16 November 2006

Birthdays, Deadlines and Love...

Evening before last, I had a blog entry written and I was busy choosing photos, placing them at strategic locations throughout the missive. I was cutting and pasting and unfortunately for me, (but probably fortunate for you), I cut too much and lost paragraphs in the "paste", never to be retrieved. I was angry. I was mad. I was...well, I just kind of stared at the screen for a few moments in wondered, in between expletives, "what just happened here?"

One thing I've heard over and over and over and, even more impressively, experienced in one form or another just about every day of the past almost three years, is that everything happens for a reason. Even when I type that phrase, I can literally hear Vanessa, with her perfectly glistening, almost-too-white, teeth, smiling and nodding in that "knowing way" she has, whenever I actually repeat something she drills into my thick skull many times a day. Don't you just hate it when people are pleased to see you confirm they are right, even though they are right and were on target all along? You just want to smack them. Unless you really think the world of them and, of course, I do think the world of her.

But I do think things happen for a reason - even things like losing a post which probably contained something that didn't need to be published, though at the moment I can't really think of anything offensive that might have been included but who knows, maybe it contained something that didn't bear revelation quite yet or merit revelation at all. Or maybe I just highlighted too much text and clicked on "cut" and lost most of the post because I was tired and in a hurry and wanted to get in bed. No wait, that would sort of refute Vanessa's wisdom - so I'm certain it can't be that. I probably wrote out of turn. I'm known to do that now and again.

A glitch in time...

I guess the bottom line is to be grateful not only for the gifts that fall in my lap, unexpected and, to a large extent, hardly deserved, but also, to be grateful when things don't go exactly as I plan, because my plans can be really screwed up and thank God a lot of them don't work out. Now, that can be a bit of a challenge, to be grateful for the blessing of a prayer request unfulfilled. Not infrequently, in my life at least, the blessing is that the blessing I wanted to be blessed with blessedly never occurs. Basically, I am trying to be graciously glad for the glitches. Not so easy as you might imagine, but I'm hoping it will develop into a habit.

Let's see, what else is new and notable? I got an E-mail from the features editor of "The Huffington Post", who requested permission to publish the PC Magazine article I wrote on, "The 12 Click Program", as part of the "Fearless Voices" page which, I suppose, is a companion piece to the recent release of Ms. Huffington's latest book, "Fearless Women". I'm not certain how she found me, but someone at "Team Huffington" did, and I'm working on that as we speak.

Another highlight of the past week involved food and friends. My pal Bruce E-mailed me with an invitation to "do lunch" with his beautiful and brilliant wife, Marge, at The City Club, along with Celia Rivenbark. I've always enjoyed Celia's newspaper syndicated newspaper column and her books are "laugh out loud" funny - (think Erma Bombeck with a southern accent and an edge). Celia has the courage and talent to write the things most of us think but probably would never dare have the guts to say. She's still on tour promoting her latest book, "Stop Dressing Your Six-Year Old Like A Skank" which you can find at a bookstore near you and will make anyone who picks it up smile. C'mon - be honest - haven't you ever looked at a kid in elementary school and wondered, "Why did her parents let her walk out of the house like that?". Of course you have. Celia, and my daughter could easily be this woman's daughter, just puts it out there and doesn't even bother looking back. If you've read Katie's blog lately, you would find a strikingly similar style of writing...with, of course, the tiniest bit more edge. Katie's last two entries have been so vintage Katie. I'm certain Celia would approve.

I'd never visited The City Club in downtown Wilmington, but the food was amazing and the interior was "elegant plantation". As always, it was fantastic to see Marge and Bruce - and Bruce is one huge reason why I'm enjoying the offers I've been blessed with lately. I can't thank him enough for his counsel, interest and direction when I ask him, "How am I going to do this?". He actually makes me believe that I can. I respect his intellect, experience and obvious talent, not to mention his "git 'er done" attitude, that I find myself buying into it when he promises that I am capable.

The day before lunch with Marge, Bruce and Celia, I was invited to another lunch - my best, dear friend Sharon called me up and told me to be ready in about 20 minutes which I felt safe in assuming would be an hour or so because Sharon's watch runs like mine - about 40 minutes late. I love that about her.

Sharon is someone who probably knows me better than just about anyone outside of my family and maybe even better than my family. She's been there almost since the beginning, being one of the first people I met when I moved to Wilmington in August 2000. We worked together at Coldwell Banker which is where I first met Sharon. We were on our way to an awards banquet and the office I worked for had rented an SUV limo to transport all of the agents to a breakfast awards dinner at a hotel on Wrightsville Beach. We were all decked out in formal attire, which I think was the brainchild of our rather odd broker-in-charge, demonstrating a sense of humor I never really knew she had, and just as we crossed over the bridge, 8:00 AM in the morning of a cold January day, I noticed we were pulling over before we got to the hotel. I also noticed there was a very attractive blond who seemed to be chasing, on foot and in heels and a long formal dress, the limo. Of course, that got my attention. "Who is she?", I wondered. I made it my business to find out.

It turns out that "she" was one Sharon Pate. She created quite a stir that morning and I was almost taken aback when she opened her mouth and the most delightful, genteel, prim and proper drippingly southern accent rolled off her tongue as she introduced herself to me. I figured that any woman who could chase down a limo in heels and look good doing it, was probably someone I wanted to know.

We became fast friends, partners-in-crime, and have we EVER shared a few adventures, good times, hard times, scary times, and everything in between. She was the best thing Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty ever offered me, much more precious than the best commission check I ever received as a broker, a job I absolutely hated with every fiber of my being. We worked together off and on during my tenure, and we've shared dinners, movies, drinks (pre-AA), more dinners, long long talks, me hitting my bottom, her cleaning out my desk, me getting engaged a few times, her getting my patio ready for a wedding that should never have been (but it was a really pretty party!), her remarriage that fared much better than mine (he didn't need to be a kept man), the illness and difficult death of her beloved mother, working side-by-side for "Team Dysfunctional" for a few weeks until she wised up and got out of there. It took me a little while longer.

Through it all - we've brought different strengths to the table and, to our friendship: She's a wonderful sounding board for me when I'm not sure how to proceed - and even if I'm not totally in agreement with what she says, her accent is delicious to listen to and should come with a warning. Me? I provide two very unique services for Sharon; 1) She knows that no matter how late she's driving home from anywhere, she can call me and I'll be up, usually in front of my computer. I entertain her so she doesn't fall asleep at the wheel. 2) I can find anything she may need on the Internet - from diagnostic information to directions on the occasions she's driving around and may require a quick mapquest check. I guess I'm kind of like her personal GPS. I'm fine with that.

She's probably the closest thing I have to a sister - and interestingly enough, she's ten years older than me, making her the exact same age my sister would be, if she were still alive. Since I no longer have one around, she certainly fills that role perfectly, and in fact, we've been accused of being related because we're both blond and we have the same skewed sense of humor.

We have plans to retire together someday so it's in Sharon's best interests that I make some money writing because she has really expensive taste. I'd hate for her to lower her standard of living because I couldn't bring home the bacon. Personally, I think that's why she pushes me so much, though she pretends it's purely for my own benefit. Sharon is southern charm personified. She colors my life is bold, brilliant brush strokes. There is nothing pastel or impressionstic about Sharon - she is much more Picasso. And I love her. Particularly when she agrees with me.

Speaking of colorful, my son is going to turn 20 on November 21st. My gosh, he's getting old. The contrast between Justin 2005 and Justin 2006 is almost beyond comprehension.
This has been a huge year for my son - in so many positive ways. He replaced the wild, reckless self-destructive manner that kept me awake so many nights in 2005, with more life-affirming goals and behaviors. He has matured almost beyond recognition which isn't to say he's "all grown up" but really, who is? He has grown more handsome, made better decisions, and is living more healthy than I can remember. Some of this is due, in part, to mistakes and increasing age and experience but, no small part of it is due to the fact that he met someone very special - who has brought a great deal of joy into his life, and a lot more peace of mind into my life.

Justin began dating Stephanie this past spring and they've basically been inseparable ever since. She has become a fixture around here and I rarely see Justin without her which is fine. I'm just happy that Justin is still around for me to see. Her healthier lifestyle has definitely been a huge influence on his life and, because his grandparents and I love him so much, it's been a powerful influence on our lives as well. She has had a quiet, but profound effect on my son and I will forever and always be grateful to her for the major changes in attitude and lifestyle he has adopted.

When I look at photos of Justin from his 19th birthday and I catch a glimpse of the son I have now, who regularly comes and visits me in my office at home and work, there is little resemblance. He is not the same person. He is now a young man who's grown and learned so much in such a short span of time. What a wonderful transition and I'm so thrilled to be able to see the evolution into the young adult he has grown into these past dozen months.

This weekend will mark my final submission for the Greater Wilmington Business Journal and working for the long-suffering Ms. Sarah who so sweetly and graciously waits for my stories which eventually arrive, only about five days late. Sometimes seven. Never more than nine. Well, there was that one time but I had to get ready for a trip and my gosh, I E-mailed it a whopping three hours before I left! It's been a lot of fun working with Sarah. She's a rising star and a darn fine editor and an exceptional writer herself. My work load (and I'm not complaining) is getting so crazy between my day job, my writing gigs and I'm still toying with my "50 pages and an outline" or GE is going to fly down and kick me in the keyboard. I just know he will. You know how those NYC publishing people can be. I've heard stories...from very unreliable sources. :-) They "know people". They're "kind of a big deal". My friend is no exception and I know he's going to stay on me until I deliver the goods.

I don't want to let my friend down, who's opened a very impressive door. Even more than that, I don't want to let me down.

In a perfect world, I would receive a lovely Christmas bonus (hahahaha) and find a reasonably priced place to stay in NYC - take in the sights of a Manhattan all dressed up and ready for Christmas, go ice skating, walk through Central Park and maybe even see snow, visit the nice folks and animals at HSNY and maybe go to a show or nice dinner with my friends and then catch Amtrack out of Penn Station and ride a train for 10 1/2 hours to Fayetteville, NC - and then get in a car for 2 hours and finally arrive home to Wilmington.

Now, I know you're asking yourself, "why would anyone fly up to NYC and then take a train back home?" and that is a very valid and reasonable question. I know it's a question I'd ask if someone told me of such plans.

My daughter hates to fly. And it shows. So in an effort to spend more quality time with my little 23 year old girl, I would love to fly up, take in a few NYC sites, and then ride the rail back to the south - as Katie pointed out - we can have 10 plus hours on a train without any interruptions, no cell phone calls, some real time together, just the two of us, what Katie pronounces as "quality time". What I translate as her gentle way of saying, "There's no f'ing way you're going to get me on some commuter, in the winter, when everyone knows planes must be de-iced, and think I'm going to get belted in a seat on a slender, claustrophic aluminum tube that has no business off the ground. Fuggetaboutit!". That's exactly what Katie is saying. Oh, I'm picking up what she's putting down. :-)

As luck would have it, December 23rd, the date of her tentative departure for North Carolina, comes agonizingly close to Christmas - you know - the season when you have to buy stuff...a lot of stuff. Presents. For several people who will be expecting them. Or you will hear about it for the rest of the year how Christmas 2006 was about the lamest one imaginable.

Even worse than the Christmas 2000 when Mom (me) literally experienced a very real (and audible) panic attack while getting up on the roof and stringing the Christmas lights because I suddenly remembered I had this horrible fear of heights.

Budgets. Money. Crap. One would think that a train, taking 8 times as long to get from point A (NYC) to point B (Wilmington, NC) would be fairly cheap - for all the agony one is expected to endure. But believe it or not, it's as expensive, or more, to ride the rail than soar the sky. It's like you have to pay more money for less efficiency. I don't like that!

"You'll get to see the countryside!" Katie much too exuberantly exclaims. (She's not naturally exuberant).

"I've seen it! Did something change topographically that I'm not aware of since the last time I got talked into Amcrap 20 years ago??," I query.

"Mom, there are colorful, interesting people on the train. They're fun to watch," she points out.

"Katie, there are colorful people at the bus station and they looked closely related to the people at the train station last time I took you to catch your train. I'm sure they're great and upstanding citizens, but I don't really want to be around them for 10 hours. I don't really want to be around people I actually know and like for ten hours - except, of course, for you...because I really do love you."

I rather doubt I'll be the recipient of an unexpected Christmas bonus so this is all a moot point. But for as much as I hate the thought of being on swaying train for ten plus hours, I'd love to be on it with her. She makes me laugh like no one else can. She's completely dry and absurd and can deliver a line like no one else can. Katie doesn't look through rose colored glasses - I'm not sure what color the lens in her glasses really are, but I just know I love hearing her describe what it all looks like from where she sits. And smirks.

Oh...and Happy Birthday wishes to another member of our immediate family. Tonight, my Daddy reminded me that Cassie joined us seven years ago today, when we adopted her from the Amarillo SPCA. She was skin and bones and, as Celia Rivenbark might say, "knocked up", but she had the sweetest smile and heart-melting eyes. Justin and I knew she was the one, instantly.

The vet estimated she was probably around one when she came to hang with us, which would make her 8 by now. She still, however, is just as much a puppy as she was 7 years ago. Maybe even more. She is the best dog West or East of the Mississippi and we are so thrilled that she is ours.

We're also pretty thrilled that Justin is ours. I knew right away that he was the one, because I doubted any other baby could kick my spine the way he did as he made his way out into the world. I locked eyes with him and my heart melted. It's been melting ever since. I love you, Justin. Happy almost birthday (November 21). I am just so proud of you.

A special Happy Birthday to Stephanie, who turned 20 on 7 November, and who has colored our lives by sharing her own. We really do love you Stephanie - we're glad you are one of us. Really. You're a very special young lady.

I'm proud of you too, Katie, even if I can't talk you into a short flight that I probably can't afford anyway. I know this is one of those places where it should suffice to know that "it's the thought that counts", but my gosh, I really would have loved to have shared that long train ride with you - not because I like trains, but because I love you. You've always had my heart, just like your brother. I miss you these days.

I love you too, Mom and Dad. Thanks for loving all of us back and continuing to teach us in a very gentle way, what is real. What matters most.

I love my family - crazy and strange as this group is, I can't imagine belonging to any other, nor would I ever want to even contemplate such a thing. They rock.