Tag Archives: friendship

Tribute to a Friend

“Happiness is often the result of being too busy to be miserable.”
– Anonymous

So, as you can probably tell from my prolonged blog absence, I’ve been a little busy lately. Between getting ready for a wedding, a marathon, an Oz performance, and a community theatre performance, my plate is a little full. Okay, it’s actually overflowing if you want to know the truth. But you want to know a secret? I’m loving every second of it!  Being busy keeps me sane.  Keeps me grounded.

But, of course, there can be a downside. When your plate is full with a few things that take up most of your time, some other certain things may have to get left off of the plate at all. And lately, one of those things has my writing.

But I decided to pop in here for just a second and revisit you guys in blog world. How are you?  Miss me?

And, actually, to be quite honest, I really don’t have the time to write the blog I’m writing now either. But I decided I had to make the time in this case. It’s fresh on my mind, and I think I have a good story that should be told.  I don’t expect it to be a literary masterpiece or anything like that…Simon and Schuster aren’t going to be knocking on my door with any publishing contracts anytime soon.  But, you know what? Sometimes it’s the simple, personal topics that tend to go overlooked in a writer’s world.  They’re too busy paying attention to the big picture and concentrating on where the next story lies, to recognize the little mini-stories that may lie right in front of their faces.

Well, not this time.  Today, my topic is simple.  I want to brag on my friend, Rob.

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Rob and Bobbi Jo

First, let me introduce you them as a couple. These are my friends Bobbi Jo and Rob.  Cute, huh?  Everybody say, “Hi Bobbi Jo and Rob!”  (Did you do it?  Out loud?  Okay, good.)  Now, Bobbi Jo and I have gotten pretty close over the past few years.  We met through theatre and have had lots of fun working on various shows together.

Well, most of the time it was fun anyway. Here’s a picture of her slapping me in the face during one of our shows….*sigh*

bobbijo

“Mama Won’t Fly” – March 2014 Ashe County Little Theatre

(Okay, I admit it.  That was actually fun, too….)

Now, I adore Bobbi Jo. She’s one of my favorite people in this world. I’m so glad to have gotten to know her and her family and am certain my life is better for it.  In fact, she’s the one that will be taking pictures at my wedding!  Talk about a wedding gift!  But for this blog, I’m going to switch gears for a bit.  I want to tell you about her husband.

As it is in most cases with female friends, I know Bobbi’s husband, of course. But I never found myself in a situation where we were able to talk much.  Seemed like a pretty cool guy, but I didn’t know him like I knew Bobbi. But lately, that has changed.

WUDflyer

Rob, who had never been involved in theatre before, decided to dabble a little after seeing his wife get involved.  He started helping with tech work, helped build a few sets, even had a few non-speaking roles here and there. But then, much to his surprise, after deciding to audition for our current show, Wait Until Dark, by Frederick Knott, Rob was cast as one of the lead roles, Mike.

Now, I don’t know if my readers know much about this show or not.  You may have seen the movie back in the 60s starring Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin?  Basically, it’s the story of a blind woman (played by yours truly) who is “befriended” by a con man (played by Rob) who, while working with two other conmen, is trying to get back something that this blind woman unknowingly possesses. The role played by Rob is no joke, people. It’s difficult. He’s not only playing a character, but he’s playing a character who is conning someone else. Meaning, he is essentially playing two roles in one…and doing it all with a blind co-star.

Pretty easy work for a newbie, wouldn’t you say? Ha!

Now, anyone who has been involved in theatre for years like I have will tell you this – chemistry between actors who are working together is extremely important. If you can’t work well together before the curtain rises, the audience is going to recognize that once the lights are on you. They may not be able to pinpoint exactly what is missing, but they will know that something is. And, almost always, that missing component is chemistry. And, in this case, the chemistry between the roles Rob and I play is even more important because the connection between the two is what carries the show. The audience has to buy that the blind woman has become friends with this man before the con (the central plot of the play) is going to work.

So, Rob and I had a challenge before us. It was time to get to know each other…to learn to work together. And honestly, I think we have done a pretty good job of that in the past few months of rehearsals. We know each other a little better than we did before. We now consider each other friends – no longer any need for the terms “my wife’s friend” or my “friend’s husband.”  We were going to be just fine. The show was going to be just fine. We were ready for opening night tomorrow.

But then last night…. hmmm….how do I put this? Let’s just say that last night something happened that pushed us over the edge of “fine.” Last night, I discovered something in Rob that I didn’t know was there before.  Last night, I realized that our work together isn’t going to just be fine.

It’s going to be phenomenal.

And here’s why.

Last night, Rob and I got faced with an actor’s biggest nightmare.  Now, granted, let me go ahead and give the disclaimer that it wasn’t a show night.  We are still in tech week rehearsals, and this was our second-to-last dress rehearsal before the “real” opening night on Friday.  But, as it often happens with dress rehearsals, we had a few audience members here and there…a few friends, family members, other theatre friends, etc.  And, in the world of theatre (and any other performance art), an audience of even just one person is still an audience. In our minds, it was “go time.”

Well, part of tech week is working out the little hidden, last-minute kinks that tend to present themselves. And last night?  Yeah, last night there was a kink. A big one.  One of our other actors had a major costume change that was being implemented for the first time between scenes.  In the process of this actor’s “conning,” he goes from one character to another – which involves a pretty drastic change in appearance.  And this change in appearance requires a rather lengthy costume change.  A little more “lengthy” than any of us were expecting.

So, let me set the stage for you.  (heh…See what I did there?)

“Mike” (Rob) and I have just been involved in a scene where a “police sergeant” (not really – it was another conman) has been asking me a lot of uncomfortable questions. In part of their “good cop/bad cop” routine, Mike defends me and manages to make the sergeant go away and leave me alone. But just after the sergeant’s exit, another conman is supposed to arrive at the door.

You following me? So, here Rob and I were onstage, mid-scene. Sergeant leaves, doorbell rings, Rob goes to answer the door and….

Yep, you guessed it.

No one was there.

Now, we actors have this technical phrase that pops into our heads anytime something unexpected (like a missed entrance) happens onstage. It goes something like this…

OH SHIT!

But you want to know what Rob did?  Rob – newbie Rob – opens the door, sees no one is there and simple says, “Huh. There’s no one there.”  He then calmly closes the door, comes back down the stairs, and starts a completely improv conversation with me. Just like that. He kept his cool and kept the conversation flowing. The two of us completely made up a complete conversation so the audience wouldn’t realize something was wrong…and that conversation was completely lead not by the veteran actor that has been onstage for 20 years, mind you, but by the person who was speaking in front of an audience for the first time in his life.

Wow.  That’s all.  Just wow.

So, you hear those stories about how people go through tragedies together and it brings them closer, right?  Survivors of airplane crashes, first aid heroes and the injured, things like that. Well, on a somewhat smaller scale (but to an actor, not really), I feel like that’s what happened last night with us.  We survived!  We got offstage and I practically bear hugged the dude. He saved our butts real good with that one.

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Cast and crew of Wait Until Dark – ACLT Oct 17-19, 2014

So, there you have it, folks.  Today’s blog was just a tribute to my co-actor and friend, Rob Scott. Want to see him and all the rest of this extremely talented cast in the show this weekend?  (And btw, no worries – we have those timing kinks all worked out….) 😉  Then come on down to the Ashe Civic Center in West Jefferson, North Carolina this weekend.  We’d love to have you join us.  Come see what all the fuss is about.  Come watch the hard work and dedication that a small group of talented volunteers have put together solely for your entertainment. And trust me – you will be entertained.  Maybe even a little spooked, to tell ya the truth.

Hey, don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

And do me a favor, won’t you?  After the curtain falls and you’re shaking hands with the actors who have brought this show to you…give my friend Rob an extra little pat on the back, won’t you?  I’m not sure he realizes how much he deserves it.

See you there!

***

“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”
– Helen Keller

More Than Words

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.”
– Georgia O’Keeffe

I was just recently given an awesome opportunity to be a part of an art exhibit.  Yep, you heard that right.  An art exhibit.  Me…the girl who can’t even draw stick figures…in an ART exhibit!  How do ya like them apples?!

Okay, so there was a bit of a catch. I wasn’t allowed to draw. Or paint. Or color. Or create stick figures. They just wanted my words.

Words. In an art exhibit!

When I first heard about this idea, I was a little confused. Um…you want my words in your art exhibit? Come again? But once I started getting into and realizing what this whole thing was about, I was blown away by the idea.

So, here’s how it worked.  Our local Ashe County Arts Council paired up local writers with local artists. (What their criteria was in this selection process is beyond me, but somehow they managed to pair me with exactly the right person. I know that without a doubt.  My artist partner Gerry and I clicked from the get-go.)  Once our pairs were determined, we were given a “project.”  I was to give Gerry something I had written, and she was to give me something she had painted.  She was to use the writing I had given her to inspire a new work of art.  And I, in turn, was to use her painting to inspire a new written work of art.

Pretty cool, huh?

And then, as part of an exhibit that opened up on September 10, each artist/writer pair’s work was hung in the art gallery together – side-by-side with the piece of art that inspired their creation.  The official reception for the artists and writers and anyone who wanted to view their works was on the night of Friday, September 12. Gerry and I found each other and, while standing near our display, found ourselves overcome with the emotional responses our work brought about.

Now, I can’t speak for Gerry, but as a writer – this was pretty new to me.  I’m not used to “watching” people read my work.  You know?  I write it – I send it out in the world – and then I just hope it touches someone somewhere who may have needed to hear it. I may get feedback sometimes, but it’s rare that I get to actually see their responses.  This night, though?  Oh, this night was so different.

morethanwords

Photo by Chris Arvidson

This picture here to the right is a photo that my dear friend and fellow writer Chris Arvidson took that night.  I would have remembered this moment forever even without the photographic evidence, but I can’t believe that she was so eloquently able to capture it at just the right time.  This woman, among others, was actually moved to tears after reading what I had written and seeing Gerry’s painting that accompanied it.  The photo captured her turning back to us to tell us how much it had meant to her.

Wow.

Isn’t that the coolest?

This is why I do what I do, people. This is why musicians make music. Why singers sing. Why painters paint. Why actors act.  We do these things for this moment right here.  To know that for just one moment in time, two human beings became one in their emotions. Someone out there looked at what we created and said, “Yes.”  That’s it.  Just yes. Yes, I have felt that.  Yes, I know that feeling.  Yes, I know you.  Thank you.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I’m telling you people, there’s nothing like it.

morethanwords2So, if you’re local, do yourself a favor.  Go by and check out this exhibit.  It will be on display through October 4th at the Ashe Arts Center, located at 303 School Avenue, West Jefferson, North Carolina. Gerry and I are just one of many pairs that have contributed to this, and each story, poem, painting, and piece of artwork tells a story that you need to hear.  Come by and have your emotions reawakened.  After all, that’s the beauty of art in all its forms, isn’t it?

(And by the way, you’ll definitely want to see what Gerry created from my poem Escape.  A photo just wouldn’t do it justice. You’re going to want to see this one in person.)

And now, in closing, I’ll leave you with the poem Gerry’s market painting inspired me to write.  It’s entitled “Market Visitor.”

Thanks for being here, my fellow humans!  Stop to notice something special today, won’t you?

Market Visitor

What’s that I see coming near?
She must be lost. Why’s she here?
She stops to stare—is it at me?
Oh how I wonder what she sees.

What’s that she’s taking—a photograph?
She wants my picture? What a laugh!
Surely there must be some mistake,
What image is here for her to take?

“Hello there, old girl,” she says with glee,
“Oh, what a sight you are to see.
The forgotten beauty of a long-lost saint—
Ah, what a joy you’ll be to paint.”

An artist? With an interest in me?
Underneath all this ruin, could she see?
The people I’ve seen come and go,
The life I’ve lived—how does she know?

Does she see beyond the tattered boards,
The broken windows, rotting doors?
As she gazes at outer walls worn thin,
Does she know of all the life within?

Can she hear the laughter of children at play,
Hear the hustle and bustle from back in the day?
Does she see the past once filled with life
The fun-filled days, the peaceful nights?

The pleasantries once exchanged within
The constant motion, ceaseless din—
Are now only memories in this silent shrine
Slowly fading away with the passage of time.

And yet with one visit, something feels refreshed
I pull myself together, try to look my very best
For the story behind these shadows might finally be seen
All because one artist took the time to stop and notice me.

– Melissa Halsey Caudill, 2014

Girls on the Run

“Running has given me the courage to start, the determination to keep trying, and the childlike spirit to have fun along the way.”
– Julie Isphording, Marathon winner

So, how many of you have heard of Girls on the Run?

logo_girlsontherunNow, wait a minute. All you non-runners…get back here. Not so fast.  I know how you are. “Oh great, another blog about running. I’m not a runner. I’m out.”  Well, hold it there, missy. (Or mister.)  Stick around for a second.  I want to tell you about something pretty awesome. (Especially those of you with daughters…you’re going to want to hear this.)

I spent my day today getting to know about Girls on the Run. Now, I had heard of it before, of course, as I’m sure many of you have. And, like many of you, I assumed that this was some kind of school “running team.” I mean, it’s called Girls on the Run. It must be girls running, right?

Well, yeah. That’s partly true. But, wow. There is soooo much more to it than that.

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Girls on the Run – Westwood site coaches

I have recently been given the awesome opportunity to be an assistant coach for a Girls on the Run team in my area – Ashe County, North Carolina.  See this pretty lady here to the right?  That’s Natalie Foreman. Although the two of us didn’t know each other that well, our shared love of writing caused our paths to cross a short while back. She’s a local editor who happened to be the one reviewing an essay I’ve written for an upcoming anthology. And that essay just happened to be about…you guessed it…running.  And just before Natalie had read that essay, she had been toying with the idea of getting a Girls on the Run program started in our area. She had done all the research, checked into all the details of securing a location, etc. But what was she missing? An assistant coach. And Fate, as she so often does, just happened to drop a runner’s essay on her desk.

So, Natalie gave me a call.

And here we were today, two practical strangers, headed to a coaches’ meeting.

Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. I had done a little research on my own, of course, but I still didn’t realize what all was involved with the program.  Again, I had it in my head that we were going to go to this coaches’ meeting and they were going to teach about us about different exercises, different methods to teach the girls to increase their running distances week-by-week, etc.  But nope. That’s not what happened at all.

I walked away from that coaches’ meeting feeling like I knew everyone in the room.  Especially Natalie.  And I walked away feeling like I could actually succeed at coaching for this Girls on the Run program.

How did that happen?  Well, it’s like this.

The program director taught us how to teach the kids. She put us in a setting that the girls would be in. She showed us the different games, conversations, techniques, etc., that the students would be going through in our program.  For today, we were the students.

We got to know each other. We got to know our likes, our dislikes. We got to know our vast array of personalities and how each of us could still get along and come together for a common goal…not only despite our differences, but because of them.  We came away from that meeting knowing that a group of drastically different strangers, could walk away a few hours later as friends.  We walked away feeling confident in ourselves, feeling special because of the little idiosyncrasies that made each of us different from one another, and feeling beautifully unique.  And most importantly, we walked away excited for the next time that we could all be together.

And that, my friends, is what Girls on the Run is all about.

Do you know a 3rd-5th grade girl that lives in or around the Ashe County area? Well, I know two women who started the day as strangers and ended it as friends, who absolutely can’t wait to show that little girl how that happens.  Life is so hard for girls these days.  Maybe it always has been, but I just feel like it’s just a tad harder now. There’s so much media and peer pressure to be a certain way, or act a certain way, or…worst of all…to look a certain way. What these girls need is an outlet. A place to come to feel safe. To feel like they can be themselves…where differences are celebrated, not shunned. And where they will get to have a fun, playful workout in the process.

Here’s a quick rundown of the details for you local peeps:

  • Meetings will be Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30 – 4:45 p.m. at Westwood Elementary School.  (Students do not have to attend Westwood Elementary to participate – that is just the meeting location.)
  • Meetings technically start this Tuesday, September 9, but if you haven’t signed up by then, it’s not too late! (We have about two weeks to get all the registrations in.)
  • This is a 12-week program, that will culminate in a 5K race for the girls in all area Girls on the Run programs on December 6, 2014.
  • Coaches are head coach, Natalie Foreman (who is a runner and has a third grade girl herself), and myself (who wishes her daughter was still young enough to participate, but who is also a runner and absolutely adores working with kids!).  We will also have a part-time assistant coach, Thea Van Sickle Young, who will be available to help out on Tuesdays.
  • Sign-up and other info can be found by clicking here.  (There is a cost to the program, but reduced fees are available to kids who receive free/reduced price school lunches.)
  • Girls on the Run of the High Country Facebook link can be found here.

And there you have it, folks.

If you have read this blog and are local, please do Natalie and me a favor.  Will you share this? We just know that there is a girl out there who needs this program. (We know there are many girls who need it actually.)  And the only way they’ll know about it is if they hear about it. Help us spread the word. Without a certain number of girls signed up, we will not be able to proceed with the program. We really don’t want to see that happen.  Our hearts are in this, and we know how much the girls need it.

Help us make a difference, won’t you?

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Click on the flyer below for a little more info and…share, share, share!  And, of course, let me know if you have any questions or need more info!

Let’s start a new generation of healthy, happy, confident girls, shall we?

***

“The woman who starts the race is not the same woman who finishes the race.”
-Sign at the Nike Women’s Marathon

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The Company You Keep

“You are known by the company you keep.”
– Heather Dubrow

I noticed something this week that I would like to share with you.

See that quote up there?  I’ve heard that sort of thing all my life. I always applied it to friendships and the workplace and things of that nature.  But something else has just recently dawned on me. The company that I keep is not really friends or coworkers at all. The people I’m around the most is my family.  And I want to tell you a little something about a few of them.

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Richard and Kelly

See these gorgeous creatures right here?  This is my boyfriend Richard and my daughter Kelly. Now, between Richard and I, we have a total of four children.  But for various reasons (other parents, summer commitments, etc.), the other three aren’t around quite as much as Kelly is these days. So, more often than not, it’s just the three of us spending time together. That makes them the two people that I spend most of my life with.  The “company I keep” if you will.

And I want to tell you a little something about them.

This week my community theatre is putting on a marvelous production of Les Misérables. This is a massive musical that is not known to be done by small community theatres…but ours didn’t let that silly little fact stop them.  Now, usually, I would be involved in the show since I’m the actor in the family.  But I decided to sit this one out for a while. I just didn’t think I had the energy to put into it (you can’t imagine the time and dedication it takes to put on any musical – much less this one! – unless you’ve been involved in one before).  But, as it turns out, I ended up being the only one of our little threesome that wasn’t involved.  Both Richard and Kelly volunteered their time to be “techies.”

Now, for this past week (the week that has lead up to the show), Richard and Kelly have been scarce.  They have spent their every waking moment at the theatre.  This is quite a turn of events for me.  Usually I’m the one at the theatre while the rest of my family sits at home wondering how late I’ll be coming home. It was odd being on the receiving end of that for a change. However, I honestly haven’t minded the time alone. I was able to catch up on some laundry, some cleaning, some reading…and some thinking.  While piddling around the house last night (opening night!), a thought crept into my mind:  My boyfriend and my daughter are just friggin awesome.

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The Southern House in Transit

Now, I’ve always known this, of course.  This wasn’t a “new” thought.  But last night, I had something specific to apply it to.

For those of you who don’t know, Richard is a musician.  He’ll tell you he plays the drums but just owns a guitar – but he’s full of it. He plays them both and is wonderful at it.  Oh, and he sings, too.  This man who has the ability and talent to get up in front of audiences and make beautiful music (even making some decent money at it at times), has spent the past few weeks of his life volunteering to help others sound their best. He’s the one you won’t see when you go see this phenomenal performance, but everything you hear will be because of him. The man who makes music is just as happy (if not happier) this week in the shadows watching as he makes sure you can hear the actors making music.

I don’t know, man.  There’s just something about that.  Such humility. Such a lack of need for attention or applause.  The ability to derive pleasure from helping others receive recognition.  That’s no small feat, in my little book.

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Kelly as Annie

And then there’s my little Kelly.

Kelly is no stranger to the spotlight.  This is the girl who played the role of Annie last year to five straight sold-out audiences.  She got up in front of hundreds of people and sang her heart out, while “Sandy” jumped on her, licked her face, sniffed in her pockets for the treats she knew were there…etc.  I’m telling you, Kelly was a pro. It’s hard enough to trust other actors when you’re onstage, but to get through an entire scene with just you and a canine as your co-star…and while singing!?…let’s just say this kid earned some serious points in my respect book for those awesome skills.  But you know what I respect even more?

The role she’s playing now.

That’s right.  This week, little Annie’s redhead is nowhere to be seen.  That spotlight that she knew so well last year?  She’s now sitting behind it.  She’s the follow spot operator.  She is making sure that you can see others as they shine.  And you know what?  She loves it.  Like I mentioned before – that takes a special kind of person.  A person who is not looking for recognition, but just wants to help.  She’s just as happy shining the light on others as she was feeling it on her own face as she played a title role to a sold-out audience. In fact, I think she’s a bit happier doing what she’s doing now.

Wow.

I hope you don’t mind the fact that I took an entire blog to give a shout-out to these two wonderful people in my life.  If that old saying is true – if you really are known by the company you keep – then I can’t even begin to tell you how proud I am to be known as the mom to that hard-working little girl and the one who is loved by that humble, talented man.

What a lucky lady am I.

***

company

 

 

Flower Garden Theory

heartgarden

Flower Garden Theory

Our hearts are flower gardens.
Each morning we arise and tend to them –
Water
Soil
Fertilizer
…and out we step into the world.
People pass by.
Hurriedly, we share our garden with pride
“Look!
Isn’t it beautiful?
Here, take a flower for a while!
Just bring it back, ok?”

And what happens?

Some bring the flowers back
Beautiful and bright as ever
Well–tended
Sometimes in even better shape than before
We put them back in their rightful place –
The garden is as perfect as ever.

But sometimes.

Some bring the flowers back…not so beautiful
They haven’t taken care of them at all
They are wilted
Withered
Thirsty
We put them back in as best we can
But they no longer belong.
They are changed.

And sometimes still.

Some don’t bring the flowers back at all.
They didn’t realize they weren’t theirs to keep
They have cast them aside
Forgotten
(Or maybe they are thieves)
The garden now has an empty spot.

Our hearts are flower gardens.
Each morning we arise and tend to them –
Water
Soil
We make adjustments.
We remove the dead flowers from yesterday
(They didn’t make it through the night)
We adjust the borders to fill in the empty spots
Our garden is smaller
But still beautiful
…and out we step into the world.
People pass by.
We share our garden with pride
(Perhaps a little less pride than yesterday, however)
“Look!
Isn’t it beautiful?
Here, take a flower for a while!
Just bring it back, ok?”

The cycle repeats.

Our hearts are flower gardens.
Each morning we arise and tend to them –
Water
Soil
We make further adjustments.
We remove more dead flowers
Adjust the borders for even more empty spots.
Our garden is smaller
But still beautiful
(Sort of)
…and out we step into the world.
People pass by.
We start to share our garden…
But the pride has decreased
(Is it worth showing anymore?
Can they be trusted?)

We change our minds.
We keep our gardens to ourselves

For if we keep sharing…
They may disappear.

Our hearts are flower gardens.
Fenced-in.
Private.
Secure.

Passive Aggressive

“This is passive-aggression in action.”
– Chuck Palahniuk

passiveaggressive2So, I was recently accused of writing a “passive aggressive” blog. (This one in particular.)  And while I don’t feel the need to explain myself to anyone, this particular critique struck a nerve.  And here’s why.

I’m going to define passive aggressive.  Not using Webster or anything – no, this is 100% Melissa.  Passive aggressive means that you get a point across in a sneaky way without being blunt and obvious.  Am I right?  Fair definition?  Well, here’s what I say to that.

Duuuuuh!

This blog should be renamed
“missyspublicpassiveaggressivejunk.”
Of course, every blog I write is passive aggressive.  Sheesh.

For instance, I write a blog about having been falsely accused of something I didn’t do.  Do I say JimBob accused me of telling his wife Bertha that he’s cheating on her?  Of course not.  You people don’t know JimBob and Bertha.  You can’t relate with specifics, but you can relate with a generality.  JimBob never accused you of telling Bertha anything, so what do you care?  But I’ll bet money on the fact that you’ve probably been accused of something unfairly, am I correct?  You can relate to what I’m saying because you can substitute your situation with mine when I write in generalities.

Or, I may write about a problem that Richard and I are having and the events that took place surrounding the argument.  Do I tell you what the problem is?  Of course not.  That’s personal.  And besides, our problem was probably pretty specific and you most likely couldn’t relate with it.  But have you had a problem with your significant other?  Sure you have! If I write non-specifically, you can relate with what I’m saying.

I could keep listing examples of blogs from the past, but there’s no point.  They are ALL the same. I don’t come right out and use specific situations and specific names because that would defeat my purpose.

I have a confession to make.  Recently, I’ve been a little disappointed with my blog’s views.  They have gone down quite a bit lately.  When I expressed my hesitation in continuing the blog, someone asked me this question.

“Well, who are you writing it for?  You or them?”

And you know what my answer is to that question?

THEM.

passiveaggressiveIf I were writing this for myself, I’d write a journal or a diary. I’d use specific names like nobody’s business.  And I probably wouldn’t be nearly as nice about it, I can guarantee you that.  But I’m not writing for me.  I’m writing in the hopes that someone somewhere can see themselves in my situations.  They can take my life experiences, replace their own in the story, and come away with two things.  One, the knowledge that they are not alone (we never are); and two, a slightly different perspective on what might be a negative situation.

I recently wrote a blog about a visit to the nursing home to see my Alzheimer’s-ridden grandmother.  Someone that I don’t know from Adam sent me a message telling me how much that blog meant to them.  It gave them a new perspective on their own parent who has Alzheimer’s.  It made them see her in a different way.  She said that she would remember what I said for a very long time and that it made her understand her parent like she hadn’t up until the point she read my words.

Why do I write?  That is why.

If you see yourself in my writing, there’s probably a reason.  If it helps, I’m thrilled.  If it steps on your toes, well.  Frankly, forgive me for being blunt, but I’m not a bit sorry. I didn’t mention your name – if you put yourself in it, that’s you that did that.  Not me.  And you might want to ask yourself why that is.

I am a very public person.  That’s just the way it is.  It’s the way I was made, and there’s nothing I can do about it.  The stories that I have to tell are going to be told. I’m not going to use specifics in most cases unless I’m given permission. My stories are mine, and I am going to keep telling them.

Yes, I get frustrated sometimes when they don’t seem to be read as much as usual (as I mentioned above). But like my daughter said in a recent conversation:

Me: My blog views are dropping drastically.
Her: How do you know?
Me: Well, I can look at the stats.  A story that may have gotten 100 views before is now only getting 25.  I think maybe I should quit.
Her: Then you’re going to have 25 disappointed people.

Ah, the wisdom of youth.

So, yes, I’m going to continue writing.  And yes, I fully admit that most everything I write from here on out will be passive aggressive. It’s what I do.  If I write something that you feel is about you or directed at you, please – see me about it.  I can assure you that the passive aggressiveness is only found in this blog, not in real life.  I promise you I’ll let you know exactly what you want to know.

Pretending (unless I’m on a stage) is just not my thing.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

***

passiveblog

 

Weed ‘Em and Reap

“Don’t water your weeds.”
– Proverb

Plant1Now, let me just start this blog out by letting you know that I know nothing – and I mean NOTHING – about gardening.  Or even about keeping a plant alive.  Case in point, the poor little plant you see here to the right.

*sigh*

This picture is the reason I’ve never had plants.  THIS is what happens to them.

Now, in my defense, this poor little fella got left behind in a major move.  My boyfriend Richard’s family did a little house swapping and then I followed close behind by moving into the home with Richard.  In the midst of all the moves, this plant was left sitting on a shelf by a window.  Neglected.  Once we got moved in and settled, I finally noticed the poor little fella and went to work on trying to save it.  I diligently remembered to keep it watered and turn it towards the sunlight, etc. etc.  And what happened?

Um, well, nothing.

The plant looked exactly the way it looks in the picture for months.  And yet – somehow the parts that were alive (or at least I assume they were – they were still green), just kept going amidst all the dead stuff.  So, finally, it dawned on me that maybe I should treat the plant like you do gardens.  Get rid of the weeds to make room for the stuff that is still alive to be able to grow.

Hmmmm.

Eh, I didn’t know if it would work, but I figured it would at least make things look a little better, right?  So, I went to work.  After a full morning of picking and prodding and trying my best to efficiently differentiate between green and brown, I was left with…well…a much smaller plant.

Plant2Bless its heart.

(And hey, I didn’t even though that little fern-looking thingy was even in there!  How about that!?)

So, yeah, the little fella was looking a little pruned, so to speak, but I still had to admit he looked a heck of a lot better.  Right?

And that’s when that writer’s brain of mine kicked in.  Suddenly, all of those “weeding” quotes I’ve always heard began to make sense to me.  Looking at this little plant in front of me made me realize something important.

This is what it takes to change your life.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably faced some moments in your life when you realized that something just wasn’t ‘right.’  You know what I mean?  No matter how much you tried – no matter how many things you crammed into your life to try to fulfill some void that you were certain would top off that internal happiness meter – nothing seemed to work.  You tried this, you tried that, you packed your life with so many places and people and things just trying and trying to find that “thing” that would make your life perfect…and still.  Nothing.

And then, suddenly, when you realize that you can’t fit a single thing else in your life, it dawns on you.  There’s just no more room.  None.  You’re spreading yourself thin by trying to take care of all the things on your plate (or “in your pot” so to speak) that there’s just no more energy (or “water”) left.  And then, when you look even closer, you start to realize how useless some of these things are to begin with.  You’re putting precious energy into things that aren’t even serving you anymore, and maybe never even were to begin with.  And sometimes those ‘things’ are actually ‘people.’

In other words, you’ve been watering the weeds.

Kinda stupid, huh?  Sound familiar?  No?  Hmmm.

Think maybe it needs to?

I don’t know – maybe the way I am is unique.  Maybe I’m the only one who has crammed their life full of crap to no avail. But if the responses I’ve gotten from many of my blogs in the past tell me anything, I’m thinking I’m probably not unique at all.  I think we are a whole lot more alike than we may realize.  All of us.  And I’m betting someone out there probably needed to hear this today.  Was it you?

Get rid of the weeds, people.  You might feel a little empty to start with.  A little bare, maybe.  But what’s left will be worth taking care of.  And you’ll actually have the energy (“water”) to do it.  And before you know it, you’re going to have nothing but a pot full of life.

Doesn’t that sound kinda awesome?

***

“We’re like a gardener with a hose and our attention is water – we can water flowers or we can water weeds.”
– Josh Radnor

Ripples

“When you drop a pebble into a pond, ripples spread out, changing all the water in the pool. The ripples hit the shore and rebound, bumping into one another, breaking each other apart. In some small way, the pond is never the same again.”
― Neal Shusterman

ripples

Ripples in the Pond

So, I’ve been told that I have a wide reach with this blog. More than once, I’ve had a person mention something to me about how a particular entry really affected them – and I was shocked because I didn’t even know the person was a reader at all. It makes me proud when that kind of thing happens. It’s like the quote I posted above, you know? No matter how small you think your little pebble is, the ripples will spread out in a way you may have never even imagined. How cool is that?

Well, guess what? Now, it’s your turn to drop your pebble.

I’ve decided that I’m going to bank on that ‘wide reach’ thing being true, and use my blog for something that I think is extremely important.

jay

Photo courtesy of Jay’s Facebook page

I want to tell you about my friend Jay Erwin.  Up until August of 2013, Jay was a runner. And an awesome runner at that.  In fact, he was a co-founder of the Boone Running Club – a club whose Facebook group has provided invaluable information and race info to me ever since I became a runner.  In fact, it was the basis for the Ashe Running Club page that I and a friend recently started for our area as well.  (Talk about your ripples, right?)  Jay reached out to me many times on Facebook to encourage me as a beginner runner and was very instrumental in working with me to continue moving forward to reach my running goals. And I am just one voice in the pond, so to speak.  I know there are many, many others who would tell you the same thing.

Well, now, it’s time to repay Jay.

In August of 2013, Jay was involved in an accident.  Here’s a portion of the story in Jay’s words:

” I had an accident on 8/24/13….I was cutting a tree down and it fell on me. My son who never had CPR training saw that I had no pulse or heartbeat and he gave me CPR. I believe the hand of God helped him. I was revived by my son and soon after that I was flown by helicopter to a Trauma unit in Johnson City, TN. I died two additional times on the helicopter, but came back. Surgery was administered to my spine and left shoulder. My left shoulder was completely smashed, but corrected and I had two rods inserted to stabilize my spine. I started coming around after 16 days.  I was in Johnson City for 18 days and then I was transferred to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, GA. At the Shepherd Center I rehabbed and learned how to live again….I was at Shepherd for about 100 days and I got to come home just before Christmas…”

Wow.  Once a runner, and now Jay will never even walk again. Can you imagine?  I mean, really.  Can you?

I’m guessing probably not.  But you know what you can do?  What we can all do?

Help.

jay2

Jay and his lovely wife, Lisa

Now, obviously, none of us can turn back time.  We can’t go back and take away this accident.  We can’t give Jay his running legs back.  But what we can do is reach out to help him in this time of need.  How can we do that?

A company called Mobility Solutions is sponsoring a contest.  Three lucky winners will be chosen to receive a wheelchair-accessible van that will aid Jay and his family tremendously.  As you can imagine, their whole world has changed drastically. Getting Jay from point A to point B requires great effort.  This van would change his life in ways that those of us who just hop in our cars to go from here to there could never even begin to imagine.  And how does he win it?  Simple.

He just needs votes.

All you do is click on this link.  Register (you can register with your Facebook account if you’d like) and vote.  Vote, vote, vote.  Vote every day.  That’s all it takes!

Simple, huh?

And if you want to help even further, join Jay’s Facebook group and get tips on answering the daily “extra vote” question to gain not one, but TWO votes per day.  Jay is not in the lead, but I think that with our help, he can be.  Surely taking a few seconds out of each day to vote for this well-deserving man is something that you can do, right?

Time to toss your pebbles.  These ripples are going to mean more than you can even imagine.  In fact, let’s start a wave, people.  Shall we?

Please, please vote.  Our friend needs our help.

***
“It is one of the beautiful compensations in this life that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

V-Day Giveaway

“A bell is no bell ’til you ring it,
A song is no song ’til you sing it,
And love in your heart
Wasn’t put there to stay –
Love isn’t love
‘Til you give it away.”
~Oscar Hammerstein, Sound of Music, “You Are Sixteen (Reprise)”

Ahhhh.  ‘Tis the season for romance, right?  Chocolate hearts, teddy bears, lovey-dovey sweet nothings….

Blech.

I know, I know…I’m very happily in love and should be happy about Valentine’s Day, right?  Well, I am happy that I’m in a relationship with such a wonderful, amazing man.  Don’t get me wrong.  But the idea that it should all be centered around one day?  Eh.  Pardon my French here, but I just think that’s a bunch of BS.

And besides, I haven’t always been deliriously happy on Valentine’s Day.  As some of you may remember, this wasn’t the case for me last year.  Richard and I had split up.  (And, believe me, Richard just loooooves when I bring this up….).  I wrote a blog (a year ago today actually) about how I had attempted to see Valentine’s Day in a different light that year.  And it worked for a while.  It really did.  But then, a few days later, you’ll see the blog I wrote on the day after Valentine’s Day.  (Aptly titled “The Day After Valentine’s Day…” Man, I was creative back in the old days…)  I had psyched myself to get through that day, and then felt the sadness all over again once it was over.

So, again, yes, I am much much happier this year.  I’m so grateful that Richard and I made it through the hurt and sadness and found our way back to each other.  But regardless of my status this or any year, I still hate the thought of the turmoil that Valentine’s Day puts people through.  I know many people who are recently single who are bracing themselves for the dreaded V-Day just as I had to do last year.  And why is that?  Isn’t every day hard enough on the brokenhearted as it is without having to rub their faces in it once a year?  And if you’re not amongst the brokenhearted and are in a loving relationship now like I am, should you really need one particular day a year to remind you to be good to the one you love?  And do you really need to be pressured into buying expensive gifts to prove said love?

Well, I certainly don’t think so.

So…with that rant out of the way…let’s get to the point of this particular blog.  I decided that maybe I should do a Valentine’s Day give-away of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book that my story is in.  While, yes, it is a book filled with happy love stories, it’s also a book filled with real love stories.  And some of them, just like real life, don’t necessarily have such happy endings.  The book is divided into subject headings and one of them is entitled “Let’s Forget this Ever Happened.”  Another is called “It’s Not Me, It’s You” and contains a story called “Worst Date Ever.”  Anyway, you catch my drift right?  These stories are real.  And I think it’s important for us all to remember that there are a variety of “statuses” out there on stupid stinky ole Valentine’s Day.  If you’re not one of the ones in a happy relationship, don’t sweat it.  When we’re in a place of sadness, it’s easy to get it into our head that we’re the only one feeling this way.  That everyone out there has a partner and we’re the only one who is alone.  Well, you’re not alone.  Ever.  And here’s how I want to show you that.

If you read this blog, I want you to comment below.  (If you’re reading this on Facebook, you’re welcome to comment there too if you can’t figure out how to comment on the actual blog site).  I want you to tell me what your relationship status is, and how you plan to ‘celebrate’ Valentine’s Day.  And I want all the stories.  From the good to the bad to the ugly.  If you’re happily in love and plan the sweetest V-Day on the planet, go ahead and tell us about it.  We’ll try not to gag.  And if you’re miserable and hateful and spiteful and grumpy – I want to hear your thoughts too.  Really.

Why am I doing this?  I want people to read the variety of answers that I hope to get.  I want people to see that in the answers to this question, there probably lies someone out there in the same position you’re in…as is always the case, no matter the circumstance.  We are just never ever alone.  Really.  We’re not.  Will my plan work?  Eh, I don’t know.  But I’m willing to bet that if people participate, it’s at least going to be entertaining to read, don’t ya think!?  And keep in mind, I don’t want an essay or anything.  Just one sentence will do.  Whether it’s “I’m single and I plan to curl in a ball and cry into the wee hours of the morn,” or “I’m deliriously in love and plan to chronicle ever single moment of my dinner/dancing/smooching lovefest on Facebook for all the world to see,” we want to read them all.  Well.  Sort of.  😉

Chicken Soup Dating GameAnd, then, on the dreaded V-Day, I will put all of the commenters names in a hat (or bowl or scattered all the floor, whatever) and I will draw a name at random at 3:00 p.m. and will send the winner an autographed copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game.  Check back here on my blog for the winner’s name and instructions on how to claim your prize.  If you’ve already purchased a book from me, enter anyway!  You can give it as a gift, maybe even with a copy of this blog so they know why you’re giving it to them.  Or, you may even opt to participate but not accept the prize and allow me to draw another name.  Either way – you’re a winner.  Right?  Let’s spread the love, people.  (And if I wasn’t a struggling, broke wannabe writer, I’d give you something better than a book, but hey – you can only give what ya got, right?…)

So.  We good?  You understand the rules?  Ok, then.  Let’s do this.  Ready, set….comment.

Seriously.  Show someone they’re not alone this Valentine’s Day.  That may just be all one person out there needs to know.

***

“If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love.”
– Maya Angelou

Kindness

kindness

Something happened at work a few weeks ago that I still can’t seem to shake from my mind.  It wasn’t anything earth-shattering.  It wasn’t something that would normally make any kind of long-lasting impression.  And yet – for some reason – it has stuck with me.  And for a writer like myself, that means I probably better sit down and let my fingers and the keyboard figure it out for me.  So here goes.

First of all, I’m a real estate paralegal.  Not sure if I’ve ever mentioned that in this blog before, but there ya go.  That’s what I do in my real life.  You know, so I won’t starve.  Basically, I do the legal paperwork for people as they buy, sell, or refinance their homes.  Now, I’ve always worked for attorneys, but I haven’t always specialized in real estate.  My first job right out of the gate was for an attorney who handled a variety of practices, including domestic relations.  That was the department I worked in.  I would sit in and listen to the depositions of people who were going through divorces.  I would field the phone calls of irate exes who wanted this, that and the other and wanted it no later than yesterday.  I would see tears fall as people came by to pick up their final divorce decrees.

In other words, it was depressing as crap.

So, as soon as I started working more in real estate, I decided that was the way I wanted to go.  There were MUCH less tears shed over the transfer of ownership of a building than there was over the transfer of people’s children and marital statuses.  So, a real estate paralegal I became.

Now, for the most part, I made the right decision.  There was definitely less drama here in this side of the legal field.   People selling a house were usually happy.  They got money.  People buying a house were usually happy.  They got a house.  People refinancing a house were usually happy.  They lowered their payments and got a better rate.  So yes, the real estate field was a relatively calm and happy place to be.

But then?  *sigh*  Then, there was the real estate crash a few years ago.  And things just aren’t quite so black and white anymore.

Refinances?  A nightmare.  To get a loan to go through, people have to give everything shy of a pint of blood from their oldest offspring.  I’m not exaggerating much, trust me.  And sales?  A lot of times we have sellers who are actually bringing money to closing in order to get their property sold.  Yep, you read that right – they have to pay to sell their house.  We see that way more often than you’d think.  And don’t even get me started on the foreclosures…  Just take my word for it, this real estate stuff is not all sunshine and lollipops anymore.

Why am I telling you this?  Well, here’s why.

In the course of a normal business day, I try my absolute best to maintain a friendly demeanor.  I really do.  (Well, with clients, that is.  Not with my co-workers…I’m not that good of an actress…)  But sometimes?  Well, sometimes it’s just hard not to slightly snap back when I’m on the phone with people who are getting snippy with me.  Especially when the person on the other end of the line happens to not even be our client.  When doing a purchase transaction, oftentimes the buyers and sellers will retain separate attorneys to represent their interests in the sale.  Most of the time, I’m handling the buyer’s side of things since I’m doing the closing paperwork (the buyer’s attorney is the settlement agent – meaning we conduct the closing).  Now, I’m telling you all this boring mumbo jumbo because it’s important info for you to know in order to understand this particular incident that won’t leave my mind.

So, here I am, in the midst of working on a closing that is scheduled for later the same day.  As is par for the course these days, I’m down to the last minute working on the stressful details to try to wrap things up so the closing can be completed.  I’m waiting on a signed document from a seller who, like I explained above, is not our client, when an email pops up from the realtor representing said seller.  The email states:  “Melissa, there may be a delay in receiving the settlement statement from the seller today.  Her husband just passed away this morning.  She will get you what you need as quickly as she can.”

Wow.  Her husband just died?  What a tragedy.  Knowing the circumstances now, of course, we are very understanding and will accommodate in anyway possible.  A delay in receiving her signature?  No problem at all.  Totally understandable.

And then, the phone rings.

No sooner had I clicked off of the email than I heard the seller’s voice on the on the other end of the line asking for me.  Now, although she introduced herself, she did not once mention what had happened to her this morning, and probably didn’t realize I knew.  She just immediately started…how do I put this?…complaining.  Every single thing on the settlement statement that she needed to sign was wrong.  I didn’t do this right.  I didn’t do that right.  Her property taxes were already paid and I was showing that they weren’t.  (FYI – They weren’t paid.)  She went on a tirade about all the things that was wrong and that I needed to fix IMMEDIATELY.

Whoa.

So, let me tell you how the Melissa who had not just received that email might have responded.

“Ma’am.  Your taxes are NOT paid.  I called the county tax office to confirm and they told me so themselves.  Would you like their number?  I’ll be glad to give it to you.  Any and all other concerns will need to go directly through your realtor or your attorney – we do not represent you.”

The end.  (And you can rest assured that there would probably be a little snip to my tone of voice as well.)

But the Melissa who had just read that email?  The Melissa who now knows that this poor woman has just lost her husband this very morning?  Well, here’s how she responded.

Ma’am, I’m sorry there are so many problems.  Let’s deal with them one at a time.  As for your property taxes, I understand you’re from Florida and the way Florida and North Carolina pay their taxes differs and may be what is causing the confusion….”  And so on, and so forth.

Because I knew what she was going through, I softened my tone (and my attitude) and helped her to understand what was wrong.  Together, we went through each issue item by item and came to an understanding and an agreement.  By the time we hung up the phone, she sounded much more pleasant and even somewhat relieved to now understand what she had perceived as issues.  She never told me what had happened to her that morning.  Not once.  She provided no explanation whatsoever.  She was just a somewhat frantic, understandably distraught woman trying to take care of necessary business that had to be attended to in the midst of unthinkable sorrow.  And I knew that because I had received that email just prior to her call.

But what if I hadn’t?

And how many times have I spoken to people just like her without receiving an explanatory email beforehand?

Yep.  Makes you stop and think, doesn’t it?

Now, believe me, I’m preaching to the choir with this one.  I need this lesson as much as you do, probably more.  But I’m asking you to do what I’m going to try to do from now on…treat everyone as if they’re fragile.  You know?  Sure, maybe the hateful person you’re dealing with has no excuse whatsoever to be acting the way they’re acting.  Maybe they’re just a jerk.  Maybe there’s no sad, heartbreaking explanation for their horrible attitude.

But, then again. Maybe there is.

Maybe there’s more to the story than you know.  Maybe they’re under a stress that you can’t even begin to imagine.  Maybe they’re hanging on by a thread.

Maybe they just lost a loved one right before speaking to you.

We just never know, do we?

Something to think about.

***

If we knew each others secrets, what comforts we should find.”
– John Churton Collins