That Baby I Held That Day

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And a memory of 9/11 I never wrote about…

Everyone remembers September 11, 2001.  Even after 18 years my recollections of the day can still bring tears to my eyes if I linger on them for more than a few minutes.  I have shared bits and pieces of how the day and night unfolded for me…but I have never written down part of the story.

I was working the primetime 4pm-1am shift at the local Fox TV station, and I had been up late the night before.  Jeff and I were still very much in mourning for Mom Cutshaw, who had died in June, but trying to resume business as usual, whatever that means after a parent has died. My cousin Alan rang my phone that morning telling me a plane had hit a building very close to where my brother, Reed, worked, and to get up and turn on my TV.

I did, and we all know what unfolded throughout the next hours.  More planes crashing, more death.  I called my boss, Tom, and told him about Reed, and he asked if I needed to stay home.  I said I’d keep him posted.  I and my family were fortunate; we only had to wait hours to hear that Reed had gotten out of the city and was safe, at least physically.  I know people who didn’t hear about their loved ones for days.

I reported for work, grateful and shaken, to sit behind my console and watch solid, unrelenting coverage of the tragedy…endless replays of the planes crashing, the buildings toppling, people jumping from buildings rather than be burned alive…and commentary from newspeople, pundits, analysts.  My friends and TV brothers that afternoon and night in addition to Tom were Larry and Dan.  I was so grateful for these “boys” who kept me company, gave me bathroom breaks and propped me up, as I hoped I was able to do for them.  We were all overwhelmed, sad, angry, and feeling kind of…lost, I guess.  Late in the afternoon, Dan’s sister came by for a quick visit.  And she brought her little 3-month-old son, Cameron.

Lord, how I do love to shnoogle me a little teeny one, what we in the South sometimes call an “arm baby”.  I asked Meriam if I could hold her little treasure and she obliged with kindness.  I held that sweet new life close to me, humming, with leaky eyes and silent prayers…Lord God, what kind of world is this child going to grow up in?  Protect him.  Protect us all.  Lord, I am so sad…

That baby brought healing to me, more than any words of comfort spoken by ministers, vows of justice sworn by our government officials, tributes offered by the rich and famous.  That baby was born just before Mom Cutshaw died…just before all those people murdered on 9/11 died.  Holding that little, sweet, innocent new life reminded me that life indeed goes on, and that God indeed cares, even when nothing in the world makes sense.

That baby is now 18 years old, old enough to drive a car, vote in elections, serve in our armed forces.  And while I have not seen him in the years since I held him that day, I have often prayed for him.  I have shared the story of how he blessed and comforted me on a day when all of us were left feeling so very lost.  I haven’t seen his Uncle Dan in many years, but I remember him in prayers, too, and their whole family.

I owe them at least that. I owe them a debt of gratitude.  Especially that baby I held that day.

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(The baby’s hand in this photo does not belong to Cameron, but to my great-nephew Forrest, from a chance I had to hold him when he was an “arm baby”.)

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Rewind

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If I could turn back time…or place…

Do you ever wonder what would happen if you could turn back time?  I indulge in such fantasies now and then, particularly when my life does not seem to be going the way I would like it to go.  But if I had the ability to rewind my life, how far back would I want to go?  It’s a rabbit hole I could fall into and never come back from if I let myself dwell on it.

Maybe I would go back to when I was about five years old, before Becky Ezell drowned and my little life had not been touched by death yet.  Even at that young age I understood that the lifeless form in the casket only resembled Becky, but it was not really her, not anymore.  It was just the package she had lived in before she died.  She was about 12 years old when she drowned, but I have never forgotten that she was sweet to me.  It’s a big deal when an older kid is nice to you.

Or perhaps I would return to the first time I ever sang a solo in front of people.  I was in the Herald Children’s Choir at my church and Becky Kidd, our leader/teacher (and phenomenal church organist) had me sing a solo in a little musical we put together and practiced diligently to offer to our church family.  I think I was nine or ten years old.  So many times in so many places I have offered up songs since then, a gift for which I give thanks.

I think about the many turning points along the way, sometimes wondering, “What if I had chosen differently?”  Just one step in a different direction alters the entire trajectory of a life.  Would I go back to a decade…a year…a moment…for a do-over?

The whole last two years of Mama’s life…I’d definitely do those differently.  I screwed some stuff up there.  Probably the first two years after she died, too.  Worrying about other people’s grief kept me from properly processing my own.  It cost me in ways I am probably still paying for.

Or would I just go back to the first of this year, when my dog was still alive and I had plans that I felt would fix a lot of things for the people I love?  Wondering about it serves no purpose, I realize.  But sometimes it is difficult not to.  There is an old adage that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  Perhaps these tangents are my way of trying to learn from history, and trying to look forward.

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Catching Dreams

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Or even remembering what mine used to be…

Last year after returning from a vacation trip to Houston for our niece’s wedding, a friend at work asked me, “Didn’t I hear you say something once about collecting feathers?”  I responded that, yes, I indeed collect feathers.  He mumbled something and shuffled to his desk a few seats over from mine.

A moment later he returned with a gift that surprised and warmed me to my core—a Native American dreamcatcher.  I yelled, “Squeeeeeeee!” And hugged him so hard I think it startled him.  He explained that he donates to a mission/orphanage out west somewhere and they had sent him this beautiful dreamcatcher as an appreciation gift for his contributions.  He wanted me to have it.

I was floored, humbled, and touched by his thoughtfulness to share such a beautiful item with me.  This guy has always been a friend to me, but his exterior can be gruff.  He does not like people to get too close to him.  I have often described him as a “cactus with a marshmallow center”!

The legend of the dreamcatcher is that a person is supposed to hang it over their bed at night.  The woven web in the center catches the sleeper’s dreams, trapping the nightmares while allowing the sweet dreams to flow down the strands to the feathers below, allowing them into the mind of the sleeper.

I have always heard tell that my Mamaw’s Grandma Sayne was full-blooded Cherokee.  I have never been able to verify this, although with technology evolving all the time and so many records available online now, it might be possible to do so.  A first cousin I have never met in person reached out to me on social media hoping to learn more about our family, and he might be the person to unravel this branch of our family tree.  Even a tiny portion of Cherokee in my lineage would make sense of a lot of things about me, how I see my world, and the things I value.  Perhaps confirming such a family history would help me to remember the childlike dreams of my past…those days when I thought anything was possible.

As it is, I look at this sweet gift, a reminder of a friendship from a workplace Shinsky and I no longer share, but memories I will value for a lifetime.  I will pray that both of us will conjure and fulfill new, meaningful and happy dreams moving forward.  I will give thanks for his heritage and for mine, for years of shared work and a future that I cannot yet see.

Spin Cycle

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And I don’t mean laundry…

A little over a year ago was when I and many of my coworkers learned that our company was moving several departments away from our facility here.  We were not moving with them. Ample notice and generous severance softened the blow a little bit, but, for me, it also made it easier to live in denial for a longer period of time.

The last six months of work came and went, followed by my road trip, #OperationTakeAMinute.  That month on the road was unlike anything I had ever attempted before, especially traveling by myself.  It was a wonderful, soul-healing time spent visiting some family (blood and chosen) and a few intentional nights alone as well.

Upon my return I began the process of rebuilding my resume’ and searching for a job.  Thus began my experience with Temporary Employment.  My recruiter with the staffing agency has been wonderful to help me find leads.  I spent a couple of months at an assignment that I hoped would become permanent, but timing, circumstances, and internal changes with that company were not conducive to me remaining there.  So I waited for the next assignment while submitting applications and resumes everyplace interesting that I could find (and some less interesting places too!).  This past week I began a new assignment, with hopes for something permanent elsewhere.

After working for so long in one place, this new situation feels a lot like I’m living in the spin cycle.  I have often felt like a dirty garment, tossed into a dark place, drowned in soapy water, agitated and thrown around, eventually to be spun at dizzying speed to get most of the water out.  Then the whole thing starts all over again to rinse the soap—and the dirt—away,  It’s actually kind of a violent process!

BUT…this has to happen for the clothes to get clean.  Perhaps that is what this period of transition, instability and uncertainty is supposed to be doing for me.  Perhaps this process is cleansing me.  I sure hope so.  I hope this life stage is cleansing me to get me ready for the next opportunity, whether that opportunity is professional, spiritual, personal, or something else.

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This Little Light Of Mine

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Sometimes feels like it’s about to go out…

I remember when I was a little girl, learning the old song, “This Little Light Of Mine, I’m gonna let it shine”.  And like every other song I learned as a child, I sang it with my whole soul.  My light, like my voice,  was LOUD and PROUD.

These days it seems like there is such darkness in the world.  People are angry, disillusioned, sometimes even hateful.  Darkness of heart and soul feel oppressive.

I struggle with that darkness of heart sometimes.  I’m struggling with it as I write this.  As I said to someone recently, I know that happiness is a choice…but so is authenticity.  So I won’t lie and say that I am OK right now. I don’t feel OK.

BUT, in times like this, when my own light seems to be fading, I am reminded of the light cast into the world by other people…creative, loving, optimistic, funny, encouraging people.  I can borrow their light in order to strengthen my own.  My friends share so much of their light with me, it would be difficult for me to stay in the dark for too long.

And in my sincerest prayers, I would ask God to forgive me for my darkness, especially when I have exposed it to other people.  In the words of another old song, I want to “brighten the corner” where I am.  Lord, help me to reflect The Light Of The World to those around me, especially those who struggle with times of darkness.    Amen and Amen.

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Grateful In Spite Of…

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Fill in the blank…

I try to keep this blog positive…but I also try to keep it authentic.  And in the spirit of full disclosure, I am very much wishing for one big “do-over” right now.  My life at age 55 is not where I thought it would be, and certainly not where I would like.

I never imagined that my career would have taken such an abrupt turn.  But companies get bought and sold, and jobs get eliminated.  It happens all the time.  It is called Progress.

In the past couple of months, two friends died sudden, unexpected deaths.  Earthly goodbyes are never easy, but when a death comes so far out of the blue, wrapping our heads around such loss is far more difficult.  There’s no time to prepare, no understanding why, and way more questions than answers.  God is good, and His plans are perfect.  I believe this with my whole being. But trusting God does not mean an absence of pain.  Right now, it hurts.

I am grateful that He is with me in my pain.  Even Jesus cried.  He never promised me that there would not be hard times; He promised me that I would not be alone in them.

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Purposeful Planning

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Pages and passages…

I have always been a sucker for a pretty calendar.  Decades ago when I first discovered Coach leather goods, I purchased a navy leather organizer that contained an address book.  The address book is still inside it, along with all the addresses I have penciled in (including those of people who have died. I’ve never been able to bring myself to erase them.  It’s just too sad.)  There is space on the other side to tuck in a small pad of paper or a calendar.  My preference is for a calendar, one with monthly and weekly spreads, and with enough space to write down things like birthdays, appointments, musical events, etc.  I color code the items so I can quickly identify what is going on and coming up.

My calendar serves as a hybrid volume: a planner for what’s coming, a journal for what has come and gone, and a mini-scrapbook for my memories about both.  A couple of months ago I posted a query on social media asking my friends who are “planner people” which planners they use and like, and what features they appreciate.  My current work assignment as a temp got me thinking that I needed to branch out a bit and try a vertical daily calendar layout, and I wanted some feedback on what my friends were using to schedule their lives for efficiency and productivity.

I received numerous replies suggesting all kinds of planners at various price points, and with lots of interesting and helpful features.  The one I ended up choosing for myself has a lot going for it, but the main selling point for me was its disc-bound format that allows me to add and remove sections as I need/want/use them.  Ultimate customization is ultimately appealing!  It offers plenty of space to write, add stickers and washi tape, and the paper is good quality with no bleed-through.

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As much as anything else, my hope is to plan and document my life’s passages, and the life passages of people I love, in a creative, meaningful way.  I have kept my calendars for years, looking back over them with gratitude for a written record of events as they have happened.  An electronic calendar works great for some people, and at some point it might work for me; but I don’t think I will ever be able to part with the old-fashioned-pen-to-paper tool that I’ve used all my life.  The simple act of writing things down feels good to me; it reminds me of both the things to come and the ones already done; it gives me some accountability to see my goals in writing; and ultimately I hope it will help me to become more productive and effective as I try to live a meaningful life of service to God and the people around me, navigating my life’s passages with joy, wisdom and purpose.

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