Thursday, February 23, 2017

Resting!

Bald River Falls - Tellico Plains, TN
January, 2017

Thanks so much for your feedback and support.  I had no idea what to expect or whether anyone would still find the blog to read it.  I do have an amazing support network of friends both in my town and across the country.  I suppose that’s simply a result of having kept up with college friends and from living in different places through the years.  But I always enjoyed the friendships created through the blog and those I had the opportunity to meet in person.  You might remember that I set a goal early on in the life of this blog to find a blogger in every state.  That idea still intrigues me and I can see an effort in the future to do that again.  One of my favorite parts of reading blogs in learning what life in like in different places. 


Oh my....those Flagler Beach sunrises! - February, 2017

I left Florida Monday morning and drove to the home of friends in North Carolina where I spent the night before driving on into Knoxville Tuesday morning.  Traveling alone has quickly taught me that my older (cough, cough) body doesn’t like sitting in a car for more than 300 miles in a day.  Monday’s drive was 485 miles and I paid for it on Tuesday even though I did some stretching and took a long walk after I got home.  Thankfully, I am rarely in a hurry and limiting myself to 300 miles or less gives me an opportunity to visit some neat places and get to my destination in stages!


My last morning in Flagler Beach - February 20, 2017

Each step gives me a bit more courage to keep moving forward.  I spent a full week alone while I was in Florida and that was a big step.  On my December/January trip to Texas (which was my first big trip and one I will write a full post about soon), I planned it carefully so that there was a mix of time alone and time with friends.  I never spent more than three nights in a row alone and that worked just fine, so I felt ready for more days alone in Florida.  And I did ok.  There were some pretty emotional times which was to be expected as I spent my second Valentine’s Day without Bill and the second anniversary of my dad’s death alone in a place that was very special to Bill and I.  But my philosophy is to gather the courage to face it and move through it.  Yes, the place was special to us and some would say find new places with no memories.  But why should I deprive myself of the beauty found in a place I love, where I am comfortable and where I am safe?   I’d rather face the memories knowing that the next time will be easier. 


When I got home, my yard was full of daffodils and my tulips were out of the ground!
It's February!  This isn't supposed to be happening.

I will be home only a week before heading out again.  This time to a conference, but with some fun adventures on the way there and back.   

Monday, February 20, 2017

She Travels, But It's All Different Now!

Wyndham's Emerald Grand Resort - Destin, Florida
January, 2016 & February, 2017
 
When you read this, I’ll be driving home to Tennessee with a stop this evening at the home of friends in western North Carolina.  Only fitting, I suppose, that this trip began and ends with friends who have known me for nearly 40 years and without whom, I’m not sure I could’ve managed the last two years.  Neither live in my town, but both have been right there in ways that have been major stepping stones in helping me move forward.

Less than a month after Bill died, I got a Facebook message from one of the first couples Bill and I became friends with after we were officially a married couple!  They knew about Bill through FB, but it had been years since we’d seen them.  The message simply said, “we are in Gatlinburg – we’d love to see you!”  I spent a full day with them and learned they were newly retired and planning to travel the country with their Club Wyndham membership. Little did I know how that day would impact my future.  They’ve generously included me whenever they’ve been able to secure an upgrade that gave them extra sleeping space and with them, I’ve been to Destin twice, Gatlinburg three times and San Antonio.  For that first year, it was perfect because they were going and whether or not I joined them made no difference.  At least once, plans were made and as the time grew near, I was going through a rough patch and just didn’t feel capable of making the trip.  And that was o.k. – nothing lost anywhere. 

Everybody needs friends like these! - February, 2016
Destin, Florida

Last February, they invited me to come for a week in Destin.  I felt I was ready and eagerly accepted.  It was a place we’d never been, so it held no memories.  I had been feeling twinges of that old gypsy spirit and had spent some time pondering if I would continue with the goals Bill & I had of visiting all the state capitals and all the National Parks.  The trip to Destin would take me right through Montgomery, Alabama, a capital we did not have.  I did just fine getting there, enjoyed meandering around the grounds and was heading back towards my car when it happened.  My toe caught on an uneven concrete sidewalk section and down I went.  A freefall that only spared a total face plant because I was able to roll to the side at the last minute.  It hurt BAD and a thousand thoughts rolled through my brain, not the least of which was, “you fool, what are you doing here all alone? You are hurt and there is no one here to help you.”  There was a good Samaritan who stayed with me until I convinced him I was ok.  I didn’t think I was ok, but I was mobile and just wanted to get to my car so I could fall apart.  I managed to get to my hotel room and get my arm/elbow and knee on ice which gave me time to think.  All I wanted to do was go home.  For sure, I had visited my last state capital!!  But I didn’t go home – for some reason, the next morning, my car turned south once more and I arrived into the waiting arms of my friends who took care of me all week.  I wasn’t much fun – that’s for sure.  I was in pain and I was mad.  They say we had a good time.  I can’t help but think they were just being nice, BUT they have continued to invite me again and again.  The pain and the bruising subsided, but I continue to have trouble with my knees and lower back.  One year later, I am blaming that fall and will likely begin physical therapy when I return home.  I’ve tried everything else. 


Alabama State Capital, Montgomery, AL - February, 2016

This is mostly what I did that week in Destin! - February, 2016

Unfortunately, there was a lot of this as well.  Best donuts I've ever had!
Destin, FL - February, 2016
(I'm still paying for those transgressions, but have been sugar free since early January)

One year later (last week), we were back in Destin and, ironically, in the same suite we’d had the year before.  The place is massive (see above picture) so the chances of that happening were slim and we saw it as a good omen.  I see it as a marker of time as a healer and friends as a miracle.   We had a wonderful time and I will see them again in April. 

As for the state capitals, I was certain that the fall was a sign from above telling me to forget that goal and find a new one. But I love the architecture and beauty of the capitals and don’t want to let it go.  Since last year, I’ve visited three more, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi without any further issues!  I only lack four east of the Mississippi river – how could I possibly stop now?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

So What's Up?

Flagler Beach, Florida
February 10, 2017

My husband, Bill, died on March 18, 2015 and I will tell you without embarrassment, that, for a full year, I lived in a complete fog.  Don’t get me wrong – I breathed and I existed, but for the most part, I took one breath at a time and made one decision at a time. Friends stepped in and my calendar stayed full.  I simply looked at my calendar each day and did what it told me to do.  I became involved with a wonderful group of hiking women who accepted me, cared for me and just went with it when I would melt down.  I began working on our Benevolence Team at church.  I couldn’t imagine ever having the desire to travel again as Bill and I had, so I tried to convince myself little trips here and there to visit friends would be enough.  Those “little” trips were BIG milestones for me! 

Walker Sisters Hiking Adventure - June, 2016
Roan Mountain, Tennessee

 Blog Friend, Sherry, in Shenandoah National Park
September, 2015
Sherry writes a wonderful blog -  Direction of Our Dreams

Anyone who has been through this will most likely tell you that you DO hear your husband’s voice, he sends you “messages,” and you “see” him in a thousand different ways.  My personal opinion is that this can be handled in either a healthy (part of “letting go”) way or an unhealthy (a way of “clinging” to) way.  From the beginning, I prayed to handle it in the healthy way and sometime around the first anniversary of Bill’s death, his clear voice in my head began to say, “you’ve mourned long enough, I’ll be forever with you, I’ll always love you, but I’m gone, I’m INCREDIBLY proud of you, please just spread your wings and fly.”  I can’t say I’ve done a stellar job with all of that, but I am trying and I do feel him just behind me, constantly prodding me to FLY.  It’s what he always wanted for me when he was here.  Why should this be any different?


For new readers, wanted you to see one of my favorite pictures - he was special!
Boston, 2012

So this week, one year ago, I set out on my first travel adventure.  In both wonderful and painful ways, I deemed it a success.  Monday’s post will be all about that trip, so you’ll have to come back for the details!   Since then, I’ve taken several trips to visit friends and built a couple of trips around attending conferences.  My first BIG adventure was a three-week trip to Texas over the holidays.  A detailed post on that trip will come later.  I am writing THIS post from my home away from home in Flagler Beach, Florida that former blog friends may remember.(Our History in the Flagler Beach House.)

Feeling the desire and gathering the courage to start traveling again was big, but my greatest lifestyle change didn’t come until August.  Don’t laugh when I tell you that you are reading the words of a 61 year old college coed officially working on her Master of Arts Degree in Applied Theology and totally loving every minute of it.

 REL509 - Old Testament Foundations for Christian Life & Service
That's a mouth full, isn't it? - January, 2017

Here’s the short backstory….When Bill went back to school for his advanced degree, I wanted to do the same thing, but we were newlyweds and one of us had to work.  He NEEDED the degree, I still wasn’t sure what my career goals were.  Years later, he was still encouraging me to go back to school and I was the one dragging my feet saying, “not now.”  Eventually, “not now” became, “never” and he stopped mentioning it although I doubt he ever forgot it.  Last August, out of the blue, my church, announced a new partnership with Carson-Newman University offering a Master’s Degree program with a combination of residential Saturday classes and online course work.  The Saturday classes would meet AT MY CHURCH on SELECTED Saturdays making it very convenient for me.  I first saw the announcement on the front page of our newsletter and simply stood in the middle of my kitchen floor feeling both God and Bill saying, “OK Sharon, what lame excuse are you going to offer now?”  And I had none!   So, here I am, in my second term and feeling more settled into a project than I have felt in years.  I love the coursework, the professors, the reading, the writing, ALL OF IT!  Whether I actually obtain the degree (it would take three years if I go straight through) seems irrelevant.  It’s the journey that counts.

When I told my 88-year-old mother what I was doing, she said, “are you going to be a preacher?”  Ummmm, that would be NO!  I have no idea what I’m going to DO with this.  For now, it’s enough if it makes be a better teacher, encourager and friend.  I just know it feels right.

So that’s what’s up……….what’s been happening to your life over the past year or so?