READING BETWEEN THE PINES

If life's about the journey, does it matter how many bathroom breaks you take along the way?

As fall break kicks into high gear, Gemini Girl is back with a guide to parenting. And cocktailing. But not necessarily in that order.

The Newborn Stage

There’s nothing quite like the joy of birthing your first child until you peer down at the area formerly known as your waist to find a post-delivery fat roll that looks a lot like a Yugo’s spare tire. So what’s the alcohol antidote to this unexpected surprise? A $5.99 box of wine. It’s cheap (those 529 plans don’t fund themselves), takes minor hand-eye coordination to open, and based on your inability to get anywhere other than the pediatrician’s office, is the perfect solution to a long afternoon of burps and blowouts. Plus, if you down a couple of Sunset Blush spritzers and crash into that three-hour block of quasi-sleep you get the satisfying reward of waking up to pump and dump and start the cycle all over again.

 

Carrying a spare tire on your belly is a great way to maximize trunk space and store nuts for the winter at the same time.

The Toddler Years

Toddlers are super-fun but way more intense than newborns because they move in every direction except those that make sense. I suggest ditching alcohol altogether at this stage because it’s just too dangerous to drink. Letting your child plunge face-first into the dog’s water bowl while you’re mixing a 17-ingredient Bloody Mary isn’t cool, so if you have to pop the top off something, take it easy and go for a light beer. Drinking is more about hydration than libation at this point, yet it still feels like you’ve earned a prestigious award for enduring your kid’s journey through the gerbil tunnel at Chuck E Cheese.

 

Fossilized feces, a possible strain of an as-yet unidentified disease, and a creepy mouse = family fun!

The Elementary School Years

At this point your children are gaining independence but aren’t old enough to steal your car and take it for a pre-license spin to Smoothie King because their health app says they’re kimchi-deficient. This is your house party stage where exotic drinks like Elderflower Margaritas can flow like water. Take advantage of this time, because life’s about to change.

 

The Middle School Years

Now your budding teenagers know everything and you know nothing. Since they could care less what you’re doing unless it involves cruising by the ATM, take cocktailing to a new level and build a vodka luge in your back yard. Your kids already think you’re crazy, and really? Who cares about the neighbors. Life’s only getting shorter.

 

Just joking. Nothing about a vodka luge says “Parent of the Year”. It does say “Perp Alert of the Day” on nextdoor.com so that’s kind of fun.

The High School Years

With teenagers come fun issues like driving, independence, social media, and blown curfews. It’s a great time for new family games like “Lock the Liquor Cabinet” and the teen version better known as “Roll the House to Find the Key.” At this point you have three cocktail goals: quick, cheap and strong. Go straight to doing shots.

As your kids grow up and away, consider this advice a road map to your next life phase – the Empty Nester Years. Now you can once again do what you when you want, and day drinking becomes a thing. Just do me a favor and don’t drink and drive. You’re way smarter than your kids think you are, plus there’s no Elderflower Margarita in jail.

PSA – Gemini Girl eats breakfast for dinner, thinks crosswalks are dumb, and uses humor to fuel a burgeoning 14 hour workday. Don’t take what she says seriously and please don’t follow her advice because she’s 100% not qualified to offer any. She’s all about the lighter side of life, her PEZ dispenser collection, and TikTok. 

There’s no denying the reality of my firstborn going away to college. Our tribe of five is now a slightly quieter group of four. There are less dishes to clean and laundry to do. I don’t hear “hey ma” as he rolls out of bed when my day’s half done. And I don’t get his teasing pat on the head when I’m at my laptop, working late into the night, and he’s on his way out the door working toward an increasingly independent life.

He’s gone, and the rest of us are here, adjusting to a new family dynamic without the leader our girls have looked up to all their lives. My son has grown up and away, and our tribe will never be the same. It’s a realization that’s sometimes so hard for me to carry that I step back, take a look at it, shake my head, and walk away.

And yet…he’s so happy. I could literally feel his anticipation on the plane ride to school as he metaphorically drummed his fingers on the drop-down table. It’s time to go. It’s time to go. I’ve got to go. Far and away and to an unknown place called Indiana with humid summers, bucolic scenery, and lots of pretty girls. A place where he will no longer live in the long shadow cast by his Type A Mom and will instead start to define himself on his terms: good and bad, right and wrong, moving forward and backward, and sometimes standing still.

When I left his college room more organized than it will ever be from here on out, introductions to parents and new friendships had been made, and I let go from that last hug that lingered a few seconds too long? I felt…surprisingly relieved. I walked away from my only son with lighter steps than I could have ever imagined. Because he’s right where he wants to be. And I’ve done my job.

So with the miles, and the distance, and the infrequent calls that are really more about cash than connecting, I feel alright. The rhythm of our relationship will never be the same, and even though our new cadence and tone are creating sounds I’ve never heard before, I’ve always loved new music. And that’s how I see the future for my son and me. It’s like an exotic dance. Even though I’m no longer choreographing the steps, he’s more than ready to take the lead.

***

Advice For My Son

(because this is my blog and I can say whatever I want to even if he won’t listen)

  • As parents, we spend decades preaching and teaching. “Be a good person.” “Make good choices.” “Do good things.” Now it’s your turn to manage our messages and figure out what moves your needle even a fraction off-center. Find, embrace, and act on the things that matter most. To you.

 

  • Be humble. Just about everyone at college knows more than you do about something, in fact, lots of somethings. Accept that you have a lot to learn and embrace the boundless opportunities to expand your mind.

 

  • Be curious. Not only are questions the fasted way to get an answer, they show you care. “How are you?” and “What do you think?” are good places to start.

 

  • Don’t judge. If you can master this concept before you leave school you’ll be light years ahead of your peers. And your parents. O.K. maybe not your parents but definitely some of your parents’ friends.

 

  • Have fun. Does life get better than college? It does, but with caveats and constraints you can’t yet understand.

 

  • Take risks. The only way to see the nighttime beauty of fireflies flitting through the trees is to walk through a dark forest.

 

  • Don’t spend so much time honing your social life that you ultimately find yourself permanently parked in our basement. Coming home on your terms is a lot more rewarding than coming home on ours.

 

  • Persist. In life, a little bit of bad almost always accompanies any amount of good.

 

  • When friendships haven’t gelled yet and schoolwork is tougher than you thought, accept that you’re going to be a little homesick. We miss you too. More than you know.

 

  • Connect with the not-so-obvious. Befriend someone who seems different. Take a class that doesn’t count toward your major. Visit places that feel foreign.

 

  • Being a teenager is about finding your tribe. Becoming an adult is about finding your voice.

 

  • It’s easy to move with the current, but swimming upstream, though harder, yields far more reward. Think twice about taking the easy way out.

 

  • Be still. If you can get comfortable with a little loneliness, some of your biggest moments will rest on the shoulders of solitude.

 

  • Mistakes are inevitable so don’t run from them. Learn from them instead.

 

  • Talk less and listen more – to professors, upperclassmen, people whose opinions you share, and more importantly, to those that you don’t. Listen with your head. Listen with your heart. Just listen.

 

  • Be purposeful because it’s not what you say, it’s what you do that matters.

 

  • Go to college determined to make the world a better place. If you do, you’ll have succeeded far beyond any other measure.

 

In addition to the multitude of things that inspire me to write, I’m a contributor to our local community paper, The Castle Pines Connection. Come check out the neighborhood and people who make it meaningful at www.castlepinesconnection.com.

My career trajectory over the past 20 years has been long and broad, with years of working full time, staying at home, and everything in between. I’ve learned that all moms are made of the same DNA, so rather than split our differences, I’d like to highlight the things we share.

As moms, we struggle to find the right words for the challenging questions our children ask, especially when we don’t know the answers.

We want our children to trust us. And we want to trust them. But we track them on our phones just in case.

locjack

An ankle monitor might be a step too far for tracking your teen. Then again, maybe not.

We constantly wrestle with universal mom feeling #2 – guilt, which is only surpassed by the comfort of universal mom feeling #1 – love.

Some of us are doctors, lawyers, and professors, yet none of us have figured out how to get our kids to hang towels on the rack. Or to stop stepping over all their crap on the stairs. Or to load the dishwasher in a way that doesn’t give us vertigo.

Because we’re human we make mistakes. Because we’re healers we figure out how to fix them.

When our children’s words sting and their actions hurt, we stick around. And sign up for more. Because even on the toughest days, we love what we do.

We teach lessons in the time we spend with our kids, and time spent away from them.

jump

What’s wrong with this picture? Nothing. Except maybe the dad’s crazy eyes which probably means he’s high on life vacationing without his kids. Or just high.

We want our kids to spread their wings and soar yet touch back down from time to time.

Some of us are the financial anchors for our families, others are the emotional backbone, and many are both. We’re the daughters of aging parents and the mothers of children with disabilities, and often serve as lifelines to three generations of our family. We’re taxed and we’re tired, yet we’re up for any challenge. Unconditionally.

We’re optimists who want to leave the world a better place for our children than the one we gave them, yet we’re not sure that we can.

At the end of the day, we all want the same thing: happy children who feel unconditionally loved and can consistently pick their dirty laundry up off the floor.

IMG_2334

My youngest enjoys doing laundry almost as much as me.

We love and we lose, are both wise and weary, and sometimes just try to make it through the day. We’ve had a lot more triumphs and teaching moments than fears and failures, and we constantly learn. To be good people, strong women, and the best mothers.

In addition to the multitude of things that inspire me to write, I’m a contributor to our local community paper, The Castle Pines Connection. Come check out the neighborhood and people who make it meaningful at www.castlepinesconnection.com.

 

I’ve always been a glass half full kind of person with a world view that skews toward the brighter side of life. Now, thanks to the northern light-like glow of filters, editing, and effects, that perspective is exponentially enhanced. Sort of.

Too often, we present our perfectly angled poses to the world and broadcast them on a social media stage that allows us to tell our story in our voice to our audience. The beautiful vacation. The accomplished children. The enviable life. And yet, so much of it is fiction.

Kardashian-Family-Feature-Header-Social-Media-Image-e1553531116624

What mom doesn’t look like this when she heads out the door to pick up the kids?

So I’m gonna get real.

Last summer, my husband and I took our three children to dinner to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. I was tired, (what brilliant mind paired teenagers with menopause?) and as argumentative voices grew louder from the back seat, my fuse shortened in the front.

As we pulled up to the restaurant, my husband frustrated, me exhausted, and the kids oblivious, I lost it. In a full-on meltdown no filter could fix, I told the kids to walk two blocks to McDonald’s for dinner, and I refused to go into the restaurant. For reasons both inside and outside our car, ones that had everything and nothing to do with its occupants, I completely shut down.

Ronald M

YOU go have dinner with the creepy clown. I’m doing shots at the bar.

I questioned the decision to bring the kids at all. I mean, they weren’t even there when we got married and really? Why did we feel the need to have so many of them?

As a I cried, my husband began to put the pieces of our celebration back together. He pulled the kids aside and whispered threatening words of wisdom that changed their course. He wiped away my tears and reminded me why, 20 years ago, we decided to start this journey together in the first place. We made our way to the table, started creating memories instead of ruining them, and the night ended on a high note.

And that’s the point in time that I showed the world, via Facebook, the next day. Our best side. The happy family. The ideal minus the real.

IMG_0006

Would you guess I was at DEFCON 5 and in full ugly cry face about an hour before this photo was taken?

No one’s perfect. Not you. Not me. I love meaningful moments, yet I wonder how much deeper life could be if we shared the backstory behind the fairytale ending. If we sometimes connected through our misses, not just our hits, and removed our carefully placed filters to expose our messy and complicated, yet beautiful selves. 

In addition to the multitude of things that inspire me to write, I’m a contributor to our local community paper, The Castle Pines Connection. Come check out the neighborhood and people who make it meaningful at www.castlepinesconnection.com.

Sometimes, on a day that’s not so lucky, life can punch you right in the face. Hard. And change your trajectory forever. One minute you’re standing tall, smiling at the sun and soaking in its warm flood of love, and the next you’re flat on your back, face in the dirt in stunned silence, wondering what happened and why everything suddenly went dark.

Storm Clouds

If life’s dealt you a difficult blow, you know these moments are as real and raw as it gets. They burn with an indescribable intensity, and the pain lingers for a collection of minutes and days that are often too deep and long to count.

Many times, bad things happen not because we deserve them, but due in large part to timing. A change in plans. A slight move right when you should have gone left. A split-second decision as subtle as a shift in the wind and as consequential as a seismic tremor.

Earthquake

And you find yourself asking a question that’s almost always answered with silence – Why?

Why me? Why now? Why not someone else? Why anyone?

Once you work through the initial shock of change, with the weary understanding that you can’t throw your gears in reverse and turn back time, what prevails, through minutes of clarity and moments of pain, is a tiny concept with enormous possibility. Hope.

Even if it can’t answer answers life’s clueless riddles, hope opens the door wide to the anticipation of better days ahead. It’s the antidote to fear and walks side-by-side with love. Hope feels good. It’s a tangible belief that you can hold onto. It has teeth. And it’s permeable. Malleable. Exponential. The more people who feel hope? The more it expands and grows. It floats and it flies, and when enough people grab hold? It soars.

sunrise

I don’t believe bad things happen for a reason. They just happen. And when they do? Hope can light a path through a winding tunnel that seems like it has no end. Hope doesn’t solve problems, but given time and space, it can provide enough oxygen for that little flicker of light to start a fire, igniting a flame that helps create change. Change for the better, not for the worse. At least, I hope so.

In addition to the multitude of things that inspire me to write, I’m a contributor to our local community paper, The Castle Pines Connection. Come check out the neighborhood and people who make it meaningful at www.castlepinesconnection.com.

 

 

Last week, our family spent spring break in super-sunny Mexico, and I thought I’d impart my hard-earned wisdom with the hope that anyone reading this might be a little more savvy than we were on our first family trip south of the border. Because sharing is caring, even when it includes bodily fluids you won’t ever see on The Great British Bake Off, here are some tried and true tips to make sure you maximize your time on the beach and minimize your visits to the ER.

Great Brit Bake Off Poop 2

Episode 132: The Great British Bake Off team goes to Mexico!

Don’t spend more on tequila than you do on hand sanitizer.

The drinking age in Mexico isn’t 18. It’s actually “fresh out of the womb” so when you see a toddler stumbling around in a fake pair of Ray-Bans drinking a triple shot Mai Tai?  Look the other way.

Raybans2

Nothing says “cool kid” like mirrored Aviators and a cocktail.

The only Spanish words you really need to know are happy hour, ransom, and Pepto Bismol. 

Don’t let your kids out of your sight without LoJack-like tracking devices programmed to detect earthquakes, a spike in area crime activity, and excessive use of resort charging privileges at the swim-up bar.

Kids with Cocktails

Taking “Kids Club” to a whole new level!

Contracting norovirous is a great way to shed those extra vacation pounds overnight, so if you’re looking for a shortcut to weight loss via spending 24 straight hours over the toilet? Head to a small town and dive right into the raw sewage floating in the ocean. It’s like swimming with dolphins except all the marine life is dead and there aren’t any happy feels when you emerge from the water. Just a gritty film on your lips.

Raw Sewage Lips

Only Kylie Jenner can make raw sewage lips a fashion statement.

Re the aforementioned norovirous, you’ll be back to your pre-vacation shape in no time even if you lose a little tooth enamel along the way.

Pay attention to tripadvisor, especially when it comes to food sanitation, cartels, and the best cities to contract flesh-eating diseases.

Street vendors are a great resource for sombreros, fake silver jewelry, and those weird Lucha Libre wrestling masks that are super-popular with kidnappers. Street vendors aren’t really the place to turn for raw food unless you know the aforementioned Spanish word for Pepto Bismol and if so? Go for it. 

mexican-lucha-libre-masks

If you’re walking down a dark alley late at night and see someone wearing one of these? Run.

Timeshare presentations are an awesome way to waste a sunny day indoors, so when the salespeople say “it’ll just take an hour” offer them some tasty oysters from yesterday’s norovirus excursion and you’ll be out of there in 10 minutes flat.

Always use the buddy system.

So that’s it. Mexico, with its limitless fun, gorgeous beaches, and captivating culture is a wonderful place to spend time with family and friends. Just make sure you coat your stomach with a gallon of Drano and enough activated charcoal to flush anything that goes into your body right back out. Happy Travels!

On a recent Monday morning, I impatiently stood at the front of a long post office line. With an internal clock calculating the minutes until I was late for my next stop, I wasn’t exactly the picture of poise and grace. As the woman behind the counter labored to keep up with the demand of a day better known as “the absolute last chance to deliver a Squatty Potty for my great aunt’s birthday without selling a kidney to get it there on time,” I huffed and fumed.

Squatty Potty

That’s not my great aunt, but isn’t she cute?

I’d like to say I was late to a high-stakes hostage negotiation where, without me, lives would be lost. But I was actually on my way to a tennis match. I was behind not so much due to this woman’s job execution, but because I went down the rabbit hole better known as “teen perp alert” on nextdoor.com when I should have been out the door. Nothing strikes fear in a mother of teen drivers like a video of some kid drag racing down the middle of Castle Pines Parkway that’s coincidentally shared with 1,400 communities and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. It’s mesmerizing, and luckily it was your kid, not mine.

Boy dragracing

This kid got 2,352 comments on nextdoor.com. OK not really, but should we launch a GoFundMe campaign to buy him a hood?

At the post office, the woman behind the counter struggled. I was unsympathetic. She was in a tough position, and as people left the line in frustration, I found myself in a place of sanctimonious strength. I let out my seasoned mom sigh. She rolled her eyes. I whispered, loudly, that her job wasn’t that hard. She accused me of being the reason why she couldn’t keep up. We were in a standoff, and as my turn at the counter finally came, I stared at her from a chasm of pronounced silence, intent on being the self-proclaimed winner.

Which I was. And it felt great. Until about 3.2 minutes later as I sat in my car and wondered why? Why did I need to win a battle with no reward? Why didn’t I take my ego out of the equation and acknowledge hers? Why couldn’t I have just been nice? Because that’s what I am most of the time. Nice.

I’d like to take my actions back, but I can’t. I’ve gone to the post office twice to apologize for my behavior, but she’s gone. And now, without the ability to say I’m sorry, I’m left with a loss that ultimately bears the fruit of one of the loneliest feelings in the world. Regret. It hurts, but regret is almost always the aftermath of a self-inflicted wound. Life doesn’t offer a do over card, no matter how much you want to pull it from your deck.

Get out of jail

I keep trying to use this to get out of speeding tickets – so far no luck.

There’s no doubt that I’ll end up at the post office again, in line with not enough time and too much to do. And when that happens? I’m gonna keep my mouth shut, bury my face in my phone, and go right back down that rabbit hole.

***

In addition to the multitude of things that inspire me to write, I’m a contributor to our local community paper, The Castle Pines Connection. Come check out the neighborhood and people who make it meaningful at www.castlepineschamber.com.

It doesn’t matter what Elon Musk, the Ghost of Steve Jobs, or the five Chinese conglomerates that control the entire U.S. economy say. The self-driving car isn’t going to happen, ever, due to one glaring disruptor.

Costco’s parking lot on a Sunday afternoon.

Parking

Look familiar?

If you’ve been to Costco on the weekend you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s a fight or flight situation, and take it from me, that four foot long churro you’ve been craving since you popped last night’s Ambien isn’t worth risking your life. Instant gratification is great until you’re sideswiped by an octogenarian trying to text in his Lipitor prescription while simultaneously parking a 1988 land yacht in a space half its size.

Old man car

Perfect fit!

Flatbeds loaded with enough bacon, booze, and 2-ply toilet paper to fill a Ford Focus careen from lane to lane. Customers who’ve lost their minds because Johnsonville ran out of free beer brat samples sprint haphazardly through the crosswalk. Drivers, panicked at the thought of paying $0.02 more per gallon down the street will cut you with a shiv to be 14th in line for gas. The Costco parking lot simply isn’t safe for a seasoned driver, much less a driverless car.

Costco Gas

Sunday Funday!

It would take an engineering feat from some combination of George Jetson, Andy Warhol, and Kanye West’s therapist to unscramble the traffic patterns at Costco because nothing makes sense. Not. One. Thing. So how does a computer operated vehicle perform the kind of split-second, logic-defying, three-point turn driving decisions that real people can’t seem to figure out? The answer’s simple. It doesn’t.

Jetson

I’m riding with these guys.

The greatest engineers in the world can build an autonomous car, Bill Gates can fund it, and the Costco parking lot will singlehandedly destroy it. Game over before it begins.

So if you’re like me, cruising down the highway at a cool 90 mph blasting Adam Ant’s Goody Two Shoes while switching lanes every 10 seconds to find the fastest one? You’re in luck and you’re still in control. Thanks to Costco, self-driving cars are already a thing of the past before the first one even rolls off the lot.

Old lady driver

Power to the people!

***

If you enjoyed reading this post, you might like Ode to an 80s Tan.

Dear Gemini Girl in a Random World (Non) Readers,

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. Why? Because I’ve been busy with more important things like child rearing, work, and trying to figure out why so many women keep falling off the back of cruise ships.

Cruise Ship

Great footwear choice for an imminent Death Plunge! http://www.cruisehive.com

But I’m now transitioning to another life phase, and with it comes a new blog, new branding, same voice (well, same multiple Geminiesque voices) – all here to expound on life’s intricacies for anyone who’ll take a moment to listen.

Gemini

Gemini Girls Still Rule

I’ve found that as the kids get older and increasingly less interested in what I have to say, I feel a growing need to talk. Due to my blossoming “irrelevant” status in their lives, I’m turning back to a wider, and hopefully more friendly, audience. Even though nothing says “love you mom” quite like being blocked on Insta, Snapchat, and every communication channel supported by Verizon, I’m not deterred. In fact, I’m even more determined to speak my truths, and as much as my offspring would like to think otherwise, I’m still the boss. Of them. I can change our Netflix password any time I want, and that, along with random car searches and putting a lock on the liquor cabinet, is the true definition of power.

kids

Even though I’m nowhere to be found in this selfie I’m always around. Like an omnipresent Fairy God Mother capable of transferring all their hard earned cash into my “Vegas or Bust” account with the tap of my wand.

Reading Between the Pines is all about laughter, reflection, transitions, and decisions, because sometimes taking life’s shortcut when you hit a fork in the road is the quickest way to get where you want to go. Other times, you encounter a detour, and find that the longer, winding path through foreign territory puts you in a place that you might not want to visit, but that you’ve needed to end up all along.

I’m glad you’re still here and I hope you’ll settle in, fasten your seatbelt, and stick around for the ride. Whether we’re traveling down bucolic country roads or through the Taco Bell drive-thru at 1AM, I promise it’ll be a fun trip.

***

If you enjoyed reading this post, you might like Reading Between the Lines When Your Family Cares Enough to Send the Very Best and What Every Girl Needs to Know About Skin Care and Shaving The Fuzz Off Her Face.

 

 

In 1992 I was twenty-two years old and living in Chicago. The market was tough for recent college grads, and after a part-time series of temp assignments and waiting tables, I took a job selling industrial products on the south side of town. It wasn’t a career move by any stretch, but it paid the bills and afforded me independence and the opportunity to spread my wings beyond the Kentucky state lines that bordered my childhood.

Anyone who’s visited Chicago in the winter knows it’s cold…complete with a biting, frigid wind that can cut you in half and come back for more before you’ve barely taken a step. It was on this kind of night, having worked late and in a hurry, that I jumped into my car, popped the clutch toward I-94, cranked up some music, and began the long drive home.

Just as the chorus crescendoed, my car started to sputter, gurgle, and lurch. In my haste to pick the right mini-skirt, tights, and oversized sweater that morning I’d forgotten one small detail. To look at my gas gauge. Before completely running out of fuel, I was able to ease my car onto an exit ramp, right in front of this:

Long before rap culture decriminalized the word, Chicago’s Robert Taylor homes were the true definition of “ghetto”. Worse than anything you’ll ever see on The Wire, these gang-riddled, drug-controlled, high-rises were the living, breathing embodiment of a failed social experiment better known as Hell.

There were no mass-market cell phones back then, so in order to get help, I had to walk right into the middle of the most brutal section of the housing development, better known as “The Hole” in my mini-skirt, tights, and not-feeling-so oversized sweater. The streets were busy that night, and for the first time in my life I was clearly part of the minority, the only white girl in a sea of black faces, hardened to the harsh elements, who, like me, were just trying to get where they needed to go. I hurried, one uncertain step after the other, to the first high-rise I came across. Surrounded by darkness, there was a security guard in a low-lit office at the base of the building. He either didn’t see me or didn’t want to be bothered, so I balled my hand into a fist and banged on the bullet-proof window.

“Please, Sir,” I yelled into the howling wind,”Can I use your phone?”

“Ain’t no phone here baby girl,” he answered. “You best keep moving and find somewhere else to be.”

I hesitated, somewhat stunned by his response, and stared through the window, willing him to change his mind. When he crossed his arms and turned to watch his security monitors instead of meeting my gaze, I knew I was truly alone.

With no other choice, I walked back into the dark night. The snow was falling with a hard sense of urgency, and the swirl of faces around me faded in an out, like ghosts. I stumbled and caught myself, the slick pavement beneath me now covered in a sheen of icy snow. Not knowing what else to do I stopped. I looked left, then right, only to see replica after replica of a building that could offer me no shelter. In that moment, surrounded by nameless strangers in a dangerous place no one wanted to own, I lost something critical to finding my way. Hope.

And then something miraculous happened.

“I know you,” I heard from behind as someone caught my elbow in their grasp.

“Excuse me?” I replied. I turned, startled to see an old lady about my grandmother’s age who seemed to have come out of nowhere, bundled up in her winter clothes.

“I saw you from the bus when your car broke down,” she said. “Follow me. I know where to go.”

We didn’t talk. The temperature had plunged to a degree that made my nostrils cringe and shocked my lungs with every breath. But slowly, step after step she led, and slowly, step after step I followed.

After weaving around multiple, desolate buildings, we moved deeper into the projects and came upon a county hospital. I have no idea how we got there and couldn’t replicate the path. Again, there were people everywhere, but I had the acute understanding that no one wanted to offer a hand. Except her.

She led me to a bank of telephones and gave me a quarter.

“Call 9-1-1” she instructed, “and tell them where to find your car.” I did exactly as she said. When I turned to thank her for the quarter, for taking time to help me, and for somehow seeing me when I felt invisable, she was gone. She had literally disappeared into thin air. Standing in her place was a police officer, who again took me by the elbow and said three simple words: “You’re going home.”

Sometimes I sit on the right side of God, and other days on the left. On that night, however, I was fully in his sight. I know, with a whole heart and eyes wide open that an angel was sent to me in the moment when I needed her most. I don’t know why or how, but something much bigger than me was at play, and it was an experience so profound that I have no choice but to believe.

I believe in the greater good of humanity. I believe that no matter the circumstance, everyone on this earth has the power within to rise up. I believe in equality. I believe in the kindness of strangers. I believe that tomorrow holds the possibility of being better than today. I believe life is worth living. I believe in me. I believe in you. The Giving Challenge for today is to Believe.

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