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Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

When I was a kid, I developed an obsession with the 1955 movie of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Oklahoma!. I don’t actually know why this movie was so interesting to me – I can’t even remember when I first became fascinated but I do know I drove my family crazy by playing that VHS almost daily. And I also remember that even then I had no interest in the character of ‘Laurie’, the female romantic lead. Besides one empowering moment of being a strong independent woman in “Many A New Day,” she generally is kind of a wimp. Given the expected roles of women and the gender norms of the days in which both the Broadway production and the movie were made, I shouldn’t be surprised that ‘Laurie’ was young and pretty and looking for a man to complete her, to dream only of making a marriage and of which handsome man will bid on her pretty picnic basket. In popular culture at those times, the characters that were instead allowed to be strong, independent females were usually older, widowed or spinstered women who could offer the sage wisdom of their years and experience.
Enter the character of ‘Aunt Eller’ in Oklahoma!. Even as a kid I recognized that she wasOklahoma_M (2) just plain amazing! She gets to be sassy and sarcastic, she gets to two-step with the cowboys and look at dirty pictures with them and wave a gun at the town leaders. She gets to be kind and loving to her niece and strong and supportive when things go bad. She gets the funny lines, the scene-saving moments, and the homespun charm of a lovable character.
When my high school put on the production of Oklahoma! in my senior year, I was devastated to learn that I had to choose between the honor of representing my region on a trip to the Model United Nations in The Hague, Netherlands OR to fulfill my dream of bringing ‘Aunt Eller’ to the stage. As my father loves to tell the story, I cried for weeks over this horrible event. In hindsight, I am eternally grateful that I took the chance to travel abroad and to have that incredible and unique lifetime experience in the Netherlands and Russia – BUT I can admit that I also regret missing the chance to be ‘Eller’ for even just those few months.
That regret stems mostly from the fact that now, as an adult, I can understand and honor the type of character and the type of woman that ‘Aunt Eller’s’ creators crafted. As a grown woman with more of that famous life experience and less of the high school naivete, I can more deeply appreciate the strength of this character.
Like her counterpart in Carousel, ‘Nettie Fowler’, ‘Eller’ is the foundation of the town and the support system to whom our lovelorn-clueless-tragic female lead turns to when life falls apart in the climactic moments of the show. Her advice when a character dies and threatens the beginning of ‘Laurie’ and ‘Curly’s’ marriage is:
“If you cain’t fergit, jist don’t try to, honey. Oh, lots of things happen to folks. Sickness, er bein’ pore and hungry even-bein’ old and afeared to die. That’s the way it is-cradle to grave. And you can stand it. They’s one way. You gotta be hearty, you got to be. You cain’t deserve the sweet and tender in life less’n you’re tough.”
As in Carousel, once more, a Rodgers and Hammerstein character reminds us to hold our heads high and to keep pushing forward when life gets difficult.
But to me, the quintessential Eller shines through in this one simple line: “I don’t say I’m no better than anybody else, but I’ll be damned if I ain’t jist as good.” It has taken me a lifetime to learn this lesson well, to realize that I don’t live my life for anyone else but me. I FINALLY have grasped the concept that no one, NO ONE, can sit in judgement of me or my life choices. I’m never going to be a millionaire or a Broadway star or a Rhodes scholar. I’m going to live a quiet life and hopefully make a small difference to someone. I don’t have anything that makes me special or noteworthy – I don’t say I’m no better than anybody else. But I am who I am and the older I get, the more comfortable I have become in my own skin. I have my scars and a chip on my shoulder and a list of mistakes that is 9 miles long. But I will no longer allow anyone to put me down or say that I’m not good enough – I’ll be damned if I ain’t jist as good.
So thank you ‘Aunt Eller’ and thank you Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein for creating happy moments from my childhood and learning moments in my adulthood.

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When the cracks first began appearing in my marriage, a male friend of mine tried to help me understand the male psyche in a way that would sink into my confused mind. His advice to me was that Male Brains are Like Waffles, Female Brains are Like Spaghetti.** 

At the time I didn’t fully grasp what the hell he was talking about. Yes, men like to eat. Yes, men can eat endless amounts of carbs and sweets and never gain an ounce. What the hell, Rob, how is that going to help my marriage? 

13658370_1177496062280931_1439568095_nWhat he meant is this: men think of things in tidy little squares. They are able to compartmentalize not only their feelings but also their experiences, their reactions, their entire life. They can keep everything in tidy little boxes and only tackle the sections that they need to at any given time. They can even keep the syrup contained in the areas where they need to.

Women, on the other hand, are a jumbled bowl of pasta, with each strand tangled up in another one and covered 1408069256188totally in sauce. Emotions, experiences, daily moments, they all jumble together and make one massive meal. We aren’t able to separate things out as easily and so can often get confused on what part of life is what.

And yes, males and females are of the same species (follow the metaphor here, we’re both carbs) but are very different. Each are individual creations that can display dizzying arrays of variations (chocolate chip, coconut, plain with butter, pesto sauce, marinara, blond, brunette, thin, fluffy, tall, short, etc). Yet we have to remember that each is undeniably and fundamentally different from one another – which needs to be respected and handled. We need learn to communicate with the other type of food as best we can and to understand that we may never fully comprehend them. A big syrupy strawberry waffle may never be able to understand the bowl of spaghetti ala vodka sauce. But together they’d make a damn good (albeit high calorie) meal. A happy mating of carbs – and humans.

**[I know now that he actually read this theory in a book called “Men Are Like Waffles–Women Are Like Spaghetti: Understanding and Delighting in Your Differences” by Pam and Bill Farrel but at that time I was giving him credit for total brilliance. Definitely read the book, its extremely enlightening and very helpful in opening lines of communication.] 

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I was a teenager in the 1990s, an experience that I cannot describe to you – you have to have lived it to truly understand it – but that’s a subject for another day. Where I was going with this thought is that as a teenager, you’re looking for guidance, for a way to frame and structure your world that makes sense to you. Thank God that I was a country kid and that my generation had a poet, a sage, a wise soul named Garth Brooks to give us that much-needed guidance. As one of those terribly awkward, nerdy, bookish teenagers, Garth-Brooks1I needed to figure out how to keep an open heart and a strong soul in the face of shallow high school concerns. Enter Mr. Brooks and his three chords and the truth. Words of wisdom indeed….

♦ The Change – As long long as one heart still holds on / Then hope is never really gone” and “But it’s not the world that I am changing / I do this so, this world will know that it will not change me.”

♦ Unanswered Prayers – Just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care / Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

♦ We Shall Be Free – When the last thing we notice is the color of skin /And the first thing we look for is the beauty within” and “When we’re free to love anyone we choose / When this world’s big enough for all different views / When we all can worship from our own kind of pew / Then we shall be free.”

♦ If Tomorrow Never Comes –Tell that someone that you love / Just what you’re thinking of/ If tomorrow never comes.”

♦ Do What You Gotta Do – There ain’t nobody in this world / That’s gonna do it for you / Do what you gotta do.”

♦ To Make You Feel My Love – The storms are raging on the rollin’ sea / Down on the highway of regret / The winds of change are blowing wild and free / But you ain’t seen nothing like me yet.”

♦ The River – oh hell, just the entire song…listen here

 

And now that I am an adult and have actually lived and experienced some of the difficult situations that Mr. Brooks was crooning about, his words still guide me and reassure me that I’m not the only one who has suffered a heartbreak and a rebuilding….

♦ Every Now and Then – “I love my life and I’ve never trade / Between what you and me had and the life I’ve made” 

♦ I Don’t Have to Wonder Anymore – “And I still don’t know / Why things happened like they did / But I parked that old pickup / On that lonesome river bridge / I took your ring from my pocket / And I held it one last time / Watched that diamond sparkle /I drew back and I let her fly / And in less time than it takes to tear to fall / Oh that old ring went under / Lord, and now it’s gone for sure / And I don’t have to wonder anymore.”

♦ She’s Gonna Make It – “And you know it’s not like she’s forgot about him / She’s just dealing with the pain.”

♦ Beaches of Cheyenne – “He promised her he’d turn out / Well it turned out that he lied /And their dreams that they’d been livin’ / In the California sand / Died right there beside him in Cheyenne.”

♦ Cowboy Song – “He’s just chasin’ what he really loves / And what’s burnin’ in his soul / Wishin’ to God that he’d been born a hundred years ago.”

♦ In Another’s Eyes – “Oh in another’s eyes / Staring back at me / I see a sinking soul, trying desperately/ To turn the tide, before it dies.”

♦ Ask Me How I Know – You make all the rules, you’re set in your ways / You gotta have your freedom, you gotta have your space.”

♦ Learning to Live Again – I’m gonna smile my best smile and I’m gonna laugh like it’s going out of style.”

♦ How You Ever Gonna Know – “You know failure isn’t failure / If a lesson from it’s learned / I guess love would not be love / Without a risk of being burned.”

♦ The Dance – Our lives are better left to chance / I could have missed the pain / But I’d have had to miss the dance.”

 

So no matter your age or what stage of life you’re in, if you’re feeling lost or in need of some guidance, find the Garth Brooks station on Amazon or (for a truly 90s hair entertaining experience), search him on YouTube and watch the old videos. Let some good old country music wisdom guide you…

 

[on a random side note, the exception to his brilliant writing rule is “Cowboy Cadillac” – it’s a catchy tune but damn those lyrics are dumb, is he writing about his woman or his truck?]

[a second random side note, I admit that I have had to overcome some disillusion and disappointment about Mr. Brooks as a human being and a husband as his first marriage ended and his relationship with Trisha Yearwood has unfolded.  It’s always hard to watch your icons reveal their flawed humanity – and in light of my own personal feelings about infidelity – it was a difficult pill to swallow.]

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Have you ever had a profound, life-changing event over a cup of coffee? I have – which I know must seem very odd to those of you out there who do not have that special place in your hearts for caffeine. Of course, anyone that knows my mother would not at all be surprised that her little daughter apple did not fall far from the coffee-flavored tree – my mom is as loyal to her coffeepot as she is to my dad, maybe even a little more to the coffee since Dad’s only been her husband since 1966. We used to joke with waitresses at restaurants that they could just run a central IV line to my mom to save them time and energy in refilling her cup. So, with that caffeine addiction running true in my genes, no one should be surprised that I am finding philosophy in coffee.

Ok, so anyway, back to my profound, life-changing moment. During one of my regular runs to Dunkin’ Donuts to grab an iced coffee (one of the few edible/potable vestiges of 1xRun_Denial_Restoration-Sale_Limited-Time-Only_24x24_Web01.jpgmy former pre-surgery life that I still desperately cling to), I was hemming and hawing over the new “limited time only” flavor selections. I just HAD to try that flavor because it was going away, what if I missed something important, what if there was some goodness that expired because I was too afraid to try something new….what if…what if?

So here’s my epiphany: Life in general should be lived like it’s Limited Time Only. Try those new flavors or that new type of ethnic food, check those items off the bucket list, embark on a new adventure, sign up for that tap dance class, travel to Scotland, learn how to sky dive. Do all those things that you want to do – because there is no guarantee of tomorrow. We, as humans, do have an expiration date so we need to enjoy our one trip on the planet. Live your life to its fullest because it is Limited Time Only!

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Any good baker will tell you that a truly great dessert recipe has an element of salt in the recipe to balance the sweet. A chocolate souffle, a good pie crust, a rich custard, a chocolate-covered pretzel, a salted caramel – they all have the salt to bring out the richness of flavor in the sweet.

I have chosen to view my ex-husband as the salt in my life. No, I’m not saying he was crusty or salty (although he is but that’s not my problem anymore). I’m choosing to view him as the salt in the recipe of salted-caramel-1.jpgmy life. He was brought into my personal history to balance the richness that I have found since my divorce. He is the flavor that overwhelmed me while I was with him but now that I have added many more ingredients to my recipe – like independence, self-worth, strength, adventure, kindness – he balances out the good things. The flavor of his memory makes me appreciate the sweetness of the new life I’ve found even more.

Life is about balance, or so I’ve been told. And life is about really good desserts.

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In the final scene of It’s A Wonderful Life, as George Bailey’s friends and family surround no-man-is-a-failure.jpghim, the strains of “Auld Lang Syne” are sung while George receives his final blessing from Clarence in the form of an inscription in the front of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. This scene manages to make me cry every time despite the fact that I’ve seen the movie more times than I should admit – but it also reminds me every year to take a moment to be thankful for those friends that have walked my journey with me.

As the final hours of 2017 wind down, I can’t help but feel a wave of nostalgia for all of the amazing memories that I have made this year with the people that I love. I’m sad to see the old year go because it was a wonderful life:

  • I got to work side by side with both brother firemen and a veterinary medical staff that I admire tremendously. Our days can be challenging and stressful and difficult but how much easier they are with friends.
  • I spent countless hours in the saddle with my Gettysburg stable family and shared laughs over wheelbarrows of manure. That wonderful group of people and horses, along with my beloved camping weekends, kept me sane in a world of madness.
  • I shared wine dinners with one of my ‘sisters’ and finally got to catch up over Christmas cookies with my other ‘sister’. I have known these ladies for almost 20 years and what blessings they are to me!
  • I basked in the Mexican sunshine and toasted with tequila and zoomed in golf carts over foreign lands with our traveling buddies – Straight Outta Ingleside.
  • I shared laughs over simple lunches and shopping trips and pool time with some of my other “framily” and I enjoyed more moments with my mom and dad and brother this year than I have in many years – and it was wonderful.
  • We added a new 4-legged member to our family – ‘Pete Longstreet’ came into our lives as a rescue and we needed him as much as he needed us. And I made the choice to share the everyday ups and downs with a man who is also my best friend.

I treasured thousands of new moments with old friends and made new friends and newer memories while traveling this crazy path called my life. Old acquaintances and auld lang syne (“old times”), new moments and exciting adventures. 2017 was a wonderful year, may 2018 be even better…

Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

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Christmas Eve is by far my favorite moment in the year, a time when my family has always gathered together to celebrate our faith and our traditions. Tonight is the blessed moment in my calendar year when I can reconnect to my beliefs, to celebrate that humble baby in the manger, to look forward to a wonderful New Year while looking back on the blessings of the past year.

It’s the moment when, at the end of our worship service, the candles are lit and the strains of “Silent Night” ring out through the church. Christian voices, young and old, candlelightaround the world are joining in song to invite the magic of Christmas into their lives. I sit in my pew in the silent night to quiet my mind, to allow God back in, to give myself peace, to allow His voice to be heard. That moment in time is so beautiful that I am usually brought to tears – sometimes in sadness for the things that have been lost, sometimes in hope that better things are coming, sometimes with a profound joy for the blessings in my life. I pray in that moment for quiet, for peace, for forgiveness, for happiness.

Merry Christmas to all of my Christian friends on this most sacred of nights. To all of my friends of other beliefs, I wish you a warm winter’s night with your families. And to ALL of my friends, near and far, may your night be filled with magic and peace and love.

“Silent Night, Holy Night. All is calm, all is bright.”

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