On President’s Day Leadership

When I hear the word “President”, I think about leadership. I posted the following on facebook this morning:

Today our Nation celebrates President’s Day. Although I do not agree with our current President on much of anything, I do respect the office of the President of the United States. If were in charge, it would be mandatory that any new President go through a minimum of military basic training and one deployment, if they have zero active duty military experience. In addition to the oath of office, I would ensure that they commit their leadership to some of our past President’s thoughts as quoted below:

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – President John F. Kennedy
(How many promises are made during campaign time, then never heard again?)

“No president who performs his duties faithfully and conscientiously can have any leisure.” – President James Polk
(How many costly vacations are there now, with the average American family having zero? This country and those who do actual work for or fought for her owe nobody a vacation. If you are a person that requires this much vacation, this is not the job for you.)

“We should live our lives as though Christ were coming this afternoon.” – President Jimmy Carter

“I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created free and equal.” – President Abraham Lincoln

(We say we are there, but we are not even close).

 This post has sparked an entire conversation about leadership. The following is my list of leadership observations, which means these are the characteristics I have found successful leaders to have in common with each other:

Leaders get up and are productive early in the day. They do not sleep until 10am.    Ever.

I’m not certain more of a statement is needed – but if I review in my mind the characteristics of the smartest savviest leaders I know, I have never known any of them to be in bed until 10am.

Leaders do not dress like they just rolled out of bed.

Ever.

Leaders are consistent.

Leaders are instinctual decision makers.

They can or are capable of making 30 decisions in 30 minutes – No lie. Decisions that move in the forward direction of productive momentum. This reminds me of my early soccer coaching days. I never allowed the forward offense to “stop” or “trap” the ball that was already headed towards the goal. Instead, I taught them to move to the ball – and continue its momentum.  I watched many coaches with pee-wee players spend a lot of time on drills for “trapping”. It puzzled me. Even the youngest kids show offensive or defensive skill sets early on. Teach the defenders to trap and stop – then send. Teach the offense to move to the send, not stop its momentum. Of course, I also like to make them practice with their arms locked so they moved as one – you know, as a team toward the goal, until they “get it” about team work. Oh yes, that’s right – my generation likes all players to be treated equally, with equal play time and everyone is a winner with a trophy. Yeah.  Because real life is just like that.

 In professional settings, I have always enjoyed allowing employees to job swap for a day. In medicine, the clinical back office thinks the administrative/clerical staff does nothing all day long but sit.  They think this – until they sit in that chair for a day and have to multi-task more than an air traffic controller while having a sweet cheerful voice (as in “receive them well”) every time the phone rings out of the 151 calls tracked on a medical Monday morning.  This one day of job swapping can work wonders for team work.

Leaders use excellent language and have great communication skills.

 I believe, really believe that words DO matter.  The words leaders use compel people to follow them. It amazes me when (as a consultant) I receive a call from a very frustrated business owner and he or she rambles on about why nothing works in their business, sighting many examples of poor productivity  Inevitably, I visit their work environment and observe those in charge (or owners themselves) as the most negative people ever. They hate their work, their job – their own company. They hate themselves. They speak ill of their employees – yet they wonder why in the world no one likes to – or wants to work for them. Here’s a hint: if you can’t stand yourself and think your company is a lousy place to work – so do we!

My father hated foul language. He did use an occasional “cuss word” – but rarely did he have to raise his voice. He told me that simple people used simple language, and he felt strongly that if people needed to use foul language to get their point across – they were most likely suffering from very low self esteem or a poor education, and almost always did not see the value or pride in a properly kept self or property. Definition: guilder.

 Leaders Genuinely Enjoy Responsibilities

            Successful leaders just love being leaders – not for the sake of power but for the meaningful and purposeful impact they can create.   When you have reached a senior level of leadership – it’s about your ability to serve others and this can’t be accomplished unless you genuinely enjoy what you do. People who truly possess a servant’s heart will be successful. It just follows a natural path.

            I had a conversation with a local chiropractor last week and as we discussed adrenal fatigue, etc – the subject of vacation came up. I know he’s trained to recommend certain things, but with tact and couth, I vetoed his recommendation.  Specifically – a long vacation – like on a ship. These types of vacations could drive most leaders completely out of their mind. He secretly admitted he felt the same exact way. A ten day cruise would have the exact opposite effect on me, than what I assume is it’s purpose.  I love to travel – I just don’t want to travel slowly, and for the sake of all things good – not on a germ infested ship with little to no chance of getting off safely in case of an emergency. And no food that I could ever eat.  Did we not learn anything from the Titanic? Floating hotels, I just don’t get it. I prefer to spend my money getting quickly to my destination and to learn as much as I can about the people and their customs while I am there.  In other words – leaders work. A lot. They do vacation, but they tend to still engage in learning activities while “at that place of rest”. Although I have not mastered the skill of power napping, I think I do fairly well at “power vacationing”.  Normally, there is so much information flowing and synapsing through my brain – that taking a long lunch or a Friday Funday session feels like a vacation.

 Leaders have positive energy and a positive attitude

As such, they are likeable, respected and strong willed.  They don’t allow failures to disrupt momentum; they expect that they will fail – a lot.

Leaders create, implement and manage systems.

            Not that they don’t recognize the importance of their people, but they all recognize that in general – people are not manageable, but systems are. They build their systems so that a mediocre person with mediocre talent can follow them and are ecstatic when they get a stellar performer. When this is done well, anyone who can follow their systems can work for them. Period.

They “kick non performers” off the short bus – fast.

            It never ends well otherwise. If the best behavior is exerted in the first 90 days, and that behavior is nowhere close to acceptable, they act quickly – and save themselves time, money and headache. it sounds mean, but it is what it is.

 Obviously my observations have been most beneficial when applied appropriately. I also have some personal rules that I apply to almost all situations (both business and personal).

I chose to spend my time:

  • With those who build me up.  If I am the sum total of the five people or activities that I spend most of my time with and those five people influence the way in which I behave and act in the outer world, and the way in which I perceive, think and feel in the inner world of my mind – I must chose wisely.
  • With a close friend or two that are capable of being my mirror mentors – they tell me exactly what they see in me, about me, with no holds barred, even if I don’t want to hear it – and I usually don’t
  • With those who are far smarter than me. That’s just – well, smart. In opposition, I have watched many bad leaders only allow those not as smart as them under them – so they are never challenged.
  • Not watching television that has any chance of “dumbing” me down. There are a lot of options out there. I have a hard time even understanding why anyone would spend time watching most television and feel completely lost when people speak of “honey boo-boo, duck anything, etc”. I don’t judge others, it’s just not for me and I don’t have the time.
  • Reading. Everything. I don’t believe everything I read, but it’s important to know what’s out there and form my own opinions
  • By only spending my money with people and businesses I like. I watch sales people and meet with many of them. Most of them do not get “it”. Long before I had a business degree, I formulated with a best friend the rule that in order to spend my money with you- I had to like you. Period. It just cannot be painful to spend my own money. In fact, I had an exact example situation of this today. Said stalker rep showed up on site after leaving or being forced to leave his last company. He freaked me out then with his stalker like tactics (private jet, pick me up and take me to dinner, where do I live? Creep) and today’s purpose after several unanswered phone calls and texts (like he’s my friend and can text me) was to show up on site and tell the staff that he knew I was blowing him off, but he had urgent information that was crucial to my business. The only thing crucial to my business is that he is not in it.
  • Raising childhood cancer awareness. Many times I have felt heartbreak more than I previously thought I could bear. This is hard “in the trenches” kind of work that I want to quit every day. I have never wanted to quit anything more or as often. There is nothing natural about personally witnessing a young child die and their mother’s grief – and then most of his friends too. This experience has led me to be ashamed of my generation/adults and the decisions we make. We can and must do better than this. I guarantee that in any other situation (be it a shooter, or terrorist, a drunk driver, a text message sent while driving, etc – if those acts killed 7 kids each and every day, we’d have federal legislation in no time to ban whatever it was – the gun, the texting, the drinking and driving. Point taken?  46/7.

 

It’s just a pair of shoes

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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.Image

 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!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=IB8Uvf9JqhM

 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

Hope’s coming like a fire and its’ burning bright – Colors for Hope

Colors for Hope has (rightfully so) received a lot of press and media coverage in the past few weeks.  For those of you that are already our facebook “fans” – we thank-you for following us and for believing in our efforts.  We only act as the vessels of delivery for these beautiful children and the Hope that they inspire. We promised our little fighter, Clinton that we would carry on, and that we will do.  Kim presented the information to the Clinton’s Club executive board and we agreed to sponsor Colors For Hope.

Colors for Hope was inspired by a spoken wish from our Tay (Taylor Filorimo) to Clinton’s Mom,  Kim. Tay wanted to create her own nail polish – and she even knew what specific shade of Lime Green she wanted. This girl knows what she wants!  Kim has the incredible ability to just make things happen. Kim did all the background work to make this wish come true for Tay, and the rest of us struggle just to keep up! Tay’s Color For Hope  is Lime Green and is aptly named “Pray 4 Tay” – as this has been her personal campaign all along.  If you know Tay or have followed her story, you will see that this is not just a quote from her, but the way she faces every day -“I will NOT let the FEAR of cancer STRIKE me out”–Taylor Filorimo.  Our Clinton loved his Tay as does everyone who meets her.  To learn more about Tay, watch this video that tell’s Tay’s story and if you haven’t heard it ~ you should listen to it – it’s her song – “She’s a Hero – Tay’s Song” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfNh2LSCNP0&feature=share. Here’s a photo of Clinton and Tay that was taken last March.

Of course, just one Color For Hope was not enough for Kim so we developed the inaugural set of 9 colors, honoring those who still show us how to battle, or in memory of the couragous others we have lost. At least one of us (and usually all of us) has a personal connection to these children.  Our current colors are here:

 Now  – here’s the great part – we launched the sale of our original order and were completly blown away by selling out 100% of our inventory in under 4 hours.  We had not even completed our press releases – this was all acheived through social media alone.  We have tried to keep the associated costs very low because we want our administrative costs low and our giving dollars high.  We have many orders that have been sitting waiting to ship out as soon as the product arrives. We expect arrival date to be Monday, May 21st – so if you have not received your order – it’s on it’s way – we promise. We sold all over the United States – and then went global with orders from England, Germany and South Africa. Amazing!

 You may order one single bottle of any color – for $8. The entire set of all 10 colors is now $70 (the inaugural set pictured above had 9). Let me explain some of the confusion on shipping. The shopping cart on our website adds $5 shipping for each order. So, if you order 4 Ninja Blues it will automatically add $20 shipping. If you need multiple bottles of one color – please email lori@clintonsclub.org and we’ll create a seperate invoice and send it to you via paypal.  To place an order – visit our website www.clintonsclub.org and click on the second tab – Colors For Hope.

So what are we doing with the money? 100% of the proceeds will stay with Clinton’s Club to be used for all kids with cancer in our area. So far, we have sponsored events and provided media coverage and assistance for other events in our area – but we are mostly still in fund-raising mode. We have not spoken this publicly – but we are saving every penny that we can (donations, yes – we’ll take them!) because it is our dream to open up – Clinton’s Clubhouse on December 17th on what would have been Clinton’s 8th birthday. We are praying this will happen and the funds will be there. We know the property we want, now we just have to wait for it to all work out! Clinton’s Clubhouse will serve as a place where Cancer kids and their families can come for fellowship with each other, counseling and classes – as well as fun things – such as camping and “feeshin”!  We have plans for art classes, Mom’s Day out, etc. We are working on room sponsors and so many other things – it will make your head spin!

Thank you- thank-you for your continued support of us!

www.facebook.com/clintonsclub

www.facebook.com/colorsforhope

 

 

 

 

 

Bullet in Bosnia


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.

-WGO

Antey’s Angel

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. 

My sweet sweet Clinton.

Those of you who know me, know Clinton. A brave little chubby faced 7 year old fireman rain boot wearing King. Clinton was diagnosed with a Medullablastoma (brain cancer) just before his 5th birthday.  Clinton did have Cancer – but as you read his story or watch his videos – you’ll soon see – Cancer did not have him.  Clinton was a somewhat introverted child who was quite a thinker. He watched, listened and he learned -therefore having most things figured out before he did them – and mastered most things on his first real try.  He was so funny and his laugh one of the sweetest sounds ever. He was cranky, and sometimes irritable. It took an entire kingdom to care for him well, under the direction of the King Mother.  Saturday, January 14th was a beautiful, yet most difficult day.  Lorin and I met Kim, Clinton and Max at the office so Lorin and Kim could work. My job was to play with the boys.

I do this well (and only cause moderate trouble).  We normally would not stay in the office and play – but we did that day. Lorin raced down the hallways with “the Max” on a medical chair and Clinton and I laughed and dared them to go faster.  Clinton pushed Max around on a dolly while Kim and Lorin were in the attic. We hung out, and just laughed. Clinton was extra nice to Max this day. Rare.  After an hour or so of playing there,  Clinton, Max and I left Smyrna for Murfreesboro around 1:50pm.  We were singing and laughing – and some of us were dancing in our booster seats.  We had a discussion about business cards (see the card in the photo – I missed the failure to “bleed the top edge, but my boy gave it a thumbs up anyhow -and this is the photo I snapped at 2:06pm),  cumulus clouds, Mangers, and the beach. Clinton had loaded the side pocket of the passenger side door with “ice” bullets just in case anyone tried to follow me. He always has my back!

Clinton loved sweet tea. Being the marketing protege’ that he was, he did not miss the McDonald’s arches at exit 70. I convinced him to wait until Murfreesboro. We exited at medical center and drove to the N. Thompson location. He got his sweet tea.  The receipt says it was 2:08. We headed to the house and were attempting to cross over Broad on N. Thompson (wait for 3 light changes). After Max listened to “Light Up” by the Newsboys 10 times, Clinton grabbed his forehead – and I asked him if the music was too loud. He said no, he just wanted a different song. I hit shuffle and “I can only imagine” by Mercy Me came on. Clinton approved. The words  “will I dance for you Jesus, or in awe of you be still” had just played when Clinton said “I can dance right here in my booster seat.”  We crossed over Broad. Merged left and Clinton grabbed my right arm. I asked him if he was going to be sick (normal drill, drive, grab pink puke bucket). He shook his head no.  There are other details that I’ll leave out – but, he never let go – and he never lost consciousness, nor eye contact. I knew immediately he was having a stroke.  My biggest issue  – that felt like an eternity, but was probably a 3 second decision – was to decide on turning that car around and go back towards MTMC or get home and intercept EMS. I opted for home/EMS for two reasons. One, I was slightly closer to home – and I had to maintain his airway, drive and keep Max safe and not scared. I knew if I got home, Max could be with Brandon. I knew if I went to MTMC with Max and Clinton, the odds were they would make me leave Clinton and that was not going to happen. I got as close to home as I could and told Max we were going to race to my front door. In true Max style – he took off and never even looked back.  I ditched the car (I think 3 of four doors were open), to help Clinton. I called 911 before we got off N. Thompson. I may not have told the exact truth about my location, but I wanted them on the move to my house as I was. I did not want to take the chance on confusing anything on an intercept.  EMS did not disappoint. First responder was pulling up as I was. EMS was there in under 3 minutes. We got Clinton to MTMC in 9 minutes, and to VUMC in under one hour. I did the best I knew to do, and have reviewed my decision half a million times in my head.  The Vanderbilt LifeFlight team was amazing. Mark Tankersley, RN, CEN, EMT will forever be one of my hero’s.  Their website is http://www.vanderbilthealth.com/lifeflight/.  We then spent 5 days at Vanderbilt Children’s. During this time we knew the news was not good, but in true Clinton fashion, he was not done giving us gifts. He opened his eyes several times and responded to questions with yes and no nods. He was not scared. He knew we were there. He was not in pain. He had heard the things we were saying to him. He wanted his Foley catheter out for starters, and while we were at it – his intubation too.  He managed to get his Foley out with his monkey like toes. It took all hands on deck a couple of nights to keep him entertained and not tube yanking. He even did that on the sly!

I did think and worry about this day and how I would handle it.  I am thankful that God showed his grace and allowed me the self control needed to keep my promise and stay with my little King until the end, plus a few hours more – until he was ready to take another ride. Clinton was peaceful, he did not suffer and was in his mother’s arms – no better place to be. He knew he was loved. He was surrounded by the people who loved him most, and who have never wavered. We would have never chosen this to be so – but what a gift in the end. We think of so many parents who get phone calls with no chance to say good-bye. We did over and over. We didn’t always know what to say (okay, maybe Kim did and I didn’t) but Clinton knew that we would stay and fight with him if that is what he chose, or let him go if it was to be. I will forever love the photo below. A superboy who wore a cape to chemo – and his personal assistant utter mutter. 

Kim and Jeremy gave our little warrior the ultimate gift by letting him go, and telling him that Mom would be okay. Clinton shared with me months ago that his greatest concern was for his mother – and he wanted to know how I knew that she would be okay.  He wanted to know how long she would have to wait to see him again, and if she and I would always be friends – even when we grow up.

This little boy with a wise grown up soul, brought me unspeakable Joy. No one met him without falling in love, and those who didn’t meet him in person, fell in love. If you ever have a chance to be someone’s “utter mutter”, do it. Don’t love them the best way you know how – love them the best way his own mother would (with some added spoiling, and “getting in trouble” together). Yes, it is true we once were put on punishment together. Whatever. Kim does not like to be called “strong”, but she is. She was chosen as the only person who could be the mother of a precious little King on loan to us for 7 very short years. She provided more than a lifetime of experiences for her little best friend. They have a connection that is often overlooked by many mothers and sons. He opened his mouth and often her words came out. They got each other.

It makes us happy to see his photo and smiling face plastered all over social media. Don’t forget your random acts of kindness (RAOK) in our little Kings name. Clinton loved this and was a giver. Raise Childhood Cancer Awareness and insist on equal funding for pediatric cancer research. Right now, the equation is not balanced. For every dollar allocated to adult cancers, children get 30 cents. We ought to be ashamed of this. 46/7 Awareness deserves and will get posts dedicated to this alone. If you do not know what 46/7 is – ask me. Google it. Better yet, ask your legislators if they know. Demand to know the numbers of allocated funds percentages to pediatric cancers before you give.

Clinton spent many weekends being well loved at my house. Lorin and Brandon spent countless hours making sure he was entertained and happy. It’s true, we went on adventures, ran out in the wee hours of the morning if he wanted something to eat that I didn’t have, built with legos until I couldn’t see straight, watched spongebob until I too knew every word – but every minute was worth it. Together, we pushed the limits of having the most insane fun we could have without getting into trouble with Mom. Clinton had life experiences that many live into their 80’s and never experience. Yet, through it all – the one thing that simply amazes me – is that in the worst moments like last Saturday, I realize that I still think that life is amazingly beautiful -and so is he. He was a gift.

There are few words that do justice to Clinton’s bravery and endless optimism in the face of adversity. His smile and laugh were simply infectious.

I love this photo, it’s like Heaven was shining down in the OR on 12/17/2004! Since meeting Kim, I have been in awe at the selfless sacrifices presented by her. She truly put Clinton’s needs above her own without hesitation. She set aside her own anticipatory grief and fear while her embrace became a stronghold of strength, comfort, and love in a time when he needed her most. Even as he transitioned from her arms to the loving arms of Jesus…because she instinctively knew that’s what this little King needed. I haven’t always found the right words to express to her my gratitude for sharing her children with me. I know I do not deserve them, but I am so glad to be chosen by Clinton (and now Max and Jordan too). The connection is inexplicable. I have thought of myself if this same situation presented and if I would ever have the courage and bravery to let my son spend time with someone other than me if I knew those days were numbered.  Kim will tell you she just needed rest. It’s not all together true. It was one of the largest gifts I have ever received and I think she taught me the greatest lesson on selflessness that I may ever learn.

On our weekend visits or the one day we played hooky from school and work – Clinton would tell me about all of you. Some of you I didn’t meet until a few weeks ago. As I met you, I watched to see what Clinton saw.  I am certain I will recall more of these conversations over the next few weeks and will share them with you as I do. Clinton told me about:

  • His cousin Elizabeth, as well as how excited he was that the new baby girl cousins were born this summer
  • Clinton told me that G-Tom uses his convertible to take the trash to the dump and one time even put manure in that same car-and it stunk for days.
  • Clinton said he loved going to GiGi’s house because she didn’t mind watching his favorite shows all the time.
  • I’m not sure if you knew this, but when Clinton wrestled or played with his Daddy, Clinton always won. Clinton asked me one day if I knew he was born second – but that it was him that made Kim and Jeremy a family. He had this way of making statements that grabbed you as he went on to play with play-doh or build with legos as I tried to not just sob.
  • One of the first things he ever showed me was a photo of his Kate. He adored this little girl, and they were the best of friends.
  •  Clinton loved his big brother Jordan and listened to his every word and thinks he knows all there is to know about games and music.
  • We all know Max was surviving his toddler years when Clinton became sick. Sometimes medicine can make you irritable, but if you watched Clinton as a big brother – he always knew where Max was, what he was doing – and if he needed anything. He loved his little brother.
  • Clinton told of art and craft days with Aunt Kacy. I once asked him if he wanted to make something fun. Matter of factly he said “no, I do that with Aunt Kacy”. This smart boy had his own categories of who he did what with and made each of us feel special.

 Clinton’s unbridled enthusiasm for life was contagious, and I think you should catch it. If you didn’t know, Nissan makes all their cars for Clinton, especially the blue cube and his red racer – GT-R.  He was a professional Cube spotter and would just yell out CUBE when he spotted one. Since Thursday, I have seen two – and we now yell out Clinton. We’ll have to see about making one in Clinton blue. Now who would vote for an official paint color called Clinton Blue?

I’ll end with things that Clinton loved. He loved animals and wanted to be a Veterinarian; he loved visiting Trudy and Hugh’s farm – and told me about the birdfeeders there, he loved the color blue, he loved chocolate covered strawberries, Spongebob squarepants, the ocean, “feeshin”, he loved to “give” things, he loved the song “Sweet Home Alabama” and yes, he loved coffee. He is the only other person in my life that could be hanging out with me at like 2am and sort of whisper – “I want coffee” And then actually drink it with me in bed. Or get up and just dance – he had mad skills!

But, most of all, he loved:  you.  and me.

Clinton officially earned his angel wings at 2:46 on 1/19/12 when he was re-delivered. However, those of us who knew him know that he had them all along. 

Clinton’s obituary: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/tennessean/obituary.aspx?n=clinton-milliken-the-king&pid=155562016&fhid=4485&refsvce=facebook#.TxsWvl_Pss8.facebook

Clinton’s Club (non-profit 501(c) (3) can be found by clicking: http://www.clintonsclub.org/

You may also keep up with TEAM CLINTON on facebook by clicking here: http://www.facebook.com/clintonsclub

and here: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002561530531

Clinton’s entire story can be found by visiting his Caring Bridge site: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/clintonmilliken

Clinton’s Tribute Video (thank you Kyle Thigpen/Nissan)     http://youtu.be/rAvcMrPkkK0

And another  made by my friend Steve Williams- http://youtu.be/rAvcMrPkkK0

And if you really want to watch another fantastic video: http://youtu.be/lj8QqAP-Phg

For the record (the early years)

It’s true. People search the web for information on people like wild animals forage for food. I’m actually not kidding!

It’s a proven theory from the 70’s – and everyone knows we got a lot of good things in the 70’s, right? The optimal foraging theory is based on the assumption that, when searching for information, humans use “built-in” foraging mechanisms that evolved to help our animal ancestors find food. Why is this important? Well, if you understand the behavior, you can normally feed them what you want them to “find”. I. Love. This.

So, here goes – blogging about the blogger. I blog for a lot of people and companies and I love it.  I facebook, I tweet, use Voxer, Myspace, LinkedIn and just about everything in between. Most of these profiles are locked down like Ft. Knox on visitation day, so I thought instead of others assuming what they know to be true – everyone can just read, learn and enjoy the things that make me – me, or not.

This blog is probably most importantly for my children. They are amazing kids, probably better than any I have ever known – and better people than I deserve to call mine. I scrapbook their stories so that the world and they – will know how wanted they are and how loved they will always be. They are both so unique and there is no way I can say all I would need them to know on this one post, so I’ve added their own categories and will post about and to them there.

What would I give to have a book or blog of thoughts that my own father or grandfather wrote? Probably a right arm. (note to my mother: start now, you can write it on regular paper, no need to blog). I have possession of one I spent the weekend writing with my maternal grandmother, all about her life and memories- and it’s amazing.

So – what do bloggers not do well? Write about themselves. Specifically I mean.  Some of these things you will already know (skip em). Some of them you won’t and some of them will probably make you a little uncomfortable. All of the information is my recollection and some of you may not agree with all it’s contents- it’s okay. Really.

To start – I am the baby of the family. Babies of the family are the natural leaders – right? No.  Dear ordinal position theory, you stink! I do not fit this model, some might say.  I am so glad that it was required Early Childhood Ed reading – it slowed me down I tell you! I didn’t fit any of those there-in. Don’t get me wrong, I love being the baby of the family – and could not imagine it any other way. My only sister was  nearly 10 when I was born which means, I basically had two mothers. This did not harm me in any way. I have always wanted to be like her and will never even come close to being as smart as her – but it’s a pretty good goal. I’ll keep trying.

I have brothers. That alone should be a complete paragraph. I spent most of my    primary school years being asked if I was the “Woodard boys” little sister. I did not  deny this fact (read, actually lie), however -I did craft a “Sandi is my older sister”  answer and found this generally more advantageous. Now, if it were other kids asking that question – specifically of the bullying type – you can betcha that’s exactly who I was.  They have beat my butt, clothes lined me on a bicycle, unscrewed the bolts to my bike tires then dared me to ride DOWN Dayton Hill (ER visit), insisted that they could only learn how to pitch a fast ball if I was their target on the cement wall outside,  and they convinced me that soaping the windows of the catholic church across the street was a rite of passage on Cabbage night (they totally lied) and this is just the first 8 years of my life. But you know what? They also cleated the kid who “whacked me out cold” with a baseball bat (ER visit), hung a kid over a bridge (they still deny) because he wasn’t nice to me, and most notably are very good men, gainfully employed and have served our country extremely well (so they have saved your ass too). They would come to me no matter where I am if I called them. No questions asked.

Recently, I was asked if I ever misbehaved (as a child, please). I guess the logical answer would be yes, because I have been disobedient – but never twice about the same thing. Being a good little sister means you take copious notes and learn from their, plus your mistakes.  I think that very quality made me somewhat invisible (re-read paragraph above) if you don’t understand.  I do recall very clearly knowing that everyone was looking for me at Lake Bomoseen, Vt. (age 3 maybe?) and staying quietly in the floorboards of my fathers Thunderbird while everyone looked for me.  I was playing with one of those clicky-type torque wrenches. I only came out when I heard my sister’s voice in that panicked “oh my God I think she’s drowned in the lake kinda voice”. That was bad.

My siblings and I have “matching cousins” – in the early days, it meant our mothers     matched our clothes (Dutch Maid clothes, seriously). Growing up it meant you always has a cousin in your class, and graduating class. We were then and remain now, very close. We are more like siblings, although our mothers to this day deny they did this on purpose. In regards to this extended family, I am not the baby – that would be Duane (my matching cousin). I have many stories that could be told. But,  one of the best was when he and his friends (John Iffland &Bill Humphries) thought they had the perfect plan and would “handcuff” me to the woodpile. Idiots! I stood very still and let them do it. All smart girls know that wood piles move.  So, being boys – they celebrated a short lived victory and went off to play war somewhere else. I un-handcuffed myself, then broke those handcuffs so they couldn’t really learn how to use them later – and then beat their butts. All three of them. One of the greatest Uncle’s ever (Pastor Bob Flower) could not stop laughing long enough to discipline anyone.  Post note: Bill is now a cop, so I hope he has mastered better use of handcuffs. Now that is just hysterical!

Yesterday I drove to Alabama to attend the celebration of life service for a dear friend’s father. What does this have to do with my cousins? At the end of the ceremony – at Mr. Grimes request we all sang “I’ll fly away”.  One of the best things about living in the South is that every person there knew every word of that song. It immediately took me back to a day in a small church in Vermont where my Uncle was preaching. With all my heart, I was singing this song thinking that the verse was “I’ll fly away, oh Lori”. My matching cousins laughed and told me how dumb I was. The greatest Angel God ever let our family borrow (the preachers wife, and my Aunt Pat) told me I could sing that song exactly that way, and she preferred that version herself. . A little nudge from your northern family. God sees me here too – in the South.

My parents have told me that in my lifetime I will only be able to count my true blue friends on one hand. I didn’t like this. I thought then that they were wrong, but life lessons have made me realize that their number is probably more accurate. I know this doesn’t sound real positive. But think about the people around you – would they ever be there for you – just and only for you – if there wasn’t something in it for them? Just be real for a minute. I think too many people are tuned into the WIIFM channel (whats’ in it for me).  I am blessed with a lot of friends and when I was really young – most were  girls. They are people with whom I couldn’t live without and I am still in contact  with today.  For this I am ever so grateful. But, the truth is – I think I am better suited to be a guys friend. Not many women have the capacity to do nor accept this. I have the same male best friend since middle school.  I’m not talking about “good” friends,  I’m talking about “take-a-bullet-for-you-kinda-friend-even-though-they-aren’t-related”.  Now, his wives (yes,plural, but not at one time) have not always loved this fact (refer to most women are not capable of this) – but if they hang around long enough to really know us – the fact that we are inseparable is evident. We don’t get to see each other often, but when we do – it’s like we never missed a day. He is close by (2 hours drive to your bff!) and he is one of the best friends a girl could ever have. He is newly engaged and I am praying this is his forever wife. He deserves someone who accepts him for him, and not for what he

can do for them.  He is also a firefighter, which means I worry about him – a lot. When we retire, we’re going to live in a box (if we have to) and go to every home New York Yankee game. If we can afford it, we’ll travel with the team. Trust us with it Lord, we’ll do good!  My TN best friend &  I have known each other about 3 years or so. He pushes me to be a better me (not a different me). He doesn’t spend a lot of time telling me what I want to hear – but what I need to hear – which is usually more outside of my comfort zone.   They get me. They talk like me. They are not offended by me. We say things the others don’t like sometimes, but as quickly as we say it and don’t like it, we forget about it. We do not keep score and remain bitter.   Strange to meet someone and in very short time and become forever friends, no matter what. He’s a police officer – so I’m sure you can see the pattern – more worrying. These guys help me keep myself in check,  but more importantly I have never heard a thing I told them come back to haunt me.

I did the usual things graduated, got married, traveled world-wide with the Unites States Air Force, graduated some more, had 2 children and never intended once to be divorced and be a single mother.  Never could have imagined that in a million years.

Post divorce  I moved to the South, where I have met a lot of wonderfully smart God loving people. I think one of the things that southerners do better than northerners is fellowship – with everyone.  Now, this is not the best place for a girl who can not tolerate many foods – specifically comfort type foods, but I love it here. If I could only get my family to move here. I digress, I think this is the one place I have lived that I have met and loved so many others. I do seem to be a bit of a wanderer, but I could never leave this place not irrevocably changed (and yes, there are places I lived that didn’t have much impact on me…cough Clovis, NM cough). There are families here that have adopted me or me them – and they deserve posts all of their owns too.

It’s hard to describe what makes me me without talking about my parents. I have the best parents for me – and better than most out there. My mother is the one singular role model I could attempt to emulate, but probably will never come close to her qualities. She is still the glue that keeps all of this crazy family together.  My father was an incredibly smart man, probably one of the smartest I’ll ever know. He could fix anything, and had few words – but always great advice. Unfortunately had a disease called alcoholism. He wanted nothing more than to beat this – and one that he tried to overcome, but eventually paid the ultimate price for. He passed away at just 56, and did not live to see us become what we are, nor meet many of his grandchildren – and none of his great grandchildren.

Other than what you read above – things that I love are – traveling -anywhere. The New York Yankees – and most specifically #2. I am not just a baseball fan, I love the strategy of it all. My second sport love would be Football. Again, not a normal thing – I am not as die hard to one specific team – but I think Tom Brady #12, NE Patriots makes the NFL look as easy and normal as back yard football. I am an avid reader and can not imagine not having a good book or e-reader near-by.


So, you’ve read about the early years. (with some great Mom, Dad & career stories to come)
Be sure to subscribe.Until next time  ~ LLW