Over the years I have been encouraged to tell the serendipitous story of how my husband, Jim, and I found each other. Valentine’s Day seemed like a good time. Honestly, I tried to keep it short, but it just isn’t that kind of tale.
I was 23, touring as a performer in the National IV tour of CATS. He was 25, working at his family owned hotel in New Orleans, LA – which is where the story begins. The tour stopped in New Orleans for 2 weeks of performances and some of us ‘Kitty’s’ were thrilled to find and stay at his quaint, historic hotel. Our first meeting occurred over a broken stove. I called the front desk to have someone come repair the stove in my room (this was when cooking actually seemed fun) and he showed up at my door. Over that hot and steamy repair job (kidding!) the attraction was immediate. We spent those 2 weeks together, getting to know each other.
After those two weeks, though, on I went with the tour to the next city.
Over the next several months we stayed in contact by letters (you know the handwritten thing that goes on paper). We kept in touch while I finished the tour and went back to Los Angeles to continue my performance career and he cruised around South America starting an export business (the legal type – Alpaca sweaters) and around the US on the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) circuit as a Bull and Bronc rider (all true, I swear).
Finally, an agreement was made; he would come to LA to visit me. However, not long after his arrival in LA, I informed him “I do not see this relationship going anywhere”. In truth, I do not recall saying it in just this way (as he relayed to me some time later), but my Mom ratted me out by saying it sounded “exactly like something I used to say in those days”. (There went her Christmas present that year!).
Anyway, off he went, back to New Orleans. That was the last time we spoke.
7 years went by (yep, 7 years!).
In that time he continued with his export business, riding the Pro-rodeo PRCA circuit, and attending to the hotel. I kicked around LA doing commercials & videos, singing in bands, marketing music artists, and doing what all aspiring performers do in LA –bartend, waitress and do odd jobs.
But, the pertinent part is, during that time, I had the pleasure occasion to kiss a lot of frogs. Cute some may have been, but none of which turned into a handsome prince (although, a few morphed into evil wizards with bad complexions).
Then, it happened. One day, on the heels of the crown jewels of bad relationships, I was teaching Line Dancing at the trendy Denim & Diamonds Country Music Nightclub in Santa Monica (one of those odd jobs). I happened to look up at the TV screen with the ever running assortment of ‘all things western’ and there he was; on the screen, in all his Pro-rodeo glory, riding a bucking horse (well, getting bucked off a bucking horse if you must know), in a PRCA rodeo in Texas. Thus began the obsessive thought process that would plague me for days on end: “He was a really good guy”…”What was I thinking back then (as in, what an idiot I was)”…”man, I really blew that”…”I wonder what he is doing now…married???”
I spent days thinking and thinking about it; until I could not take the cosmic hammering anymore and decided to take action.
At the time, I was performing in a trio that was preparing to open up for Carlene Carter. As the group was addressing promotional postcards with our picture on it (this is what one did before “social networking”), I addressed one to him at his hotel in New Orleans, which consequently his family still owned, with a small note (and, duh, my phone number) included. (oh, home-wrecker I’m not – one call to chatty desk clerk at hotel confirmed bachelorhood).
Since our final parting 7 years prior had been, ummm, not the best in his memory, he was prepared to possibly discard the greeting. That is until his English friend (I knew I liked that bloke), in his never beat around the bush way, pointed out that due to the “positive physical attributes” displayed in the picture, perhaps at least a return phone call was in order (praise be the wisdom of guy-logic).
He did call. Then he called again, many times. And then we arranged to get together. Gullible Forgiving guy that he is, he, again, came out to see me in LA. This time, I did not send him home with some stupid edict, but rather with the promise of a reciprocal visit to New Orleans and more.
And despite the fact that I bristled ever so slightly at the statement made by him some months later that if “anyone had ever told me I had already met the girl I was going to marry, I would never have thought of you” and he, annoyed by the fact that I had to slobber all over a bunch of frogs before finally getting it right…
We married a 1 ½ years later.
Well, 7 years and 1 ½ years later.
This year we will celebrate our 16th anniversary. I am thinking all those frogs and bucking livestock were well worth the trouble – which only goes to show that it is a good thing, life is what happens while you are busy making plans!
As author Saul Bellow so eloquently put it:
“Unexpected intrusions of Beauty. That’s what life is.”
Happy Valentines Day
I have a son. I have had him for a decade. Apparently, 10 years is a long enough time for some to acquire a significant amount of knowledge and I have, consequently, learned a vast amount from him. Not the usual wisdom one might aspire to but, I have come to believe, he is definitely onto something. What, exactly, I couldn’t really say; but valuable, to be sure. And, what good is knowledge if not shared? Therefore, in the interest of fairness, here are some of the Decade Boy’s most admired words of wisdom.
Why goof of tomorrow when you can goof off today.
Girls who chase boys are pathetic.
Smart people are often “over-rated”.
The enjoyment of any activity is always increased by the removal of all authority figures.
School (work) could actually be fun in Heelys…and, of course, no teachers (bosses).
The song “Animal Crackers in My Soup” is worth singing repeatedly after changing the word “Soup” to “Poop”.
School is completely unnecessary, just “figure it out.”
Forget motivational speeches, prizes, or perks…you want results? Show me the money!
Which brings us to:
Career goal: “To be Rich.”
Most Memorable Quote:
“All the seasons of Childhood are wasted while in School.”
The person who decided it was a good idea to have 5 days of school/work to only 2 days of weekend was the dumbest person on the planet.
Confucius say: He who passes gas in church sits in his own pew.
Decade Boy say: When all else fails…kick butt.
Like I said…clearly onto something.
For more Pre-teen isms – A Decade of Wisdom – Go Here!
There I was, wrestling with “The Beast” (aka: Full Kitchen Trash Bag), out-manned, out-matched and out-maneuvered as contents began to spill out onto the floor. “Help Needed!”, I yelled to no one in particular. Both of my boys came bounding into the kitchen to my aide. Together, we tamed “The Beast”. They’ve got my back. I’m not alone. It feels good.
First of all, I want to give a huge thank you to my niece, Gina Benedetti, a very talented photographer and graphic designer, who created this wonderful logo for my new feature on Sweet Spot.
I came up with the idea for this feature after attending the funeral of a good friend’s Mom. My friend’s Mom had been on this earth a long time, so I am guessing she must have learned a few things along the way. At the funeral, it was explained how she had a special journal where, each day, she recorded her Best Moment of the Day. When you visited her home, you were encouraged – very encouraged – to add your own best moment of the day to her book.
I thought this was such a wonderful life skill. One I wish I was better at. So, of course, I wanted to bring it to Sweet Spot. I already “unofficially” started over Christmas with Santa Cruz (this pic!), Lake Tahoe and Lake Tahoe2.
Where I will go with it next… I’m not sure. But that is ok. In fact, it is the Best.
Lake Tahoe, CA – Take 2, December 2011
Last Day Snowboarding: Today, more snow, less people, and still there is that lake.
For more Sweet Spot Travels: Go Here!
Lake Tahoe, December 2011.
End of snowboarding day. Not enough snow, too many people, but there is always that lake.
For more Sweet Spot Travels: Go Here!
Sunset in Santa Cruz, California – Surfers grabbing the last waves of the day. December, 2011.
Mid run to the water entrance, a surfer stopped to catch a moment of the sunset. We caught it with him.
For more Sweet Spot Travels: Go Here!
Today, I feel giddy! Winter snow sport time is almost here. Since relocating from CA to MO winter is a time to dread, fear, eat my weight in chocolate. However, since my discovery of snowboarding, winters now have a redeeming quality – well, that and not having to shave my legs for weeks on end. My fledgling adventure into snowboarding (or some might say, one way ride to Crazy Town) went something like this…
The day I turned 40 was a dark day. 4….0…forty? Turning 30 was no big deal. I had just gotten together with my soon-to-be husband. I was looking forward to leaving the smog and traffic in LA behind. It was the beginning of a new chapter in my life.
But, turning 40 felt like an epilogue at the end of my book that read “She was in a big hair rock band, and then she turned 40…The End”.
So, I resolved to do something I had never done before – but what? For days, I racked my brain. My ultimate teenage goal of marrying Richard Gere seemed pretty much out of the question at this point (according to my husband, anyway). And, becoming a professional ice skater looked like a dim prospect since, well, I couldn’t even really ice skate.
Then, it came to me. Of course, why hadn’t I thought of it before? Just because my one and only foray into this activity 20 years prior had ended in complete disaster was no reason to think I couldn’t succeed now!
So I dug out my frighteningly dated, thrift store snow clothes, shoved my feet into some very unattractive boots, strapped a plank to each boot, and headed for the nearest chair lift. Kindly said, my first attempts were… ungraceful. I was more down than up and I quickly learned the literal meaning of “eating powder”. But, I was determined and no amount of bruises, shouts of “wipe out” from smug little teens floating on the lifts overhead, or hikes around the mountain to locate runaway skis after executing something I liked to call “the flying stop”, was going to deter me. Little by little I began to improve.
And even as my friends and family quietly looked on in disbelief, (yeah, like the time I wore tie-die leggings to my brother’s wedding wasn’t unbelievable enough!), I went from beginner, to intermediate to, on a really brave day, an advanced run or two.
But, I wasn’t done yet. As if strapping two planks to my feet and heading down a steep incline wasn’t mind blowing enough, I decided it was time to strap both feet to one plank and attempt to snowboard. Oh yes, I ate even more powder, acquired more bruises and was heckled by more of those smug little teens. But, one time floating down a mountain of powder like a surfer in the pipe and I was hooked.
Now finally, after several seasons (although Shaun White need not stress too much), I can at last call myself a “snowboarder”; which, as I said, makes me giddy.
But, honestly, even better than giddy was the proof. Proof to myself that turning 40 did not mean my only adventure left was getting out of bed in the morning to make coffee (although sometimes, that is pretty harrowing).
And with this evidence, I have proceeded to kick and scream through my 40’s – looking for new beginnings, facing challenges, smashing through self-imposed limits and remembering that nobody ever really looked good in spandex.
Not The End
Yesterday, I had an epiphany – a revelation. You know, one of those moments when everything becomes clear. The Catalyst? – My Grocery List.
Now, I recognize that having an epiphany over a grocery list is not, well, the norm. But, in the moment I looked at my list that day while standing in front of the grocery store, I happened to be thinking about my son’s struggle at school with the neatness of his work. And, when I looked down at my confusing, messy, helter-skelter list, it suddenly dawned on me – Genetics can be so very cruel.
The thought instantly led me to begin a mental check list through all the ways in which Mother Nature had potentially failed my sons.
I thought about:
Every time one of my sons comes home, yet again, lacking the needed details that were clearly discussed but not absorbed by him, and I can hear my successive childhood “I don’t know”s to my Mom in her quest to discover times, details or specifics.
Every time my son struggles with spelling and I have to run for the spelling dictionary I was sent off to college with oh so many years ago.
Every time one of them finds themselves separated from classmates due to excessive in-class socializing and I get a mental flashback of the solitary desk in the corner where I spent a good part of the 6th grade.
Every time their obsessive love for a particular activity keeps me on permanent chauffer status and I realize how well and for how long my own Mom had to wear that hat.
And as all of these things quickly ran through my mind, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of…Thankfulness.
Yes, thankfulness. Because, as I stood there, poised at the automatic glass doors, grinning like a dork in front of the Boy Scouts and the all too premature ringing Santa, I felt:
Thankful for all the imperfections I have shared with them.
Thankful for all the struggles I get to go through with them.
Thankful that no-one else in the world is quite like them.
Thankful because the proof that they are part of me is never so apparent as in our shared imperfections.
Thankful that they are wonderfully, beautifully, magnificently, perfect…in every single way.
Nothing happened today.
While getting ready for school…
H: “Mom, I had a dream last night that you and Dad had gained tons of weight.”
P: “No, honey that is what you call a nightmare.”
While running out the door for school and work…
K: “Uhh -Mom, why are you wearing two different black shoes?”
While making an afterschool snack…
K: “Mom, I discovered a new way to pull out loose teeth…blue Jolly Ranchers.” (K produces out of pocket blue Jolly Rancher encrusted tooth).
While doing math homework…
H: “Mom, what did the Zero say to the Eight? …. ‘Nice Belt’”.
While making dinner…
P: “Hey, guys, if you smell plastic melting in the kitchen, that’s because, well, it is.”
(peanut gallery comments ensue)
K: “If you smell the dinner burning, that’s because, well it is.”
H: “If you smell the house on fire, that’s because, well it is,”
While getting ready for bed…
K: “What do you think the Tooth Fairy will give me for my jolly rancher filled tooth?”
K: “Half the usual gold dollar?”
P: “A quarter to call the dentist.”
Today was a good day – maybe, the best day ever.
But then, there is always tomorrow.
Recently, I was given the privilege of showing my appreciation to the Men and Women serving our country overseas. This honor was made possible by my young cousin Megan as she compiled letters of thanks to send to her fiance marine, Jared, and his Brothers in Arms – spending the holidays far from home on a final tour in Afghanistan.
To recognize all on this day, Veterans of the past, present and future, I wanted to share my letter.
Dear Jared and Brothers,
My day today was typical, uneventful – routine even.
I woke up, took a shower, made breakfast, forgot to make lunches, sent my boys off to school, went to work, drove to the store, left my grocery bags in the car, watched my son ride his bike around the block, went to the post office and bank, helped with homework, took out trash, wished husband was taking out trash, drove kids to soccer practice, waited, talked on the phone, cooked dinner, watched the Cardinals get beat by the Rangers…again, read my book, prepared for the next day…
But, here’s the thing. Today was also the most extraordinary and amazing day ever. Today, I got to do all those things feeling safe, protected and free. Today, I got to enjoy all those mundane, wonderful things because;
There is nothing typical about your dedication to my protection.
There is nothing uneventful about the personal risk you take to secure my safety.
There is nothing routine about the distance you have to spend away from your loved ones so that I can watch my son freely ride his bike around the block.
Not even by a long shot.
So in these closing moments of my typical, uneventful – routine even day, let me say thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for every moment of your phenomenal day that enables me to rejoice in my typical day. It means more to me than you can ever know.
Come home soon.
Come home safe.
Come home proud.
Am I a big dork for loving this tree? Well, probably! But, thanks to friend Jaime, I am now the proud owner of this beautiful, inspiring,”Sweet Spot” tree and design. I want to camp out under my tree… cause, you know, under this tree there are hot showers, feather beds, and definitely NO bugs.
This story, about my dog Shadow’s “heroic” moment, is clearly the inspiration for my blog venture! I almost let this Sweet Spot moment pass me by. In fact, it wasn’t until later that summer night, sitting on my porch, trying to stay cool in the wake of a broken AC unit on a 90+ day that the absolute perfection of the moment struck me and I wrote this article.
Just Another Day in the Life
Today, when I came home from the store, there was a goat in my front yard. Yes, that is what I said… a two horned, split toed, gray, bleating goat, that for some reason decided my boys were its new BFFs and proceeded to follow them everywhere they went. This, of course, was completely distressing to my 3 year old border collie who, while possessing the necessary herding instincts, lacked the benefit of any actual experience. She, therefore, proceeded to take advantage of the opportunity by chasing said living, breathing farm animal round and round the house in an effort, I suppose, to regain some respect for her lineage. While the goat, who clearly was not used to being subject to such base treatment, finally found safe haven on my back porch, nose to the door, pleading for entry (leading me to only speculate as to the goat’s previous place of abode and the habits therein…).
From there, the instinctual help from her ancestors seemed to abandon my worn out, panting border collie. Or perhaps, she simply decided that herding in 90 degree plus weather was just not what it was cracked up to be. Either way, the staring contest commenced between goat and dog, and continued until animal control (which consisted of guy down the street coming to put animal in truck and find it a home) arrived to spring the poor goat from a seemingly irresolvable conflict.
While my border collie marched into the house with her head held high as if she had just herded South Fork’s entire stock single-handedly, I contemplated why this was possibly the best part of my day. I knew the image of my overweight dog chasing that wide eyed goat around and around my yard would be a source of laughter for me for a long time to come. And of all the gifts in this life, the one I most cherish is the ability to laugh and find the humor.
When I can laugh with my boys, I am happy. When I can invoke my husbands laugh, I am blessed. When I can laugh instead of cry, I am saved. And, when I can make others laugh, I am truly the luckiest person in the world.