Friday, September 30, 2016

Flashback Friday.....Claiming the Exclamation.

A little over a year ago, on Sept 24, 2015, 
I was standing at the register and could not contain my happiness and joy at the news that my brother found out, that after a long summer of thinking that cancer was in his lungs, a biopsy determined it was not cancer, but instead it was a lung infection.


rather than dancing and shouting my Hallelujahs and scaring customers who lined up to pay for their books,
I took a pen and notebook and drew out my excitement, 
set it in front of me and smiled at it every time I felt like shouting:
"My Brother!"
That was a little over a year ago.
In between there has been celebrating, holidays, doctors appointments, scans, waiting, wondering, Sunday dinners, laughter, devastating news of others with cancer, funerals, births, more doctors, some aches and pains, birthdays, vacations, doctors with differing opinions, more scans, more waiting, more wondering, sunny days, rainy days, more opinions, more waiting...more wondering.
The wondering and wondering and wondering.

Through all this our thoughts run the gamut of emotions.
I don't know about you, but it is unfortunately easier for my brain to revert to doubt, caution and fear...
rather than hold on to the good, positive and hope.

I've read some about this and realize I'm not alone.
There is a thing called the Velcro/Teflon affect.
Which basically says our brains hold on to negative experiences like Velcro - they tend to stick.
and our brains treat positive experiences like Teflon -
they tend to slip away.

I am really trying to practice staying mindful and be intentional at turning this around.
Sitting with and being with what comes,
the possibility of good and the possibility of bad...
and letting it be.
But also,
having a mindset that rests by holding onto the hope and acceptance instead of the doubt and fear.

So, this week...
I am making this Exclamation Point the "lock screen" on my phone...
Using it as a visual and constant reminder to my brain to be mindful to hold on to hope...
instead of being consumed with fear.

Directions to here:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Goodwill Find...Perfect Timing

I had a pretty horrible day at work a few days or so ago.
Certain people, words, actions to me, making me question where my fun, easy job went.
Sunday Dinner helped take my mind off it, but driving back to Indy was spent brooding and grrrrr-ing every mile.

Even more so, cause it was my dad's birthday and I was working....grrr.
I got to Indy and had 20 minutes or so to kill, so I stopped at the Goodwill.
I almost left and then this shirt popped out at me.

It's from the record shop that's in the hometown of my old boss.

The old boss that would constantly remind us:
"It's just books." 

I saw God wink and I heard Chris Turner​ say "Honey" and I laughed out loud and just like that I became the owner of yet another black t-shirt.
Burden lifted

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sunday Morning Coming Down....The Bluebird of Happiness

A few days ago,
I put a record on.
It was one of Helen Jean's records.
My Mom's record.

Perry Como on vinyl.
Helen Jean's record of Perry Como singing,
"In the Garden."

I thought about the recording of Grandpa Bryant singing,
"In the Garden" that Mom and I found in Aunt Carol's record collection.

I thought, 

what a gift that must have been for my mom to hear him singing.
I thought about the look on Aunt Mary's face when we played her the recording of it, the last time we went out to Maryland.
I thought of how it must have felt for them to hear his voice after he being gone for 40 some years.

I thought,
I'm just here listening to Helen Jean's records and how it would be nice to let others in the family hear Mom's Perry Como version of "In the Garden."
So, I lifted the needle, backed it up, dropped it and recorded the very end of the song....
"And the joy we share

as we tarry there,

none other has ever known."

The ending of the song was very slow and touching...
I pressed stop and smiled and sighed.
I saved it to post to Instagram.

Perry went right on into the next song...
And unfamiliar tune,

but I knew right away,
I should have kept the camera rolling ----
but, by the second or third line, I was weeping Beautiful/sad tears so hard I would never have been able to hold the camera steady because my whole body was shaking...
'cause it was so very obvious that I wasn't, 

"just listening to Helen Jean's records,"
 but that the heaven's had opened up and Mom and Dad seemed to have stepped right into the room.

The line that cracked open the door was the one about a Bluebird in the trees...
at one point in time, in my young life,
Mom had given me a deep blue glass Bluebird and told me:
"That is the Bluebird of Happiness."
I remember thinking, okay? Thanks?
I put it on my shelf in my bedroom, 
next to my rock and bottle collection.

Over the years,
I've thought about it now and then...
whenever I hear of or see a Bluebird mentioned.

But I never really figured out why she thought a pre-teen girl,
interested mostly in Little League and Starsky and Hutch,
would want a glass bird.
And why, she was so intentional about giving it to me and telling me its meaning.

And then I thought of how I had just had a really good and happy morning "on the couch" with my journal and my daily reading,
and how I am finally, FINALLY, beginning to grasp what it means to live in the moment, every moment, this VERY moment and to just sit with what is...
And the happy gratefulness and peace that comes from the practice of simply being awake, aware and present.

And I thought, THIS.
This must be all she and he ever wanted for any of us, all of us.

And at that moment,
all my wondering of what they would think of me now and my story...
my whole story...
just melted away;
because I knew in an instant that all parents ever really want for their children,
is for them to be happy.
And, Mom,
my mom....
she had looked forward and wished that for me so long ago,

when she gave a tweenager
(who still had sooooooo much growing up to do)
a Bluebird of Happiness.

Oh, Mom and Dad ---

I am reading my journals from the early 90s from when I was living at home and I think, how I would love to just have ONE of those days back.
I don't care what we would do,

I don't care if we just sat and watched TV all night long...
I would just love to be sitting in the same room with you.
To have lived more,

grown up more...
To know you now.
To talk about that Bluebird.

Thank you for giving me the Bluebird, Mom.
Thank you for all your hard work to make us happy, Dad.

And thank you for rushing in the other day,
bridging the distance,
and letting me know you see me,
see us.
That you are still here with me and with us
and that you love me and love us.

I love you too ----
and I miss you so much.

How grateful are we,
that we have been given the blessing of you --
and your legacy of love and happiness.

We all Love you.

May the Lord Bless You and Keep You

May the good Lord bless and keep you,

Whether near or far away.
May you find that long awaited, 

Golden day today...

May your troubles all be small ones,
And your fortune ten times ten,
May the good Lord bless and keep you,

Til we meet again....

May you walk with the sunlight shining,
An' a Bluebird in every tree
May there be a silver lining,
back of every cloud you see...

Fill your dreams of sweet tomorrows
Never mind what might have been.
May the good Lord bless an' keep you,
Till we meet again...

May the good Lord bless an' keep you,
Til we meet again.

(words and music: Meredith Wilson)

Directions to here:

I am embarrassed to say that the Bluebird has been buried on a shelf for the last several years.
(the symbolism of that, is a whole other blogpost in itself)
I'm happy to say that I found the Bluebird and have moved it into the living room, to the window, next to the couch, where I can see it when I journal and read.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Flashback Friday...Chris' Cats

I've been herding Cats.
Ceramic Cats.
Just when I think I've corralled them all,
I open a box and find another.
You would think, with all these cats turning up in random places, that I'm a cat person.
I am not.

A long time ago, shortly after I started working at the Bookstore, I was showing off some "stuff" that I bought at an auction. One of the things was a metal "All" laundry detergent bucket from the days before soap in paper boxes or plastic jugs.

I can't remember if I brought the bucket into the store, or if I had it in my car, but somehow, my Boss, Chris, saw it and thought it was the coolest thing.
She said,
"That would make a great planter for my flower garden!"

I told her, 
"Here, you can have it!"
You would have thought I gave her a pot of gold, she was so happy to have that rusty bucket!

At about the same time, I was dreading having to ask her to change something on a schedule that had already been made. To my surprise, Chris made the change for me without hesitation.

I remember telling Sister Susie that 
"Buying that bucket and gifting it to my boss was one of the best dollar bills I ever spent at the Auction!"

From then on, every time I needed time off or needed to change my schedule, Susie would say, 
"Better get her another bucket!"

If you spent any amount of time with Chris, you would eventually find out that one dearest things to her, were her cats. She had several and would tell stories about each one of them, their history, their antics and their different personalities.

One day she showed up at work with a picture of a cat this:
She told me,
"Honey, if you're out antiquing and you see a cat planter like this, buy it for me, okay? I think it's cute and would like to have one."

From then on, I would pick up cats.
The first one I found, was a bit more sinister looking than the one she showed me. 

Whenever I went on vacation, I would bring back a a cat as a thank you for giving me the time off.

I had found the perpetual Bucket!

There were also Birthday Cats, Holiday Cats, Get Well Cats, Just Because Cats.

I mostly stuck with the "quirky cat" theme and made it my mission to look and find the
oddest and ugliest kitties that were out there. Some were so bad, they were their own kitschy kind of way.

I like to think the assortment of artful cats I gifted her, was
a good representation of the odd lot of employees that Chris led on a day to day basis.
This all was happening back in the days when I was documenting my 
travels with my Bobble

Head Dog, which Chris got an absolute kick out of.

When we traveled 
together to Iowa for a Grand Opening, she showed up with a cat of her own, a traveling companion for Bobble.

I later upgraded her to an authentic Bobble Cat, which she named, Bobble Kitty. She velcro-ed him to the dash of her Ford Focus and he watched over her, head nodding to the beat, during her long daily commutes.

As Chris set a retirement date in her head, she quietly started clearing out her office, getting rid of stuff and taking home personal items. Her walls became less Chris hand written notes and more corporate typed memos. When she decided to change her date and retire six months earlier than planned, one day, I saw her getting ready to leave and she told me...
"Honey, I'm taking him home."

For some reason, even tho, I knew she still had a few weeks left at the store, seeing her walk out the back door with the first cat I gave her (the one with the tail that started as a plant clipping and refused to stop growing, even tho the light was bad and she never watered it)...
it hit me harder than her actual going away party and seeing her leave the store for the last time.

I thought that I had given her most of the cats I bought for her before she retired, but I knew there might be a few I hadn't.
I always liked to keep a few stashed away "on reserve" for special occasions or for schedule "emergencies."
"Please let me have this day off"....
..."and oh, look, here's a cat for you..."

However, as I've been digging into the closets on Main Street, and opening boxes, I have found more than a couple cats. I'm keeping one ceramic cat to remember this crazy cat lady who I loved working for and beside.

After Chris retired, we often talked about me coming up to Fairmont for the day. She wanted to take me to the antique shop  down on the corner and to the record store she had often talked about.
Lisa and I did make it up to her house for a visit 
and finally met her REAL cats, but Chris and I never made it to the shops.

Time slips away.

The day of her funeral, I decided to park the car and take a walk down the street of the town where Chris grew up and of which I had heard her tell so many stories about.
I saw the record shop with the
"old black and white floor."

It was exactly as she described it.

I found the antique shop 
"down on the corner."

I went in to have a look around and it
 was like taking a walk down memory lane with an old friend.

I bought a tambourine.

And the quirkiest cat in the shop.

And I heard the Crazy Cat Lady say...
"Ha Ha....Yeah!"

Directions to here:

I find it very symbolic that this last cat is a bookend.
Chris' and my friendship started, deepened and played out with books as the backdrop.

A fitting reminder of a wonderful chapter in this book called life I am simultaneously reading and writing. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Flashback Friday....Ten Years

In October of 2014, I went to visit old friends in the "way up there part" of Michigan. I drove up one side of the state...crossed over to Alpena, spent two days...
and came back down the other side.
I probably knew why I took this route before hand, 
but I didn't know if I would have time to do what was in the back of my mind.
I "wrote" this by recording my thoughts into my notes on my phone. I meant to post it upon my return, but never did.
It's been 10 years since my friend, Jolene's passing.
I thought it would be a good time to share about the special spot I visited on my way home from my Michigan Road Trip:

I knew when I left I would probably end up here at some point in time.
Since I ended up leaving from Lowell, I thought maybe it wouldn't happen. But, the return route took me too close to her hometown, not to stop.

I SHOULD have been at work.
I was scheduled to be at work instead of here. But, since I knew in the back of my mind I would stop,
I called and asked to take an additional half a vacation day.

It took me longer than it should have to find the place. I don't remember the cemetery being so small. I passed it twice going west. And finally, realized I could not find it because trees hide it from the east.

I thought I was just coming here cause it was the right thing to do.
Stopping, to say hello to an old friend.
Stopping, out of respect for she and her family.
Stopping, to see her name on a headstone; the stone that was yet to be set the last time we all stood here.

Awhile ago I read about why people leave coins on gravestones.
It's to let the living know that their loved one's grave has been visited.
After I finally found the cemetery and parked the car, I carefully counted out eight pennies and put them in my pocket.
I went to where I remembered standing the day of her funeral.
I went too far and the first stone I saw, was Baby Miller.
There were no other Millers in that row.
I thought, surely they got her a headstone?
I turned and saw the back of a brown stone.
As I came around the front of it,
there was her name:
I have been to a lot of funerals,
and I have walked my fair share of cemeteries.
But, I was not prepared for the catch in my throat and the instant tears upon seeing her name etched in granite.

I think of Jolene often.
I always mention her on the anniversary of her death. 
Every year, I go and get an ice cream cone during the week, because that is what I did that week in July of 2006.
I sit on the steps in the sun and remember this sweet girl.
So, it's not like I'm in denial that she is gone.
But, something about etchings in stone make things seem very real and very permanent.

The rain started to fall lightly, as if it was mirroring my tears.
I whispered, 

"Here you are."
"Hello, sweet girl.

"I thought I wasn't going to be able to find you."
And with that, I imagined her alive...
jumping up and down, waving her arms, flagging me down by the side of the road, saying:
"Here I am...
I'm right here!" 

And flashing that beautiful smile and laughing uncontrollably like she always did!
And with that, as quickly as the tears had come, I was now laughing out loud in the middle of the cemetery.
As I did, I smiled and thought, 
now this is like a real visit with Jolene!

I took the pennies out of my pocket,
I sat down on the grass in front of the stone and 
laid them on headstone one at a time.
One for each year that she has been gone.
I talked and talked and talked about the time that had passed.
2006...the year it happened
2007... all those weddings Dad
2009... all that happened...2010, 2011...

2012...changes at the Bookstore
2014...clarity, plans, the present and the future.

I stood back up.
I wondered about her family.
I wondered about her parents and their unimaginable grief.
I wondered if they still lived nearby and I wondered if they were in one of the cars that drove by while I stood there.
I thought about her nephews and prayed for the hope that even tho they were very young, they would never forget their Aunt Jolene.
I told her, I can tell that they love and miss her...
Because of the Flowers of Fall colors,
the solar lights, the statues, engravings with sayings...
The telltale signs of a person who is always loved, always missed.

The tears came again,
as I couldn't contain my sorrow for what might've been for this young lady. 
I felt anguished, as I apologized that she had so little time. So much life that she missed. I told her I had wanted so much more for her. 
I told her I still don't understand.
Because, I know, "God does not need another angel."
He doesn't "need her more than we do."
None of those answers are good enough.
I told her Lisa gave me the most peace, when she simply said:
"Nance, it was an accident."
I told her I will never understand...until we meet again. And, maybe even then, it still won't make sense.

I put my hands in my pockets and shut up.
I listened.
I was I reminded how at one point in time, I had given her permission to snap her fingers in front of my face if I got a little too grumpy or took things too seriously as a manager at the store.
She would, occasionally, do this...
walk up to me, two snaps...criss/cross in front of my face, flash that smile and laugh out loud.
And that was my cue to "snap out of it,
To lighten up.
To enjoy the moment.

I stared at her name.
I could see her smiling.
She knew that I was getting it....
That standing before the grave of a wonderful person, who died at the age of 23...
should make you think about your life.

I promised to do better.
I gave her full permission
that on the days that I think Life isn't enough, or the moments I waste away, waiting for a day off or the next big thing,
to get right in my face and snap those fingers,
Waking me up, reminding me,
I have this day.
I have this moment.
Do not take it for granted.
Do not waste it or wish it away.
I will remember this girl and what she wouldn't give to have just one more day.
To Be Alive.
To Be Present
To Be Here Now. 

Directions to here:
"Sweet girl, I know you are not here. 
The thought of the Earth or a Stone containing your spirit and soul is as laughable as your smile or your infectious personality.
But yet I am here.
I'm here to laugh with you, to cry with you, to remember you.
Thank you for listening and as always, giving more sweetness than we or life ever gave you.
These six words aren't enough.

But I will say them anyway.

I love you
I miss you."

Friday, May 27, 2016

Flashback Friday...The Good Stuff

I am still going thru boxes and boxes and boxes.

Many of them are from when we cleaned out my mom and dad's house.
I packed up a lot of stuff.
Stuff I just wasn't ready to make a decision about or let go of at the time.
Some of the them are full of paper...
Scrapbooks I was gonna make.
Momentos from people and places all across the world.

There are a few that are full of nick nacks....
or tchotchkes, which, in my opinion, is a much more sophisticated word than nick nack!

I can see the evolution of my personal taste, as I'm unpacking the decor that used to cover the walls of my apartment. Peeling back the layers of what Main Street has looked like over the years.
Main Street
look at all the empty wall space and the little book collection!
And then there's the junk/treasure finds.
Packed in boxes, and/or stacked in the "Kane County Closet" or on display at the "Main Street Museum,"
Main Street
walls filling up and I've become a professional book shelver.
(picture courtesy of Joel Wilson)
There's just not enough flat surfaces in this apartment for all of this stuff!
Every "find" tells a story.
Most of them represent a road trip, a day at the flea market with family or friends, a 'memory/memorial' purchase, a souvenior of a place and of the many phases/obsessions I've got stuck on (Wonder Woman, Marching Band hats, Pirates....etc),
and gifts that have been given to me.

If you've been following my Facebook posts, you know I've been getting rid of a stuff. I post some of it and put it up for grabs, but there's a lot that has gone straight to the thrift shop. I wish I would have started a box count of the stuff that has gone away.

In opening box after box...
some of the stuff, I remember exactly why I saved it...
some of the stuff, I can now take a picture to preserve the memory and then get rid of it...
some of the stuff, for the life of me, I can't remember why I saved it...
some of the stuff has been easy to part with, some of the stuff not so easy...

But some of the stuff....Is "the Good Stuff."

Remember, Family?

While we were cleaning out the Log Cabin,
Dad told us that we would find "The Good Stuff" in the attic.
"What?" I said?
"The attic of the house?"
"No, the attic of the Cabin."
I didn't even know the Log Cabin had an attic!

So, one day, we sisters...
braved the attic...
in search of the Good Stuff.
I was hoping for endless Coca Cola and advertising signs, Gas Pump Globes, Christmas Decorations and/or maybe even The old "Vandercar's Log Cabin Sign."
The Log Cabin
Early 1960s (?)
Just look at all that Really "Good Stuff!"
who knows what "Good Stuff" was once in the attic?
Whatever it was, it must have been only in my Dad's memory, cause we found the attic mostly empty...
and what was there was mostly broken pieces of maybe what was once upon a time, (good ?) stuff.
Maybe "the Good Stuff" in the Log Cabin attic went the way of "the Good Stuff" in the basement...
to the "Antique Man"....
(but that's a whole different story for a different day)

I've been uncovering, at least, in my opinion...
my "Good Stuff."
It's been fun.
Walking down memory lane.
I must say, I have some really cool stuff, even if I do say so myself!

So, I'm gonna start sharing pictures of some of the "Good Stuff"on Facebook now and then.

And by the way, it's ALL for sale...
you just have to pay the price of what it's worth to me...

I hope whenever I move and wherever I end up there is an attic for all this "Good Stuff!"

Directions to here:

Or maybe, I'll just buy another Wagon and carry the Good Stuff around with me like old times.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Gratitude Rant.....Jingle Jangled Followed

Facebook, the Universe and God are co-conspiring and winking at me again.

I didn't sleep very well last night, woke up achy, feeling meh and a little queasy and stayed home from work.

I got some sleep. Drank some tea. Made some soup and felt a little better.

I was reading a book about mindfulness and how amazing our 5 senses are and it had a 5 minute exercise where you closed your eyes and focused on hearing Sounds...
not judging them good or bad or labeling them...
just listening, hearing.

Which,led me to be amazed at all the science and medical stuff I don't even pretend to understand about how sound is made and how we can hear it...

Which,led to a 20 minute gratitude rant in my journal about how grateful I am for all the things my body does that I take for granted and all the amazing sounds there are in the world and how hearing them can change and uplift my emotions/thoughts/body chemisty in an instant (think baby giggles and the Hammond B3 Organ)...

Which led to me to think of the line that says "in the Jingle Jangle morning, I'll come following you.."

Which led me to googling "Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man" lyrics...
(Which,by the way, led me to finding out Bob Dylan turned 75 yesterday...Happy New Year, Bob)...

Which led me to playing the Byrds version of this song...on vinyl...(because I can HEAR the difference in the warmth of the tone)...

Which led to dancing hippy style (like the 'groovy dancer' guest at Bobby and Jess' wedding) :)
and shaking a tambourine,
and raising one hand 
(like the verse that is in Dylan's version...but left out of the Byrd's version)
...while singing and falling under it's spell...
because you know, I promised to...just like the lyric says.

Jingle Jangle...Followed.

Directions to here:

later tonight...
Facebook, the Universe and God winks by showing me this beautiful video of a girl signing a song...
so her friend can "hear" the lyrics.

I may be losing my hearing :(
But, the message of the blessing of sound is coming thru Loud and Clear.
How great is it that we have ears to hear?!

So great!
So grateful!