my mom still cried silent tears over each and every one.  Not once had I stopped to think about what he was doing with his life – serving his country each and every time he donned that uniform.  Not once had I realized that he was supporting and providing for this large family each time he laced up those big black boots.  Nope – I couldn’t see past myself and my own “misery.”  And at this point, that misery had reached it’s peak.  Not only had he moved us yet again, but this time we were in a whole different country.  He had taken us all the way to Germany…the big doo-doo head.  Oh, I was never going to forgive him for this one, you could mark my word.

So, the summer I turned 17, I was flying back to Germany from having spent the summer back in the states.  (I would fly home each year for about 6 weeks to see my real dad and that side of the family.)  This particular summer, I was on my flight back to Germany and had a short layover in Paris.  Talk about feeling like a big shot!  I mean, granted, I never actually left the airport during my four-hour Paris stay, but still.  I was sitting in an airport in Paris on my 17th birthday – alone!  Check me out!  After wandering around feeling like a grown-up for a while, I finally decided to make my way to my boarding gate and sit at a table while I waited for my flight.  I went to rest my head on my hand and…there it was again.  The lump I had felt while back in the states and had hardly mentioned to anyone now felt a little larger.  It was this strange growth in my neck that I couldn’t quite explain.  I felt fine – wasn’t sick or anything.  But still there it was.

My flight made it back to Germany and I stepped into a world that was to be drastically different than the one I had left a few months before.  Suddenly, everything would change.  No more everyday teenage school life filled with volleyball and basketball games and who’s dating who drama.  No, my life was now hospital stays and doctor’s visits.  Hodgkin’s lymphoma saw to that.  Suddenly all I knew were surgeons, oncologists, IVs and pills.  Oh, the pills.  Sooooo many pills.  Nineteen pills a day, to be exact.  When I wasn’t in the hospital, I was to take all of these pills at home at certain times throughout the day.  I had one of those pill sorters that didn’t divide the pills by day, but by time.  And each morning when I woke up, there they were – all sorted and set out and ready for me for the day.

pillsNow, naturally, I assumed my mom was doing this – all this required “pill sorting” – but I hadn’t given it much thought really.  Until one morning when I woke up and headed to the kitchen for something to drink.  It must have been about 4:30 in the morning.  I assumed no one was awake in the house yet, but I saw a light on in the kitchen as I made my way down the hall.  I knew my dad got up early to go in for PT prior to his work day, but this early?  Really?  I walked into the kitchen, and I saw something that was to change me from that moment on.

There, sitting alone at the kitchen table, with bottles and bottles of pills set out before him, was my dad.  Complete in his BDUs, with only a little light on so he wouldn’t disturb the rest of the house, counting out each and every one of my nineteen pills and placing them in the slots where they belonged.  This man, who I was nothing but cruel and nasty to, spent every morning literally making sure that I was going to survive the day.

That changed everything.

Suddenly, my eyes were open to so much that I had not taken the time to see.  For one thing, he was supposed to be in Bosnia at that time.  He had orders to ship out weeks before, but had requested a stay to help my mom through the worst part of my treatments.  He did end up having to go, but was allowed to postpone until my chemo was over.  (I still had to have radiation after that, but at least he was able to help mom through the first part – remember, she had four other kids besides myself).  Also, my best friend Erica and her little sister were being sent back to the states to live with family members they barely knew because their single-mom soldier was also being sent to Bosnia (she was in the same company with my dad).  Seeing the anguish I was going through losing my best friend during the hardest time of my life, my dad petitioned the Army to allow he and my mom temporary custody of the two girls so that they didn’t have to leave.  I still don’t understand what all was involved with all of that, but I know that for about 6 months, I had two new sisters, thanks to my dad and mom.  And a best friend’s hand to hold through the hardest thing I would ever go through.

Somehow, none of these things had registered with me.  Until I saw those pills scattered all over that table.

Have I ever told him this?  Honestly, I don’t know.  But I know that he saw the difference in how I treated him from that day on.  Cancer will make you grow up, that’s for sure.  It’s amazing how it will shine a light on the things you hadn’t taken the time to notice before.  And in my case, that light was shone on my dad.  The dad who loved me and took care of me all of those years, when he certainly didn’t have to.

I’m so proud today to call him my dad.  I can’t remember a time he has ever called me his “step-daughter.”  I have always just been his daughter.  When you ask him how many kids he has – his answer is never four.  It’s always, always, five.  I have never been anything other than a daughter to him in his eyes, even when I most certainly didn’t deserve that distinction.

So, on this Veteran’s Day, I want to give the biggest shout out I can muster to my favorite veteran on the planet.  My dad.  Thank you for not only sacrificing for our country, but also for your mean little redheaded step-child.  You will always be a soldier in my eyes – in every sense of the word.

I love you, Dad.

DAD

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“We never know the love of a parent, until we become parents ourselves.”
– Henry Ward Beecher