Monday, August 27, 2012

A Mile Long...

Before I go into my hibernation period for the next week or so, I wanted to share a sweet, sweet story from our Saturday morning class that I can’t seem to shake.

When we were eating lunch together and began asking each other about our gifts and how we can use them to bless others, one of the girls at the table said, “Oh, I was hoping time would run out before you got to me.”  A common thought, I’m beginning to think. 

Let me preface this story by saying that you should have no fear should you find yourself sitting around my dining room table with six girls looking at you for your answer.   We start this beautiful conversation by saying, “Don’t feel that you’re bragging on yourself by saying, ‘I’m good at this!’  Instead, see it as bragging on God.  He gave you this passion.  He gave you these abilities.  Use them!  Tell us!”

So back to the conversation.  Theresa (her real name!) began by saying, “I don’t really know what my gifts are.”  (Insert silence here.)  “I’ll just tell you a story about when I was at Target recently.”

She began by telling us that she saw a young girl and her Mom shopping for back-to-school supplies.  As the little girl asked, “Mom, can I get these cute folders with the flowers on them?  They're only a dollar.”  The Mom said, “No.  You can get the solid color folders.  They’re cheaper.”  Seconds later, the little girl again asked, “Mom, if I buy these myself, can I get these highlighters?”  Her request was met with, “No, you don’t have any money to buy these. Put them back.”

Well, Theresa watched this little girl and her Mom shopping and it broke her heart.  Though she didn’t grow up with a lot of money, buying school supplies was always a fun time as her cart was always filled with colorful folders and cute pencils.   So she “stalked” this family until they were ready to check out.

Prior to them entering the check-out line, Theresa had told the manager and cashier that she had bought some items for the little girl and that she had wanted to pay for all of the supplies herself.  As the items were put onto the conveyer belt, the Mom started seeing all of the items she had told her daughter to put back.  Each time the Mom grabbed an item to put it back, the cashier would say, “It’s OK.”  Another item would pass, and the Mom would again go to remove it.  Again, she was met with, “It’s OK.”  This time the words came from the manager standing beside the cashier.  Soon the Mom began to look around as if to say, “What the heck is going on here?”

That’s when Theresa said, standing in line right behind her, “It’s OK.  I would like to buy these school supplies for your daughter." 

As the Mom and daughter left the store, Theresa heard the cashier and the manager both say, "I want to do something like that one day."  

OK.  Good story?  Think this Mom and little girl will soon forget the kindness from a stranger at Target right before school started?  Think every time that little girl opens her floral folder, she’ll remember that nice lady?  Think every time the Mom sees those floral folders and highlighters on the kitchen table, she’ll thank God for bringing such a kind woman into her and her daughter's lives?

And, oh by the way, let’s not forget that Theresa had to ponder what her gifts were!  Um, let’s start with love, kindness, mercy, thoughtfulness.  Four big gifts in my book!  Just because we haven’t won an Academy Award or haven’t been written up in the L.A. Times, doesn’t mean we aren’t gifted.  And another thing I’m learning - when your gift comes really naturally, most people don’t see it as a gift.  They think they have to work really hard at something for it to be a gift.  Nope.  You would be wrong.  Therefore, look how easy it is to give away!

For those girls who have attended our class, and for those of you we have yet to meet, please ask yourself today, “Who needs my smile?  My hands?  My heart?  My feet?  My ears?  My God?  My strength?  My hope?  My love?”

I’m guessing the list is a mile long.

And P.S.  I wrote this post while I ate lunch by myself today at Meditteraneo, as I had 45 minutes to kill before picking my son up from school.  I sat outside, had a great meal, the breeze was just perfect, and I was pleased with what I wrote.  As I was waiting for the bill, I wondered what photo I would use for this post when I got home.  As the bill came and I signed my name, I noticed the name of my server.  Perfect, I thought!  Look closely at the photo above!  And I thought I ate lunch by myself!  :)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Grateful. Times Infinity...

Hoping you had a great Sunday today.  Mine was rather normal.  Got up early, we went to church, took a friend to lunch, ran some errrands, planted some flowers.  It was a great Sunday.

For me.

But for my niece's fiance, Captain Tim "Otto" Collins, I'm guessing it was anything but great.  

You see, he's in Afghanistan.  He's on his sixth tour.  Yes, sixth.  
My niece and Tim got engaged right before he deployed.  I haven't even met him yet.  But boy, do I love him.

I received an email this afternoon that he had sent out to all of his family and friends.   We haven't heard from him in quite a while as email is not always something he has time for.  I think other things are more pressing.  

Here's a snippet:

 "Earlier that morning, July 19, 2012, Marine Corporal Joshua Ashley, 23, was killed during combat operations in the Helmand River Valley.  Cpl Ashley was a Military Police Dog Handler.  He was killed by the same type of Improvised Explosive Device (IED) that he and his dog "Sirius" had successfully discovered many times before, saving the lives of the Army Special Operations Team he was attached to.  This was his Ramp Ceremony before being transported out of Afghanistan to Dover Air Force Base.

I was awestruck by the scene.  My senses were completely overloaded.  Have you ever heard the saying, "The silence was deafening?”   I stayed back about 50 yards away from the ceremony.  Hundreds of personnel were lined up in formation on either side of the end of the C-130’s ramp, facing to the center forming a narrow corridor for the casket to pass from the Hummvee ambulance to the C-130.  Even that transfer is executed with meticulous care and ceremony by the escorts who walk the coffin through the corridor and into the cargo plane.  It was so quiet I could hear the ringing in my ears caused by too many deployments to places like this.  There was no movement and no noise - that is, until I noticed something moving in my peripheral vision to my front and left, about as far away from the C-130 as I was.Off to the side of the ceremony, lined up at perfect attention, were six - maybe nine - Marines, each with a dog at their side also sitting at "attention" perfectly still.  But there was one dog in the center of the formation that couldn't be stilled and his whimpers couldn't be muffled by the two dog handlers on either side of him.  It was obvious which Marine this dog was bonded to.  Cpl Ashley's K-9, "Sirius," knew something wasn't right about what was going on.  When the formation around the C-130 was dismissed and the dogs were escorted away, Sirius just kept looking back at that C-130.  It was one of the most emotionally moving things I have ever witnessed."

He ended with this:

"All that we ask from you is this:  Don't forget about the daily struggles of the countless wounded warriors you have never heard about that fight like hell to heal like Colin Smith, Derek Herrera, Dan Crenshaw, Dan Cnossen and Matt Lampert.  Don't ever forget about the ultimate sacrifices made by real American Heroes like Jenn Harris, Jared Landaker, JT Wrobleski, Richard Gannon, Ronnie Winchester, Kevin Shea, Kyle VanDeGiesen, Matt Freeman, Brendan Looney, Travis Manion, Matt, Ryan, Sky and so many others.  Forever appreciate and never forget what they have done for us.  I never will."

OK, I'm planting flowers -- and God knows what he and the other men and women he serves with are doing today.  Though I pride myself in taking nothing for granted, I'm very sure many things slip by me.  Like taking a hot shower every day, taking a walk by the lake.  Even air conditioning.

I don't mean to be a Debbie Downer, but just wanted to pass this on to all of you.  May it serve as a reminder to include those amazing men and women who have been wounded far from home as well as those family members who have lost someone who is irreplaceable. 

And please keep Captain Tim "Otto" Collins in your prayers too.
I can't wait to meet him.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Well, we're home.  
And clearly, I'm a suburban girl.  I doubt I could ever live amongst acres of corn fields and be two hours from a Target (Cooperstown), but I KNOW I could never live amongst human beings everywhere (NYC) -- especially sweaty and sticky ones at that.  I kept asking, “Do you smell that?”
  (It was probably me!)  

The first taxi drive to our hotel.  So NOT diggin' it! 
The streets of NYC were exactly what I thought they would be like.  In one word.  Yuck.

But don’t get me wrong.  I’m so glad I went to NY as there were countless memories to behold.  Here are some of my highlights...

* Our first meal in the Fly Creek house we rented.  Our friend Mo made my favorites: salmon, brown rice, caesar salad and chocolate cake.  Nothing like a home-cooked
meal amongst friends, especially when this was our view:

* Coming back 10 runs in the 5th inning of the quarter-finals, only to lose in the final inning.  But, boy, was it exciting!

* Stumbling upon an amazing 109-year-old hotel and having drinks and pretzels out on the veranda in a white rocking chair - just moments before a thunderstorm struck.

* Smuggling the owner's orange cat named Max into our house.  Love me some cats -- especially on vacation!

* Seeing the Statue of Liberty face to face.  

* Standing where the Twin Towers no longer do.  

* Shopping in the cutest antique stores and finding some great treasures.

(My fingers are saying, "I'm shipping two big boxes back home!")

* Walking around Cooperstown and taking in all the old, beautiful homes.  By the way, didn't see one pink hydrangea.  Only white ones.

* Eating the BEST pizza ever in Hoboken, NJ while waiting for the girls to come out of Carlo's Bake Shop.  For all you Cake Boss fans, the cupcakes were yummy! 

The bottom line is that I had six long days in NY and rarely thought about doctor appointments and blood work.  I did, however, praise God for the health and stamina He so richly blessed me with on this vacation, as there was no time to rest!  I think I walked more in these past six days than I have in three months.  But I was praising Him every step of the way.

It was six days of great memories with family and friends...

And P.S.
I gave out two "can't do cancer without God" necklaces.  One to a flight attendant whose sister has bone cancer, and one to a priest in Hoboken.  
Gotta' love it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

On a Wing and a Prayer...

Seven years ago, I knew this day was coming.   Our big summer trip to Cooperstown, NY.  I’ve been dreading it ever since my son joined his first travel baseball team.   Because I knew when he turned 12, our family would be heading to Cooperstown for its annual week-long baseball tournament.  I was dreading it because I hate to fly.  

I can fly, I just hate to.  

A few days ago, I attended my uncle’s memorial service.  He was an airline mechanic and just adored planes.  His service was held at a restaurant that overlooked the runway of a local airport.  What seemed like every eight minutes, I would hear the roar of the engines as they geared up for take-off.  That’s a disturbing sound to my ears, to put it mildly.   It makes nails on a chalkboard sound like the theme song from Forrest Gump.  Anyone remember that?  I loved it!

Anyway, I came home that night, kind of tied up in knots because I had began dreading to hear those revving engines in my ears again in a few days.  After I got on my pjs, I laid in the dark on my bed and gave my fear to the Lord.  

“God, going on an airplane is like going in for surgery.  It’s not something I ever want to do.  I ask you to take my fear and turn it into excitement.  When I hear the roar of the engines, let me be reminded that Your power is greater than that sound.  Let me be reminded that so many great memories lie beyond that take-off and that landing.”

As I was visualizing myself arriving at the airport, standing in line at the terminal and walking down that long hallway that leads to stepping into that huge white plane, I could just feel my heart pounding atop my sheets.  I then realized that this is the same feeling that excitement brings.  

“Thank you, Lord,” I whispered.  I want to be excited to fly, not terrified.  What could you do with me if I got on planes for You?”

Now that's an exciting thought, I thought. 

Right before I went to bed last night, my girlfriend texted me, “So excited for you!  Will wake up early to pray for you.  May you feel calm and peace as you board the airplane.  Send lots of pics.”

This morning as I was boarding the plane, another text read, “You are covered in prayer.  Have a wonderful time.”  

And I know my sister most likely dedicated the greater portion of her night to praying for my peace.  

Though I blared my ipod in my ears upon take-off (Shh! Don’t tell the flight attendants!), I’ve never enjoyed a plane ride more than this one.   Because I KNOW this peace and excitement comes from God. 
 As I type this, we’re on a full plane bound for Georgia (and don’t think I won’t be lookin’ for Charles Stanley in the airport!), have a one hour layover in Atlanta, and then are headed on to Albany.   That’s TWO flights in one day, my friends -- something this girl has never done before and was so not looking forward to doing.  In fact, I wanted to kill my sweet friend who booked us on my first ever non-direct flight!  How dare he!  But believe it or not, I look forward to my next take-off!  In just two hours!

Actually, I do believe it...

And P.S. 
Three reasons I do love to fly:

1.  Hugging every man and woman in uniform I see in an airport and saying, "Thank you from the bottom of my heart for serving our country,"
(always with giant tears in my eyes)

2.  Wearing my "can't do cancer without God" t-shirt in hopes of sharing it with someone who needs to see it.  (I actually pretend I have to go to the bathroom just so I can walk down the aisle and have anyone who's looking read it!)


3. Knowing that a plane ride means memories for a lifetime.