I felt fire.

He was already sitting there. I arrived and sat two seats over.

He ordered the ribs with fries. I ordered a spinach salad with grilled chicken.

I have five fingers attached to each of my hands. He had five on his left and three on his right.

He moved one seat closer.

We drank. We talked.

He was divorced and had a girlfriend. I was divorced and had a boyfriend.

He was from Maine and had a homestead. I was from Atlanta and had a 600’ ft loft.

He was handsome and had an attractive beard. I was beautiful and had Aphrodite’s hair, but darker.

We drank. We talked.

He was intriguing with many stories and made me laugh. I was his equal and enjoyed his bellow.

I wanted to ask him about his missing fingers. He wanted to ask me why I didn’t ask about them.

We went to his room.

We drank. We talked.

He touched me with his three fingers. I felt fire.

Dancing with a Welcome Mat and Other Embarrassing Things

I thought that I would write about my most embarrassing moment in life and then decided against it. That specific moment included the realization that I have an intense fear of heights when I’m hanging from a suspended pole hundreds of feet in the air. I’ll tell that story publicly when I can be honest; more authentic.

patty1This story, however, happens on the ground. I must have been fifteen or sixteen years old. Patty was my best friend. We did everything together. We were in band, drama club, and clown ministry together. We finished homework together, went to church together, curled each other’s hair – big bangs! We shared clothes and make up and had so many sleepovers. We learned all the lyrics and dance moves to NKOTB (90’s reference) and fantasized about Mark and Joey. We knew how to have a good time together. I mean a really good time. We once spent an afternoon playing kiddie pool Frisbee. We would take a kiddie pool with about a half gallon of water in it and then sling that thing across the backyard towards each other. The goal was to catch the kiddie pool Frisbee without getting wet as the water sloshed around after the catch. What made it even funnier was her three dogs would chase the “Frisbee” as well. This silliness was our pastime and it was awesome.

Patty’s father was a Colonel in the Navy and worked at the Army base hospital. He was a drunk and verbally abusive to her. This made it even easier for us to find reasons to be silly together and escape. One of our escapes was shopping (no surprise there). Living in Hinesville, Georgia provided very little opportunity to do the appropriate teenage shopping every sixteen year old deserves, but we made the best of it. We incorporated guy watching by going to the Army base and perusing whatever might be in store for us at the Post Exchange (PX), including the young government issued guys (GI Joes). Yummy!

So, on this particular day in the middle of a hot Georgia summer, we decided to make ourselves look good (big bangs) and head on over to the PX. We parked and began to walk into the store. I knew I looked good and smelled good and felt good. There’s this theory I learned about years later in college psych class about teenage invincibility. I was proving that theory on this day. I. WAS. A. SUPERSTAR.

We walked towards the door; Patty and me, me and Patty.
The next sequencing of events was choreographed like a Janet Jackson music video minus the finesse. It went something like this:

Step 1 – Tango with big blob of gum. Without looking, as I was too busy worried about who was looking at me, I stepped on a large piece of Hubba Bubba, nasty, sticky, hot lump of gum. It stuck.

Step 2 – Tap dance with the large welcome mat at the front door. This is the choreographed sequence where I met my dance partner – the mat. Somehow the gum was the perfect consistency to attach to my shoe, which was attached to my body with perfect cohesion to the corner of the large plastic rectangular “WELCOME” mat. We were the perfect couple, “Mat” and me with a love bond of stringy, sticky gum.

Step 3 – “Mat” tried to lead me through a step ball change, but instead he brought me to my knees. I fell to the floor. This was not rehearsed. As I fell, another dance partner entered the scene. The corner of the mat was right next to the small cylinder trash can.

Step 4 – Cylinder can enters into a graceful free spin as it rolls out passed the sidewalk, passed quite a few people and into the parking lot. I watched while I was still on my knees. The base of the can rolled to the right and littered pieces of trash as it gently rolled away. The top of the can holding kitty litter and cigarette butts rolled to the left, leaving a trail of gray pebbles and used up cancer sticks.

I looked up and made eye contact with a few folks. Superstar status depleted.

Patty..? Where was Patty? Patty was watching the entire time and with uncontrollable laughter from a safe distance. She walked over to me and helped me up. She made it okay for me to laugh at myself and we proceeded to walk in to the PX to implement more silliness.

I think this moment will always stand out for me for a couple of reasons. First of all, in just mere seconds, I went from total invincibility to hanging out with some already been chewed gum on the ground. It was a humbling life lesson. It is also one of the few memories I still have of Patty. After graduation, she joined the Navy and was very disappointed to be medically discharged. Three years after high school and before any of us had really experienced adult life hers was taken away due to complications from Epilepsy. It was too soon. She left me with so many humorous memories and most importantly the reminder to not take things so seriously, including tap dancing with a cigarette butt can as well as myself.

littlegirl says meow: A story of misdirected texts, four lokos and new underwear.

Friends close to me know that I am always entertained by wrong number texting. Typically, when I receive them, I ignore them. Recently, I received this text from someone I don’t know:

“hey. can me and lucie eat all the ice cream and jump on the beds?”

That sounds like a splendid idea, so I replied, “yes”

I never heard from them again and hope everything worked out okay with the ice cream.

Much more entertaining was an exchange I had during the summer of 2011. It began in early July with a few missed phone calls from a number I never knew and a couple of random texts that I ignored. Although you can clearly hear MY voice saying MY name on MY voicemail message, she still left a couple messages for “Jim”. I don’t think I even know a Jim. The texts continued and I finally responded with “wrong number”. This continued over a couple of weeks.

wrong number. Wrong Number! WRONGNUMBER!!!!

You would think the average person would pause and check that they had the correct number. You would think. In the middle of the continued back and forth and with some encouragement from friends, I lost my sanity and lowered myself to the level of my texter.

Hilarity followed:

A

Is her name Lisa or Melisa??!? Punctuation is so important, folks!

A number of weeks have passed at this point since the first communication, now legally considered harassment. In August, I did everything I could to block the caller/texter. I was able to block the calls, but not the texts. On August 26, I adopted that old motto that everyone has heard: If you can’t beat them, join ‘em. It was a total game changer.

B

During the text exchanges on this day, I was traveling in Atlanta for work. After the work week ended, I headed to visit my best friend in Alabama for the weekend before returning to Florida where I lived at the time. I had a great time visiting her and her husband and while I won’t disclose if they encouraged me to continue the communication madness, I will say that not all of the comments/questions that came next in the exchange were originally mine. It was relieving for me to have the crazy I had been enduring become validated by my friends.

cD

I have no idea where I was getting picked up from or where home was, but I knew something big was about to happen.

E

Oh boy, somebody is going to be disappointed about those plums.

f

This is when the shit hits the fan or the road or something is going to hit something. It’s going down.

(I really was in Huntsville.)

g

I like how the language changes quickly into sanskrit. What exactly does “yw 9ww ihav” mean? Part of me felt pretty darn bad at this point. Part of me figured that Melisa/Lisa should have figured this out by now. Part of me did not care anymore. (Sorry about your eye.)

And then finally….the next day, the angels sang. A miracle!

h

Thank you Melisa/Lisa! Thank you.

It was a very, very short lived miracle.

i

I was so excited that she finally understood and had removed me. And then 5 days later, like a homing pigeon with a message about karma, she was back.

Things take a turn for the worse. I am now in the hospital. There’s good news, though. I still have a girlfriend. Oh yeah, and Littlegirl says meow.

jk

I am somewhat curious as to why I am ill. Melisa/Lisa has referred to me as a player. Urban Dictionary defines player as, “A male who is skilled at manipulating (“playing”) others, and especially at seducing women by pretending to care about them, when in reality they are only interested in sex.”  Maybe my girlfriend beat me up? Or her husband? Maybe Littlegirl scratched me and now I have an infection?

At this point, I am distratught. Melisa/Lisa clearly does not care for me. She never really pays me enough attention to understand me and when she gets angry, she curses at me in sanskrit. I just can’t take it anymore and ignore her evil texting.

l

I don’t know why, but for some reason, I need new underwear and that is very concerning. Bill Cosby must have been right.

It all ended after the last message I ever sent to her. I will miss Melisa/Lisa. She will forever be in my blog.

Fin.

Sunrise Surprise and Life Lessons

newbornSurprises are interesting. I mostly like them. I mostly like them because they become life lessons.  Sometimes they are gifts and those are good, too. In my former life of grandeur, we owned multiple properties, homes, and pets. This is the story of how we acquired three horses by surprise.

We had made an agreement with our daughters. They had been horse riding for years and getting lessons from Uncle Rod and Aunt Debbie. More than anything, they wanted horses of their own. They were willing to muck and feed and clean and train and scoop poop and other unmentionable acts of care; practically anything to have horses.  We were willing to let them do so if they could afford it and were committed. Horses had become a great way to teach our children about trust and resilience and responsibility and life. My daughters saved penny after penny and dollar after dollar and searched. At the ages of thirteen and eleven, my daughters were in the market to buy horses.

They begged me to visit a gentleman and his family that were selling two Ponies of Americas-a brother and sister. Asking price: $500 each. I knew the girls had been saving, but they certainly didn’t have enough for $1,000 plus all other initial costs. It was unlikely to happen, so what would it hurt to go anyway? It would be good experience.

katieThe ponies were sturdy, good, young, a little green, but “unspookable” (they don’t scare easily = great for the kiddos).  It was a lot to consider as we had never owned horses before, but the girls didn’t have enough money anyway so I thanked the gentleman and let him know that we would be in touch, but unlikely to buy. On the way home, I talked to the girls, in hopes to reset expectations and regroup. Again, we weren’t opposed to having horses, but let’s make sure they understood the verbal contract they were entering, the commitment needed to horses and the costs. They took the news well and did not try to renegotiate. Then they informed me that by the end of the month, they would have a collective savings of over $700 in allowance, gifts and doing extra chores.

Surprise!

LIFE LESSON #1: PEOPLE WILL OFTEN EXCEED YOUR EXPECTATIONS IF YOU LET THEM (ESPECIALLY IF YOU ENCOURAGE THEM TO DO SO).

When we got home, I checked the mail and the voicemail messages. There was a message from the gentleman we had just left minutes ago letting us know that he was willing to drop the price to $750 for both horses. I called back and asked if we could come back later that week with Uncle Rod and Aunt Debbie along to check them out. And so we did. Later that week, the price dropped to $500 and we became horse owners.

Double surprise!

LIFE LESSON #2: EVERYTHING CHANGES (EVEN WHEN YOU DON’T REQUEST IT TO).

Little ManWe became the proud owners of two POAs, Little Man and Dalilah. With a lot of shared wisdom, help, and grace from many of our beautiful horse people friends, we did our best to further train and nurture these precious creatures, but as the months went by, we realized that something was not right with Dalilah. She was losing weight in her ribs and gaining in her stomach.

“Maybe she’s pregnant!!!?!!” my daughter said.

Surprise!??!?

LIFE LESSON #3: EXPECT THE BEST…?

We called the vet. “She’s too young to be pregnant and she hasn’t been around a stud.” (Little Man was gelded.) “Likely needs to be dewormed,” doc said.

So we started a more aggressive de-wormer process. We increased her feed intake and the number of feedings. We provided more hay, more attention, more love and she just got worse. The vet came out again and then again. She might have hay belly. We changed her feed again. On the vet’s last visit, he told us that she either had a rare disease or she was indeed pregnant. However, she was very weak and he did not want to put her through a physical exam. He took her blood for testing and told us to call him in the morning for the results. I went home devastated, expecting her to not make it to the end of the week. Our Dalilah was dying under my watch. I knew that I would soon have to break the news via phone to the girls, as they were out of state visiting family. I cried.

(sad) surprise.

LIFE LESSON #4: …BUT PREPARE FOR THE WORST.

The next morning came and I was wakened by an early morning phone call that went something like this:

Him:       “Hey! We’ve got three horses out here.”

Me:        “What do you mean three horses? A horse got through the gate somehow? Who’s horse is it?”

Him:       “No. Negative. WE have three horses.”

Long pause.

Me:        “What do you mean exactly? What are you saying?”

Him:       “I’m saying Little Man is here. Dalilah is here and there is a baby horse or a colt or whatever it’s called. I’m saying we don’t need to call the vet for the pregnancy test results.”newborn2

SURPRISE!!!!!!

LIFE LESSON #5: LIFE HAPPENS!

I’m pretty certain the conversation was followed by a joyous release of astonished expletives followed by a crazy thought process including some need I felt to locate towels and hot water, confusion as to what kind of leave I would need to take from work for the day and the desire to contact the girls immediately.

I called the girls and sent pictures. “I told you so!” was mumbled by the thirteen year old and they quickly came up with the name for our new baby boy: Sunrise Surprise, Sunny for short.

Sunrise Surprise became a wonderful addition to our horse family and we continued to learn many things as he grew. As time has passed only one of my daughters rides regularly now and has successfully sold three horses and currently owns two.

I forget to be thankful for the surprises life offers me.  As time has passed for me, I find that I am less surprised at things as I used to be and generally yearn for more.

surprise

LIFE LESSON #6: WHEN YOU ARE NOT GETTING ENOUGH SURPRISES IN LIFE, MAYBE IT IS TIME TO SEEK THEM. COMPLACENCY BREEDS MEDIOCRITY.

Three things I like about you (that impact my life).

1 – You never give up (and it helps me to hold on).

I am always amazed by people that never give in. Let me be clear here: I don’t mean the people that set some amazing goal like running a marathon or winning some kind of competition and relentlessly press forward until they meet that accomplishment. These are indeed great achievers and should be praised in their own way, but what I mean is something different. What I am amazed by are people that have been exposed to great strife in their lives…a loved one lost, a crime of humanity committed against them, an overwhelming sickness.

What I am amazed by are abused children whom are capable of creating lives with beauty and meaning and impact. What I am amazed by are the mothers who have lost their children and the children who have lost their parents and continue to wake up every day, hearts heavy with grief, but they still wake up! and accept the day. What I am amazed by are the caretakers of the sick or the dying, these sacrificing saints make life changes to accommodate, putting others needs before their own, knowing that no one else will.

You never give up and this makes me look up to you in amazement. It makes me want to be a better person. It makes me want to live my life in a more humble way, appreciative of the challenges that are presented to me with the knowledge that everything is relative.

2 – You smile (and it makes me smile IN MY HEART!)

Happiness is contagious and is most easily spread amongst people who matter to each other; people like you. I love your smile, especially in that moment when it first begins to appear on your face. Your eyes give it away first followed by all of the other features that support that lovely smile. In that beautifully timed sequence, synapses lead your mind to inform your face to spread that “glad thing”; to share it and I am so glad you do.

I’d like to think that it is my presence in your life that might be causing those smiles, but I am aware that those are selfish thoughts. You often smile without me and that makes me glad, too. I know that it has been scientifically proven that happiness prolongs life, so when you are smiling, I am happy because I know that you will live longer. I want you to live longer. That would make me smile, too.

3 – You are successful (and it makes me feel successful; I AM successful.)

It makes me happy to hear about what you are doing to make your life better, to grow, to learn, to have fun, to share times with friends and family, experience the world and sustain the successes you have created.

Usually when I am worried or fearful or sad or not at ease in life, it is because you are struggling. Whether I should or not, I own part of that struggle. I want you to know that I believe that challenges can always lead to some level of success, but challenges are not something I would typically think to celebrate. For instance, grieving the loss of a loved one does not ever feel successful in my experience, but the success is delivered through the deeper relationships shared with others and the continued celebration of the life that once was.  I believe that our human instinct is to think negatively of the challenges, but think about this: what if we celebrated them instead?

If it is going to result in some level of success, wouldn’t we be better off focusing on the success instead of the struggles? The struggle is inevitable, of course!

Sometimes it is simply easier to isolate the struggles and not realize the delayed success that does come, even if in limited amounts. I don’t always know what your struggles will lead to but I do know two things: First, you don’t give up. Second, you like to smile. With that combination, it’s hard to believe that you can’t be somewhat successful; and somewhat successful is pretty damn good. Remember…? It’s ALL relative.

Because I am a part of your life, I share your success. Every time you achieve something new, get over a challenge, decide to not give up on the day, I become more successful because you are part of me.

Yes, I like you (and thank you for impacting my life).

8 weeks of joy

Braylen Elijah entered the world in a hurry and without breath. He was coaxed back to life with love and medical miracles. His mother, while healing and exhausted from her own physical trauma, immediately took on her new role with courage. Most parents spend their first few days after new life has been born introducing their precious gift to the world and enjoying “firsts” — the first moments of a baby’s breath and cry; the first feedings, changing of diapers and, days later, bringing baby home. Instead, Braylen’s parents had the courageous and critical role as the medical advocates, life historians, public relations coordinators and personal cheerleaders to this helpless newborn.

They lived in and out of hospitals and a Ronald McDonald home for eight weeks. They sacrificed whatever was necessary to chaperone, protect and validate his valuable life. They took advantage of every opportunity to touch him, to hold him, to take one of the thousands of pictures of him. They washed their hands raw to prevent infection in the hospital room. They stood watch over the machines and quickly learned what the oxygen saturation, blood pressure, heart beat and breathing patterns indicated. They became best friends with the hospital staff, spending more time with them then they were able to be with their own family, friends, co-workers. They watched as other babies in the NICU recovered and families and medical staff celebrated as those babies were discharged from the hospital. They ate hospital food. They slept little. They were exhausted. They became more selfless than they thought they could ever be – life giving unto life.

We are born and then we die and we have little to do with either one of those events, but how we live in between, however brief it is, is what makes all the difference. Braylen’s life was quiet. He never made a noise, never opened his eyes, never moved around and he was able to have a greater impact in his eight weeks than many of us could imagine. This little baby was able to change policy in the NICU, allowing fathers to participate in “kangaroo care” – the magical technique of holding a preterm infant skin-to-skin. In Braylen’s eight weeks, he provided boundless joy from the simplest things. Every one of us found a different part of him absolutely irresistible: his fighting fists, his crazy toe, the soft caramel skin, thick dark hair, his sweet hand that he let anyone hold, his cute nose. People from all over the country, all over the world, watched and prayed and sent notes and love letters and held mass and sent gifts and provided messages of hope and love. They kept his name on their lips and held his name in their hearts. They had acceptance and admiration of this little bear cub and his parents. They continue to hold him in their hearts, forever validating his life.

Life is a sacred adventure. A baby boy was born, lived eight weeks and died. Death begets legacy. So does joy. What will be your legacy of joy to the next generations?

20 Things That I Love

daughters – a decade ago

My daughters, although they do not belong to me. They have their own thoughts and their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow.

Music that makes me wiggle.

The smell of fresh cut grass.

Waking up without the need for an alarm clock and to the smell of fresh brewed coffee in the morning.

Being employed in a position that I value with a mission I believe.

Almost anything Italian.

#15 Via Istria, Longare, Italy – my childhood home

Dancing like nobody is watching.

Receiving surprise packages and hand written notes in the mail.

Hydrangeas. I love that they change colors depending on their environment and always deliver a beautiful overflow of petals.

karaoke with colleagues

My colleagues (most of them). They make special event soundtracks for our team with songs like, “Hold On” and “Say What You Need To Say” to get us through the tough days. They will show up with water guns and bubbles to break up the rough spots. They are not opposed to sumo wrestling or paintball as mandated fun and will sing on cue and when needed during a conference call and still manage to get things done.

Making the amount of money I need to survive and living within my means.

Walking through my front door after returning home from a trip. It feels like I am giving myself a giant hug.

The writings of Kahlil Gibran. They make more sense to me than any religious book ever did.

Baby laughter. The sweetest sound.

Brayden laughing

Studying positive psychology. Makes me happy. Go figure.

Relationships that include mutual respect, gratitude, helpfulness, Individuality, humility, humor, loyalty, drive and adaptability.

Making homemade pizza and drinking wine with people I love.

Strong, competent, intelligent female friends.

Bali, Indonesia – pic I took from monastery

Discovering new cultures.

My pursuit of happiness.