Posted in 30 Days of Truth, Post A Day Challenge

When I First Met The Chi’ren

(30 Days of Truth – Day 24: Discuss a spontaneous moment in your life that turned out to be fantastic)

Today I’m supposed to talk about  a spontaneous moment in my life that turned out to be fantastic. This one took a little thought. I racked my brain for moments in the past few years that would qualify and one immediately came to mind. It was one December afternoon in 2006. I had gotten home from work and casually mentioned to Gil that there was going to be a shuttle launch later that night. I think it was about 15 minutes between the time I made that comment and the time we pulled out of our apartment complex heading east as fast as we could. It was CRAZY but we were going to try. However, I remembered how this particular example didn’t turn out to be quite as fantastic as I would have liked. We arrived and found an awesome spot with less than two minutes til launch and then at 40 seconds, the countdown stopped. It was a long drive home that night but we did get to spend some quality drive time together so it wasn’t completely wasted.

This line of thought immediately took me back to another time that we attempted to catch a shuttle launch. This was in July, 2005. I hesitated to write about this one since it wasn’t entirely spontaneous in that we made a plan the night before to go and to take Gil’s kids. This required both of us taking the day off of work and him arranging with his ex-wife for us to take the kids out of school/pre-school for the day. Hence the fact that this was not wholly spontaneous, but it felt like it for us. And, if you’ve ever witnessed, or tried to witness, a shuttle launch, then you know you better be prepared for spontaneous in a moment’s notice. Those crazy things are totally unpredictable.

Besides the fact that we kind of planned this little excursion on a whim, it was very significant because it would be the first time I met Gil’s children. Geez…no pressure there.  I was excited about the launch (seeing one has been at the top of my bucket list for years and years) and super excited and nervous about meeting the loves of his life. We had been casually dating for a few months at this point so I guess this would have been the normal progression in a normal relationship. However, if you read yesterday’s post, you know that we were anything but normal and this led to a higher level of anxiety for me. I always had that thought in the back of my mind that meeting his kids might be a mistake because I didn’t want to cause them any confusion when/if I was no longer in the picture and someone else was. But, those were just the crazy thoughts in my stressed out head. I tend to greatly over think things even if I don’t always say it or show it. And of course, all the worry was for nothing. We picked the kids up that morning at school and Gil introduced me to them as his ‘friend’.  They were like, OK. No big deal. Of course that’s how we were going to play this. Of course.

We stopped by Publix for snacks and headed toward the Space Coast. The conversation in the truck on the way over was light and fun and silly at times. His children were so beautiful and Natalie was so articulate at five years old that even I felt intimidated by her. Daniel, who was three at the time, barely spoke above a whisper but was just totally precious to look at. We started hitting some heavy traffic as we passed through Orlando and actually started getting a little nervous about making it on time. But, as fate would have it, when we were about 20 miles away, and an hour from the scheduled launch time, the mission was scrubbed due to some technical problem. <sad faces all around>

Gil and I looked at each other, determined not to waste our day off and our time together, and we made a quick plan to just head back to Downtown Disney for the day. Even though I was disappointed about the failed shuttle launch, I knew there would be plenty of other opportunities to see some future mission. (HA…little did I know and I think I just found my inspiration for a future blog entry). I immediately became excited about visiting DD because I had never been before.  The kids were excited because, well, it was Disney and what kid doesn’t get excited about Disney.

We made a big ol’ U-turn and back west we went. We got to Disney and walked around and just hung out while I soaked it all in. Gil suggested we rent one of the boats and just float around the little lake for a while.  The kids absolutely loved this. Gil even let Natalie steer the boat in one of the back canals and she was so excited. However, it was shortly after this that we realized the folks at Disney see everything. Everything. We got ‘pulled over’ in our boat by one of the park police (what do you call those guys?) and given a stern warning that we had violated the rule that no children are allowed to drive the boats. Seriously, there had not been anyone near us when she was driving. So take this as a warning….Mickey sees everything!

After the boat ride we grabbed some lunch and then did a little more sightseeing, mostly for my benefit since the kids had been there many times before. They were like my own personal little tour guides. We capped off the day at the Lego store and playground. Gil and I just hung out and chatted while the kids played and built things. This was my first real glimpse into the personalities of the kids I would grow to love so much. There was Natalie, the little motherer (is that a word? No, right?) who watched over her little brother as if it was her job. She still takes care of him and goes out of her way to make sure he’s happy. She rarely makes choices for the two of them without making sure Daniel’s feelings and desires are met. Then we have Daniel, the little thinker. I saw it in him that day. He’s a man of very few words but you can tell there’s some crazy, mad, genius stuff going on in that brain of his. I think he could have spent the entire day constructing stuff with the miscellaneous Lego pieces provided for the kids to play with.

It was a great day, even if we didn’t get to see the space shuttle blast into the wild blue yonder. That day was a wonderful start to what I feel is a great relationship with Gil’s children. I know I certainly fell in love with them a little bit that day. I look back at these pictures and I can’t believe how much they’ve grown. Natalie is now 11 and Daniel is 9 but I still sometimes look at them and see those little round-faced kids from our first meeting. I am very blessed to have them in my life and that day was such a milestone in our relationship.

Posted in 30 Days of Truth, Inspired by Music, Post A Day Challenge

Wrong Turn

(30 Days of Truth – Day 23: Describe a truly spiritual moment in your life)

The really happy man is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour. ~Anonymous

I have to share something before I begin today’s post. It’s funny the way God works sometimes. I have been planning this post for some time now and even alluded to it back on Day 15. Then yesterday’s topic was to discuss a dark/turbulent moment in your life and I just couldn’t bring myself to visit one of those places in my past. But, I knew that today’s post about a spiritual moment would require me to visit one of the darkest times I have ever experienced. I knew the emotions would be running away from me but I wanted to share this story of God’s amazing grace with you. And then in church today, our pastor Paul spoke about the snapshots of regret in our lives. Whew….that one really struck a nerve with me. Even though I have regrets in my life I need to work through, I do not have a single regret about the things that happened that led to this moment in time.

To say that 2005 was the year of my awakening would be a huge understatement. That is the year I officially moved to the Tampa Bay area and it is the year I met Gil. At first, our no strings attached relationship was exactly what I wanted and needed at the time. However, no one can predict what the heart wants and mine was out of control. It was several months into our relationship that I fell in love with him over margaritas at Los Vallarta’s in Temple Terrace. I fought it and denied it for as long as I could but there came a time when the emotions overtook my good senses and I confessed my feelings.

Under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. However, there was nothing normal about our relationship. You see, Gil was in love with someone else when I met him. He had sacrificed so much to be with this woman and he was just waiting for her to do the same. He had been honest with me from our first date and at that time, this made him the perfect guy for me. We began to date on a very casual basis but the more we spent time together, the more our feelings grew for each other. Even though he found himself feeling love for me, he was not in love with me. That sentiment was reserved for the woman he was waiting for. And he waited. We grew closer but he pushed me away and he pulled me back in and pushed me away again, not at all unlike what she was doing to him. There came a point in late September of that year that we found ourselves unable to continue the roller coaster we were on together, and I was devastated.

I had been really down and depressed and was sure that all hope was lost for Gil and I to ever have even a friendship. Too many hurtful things had been said and I wasn’t sure either of us could forget and forgive. I spent an insane amount of time literally on my hands and knees asking God to take the pain away or bring him back to me. Whatever God’s plan was, I would be okay, but I needed relief or else I wasn’t sure I could endure it much longer. Unfortunately, it felt to me as if God wasn’t listening, that He was punishing me. I had never felt so alone and so far away from God.

It was during this time that I was asked by a co-worker if I could drive his car from our office in St. Petersburg to his new home in Palmetto. He drove a Miata. HA…of course I would help him out. I headed out one beautiful Saturday morning and grabbed a couple of CD’s on my way out the door. Gil had introduced me to Sister Hazel and I had completely fallen in love with their music. He and I both found meaning and inspiration in so many of the song lyrics. However, during our tumultuous time I was completely unable to listen or even think of them. But something made me grab their CD’s ‘Chasing Daylight’ and ‘Lift’ as I headed out to pick up the convertible for my little adventure.

Given the car was a convertible and it was such a gorgeous autumn day, I took the long way south by heading west toward the beaches. Top down, breeze in my hair, perfect weather, and Sister Hazel on the Bose system. What more could a girl want? It was perfect. And then something amazing happened.

I put Lift in the CD player and there it was…..the hope was back with a vengeance. I was so happy and free all of a sudden. I heard Sister Hazel in a very different and unexpected way. Here is what I heard:

You need a little makeup dear
To cover up all your stains
With another trick right here, yeah
You fool them all once again

You need a little emptiness
Before you know what is real
And take a little taste of wine, yeah
To give yourself half a chance

And when you’re weak of holding on
Release your wayward soul

And with these treasures you have found
The broken pieces of your crown
It’s time to lay your cross on down

(Lay it down)
And with this kingdom you have now
It’s time to lay your cross on down
You better lay it down

You carry in a bright white lie
To cover up all your shame
You’re gonna have to testify
To color in all your claims

And when you’re weak of holding on
Release your wayward soul and
Spend your days not falling down
Before your empty idols

I heard these lyrics, as if for the first time, as my story and my romance with God. And then every song on the CD spoke to me. “World Inside My Head” and then “Hold On” and then “I Will Come Through”. I imagined the lyrics were my prayers to God or God speaking openly to me. I can’t explain why these lyrics affected me so. I’d heard them a hundred times before but I always heard them as if they were my messages to Gil. I had never heard them like this, and I was filled with joy as a result.

When ‘Lift’ was done playing, it was time to switch the CD and I went directly to ‘Chasing Daylight’. WOW, WOW, WOW. What else can I say? Song after song brought me higher and higher. I was at the base of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge when the song “Swan Dive” began to play. This is the song that Gil most often used to describe his feelings for the woman he was in love with so I had never let myself really enjoy that song. That changed for me that day. This song brought me to what I thought would be the highest I could ever be, and it happened, ironically, as I reached the top of that beautiful bridge with the most amazing, breathtaking view of God’s glory. I had never felt so liberated and so loved and so cherished and so pursued as I did in that moment. The song ended and I replayed it over and over again. I think I was on the third playing of the song when I reached for the directions to my friend’s house.

It was at this moment that I realized in my haste to leave earlier that morning, I had left the directions on the front seat of MY car. I had a very basic idea of where I was going but no specific turn by turn directions to get me there. In an attempt to avoid calling and asking for directions again, I tried to find my way on my own. This led to me taking a wrong turn off of the interstate with no ramp to get back on. There was only one direction I could travel and it looked like I was heading that way whether I wanted to or not.

As soon as I turned onto the small, winding two lane road, I was completely overwhelmed. First there were open pastures and falling down barns and trees and suddenly the trees opened up to this beautiful little pond. And then I passed the pond and continued on this winding road. “What lies around the next curve?” Each bend brought a view more spectacular than the one before and by this time I just could not believe what is going on inside my heart and my head and stirring deep down in my soul. The hope was back. The despair I had felt earlier that day was nowhere to be found. The winding road straightened and I think I was shown a glimpse of heaven. The road was long and straight and lined with towering Live Oaks that formed a complete canopy over the road, as if enveloping me and providing protection from the hot bearing sun that was beginning to burn my skin. Small streams of sunlight were shining through but not enough to hurt me. Here I was in a car that wasn’t mine, lost in a place I didn’t know and I felt a euphoria that was almost holy.

I feel like God spoke directly to me first through song and then through the beauty of nature. It was as if he took his hands and covered that road to protect me, just like He has been promising to do since I was born. I was so shaken by this moment that I had to pull over and weep, unlike I’ve ever wept before. I cried tears of joy and ecstasy and bliss. Every tear was a happy tear, no sad tears to be found. How could I have ever doubted Him?

And all of this because of a Wrong Turn.

It, of course, got me to thinking about all the wrong turns I’d made in my life. Some of them I am very much aware of and some have yet to be revealed to me. And then there are the wrong turns I haven’t taken yet. I am sure there will be many more in my life but I will never again assume that a wrong turn will take me to a wrong place. Sometimes, the wrong turn leads to a better way, however winding and dangerous and frightening it may be.

The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn’t matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark. ~Barbara Hall, Northern Exposure, Rosebud, 1993

After this experience I felt an overwhelming need to share it with Gil. I wrote him a letter later that day and said, “I do not think that the path that led me to you was a wrong turn. There were too many reasons for us to meet that February evening and our friendship is proof of that. I feel that if you had been a wrong turn for me, I would be able to walk away from this, and never look back. Unfortunately, I am always looking back and I see a road that was amazing and scary and breathtaking and devastating, but I don’t regret taking it.” Gil and I experienced many more months of confusion, hurt, anger and even compassion before we finally found our way. I believe our wrong turns were simply diversions to give each of us the time God needed to put our hearts on the same path.

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Posted in 30 Days of Truth, Post A Day Challenge

Monkey Licks

Well, I’ve decided to sort of take a day off. Actually, I’ve taken most of the day to catch up on some blogs that I’ve been reading and loving but haven’t had a chance in over a week to enjoy. I made this a priority, instead of writing my own blog. I feel that it’s important to give as well as receive and I felt a need take some time today to let them know I enjoy their writing and their stories or music in some cases.

I’m totally ditching today’s topic because I just don’t want to remind myself of some dark period in my life.  I prefer to concentrate on the good times.

And speaking of good times, we got a little silly tonight. The following videos are pretty much proof of that.

This first video is of Monkey. She’s demonstrating why we never need to get a pedicure. She has a magic spot on her back, that when rubbed, triggers a need to lick something. In this case, it’s Natalie’s feet. I love how my sweet Boo is begging for attention in the background. He’s so vocal and I love that.

The second video is…well….pretty self explanatory. I didn’t realize I had captured Boo’s purr in this one. Doesn’t it sound like he swallowed a pigeon?

I wasn’t going to post this third video but it’s too funny/gross not too. I had no idea how sensitive the microphone is on my camera. You can actually hear her slurping sounds as she licking her paws. EWWWWWWW. Right?

And, for those of you who have followed Gil’s FB or Twitter updates about Monkey, this is supposedly the cat who’s trying to kill him.  Yeah…she’s looks really menacing perched there on his chest like that. 🙂

Posted in 30 Days of Truth, Post A Day Challenge

What’s Her Name

(30 Days of Truth – Day 21 – Write about your best friend (not significant other) and what makes them special)

I’ve been excited about today’s topic since I first read the list. There was no question in my mind who I would write about, but what I would write has been a work in progress for 17 years. I first met Ashley in January, 1994 when we started working together as pharmacy technicians. Only back then, she wasn’t Ashley Lambert, she was Elizabeth Childree, or El for short.  Same person, two entirely different personalities, but I guess 17 years can do that to a person. It still blows my mind that we ever became friends in the first place, but that we’ve survived all that we have is simply miraculous.

When I met Ashley, she was just 18 years old, a newlywed and brand new to the area. She was very young and I did not take to her right away. As a matter of fact, I actually kind of avoided her when I could. The funny thing is I can’t even remember the reasons why I didn’t much like her those first few months, just that I didn’t.

My memory is a little foggy on the details that surrounded the event that changed everything about our relationship, but it goes something like this. She and her husband were riding through our neighborhood and we just happened to be outside. They stopped to say hello. This was the first time that our (first) husbands had met and they struck up an immediate friendship. Well, one thing led to another and the next thing I know, the four of us are drunk as sailors. I have vague recollections of table dances, people passed out on the front lawn and ….. I think I’ll stop there.  Let’s just say a bond was formed and Ashley and I have never looked back.

Over the next 17 years we would experience infidelity and divorce, new cities, new states, career changes, distance, financial woes, vacations, college and then college again, births, boys and more boys, deaths, name changes, new loves, stepchildren and children. When my father was dying, Ashley drove 100 miles to be by my side without a moment of hesitation. When I needed a vacation from life, Ashley was always ready with a packed bag. When I needed to vent about my mother, Ashley always had a very sympathetic ear. We even share a love for cats that binds us in a crazy cat-lady kind of way.  And don’t even get me started on the drunken stupidness, or was it stupid drunkenness? I really don’t know how we survived some of those nights. She has never made me feel bad that for 15 years I could not remember her birthday if my life depended on it.

Ashley has been a constant in my life through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. She’s provided laughter when I needed it most and silence when I needed that, too. She’s always known exactly what I needed at the moment I needed it. She’s never questioned me and has allowed me to make mistakes without an ounce of judgment. She’s been the first one in line to praise me when I’ve done a good thing and to reassure my faith in myself when I had none. The bond that we share is solid to our core. It’s tied together by common threads we’ve woven with our relationship together and our experiences beyond that with other people in our lives. She understands my soul and why I think the way I do and what makes me tick from the inside out.

The last few years have seen Ashley and I both leave our home states to make a new life in Florida with the wonderful new men in our lives. Ashley is now a mother to two of the prettiest babies you’ve ever seen. Oh yeah, and a third one on the way. If someone had told me 17 or 10 or even 6 years ago that our lives would lead to where we are now, I would have said they were crazy.  We’ve been through a lot to get to this point in our lives but we’ve managed to make it here only with the knowledge that we are always just a phone call away. We may not see each other very often but we talk frequently and we know that no distance in miles will ever create distance between our hearts.

Ashley, I know I don’t ever tell you but I want to tell you now. I love you. I’m so happy that you came into my life. You have enriched it in ways that you can’t imagine. I’m not sure I would have made it through some of the trials of my life without the knowledge that you were there beside me, even when you weren’t. Thank you for being my best friend.

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Posted in 30 Days of Truth, Post A Day Challenge

Love Actually is…

(30 Days of Truth – Day 20 – Discuss your favorite movie and why it’s important to you)

Have you ever watched a movie that, when the credits roll, leaves you feeling like you’ve just run a 100-yard dash through a sand trap? Have you ever spent 135 minutes wiping away tears of sadness and laughter simultaneously? For me, this is Love Actually and this happens every time I watch. Love Actually is a one of those movies filled with complicated, intertwining relationships where the telling of multiple stores culminates in the end with everyone coming together in a big closing scene. This movie is funny and sad and everything in between. It’s filled with people falling in and out of love and people hoping to be loved. It’s a movie that celebrates the loss of a beloved wife and mother. It leaves you agonizing over a love that can never be realized and it fills your heart with giddy elation when the boy finally gets the girl.

As much as the stories in the movie move me, it’s really the accompanying soundtrack and musical score by Craig Armstrong that invokes my extreme rush of emotions. As much as I would love to describe in great detail how this movie makes me feel, I just don’t think I’m capable of it. And to make matters worse, I watched the movie AGAIN tonight and now I just want to take my ‘all is right with the world’ arse to bed. I thought it would provide me with mounds of inspiration and the words would just start flowing but it had the complete opposite effect. I’m sitting here and can’t think of a thing to say. I’ve experienced emotional overload and now I just need sleep. However, I don’t want to leave you hanging. Besides, these clips and these quotes will do more justice than any silly words I write here.

I’ll start with the official trailer for the movie.

One of my absolute favorite scenes and by far my favorite movie quote of all time comes from 11 year old Sam. Sam is in love with a girl at school but he thinks she doesn’t know he exists. This is dialogue between him and his step father.

Daniel: So what’s the problem, Sammy-o? Is it just Mum, or is it something else? Maybe… school – are you being bullied? Or is it something worse? Can you give me any clues at all?
Sam: You really want to know?
Daniel: I really want to know.
Sam: Even though you won’t be able to do anything to help?
Daniel: Even if that’s the case, yeah.
Sam: Okay. Well, the truth is… actually… I’m in love.
Daniel: Sorry?
Sam: I know I should be thinking about Mum all the time, and I am. But the truth is, I’m in love and I was before she died, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
Daniel: [laughs] Aren’t you a bit young to be in love?
Sam: No.
Daniel: Oh, well, okay… right. Well, I mean, I’m a little relieved.
Sam: Why?
Daniel: Well, because I thought it would be something worse.
Sam: [incredulous] Worse than the total agony of being in love?

Tell me that’s not the most adorable line ever spoken by a kid in a movie!

This is a compilation of scenes I found on YouTube that, in my opinion, truly conveys the level of sadness felt thoughout the movie by some of the characters.

In this scene, Mark uses written messages to confess to his best friend’s wife, Juliet, that he loves her. This is the definition of romance.

And who doesn’t absolutely love Hugh Grant?!?

The first time I watched this movie I honestly believed that love, real love, did not exist. I remember the feeling I got when I turned the movie off at the end. It was a feeling of hope and that all I have to do is look around. “Love actually is…all around.”

Posted in 30 Days of Truth, Post A Day Challenge

Shattered!

(30 Days of Truth – Day 19 – Something that shook your belief system to its core (a big disappointment in your life)

Tonight’s blog is going to be a slight continuation on yesterday’s topic of how a random person has impacted my life, as well as touching on today’s subject of something that shook my belief system to its core. For everything that Melissa has been to me, Jane (not her real name) was the opposite.

I met Jane on that same trip to Chicago but I met her at the airport while we waited to board our plane. The company I had recently been hired by had told me that there would be two of us traveling together from the south Alabama area and we were on the same flight. Dothan has a really, really small airport so it wasn’t hard for us to find each other. The minute I met Jane, I fell madly in love with her. No, not the romantic kind of love but we both felt an immediate connection. We didn’t stop talking from the moment we first said hello until we settled into our respective hotel rooms that first night.

Over the next 10 days Jane became my mentor, confidant and fellow mischief maker. We laughed and we even cried during some of our talks. As each of us struggled through some areas of the training, we were there as each other’s cheerleader. She told me all about her family back home, husband and four boys with the youngest a high school senior at 17 years old. She clearly loved her family and talked a great deal about her boys and her life back home. She was even a writer for a national magazine’s regional publication so I thought that was way cool. I had never met an actual published writer back then. And just as with some of the other women, we vowed to stay in touch when we returned home.

The first red flag that I completely ignored was waving brightly in front of my face on our flight home from Chicago back to Dothan, by way of Atlanta. There was bad weather and we were very delayed leaving Chicago. That would normally not be a problem but our connecting flight from Atlanta to Dothan was the last one that Friday evening and there wasn’t another until noonish the next day. Jane and I contemplated several alternate plans in case we missed our flight but none of them worked very well for me because they all required me spending money that I didn’t have. About 30 minutes into the flight, Jane leaned over and said, “I’ll get us home”. I was reassured and settled back to relax.

What I didn’t know was HOW Jane was going to get us home. She faked a seizure. Well, not a full blown one but enough to convince the flight attendants she was having one. It was a good 15 minutes into her act that I realized she was faking it. I heard her explain to the attendants that she was out of her medicine and must get home that night. I was so shocked and speechless at what I was witnessing that I didn’t know what to do. I had never seen anything like it before in my life. She was so convincing that the pilot had called ahead to Atlanta and they held our connecting flight. As soon as we landed, the attendant made an announcement that there was a medical emergency and for everyone to remain seated. They then directed Jane and me off of the plane and into a waiting pickup truck right there on the tarmac. We were whisked away to our connecting flight and made it home to Dothan with only an hour delay. Jane and I said goodbye at the airport but I was still reeling from what had just happened. I have to admit that a huge part of me was so happy to be home that it became easy to forget what she did. She never admitted to me what I knew had happened but I never asked her about it either. Ignorance is bliss I suppose.

Jane and I continued our friendship for the next few months. We would spend hours on the phone and even visited each other in person on occasion. She became like a big sister to me and I cherished this new beautiful, strong, smart woman in my life. She was quickly becoming the ideal of what I wanted to become someday. Jane and I even made a plan for a roadtrip together. Remember the Tampa/Miami trip I mentioned yesterday. That was supposed to be a trip with Jane to Tampa then Miami with Melissa and we were meeting up with another friend from Chicago. It was going to be such a fun reunion.

I think it was late September that I received an email from Jane. It was relatively brief and completely rocked my world. She said she had gone to the doctor for some tests and that her breast cancer was no longer in remission. She said she was going to Birmingham for hospitalization and treatment and was leaving immediately. She wrote she was very distraught and didn’t want to talk to anyone so please don’t call or try to contact her during this time. She would be in touch with me in about three weeks. Oh and she wouldn’t be able to make the trip with me. I was in shock, complete and absolute shock. You could have blown me over with a feather. This woman that I had grown so close to over the previous months was about to battle cancer again and there was nothing I could do for her. Unfortunately for Jane, I’m not that easily dismissed. Of course I tried calling and left numerous voice messages. No answer and no returned calls. The next morning I got in my car and drove the 40 miles to her house. I called on the way to give her notice that I was coming but all I was able to do was leave another voicemail.

When I arrived at her house I knocked on the front door. To my complete surprise, she answered the door. Her eyes were red and swollen and it was clear she had been crying. We hugged for so long. We just sat on her stairwell and cried and hugged and talked and even prayed a little. She was scared but optimistic at the same time. She shared the doctor’s prognosis with me and it wasn’t all that great. She mentioned the treatment she was receiving was going to require isolation so she would not be able to talk or write to me while in Birmingham. I was so scared for her. At one point, she left the room and came back with an envelope. Inside the envelope was about $100 cash. She said she felt terrible about not being able to take the trip with me but she wanted to make sure I went and she knew that I probably wouldn’t be able to do it without her financial assistance. I refused to take the money but she was so adamant about it. I could tell I was fighting a losing battle so I quietly took the envelope with the intent to return it to her later. We said our goodbyes and I wished her well with her treatment. I also said a silent prayer as she closed the door behind me.

I think about a week passed by before I couldn’t stand it anymore. My heart was hurting for her and I needed to know how she was doing. I called her cell. No answer but I left a voicemail. I called her home. No answer. I didn’t leave a voicemail at her home number because I assumed the family was in Birmingham with her. I think another week passed and I was out of my mind with worry. I had to know what was going on with her. I called both numbers again but no answer. I then called the hospital to see if by chance they could connect me to her room. They told me they did not have a patient by that name. That sort of made me happy. I assumed she had been discharged. I began calling her home again. After another couple of days I was frantic. I called her home and left a message on the answering machine. A few hours later my phone rang and I was ecstatic when I saw that familiar number on my caller ID.

“Hello.”

Male voice. “Is this Lee?”

“Yes, is this Jane’s husband?”

“Yes.” “I’m calling to find out how Jane is? Is she home? Is she ok?”

“Isn’t she with you?” said the husband.

My heart sank. I played every scenario I could think of in my head at that moment and nothing was making sense. I explained that Jane was not with me and that I had not spoken to her since she left to go to the hospital.

Silence.

I think it was at that moment both of us knew something was wrong. We began to chat and compare the stories Jane had communicated to each of us. There was no cancer. Jane was not sick. Jane was supposed to be with ME in Miami on a work assignment.

More silence.

Jane’s husband and I ended the call but we both knew so much more had ended during our 10 minute conversation.

Days later I received an email from Jane. This email was very long, very detailed and very revealing. Apparently Jane had been involved in a 20-year affair with the man that was actually the father of her 17 year old son. She explained how they had spent the previous couple of weeks together and how wonderful it was. She told me how her son knew everything and thanks to my call, now her husband did as well. She felt somewhat relieved by that. She wasn’t sure of what her future held but she felt I deserved to know the truth. She did not have cancer. It had all been a lie. The tears, the prayers, the stories were all lies. This woman that I wanted to be just like had shattered my heart in a way that no man has ever come close to doing. She crushed my soul and left me spinning with confusion, hatred, and disgust. It was a really long time before I stopped crying every time I thought about Jane. I loved her and trusted her but she didn’t care about anyone but herself and I’m still not sure I know how to reconcile that in my heart.

Posted in 30 Days of Truth, Post A Day Challenge

What an Impact!

(30 Days of Truth – Day 18 – Someone you met randomly that’s made an impact on your life)

Her name is Melissa Burch and I mentioned her in my very first blog entry. Here’s what I said:

“She barely knew me and she opened her home and her heart to me. She became such an inspiration for me, and I’m not sure I’ve ever told her that. She is so smart and so sassy. I love her spirit, her wit, her Susie Homemaker skills, her generosity, her beauty, her brains, her force, her everything. She is extraordinary and I love her.”

There was no one else that even came close to topping the list of people who fell into the category of random people who have impacted my life. I love telling our story because it doesn’t stop with our first meeting, or our second or even five years into our friendship. She just keeps bringing good things to my world and I don’t know how I’ll ever show her how much love I have for her and how much I appreciate her.

Back in early 2004 I was scanning the classifieds for possible part time jobs. I was already working a full-time 8-5 job, selling Avon part-time and going to school 2-4 nights a week but I’m a glutton for punishment. On a whim, I responded to an ad that said “Interviewers wanted. Flexible, part-time, must be willing to travel”.  Many weeks later I received a call saying that they were calling about an ad I had responded to and would be in my area and wanted to set up an interview.  Well, I interviewed and got the job on the spot. The problem was that I would need to travel to Chicago for 10 days of training. Of course the trip would be paid for but it would mean missing almost two weeks of work at my real full-time job. Also, even though the trip was paid for, I would still incur a substantial amount of out of pocket expenses up front. And all of this for a very part time job when I returned home. This was a lot to think about and my head kept telling me to thank them and politely decline the offer. However, something wouldn’t allow me to do that. I worked a deal with my then boss to ‘borrow’ against future vacation days and I borrowed enough money from family members to make it happen.

In late May, 2004, I flew to Chicago to train to become an Interviewer for the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. As fate would have it, I ended up in a small group of trainees with Melissa Burch from Tampa, Florida. It was some pretty intense training with only one day ‘off’ to actually do some sightseeing in the city. A small group of us took the train into the city and enjoyed a whirlwind kind of day. During our evenings, we usually met up for dinner and then relaxed in our rooms. It was during this downtime that some of us women were able to form some new friendships and even make plans to stay in touch when we all returned home to our normal lives.

Over the next few months I spent many hours on the phone with some of those women, including Melissa. It only seemed natural that when she started planning her birthday party in September that she invite me to come for a visit and attend her party. If course I agreed and planned to drag my mom along and to make a long weekend of it. We left Alabama early one Friday afternoon and headed south for a much needed get away. It never occurred to us to check a weather report. That is until we hit I-75 South and noticed that we were the only, and I mean ONLY, car heading south. However, the northbound lanes were backed up as far as the eye could see.  After a quick call to my uncle, the man who knows everything there is to know about the weather, we discovered, through his laughter, that hurricane Jeanne was making a bee-line for the east coast of Florida. Oh crap was all I could say but I didn’t for one second think of turning that car around. It was the wee hours of Sunday before Jeanne crashed our party. Before I left to come back home, we had several discussions of me returning in late October to join Melissa for a trip to Miami for a Halloween party. Of course I said I was all in.

Now flash forward to October 22, 2004. I was in a job that I hated and was being directed to do some unethical accounting so I walked out. Now what you need to understand is that I had been searching for that part time job months earlier because I was seriously struggling financially. Walking out on my job was not the smartest thing to do at that time and one of the many repercussions of no longer having an income was that I would not be able to make that trip to Tampa/Miami the next weekend. I called Melissa to tell her what happened and she presented me with one of the craziest suggestions I had ever heard. She said, “Why don’t you come on down a day or so early and check out the job market down here?” Hmmm. Well, I had no valid argument against that so I said what the hell. The thing about me is that I’m not a very patient person so I hit the internet and started my search a few days early. I applied to almost every temp agency in the Tampa Bay area in the hopes something would present itself to me.

What I didn’t expect was that on Monday, October 25, I would get a call hiring me, sight unseen, and asking me to start the next day. I explained how that just wasn’t possible but I could start on Wednesday. I promptly called Melissa and asked her just how serious she was about me coming early and sleeping on her couch to check out the market. She said she was serious. I said Good cause I’ll be there tomorrow to start my new job on Wednesday. Once she recovered from the shock of it, we mapped out a game plan and I packed a bag and headed south again. This time there was no hurricane to slow me down.

I arrived in Tampa on a Tuesday afternoon in October 2004 and I have never looked back. I knew in those first few hours that this is where I’m supposed to be. I knew that something great awaited me in this scary, wonderful new city. I just knew.

For months I lived with Melissa and her family and I’m sure I would not have the life I have today if not for Melissa and her generous soul. She housed me and supported me when I couldn’t even afford to buy my own lunch. She took me places and showed me what living life outside of Small Town America was really all about. She took care of me both physically and emotionally during those months I lived with her, and long after I found a place of my own and was able to financially support myself again. Melissa never once asked for anything in return. Never, not once. Ever! Do you know how rare a trait that is in a person? Melissa paid it forward with me tenfold. She took a chance on me when she barely knew who I was. I pray that I’m someday in a position to impact someone’s life the way that Melissa did (and still does) for me.

I couldn’t help but include this video of Hurricane by Needtobreathe. It’s these lyrics specifically that I think are most appropriate for this post.

In the light of the mourning
Can we change what we felt and heard
Can we turn it into the glory
Break the paths of our fathers before us
Though we stand on the outside
We will find what we once believed
And will crawl our way to the clear skies
Standing up we are
Standing up we are