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Thursday, July 24, 2014

It's a Small, Small, Microscopic World

I’m not sure how old I was the first time my family went to Disney World, but I do recall taking Fave and Beauty when they were toddlers themselves.

Just like my parents had done many times over the years, Warren and I had taken our children to visit relatives living in Florida.

I have fond memories of running through the orange groves across from my grandparents’ park, the blackish colored sand hot on my tender feet.
I remember my grandfather’s tricks, pretending he was stealing our noses and pulling magic quarters from behind our ears.
I remember grandma, always with a sewing needle and garment in hand or a deck of cards in some Solitaire formation.
I remember a constant smell of food wafting through the house, the screened in porch of their double-wide, swimming in the park’s pool, and that one time when sun-poisoning blistered my fair skin.
I remember bikes with baskets and bells and passing those many other children who were also visiting grandparents.
And though I don’t actually recall the first time I went through the amusement park’s ride, that song, It’s a small, small world, resurrects a joyful feeling.
It’s the one thing I HAD to do with my own children the day we took them to see Mickey and Minnie and all of the other beloved characters.
We all know that Walt Disney was a dreamer who did, a visionary who set into motion his thoughts.
But I wonder if he knew that one day travel would be so widely available to everyone, if he knew that college kids from all walks of life would have the privilege of world views, if he knew that escaping to Paris would actually become reality for Ordinary Joes and Janes.

And I wonder what moved him to bring Switzerland and Denmark and Germany to the relatively small town of Orlando.

“The world is no longer small,’ I’ve said many times in the past five years, “it’s microscopic.”
Though my memory of that amusement park ride is still a bit sketchy, I remember with distinct clarity the moment I realized just how tiny our world is.
As treasurer for Fave’s Project Graduation committee, I had enlisted the assistance of our personal accountant to help resolve some reporting and other financial questions.
He pulled up a national database of Project Graduation committees from across the country that had filed a relatively new non-profit form, and then he printed the document and handed it to me, so I could see the format and content.
The universe shrunk around me, instantaneously, and I could actually feel myself as part of something so very vast and yet something so absolutely tiny.
A bit like those images of a stick figure standing atop the globe, that’s the best way to describe it, as if everything within the universe was within arm’s length.
You see, printed at the top of that page was Clear Lake High School. Galveston, Texas.
At the time, Fave was dating a girl he’d traveled the world with through competition in their sport.
And, you know what’s coming…she lived in Galveston. Texas.
It wasn’t like the financial advisor had selected the first or last name from the list, or the first name under an alphabet heading, even; he’d randomly clicked on a name that turned out to be one from which I knew somebody.
That’s the first time I declared the world to be microscopic.
I know there was another incident that happened not too long after that one, but I don’t recall the details.
But get this, in January I received a phone call from my father.
He was traveling from North Carolina to Canada on business and struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to him.
“Where are you headed? Where are you from?”
And then, when the guy indicated he lived in a town ten minutes from my small town, he asked "You don’t happen to know any Elizabeth’s do you?”
As a matter of fact, this orthopedic surgeon had just seen my daughter five days earlier for a follow-up to surgery he performed on her in December…
He not only operated on our daughter, but he’s executed two surgeries on Warren, and he’s not only helped monitor Fave’s health, he’s also supported the fundraisers we’ve done to help cover his elite athletic endeavors.
WOW…right?

Microscopic world
And when I went to that Hay House writer’s workshop in Denver, Colorado a few weeks ago?
I struck up a conversation with the gentleman next to me, who lives less than thirty minutes from my home AND his wife works at our local library…
He wasn’t originally assigned the seat he was in, but had traded places with a young girl so she could sit next to her fiancĂ©.
Microscopic
And then, this past Sunday, in a room filled with about four-hundred people, I sidled up to the stage to take pictures and video of Fave’s performance.
As I cheered him on, a guy tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Are you his mom?”
That guy?
He not only hails from a small town twenty-five minutes from our tiny borough, he is the official photographer for the team Fave just joined in the metropolis that is Charlotte, NC…
MICROSCOPIC.
I seem to recollect my father telling the story of rounding a corner in someplace like Germany and literally bumping into someone he knew from the States, but I never appreciated just how small the world is myself until recent years.
And I must say, I do feel as if I could almost wrap my arms around our globe and scratch any of its surfaces or its people…
What about you? Have you ever experienced something that made the world seem even smaller?
Until next we meet again, yours in healing, hope, and happiness…
     ~AE
p.s. Comments make my day, so please remark away! Join me on those other social media spaces, too! Go ahead, click those little links up there on the sidebar! You’re awesome!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Few Bittersweet and Salty Days

Well, Journeyers, today I’m writing from a lobby in the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City.

This place is exquisite, from this enormous cut floral arrangement…

to the balcony views…


to the marble bathrooms…


Yep, we’re on the road, again.

This time we hit the skyways to support Fave in his national competition.
After nearly a year of nursing and rehabbing some minor muscular stuff, he’s back on track and raring to be back on the platform.

The really cool part is that the event is taking place in Salt Lake City, where I happen to have a few relatives.

Two aunts that I haven’t seen since my grandmother’s funeral some seventeen years ago.

And honestly, I don’t remember anything about that trip, which is no big surprise given the fact that I was six-plus months pregnant and was fairly certain that Warren and my best friend were having an affair.

That suspicion would be confirmed less than eight weeks after that family gathering.

That’s the bittersweet part, memories that are both painful and pleasant…

Now, flash forward two days, to the Salt Lake City airport, where Warren and I are about ready to catch the red-eye to go back home.

These past four-and-a-half days have both gone by in the blink of an eye, and yet, have felt gloriously relaxing.

After capturing last year’s title, my boy’s performance wasn’t quite what he’d hope for, and yet, he managed to complete four of six lifts and post a total.

A combined score that not only secured him fourth place and points for his team, it also qualified him for the Collegiate Worlds.

A cousin whom I haven’t seen since we were sixteen came with his three children to watch the competition.

And my other local aunt and uncle watched from home.

I was so glad we had a couple of opportunities to spend time with them too, for her failing health may mean this is the last opportunity I will have to see her.

Bittersweet memories and moments in time…

My mom drove ten hours to come and spend the weekend with us.

We stayed with her one sister. And you won’t believe this, but her nickname is Squirrel!

Which is WAY TOO FUNNY given the fact that my friends and family have referred to me as Squirrel for the past few years, and then I recently found out that Fave’s girlfriend is nicknamed that as well…

So now we have Squirrel the girlfriend and Auntie Squirrel.

As nice as that hotel was, I much preferred staying in a home environment, one where I could love on the many neighborhood animals and have an extra incentive to get up and walk every morning.


Check out these views that greeted us almost everywhere we went!



I cannot tell you how much we laughed, my family and Auntie’s many friends we met.


They are a lively and entertaining group, for sure! Why, Auntie had me dancing in her living room to the Bee gee’s live video.

Saturday night fever! Don’t you just love it!

I hope that I inherited my grandmother’s youthful genes the way Mom and Auntie have, for I’d love to be as spry as they are when I’m in my seventies!

Hubby and Son and I went to the Great Salt Lake today.

Both of these boys sink like lead and have always had a difficult time swimming.

Fave was so excited when he went to the Dead Sea a few years ago after an event in Israel.

He talked nonstop about how he could candlestick in the water, which means to stand upright even though your feet aren’t touching the ocean’s floor.
Suspended in the Great Salt Lake

The woman at the park told us the lake was down more than three feet, which meant we had to walk a fair distance out before we even began wading into the water.

The stench from the brine flies and the dead ducks was kind of overwhelming, but we weren’t to be deterred.

See all those black striations? They are actually millions of those microscopic insects!

A sign told us that the southern end of the lake where we were was fourteen percent salt, whereas the northern end was twenty-five percent and the Dead Sea is thirty-three percent, making you even more buoyant!

If you’re ever in Salt Lake City, you have to check out the lake!

And while you’re there, check out the Saltair event center. This structure is the fourth generation of what was once a booming resort swimming center.


Several natural disasters have destroyed each of the first three buildings, the first of which dated back to the early nineteen-twenties.

The current owners have turned the facility into a concert venue that also houses a small gift shop.


The owner treated all of us brave souls, those who actually ventured out into the water to go ‘bathing,’ with our choice of ice cream or beverage.

It was a great way to cool down after being in the blistering heat.
6 pm in the shade!

In other happy news…

Warren and Big Guy built this enormous outdoor summer habitat for Squirtle, our turtle who has grown tremendously in the past year.


I met many new people on my recent travels, including the delightful Madeline Torres and her boyfriend, UFC fighter Rick Story.


We had several delicious meals at local Utah establishments, including this pizza at the fabulous Maxwell’s Restaurant.


We toasted family and Fave's competition finish.


Warren carved out this little bit of love at the dinner table one night.


And then there was a message from a cyber-friend, @mother_warrior.

Beth is a cancer survivor and someone who comes to mind from time to time.

I cannot tell you how honored I was when she notified me that she’d finished reading my memoir and that it had impacted her life in ways she’d not yet imagined.

And then she left this amazing review on Amazon…


Journeyers, I am touched by the impact this little book is having on people’s lives and by the ripple effect it is beginning to have in the world around us…
In addition to leaving copies in random places for some chance reader to find, I’ve been donating copies to groups who might benefit.

Knowing that I’m making a difference in other’s lives is like a buffet for my happy…

Maybe you can help broaden that band of healing by sharing Digging for the Light with your friends and anyone in need.

As The Five Facets slogan says, “We are neighbors in grief and allies in healing.”

Will you join me in helping others? Purchase a copy, or two…or three…and share them with your local women’s shelter and cancer centers and counselor’s offices…or that friend who is having a difficult time right now…

What Moment(s) made you smile this past week?

Until next we meet again, yours in healing, hope, and happiness…

     ~AE


p.s. I’d really love connecting with you on other social media sites and would really appreciate your clicks on the “Like” and “Follow” buttons up there on the side bar!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Living the Dream


My children have always lamented the fact that I cannot go anywhere without running into someone I know.

Big Guy has proclaimed more than once, “My mother will talk to any random stranger.”

Which means that everywhere I go I am always taking pause to converse with another human being.

Which means my children have often found themselves staring blankly off into space or at the tile squares in the vegetable aisle…or when they grew older, heading to the department of their own choosing or waiting out boredom out in the car.

Oh, they’d smile at the other person and respond to questions about how they are doing, but, as is the way with kids, when the conversation changed they were ready to move on as well.

“What’s new?” and “How’s the family?” are two of the first questions we often ask when catching up with someone we haven’t seen in a while.

Now, with two children away at college, one of the first inquiries is this, “Are the kids home from college?”

To which I reply, “Fave has come and gone. Beauty’s things are at the house and she makes an occasional appearance.”

If you have newly-out-on-their-own children, you know how it is: They fly in, drop their bags, and rush back out.

“They’re living the dream,” I say to the inquirer.

Living the dream. Which interpreted means: Coming and going as they choose. Having the best of both worlds, the freedom of an adult without all of the financial and obligatory responsibilities.

Being someone who likes to have her proverbial cake and eat it, too, I get this.

But after I last made that humorous quip, I began really pondering that statement.

Aren’t we all living the dream?

I have heard that we dream every single night, though we often don’t have any recollection once we wake.

Most of our days are like that, we just sort of plod along, changing diapers, washing dishes, driving to work and scouts and sporting events, gathering with friends for no reason other than to catch up and spend a bit of adult time.

The days and weeks and months go by and they just are, hours spinning themselves into our existence.

Then there are those nightmares.

As a teenager I had two recurring nightmares, both of which resurfaced after I found out about the affair between my best friend and Warren.

I was running for my life, my heart pulse throbbing in every nerve fiber of my body, running through the forest I knew intimately. Suddenly, I heard dogs barking and realized I wasn’t going to be able to outrun my assailants, so I shimmied to the top of a tree, where I’d be hidden from sight. Just as I was catching my breath, the canines began clawing and baying at the base of the tree… I slid down the wooden pole and collapsed in a heap of defeat before I woke, drained and fatigued from the emotional and physical struggle.

Warren occasionally has dreams that we are fighting, and when he wakes up, those emotions are still at the surface, until he realizes the residual effect.

There are those random and bizarre dreams, the ones where our surroundings or the people see are as we know them, but then there is always something that doesn’t make sense, something that tells us the occurrence is a figment of our imagination.

They are a bit like that word that we can’t remember, even when it is right on the tip of our tongue, or that dilemma we can’t seem to wrap our heads around.

And then, there are those joyous dreams, images of activities with our loved ones, or those where we are living out our greatest desires.

Those moments, even though subconscious, are part of what feeds our happy.
Kind of gives whole new perspective to that phrase living the dream, huh?

Life is a collection of all types of events, what I call the good, the bad, and the mundane…

Looks like we’re all living the dream, day in and day out, casting our lines into the universe's seas, living life in all its many facets…

How are you living the dream right now?

Until next we meet again, yours in healing, hope, and happiness…

     ~AE



p.s. I’d really love connecting with you on other social media sites and would really appreciate your clicks on the “Like” and “Follow” buttons up there on the side bar!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Letting Go


Warren and I had our second appointment with a marriage counselor last week.

This isn’t a new rodeo for us, as the saying goes.

The first person we saw collectively was my own Counselor Hank from many moons ago.

Actually the first person we saw, more than twenty years ago, was a guy who scribbled notes and diagrams across giant posters taped to his cabinets. 

Warren remembers that guy telling us that we should basically throw in the towel. “I don’t see it working between the two of you.”

Saying that makes me think of a conversation I recently had with a new friend who’s recently separated. She and her husband sought the help of a professional who told her, “I don’t usually tell people this, but…”

That is ASININE, pardon my French!

Now, first let me set aside this little chuckle rumbling through my psyche right now, for you see, I specifically asked Counselor Hank on numerous occasions, begging him at times, “Just tell me what to do so I can fix it.”

To which he replied, “I can’t fix it for you, Annah; I can only help you find your own answers.”

And let me tell you that for a while I was INFURIATED.

This guy’s trained to help people, to fix their problems and he’s telling me he doesn’t know how to FIX ME?

Which on some level probably read like this: I’m too broken.

But I wasn’t so badly damaged after all, AND, what I learned is that the process of finding our own answers works.




It works because the discoveries we come to are the keys to our individual conflicts, the instruments that come with our own filters and biases and desires.

When another projects his own objectives onto us, then our work becomes about his needs and motives and not ours.

I’m guessing I knew that when the first guy told us we didn’t stand a chance, and I’d wager that’s the reason I blocked Mr. Incompetent Counselor from my mind.

This newest guy said that he doesn’t like to refer to healthy relationships because what is healthy for one might not be the same to another.

He likes to refer to productive relationships that carry with them their own unique sets of fingerprints. Something like that.

The first week he assigned Warren and me homework.

Not the dreaded homework.

If the guy’d given out grades, Warren and I might have passed by the skin of our teeth.

Each of us forgot the exact details of the assignment.

BUT, you want to know the funny part?

We each forgot and remembered the exact same thing.

The assignment was to list five of our marital strengths.

It’s unclear if Mr. Productive was clear about the fact that we were to do this assignment together, but whatever.

Warren and I didn’t discuss it because of one of our underlying issues. He doesn’t like me reminding him about things that he keeps forgetting, and I hate feeling like I’m his own personal prompter.

SO, we both showed up with the following lists in hand:

1.   5 Things that make our marriage work.
2.   5 Things that I love about Him/Her.

I’ll save our responses for another post, because right now what I really want to share with you is The Second Assignment.

Mr. Productive gave each of us a paper titled Letting Go and instructed us to read it right then and there and then to read it every day until we meet again.

He asked us to be in touch with how the different statements made us feel, and to notice if those feelings and thoughts changed in the coming week.

Without further adieu, here’s assignment number two.

Letting Go
Letting go does not mean to stop caring; it means I cannot do it for someone else.

Letting go is not to cut myself off; it’s the realization that I cannot control another.

To let go is not to be in the middle arranging everything, but to allow others to effect their own destinies.

To let go is to admit powerlessness, which means the outcome is not in my hands.

To let go is not to care “for” but to care “about” another.

To let go is not to fix, but to be supportive.

To let go is not to enable, but to allow learning from natural consequences.

To let go is not to be protective, but to permit another to face reality.

To let go is not to judge, but to allow another human being to be human.

To let go is not to try to change or blame others, it is to make the most of myself.

To let go is not to nag, scold, or argue, but to search out my own shortcoming and correct them.

To let go is not to adjust everything to my desire, but to accept each day as it comes and cherish myself in it.

To let go is not to criticize or regulate anybody, but to become what I dream I can be.

To let go is to fear less and love more.

To let go is not to deny, but to accept.

To let go is not to regret the past, but to grow and live in the present.

I felt a great deal of anxiety the first few times I read this list and found myself interjecting many buts

As the days have gone by, I feel less tension and have come to realize that these interjections are likely the very thing that is holding ME back from living my best life and from being as open-minded as I once thought I was.

These buts are valid concerns, for when two people are married and share obligation on many levels, one’s falter can adversely affect the other.

BUT, and there’s that word again, what having an open mind will do is hopefully allow Mr. Productive to help us find better ways of coexisting, either together as a couple or separate as two people who respect the love that created those bonds of marriage and then as two individual who, together, brought four beautiful children into this life…and then raised them up to be well-rounded, caring, compassionate, and conscientious citizens of society…

And now, I’m going to let you get back to what you were doing and ponder this for a spell.

But before you go, please share this with everyone you know and encourage them to share it with everyone they know, for this Letting Go thing isn’t just for couples, it applies to friendships and relationships of every imaginable form.

It belongs in Churches and Workplaces and Meditation Spaces and Homes and on Bulletin Boards in post offices and grocery stores and doctor’s offices. It belongs on our refrigerators and in our kids’ backpacks.

And it belongs in our own personal toolkits…

Until next we meet again, yours in healing, hope, and happiness…

     ~AE

Soon…

And one last thing, while you're here, would be much obliged if you'd click those little "Like" and "Follow" buttons on the sidebar over there, so we can connect in those places as well!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

But Fish Don't Eat Ice Cream!


It’s Sunday morning, Journeyer, and I sit staring at the photos from this week’s happy moments.

I’ve been scratching my head for the past ten minutes, trying to find some sort of thread that will bring it all together.

At that statement I chuckle, for my week’s moments have been about as random as they get!

I looked through my calendar to see what it was I spent the past seven days doing because this week seems to have dissolved into itself.

That’s not a bad thing, really, because as I looked across the timeline, what I saw were a bunch of checkmarks for tasks completed.

What I didn’t see were long blocks of time that took me away from home.
And I breathed in a big sigh of satisfaction.

I call September and October and May and June the hamster-wheel months. If you have active school-aged children, you know what I mean: everything seems to be crammed into these four months.

Orientations and parent meetings and concerts and sporting events and major test preparations…

If it’s not back to school stuff like shopping for supplies and shoes, it’s end of year stuff like the emptying of lockers, items that get tossed onto dining room tables and any available floor space.

It feels like we’re running inside that little cage, running, running, running, going everywhere but nowhere at the same time.

The laundry piles up on the sofa, dust bunnies come out of hiding, and our to-do lists suddenly morph into Harry Potter sized manuscripts. 

You know how much my family’s been on the go these past few months, with soccer and more soccer and school leadership and exciting connections for The Five Facets work. And a writing workshop thrown in there for good measure.

All of those things are positive and productive and personally rewarding, but crammed into a short span of time it’s kind of like overload.

But that’s life when you’re living your best personal, professional, and philanthropic life, when you’re learning and growing and working and giving back…

That is the way of the universe, though, don’t you think?

Spring and Summer expend a great deal of energy to produce the supplies our world needs to survive, while Fall and Winter are the respite, the healing of the bodies that taxed themselves during that time of abundance.

I guess that means I’ve spent the past seven days sleep walking.

Which reminds me of Fave when he was little. I only recall a couple of times where he actually got up out of bed while he was still asleep, but there were countless times we’d hear him talking or yelling in the middle of the night.
One time his sister heard him exclaim, “But fish don’t eat ice cream!”

My week’s joy has been just as bizarre and equally random.

I finally summoned the courage to contact a new counselor and met with her on Monday.

And I swallowed my pride and angst and admitted (to myself and her) that I’m experiencing some of those old depression symptoms.

Though the thought of taking prescription pills doesn’t thrill me, I can say that I’m happy to have a wealth of options available to help me through it.
My daily vitamin regimen

I’m equally thankful for the messages that guide me, in this case, my old counselor’s question: “If you had cancer, would you deny yourself treatment?”
Memories of our time together always make me smile.

Many of my week’s happy moments seem to be centered around togetherness, whether it meant being with someone else or simply with myself.

I scheduled an impromptu lunch and pedicure with Beauty for after my therapy session.

I spent a little time each day de-cluttering and actually clearing one spot on my office floor.

FAMILY DINNERS!

I actually prepared several not-out-of-a box-or-a-bag meals AND we ate as a group.

We even made a dessert run to a local ice cream shop one evening.


Beauty, who makes the occasional appearance, requested tacos one night, and though Fave wasn’t there in person, my little family of five was together.


Making fajitas brought back fond memories of the night my boy cooked that very dish for us, and how enthusiastic he was as he described his process and his own little culinary secrets.

On Wednesday I had a quick lunch with Big Guy after a routine doctor’s appointment. This Subway salad was absolutely delicious!


Warren and I had our second session with our new marriage counselor.

I knocked out all of the bills and some to-do paperwork on Thursday and still had plenty of time to spare.

So I finally made it to the dry cleaners to drop off the winter coats that have been riding in the back seat of my car for weeks.

I stopped in to the local Christmas shop that just reopened and found a few perfect gifts for those loved ones on my list.

I ordered a new computer to replace this one that has been limping along for some time. Poor thing, she’s survived being dropped on her head a few times and has served me well for many years!

I tracked down Zee’s new color! Isn’t it magnificent? I’m so excited about fixing this old gal up and restoring her to all her glory!



I exercised the dog and me daily and groomed this poor sweltering boy after each jaunt.


I thanked the kindness of the coworker who loaned me this mighty little tool called the FURminator.

I’ve never seen anything like it and will definitely be purchasing one of my own!

If you have a big furry friend, you should definitely check out this product!
As we wandered on our walks, I felt the gentle breeze across my face, my arms, my legs…

I listened to the sounds of nature’s theater,

the hum of a lawnmower…

my aging pooch’s pant…


the rustling leaves…

the trickling stream, and the songs the various birds sang…


I drank in my little corner of the universe’s masterpiece…


And then I got back to the other real world of dishes and dust bunnies…

The satisfaction of sifting through and cleaning out more than eight-hundred e-mails from my inbox…

I read countless other blogger’s stories and actually took the time to write another post for the week, this post about the #100HappyDays craze.

And then there were these two things…

Nightly soaks in the hot tub with Hubby and watching the lightning bugs flit across the fields and the moon make its way to a fully round orb…


And laughter, found in the most unexpected of places…


What about you, Journeyer, what peculiar or ordinary Moment(s) led the way to filling the happy within you this past week?

Until next we meet again, yours in healing, hope, and happiness…

     ~AE