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.


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… 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,