Sacrifice …What Does It Mean To You?

What does the word “sacrifice” mean to you? Do you feel like you have a pretty good handle on the definition? Would you say that you have or currently do sacrifice for some thing or some one? Think of all the things you like to do, all the people you like to spend time with… your parents, your husband, your wife, your brothers and sisters………your children. Think of all the once-in-a-lifetime moments……… marrying the love of your life, standing next to her, holding her hand and watching your child come into this world, holding that precious newborn in your arms for the first time, tucking that child into bed at night, teaching them to ride a bike, watching them graduate from high school, swallowing the lump in your throat as you take them away to college. The list goes on and on.  Would you be willing to give that all up in a heartbeat?

It’s spring now and we’re starting to have more days of sunshine and warmer temperatures but before we know it, it will start to get hot and people will invariably complain “up one side and down the other” about the unbearable heat, humidity, the pollen, having to turn their air conditioners on, not having an air conditioner to turn on, etc. etc. ad nauseam. Most people at this time of the year want to wear the least amount of clothing possible….shorts and sandals being the “uniform” of choice….. and spend as much time as they can in the shade and/or sipping a cool beverage, while doing any outside work at their leisure or at least at their chosen pace.  Would you be willing to wear long pants, long sleeves, a 5 lb pair of boots, a helmet, and a pack on your back that weighs 60 to 100 lbs?  Add to this a heavy gun in your hands. Oh, and, if that all weren’t bad enough, it’s no longer a mere 75 – 85 degrees outside, it’s now 90 – 120……..and you can’t just lay back in the lawn chair sipping mimosas until it cools down a little. No….you and your hotter than Hell outfit and all that extra weight you have to carry around are now having to run, jump, use critical thinking skills, and generally perform like a world-class athlete …………not to win a prize or a title or to get a higher score. No……..you’re trying to stay alive and keep your crew alive while under constant attack or fear of attack from the enemy. Would you be willing to do it?

Maybe a dry, sandy climate isn’t your thing…..let’s change venues.  How about you bring your Hellishly hot outfit and all your tons of gear and let’s go hang out in a big old jungle. Oh not your “regular” jungle we’d like to imagine Mowgli, Baloo and their friends frolicking in. No….this jungle is embedded with hidden tunnels full of the enemy and all his torturous booby-traps designed to maim, kill or capture you. You find yourself having to perform all your athletic-type skills while constantly evading the enemy who is popping up out of nowhere along with all the snakes and poisonous creatures inherent to the jungle. Instead of battling sand in every crack and crevice of your body, you’re now battling the combination of water and extreme heat and the painful “jungle rot” that threatens to consume your precious feet.  Would you be willing to do it?

I’m pretty sure many of us “sacrifice” something at one point or another. We may give up some daily treats in order to save up our pennies for that much admired lawn furniture or a new pair of shoes or some other treasure we’d love to have. Or, we give up some time after work to babysit or take supper to a friend or volunteer in some capacity. So, we all have some sort of idea in our minds as to what the word “sacrifice” means.  But, the type of sacrifice described above is like no other. No other except when Christ laid down his life for us……the ultimate sacrifice.  For that is the epitome of true sacrifice. And that is what thousands and thousands of men and women in our military forces and the families who support them are currently doing and have done for centuries.

The willingness to give up all that is near and dear to you………to fight for not only your friends and family but also for people you will never know…..for ideals that you know are right and true…….for the freedoms we in this country sometimes shamefully take for granted…..in conditions too horrendous for the average person to conceive of. That is the type of sacrifice we remember and we honor tomorrow…….and every…single….day of the year. To those brave and selfless men and women who have laid down their lives for the rest of us and for this great United States of America and all she stands for, we stand and salute you, as well as those who served and survived……and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Your sacrifice has not gone unnoticed.

Sometimes Relief is Spelled “N-O”…

If you happen to be from my era…..growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, or older yet, this phrase may remind you of the old Rolaids commercial that became rather iconic. People involved in several different activities were asked how they “spell relief”. Of course, each one would reply, “R-O-L-A-I-D-S”.  I can’t seem to recall what I did last week, but I can remember stupid trivia like that……sometimes. If you haven’t read my last two blog posts, or did but can’t remember them, let me give you a little synopsis to lay the groundwork for today’s entry.

About 5 weeks ago, I had a very unanticipated, potentially very serious symptom pop up. Of course I could tell you all the graphic details, because we nurses are ABLE to talk about pretty much anything having to do with the human body and its’ many processes, whether they be complex, gross, or maybe even embarrassing, without batting an eye. But just because we CAN, doesn’t mean we SHOULD. So, I’ll leave that up to your imagination. Suffice it to say, I was extremely alarmed. Perhaps more so because of being a cancer survivor. Those of us who have already done the limbo with the “Big C” and lived to come out on the other side to tell about it, tend to always and forever be a little extra paranoid about any type of symptoms that pop up……… conscious of the “specter” looming over our shoulders.  Even someone like me, who conquered it 28 years ago, still has that tape playing in the back of my mind. Much fainter in volume and played far less frequently than a recent “initiate”, but it still plays when something like this triggers it.

I went to a specialist who deals with this sort of issue and she ordered tests, and after the tests, which were separated by weeks of waiting, there was the need for a surgical procedure to find out definitively what we were dealing with. Right before this procedure there was a bit of a monkey wrench thrown in, in the way of another issue that had to be investigated before I could be cleared for the anesthesia.  Oy vey……I felt like the song from the old Hee Haw show on Saturday nights back when I was a kid, performed most effectively with a very pronounced southern drawl and Blackjack gum covering your front teeth………….”If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all!”  But, 2 weeks ago I finally had the surgery and yesterday I FINALLY found out the answer……a mere 5 weeks later.

I’m very happy to share that this particular time, I spell relief “N-O”…..as in “no cancer”….not even any “pre-cancer”. Relief seems too mild of a word for what I feel.  “Dodged a bullet” seems more accurate right now. And so it is that I can breathe freely again and shove those scary thoughts back down into the deep pit where I try to keep them contained…….and forgotten…as much as possible.  A huge thank you to those of you who have been praying for me. There is truly no better medicine.

“Good news from far away is like cold water to the thirsty.”    Proverbs 25:25.  NLT

When “We” are the Patient …

Generally speaking, we nurses do not make good patients.  I am no exception. That little fact, though, manifests itself differently in each nurse. Some, upon finding themselves in that reversed role, will become hyper-critical with any and all medical personnel who are caring for them and just basically become the “plague” that everyone attempts to avoid. Others, myself included, tend to “clam up” unless a really unusual or dangerous situation warrants speaking up. Oh I’m watching and paying VERY close attention, but I will almost never say anything….  and never in a critical way. 

I have discovered first-hand over the years that sometimes it’s best, when in the role of patient,  to keep “mum” on the fact that I am a nurse. I used to let it slip early on in my various encounters until I experienced a wide range of reactions from my medical professional colleagues.  Upon learning that you are “one of them”, some will instantly feel threatened and afraid that you are going to judge every little move on their part. Those folks then usually become very guarded and tend to avoid you, when you probably are really needing comfort and reassurance just like everyone else.  Others will just assume that no matter what you’re there for, you already know everything about all aspects of whatever that entails and therefore they proceed to NOT go ahead and give you the needed instructions and/or patient education that they give to everyone else and that is so important to your outcome.  Helloooooo……..just because your dermatologist is an MD doesn’t mean she/he also knows the best way to treat your congestive heart failure!!  Nurses are no different………we in NO WAY SHAPE OR FORM can know everything about everything medical, like so many people think we do and/or should. And…..here’s another NEWS FLASH; many of us, just like the non-medical professional patients, are extremely nervous and uptight when in that dependent role and therefore our brains may be temporarily “addled” and needing a little extra instruction and/or TLC. Some of us who are nurses became such because of our own personal experiences with health issues that were very traumatic….maybe to the point of causing what we call “white coat syndrome” whenever we are now in the role of patient. For you lucky souls who aren’t familiar with that term, it simply refers to someone who becomes extremely stressed and nervous, no matter how simple or severe the problem,  every time they have to go to the doctor’s office or hospital for their own medical problems. This causes their blood pressure, heart rate and respirations to skyrocket no matter if they are there for a hangnail or an amputation!!  I happen to be a card-carrying member of this club. Oh, you would NEVER, EVER know that though, because I APPEAR to be cool as a cucumber and this little ‘gremlin’ operates in ‘stealth mode’ in me……to the casual observer. Then there are those folks who, for whatever reason, think that since you’re a nurse, you can just go ahead and take care of your own needs while you’re there, instead of them doing what they’re supposed to, like they do for everyone else. Lastly, there are those who, when you reveal to them..or when they detect it from your use of terms or apparent knowledge, will instantly bond with you …….recognizing you as a fellow member of the wonderful “sisterhood/brotherhood” we are proud to claim.  That was my experience Friday when I was, once again, in the role of patient, undergoing some further testing. I had two rounds of “testing”…one in the am and one in the afternoon. In the morning’s events, I received some rather scary news. So, when I went for the 2nd round in the afternoon, I was already feeling scared, sad, nervous and just totally out of sorts…..like I was in a foreign country all alone or something.  If you read my last blog post, you’re probably getting sick of me sharing this type of grandiose experience…but I can’t help it. As you may remember, I was utterly FLOORED by my unexpected encounter with God’s “warriors” in that post.  Well, more of the same took place this past Friday in the form of 3 people I had to interact with in the course of my afternoon testing. The first one didn’t know that I’m a nurse and she shared part of her own story…..which “ironically” includes a rather rare miracle that we both share … and she so encouraged and comforted me to the moon and back. To the point where I was so touched I had to get the ol’ Kleenex out.  The second person, a fellow RN, didn’t know about my “hidden credentials” right away. If you know me at all, you know that LAUGHTER is just about my most favorite thing, and if you can make me laugh, you’ve got my heart in your pocket. Well, in the course of what she was doing for me, she was just a HOOT….making me laugh like crazy. After awhile, she kinda caught herself and apologized for the frivolity. It was at that point that I felt I had to let her know “who” I was and that her making me laugh was NOTHING to apologize for. Quite the opposite, it was to be CELEBRATED!!!!  Once I revealed our “common ground”, I could FEEL the “little foot path” between us instantly morph into the Golden Gate Bridge!!!  Oh my gosh, then we laughed like hyenas about anything and everything….it was WONDERFUL and soooooo put me at ease.  Then the 3rd person came in and it was more of the same.  I could work with these 3 gals every day of the year and be a very happy camper.  And you can never convince me that God, in His infinite love and wisdom, did not plan it to be exactly like that for me at that time….never.  He knew what I needed and when I needed it, as He always does.

No, we nurses do not usually make good patients. When it comes to our own health issues, we know just enough to keep our minds and imaginations working overtime….and not usually in a good way. But sometimes being “the patient” is not a choice, and at those times it sure is wonderful to encounter those of our “comrades in arms” who accept the challenge of caring for us in amazing and exemplary ways, despite the unique little “twists” we may bring to their already full table. To all of you past, present and future…..who have, are or will be taking care of me when I’m “the patient”, I raise my glass to you and fill yours’ from a bottomless pitcher of gratitude, thanks and praise for the warrior’s work you do every day.

Silence Is Not An Option

I can’t resist the urge to write about them…to share them, because they ‘blindside’ me every time. They stop me dead in my tracks and touch me in a deeper and more profound way than anything else in this life. I’m talking about what I like to call “God things”……those amazing, unmistakeable almost “Twilight Zone”-ish moments or encounters where God ‘reaches down’ into my little world and makes it CRYSTAL CLEAR that HE is aware of whatever is on my heart and perhaps eating away in my mind and He lets me know in no uncertain terms that He is listening, watching and totally prepared to help me through whatever it is. These moments blow me away EVERY. TIME., ….a feeling of pure ecstasy and gratitude at the reminder that my heavenly Father REALLY DOES love me and REALLY IS there for me, whether I’ve remembered that or not!  Unfortunately during the next few moments after the wonderful ‘rush’, a feeling of guilt raises its’ ugly head as well. Guilt over my complacency, doubt & fear that I, in my human weakness, allowed to take up residence in the overcrowded hallways of my mind. As a long-time Believer, I proceed to chastise myself over what I feel I should have never forgotten, never doubted….if I were where I believe I should be in my faith.  But then I attempt to rally, and remind myself that we Believers are only human and there is only ONE perfect person…Jesus. Oh we often try to be perfect….some would have you believe they are. Some do everything in their power to at least appear that way on the surface. Not me, I openly admit my frailties and struggles, some of which are obvious,  with being who and what I know I’m supposed to do and be. Every day is made up of hundreds of little choices we have to make. Some are seemingly “no-brainers” for a true Believer……..others not so much. There are those that slide stealthily into that slippery area that seems “gray”.  Maybe 1 or 2 of those seemingly gray area choices don’t get you in trouble now and then, but if you keep making more and more, little by little, someday down the road you may find yourself dead center in the middle of the gray area that isn’t really gray at all….it’s black, black, as in dead wrong….and you wonder how on earth that ever happened. It happens one choice at a time.  Sometimes you don’t even realize you’re in the “gray” area in the first place….until after you made your seemingly harmless choice.  Like most people, I’ve made my share of bad choices…and I continue to at times, because I’m human….and we are not flawless… not even close. But He still loves us anyway….with all our dirt and grime and “black choices”.

I digress. This post isn’t about choices, but when I write, I usually start out with a game plan but then as I start to write the final draft, new thoughts that I didn’t even know I had suddenly appear and I “go with the flow”…and that’s just what “flowed” at that point in my mind. True to my personal ‘calling card’, I have followed the cute little bunny down the ‘bunny trail’ and found myself in the briar patch instead of staying on the path to my topic at hand. The “God-thing”. My apologies. However, before I can tell you about that, I need to share the very personal “back-story” that I wasn’t really sure I wanted to share.  But, I’m not getting any younger and if this speaks to even one person who needs to hear it for whatever reason, I’m willing to “fall on my sword” to help them out.

The summer between my sophomore and junior year in high school I came down with a very serious illness….a potentially life threatening illness. We will never know for sure what caused it, but the prevailing theory then was an inhalation exposure to the extremely toxic, benzene-containing fumes from industrial strength toilet bowl cleaner that had been left in a bathroom full of toilets, to fill the room with deadly fumes. Little did I know then that the treatment for this would change the ENTIRE trajectory of my life. This “crisis” went on for about 8 months with weekly trips to a specialist 2 hours away until, the day before I turned 17 and the day before the “Blizzard of ’78” hit, I had my spleen removed at a hospital in Lorain and thereby achieved a total cure, for which my family and I were forever grateful. But the things I learned during the course of that illness have never left me. One of those things is that when you have a serious illness and you share that fact with people, you will experience reactions that run the gamut…from one extreme to another.  Some people will gather around and offer love and support, others will avoid you like the plague………fear and perhaps ignorance of the facts will render them mute. They drop off the radar. They don’t know what to say. They’re afraid of saying the wrong things. Some who are very close to you might be afraid they will lose you and they can’t take that kind of pain, so they gradually or suddenly disappear.  I experienced it all in that first of many health crises. I lost a good friend in that first brush. It hurt and I never could quite make sense of it. We reasoned that perhaps her mother thought I would die and that that would be too much for her to handle, so she just gradually distanced herself right out of my life, at a time when I needed my friends the very most. It hurt and that is one of the reasons I hesitate to share. I don’t want to lose anyone.  That was 42 years ago. Twelve years after that, I went through an even bigger life threatening ‘tango’ with the big “C”, as a result of the drug used to fight that first issue. By this time I had a husband of 3 years and a 20 month old toddler…..much more at stake, should I lose the battle. But I didn’t. Oh it was tough, very tough and I remember vividly talking to the Lord and BEGGING him to please just let me live long enough to get my daughter into Kindergarten. Then, after I made it that long, I remember begging Him to let me live at least until she turned 10.  Tough, tough times. But, by God’s good grace….and only that…..I am still here, and she will be 30 in about 3 weeks.  I was told by my oncologist at that 10 year mark that I had been truly “CURED” of my cancer. He said it was one of the only kinds, back then, that the word CURE could be used with, despite the fact that it was already at Stage IV when they found it.  There is NO DOUBT in my mind that I received a MIRACLE……..one of many, actually.

Fast forward to the last few years. I went through a time of no health issues….a glorious time!  Then my dad died 2 1/2 years ago followed by my mom just 6 months ago. In regards to my health, it’s been a rollercoaster ride ever since. In the last 6 months I’ve had 1 ongoing challenge that I am learning to deal with followed by 3 different “scares” that thankfully turned out to be OK.  However, in just the last week a new, unexpected issue of potentially deadly consequences has arisen and rocked my world. Sometimes being in the medical field is a blessing……and sometimes it’s a curse. In my nurse’s mind this is probably a game-changer. It’s the first thing that pops into my head when my eyes open in the morning and the thing that keeps my over-thinking brain steaming full-speed ahead into the late hours at night. I can’t even get in to the specialist until late this week….too much time to “stew”.  My mind and heart are heavy…..or, I should probably say WERE heavy….until this “God-thing” happened.  Geesh!! Did you think I was EVER going to get to this??!!!!   Yeah…..me neither!!!

So, here I was rushing around the other morning popping into two different doctor’s offices signing records releases so they can communicate with each other when I heard a car honking.  Now, back when I was a young gal…….and ya already know that was a LONG time ago…..my mom taught me to NOT turn around when someone honked. She said when guys are honking at girls walking down the street, if the girls are always turning around to look, it made the girl look “cheap” and vain. Some things we learn as kids are easy to “unlearn”, some not so much. So, I hesitated to look as I was getting into my car.  However, the honking persisted and I finally looked over to see an old friend just a smiling and waving.  Now here is where I need you to see how unusual this event was. Are you paying attention or are you half-asleep and drooling all over your keyboard or phone?!!!!  

At my previous job that I held for 11 years, there was a monthly meeting with representatives from any and all types of organizations whose main focus was caring for the elderly. I met this gal during those meetings. She is, without a doubt, the MOST DEVOUT Christian I know. Her faith and positivity just bubble out of her everywhere she goes and I can only imagine the thousands of “seeds” she has knowingly and unknowingly planted and continues to plant for the Kingdom. Well, since I changed jobs a little less than 2 years ago, I sadly almost never see her anymore. So, I was quite tickled….and relieved that I had not given in to the “urge to look at the “honker” only to find a leering, wolfish man sneering away…..mom’s voice wouldn’t be scolding me in my mind this time!  She parked and we both got out and met by her car. She had a coworker in the car with her too. She said she had seen me and was just going to honk but then decided she needed to stop and give me a hug. Well, in just the first minute or so, my reason for being there came out and I told her the gravity of the situation and my thoughts and fears. Right then, as if on cue, her friend, who had been listening,  popped her head out and asked if they could pray with me. Holy smokes!!!  It was at THAT VERY MOMENT that it hit me like a brick that this was no ordinary encounter. It was NO accident that I was there when my seldom -seen friend just happened along!!  NO SIRee!!!  This Chick does NOT believe in coincidence….NOPE, NOT EVEH, NEVEH!!!  I believe to the depths of my heart that our sovereign God is in control of everything and anything at ALL times……even the minutia that we mentally discard as meaningless.  I was taught that God has 2 types of “will”…….His “intentional will” —-  where He MAKES things happen, for reasons only He knows…….and His “permissive will” —- where He ALLOWS things to happen, for reasons only He knows.  Buddy, I’m here to tell ya that I KNOW He WANTED me to run into my dear friend that day because He KNEW she had what I needed right at that very moment when my fears were churning in my mind……..and she surely did!  She was His arms and His comforting voice as the 3 of us stood in that parking lot and she prayed so fervently for me as we all embraced, heads down,  in our little circle. My heart sang with joy at the incredulous realization that, once again He had reached down to touch my heart and calm my fears…to let me know that whatever happens in the weeks to come, He WILL be walking right along side me, holding my hand. 

I hope my ‘gut’ is wrong, I hope the statistics about this issue are wrong in my case. But what I’m most happy to be right about is the indisputable assurance, delivered as only our ever-loving Heavenly Father can do, that He will help me though it. Yes, these “God-things” are hard for me to keep quiet about. 

A Slow Death …

Oh thank goodness, you’re finally awake! Nights are the worst … so much waiting with nothing to do … nothing except remembering, that is.  Just yesterday Mac, that rusty old truck and that grouchy old bear, Ted, were trying to tell me that one of these days pretty soon, you won’t have time for me either … that you’ll leave me in the toy box all day too like you’ve done with them.  I told them they were nuts! You and I are best buds!

I remember when we first met; it’s one of my favorite memories. You were just a little fella back then.  Your mom had just baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies…your favorite. You were heading out to the back yard to play and your mom asked if you wanted a cookie to take along. You said,  “Yes, please …and can I have one for Charlie too?”  Your mom looked a little surprised at first but then she smiled and gave you another cookie for me.  That’s when I knew we were gonna be best friends.  After that we were almost never apart. Why, we had all kinds of fun back then … playing with our boats in the creek, making snowmen, building that old “fort” with the blankets over the clothesline. I especially remember that time we took Sarge for a walk without his leash. He ran off and your dad kinda yelled at us. You told him it was my idea. It wasn’t, but I didn’t say anything … because we’re buds … best buds … and best buds always look out for each other.  Like the time you decided to run away from home.  You said we were gonna go some place where we didn’t have to eat vegetables or take a bath every day.  We were gonna go to the bus station and decided to take a short cut through Mr. Miley’s woods. There were strange noises in those woods and you got scared. I kept talking to you, though, and telling you it would be OK.  I told you we should probably go back home and I promised to help you with the vegetables (even though I don’t like them either) and to make the baths more fun too. So we went back home and never ran away again.  I suggested we bring all those rubber snakes and worms that Aunt Suzie got you for Christmas into the bathtub and we had a great time taking baths … until that last time when we stayed in too long and your mom came in to make you get out. She reached down into the water to pull the plug and grabbed one of those big snakes. I think that’s when she decided you were old enough to take showers instead of baths. A sad day. That was the first thing to go, but, I wasn’t too worried. We still played together out in the yard. But then a little boy named Billy moved in next door and you started playing with him. I would come too and try to join in but you couldn’t hear me for some reason. After that, it seemed like you didn’t talk to me as much anymore. I knew you still loved me, though, because you still brought me cookies now and then and always talked to me at night in bed when you started getting sleepy. You told me all your dreams and what you wanted to do some day when you were all grown up.

Then something big happened. Your mom said you were going to Kindergarten soon where there would be lots of other boys and girls to play with. She said it means you’re a “big boy” now. Mac and Ted told me what it really means … that you won’t have time for me anymore. That you won’t be able to hear me or see me anymore.  I told them they’re nuts! I’m still right here!  You and I are best buds … always have been … always will be.  And yet, it has been awhile now since we talked or played together.   Maybe Mac and Ted were right.

I guess you’ll let me know, huh. Just so you know, though , my ‘bestest’ buddy … I will always be here for you. Because we’re buds and buds stick together no matter what.  I love ya buddy.

 

 

Written as a response to the writing prompt:

“You are a kid’s imaginary friend. He’s growing up. You’re fading away.”

Oh Sun, Glorious Sun!

Oh sun, glorious sun, how I love you so …

Just seeing you and being in your presence brightens my day tenfold,

Your mighty and far-reaching rays surround me and clear my mind of gray, cloudy    thoughts,

I crave your never-ending warmth that embraces my body like a loving hug,

You give life and growth to the humblest ‘seeds’ planted with faith – in fertile soil and rocky crags alike,

My eyes search the heavens for you daily and though I may not see your golden face, faith in its’ simplest form assures me you are still there … behind the clouds …watching over me,

Oh Son, glorious Son, how I love you so …

You saved me from the ‘fiery pit’ and continue to love me daily as I struggle to cling to your embrace … while the hounds of darkness nip at my heels without mercy,

Oh Son, glorious Son … please hear my prayer …

May all who walk in darkness truly see your shining face, feel your eternal warmth and be saved by your mighty hand.

    

“Think Tank” on Wheels …

Driving alone in my car seems to be the catalyst for two distinctly different moods. Some trips find me in the mood to fill all that empty space and time with music.  I’ll hook up my phone, containing an endless variety of tunes, to the cars’ sound system, crank up the volume and get a natural energy boost or choose something soft & slow to calm frazzled nerves.  Other trips find me craving the total opposite – pure and perfect peace and quiet.  These are the trips I usually spend gazing at all the scenery around me and talking to the Lord.  Since my mom passed away about a month ago, I have found the majority of my car time since has been spent quietly, sharing my thoughts, worries and praises with Him.  I always need the Lord’s help and guidance but I seem to seek it even more at this time of the year which was already a difficult one for me.

Lately in my “car talks” with the Lord, I find myself thanking him more and more for ‘planting’ me in such a beautiful area of our country.  Even more so after a recent trip for work to the tiny hamlet of Sycamore.  I had never before heard of it nor am I at all familiar with any place west of Ontario, except for several past visits to Galion, Ohio.  My trip to Sycamore was not uneventful, as I ended up having to choose between trusting “Madam Google” from Google Maps or my own eyes as I was rather frantically scanning the signage along the way, which seemed to conflict with what “Her Highness” was telling me.  Alas, I tend to be rather fickle with trust and went instead with the signage I was seeing with my own eyes.  Well , that’s the thing about trust … some people and things that SEEM worthy of it are not, as I have found with “Lady Google” a time or two in the past.  This time, however, I guess she was trying to redeem herself but due to past betrayals, I didn’t believe her.  I should have.  I ended up lost and frustrated for a short while. In addition to discovering that sometimes “Ms. Google” CAN be trusted, I also found myself being so grateful for the beautiful hills enveloping the beloved little valley in which I live.  I am not a lover of flat, monotonous land.  There was nothing of note to look at on this trip and the driving just seemed endless, punctuated by a strange numbering system of the roads in that area.  I couldn’t get back home to my hills quick enough!  I try to avoid making declarations these days involving the word “never” because I seem to have said or done many of the things I rather brashly said I never would.  However, at this point in my life, I can confidently say with almost complete certainty that I will never live anywhere without big, forested hills around me.  The only exception I can even remotely imagine is if Tom Selleck or Sam Elliott ditched his current wife, convinced me to marry his tall irresistible self and then dragged me off to live with him in some flat locale ….  the odds of which are infinitesimal.

Speaking of driving trips, today I took a short jaunt over to my daughter’s home in Butler. This one was a ‘musical’ trip with one of my favorite contemporary Christian groups – Mercy Me – doing the ‘serenading’  Those who know me well know that I am not a fan of the gray dreary days of the winter months.  However, one of the few positive things about the beautiful leaves being gone from the trees is the fact that now you can see things you normally can’t, like the terrain of the forest floor.  As I traveled west on SR 95 past Pleasant Hill Lake, I looked deeply into the wooded spans on the south side of the road and noticed that the whole area there is full of little rolling hills and valleys.  When the trees are fully clothed in their leaves, either my peripheral vision just made the assumption that that area was all flat from the road back  or I just was never really able to see clearly enough to discern the real terrain under the darkness of the forest.  I’m wondering now if those little hills are covering up natural deposits of gravel like so many others in our area or are they perhaps more like the rocky cliff-type terrain around Malabar Farm just up the road?  Questions I’ll probably never know the answers to but an example of how my brain works on my trips in the car, whether they be long or short.

Time to think, time to pray, time to unwind, time to sing … take your pick or a medley of all, car trips are whatever you make them.  I’ve learned a lot about myself, my faith, and the world around me as I travel the roads.

Movie Review: “Christopher Robin”… When Did You Last Play? …..

How important do you feel it is to fully engage your imagination, release your inner child and just PLAY, no matter your age?  According to Winnie the Pooh, the world’s most famous honey-loving little bear, “Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.”  His best friend, Christopher Robin proved this to be true in today’s showing of Disney’s “Christopher Robin” at the beautifully restored circa 1909 Loudonville Ohio Theater.

There are many “children’s movies” that smuggle in adult themes amongst the adorable characters, special effects and award-winning sound tracks. The Lion King comes to mind with its’ vivid messages of the dangers of being power hungry, dealing with great loss and letting go of your past.  You may also recall Beauty and the Beast which taught us the importance of inner beauty as well as ignoring other people’s opinions of you.  Well, Christopher Robin’s never-ending adult theme is no less important or poignant. —  we must never forget how to simply ‘play’ and do nothing and we must never put the people and things we hold closest to our heart at the mercy of those things that matter the least, in the long run.  Life is oh so short and we all grow up so very quickly, but that doesn’t mean we should spit out our imagination into an old gum wrapper, wad it up and throw it out when we march off into adulthood.  This is basically what Christopher Robin had done, only to discover how miserable he and everyone around him was as a result.  When he finally allowed himself to relax and go back to the “Hundred Acre Wood” to re-connect with his childhood friends, his vivid imagination and his happiness came bursting back to life and he solved his employer’s biggest problem and healed the gaping wounds in his own life.

I loved this movie despite what I would say is a pretty heavy dose of those adult themes.  Being the rather sensitive, tender-hearted soul that I am, I even shed a few tears at some of the parts that hit home a little too closely.  But, oh my …what a good job the creators did with all of those lovable characters from our childhood.  I don’t know how they did it but they all looked so REAL!  From Piglet’s sweet little pink self to Roo’s adorable innocence to Rabbit’s very life-like tall ears to Eeyore’s predictable negativity and Pooh’s amazing personality and facial expressions.  It was so well-done and so well-thought out. I have no doubt that Mr. Milne himself would be so utterly fascinated and proud of the way in which his beloved story was portrayed on the big screen .

So ….. I’ll ask again …. when did you last relax and do absolutely nothing?  When did you last say hello to your own imagination ?  Are the family and friends closest to your heart at the top of your list when you’re doling out your precious and fleeting time …. or are they farther down on that list?’

When did you last play?

Mid-Life Dating …

So, you say you love the edgy, nail-biting risk-taking of tossing your whole paycheck at the roulette wheel at Vegas?  Or perhaps you just can’t get enough of the heart-pounding, scream-inducing roller coasters at Cedar Point.  Boy, do I have just the ticket for you:  mid-life dating.

Once again I found myself on this particular emotional roller coaster for the last two weeks.  I’m one of those hopeless romantics who tend to jump into this rather hypnotic pool with both feet and my whole silly, crepe paper heart.  My oh my … there is not much that can compare to that wonderful euphoric feeling that “somebody likes me … somebody wants me … somebody cares about me” …. for me it’s, hands-down one of the BEST feelings you can experience on this journey we call life.  I like to think of this initial stage as the “rainbow and unicorn” stage. You know, the first few weeks, or, if you’re real lucky – months, when you’re just so over-the-top for each other that you can barely stand to be apart.  All of your waking thoughts are peppered with re-run after re-run of your first kisses, how you hold hands at the store, in the car … the sweet pet names you give each other. You can see your friend’s eyes start to glaze over and their gag reflexes being activated as you share your sickeningly sweet tales with them for the millionth time. You see your ‘beloved’s’ face everywhere you look …. on your computer screen at work, in the clouds in the sky, staring up at you from your bowl of Cheerios. In this most glorious of time periods, your hormones … yes Ethel, I did say hormones …. because yes, Kiddies, we still have them in our 50’s, believe it or not …. are raging and, if you’re not careful they could goad you into throwing caution to the wind. Does this all sound very familiar? Think hard … for some it may be harder, depending on how much water has gone under YOUR bridge since you were a teenager. Ah yes! So THAT’S why you suddenly feel 20 years younger and everything in your world lights up in vivid technicolor! Snap!  Oh beware, beware my fellow travelers on this most confusing journey…..it is sometimes merely a disappointing mirage in the desert.  It may SEEM like an exciting second chance at the dating from our teen years, but, alas, it is not!  For the mid-life daters, there are now so many obstacles and road blocks to have to navigate.  And, unlike the innocence of the teen years, we now have “baggage” in our hearts and minds … experiences from former relationships that make certain issues more sensitive.  Don’t kid yourself, EVERYONE on this ‘hamster wheel’ has them, no matter how long it’s been or how well you dealt with it when your last ‘gig’ ended.  They are there, in the dark recesses just waiting to pop out.

It doesn’t matter if your issues were about money, fidelity, trust, sex, respect or any of a million others; you mix those up in a bowl with the mid-lifer’s acquisitions of adult children, grand kids, elderly parents in failing health, ex-spouses, life-long hobbies, bad habits and a few others and you have the makings of a potentially rocky mix.  For some, it’s not that difficult to work through and they skip on around their particular stones on the road to Shangri-la.  For many, though, those ‘stones’ are boulders that seemingly completely block the path.  In our youth, we may have had the unquenchable drive, energy, desire and feverish passion to climb over or trek around that boulder, despite the difficulties.  As mid-lifers, though, our life-acquired wisdom now often tells us ….for a multitude of reasons… to just let it go……even if it had a lot of good times between two good people. Some things are better left alone.  Some stories are better left unwritten.

So, if you’re a thrill-seeking, risk-taking gambler, this may be the ride for you.  My current turn on this ride is over and I see a few coins in the coin-return. Think I’ll use them to go buy some feed for the ducks at the duck pond.  Someplace calm and serene……time to ponder what I’ve learned this time around.

What Do You Mean You “Can’t Find It?!!”

I generally believe that most of the technology we use nowadays is a GOOD thing. Please note the words “generally” and “most”.  Today is NOT that day! Today is one of those “I’m-so-frustrated-with-my-printer-and-computer-that-either-my-head -is-going-to-explode-or-I-may-be-throwing-my-perfectly-fine-printer-out-the-window” kind of days. Instead of my printer taking the well-deserved hit, though, I’m quite certain my blood pressure is the real victim in this obvious threat to my health and sanity.

I take a small measure of pride in the fact that I have, by and large, taught myself everything I know about using a computer and printer over the course of many years and several businesses that I owned, all with websites that I had to learn how to work with. My point being that I’m not a total idiot or complete newbie in this realm, but I definitely concede that I am by no means an expert either….. not even remotely so.

My current dilemma started about a week or so ago. Actually I’m not certain precisely when because I don’t always use my printer every single day. That, however, is about when I first noticed that my printer would not print anything from my iMAC computer. Oh it will still make a “copy” of something you lay on the screen but that’s all.  Upon further investigation, my computer has, for some reason, decided to completely shun the existence of my printer. One day they’re communicating and playing nicely together and the next, His Majesty, Sir MAC has completely snubbed Ms. Canon and declares repeatedly that he most definitely cannot even find her at all!  How can that possibly be?!!  I assure you, she has not moved from her permanent residence, a mere 6 feet or so from His Highness.  All her proper lights are on and everything seems to be in working order.  Sir MAC, too, remains unchanged as far as I can tell.  In fact, I wasted the entire first half of this precious holiday away from work trying desperately to facilitate their detente.  My dear son-in-law also made a very valiant attempt to help over the phone.  They’re still not speaking to each other.

I have two possible theories as to the cause of this stonewalling. Theory #1 – my cats have recently decided they’re  in love with a spot on my sewing table where they can look out a back window while reclining fully….apparently prime real estate in the cat world.  This spot is very close to Ms. Canon and I have witnessed them, on several occasions, being very curious and getting real up close and personal while she is actively printing something out.  So, theory #1 is that perhaps they stepped on her and pressed something they shouldn’t have.

Theory #2 is the more viable choice, in my opinion.  About 2 weeks ago I decided to upgrade my Spectrum/Time Warner TV services just a tad.  This unexpectedly involved a new modem and wireless router and a new password as well.  I followed the scanty instructions for connecting my computer and never thought twice about this possibly affecting anything else. In all of the combined efforts, today, however, there was never an opportunity to even input the new password anywhere…..a puzzle for sure.  We feel the key is in the IP address but that magic number has remained ‘unlisted’ and does not appear on the network configuration page we printed out.  Oy vey!!!

I have exhausted my limited knowledge on this topic and am reluctantly throwing up the white flag of surrender.  Being the devout “time conservationist” that I am, I can’t stand wasting so much valuable time and burning up so many gray cells on this anymore.  Machines – 1 (as in won!) vs. Humans – none and done! I figure the cost of having someone from Geek Squad come to investigate would probably be as much as buying a new printer. I will most likely find myself at a nearby Staples in the coming days.

Harry Houdini couldn’t have done it any better ….. hidden a printer in plain sight …. no smoke, no mirrors!