We are the People of Walmart

I am a sweaty, dirty, stinky mess from working in my yard while the brutal September sun beats down on me. I am five minutes away from completing the task and anticipating the luxury of a long shower and fresh clothes. It is at that moment that my weed-whacker runs out of line and I do not have a spare roll in the garage. I suppose lots of people would just stop and finish the task another day. For us type A folks that is not an option. I feel compelled to finish what I start. Here’s the dilemma; do I make a quick dash to Walmart, get the line and quickly finish the job or do I clean up first knowing that I will have to repeat the shower a second time after the work is done?

I am not a fan of wasted time so I opt for a very focused, very brief trip to the store. I enter through the garden department avoiding eye contact. I am a woman on a mission in stealth mode. Find string, buy string and not be seen by anyone that I have ever met in my entire life. In my imagination it played out easy and I was in the store less than three minutes. Ha!

“Where is the weed whacker string?” my mind screams as my eyes dart around what used to be the lawn and garden department but is now 80% full of Christmas trees and ginormous inflatable snow globes and Santa Clauses.

I spot an employee, let’s call him Waldo, that is also attempting to be in stealth mode. Waldo tries to pretend he has not heard me ask for help. Good luck with that sucker! I cut him off at the intersection of wrapping paper and and strings of LED icicles. “Yeah,” he mumbles, “I think we have some but it has been moved over near hardware. I’ll show you.”

Waldo, an underpaid hourly employee slowly meanders through what seems like twenty aisles The longer it takes to get to the weed-whacker string the fewer heavy boxes of artificial trees he will have to put on the shelves. During our journey to hardware I have no less than four people greet me and call me by name. Busted!

After a slow methodical search, Waldo finds the string that fits my particular brand and model of weed-whacker. I take off power walking towards the register only to find that it is closed forcing me to walk to the front of the store to pay for the string.

Before I make it back to my car I see at least 6 more people that recognize me and call me by name. I don’t like that I am still easy to recognize wearing my old Eagles concert t-shirt that has had the sleeves amputated, shorts, shorter than what I would normally ever wear on any property I don’t own, and old athletic shoes stained green from grass clippings. That is when reality slaps me in the face. Yup, I am a person of Wal-mart.

Many years prior, just out of college and living in my first apartment I had to visit a laundry-mat to wash my clothes. This wasn’t totally foreign to me since for financial reasons I had lived in a dormitory throughout college. Students used the laundry mat located in the basement of each building. The main difference, that I didn’t appreciate at that time, was that we were all students, all women and while I occasionally heard about someone having clothing stolen, such reports were the exception not the rule.

The real world laundry mat had a more diverse population. Going to the laundry mat for many was a family outing. Smart phone and tablets wouldn’t be invented for years so with the absence of technology moms and dads talked or argued loudly about that things that should have remained private. Toddlers ran around the machines their bare feet slapping the dirty tile. Most wearing only a disposable diaper. Older kids played demolition derby with the laundry carts while munching on Twinkies.

It was loud and stuffy and I learned quickly to take a book and pretend to read. That didn’t stop others from trying to engage me in conversation but it helped a little. I know it sounds snobby, I apologize, but some of the folks were really creepy. I once had a man compliment my panties as I was moving items from the washing machine to the dryer. Eeewww! He went so far as to peer through the glass door of the dryer as my undies flipped around and then he turned and smiled at me!

I called my mom later in the day and she asked what I had done that morning. “I did my laundry. Mom, I don’t like the people I see at the laundry mat.” I griped. My mother has always had a knack for getting straight to the point and putting me in my place. “Well sweetheart,” she replied, “You may not like them but you are one of them.”

We can be a little (or a lot) judgmental at times so let’s remember that unless you never (never ever) go to Walmart, then just like me, you are a person of Walmart!

A Forest for the Trees

Today’s post is a fictional piece that, like many of my stories, seemed to take over and write itself. I have completed a full 26.2 marathon (Indianapolis, November 2017) and that experience is part of the inspiration for this piece. To all of those that have run the Boston Marathon or know the intricacies of being an elite runner, I ask for your tolerance regarding the poetic license I used for the sake of the story.

I understood what it would take to win, to be number one, the victor, the champion, the best.  I knew that to be these things I had to focus and not let distractions keep me from my goal.  

It wasn’t unusual for me to hear bits of conversation that tended to swirl around me rather than be said to me, “He is very tenacious” or “ He never quits.”  I enjoyed these sound bites, knowing they were said in my praise, but I didn’t turn my head. Pride, being full of myself or listening to praise might slow me down.  I was on a mission and I appreciated that they understood, even when they didn’t.

Sleeping late on Saturdays was an indulgence that I could not afford.  Everyone knows that Saturday is Long Run Day. Contrary to how it sounds, it isn’t just a day.  It starts on Thursday,well, actually on Sunday, with the perfect blend of complex carbs and proteins, strength training and the study of split times and cadence.  Thursday and Friday’s menu is tailored to my body’s particular quirks rather than my pallette. Low fat, but high carb, shrimp, pasta with minimal seasoning and lowered fiber for the next two days.  The end of the work week is not celebrated with friends or a late evening with the wife or kids; 3:00 a.m. comes early. The weather is studied and clothes and shoes are set out for the morning. Hydration belt, headlamp, goos and portable carbs are tucked into my clothes designed specifically for such activity.  9:00 p.m. finds me sound asleep dreaming of things like heartbreak hill, and ancient civilizations in remote Mexico desserts where men run without science and can kick my ass without planning or GPS.

Saturday afternoon, while lounging in a tub of ice, I ponder negative splits and what it will take for a new PR. The study of the mechanics and the plans are as intricate as blueprint. A glorious nap follows while the wife and kids take in the latest Pixar at the matinee show.

Sunday, I plan the rest of the week making time for the necessary work that ends in a paycheck.  Distance, pace and mathematical formulas that provide the best odds for winning. Things like the 10% rule, ice baths,tempo runs and fartleks grab my attention. The average person doesn’t realize much less comprehend that to run 26.2 miles at a pace of 4:53 per mile that the man will log an average of 100-110 miles a week.  Even a newbie, that just wants to complete a full 26.2 needs to be at 30-35 miles a week to start training.

Patriot’s Day

We stand packed together like cattle in the corral, yeah, that’s what it’s called. Then we stretch or shift our weight from foot to foot and check our gear while we wait for the gun to fire and start the race.  I go through the motions of respecting my country and the flag during the national anthem but my mind is already on mile 20 and climbing heartbreak hill. There is a guy not far away that is carrying an ultrasound picture of his yet to be born child, he says this is his final race because God and family will always come first. A woman I passed earlier was chatting up about how she was running for charity, raising money for research for cancer or alzheimer’s or some other disease that would probably, regardless of how much she raises, take her life in a number of years.  I blocked it out, there was no room for that at the moment.

I think I hear the sound of my own child proudly shouting, “Daddy, my daddy is going to win!”  I don’t look, I can’t, I must stay in the zone.  

The gun sounds and my body knows what to do, my brain is along for the ride for at least the first 20 miles.  It’s job will be to get me through the final 6.2 miles including lactate thresholds from Hell and emptied glycogen stores.

At mile five my eyes try to turn to a cheering, waving, spectator that might be my wife.  I don’t blink even when I hear my name being chanted by voices that must belong to family and friends.  I stare straight ahead, looking could cost me a whole second. It isn’t worth the chance. There will be time after the finish line.

At mile 20 I start up Heartbreak Hill with only 3 men ahead of me and all of them in sight.  At the crest there are only 2 ahead of me. It is tempting to go all in but I resist. Not yet; not yet.

At the end of mile 23 runner two makes his break.  I could laugh or even smirk, but I won’t use any precious energy.  He lacks patience and at mile 25 I pass him without increasing my speed.  I start to gain, on number one but hang back, 5 strides behind. He can’t see me but knows I am there; he didn’t get this good, this elite, without developing the sixth sense of knowing exactly where I am and how much I have left in reserve. I evaluate his energy and fortitude, he won’t go down easy. 

I allow myself to fall in beside him, less than 6 inches in second place.  At 25.7 miles I summon my brain, my energy and even my faith and pull into the lead. I am going to win, I am going to receive the prize I have longed for my entire life. I can smell it and my mouth waters in anticipation of the rare flavor.

I break the ribbon as the world turns to shades of grey.  It occurs to me that I may pass out, but it’s okay, that no longer matters. I have won!  The grey images begin to blur. I see my family, my wife, my parents, my kids and many others but they are turning away, their heads down.  Are they crying?  

Don’t they realize that I won?  

I stumble on becoming increasingly confused but I find that there is a line forming comprised of other runners that have just finished.  I see a light ahead and move that way thinking it must be the podium where I will receive my winnings. Others are ahead of me in this line and while that is still more confusing I stand and wait my turn thinking it not all that unusual to be in a brain fog after such a feat and monumental victory.

I didn’t notice all the trees before but now the line seems to be weaving through a wide variety of deciduous timbers, and while I know it isn’t possible, there seems to be more trees everytime I blink or exhale.  I see the female winner at the front of the line. Words are exchanged and then she turns around, her expression is empty.  She takes two steps and when she stops she is suddenly no longer a woman, she is a tree. The same scene plays out as other runners get to the front of the line, then after a brief exchange of words with whoever is in the light, they too turn into trees.  Finally, only two runners in the line are ahead of me. I am suddenly terrified and I try to flee, but all of my energy is spent. The next person to face the light is the woman who was running for charity. The light is too intense, I can’t look at it straight on but I hear a strong voice lovingly say,  “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”  The next person in line is the father that commented before the start of the race that it would be his last due to family obligations. He hears the same words as the woman before him and then steps into the light where I can no longer see him.

Understanding fills me with sick certainty. I fall on my face knowing that I am not worthy. Mercy is the prayer arising from my soul.  I plead, “ I worked hard, I wasn’t a bad man. I just wanted to win the race.” The voice of my God commands me to look behind me and to describe what I see there.  I obey; anything for a chance. “I see trees, lots and lots of trees.” “Keep looking” instructs the Lord. I start to notice the trees have words on them, the words are prayers.  Some ask for love, others for shelter or food, still others have prayers for peace or for safety. “Tell me what you see” commands the Lord. I weep as I say, “I see the woods, a dense forest full of people and their prayers.”  

“Yes,” said the Lord “and you ran past each one ignoring their needs, their hurts and their unanswered prayers.  My child, you didn’t see the forest for the trees.”

I wail, “But I just wanted to win the race!”  

 My limbs stiffen as my body turns to wood, roots sprout from my feet digging themselves into the soil below, anchoring me in place.

The last thing I hear is my creator explaining, “It wasn’t a race; it was never a race. It was your life and now the real prize will forever be very close, but always just out of reach.”  Just before my eyes seal themselves shut and become covered in bark someone hangs a winners medal on one of my branches, I try unsuccessfully to shake it off as the aroma of acrid wood smoke fills my nose.

*Matthew 25:23, Holy Bible, KJV

Thank you for reading. I appreciate the following for the use of their photographs; Chase Clark, Jakob Kriz, Matt Howard, Tikko Maciel, Joshua J. Cotten, Jennifer Birdie, Shawker and Natalie Desirre Mottet.

The Unwritten Rules for Back to School

The rules have changed and there is a good chance you don’t know what they are.  I’m not talking about rules such as no running in the hallway, raise your hand, and wait to be called on before speaking, or even the no bullying policy.  I am talking about the unwritten rules that no one talks about.  

Rule 1.  Not all kids get treated the same by teachers and administrators.  If you are thinking that well behaved kids get treated better; you aren’t totally wrong, but if you think it stops there then you are missing the big picture. Gone are the days when school employees went out of their way to avoid doing anything that might prompt others to say their child was receiving special attention or privileges. The higher a student’s  parent is in the chain of command the more perks the child is likely to receive. Like every rule, this one has exceptions, but they are more rare than most realize or care to admit. The other kids notice it but most don’t say anything; they realize that there would be no point. What message does this send?

Special treatment is also extended to the kids that have parents that can keep the school looking good in the public eye.  Like it or not school’s are businesses and need to maintain their public image. If a child’s parent(s) works for the local newspaper or other major media source then the school will try harder to keep them happy. After all, administrators never know when they will need to play their, “don’t make this public card.”  School’s can’t avoid having their test scores published; but they can, sometimes, keep the fact that an elementary child brought a loaded gun to school at the rumor level rather than public knowledge. Yes, I’m serious.

Local policy makers, elected officials and friends of school administration are among other groups that can reasonably expect special favors. You are accustomed to this sort of thing in the business world where the most qualified person isn’t always the one hired or promoted.  It is the same type of behavior, but its kids that are getting short-changed. It is part of the learning process, reading, arithmetic and life isn’t fair.

If you doubt that this is accurate, I challenge you to think of the best teacher in your child’s school. You know the one, loves kids, loves learning, and has a real talent for teaching; the one that all the kids and their parents hope to get when the child reaches the particular level or subject taught by this professional. Take a look at who the students are in that class and the influence of their parents. Coincidence had nothing to do with the names on the roster.

Rule 2  If your child has an invisible disability they are at higher risk to be bullied by their fellow students (and staff). Frequently TV, movies and books try to show the bullied kid as being handicapped in a way that is obvious, such as the child that uses a wheelchair or having a profound learning disability.  The reality is that these kids usually fly under the bullying radar and classmates typically just leave them alone. Being left out is far from ideal, but it beats being taunted or tortured. Kids with severe illnesses, the one going through chemo and has lost all their hair, or the one one a special diet due to a chronic condition, are likewise not prime targets for bullying. In fact, their classmates may be protective of them and treat them with extra care and compassion.

  The kids at greatest risk of being bullied are the ones that look like all the rest, but are still different.  The kid with ADHD or tourettes, the one on the high end of the autism spectrum or the kid that is just socially awkward, these are the ones at greatest risk. Sometimes, they are different is a way that defies explanation to both kids and adults. Both kids and adults often fail to demonstrate empathy when they don’t understand the reasons a person acts the way they do. In some cases teachers know about the underlying reasons for a kid’s quirkiness but they can’t reveal this sensitive information to the class. Even if they could offer an explanation to the quirky kid’s peers it wouldn’t guarantee empathy on the part of the classmates. If you parent such a child know it isn’t going to be easy for them or for you.

   Consider having a teacher or counselor speak to the students or share a book that explores your child’s particular condition.  Giving classmates the facts can build empathy. If you decide to go this route I recommend an in-depth discussion with the teacher or counselor ahead of time.  The person that leads this discussion must be prepared to answer difficult questions in a non-judgmental manner. It is also important to include your child in preliminary planning and if the child doesn’t want anyone to talk with the class then their privacy should be honored.  Again, this is something that you may consider, but I am in no way saying it is appropriate in all circumstances.

Teachers are human and they will relate better to certain children than they do to others.  Most try to be fair. There will be kids that will, intentionally or not, push certain teacher’s frustration buttons.  Some of those staff members will be less patient than others. When the kid that gets picked on is also the kid that annoys the teacher on a regular basis then it fans the flames of bullying.  Yes, the teacher is the adult and should be expected to keep his/her emotions in check, but can anyone, in any job, leave their emotions at home? On going, serious effort is essential and some schools have a climate that makes it okay when effort is lacking on the part of the adults. 

Rule 3  Many of us grew up in a time when if you got in trouble at school then you got in more trouble at home. It is still ideal when school and home communicate and work as as team. Time is a big part of the communication break down. Use caution in letting the school handle more substantial issues in regards to your child’s discipline and education.  If you aren’t willing to step up to the plate for your child then you might as well send the school an affidavit stating they can treat your child in any manner they choose. The staff knows who they must coddle, and who they can disregard. That said, remember that no child is perfect, not even yours. Don’t choose to fight every battle as you will get frustrated and your child will be labeled, “that kid with the crazy parent,” but know when to step in.

Prevention will go a long way is such matters, and your best defense is to be a familiar face to school employees. If your career or community status doesn’t make you well known within your community, then be sure to show your face at school both during school hours and at school sponsored events. Chat with staff and schmooze away. Personally, I despise schmoozing and I didn’t go that route, but fair or unfair, love it or hate it, it makes a difference.

When your child has a complaint your first job as parent or guardian is to listen to them.  Pay attention and ask questions for clarification as needed. There may not be a way for them to prove their claim, but you should still ask things such as, who witnessed the event, where did it happen, and what action the teacher or administrator has already taken.

If the school reaches out to you about an infraction committed by your child it is a mistake to automatically believe everything you are told.  The same questions of who witnessed the action and how things are being handled are still appropriate. After getting information from the school, talk with your child about what happened. I recall a time I chewed out my son after receiving an email from his  middle school team leader that said he had been in a fight and that another student’s shirt had been ripped from their body. The real story was that my son and his friend were play fighting, not a single punch thrown by either of them. When I finally got to the bottom of it, I learned that my son’s version was the truth. The other student put my kid in a headlock and in doing so his shirt was raised high enough to expose his abdomen.  The boys picked a poor location to play in this manner but it was the teacher, followed by the team leader that exaggerated what happened and made it sound violent. There had been no fight, no one had their shirt torn, much less torn from their body. Teachers gripe about drama in the middle school but in this case they created it.

Remember, write down what happened according to your child and others. Name names, date it and let it be known you have it. Don’t threaten anyone, that won’t help, simply referring to your notes as you talk to the admin will get the point across in an efficient manner. Hang onto your notes and anything in writing from the school. If the school employees continue to treat your child unfairly; you may need that documentation.

Rule 3  Talk to the Boss. When there is a significant problem you need to jump line and head straight to the administration. They would prefer you talk first to the teacher but that isn’t in your child’s best interest. The principal should be your first contact, unless it is a very severe event, in which case you may want to start with the superintendent. Engage in a non-threatening conversation and expect the same in return.  When they say they can’t name other kids names or tell you about another kids consequences, they really can’t. It’s frustrating, but true. They also have to honor the same in regards to your child; be sure they do.

Before anything happens to prompt you to have to request an audience with the principal, and hopefully you will never need to do that, listen to your child. When/if your child or grandchild talks to you about things that aren’t fair at school your first job is to listen without judging or asking too many questions.  Remember that kids sometimes embellish the story. Usually they do this because they fear that just the truth won’t be strong enough on it’s own to grab your attention. After they share their concern talk about their feelings. What do they think should happen? How do they feel about it? Who saw it, other kids, other staff? Many times the child just wants to be heard.

I wanted to close this entry by saying that most students enjoy school but I didn’t find enough evidence to support such a claim.  According to Web MD, “75% off students express negative emotions about school.” Forbes magazine reports, “Upwards of 40% of all high school students are chronically disengaged.”  Student’s report through questions on the NAEP, National Assessment of Educational Progress, that only 49% of fourth graders enjoy school and by eighth grade it falls to 26% .

Ready or not it’s time for school. Give your babies a hug and tell them you love them. Really listen when they talk to you, and in the words of song-writer Cat Stevens remember, “Oh baby, baby, it’s a wild world.”

Thanks to the following that allowed the use of their photographs: Josh Applegate, Nicole Honeywill, Chinh Le Duc, and Element 5.

Nothing is Confidential

I recently received the letter that you that see in the picture below. There is a good chance you have had similar ones show up in your mailbox. This one was addressed to me, not current resident, and it had my address. Please note, I have never purchased a KIA or done business with any of the “Don Franklin Family of Dealerships.” I wondered how they got my name and address even though I didn’t imagine it would be anything like rocket science.

Knowing that my personal information is available to purchase does make me wonder why I bothered to ink it out..

I opened it up, and as expected, they were hoping to lure me into purchasing a new vehicle from their dealership. I typically drive a vehicle about 10 years; since the one in my garage is a 2017, I was poised to drop the letter into the recycle bin when I noticed the amounts they quoted regarding my monthly payment and my remaining loan balance were both within a few dollars of being spot on. HUH?

I consider such information private and felt very annoyed that they had somehow managed to acquire personal information, that in the not too distant past, wouldn’t have been accessible without my permission.

I further noticed that the attached post-it-note was handwritten, not just made to look that way, and signed by someone named Marc. I concluded that if it is okay for Marc to know so much about me that I would give him a call; after all he gave me the number so it was practically an invitation.

This could be Marc. Marc is a hard worker. That is why his team members field his calls on his behalf. Be like Marc!

I grabbed my phone and tapped in 877-346-9308 (feel free to call Marc yourself) or you can also dial 606-679-1177. A chipper sounding woman answered the phone informing me that they were having a great day at Don Franklin Kia. I asked to speak with Marc, and after asking the chipper lady a few questions, also managed to learn that he holds a position in management. Ms. Chipper made me tell her what my call was regarding. Only then did she say that Marc was out for the rest of the day in a meeting (my guess is the meeting was on the 19th hole). She graciously offered to let me speak with a member of his team. I refrained from sarcastic remarks about which team that might be, major league, minor league or pee-wee; instead I told her I really preferred to speak directly to Marc and that I didn’t mind calling the next day.

I jotted down a few notes for my future chat with Marc. I would be sure to use my “professional voice” and have my ducks in a row. It’s always good to point out a persons strengths so I decided I would tell Marc that I was impressed with the accuracy of the numbers. I imagined saying, “You folks at Kia really do your homework.”

Next, I thought I would start down the path that would eventually lead me to the answers I sought. I planned to comment that I was disappointed that they were only prepared to offer an interest rate of 0.9% since they surely already knew my credit score and that my current interest rate is 0.0%.

I thought I would ask Marc to tell me more about their offer and why it would be a sound decision for me. I was curious what he would find to say about it being a wise financial decision. Ha!

I expected, by that point, Marc would be pretty sure that I didn’t really want to buy one of the vehicles at Don Franklin Kia (by the way, you can also call them at 877-346-9308) and that I best move in for the “kill.” In the interest of trying to decide what is best for me I would say I wanted to compare my loan, payment and interest rate with Marc.

“So Marc, How much do you owe on your vehicle and what is the interest rate?” I would expect Marc to balk or to work around my question; at which point I would ask why He thinks is is okay for Don Franklin Kia to buy my credit information without my permission and then make it available to him and his team. In the interest of fairness shouldn’t I know about his personal finances too? Since Marc is part of a team I would hope he values a level playing field.

I called the next day; when the same cheery lady answered the phone I asked to speak to Marc. I suppose she remembered my “professional voice” and asked if it was in regards to the letter I received and if I had called the day before. She asked me to hold and I wasn’t surprised when Marc didn’t come on the line; the call was picked up by a lady named Johnnie. I told Johnnie that they must have put my call through to the wrong person because I had asked to speak with Marc. She said his team usually takes calls on his behalf (perhaps he was still on the golf course).

I talked to Johnnie, she is on Marc’s team.

I started the intended conversation with Johnnie, however, she sounded young and I thought she was probably some poor kid working on straight commission hoping to buy something besides Ramen on her next grocery trip. I took it easy on her. I never asked her about her car loan or it’s interest rate.

Before we got off the phone I told her that my intention was to let them know that I did not appreciate their way of doing business, or any other company that would stoop to purchasing people’s “private” financial information. I acknowledged that they couldn’t buy it if company’s like Experion, Equifax and Trans Union were not selling it.

She politely told me that there was a number on the back of my letter that I could call to opt out of future letters of this kind. I knew that, but what else could Johnnie say? Of course, when I dialed that number there was no option to talk to a real person, it took over ten minutes to work through the automated system and then I was asked for my social security number. WHAT?? I decided to put in a bogus number that would spell out my thoughts about them and their system. I looked at the letters rather than the numbers I tapped out 382-59-6800. The zeros were added only to complete the fake social. I hoped someone would figure it out.

I can’t stop Experion, Equifax and Trans Union from selling my information even though I wish I could. The only thing I can do is call the people that buy it, waste some of their time and inform them that the actions of their company (Don Franklin Family of Dealerships) has guaranteed that I will never do business with them. If they get enough consumers calling them with the same complaint perhaps they will stop paying for our credit information and the Equifax, Experion, Trans Union and the others will have to find some way other than prostituting others information to make money.

Those numbers again are, 877-346-9308 or 606-679-1177, ask for Marc

I wonder if Marc is somewhere in this picture?

I appreciate the following for their use of their photos: Court Prather, Neon Brand, David Clode, Yours Truly and Google Images where the picture of Don Franklin Kia has no notation of it’s images being protected under copyright.

The Privilege of Positivity

Today’s post was written by John Pavlovitz and was originally published on his blog johnpavlovitz.com on July 6, 2019. Today, I share it with you because I agree with his message and think it needs to be said. Thank you John for giving me permission to reblog.

Yesterday a friend on social media challenged me to “only post positive messages for one whole day.”

It felt like part social media campaign and part gentle personal scolding:you’re producing too much negativity here.

I think she meant well and believe me, I do understand the sentiment—but honestly I don’t know what “positive” means to some people anymore. It seems like something is being lost in translation

To many people, positive seems to mean: to only speak happy words, to only focus on pleasant things, to never be combative or angry or grieving, to say nothing critical or confrontational about anyone.

It means pictures of babies and puppies and happy people on vacation—not of families in cages or deplorable detention centers or dying wildlife.

It means videos of cats in funny clothes—not of young unarmed black men being beaten by police in traffic stops.

It means beaming-smile selfies and feel good platitudes and perfectly framed food porn.

The request to “be positive,” seems to mean to avoid giving someone any information (or providing that information in a way) that derails the path and plans and emotional state of their day. If it causes another person to become angry or to grieve or if it rubs up against a set of assumptions they have—then it’s negative. 

We all have a natural empathy saturation point; a threshold where we reach where the bad news is too much to absorb, and with so much to be burdened by these days, the desire to escape some of it is natural and understandable—but it’s also a sure sign of our privilege too.

The very idea that we can have the option of escaping terrible news or sidestepping difficult conversations or limiting disturbing information, is itself confirmation that we are buffered from a good deal of struggle.That we can tire of a story or an issue—likely means we have no real personal stake in it.

Many people don’t have the option of avoiding negativity today.
They don’t have the privilege of not coming off as combative.
They don’t have the luxury of not fighting.
They can’t decide not to live with urgency in this day, because there is no other way to live in order to survive it.

There aren’t a lot of migrants or Muslims or people without healthcare or survivors of sexual assault or parents of transgender or teens saying, “Can you give me more puppy videos and less truthful news about our how broken our nation is?”

To me, activism is pure positivity.
It is passionately affirming humanity by taking note of the places it is most endangered and assailed.
It’s being for someone enough to advocate for them when they vulnerable and marginalized and invisible.
Being positive means being fully engaged in real life.

I’m all for looking for the good in people, for leaning into the hope, for staying optimistic about the future, for boosting encouragement, for cultivating joy, for taking time to enjoy meaningful moments with people you love, and even sharing puppy photos—but that has nothing to do with editing what I share so that it feels more pleasant or palatable to people who are shielded from danger enough to be annoyed by its news.

Yes, please give people funny videos and heartwarming images and stuff to make them laugh and breathe and rest. The world needs these things.

But as often as we share beautifully crafted Instagram images, we need to make sure we’re showing people reality completely unfiltered as well. The world needs this too.

If being positive, means to not call out abject racism,
if it means, not to advocate for migrant families in cages,
if it means, to silently ignore human rights atrocities,
if it means, allowing my LGBTQ friends to have their rights eroded,
if it means, to make peace with bigotry in the highest levels of our Government,
if it means, abiding Muslims being vilified,
if it means, to allow legislative violence to go unopposed,
if it means, standing by while fellow Christians pervert the message of Jesus,
if it means, to avoid unpleasant conversations about the things that burden my heart because they make other people uncomfortable—then I guess I won’t be positive today.

Actually, I’m positive about that.

He’s Talking and Can’t Shut-up!

Just to set the record straight, I am not referring to people that love to have conversations.  I adore an intellectually or fun conversation. I am talking about people that really seem to lack the ability or perhaps self-control to stop themselves from talking.  I have known at least four of these folks very well and three are relatives. The key difference with the non-related gabbster is that, unlike family, I eventually chose to break ties with her.  I have also had a few dates with men that make others suffer from their talking affliction.

 I will start with a chatty guy whom I had the misfortune of spending an evening.  The scene played out something along these lines. I have never been out with a man named Zeke, so I will call this fictional, representative example dude,  Zeke. Zeke represents my loquacious dates from Hell.

 Zeke and I agree to meet for dinner since going to a movie or other type of show would not allow for conversation and a chance to get to know one another better.  The date starts normal enough with us greeting each other and he offers one of the standard compliments that men like to give to women. “You look great, or pretty or hot or some other meaningless adjective, but he is being polite and I appreciate that.  As the host walks us to our table Zeke engages him or her in a brief friendly chat asking them something along the lines of if they were having a good day or if they have worked long at this location. Thoughts  pop into my head that he is a friendly person that likes to be considerate to folks that work in the service industry. Zeke earns a brownie point. Initially, I don’t notice too much about how he doesn’t really wait for the host’s response but proceeds to tell them some kind of short tale about himself that lasts until after we are seated and doesn’t stop until the host finally spews out the name of our server and how they will be with us in just a moment as they make a quick escape.  I write the Chatty-Cathy verbalization off to first date nervousness and even appreciate the time to calm my own first date jitters.

 Zeke turns his attention to me and asks a question about something like my line of work, hobbies, interests, kids….typical get to know you inquiries that also imply genuine interest.  Zeke has just earned his final brownie point. My first cue should have been that I didn’t get to finish my first sentence because Zeke’s eye’s lit up as if new synapses in his brain have just found the cure for cancer.

  Before retiring I made my living as a professional counselor so I became quite adept in the art of active listening.  I didn’t even have to remind myself to focus and make mental notes about the things he enjoys, his accomplishments, his kids, his ex, his car, his job, his hobbies and all of his other stuff.  I briefly had thoughts of things that I could add to the conversation but would soon push those thoughts aside and return my focus to Zeke’s babble. Again, I blame part of this on my profession and training to focus on the other person.  Just because this was a date rather than a therapy session switching gears doesn’t come naturally. I think it is a lot like the way judges and cops don’t like to sit with their backs to the door and chefs can’t help but identify the seasoning and herbs swirled into dishes prepared by others.  Sometimes even random people at places like ball parks tell me all kinds of things that I didn’t need or want to know. My ex-husband used say I had a little neon sign over my head that I couldn’t see but the unstable of the world could clearly read as saying, “Free therapy.”

Most of us know the torture of feeling we are being held captive by an incessant talker

 By the time the check arrives Zeke wants to make plans for a second date while all I want to do is resist the overwhelming urge to poke myself repeatedly in the temple with a fork and escape to my own, very quiet home.  The best thing about Zeke is that, unlike family, I can avoid him. I have met more Zeke’s than I care to recall.

Back to relatives.   I don’t remember my sister being overly loquacious as a child.  But when she popped back into the family after disappearing for years (we later learned she was vacationing at “Club Fed”) she had developed a quite impressive talent for talking without the need of pause to inhale, chew, swallow or even drink.  Thank the Lord she lived 60 miles away and my parents knew to not share my address. Seriously, it was that bad.

 At first I would answer all her phone calls.  I still had landline back then and limited cell phone minutes so the call typically ended when my cordless handset was totally drained of battery and I felt equally lifeless.  All I had to say was hello and every twenty minutes or so bleat out an uh-huh or a hmm. I suppose she liked having me listen and the calls became more frequent.

Due to the inate human desire to survive I learned a few tactics to shorten the calls,  My favorite was to open my own front door and ring the doorbell. I could then blurt out, “There is someone at the door, I’ll talk to you later”.  She wouldn’t stop talking to say goodbye but it helped ease my guilt when I would click the off button and return the handset to it’s cradle.

 That,  along with a few other tricks, helped until she caught on and started returning the call just moments later.  Once in desperation I answered telling her that my husband and I were trying to have sex for the first time in a very long time and asked that she not call back for several hours.  She didn’t miss a beat and informed me that in twenty minutes not only would we be finished but I would be showered and making dinner while he either napped or sat like a toad in front of a football game.  I sadly realized that if we had actually been about to do the deed her time frame would have been spot on. That was when I quit answering her calls and praised the Lord for whoever invented caller I.D.

 About 2 months later I felt guilty for not talking to her.  I reasoned that she was lonely and I needed to be more compassionate and I answered the phone.  Had she asked why I had not been taking her calls I was prepared to sarcastically remind her that my husband and I were having sex.  She didn’t ask and immediately started to pour her verbal vomit into the airwaves. In desperation I put the phone down on the coffee table and went on with my house cleaning.  

 I truly felt bad when thirty minutes later I walked back into the living room and remembered the phone.  I picked it up to click it off and heard a voice. It wasn’t the Lord admonishing me for my rudeness it was my sister’s voice coming through the phone.  She had not even noticed that I wasn’t listening!

 I experienced an epiphany moment!  I said a quick mmm and put the phone back on the coffee table.  I got dressed to go to the gym, put the dishes in the dishwasher and after wiping down the countertops I again picked up the phone.  She was still going strong. I interrupted her announcing, “I need to go to the gym”. When she continued on as if I had said nothing I simply put the phone back on the table, picked up my gym bag and my car keys and went on with my life.  At some point while struggling on the stair climber I wondered how long she would talk before she would realize the battery on my phone had failed, or maybe she wouldn’t notice and would continue to relish the confabulation.

 I wonder if this could be hereditary.  An aunt from my father’s side of the family has tried to reconnect.  She sent a Facebook message letting me know she wanted me to tell her about how my niece had found her biological father.  This was more recent and I made the call from my cell phone while also walking my dog.

 She let me say two, possibly three sentences and then she opened the flood gates that must  have been holding back years, perhaps decades of words. After thirty minutes of not getting to say a word I tried to steer the conversation back to the story she had said she wanted to hear.  She didn’t even acknowledge the interuption and continued. I must say her lung capacity is amazing for an over 70 woman that smoked Camels for most of her life.

 I relaxed my bicep and let the hand clutching the phone glide down past my hip where it picked up the natural sway of walking.  I could still make out the words she was saying and a couple of times I even raised the phone back up to my ear because I thought she was going to let me speak but that didn’t happen.  Eighty-four minutes later when my pooch and I had made it back to our home I brought the phone up to my face and told her that I had go and clicked it off.

Before I retired I would occasionally find myself trapped in my office by a nonstop talker. Fortunately for me, the receptionist was amazing and usually saved me. She would call into my office or tap lightly on the door to tell me I had a call I needed to take or that my next appointment had arrived. Of course there wasn’t a call or person waiting she was just rescuing me.

 I decided this must be a type of mental illness but according to the DSM V it is just a symptom most likely frequently associated with anxiety or ADD.  I have a theory that it can be a symptom or indicator of narcissistic personality disorder.

How would you or do you handle family or others that just won’t stop talking?  Maybe the talker should start a blog. Hmmm, uh-huh, ok.

I will hush now before you label me as I have labeled others! Have a blessed day that includes some peaceful silence.

Thanks to Jason Rosewell, Corey Hearne, Cristen Hume, Kristina flour and Wynand Van Poo from Unsplash.com for allowing the use of their photographs.

Pack Hacks for Your Vacation

Have you ever known anyone that packs three large bags for a two night trip?  I admit I used to be that person. I would pack outfits and back up outfits for every day, shoes out the wazoo, hairdryer (cause I like mine better than the ones at the hotel) and an insane amount of toiletries. I didn’t stop packing until it took at least two people, sometimes three to close the suitcase. Crazy!

Unless this guy has the luggage for the entire family of 4 or more it is safe to say he has drastically over-packed

Being a little bit like a squirrel preparing for winter,  I usually have enough food tucked into one of those bags to survive a week in the unlikely event that every restaurant and pizza delivery in such cities as Denver or Chicago suddenly offer nothing to eat.  Good heavens, travel is supposed to be a chance to explore new things, places and FOOD.

For those of you that remember back when the airlines allowed two carry on items I would have the largest bag possible that was still within the guidelines, my large purse and my full size pillow.  I know that is three items but I got away with it for years and if a fuss was made I reasoned I could shove my purse into the pillowcase and deem it one item.

I am proud to say that I have completed a full 360 degree turn around when it comes to packing and as a result I enjoy traveling more than I did when I was weighed down with all my stuff.  Several years ago I flew to Chicago for a half marathon and mini vacation of 4 days and 3 nights. My traveling companions and I decided we would not rent a car and would use the L (Chicago’s train/subway) and our feet to get from the airport to our downtown hotel.  I knew whatever I took I would carry or roll for a good distance. Fellow runners will understand that this trip required me to pack bulky items like running shoes, a hydration belt and gels. I used a carry-on considerably smaller than what is allowed and I managed to take not only everything I needed for race day but everything else I needed to be comfy cozy including my lightweight house slippers (I get germophobic about hotel carpet among other things).

Imagine this bag in bright yellow and you will have a good idea of the size of the lemon I lugged all over Europe.

That trip made me realize that some extra time spent carefully packing the proper items for the trip’s activities added the the enjoyment during my hard earned vacation.  I wish I had learned this lesson before my trip through Europe when I packed a ginormous (bright Yellow) suitcase. I didn’t think past getting it from the car to the airport check-in and ended up lugging the heavy, over-sized “lemon” up and down escalators, on and off the Metro and the bullet train I even had to tote the monster on and off a Ferry.  When I got home I gave the lemon away so that I would never make that mistake again.

Here are some hacks to help you pack light, yet have what you need:

There are various brands space saving bags. I like the ones that you roll to remove the air. They are easy and can be reused multiple times.

If you are not using the bags that compress and push or suck out all the air then you must stop reading right this minute and go buy some.  Yes, go now! They are that good and if you fold everything carefully your clothes will have far fewer wrinkles than if you just fold or roll the items and didn’t use the bags. 

First print out your itinerary.  Place it one your bed then pick out a full outfit for each day.  You should only have one outfit per day except rare exceptions when the days activities demand certain attire such as a formal dinner or an athletic activity.  For example; Once while in Puerto Vallarata I spent an amazing day zip-lining, hiking and even repelling down a waterfall. That day half way qualified for two outfits. What I mean by half-way is that by the time the adventure ended and I showered and went to dinner I only had outfit number two on for a few hours and in air-conditioning. I wore outfit number two again for the trip back home a few days later.

Group clothes by outfit and take extra care in folding before placing them into space saving bags. Comfy shoes that coordinate with all the outfits are another space saving perk.

Don’t group your clothes into stacks of shirts, shorts, socks etc, group them by what will be worn together. See the example in the picture. Here is three day’s worth of outfits including my fav denim jacket. Note that the outfit on the right is a Tunic/dress that will work with or without the leggings (leggings are a great versatile piece that can multiply your choice of outfit while taking up very little space in your bag) depending on the weather and if needed that denim jacket can be layered on too.

For my fellow runners and other folks that can’t fathom a vacation that doesn’t allow time for their favorite sport or exercise, consider taking running/athletic clothes that have seen better days. You know the ones I am talking about.  The shorts that never ride up or cause chaffing that you have loved for a long time, but are, if your honest, worn out. Take them on a final vacation run and then throw the nasty stinky things into the trash. Viola! You have just made a little extra room in your bag and the sweaty mess won’t stink up your bag for the remainder of your trip.  This also works with socks, undies or whatever you decide.

Next, pick out your shoes.  Shoes take up a lot of space in you bag so be very discerning.  Perhaps your peach colored sandals look great with one of your outfits but your brown sandals match every outfit. Put the peach ones away to wear when you get home.  The brown sandals go into your bag. The same concept applies to jackets and sweaters, for me the denim jacket is a go to piece.

Athletic shoes take a lot of space and are heavy.  Consider wearing them on your travel day instead of packing them.  If you must pack them utilize the space inside the shoe for things like electronic chargers, socks or items that need extra protection to avoid being damaged.  I have had baggage bruttaly abused by various airlines but have never had anything damaged that was packed inside my shoes.

I like to save up trial size toiletries for travel, but you can also buy these just before the trip if you aren’t pinching pennies.

You can save space and reduce the weight of your bags by limiting your toiletries.  You don’t have to take every lipstick and eyeshadow you own. Pick a color of each that goes with everything and leave the rest behind.  I like my hairdryer better than the ones the hotels provide but I can make do with their dryer for a week or so ond not lug mine around. Besides, if you are going out of the country there is a good chance yours won’t work there anyway.  

I save the little tubes of toothpaste, floss and the toothbrush the dentist gives to me when I have my cleanings for travel.  They are the right size for a trip up to ten days and if there is a smidgen left when it is time to go home I can throw out what is left with only a little guilt about being wasteful.

Leave fragrances at home.  Besides that you don’t want to risk having a bottle of cologne break or explode inside your bag the people seated around you may have allergies and will be glad they don’t have to breathe in the perfume you love.

Make sure you have the necessary documents, passport, government issued ID, plane tickets…then go through your wallet and remove unnecessary cards.  Two credit cards at most. If your wallet is lost or stolen it is much easier to cancel and replace two cards than it is 15.

I recommend a small to medium cross body bag while traveling.  It frees up your hands to deal with luggage and is less tempting to pick pockets and purse snatchers.

A flipbelt holds more than an old fashioned fanny pack and is 100x cooler and much more secure.

Sometimes I opt for a tour package rather than staying in the same place for the entire vacation.  This fall I will finally see the colors of New England. It will be my first journey to this part of the country and I want to take in as much as I can in the eight days. By booking a guided tour I only have to fly to Boston International and then someone else will drive the luxury bus, ferry and train while I relax. This also means that what ever luggage I take will move with me every day as I travel Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. There will be no lemon this trip! I will take a slightly larger than carry on size bag to check and my carry-on will be a back pack.  They are super handy for this kind of travel because I can have my journal, snacks (limited quantity), water bottle (empty of liquid for the plane but flavor packs such as Crystal Light tucked inside) and other comfort items, including a compressed travel pillow while leaving room for whatever I decide to buy along the way. The backpack can go along with me when I explore the towns and sites and I will still have both hands free. A small combination lock (TSA approved) helps deter pick-pockets but my credit cards, ID and cash will either be in a cross body bag or my flip belt.

Not familiar with a flip belt? Runners use them to hold things like keys, lip balm, ID and more.  You can purchase one from a specialty store or online from any number of places. They can be worn over or under your clothes (for those that are trying to not look like a tourist).

Finally, check out the pictures above which show three plus days worth of clothes, carefully folded and sealed up in compressed bags.

Bon Voyage, Happy Trails and Godspeed, until we meet again. Please share your packing hacks or a few lines about your favorite vacation spot.

Thank you to those that graciously provided pictures; Anastasia Ostapovych, Nicole Harrington, Jason Leung and yours truly, Suzanne Pogue.

They’re Back

I was telling Kelly about how an old boyfriend from over twenty years ago had reached out to me. She didn’t seem surprised and between  bites of chicken salad and slurps of Diet Coke she shrugged, “They always come back.”

   Now, another twenty years further down the road I think she may be right. I can’t decide if that is good or just another proverbial splash of gasoline on my stress inferno. The older I get the smaller the world becomes. 

   A few months ago I was in Kroger at time not typical for my shopping. I had just pushed my cart through the  entrance when I heard my ex-husband, the one I call #2, calling out my name from the fruity area of the produce aisle. Most often when #2 and I end up at the the same place at the same time I choose to ignore him. I responded with a wave and moved on with my quest for the perfect avocado. He must have thought my wave was an invitation.  A few moments later as I was bent over searching for green bananas in the boxes stashed under the display, he bumped his cart into my backside. 

He was always, and I assume still is, a very shallow man with an ego that would make Donald Trump envious. He was quick to criticize and control. If I gained a pound he noticed it two days before the scales confirmed it. Back then I had a winter coat that I loved but he hated so while I was out of town on business he gave it to Goodwill. I’m sure this helps clear up any misconception of why I now call him #2.

     As he stood there, surrounded by fruit, I observed the 30 more or less pounds he had put on kind of made me think of a peach that was past it’s prime; plump yet the skin was wrinkled and rather saggy, even the smell was a little sour.

“You’ve gained weight” I commented and intentionally cast a judgmental glance at his mid-section.

“It happens” he grumbled and swirled quickly away as if I had just pulled the flush lever.

     I went on about my shopping and was leaving the produce section to check out the discounted flowers when someone banged their cart into mine. Ex-husband #3 looked up and was about to apologize when he recognized me.  The words, “Excuse me” were also formed on my tongue yet neither of us said anything. I think we were both in shock. For all I know he had just had an encounter with his #2 over in the deli-section. This sort of thing is a small town hazard.  Both of us turned our carts to go around the other and by the grace of God we turned opposite directions and didn’t end up doing that awkward, Perhaps we should just dance , left then right turn thing.

I decided I had experienced enough fading flowers for one day as I tossed some fresh carnations into my cart without so much as a glance at the price. Next I pulled my cell phone out and called my son.

“Hello” came my adult baby’s bored voice.

“Hey Tyler, It’s your Mom. Crazy question, Does your Dad ever come to Kroger to buy groceries?”

“Uh, I don’t think so.”

“Oh good, because if he does I need to make a run for the parking lot and start buying all my food and household supplies from Amazon.” (I think I just figured out why grocery delivery is becoming so popular). 

Tyler doesn’t appreciate my weird sense of humor so I didn’t get the chuckle I had hoped for when I explained that if all 3 ex’s and I were at Kroger at the same time the place would certainly implode.

     Last week I bee bopped into the post office to pick up a passport application.  I looked like warmed over crap and as luck would have it, there stood one of my former flings.  Steve is a very nice looking bad boy with a slightly crooked smile that makes him irresistible. I hoped he wouldn’t notice me because while I don’t want to get involved with him again, I like the idea of him wanting to get back together with me. I was almost out door when he called out my name. We talked for a few minutes and then when I was about to back out of parking space he was at my window and I could either talk again or hit him with my car.  It gets harder to hide in world that keeps shrinking.

     Just last night I got a friend request on Facebook from my high school, on again off again, boyfriend. I have some knowledge about where life has taken Max because his sister and I were friends and she and I have maintained contact through social media and even met for lunch a few years back. Still, I was more than a little surprised by Max’s friend request since I had not talked to or laid eyes on him  in well over 30 years. In my head I heard Kelly’s taunting voice singing, they always come back.  I didn’t accept the friend request immediately and instead looked at his page. His profile picture was of both him and his wife. After debating for a minute or two I clicked accept. I figured if he started trying to reconnect in any way that his wife would not appreciate I could always delete and block him. I decided he must have seen my comment on one of his sisters posts and was just curious about where life had taken me on this loopy, crisscross journey. Thirty years ago Max could melt my heart and make knees weak.  The guy that looked back at me from the screen of my Android was nothing like the senior portrait that sat atop his parents console television and is still burned into my memory. Now he just looks like an almost 60 year old geeky guy on a bike and I suspect the helmet was concealing a bald head.

     All of this prompted me try to recall the ones that had not come back and to my knowledge had not crossed my path.  I say to my knowledge because, as evidenced by Max, most of them could have been in Kroger along with me and my ex’s and I wouldn’t have even given them a second glance.  I spent several minutes searching Facebook for the boy that gave me my first kiss. I think I found him. I had no luck at all in finding Tyrone, my crush from second grade. 

     Finally I searched for Tim, the sweet guy from high school that was either a freshman or sophomore when I was a senior.  Surprisingly, I easily found him and immediately recognized him. Even without his gorgeous, dark, naturally curly hair which was completely gone I knew his smile. If he had been a few years older we would have dated, of that I am sure. I was 17 and he was a 14 so it was out of the question no matter how mature he may have been. That isn’t so bad, he will always have the honor of being my “If Only”.

His profile says he is a “Christian, Husband, Father, Soldier and Nurse Anesthetist in that order”. I smiled knowing that he was and still is a good human being. There is, of course, a small possibility that he is a jerk, but I will happily never know. I won’t message him or send a friend request, I prefer to keep the faded memory free from blemish.  I don’t have to cross his path again. It is enough to believe that life has been kind to him and that he is a good man and that I might also be on his “If Only” list.

Have a great week, I’ll see you at the grocery store!

Photos provided by: Adam Stefanca, Christian Buehner, Matthew T. Rader and Daniel Jenson.

Dum, Dum, Da, Dumb

 Dum Dum Da Dum (imagine traditional wedding march music).  It is June and for reasons I don’t understand, it is wedding season. This gets lots of folks very excited and into a mood of festivity.  It’s particularly true for wedding planners, florists, caterers ($) and I suppose some brides, grooms and their families.

  I reluctantly admit that I do not enjoy weddings, never have, probably never will.  They rate right up there with funerals. I attend both only when it is what needs to happen.

  Hang on, don’t go jumping to conclusions that I am anti-marriage or even anti-love because that isn’t true. When I observe a couple that is clearly in love and you can see it in the way they look at each other and how they respect one another, it warms my heart.  When the couple has been together for many years it’s even more endearing because it is rare and special.

  I am a person that can keep a secret and I am not overly judgmental. I suppose that is why lots of friends confide in me regarding the true state of their union (marriage). In my best estimate, 45% are not even in love, another 45% love their spouse but are seldom happy with him/her.  The remaining 10% includes the people that squelch their urge to share their less joyous marriage details and those that are married to someone that brings more happiness than heart-ache into their life. That is rather depressing, no wonder so many people like to use social media to imply that they have successfully landed in a Utopian life. You know the ones.

   For no other reason than it is that season, here is my wedding story.  If you find yourself wanting to giggle, don’t hold back. Seriously, go ahead and cackle if you like.  Like many stories, it wasn’t funny at that time but looking back now it is more like recalling a wrecked up version of a sappy Julia Roberts movie than to think it is part of my history.  

  The year was 1985.  I was 23 and he was 24 and we were silly enough to believe that we were smarter than some of our friends that had married before they were old enough to have a legal drink or in some cases vote.  We thought we were mature. Ha!

    We were first introduced by a mutual friend that wanted to fix us up (I forgive you Joe). I quickly decided the man was an ignorant redneck and he pegged me as a stuck-up bitch.  I know this because we laughed about our first impressions of each other while on our honeymoon. Ten years later, while we sat on our front porch discussing property settlements and child support we found that we had come full circle and each of us had returned to our first impression of the other.

  Two nights before the big day my soon to be husband was partying with his best buddies and getting so drunk that he didn’t make it to the church the next afternoon to help set things up.  The process included moving some very heavy pieces of furniture. Without help from him or his friends, it was up to my father and me to do. I was furious, but my dad talked me down and convinced me to let it slide.  Why, I will never know since they had not previously met.

Part of being human is sometimes knowing we are screwing up yet we keep going

    The night before the ceremony, in my apartment with my two best friends we watched the movie, Against All Odds.  The movie was only semi-romantic but the song by the same name was the one I had cried to during the past three three years since the break-up with the man that I thought I was supposed to be with. It was my way of trying to finally let him go. He had clearly moved on long time ago as evidenced by his marriage and move to another country. I know, I know, go ahead and shout, How crazy! I should have realized that thinking that much about some other man the night before my wedding was a darn good indicator that it shouldn’t happen.

 The next day I stood at the back of the small church clutching my father’s arm as I watched my niece drop flower petals from a basket as she made her way up the aisle.  She was soon followed by bridesmaids. The vestibule was tiny, my back pressed against the door to allow them enough room to go around and not step on my dress or train.

The world was moving in fast forward and they were all suddenly at the front of the church.  Just Dad and I remained and I was consumed with panic. The pianist lifted her hands to the keyboard and played the chords that told everyone to stand. I wanted to bolt out of the door and run!  I think the only thing that stopped me was the fact that I had no car keys tucked into my blue garter belt and it would be another twelve years before I became a serious runner. Maybe Dad would have helped me escape but I wasn’t sure. Thought about how everyone would react swirled in my head making me queasy. Wasted time, wasted money… People had traveled, another friend and a volunteer pianist had spent time preparing the music. I had given up the lease on my apartment and my belongings were sitting in boxes at the apartment rented in both our names. The two second pause that precedes the brides descent down the aisle is sufficient for a thousand doubts but far too fleeting for proper consideration

  A little voice in my head told me it was too late and my feet started moving me down the aisle.  

We can never know the consequences of the choices we didn’t claim. I can say that I don’t fully regret the marriage, after all, six years later I gave birth to my son and I wouldn’t change that for anything.

There are things much worse than being alone.

Somewhere along my journey I stopped beating myself up for mistakes and wrong choices.  We do the best we can based on our experiences and knowledge. To those that tell me they envy my single independent life they should know that it has it’s down side. I am seldom included in get togethers for couples and often holidays are spent alone. At times the silence is deafening. On the other hand, given the chance to trade places I wouldn’t. Despite past mistakes, even some that were completely foolish, I think that I am exactly where I am supposed to be on this day in this moment and my hope is that you are too.

Thanks for reading and as always please feel free to leave comments on this post and suggestions for future topics.

Thanks to the following for the use of their photographs; Christian Bowen, Dan Meyers, Dylan Nolte and Brook Cagle.

It’s Just a Bad Day

There is an extraordinary children’s book titled, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  If you that have children anywhere from 5 to 35 you are likely familiar with this classic story. Alexander has all kinds of things go wrong such as having to wear his railroad train pajamas. Readers quickly realize that Alexander’s stressors are not so horrible when considered individually, it is in their culmination that they mount up and make him want to move to Australia.

The photo albums of my relatives and my childhood are priceless to me.

  Today was one of those days. I confirmed that a close relative committed a lie of omission regarding the family photo albums. It really bummed me out because I can’t for the life of me figure out any reasoning behind this hurtful act. That was the catalyst.

  I had several errands and appointments to take care of which started with the doctor. He gave me a good report, well kind of, but suggested a five day script and said if it didn’t help that I should see and orthopedic. Yeah, kind of passive aggressive good news.

  As I went to my next stop my mind wandered to several people that I love that are dealing with some really serious stuff. Granted, their stuff is the kind of stuff that I can’t do anything about or help them find solutions, but that is frustrating. I have always been a helper/fixer and it is tough when I know that people I love are struggling and there is nothing I can do beyond listening.

  The next stop was at Lowe’s. In November I had purchased a battery powered blower and weed clipper. They were used only a few times since winter was coming on but I liked both of them and it was super convenient that they both used identical batteries allowing me to have one battery charging while I used the other.  Now it is early June and one of the batteries will no longer take a charge. GRRR! The customer service rep told me that they couldn’t replace the battery but if I brought in either the blower or trimmer I could get a whole new unit. Cool beans, even it is meant going back with the blower.

  A few hours later I went back and a different rep informed me that they could not exchange the blower as I had been told because the model had been discontinued. I wasn’t happy but I was kind and polite as I explained that I had now made two trips into the store with no results. In the end I walked out with a battery for the blower which was what I had hoped for when I first went in. That is the highlight of the day thus far.

  I am in need of some traps for wood bees as they are buzzing around my deck.  It seems that no one has informed the wood bees that they are not supposed to enjoy boring holes into pressure treated lumber. I had arranged through Facebook Marketplace to meet up with a local guy that makes and sells the traps.  I had about 40 minutes to spare and decided I would go by my gym and use the time for my weekly dose of carcinogens by spending 15 minutes in the tanning bed. No problems there other than I would have to come back for my workout after the purchase of the bee traps.

The sound of metal crunching into metal was sickening.

  As I waited in the turn lane to leave the highway and enter the Walmart parking lot I was suddenly jolted forward and heard the sickening sound of vehicle crunching. The lady behind me had just hit me.  I put my SUV into park and got out. She inspected her bumper and informed me it wasn’t hurt (I resisted saying, yeah so…) I was pleasantly surprised to see that my SUV had only a small dent and a scratch in the bumper. She did not apologize or ask if I was ok.  I suggested that we go ahead and pull into the parking lot and that I would call for a police report. She was quite indignant and spoke as if I were evil. “You are going to report that little scratch?” I informed her it was a dent and that I wanted a police report. I also walked behind her truck and snapped a photo of her license plate figuring with her attitude that she might very well drive off.

  Once in the parking lot she proceeded to tell me about the times that her vehicle had been hit and yet she had not made the person pay or get an accident report. When that didn’t work she told me that she had lived a hard life. I tried to be compassionate but I didn’t waiver from wanting the police report and I didn’t tell her but I was realizing my back was hurting a little.

  As the police officer was giving us both back our licenses and proof of insurance another car pulled in and she announced it was her son. A large angry man got out and proceeded to look at my dent. He started to rant but I decided that Mr. Policeman could deal with him and I left.  I was able to finish the bee trap mission since while I waited for the police I called the bee trap craftsman who agreed to drive over and sell me a trap.

  I am home and I have no intention of going back out today.  I think my back will be fine in the morning and my dog was as happy as ever to see me return.  It is not just 5 o’clock somewhere, it is 5:25 p.m. right here and I am having a glass of wine as I remind myself that it isn’t a bad life, it’s just a bad day and those happen (even in Australia). Perhaps I should rethink Australia as a travel destination.  It is a crazy long flight but it is a long way from here and today that sounds good. It was just a bad day, it isn’t a bad life.

Wishing all of you a Good Day and a Good Life!

Thanks to the following for use of their photos; Keith Zhu, Serge Esteve, Laura Fuhurman, Daniel Watson and Benny Jackson