A Valentine For My Love

This is my contribution to this week's edition of Memories on Mondays...

When my husband was fifteen he tattooed a "J", his initial, on his forearm. It was a home-done effort and not something he was terribly proud of in later years as a grown man. When I met him he'd been carrying around an illustration of this eagle - his dream cover up tattoo - in his billfold for a long time. He's very patriotic so the design suited him perfectly.

I decided that having it done would make the perfect Valentine gift. We checked out several of the tat shops in town, looked at some of their work, and decided on the place we felt did the most professional work, and ran the cleanest shop.

Watching the tattoo in progress that Saturday afternoon in February remains a fun memory for us both, since this was my husband's first real tattoo experience, while I have several tats of my own and knew what to expect. We laughed and visited while the artist worked, and we were both so very pleased with the end result and the way he translated the small illustration into a vivid forearm-sized work of art. As you can see, the eagle appears to be tearing its way out of his forearm.

The crude J tattoo is visible no more, and the eagle has become my husband's badge of honor. Three years later the image remains sharp and the colors have stayed amazingly bright. Literally dozens of people from the guys at his lodge, to customers that come into his store, to teen girls working the counter at fast-food places, have noticed it and commented on how great it looks. There is nothing more fun than having someone admire your tat!

I love it, and he loves it even more! I tell him that now that I have had him permanently branded in ink, he is mine for keeps. He doesn't have a problem with that. :-)

Why don't you share one of your own memories with us? Post it to your blog, then stop over at Memories on Mondays and add a link so we can all enjoy it! It doesn't have to be done on Monday, anytime during the week is fine.

Time Up

As much as I wanted to write this weekend, it just didn't happen, and now I'm out of time. Time is always my enemy when it comes to writing. In a fantasy life I could write for hours and hours each day and never run out of things to say... scary thought I know! But in real life there are other things to be done, and a beloved spouse who enjoys spending time with me too. So I have to budget my time and make bargains with my writer's soul, and try to fit it all in whenever possible.

Housework won out this afternoon, no more putting it off. I've only just started on what needs to be done, but it is a start and that feels good! And so my friends, I head for bed a little heavy hearted, my brain stuffed with words wanting to exit via keyboard, knowing morning comes all too early. But tomorrow is another day, and I shall return to write again! :-) Goodnight all.


Here's my entry for Six Word Saturday...

Dark hulking mass, waiting for me...

(I am at work, but a mountain of laundry awaits me at home. :-)

Describe your life in exactly six words at Six Word Saturday... it's fun!

Brighten My Day

My Thursday Thirteen list today was inspired by the realization of how it is the little things, the little acts of pleasantry and kindness, that add so much to our lives. Here are thirteen of the many things that never fail to brighten my day (in no particular order)...
  1. Little love note texts from my husband via his cellphone at unexpected moments thru the day.
  2. A bit of friendly conversation with the servers at fastfood restaurant windows, acknowledging that we see each other on a regular basis.
  3. Post-It-Notes with endearments left for me to find after my daughter comes to visit.
  4. The wonderful sound of my son's voice saying "Hi Mom" when he calls on the phone.
  5. One pretty flower in a vase appearing magically on my desk.
  6. Getting my nails painted and embellished with artistic designs.
  7. My furkids watching for me in the window when I arrive home and running to greet me at the door.
  8. Thoughtful, supportive comments in response to my blog posts.
  9. A gift of chocolate... any kind... any time... any place.
  10. A song playing on the radio that triggers good memories of times gone by.
  11. Having something new and brightly colored to wear.
  12. A well-mannered young person who stops to hold a door for me.
  13. A beautiful painted-sky sunset on the drive home from work.
Stop over at Thursday Thirteen and check out some of the other lists bloggers made today!

Dear Sir

My letter for this week's Write A Letter Wednesday goes to someone who is in a position of authority...

Dear Sir,

I've been thinking about that letter you sent out telling your staff all about how much each employee actually earns over and above their take home pay if you count what all the benefits cost the company, etc. I know that's true, there's a lot of expense involved in maintaining enough staff to keep your business going strong. Watching costs is important too, just as you say. Those dimes and dollars do add up, and it takes a lot of sales to cover them before profit can be realized.

The thing I think your staff would like to see though, is a letter telling them what a valuable asset THEY are to the company, and how each and every one of them is essential to making sure things run smoothly in the work areas, sales departments and offices. You've got a really good group of people assembled there, caring folks who work hard at their jobs. They also know how to treat your customers right so they will keep coming back and word of mouth will bring in new folks. It's important that your staff feel valued and appreciated, not just by the occasional meal or note card, but on a regular basis with a lot of one-on-one feedback and encouragement!

We were raised in a generation that still believed in company loyalty and respecting bosses. Back then, you did what the boss said or you were out the door! I still believe in respecting those in authority, but I think it needs to work both ways. Your employees also to want to be treated with trust and respect, and they want to be acknowledged for their dedication and work.

I've heard that lately the feeling has gone 'round that you've been on some kind of mission to seek out "evildoers" amongst the staff, those who might be trying to cheat you or steal from you, or pull something off that isn't right. I'm all for no-nonsense in the workplace, I'm a believer in rules and enforcing them. There are definitely times where the boss needs to step up and "clean house" and make sure everyone is playing on the team. But I think it becomes a problem if you lose your basic trust in your employees in general, if you start to feel like no one measures up to your expectations and work ethic. Staff notice an undertone of suspicion an dissatisfaction, and they begin to feel restless and unhappy too.

There may be one or two bad apples in the bunch, I suppose there usually is; but the great majority of your folks are good people who are proud of where they work. They do their best for you and for their own sense of self-respect. If people feel that they are chronically unappreciated or under suspicion and surveillance, they began to react, just like someone being followed too closely by a police patrol car begins to get jittery and drive erratically in response.

Stability is an important factor in leading a group of people. Everybody has their good days and not so great days and bosses are allowed those too, but your employees want to see and believe that you are functioning on an even keel, and aren't likely to go off at unexpected moments. They tell me that you used to be more easy going, telling a few jokes now and then, and spending some time visiting and letting them know it was ok to enjoy working together, to have fun while the work is getting done. It sure makes it nicer to come to work if you don't have to worry about someone glowering in the halls or frowning disapprovingly over your shoulder!

I've heard from some of the folks that they are wondering if something is wrong in your world. Do you feel well? Is everything alright at home? It's not that anybody is being nosy, it's just that you seem mighty serious and somewhat distracted... maybe even unhappy. I doubt if it's about the company's stability. Business is booming! Compared to where it was a year ago, everyone has much to be thankful for.

We all go thru things in our personal lives that are just that - personal, but it's really important that we try to keep it from interfering with our work relationships and activities. Everyone in the company is on the same ship, and the best way to prevent the boat from rocking or the sailors from staging a mutiny is to show strong, effective, positive leadership. I can't emphasize the positive aspect enough! Workers respond best to encouragement and support.

While it's an important part of your job to point out where changes and improvements are necessary, it's equally important to tell your employees what you see going right and what you see them doing that you think benefits the company. I don't mean big splashy efforts, just simple one-on-one "attaboys" round the house now and then. It would make all the difference and I promise you'll see it result in happier, more cooperative, and more productive staff.

Your employees ARE grateful that they have jobs, just as you say they should be, and they know they work for a good company, just remember to let them know now and then that YOU are grateful you have them!

Be sure to stop by "Write A Letter Wednesday" and see what other folks have written. Get brave and write your own letter this week and add a link!

A Birthday to Remember

Since my yesterday's post was rather dark, I decided to lighten things up a bit today with a post for "Memories on Mondays" about one of my favorite birthday celebrations...

I've noted before that my high school days were no picnic. I wasn't part of the "in-crowd" and I pretty much marched to the tune of my own drummer, which wasn't highly thought of in the small Midwest town where I grew up.

One of the few classes I totally enjoyed was the Humanities class that I took in my senior year. It was composed of a small group of students... maybe ten, and two instructors. There, along with learning interesting things about art, architecture, music, and such, we were allowed to express our individuality through projects such as pottery and candle making, and changing up the decor of the classroom to include hand tie-died curtains (in purple of course), and each one of us designing our own pillow for floor seating in a circle. This being the early 1970's we thought we were a pretty cool bunch. Class size was limited and other students were pretty envious of our unique learning environment. I'm sure they envisioned us smoking strange substances behind the closed door... though we weren't.

By the very nature of the small class which included lots of discussion, we became a close knit group of individuals who actually had very little in common and likely would not have been friends otherwise. One of the instructors was just a few years older than we were, and some of us often gathered at the apartment where she and her husband lived in the evenings for more music and esoteric conversation.

Birthdays were always a big deal at my house growing up, my Mom made sure they were. That didn't mean large parties, huge expenditures, or a big pile of gifts. It did mean a special gift and a few smaller things, all wrapped up pretty, balloons and streamers hanging from the ceiling, supper of choice, and always a beautiful homemade cake. When we were small there were parties, as we got older it became slumber parties or doing something special with a friend or two.

I had very few close friends as I reached my eighteenth birthday, but I wanted to mark the occasion in some special way. I secured my Mom's approval to invite my Humanities Class over for a homemade spaghetti supper, served with Boone's Farm Apple Wine. (Anybody old enough to remember this stuff?) Afterwards we went to a movie at little theater in our town, and then somewhere after 10 PM, decided that we really needed to get the toboggan sled out of our garage and head out to the hill north of town for a little sledding in the moonlight on that cold February night. We had a blast!

Nearly everyone in the class attended the party, which surprised me greatly, and I can honestly say a good time was had by all. It remains one of the few truly happy memories of my high school days.

(Years later my parents shuddered when they realized that they had, without really considering it, served alcohol to a bunch of minors! :-)

How about sharing one of your memories with us at Memories on Mondays?

When She Decided

This week's prompt at Sunday Scribblings is "eternity". Here's my story...

It had finally happened that afternoon. She knew it was coming, she'd been expecting it for months now.

Thirteen years ago their marriage had started out happy. Both were free spirits and society misfits and they found solace and companionship in each other. But things had changed. It had been different for several years now.

She tried often to figure out just when and where things had gone wrong, but she never could. She knew the drugs and the partying that come with being in a rock n' roll band were a big part of it. But there was more, anger and resentment from early in his life buried deep within him. The drugs were self-medicating, except when the supply ran out or when he had to clean up to pass the drug test to find yet another job. With them he was reasonably mellow, if at times withdrawn. Without them he was contentious, mean, threatening, and prone to unreasonable demands.

In recent months things had gotten worse. Money was disappearing and she suspected he had turned to harder drugs. Everything seemed to set him off and she felt like she was walking on eggshells. His habit of throwing things and slamming things when he was angry had reached new heights... holes in walls, door frames broken... shattered pictures and keepsakes - everything within his reach was fair game.

One night last week he had grabbed her ring of keys from her when they arrived home after a ride in which she expressed her unhappiness with the way things were. Yelling at her, he had slammed them across the kitchen, deeply scratching the brass key ring tag that was inscribed with her nickname, the key ring her daughter had given her that she loved so much. Nothing was sacred anymore.

She didn't realize how bad it had gotten until a friend came to visit for the weekend and remarked on how controlling he had become, and how unhappy she seemed. She thought she'd been hiding that pretty well from everyone... her friends, her family, her coworkers. She had been deluding herself into believing that she had the situation under control. The more she thought about it, the more she realized that she had come to accept the hostile, abusive environment she was living in as normal. She'd long forgotten what it was like to be in a truly normal relationship, what it was like to love and laugh, and look forward to spending time together. Now going to work was her refuge, her safe place from his rage.

Long ago she had drawn a line in her mind, the point where she would have to say "enough" and leave him - for her own safety - the point where she would finally admit that all hope of restoring the love between them was lost. That time would come when the verbal abuse, the attempts to belittle and intimidate her, became more physical. He was solid muscle, brute strength, and she knew if it ever reached the point of altercation he would hurt her bad.

This afternoon, reality came crashing down on her. He had crossed the line and her life was in danger now. She knew the abuse was only going to escalate from here on out. She had said something innocuous, she didn't even remember what. He came across the room to within inches of her face, and shoved her with all his might into the corner. She slammed hard against the wall, crumpling, nearly falling to the ground.

"Don't push me," she said defiantly, trying to sound brave. He shoved her again and she raised her hands defensively to push him away.

"Go on and hit me", he taunted, "You know you want to". Oh God yes, she wanted to, but she knew better. That's what he wanted her to do, anything that would enable him to beat the hell out of her and call it self-defense when then sheriff came.

So she did what she had always done, and began to talk him down in a soft, low voice. Soothe him, distract him enough that she could slip away from her vulnerable position. Give him time to calm down and let the fury subside. It worked, and she breathed a silent sigh of relief as he headed to the practice room to collect his band equipment for the gig that night.

He didn't have a clue that she was done with it, done with him. Had he taken one moment to look into her eyes he might have known. Instead she made her plan and bided her time. He left later to set equipment up at the club where they'd be playing that night, and she made a call to her boss, explaining that she needed some days off to go and stay with her daughter. She told him there were problems at home. She didn't elaborate and she was grateful he didn't ask.

She made a trip into town to the ATM for cash and to the store to pick up a few things she needed. While there she ran into a coworker friend. She smiled and made polite conversation, as she was so very good at doing, noting that she'd be gone a few days, and never once letting on why, being so careful to conceal the terror that was building inside her.

When she got home she hid away what few remained of her small personal treasures, out of sight and out of range of being smashed when he returned. Carefully, she packed a bag with clothing and necessities, and slid it underneath the bed.

Picking up a book from the coffee table, wrapping herself in a blanket to conceal how badly her body was shaking from the adrenalin rush of moving forward with her plan, she curled up on the sofa to await his return.

Soon he arrived home to shower for the gig. As usual, he suspected nothing wrong , and acted as if nothing had happened between them earlier in the day. She played along. It seemed to take him forever to get ready to go, to eat the supper she had made him, and to make some phone calls to the groupies who were sure to show up and cheer him on. She used to do that, attend his band gigs, way back then, when they were in love. He used to delight in her being there... but that was long ago.

Finally she heard the truck keys jangle in his hand and a mumbled "see you when I get home" as he headed out the door.

"Ok" she responded with the most normal voice she could muster. She heard his truck head down the driveway, and she knew he would not be back before 2:30 in the morning at the earliest.

It had felt like an eternity since she'd first made her plan to go that afternoon. Now, it was finally time to put it into action. Her heart pounded in her ears and she struggled to breathe as she placed her suitcase in trunk of the car.

Returning to the house, she took a sheet of notebook paper and left a short note on the counter... "Have gone out, will see you later." She shuddered, imagining how he'd react to that.

Running on the pure adrenalin of fear, lest he should return home for something and discover her escape in progress, she gathered up her beloved cats one by one and tossed them into the backseat of the car where a litter box and food dishes already waited on the floorboards. They cats were afraid of travelling in the car, since it always meant a trip to the vet. Picking up on her state of terror, they meowed pitifully and incessantly, as if asking what was happening, and knowing everything was wrong. She couldn't leave them behind, she feared he would neglect their care... or worse.

Leaving the porch light on for him when he returned, trying to imagine how he'd react when he saw her car gone, she took one look back and headed out onto the dark highway, driving fast to ensure that she'd be far away, at least a couple hundred miles, before he discovered her note when he got home. This time there would be no turning back. Tears streamed down her face as she realized it was over, and it was long since time to go.

Now head over to Sunday Scribblings and see what other writers have to say about eternity today! I'll also be using this story for Memories on Mondays this week.

Stuff Piling Up

I have been so impressed by what I am discovering in Louise Gallagher's blog "Recover You Joy" that I decided to go back to the beginning of her blog in 2007 and read forward. In the first post Scooping Up the Shadows she talks about letting the "dog poop" pile up in our lives, not tending to things we know we need to be taken care of for our own well-being and for the well-being of those we care about. That sounds so much like me!

There are the personal, emotional issues that I put on "ignore" status, telling myself I'll deal with them later... maybe... when I get around to it... when I feel stronger... when I figure out how. Then there is the practical, everyday backlog of "things to do" that gets out of control... health, finances, housework, office work, pet care, needs of family and friends... and the list goes on.

What happens is that when I overload myself with things waiting my attention, I withdraw. I look around at the "poop pile" of situations and things to be dealt with, knowing that I can't begin to accomplish all that needs to be done, and I'm not even sure where to start. This mountain of "to do" (or should I say "doo doo") weighs on me heavily, so I feel worn out before doing anything. I shutdown. I climb into the chair, turn on the tv and/or the laptop and do nothing at all. I ignore the things needing my attention, like I am expecting them to magically disappear or resolve themselves, even though I know this won't happen. Then comes the frustration, the self-loathing, the guilt. More time wasted, nothing accomplished, leaving myself and others disappointed.

I know if I can motivate myself to start dealing with anyone issue that is pressing on me, even if it's washing a sink load of dishes, I will feel better and find more energy to move forward onto the next task, and the next. I will feel hopeful, I won't feel so overwhelmed.There are all kinds of suggestions out there about how to face the pile of dog poop in one's life and start cleaning it up. Knowing how is the easy part, doing it is harder.

I think we imprint failure on ourselves. If I know that I tend to procrastinate on things I don't want to do, then I permit myself to use this as an excuse. I expect myself to do it, I give myself subconscious permission to fail. I need to find a way to reprogram what I believe about myself to expect better, to believe in myself more and to believe in my ability to prioritize and handle what needs to be taken care of.

One of my personal goals for this year is to get organized and keep up with the "dog poop" in my life on a daily basis!

Six Word Saturday

Six Word Saturday is a fun prompt in which Cate at Show My Face asks you to "describe your life (or something) in a phrase using just six words". Here's what life at our house is all about today, my husband being just home from the hospital following his knee replacement surgery...

Turned loose with walker - new adventures!

Why don't you give it a try, then add your link over at Six Word Saturday.

Where I Would Rather Be

It is day four of camping out at the hospital where my husband is a patient following knee replacement surgery. Thankfully, we'll be going home tomorrow. Home has never sounded better! Since I am eager to depart this place of overcrowding and under-staffing, unforgiving beds and lounge chairs, unpalatable meal trays that arrive two hours late with cold food, and lights that come on at 5 AM for easy vampire access, it is only suitable that my Thursday Thirteen list for this week is of thirteen places I'm much rather be (in random order)...
  1. At a cabin in the mountains watching deer feed by the stream
  2. At an ocean beach watching the sunset hand in hand with my husband
  3. Sitting in a lodge by a roaring fireplace, watching snow fall outside the window
  4. Curled up in a big chair with a warm blanket and a good book, surrounded by my beloved furkids
  5. At a powwow late at night, falling asleep to heartbeat of drums
  6. Fishing on the edge of a quiet lake or river bank
  7. Engaged in an intense conversation about life with a treasured friend
  8. Walking thru flower gardens watching my husband take photographs
  9. Enjoying the smell of cookies baking or fudge cooking on the stove
  10. Boating thru a cypress bog observing the fauna and flora
  11. At my daughter or son's house enjoying their company and observing the awesome adults they've become
  12. Soaking in our hot tub on the back deck under the canopy of stars
  13. Home, in my own nice comfy bed, snuggled next to my husband
Now head on over to Thursday Thirteen and see what other lists have been written, and maybe add one of your own!

Dear Jamie

All too often, we are so busy with everything going on in our lives, that we don't take the time to thank the people who make a real difference. My letter for
Write A Letter Wednesday is dedicated to just such a person, a woman who is an inspiration to me in every sense of the word...

Dearest Jamie,

I was sitting here thinking about how long it's been that I've known you. I'd have to go back thru my blog archives, but I'm thinking we met very shortly after I left my ex-husband and began picking up the broken pieces of my life. That makes it about four years ago. Back then I was fairly new to blogging, and was just beginning to meet fellow bloggers and share posts with them on a regular basis.

As I recall you were introduced to me as a friend of a fellow blogger and we hit it off instantly. For me, a lot of the attraction of blogging is meeting people from all over the world who I can relate to... who are from my tribe. For the first time in my life I didn't feel like I was an alien from another planet! I realized from the beginning that there was something special and very real about you. You were so incredibly honest about yourself, and you somehow managed to stay so positive!

Do you remember what my life was like at that time, Jamie? I'm sure you do. I was an emotional wreck breaking free of an abusive thirteen year marriage that had taken it's toll on me. I didn't even know who I was anymore , much less where I was headed. All I knew is that being alone, no matter how lonely, had to be better than what I had just escaped from.

Looking back at just a few of my posts from that period of time, I realize how dark life felt. It would be months more before all the legal issues and fallout of that relationship could be resolved in court and the drama was being played out on a weekly basis. I could barely keep my head above water, and it was really hard to find a strand of hope to hold onto. Most often I wondered where I would find the strength to make it from one day to the next, and sometimes I didn't care if I survived at all.

This is the point where you came into my life, Jamie, and made all the difference. I remember from the very beginning how much effort you put into writing supportive comments on my posts, posts where my daily struggles played out across the screen begging for someone to listen and care. You kept telling that it would all work out, that everything was going to be ok. Pollyanna mentality indeed, and that was just what I needed at the time, someone who believed the cup was half full and would continue to fill if I'd just hang in there!

It was a very lonely time in my life, the loneliest. Often I would go home from work on Friday night and not talk to another living soul until I returned to work on Monday mornings. But I knew I could turn to my computer and pour my heart out to my blog friends, and you'd be there for me, and help me make sense of all the stuff I was going thru.

Of course the message that stands out most clearly in my mind, was your intuition that things were going to change for me in a big way and that someone named John would be involved. And who did I meet just one year later... John... the man of my dreams, the best of the best! Wow!

I find myself wondering how you kept yourself from just saying "suck it up Josie", "get over it", "move on". It's probably what I would say to someone who was experiencing one emotional crisis after another in her life and had no sense of where to go next or what to do to make things better. But you didn't, you believed in me, you inspired me to believe!

Who would have guessed then how much your own life was going to change in the next three years... major medical issues, debilitating pain, children going thru personal struggles, a marriage coming apart, and a job you had for years that suddenly wasn't there anymore. It seemed so unfair, and still does, that someone who tries so hard to help others had to deal with so much crap in her own life all at once! But even then, and even now... you do it with grace, with more acceptance, more humor, and more determination than I could ever hope to manage in my own life.

I realize now, that's the way it so often is... that the ones who have experienced the most, suffered the most, and endured the most, are the same ones who reach out to help pull others out of the muck and get them back on the road of life!

There is not a day that I stop by your blog that I am not reminded of the resilience of the human spirit, and that this is the kind of person I would more like to become. If you can find reason to push on, to keep on trying, and above all, to keep on believing that life is good, then so my dear friend, Jamie, can I!

Because you walked with me thru some of the darkest times in my life, you will always have a very special place in my heart, and I will continue to pray that God blesses your life in ways you have never dreamed possible!

Love always,

Memories on Mondays

"Memories on Mondays" - a new creative writing prompt and a place to share our memories!

For all of us, memories are a mixed bag of the good times and sad times in our lives, stories just waiting to be written! The concept of this meme is write about any memory from our past. It can be something you remember from when you were growing up, or an event that happened as recently as yesterday.

I will post a reminder each week on Monday, with a new Mr. Linky for you to share what you've written. You can add your post anytime during the week, it doesn't have to be on Monday. You are also welcome to share a link to any memory you've posted on your blog in the past.

Be sure to come by Memories on Mondays and visit the links listed... read what other writers are sharing from their past!

Disembodied Voices

This week's Sunday Scribblings writing prompt is the word "invisible". Here's my story...

My husband and I thoroughly enjoy watching "Ghost Adventures" and "Ghost Hunters" on tv. While the "evidence" presented is sometimes a little hazy, no pun intended, the stories are fascinating and one can't help but imagine all kinds of disembodied souls lurking in some of the decrepit buildings they investigate.

We have a ghost, or two or three, of our own at home too. You can read about one of them in my post "The Ghostlight Was Shining." My husband and I also notice the scent of cut tobacco in our bedroom now and then. That used to happen in one of the rooms of the house where I lived with my ex-husband too, so maybe this guy came along with me. In addition, one or the other of us will ocassionally feel someone sit down on the bed when we are laying there alone. Neither of us have ever had anything but a good feeling about our ghostly visitors, no negative vibes, so they are welcome in our home.

Recently our experiences with disembodied souls reached a new level. My husband came home from work one night and reported that as he was locking up the shop after work at night time, he was in the office getting ready to set the alarm and he distinctly heard the muffled sound of two boys playing and laughing behind him, as if they were running across the room. It startled him since he was in the building alone. He turned quickly around, but no one was there. He even opened up the back door of the office leading outside to make sure that no neighborhood kids were inside the fenced and gated lot. None to be found. He said it made the hair on his arms stand up! When he told his boss about it, his boss said that one night as he was closing he heard the sound of a rock being tossed against the outside wall. He unlocked the door and looked out, but no one was there. Just then, with the door still open, he heard the sound again, but there was no one tossing rocks and no rocks by the wall.

Then, just a couple weeks ago, my husband was driving a customer's truck around to the back of the shop to have work done on it. He was startled when he distinctly heard two people having a conversation in the rear seat behind him. Looking in the rear view mirror, he ascertained that no one was physically there. I swear he isn't loosing his mind, he's more skeptical of such things than I am, and would love to find another explanation for the voices he's been hearing,
though we both smile at the thought of ghostly visitors keeping him company at work. I told him that maybe he is more in tune to such things than he used to be.

I have long believed that those we love who cross over to the spirit world are able to visit us and guide us, and sometimes remain near us. Although they are invisible to our human eyes, we are never as far apart as it feels, we are never truly alone. For me, that is a good feeling. I know that the bonds of love are so strong that they transcend the power of death. When it comes my time to cross over, I hope that I'll be able to make contact with my children and people I care about, maybe sit on the edge of the bed now and then and let them know that I am ever near them.

Now head on over to Sunday Scribblings and read what other writers are saying about things invisible.


We just finished watching the Netflix movie "Play the Game." The plot was thin and overacted, and a few scenes were downright embarrassingly tasteless - such as an aged Andy Griffith having an orgasm - but despite that it wasn't bad as light fare, and the underlying messages were right on target. Two intertwined themes played out in the movie... good relationships are based on honesty, and one of the strongest human needs/desires is for companionship.

Companionship is a word we don't often hear anymore. Years ago more marriages lasted longer and marriage partners did indeed become life-long companions. Mutual attraction is necessary, and for sure hot sex is great, but the bottom line in a relationship is whether or not you are best friends. Is this the person you want to spend your time with? Will they be there for you and with you thru good times and bad?

In too many married couples I know, and in a couple of my past marriages, we ended up spending very little time together with the exception of shared meals and sleep time. Even at those times there wasn't a great deal of interaction. How different it is in my life now! I can honestly say without question that my husband is first and foremost my companion. Home time and free time are most often spent together - we want to be with each other and we treasure the time shared. Three years later Saturday night is still date night, and on any other night you are likely to find us sitting on the sofa together watching tv surrounded by our furkids, or relaxing together in the hot tub under a canopy of bright stars!

I was once told that the best marriages are those in which each partner feels they got the best end of the deal. Partners... there's that concept again. A partner is someone who belongs with you, and that's where you want them to be. You enjoy their company, you love spending time together.

Lest someone misreads this and thinks I believe in being conjoined at the hip with your partner, I don't! Nothing is more pathetic than a wife who won't trust a husband to let him out of her site for an evening, or a husband who acts that way toward his wife. It is healthy for everyone to have a few interests and activities all their own. This gives you experiences to bring back to the table to share with each other. We all need a little down time alone too, even if it's just time to go for a walk, read a book, or paint your toenails.

This is just a gentle reminder to keep companionship an important part of your relationship. Treasure it, nurture it, plan time together in your day and week no matter how busy your lives are. Realize how blessed you are to have someone who loves you! Make good memories to last a lifetime.

Thirteen Things I Wish You Would Consider

Today my heart is heavy with thoughts of a coworker whose 30 year old brother-in-law committed suicide two days ago. Left behind to mourn him are his parents, his brother, two young children, and a wife of just a few months. Compounding the family's agony, it took authorities over 24 hours to locate his body, just as he had planned it. They say he wasn't one prone to making dramatic statements, it wasn't his nature to do something like this. But something went wrong.

Just over a year ago, a fourteen year old girl I knew and loved decided to end her life. Left behind to try to come to terms with this terrible loss are her mother and her brother and a host of classmates and friends who cared about her... and the list of people I know who have commited suicide keeps growing.

I think most of of us have at least toyed with the idea of ending our lives at one time or another when we were struggling. Some have attempted it, others have nearly succeeded, though a completed suicide could hardly be called a success.

In talking with people in desperate situations who have been on the edge, I've been told that they were so afraid, so depressed, so tired, that it was nearly impossible for then to focus on anything but their own situation... too painful for them to even consider the repercussions such an action might have. As one person told me... "I just wanted to go to sleep and never have to wake up again." I hear that. I've been there, but I know it's not the answer.

With these thoughts in mind, I offer the following list of thirteen things I wish someone who is contemplating suicide would stop and consider. Would it help? Is there anything anyone could say that would make a difference at the critical juncture? Maybe not always, maybe not even often, but most certainly the right word from the right person at the right time has saved a life now and then. The value of even one life saved if too great to measure.

Here's my list...
1. Suicide is the most selfish thing you can do. If you love anyone at all in life, you don't want to leave them to bear the pain and scars of your decision forever... and they will.
2. Giving up is not an option. If you are a person of faith, you know that the Creator has not granted us the right to choose how or when we will die, much less take our own lives.
3. If you believe that not one single person cares about you or would mourn your dying, you are wrong. There is always someone to whom you matter. Even if you are angry with someone or have had a falling out, they still love you and would be devastated by your death.
4. Don't believe that you are the only one who ever felt this way and that no one could understand what you are going thru. Talk to someone... a parent, a friend, a coworker, a religious leader, a counselor, and at last resort a complete stranger.
5. Parents are not supposed to outlive their children. Don't leave your father and/or mother to mourn you and to spend the rest of their lives wondering if they could have some how prevented it.
6. Children should not have to grow up bearing the burden of the knowledge that their parent abandoned them in this fashion and gave up on life. Parents are meant to be role models and teach their children how to deal with the challenges life presents.
7. Someone, either related or non-related will have the gruesome job of discovering and dealing with your physical remains. Do you really want to haunt anyone with that kind of memory?
8. Someone will have to take over the responsibilities that you ran from , be it raising your children, settling your debts, or disposing of your possessions.
9. Life insurance does not cover death by suicide. You will leave the people who believed in you with nothing, not even money for your burial or cremation, adding to the worries you are placing on them.
10. Life cycles. There are good times and bad, hard times that seem impossibly hopeless, and high times that make you wonder how you ever could have felt that way. Hang in there... persevere.
11. The situation that seems so hopeless at the moment will look different a few days or a few months down the road. We adjust, we find other options, or we come to accept what is. Sleep on it, at least for a few nights. Life has a way of working out.
12. If you end your life now, you are going to miss out on all the surprises and good things life has in store for you. Things beyond your wildest imagination... children, a new love, new jobs, beautiful places and treasured moments. And you will rob other people of the opportunity to share them with you.
13. PLEASE TELL SOMEONE if you are feeling hopeless or are planning to take your own life! Give them the opportunity to help you find help. This is a secret too dark and dangerous to keep.

Note: Stop over at Thursday Thirteen and see what kinds of lists other people were making today.

No Girls Allowed

Here's my first piece for my new Write A Letter Wednesday meme. "Mr. Smith" taught Industrial Arts (essentially drafting and woodshop classes) when I was in high school in the early 1970s.

Dear Mr. Smith,

In my guestroom stands a beautiful handmade black walnut "stereo table" (as we called them long ago) which now holds a flat screen tv, and a Dish satellite DVR recorder - things we never could have imagined back in 1972. I wonder if you would remember it if you saw a picture. I'm betting that you would!

I never got around to telling you how much that class meant to me, and how this cherished table is the one item that has accompanied me thru every stage of my life since then. You were probably in your late 40's back then, so would be an elder now, if you are still living. I wish I would have written you or stopped by your house a long time ago to tell you about the table and that I still love the smell of fresh cut wood.

I remember so well the turbulent days of my high school years. It was a difficult time to grow up in, with the Vietnam War not yet ended and the 60's movement still going strong. I wasn't one of the popular kids, but rather one of those on the fringe... book smart, and very much aware of what was going on in the world around me, but totally socially inept. I kept to myself mostly, only speaking out now and then to protest things I perceived as unreasonable or unjust.

Back then, you'll remember, elective classes for girls included secretarial skills and home economics. By our Junior year, my best friend Joan and I had long since grown weary of sewing aprons and baking cookies, though we did both well. I had no interest in learning shorthand or accounting, which ironically is exactly what I'm doing now. Funny how life turns out, isn't it?!

Do you remember us coming to ask if we could be allowed to take your Industrial Arts class? It was a class for boys only, no girls allowed. It had never been heard of in the Midwest where I grew up, girls taking classes like woodshop.

After you realized we were serious, you warmed to the idea but said we would have to gain permission from the school administration to register for the course. No easy task that. First the principal had to approve, then the Superintendent, and finally it required school board sanction. One wouldn't think it was such an extreme breach of protocol to allow girls in the woodshop, but you know how men can be about women encroaching on their territory!

Finally, near the end of our Junior year, we got approval to take Introduction to Industrial Arts, the freshman level course, in our final Senior year of high school. We were elated! It would be just the two of us, in a classroom of approximately 20 boys. We put up with a lot of teasing from all quarters, remember? I wonder if the rest of the staff approved of your decision to admit us or frowned on it. Girls in the woodshop... what would be next, girls in auto repair? :-)

I remember the first semester fondly, as we spent day after day perched on stools at our drafting boards learning the fine points of mechanical drawing. I remember how strict you were regarding neatness and having every line exactly the right thickness, length and angle. Finally some of the formulas we learned in geometry made sense! You were a stickler for learning to label things precisely. We spent hours honing our printing skills until they met with your approval. You taught me well... I still print in the same form and exact angle to this day!

Near the end of the first semester we began to plan the project were going to build in the woodshop in the next semester. Being a first year class, most of the students chose breadboards for their mothers or birdhouses for the yard. But they had future years to aspire to greater things. Joan and I had one shot at this and we wanted to go full out! She loved the turning lathe and - ever the brainiac - decided to make a chess set and chess board. She designed her chess pieces with identical opponents in light and dark wood and it was awesome!

I wanted to make a bigger statement, and I had fallen in love with the beautiful samples of hardwoods you'd shown us. Black walnut... expensive but so very pretty was my choice. Do you remember when I first approached you with the large oval stereo table I'd drafted and wanted to build? Bookshelves on both ends and a storage space below for record albums. (If you are of the younger generation you'll have to Google records to find out what they are. :-)

"Too ambitious" you grumbled, "you will never get it done before graduation". But I suspect you were secretly pleased with my desire to create something functional and lasting, and at last I won your approval and project funding from my somewhat reluctant parents.

And and so we began the second semester, getting acquainted with the woodshop... Joan and I in long-sleeved work shirts borrowed from our fathers worn over our school clothes to keep them clean. I was elated when we were finally permitted to begin construction under your constant guidance and direction!

I remember so well you helping me select black walnut woodstock with the prettiest grain to construct the top, suggesting I use round brass coaster wheels on the bottom to make the table move easily, cutting tiny rounds of black walnut to use as decorative plugs on the table top above the dowel rods which served as rails for the bookshelves.

Board by planed and glued board, the table took form. Then came routing and sanding...and more sanding... and more sanding! Class hours weren't long enough, and soon I was spending extra time after school and in the evenings to get my table finished on time. The race was on, but I was determined!

It was your suggestion too, that I use oil for the finish rather than lacquer, a more natural, softer patina. You told me I would need to continue oiling the wood regularly in the future to keep it from drying and splitting. It remains one of my most pleasurable "housework" chores to this day... how beautifully it still shines after all these years! It remains amazingly sturdy too, having travelled with me thru so many homes and stages of my life!

Finally it was finished, as was Joan's chess set, and we proudly transported our projects to the local gymnasium to display at the end of year open-house. My table held court amidst the bird houses and cutting boards, and I beamed with pride at the nice compliments it received. I remember you smiling a lot that night too!

Sadly, my father chose not to come, I guess it embarrassed him to have a daughter taking woodshop. (Wasn't I always the one saying or doing something unconventional?) Funny in a sad way, because I had always been the one of me and me two sisters who worked side by side with him on house remodelling projects and such. I think it was more about what his friends would think. That was terribly important in those days for a businessman in a small Midwest town.

But mom came, and I think she was proud, or maybe just relieved that the darn thing was done and she wouldn't have to hear me stressing about it any longer. Together we brought it home in the back of Dad's pickup truck and hauled it upstairs to it's awaiting place of honor in my bedroom. With my stereo record player atop it, and all my albums and books neatly placed in their spots, it was a creation more beautiful than anything I'd ever seen before! I love it just as much today as I did back then, Mr. Smith.

Do you remember the grade you gave me for the project, and for my final term grade? I sure do... an A+, a "great job", and a hug! Woodshop remains one of the few very happy memories I have from my high school years, and you have held a special place in my heart ever since then.

Thank you, Mr. Smith for believing that girls should have the same opportunities as boys, and for believing in me and allowing me to create the table of my dreams! The black walnut stereo table is listed in my will now, and when I travel the the spirit world someday, it will still be standing strong and beautiful... in my son's home for future generations to remember me by.

Warmest thoughts always,

Josie H. (as I was known back then)

(Note: Now it's your turn to write a letter to someone this week and post a link to it in the Mr. Linky form in the Write A Letter Wednesday blog post below! Check out the letters other bloggers have written too! )

Write A Letter Wednesday

With the advent of email, texting, Facebook and Twitter, letter writing has become nearly a lost art. Gone are the days of going to the mailbox in hopes of finding an envelope containing crisply folded pages of precious words from your mother, or lover, or friend. Many of us have tucked away such treasures in boxes or drawers to reread again and again as the years pass by. A message saved in the computer just doesn't have the same feeling as knowing the letter you are holding in your hands was also held by the person who wrote to you.

It's a busy world, and our lives run on overdrive. Communications are short and to the point. Not a lot of time for reflection or sweet sentiments. With that in mind, I'm beginning a weekly meme called Write A Letter Wednesday with the purpose being to write a letter to someone you've been thinking of. It might be a family member or a far away friend, a past teacher, or someone you've had a falling out with. It might be a disgruntled missive to a business or service that has disappointed you. There may even be things you'd like to say to your younger or older self! Sending your letter off in the mail is optional (and in some cases ill-advised or impossible), though who knows... you just might be motivated to do so!

I intend to write a letter weekly and post it on the Write A Letter Wednesday blog on Wednesday or thereabouts. I'd be happy to have you join me. If you'd like to share your letter, add your link in Mr. Linky there. It doesn't have to be on Wednesday, write when the spirit moves you! Be sure to visit the other bloggers who are participating in Write a Letter Wednesday and share some comments and encouragement!

Happy letter writing... take your time and enjoy it... see you at Write A Letter Wednesday!

Tangled Web

"Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive."

"Liar, liar... pants on fire!" I wanted to shout it at her as I confronted her with evidence of her deception. But I managed to keep my cool because I had to, at least for now. It wasn't the time, but the time is coming.

Lie upon lie upon lie, to cover up God knows what... a sense of inadequacy? Why couldn't she just tell me the truth in the first place? It wouldn't have mattered so much then, it wasn't such a big deal. Once again I would have helped her get things straightened out, I'm supportive like that. But don't look me straight in the face and lie to me. Don't feed me anymore bullshit!

I abhor dishonesty. It leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. It is a betrayal of my trust and it leaves me feeling raw and angry. How am I to believe anything you tell me when over and over again you deceive me in small ways that add up to being one great big liar? I am weary of your stories that aren't exactly true, not true at all. Call them what they are... lies! Do you really think it makes you look bigger, stronger, or more clever when you invent dialog that never took place and put forth "facts" that don't have an ounce of truth in them? Can't you just once tell the truth about something and let the chips fall where they may?

Do you realize that you always end up getting caught in your tangled web of lies? The only one you seem to be deceiving in yourself. Any respect I once held for you has been worn away by the steady stream of poorly disguised lies. I no longer believe anything you tell me. I doubt every word that comes out of your mouth! I turn away from your rambling narrative, trying to decide if what I feel towards you is pity or disgust.

No Walk In The Park

This weeks prompt for Sunday Scribblings is "A Walk In the Park". Here's my contribution...

A week from tomorrow my husband is scheduled to have knee replacement surgery. He is dreading it, understandably. His left knee was injured in an accident on an oil rig thirty four years ago when he jumped from a catwalk to avoid a falling piece of heavy metal. He landed on his feet, but his body twisted, wrenching the knee. At that time he had the option of surgery or physical therapy but he had a family to feed, so chose physical therapy and was back on the job within a month.

The knee didn't heal correctly and has gotten progressively worse over the years. His lower leg is bent and juts out to the side so that his knees nearly touch together when he walks. Along with being disfiguring, this affects his gait, and causes strain on his hip, back, and ankle. Everything is out of proper alignment. Couple this with the fact that he works nine hours a day standing at a counter in the truck accessories store where he has worked for nearly 30 years, and you get the picture of the pain he endures. It is long since time to get this taken care of!

We like the orthopedic surgeon who will be performing the procedure. He was recommended by the Chief Medical Officer of the hospital whose wife had her knee replaced by him. The surgeon made it clear that there will be pain involved, but it will be manageable. The daily physical therapy required after surgery won't be much fun either. But there are positives... his boss has been great about working with him to schedule the required time off - estimated at 6 to 8 weeks, and my supervisor has also been supportive regarding me taking days off to be with him at the hospital and flexing my work schedule as needed to transport him to and from physical therapy, since we live 15 miles from town and he won't be allowed to drive.

Today, a week in advance of the surgery, my husband is to discontinue taking the Plavix which prevents blood clots from forming in the two end-to-end stents that were placed in his artery following a heart attack in 2008. That adds a little extra anxiety, but it is essential to controlling bleeding during and after the surgery. I anticipate that he'll also be a little grumpy from dealing with the pain and restless with "cabin fever" from not being at work everyday. As soon as he is moving about freely, he may be able to sit in the office to answer phones and place orders, which would make him feel much better and be a big help at work.

The coming weeks definitely aren't going to be a walk in the park for us. My husband has heard many knee replacement surgery stories, both good and bad, from well meaning friends. I am not looking forward to it either... seeing my husband in pain tears my heart out; but he is strong and determined to follow thru with the therapy. I know that a few months from now when he is at long last able to stand and walk without pain, we will be so glad that he got it done! Please keep him in your prayers for healing.

No Walk In The Park

This weeks prompt for Sunday Scribblings is "A Walk In the Park". Here's my contribution...

A week from tomorrow my husband is scheduled to have knee replacement surgery. He is dreading it, understandably. His left knee was injured in an accident on an oil rig thirty four years ago when he jumped from a catwalk to avoid a falling piece of heavy metal. He landed on his feet, but his body twisted, wrenching the knee. At that time he had the option of surgery or physical therapy but he had a family to feed, so chose physical therapy and was back on the job within a month.

The knee didn't heal correctly and has gotten progressively worse over the years. His lower leg is bent and juts out to the side so that his knees nearly touch together when he walks. Along with being disfiguring, this affects his gait, and causes strain on his hip, back, and ankle. Everything is out of proper alignment. Couple this with the fact that he works nine hours a day standing at a counter in the truck accessories store where he has worked for nearly 30 years, and you get the picture of the pain he endures. It is long since time to get this taken care of!

We like the orthopedic surgeon who will be performing the procedure. He was recommended by the Chief Medical Officer of the hospital whose wife had her knee replaced by him. The surgeon made it clear that there will be pain involved, but it will be manageable. The daily physical therapy required after surgery won't be much fun either. But there are positives... his boss has been great about working with him to schedule the required time off - estimated at 6 to 8 weeks, and my supervisor has also been supportive regarding me taking days off to be with him at the hospital and flexing my work schedule as needed to transport him to and from physical therapy, since we live 15 miles from town and he won't be allowed to drive.

Today, a week in advance of the surgery, my husband is to discontinue taking the Plavix which prevents blood clots from forming in the two end-to-end stents that were placed in his artery following a heart attack in 2008. That adds a little extra anxiety, but it is essential to controlling bleeding during and after the surgery. I anticipate that he'll also be a little grumpy from dealing with the pain and restless with "cabin fever" from not being at work everyday. As soon as he is moving about freely, he may be able to sit in the office to answer phones and place orders, which would make him feel much better and be a big help at work.

The coming weeks definitely aren't going to be a walk in the park for us. My husband has heard many knee replacement surgery stories, both good and bad, from well meaning friends. I am not looking forward to it either... seeing my husband in pain tears my heart out; but he is strong and determined to follow thru with the therapy. I know that a few months from now when he is at long last able to stand and walk without pain, we will be so glad that he got it done! Please keep him in your prayers for healing.

Now head on over to Sunday Scribblings to see what other folks wrote about today!

The Best Epitaph

I've recently made a new blog friend, Louise. Her blog, Recover Your Joy is full of amazing insight and warmth... you definitely need to stop by and visit there! In response to my New Year's Day post, she wrote the following post this week...Let Me Be Kind. It's a must read! In it she said...
"Years ago a friend asked me, If there were one word on your headstone that completed this sentence, 'She was a........ woman', what would you want it to be? Kind, I replied. Definitely kind."

That really got me thinking. What better way to have people remember you! I would like to say that I am a kind, caring person, I think I am. But is that the first thing that would come to mind if my family and friends were asked about me? Probably not!

My demeanor can be gruff and impatient. If I am distracted, as I often am, I can appear aloof and disinterested, even though I'm really not. If I am feeling overwhelmed by all that I need to accomplish, which I often do, I can be downright bitchy. Shocking, I know! ;-) I do better with my actions which are more thought out, but too often the things that come out of my mouth are judgemental and unkind.

The following words by Sri Sathya Sai Baba have been committed to my memory for years...

“Before you speak, think - Is it necessary? Is it true? Is it kind?
Will it hurt anyone? Will it improve on the silence?”

But I fail to follow his advice. Reading Louise's post on kindness convicted me mightily. We talked about it at work yesterday, in relation to a coworker who tends to drive us all nuts because she seems to thrive on causing friction between us. When I say something snide about her in response to her actions, does that not bring me down to her level and feed the fire? When my sisters use me as their sounding board for resentments held between them and I participate in the conversation, does that really do anything to improve the situation, or my own spiritual well being? Of course not!

From now on, I'm going to make an added effort to do this very simple thing... think before I speak! It isn't that hard to put a filter in place to sift thru and delete words that are unkind before they escape from my mouth. I know I won't always succeed, but I know I can do better, and maybe set a better example too. I really would like people to remember me one day as a kind person.

What would you like the epitaph on your headstone to say?

Required Learning

For this week's Thursday Thirteen I decided to make a list of thirteen classes I think should be required learning for graduation into adulthood...
  1. Learning to Love Yourself
  2. Learning to Cope With Change
  3. Making Good Choices
  4. Getting Your Priorities Straight
  5. Real Love Doesn't Hurt
  6. Relationships Are Not Maintenance Free
  7. Learning to Budget... Needs vs Wants
  8. Learning to Live With Less Stuff
  9. When to Put Down the Cellphone
  10. How to Look Your Age and Love It
  11. Practicing What You Preach
  12. Prayer Changes Things
  13. How to Live Life One Day At a Time
What classes would you like to see added to this list?
(Head over to Thursday Thirteen to check out some more good lists... and add one of your own! )

No More Talk of Darkness

Each week Carry on Tuesday publishes a famous quotation or the opening lines of a book, song or poem and invites writers to Carry On where words stop. This week's prompt is..."No more talk of darkness, forget these wide eyed fears." Here is my contribution...

"There will be no more talk of darkness" she admonish her daughter in response to the sobbing voice on the phone. "I don't want to hear anymore of you telling me what a loser you are, how ugly, how stupid, and how no one could ever or will ever want you because of the issues you deal with in your life."

"You need to understand that it wasn't all your fault. Such things never are. He wasn't a saint, he was just a man, with his own weaknesses and imperfections like we all have. No one is ever 100% at fault in a divorce. It's a shared failure. Sometimes one person cannot be enough, change enough to be all the other wants or thinks they need. Sometimes it's wrong to try. Sometimes people will leave regardless."

"It's been almost a year now, it's time to let go of the past and shut the door. It is over and done with. There is no undo button in life no matter how much we long for one. You can't spend the rest of your life in mourning what's been lost, you can't waste another day of your life looking back with regret. It is time to abandon the heavy blanket of despair you've been cocooned in."

"You need to live day by day in the present. Just getting thru one day at a time is challenge enough. Start taking notice of the little good things that do happen instead of wallowing in all the darkness and pain. Reach out and people will respond to you. A new life isn't going to come knocking on your door."

"Things aren't really getting worse in your life, you are just at a standstill... you can't go back and you're afraid to go forward. Yes, bad things, hard things to deal with, could happen down the road to you, or to any of us. You will find the strength and the direction to get thru them. Forget those wide-eyed fears. You can't fill your mind with what-ifs. Life never works out the way we plan or the way we fear. It is a mystery to experience, a journey of faith. It will be ok."

"You will not be alone forever, and you will not have to settle for someone so much less than what you believe he was. There is someone for everyone, someone good and decent, loving and caring, intelligent and responsible, someone who will be there for you thru good times and bad. Look at me and my life, who would have thought I would find someone to love me? The odds were certainly against it and yet I did, it was meant to be. There is someone meant for you in this stage of your life and you will find each other."

"You say you will never be happy again. We've all felt that way at times, the hopelessness and despair, and the depression they breed. But life cycles dear daughter, tough times don't last forever. There will come a day when you will laugh again and love again, and look back on these times as a reminder of just how good you have it compared to how it used to be. You will appreciate the new person in your life more than you ever did before, and you will cherish every moment that you have together. Trust me, I'm your mother, I know these things."

They talk on for an hour in the darkness of night, the daughter doubting and desperate for a strand of hope to cling to, the mother encouraging. When they are both exhausted from the outpouring of emotions, they say goodnight and end the conversation on a lighter, peaceful note, exchanging expressions of love for each other.

The mother crawls wearily into bed and snuggles into the arms of the man who loves her, and she knows that what she says is true... love will come again for her daughter, her life will move out of the darkness into the light.

The First Day of the Rest of My Life

On the morning of January 2nd, 2008, I noticed that a guy named John had checked out my profile on Yahoo Personals. I thought he was mighty handsome and I liked what he had to say. Having nothing left to lose in my life, I sent a message his way. Little did I know that the simple act of responding to an online ad would lead to a more wonderful change in my life than I could ever hope to imagine.

Much to my surprise, John wrote back to me that night, and from there began a flurry of online exchanges, followed shortly by phone calls that lasted for hours into each night, and before long an actual face-to-face meeting.

Some say it was pure coincidence, or some sort of cosmic accident that our paths crossed at this time and in this way, but I know better. We were meant to be together during this stage of our lives. Everything we'd both experienced in the past helped to form us into two people who could merge their lives and create a "happily ever after" that truly is.

There is not a day that I don't think back and feel amazed that God saved such a special man for me, and sent him at a time that I would appreciate all he is. Some days I still expect to wake up and find that it's all a dream. Thru all the ups and downs of day to day existence and worries about the future and getting older, I feel secure in the knowledge that our love will see us thru. At last I know what true contentment feels like, and it feels very good!

I've kept transcripts of those first online messages exchanged. Each year on January 2nd I reread them, and I smile. Not only is my life a testament to how all things work out for the good, it is also a testament to how every choice we make, every action we take, ripples out into the universe like waves upon the water. One small text message sent sailing into cyberspace on January 2nd, 2008 set into action a love story that continues to unfold. How blessed I am!

Survival Kit for the New Year

The Sunday Scribblings prompt for this week is "Progress". What follows are my thoughts on making progress in my personal life...

I don't make New Year's resolutions because I never keep them, but Selma's First Day Thoughts resonated with me, and started me thinking about which character traits I believe are important and want to better manifest in my life in the coming year. I think of them as a "survival kit", a way to navigate life in a manner that uplifts me and those I encounter.

Selma listed kindness, compassion, and tolerance as qualities that "are lights shining on the water". What a beautiful description of how one's character can impact other lives! Am I a kind person? Am I compassionate? Tolerant? My first response is "Well, yes, I think I am like that." Then I think on it a little harder and realize that yes, I am... but only when I want to be. At times I can be very hard on others and even harder on myself.

I am generally kind to most folks, but if someone hurts me too much, or hurts someone I care about, or behaves in a manner that offends me, all kindness goes out the window and I can act pretty ugly in response.

I believe that I am compassionate and, because I've lived a colorful life, I have the ability to empathize with what most folks are going thru. Usually I've either done it myself, or know someone who has. I can accept weaknesses and shortcomings in others because I have so many. But, if I feel someone is milking their issues for attention and dramatic effect, I can quickly become cold and have been known to slice and dice them with my words.

I preach tolerance loudly, which isn't always welcomed in redneck country where I live. But am I tolerant of the intolerant? Definitely no. Refer to "slice and dice" above! :-) In truth, I am only tolerant of things I choose to tolerate. If I don't approve, tolerance doesn't even enter into the picture. Sometimes that's a good thing... a little righteous indignation is healthy, but too often it's Josie on the soapbox expounding on someone else's evil ways. Better check out that reflection in the mirror Josie dearest! Kindness, compassion and tolerance, in their true and unjustified forms, are definitely character traits I want to manifest more clearly this coming year.

What other characteristics would I like to exemplify? What's important to me? Honesty - and no half-truths or varnishing; straight forwardness - telling it like you see it and not playing games; fairness - not treating one person different from another without very good reason and also being reasonable and just in what we expect of others ; perseverance - the ability to hang in there and push thru against all odds; humor - the ability to laugh at oneself and others essential to the preservation of sanity (or some semblance thereof :-); filtering - monitoring one's actions and words with consideration of the effect and outcome; respect - knowing how to conduct yourself in the presence of someone who is worthy of such esteem and who has proven themselves to be further along on the spiritual path; faith - belief in something or someone greater than ourselves and belief that there is a plan to our lives and all life; hope - hope is essential to life, without it there is no point, no motivation, and no energy to proceed thru dark times; and most important of all, love - love of self, love of others, love of created things, love of life and the possibilities it holds for us. Love is the strongest force in the world!

When I am being honest with myself, I see clearly which characteristics I manifest, or think I do, and which ones are scarcely making a showing. When I ask others I trust what they think of me, I am often surprised by their responses - sometimes pleasantly, and sometimes giving pause for a little inner reflection. There are certainly some areas I need to work on!

I have learned in recent years that I do best if my goals are daily, I preach that to my daughter - get thru one day at a time and make it count! So I will ask myself on this first night of the new year, and on each succeeding night... Was I kind today? Was I compassionate? Was I honest, was I fair? Where did I do right and where did I fall short? How can I do better tomorrow? I agree with Selma that if we all stopped to ponder these things now and then, the world would be a much better place to be. Here's to character building in 2011!

What character traits are most important to you?

Read other writer's thoughts on progress at Sunday Scribblings... good stuff!