Friday, November 22, 2013

Shake Rattle and Roll to 50

Several months ago, I got serious about Rocking 50.  I even posted quite a bit about my plans to do so.  As it is turning out, it looks as though I'll be doing more shaking, rattling and rolling, than rocking, into my 5th decade.

Confession.  It's been bugging me more than I thought it would.  NOT turning 50, but all of the changes in my body that, no matter what I do, I can't turn back the clock on. And, the fact that, all of my "tried and true" tricks, the ones that worked like a charm when I was in my 30s and even my mid 40s, well, let's just say this old dog needs some new ones.

A week ago, Mr. B and I went to a formal wear (tuxes and gowns) place to get him a new tux.  Since they had gowns, I figured I'd try a few on while he was getting measured for his tux.  Loaded down with an armful of lovely frocks, I went into the dressing room and proceeded to have an extremely depressing time of it trying on dress after dress that either looked totally ridiculous, or made me look like a sausage or an aging mermaid with a pot belly.  Truly, I was in mourning for my rockin' abs of my late 30s/early 40s.  When did they leave?  How come I cannot seem to get them back?  

Enter Mr. B to help me with some of the more difficult dress contraptions.  Let me tell you.  This did not help matters as he wrested zippers while I stood there saying "Why won't it go up"?  "Well, you're too broad in the back". WHAT?  Talk about a not very funny scene reminiscent of an I Love Lucy show.  He tried to save the moment by explaining it was due to all of my working out at the gym; it was muscle, not back fat.  Well, thank you, universe.  And, oh by the way, said universe, while gleefully spreading the areas between tummy and knee, has woefully neglected to expand my chest area.  Which means the dresses that look good waist down sag quite unbecomingly in the top.  Finally, the clerk took pity on us and brought in a lovely plum colored gown that fit well and wasn't too expensive, either.  I should have bypassed all the torture and just asked her to pick something out in the first place.  I still haven't worked up the courage to look a the tag to see what size the dress is.

Yesterday, for whatever insane reason, I decided to try on my other evening gowns to make sure they fit.  Actually, it was a good thing to do because one of them didn't really look that great any more and if I'd taken it on board the ship with the expectation that I would be wearing, it, well, we may have dined en suite that night!  The other one will do, but I'll probably have to resort to wearing control top pantyhose to give me a tighter silhouette.  This realization left me in a somewhat foul mood.

Last night, we went out to a networking/social gathering; lots of folks Mr. B knows through our business.  I've met a lot of them before, at other events.  One young lady, probably about 25 (if that), was parading around in skin tight jeans, probably size 0, with a little middy top and high heels; long hair trailing down her back in a way that only girls of that age can manage to carry off well.  Touching my recently bobbed hair and thinking that my own jeans were feeling a bit on the tight side, I tried to not let it bug me.  I mean, why SHOULD it bug me?  I was 25 once and had some great times prancing around looking like that.  If I stopped and thought about it, that chick likely has some difficult times ahead of her in the next 25 years (like I did); not something I'd care to repeat, not even if I could look like that again.  

At one point in the evening, I came across her walking in front of me.  She'd put on a cute little Santa hat, with fake leopard "fur" instead of the usual white "fur" as trim.  She stopped and turned around, except it wasn't her, it was another lady I know who is 62 years old.  I was a bit flabbergasted.  I also found it hard not to stare at her very large and plastic-iky perky bosom.  Apparently, that is what she spent her surgical dollars on, not her face, which, although very attractive, still looked to be a 60 year old face.

We spoke for awhile and then I watched as she teetered off with a leering old man in her wake.  I glanced at my husband (who was NOT watching her teeter off) and realized I'd just received a message.

I think I've been receiving these messages for a while, but just haven't been paying attention.  For example, a few weeks earlier, I was looking at a website that promised if you don't eat or drink these five foods, you'll banish belly fat (which, really, seems to be my main culprit these days), in a few short weeks.  

Well, three of the five were coffee, wine and dark chocolate. You may as well shoot me now, because that just ain't gonna happen!

Nor am I going to have the time to work out hours each day ,or will I stop eating.

You get my drift here?  I am not willing to do the things I'd have to do to get back (assuming I ever could) to how I looked when I was younger.  Frankly, there are a few things I couldn't change, anyway; which would result in me possibly looking like the 62 year old lady at the party last night.  So, if I'm not going to do these things, that leads me to the place where I have to LET IT GO.  No, no, I don't mean this as in, let ME go; just move on towards Part Two.

I bet most of you who were reading my earlier entries about Rocking 50 already figured that out, huh?

Last night while falling asleep, a thought, a voice, said to me, "Stop wasting time and energy wishing for what you've already had but can never have again.  Get up and move on".

But FIRST, I'm going to send Mr. B to the closet with a pair of scissors to cut out that size tag before I see it.

And THEN I will totally Rock 50!

Mrs. B

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

He'll Meet You Wherever You Are: Conclusion

After that first evening at Harvest, this is what I recorded in my journal:

“Went to church for the first time in ~ 30 years tonight. I saw an ad in a local paper for this church, Harvest Methodist.  They’re doing a sermon series addressing many of the areas about church/religion/organized religion that I’ve had problems with.  So, we decided to try it and it wasn’t awful.  Frankly, I think it’s a good place to start to re-explore…what?  My faith?  Not sure I’ve ever had any.  To find something?  That is probably more like it.  Certainly, it’ll be a way to get to know people, at the very least.  All I know is this.  I have to do something different.  I can’t live my life looking forward only to vacations and getting pissed off when things don’t go right (or my way).  I‘d like to be a nicer, kinder person, certainly, a better wife.  Well, we’ll see.  We went, and I think we’ll go back next Thursday”.

And we did go back the following Thursday (eventually switching to one of the Sunday services); and the rest, as they say, is history!

From weekly worship to gradually becoming involved in multiple Bible studies and other ministries, to volunteering to serve communion once a month to supporting other church activities, the two of us have most decidedly found a church home.  Not that it’s all been easy because at times it’s been very painful facing ourselves, some of the things we’ve done (or not done), and forgiving other people who we thought we’d never be able to forgive.

It’s also been a challenge interacting with people from our lives who, if not thinking we’ve gone totally off the deep end, are, at the very least, indulging us with symbolic pats on our backs and a “There, there, there; if it makes you happy, I’m happy for you!” Still harder for me has been what to say to THEM.  It’s true; those who are on fire for God, who’ve recently joined The God Squad; want to spread the word; want others to understand and feel the same way.  However, over time, I am learning that this is not really my job or responsibility;  I mean, I can share what I feel called to share, but in the end, it’s up to them what they chose to do with it.  I’ll leave that up to God and these individuals to work it out (or not).

I’m in the middle of a study now where the author is discussing how there can really be no transformation (in a person’s life) without there first being a revelation.  When I look back on all that’s occurred in the past two years, and, most importantly, meditate on who Amy was then versus now, I can see how all these little changes here and there have added up to a transformation. 

A while ago, a dear friend of mine, whom I was associated with in the years I was married to my first husband and therefore I was then not in any way, shape or form associated with God, asked me the following:

Amy, how did you get to the point you are right now spiritually? I know I'm on my way, but you seemed to get it right away. Maybe I am just too negative of a person. Any suggestions?

Ok, the fact she was asking ME this question in and of itself is pretty rocking amazing!  Here is what I said, and it’s what I’d say to anyone desiring a closer relationship with God:

Wow, what a question and a great one, too. I think the fact you are asking the question is a wonderful testament to your desire to grow in your faith. It's so interesting that you asked me this NOW, because I'm in the middle of a new study at church where we've been reflecting on exactly this; where we are today vs. "before". I think for most of us, as with most things, change/growth simply does not happen overnight. It begins with small adjustments and tweaks we make that at the time may not seem like much, but, when we look back, we can begin to see how they've built upon one another and grown to the point where we eventually are changed in significant ways. The author of the book explained it this way; "It's like watching a tendril of ivy as it starts out. If you stare at it, it doesn't do much, but if you go back every week or so to check its progress, you can see its growth. And, when you look at it a year or two or three later, it's totally taken over the wall". Speaking for me now, this was the right time for me to be planted. It's not that I never had the opportunity before to embrace God, I just chose not to. Two years ago was my time and I desired it. I think that's the most important thing. A person has to desire it. No amount of someone trying to coax you into it will help (I'm learning that, too!) YOU need to be ready. I am extremely blessed in that my husband was as eager as I to begin this journey. That's not to say someone cannot do this if their significant other (or family/friends) aren't coming along because I've met plenty of folks who attend church and yet their families do not. It's just easier, is all. Also, we found THE BEST church and church family. I can't stress how important this has been for us. THE BEST in every possible way. We walked in and have never left. For two people that hadn't been to church (save for life events) in 30 years, that's incredible in and of itself. If you haven't already, find a church where you feel at home. And GO. Yes, of course life happens and we can't always attend, but, try to go. Also, get involved in and with The Word. Go to Sunday School. Join a  Bible study or join another team that speaks to your talents. Attend some of the special events your church might put on, like Advent or Good Friday services. Serve. Help out at events, offer to serve communion. Join a ministry team. All of this, little by little, bit by bit, opens your heart, mind and soul to receive God's Word and do His will. And PRAY PRAY PRAY PRAY PRAY. However and whenever you can. Everyone does this in their own way and there is no wrong way. Even if all you do at first is recite The Lord's Prayer or read Psalms or recite back scripture you may have memorized, it's all praying/talking to God. One of our Pastors has a fantastic model to follow for growing in faith which he encourages all of us to try. 40.20.10. Be in worship 40 weeks out of the year. Read the Bible 20 days of the month. Pray 10 minutes per day. It's easy to remember and very doable. And remember, Christ desires perseverance, not perfection. Some days will still be not very good days; sometimes your attitude may not be what you want it to be. That's ok. Keep trying! As our other Pastor says, "Just. Keep. Swimming!" The fact that you are asking ME this question is just another wonderful example of how God works. 
And the revelation that had to occur before any of my transformation occur?  It came in the form of a toss away newspaper that I didn’t even look at most of the time.  God revealed Himself to me in a message series that spoke to MY heart; that addressed all of my excuses for not going to church; for not opening the door to a relationship with Him.  

God met me where I was, and He led me home. 

Mrs. B

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

He'll Meet You Wherever You Are: Part Two

When my stepmother passed away in March of 2011, I recall calling my older sister and talking to her about her death.  I was, quite understandably, very upset and very emotional.  I was crying and I remember my sister asked me, “Do you believe in Jesus”?  I was gulping for air and I said I did; but, frankly, I was later mad at her for bringing Jesus up at a time like this.  Why?  Because I thought that she was doing so not because she really wanted me to know and love Jesus, but because she wanted to convert me.  Later, she did a few more things that totally pissed me off so that I found myself thinking “Ha, some Christian she is!” The thing is; her questions? They were another seed.

So, back to the message series at the local church (which turned out to be Harvest United Methodist). I showed the paper with the advertisement from the church  to my husband.  I told him this church was literally five minutes away from us and what did he think?  Didn’t it look interesting?  He took it, read it, and without hesitation said, “Sure, we can go if you want”. I don’t remember what day that was; it may have been a Friday, because we began discussing if we should go that coming Sunday.  We initially decided to go, but by Saturday night, I was already having second thoughts about the whole thing.  I mean, SUNDAY?  That’s tomorrow!  I don’t know, maybe I don’t want to do this? 

One of the great things about my husband is, he’s not a pusher.  Ok, maybe he wasn’t sure, either; come to find out he had his own very personal reasons for avoiding church, but, when I got cold feet, he didn’t argue with me.  So, we did not go that Sunday but I just couldn’t get that message series out of my head.  I WANTED to know what they were going to say.  I wanted to believe that there were people who believed in God who were not judgmental.  And, there was also the whole “getting to know people” thing that we’d promised each other we’d do.  And, in all honesty, I was beginning to wonder what exactly I was going to do with the second part of my life, now that I’d seemingly “done it all”.  So, I next told him I thought we should go to their Thursday night service.  An hour, was all.  Maybe it wouldn’t be very crowded, either; we wouldn’t have to deal with a lot of people and if we didn’t  go back, not that many folks would have seen us there.  I’m serious; this is what was running through my mind when we decided to try to go that coming Thursday! 

This time, we went.  Thursday September 29th 2011.  A bright, sunny afternoon and the parking lot at the church was relatively empty (whew, I thought).  We walked up to the doors of the church and before we reached them, they were thrown open by a man and a woman with big smiles on their faces.  “Welcome to Harvest!”, they said.  We were both a bit taken aback by their cheerfulness but (when we reflected on it later), it was genuine. It was pretty quiet inside the gathering area of the church; only a handful of other people there.  The lady, Nancy, asked us if this was our first time at Harvest because I’m sure all first time people have the same look in on their faces that we did; a mixture of uncertainty, shock, deer in the headlights, and resolve.  Yes, yes, we said and we spent a few moments with them telling them about us and why we were there (the draw of the message series).  They themselves were not attending that evening’s service but were helping out with one of the children’s ministries.  They introduced us to the youth minister/music coordinator and off we went with him.  From there, we happened to meet Steve, one of the Pastor, and chatted with him a bit before heading in for the service. 

One of the things I remember the most about that evening, other than who we met, was my doggedness in refusing to take communion.  I told my husband that I wasn’t ready to do that and I felt it would be fake to get up there and take communion when I’d not set foot in  a church for 30 years.  Not that I felt my husband was being fake by deciding to do so; it was a very personal feeling.  That evening’s message centered on  when Christians say the wrong thing.  Oh, boy.  Catherine, the other Pastor led the service and I remember being extremely nervous and uncomfortable, but at the same time, totally interested in what she had to say.  Lastly, one of the songs sung that night was one I’ve come to love called “Cry Out to Jesus” by Third Day and the line that stuck with me all the entire night was “He’ll meet you wherever you are”.  

To Be Continued!

Mrs. B

Sunday, September 29, 2013

He'll Meet You Wherever You Are: Part One

Two years ago today, my husband and I walked into a church for the first time for both of us (save for weddings, baptisms, and funerals) in over thirty years.  It’s something that still amazes us now; that we did this, especially in light of the fact that, up to this point of time when we made the decision to go, we’d never talked about God, or Jesus, or religion for any length of time at all.  Yes, we met via an online Christian dating company (eHarmony), and, yes, there were some spiritual questions that we answered as part of that process, but, it wasn’t something we spent time discussing during our first meeting, or subsequently.  We figured we were pretty darn lucky that we’d been matched up and that was about it. 

When we moved to Florida many years later, we were in the process of making some changes; many major, others slight.  I am coming to understand, in hindsight, that it is the small changes that have the potential to add up to something big.  What were some of the smaller changes?  We’d decided to be open to meeting new people, especially our neighbors.  Neither one of us are the most extroverted of souls, so, this really was a challenge, even if it seemed easy enough to do.  This meant saying "Hi" to people, talking to people, not doing the avert eyes thing when someone came towards us out on the street, all of that.  We also decided to get involved, somehow.  

Not too long after we moved in, our neighbor across the street approached us when we were out walking our dog (and since we’d decided to try and talk to people, we didn’t attempt to avoid her) and, after a few minutes of chit chat, asked us in a very friendly way if we’d found a church yet (she knew that we’d moved from another state).  I’m sure we gave her that sort of glassy eyed look of those who really don’t want to be standing on the street discussing something that we’d never even discussed amongst ourselves.  Truthfully, I can’t remember what we told her other than it might have been something like “No, we haven’t”.  End of statement.  She went on  to invite us to go to church with her and her husband one Sunday; something I’m sure, again, we politely made noises like “Maybe” and “Thanks” but with zero intention of ever doing so. All in all this was not a major encounter, and, she did not pester us about it, however, in hindsight, it was a small seed that had been planted; her invitation made us think about it.  Church.  Church.  Maybe this would be one way to get involved in the community and, what?  Garner clients for our new and fledgling business?  Perhaps. 

In any event, a few weeks later, a local toss away paper called The Observer (which is delivered to our driveway every Thursday whether we want it or not) ran an advertisement of sorts about a message series one of the local churches was doing.  I remember thumbing through this publication one night  and seeing the church's ad, “When Christians Get It Wrong”.  I quickly went past it, continued to glance at the rest of the paper, then, turned back to it.  I read the rest of the ad and realized that the series was centering on all the things that give Christians a bad reputation; you know  liked being judgmental, unforgiving, pious, holier than thou, disapproving of divorce, abortion, homosexuals, other religions, you name it.  In all honesty, probably the primary reasons why I’d stayed out of church for the past thirty years.   

Prior, I’d voluntarily attended a Lutheran church and been baptized and confirmed in it when I was a teenager, and yet,  I’d walked away for no real reason.  Probably, it just didn’t stick because I was a young girl who had other things on my mind than being a good Christian young lady.  Meaning no disrespect to my parents, I had very little support or encouragement from them to either remain involved with the church or  to have a relationship with God.  So, leaving didn’t seem like a big deal, and it wasn’t .

Unfortunately, there were plenty of people around me in the ensuing years who discouraged me from entering into a relationship with Him; either those who were influential in my life who refused to believe that He existed  OR (and actually probably worse) those who did believe, but were so strident about it that it totally turned me off.  Looking back, I see now that I wanted to believe, but I just couldn’t bring myself to be in a relationship with a God I thought  was hateful, prejudiced, biased, didn’t forgive, and probably didn’t want a relationship with me, anyway, because I’d really screwed up a few things in my life.     

Finally it simply became my habit not to think overly much about God; however, I never didn’t believe in Him, if that makes any sense.  

To Be Continued!

Mrs. B

Sunday, July 28, 2013

What I Want To Be Now That I Am Grown Up

I thought I was grown up at 30.  I had a degree in psychology.  My first husband and I had recently purchased a new house; a milestone for both of us.  We had nice cars and decent furniture.  I was a compensation manager for an employee base of close to 2,000.  I’d done my fair share of travel.  Little did I know, I knew very little!
In the decade between 30 and 40, I’d continued to advance in my career and ended up at a level that my ditzy 17 year old self never could have fathomed.  Regarding houses,  I’d sold and bought, sold and bought, and sold and bought again.  I’d moved from California to Colorado and then back to California and was nearing yet another move, this time to North Carolina.  I’d survived a failed marriage and several other ridiculous relationships.  I had a major readjustment moment which ultimately led me to quit my job, end my career, and go to Italy for six weeks for no reason other than to do it.  After all of this, I HAD to be grown up.  Yet, I wasn’t, not fully. 
Now I’m on the downward slide to 50.  My second marriage has lasted longer than my first.  Together, my husband and I have bought, sold and bought houses, made a move to Florida and started our own business.  We’ve each lost a parent.  We’ve returned to and become heavily involved in the church.  So, now that I am officially a Church Lady, I HAVE to be grown up, right? 

The thing is, ever since I can remember, I’ve always wanted something else than what I have.  Certainly at times this can be helpful, especially in the areas of drive, accomplishment and achievement.  However, the problem becomes, one like this is never satisfied with what one has.  Not a very peaceful way to live, nor is it realistic, mature or wise. 

My first fifty years were defined by one change after another, by never being totally ok with what I had or who I was.  That’s not what I want for Part Two; and so I’ve thought a lot about what I want to be going forward, listed here in alphabetic order because I don’t want to waste time agonizing over which is more important! 

·       Active.  Physically and mentally.  As much as I love a bit of R&R, I need to keep somewhat busy.  I also think this contributes to many of the others I’ve named below.

·       Age Appropriate Attractive.  Slim and elegant comes to mind.  Who can argue with that?

·       Gracious.  Is there anything more lovely than a kind and gracious woman?  I don’t think so, either.

·       Faithful.  To my God.  To my family and friends.  To myself.

·       Healthy.  Obviously, much of this is not within my control however I know full well that a lot of it is.  I can chose what I do with my physical self, what I put into it, what I put it through. 

·       Humble.  Is there anything more unattractive than a self-satisfied, arrogant individual?  I know much has been given to me. I am hopeful that I can give back in spades.

·       Interesting.  Please, God; don’t let me turn into someone who never has anything new to say or share. 

·       Thankful.  I’ve started keeping a daily Gratitude Journal to remind me how much I have to be thankful for and every day I write at least one thing down specific to that day.  One of my favorite devotional books said that it’s nearly impossible to be critical and complaining when you are thankful. 

·      Trusting. That same devotional said trust in God keeps one from obsessing and worrying.  I don’t think this means throwing up your hands and exclaiming “I’ll just put my trust in God” and then either not doing anything or being extremely reckless;  but, rather, it means knocking off the incessant second guessing about what’s already happened or the fretting that keeps one from doing anything at all.

I could add more; and  maybe over the course of time there may be a few more I’d throw in but I don’t believe there would be any I’d remove.
I’ve taken to memorizing scripture.  Frankly, I’m amazed how easy it’s been to do so, which tells me I must need it in my mind and heart; not to mention, you never know when it may become necessary to pull out a well-placed verse.  Lately, as I’ve thought  a lot about getting old(er); about the trials of aging, of losing people I love, of perhaps losing my health and becoming frail, of maybe being lonely, I’ve been seeking out verses that speak to these things.  This verse from Hebrews brings me so much comfort because I know as the years march on, I’ll never really be alone.  And, even if one is not religious, I think it also illustrates how we, like those who have gone before us, must live, and finish, our lives in both memorable and honorable ways.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also throw off every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us”. Hebrews 12:1


Mrs. B






Tuesday, July 23, 2013

About Apollo


The absolute first to show up when food is present!

Bound and determined to figure out how to open up that refrigerator.

His eyes look as though they’ve been outlined in eye liner.

Has the loudest purr of our colony, as well as the most incessant meow.

Was the runt of the Greek Gang.  Hard to believe that now!

Hissed at me the very first time he saw me.

Adores being brushed and will, in fact, jump up onto the grooming table if he thinks I’m being too slow in putting him there!

His favorite toy is an old ratty rabbit foot looking thing that was once on the end of a wand.  It routinely goes missing but when it’s found, he’s in total heaven (until he loses it again!)

One of his favorite spots is sitting behind me on my chair.  In fact, he’s there right now J

Was my special project as a foster because he was so shy, they were afraid no one would ever adopt him.  So, I had to isolate him in the bathroom and then go in and spend one on one time with him in order to get him socialized.  It worked, alright; WE adopted him!

Am pretty sure he’s part squirrel; not only is his fur squirrel like, but he chitters.

Has to be the first into the cat box after it’s been freshly cleaned.

His ears are tipped in golden-colored fur; hence, him being named after the Greek God of the Sun!

Is still a major scaredy-cat when people he doesn’t know are around.  Until it’s time to eat, that is!

Is very competitive when playing; will attempt to run off with whatever toy we are using.

Seems to enjoy “fraternizing” with a few of Lucy’s toys; hedgehog, bunny and squirrel in particular.  He’ll even drag them off to his lair!

Last…but certainly NOT least.

My Buddy.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hard Boiled Eggs. Cheat. Wind.

I figured it wasn’t going to be good news when the nurse told me the doctor wanted to see me in his office before I left the clinic.  When is it ever good news in situations such as these?  Certainly in all of the movies I’ve seen and books I’ve read where the heroine gets called into the doctor’s office, you may as well prepare yourself for a sad, sappy ending.  However, hope being eternal, I held on to the thought that, because he knows my husband and I have a small tax and accounting business, he merely wanted to discuss tax strategies.

I got my top on, shrugged into my jacket, and let myself out of the examining room.  A nearby technician, strolling by with a zip lock bag of hard boiled eggs (lunch, I gathered), provided directions to the doctor’s office.  Finding it, I rapped lightly on the closed door and waited for the “Come in” before pushing the door open and stepping inside.  The doctor, who had been seated behind his desk, half-stood and beckoned me to a comfortable looking armchair.  As I lowered myself into the chair, I noticed a box of Kleenex on the small end table next to it.  “Ought-oh”, I thought to myself, “NOT a positive sign”.  Still, I plastered a smile on my face, met the doctor’s eyes and prompted, “So…?”

Unsmiling, he settled himself back into his chair and looked away.  A foreboding silence filled the small space between us.  My eyes landed on a paperweight on the edge of his desk with the words, “No Crisis Before Its Time” stenciled on it in elegant calligraphy.  For a moment, I felt vaguely comforted, for this was an adage my father and I had both shared and adhered to over the years.  But then, it dawned on me; perhaps now WAS its time?

After flexing his fingers a few times and popping a few knuckles in the process, he finally met my eyes.  As was the case every time I saw him,  I was struck by his uncanny resemblance to both my former CPA and a shrink I once saw during a trying emotional period of my life.  Really, both men could be his dad.  He sighed and replied, “What I have to tell you is going to be difficult for you to hear”.  He tapped a piece of paper lying on top of his desk.  “I’m afraid the results of the biopsy are not what we’d hoped for”.   

I was confused.  “Biopsy?”  I was thinking boobs, I was thinking Angelina Jolie, I was thinking double mastectomy. I hadn’t had any biopsy.  I felt an immediate sense of relief; whatever crisis I thought was happening, wasn’t.  He apparently recognized my confusion and ensuing ill-placed relief for he shook his head slightly and said gently, “The biopsies of the spots on your arm several weeks ago? Remember?” 

I slunk down a bit in my chair. I did remember but, given that all my other biopsies had come back either benign or, at worse, as basal cell skin cancer, I hadn’t given this particular result much thought.  I glanced at my left arm.  Frankly, I’d been so focused on the purpose of today’s visit, a consultation for a cosmetic procedure made in a vain attempt to cheat the signs of aging, that it had slipped my mind that I’d not received the biopsy results.  It all clicked into place in the course of a few nanoseconds.  No wonder I’d been able to get in to see him so quickly; usually he was so booked up it took months to get an appointment for non-medicals.  I felt simultaneously ashamed of the whole Botox thing and sick to my stomach.

“Yeah,” I finally managed to utter.  “Now I do”.  He said nothing.  “And…?” I said, raising an eyebrow questioningly.  His turn to slink; or, rather, shrink into his chair.  He cleared his throat.  More silence.  I noticed the miniature grandfather clock on the credenza under the window had stopped and resisted an urge to giggle.  Time was literally standing still, how clich├ęd.  His eyes followed my gaze.  “I always forget to wind that clock”, he said. 

An hour or so later, and I’m still in that office with that stopped clock.  The doctor stepped out ten minutes ago to “give me a moment”, which has drawn out to be longer than that because I’m sure HE needed to take a breather.  I have to resist my OCD urge to get the clock going again, it’s stuck time of 12:17, which happens to be the date of my birth, is now serving as a reminder…”Hurry hurry hurry not much time  left for YOU, chickie!” 

It seems decidedly odd that the doctor told me what he did without my husband sitting next to me.  I mean, is that normal?  Shouldn’t the most important person in your life be with you when you are given such news?  Why am I not more upset by this?  I realize it’s because I’d just prefer sparing my husband of this awful situation.  Maybe, maybe; I can get up out of this now totally uncomfortable chair, walk out of this facility, get into my car and drive on into what’s always been, and what I thought always would be. 

I know I’m in complete shock and so I start reciting in my head some of the scripture I’ve memorized; “Be good to me, your servant, so that I may live to obey your teachings.” (Psalm 119:117) and “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil for you are with me.” (Psalm 23:4).  It has a calming effect.  I think about one of my favorites, “And can any of you, by worrying, add a single hour to the span of your life?” (Matthew 6:27) and realize, “Nope.  Never could; and never will”. 

Certainly not NOW, when I’m faced with five years, tops.

The doctor did a thorough job of presenting my options in a spreadsheet that he left with me. The columns listed across the top are labeled “Five Years” “Four Years” Three Years”, “Two Years” and “One Year” . Under each are details; what will have to happen for each life expectancy to be met and the corresponding pros and cons. 

The rest of my life, according to Microsoft Excel.  

Mrs. B

Note to Readers:  This (fictional!) entry is a combination free write/retelling of a dream I had.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cancun Part One: Travel, Arrival and Our Room

Mr. B and I spent a delightful (for the most part) week in Cancun May 4 - May 11th.  We own a timeshare (bought six years ago at Villa del Arco in Cabo San Lucas) and decided this year to trade the week for a stint at Villa del Arco's sister resort, Villa del Palmar Cancun, which opened in late 2010.  Our thought process was a) we needed to use the timeshare since we had three weeks paid for and b) Cancun is much closer to us than Cabo.  On top of it, an added bonus, two separate sets of friends also planned to be in Cancun that same week.  

So, I made flight RSVPs several months ago, did my usual research on the destination, talked to the Concierge in San Diego (where the company is headquartered) about whether or not to purchase an All-Inclusive Package (we did) and to book our airport-resort-airport transportation and kept in touch with our friends about travel plans and flight schedules.

We were up B&E Saturday May 4th and were on our way to Tampa International by 6:30 am.  At that time of morning, there was not much traffic and we made it to the airport in under an hour's time.  Here's a picture of The Sunshine Sky Way Bridge, which we crossed around 7:00.  For those of you who have cruised out of Tampa, you've more than likely stood up on deck and marveled at this bridge as you have sailed under it; this is definitely a different perspective!
Upon arrival at the airport, we made it to the terminal and checked in.  Then, armed with Starbucks, we settled in at the gate to await the departure of our quick flight to Miami.

All in all, our flights (both to Cancun and back home) were just fine.  Crowded, of course, and with the usual suspects of rude or obtuse fellow passengers, but not awful.  Thankfully, that furlough-thing, which had caused some many delays and missed flights a few weeks prior, had ended.

If you could fly like a crow to Cancun, it'd take no time at all!  Unfortunately, we had an almost three hour layover in Miami.  Nothing to do for it but sit in a bar and have a SPICY Bloody Mary and some lunch.
We touched down in Cancun right on time, a bit early in fact, and had to wait for our gate to clear out.  Once  off the plane and through customers (this took a bit longer than it probably should have), we claimed our luggage and made our way through the gauntlet of clamoring timeshare and tour people and outside the terminal to find our ride to the resort.  If you've never gone through this experience, let me point out to you that you NEVER want to stop and talk to anyone in this gaggle or else you'll likely ended up signed up for something you don't want to do.  We learned this the hard way in Cabo.  As my pal Travis, the San Diego Concierge reminded me, "No one inside the airport will be your ride!"  

We sailed on through to find a guy from Endless Tours holding a sign with our name on it who ushered us over to the line of cabs where, after a few minutes wait (enough time for me to go buy a few cans of Mexican beer from the little bar outside the airport; sort of a mistake since they were $5.50 each BUT we needed change to give the driver a tip (this is my story and I'm sticking to it!)) we were off on our way to Villa del Palmar Cancun!

Most people who end up in Cancun stay in the Hotel Zone, a long strip (an island, actually) crammed full of hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and shops.  The majority of the nicer resorts are right on the beach.  It's a hoppin' place.  Our resort, however, was about 1/2 hour north of the Hotel Zone in an area known as Mujeres Beach; quite a bit quieter and definitely off the beaten track.  Not that we found it to be at all boring or dull, but, travelers of a certain age or frame of mind might have found it so.  Sort of in between the Hotel Zone and Mujeres Beach is the downtown area of Cancun, or, El Centro, where there are also many resorts and hotels and the like.

Our cab driver got us to our resort in less than 1/2 hour.  We got lucky in that, even though it was very close to check in time, there really were not many people in the lobby.  In fact, we thought in general that the resort was relatively empty the entire week (an added bonus, especially when you head out to the pool or beach in search of vacant lounge chairs!)

Fairly soon after we entered the lobby, we were handed a welcome drink (Mango Tango) and, after a brief wait in line, were checked in, our  A.I. bracelets were slapped on (more on the A.I. later), and we were escorted to our room 3404A.

The resort currently has one "horseshoe" set of buildings (1, 2 and 3).  Our room was in Building 3 on the 4th floor.  Although technically speaking all rooms have an ocean view, the higher you are, the better your view.  Each building has 7-9 floors, depending; so, we were sorta mid-way up which was just fine.  If we'd wanted to, we probably could have asked for something higher but we were satisfied enough with the location (as you'll see from the pictures!)  BTW, they will be adding on two additional horseshoes over the next few years.  This place is gonna be huge.

We own a one bedroom unit so that's what we ended up with.  In addition to the one bedrooms, there are studios (like a very large hotel room with a tiny kitchen area), two bedrooms, three bedrooms, penthouses, etc.  Also, there are some what they call "Ocean Front" rooms which literally all face the ocean.  Nice enough during the day, not such a great view at night.  For two people, a studio is really quite enough, especially if you do the A.I. and don't need to do any cooking.  But, since we own a one bedroom, that's what we got (we'll have more flexibility on that going forward).

So, the one bedrooms really are spacious!  A family of four would be quite comfy in one.  Each unit has a full bedroom (dreamy king-sized bed) with its own bath (complete with a jetted tub and walk-in shower) and an additional bathroom (with walk-in shower) in the main living area.  There is a pull out Murphy bed in the main living area that would sleep two (probably two not huge people and from what I've read, they are quite comfy).  There is a decent sized kitchen with all stainless appliances stocked with dishes, glasses, pots, pans, etc.  Also, a washer and dryer (I always forget about this and bring more clothes than I really need to) in a closet in the kitchen.  There is plenty of dining space; a two seat bar/counter plus a large table with six chairs.  There is a T.V. in the living area and in the master (we turned it on ONCE).  There are nice enough chairs and a couch in there (I'm not sure I ever sat there).  The main draw is the lanai; totally huge, with its own dining table and four more chairs, a lounger, a small end table and a hammock.  We spent a lot of out time out on the lanai; it's a perfect spot for watching the sun come up and eating a room-service breakfast!  

So, yeah; a great space.  I can't imagine the two of us floating around in a two bedroom but I can definitely see us taking another couple along one of these years and sharing one of them.

With this, below are a few pictures of our room and the views from the lanai.  I'll wrap up for now and write more later!

Mrs. B
I want this granite for my kitchen back home :-)
Check out that ocean view!  Lovely to watch the sunrise in the am from "my" side of the bed!
Believe it or not, we never even used the tub!

Resort view/the other side of the horseshoe 
2nd up center and also to the right (blocked by palm tree) 4th floor.  Nice location

Friday, April 26, 2013

Kindness and Fruit

It seems, in general, that kindness is a rare thing these days.  What makes this shortage even more appalling is that kindness itself can manifest in so many different ways; there's not one singular way to be kind.  Can it be that we've turned into a society of mean-spirited, spiteful, selfish people?  Or is it simply that we're all too busy rushing about, going from here to there, focusing on whatever our end goal is, that we don't even think about kindness?  "I'm sorry, I just don't have time to be nice to you".  That doesn't play well, does it?  I can't say it's any better than being outwardly mean. 

When it comes right down to it,  kindness usually doesn't cost anything but time.  Think about it.  What does it cost a person to:  a) send a short email to someone telling them you are thinking about them on what you know to be a difficult day for them b) tell a person next to you in a check-out line who looks decidedly down that you love their (fill in the blank so long as you mean it) shoes, hair color, wallet, outfit, etc., or, even better, let them go ahead of you, too c) SMILE at the clerk taking your money d) offer to do a chore around the house even if it's not technically your responsibility or turn e) give a loved one a big hug for no reason f) NOT say (or post) something snarky about someone, even if they "deserve" it; well, I could go on and on; but in all of these examples, the only thing required is a well-intended heart and time (and sometimes not very much time at all).

The other day in the paper, I was reading about a study done on customer service people and how they interact with their clients.  I'm fairly certain the study was conducted incognito because the behavior of a goodly percentage of these employees was far from that which would garner top scores.  In fact, it was really dismal and disappointing to read what these folks were or were not doing, with behavior ranging from the employee acting put upon when a request (totally within their job description) was made of them to outright rudeness to completely ignoring customers in favor of something really interesting on their smart phone.  Yes, yes, we, the consumers of the world, can chose to walk away (and most of us would). It doesn't make it right.  Heck, if people being PAID to be kind can't be kind, what can we expect from each other?

I had quite the opposite experience today, which is what prompted this particular post.

Most of you out there who know me know I am THE Typhoid Mary of anything electronic.  Computers, Laptops, Cellphones, Cameras.  Now, as of today, we can add Tablets to this list.  I bought a new one a few days ago and, while I was trying to get used to typing on it (no Swyping, unfortunately), I remembered I had bought a stylus for my Smart Phone (they fit right into the ear bud  jack on any such device).  In it went and I was soooooo happy.   Until this morning when I went to take the stylus out of the jack and, somehow, inexplicably, it snapped in half, leaving a goodly portion of it inside the jack.  Not.  Good.  This means I can no longer connect a stylus (the only point to this is so you don't lose said stylus) but also, more importantly, I can't use that jack for ear buds now.  Now, in all honesty, I probably wouldn't have since my phone is much easier to cart around to listen to music, but still.  A brand new Tablet already mucked up.  

Mr. B suggested (after he tried very hard not to roll his eyes at me (but he did exclaim, "NOW what did you do?") and after making a valiant  but in the end futile attempt to dig the offending piece out) that I take it to a local repair place, the owner of which he knows from his BNI group. So, off I went, ever hopeful.  The owner, Allison, explained to me that she couldn't take the Tablet apart because it would never go back together quite as snug as before which would be worse than my current predicament since I'd end up with all sorts of crumbs and purse lint inside the device.  But, she was kind enough to contact Samsung to ask them what I should do (the answer was send it in so they could charge me more than the Tablet was worth to fix it but that's besides the point).  SHE was totally KIND plus she went above and beyond (and she gets extra kudos for not calling me Typhoid Mary).  And, all it took was some of her time.

A bit bummed about the Tablet (even though it really doesn't matter that much) I headed off to shop a swimming suit sale at Bealls.  Ladies, y'all know how incredibly depressing this can be, and, in fact, I'd already bombed out the day before at another store so I wasn't holding out much hope.  At least today I was armed with the store flyer advertising 40% off swimwear and cover ups (the exact language, which becomes important later on) and a $10 off coupon.  Oh, I only had until 2:00 pm to use the coupon, BTW, so I was rushing about trying on a slew of suits.  I finally found one I quite liked (happy happy joy joy) however I was perplexed by the fact the rack it was on didn't have a 40% off sign but many other racks nearby did.  I looked down at the price and....gasp.  Ok if it was 40% off + $10, NOT ok full price.  

I went off to a price check station just to double check.  It rang up full price.  Right then, a sales lady named Pamela happened by and said, "Oh, what a lovely suit!"  "I know, I said wistfully, but, it's not ringing up on sale".  She stopped whatever it was she was doing and came over to look at the screen and then the flyer I was holding.  "Well, it should be on sale, shouldn't it?"  Off we went then with her taking me all over the store, first to the manager of swimwear where we were told, "That brand is not included in the sale" to guest relations where they said, "That's the way it is, if it was on sale, the flyer would have said Entire Stock".  Pamela would not be thwarted, however, telling me,  "It's not right.  It doesn't mention any exclusions and I want you to have that swimsuit!"  So, off we went again until she finally found the store manager who, probably accustomed to Pamela's zeal, gave in and told me I could have it for the sale price.  Bear in mind that the first lady we'd run across, the manager of swimwear, had asked me if I still wanted it and when I said "not at that price" took it away from me without another word.  Pamela marched over to where the suits were hanging and found it and handed it back to me with a big smile.  An added bonus; total kindness AND a big smile to go along with it.  

There's a reason, of course, that kindness is listed as one of the fruit of the Spirit in the  Bible; here, in particular, "By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control.  There is no law against such things". Galatians 5:22-23 It's also no surprise that love is listed first as it is THE most important thing of all; and, when you think about it, the rest of the fruit are really an aspect or manifestation of love.  My Disciple book tells of an old legend regarding people who came wanting to buy the fruit of the Spirit.  They were told that they couldn't buy the fruit, but they could buy the seeds.  The book goes on to note, "Indeed, these traits of the holy life are...certainly not bought.  Rather, they grow out of the believer's heart".  

Galatians goes on to say, "If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, competing against one another and envying one another". 5:25-26

Suffice it to say, I've been thinking a lot about "The Fruit" lately :-)  I am pondering not only how to personally exhibit them, but, more importantly, to feel them residing within me as naturally as my beating heart, my breathing lungs and my mind that continues to seek answers.  I think in part because I have been  searching, I am finding them out there in others.

And, unlike the admonishment from Romans 12:17 not to repay anyone "evil for evil", I will definitely be finding out how I can return Pamela's kindness by writing a "satisfied customer" letter on her behalf;  while Allison will be getting our business to replace Typhoid Mary's  worn out laptop keyboard.

Mrs. B