Merry Christmas Eve Eve

December 23rd.

The night before the night before Christmas. Not the most significant day of the holiday season is it. Maybe you spent it doing some last minute gift shopping or purchasing all the food for your Christmas meal. Perhaps it was spent traveling home or getting the house ready for friends and family to arrive. Or maybe you’ve been alone all day, just like you will be tomorrow, and on Christmas.

It could be a day that’s different each year. Perhaps last year things were going well in your life and you were happy but this year it’s been one problem after another and there just isn’t much to be happy about. The tree is decorated and presents surround it but there’s still an empty feeling. There’s someone you miss or you are concerned about. Or maybe you’re waiting on a lab report to come back after the holidays.

At Christmas we all like to have the holiday spirit but some years it just doesn’t come that easily. We try to be merry, cheerful, and glad but underneath our smiles, we’re hurting. And if we were honest we would say that the Christmas season really isn’t always the most wonderful time of the year.

The past four December 23rds for me have been just about as diverse as they come. A holiday rollercoaster ride if you will with tremendous ups and downs.

Dec. 23, 2015 – it was just 4 months before that my wife Barb was diagnosed with brain cancer. She had undergone surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible and had recovered pretty well from that but in early December a follow up MRI indicated another surgery was needed. So the Christmas of 2015 was spent by our family being thankful for the support many were giving us and also preparing for another unknown outcome. We would spend New Year’s Eve in the hospital with Barb celebrating with her as she recovered from what we hoped was her last surgery.

Dec 23, 2016 – the past year had seen Barb not require any further surgery for which we were very thankful. She had completed her radiation treatment and had been receiving chemo treatments for a number of months and was surprisingly strong and doing well. It had been 16 months since her diagnosis. It was our first Christmas with our granddaughter and even in the midst of uncertainty, we celebrated the season and thanked God for His love and gift.

Dec. 23, 2017 – this was our first Christmas without Barb. In January of 2017, the cancer began to grow again and Barb made the decision to not try any other treatments as there were none that were viable and would give her a good quality of life. She declined quickly and went to her heavenly home on March 7. It was the lowest of times for me. I had never felt more lost in my life. But as the year went on, I came to understand that even in the midst of my grieve I could still celebrate the Christmas season and be thankful for all the years I shared with Barb and the way God walked with us through both the good and tough times.

Dec. 23rd, 2018 – today. The present. Another Christmas just two days away. This holiday season I’ve been missing Barb, again. The kids and I are continuing our traditions of putting up the tree, baking sugar cookies, and having our family Christmas eve dinner but each of these still have a feeling of incompleteness. Not really sad but just not the same as before. That will probably always be the case. And that’s okay because our traditions were made with Barb. So I will celebrate and honor those memories as I thank God for where He has brought me and how He continues to love me. And for who He is bringing into my life.

I don’t know where Christmas Eve Eve finds you this year but let me encourage you, if you are down, to not give up but to look up. And if 2018 has been good to you, I encourage you to lift up those around you that are feeling down.

In good times and bad, God’s love for us and His gift to us does not change. He is always there. No matter where we go or what we endure, He is with us. Look for Him. You will find Him. Emmanuel is right beside you this day and every day. And He loves you.

I pray that this Christmas you may experience the glad tidings of the good news that the season is really all about. Look beyond where you are now to where God can take you. Where He will go with you.

Merry Christmas my friends and see you down the road….

The Fun In Puns

A Pun: the usually humorous use of a word in such a way as to suggest two or more of its meanings or the meaning of another word similar in sound.

If you’ve seen my posts on Facebook then you know I enjoy a good or maybe not so good pun from time to time. I think a little laughter is always good in our lives considering all the shouting and arguing going on these days. If we can’t laugh at ourselves then I’m not sure we’re living in reality. Humor is good. After all, we’re all born with a humerus bone. 😉

The origin of punnery has long been debated. Some feel it began with Old English in or around the fifth century. A recent article from the New York Post sites the first recorded pickup line, “I asked, it must have rightly hurt when such an angel as thee fell from heaven?“. Guess that line wasn’t first used in the seventies after all. You know who you are.

Thankfully Shakespeare improved the art of pun by the sixteenth century when he wrote these words spoken by Mercutio; “Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.” A little morbid perhaps but still a good ‘play’ on words. Get it. A play.

And now in the twenty-first century we have raised the pun bar to new heights with memes. Here’s one that made me chuckle:

And another:

It doesn’t really matter if you get a laugh or eye roll from a pun. The joy is in the sharing and I’ve been pretty joyful these past few months.

Our lives are full of serious things and tough times. This world is not always kind. But life is meant to be a balance of joy and sorrow, good and bad, happy and sad. We need to find ways to even the scale. The sharing of laughter is one of those ways.

So let me encourage you to jump on the pun wagon. Share a favorite on social media to help our world smile a little. Dads, keep those jokes coming. Moms, continue to silently laugh at those dad jokes. And kids, remember one day you’ll be just like your parents.

As one light bulb said to the other, “Lighten up, watts your problem?”

See you down the road….

The Road Of Remembering

The past four weeks have been pretty hectic. Life can get that way at times you know. Too many things going on at the same time which cause us to stress out. I’ve been there before. The hectic nature of these past four weeks did give me some stress but it also gave me the opportunity to remember some pretty spectacular things in my life.

Four weeks ago I retired. After 37 years of working in the I.T. field, I decided I had had enough fun and needed to get serious about this ‘adulting’ thing. So, to have enough time to figure out what being an adult really means, I retired from work. So far I have no clue and I’m starting to think Peter Pan got it right. Bang-a-rang!

Along with retiring, I also sold my home of the past eighteen years, and have now moved into a new two bedroom, two bath apartment. Definitely, a downsizing move and I’ll be spending the rest of the summer going through a lifetime accumulation of stuff. The things we keep over the years. I’m not the only one with twelve copies of the same photo of the Oscar Meyer wiener mobile, am I? Be honest now.

And just two days after moving into the apartment, I drove to Missouri for a family reunion with all my crazy cousins on my mom’s side. Thank goodness I have a wonderful house/dog sitter that didn’t mind all the boxes and clutter left from the move. Perhaps the resort style pool at my apartment complex made it a little easier for her. I hope to get to the pool myself this week if the weather gets warmer and dryer. I prefer to get wet by being in the pool and not just from walking to it.

As I was driving westbound on I70 last week, I had the opportunity to relax a little and think back upon recent events in my life that have brought me to where I am now. The time on the road allowed me to remember many things and I can honestly say, the happy outnumbered the sad many times over.

Times I’ve spent working with some very talented and carrying people. Folks that were patient and understanding with the new guy and others that were gracious enough to allow me to lead them. Memories of rubber band wars in the cubicles. Of office Christmas party shenanigans. Of long days and nights with project implementations. The many sayings of hellos and goodbyes. Friendships created. Successes celebrated. Failures learned from. All memories that I will cherish through my retirement and will bring a smile to my face.

Selling and moving out of the house my family had called home for the past eighteen years was not easy. So much had happened in that home over the years. Celebrations and conflicts. Kids struggling through school and kids blossoming into adults. Birthday parties for family and friends. The planning of a daughter’s wedding. And the sadness of saying goodbye to the one I loved more than anything or anyone in this world. All memories I will never forget nor take for granted as each one from my time at Laura Lane has contributed to who I am and to whom I may become.

This past weekend with my cousins in Missouri brought back some wonderful memories as well. My earliest memory of going to old MO for my mom’s family reunion is when I was four years old. Mom and I took a passenger train from Coshocton, Ohio, (my hometown) to St. Louis. I don’t remember why but my dad drove to the reunion while mom and I rode the train. Dad picked us up in St. Louis and then we drove the last few hours to Marshfield to see all the family. The train ride was awesome watching out the windows as the world passed by. Probably what gave me my love for travel.

Our family reunions were no small affair when I was a child. My mom was one of thirteen siblings (3 brothers, 10 sisters) and many of my aunts and uncles had three kids or more. We were a large extended family and on my 16th birthday which coincided with our reunion that year, I counted close to sixty first cousins at the reunion. Many of us took over my aunt Mary’s home for a night, supervised by some of the older more ‘mature’ cousins, where we played cards, watched a Star Trek marathon on local TV and stayed up all night doing what cousins do. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

I did not grow up with any brothers or sisters so my cousins, back then and even more so today, are my siblings. Even with the miles and years between us. This past weekend was another installment of fun and love in my life with this crazy group. The hours we spent laughing while playing Liverpool Rummy for three nights reminded me of our aunts and uncles playing the same card game all those years ago while we kids could only watch. I’m sure they were all looking down this past weekend laughing right along with us as we continued the tradition. I’ll buy that (if you’ve played Liverpool you’ll understand)!

As the mile markers rolled past my car, it seemed each one brought to my mind milestones, memories of all the years I’ve been blessed to live in this world. What is life without our memories and experiences? So many good times and yes a number very sad but it’s a package deal in life. I’ve come to appreciate them all and cherish each one.

The road of life is a journey just like the drive to a family reunion. On that journey, I’ve learned to take my time and enjoy each exit, detour, and stay over for what it is and what it brings to me. And I’m thankful for what lies ahead and the new remembering the road will bring.

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….