Friday, February 10, 2012

She's gone, finally. I hope.

One (hopefully) last hate-filled rant came quietly into my email box tonight from a former friend and business partner. I will say she does know me well, a little too well, but that's my fault. God willing, I'll never be that open with anyone like that ever again.

I've re-read her note several times. She obviously dislikes me intensely, and in a few ways that surprises me. She's a Buddhist and she's the one that taught me they (the Buddhists) are a gentle and loving people, a peaceful people. And I never thought they were a materialistic people, but maybe I'm wrong.

Like I said above, hopefully this is the end. She gave me something, I no longer have it, she demanded it back and now she's finally faced the fact that it is gone forever. Lots of "things" hold sentimental value to us, we're human after all, but honestly I thought this whole thing was going to go on forever. For her own mental health I hope she gets over this once and for all.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas dinner, wonderful anniversary

Our Christmas dinner hostess was competent and flustered at the same time. A family guest was plucking tender turkey from the roasting pan and placing it on a serving plate. Light brown gravy simmered on the stove; corn casserole and twice-baked potatoes were warming in the oven.

It was a surprisingly calm scene in spite of the fact the turkey was done an hour earlier than anticipated, and the rest of the clan was arriving in dribs and drabs.

The cousin I was looking for came bearing baked goodies, most importantly her crunchy-topped cherry pie. The two-crust version was made famous in the family by our Aunt Gladys, a woman we get misty-eyed over whenever we gather to reminisce.

After dumping the coats I rounded the corner and saw the prize sitting on the counter. “Ah,” I said, “that’s what I came for.” And that’s when I heard The Voice. “Step. Back. From. The. Pie.”

I swiveled and looked straight into the pretty blue eyes of one of the most loved of kindergarten teachers in town. Those same eyes bore through me, but with enough humor behind the warning to keep me from dashing out the door I came in just minutes before.

After the nearly endless placing of the turkey and all the trimmings on the tables, the prayer, and the passing of the food we all settled down to do some serious eating. The room grew quiet, even the kids as we enjoyed what has to be the best Christmas dinner ever.

Some of the women got up to stretch and clean the table, the guys headed for the living room and some serious sleeping, and the kids returned to their computers, games and music. Those of us left at the table hadn’t seen each other in a while so we caught up. We talked about those no longer with us as families do during the holidays. We talked about jobs present and past, our health, recipes, computers, dogs and lots more. Most of all, we simply sat and soaked up the enjoyment of one another’s company.

After a good while the men stirred, the kids wandered back in and we realized there was room for dessert. As I mixed a bit of vanilla ice cream with the cherry pie, I realized that the best part of the dinner had nothing at all to do with food. The best part by far was making memories with those I love.

Oh, speaking about love, today is the 39th anniversary of the day I married the man of my dreams in the chapel of the First United Methodist Church. Where have all the years gone? Happy anniversary to the best guy on Earth.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Five novels, two memoirs and other writerly stuff

Just one of my NaNoWriMo winning certificates. I plan to be a part of the group again this November - something I look forward to almost as much as my birthday.

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a big project and wondered how in the blazes you got yourself into it? I’m in one of those now and for the life of me I don’t recall how it all began.

In November of 2005 (I think) I wrote a novel of sorts for National Novel Writing Month (NaNo for short). Could be I started a year or so before and just never quite got to the 50,000-word mark but I do have a mound of paper with a story in it sitting on my desk, so there you go. An explanation: in order to “win” at NaNo you must write at least 50,000 words. You get a nifty certificate suitable for framing for your efforts, so it’s well worth it.

There are also novels for 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. I skipped 2010 simply because there was no time. Some stressful personal stuff was happening and adding a novel to the mix was not going to work. Thing is, by not writing in November like tens of thousands of others made for its own kind of stress but hey, 2011 is another chance to slap some words on paper again.

All but one of the novels has a working title, and every single one needs a massive amount of work. I’m not discouraged by this because basically these thousands of words could be called an outline, something I wouldn’t have had without NaNo.

There is a murder mystery, a family drama, a business-type story and the untitled piece is a mystery to me because I’ve not re-read any of them. Once I found them on the computer I printed them out and soon I’ll pick one to work on. It’s much easier to have a paper copy to edit than try to strain the ol’ eyeballs for hours at a stretch on a computer screen.

Printing hundreds of pages requires ink and paper, and I ran out of both on both printers. Some copies ended up on blue paper but that was fine; however, when you run out of ink that’s not so good. I made a trip to the store, got ink, ran out again and made another trip.

Lessons learned along the way included remembering to use single spacing (uses less paper, but not the best for editing); using the ink-saving feature on the printers; and for goodness sake, keep track of what’s already been printed so you don’t print the same novel twice. I may have wasted ink, which makes me want to slap someone, but I’ll use the other side of the paper for the other two non-fiction books left to print.

A big part of this job is finding all I’ve written, getting it organized and into a word-processing program. Everything is printed, then clipped to keep it in order. Oh, and another lesson learned: put page numbers on everything. I was planning to use a three-hole punch on each book and put them into binders, but that’s a waste of time and effort. Giant paper clasps work much better and take about two seconds to attach.

I know the reason for this work-in-progress, even if I don’t remember how it all began. There are more publishing opportunities for writers now than ever and since the conventional means hasn’t worked for many of us, we have to look for other methods.

One more thing, and it’s pretty cool. Looks like a new writers group will start up this month. I’m excited, and when there’s more to tell, I’ll let you know. Provided I remember, of course.

Friday, June 24, 2011

If I could pick friends as family, these two would be a part of ours

Someday we'll meet again, as we all eventually travel on ahead of loved ones. The important thing is that we all reunite at the same destination.

There are some people who come into your life and leave a loving and deep impression. You may see them often or years could go by before you meet up again. They are the ones who make us smile whenever a memory pops into our head, and even after too much time apart it feels like no time at all has passed. They’re special, and when we lose them for good, at least here on earth, they are irreplaceable.

Donna was one such friend. She never forgot to send a birthday card, never looked at you without a smile on her face that went all the way up to her eyes and was always ready with a hug. She had a way of getting you to talk about yourself and making you comfortable doing it.

Her work ethic was unmatched. When we both belonged to the Evangelical Covenant Church, Donna volunteered to be its janitor. At one point I was doing the sanctuary cleaning—vacuuming, dusting, cleaning out the pews and such. But Donna did the heavy stuff. She cleaned the kitchen, the tile floors, the Sunday school rooms and nursery. She didn’t just wipe a mop across the floors and the steps; she got down on her hands and knees and scrubbed because, as she pointed out with that smile of hers, “You just can’t get ‘em clean in the corners when you use a mop.”

Not many saw Donna cleaning since the church was almost always empty then, but we saw the results. And she knew Who she was cleaning for and she felt honored to do it. Donna passed away last week and I’m going to miss her like I haven’t missed someone in a long, long time.

A few days ago I said good-bye to someone else high up there on my list of friends I’ll never forget. Hubby and I watched Pastor Bruce on television most Sunday mornings, and I almost always took notes. As soon as he’d hit a topic close to my heart I’d say, “I sure hope so-and-so heard that!” Then, without fail, I’d realize the message was meant for me. That never got old.

Late Sunday afternoon I was leaving the office when I caught the sound of a car idling. I looked across the street and saw Bruce walking slowly down the steps of the church, holding a cake. He glanced my way and called my name.

As the sun set and cars traveled back and forth on Main, we met in the middle of Central Boulevard and spoke briefly. “I’m going to miss you,” I said, feeling the deep sadness so many of us felt as we watched him preach in Kewanee for the last time that morning.

“I’m going to miss you too,” he replied. He carefully waved the cake as he added, “This is my home, and I’ll miss it.”

I don’t remember what else we said, but it was short and bittersweet. United Methodist pastors often are moved after four or five years, and we were blessed to have Bruce for nine. It’s going to feel strange for a while to not see him standing in the pulpit on Sunday.

It’s likely we’ll see Bruce again; after all, he and his family are only about an hour away. And here’s the thing. He’s that kind of friend I told you about, and when we do run into one another again we’ll pick up where we left off. I love that in a friend, no matter where they are.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Here's to the guy who makes it all worthwhile

Here's my guy, out doing his favorite thing. He's the best--always has been, always will be.

Sunday is Father’s Day. And like wives who don’t expect their husbands to acknowledge them on Mother’s Day, the same holds true for guys (like mine) who don’t expect to be given gifts and mushy stuff from their wives on that special day. Sons and daughters should handle those two holidays; after all, their father and mother gave them birth, right? If not for them, they wouldn’t be here. (And no, I’m not ignoring adopted children. I just have no experience in that area.)

We’re bombarded with heart-tugging commercials, usually from Hallmark, prior to Father’s Day that show the perfect dad and his son or daughter. My throat usually closes up and my eyes fill with tears as I ask myself: Is this what fatherhood is all about? Eating Oreo cookies at one second after midnight on Sunday with Dad? Or hunting caterpillars in the garden and taking a splinter out of a small toe?

In my opinion, it’s so much more than that. And remember, this is my opinion so I could be wrong.

I believe fathers show they love and care about their kids by being good role models. They stay true to their wives and treat them with love and respect, know how to have fun, work hard, and teach life lessons (honesty, integrity, compassion and more.) I know I’ve left out a few things but I think you get the idea.

Parents make mistakes. Every single mom and dad out there has made mistakes. It’s how we own up to them that matters. I’ve heard “I’m sorry” come from my mouth and hubby has said those same words over the years. It doesn’t diminish us to admit we’re wrong; it opens the door for the recipient to practice forgiveness, another admirable quality in a father—or anyone.

In case the kids have forgotten what their dad has done for them and with them throughout the years, I have pictures and journals to remind them. I’ve done the same for our grandsons, and one day I’ll hand those over so they can relive an important part of their childhood.

We’re told we shouldn’t live in the past, though it’s fun and sometimes eye-opening to visit now and then. And we can’t count on the future because none of us knows for certain what’s in store. The present is where we should focus, and to me the reason we have such a blessed life now is because the man of the house worked hard, stayed true and lives his life as an example of what it means to be a great husband and father.

Yeah, I know. This is probably the mushiest Father’s Day note ever but I mean every word of it. If your dad is still around, please take the time to show him how much he means to you. Not just this weekend, but every day.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Let's not take one another for granted

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to take people and things for granted and forget how lucky you are to have either? I have.

Even though sometimes I’m busier than a one-armed paper hanger I make the time to read. Usually I have three books going at once: one by the bed, one by my chair in the living room and one in a travel bag that goes with me out of town every Monday.

Someone at the Star Courier left two Michael Connelly paperbacks on my desk about a year ago and now I’m hooked on the guy’s stories. I finished a Connelly book, plus the crime novel in the travel bag and I wanted to leave the Murder, She Wrote tale by the bedside. The bookshelves didn’t yield anything interesting, so I sat in the living room and began to panic about having nothing to read.

Boy, you talk about a “slap to the forehead” moment. A glance to the right brought my Nook into view. There are no words to describe what I was thinking at that moment.
Not counting this week, there are over 150 books on my Nook. They aren’t all novels; I have cookbooks, biographies, memoirs and all kinds of other things, including Reader’s Digest. Almost everything was free or close to it. And here I thought I had nothing to read. How could I forget one of the best birthday gifts ever?

Something else got my brain cells going the other day. Both of the guys were gone for quite a while and I was home with just the sleeping dog for company. As someone who has never lived on her own, and I mean never (unless you count the time I ran away from home for less than 10 hours when I was a teenager), I thought it would be cool to have some time to myself.

As the door closed behind our son, it hit me: So, I thought, this is what it’s like to be alone. I didn’t like it one bit.

The hours stretched and I got little done. It occurred to me that, in time, this could actually happen. I’ll have all the time I need to get things done and there’ll be time left over to think too much about how busy and fun life used to be.

The other day we were talking about this and that and I don’t know how it came up, but hubby said he would rather have me around than a million bucks. We laughed, but he was serious. “I guess you’ve grown on me,” he said. “I’m kinda used to having you around.”

Then it hit me. I may take some things for granted and forget a few of them, but I’ll never take the people closest to me for granted. And though they’ve grown on me too, I want them to be around for a long, long time.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Oh, God

Clint and his Army recruiter

Gary and I have been watching the AMC series, The Killing. The basic premise is that a young girl went missing, was found murdered and her body was found in the trunk of a car that is part of a fleet of vehicles owned by a politician. The show is sharp, fascinating and very well-acted by (for the most part) little-known actors.

Tonight's episode veered a bit and focused on the lead policewoman on the case. She was following leads on the murdered girl's whereabouts before the killing and was rudely interrupted when her own 13-year-old son went missing.

I watched closely as she went through an agony only those of missing kids go through. She was angry, freaked, in denial, scared spitless, then overcome with gut-wrenching relief when she found her son standing outside their hotel room door. The first thing she did was hug him--tight.

I haven't asked Gary but I know he followed every facial expression, every tear, every bit of emotion. And I realized something I probably already knew: my heart, our hearts, are far more ragged from not knowing where our son is than we ever realized.

We've been through the anger and denial and we've been going through gut-wrenching fear off and on for years now. The character in the show, the mom, heard about the discovery of a body of a young boy between the ages of 10 and 13 and she went ballistic. I check news reports EVERY SINGLE DAY and am thankful beyond words that I don't find Clint's name among them. But I know there are moms and dads out there who will go through hell on earth that day and I feel for them something fierce.

I know I post a lot about Clint, but no one has to read what I write. I just need to write about him. Family, my Christian family, stopped asking about their cousin, nephew, grandson and that's only hurt upon hurt. My sister and one cousin are the only two who continue to bring his name up and we are so grateful for that.

A part of me wishes I hadn't seen tonight's show, and another reminds me that would only be denial. I prefer to face this test head-on, and to do that I need to break down the area I've built up around my heart to protect it. God knows where Clint is and when the time is right, we will too.

Oh, God. Give us strength until that time.