Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Faith

Faith can be defined as complete trust. Most of us have been taught from a young age that faith is a firm belief in something or someone where there is no proof of its existence. As with love, with faith there is no tangible evidence, nothing to hold or embrace, it simply exists in one’s heart and mind. One can have faith in many things; God, a religion, a friend or in oneself. When you have faith you act without question, timidity or doubt.

Faith is wonderfully extraordinary, ever changing, evolving, and constantly growing. Like a rose turning toward the sun for light, faith is beautiful to witness. It gives one hope when lost. At times one’s faith can be as strong as an ocean current. No matter the distance the current must travel, or the obstacles it might encounter, the current, like faith, never stops until its waves safely reach the shore. When one has faith, one can overcome any hardship, pain or heartache. Faith will always lead you home, where ever that may be.

Having faith does not mean one cannot question, be upset and seek answers. Even people with the most steadfast beliefs, have doubts. No matter how strongly we believe in our convictions it does not mean we have failed when we question our faith, question ourselves, and question God. It simply means we are human. I believe that is the principle purpose of prayer, to ask questions. Prayer helps us when we are lost, feel misunderstood or neglected and we need guidance. At times we all lose faith in our convictions, our friends, sadly ourselves and God. No matter how strong our belief, at one time or another we have all strayed from our faith and become for a time the ‘lost sheep’.

There are times in everyone’s life when we are filled with questions. When we surrender to self-pity, lose hope and stop praying. “How did I get to this point?” “How much more pain and disappointment can I handle?” “Why is everyone else’s life so much better than mine, when I have tried to be good?” “Why am I so poor?” “Why can’t I find a better job?” “Why can’t I find love?” “Why did I lose my son or daughter?” The questions are too numerous to list, but they are echoed a million times throughout the world. If one thinks about it, we are never alone in our questions, our pain and our sadness. We are all bonded through the trials of life. With faith, together, we can navigate through any hardship.

I have a friend who once stated they had never lost faith in God but only themselves. I explained how I believe they are one and the same. When you lose faith in yourself, you have lost faith in God. If you do not believe in yourself, then you have forgotten God has given each one of us everything we need to travel this journey we call life. All we need is who we are. I know this because there were times I lost sight of who I was. I stopped believing in myself. I allowed others to make me doubt my abilities, what I could handle, what I could survive, what I knew to be true. I let them define me instead of showing them who I was. At times, I let the pain in my life overwhelm me. I built a wall between myself and God. I forgot one of the first lessons I learned as a child; God will only give me what I can bear. I had to let go of my doubts and go back to the faith I had as a child. I needed to remind myself not to question so much what I had lost but be thankful for the wonderful gifts I had in my life. I was blessed; I had experienced a pain so immense from losing a love that was so honest. I finally understood not to curse the pain but be thankful for the love. I have to believe I suffered so someone who could not handle the pain would not. There was a purpose to my sorrow, one day I may discover it, or I may never understand why. I have to simply believe in me, in God.

Like a rose, faith must never be neglected; it must be nurtured if it is to grow strong and beautiful. Sadly, if left untended, faith can languish and wither away leaving what can only be described as an ugly scar on the soul. I once carried that wound. When one loses faith in oneself and in God, one can never truly be happy. Without faith it is impossible to let go of the pain and move forward. Faith helps you find the rainbow after a storm, the joy after the sorrow.

How do we help our faith grow? One way to nurture our faith is to surround ourselves with friends who believe in us even when we may not believe in ourselves. Like God, they help us find peace in the middle of the tempest. These friends accept us for who we are, not for who they would like us to be. They view our ‘scars’ as beautiful, part of what makes us unique. They love us as much for our imperfections as our virtues. They steadfastly stand by us, behind us and at times in front of us.

Like an athlete who works out constantly to become stronger, we must ‘practice’ our faith every day so it too will be stronger. With proper attention it will be able to withstand any opponent. We nourish our faith through prayer; by trying to see the good in everything, and giving help to those in need, be it with money, or time, or simple words of encouragement. By openly giving ourselves to another, sharing our faith, it evolves, grows within them and strengthens within us. Our faith becomes stronger when we do not hide from it, we openly celebrate it, when we stand firm in our beliefs. If a friend fails to ‘have your back’; to stand with you when someone questions your character, then are they truly a friend? The same is true with faith. If you are unwilling to stand up for your faith, to speak up for yourself, for God, then do you really have faith at all?

I believe to find faith; one must study your religion’s teachings. One must also look within oneself. I am different than most people; I do not believe one has to attend ‘church’ to be one of the faithful. I have met many people who regularly attend Sunday service, who say they are ‘Christian’ but their actions demonstrate otherwise. Words do not prove our faith, our lives do. Faith can only be measured as true by God not by man.

I began this essay by saying we are taught that faith is intangible; it is a belief in someone or something that is not based upon proof. I have seen otherwise. I witness the proof of faith’s presence every day. I see it in the pain, struggles and hardships I have overcome. I witness it in the beauty and grace of those around me, through the people who have come in and out of my life. I see its affirmation in the love that surrounds me every day. Faith is the foundation of all that is good, of love, of hope for the future, and of the triumph over adversity. Faith is the seed of God’s love and faith is my constant companion.

It all begins with two simple yet beautiful words……I believe!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Jack Daniel's Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies with Whiskey Glaze


If you are my friend on facebook you have probably noticed over the years that I love to bake, especially during the holiday season. Many times after posting photos or status updates about my baking exploits I have received many requests for recipes. I must admit I am horrible at responding and sending out recipes. I have good intentions, I truly plan on responding but the thought of typing then copying and pasting a recipe numerous times is very unappealing so I tend to put off responding indefinitely. This afternoon I received another request for a recipe. When I moved the email into my folder titled recipe requests, I noticed the large number of emails I had banished there and guilt overtook me. I decided to ease my conscious instead of sending out several emails I would simply post some of my most requested recipes on my blog.

First I must confess I am not a professional cook. I have never had any type of formal training. I learned to bake standing by the side of my Grandma and Nana Kay, listening and watching as they created their "magic delights" in the kitchen. As a small child I can remember peeking over the mixing bowl in my Nana Kay's kitchen as she made her wonderful christmas cakes. My mouth watering with the anticipation of licking the beaters. I knew I was getting older when my Grandma finally allowed me to measure, then taught me how to gently add the ingredients to her cookie batter. One of the most important lessons I learned standing by their sides, recipes are simply a guide. You have to know what the batter should look and taste like. The season, weather, humidity and even your oven may call for a "recipe adjustment".
I always bake a few cookies first before removing my beater and mixing bowl. If the cookies spread too much I know to add a touch more flour. It also allows me to adjust the time and temperature as needed.

Most of my original recipes have stories behind them, some short, some long.
The Jack Daniel's Chocolate Chocolate Chip cookie recipe came to be after an evening spent with friends. We were all sitting around a table on a neighbor's deck one summer night enjoying the warm night and conversation. In the middle of the table sat a bowl of chocolate. A few of the men decided to take shots of whiskey and placed their shot glasses down on the table. I stared at the shot glasses next to the chocolate bowl and thought I bet the two would taste great together. I did something very unusual for me, I asked Larry for a shot of whiskey. Yes me who rarely drinks asked for a shot, of whiskey no less. Everyone stared in amazement as he handed my shot to me. Most watching to see if I was actually going to be able to swallow it without coughing or making a funny face. I believe there may have even been a bet placed on the outcome. He handed me the shot, I unwrapped a small Hershey bar, placed it in my mouth and then took a sip of the whiskey. I was right the two combined nicely. To finish the shot I unwrapped another chocolate bar and combined the two once again. Before going to bed that night I wrote on a posted note, Chocolate Chips and Whiskey and stuck it to my cooking binder as a subtle reminder. A few weeks later on a rainy summer night, I came up with the recipe below. I hope you enjoy it.

Jack Daniel’s Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies with Chocolate Whiskey Glaze
1 ½ cups semi- sweet chocolate chips; melted **
12 oz. bag white chocolate chips
12 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chunk chips
1 cup unsalted butter
1 ½ cup brown sugar (do not pack)
2 eggs
3 tbsp Gentleman Jack Whiskey
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 ½ (to 3/4) cup all purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Place 1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips in microwave safe bowl. Microwave at 30 second intervals until chocolate is completely melted. Be sure to stir the chocolate chips for a few seconds after each interval. Allow to melted chocolate to cool slightly.

In large bowl beat at medium speed; butter, brown sugar and whiskey until light and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time, mixing completely after each.
Turn mixer to low speed and gradually add in the melted chocolate. Scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Once chocolate is completely blended in, turn the mixer up to medium speed and beat for approximately one to two minutes. Stop mixing when the batter appears slightly lighter in color and appears softer/fluffy.
Turn mixer to low, add baking soda and salt, blending completely. Add flour.
(Note: I add flour a half a cup at a time. This allows me to make sure the flour is getting thoroughly blended and I can make sure the batter does not become too dry)

Turn mixer to the lowest setting, add chocolate chunk pieces and white chocolate chips.

Drop by med. ice cream scoop unto ungreased cookie sheet. Cook for 12 to 14 minutes until the center of the cookie is set. Remove cookies to wire rack to cool.
Make glaze and drizzle over cooled cookies.

FYI if you really want to amp up the whiskey taste, when the chocolate chip cookies are cooling, brush the tops of the cookies with Jack Daniel's.


Chocolate Whiskey Glaze
(Note: You may want to adjust the chocolate glaze to your taste…the more powdered sugar the less whiskey taste and vice versa.)

16 oz squeeze bottle (available at Walmart and most stores)
½ cup melted chocolate chips**
2 tsp shortening
1/3 cup Jack Daniels Whiskey
¾ to 1 cup Powdered Sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Place Chocolate chips and shortening in microwave safe bowl, microwave at 30 second intervals until melted. Be sure to stir after each time. You may also melt the chocolate and shortening over the stove in a double boiler. Let melted chocolate cool slightly.
In mixer combine whiskey, vanilla and powdered sugar. Scraping the bowl every minute or so to ensure the sugar and whiskey combine.
Turn mixer to medium speed and slowly add the melted chocolate. It is important that the chocolate is cooled slightly if it is too hot it will seize up when it mixes with the whiskey and you will have to start all over.
Mix until smooth. It is important to taste the glaze. If you want more of a whiskey taste then add a tablespoon or two more of Jack Daniel's. If you want to tone down the whiskey taste, then add a tablespoon or two more of the powdered sugar. I always add more whiskey!!

Pour chocolate glaze in squeeze bottle and drizzle over cookies.
Store in an air tight container.

**when stirring melted chocolate do not use a wooden spoon.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Don't Let Today Be Lost to Yesterday

In the past 11 months I have lost 4 people that I loved. It has been a pretty emotional year. Tonight I should have been home watching television, resting after practice not at a memorial to say goodbye to my dear friend, Gail.

Nothing makes sense, according to my calendar on October 31, 2011 I am supposed to be dropping off my shelves and crafts to Gail at Baldwin Hall. I am still in a bit of shock. I have Gail’s message saved on my cell phone, she asked how Kathryn and Cole were doing, if I am ready for the upcoming craft show and can she borrow my shelves again this year. She ended with she knew I was busy, no rush simply call her back when life slowed down and I had time to talk. I saved her message to remind myself to call her after homecoming and Charlotte’s wedding this weekend. I made the mistake of waiting too long, assuming I had plenty of time to talk and catch up. I believed because I had written a date on my calendar Gail was going to be there. After all she had always been there for the past 27 years, why would this year be different? We had spent the past twenty years in the back room at her craft show as we inventoried crafts in, catching up on the year that had past, laughing, sharing photographs and sometimes even crying over life. This year should have been the same, no one expects their friend to die suddenly. Now sadly the time I had to call Gail is gone. I lost the opportunity to talk to my friend one last time, I allowed today to simply pass away to yesterday. I made the mistake of believing I still had tomorrow to catch up.

Driving home from Gail’s memorial I wondered how many of my friends would make the same mistake I had, believing they still had time with their friends. Tomorrow they would return a phone call, reconnect with an old friend and see how they were doing. They weren’t worried about missing the upcoming reunion because surely everyone would be at the next. How many of my friends believe they still have time to let someone know how important they are, how much they loved them, say thank you. How many will let time pass and never say what should have been said long ago. Then I thought of all my friends who were no longer talking to each other, exes that no longer speak. For one reason or another they cannot allow themselves to forgive. I have often heard, “Eventually I will get over it and forgive them.” When does eventually stop being? I wonder what happens if they wake up tomorrow and the person they refuse to forgive or talk to is no longer there? Their chance to let go and move on is gone? What regrets will they have? There are people who I was excited to reconnect with. I enjoyed our weekly email correspondence when suddenly they stopped writing. When I asked what was wrong I received no response. I tried to discover what mistakes I may have made so I could correct them, apologize. I let them know their silence hurt me, again I received no answer so now I wonder will they carry any regrets when I am gone. The regret I have is never knowing what I did to upset them and never given the opportunity to correct whatever it was.

No matter how much we may want to, we can never get yesterday back. No one is flawless, some relationships end, people make mistakes. We are all wonderfully human, beautifully imperfect. Where a photograph of a person may fit perfectly in a frame of our choosing, friends don’t always conform to the ideas or standards we want them to but that does not make them less worthy of our forgiveness or friendship. In the end why would we ever expect or want anyone to be anything less than fallible? We are who we are, good and/or bad. Perfect people are to say the least boring. Flawed friends are paradisaical, they keep life interesting. We grow as individuals by making mistakes, leaning how to forgive and move forward.

Some times I believe we get so caught up in what has happened or what was said in the past we lose sight of what is truly precious now, time! We allow it to fall through the cracks of life and get away from us. Time we have been blessed with that our friends who have passed would cherish. How many times after a loved one has died have we all wished for one more hug, one more chance to say I love you. What we lose sight of, we no longer have that time with them, they are gone, but we still have it with each other! For now we have time to share together, time to laugh, hug and cry. Most importantly we have time to forgive! We are blessed; we can still feel the sun on face, taste the rain on our lips, feel the wind in our hair and watch the moon rise. Most importantly we have been given the gift of another day with the ones we love. We are the lucky ones, we still have today to enjoy and create memories together with our family and friends; it’s tomorrow that is uncertain. Treasure now don't wait for eventually.

Please remember there are no do overs in life, you can never regain lost time, so make today count, do not allow it to become a yesterday of regret.

---------------------------------------------------------
Less than twelve hours after I posted this piece I learned Kala Marie Austin was killed in a car crash driving to school. She was just 17 years old. I first met Kala when she was 8 years old and cheering with the Bucs. My dear good friend Patty was her coach. I would often attend Patty's practices to help her with stunts and her routine. I was able to watch Kala grow through cheerleading and Patty's kids. What I remember most about Kala, her big soft eyes. When she gave me that look during practice, I coudln't yell at her, I could only smile and laugh. I use to tease her that I was sure that look had Dad wrapped around her finger. She would smile and agree! Kala wanted to grow up to become a teacher, that was her dream. She was interning through Chesapeake High School at Bodkin Elementary School and in the short month and a half she was there, she touched many lives. She had a caring heart and a gentle soul.
It was hard to say good bye at her funeral, looking at her senior pictures, wondering all she could have been, knowing all she had been. The photograph that touched me most, the one of Kala in her cap and gown. Looking at it, reality sunk deep within me, on graduation day, when all her friends will be celebrating, she will not be there to share in the joy.
Please, forgive, laugh and love because none of us know how long we have on this earth. Never forget to tell the ones you love and care about how much they mean to you.
RIP Kala ....you are loved and will be missed!!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Relationships- Lessons Learned

A few weeks back I was out with a group of friends when the conversation turned to previous relationships. I was surprised at how many of my friends did not like their former partners. They dreaded the thought of running into them. I was perplexed that a vast majority of my friends believed they did nothing wrong, the relationship ended because the other party was one hundred percent at fault. As gently as possible, I tried to question, if they had done nothing wrong, if they were the perfect partner, wouldn’t they still be in the relationship? I was showered with an instantaneous and unanimous, “I had nothing to do with its failure.”

Why do people believe if a relationship ends, it was a failure? For me the answer has always been, it ends because it was never meant to last. For some reason or another, we, me and whomever, were not perfect for each other. A break-up is only a failure if you do not learn from it.

When a union dissolves the fault lies with both parties. It takes two people to make a relationship work and it takes two people to end it. One may carry more blame than the other but each person must own their share for its breakdown.

I can hear the chorus now; how can I be responsible if my partner cheated on me? A significant other does not cheat is their partner is perfect. I have had boyfriends cheat on me and it hurt me deeply. I also realized they cheated because I was not listening to them; I was not giving them what they needed. I did not see the signs I needed to pay more attention to him.

I have friends who would ask how could it possibly be their fault when their ex cheated on all their previous partners. The fault lies in dating a person you know to be a serial cheater. Why would you ever think they would be different for you?

I learned a long time ago if you own your part of the responsibility, what you did wrong, it is easier to understand their actions. Why they went in search of someone else. It does not make what they did right but it does make it easier to forgive and move on. Until you forgive, as long as one holds anger, you are in essence still tied to your past, tied to them. It is impossible to move forward until you are free.

Of course I also understand there are people in this world who defy explanation, no ifs, ands or buts; they are jerks, evil, bad. These are the abusive partners. They have the ability to suck all the happiness and joy out of a person. They fool everyone around them, hiding their true ‘personality or character’ until it is too late, a person is already deep into a relationship. The time they steal from a person can never be regained but with God’s grace and with a lot of help from family and friends the person who is sucked into a relationship with an evil person can survive the damage and move on. The lesson is looking back and trying to recognize the hints, the clues they subtly dropped at the beginning of the relationship, understanding why one refused to see them. The only true fault is usually being too nice, too naïve and not leaving sooner.

I have heard friends state they have the divorce or the break up from hell, but why was it hell? I have never been married or had a bad break up so I have no personal experience. From what I have witnessed, nasty endings are because one or both parties are hurting, feel wronged. The 'injured' party feels they have done nothing wrong, they have every right to impose their wrath. They are still suffering therefore they must cause the other person to feel as much pain as they do. They are not ready to admit or own their fault in the collapse of the relationship. They honestly believe they hate their previous lover, not recognizing it they didn't love them so much, they wouldn't be hurting so badly. My grandmother once told me the difference between love and hate is pain and anguish. The only cure, recognize the difference and forgive.

I look at my previous relationships as building blocks, life’s lessons until I find the man I am meant to spend the rest of my life with. My past boyfriends made me who I am and I am thankful I dated them. I am grateful most are still a part of my life. It always saddens me when I hear people talk about how much they hate their ex. If they saw them they would turn away, leave where ever they were. Maybe I am not the norm, but I know if I saw one of my exes I would walk up and hug them. Catch up over lost time and laugh over old times.

I have often wondered why is it so hard for some people to remember the good parts of their relationship, what first attracted them to their ex? Why instead do they choose to dwell on the ending, all the bad parts of the relationship, the character flaws of their ex? We all have our imperfections, just as I had to learn to adjust to their quirks, they had to deal with all my peculiarities. I am not perfect and I have never expected my partner to be as well. Besides perfection is pretty boring!

I have been pretty lucky in the boyfriend department. Most of my relationships have been with some pretty amazing men. I may not have realized it at the time, but looking back I recognize how truly fortunate I was. I would be lying if I did not confess that a few of my exes devastated me and it took me a while to get over the pain of the hurt they inflicted. For a time, because of them, I built ‘walls’ to protect myself from feeling too much, never wanting to experience that kind of hurt again. As I matured I recognized and accepted my part in how the relationship deteriorated, why it fell apart. I had to take my responsibility in causing my own pain. The most eye opening moment, when I realized in a few of my relationships I was more at fault than my ex. Time has a way of disclosing the truth if you are willing to search your soul.

The only way I have ever been able to liberate myself and move forward, examine the relationship. Identify what was wonderful, what hurt, what was my fault, and what would I change. To move forward, never make the same mistake, I had to be honest, look deep within myself and admit my faults. It was never important what my ex did, that was for them to accept and own, I had to concentrate on what I could take away from the relationship. I had to ask myself the hard questions. I had to learn how I could grow, forgive and move forward; be ready for the next man in my life. Sometimes examining my mistakes in a relationship was a difficult lesson but I understood if I did not learn from them I would constantly repeat them and I truly hate repetition of a bad nature!! Who knows maybe my next boyfriend will be 'Mr. Right' and after learning from all my mistakes, my faults hopefully I will be ready for him.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Paul- The Why That Will Never Be Answered

Before you read, I understand this is a touchy subject, one most people would want to avoid. It is a very uncomfortable subject and I am sure I will upset some people but by writing about it I hope to remove some of the stigma people attach to it. The problem will never go away until we all learn to address the issue head on.

PAUL
August 30, 2011 would have been my friend Paul’s 50th birthday. No matter how much I want to I can’t stop the tears that are beginning to well up in my eyes, his birthday was very hard for me. Writing this post is difficult, I miss him! I miss my friend.

Paul and I first met when he was a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, 9th company, class of 1983. I don’t remember talking to Paul that much in college. As he liked to tease me later in life, it wasn’t for a lack of him trying, I was always surrounded by groups of people, I talked too much, and I never let anyone get a word in edgewise. The conversations I do remember with Paul all involved sports. I was a diehard O’s and Colts fan, he loved ‘Da Bears” and the Cubs. I had a blast teasing him over my teams' victories and his teams' losses.

As Paul often said after twenty seven years of light and across 3,000 miles we reconnected via Facebook. When we first found each other he was amazed I remembered him. At first we emailed/messaged back and forth. Then labor day Monday he called. At first scolding me for listing my cell phone number on my profile, then we talked all things Jimmy Buffett, finally he confessed he spent the holiday weekend reading my blog. He was upset with me that I never called him or any of the 9th company guys after Bobby died. He told me reading my blog made everything fall into place. It all made sense to him why I seemed to drop off everyone’s radar in 1987/1988. He made me promise since everyone from the old days were finding each other I was never allowed to go through anything alone again. I was not permitted to "fall off the radar." He believed we all needed to rely on each other. Even if I did not graduate from the Academy with him in 1983, he still considered me part of his class of 83 family.

After our first phone call, it never failed, every ten days or so he would call, always greeting me with the same question, “Woman have you forgotten me already?” Between phone calls Paul would arbitrarily text. Some days I wondered if he ever slept. If he saw me on Facebook late at night he would text me “Go to sleep woman”, a few hours later I would be greeted on my phone with a text, “Good morning beautiful.” I would always send back, “Let me sleep you bum.” A texting argument would soon commence over the value of getting up early, not wasting the day verses staying up all night! He swore one day he was going to break me of my night owl habits, I was going to learn to love sunrise!

Slowly as we got reacquainted I was amazed at how much he remembered about me from college; parties, dances I attended (including what I wore), tailgaters, nights at the Flight’s house etc. His memory astonished me. I was touched when he told me about the time he saw me crying on the porch in the arms of Mrs. Flight, heartbroken once again over one of his company mates. He admitted he heard part of the conversation, he apologized he should have walked away, but as he put it, he was a typical male back then. I laughed when he try to explain, he didn’t understand why but he felt the urge and did mutter “jack ass” when he walked by the certain someone’s room.

On numerous occasions Paul would talk of how much he missed the Academy days and his fellow 9th company classmates. I almost dropped the phone the night he announced/promised he was coming back to Annapolis. The man who had not stepped on the Academy grounds for 26 years was coming home for a football game. I was informed I had no choice but to make myself available for whatever weekend he chose. He knew a lot of his old friends lived in the area and he wanted us all to be together; the ‘family’ that hung out at the Flight’s. Paul demanded jokingly, “I want a fun reunion so every one better be in a good mood including you! Be prepared to drink woman!” If you have not figured it out by now with Paul I had no name, I was always addressed as “Woman”.

Paul definitely had a gruff side; he loved to disagree with me, try to correct me. I knew most of the time he was full of it, he simply enjoyed bantering back and forth. I knew I frustrated him more than most of his friends I never gave in during an argument, I would keep pushing my point until he got tired of the subject. I knew I had won the debate when he would yell, “Damn it Woman you confound me! I can’t win if you make no sense.” I would laugh at his confusion, quickly change the subject and the conversation would continue. Numerous times Paul in his very frank not so gentle style pointed out how he thought I needed to change my life. There were certain aspects he believed needed overhauling and certain people needed to be lost. Yes sometimes his truthful words stung more than I wanted to admit.

Paul may have been brusque at times but I was lucky I got to know Paul’s gentle side as well. Last fall when my father was dying from cancer he always checked on me, making sure I had everything I needed. One morning after posting I had spent most of the night silently crying at the hospital, I was gently reprimanded via text from Paul. He reminded me he was in California, three hours behind the east coast. It really didn’t matter what time it was I never had to cry alone he was only a phone call away. From that morning forward Paul called or texted before he went to bed to say goodnight and ask, “You hanging in there?” A simple question, his way of letting me know he cared. Upon receiving the message Dad died, he called immediately. I never said anything, yet he understood the one thing I needed the most he couldn’t give me. He apologized because he wasn’t here to hug me, hold me and give me his arms to cry in. Paul had listened, he remembered the one thing I said I have always wanted yet never seem to find; a set of big strong arms to crawl into and feel safe enough to cry.

The two of us spent many hours on the phone I thought sharing everything that was going on in our lives. We talked about his ‘potential’ (girlfriend), work, motorcycle trips, wine, back pain, migraines, plans we were making for the summer, for the future. I was flattered when he confessed one of the things he loved and admired about me, was the way I could forgive anyone, anything and move forward. The fact that I forgave my daughter’s father and was able to be friends with him again gave Paul hope with his daughter. The topic of many phone conversations were our daughters. He loved his little girl more then he thought possible. He confessed he wasn’t the best father but was trying to improve on their relationship. He hoped one day they would be close, maybe not your typical father daughter relationship close but one that worked best for them. I smiled when I read on my newsfeed that he was friends with his daughter on Facebook, I texted a quick, “Way to go Dad” when I read it.

I thought Paul and I were always open and honest with each other, no subject seemed off limits. I confessed many things, feelings I had never admitted to in the past. Sadly I learned he was not as open. He did not share all he was feeling. He lied to me when he said life was good, he had everything under control. Something was going on inside Paul that he did not share with me or as I have learned with anyone else.

The last time I talked to Paul was May 16, 2011 at 9:24 p.m. I have forever locked his entry into my cell phone log. We talked longer than normal, in fact I had to hang up and call him back from the house phone. He had me rolling on the floor in laughter as he was reliving some of his Academy days. Apparently it is frowned upon at the Academy to move some of the planes on the grounds, and it is also not a good idea to come back to Mother B drunk after a football game. Doing both within a twenty four hour period, not so brilliant. I had never heard about the Black N Star club until that evening. Paul was a proud sweater bearing member. He also informed me after his trip to Hawaii he hated women, we were all bad. I reminded him he was talking to me and I was a woman. I was informed by him I don’t count. I decided it was smarter not to ask if I did not count as a woman or bad. I chuckled as Paul tried to decide if he wanted to live the life of a celibate or a ladies’ man. I suggested the later would be more fun for him. I could live vicariously through his wild ways. Looking back, what should have struck me as odd at the time but didn’t, for the first time before he hung up he said, I miss you, I will always miss you. Then quickly his voice changed from sweet to gruff and he bluntly told me it was my turn to call next, I needed to carry my weight in our relationship. I hung up thinking I was being scolded as always!!

I never got that chance to call Paul back, on May 25, 2011, twenty eight years to the day of his graduation from the United States Naval Academy, my friend Paul took his own life. He committed suicide. It would be a week before I would know he was dead.

I was getting ready to sign off Facebook the early morning hours of May 31/June 1 when I saw a post come across my feed from one of his classmates sending condolences to Paul’s family. In an instant I couldn’t breathe, I stared at my computer in disbelief. I immediately went to Paul’s page hoping to find some information, praying it was a mistake. As wrong as it sounds hoping it was someone in his family that had died, not Paul. His wall was filled with messages to his family, to Paul stating how much he was missed. I scrolled up and down his page trying to find out any information what happen, when, where, there was none. Tears were flooding my face as I emailed an academy friend to see if he knew what happened. Paul had told me he was planning a motorcycle trip over Memorial Day weekend, my initial thought, he was in an accident. I was not prepared for the phone call that I received later in the afternoon informing me the man who looked after me, made sure I was okay, told me he would always be there, killed himself. I wanted to break down but I couldn’t, it was my daughter’s birthday, so I wiped the tears from my eyes, put on my happy face and went out to dinner. No matter how much pain I was in I could not and would not ruin my daughter’s special day.

After dinner when I returned home, I crawled into bed, screamed, cried and cursed him. I was angry at Paul, he told me if I was ever in pain I could call him anytime. Did he not understand that it was the same for him? By the time I finally fell asleep I was no longer angry, my pillow was soaked with tears. I missed my friend and wanted to talk to him one more time, ask him why? Didn’t he know I would always be there for him no matter what it was, how he felt? I was trying to fathom what could be so bad he couldn’t talk about it? I wanted to turn back time so I could remind him he was loved by many including me. I cried harder when I realized I had never told Paul I loved him and his friendship meant so much to me. I had once again left some very important words/feelings unspoken. I assumed he knew. One day I will forgive myself for making that mistake a second time.

I thought his birthday wouldn’t be as hard as it was, randomly throughout the day and night a few tears would roll down my cheeks. I know if Paul were still here he would be surrounded by his friends celebrating this huge milestone in his life. I would have been one of the first people to tease him playfully that he was half a century old. You better believe I would have greeted him with “Happy Birthday old Man!” He had tons of friends who loved him. I pray he never doubted that but his suicide makes me wonder.

If you visit Paul’s Facebook page you will see old friends are still asking what happened, how did Paul die? No response is posted to the question instead they are asked to email someone for the answer. His suicide is the silent demon on the wall, ever present yet no one wants to acknowledge it. I am not sure why. Is it because we all believe we hold some amount of guilt, not knowing or understanding what was going on with Paul? Not seeing his pain? I know I feel that way some days. Or is it shame? Are we all afraid to put suicide on his page worried it is like a scarlet letter to be worn in disgrace? Paul was obviously hurting and there is never any shame in that. We all hurt at times, we all cry. I am upset with Paul for not talking to someone, anyone. He should have sought solace from his friends. He left a lot of us confused and hurting when he killed himself.

I can’t help but to wonder if that is what we are all doing wrong, not talking about his suicide openly. Maybe a frank conversation might stop someone else from taking their own life. Hopefully they would see the pain Paul left behind. I don’t think Paul ever truly comprehended, by killing himself, how much sorrow he would cause those he loved. He did not leave a note, none of us will ever know why he chose to end his life, we can only speculate but there will never be any certainty. To me, not knowing, the guilt I carry for not recognizing his pain makes it harder for me to grieve and let go.

Maybe if we all talk about his suicide, maybe not on his facebook page but acknowledge it directly in conversations and emails we can help each other accept his death. Instead of using words with hidden meanings or indirect statements remove the stigma address the subject head on, suicide. We can help each other understand there will never be an answer to the question why. I understand Paul is the only one who truly holds all the answers. For some reason he did not want to share them but who knows we may discover we each hold a piece of Paul’s puzzle, together we form the why of his suicide. For me what hurts the most is knowing Paul did not feel he could share his pain with me. It means he did not truly trust me the way I trusted him. I will always wonder if there was anything I could have said or done to get him to open up, stop him from making the decision to take his own life. I will always question, what didn’t I give him that he needed?

What haunts me the most, what I can still hear in my brain, the memory of Paul’s voice, his traditional phone greeting, “Woman have you forgotten me already?” The answer is no Paul I have never forgotten you, never will. You were my friend and I love you!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

'Channel' Surfing for the Perfect Sleeping Partner

I feel like I should have to type a disclaimer before this post, a warning label of such. Today once again my brain is a cluttered confusion of fragmented thoughts, feelings, disjointed words and emotions. Planes are taking off in the distance and for a time I watched, wishing I could hop on one heading to destinations unknown. Since I am stranded in Maryland, I sit outside trying to get lost in Springsteen. I see dark clouds rolling in from the distance, rain is definitely on the way. Like the blue sky trying to keep the storms at bay I am doing my best to lock away the erratic mixed up emotions I am feeling so I can put pen to paper and write on the subject I briefly scribbled about last night before heading to bed. Forgive me as I build another wall around ‘crazy’, lock everything away where I no longer feel and allow myself to concentrate on the subject at hand. So if this is not my best piece I apologize…maybe in the future I will re-address the issue.

‘Channel’ Surfing for the Perfect Sleeping Partner

There is this entertaining restaurant and pub called the Irish Channel. My friends helped me discover the wonders and fun of this neighborhood gathering place in Crofton. Every weekend the place is packed with new faces as well as the regulars, together they form an eclectic lively crowd. Televisions overhead play sports programming, bands serenade the dance floor, darts fly and the drinks flow. It is constantly amusing and always fun. I love hanging out at the Channel with my friends, I feel safe, comfortable in my surroundings. I know some people may find this hard to believe but there are nights when I still feel like the ugly duckling trying to fit in a pond of swans. There are times when I believe I don’t ‘fit’ what people expect of me. Where my circle of friends is small and comfortable, my friends are part of a larger group. Through them I am able to meet more people, sit, observe and be a part of the conversations and interactions that encompass me. As I listen I become more at ease with my environment, more importantly I discover more about myself and how similar we all are at the ‘Channel’.

A few weeks back shortly after I posted on Facebook that I was heading to the ‘Channel’ with friends I received a rather odd phone call. An old friend called asking why I was heading there. He had heard that the only reason one goes to the ‘Channel’ was to get drunk and pick up a person of the opposite sex. Somewhat annoyed and angry at him for making that assumption about my friends and me, I defiantly answered, “Not true! Besides why does it matter to you? We are all adults. Sometimes a girl needs to be held, danced with and yes have sex! Which FYI we are there to hang out and have fun, nothing more, period.” After listening to a conversation last night at the ‘Channel’ I wish I could have a do over retort to his declaration of our intent. I would definitely have a much better response to his allegations. A series of exchanges between friends, commentary meant to be funny, spoke volumes of truth if you really understood what was being left unspoken.

What were the assertions that grabbed my attention, registered in my brain as the underlying true motives of the single crowd that heads out to surf for companionship at the ‘Channel’, “I have met plenty of women I could have sex with, not interested. I am still searching for the woman I am willing to let stay for lunch.” Another, “Sex is great but I am searching for a man I want to take a nap with.” Last, “Perfection, really sleeping after sex.” I, the woman who has spent years building walls around my emotions, at times more reinforced than Fort Knox, understood what was being said. I shook my head in agreement.

Yes, I cannot deny, there are some people for one reason or another that are not ready or searching for anything more than sex. However, the overwhelming population ‘hanging out’ are looking for and wanting more. They seek not someone to simply have sex with; they are in a pursuit of someone to ‘sleep’ with. It is easy to go to bed with someone and have sex, it is much harder to wake up next to them and stay. Ultimately we are all searching not for sex but to find the person we are comfortable enough to relax and ‘sleep’ with after the 'fun' is over. Wonderful, is when you reach a point in a relationship when you fall asleep in their arms as you watch television, or read. So at ease with each other you are no longer nervous, you can relax and dream in their embrace.

Let’s face it unless you have set up a video camera to record yourself sleeping no one truly knows the things we do when we sleep or nap. We have all awoken to a drool stain on a pillow a time or two. We have all jolted awake or cried out loud at least once from a bad dream. What woman hasn’t looked in the bathroom mirror and seen the horror of smudged mascara in the morning? We can control nothing when we sleep; not tossing, turning, snoring or drooling. Anything can happen while we slumber. When we fall asleep with someone, we are letting them into our unknown territory. We are trusting them to do us no harm, keep us safe while we are lost to the world around us.

We are all searching for that person, be it a friend, lover for a short time or a lifetime that we can trust enough to fall deeply asleep next to. We seek a person who can make us laugh over the drool stain; tease us about our leg stubble as our bodies are entwined. So at ease, we don’t feel the need to rush to the bathroom to fix our face when we awake, they won’t care. We want to find the person who will brush our hair out of our face, kiss us softly as we dream even when they know we probably can’t feel it, but they simply have the desire to. We long for the person who not only can we get naked in front of, but we can safely bare our souls to while we are in their arms. We can trust them with our secrets, our dreams and even our fears. How do we know when we have found the perfect ‘sleeping’ partner? When they prefer us first thing in the morning, our natural selves, over the illusion they took to bed the night before. When the perfect Sunday or Saturday afternoon is spent dreaming in their arms and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

In a way I guess my friend was correct, we all go to the ‘Channel’ in search of someone to sleep with. Just not the way he thinks.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Magnificence of Eye Candy

Eye candy, ah the beauty of someone that makes our heart rate increase, our eyes lust and our minds wander. I am not sure anyone can truly define who is the perfect eye candy?

We all have different taste; different desires. What one may consider appealing another may not but we all share one similarity, there is one mutual truth to eye candy. When you find it, when the ‘hot button’ has been tripped, our minds delve into a wonderful world of want and lust; our very own fantasy land of desire, a one way ticket we would love to take to trouble.

Sometimes eye candy is an actor or actress we see on television, other times it is the gorgeous thirty something year old man with amazing eyes we meet at a bar from Ohio. They make us wish we were younger, hotter or could be an actress for one day on our favorite show. (Burn Notice ...Please!!) It doesn’t really matter, either way those moments of eye candy discovery are to be treasured, they awaken us, remind us we are still alive, still young, wanting more, wanting them. Something about the person arouses our sexual being and drives us wonderfully crazy.

For me, his age does not matter; it is all in his eyes. There is nothing sexier than a gorgeous set of eyes that looks deep in my soul and doesn’t release the gaze. It is not the look, it is the feeling they give me when they catch my eyes. Add a casual touch, or a brush of his body against mine, stick a fork in me I am done, done, done! I may be talking to someone else, trying to concentrate on the conversation but my mind is lost in a day dream as I keep looking over at him trying to get a glimpse of his eyes one more time. I have often thought if he could read my mind I would be arrested, smacked or who knows maybe even asked out on a date? Either way I am happy to be lost in my own private Disney World where I am not so goofy and he is most definitely Prince Charming.

I have discovered I am more thankful for eye candy in my forties than I ever was in my twenties. When I was younger I did not appreciate the magnificent tonic for the soul that a gorgeous man can be. I did not understand sometimes it is better not to touch, ruin the illusion our mind has created. Too many times in the past I discovered what I imagined as the perfect, gorgeous, magnificent man was anything but wonderful. Even more tragic, when I realized my new found eye candy was 'Mr. Wonderful' and not interested in me. The sting of rejection, the reality of the situation ruined my fantasy. And yes I would be remiss if I did not disclose there was a time when I let the most delectable eye candy confection in my life, it truly was magical and for a brief period of time he ruled my world. Our memories I will always cherish.

I am at a point in my life where it is rare that I will deem someone as eye candy. Age and experience have made it harder for a man to spark the ignition that lights the “holy shit he is gorgeous” button. My brain has long since been in protection mode, discounting what I am initially attracted to as too young, too quiet, too this, too that. But when for some unexplainable reason the lust alarm in my brain sounds, I happily get lost in desire and my wonderful rated R imagination. After all dreams can be so much more fun than reality!! And with eye candy who really wants to test reality??

Okay maybe I do!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Death, Destiny and God

There are times when my brain wraps itself around a certain idea, question or memory and won’t let it go. The thoughts churn away in my head, keeping me awake. I lie in bed pondering, remembering, trying to make sense of whatever has captivated my mind. That happened to me while I was on vacation.

Cole was having trouble falling asleep last week. I took him out on the porch of the beach house, sat on the swing and began to sing to him as I had done numerous times before. For some reason a line I sung stayed with me. “You won’t be called home until it’s your time.” I had no explanation why tears began to roll down my cheeks as the chorus continued to reverberate through my mind, my heart.

Long after Cole had been placed in his crib I sat on the porch, looking out over the ocean, reviewing all the things that had happened in my life and things I had seen in the news. Wondering if the statement was true. Were some people always meant to die young? Maybe it is blasphemy what I am about to write but what follows are the questions and thoughts that have been occupying my brain for the past week.

Ecclesiastes 3
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die;

Four things most Christians are taught; we each have our own destiny, we have purpose in life and we have free will under God. We are taught there is a book of life that was written before time began, it includes everyone’s name, the date of our birth and the date of our death.

Exodus 32:31-33
Moses knew of the existence of Jehovah’s book of life, and realized a person’s name could be removed from it.

What if our birth date is etched in stone but our death date is not there or could be changed the same as a person’s name could be removed from the book of life? Could it be free will has the ability to change when some of us die?

Could it be God has chosen a destiny for all of us but through our own time and faults we can possibly change it? Or could it be God’s destiny is the same for all of us, to live a long and happy life? Is it possible through free will we have the ability to change the course of our own providence? Can we alter the providence of another? I know God is always with us. If we listen he will guide us but through free will we always have the ability to make the right as well as the wrong decision. Or is making the wrong decision always been our destiny? Can free will and destiny coincide?

My father once told me “We are put on this earth to take care of each other” Could our purpose be that simple? Do too many of us struggle searching for our purpose, the meaning of life when all God wants and desires of us is to love and help each other?

Genesis 1:28
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

How many times have we heard someone say I married the wrong person, or read about a child or adult who died way too young. I believe in a loving and forgiving God. I can not believe in my heart he would want us to marry the wrong person, be with an abusive or cheating spouse. I believe God’s plan is for all of us to live a long and happy life. To find love, have children and share God’s love with them, with each other. Wasn't that God’s first blessing to us? Life is the most precious gift, God choose to give it to us so doesn’t that mean he would want us to enjoy it, cherish it?

God is always there trying to shepherd us in the right direction, help us find the fruits of his blessings. Sometimes we can look back and clearly see when God put the right person in our life but out of fear, out of confusion, we made the wrong decision, let them walk out of our life, wasted precious time. If we are lucky we can fix our mistakes but other times it is no longer possible and we must search for an alternative, pray God grants us a plan B as it may be. We simply have to listen and wait for God’s guidance when we have made a mistake. Pray God forgives us for not recognizing the gift he was trying to grant us. Try to drown out the guilt we feel, wondering if our mistakes changed another’s destiny. Would they have made that decision if we were a constant in their life? When the guilt, doubts, questions arise is when we need God the most. At times we may feel abandoned, alone and lost but I believe if we are quiet we can hear God. He is the constant in our lives.

Why do I suppose our death date is changeable? Watching the news this morning, I can’t believe God would put such a beautiful child as Caylee Anthony on this earth only to have her murdered. What purpose did that serve? Why would God want anyone murdered? He teaches us forgiveness not hatred and anger. Why would he bless us, give us life and then take it away so young. Why would he inflict so much pain on a child, on those who loved them? He doesn’t, he gives us the strength, love and faith we need to make it through the loss, the heartache, the sorrow. I truly believe we do not die alone, God sends us an Angel to help us on our journey to Heaven, comfort us in our pain, hold us in their arms our last few minutes or seconds on earth. I believe God is loving but the universe can be cruel, there is undoubtedly evil in the world.

I don’t believe God ever intends for someone to be killed by a drunk driver or any other kind of accident. I believe unplanned deaths happen because of free will, someone made the wrong decision, made a mistake. We are all imperfect, human. Accidents can sometimes be just that, an unplanned accident. Our decisions good and bad effect everyone around us. Our mistakes can change someone else’s destiny. Free will is a powerful gift and can effect us both good and bad.

I can’t explain cancer and other diseases that take the lives of so many young people. Maybe through the 2000 plus years of our evolution we have changed our environment so much we are causing cancer. I do know God has given us the intellect and power to find a cure. Miracles, the power of prayer I believe in them but I can’t explain why one person is saved over another. There are so many questions that I can not answer. Questions left in my brain that I can continue to ponder or give them up to God.

Whether I am right or wrong there is one thing I am convinced of, grace. When life does not go as planned, when we make the wrong decision, God grants us grace. Through grace he gives us strength when we are at our weakest. Grace carries us during hard times when we are struggling. Not only does God bestow upon us his grace but we have the ability to share his grace with others. Comfort those in need, help them when they are lost.

For now the questions will continue to swirl in my head. I know I will never have all the answers until I go to heaven. Until then I will try to have the unfaltering faith of a child. Do my best to follow one purpose I am positive of, to love, forgive and take care of my fellow man here on earth.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The People Who Know Me Best

Saturday night I visited with some old schoolmates at Kaufmann’s. It was great to be able to spend time with some of my friends I have not seen in twenty years. I marveled at how long it had been since we had all last hung out together. Yet time seem to melt away as we all laughed, ate, drank and swamped life stories. There is something extremely comfortable about sitting around a table with the people who shared your awkward years, who witnessed your metamorphosis from scared child to a young adult. I came to the realization during our conversations, my high school friends no matter how much time has passed, how much I thought life had changed me, they are the one group of people who understand and know who I am. They have no wild expectations of me, no preconceived notions of how I should act or feel. They never compare me to or expect me to be anyone but myself. They accept me mistakes, faults, quirks and all.

Some people believe when they lose touch with old friends they no longer share as close of a connection they once had, time had some how diminished their relationship. In fact it is the opposite. It may be unfathomable to some, but I have discovered time does not weaken or erase the bonds we developed in our teen years. There may be a little dust but some connections defy explanation, the bonds are unbreakable. The revelation occurred to me during a conversation over a few drinks with an old friend.

Whenever I am out, at some point during the evening someone will usually bring up the topic of my blog. I don’t mind, I find it flattering that they take time to read what I have written, my crazy ramblings. Last night was no exception. I was asked a couple questions about a few posts then quickly scolded for not posting anything new. I apologized for in essence ignoring my blog, not writing more, then explained why, the debate that was raging in my head. I informed him about some of the private messages I had received since January. The especially hurtful emails and attacks over my last post. They all left me wondering why I expose so much of myself when I write, I questioned should I remain so open? I further explained over the past year I learned because I have been so honest with how I feel or felt I was labeled by some people as emotionally irrational. To them it was not normal to care so much. I understood I should ignore them but it was hard to when their attacks were in essence meant to hurt me, attack who I was. He laughed told me not to let morons who did not understand honesty, compassion, love and loyalty to bother me. He made the correct assumption that the more hurtful comments and emails were coming from people who had never met me, had never taken the time to get to know me. He pointed out they did not understand me, they read what I wrote and made assumptions based on their life not mine. They were trying to understand me through facebook status messages and my blog. He stated I was much more complex than the two sites would ever allow them to see. My words were at times too honest, so open, they allowed the unfamaliar reader to see the depth of my emotion without them understanding that was not abnormal, that is who I have always been, extremely compassionate and loving. They only saw a partial picture of me. They were seeing me through my blog in black and white when I lived in a world full of color, full of emotion. To him “I was a labyrinth of beauty.”

He went on to tell me the reason he loved my blog, it was the honest me, the girl he remembers from junior high and high school. The sweet girl who wanted everyone around her to be happy, the constant peace maker between friends. The girl who kept everything hidden inside. The girl with all heart. The girl who cried at a party because I had hit a squirrel with my car. He chuckled made the statement, I probably still felt guilty over killing it. (By the way, yes I do thanks for reminding me) He laughed at my one blog when I made the statement I was and would never be the woman who turned men’s head. I was wrong in that assumption. It brought back the memory of the first time I showed up at the pool in a bikini, plopped down on a towel next to him and began talking about Orioles baseball game from the night before. He confessed how hard it was for him to concentrate on the conversation while I was applying suntan lotion, then laid down and untied my strings so I would not have tan lines. He confided he had to get up mid conversation so he would not be ‘embarrassed’. He explained at lunch I was surrounded by the guys not because I was one of them or they wanted to steal my food but rather they wanted to be around me. I never seemed to grasp that concept. He could never figure out who I liked, none of them could. I was a constant mystery. To him and many of his friends I was almost unobtainable in high school because they had watched me transform from this shy insecure funny looking little girl in junior high to this amazing, talented, bubbly, beautiful, intelligent free spirit. I had grown from the band geek to the captain of the pom squad, from tom boy to wow. I was naive to my own changes. That was my charm to him, I was real in a world of very fake girls. Added bonus, I knew the starting line-up and stats of the O's.

He loved how I was always extremely innocent and genuine with how I felt, I expected others to be the same way. I was the one person he knew could never lie, I didn’t have it in my soul. He could tell through my writing I was still very honest and passionate with how I felt and thought others should be. He reminded me of the time I walked up to him in the hall and very bluntly told him he was an utter jackass. Not for something he had done to me but to a friend. When I confronted him, he knew he had to be a complete jackass probably worse because I was the one person who hated confrontations, never said anything bad about another person. Then true to “Denise form” two periods later he was passed a note from me apologizing for being so blunt and rude. He loved how I always defended my friends, stood up for them. He was amazed no matter how badly someone had hurt me I always forgave them and it was never mentioned again. I always seem to simply move on, continue to push forward.

As he continued reminiscing about some of my more goofier defining moments, I looked at my high school friends surrounding me. We had shared so much together, the connection was immeasurable. We all experienced those incredible gawky teenage years. The pimples, the bad hair days, the horrible gym uniforms, the first awkward moment in front of the opposite sex, we lived it all together and survived. Our friends made us laugh after we had been ignored by the 'love of our life' at a party. We sat with them during lunch shared the joy of our first “you wouldn’t believe it” kiss by our locker between classes! We passed notes and shared secrets. They rejoiced in our excitement when we were finally asked to a dance and experienced our pain when our hearts were broken. They never left our sides as we pushed our limits, tested our boundaries. They were the ones banging on our window when we were on restriction bringing us McDonald's fries or trying to convince us to sneak out. Our high school friends were our compass to life. Sometimes they pointed us in the correct direction, other times we strayed off the path but no matter what route we took, they were always by our side.

I have close college friends, work friends, neighbors but they will never be as extraordinary as my high school friends. My friends who watched me spread my wings, help define who I am. They kicked me in my butt and kept me in check. They witnessed me as I grew, developed my character, my personality, my uniqueness. They taught me how to be a good friend. They are the foundation I built all my other friendships on. No matter how much time has passed hanging out with my high school friends will always be like coming home. There is no breaking or weakening that undeniable bond.

The connection I shared with my friends was confirmed when we all parted ways, headed home. As my friend hugged me goodbye he let me know if anyone ever caused me pain, questioned who I was, I simply had to give them his number. He would gladly catch my back, explain to them who I was, how much I was loved, how they should be honored that I was allowing them to be part of my life. He always felt that way. He was positive if he put the word out there would be a long line of Arundelites right behind him coming to my rescue, my defense. I did not doubt him, I knew what he said was true because I would do the same for him. I will always be there for my 'buddies'. I will always have my ‘friends back’. My high school friends are my rock, my strength, they will always be a part of me. They know and understand me better than anyone ever will, sometimes better than myself. I love them dearly and they will always be my family!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Lessons From Memorial Hall

I was eighteen the first time I entered her halls. 1981 was the beginning of my growth. I was struggling between being a teenager and becoming an adult. I had recently graduated from high school, and was in my first semester of college. Many life lessons started that evening, lessons I had not begun to realize. Men who would have a profound effect on me, change who I was, walked the corridors of Bancroft Hall in October of 1981; I had not yet met them.

He was my first real boyfriend, a 3rd class midshipman in 7th company from outside of Buffalo, New York. I loved the way he spoke; the pronunciations of certain words, beer, car, park, etc. were almost an infatuation to me. For a silly 18-year-old girl, his accent, his uniform, everything about him seemed so mature. I loved having a boyfriend and I wanted to keep him around for a while so I worked hard trying to impress him, let him know I liked him.

From the time I first sat in the kitchen splitting green beans with my grandmother I was taught a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.  My afternoon class was was canceled so I decided with my added free time I would make chocolate chip cookies and surprise my mid.  With my baking complete, I bagged the cookies and headed to the Academy.

I had never surprised anyone before, and wondered as I parked my car if this was such a brilliant idea. Brushing aside my anxiety, I headed across the yard. I climbed the imposing steps to the entrance of Bancroft Hall. I marveled at the massive size of the foyer, the towering dome, and arches that adorned the ceiling. In front of me stood numerous flags, beyond them lay another massive staircase leading to a larger door with some type of strange seal of armor above it. Turning in a small circle I was in awe at the visual magnificence that surrounded me.

A sign directed me to turn left for the visitor’s reception area. At the window I informed the midshipmen on duty the company and name of whom I wished to visit. He called his company and relayed the message he had a visitor. I was
directed down the hall to the visitor's lounge and told my boyfriend would be there shortly.

The lounge was crowded with midshipmen and their girlfriends. Leather couches were taken up by couples mesmerized with each other’s presence. Trying not to stare at the various scenes playing out in front of me, I stood awkwardly in the corner and waited. Within a few minutes my boyfriend entered the room. Noticing how uncomfortable I was he invited me for a walk. Happily I agreed.

We exited the lounge and headed toward the entrance. Instead of turning right to go out the doors, he paused, then told me to follow him. We headed up the staircase I had been confronted by earlier. Ascending the steps I ran my hand along the wide banister. The room that stood above us commanded my attention. The breadth and prominence of the entrance overpowered every other feature in the building. I couldn't explain why but it took my breath away with it's overpowering silence.

On the landing outside the entrance, my boyfriend laid the bag of cookies by the wall. He brushed and straightened his uniform. He checked his posture and seemed to grow an inch or two taller before me. My confused look at his uniform checks told him I had never been inside the hall. He asked if I knew the significance of the Memorial Hall, I shook my head.

He explained as a plebe he had to wait for the upper classmen to disclose all the hall represented. What it meant to the midshipmen and alumni of the Academy.  Every midshipman had to earn the right to enter her chambers.  To him Memorial Hall needed no further explanation. If one listened; her walls, her chambers spoke for themselves. In time they would disclose their meaning to all who sought it.

The large hall at the top of the stairs, located across from the entrance to Bancroft Hall is not just any room, she is like no other. Memorial Hall sits at the heart of Mother B; the nickname affectionately given Bancroft Hall by the midshipmen.
Memorial Hall is the quintessence of the Academy. Everything the Academy represents, the values it teaches are all embodied within her walls. She holds the lessons of the past that will lead midshipmen forward; teach them to become better men and women, outstanding leaders.

From the moment I stepped within her walls I was overwhelmed. The massive hall was quiet, peaceful. The sounds of my shoes hitting her floors echoed through her towering architecture. A solemn silence resonated through the air. The mammoth columns seem to be guarding the memories of the Academy’s shipmates. Her walls divulged the stories of the Navy’s heroes, their struggles, their battles, their victories, disclosed through powerful images and baroque memorials.

Walking along her walls my boyfriend pointed out the heroes that stood out to him, officers he had studied or would study. I stood in the middle of the main room, stared upward through the large skylight, looking to the Heavens where her gallant men were surely residing.  Valor and honor surrounded me.

Memorial Hall was beautiful, magnificent in her glory. An indescribable sadness came over me as I stood silent. I was new to the Annapolis; I had not yet developed ties to the Naval Academy, her midshipmen and graduates. I did not understand the strange sensation the hall gave me. I would not fully comprehend what I was feeling, the sacrifices that lay within her walls and alcoves until many years later.

I did not enter the walls of Memorial Hall again for twenty some odd years. In my forties, no longer a naïve teenager.  I had gotten off work early and headed to Annapolis Mall to do some Christmas shopping. The gifts would have to wait, the sign at the end of Route 2 for the Naval Academy beckoned me. Memorial Hall was summoning me.

 Awhile back I had read a feature  about the re-dedication ceremony of Memorial Hall. She had undergone years of renovation. The article noted that her walls now contained panels listing former midshipmen who had been killed while serving in the military. Her alcoves made more hallow by the more than 2500 lost shipmates chronicled upon them. The ghosts and memories of the young men that once lived within the walls of Mother B. were now enshrined for all to see.

I convinced the guard to allow me to park at Preble Hall. I sat for a moment staring at the Academy grounds that I once roamed. I smiled, remembering all the friends I had made; the laughter, love and friendship I found within the Academy’s gates. I walked by the Chapel, down the path to Stribling Walk. Beyond Tecumseh lay Bancroft Hall, the cannon along the walls sitting silent vigil, announcing to all who enter Tecumseh’s court they are entering the home of American’s past, present and future leaders and heroes.

I climbed the massive stairs of Bancroft. The only facet time seemed to change was me. I stood under the rotunda at the entrance staring at the steps that once again lay in front me; my passage way to Memorial Hall. As I had done many years before I placed my hand on the banister, feeling every inch of her marble under my fingertips. My eyes fixed above on the sweeping letters that spelled “Don’t Give Up the Ship”. The memorial was flanked on one side by an American Flag and on the other a Naval Academy Flag. As I neared the top of the staircase, the more powerful the image became.

Standing at her entrance, I wondered why I had come back. Part of me wanted to see the new memorials, most of me paralyzed with fear by the emotions I knew awaited me. Two midshipmen exited the hall, nodded, acknowledging me as they passed by. The hall was now empty, safe to enter. I no longer had to worry about strangers witnessing my reaction when I first looked upon the memorial for the class of 1983.

As I had done many years before I looked up through the beautiful skylight above, this time saying a prayer for strength. Immediately I was drawn to the right side of the hall. It was as if my heart knew exactly where he was, the place where his name had been inscribed for all eternity.

I entered the alcove, walked to the corner. Before me hung a large set of marble panels, four across and eight down. Every two panels designated for an Academy class, the bottom two his class. I read, Class of Nineteen Hundred Eighty-Three; underneath the wording was the class crest. The fourth name down from the top, Lt. Robert T. Bianchi, USN. I reached out to touch him.

Tears began to roll down my cheeks as I ran my fingers over his inscription. I was taken back to the morning my phone rang and heard the words that forever changed my life, “Bobby is dead.”   That day I lost my innocence.  

There is something utterly wrong at seeing the name of a man whose arms once held me, whose hands wiped away my tears. The man to whom I had entrusted my secrets and dreams, a man taken from me when he was twenty-six and I was not quite twenty-four. At one time our bodies were one, joined as we made love. I remember the warmth of his skin and the tenderness of his voice the last time he touched me.

Now the pain of unexplainable separation, the years of want and hurt, streamed from my heart as tears. A river of crushed dreams played through my mind as I looked out the window. Closing my eyes, I imagined Bobby walking through the halls of Mother B, playing lacrosse on the Academy fields. I saw him smiling at me, his eyes lighting up when he first saw me standing next to the gate at the turf field. In that instant I knew he was happy to see me.

I had been lost in the memories of Bobby when I heard footsteps enter the hall. Not wanting anyone to witness my heartache I rushed down the stairs and took refuge in the bathroom.  I sat in the stall wiping my tears and reprimanding myself.  Bobby had been gone almost twenty years; I had made a promise long ago, no more tears, only smiles when I remembered him.

My brain had made a promise my heart could not keep. No amount of scolding would stop my tears. For years I had avoided all reminders of Bobby. I had cut ties to everyone and anything that might cause me to remember how much was lost when he died. Yet here I was standing in the institution that made him a man, the Academy he loved so much.

The core of Lt. Robert T. Bianchi enveloped me. Time seemed to fly backwards.  Once again I was twenty three and lost. I had to make a decision.  I could fight what I was feeling or embrace his memory and all the emotions that accompanied it.  I washed the tears from my face and looked in the mirror.  My eyes reflected the sorrow still within me. I took a deep breath, headed out the door and back up the steps. More valiant men deserved my respects.

I realized I could never go back to the first time I stepped within Memorial Hall. I was no longer naïve and had long given up the notion that people we love will grow old with us. I reentered the hall and faced the reality of life’s cruelty. I was gazing upon the sacrifices of the few, for the many.

I started on the left side of the hall, began reading the names of men who had died long before I was born.  As I progressed through the panels, comprehending the ranks of the men listed, I became cognizant that the young die in the military. Survivors retire. I stopped to pay special tribute to the men who had been awarded the Medal of Honor. Once again I looked up through the massive skylight to Heaven, prayed for control as I reentered the alcove memorializing the most recent graduating classes.  I purposely skipped the first row, Bobby’s class and started with the second.

Class of Nineteen Hundred Eighty-Four, the bottom name, Cdr. Peter G. Oswald, USN. I smiled, remembering the first time I was introduced to Pete after a football game. When I asked him what position he played he answered, offensive line. His job was to protect Nap (McCallum) and to open holes for him to run through.  Pete was a force to be reckoned with on the field, and I discovered a sweet caring soul outside of the game.

I will always cherish the conversation Pete and I had at Fran O’Brian’s. He gently explained my two biggest character flaws: First, I put distance between me and the men who tried to love me. Second, I refused to see all that was beautiful within me. Until I changed I would never be happy. In 1984 I thought his remarks were callous, now I understood he was giving me much needed guidance. He cared enough to be honest.

Class of Nineteen Hundred Eighty-Five, the bottom name, Cdr. Kevin A. Bianchi, USN.  Bobby’s brother. Like Pete he had died a few years before. Kevin always greeted me with a huge smile and arms spread wide for a hug. Usually the long strong embrace was followed by playful teasing, gentle ribbing. His way of trying to get me to let go of my fears and re-connect with his brother. His constant question, "What's the deal?"

Kevin was genuine. No matter what someone had done, a mistake that they had made, hurt they had inflicted, I never heard Kevin utter a bad word about anyone. He practiced and understood the importance of forgiveness. He had incredible faith in the goodness of people.

Bobby and Kevin were cut from the same cloth, they were honest, had unbelievable character, undeniable faith and courage; they were born leaders. They were extraordinary men who changed everyone who met them.  I was blessed; I knew both Bobby and Kevin; even if it was for only a short amount of time.

I continued down the wall, until the stones were void of any class insignia, barren of any memories. Knowing one day these untouched stones would be transformed into memorials, inscribed with names of unknown boys and girls, children now playing in the backyards across this country, I said a prayer.  I asked God for the impossible; that these stones forever remain vacant. I asked that he be gentle on the souls already enshrined within Memorial Hall.

Before leaving I went back to memorial for the class of 1983. I rested my hand on Bobby's name. My palm centered on his middle initial, almost hoping to feel his heartbeat one more time. I leaned in, whispered how much I loved him and he was missed by many. I told Bobby it was his turn to shepherd the future leaders of the military. The world was crazy, the men and women studying at the Academy needed guidance. I turned my hand over and gently caressed his name. I wiped my tears and as I had done numerous times before at his grave, I kissed my fingers, then lovingly placed them on his name before leaving.

Fearful I would break down; I quickly descended the stairs, passed under the rotunda and stepped out the front door.  I walked across the yard then stopped and turned back toward Bancroft Hall. Suddenly I realized Mother B had spoken to me. I felt her soul; I understood what Memorial Hall is to me.

Memorial Hall is not simply a place of heroes; the men and women we read about in text books, she embodies more. She silently teaches the future leaders of the Naval Academy from the experiences of her fallen. She defines the fearless determination, the gallantry, character and courage of the officers that graduate from the halls of Bancroft.

She enshrines within her walls the legacy of the everyday officers who three-hundred-sixty-five days a year put their safety, well -being, future, and dreams on the line with no questions asked for our freedom. Her fallen shipmates did not seek to be heroic, they were simply doing what they had been taught at the Academy; to lead, to protect, to “Never Give Up the Ship”.  Families, friends and shipmates will forever grieve the officers whose names adorn the chambers within Memorial Hall. They will always hold dear the pride the fallen carried in their hearts serving our country.

Memorial Hall, she cradles our tears, embraces our loved ones memories, honors their valor, carries their courage, instills the Academy’s values on all who pass through her chambers.  She is a constant reminder the cost of freedom is immeasurable. Memorial Hall holds the past of the Academy as well as her future not yet realized. She is simply the heart and soul of every Officer that graduates from the United States Naval Academy.



Friday, May 6, 2011

Brennan Daigle - Army Strong til the End

Tonight my heart is sad. It seems lately my eyes have cried too many tears. My soul weeps yet again. Cancer has won one more battle. Heaven has opened it’s gates to another young angel. For a little more then 17 months a small boy courageously battled the enemy within him, a rare form of cancer, embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma. Early on the morning of May 5, 2011, as the stars shone brightly, before the sun rose, his war ceased, his life on this earth ended, a boy of undeniable courage earned his eternal wings.

I never met Brennan Daigle but I followed his battle against cancer on facebook and through the news. I learned his favorite bible verse is Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Few men exhibit the strength and courage Brennan demonstrated as a young child.

Brennan’s fight began on October 5, 2009 when he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at the Texas Children’s Hospital. Brennan wrote on his facebook page when he heard the news “I was scared, upset, sad and angery”. He put his fears aside and went about battling this heinous disease. He endured endless bouts of chemotherapy and radiation, yet cancer did not stop Brennan from doing all the things he loved. He played with his friends, he went fishing, hunting, played x-box and loved all things Army. October 12, 2010, a little over a year from his first diagnosis Brennan and his family learned his tumor was still growing and had mutated. Cancer was invading his body, but it would not penetrate his soul. He continued to combat the enemy within him. His faith never wavered. He vowed to spread the word of God, so others could see his grace, witness his faith and be inspired by his courage. As part of his mission Brennan started a facebook page. With over 44,000 fans, facebook allowed a young boy from Westlake, Louisiana to inspire countless others here and abroad. His fans would never meet Brennan but they will also never forget him.

On February 10. 2011, in a small doctor’s office, Brennan and his mom were told his battle was coming to a close, there was nothing more modern medicine could do for him. He was sent home to spend the last few weeks of his life with his family. I cried an unbelievable amount of tears when I read as they were leaving the doctors office Brennan questioned his mom, “I won’t see you everyday?” I know death can be unkind and unjust but no mother should ever have to tell their child they are going to die. No parent should ever have to bury their son or daughter. That was the inevitable future that laid before his mother, Kristy Daigle. Ever true to their faith his mom assured Brennan he would be okay, he would be with his grandmother in Heaven, he would be with Jesus. His family would join him one day. The doctors gave Brennan two weeks to live. Cancer and his doctors did not fully comprehend how strong Brennan truly was.

The strength and faith of a child can not be matched by any pharmaceutical. Brennan would battle on, he would not stay home, wait to die, he would continue to live. He continued to go to school. He wanted to be with his friends, he wanted a normal life for as long as possible. One of Brennan’s wishes was to spend his final days not with a celebrity, not with a sports star but with the men and women of our armed services. The soldiers who fight for our freedom, they were his heros. On February 26, 2011, more than 40 soldiers from the 1st MEB of Fort Polk stood at attention as Brennan arrived at the Chateau du Bon Reve (Castle of Good Dreams) to celebrate his tenth birthday. Every soldier shook his hand as he passed through the formation, each realizing although they had just returned from war, this 10 year old little boy had more courage than any combat veteran. Brennan was inducted as an honorary member of the U.S. Army National Guard. He was awarded a jacket, a coin that represents excellence and merit, and a set of dog tags. One with his name, the other dog tag with the seven values of the U.S. Army; Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Service. Brennan was also given a key to the city of Sulphur, Louisiana and made an Honorary Mayor for the day. One of the many highlights of his birthday, when Brennan and his best friend Kaleb were given a ride in a real army Humvee. Many said it was a perfect birthday for a ten year old little boy.

For me it wasn’t perfect, perfect would be Brennan’s eleventh birthday, twentieth, fortieth, seventieth birthday. Brennan unfortunately represents a sad fact, cancer is the number one killer of children. Cancer knows no age barrier, it is a disease of the old and sadly the young. In 2007 approximately 10,400 children were diagnosed with cancer, of those more than 1500 died from the disease. The number may seem low to some, but what if your child was one of the 1500? One is too large a number!

We fall in love, we give birth, we raise our families. We grow old watching our children marry and give birth to our grandchildren. Our children repeat the cycle of life, so shall their children. That is the way we are taught life should be, but Brennan Daigle is a reminder that wonderful cycle of life is not a reality for all families. Brennan like the more than 1500 children who will die from cancer this year, lost his battle, lost his future when he succumbed to cancer in the early morning hours of May 5, 2011.

Brennan will never go to high school, he will never have a girl friend, experience the wonderful excitement of his first kiss. There will never be a prom for Brennan. He will never go to college, he will never marry. His parents, Albert and Kristy will never hold his children in their arms. His sister Lauren, will no longer have a baby brother to hug. She can not text message or call Brennan when she needs to talk like brothers and sisters often do. She will have to look to the Heavens to see him, hear him, feel him. Brennan had an unbelievable strength as he battled cancer, now his family must echo his strength and learn to live with out him.

The lesson from Brennan: from time to time we all have bouts of self pity, for one reason or another. When that moment arises, when you think life is way too hard visit Brennan’s facebook page and remember his story. Rummage through his photos. No matter what cancer threw at Brennan he fought back, he never gave up, lost faith. A month after he was told he was going to die you can see the joy in him when a brigade from the Texas Lonestar Chapter of Pink Heals led by a pink camo army truck arrived in front of his house. The restored army truck presented to Brennan as a memorial for his battle against cancer. Even when the tumor in his brain and the medication caused his face to swell and he could no longer smile, he would not give up. Brennan would take his finger and hold a smile in place for the camera. Four days before he died Brennan attended Brayden’s Dream Day to show support for another child battling cancer. This small wonderful ten year old boy, never lost his faith, never lost his compassion, never lost his courage. Brennan fought til the end and never once felt sorry for himself. So on those horrible days when life seems it’s darkest, understand and rejoice in the message Brennan was teaching all of us, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Brennan Diagle “At Ease” your battle is over, it is your time to rejoice with the Lord.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Words

During the course of a lunch time conversation, a friend in her excitement conveyed to me words that had been expressed to her over the previous week. Almost the exact same words had been written to me from the same person a little over a year ago. I sighed inside, thanked God I never let his words lead me astray. My mind began to wonder as I sat and listened to my friend talk of her enthusiasm. I was curious, since he had said the same thing to her as he did to me, did that make his words less valid? Had he been truthful with how he felt or had he simply recited a monologue? What were his true motives? Intentions are but one thing, meaning and feelings are far more valuable. After my mental debate, I realized he was simply reciting words and I was construing them as affection. Since my lunch time conversation I have found myself contemplating the power of words.

Word: a unit of language, the smallest simplest form of expression, a statement of itself.

Words put together form sentences that can tell stories, relay feelings, convey thoughts. Words can bring about tears of joy or cause you to weep tears of sorrow. They can lift you from the darkest depths of depression or push you over the abyss. Lives have been changed, friendships have ended, arguments started over senseless words. What power do words possess? What authority do we give them?

The average dictionary contains two hundred thousand words. The average person uses a few thousand words a week and understands over ten thousand. There are twenty six letters in the English language and it is estimated that there are over nine hundred thousand words. There can be no accurate count on the number of words in the English language because so many words have a double meaning. Can it be said that all words whether intentional or not have two meanings; what is spoken or written and what is actually demonstrated, proved to be true.

When do words stop being a series of letters combined, a concept and become an expression? When are words no longer silent? When do they transform into a life of their own and convey emotion, feelings? How do you know when a word is hollow, meaningless? Can the importance of a word change over time? If a word is used repetitively does it no longer have value? Does it cheapen it’s worth? Do we use certain words so much we no longer comprehend how truly unique they are?

If one Googles "most overused words in the English language" the results will vary. Most sites will list the following words; like, ironically, amazing, nice, whatever. These words may be overused in today’s current dialogue but their crime is not as detrimental as the following words. These are the words at times that are tossed around so freely by so many they no longer have their extraordinary meaning. They are transformed by their emptiness of the intent into daily verbiage. People have forgotten certain words only hold value when they are saved for the ones who mean the most in our life. If you speak, write, utter these words, never let them lose their value. Understand these are the words that have the ability to change a person. Use them only when they carry meaning to you, never let their significance, your intent be questioned.

Friend
Trust
Honesty
Promise
Beautiful
Special
Regret
And most importantly Love!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

What if they are wrong?

For ten years I coached cheerleading. I always joke around that I have one daughter but I have over three hundred kids. I have been lucky as a coach, always blessed with a wonderful group of girls. Most of my kids are in college or graduated. Many are now married and have children of their own. I understood in order to be an effective coach I needed to establish a bond with each one of my kids. They needed to trust me, to understand I would never push them to do something they were not ready for or not capable of performing. My kids knew when I said you can do it, they were ready. I had faith in them. I was telling them the truth! I knew they could! Most importantly my cheerleaders understood I loved them, no matter the time, the place, how many years may go by, I would/will always be there for them. I am in essence to some of my kids their second mom.

Tonight I spent an hour on the phone with one of my girls. (We will call her Leslie for the purposes of the blog) Like she had done many times before in high school, she was asking for my advice. She was trying to decide what to do. She had met a guy in college, he seemed super sweet, very gorgeous, extremely funny. They shared two classes together, they often talked to each other after class. She ran into him all the time in the dining hall, even at a few parties. Each time he was extremely nice to her. Yesterday when he asked her out she was excited. Now she was worried. One of her good friends told Leslie she had heard the guy was a jerk, treated women horribly and was bad news. She thought Leslie should find an excuse back out of the date with him, save herself from getting attached to him. Another friend also confirmed she had heard the same thing, he was a jerk. He went out with a bunch of women and cheated on all of them. So I asked Leslie, who said he was a jerk, who was the source of all the information? Her answer they only said they heard. She had no clue who made the original statement.

I thought for a moment. Then I asked Leslie, “What would you think if I told you someone thought I was not honest? They believe I lied about someone very dear to me?”
Her immediate response, “I would laugh and say they obviously don’t know you. They have never heard your you are only as good as your word lecture. You are my only coach who was ever honest enough to admit when you made a mistake. Tell us it was not our fall that cost us the competition. It was huge to us, when you stood before us and said it was your mistake that cost us first place, you would never let it happen again. Oh my God, you are probably the most honest person I know.”
I explained to Leslie, exactly, understand my point, you know me. The people who are doubting my honesty, never met me. They don't know me, my character. I learned my motives, my character were being questioned because of one statement, one person. They were called, asked a simple question instead of being honest and saying I am not really sure, they made a statement that they thought I lied, exaggerated about something that happened a long time ago. Then two people repeated it, then four etc. The more it was repeated the more it became the truth verses what was real. Now I have no clue how many people, who I do not know, are saying I lied. All these people are repeating what one person said instead of talking to me. When all they have to do is ask me what happened. After all I was the one there, the one in the conversations, not the person who said they didn't think it was true. The people making the assumptions about my honesty don't understand why this one person wouldn't know, why they were kept out of the loop. We had our reasons. Then I further explained recently I have learned apparently some people would rather believe something negative about me rather than get to know/ discover who I am, the core of my being. Leslie was extremely sweet she commented it was their loss. She loved me and so did all my girls.
I went on to tell Leslie, if a person is not involved in the situation, how can they ever really know the truth? I have learned never believe second hand knowledge. Anyone can say we think, we doubt, we believe but unless they were there, then they don’t truly know. In essence, gossip hurts, it can ruin a good person. I continued, I would like to believe people are not purposely lying, they believe what they say, that they are lying for some inane reason; jealousy, hurt feelings, jilted, heart broken, to protect an image? Who knows and who really cares? Only the people involved in a situation hold the truth. So she needed to talk to him tell him what she heard, listen to his response.

My guess to Leslie, the rumors she was hearing about him being a jerk and treating women badly were from an ex or someone he rejected. I asked Leslie what did her gut tell her? When she blocked out all her confusion, what did she feel? Had she ever seen him act like a jerk? Being a jerk is hard to hide! She answered he had always been sweet to her, very polite, she liked him. She was excited when he asked her out. After her friends started to say things, repeat the rumors, she didn’t know how she felt, what she should believe. My advice, she needed to get to know him, go out on a date. Talk honeslty. She owed it to him not listen to what people said but rather get to know him, find out for herself. Isn't that what she would want him to do if the roles were reversed? He had done nothing to earn her distrust. He had always been nice to her. By listening to the rumors she might miss out on an absolutely wonderful man. We talked for a while longer. Before Leslie hung up I asked her a series of questions, “If you start to doubt your decision ask yourself these questions. What if you find out later your friends were wrong? They were lied to. It might be too late to correct your mistake! Then what?”

Her phone call made me wonder, question; why is it people believe what they hear to be the truth instead of discovering the truth themselves?