Trying To Be Perfect

Is this you? It’s me sometimes, mostly while I’m writing, but overall not too often these days. You see with age comes wisdom and part of that wisdom is knowing that no matter how hard I or you try, are you ready for this, we will NEVER be perfect. And honestly I’m not sure why you or I would ever want to be. I’ve learned that happiness is far from being found within perfection. It’s the messes in our lives that seem to hold the most meaning and even happiness for us.

As I continue to grow the seeds of thought and word within me (hey that’s pretty good writing right there), I’ve started reading the book ‘Bird by Bird – Some Instructions on Writing and Life’ written by Anne Lamott. It’s a great read for anyone. Funny and thought provoking as she describes her experiences and lessons learned from writing and from life.

In her book, Anne pens; “Perfection is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.. Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground – you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things, get a grip. Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it’s going to get. Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation, while writing (and I’ll add living) needs to breathe and move.”

What in your past did you want to be perfect at? What today? Is it really perfection you’re after or more of obtaining a sense of fullness, confidence, or maybe even validation? How much time have you spent on the minuscule details of trying to be perfect that you’ve missed out on the joys found within the infinite inconsistencies of imperfection? Maybe you’ll find what you’re looking for not in the perfect and clean living of your life but in the mud puddles of each day.

It’s a sunny warmer day here in Central Ohio. Sitting in the Terra as I write this, I have the windows open letting the cool 60 degree breeze flow through. It’s not perfect but it’s pretty good. Honestly it’s really good. Starting tomorrow we have four days of wet yet warmer weather. I’m thinking there will be plenty of mud puddles for the Doodle and I to jump into this weekend and you know, in a way, that, in itself, is kind of perfect.

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….

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….

Who Says You Can’t Go Home

Over the years I’ve lived in seven different houses or apartments. All of them were home in one way or another. Some were ranch style, some were two stories, one which was the most recent was an apartment. Although the shape and size of each was different than the rest, they all felt the same because they were home.

Be it marriages, kids, family, neighbors, friends, parties, illness, or deaths, each occasion, each happening that occurred made that building, that place, feel more like home. So I guess the saying ‘Home is where the heart is’ is true. You take home with you no matter where you go.

The Terra, the new RV home for the Doodle and I, makes the eighth home for me. We’re three weeks into RV living and other than a few maintenance issues and one oops on my part, all has gone pretty well. Both of us seem to be adapting to waking and sleeping in the Terra. Our schedules and activities have already slowed to a calmer pace. There’s still been stress in making and breaking camp at each location and some anxiety for me in driving this 38 foot condo on wheels, but really for the most part, we’re doing well.

Case in point, yesterday morning. When pulling out of the KOA in Coshocton, Ohio, I had forgotten to lower the TV antenna on the top of the Terra. But no worries, a few of the stately maple trees along County Road 10 reminded me that the antenna was still up. There was a loud scraping noise and then leaves flying in all directions. I pulled over to inspect the damage and thankfully the antenna didn’t break and still worked great. It just shifted a little from the experience. And the trees came out just fine too, although a few leaves where missing.

Have you ever had an experience like mine? You forget to do something and that leads to an unexpected situation or problem? I would bet all of us have and most likely we all still do at times. Or perhaps it’s the other way. We do something, either intentionally or by chance, that causes discomfort in either our life or in the lives of those around us. I used to get angry at myself when I would put myself in these situations. How could I be so dumb! What was I thinking! Oops, I did it again! (Britney’s song just popped into your head didn’t it?)

Our experiences, be they good or bad, do cause us to shift a little. Sometimes we come away with just scratches and sometimes we loose a few leaves. Maybe we mend and maybe we don’t. Each experience changes us from who we were to who we are. Hopefully for the better but not always and that’s a truth I know about myself. How we live life afterwards is all up to how we respond to the shift, or scratch, or loss.

Yesterday was a wonderful day as I got to visit with some long time friends. Note that I did not say old friends. Age is just a number and its really how old we think and feel that matters. After the cold beers last evening, I’m feeling a little older this morning.

I had the joy of having lunch yesterday with six of the ladies from the Great 78. All of us were members of the greatest class to ever graduate from Coshocton High School. The Class of 1978. Yes I’m a bit bias but I really think we were the best class as we still have great relationships. Our class reunions every five years are so much fun and everyone that attends has a great time catching up. It doesn’t matter if we ran in the same circle or not back in high school.

The years have shown me and life has taught me that who we were then was just the beginning of who we are now and today our circles cross and over lap and blend almost into one at times. I’m so thankful for how my relationships with my classmates has deepened over the years and as such, I can now truly call everyone friend. Our reunions and get-togethers feel like home and for that I’m very thankful.

Lunch yesterday on the patio of the Old Warehouse in Roscoe Village was very nice. We talked about things currently going on in each of our lives. We talked about our kids and grand kids. We talked about our marriages, divorces, current relationships, illnesses, and deaths of those we loved. We shared some laughs and hugs and memories of the good times. Even a few tears. I felt honored to have been invited to join the ‘girls’ for lunch.

Last evening, I was able to meet up with more high school friends and one of my nieces and her husband at the Wooly Pig Farm Brewery near Fresno, Ohio. It was a beautiful evening sitting outside on the Pig’s patio enjoying their local brew and chatting for a few hours. The beer is really good and a nice selection for such a small brewery. But even better was the time we spent together talking and laughing about our past and current lives.

I hope to get home like this again during my journeys over the months ahead. I know I’ll take yesterday with me no matter where I go. It will be home.

Bon Jovi sang the song ‘Who Says You Can’t Go Home’. The last verse and chorus of the song, hit me last night as I was sitting in the Terra.

It doesn’t matter where you are
It doesn’t matter where you go
If it’s a million miles away or just a mile up the road
Take it in
Take it with you when you go
Who says you can’t go home?

Who says you can’t go back?
Been all around the world and as a matter of fact
There’s only one place left I wanna go
Who says you can’t go home?

Home is where you’ve been and it’s where you are. And more importantly it is a place you will always have with you. No matter where life takes you, in your mind and heart, you are home.

See you down the road my friends, see you at home….

Every Rose Has Its…

I love flowers. Especially roses.

The Park of Roses in Columbus, or Clintonville to be precise, is a favorite park for our family. Over the years, from each Spring to Autumn, we have spent many hours there walking among and enjoying all the various varieties. The colors, the scents, even the structure of each plant are things to admire and appreciate. The beauty that comes from some very prickly plants is amazing. Kind of like some folks I know and I bet you know a few too.

My wife Barb especially enjoyed the Park of Roses. The heritage varieties were her favorites. She enjoyed talking with the volunteers that grew and maintained all the plants in the park and learning about new varieties and the care of the plants. At each house we’ve lived in, she would plant one or two rose bushes shortly after moving in so we would be able to enjoy them for years to come. She was good at caring for flowers as she was with almost everything in her life. Whenever I see a rose I think of her.

The photo with this post was taken by a family friend recently in the Park of Roses. Thanks Emily for letting me borrow it. The contrast of decaying blooms with vibrant flowers, really struck me. Realizing that both life and decay were occurring from the same plant, at the same moment, was thought provoking. And inspiring.

Every plant or if I may, every person at any moment in their life, most likely will experience life and decay at the same time. One part of our life may be fading away while another is reaching full bloom. Two realities existing as one.

We experience disappointment and even hurt as things once beautiful and strong begin to slip away from us. Maybe our health or perhaps a relationship is beginning to fade. The beauty, the happiness, we once enjoyed is leaving. What seemed to be the most important thing in our life is going. And we question why. Why is this happening to me? Sadness starts to discolor our world and our joy is taken away.

These past few weeks, the message our senior pastor has shared with us at our church has been based on the book of Ephesians and the Uncommon Joy that can exist in our lives. A joy that stays with us no matter what is changing around us or even happening to us. A joy that goes deep, down to our roots, and no illness, hurt, or decay can take it from us.

I’ve found that type of joy, that internal strength and beauty, but it took me a long time to really understand what it is and from where it comes. It’s something that was always with me, planted deep inside, and over the years I’ve tried to be happy, to grow my joy, but something would always happen that would bring sadness into my life and the blooms would fade and die. I’ve repeated this cycle of growing and dying over and over again with my emotions and I probably will continue to repeat it until my time is up on this earth.

But joy is not an emotion. It’s not like happiness or sadness. Joy is not a feeling. It is a confidence and a contentment in knowing yourself and your source of life, from where life comes. A strength that no matter what this world throws at you, no matter how bad it hurts, you know that you will be alright. That is the joy I’ve come to know and allow to grow in my life. It really is uncommon yet available to everyone. Everyone.

As many of you know, this weekend Senator John McCain passed on after losing his valiant battle with brain cancer, a glioblastoma.  The same type of cancer that took my wife in March of 2017. Both Barb and Mr. McCain fought a good fight, gave their all, in trying to overcome the disease and both lost their life to it. But from what I know about Mr. McCain and from the life I shared with Barb, I can say neither of them lost their joy. The decay of cancer may have taken their lives but the blooms of joy from living and loving continue in those of us that lived and loved with them. They knew the source of their joy and it did not leave them. And now their joy is complete.

“Contentment is not about what we have but who we have.” – Mark Krenz.

I encourage you to search out that source of contentment, that joy, and claim it. Let it take root inside you and grow to make you strong. Even strong enough to overcome the decay of this life.

To be able to bloom. Always and in all things.

See you down the road….

How Sweet It Is

I woke up this morning with James Taylor.

Singing in my mind that is. I’ve always enjoyed his music and this morning I could hear his song “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You”. My foot started tapping which apparently annoyed Izzy the Doodle enough that she jumped off the bed. She must not be a fan of the original JT.

Here are a bit of the lyrics:

‘I close my eyes at night wondering where would I be without you in my life.
Everything I did was just a bore, everywhere I went it seems I’d been there before.
But you brighten up for me all of my days with a love so sweet in so many ways,
I want to stop and thank you baby, I just want to stop and thank you baby.
How sweet it is to be loved by you, feels so fine. How sweet it is to be loved by you.’

This is one of a number of songs throughout my life that has always picked me up. I can’t help but to start singing along and let the song put a smile on my face. Someday, if you’re lucky, you’ll pull up beside me at a stop light while this song is playing. I expect you to sing along with me so don’t be shy. Put the windows down and join me in making a joyful noise!

Do you have a song that picks you up? Why does it? Perhaps when you first heard it, it really connected with you. Or perhaps you heard it during an emotional time in your life and it’s been your goto song ever since. Or maybe it’s a family favorite or a song you and your childhood friends have great memories around.

Songs are memories. And tied to them are emotions. Many if not most songs have emotions as part of their title or in their lyrics. Songs such as:

“Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake (the other JT)
“Happy” by Pharrell

“Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night
“Yesterday” by The Beatles
“I Will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlan
“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” by Hank Williams

And thousands more across all genres of music. No matter your favorite artist or style of music, I’m sure there are certain songs that will forever open your mind and emotions to another place. Take you back to a time when you experienced something that made an impact on your life. A life-changing moment.

James Taylor’s version of “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You” has now made a new emotional connection with me. In addition to being that happy little jingle that always made me sing, it has also become an anthem since losing my wife Barb. We would dance to this song everytime we heard it. Weddings, parties, clubs, and once on a public sidewalk. I promise it wasn’t too embarrassing.

Wonderful memories of a love so sweet in so many ways that continue on even after the grave. I really do wonder where would I be without having had her in my life all those years. So many great memories and experiences that will stay with me no matter what comes. I’m very thankful for that.

So which song connects with you? I’d love to hear about your song and your story so please leave a comment to share. And while you’re doing so, queue up that song of yours. Play it loud and sing along. Get that feeling inside your bones and go electric wavy when you turn it on. Dang there comes that other JT! He’s pretty good too.

See you down the road.

Hey Soul Sister Happy It’s Raining Men

At my age, things are starting to run together in my mind. I mean after close to sixty years of sensory input, my brain is probably ready to burst from all the things I’ve seen, heard, tasted, smelled, and touched. I know supposedly we only use 10% of our brain’s capacity to store and process information but I’m telling you my head must be so full of it, be careful now what you’re thinking, that I’m not sure I can take in much more.

When my friends and I get together our conversations usually end up on movies, songs, or tv shows we’ve enjoyed over the years and our talk becomes a rapid fire rendition of lyrics and quotes that somehow all seem to connect across our memories. One after another rolls out of our mouths and after just a few minutes we have no idea what we were originally talking about. Might just be our age causing it but mostly I think we’ve just evolved into a higher consciousness where we see in our minds eye how everything in the world is connected. Sort of a paradigm of hope!

Movies. My friends Darrell and Peggy can move through lines from O Brother Where Art Thou, Forrest Gump, Smokey and the Bandit, Christmas Vacation, Star Wars, and Airplane (among many other favorites) so quickly that your head begins to spin and you realize you “picked a bad day to give up smoking” among other things. I try to keep up but usually I just sit back and laugh in admiration. And “that’s all I’ve got to say about that”.

TV Shows. I grew up a kid in the 60’s and teenager in the 70’s. I loved the Saturday morning cartoons followed by western movies in the afternoon. I would watch shows back to back for hours until mom would either give me a chore or chase me outside to play with some friends. When I think now about some of those TV shows I can see myself pretending to be the heroes in each one. And for some I had the matching outfit. White hat and all!

Jonny Quest was a favorite of mine. Each episode Jonny, with the help of his friend Hadji, dog Bandit, dad Dr. Quest, and Race Bannon, was able to overcome villains, tragedies, mysteries, and some pretty scary monsters to win the day. This show taught me at an early age that I should never give up hope nor give in to my fears. So did John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and Jimmy Stewart in all the westerns I watched. You see pilgrim, “Courage is being scared and saddling up anyway”. And what was it Jimmy Stewart said?  Oh yeah, “I think one day you’ll find that you’re the hero you’ve been looking for”. Movie lines or perhaps mottos to live by that have stuck with me my entire life.

Songs. If you know me even just a little, you know that music is a big part of my life. Just sneak up to the windows of the Terra sometime and most likely you’ll hear me singing some Eagles, Bob Seger, or just about any song from the 70s. Don’t look in because if you hear Old Time Rock and Roll, I’m probably dressed like Tom Cruise sliding across the linoleum in Risky Business. Got that visual? Good! Now where’s my tube socks and white shirt?

Which brings me to the title of this post from along the road, Hey Soul Sister Happy It’s Raining Men. Three titles of perhaps not the most profound songs ever recorded but each one has very special meaning in my life. Do you have songs, maybe from the B side of the record, that are special to you? I’d love to read your comments about your timeless classics of tv, movie, or music.

Hey Soul Sister, Happy, and It’s Raining Men each connect to some pretty great memories for me and fun times shared with my wife Barb over our 30 years of marriage. The first two, Hey Soul Sister and Happy, were songs you could catch Barb humming or singing almost anytime. And It’s Raining Men, believe it or not, was kind of our song. Stick with me on this for a moment.

Barb really enjoyed Hey Soul Sister by Train and it’s upbeat swing about finding someone that was “one of her kind” that “gave her life direction – a game show love connection we can’t deny”. Of course she was thinking of me with this song. Right?

Hey Soul Sister came out in 2009. It might had been a couple of years before this song caught her ear but boy once it did you could catch her singing it about anytime. If you see my kids, ask them about their mom spontaneously busting out in song and dance whenever she heard this song. That thought and this song will always bring a smile to my face whenever I hear it. She sure could “cut a rug” and for this thug “watching you’s the only drug I need”.

Happy by Pharrell Williams was a go to song for Barb. Anytime it was played at a social event or wedding she moved quickly to the dance floor to “clap along like a room without a roof”. I’d usually catch up with her by the second verse and we’d dance like we were in our twenties again. Happy was released in 2013 and when Barb’s cancer showed up in 2015, this song took on additional importance. I think for Barb and I know for me the lyrics in the second verse were not only fun but also gave great strength to us.

“Here come bad news, talking this and that
(Yeah) Well, give me all you got, and don’t hold it back
(Yeah) Well, I should probably warn you I’ll be just fine
(Yeah) No offense to you, don’t waste your time
Here’s why – Because I’m Happy…”

And It’s Raining Men by The Weather Girls from 1983. Barb and I met in January of 1984 at Mickey’s in our home town. I remember that is was a Saturday night and me and the boys were out having drinks and a good time watching all the single ladies on what we called the old side at Mickey’s. We were sitting upstairs so we had the best view of the dance floor and while purveying the crowd below, I noticed Barb and her friend Kathy sitting at a table next to the dance floor. There was a guy, who I’ll call Farmer Dan, who had drank a few too many and was being rather persistent about asking Barb and Kathy to dance with him. It looked to me that both ladies were getting rather annoyed by Farmer Dan’s persistence, and in that I saw an opportunity.

I tapped my friend Dave on the shoulder and said “I’ll bet you a quarter that I can get one of those two girls down there to dance with me”. He took the bet, I approached their table, and Barb said yes. And yes I know her motivation to dance with me was not due to my handsome persona nor my John Travolta dancing ability but simply to just get away from the Farmer. Poor Kathy was left to fend alone for herself but half way through the song, my buddy Dave got her out on the dance floor. What was the song? Yep It’s Raining Men. I guess it did that night for Barb. After all I was sitting up in the clouds looking down on her. And I made a quarter. It was a really good night!

Our lives, short or long, are filled with moments where something we experienced becomes one of the great memories in our mind. Over the past two and a half years since Barb finished her journey with cancer, my mind has reopened to memories of movies, tv shows, and songs that I had not thought about in a very long time. And it’s great as these memories, running together one after the other, bring me great happiness and peace. As well as a smile to my face and a dance in my step.

To quote Forrest, Forrest Gump; “My momma always said you’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on”. I think momma was right about that but I also think I’ll keep those special memories from the past in my back pocket as I continue to move on.

I’ll see you down the road….