il Sogno (The Dream)

We long for moments like these, we dream of them, sometimes for years. We work hard and save our money. Then one day our dream comes true. We get to do that “something” we have been wanting to do for what seems like a lifetime. For each of us it is something different. For me it was a trip to Italy.

Italy, the land of vineyards, olive groves, pasta and history so rich, that you can get lost in the taste of it. And finally, I am here. After all my wishing, planning and saving, I am HERE. The dream I had in my mind didn’t even come close to what I was to experience.10366183_10203390328294976_7571454675591413472_n

We hope, when we dream that our experience will live up to our expectation. Not only did it live up to what I had hoped for, it far exceeded it. When I vacation I like to go off the beaten path. Of course, I want to see the most famous sights, but I also want to see what the locals do, where they go to eat and where they live. That is why for this trip I took a cultural walking tour, I went to Tuscany and Cinque Terre with a company called Classic Journey. At first I was hesitant to take a tour, but after researching them and knowing that they only took small groups (mine was 6 people), I decided to take a chance. I am certainly glad I did. But before our tour was to start we decide to head to Rome for 3 days.

Did I mention that this was my honeymoon? Not only did I get to travel to a place I had only dreamed of, I got to share this dream with the man of my dreams! Can a person bear such happiness?

I’m not certain when I knew for sure this trip would be something special, something more. Was it when I first stepped on the streets of Rome? Streets that were steeped in history, the narrow winding roads that held whispers of the past. Around every corner, echos of a bygone time murmured in my ear. Or maybe it was The Villa Le Barone, (the place where we would be staying for the next 3 days) sitting in the Tuscan sunshine like something you only see in the movies? Vineyards and olive groves dot the surrounding countryside. Church bells are chiming in the distance. Is this real?

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Perhaps it was when we were hiking thru the vineyards that seemed to go on forever. And around every corner was a sight so beautiful it took my breath away. Or when we ended up at Castello Della Paneretta (a small bed and breakfast) and Patrizio welcomed us like we were old friends and fed us.

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Of course it could have been our tour guide Luciano, a local who was just the perfect fit for this trip. In this land of so much history, his knowledge made the past come alive. It seemed suddenly I had a thirst for knowledge. I wanted to know, who, what when and most importantly how Italians did so many magnificent things!

It matters not when it happened, it matters that it DID happen. Over the next weeks I will be sharing the experiences of our trip. The food, the places, the people and yes, the wine!

Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest of chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.                                                                                                                                   ~ Pat Conroy~

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Come with me as I bask in the memories of my journey.

Ciao

 

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Dear God

Dear God,

I am getting married in less than a  month! (Of course, You already knew that). In the midst of all that is going on, I wanted to take the time to thank You.  I know I don’t have to write You, but I best organize my thoughts when I write them down, and I don’t want to leave anything out.

You have been such a Faithful presence in my life, even when I was angry with You. You never left. When I felt the lack of Your presence, it was my fault. I turned away.

I am sure You don’t often hear from folks unless they need You. And that must be disappointing to You. I know as a parent, it can get wearisome only to hear from children when they have a problem. I don’t have a problem that is too big to bear, I have blessings one right after another and I need to thank You.

You have blessed me with the best kids ever. Sure we have had (and continue to have) some bumps in the road. But really, they are so small that I shouldn’t mention them. I wish with all my heart that Emma was not Autistic, but her disability has brought so many new things to my life that I never would have experienced. I learned the art of patience, not just with her but in many life situations. I learned to be a seeker of knowledge. At first, it was just to help my Emma. Then it was to help others in the same situation as me. I learned that lots of people can be mean to a disabled child, and even more can be kind and caring.

I want to thank You for my friends! Oh, how You gave me friends! Not the ordinary kind but the extraordinary kind. You gave me friends who have never left my side. You gave me friends who became family. Men who became father figures and women who became sisters. People who were strangers that came to love my children when they didn’t have to, and who also loved me when they didn’t have to.

Thanks for all the stuff in between, big and small and too numerous to count.

And finally, You gave me HIM. You rewarded my years of patience, my years filled with lonely nights and heartache (17 of them). You brought to me a man who is so much more than I had ever dreamed of.  So much more than I could have hoped for.

You made my life at the age of 52, a bright shiny adventure, full of love and laughter.

I don’t know the reason You do or don’t do things. I guess I won’t ever know or understand until I see You in heaven. But I guess at that point I won’t care anymore about those things because I’ll be with You.

I know that sometimes it seems as if I’m not listening to You. But that’s not true. You are in everything I do everyday.  It’s because of You that I take the homeless man to lunch, that I comfort a parent of a special needs child, and mentor women who are less fortunate than me.

I will never be that person who stands on the corner for You, telling the world about You. That’s not my style and of course You already know that. But I promise, I will do my best to show people what You are like, loving, kind, and caring. I will take the gifts and blessings You have given me and I will share them.

And maybe most of all thank You for the clarity to know the difference between what I want and what I need. That was a true gift indeed. It allowed me to make all the choices that have led me to this very spot and I couldn’t be happier.

Love,

Me

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A Man Named Bobby

I met a man named Bobby yesterday.  He was tall with brown hair and brown eyes. He had a beard.  This meeting between he and I was totally unplanned.  I offered to buy him lunch. He accepted with a quiet nod and a thank you. I told him I would meet him at Torchy’s Tacos.

I arrive at Torchy’s and it is packed, as it is noon straight up. If you never have been there, it is very popular and always has a line out the door at lunch.  It is one of my favorite taco places. I snag a parking spot right in front of the door, my lucky day.

Bobby meets me at the front door and we walk in to wait in line. It is so busy that when we are in line you can’t avoid touching your neighbor. Being this close to Bobby I can’t help but notice that he smells. He smells so much that people in line start backing away from us.  In order to avoid further embarrassing Bobby, I stay put.

He seems quiet and not sure how to start a conversation with me. So, to try and put him at ease, I start.  I ask him what he does for a living. He responded that he is between jobs. Are you married?  No he replies. Kids? Yes, he says 2.  By this point I can see he is not a great conversationalist.  My impression is that he seems to feel out of place and awkward. I must carry this conversation along on my own.

How old are your kids I asked? Boys? Girls?  “Two boys, a 9 year old, and I think a 3 or 4 year old.” Odd I think. How do you not know how old your kids are? We proceed to the register to order. He has never been to Torchy’s before so I quickly explain the menu. He asks me what I usually get. I tell him and he says that he will have what I am having.  I am a light eater and I’m sure that it will not be enough for him so I encourage him to order something else and he does.  The girl taking our order asks him if he would like chips and queso? He glances at me as if for approval and I nod yes, and he orders the chips.

While I am paying for our lunch he grabs the drink cups and asks me what he can get me to drink. I respond tea. He says sweet or unsweet and I give my standard reply, unsweet because I’m sweet enough. He looks confused for a moment and I must explain that I was trying to be funny.  It appears he doesn’t get my humor.

Luck was with us as we get the last table that is available.  We are sitting in the covered patio. It is a beautiful day. He remarks that the day is warm and he starts to remove his jacket. As he removes his 4 jackets I see his arms are covered in tattoos.

We make an odd pair. I have just come from speaking at Texas Christian University and I am dressed nicely. He is in a short sleeved shirt and in well-worn overalls and as I said covered in tattoos.People at the next table are looking at us.  His smell is pretty overwhelming.

I continue to try and put him at ease. How old are you? 33 he says.  The chips and queso arrive at our table. I can see he is hungry but he hesitates as if once again waiting for my approval.  I say please start.  He starts eating with gusto.  I ask, when was the last time you ate?  His reply makes me sad. He said, “I had a cup of soup yesterday.”  He asks, don’t you want any chips?  I tell him I am on a diet (which I am not). I tell him this because when I glance at his hands, they are filthy. I had not noticed that before and I am uncomfortable eating from the same bowls as him. As he eats I observe that he is only eating with his front teeth. As I look more closely I realize that his teeth are in bad shape and it appears he has no back teeth.

As his stomach begins to fill and he is feeling less awkward, he begins to open up. He tells me that currently he is sleeping under a bridge. Concerned, I ask if he is warm enough as the weather in the past week had been very cold. He says yes. He has 4 coats and five blankets. My new acquaintance is homeless.

I have a weakness I must confess, I can’t stand to think of people being hungry.  Sleeping under a bridge for some reason doesn’t bother me as much as hunger.  This is not the first time I have invited a homeless person to lunch, and God willing, it won’t be the last.

Before you freak out and say it’s too dangerous, let me tell you how I go about it.  I saw Bobby on the street corner holding a sign, “Will work for food.” As I stopped at the light, I rolled down my window and asked him if he was hungry. When he nodded yes, I told him to walk to the restaurant across the street and I would meet him there. I have a method to my madness. It’s safe.

I never give money to homeless people, and I never invite them into my car.  The reason I try to help people in this manner is because I feel it’s my responsibility to help those less fortunate. There is a passage from the Bible, Luke 12:48, that I like. It goes like this. “To whom much is given, much is expected,” and I have been given so very much.

I may never change the world, but for a while I can make my spot in this world, a little kinder, a little happier for someone even if it’s just for the moment, and that makes me happy. And on Thursday, February 13, 2014 for a man named Bobby, I think I did just that. He left with a full stomach, a smile on his face and a kind word from a stranger. I think for that hour the sun shone a little brighter in my spot of the world.

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15 Things Emotionally Strong People DON’T Do!

This is an article written by Paul Hudson. I so enjoy it, that I wanted to share it  with you. These are thoughts to live by.

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There is a particular aspect of mental strength that is the deciding factor of whether or not you will have a good life. There are many levels to mental strength and all are needed to be successful and happy. The one particular area of mental strength that has the greatest impact is that of emotional strength.

Emotions are, of course, a part of our psyche, yet nevertheless, can be distinguished from the remainder of mental qualities because they most directly influence our physical body. They affect the way our body functions and they drive every single one of our actions. Without emotion, we would have no reason to act, to do anything with ourselves.

Emotions are our greatest motivators. Unfortunately, they can motivate us to act in any direction, even the wrong one. For this reason, emotional strength is essential. There are countless situations that emotionally strong people avoid and many actions they never take. Here are 15 of them:

1. They Don’t Beg For Attention

Needing attention is directly linked to emotion. Those who feel the need for recognition only find themselves experiencing feelings of worth when others make them feel needed; it’s as if these people are uncertain of their value, or if they have any ounce of self-worth. Feeling unsure of your worth is a self-fulfilling prophecy; if you don’t know you matter, then no one will ever believe you do.


2. They Don’t Allow Others To Bring Them Down

Emotional strength requires resilience. This world is filled with haters and trolls. There are jealous eyes lurking around every corner. The unfortunate truth is that often the people who hold us back the most are those closest to us. Getting rid of these people is often the best solution, but also the most difficult. If you can quietly remove these people from your life, that’s one fewer bridge burned and much less of an emotional trigger.


3. They Don’t Hold Grudges

If you’re holding a grudge, then you already care more about a situation than you should. If a person apologizes genuinely, forgive him or her. If this person doesn’t apologize, then don’t interact with him or her, but don’t hold grudges. People with whom you seek to alienate and hold grudges against take up too much of your mental energy, doing more harm than good.


4. They Never Stop Doing Their Own Thing

Emotionally strong individuals do what they do because they love doing it. They don’t plan on slowing down or stopping for anyone who deems their happiness inappropriate.


5. They Never Stop Believing In Themselves

Those who love themselves and understand themselves — those who aren’t afraid or proud to be themselves — never doubt themselves. You amount to your own self-worth, not a shilling more.


6. They Don’t Act Like Bitches Or Assh*les

People are mean. But we wonder, why? Being a jerk is only good as an intimidation factor, and if you’re trying to intimidate people, then you better be a negotiator by profession; if you’re intimidating just for the sake of it, you’re obviously overcompensating for a lack of confidence. Do you also drive a very large automobile, perhaps? I hear they make pills for that.


7. They Know Better Than To Let Just Anyone Into Their Lives

The emotionally strong are emotionally strong for a reason: They don’t expose themselves to people who break down their defenses and crush their morale. Most people in the world are lost and will be more than happy to take you along with them. Don’t let an awful acquaintance ruin your happiness.


8. They Aren’t Afraid To Love

If you’re afraid to love, you don’t have enough confidence in yourself. You obviously think you can’t be in a lasting relationship, but only in one that is doomed for disaster. You don’t want to get hurt again because getting hurt really sucks. There is no reason for you to get your heart broken again because you are awesome. If things don’t work out, it’s not you. It’s the two of you together. Unless, of course, you are an awful human being; in that case, it is you.


9. They Don’t Lie In Bed Dreading The Day Ahead Of Them

The best part of your day should be the moment you wake up and realize you’re still alive. We take life for granted too regularly.


10. They’re Not Afraid Of Slowing Down

Emotionally strong people aren’t in need of constant action and excitement. They don’t need to run around all day and keep moving in order to avoid their demons. They appreciate a slow moment because it brings them closer to what it feels like to do nothing but living, breathing. This is not to say that they don’t enjoy excitement in their lives, but they aren’t junkies and are more than happy to just go for a walk and smell the roses.


11. They Don’t Do Things They Don’t Want To Do

We all do things that we don’t love to do, but we should never do things that we don’t want to do. The emotionally strong understand that and almost always manage to figure out a way to focus on what they love, which allows them to figure out what they need to do, in order to do what they love. Although they may not love every second of it, they like doing what they are doing because it’s bringing them one step closer to what they would love to do.


12. They Have No Problem Saying “No”

If you can’t say “no,” you will get abused. You’ll be considered a pushover and no one will ever ask you for your opinion or take it seriously when you give it. Saying “no” reminds people that they don’t have control over you.


13. They Don’t “Forget” To Give Back

We’re not too busy or too poor to donate our money and/or time. We don’t forget, either. Some people just choose to ignore our responsibilities as human beings. The stronger you are emotionally, the more you come to appreciate others and life itself. You give life more worth and you begin to empathize with those who were dealt a bad hand.


14. They Don’t Feel The Need To Fit In

The stronger you are emotionally, the more independent you become. You don’t feel the need to fit in because you fit in where it matters: the world. People form smaller social groups that are often skewed and unhealthy. Wanting to fit in doesn’t say much more than “I’m afraid to be myself.”


15. They Don’t Forget That Happiness Is A Decision

Most importantly, the emotionally strong have learned to understand the power their brains have over both the mind and body. They understand that emotions are reactions, not reactions to direct physical causes, but to the way we perceive those causes. In other words, our emotions don’t reflect reality; rather, our emotions reflect the way we interpret reality. Understanding this gives us near-full control of our emotions and, therefore, our lives.

 

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An Unfamiliar World – Volume 2 – The First Night

I am sitting in a room that has no windows. Well I guess there are windows on one wall, but they just look out into the next room, which has no windows. In this room you don’t know if it’s night or day.  You can’t tell what time it is because there is nothing on the walls, not even a clock. The only furniture in the room are plastic chairs.

Seated in a semi-circle in front of me are 10 women. I’m guessing that their ages are from 18 – 50ish.  It’s hard to tell.  Many of them look like they have lived hard years. I am to mentor these women as part of a re-entry program. When I was asked if I wanted to volunteer my first question was what did I have to offer? The sergeant told me I could teach/share anything. I could help them learn about how to write a resume, balance a checkbook, or write a paragraph.

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None of those options appealed to me. I thought maybe I had something else to share. Maybe some of my life experiences and the lessons I have learned might help them see that things could be better, things could be different, and that there was hope.

There is silence in the room.  How do I start?  I have never done anything like this before.  I decide to have them state their name, how old they are, and if they have any children. Their answers surprise me. Most of them are very young and have at LEAST 3 children.  Many are sporting tattoos and several are missing front teeth. Their crimes range from theft, drugs/alcohol, to assault, and non-payment of child support.

Then it was my turn to share a bit about me.  I wanted to impress them so I started out telling them I am an author. I should have told them I’m a famous author, I figured they don’t read much, how would they know. Because I am human I had already made assumptions about these women.  I assumed they didn’t read. I assumed that they didn’t care about their children. I assumed that they didn’t have feelings or if they did have some they would never show them. And my biggest assumption was that they were in no way anything like me.

After all these assumptions you might think that I would have been exhausted, but I was not. I am not proud of this, but I had made them in an instant, without any effort, without even knowing anything about them. I had prejudged them. Shame on me.

I am looking forward to learning more about these women, and in doing so, perhaps I’ll learn more about myself. I love the roads that God takes me down. They may not always make me happy, but they ALWAYS have something for me to learn. So hang with me and maybe you can learn something too.

 

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An Unfamiliar World

I step out of the car in the dark. I look around for a parking meter and then remember it’s after six and I don’t have to pay. I approach the building with a bit of nervous tension. I am out of my environment, out of my comfort zone.

The building is surrounded by what seem to be homeless people.  If it were not surrounded by police I would never go in. But it was and I did. The room is crowded, babies are crying, but for the most part there is some sense of order.  The people in the room may as well be from another country, they may as well speak another language.  I feel a bit of discomfort. There is a long line of people waiting to go through to the next room. I have a badge so I pass by those who are in line. It may be in my mind, in fact it probably is, but I feel that some of the folks in the room give me, shall we say, an unfriendly look.

Is it because I don’t have to wait in line? Is it because I have a badge? Is it because I clearly am not like them?  I’m not sure. I proceed to the entrance to the inner sanctum. Here all doors are locked and I must be buzzed in. Here I must face the camera (they are everywhere) and show them my badge.

The first door is buzzed open and I enter a small room with another door. I must wait till the door behind me shuts before the next opens. On my left there is a window to a small room with a man in it. I turn to him and show him my badge. He nods and as the door behind me shuts with a scary bang, the one before me opens.

I step out tentatively not sure which way to go. I must admit my heart is beating a little faster. I find the elevators and one again I face the camera in the ceiling to show my badge so the doors to the elevator will open. This elevator is different than most. It has no buttons to pick a floor. I must yet again face the camera and give hand signals that tell which floor I want.

The doors open and I must repeat the camera and badge sequence several times before I reach my destination. Finally, I have made it.You may wonder where I am or perhaps you have guessed. I am at the jail.

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I am part of the re-entry program for women. These are women who will soon be released from jail. The hope with the program is to help them with resources and knowledge so they might end their patterns of poor choices, and to let them know that someone cares.

My night is Wednesday. I have between 5-12 women. I have been doing this for several months. In the next several weeks I will be blogging about my experiences with these women.  You will learn the things I am sharing in my efforts to teach them, to help them.  And you will learn the things I am learning as I visit with these ladies.

So, I hope you take some time and come with me while I travel out of my comfort zone into an unfamiliar world.

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And Yet She Runs (Repost)

I  first posted this in February of 2012. I am reposting it because today was Emma’s last race for her Cross Country team. She is a senior and will graduate in June. The course was 3 miles with lots of up hills. She was the last girl to cross the finish line. She ran it in 37:43. So she wouldn’t be all alone, a team mate and the coach ran the last 1/2 mile with her. It was a very sweet moment. 

Emma was happy with the way she ran but sad that this was her last race. My first thought was why are you sad? Are you sad that you don’t have to get up a 5:15 every morning?  Will you miss being last all the time? Then I thought of this post and it reminded me why her love for running will always be a mystery to me.  She inspires me. The following  is the post:

 

I went to pick up my daughter yesterday after track practice. She is a sophomore in high school and on the JV track team. I arrived early and was sitting in the car. As I was scanning the area looking for her, I spied a lone runner off in the distance. As the runner got closer I realized that it was my Emma.  The other runners were far ahead of her. As she ran by me she gave a cheerful wave and said she would be done soon.

As I watched her, it reminded me of how proud I am of her, of how her love of running is a mystery to me. She can, and has, run fast. But even her fastest leaves her last in most races and far behind her teammates in practice. And yet she runs.

This time of year she runs twice a day at school. She must rise early and be at practice by 6:30am. She is tired in the morning but gets up with a happy smile because she gets to run. Once there she runs for an hour then cleans up and goes to class. At the end of the school day she has 2 more hours of running. She is weary and yet she runs

Her teammates are kind and accepting but not inclusive. So, for most of the time Emma is on the perimeter of things, always on the outside looking in. And yet she runs.

To the outsider sometimes it appears that she is running so slow that she isn’t getting anywhere.  When I mention this to her she says that she will try harder next time. When I tell her she needs to keep up with her teammates she tells me she will. And when I harp and nag about it, she will look at me and tell me that’s enough, I don’t want to talk about it.  Which reminds me that she is doing her best.

On the weekends she runs in the neighborhood. To her it doesn’t matter if it’s hot or cold. Her running is solitary as is much of her life. And yet she runs.

As I watch her run I often think, how many people would still run if they always came in last? How many would still love running?  Who would still be on a team where you are never really accepted? And yet she runs.

To love something so fully, that what people think, doesn’t matter. To do it, with disregard for the outcome, just because you love it, that’s where true happiness comes in. That’s what Emma is teaching me.

What makes this incredible to me is that my dear sweet Emma is Autistic.  Many things are difficult for her. I never thought she would ever want to run. I guess there is a freedom in the running for her. Emma once told me she loves the feeling of the wind when she runs, it makes her feel like she is flying.

I am so very glad she found something that makes her happy, something that brings her a sense of accomplishment. I hope she always has this love for running, that no matter what people say she will keep running and at the end of the day I can still say “And Yet She Runs.”

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