Saturday, June 27, 2015

I Am Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

In January, I wrote about the wonderful opportunity that my son Drew had. He would be working at Carolina Point, a Young Life camp in North Carolina, for a month.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can check out my previous post by selecting this link:

Coincidence or God's Perfect Timing?

Six months have passed, and today I dropped Drew at camp until July 25! He will be serving alongside many college students and adults to share God's word and have fun doing it. 

Drew and Daniel, his buddy from home who will be Drew's primary companion for the next four weeks.

I had planned to take lots of pictures of Drew, the camp, and the other staff members; however, there was a huge downpour that didn't allow us to see much of the beautiful place. Drew was so excited and I think ready for us to leave.
I'll admit that I'm more than a bit nervous about this whole thing. I know that Drew is 28 and I need to "let go" more than I do, but it's easier said than done when dealing with a child who has a disability. I have doubts that he will make it the whole month, worries that he will get homesick or that I'll miss him too much, and concerns that the other young people may not truly accept him. 

When these worries come to mind, I think about something a counselor told me once: "You can't grieve over something before it happens." In other words, don't expect the worst to happen and thus start preparing yourself for it so that you won't be hurt or disappointed. I have tried to remain positive about this experience for us, Drew and all the other people he will come in contact with over these next four weeks. 

I've been working to make connections for Drew before today. I introduced him and myself on the Facebook page for the summer staff and even joined in a Group-Me text with many others. I posted pictures of Drew at the Taylor Swift concert and of Drew on the podium when he won a silver medal at Special Olympics for tennis. I thought doing this would give people prior knowledge of his activities so that they would have a starting point to a conversation with him. I guess I am really, really worried about his being accepted by everyone. 

One of my favorite Bible verses is Psalm 139:13-14:
This verse says that we are all -- White, Black, Asian, Disabled, Gay, Fat, Skinny, Blonde, Ginger, etc. -- are all made by God and that we are all small bits of wonder in this large world. When we stop and consider how wonderful all of God's works are, it's easy to let go of prejudice and hate and to be accepting of everyone. 

So Drew is 100 miles away from home for four weeks with no phone, no tablet, no real contact with family. I would appreciate your prayers for him, for the staff at Carolina Point, and for me. If you'd like to send him a note of encouragement or a card, I know he'd like it. His address is Drew Owen, 4000 Glady Fork Road, Brevard, NC 28712.

Tonight, I saw this picture on Instagram that someone at Carolina Point posted. It was taken after today's thunderstorm had passed. I'll take it as a sign that good things will come.

carolinapoint...and the view wasn't too shabby to end the day either. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Keeping An Open Door

The past couple of weeks have been tough ones for me. The retirement wasn’t such a big deal because I knew it was coming, but a lot of stress occurred when I packed up myself, my son, my granddaughter and the family dog to meet my husband and daughter in North Carolina for the summer.

After an 11 hour drive, we made it and the stress hasn’t eased off since. My husband has been in the hospital twice (bronchitis and a throat infection) and the five of us plus the dog are on top of each other in the RV and cabin. There is absolutely no place to go to be alone and process thoughts for a blog post. I keep telling myself that it will ease off soon, but right now, I’m living the AA mantra of “one day at a time” to keep from going crazy or driving everyone else crazy.

One positive action I did was to get involved with a local church. I read about Crossnore Presbyterian Church last year during my visits and even contacted them during the year to see about summer activities. Coincidentally (or God’s perfect timing), the church's secretary once lived in Tallahassee and was an ESE teacher at the school my son attended. We have several friends in common and in present-day fashion, she and I became Facebook friends. When my husband was diagnosed with lung cancer, I asked her to add his name to the prayer list at the church. I’m not Presbyterian, but because of this connection, I felt like I was supposed to be at this particular church.

The people there are extremely nice and welcoming, and in a week, we have been to Saturday breakfast, Sunday church service, and Friday Bluegrass and Barbecue family dinner. The preacher said she was finally glad to meet me because the church family had traveled this cancer journey with me and my family. The members have readily taken me and my family into their fold.

Since Wednesday night’s tragedy in Charleston, SC, I, like many of you, have thought about why this happened and why, of all places, would someone do such a horrible act in a church? A church is a place of reverence, solitude, learning, fellowship, and most of all, acceptance of all people. Just like the people of Crossnore Presbyterian Church accepted and welcomed me, the people of the Emanuel AME Church welcomed Dylann Storm Roof. After all, a church is God's house, and believers are His servants who are supposed to welcome everyone in order to learn about God. 

I’m heartbroken that this happened in Charleston to these nine people. These people lost their lives because they were in church on this Wednesday night studying God's word. They welcomed this particular young man into God's house and then were tragically shot dead by this young man. This event seems a repeat of Columbine in 1999 and Newtown in 2012 when innocent children and adults were shot and killed by other young men.

Many people have their own beliefs as to why these events happen – racial prejudice, anti-religion, anger at peers or the establishment. Stronger gun laws would help, but someone can easily get his hands on a gun through illegal paths.

Personally, I believe that evil presents itself in these people who perform these terrible acts. I mean true evil, the evil that takes hold of a person’s mind, telling him to destroy others and himself. Some people explain these events by saying the person committing this act has a mental illness or someone has taught him his warped beliefs. Maybe that’s how the evil presents itself in that person, but the greatest evil is there and is working against good and peace.

I hope that churches like Crossnore Presbyterian, Emanuel AME, and all others will continue to take a risk and open their doors to everyone to enjoy learning and fellowship. Continuing to do so is the only way to fight true evil.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Live Concerts from Herman's Hermits to Taylor Swift

All of us loaded in the minivan and headed to Charlotte, NC, to the Taylor Swift concert on June 8, 2015.
This week, I treated myself and six of my family members to the Taylor Swift 1989 World Tour concert in Charlotte, NC. Going to this concert was part of my big retirement celebration, and I must say that the concert didn’t disappoint. The tickets for which I paid over $200 each did disappoint, however. Everyone still enjoyed the experience of being at this live concert.

I love live entertainment – plays, concerts, etc. – and have been to several musical concerts over my 57 years. The first one I remember going to was in Montgomery, AL, and was really more of a music festival because it involved several “big-name” entertainers. The show was sponsored by the local AM radio station WBAM, the Big Bam, and the show was aptly called The Big Bam Show.

I remember seeing such big names at the time as Paul Revere and the Raiders, Herman’s Hermits, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, and The Carpenters. I must have been around 12 or 13 and I went with a friend who was the same age which seems strange to me now. Who drops his/her 12-year-old kid off at a concert now? No one in his right mind! But times were different then, and the venue was clean and orderly.

My next big concert was to see Eric Clapton in Birmingham. I was 14 and won four tickets and transportation to and from the show on a charter bus sponsored by another local radio station. My mom wasn’t too keen on my going because it was a “rock” concert, but she reluctantly let me and three of my friends go. Honestly, I wasn’t a fan of Clapton then, and the attendees and their activities were eye-openers to me.

After Clapton, I don’t remember going to any concerts until college. Troy State University always had a concert each school quarter and the cost was included in student fees. I saw Jimmy Buffett, Dolly Parton, and Andrew Gold (who?). I also saw The Captain and Tennille and Waylon Jennings during the college years.

After I married, concert-going wasn’t a priority, but I did manage to see Loretta Lynn at the Ocean Opry in Panama City Beach. Then around 1990 I took my then seven-year-old son to see M.C. Hammer and Boys 2 Men. That was a huge production with lots of dancing and costume changes. That’s the first concert I saw that was more than just singing. Also, it’s the loudest performance ever. My chest vibrated the next day from the intense bass, and my ears rang for a week.

One of the best concerts I saw in the 1990s was Cher’s Farewell Tour. I have always been a huge Cher fan from when she was a duo with Sonny until now. I had her album Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves on 8-track and listened to it over and over. She isn’t the best singer, but she is a fantastic performer.

Since Cher, I have seen many musicians perform – Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Hunter Hayes, Sugarland, Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire and Lee Ann Womack (twice), and George Strait, the king of country music. (Note: I've included a link to my favorite Strait song performed live.)

What’s so great about seeing/hearing a performer live? Part of the draw is the anticipation of what he/she is going to look like or sound like, of what kind of relationship he/she will have with the audience and of what the other spectators will look and act like. At the end, I just want to see if I got my money’s worth. I know that I can hear these singers on the radio, buy their music on iTunes or watch their videos on YouTube. However, it just doesn’t compare to being in a 15,000+ seat coliseum that’s packed with people who are all wanting to see the same person and have the same experience.

Which were my favorite concerts? I’d have to say that Cher was probably number one simply because I had been a fan for so long when I did see her. I also liked Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood because both were big productions with lots of costume changes. Taylor Swift was great, too, because she wanted to really connect to her audience, especially the young girls. She also had a gimmick given to every attendee, a light-up wristband which flashed in time with her songs. The tech people had control of the wristband during the concert just like Taylor controlled the crowd. I don’t want to know how this worked technically, but everyone got to keep the band at the end. Now it just flashes when you moved it. At the end, we got to take home a flashing wristband and the memory of a great concert.

Which concert/performer was your favorite?

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Ok, I'm retired. Now what?

When I started this blog over a year ago, I stated that the purpose was to use my writing and your thoughts and comments to help me transition into retirement. Well, June 3, 2015 was my R-Day, the day I've been yearning for, the date I set on my phone’s countdown app, and the date to mark changes in my life. 

That date came and went, and not much has changed except that I will now earn less than half my regular paycheck. Maybe it's because I'm used to having summers off that it doesn't seem like retirement. June, July and half of August were always spent at home or traveling, so this summer feels the same as the others. I'll probably feel differently when my friends and granddaughter go back to school and Drew goes back to work at FSU. I'll let you know.

In order to not get bored, I have lined up some activities to do in the fall. I want to learn to play Bridge so I can keep my mind sharp. There’s a class starting in September that I’ll take. The class is in the middle of the day. Yes, the MIDDLE of the day, and I won’t have to take time off work.  It’s probably filled with retirees, too, so I’ll meet new people. That’s something to look forward to.

I also have home renovations planned, namely the kitchen and my pool. Those projects will take up a lot of time and money, but they must be done. I've always hated projects like these, but now I'll have time to make unhurried decisions. I might actually enjoy spending all that money!

I also have some volunteer work that I hope to do. I’ll get those all lined up in the fall. I hope that I can concentrate on my health now that I have no excuse for taking time for myself. Maybe I’ll lose that extra 50 pounds.

My retired friends say that when I get fully into the swing of retirement, I won't know how I ever worked an 8 hours job because I'll have so many activities to keep me busy. I hope not. For now, this summer, the summer I’ve dreamed and planned for the past year, I hope to spend in North Carolina doing nothing breathing deeply.

One thing I’m unsure of now is what the focus of this blog can be. I can’t very well have it about getting ready for retirement since that’s a done deal. Until I can decide on a focus, I will tell some of my “newly-retired-person” stories. Of course, I’ll write about other events, activities, world issues, etc., that are sure to bore you. I’d appreciate your suggestions of a direction/focus.