Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

I am a huge believer in fate. Things happen for a reason, not just by coincidence. Though we cannot always understand why certain things happen when they do, there eventually comes a point when the puzzle pieces fit together and it all makes sense – it’s an “aha” moment.

My daughter was t-boned by a police cruiser the night after Christmas. Luckily, she was not injured though the car sustained a good deal of damage. So did the sheriff deputy’s ego.  She was on her way to meet friends for dinner, driving cautiously, doing all the right things. The deputy tried to make a left-hand turn into the back parking lot of the Greenville Law Enforcement Center. He didn’t see her coming in the right-hand lane when the driver in the left-hand lane thought he was doing him a favor by stopping. It was an accident, but she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or was she?

When I arrived on the scene and saw the amount of damage to the car, a cold chill ran down my spine. But later on when I had time to reflect, I realized that had she gone through that intersection just two seconds sooner, she could have been seriously injured. The front end of the car took the impact – a two-second difference and the impact would have been right into the driver’s side door. So, if this accident was meant to happen, was she really in the right place at the right time to come out unscathed?
On January 14, Wesley Swilling, 31, was in the wrong place at the wrong time. At 3AM, he was in the parking lot of that same LEC. It wasn’t the civilian parking lot; it was the parking lot in the back of the building, one that is clearly marked for LEC personnel use only.  According to the news accounts, he threw a baseball at a city police officer heading to his car. That officer summoned the attention of a sheriff’s deputy sitting in a nearby patrol car doing paperwork. Together they took a stance and drew guns when they saw a weapon. By the officers’ accounts, Wes came toward them in a threatening manner and stated he was going to kill them. Feeling their lives were indeed in danger, they fired. Wes Swilling died amid a hail of bullets, seven of them hitting him.

The “weapon” found near Wes was a glue gun, though it had been taped and manipulated to look more like a real gun. It was a rainy, foggy night making visibility poor. Wes was dressed in dark clothing. There are only three people who will ever know the exact circumstances of that night, though many assumptions will be made. If Wes Swilling was on a mission to end his own life, he chose the right place at the right time to achieve that goal. Can we conclude the two officers were in the wrong place at the wrong time? Though an investigation concludes they followed proper police protocol, as human beings do they question whether they could have handled things differently?
I cannot presume to know what was in Wes Swilling’s head the morning he headed to the LEC parking lot. But I do believe I know where he may have been emotionally. Some of us have been in that place before, the corner where your demons push you so tightly you believe there is no way out. Too often it results in a tragedy with a rippling effect that touches many lives.

If these words cross the path of anyone in Wes’s family, please accept them in the spirit in which they are written.  Though I did not know Wes personally, I am close to many people who knew him well – including both my daughters who were fellow classmates. My heart is heavy along with yours at your loss. Those who knew him have told me of his sweet, caring personality. It was a vibrant life lost much too early.
There are many people who loved Wes Swilling, his family and friends alike. I hope they are able to find comfort in their memories of him. And I hope that Wes is now in the right place at the right time to have found his peace. God rest his sweet soul.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sometimes Ya Just Gotta Say Hmmmm…..

My younger daughter and I recently made a visit to the local law enforcement center. Without going into details, she was in a situation that started to feel threatening and it was time to get some professional advice.

The Greenville LEC has a unique situation. The space is shared by both the county sheriff’s office and the city police department. Their jurisdictions are different, but their officer desks are directly across from each other. When we arrived, no one was manning the city police desk which is where we needed to report. But the officer at the sheriff’s desk asked if he could help.
We explained our story to Deputy William Davis. He was professional, courteous and friendly, but explained that we indeed needed to file the report with a city officer. He detailed what to do in order to make that happen. He also assured us we were taking the correct action for the situation.

It was the day of a Clemson football game, and both my daughter and I wore our team colors proudly. Before we walked away, Officer Davis took the opportunity to give us a little ribbing over our team choice. He was an obvious USC fan, Clemson’s biggest rival. It was all good-natured and we poked fun at each other as every USC and Clemson fan does throughout the season.
An officer with the city appeared and we spoke with him. He took some action, dispensed some advice and walked us to our car. We went on our way feeling relieved and thankful that we have a police force that is approachable, conscientious and empathetic. A couple of weeks went by and we breathed a sigh of relief as it appeared the officer’s action had resolved the issue.

The day after Christmas, while most start winding down from the holiday, we were gearing up for the birth of my older daughter’s baby. I spent the afternoon with the very pregnant mama seeing Les Miserables. We enjoyed the movie while eating popcorn and nonpareils. After the movie, I kissed her goodbye, told her to get some rest and that I would see her the next morning at the hospital. I myself was ready to get home, get comfy and enjoy a relaxing night in anticipation of the big day.
I wasn’t home but five minutes, barely slipped my shoes off, when the younger daughter called. After saying hello, she told me to “hold on.” I heard a male voice say, “Are you sure you’re ok? Did you hit the steering wheel?” It didn’t take a brain surgeon to quickly surmise she had been in an accident. But I also knew by the fact that she called me and sounded very calm, she was ok.

She told me her location and I was back in the car in a flash. When I arrived to the accident scene, I was a little taken aback by the number of police vehicles and blue flashing lights. There must have been six patrol cars as well as an ambulance. I was immediately approached by a police officer and identified myself as “the mother”.  The officer assured me my daughter was ok but that she was in the ambulance keeping warm. Seeing her with my own eyes brought a rush of relief and the EMT’s gave a run down on their assessment. They said she would be sore for a few days, but nothing was broken and she was fine.
We climbed out of the ambulance and I took a moment to survey the damages to her car. Well, no wonder there was so much brouhaha – the other vehicle was a Greenville County Sheriff Department cruiser. The obligatory Crown Victoria was entangled with her Honda Accord. There was a lot of damage.

“Mom, the officer who hit me was the same one who helped us when we were here,” my daughter explained. Sure enough, there stood Deputy William Davis. I walked over to him and asked if he was ok. He said he was and immediately apologized for the accident. “It was an accident and the important thing is that both of you are ok,” I told him. And then I boldly poked my index finger into his chest (which he probably didn’t feel through the bullet-proof vest) and said, “But do you know why this happened?” He looked at me wide-eyed while the officers around him took a more rigid stance. “Because you made fun of us for being Clemson fans,” I explained. Deputy Davis broke into a big grin and the other officers relaxed their stance, laughed and joined in on the ribbing.
The cars were towed, the Highway Patrolman handed out copies of the accident report and the officer-in-charge assured me that everything would be processed by the county as needed. He handed me his card saying, “If you need anything, just call me.” I felt like I had just gotten the “Get Out of Jail Free” card from the top of the Monopoly Chance pile.

Over 400 deputies work for the Greenville County Sheriff’s Department. What were the odds that the same deputy who had assisted us one month ago would be the one who t-boned my daughter as he attempted to make a left turn into the LEC?
People come into our lives for a reason, though sometimes it is not unveiled at the moment. Coincidence is but one factor in the grand scheme. Like a giant puzzle, people, places and events find their interlocking partners. Only after all the pieces are in place can we step back and see the complete picture. And sometimes that’s when you just gotta say, “Hmmmm, now I get it.”

Sunday, December 23, 2012

I Hate the Word Hate

Actually, I have a love-hate relationship with the word hate. I love that it is short, contains one-syllable and is to the point. I love that it rhymes with fate. I love that a word so small in stature carries such power. But I hate that it is used to hurt, blaspheme and display anger so deep that it is beyond my comprehension.

I remember discovering the word as a kid. It was a new way to express extreme dislike such as “I hate carrots and don’t even think about putting them on my plate.” It was a catch-all word – you could hate people, places, events, inanimate objects.  But it just meant you really, really, really didn’t like something. The concept of pure, vitriolic, gut-wrenching hatred wasn’t a reality yet. I simply hadn’t lived enough life to know what that was and how to feel it.
I am now older, and yes, wiser. As a result, I have tried to delete the word hate from my vocabulary because I have seen the results of real hatred and it is stomach-turning. I don’t want that type of karma in my life. I always knew I was a peace-loving hippy at heart, but now I actually try to walk the walk.

But the word hate still holds validity; it just needs to be used in the proper context. I don’t hate people (ok, just one but I am working on a twelve-step program with God on getting past it). But I do think I hate some situations.
I hate the political division in our country. I honestly do remember a time when both sides would find common ground, give a little, take a little and ultimately come to a decision that they truly believed was best for our country.

I hate the violence that is prevalent in so much of our daily lives. Human life used to be cherished.
I hate that it’s the holidays and my sister is without a home to celebrate. Super storm Sandy took her home and belongings, but thank God, not her spirit and determination. She is a survivor who makes me aspire to be a stronger person.

I hate that my sister is spending her first holiday season without her beloved husband. Though they didn’t celebrate in the traditional sense, they had their own special routines and they enjoyed them together.  I hope she is able to find peace and strength in her memories.
I hate that we still have thousands of military personnel who will spend the holidays without their families because they are on the other side of the world. Though perhaps a pipe dream, I pray that someday every country can find its own peace and resolution.

I hate that my sisters are all so geographically far away and that I can’t just hop in my car and go visit them whenever I want. But I am so thankful that my daughters are within that range and that we take advantage of it often. I find more and more that time spent with my girls and my grandson are the most precious moments in my life. And in just a few days we will bring baby Quinn into the adventure.
I hate that we have not had a New Paltz reunion in the past couple of years and I hope 2013 brings the resurrection. I miss spending three days laughing, eating and being silly with friends that I love so dearly.

I hate that I have lost good friends who have gone to the other side, but I know they are here in spirit.
I hate that many people don’t know how to say “I love you” as easily and comfortably as me. It should be said daily and with sincerity. My daughters and I never end a conversation, or a text, without saying it. I am thankful they grew up knowing the true meaning of love and they have no qualms about expressing it.

And I love that they find it important enough to keep the tradition alive. As I watched my grandson last week, snuggled in the bed ready to fall asleep, I stroked his head and said, “I love you Wyatt.” Without missing a beat, he looked at me and replied, “I love you too, grandma.” At that very moment, all was well with the world and there was no hate.
Happy holidays to all my friends and family.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Go With Your Gut

Two weeks ago with nothing to do on a Saturday night, I decided to take myself to dinner and a movie. Choosing dinner was a cinch – Arizona Steakhouse’s Wedge Salad with Sliced Sirloin. It went well with a glass of red wine. As is typical when I eat alone, I sat at the bar and ended up talking to other people. Tonight was the bonus plan having sat next to a retired surgeon who provided new insight to Crohn’s Disease, my daughter’s dreaded affliction.

I was so engrossed in lively conversation, I lost track of time and had to hustle to get to the movie theatre in time for the previews. I enjoy watching the trailers for other movies almost as much as the feature film. And yes, I cry at the previews too.
The lines were long for tickets and I scolded myself for not having purchased mine online in preparation. As I was inching toward the ticket window, I watched the marquee that lists all twenty movie options at the aptly named Regal Hollywood 20 theatre. And as I scanned for my chosen movie, Flight, I moaned out loud as the movie time flashed and just like that turned to “sold out”.

The man behind me asked which movie I had planned to see and I told him. I added that my alternate choice would do – Pitch Perfect.  “You will enjoy Pitch Perfect much more. Flight was terrible,” he said. “Really, how can you go wrong with Denzel Washington?” I questioned him. “Trust me, it was way too graphic and totally depressing. You are not missing a thing,” he assured me. I was skeptical of his review but it was a moot point right now. (Or as Joey Tribbiano would have said, a moo point – it’s what cows think).
I found a seat in the back row just in time to thoroughly enjoy the previews. The final preview seemed to go on a lot longer than the previous ones. It almost seemed like it was the start of the actual movie.  But who were these young girls singing acappella? And where were Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake? Oh good Lord, I was in the wrong movie. My brain had tricked me into thinking Pitch Perfect was the movie I wanted to see when actually that movie was called Trouble with the Curve. Pitch? Baseball term? You can see how this Boomer brain made the mistaken connection.

Pitch Perfect turned out to be a fun, feel-good movie and probably a better choice for me than a story about a girl with an estranged relationship with her father (that might have hit too close to home). The singing was uplifting, the story light and there were several laughs thrown in by the Fat Amy character (my name is actually Fat Patricia). All in all, a good night.
Yesterday afternoon looked like a good time for a matinee. I checked Fandango to see the options. Since Anna Karenina was not showing at the theatre on this side of town, Flight once again became a possibility. My gut feeling told me it would be a good movie despite the unsolicited review from a stranger.  If there is one thing I have learned in my 58 years it is that I should always go with my gut feeling.

Once again, my gut proved to be a reliable barometer. The movie was riveting, the acting superb (John Goodman’s role should have been expanded) and the ending a testament to mankind’s ability to make the right decisions. Luckily my roommate remembered to bring me tissues.
Going with your gut is a credo by which to live. Gut feelings, though manifested in your gastrointestinal area, actually come from the heart. You can never go wrong with your gut feelings – they make difficult decisions easy, send warning signals when you are in danger, help you size up people within two minutes of meeting them and encourage you to have faith and hang tough when needed.

My gut feelings have never let me down. It is the reason I have incredible friends who are always there for me. It is the reason I have a terrific job right now that I love (that is a whole gut feeling story unto itself). It is the reason I love with unbridled passion. It is the reason I keep the faith even when things are not going the way I want at a particular moment. It is the reason I feel good about myself, have hope for the future and always send out good karma.
My advice – always go with your gut. It will never give you bad advice. Trust your gut instinct and you will always come out ok.  Never ignore your gut feelings - they are signs to help you make choices. And to say thank you to your gut, feed it a turkey sandwich once in awhile.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Turkeys and Friends – I Know How to Pick ‘Em Both

It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a post to the Life as a Turkey Sandwich blog. The writing bug doesn’t bite me as often these days, but when it does – it is sincere. I am certainly in a better place this Thanksgiving than I was last year, thanks to the love and support of my family and cherished friends. So without further adieu, I simply need to express some thanks.

Ro – where would I be without you?  On the streets for one thing. Thank you for opening up your home to me. You exemplify the expression “Home is Where the Heart Is”. Your heart is so big we almost need another room to accommodate it. Thank you for all the nights you let me cry on your shoulder, held my hand and gave me the pep talks I needed. I am forever indebted to you and when I win the lottery, I will finally be able to pay you back ten-fold.
Molly – The Thelma to my Louise, or is that the other way around? Actually, I think we interchange the roles as needed. Thank you for always making me laugh when I thought I could never laugh again. Always just a phone call away, you came and rescued me on so many occasions. I am happy that you are finding your own happiness and contentment right now. You deserve the best.
Vic and Mary – How many people can say they have the best ex-husband in the world? You both show me the true meaning of family, especially at the holidays. Mary, the open arms that you and your sisters welcome me with over and over are so appreciated. I enjoy every moment I spend with you both.
Bill W – Thank you for being my champion. You are always there to build me up when I am feeling most down. You inspire me to write even when I am not feeling it. I always know when I need a lift, I can call you and quote Firesign Theatre and we are on a roll. Your friendship means more to me than even my words can ever express. I shall think of you on Christmas.
Doug L – After all these years, you came back into my life when I needed you most. You bring sunshine to my life at the start of every morning and sweet dreams at the end of each night. You, my friend, are one of the “good guys”. Together we will navigate the winding roads of the heart and clear each other’s paths to finding love and happiness once more. Never give up.

Jack and Clay – I will continue to savor our Sunday nights. The perfect way to end the week is sharing a Sunday dinner with close friends who mean so much to me. No one can keep our foursome down – we know how to laugh at our own tragedies! Thank you for understanding me and always letting me be myself. Love you both.
Richard O – You make my cup runneth over (get your mind out of the gutter, LOL). You have no idea how many times you bring a smile to my face and warm my heart. I don’t know which I love more about you – your intelligence or your sense of humor. I guess they go hand-in-hand.

Kristen – my own personal guardian angel. You lift me up without even knowing it.
And last, but most certainly not least, my Vicki and Kelly. I don’t know who did such a good job of raising you (your dad and I can argue over that one), but you both amaze me every day. You have stayed by my side every step of this journey and always know when I need a visit or a talk. A prouder mommy does not exist. You are beautiful inside and out. I hope if you have learned anything from me it is to never give up on your dreams.

As I write this, with tears in my eyes, a 24-pound turkey is cooking in the oven. And in a couple of hours some of you will be here to share this impromptu Thanksgiving dinner with me. (Ro, you will be here in spirit for sure). Nothing warms my heart more than sharing a meal made with the special ingredient.
I wish you all a safe, happy and blessed Thanksgiving.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Something to Ponder

In the spring of 2007, the graduating class of Mount Saint Joseph Academy in Rutland, VT listened to a riveting speech by their valedictorian. Reilly Hart told the story of his recent car accident. By no means a simple fender bender, in fact, Reilly could have lost his life. He fell asleep at the wheel while driving to Middlebury. When he woke up, a fence post was flying through the windshield. The combination of a seat belt and a barbed wire fence saved his life – literally within inches.

The part of Reilly’s speech that touched the hearts of his audience was when he relayed his thoughts right after the accident. He quickly thought about his family and the thought of never seeing them again. I’m sure his family was thinking the same thing. His words drove home the point about how precious life is and how quickly it can be taken away.

The senior class of MSJ listened to Reilly Hart’s words that day. They were all getting ready to embark on the next phase of their young lives – most heading to college full of dreams about their futures. Each had mapped out a path to follow, including Jason Foster and Alex Spanos.

Foster and Spanos were both standout athletes. Jason’s first love was football, though he excelled at basketball as well. He was headed to Bridgton Academy for a year of prep school, hoping to increase his chances for an athletic scholarship to a four-year university. Nothing was going to stand in his way of a football career. He was determined and was ready to do whatever it took to achieve his goal.

I watched Alex and Jason play basketball and football. Their names and pictures appeared in the newspaper often, stories of high-point achievements, completed passes, outscoring opponents and pride when they helped their team to victory. The world was their oyster and they both had the talent and drive to go far.

Jason Foster went on to the University of Rhode Island on a football scholarship. Last spring, he was signed on as a free-agent by the Indianapolis Colts. He worked hard and saw playing time in the pre-season, but like thousands of other rookies, he was cut before the start of the regular season. Not one to be deterred, Jason is now playing with the Sacramento Mountain Lions in the UFL. He will never give up.

Yesterday I once again saw Alex Spanos’ picture in the paper. He was being led to an arraignment on charges of manslaughter. His car had careened into four others as he sped down a residential street and into a parking lot. There are theories and speculations about huffing, alcohol and blacking out. Several people were injured. They were sitting in their parked cars and were blindsided by the barreling vehicle.

Seventeen-year-old Carly Ferro had just finished her shift in the Rutland Discount Food Store. She was getting ready to hop into the passenger side of her father’s car. She never made it. Spanos’ car slammed into the driver side of Ron Ferro’s car, pinning him inside. The impact pushed Ferro’s car into a brick wall, crushing Carly against it. Though she was still alive as passersby ran to her aid, her injuries were too severe. She was pronounced dead two hours later at the hospital.

Carly Ferro was a high school senior. She also was a standout student and athlete, a golfer. Carly, like Jason and Alex back in 2007, was preparing to embark on her future. She was popular, a hard worker and according to the words of her parents, neighbors and fellow students, a loving, sweet girl who was poised to go places. Carly Ferro will never have that chance. And she won’t be present at her graduation, listening to the words of the valedictorian speech.

Carly Ferro, Jason Foster and Alex Spanos all had dreams and plans. They each had family, teachers and friends rooting them on. They each had their whole lives ahead of them. So how did they end up with such different fates? Jason is determined to realize his dreams. Carly will never have that chance due to a tragedy that has broken the hearts of everyone who knew her. Alex’s future will now be in the hands of a jury.

The MSJ Class of 2007 listened to Reilly Hart’s speech that day and walked out the doors of their high school. Each then made decisions that shaped their future – some good, some bad. The Rutland High School Class of 2013 will graduate next June, and I am sure there will be a tribute to Carly Ferro. And as each of those graduating students walk through the doors of their school for the last time, they also will have decisions to make. Hopefully they will look at the lives of Jason Foster and Alex Spanos and Carly Ferro and it will make that decision-making process crystal clear. Life is precious and we get but one shot at it. Don’t have regrets.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Karma's A Bitch

Getting older (I didn’t say old, I said older – there’s a difference) means your body starts to sag in unattractive places. Things flap, things get wrinkly, and your thighs make that swishing noise when you walk even when you are not wearing corduroys.

It became obvious that I needed to take drastic measures. It was time to hire a personal trainer – someone who would make me accountable, would push me to my limits and would help me whip this 58-year-old body into better shape.
Finding a trainer is easy, but there are a lot of them out there and all using different methods. I had recommendations for a boot camp program. Ummm, no thanks. Running up and down hills at 5AM while carrying a kettle bell is not my poison of choice. I had recommendations for local gyms offering classes in aerobics, Pilates and Yoga, but it was voluntary. Nope. Too easy to blow off. I needed a personal trainer who expected me to show up at a certain time and day and who was going to charge me for it whether I showed up or not. My friend Clay gave me the number for Justin along with the highest recommendation. “He’s good, he’s motivating, he’s hot and he’s a nice guy.” What more could I ask for?

Two days later I was meeting with Justin at Doug’s One-On-One – a stone’s throw from my house and a small, intimate workout venue. We chatted about my eating and exercise habits and my goals. I liked him and said, “Let’s do it. I’m ready.” “I have time to do your weight and measurements right now,” he said.
As Justin was maneuvering around my limbs with a tape measure, we made idle conversation. “Were you born and raised here?” I asked. “Yes ma’am,” he replied. “Where did you go to high school?” I went on. “Mauldin,” he answered. When I asked him his graduation year, I realized he must have been at Mauldin the same time as my daughters. My last name is different than Vicki and Kelly, so I inquired whether he knew them. He seemed very sheepish when he told me he indeed did know them. My mama red flag went up. “What’s your last name, Justin,” I interrogated.

The second he blurted it out, I knew. I pointed a finger right at his face and said, “You were one of the boys at the pool!” He put his hands over his face, shook his head and said, “Yes ma’am, I was.” I burst out laughing at the coincidence of it all. Thirteen years prior, there had been an incident at our neighborhood pool. Several local boys hopped the fence in the middle of the night and had a little par-tay, ending with tables, chairs and umbrellas thrown into the water. As President of the homeowner’s association, I got the early morning call when it was discovered.
I was on a mission to find the culprits, which I did with a bit of detective work. I wrote letters to their parents, summarizing the damage and demanding payment to keep from contacting the local police. The money was paid, punishments were doled out and I had three teen-aged boys who wanted to see me suffer.

And now, here I was, agreeing to pay one of those boys my hard-earned cash to inflict pain on me twice a week. Justin and I had a good laugh over it, though he still expresses his embarrassment to me when the subject comes up. In the meantime, for thirty minutes twice a week, he concocts grueling exercises that leave my limbs feeling like rubber bands. For three days afterwards, I struggle to climb the stairs at work (I complete five sets of five flights five days a week) and lift my arms to dry my hair. And the worst pain, which every woman who has ever been sore from exercise understands, is felt while trying to be seated on the commode. I try to stifle the “oh, oh, oh” moans when squatting in a public restroom.
I know Justin is being a total professional as he directs my workout each week. I know the exercises he makes me perform are for toning my muscles and burning some fat. I know he would never think of pushing me just a little harder than normal in order to make me hurt just a little extra the next day. I know he would never…….  Do I really know that? As I struggle to complete the last two or three reps of a squat, or a lift or a crunch, I find myself sometimes yelling out to him, “How mad were you about the pool incident?” We both have a laugh and move on. I leave the gym covered in sweat from head to toe, endorphins spewing. I know it’s all good. But when I try to make that squat without moaning in pain, I do have to ask myself if karma really is the bitch she’s cracked up to be.

Monday, July 16, 2012

They Say It's Your Birthday

It’s my birthday too, yeah. It came, I saw, I kicked its ass. In some ways, I couldn’t wait for it to be over, but in other ways, it was a celebration of survival.

Last year’s birthday was the worst in my long history. Why? Read the blog post prior to this one. Because of the crappy memory associated with last year’s birthday, I was tentative about the second coming. But as it approached, just like it does every year like a high-speed train, I realized I was no longer afraid.  It was the Gloria Gaynor in me.

It was a birthday weekend. Friday night Molly and I (the Thelma to my Louise) hit downtown with a bullet. Green Vegas (best Greenville band eva) was playing Wild Wing at 10PM. After happy hour drinks and pulled-pork nachos at Arizona, we were starting to fade. But luckily the second wind blew in and we were on our way.

Now, it was MY birthday we were out to celebrate, and we were fringing on Molly’s as well since it will arrive three days later. When we climbed the stairs to the second level of WW, we were first greeted by a bouncer who put arm bands on our wrists WITHOUT checking ID. Bitch slap number one.
Next vision – a slew of men all wearing black t-shirts emblazoned with the words “Sean Spears is 40 today”. That party had started earlier in the day and these boys were wound up. Within the first hour, I know I saw at least three rounds of shots go down the hatches. Well, there was going to be competition in the birthday bashing tonight. We were up for the challenge.

Green Vegas rocked the house, as usual, and we danced our butts off with Sean Spears et al. For someone reason, they latched on to us. At one point Molly said, “Do you realize we were old enough to babysit these guys when they were kids?” Oooh, bitch slap number two.
I arrived home at 2am, thankful I had no reason to set an alarm. Of course I was still wide awake by 7:30 and in need of some strong coffee. Uh oh, the easy-to-use, handy-dandy Tassimo was disassembled. All the parts were in the dish drainer. I had neither the expertise nor a clear enough head to deal with that. Guess I will wait until I meet the girls for lunch and get my caffeine fix with sweet tea.

I met Vicki and Kelly at their dad’s so I could see Wyatt for a few minutes. Grandpa Vic and Mimi were babysitting so the girls could spend the afternoon with me.  Wyatt handed me my card, a plant and plainly spoke the words, “Happy birthday Ma-maw.” That was all the gift I needed. For those who haven’t heard yet, Wyatt has also got my Christmas gift on order. He spilled the beans when he walked in with his “Big Brother” shirt.
Greenville is teeming with outstanding restaurants and the girls told me to pick whatever my birthday heart desired. Subs and Clubs. Small, family-owned hole-in-the-wall short on ambiance, tall on quality of food. The place holds lots of memories for me, many with the girls. I attempted to drive into the parking lot, but couldn’t. The entrance was blocked by a fire truck and an ambulance, both with lights flashing. I was convinced we could still go in and place our order, but was overruled. The hamburger at J. Peters was good, but my taste buds still craved the infamous Chicken Philly at Subs. Oh well, there’s always next year.

We did enjoy seeing Ted, my second time. Laughing with my family was a terrific way to spend my special day. By 5PM, I was back home – and in for the night. I guess turning 58 does require a longer recovery time when you party the night before. But all in all, it was a great birthday spent with those I love most – well almost all of them. And it certainly beat last year’s.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Laugh's on Me - Thank God

I laughed today. I mean I really laughed. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but it is the first time I have laughed in almost a year. I know you think I am exaggerating, but I know the difference between a real, hearty, comes-on-ya-like-a-freight-train guffaw and a fake laugh that you force because it is what is expected at the moment. Today I had the first kind – and it was the first time since July 9. That was the day my heart got broken.

It wasn’t a mild heartbreak, it was a complete shattering that caused it to crumble into a million pieces. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t even try to put it together again. It was the kind of heartbreak that leaves you numb. It was the kind that causes you to wonder if you can ever possibly allow yourself to fall in love again because you are so afraid of putting yourself in the path of a hurt so severe it knocks the wind out of you.

Heart breaks like this one rob you of life’s simple pleasures. It keeps you distracted every waking hour of the day. It takes away your laughter for a very, very long time.

For 11 months I got through each day by muddling through it. Waking up was the worst – it was when the reality smacked you in the face. Sometimes waking up came on the heels of a nightmare, so the pain was fresh the minute the eyes opened. Other times it took a minute or two for the memory to wiggle back to the forefront. Those times were especially cruel because there were a few pain-free seconds before it all came flooding back.

It is upsetting to look back and see all that I missed. Like Thanksgiving and Christmas when I should have been basking in the love of my family, I was wallowing in the loneliness of holidays without my soulmate. I did my best to concentrate on the wonderment of my grandson when he started taking his first steps and forming his first words, but instead I was tortured by visions of him with someone else.  And try as they did, the long hours my daughters spent trying to convince me that everything would be ok were tainted with continual fears that I would simply never have the energy to move past this gripping regret.

They say time heals all wounds. I haven’t proven that theory just yet, but I am still hopeful the hypothesis holds water. At least now I know there is hope, because today I laughed. It felt good, it felt real and it felt like I might be able to do it again.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Quit Your Belly Aching

This was one of my mother’s more infamous lines. I believe it was passed down to her from my grandmother. I’m not sure of its origin, but I distinctly recall some of my aunts and uncles using it as well in conversations with my cousins, hence the grandma connection.

I never quite understood the meaning of this command, as I never was suffering from a stomach ache when my mother said it to me. And besides, if I did have a stomach ache there would have been an underlying cause for it. We all know if you have a belly ache, it is a physical affliction not a mental one. So telling me to simply “quit it” would have been ludicrous.
I didn’t carry on the tradition of using this expression when I became a mom. I used a more appropriate term – stop whining. I believed this was a bit less menacing than the other available line – stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about. That line could land you a meeting with DSS these days.

To this day, I get a kick out of the SNL parody with The Whiners – the cranky, pain-in-the-butt couple who whined about every aspect of their lives. I still find myself blurting out, “Don’t kick the china” in the most high-pitched, whiny tone I can muster, when I hear someone else whining about trivial matters.  
We all have a tendency to resort to whining at times. We all have those “why me” days when we feel as if everyone else in the world has it made and we are eating from the crap sandwich.  I have been guilty, you have been guilty. There is a saying that if you put everyone’s problems in a bowl, you would end up choosing your own. It only takes a few ganders at the issues plaguing others to find a way to quit your belly aching. I had a good dose of it recently.

For the past three months, my sister has watched her husband die. John was a vibrant, smart, salt-of-the-earth fella who loved his job, his wife and his life. A computer whiz, John enjoyed a very successful career at IBM. He could have retired years ago with his many years of service, but he loved what he did so much he didn’t want to stop. His client, American Express, loved him as well and also didn’t want him to stop. It was a match made in heaven, similar to his marriage to my sister. Three months ago, he came home from work and they sat to enjoy dinner together, their daily routine that allowed them to catch up. And suddenly, mid-conversation, John was not making sense. My sister knew something was very wrong and immediately called 911. First diagnosed as a stroke, they both thought he would be ok. But an MRI showed a suspicious growth on his brain and the doctors said it was inoperable. John came home from the hospital and although they were hopeful he would not get worse, little by little his memory disappeared. He and Arlene spent the next few weeks doing everything together – it was probably some of the best weeks of their lives. But eventually his functions were diminishing and he went to hospice. Almost three months to the day of that seizure, John left this life on May 28th at 4:35 AM.
Ryenna is a sweet Southern girl who cuts my hair, and my daughter’s hair, and my son-in-law’s hair and she gave my grandson his first haircut.  Since my first cut from her, I have stated emphatically that she could be working in a high-end salon in Manhattan, but she chooses to work in a little unknown shop in Greer, SC. Ryenna and her husband have wanted a child for many years, but for whatever reason, it didn’t happen. Until 21 weeks ago. I had an appointment for a cut and the minute I walked into the shop, I knew. She was glowing. She had a silly smile and appeared to be dazed. She finally fessed up and told me she had taken the test the prior day. I hugged her and could not be happier. I actually felt tears well up in my eyes. She deserved to be a mom. All was going well for 20 weeks, and then without warning, her water broke. It’s been a week and she remains on strict bed rest, popping three different antibiotics a day hoping to stave off infection. I cannot imagine the fear that grips her every day. She is literally fighting for her baby’s life. We are all praying for her.

I have close friends and family dealing with illnesses, financial hardships and an array of daily tribulations that are distracting and stressful. Do I have things to whine about? Sure. But if I compare them to the things others are dealing, my issues are a piece of cake. And they are overshadowed by so many of the amazing things in my life – a job I love, true blue friends and all the material things that I “really” need to keep me satisfied.  I also have the cutest grandson who thinks mamaw is terrific. And last, but most certainly not least, I have my two incredible daughters who somehow took over the mom role in my time of need. They stood by my side and nursed me back to an emotionally healthy state after a serious rug-pulling. I am forever grateful for their love, intelligence and compassion.
I really try to catch myself when I start to whine. I quickly change my tune by thinking about all the good things I have in my life, the intangible things like health, happiness and love. And I quickly remember those near and dear to me who are dealing with so much more than my trivial annoyances. I have vowed to never belly ache unless I have a serious belly ache – a physical one. If you find yourself getting ready to belly ache, just do a priority shuffle. It’s like popping an imaginary Tums.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Banana Split Seconds

We plan. We set goals and we create paths to achieve them. We save for a rainy day. We set out on a career path and work hard every day. We create retirement funds and find ways to invest in them. We take precautions and we try to live a clean life. We put our faith in a higher power and we allow ourselves to be humbled when we are shown mercy.

We chart a course and we use our navigation tools to steer the ship. We do everything according to plan and at times, we even get to coast for awhile. And then in one split second, everything changes. It could be an accident, it might be a diagnosis. It can be the loss of a friend or the loss of our financial security. The stock market crashes, the car crashes. The heart stops beating, the heart gets broken.
A young man named Reid Fisher died this week. He was riding his bicycle on Folly Road outside Charleston, SC. His bike collided with a car which caused him to lose control. An oncoming car was unable to avoid him. From the details I read, it was a gruesome accident. Passersby stopped and ran to his aid. They attempted CPR, but to no avail. In a split second, Reid Fisher’s life was taken. In that same split second, the lives of his family and friends were also changed forever.

There is a strange and ironic twist to this story. Last October, Reid Fisher’s life was changed in a split second. As he drove along that same Folly Road late one night, he hit a pedestrian with his car.  Twenty-five year old Beau Froehlich had left the Skinful Halloween party and was crossing the road to get into the car of a friend. He suffered severe head trauma and broken bones. After a week at MUSC in a coma, he succumbed to those injuries. Reid Fisher was charged with felony DUI.
Two young men, both in the prime of their lives. Two young men whose lives were changed, and eventually ended, as a result of a split second action. Two young men who will never achieve their goals or navigate their course. Two young men who left behind shattered family, friends and loved ones.

Banana split seconds can happen without warning and may be completely out of our control – fate, divine intervention, karma. We look up and ask “Why me?” But sometimes banana split seconds are a result of our own pre-meditated actions – getting behind the wheel after drinking, speaking or acting out of anger, betraying someone we love. You can’t take back those moments, and the aftershocks sometimes roll on for a lifetime. And there are also times when banana split seconds impact our lives in a positive way – choosing to rush to the aid of someone in need, reacting quickly in a crisis, letting your conscience guide you when temptation steps in your path. Those are the ones we react to by saying, “How lucky am I?”
You can’t plan for your banana split seconds. There’s usually no warning before they occur. They happen and you react, and when the dust settles you survey the damages or the blessings. If you choose to believe in yourself, live life according to the golden rule, and surround yourself with positive energy then maybe, just maybe, you’ll have more positive banana split seconds. Those are the ones with the extra whipped cream and the cherry on top. Savor them, because you never know when the next one will come along.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Spare Parts

When you get to be my age, the term spare parts takes on a whole new meaning. Things start to wear out on us – like hips, and knees and organs, oh my. But thanks to the marvels of modern technology and medical advancements, you can actually replace worn out joints. I have never been one to consider things like new hips or plastic surgery, but I must admit I sometimes stand in front of the mirror and pull my jowls taut thinking, “maybe, just maybe.”
Of course there are exceptions, and sometimes “spare parts” has the traditional meaning. In my case, spare tires to be exact.

Last July, I drove to Vermont to trade-in my Toyota Rav4. I actually intended to buy out the lease on my Rav4 because I really liked that car. But you know what happens when you go into a car dealership with the best of intentions. Yup, you leave with a new car.
I turned in my plain white bare essentials Rav and drove off the lot in a shiny silver, loaded-with- extras Camry. It took me about one hour to get used to my new vehicle. And there is nothing better than that new car smell.

I broke her in right from the get-go by driving it back to South Carolina, a little under 1000 miles. Part of the lease deal was free service for the first two years. The gas mileage was a little better as well. And my monthly payment went up by one dollar. Economically, this was a good move. I had a brand new car with a three-year warranty, so I wasn’t going to be sinking any funds into maintenance or repairs. Had I kept the Rav, the first priority would have been to replace all four tires.
On February 25th, I drove the Camry into the local Firestone dealership after discovering a tire with an apparent slow leak. No problem, those boys will patch that hole, charge me ten bucks and I will be on my way. Not so fast. When the mechanic said, “Miss Phillips, can I show you something” I knew I was up the creek. This wasn’t going to be good news.

A piece of metal about two inches long was wedged in the middle of the tire. “It’s too big a gash for us to plug. We need to replace the tire,” the mechanic advised me. Then he apologized when he saw the look on my face, like it was his fault I drove over something. “How much will it be,” I asked while trying to bat my eyes, a trick that used to work when I was younger and thinner. The mechanic apologized again when he informed me it would be $188.35. I tried to remain calm as I politely inquired if there was a lower cost alternative, but the look on my face obviously said, “You’ve got to be shitting me.” Apology number three.
I slapped down the good old American Express card and gave myself the speech about being thankful that I have a job, my health, two beautiful daughters and an amazing grandson. It’s just a tire and it’s just two hundred dollars. Get over it. I got in my car and drove on my merry way.

Last Sunday, I headed downtown to meet Vicki, Eric and Wyatt at Triune Mercy Church. Vicki asked me to join them; it was their first visit as well. I knew the church was close to Tommy’s Ham House, the greasy spoon where every political candidate makes an obligatory stop when they come to Greenville. As I started to merge into the right-hand turning lane toward 183, I looked around trying to scope out the church. All of a sudden there was a loud boom and my car jumped the curb. It became apparent very quickly that my tire was going flat. I coasted into Tommy’s parking lot, got out of the car and went to survey the damage. There was a hole on the side of my tire about two inches by four inches – just blown out. How in God’s name I managed this, I will never know. And it happened while I was looking for one of God’s houses, so it really seems ironic.
After the service, and after Eric put on my spare, I once again drove to Firestone. It was pretty easy for them to pull me up in their system – I was there three weeks prior for the same damn reason. After surveying the damage, the trusty mechanic once again had a comment. “You hit that curb pretty hard, didn’t you Miss Phillips?” I tried to answer him politely, though my face had the just-change-the-damn-tire-and-run-my-Amex-card-again look.  I signed a charge slip for $189.55. Really? So what was the difference in price from last time? An added stupidity charge? Tire inflation? Sunday blue law surcharge?

Oh yeah, I forget to mention that my hubcap flew off during this blowout and had vanished into thin air by the time that church service concluded. The church is also a homeless mission and not located in a particularly great neighborhood. So at Toyota the next day, I got to burn up that credit card again for another $82.50.
My less-than-nine-month old car now has two brand new tires and one brand new hubcap. But hey, I still have another year of free service and plenty of opportunity to ruin the other two original tires. The sad thing is, these unexpected car expenses are really digging into my facelift fund.

(Special thanks to all of those who have been purchasing products from Amazon through my portal. Remember, all you have to do is enter the Amazon site through the blog page and place your order within 24 hours. Nothing else is different.)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Why People Go Ballistic

I get it. I understand that going to the DMV is never, ever going to be a pleasant experience. But when it takes two days to get a simple license and car registration processed, there’s a problem. But this is the way things are now since 9/11 and the wonderful inception of identity fraud.

Now that I will be gainfully employed in the fine State of SC, it was time to become a full-fledged citizen again. I started this process on Thursday morning around 10am. In SC, you are required to pay a property tax on your vehicle and this needed to be done before I could start any paperwork at the DMV. I went to the office and quickly saw the signs stating you must go to the auditor if you do not yet have a bill to pay. The auditor’s office, of course, was on the opposite side of the building. No problem, I need the exercise.
In order to get a tax bill, I have to show proof of residency. Not easy. I have no rental lease, no mortgage, no utility bills and no license yet. Aha, my offer letter from the job was acceptable. They proudly presented me with a bill for $241. Before heading back to the payment office, I realized the real property tax office was close by. Since I had submitted an appeal on the value of a home site I own, I stopped in to check on the status. Cool – a refund check should be in the mail shortly.

There is a DMV office right across the street, so I headed over there. When I entered, I saw at least 100 people sitting in chairs waiting for their number to be called. I got on the pre-screening line behind a half dozen people. While standing in line, I realized that I was so excited by the news of the refund check, I forgot to stop at the payment office. Back to my car and back across the street. Of course it was raining, so my good hair day was going flat, not good for taking a driver’s license picture on a ten-year license.
After paying the tax, I decided to head back home, have something to eat, dry my hair and go to an alternate DMV office that might not be as crowded. I arrived there a little after 1pm. I had read all the information on their website and was sure I had everything I needed. I laid out everything at the pre-screening desk and the woman asked for my birth certificate. “I don’t need that, I have my VT license and my social security card,” I responded. “Nope, everyone has to show a birth certificate for a license,” she stated.

Back in the car and heading for home to retrieve my birth certificate. Round trip was probably about 45 minutes. I got back on the line for the pre-screen desk, smiled at the woman and presented my birth certificate. She handed me a number and I went to sit with about 30 other people. It was probably about a half hour before they called my number, but I was working on my patience skills and doing ok.
I headed to Counter 4 and presented all my completed forms and supporting documentation. She looked at my license application first. Naturally, my birth certificate has a different last name than my current name. “We need documentation showing the name change, like a marriage certificate,” the clerk said. I felt tears starting to well up. “Ma’am, I just drove all the way home to get my birth certificate. The lady said nothing about marriage licenses,” I pleaded. I then produced an expired passport, SC Voter Registration card and a Teaching Credential issued by the state. No good. It had to be a certified marriage license, well two actually, and they were sitting in a drawer in Vermont. No license for this girl today.

The clerk then looked at my paperwork for the car registration. “Do you have a signed Power of Attorney from the leasing company?” she inquired. More tears welling and my voice cracked as I responded, “No, I didn’t know I needed that.”   I produced a monthly statement for the car lease, but it meant nothing. I also produced all the paperwork from the dealership, all to no avail. I noticed on the leasing bill there was a customer service number. I called it and explained what we needed. “We can do that, but it can take up to an hour to be faxed,” the rep told me. It was now 4:15 and the office closed at 5PM.
The DMV clerk continued to look over my papers, visited her supervisor several times to ask questions and looked as if she were possibly accomplishing something. She then clipped all the papers together and handed them back to me with instructions to come back tomorrow. My phone rang – it was Toyota Leasing. They had faxed the paperwork. The DMV clerk retrieved the fax and processed the car registration just in the nick of time. I now had a car registered in SC, but still a VT license. Tomorrow would be my last free day before starting my job, so the pressure was on.

Knowing I could not get my hands on a marriage certificate for number one, I asked if a divorce decree would work. “Yes, so long as it is certified,” she replied. As I left the DMV office, I dialed ex numero uno. “Hey, crazy question, but do you still have our divorce papers,” I asked cheerily. Dead silence on the other end. Finally he spoke and said, “If I didn’t burn them, probably yes.” An hour later I arrived to his house, grabbed the papers and exclaimed that I needed a drink after a day from hell. He poured me a vodka and himself some wine. We sat and starting chit chatting. At some point he refilled my glass. I had not eaten much all day, so it hit me fast.
An hour later, my friend Molly called asking what I was up to. “I’m at Vic’s, come over, he has vodka. And pick up some food on your way”. At about 9PM, my ex’s wife arrived home to find three drunks at her kitchen table, empty food cartons and divorce papers – mine, not hers. Thank God she has a good sense of humor.

The next morning I headed to the Clerk of Court to get certified copies of the divorce papers because the ones from the ex were only a copy. I was prepared to deal with the typical bureaucratic BS, but surprisingly they were very helpful. I then drove to the probate court to get a certified copy of the marriage license to number two. Also completed painlessly. I headed back to the DMV and was shocked to be put at the front of the line because I had accumulated four hours of seniority the day before. Within 30 minutes, I had a SC license. I am never moving out of state again. I simply can’t guarantee I wouldn’t go ballistic if I had to endure this all over again.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Just Let God Do His Job

I have never been a particularly religious person, which can be difficult living in the Bible Belt. But I am a very spiritual person and I believe strongly in a higher power. One only need watch a sunrise over the ocean, hear the cacophony of nature on a summer night or see the smile on a child’s face to know that we didn’t accomplish this all by ourselves and some things are simply not man-made.

The past several months have not been my best, but I set out a plan and forged ahead. The number one priority was to find a job – one that I could love because it will probably be my last. I saturated the area with resumes, called in all my contacts and made the search my full time job.

On Wednesday, I received a call from a small upstate college where I had already completed two interviews. They asked me to return so that a formal job offer could be presented in person. In that instant, I felt my spirits lift and I knew life was about to take a good turn. I was given the option to come that afternoon or the following day. For anyone who has ever heard the little voice inside their heads, you will understand what I am talking about. Now I am not referring to the voices that crazy people hear causing them to commit crimes because Jesus spoke to them through their neighbor’s dog. This is that subtle little voice that nudges you in the moment you have to make a quick decision. My little voice whispered, “Wait until tomorrow.” Without hesitation, I responded that the following afternoon would work best if that fit within their time frame. The appointment was confirmed.

This was for an awesome job as Director of Continuing Education. I have always loved working in an academic environment and this was a warm, friendly campus. The job also offered a full range of benefits and more than ample time off. I was excited about this opportunity and felt blessed. When I weighed the pros and cons of this job, the only cons were the fact that it was a 30-minute commute that included a long stretch on Interstate 85 which I affectionately refer to as Death Highway. But driving can be meditative and I was going to make the best of it.

About three hours after confirming this appointment, one that was going to change my life, I received a phone call from an unknown number. I was greeted with a hello from a former co-worker at a firm where I had worked almost 20 years prior. At the time we worked together, he was an auditor reporting to the same boss as me, so we interacted a good bit. Now 20 years later, he is the Managing Shareholder at the same firm which has since grown into 400 employees across several states. I had sent him a resume a few weeks prior in the event he had any clients who might be hiring.

In a nutshell, he told me he had a position at the firm coming open and he thought I would be the perfect fit. I explained that I was getting a job offer the next afternoon, so he put together a meeting for the next morning so we could explore this possibility. I arrived at 10:30, had an hour and a half conference with three decision makers and five minutes later had an offer on the table. It was for my dream job and right in downtown Greenville – my home away from home.

Now I know you naysayers will chalk this up to coincidence, fate or simply synchronized timing. But for me, I believe that only a higher power could have so perfectly orchestrated this particular symphony in my life. I admit I had prayed a lot, something we humans tend to get very serious about when things are not going well. I didn’t pray for a particular job, or to win the lottery though I would be very beholding to that occurrence. I prayed for strength to endure and wisdom to make good choices. I was granted both. I also prayed for patience, something that is not always one of my chosen virtues.

In a matter of 24 hours, my life took a turn down a road that is seriously paved with gold. I am embarking on a job that makes me literally giggle with excitement every time I think about it. I once again feel strong, confident and ready to take on the world. And I will continue to pray for strength, wisdom and patience, because if we just let God do his job, things tend to work out.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How Cindy Got Her Groove Back

I think I’ve got the process underway. I believe I may be on the road to recovery, though as I type this I am knocking on wood, crossing fingers and toes, making the sign of the cross and furiously searching for an old rabbit’s foot. I thought I had reached this point a few times before only to slip back even deeper into the black hole. Like they say, one step forward, two steps back. But I really think this time is different.

I am amazed at the similarities between myself and the vivacious Stella, star of the 1998 movie of similar name. It is as if our lives are parallel, well, except for a few minor details.
I am not a wealthy, successful stock broker who can take a month off to go lay in the sun on a Caribbean Island. I am, however, planning to spend a couple of days in Myrtle Beach sleeping on Roger and Julie’s trundle bed.

I don’t get to pal around with the likes of Whoopi Goldberg. But I do have Molly and Ro, my partners in crime, my confidantes, my shoulders to cry on, my butt kickers when I need it.
I haven’t met my Winston Shakespeare, the Taye Diggs character who is hot, sexy, romantic and of course fabulous in the sack. Ah, who needs that when you are in love with your soulmate. (Umm, maybe I should think about this one a little longer. It is Taye Diggs after all, LOL).

I look nothing like Angela Bassett in a swimsuit. Oh, I have her body, I’m just not black. (Actually, I don’t have her body in the white version either).
I don’t have a young son. But I do have two grown daughters who are beautiful, smart, funny and amazing. They take after their mom.

I’m not in my 40’s. But I was once, though it was a long time ago.
Healing is a process, and much like the movies, it can often have a happy ending. I’m working on it, but I’m not buying the popcorn until the reviews are in.

(Special thanks to all my groovers – you know who you are)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I'll Do It My Way (Frank Sinatra style)

When my daughter was about four years old, we took her to see the movie Harry and the Hendersons. We thought we had chosen a wonderful family movie that she would remember for years to come. Oh, she remembered it alright. She sobbed uncontrollably all the way home. Her father and I lived with the guilt for years afterwards. I guess we just didn’t realize what a sensitive little girl we had produced. Of course, she got it from her mother.

I used to love going to the movies. Both my exes were movie lovers as well, so a once a week movie date was the norm for us. Nowadays, it is a treat to catch a movie while still showing in the big screen. At ten dollars a ticket, and don’t even talk about possible popcorn or a drink, it simply makes more sense to wait until the movie makes it to Redbox rental status.
Tonight, I was ready for a treat.  I had seen the trailers for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I typically like anything starring Tom Hanks. The only other 9/11 movie I remember is Reign Over Me and it affected me deeply. Billy Joel never gave me the 9/11 song I believe he owed me, owed us. So it was time for a dose of reality. I went for it, by myself, which turned out to be a smart decision.

Before the movie even started, there were the trailers for other movies. I love watching the trailers. It provides me a list of movies I want to see.  I was crying before I got through the trailers, mostly by watching those for The Vow and Big Miracle. I had allotted myself five Kleenex for tonight’s feature. I was through two of them before the trailers ended.
I won’t be a spoiler, but the movie focuses on a family affected by the 9/11 tragedy and yes, someone died. The story that unfolds is beautifully told, poignant and delivers its message loud and clear – time waits for no one. When a life is ripped away from us, we are left to pick up the pieces, attempt to understand why it happened and, most profoundly, to live with the regrets of all we didn’t accomplish.

As I inch ever closer to the golden years, I am reminded daily of my mortality. I have lost friends, people my own age, who left behind unmet goals and unrealized dreams. I am at a crossroads in my own life, and the light has been red for too long.  I am doing my best to have the patience that Mother of the Sky, my favorite astrologer, keeps telling me I need. There are goals on the table, and strategic plans to achieve them, but some stumbling blocks are perched in the path and their removal is out of my control.
I don’t want to have regrets. I don’t want a hope chest full of goals that never came to fruition. I don’t want unsaid words roaming in my head. I don’t want to star in the movie called The Greatest Love Story Never Told. Perhaps the time to reshuffle priorities has come. Anyone else in?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

In Honor of a Fallen Soldier

It’s a rainy Saturday, the kind of day that makes you lazy. At almost 11AM, I am still in bed having just finished a good book that made me cry at the end. I have two more to read before heading back to the downtown branch of the Greenville County Library to stock up on more.

As I look outside at the rain and gloom, I am reminded of a different Saturday two weeks ago. It was the day of the funeral of Pfc. Justin Whitmire. He was 20 years old. You couldn’t even say that he was cut down in the prime of his life; he never even got close to his prime. As a mother, to me he was still a boy. But he was a boy who already knew about dedication, love of his country and helping others, part of the reason he was serving as a medic.
On December 27, just 19 days after his deployment to Afghanistan, Justin’s patrol vehicle ran over an IED. Two fellow soldiers lost their lives in the accident. Justin had volunteered for the mission. As his friends and family said, that was typical of Justin.

The funeral service was held at Simpsonville First Baptist Church with burial at Cannon Memorial Park. Over three miles of four-lane road stretch between those two points. And for several hours that Saturday, the entire stretch was lined with people, many holding American flags. The majority of them did not know Justin Whitmire personally, yet they were drawn there to mourn his death and to show support to the family he left behind. I found the reverence overwhelming.
I will admit my call to this funeral was initially motivated by the announcement that Westboro Baptist was coming to demonstrate. The hope was to form a human chain that would block the sight of the protesters from view of the family. As it turned out, Westboro never showed. I believe it had something to do with the anticipated reception they might have received. Southerners are a friendly, welcoming bunch of people – unless you try to mess with their families. In that case, you may be greeted by the barrel  end of a shotgun being held by hands with an itchy trigger finger. I believe Westboro got the message loud and clear and decided to high-tail it back to the Land of Oz

The Patriot Guard was there via invitation from the family. A devout group of motorcycle riders, they assemble as a symbol of reverence and respect for those who defend our country as members of the armed services.  In addition to the Patriot Guard, thousands of other riders came to show their respects. As we stood along the processional path, we watched literally thousands of bikes ride past, many with flags propped high in the air. Riders had come from other towns, even other states, all simply to show respect and support for the Whitmire family.
It was anticipated that the funeral procession would begin the drive from the Church to the cemetery around 2PM. Due to the overwhelming number of people in attendance, the eulogies by clergy and family members, and the task of getting everyone assembled, it was delayed by well over an hour. Yet, no one left and no one complained. We simply stood our ground patiently knowing our purpose that day far outweighed anything else we needed to do at that moment. We were in it for the long haul.

The Patriot Guard rode first, paving the way for the hearse and family limousines.  They rode slowly, solemnly and with low-idling engines. They stared at us and we stared back, finding a kinship in why we were there. As the humming of the bikes subsided, the hearse carrying Pfc. Justin Whitmire came into view. Hands went to hearts or formed a salute and tears welled in eyes. Several more limousines followed. Family members mouthed the words “thank you” as they rode by. At least 100 additional cars carrying funeral service attendees continued the trek. The thing that struck me most was the quiet. Aside from the sound of wheels crossing blacktop, you could hear a pin drop. No one spoke, no sounds of the bustling downtown were heard, no horns, whistles, sirens not even from a distance. It was as if time was standing still – Mother Earth a part of the reverent moment.
As the last car drove down Main Street toward the cemetery, life fell back into a normal pace. We mourners strode back to our vehicles, some of us talking softly, some remaining silent. A huge traffic jam ensued in that small, crowded downtown. But no one got frustrated, no one blew a horn. We took our turns allowing each other to enter the flow. The level of respect stayed elevated. We had all been impacted by what we just witnessed. And I know that Pfc. Justin Whitmire was watching from above.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Wise Advice from a Wisenheimer

Without intention, I attempted to send the year out with a bang. I had an accident in my car today. Oh no, I didn’t mean I had a motor vehicle accident. I meant I had an unfortunate incident while driving in my car. I had a misunderstanding with my soft taco supreme that did not end well for my sweater. So my advice to all of you is to never, ever attempt to eat a soft taco supreme while driving. It is simply not a manageable situation and you will be quite embarrassed when you have to walk around the library and then the grocery store with sour cream, taco sauce and small bits of lettuce down the front of your shirt.

This taco altercation got me thinking about what other advice I might want to share with friends and family as we ease into the New Year. I always thought I should be an advice columnist. I am a wonderful listener, very empathetic, and usually able to offer sound, objective resolutions to people’s problems. Of course, when my own personal life unraveled like a cheap sweater this year, I realized I might not be as suited for this position as I thought, though I do still have the empathy thing going for me.
So here is Cindy’s advice for 2012. Like your Margaritas, take it with a grain of salt.

Take your keys out of your pocketbook and pay your bill BEFORE the manicure is done. If not, you are going to be cussing the whole way home about how you messed up your nails AGAIN before you even left the nail salon.
If you treat yourself to a Sonic Blast more than twice a week, you are going to gain weight. It doesn’t matter how many extra sit ups you do or walks you take, your jeans are going to get tighter.

Grandchildren are for spoiling.
When your kids get older and become financially independent and they want to spend money on you, let them.

Drinking Sleepytime tea does help you to fall asleep faster, but you are going to wake up an hour later to pee. It’s one of those Murphy’s Law kinda things.
Deciding to let the hair go gray is not a good idea. If you want to walk around with gray roots for two weeks to prove this theory, be my guest. But make it easy on yourself and just trust me on this one.

You can remain a Deadhead no matter how old you get.
The Bedhead look is never attractive and should be avoided, even if it is just to run to Dunkin Donuts for a coffee.

Once you reach our age, your butt is going to look fat in any pair of jeans you wear. Stop putting people on the spot by asking them about it.
Scanning the radio channels and finding a Beatles song will ALWAYS bring a smile to your face. There is a memory attached to every one of them. Savor the moment.

Men will always look at younger women and think it’s a good idea at the moment. Eventually they will come to their senses and give themselves a face palm. Allow them their moment.
Women will ALWAYS think a younger man will make them feel younger, will satisfy them sexually and will be great eye candy to show off to their friends. They are right.

True love never runs smooth.
True friends will always smooth out the rough spots in your life.

The truth will set you free.
Happy New year to all those near and dear to me.  I wish you love, health and happiness in 2012; and for me, I wish I win the lottery.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Too Old for Christmas?

It’s over and I’m glad. I am not typically a bah humbug kinda girl, but let’s face it, this year sucked and the holidays are simply a culmination of the crap. I now need to survive New Year’s Eve and then I can be done with it. Of course NYE is a bit easier to handle because overindulgence in alcohol is expected, not just tolerated. Out with the old and in with the new – yes, baby, I am ready for that.

I wonder if I am just getting too old for Christmas.  There were some definite signs that the holiday simply doesn’t pack the punch it used to for me. For example:
I didn’t get kissed underneath the mistletoe.

Jack Frost tried to nip at my nose so I tasered him.
Good golly Miss Molly, there wasn’t a damn thing that was holly or jolly.

There were no chestnuts – roasted or otherwise.
I never heard what she heard or saw what he saw. Who are those people anyway?

I didn’t rock around the Christmas tree, deck the halls or don any gay apparel.
I did, however, have a blue, blue Christmas…the result of a little too much ho, ho, ho.

But lest I sound too dramatic, the holiday wasn’t a total loss. In fact, when properly reprioritized the special moments rise to the top. My daughters, who have been my angels this past year, gave me the best presents ever. It was amazing how it all went down. They asked me what I wanted, I told them and that’s what they got me. What a great concept.
A week before Christmas, we did a mother/daughter/grandson day complete with lunch, shopping and sibling bickering. While strolling through the mall, the girls decided it made more sense for them to get me my iPhone that day since we were right in front of the Verizon store. I panicked! I am not good at making major changes and I wasn’t “prepared”. They dragged me inside and instructed the salesperson to “just do it.” It was like ripping off the Band-Aid. I left there shaking, holding a new phone I didn’t know how to work and lamenting the loss of my saved texts, voice mails, ringtones and ringbacks. I was in shock, but the girls insisted I would get through it. I did hang up on a few friends, had no way of knowing who was calling by the ring and I sent a few texts to the wrong people…oops, that could be trouble. I think I may need a 12-step program.

My other gifts included a gift certificate for a mani/pedi, a new wallet just like my daughter’s and a certificate to Chief’s Wings and Firewater that will be redeemed during Clemson’s 2012 football season.  
Of course all the bahs and blahs went by the wayside on Christmas morning.  At 8am, I started the coffee, set out the cranberry muffins and fried two pounds of bacon – one pork and one turkey for all the health-conscious relatives. Nobody ate the turkey bacon, exclaiming it was Christmas and they were treating themselves to the good stuff.

And then the true purpose of the holiday sprang to life as my little guy woke up, rubbed his sleepy eyes, walked into the living room and spied what was under the tree. I’m not sure how Santa got all those items down the chimney – a Sit ‘n Spin, books and puzzles galore, building blocks, stuffed animals, DVDs and a big, old fire truck. Then there were the gifts from grandma, nana and poppa, and mimi and grandpa. Wyatt oohed and ahhed as he pulled tissue paper out of bags and stuck his head in to see what he could find. He was like Little Jack Horner sticking in his thumb and pulling out a plum. His smiles made all the bad stuff disappear in an instant.
So now it is onward and upward to face the new year. Mark my words, there’s gonna be some changes in these here parts. By next Christmas I plan to rock, roast, nip, hear, see, deck and don. And I am definitely getting kissed under the mistletoe. Now who knows the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My Cup Runneth Over

I got to pee in a cup today. It is not typically how I enjoy starting my day, but my future employer wants to be sure they are not hiring a pill head or drunk. Those who know me also know that I am hard-pressed to even down an aspirin. It has to be a really bad headache, or those times when my sciatica acts up, before I dive into the Advil gels. Other than that, and my daily dose of Synthroid, there isn’t much going into this body.

But you do have to take pause about the state of our society. Drug testing is a fact of life. If you want a job, you pretty much have to be willing to submit. Though we should all enjoy basic human rights, if you refuse to submit it presents the appearance of guilt, and employers have every right to say “thanks but no thanks” to your job application. How did we get like this? And more importantly, who licked the freaking cherry off my lollipop?
The drinking age was 18 when I turned 18, how convenient. I still remember my first legal drink. Richie Appleyard, my friend Janet’s older brother, took me to the Bluebird Bar in West Islip. I don’t recall what it was I drank. I’m sure Richie, the older and wiser of the two of us, ordered appropriately for me. Richie died a few years later, apparently having dove into an empty swimming pool while under the influence of alcohol.

My only foray into alcoholic beverages prior to my 18th birthday was Boone’s Farm Apple Wine or Colt 45 drunk through a straw. I would take a few sips with friends, more succumbing to peer pressure than trying to get high. I was much too afraid of the wrath of mom to come home plastered. I did, however, make up for lost time after 18. My biggest accomplishment – downing 16 shots of tequila celebrating my college graduation. I was in bed for three days afterwards, eating toast and drinking chocolate milk.
My generation drank and smoked a little pot. We imbibed on the weekends after working hard all week. We kicked back at a local bar, sat around trading stories of our youth and our dreams for the future. The rowdiest we ever got was getting up to dance if the juke box played a particularly invigorating song. My personal favorite was Mack the Knife by Bobby Darrin. We were peace-loving hippies and we enjoyed the simple pleasures. And we didn’t hurt anybody. And more amazingly, if we got pulled over on the way home and the cop thought we shouldn’t be driving… he drove us home and told us not to do it again. And that’s the God’s honest truth.

So which of the generations that followed ruined it for the rest of us? Who decided they needed more, more, more of a kick? Who brought in the cocaine and, worse yet, the pharmaceuticals? Who decided Oxycotin and its derivatives were now the cool drug of choice?
Somebody is to blame for this more, more, more attitude. The technology has to be faster, the movies have to be more violent and the drugs need to produce a bigger and better high. Why? Was the beer and marijuana cocktail all that bad? Hell, I have friends old enough to collect social security who still find this combo more than enough.

Today I can’t go downtown and enjoy myself before assigning a designated driver. Even then, we have to be wary of public drunkeness citations.  Is my generation of senior citizens wearing tie-dyed clothing and carrying peace-symbol key chains really an issue? Do we really need to be subjected to three field sobriety tests by a Doogie Howser looking trooper looking to nail us? Do I really need to pee in a cup?
My parents raised me to work hard, never call in sick, give 100% to my job, respect my employer, follow the rules and participate in the retirement plan. Does an employer need to know more than that to size me up as a valued employee? Trust me, by Monday morning the hangover and the sweet scent of Mary Jane will be undetectable and I will be ready to report to work with a salute. So don’t ask me to pee in a cup. It insults my intelligence and my values.