Cheers to New Beginnings

One of my newest endeavors that has taken me away from this blog, is actually one of my most favorite past times.   I thought today, of all days, would be a great day to fill you in on this adventure.  For those of you who may be unaware to the significance of the day, today marks the 10th anniversary of my brother’s passing after fighting leukemia for 3 years. 

A year ago today, as I sat in my rotary meeting, I listened to a speaker discuss a new park that was (and is) under construction in Greenville.  It is to be called the Cancer Survivor’s Park, and it’s to be a place of rejuvenation, a place of learning, and a place of healing for everyone who has experienced some form of cancer directly or indirectly.  

As I sat in that meeting, I learned that I was considered a survivor of cancer because I am a survivor of my brother.   The executive director, Kay Roper, spoke so eloquently and passionately about this park, what it meant to her and what it would mean to the community.   Within moments, I had a lump in my throat and tears at the brim.  

I’d spent a good year and a half before meeting Kay, trying to find a place for me outside of being Davey and Henry’s mom.   I looked for something that would be an old semblance of myself, the creative, hard-working, career oriented individual I always thought I would be.   I knew what I was looking for was volunteer work as I didn’t have the band width to handle a full time job and still be the mom my boys had grown accustomed to.   Problem was, as I’ve always said, it couldn’t be just any volunteer work.   If it was going to take time away from my boys then it HAD to be something more worthwhile than padding the bottom line of corporate America.  AND it had to be something I could passionately feel good about.  

As with most things in my life, there is always Divine Intervention.   Even when I think the Lord doesn’t hear me, He is always listening.   When He brought Kay into my life on the 9th anniversary of my brother’s death, I knew this is where I was supposed to be and that my patience and faith in Him had finally paid off, as it always does. 

When I started volunteering with the Cancer Survivors Park Alliance, I was intimidated.   As I’d told my husband on countless occasions, I felt like our children were sucking me of any brain cells I had.   My mind, that part of me I once coveted which perhaps wasn’t the smartest in the world, wasn’t feeling challenged anymore.  The wheels were always turning but I wasn’t learning something new.   For a while, and even now, it’s felt like the boys had drained me of any intellect I’d had and I hadn’t been able to replenish that.  

I joined the Communications Committee and listened to all of these people who were still in the working world, mostly in marketing and advertising, and I was in awe, enamored, and as I said before, intimidated.   What could I contribute?   I worried that the Lord had answered my prayer, but perhaps I had prayed incorrectly.   Again, I just needed to have patience and faith in Him.

A couple of months ago, the opportunity arose for me to help out with a series that had become stagnant.   There just were not enough people to get the series going again, to coordinate, organize, and even help write and edit.   I didn’t hesitate.  I immediately spoke up during that month’s meeting and said I would “own” the series, and it’s been a whirlwind ever since.

It is known as the Sunday Survivor Series, and is a bi-weekly story published on the park’s website every Sunday evening.    The stories feature someone within our local community who has been impacted by cancer, either directly or indirectly.  In most cases, the interviewees are survivors of some form of cancer, with the occasional relative of someone who has passed mixed into the shuffle of stories. 

As an introduction of me joining the team, I was photographed with my boys and the creator of the series interviewed me.   When I was being interviewed, I was amazed at how raw the emotions still were, nearly 10 years later.   I found I could still feel Brian’s last hug, his last tug of my ponytail, his voice as he spoke to me, and even the raspy sound of his last breaths as he squeezed my hand.   As I went through that interview, I was overwhelmed with a sense of joy that I would be able to help so many others tell their stories, that I will be able to offer that compassionate touch, that vessel for emotions and stories to eventually unfold.  

So, here’s the link to the stories.  Our newest one is out and what a wonderful young man and inspiration he is.   The second story is mine.

Please take a moment to read it and then take a moment to read some of the other stories.   Follow the Facebook page for the Cancer Survivors Park.  Sign up for email notifications so you’ll always know when a new story is out.   You may get to read some of my words there, even when they can’t always be here on this blog, and you may find an additional person who needs your prayers.  

God Bless all of you for following me, for encouraging me, and for giving me your love in some way.   I’m hoping 2017 will be full of great new adventures and insightful words to share with you all.  

Where Were You?

I opened my front door to thick humidity.  It seemed to wrap it’s tendrils around my entire body, suffocating me, all the while laughing while doing so.   My first thought, “why did I ever move to Charleston?”   That was 7:30 am on Tuesday morning September 11, 2001.

I was working for a country music radio station selling radio advertising.  I was starting my third month on the job and eager to prove myself.   My thoughts that morning swirled around the copy I needed to write for some commercials, the contracts that needed to be signed, and a list of cold calls that I needed to make in person.   I had on my smart red skirt suit, sleeveless to help relieve the oppressive heat, and black patent leather strappy heels.   I was ready to kick some butts and take names.

I had moved to Charleston earlier in the summer to continue a relationship with my college boyfriend who had gotten a job working for SPAWAR (Space and Naval Warfare).   He did network security so his job had him travelling a lot.   I had just put him on a plane the night before.  He was heading to San Diego, Ca.   He didn’t call me when he landed, since it was much too late, but he did email me once he was in his hotel.  I read that email on Tuesday morning while sipping my coffee.   He said he’d see me in two days.

The radio station I worked for was owned by a company who also owned five other radio stations, the maximum amount at that time for FCC standards.   One such radio station was an all talk, 24 hour news station, so they had tvs set up everywhere in the newsroom.   I’d been there three months and had never seen that room.

We had our normal sales meeting, then met individually with our sales manager on our goals and calls for the day.   My sales manager was eager to get going as he had a flight to catch at noon to NYC.   As I was sitting in his office, his phone buzzed.   “Artie, a plane has hit one of the World Trade Center towers,” another coworker said through the speaker phone.   My manager looked at me and then got up and went down the hall towards the newsroom.   I followed.

Our news reporters and on air personalities were everywhere.   The waves were buzzing with what had just happened.   Was it an accident?  How did it happen?  What kind of plane?   Computers were going crazy and printers were spitting out news reports and eye witness accounts.   Truthfully, none of us thought much of it.

I walked back out of the newsroom, grabbed my satchel and list of morning cold calls and walked out the door to my car.   Instead of heading west on 526, I went east, back towards the little house I was renting on the Ashley River.   I wanted coffee, MY coffee, something better and more potent than the cheap packets our company bought.   I opened the door savoring the blast of A/C as it nearly knocked me off my feet like a dog welcoming me home (strange the things you can remember). I flicked the switch for the television, tuning into the Today Show, before walking into the kitchen to brew some coffee.

I listened to the speculation in the background, heard the news reports and the paranoia.   Conspiracy theories were already abounding.   I rolled my eyes as I poured the coffee into a travel mug.   It was a horrible situation, but I was convinced at that point that it was a mechanical error with the plane.   There was no way this could be intentional, these conspiracy theorists were always looking for something.

I rounded the corner, coffee in hand, into my living room where at that moment an image was forever seared into my brain.   An image I’ve never been able to get to fade.   At that very moment I saw a second jet, an airliner, huge one, slam into the second World Trade Center tower.   My coffee dropped from my hand as the plane exploded into the building.

That is where I was when 9/11 happened.   This event became something I never thought I would experience, a tragedy reserved for my grandparents and parents.   This was my generation’s Pearl Harbor and JFK assassination.  We would forever ask ourselves, “where were you when 9/11 happened?”

We were told that morning to go home, to hug our loved ones.   We were instructed NOT to go see customers and conduct business as usual, because life couldn’t go on as usual, at least not at that point.   I called my boyfriend in California, waking him up, and told him what happened.   I called my mom since I have a cousin and his wife who live in NYC.   I wanted to know if she knew if they were alright.   She said she was trying to reach her brother.

I remember feeling inadequate and helpless as I watched news coverage of these selfless firemen, police officers, and every day citizens, sacrificing their lives to save others.   I wanted to help them.  I wanted to will all of my strength to them.  I wanted to get in my car and drive to NYC.   I could help locate people.  I could make coffee, brings blankets and food.  I needed to do something. After a couple of hours of shock and anger, tears and heart ache, I decided that the least I could do was donate blood.   I stood in line for six hours to donate.   It’s all I could do at that point.

14 years later, I’m raising part of a generation who I hope will never have a 9/11 moment, or a Pearl Harbor, or a JFK assassination.   14 years later, I’m at a place I thought I would never be…a stay at home mother to two boys.   14 years later, I’m having to explain to my oldest about the sheer evil that can be found in our world.   14 years later,  I still find myself shaking the hands of police officers, fire men, soldiers and all first responders for being the heroes so many of us need.  14 years later, I’m still owing a debt to the families of those heroes for their sacrifices in helping to keep me safe.  14 years later, I still get a lump in my throat and a sadness in my heart at the loss of so many lives.

I will never forget.   None of us will ever forget.  It forever changed us.   I like to think it made me stronger.

Davey asked a question this morning after seeing a news report about the tragedy.  I explained to him the evil that’s in the world and how people don’t like our country.   His response?   He went out onto our front porch, where Old Glory flies day in and day out, put his hand over his heart and recited the Pledge of Allegiance.   He then followed that with a prayer for God to help all the evil people in the world.

14 years later and life is still moving forward, something I thought would be nearly impossible on 9/11/01.

A Change Will Do You Good.

I have a mixed relationship with change.  I’m always eager to have it, to break up what I feel has become the monotony of day to day life.   I dream about it, allow it to seep into every spare crevice of my brain.   I allow it to take control of my life, to affect me in ways that it shouldn’t.   Change is a good thing.   I’m a firm believer in that, it’s just the process of going through the change that wears on me.

My husband and I are very blessed.  We are fortunate for everything the Lord has given us.   We do our best to continuously thank Him for those blessings and not take them for granted.  Some days I feel that I should just be happy with what we have and not look for more, but I’m human.

For the past year or so, my husband and I have embarked on the adventure of looking for land with a potential new home site.  Over the years, we’ve both decided suburban life isn’t for us.  We have wonderful neighbors, but our neighborhood has grown and truthfully we feel almost suffocated.   The idea of land would give us the opportunity to explore with our boys in the comfort of our own backyard.  It would give my husband the opportunity to hunt in our own backyard, and it would give us the ability to do what we want with our property without seeking approval from our neighbors first.

Recently, the opportunity has presented itself for us to possibly purchase a significant amount of land along with a house already on the property.  The house is older than ours, as we custom built ours 8 years ago, but the place is beautiful with a lot of potential.  Unfortunately, there are some downsides.

It is more land, so there is more work.   There wouldn’t be a fence, so what would we do with our dog?   There are some changes and renovations to be done to the house, something I’m eagerly looking forward to should we get the house, but again it’s work.   My husband and I managed to get our current house the way we wanted it BEFORE having kids, thereby granting us the ability to really just do maintenance and spend time with our boys.   We wouldn’t be able to do that as much if we get this new house.

There’s also the moving.  I would have to pack up our ENTIRE house amidst the chaos of two boys.   I would uproot them from their home base and move them almost 45 minutes away.   On the plus side, moving would give me the opportunity to really declutter and clean out.  We would still be close to my family, but there wouldn’t be daily visits to the Y, there wouldn’t be a neighborhood pool during the summer, there wouldn’t be easy access to a biking trail.   A lot of things would change and it makes me sad, but the possibilities for our new adventures also excite me.

My husband and I aren’t new at house hunting.   We’ve done it before, but this time we have to take in so many other factors.   I find myself researching schools in my spare time, looking at FBI crime statistics for what could be our new area, trying to explore what could be our new surroundings.   I want to get it pinpointed where our closest grocery store would be, and fast food joint.   And all of this could be for naught if we can’t sell our house and get this one.   My sleepless nights of worry and excitement could be nothing more than a colossal waste of my time.

I’ll still plug forward, working towards the common goal of possibly purchasing this house with the land.   If it doesn’t work out, then something else may come along.  I just have to continue to reconcile myself with the fact that change is inevitable and it’s what you make out of it that really impacts your life.

Now, I must go and pray for guidance.  Sometimes I just really wish the Lord would tell me “yay” or “nay” when I attempt life altering changes.   It would make life easier.

Allowing My Love to Permeate

We had a wonderful lesson in Sunday School today.  It resonated not only with me, but with the other members in my class.   My husband and I had nursery duty today, so we were unable to attend our Pastor’s sermon, but my understanding is that it followed along with our lesson.   The lesson was about returning to your first love…Jesus Christ.   As Christians, we are taught to always return to a love for Christ that permeates everything we do.   At times, we find ourselves straying.  Perhaps, day-to-day life gets in the way.   Other times, we get settled into our routines and sometimes those routines are not allowing room for Jesus.   I’m definitely guilty of this.

Once upon a time, when I would get frustrated with my boys or life, I would retreat to a chair in another room, whip out my Bible and start reading.   Davey used to say to me, “Mommy, do you need Jesus?” when I would start counting to 10 in order to calm myself down before berating him or his brother for flushing legos down the toilet.   These days I’m afraid that I’ve allowed my relationship with God to start sliding.   One thing I was most proud of was that my boys would see me taking time to read the Bible.  They would see me in quiet prayer or reflection with God.  I hang my head low now as I admit that they haven’t seen that in a while.

So, tonight I made sure to carve out some time, any time I could to read a Bible study and a couple of passages in the Bible.  It’s funny how God always know when you need Him most.  He knows that today is the best day to start back over with me.   He forgives me for my laziness and my sinful nature.  He loves me and He encourages me and today’s Bible study reminded me of that.

It starts with the commandment to Honor Thy Mother and Father and takes me into Ephesians, Chapter 6, verses 1-4.  I want to take this time to share verse 4 with you, more specifically my fellow parents out there who find themselves overwhelmed.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up with the training and instruction of the Lord.”  Ephesians 6:4

I reflected on this passage for quite some time and I’ve looked back over the past few weeks as Henry has become more strong-willed and Davey more head strong.   I’ve started developing a lot of gray hair (my stylists calls it glitter) thanks to these two and I feel that lately I’ve been quick to anger and raise my voice.  This isn’t the way the Lord wants me to discipline my children.  I know this, but I haven’t exactly heeded His words or commands.  I haven’t been allowing God’s Love to permeate and I definitely don’t think I’ve been allowing my love to permeate as well.

Being a parent is a hard job.  It’s the toughest, most stressful, and yet most rewarding job you’ll ever have.   If you mess up with your kids, then there’s not really a do-over.   You can’t take a “pay cut” or find another job.   This is it.   But when you get it right, man does it feel like you’ve hit a grand slam in your final ever at bat.

I’ve allowed too many other things to “interfere” with my life and my boys’ lives.   My backsliding from God has hurt us all, but I want to remember what it was like when I first became a Christian and committed my life to God.  I felt relieved.  I was happy.   My stress level plummeted and I felt like for the first time ever things were going right in my life.   It’s time to get that back again and to start letting that permeate through to my boys.

I encourage you all to take that closer look.   To ask yourself how it felt being a Christian for the first time.   Find a way to let the love permeate.