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Buzz Bucket

The Great Adventure

I love a great adventure. The anticipation, the rush of getting ready, the exhilaration of pushing your comfort zone and experiencing all that is foreign adds to the thrill. There’s nothing that compares to stepping into the great unknown and pushing your boundaries to the limit. That excites me. So at any given moment I’m always ready for the chaos that comes with being spontaneous. It’s my nature.

The Call

Last Friday, I got the call. Steve in Little Orleans, MD had heard about me four years ago when I rode through his town, in the western part of Maryland, during my cross-country trek on horseback. Steve tracked me down on Friday. Did I know of anyone with a horse trailer who would trailer a horse to West Virginia?

It seems a long rider had left his lead horse with Steve for six weeks while the horse healed. In due time, the rope burn on the horse’s hock had finally healed and the horse was ready to be reunited with its owner.

The long rider, whom Steve described as a short Atilla the Hun and whom I’ll call Jack, started his cross-country trek in Harpers Ferry with a lead horse, a pack horse, and two other men and their horses.

The Journey

It probably took Jack five days, give or take a day or two, to journey the 100 miles to Little Orleans. A trip that would normally take an hour and 38 minutes by car takes five days for a long rider on horseback. The long rider’s horse is imperative to the success of the journey. Trying to make 4000 miles over the long-haul, means the long rider needs his horse to pace at 20 miles a day. For me, that averaged out to be three miles an hour—with breaks, fan fare, interviews and the like, I was in the saddle for eight or nine hours a day. Long hard days, but there’s nothing like seeing America at three miles an hour.

The first three weeks of any long rider’s journey are the hardest. Those weeks make or break the long rider, the horse and the journey. It’s not an adventure for the faint of heart. Jack’s companions bailed on him when they arrived in Little Orleans. After three weeks of staying with Steve while his horse was healing, Jack made the decision to push on with his pack horse, alone. Would it be possible for Steve to make arrangements for the horse to meet up with Jack when the horse healed?

The Plan

That’s where I came in. Did I know of anyone who would trailer the horse to Jack? You betcha. Me. It was a fellow “wanna-be” long rider in need. So I texted my partner, who was in the Doctor’s office on a late Friday afternoon. Did he want to join me? The Plan—to head out with the truck and trailer with an overnight stop at the Little Orleans Lodge, au gratis, from the owner Steve. In the morning we would load Jack’s horse and head out to Davis, WV where Jack and his pack horse were staying overnight. The trip would take a total of ten hours. Five there. Five back. I had no choice. I had to “pay it forward” for everyone who had been so kind-hearted in my time of need on my journey. This I had to do for them. Plus, I love a good adventure.

My partner, being the great sport that he is, was game. He’d be ready to leave in two hours. With a spring in my step, I packed up, made a picnic dinner to eat in the car and grabbed a great bottle of red, two wine glasses and a corkscrew. After all we were going to be staying in a rustic bed and breakfast for the night.—why not take full advantage of the evening?

The Host

We arrived well into the evening, greeted by Steve, an affable retired post master, who had worked on the lodge since buying it for his wife and children back in the early 70s. When he retired, Steve turned it into a B&B on the C&O canal, a 184.5 mile long trail that winds around the Potomac River following the towpath of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. Steve was happy to host the eclectic group of trail-goers who by chance stumbled into his lodge on foot, bicycle or even horseback. Over a glass of wine, he shared the stories of those in his register: hippies, loners and couples, all who had set out on a journey to find themselves.

After a morning breakfast of two eggs over easy, sausage, potatoes and the most mouth-watering, sweetest biscuits I ever had, we loaded up Jack’s horse and headed on down the road to Davis, WV to meet up with the long rider, Jack.

The Discovery

Steve was wrong. Jack looked more like Johnny Depp in the Pirates of the Caribbean. He acted like him too. In spite of himself, you couldn’t help but like him. Jack was a 31 year-old man with a black bandanna and tongue piercing, trying to figure life out from a horse’s point of view. He was ecstatic to have his lead horse back. I knew the feeling. Rocky, my lead horse, had injured himself when another horse kicked him in Illinois. I had to leave him behind to heal. Parting with him ripped my heart out. When we were reunited three weeks later, the joy in having him back defied description. I was lost without him. I knew the elation that Jack experienced in being reunited with his horse on their great adventure.

Before leaving, Jack asked me to write in his journal, to offer him advice or wisdom that I had garnered on my solo trek. I simply wrote, “Discover the joy, discover the journey, discover yourself.” Because that’s what it’s all about—on any adventure.

The Adventure

Tomorrow I head out on another adventure. Australia. For two weeks. Part of the journey will be a 4WD trip to the Outback where I’ll be backpacking, tenting and dining with the Aborigines. Wish me luck and hope that I discover the joy, the journey and perhaps even myself. When I return from this Aussie Adventure, I’ll certainly share with you. Till then, G’day mate.

All Creatures Great and Small

When someone loses a pet and says to me in grief, “I know it’s not the same as losing a child, but it hurts so much,” my heart aches. Not because I know the pain of losing not one, but two children, but because I also know the pain of losing a dearly loved animal.

A Part of Life

Nothing, and I mean, nothing compares to the pain of losing a child, but that doesn’t diminish the heartache of any loss. Human or animal. The void in life after loss is incredible. Where there was once life, a huge black hole looms when death takes over. Where there was once love, heartache. Smiles. Sadness. Happiness. Loneliness. The loss of life fills your heart with an overwhelming emptiness and pain. The moment of loss—that incredible moment of pain—in the passing of life is unavoidably deep. It rips your heart out. Loss causes heartache and there’s just no getting around that. It’s a part of life.

A Huge Heart

This past February I had to put down Eric’s beloved Shadow. It was so painfully hard, perhaps extra so, because it was Eric’s dog, my living link to my dead son. Shadow was the kindest, gentlest black lab I’d ever known. He had a huge heart with big soulful brown eyes. When the decision came to put him down, I left that to my surviving son, Peter. He had taken over Shadow’s care in Eric’s passing.

Shadow had developed brain cancer with severe epileptic seizures and it was Pete’s responsibility to ensure Shadow’s comfort in his final debilitating days. Pete rose to the occasion and gently helped Shadow every time he experienced a seizure. Pete was also there in the middle of the night to clean up the blood and excrement from Shadow’s thrashing. And Pete found the courage to tell me it was time to euthanize him. As Shadow’s big black head with the soulful eyes lay quietly in Peter’s lap as the vet administered the needle, my heart screamed in pain at yet another loss in our lives. Shadow. Eric’s big black lab with the soft soul. My heart ached and I cried.

Life Deserves More Than That

I was so thankful he didn’t die alone; Shadow deserved more than that. Nothing should die alone. Any—no all–life deserves more than that.

Nameless but Loved

This past spring, I was headed down York Road and had to come to a creeping crawl to avoid the growing crowd on the shoulder of the road. Some members of the crowd were crying, others didn’t know what to do, but all eyes looked toward the middle of the road. My eyes followed their gazes. In the middle of the road was a beautiful brindle pit bull, smashed and dying on York Road. No one was near him; he was dying alone. God no. I pulled over and ran to him. “Has anyone comforted the poor thing?” I screamed. “No,” came their replies in unison. “We didn’t know if he’d bite.” I was spitting mad with grief, pain and tears as I watched the poor dog hold on to dear life. Where was their compassion? I didn’t understand. As I knelt down and stroked the dog’s big beautiful head, his blood spilling over onto my knees, his tail gave a tiny wag as he tried to look at me. I held him, comforted him, and loved him in his final moments.

I was so thankful he didn’t die alone. I didn’t know him, but he deserved more than that.

An Imperial Leader

Monday morning I headed to the farm to tend to my two horses and the other ten horses I’ve cared for over the past five years. My routine always starts out the same. I whistle for my horses and say hi to the others gathered at the gate. Where was Blaze, the leader of the herd? I headed into the stall barn to dish up the grain. Still no Blaze. That’s odd. Where was she? I called for her. No Blaze.

After putting the other 11 horses in their respective feeding stations. I shlepped through the field, over the bridge, over the stream, and into the 50 acre field to find Blaze. There, just beyond the stream, she lay—struggling to get up, bloated, and covered with flies. She had colicked sometime during the night and the others had left her for dead. My God. My God. No. No. No. The poor thing. Tears streamed down my face as I knelt beside her. She moved her head and laid it on my foot, looking at me through bleeding eyes as she let out a soft whinny.

I fumbled for my cell phone and called my girlfriend, leaving a terrifying message, “Call the vet. Call the vet now!” I screamed through my sobs. Then I crumpled beside Blaze in the field and stroked her big beautiful brown head with the white blaze. She labored to breathe. “Hang on. Hang on.” I whispered in her ear. “He’s coming. He’s coming.”

The vet arrived but couldn’t get his SUV across the stream. Could we get her up? Blaze tried, oh she tried so hard, but she didn’t have enough left in her. With a heavy heart the vet returned to his car to get the needle to euthanize her.

“Blaze, get up. Get up. You can do it. Everyone’s waiting on the other side. Don’t die her alone. Come on honey….get up.” I sobbed in her ear. With one valiant effort the gentle leader rose off her barrel belly onto her buckled knees and stood. With painful, labored steps this beautiful beast made her way to the stream where her herd was waiting. It took her fifteen minutes but she finally crossed to the other side where she was greeted with whinies and neighs from her delighted followers. She grew stronger with every painful step through the support and love of her herd, owners and caretakers, and finally made it to the paddock where she was enveloped and loved as she was laid to rest.

An imperial leader, of the gentlest nature, Blaze. I loved Blaze and was thankful she didn’t have to die alone. She deserved more than that, as do all creatures, great and small.

Rest in Peace Blaze, our gentle leader

Rest in Peace Blaze, our gentle leader

Pleasant Surprises

When something turns out way better than expected it brings such joy to life. I love pleasant surprises and this 4th of July weekend has been full of them.

Friday night kicked the weekend off with one. I was driving home from work and saw crabs for $20/doz. at what I thought was a local down and dirty pub with a bad reputation. Or at least that’s what I had been told. Twenty dollars for a dozen crabs was worth the risk of a bad reputation.

The Catch

Arriving home, I asked my partner if he wanted to go out for the deal. The catch? He had to at least look the part of a red neck. He couldn’t walk into the down and dirty bar as a prep. Could he do it? He tried. He came bounding down the stairs in an old worn out t-shirt. Perfect. Till my eyes rolled to his bottom half. The crease in the jeans still gave him away. No matter how hard he tries he just can’t look down and dirty. I guess that’s not really a flaw though. I smiled; he tried. He then looked me up and down and said, “Well you’re not really down and dirty either. “Ah, but no,” was my reply, “I just need to look good to a red neck guy.”

When we got out of the car in the parking lot and headed for the bar door, a Harley roared by. My partner said “Man, he couldn’t keep his eyes off you.”  I laughed, “Actually he couldn’t take his eyes off the crease in your jeans.”

Expecting the Worse

We pulled the door open, expecting the worse. To our pleasant surprise the restaurant was cute, the bar great, and the prices were fabulous. The owner came out, engaged us in conversation, and threw four extra crabs into our to-go bag. We’re definitely going to hit that down and dirty pub up for our weekly cheap date night. Pushing one’s comfort zone is grand.

The Fence

Saturday, the 4th of July, started out with a 5:45 am wake up call for me to get ready for my first parade in the Cavalry. My partner, coming along for pure support, rolled out of bed at the ungodly weekend hour to help me get Rocky, my horse, ready for the 4th of July parade in Takoma Park in Washington, DC.

Our first pleasant surprise came as we arrived in Takoma Park. Expecting an urban area with lots of noise, cars and pollution, we were greeted with a charming bedroom community with tree-lined sidewalks stretching in front of historic homes. Lawns were filled with a thousand or more  children, parents and grandparents decked out in red, white and blue, waving flags of all sizes. The weather was perfect and the air was filled with a patriotic hum, no matter which side of the political fence the flag was flying on.

In fact one long-haired silver woman in a purple tye-dyed flowing skirt came up to me in my military dress blues as I was mounting up on Rocky. She leaned in and thanked me for protecting her right to her far different views. She smiled as she pointed to the flower in her hair. I smiled back, knowing what she meant, and thanked her. Two different sides of the fence coming together as Americans to enjoy a parade in a small home-town.

An Honor

As we assembled for the parade, the Sergeant who was supposed to be carrying the flag for the hour-long parade was suffering from the flu. He grew weezy and weak and, unfortunately, had to withdraw. My commander turned to me and Rocky and said, “Step up, it’s your honor.” My second pleasant surprise. As we started off with the large flag flapping over Rocky’s ears, the crowd stood and erupted into cheers and applause. My heart surged, filling with pride and patriotism. I whispered to my commander, “I’m going to cry sir. I’m going to lose it.” “Hold on PFC Losey. Hang in there.” And I did, for the hour long ceremony as we paraded through the streets to thousands of red-blooded Americans celebrating our independence. Truth be told, tears streamed down my face, as we celebrated as one.

Perfectly Contented

After arriving home, we had no plans. So we took an afternoon of leisure hanging out in the pool, swimming side-by-side and then tying two floats together as we held hands and napped. Totally unlike us, and it felt so good, another pleasant surprise. I told my partner it would be a perfect day if I could once again hear the squeal of children playing in a pool. The phone rang.

My sister-in-law from my first marriage, whom I’ve been friends with for 27 years, was at Wegman’s. “Hey,” I said, “Why don’t you grab a 5 lb. bag of Sahlen hot dogs and bring the kids on over for a picnic and swim?” “I already have the hot dogs in the cart, along with cole slaw, strawberries and stuff to make shortcake. Game?” she asked.”You bet I am.” I replied. I ran upstairs and uncovered the goggles, the flippers, the frisbee and ball that Eric and Sam used to play on the beach with Cara and Peter far too many years ago.

The Small Joys of Life

When my in-laws arrived, we baked the shortcake and headed out to the deck to grill the dogs, drink, and listen to the squeal of children once again playing in the pool. I sighed perfectly contented with my weekend full of patriotism and pleasant surprises. God I love the small joys of life.

Takoma Park Parade, July 4th 2009

Takoma Park Parade, July 4th 2009

Visualize Whirled Peas

Driving the 350 miles up to my hometown of Buffalo for my nephew’s high school graduation, revealed to me an “aha” moment: people handle driving the way they handle life. Lead, follow or get out of the way! Please.

The Open Road

As I was driving on an open stretch of route 15 in Pennsylvania, a silver Kia sedan sped up as it approached my rearview mirror. As it passed me, I noticed the twenty-something girl behind the wheel, who immediately slowed down once she pulled back into my lane in front of me. As I then pulled out to pass her, she immediately sped up, only to slow down again when I resumed my position behind her. She slowed down. I went to pass. She sped up. I’d pull back in. She’d slow down. This went on for a number of miles, when the “aha” moment hit me. She wanted to lead, but didn’t have the courage to be the leader.

Be-Bopping Along

Along the way, the highway was strewn with state troopers pulling people over as they sped by. The twenty-something girl flying by me wanted to be in the lead but didn’t have the courage to be the lead driver. She wouldn’t commit. She wasn’t willing to take the risk of being pulled over for speeding. But she wanted to BE the leader, forcing the other drivers to either drive her speed or pass her. It was an unsafe practice for those following. Speed up. Slow down. Speed up. Slow down. It was an accident waiting to happen. She was not lead driver material. She needed to be following at a safe speed. I’m confident her approach to driving was the same as her approach to life. A young girl be-bopping along, accelerating, de-accelerating, pulling in and passing, trying to find the rhythm of her life.

When it comes to driving and life, I’m a leader but have no problem following—IF I’m behind a confident leader who makes good decisions. If not, get out of the way, ’cause I’ll take over and pass. I don’t have a lot of patience for hesitant leaders or drivers. Commit. Make a decision or move over and let someone else lead.

Fearless

En route to Buffalo, I encountered fierce thunderstorms with pelting rain and winds. Hail storm like conditions, just shy of hailstones coming down. As a pretty fearless driver, severe winter storms don’t stop me, let alone a little rain. Yet people were driving 25 mph hour on an interstate with their flashers on. People, please. It’s a little rain. Well a lot of rain. Eventually most of the drivers pulled over. Ah, relief. An open road where I could go. I led the drivers, confidently, to salvation, er, sunshine. It just took someone willing to commit and lead. I have no problem stepping up if need be. That’s who I am as I driver and who I am in life.

Meandering

My partner has an interesting approach to driving and to life. He meanders in both. If there’s a straight line to get from point A to E, he’ll drive from A to D to K to N back to C over to J and eventually he’ll make it to E, his end destination. This is his approach to most things in life. In the meantime, he’s made a lot of stops, said hi to many people and eventually accomplished what he sets out to do. If I’m on a mission and need to get from A to E in record time, and I’m with him, I have to restrain myself from pushing down on his knee to accelerate to 65 mph. It drives me bonkers. But if I’m not on a mission, and willing to meander, it makes for a very pleasant journey. That’s why I think we make good partners—one forces the other to stay on task, the other forces the other to stop and smell the roses.

The Journey

Although I stay on task, I am an adventurer. I love the journey, the drive, the discovery, the ability to make choices. My brother has a GPS named Lucille. I hate her. No, I will not turn because you told me to. I’ll turn because I choose to. No wait, I WANTED to go to the Ben and Jerry’s. It’s an unscheduled stop, don’t recalculate. Shut up. Stop it. Let me drive. Let me choose. Let me discover their new Mission to Marzipan flavor. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it. I don’t want to stay on task I want to stop and smell the roses. But she won’t let me, without giving me a huge headache. Big mouth Lucile shows no restraint. Recently, someone stole her. God Bless them.

World Peace

Did you know a study recently stated that people with lots of bumper stickers on their cars are aggressive drivers? I find that hilarious, because the cars that I usually see plastered with bumper stickers are Subarus touting world peace.

You’ll be happy to know that I don’t place bumper stickers on my vehicles. But if I were to sport a bumper sticker on my 4×4 F-150 it would simply be, “Visualize whirled peas.”

visualize-whirled-peas-bumper-sticker-5781

A Little of What You Fancy

“When the going gets tough, the tough eat donuts”–Ziggy

I love Ziggy. Do you remember him—the fat little bald guy in the 70’s comic strip by Tom Wilson? Ziggy had a “woe is me” perspective on life but offered simple words of wisdom.

The cartoon quote from above was lovingly cut out of the paper by my dad and taped to my mirror when I was 18. I’m sure it’s now tucked away in an attic box piled on top of other boxes from far too many moves. Every time I think of Ziggy, I think of my dad who passed away at an early age of 59, fifteen years ago.

Striking a Chord

My dad didn’t cut that cartoon out to suggest I was getting fat. He simply cut it out because the humor struck a chord with him. When I was 18 I worked in the deli of a local grocery store. Oftentimes, at the end of the shift, I had to box up the fresh donuts from the bakery to be put out for the “day old” dollar sale the next day. So each night I’d box them up–and then buy ‘em. My particular favorites were the peanut donuts. Oh my, they were good. But, alas, they are not made anymore because of all the peanut allergen sufferers out there. Sigh. I loved a good peanut donut. The memory of biting into a fresh donut with falling nuts and crumbs waiting to be scooped up, filling my nose with the warm, nutty sensation, still makes my mouth water.

Woe is Me

The humor that my dad found in the comic strip was that I was a love-sick teen who had just broken up with my first forever boyfriend, who brought home a box of donuts at the end of the night to eat away the pain. When the going got tough, I ate donuts. My dad was trying to get me to move through the “woe is me” attitude from the teen-age breakup with humor. I loved that about my dad—he moved through life with humor and I couldn’t help but be sucked into it.

An Iron Fist

That particular Ziggy cartoon was based on the quote from Joseph P. Kennedy, father of our 35th president John F. Kennedy, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I’m sure the fiercely ambitious businessman and political figure, who thrived on competition and winning, gave that fatherly advice to his 9 children with a stern striking of his fist with emphasis on every word.

Not my dad. He cut out cartoons from the paper and taped them to my mirror. He peeled off Chiquita banana labels and pasted them somewhere in my school lunch box for me to discover with love. He’d sneak away early from work and show up unexpectedly for the last 15 minutes of my soccer game. He didn’t rule with an iron fist, rather with respect, love and humor.

It Makes All the Difference

The humor that he used to get me through my first forever boyfriend break-up still makes me smile to this day. He was letting me know that life goes on, it’s what you make of it, it’s how you choose to move through it that makes all the difference.

Too Much of a Good Thing

I had to stop eating donuts, not because they landed on my hips, but because I got sick of them. To this day I have a hard time eating donuts because I ate too much of a good thing way back when. As Marie Lloyd so simply states, ” A little of what you fancy does you good.” The lesson from Ziggy and my dad: taking it to the extreme is not necessarily a good thing. Although I have to admit when I see a “Hot Donuts Now” sign flashing at a Krispy Kreme, my car automatically pulls into the drive-thru. I’m just taking them home to the kids. Honest.

“A LITTLE of what you fancy does you good.” For sure.

Ziggy

Ziggy

Sock. Shoe. Sock. Shoe.

Sock. Shoe. Sock. Shoe. No. Sock. Sock. Shoe. Shoe. I do sock, sock, shoe, shoe. How do you approach your morning routine?In the end does it really matter? In Ted Menton’s After Goodbye, he tells the story of two children in the throes of cancer arguing in the cancer ward about which is better. Sock. Shoe. Sock. Shoe. or Sock. Sock. Shoe. Shoe.

Worth Fighting About

In spite of the cancer scenario, I find it amusing that two children facing the fight of their lives still find their individual routine’s worth fighting about. Sock. Shoe. vs. Sock. Sock. I have never been a routine person. Not me. In fact, if you ever placed me into a box, I’d scrape and claw my way out of it.

All my life, I’ve been known for my spontaneous nature. Until my children died. Then, I took great comfort in my routine. It was what got me up in the morning. Linda, first put on your sock, then your shoe. Nope. Put on your sock. Now put on your other sock. Okay, put on your shoe. Now your other shoe. Now put one foot in front of the other. Now take a step. Okay. Move the other foot. Move forward. Step by step. Move through the pain. You can do it. Sock. Sock. Shoe. Shoe. Move. Move. And that’s how I’ve moved through the passing pain of losing two children.

Learning to Live Again

Most of you know Monday marked the five year anniversary of Sam’s passing. My 10 year old son. I have been in a routine for the past five years in learning how to live again through the loss. Sock. Sock. Shoe. Shoe. Move. Move. Don’t you take that routine away from me. Like the children on the cancer ward, I took great comfort in owning my routine. It was the only thing I had control over. God forbid I put on Sock. Shoe. Sock. Shoe. It didn’t feel right. Just like my life without my children. Come to think of it, before the passing of my children I think I did Sock. Shoe. Sock. Shoe. But I couldn’t go back to the same routine. It wasn’t right. I needed a new routine. It was new, but a routine, just the same. Just like living and breathing without half my family. I had to learn to do it all over again. The basics of living.

Cutting a Routine

Know how I celebrated Sam’s anniversary? The “non-celebration,” as it were, ended up in my mowing the lawn. Now my partner prides himself on the perfectly parallel lines in the lawn. I never got that. I don’t. To me a lawn is a lawn. And this just isn’t a lawn; it’s a field, a three acre field next to a stream. It deserves to be a field. But nope. He wants it to be a lawn. Not me. I want it to be a field with dancing grass blowing in the breeze, next to the stream. I want it mowed three times a season. He wants it mowed once a week. Now I love to mow, so I took on the chore. On Sunday, I started running the perfectly parallel lines of the routine. Sock. Sock. Shoe. Shoe. Up. Down. Up. Down. Forty-five inches over from whence I started. Now another 45 inch wide mowing deck over. Then a dragon fly landed on the dancing grass next to the stream in the field I was cutting into a routine.

Whoopsi-Doodles

Sam followed me across the country on my horse trip. Thousands of dragon flies followed me. They had my back. As Sam did. I wear a dragon fly bracelet as a remembrance of Sam. So I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t cut the field in parallel lines. I couldn’t cut the field so the dragon fly had no where to land. I couldn’t cut the field by way of routine. So in honor of Sam, I cut whoopsi-doodles. No rhyme or reason. Just by happen-chance, I have a field full of perfectly un-parallel lines. Perfect whoopsi-doodles where dragon flies can land on the missed grass of the 45 inch mowing deck. In the outskirts of the circles where 45 inches didn’t meet the other 45 inches. Where shoes come before socks. Where dragon flies land before parallel lines are cut. Where routines are lost and spirits soar. Where perhaps even socks are worn without shoes. For in the end, it just doesn’t matter.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

“Wow, Linda, you look fabulous and fit!” was the statement I heard Tuesday night at my Toastmaster’s meeting. Little did that person know I have, over the past 4 months, unintentionally dropped 1/5 of my weight.  Now, I’ve never had a problem with weight. I had four children and managed to stay relatively thin chasing after them through the years. But I found it truly ironic that I’m the thinnest I’ve ever been—even before my high school years—and was being rewarded with a “Wow, you look fit and fabulous.”  I didn’t feel it.

The Big C

Yesterday I nearly collapsed at work, drove to a 24/7 healthcare center, to be told I’m severely anemic. This coupled with the five other symptoms that have crept up on me over the past four months and the doctor scared me with the big C.

My dad died of cancer and it wasn’t something I was prepared to hear. Now lots more tests need to be done, so don’t get all melodramatic on me. I have lots of years left to live, I know that, and feel that, with every fiber of my being. The point to all of this is that you just don’t know what the day may bring. Are you living the life you were born to lead?

The Pig-Tailed Girl from Kansas

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”
–Judy Garland

This from a woman who played somebody else for 45 of her 47 years. This from a woman who attempted suicide numerous times throughout her tragic life. This from a woman who struggled with insecurities and addictions. This from a woman who was told by her producers that she was unattractive and overweight. This from a woman who died at 47, the same age I’m about to turn in three weeks. Was Judy Garland ever a first-rate version of herself?

Judy Garland will always be remembered as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, with her ruby red slippers, clicked three times, as she closed her eyes and chanted,  “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” Ironically, Judy Garland never felt at home anywhere. I can only imagine why she never revealed her true self, always hiding it away—for fear that her adoring fans would cast aside the real Judy. They always wanted Dorothy. The cute little, pig-tailed girl from Kansas.

Living the Life You Were Born to Lead

I also imagine that Judy Garland did live the life she was born to lead. She was a wonderful actress and a beautiful singer with her deep contralto voice. No one does honor to Somewhere Over the Rainbow the way Judy performed it half a century ago. But she never believed she deserved to be Judy Garland and all that she achieved. She was just Frances Ethel Gumm from Grand Rapids, MN. When she was pushed into acting, Frances’ confidence was sucked out of her and for years she was only able to portray a second-rate version of somebody else.

When the big C is thrown at you, your life hits replay over and over again in your mind. “Have you lived the life you wanted? Have you achieved what you set out to achieve? What more do you have left to do?”  It begs the question, “What is your legacy?”

Leaving a Legacy

So what is your legacy? If you were to die tomorrow, did you live the life you were born to lead? Will you leave behind something to remember? Did you live a first-rate version of yourself?

I hope I have.

I know my youngest son Sammy did. On Monday, he’ll be gone 5 years. On June 22. But I still remember his great grin. His aqua blue eyes. His mischevious sense of humor. And his terrific hugs. In his short 10 years, Sammy was a first-rate version of himself. There will never be another.  In the end, all you have are memories, and the ones spent with family and friends are the ones you treasure most.

So as I remember Sammy and Frances Ethel Gumm, who co-incidentally also died on June 22, as I head into the doctors for a follow-up visit to the big C scare, I hope to see a rainbow smiling down on me.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow (click, for a beautiful version by 6 year-old Connie Talbot on YouTube)

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high,
There’s a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.

Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly.
Birds fly over the rainbow.
Why then, oh why can’t I?

If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can’t I? 1

I hope we all live the life we were born to lead—the way Sammy did, so beautifully and innocently with a verve for life and love. Love and miss you tons, my little Sammer Dam.

Sam Losey, 3/29/94 - 6/22/2004

Sam Losey, 3/29/94 - 6/22/2004

1 Somewhere Over the Rainbow, music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg

Down and Dirty, but “Purdy!”

Many moons ago, when my mother was the age I am now, and I was but a girl of 16, my father came home one memorable day and announced to us that we were moving. To a farm. Although I was a tomboy with three older brothers, I was a city girl through and through. It’s all I had known.

As a family, we would be moving to a 10 acre farm, next to 3000 acres of state land, to a public school with a graduating class of 32.  Yep, I was downsizing as president of my class of 400, to 32 classmates, and upsizing from an 1/8 of an acre lot in the city, to thousands of acres in my backyard.

In order to get me to go without kicking and screaming, my father bribed me with a horse. He was a smart man.

Most of you know that horses are a huge part of my life and I have no problem getting down and dirty with ‘em. And others know me as a gussied up artist, author, and speaker. As Kippling writes, “Never the twain shall meet.” My wardrobe is determined by the activity of the day, yet whatever I’m wearing on the outside, doesn’t change the me I am on the inside. The old idiom, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” is, well, cliché-like, but, it’s still relevant today.

Country Life

A month after we moved to the farm, on a blazingly hot summer day, my father ordered manure from our neighbor’s farm to fertilize the small garden he was tilling. I remember the moment the manure arrived. The fresh droppings reeked and steamed. But that’s not what I remember the most. Our neighbor’s ten year old daughter was sitting plop on top of the manure pile, with a wide grin, happy as a pig in….well you know.

My mother, father and I grabbed our shovels to start pushing the manure off the wagon into the garden. The little girl with the huge smile sitting in the stewing cow chips, looked at my mother incredulously. “What are you afraid to get them rings dirty?” she asked as she pushed the shit off with her bare feet. My mother stared back in horror.

Now my mother is not an outdoor person per se, but she did a great job of humoring her five children and outdoor-loving husband through countless camping trips, homeless animals, moves to the country, etc. But I don’t think I could ever picture her shoveling dung with her feet. On the other-hand I don’t think that grinning girl on top of that manure mountain would ever sit still in a theater either. But I don’t know, I lost track of her. Who am I to judge that she couldn’t or wouldn’t?

Wilderness Camping

On my solo cross-country journey by horseback, I did a lot of wilderness camping and would go days without eating or showering. Yep, I reeked, I’m sure, like the compost on that hot summer day, but there was something about the solace of the wilderness that helped to heal me on that long journey.

One stop in particular reminded me of that long-ago judgment day with my neighbor’s little girl. Camping for two days in a park outside of a penitentiary in rural Indiana, I was sitting under a tree journaling when a truck hauling a two-horse trailer arrived. I paid them no mind and continued writing. After tacking and mounting up, the owners made their way to me. They were retirees out for a late-summer ride and had never before encountered in their horse park a wild-haired, dirty, lone woman parked under a tree writing with two horses grazing beside her. Was she an escapee from the penitentiary—or worse yet, waiting to help a convict escape on her other horse? Still I paid them no attention as they inched in closer with their mounts—until the wife leaned over and whispered, “Is that a boy or a girl?” I looked up with a smile and said, “I’m a girl with a Master’s and perfectly good hearing.” But I sure didn’t look it.

Real Purdy

Last night, as I was mounting up for a high profile event with my horse, I had to pee. With no facilities around, I sheepishly entered my horse trailer, closed the door, and had to make do sitting plop on top of a manure bucket with freshly steaming dung, just like that little girl from my childhood. Who knew that would be me someday?

This morning after getting all-gussied up for work, I had to stop by my partner’s office to drop something off. He introduced me to the office cleaning lady, a nice enough woman, who totally misread me. She leaned over and said to him, “She’s very pretty, but it looks like she’s afraid to get those nails dirty.” He laughed, “Of anybody I know Linda has no problem getting down and dirty, but she cleans up real ‘purdy!’”

Carefully Weigh What’s In There

Although the idiom, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” came about in the journal, American Speech in 1944, the idea has been around for centuries. Heed these wise words written by François Rabelais in La vie de Gargantua et de Pantagruel, “But it’s wrong to be so superficial when you’re weighing men’s work in the balance. Wouldn’t you yourself say that the monk’s robes hardly determine who the monk is? Or that there are some wearing monks’ robes who, on the inside, couldn’t be less monkish? Or that there are people wearing Spanish capes who, when it comes to courage, couldn’t have less of the fearless Spanish in them? And that’s why you have to actually open a book and carefully weigh what’s written there.”1

You have to actually open a book and carefully weigh what’s written there… Relevant words an incredible five centuries later. God, I love words! Down and dirty, but real “purdy!”

1 Wikipedia

Joyous Simplicities

Joyous simplicities are hidden throughout life. Stumbling upon one is a wondrous moment—even more so when you discover one with your teen. A time to treasure, or so I’m told.

Teens. They have a way of spoiling things. It’s their mission in life.

Mishap #1

Saturday evening into Sunday was hellacious, and the week hasn’t stopped since. I went camping over the weekend with four girlfriends and four horses. We had a terrific time. Until Saturday night. My mid-sixties girlfriend looked dreamingly at her horse and sighed, “Someday I’d love to ride him bareback.” This she says to the beautiful white Spanish Andalusian with the big soft eyes. But, we call him Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. My daring girlfriend stood on top of the picnic table, plopped onto his bare back as he bolted out from under her. Thankfully she’s a trooper and came through with a bruised arm, a bruised butt and a slightly bruised ego.

Mishap #2

Sunday morning began at 6 a.m. to the sound of spattering rain hitting the aluminum roof of the camper. There’s nothing like the sound of the repetitive tit, tat, tit, tat, hitting a roof during a rainstorm. Something was strange though. The sun woke us up. There was no rain. One of the girls ran out of bed, opened the bathroom door, and was greeted by Niagara Falls. Water came gushing through the bathroom door, soaking the camper’s carpet. Oops. Someone left the toilet’s rinse lever in the open position. This, on the morning we had to pack up and leave.

Mishap #3

Needing to be at a Cavalry mission by 1 p.m. to practice for the upcoming Fort McHenry Flag Day ceremony, I rushed around hoping to be on the road with my horses by 11:30. Didn’t happen—the two previous mishaps didn’t help. Add to that the destination turned out to be a lot longer than an hour and a half, and I was dreadfully late in arriving at the mission. Never good in the military. Although my commander knew that I might not make it on time, because of the camping weekend, I assured him I would make every effort to be there. Note to self: marks against you when you arrive late at a military operation.

My girlfriend dropped me off at 1:45 p.m. and headed on down the road with Val, my other horse, to drop her off at the farm and then continue on to pick up the other two horses and girls. I hastily saddled up Rocky and headed into the ring, only to be greeted by a kicking horse and another I’ll call The Beast.

We were on his farm, he was the leader of his herd and the other kicking horse in the ring was his herd mate. We didn’t have a chance. Rocky was the odd man out. The 17 hand stallion-like beast towered over Rocky, frothing at the mouth, sweat rolling off his rippling muscles and hooves flying every which way. Our mission was to stand still by The Beast’s side, 4 inches off his stirrup while the National Anthem played. We couldn’t get within 4 feet of The Beast , let alone 4 inches, and therefore failed at our mission and were booted. Crushed, we stood in the corner like sulking school children. Tears streamed down my face as the National Anthem blared for 3 ½ minutes over the loudspeaker strategically placed in the field for the practice mission. It was the longest 3 ½ minutes I ever heard.

3 p.m. and I was done. A failure. We had practiced so long and so hard only to meet up against unfortunate circumstances beyond our control. Neutral territory would have made all the difference in the world. But it wasn’t our lot that day.

Mishap #4

At 4 p.m. I was still in the field waiting with my tail between my legs for my girlfriend to return with my rig. The girls, waiting for my truck and trailer on the other end, called wondering where our girlfriend was and when she’d be returning. It didn’t look good if she wasn’t even back at the campground yet. Fortunately one of the officers took pity on me and offered me a ride home. Rocky, unfortunately, would have to stay with The Beast until I returned.

Arriving at the farm, I fed the other 8 horses in our co-op while I waited for the return of my rig. At 7 p.m. it rolled in. I drove the long drive back up to the field where the practice mission was held and retrieved my forlorn horse.

Exhausted, I fell into bed at 11 p.m, only to get up at 6 a.m. the next morning to feed the horses and start my work week.

Joyous Simplicities

Thank God work was without mishap and I was looking forward to spending the evening with my 18-year-old son, whom I hadn’t seen in four days. He was an endless chatterbox as we drove to our dinner destination. I smiled as he went on about his weekend and the relevant happenings in his life, as I told him about mine. After dinner he looked at me and said, “Come on Mom, you know what you need? An ice cream cone. My treat.” Be still my heart. My teen age son was growing up to be a sensitive man.

As I sat there on the bench licking my mint chocolate chip ice cream cone watching the sun descend in the sky as it cast it’s golden rays on our faces, I sighed and said, “This has been the best moment in my life in the past 72 hours. I think I’ll write about the joyous simplicity of this moment in my blog.”

His response, “If you even mention me and joyous simplicities in the same sentence I’ll launch a DOS—a denial of service—with all my friends shutting the blog down.”

“Why?” I asked. “I’m just going to talk about you and our time together.”

“If you do, you’re declaring war, and I’ll have to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile,” came the banter back.

“But I’m just going to say how much I enjoyed the time spent and how much I love you.” I smiled waiting for the inevitable response.

“Mom, now you’ve launched a nuclear attack.”

Teenagers. The mission: to spoil the joyous simplicity of the moment. At least he succeeded at his mission that night. But Peter, guess what, I still love you! There I said it, the dreaded “L” word to my teen. Ah, the joyous simplicities of life. I love ‘em.

Rocky and me at the Fort McHenry practice mission.

Rocky and me at the Fort McHenry practice mission.

Little Miss un-Perfect

The Pinnacle

I’ve never understood striving for perfection. It’s unattainable. It’s the pinnacle I never want to reach. For if it’s attained, what more is there to achieve?

Choir of Praises

Most know that working and working to achieve perfection is a waste of time, but somewhere along the way striving for perfection was drilled into us. It’s at the very core of our existence. When we were young, we worked and worked at achieving something for the accolades we knew would be coming our way. If only we did it right. If only we worked more, we’d hit the mark and hear our praises sung. Our self-worth became dependent on the compliment or two thrown our way. But in doing so, we hung onto the words of others and worked our hands raw, because as children the mark kept moving higher. You could never, ever truly hit the mark. You just kept working and working toward perfection. As an adult I’m telling you, perfection is unattainable. The mark never stops moving.

Saintly

Striving for perfection is an addiction. Most perfection addicts falsely believe that achieving perfection indicates excellence. But perfection and excellence are two different things.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary states perfection as a) freedom from fault or defect, flawlessness, b) the quality or state of being saintly, c) an unsurpassable degree of accuracy or excellence. Excellence on the other hand is a) very good of its kind, b) eminently good, c) first class. Two similar, but totally different degrees in terms.

Who wants to be saintly or flawless anyway? Not I. No siree. I like being a little devilish, a little flawed. Ok, depending on who you ask, quite flawed. Regardless, I don’t demand perfection, but I do demand excellence.

Eminently Good

The driving force of my excellence comes from within. I know I want to be eminently good. First-class. First rate in anything I do. But I could care less what other people demand of or expect from me. I don’t live for them. I live for me. I answer to my own higher conscience, and if it’s good enough for me, then by golly, I’ve hit my mark. If it’s not good enough for them. No worries, they can spend the time to work it and work it to get it perfect. No skin off my nose.

To the Best of My Abilities

As a member of Toastmasters International, a public speaking club, in both my leadership and speaking roles, I strive for excellence to the best of my abilities. And therein lies the difference between excellence and perfection. To the best of your ability.

I was terrified when I stood up to give my first speech. Just tell the audience a little bit about myself. If I had strived for perfection that first time up, I never would have gone back to Toastmasters. I would have run out the door with my tail between my legs, or my hand over my mouth, never to look back. In expecting perfection, I never would have become president of the club, nor gone onto win public speaking contests. But because there were goals outlined in the manual, for newbie speakers, I just wanted to hit the mark for those goals. And I did. I had attained excellence for what I was aiming to achieve that night. Looking back now, I’m sure there were countless ums and ahs, long pauses and stuttering in that first speech. But in the end, who cares? I wasn’t laughed off the stage. I hit my mark. I achieved excellence. But not perfection. And that’s ok. If I had walked off that stage as Little Miss Perfect, I would have missed out on so much in learning from others, in pushing my comfort zone, and in becoming a better speaker.

The Average Joe

A fellow Toastmaster gave his third speech this past Tuesday. Was it perfect? Hell no. But was it excellent? You betcha. Even the content of the speech was right on the mark. He said in this day and age, if you ask an audience how many members believe they give 100% at work, guess how many people raise their hands? One hundred percent raise their hands. Know what that means? The average Joe gives 100%. Everybody does. Or so we think. With those odds, in order to be noticed or to move forward, then you better be giving 110%. Do you need to be perfect? Nope. But do you need to demand excellence? Absolutely.

Excellence I can handle. But I don’t ever want to be perfect. No siree, not me. I rather like being Little Miss un-Perfect.