And Then I Found my Passion . . .

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Life often gets in the way of opportunities,  delays our chances, diverts our purpose and challenges our growth, confuses our passions and causes us to stop learning those things that are the most meaningful of all.

I always want to find a person’s passion for there lies their heart, but so many find it hard to know what makes their heart beat.

Passion is hard to define.  Being a mother and housewife and good person in my community was a wish I held since about the age of 2 when I pretended to be Susie Homemaker, and I believe that I met the challenge of being the best mom, a dutiful wife – not to mention great cook and seamstress –  and by all indications, was a respected part of my town, church, tribe.  I agreeably met expectations, and loved doing so.

As a child, I knew it was important to help others, but as I got older, I knew that  I wanted my life to be spent aiding the down-trodden, the misfits, those who struggle.  In school, there were girls who were unkempt, not bathed, wearing shabby clothes, and could never invite anyone to their homes, nor were they ever invited into the homes of others.  The kids would pass “cooties” every time one of these girls walked by or was accidentally touched.  Wrong.  Very wrong.  The scars, I am sure, still remain.

I do not recall, nor can I imagine, ever participating in this cruelty, but it was about 4th grade that I started feeling inside an ache in my heart for unfortunate people, and it remains to this very day.

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In grade school, and for many years, The Appalachian Mountains called me, but I did not go.  I sent books and gave money, but I yearned to go there to teach and hug and understand.  I still regret not going.

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After High School, I signed up for the Peace Corps, and when my departure was merely weeks away, I kissed this guy and thought I was falling in love.  I don’t know if leaving would have been the best decision, and I don’t know if falling in love was the best decision, but that’s another discussion.  Even in the midst of our discovering our passion, we become passionate:-)

Life, and influence of those around me who feared for my safety, interrupted my trip to skid-row in Chicago.  I really have no comprehension that others might want to cause me harm, so have never been concerned for my safety.  People tell me I just have a streak of stupid here.  I still want to work on skid-row, and believe that I will one day.  I know I can make a difference – if nothing more than giving a hug and a hot cup of coffee.

And such were the plans of an everyday housewife.

For a few years I regularly visited a drug rehab center for young women and encouraged many by simply listening and offering hope that a better day was ahead.  I understood struggles, and would freely share my story.  In time, I bonded with a beautiful girl who had traveled a very rocky road, and after many months of getting acquainted, Theresa and I started climbing her mountain of living independently.  We found a landlord willing to offer low rent, we scoured the county’s yard sales for furniture and household items, and we began the legal process that would allow her visitation with her 4-year-old daughter.  This story does not have a happy ending.  Drugs won.  This was not fairytale material, but in the midst of it, you cannot think failure is even possible.  If we knew the outcome, we would never climb the first rung.

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My time in inner city Detroit allowed me the privilege of loving and feeding and holding those who never felt the sun shine on their souls for even a day.  Visiting the psych ward at the Detroit City Hospital is an experience I will never forget.  Juanita was delusional and different, but she had normal days, and I enjoyed helping her manage life, driving her to church and being her friend.  The day I received the call that she was taken – in a straight-jacket – to the hospital was a hopeless one.  Juanita had tried to kill herself, and the edge of insanity had come so close that she simply had to crash on the other side.  I visited with her a few times but with too many prescription drugs and only a vague recognition, I abandoned the fight for Juanita, but the overall fight is never over.  We can never give up on those who need us.

We are all touched, in one form or another, by mental illness, and the stigma surrounding those who suffer must stop!  I am not naïve enough to say that love can cure the disease, but love can offer hope and change, but this is another story for another day.

4981911-extreme-close-up-image-of-drunk-man-holding-a-glass-of-whiskeyDoug was a recovering alcoholic.  It had been years since he had lived in his own home, and after choosing Jim Beam over his wife and children, life began its downward spiral.  He showed up at the television station every day to do odd jobs and be around “good” people.  He was funny and animated and very helpful.  When the sun started going down, he and I would walk down the street to the local coney island and get him dinner before he wandered off into the darkness toward home – address unknown.  Doug rarely cried over his lot in life.  He knew that to keep taking the 12 steps was a challenge big enough.

So many stories of people – people who are beyond the whining stage, who are standing on an unsteady floor at the bottom of nothing, who are over the idea that someone will take care of them . . . My passion, my calling, my purpose?  No one is too dirty, too poor, too lost, too sad, too sick, too lonely that love cannot change their life, but, the end of this story is not about their lives being changed, but how each of them have changed mine.  I am not a Mother Theresa because I do not do what I do without reward.

I rarely get to the end of the story with most people I have met, and I rarely know how my presence changed their lives, but I do know how they – each one of them – has affected mine, and there, my friend, is my reward.  Yes, there is a price to pay to help others.  Broken trust, sad heart, threat of disease, and a weariness that may take days to overcome, but it is worth it.  There is not one person I wish I had not met.

So, here I am in Estes Park, Colorado, far from The Appalachian Mountains or the skid-row in Chicago, but I am living my passion.

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The Promise, a ministry in Marion, Illinois, reaches out with love and hope to the homeless and needy.  Dave and Peg Maragni share my passion and allow me to be a part – from a distance.   I visited them when in Illinois earlier this month, and they are doing a tireless work.  It is my privilege to know them.  If you want to know more, “Like”  their page – The Promise, Marion, Illinois, on Facebook.

Locally, I have a family who needs help.  Their home flooded, and they are out of work, and our laws say they are not supposed to be here, so they are afraid of asking for help.  One of the parents is legal and one is not.  How to explain to the children that to ask for food and shelter threatens to devastate the family even more than they already are?  I am happy to report that after many hard days, we are getting ahead of the challenges and are more hopeful with every sunrise.

Immigration reform.  Another story for another day.

Today, I thank you for reading my heart and hearing my passion.  May you find your passion among the expectations of your life, and may your passion help others find theirs.

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Falling Apart . . .

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I have traveled to the end of this road –  The realization that this journey was over was swift and clear.  Never mind what the street signs are showing, it is time to find a seat and check out that less-traveled road.  This is my route.

First decision when hitting the wall was to quit my job.  My last day is August 11th.  It will be a sad day because this job has been good to me.  The friends I have made have enhanced my life beyond explaining.  What I have learned about restaurant management is priceless, and the leadership I had the privilege of working with was selfless and sincere.

So, what the hell is going on?

There is always – ALWAYS – a catalyst to change, and this was no different, but knowing the catalyst is meaningless when understanding the change.  Believe me when I tell you that I did not run off with the Shamrock man.  I did not become allergic to Italian.  I am not moving back home.  There was no drama.  I was not fired.  I am not terminally ill., I did not lose my mind.  I did not win the lottery.  I did not get hired as aide to the President.  I am not pregnant.

It was just time for me to go . . .

Life can be mysterious, but there are moments of clarity where you know that you know that you know.  This decision was just that clear.

If you follow this blog, and know me, then you are aware that the last 5 years have been brutal.  I took the beatings and kept moving forward caring for my granddaughter, holding back the tears, shoving the pain aside and taking the next painful step. Numb is the word.  Weariness is real.

In order to feel again, I must grieve.  I have to stop and feel the pain of a very sad divorce, and mourn my dad, remember my moms – both of them, acknowledge the losses, accept the truths, face the facts and get up, take a step, and start all over again.

I always knew this day would come, but it had to be when I had time to stop – and when I felt safe to do so.

After I fall apart, what will I do?  I have not a clue, but I am very excited for the rest of my life.

Having time to fall in love, explore, mediate, dance, dream, hug, believe, and laugh will be the tools I use to put me together again, and then I will be strong and sure and settled.

Everyone faces these times, so I am nothing unusual, but I am just transparent enough to tell you about it.  I hope my journey encourages you to know that life can be thrilling, whether you are falling apart or coming together.  Everything is a life lesson.

You won’t see me as much, or hear from me as often – for now – but rest assured that I will be back – with a purpose and a plan and wonderful, delightful, delirious happiness!

 

Home, Estes, Home . . .

Four years, 7 months and 21 days ago I loaded up the Buick, scooped up the Yorkie and headed west toward Colorado.

images-6I visibly remember the anticipation and excitement I felt when coasting into town, passing the Estes Park welcome sign, making the curve, and experiencing those mountains wrapping me in a massive hug.

In the few years earlier, I had vacationed in Estes 3 or 4 times and remembered visiting a few shops, snapping pictures of the sauntering elk and  sipping a few samples of wine.  It was in making this my home that I actually became intimately acquainted with this village that is alive with all things possible.

To be fair and truthful, I came to Estes only because my daughter, and then son-in-law, visited, felt the mountain tug, and relocated to nearby Pinewood Springs.  I was perfectly content in visiting a couple of times a year and returning to my life, career and routine in Illinois, until my daughter announced a baby was coming, and my lifelong dream became my call of duty.  Now, I cannot imagine being anywhere else.

Estes Park is a mountain community where the finest, the fittest, the nicest and the most giving people live.  This sounds unrealistically flowery, but it is the truth.  Everyone is a neighbor eager to make me feel like I am the missing ray of the sun. We are a happy people.

A small amount of people live here, and a massive amount of people visit here.  In that first summer, I did not know what to think of the “Invaders” who landed here to take over for 5 or 6 months, but over time, as I have fallen in love with Estes Park, it is flattering that guests from all over the world feel that our quaint village is a destination worth visiting.  It is enjoyable to answer their many questions and take the opportunity to boast about home.

The weather in Estes is what the weather is.  When hearing of snow coming, we hope in feet instead of inches, and when spring arrives, we disconnect the cable TV, grab the sunscreen and head outdoors.  It is true that it gets a bit breezy up here at 7,522 feet, but I have come to appreciate it and hang on to my hat!  The meteorologist never upsets us because we know whatever is heading our way, we will not only deal with it, but will enjoy it!

You only need to read the two Estes Park publications, The Estes Park News, Inc., and The Trail Gazette, to know that you are safe here.  In my nearly five years living here, I’ve heard of 3 minor burglaries.  We do jay walk and sometimes speed, and may keep a library book past its due date, but, fortunately, this never makes the newspapers.  We offer a safe haven.

Estes is a magnet that draws the quirky, the settled, the adventurer, the reclusive, the talented, the entertained. Remembering the hundreds of people I’ve met, many of whom I now call friends, the unspoken user agreement is that anyone who is honest and kind and respectful of their surroundings, is alright.  We are an accepting bunch.

You will, when visiting Estes Park, always see fun and interesting things, like Santa Claus in June on vacation, or hundreds of rubber ducks bobbing along The Big Thompson River, scurries of ghosts and goblins, dancers and pirates at the city-wide trick-or-treat party, rodeo parades, magicians, Bob Denver look-a-like singing Rocky Mountain High, men marching in traditional Scottish kilts, or, like today, an old man doing push-ups in the middle of Barlow Plaza.  We are a comfortable place.

This is the town where the mayor spends a morning reading Green Eggs and Ham to a handful of preschoolers and a police officer holds the hand of a little boy crossing a busy street.  I know the names of the children of the woman where I pay my electric bill, and at my bank, the teller saves his DQ coupons for Zia.  The clerk at the pharmacy wears a sign around her neck offering free hugs, and she means it!  My favorite breakfast stop has my tea ready before I hit the booth, and the theatre sells me popcorn when I have no plans to see a movie.

The way I see it, when I moved here, and had an address, I was a resident.  When I adopted the community and its people, I became a citizen.

Since arriving on July 7, 2008, I have experienced several triumphs and many tragedies.  Estes Park is a peaceful place, and the only stress is what you imagine.   No matter what is happening, the mountains reach out, the solitude whispers, the river soothes, and the people care.  With the triumphs, I am free to dream the bigger dream, and in my tragedies, I found strength to move on toward another day.

The mountains, the village, the citizens share with me an idyllic setting I call home – a wonderful, fun, perfect-for-me home.

Deciding that I have no words worthy to describe the beauty that surrounds me every day, I am choosing instead to let my friend, Dick Orleans’s breathtaking photography convey to you where words are lacking.  All photographs except the opening image of the Estes sign, which is a stock photo, and the photo of the River Walk, which I took, belong to Dick, and I am sharing them with his gracious permission.

Love the Umpteenth Time Around . . .

Remember the song, “When I Fall in Love, it will be forever . . .”? That is exactly what I thought when I fell in love for the very first time. I remember it well. It was 5th grade, South Side School, Miss Davis, who, incidentally, delighted in thumping me on the head with a ruler. His name was Joe. It was serious. Joe gave me his necklace with a silver basketball. I wore it 8 days. That was my first clue that love is fleeting.

In 6th grade, the teacher caught me passing a note to my new heart-throb, although I forget his name. It was mortification time, and I was certain I would never recover, but I did.

As the school girl crushes came and went, I remember high school and my football hero, Dan. This was the real thing! I was 16, all grown up and knew I had found “The One”!! He wasn’t, but the memory is sweet as he was my first “car” date, and the first “young man” I took to meet my dad.

One boy kept asking me out, but I only had eyes for Dan. This other boy, whom I will call Xavier for the sake of anonymity, would not give up! (if his name had been Xavier, I may have dated him!) He knew where I lived. He visited my mother. Xavier became the topic of dinner conversations. Mom would tell me I should date him. I would tell mom I shouldn’t. Mom and Xavier would cook up these drop by times so Xavier would just happen to catch me at home. The more he insisted that we get together, the faster I ran away. He settled for friendship, and for many years we remained friends, although I have heard that his flame for me took several years to extinguish. Seeing the man he became, and his ambition in life, I have never regretted not dating him, and it was fun, years later, to tell Mom she was wrong!

I met “Husband” when I was 20. He truly did take my breath away. We both worked at Norge, a factory manufacturing washers and dryers. We would spend lunch hours together, then started dating in June, and married in September. I will not keep you awake with the ugly details. The marriage lasted 36 years, 3 months and 3 days, but who is counting? This was probably 30 years longer than it should have lasted, but times were very different then. Love can be blind and deaf and dumb.

Today, I am interested in a special guy. He caused my heart to beat again because of his honesty, his integrity, his work ethic, and he’s very cute and tall and strong. Do I love him? Ask me in 6 months, a year, a lifetime . . .

Has he made me cry? Yes. Have I vowed to walk away and never look his way again? Yes. Have I felt like caring was way too hard? Certainly. For the many of us who open ourselves up to love, the second time around, we find issues and baggage and fears and aches and lack of trust and independence and freedom and many insecurities blocking our view. Simply put, to love is to preservere.

The first time our heart thumps, we dance in the sunshine, skip through the buttercups, and throw caution to the wind, but later in life, we step through the sticker bushes, creep through the clouds, and find caution too heavy to throw.

Life Lesson – I have learned more about what love isn’t that what it is. Regardless of the number of hit and misses, love lives in that part of your heart where you are more concerned about the other person than you are for yourself. Until you will give up the last slice of apple pie, or be willing to sit up all night nursing their fever after working all day, or will let him go first at the DMV, you can call it many names, but it’s not love.

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