Fat Tuesday & The Critical 1 Year Anniversary

Fat Tuesday & The Critical 1 Year Anniversary

By Lee Aldrich, The Reading Room

It’s funny how the Easter calendar works. I could look up how Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday and Easter are determined – I think it has something to do with the moon – but it’s easier just to look on my calendar. Where my hubby and I are from, and up until last year, Fat Tuesday meant over indulging on traditional
Polish Paczki (pronounced PAWNCH-kee) – the incredibly rich, filled sweet yeast dough…kinda like anvover-the-top filled doughnut. This year, however, we are celebrating for a different reason. This year, Fat Tuesday marks the 1 Year Anniversary of a very complex, invasive surgery – an oesophagectomy – to treat my husband Mark’s stage 3 esophageal cancer.

 

Surgery & Recovery

Mark’s surgery was February 13, 2017 – a month after completing chemotherapy and radiation treatment so his body had time to recover and regain strength. After 14 days in the hospital with a multitude of tubes and and drains running in and out of him, a return trip to the emergency room to be resubmitted for another 3 days, several months with a feeding tube once he returned home again, and 8-12 weeks for recovery…the surgery was a success. My husband had many lymph nodes, two-thirds of his esophagus and one-third ofhis stomach removed. He has a new normal, but he feels good and looks great.

 

Celebrating Fat Tuesday

Fat Tuesday is the last day before Ash Wednesday, to over indulge in food, drink and outrageous behavior before the beginning of lent…a time of repentance, fasting and abstinence. Not being Catholic, Lenten fasting and Lenten abstaining from meat didn’t and doesn’t apply to us. What does apply, is looking back on the past year…reflecting on thoughts and behaviors to see where we need improvement. Could we have treated people better? Given more thanks for the many, many blessing we have? Lived our life in the moment instead of chasing the future or reliving the past?

This year, February 13th, Fat Tuesday, is a celebration for my husband and me. It is a celebration of his critical 1 Year Anniversary post surgery. Its is a celebration that he is healthy, and – God willing – his CT scans will continue to be non-eventful. It is a celebration that while standing at the edge of a very bad precipice, we woke up…to living in the moment. To letting the little things go. To being grateful for everybody we love and the many blessings we have. To let go and let God.

 

To Our Heros – We are eternally thankful and forever grateful.

-Dr. Weis, PA Nicole Grise Orgain and their medical oncology team
-Dr. Tao and her radiation oncology team
-Dr. Robert Glasgow and Dr. Thomas Varghese for their surgical skills
-Jon Huntsman Sr. (recently passed) for his generous donations to build the Huntsman Cancer Institute
-Joe and Sherri to visiting before Mark’s surgery
-My sister-in-law Lisa for traveling to be with me during Mark’s surgery (and to be my Valentines date last year)
-Sherry for telling me she’d be here in a heartbeat if I needed her
-The folks at Sysco for all the support, caring and flowers
-The Seavy’s for Mark’s special Star Trek Bear, complete with Michigan State Shirt
-Dr. Britt Dubil and Danica Vanderhoof-Gisler and their families for babysitting our puppy Oscar for days and days on end
-Tyler for shoveling our deck after I had a meltdown when our snowblower quit after a big snowstorm
-Barb for the lemon tree – ‘cause when life gives you lemons…
-Henry – not quite 4 at the time – for his get well drawings and wishes (transcribed by his mom Heather)
-Our friends and family – way, way, way, too many to name – that sent prayers, love, emails, texts and cards Mark’s way

 

The Sweets

This Fat Tuesday, the sweets that we’re devouring are not Paczki. The sweets are Mark’s 1 Year Anniversary post surgery and being cancer free. The sweets are the time we spend together; all the people who have loved, supported and helped us; the realization that life is short and putting off adventures and experiences until your job, income, home – name your qualifier – is squared away…is insane and a waste of life and happiness. Life is right now – not tomorrow or yesterday.

Fat Tuesday 2018 we are indulging in life: the people we love and cherish, adventures, silliness, joy and laughter. We will continue to “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…” We savor the sweetness of love and caring and support. Paczki’s are pretty great, but this critical 1 Year Anniversary is fabulous.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day. And Like Scarlett O’Hara, we’ll think about that tomorrow – today we’re celebrating Fat Tuesday with Mark’s Critical 1 Year Anniversary.

 

 

 

 

To read more bout Mark’s journey, and our wake up call to living in the moment, please click here:

markself.com & The Good, The Bad, & Life In-between

The Sure Thing

The Sure Thing

By Dan Coker, The Reading Room

The Sure Thing

Todd would have to send her a text. Giving her a call meant he would have to go one-on-one and explain why he had to work late again and give her the opportunity to berate him for not standing his ground with the group again, so a text it would be. He knew she wouldn’t invest the energy required to return a text. His own energy was limited due to sleep deprivation and the crick in his neck from spending the past week on the old couch in the garage destined for Goodwill. Sleeping in the same room with Angie was not an option, much less sleeping in the same bed.

It was only an extra hour, but Todd knew how Angie was. She had kept the kid all week, and by Friday, she was ready for a break. His being late postponed her anticipated break and he already knew that on hitting the door, he would be regaled once again with how unfair the universe was to “bless” her with a uterus. How inconvenient it was for her to have to put her career on hold in order for them to have kids, especially since her career was the one with real potential, and his was the one going nowhere. Even though home was still miles away, Todd’s nostrils were already filled with the smell of burning martyr.

To Todd’s surprise, Angie met him at the door with their 2-year-old in tow. “We’re going out to eat tonight” she informed him. This was a bit disappointing, since Todd had already mentally dialed in at least a few minutes in his favorite chair decompressing with his “Traycee monkey” on his lap. The little nuclear reactor always met daddy at the door with squeals of delight every evening after work. Without doubt, reconnecting with his daughter was Todd’s favorite time of day, but tonight it would have to wait. Now it was time to load up and head to restaurant row for a family meal. Todd groaned inwardly a bit, but kept his mouth shut and dutifully took the keys to the minivan from Angie and climbed into the driver’s seat as his wife buckled the two-year-old into her seat.

The restaurant was neither Todd or Angie’s favorite. It was just convenient, reasonably priced, and kid friendly. At least this way, he wouldn’t have to deal with a sink full of dirty dishes tonight. Todd rubbed the crick in his neck with one hand, as he used the other hand to munch on a breadstick. He was half asleep, and halfway through his house salad when he felt something strange; something rubbing against his leg. With his head still in his salad, he craned his eyeballs upward to see what was going on. To his surprise, Angie was munching on a breadstick seductively and giving him “that look”.

For a moment, Todd wasn’t exactly sure what was happening, then he finally realized that his wife of seven years was rubbing his leg with her foot underneath the table. Whaaatt? That can’t be. Angie hadn’t had so much as a kind word for him in weeks. He knew that life would change with a kid, he didn’t go into that course blind, he just didn’t anticipate the change in her. Whether it was hormones, stress, or resentment for putting her profession on hold, Angie had become a complete banshee in the past year. It seemed to Todd that she didn’t go a single day without tearing him a new one for what appeared to be no reason at all. What was happening now just didn’t compute, but slowly, he began to make the mental adjustment.

The stress began to melt off Todd’s neck and shoulders and his breathing became deeper and more relaxed. His whole body began to show signs of release. This was a HUGE relief to him. Not from the standpoint of potential sex, that was a given, but what truly warmed his soul was the possibility that the iceberg surrounding his wife had begun to melt, and that their relationship could get back to “normal”. Angie only had to give him the “stink eye” for his stomach to be tied in knots for days, and this simple act of touch sent him a message that things were now fine between them. That was the most important constant of his life, and had been ever since they started dating in college.

Later at the movie, Angie whispered something truly naughty in Todd’s ear that made him blush and snicker. He spent the rest of the movie lost in his own thoughts, ignoring the pixels and popcorn in front of him. Half-way home, Traycee fell asleep right on cue. She was as limp as a dishrag as Todd unbuckled her and carried her to her room. He deftly removed her onesie and got her in her pajamas without waking her as Angie removed her make-up in the master bath. She then rejoined Todd, and they both stood there for a moment, basking in the concentrated cuteness of the sleeping child their union had produced. Todd let out a faint snicker.

“What’s so funny?” Angie asked. “Oh, nothing really,” Todd answered.

“No way funny boy, let me in on the joke. Maybe I could use a good laugh.” Angie said, as she started to tickle Todd’s ribs.

“No, I mean, it’s just that cartoon character in the movie tonight just reminded me of your dad a little. You know, the one with the big hands.” Todd stated as he tried to escape the tickle torture.

“What?” Angie scrunched up her brow with a confused look.

“The guy with the big hands. He just kind of reminded me of your dad, the way he tends to bulldoze his way through stuff.”

Angie didn’t reply, but just stared at Todd with squinted eyes.

“Stuff he doesn’t understand. He just tends to smash his way through it, you know..” Todds’ voice was trailing off.

Angie finally found her voice. “What the hell’s that supposed to mean?”

Oh no. There it was. The game ending question. Nothing good ever happened after that question. Wars had begun with that question.

“Oh, um, nothing. Your dad is just kind of forceful sometimes, that’s all. I think it’s a good trait actually. I wish I were more that way myself, to be honest.”

Angie pulled her arms away from her husband and wrapped them around her chest, tucking a hand under each armpit. The way she always did when she was angry. “So, my dad’s a bulldozer, eh?” She said, no longer whispering.

“No, that’s not….” 

“And I’m just like my dad, right? Just like you say, we’re cut from the same cloth, right? So I’m a bulldozer, right? That’s what you’re trying to say? Your wife is a bulldozer!

Todd’s mouth hung open as he looked for words, but the whimper of the two-year old made him turn his back and attempt to soothe the girl back to sleep. As he turned to face his wife, he only got a glimpse of her back as she slammed the door to the bedroom. The door slam woke the child again.

Once Tracyee was asleep again, Todd quietly slunk out of the room and trudged downstairs. He quietly opened the door to the garage, found the Goodwill couch and collapsed on it. As he rubbed the crick in his neck with one hand, he used the other to pull an old moving blanket over as much of his frame as it would cover. Without removing his shoes or tie, the 45-year-old operations manager drifted off to sleep.

 

Dan Coker

 

The Good, The Bad & Life In-Between

The Good, The Bad & Life In-Between

By Lee Aldrich, The Reading Room

It’s been a rough 9 months. In late September our dog Wilson was diagnosed with cancer and we had to put him to sleep. Two weeks later my hubby, Mark – partner, friend, and love of my life – was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Several weeks ago we had to put Eloise – our cat of 14 years – to sleep. Good or bad, life is about balance. If you want all the wonderful life has to offer, you have to accept there will be bad. I married my husband, agreeing to love him “in sickness and in health” and that kinda goes for life as well. Right smack-dab in the middle of the good and the bad is where we live most of our lives: we live life in-between.

The Good & The Bad

Making the decision to put Wilson to sleep was heartbreaking. We second guessed our choice hoping there was another diagnosis that would alleviate his pain. He gave us joy, laughter, companionship, cuddles, nuzzles, wet sloppy kisses.

We also remember the hair on everything, food snatched off the counter, books chewed to pieces, diarrhea on the carpet after eating lord knows what, scaring us to death when he would run off.

Accepting the bad and the sad was the trade-off in order to experience Wilson’s good and wonderful.

My husband’s cancer was caught in the nick of time. Had he waited any longer to see a doctor the prognosis would not have been as good. We spent October through December in radiation and chemotherapy sessions. There were blood tests, CT scans, MRI’s. We met with surgeons, medical oncology and radiology oncology doctors. In mid-February he had a very invasive, intensive, surgery which meant 17 days in the hospital and 8-10 weeks of recovery. (He’s doing splendidly, by the way. Here’s his journey: markself.com). There will be much testing in the next few years and nervous hours waiting for results. I married him promising to love and support him. I love living the wonderful, silly, cherished good life with him, so I accept nervously slogging through the bad times.

Life In-Between.

You can’t be grateful for joy without experiencing sadness. You can’t know love without feeling heartache. It is the extremes that allow us to appreciate the good times when we are experiencing the bad and knowing that neither good nor bad will last forever.

In-between is where we go to school, work at a job, fall in love, marry, have children, decide what we’ll have for dinner, determine where we’ll spend our vacations, decide what car we’ll drive, welcome strangers into our lives that become our friends. It is the polar opposites we experience that gives us the nest for our lives…THAT is life-in-between.

The pendulum swings in two directions.

If I want to experience the reckless abandon of joy and love and happiness I must also feel sadness and loss and pain. Through all the heartache, stress and sheer terror of the past 9 months, I have embraced life-in-between. I am celebrating my husband’s return to health. I am flipping the heartbreak of losing Wilson and Eloise into love I feel for Oscar – the newest member of the family.

Life in-between requires us to live in the moment. We cannot live in the past; we cannot live in the future. Life in-between requires us to live right now – to love, travel, hike, camp, eat great food – to stop postponing joy. I have learned I cannot, nor do I want to, live anywhere but right here, right now.

I will experience the pendulum swing back and forth – we all will. There will be sickness and health, life and death, joy and sorrow, laughter and tears. But right now, I embrace this one moment that will never come again. I know to let the past rest and the future sort itself out. Between the good and bad is where I’ll live my life.

I am grateful to live in the moment. I am thankful for my life in-between.

How is YOUR life in-between?

 

Writing (is) My Life

Writing (is) My Life

By Liat Shaked, The Reading Room

Writing (is) My Life

By Liat Shaked, A grown up woman, who loves to read between the lines.
A hopeful Feminist, who wishes for peace, but not prepared for war.
An unknown inventor of phrases and words.
A frustrated painter, who hanged the pencil too many years ago.
A desperate Lawyer, who have seen too many evil.
A terrible singer, who is waiting to be discovered, and yet doesn’t stop singing.

I was an A student. I was so nerdy and diligent, that if I were to be called after an insect I would have been probably called an ant. I remember one time my younger brother and older sister talked about how fast my father’s car can speed from zero to 100 (km/h), while I was sitting nearby and wondered how they had the guts to even try it.

More than that, once I found out that I didn’t do my homework, I was shocked and rushed to complete it, and you wouldn’t guess it was about 5 years after the homework was due.
Mathematics was my favorite subject that even my teacher wanted me to be her daughter.
And still, there was one subject in which I got only a C. It was writing. In every parent’s meeting, my teacher used to tell my mother that I probably didn’t read enough. That wasn’t true. And yet, I couldn’t make it in writing.

The years passed, I became a lawyer and wrote so much that my wrist ached. But, still, I used to remember my teacher’s voice telling me I didn’t write good enough. I even wrote a very good Thesis for my M.A in Women and Gender Studies. And still, I remember her.
Today, one of my favorite activities is writing. I get excited from it. I love it. It makes me laugh to my myself, it’s an integral part of me, of my own being. And often I find myself thinking about the young child who sat there in front of her teacher and next to her mom, while the teacher was telling her she couldn’t write.

So dear teacher, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I thank you for not believing in my writing, I thank you for not seeing me. It actually made me become who I am today, 30 years later. A strong and brave woman who is a lawyer and a CEO of, guess what, a translation and localization company called Targum & More. I even have my own blog in which I write my life. There is nothing I enjoy more than writing.

To sum up, I would like to tell you a little secret. I have heard about this website from a friend. She sent me the link about one hour ago, and although it was 6:45 am at Shabbat, my free day, I was so excited to find out that I can spread my writing to so many women, that I rushed to write this article/post (whatever you like to call it). Now it’s 7:45 and I’m going back to sleep. I hope you enjoyed this post, or as I told a friend a few days ago, I have only one head and two hands, and this is what they can do, so like it or not, this is me.

Self-portrait. Pencil on A4.

Read more of my writing here 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of a Smile…

The Power of a Smile…

By Mike Sena, CFP©, Fleeting moments

Fleeting moments that last, The Power of a Smile…

Ever think about the power of a smile? How one seemingly small act can have a lasting and positive effect?

I will always remember a specific moment in time when a smile changed my day.
I was older, in my middle-30s. I owned an IT business. For the most part, I loved what I did. It was different every day, I was not confined to an office, I solved problems and met people.

But, it was also stressful. I had employees to manage. Payroll to meet. Taxes to file and pay. Dozens of needling details to attend to daily. And in the IT business, many of my customers did not have much of a sense of humor or perspective when their network or phone system was down.

The day in particular was grim and grimy. It was mid-January, when I would do almost anything for some warm sunshine. I strode into a 7-11 store for a Coke. I was in a hurry, things were not going well, my mind was churning. I was not smiling.

The young girl behind the counter was smiling, however. And she spoke to me in such a pleasingly fresh manner, it was as if the warm sunshine I was seeking poured from her mouth. It, she, changed me in that instant. I relaxed, and the tension flowed from my body in a whoosh, dissipating into the stale air of the store. I smiled back, and thanked her.

As I walked out of the 7-11 and back into the chill of that January afternoon, it was no longer grim and grimy. It was simply planet Earth, a pleasant place to be alive. The rest of my day went very well.

Her smile has stayed with me. And, I have learned that my smile can have a similar effect on others, it is a contagion for the good.

Now, whenever I am down, whenever I am blue, I have learned to smile. And I remember that girl.

She Pinched Me…I Pinched Her Back

She Pinched Me…I Pinched Her Back

By Stephen C Monahan, The Reading Room

She Pinched Me…I Pinched Her Back

We don’t realize it, but in a moment, our beliefs, our thinking about things and with that shift in thinking, our future life changes, never to be the same again. For good or for bad.
Some say that when we die our life will flash in front of us. While only for a moment, those moments will capture the visions of our life. They will be the short moments that were the most meaningful. Perhaps the ones that took us on a path to a different future.
Having had a long and robust life I imagine my movie may be a flash longer than many. There will be some highlights and of course some low lights. All wonderful however.
When I was asked to write this I started at the beginning.

One of my earliest memories is one moment in time, that to this day, decades later is still fresh as yesterday in my mind. It was a learning moment. A pivotal life altering moment. Simple, but profound. It was at the time a little thing, but it has made me who I am.

In that moment a life value was created within me.

Never hurt anyone, especially a woman.

When I was about 3 years old there was a little girl my age. She was my friend. Her name was Cookie. I grew up in an apartment house and she lived in the apartment above me. At our unworldly age of just three there was as yet, no thinking that her or I were different. Her being a girl and me being a boy was not yet taught to us that we were different.

Well, Cookie pinched me. And I pinched her back.

Then the lesson started. She cried. My Mother came running out. My Mother very kindly said to me. Never hurt a girl. Never hurt a woman. Never hurt anyone. Those heartfelt, but strong words became embedded in my psyche. And trying to follow those words has created who I am, how I see this world and how I try to treat others.

Can I do it all the time?

No. Can we as humans treat each other kindly all the time? No. But we can… and we must try. Every day throughout our lives. Never Hurt a Girl. Never Hurt a Woman. Never Hurt a Man. Never Hurt an Animal. Never Hurt Anyone.
The whole event took perhaps a minute in time, but that one minute has made me who I am. The fact that my mother told me to never hurt a girl, to never make someone cry, especially a woman changed forever how I see and treat women, and all others in this amazing world.

Now the really powerful aspect of this to me today is this. I never knew it. Although, even as a child I sensed it. My father dominated and controlled my Mother. I never knew that until I grew up and pieced the pictures together myself. They say we learn from our parents. I had two lessons, two paths of traveling as a three-year-old. I could have followed my Fathers path of abuse towards women. Or my followed Mothers path of Love and kindness for all in this world, women, men, animals, and nature.
My Mother showed me and taught me the path of love. And taking that path, in that moment of time, has made all the difference in my Life. While I have many beautiful memories. If that is the only picture that passes on the screen of life when I pass on, it will be a beautiful end to a beautiful life.

Thank you Mom,
Stephen

I’ll never forget the moment…

I’ll never forget the moment…

By Mike Sena, CFP©, Fleeting moments

I’ll never forget the moment.

Actually, a series of moments, like a video in slow motion. It forever changed my life in ways unimaginable to me before. It forever is etched in my mind.

Just after midnight, December 10, 1995, in a room bathed with warm bright lights, me looking down upon my wife’s open legs, thinking this is most unladylike, my son was born.

The crown of his head was visible first, slowly but intently emerging, dark wisps of hair wet against his skin. Then his shoulders, arms, torso, legs and feet wormed their way out. He was sparkling pink, clearly unhappy and the first thing I noticed was his ears. They were folded up, deformed-like, but my son could hear just fine so I worried little.

Before, I was single-minded, intent on building an empire and making a lot of money.

After, I realized with a profound certainty, a V8 moment, that there was more to life. Much more.

I had always heard raising children is hardest job you will ever love, though I never really understood the actual mechanics. I love being a dad, and my definition of a rich life changed that day, shortly after midnight, December 10, 1995.

A fleeting moment that has made a lasting impression.

Connecting with Strangers…it’s good for the soul

Connecting with Strangers…it’s good for the soul

By Barbara Coleman, Fleeting moments

It was a very ordinary day.

In just a few short days it would be Christmas and I was working at the busiest store in town…it was shoulder to shoulder in the store, but I was about to experience how connecting with a stranger could change your soul. I volunteered to work a particular spot in the store because nobody else liked this spot and it was widely felt nothing extraordinary ever happened here. I liked the magic that could happen in this spot.  It was the small moments that connecting with strangers could bring.  Connecting with strangers…it’s good for the soul.

Wendy was a very unassuming women, dressed for a rugged winter day, I could see it on her face she just wanting to get what she came for and get out. She approached me with a new iPhone case and I took the handheld device out of my back pocket to help her with this quick, mindless transaction. This should have taken about 30 seconds….but I found a stranger’s story so compelling, it’s impact will be in on mind and in my heart forever.

The transaction begins

I rang up Wendy’s iPhone case and her credit card was rejected. My mind quickly choosing the words to minimize the situation and reassure her it was ok. The look on her face told me this was the edge and she was being pushed over it. Her eyes filled quickly with tears and I could see a quiver across her lips. She apologized. She said “I’m sorry. Things have just been so difficult since my husband died”. I put my arm around her shoulder and told her how sorry I was. As I tried to offer words of support, I stroked her back.

She had been holding her emotions together until I, a stranger, showed her a little bit of kindness and empathy. Suddenly she couldn’t hold on to her emotions any more. Wendy began to sob on my shoulder like a toddler who couldn’t catch their breath. Wendy told me the story of her life with her husband, how he died and how she’s lost without him and I wrapped both of my arms around her. I could feel the despair as I held her in my arms and I couldn’t let her go.

Listening and Responding

After I listened to Wendy, I comforted her, then I pulled her off my shoulder, grabbing her by both arms and told her she wasn’t alone. “Wendy, your husband sounds like an amazing man. I know you miss him desperately. I’ve been through loss in my life too and I know the pain you feel. I know the hardest thing to do is figure out how to live with such grief. It’s not a matter of handling your grief, it’s about choosing to live….choosing to look for happiness again.

I told Wendy I was sure, based on what she had just told me, her husband would not want her living a life of tears and pain. “Wendy, you’ve got the best medicine right in the palm of your hand.” I pulled my own iPhone out of my back pocket and told her “Music isn’t enough….Walking isn’t enough…..Talking to people isn’t enough….but if you put them all together it can be magic. I shared the playlist I carefully crafted with songs that made me walk with a little bounce in my step. I reassured her “you’re not going to FEEL better immediately, but I do believe if you behave your way into choosing a well lived life, the feeling will catch up to you”.

“Wendy, I want you to put your tennis shoes on everyday. Put those earbuds in your ears and walk down to this store and say hello to me. I’m always here.”

She nodded, dried her tears and walked out of the store. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever see her again.

Later that evening,

I was making sure everybody handled their closing responsibilities. Almost all of the customers had started leaving the store, so when someone walks in, we all noticed. I looked up and there was Wendy! She had another woman in tow and I could see her scanning the store like she was looking for something. My first initial instinct told me she brought somebody back to help her get that iPhone case. Our eyes met and we walked towards each other. I smiled and told her I was glad to see her….and she smiled back.

She introduced me to her sister-in-law….her deceased husbands sister. Wendy not only had a smile on her face this time, she even carried herself differently. I could tell Wendy had shared our entire encounter together with her sister in law. “Pam, this is the person I was telling you about”. I asked Pam if she liked music and would help Wendy find some additional tunes to put on her iPhone for her walking playlist. I had given her a list of my personal favorite guilty pleasures. They were songs very well suited for walking….singing or just feeling good while I got my self through some inane chore.

Pam nodded and said, “Oh Wendy, those Black Eye Pea kids are great, they even say Mazel tov in their song!”

Wendy said, “We want to take you out to dinner!”. The store closed earlier on Sunday, so it was the dinner hour. I had to decline….That night we were shooting a music video in the store as our “Christmas Card” to all the other stores. It was silly fun and I had already committed.

A little night music

The store closed and we started the production of our little music video…a bunch of twnety somethings singing and dancing around the store along with yours truly. I called myself the Grannie Smith of the Apple store because I was old enough to be everybody’s mother, but still just a little tart. As we danced and sang our hearts out, I could see Wendy and Pam outside with their faces pressed against the glass watching….and laughing.
Wendy started coming to the store everyday. Training at the store taught her how to use her computer to make a book for her children. The book was a memorial of her husband. The entire process was so cathartic to Wendy. You could see the changes in her physically. She wasn’t shy about telling people about why she comes to the store everyday….It was a good place to be.

Whenever Wendy came into the store she’d search me out and let me know she was ok. She’d walk by, touch my arm and give me a smile that let me know she was doing ok. I always felt great after I saw her. Her adult children stopped in and let me know they were all doing well. I felt like I had become part of the family.

My Lesson Learned: Connecting with Strangers…It’s good for the soul

I heard a speaker years ago at a corporate retreat talking about communication. He used a phrase that has stuck with me for years. He said people really aren’t happy with achieving independence….true happiness comes from learning how to live “inter dependently” with each other. If we learn to help each other and allow others to help us, it brings a level of satisfaction we don’t know if we’re acting solo, or independently. Acting interdependently was merely a quotable quote until I connected with a stranger.

One woman was frozen in grief, the other woman needed to be needed.  This one small moment shared in a crowded store changed both of us. If we both hadn’t open ourselves up to a stranger, we would have missed out on a very important moment in our lives.

Connecting with Strangers...it's good for the soulBeing present and connecting with the strangers around you make chance encounters like this possible. Make eye contact, “read the room” & speak up. I did the talking that day, and she showed me how to walk the talk. She walked through grief with grace and I took mental notes the whole time. She let me know every moment after we met just how grateful she was…That day both Wendy and I were interdependent and the residual effects will last forever.

Connecting with Strangers…It’s good for the soul.

Even Psychology Today agrees!

We’ll talk later,

If Wishes Were Horses…

If Wishes Were Horses…

By Lee Aldrich

I said to somebody the other day that being straight-forward and outspoken is both my strength and weakness. I have learned, often the hard way, that I just can’t say everything I think. As my husband’s caregiver while he’s fighting cancer, I’m sad about the way his adult kids are responding to his illness. In calling out the kids, my wishes are that they get what’s going on. There are better ways of getting my point across than looking somebody in the eye and telling them they’re full of shit, but right now, I’m needing to do that.

We wish to have everything we want. What I want, at this time in my life, is the cancer to be gone from my husband. I want him to feel good, to be finished with the nausea and extreme fatigue from the treatments. I want him to be able to do the things he likes, when he wants to do them.

I wish I could take away the nervousness he has for his upcoming surgery. I wish I could take away the grueling 6-10 week recovery he faces. I wish we could know for certain that after all the treatments, after the surgery, after the recovery, that we will have many more years together. I wish, for his sake, his kids were more involved in his journey.

If wishes were horses…

…I would take away the hurt and disappointment he feels at the lack of concern his children seem to have for his treatment and well-being. He thinks he is not important to them. That he is out of sight and out of mind.

He hears from one child once in a while in text or in a comment prompted by a new post on his website…but never a call. Another has never asked his dad how he’s doing. Not once. There are infrequent texts completely unrelated to his dad’s health but no calls. Ever. Thankfully, he consistently hears from one of the three.

So many people, both family and friends, have constantly offered help. People regularly call to find out how he is, offer to be here to help during and after surgery, offer prayers, send cards, cry with us. There are some significant calls and concerns that are missing. His kids. What they don’t realize is nothing in life is guaranteed – the days are long but the years are short. You never know when the last time you talked to somebody WAS the last time you talked to them.

I’m profoundly sad and disappointed at the kids degree of self-absorption; their deplorable lack of empathy and concern for their dad’s health and life.

My husband chalks it up to “they are what they are.” He is moving forward. He is learning to let go of hurt and disappointment to concentrate on the family and many, many friends that support him.

I wish the kids were among those people. I wish they understood that his perception IS his reality. I wish the kids would make a real effort to show him they whole-heartedly, unequivocally, love and support him. Tomorrow’s a new day. I wish with all my heart this helps them know better so they will do better by him.

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

How to survive holiday shopping in 12 steps

How to survive holiday shopping in 12 steps

By Barbara Coleman

tree-with-lightsComfort & Joy doesn’t exist in the same context as holiday shopping.

Holiday Shopping… hell, just being out in public this time of year is stressful.  Too  many people, not enough space and a time crunch to get everything done in time.  If we all work together we can make not only this time of year, but the entire public experience much more palatable.

Let’s start with some basics….

Holiday Shopping doesn’t have to be so stressful….let’s follow these simple guidelines and I just know we can all get along…

  • Go IN the IN door and OUT the Out door
  • Don’t walk down the middle of the parking aisle…move closer to the parked cars….It’s not that I’m tailing you, I’m trying not to run over you!
  • “I’m sorry” isn’t the same as “Excuse Me”….”I’m sorry” immediately follows your cart crashing into me….”Excuse me” allows me to get out of your way. I like to be part of the process!
  • If you haven’t yet decided what you’re eating, pull over in front of the beef jerky section…NOT in front of the produce everyone is trying to get at.  We all need the celery!
  • Three abreast in an aisle is three too many.
  • Don’t abandon your cart in the middle of the aisle to go retrieve something somewhere else.  I’ll take it and move it so you can’t find it.
  • There are other people in the store…Just be conscious of your surroundings.  Other people shouldn’t surprise you when they’re trying to get around you.
  • Make eye contact with other people – It makes navigating around each other SO much easier
  • Retail Workers:  There are customers in the store, look alive, smile, say hello & and walk around people.
  • Shoppers:  Retail workers only have so much knowledge about product, placement & usage of said product, do your research at home.
  • Ladies:  Don’t bring your husband along to hold your purse.  He doesn’t want to be there and he’s taking up valuable space.
  • Take the time to either move your cart to the cart coral or take it back to the store.  Don’t leave an abandoned cart in the middle of a parking space.

And one last thing….

pajama-shopping
Pajama pants are for at home in front of the TV….

Unless you have had a fire at your house that morning and ran out in your pajamas, you look stupid wearing pajama pants.  For god’s sake put on a pair of yoga pants, jeans or something else!

Good luck everyone and Happy Holiday!

Barb Signature