CHAPTER TWO

SURRENDER ON THE TRAIL

CHAPTER TWO

I lift my eyes to the mountains–where does my help come from? 

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalms 121: 1-2

Yes, I want to go! Can I fit this into my schedule? Will Paul freak out? Will the boys be ok without me around?

I will be off the grid. OFF THE GRID—how wonderful that sounds. Probably no cell service.

Can we afford this? Isn’t camping supposed to be cheap? Oh, wait a minute, when is my period? I am NOT doing a cycle in the woods—no way.

JoAnn asks, “Whatcha thinking?”

“Um. If I can make family and work stars align, if I can borrow some equipment from friends who are into hiking, then I am all in.”

I have a few camping type folks in mind to ask. There is no budget for me to go hiking otherwise.

“Oh honey, no worries. How about this? If it is meant to be, it will be. We won’t force or pressure it to happen.”

Then my biggest fear pops up, “You know I am out of shape, right? I might be a slowpoke.”

“No worries,” she says. “We won’t rush. If you want to and get to go, then we’ll take our time.”

“Alrighty.  I’ll talk with the fam and get back to you.”

“Ok!”

JoAnn texts me a picture of the hiking plan:

BACKCOUNTRY CAMPING TRIP GUIDE. 

FOUR DAYS, THREE NIGHTS. 

HAWKSBILL TO SWIFT RUN VIA LAUREL PRONG. 

TRIP DESCRIPTION:  MOUNTAINS, STREAMS WATERFALLS, RAPIDAN CAMP HISTORIC SITE. 

The twists and turns over varied terrain and elevation changes are listed as if the line dashes on the map are no big deal. Easy peasy.

23 MILES – IF all goes as planned.

MAY 04, 2016

I wait for the right moment. I pace from the kitchen to the laundry room to the family room. 

More pacing. There is no right moment.

Paul rests on the couch. I eye him. After all these years, I remember the butterflies we shared when we pretended not to look at one another the first time we met in the Young Adult Sunday School class.

He had been a visiting college intern in his last semester. I was there that day because my campus minister challenged me to go back to my home church one last time before moving my membership officially to the church where I had been attending for months. Being there was me fulfilling a promise.

If I had my way, that day was just a formality. A box to check, then move on.

But someone caught my eye. Everything changed fast.

While dating, we celebrated our total opposite personalities—bragged about it even. I would say things like, “He likes a home to be organized.” Then he would say, “She likes a home to be clean. This should work out perfectly.”

Once married, simple differences like how to set up house overflowed into differences in how we view the world. Even though we see things somewhat similar, it became cumbersome to constantly translate the nuances. Over the years, we evolved from both wanting to prove a point when we tried to talk or argue to me agreeing with whatever most days. I grew tired of expressing, “We are saying the same thing.”

I still adore his broad shoulders. I like the way he smells like Lever 2000 soap–and sometimes after shave when we can afford it. I appreciate the way he nurtures and cares for our kids. The pictures of how lovingly he looked at both newborns are forever in my mind. He acts like he is going to be fine with Jacob leaving soon, but I am fairly sure he will struggle when departure day arrives.

I am both mad at him for 23 years of reasons and mad about him at the same time. Down deep, I love him in a way that is eternal no matter what. Our shared faith has been the foundation that did not crack although the metaphoric home built above the foundation is not as strong.

It is time. 

“I need to talk with you about something.”

He hesitates, “Oh boy.”

I take a deep breath and tell him about the trip opportunity. Then I get serious. 

“Look,” I say.  “I’m dealing with a few things.”

“Ok,” he says.

“My brain is fried. I need this hike to take me out of my comfort zone. I need to get away. Like, deep into the woods away both mentally and physically—something I can’t believe I’m saying.”

He turns off the TV.

I continue, “I am incredibly sad. Sad because Jacob is leaving. I am in denial that Ben is old enough to go to high school. And I’m angry.” Pause, “Angry at you.”

He says nothing but listens with his temples pointed in my direction.

“I am mad because it seems like you never made a solid effort to get a better job when I switched to non-profit work. I could totally accept if you tried and failed, but not trying is hard for me to accept.”

Shoot. I said the word never. We agreed long ago not to use trigger words like ‘you never…’ or ‘you always….’

We are silent for about 30 seconds. He has not moved.

I go for the summary, “So, two main things:  One, I’ve got to let go of this anger toward you. Going through the motions of being nice when I do not feel nice has worn me out. I need a break.” 

I exhale. “Two, I am super sad because we have to let go of Jacob. He is so young.” My eyes become wet.

“Basic training means we are not going to be able to talk with him for weeks. Then there may be times where he deploys to fight a stupid war that most Americans do not seem to know is still happening. Technically this kid is joining during a time of war. This is not like moving to a college dorm. Signing up for active duty is a change much more abrupt and final feeling. This feels like a sacrifice. I’m struggling with why our son? And, why anyone’s son or daughter?”

Paul is either tuning in deep or blocking my words to protect his own feelings.

I sniff. My tears are a steady stream now. “Plus, I may have to let go of the organization that I worked all these years to develop. I love what I do. It does not seem fair. Worse, I find myself mad at God for not providing. We have had too many years of financial strain. I picture going on this trip, sitting on top of a mountain, throwing my dreams off the side while saying ‘Take it and do your will, Lord. Take it. Take it all. I cannot carry these burdens anymore.’”

I whisper, “If word from the mountaintop is that I am supposed to let it go, then I will. Someone else can lead. Or, we’ll close the doors.”

Silence.

Then Paul looks at me for the first time, “Go.”

He has an understanding look on his face—not at all the look I expected. “Do what you need to do and have fun.”

That’s it?

I expected him to give me reasons why I should not go hiking given my lack of experience. No doubt, he would have multiple valid reasons.     

I take a breath. “Ok.”

His kindness and acceptance are a terrifying miracle. Um, maybe you should talk me out of this, Babe.

“I’ll send you a text of the hiking plan. If you want to help me plan or gather things, I’m open to your ideas.” Long ago the man was in the Army National Guard. I know he has outdoor survival skills knowledge.

He nods.

Later I tell the boys. Ben-Just-Ben shrugs, “Ok”. Jacob says he wishes he could go with me, but he is pumped about going to Texas soon.

I text JoAnn—I AM IN!

MAY 5, 2016

A group of us are going to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and our friend Deb’s birthday at the local Cancun restaurant.

After working professionally together for over a decade, Deb and I have accepted in recent years that we have become good friends.

I have not had a chance to tell her about the AT trip. It would be fantastic if Deb were going too. She would be wonderful addition to team camaraderie.

Last night and this morning, Paul and I began making a list of supplies needed. He also began giving me tips like, “Don’t set up your sleeping bag on a tree root. Look for a soft spot or spread leaves out underneath where you rest.” I have been thinking about details while still processing in my own head the fact that I am going at all. There is lots to do and not many days to prepare.

Deb, JoAnn and a social work intern, Courtney, are already seated at a long table when I arrive. There is room for other guests who will come and go as part of the birthday celebration. A boxed cake is on my end of the table. 

We exchange happy birthday greetings and food orders arrive. We also celebrate that Courtney is about to graduate May 14 from Xavier University.

My mind quietly thinks about the AT trip while people joke and chat. I do not plan to discuss the trip at all today since this is a gathering for other reasons. I want to tell Deb on my own when I get a chance.

One of the silent things I ponder is that the cost of this trip is an issue. I can’t make purchases. We have no credit cards and the debit card is stretched to the penny each month. I consider who in my neighborhood and friend circle might allow me to borrow equipment.   

Knowing where my mind might be, JoAnn interjects, “Hey Glenna. You’re going to need a good pair of hiking boots.”

Deb says, “For what?”

I am surprised. JoAnn must REALLY be over the top excited about this trip. 

All eyes turn to me. I answer, “Well, within the last 24 hours I’ve agreed to go on an Appalachian Trail section hike with JoAnn. We’ll be in the Shenandoah National Park area for almost a week.”

I look at Deb. My raised eyebrows ask if she would like to go.

Reading my nonverbal cue, Deb says, “That sounds fun, but my knees could not do that.”

Courtney, though, looks more than intrigued by the idea. She asks about the dates and if other women can join the team. Is she interested in being part of this idea?

“Are there bears in that area?”

JoAnn answers Courtney, “Oh yes. We will have to put our food in a Bear Bag, then use a rope to throw the bag up and over a tree branch away from where we set up camp.”

My eyes widen.

“Snakes?” Courtney asks.

“Yes, some poisonous. Some not.”

I start to think that Courtney going on the trip could be good. She is young and probably could run for help if we need it.  

Then an opportunity-to-help-look comes over Deb’s face. She says, “Boots!  A few months ago, I stopped by a shoe outlet in Louisville. There was a $7.50 sale on Swiss hiking boots that were originally priced $110. I don’t hike. They were not my size, but I couldn’t resist knowing that someone I know surely will need them especially for that price! What size do you wear?”

I reply, “9.”

Deb says, “I had no idea why I couldn’t resist those boots. This must be why. I will go home tonight and let you know what size they are.”

The table oos and ahhs. “This may be divine,” JoAnn says.

Then Courtney offers, “My sister is into this kind of thing. She has hiked a lot and has all the equipment. I can ask her for advice.”

I will welcome all the advice and divine intervention I can get.

As we are in line to pay for our food Deb says to me, “This will be good for you to get away after Jacob goes.”

I nod, “Exactly.” 

7:00PM

I receive a text from Deb with a picture of the boots—SIZE 9!

Glenna—WOW.  MAGIC BOOTS!  THANK YOU.

Deb—THIS TRIP IS MEANT TO BE.

If you’d like to listen to the Audio Version or support this creative work, click here for my podcast chapters.

Fun fact: I am beginning to include extra content that only can be found on the podcast.

Thanks for reading or listening! Check back April 4, 2021 for Chapter Three.

© Copyright 2016 Surrender On The Trail – Glenna S. Edwards

CHAPTER ONE

Welcome to

SURRENDER ON THE TRAIL

In the LORD I take refuge; How can you say to my soul, “Flee as a bird to your mountain…?!”

Psalm 11:1

CHAPTER ONE


MAY 13, 2016

9:00AM

I have agreed to go on an Appalachian Trail section hike May 31 through June 4.

Sounds simple enough: take long walks, camp overnight, repeat 4-5 times, then go home. How hard could that be? 

But I am 44 years old, overweight, stressed out because life is not going as I planned, hoped, or dreamed. AND, I have never gone pee or poo in the woods. 

Never. Not once. 

I am in research mode to prepare for the hike. So far, I read that an Appalachian Trail hiker carries 30-40 pounds of equipment on their back. I already have that much extra in fat that I carry around my waist and hips every single day. Is it possible that I can carry more than my own fat for nearly a week in the woods?

Neither friends nor family would describe me as an outdoor person. Once upon a time I was a Cub Scout Den Mom for 8 years for our two sons. I did not lead the outdoor activities. I outsourced what I did not want to do or what I had no clue how to do. 

I asked other outdoorsy type parents to lead lessons that involved sweat. Or trails. Or fires. Or bugs, fishing, snakes…yeah, pretty much anything having to do with outside was outsourced. I was great at sending emails, keeping a schedule, carpooling, and leading a craft or two. I rocked soap carving and enjoyed taking 6-10 young kids to new places. Guess it is my turn to take a field trip. Yet this is exactly the kind of field trip I would have avoided as a Den Mom.

Cub Scout days are long gone. I hold onto contact information and scout files as if we could start back up at any time. I have a plastic bin filled with Pinewood Derby Car race supplies. Each year I think I will donate them to some younger mother but have not gotten around to it. There are extra car decals, paint, weights, glue, officially licensed Boy Scout of America wheels, a scale and graphite powder which I am not sure is legal in the BSA rules, but everyone used it on race day anyway.

Our children are on the cusp of being grown physically. I am 5’10. In the last year both sons have become over 6 feet tall. Somehow, I am now the shortest person in family pictures.

Jacob turned 18 years old a couple weeks ago. He graduated high school last summer at 17 because he was determined to serve as soon as possible in the United States Air Force. He wanted to clear his path to depart months ago, but the wait game has been challenging. We have taken no less than 5 trips to a Military Entrance Processing Station two hours away from our home. For months I have run back and forth to schools and doctors getting letters and documents together. Jacob finally has a date for Basic Military Training coming up May 24. 

I feel sick and stressed inside. Is Jacob ready to be an adult? He is by far the child I have worked the hardest to support and coach along the way. My shy boy is becoming an adventurous man. What scares me most is his propensity to learn the hard way as a rule. When he was little the moment after I told him not to touch the hot stove, he proceeded to lay his hand flat on a burner. I am shocked by his no fear and eagerness to leave so soon. Older and wiser friends who have already been through this say I should be proud that he has the confidence to go. I try. 

Last month Jacob had an emergency appendectomy. When he was recovering post-surgery, I considered it a privilege to stay overnight in the hospital with him. I stared at his sleeping face as the rain poured outside and the parking lot lights gently shone into his room. What a bookend moment it was. I thought about how the same month 18 years prior I stared at him for hours overnight in a plastic crib after he was born in the same hospital. Now he is departing soon for Texas and who-knows-where in the world after that. He is brave.

Then there is Ben-Just-Ben. He is our youngest, 14 years old. His real name is Benjamin, but he announced after coming home from kindergarten years ago that he is no longer the full name of Benjamin. With a small hand cutting motion he stated, “I am Ben just Ben from now on.” This guy, once the cuddliest child ever, is close to 6’2 tall and begins high school this year. High School?! Wow. One minute you are trying to keep the calendar straight for school age children. The next minute you grieve them leaving home.

I am a risk taker of sorts, but now it is our kids turn to take risks. No matter that them leaving is completely normal and healthy, it hurts. Down deep in my stomach and soul there is a grinding and twisting that I feel these days. I must figure out how to work through the tears of this life transition. 

It does not help that other parts of my life are unstable. I run a tiny non-profit with 7 staff members. We teach positive coping and life skills to children in grades K through 12, and for parents of preschoolers.  Being a small organization means I wear lots of hats. The pay is not great and sometimes the boss, aka me, simply does not get paid. 

My reward is seeing children who once struggled in the classroom then learn new strategies and succeed. It is hard to imagine doing anything else because I love what we do so much. With new skills and knowledge people can make better choices and, in some cases, break negative cycles that have been passed down for generations.

The desire to build the non-profit began in 2005. I thought I heard clearly from God that this was what I was supposed to do. I was confident that if God put the dream in my heart that He would provide. Yet as some of my students say about other things: the struggle is real.

I adore my staff. I am so proud of the work they do. Most of them have spouses who are the main breadwinners. They do not seem to feel the same pain that I do trying to cover the mortgage and decide whether to buy groceries or pay the gas & electric bill. 

My husband, Paul, is a loving, caring spouse and father, but striving to make a good salary has never been an actionable priority for him. We have been married 23 years. He agreed that he would seek a better job or salary when I left the corporate world and took on the non-profit, but to date the steps necessary to improve his pay have not happened.

No matter how much I say I believe in him, he will not believe in himself. He is an intelligent person. I admire his brain, but he is plagued by self-doubt, a touch of OCD and depression—in my unprofessional opinion. Basically, I am married to Eeyore. Loyal and loveable, lack of growth mindset, Eeyore.

Worse, his body is failing him. He is tired all the time. I am not the type of spouse that would say, “Get off the couch!”, but I am thinking it.

Especially due to finances, something must give. I am not sure what. 

In addition to non-profit workshops, marketing, administrative duties, taxes, payroll, school activities, orthodontist appointments, plays, proms, sports, home duties like cleaning, oil changes, laundry, grocery shopping, etc., I also have a side retail job. I wish the retail money helped more than it does. I barely notice the tiny additional funds, but I do notice how much my feet hurt. My brain feels squeezed. Too much. This is all too much.

FLASHBACK:  APRIL 5, 2016

I am in-between school day workshops and an evening parent workshop. I receive a text:

JoAnn–WOULD YOU LIKE TO MEET AT THE PUB RESTAURANT? I HAVE A LITTLE TIME BEFORE A GIG NEARBY.

Heck yes, I do! I love JoAnn. She is one of my favorite people on the planet. JoAnn is a high school social worker. We collaborate from time to time on projects and how best to serve students. 

JoAnn is 5’2 tall. She is 17 years older than me, but in much better shape. She runs marathons and any 5K event she wants to around the city.

We connect well spiritually, and we laugh every time we are together. In the last few years, we call each other “soul sis”. Like me, she grew up in an environment with a functioning alcoholic father and hard-working mother. I sense we both work in the Urban Appalachian town where we do because it is a lot like coming home for both of us. The culture is familiar. We “get” the unwritten rules. 

I arrive at The Pub. JoAnn has already portioned out half of her pot roast and mashed potatoes dinner onto a side plate for me. One, yum. Two, this is a good habit I have seen her do with food. She is a half eater. I am an eat the whole plate and may I have some more eater. 

I ask, “What’s your gig tonight?”

“A compass reading class over at REI.”

That does not sound like social work continuing education to me.

“Tell me more,” I smile.

“I’m starting my AT adventure this summer,” she announces proudly.

I have no idea what REI is either, but start with, “What does AT stand for?”

“Appalachian Trail,” she says. “Oh, I love to hike.”

I have never heard of the AT, “How long is it?”

“The whole AT goes from Maine to Georgia.”

“Wow-“ How in the world?

She reads my face. “Oh honey, I’m not hiking the whole thing this year,” she laughs. “I’m doing a section hike as a recon mission to see if I can handle it. Then I might do more sections each year until I complete it. I have been planning and plotting this adventure since September. I have taken several classes to prepare too.”

Is there anything JoAnn can’t handle? Seriously.

“Who is going with you?”

Then I ask, “When are you going?” And more questions all the while thinking that maybe she should ask me if I want to go.

I do not dare interject that idea. Clearly, this is her thing. She has a plan.

Look at me. I feel the pinch of my too tight pants. I would not be a good hiking partner. I would literally weigh her down.

But…the thought of going sounds amazing. 

My mind wanders. This could be the escape I need to be me-just-me for a week. I could be challenged away from my normal struggles. Lately I feel an ugly angry inside. On the outside most people may think all is well with our family, but the reality is painful. We live in a nice house that we no longer can afford. Our slow pay credit score makes me feel trapped. Moving is expensive. We have old cars that break down constantly. We are blessed with two amazing kids who each wear one pair of shoes for a year straight. Our water has been turned off a couple times and the boys knew when I rushed to scramble to get it turned back on.

JoAnn interrupts my thoughts, “Would you ever be interested in hiking sometime?”

I look at her. My head tilts, “Yes. If the opportunity comes up. Maybe after your recon mission success, then we can plan a different section hike sometime. Let me know how it goes.”

FLASH FORWARD:  MAY 03, 2016

7:00AM

I’m driving to work. The cell phone rings. It’s JoAnn. I put her on speaker.

She says, “Crazy idea. Do NOT feel like you have to answer right now. Sleep on it at least one night….”

“I’m listening.”

“My friend who was supposed to go on the AT hike with me hurt her back. There is no way she can carry the backpack required so she can’t go.” 

There is something about the way JoAnn lovingly pronounces “AT” that I admire.

She continues, “Would you like to go on the trip?  I have a mini camp stove and a bear bag already. I can text you a pic of our hiking plan so you know where we’ll be going….” She trails off. Pun intended.

Meanwhile, I am thinking, What in the world is a Bear Bag?


If you’d like to listen to the Audio Version, click here for my podcast chapters.

Thanks for reading or listening! Check back March 28, 2021 for Chapter Two.

© Copyright 2016 Surrender On The Trail – Glenna S. Edwards

Three Days

Dear Readers,

In three days, I will begin posting one chapter per week of my manuscript Surrender on the Trail.

I plan to have fun with this project. Hope you will have fun too!

If you want to help the process, here are three things you can do.

A) Subscribe to the blog by entering your email address via the top right side of the Home page. This guarantees that you receive an email once per chapter release.

B) Like the post or comment after reading. I would love to hear how the experience resonates with you or answer questions.

C) Share the chapter with people you think might enjoy the story. After the first week, I will include a fresh page link where chapters will be in numerical order in case you want to send someone one link regarding what has been shared so far.

Thanks much!

See you on the trail,

Uber Conversations

Me, Myself and I spent extra time in the car together this week: after work four evenings, before work one day and once again Saturday night.

I try to be a quiet driver unless the passenger seeks to engage. There are lots of new people I can pray for. The 22 year old trying to figure out which direction she wants to go in life. The 58 year old with occasional seizures so he needs to let someone else drive. The couple who try to communicate but circle into frustrated dead ends over and over. The silent. The headphones. The laundry and the women who lug it home up flights of stairs. The young man who wanted to know what the heck flying pigs have to do with Cincinnati.

Now that I understand how to use the Uber App, the job is becoming more fun. I invested $6 into a handsfree device for the dashboard. I love it as in, “Where have you been all my life?”

Probably most fascinating are the Uber Eats runs. I find these are helpful to stretch my legs and to boost income for the night. I do worry about car wear and tear with the stopping and starting but try to remember that I have been running these same errands for free for my family for years.

I wonder why someone who appears to be able bodied needs Subway delivered from one block away. I am amazed by a delivery charge that cost more than the chicken rings they want from White Castles.

“Stop judging any of it,” I tell myself.

“Practice not thinking at all.”

“Everyone has reasons they do what they do.”

Then, “Ok, this delivery makes sense. The person lives in a place that is a difficult distance from the restaurant.”

Hubby says I need to remember people spend $8 on a daily cup of coffee without thinking about it.

Mostly I think, “Good for them. Time is money. Maybe this delivery helps the person with their self-care or maybe this helps their family spend more time together.”

And my second most often thought is, “I am grateful.”

Extra thanks to those who tip which is only about 15% of people so far. Your generosity helps.

Matthew 7:1 Judge Not….

The In-between

Welcome to the in-between weekend.

  • Christmas lights are hit or miss now.
  • It is hard to remember today’s date.
  • New Years is coming.

I’ve heard some grumbling and sadness around town.

Maybe you are a Have-Not who listened to The-Haves talk about expensive gifts received.

Perhaps you just heard, “but we’ll always be friends” as he shared he is serious about a new relationship.

It’s not even break up season yet. You were blindsided.

Or your mini vacay to-do list is not close to done.

Did you use all the energy you had to cope during a time of grief?

Fear not.

To the person who needs to hear this today, you are valued exactly as you are.

You matter.

Order and routine will be restored.

It’s ok to take a nap.

Embrace what is and give it to God. Allow the feelings to pass through your body so you can move on. If you fight emotions, the pain lasts longer.

As for that to-do list, tackle something manageable first.

This is a good time to pray, praise, rest, connect to your source.

Reset for 2020.

Remember there is a time for everything. Don’t beat yourself up in this short window.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time.

How may I pray for you? Dm me with prayer requests for the new year.

Love,

Glenna

Chicken Salad Vacation

Two of my favorite self-care options are “time with a friend” or “time away”.

Time away can be almost anything out of the ordinary. A vacation would be nice, but since that is not an option right now, I manage to find even small amounts of time and declare them to be vacation minutes.

Oxygen in. Oxygen out.

So naturally when my friend Deb invited me to stand in line for the Grand Opening of the Chicken Salad Chick restaurant in Oakley, Ohio, I was lured in by a double win potential. Time with a friend and the first 100 people in line would win FREE chicken salad for a year.

Ummmm…out-food guaranteed monthly? Yes, please.

I set my alarm for 4am. I made a checklist of equipment needed: folding chairs, Cudl duds, triple clothing layers, boots, hat, gloves, a scarf, and a book to read. I downloaded the Chicken Salad Chick App and read the Grand Opening rules.

The temperature was 20 degrees as I pulled into the parking lot to find my friend taking a selfie next to the “first in line” sign. She became famous for the next several hours! People were in awe of the line leader. “What time did YOU get here?” people asked her many times.

My face froze into a smile. We set up camp and settled into the cold darkness. I visualized that the parking lot was a beach just ahead of my toes.

We giggled a bunch when we learned the first three of four people in line were named Deb! What are the chances?

3 Debs

We saw the kindness of strangers help one another with various challenges. Extra blanket? Extra chair? Information and legendary tales of how this works? These were no problem for complete strangers to handle in the dark before dawn.

The Chicken Salad Chick employees, photographer, and Chamber of Commerce arrived as daylight approached. The wise employees brought us toe warmers. The line grew.

I watched my Deb of the three Debs manage a conference call as if she was not freezing. I busted out laughing at the contrast of her serious work and the fact that we were waiting in line for a chance at free food.

When the dark sky turned winter white, I felt a ping of sadness. The fun was nearly over.

After the official store ribbon cutting, we scanned our free chicken code proudly as Miss First In Line #1 and Good Friend #2.

We sat with the new friends we made in line and already have a favorite Chicken Salad Chick employee. Shout out to Tamika!

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Then we headed to work. Back to reality. It was a good tiny vacation!

May peace find you this holiday season–perhaps in a most unexpected way.

Love,

Glenna

Ecclesiastes 2:24 There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil….

* This post is dedicated to Dr. Phil of Marysville, OH because Deb and I (or Ethel and Lucy as he sometimes calls us) think you’d get a kick out of the story!

* And extra love to my Hubby who I simply told after leaving the house “I may have a fun story to tell you later”. I was so frustrated with home life the night before Chicken Salad Chick bliss. Then he sees me on Deb’s Facebook and types, “Who is that lady with my (his) hat and gloves?!” He can be a pretty funny guy.

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Gus Deployment Part Two

Before soaring on United Airlines one day in August, two TSA people panicked when I placed a pet carrier on the security conveyor belt.

I said to their reaching hands, “It’s empty. Don’t worry.”

Whew! Their blue shirts relaxed a bit.

“I am heading to get my son’s cat,” I said to more people than probably wanted to know that day.

My mission: Get the cat. Keep my emotions in check. Spend as little money as possible. Stretch granola in backpack.

One thing I’ve learned about being a military mom is that tears are the enemy to be embraced. I can be happy for our son = tears. I can be proud = tears. Saying hello = tears. Saying goodbye = tears.

Fight them and the tears are worse. I attempt to embrace and let them pass. If you’re a military parent, you know this roller coaster.

Son-1 and I strive for what we call “the good good-bye”. He tries to laugh when my face swells. There is something about military life that makes the words “gut wrenching” meaningful as an experience rather than a phrase.

Once in New Mexico, I see in our son right away that he is feeling about his cat a little like what I feel when he and I separate for months at a time. He hugs Gus, plays with Gus, and takes long looks at Gus. I imagine he is burning the memory of Gus into his soul with enough love to last for many months until they reunite.

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Meanwhile on minimal sleep for a 24 hour trip, my mind focuses on how to get a cat across the country without losing him.

“Ok, Mom. You guys have to go now,” Son-1 said about 40 minutes before I planned to leave that morning. He did not want to cry. I understood.

We place a “calming collar” on Gus and put him in the pet carrier.

“Here. I got you these,” Son-1 hands me breakfast. It was thoughtful of him to stop at a gas station for Pepsi and Swedish Fish with me in mind.

I stress-nosh on the red fish when Gus begins to wail in the car. Have I mentioned that Gus and I had to drive 90 miles to the airport?

Son-1 and GF warned me that Gus does not like car rides, but I know his wail is more than a dislike of the car. Gus knew I was taking him from his people.

Gus cried.

I cried.

Hubby called once while I was stopped in the desert by a police blockade. Missiles were being tested nearby. Stopping only made Gus cry louder.

“It will be ok, Gus.” I turn him so he can see me through his net. That didn’t help. I wonder if his claws will rip the carrier netting. Then I remember that I packed a small roll of duct tape. Hopefully I will not need to figure out how to repair or get him back in the carrier if he escapes.

I hyperventilate on the phone to Hubby, “Don’t. Tell Son-1. That. Gus. Is.” Inhale, “Crying.”

“Honey, catch your own breath. It will be ok.”

Sure it will. I am in new territory: alone with a cat, saying good-bye to our son for his first deployment overseas, and driving toward El Paso, Texas which dripped with sadness in the air from recent events.

There are security options with a pet in an airport. I could take the cat out of the carrier and walk through the screening device. No way. Or I could request the private room to take the cat out of the container. Sigh.

In the private room, the TSA agents share horror stories, “One time a cat died right here at this check point.”

What?!

“Yep, the owner overmedicated the cat.”

I feel so glad we did not medicate Gus. I zip him back inside with our new bonding and determination. We can do this, Gussie-boy. G-ma will protect you.

At our layover, I bravely allow Gus to walk around an indoor pet spot.

I pose him for a picture near the airport’s USO. “We are on task, buddy.”

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He and I people watch at airport gates.

Inside the carrier is one of Son-1’s worn t-shirts. I explain to the cat that the shirt is for comfort.

“Don’t worry, Gus, your owners will be back for you.”

The t-shirt also connects the dots of smells for the pets waiting at home. Once back in Greater Cincinnati, there was minimal quarantine time and/or hissing by our welcome wagon pets. They recognized Son-1’s scent. They gave us looks like, “WTH? Meow. Ok, fine.”

Gus settled in with cat toys, scratch pads, and favorite play-sleep spots. He marvels at the new sights through our window: chipmunks, leaves, grass, snow flurries. It’s different here.

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And sometimes Gus hangs out near the door patiently waiting for Son-1 and GF to return.

Job 12:7 But ask the animals, and they will teach you…

Posts about Gus are dedicated to his cat parents who are currently deployed separately in the military. Please pray for the men and women who endure loneliness in the name of freedom during this holiday season.

Let there be peace on earth.

GF, Son-1, Gus, & their promise rings.

One Less Thing

I realized my self-talk whispers “ok, one more thing” over and over each time a new daily challenge arrives. This came to my attention when suddenly I experienced a fifteen minute window where I soaked in the joy of One-Less-Thing instead.

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My car dashboard mirrors my life with its scattered warnings. The tire maintenance light is forever “on”. I’ve had 5 nail punctured tires over 5 months.

The service engine light greets me each morning. The oil change guy hooked up a gadget reader to tell me the light is nothing to worry about, but I wonder. The brake light won’t go out even when the emergency brake is released. I stopped looking up what the other lights mean in the manual.

The dashboard reminds me of the running narrative in my mind. It goes something like this: I’m still sick. Stress is not helping me get well. Drop the kid off at school. Go to work. Repeat. My voice refuses to come back. The cat puked. -One more thing. I need to make dinner. Sweep the house. Keep trying to sell the house. Clean the bathroom. Move the laundry. I really should write a letter or send a care package to our deployed son. What just fell off the house?! -One more thing. If you sit down, you’ll fall asleep. Get up. Give Hubby the light weight fork because it is easier for him to manage. Position his shoes in a way that will help him be less likely to fall. Move his phone to his next location so he is not thrown off balance by carrying something when he travels inside the house. Help the remaining kid with college applications. I need to go to Lowe’s. Heavy duty caulk. A new vacuum bag. Take out the trash and recycling. Prepare for presentations at work. Who do I need to call back? Have I followed through on all work tasks? Scoop litter box. Check personal email to see if anyone has responded to my manuscript query letters. Send more queries. Do we have gas in both cars? Pay bills in a way that hopefully does not cause an overdraft. It’s going to be close again this month. Is Hubby breathing? Is the cat breathing? I really need to make a vet appointment. -One more thing. There are other people I want to check in with. I text them. There are other people I would like to be there for. My capacity is too narrow. I can’t believe he hasn’t been able to work for a year. We need some mobility equipment. That will have to wait. The kid needs an eye appointment. -One more thing. I can’t make that work financially. How many hours of sleep can I get if I go to sleep right this minute? Why can’t I fall asleep? And so forth.

I try not to complain out loud. “Just keep swimming” as Dory says. But seriously, if there is a Santa out there who wants to buy our house so we can leave and start over, that would be GREAT.

Today I uprooted this tree growing into our fence and felt delighted by the image. Yes, we are ready to be uprooted.

In an attempt to make extra cash, I placed an ad to be a Pet Sitter. I can squeeze in dog walking and more cat litter scooping. I can love on animals and give neighbors peace of mind. The first response? Someone needs help with a cat until they get out of jail in February. So many thoughts. Bless their heart. Sigh….

One day I will not feel so stuck. I visualize selling a manuscript and being in an affordable and accessible home. One day I’ll be in the land of all three. I have learned hard lessons. I can do better.

This week our youngest got a job. Go kid! And he broke my heart by saying, “You won’t have to worry about Christmas, Mom, ’cause I’ll be able to buy my own presents.” The sentiment is good. The reality hurts.

A new job means he needs new pants. We make a plan to go to the store Wednesday. I secretly stress about how to afford the pants, but I think we can make it work. I don’t want him to know how close we are cutting it.

On Tuesday evening I drag my work bag into the house as the guys say, “We have a surprise.”

There on the kitchen table are new pants one day early. Hubby even used a coupon. In my book, that’s hot. Hubby had a decent afternoon and they worked together. I hear that the wheelchair got stuck in the JCPenny door, and they figured that out too.

In the moment, I physically felt something fall off the to-do list. One. Less. Thing. This felt magical. I soaked in the joy for fifteen intentional minutes. I smiled in my own home. This surprise felt so good!

This was a glimpse that things can be better. Will be better. I will trust the process.

To all those who struggle, I send you a giant cyber hug. You can do this. We can do this. Deep, slow breaths.

And now I must go.

The cat puked.

Love,

Glenna

One Light Town

After a 12 hour hot date with Nyquil, I opened my eyes at 10am. It’s been a rough week healthwise. I feel much better now.

I live on the edge by wearing a favorite pair of jeans that are so thread worn in the booty that I should have thrown them away months ago. Clean and dressed, I head to the annual Books By The Banks festival in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. Hubby reminds me as I go out the door to look for two writers with connections to his hometown.

McKee, Kentucky’s population is approximately 1,000. The town rests in a deep valley between mountains in Jackson County. There is one traffic light. If the light doesn’t stop you, it takes 20 seconds to drive into and out of McKee.

I have traveled to McKee to see family for 27 years. I love the rich green vines that cover trees and the bright starry nights. I sense nature’s peace there and less electricity in the air. The oxygen is dense. I often leave feeling rested even if I slept on someone’s floor.

The first thing I do upon arrival to Books By The Banks is to attend an author panel. I learn a few tidbits about publishing. The talk affirms that my work is heading in the right direction.

Then I head to the sea of authors and books in a large conference hall. I find Gwenda Bond. Her new book is the prequel to Stranger Things. [How cool is that?! We LOVE the Netflix show Stranger Things at our house!]

Gwenda is the daughter of Hubby’s high school chemistry teacher. I shared our connection and asked Gwenda how her mom is doing. She gave me an update to take home to Hubby and signed a book for us. She has other books I hope to read also. Her website is www.GwendaBond.com.

Next I find Keven McQueen. His books involve spooky tales from various areas of the country. Keven was a year ahead of Hubby in high school. He signed our book “Jackson County High School Forever!” Me, Mrs. Messenger, caught up a little with him. Keven and Hubby are friends on Facebook so they could connect later too. His website is www.KevenMcQueenStories.com.

How about that? Two best selling authors from Eastern Kentucky. Big wishes for much success to them and all the authors at Books By The Banks yesterday!

Before leaving I scanned my Instagram stories and realized one of the books I put on my read soon list is there too. The book is Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe. The author, Heather Webber, is represented by my current dream Literary Agent. I walk back to meet Heather. She confirms her agent is as great as I estimate from research.

I posted this on my Insta story:

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Too much? I dunno.

It was a good time!

Author Heather Webber’s website is www.HeatherWebber.com.

The world is big and small at the same time.

Love,

Glenna

* The authors included in this post said ok to picture posting and to me blogging about the experience. Other cool things happened too, but I didn't ask permission to share those moments. Join me next year at #BBTBCincy!

In the Stillness

Chronic illness and caregiving are lonely places to be. And a lonely place can be smack dab in the middle of your own house. It is easy to be forgotten when you don’t show up hardly anywhere social anymore. It’s easy to miss friends even when you talk to them a lot via text.

This is one of those posts that is scary to write because I certainly don’t want to hurt Hubby’s feelings; however, he has said to me before maybe if you write the truth it will help other people not feel as alone.

I try to look at our situation like we’re lucky because we have each other. If you’ve ever lived this type of life, then you know that’s just as funny as it is true. I hold onto what I can. I miss him. And I hate that he feels (in my opinion) sick 80+% of the time. We each silently regret some of the things we could have been out doing in our early years together.

There is sweetness too. When he verbally appreciates my weak effort to do house chores. When he offers me quiet time in the house because he knows the silence soothes me. When he will go to the end of the Google search engine to research anything the boys or I need. And, I have my thoughts about him always being a man of integrity. That is one of the things that attracted me to him long ago. Recently he agreed to do an audio book club with me. I am hopeful the first book discussion will be fun from our different perspectives. I’ve listened through chapter 9 so far.

I ponder if this time of both rest and stress ultimately helps me focus more time on writing projects. The quote below got my attention this morning after waking up from another nightmare for the sixth morning in a row:

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Writers need a platform. Mine is growing. I am thankful that my Twitter followers are 18 away from 1,000 (as of the time of this post) which I read is an important step in jumping onto a propulsion algorithm. We shall see. Fingers crossed. It’s not about “likes” for publishers. It is about “would anyone buy her book?”. Since I am 60% introvert and 40% extrovert, this writer life climb is filled with internal conflict–hence the nightmares? Being on a team is joyful for me. Putting my neck out there solo causes a touch of angst.

I enjoy getting to know a little bit about people in the writing world who live around the globe. That part of the journey is fun. I just cyber-met someone who is on number 200 of her 300 bucket list items. How cool is she? Go girl, @VickyJones7.

So in this life filled with challenges, I say: Carry on in the stillness. Carry on in the Light. Carry on, dear readers, carry on.

Much love,

Glenna

Exodus 14:14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.