Catching Up

Aside from what  I wrote for Owning Pink, this is my first blog post after returning from our trip to visit family.  After three years we finally made it back up to Maryland to see my mother-in-law.   I have to admit I resisted the trip with everything in me.  As much as I wanted the girls to spend time with Grandma, it came down to me just NOT wanting to drive up there.  Three years ago we flew, but this time that just wasn’t in the cards.  In May,  after a lot of “flip-flopping” I made the final decision that we were NOT going to go.  I told Mark it was my decision and I would call his mother to inform her.  I knew she was going to be upset but I rationalized it all.  (There were a few more issues a long with the drive.)  Before I made the call I meditated and got very peaceful.  I set the intention to be open and loving and for our conversation to go smoothly.  It turned out to be one of the best conversations we’ve had in years.  We talked for an hour and a half and when I hung up the phone, I told her we couldn’t visit in August but we’d try our best to visit.  I listened to her with an open heart and she changed my mind.  Once we found out she wasn’t working in June we began to plan our trip.

We left on Wed. the 23rd at 4:15am and arrived at her house at 8:15pm.  We traveled with the girls and our two mini dachshunds and amazingly enough there were no problems at all.  I never imagined the drive could possibly be that peaceful, but it was.  The trip was great.  We went to Assateague Island one day.  The waves were rough and cold, but once I got used to it I tried out the boogie board.  To my surprise I was pretty good at it and as we were packing up a woman approached me and said she and her family had voted me “best wave rider” of the day.  Another day we went to the nearest zoo, which will be a whole other not-so-cheery blog post.  The girls reveled in their time with grandma and I did some reading and relaxing.

On the way back home we stopped in NC and stayed at my parents’ house for one night.  My sisters, one brother-in-law,  and nieces were all there to greet us.  We had a wonderful few hours of catching up before going to sleep and waking early to hit the road once more.  We made it home in the evening of the 29th.

Since we got back I spent the week preparing for a big event on July 4th.  Some of you may remember a blog post I wrote where I was considering volunteering to speak at Unity Eastside (my church).  July 4th was the day I chose for my talk.  I chose that day assuming everyone would be out of town, but to my surprise most people were in attendance.  So, I gave my first morning message to a full house and it went pretty well.  I learned that I can handle public-speaking just as well as public-writing.  Since the topic of my talk was “living the questions” I’m not going to try to figure out what will become of my new found ability.  Instead I’ll just peacefully wait to see what unfolds…

Thank you guys for sticking around while I was away.  I hope “fiction week” was entertaining enough.  I’ve got a few post ideas brewing, so hopefully I will get them out over these next two weeks!

Advertisements

Jack M’s Click

I’ve been following Jack for a long time on Twitter.  I was super excited when he surprised me by writing the following story just for me!  You can follow Jack on Twitter here and read his blog here.

I’m in Labour!

The title of this story was what my wife told me during an early morning phone call while I was away for work in Perth, Western Australia. At the time of this story, my wife and I and our eldest daughter were living in Adelaide, South Australia.  My wife, Lisa was heavily pregnant but wasn’t due for over 3 weeks. I had been away for 4 days and I was due to fly home that afternoon.  With a little over 3 weeks left to go I thought no problems with the schedule.  How wrong was I!

Here is the story of my mad dash home the day my youngest daughter, Lara was born.

12.45am Perth time, February 8, 2005.

I had just jumped into bed after a long day working.  My usual pre-bed routine was to put my phone on vibrate as the usual east coast phone calls would start coming in at about 7am local time.  My head office was in Brisbane which is 2 hours in front of Perth time.  As I wouldn’t be rising until after head office started clicking into gear, I always kept my phone on vibrate during my Perth trips to avoid any early morning wake up calls, especially tonight, having gone to bed so late.   I was lying there and I had an urge to actually put my phone on ringer.  Not sure why I had the urge, I took it off of vibrate, just in case.

At 1am, I am still awake. My phone rings.  I have a different ring tone for my wife so instantly I knew it was her calling.  Glancing at the clock I also knew it was 3.30am in Adelaide.  It doesn’t take a scientist to know what this call is about.  I answer the phone expectantly.  Lisa informs me that she is in labour.  I don’t recall the exact specifics of the conversation but I am sure we discuss whether it is real or not as with her first pregnancy, Lisa had a few falsies.  I think they are called Braxton Hicks (someone can correct me if I am wrong).  It doesn’t take long for Lisa to convince me that this is the real deal.

Shit! I gotta get out of here and get to Adelaide, pronto!  By car it is 2,703km or a 4 day drive.  Too far to start driving.  The baby will be celebrating her first birthday by the time I get there. By plane and as the crow flies the distance from Perth to Adelaide is approx 1,750km flying over the Great Australian Bight, Spencer Gulf and Gulf St Vincent.  Quicker option but I know flights don’t leave Perth in the middle of the night.  I hang up the phone from Lisa after telling her I am coming home and secretly wishing she keeps her legs crossed.  I call QANTAS and explain the situation.  There is a flight leaving Perth at 6.25am which will have me back in Adelaide at 11.45am.  Now I hope there are spare seats available.  There are!  I am then informed that I have to purchase a new ticket as because I was within 24 hours of my flight I couldn’t make any changes.  Not in the mood for arguing, I do so.

I do the maths quickly in my head.  Ok, she’s in labour at approx 3.30am Adelaide time.  I arrive in Adelaide at 11.45am and then add on 30 mins for cab to the hospital.  Ok, I can get there at 12.15pm.  That’s less than 9 hours after going into labour.  She can hold on.  Our first daughter, Michaela was in labour for well over 22 hours.

I’m a chance to make it.

I call Lisa and tell her the news.  She is on her way to the hospital with her mum and Michaela.  I talk to Michaela and tell her everything is going to be ok.  She sounds excited, even after getting woken in the middle of the night.  She said she’ll look after mummy.  What a good girl.

Now what do I do?  By now it is 1.30am and I have the flight in 5 hours.  I decide sleep is a must as it is going to be a very long day.  Remember I still hadn’t slept since the night before.  I quickly pack my things so I am ready to fly out the door when I wake.

Did I sleep?  Of course not. I am excited.  Nervous. Scared. On edge.  Disappointed I’m not there.

I get up and send a few emails to work and to people I am meant to be meeting in Perth that day.  Don’t try contacting me. I’m rushing back to Adelaide and explained why.  So that took all of 5 minutes.  I remember flicking on the TV and watching some infomercials.  That’s some quality TV.  I quickly switch it off.

I then recall a time in 1994 when I was in Darwin, eager to leave asap.  I arrived at the Darwin airport at midnight, 12 hours early for a flight to Brisbane in the hope I might get an earlier one.  As it turned out, I did.  I was put onto an international flight which was stopping over in Darwin.  I landed in Brisbane 4 hours before I was due to depart Darwin.  I was also upgraded to first class which was amazing but I digress.  So I get my gear together, check out and go to the airport.  I dropped off my hire car and proceeded inside to a ghost town.  There was no one there so that was a bad idea. Then I remembered that the international airport was separate to the domestic.  I decided against trying as I had dropped off my keys and knew that it was a hopeless cause anyway.

So I waited.  Slowly the airport buzzed into life.  I still hadn’t slept.  I checked in and got my boarding pass.  Mid deck!  Damn.  Being mid deck means an extra few minutes waiting to deboard the plane.  It could be costly.

While waiting to board the plane I call Lisa for an update.  She is big time in labour and this is the real deal.  I hope I hid my panic!  I didn’t panic.  I don’t think I did.  Maybe I did.  Who knows?  Passengers who overhear my phone call wish me well and are all hoping I make it on time.  Lisa also explained that Michaela would be taken home by our friend, Belinda.  This is good as the poor thing is probably really worried and a bit of a fish out of water.

We board.  So slowly.

We get the safety instructions.  So slowly.

We taxi. So slowly.

We finally are in the air and for the first time, I am out of contact.  I have no way of knowing what is happening at the hospital.  It is the most anxious, slowest 3 hours of my life.  I fight the urge to go to the cockpit and explain my situation to the pilots in the hope they might put their foot on the gas and break the sound barrier for me.  They probably wouldn’t believe me anyway, mistaking me for an impatient businessman eager to make a meeting on time.

I think I drifted off to sleep. If I did, it would have been for seconds at a time.  I refuse the early morning flight breakfast. I’m too anxious to eat.  I keep checking my watch.  The minutes are going so slowly.  Different scenarios are being played through my mind.  When we land do I push my way to the front of the passengers waiting to deboard?  Do I run like a mad man to the taxis?  I imagine that I make it to the hospital on time, arriving seconds before the baby is born.

Finally we land.  We are on time. Yes!

The taxiing to the terminal goes slowly.  I could run faster than this.  Actually anyone who knows me back then knows this is not true but adrenaline does amazing things when you call on it.

The passengers in front of me deboard so slowly.  I want to punch each one of them in the back of the head for being so slow.

I finally make it into the terminal and I turn on my phone – in those days the Adelaide airport is a shed and you have to disembark and walk across the tarmac so no mobile phones are allowed.  My phone springs to life and I receive a text message from Belinda.  I debate whether to read it or not.  Curiosity gets the better of me and I do.  I can’t recall exactly what it said but it went along the lines of:

“Congratulations. You have a daughter.  Born at 9.01am weighing 7lb 5oz.  Lisa and baby are well”

My heart sinks.  I am so disappointed that I wasn’t there for not only the baby, but also for Lisa.  Every mother wants her husband with her during this amazing time.  I hold my emotions and get in a taxi and I head to the hospital.

Suitcase in hand, I rush into the maternity section.  To my surprise, Michaela is still there, waiting in the waiting room with Lisa’s mum.  I drop my bags and fall to my knees and hug Michaela and then burst into tears.  The emotion of it all has finally caught up with me.  I wasn’t expecting Michaela to be there. I am glad she is.  I apologised for not being there with her.  She hugs me back and is excited that she is there for the birth of her little sister.  She had been so excited that at the age of 7, she was finally getting a real life playmate.

We go in and see Lisa who is recovering from a C Section.  I start crying again and tell her how sorry I am that I wasn’t there.  Lisa is a fragile thing and I know she needed me there at the time that she needed me most. I had let her down.  She looks beautiful and is happy.  The baby is not there with her in recovery so it is time to go and see my new daughter.

Michaela and I go to the nursery and that is where I meet Lara for the very first time.  I look down at the most precious little girl. So beautiful.  So perfect.  I pick her up and cradle her in my arms.  She’s tightly wrapped in a pink blanket and is wearing a little white bonnet.  She is sleeping soundly.  I am so happy and I cry again.  This time it is tears of joy.  I tell her something which she wouldn’t understand.  It is a promise.  I promise her that I will always be there for her and I will never miss an important moment in her life.  I feel like I let her down by not being there when she came into this earth.  The least I can do is make sure I am there for her whenever she needs me in the future.

So far so good.

I missed the birth of my second daughter, Lara by 3 hours.  This was the story of my journey home and what happened that morning. Hopefully she will read this one day and know how sorry I am that I wasn’t there for her during her first few hours.

JCO’s Click

I met John Cave Osborne on Twitter shortly after Amy died.  After he learned the story, he reached out to me and expressed both sympathy and empathy.  He is the father of triplets, married to a beautiful and petite woman (just like Amy).  The story hit close to home for him because his wife had been through some of the same issues with early labor and bed rest as Amy had.  He has become a very good friend, spiritual companion, and cheerleader.  You can visit his blog, follow him on Twitter, and find information about his upcoming book “Tales from the Trips.”  Please enjoy the story below that explains the road he took to get where he is now!

The Jungle and the Machete

In 2001, I flew over 100,000 miles, visiting places like Vegas, Tahoe, and South Beach for fun and places like Birmingham, Tupelo, and Macon for work. I was a financial services wholesaler; a white-collared gunslinger, clad in a tailored suit—armed and dangerous with my carry-on, the Wall Street Journal, and a frequent flyer card.

After the first full year at my job, I won my company’s highest honor for sales excellence, the Reach the Peak award—an all-expenses-paid vacation for two anywhere in the world. But in spite of my professional success, I was a personal failure. And while this isn’t the forum to explain why that was the case, I will offer the following. I continuously molded myself to become whatever it was I thought people wanted me to be. In so doing, I had morphed from a person into a persona and was dangerously close to losing touch with who I really was.

I cashed in my Reach the Peak award on a two-week South African tour. It was in that foreign land I began the long process of rediscovering myself. It was there I realized how unfulfilled I was, as well as how much more I wanted from my life. I longed to fall in love, settle down, and have children. I also longed to pursue my dream of becoming a writer. Finding love and writing the perfect novel weren’t exactly the typical topics my metro-sexual buddies and I discussed while clubbing in Midtown Manhattan, yet I was at a point where I needed to give such concepts the attention they warranted. I knew that if I was really serious about trying to find a more fulfilling life, I needed to change my playgrounds as well as my playmates.

So in April of 2002, I quit my job and blew up my world. BOOM. Done.

In the months that followed, I was lost as a bat. Many couldn’t believe I’d thrown it all away, but I didn’t care what such people thought. I was deep in the throws of a spiritual reawakening, thanks, in part, to a few special friends and a couple of books by C.S. Lewis. (Incidentally, if you’ve not read Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters, it’s not safe for you to die yet.) I repeatedly pondered God’s will for me, near convinced that it included a wife and little ones, hopeful that it may even contain writing. I constantly prayed for God to show me the way, confident that something would soon reveal itself.

I was wrong.

Eventually, I moved back to my hometown and started a granite countertop business with my sister-in-law. The first two years were sheer hell. I found myself working doctor’s hours at janitor’s pay, much of them in the form of grueling manual labor. My dream of writing? There was simply no time. My dream of finding love? Though I was more true to myself than I had been before, I was still bouncing from one dysfunctional relationship to the next. By 2004, I was officially in a rut, often wondering if blowing up my old world was the right call after all. I grew skeptical that love and family were in the cards for me, but, regardless, I knew that God had something planned and I repeatedly prayed for Him to show me how to find it. Those prayers continued to go unanswered.

Enter Caroline, a girl I had known since 1980, but one I had not seen nor spoken to in over a decade. I was coming off of (yet another) dysfunctional relationship, and she was emerging from the wreckage of an unsuccessful marriage. We formed an immediate bond, and I was incredibly attracted to her. Sadly, however, I knew that our relationship had no future. Thanks to a few different trysts with single moms in my past, there was one thing I was certain of: I was not interested in becoming a step dad. Period.

But in spite of that preconceived notion, I fell madly in love with Caroline. And then something else happened. I fell madly in love with her daughter. Two and a half years later, Caroline and I got married. Thirteen months after that, we welcomed triplets into the world. Once worried that I’d never get married and have children, today I find myself happily married and the father of four. The business that used to suffocate me is now up and running to the point that I’m able to spend more time writing than I ever dreamed possible. Could it be that after all these years, I’m just now on the path that God had intended?

A close friend of mine, Dr. Michael Ruth, recently told me that, to him, God’s will is nothing more than each of us standing on the outside edge of an impossibly thick jungle armed only with a machete and the knowledge that God’s got our back. As I reflect on my journey, I believe my friend is right. God’s will isn’t something that’s magically revealed to you just because you’ve prayed about it. It’s not something that’s laid at your feet. It’s a feeling that’s deep in your soul. And that feeling is what you use to guide the machete as you cut your path through the jungle that lies ahead. That feeling is proof that God does, indeed, have your back. Other than Him and the machete, it’s all that you’ve got. Other than Him and the machete, it’s all that you need. The path you forge with the tools He provides is His will.

I’m so incredibly thankful for my beautiful wife, my four children, the successful small business I co-own, the time I’m able to spend writing, and the indescribable happiness all those things have given me. Not so long ago, it seemed unlikely that I’d be in such a spot. But I guess I just kept hacking away until I found them. I’m not naïve enough to think that my work is through, for I know how easy it is to get lost in the jungle. As I continue to forge my way, I’ll continue to uncover countless new challenges and will undoubtedly find myself lost as a bat again and again.

And daunting though that may be, it doesn’t change one simple fact. Above all else, I’m most thankful for the One who put me on the outside edge of this impossibly thick jungle. For without Him, the machete, and the feeling He placed deep within my soul, I would never have found any of the other wonderful things for which I’m eternally grateful, nor would I be able to continue making my way through His beautiful jungle.

Georgia On My Mind

Last year was our first Thanksgiving as a (more or less) vegetarian family.  I made spaghetti squash and cheese ravioli.  It sucked!  Besides waking up to the parade on TV and being off from school/work, it felt like just another day.  Holidays are tricky every year because we live so far away from our families.  In the past, the girls have not made for good traveling companions so we would avoid it (traveling) at all costs.  Now we have added an extra obstacle to the holiday season…not eating meat.  This year, after the option of my mother-in-law visiting was taken off the table, we decided to take a Thanksgiving vacation.  Tomorrow we leave for Savannah where we intend to make Thanksgiving less about turkey and more about experience, culture, history, and ghosts!

The last time I was in Savannah was in April of 2009, with my three best friends…Amy, Kristin, and Heather.  I am so thankful to be returning to a place where I now have great memories of mi amigas!  Here we are seven months ago:

sav1

Above: Heather, Amy and me at The Chart House restaurant.

sav2

Above: Kristin and me (getting the first glass of wine).

sav3 Left: Me, Kristin and Heather in the garden of The Davenport House … Amy was in the room busy napping and growing babies!

sav4Right: Me, Amy and Kristin getting our belly dancing lesson at The Kasbah Morroccan restaurant.

Above: Amy tipping the belly dancer at Kasbah.

Click Story by Renee

Allow me to introduce Renee Liss, a fellow writer, blogger, and friend! You can visit her blog here.

A Short Trip
by Renée M. Liss
© 2009

The words stared at Shayna from the pages of the magazine, taunting her. “Where do you want to be?”

“Well,” she thought, “certainly not here.”

This was true in reality and metaphorically. She was not living the life she wanted to live and she was not living in a place she enjoyed. The words spoke to her in a way the article’s author did not intend when he wrote them. The article was about religion. Some anonymous editor pulled out that line to highlight in the page’s layout. Was it the Universe talking to Shayna through this page? Or just a silly coincidence?

But where Shayna wanted to be, she didn’t know. Looking back over the last 35 years, she only knew that she never wanted to be where she was at any particular moment. Yet once she left a place, she wanted to go back. Because, after all, the place before was so much better than where she was. She bounced from job to job, always thinking something about the new job would be better than the old one. She moved from city to city, state to state, always seeking that elusive Perfect Place.

“It simply doesn’t exist,” she said out loud. To herself. Because there was no one else around to hear her.

And then she realized she’d been pondering this great philosophical question way too long because she looked at the clock on her computer and it told Shayna the time was 5 p.m. Time to go home. Time to figure out what to eat for dinner. Time to find anything and everything to do that was not what she should be doing.

She should go for a walk. She should go to the bookstore and sit in the café and plan her future: the one that did not include slaving away at a desk job 40 hours a week waiting for something to happen to her. This would all be so much easier, Shayna thought, if she just knew what it was she wanted.

And at that moment, Shayna made a decision. She was quitting. Her job. Her life. She was going to reinvent herself. She’d hand in her resignation tomorrow, quit the lease on her apartment, sell what she could and give away the rest. She’d pack up what few belongings she had left, clean out her savings and go on the road. She was going to drive across the United States, explore Canada, fly to Europe and backpack. She’d live on her wits alone. People had been doing that for thousands of year. Why couldn’t she?

Shayna’s long blond hair trailed behind in the wind as she wound her red convertible along city streets toward home. Home. What was home? It was where a person felt most comfortable and safe. Shayna felt safe, but not comfortable. She knew she was making the right decision. She knew it!

She unlocked her front door, kicked off her high heels and threw herself down on the couch, curling her legs underneath her body. She pulled her laptop off the desk next to her and starting researching travel routes, hotels, places she could stop and stay with friends for a while. She checked her bank account, did some math and budgeting in her head and then on paper.

“This really could work!” she said, excited.

Shayna typed out a resignation and put in writing her intention to vacate her apartment in 30 days – though she hoped it would be sooner. She posted everything she could on Craig’s List. All the while, her excitement grew. She wouldn’t stay in one place long enough to grow restless. She wouldn’t have time to learn to hate a place. She would be free of obligations. Maybe she could write articles for a travel magazine somewhere to finance her wanderings once her money ran out.

Maybe …

The thoughts and plans ran faster and faster through her mind. It made her smile. She was doing this!

Shayna finally exhausted herself, falling into bed at 1 a.m. The alarm sounded at 6:30. She dragged herself out of bed, a little more energized than she should have been. The adrenaline rush from the night before continued coursing through her, forcing her up and out. This was it. This was her moment.

Shayna showered, dressed and ate breakfast. She grabbed her printed and signed resignation letter off the desk and walked out the door. She arrived at work at 8:30, set her things down in her office and headed toward her boss’s door, holding the letter. She raised her hand to knock.

That was the moment Shayna froze. She looked down at the letter. Her stomach knotted. She returned to her own office.

She bawled up the letter, threw it away and proceeded to delete every add she had placed on Craig’s List.

“Next year,” she thought. “Next year, I will leave and never come back.”

Rain

It has been raining a lot here lately and a few days ago, I came to my WordPress Dashboard and quickly typed “Rain” as the title of a blog post.  Today I read this quote on one of my friend’s Facebook Status updates:

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass….It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

That quote made me want to revisit or rather write my post on the topic.

I’ve never much liked rain.  Rainy days make me sleepy and depressed.  No matter how “needed” it is, I’m always the one wishing it away.  When I was a teacher, rainy days were the worst because that meant that the kids had to stay indoors.  No recess for the kids, no rest for the teachers.  It was the same when I was a kid.  I’d much rather have been outdoors then inside playing “heads up, seven up” (or whatever that game was called).  I also don’t like to be in the rain.  Yuck!  There is nothing worse than getting rained on and stepping into puddles.  Squishy shoes suck!

This summer I have had to face my hatred for rain head on.  It started on the drive home from NC. (Did I mention I hate driving in the rain too?)  We had been driving for 3 or so hours and the girls needed a potty break.  It started pouring right as we found a rest stop.  The next one was 60 miles away and I didn’t want to get too far off the interstate, so we stopped, rain and all.  I unbuckled the girls, pulled them out of the car and proceeded to drag them as fast as their little legs could go to the cover.  Run, Run, Run!!  By the time we made it to the restroom we were pretty wet.  As we left the bathroom we discovered it was raining even harder.  I weighed my options, but decided staying on schedule was more important than staying dry, so we left the shelter and made a run for it.  Midway to the car, I looked at the girls and how delighted they were to be experiencing this rain and I decided to slow down.  I walked the rest of the way to the car, paying attention to the way the rain felt on my skin, and realized that it was wonderful.  Once in the car, the water dried quickly…no permanent damage was done.

Last Sunday afternoon, Mark and I took the girls for a walk to the pond at the end of our street.  I love going down there.  We sit in the gazebo and feed bread to the fish and turtles.  It’s become one of my favorite spots, a place that always calms me.  On Sunday though, it started raining.  Mark was quick to suggest we go, so we left the shelter of the gazebo and headed back towards our house.  Before long the sky fell out and Mark grabbed the girls’ hands yelling “Run, Run, Run.”  I did the opposite.  I slowed my pace, held out my arms, tilted my head back, and let nature remind me how alive I am.  I didn’t dance though…maybe next time I’ll try that!