The night was dark black and full of warm rain drizzle as I walked home slowly and methodically. Blood and bodily fluids I didn’t even know I owned dripping down my legs in a sickly wet mess. My weeping was silent except for when I couldn’t catch my breath. As I dragged myself, I wasn’t frightened of the night and its noises. I was frightened by the magnitude of what had just happened to me. How little did I know then that a brief moment in time really could shape me forever.
My rape was an out of body experience. Thanksgiving night, 1977, just 18 years old yet I can still see the experience today, sadly, as if it is happening all over again. I watch myself from ‘up there’ and wish I could have the girl I was before that terrible night back again.
I watched a commentary recently on Bill Cosby. The gentleman speaking has known Bill for many, many years and his words grabbed me in a deep dark place. “This moment, this specific single moment in time, is Bill’s moment”, he said. “What Bill does right now, is what will speak to his legacy.”
I want Bill Cosby to apologize in the most sincere and heartfelt manner possible, in person, privately to each one of his victims, one at a time. He just can’t throw secret money. He has to dig as deep as possible and make emotional amends from the bottom of his heart.
I have forgiven my attacker. Doesn’t mean he didn’t change my life. But I knew I couldn’t live with the burden of anger. I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t provoke him. I did NOT ask to be raped even though our society would like to blame me. I was brutalized, period. Didn’t matter how I was dressed. Didn’t matter that I was sober. Nothing mattered. Just like Bill Cosby, ‘he’ wanted his way. He was drunk on power.
I’ve added Bill Cosby to my prayers. I pray that, right now, he does the right thing.
My body is as addicted to the salt water as the waves are to the shore. Growing up on the mighty Pacific, the ocean was a substantial part of life. Its smell, its passion, its strength and personality are all woven into the fabric of me.
When I was little, my Dad would sometimes call my Mom from work early in the evening and say it ‘was a beach night’. She would heard myself and my four younger siblings into the wood paneled station wagon with the backward facing back seat and drive down the hill, through the Torrance Kentucky Fried Chicken and into the Redondo Beach parking lot. My Dad would meet and greet us on the warm evening sand as she laid out the huge beach blanket and our crispy chicken dinner.
Dad would then head into the water. Straight out he would go until he was nothing but a little spec in the distance against a sky full of sunset. It seemed that he would stay way out there forever and ever while we ate our chicken, grease running down our chins, and built heavy wet sand castles. Forever and ever while we chased each other, the waves and the seagulls.
I understand my Dad a little bit more every time I get to a beach. I find myself going further and further out into the salt water until there is no noise except for a random pelican. I push through the waves until they no longer break to a spot of my very own. Then I can dance and dance to a beat only I can hear.
I float face up until I feel all my tensions disappear allowing the salt water to soothe and heal me as only its perfect pH can. Way out past the waves, there are no cares. No worries. No stresses. No issues. The place where my Dad found peace. The place where I find peace.
Where is your peaceful place?
I need some greasy KFC. And my Dad.
I’m getting married tomorrow. When my groom and I let it leak that we were finally tying the knot, people started asking if I was excited.
We’ve known each other for over twenty years. We were friends for a long, long, long time before we became friends with benefits. We’ve been through highs and lows. Great times and times of serious crisis. We’ve lived in different states, just next door and for a brief time many years ago, together. There have been weeks where we have had to talk every day like an addiction and then months without talking at all.
Our relationship has been like a river. Fast, deep and furious at times. Long, winding, shallow and lazy at others. The shore always in sight.
I’m not excited. I’m calm. I’m settled. I’m ready. We’re ready. My handsome groom and I are like old shoes. Old shoes that feel so delicious when you slip into them. Cozy, familiar and comfortable like coming home after a long tough day. Worn in and experienced but with lots and lots of great miles left on them. River miles.
I have a pretty new dress. He has a new tie. We have champagne on ice. I look forward to meeting him at the altar and to the blessing we will receive there.
I wish you old shoes. I wish you a river run.
1591 miles on the road is allot of time to think, to talk. To ruminate. To make memories, set new goals. To hash, rehash and regurgitate stories from before. 1591 miles south from Michigan through 6 states and I find myself back to where I was before. I’m not sure why I have returned to Texas, but it is clearly where I am supposed to be. Reconnected. Grounded. Sweaty hot.
It’s been a rather long pause in a world from which we all need an occasional pause. For a while I felt like I had fallen behind. Lost touch with reality. Then I had a chance to revisit the relationships made while I was north and I realize that I am well rewarded. Salt of the earth people who fill my heart. I love them.
I went when I was supposed to go and I’ve returned just like I am supposed to return. My life all the fuller from the experience. I am a better person and the quality of my inner circle, much richer.
When is the last time you paused and rehashed? I had to move cross country to pause. But then, I tend to do things the hard way.
Wishing you some rumination. Or regurgitation. Whichever is easier.
Taking off across the country to take a job in the middle of nowhere was the best challenge. New place, new people, a fresh new way of life all wrapped around a dynamite new job. I’d been in a dead end life for too long and it was time to go! I was ready both emotionally and physically.
Inserting myself into the middle of nowhere was a bigger challenge than was imagined. Some people were game for my presence and some weren’t. I worked harder than I ever have in my life. Being the change maker I am and they requested, I put plans in place and laid ground work for the future. Hired, trained, empowered and trained some more. Fell in love with the people, with the middle of nowhere life. Fell in love with nature, with the fresh air. Fell in love with being healthy and alive.
Stripping myself bare, I gave everything. I was transparent. Neither of which was enough for the people who didn’t want me there and asked me to leave. Be gone, just like that, in a three minute conversation. Nine months in and over the hump, I was finished.
I should have known. The warning signs were there. Clear as a crisp fall day, hand writing in the sky. What I had to offer, I didn’t offer the way ‘they’ wanted it offered. They didn’t want ‘me’.
I’ve never been unemployed. Never had to look for a job. Yet, here I was, in the middle of nowhere, no job, no family or friends close, no confidence and both emotionally and physically spent. Stripped naked of everything I believed in. Stripped of everything I had to give. Totally transparent. Completely exposed.
Three days in the fetal position. A fourth to load my car and then I pointed myself south. Leaving new friends and a life I had completely fallen head over heels with behind. No sense of direction, no plan, just south. My children were south and my radar told me that I needed them before I could need anything else.
There are no guarantees. I see that now. My new home across the country had zero intention of keeping me. They put up with what they thought they wanted as long as they could and then they spit me out. All I could do in response was to leave well.
Have you been naked? Stripped? Been transparent? Are you banking on a guarantee?
I had the experience of a life time on what I’m now calling my naked journey and wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve even told myself I would go back. I did it. I knew I could do it and I did it. I did it well. Naked, confidence shaken, I now know I can do anything. My new transparency is where it’s at. No promises, no guarantees.
You must hire big thinking employees. Employees that see the bigger picture, maybe even a bigger picture than yours sometimes. You want their thought processes to be broader and wider than yours. Your employees need to stretch you, brainstorm with you, grow you, challenge you, lead you. A team that will show you new ways and fill you with new ideas and solutions.
Sometimes, your bigger thinking employees even need to make you feel deliciously uncomfortable.
I have been most fortunate to have worked for a President that had enough confidence in HIS abilities, that he would constantly go out on a limb and hirer big thinkers. He wanted to be stretched. He wanted to broaden his own thought processes and consequently the potential of the business he was running. He knew he didn’t have to know it all and had enough confidence in himself, as a leader, to challenge himself to listen. He listened to the street. He listened to the warehouse. He listened to the competition. He visited with the night time cleaning crew. He brainstormed with his inner circle and his management staff. Then and only then did he get uncomfortable, assimilate information, trust his instincts, passion and talent and then and only then did he make big sweeping decisions.
His division? Number one, year after year, after year, as a result. His foundation was solid. His inner circle more so. He showed respect and was respected. He was surrounded with big thinkers. He absorbed big thinking.
He was the most effective LEADER I was ever lucky enough to report to. He hired staff that was confident enough in their own abilities to talk to him, approach him, challenge him to new ideas. New ways of doing business. He might tell them ‘no’ 100 times before he said ‘yes’, but that was brilliance. Your input and ideas were welcomed. An exhausting yet exhilarating hour long ‘conversation’ with him could keep you energized and on task for weeks!
And if you were dead weight and couldn’t see outside the box, he had enough confidence in where he was going, to let you go, elsewhere.
You can’t move a company forward unless you are challenged. You can’t grow your business unless you are committed to the cutting edge. You can’t be the leader of the pack unless you are willing to drive the most high performing vehicle that you can find. You can’t get to number one unless you are willing to get uncomfortable. If you only hire ‘yes men’ that are mired in past tradition and old habits, how can you move forward with current trends? You can’t.
You need to lead a pack that challenges you to run faster, jump higher, leap longer. You need to LEAD a pack that is willing to happily go out on a limb. You need to lead a team that is encouraged to think big and bigger, broader and wider.
Then, and only then, will you be number one.
I am going to be number one. You?
Sometimes the swans take off and their majestic flight has me dashing to the sunroom to catch a glimpse. The pair of them are more graceful than any storybook description, wings flapping in perfect unison, bodies as white as puffy clouds on a sharp summer day. As graceful as ballerinas in top form and full make up.
Never crossed my mind that I would be talking to a pair of swans so my relationship with this set has me amused. Apparently they have been living on this hidden lake for many years prior to my arrival. Rumor has it that each year they build a nest, have perfect swan babies and each year some angry snapping turtles abruptly have the babies for a snack. But the parent swans are still here. And this year, they have me and I am a nut when it comes to prayer.
When I moved in, Momma swan was already sitting on her nest, her mate swimming stoically back and forth in front of her like a Buckingham guard. A diligent pair anxiously awaiting the imminent birth of their babies. I’d stop my car on the middle of the dirt road in a strategic spot just to check in on them each evening. I’d strain to see them across the lake from my little cottage each morning while at the same time praying patience for them and health and long life for their babies.
The first day I saw the four baby swans I was overjoyed and followed them around the lake like an anxious new Grandma. Watching them play, eat and bathe was a joy. Fluffy little white balls of innocence bobbing on the top of the water in a precious little pack between their elated parents. Then almost as soon as they were here, they were gone. Gone into a snapping turtle meal and I was heartbroken. I had prayed so hard for their long life.
Momma and Poppa swan come to visit me now. I sit on my little dock, feed them flat bread and we talk. I tell them how sorry I am that their babies are gone. I tell them how beautiful they are, that I’ve never seen anything so graceful, so pure in form. That I am fascinated by how they drink by skimming off the top of the lake water and fascinated by how they tuck their wrinkled feet up under their feathers. They tell me that they are happy on our little lake. That they understand the circle of life and are appreciative of my flat bread.
They could leave the snapping turtle lake and start anew elsewhere, but they don’t. They are comfortable and as a team, they are content. Their life is predictable. They will continue to gamble with their babies even knowing what the outcome will most likely be. They know the odds are stacked against them but they still exist eating flatbread and having conversations with me.
I wonder that I am to learn from this unlikely pair of pets. Do they know how to dream? Do they think that one season their babies will survive and thrive? Or are they stuck on willing to let their babies pass ion because they don’t have the gumption to go?
Maybe they don’t know they can go?
You can go. You can decide you want more. You don’t need to settle for yellow lake water and flatbread.
They are here now. Floating by the dock waiting for my gift of gab and flatbread. I am most happy to oblige.
He irritated me within seconds of our first meeting. He was one of my newly acquired employees. One of those employees that I probably wouldn’t have hired in the first place. As with some of my other newly acquired staff, not finding a spot elsewhere, he ended up on dining hall duty. When in doubt, throw them in with the dishes.
Trying to butter up this girl from Texas, he gifted me Chocolate Hershey Kisses for our first one-on-one meeting. He said he wanted to be wearing a cowboy hat but his Dad didn’t think that would be a good idea. Dad was right. This particular newly acquired employee was one of those who likes to disappear. Couldn’t stay in one spot for long. He wandered. He visited. He needed fresh air.
We had more than one conversation. Then an extra one. I started taking him off of the schedule replacing him with others on the acquired list who preferred to stay on task.
After a couple of months in my new position, the time had come for follow up conversations. A laborious process when there are so many employees, but a process I had promised and needed to follow through with.
Two weeks in, and it is Mr. Hershey Kisses turn. I have to admit that as I gathered up his paperwork, I was already dreaming of a date with Mr. Epsom Salts and a conversation with a wintery Sunday night sunset.
We settled into a quiet corner of the dining hall and I asked God, under my breath, to please help me give 100% to this conversation. I needed to finish strongly and even through Mr. Hershey Kisses knew how to push all of my buttons, he deserved my undivided attention for these few short minutes. This chat wasn’t about me.
Inhaling deeply and looking at him full on, I asked him how he was. He paused. I waited. In a blink, I was dialed in. He wasn’t okay. Not at all. This was going to be a defining moment. A defining conversation. I had an opportunity to make a difference.
This was his second shot at his senior year in high school and he just found out that he wasn’t going to make it. He felt like a looser. Didn’t know what to do. Didn’t know where to go for help. Couldn’t concentrate. There was no light at the end of the tunnel. There was no future. He had no chances. He was under water and drowning.
Then he started to cry. So, of course, did I. It was time for a plan. We talked for close to an hour. We discussed where he could go for help. As much as he didn’t want to, didn’t really know how to, he had to. We talked about how a 15 minute conversation he may not want to have, out of a 24 hour day, could make a difference in his whole life. We talked about the timer and how he could use it to bite off chunks of time as he worked on a long and laborious paper that was both completely disinteresting and overwhelming but had to be completed. We talked about focus. Planning. Goal setting.
I told him he could do it. He would do it. He will do it. And then we would celebrate.
After our conversation, I hugged Mr. Hershey Kisses tightly and sent him on the way with the promise of time off to get his head together and put his plan in motion. I promised him a summer job as a reward. Praying under my breath again, I knew our next meeting would be either black or white.
Three weeks off of the schedule and no news. Staff began asking where he was. In the long absence, his antics were forgotten and his smile was not. I put him on the schedule. A short shift just to see if he would show.
He showed. His smile proceeded him into my office and he didn’t need to say a word.
He followed the plan. He made the connections. He set his timer and finished his paper. He said, “I did everything you told me to do!! I did it!”
Mr. Hershey Kisses is graduating and I am filled to the brim with gratitude. With gratitude for my God who put the right words into my mouth that wintery Sunday afternoon. The right words that propelled a child with a blank future to look forward and not get bogged down in the minutiae of his frustrating present. A child that saw himself as only a failure now had ordered his cap and gown and was making plans for his life.
I have no doubt that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Filling the love banks of an acquired team desperate for attention. Desperate for a plan. Desperate for a future that just might include a diploma.
Where exactly are you supposed to be?
Casey losing weight he couldn’t spare in the mountains of Chili. Lia hunkered down hiding out Spring Break in College Station and me losing hours and days and gaining weight working my new job in the heart of Michigan. The three of us in different time zones.
I adore my children. I love, love, love them. Not to say that the love I have for my children is any deeper or richer than the love anyone else may have for theirs, really. But I want to think it is. I wasn’t going to be a Momma. I was scared that I would raise them the way that I was raised. But then my friend Therapy stepped in and I realized that I could change the world. I could raise my children with as much nurturing and affection my spirit could offer. That I could love on them every single day. That I really could dictate the way the earth would rotate.
Raise them with as much lovin’ and adventure as I could is exactly what I did. Now, we are in three different time zones and my heart is aching for them. I had no idea that the great years would ever be over no matter that I do know the greatest are supposedly yet to come. I didn’t grasp that the years would zip by and my babies would be launched to do what they are destined to do. I didn’t grasp that then God would pick me up and put me so far away.
He decided that it was time for me to do what I was programmed to do. By myself, at my speed and in a new fresh place. By myself in a new time zone with a completely different set of children to love on.
What are you programmed to do? Where is your lovin’ going and what portion are you using to nurture yourself with? You are committed to your children, your employees, and your spouse, if you have one. You are doing extras for your neighbors and your co-workers and paying it forward with strangers.
But really, what about you? What time zone are you in? Is it time to move into a new one?
The snow is melting here and I’m in a bit of a panic. Winter was so richly comforting and the clean snow empowered me to embrace my new life. Now that I am settling in and starting to breathe, the changes are coming again in giant waves. Thank God, Casey is back in the country, Lia is out of hiding and they both have plans to visit me.
In my time zone.
Five weeks in the heart of Michigan before I left for a long planned weekend event in Ohio. Five short weeks and it was heels, make up and Delta at 36,000 feet.
It was hard to leave my newness and I was excited to return. I missed my crew, my work and my little temporary home. I missed the fresh snow, the sunrises and sunsets peaking through the majestic trees and the crisp clean frigid air. I missed my morning walks on the crunchy ice analyzing animal tracks via moon light and my calm solo evenings.
Took me just five weeks to shed the bloated ‘me’ I was trying to squeeze into the unrewarding corporate life of before. Five weeks to shed the makeup and the razor. Five weeks to consider letting my hair return to its natural color, whatever that really is. Five weeks to ditch the bloat.
While I am so happy to finally be where I am, I am distressed over how long it took to get here. So many wasted years. I know they were spent preparing me for this, yet, I can’t help but mourn the loss of such valuable time. I promised my children I would stay in the city of their birth until they were launched and I kept my promise. But I mourn the fact that they aren’t with me now. To see me operating at full potential. To see me in a happy place. To let me love on them. So they can love on me!
Could I have grabbed this opportunity sooner? Nope. I was too immature in my faith. The time wasn’t right.
I was bloated.
What are you squeezed into that just isn’t fitting quite right? Where is your opportunity? How do you plan to unlock your future? What are you praying for? How do you plan to discard your bloat?
Yes, this beautiful state and her people have captured my heart. No, they will never, ever know my real hair color.