Thoughts in the Still of the Morning

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This story from the surgeon and writer Richard Seltzer in his book, Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery, about a young woman with a tumor in her cheek.

Dr. Seltzer writes of his visit to her hospital room after the surgery.

I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of her facial nerve, the one to the muscles in her mouth, has been severed. She will be thus from now on. As a surgeon, I had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh, I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve.

 Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. “Who are they,” I ask myself, “he with his wry mouth who gaze and touch each other so generously?”

 The woman speaks:

 “Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks.

 “Yes,” I say. “It is because the nerve was cut.”

 She nods, is silent. But the young man smiles.

“I like it,” he says. “It’s kind of cute.

 All at once I know who he is. I understand, and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful of my presence, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I’m so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate hers, to show her that their kiss still works.

I remember that the gods appeared in ancient Greece as mortals, and I hold my breath and let the wonder in.

I’ve often looked for God yet could not find him.  I’ve searched in vain, down on my knees pleading for Him to reveal himself, yet I could not find Him.  If only I did enough good deeds or donated enough money; would He show Himself then?

Yet could it be that Heaven and God are hiding in plain sight?  Every once in awhile, if I’m very still and can quiet my mind, I catch a glimpse of Him.  I see Him within the courage of my wife as she deals patiently and so tenderly with her aging parents.  I see Him in many of the teachers I taught with who compassionately cared for their students.  I see Him in the faith of my brother, the beauty of a cardinal in the snow, the laugh of my daughter and the smile of the Pakistani clerk at the the convenience store.

If I really quiet my mind and let go of the past and stop worrying about tomorrow, then Heaven and God open up before me.  The glimpses expand and the words become sentences.

All my life I thought I was so smart.  I thought I could use my brain and my cleverness to find God.  In truth all I really needed to do was stop thinking and be still.

 

 

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First Aid for the Soul

The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Psalm 90:10

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Much has been written and discussed about out recent election.  So I’m not going to bore you with my political ideology because, frankly, who cares!!

Regardless of whether you were blue or red it has been a VERY stressful time for us all.  Now, without much of a break, we’re jumping right into the holiday season which carries  it’s own special brand of stress.  Yes, it’s the joyous time of year and all that jazz.  However, it also is the time of year when depression is at its highest.  During the holidays the  loss of love ones and old wounds that can be opened hit us particularly hard.

Might I suggest a few things you can do to combat this stress?

  1.  Take a walk.  Yes it’s getting cold and the days are shorter, but you need the sunlight AND the fresh air. It’s a documented fact that some sort of exercise done outside significantly helps with the blues.  Even if you can’t get out during the day, it’s an excellent time to get out and see the holiday lights in your neighborhood.
  2. Realize that there are no perfect families.  I used to lament that my family wasn’t the Hallmark family you see on TV.  However, the older I got and the more I talked to other people, I realized that there are no “Leave It to Beaver” families out there.  Heck… even “Leave It to Beaver” times weren’t the best time for women in our country.
  3. Watch a video from “On the Road with Steve Hartman.”  Often heartwarming and never disappointing.
  4. Watch this video on gratefulness with Brother David Steindl-Rast.
  5. Escape into a good book, sports or binge-watch something.
  6. Set aside time to pray and/or meditate.
  7. Text or call an old friend and reconnect.
  8. If you can’t be happy….fake it!!  Denis Prager, the Jewish theologian,  states; Happiness — or at least acting happy, or at the very least not inflicting one’s unhappiness on others — is no less important in making the world better than any other human trait.
  9. Take a technology day off.  Shut down the phone, computer and tv.  You might go into withdrawal for a bit, but you’ll get used to it.
  10. Simplify your life.  Clear out that closet, trunk or room.  Organize your paperwork.
  11. Put God first.  In fact, this should be first on the list.  Make an effort to start your day with God.  Realize that outside of the election and holiday, there is always God.

There is no disputing the fact that these are indeed tough times.  So I end this blog with a quote from someone who endured much sorrow and had every reason to be stressed.

I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
Whoever is happy will make others happy too. – Anne Frank
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“Is There Something You Would Like to Have?”

These were the words that were spoken, as I eavesdropped in on a conversation between  husband and wife.  How many times in the history of man have these words been uttered, I wondered? Such a simple request; yet so telling.  It’s really a very gracious statement when you examine it closely.  Is there some need I can fulfill for you?  What would make you happy now?  How can I serve you?  All of these questions can be inferred from “Is there something you would like to have?

The conversation I was eavesdropping on was between Vice Admiral James Stockdale and his wife, Sybil.   Stockdale?  James Stockdale?  Where have you heard that name before?  You probably heard it in 1992, when Presidential Candidate Ross Perot named James Stockdale as his Vice Presidential running mate.  Needless to say, everyone was shocked and unaware of who this aging sailor was.

Stockdale was not informed that he would be participating in the October 13th   vice-presidential debate held in Atlanta, Georgia, until a week before the event. He had no formal preparation for the debate, unlike his opponents Al Gore and Dan Quayle, and did not discuss any political issues with Perot beforehand.  The 69 year old Stockdale opened the debate by saying, “Who am I? Why am I here?”, when responding to a request for an opening statement from debate moderator.  He was lampooned immediately by everyone from the New York Times to Saturday Night Live.

Yet that is not the James Stockdale I will remember.

From Wikipedia –

James Bond Stockdale (December 23, 1923 – July 5, 2005) was an American and United States Navy vice admiral. He was awarded the Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War where he was a prisoner of war for over seven years.  He had led aerial attacks from the carrier USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14) during the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Incident. On his next deployment, while Commander of Carrier Air Wing 16 aboard the carrier USS Oriskany (CV-34), he was shot down in North Vietnam on September 9, 1965.

He was held as a prisoner of war for seven and a half years in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.”  He was routinely tortured and denied medical attention.  This left him with a damaged leg and a permanent limp.   When his torturers tried to use him as a propaganda tool by parading him out in public, he slit his scalp with a razor and beat himself in the face so that he was so disfigured that they couldn’t use him.

Stockdale and ten other prisoners were known as the Alcatraz Gang because of their tireless efforts in organizing resistance.  They were separated from the rest of the prisoners and each kept in a 3 x 9 foot cell; shackled in leg irons each night.

While James was held captive, Sybil organized The League of American Families of POWs and MIAs calling for more light to be shed on the treatment of POWs.  She was also used by the government to send coded messages to her husband in a twist right out of the movies.

 

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He was released on February 12, 1973 during Operation Homecoming. His shoulders had been wrenched from their sockets, his leg shattered and his back broken during his torture.   The first thing he did, when he was safe at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, was to call Sybil.   The conversation was recorded by their son, Stanford.  As you listen to recording, you can hear the frailty in his voice.  You can hear the years of torture and pain.  After professing their love for each other, James asks the question that I am not ashamed caused me to cry and started this story.  “Is there something you would like in the way of a gift?”

James Stockdale had endured seven and a half years of torture.  He was a skeleton of the man he was.  Yet he asked his beloved wife what HE could get her.  I’m pretty good with the English language but words fail me in trying to describe how this made me feel.

I heard this story told by his son, Jim, on the StoryCorps podcast as Lynn and I wove our way through the Louisa countryside in search of pie. On the podcast, Jim played the recording of the conversation between James and Sybil.  I felt the hot tears stream down my face as I heard him ask her if there was “something she would like.”  I tried to hide them from Lynn but I knew chances were she was crying, too.

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What is it in us as humans that allows such magnanimity?   How can someone who was beaten and tortured routinely for seven years be so thoughtful as to ask his wife that question?  It’s at these moments that the face of God is revealed and I know that all is right and good if we only listen to his voice.  Listening to that intimate conversation from over forty years ago was sacred.

Vice Admiral James Stockdale may be remembered by most as the befuddled, fuzzy old, bent Vice Presidential candidate who was ridiculed by the questions he uttered in 1992.  I, however, will remember him by the question he asked in 1973 – “Is there something I can get for you?”

 

To listen to the StoryCorps Podcast AND the conversation between James and Sybil click here.

 

ps – It’s a bit ironic that his middle name is “Bond.”  He’s more of a hero than 007 could ever be in my book.

 

 

 

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Knockout!!

I have been knocked out thrice in my life and none of them were fun.  The first was when I was sparring with a black-belt friend of mine, a second in a bike accident and the third while teaching kindergarten.

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I’m guessing most of you have done the math on the black-belt-friend knockout and bike accident, so I’ll describe what happened that day I was “teaching” kindergarten.

It was 1998, a beautiful Spring day, and my second year teaching kindergarten.  I was teaching in Henrico County which at the time had half-day kindergartens.  You would get a group in the morning, they would go home around mid-day, and then the second group would arrive.  It was neat because the classes tended to be small and you really got to know the kids.

I was the lone guy with three amazing, smart, young women who took pity on me and taught me how to be a passable kindergarten teacher. We took turns going out for recess; two classes at a time. “Alexa” was my teacher-team partner.  Since it was the first gorgeous Spring day,  we grabbed some “grown-up”  chairs in preparation for an extended recess.  My only grown-up chair was my office rolling chair so I rolled it out and took a seat to watch the munchkins run wild.  The sun felt great and Alexa took post on the opposite side of playground.

There was a small blacktopped decline going down to the basketball court from where I sat.  Well….I had a chair that could roll and there was the decline calling my name, so I took off.  It was GREAT fun rolling down that decline.  It WAS great fun the first three times.  The fourth time proved, shall we say…problematic.  The kids saw what a great time I was having, so they decided to run behind and give me an extra boost down the decline.  It was a good idea in theory.

What actually happened was on that fourth run, my rolling chair hit a seam in the blacktop walkway.  This caused the chair to pivot around backwards, and  fall  over; slamming me and my giant head onto the blacktop.

I opened my eyes to the bluest sky I had ever seen, and the sound of 5-6 year-olds fleeing the scene.  Alexa was screaming, “The fool has finally killed himself.  The FOOL has finally killed himself!!”  She helped me sit up, and I told her I was fine but I wasn’t completely fine.  I tried to pick the chair up from my sitting position but my fingers wouldn’t work.  I had to pinch the chair in between the back of my hands like they were flippers to get it upright. Luckily it was the end of the day and I was able to get the kids packed up and on the bus.

Afterwards we had a wedding shower in the library and I remember somebody bringing me cake but my fingers still were not working.  I had to pick the fork up with my flipper hands and try to eat the cake while my “teammates” were snorting and laughing at me.

What I didn’t know was that because the playground was situated near where the building was in a kind of u-shape, half of the other teachers had seen my crash.  The news made it to my long-suffering principal, Herb Monroe, who insisted I go to the doctor and get a brain scan and bring him proof that I had one (he said this while he was doubled over laughing).

 

 

 

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The Pie That Binds

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The place had a familiar feel.  Deja vu comes close but off by a little.  Even the spot where I sat had a sense of sameness and then it hit me and once again the old black and white movies started to play in the the theater of my mind.

Yesterday, Cookie and I were having our breakfast of eggs, cereal and crosswords and coming up with a plan for the day.  We didn’t want to do any painting or house re-habing.We had been doing a lot of on her parents house we’re getting ready for sale.

I suggested that we do some light geocaching along Route 6 (Patterson Avenue) west and cut over to the Town of Louisa and hit Floozies Pie Shop.  My friend, Bill Lohmann, had done an article about Floozies, and when you write as well as Bill you can make pie seem pretty irresistible.

So we piled into our Subaru and headed west on Patterson in search of geocaches and pie.  The geocaches were far and few but the scenery was gorgeous and we listened to a few The Moth podcasts along the way.

As we pulled into the Town of Louisa I was amazed at how much it had changed over the years.  I grew up in Louisa on the eastern end of the county as far away as you can get from the town and still be in Louisa.

We parked on Main Street about a block from the restaurant and walked along the busy street in search of Floozies (I just realized how bad that sentence sounded).  It was crazy busy on this Saturday before the 4th of July.  Large American flags lined both sides of the street.  We walked past several restaurants along the way, and I told Cookie that the only place to eat when I was growing up here was a Pizza Hut (still there by the way).

We walked into Floozies and decided to have lunch and get the pie to go.  We were seated at a table near the right hand wall, and as I sat down a strange feeling came over me.  It was a feeling of belonging and calmness. Then the movie started to play.

If you were a boy in the late 50’s and early 60’s you had one choice of haircuts – the crew cut.  My dad had one his whole adult life, and so by default I had one.  This required regular trips to the barbershop which for us were every other Saturday.  My dad would get me out of bed super early, and we would get there a full half hour before Callahan’s Barbershop would open.  We would park in small lot down the street from the storefront, and if my dad’s friend, George Badgett, was there, we would pile in his car to talk and stay warm during the cold winter days.

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In front of the house I spent the first 18 years of my life

The barbershop was like thousands across America back then.  Two large, heavy cast iron barber chairs, combs soaking in a jar of blue solution, and a machine that dispensed hot lather for shaves and neck touch ups.  Mr. Callahan was like a god to me.  He was in the same boat in my mind as my doctor and preacher.  While there was talk of sports and politics, most of the talk was about hunting and fishing.

Mr. Callahan was fast when it came to dispensing his crewcuts.  My favorite part was when he put the hot lather on the back of my neck, then took the single edge razor and swiped it on the strop and shaved the back of my neck.

My dad would give me my allowance to take to the five and dime next door for important purchases, while he was getting the same haircut.  I don’t remember many of the purchases; except for a pocket knife one time and Silly Putty another.  Back then if you were a boy, a pocket knife was a requirement, that went with you even to school.  Different times.

As I had sat in my chair at Floozies, I realized that this restaurant was probably in the exact same location as the barbershop was many, many years ago.  Perhaps occupying that specific space had triggered those long ago memories of hot lather and dime store visits.

The lunch was delicious as was to be expected.  We paid our bill and took our mixed berry pies.  On the way out, we stopped to look at Bill’s article proudly displayed on a beam in the middle of eatery.  We walked slowly to car soaking in the quaintness of it all.   The American flags, the soul food restaurant, the courthouse across the street and the barbecue joint down the street were reminders of a simpler time that was still accessible if you looked for it.

I took the long way home to visit my brother in Bumpass, and along the way pointed out memories to Cookie.  My Uncle Ronald’s house, Willie Sprouse’s cabinet shop and the fireworks stand that has been there forever, served as portals back in time.

To be quite honest I don’t know what lesson there is to had from the pie/barbershop experience other than I’m pretty easy to please.  A nice with lunch with a pretty wife, hot lather on the back of my neck, dime store buys and a great piece of pie on a Fourth of July weekend seem to move the needle for me; whether I’m eight or fifty eight.  I kinda like that about myself.

Click on the orange “Floozies” word link to read Bill Lohmann’s Time Dispatch article.

 

 

 

 

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A Father’s Day Gift

We all sat in the den watching some dumb reality show and laughing until our sides hurt.  That’s what always happens when my oldest son, Andrew who lives in Baltimore with his wife, comes down.  He’ll leave his job as an Air Force Chinese Linguist on Thursday afternoon and spend the weekend with us.  During that time Jack and Catherine will also come over and we’ll eat horrible food and try to make each other do a spit-take while doing so.  We’ve done this several times since he returned from being stationed in Hawaii.

If you asked me what my favorite thing to do is; that is it.  All three kids and Cookie there; telling stories, making comments about current events and just generally catching up on life.

Cookie and I have three children.  There’s the aforementioned Andy who lives with his wife in Baltimore.  Catherine works with autistic children, and she graduated from VCU like her mother and father.  Jack the youngest went rogue and graduated from ODU. He is a computer guy subcontracted by Chesterfield Schools.

While the degrees and fancy Air Force jobs are great, they are not what I am most proud of in regards to my kids.  What I am most proud of is that they are genuinely kind and compassionate humans.

When you watch my kids interact with other people you can see it in their eyes.  The patience to listen, the compassion and understanding that comes from someone who truly listens to you.  I think that’s pretty rare.  I would love to take credit for it all, but I think they get it from Cookie, her sister Karen,  brother Brian, along with my dad and brother Hank;  ALL world class humans.

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Cookie’s parents had to be transitioned to assisted living recently, and it has become a gargantuan task taking care of the all the details which  include re-habbing their home for sale.  We didn’t even have to ask our two offspring who live in town to help.  They have been there the whole time – cutting grass, moving furniture, making trips to charities with stuff and moving their grandparents into the new place.

Sunday we went over to the house and started throwing the dozens of black garbage bags and miscellaneous furniture into the dumpster we had rented.  It took awhile, and then we started working on the yard which needed a ton of care.  My bad back was killing me, so we took a break and went home for lunch.  Cookie remarked that she thought it would take about 10 bags of mulch to do the area we had just cleared, and I winced at the thought of it.  So I shot a text to Jack to see if his young back was available.  He must have been busy, so I didn’t hear from him right away.  I told Cookie I would go get the mulch,  meet her there, and at least drop it off in place for her.

On the way to Home Depot, Jack called and asked, “What’s up?”  I asked him if he was busy, and he said he was just getting ready to head out to go grocery shopping but it could wait.  I let him know that I was pulling into Home Depot and said, “Thanks anyway. I can handle it.”  He pleaded with me to let him help, but I told him I was good.

After dropping the mulch off I went home to take some ibuprofen and stretch and rest my back.  When Cookie got back home about an hour later she looked exhausted.  I asked her how it went, and she said that she had replanted the monkey grass. She was so tired after that she didn’t know if she could spread the mulch until…..Jack dropped by.

I could go on and on with stories about how all three were kind and compassionate but that is the most recent one.  I believe serving your country and working with autistic children kinda of speaks for itself.

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When I was a teacher on the first day of school I would tell the students, “I am going to give you a gift.  It will be the most important gift that you will ever get.  The gift I am going to give you will make you happy for the rest of their life, and all that  you have to do is do exactly what I tell you”

I would ask them if they would be willing to do what I told them if it meant they would be happy?  They would all nod their “yes” and looked super excited.  Then I would point to the powerpoint slide that had popped up next and it would say – “Be a good person.”   I would then tell them that they would still experience pain, loss, and death, but on the whole if they lived their life as a good person they would be as happy as the richest person on earth.  The first lesson of the year was the most important and paid dividends throughout the school year.

So my gift this Father’s Day is the gift that I know will keep giving long after I’ve been released from this mortal coil. It’s the gift that somehow Cookie and I were able to have these kind and compassionate children.  We’ll get together and maybe have some Popeye’s chicken and try to make each other laugh.

 

 

 

 

 

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All Good Things Must Come to an End

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Melancholy.  That’s the word I was searching for as I watched my car back out of the driveway.  I stood at the window; coffee in hand…still clad in my pajamas.  It was the type of melancholy one might experience watching their firstborn go off to kindergarten. The 2003 Toyota Corolla backed out the driveway and out of my life and into a new life.

I had sold it to my daughter Catherine when her car became cost prohibitive to fix.  Her Chevrolet Prizm was actually made at the same factory as my Toyota Corolla.  At some point on the assembly line they parted ways and met on Camrose Road.  Her Prizm has been a money pit while my Corolla asks very little.  It’s funny; different brothers from the same mother.

That 2003 Toyota Corolla and I had history.  We had driven miles upon miles; mostly alone, a lot with Cookie and some with our friends.

We had gone to teach at three different schools in two different counties.

We had crisscrossed the State of Virginia from Grayson Highland Park to Chincoteague Island in search geocaches, nature and God.

That little silver Corolla had taken us to Lynn’s chemotherapy appointments, my cancer appointments, to weddings and to high school and college graduations.

We sang in it, ate in it and sought refuge from the elements when it got too cold or hot or whatever. I had laughed, cried and slept in that car and it never asked that much of me.  A drink of gas now and then and the occasional oil change and it was ready to go.

It may have been the best $12,000 dollars a guy could spend on a car.  It required little maintenance and was always there for me.  It had the old-school crank windows and door manual door locks.  My friends always looked at me like I asked for a kidney when I requested that they lock the door.  I didn’t care.  I loved not having a car payment.

I often wonder how many hours I have sat in that car in traffic and in drive thru’s thinking about life or just being.  A type of mini-meditation retreat rolling on 15’s.

We’re both a little worse for the wear; the Corolla and me.  We’ve got some dings and dents and maybe aren’t as bright and shiny as we once were.  But we’re soulmates. We’re honest as a game of checkers and love the simplicity of it all.

My flaws as a human being are many but being materialistic isn’t one of them. I’ve got an iPhone that’s at least 4 years old and have lived in the same humble home for 30 years.  Getting a new car was not on my radar.  It was, however, time.  Catherine needed a good, dependable car at a low price point and my car fit the bill.  So last night, after getting some advice from my friend Don and my nephew Phillip (who works at CarMax) we headed over to CarMax to shop for a car.  I have to admit my heart was not in it but for the sake of my marriage we had to get a new car.

This morning I watched 13 years of my life back out of the driveway and go down the street.  I took a sip from my coffee cup in a silent toast of thanks for the 160,000 miles of service it gave me.  Here’s to new beginnings and a shared life.

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Confessional

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I’m a bit ashamed.  I retired from teaching two years ago this coming June and have pretty much squandered the entire two years.  So this is a confessional.  I’m coming clean.

On Facebook (or any other social media), everybody’s life is amazing.  Their posts are full of vacations, time spent with family, selfie’s with friends and hands-on-hips poses.  What if we really documented our actual life on social media?  The sadness, the arguments, times we were too lazy to leave the house?  What would our social media pages look like then?  Maybe that is what is in between the status updates and pictures of beaches and majestic sunrises.

When I retired two years ago and started working part time (20 hours a week) from home, I had grand visions about what I was going to do.  I would write that book, get back on the bike, get right with God, volunteer, spend more time with friends and get in amazing shape. I have done none of those things.  In fact – I’ve done the opposite.

I could blame it on health issues or family crises, but the truth is –  I made these choices. I made these choices. I chose not to connect with friends, to not eat correctly, not exercise, not pray or go out geocaching.  All of these were my choices and these choices have diminished my world.  The same world that reading expanded when I grew up alone on that small hill in Louisa County.  I’ve made feeble efforts to correct these transgressions but nothing major has stuck.  The coffee here or there with a friend, the rare visit to gym, eating right for a day or two and a weak attempt at writing were all bandaids for a gushing wound.

While I do not regret leaving teaching, I do regret many of my choices over these past two years.  I regret the effect this has had on Cookie and my family and friends.  I apologize. Please forgive me.  I’ll forgive myself while we’re at it.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve had some great times over the past two years but it could have gone SO much better.  I could have made a huge difference in my world.  If wishes were fishes….  So my social media game has shown little at all of me.  My gaps between the good-times-postings became longer and longer.

When I retired from teaching, the thing I looked forward to the most was – silence.  Now the silence is deafening.

At age 58, I realize I don’t have an infinite number of years left on this blue dot.  So today I will start to live again.  No more excuses.  Today I will take small steps to change all of that.  So forgive me while I take Lenny for a walk and listen to my Pray-as-You-Go podcast. Pray for and with me while I take small steps in the right direction.

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38 and Counting

All the luck that was due to me in life was used on March 30th, 1976.  It was on that day, my birthday, that I met my wife, Lynn.  It was in a roller skating rink where we were introduced by a mutual friend.  In a world of online dating and cell phone apps, it seems quaint to think we met that way.

This coming Wednesday will be our 38th wedding anniversary.  While 38 anniversaries seems like a lot, I would like to think it is just the beginning.  We’ve spent our anniversary in so many different ways.  Some have been quiet dinners and others have been more complex but in the end they were all special.

Our washer is broken and the other day, I remarked that I was out of clean pajamas during my break from work.  After work there was Lynn carrying in some bags – “I bought you some pajamas for our anniversary!!” she said.  “And I bought some for me as a present from you!!”  I almost cried.

I almost cried because what do you give someone you love so much.  Someone who has been with you through thick and thin and then thick and thin and….well you get the point.

If I had gone to every skating rink in existence for a thousand years, I would have never met someone like Lynn. She is beautiful, smart and pure of heart.  All my luck was used on that 18th birthday in 1976.  I am due not one more ounce of luck.  However if God could be so kind, I would love to have a few more years of marriage.

Last night my brother brought us a load of firewood for Christmas.  It’s a tradition and Lynn’s favorite gift.  Within an hour of unloading and stacking the wood, Lynn had a warm, cozy fire going and was fast asleep in her recliner in front of it.  Her trusty dog, Lenny, was stuffed into the chair next her – lightly snoring (Lenny that is). It was perfect.  She is perfect.  Life is perfect.

 

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One Year of Retiring

It was one year ago today that I hung up my lesson plan book and retired from teaching.  It has been a year of naps and solitude.  It has been delicious!  Oh sure, I’ll have coffee with the occasional friend from time to time and go geocaching with other friends but for the most part I’ve kept to myself (and Lynn of course).  I guess I’ve come full circle.

When I grew up in Lousa County, I lived miles from the closest kid my age and my mother was not a driver.  So as many of you know, I grew up lonely.  Being alone is not necessarily a bad thing.  It gives you time to sort through life and file random bits and happenings in an effort to make sense of it all.  That’s what this year has been about.  The danger of course is that you spend too much time in your head but I gotta a big head.

It was weird at first, I must admit.  After school ended I had three weeks of time off before training for my part time job started so it was like I was any other teacher for those first few weeks.  When the training started it was full time but it was all at home.  After the six weeks of training, I started my part time schedule that was from 1PM – 8PM.  I don’t know that I ever got used to that schedule and it played havoc with my sleeping, exercise and eating habits.  The result was added weight so bicycling along with geocaching were all but taken off the table.  If you add in some chronic health problems then it’s a recipe for becoming a bit of a hermit.

The good news is that starting in April my shift went to 7AM – 1:30 PM.  It’s take me a month to get back on track sleeping and health-wise. In regards to my job, it has been awesome!!  I work with some really neat people and we chat all during our shift while we work using the instant messenger.

So now I’m on a quest to eat better, exercise more AND spend more time with friends and family.  Today, since it was going to be near 95 degrees, Cookie and I grabbed our GPS’ and headed over to the trail system in and around the lakes at Innsbrook.

Someone had released a whole series of geocaches along the trail system, so we decided to find what we could until we got too hot and that way we would be close to home.  Despite the heat, it was a glorious day!  I didn’t realize what a draw these trails were even though they have been there for along time.  We saw about a dozen guys there with their wives and girlfriends racing radio controlled sailboats.  They were so intent on racing their boats that they weren’t looking where they were going and would almost run over you.

We saw a dad and his two sons fishing.  Well the dad was fishing and the two boys were looking under rocks and horsing around.  They reminded me of a young Will (Willie to some of you) who used to create all kinds of havoc while his dad was fishing over 40 or so years ago.  There were others dog walking AND geocaching!!  We couldn’t find one of the geocaches after a long look.   We happened to notice in one of the geocache logs we were signing that one our friends had been there today.  We gave him a ring and he was on the other side of the lake.  He gave us a hint and told us it was getting too hot for him, too!!

There was also a guy on a paddle board trolling around the lake.  It looked like a lot of fun but I’m not sure it was exactly legal for him to be there.

We came home and had blt sandwiches and leftover homemade cherry pie.  Naps ensued.

Do I miss teaching?  Of course I do.  I miss the kids and my teacher friends so much.  However this past year of quiet has been wonderful; not exactly physically healthy but soulfully wonderful.  Since my schedule change, Cookie and I have gone geocaching more, gone to a ball game, the botanical gardens and worked on our yard and house.  We’ve seen tons of movies and read book after book.  We live a simple, comfortable life.  We can’t travel the world or go on cruises but we can do quiet lunch time crosswords, have coffee with friends and go out for hikes and lunches and the occasional movie.  I’m pretty happy with that.

Now it’s up to me to get back in some sort of shape so I can get back on the bike and ride with my friends.  I miss my biking friends as well.

That’s been my first year of retirement.  Other than a health problem here or there it’s been pretty great.

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