Lost

There was a time when I was living in the Deep South where I was lost in countryside.  I was in unfamiliar territory, on my way to do a photo interview of Andersonville—a Civil War, outdoor Southern prison, located near Columbus, Georgia.

My getting lost had started with a detour.  I started meandering finding lots of new roads, places I wanted to return and visit later.

But now, I needed to get serious about getting back to the highway, I needed to be there while the sun was still high in the sky.

I came to a T in the road.  Decision time.

I sat there having no clue whether I should turn right or left.  That’s when the voices started.

My rational brain voice told me to turn left, and I was given all the rationalizations as to why I should turn left.  Every one of those rationalizations made sense.

But then, that little voice, that little intuitive voice I’d recently started hearing told me to turn right.  There was no rationalization of any kind.  When I questioned it, all I heard wwas, “Trust me.”

Against all rationalizations, I turned right.  Around the bend and half a mile down the road was the highway.  Had I turned left, I would have ended up in Alabama and hours away from where I needed to be.

That was the day I decided to always listen to the little voice.

Okay, so yes, there have been a few minor occasions where I haven’t listened, such as not eating the rest of that cake late last night, but which I did anyway, and which had disastrous results several hours later.  Truth be told, I was told not to buy the cake in the first place.

When it comes to my sweet tooth, that little voice and I battle, and while I might win in that moment of purchase, that little voice is always right.

Always.

Mike McGuire’s Send Off – January 19, 2016

We said goodbye today (Jan 19) to my second cousin, Michael David McGuire, who died suddenly last Wednesday, the 13th.  The service was beautiful, the memories bringing both tears and laughter for family, friends, and his beloved working family from the Michigan State Police community throughout many locales.

My father’s family is large.  While I know my first cousins once removed (my father’s cousins) well, I don’t know my second cousins the same way.  I was the first born of the second cousins, which easily number several dozen or more, some I’ve yet to meet.  My aunt and uncle were only three years older than me, with some of dad’s cousins only eight or ten years older.  As a child in the middle of this big boisterous family, I preferred listening to the adult conversations, sitting in a corner of the big farmhouse kitchen, than playing in the parlor with the little kids.  The adults’ laughter was always infectious.  Still is today.

As for all of the second cousins’ kids, well, I can’t keep track of them all.  In fact, I’ll confess that due to my living in the South for a decade and a career kept me away from a number of reunions and family gatherings, I have a lot of catching up to do.

When I was growing up, from time to time, because I was older, I was asked to babysit for my second cousins, which included Mike and his younger brother, Robert.  The job was always an adventure, as they were close in age, would collaborate with each other and hide from me or be investigating something they shouldn’t.  They were always in action.

The next time I would saw him, over 20 years later, he was an adult, married, and with kids.

Unfortunately, because we are a large family, there are many funerals and today was one of those days.  While we always enjoy reuniting with family members and being introduced to kids and spouses we may not have met, we never like the circumstances, such as was today’s event.

I attended Monday’s visitation and while driving home, I sensed Mike’s presence, but I didn’t hear anything.  Just a comforting presence.

The next morning, however, when I got up, I keep hearing the word, “Giddy up!”  All that morning I heard it said as a gleeful exclamation.  Not a part of my everyday vernacular, I knew I was hearing Mike’s voice.

During the service, that included a bagpipe, the Michigan State Police guard,  who additionally provided a flag to Linda, his wife, recordings of favorite music, there was one particular silence where I felt the urge to say “Giddy up, boys.  Giddy up.”  The urge was strong and I sensed it would bring laughter, but I refrained.  As confident as I was that this was Mike speaking, I questioned the timing.

As fellow troopers got up one-by-one and started telling stories about Mike, including hearing he would tell them to “Saddle up,” as they rolled out on various duties, I discovered he was all about making people laugh, that he enjoying laughing as much as he enjoyed his family, fishing, and his work.  Saying “Giddy up” in that silence was something Mike would have done.

Mike was a marine who served in the Gulf War, with a commanding presence due to his height and demeanor.  He served undercover, provided governor protection, to name a few of his various teams, and had been a medical first responder with his local fire department.

The love and affection his family, friends, and police brethren have for him was easily felt.  Deemed as a tough guy, he also had a soft heart for his family, friends, and the people he served, and anyone who needed help.

Mike was only 52, far too young to be gone.  The service was truly a celebration.  As a collected group, we provided him a fitting, loving send-off, which was surrounded and sheltered with his presence.

Giddyup, Mike.  Giddyup.

 

“Take the job” My Little Voice Commanded

The first true time I my little voice was tested in a big way that would definitively affect my future, my earning ability, and where I was cognizant of a true conflict between that little voice and my rational thoughts, or what I call my rational mind, was in 1988 when I was re-establishing myself after my second divorce.

I had just enough money start over: rent an apartment, put down deposits for the apartment and utilities, and buy groceries for about a month.  By the end of that month, I needed to have a full-time job.

The problem was I didn’t know what I wanted to do.  Previously, I worked in several fields, but mostly as a secretary or as a bookkeeper for a good portion of my adult life.  I had no degrees other than my Executive Secretarial certification obtained from a business school right after high school.  While I good at these two careers, I was bored by them and didn’t enjoy having my skills or expertise dismissed.

My real passion was in writing, but it failed to provide a stable income, plus I had no formal education in writing.  I was a self-taught writer—a successful one with various publications and genres, including three books published, but when it came to real jobs, I didn’t have the qualifications.  So, here I was needing a job but didn’t want to be someone’s secretary or bookkeeper again, and there was nothing I could do involving writing.

A friend suggested that I go to Hudson’s (now Macy’s) and apply.  Sales.  I can’t say that I had ever considered sales for myself, though I had sold Tupperware years earlier.  At the time, I didn’t like feeling I was being pushy, so I never considered myself to be sales material.  In fact, I disliked sales people immensely myself because so many were pushy.  Consequently, my interest wasn’t high.

For three weeks, I looked at ads, but the economy was tight and I had moved into a manufacturing community where jobs were being outsourced.  Jobs were few.

One day at the end of that third July week, I was in a sleeveless summer dress, sandals, and bare legs, my hair windblown from open car windows, approaching the mall.  I was running errands.  My little voice said, Go apply at Hudson’s.  Now.

“But I’m not prepared,” I argued.  “I’m not dressed properly.  I don’t have a résumé with me.”

Doesn’t matter.  Go anyway.

I knew better than to apply without looking professional.

The little voice pushed.  I argued, all in the matter of a couple blocks.  Approaching the last entrance, I found myself turning in despite my rational arguments.  Sheer gut instinct had turned the wheel of the car.

What’s the harm, I thought.  I can pick up an application and return it later when I was properly dressed.

I parked the car, grabbed my purse, sliding the strap on my shoulder, entering the closest door, which took me into the Men’s Department.  I approached the sales girl behind the register, asking for location of the main office.  Following her directions, I walked through several departments, noticing how many people were working, what they were doing, wondering what it would be like to work there, doing that type of work.

At the desk of the Customer Service desk, I asked for an application.  The gal behind that desk excused herself and came back with an older woman who was dressed in a business suit.

She introduced herself as the human resources director and gave me an application, asking me to fill it out right there.  I told her I didn’t have all the necessary information with me—all the addresses, reference information, etc., that I needed to fill out the application fully and correctly.

“That’s okay,” she said.  “You’d be doing me a favor by filling it out now.”

So, I did.  Prepared to hand it over and leave, I was surprised when she asked, “Are you able to do an interview right now?”

“But I’m not dressed properly.  I wasn’t prepared to do an interview.”

“That’s okay.”  Again, I was told I’d be doing her a favor.

We sat down and for the next ten or fifteen minutes, I answered the typical questions.  At the end of the interview, I expected her to tell me that she would get back to me.  Instead, she offered me a job on the spot, telling me that I would start in the Men’s Department.  I was surprised, to say the least.

Mentally, I knew what she was offering me wasn’t going to be money for me to pay my bills.  The pay was minimum wage and I needed a couple dollars more per hour in order to meet my minimum monthly expenses.  Minimum with no frills, no surprises.

I asked for the couple extra dollars.

I was told that no, that couldn’t happen.

My little voice spoke up.  Take it.

Mentally, I argued, saying But it isn’t enough.  I won’t be able to pay my bills.

It’s okay.  Take it.

But—

It’s okay.  Trust me.

While I had tested my little voice with smaller tasks before, this was the first big decision I’d be making based on its direction.  As usual, that little voice’s instruction conflicted with common reason and my rational mind.

As I sat there, looking at this woman who was waiting for my answer, I thought, what harm would it do?  I can always quit if I find another job or one I like better. 

“Okay,” I said, finally.

She asked me if I could start tomorrow.  I told her no, that I needed the weekend and that I could start the following week.  She then said, “Let me have you meet the manager you’ll be working for.”

Her name was Amy, but it would be several weeks before I learned what had happened.  Apparently, I already had the job, the minute I went up the clerk in the Men’s Department asking for a job application.  Amy had seen me come in.

As I strolled through the store, as I made my way to Customer Service (CS), Amy had taken a short cut, entering CS through a back door.  She told the director that if I was applying for a job, she wanted me in her department.

I took the job, working in the Men’s Department for a month, and received a raise that got me closer to my monthly minimum.  Half a year later, I moved to the Shoe Department, and a few months after that moved to Customer Service where my bookkeeping experience was put to use, as there were few employees who had that particular educated skill.  In the end, I became the department’s supervisor, which in time, would lead to other supervisory jobs, including working at Kellogg headquarters, where once again, my educational background, including my accounting background, was valued and appreciated.

That little voice had known far better than my rational mind.

Only later, as I looked back on my employment journey that would eventually lead me into education and the dream of working in the field of my passion—writing—did I understand how trusting that little voice had immense value.

Writing Down the Words: Making Magic Happen

I make lists.

Yes, I’m one of those.

I guess it’s because I like 1) seeing tasks accomplished, and 2) having direction for my day, particularly toward specific goals.  My daily To-Do list keeps me on track . . . well, most of the time.

I’ve always been a list maker since I can remember.  I found out that when I wrote down my goals rather than just thinking about them, the goals eventually became a reality.  I now believe that writing down my desires is a magical way for the Universe to know what I really want.  It’s not enough for me to say what I want, to vocalize.  Writing these goals, these desires down creates a strong commitment, a contract if you will, with the Universe.  I want these things badly enough that I was willing to put them to paper.

I was heartened some time again when I found support in the book, Write Your Own Magic: The Hidden Power in Your Words by Richard Webster.  He states that all “creativity is magic” and practiced by “Pythagoras, Leonardo da Vinci, and Isaac Newton” and that even “William Shakespeare made countless references to magic in this plays, and was obviously familiar with the subject.”

Once upon a time in my twenties, I wanted to become a writer.  I had no training whatsoever, other than high school English, being a voracious reader, and having an immense curiosity to learn.  When I said I wanted to be a published author, people—family and friends—laughed.  Over time, the laughter stopped.  My goals were coming true.

I have a planner—the hard copy kind—where I list goals/desires for the month.  Using that monthly goal list, I create my weekly list, and from that my daily list.

On July 14 of this year (2015), I was let go from my professor/admin position at a university where I’ve been employed for almost eleven years.  I served as an adjunct for a year and a half, and then with my M.F.A. degree in hand, I hired into a full-time in a position I served for the remainder of that time.  I understand completely why I was let go; it was a restructuring event due to enrollment decreases over the last few years, decreases that are affecting college campuses across the nation.  Honestly, if I had been in my supervisors’ shoes, I would have done the same thing.

That said, over the last couple of years as more duties were assigned to me, I found myself become more tired.  The joy I once had for the job was fading, assignment by new assignment.  My career change to academics was the result of my love of teaching non-academic classes, connecting with students of all ages, helping them re-awaken an earlier joy of writing, and showing them how to become better writers.  Plus, I enjoy teaching or coaching teachers how to teach writing.

I would come home so tired from work that I often needed a nap before bedtime.  I was sleeping upwards of 12 hours a day.  As a result, my creative writing was neglected.  That depressed me further.  During that time personal life events—family deaths and a major auto accident—were taking their toll on me.  I hid this tiredness, this depression well, diving into my writing for relief, which has always served me well in the past.

But it wasn’t enough.

Back in the spring, I asked the Universe to find a way for me to be to write more, but without it jeopardizing my ability to live, to pay bills.  Close to retirement, I was still obligated to my institution for another three years due to their generosity in helping me obtain my Ph.D.

In being let go, that obligation disappeared.  I realized I was free to write and that I could retire from the daily 40-hour week grind.

I am now writing to my heart’s content.  My future isn’t nailed down yet, but that’s okay for the moment.

Today, I looked at my planner and the list I created on July 1, my monthly To-Do list, which were mostly creative writing tasks.  Sadly, I realized I’ve not accomplished one thing on that list so far this month . . . with one exception.  I know I still have time to accomplish the rest of the list this month due to that one item.

The last entry read:  Open a way for me to do more writing.

The Universe does answer.

Projected Thoughts

Mackinac Island is one of my favorite places in Michigan and the island became more special once I learned that the all-time classical time-travel movie, Somewhere in Time, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour was filmed there.  The island is magical in that no automobiles are allowed, except for the fire trucks.  Transportation are bicycles or horse-drawn carts and wagons.  In winter, the 500 or so residents travel by snow mobile.

 

My first summer visit to the island was with my first husband and our two daughters.  We were typical fudgies, staying in the downtown area, taking in all the typical visitor sites, including the fort and a short hike up to the Grand Hotel.  Then, visitors could go inside and look around, and even sit on the porch.  Now visitors have to pay a fee for that privilege if they aren’t staying at the hotel.

 

I visited the island throughout the years, several times, and always with a friend.  Often we would rent bicycles where we would travel around the island and follow all the inland trails.

 

The last time I visited, I fulfilled my bucket-list wish and stayed at the Grand Hotel.  While I couldn’t say much about our view from our room (a back roof), the food was fantastic, with the luxury of sitting on the porch.

 

During our stay, my friend went in search of the labyrinth.  I wanted to sit on the front lawn, where there is a lovely fountain and where the lawn was the location for the Somewhere in Time when the main characters, Richard and Elise, are reunited one last time, breaking the barrier of time.  Several benches sat on the lawn, circling this fountain, and allowing me a view of the famous stairs, leading up to the hotel.

 

I had just sat down, fully enjoying the sounds of the birds and water splashing, when a young boy, about eight or ten, and his grandmother sat on a bench opposite of me.  The grandmother appeared tired, probably looking for a break from this energetic, active child.  He talked constantly to her and she would reply in monosyllables.  Then, he started throwing rocks into the fountain and at the birds, becoming destructive and disregarding nature.

 

I didn’t want to leave, and I was feeling that they were intruding on the loveliness of the landscape.  Minimally, the boy was intruding.

 

Not wanting to leave and wanting the quiet back, I began project thoughts to the boy:  Grandma, I’m bored, I want to leave.  This isn’t fun anymore.  Let’s go.

 

I kept repeating those thoughts, projecting them toward the boy.  Several minutes passed, and lo and behold, I heard the boy say, “Grandma, I’m bored.  Let’s go somewhere else.”

 

Without another word, she rose from the bench, and they held hands as they moved on.

 

The quiet I had been seeking returned.

Randy Aalbregtse – Classmate & Neighbor

His name was Randy.   He was and still is, despite his far-too early death, a beloved classmate.  He was positivity personified, and he always had a smile for everyone.

From second grade through sixth grade, he was my neighbor.

However, we never spoke during that time.  Not once that I recall.  My brother was the same age as his younger brother, Kevin.  There were probably a total of a dozen of us kids in the immediate neighborhood and I would play hide-and-go-seek, baseball, climb trees, and ride bikes with all of them, but Randy never played with us.  Instead, he was always alone with his basketball: dribbling, spinning, jumping and sinking, or tossing from afar.

He would play for hours at a time.  By himself.  Once in a while, in the evening, he and his father, John, would play one-on-one.  There was always a lot of laughter then and John, who was far taller, appeared to block a good number of throws.  But Randy would find ways to skirt around his father and sink the ball with a layup.

I could see Randy playing from my bedroom window, when I was sitting in the yard reading, or when I was roller skating, usually by myself and on the only sidewalk in the neighborhood that ran across one long yard, located on the opposite side of Randy’s house.  It appeared he was as much a loner as I, if not more so.

When my family moved away from the neighborhood, as he and I were entering sixth grade or middle school as it was called then, I don’t recall seeing Randy again until high school.  By then, he was as tall as his father, a thinner version, and all arms and legs.  He played basketball and became one of the best players the school ever had.  Naturally, he hung out with other basketball players, all equally tall and equally enthusiastic about the sport.

I was quiet, never talking with others in the halls but always thinking about the next class, making sure I had my books, my homework, and such.  It wasn’t in my nature to talk to anyone unless they spoke to me first, and even though I would walk by this group of players every day, words were never exchanged.  Plus, I rarely attended extra-curriculum school events.  I was shy.  Extremely shy.

Time passed.  We graduated.  More time passed.  Our class held a few class reunions, some I helped organize, some I didn’t.  I moved away and then returned to the area.  I had become more outgoing and found it easier to start conversations with people, strangers or not.  It was during that time, that reunion, that I had a chance to chat with Randy and his first words seeing me, accompanied with that infectious grin of his, were, “Hi, neighbor.”

Every reunion thereafter, he greeted me the same way.  “Hi, neighbor.”

And then he became sick, but he never missed a reunion.  He attended one with a cane.  The next time was with crutches.  His smile never changed regardless of his declining health.

October 4, 2012

And then he died.  I saw the obituary and wasn’t able to attend his Celebration of Life that a number of our classmates attended, but I thought about him that entire weekend.

A few months passed.

As was my habit, I came home from work, had dinner, then came into my living room combination office, and turned the knob on my floor lamp, to turn it on.

The knob always required a hard twist, as it was stiff and didn’t turn easily.

This night, though, the knob turned easily, too easily.  In fact, the light wouldn’t stay on.  I puzzled over the problem.  No one had been in the apartment.  No one other than me was using the lamp, so what was different?

Carefully, I twisted the knob to on, finally getting the light to come on, and I started to step away.  The light went out.  Over and over, I tried to get the light to stay on.  And every time I had it on and would start to move away, it would go out.  The knob was so loose, it was difficult to find that small range where the light would even come on, as I could spin it back and forth easily trying to search that perfect on position, where the light would say on.

For several nights, this scenario played out.  After about ten minutes, my frustration got the better of me.  I started swearing.  I couldn’t get the light to stay on, no matter what I did.

And then I heard him.  His laugh.  And the word, “neighbor.”

“Randy?”

More laughter.

“You think this is funny, don’t you?”

I could feel his grin.  “Yes!” he responded.

“Okay, you can stay but stop playing with my lamp.”  I reached up to try to turn the light on and discovered that the hard familiar twist had returned.  I tested it several times.  On and off.  On and off.  Each time, I had to twist the knob hard.  (And ever since, the knob has never changed from this hard twist.)

“Thank you,” I told him, but he was gone.  I couldn’t sense him around anymore.  He’d had his fun and I sensed he was off to have fun with someone else, somewhere else.

Move ahead to July 2014—class reunion weekend

As typical of our reunions, we have both a Friday night casual get-together and a more formal reunion on Saturday night with dinner and a band.   For the first time, I attended the Friday night casual get-together.   I had a chance to chat with Roger, a great friend of Randy’s, along with being a former basketball player with him.  During previous reunions, if I saw Randy, Roger was always right there beside him.  On that night, I felt Randy was there, having a grand time seeing so many of the coaches and teachers who were in attendance.

After I dropped off my high school best friend, I drove home thinking about the conversations, the people I had seen, many of whom wouldn’t be in attendance the next evening.

Then, I sensed a presence with me in the car.  I heard, “Tell him.”

“Randy?”

“Tell Roger, this and whitey.”

I couldn’t make out what the this word was, but I saw Randy’s fists together and then moving away from each other.  He kept repeating the motion, but I couldn’t understand what the word was.

Randy relayed a number to me, too, what sounded like 6 or 16.  I couldn’t tell which.  I wanted to look in our old yearbooks to see Randy’s basketball shirt had been numbered, but since I had destroyed my books years ago, my curiosity would have to wait.

“Tell him!  He’ll know that it’s me.  That I’m here.”

“Okay.”

A long time ago, not having given Kathy’s husband a message she wanted delivered, I had vowed never to not give someone a message being delivered from someone on the other side, no matter how silly or ridiculous it could make me appear.

The next night, Saturday, I saw Roger sitting at a table, alone at the moment, so I joined him.  I told him I had a message to give him, from another classmate, but I didn’t say who.

“I’m supposed to tell you this”—I started making the motion with my fists pulling away from each other and returning and being pulled away again, over and over—“and whitey.”  As I kept making the hand motions, I explained, “I can’t think of the word, what the word is supposed to be.”

Roger said, “Stretch?”

“Yes!” I said excitedly.  I knew without a doubt that stretch was the correct word.  It still didn’t make sense to me, but I knew it to be right.  I knew because I could feel Randy’s grin—big and broader than ever before.

“Who is this message coming from?” he asked.

“Randy.”

He looked at me, both puzzled and in wonderment.

“Why? What does stretch mean to you?”

“That was his nickname.  We called him Stretch.”

“So what does whitey mean?”

“That’s what they call me back at Madison, where I teach and coached basketball.”  We just looked at each other.

“He’s here.  He’s here with you,” I told him.  “The message was for you.”

We talked about the numbers, but Roger couldn’t remember what Randy’s jersey number had been back in high school.  He said he would look in his yearbooks, but I’ve not heard, nor could I pull up any pictures of Randy playing, where the jersey number is visible, at least visible enough to read.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever know what these numbers meant to Randy, to Roger, but at this point, it doesn’t matter.

I’d been given a message to transmit, and I had.  Roger admitted he hadn’t been much of a believer of the beyond, but now I’d given him a lot to think about.

Once I was driving home alone, I sensed Randy was with me.  Again, I could tell he was happy knowing that Roger knew that he, Randy, had attempted communication and that they were at the reunion, together again.

She Was Playing with My Computer

So, I was at work, realizing it was the second anniversary of my sister’s death.  Eileen always enjoyed a good joke, especially if she got to play them on someone else.

I saw that the slide show that had been played at her funeral had been reposted on Facebook, so I opened it.  It began with her favorite George Strait song, Amarillo By Morning, a song that now always reminds me of her, and I do have to say, it is a great song.

Anyway, I watched the slides with Strait’s song and then there was a pause for the next song to begin.  It was at this point that I saw an e-mail coming in and I wanted to check on it, while the slide show continued.

I moved my mouse to make the move and clicked.  Nothing happened.  Nothing.

I went to diminish the slide show so I could see the e-mail program, which was behind the slide screen.  Again, I clicked, and the slide-show screen, which had been in a half-screen mode, became full screen.  Now, some of you might be thinking that I’m clicking the wrong buttons, but I wasn’t.   This time when I tried to return to the half-screen mode and the mouse clicker refused to work.

I tried to click an icon down on the bottom ribbon and the mouse icon moved to the middle of the screen.

I clicked the diminish sign and nothing happened.  I clicked it again, and the volume went up.  That’s when I began to have my suspicions about what was really going on.

No matter what I did, the mouse clicker wasn’t working.  I even tried to use the escape key and got nothing.

I couldn’t get off the screen.  No. Matter.  What.  I. Tried.  Nothing.

The thing is, I needed to return to work.

So, I called our IT Department and reported the faulty mouse, telling them that I couldn’t send them an e-mail because the mouse wasn’t working.  He asked me if there were any other mice available.  There was.  In the meantime, he’d report the failure and David, our resident IT employee, would deal with it later.

So, I unhooked the mouse and went to a neighboring computer and took that mouse and plugged it in.  It worked.  I was able to shut down the slide show and return to work.

The next day, when David stopped at my desk, I explained to him how the mouse had stopped working, particularly the left clicker.  He took it, saying he’d try it out to make sure it wasn’t working before turning it in.

Minutes later he returned.  “It works just fine.”

I told him about Eileen, saying, “She was playing with me.”

He just looked at me, smiled, and said.  “Uh, huh”

I sensed Eileen laughing, totally enjoying the joke, covering up her mouth so she wouldn’t explode.

This wasn’t the first time a computer has acted up when there was someone’s favorite music playing or when I could smell someone’s favorite food, drink, or tobacco that alerts me to the fact that I’m not alone.  Spirits love anything electrical, and they let me know they’re around by playing with my TV, cable, lights, and computers.

Have I told you the story about a neighbor and classmate who played with my writing lamp?  And who later wanted me to give a message to another classmate, a best friend of his at our last class reunion?