lookingbackandforth

Keeping it real and Keeping it positive.

Mondays are Ordinary and Extraordinary

Monday October 8th, 2018.

The day started early as I got up to spend a few last moments with Mr. Michael Willey before he headed out the door to school at 7 AM. He is 8 years old….bounding in energy and living life at its fullest. He is smart and funny and insistent on having 100% of our attention…much like his father at his age. He still hugs and giggles and has stubborn moments of pushing back, but he brings us so much joy.

Later that morning D’Man is also preparing for school. Now a Middle Schooler who is introspective and analytical. He is profoundly kind and deep and talks quietly and close up to share his new favorite app or creation. He waits his turn so his little brother can have time with us, but he engages at a level that warms our hearts. He smiles large for grandma’s constant pictures and he still gives and receives genuine hugs.

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Off they go to school. Jonathan and Jme prepare for a new week filled with work and church and baseball games and soon soccer practices. They patiently manage life in a busy home with grace and love and kindness. They so eagerly allow us to do life with them in normal and meaningful ways to make memories that only family can make.

We head out the door to return to our home. Enroute we stop for a brief few moments at the home of Dick and Virjean Camp. Life is hard for them right now as Dick’s Parkinson’s Disease progresses and Virjean continues to give him full-time care, and yet they are preparing for dinner guests who no doubt are coming to give them encouragement and love. In the few short moments we stop by Virjean eagerly shares with us a video of their youngest grand-daughter in Spain with her parents. Morgan is enjoying an ice cream cone, surrounded by ancient buildings but they go almost unnoticed as she screams in delight at having an ice cream cone to show her parents.

Arriving home we are welcomed by our sweet Grand Dog Citrus who fills the void in our lives left by the passing of our two precious labs. Soon our daughter arrives and we eagerly catch up from our week away and head out to dinner and a movie, wanting to spend time with her now we are back home.

Later I find myself checking my social media accounts only to discover that my twin grand nieces, born at 31 weeks are progressing so well and smile as I see pictures of them being held in the NICU by their overjoyed parents. Babies have a way of changing our lives and reminding us of HOPE.

I further scroll down and learn of the passing of my friend’s husband…just months before and right after retiring from an amazing Army career, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. The words escape me to know what to say to my friend, but I make a feeble attempt, knowing that just reaching out to her will hopefully be enough.

My brother-in-law, also fighting Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer was given great news that his trial is working and his tumor has shrunk significantly and his cancer blood markers are way down. Two men, similar ages, same disease, such different results. My emotions are conflicted as I am up and down with in minutes.

I sit here on my chair in quiet and as I begin to pray I find myself realizing that with birth there ultimately comes death…that God has ordained it so. I wish death only came to us when we are old and in our sleep, but sadly that is not so. I quietly pray for understanding but as always that will be for another time…so I ask instead for wisdom. For wisdom to know how to live in a way that matters. How to love in a way that is received and communicated. Wisdom to know how to order my days with things that matter most and how to communicate that to those I love. Wisdom to listen when talking would be so much easier.

God has shown me in these few months since moving to Florida and slowing down that it’s okay to build margin in to my days to be available to respond and to ponder. ….to dream and to create….to think deeper and talk longer over coffee. God has shown me that life is lived in the MOMENTS not the years…and to make those moments matter.

As I celebrate another birthday in a few days I will CELEBRATE the every day moments of blessing in the ordinary things of life and recommit to being PRESENT as I walk through my days with joy and love and never, ever to forget the blessing I have to just be alive and loved.

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There’s Only One Georgi!

Some of you may remember that I have written about a few of my special mentors who I have committed to be with in person to thank and love on them and not just wait to go to their funerals and tell others how much they mean to me. First there was Martha, then Terry. Sadly I missed being with Doris as she passed before I could get there, but I did write a post about her. Now there is Georgi!

When I was in 8th grade I met Lezlee Eick. Lezlee was a ‘new kid’ in my school and like my other friend, Vanita, Lezlee was from ‘the States’ as we said in Canada. She was kind of shy and super smart. Well we didn’t have either of those things in common, but in spite of that we became friends and it was during that time in my life that I became attending church for the first time. Yes, with Vanita and Lezlee and I met Georgi and Jack. You can’t really talk about one without the other, but this post will be mostly about Georgi.

Things were not great in my home life during that time and I would often seek to escape to places where I felt there was more calm and more laughter. Lezlee’s home was one of the places where I found both.

Georgi was such a classy lady. When I think back to meeting her when I was in 8th grade she was only in her 30’s. But when you’re 14, 30 is old! But Georgi never seemed old. She always, and I mean ALWAYS had enormous amounts of energy for people….even teenagers. There was this immediate connection. I could project out and see myself BEING Georgi someday…or at least that’s what I wanted to be.

She showed me unconditional love. She always welcomed me. She had the most infectious laugh…bold and real and from a place deep down inside. She, and Jack and so many others from that little church on the corner across from my middle school showed me not only Jesus love in the flesh, but what Christian JOY really looked like.

Georgi demonstrated with her life what it means to serve others. She never knew a stranger. She always had time to listen and laugh and make people feel so so special. I observed in her life what real hospitality looked like. She knew how to set a fun table with just ordinary things. She knew how to be creative and make even a simple meal of pasta and bread seem like a banquet and make a teenager feel like an important invited guest.

I wanted to be like Georgi! When I would go for long years and not see her or hear her laugh I could close my eyes and there she was…I could LOOK BACK and remember our times together….remember the energy, the sparkle, the hugs and yes, THE WHITE RIMMED GLASSES….her trademark look.

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After leaving for college I’d see Georgi and Jack every so often. Our kids grew up calling them Grandpa Jack and Grandma Georgi. It thrilled my heart to have Barry and our kids know them. She visited us a few places we lived and it was always the same…..age had not taken her zest for life, if anything, age had given her a deeper level of JOY.

Over 8 years ago I flew to Ohio for Jack’s funeral. They were one…they were always together doing life to the fullest and now half of her was gone. I wondered how it would be now. Would this be too much for her ?Was her JOY going to fade at the loss of her life partner and soul mate? I could not have been more mistaken. Even with the hole left by Jack, she showed that her deep joy was in the Lord and she would be with Jack again and it just wasn’t her time yet. She continued teaching me with her life example.

This past July I flew to Ohio again. This time to celebrate Georgi turning 90. Horses couldn’t have kept me away. I was going to be there to CELEBRATE Georgi and once again tell her to her face how precious she is to me and how  much I love her. It did not disappoint. She entertained us in her condo of over 30 years the night before her party. She insisted we come over and it was 9 PM when we arrived and she was going strong. She had had a fall the week prior and was ‘forced’ to use a walker to protect her femur which had now been ‘invaded’ with large screws. She was NOT at all happy about the walker so she decorated it for the party the next day

She was as mentally sharp as ever and as vibrant and joyful as always and yes, she still had that deep infectious laugh. We talked and shared stories and hugged and loved on each other that evening as if time stood still. I will treasure it always.

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The next day was her party. People flew in from all over. She stood…sort of with her walker…for hours greeting everyone at the door of the church fellowship hall as her grandchildren and great grandchildren showed the same kind of boundless energy that they saw in Grammy. And she sparkled…literally. Oh how I love this woman and how, once again, me at 68 and Georgi at 90…I want to be like her! She even had on display her ‘art’…every Monday she takes a painting class!!!

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Today I found out that the rather ‘insignificant ‘fall she had in July is not healing well and she is in MUCH pain while walking and will be having a full hip replacement. That’s no joke at any age but at 90 it’s not usually even considered, but Georgi is positive and healthy and she WILL be rockin’ that new hip in no time.

As I LOOK BACK I see that God put Georgi in to my life to show me that it’s okay to be me…it’s okay to laugh out loud..it’s okay to be larger than life and love people in big and small ways …even teenagers. As I LOOK FORWARD I see that it’s okay to grow old and embrace it..that you can still have sparkle…still show hospitality…still have positive energy and still SPARKLE.

I love you Georgi Eick and ‘when I grow up I want to be just like you’. Now I need to go and enroll in an art class….and maybe find some white rimmed glasses!

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Lasts and Firsts…but first the lasts

Yes that’s quite a strange blog post title, I agree…but it kept coming in to my head as I sat tonight in deep thought. Three weeks from tonight Barry and I will be in Savannah, GA at our nice hotel en route to our new life in Florida. But before that happens there will have to be the LASTS.

The past few weeks it started happening. I had my LAST visit to my dentist in VA. Many of you might be thinking how that couldn’t have been emotional. Who even WANTS to go to their dentist? NOT ME…or at least not usually, but this is different. Until meeting Dr. Har I hated even the word dentist. I would stubbornly not go and just deal with the consequences, but then in 2002 I chipped a tooth and my dear friend Paula Ann worked for a Dr Har. She told me I needed to ‘get right in’ or it would ‘turn black’. Well even I had a little pride and didn’t want a front tooth BLACK, so I fearfully went. He was amazing and for the past 16 years he has been my dentist. Even when we lived in New York I drove down every 6 months to see Dr. Har. I don’t THINK I’ll fly back from Florida, but I make no promises…but for now we’ll say it was my LAST visit.

Last week I attended my LAST Army Officers’ Spouses’ Club luncheon. There really isn’t enough space for me to share all that this group of ladies means to me. Since joining the club in 1999 until now I can honestly say it is where I met and made my dearest NOVA friends. Friends I will have for life. I served on the board, on committees and this year just was a member. I walked down Lee Ave on Fort Myer with  lump in my throat and a tear on my cheek as I remembered who used to live in those houses…Nancy, Karen, Lisette, Lhoryn, Jean, Karen, Paige…and so many others who became my ‘go to’ friends. We laughed, cried and did life together, along with the many others who lived all over the greater DC area. Then I add my International friends that I made through this great club. I literally have friends around the globe who have changed my life. Thursday was a HARD LAST...but thanks to social media and texting and cheap airplane tickets I’ll be back and those friends and I will stay connected because that is SO important to me.

Tomorrow I will have my LAST appointment with Dr. Roser, my primary care doctor. He too has been my doctor since 1999, except for those 4 years at West Point. He defines what a family doctor should be. He greets you coming down the hall, always reaches out his hand to say he’s glad to see you and with a big smile. He looks in your eyes when you talk, asks about your family and your job and all of those things that matter. He is GOLD and knowing I won’t have him as my doctor anymore is a very sad thing for me.

Wednesday I will have my LAST coaching call with Laura, my business coach…but more like a life coach, really, and now a friend. Having had Laura in my life since I started my Real Estate career has given me enormous JOY. She is the consummate encourager, cheerleader and listening ear. Whatever success I have had in this business is in large part due to her keeping me on track, telling me I can do it and telling me to keep on loving and serving my clients. I for sure can see lots of emotion at 6 PM on Wednesday evening.

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As I watched Madame Secretary tonight and the last scene she and her husband sat on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial looking across to the Washington Monument I decided I need a LAST time in DC. I hope I can do it with Barry and we can look up at those strong, white buildings that represent FREEDOM on so many levels. I want my last look at our nation’s capitol and to remember all the times we spent enjoying it over these many years.

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There will be other lasts in the next three weeks, but for now this just gives you a taste of my life. We’re excited about our future and blessed beyond words to be able to be closer to our kids and grandsons, but even with a life that has been all about LEAVING and STARTING OVER…those LASTS still get to me. Thanks for letting me share.

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Houses…Homes and Transitions

It’s MAY! In 20 days the house we have called home for the past 7 1/2 years will belong to someone else. It’s not our first rodeo! This house was the 29th address we have had since we married almost 44 years ago. But it is the longest we’ve ever had the same address in our married lives. It’s the longest I’ve personally had the same address in my ENTIRE life. So I guess it’s fair to say that change is the one constant in my life. It seems like it always has been.

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While we were going through things to give away, throw away or pack away for this move I found a picture of the house I went to from the hospital when I was born. It was a simple house. My parents bought it after the war and I think it had been part of a barracks at one time. From what they told us, they had it moved on to the land my Grandma Fishback gave them…..next door to her house. She said they needed a proper house before they got married. They ended up being engaged for 5 years. Knowing my father I’m sure he and his buddies did most of the work to make it a real, proper home before they got married. That white house next door to my beloved Grandma Fishback was my first home. I lived there until I was almost 7 and we moved to Montreal. My little sister also come home to that same house.  The memories created there are few as I was so young, but they are vivid. Playing outside with my dog, Lassie. Lassie was a MALE Collie, but I’d only agree to call HIM Lassie. Eating fruit from my grandmother’s fruit trees. Smelling lilacs in the summer. To this day lilacs remind me of my childhood and my Grandma Fishback. Having my cousins come and visit. Going to school with my Grandmother who was my first and part of second grade teacher in a one room schoolhouse not far from where we lived.

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Then we moved…and from that moment to his it seems I just keep moving. Starting over. Packing up our earthly possessions and figuring out where to put them in the next location. So you can tell that I’m not very attached to HOUSES…..but HOMES, well that’s another story.

To me my memories are about the HOMES….which to me is the people, the memories, the pictures, the experiences. I can never remember the years we lived in a particular house, or even the address, but I CAN remember the ages of our children in each place and I CAN see the faces of our neighbors and friends who came and went. I may not remember what color the carpet was or what my furniture looked like, but I do remember who sat at our tables for meals or slept in our guest rooms for visits. THOSE are the memories of HOMES.

So now we are staying for 6 weeks with dear friends. Back when we lived in Panama and the children were toddlers through pre-schoolers, a young college student named Mark Inch came to volunteer helping me with the youth ministry at our Army Chapel. Mark lived with us for two summers. He and Barry share the same birthday, 10 years apart. He is family. Fast forward to when we lived in Gainesville, VA soon after Barry retired. Our kids were grown and gone by then so I do remember those years…2002-2004. Mark and his wife and 4 kids bought a house in our neighborhood, but it wasn’t ready so they stayed several weeks with us. We had a small townhouse, but we all managed to make it work and have some great times around the dining room table both eating and playing many games of Phase 10! A lot of ‘life’ has happened between 2004 and now. Mark lost his first wife to cancer, their children are grown and gone and God led he and his lovely new wife, Bette together. Now they live in a beautiful big house in Alexandria that is our temporary HOME. I guess I should count this as MOVE 30 and our move to FL as MOVE 31!!!

We have a new house in Florida….but it will soon be our retirement HOME. A place for more memories, more meals, more guests, more times with children and grandchildren and more laughter and more tears, and maybe even a bit of time to relax a bit…. Life does go on…..as we look back and forth…..and embrace this new journey. Please come visit us in our new HOME.

 

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THINGS….

Tonight is the last night we will be in our townhouse with most of our ‘things’. The moving truck will pull up again…for the 30th time in our married life and take the ‘things’ we plan to keep. I sit here and remember the first time that happened. We had no’thing’. We had been married 10 months and I was 2 months pregnant. Barry found out on the Monday after Easter than he got a new job as a General’s Aide at West Point and that we were moving…..on SATURDAY. Yes, in 5 days. We had been living in a furnished apartment in Fayetteville, NC. I was hoping we were heading to Europe after the baby came because…well….I married a soldier and everyone said that I would see the world. We did have one piece of furniture. We had ordered a hand-made North Carolina rocking chair to have to rock our baby. It and our wedding gifts would be the only possessions we would have to move to NY….to an UNFURNISHED apartment. Hmmmm

We managed to get furniture when our apartment was ready and our little girl came in to the world with a crib and a lovely NC rocking chair. Almost 24  months later and this time in my third trimester with baby #2 our THINGS were loaded back on a truck..this time a really BIG truck as we had managed to acquire many THINGS in those two years.

This rhythm kept happening from then until now. Move 30! A different truck and different THINGS. It’s time to downsize…not quite to where were started in NC those 43 plus years ago, but it’s that time when we decide what REALLY means the most to us. What THINGS are worth keeping in to our final years and then letting our kids and grandkids decide who gets what. A hard decision on some level that has taken us over a year to make happen, but here we are. Boxes packed and ready for this retirement move….phase 2.

We moved a Penske truck load down in November. It included that rocking chair….the one that was our very first piece of furniture. I will never part with it. Too special. Too many memories. The one of a very few pieces that is OUR legacy…it stays. We moved a small hutch that was my Grandma Fishback’s. I lived next door to her for the first seven hears of my life. She was my rock. She was my idol. I wanted to have something that was hers and we have moved that hutch 29 of our 30 moves. It’s in the Florida house now. It’s the first thing you see when you walk in the front door. It’s part of who I am…she’s part of who I am. It stays. We moved the blue china that lives in the hutch. It’s from my Grandma Martin. It was her mother’s wedding china from Scotland. My Grandma Martin was born in 1899 so you do the math. We’ve also moved that china over 20 times. It stays. It’s also part of who I am. Both my grandmothers were strong women who dealt with more than most and loved and lived fiercely. I want to alway be like them.

There are china cups and saucers that were my mother’s. They stay. Mom loved pretty things. She never used them, she just loved them. She didn’t have many pretty things but I am so proud to have a few of her pretty things. I use them. I want to always remember how my mom, in spite of many hardships, never gave up. Always believed in us. Always cheered us on. Another strong woman.

Barry is the family historian. He is the keeper of the kid’s kudo file as he calls it. Their special report cards, projects, and the many, many printed emails and now texts and FB messages that cause us both to pause and remember how blessed we are with these two amazing children. The Kudo file stays….

I have two special small containers. In those containers are things like the letters Barry wrote me from West Point and from the war and other deployments. I’m glad we were low tech back then so I can have those letters in those containers. There are other special  things like the bulletins from our parent’s funerals…and the cover of the Bible I carried when we got married. They are the REALLY important things…the things that have the most value. They stay!

We have kept just a few pieces of furniture for our Florida house, but each piece we have kept tells a part of the story of our lives..where we lived, what we did there. Our story. Our things. Our memories.

We bought a lot of NEW THINGS for our retirement home in Florida that represent .NEW beginnings..NEW adventures…NEW memories to be made. THINGS, old and new. All valuable for different reasons. Pictures stored in shoe boxes and others framed on the walls. Awards and gifts given to us that represent our years in the Army that created so many of the memories we have of raising our kids and growing up.

When we were young and moving so often with our growing children we would always pray when the truck drove off ….Dear Lord, please protect our earthly possessions but Lord, if they were all to perish what really matters is standing right here in this circle.

Tomorrow another truck will pull out of the driveway. Barry will be at work and tonight before he went up to bed he made one request…’take a picture of the truck pulling away’….I think he is ‘feeling’ it too. …and Dear Lord, please protect our earthly possessions but if they were to perish what really matters is not in that truck..but in the heartbeat of those we love. AMEN.

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To be continued…….

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Terry….The 90 Year Old Miracle Man…and How He Impacted My Life.

I made a commitment to myself two and a half years ago that I would visit significant mentors in my life who were quickly aging. I didn’t want to attend their funerals, but wanted to see them alive and give them hugs and let them know how much they mean to me. First I visited my friend Martha two years ago for her 90th birthday. We had a fabulous time. I had wanted to visit, Doris, my Pastor’s wife from my teenage years, but she passed before I could get to Atlanta.

Today I was able to go to Kissimmee, FL. and spend a few hours and lunch with Terry, Gloria and Eli Reyes. Terry will be 91 in July and Gloria will be 94. Their ‘youngest’ son, who was in my youth group in the 70’s in NYC, just turned 60. It happens!

Two years ago I got the word that Terry was gravely ill and not expected to live. Today, two years later, he reached out his arms as he sat in his wheel chair and shouted my name…BARBI….BARBI….and we hugged.  He was our miracle.

 

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Yes, two years ago he had surgery for colon cancer. The surgery resulted in a colostomy and Terry in a coma. After time passed the family gathered and the decision was made to take him off life support. He would not want to ‘live’ like this. As the family stood over him and the Doctor said it usually takes about 20 minutes after being removed from life support….well, it’s been over 2 years and he’s breathing fine. His mind is sharp. He can still often walk with a walker, but best to use a wheelchair. He lives in an nursing care facility to have help with his colostomy, but other than that he is fine and his mind is sharp. He has NOT lost his wit or his good nature, and that infection laugh is still there.

Gloria, his wife of 69 years is living in the same ‘village’ but in assisted living. She has some dementia, and has lost most of her hearing, but other than that she is in good health. She walks on her own, with just a cane for an assist and she did remember me and asked about Barry and our kids. She honestly looks just the same. Her mother lived to be 104.

The Reyes family came in to my life in 1969 when I worked that summer as an intern in NYC with an inner city mission. I didn’t at that time work directly with Terry but had the opportunity to meet them. They had immigrated from the Philippines to NYC to start a church and reach out to the Filipino community in NYC. I returned to NYC full time in 1971 and at that time worked with Terry and Gloria in the inner city of NY.

If I were to typify Terry Reyes it would be to say he was the most humble man I have ever know. Real humility is rare. Those who possess it have no idea they do. It’s just who they are and God has gifted them with this great gift. Terry taught me that it’s always right to do what’s right. That when people are in need we don’t analyze the situation to see if they are ‘deserving’…but if we can meet that need to MEET IT. God will sort it all out at another time.

Terry one time drove a couple from our church from NYC to Mexico City in his beat up car and on his very austere budget. When asked why he did it he said…’They had a need and I had a car.’ That is how he lived.

He had such a heart for those less fortunate. He often would bring homeless people home to their house in Queens. One time he called Gloria and said he was bringing home a homeless man who was living on the street. He said he really had no choice as the man’s name was ‘JESUS’. Jesus lived with the Reyes’ and then moved in to the back area of our small, storefront church building and took care of the janitorial needs. He became part of our NYC Family.

Terry and Gloria loved deeply, both the Lord and people…all people. They always believed that everyone deserved to know and experience the Lord’s love and if they could be a small part of that it was enough. They never judged, never lost hope and always believed God had a plan for their lives. Watching them live their lives taught me more about how to live as a Christian than any of the many classes I took. I am eternally grateful. I love them so much.

When Barry and I married it was Terry we asked to perform our wedding ceremony. He was assisted by Charles Faust, who had also had a profound impact on my life while living in NYC. We chose to get married at the little community chapel at West Point. The obvious reason was that’s where Barry and I met, but the other reason was the location allowed for many of our congregation from NYC to attend. Former street gang kids and other’s from our multinational congregation came to the wedding along with Army friends, college friends and of course family. This Canadian gal married her American Soldier with a Filipino and NY pastor officiating and a small cross section of the ‘world’ looking on.

So today, with my life long friend Barbara joining me, we were able to enjoy the Reyes’. Memories flooded, stories were shared, hugs were given and received and God showed me once again in big ways that I am SO BLESSED…..and I continue to look Back and Forth……

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My Story and Doris Shell……

I was in 8th grade. I was a young teenager who was pretty mixed up and on many levels very sad and confused. At that time  my home life was not good. Lots of problems and lots of hard times so I made many bad choices. I had met a new girl at my middle school who moved to Toronto from Indiana. She was different that my other friends, but that difference made me curious about her. She did something no one else had ever done…she invited me to her church.

I didn’t go to church. I would go with my grandparents when I visited and  that was it. I don’t remember being angry at God, and I always believed, but church just wasn’t on my radar.

So that one Sunday I woke up early…that alone must have been GOD….and I found myself walking the several blocks to this little, nondescript church where my friend attended. When I got there the ‘adults’ greeted me warmly and acted like they cared, but I ‘knew it wasn’t sincere’. You see in my world back then I believed everyone had an ‘angle’ and I didn’t trust ANYONE. The service ended and as I tried to ‘escape’ I realized there was only one way out..and you HAD to go by the minister and his wife at the door. Oh my…that was not going to be good…or so I thought.

When it was my turn they greeted me, asked my name than then invited me to ‘step in to the office if I had time, so they could get to know me better.’ TRUST ME…I had not ever met a minister AND his wife and so you can imagine I had NOT been TRAPPED in an office with both of them!!! For some reason I agreed…and after the other folks filed out, they came in. I had decided that this was NOT going to go well. I had decided that they would likely ‘beat me over the head’ with a Bible and worst of all, they might actually know what kind of person I was.

Well it didn’t turn out that way at all. They were SO nice and of all things…THEY INVITED ME TO THEIR HOME FOR LUNCH!!! Who does that? I’m this mixed up kid and they didn’t even know me and yet they invited me to their HOME…for LUNCH!!!! I found myself accepting this invitation…and that was the beginning of the ‘rest of my life’ and a total change in it’s direction.

Les and Doris Shell entered my world and it was never going to be the same. Today I want to share a few things about Doris. My biggest challenge will be to keep this short enough for you to keep reading……

Doris was not your stereotypical minister’s wife in that generation. She had a really impressive job at a local bank. She always dressed classy and she could make you laugh in one moment and shudder in your boots the next. BUT she did play the piano…I always thought every minister’s wife played the piano…

Doris had the gift of hospitality. Even with her work schedule and many volunteer obligations, there were people at their home all the time…and now most of the time that included ME! Remember I was 14…but I decided that these people must want me over a LOT if they invited me over ONCE…plus they were southern and they always said..’Y’all come over’ …so I DID.

It was through the love and acceptance of Les and Doris that I saw Jesus in the flesh. They loved me…and so many others…with total honesty. They saw in me the potential that I didn’t see. They made me trust again and they led me to understand that the Lord also loved me unconditionally …and JUST THE WAY I WAS. It was their teaching and influence that led me to accept Jesus as my personal Savior.

I learn from Doris what it meant to ‘give sacrificially’. We were collecting clothes for the needy and I will never for get her telling me that it’s okay to donate what didn’t fit or I didn’t like…but to NOT call that a sacrifice. Sacrificial giving is when you donate your FAVORITE pair of shoes or clothes. OUCH…. But I was young and eager to learn life lessons from this amazing lady…so in years to come, when her words rang in my ears, I would take a deep breath and donate my favorite things.

When I was leaving for college Les and Doris joined my family at the Greyhound Bus Station as I headed off to Illinois, on a bus, all by myself at 17! I was crying and hugging and trying to find the words to thank this dear, dear lady. She stopped me in my tracks….pointed her finger in my tear streaked face and said, ” there’s nothing you can do to thank Lester and I , but you remember this…someday, somewhere, someone will knock on YOUR door…and YOU BE THERE…just BE THERE’. That ‘charge’, to this day, has shaped how I live when it comes to hospitality. When I worked in inner city NY her words would ring in my ears when troubled teenagers knocked on my door. When I did youth ministry over the years, it rang true and when we did campus ministry at West Point again, it shaped me.

Doris Shell went to be with her Lord on December 10th at 93 years old. She died peacefully with her family close by and her grandson holding her hand. I’m guessing she had pointed that finger in his face a few times too. 🙂

The imprint Doris Shell has on my life is impossible to quantify in words. I can close my eyes and see her standing there…big smile..contagious laugh…dressed to the ‘nines’ and always, always believing in me. I wish I could give her a hug right now.

Even in her later years she still had that wonderful smile.

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I love you, Doris Shell…and I know you are singing with the Angels this Christmas. See you later…..

 

 

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Change…. The one Constant you can Depend on..Phase 1.

It’s that time again when we pack up boxes and head to a new adventure. I wanted to share some thoughts during this transition period that will give you a window in to my emotions during this time, some lessons learned and also perhaps help some of you out there who struggle with change.

A long time ago I learned that change is not a bad thing. Change is a constant and without it we would become stagnant. Growth requires change. We never stay the way we ‘used to be’ and neither does much of anything else. I’ve always been someone who not only embraces change but even looks forward to it, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t hard especially when it involves saying good bye. I’m just happy that we are doing this move in phases so I have several more months before I have to deal with GOOD BYES.

For Barry and I this will be our 30th move to a new address in our 43 years of marriage, so we are not strangers to this topic. Yet, like anything else, because we have experienced something many times doesn’t dull the emotions of each experience.

We chose to do this move in stages. PHASE 1 was purchasing our retirement home in St Petersburg, Fl. ( actually Kenneth City which sits right next to St Pete ). This past April we closed on our house and our daughter graciously agreed to move in to take care of it for us while we are still in Virginia. Blessings all around.

PHASE 2. Moving some stuff and the dogs to Florida, but returning to finish our jobs.

Our two labs are 12 and 13 and life here with stairs and damp cold is not good for their old bodies so we decided to take them down now and leave them in Florida with our daughter and her dog until we join them in a few month. Barry will return to VA after Thanksgiving to work and I’ll stay with them until early February. Barry will be driving a 12′ Penske truck filled with boxes and a few pieces of furniture and I’ll have the dogs in my car. Three days on the road to make it easier for sure.

We have been blessed with an exception dog walker who is now like family. Saying that good bye this week will be difficult

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Lessons Learned from Phases One and Two:

1.Starting early is good. We had no idea that we could actually have two houses at one time. I’m even in the Real Estate business and didn’t know how to make all of this happen but sought wise counsel and decided it was a great way to go to eliminate the stress of selling and buying simultaneously. I have gone through that many times with clients and it’s very stressful. Because we are packing ourselves we started that early as well. It was a good time to purge and decide what we really needed to keep.

2. Talk to each other about what the next phase will look like. For us it means not working full time and so being together a lot more than we have ever been. If you, like me, are very different than your spouse this conversation is super important. We have engaged on this topic many times over the past year or so and it’s really been helpful. What are the ‘expectations’ we have for ourselves and each other? Do we keep a ‘schedule’ or just enjoy each day as it comes? Now we are both more available how do we divide up the daily tasks? There was much to discuss and more will come up, but we at least have a lot figured out. For many of you reading this blog this topic may be more of a discussion about employment or children etc. but have the conversations.

3. Stay rested, keep a good attitude and communicate.  For me fatigue is always the KILLER of a good attitude. If I don’t get enough rest I’m a ‘not nice’ person. Relationships are more important than ‘to do’ lists so remember to stay connected even when the focus is on getting things done. Make time for your family and your friends and pace yourself.

4. Make this an opportunity to bless others. When you purge think about who might benefit from you donating stuff to a person or a charity. We used to give friends in our leaving location something special from our ‘stuff’ …sometimes a set of dishes that reminded us of meals shared together. Sometimes a special picture or small piece of furniture.

Next entry will be our phase in Florida from November – Early February. I’m sure there will be lots of great times and many more lessons learned. Come along if you wish…..

 

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My Kaleidoscope of Friends…

UnknownTonight as I read through my Facebook posts and looked at the names on my ‘messenger’ list I just felt compelled to write this down. It isn’t a testimony to anything great about me for sure. It’s just a reflection of how blessed I am to be able to say this. I hope you are also able to say this about YOUR life and YOUR friends.

I have so many friends. Some might be called acquaintances  as I know them more casually than others I’ve known for many years or for a short time and know well. I love having friends, meeting people, developing relationships and growing from those experiences. As I thought about the events of the past few days I kept closing my eyes and ‘seeing’ this great parade of faces that make up my circle of friends…and thanking God that each and every one is part of my life and I am part of his or her life.

I have female friends and male friends. I have gay, straight, lesbian and transgender friends. I have friends that are White, Black, Asian, Indian, African and mixtures of all these races. I have Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Moslem, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic and ‘Not Sure what they Are’ friends. I have friends from too many countries to name in this blog…but to name just a few…US and Canada of course..Mexico, Panama, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, Jamaica, UK, France, Germany, Poland, Spain, Portugal, Egypt, Algeria, Kenya, South Africa, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Greece, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Japan, South Korea, China, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Hungary, Australia, New Zealand..ok…I know I’m missing some and so please don’t be upset if I missed your country..we’re still friends. :-).

I have Republican, Democrat, Libertarian and Independent friends.

I have Northern and Southern and Eastern and Mid Western and West Coast friends. Friends from almost every State in the US of A.

I have single, married, remarried, engaged, divorced, separated and  widowed friends.

I have employed, unemployed and retired friends.

I have friends who come from stable homes and others who come from dysfunctional homes.

I have rich and middle class and poor friends.

I have friends in great health and others suffering from cancer, Parkinsons, dementia, and many other horrid diseases.

I have Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, Coast Guard and civilian friends.

I have friends who range in age from teens to those in their 90’s.

For every category listed above and one’s I am missing I can put a REAL PERSON’S name beside each one..many people in some cases. I can remember experiences we’ve shared. I can remember shared hugs and laughter and tears and sorrow and conversations.

This world is AMAZING! PEOPLE ARE AMAZING! When we read about those who are full of hate and greed and cruelty it’s hard sometimes to remember that so many others are not that way. I  have a great kaleidoscope of people who make up my circle of friends and how blessed I am to learn from and be loved by each and every one. As I ‘look back and forth’ I get excited to not just remember, but anticipate what is in store in my future and who will be added to this long list of amazing human beings I call FRIENDS.

 

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Taking time to grow….Reflections on Mastermind Summit in San Diego.

I’ve always been interested in personal growth. I was a Psychology major for heaven’s sake!!! Personal growth basically HAPPENS by just living, but when it’s intentional, magic happens. I never want to stop growing and learning and getting better.

When I became a Realtor® I affiliated with a coaching company called Buffini and Company. I could spend an entire BLOG just singing the praises of this company and the impact it’s had on my life both personally and professionally, but today I want to share just a little about spending three days in San Diego at the Mastermind Summit. Each August Brian Buffini hosts Mastermind. Over 3,000 people come from literally across the globe. Most attendees are from the USA and Canada. This was the 19th year for Mastermind.

People ask me…what is Mastermind? I always have the same answer….it’s hard to explain. So as I flew back yesterday I thought hard and long about what it is. And in a nutshell, for me, it’s like combining Church and the Super Bowl and a Broadway play. It inspires, it makes you stand up a cheer, it entertains and it causes all of your emotions to be in play. Some may think I’m ‘overstating’ it just a tad. But I’m not..just ask anyone who was there.

Every year Brian brings in two special guest speakers to share their stories and connect to the theme. This year the theme was, It IS a Wonderful Life. He referenced the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life in several sessions, but the emphasis was on it IS a wonderful life. He spoke about how we are all diamonds in the rough and like George in the movie..most of the time we totally ‘miss’ how our life impacts others. That in itself gave me much food for thought as we were challenged to think about the way people have impacted our lives and how we have impacted the lives of others. Then the special speakers this year were Mitch Albom of ‘Tuesdays with Morrie‘ fame and Olympic Gold Medalist, Scott Hamilton.

Tuesdays with Morrie is a book that greatly impacted my life. I remember reading it when it first came out and weeping. I had many ”Morries’ in my life. Wise people who taught me to love and forgive and who encouraged me to dream and to risk and to believe. To listen to Mitch Albom for over an hour was pretty amazing. My take away from his story was when he shared that writing the book, Tuesdays With Morrie was only done to get an advance to pay Morrie’s medical bills. He said it was the first real selfless thing he had ever done and it turned out to change the direction of his life.

LESSON FROM MITCH ALBOM: Do things for selfless reasons and you’ll find the real purpose in your life. 

Then Scott Hamilton. WOW! I have watched him skate his entire career. I have followed his story and grieved with his revelation of first cancer, then recurring brain tumors. I’ve been ‘taken’ by his infectious smile and positive attitude. I have just always loved Scott Hamilton. And there I was a few rows back from this amazing human being, listening to his story. We all wept when he shared about losing his mother to breast cancer. We became ‘angry’ as he shared about being bullied as a child because he was adopted. We cheered as he shared about finding his soul mate and marrying her and having two ‘miracle’ children. His spirit was infectious just like his smile. He was a winner in life, not just on the ice. So many ‘take aways’ from Scott Hamilton but the most profound was this…

LESSON FROM SCOTT HAMILTON: He fell over 41,000 times in his skating career. He shared that falling does not make you a failure…NOT GETTING BACK  UP is why people fail…SUCCESS is measured in how many time you GET BACK UP. 

And lastly there is always Brian Buffini. Most of you reading this know of Mitch Albom and Scott Hamilton but if neither of them had been there it would have still be more than worth the days spent. Brain Buffini, like myself, is a US Immigrant. I’ll let you Google him and read his story, or better yet, buy his new book..The Emigrant Edge...which just made the NY Times Best Seller list. Brian teaches me on a regular basis through his Podcasts and books and seminars and through my Buffini Coach, but at this Mastermind he helped me remember to BELIEVE that it IS a wonderful life. That there are ALWAYS things for which was can and should be grateful. That we need to learn from those who came before us. That was need to serve others more and ourselves less. That FAITH and FAMILY are what really matter. That we need to  be the ‘first one in and last one out’ in order to be successful. It takes HARD WORK. That we must stay FOCUSED. And from his teaching and that of his wife Beverly we must always PERSEVERE IN THE MOMENT. ….IN THE MOMENT.

I know a blog post can’t capture the essence of my time at Mastermind. I hope that my life will reflect what I learned and that God will give me the strength and capacity to take these and many other lessons and put them in to practice as I ‘look back and forth’ …….

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