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….

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….

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 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…

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….