The Dash

Car crash away

Today we hear a lot about Black Lives Matter, or White Lives Matter, or Police or Children’s lives matter. They do matter – all lives matter. Another thing that also matters is TIME. It is such a valuable commodity. Time is so valuable and we usually do not realize it until something happens to make us acutely aware of the fact. Time can slip through your fingers like hot butter…and just like that, it is gone. It can never be reclaimed.

American Author Henry Van Dyke said, “Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.”

Sometime we realize its value when we begin to age, or see those we love and care for aging. Often that realization is triggered by the death of someone we know. If only we were taught early on to treat time like money in the bank or as an investment, we would be more likely to use it wisely.

Because of life experiences most of us possess an awareness that in the twinkling of an eye, everything can be going along just fine and then something happens. That something does not even have to be something BIG – just something that forever alters our world, and we are never the same.

I have had more than one of those moments. Like Alice said in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, “It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

A car wreck, a change of job, a death of a parent or a friend, a broken relationship, a move, a marriage, a new baby, a promotion, all things good and bad change us. Life is such a training ground and as we age and that chronological number rises from decade to decade we begin to look at time differently.

When we are young we have no real concept of time and we don’t give the end of our life a second thought. We think those who are around us will live forever, perhaps not consciously, but we definitely do not dwell on their lives coming to an end. It is not on our radar, but when we lose a parent or grandparent, we begin to awaken to the fact that our time is limited. As we begin hearing about the death of people we went to school with, friends or people we work, we wake up a little more. With each passing of those we know or know of, our eyes are soon wide open to whatever time we have left.

The Holy Bible says that “no man knows the hour,” but we do know that scientific data relating to family history can give us some estimation of our longevity, barring a catastrophe.

Once realized, we have a choice either to fear death and be paralyzed from doing the things that contribute to life, or make every moment count.

When I was doing the Believe radio show, listeners joined me on a cruise on Princess Lines. It was a West Coast cruise and I did a workshop for the group which was preceded with the reading of a poem I had read in a book I had read by Linda Ellis called, The Dash. The crux of the poem was that the year you were born and the year you die is not as important as what you do in between those dates – that dash. I had people think about their lives and where they were with regard to how they had lived their dash thus far.

I did a guided meditation and had them visualize their own funeral – seeing people walk by their casket or urn, and to think about what those people might be thinking about them. I had them see different people going to the podium in the church or wherever their funeral or memorial would be held, and imagine what those people would say about them and what the feeling of the room was like. Then I had them come back to present time and sit with those thoughts for a few moments.

Then I passed out pen and paper and had them write the obituary they hope would be in the paper about them – not what they thought people would say, but how they wanted it to read upon their death. They were given an opportunity to re-write their dash. The hope I had for this exercise was to give each person the opportunity to examine their lives and make any changes they would like to make in the time they had left.

Most of us want our lives to count for something. Even if we have not lived as we wished, with realization, as long as we are breathing, we can change. Christian writer Barbara Johnston said, “If you find yourself going in the wrong direction, God allows U Turns.”

The famous motivational speaker Earl Nightingale said, “Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it’s at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savored.”

As this point in my life, WHAT I BELIEVE is that the Good Lord has given us so many breaths or heartbeats. When we reach that number, our time is done.

In the last three years I have lost my mother, my sister, my father and a special pet. I am awake and I know that time — every second matters. I want to use it ALL and not waste a second of it. Everyday I am re-writing my dash.

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More changes…

WHAT I BELIEVE…

Barbara with Mothers PearlsMy goodbye party at the White Mountain Independent is today, Friday, June 30, 2017. It is bittersweet, but to coin a popular phrase, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

On November 3, 2014, I slid into the reporter’s chair at the White Mountain Independent, being given the privilege of covering the communities of Snowflake and Taylor, Navajo County Government, and Northland Pioneer College. The day that Publisher Brian Kramer hired me, he said, “I want you to write like you talk,” to which I replied, “Do you have enough room?”

It wasn’t long after I started working there that I was given a bi-monthly feature called “Movers & Shapers,” the title coined by our Advertising Manger Wiley Acheson. For those that followed the column, you know that I actually did write like I talk. My surprise was they gave me enough room to do that. Movers & Shapers ran for 15 months and I was trusted to tell the story of White Mountain people whose actions have shaped our community. I loved that column because I love promoting people. Feature writing is certainly something I have enjoyed. The day came, however, when I had to do some real investigative reporting. The first big story I broke later won me third place in that category in the Arizona Newspaper Association’s annual recognition awards. After that, it seemed I was destined to find those stories that made news. The part I disliked about those kind of stories is that because the written word never goes away, people often blame the messenger. I only reported the facts, but it is human nature for people to blame somebody, and I discovered, to my dismay, that it is most often the reporter who gets blamed.

In April 2016 due to the forward thinking of our publisher, myself and Videographer Laura Lollman began preparing to do our tri-weekly video news broadcast for our website. I became the news writer and the news anchor for the broadcasts which have now been airing for over a year. I did my best to ensure that each area of our Mountain received coverage, and even added a bit of good news so people would know what a great place we live in.

When I did my last Movers & Shapers column, I began the article by writing “There is a quote from the movie “Uptown Girls” which is so apropos for this article: “Every story has an end, but in life, every ending is just a new beginning.”

I have resurrected that quote because my end at the paper is a new beginning for me. I was the chamber director for Show Low from 2002 to 2007, a radio talk show host for 16 years, and a local TV host for 11 years and a newspaper report/anchor for nearly three years. The position I have accepted is chamber, radio, television and newspaper all rolled into one – allowing me to use all of my skills to benefit a different industry – I will be the Communications Specialist at Navopache Electric Co-Op, Inc. in Lakeside.

Farewell is a term generally used when you are not going to see someone for a long time, or perhaps never hear from them again, so to my colleagues at The Independent, and to you the readers, I only say goodbye, because WHAT I BELIEVE is that I will be seeing you again, around town, and… in the news.

Father’s Day…

Daddy & I n jan 2017

What I BELIEVE…

This is my first Father’s Day without my Daddy. It is the first Father’s Day I have not bought him a present since I was old enough to either make one or buy one. This is the first Father’s Day I will not make a call to him to wish him “Happy Father’s Day,” but it won’t be the first Father’s Day that I do not think of him and remember the impact he had on my life.

This Father’s Day, I am going to sit down and think about all the things he taught me. I am going to write down some of the things he said on a regular basis, especially those words of wisdom I will draw on from time to time, knowing I can count on them because he said them.

There’s a book I read called “The Dash.” It talks about the day a person was born and the day they died, but it is not about those two dates – it is about the dash, those years between birth and death and what you did with them.

From time to time, especially during the last months of his earthly existence, I recognized and appreciated many things about my Daddy that I never want to forget. Some are big things and some are epiphanies that hit me square between the eyes, and I wondered how I ever missed them.

I smile as I think of some of those things – he loved apricot jam, fresh honey, hot peppers, black walnut ice cream and Klondike bars. He loved gardening. He could grow anything. He had me bring him pinon nuts from Arizona and though Auburn University Extension Center told him they would not make a tree in Alabama, he planted one in a large container on his sun porch and nurtured it and nurtured it, and it grew. He even transplanted it in his yard. He was a country boy and like the naturalist Euell Gibbons loved the land, especially the woods and streams he roamed while growing up. He could name every tree and every herb there was. He really did walk to school in the snow, not sure it was five miles, but it was a long way. He grew up during the Great Depression and learned how to live simply. He was non-materialistic, worked hard and had gratitude for everything. He wanted us kids to be good citizens and to do what was right. He wouldn’t use the A.T.M.; he didn’t trust it. He loved the U.S.A. and served as a tail gunner in the Army Air Corp in WWII. He served as the State Chaplain of the Alabama V.F.W. and I always remember on special holidays how he taught us to revere the flag and those who served our country. He made up songs and sang them and he loved to hunt. He played a game or two or three of Solitaire every day of his life that I can remember. He loved Sci-Fi and believed in U.F.O.s. He was also a stern disciplinarian, short on giving praise, setting the bar so high that we are still trying to reach it today. And, unlike many of the Greatest Generation, he was able to hug us and say, “I love you.” I don’t have to wonder about that.

If you still have your father, treasure him. One day he won’t be with you. Until then make memories and pay attention to things he says and does – it’s part of his dash, and I BELIEVE that the dash matters.

One More Day…

mother and daughter

What I BELIEVE…

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers, including adopted mothers and step mothers and those that were mother figures. And, Happy Mother’s Day memories to those whose Mother is no longer with them.

Mitch Albom, the famed author of “Tuesdays with Morie,” has written many books, but this Mother’s Day my thoughts are on his book, “For One More Day.” It is the story of a grown man whose life is on the rocks with his marriage and career, having turned to alcohol. In the deep recesses of his mind, he recalls when his mother and father divorced and his dad told him he could either be a mommy’s boy or a daddy’s boy, but not both. He chose his dad, who abandoned him at the crucial time of adolescence, creating regret. Years later he is broken – he has lost his job, and his marriage. One of the last straws is when he is shut out of his only daughter’s wedding. Deciding to take his own life, he takes a late night drive to the little hometown where he lived. He finds himself at his mother’s home for some reason. She had died eight years before, but when he stumbles into the house, he finds she is there. He is gifted one more day, and he does not waste it. He asks the questions, he listens and understands, he forgives and is forgiven. With new meaning, that one more day with his mother gifts him a second chance to put his life back together.

There’s a special quote about mothers in that book that touched my heart reminding me once again how every little memory and thing of importance in my life was touched in some way by my own mother. It says, “But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.”

MomMickeyMany would give almost anything “for one more day” with their Mother to “fix” something between them, or to say words they wish they had spoken or could take back. Some just wish they could see her face to properly say goodbye.

Unlike the character in Albom’s story, I don’t really need one more day with my mother.  I had so many. They were not all perfect, but they made our relationship what it was. She had cancer for eight years and during that time we made sure there was nothing un-done or un-said. There was no unfinished business, and for that I am so grateful. Nonetheless, I would love one more day with her, just to look at her face, to feel her embrace and to bask in some more of her wisdom.

This is my fourth Mother’s Day without my Mother. The first year she was gone, still numb from her March 1 death, my friend Diana Lowell found three women who had lost their mothers many years before. They were guests on my special Mother’s Day “Believe” radio show that year.  Each shared their memories and how that loss affected them.  All were grown women and each cried as they old the story of their relationship with their mother. Each said they were still deeply affected by that loss, a loss like no other.

Since that time, those sentiments have been echoed time and time again by many I know who have become members of “the lost mothers club.” It is not a club you want to join, nor is it one you ever think you will become a member of. We think our mothers will live forever. She carried us inside of her for nine months and we began a relationship with her the moment we were conceived. I have often said that though the umbilical cord has been cut at birth, it is still spiritually still intact. I have now discovered that it still remains even after death.

Though I dreaded Mother’s Day for the first few years because my mother was gone, this Mother’s Day I am going to spend “one more day” with her. I have purchased a beautiful special book to write all the memories I can conjure up about my mother. She had so many witty and wisdom-filled sayings that I find myself always saying. I don’t want to forget those. I want to take a trip down memory lane and write it all down for myself. I imagine I will pick it up this special book each Mother’s Day after this one and re-visit those cherished memories. I will add to them as things come to me and they will be the gift to myself that keeps on giving.

As a baby boomer, I see on a regular basis friends and acquaintances who are losing their mothers. Words cannot heal that loss, but when I learn of it, I quietly say a prayer and ask God to bless that person and give them peace and comfort as they grieve. Having gone through it myself, there is an understanding that connects those of us who are now motherless.

What I BELIEVE is memories are ours to treasure. They live on in our hearts and minds, and like we are told in Luke 2:19, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” I, too, will do that for myself this Mother’s Day.

A tired dog is a good dog…

Yoda

Yoda, my Hungarian Kuvaz, is almost two years old. He came to me as a curly white furball at 2 months old. He is, as true to his breed, maturing into a bold, spirited dog, determined to protect and be in charge. As a livestock guardian, his genetic makeup is to lead. Working to establish myself NOW as Alpha, we are enrolled in an obedience class. I have survived three classes with the help of my chiropractor.

What I believe…

Since I was in my early 20s I have had only St. Bernards, and though they are “stubborn” by nature, they are easy to train. They were my breed. With seven grown ones at all times, I only had one dog that I had to take to a training class. All the others learned, perhaps by osmosis, from the older dogs.

In 2008, after having just lost one of my Saints, someone said they knew I loved big dogs and wondered if I like a two month old Great Pyrenees. Being similar in size to a Saint, I assumed they were like a Saint. Not so, but he was easy to train, though very independent.

Seven years later he died from bone cancer, and knowing that “the larger the dog, the less the life expectancy,” I set out to find a big dog who would live longer than a Saint or Great Pyr. I found him – a Tibetan Mastiff, described by my vet as “stoic.” After much research I got a 2 month old male puppy, and I worked diligently to socialize him. They are such large dogs you must start early socializing them to have control.

Now almost two years old, he is much bigger than I. In fact, several weeks ago at dusk I was walking him and a police officer approached us for a look-see. He saw us from afar and thought it was a little girl walking a bear. He was in awe of the dog’s gentile manner, not being affected by him stopping us. I trained him myself, and he learned from the St. Bernard.

Rewinding back to age three months, this Tibetan Mastiff puppy, named Doggie Lama, was the absolutely worst puppy I have every owned. With my being a night owl, his schedule of sun-up soon took its toll on me. After a month of this, I was exhausted. I wondered why everything worked so well with all my other dogs and not this one – was it his breed or me? Then I had an epiphany. All the puppies I had before had another puppy to play with.

I was offered a Kuvaz puppy a month younger than Doggie Lama and I got him. He was the solution. Life was good again, but it never occurred until I went on a trip that the Kuvaz was not one to learn by osmosis.

On my return, I was told that Doggie Lama and Klaus were wonderful. Yoda, the Kuvaz, however, was a a very bad boy. They said he had boundary issues. I asked if he 86ed from returning and they said no. Since they train dogs, I asked if we could set up a private lesson to deal with his issues, and we did.What a workout, for him and me, proving what I had heard, “A tired dog is a good dog.”

We started practicing daily. I had not devoted proper time to the dog who saved me by wearing out Doggie Lama. Yoda quickly took to our dedicated time together and my being the Alpha. Now in a 6 week training class, we both are learning boundaries and manners. It is work. We do homework twice a day and he loves having someone to look to as the leader of the pack.

My Mother always said, “Anything that’s worth a darn is trouble.” That is Yoda.

Many times a discipline issues cause a dog owner to get rid of the dog. Dogs are like children, they need discipline and they need your time. They are the absolutely one unselfish friend we have in this world and each one, just like us, is different. Most things are fixable – willingness, work and love made us both happy.

Now, what I BELIEVE is “a tired dog is a good dog,” and a “tired owner is a proud owner.”

What I believe… 1/23/17

daddy-i-11717

In 1964 when I was a just a sophomore in high school, like most young people, I never really though about time other than the fact that the Rolling Stones had a new song out with the words, “Time is on your side, yes it is, yes it is.” At 16 you think you have all the time in the world, and you pretty-much do. Now in 2016, I am seeing things a bit differently…

What I believe: What we all don’t have is time

Gautama Buddha said, ”The trouble is you think you have time.”

Almost three years ago, my mother passed away from lung cancer, leaving my father alone. She died March 1 and had she lived to April 26, they would have celebrated 68 years as husband and wife.

My Daddy had his own health challenges but was able to live in their home with limited assistance until the end of September last year. He was rushed to the hospital and it took a number of tests before they determined that he had a stroke, pancreatitis, diabetes and sepsis. He stayed in ICU for a few days short of a month and then was transferred to rehab.

I solicited the prayers of my Facebook friends and more than one miracle occurred. My almost 91-year-old Daddy surprised doctors and staff daily with his strong constitution and willingness to do what was required of him with success. There was some hope of him going back to his home again.

Then, one night at the rehab facility, he fell. The fall seemed to undo the great progress he had made and he experienced periods of confusion. Prayers continued on his behalf . He miraculously got out of bed and somehow participated in his rehabilitation.

When release time came, my brother brought him to an apartment close by him for immediate continued care. All the while, I was on “standby” as to the best time for me to see my Daddy and to benefit my siblings as we looked for a permanent, safe and loving place for him to live out the remainder of his days.

Daily phone, text and email reports and Facebook video chats kept me informed, but it is not like being there. When we chatted, I got to see him only for a brief period. There were 23 hours and 50 minutes that I did not see which were paving the road to determining his future care.

A date was agreed upon for me to come. My siblings tried to prepare me for what I would see.

The first day of my visit started out slow — he did seem to know me, but the connection was not the one we always had. He knew his routine and was agreeable to doing what he was told, but signs were everywhere that his stage of life had changed substantially. He had a walker and a wheelchair and his fragile old body was bent over when he walked.

My nephews came in for a visit and he knew they were there, but that was also different. The Daddy I knew was not there. I came back the next day and he seemed to know me. He did not know my sister, always his favorite, and he knew my brother as his daily caregiver and the person in charge, but did not seem to know him as his son.

Throughout the day, we sat on the terrace, ate together, and talked off and on about various things. Then, grabbing a book about Birmingham, Ala., with pictures of things past and present, I sat with him and we turned each page and reminisced about them. I knew, from having read and attended classes on dementia and Alzheimers, that connectivity to things past often opens a portal of the mind to help someone be fully present, even if only for a little while.

Next, I grabbed his new daily calendar which had a different dog on each day and we went through the days of January through December and named them. I held his hand and, at times, that distant stare that old people exhibit would take over, but then his eyes would sparkle for a few minutes and he was back.

Most of the time, however, unlike the days when he was so busy with life, he just sits quietly and his mind seems to go somewhere else. Just sitting now, the days once wished to be longer, now seem to be too long.

My sister was so amazed at our interaction that day and evening – she videoed it and made notes in Cozi Central, a special site to document daily activity, memories and more, available for anyone — and that day’s visit finally came to an end. I

t was a memorable day, a special day, and actually another miracle according to my sister.

The following days were not the same; he did not always know me. When the time came for me to leave, it was bitter-sweet because, like so many of us who no longer live where we grew up, we only get to go back for a visit — a visit that is never quite long enough.

As Budda said ”The trouble is you think you have time.”

As we watch our parents, friends, TV, movie and rock stars we grew up with pass on or suffer health challenges, we are introduced to our own mortality. All of a sudden we realize that the “time” we thought we had is truly limited.

Our parents are supposed to live forever. They were the first people we met and they were always there for us. What we have known subconsciously now comes to the surface and we know “there may not be time.”

I was blessed with a visit and connection with my Daddy for which I am so grateful for, but I was also blessed with the reminder of the gift of time.

“Do it, now,” Nike says … and we know we must if we are to do it, whatever it is. The adage, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today,” has new meaning.

Though we may have heard it said many times that at the end of one’s life, a person does not say they wish they had worked more, but they say they wish they had spent more time with their loved ones.

Pope Paul VI said, “In youth, the days are short and the years are long. In old age, the years are short and days long.”

I, too, now believe that to be so.

What I believe: Home for Christmas, if only in my dreams

christmas-wallpaper-22

Dec 23, 2016

During Christmas 2015, I posted a picture on Facebook of a little girl wearing a coat and sitting on a suitcase along a rural road.

It wasn’t just any picture, it was my humble attempt to express the emotion of being “homeless.” I did not mean “homeless” in the traditional sense of the word, but “homeless” in that I can no longer go back to the home where my parents lived.

We think our parents will be around forever — not so; my mother died on March 1, 2014; my Daddy, 90 years old, has experienced health issues this year and had to leave his home for other accommodations.

As a rule, when someone asks, “Are you going home for Christmas?” they are asking if we are going back to visit our mother and father. Though we no longer live there literally, and we have our own home, we still call it home.

Home is where the heart is.

When your parents are gone, suddenly that place to which you always knew you could retreat, no matter what; that place where the warmth of memories past lay deep in the recesses of your memory; where arms are open wide to receive you no matter what condition you find yourself in; where the smells and the familiar things you grew up with; where your favorite foods were served; where the rooms, especially at holiday time, are filled with love that permeates the air and your total being — that place where family once resided is no longer available to you. Now that place you always called home can only be visited in the memory of the mind.

Oh, how you long for your Dear Mother and Daddy when they are no longer humanly or mentally present.

I think of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” where Emily said, “Goodbye world. Goodbye, Grover’s Corners … Mama and Papa. Goodbye to clocks ticking … and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths … and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it — every, every minute?”

Today, so close to Christmas … to going “home” where my parents were well and in their home, and my brother and sisters and their spouses and other family members and friends gathered to celebrate Christmas with all our traditions, I both mourn and I celebrate — mourn that those times are gone, but celebrate that I am able to have them.

I am humbly grateful I had a mother and father and memories to treasure. Time and people we love are so precious.

As the New Year approaches — and I journal thoughts and list valuable pearls of wisdom I have gleaned over the last year, and even my lifetime, recognizing what is most important and close to my heart — I vow to waste not another minute of life. It does go by so fast, and one day you wake up and realize that age has played its trick on you — and you, according to statisticians, have only so many breaths or heartbeats attributed to you, each so precious.

This Christmas, not able to go to that place called “home,” I open that gift of memory that I will feast on — one not wrapped in a bow, but wrapped nonetheless in pretty paper in the memory of my mind.

Today, as I contemplate the true meaning of Christmas, and the birth of the Christ child, I believe that family and going home actually has a deeper meaning. It is a representation of us leaving our earthy existence — or home — and one day going to our real home where we will be reunited with our loved ones.

Either way, it’s all about love, and as the song says, “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”

 

 

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