Angry Irma

Roger and I had planned this vacation/honeymoon for weeks. We planned to leave on Friday, 9/15 to head to the Smoky Mountains. While we started preparing our trip, the news was dominated by a strong, angry Hurricane named Irma.

Over a week before the hurricane hit FL, the warnings began. The governor declared a state of emergency in advance. We ventured out the day after Labor Day to stock up on water, batteries and charcoal. The local Home Depot was already wiped out — every generator had been sold, no charcoal, no D batteries, no water. As we drove home, I called two Publix grocery stores and Family Dollar – no water.

The next day I went out to find gas, water and batteries while Roger mowed grass and readied the property. The very large, very busy Shell station was completely out of gas. I stopped at a small Citgo station (yes, I was desperate) and managed to find enough to fill up the Jeep and gas can. While filling up, I tried 5 more stores and still couldn’t find water, so I drove home.

Once at home, I told Roger what was going on. We decided then that we needed to leave because evacuation orders were mandated in south FL. I started making phone calls. Jim at Sleeping Dog Cabins had no tenants in the cabin we were renting and allowed us to arrive a week early. I called 6 hotels in south GA only to hear “we’re totally sold out”. I moved north on I-75 until I found a vacant room in Tifton. They weren’t pet-friendly but due to the mass exodus from FL, they waived the pet policy.

morning, I packed while Roger battened down the porch, patio and deck. We planned to leave around 1:00 which would give us plenty of time to drive to Tifton in daylight. We took all of the meat and veggies from the refrigerator and freezer in case we lost power. We packed the Jeep, loaded Frankie and Teddy and headed north.

made great time on U.S. 98 and kept saying we’d probably pick up some traffic when I-75 and the FL Turnpike merged. WRONG!!!!! As soon as we approached I-75, we saw the slow-moving cars and trucks. For the next 200+ miles, Roger used the brake more than the gas pedal! Multiple gas stations were out of gas or had cars snaked around for blocks as far north as Gainesville. Rest areas had signs “at capacity” with cars parked along the rest area entrance and interstate as families tried to stretch their legs and relieve their full bladders.

Nine hours later, we arrived at our hotel normally a five hour drive. We were frazzled to say the least putting up with stop and go traffic for 297 miles, a sick Teddy throwing up and accidentally pooping on his pillow. (It’s in a trash can somewhere along I-75.)

We got dinner to go and decided to leave early in the morning to get ahead of the rest of FL’s evacuees. Thankfully, no gas shortage in Tifton, so we filled up and hit I-75. For the first 10 miles or so, I actually drove the speed limit. Unfortunately, it was very short-lived and we saw the sea of red tail lights ahead of us. We experienced stop and go traffic all the way through north Atlanta. AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!

After another nine hour day, we finally arrived to The Wildflower. We unpacked the car and let Frankie and Teddy run around the yard. As we enjoyed the outside bar, Roger said “listen”. It was perfectly tranquil, birds chirping, no honking horns, no sirens, no 18-wheelers and no interstate hum below our seats. Let vacation begin . . .

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The Empty Pillow

Once upon a time, birds of the air, beasts of the Earth, creatures under the sea were created. God was pleased but not complete. Man was added to the masterpiece. Day after day, Man watched over the birds, beasts and sea creatures.

Night after night, Man slept alone and woke up to an “empty pillow”. All of the birds, beasts and sea creatures had companions. God with all His mercy and compassion realized that Man also needed and deserved a companion, so Woman was created. No more “empty pillow” for Man!

That is a very simplistic summary of how I believe we were created. It convinces me that we were not meant to live in solitude. Some people we meet along life’s pathway are friends. If we are blessed, we find a “significant other” who is our best friend and true love. Some of us bear a child or children who we love and nurture, and some of us have fur-babies we can love and cherish. Throughout our relationships, we share laughter, tears, fears and successes –but most of all, love.

In my short life, I’ve crossed paths with 1000’s of people and adopted eight fur-babies. Some people were placed in my path for a season, and I’m blessed with those who are life-long friends and family. The hardest lesson I’ve learned through all of my relationships is this: What do you do when you wake up in the morning only to find an “empty pillow” – an unexpected void in your life?

I’ve experienced and somehow endured many, many, many “empty pillows” — each heart-wrenching no matter how long the relationship lasted. But as I said good-bye to each “empty pillow”, whether they left planned or unplanned I managed to endure. As the song sings “only the strong survive”.

For me personally, God always provided a new opportunity. With each “empty pillow”, a new friend or family member or 4-legged rescue was placed in my life’s pathway. Each was an opportunity to fill my void with a new “pillow” at precisely the right time. These new “pillows” will never replace the “empty pillows”. However, I’ve learned that all my “empty pillows” have provided new life and love to another.

I, too, have been given a new beginning. At just the right time when God knew I was ready, He blessed me with not only a best friend but a true love. My husband and Frankie make sure I don’t wake up to an “empty pillow”. My husband is my life and gives me a reason to wake up each morning.

We never know how long our relationship will last before we wake up to yet another “empty pillow”. Despite the grief with each situation, I managed to “push through” and “keep on going on”. I learned that it doesn’t matter how long the relationship lasts, but the gift of spending time and love together is what is important. Experiencing and appreciating the special bond between me and my friends, family members, and pets – but most of all my husband, my life-partner – gives me lots of love and “pillow talk”!

Bea positive and embrace each day with thanksgiving and anticipation to love fiercely and whole-heartedly with heart and soul. Someone will cross your path who needs a “pillow” from you or maybe they will provide a much-needed “pillow” for you. Bea-lieve because it happened to me.

Bea-Day

My birthday is in mid-April and for many years coincides with Easter. This year was one of those. The past few years have been emotional and full of change. Why is it that years that end in 9 are the hardest? This year I turned 59, and it was a tough transition. It’s just a number, right?

For many years, we lived close enough to my parents to spend my birthday with them. Over the past 3-4 years, so many things happened personally that it wasn’t feasible to meet. However, this year was an exception, and we made plans to spend my birthday/Easter weekend with my parents.

We met halfway between FL and AL in Valdosta, GA in a pet-friendly hotel. My parents traveled with Princess, and we had Frankie. Conveniently we had adjoining rooms which turned out to be a blessing. Princess has serious separation anxiety, so Frankie was the perfect companion to keep her quiet and settled so we could enjoy dinner together.

The restaurant we chose was a short walk across the parking lot. We had a very pleasant waiter who looked like Wesley Snipes! He was so nice and took pictures of mama, daddy, me and Roger for special photo memories of our time together. We “messaged” the pictures to my sister, Beth. Her response was hilarious – “you must be at Olive Garden because the breadsticks gave it away!”

As we ordered our entrees, my father told “Wesley” that it was my birthday. After we finished our dinner, “Wesley” and two other waiters showed up at our table with two ice cream desserts. Well, to my embarrassment, they couldn’t just set the desserts on the table, they sang Happy Birthday to me!

We spent one more day together enjoying lunch and dinner as a family. On Tuesday morning we departed and went to our respective homes. Reflecting on the time we spent together, I realized how fortunate I was to spend my birthday once again with my parents and with my new husband. We all know we have fewer years ahead of us than behind us. Bea Positive that when you have the opportunity to spend time with your family – don’t let it slip away.

Crossing Rainbow Bridge

For many of us, our pets are our “kids”. My very first dog was a runt, Schnauzer-mix that I adopted while living in Austin, TX. I named her Rhiannon – yes, after my favorite Fleetwood Mac song. Rhiannon was my constant companion, and she moved with me to New Orleans, Atlanta, Tampa, Rock Hill, back to Atlanta and lastly Chicago.

Rhiannon was just shy of 18 years old in July 2002. John and I adopted little Aries, our first yorkie, three months before she passed. We were living in temporary housing due to my job transfer to Chicago. Rhiannon was slowing down and having more frequent seizures. It was a Sunday afternoon, and as we were walking around, she stopped and just looked up at me with very sad eyes. I held her muzzle in both hands as tears rolled down my face and told her, “it’s okay to go, girl, I know you are so tired.”

About 2:00 a.m., we awoke hearing her in distress. John and I rushed her to the emergency vet. I was hysterical. After what seemed forever, the very kind lady vet met with us in the room. She told us that Rhiannon’s heart was shutting down. We made the heart-wrenching decision to let her cross Rainbow Bridge peacefully, the first of many similar decisions we would make on behalf of our aging, sick “fur-babies”.

In memory of Rhiannon, John wrote this poem for me. For anyone else who has experienced losing a beloved “fur-baby”, I hope you find some comfort from John’s beautiful sentiment from Rhiannon to me.

“I’m smiling down upon you

From doggie heaven up above.

They say that’s where good dogs go

‘Cause they’re filled with so much love.

 

I can run and jump and play again;

My hip’s as good as new.

And over in the corner . . . guess what!

There’s that old shoe I used to chew.

 

I can see squirrels to chase them,

And I catch a lizard now and then.

I can bark when I want a treat.

It’s good to hear myself again.

 

It’s lonely here without you,

But we’re never far apart.

‘Cause I’ll always, always, always

Be running through your heart.”

~I love you, Rhiannon

 

Kalik Konnection

My friend, Stacey, is helping me write a book about the love story between me and my husband.  One of the chapters in the book describes our all-expenses paid trip to the Atlantis on Paradise Island, Bahamas.  An excerpt of the chapter is below.

We slept in late on our first morning, enjoying coffee and brunch.  As we did on most of our day trips and vacations, we kept the day low-key.  It was the two of us and my camera experiencing the beach surrounding The Atlantis.  It was overcast, so the sun wasn’t scorching.  We walked the beach hand-in-hand letting our feet be tickled by the waves.  We walked away from the hotel and found a private area with chairs and an umbrella.  We sat away from others, just listening to the waves roll onto the shore, relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.

We spent a few leisurely hours at the beach, and then headed back towards the hotel.  The Island Pool looked inviting.  We found a couple of lounge chairs and kicked back with a Kalik beer, the local favorite.  The pool was fairly quiet, however, you could hear the laughter and shouts coming from the Mayan Temple water slides.  John and I were perfectly content to sit in the corner taking pictures of each other and planning a romantic dinner for the evening.

A week prior to reading the chapter, Stacey had directed me to Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue to check out potential rescues.  There was a little yorkie who was looking for a home.  When John and I lived in North Carolina, I used to travel to Roanoke, VA on business, and he traveled with me.  Our all-time favorite steakhouse is Frankie Rowland’s in downtown Roanoke where we dined every time we traveled there.  It just so happened, the little yorkie looking for a home is named Frankie, spelled just like the steakhouse.  He’s now part of our family.

On the afternoon of 10/7, Stacey clicked on Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue’s facebook page.  There on the FB cover is a little dog sitting on the beach with a Kalik beer next to him.  Stacey had never heard of Kalik beer before reading our story.  As Stacey shared with me, “Tears in my eyes as I type this . . . I directed you toward lil Frankie at Nate’s Rescue . . . you adopt him . . . I read the story of your trip to the Bahamas . . . this picture shows up on Nate’s FB page.”

Coincidence?  Maybe . . .

Fluke?  Possibly . . .

A wink from God to connect me and John?  Positively . . . that’s what I Bea-lieve.

Instead of hawks or a beautiful rainbow, Stacey provided a connection to John through Frankie, named in honor of our favorite steakhouse, and Nate’s facebook cover page with a little dog enjoying the beach with a Kalik beer . . . thus, the Kalik Konnection.

Kalik Konnection

The Station

I can’t take credit for the story I am sharing tonight except for a few examples of why we yearn for the station and the closing. I received this in an e-mail 27 years ago from a friend of mine and found it a few weeks ago. I kept it all these years and realize it still applies.  Bea Positive and don’t worry about the station up ahead.

“Tucked away in our subconscious is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long trip that spans the continent. We are traveling by train. Out the windows, we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hillsides, of city skylines and village halls.

But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour, we will pull into the station. Bands will be playing and flags waving. Once we get there, so many wonderful dreams will come true, and the pieces of our lives will fit together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering – waiting, waiting, waiting for the train station.

“When we reach the station, that will be it!” we cry.

When I graduate from college.

When I buy a new car.

When I make Vice President.

When I get married.

When I pay off the mortgage.

When I buy a bigger boat.

When I travel to Europe for a month.

When the kids move out of the house.

When I get well.

When I reach the age of retirement, I shall live happily ever after.

Sooner or later, we must realize there is no station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us.

“Relish the moment” is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24: “this is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad. It is the regrets over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who rob us of today.

So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles.”

Instead, cherish every moment you have with your friends, your pets, your family, your wife or your husband. The station will come soon enough, and not when expected.

The Gray Cat With Blue Eyes

Wednesday nights, all of us place the trash and recycle bins on the curb. As I was rolling the trash can to the curb, I heard a “meow” from the garage. I went back for the recycle bin, and I saw the gray cat standing next to the car. I tried to call him out of the garage, but he kept walking towards the back door.

I crept down in the driveway and called to him again mainly because I didn’t want him to stay in the garage! He kept meowing and looking at the back door.  We’ve never been “cat people”; we have always rescued little dogs. I’m not really sure how to act around cats.  As I squatted in the driveway, I called to him.  He finally came over and gave me “cat kisses” on my hand and legs; he kept rubbing his neck and body against my legs. He put his head in my hand and wanted me to pet him and rub his head and back.

I started crying and talked to the cat through tears, and said “why are you here of all nights? I’ve been asking John to speak to me all day, and now it’s dark.” I have no idea how to take care of cats. I kept crying, petting him and letting him “kiss” my hand. Then I asked, “by chance, is your name John? Are you trying to tell me something?”

He kept returning to the garage and sitting in front of the door, and then he laid down in front of the car. At this point, I had to find a way to get him out so I could close the garage. I took the garage door opener out of the car and coaxed the cat outside again.  I started walking down the sidewalk. The cat followed me, and I closed the garage. He walked with me touching my leg as we walked.

I decided to try Mac and Bambi, hoping they would chase the cat away. I put Mac’s leash on, and he went crazy as soon as he saw the cat.  Mission accomplished — the cat ran away.  Mac and I went for a walk down the sidewalk about a block and then returned home. We went through the front door, and I tried to collect myself.

Now, Bambi was ready to go out, so I let her out the back door. As soon as I opened the back door, I heard the meowing. The cat had returned and was sitting on one of the patio chairs by the grill. About this time, my sister, Beth, called me. I told her about the strange encounter. Because she has had cats, I asked her what should I do?

I described the cat to Beth. He is mostly gray with white “boots” on each foot. He has white patches over his nose and white-striped “eye brows” that look painted on – three vertical stripes over the top of each eye. Across the bottom eyelids, it looked like white eyeshadow was painted across. Once Beth saw his picture, she said “I’ve never seen a cat with those kinds of markings.”

Beth said, “he might be hungry, but cats won’t eat dog food. Do you have any canned chicken?” I didn’t, but I decided to try Bambi’s nuggets. The cat ate every nugget in the bowl.

While Beth and I kept talking, I sat down on our glider. The cat crawled up on my lap and wanted me to pet him. She said, “cats don’t come up to people, especially ones they don’t know.” And then she asked, “what color are his eyes?” I know why she asked . . . John has blue eyes.

After a few minutes, the cat wanted to go back outside, so I let him out. And then Beth said the most beautiful thing to me.  Maybe the cat is a God-Wink and “maybe he knew you needed comfort and sought you out.”  She told me that cats don’t “kiss” people, but this one “kissed” me. She said cats rub against you because they want to be touched and loved, or maybe he knew I needed to touched and loved at that moment.

I haven’t seen the cat since he left the patio last night.  I believe Beth is right . . . the cat was a God-Wink sent to me last night.  I needed to know that my angel, John, is watching over me, he loves me, he misses me . . . as much as I love him and miss him.  Last night, I was blessed with a beautiful gray cat with blue eyes.

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