QUICKSAND

quicksand

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;

All the King’s horses, and all the King’s men

Could not put Humpty Dumpty together again.

-  Mother Goose

One of the most memorable nursery rhymes of all time…..how I remember it well.  The rhyme always left me a little sad inside…….COULD he be put back together again? And, then, what ever DID become of Humpty? How does the story end??  I need answers! (Ahhhhhh questions, questions and MORE questions – always the inquisitive soul.……..)

Growing up, along with catchy nursery rhymes, I also developed what became a long time (though grossly unfounded) fear of….…..QUICKSAND.  Important little side note here – I have never been near it, never seen it in person – nor known anyone who has.  Obviously the “power” of the low budget, black and white “B” movies was too great to overcome – in this instance.  LOL  I recall snippets of scenes in which various persons were not only helplessly engulfed, but literally absorbed by the opaque muck which obviously had a life of its own – sucking the life out of its doomed victims.  I was unusually terrified and afraid of the chance I would ever encounter this death trap in my own life and long held onto the belief that of all the ways to spend my last breathing moments on this earth – the inescapable prison of this suctioning entity was NOT my first choice – anything but that!

Returning back to Humpty – like him, in life – we all fall off our own walls.  Some falls are minimal – with little or no impact.  Other times, the falls are harsh and brutal – leaving us dinged, dented – maybe even broken, cracked from the impact.  Life – inescapably, undeniably – will always bring ups and downs; this is an absolute, a given for anyone who has breath in their lungs.  There are joys and heartaches…..celebrations and losses……Life – its tide ebbs and flows ceaselessly – with or without us………..One moment we can be on what seems to be a smooth, seamless track towards the sun, nothing standing in our way – and then, in what seems like the blink of an eye, our lives have jumped as quickly off the track – and we are left…………derailed, maybe hanging precariously over the end of a very shaky, wooden bridge, that’s about to buckle and crumble beneath us………we’re left waiting, hoping, growing in our desperation of the situation – not even able to breathe at times.  A heavy cloak of darkness may cascade all around us, like an oppressive, ominous blanket of fog.  Through the murkiness, we are able to hazily see our life scattered in pieces parts around us – shards of the former self and who we were before………Health issues, death of a loved one, loss of a job, addictions, broken relationships – any one of these can be our “undoing”.  Sometimes it’s not one, stand alone experience, but a culmination of these barbs, over days, weeks, months – sometimes years…….blinding us, blacking out the light  – and somewhere, somehow – we lose our way.  At times the pain and heartache can be so real – so raw – that it becomes a physiological experience – tangible, palpable – as real as the hands before us.  Its intensity so overwhelming we feel as if we’re actually suffocating, drowning……like endless fires that taunt us incessantly (think: infamous Chinese Water Torture)….we begin to feel ourselves unravel as our lives seemingly spiraling out of control.  Hopelessly we fight to stay grounded, struggling weakly to hold onto our sanity.  The darkness can be so torturous that at moments one’s mind starts to play tricks on you, convincing you of a lifetime of lies that has remained smoldering beneath the surface, behind the façade of a front that falsely indicated, “I’ve got it together.”  It may feel at times like the night season will never end and hope begins to quietly, silently evaporate – from your life……your heart……your spirit……….

Yet as the seasons come and go, so does the night – it never lasts forever.  Another constant in life – dawn breaking after the night has passed – with its glorious light – and with each, comes new promises, new opportunities, new chances – most especially, renewed hope.  You bask in the warmth of its glow.  For me personally, as I have grown closer TO God, the night seasons have grown longer, more challenging, more difficult – instead of easier.  It may sound odd of sorts but just because one chooses to follow Him, never guarantees the road paved will be smooth and easy, that you will never know pain again, that another tear will never be shed.  Yet knowing better now, I would rather take the road – ANY road – WITH Him, than without Him.

They say God doesn’t give one more than they can handle – at times, it may seem that He has given you the super deluxe buffet portion of such circumstances.  Yet sometimes too WE have whipped up that special meal all on our own by the “ingredients” from OUR choices, having kicked God out of the kitchen, when all He’s trying to do is carry that platter for us.  Regardless the circumstances, there will be moments when the valley seems so low – way too deep, much too steep – with no visible signs of any possible escape – EVER!  Then again, maybe it’s because YOU’re simply……….. not………..looking………UP.

I have had my own share of such seasons.  Along the way against better judgment, I have not only invited, but personally handwrote some of the most exquisite invites to some of the most memorable (and some not so memorable) Pity Partys of one.  I’ve hosted such galas, honestly – not only in the past, during the wasteful while wandering in the desert, trying to do life on my own, but also in recent years, while protected beneath the cascading drapes of the flawless white silk within the haven of my Maker’s tent. I lived in my own Egypt way too long and sadly, unnecessarily – traversing barren deserts, living in De-Nial.

I have outlived 9 lives and then some.  Countless times my life could have easily ended, mostly from stupid choices I made.  Yet every time, God rescued me – whether I realized it or not – buffering me from my fall from the walls I’ve sat upon, often erected from the “building blocks” of pride, willfulness and stubbornness that I chose.  I am by no means perfect, but I have learned, and continue to learn –  that by letting go, letting God – releasing the situation to Him…..talking to Him, that the end result is significantly different AND better, than when I try to FIX me  – myself, on my own.  I have most humbly learned in recent times, that sometimes there is NO other option one CAN do but to collect all the broken bits and pieces parts and dust of our shattered lives – and like a child crushed by their favorite toy being broken – approach the Father and give it all to Him.  And just like our earthly fathers, He will make it all better and He will make it right – even if we think it’s impossible.   From brokenness can come the greatest beauty…….sometimes it takes ruins to find the treasure within……sometimes it takes going blind to really and honestly be able to “see” things.  Life’s trials don’t have to break us – instead they can actually MAKE us….…be THE best version of ourselves yet.  What makes the difference is the choice WE make from the fall out of our tests.  Will we rise up from the ashes, shining and dazzling in the brilliance of our transformation?  Or will we instead retreat and wallow, dying a slow death – in the false “comfort” and “safety” of the quicksand “traps” in our life.

You may have fallen from numerous walls throughout your life, you may be stuck in that merciless pit right now – probably not the first time, likely not the last.  Yours doesn’t have to have the “unfinished” ending like Humpty – you can still have the fairytale……….yours doesn’t have to have the tragic “B” movie ending with you drowning in the pit, but instead can be a red carpet worthy blockbuster……………it’s up to you.  How do you want the story to end?

The Greatest Love

LOVE

Love is patient, love is kind……………It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. – As from 1 Corinthians 13

“The best love is the kind that awakens the soul and makes us reach for more, that plants a fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds. And that’s what you’ve given me.”   –  Excerpt in a letter from Noah to Allie, The Notebook

Love – the driving force of life…….its presence or its absence can so easily AND quickly change the direction of one’s journey by ………..like the small rudder which guides a large vessel.  It affects our actions – our words, thoughts and deeds – every minute of every day.

Life typically begins knowing the love of our parents or a parent………the ones who chose us – whether blood related or not. It is that love that becomes a benchmark of sorts………against which we likely will measure the other loves that follow and weave themselves into the patchwork quilt which makes up our lives………For myself, this love has spanned nearly a half century by two people who selflessly chose to love me and make me a part of their lives.  Two amazing people who God truly placed in my life who showed me His love and in their words and actions have continued to exemplify that love to this day. Parents who continued to love me in spite of my faults and rebellious ways.  Parents who not only expected but also wanted the best for me and from that love their choices were guided to give me the best life possible.  Parents who didn’t give up on me even when I took the wilderness route of life, becoming what would become the prodigal daughter.  Being an only child, the extended part of my immediate family included an amazing Grandfather who taught me how to love and appreciate nature, the joy of classical music, public radio, Lawrence Welk, spoiled me in his way and also introduced me to the love of a merciful and loving God.  My life all the more blessed by the love of amazing aunts, uncles and cousins who gave me countless beautiful memories to savor for a life time.

Then there is the love of friends. I have cherished the friendships in life since as far back as I can remember, during the formative years friendships was everything to me.  As I have grown older, I have learned that the love of a true friend is priceless – without measure.  That the bonds from a true friend can be as strong if not (as the saying goes) stronger than blood relations.  That it’s more about the quality and not the quantity.  For me a few true friends is worth more than hundreds of “acquaintances”.  I have been blessed with some truly awesome friends, most especially with my “Chica” who has been along with me for over twenty years, seeing me through the peaks and valleys in life, who has loved and stood by me in spite of myself.

Then of course there are the ‘romantic’ loves in one’s life……maybe the earliest I can remember of this special kind of love was the young man, now nameless, who always dressed so handsomely in his suits who during a bus ride in my kindergarten year boldly asked me to marry him.  While growing up I was “too much into the boys” as Mom would remind me – in 3rd grade I got into trouble for sending a love note that was scribbled during boredom in class to someone who I don’t even remember. Then there is the always unforgettable #BOOM “first love”, the turning point in everyone’s life.  Mine happened most unexpectedly in the summer of 1980…..for a lifetime I will never forget the first moment – completely love at first sight, the butterflies and innocent of tender young love……who two years later would tragically pass from this life much too young in a fatal car crash.  Then there is Beam, who was there during that time and a lifeline during high school  – who was not the classic “romantic” love but best described as being the most bestest friend, confidante, brother I never had and more all rolled into one, though we never dated and without whom my life would have never been the same.  In adulthood, there was my marriage which after a 13 year journey fell apart but gave me the greatest gift and blessing of my life.  The other “biggies” since then, also becoming the greatest heartbreaks of my life, I know in hindsight were never ones that God intended for me and so would never have worked in spite of my greatest efforts.  I still believe and hope that one day, in His time, I may be blessed with the greatest human love in this lifetime  and have my happily ever after.

My life’s greatest love by far has been a little being who entered my life in 1993 in the wee hours of a Tuesday morning after nearly 20 hours of labor.  THE most precious blessing who took over my heart, my soul, my life, my every waking moment.  I was all-encompassed, enthralled, mesmerized by his presence and I lived for him.  His needs, his safety, his happiness was paramount – first and foremost.

Two years ago, after hitting the rock bottom point of my life, I heard a message.  I had heard it of sorts over the years, but not in this same way – the way it was described that day, obviously a message I needed to personally hear, know and be able to accept.  A message telling me how the greatest love of my life had been there all along – right in front of me.  In spite of years of searching and waiting for that great love, the one love I needed above all else had always been within my reach.  If I had been wanting someone who loved me unconditionally, in spite of my faults, sins, past and all – who would forgive me endlessly – who would unfailingly treat me with kindness no matter what kind of level of stupid I was – who would and had laid down their life for me , the answer was right there, the whole entire time. I was just too blind, too distracted, too this – too that, to ever have been able to see it.  And so after 45 years, in a most humbled place, with tears streaming down my face – as if to release the endless nights of a lost and lonely heart that ached with such intensity that it was physically tangible, my eyes finally opened – seeing with clarity and I found the greatest love of my life.  A love that would fill all the voids and abyss that a human love cannot fully complete.  A love that isn’t performance based or earned through merit or actions.  It’s not a reward for anything I may ever do – it is simply offered, freely given – all I have to do is accept it into my life and my heart.

I look back at all the great loves in my life.  I count my blessings for each one, even the ones that ended in heartbreak, because they each impacted me, contributed to my life and helped me to evolve into the person I am today.  One who strives to each day be a better person than the one in the day before.  One who may increasingly learn more to choose love over choosing to be “right”.  Someone who will learn to love themselves more so I can be able to love others the way God commissioned.   No matter how the story ends, at least I finally know, that I’ve already been living the greatest love story of my life.  One without end……….lasting always and forever………..for all eternity.

THERE SHE IS, MISS AMERICA!

Miss America Barbie full

There she is, Miss America
There she is, your ideal
With so many beauties she took the town by storm
With her all-American face and form 

-          Miss America Pageant Theme, sung by Bert Parks

Everyone has favorite toys, things from childhood – beloved treasures.  For me, those KEY toys were………Barbie, Lego and books (though they don’t qualify for toys – they played a prominent role for me and reading was very much a favorite past time, still is today)…….oh, and Mr. Teddy Bear – but he’s the exception to the rule.  He’s not a toy, he’s essentially been my inanimate (shhhh…..don’t tell him that ;) ) my lifelong BFF, confidante, security blanket – all rolled into one, since I was 4.  Mr. Teddy Bear and I have been through everything together – but this post is not about Mr. Teddy Bear and his wondrous ways.  Perhaps another time…..

While growing up, there were regular “rituals” that were faithfully, dutifully and consistently adhered to: Winter Olympics – Ice Skating events (Dorothy Hamill – so resplendent, captivating and winning hearts globally, including mine, when she won the gold in ’76); Easter time – The Ten Commandments (Charlton Heston version); the standard Christmas Classic shows; Super Bowl; and then there was, the Miss America Pageant.  Each year, how I would gleefully look forward to watching this, dreaming the dreams of a little girl – while listening to the melodious performance of Bert Parks while he sang the theme song, year after year after year.  To gaze upon all the beautiful young women filled with such hope and vision for the future. My parents lovingly allowed me to indulge in these, even when the show times were rather to extreme (watching the SuperBowl when one is in Europe – you will find yourself still up at 3am or later during that time honored event.)

Although an only child, I was not spoiled by any means.  My parents provided for my comfort and needs, and on occasion I would receive some special treats throughout the year.  Sometimes my dad would have to go away for military purposes during the time he served and we would miss him very much.  On one such trip away, upon his return home, he most unexpectedly surprised me with a very special gift.  A stunning and dazzling Miss America Barbie – complete with her crown, luxurious faux fur cape, shiny silver scepter, bouquet of vibrant satin red roses and a most beauteous, flowing, white evening gown and white heels. Truly the most beautiful doll this little girl had ever seen at that point in her life!  All my Barbies were so precious to me – they were all loved and cared for and meticulously stored when I wasn’t playing with them and their clothes, shoes and accessories as well. Miss America Barbie – was in a whole another league of her own, she was like the Princess Diana of Barbies.  She was truly a possession to be prized and made even more special that she was a most extraordinary gift from my dad who I loved so.  I would love and care for her forever………..

While growing up, I somehow developed a peculiar habit – not really great one, at least for me, since most times it did not work to my favor.  I don’t know how or why it originated.  When I think about it, it’s actually – well, sad – maybe almost pathetic from some angles.  One day I plan to gain understanding on the why behind it and some other unexplained similar behaviors/thinking in this life.  (again, I digress)…..As a child, I was notorious for giving away my toys, things.  Not ALL the time, but enough of the time and the treasured items given away were the “good toys” and “good things”.  The reason (which my mom has remembered for years too) was so that I could keep a friend, thinking if I made them happy – basically “buying” their love – that they would stay my friend, even if it were just for one more day, one more week.  And so, after not so long a time after I was lovingly gifted with that very special Barbie, Miss America Barbie became THE offering bartered in such an exchange.  When she was gone, she was gone – and like a number of these situations – the friendship too soon after was gone, ended. I remembered my parents being upset, probably more hurt – very disappointed that I would give THAT toy up considering the special circumstances surrounding her.  I tried to get her back, but to no avail.  A regret that would not be forgotten after all this time.

I have somewhat learned over time – that one’s love, friendship, loyalty cannot be bought, bribed or coerced.  Any attempts to do so will most assuredly backfire at some point, leaving you kicking yourself for being so foolish yet again – shaking your head as to why you can’t seem to really quite completely learn THE lesson.  (sigh………)  In recent times, maybe I’m not giving up a favorite toy or spending above my means on the “perfect gift”, but what I have given up, as I’ve gotten older, has been more priceless in nature.  Pieces of my heart, my self-respect, my dignity.  It has created situations where sacrifices can be taken for granted, where the worth of a person is revealed in the harsh light of truth – leaving a trail of hurt feelings and broken relationships in the wake.  It is life – it’s just how it goes.  I can’t control the choices of others, no matter how hard I may try.

Still very much a works in progress, I continue to learn and grow.  I’ll continue to make missteps, I’ll continue to get up – dust myself off and keep moving forward, hoping to learn the lesson and be better for it.  In recent years one thing I have learned with assurance is that there is one relationship where I don’t have to barter or give an offering or “bribe” to receive love.  God’s love. It is absolute, it is certain, it is unmoving – and it comes with no hidden agendas and no cost to me.  I don’t have to do tricks to earn it.  As the sun, moon and stars, the air that we breathe, exist – His love too, for me, for you – for the world……it just, IS……….That constant will remain steadfast – through the darkest of hours, through sun, rain, snow and storms…..no matter what I do, no matter what other stupid mistakes I’ll make, no matter how greatly I may stumble…….I have the comfort of knowing He will forgive me when I confess myself to Him and His love never, ever, EVER fails – NOT even if I foolishly chose to NEVER love Him back, EVER.  He would still love me – His heart would still break for me, for being that ONE sheep still astray, still lost and wandering.  He gave us free will to choose – whether to love Him or to not love Him.  He loves us THAT much that He will not force us to love him.  The “sacrifices” made are conscientious choices I make – they are not required.  It is the choice I make moment to moment, day to day for gratitude, respect and honor for the ultimate sacrifice He made for me – His son, barbarically nailed to a cross, enduring a pain and loneliness – and rejection by the world He ONLY loved.  To such unimaginable and indescribable proportions, for me – for the world.  In ransom……NOT to somehow win our love, but to show how much HE loves US – no matter what.

Like the elegant beauties who took that long walk in Atlantic City while being serenaded, I have my own special walk one day.  In my vision, I will be in my own ethereal, flowing white gown as I walk the streets of gold, through the pearly gates, being serenaded by the resounding sounds pouring forth from the angelic choir – on the day when I am reunited with my Creator.  My own Miss America crowning moment……….all because of the barter He gave for me.  Needless to say, it outweighs that of my Miss America Barbie – beyond any comparison, any day of the week.

COLD WARS

ice

We all have regrets in life – some bigger than others, and the biggies, honestly, not our finer moments.  They are the big “my bads” in life we’d like to somehow obliterate from our memory….. forever.  The ones that can still make us wince and shift with the uncomfortable reality of the embarrassment that you ever behaved that way.  Many times the ones we would like a chance to go back and do things right.  If there is a positive in it – though painful, hurtful and difficult, they do bring lessons that we need to learn – even if it takes us awhile to grasp, understand and learn what the lesson was.  A major one for me happened during the time I was taking the very overextended, not often “scenic route”, loooonnnnggg way HOME - fully immersed in my own season of “wandering the wilderness”.  As well, the full throttle of human nature, emotions, attitudes, etc. walked the walk with me, my constant companions – and so a better explanation of why the return took longer than not.   

The 7 deadlies – they can really jack up life.  I own up to all of them, the least in ranking:  greed – as if that somehow redeems me from full blown engagement and usage of the other 6, aka the majority.  (And no, it does not.)  In recent years, I have learned A LOT about Pride and what it encompasses, its far reaches – many of which have surprised me simply since I’d never seen pride in those other ways.  I discovered it causes emotions, responses in a person’s life that I didn’t typically consider as stemming from pride.  For me, pride had always been something along the line of being confident in oneself – looks, achievements – of which if taken to the excess, could become a negative and then classified as narcissism.  I was proud of things in my life but never considered myself “prideful”.  I also didn’t realize it [pride] is considered the ringleader and THE biggest downfall amongst the 7 deadlies.  In this particular situation, pride – for me – came cloaked in a very unique guise.  It masqueraded into my life – unbeknownst – yet full of such toxic poison to the extent that it blinded and hindered me from being able to do the right thing in the situation.

Over the years – for whatever reason, my strong suit has never been how to talk through tough feelings, especially when my parents are involved.  I was better adept at bottling them up, until they cumulated to a venomous poison whose only way of escape was in a very heated emotional way.  I also didn’t have the most closest relationship with my parents – not the bonding, “share everything” with them kind of relationship.  I envied (yes, 7 deadly # 6) those who had closeness with their parents, women who were basically BFFs with their moms.  THAT was NOT me.  While growing up, I did not do well to be able to talk more openly, without being on the defensive.  I still don’t like confrontation type of situation, but gratefully I have learned to do better in this area.

Some years after my divorce, I essentially had a fall-out with my parents, notably with Mom.  We were very much estranged for a few years, which I refer to as my own, personal years of the “Cold War”.  God bless my Dad who sought to be the peacemaker to the two stubborn women God blessed him with in life, who was another unfortunate “victim” from the turmoil. (I admit many times it must not have felt like a blessing, but more like a sentence of sorts).  He did his best to keep the olive branch extended and to show love and God’s goodness to the best of his ability, while not betraying his bride in any way.  As I’m an only child – I didn’t have other parents to go to or be with, nor did they have other children who they could have called on – who would have been more worthy of that title than I was then.  I considered at times how they were feeling during this season; we didn’t see much or talk much to each other, even at holidays.  Sadly, their only grandchild was growing up – missing out on a better relationship with him and vice versa.  Because of what was MY pride – my human need to be right and my legalistic – I robbed everyone from critical moments of bonding and relational building.  I had the outlet to vent to confidantes and trusted friends.  They always remained kind and supportive, but I’m sure I possibly exasperated them with my frustrations with the situation, yet not doing much to change things, determined to stand MY ground – no matter the cost. I was the walking textbook version of the phrase, “Cutting off your nose to spite your face”.  In hindsight, it certainly could not have been a good look.  Another classic phrase you could have tagged on me then too is, “Stupid is as Stupid does”.

My parents didn’t deserve my cattiness.  They had never done anything but try to love me, do their best by me  – by God – in the choices they made, regardless if I agreed with them or not.  They always and only had MY best in mind, and that along with pleasing God (though not in that order) was what motivated them.  My parents deserved love and respect, and a child who had the courtesy and decency to sit with them and try to talk things through – to find healing – instead of jamming a giant wedge of hurt and pain, only deeper.  They deserved better treatment  – not to cowardly hide behind the deceitful mask of PRIDE to justify actions and deplorable behavior.  As I was not in my walk, I didn’t give this to God in prayer or ask Him for advice and help.  I did what I wanted and what the “human nature” in me felt like doing.  I remained stubborn, obstinate and willful.

The years are a blur to me – I don’t, can’t remember actual dates, etc.  But I do remember it was after the dark time after my first layoff in 2009, when we finally healed.  My loving parents – Mom and Dad – reached out and were there in ways which I didn’t deserve or thought I would experience. Just like our Father’s love for us, I experienced a most unconditional love from them, that I had never truly felt until then.  I was not only able to lay down “ME” but I was also able to finally start to share with them in ways I had not before.  It was as if the healing came naturally (God’s intervention) – after what was one of life’s “disasters”.  From the ashes, came life – new life.

PRIDE – it will blind, poison, deceive and warp you into “vindicating” choices, actions you take are somehow right, when in the blaring light of day, they are far from it.  You can choose to visit De-Nial and go along your merry way, but in time, if you’re honest enough with yourself, it will come back and bite you with a serious vengeance.  Don’t confuse this with situations where there will be times boundaries need to be drawn; God doesn’t want us to be doormats.  There can be a healthy balance.  Since that time I have also learned a major “aha” lesson……In life – especially in disagreements with loved ones, family, friends – we have two choices.  We can choose to be right              <<< OR>>> we can choose love.  If we choose love, we accept giving up the right to BE right.  We’re all human.  If we choose love, it won’t be the easier of the two choices, but in the long run, it will be the one worth choosing.  Along the way, we’ll have to bite our tongues many times, swallow a lot of words, place others before ourselves, envision ourselves in another’s shoes – exercise self-control versus choosing to fly off the handle……no, it won’t be easy, but then again, anything worth having rarely is.  Think about it…………….

Cold Wars – they are a frigid, miserable way to co-exist with others.  Nothing is ever resolved; I don’t think much good comes from them.  Nobody wins – everyone loses.  Find a way to end them – though at times it may require ending the relationship or maintaining distance for the interim.  When you make your decisions – especially with the loved ones in your life – operate from a place of love and not a position of pride.  Do the right thing.  Choose love, not war.

 

TV Dinner Confessions

TV dinner

Will: [thinking] Every man is an island. I stand by that. But clearly some men are island CHAINS. Underneath, they are connected…

Marcus: [thinking] I used to think two was not enough. But now things are great; there are loads of people… I don’t know what Will was so [mad] about. I don’t think couples are the future. The way I see it now, we both got back-up now. It’s like that thing Jon Bon Jovi said: ‘No man is an island.’                        

-      Excerpt from “About a Boy”

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

-          John Donne, Meditation 17

It is a basic human nature – to be needed and connected to others.  No man can be an island or subsist autonomously.  We need each other, whether we want to admit it or not.  There are countless lives who help to make the life WE know possible: the farmers who grow the produce and food that we need to survive, those who build the forms of transportation we use, the countless individuals who help to channel the electricity that keeps so much of human civilization humming along (key word: AC, can you imagine having to live without it?? So thankful for those who help make it possible! I NEED them! J)   We are all somehow connected – whether intimately, remotely or from other distant connections.  Think:  global version of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” and EVERYONE plays!

By this point, you may be wondering – what does “TV Dinner Confessions” have to do with ANY of this?  Well since you have stayed engaged, I’ll indulge.

Flash back – eeeeaarrrrly 70’s at an equally 70’s style breakfast-bar style table – a little girl living in Glendale, Arizona on Luke AFB – had just sat down to her evening meal that night.  (Side note: some of you might not be able to fathom ingesting this creation, but for me was something I almost considered a treat and a “fun meal”; happy meals did NOT exist back then).  Salisbury steak – one of my faves…….I remember the rich dark caramel brown gravy that bathed the meat entrée in BIG triangle one, that would be yum nummy with the mashed potatoes in triangle 2 and mix well with the buttery golden yellow corn in triangle 3.  Up to this point in life, I was the only child of God-loving, faithful Christian parents who were old school and traditional.  I never had to worry for food, clothing or shelter and overall my childhood was a happy one filled with many loving memories.

For whatever reason, this would be a day that would live forever in my memory.  Though the years have caused the mind to lose some details, the paramount significance of that day, evening is forever etched into that little girl’s heart and mind. The revelation that likely would impact for a lifetime – whether consciously or subconsciously, mindful or undetected.   At some point, my parents approached and sat down next to me, and revealed to me a longstanding, but unknown truth, to me,  of my life – where it all began.  It might as well have been like Haley’s comet or a meteor descending from the sky- into the very center of the only life I have ever known.  Shattering the stillness, the constant, what had been “reliable” and “absolute”.  Not even like pieces of a puzzle, but maybe more like unidentifiable shards that somehow would need to be put back together again – in a different way than how it used to be, when the dust settled.  I was told that I was adopted; that I was anticipated before my actual birth – my adopted mother (Mom) distantly knew my biological mom, having been introduced by a mutual friend.  As typical in those times and still probably as likely today – my birth mother had fallen in love with a military man stationed there and became pregnant.  “Dad” already had a family, waiting in the States for his return.   My parents (my adopted parents) were technically engaged at the time and not legally married.  For my Mom especially, in the very traditional time and with South Korean culture added, by adopting me at THAT time, was essentially for her to accept that she would be perceived as an unwed mother, carrying the full realm of the typical stigma that that “title” brings.  It would as well, put my dad, in not such a great light since he would be the unwed father.  Overall, pretty much taboo.  It definitely was NOT the RIGHT place, or RIGHT time – or convenient for either of them.  Yet after prayers and much soul searching, God led them to make the choice to consciously CHOOSE me to be a part of their lives.  Choosing to love me, raise me, protect me – all the responsibilities good parents accept when they answer the call to be a parent.  It would go on to be perhaps one of the most important decisions they would ever make as many years later would reveal that my Mom would never have been able to bear a child of her own.  From just a few hours after I took my first breath, my parents took me home from the hospital and truly loved me as if I were their own.  They sacrificed, provided, protected and in everything, always did the best they could for me.

As that little dark, curly-haired girl sat there – frozen, stunned, unable to look up or at them, now uncomfortably positioned in her tangerine orange retro dining room chair – the once hot meal, had cooled and become even more cold, from the deluge of tears that rolled, roared out of her body, down her cheeks and into the tin foil moat, now home to a sea of diluted gravy and salty tears.  It wasn’t that she cried for a woman who gave her up, or for a man who may not have even known her existence – instead the tears were for upheaval of the only life she had ever known – the security and safety of that truth.  She cried for a loss – for which words could not be found; for an inexplicable “emptiness” that had now cut a wound, filled with one big Question Mark – representing the countless questions that raced through her mind, for which there were no answers  – many still unanswered to this day.    One day you wake up – knowing who you are, thinking you do – and before the sun sets on that same day, that certainty seems less assured.

It has been difficult at times through life since that day, of the “unknown”- not knowing more or having more facts.  I have also become aware of the long-reaching and unbeknownst impact that this life-shifting revelation has had on my life – mostly in submerged crevices in the deepest recesses of my heart and soul.  During medical situations where the “question mark” blares like a firey red neon sign in the black of night – having no biological family history to be able to determine present day matters – not knowing the “box” to check on questionnaires – simply because I do not know.  I have been blessed in that my son and I have never had any serious diseases, conditions which could have stemmed from my heritage.  More especially, I have been truly blessed with parents, who in spite of potential societal ramifications, CHOSE me and have only loved me and provided me with everything I need and the best life possible.  Parents who to this day still LIVE their love through their actions and deeds.  Parents who tirelessly prayed for me, especially for over 25 years, until I found my way back home, not so unlike the Prodigal Son – and who still kept the front door open and porch lights on, letting me know I was always welcomed back with loving, open arms.

I haven’t learned much more details beyond what was told to me some forty years ago, I still have many questions that likely will never be answered.  What does she look like?  What does he look like? Are they still alive? Have they ever thought of me, missed me?  Do I have siblings somewhere out there?  I have not had the desire to go on a hunt, and it’s ok.  But I have learned other important truths in life – namely, blood relations, does not a family make.  A parent can love a child as much, if not more, who is not their own.  That same parent will go just as much above and beyond their ability to care for a life that is entrusted to them.  I have a mother who has always placed the needs of others above her own, who’s actions speak louder than words she does not say.  I have a father who never failed to provide for his family – his life an example of all that is good and decent.  From my earthly parents, I was introduced to my Heavenly Father.  On days when the world may fail me – when I feel out of place, unwanted, unneeded – a giant QUESTION mark looming – with Him I always know I have a place where I truly belong.

Salisbury steak “dinners” – still one of my favorites.  As they have evolved and changed over the years, I have done the same.  My life is more grounded and more certain than ever before of the incomparable love of my earthly parents, and the unconditional love of the Father who blessed them to me in this life.  I am forever and eternally grateful TO and FOR both……….

Earned Wings

AngelsAmongUs

Oh… I believe there are angels among us
Sent down to us from somewhere up above
They come to you and me in our darkest hours
To show us how to live, to teach us how to give
To guide us with the light of love


 – “Angels Among Us” by Alabama

I’ve experienced angels for sure in my life – numerous times.  I believe we all have, whether we want to admit or realize it.  I feel I have been blessed to ONLY have been aware of the good ones – the ones God sends.  They have had my back more times than I could ever begin to count – times when I recognized they WERE there, times when I went completely unaware that they, together with God, walked alongside me through countless moments in life – having saved me time and again, when easily it could have – maybe, should have been my last day.  I’ve definitely used my NINE lives and then some.  And though I know I am truly redeemed, I have an I.O.U. with God at this point – which I am gratefully and happy to somehow make a small dent in repaying that debt the rest of my life. 

One guardian angel that I know God placed in my life – was after an obvious miracle in my  life.  Following an undetected tumor, which had no prior symptoms, that was discovered in February 1989 – only during a routine annual check-up and confirmed by an ultrasound, timely surgery was required, just several months before my wedding day.  Blessedly the tumor was benign and that there were no issues beforehand was unbelievable as the tumor had completely consumed my entire right ovary – in size, basically the size of a rump roast (apologies for the ‘graphic’ reference…..).  After the first attempt, followed by a care-free pregnancy – nearly 20 hours labor, withOUT an epidural (Moms – you can def appreciate THAT fact)……my little angel ushered forth into the world.  From that moment, I was transformed and my world truly revolved around THAT life which God had entrusted to my care. 

During my leave, I spoiled him – carrying him everywhere, I could NOT get enough of being near him – his smell, his softness, his gentle sounds – his mere existence.  Then reality kicked in and I had to return to my work.  We went through caretaker #1 – who lasted barely a week.  I had just spoiled him too much that he required being held or he was just unhappy and cried incessantly.  We moved on to caretaker #2 – precious, truly God-sent “Mimi”.  She didn’t speak a word of English; I wasn’t so great with my Spanish – I bought a Spanish-English dictionary.  Did a good deal of my ‘home translating’ and capitalized on my Spanish speaking friends.  (bahaha!)  She truly had the patience of a saint, but even saints have their limits.  And after about ten days time, when I went to pick up my little man after a long day at work – she sincerely apologized but informed me she would be unable to continue caring for my son because it was too much and she also was caring for multiple other children – so she gave me notice.  I’ll be honest and admit I was freaking out at this point, but God literally imparted – graciously and mercifully – once again, as He has so kindly, so many times before – and so many times since……….beyond anything I deserve or have deserved.  The next day we went back but my little man transformed, literally – overnight.  He went on to enjoy nearly three more years with Mimi who grew to love him beyond words, going out of her way to show the extraordinary, special place he came to hold in her heart and the life of her family – remaining so very special in her heart to last for a lifetime. 

From that point on – my guardian angel grew and with the exception of typical, minor growing pains during the teenage years, was the perfect child – the absolute joy of my life.  He would have been (“be” – present day) any parent’s dream: polite, well-mannered, loving, caring – and untypically compassionate towards those younger than himself ever since he was himself a toddler. Growing up he lovingly allowed me the indulgence of sleeping in on weekends while he quietly watched TV or kept himself busy in positive ways.  He played the Little Drummer Boy at his father’s church each Christmas for many years (I cried every time I attended each performance; I still have the drum set used, remember the makeshift outfit that we put together…..) – he WAS the perfect choice to depict the lead role from the perennial classic by Bass and Rankin back in the late 60’s, BUT of course – more handsome! (I know, I’m just a little biased……) He went on to nail the role of Kenickie in his 5th grade’s rendition of Grease – as if, he were made to play the role!  (Where’d he get that talent – wink, wink LOL!)  He earned numerous Student of the Month Awards, Honor Rolls and other school accolades – of course all these and so many other “memories”, carefully preserved……  During holiday time, he lovingly gifted me with special purchases he made at the Holiday store at school with his hard earned money.  My favorite – that I still have – is a beautiful cross pendant, and I still wear it to this day. 

High school arrived – and there is NO way, at the start of his freshman year, that you could have told ME where he would end on graduation day – his life’s purpose revealed by then.  But I can say that there is no way I could have been MORE proud or honored to have him as my child at that time (it is only beyond comprehension present day…..).  Thankful to God for special mentors that were placed in his life – who believed in, saw potential in and encouraged him.  He flourished – growing into this amazing young man who was responsible, accountable and so disciplined.  He evolved into an established and esteemed leader amongst his peers; recognized by those with notable military credentials – leading teams to winning various awards, trophies in competitions.  His destiny was unveiled – he was a military man.  As my precious dad served our country for nearly 28 years, it was especially poignant that my OWN would find the same path – and in his own way.  It was in his blood – he lived for it, he was an obvious “natural” at it. I had the privilege of watching him through this process as well – in finding himself, in discovering his calling – and most especially, in the absolute joy, bliss, blessing – to behold him walk forth into his life’s passion, where I know he will be living:  “Do what you love and you won’t work a day in your life.”  I envy that.  I wasn’t half as grounded or “based” as he is at that same age.  The choices he makes astound me  – all the time. 

So for me, my special guardian angel came in the most unexpected package – a 7 lb, 7 oz. 19 inch squishy faced tiny human, some 20 years+ ago now.  He was to be more than just my “child” – he was to be my life’s most supreme blessing, and THE light because I was seeking His light everywhere else but through Him…until I was able to find MY own way back to His light, nearly 30 years after roaming aimlessly in the desert of life on my own.  God brought him to me for countless reasons and blessings………because He knew I would need someone to get me through the end years of a marriage that was falling apart, to be the glue that held me together in the years of the aftermath of its demise when inside I was broken shards of glass……  He was my reason for life – when I didn’t have the energy anymore, felt unloved and unneeded – I was still needed by him.  My world revolved around him and I did everything I could to ensure he had the best childhood possible.  He taught ME so many things – how many parents can say, admit that?? I definitely am a better person because of him.  Until I found my WAY – he was the example of unconditional love – giving and receiving.  He taught ME how to pick and choose battles – how to know which ones to fight, which ones to walk away from.  He showed me even more how to be more accepting of others – how to better appreciate the “differences” in life.  The beautiful part of this is that he not only taught ME these “life lessons” but he led by example and inspired others.  I have had parents and other peers come to me over the years and share with me what Joseph has done for them, impacted their lives.  It’s a parents’ best dream…..I did underestimate him for a long time  – just humanly because of his age……….finally woke up to realize the amazing young man that stood before me – grateful for every breath of his life.  For winning “life’s lotto” by God’s blessing of him in my life. 

Forever I will be grateful for the unexpected “old soul”, Yoda – so wise beyond his years – who taught me so much.  Forever I will be grateful for the light of his smile in my world, and how it lit up the darkness many times – that for me, still lights any room that he walks into…….. Forever I will be grateful for my precious guardian angel  – sent to watch over me for many years.  Saving me again – and again, and again.

To my “angel” – Joseph Tumminelli, aka Son Unit………forever you’ll be in my heart……..for all my life, I’ll be the greatest fan of your life……….

I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.

Love You Forever

by Robert Munsch

Special note to Martha and Renee, the unexpected blessings when the “empty nest” commenced – thank you…………….

To 1st Sgt, who never gave up on him and remains present in his life; to Colonel Richardson, another extraordinary and beautiful hearted person – who made a difference by your example

Ricitos de Oro y los tres osos (aka, Goldilocks and the 3 Bears)

Goldilocks

It was in my SECOND of three middle schools I would attend between 7th and 8th grades – as my dad was in the military during my childhood years, that this took place.  The second of those schools was located in the far northwest corner of Louisiana – in the laid back town of Bossier City.  A bit of a funny story  – as here, in the outskirts of bayou country, a dark-brunette haired, Korean/mix gringa was part of a Spanish language version of “Goldilocks and the 3 Bears”.  Yours truly – believe it or not – played the lead role – Goldilocks.  And the “cerraduras de oro” I donned for this Oscar-worthy performance, was actually that of a yellow-dyed mop top.  (If memory serves me correctly, this was Mom’s creative idea and also helped to save money on that expense.) Though I’m not able to recall all the details, of that event in my life, I do remember that we competed in the regional event and actually WON – 1st place! YAY!!!!!!!! The big “aha” of this story is a highlight of my fearlessness in youth and evidence the confident spirit one had to possess to be able to pull that off in a language basically foreign to me but also the ensemble that was worn, out in public!

Growing up, I LIVED, thrived, was motivated and catalyzed to succeed academically.  My parents did have great expectations for me but it was also what drove me personally and did much to give me my sense of self.  I would constantly compete to be the FIRST to finish the test, be in the top of the class and be as popular and part of the “cool kids” as a bookworm geek could be back in the day.  Not much daunted me while growing up – well, maybe sports – a little.  Sidebar: like the time I was on a softball team in elementary school when living in Glendale, Arizona.  I was playing left field – and it was just soooooo BORING – I was DYING out there with no action – literally baking in the heat of the sun! (Drama Mama – exit stage left!)  So I made the brilliant executive decision – to sit my butt down – right there, at the spot I stood, on the field, during an actual game.  Needless to say my softball career ended quickly and swiftly.

I loved the spotlight – shining and beaming – being chosen to give the answers, asked to read my story – and during 5th and 6th grade years, vying for the special honored seat as teacher’s pet – literally.  The teachers those years, had a desk up front and center and whoever sat there got privileges and helped assist the teacher – it was sooooo cool!  I had such confidence and I only wanted to be that much more in excelling and my achievements.  In addition to notable academic progress in high school – I somehow found the gumption to run AND was elected each year to be one of the class officers (and today I am soooo not a politics person at all).  867-5309 was my battle song that one year it was popular! (Yes, I’m dating myself now…….but I’m ONLY 35! Ha!).  I did return to the arena of sports – but with football, and not the typical girlie role – but on the field……playing the game – and not the kinder version, flag, but with the boys – tackle football – and I was the only girl on most days.  Under big wide open skies – in a large open field down the road from my house, fresh air in our lungs, an all out game was played and played well.  (My mom still talks about those games and my “trophies” – the shirts, spoils of war, ripped off of those who had dared to let a “girl” play.  I still smile when I recall those times……..) My determination and success continued into the early years of my working life – I would ALWAYS get the job and within a short time be promoted.  I believed I could achieve anything and everything I set my mind to – and THAT confidence stayed with me a long time as my track record only perpetuated that.  I wasn’t afraid of failure and though not a braggart when I was good at something, I knew it without a doubt which only propelled me towards more accomplishments.

Somewhere along the way – life happened.  And that inspired, young person slowly became jaded to the point where life became rote and routine, while my spirit had become mired in a life draining rut that had pretty much zapped the spirit out of me.  There was no longer the fire – I don’t think there was even much of a heat from a nearly burned out spark left within.  Life had become ritual – and I had stopped trying a long time ago.  Getting THE job was no longer so easy because one was now competing with hundreds of other candidates, many who are just as much, if not more, qualified.  There are many more “no’s” than “yes’s” and most doors don’t even get opened, if just to send you away.  Eventually I started to emerge from my comatose state – realizing too much time had passed with more fruitless days than not – lacking purpose and intent, pursuing passions of one’s heart and soul.  I learned about listening to the voice inside and how to answer those callings.  It’s still such a new process – I’m still learning, but I’m also so happy to say that at a stone’s throw away from 50, “Stella’s getting her groove back” – and not with a significant other, but with someone more important – myself.  In spite it being most unpleasant experiences that I wouldn’t wish on anyone else, I truly believe that God brought not one but two layoffs in recent years to my life – to throttle me awake to get back the fire in my belly.  I’m finally doing things I’ve wanted to do for years – volunteer, give back to others in meaningful ways, and living and sharing the passion that has always made me heart happy – for a lifetime, WRITING.  The ultimate job for me has long been to be a writer at Hallmark – and though I didn’t get the job when I applied last year, I am convinced there ARE other avenues that will make THAT dream somehow fall short of what I can be and achieve in the years ahead.  The unlimited potential in that confidence is tremendously, indescribably exciting……..

Nowadays I happily experience more peace than not and aware of the increased rustlings from a spirit that has remained dormant far too long.  My mind continues to churn great ideas all through the day – whether new ideas for this blog (which makes me so immensely happy) – or things that lie ahead – in work, my passions, fulfilling my purpose for which God placed me on this earth.  I actually find myself at times skipping along through the day, even if it’s just inside.  By the time He’s done with me, I’m sure it will be unlike anything I anticipate as I sit here right now  – and I can’t wait!

So as the story goes  –  as I so aptly and capably portrayed with my fantastic cinematic skills (cough, cough – NOT!)………time for “Goldilocks” to wake up and finally get out of that bed……..and live…..

………..life, fearlessly and confidently.

~ El Final ~

(the End)