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By the time you get to the last word of this blog post, those who really know me will be thinking “oh no – she didn’t! There goes thatWoodard girl”. To fully understand my back story, you can read “The Early Years” one of my first blog posts. Summed up in a sentence – I grew up in a sleepy homogeneous New England town. Very homogeneous. I am the whitest girl of all Anglo-Saxon’s anywhere. Now that we have cleared that up, there is no racial chip on my shoulder. What initiated my thought process around this specific blog post is a rebroadcast of Jase & Missy Robertson’s K-LOVE radio interview about abstinence before marriage. I listened to it, ironically on Martin Luther King day. Why is that ironic? Just keep reading!
I have a habit of saving pod casts, television shows and e-books for times when I travel by air or car. I must have saved the above mentioned radio interview during my research on Duck Dynasty. I live in the South and had no idea what this show was and honestly thought it wasn’t real. I had no idea duck calls were such big business, and I am certainly not a fan of facial hair. In fact, I remove it for a living. However, I have a very open mind, and had to research this show since social media outlets were on fire about their show as well as the fact that Wal-mart dedicates and entire aisle to all of their merchandise. (I tend to be slightly behind when it comes to television shows as they happen. Not only am I too avid a reader to watch a ton of television, I have too little time during the week to tune-in, so I save them up for times I have to be locked into a seat belt). I have a personal rule that I do not watch shows that scare me or “dumb me down” and I am also not the most patient person (gasp!) – so I have a hard time with weekly show cliff hangers. I have been known to watch a season or 8 in one day (Downtown Abbey, Suits, Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, etc). Duck Dynasty will probably never reign as one of my top-10 shows, but there are parts of the show that are hilarious as well as puzzling. I think Willy is a marketing genius and his problems with motivating his staff are so easy to relate to. Here is a link to the interview:
I am sure the purpose of the video was to contain positive family building content, and I do think it does that, however, it had the exact opposite effect on me. Since this blog post will lack photo’s and some of you may be uncomfortable reading the content, copy and paste the link below and allow it to repeat with your speakers on for the duration of your reading.
Like most of my thoughts – they are normally complex and somewhat-all-over the place so I’ll do my best to organize. As I listened to Jase and Missy talk, I was quite sad over my own realization that the public’s response to the Robertson family, their reality show and the very fact that they are millionaires is overwhelmingly positive (and yes, their wealth is flaunted on their show) – yet, the response to the Murfreesboro, TN filmed reality show about the Tankard family “Thicker Than Water” is not. Why? Why would one family be regarded so well in spite of their obvious success and another somewhat frowned upon? WHY does the world have a problem with Pastoral families having money? What is the issue? Perhaps more families would go into ministry and missions if they weren’t overly pressured into feeling bad about any success they have. Before anyone justifies in their mind that this is not truly a belief, Yes, they are. I can give many examples – from living all over the world – but a couple of local examples are:
People are uncomfortable with the “showy-ness” of World Outreach Church. I have heard it all – they are too big, they spend too much money on their facility, they pay for headliners to come into the community – meaning their members simply have to be entertained. Personally, I think it’s brilliant. Name another church that brings thousands and thousands to the Word? So many of our community leaders attend this church – they are also quietly the medical directors (for free) of local pregnancy support centers, hold leadership positions in many areas and volunteer many hours in the community. They bring a much needed piece of light to the business world. If you are not comfortable with the size of the church, then leave it at that, there is no need to justify your decision further. Carry on Word Outreach Church – carry on!
I participated in a local program (let’s keep it anonymous) and another participant was a Preacher. Other participants commented on the very fact that he was a preacher and drove a nice car. I do not think this needs any more explanation, but I went away from those comments thinking that they would be much happier if he barely drove away in a car older than them. Realistically, if we compare building a Kingdom in today’s world – who would want to attend a church where everyone is barely surviving? Keep it real, people.
Before moving on, in almost every scenario – “church people” lash out and say that God himself instructs His people to live a humble life. I can not argue with that, but I think “humble” lends itself to interpretation. Apparently, to those uncomfortable with a pastoral families success, they mean “give it all away, prosper those who are sitting at home while they work, and for crying out loud, please don’t show the world that Christians can be successful”. In my personal experience people who say this the most are those that have less money than they do. Which translates to “you can’t be a Christian if you have more money than me”. This is jealousy. Jealousy is a sin. Most will also question my knowledge of the Bible in a “bless her heart” undertone. Review: there are parts of the bible, specifically the Old Testament that are simply incredible atrocities. In the Bible, words having to do with killing significantly outnumber words having to do with love – yet, the Greatest of these is Love. Imagine the problems we would have today if we literally applied the book of Genesis alone to the way we live? (God’s arbitrary preference of Abel’s offering to that of Cain’s provokes Cain to commit the first biblically recorded murder and kill his brother Abel; The Israelites kill Hamor, his son, and all the men of their village, taking as plunder their wealth, cattle, wives and children; God is unhappy with the wickedness of man and decides to do something about it. He kills every living thing on the face of the earth other than Noah’s family and thereby makes himself the greatest mass murderer in history & God personally sees to it that Lot’s wife is turned to a pillar of salt (for having looked behind her while fleeing the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah)). Feeling the Love? Perhaps these situations become problems because they are inherent in a literalist or fundamentalist interpretation. Some of the selections may be resolvable on certain interpretations–after all, almost any problem can be eliminated with suitable rationalizations–but it is your obligation to test this possibility and to decide whether it really makes appropriate sense to do these things today. I presented the examples above where problems may exist given certain allowable (but not always obligatory) assumptions. It should be kept in mind that a perfect and omnipotent God could, should, and likely would see to it that such problems did not exist in a book which he had inspired. It should also be kept in mind that what is and is not an atrocity is to some extent a matter of opinion. So many who sling such words put God in a very small box.
Obviously I struggle with this – so someone please – help me! I adore lists, so let’s review some observations and thoughts, list-like.
1. Before addressing more of the specifics relating to the show, I’ll take some time to address that the highly emotionally charged Trayvon Martin case brought up a lot of the same emotions for me and I think this is a compilation of my experiences, thoughts and perspective. They aren’t really open to hate-mail opportunities. It makes me slightly insane when America brags that we have come “so far” with civil rights. Really? The specter of racism still lingers, it has simply taken on new forms since the mid-20th century. What we used to know as racism, has thankfully/mostly died. My Princess Katherine can legally sit on any public transportation with her good-pal Lorin, and it is no longer polite conversation in white society to speak negatively about black people as a race. Praise God! Aside from the fact that true racism that will literally only die off with the older generations for whom racism was normative (and I believe this is what Oprah was trying to say) – what we have traditionally called racism has likely receded to as low a level as we will ever see it in our lifetime. Unfortunately, there will always be, and there always have been, people who see their own people group as superior. Xenophobia is a natural human tendency which has plagued every era since the dawn of man. I can recall a few instances where accusations of racism were slung at me personally and/or professionally if an employee I supervised was disciplined by me and they were not white. Fortunately, they fell flat or got lost in translation. Not only because it was simply not true – but because I have African-American friends whom I genuinely love, appreciate and call family. My home has been described in the past as the United Colors of Benetton and – I LOVE it. I believe in the traditional sense of racism, most people aren’t racist. The temptation is to think that because we no longer discriminate solely on race, we have won the war on racism. Mission accomplished. Wrong. We are fooling ourselves if we think we have achieved racial equality or eliminated racial prejudice. We have a long way to go and a lot of work to do along the way. However, we can’t continue with the same strategies that worked in combating racism as we once knew it. Because of our national fascination with crime, the Trayvon Martin case became a sensation with sociological impact. This same situation happens in cities across America, every day but are local stories. It’s a tragedy, of course. Regardless of the narrative that saw Trayvon as an aggressor or the one that saw George Zimmerman as a vigilante, it was an event in a small town in northern Florida. The situation was terrible, and we should mourn the loss of life. When stories like the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case polarize the nation, we should be exploring why and not the color of skin.
2. I mentioned Xenophobia above and I think most logically thinking people can understand this. But, what in the world is going on in African-American culture where – for whatever reason, it is acceptable for members of the African-American community to hurl insults at each other? I am so disappointed to see the negative comments on the Thicker Than Water FAN page (review definition of FAN, please). Simple clicks to the profiles of the naysayers and it’s easy to discover that an alarming number of haters of the successful black family – are black. So, here’s the moment of honesty. Why? Is it because African American’s aren’t supposed to be successful? Smart? Live in a nice home that they have worked for? I’m so completely lost here! It is my opinion as well that owners of such profiles should change their employment statuses and try to build their community up rather than tear it down. I know this is nothing new, but with all of this progress – seriously? Maybe I answered it above – are these unhappy people passing judgment because the Tankards have more than they do?
3. I personally experienced racism at it’s finest when I traveled with hands-down the best female surgeon – ever. We were in San Francisco in 2003 and checking in to a posh hotel. We were registered by our names and titles. The hotel staff looked me straight in the face, ignoring her and addressed me as “Doctor”. I had a near come-apart and she was quick to apologize for them that it was no big deal. Yes it is. I didn’t go to jail over that incident, but I could have. I nearly did go to jail three days later when we were trying on clothes in Ann Taylor Loft and the sales girl made a bad judgement call and refused to wait on the good Doctor, but was hands over feet attempting to be helpful to me. I stomped out of the dressing room half-dressed to get her thin beautiful self a smaller size! I allowed said sales girl to ring up a lot of items, then explained to her why she lost that very sale. Both the hotel receptionist and the salesperson were African-American. Unbelievable. STOP IT.
4. I have known the Tankard family for almost all of the years that I have lived in Murfreesboro. Jewel has been a client of mine for almost all of these years. I do not claim to know her fully nor can I figure out how she does all that she does in one day. Other than any service that I perform for her inside my own business, I am not on this families payroll (before you even think this). Why does the relationship between Jewel and I work? Because she asks for advice in my area of expertise and then actually follows it. She brings new ideas and allows me to push boundaries in treating black skin. In my world, treating black skin with laser is like walking a tightrope over the Grand Canyon with no safety net or learning to drive a stick shift on a mountain. I do not recommend attempting to treat her or sell her on a product if you do not know your stuff. Treatment sessions are also normally business development discussions and/or talks of faith. In a time where I was making a huge professional change, in true Jewel fashion – she offered no excuses and no leniency on doing what was right, even though it was a hard decision. The girl makes my professional endurance look like I’m calling shot-gun in the sofa series. It has been said that she is narcissistic. Please review that definition too. Narcissistic people do not financially support local and national charities. They also do not allow their nearing adulthood children to live under their roof and use their resources. Theory denied. Jewel has led more women to financial success than any other woman I have ever personally known. It would be easy enough for her to walk-away from her own and her step-children, but she doesn’t. She has put her family first and her husband first. She’s an entrepreneur and the local community should be thankful that they chose to search for a rather large home that was in foreclosure and costing many local businesses a lot of money. With a simple public records search, you can find that they paid less for Tankard Palace than many of you in ivory towers did for your modest homes. That makes her sensible, not hate-able.
5. The Tankard family, namely Ben Tankard – papa to everyone and Pastor of the Destiny Center Church – does not, repeat after me, does not receive compensation from the congregation. He is a Pastor because he has experienced success and he does not need a salary from the church that he started in his living room. Even if you find a natural tendency to not like the Tankards, use some third grade math. I estimate they have approximately 200 or so members in their church. I am a good a tithing, but 200 of my friends could not solely support the physical church plant, the payroll, the utilities AND the Tankard family. I have two females in my house – they have six. I can not imagine what that costs. Again, simple third grade math. I love how transparent he is – and often he “goes there”. I think the world needs more of this realness that people who have stumbled can see and realize there is hope. Ben is incredibly talented and his gospel Jazz CD’s are in the spa music mix! He still owes me his autograph on his cover of VIP Murfreesboro, but I digress. Ben has over 21 Gold and Platinum Records lining his walls, has earned 13 Stellar Awards, 1 Blue Mic Award, and has multiple Grammy, Dove, and Soul Train Award Nominations and is the best-selling gospel/jazz instrumentalist/artist of all time. Ben has released 19 studio albums and sold over 2 million records worldwide. He also discovered Yolanda Adams. Impressive? Sure – but even more impressive – no lessons ever. Incredible. Why are the Tankards successful? I believe it boils down to extreme faith and focus. My favorite Ben line “There is no Ghetto Heaven”.
6. Those who claim that they will never, ever watch this show, seem to know an awful lot about the show. This means, you’re watching it! Last Sunday, 11/24/13, Thicker Than Water had the following number of viewers according to Nielsen ratings (I believe this is 1.623 million viewers) – just ahead (eek!) of Duck Dynasty. This number represents live viewers – the live plus DVR’d number looks more like 1.86 million. Approximately 28, (as in 28 total, not million) of these viewers are posting repetitive negative comments on fan pages, twitter, etc.
THICKER THAN WATER
In close, I do not feel the need to defend the Tankard’s, they do not need my protection – but they will receive it, if it comes into my presence. Wait, I do feel the need to defend Cyrene (the youngest Tankard), first, because I just love this girl. She is one of the sweetest girls ever with a face that lights up when she recognizes people she loves. I adore this quality in her. I have watched her grow up second-hand through her mother, and only recently started to get to know her more personally (these kids grow up and get their own cars!) Second, because she is still in high school and kids and teachers – can be mean. Don’t be mean to my baby! I am like a mother bear, and I have many cubs. They do not all look like me – as a matter of fact – only two look like me. Many of my kids are African-American (shout-out to my loves Justin, Jonathan, Katherine Coryse, Imani, Jerome, Jr and Adonis – kids I could adopt in a minute and love and raise in a way their own mothers would wish), some are Asian, hundreds have little bald-heads. I have been known to show up at schools, doctors offices and hospitals and ask what acceptable culture is at their establishment when a child other than my own by birth has been mistreated. Last, I believe Cyrene has a special light that the world hasn’t even begun to see and I can not wait to see what she does. I believe the Tankards are favored, and I believe you haven’t seen anything yet in this regard. I have said this before, but it’s worth repeating – perhaps those who have more can be trusted with it? It is exhausting to see all the negativity – especially on social media. I am sincerely bothered by all the “Christian’s” who post all the reasons that the Tankard’s can’t be “real Christian’s”. To those (and even those who haven’t posted, spoke it nor printed it – but perhaps have thought it) – I’d like to leave you with a thought to ponder just for a moment and hopefully serve as a gentle reminder. Jesus did not come in like a divine Caucasian police officer and throw all sinners in jail, or take snap shots then pass judgement and move on. He came alongside us, experienced our problems, and attempted in a very short life to teach lessons that would only benefit us, even at the expense of His own life. Be very careful. Do you think your thoughts and actions have accomplished His mission? You really think so?
I outlined above why I think Pastoral families are held in a different regard and although it explains some of the misbehavior, it doesn’t address my original observation. The Robertson family is not a pastoral family, so, is that why America is overwhelming positive about their show, or is it because they are Caucasian and the Tankard’s are not? How disappointed would Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. be? He too, gave his own life.
Links: (all social media clickable from their websites)
* I always feel the need for a disclaimer. The Tankard family have not endorsed nor viewed this post before it went live. It is not intended to be their belief nor their words. This is a personal blog and the contents are mine alone. It is not meant to be the works of the Tankard family, Bravo, The Destiny Center, nor any of their present, past or future affiliates.
You know what is thicker than water? (other than Blood?) – A woven family! I am SO proud of these two and their blended/woven family! I have known the Tankards as long as I have lived in TN and have watched them walk the walk and live real lives for Christ. With Jewel’s permission I’ll share that I have treated her skin with medical laser and Aesthetics (no pressure at all, she’s just on Television and if you haven’t noticed, she has black skin!) She is at the top of my list for clients who just get “it”. She openly shares what she’s doing, what she uses on her skin and how her diet and travel schedule can show up on her face. Together, we have created a treatment plan that is inexpensive, works and stays just ahead of the intrinsic aging curve. But don’t take my word for it – check her out!
Jewel and Ben are so many things and wear so many hats – but, they also carry a lot of burden. Some are envious of their abundant blessings. They wouldn’t be if they knew how hard these two have worked. They raise their children, grandchild, pastor their church, run their businesses and are good stewards. They work HARD. Up before dawn and lay their head down long after many others tune out. Jewel and I may have termed the phrase “not many business leaders can be found sleeping in every day until lunchtime!”, amongst other tales from the treatment room. It is never dull! Did I mention Jewel is also leading the launch of #tankardcosmetics as she coaches her daughters through the business start up process?
Since the day Jewel shared with me the name of their reality tv series Thicker Than Water, the same chorus has run through my head..
“Why can’t we see the walls we can’t see through
And see what God’s been telling me and you
(and that is) Blood is thicker than water
Oh, but love, love is thicker than blood”
Love in action- is what they do best.
I’m just going to throw it out there – in addition to their hard work, perhaps they are living this life of abundance because they can be TRUSTED with it. Just a thought.
Their Television show series kicks off on Sunday, November 10th at 9 est/8 cst on Bravo! Be sure to tune in to see some of your favorite Murfreesboro, TN locations. I haven’t seen it – but I know it will be real, it will be FUNNY and they will bring it!
To watch some of their trailors and get a sneak peak, click this link!
I was introduced to Peach’s Neet Feet (PNF) through Clinton Milliken. Clinton Milliken was a 7 year old Cancer warrior Ninja – who fought Medulloblastoma, a brain cancer, for over two years and stole my heart in an instant. Clinton was only on this earth for 7 short years, one month and two days, but his impact has been powerful. He and his Mom created Clinton’s Club a non-profit organization that supports families affected by Pediatric Cancer in his memory and strives to change the statistic 46/7. Clinton loved Random Acts of Kindness (RAOK) and specifically requested them to be performed on his last birthday with us (12/17). Therefore, it is no surprise that Clinton loved Peach and her mission! Two peas in a pod. (www.clintonsclub.org)
PNF is a grassroots custom shoe donation project. Madison Steiner and her team of guest artists hand paint and donate canvas shoes for children battling cancer, serious illness, and lifelong disabilities. Shortly after meeting Clinton, he received his pair of PNF’s and oh how he loved those shoes! I remember how amazing they looked, but more vividly I remember how they made Clinton feel. Clinton’s PNF’s brought him Joy and made him smile that smile. He used descriptive words like “cool”, “colorful” and “special” to describe his shoes. You can see some snazzy photos of Clinton’s shoes here: http://www.peachsneetfeet.com/theirstory/57-clinton.
Being introverted naturally lent Clinton to be a thinker and he had an amazing analytical mind. He told me all about the process of painting shoes, and how he had picked what should be on his very own. Clinton’s shoes were sponsored by Fletcher Christian, a complete stranger. We probably never thanked him appropriately, but as I wrote this post I thought about him and decided to message a note of thanks. Better late than never! This is the reply I received today “Well, no thank-you was ever needed. As odd as it may be Clinton had a very big impact in my life, and helped initiate a change for the better. But, I did it in the first place just to help bring a smile to someone who needed it” I’m telling you people – this is where the magic starts! It may seem like just a pair of painted shoes, but it’s so much more. We all knew Clinton as a cheeky 7 year old hero. Our hero, who touched the lives of complete strangers – and still is to this day.
There always seems to be a story to tell, that is – if you pay attention. Not just listening, but really putting “feet” to the needs of those around you. I specifically remember my father refusing to hear negative words spoken, and he certainly would not tolerate laziness. I can not recall exactly what prompted this life lesson, but I do remember being very young and riding with him to a place where others had far less than we did. I can still hear his words –“no matter how bad you think your current situation is, there is always someone who has less than you, yet show far more gratitude.” He usually ended these discussions with expectations of ways we should contribute. Perhaps this is one of the reasons I was immediately drawn to Peach’s Neet Feet and Madison’s incredible vision. So after Clinton received his shoes, I quickly checked out the PNF website www.peachsneetfeet.com and began following their efforts via social media. Talk about love at first sight! I knew I had to sponsor shoes for more kids – and spread the word of this fantastic non-profit. Soon, my friends were contacting me, begging me to get them an “in” so they too could sponsor shoes. There really is no “in” – just send them your money! I have always said – there was just something special about Clinton – and Peach saw it too. She dedicated this piece to our Ninja King. (Watch all the way to the end!)
Fast forward a year full of connections and opportunities to sponsor shoes. I have experienced an immeasurable amount of joy by sponsoring and watching these kids receive their shoes. At this point, I just go online and send money to Peach and her team works their magic. In a somewhat routine email, I received notification that my last donation had sponsored some rocking PNF’s for not only a Leukemia warrior – but a Down’s Syndrome (DS) Leukemia warrior! If you are not aware – kids with DS are at an increased risk for Leukemia – but it’s a double edged sword. The very genetic mutation that lends itself to better NED rates, are the very same mutations that increase the risk of Leukemia. It’s hard to put into words exactly what happened next. Somehow through the magic of social media, Keeton’s mom, Misty and I realized that we are long lost sisters or something! In the very short time since Keeton received his PNF’s, I learned that his parents wanted more than ever to have a 3rd birthday party for him –and just have one day of being a “normal” kid. However, going from two incomes to one while fighting childhood cancer just doesn’t save room in the family budget for birthday parties. WHAT? I could provide that! I immediately fell in love with Keeton – from a photo. I printed it out the same day I received it – and there it has stayed on my refrigerator and in my Bible – a reminder to pray for this child each day. Most mornings, Keeton is the first thing I see. Keeton loves Blue’s Clues and my heart was stolen by Keeton. So – with some help from other Clinton’s Clubbers, we planned, created, and crafted our way into creating a Blue’s Clue’s Birthday Bash to beat the band! Volunteers came together with countless hours of crafting and executing. None of our volunteers knew Keeton, nor would get the chance to meet him. At the time that I committed, I didn’t even know where he lived – but anywhere is accessible by aircraft – right? As it turns out, we only live 3 hours apart! I drove from Nashville with my son – and a car loaded full of Blue (and a cake that made it over Monteagle mountain doing – you know, the speed limit!). We had 30 minutes of set up time – never seeing the party location, but with Keeton’s local friends, we pulled off a fantastic Blue’s Clue’s themed party. It was an amazing experience, one that has changed my life for sure. To be able to watch this little guy dance, play and eat cake with that fabulous smile – worth every minute and more. Today, Misty posted this on my facebook wall: “Lori, on days my faith is weak and doubts flood my mind… I know a greater power is there watching and waiting for the perfect time to send a special someone into your life. It’s truly amazing how a pair of shoes could change our life, but those magic shoes have touched our hearts and our life in more ways than I can count. You could’ve sponsored any child, but you fell in love and chose this precious ray of sunshine named Keeton. It was an instant love and connection for all of us with you and your family. It feels like we’ve known each other forever and we are truly blessed & honored to call you all family. God’s ultimate plan♥ Life hasn’t been easy and not having family has been even harder. I’m so thankful for having you in our family. I would be lost without the love and support from our “c” family. Thank you God for blessing us with you♥.
My favorite Keeton story is yet to come, I just know it. I can not wait for the day that we celebrate his “I Love you’s” spoken to his Mom. During my short visit, Misty told me how she had the chance to take Keeton to Disney on Ice recently. He does not communicate with words, but the joy in his heart and his level of excitement was so overwhelming that each time a new character came on the ice, he turned around and hugged his Mom. I love this. This is a true representation of a PNF warrior.
It really is an amazing thing. They are just a pair of shoes. Instantly family through a pair of shoes? I never set out with the intentions of being thrown into the Childhood Cancer world – but no one ever does. I have been blessed to know these families and what they give to me is far more than I could ever give back. I have loved with them, lost with them – and will fight with them to change this unequal equation of funding for a cure. It’s mind boggling really. There are too many beautiful families to mention in one post, but I can assure you one quality they all possess for sure. They spend their time living. Sometimes moment by moment, but never just waiting for death to occur. Until the last breath their child takes they fight and have hope, they raise each other up. They love like nothing I have ever seen. They celebrate the smallest of things – like band-aid drives and plastic bracelets with each other’s names on them. I have witnessed more living and more life experiences wrapped up in short lives than some who live 85+ years ever experience. It’s true, I’m a volunteer – but I get paid. BIG. As I was pulling away from the party (the first time – Misty led me to the hotel, but couldn’t keep driving home as planned. She had to pull in and get out to say good-bye one more time) little Keeton slapped his hand over his perfect little mouth and blew kisses to me. Misty was stunned. She didn’t think that Keeton really connected with others, but he did. I have a feeling there will be a lot more of those blown kisses delivered, and I can’t wait to catch them!
So, yes – it’s just a pair of shoes. A magical love-filled pair of shoes. Thank-you Madison and PNF for allowing us to be part of your tribe.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4
Thursday, February 23rd was supposed to be an ordinary albeit busy day. Ordinary for me means well planned and perfectly executed in my head. I had a consulting job that required flying to Tampa for a few hours and returning the same day.
It all started well – for the most part I was on time (people who know me, hush). I left the ‘boro and headed to BNA and as I rounded the ramp to I24 – knew it was time to get my Nascar drive on. Dodging traffic, necessary dumping onto shortcut roads ensued and I made it through security in a record 9 minutes. As I approached the gate, I could see the plane barely backing away. First EVER missed flight, other than those I have on purpose rescheduled, and I think I do more flying than the average person. The gate attendant smiled big and said “Good morning Ms. Hoyt, I have put you on the next flight to Charlotte” Agh! Good time to have permission to have a bad attitude. So I took my little bad attitude to the coffee shop to review the notes for work. I fired up the IPAD and settled in. Waiting over an hour is not something I am good at. I finished my notes as they began boarding the next flight.
I normally do not fly US Airways. Not because they are more expensive (and they are) – but because I feel their customer service as a whole is dreadful. Case in point: Emergency seat #14 was empty on this flight and they offered it to a retired Sergeant Major. This seat gives a little extra leg room but also some responsibility in case of an emergency. He said yes, and without any gratitude the staff informed him that there is a fee to take this seat. The four of us standing nearby were slightly stunned. He politely told her that in case of an emergency – he would do what he could to help but he would not pay to do so. The entire flight boarded – we all sat in our assigned seats. His was next to mine. As the plane began to fill up the 3 guys and I (in our 15th row) wondered if they had sold the emergency exit seat. They did not. After they pushed back from the gate, we suggested that he sit there. He moved. The staff told him he could not sit there. What is unfortunate for him is something I tell my public service friends all the time – they have you pegged. They know you would help for free. Regardless, we had a great discussion about the stupidity of that policy. In our stupidity conversation, this soldier told me he was on his way to Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC). My first reaction was to tell him to not go there. But he said he was treated there initially and goes there for PT. He quipped that most Army guys are willing to talk about the Army. He did not tell me about his injury or what happened specifically. The all male (plus well – me) conversation turned to the subject of Golf. He watched me sell some TEAM CLINTON bands and I gave him one. He asked about Clinton. I have a lot to say about Clinton but I was trying to make it relevant and perhaps secure some golfers – so I told him about our upcoming Fall tournament. The plane landed and we found ourselves walking to neighboring gates for our connecting flights. I had to go a few gates further – so he hugged me and said, you know “If I can take a bullet in Bosnia for people who most of the time do not deserve it, I can certainly play Golf in Nashville, TN for a 7 year old who deserved more”. In retrospect, maybe he wasn’t hugging me at all – he was just helping me remain on my feet. We exchanged email addresses and he emailed me first. He said he would be inviting a friend of his, named Tom. He said as part of his PT at WRAMC they gave him Golf clubs and he learned to play but he is not any good. His friend’s name – however – Tom Watson. That my friends is a true story and one that I can not wait to watch unfold.
I got to the gate and looked at recent Facebook posts. I found out that my cousin was on the first flight that I missed to Charlotte. I called him and he was already on Post and there was no time to meet up. I only mention this because I am certain that no airline could handle two Woodard’s on one plane, and because it makes me think that had we been on the plane together I probably would not have talked to this retired Sergeant Major. Amazing right? The day had just begun!
I boarded to Tampa and had a boring although smooth flight. I got picked up at the airport, consulted – learned all I could in the 3 hours I was there – noted it was hot as heck in FL and briefly saw the ocean.
As I walked into the Tampa airport, I proceeded to the tram and a lost couple asked if it mattered which side they entered the tram. I explained no, the doors would open correctly, and asked them where they were going? Home they said. I heard it – an accent so memorable, I felt like I was home. They said “England” I said, where? As in, try me. (In the same way people say they are from upstate NY). They tell me they are from an ever so tiny little village in Norfolk, England. Then I told them I lived in Croxton, Thetford, Norfolk. Not a town by any means, I mean – we didn’t even have a pub. Their eyes grew bigger. We talked for 30 minutes about so many things. England. Jumpers. Ribena. Cold. Fog. France. Brandon. England. Lorin. Clinton. America. Vacations. Barbados. At one point, Brian said he is always surprised at how friendly Americans are. The words “oh that’s just southerners” actually came out of my mouth, and I laughed near hysterics when he said “southerners then”? We decided we better get to the other side of the security check point so we moved through and I, like usual got stopped. I could do another blog post on anti-profiling, but suffice it to say -if you have red hair, blue eyes and look them in the face – you will get pulled. Every single time. As I got to the other side of check point catch that girl, the retired couple from England were waiting. They pulled out a little piece of paper that served as their business card. She cried, said she hated good-byes. I said the only thing I could think of (borrowed from my brother Jeff) – it’s not good-bye, it’s “see you again, then”.
So, I tucked the paper into my bag and had like 5 minutes to get to the gate. I pulled out the paper after I boarded and read the note on the back. Please do come to England. Our flat is your flat, and our boat in Cedex, France is yours for the asking. How can I not be blown away by this? I just can’t.
Lorin has this dream to live in England on a farm -and sew her own clothes. It sounds silly, but if you know Lorin – it makes perfect sense. I do not know yet what her dream really looks like, but I can not wait to see it come true. The photo below was taken a few years ago – but it’s one of my favorites of her and I. Ever looked into a mirror and have it look and talk like you right back?
My son Brandon, was named after a tiny little village in England where we briefly lived in a small freezing bungalow, until we moved to Croxton – further away from the Americans. He has dreams of living in Japan – but he hasn’t been to Brandon, England yet. This is on the list this year. Totally going. One step closer to that too.
Overall, a very productive day. I came away from that day exhausted and back in Nashville. I am certain the English teachers viewing this will tell me that the ending of this story should be longer and tie back into all the components. But this is my story, and I am not being graded. As I drove back to the boro, I couldn’t help but wonder if these experiences are around everyone everyday – we are just too consumed in busy-ness to not look, not connect? ONE day. What a difference it can make.
This beautiful child calls me Antey. She turned 11 yesterday, and I have no idea how she is eleven already. I suppose in the same fashion that Lorin is already 17 and Brandon 12. And Clinton – forever 7. Everyone gets so busy with life and before you know – the kids are all grown up. My goal is to celebrate these children and how they make me a better person.
In the same way that our family recycles faces, we recycle names. This beauty is my great niece – the first of the greats. She got her name from my grandmother – Jennie, who gave it to Jenna’s mother Jennie (we just enhanced it a little). We also added my middle name Lyn, because – well, Jennie’s middle name is also Lynn (after me, but my brother spelled it wrong). I made sure I was not only in the delivery room grabbing this beautiful head, but my best-friend delivered her – so we got to fill out – no sign – the request for her official birth certificate. No mis-spellings this time! The lengths I have to go through. Secretly, I think her mother wanted her name to be Madisyn or Peyton, but this child is surely a Jenna. So I was right.
Here she is world. 2/17/01. There she is to the left – dressed in Brandon’s sleeper. It was a hectic time, but oh so amazing. Just a short time before -we were a family of 3. Had just built a house, transitioned to civilian life and had you know – the American dream. Mother, father, daughter. Then – in true Woodard style -we added not 1 (Jennie – June 1999) to the house, not two (Brandon -Oct 1999) but Jenna too (Feb 2001) – in a span of 16 months and – done! Family of 6. Doubled in size. Lorin still can not believe this – 13 years later.
Jenna’s mom had moved to Maryland to go to college. Some say that Jenna’s timing was not perfect, and they’d be right, because it was impeccable.
She made her mother sick from day one – and my defensive driving skills while having a vomiting passenger commenced. Somehow in the madness of Southern Maryland traffic, we got through it. So you see, Jenna made me a better driver. I’ve been in plenty of deliveries and this one was special. I swore my bff had lost her mind when she placed all the “organs” outside of the incision for just a looksy. She actually told Jennie to shut up at one point and we ignored the medical talk about just feeling like you have to throw up – until she did just that – right in the OR.
The night before Jenna was born – we stayed up nearly all night – so we were already a hot mess when we got to the OR. All I remember are the words “placenta previa” and “get there now”. We got there fast and after Jennie attempting to deliver with underwear on and begging to turn over during the sedation – time completely stopped the second I saw Jenna’s face. She was exactly how I ordered. A picture perfect copy of her mother with no visually identifiable trace of any other DNA. We brought her home to Marlin Ct. – and months turned into years of sleep deprivation and pure Joy.
There were the common things – like shared cold bugs, pediatrician visits, toddlers gone wild -running around with no clothes, pink eye, Teletubbies, Blues Clues, Dora the Explorer and the messiest little cape cod styled house ever. I miss these days sometimes more than I can handle.
Before she got her first word out – Jenna had this laugh that only she will ever have and could never be duplicated. It is simply impossible to hear her laugh and not laugh too – and it absolutely makes my day. She does however have a perfect Jones/Roberts/Woodard mix and her laugh can stop certain people in their tracks. They want to laugh – but something instinctual makes them wonder if there isn’t a hint of sarcasm “this joke is on me” sorta thing.
I got to keep her at my house until she was 4 and then she moved out. I was certain I would not survive this, and she didn’t either – but somehow we have managed, with only occasional set-backs. It was about this time too – that she started to read and write. She she labeled me “Antey”. It stuck. I am an Auntie many times over – but the Antey to only one. She is the most beautiful brown eyed girl in the world. A close second is her Mom, who was the center of my world from 6th grade on. Jennie (the Mom, keep up) is my first born niece almost daughter. Now, clearly – there were many who thought Jennie was born way too soon too. I remember the exact day and moment I found out she was due – and thought to myself – why are all these people upset? I think this is the best thing to ever happen to this family. Now, looking back – I still don’t think I was wrong.
The next part of this story would be, I moved to Tennessee and Jenna and I were certain this was not survivable. Sure, she’d come in the summer but you – know it’s just not the same. I am ever so thankful that phone plans are now unlimited minutes. Refereeing discussions between two other Woodard girls is always a fun thing for Antey’s to do. The summer of 2010 she came to TN, and when the kids here returned to school – she stayed. Her plan all along may have been to have a week with Antey to herself as she grinned when we dropped Lorin and Brandon off each morning. Good thing Maryland doesn’t start school on the same schedule.”I need my Antey” campaign started in full assault mode – and we’re taking no prisoner’s.So what is she like? I mean, other than beautiful? She has a heart of pure gold. She worries about others above herself – and she desperately tries to fit in, when she shouldn’t have to. She is the sweetest thing ever and has mastered the use of the sweet voice. She can add the word “so” a lot of times to the phrase I love you, and when I say, but I love you more than that – she’ll say “I know you do”. She loves peace signs, or anything from the 70’s – and is possibly the coolest kid ever. She went through a Full House phase that didn’t bother me one bit. Uncle Jessie is Uncle Jessie after all. She wrote an assignment for “special persons day” in 2010 that Antey flew to MD and back in one day to attend. See paper to the left. All about me – her special person. Apparently, special person is now politically correct for “Grandparent’s Day”, but – call it what it was – it was me and hearing aids in a catholic school. My kind of Heaven. But all that mattered was the brown curly haired, brown eyed girl up on the stage singing her heart out, like she was the only one there. The teacher who was clearly too young to teach said “look everyone, it’s Antey from TN”. Apparently, Jenna is a storyteller. Imagine that. She sweet talked her way into something we were not supposed to do, but I can not recall what it was.
Jenna snuggles into a hug like no other. She has skill like a stealth ninja if you attempt the sneak out of her room while she sleeps sort of trick. Intel has not confirmed this fully, but I believe this past summer Jenna and I may have been put on punishment together. For all Woodard girl out blog post readers -is this a common theme? We didn’t do anything wrong. We just had some fun. Wouldn’t you? Anteyhood is a gift and one I intend on celebrating every chance we get.
My wishes for Jenna are like those of any other Antey. Success, good health, and most importantly someone who loves her for her without changing her. Or deal with me.
I look at her often and wonder if everyone else sees and appreciates how beautiful she really is.