Beast of Burden

lighthouseMy favorite song of all times…Beast of Burden by the Rolling Stones. I don’t know if it’s the song I love as much as what it reminds me of. Freshman year of college in a small town in North Carolina. New friends, new places, new expectations. The Lighthouse (our one bar). Cold beer on a Wednesday night, music blaring in a bar whose walls were painted black (I think) but exuded so much light you had to squint your eyes sometimes. The smell of keg beer spilled all over the floor or down your back,  the sound of clinking bottles and classic rock, hustling bar tenders who still smiled and winked when they could, and the laughter…I thought I was in heaven.

There were no expectations…life was good…I remember standing at the end of the bar when the song started, finished my beer and ordered another. The roar of the conversation, the ring of the cash register and the sound of folks shooting pool. But…then it was there, muted at first but this song had no problem bursting through. And then he, one of the regulars, someone who had loved this place like I would come to, jumped up on the bar and began to sing. Not to the crowd, not to his fraternity brothers, not to himself. But to the Moose…. now I know, to this day, that this animal head hanging on the wall of a bar was probably more of a deer head than a moose…but to a girl from Baltimore who did not hunt…that is what we are going with.

To this day I see this boy, with his arm around the neck of this beast, mounted on the wall, singing. And there was no video to post on YouTube. Or anyone to tweet about it. His image didn’t go viral on social media…on Facebook. He was a boy, that we loved, in a bar doing a completely crazy and, at the time, normal thing.

And I go back, every single time I hear that song. I see him, closing his eyes, feeling Mick’s words. And when it was over, he jumped right down in his Sperry’s, grabbed another beer and shot a game of pool.

As I left my job today I thought of this boy, where he was now. Because I wanted to forget about 401K’s and taxes and tuitions and mortgages…and really just focust on the important stuff. A cold beer, good friends and Mick Jagger.

 

Numen Lumen my friends….

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Look Up

Look up photo

 

You can tell that summer is coming to a close. The evenings are now filled with a golden autumn light that encourages all to take advantage of these last, carefree moments. Leaves have begun to drift down, carried to yards of green on soft winds. Parents are smiling a bit brighter, ready for a reprieve from the mayhem of three months of “togetherness” that is beginning to take its toll.

Yes, summer is waving goodbye and I must say this year I’m not as excited as I usually am. There were some things that wanted to do over those lazy, hazy days that I never got around to. Some trips I wish we’d taken but I think that happens every year, you get so busy and pre-occupied with what has to be done that you forget what you wanted to do.

A good friend reminded me of that the other day. She had dropped her children off for their first day of school and decided to take a walk instead of head right into the office. It was something that she had wanted to do for a while, just take a moment and breathe. Many times, she recalled, her walks were focused, determined to complete them in record time in order to get to the “to do” list that waited anxiously. But today, instead of barreling down the road, eyes down, mind filled with pressing thoughts, she looked up.

The sky was a beautiful Carolina blue and the sun shared its golden rays, warming her face and touching her soul. It was the first time that she had allowed herself to walk this way, to take in what was there in that moment. Peace.

In that moment she knew that God was speaking to her in His soft subtle way, telling her to look to Him for all things. To lay her fears and burdens and anxieties and worries at His feet.

No burdens to carry, no worries to ponder what would she do without those things? What do we do without them?

Revel in the majesty of a sunset and let our children’s laughter fill our ears and delight our hearts. Call an old friend and laugh about the past. Realize that all we can do is live in the present, relish each moment we are given and release our future to Him. The One who knows all. The One who creates beautiful golden sunsets, brilliant blue skies and vibrant rainbows to remind us of His love for us.

Look up from your cell phone and your computer and your iPad. Put the pressing list of projects to the side for just a moment and look, really look at the sky and the trees and feel the breeze on your face.

Look at what is real and true.

It only takes a moment.

Look up.

 

Not Broken Just Bent-My Messy Beautiful

Bent flower

 

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

 

I sometimes imagine myself on a panel, you know, on a stage where they line up tall chairs for the speakers to awkwardly climb into and talk and be questioned about things or subjects they are experts on. But this panel is different, it is compromised of women, most who have been to hell and back, and they are telling their story of pain and loss and grief. How they survived and overcame and are dealing with breast cancer, infidelity, domestic violence or (unimaginably) the loss of a child. They are there, telling their story, sharing their hell. And then its my turn, my throat is dry and my heart is pounding, I know that my voice will crack or shake or do both if I attempt to speak. I wring my hands to stop them from shaking and I close my eyes and then open them and look down at the line of brave warriors that had gone before me and quietly say ” I got nothing.” Continue reading

In Search of Numen Lumen – In Celebration of Elon University’s 125th Birthday

Elon University

 

 

 

 

 

 

At forty I still feel young, especially when I’m with my college girlfriends. Age and time seem to fade and it’s just like when we were back under the oaks, listening to the Indigo Girls and drinking cold beer under a Carolina blue sky. I long for those days again, when life was simple and major decisions had nothing to do with houses and children and 401K’s. When the biggest crisis was who you were asking to the grab-a-date or finding where you left your bike the night before. It was a time when it was ok and almost expected to be a bit foggy at 11am and when everyone who depended on you was always a bit foggy too.

But time passes and life throws curves and rocks at you, you fall in and out of love and you find what matters most, all while amassing an adult life that you thought that you were supposed to have and aren’t sure that you really want. And with that brings problems and crisis and you find that your family and friends are real people with real problems, not the fairytale figures you created them to be in your youth.

People disappoint you and surprise you and horrify you and you realize that you are grown up and have to be strong because being weak is not an option. Yes, you may have moments of weakness but they can’t last because you have others who depend on your strength so that they may live their own lives and figure out this cycle for themselves. You see people who cannot be strong so you try to give them your strength to get them through and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Continue reading

As Tall As Jesus

BUSHNELL PICTURES

I was in my late twenties, sitting in a church pew, clutching my (then) new husband’s hand, tears streaming down my face, I listened to my Mother and Uncles eulogize my Grandfather.

A story was told of a time when they had asked my Grandfather if he wished he was taller. This was a question that caught me off guard as I never thought of my Grandfather as short; he always seemed larger than life to me. When they asked him how tall he wished he was, his response, “As tall as Jesus.”

Gasps were audible throughout the church. The magnitude of the statement just uttered caused spontaneous inhalations of incensed church air. We Catholic’s are good at acting astonished.

My uncles, being the inquisitive bunch that they were (and still are), tried to determine the true height of Jesus through research and general “asking around” but never found a definitive answer. Finally, they went back, feeling discouraged and explained that they weren’t able to figure it out and looked to my Grandfather to solve the puzzle. He laughed a little and said that he didn’t know either but that was the point. Jesus was as tall as he needed to be. Continue reading

C is for Courage

Pink ribbon

Reality knocked on my door in a big way this summer when I got a call about a friend from college. We lived on the same hall freshman year, pledged together, gained the “freshman fifteen” together and, though our lives took us in different directions, we always were connected. She had just received the news that she been diagnosed with breast cancer and had made the brave decision to have a double mastectomy. Shock, fear, heartbreak, tears all came at once. She, on the other hand was composed and strong stating that she would be fine, that they had found it early and the prognosis was good. Most importantly, she let me know that it would not define her. She was consoling me, telling me that she would be fine. Right then, listening to her soft, reassuring voice I understood the true meaning of courage.

It is doing something afraid. My beautiful friend is doing that every day and that’s not easy. But no one ever said that it would be and so we are left with the opportunity to choose our path and either smile as we walk over the rocks and stumps that are in our way or complain about what is under our feet.

Courage is an extraordinary quality, but I have found that it also exists in the ordinary of everyday life. It’s not only for those who risk their life in seemly no win situations, it’s also just getting up in the morning and making the coffee and having hope for a better today. Continue reading

Great Expectations

Great Expectations

Think and Integrity were two words ingrained into my mind all through my Freshman year in High School. They were written neatly in thick, black marker on two oversized note cards and posted in the upper right and left corners of the chalk board. Yes, I said it, chalk board. My kids say that is what the teachers used in the “olden days”. When I think of the olden days I think of Little House on the Prairie, and so it goes.
It was my Freshman English teacher, Mrs. Nekola, who first introduced me to the true meaning of think and integrity. She said if we never remembered anything else from her class we were to always remember these words. Mrs. Nekola was the type of teacher that you listened to, so I wrote “think” and “integrity” at the top of the first page of my spiral notebook. It would come to be filled with notes on Beowulf and grammar exercises, but these words were the two most important things I would ever write that year. Continue reading

How Don Henley, Bain de Soleil and Agree Shampoo Saved My Summer

Boys-Of-Summer

 

The past few months I’ve thought a lot about the summers before I headed off to college. I didn’t have a care in the world as I sat on the beach at the water’s edge, allowing the cool ocean to run over my perfectly painted toes. Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” played in the background, making me dream of summer romances and moonlit nights.

It’s funny how a song or a smell can take you back to a moment in time that occurred so long ago. Don Henley, Bain de Sole, and Agree shampoo all bring me back to my summers by the shore. Lazy summer days and nights filled with parties under a gleaming moon, the popping sounds of cold beers being opened and the hopes of meeting a summer crush loomed in the air. The waves, crashing on the shore, provided the perfect background sound for those dreamy summer nights. I wish I had paid more attention to the beautiful moons that illuminated the beach and the soothing sounds of the surf, but that’s what getting older gives you…very different perspectives. Continue reading

Finding Peace

 

Peace at the beach

I am scared a lot. I never let people think that I am because that would mean that I am weak and vulnerable and, well, that’s hard to admit. It’s hard to lament about your own situation when, one, you know so many whose problems are worse than your own and two, no one wants to hear you complain anyway. Being asked “how was your day” is not an open invite to dump about how all the kids do is fight and how work is crazy nuts and your are exhausted and just barely hanging on because chances are they are too. Continue reading