Monday, December 4, 2017

34 Acts of Kindness

Hey, I’m still here. I know it’s been awhile, and I’m flattered that some of you have actually asked about me and whether I’d ever write another blog post. (It wasn’t said quite like that, but I got the message.) I really am flattered. I keep saying I have a lot of posts percolating (because I really do), and I’ve thought about just starting to write to see where it goes, but something has kept me from it, and I couldn’t figure out what.

The last post I wrote was a difficult one, not the writing part, but the subject. It was my love letter, I guess we could call it, to Ashley, who passed away in June after an incredibly hard-fought battle with stage 4 breast cancer. I poured my heart out to her, her beautiful little girl, Avery, and her amazing parents, Nancy and Rex.

It took more out of me than I expected. I didn’t realize how hard Ashley’s death would hit me. It’s not that I was honored enough to be one of her close friends or family. I won’t even pretend to be in that circle, which is also why I didn’t feel I had the right to hurt as they all must be. I really know Nancy more than anyone, and I got to know Ashley a bit more during her fight, but mostly because of my friendship with her mom and also because Ashley and I shared a love for writing, and we each appreciated the other’s blog. And I admired her so much. SO much.

Besides the fight she vowed to fight, and the strength she showed the world, the thing that I really, really admired about her was that she chose to be happy. She had such a horrendous diagnosis, and she knew it would be a fight like no other, but in spite of all that, she chose to be happy. Every day. You know she had to have been in pain. You know there were days she got horrible news. The surgeries and the treatments had to have been beyond awful. But she chose to be happy. She did everything she could to make her time with her Avery as wonderful as it could be. She did everything for Avery.

When she died, I vowed to live every day to honor her, and I really meant it. So what the hell, Andee? What gave you the right to go into a slump? How is that honoring anyone?

Of course, the answer to that is it honors no one. But I didn’t quite realize any of this until Ashley’s birthday a few days ago. I didn’t even know it was her birthday until her mom posted the most beautiful words about her, and asked everyone to honor her 34th birthday by spending the month of December doing 34 acts of kindness for Ashley.

Seriously, I’m being mopey, and Nancy faces what had to have been one of the worst days since she lost her girl by writing the most beautiful post, and I have to say, not only was it beautiful, but it kind of kicked my ass.

I need to say this, though, and I know I’m not the only one thinking it. And let me preface it by saying I know it’s not in any of our control to decide who lives and who doesn’t, and as the pastor said at Ashley’s celebration (and I believe too), God doesn’t give anyone cancer or cause horrible things to happen to someone. I get all that, and I believe all that. But here’s the thing that keeps eating at me. I can’t stand that it happened to Ashley and her family. I still have my girls, and Nancy lost one of hers. My grandsons have their mommy, and Avery doesn’t have hers. Every day they have to live with their loss, and I hate that for them. I hate it. It breaks my heart every day. I have another good friend who also had breast cancer and got through all her treatments and is doing well, and she said, “I don’t understand why I’m still here, and Ashley isn’t.” So it’s not just me. So many of us feel the same way, and although we all know it’s not in our control, it still totally stinks.

I’m pretty sure the Jensens know this, but I’m going to say it anyway. We all hurt for them. We all would wish anything for them but this. We all hope and pray that Avery lives a happy life, keeping her mommy with her every day. And we hurt for all the parents who have lost children, and the children who have lost their parents, especially the young ones. It’s nothing even remotely close to the pain of losing someone so important to you, and I wouldn’t even begin to say that it is. But it’s hard to see people you love have such a horrible thing happen, and know there’s really not much you can do to make it better.

EXCEPT, Andee, you could do 34 acts of kindness to honor Ashley and her family. There’s a thought for your mopey, sad self.

So, I am hereby no longer feeling mopey and sad. Ok, well right now I’m crying, but when I’m done, I will find 34 ways to put kindness out into the world. Of course, because I’m Andee, I think we all know I’ll not do something every day (because I’m already a few days behind), and I’ll wait until the last minute because I do my best work on a deadline, so somewhere toward the end of December, I am going to kindness my ass off for Ms. Ashley and her family!

That’s it. As of right now, I am officially choosing to be happy. So let the kindness begin!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Beautiful Ashley

My heart is among many hearts hurting today. Ashley has died. I’ve written about her before. She played softball with my girls, she fought as hard as anyone who ever fought against cancer, and she left a beautiful little girl. I’ve tried really hard to be positive like Ashley always was, but frankly, it’s hard not to be pissed off. All she wanted … ALL. SHE. WANTED. … was to have time with her little girl … to have more time with her precious Avery … but that despicable cancer took her away.

Why does a young mother get stage 4 breast cancer? She had so much to give the world. She was so strong, so smart, so funny, kind and brave. We needed more of her. But cancer isn’t kind … or fair. I think we all know that one.

Her mom, Nancy, is my friend. She’s an incredible woman, and instead of allowing herself to fall apart, she stayed strong because she knew she had to help her daughter die. I know, again, that cancer isn’t fair, but her family doesn’t deserve this either! Her dad, Rex, would have traded places with Ashley in a second if he could. Both of them would have. No two parents could possibly love a child more.

I really thought Ashley would be one of the miracles … that if anyone could beat it, she would. She did everything she possibly could. EVERYTHING. And so many people prayed so hard for her. Every night I prayed for her, and I asked God to give her some extra strength from all of us. I thought maybe a little extra from all the people who loved her could help. And maybe it did. In the end, though, it wasn’t enough.

But this I know. She will be remembered. She did make a difference. The time she did get to spend with her family, and especially with her little one, was so valuable. She made every second count. I can’t help thinking of Princess Diana and her two amazing sons who are now honoring her memory in such beautiful ways. I believe Avery will also grow up to be like her mama, an incredible woman who will make a difference in the world.

Ashley was and always will be my inspiration. In the space of a year, her teaching job was cut, her marriage ended, she had a baby, and she was diagnosed with cancer. And what did she say on her daughter’s first birthday? She said it was the best year of her life because of her beautiful Avery.

That is what I will remember most. I will honor her every day of the rest of my life by trying to live up to that. I will remember what’s important, and I will appreciate every day. I will do what I can to make the world better, and I will always keep with me the spirit of this amazing young woman. I am so grateful that she lived, and Ashley, you really did make the world better.

Rest in peace, beautiful angel.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

I Bought a Car! (or How Not to Sell a Car to a Woman)

How to lose a car sale to a woman in five easy lessons: Assume she’s stupid. Assume she doesn’t have money. Ask her if she’s married or single. Pressure her after she says she’s just test-driving. Then get pissed off when she says she’s going to sleep on it.

So I did a little bit of car buying this past weekend while visiting my friend in Florida. I ended up buying a new car, which I hadn’t planned to do (I’m a used car kind of gal), and I bought it from the second dealer I visited; and I visited that dealer because yes, everything above really happened………in 2017. Seriously.

Friend Tonya went with me to test drive cars. I was trying to decide between a sedan or SUV. I was in no hurry to buy, just thought I’d start looking, but I was ready in case “that car” appeared.

We went to the above dealer. There was a nice guy who was new, and a pushy guy who was training him. Nice Guy went with us on the test drives. We liked him.

Side Story: When the dealer guy asks for your license, it is not all that funny when your “friend” says, “Oh no, you need her license? She has a DUI.” Well, I have to qualify what I said. She thought it was stinking hilarious as I was sputtering, “I do NOT have a DUI! I’ve never had a DUI! I’ve never even caused an accident! I’ve only gotten one ticket, and that was in Grundy County in Illinois, and everybody gets tickets in Grundy County (as I was told by everyone after I got the ticket – thanks for nothing),” and fortunately, with no thanks to her, he believed me.

I’m getting off the subject, but as you can imagine, I’m still a bit scarred. She says someday I’ll laugh about it.

So I decide I’m definitely interested in a sedan, but not necessarily that one. Enter Pushy Guy. He asks me if I’m single or married. At that point, Tonya, who is slightly in front of me and closer to him, turns so that I can see her and he can’t, and she has this really funny smirk on her face that I know is saying, “Ohhhh nooooo. She’s gonna take him down!” I can’t even look at her because we have this amazing way of reading each other’s minds and collapsing into giggles, and I asked the obvious (I thought), “Why does it matter if I’m single or married?” He then went on about how he’s all about saving me money, and he wants me to get something with payments I can afford, etc, etc, to which I responded, “You don’t even know if I need financing,” and he went on some more, and when he stopped talking, I said, “and why does it matter if I’m single or married?” He said if I didn’t have a husband who could take care of my car, I would want an extended warranty. I can tell Tonya is in pain trying to keep her head from exploding, as I said, “How do you know I’m not a badass car mechanic?” He started to lose his game and asked, “Did I say something wrong?” Oh, Pushy Guy, where do I begin? And not today, please. It's not my day to educate you.

So when your experience starts like that, you’re on guard. Tonya found a car at another dealership not far away, and for reasons I can’t explain, I took her driving with me again. We show up at the other place, expecting the same kind of treatment, and I have to say I was a bit startled when a guy came out to greet me by introducing himself as he shook my hand and looked me in the eye. Huh. I wonder what’s up with that?

I went on a test drive with our new friend, Dan, along with Tonya and her husband, Peege (funny story for another day). Tonya is cracking herself up telling him the DUI story. Then I told him she forgot to mention that I had just bailed those two out of jail. And what does he say? “It's ok. We all make mistakes.” Seriously? Seriously???

Another Side Story: Leah’s car has a heated steering wheel, and it has been my dream to have one of those. It’s not something they tend to point out in Florida, because well, Florida, so I look down and see a picture of a steering wheel with heat rising, and I whispered to Tonya, "If I push this and my steering wheel starts to heat up, this baby is mine!" It did, and it was, and the long, drawn-out moral of this story is, if you treat people respectfully, they tend to respond well. They did, and I did, and I have a car with a heated steering wheel!!

I apologize for the ramblingness (ramblinguity?) of this post, but there is a serious point here somewhere. Ooh, here it is. Don’t be a jerk and assume you know something about someone else when you don’t. The End.