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.

It Will All Work Out In The End

My dad tended to leave 98% of the parenting for my mom to handle. I think part of that was just the way things were in the 60’s and 70’s, but he stuck to that unspoken rule more than most. I have wondered why he didn’t play with me very much or attend the little performances and functions that are part of growing up. I can, at times, feel some hurt over this but mostly I just don’t understand.

Perhaps he didn’t know how to play with a little girl. I would have been all about having him teach me how to catch and throw a ball but it didn’t happen and I still stink at both. It could be that my klutziness got on his nerves or maybe he didn’t think that was the kind of thing that little girls need to learn. My best guess is that he just didn’t know what to do. It is possible that he wanted so badly to not screw up parenting that he just never got into it. As a kid no one told me how he had grown up in a family that was cold and abusive. It was only towards the end of his life that I was given some not very clear details about his childhood.

As I grew from a little kid into a preteen I had strong opinions and I longed to have serious discussions about things that mattered. Dad stayed busy earning a living and going to his social functions and didn’t have much leisure time for chats with me. Somewhere around his 80th birthday he told me that he regretted not making time for things like school plays and softball games. It meant a great deal to me that he would say that since I know admitting fault or weakness was not natural to him. Part of me wanted to say that it was ok, except that it wasn’t.  Furthermore, I knew he wasn’t asking me to make any excuses for him. It was enough for him to say and for me to hear the words.

Dad was my nephew’s hero and role model. I think it is safe to say he was the voice in his head that tried to steer him to be a good man. I also believe that when he suddenly had to become my nephew’s father figure he was beginning the mellowing process that would follow him until the end of his life. In his final days he was able to apologize for things he wouldn’t even admit a few years prior.

I have cousins that often tell me that their best childhood memories were times that our families spent together and how they loved my dad with his stories and jokes.

After my dad passed away there were neighbors and friends that told me about acts of kindness and compassion that he did for others with no expectation of anything in return. I am glad that they shared these things with me.

I have long thought that my father had an awkward way of expressing tender emotions but now, my 5th Father’s Day since his passing it occurs to me that perhaps I was awkward about accepting his attempts to show love. Perhaps, as folks in the like to say, I come by it honestly. I am afterall his daughter.

Mom once told me she believed that the reason he and I had such hard time understanding each other was because we were so much alike. That makes no sense at all and yet explains so much.

A snowstorm of historic proportions landed on much of the country during his final days and consequently I was the only one that was able to find a way to get to the hospital and be with him. He didn’t say a lot but I saw him cry for only the second time in my life as he found a few words that told me he loved me and that he did indeed have regrets. I let go of past hurts and he knew I had forgiven him. On his next to last day he could no longer talk but was conscious and I could tell thinking clearly. I called all of his most special people and put them on speaker phone so they could say good-bye. The last call was to my mother, snowed into a place four wheel drive trucks couldn’t reach, she was strong and told him it was ok, he didn’t have to hold on any longer.

Being the only one with him at the end was hard but I also believe it gave the two of us our chance to finally let go of the expectations we had for each other and just be content with our imperfect relationship.

An hour or so later he drifted off to sleep and never woke back up. I think he had finally found his peace and ironically the two of us, in those final hours, had reached a tiny bit of understanding. Not everything broken can be fixed but not everything that is broken should be tossed out. Our elusive butterfly had finally arrived.

Photo credit and appreciation to: Julie Johnson, Daan Stevens, Lauren Lulu Taylor, Jian Xhin and Arleen Wiese

My Anti-Bucket List

Lots of people talk about bucket lists; things that one would like to see, do or accomplish before it’s too late. Twenty years ago if I had created such a list it would have been filled with oodles of adventures, accomplishments and stellar moments. Now that I am closer to 60 than I am to 50 it is difficult to think of things to put on my bucket list.

    That fact got me to begin thinking about an anti-bucket list; things that I hope and pray I never endure or face.  Here is my top ten:

Without God I would find no purpose in life

Lose My Faith in God – I am a Catholic Christian and make no apology for it. I believe that God has blessed me and carried me through the darkest times in my life and shared my joy during the best parts.

Live longer than my child – Not much explanation is needed here. Out living ones children goes against nature and I have great sympathy for all who have had to walk that road.

Alzheimer’s – I fear cancer, strokes, loss of vision and/or hearing but the possibility of losing my mind is terrifying. I don’t know, but I think the worst would be when you brain is still strong enough that you realize you are fading into an empty shell of who you are supposed to be.  I recently read the book Still Alice by Lisa Genova. It was the best book I hated reading.

There are things worse than death

Experience a war on American soil – I never served in the military but have great appreciation for those that have. I can’t claim first hand knowledge of the horrors of war. I can’t begin to comprehend being surrounded by hate and death but I also know it may happen.

Be the last one standing – My grandmother lived to be 102 years old. Like most kids I used to think it would be great to live to be 100 or even forever. Now I think how lonely it would be to live when all your friends and close in age relatives to have already passed away.  I don’t want to be last.

Become bitter – Life is hard and it would be easy to focus on the painful experiences and the hurtful people.  I want to always remember to look for the good in others and to do what I can to sprinkle joy into the lives of others.

Laughter is natural, Babies laugh long before they talk.

Forget how to laugh – Laughing in a way that is hurtful or insulting to others is never appropriate. However, seeing the humor in our everyday lives and sharing a giggle or a full belly laugh with others creates positive connections, something we all need. I especially hope I keep and embrace the ability to laugh at myself.

Stop learning – There is so much that I simply won’t have time to learn so I must learn as much as I can while I can.

Refuse to stop driving when I should – If I live long enough there will come a time when I will need to stop driving. If that happens I know I will struggle to give up that independence but I pray I will gracefully give my son my keys and wait until after he leaves with the car before I cry.

Waste precious time on superficial people – The clock is ticking and time is running out. I don’t want to waste time with people that don’t really care about me or I about them. I can choose to not answer certain calls and I can say no to some requests.

    I would love to know what you have on your anti-bucket list. It’s your list so there are no wrong answers.  Do we have any list items in common?

Thanks for reading, have a blessed week!

Beauregard

I am stepping out of the box a little today with a post that is a short fictional story. The inspiration came from a writing assignment given to the members of the Pulaski Writer’s Alliance. We were instructed to write a story based on the posters and signs that might be found on an electrical pole.

While Beauregard is a dog, this post is dedicated to Dixie Darling Davis, a very special Kitty that has gone to wait in heaven for Isabella and their humans Joyce and Jim.

I am Beauregard, I have somehow become separated from my human and I am quite disturbed by this fact. You see he needs me, and even though he is quite intelligent for a human he is still human and he may do something dangerous such as walk around the neighborhood unchaperoned if I don’t get back to him. I’m absolutely sick with worry to the point that I feel new wrinkles forming in my already loose Shar Pei skin.

    Tuesday morning Jerome got the leash out, just like in the good old days when it was Jerome, Beth and me, three peas in a pod. We used to go for walks around the neighborhood and make stops along the way to chat with the other neighbors that were out walking or puttering around in their grass. I still miss Beth but I don’t think she is coming back, Jerome misses her too and he often talks to her as if she were still with us.

    Mrs. Ortiz comes every day but she isn’t like Beth. She cleans and cooks and takes care of Jerome but at night she leaves. They are not in love. Dogs know about that sort of thing.

    It is now Friday and there is no sign of Jerome. He drove the car which has been against the rules even before Beth wouldn’t wake up and was carried out on a narrow bed covered with a sheet.

When we arrived at the gas station Jerome couldn’t remember how to put gas in the car. I tried to tell him but he doesn’t speak dog. A man wearing a blue, orange and yellow Hawaiian shirt helped him figure it out. Jerome told me to come so I followed him into the store but the man behind the counter said, “Your dog can’t come in.” Jerome told me to stay and that is exactly what I did. When Jerome came back out I wagged my tail and and continued to stay because I like being a good dog. I thought he was testing me the way he does sometime before giving me a treat, but then he got in the car and drove away.

    At first I tried barking for help, but as I suspected Jerome isn’t the only human that doesn’t speak dog. It’s very frustrating that I went to all the trouble to learn both English and Spanish yet neither Jerome nor his staff can be troubled to learn even the most basic phrases in dog. As I said, they are only human and I must not be too hasty to judge their lack of linguistics.

    The sun is up and today is going to be cold.  Cars race past where the two streets intersect. Jerome must have sent all these humans out to search for me. I sit patiently by the pole on the corner. I am both hungry and thirsty but I know I must hold my head high and look at the passers by so that they will spot me. I am after all, a bit vertically challenged. Ah yes, here comes a human now, I will be back taking care of Jerome before Ms. Ortiz gets him into his clothes and to the dining room for his eggs, toast and coffee. I spring to my feet and wag my tail in appreciation.

    As the human, (a female) exits her car I dance and smile so that she knows I will not harm her. It would be easier if she spoke dog but, whatever. She walks straight towards me with a paper in one hand and a tool in the other.  She pats me on the head then uses the tool to affix the paper to the pole. Then she turns abruptly on her heal and gets back into her car.

Hey!, wait, I’m right here, I am Beauregard! Aren’t you going to take me to Jerome? She closes the car door and as she pulls back onto the street. I swallow my pride then bark, “Come back!  I am Beauregard and Jerome needs me! Please, I am a good dog, Please!

    After she has gone I look at the sign she posted. It announces that there is yet another yard sale. Seriously, humans are so weird about collecting expensive things and then selling them for a loss. If they would just learn how to understand dog I could really help them with things like economics and finance.

    Then I see it, right there, next to the yard sale sign.  It is a picture of me with the word LOST. I can’t be lost because I have stayed near the gas station all this time. However, I am certain it is me because I am holding my favorite rubber ball, the one Jerome put into my Christmas stocking year before last.  Poor Jerome, he thinks I am the one that is lost.

    I sniff the blend of aroma’s on the pole. Labrador, mutt, poodle and many more. I even get a whiff of boy. I bet that little guy got in big trouble when his parents caught him marking his territory in public.

    Another vehicle stops, it is large,white and shaped like a cube with words on the side. Before I have a chance to read the words two men get out and waste no time coming my way. One has some kind of scary looking tool and the scent they give off is not friendly. My nose itches with their stench and I can’t contain the low growl that simmers deep in my empty belly. The man without the tool calls out, “ Here poochy, poochy” and holds out a stale generic cookie. My fur stands on end and I show my teeth. How dare they insult me!  I know Jerome would not approve of these two clowns. I don’t like leaving my post but I know better than to ignore my instincts. I run behind the store and hide behind a dumpster used by the businesses on the block. New scents fill my nose, spoiled ham and runny sour potato salad along with garbage damp with coffee grounds. I am hungry but not enough to eat the spoiled human food, not yet.

    After waiting a long time I realize how incredibly tired I am so I curl up for a much needed nap. Maybe after some sleep I won’t be so tempted by the rotting ham.  I dream about happy days with Beth and Jerome. When I wake up I an consumed with a greater urgency to find him. I trot down the street and go several blocks until the businesses fade into apartment buildings.  I sniff and sniff but I am not picking up Jerome’s scent.

    A small brown brown girl with kind eyes comes towards me.  She holds out her hand. “Como se llama? she inquires. I am so excited, she must be part of Ms. Ortiz’s litter and she has been sent to help me reunite with Jerome.  I sniff her hand and then give it a small lick. She tastes like beef and cumin with a little cilantro. She rubs my head and I call out, I am Beauregard! She tells me her name is Jacinta. I follow Jacinta to her home where they give me water and tortillas. Not my favorite, but I don’t want to hurt her feelings and they fill my empty belly.

    I wait patiently for them to take me to Jerome but they go to their beds and I know they are going to sleep. They put me outside and tell me to be a good dog. When the door closes I take off on my search. I appreciate their kindness but I must find Jerome.

        After hours of sniffing and trotting down familiar and strange streets I pick up his scent.  I have have been focusing on the scent of my human so much that I just now realize that I am back at the pole where I started my day. I pause to look at some of the other papers. Next to the paper with my picture is a new paper that halfway covers the yard sale paper. The picture is Jerome. The words read Gold Alert and tell anyone that finds Jerome to call 911. I also see the word dementia. That explains why Jerome left without me. It wasn’t a test to see how long I would be a good dog and stay where he said to stay. Jerome forgot me.

    The wind brings his scent stronger and I quickly turn and run around the opposite corner towards the scent of my beloved human.  Jerome! I see him he is lying on the ground a few feet back in the trees. I lick his face and bark. Jerome, Jerome! You must wake up!  Please, please, you need your medicine and you must get out of the cold. Jerome I whimper and lick his face. His skin tastes sweeter than it ever has but it is not warm, he doesn’t move.  I have failed my precious human and I howl in agony until the men in the ambulance come and take both of us away. I can only hope that they are taking us to Beth. Yes, Beth will give us hugs and kisses and everything will again be ok.

Copyright Suzanne Pogue May 2019

Photo appreciation to bahram-bayat-11, japeth-master, charlie-foster, sandy-miller, neobrand and andrea-popa-750 on unsplash.com

Kermit Wasn’t Always Right

Dear little Kermit the Frog. I love his humbleness and easy going manner. Remember his ditty, “It Ain’t Easy Being Green?” He was talking about being different and I agree, that isn’t easy but when we are talking about being more environmentally conscious we can do lots of little things that make little differences and lots of little differences equal something significant

I have a challenge for you. Read the following ten easy things. If you already do all of them then hats off to you and you need to share at least one more tip in the comments that the rest of us can put into practice. If you don’t do all of them pick a few to turn into new habits. The earth will thank you.

Every cow releases 70 -120 kg of methane gas each year. Can I get an excuse me!

Eat More Chicken – Even if you just can’t commit to Meatless Monday consider cutting back on the amount of beef that you eat. Beef consumption is at an all time high and this equals more cattle. Cows burp and fart, they burp and fart a lot and that releases methane gas which is a serious risk to the ozone. If we cut back on eating beef farmers will not need to increase the number cattle that they raise for this purpose.

Raising the deck of your mower will not cause you to need to mow more often.

Raise the Deck on Your Lawn Mower – I used to think that mowing my grass short would allow me to not mow as often but it always looked shaggy in a few days. A friend of mine that has a lawn mowing service told me that raising the blade will reduce the growth of weeds and the lawn will look more even. I was skeptical at first but now I keep the deck raised high and my lawn looks better. I also do not need to use as many chemicals and that is earth and budget friendly

Hanging your clothes to dry saves energy, saves money and clothes will look newer longer

Give you clothes dryer a break – Purchase drying rack (if you can’t install a clothesline) Put your clothes in the dryer for just a few minutes to remove the wrinkles then hang them up to dry. Besides the reduction in energy you will be surprised how much longer your clothes stay looking new.

Reusable shopping bags It takes a little practice to teach yourself to remember to take and reuse your own shopping bags but stick with it and you will bet the hang of it. When self check out stations were new I found that bringing my own bag always slowed things down because the camera thought my shopping bag was something that I was trying to get around scanning. They have made many improvements and that rarely happens now. I know some people that will not use self check out because they say that eliminates a job. Maybe but at least the automated system says things like welcome, please and thank you.

Never, ever, never leave your pets waste behind. It is called being a good neighbor!

Pick up trash –When you go for a walk around your neighborhood take along some sort of bag. I suggest one that came with a product that you had to purchase such as bread or produce. Look for litter as you walk and grab it up. Cleaner earth and a little extra stretching from bending and picking. Win/Win.

Use your Public Library – Years ago I used to purchase every book I read. Now I wish I had that money back. I love books but have matured to the place that I no longer have to own so many. More recently I enjoyed reading on a Kindle. For the first few years it saved a lot of money. Not so much these days. I am one of those people that takes really good care of their stuff so when my 3rd Kindle stopped working even though it had been treated with TLC I was finished. Besides books most public libraries offer many other activities and events and either low or no cost.

It will taste better on a real plate and eaten with real cutlery that gets washed and used over and over.

Paper Plates and plastic cutlery – I know a man that almost never washes dishes. The first reason is that he eats out or gets carry out about 4 to 5 times a week. The other reason is that he uses paper plates and plastic cutlery all the time. I keep a stash of paper plates but a package of 50 will last well over a year. I also like eating from a real dish. I am not a big fan of take-out but on those rare occasions I often find that they have added 3x the number of napkins I will need and a little sealed up bag with plastic cutlery. I add the napkins to my holder and I tuck the plastic away for traveling or other times when dish washing is not an easy option.

Make your own window cleaner. 2 cups water, 1 cup rubbing alcohol and a tablespoon of ammonia in a spray bottle

Use cleaning rags not paper towels – I have noticed while visiting others or when they visit me that most people use a crazy number of paper towels. Try to look to paper towels for things like emergency spills or for jobs where if a cleaning cloth was used it would have to be thrown away instead of washed. For most jobs you will find that a good old cotton rag or microfiber cloth will work much better. When you wash them do not use fabric softener or dryer sheets. Besides saving on softeners they will clean better and without streaks.

Plan meals to avoid waste –If you have a large family this probably isn’t an issue but cooking for just one or two makes not wasting a little more of a challenge. A few of my favorite ways to reduce cooking and wasted food is when a roast or grill chicken I make several pieces. The left overs are good to use in casseroles, salads or just reheated. There are lots of little left over tid-bits that make yummy salad additions. If you have just a few berries, or other fruits throw them into the salad bowl. The same idea works with other salads with a mayo or oil and vinegar base. Pizza is another good place to add small amounts of left over meats and vegetables.

Not sure if it is should go into compost or the garbage? Google or Alexa will be happy to help you out.

Compost – I don’t live in a location where a backyard compost heap is practical. However a few years ago my church created a community compost. I simply save vegetable peels and other compostables in a sealed tub I store in the freezer. After church each week I just empty it into the community compost and start again. Easy Peasy.

Little things mean a lot, not just in our relationships with people but also in how we respect this beautiful planet the Lord has provided to us and trusted in our care. Have a blessed day!

We’re #1

We’re number, We’re number 1!  It’s perhaps the most basic of all fan chants and it’s typically attached to a sports team and accompanied by gleeful whoops, jumping, hugs and even chest bums. We love out sports. When asked who are your teams, the answers are quick and easy, right?  Just for the record mine are, University of Kentucky Basketball, followed by Villanova Basketball and Chicago Cubs Baseball.

    It is human nature to want to feel a part of something greater than ourselves and sports may very well be the best stage. It isn’t much fun to watch a game if you don’t care who wins. I have been to the first and second round of NCAA men’s basketball tournament several times where my companions and I watched multiple games in a day.  I always picked a team to cheer for even if I had previously never given them a second thought.

    At one such tournament game we found ourselves sitting in a section surrounded by students from Georgia Tech. They were a most enthusiastic group and they shouted their fight song with reckless abandon. They must have assumed that we were fans too and so it was that I cheered right along with them and even made an effort to join in their fight song. It was hilarious at the time because in their excitement and with the roar of the crowd the only words we thought we were sure of sounded like, “and we’re all engineers.” Now I know they were actually chanting, “a helluva an engineer!” It really is a great fight song, check it out.   

    Another cool thing about sports is that it allows us to exhibit behavior that would be deemed crazy in almost any other venue.  Some men will attend a football game bare chested in the middle of winter other die hard fans paint their faces with the teams colors. We don’t worry about friends or family that shout at that referees even if it is on their television. That is considered normal fan behavior the same as cheering and shouting when we like the way the game is going or the exasperated cries when our team makes mistakes dares to lose.   Ok, I admit I find it amusing when people shout at televisions, but it doesn’t make me question the person’s sanity if they’re watching a sport, the way it would if they shouted at the television during episodes of The Voice or This Is Us.

    Sports give us an excuse to dress up in clothes that identify us as part of the team.  While I am not big into clothes with graphics or officially licensed gear I still have a Chicago Cubs windbreaker jacket that I wear in the spring. It isn’t unusual to hear a shout,”Go Cubs” while wearing the jacket and when I turn I find a stranger that smiles and gives me a thumbs up I smile back. They are letting me know that they too are a fan and therefore we have a kind of bond even though we don’t know each other and probably never will.  That is kind of crazy when you think about it.

      When a group of fans talk about their team’s victory they say things like, “We’re Number 1!” or “We Won!”  When the same team is defeated the same people say things like, “They threw it away” or “They lost”. Without thinking about it we tend to distance ourselves when the final score declares someone else the winner.  I mean, who wants to be a loser? No one jumps up and down screaming, “We’re number two.” We are more inclined to mumble wait until next year.

What makes us pick particular teams to be our favorites? It can’t be because of the players, they come and go quickly especially when college players get drafted after a single season. Few admit it, but it can be as something as simple as the team colors or that we like mascot. Sometimes it has to do with location.  In professional sports players get traded all the time yet we remain loyal to the team because there home field or court is close to where we live our still where we grew up.

Mascots like the Phillie Phanatic are smart marketing. Kids love it and that can lead to making a life-long fan.

   Sometimes teams even get purchased and relocated.  For the majority of fans that is the deal breaker. I can’t see the Cubs ever leaving Chicago but if they were moved to another city I think fans would react as if the team had given them divorce papers. I know I would. I would whine about how I had stuck with them through season after awful season and waited over half of my life for them to win a World Series. I would want to pout like a jilted soon to be ex-spouse with cries of, “How could you do this to me?”

In case you are wondering, I grew up in Northwest Indiana, not far from Chicago. I learned about baseball sitting on the arm of my dad’s recliner as we watched WGN and he explained things like RBI’s and sacrifices. It was not uncommon for me to get my dolls and seat them on the couch to watch the game with me. My dad (probably knowing they would be pitiful for decades) promised me that when they went to series he would be sure I was there to watch. Alas, my father died before that happened. I did finally make it to The Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field in my forties along with my son, a White Sox fan (somethings are beyond explanation!) It was an experience I will never forget. It even landed me on ESPN for about three seconds. Derek Lee clobbered a pitch that I knew was going to send the ball out to Waveland Avenue. I sprang to my feet and let out a whoop full of southern drawl and as I turned my head there was the ESPN camera guy guy inches away.

I bleed University of Kentucky Blue

    I cheer for the University of Kentucky and my reasons are easy enough, that is where I attended college and earned my first degree.  In some ways I might even feel like I am a sort of special fan because my bachelor’s degree and my favorite team share the same name. There is no shortage of UK basketball fans among people that not only did not attend the school but have never set foot on campus. My theory is it goes back to wanting to belong. Kentucky doesn’t have any major professional sports team making it all the easier to cheer for the Wildcats. It also doesn’t hurt that they are the winningest team in college basketball, that is the cherry on top of our sports ice cream sundae. When they win, we win. At least it feels that way to fans.

    I am not exempt from enjoying being part of something fun and successful. Even though I sometimes go several years in a row without attending a game it never fails that when I am in the stands of Rupp Arena or Commonwealth Stadium (I can’t bring myself to call it Kroger Field) and the band starts playing the fight song I stop talking, I stand up and a smile spreads over my face as I clap to the beat.

My reasons to cheer for Villanova in every game they play other than when their competitor is my beloved Kentucky Wildcats takes a little more explanation. I have never set foot on their campus. I honestly don’t think I know anyone that earned a degree from the small Pennsylvania University.

Hard-core college basketball fans may remember the 1985 tournament. Little, 8 seed, Villanova started winning and was dubbed the Cinderella team. I decided to cheer for them because anytime I don’t have a favorite team in the mix I opt to cheer for the underdog (as if my cheering makes a difference). My Kentucky Wildcats had been eliminated in the third round so I figured I would just continue to cheer for the team with the same mascot and colors that needed all the help and Hail Mary’s they could get.

The final game was played at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY. Unfortunately I was a first year teacher and was barely making my rent and car payment. Buying a ticket was out of the question.

They didn’t let me down and they beat Georgetown, who for reasons I don’t recall was high on UK fan’s hate list, and became the season champions. The game is still often referred to as the perfect game. Villanova still holds the record for being the lowest seeded team to win the tournament.

In 2016 I decided to fill out a bracket for the pool at work. I hadn’t been watching lots of games but I felt certain it was not in the cards for the Big Blue Nation (UK) to go far. I also knew that many die-hard fans and co-workers would select UK to be the champion in their bracket just because some fans think that is the way a real fan behaves.

My bracket was close to immaculate and I had selected the Wildcats from Pennsylvania, not Kentucky to win it all. Some made fun and said I wasn’t a real wildcat. That was a bit funny to me since out of almost 100 staff members I was one of either three or four that had actually attended UK. A few were all but rude over it but I didn’t mind because after the final game was over I took home the money. See why I like Villanova?

Who do you cheer for and why? Do you scream at the referees even if it is just on TV? I would love to hear your favorite and/or funny sports memory. Use the comment sections and share about the teams you love and the the ones you hate.

Photo credits to Blake Guidary, Heather Mcguire and Markus Spiske on unsplash.

 

I Admit that I Photo-shopped My Dog

Dang! (yes, we say that in Kentucky), Amanda looked really amazing! Her complexion flawless with no tell-tale signs of aging that one would expect for a woman who is younger than me, but approaching 50. Her teeth sparkled like a Colgate commercial.  Her thighs were as smooth as a Baywatch babe and her stomach was almost flat. Those were the thoughts that bounced around in my somewhat sleepy, fairly distracted brain as I scrolled through posts on Facebook.

   I made a mental note to ask her about her skin care regime and to try pay attention to the exercises she was doing at the gym since they were clearly producing results. I suppose I could have asked her in the comments under the picture, but that seemed a little too out there.  I scrolled through the comments that others had posted and noticed other friends had spotted her youthful appearance and beautiful skin. Comments exclaimed things like, “you look amazing!” or “Beautiful!!!” There were also double digit numbers of likes and loves tied to the photo.

I hope people don’t believe the number of “likes” they get on social media reflects their worth as a person.

 I scrolled back up to the picture for another look.  Dang! Her husband, Ben looked incredibly good too.

Ben is a very large man. I couldn’t help but notice that he looked different than the last time I saw him.  I double clicked on the picture to get a better look at my friend and her hubby.   That was when it hit me, they looked too good. No sign of little wrinkles at the corners of their eyes.  There was barely any sign of a smile line on Amanda and her husband didn’t have any smile line at all. That was probably what made me realize that she had used Photoshop or some other app and worked on the picture before she posted it.  Their complexions were smooth and flawless. Ben’s double chin had disappeared and their bodies had been nipped and tucked without cosmetic surgery.  

I couldn’t help myself and opened up her page to investigate more photos.  There was a photo of Amanda taken either at the gym or as she heading there based on the clothes she was wearing and her hair being pulled back with a matching headband.  In that picture she appeared at least 20 pounds smaller than when I saw her in person earlier in the week. Her tummy was much closer to flat, her waistline more defined and her biceps and thighs were firm and dimple free.

 I couldn’t help but wonder how much time was spent getting the pictures just the way she wanted them.  Were others fooled like I was at first glance? Who else noticed and decided to either go ahead and post compliments and be kind enough not to mention that they could tell the photo was altered? I decided, that for me, no response was the best route.

 I took a closer look at other friends pictures that had recently been posted.  Amanda was not the only one who had apps and skill in “photo-cosmetic surgery”. I would guess between 5 and 10 percent of the pictures had been altered and that may be a low estimate since I have numerous friends on social media that I do not see in person on a regular basis. I pondered why this was such a popular trend.

  “What’s the harm?, Who is being hurt? asked my inner voice. After a little further contemplation I wondered how Ben felt about having his appearance altered.  Maybe he was ok with it, maybe he asked to be photo-shopped. For all I knew, he might be the one versed in photo altering skills.

 Next, I wondered what Amanda and Ben’s teen-aged son and elementary-aged daughter thought about it.  They were also in the picture that I first noticed and they had been tagged making it reasonable to believe they had seen the picture.  Did Jake laugh about his Father’s missing chins or did he perhaps quietly go to the mirror to inspect his own face for any sign of flaws.  Did the fact that his blemishes had been erased make him happy or more self-conscious about the 2-3 pimples that normally appeared on his forehead?  If Tara’s picture had been altered I couldn’t tell. Did that boost her confidence or did it make her a little worried that her real appearance would soon not be good enough on it’s own.

 Ten years ago women worried that their daughters would have low self-esteem because they compared themselves to the models in magazines and on television who had been airbrushed and touched up to look like the makeup and fashion industry’s version of perfect.  Now we see that standard of unrealistic appearance spreading across social media and going beyond celebrities and to the people we actually see and know. Does the typical female see herself as average or beautiful? Take a peek at this video-taped experiment conducted by Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DdM-4siaQw

Choose Beautiful

 When did we decide that we were no longer pretty enough, skinny enough and aging well enough to let others see us as we really are?  Will we continue the trend to the point that we avoid being seen in public because we don’t want anyone to see what we really look like.

 Do you remember the movie Face Off that starred Nicholas Cage and John Travolta?  I have to wonder if there won’t be a business in the near future where a person can design the face they want and have a mask made that that could be worn almost the whole time.

Perhaps, we will we soon reach the point that we remove our masks as we climb into bed and place them on the nightstand the way I do my glasses?

 I even wonder if this obsession has caused some to go out in public less because they fear they can’t live up to the image of their own pictures.  If it does, then businesses like Amazon, drive-through windows, food delivery and ordering our groceries online have to love it.  No, I don’t think this is at the level of conspiracy theory, but we know that social media and other technology advances have prompted us to be less face-to-face social.  We no longer have to leave our homes for things that used to take us out in public. I am not sure this a good thing (as I sit in front of my computer wearing my fuzzy robe and slippers and haven’t even brushed my teeth yet after waking up).

I try to take good care of my skin and I go to the gym and run but I have wrinkles and some extra pounds.  Maybe I am just too lazy to spend time altering the photos I post on social media, but it’s more than that, I want to be authentic and if I see a friend at the grocery store I want them to recognize me and not have thoughts about how I seem to have aged 10 years and gained ten pounds since they saw me on Instagram last week.

On the flip-side, I still use make-up (most days) and have my hair-dresser cover my grey every five weeks. I am just not ready to alter my pictures, it somehow feels like cheating. But that is just me, to each his or her own.

Perhaps that’s why I only update my profile pictures about every year and half and post more dog pictures than selfies.  I can’t take a holier than thou stance either; I reluctantly admit that I posted a pic of my pooch one time and used a red filter to bring out the highlights in her coat.  Is that bad? I hugged my beloved dog and asked her if she minded that I had enhanced her picture. She gave me a lick and a look that seemed to say, “Whatever, just give me a cookie”.

While the ideas in this post are based on my real experiences, Amanda, Ben, Jake and Tara are fictional. I may be getting old enough to start to turn off my filter but I am not crazy enough to call out friends in my blog!

Thanks to lidya-nada-63831-6, fernand-de-canne-532399, brandon-anderson-10552 on unsplash for the use of their photos.

My Dysfunctional Stick Family

I am afraid I may be responsible for the term Dysfunctional Family. Sorry about that!

I am just a little bit sad that the stick family window decal trend is quickly fading away even though I never participated.  Maybe folks think they have taken this trend as far as possible.

My wacky family was dysfunctional to the point that I found I had to laugh.  Like they say, “Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and your make-up makes you look psycho”

 In theory the stick family decal evolved from the Baby On Board signs that preceeded them.  Moms and dads wanted to have a little recognition too so someone decided to make a stick family with a Mom, Dad and baby.  Awe, how cute said everyone when they saw one of these for the first ten times.

 Families change, its what they do, so more kids were added along with everything from pets, to golf clubs and hula hoops. Changing families equaled new decals.  I bet there are some smart folks with dye-cut machines that made a fortune on custom stick family decals alone. Kind-of like the stock I never purchased back when Apple or Amazon were just starting. Hindsight…

Stick Family of the “Crazy Cat Lady”

 Animal lovers, wanting to prove that their pets are part of the family, added little stick dogs or cats or in some cases both.  On rare occasion I saw stick guinea pigs or hamsters. I never saw a stick family for a “crazy cat lady” but I bet there were a few out there.

 Americans can never just settle into a trend. Instead, we keep morphing the darn thing until it ridiculous. It wasn’t long until the stick families had accessories, most often sports related.  The characters boasted pom-poms, soccer balls, football helmets and various other items that helped to set them apart from the not as talented stick families on other cars.

 My favorites were the ones that got silly and creative.  I remember laughing out loud while driving down the road by myself when I noticed the SUV ahead of my had a stick family with a Mom, Dad, three kids and of descending height followed by a triceratops.  I wonder if one of the adults or perhaps one of the clever kids came up with that? A+ for originality. Other creative folks wanting to make their stick family stand out from the crowd turned their stick family into robot figures, Star Wars characters and even a family of monkeys.

 My only child was grown before this trend got going but had it been around when he was a kid I could have started with the generic mom, dad, kid and dog decal.  The only thing consistent among families is that they change and mine was no exception. I divorced the dad and insisted he take the dog with him when he left. Oops. I suppose if I had the decal I could have x’ed out the man and the dog.  I could have left people guessing about what happened to them. Perhaps a divorce or maybe the “X” was buried out in the back yard next to Fido. Something to think about, especially for those prone to tailgating.

 Later I remarried and had a “blended family”.  He and I, along with my son and his son all lived under one roof but he also had two adult daughters. The younger of his two girls came into my family complete with a husband and two daughters (my step-granddaughters) and the other daughter was a cloistered Catholic Nun.  Hmmm, how would we draw that family? Perhaps the Nun could have been set over over to the side and encapsulated by an outline map of Texas, since that is where she lived. The other step daughter along with her hubby and two kids in their own outline map of Florida.  I pictured the back window getting rather crowded and wondered if I really had such a decal if it would have been breaking any stick family rules to scrape off the X and his dog.

 My son was one of those kids that wanted to make a pet out of everything.  At different times he had a rabbit, a parakeet, a hamster, various insects and a lizard named speedy. One day he even came in with a slug. That was where I drew the line and made him take slimy back outside followed by a really long scrub session in the bathtub. He never tried to bring a snake inside, probably because I had him convinced that if he ever so much as touched one that I would be forced to put him up for adoption. Even if the rear window could have accommodated all these vinyl figures I would have likely been pulled over and ticketed because of the obstructed view.

 My blended family didn’t survive, primarily because I didn’t share the same affection that my husband did for his girlfriend.  How would that be depicted in the decal? Perhaps I could have added her wearing a witch hat and riding a lightening bolt that divided the family leaving me and my kid separated from all the others.  I think I am starting to understand why the stick family decals are losing popularity. Still, wouldn’t it be a little on the funny side to see some of these extended/blended dysfunctional families as stick characters?

 I admit I am a slow learner when it comes to matters off the heart and I tried a third time with marraige.  Both my son and #3’s daughter were grown so maybe that decal would have just had the two of us. I don’t know how you make a stick figure look middle aged; that decal sounds either boring or disturbing.  Alas, that marriage didn’t stick either. Now I could have a decal with me followed by three men with X’s over their stick figures. Some would laugh, others could get busy judging me and my lack of talent at being a wife.

 Another idea would be keep the three X’ed out male figures followed by a little frame that reads, “Your Picture Here”.  I think it would be freaking hilarious except the real possibility that every creep and scum-bag that saw it would take it seriously.  That would not be good or funny.

 No wonder the stick family is going away.  Scraped off with a razor blade like so many stickers of politicians that didn’t win.

 Currently folks seem to enjoy the decals with three letters that stand for the town of their favorite vacation spot.  I’m not entirely sure what that is all about but I admit that my SUV is not free from decoration either. I have a 26.2 decal on the window and my license plate frame reads, “My Labradoodle is Smarter than Your Honor Student”.  

 I would love to hear a description of your crazy stick family decal or others you enjoyed seeing while driving down the road.  What about other decals or frames, do like them?, hate them? Do you read them or can you pass by without a second glance?

 Have a great week my peeps and when out on the road watch out for the texters and road rage nuts

Peanut Butter and Socks

 It was really cold here in south central Kentucky this morning, somewhere between 15 and 20 degrees making it my favorite temp for running.  I dressed in my high tech running clothes that are engineered to keep me warm but still wick the sweat away from my skin. I laced up my shoes that I reserve only for running.  I stretched, got my I-pod, blue-tooth earbuds and my dog. We drove just over a mile to the recreation center where I park when running in town and off we went.

Best running partner ever. She is always ready to go and lets me set the pace.

 As Bella, my Labradoodle, and I were driving home I turned onto Bourne Avenue and I spotted a man kneeling on the corner of the sidewalk with his bottom atop of his feet.  His head was bowed down and his cardboard sign was face down in front of him. He could have been praying but most likely was trying to conserve as much body heat as possible while resting his weary bones.

 I am ashamed to admit that there have been times that I would have felt bad for him but continued on my journey.  Today I couldn’t do that. I had already pulled into the parking lot when I remembered that I not only didn’t have my purse with me but I also didn’t have my phone since I didn’t want the cold to drain the battery.  Maybe it was the childhood lesson about not talking to strangers; but I initially hesitated to approach him directly. Between me and the man kneeling at the corner some 50 yards away was a man pumping gas into his SUV and I approached him instead.

“I am wondering if we should call someone for this man”, I started, “ I hate that he is out here like this in the cold.  I don’t have my phone with me.” The man explained that he did not have his phone with him either but suggested I ask the store owner.  Maybe he really didn’t have his phone, maybe he didn’t want to be involved. I probably didn’t look overly trustworthy myself with my red cheeks and hair standing on end where I had just pulled off my ear warming headband.

I went into the store and talked to the owner about the situation and asked if perhaps he could call the police so that the man might get help.  The store owner was nice enough to me but seemed rather perturbed about the man at the corner. “Is he out there again? I have told him not to be there.”

I stepped back outside and decided that I could not just drive off.  It was full daylight, I didn’t have anything like a purse for him to grab or steal from me and it’s a small town.  I decided to not be afraid. That’s right, I decided to not be afraid of him hurting me in someway, or someone else driving by and wondering why I was talking to the man, I even decided to not fear that he might follow me back to my locked car where my dog patiently waited for me in the backseat.

He did not look up as I approached.

“Sir”, I asked, “Are you ok, is there someone I could call for you?”

  My questions were ridiculous.  He could have responded with, “Do I look ok to you? or “Yeah, call Ghostbusters”.  He cast his eyes up at me and I saw that He was younger than I expected and beneath the smudges on his face he was a nice looking man. It is possible that he is some kind of addict but he didn’t look the part.   He simply stated, “I’m hungry”.

He quickly went on  to say more about how he wanted to find work but people were not helping him.  “I just need something to eat, maybe a fudge round. I can work for it”

The man before me was truly hungry and he wasn’t asking me for $10, or to buy his groceries or pay his bills,  he was hoping for one fudge round that cost about 20 cents.

Photo courtesy of jonathan-rados on unsplash.com

I explained that I didn’t have any money on me because I had just finished running but that I only lived about mile away and that I could go home and get food for him and come right back.  He told me the food had to be sealed up because people had tried to poison him or give him food that they had spit on. I realized that might be true or it might be an indicator that he suffers from mental illness, either way I felt a sense of urgency in getting him food.

 I promised I would come right back.  “Five minutes”, I told him. As I turned to go back to the car he called out, “My feet are really cold, if you have some socks”

 At home I didn’t close the garage door and left the car running. Inside I grabbed a plastic bag and tossed in an unopened jar of peanut butter, a bag of animal crackers, a bottle of water and a spoon.  I opened my sock drawer and right on top were my expensive, thick wool socks that I had bought to wear with my hiking boots. I started to dig deeper in the drawer and thought better of it. I stuffed the socks into the bag knowing he needed them much more than I did.  

He was still there.  I gave him the bag and when he looked inside he exclaimed, “Peanut butter!”  You would have thought it was a hundred dollar bill from the appreciation in his voice.  “Socks, too!’ The man stood up but I certainly didn’t feel threatened. He told me he sleeps in the woods.  I don’t know, but I imagine he has constructed some sort of makeshift shelter.

I encouraged him to walk to the Outreach Center a block away and told him they could probably offer more help.  

 He looked at me and said, “You are the only one out of thousands that helped.  God made me just like he made them, but you are the only one that helped. The only difference in me and them is that I haven’t had a shower.”  My heart went out to him, I couldn’t smell him but he was clearly concerned about his hygiene. I imagined how frustrated I would feel if I didn’t have a way to take care of such basic needs.  “You should feel good about what you did.” he called out as he started to walk in the direction of the Outreach Center.

 I am glad that I helped him out though it was in a small way.  I can’t say I feel good about it. Tomorrow he may be hungry again and face more heartless people.  Mother Teresa said, “We can’t all do great things but we can do small things with great love.”

It isn’t going to be as cold tonight but the wind has decided to blow fiercely.  I need to replenish my supply of peanut butter. I like to share it because of it’s good shelf life and nutrition.  Maybe I need to buy more socks too. I don’t have any hiking planned in the near future but if a person needs peanut butter there is a good chance they could use the socks too.

Stay warm and be well my friends

Written on a cold morning in February 2019

A Different Kind of Apology

 I focused on balancing in tree pose as I stood facing the mirror covered wall in the yoga room. I was alone in the room, ending my Friday exercise regime with some solitary stretches.  I liked that it felt a little indulgent; a way to reward myself at the end of the work week.

 In the mirror’s reflection I saw Millie step quietly into the room so as not to disturb me.  She paused and didn’t approach immediately. I sensed that she had entered the room to talk with me; a private conversation in a place where others would not be able to listen in or observe.  I was grateful for her choice of venue as I was certain that she was there to chew me out. As I came out of the yoga pose and turned towards her I decided that I would hear her out. I would listen to every word and not interrupt; No matter how harsh her tone or vile her words. I would take it because I deserved the verbal lashing that was about to happen.

 Somewhere around two years prior Millie was filling in for a staff member at the school where I worked, that is how we knew one another.  

 One of my school duties was to serve as the 504 coordinator.  504 is the shortened term used for section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  There are many reasons certain children can have a 504 accommodation plan. The plans, individually designed to meet a child’s particular needs, typically outline practices that will happen during the school day to keep the child healthy and safe with access to the educational programs.

 During the hubbub of lunch time, Carol, another school employee stopped by my office.  She looked stressed and explained that she was concerned about a particular student. She proceeded to tell me how Millie had disregarded the directives of this student’s 504 plan and how she was afraid that Millie’s careless ways were putting a child in danger.  I had worked with Carol for sometime, however I had yet to figure out that she is one of those people that adores stirring things up and then sitting back and to observe the drama unfold.

 After thinking things through I reasoned that I would relay Carol’s concern to the principal for her to deal with the issue. Millie was a contract service provider and technically not a school employee; I was not in her chain of command.

 After the school day had ended the principal dropped by my office.  She wanted me to know that Carol had not told the entire story and that when she had delved deeper into the events of the day she discovered that Millie had done nothing wrong, the 504 plan had been followed and Carol was just stirring things up. I had automatically believed Carol just because I knew her and also assumed that Millie was guilty because I didn’t know her other than face and name. We all know what happens when things are assumed.   I was ashamed that I had not talked to Millie before reporting things to the principal. I wanted to apologize but unfortunately Millie had already left.

 I didn’t see Millie again for a long time, probably about 6 months had passed when I switched my workouts at the gym from afternoons to mornings.  Then I saw Millie at the gym three times a week. I tried to make eye contact with her. I wanted to smile at her and if she would smile back or give me any nonverbal cue that we could talk I would give her the apology that was due.  Millie was quite adept in avoiding my glances. A few times I tried to approach her but she always seemed to either be talking to someone else or heading out the door.

  The more time that passed the more I tried to convince myself that she probably didn’t even remember the incident or me.  I tried to ignore the tension that was palpable when we were both in the fitness center. It would be fair to say that I tried to forget the whole thing. I also thought she might refuse my apology or even call me names, others might hear; I would be humiliated.  I did nothing yet every time I saw her I could feel the negativity radiating out from her and being sent directly towards me.

 Clearly, Millie had decided today was the day. She walked across the floor to where I stood.  She asked if I remembered her and I confirmed that I did. I wanted to immediately spring forth with an apology,  but again,I felt any verbal wrath that she might unleash towards me was deserved. She very briefly recounted what had happened two years before asking if I remembered it.  I confirmed that I did.

 What happened next blew me away.  Millie told me that she is a Christian and tries very hard to live her life in a manner pleasing to God.  She explained that since that day, when I was too quick to believe the negative things said about her, that she had harboured thoughts and emotions about me that were very harsh.  Next, Millie looked right at me and asked me to forgive her for her negative thoughts and emotions!

 Hot tears stung my eyes.  Millie was asking for my forgiveness?  She was very sincere and I knew in my heart that this was not some passive aggressive way to get an apology from me.  Initially I was struck speechless. What a beautiful example of Christ’s love standing there in front of me!

 I told her how I had wanted to approach her, to apologize and make things right, to win her forgiveness. I apologized and she accepted but also emphasized that she had not approached me seeking an apology. We talked a little more as the tension that had been thick and dense quickly evaporated.  We both shed some tears and hugged each other before we had to rush on with getting to work and the duties of daily life.  

 Maybe it should have ended there but I couldn’t quit thinking about her kindness.  The next morning while out for my morning run in my own neighborhood I was reminded of Millie’s Christ-like actions as I ran past Valerie’s house.

 Many years before, when my son was in elementary school he and Valerie’s son had played together often.  Valerie had hurt both me and my son by believing something she was told about my family without bothering to ask me or to check into the facts.  If it had just been me it would have been bad enough, but she had hurt my child by not allowing her son to play with him anymore. I was as angry as a mama bear defending her cub except a mama bear can actually attack.  The strength of my negative feeling had waned a little over the years but I never failed to remember the hurt as I would run past her house two times a week.

Don’t get between a Mama Bear and her cub

 It occurred to me that I could decide to handle this in much the same way that Millie had dealt with her anger towards me.  I ran on and went about my day but now each morning that I ran past Valerie’s home I would think about giving her an apology.  I started praying about it, but I really didn’t want to apologize. The more I prayed about it the more I thought about it. I was hoping God would give me an out, that I wouldn’t feel compelled to apologize to this lady who had deeply hurt my child’s feelings.

 When I would imagine the scenario I would often hear her giving me the long over do apology that I thought was due.  When this happened I had to tell my imagination to “Stop”. I knew if I ever approached her my intention had to genuine and not self serving.  I started making myself think about how I would handle it if she reacted in a smug or self-righteous manner. With each passing week I felt more and more that God wanted me to use the example that Millie had set and put it to work in my own life.

 One day as I was heading home from work I suddenly decided, “Today is the day; I am going to just do it.”  I pulled into her driveway instead of passing on by. I walked to the door and rang the bell. After a moment I knocked.  Back in my car and heading home I had to fight off the little voice that wanted to claim, “Oh well, you tried, end of story”.

 Several more days passed and then after driving by Valerie’s home I turned around and headed back; I needed to do this.  Her husband answered the door and I asked if Valerie was home. I could hear the quiver in my own voice. He said she was home but had just laid down to rest.  I started to say I could come back later when she appeared behind her husband in the foyer. The moment had arrived.

 I asked if she remembered the incident and when she acknowledged that she did. I could see the apprehensiveness take over her expression. She had to wonder why I would bring this up after fifteen years, give or take a few, had passed.  I couldn’t hesitate and I gave her a sincere apology for all the negativity that I had saved up over the years. I told her that I felt God was leading me to let all of it go and part of the letting go was to admit that I had clung to bitterness.  She accepted my apology although she looked bewildered.

 Mission accomplished.  As I drove home, glad to have finally put it all behind me, it occurred to me that she did not offer an apology in return.  I immediately reminded myself that it was ok, her apologizing was not part of my mission, my goal was to ask for forgiveness and that was successful.  I slept great that night and the next morning I didn’t think about Valerie at all, even when I passed by her house on my way to work.

 Per my typical morning routine I arrived to my office early. I liked getting a start on the day by checking email and snail mail over a cup of coffee before others poured in and the day became hectic.  When my inbox popped up on the screen there was an email message from, you guessed it, Valerie.  She thanked me for having the courage to give her an apology after such a long time and she apologized for her part in what happened years before.  

 I had not felt it necessary for us to rehash our differences and it seemed she didn’t either.  It was nice that we both seemed to realize that dividing out the blame, one being right and the other being wrong, for the past incident wasn’t necessary.

I have since moved out of the neighborhood which Valerie and I shared and have not happened to bump into her in public, yet I know it would not be uncomfortable if we passed each other on the street or in the grocery store.

 I changed my gym membership about a year ago but still see Millie once in awhile.  It is comfortable and the dark cloud no longer hangs over us.

 I am in no way saying that we need to apologize every time a negative or hurtful thought briefly dances through our brain but when it sits down and tries to embed itself into our core, action is needed and the sooner the better. 

 As I close this reflection I am going to take a little time today for some mental house cleaning.  If during that time if I discover an old hurt that is still lingering around gathering cobwebs in my brain then I will do my best to clear it out.  It is never too late to apologize. I often need to be forgiven for the things I do and things I fail to do; but there are also times I need to be forgiven for my negative thoughts.  I am thankful that God sent Millie to remind me of that.

This story is factual however the names are fictional. If you found this story relevant or inspirational I encourage you to share it with others. Thanks for following and reading.

Pictures provided by, Patrick Hendry, Nathan Lemon, Kat-Ukawa, Tim Wright and Jeremy Perkins. Bear picture provided by Suzanne Pogue and the bears of Cade’s Cove TN.