Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Why We Love Thanksgiving

The clock on the dashboard of my car glowed 4:00 a.m. I was on my way to the television station to anchor the morning news. As I made my way through the winding hills of the neighborhood, I noticed that the kitchen lights were already on in many of the homes. I smiled.

This was Thanksgiving!

The day that begins with mom, or dad, moving quietly into the kitchen, where there’s a turkey to stuff and potatoes to peel. The day that begins when the aromas of coffee and cinnamon rolls begin to make their way out of the kitchen and up the stairs where sleepy family members roll over, open their eyes and smile. The day when many moms and dads have full hearts because everyone in the family is under one roof for the first time in a long time. And they give thanks. Because…

This is Thanksgiving!

The day when the intoxicating concoction of family, friends, and feasting intersect at the dining room table. A day when family and friends melt as easily into one mixture as the butter melts into the mashed potatoes. A day when we can come together to share a meal, and memories, and merriment. A day for feasting and football and a fire in the fireplace!

This is Thanksgiving!

It is a day to remember and give thanks for the people who gather at our table and to give thanks for those who will not be with us this year. It is a day to reach out to someone who doesn’t have a place at any table this holiday… and make a place for them at ours. It is a day to think less about our differences and more about what binds us together. It is a day to be unified before the madness of the Christmas holidays sends us scattering in so many different directions. It is a day that is about people instead of presents. It is a day to focus on relationships instead of the rat-race.

This is Thanksgiving!

No matter what Thanksgiving looks like at your house this year, make yourself a promise to wrap it in love and laughter. Recall these and other reasons that you love Thanksgiving! Savor every moment… even the ones that involve lumpy gravy and burned yeast rolls! Even the moments when you are missing someone and trying very hard not to cry because they aren’t there. Try not to think about what you don’t have. Be thankful for what you do have. Look every person in the eye and tell them why you are thankful that they are at your table… and in your life. Then, raise a glass and make a toast to the best holiday of the year, because…


This is Thanksgiving!  

Why We Love Thanksgiving

The clock on the dashboard of my car glowed 4:00 a.m. I was on my way to the television station to anchor the morning news. As I made my way through the winding hills of the neighborhood, I noticed that the kitchen lights were already on in many of the homes. I smiled.

This was Thanksgiving!

The day that begins with mom, or dad, moving quietly into the kitchen, where there’s a turkey to stuff and potatoes to peel. The day that begins when the aromas of coffee and cinnamon rolls begin to make their way out of the kitchen and up the stairs where sleepy family members roll over, open their eyes and smile. The day when many moms and dads have full hearts because everyone in the family is under one roof for the first time in a long time. And they give thanks. Because…

This is Thanksgiving!

The day when the intoxicating concoction of family, friends, and feasting intersect at the dining room table. A day when family and friends melt as easily into one mixture as the butter melts into the mashed potatoes. A day when we can come together to share a meal, and memories, and merriment. A day for feasting and football and a fire in the fireplace!

This is Thanksgiving!

It is a day to remember and give thanks for the people who gather at our table and to give thanks for those who will not be with us this year. It is a day to reach out to someone who doesn’t have a place at any table this holiday… and make a place for them at ours. It is a day to think less about our differences and more about what binds us together. It is a day to be unified before the madness of the Christmas holidays sends us scattering in so many different directions. It is a day that is about people instead of presents. It is a day to focus on relationships instead of the rat-race.

This is Thanksgiving!

No matter what Thanksgiving looks like at your house this year, make yourself a promise to
wrap it in love and laughter. Recall these and other reasons that you love Thanksgiving! Savor every moment… even the ones that involve lumpy gravy and burned yeast rolls! Even the moments when you are missing someone and trying very hard not to cry because they aren’t there. Try not to think about what you don’t have. Be thankful for what you do have. Look every person in the eye and tell them why you are thankful that they are at your table… and in your life. Then, raise a glass and make a toast to the best holiday of the year, because…


This is Thanksgiving!  

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Do You Smell That?

      Some of you know I returned to school this year. One of the degrees I am pursuing is Creative Writing.  I had to take a fiction writing course. WHAT? Like... make stuff up???  I've been writing non-fiction all my life. Journalism is about facts. Real things. Real people. Real events. Fictionalizing anything in a news report can get you in BIG trouble. (Can you say "Brian Williams?)

    I had no idea where to start... until someone gave me an old piece of advice... write what you know. So... I did. Here's a short story about news, hurricanes, aging, and life. Some of it happened. Some of it didn't. Some of the people are real. Some of them aren't. Maybe you'll like it. Maybe you won't. But I bet you laugh! Are you ready for "Do You Smell That?"  

                                    Do You Smell That?
                                      by Drexel Gilbert


“Do you smell that?”
The voice came out of nowhere on the deodorant aisle of Walmart. I was perusing the plethora of antiperspirants, wondering why in the world my go-to roll-on had suddenly decided it was not going to do the job any longer. I turned quickly and saw the open, friendly face of an older woman staring back at me. She had obviously-dyed red hair, mischievous green eyes, and a wide smile that invited me into what was undoubtedly her playful little world. To my surprise, she repeated the question.
“Do you smell that?” And with her question, she edged closer to me, began to giggle, and raised her left arm slightly so that her underarm was pointed in my direction.
“I beg your pardon?” I said, and for some reason I couldn’t explain, I also began to laugh.
“Honey, getting older stinks… and I mean literally! I can’t find one of these products that can keep up with my sweat glands these days.”
She got nose-to-nose with me. I smelled peppermint on her breath and White Rain hairspray in her hair. The crazy concoction made me grin. “What do you use?” she asked.
Never in a million years did I think I would be a middle-aged woman standing in the deodorant aisle of Walmart bonding with a stranger over the stinky side of aging.
And totally getting what she was saying.
I shared the yes’s, no’s, and maybe’s of my antiperspirant trial and error adventures, then watched the redhead prance away, a new brand of deodorant in her hand and a sassy lilt in her step.  I chuckled, shook my head and pushed my buggy around the corner. The mirror on the makeup aisle caught my eye. I stopped cold… and took a long look. Surely I was not that 50-something-year-old woman who stared back at me. The same woman whose gaze I caught each morning in the bathroom mirror. The one with the crinkles and the wrinkles, the sags and the bags, the aches and the pains. No, that couldn’t be me! Surely I was still that 20-something-year-old girl I felt like on the inside. The one who still enjoyed kayaking and paddle boarding, who liked to dance on the beach, run 5 K’s, and sing opera (or Aerosmith) in the shower.
Middle age is a conundrum. Sometimes, it is a great thing filled with wisdom and maturity and a peace that comes only from a lifetime of experience.
Sometimes…well, sometimes…  it stinks to high heaven.
~ ~ ~
When I entered the newsroom that afternoon, the atmosphere was crackling with the kind of electricity that comes only from the excitement of what is commonly known in the industry as “breaking news.” A hurricane was on the way. The weather radar looked like something Satan himself had painted on a canvas. It was filled with the color red. Lots and lots of red. Vivid red. Angry red. Bloody red. Red is the worst color for weather radar. It means “duck and cover.” Or “get the hell out.”  And, so it was on this occasion. Evacuations had been ordered. The highways out of town were clogged with cars filled with families seeking safer ground. People were panicking.   
It was my job to keep them calm, informed, and if at all possible… to keep them safe. I walked away from the cacophony of sounds in the newsroom to the quietness of my dressing room. I stood there and looked at the 50-something woman who was looking back at me. How many times had I danced this dance with a storm named Frederic, or David, or Andrew, or Ivan?
I glanced at the clock on my dressing room wall. My 12 hour “wall-to-wall” shift on the anchor desk was about to begin. Any moment now, a P-A (production assistant) would knock on my door. The thought had barely hit my mind when I heard three sharp raps.
“Hey, Marcy. We need you in the studio. Time to get mic’d up. Jim and Dave are already on the set. The senator is in the green room. Says he wants his interview to be with you and you only. You need anything?”
Yes, I thought. I need to hit rewind.  
My eyes dropped from the brightly lit makeup mirror to the neatly arranged counter below. I reached for the antiperspirant I’d bought with my new friend from Walmart a few days ago. I had a feeling I was going to need it.
~ ~ ~
“Watch out!” Quintin yelled.
I squinted as I looked out of the windshield. Through the blinding rain, I could barely make out the scene that was unfolding in front of me. A huge oak tree was falling, seemingly in slow motion, onto the pavement in front of our car. The year was 1979. Quintin and I were the two rookie TV journalists who’d been sent out to cover our first hurricane. He was the photographer. I was the reporter. We were 20 years old. Why in the world did they send us? I wondered. Probably because we were the only ones stupid enough go out into the storm. 
I hit the brakes and went into a slide that only lasted a few seconds, but seemed to go on for a lifetime. We came to a stop, inches from the tree. Quintin and I looked at each other.
“What now?” he asked. The man had nerves of steel.
“You want to keep going?” I replied, knowing before I ever opened my mouth what his answer would be.
“Hell, yeah.”
Youth has its advantages. There’s less fear. More determination. I turned the key, turned the wheel, and turned to maneuver around the tree. The storm was marching relentlessly toward us. We needed to make it to shelter.
But first, we needed to get our story.
~ ~ ~
As I snapped out of my reverie, I mused that “the story” never really changes. Year after year, storm after storm. People prepare. People panic. Some run. Some defiantly stay. Some live. Some die. Each of them has a story. It’s my job to tell it.
I opened the door to my dressing room and as I took one last glance in the mirror, my thoughts jumped back to the worst storm I’d ever covered.  It had happened several years before, but it seemed like yesterday. The beast had been named “Robert.” He took out 300 miles of coastline in one ferocious, relentless, maniacal bite. The storm had a life of its own, pouncing on the coast, mouth wide open, swallowing everything and everyone in its path. No one had thought it would be that bad. The old timers who had ridden out and survived Camille in 1969 thought they’d survived the storm of the century. What could a gentleman named Robert possibly do?
~ ~ ~
“Robert is no gentleman,” I said, as I looked straight into the camera, while standing as close to the water as I could safely get. It was the last live shot Quintin and I would be able to send back to the station before being forced to leave for higher and safer ground. “Robert is a beast and deputies are searching this community diligently for anyone who has failed to evacuate. They are ordering tourists to leave. They cannot force residents to evacuate. However, if residents refuse to leave, they must give officers the name of their next of kin. Anyone who looks this storm in the face is not expected to live to tell about it.  I’m Marcy Nettles reporting live from the coast…and heading for safer ground.”
As I wrapped up my report and the battery powered camera lights clicked off, I turned to face the angry sea for the last time before Robert would come ashore. I caught a whiff of something in the air. Usually, the sea smelled fresh, clean, alive. Today, it smelled like dead fish. It smelled like dirty feet. Today, the sea smelled old. And dangerous.  
I felt a tap on my shoulder. “You ready to pack it in?” Quintin asked. It was hard to believe, but 20 years after that very first storm, we were still a team. We had grown up together. When one of us moved to a new station, the other one moved. We were a package deal. He knew me better than anyone. And he knew I would stay as long as the deputies would let me. He also knew he needed to remind me that it was time to go. Time to get the hell out. He knew.
Age has its advantages. There’s more restraint. More wisdom. I tipped my hat to Mother Nature and maneuvered my way past the other news teams, deputies, aid workers, and ignorant tourists who thought being this close to a killer storm was “cool.”  I headed to the news car. I’d gotten the story.
~ ~ ~
Hurricanes aren’t without humor, I thought, as I eased my mind back into the present and eyeballed the latest radar scan of this most recent bag of wind and waves. There are always those stories that make you smile or even laugh out loud. Like the story of the dog who rode out the storm in a tree. Or the story of that one piece of pine straw that was driven like a nail into a wooden plank. Sometimes, levity comes from the most unexpected places at the most unexpected times.
The senator had just exited the studio. His interview had been good, but unremarkable. He was concerned for the community, would do all he could to ensure the citizens’ safety, and was confident the eventual cleanup would be rapid and complete. Then, he was off to wherever it is that senators go to ride out hurricanes. I turned my attention back to our live coverage.
“Hello? Are you the news lady? Are you Marcy?”
The child’s voice was sweet and soft in my earpiece. I had to strain to hear her and I signaled to the producer to bump up the audio. We were live on the air, taking calls from people who had escaped the storm, people who were running from the storm, and people who were riding out the storm.  
“Hello, yes, this is Marcy. Who is this?”
“My name is Heidi. Are you okay?”
“Hi, Heidi. Yes, I am okay. Can you speak up a little? Are you okay?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Where are you calling from, sweetie?”
“My bedroom. I have a flashlight. I’m making funny shadows on my walls with it!”
I laughed. So did everyone in the studio.
“Are you alone?”
“No, ma’am. My mommy and daddy are in the living room. They have a little TV. I think it runs on batteries. They have been watching you!”
“They have? Well, good! Then they know what they need to do to keep you safe!”
“Yes, ma’am. I was watching you, too. That’s how I knew the number to call.” She paused, and when she spoke again, her voice had dropped to a near whisper.  “Marcy? It’s really loud outside.”
“I know it is honey. Are you scared?”
“Only a little. My dog is more scared than me. He won’t come out from under the bed.”
I smiled. “I bet! I have a dog and he is afraid of storms, too! What is your dog’s name?”
“Riley. He’s really cute. But, he smells bad!” she giggled. “He ran out in the rain earlier and got all nasty! But he got away from us before we could clean him up and now he’s under my bed and he’s making my room stink! Ewwwww!!!!”
We laughed out loud at her honest assessment.
“Awww,” I said, “That’s okay! He will feel a lot better after the bad weather is over. You’ll clean him up and he will be as good as new!”
We heard a muffled adult voice in the background, then Heidi spoke again. “My daddy just walked in the room. He heard me talking to you on the TV! He says I need to hang up now.”
“Okay, sweetie, that’s a good idea. You go stay with your mommy and daddy. When the storm passes, ask them to call us and let us know that you are all safe. Okay?”
“Yes, ma’am,” she said. “Hey, Marcy?”
“Yes, Heidi?”
“Thank you for talking to me. I feel better now. But, I’m still a little scared.”
My breath caught in my throat. “I know, sweetie. Be safe. Call me after the storm.”
“I will.”
The line went dead.
Youth has its advantages. There’s more honesty. It’s easier to laugh at stinky situations, but also easier to admit when you are afraid. I turned to my co-anchor and we conversationally maneuvered our way to the weather desk. Our 12-hour shift was drawing to a close.
Once again… I’d gotten the story.
~ ~ ~
The smell of strong coffee roused me from my fatigue-induced sleep. After 12 straight hours on the air, I’d wrapped up in a blanket and crashed on the floor of a salesperson’s office in the television station. I stretched. The knots and kinks in my back protested at the movement. For some reason, a Bette Davis quote sprang to mind. “Old age ain’t no place for sissies!” No kidding, I thought, as the aroma of French Roast began to clear the cobwebs and jumpstart the thought process. I wondered if the storm had passed and if so, what we would find in its wake.
My mind jumped back in time again to Hurricane Robert.
~ ~ ~
I marched down the main hall of the television station and grabbed Quintin by the arm.
 “I’m suffocating in here. I’ve been stuck in this TV station for almost a week now. The storm is over. I’m not needed for live coverage and more roads were cleared for travel this morning. I’ve got to get out of the studio and get some air. Let’s get a car and go.”
“Go where?” he asked.
“We’ll know when we get there. Just start the car and drive.”
The younger reporters and photographers had begun to burn out two days earlier. Who could blame them? They’d been out in the weather for days… and nights. Pre-storm coverage, actual storm coverage, post-storm coverage. As a studio anchor, I had been in relative comfort with lights and air conditioning powered by generators. We even had hot food, while the field crews were dining on emergency rations provided by relief agencies and box lunches packed by the station’s kitchen crew. Let them rest, I thought.
We had to park a mile away from the beach. When we arrived, we were the only news crew in this area. Law enforcement was keeping watch. We flashed our media badges and they let us continue down the shoreline. The stench was overpowering. Sweat, rotting food, dead fish. But, I had a feeling that something bigger and sweeter than the stink of the storm awaited us. I had been doing this a long time. I could smell a story. Quintin and I stood silently side by side, staring alternately at the sea and at the destruction that the winds and water had wrought. Quintin was the first to break the silence.
“Where to?” he asked.
“There,” I said, pointing to half of a house. The back deck was really all that remained. It had once rested on stilts. It now sat flatly on the sand. Like the pine straw needle lodged in a wooden plank, the fact that any of the house at all remained while everything else around it was wiped out, was a mystery. Even more so… what I saw perched on the tatters of the deck. An old man and an old woman were sitting in ragged, folding beach chairs. They were holding hands.
This was the story. I could smell it.
They were in their late 70’s…pushing hard at 80’s door. Like me, they’d danced the hurricane dance before. They had rhumba’d with Rita, hustled with Hugo, and cha-cha’d with Charley. Each time, they had followed instructions and evacuated. But this time, they decided they were tired of running from the blows Mother Nature inflicted. So, they bought provisions. They laid in a supply of water and candles and tuna and Spam. They gave the deputies the names of their next of kin. They met Mother Nature head on. They held hands. They held on. And, they came out on the other side.
Weary, wrinkled, and wonderful.
They told us their story of watching the water rise, of hearing the winds howl, and of clutching each other tightly as half of their house literally broke off and blew away. To where? Who knows?  It doesn’t really matter, they told us. Their lives were spared. They had each other. The sea could steal their home, but it couldn’t steal their hearts… or their love.
“You must have been terrified that you would die,” I said to them, as Quintin recorded every word for the camera.
“Yes, it was frightening. The storm was fierce and we were afraid,” the old man said. “But not necessarily in the way I think you mean.”
“I’d rather leave here with you than live here without you,” the old woman said as she turned and looked at his lined face. “That’s what he told me when the house began to fall apart. It was the thought of one of us living without the other that scared us. Not the thought of dying together. Somehow, we held on,” she said, their fingers... and their lives… intertwined. “We are still holding on.”
“We lived to tell about it, Now, that’s some story!” the old man chuckled. Indeed. They smiled at each other… and then at me… their wrinkled, weary, and wonderful faces telling a story that only time could write. We hugged them, gave them some water and sweet-smelling fresh fruit that we’d carried with us, packed up our gear and said our goodbyes. They assured us that the deputies had promised to take care of them until their family arrived.
“You did it, again,” Quintin said as we began the long walk back to the car. “You got the story. You made magic.”
“No. They made the magic. We just helped them tell about it.”
I stood at the edge of the sea and drew a deep breath. As foul as the air had smelled when we arrived, I now caught a whiff of something that smelled fresh, clean, and alive.
Old age has its advantages. There’s more clarity about what’s important. There’s less fear about what the future holds. “Things” become less attractive, while relationships become more beautiful. The image in the dresser mirror…the one you don’t really recognize…  reflects wisdom in the wrinkles.    
The old couple’s story made the national news that night.
~ ~ ~
Back in the moment of this year’s storm, I stood in my dressing room again and wondered about Heidi. I was on my second cup of French Roast and was beginning to feel ready for my next round of 12 hours on the anchor desk. What would today hold?
“Marcy?” the P.A. asked quietly from the other side of my closed dressing room door,
“Yes?”
“There’s a phone call for you. It’s about Heidi.”
My heart couldn’t decide if it wanted to stop dead in its tracks, or lurch forward at a frightening speed. Was the child okay? Dear Jesus, please let it be so, I thought. My normally steady hand began to shake as I reached for the phone on the dressing room wall. I picked up the receiver and put it to my ear.
“Hello?”
“Marcy?”
Her voice was thin and weak. But, she was alive!
“Yes, sweetie. Are you okay?”
“Yes, ma’am.” She began to cry. “But my mommy isn’t. A tree came through the house during the storm and hit her. The policeman and an ambulance came to get her a little while ago. My daddy went with them.”
“Is someone with you, Heidi?”
“Yes, ma’am. But, I’m scared.”
“I know. Just hold on, sweetie.”
“I will. I just wanted you to know.”
Sometimes youth has its disadvantages. You believe everything will work out just the way you want it to work out. Then it doesn’t. Seems like it’s not just old age that can stink to high heaven.
~ ~ ~
“Do you smell that?”
I began to smile before I ever turned around. I was on the deodorant aisle of Walmart again. It was two weeks after that most recent storm. I’d followed up the story of Heidi and her family.  Her mom had recovered. Heidi was back in school… a makeshift location until the school building could be repaired. The dog had finally come out from under Heidi’s bed and had gotten a bath, washing away the smell of the storm.  Life was beginning to return to normal in our community.
She said it again with a delightful snicker in her voice, “Hey, you! Do you smell that?”
I faced her with a big grin on my face. “I don’t smell a thing!” I replied as I laughed out loud. The funny redhead reached out and grabbed me like we’d known each other for a lifetime.
“Exactly!” she squealed as she held up a tube of antiperspirant. “I found one that works! Now, I’m smellin’ like a rose!”
She got nose-to-nose with me again, just like she had the first day we’d met. Her eyes locked on mine. She still smelled of peppermint and White Rain. Her voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper. “I know who you are now,” she said with an exaggerated wink. “I recognized you from the hurricane coverage. You did good, girlfriend.” She hugged me tightly. I hugged her back.  We swapped hurricane stories, then she dashed off to what undoubtedly was the next adventure in what appeared to be a spirited life.
Age looks good on her, I thought. I reached up and grabbed the antiperspirant she’d recommended. Couldn’t hurt.
I glanced up and caught sight of my reflection in the security mirror at the end of the aisle. I smiled. For the first time in a long time, the crinkles and the wrinkles around my eyes and mouth smiled back.
Middle age was still a conundrum to me. Reconciling the 50-something woman on the outside with the 20-something woman on the inside was a work in progress. But my encounters with the little girl named Heidi, with the middle-aged redhead whose name I never did get, and with the old couple who held on through the storm, were beginning to give me a new take on aging. Memories of chasing storms in my youth, and of catching up with that old couple by the sea all those storms later, prompted me to consider the idea that time is not the stinkin’ enemy.
Perhaps, time is a friend.
Perhaps time is a fun-loving friend that stands at the edge of the water each breaking dawn and is excited at the prospect of a new day and of making the most of the time in that day. Maybe when time breathes in, it discovers that the air smells clean, fresh, and alive.  Standing in the middle of the deodorant aisle, I took a deep breath.
“Do you smell that?” I said aloud, to no one in particular.
It smelled like a story to me. The beginning of a new story. A story I was looking forward to writing.

A story I was looking forward to living.






Thursday, February 18, 2016

Jailbreak (Chapel-A-Day: Day 8)

It has been an interesting first week of Lent. Those of you who read my blog and Facebook posts know that my Lenten sacrifice is the one thing I realistically cannot afford to give up... time. So.. .realistically... it was the one thing I knew I had to give up, and give back to God.

Every single day, I've been tempted to "break the fast" and keep for myself that one hour a day I've promised to give to God. Every single day, I've held firm. Every single day, it's been proven to be the best hour of the day.

Wednesday, my hour a day was spent in the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church, Pensacola. The weekly Lenten sermon was delivered by Dr. Geoffrey Lentz. The sermon had an interesting title: "Folsom Prison Good News." He even sang a stanza from the Johnny Cash song, "Folsom Prison Blues." (And. He. Rocked. It.)

The sermon was deep, moving, and poked around in my heart. I have a feeling it poked around in every heart in the crowded sanctuary.

The sermon setting was the cross... and the two prisoners who flanked Christ on Golgotha. When Dr. Lentz asked the questions, "What is the prison that is holding you captive?" and "What are the the locked doors in your life?" the sanctuary air went still. He let the questions hang. 

Just long enough for each person to mentally go to that locked room.


Then, he spoke of the one who holds the key. The only One who holds the key.The only key to unlocking whatever door it is that is keeping His best from coming into your life.

I thought about the locked doors that have come and gone in my life. The habits, relationships, and attitudes that kept me distanced from God. I bet you have spent some time in rooms like that. Sometimes you really do feel like a prisoner... trapped in a lifestyle, relationship, situation, or mindset from which you cannot break free.

Dr. Lentz reminded us that there is a "jailbreak" available to us. We only need to look up, reach out, and accept His key.The key that opens the door, and leads us to a better way. The key that leads to freedom.

Once again... this hour was one that I was tempted to keep for myself. Once again.. I gave it back to God. 

And it was the best hour of the day.




  

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Wonderful Bird is the Pelican (Chapel A Day: Day 3)

"A wonderful bird is the pelican. His beak can hold more than his belly can!" 

Today's Chapel-A-Day location wasn't in a chapel at all, and frankly, it wasn't especially spiritual. The hour a day of time that I am "giving up" for Lent was spent in a place where I feel the closest to God... on the shore of my beloved Gulf of Mexico. And I was joined by some of my most favorite creatures on the planet... brown pelicans.


There are two brown pelicans that I love the most. Since I moved to the beach in the fall of 2013, they have flown by my place at almost the same time every day. Rain or shine. Winter or summer. They are as reliable as the sunset. I've named them Romeo and Juliet. I like to think that they know me. Because, I promise you.. they dip their wings at me as they swoop by! No. Lie.

Tomorrow, I am to deliver a message on LOVE. Tomorrow is the day before the "love holiday," Valentine's Day. 

I pondered my sweet Romeo and Juliet couple as I sat by the water's edge today. I decided they are a good example of what love needs to be in our lives.

First, brown pelicans are loyal. They mate for life and they don't decide on that mate lightly. They have a pretty cool dating life before "settling down," comparing bird calls, negotiating dance rituals, and sharing food before "tying the knot" so to speak.

They put equal effort into the relationship. Both help create the home (nest) and when the babies come, both parents bring home the food and feed the babies.  Romeo and Juliet demonstrate the value of togetherness and commitment. Am I reaching? Maybe. Maybe not.

Whatever your love relationship.. romantic, family, friend, community... there are lessons to be learned from the wonderful pelican. Lessons about fidelity, responsibility, unity, and continuity. God created us for relationship. Primarily for relationship with Him, then for relationship with others. 

So... how's your "love life?"

While romantic love gets the most press... it's the love in our heart for friends, family, community, the world, and our God that makes the most impact. What is in our heart determines how we relate to others. It determines in large degree how happy we are.. and how happy we make those around us. 

As I watched my friends Romeo and Juliet glide by today, I took heart. And like the pelican's "beak vs belly" characteristic, I asked God to give me more love in my heart than my heart can hold... so that the love can spill over and out, and bring joy to the family, friends, and community that He puts in my flight-pattern every day.



Thursday, February 11, 2016

Keeping Score? Not Any More! (Chapel A Day: Day 2)

What was the score of the last Super Bowl? The last World Series? The last test you took in high school? Or college?

I thought about that today, as I sat in the tiny hospital chapel on this second day of Lent. This year, like the year before that, and the year before that... I am trying to discipline myself to give up one hour of my time a day to spend doing nothing but focusing on God, and whatever it is that He wants me to do in this world.

For the first 30 minutes that I sat in the chapel, I: 1) focused on the cross, 2) knelt at the kneeling bench, 3) read scripture, 4) prayed, 5) dozed off. (Look.. it's Lent. I ain't gonna break one of the Big 10.) 

Then, my eyes fell on the devotional booklet, "Our Daily Bread." I decided to open it and read today's entry. It was about keeping score. 

Keeping score can be a good thing, if you are trying to become better at whatever task, or test, led to you being scored in the first place. But, it can also be a dangerous thing. Keeping score of the wrongs people have done to you (perceived or real,) your own faults, the faults of others, the times people have let you down...the times you've let yourself down... the times God has let you down... can be, well... a real downer.

So, in today's Chapel A Day, I prayed that God will help me stop being a scorekeeper. At least for the next 39 days. Instead of racking up points against the opposing team, I'll try to keep the scoreboard clear. It might be pretty freeing to--- 

Let. It. Go.

 Maybe you need to clear the scoreboard, too. Because, really... like the Super Bowl, the World Series, and the last tests we took in high school and college.. maybe, just maybe... the score isn't the most important thing. Maybe.. just maybe.. it's the way the game... and our life... is played.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Give it Up, Give it Back (Chapel A Day: Day 1)

What, if anything, does the season of Lent mean to you? For millions of Christians, the next six weeks leading up to Easter will be a time of repentance, reflection, and renewal. Many of these Christians will choose to "give up" something during Lent. 

A few years ago, as I began to grow in my United Methodist faith, I adopted the spiritual discipline of "giving up" something for Lent. I did not want to give up chocolate or soft drinks, etc. If I was going to give up something, I wanted the "loss" to become a "gain" by stretching and deepening my faith. Whatever empty spot was left by what I gave up, I wanted to be filled up with something positive, healing, and helpful to me and to others. 

I decided to give up the one thing that was most precious to me. My time. For 40 days, I gave up one hour a day to God. I found a chapel, or church, or cathedral, or outdoor sanctuary and for one hour I did nothing but pray, read, study... and listen. It was life changing. The next year, I began writing about it. (See previous "Chapel A Day" entries starting here.) Every year since, I've continued the practice of giving up time. 

But, this year, things are different. I'm running a business, going to school full time, writing, and speaking. Of all the things I can least afford to give up this year, it is TIME.

So, TIME is obviously, the one thing I must give up... and give back... to God.

For the next 40 days, I will do as I have done for the past several years. For one hour a day, I will seek out a place of worship and I will try my best to tune out the world and tune into the one around whom my world revolves.
Photo Credit: First United Methodist Church Pensacola, FL

Tonight, I will give up my first hour of time, and give it back... to God. It will happen in the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church in Pensacola, FL. At the conclusion of the service, I will walk to the front of the church, where the minister will place ashes in the sign of a cross on my forehead. The ashes represent our mortality and repentance. 



I will cry. I always do. 

I will feel God's presence. I always do. 

I will ask God to help me live a better life during, and most especially after, Lent. I always do.

I will ask God to turn my "loss" into a "gain." I always do.

I will ask God to take this empty space of time that is typically filled with work and stress and whatever else... and fill it up with something positive, healing, and helpful. I always do.

And, He always does.

What does Lent mean to you? It can be a time of repentance, reflection, and renewal. 

It could also become... the time of your life.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

What's In Your Heart?

Photo credit: Jeff King/JKingSr Photography
One week from today is Valentine's Day. You know-  hearts, flowers, chocolate. On this day, lovers will love, couples will couple, and Hallmark will... 

Rake.It.In. 

Valentine's Day. It's the day when we are encouraged to let the one we love with all our heart... know that we love them... with all of our heart.

In parts of Europe, a popular Valentine's Day gift is a key. As in the key that unlocks the heart. That got me to thinking.

If my heart were to be unlocked... what would be found inside?

I like to think that my heart is full of love, peace and joy. And mostly, I think it is. But there's this one little part, a hide-away closet so to speak, where I hide things. Those "things" may change depending on the day and the circumstances. But they remain things that I keep locked away so others can't see them. Things like impatience, jealousy, anxiety, fear, distrust and pride. 

So, today, one week from Valentine's Day, I'm pulling out my "key." The one that opens the door to the hide-away closet in my heart. I am going to let those hidden things out... not for the purpose of letting them run amok in me, but for the purpose of looking them in their beady little eyes, and telling them that there is no room in my heart for them anymore. I need the space for a little more love, a little more joy, and a little more peace. I want the space to be filled up with my love for the people who are important in my life, and with the love those people give back to me. 

So... what's in YOUR heart? Any hide-away closets that need cleaning out? The "love month" is a good time to do it. It'll do you good. I promise.

With all of my heart.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Out of the Blue

The words came out of the blue. They hurt. They hurt a lot. Like a punch to the gut, a spear to the heart... choose your cliche'. 

"Rita died today." 

The words reverberated through my cell phone. The call came from one of my best friends. She knew there was no easy way to tell me that one of our "sisters" had died. A woman who had been vibrant, healthy, radiant, and playful when I last saw her. What was that... just 5 days ago? Our paths crossed several times a week.. literally. Rita was a runner. So am I. We would run past each other, waving but rarely stopping, as we put one foot in front of the other. Pounding the pavement. Making our way through the pain of the run. But always with a smile.

Rita had a beautiful smile. Her light switched on somewhere deep inside of her soul and then spilled out to everyone around her. When Rita smiled, we all smiled, and we felt better about things. 

Now, she's gone. Did the light go with her?

Losing someone stinks. Is it worse when the loss happens suddenly? Unexpectedly? I don't know. I only know that I wish I'd spent more time with Rita when I last saw her... what was that... just 5 days ago? We crossed paths at a favorite beach spot on "wing night." She was with her daughter, whom she adored. We hugged, kissed, and promised to be more intentional about spending time together. 

You always think you have time.

So, why am I writing this? It won't bring Rita back. It won't stop the pain. It won't stop me from looking for her tomorrow morning when I'm on my run. It won't stop me from crying when I don't see her.

Maybe, though, it will do something for you...and for me. Maybe it will remind you... and me... that we don't always have time. Maybe it will remind us of how important it is to tell the people who mean the most to us.. that that they mean the most to us. That we are happy they are in our lives. That we love them. And that we need to tell them that today. And tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that.

Did the light go out when Rita died? No. She was too bright to be dimmed by death. Whether you knew her or not, her light will be reflected every time you remember what I've written... and in remembering, when you take the time to tell someone that you love that they mean the most to you. That you are happy they are in your life. And that you love them. Keep Rita's light burning. Say those words often.

Don't let them be words out of the blue. 




I love you, Rita. Your friend, Drexel

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

If You Can't Be A Good Example, Might As Well Serve As A Terrible Warning!

I went back to school today. Yep. This 57 year old gal is a college coed again. Wheee!

Many of you celebrated with me when after 30 years as a professional broadcast journalist, and several more years as an author and speaker,I headed back to the classroom a few years ago and earned my A.A. degree from Pensacola State College. (See: Taking A Walk.) You read this blog, The Someday Shelf,  where I described how I left college when I landed my first television reporting job (TV news was a lot more fun than algebra!) telling myself that I would go back to school “someday.” When that “someday” came, you laughed with me as I chronicled my comical journey through those hateful math classes, where I discovered that I like my x’s and y’s in sentences instead of equations! (See: Ode to Archimedes) I graduated in May 2012,  determined to march onward my B.A.

But once again, life got in the way.

Recently, life got out of the way. And today, I landed in a student parking lot at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, FL. My major: Communication Arts. My minor: Creative Writing. Go figure, right?

This term I will be taught how to write critical reviews (of books, music, art, restaurants, plays, etc.) I will study rhetorical criticism and conflict management. I will also tackle a writing style that’s new to me… fiction writing. Right out of the gate, the class was assigned the task of writing the worst story each of us could write.

Huh? 

I thought it was all about writing the best story you could write. But, I followed instructions. My opening lines? “Sometimes you don’t know where to start. So, you don’t.” The instructor liked it. I’m wondering…

...is that a good thing?

All of that to say this. After one of my classes, a young woman came up to me and told me she was impressed with what I had to say in my classroom participation. “Are you a teacher?” she asked. I wanted to say “yes.” In my speaking and consulting business, I teach people all day every day about one thing or another. I’ve taught reporters how to report, producers how to produce, managers how to manage. But, I knew what she was really asking, so I told her “no.” Then, I told her my story and encouraged her to STAY IN SCHOOL and get her degree! She hugged me and told me I’m a good example. Maybe. Then again, maybe I’m that ‘terrible warning.’  


You know, the one about letting life get in the way,