Firsts

In this life, we find ourselves discovering new ideas, new experiences and new people.  Sometimes these discoveries are full on accidents, but sometimes they are planned out carefully.  My last three weeks were a bit of a combination.

The first of April, I retired.  No more working. I had worked since I was 14 years of age and now I was free to sleep as late as I chose, go where I liked, do what I wanted-all on my own schedule. The very idea was surreal-not to mention a bit frightening.  Right away, however, my family stepped in to help that transition.  I was given a vacation-my first in at least a dozen years. My first “real” vacation that I could remember.  The “firsts” had just begun.

My list continued with my boarding a train. I have flown across the country and back again, but I had never been on a train.  And my first?  The City of New Orleans.  A song I have always loved, and now I was on that train.

The next “first” on the list?  Chicago.   I was born and raised in southern Illinois.  I have lived on all three coasts and been to half the states so far, but had never been to Chicago.  To be brutally honest, I didn’t care to go to Chicago.  Too many ugly news reports, too many people…and far too many Cubs fans for my liking, but the train headed north and I ended up in Chicago.  I spent 12 hours in the station there!  It was a long 12 hours, but I admit the people watching was fascinating.  The people I actually met were interesting-and I was exceptionally glad to leave.  After 12 hours, I boarded another train and headed east.

I had never before been to New England. I had always dreamed of visiting there.  I had always imagined being in the midst of our country’s history and I was NOT disappointed.  Along the way, I added new states to my list of those visited. From Illinois, I traveled across Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and, finally, Massachusetts, which was my destination.

The time spent in the northeast was everything I imagined it would be and much, much more.

Places visited early on included a cemetery where the first interment was in 1689-the last in the vicinity of 1850.  The names, dates and inscriptions on those stones was fascinating and inspiring for me, as a writer.  They all held our history in stone.  Some of those people were born, lived and died there before this country existed.  I found that surreal.

I visited many area towns and each one had narrow streets and charming shops wherever you looked.  In the midwest, it isn’t unusual to see empty storefronts and it isn’t unusual for the shops along the main streets to be ‘cookie cutter’-one just like the other, but those shops in those New England towns were charming and inviting and warm.  The history seemed to sit on every doorstep.

Then, after a few days, the travel began.  I added new states-New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Maine.  I visited flea markets, tag sales and souvenir shops.  They all held that same charm. But the truly memorable events were to come.

There was York Harbor, Maine.  I have always dreamed of a cottage by the sea, but there had to be trees around. {I admit, I am a tree hugger from way back.}  When we arrived in York Harbor, I saw just what I had held in my dreams for so long.  The sea called out it’s greeting. The atmosphere was perfection.  I sat on a boulder at the water’s edge and I shed a few tears.  When you find what you consider true happiness, it sometimes leaks from your eyes.

I visited Hampton Beach.  It was lovely and it was chilly.  I wasn’t quite prepared for a 40 degree drop from southern Illinois, but there it was.  It was perfect.

I also visited Cape Cod. Provincetown, Massachusetts is at the very tip and there was the lighthouse and there was the ocean.  York Harbor and Hampton Beach were beautiful and they touched my heart, but Cape Cod was something so different.  I rolled up my pant legs, kicked off my sandals and stepped into the surf.  It took my breath at first because the water was cold, but I stood there and looked out to sea. It was endless and perfect and breathtaking.  I collected stones and shells to commemorate my stay, and then I sat to watch this grand production of nature.  As I sat there, I saw something dark poke up from the surf several times, but I couldn’t tell what it was until finally, it was close to shore.  There it was-a Harbor seal.  I hadn’t expected to see such a thing and it was thrilling.

I didn’t want to leave the shore, but there was more to see and more to do {and I felt the sunburn}.

So many firsts.  In a life of a few decades, you believe you have done so much and seen so many things, but there is always more.  So many experiences yet to be faced. I thought I had certainly hit a pinnacle, but one thing was to take my breath and my heart and convince me that we all have a dream that we believe will never be achieved.  We all have that one thing that we can never imagine grasping in our hand.   But we can.

I was given a gift I would never have expected, nor would I have thought it a possibility.

My family and I were driving and I was told to close my eyes-for more than 2 miles. I hadn’t been allowed to look up at road signs so I had no idea where we were.  Finally, I was told I could open my eyes.  We had arrived at Cooperstown.  The Baseball Hall of Fame.  I broke down and sobbed like a child.  In that moment, I WAS a child. I had been given something that meant the world to me.

It would take another complete blog entry to explain what baseball means to me-what it has meant to me in my life. Just let me say that in a life where I suffered heartache, deep loss, betrayals and abuse, the one thing that was ALWAYS there for me was baseball.  That game-my team- were always there. When I could not depend upon anyone or anything, that game was always there.

Now, here I am at the age of 64, and my dream from as far back as I can remember was reached.

So many firsts— riding the train, going to Chicago, visiting all those states, visiting all those places I had heard of most of my life {including Salem, Massachusetts, by the way}, were reached and deeply appreciated.

I believe that is the key in life.  Strive to reach new goals-large or small. Acknowledge them and appreciate them for the wondrous events they are.   Never believe that there is nothing more to do.  Every day should hold some sort of “first”. Surprise yourself.

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I am Better

I have blue eyes. That makes me better than anyone without blue eyes.  

I have blonde hair. That makes me better than anyone without blonde hair.

I have a fair complexion. That makes me better than anyone without the exact same skin color as mine.

I wear a size 7 shoe. That makes me better than anyone who wears any other shoe size.

I prefer the color red. That makes me better than anyone who prefers any other color.

I drive a black car. That makes me better than anyone who drives a car of any other color.

I live in the middle of America. That makes me better than anyone who lives anywhere else.

I like thunderstorms. That makes me better than anyone who doesn’t.

I use posted notes a lot. That makes me better than anyone who does not.

I love to eat chicken.  That makes me better than anyone who does not.

I love nature. That makes me better than anyone who does not appreciate nature as much as I think they should.

I prefer kindness. That makes me better than anyone who does not treat others with kindness.

I love trees. That makes me better than anyone who does not appreciate trees.

I wear a size 8 ring. That makes me better than anyone who does not.

I drink hot cocoa. That makes me better than anyone who does not.

I don’t smoke. That makes me better than anyone who does.

I don’t drink alcoholic drinks. That makes me better than anyone who does.

I have lied in my life. That makes me better than anyone who hasn’t.

I have cheated in my life. That makes me better than anyone who hasn’t.

I have stolen in my life. That makes me better than anyone who hasn’t.

I have been rude in my life. That makes me better than anyone who has not.

I am healthy. That makes me better than anyone who isn’t.

Do these things sound ridiculous?  Do they irritate you or make you angry?  GOOD!

The day you believe that you are better than anyone else for ANY reason, is the day you become less than yourself.

 

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The Teacher Who Changed My Life

For Teacher Appreciation Week:
Genevieve Weaver.
She was my sophomore English teacher at Centralia High School and she gave me a gift more valuable and more treasured than she will ever know.
When I was in her class, I was backward, PAINFULLY shy, scared of my own shadow, terrified of everyone and everything and convinced I was hopeless, helpless, worthless, ugly and stupid. All I had was writing. I had always written and knew I always would, but my “encouragement” to that point consisted of a step-mother telling me to “stop the lies”, which was what she called the fictional worlds I created. I couldn’t do that any more than I could quit breathing, so my writing became my secret world-until I walked into my sophomore English class.
In Mrs. Weaver’s class, each student kept a daily journal. Some days, she would assign something to write, and other days we were on our own to write what we felt. She told us if we wrote something we didn’t want her to read, we should write DO NOT READ at the top of the page. The beauty was that we TRUSTED her not to read those pages. Mrs. Weaver would leave little notes on our pages about what we had written, and it was one of these notes that stayed with me. It was one of those notes that helped mold me into the person I am today. It was one of those notes that pushed me to keep writing and to be published.
I had written some small fictional piece and handed in the journal. When I went back the next day, that note told me, in part,:
“…Please don’t ever stop writing….”
I didn’t. Mrs. Weaver encouraged me to maintain that part of my soul that fed me. She encouraged me to be the person I truly was and she urged me to NEVER GIVE UP. I didn’t and I owe so much to her.
Mrs. Weaver, wherever you are, I love you, I have never forgotten your deepest, most important lesson. Thank you for caring about that sad, depressed, lonely, hurting, lost girl.

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March For Our Lives-My Response

March For Our Lives 3-25-18

My response to the recent marches across this country-and others-in favor of gun control.  I previously read this article on my live Facebook broadcast.

On March 24, 2018, young adults across this country stood to be heard and to be counted. They demanded to be heard because too many young people are dying by guns. Too many are losing their lives IN SCHOOL at the hands of someone who, in many cases, should never have been able to get their hands on firearms, let alone carry them into a school.

That is a valid and staggering argument, but the larger picture is this:

Gun control DOES NOT mean taking away or banning firearms. It means using common sense!! It means NOT allowing a mentally ill person free access to those firearms. It means not allowing just anyone to have access to a military grade weapon. It means SAVING LIVES!

YES, you have 2nd amendment rights. No one is disputing that, nor are they trying to do away with that right. What this has to do with is keeping weapons meant for war out of the hands of someone who has NOT gone through a thorough background check. It has to do with making certain those who suffer with mental illness are, either, kept from possessing firearms or they are strictly vetted.

I have no objection to someone owning firearms. I have been hunting, I get it. I also understand the need that some feel for having the protection. Those things make perfect sense and are, in no way, a target for this movement.

Remember the 2nd amendment was adopted as part of the Bill of Rights on December 15, 1791 and reads in part:

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed…”

This tells us that the militia {those who serve to protect us} carry arms for that purpose. It also tells us the people of this country have the right to keep and bear firearms. The difference between then and now is that firearms held by the people were generally used for survival and protection. Plain and simple. They did NOT have access to multiple round automatic weapons, nor would they-or anyone NOW-have a need for such a weapon.

Let me make this clear-YES, you have the right to bear arms, but you cannot justify a NEED to have an AR-15 or an AK-37. You cannot justify a need for a multi-round automatic weapon unless you are a soldier or a law enforcement officer.

Before you get your knickers in a twist, let me reiterate.. GUN CONTROL DOES NOT MEAN TAKING AWAY YOUR WEAPONS!! Got that? You want a gun? Good for you! Go for it… but go through the process of applying, a THOROUGH background check and PLENTY of training in order to keep that gun.

There is NO WAY you can honestly oppose those requirements and be taken seriously.

As for this movement-this is not the first time teenagers have had to step up and make noise. We did it in the 1960s and even into the 1970s. Those now in government who make light of these fine young people and their purpose seem to be forgetting that they, too, were a part of a fight. They seem to have forgotten all that NEEDED to be protested and fought for. In their greed and their hypocrisy they have forgotten that they work FOR us, not the other way around.

To all young people now awakening to a cause-

NEVER allow someone to diminish that for which you fight.

NEVER allow anyone to diminish your passion, your truth and your right to stand for those things.

NEVER allow anyone to tell you that your fight is without reason or cause.

ALWAYS fight for what is right-without regard to those who fear you and your actions.

ALWAYS fight for those who cannot fight for themselves no matter what it takes.

ALWAYS remember that it is those who stand and fight who make a difference in this world. It is those who will not be silenced that change that which is wrong.

When you are right, there will ALWAYS be those who oppose you… because you are trying to take away something they desire-something they want. You are working against their greed, their selfishness, their hatefulness and their hypocrisy.

NEVER allow them to intimidate you. NEVER waver from your cause. NEVER be intimidated by a louder voice or a position the other person might hold.

When you are right, you must be LOUDER. You must be BRAVER and you must be STRONGER.

We brought about changes 50 years ago and you can bring about changes NOW.

Don’t give up!

YOU CAN DO THIS!!

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A Character Sketch

Hokey Sloan was a farmhand at Jenkin’s Ranch.  The ranch was in the middle of west Texas where the ground was dirt and rock and the tumbleweed had free rein.  Hokey lived in a tiny one room shack he had built himself not long after coming to the ranch.

Hokey was in his mid 40s, but looked far older. He had spent his entire life in the outdoors with the sun and the wind and the horses and cattle.  He had no regrets-except one.

Hokey’s black hair was now sprinkled with grey and hung to his shoulders. His scraggled beard was more grey than anything else and he had developed a pudge in his middle from the lazy meals he created for himself.  Hokey also drank too much whiskey.  It helped to numb the pain from regret.

Hokey Sloan was lonely. He was heart broken and he was tormented and his one regret was named Diane. 

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Ten Down To Eight

It came to me in a dream.

In this dream, I was in Baltimore {a city I have never visited} and I was spending the day following Chip and Joanna Gaines {from Fixer Upper on HGTV} around looking at old townhouses, etc.  At least, I think that is what they were doing.  For my part, I seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time looking for my car.  I searched street after street, but never found my car.

I was beginning to be a bit freaked out because that car was nowhere in sight, when Joanna came up behind me and put her hands on my shoulders. She turned me to have me look across the street at a little door.  There was a cross over the door and, when we stepped up to it, a small sign on the door said “prayer room”.  Joanna opened the door revealing a room the size of a small closet furnished with one chair and shelves along each wall covered with books and papers.  She told me to go inside.

For my part, I am a Spiritualist and the Christian traditions are a bit different from what I practice, while the end result is mostly the same.  With this in mind, I stepped into this tiny space, closed the door and sat down.  All I could think of was “I need to find my car”.

When I then stepped out of the tiny room, I looked at Joanna and said “I didn’t even drive here. My car is at home.” Joanna smiled and said “See?  Ten down to eight.”

That was my dream.  When I woke and thought about it, I immediately knew what it meant.

Ten down to eight refers to problems in life.   In the dream, I faced one problem-the absence of my car. When that problem was figured out, I could move on to the next problem.

Yes, dreams can be weird and make very little sense, especially in the translation, but when you wake up and you immediately understand, it is time to think about it in depth.

We all carry so many problems around with us. Each and every day, we carry them over from the day before and we add more to the load.  It is so easy to become overwhelmed.  The answer?

Remember the rule of Ten Down to Eight.   Take one problem at a time. Deal with THAT problem and THAT problem ONLY.  Work out that problem.  Decide what to do about THAT problem. Leave any other problems in the background.  We truly can only do one thing at a time so stop trying to do it all.

ONE THING AT A TIME!

Ten Down to Eight!

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The Spirit Moves Me

The Spirit Moves Me

©2014 Nancy L. Stanford

When Molly George sat down at the desk, she knew, of course, that she was supposed to be working. The problem was, Molly could not seem to focus. She was constantly being distracted and she had no motivation to charge through the distractions.

Molly was a writer who had seen her work rejected so many times over the years, she questioned her talent. She questioned the reasoning behind even attempting to write and she questioned the practicality of constantly pursuing something so unreliable. But despite all the questioning, Molly could not stop her writing.

The young woman wrote everything from short character sketches to long, involved novel length stories, but had never published anything. She had been writing for years with no sign of public acknowledgement. She had put her efforts out there for friends and family to read and had even asked for feedback, but none came. She had posted a few items on Facebook and had nearly begged for comments and had received none. So why did Molly continue?

Molly needed to write. She saw her writing as just as necessary as breathing. Even when she only wrote a short paragraph, Molly felt the surge of pleasure in creating something which had not existed before.  She felt the elation of sharing a part of her soul, even if no one else ever saw it.

So now, she sat at her cluttered desk with a blank screen in front of her. Many writers, she knew, began with an outline or a very carefully worked out scenario before they ever put their fingers to the keys, or pen to paper, but Molly could not work that way. She had discovered early on she had no talent for following such rigid guidelines. She could only go with what came to her. She often simply wrote a title and let that guide the rest of the piece. Sometimes it came out very well, and other times it was good only for quick deletion.

Today, Molly had no idea what she would write, knowing only that she would. She had turned off the television and the radio and sat in complete silence, but quickly realized that would not work well.  The silence was too unsettling.

Walking across the room, the young woman brushed her auburn curls from her face. When reaching the radio, she chose a station of soft rock favorites. She purposely kept the volume low and prayed it would help. As she sat down again, the voice on the radio began talking about a new app. He called it the Ghost Finder. Molly found herself immediately distracted from her writing. She reached for her cell phone and pulled up the mentioned app.  When it came up, she hit the button that read “install”. Once installed on her phone, Molly brought it up. In only a matter of moments, there were little green dots all over the screen which was supposed to mean there were that many spirits around her.  Part of the app were supposed to actually give voice to words the spirits would “say”. Molly didn’t really believe in such a thing, but she enjoyed such things for entertainment. As she watched the green dots move around, there was a sudden voice.

“Language.” It said in a female monotone. Molly shrugged.   Mere seconds later, the same voice said “story” and then almost immediately “do”.

Molly sat back quickly. She was suddenly fighting with her logical mind which told her the app was just a silly game. The voice had told her exactly what she needed to hear. She DID need to get to writing.

Molly decided that she would accept the words as real. She didn’t care if the app was a game, it was telling her what to do and it was right.

From that day, Molly would open the ghost app and place it on her desk when she sat down to write. She would then devote all her time to creating her world of words. She didn’t want to disappoint her spirit guides, as she had begun to think of them. At the end of the first month, Molly had finished the first draft of a story she had toyed with for several years. She knew that the hard part now began. She would have to edit and rewrite.

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