Dear pen pal….

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The mere mention of the phrase ‘pen pal’ conjures memories of my public school classroom. Our entire class would be given time to compose letters to students in foreign countries and I can still see the younger version of myself with my tongue sticking out as I wrote because I was so focused on writing the perfect letter. There was an inherent joy about crafting a letter and sending it halfway around the world to a complete stranger. And there was a true feeling of elation receiving a letter in the mail in response to the words I had written.

I get to feel that sense of pleasure again. Our community has a wonderful program for local seniors and one of those programs is a pen pal group. Once I found out about this group, I knew I wanted to be a part of it and today I received a brief profile of my new pen pal. She loves reading, cooking, dogs and the same types of music I enjoy. She also enjoys writing. She and I are a match made in Heaven.

(image credit)

The time went by slowly as I waited for my work day to be over. I had already started writing three different versions of my first letter in my head, eager to introduce myself to my new pen pal. The walk with my dog was abbreviated and dinner was figuratively put on the back burner as I wielded my pen and put it to paper. It took a while for my thoughts to flow from pen to paper since I am so used to plugging away on my keyboard but, after a slight hesitation, the cascade of ideas began to gel into a thoughtful first letter.

For the first time in a long time, I will be stopping at the Post Office to buy stamps. I will put my first letter into an envelope and mail it to my pen pal and I will anxiously await the red flag on my mailbox to let me know that she has written back. To quote Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”.

 

 

 

 

I got the message, loud and clear

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We have a scrapbooking group checking in to the lodge this weekend. I’m sure you are wondering why I am sharing this information. Thinking about this group made me pull out the scrapbook I made for my mom’s celebration of life over four years ago.

Part of my healing process was to capture the many parts of my mother that made her so wonderful – her childhood, her marriage to my father, her becoming a mother and her dedication to our family. As I turned each page I had created, adorned with pictures of her infectious smile, I became overwhelmed with emotion. Tears began to slide down my cheeks but I stopped myself from becoming a blubbering mess by remembering all the extraordinary things about my mom and that made my sadness turn into happiness. She was a woman with a big heart who everyone admired and loved.

As I was going through my scrapbook pages, my iPod continued to shuffle songs. Although I was lost in the images of my mother, the song that began to play in the background of my reverie was called “Remember David” by A Flock of Seagulls. David was my dad’s name.

My dad passed away eight years before we lost my mom. He is never far from my thoughts but the raw emotion of my loss is tied more tightly to my mom because it is more fresh in my mind. I got the message loud and clear. I don’t miss my dad any less than I miss my mom. There are days that I take myself back to the minutes before he took his last breath, the seconds I counted between those breaths and the exact moment I knew he was gone. It is a moment I will never forget.

But with the sad moments of his loss come the memories of the life he lived. He was gregarious. He lived life to the fullest. And although he left this world before he should have, he left a huge imprint. He shaped my world and he left his spiritual impression on my brother and my nephews. They all embody the pieces of him he would have wanted to leave behind. They are loving, they are adventurous and they put their family first.

I can only thank my iPod shuffle for reminding me to “Remember David”, not that I will ever forget him. Those subtle reminders make me realize he is never that far away from me and I should make a point of remembering David more often. I miss you, Dad.

 

 

Not-so-dry cleaning

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Working in the hospitality business goes hand-in-hand with working long hours.  I can adapt to the hours but my dog is the one who takes the brunt of my lifestyle in the summer months.  I will never leave her outside on a chain to battle the elements. She is firmly ensconced in our home, lazily spending her hours watching the wildlife from the comfort of my bed while the air conditioner keeps her cool.  I have several people who are more than willing to come over and let her out during the day because she is such a happy dog but having her be the excuse for me to leave work for thirty minutes is wonderful.

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(a much younger Callaway)

During these long days, I often wonder how she invests her time.  Is she reorganizing my kitchen cabinets?  Has she mastered the satellite remote?  Does she inventory my refrigerator?  But each day when I get home from my struggle to survive my sometimes 10-12 hour days, she is there to greet me and nothing in the house seems out-of-place.  Until recently…..

I returned home from my usual work day and I was greeted by the reassuring excitability that I have come to expect.  The house, as usual, was completely intact.  The garbage was untouched and the serene ambiance wrapped its arm around my shoulder and pulled me into its embrace to welcome me home.

My attention was immediately diverted to the duvet cover on my bed and what seemed to be a single article of clothing bunched up in the middle of the bed.  It wasn’t shredded, however the entire shirt was extremely damp.  She had been licking my shirt and focusing her attention on the armpits of the shirt.

Now, you have to understand that my closet is hidden by a decorative cloth shower curtain that poses as a makeshift door.  Somehow, she was able to get behind the shroud of the curtain, move the articles of clothing she had no interest in and gingerly lift that particular shirt from the middle of the pile of laundry in the basket.  She also strategically replaced the curtain so nobody could catch on to her devious plot.

As much as I miss her during my day, it broke my heart to realize how much she truly misses me during her day.  The writing was on the wall, or in this case on the bed.  My scent comforted her during her lonely day while she waited for me to return home.

We are more than halfway through our busy season and soon my work days will become shorter and more structured.  My time with her will increase and perhaps her need to be close to my deodorant-saturated shirts will abate somewhat because I will be here with her and not spending long days at work. I am grateful every day for her patience and her love and look forward to the moments we can spend together in the fall.

It’s all in the details

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Yesterday was my day off. I get one day off a week this time of year so I have to pack as much into it as I can to make the way I spend it last until my next day off. My timing was altered slightly but I still managed to get everything done I wanted to do and enjoy some time with a friend in the process.

After my morning shopping and a few other tasks, I headed to my friend’s house so we could detail my car. He is a recent Honda owner and we both love our Hondas and take great pride in them. Mine has been sadly neglected over the past few months and in great need of a thorough cleaning. My friend, who has an entire Rubbermaid bucket labelled “car care”, was more than happy to help out and we spent a few hours making my car look like it did the day I drove it off the lot.

Every inch of my car was washed, dried and polished. Even the difficult globs of pine tar were beaten into submission and eventually removed. If you look inside my car now, you would never know I have a dog who sheds like crazy, drools everywhere and puts her nose on every piece of glass in that car.

As much as cleaning a car is about the details, so is friendship. It’s about the fact that you can have fun doing menial tasks, that you can laugh at pretty much anything and just enjoy each other’s company without having to feel like you are putting on a show for anyone. It’s about being you and knowing that the details of you are truly appreciated by someone else. And it’s about knowing that a true friendship may collect a little dust but it takes no time at all to polish it and bring it right back to where it should be.

Putting myself first today

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The lawn needs to be mowed, I have half a story left to finish for the project I am helping my local library with but this morning I am making time for myself. I have just finished a long 14-day stretch at work without a day off and put in sixty-seven hours last week. It’s time for me.

Those chores will be done later today but this morning I am doing something I haven’t given myself time to do for the last four years – I’m going golfing. I’m leaving my responsibilities behind and letting myself enjoy the morning with a very dear friend. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff and having a cleanly mowed lawn is infinitesimal in the grand scheme of my happiness today.

Today is not about having time, it is about making time. Too many moments have passed me by because I put something or someone else first. Today is about me being selfish and I’m okay with that. I’m going to get dressed in my new golf shirt, shine my clubs and chase a little white ball around a freshly manicured lawn that would put mine to shame. I can only hope I remember how to hit the damn thing.  Fore!

 

 

When good things happen to good people

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I believe in Karma.  I hold faith in the fact that good deeds will be rewarded in kind and bad deeds will not go unpunished.  It is extremely uplifting when you are able to watch someone very close to you have those good things happen.

It is one thing to give so much of yourself to make others happy, but it is another thing to lose your happiness in the process.  It is a gradual slope and the journey down that road is almost unrecognizable. Suddenly, you are in a place where you never expected to be and you wonder how you traveled so far down without even knowing you were on that path.

The nice thing about life is there is always a choice. Watching someone make that choice to put themselves first and really feel alive again is a reward in itself.