The Man Who Always Knew My Name

When I started at Wesleyan College in the fall of 2002, I was six hours from home. I didn’t really know anyone, and I was very shy. Throughout my college career, I was not what one would call an exemplary student. None of that ever mattered to Reverend Bill Hurdle. No matter how insignificant I felt, he always knew my name. He remembered everyone’s name. It was a gift he had. I remember being amazed by this gift at a spiritual retreat I attended during my first year at Wesleyan. We sat at a table with this older gentleman who was the chaplain of the college. He wowed us with his cognitive skills. He told us about his family, mentioning everyone by name. I couldn’t help but think at the time that he was probably one of the coolest old guys I’d ever met.

hurdle_paint

When we decided to crush some berries and tattoo ourselves with different designs, this man was game. I’ll never forget watching in awe as he allowed a Wesleyanne to paint a purple-tinged sun on his face, then raised his arms and roared with a grin as if he were a cave man. How could anyone help but love such a man?

When my father lost his job, a friend suggested I talk to Rev. Hurdle. I remember sitting in his office, worried about my family. He just talked with me, and it helped. When I came back for my second semester, feeling full of myself as the “experienced college student”, Rev. Hurdle was there to grab me as I passed his office and ask about my holiday and, most importantly, about my dad and his job.

Over the years, Rev. Hurdle was the person who was always around campus, chatting and laughing with students, guarding the wellbeing of us, his beloved women. When I first heard the news of his passing, I was sad but took a moment to process it all. I wasn’t hurting yet. Then I remembered a lonely first-year looking on as a 70-something-year-old chaplain raised his arms in a symbol of victory, berry sun on his forehead and a smile on his lips.

hurdle_strong

The tears came. I remembered speaking with a man on the phone whose wife had fallen and broken her hip, thinking I should know the voice, realizing later that I had just dispatched an ambulance to my favorite member of ministry. I remembered a man who sat with my fiancé and myself in his office, counseling us on the importance of maintaining a relationship with one another throughout our marriage while telling us anecdotes about other couples for whom he had officiated, as well as tales of his own marriage. I remembered laughing to myself as my wedding director questioned his ability to remember the order of the ceremony. “Don’t you know,” I should have said, “Rev. Hurdle remembers everything?” I remembered a man who showed up for our rehearsal and ceremony in spite of the fact that he’d just had cataract surgery and his wife was recovering from a broken hip.

hurdle_weddingI remembered a man who, as he struggled to walk with a cane, insisted on carrying his own tray in the dining hall. I remembered the first time I saw him sitting, not standing, in OSP to greet others, being shocked because it was in that moment that I realized even legends must fall. It was probably the first time I had seen him looking frail. Sometimes years would pass in between seeing Rev. Hurdle. Even as the voice began to fade, the words were always the same: “Hey, Shelly!” Just those two words meant that I mattered. They were always accompanied by a smile and a hug. There was always a genuine interest in my wellbeing.

Rev. Hurdle devoted himself to that which was positive and uplifting his entire life. He spent his last 17 years (12 of which I knew him) encouraging the women of Wesleyan, making each of us feel as though we were strong. There’s power in a name. The man who remembered them all, he taught us that. He prayed over us. He built us up and showed us that it was okay to be great, to be who we are as proud Wesleyannes. After all, he was the wisest of them all.

wise_chaplain

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To Lose a Stranger

I’ve had one successful pregnancy. My husband and I knew we were lucky. Out of our circle of friends and acquaintances, there have been a number of complications during pregnancy, delivery, and even the inability to have children. This second time around, we haven’t been so lucky.

I lost my second child. It was two days before my 12-week checkup. I was looking forward to officially announcing that our family of three would be a family of four in May of next year, but God had other plans. We’ve had this conversation, my husband and I. What would we do if we had a miscarriage? If we couldn’t get pregnant? In a rational state of mind, we said, “You know, everything happens for a reason. When a pregnancy ends in miscarriage, there’s a reason.” That has been important these past few days.

How do you begin to cope with this loss? Though I carried this child for 12 weeks, it was a stranger to me. I use the word “it” because the pregnancy wasn’t far enough along to determine the sex of the baby, not because I’m insensitive to this being who shared my body. I had just begun feeling the little flutters of a new life inside me. It had just begun to be truly real.

How do you mourn someone you carried in your body, but didn’t really get a chance to know or love? Miscarriages are very common, but the loss is in a category of its own. It’s different from a distant relative you’ve never met because there’s a physical connection to this child. At the same time, the connection is not as strong as what you have with someone you’ve known for years. It’s a complex mixture of mourning a stranger and a loved one. You’ve lost a being that has yet to have a chance in the world.

Perhaps that’s what I mourn the most–what could have been. My living daughter is a precocious two-year-old. She’s a joy. I love watching her grow. My sadness is that my second child will never grow. It was just a little thing, just a few inches long. I know there was a reason this happened, that it’s for the best. I know we will move forward. I have three “rules” that are pretty constant in my life. I don’t always stick with them, but they keep me sane and help me function.

1) Just take it one day at a time. Of course, there’s always the add-on from one of my favorite movies, Anne of Green Gables, “Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it.”

2) Be as normal as possible as quickly as possible; just don’t rush it. When you realize you’re not ready for something, allow yourself and your family a little grace without creating longer term avoidance.

And when all else fails, this third one is most important:

3) Just breathe.

Some days, it’s enough.

Returning to the Land of Writers

Three years ago, I decided to start a blog. I was recently married and working in a job situation that was quickly deteriorating. As I look over my earlier entries, I think of all that has happened in that time. I started writing, not just for fun, but for real money. Not much money, but eventually it was enough to justify leaving my other job. I might add that I was expecting my first child by that point as well. Now, I write and edit for local magazines and design websites professionally. I’m dabbling in photography. I have the freedom and ability to stay home with my very rambunctious two-year-old. The changes that have been wrought over the past three years are amazing to consider!

Writing, my old friend from lazy childhood days and lively college courses, has taken roost in my life again. I am as excited as can be to grab hold with both hands and engage in this new chapter.

When I first chose Blessings of Rain in 2011, it was my way of laughing at and appreciating the ups and downs of life. The concept of a blessing rain is mentioned throughout religious texts. I can’t help but smile as I ponder this. Rain has always held a certain amount of appeal for me. As I delve into the philosophical, I see rain as one way of acknowledging that there are multiple sides to everything. Rain can wash away the bad and the good. It can create floods. It can refresh and renew. Here in the South, it can turn a mildly uncomfortable heat into an unbearably muggy day or offer a wonderfully cooling break. It is beautiful and terrifying. It prompts us to remember that there is always opportunity to find the good in every situation. It dares us to consider the possibilities.

I leave you with this Irish poem entitled “Blessing of Rain” from Gratefulness.org.

“May the blessing of the rain be on you—
the soft sweet rain.
May it fall upon your spirit
so that all the little flowers may spring up,
and shed their sweetness on the air.
May the blessing of the great rains be on you,
may they beat upon your spirit
and wash it fair and clean,
and leave there many a shining pool
where the blue of heaven shines,
and sometimes a star.”

 

Battling Godzilla

A humorous recounting of real-life events to celebrate the revamping of my blog. Enjoy the giggles while they last!

It took me until 11:30 to get my child to sleep. She just could not settle down. I was so exhausted that I was not thinking clearly when it came to eliminating what might be keeping her awake. After finally laying her down, I walk into my room only to find that the largest roach I’ve ever seen is sitting between my side of the bed and my nightstand. I hunt down a shoe and smack at it, only to have it disappear. I get down on my knees, cussing and fussing, to try to find where that sucker went. I use my phone as a flashlight to see in the dark corners. I know he’s there somewhere, just waiting. I give up and go take a shower. When I get ready to go to bed, I do one last check. No roach. I settle in with my book to read for a few minutes. In spite of my exhaustion, wrestling my child and hunting that bug have woken me up. At some point I hear strange noises. I know it’s him—the Godzilla bug. I again get down on hands and knees, checking drawers and looking under the night stand. No Godzilla, but the noises stop. I finally decide I’m tired enough for lights out. I turn off the lamp and am instantly transported to a state of complete alertness. I know Godzilla is there, just there. He’s waiting for me to fall asleep. Then he’s going to crawl on my face. In my mind, he has become the smartest bug ever. I drift off into a restless slumber. I am awakened by the sensation of—you guessed it—bug on my head. I commence slapping myself over and over in an effort to get that nasty critter off of me. When I’m sure he’s no longer on me, I turn on the light and simultaneously jump out of bed. That smug jerk is sitting on the other side of the bed. JUST SITTING. I go hunting The Squasher. As if he knows what’s coming, Godzilla races down the side of the bed. Just as he reaches the foot of it, I swipe with The Squasher to knock him into the floor. I most certainly DO NOT want his remains on my bedding. I am not changing the sheets in the middle of the night unless I have to. I digress. In my distraction, Godzilla has again disappeared. I begin to question my sanity. Here I am, at who knows what hour, standing in my nightgown with a frizz mop on my head, holding The Squasher and staring at nothing. Am I dreaming? Have I suddenly taken up sleepwalking? I swear there was a bug, but maybe I’m delusional. Great, as if I didn’t have enough problems. I’m hallucinating a giant bug. Couldn’t it be something more pleasant? Perhaps a day on the beach with someone bringing me mixed drinks, snacks, and new books all day? Noooo, I have to reinvent Godzilla! Then my more sensible side breaks through the fog. Maybe…just maybe…he’s hiding in that crack between the mattress and the box springs. I lift up the mattress only to drop it and barely avoid squealing like a girl. Yep, he’s there. My next thought is that I’ve managed to squish him between the two pieces, thereby eliminating the need for me to use The Squasher. There are equal parts relief and horror. How am I going to clean that up? I can’t sleep in this bed knowing that bug is there. Can I sleep on the couch? What if there are more bugs waiting to jump me? What if Godzilla is really more like David, and Goliath is waiting by the couch? In the wee hours of the morning, my paranoia knows no bounds. I gather my courage and lift the mattress a second time. Godzilla skitters again to the foot of the bed where I successfully knock him into the floor. Right into a pile of shoes that have accumulated thanks to my two-year-old. I am determined that Godzilla will not elude me this time. I gingerly lift each shoe with two fingers, dropping it and jumping back each time. On about the fifth shoe, Godzilla makes a break for it. WHACK! The Squasher will avenge me! Or not. Godzilla, now the bug version of winged, goes nuts. I take a deep breath. I know I’ve got to go for the major kill shot. I bring The Squasher down firmly this time, then lift it just enough to verify that Godzilla has fallen. Yep, he’s dead. I put the shoe back on him in spite of the fact that he’s not coming back from that. I grab a tissue, then put it back. It has to be something I can flush. I have to get some sleep, and I need to know the problem has been thoroughly eliminated. Toilet paper it is. I dispose of the dead villain and wash my hands. As I lay down in the bed again, a certain peace steals over me. I have slain the beast. I can rest fully now. I foolishly pick up my phone to see what time it is. 2:38. A few mental calculations tell me I probably slept an hour at most. Ugh. I turn off the light, roll over, and drift off dreaming of life in some sort of strange wildlife/faerie land. I am awakened the second time to screams of “Mama! Mama! I’m scared! Come get me!” I look at the clock. 4:06. I think a few choice words and go to check on my baby. Much to my chagrin, she’s sitting up in bed. That’s entirely too alert for easily getting her back to sleep. Oh goody. I ask her what’s wrong, and amidst the babble, pick out the words, “There’s a snake on my uh-oh.” Her “uh-oh” is her pacifier, so named for the number of times it has been dropped. Thinking she has been the victim of Godzilla II, I use my phone/flashlight to check around her bed and under her pillow. I locate the now tainted uh-oh. My child, who is so attached to pacifiers, wants nothing to do with it. This whole idea of getting her back to sleep in any reasonable amount of time is going further down the drain. I pick her up. I’m just going to put her in the bed with me, except that she begins loudly protesting this idea. “No! I don’t want to sleep in your bed. I want Mommy rock you!!” my poor child wails. So we sit down to rock. She reaches a suitable state of fast asleep. I stand up, walk to her bed, and, just as I’m about to put her down, again begins to cry and protest. Back to my bed we go, where we both eventually fall into fitful sleep patterns to finish what’s left of our night.

Stubbing Your Toe

You’ve heard the phrase about the straw breaking the camel’s back. There are a few variations on the basic phrase, such as “the feather that broke the horse’s back”, “the last straw”, “the final straw”, etc. It is from an Arab proverb. Let me outline a scenario: Imagine that you are having a bad day. Lots of little things happen that slowly build on one another. You deal with each as best you can, and try not to let it get to you. You may think to yourself, “I will be glad when this day is over.” You drive home. You walk in, change your clothes, and sit down, taking a few moments to breathe.

Your husband arrives home. He walks in, kisses you, and goes to change his clothes. You go into the bedroom a little later and discover that he has scattered his belongings about the room you’ve cleaned instead of hanging up the shirt, tie, and pants that you went through the trouble to hang up as soon as they were done drying to prevent wrinkling. You lose it while he is completely flabbergasted. He has absolutely no idea why you would be so upset. You see where this is going?

In the grand scheme of your day, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The thing that, when added to everything else, became simply too much. Sometimes it’s bad customer service, ill-fitting clothing, a death in the family, or a nasty gram. Whatever it is, it is more than you can handle.

I prefer to use a different phrase. It is much more applicable than the proverbial straw. I don’t run into a lot of camels. The last time I loaded straw (in the form of hay bales) on something, it was a trailer being pulled by a tractor. However, I stubbed my toe just the other day. I was walking past the couch that has sat in the exact same spot for several months now when I caught my third toe just right. That toe, and the ones behind it, absorbed the impact by bending backwards. Major ouch!

Once you’ve stubbed your toe (and I’m sure you have), you know what happens next. Maybe you shout or scream, usually in a curse-laden language. Maybe you cry (which is what I did on this particular day). Maybe you throw something. Maybe you grab your toes and ridiculously hop around on one foot as if it will make things any better. You always react to this one. You can relate to stubbing your toe.

It came to me several years ago that this action was so much more appropriate in describing that final action that sends you over the edge. I shared it with a coworker, and she immediately took to it. It became a joke between the two of us. We both had some difficult things going on in our lives and almost weekly “stubbed our toes” on silly things. Being able to laugh and commiserate together made the bad stuff less difficult.

That’s really what mattered the most–as coworkers and friends, we were able to use this one phrase to explain that one or both of us had reached our breaking point. Then we could pick ourselves up and move past the pain as we laughed.

Adventures in Weight Loss

I’ve tried many different methods of losing weight over the last few years. My husband and I were going to do a detox diet that focused on juicer meals, smoothies, steamed vegetables, and a lot of fish. We made the grocery list and headed to the local grocery store to gather supplies. The prices were a little steep, but hey, eating healthier is worth the sacrifice. Right? We ended up going to two more stores to find the necessary ingredients for this 10-day plan. We bought a juicer and a better blender.

One of the meals that we cooked involved steaming fennel with fish and other things. If you’ve never had fennel, and you don’t like black licorice jellybeans, I would recommend keeping it that way. The fish and other vegetables had a hint of licorice flavor–NOT a good thing. The fennel tasted like straight licorice. My husband, being the trooper that he is, ate it all. I suffered through most of my fish, and declared my efforts outstanding as I threw the rest away.

I have sworn multiple times that I would cook at home more, thereby saving us money and calories. I’ve gone to the store and bought everything after planning our meals. I enthusiastically cooked the first meal. Maybe even the second. Then I would work a 12 hour shift, and the nearest fast food restaurant would call my name. I became a frequent flyer at the local pizza places since they prepared my food and delivered it! Then I would lament that I was gaining even more weight. It’s a vicious cycle.

I know what you’re thinking: I wasn’t being smart about my choices. You would be right. I can assure you that I know enough to see the logic behind changing my habits. However, it is not smart enough to beat my willpower. I don’t do drugs. I rarely drink. My husband would protest if I began partying all the time. My bank account won’t allow for the shopping I want to do. So I’ve hugged my food to me as if it will make things better. I have comfort food, happy food, bored food–the list goes on.

How do I defeat myself? By redirecting. I am turning my energy toward writing, tackling my extremely cluttered and borderline rundown house, and struggling against the little voice that constantly says “I’m hungry.” Because I’m not. I’ve given in to that little voice because it’s easier. I like instant gratification. Since I don’t like the results though, I’m looking to continue making some changes.

Hello, World!

Welcome to my Blog! I am new to blogging, so this will be a learning process for me. I am in the beginning of a new journey, and I look forward to sharing it with you. I hope to have many interesting things to discuss, even dabbling in the trials and tribulation of this thing called life. I do not promise to be perfect, but I do promise to be honest. I hope you will join me!