Thursday, February 11, 2016

#40Notes40Days


It's Lent and the exercise is pretty self-explanatory.

I wrote myself the first note on Ash Wednesday (yesterday) after finding this challenge, created by "The Fat Pastor" a couple years ago. My church had posted it to their Facebook page and I was inspired to get creative myself, updating the graphic (above), and starting my note-writing campaign.

Yesterday, I took time to identify the other 38 people I would write. Well, to be honest, I ID'd 36 with a couple of lingering question marks, most notably today's recipient. It'll come to me, I'm sure.

I was inspired to write this blog post after reading this about Day One of #40Notes40Days. And I'm also glad to see it gaining traction again this year on Twitter:



I know I was late to the game on this one, but even if I inspire a couple of people to write some thoughtful, encouraging notes on HALF the days, I'll be happy with my effort. So cheers to the Fat Pastor and to Lent!

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Thursday, December 03, 2015

Keeping it real

Well, it's been a couple of days since my Mom passed. A lot of activity--phone calls, e-mails, FB posts galore, getting ready for the memorial service--so I haven't left myself a lot of time to write, to feel, to deal with things. I just sorta placed my emotions on the backburner and kept busy. One of my duties was to get Mom's obituary to the local paper and her hometown paper. Another was to layout the program for her "Celebration of Life," but I really haven't been in a celebratory mood. I've been grumpy and I've even lashed out at two of my sisters. Regrettable, but given the situation, understandable.

The outpouring of love and support has been tremendous this week...from old high school classmates of Mom and Dad--from my own high school, even--to Tres Dias people I've never met, it's really been overwhelming. There have been tributes from people far and wide that I can't really fathom the scope of it. I had NO idea how many lives Mom had touched so deeply. But she had that uncanny way of making everyone feel like a close friend or relative. Just ask the ex's. She took everyone of them under her wing and made them feel like her very own children. I know my ex-wife still does. And Dad has welcomed her into his home with outstretched arms. He reiterated to me yesterday, "Tracy and Barb are just like blood to me. They'll never get too far away that I won't love them just like they are my kids. They ARE my kids."

That's how my parents are...they just love people. Mom's love, which she wore on her sleeve, drew people in. Take her Hospice nurse who she only met in September, MaryStar is now like family to all of us. She and Mom had a special bond instantly, the day they met! Only my Mom can do that. She just has that maternal instinct and that open-heartedness that she can draw you in, make you feel so comfortable just bearing your soul to her and give you a warm hug and a smile that say, "it's okay...you are loved and accepted."

So it's no wonder that every person who knew her at church, knew her from Tres Dias or just had made acquaintance with the family at some point, have such wonderful memories and feelings towards her. That part, and we've only touched the tip of the iceberg, has really blown me away.

I posted the video of her testimony from church. Even that short video of how she's stared down cancer and death with grace and gratitude has touched people who never even met the woman. Guess I never fully realized the power of Mom. She was a life force.

That's what we'll be celebrating on Saturday. I fully expect a standing room only crowd at Cicero Christian. I just don't know what I'm going to say...or how difficult it will be to say it. I've already offered to share my sister, Keely's, tribute/testimony. That's just what big brothers do. But I could be a bumbling, sniffly mess on Saturday. I don't know. It hasn't fully hit me yet. A part of me is still in disbelief. Call it denial if you will. But I haven't even been able to write about it for days...and that is so unlike me...no journal entries, no blog posts, only a few Facebook memories and photos. Being busy has been good, but now with a couple of down days and family arriving, I don't know what to expect. I'm a very emotional being, so I'm sure it's going to be rough.

Thanks for allowing me to ramble here. Leave a comment or a post on my FB timeline. Peace.

Always...#mamadoylestrong

Monday, November 30, 2015

Mom

Now that I've had 24 hours to process Mom's death, I'm ready to talk about it.

I guess I'm just more of a spiritual person that I see other's as spiritual beings not bound by the earthen body they inhabit. I always loved my Mom's spirit. I didn't really want to come up for Thanksgiving and see her bound by the cancer-ridden, age-worn body she has had for weeks. She looked as bad as I had feared. Every time I walked by her sitting in the high back chair in her living room, I felt like I needed to go over and take her pulse. But nothing was worse than seeing her as a corpse yesterday morning.

I got up around 4:30 and showered. Got my girls moving and had them wake up Dad before our departure. We said our goodbyes and around 5 a.m., I went in to kiss Mom on the forehead. It didn't feel right under my lips. No warmth. Concerned, I told Dad to check on her and hugged his neck one more time. The girls and I left. I figured if something was wrong, he'd call me back into the house immediately. Nothing. Fifteen minutes later, I'm pulling into a Speedway station in Noblesville to fillup before hitting I-69. I look down and see the text from Dad.


I raced back to Dad's, upset with myself that I didn't stay while he checked on Mom. She was dead. Her spirit had left her body sometime between 2 and 5 a.m., probably closer to 5 as Dad felt warmth on the back of her leg.

The image of her lying in her bed, eyes partially opened, mouth gaping open, exposing her bottom teeth is now burned into my memory. I'll never not see that...my mother's corpse laying there as if in a morgue. I hated it. I had to go in there with various family members, but I tried not to look at her. That wasn't Mom. She was no longer there.

I understand that people have to grieve and say goodbye in their own way, so there is no judgment at all. Just that, for me, I had already said goodbye. I didn't need to lay next to her corpse and touch her or talk to her as if that were still my Mom. It wasn't. She may have been in the room with us, hovering over us or wherever spirits go in the immediate departure of their body, but she was no longer in that earthen vessel. And thank God for that!

Her soul-less body laid there for hours until we had it removed by the mortuary service we are using. That body will be ash in less than 48 hours, now. That's what Mom wanted.

I want to remember Mom for the vivacious person that she was on the inside--passionate, emotional, feisty, loving, funny, artistic, creative, genuine...


My Mom had a great sense of humor. She didn't always say funny things, but she appreciated comedy. We'd laugh at the stupidest things, finding humor in other people's shortcomings, in sheer goofiness and shocking comments. Mom was very sarcastic and appreciated my smart-aleck side even when it annoyed her. I could always get her to laugh, usually at the most inappropriate things or comments. I do inappropriate well...but that's because Mom let me know it was okay to sometimes step over the line and go for shock value. We'd laugh at Pee Wee Herman or at Michael Richards on the sketch comedy show Fridays or the insane, improv on SCTV. She taught me how to laugh, not only at comedians but at myself. I learned not to take myself too seriously from her. One of the things I will miss the most about her is her laugh. I'll miss how I could steal her breath through laughter and cause her to double over, covering her mouth, eyes closed with tears streaming down her cheeks. It didn't happen often, but when it did...I knew I had struck comedy gold!

My Mom loved good music and instilled in me a great sense of rhythm and soul. She preferred the Motown of her childhood and the harmonies of groups like Mamas and Papas, Beach Boys or the Carpenters. It's the thing that set her apart from Dad, who tended towards classical, rock-n-roll and (gawd help us all) bluegrass. Yes, it was Dad that first introduced me to banjo, but I digress. Both had a love of music, but Mom's music had more rhythm and soul. I remember listening to her Johnny Mathis records while she cleaned house and I created more messes for her to clean. I remember when she first introduced gospel music into our home. Mom's love for harmonies and a good beat you can dance to were a big influence on me growing up.

It was that spirit that loved to laugh, loved to create and share good music that made her who she was to me, not the body with all it's limitations. She was a fun Mom. She was a loving Mom. She was equal parts compassion and "what did I tell you?" no-nonsense. She was always my go-to. I regret the two years we rarely talked just after my separation and subsequent divorce, but I'm so thankful we were able to put that behind us last summer. I'm equally thankful that I got to come up and visit with her three times this year--July, September and November. And as hard as it was to see her failing body, I am glad I was here when she passed.

Now, we have a service to plan, people with whom to grieve and things to sort out. It's not a fun task, but a necessary one. The first steps of moving on are never easy, especially when those steps don't include your Mom. She is already sorely missed. But her spirit lives on. And we have tons and tons of great memories.

#mamadoylestrong

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Pancake Batter

It's probably not good to mix your pancake batter with tears, but that's nearly where I was this morning. And it's got me feeling totally nostalgic. I don't know. Maybe it was the Beatles listening party I attended last night, or listening to Magical Mystery Tour on the laptop this morning, but I nearly spilt happy tears, nostalgic tears into my Hungry Jack Extra Light and Fluffy earlier.

The girls were both taking showers to get ready for school. I had already browned a pan of Lil' Smokies and was allowing the freshly mixed batter to sit and rise (it makes for super fluffy pancakes). As I stood there at the stove in my ex-wife's house, pouring the fluffy mixture into a pre-heated skillet, my mind raced back to the spacious kitchen at 12983 Quarterback Lane where I used to prepare this same breakfast staple on a ceramic top, stainless steel range. My girls were much younger then--Makenna in first grade and MK repeating 3rd (she swears it was second, but I think I remember). Those were the mornings I'd be up early, starting the coffee for my wife and I, packing lunches with love note napkins and mixing that pancake batter. As this morning's first pancake was sizzling on the hot skillet, I reached for a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips and my eyes were full of happy tears over the years of memories making this same morning treat for my sweets.

As I sprinkled in more than a dozen chocolate chips, I welled up with gratitude for the years I've enjoyed being the girls "special daddy." Sorta like the tears I'm fighting back now. Nothing in all my life has made me as happy/fulfilled as being a dad to two precious girls. I used to walk them three blocks to school on crisp autumn mornings in Indiana. Walking back, sometimes with our family dog(s), I was always wearing a smile...happy in the thought I'd just made the best investment of a lifetime. Now, my girls are much older and I hope they've learned to appreciate the investment. Makenna has always told me that the secret ingredient in all of my cooking is LOVE. And she would be right. The pancakes I made this morning--and every time I've made them on countless school mornings, birthdays and weekends--were made that way. When I told her that as she joined me stove-side this morning, Makenna fought back tears, too. I think she saw the misty emotion in my eyes.

That nostalgic feeling carried over to my trip home from the insurance agency, where I had to make another installment on my auto insurance. Driving up St. Augustine to Madison, I decided to pull in front of the Claude Pepper Building into the loading zone where I used to pick up the girls' mother from work after leaving my office on campus. I worked in that building for a short while, too, so I was well acquainted with the Eatz Cafe' in the lobby level atrium. I wasn't used to the new "check in" procedures, but I signed in and went through new security doors to reach the empty atrium dining area. I purchased some scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes and sausage gravy for around $4 and sat there eating alone...just me and my memories. The ladies in Tracy's office threw us a baby shower for Merikathryn in that atrium, just a few feet from where I was eating breakfast. That was in 2001 when MK was still Merikathryn and such a cute little baby. No, I didn't cry inside the Pepper Building, but I certainly felt this blog post coming on.

I called Tracy after I had left to tell her of my fond memories. She was tied up in an out-of-town training workshop, so I just told her to read this post when she had time.

Our girls have given us many years of happy memories. MK's adoption 14 years ago still seems like a recent one. Then again, it seems a million lightyears away. As I looked at her this morning, double backpacks, embarking on another day in 8th grade, I was amazed at what a beautiful young lady she has become, seemingly overnight. Well, that does it for this entry. Hope you've enjoyed walking with me down memory lane. :)

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Thursday, October 08, 2015

Low-hanging fruit, anyone?


NO MAS!

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Priorities

When I had a brief talk with a friend, yesterday, he told me he was getting his priorities in order--God, family, music--and that they'd gotten out of whack some time ago. And while I may not share the same priorities in my life, I realized mine needed some reorganizing, too.

I joined a band back in April and was having a fair amount of fun playing live music again. But the music community here in Tallahassee is much different than the band of brothers I enjoyed in the Fort Myers area. And the venues here are not quite the same, either. It's hard to compare The Cottage, an old beach house on stilts overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, to the Moose Lodge. The pay was much different, as well. I kept telling myself, "You're doing the thing you love."

But before I joined the band, I started helping a very good friend of mine run his restaurant. Restaurants are busiest on the weekends. It was never a good fit for me to play in a band...on weekends, but I took Fridays off to do the thing I enjoy most, even if it meant a loss of income. For me, right now, that has to be priority number 2, behind my daughters. My income needs to get me to a place of financial freedom where I can afford a place of my own large enough to accommodate them--my daughters, the loves of my life.

In order to get to that place, I needed to make the band less of a priority and focus on making more money at work. And to be honest, I love being at the restaurant, too. My best friends all work there and it is a social outlet for me, much like the band was. I can make more money there on Fridays than I can in the band, so that was an easy decision to make. Well, sort of...it was easy financially speaking but difficult because I'm giving up the thing I love. I'll miss my friends in the band, too.

But it all comes back to priorities. If my girls are number one, then making number two my job will surely help me to reach some important goals this year.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

10 Years a Blogger

Wow, how time flies.

I began this blog as an outlet...for my spirituality, creativity, love of music and football...back in a time in my life when I was very confused. Fighting to let the real me out of the box, I'd turn to my blog and write. That was 2005.

The very next year was what I call my "mid-life crisis" when that crazy, adventuresome boy finally escaped his shell. Things went a little haywire that year, for sure, but I wouldn't trade that rollercoaster ride for anything. No, that year brought a lot of things to light...and I let my passion get the better of me. But it was good to free all that raw energy, to stir that deep well inside of me and to be as expressive as I wanted to be.

It certainly took it's toll on my marriage. We tried running away to Indiana, where much of the time, I kept myself hemmed in, but that boy was already loosed on the world. Just like Pan and his shadow, there was really no way to keep us separate--the man I wanted the world to see and the boy inside. So after four years of trying to live in that duality, keeping myself in check, we moved to paradise.

On Fort Myers Beach, the boy ran wild up and down the 7-mile island, along some of the softest sand you've ever felt, making new friends, experiencing things he'd wanted since childhood and living fairly carefree. Except there was still a marriage to tend to. I didn't do so well at tending. My marriage finally dissolved, as I realized it wasn't what my heart wanted. My heart wanted to be free to love who it would.

I was playing in a band with a beautiful brunette who swept me off my feet. She became available about 6 months after my separation and we began dating. I hadn't intended to get hitched again, but my heart kind of ran away with me. Again, I was trying to be as carefree as that boy inside wanted to be. Unfortunately, the damaged little girl in her couldn't receive love from a carefree soul like me and both of us fell into some bad patterns. I think we were both a little crushed inside because, at first, it seemed like a perfect fit. It ended badly.

Still, like the rollercoaster I was on in 2006, I wouldn't trade that time with her for all the time in the world. I was still learning to express my feelings, to truly be in touch with myself, to allow myself to love freely and be loved and to experience new things, like getting half naked at a nudist bar in the Keys (a story for another time).

While I was on "my beach," I played in a rock-n-roll cover band...something I'd always dreamed of doing. I realized very quickly that I was meant to be a beach kid...a bum, if you will. I lived on very meager means, borrowing an RV from some dear friends, who I still miss terribly. But even through poverty, divorce and a rebound relationship, I wouldn't trade that time on the island for all the love and riches in the world.

All of these experiences made me the sensitive soul I am today. So here I am, ten years after I started blogging, back in Tallahassee to be nearer my kids. I'm still learning, experiencing growth and living one day at a time. It's been quite the adventure. Feel free to take some time and look around. I haven't blogged all that regularly in many years, but from time to time, when something strikes me or I just need to get it out, you'll find me here.

Life is good.