What Dreams May Come

My dreams were never like most other girls my age. None of the Prince Charming swooping in on his white horse to rescue me, with marriage and children and happily ever after.

No, my dreams weren’t the norm.

For instance, every year when I made up my Christmas list, the first thing on it was a trip to Egypt and sailing down the Nile. Everyone laughed at that one. We grew up in the struggling middle class, and a trip to Egypt was as far afield as a man on the moon (this was before Neil Armstrong). But the Pyramids kept calling me; the camels, the women with their faces covered, the men in long robes sailing their feluccas, the temples bigger than anything I’d ever seen…

I would spend hours looking at the photographs in National Geographic or the World Book Encyclopedia (this was before Wikipedia), imagining myself walking amongst the ruins of the ancient civilization that was Egypt. My imagination soared even as everyone laughed when they read my list.

Egypt? Down the Nile? Never in a million years.

Until I set foot on Egyptian soil in the autumn of 2008.  Dreams do come true if you believe. And I never gave up believing that I would someday visit the Land of the Pharoahs.

egypt 2008 big camera 001

And my dream led into another sort of dream, this one held by some Egyptian university students whom we met while touring.

“Americans?” they asked in their accented English.

“Yes,” we answered with a hesitant smile.

“Obama…change,” they replied expectantly.

Even our tour guide told us about his dreams. “My friends and I watched every minute of your election coverage (more than I did), and when you elected an African American, we knew it wasn’t fixed,” he smiled. “We knew it was truly a vote of the people.”

Dreams are a wonderful thing. I was living my dream, and I was meeting people who held dreams that meant so much more than mine. Life-changing, country-changing, world-changing dreams. They humbled me.

And these were the Egyptian people whom I had the privilege to meet. The university students, ready to take part in change. The tour guide, certain with the knowledge that democracy does work. The schoolchildren, dressed in their uniforms, all smiling and saying, “Welcome to Egypt,” probably the only English that they knew. So many people we met couldn’t understand why we would travel across the world just to see their country.

But I knew why. It was the culmination of one of my dreams when I was but the age of the school children who welcomed me to their country.  I wanted to immerse myself in their culture, and I took the opportunity and ran with it.

This isn’t a political post; this is a “go after your dreams” post, no matter what they may be. The Egyptian people did, in the Arab Spring. I did, in trotting across the globe.

While there, I got to visit the places I’d only ever dreamed of – the Pyramids, the Sphinx, Deir el-Bahri, Dundara, Luxor, Abu Simbel, Kom Ombo, Philae, Karnak, and so many more.

Exotic. Awe-inspiring. Mouth-dropping. Humbling. But no more so than Egypt’s people.

So hold on to what dreams may come, regardless of how futile they may seem, or how amusing they may be to others, or how far-reaching they may appear.

Dreams are necessary to life.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
~ Anais Nin ~


Monday Meeting — Firefighters’ Random Act of Kindness

BAYTOWN, Texas — For the firefighters and EMTs of Station 4 in Baytown it was another normal assignment: rushing to a 911 call to help save someone’s life.

But to the family and neighbors of John McCormick it was it was beyond normal. It helped restore a bit of their faith in humanity and the kindness of strangers.

McCormick, 65, had a history of heart problems – a quadruple bypass more than a decade ago and other lingering health issues. Tuesday afternoon he suffered a heart attack while mowing the yard of his Baytown home. He went inside his house and collapsed where his family called for help.

Engine 4, Medic 4, and Medic 2 responded. EMT’s performed CPR and got a pulse again. And per standard operating procedure, the crew of Engine 4 followed the ambulance to the hospital.

But when they left the hospital to drive back to Station 4, engine driver Luke Bednarek had an idea. Why not go back to the McCormick home and finish mowing his yard for him.

“We’re all fighting over who can push the mower first,” said Station 4 Lt. J.D. Giles.

“I just happened to get off the truck first and grabbed the lawnmower first. We were all fighting over it,” said firefighter Blake Steffenauer.

They took turns behind John McCormick’s lawn mower. They finished the backyard too, locked the garage, put the padlock key in the mailbox, and Giles left a handwritten note to Patsy McCormick that said in part “we felt bad that your husband didn’t get to finish the yard, so we did.”

And they didn’t think it was that big a deal.

“No not at all. Just something to help someone out in the worst time of their life,” said Giles.

“They already got stuff they’ve got going on that’s more important,” added Steffenauer. “Yard work shouldn’t be something they’d have to finish up. So we were happy to come back and take care of that.”

But it was a letter, and a gesture, that made a daughter weep.

“It just showed me that there’s still compassion,” said McCormick’s daughter Jeana Blackford. “That people still do random acts of kindness every day for people that they don’t know.”

This story does not have a happy ending. John McCormick died two days later.

But while the firefighters were mowing his yard, a neighbor secretly took a series of cell phone photographs and posted them to social media. The response has been remarkable.

The picture of that random act of kindness, posted to the City of Baytown Facebook page, is already going viral. The McCormick family is getting calls from as far away as New Zealand.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” said Patsy McCormick of the firefighter’s gesture. “I just couldn’t believe they took the time to do that.”

“It just speaks to their character,” said son-in-law Dan Blackford. “They say honor is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. That’s a fact,” he said of the firefighters who didn’t know someone captured their gesture on camera. “They were very honorable.”

“This just shows just exactly how special they really are,” said Jeana Blackford who, despite the grief over losing her father wanted to publicly thank the men of Station 4 for showing everyone the impact a single random act of kindness can have. And for showing everyone that going above and beyond the call of duty, whether a firefighter or a civilian in everyday life, often just takes a few more steps.

“I think we all need to do random acts of kindness every day, every day,” she said.

“Thank you. We love you,” added Patsy McCormick.

John McCormick, and Air Force veteran, will be buried with full military honors next week at Houston National Cemetery.


Today’s Quote


Man. He sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
And then he is so anxious about the future
that he does not enjoy the present,
the result being that he does not live in the present or the future:
he lives as if he is never going to die,
and then dies having never really lived.

~ His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama ~

Thursday Re-View — The Broken Places

Day in, day out, how much can a person deal with before being broken?



Don’t be afraid of the broken places (see: Strength”).

Some days are easier than others, true. But other days, what we’ve lost in our lives seems much greater than what we’ve found, especially as we get older.

Something that’s easy to forget is that loss does not only pertain to the physical death of a person. It actually runs deep through our lives, like an underground current.

It can’t be seen, only felt. You’re not aware of it, only aware of something.

The pink slip,

…missing out on that promotion
…not being in the career you pictured for yourself
…breaking off an engagement
…moving away from family and friends
…putting down a pet
…receiving a cancer diagnosis
…being sexually abused
…fighting an addiction
…having your home foreclosed
…giving up on the dream of a house with a white picket fence on a tree-lined street
…questioning your faith
…dropping out of college
…having your retirement fund emptied
…wrecking your car
…witnessing a shooting
…disappointing your parents
…cancelling a vacation
…conceding the school board election
…failing an entrance exam
…losing a valued friendship

– those are just a few of the losses we experience.

The ones we don’t tend to classify as “losses.” The ones we don’t give ourselves a chance to mourn.

But we keep on, keeping on. Then one day, some unexpected event triggers something deep inside us, and we wonder what hit us.

Hopelessness. Loneliness. Bitterness. Helplessness. Anger. Emptiness. Longing. We’re numb. We break down and wonder why we can’t stop crying.

Our souls are bruised, and we don’t know why it hurts so much.

We can’t stop crying because those losses are cumulative – they build and build – and we deal and we deal – and we bury them, until we can’t bury them anymore.

Don’t be afraid of the broken places.

If we didn’t break apart, the light wouldn’t be able to get in. Now, where there was only darkness, there is light.

So we sit with them awhile, those scary emotions we’ve tried so many creative ways to ignore. Don’t fight it.

You’ve heard the term, “When God closes a door, He opens a window?” I believe that.

Standout Cottage Designs

Standout Cottage Designs

Picture yourself alone, walking into an old one-room cottage, curious to see what’s inside. The door slams shut behind you. No problem. Probably the wind; you’ll get out. You turn the doorknob, only to find the door still closed. Maybe it’s jammed or stuck. This place is old, after all. You yank on the door, angry that it won’t open. Then panic sets in and you bang on the door until your hand hurts, yelling for someone until your voice is hoarse. You keep on for hours, trapped.

Until you have nothing left and you slide against the wall to the floor, exhausted, fearful, bereft. You curl into a fetal position and rock back and forth, taking yourself to a safe place in your mind.

Then, something…

At first, you think it’s your imagination. A brush of something against your cheek. Then you feel it again, only stronger, this time accompanied by the delicate scent of an unnamed flower. The breeze refreshes you, and you realize that a sunbeam has fallen across your face, drying the tears. You sit up and slowly open your eyes to find its source.

There, to the side of you, is an open window, sunlight streaming onto your face, the breeze billowing sheer curtains into the room. The window was always there…you just didn’t see it; you didn’t notice it. While railing against the darkness, you couldn’t see the light.

Stacey A. Bates

Stacey A. Bates

With a smile and a look of wonder on your face, you walk to the window. You lift your legs over the window sill and step barefoot onto the green, fragrant grass. It feels good. It feels right. It feels like home.

You turn for one last look at the tiny cottage, grateful to be outside. Then you turn your back and walk toward the warmth of the sun. Toward life and all its challenges.

But always toward the light.

With a sense of purpose and direction, with a strength that was born of the darkness, with a renewed sense of hope that this was all a part of the journey.

Your journey.

Don’t be afraid of the broken places.


Today’s Quote


If I had my life to live over again,
I’d try to make more mistakes next time…
I would relax.
I would be sillier than I have been
on this trip.
I would climb more mountains,
swim more rivers and watch more sunsets.
I would have more actual troubles
and less imaginary ones.
Oh, I’ve had my moments,
and if I had to do it over again,
I’d have more of them.
In fact, I’d try to have nothing else,
just moments, one after another…
I would pick more daisies.

~ Nadine Stair (at age 89) ~

I Just Want to Talk with Them Again

I just want to talk with them again.

Mom and Dad. Just one more time to sit over a cup of coffee and catch up.

Mom died 26 years ago, Dad died 2 years ago, but sometimes the desire to talk with them tears my heart into pieces. Such a little thing – to talk together – is such a big thing.

If given the chance, what would I do?

First I’d tell them I loved them, how much I missed them, how much I wanted to thank them. And I’d stand wrapped in their arms until the weight of the world drifted away and all I could feel was their love. Protected, where no one or no thing could touch me without their permission. Yet when I picture the hug in the recesses of my 60-year old memory, I am still a little girl in a grown up world.

I just want to talk with them again.

To tell them about Alex’s wedding a week ago. How lovely it was, intimate, with only 30 people. The groom was handsome, the bride beautiful. It rained, but it rained on their first date and when Alex proposed, so rain seems to be a blessing of theirs. And how I didn’t cry until I saw the empty chair in the front row draped in white with their picture on it, honoring Mimi and Poppy who weren’t there. At least not physically…

To share pictures of their three grandsons, who are now all married and successfully giving back to society. To see their five great-grandchildren who are all healthy and bright and strong.

To describe yet another health scare last month, when the ER docs thought I had a second mini-stroke when I couldn’t remember whether or not Alex had gotten married yet. My brain was a blank slate, and of all the things that have ever happened with my health, this is the only one that scared me. And it reminded me that even though I have gone kicking and screaming into this forced retirement of sorts, perhaps I am not meant to be working full time. Perhaps my life, as it is, is enough.

To tell them about my blogging adventure, where 1,100 people have actually chosen to get an e-mail every time I post something. Where my love of writing, and desire to provide encouragement and inspiration meet in a ministry all its own. Where they can read about people and places and things that have touched me and helped me to grow in compassion and love.

To describe what it felt like to volunteer for the Red Cross as a mental health provider at the viewing and funeral for a Pennsylvania State Trooper who was ambushed outside his barracks. To honor him and his wife and two little boys by being present for those who mourned. To serve the thousands of State Troopers who came from as far away as Alaska, California, Texas, Minnesota, Iowa, North and South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, just to name a few. To describe what it felt like to see the best of humanity come together following the actions of the worst of humanity, and to know that the light will always overtake the darkness.

I just want to talk with them again.

But how long would I need for 26 years of updates for Mom, and 2 years of events for Dad? And if I honestly believe that our loved ones watch over us after they die – and I do – then I don’t really need to talk to them, to update them on their family, since they already know all that I would tell them.

Maybe I just want to hear their voices one more time, hold their hands in mine, feel their arms around me. To be swallowed up by their love, their protection, their wisdom. To know that regardless of what happens, everything will be alright.

Everything will be alright.

Dear God:
I just want to talk with Mom and Dad again.
Can you do that for me – please?


An Autumn Blessing

National Geographic

National Geographic

An Autumn Blessing
Joyce Rupp & Macrina Wiederkehr

Blessed are you, autumn,
chalice of transformation,
you lift a cup of death to our lips
and we taste new life.

Blessed are you, autumn,
season of the heart’s yearning,
you usher us into places of mystery
and, like the leaves, we fall trustingly
into eternal, unseen hands.

Blessed are you, autumn,
with your flair for drama
you call to the poet in our hearts,
“return to the earth, become good soil;
wait for new seeds.”

Blessed are you, autumn,
you turn our faces toward the west.
Prayerfully reflecting on life’s transitory nature
we sense all things moving toward life-giving death.

Blessed are you, autumn,
you draw us away from summer’s hot breath.
As your air becomes frosty and cool
you lead us to inner reflection.

Blessed are you, autumn,
season of so much bounty.
You invite us to imitate your generosity
in giving freely from the goodness of our lives,
holding nothing back.

Blessed are you, autumn,
your harvesting time has come.
as we gather your riches into our barns,
reveal to us our own inner riches
waiting to be harvested.

Blessed are you, autumn,
season of surrender,
you teach us the wisdom of letting go
as you draw us into new ways of living.

Blessed are you, autumn,
season of unpredictability.
You inspire us to be flexible
to learn from our shifting moods.

Blessed are you, autumn,
feast of thanksgiving.
You change our hearts into fountains of gratitude
as we receive your gracious gifts.


Monday Meeting – Bronco’s Touchdown Worth More Than Points

The Western Michigan Broncos scored big last Thursday during practice. Former linebacker and WMU Broncos standout Sean Mulhearn helped his wheelchair aided son John Mulhearn across the goal line. While Sean pushed his son’s wheelchair through the Broncos defense for a touchdown, the Broncos’ players cheered John as they ran down the field together.

Source: Doug Holland, XN Sports
Video: YouTube

Thursday Re-View — When Did I Start to Look Like My Mother???

When I glanced at myself in a mirror the other day, I thought I saw my mother.

That’s pretty hard to do when she passed away more than 25 years ago. But really – I thought I saw my mother. Or at least someone who looked an awfully lot like her.

That someone was me.

Wow. What an eye-opener…

When did I get so old? When did my jowls start to sag and my hair start to show some gray? What about those lines in my face or that strange growth underneath my neck? The swollen ankles? The beginnings of an apple shape when I used to only be a pear?

body type

Like I said, when did I start to look like my mother? When I looked in the mirror and a stranger looked back, it was me. That’s sobering.

Remember when your parents used to warn you about how “time flies” when you get older? I think time must have flown on the wings of a supersonic bird for this transformation to have taken place. Maybe even a pterodactyl…

It’s time for a reality check. Let’s survey this venerable temple of mine to see its history.

That knot of muscle sticking out of my left shoulder? That formed the day my son got his tonsils out in 1st grade. I hadn’t met the surgeon ahead of time, and the thought of having my only child go under the knife with a stranger had me at the Emergency Room the night after his successful surgery, in pain. That knot gets worked on every two weeks by my faithful massage therapist, 20 + years later. A badge of honor…

That crevice line on my forehead, just between and above my eyes? That’s from hearing hour after hour of tragic situations from my patients/clients/students over the years – the loss, abuse, addiction, mental illness, shame, suicidal thoughts… It takes its toll.

That vertical abdominal scar that no amount of vitamin E could make disappear? That’s the Caesarean section (almost) 28 years ago for the birth of my son. I can still remember the feeling of the two surgeons’ hands inside my body (yes, you do feel pressure, but no pain with an epidural). Or else it’s from the hysterectomy that was recommended I have 2 years later because of my cancer history.

That cough that turns up when I laugh too much? That’s from 7th grade, when my teacher used to actually take points away from all my tests (I almost always got 100’s because I studied all the time), explaining to my parents and me, “Theresa doesn’t need all those As; other students in the class need them more.” It was weeks until our family doctor determined that my cough was stress-related; after all, it wasn’t fair that the As I worked so hard for were taken away from me, was it? What a fine example of a teacher…

Those cracked caps on my back teeth? Those came from when I fainted in the bathroom while recovering from “GOK (God Only Knows) Disease” and clenched my teeth when I hit the floor. After which my brain couldn’t put together thoughts, let alone sentences for almost 2 months… The only way this wordsmith could survive that frustrating period was to figure out that maybe God wanted me to be quiet and listen.

That tiny scar in the upper right quadrant of my abdomen? That’s the emergency gall bladder surgery, where my gall bladder went from 100% to zero percent functioning in what seemed like the space of a day. I never really liked fried foods that much anyway…

Those skin indentations on my face that look like scars every morning? That’s from the face mask that I have to wear because I stop breathing 11 times every hour while asleep – that’s with the C-pap machine. The good news is that the impressions disappear about an hour after I start the day.

That shadow of sadness that lurks deep within my eyes? That goes along with the crevice line on my forehead (see above) along with struggles with depression. You know – that “melancholy” that fueled Abraham Lincoln’s greatness and made him the perfect leader during our Civil War; that illness that Winston Churchill called his “black dog” and helped win World War II.

The graying hair that I put a rinse on now and again to make me look less “frumpy?” [An aside here – why is it that gray hair in a woman is often considered “frumpy” while gray hair in a man is often considered “distinguished?”] I think the most recent contributor was my husband being sick with his own GOK Disease, in the hospital for a week and unable to work for almost a month (see: “My Pilgrimage to ???“). That, along with the fact that there is yet to be a diagnosis… Oh, and let’s not forget my own hospital visit last fall and the mini-stroke that brought about my stepping aside from my job.

The occasional swollen ankles? I don’t use salt, I drink plenty of fluids and I’m not going into congestive heart failure. I think my legs are just tired of carrying me around for so long. Plus, they outran wildlife on the Serengeti Plain – that’s no small feat!

The addition of a telltale apple shape on top of the always present pear shape? This one, I must say, is from the release of gallons of Cortisol caused by stress, which is directly related to belly fat distribution in women. Why it hasn’t disappeared since I took time off from working is a mystery to me. But, I just ordered an abs wheel and exercise mat on-line, so I’m going to get back to just a pear shape in the next few months. And I must say – I never thought I’d be glad to return to “just” a pear shape…

The road map of lines that cover my face? Let’s see – almost 12 years of higher education after high school, marriage, divorce, setting up my own practice, building a house and an office, moving, changing careers, death of both parents, multiple surgeries, responsibility-laden jobs, death of 3 cats in the past 14 months (see: “In Memory of Peanut“), my husband’s hospitalization, being a mother and wife… I’m stopping before I get too depressed; those transitions can do a person in! (see: “The In-Between Time“)



Last, but not least, what’s with the loose pouch of skin fat under my chin? The one that my Mom thought for sure was a tumor growing when she first noticed hers. The one that makes me look like I’m related to a turkey. This one is another mystery, but I know it must be related to the gravitational pull that influences ocean tides and sunspots.

But this seasoned body – so flawed, scarred, exhausted, sagging – is also the body that is still standing. It’s weathered a lot of storms, and by doing so, forged my own unique path that has gifted me with the privilege of being present with others while they examine their own scars – the kind that we don’t actually see.

And perhaps most sacred of all, 28 years ago, this maturing body delivered the miracle of my son, who I count as my greatest blessing.

So, I’ll ask again: when did I start to look like my mother?

I’m thinking that with everything she went through in her life (see: “Remembrance“), that’s not a bad way to look. Even in the last month of her life, battling breast cancer at 59 in the hospital, head shaved, feverish, swollen – she was beautiful.

She never complained, she knew the life stories of the nurses who brought her special foods and drinks to tempt her appetite, and she faced her cancer with courage for as long as she was physically able.

Like I said, Mom was beautiful. The essence of who she was – her spirit – the part of her that could not be diminished regardless of what was destroying her body – shone forth.

Now that I think of it, I’m honored to look like my mother.