Is This Surreal Life

Is this just fantasy.
Caught in a landslide.
No escape from quarantine.

Not quite the words you may remember from the song Bohemian Rhapsody but those are the words that have been playing in my mind since listening to the song this morning. It truly is a surreal time we are all living in.

Now don’t worry. I haven’t shot a man – yet. But as I listened, okay as I was singing to the song this morning I started to think about how the stress, anxiety, and uncertainty Freddie Mercury felt is very similar to what many of us are feeling now. I know there have been moments these past couple weeks that I have felt like a poor boy with shivers down my spine. No body aches yet and I sure do hope they don’t start.

But anyway, isn’t it crazy how quickly our world has changed? Both throughout the globe and in our own personal worlds? We’ve gone from every day living to waiting on the daily press conference from our President or Governor to see how we need to adjust our living for the next day. Can we, should we go to the park for a walk or grab some groceries from the store? Will I loose my job? How will I pay my bills? Will I get sick? Will someone I love? What can I do right now to help others in more need than I am?

So many questions and to make it even worse, so many opinions and news reports bombarding us each day on television or through social media. It’s a lot to take in and process. It’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed. I have at times so I’ve limited by news and social media time to just in the morning and then again in the early evening. And there’s the daily 2pm ‘Wine with DeWine’ press conference here in Ohio. I am running low on red wine in case anyone wants to help a guy out.

Self isolating, social distancing, and sheltering at home in some regards are really easy for me to do. I live in an RV. Just me and the Doodle. There’s plenty of room between our lot and the few others here at our current campground. Enough room to take a walk and still be able to say hi or have a short conversation from a six foot distance. Not quite as cordial as usual at the campground but still friendly enough. I’m looking forward to being able to gather around a campfire with folks again and share a few cold drinks.

Until that time is possible, I’m looking for ways to stay in contact with people. My family and friends. Especially my grand kids. Being able to call, text, FaceTime, Hangout, and Skype with them is really helpful but still there are times when loneliness creeps in. I’m comfortable being alone and pretty much always have been comfortable with it but when being alone is not just by choice it’s a little harder.

I found myself getting caught up in the vast uncertainty of what’s going on and decided to limit the input, like I mentioned above, and to substitute that and fill my time reading and with music. Most of my reading is in the Bible right now and devotional type books. I’ve been a follower of the Christ for 35 years and in good times and bad, I’m pulled back to the scriptures and the message of love and grace that has and always will be there for me. For all of us. For everyone. I find not just comfort in that but also confidence that no matter what is going on or how crazy the world around may be, I can face it.

And music. Since I was probably three or four years old, I’ve loved music. I can’t say all music, like that whole Ska thing a few years back, but almost every genre of music I do enjoy. Just depends upon my mood and the occasion. Lately in the mornings I’ve been listening to southern rock from the 70’s to get my day started. While cooking, I usually have mellow acoustic tunes playing either from the 70s or some pretty good current artists. I may change genres five or six times throughout the day. Basically just following where my spirit takes me. And of course I’m singing along. Scripture does tell us to make a joyful noise don’t you know. That’s one scripture lesson that I can pretty easily follow.

The Doodle and I came back to Ohio about four weeks early in case traveling within the US became more restricted. I wasn’t really excited to drive back into Ohio weather but it’s comforting to be back and to be close to my kids and friends. I am waiting ten to fourteen days before going to see anyone just in case I picked up the virus on my trip back. Can’t wait to hug, play with, and tickle my grand kids. And one or two other folks I know. You know who you are.

Sitting here tonight, riding out a pretty good thunderstorm, I’m writing this and thinking how thankful I really am. Life’s been good to me so far although very challenging at times. Even disappointing and tragic. But my life has taught me to enjoy today. To live in each moment as they come. To not worry about tomorrow because in all honestly I have very little control over it. That’s pretty obvious right now in my world and probably in yours too. To give my concerns and fears to the One that does know the future and to be at peace as much as I can each day. Some days are easier than others to do that but my faith keeps me trying. And my hope doesn’t fade.

So folks, I encourage you to turn off the news and decrease your time on social media over the weeks before us. Find a few good books and spend your time getting lost for a while in the worlds written in those pages. And turn on those old songs that you know by heart and sing along as loud as you can. Loud enough for your neighbors to hear you. You may just be giving them the song they need to hear and the courage to sing through the days ahead.

Any way the wind blows.

See you down the road….

Outside my window

Outside my window this morning, I see a blue sky. Clear blue with not a wisp of a cloud. The sun is shining bright and a gentle breeze is blowing as the day begins to warm. It’s going to be a lovely day here in Central Florida. One of many I’ve been enjoying this winter of 2020.

It’s been almost nine months now since Izzy the Doodle and I started full time RV living. We haven’t moved the Terra since arriving here at our winter camp in early December. It’s a nice camp filled with some really great snowbirds and I’ve enjoyed getting to know many of them. Izzy has enjoyed the camp’s dog park and playing with all her new friends. We both have really loved exploring the state parks and lakes around the area. And of course getting to both the Atlantic and Gulf beaches a number of times has made our stay extra enjoyable.

This is the first year I’ve ever spent winter someplace other than Ohio. And I’m pretty sure I won’t be in Ohio again for a winter for quite some time. Maybe it’s being 60 years old now or perhaps just finally coming to my senses, but sunshine and warm temps feel so much better than the gray cold of up north. I’d much rather see swaying palm trees outside my window that snow covered sidewalks that need shoveling.

The plan had been to only stay in Florida until mid January and then head west to Arizona but while driving the shuttle craft, our Honda CRV, back down from Ohio after the holidays, I decided to just stay in Florida this year. It was a good decision as our months spent here have been really relaxing. That’s what retirement is supposed to be all about right?

Having the same view outside my window each day has at times felt monotonous as the nomad in me has been itching to move on down the road. But many times it does the soul good to just stay in one place for a while. To not be on the move so much. To have time to rest and to think about things.

I’ve been doing just that these past few months. A lot of thinking but not much writing. This morning the tug to get back to writing has pulled at me. March 7 is a day that will always tug at my heart because it’s on this day in 2017, that the kids and I said goodbye to Barb.

Early on that morning three years ago, she finished her life journey and conquered her cancer. We had spend the last few days with family and friends by her side saying our goodbyes and remembering all the great times Barb had shared with us over her almost 56 years of earthly life.

Life’s road since then has been full of adjustments and turns for the kids and I but because of the love and strength Barb showed and shared with us through her cancer, we have come out okay. Sad at times for sure. Missing her in more ways than you can know.

For me, knowing that with her last breath that morning, she was healed and whisked away to a much better place has given me great comfort and confidence. Comfort to fill the holes of missing her and confidence to continue living a life for myself as she would want me to do.

What do you see outside your window this morning? Is it bright and warm or dark and cold? I’ve seen both many times. If you’re in dark days right now, because of disease or other circumstance, I want to encourage you to hang in there. Lean on family, friends, and your faith to get you through. And watch.

Watch for that morning when a break in the darkness will come. Have hope. It will come and when it does be ready to step into the light and let it guide you to the next place in your life. Maybe that will be living in an RV or finishing your earthly race or maybe something else but whatever your next place is, know that it’s coming and be looking for it. The darkness cannot last forever as there is a light that has comes into the world and that light has overcome it. Barb knew this and she’s living in the source of that beautiful light today and for evermore.

Outside my window is a flowering bush. Roses of some type I believe. Barb loved roses and all her flowers. Last night here at the camp was karaoke night and one lady sang the song The Rose. Coincidence? Maybe but I tend to think it’s more of a confirmation.

‘When the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long
And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed, that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose’

See you down the road my friends….

The Car Goes Where The Eyes Go

I just finished reading the book ‘The Art of Racing in the Rain’. Some of you may have also read the book or perhaps you have seen the movie that came out in 2019. For those of you that have not read the book nor seen the movie, I can tell you it’s a story that many of us can we relate to. Especially if you’re a man that lost his wife to cancer.

That’s me and I’m not ashamed to say that I cried a few times across the pages of this book. I’m not going to give you a review or synopsis of the story but will tell you that in a number of ways at a number of times it brought me both tears and laughter while I read and it ultimately gave me a sense of gratitude as well.

The saying, ‘The car goes where the eyes go’ is a favorite and life guiding mantra of the man, the husband, the father, in the story. He is a race car driver so you can understand the saying from that perspective. But there is a higher meaning of the saying in that our life will go wherever we place our focus. I’ve found that to be true in my life since my wife’s cancer and the almost three years since her passing.

As in the story, my life has changed greatly since losing her. I have endured grief, pain, loss, and the missing of her. Those first many months were rough for me. But I never lost sight of what had happened. She had finished her race not in defeat but with victory. She had shown me and our kids strength and endurance by not complaining or dwelling on the uncertainty and fear of her situation. She remained strong as best she could right up until her last few days with us. She finished her race and I can imagine with a smile in my heart, her victory lap as she arrived in heaven.

Our life, call it a rat race or a race through the years, is just that. It’s our life. We never know for sure what will lay around the next bend but if we keep our focus on what our life should truly be all about, we’ll be able to stay on the road, the track, and complete our race as well. With victory.

We may get in crashes at times. Delays may occur. Even detours that take us to places we hadn’t planned to drive to. Our race may be a sprint, a 500 miler, or more like a 24 hour endurance grand prix but whatever our race becomes the key is to keep driving to reach the finish line. To let the road we’re on become an extension of who we are and where we’re going. To take every turn with confidence knowing that we can finish in strength and with gratitude for the race we ran.

I encourage you to read this book. The subtitle for it is ‘Meet the dog who will show the world how to be human’. The story is written from the dog’s perspective and is quite entertaining. Enzo and his human Denny shared a love of racing and had worked out a method of communicating where Enzo would bark twice when asked if he really wanted to do something. The Doodle and I have are own method as well. Not barking but a certain look and she’s giving me that now. Yep, it’s time for another walk. So as Enzo would have done, we’ll bark twice. Which meant ‘Let’s go, one more lap’.

Keep your eyes on your road by friends.

See you down the road….

As The Cookie…

I love takeout! Or as they say in London, “takeaway”. Hunan Chicken and Vegetable Lo Mein have become comfort foods for me. Just as the Beatles sang, “When I find myself in times of trouble, delivery comes to me. Bringing Chinese takeaway. Just for me.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still a hometown American boy and nothing will ever replace a bowl of mashed potatoes and noodles as my main comfort food. But still those soggy cartons of chicken, rice, and noodles not only fill my belly with deliciousness but also my soul with a warm feeling of peace and tranquility.

Or maybe it’s the fortune cookie that brings me comfort. Question for you. Do you read the fortune before eating the cookie or the other way around? Or maybe at the same time? Or not at all? Chinese legend tells us it’s bad luck to eat the cookie before reading the fortune. Not sure that’s true but I’m not taking any chances. Read first, eat second.

Have you ever taken that little slip of paper in the cookie seriously? Ever had it actually pertain to a situation you were currently in? Ever made a change in your life because of it? Sounds crazy doesn’t it. To make a change because of a message you received from an unexpected source.

I’m starting to think that the world, karma, cookies, and God are sending us unexpected messages all the time. It’s just most times we go on with what we want to do, eat the cookie, without reading the message first. We may even throw away the message without reading it. We’re looking for immediate comfort and some vague message, we feel, won’t bring the comfort we are looking for.

Life is full of messages. Some we hear or read which we take seriously and act upon. Others we dismiss as just funny little sayings or something that doesn’t apply to us. I’m learning that every message we receive is worthy of consideration. Something to think about. Sure many may not seem to be for us but perhaps the intent is for us to pass it on to someone else. Don’t we pass around the table the fortunes from our cookies?

I’m trying to watch and listen each day for those unique, surprising, and even somewhat weird messages that come to me. No, I don’t have voices inside my head. Well maybe sometimes I do but that’s another story. What I mean right now is that I’ve learned what I thought would bring me comfort is not necessarily what really will. I need to look beyond the temporary satisfaction to find what will give me a lasting fullness. To find what will really comfort my soul.

So the next time you crack open that real or metaphoric fortune cookie, don’t just crumble up the paper but take a moment to read it and think about it. It just may be the message you’ve been waiting for.

And remember, “Wise person never try to get even. Wise person get odder.”

See you down the road….

January 1, 2020

Welcome to the 1st day of the 3rd decade of the 21st century. Seems like we were just partying like it was 1999. Do you remember where you were that New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1999? How can it be 2020 already?

As the Doodle and I begin this new year, I’m thinking back over the past 20 years. So many happy times with friends and family. So many sad times as well.

There are days the happy memories are strong. The good old days. Births, weddings, reunions, kitchen table laughs, parties, camping, vacations, holidays at the Lonsingers. These are the memories that put a smile on my face and warmth in my heart.

Then there are days the sad memories are in control. Fights with friends, family conflict, children struggles, loss of a job, breakups, deaths of those I love. These are the memories that darken the day and open again the anguish in my heart.

But it’s with strength and sincerity I can say that I’m thankful for everything and everyone that have been a part of my life. The good and the bad. The yin and the yang.

The Ancient Chinese concept of Yin and Yang can be described as follows:

“yin and yang is a concept of dualism, describing how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.”

Man has this been true in my life! An endless cycle of good and bad times. Ups and downs. Hope and despair. I’ve tried my best to live in the good but the bad always seems to creep back in. The yin and the yang.

‘It is what it is’ was what my late wife said through her journey with cancer. She had accepted the truth of her illness, the bad, and had decided to live out her days in the good. She understood that human life is a constant cycle of yin and yang. And through her example I too now understand.

So, as I roll along in the 61st year of my life, I’m at peace with the past and the future. Both the good and bad that has been and is to come. I know the past and do not know the future but today and each day, I will do my best to live in both the yin and the yang. To the fullest. And with an assurance that both are okay and I will be too.

Exciting good and bad days are ahead in 2020. I’m ready to get going.

See you down the road….

Tell Me Christmas Are We Wise

 

Merry Christmas! Yes I know it’s the day after Christmas. It’s time to firm up our plans for New Year’s Eve and start putting away the Christmas decorations. Christmas 2019 was great but Father Time keeps moving on and so must we. In just a few nights we’ll be welcoming in the 3rd decade of the 21st century. Can you believe it? It seems like just last year we were all partying like it was 1999. Time does indeed move on. And quickly.

So what did you do this day after Christmas? Did you do some gift returning or exchanging? Did you stock up on sale items for Christmas 2020? Did you spend one more day with family before heading out tomorrow? Did you binge-watch the final day of Christmas movies on Hallmark, Ion, Lifetime, and Netflix? Or did you spend this day sitting at home, doing pretty much what you do every day, spending it alone?

This afternoon a friend and I went to see the Trans Siberian Orchestra (TSO) performance of Christmas Eve and Other Stories. Let me tell you the rock and roll road show still exists and man was it fantastic! Awesome guitar licks. Glass shattering vocals. Music that really did rock my socks off. And a light and pyrotechnics show that was better than anything I saw in the 70s. The TSO musicians are true rockers and they made this 60-year-old guy feel like he was 20 again this afternoon. Yes, we went to the matinee performance – I am 60 you know.

You can google the history of TSO to see how Paul O’Neill and his collaborators brought great rock musicians together in the late 1990s to create an entertainment explosion of song and stage. I get goosebumps whenever I hear their music and think about how they took classical music compositions we pretty much all know and rocked them out to reach into another genre. If you haven’t heard them before you should give them a listen. And if you have never seen them on stage, you really need to. Get ready to see the longest hair you’ve seen since Cher in the 60s. And that’s just the guys in the group!

Christmas Eve and Other Stories is the weaving of basically three stories. The original Christmas story of our Savior coming to the earth. The story of God sending an angel today to see if the spirit of Christmas still exists in the hearts of humankind. And the story of a run-away young girl trying to get home to her father who longs for her return. The music that brings all these stories together is beautiful. Each song tells a story within itself and when the songs are put together it’s very moving

There’s one song that always moves me. It’s called Old City Bar. That’s right, in the midst of a Christmas performance there is a song about a bar. Remember this is rock music.

This song tells the story of the run-away girl trying to find a way to get back home on Christmas Eve. It’s sad and inspiring at the same time. It’s a song about how we’re all connected, especially on Christmas Eve, and how we all share the same hope for love and belonging. I’ll include a link to the song at the end of this post. Maybe it will talk to you and maybe it won’t. Maybe this style of music isn’t for you. But the central message of Old City Bar, as well as the entire Christmas Eve and Other Stories performance, is a message for all of us to think about not just on Christmas Eve but every day of the year.

That message is pretty much summarized by this one verse:
If you want to arrange it
This world, you can change it
If we could somehow
Make this Christmas thing last
By helping a neighbor
Or even a stranger
To know who needs help,
You need only just ask.

Change the world. We all have ideas on how to change the world to make it better. But better for whom? For a neighbor? For a stranger? For ourselves? The story of Christmas is perhaps the greatest story about change that has ever been told. You can choose to believe it or not. That’s your right and privilege. But I suggest to you that no greater change for a better future has ever been given to humankind than that which occurred on that first Christmas. If we want to make this Christmas thing last, this spirit of Christmas, of peace and goodwill towards men, then perhaps it is as simple as just asking if someone needs help. Even if that someone is ourselves.

The other song that always moves me is called This Christmas Day. It’s the song the father sings once he learns his daughter is on her way home after receiving the help of the bartender of the Old City Bar. If you’ve ever had a child or other loved one that’s been struggling away from home, you will relate to the father’s words.

Here is the first verse:
“So tell me Christmas are we wise
To believe in things we never see
Are Prayers just wishes in disguise
And are these wishes being granted me
For now I see the answering
To every prayer I’ve prayed
She’s coming home this Christmas Day”

Just as this father saw his wish, his prayer, being granted, I think we too will see the answering to our prayers for those we love. To believe in things we never see. I believe we are wise to place our hope in Christmas and to live out that hope every day of our lives. Think of the joy that would give our Father and the peace we will experience.

Here’s wishing you a Happy New Year friends! I hope you give a look and listen to the Old City Bar link below. Check out the entire Christmas Eve and Other Stories if you can. It will rock your socks off and more than likely bring you the peace of Christmas in a light show pyro-technic sort of way.

I’ll see you down the road in 2020….

Home For Christmas

“The sun is shining, the grass is green
The orange and palm trees sway
There’s never been such a day
In Beverly Hills, L.A.”

“But it’s December the 24th
And I am longing to be up north….”

Okay I know it’s only December the 13th and I’m in Frostproof, Florida, not L.A., but the lyrics above have been stuck in my head all day. Thank you FM radio stations!

Do you know which Christmas song these lyrics are from?

When I was a kid, one of my favorite Christmas albums had the song White Christmas on it. Not by Bing Crosby but sung by Robert Goulet. If you’re under the age of 50 you probably don’t know who he was but as an adolescent boy going through the voice change of puberty, I envied Mr. Goulet’s deep resonating voice. Especially on his version of White Christmas. I still prefer his version over Bing’s.

And I would bet, most folks don’t know that White Christmas included the opening lyrics above. There’s debate where the song was written. Some feel it was started in Southern California and then finished perhaps in the New York Catskills mountains where Irving Berlin’s family had a home. If that’s the case then including lines about orange and palm trees make sense. Plus I don’t remember seeing any of those trees swaying at the Pine Tree Lodge in Vermont in the movie White Christmas.

Honestly, I’m not dreaming of a white Christmas at all this year. In fact I’m trying to avoid the snow as much as possible. But if old man Winter decides to drop a few inches in Ohio while I’m home for Christmas that will be okay. I have grandkids to play with in the snow now and they make everything more fun. Except for maybe driving in the muck and slush. And certainly not in a one horse open sleigh. The shuttle craft is AWD and stays much warmer.

This will be the first time in my sixty years of living, that I have ‘gone home’ for Christmas. I’ve always been at home for Christmas as well as most holidays, so this year is a bit different for me.

I’ve been on the road, fulltime RV living, for almost five months now. Hard to believe that much time has past by already. And to be honest, with the holidays, especially Christmas, coming up very soon, I’m feeling a little distant from my home, friends, and kids. Both in miles and even in spirit a little. It was just today that the Christmas spirit kicked in for me. I stopped playing Hits from the 70s and made the switch to Christmas music. Most of that Christmas music is also from the 70s or before but it’s music that I’ve heard many, many times and always brings a smile to my face and a lift in my mood.

So on one of the local FM stations down here, I heard the Robert Goulet version of White Christmas. I was singing loud and clear for all to hear while driving down US27 today and received a thumbs up from another driver while at a stop light. At least I think it was his thumb. As we pulled away from the light, White Christmas finished and another of my favorite Christmas songs came on…

“I’m dreaming tonight of a place I love
Even more than I usually do
And although I know it’s a long road back
I promise you”

Ah, Johnny Mathis! His version of I’ll Be Home For Christmas is a classic and I think it too is the best version of the song. It was also on that Christmas album from my youth. I think I’m becoming that old man that thinks the only good music comes from the 60s and 70s. Maybe early 80s too. Today’s music just ain’t got the same soul. Name that tune if you can.

I love the opening lyrics to I’ll Be Home and this year they are a perfect fit for me. It will be great to celebrate my favorite holiday with the kids and grands. Our Christmas for the past two years has become quite different from the previous couple of decades. Without Barb, the holidays especially Christmas, just aren’t the same. But don’t misunderstand me. Things are different but still good. The love that Barb built within our family has remained intact and even grown stronger as we miss her. That’s part of her legacy and I plan on continuing that over the years ahead.

I remember the first time I heard I’ll Be Home for Christmas that first Christmas in 2017 without Barb. I was again in my car, driving home from work, when the song came on the radio. I had to pull over until the song finished. The words took on a new meaning for me. I couldn’t sing along. I couldn’t drive.

Barb was home for Christmas. Did she have snow and mistletoe? I don’t really know but I knew then and know still today that she is most definitely home. Sure, not at home with me and the kids but she had made it to her ultimate home. Can you imagine what Christmas is like in heaven? I try to but I’m sure I don’t come close to comprehending the beauty of it. The joy in celebrating His birthday with Him. What a party that must be. The true White Christ Mass.

Today I could sing along with Johnny and even tried to harmonize a little with him. Music brings peace to the soul and I’m thankful it does. Songs bring back memories of loved ones we miss and gives us the encouragement to keep going. To dream about the good times in the past and the good times to come. Until I, we all, are home for Christmas.

Friends, may all your days be merry and bright this Christmas season.

See you down the road….