a love story

 

There was this guy. He was in his early 40s. The classic cliche. Tall, dark and handsome. He was a hard worker. He had a wife. They were together over 20 years. Their lives were changed forever one night on their way home from her birthday dinner. They got in a car accident and she became paralyzed. Quadraplegic. At that time he was about 35. Life turned upside down in a split second. Life altered forever. Life different forever. He took care of his wife for 6 years until she passed away.

There was this girl. She was in her early 30s. Short, blond, and smart-assy. She was a hard worker. She had a husband and 3 kids. They were together about 14 years. Their lives were changed forever by divorce. At that time she was about 31. Life turned upside down. Life altered forever. Life different forever.

It was May of 1997. This guy lost his wife six months previously. He wasn’t looking for anybody. He wasn’t trying to get out and mingle. He was not in a hurry. HIs brother made him.

One of the waitresses was trying to set up the girl with this guy. The girl wanted nothing to do with him. She was content living her life. Single. She was not looking for anybody. She was not in a hurry.

There were several occasions when the girl was supposed to meet this guy and it just never happened. Time marched on. A few weeks later, destiny. The guy and the girl met. The classic cliche. In a bar. Except they were there to play outdoor volleyball. That was the reason they were there. They were on the same team. They had instant chemistry. They stayed up in the parking lot, talking all night. The girl couldn’t stop thinking about him. They guy couldn’t stop thinking about her. It was love at first sight.

By late fall, the guy asked the girl to marry him. She said yes. It was quick. They had a quickie wedding in Vegas, because why not? Everyone said it wouldn’t last.

Friends and family of the guy were very protective. They weren’t really sure about this girl. Friends of the girl weren’t really sure about this guy. They were very protective. It was kind of hard for this guy and this girl. But they loved each other so much and didn’t care what other people thought about their situation.

They’ve been through raising kids and teenagers. They’ve been through parents dying and brain surgery. They’ve been through thick and thin. They’ve been there for each other always. They’ve been through life. They’ve been through happiness. They have never had a fight.

Together. Life altered forever. Life different forever. In January, they will have been married 20 years. It was meant to be. It was fate. It was written in the stars.

The guy is my everything. The girl is his everything.

Mr. Ellwanger

Something compelled me to go to Dakotamart, instead of Walmart. I needed water for the studio and it’s 5 bucks more at Dakotamart. Why ya gotta be so expensive Dakotamart?

As I was walking in I saw a man walking towards me. Then I heard him. The voice I will never forget. The voice I will always recognize. The voice of a coach. The voice of a friend. I heard it, “Hey Fry Baby!” Then I recognized him. Obviously a huge smile came over my face. It was Mr. Ellwanger. I can’t call him anything else. His first name is Bill, but he will always be Mr. Ellwanger to me. You know how important people and influence people leave a mark on you and that’s just the way it is? That’s why I can’t call him anything other than Mr. Ellwanger.

Most of us had nicknames during gymnastics. My maiden name was Friman and Fry Baby became my nickname and just stuck. He can’t call me anything else. Similarly, anytime I see him around, that is how he always addresses me.

Mr. Ellwanger was one of my junior high gymnastics coaches. I didn’t like him very much at first. Obviously this is an issue for me. It was the same time as the beginning of my friendship with Mary. I didn’t like her much at first either. If you missed that one, you can read it here: http://peggielarsen.com/my-first-best-friend/

I first came in contact with Mr. Ellwanger during gymnastics. Typical coach attire he wore. You know, the stretchy down to mid thigh polyester shorts, usually light gray or tan in color. Then the topper, the polo shirt with the school name or something similar. Always green. Always Pierre colors. The finishing touch, the crew socks and tennis shoes. I believe Adidas were pretty popular back then. I just recently purchased a pair of those Adidas originals. Awesome shoes.

Something about him just ticked me off and rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t know what it was about him. He was just trying to be a good coach and I feel like an ass, because I was kind of a dick to him. I’m not sure what or when it changed, but he became one of my most favorite people. I truly treasure knowing him. I truly treasure the influence of Mr. Ellwanger.

It seems so strange to see a teacher that when you were in school seemed like they had to be so much older than you. But, in fact, we were closer in age than we were far apart in age. How weird. I pondered that on my way home. He said he is retiring after this year. He has been teaching and coaching forever. Lucky kids. As I was pondering this revelation, I came to the conclusion that he can’t be THAT much older than I am. WTF? How could that be possible? No wonder we got along so great. See, Mr. Ellwanger was the kind of person that totally befriended Mary and me. He let us go to his house when we needed to get away from things. When we were stressed with the teenage angst that so often happens to teens, he let us go and just hang out with his cat. Ellwanger was a huge Yankees fan. His cat was named Thurman, after Thuman Munson, the great catcher for the Yankees. I’m not a Yankees fan. I was a fan of his cat though. He was a cool cat and he liked to hang out with us.

He lived in a trailer house behind Jake’s. We were lucky back then. We were lucky that he cared enough to keep track of us. We were lucky that he cared enough about what we were going through. We were lucky that he cared enough to give us a place to think things through and to work out our problems. We were lucky we had Mr. Ellwanger.

In our lives, if we are lucky, we get the privilege of having the influence of great coaches and teachers. They help mold us. They help define us. They help nurture us. They help us.

As we chatted for a few minutes and I was heading in to get that damn expensive water, I noticed that Mr. Ellwanger had on the coolest glasses. They were stylish and sharp looking. I wish I would have told him.

 

 

 

Photo Credit:  South Dakota Historical Society

 

 

 

 

get uncomfortable

I put a post up on Instagram the other day about doing something uncomfortable in order to grow. I think so many times we get caught up in our comfort zones and we end up doing the same thing over and over and over. We just hang out in life. Nothing is fun. Nothing is challenging. I wonder why we do that to ourselves. Is it because we are afraid to try new things? Are we afraid to fail? Is it because we just don’t care? I mean, really, the comfy chair and TV calling every night is comfortable. Is it hard or risky? Not hard or risky, but definitely comfy. Do you think that makes you feel less fulfilled? Do you think that makes you become lazy and lethargic? I do. What fun is it to just exist?

I think the more we sit around and be comfortable, the more we are missing out on things. The more we are missing out on life. The more we are missing out on opportunities. You miss out on the magic. Why not take a chance? What’s the worst thing that could happen? Really, what’s the worst thing that could happen? It might not work out? But what if you didn’t try in the first place. You would never know how it might have turned out. You would never know how much you would grow from the experience.

Growing is scary shit. Doing new things is scary shit. What if it’s not uncomfortable enough? What does uncomfortable enough even mean? Uncomfortable by definition means to cause discomfort or distress. Do you feel distressed ever? Well, then that is uncomfortable enough. And by the way, who the hell can tell you what is uncomfortable enough? Not me. Only you can decide for yourself what is uncomfortable enough.

How many times have you sat in your comfy chair watching TV and then all of a sudden it’s time for bed or half a day has passed and you really wished you would have gone outside or gone out and done something. It’s like we are just washing out of life.

I’m trying to think of the last thing that I did that was out of my comfort zone. Opening a business. That was definitely out of my comfort zone. Working 12-14 hours days for the last six years. Yeah, that was out of my comfort zone, but I wouldn’t change it. Starting an online business. That is definitely out of my comfort zone and I am still learning the ins and outs of that. That is a daily out my comfort zone for sure. But I push past the feelings of self doubt. I push past the feelings of inadequacy. I push past the voices telling me I can’t do it. I push past the haters. I push past. Every single day I push past.

I want to be comfortable living uncomfortably. I’m getting there. I’m not afraid to level up.

Push past the comfort zone and try something new. Take a chance. Take a chance on you. Get out of that box and level up.

 

 

 

my first best friend

You know how you have “best” friends when you are in grade school and junior high, but then you move into the high school age and friends start meaning more. That’s when you have a BEST friend. They start becoming more important. The more we grow up, the more we need one. We need the one person to talk to about problems. We need the one person to talk to about hopes and dreams and to talk about life’s plans.

I remember the first time I met my best friend. It was summer. It was gymnastics at the old Junior High Gym. The gym was old and had giant cement stairs that were about triple the height of a normal stair. When you got to the top you had to crouch down because there was the ceiling. We ran those stairs often. I actually liked running them. They were long too. We could cover a lot of ground running the junior high gym stairs. There was also a set of narrow stairs that led to the weights. They were so crappy. The weight room was full of mismatched weight equipment. I loved it though. My first real introduction to weight lifting. The smell of sweat, iron and mold.

I must have been gone when she first showed up because that day I met her, a bunch of the younger girls ran up to tell me about this new girl who moved here. They said she was really good. It was like they were waiting for my reaction. She moved her from Vermillion. Her dad was the Attorney General and her mom was a department head and later became a Supreme Court Justice.

I remember seeing her, she seemed tall. She was thin. She had long legs. She had a round face and big blue eyes. She had short hair. Her name was Mary. Instant vibe of dislike. Jealously? Maybe. It was weird. Not sure what it was. She was really good on beam. I was really good on bars. It took a while, but we ended up hanging out more and more. Then the I like her vibe kicked in. We became fast friends. The kind of friends where you hang out every single day and talk on the phone every single day and do everything together every single day. The best of friends kind of friends. Best friends.

We got tattoos together before tattoos were cool. We drove to Rapid and hit the tattoo place on Mt. Rushmore Road. It was in a house it looked sketchy. We didn’t care because we were cool. As cool as a 16 year old and 15 year old could be. We sat in the car for a while. Our courage was named Jack.  We had a shot or two and went inside. My guy was Mouse. Seriously, who has that name. Mary got an ass tattoo and I got a hip tattoo. She was smart, I wasn’t. Stretch marks from my first pregnancy ruined that tattoo. Again, she was a planner, I was a now-er. We hit Wall after we were done to take off the bandages and to check out our new ink. We were dying laughing in the bathroom. We agreed we had zits that hurt worse than our tattoos.

Her family became my substitute family. I spent so much time at her house, you would have thought we were sisters. We did everything together. Her parents and brother treated me like I was part of the family. I felt like I totally belonged there. One summer we taught gymnastics together. She lived way out in Neltom, Lakeside Lane. If you know Pierre, you know the junior high was a long ways away. Mary had a little Toyota stick shift. Awesome car. We lost the keys somehow. No spare. No way of getting a new one fast. We walked to gymnastics for quite a while.

We lived through gymnastics. We lived through high school. We wore Converse tennis shoes and we had our red Converse party shoes. If we were going to have a party at her house on the weekend, we wore the red shoes to school. The clue. Thank God our parties never got busted. We were very lucky and very stupid at the same time. We were good beer shooters. We were good drinkers. We could drink the guys under the table, shot for shot of Jack Daniels. I can’t touch the stuff today.

We told each other everything. I wanted to be like Mary in the fact that she journaled everything about her life. She documented it all. I so wished I could have been able to do that. Even today, I have good intentions, but never can stay consistent with the journaling. I know it is a great life tool. I wonder if she still does. I wouldn’t be surprised if she did.

I went to Sioux Falls after graduating from high school after working for a year. I went to school to become a legal secretary. Mary was going to be a doctor. Always a dream. I had no doubt she would succeed.

We were always there for each other. Things work out when they need to work out. She had happened to be back in Pierre, after being at Texas A&M and just got burned out. She had driven all night to get back home. I was having a hard time in my marriage and wasn’t sure what I was going to do. We ended up back together. Hard times for hard friends. We made it through that. Not sure what would have happened if we hadn’t reconnected.

I was her maid of honor at her wedding. I was pregnant then with my third child. She ended up in California. I ended up divorced. I went out to visit her there. She was in the Navy to pay for med school. See, her dream, reality. She was laser focused. I always loved that about her. Once she set her mind to something, once she had a goal, there was no stopping.

We had fun in California. 29 Palms, like the Robert Plant song. We got belly button piercings and in Palm Springs we pretended we were Thelma and Louise. The scarfs and dive bars. Taking selfies before they were called selfies. Pre-digital and hoping they would turn out.

We went through lots of stuff together. Gymnastics, eating disorders, boyfriends, drinking, parties, skinny dipping, weddings, graduations, hard times, fun times and sad times.

I remember the day I got the call. John and I weren’t quite up yet. We were just lying in bed talking to each other. The phone rang and it was Mary. I remember distinctly, a song by Stevie Nicks playing in the background. Landslide. It was March 14th. Mary had a baby girl named Lauren on March 11. She called me to tell me that her baby died. I was devastated and shocked. I didn’t even know what to say. How? Why?

At my wedding to John, Vegas style, Mary was my maid of honor and she was pregnant at the time with Lauren. She spoke at her baby’s funeral. She is one of the strongest people I know. She always has been and I know she always will be.

Not even a year later she had another baby, Mark Edward. He was born on January 7, 1999 and he died from SIDS on January 30, 1999. How can that even be possible? Life is funny sometimes. Not haha funny.

John and I weren’t sure we were going to have kids. Mary said we better because we shouldn’t waste those genes. She was right. We made a good kid.

When my oldest, Corie, graduated from high school, Mary surprised us and showed up. It was like we were right back where we left off. We sat out on the front steps and just talked. There is nothing better than having that kind of friend.

Mary is a successful OB/Gyn in Sioux Falls. I think about her often. I think about what would have happened if we hadn’t ever met. I wonder. I thank God we did and I thank God for my best friend.

I have best friends now. I have friends who have come into my life at just the right time and are super important to me and mean the world to me. But Mary will always be my first best friend.

 

 

 

the baby turns 18 on monday

It’s that time of year. Fall is getting closer. There is a morning chill in the air. The kids are heading to college. I see the posts on social media and the mixed emotions of the parents. It is a huge life step for these kids. It’s a huge life step for these parents.

I don’t know if I am going to be ready next year when Tayler goes to college. I have mixed emotions. I wonder how quiet it will be around the house without her meowing all the time. That’s her thing. Her annoying little thing that she does when she wants attention. She will say meow. And then she will keep saying meow until we acknowledge. I wonder if I will miss that. I wonder if we will be okay without her. I wonder how she will do without us. She’s not a normal kid. She has actually been raised pretty much as an adult. She has been around adults and around us always. People comment all the time about how mature she is. She’s the kid, that even though it is her senior year, she still wants to hang out with us and do stuff with us. We usually go out to supper on Fridays and she usually comes along. If she doesn’t, it always, “Hey mom, will you get me a salad with a chicken breast please.”

She turns 18 on Monday. She’s the last one. I am still trying to process that. I can still remember being pregnant with her. I can still remember what a great job Dr. Minder did delivering her. Every.single.time we see him out anywhere, he ALWAYS asks about her and wants to see pictures of her. He has a special bond with her. A lot of people have a special bond with her. She is an amazing kid. She has a heart of gold and would help anyone who needed it. She is very caring.

As a parent, you always wonder if you prepared your child well enough for the real world. You wonder if they will survive the real world. They always think they know everything, but we as parents, wonder if we taught them enough. If we showed them enough. If they will be okay. If they will even survive. Did we spoil them too much? Did we make them do enough? Did we prepare them enough for life? I hope so.

As I see all the social media posts, I saw one in particular that spurred this post. The post was from a friend of mine from long ago. Her name is Hattie. She has that quiet beauty, that natural beauty. She posted how it happened in the blink of an eye. How her baby is going off to college. The overwhelming feelings and how they say it will pass—-and she said it may pass like a kidney stone. Her nest is empty. Ours is almost empty.

I can’t believe the baby will be 18 on Monday.

hold yourself accountable

Has this ever happened to you? You are bouncing along in life, not quite happy with how you look. You think if only I could lose ten pounds I would be good. Or, you’re not quite sure you like how your legs look. You think if I could just change the shape a little bit I would be good. Or, you think if I could just tighten up my butt a little I would be good. Oh, and what about that armpit fat. If I could get rid of that I would be good. A new diet comes along and you think, hmmm, maybe this is the thing that will help me lose the ten pound and then I’ll be good. You feel like you see the light at the end of that tunnel of darkness. If I could just…

It doesn’t really work that way though. Let’s say you lose ten pounds. Are you going to be happy? What’s the next thing? If I could lose 5 more pounds I would be good. If that little bit of armpit fat was gone I would be good. You know what? That’s pretty much bullshit. Until you figure out down deep in your core, in the nuts and bolts of your being, none of that stuff is going to make you happy. News flash: there is always going to be something about yourself you don’t like, which is sad. The sooner you start accepting yourself for what you are and realize you are the only one who can examine, the only one who can dig, the only one who can root around, and the only one who can make that change, the better off you will be. Nobody else can do it for you. Until you realize that and realize the why behind it you will always be looking and searching for the next thing. You will be continually searching for the one thing that you think is going to do it for you, but in reality it’s you. You have held the key to that lock all along. We need to start accepting our bodies and stop hating our bodies. Don’t confuse your body image with your self image. Just because your body doesn’t look the way you want it to right now, does that make you a bad person? Hell no! If you don’t like the direction things are going, pivot. Try something else. Get your head right.

Take responsibility. Hold yourself accountable. You are the only one who can make yourself change. No diet, no new gadget, no new workout DVD is going to do that for you. Only you can do that for you. You are the only one who can truly make yourself happier with how you look. It can take a lot of work to change those thoughts. It can take a lot of work to change period. Once you figure yourself out on the inside the outside is going to change.

I saw this quote the other day and I think it is absolutely amazing and so true: “Value aesthetics over health and you end up with neither. Value health over aesthetics and you end up with a high degree of both.” This is so relevant. It’s so important for not only women, but everyone to change their way of thinking when it comes to their bodies. Get it figured out on the inside and the outside will come around. Your self worth does not depend on how your body looks. Period.

sometimes, life is messy

Today I needed a me day. I needed my time. I didn’t want to deal with anyone or anything. I came home from work and sat in the chair and watched country music videos. I drank coffee with cream and thought about things. I thought about friends who were struggling. It made me struggle. It made me cry. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. My chest felt heavy and my breathing was hard. The lump in my throat from trying not to cry hurt. I was grumpy. I should have worked out. I didn’t today. I should have cleaned the house. I didn’t today. I should have cooked supper. I didn’t today.

I felt sad. I felt numb. My heart breaks for people who are in pain. It’s hard to imagine the emotions they are going through. It’s hard to imagine the thoughts in their heads. The monsters in their minds. The not knowing what’s going to happen. The roller coaster of life and wondering if the screws are coming off the cart.

I needed to decompress. I needed to not think, yet that’s all I could do. Think, think, think. I drank some more coffee with cream and started writing. It’s kind of my escape. It’s my stress reliever. Some people eat to relieve stress. Some people drink to relieve stress. I either write or I cook. Today, I write.

I often think of what else I could be doing to give back. I haven’t quite found it, yet I think it’s there. I think it’s close. I think about it all the time. I have a special place in my heart for our Veterans. My son was a Marine and three of my nephews were military; one, a Marine Sniper and two, Army Rangers. I try to think of ways to give back to them. I know they struggle. I know they have monsters. I donate to Veteran organizations to try to do my part. It’s not enough, though.

Today, as I sit here and write, I can’t help but feel my feelings. I sent out an email to my list this week about that very thing. I told them to feel all the feelings. Root around in that crap and feel it. As easy as it would be to bury my feelings and just go on with my day, I have learned that doesn’t work. In fact, it makes things worse.

I am going deep and I’m going to give those thoughts a pat down. I think more than anything it’s helplessness. Helplessness at not knowing how to help people in pain and hoping they get better. I already feel better writing this. It makes things clearer. It puts things in perspective.

We really don’t know how lucky we are. Every day is a gift. It’s not a given that we get to wake up to see the next sunrise. It’s kind of ironic that this week’s email would apply so much to me. I rarely get down or depressed, but today was just one of those days. The last line of my email told them to start feeling their feelings. To start existing and to stop pretending at life. I think too many people pretend at life. I think that is one reason why there is so much pain in people’s hearts. People need to live. People shouldn’t be afraid to say how they are feeling. They shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if they need it. It’s not a bad thing.

So, today I am feeling all my feelings.

the cigarette story

This is the cigarette story. This story is about sisters. Fourteen months apart sisters. Peggie and Sherry. Together constantly sisters. We had the run of a three block radius when our family lived on Euclid. We later moved to Prospect Avenue and Central Avenue was in between there at some point. I’m not swear-on-my-life sure, but I think this story takes place at the Prospect house, which adds a few blocks to the radius.

We still went to a babysitter, obviously because we could not be trusted left alone. I’m not sure exactly how old we were, but it was 14 months apart. Funny, I know.

Our babysitter’s name was Marge. I wonder where she is now. The house was really tiny. It’s still there. It’s on First Street, by the Cowboy Country Store. Marge was a really nice babysitter. We had some not so nice ones. We were rambunctious kids and I can’t imagine being the responsible party for us. We were busy and mischievous. Marge was an excellent cook! Two things I remember her making were cookie sheet pizza and some kind of sandwich that had tuna and cheese and then it was wrapped in wax paper and warmed up. Deliciousness. I can still picture those. But cookie sheet pizza, seriously, so good!! It was an amazing 9×13 pan of yummy crust, pepperoni, herbs and parmesan cheese. Now that I think about it, it may have been the Chef Boyardee pizza kit. It seemed homemade…

One day while at Marge’s, Sherry and I decided we needed to go to our house and get some games to bring back and play. That wasn’t true though. Marge believed us. We were liars. Our grand plan was cigarettes. Dad smoked Pall Mall reds, no filter. Mom smoked Benson & Hedges menthol 100s. The 100 meant that you got more cigarette for the price. More bang for your buck. More chance for cancer in your lungs. The non-filter ones may have been worse. When it comes to cigarettes is there a worse? I doubt it.

We begged Marge to let us go get games. As any good babysitter would do, she said no, but then she reluctantly agreed. Since I was the older, bossier sister, I got to choose which cigs I was going to smoke. I wonder why we thought we needed both kinds. Me, being the bossy sister, more than likely wanted Sherry to suffer with the Pall Mall filterless cigs. Stupid criminals. So, I made Sherry get the Pall Malls. The kind when you light it up you get pieces of tobacco all over your tongue and lips. I think there must be an art to smoking non-filtered cigarettes. We never achieved it.

We stole our cigarettes, got the games and headed back to Marge’s. I’m sure we were a sight. Two kids, probably 9 and 10, walking up Euclid, carrying games and smoking cigarettes. The picture in my mind makes me laugh out loud. I do remember being crouched down by the State Motel trying to light those babies. It must have been a little windy because the matches kept going out, which was kind of odd, because we were expert match lighters. We started our bed on fire. That’s another story for another time.

I keep thinking and wondering what made us want to smoke in the first place. Our parents? For sure. They both smoked. I also think the influence of movies and television in young brains is a real thing, along with the influence of parents. I remember thinking it was cool. We were cool. These weren’t candy cigarettes. These were the real deal, the real McCoy. We were 9 and 10, maybe, but for sure 14 months apart. We may have thought we were cool, but we were far from cool.

Later on when I got into sports and working out, I figured out that smoking was not cool. I absolutely despised it and was loud and proud about it.

It snuck back into my life in my early 20s. It was an addiction for me no doubt. I kicked that can down the street when I was about 35. For good. I have absolutely no desire to ever relive that part of my life.

Smoking contributed to the death of my dad. Quadruple bypass at the age of 48 and death at the age of 60.

When I think back about our childhood, I have to wonder how we survived. For sure, we were meant to gather some life lessons. We were meant to learn the value of being a kid. We were meant to be shackleless, free roaming kids. We were meant to exist and live life. We were and still are on the path of life. Every experience shaped us and we definitely experienced a lot of life.

when God closes a door, he opens a window

It was winter. It was January. It was cold and windy, like most winter days in South Dakota. It was 2003. I was spending hours and hours at the hospital. St. Mary’s, in Pierre, to be exact.

She was 50. She was an agent. I met her through work and she was gone way too soon. She was a really, really good friend.

I wrote her obituary.

On my way to the studio today I thought about her all the way down Euclid. The Eagles song, Peaceful Easy Feeling was playing. One of her favorite songs. That song was played at her funeral.

I can still hear her voice. I can still smell her perfume, Donna Karan, Cashmere Mist. I miss her. She always called me Peg.

She had cancer. It started in her mouth. A local Pierre dentist, Dr. Monty Bechtold, found it on her tongue during a routine checkup. (side note – his daughter, Cori, is one of my favorite people and she has been in my life for only five years—life is ironic for sure). It was melanoma. She had to have part of her tongue removed and had to have a lot of speech therapy afterwards. It seemed as though everything was good. It wasn’t. More cancer in her lungs. She had several surgeries to remove cancer spots in her lungs. Man, she was a fighter. She always said it was just a speed bump and that it was going to be okay. It spread from there. It was in her brain and in her bones. She didn’t have long. She had to go into the hospital before Christmas and then she was moved to sub-acute. She said that was the place where people go to die. She was a realist. I loved that about her.

She was ready to retire. In fact, the party had been planned and the date had been set. In the best interests of her federal benefits, it was decided that leave donation until the end would serve her best.

We had so much fun at work. Most people aren’t lucky enough to be able to have fun at work. We did every day. That’s how we coped with the awfulness of the job. She had the perfect Pee Wee Herman laugh. She nailed it every.single.time. We played Star Trek on the radio. Whenever she left for the day, she always said, “minyana.” Translation: tomorrow.

One of the times I was at her house before she went in the hospital, I asked her if there was anything she needed. She whispered, “courage.” That was a slap of truth right in the face. I bought her a necklace with a little charm that said, “courage.” To see someone so full of life and then to see them connecting the dots that they aren’t going to make it kind of changes the way you look at things.

Her favorite holiday was the 4th of July. Her least favorite holiday was Halloween. Her sister had died then. She loved good food and good scotch. The more it tasted like dirt the better. Yuck! We have a picture of her at the hospital in her bed, bald head, wearing her glasses and holding a bottle of scotch. She made everything fun. That’s how she was.

She had the most beautiful blue eyes and an engaging smile. She was fun-loving and would do anything for anybody. She was in the service business and she served well. She was not very fond of kids, but when I had Tayler, she loved her. She held her and talked to her and just stared at her. Tayler is named after her.

She had a friend named Nancy. I met Nancy through her. We clicked. We spent the hours together at the hospital. Every day we could see the changes. She was becoming weaker and weaker. I remember one day so clearly. I walked in and I could just see the bones in her fingers and arms. She couldn’t wear her rings anymore. It was hard to look at. There was no way I wasn’t going to be there with her though. Same with Nancy. Thick and thin. Always.

Her step-daughter, Kathy, came a few weeks before the end. She was awesome. Nancy and I totally fell in love with her. We became very, very close with her. She was a riot. She was like our own kid.

Her husband was also there, spending the time with us at the hospital. It was weird and so surreal, just waiting for someone to die. Not knowing when it was going to happen. Not knowing how long it could take. Not knowing how long it would take. She grew weaker every day. Her breathing became more and more shallow. She still knew us though. Every time I hugged her when I went to leave, and I mean every time, she always said, “You always smell so nice.”

That day, the end, Nancy, Kathy, Bill and I were gathered around her bed. The hospice people told us it was time. It was just so weird. We didn’t know what to say. We just cried. She took a big deep breath. The hospice lady said, “and that was her last breath.” Really? Nah, just kidding. She wasn’t done yet. She got us all one last time. Did I forget to mention she had a really good sense of humor? It wasn’t long after though, I think it was just a few more breaths and she was gone. She was at peace. She was free. I remember thinking that I just had to get out of there. I went and started making phone calls. She had a lot of friends and a lot of people who loved her.

The day of the funeral was cold and windy. It was snowy too. People came from all over. See, my friend, Alexandra “Sandy” Asbury, was an FBI Agent. She was a law enforcement officer (LEO). She was amazing. She was well-respected and well-liked. She was going to be missed.

The church was packed. So many people. I remember meeting her parents for the first time and her brother. Her dad was also an agent and so was her brother. It was so sad to see that pain. I wasn’t sure her parents were going to be able to handle it.

It was a beautiful service. We were all just trying to hold it together. It was hard, but we were doing it. Then Amazing Grace, on the bagpipes… I still get goosebumps.

The saying, “When God closes a door, he opens a window” could not be more true in this situation. The window he opened was the friendship between Nancy and me. We became really, really good friends and I know Sandy loved that.

Continue to rest in peace Sandy. We all miss you.

 

information overload

Drink this, not that. Eat this, not that. Low carb. No carb. High fat. Low fat. Sugar is the devil. Why you should eat sugar. CrossFit will kill you. Kettlebells are the only way to go. HIIT is the new thing. Do it every single day and you will look amazing. Lose 10 pounds in a week. Do this to debloat. Before and after pictures are fun. Before picture: looking sad and pasty white. After picture: looking happy and beautifully tan. WTF???!!!

There is so much information out there. How do you know what to do. How do you know it’s legit. How? It can be so overwhelming, especially when someone is new to the fitness game. When there is so much information, shut down occurs. Who the hell cares occurs. Screw this crap occurs. You end up doing nothing and feeling completely frustrated.

There are so many things. So many products. So many workouts. So many programs. So much information. How do you choose? How are you even supposed to choose? How do you even start? Where do you even start?

Take a look at the fitness magazines. They usually come out monthly and if you start paying attention, the information is just recycled month after month, but said in a slightly different way. Some of the cover headlines are just as confusing—build your best booty, 18 minute fat blast, 12 workouts that burn 500 calories, get lean faster, sexy legs now, strong and lean, 6 supplements to build muscle, burn fat and fight aging. Blast fat with a barbell. Transform your body. That is just two different magazines. Information overload for sure.

The thing that is so interesting about this is that these things are never individualized. It’s all cookie cutter stuff. It’s all the same. The thing is through, every single person is different. Their bodies respond differently to different things. What works for one person might not work at all for another person.

What’s the solution? Wondering where to start?

Start small. Quiet the noise. Filter it out. Try a fitness class. Try ONE of the programs in the magazine or get a trainer. See if you like it. Consistency is key and so is liking what you are doing. If you absolutely hate running, why the hell are you out running? On the other hand, if you like kettlebells and you can get one hell of a cardio blast from kettlebells, do kettlebells. It may take some trial and error to find what you like, but that’s the beauty in it. Even though there is so much information out there, it can be kind of fun deciphering it and also learning new things.

The same goes for eating. You know that if you are eating fast food and donuts and candy every day, you are not going to look your best and more importantly, you are not going to feel your best. Don’t pretend you don’t know that stuff isn’t good for you. And for crying out loud, quit supersizing everything. Control your portion sizes. Control what you put in your mouth. If you are trying to eat better, a good thing to do is to add more vegetables for starters. Keep your rice or noodles or bread if you want, but try cutting your normal portion in halves or thirds. Eat your meat and eat some fat. That will get you going on the right track. Experiment with things and listen to your body to see how you feel after eating them.

Do your own trial run. What have you got to lose? Because life is trial and error. There is no clear-cut path. Do what works best for YOU.