Truth to Tell

A few years ago I was having a healthy discussion with a friend’s husband about some political brouhaha or the other. Now, I like Greg. He’s treated me well over the years, but more importantly, he’s treated his wife, Jamie, like the treasure that she is. We’ve always disagreed politically but have never lowered ourselves when talking about this issue or that. Perhaps we both recognize there is fault on either side.

However, a few minutes into our animated talk I realized something I hadn’t caught on to before: Greg was a proficient storyteller, and he had no issue straying from the truth. As he rambled off some “facts” to me, points I knew objectively to be false, I glanced over at Jamie. Did she know he was lying?

Of course she did. Over the years mutual friends and I have more fully recognized the extent of Greg’s, shall we say, misinterpretation of the facts, but none of us have ever said anything about it to Jamie, nor has she said anything to us. It is understood that this is a fault, and a somewhat benign one in context, nothing of which we need to take issue. Frankly, I doubt most conversations between me and Greg would end any differently if he did diligently adhere to the facts. We would agree and disagree in the same measure.

I need to make it clear that as far as we know, Greg doesn’t lie to Jamie about issues important to their marriage. He limits the falsehoods to certain types of storytelling and political debate. It doesn’t make us question him in other conversations–he has seemingly never exaggerated his children’s success, for example, or for that matter, their failures. He is an honest businessman.

Integrity is a difficult issue to define at times. Some would say if Greg can’t stick to the truth in his storytelling you can’t trust anything he tells you. Knowing him as I do, I trust him. Has he perhaps told me Jamie wasn’t home when she simply didn’t feel like talking? Maybe. But that doesn’t bother me.

I appreciate spouses who can lift their partner up without pulling the rest of us down. This is perhaps doubly true because of another couple I’m friends with who will protect each other to the point of lying in a manner that belittles me. When I know the truth, and you know I know the truth, why would you lie about something just to make a fool of me?

It’s a delicate balance and it’s part of the reason relationships can be so challenging. Our perspective shapes the way we evaluate the veracity of other’s conversations. What some consider wrong others don’t even hear.

We all have to live with the faults of others, but as Millie Helper said in one of my favorite episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show, “People would be pretty dull without them.”

And therein lies at least one truth.


Image Credit: ©saquizeta – stock.adobe.com

Choices

A friend of mine readily admits some of her fondest memories involve watching “Pretty Little Liars” with her grandmother. Her nana.

Nana told me she had no interest in the program, but it was a way to spend time with her youngest grandchild on a regular basis. Despite her lack of concern for the fate of the various characters, she could handily talk through any given plot line from the show. Heather, her granddaughter, would proudly ask Nana a question about the series, and Nana would give a complete answer, smiling as she relayed the tale.

I’ve written before about the right or wrong of spending time doing something you don’t enjoy for the sake of one you care about. I believe sometimes you suck it up and go to the shower you’d rather avoid, because your love for the cousin who’s being honored is greater than your disdain for ditzy party games.

I understand the thinking of those who say “life is too short for me to do something like (fill in the blank), no matter who’s involved,” and in some ways I endorse it. There are certainly multiple opportunities to honor a loved one (and if there truly is only one chance, consider that fact carefully).

How do we balance looking out for ourselves first without being unnecessarily selfish? With children, it’s an easier decision. Sometimes the best way to build trust with a child is to watch a television show they love or read aloud a book that sends you screaming.

It would be a rare situation where I’d watch The Young and the Restless just to make a roommate happy. And yet, that’s exactly what happened nearly 30 years ago. My then-roommate and I weren’t getting along. We liked and respected each other, but living together presented challenges. We also had one television set between us. Compromise was essential.

We agreed to air the taped episodes two nights a week, and reluctantly I joined her. I never did embrace soap opera fandom, but watching and safely gossiping about those shows created a bond. We are friends to this day.

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In today’s world this example is a bit moot. With the ability to watch your favorite program at your leisure on your choice of devices, you can easily distance yourself from the undesirable family member or roommate.

But where does that get you?

I offer no answers, only questions to ponder. When is being selfish cutting yourself off from healthy relationships? On the flip side, when is it saving you from an antagonistic experience?

Life is full of choices, and the answers so often are ambiguous. The thinking process, however, needn’t be so vague. Ultimately, the decision is yours. And sometimes taking care of others is taking care of yourself.


Image Credits: © stock.adobe.com

Unexpected Blessings

Today I was helping a friend pack up multiple boxes of household goods to give to various local charities. She’d had a garage sale a couple of weeks ago, and we were clearing out what remained.

This was in her previous home, which she plans to put on the market as soon as it’s clear of clutter and the carpet is replaced. Until the last few days, the weather has been mild, but the temperatures dropped below freezing last night, and the inside temperature when we arrived was 48 degrees.

Jo handed me a coat she planned to give to Goodwill, asking me, as she helped me put it on, if I had a good winter coat. “This one’s vicuña,” she said with a smile. I turned around. “It looks good on you.”

It fit, too, but I have a winter coat, and declined her offer. Later, I got to thinking about. Vicuña — isn’t that a luxury fiber? I’d just been wondering what coat I would wear if I had the opportunity to go somewhere dressier than my usual haunts (that is to say, something that required more than jeans). I hated to see such a lovely coat go to Goodwill…it could end up belonging to someone with no appreciation for vicuña.

Vintage vicuña, at that. A coat like this can go for thousands of dollars today. I accepted her offer.

Suddenly, I felt like a princess. Trust me, this coat isn’t being worn on a regular basis. It won’t be stuffed in a locker at work or thrown in the back seat of my car because the day has warmed up. It will be treasured.

Vicuña are the endangered cousins of llamas, adorable creatures whose wool was once only permitted for the clothing of Incan royalty (you see why I felt like a princess). Fiber made from this precious fleece is like spun gold.

I’m running out for cedar blocks to hang in my coat closet. No moth better even think of chomping on my coat.

I’m in awe of this treasure, and thankful my friend thought of me.

Some days bring unexpected blessings.


Photo courtesy of Pixabay

The Narrow Path of Middle Ground

Recently I was tempted to very loudly tell a salesperson to shut up and leave me alone.

I’ve worked retail long enough to know management puts a lot of pressure on sales associates to push the company credit card. They provide all sorts of helpful tools to overcome objections, and expect their workers to talk a certain percentage of customers into applying right then and there.

Most of the time, a bored sales associate rattles off a line something like, “Would you like to save ten percent today with a (company name) credit card and receive notices about special sales exclusively for our card-holding customers?” I smile and say thank you, no, and we proceed with the purchase.

Recently, however, my mom and I were shopping, and it didn’t go so smoothly. After the initial question, I replied, “We’re not interested.”

“You’d get special discounts throughout the year, and can easily take advantage of our already low prices.”

“We’re not interested.”

“It would only take a minute to apply. I’m sure you’d be approved.” Seriously? You’re sure?

“We’re not interested.”

“We have so much wonderful merchandise, I’d hate for you to lose out…”

Angry WomanThis was the point where I wanted to shout, “WE ARE NOT INTERESTED. JUST RING UP OUR PURCHASE AND STOP HARASSING US ABOUT YOUR DAMN CARD.”

It was my mom’s birthday, and we were shopping for her, so I stopped myself. Okay, I may not have done it anyway. But I really wanted to let this whiny-voiced woman know how offensive she was being.

Moderation in everything. I can’t say it’s outside the realm of possibilities that either my mom or I would apply for that company’s credit card in the future. If we do, I can guarantee it won’t be because of pushy sales tactics.

Persuasion is a game for diplomats. To truly bring someone around to your side, you need to find some common ground, build a rapport. I don’t know how you’d do that in the above situation, except to say I do know most of us expect the question and know whether or not we want to save ten percent today. Your best bet at winning me over is a friendly attitude and understanding smile.

But what if what you’re trying to sell is something far more personal, something that people feel passionately about? Never discuss religion or politics, the saying goes, and we all know why. You’re likely to end up in a fruitless argument.

Today I (somewhat foolishly) responded to a friend who is a true believer in an Unnamed Politician. Okay, Donald Trump. I’m not. Wisest to stay away from any confrontation, because I won’t change my friend’s mind. But he had written something on Facebook I strongly disagreed with, so I felt compelled to respond.

Flag 2 scI knew what not to say. I laid out the reasons for my feelings in a straightforward manner, and sought the narrow path of common ground with my friend. “I don’t expect any president to be perfect,” I wrote in part, “and I respect that it is a challenging job. I want all of our presidents to succeed, just as I want our country to succeed. I just don’t trust President Trump.”

My friend, who has different ideas than I do about what will make our country successful, replied in a gracious and kind manner, saying (among other things) that while he didn’t vote for President Obama, he was willing to give him a chance, but disagreed about the direction he was taking.

We will never agree about politics, but we will listen to the other, and maybe learn something valuable.

And we’ll remain friends, and that is more important than any argument about politics.


Image Credits: (Path) © studioturburu — Adobe Stock/Fotolia (Screaming Woman) © Igor Zakowski — Adobe Stock/Fotolia; (Flag) © Bigstock

A Year Later

Hard to believe it’s been a year.

Last year on this day, at about this time, I got a text from my friend Laurie letting me know her brother, Monte, had died. We’d been expecting this news; he’d been battling cancer for several years. His treatment had been compromised in the beginning because he developed an infection after surgery, and eventually, it was evident he was going to lose the fight.

I’ve detailed Laurie’s story before, so I won’t go into it here, except to say, a few months before her brother died, her mother had passed away. I imagine yesterday, so close to the anniversary of Monte’s death and only the second Mother’s Day since losing her mom, might have been emotional.

Several of my friends lost their moms last year, and my heart goes out to all of them as they face the day with a sense of sorrow and longing. At least one woman had a challenging relationship with her mother, which brings with it a different, yet equally difficult, set of emotions.

My mom is still with me, and I’m grateful for every day. My dad, my brother and my sister are all still alive and healthy, and I know I’m lucky for that blessing as well.

To those who faced the loss of anyone you loved in the past year (and I include beloved pets, because their loss brings its own pain), may you find peace.

Peace, and purpose.


Photo Credit: © Bigstock

Make ’em Laugh

I have an offbeat sense of humor, and sometimes things I think are funny fall flat.

Cat had no idea
Even the best jokes draw a blank sometimes.

I guess that’s true of many, if not most, people at one time or the other, but it doesn’t feel terribly universal when you’re sitting with a group of your peers and realize either you weren’t as hysterical as you thought, you were totally off with your reference, or your peers are your peers because of job title, not age, and they’ve never heard of the (very famous, Oscar-winning) film you used as a punch line.

In my case, I was working at a major bookstore, and we were having some annual pre-holiday training. The staff was split into small groups, and the various managers led their groups in practical exercises.

Quentin, one of the assistant managers, was in charge of my team, all seven of us. I was in my 40s, Quentin was maybe 30, and the six others were no more than 25. I should have known better.

“You have a customer who’s going on vacation to Turkey with her husband in January, and she wants to put together a Christmas stocking with things he can use for their trip. What would you suggest?” Quentin asked his bored employees.

The suggestions were made half-heartedly. A map — a travel guide to Turkey — some games or crossword puzzles for the plane trip. My team members were missing the obvious.

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Honestly, I swear to you, it’s funny.

“A DVD of Midnight Express,” I said.

No one got it. In fact, they’d never heard of the movie. As it turns out, none of them were even alive when it was released. Well, Quentin may have been in diapers, but he still wasn’t familiar with this iconic film. I was left with the option of either explaining my joke (usually a bad choice) or telling everyone to ask their parents.

For those of you not familiar with Midnight Express, it’s a fictionalized account of the true story of a man arrested for smuggling hashish out of Turkey.  It was a tortuous experience, and eventually he escaped, before certain death in the Turkish prison.

Okay, maybe not the film to watch before a vacation to that beautiful country. Still, I laugh at my own joke even today, more than ten years later.

The stereotypical requirements for a desirable spouse go like this, “attractive, intelligent, with a good sense of humor.” Translation? “Someone I’m attracted to, who is as smart, but not too much smarter, than I am, and who laughs at the same things I do.”  I know there are people out there, even other people on that same job (who sadly were on a different team), who would have laughed at my joke.

Cat holding his stomach in laughter
“Midnight Express”? Ohmigosh my tummy hurts I’m laughing so hard!!

My friend Laurie would laugh. That’s one of the reasons she’s been one of my best friends for more than 35 years. We may find humor in odd things, but we’re sharing the joke. Her husband has the same brand of humor, and it’s helped get them through some tough times. In fact, they can joke about the pitfalls of marriage, something some of my friends forget to do.

You have to laugh, or you’ll go crazy. Find the humor and share it.

And hang on to the friends who can’t help themselves and laugh with you.


Images © geosap — Fotolia

Please Forgive Me

Yes, I told her what had happened. Actually, I sent her a copy of the newspaper article, along with a card. I knew she’d never see the story herself, and I doubted anyone else would tell her about it.

AdobeStock_110950857 [Converted]So I told her. I’m sorry if I hurt you, that wasn’t my intention. In fact, if anything, it was just the opposite.

Of course I’m on your side. And I think you secretly wanted me, or someone, to tell her, but you didn’t know how to ask.

No, I didn’t tell anyone else about it. They don’t need to know, and I don’t think they’d understand what we both know, that she isn’t evil, she isn’t a terrible person. She just was the wrong person for you.

AdobeStock_141244605 [Converted]But some ties are hard to break, even when others are splintered beyond repair. Despite your pain you know that’s true. She deserved to know.

I’m still on your side. Please forgive me.


All images © geosap – Fotolia

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Everything in its Time…

…but I hope that time is soon.

I’ve written about one of my best friends here in the past before. Laurie has been through a series of heartbreaks in the last few years, but it looks like things are turning around. Fingers crossed, knock wood, please God. Please.

Sand storm

Her husband has been through two major health setbacks, and I do mean major. He had a benign brain tumor that slowly had taken away his ability to function in life before it was diagnosed and removed, days, if not hours, before certain death. A few years after that, doctors discovered he had colon cancer. It took three years for him to be cancer-free.

Laurie’s brother, Monte, wasn’t so lucky. He, too, had been diagnosed with colon cancer, sometime between Dave’s brain surgery and cancer treatments. He developed an infection after the initial surgery, which postponed chemotherapy and allowed the cancer to ravage his body. He died last year, a few months short of his 50th birthday.

Her mom had died only seven months before Monte.  Laurie is heartbroken and emotionally drained. Her reserves are depleted. She finds joy in her children, who thankfully are healthy, happy and on the right track, both in college, both sharp as tacks. Yes, they no doubt carry scars from the years of their dad’s decline, not to mention the trauma that followed, but Laurie and Dave are good parents, there to support them.

A couple of weeks ago I got a message from Laurie telling me Dave was interviewing for several jobs, and the interviews were going well. One lasted 75 minutes, and he was called back for a second interview. He hasn’t worked in seven or eight years, and that’s hard on most men. He wants to work, wants to contribute to the family income, wants to be a vital part of the community in that particular way.

Vorsicht Rutschgefahr!

This job sounded perfect for him. I was so excited, and I believed he would get the job. Moments ago I found out he didn’t, which has crushed Laurie. I told her how sorry I was, that I had thought this was it, and at least we know he interviews well, a very important part of the job hunt.

I suspect that piece of good news isn’t important to them right now, but soon, I trust, he will take hope in it.

I always interviewed well, but I remember a period of time where I was getting this close to several jobs, and inevitably I’d get the call: “I was up all night trying to decide, and finally I chose the other candidate. I’m so sorry. If we have any other openings or she doesn’t work out, I’ll call you.”

The first time, the rejection only stung a little. The second time, I was discouraged but had other interviews in the works. The third time, I admit I wasn’t even able to be upbeat when my prospective employer called with the disappointing news. I couldn’t summon the strength to say, “I understand, and I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you about the job. I hope we meet again sometime,” or something equally trite yet professional. I did say thank you, of course, but I was feeling deflated and overwhelmed, and it showed.

At some point after that, a former employer called and offered me a job with his new business. Okay, the story doesn’t have a truly happy ending here. It was the dream job from hell. Shortly after I accepted the position, but before I recognized the reality, I got a call from one of the companies I’d interviewed with, asking if I was still available. Given the opportunity to go back in time, yeah, I would have taken that job. But hindsight and so on.

I believe Dave will get a job. I pray it’s something he’s happy with, at least content with, for the time he is there. Yes, I’d love it if he could find something he was passionate about, but right now I believe he’d take a job that was less than his dream position, as long as it was rewarding in some concrete way.

Timing is everything. Persistence is critical. Hope is a gift we must make use of every day.

Remind me of this post in the weeks to come. My own job hunt is underway.


Photo Credits: (Desert Trees) © Nico Smit — Fotolia; (Leaves) © Marion Neuhauß – Fotolia; (Sunrise) © Pellinni – Fotolia

Another Year Older (and deeper in debt)

Well, tomorrow is my birthday…the years keep rolling by…I plan to celebrate! But it brings to mind this much-loved song from my childhood (well, a little before, but I heard it a lot as a kid):

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store

— music and lyrics by Merle Travis

Well, whatever else may rain down on me, at least I’m not a coal miner. I know those who built their lives around the mines are often profoundly loyal, literally to a point of death, but from my lofty vantage point, there’s little return for the workers.

Abstract background of Department store interior , shallow depthWhen I worked part-time at a department store, I used to joke I “owed my soul to the company store.” Hey, my full-time job, at least in theory, paid the bills, so that was extra cash to spend as I pleased…and I did. I kept track, and about half of what I earned there went straight back to the company coffers.

Thirty years later, I still have some of the Marimekko dishes I purchased, one place setting at a time, always on sale, until I had nine settings (eight, plus a spare). So not everything was thrown away on clothes and makeup. The first setting I got on my birthday from my sister, Beth, who thankfully has good taste.

But I digress from my original point. Where was I going with this? Oh yes! Tomorrow is my birthday! Yup, another year older…but not really deeper in debt. Except for the debts of gratitude I owe so many people in my life.

  • My mom, who is always there for me in every way. She will sacrifice just about anything to help me. I would give her the moon if I could (although cash may be more practical).
  • My brother, who has proven his love and commitment to me in ways I can never repay. He has shown me the value of family, and more importantly, myself.
  • My dad, who is so in tune with my thinking (or I suppose it should be stated the other way around since I’m his offspring) and never fails to surprise me with just the right support when I need it most.
  • My friends Beverly and Bill, who, like family, gave me emotional and practical support, often at personal expense.
  • My best friend from college, Laurie, who “gets me” like few others — and still loves me!
  • My friend Deb, who thinks nothing of putting others before herself and finding the right gifts on any day of the year.
  • My blogging buddies, for all the support you’ve given me in the past two years, as well as the gift of your friendship…and blogs!!!

So many others, but I’ll keep the list concise so it doesn’t lose meaning.

Thank you, everyone of you, and have a piece of chocolate cake (or whatever) this Saturday — it’s my birthday, and I want to celebrate with you!

birthday cupcake

Another year older, and deeper in debt — to all who have given me love and support.


Make yourself smile today with this catchy tune from Tennessee Ernie Ford, which spent a combined 16 weeks at the top of the Billboard Top 100 and Top Country hits lists back in 1955-56.

 

 


Photo Credits: (Department Store) © torsakarin – Fotolia; (Birthday Cupcake) © Studio KIVI – Fotolia

Layers & Secrets, Part 3: You Will Always Be My Friend

Dear Friend,

I know you have a secret, and I’ve got an idea what it is. Whatever it may be, it doesn’t matter to me. You will always be my friend.

AdobeStock_108510898 [Converted]We’ve had ups and downs in our friendship, and I’ve taken the blame at times when I wasn’t at fault. I finally figured that out. But here’s the thing: I don’t blame you, either. Life is complicated, and the blame is widespread. You’re doing the best you can.

You’re a complex person. I like that.

When you want to talk, I’m here.

Your friend,

Belinda

Image Credit: ©geosap — Fotolia

Layers and Secrets: A Message to My Friend, Part 2

Years ago a woman I knew casually was tragically killed in a senseless accident. Since her roommate was close friends with my roommate, I was in on a lot of details surrounding her death I would have preferred not to have known.

But one incident stood out in a humorous way. The woman who had died was a tough broad, whose style can best be described as “woodsman’s.”  There was little femininity about her, in appearance or manner. Yet hidden underneath her bed her roommate found not one, not a dozen, but hundreds of Harlequin romances. She had her girly side, you could say.
Two Woman
Since then my former roommate and I always speculate what friends and relatives will find “under the bed” when a loved one dies. We all have our secrets; few in my circle would ever acknowledge reading romance novels of that genre, but who knows what they’re pulling out from under their pillow as they prepare to sleep?

Some of those secrets can be heartbreaking to learn. Discovering your loved one had a secret love could be painful, perhaps even beyond what it needs to be. Decades ago, a friend of my mom’s was killed in a plane accident. She was a flight attendant (well, stewardess, it was that long ago), and up until a short time before this flight, she’d been having an affair with the pilot, who was married. They’d called it off and agreed not to fly together again, personally or professionally.

However, she was on call to work that day, and had to work to fill in for a sick colleague. Everyone on the flight died in the crash. When I learned their story, I wondered, did the pilot’s wife know about the affair?  Did she think her husband lied to her when he said it was over and he’d never fly with this young woman again? As far as anyone in the know was aware, the affair truly was a thing of the past. But that man’s wife may have lived out the rest of her years thinking otherwise.

Or she may never have known a thing about any of it.

As I write this I’m pondering what secrets I have that family and friends could learn after I die. Hopefully that’s ages away, but what if it happened sooner? I honestly can’t think of anything, yet I’m a private person, so there undoubtedly are things about me that would surprise others. Hopefully not dismay, but I make no promises.

I believe in keeping some secrets. It doesn’t need to be deceitful to go to your grave without revealing all sides of yourself to the world. Those who are left to learn the truth, however, need to be forgiving and kind, even to the departed.

(This is part 2 in a 3-part series on Layers and Secrets. Watch for part 3 in two weeks!)

 

Image Credit (Two Women) © Kriminskaya — Bigstock

Layers and Secrets: A Message to My Friend, Part 1

The day after my brother’s wedding reception, the family and a few close friends gathered at his and my sister-in-law Ann’s apartment.

It was about as a casual an occasion as you can imagine, so I took out my knitting. I happened to be using some beautiful hand-carved needles for a project made of angora and lambswool. Ann’s friend David, an artist, took note of the needles.

“They’re a piece of art by themselves,” he commented, and graciously asked me about what I was making. In turn, I told him how beautifully he’d sung the night before, something I’m sure he was used to hearing. David has a phenomenal voice; at one time he was a soloist in the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus. Let me assure you that is an accomplishment.

We had a really pleasant conversation. Seventeen years later, I still look forward to the time we speak again. David later commented to my brother how nice I was, and my brother was  certain he hadn’t spoken to me. Nice? Not how viewed his sister.

I am nice, to a fault. But while I can be very, very good, I can also be horrid. Less so as I’ve gotten older, I suppose, but yes, I can be nasty. Family dynamics being what they are, I’m guessing this was a time when there was more tension between my brother and me than happiness.

December 2014
Friends typically are taken aback by this shot of me from Dec. 2014. I generally look so much “nicer.”

A few years ago I went through a hell I’m working hard to move past, and it changed me. Initially I found I was much better able to stand up for myself, and a layer of anger seemingly charged all of my actions. The anger still exists, but it’s only a small part of the whole now.

Sometimes, though, my anger and frustration can’t help but eak out, and I have to have a long talk with myself. I choose not to become someone who resorts to passive-aggressive tactics to communicate her feelings, but in order to do that, I have to monitor what I’m feeling and and why.

I am not someone it’s easy to get to know. I constantly surprise those who think they know me well with an offhand comment that reveals I’m not so naÏve or sheltered as they think I am. I frequently hide much of myself from others and conform to their image of me. It’s easier that way.

The blessing for me in all of this is I understand people are more complex than we often realize. I tend to be less surprised about someone’s hidden talents or quirks because I accept that that is the norm. We all have layers we hide beneath the everyday aspects of ourselves.

Layers, and secrets.

(A three-part series on Layers and Secrets.  Look for Part 2 next week!)

Layers

Peace and Grief

“Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.”
― Helen Keller

If you believe in an afterlife, as I do, than you believe my friend Laurie’s brother Monte is whole now, healed from the cancer that took him from us. More than that, he is free from all other physical, mental and emotional constraints that held him back in this world. Helen Keller’s blindness was a significant disability, yet we all exist in an imperfect state, and there are things we too don’t “see” in this life, things that limit us in other ways.

While there is a peace that comes from faith, there is still grieving. Family & friends will miss his laugh, his strong opinions, his kind heart. A good man was taken from us way too young. Monte would have been 50 this August.

My thoughts, prayers and love go to Laurie and her family, as well as all who cared about Monte. Thank you to those of you who prayed for him and Laurie in the past few days.


Image Credit: © pelinni — Bigstock

Facing the Fire

One of my best friends’ heart is breaking this week.

Her younger brother is dying of cancer; he may be gone by the time you read this. He was diagnosed several years ago and immediately went in for surgery. After the surgery, he developed an infection, which prevented him from getting chemotherapy in a timely manner. Despite that, once he did receive that treatment it initially seemed to be successful, however, eventually the cancer spread, and he will lose his battle.

He is a man of faith,

and while this is not a blog about spiritual things, it’s important to know I share his faith and look forward to an eternity of fullness with God. I speak of it here only because for a long time I wondered if I really believed in an afterlife. Faith is a funny thing. You speak the words, but do you believe them? When I learned how close this young man was to death, my immediate thought was, soon he will be with his Savior. My faith, thankfully, is real.

Stormy skies IIIMy friend, Laurie, has faced so much in recent years. I don’t know how she bears it, but she does it with grace and humor. And probably the occasional meltdown. About seven or eight years ago her husband Dave, whose mental state had been failing steadily throughout their marriage, was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. He was on the verge of death when he had his surgery. Fortunately, he’s had an incredible recovery from that trauma — and it is a trauma, don’t let the word benign fool you — but his troubles weren’t over.

Sometimes the hits keep coming.

About the time Laurie’s brother was declared cancer-free, before it came back with a vengeance, and maybe four years after her husband’s brain surgery, Dave was diagnosed with the exact same kind of cancer her brother had. She was in shock. Thankfully, mercifully, his treatment went beautifully, and he was cancer-free at the end of the chemo treatments.

Except — wait — a brand-new tumor developed three months later. So they started all over again. By this time they knew her brother was in dire straits, and while Dave’s situation still looked a whole lot better, it was cancer. Cancer is a bitch.

Oh, I forgot to mention. During this entire time Laurie’s mom’s health was steadily failing. She died last December.

Dave is cancer-free now and we’re believing the best.

It can be a lonely journey sometimes.

Those of you who’ve been through this sort of thing know the myriad of challenges that come along with trials like these. Laurie has had to take time off of work and that has put a strain on her relationship with her employer. Their finances have taken a hit.

The golden moments have come from their children. Their incredible daughter will be a junior in college next year and their adorable son graduates from high school shortly. Thank God for healthy, happy children, although Laurie is aware there are probably issues from the time Dave’s mental state was deteriorating.

lightstock_209357_medium_user_7579580 [Converted]There are people in our lives who face a far greater share of life’s challenges than others well before they should. Laurie had more than a few burdens to bear before this as well, but her faith, her family, her friends have carried her through the hard times.

I went through a hell myself of an entirely different sort several years ago and she was there for me. We need people who have faced the fire and survived to help keep us strong. How unfair that seems, so let me be strong for my friends in return.

I will face the fire with you.


Image Credits: (SuperWoman) © Pearl — Lightstock (Sailboat in Storm) © brickrena — BigStock (Stormy Skies) water © AG — Fotolia; skies © Andrii Salivon – Fotolia; clock © Jakub Krechowicz – Fotolia; dock © Filip Miletic — Fotolia