Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"I'm Great, Except When I'm Magnificent"

I just had the most incredible week.   My little sister, Brenda, and I just spent six days in Bar Harbor, Brewer and Bangor, Maine. I visited these places as a child once, but remember very few details from that trip as a 6 year old. 

My father, Robert Mayo Robinson, was born in Bar Harbor, then moved to Bangor when he was around 8 years old. He then lived right across the river in Brewer and graduated from Brewer High School in 1958, where he was extremely popular and excelled in both football and baseball. He and his teammates led the "Brewer Witches" to a State Championship in 1957. 

Ever since Dad died 11 years ago, Brenda, myself and our brother, Robbie, have talked about visiting the places Dad grew up.  We've always been so curious about our father.  He rarely spoke about his troubled childhood. 

It was a year of planning, but the time finally came. Since Dad was such an avid runner, running Marathon's across the country, we thought it would be cool to run the Mt. Desert Marathon in Bar Harbor to honor him. 

Our registrations for the race were paid months ago, plane tickets were bought and the hotel was booked.  Unfortunately, due to some last minute scheduling conflicts, Robbie wouldn't be able to make the trip. 

Brenda and I had no intentions of cancelling.  We were disappointed our brother wouldn't be with us, but there was no way we were going to back out.  This was too important to both of us. 

I'm so thankful we saw it through. From the moment we arrived, we were filled with excitement and anticipation. As we drove through Brewer, we kept wondering "Did Dad walk on this street?", "Do you think Dad went here?" "Do you think this building or house was here when Dad was?", "I wonder if he ate at this place?"  It went on and on all day! We were both feeling so connected to him. 

Brenda brought along a letter Dad had received decades ago from one of his many female admirers, so we started there.  The letter was addressed to an address on Holyeoke Street in Brewer.  Thanks to GPS, we easily found the white, two story house! As we sat out front, we imagined him walking in the front door. It was surreal. 

We referred to ourselves as "Nancy Drew Detectives", as we successfully found his high school, the homes he lived in, and discovered his 1957 State Championship Trophy, which stands proudly in the glass case at the now new high school. 

As we drove into Bar Harbor, we passed one of his favorite restaurants, "Lunts", which apparently has the best lobster around. We weren't able to eat there since they were closed. 

Every mile we drove, Dad was on our mind. Every, single one.  

In Bar Harbor, we visited "Sonagee". This is the former Atwater-Kent Estate where our great-grandparents worked as the cook and groundskeeper. Kent Atwater was a wealthy radio inventor tycoon.  Dad spent a lot of time there as a child. He was very close to "Mimi" and "Gaga", as he called them. It's now a nursing home, but that wasn't going to stop us from entering the building and walking the grounds. The same grounds Gaga meticulously took care of with great detail. We saw the boathouse that used to be attached to a pier that stretched over the ocean. Brenda told the story of how Dad, as a young boy, walked to the end of that pier, left his clothes on the dock and hid underneath to scare his parents and grandparents into believing he'd drowned! He was always a prankster. 

We even learned our great-grandfather, "Gaga", had actually been a police officer before taking over the duties at the Atwater-Kent Estate. 

Brenda also brought a picture of the house our father was brought home to following his birth. We only had a street name and a picture to go on. This took some patience, as we drove down Ledgelawn Avenue in Bar Harbor, searching and studying every house on the street, trying to line up windows and roofs from the picture we held in our hands.  Finally, I spotted it. I told Brenda "This is the house!" It had been painted yellow, but the structure looked the same.  There were men in the yard doing some remodeling, but I knew it was the house!  As we got out of our rental car, a woman walked out of the front door.  We approached showed her the picture and told her our story. She said "This picture is from a long time ago, but yes, this is our house."  We were overwhelmed. She graciously invited us inside and told us the floors and corner shelves were original. We actually walked on the same floors our father did as a child. We were absolutely elated!  We ended up driving by this house several more times during our stay.  We couldn't help it.

Afterwards, we drove to the hospital, Mt. Desert Hospital, where our father was born. It was all so surreal. 

We decided to go to the library and search for anything relevant.  We ended up discovering where the graves of our great grandparents, Liston and Alma Mayo, aka "Gaga and Mimi" were laid to rest!  Brenda and I couldn't wait to make the trip to the cemetery in Somesville the next day!  We were on a roll!

It was a beautiful drive to the Mt. View Cemetery.  It sat on the side of the road.  If you weren't looking for it, you'd most likely miss it, but we were determined.  We jumped out of the car and immediately began walking the grounds looking for them.  We were so surprised and excited to see the graveyard filled with people who shared the last name of "Mayo" and "Higgins".  "Mayo" was our Dad's mother's maiden name and there were relatives everywhere!  We've since found out we're related to the Higgins' families as well!  Brenda and I were so excited, reading the headstones and learning of our newfound ancestors.  After about 15 minutes, Brenda yelled to me, "I found them!"  I ran across the cemetery, careful where my feet landed, and there it was.  The gravestone my father had purchased years before.  It read "Liston and Alma Mayo".  We stood there for a little while and told them hello.  We were so proud of ourselves.  We set a goal and made it.  It was surreal spending time there with ancestor's we'd barely known or never met.

When our Dad was alive, he made it very clear to all of us that when he died he wanted to be buried in Maine beside "Mimi" and Gaga".  He'd even written this in his own hand on a makeshift will.  Unfortunately, the woman he was married to at the time he passed away, refused to allow him to be buried there.  Instead, she placed his urn in a vault beside a man he despised.  To this day, this still infuriates me, even more so after visiting this cemetery where so many of my father's relatives have been laid to rest.  He wanted to be with his family, with the people he loved and cherished the most.    

The next day, just when we thought we had done it all, Brenda received a text from Nancy, Dad's 2nd wife. Nancy knew we were searching for anything and anyone associated with our Dad.  She told us about one of Dad's childhood friends. She said he used to live in Bar Harbor, but she didn't know if he was still there or even still alive. Nancy told us Dad visited this friend every year and they spoke regularly when Dad was alive.  They'd been best friends since 5th grade.  She gave us his name.  That's all we needed.  His name was Jimmy McInnis. 

I pulled the car over and immediately got online.  We checked yellowpages.com and found him. Unbeknownst to us, we'd already passed his house several times throughout the week and hadn't even known it!

I dialed his number and got his answering machine.  I explained who we were, what we were doing and asked if he was the same Jimmy McInnis who knew our father, Bob Robinson.  Then, I hung up.  We were only two blocks from his house, so we made the decision to drive to his house and knock on the door. We figured we had nothing to lose. 

As we pulled onto his street, our phone was ringing! It was Jim's wife, Donna. She said they knew exactly who we were, but Jim was overcome with emotion and couldn't talk. He finally got on the phone and asked me if we'd like to come over. We told him we were already seconds away!

As we drove up, Jim and Donna were waiting for us on the porch. They were both crying. We were too. Jim could barely walk and needed assistance.  He was overwhelmed.  He said we looked just like our Dad.

It was an emotional, beautiful moment for all of us. Brenda and I would spend the next 3 hours with Jim and Donna hearing about our father, the trouble they got into as kids and how much he loved and missed him.   We FaceTimed our brother Robbie, so he could meet Jim too.  He sobbed again as he spoke with our brother.  He couldn't believe how much Robbie looked, sounded and acted like our Dad.  It was precious.

I can't begin to describe how my sister and I felt as we left Jim and Donna's home.  We were walking on clouds! We'd just spent hours with a man who knew our Dad well, long before we'd even made an appearance on this earth.  We left with the promise to visit again soon.  Brenda and I are already planning our next trip back and hoping our brother will make it next time.

All the emotions we'd been experiencing all week and now, it was race day.  The morning started early at 7 am. We had until 3 pm to finish the Mt. Desert Relay Marathon or we wouldn't medal.  This wasn't an option for us. We crossed the finish line at 12:07!  It was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life.  The hills were treacherous, but the scenery was spectacular.  Quitting wasn't part of the plan, so we both persevered.  When I found myself feeling I couldn't go on, I felt my Dad's presence with me, cheering me on.  I would talk to him and ask him for help.  I truly felt him with me.

This trip changed me.  It made me want to listen more, paying more attention to what and who's around me.  It caused me to reflect on how short life really is.  All the places we visited where Dad had once been are still there, yet he's gone.  Brenda and I talked of how we wished we'd made this trip with Dad before he'd died so he could have shared this part of his life with us.  He was such a storyteller and would have engaged us with the stories of his youth.  If only we could go back in time.

One thing's for sure.  Dad would have LOVED that we took a week out of our lives to visit the people and places he loved.  He would have felt so special to know how much we cared to connect with his past.  He would laugh at our "Nancy Drew Detective" work!  He would have been proud.  

Our last day in Maine still brought another sweet surprise.  We stopped at a quaint restaurant called "Coach House" for a delicious breakfast.  As we were paying our bill, the sweet lady behind the counter asked us where we were from. We told her our story about Dad, running the race in his honor and visiting the places he grew up. She asked, "Well, who was your Dad?"  We told her, "Robbie Robinson, he graduated from Brewer High School in 1958."  The smile on her face was priceless.  "Robbie Robinson?!?  I knew your Dad! He and my husband were good friends and one of his best friends, Everett, comes in here every Friday!"  The perfect ending to a perfect trip.

This week was special for so many reasons.  Not only was I able to share it with my best friend, my sister, Brenda, it was special because we were able to share it with our Dad.  

I leave you with this.  Jimmy, as Dad would call him, told us every time he asked Dad how he was doing, he would answer, "I'm Great, except when I'm Magnificent!"

Monday, October 10, 2016

How DID we get here?!

I try to stay away from this political mess as best I can. These are my thoughts, not yours, nor am I looking for you to agree with or argue with me either. My take on the top two candidates is this. Who they are and what they represent says much more about us and who we've become.

I see posts about "how did we get here", "is this the best we can do?", etc. etc. Well, each of us who've been able to vote for the past 30+ years need to take a long look in the mirror. And, please make no mistake, I'm including myself in this "we" category. We created this embarrassing, atrocious atmosphere of an election.

We're the ones who haven't held our appointed officials to a higher standard. We've been so lackadaisical about what's going on in the world around us, who's running what and how and so caught up in our own little bubbles we've forgotten, or worse, not even cared about what's been happening right in front of us or in our own backyards.

We've also helped create the biased media by not holding them accountable to the facts and truth of everyone involved, not just those they choose to promote. It is a privilege to live here, the greatest country on the planet, yet we've taken advantage and not done our part to protect it, our families or future generations.

We are the ones who should be ashamed of ourselves its come this far. Think about it. One of these candidates is a corrupt criminal, who has no regard for life or people, a person who lies constantly to save her own $#%@ and those she's in bed with, while the other is a man who uses insults and vulgarity, has a huge ego and is known more for being one of the biggest reality television stars in the world.

Neither one of these people, nor anyone else running for the highest office in the land, gets me excited or makes me feel like a proud American. My heart is grieved. What's happened is not God's fault. It's ours! God has given us chance after chance after chance to fight for and change the direction of this country, yet we've grown lazy and complacent.

My prayer is this election is waking a sleeping giant. The government will not save this country, nor will cowardly politicians, who care more about themselves than the constituents they swore to represent. We must begin to hold these men and women accountable. They work for us, not the other way around!

If we don't take our country back, our children and grandchildren will grow up in a place no longer recognizable or respected, with no sense of values or morality.

Yes, I will be voting in this election, but not with the same excitement and hope I've felt in the past. I will continue to pray for the best, whatever the outcome. The God I serve is who I place my trust, not in any one candidate.

God bless the U.S.A. God bless us all.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Perfect Life?!?! Lies, all lies.

This morning I met a friend for breakfast.  We had such an interesting, engaging conversation throughout our two hour visit.  One of my greatest pleasures in life is good, honest, open communication and conversation.

As we were talking, we came to an observation.  Too many people aren't real.  They're pretending to have the perfect life, marriage, relationships, career or constantly trying so hard to convince others they are themselves perfect people.   Some use social media as their platform or outlet to create a false sense or picture of who they really are or what they may be struggling through.  In no way am I advocating airing all your dirty laundry, but how can we expect to truly connect or ask others to relate to us if we're spending more time "pretending" than being authentic?

This afternoon, as I was receiving an incredibly, relaxing, deep tissue massage, this got me thinking.  I began to reflect on my own life and how others view it and I was reminded of something.  I thought writing a new blog would be an opportunity to set the record straight.

I've received many messages from well meaning people telling me it seems I live a charmed, perfect life.  Oh, how I beg to differ.  Just because these messages may be flattering and stroke my ego a little bit doesn't make them true.  Please don't hear what I'm not saying.  Yes, I'm blessed, even on a bad day. I'm breathing, I have my health, a career I love, a great family and good friends.  I'm a pretty upbeat, positive person, who believes in the cup half full.  Even when things are not going my way, I do my best to see the good, although, I don't always succeed.

In no way am I complaining about my life or looking for sympathy, but my life is not how some may perceive and there's always room for improvement.

I struggle just like the rest of you.  My issues may not be the same as yours, but they're still issues, nonetheless.

Here are just a few, (I said a few!), examples.

I have four adult daughters.  I still inquire into their lives probably more than I should, offer my opinion when I shouldn't and piss them off from time to time.  It's not unusual for one of them or even more at the same time, to be upset with me.  And, it's also common, when they're angry with me, I won't hear from them for days, a week or even longer.  Sure, we have very close relationships, filled with mutual respect and admiration and we love one another very much, but we still have our bad days.

I'm 52 years old and divorced.  It's been four years since my last serious relationship and it can get lonely.  Sure, I've gone on dates and met interesting men, some are still my friends.  A couple times, my interest was highly piqued, but timing was off, schedules complicated or things just didn't work out.  I've wonderered if I'll ever meet a man I'd be willing to give up my singleness for.  So far, nope. I'm not complaining about being single either.  I'd rather be single than miserable and I'm not miserable.  But, being single at my age does cause you to think about things like growing old alone or having to rely on my children to take care of me.  Neither of these scenarios are appealing to me.  But, I refuse to settle for a mediocre relationship, nor do I expect to find a perfect one either.

My career is stressful.  I'm in the non-profit field, constantly fundraising and pitching, in hopes others will catch the vision of how our organization is making a difference helping others, which hopefully inspires them to give.  I'm full aware the "buck stops here", so to speak, with me.  If I don't do my job, an entire organization suffers, including my staff, volunteers and most importantly, our clients.  At times, this has kept me up at night.

Let's face it, I'm not getting any younger.  I wouldn't give up the wisdom, confidence and security I have at my age for any amount of money, but things change as we age.  There's no escaping this fact. Sometimes, I forget what I was wearing yesterday!  No, I wouldn't trade the wisdom which comes with age, but the rest of it? You can keep it.  Getting older just sucks.

So, the next time you think I or anyone else you're stalking on social media has the perfect life, kids, or career, think again.

My Dad always said, "Baby Girl, there's always going to be someone whose got more money than you do, is better looking than you are and has an easier life than you've got, but, never forget, there's always someone who has it a little bit worse too."

All in all, I love my life.  I wouldn't trade it for anything.  But, perfect?  Not even close.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Posers of Perfect Parenting

The horrific tragedy which has taken place at the Disney World Resort has rocked my world.  A beautiful, 2 year old boy vacationing with his parents and sister at a Disney Resort is wading in the water of a man made lake on the property, while his father stands beside him.  Other guests relax on lounge chairs nearby, waiting for the fireworks to begin.  The child's mother and sister are close by as the unimaginable happens.  In an instant, this little boy is snatched up by an alligator and being dragged under the water.  His frantic father tries to wrestle his son away from the alligator, but the creature is too much for this, or any man, to handle.  Helplessly, this father is made forced to watch as his son is taken away to a sure death, while his mother is screaming for help.  It's a literal horror movie in real time.

Who could fathom being on summer vacation enjoying time outside your resort as you're waiting for fireworks to begin, that an alligator would come out of the water, grab your baby, drag him under it and take him? In a few short seconds, these lives were forever altered.  I shutter every time I think about it.

As a grandmother of a 2 year old, I can't stop thinking about this beautiful, little blue eyed boy named Lane, who was most likely talking, enjoying his family, laughing and making funny sounds or faces, embracing life. This age is so much fun, as I cherish every moment I spend with my little grandson Shepard, who is the same age.

I think about this little boys' own "Mimi", who, of course, adored him and most likely had a special relationship with him, as I do my own grandson.  I think about his big sister who loved having a baby brother and I imagine this little boy's excited face each day when his big sissy came home from school.  I can picture him running to his Daddy when he'd return home from work or wanting his Mommy to rock him to sleep. These are the moments I've witnessed in our own family since Shepard has come into our lives, so I can't help believe this family experienced the same.

This is an unbelievably, shocking, horrendous, tragic accident, yet I've seen so many cast blame on these parents saying things like, "Where were his parents?" or "I would never have let that happen to my child!"

If you're one of those so hungry for the blame game, have at it.  You have lots to choose from because there are plenty of neglectful parents in the world.  Try blaming the parents who drive drunk or high with their children in the car, who pay the ultimate price for their parent's selfish mistake.  Go ahead and blame the parents who physically, emotionally or sexually assault their children.  These parents deserve a special place in hell.  Or how about the parents who leave their children home alone to party all night and a fire breaks out and kills them all.  I could go on and on.  Unfortunately, there are plenty of stories I could list here.  But, blaming these parents for what happened to their son is outrageous and deplorable to me.  This was a horrible, unfortunate accident, yet some of you get off demonize them?  You self-righteous, pathetic trolls! In my opinion, you are deviant, vile and despicable and I'm so sick of you and fed up with your holier than thou, perfect parent, pompous, know-it-all, attitude!

This could have been any of us.  This beach is very inviting to its guests, with lounge chairs for relaxing by the water, giving off a false sense of security.  Nowhere were signs indicating the dangers that lurked beneath the water, only a few feet away.

This little boy could have been your son or grandson.  Yet, some of you continue to villianize his parents?   Have you no compassion in your heart?!  It's no wonder the country we reside is continues to prove it's filled heartless people.  Your wicked comments say much more about who you are as a person than these parents, whom you choose to criticize.

Incidents like this child's death or even the shootings that took place just a few days prior at The Pulse Nightclub in Orlando remind us what a cruel world we live in.   And, I'm not just talking about the sick, evil, demented shooter.  I'm talking as well of those who've cast judgement and hatred towards those killed making idiotic comments such as "they deserved it" or "this is God's wrath on gay people"!  The families of these loved ones will never be the same. They are in excruciating pain, yet some people have no problem adding to their misery by passing unfair judgement or offering their insensitive remarks.

I ask myself.  How will these parents ever get the image of an alligator snatching their baby boy out of their mind?  The pain I've experienced for this family has been overwhelming and I don't even know these people!  I can't imagine their own.  How do you go home from visiting the "happiest place on earth" without your baby?!  How do you walk into his bedroom, see his clothes or toys?! How?!  I can't even comprehend it.

Yet, some people have even demanded DSS investigate these parents and take their daughter away, claiming them unfit?  I've read way too many harsh comments towards these parents and they've enraged me. One from an ignorant woman encouraging Disney World to sue this child's parents for bringing bad press to their resort?! Who the hell are you people?!  This family is going to need support beyond anything we can imagine, not judgment or condemnation!

You so-called "quarterback parents" are brave behind your computers and so quick to judge.  I wonder how many of you are parents at all!  I'd like to pose a question to you.  If one day you had the opportunity to meet these parents or others like them who've lost children in tragic accidents, would you be so brash to their face to say the same things you quickly type away safely on your computer?   You coward!  I think not.  These parent's are NOT to blame for any of this.  I would put the blame where it belongs, on Disney World.

If I saw a "No Swimming" sign on a beach where families were gathered, movies were playing and pools surrounded us, I'd believe the sign was there because lifeguard's weren't around.  Unless I was properly informed, I would NEVER believe it was because alligator's could snatch my child off the shore! There were NO warning signs about the danger of alligator's being in the area. NONE.

But, some of you still want to blame these grieving parents?  If that's what is in your heart, I would say you need as much prayer for your cold heart, as this family does for their grief.  I'm asking you to search your heart, admit you're wrong and please pray for this family, without condemning them.

Recently, it was reported Disney knew about the risk and dangers of the alligators all along?  They knew they were in the water and had been warned something like this could happen, yet they did NOTHING!?

These parent's aren't to blame for what happened to their son.   The blame lies elsewhere.

Shame on you, Walt Disney World.

Shame on you, Poser of Perfect Parenting

Shame on all of you.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Big V-Day

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day! The day of romance, chocolates, flowers and love! For some of you singles, it's your worst nightmare and the most dreaded day of your life, causing you to break out in sweat, hyper-ventilate, or even cry, while in the fetal position, watching movies like "The Notebook" all day! (Big mistake, by the way).  I've had single friends ask me not to call on Valentine's Day because they just need to be alone. Seriously?!

If you're like me, you live by the adage that "it's better to be single, than wish you were!"  And if you're consumed with thoughts of "where is she/he?", then may I encourage you to look at the positives of your singleness in the waiting period?  Don't hear what I'm not saying.  I'm not downplaying how hard the single life can be.  I get it.  But, I'm asking you to stop wasting your life away in self-pity just because you don't have to share the bathroom with someone!

Here's my first piece of advice. Stop feeling sorry for yourself! Not only is it sad and pathetic, it's very unattractive. There are worse things than being single.  Why not embrace this time and make the most of it? Get to know yourself, figure out who you are, what you like, don't like or even what you are or aren't willing to compromise. That way, as you're meeting potential partners, you'll know if he/she is a good match for you and you'll recognize the "red flags", which saves you both time, disappointment and heartache.

Some of us are happier now! Maybe we were in marriages that were painful or miserable and now we can breathe.  Sure, there are those lonely times, but being part of a "couple" doesn't mean you'll never be lonely or that your life will be "complete".  You can't look for someone else to make you whole no matter what Tom Cruise says! Besides, another person will only "complete" you for a time.  Once the Oxytocin wears off, you'll need more substance for the long haul, hence why it's so critical to know yourself and the other person well, long before committing to a lifetime together.  You've got to have things in common with one another.  You don't have to be exactly alike.  Yes, opposites may attract at first, but eventually, they may repel!  If you're willing to marry someone you barely know, you have only yourself to blame if and when it doesn't work out.  Sure, some of those relationships have survived the long run, but they are quite rare.  Stop being in such a hurry or believing the lie "this could be the best I'm ever going to get so why not?"  There are plenty of reasons for "why not"!

A life partner should bring out the best in you, encourage, support and love you unconditionally. They should be someone you trust explicitly with your thoughts, feelings, even when they're away from you.  A person you share some of the same interests, morals and values.  These things are very important.  But, demanding that another human being "complete" you is way too much pressure and frankly, impossible to achieve.  That kind of security comes from within. You've got to love yourself before you can love someone else.  When you're filled with a sense of self-worth and your identity doesn't come from a person, you're much better off, more desirable and more fulfilled.  People will always let you down, even in the best relationships, but when you're sure of who you are, your world won't end when it happens.  And it will happen.  Others will disappoint you, just as you will disappoint others. This is why you've got to find that sense of contentment in other places besides a partner.

For me, it starts with my faith.  I find my strength from God's opinion of me, not other people.  There are those people who have high opinions of me and those who don't.  For that reason, I choose to believe who God says I am, that I can do what God says I can and that I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. You'll have so much more to offer someone when you truly have the security of knowing you're enough. Confidence is sexy!  If you're constantly telling yourself, "when I'm a couple, then I'll do this or that" or "when I meet him/her, I'll be fulfilled" "when I lose 10 lbs., then I'll be good", or the greatest lie of all, "if I just had a husband/wife, then I'd be happy", you're only torturing yourself!  The good news is that you don't have to wait to be part of a couple to enjoy your life!

Make the best out of your single life while you're in it.  Granted, my life doesn't resemble anything out of "Sex and the City" (nor would I want it to, although I do love Carrie Bradshaw's wardrobe!), but I've learned so much about myself and frankly, it's been quite liberating.  Stop waiting till you're part of a couple to enjoy all that life has to offer! Get out and live!  Go to that concert, movie, play or take that trip!  Treat yourself.  Your future partner will appreciate that you're secure in who you are. I've been in a relationship with an insecure man before, who was jealous of my success, my relationships, my personality and incredibly needy.  He looked to me to make him whole.  I couldn't do it and it was not fun.

Yes, I'm excited about being in love again, being in a healthy relationship and sharing my life with someone and I'm ready for when that comes.  I know he's out there, but I'm not constantly looking for him.  Besides, I want him to find me!  In the meantime, I refuse to wallow in self pity or believe I'm missing out simply because I'm single. 

I put together a list of some of the things I've discovered living this single life.  Get out a pen and paper and start your list today.  You'll be pleasantly surprised by what you find:).

This is just a partial list:

#1: I've learned that I like being with me. How about that? Most people can't stand to be alone with themselves longer than 30 minutes. I, on the other hand, enjoy my "me" time. My friends ask me to go out with them lots of times and even have set me up on dates, but honestly, sometimes I just want to be home with a good book, a cup of french vanilla coffee or watching a movie in bed with a bowl of buttery popcorn by my side.

#2: I've learned how to change an AC Filter! (Did you know these need changing periodically?)

#3: I've learned how to use a plunger!

#4: I can actually change a ceiling light fixture!

#5: I get to choose whether I want to cook or go out to eat!

#6: I can clean out a garage all by myself!

#7: I can start a push lawnmower and use it!

#8: I can carry a live Christmas tree out to the curb for trash pick up!

#9: I can use a ladder!

#10: I can change the battery on a smoke detector!

#11: I can make investing decisions (with the help of my financial planner)!

#12: I can use a grill!

And, lastly! Until my Valentine shows up to shower me with love, respect and his undying affections, if I want a box of candy, flowers, balloons or a Valentine's Card, I can go out and BUY them myself!!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Embrace Change You Can't Change

In a few short hours, 2016 will be upon us.  How can this be?  Is it just me or are the years flying by? I can't grasp how quickly this life I'm living is passing me.  Like every year before, there were fortunate and unfortunate events which occurred in 2015.

My beloved Uncle Leon was killed in a freak car accident days before one of the biggest work events I host each year.  My heart is still mending and my Aunt Neda will never be the same, nor will the rest of us.

Two more of my four daughters were married.  Unfortunately, during the wedding of my 3rd daughter, Kendra, I had to be rushed to the hospital and missed the whole ceremony (you can read more about this in a previous blog "September Sadness").  It was devastating. This one still stings.  It will for a very long time.

Teryn, my oldest daughter, started a new company "Stay Local Nashville" and they're breaking their own records.  Her real estate career is exploding.  She and her husband, Chad, who owns Pro Music Academy and is a musician with the Ben Folds Band, are better than ever and I'm so proud to watch them as they honor each other and their marriage, while parenting my grandchildren, Salem and Shepard.

Tawni, my second daughter, and her new husband, Matt, became first time homeowners and hosted their first Thanksgiving for our whole family.  Tawni began working as an Emergency Room Nurse, which is the perfect career for someone with a heart as big as hers.  Her husband, Matt, is thriving in his career as an Engineer and I'm thankful they found one another.

Kendra, my third daughter, and her new husband, Brandon, are living in Maui.  She started her own Jewelry Company "Kenmie & Co" and her original pieces are stunning. Brandon is also thriving as an Engineer and I love how he loves my Sweet Pea.  We miss them being closer, but they'll be "home" soon.  I'm so happy to see them living their dream.

Kolby, my youngest daughter, moved into her own place a few months ago.  And, although, she's only 5 minutes away, its been an adjustment, as she was the last one to leave the nest.  She's continually writing and recording original, profound songs, which move and touch my heart beyond explanation.  Her music continues to flourish and her first single, "Grow" was just named the 8th Best Christian Song of 2015.

My family is well, as am I. Brenda, my younger sister, is my best friend and we get together as often as we can, without allowing the miles between us to interfere with our Skype visits and hour long phonecalls.  My work continues to challenge and inspire me and I'm waiting patiently for what direction The Lord takes my career in 2016.  Speaking engagements continue to take me around the country and I'm working on my 2nd book.  I finally purchased the car of my dreams, a 250 IS Convertible Lexus and unless it's raining or snowing, you'll see me riding around with my top down! I may be wearing gloves and a coat, but there's nothing like the wind blowing through your hair when you're driving to pick up bread!   This year, I've gained some new, incredible friendships.  My life is nowhere near perfect, but it's quite satisfying.

Sweet, well meaning friends tell me "Your girls' are on their own now, you've done your "job", it's your time".  I understand what they mean and I know their intentions are good, but my life hasn't been on hold because I've been raising daughters or chose to stay single since a horrible break-up four years ago.  My life has been enriched because of it. Deciding to take the time I've needed to heal a broken heart and take care of myself before getting involved with someone again has been one of the best decisions I ever made.  And my girls are truly four of the best things I've ever accomplished in my life.  I've much to be thankful for.

I sense many good changes coming in 2016.  Maybe it'll be a new relationship, career, more media opportunities, another radio show, a best selling book or another business venture?  (I'm still determined to get on The Walking Dead, even if I have to be a Zombie and bite people!).

I'm thankful to have a relationship with a God who adores me, in spite of my shortcomings, who encourages and believes in me.  It's humbling He still chooses to bless me, even when I don't deserve it.  He's a God who only wants the best for me.  When others have broken my heart, lied about or failed me, He never left my side.  Jesus never said this life would be easy, but He promised He'd walk right beside me every step of the way.  And He has time and time again.

Although, I'm not sure exactly what's coming, I do know this.  Whatever the cards hold for me in relationships, career, etc. in 2016, it's not "time for me" because my girls are grown.  It's "time for me" because I'm more than ready for whatever God has.  When you find yourself in a place of contentment, you're able to offer more to others than ever before.

And in the waiting for what comes next, I can promise you, I won't be sitting around waiting.  I'll continue to live my life to the best of my ability, help others when I'm able, choose what's right, continually work on myself and enjoy every minute of this incredible life and the wonderful people God has given me.

I would encourage you, my friends, to do the same.  Embrace your life, don't waste it.  Dream again. Take risks.  Life is valuable and so very short.  Don't sit around expecting something to happen, go out and make it happen.  With God's help, ALL things are possible!

Happy New Year Everybody!

Friday, November 6, 2015

September Sadness

September 2015 will go down as one of the hardest months of my entire life.  I'm 51 years old, so that's a lot of life.

My work in non-profit requires exceptional amounts of fundraising.  One of our biggest and most financially dependent events of the year is our annual banquet.  This year it was scheduled for September 15.  We had a sold out crowd, a great speaker lined up and a wonderful evening of entertainment.  This is the time when I can shake hands and personally thank our donors, share our vision for the future and report the great work we've done throughout the year.  I always look forward to this event, but this year, for the first time, I missed it.

One of my favorite side jobs is decorating, designing and staging properties for my daughter's property management company.  As I was driving to meet with one of my newest client's the Thursday before our banquet, I received a phone call from my Uncle Alan.  It was September 10, 2015.  The tone of Alan's voice worried me.  I was right to be worried.  He was calling to give me some very bad news.  My Uncle Leon and Aunt Neda, who were like parents to me growing up, had been in a car accident on their way to a Classic Car Show in Gatlinburg.  The semi in front of them had blown a tire and in the hopes of avoiding the debris, my Uncle Leon swerved to miss it.  He lost control of the car and they hit the guardrail and rolled several times.  My Uncle Leon, the man I'd respected and loved my whole life was gone.  My Aunt was and is still devastated.

Needless to say, my banquet became less significant, yet I was still torn because I knew so many were depending on me.  But, I had to get to N.C. for his funeral, which was held the same day as our banquet on September 15.   Thanks to the incredible staff I lead and I'm privileged to work with and a supporting board, they took care of everything and the banquet was a huge success.  They really don't need me that much after all.

Our family was heartbroken over the loss of Uncle Leon.  This was supposed to be a happy time! Kendra, my daughter, and Brandon's Wedding was coming up in just two more weeks!  Uncle Leon and Aunt Neda had already RSVP'd and now it was not to be.  There would now be two empty seats. The morning following his funeral, I had to fly to NY to speak at another fundraising event and then returned back to Nashville to prepare for Kendra's wedding, which was taking place in N.C. on Friday, September 25.

I did my very best to check on my Aunt Neda daily and in keeping my feelings under control.  I didn't want to take away from Kendra and Brandon's wedding festivities.  This should be the happiest time of their lives and I was determined to do my very best to keep it that way.

The week of wedding and family fun went well.   We were all together.  We loved sharing memories of Uncle Leon, even though we were still in shock.  During the week, I made the hour drive back to see my Aunt in the midst of  "wedding week" because she was struggling badly.  Kendra was so gracious to understand this.

On Thursday night, Brandon's parents hosted a beautiful Rehearsal Dinner.  All the parent's were given the opportunity to speak.  I was able to talk about what Kendra means to me and how happy I am that she'd found a man as perfect for her as Brandon, who absolutely adores my daughter.

The next morning, the day of the Wedding, was now upon us.  It was raining.  We realized their dreams of an outdoor wedding were not to be.  This broke my heart for them.  Kendra and Brandon had wanted to be married outside in the woods, surrounded by nature and had already chosen the perfect spot.  She cried when she realized it wasn't going to happen.  I reminded her it didn't matter where the wedding took place, as long as she was Brandon's wife.  She agreed. We had no choice, so the decision was made to bring the wedding inside.  The venue was gorgeous regardless, although the venue hostess caused Kendra too much unnecessary grief over the simplest things.  Kendra cried more than she should have.  That woman's job was to make her feel secure, not an emotional mess because "that can't go there" and "I don't know if I'll allow you to do this" kind of crap.  I thought I was going to have to go "mommy crazy" on her!  Tawni and Teryn, instead, took care of it for me. They asked her to only speak to them and stay away from Kendra.  She was stressed out enough. There was some drama with robes not showing up, people arguing, etc.  Regular wedding day stuff.

We arrived at the venue around 9 am to begin the wedding preparations.  The make-up and hair people would be arriving at noon.  I would be the first in the "chair".  Hair took around 30 minutes. Now, it was time for make-up.  I proceeded to sit in the make-up chair and was so excited! Everything was coming together.  It was my daughter's wedding day!  Kendra would be marrying the man of her dreams.  She'd had had such a rough week with the venue hostess that I just wanted this day to be perfect for her.  Everyone did.

The make-up artist and I shared a conversation about the wedding and how much I loved Brandon and was so excited about him joining our family.  After a few minutes, while she was putting mascara on me, out of nowhere, I felt a sudden sharp pain in my side.  I thought I'd pulled a muscle while decorating tables for the reception.  I told her I needed to take a break for a minute and catch my breath.  I decided to walk down the hallway and find Teryn and Tawni, who were outside.  Each step I took, the pain increased.  What the hell was happening to me?!  This was just the beginning of the worst thing I've ever been through.

By the time I reached Teryn and Tawni, I could barely walk.  I begged them not to say a word to Kendra, who was in another room getting ready.  I was convinced I could lay down for a little while, take some Tylenol and I'd be fine.

Tawni, who's a nurse, and Teryn, brought me into the bathroom.  Almost immediately, I began vomiting from the pain.  It was not letting up.  By now, it was around 2:00.  The wedding was at 6:00.  Tawni called a friend of ours, who is also a doctor, who called in some pain medicine that she thought could get me through the wedding.  We still believed I'd pulled a muscle.

Tawni drove to the pharmacy to pick up the pain killer.  When she returned, I immediately downed the pill.  She informed me it should start working within 30 minutes.  Thirty minutes came and went, then an hour went by. Nothing.  There was no relief, as the pain grew more intense.  It was unbearable, yet I was going to do everything in my power to push through it.  Around the same time, I began convulsing and passing out on the bathroom floor of the bridal suite.  I was sobbing uncontrollably and begging the girls' not to let me miss my daughter's wedding, but the vomiting continued and the pain worsened.  I truly thought I was dying. I'd never experienced such pain, even during childbirth.  I continued like this for hours, praying it would subside.  I longed to watch my daughter walk down the aisle, to experience the moment when I saw her for the first time and then put her veil on.  I wanted those memories that every mother wants at her daughter's wedding.

But, nothing we did was helping my situation.  Tawni gave me the news that I'd dreaded, but knew was coming by this point.  She said we had to take me to the hospital.  I begged her not to.  I pleaded and sobbed at the thought of missing Kendra's wedding.  Tawni promised she'd do everything she could to get me back in time, but her profession told her something serious was going on.  She knew nothing could keep me from being with my daughter on the most important day of her life and she'd never seen me or anyone in that much pain.  I knew she was right.  I had to go.

I was unable to walk on my own to the car, so was carried by my daughters and a couple bridesmaids. During the ride to the hospital, Tawni informed me later, I kept passing out, as she continued to slap me, trying to keep me conscious.  I truly believe both of us thought I was dying.  At that moment, I wanted to, but I begged God not to take me on my daughter's wedding day.  Tomorrow, the next day, but not today.  "Please God, if this is my time, don't let it be today!"  I couldn't bear the thought of dying on the most special day of her life.

When we arrived at the hospital, by now, it was around 4:45.  I still had time.  The venue was 30 minutes away.  Maybe they could just drug me enough so I could make it back in time.  The wedding was at 6:00.  Still determined to make it, I begged and pleaded with the doctor to give me something so I could go back.  By now, Kendra knew it was bad.  Tawni promised to call from the hospital with updates.  They would postpone the wedding until they heard from her.

The news came.  The doctor told me there was no way I was going to make her wedding.  So, my sister, Brenda, met us at the hospital and promised to stay with me so Tawni could return to the wedding.  Tawni had to be there.  She was a bridesmaid.  More importantly, she's the bride's sister. She was very emotional and didn't want to leave me, but I insisted.  I told her she had to be there. There was no way I would allow her to stay with me.  We couldn't do that to Kendra.  It was bad enough, her own mother was missing her wedding day.  

After blood tests and a CT Scan, the doctor's suspicions were confirmed.  My body was passing four kidney stones, one of them was "stuck".  I've never had them in my life and pray to God I never have them again.  Out of nowhere, my body was attacked.  It failed me and I felt I'd failed my daughter.

The wedding ended up being postponed for 45 minutes when it was evident I wasn't going to make it. It's very difficult for me to see the pictures and their wedding video because it's a reminder I wasn't there.  I'm not in any pictures, not one.  I'm so thankful it turned out as beautiful as I knew it would.  My daughter was a beautiful bride. Thanks to my brother-in-law, my sister and I were able to see Kendra walk down the aisle on FaceTime from my hospital bed before the phone died.  After they released me from the hospital, Kendra and Brandon, my daughter's and Brandon's parent's came to the hotel and performed their ceremony again in the lobby of the hotel just for me.  In between the vomiting in a trash can, I sobbed.  I cried for a week straight and couldn't comprehend what had happened.

So many have asked why I'm not in wedding pictures or their wedding video. Well, now you know.  I know it wasn't my fault what happened.  I couldn't stop it.  Trust me, I tried.  There is literally nothing but death, and apparently kidney stones, that could keep me from anything as important as one of my daughter's weddings, but it still hurts.  More than I can explain.  I cry when I see pictures. I cry as I watch their wedding video.  Sometimes, I sob.  I know time will heal, but right now, it's still too fresh.

I don't know why things happen.  There are others who've gone through much worse than I ever have or even did this month.  Yes, I questioned God so many times this month, especially that day.  Why?Why today? Why did this have to happen to me on that specific day?

I'm so proud to say my four daughters rose to the occasion.  The wedding went off without a hitch (well, you know what I mean) and by the end of the evening, Kendra became Mrs. Brandon Murr. The joy on their faces is evident of the pure happiness, respect and love they have for one another.  I could not be more proud they each call me Mommy.

Most of my life, I've been a single mother, even when I was married.  So, I won't apologize when I tell you these young women are the four best things I've ever done.  God helped me raise these incredible human beings and He entrusted me with each one of them, when so many others had let them down.  I haven't done everything right in my life, but they don't fit into that category.  I've prided myself to be there for my girls' in every area of their lives in a way no one was for me growing up, so on this day when there was something happening beyond my control keeping me from such a significant moment in one of my daughter's lives, it was hard to take.  It hurts so much.

There may come a day when I'll understand why my Uncle Leon was taken in the prime of his life in a freak accident.  Or, why I was laying in a hospital bed, rather than on the front row of my daughter's wedding.  Then again, I may never know.  But, I do know this.  God is still good.  I am still who He says I am and my daughter will live happily ever after.

My body has healed from the experience of that day, but it will take much longer for my heart.