Friday, May 24, 2019

Close Attention

I wondered for three days if my feelings were justified.  Three days.  I had been hurt by an acquaintance when they were rude to me.  I love being a writer.  It brings me great joy to write about life, what makes me happy, what challenges me and what helps me connect with other people. The person who hurt me asked me about being a Professional Organizer.  I refer to being a Professional Organizer as my day time job.  The person asked me if I was "still holding on to the dream of being a writer."  I knew exactly how this conversation was going to play out.  I explained that I was very much a writer and just because I haven't sold a book to a publisher, doesn't mean that I am not a writer.  She scoffed and replied, "Well, I am glad you are having fun with your hobby," and then changed the subject.

I have come to realize that people do not view writers as writers unless they are on the New York Times Best Sellers List.  That a writer isn't a writer if they haven't written ten books and their name is recognized by the masses.  These two ideas are preposterous.  When this woman referred to writing being my hobby,  I knew that she already had a preconceived idea of what she thought a writer should be, and I didn't meet her expectations. She also thought that whatever I had to say wouldn't be relevant and changed the conversation immediately.

I could have retaliated. I could have spoken up for myself.  I could have volunteered all the ways that I am an actual writer.  I have written over 250 short stories, articles, book reviews and poems that have been published in print and online. I have written and conducted a memoir writing class and created a solid curriculum and instructions for writing a book of 30 short stories in 30 days.  I have 9 anthology book inclusions in the last two years.  I have written two books. One a non fiction short story memoir and the other, a children's book about my son Zach as a teen with Autism. I am working on my third book of fiction short stories. -But I didn't volunteer any of this information.  She isn't a friend. She isn't my intended audience. There isn't a reason under the sun why I should ever feel the need to justify something that I love doing.

I love when people tell me about their lives. About the jobs they enjoy, the work they struggle with, the unrealized dreams of what they hope to do someday.  I also am so excited when I hear of accomplishments and successes. I love knowing when things aren't working out the way someone has planned and how I can be praying for people. I love when my circle of friends live life together and share in every life happening.  This is what friends do.  They love each other. They support each other. They pray for each other.

I wonder how you have been hurt. Started a small business and all of your friends told you they thought it was so great, but no one bought anything or supported you? You shared your dream of what you wanted to do someday and then were told it was impractical and that you shouldn't quit your day job?  Worked yourself to the bone and proved yourself to be a loyal employee only to be passed over time and time again for the promotion you desired?  Finally succeeded and some never really committed to memory what you actually were working so hard to accomplish because it wasn't viewed a worthy? People and relationships are hard!  People are prickly, sometimes downright abrasive and often not supportive.  They are self centered, unwilling to praise others and do not let themselves be excited for someone else's success. To me, that is a sorry state of existence.

I love observing people. Their word choices, their mannerisms, the flow of conversation and even the words left unsaid.  And in all these years of observing people, I have learned that it is very important to pay close attention to the people who don't clap when you win.

Never beg for affirmation. Never work for a friendship or for someone to like you.  Sometimes, it is time to circle the wagons and tighten your sphere down to the ones who naturally clap when you win.  To pare your relationships down to those that matter.  To surround yourself with people who build you up and not tear you down.  To only love  people that love you and take mutual joy in all of your successes and walk with you through the dessert of pain and suffering.

Those three days that I spent wondering if my hurt feelings were justified?  Those were three wasted days.  My feelings were justified and I do not need to look elsewhere to understand this fact.  There is a reason why this woman who hurt me is an acquaintance and not a friend and involved in my every day life. Her referring to my "hobby" reminded me exactly why she has been kept at arms length.  The next time she and I come face to face, I will be kind, I will greet her warmly, and I will move on.  Because I do not plan to waste energy on those that do not clap for me.

-Side note- Do not greet me with a round of applause the next time I see you. You know who you are my snarky friends.


I have found myself many times thinking about trials and suffering. Probably because I have seen more than my fair share in my lifetime. My dad left my family when I was 12. I took ill with Lyme Disease when I was 14. Struggled with family dynamics and relationships when I was an older teen. I had to dropout of college because we were poor and I ran out of money. I married young and then struggled with infertility issues.  Dealt with harassment in the workplace. My first child had severe developmental delays and was later diagnosed with Autism. My husband was diagnosed with a medical condition that will forever change his life and he will never fully recover. I took ill again and faced 4 significant surgeries over the past two years. So many trials, some have questioned how I continue when faced with such adversity. That inner strength is Christ in me.

I was raised in a small family in the country in Minnesota. My parents were encouraging and poured into my sister's and my life. They provided a faith foundation and made sure we went to a Bible preaching church and answered our questions about God and His Son Jesus. We were provided with Bibles and shown how exciting the stories and lessons from the Bible were. We were able to attend summer camps and youth retreats where our knowledge about God as a loving Father and as the creator of the Universe grew. Our parents understood the importance of us as children developing a faith in Jesus that was our own. Not just a faith that our parents practiced. As a teenager, I discovered a saving faith in Jesus and continued to seek after Biblical knowledge, spend time in The Word and spend time in prayer.

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. -- In this verse alone, I found that faith was about hope and assurance. Two things that most people continually desire in life. But the most important aspect is confidence. Confidence in the saving grace of Jesus who died on the cross for my sins.

I do not practice a religion. I do not associate with a denomination. I identify as a Christian (a Christ follower) who has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I place my faith and my trust in Him. I have placed my life in His hands.

With any faith or belief system, it is often personal, yet life changing.  And my Christian walk has been just that. Through each trial, in every challenge, I am reminded that I am not alone, I have a personal God who cares and provides for me.  I am also reminded that suffering is temporary and lasts but a night, and joy comes in the morning.  (Psalm 30:5)

I am joy filled person. And it is the Joy of the Lord that is my strength. (Nehemiah 8:10) I love life and live it to the fullest.  I enjoy being a wife, a mother, and friend. I want to encourage, help and serve others when I can and pour into their lives the way my parents did for my sister and I.  I also love being a writer.  I write about life and what matters. I write about my family and relationships with other people. I write about what hurts, what makes me smile each day, and I write about the importance of a personal faith foundation.  My strength isn't self supported. I have absolutely nothing to do with it. I am faulty human at best.  But I am strong because the same power that raised Christ from the dead lives inside me. (Romans 8:11)

When I tell you I am just 10 weeks into recovery from extensive surgery, most would still be curled up in bed and resting at home.  I get up each day, I pray and I ask for strength.  Strength which I do not possess on my own, but strength that is found in Jesus. When I smile and laugh and enjoy each day that is given to me, I know that each day is an actual gift and we are not promised another. So I choose to live each day to fullest, to seek out others who choose to do the same and share my faith. That is where my true inner strength is found.  A confidence in what I hope for, yet can not see.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Always - A Love Letter

I will never tire walking these hills.  It just isn't the same without you.  What once was an adventure has become a chore.  You and me was how it was always supposed to be. Then our always turned into for only a short while.  I will love you always. Nothing will change the way I feel about you.

Everything was so challenging at home. Dad had lost his job 8 months prior, and mom was working two jobs and we were barely making ends meet.  He started drinking the day he was laid off and never really stopped.  Mom cried while making dinner. She cried when she went to bed. She also cried each morning in the shower.  She never thought that I saw her or heard her.  But I saw how much pain she was in every single day.  I sat with her when I finished my homework and we would watch a movie every weekend. Our times together were few, but I loved to just be with her.

Dad finally realized he needed help and agreed to go to treatment.  He didn't want to, and would then go three more times before becoming sober. But at least he finally said yes.  That left mom and I at home.  The peace was wonderful. Dad was no longer there to pick an argument with mom every night when she got home from her second job.  But without dad there, my mom also didn't know how to fully function anymore. The crying continued, but she didn't do it as often anymore.

The first time dad came home from rehab, he was angry.  Still angry about losing his job, angry that mom never came to visit him and angry that it appeared that our lives continued on without him.  Almost as if he wanted us to be struggling even more in his absence. He didn't want to know about what we had done when we weren't together.  He may have not been drinking, but he still believed the world revolved around him.

Six nights after dad returned from home, mom was two hours late coming home from her second back to back shift.  When she got home, he never gave her a chance to explain. He hit her across the face as he yelled, "And don't try to tell me that you were at work! I know that the restaurant closed two hours ago!"  I came running as I heard the yelling escalate and ran into the kitchen just I saw my mom hit the floor.

"Rachel! Rachel I am sorry! I didn't mean to do it!"  My dad broke down as my mother cowered away from him.  He came near and she kicked at him and held her hand up in the air.

"Get out. Get out of this house.  You will never hit me again. Do you hear me?  You will never hit me again."  My mother's voice remained calm and collected.  Tears streamed down both of our faces as I sat down on the floor next to her. I wrapped my arms around her.

Dad looked down at the floor, and nodded once. He then turned, took his keys from the kitchen table and left. Just like that. We heard from him the next day.  He called to tell us he had been arrested for public intoxication and disorderly conduct. He agreed to go to rehab again. He said his attorney would deliver his car keys and the additional information in the next day or two.

I was hurting so much. I was hurting for my mom, for my dad, for my little family.  I didn't know what to do.  My mom and I would surely have to sell the house.  How long would dad be gone? Did it really matter? Was their marriage even something that mom wanted to try to save? 

The only way I could avoid the dark cloud of sadness that poured over our home was to leave and roam the hills and surrounding valleys.  Unfortunately I discovered that the sadness had already taken up residence within me, no matter where I went. I began to walk even further each day as I only returned home when there were no more tears left to cry.  One afternoon, I  saw a tall stone structure over a grassy hill.  As I approached I realized that I could see through the stone. Was that a window?  I got to the top of the hill and I could see the entire structure. I was in awe of what appeared to be the ruins of a very old church.

I approached quickly so that I could take in all the beauty. I could imagine the singular window that was still standing once filled with gorgeous stained glass.  What a beautiful site of all that was left standing. The rest of the aged church stood in piles of rubble here and there.  I am sure that over time, many had come to pillage the useful stone to create property markers or adornments for a yard.  But this last standing wall refused to bow and crumble as the elements threatened to take over.

Then, I saw you.  You sat on the ground next to the rocks looking up at the sky, maybe even admiring the birds overhead.  You played with the long grass in your hands and worked at intertwining two pieces in a design only you understood.  You then glanced in my direction.  When I saw you looking at me, I immediately became aware that I had been watching you for quite some time.  I shouted a friendly hello and you waived in return.

When I approached and you greeted me, I found myself immediately at ease. All of the grief and sorrow that I had carried with me on my walkabout was still present, but was no longer so heavy and weighing me down.  We fell into a comfortable conversation and I basked in how natural it all felt.  We shared about where we lived, our families, that you were home for two weeks from college and that I would be graduating the next spring.  You talked about how hard it was to be the eldest of six kids and I spoke of how lonely it was being the only child.

We sat on the amazing large rocks near the ruins for what seemed like hours.  I noticed the sun was setting and we both watched it in all its beauty.  Then you turned and asked me if I had been crying while I was walking.  I remember becoming worried that my makeup had smeared when I attempted to wipe every tear away.  You saw me trying to fix my makeup and you reached over and touched my arm as if to tell me to stop.  You were the first person to tell me that I was beautiful.

Your smile, your deep ocean eyes. We agreed to meet the next afternoon at the same time so that we could enjoy another spell together.  We both arrived with umbrellas wearing rain boots. I saw you at the top of the hill. I was so relieved to see you even in the rain.  There was that beautiful smile I had come to admire the afternoon before. Our conversation picked right up where we had left off. We spoke of heart hurts, life hurdles, and glimpses of joy. I shared about my dad and the fact that my mom was now a shell of the woman she once was.  You took my hand so naturally as I spoke, I couldn't imagine a time you hadn't already been holding it. I wondered if you felt it too. That current between you and I.  That electric shock each time you pushed a stray hair away from eyes. Or when I traced the outline of your fingers with mine.  We were drawn to each other in every way.

The fourth afternoon we met, I brought a picnic dinner and a blanket as the grass may have been wet from the night before.  It wouldn't have mattered. Your kisses were urgent and searching as if you wished to gain knowledge of who I was that I had not yet offered.  I wondered if there other girls at school whom you spent your free time with and then found I didn't care. All that mattered was you and I and the time we had together.

The idea of you heading back to school in a week hit me with such unexpected urgency.  You brought me home to meet your family and enjoy dinner in your very loud home.  Your mother gave me a handkerchief that she had just finished embroidering.  You thought it was an odd gift to give, but I treasure it to this day.  You held my hand as you walked me home. You insisted on walking as it would take longer and allow for more time together.  Mom was always working until 11 p.m. and I always welcomed you in.  Time spent in your arms was the only place I wanted to be.

Two days before you returned to school, my mother had a rare Sunday evening off work and said she wanted to meet the young man that had been occupying all of my time and thoughts. I was embarrassed, but only for a minute.  She saw a difference in me, that difference was you.  You made us laugh that evening at dinner.  To see my mother so filled with joy made me think that things were finally going to turn around for us.  She was enthralled by your stories of campus life. Of professors and classes and study groups.  You were so kind to answer each of her questions.  She thanked you earnestly for making me happy again and for spending time in our home.  You hugged her so warmly and smiled when you told her that it was a honor to even be allowed to be with me.  You had my heart from that moment on. I knew I loved you.

Tuesday morning came and I decided to not go to school so that I see you off.  I got to your home as your father was packing the car. Your mother stood on the porch wiping her tears with a dish towel. Your youngest brother and sister that were not yet in school played in the yard as you hugged your mother goodbye.  And then you turned to me.  I searched for that smile that I loved, but believed it wouldn't be found that morning as we said goodbye. You kissed me and held me. You wiped my tears and promised to return the following summer. You promised to call me and text me.  I felt a piece of me leave with you on that cold Tuesday morning.

Once you got back to school and settled in we texted each other constantly. We spoke almost daily, usually late into the night. Just hearing your voice when I closed my eyes, made me feel you were still right here with me. I went to school and got a part time job so that mom wouldn't have to worry about paying for any clothing or activities for me.  I kept busy in your absence just waiting for your return come summer.

Your text caught me off guard.  - I love you. I am sorry. I had to take a job here near campus this summer because there aren't enough jobs back home.  I need to pay for more of my tuition
as some of my grants and scholarships decrease next term.  We won't be able to spend the summer together.-  I cried for two days.  I didn't even answer when you called.  I just couldn't do it.  Not speaking to you enabled me to pretend that maybe I had misunderstood.

Your summer job took up so much of your time.  You were working about 60 hours a week and sleeping whenever you got a chance.  We spoke maybe once a week and your text messages became few and far between.  I have to admit, I stopped making as much of an effort as I had.  I didn't want it to seem that I was over eager and you seemed so cool when we spoke.  I saw you becoming further and further away from me and I felt helpless.

I accepted that we may not be a forever thing when I saw the For Sale sign go up in your parent's front yard.  My mom came home one afternoon and said she saw your mom at the grocery.  She said they were moving 250 miles away, closer to where your father's new job was located.  I then knew that you had less of a reason to return home.  Less of reason to return to our ruins on the hill.  Less of a reason to return home to me.

I hadn't spoke to you in three weeks when I decided to call you and tell you I had met someone.  I wasn't sure if my new relationship was going to turn into anything, but Jamie was there with me.  I could see him, touch him, love him.   I heard your voice crack.  I cried and tried to muffle any noise that I could.  You said you were sorry.  I told you I was sorry also, but I really wasn't sure what for.  You said you missed me already.  I told you I would always love you. Always.

I return to our ruins but it isn't the same. The beauty still surrounds, but you aren't there.  Even these 10 years later, I still remember seeing you on the rocks like it was yesterday. Someday, I will tell my children of my first love.  Of the boy that smiled and looked at me like I hung the moon. Of the boy that captured my heart and returned the joy I had lost. Of the boy that restored hope and laughter to my home. 

Distance and time may have separated us, but I will love you always. Nothing will change the way I feel about you.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Bon Fire Bible Study

I feel very blessed by female friendships.  I feel like I have a wonderful circle of women friends whom I can turn to at moments notice. Friends that I can call and rely on when I need them most.  Friends that will support me and pray with me when I am struggling and friends that will also rejoice with me when I rejoice. I can send a text in the middle of the night and receive a response first thing in the morning.  I can log on to social media and put out an SOS for help with a family in need and friends respond immediately with clothing, gift cards and food.  I will never take this for granted because it hasn't always been the case.  And I understand that so many women crave community and fellowship with other women but struggle forming a circle of friends.

But something that I have also observed, are men who struggle to make male friends. In high school and in college, friends are everywhere.  Sometimes even after from sports leagues or even work friends.  However, men lack one thing across the board.  Other close male friends.  Men that support other men during trials and support each other during sickness.  Men that make life fun again when life seems like too much work.  Men that help other men network after job loss or a relocation.  Men that put others first and care more about relationships than they care about putting themselves first. Men that hold each other accountable, model for each other how to be a great husband and father and also are not afraid to keep each other in check is someone's behavior isn't acceptable.  Men that do life together.

I have been married for a very long time.  24 years in June. I have learned many things during this time.  And a whole lot of them are about how I can support my husband as he continues to support me.  One of the things that we make sure we do is to enable each of us to attend Bible Study.  Monday nights for the men where Josh leads a small group, Tuesday nights for the women. I then also teach on Tuesday mornings. We also make sure that we are able to have time with friends.  Josh is going out tomorrow evening after work with friends and I am going shopping and out to dinner with my sister this upcoming Sunday.  We enable the other to go by making sure that the other is home for the kids. We also enable each other to attend meetings and fundraisers without the other spouse attending.  Not everything Josh attends is fun for me, and likewise.  Sometimes, it is just more fun to attend certain events with my female friends.

Tonight was a perfect example of why I strive to make this possible for Josh and why he does it for me.  This group of men are sitting around a bonfire in our backyard studying the Bible together. They are praying with each other and for each other. They are supporting each other. They genuinely care for each other and go out of their way to get together every Monday night at our house for Bible Study.  Many of their wives are also in the same studies that I attend or teach. This is how our circle of friends support each other.  Husbands and wives, together and separately. 

These are also the families that I love their children as if they were my own. They hold a very special place in my heart and I treasure that all of our families have fit together so well.

Husbands, love your and support your wives. Enable them go to Bible Study and to spend time with friends.  Wives, love and support your husbands. Enable them to go to Bible Study and to spend time with friends.  Marriages tend to prosper when couples place being in The Word and Relationships as a priority.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Public / Private

Yesterday evening, Josh and I had a chance to go out to dinner together and run a few errands.  We dropped Zach off at Respite Night at church, (a fun night for special needs kids to enjoy making new friends and participate in activities structured around their abilities) and Lily was hanging out at home watching Duck Tales and reading a few new books. We hit a taco place in Eden Prairie and enjoyed the quiet even tough it was Friday night. The restaurant was only half full, and the high ceilings seemed to pull the noise of conversations away from us.

When I am out to dinner, or pretty much anywhere, I enjoy people watching.  Sometimes people are too far away and I can't hear what is being spoken of, other times, I am honored with a few stories shared among friends. I am not ashamed to admit that I listen in.  And when I do, I am amazed at what I hear.  But one thing that I also enjoy is watching people physically interact with each other.

Friends sharing stories and laughing together until they are both crying. As they wipe their tears, the laughing ensues all over again.  Oh, to laugh so much and enjoy life as they do.  I couldn't hear what was so funny, but their laughter made me smile.

I overheard a first time mom share her concerns with her friend about who would be present in the delivery room when she was in labor.  She didn't feel comfortable having her in laws or her own father present. Only her husband and her mom.  I thought this should be the least of her concerns in these final weeks and I hope her wishes are honored when her time comes to bring a new life into this world.

I observed a man and woman sitting at a two person high bar table enjoying their meal, but not really conversing. When they both finished, the husband reached for his wife's hand and smiled at her.  He held her hand and stroked the top of it with his other hand.  He had a serene look on his face as they sat looking at each other in silence.  Had it been a hard day? Did they receive some challenging news? Was this how he showed his wife of many years that he only had eyes for her?  I found myself hoping the woman enjoyed the gesture as much as it appeared her the man did.  He looked happy. Content. Connected.

I saw a small group three young men devouring their tacos and laughing together.  They appeared to be ravenous and consumed their food in record time.  I questioned if they had skipped lunch and then remembered my teen son can also consume huge amounts of food just hours after another meal. Sometimes, we call it Dinner 1, 2 and 3.

The family of 5 sitting next us consisted of 3 little boys.  A 4 year old, a 2 year old and a baby that couldn't be more than a couple weeks old. The mother looked phenomenal. She ate her meal as she comfortably held her newborn in the crook of her arm. She even reached across the table to re-wrap a taco or two for her toddlers.  She did it all with ease. Never once appearing to be overwhelmed. I realized I felt overwhelmed for her. 3 tiny kids that all needed a whole lot of help at dinner and probably all day long. Yet she made it look so easy. I was sure to smile at the two small boys and they skipped towards the front door.  And smiled at the mom when she headed towards them with the baby in the car seat.  She smiled back. She was tired, any mom could tell.  But she smiled back.

And then I saw a young teen couple sit at the high back table across from us. Both very attractive and tall, they comfortably fell into conversation with each other, smiled at each other and held hands as they waited for their food.  When his name was called, the young stood and walked to front counter to pick up their trays and returned to the table. As he settled in, she reached for his hand again and they began to pray together. This wasn't a quick Amen before eating.  They both took their time praying out loud as they prayed and thanked God for the day they had and for the food that had been prepared for them. They asked God to bless the kitchen staff that prepared their food and their families that they would return to later in the evening.  They took time to Thank God and Ask for His Blessing.

As a woman who prays before each meal, I especially admire when young people do the same. My Grandma Re always said, "If you can't thank Him in public, you probably shouldn't be in private." She passed away in 1996, and I can still hear her quiet yet bold voice saying this.  These young kids, thanked God in public.  Not to be noticed, not doing it for anyone else, but as a genuine outpouring of thankfulness from their hearts.

Yes. I enjoy hearing laughter between friends.  I pray for those that admit their fears out loud.  I enjoy watching friends reconnect after long periods of time. And couples making an intentional effort at spending time together.  But I have to say that last night, watching teenagers express their thankfulness to God, may be one of my favorite observation of all.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Liar Liar

I am a liar.  Apparently, when you are 10 years old and tell a whopper of a lie, it sticks with you for awhile.  And when I say awhile, I mean for at least 33 years.

My dad and I had been out and about running errands one morning.  He was tired after working many hours and was looking forward to resting on Saturday. He realized he needed some materials for his Monday job and he needed to go to a couple stores. I always remembered asking to go with him.  Hardware store? Yes. I want to go with you.  Gas station?  Of course, let me grab my shoes. This morning, our last errand was to stop for gasoline so that his work truck would be ready to go for another busy week ahead.

I was hungry as we hadn't eaten lunch yet and my stomach was rumbling.  My dad finished pumping the gas, got in the car and pulled out his wallet. He handed me a twenty dollar bill and told me that I could go in and pay if I wanted to. I was so excited. I loved running errands and paying when my parents would let me. It made me feel older than my ten years.

I went into the store and there were a few people in line. The candy aisle caught my attention. On the bottom were the 10 cent and 5 cent candy. And low and behold there were fruit roll ups. 10 cents each.  My parents never bought us the new fruit roll ups and fruit snacks that were at the grocery store.  All my friends seemed to have them in their lunch and for snacks at school. I never did. But I knew how great they tasted. Strawberry was my flavor of choice, and there on the bottom shelf was an entire box of ten cent strawberry fruit rolls ups. I quickly grabbed one and made a beeline for the register.

I paid for the gas and ten cent fruit roll up, stuffed the fruit roll up in my pocket, quickly exited the store and ran to the car. I jumped into the car, slammed the car door and handed the change and the receipt to my dad.  My dad looked at the one dollar bill and the change in his hands and then at me.  I smiled at him as I put on my seat belt.  He then studied the receipt.

"Kelli, I should have gotten exactly two dollars back in change.  I pumped $18 of gas and gave you a twenty.  Where is the rest of the change?"  My dad asked slowly.

"I don't know, that is what she gave me." Lie number one.

"Why does it say -Grocery item- 10 cents on the receipt?"

"I am not sure, maybe she made a mistake." Lie two and three.

"She didn't make a mistake. She has to sell you something for her to ring it up." My dad knew what I had done.

"She just sold us the gas." Lie four.

"Kelli, did you buy something with the change I asked you to bring back to me?"

I crumbled.  I started to cry.  I couldn't lie to my dad. I reached into my pocket, "Dad, I bought a fruit roll up. I am sorry. I just really wanted one. It is strawberry and my favorite flavor. I didn't think you would even notice."  What made me think that 20 minus 18 equaled anything other than $20?  More importantly, what made me think being deceptive and lying numerous times was acceptable?

My dad was stern with me but never yelled. "Here is the receipt.  Take the fruit roll up and the receipt back into the store and return it. Get the money back and bring back to me.  I will not let you keep this fruit roll up because you lied to me. If you had asked for it, I would have purchased it for you.  But lying will never get you what you want."

I was still crying as I felt bad for lying. Little did I know what was awaiting me in the store. I got out of the car and walked back in. I looked back at my dad one last time as my hand was on the door handle of the corner Tom Thumb, hoping and praying for some reason he would reconsider and not make me return the fruit roll up. He didn't even look at me as he was staring out the window at another car that just pulled up.

The man in front of me at the register finished paying for his purchases and left the line. It was just me standing there staring at the woman whom I had seen every single time I was at the gas station.  I was frozen in place.

"Can I help you sweetie?"

"Um. I...I need to return this."  She took the roll up from hand and inspected the packaging.

"Reason for return?"

"What?" I asked. I am sure my face was tear streaked and as red as a fire engine.

"Why are you returning the fruit roll up?"

"Oh. Um."  I had no idea what to say.  "I thought it was watermelon. It is strawberry." Lie number five. Now I had lied to my dad and the lady at the register.

She pushed a few buttons on her cash register, the drawer popped open and she gave me change. All in pennies.  I was mortified.  Somehow the pennies made it worse.  No.  It was the all knowing look on her face that made it absolutely embarrassing. She knew what happened and never said a word.

"Have a good day dear. See you next time."

I slowly walked to the door and it dawned on me. The reason my dad didn't get mad or yell at me was he knew exactly how this was going to play out. He knew how dreadfully embarrassing it would be for me to have to go back into a store and return a ten cent fruit roll up because I hadn't asked for permission to buy it in the first place.  Going back into the store was the best punishment ever. Because I was mortified. I never wanted to see that cashier again. She knew I was a liar, just like my dad did.

I wasn't grounded, I never did get yelled at.  Come to think of it, I don't think my dad ever even told my mom what happened that morning at the corner gas station. And surely my dad never brought up the subject again.   My punishment was embarrassment.  My dad knew exactly what he was doing.

All these 33 years later, I able to remember what happened that day like it was yesterday.  I lied numerous times, and my silent punishment was understood.  I even remember thinking how smart  my dad was for making me go back into the store.  For not giving in. For not even saying, that is okay. Here, have the fruit roll up.  He knew there was a lesson in there, and a lesson was learned.

I have over time developed a natural lie detector.  I know when I am being lied to.  Someone won't make eye contact with me.  They over explain or make lots of excuses. Sometimes it is a tilt of the head and eyes that squeeze shut.  Or even the rubbing of a forehead or hands. But I know when I am being lied to.  My children also know this to be true.  I will catch one in a lie and  only tilt my head and narrow my eyes.  And then clarifying statement  is made to correct what was just said.  And the truth is known.

I never want to be known as a liar.  Not at 10 or at 43. For sure not at 43.  Because I have learned my lesson. I never want to see that look of disappointment on anyone's face. Also, I am thankful for a lesson learned from my dad and lesson reinforced by the lady at the register at the corner Tom Thumb gas station.

Saturday, April 13, 2019


My husband brought me For No Reason tulips just over a week ago. He has done this many times, and every time, they make me smile from ear to ear.  This time, it was a half dozen rich purple bulbs planted in a pot.  They grew quickly and started to open.  The color was breathtaking.  Almost as if my eyes were assaulted each time they came into view because nothing that surrounded them was even close to their vibrant color. I became as fond of the white tips and green stems as I did of the beautiful tulips.  I even found myself taking in a deep breath when I was next to the mantle over the fire place so that I could breathe in a whiff of the still damp soil.  I was absolutely taken with the gift from the husband I love.

The first time I received flowers from someone, they were yellow tulips. It was such a beautiful bright color and I adored them. I displayed them on the small bedside table next to my bed.  I took a vase from my mom's dining room closet where all of her china was stored.  There was also a wonderful shelf filled with every sized vase you could imagine.  I selected a short, rotund, dark green vase that matched the drink wear and serving dishes that would adorn our dining room table when my mom entertained. I filled the vase with water, and cut the stems to fit in the vase. The green stems stood out even more against the dark green of the vase.

When my mom arrived home later that day, she came into my room to check on homework and my day.  She smiled when she saw the yellow tulips siting next to my bed.  "Ah. Tulips. What a pretty color.  Any boy can give the gift of roses, but keep the ones that give you tulips and know that they are your favorite flower."  I have never forgotten these words from my mom these 25+ years later.

Yesterday, when I came downstairs to get the kids ready for school, I noticed one of the tulips was beginning to lose its petals.  These gorgeous few pieces of a whole had fallen onto the ground and on top of the clean clothes basket underneath the mantle.  I bent to pick them up, one by one. I brushed the yellow dust of the stamen off my black dress on the top of the basket and then glanced down at the petals.  How are these remnants just as beautiful as they were the day they arrived in my home 8 days earlier?

I started thinking about the beauty that can be found in the pieces and remnants of each day.  Not everything is perfect, not everything is exciting, not everything makes me happy. But bits and pieces and glimpses absolutely do.  When I see my son working quietly on the computer at the corner kiosk at the library. When my daughter returns to me skipping with excitement after reading to both of the therapy dogs at the library.  When an email of thanks is responded to.  When a text message warms my heart and makes me feel so very thankful.  When I look forward to dinner prepared on the grill even though the ground is still covered in snow.  These pieces, these moments make me so very happy.

Yesterday, when I noticed the petals taking leave of their origin, I could have viewed the happening as a mournful event.  But I chose to relish the beauty, to bask in the idea that spring will eventually arrive. I chose to remember that beauty lies all around me and it is to be enjoyed daily. 

I am also so very thankful for the one that gives me tulips and knows that it is my favorite one of all.

Close Attention

I wondered for three days if my feelings were justified.  Three days.  I had been hurt by an acquaintance when they were rude to me.  I ...