Tag Archives: memories

A WELL-SPENT LIFE

Death is a part of life. There is no way we can avoid it, the best we can do is take the steps necessary to postpone it, in the right circumstances. And no matter how we may view it, it nevertheless hits us hard in at least some aspects, whether we care to admit it or not. But for a death to hit us hard means that the person who shed the mortal coil left their mark on us. They may have encouraged us or showed us love, been a bright shining light to us in the darkness, gave us advice on how to best move forward through a tough situation, or just was there for us through mountaintops and valley floors alike. It could be someone you never met in person, someone you saw every day, or even someone you only met once years ago. Their memory and legacy will live on through the lives they touched. And maybe, they will have encouraged you to live your fullest and best life, to take the bad and the good with a smile on your face, and showed you a pathway forward in your own journey.




Earthly angels come in all shapes and sizes, backgrounds and walks of life. Some have had to scale mountains and swim oceans to get to us. Some just seemed to appear right out of the ether. Some came to us when we cried out for help. Some knew we needed a listening ear and a guiding hand long before we ourselves did. Some of them taught us that, even in the most ragged, tattered parts of our lives, there is still a silver lining, there are still reasons to smile. Some of them showed us that hurt is not the end-all-be-all, that there IS a light at the end of the tunnel, and some of them blessed us with how they did it, how they overcame and thrived, and how we could take their wisdom and apply it to our own lives. Some of them we knew only as folk heroes. Some of them we had the fortune of rubbing elbows with, or sharing stages with, or trading conversation with over a cup of coffee and a sandwich, or a cold pint of beer.

Most of all, these people showed us how to live a well-spent life. Not every part of it will be red and rosy. There will be storms with hail and wind and worse, trying to destroy the flower garden of peace inside of us all. There will be times where the road is rough. There will be times where the best maps cannot guide us. But with the blessing of those people’s presence in our lives, we can understand how to carry on and lace up our bootstraps and pull ourselves out of the muck and the mire, and continue onward toward daylight again. They pushed us to write that book, or record that album, or paint that picture, or express that love or affection. They showed us how to be ourselves, loudly, proudly, unashamedly and wholly. And if they are still in our midst, they will continue to spread their seeds wherever they go in this world. And if they have left this life for the next one, we can still admire what they’ve grown, and take comfort in the shade, color or beauty of what they planted, both in their own lives, and in the lives in which we live.

I hope this blog finds you well, and in the comments, please highlight someone who showed you these tips and tricks.

Wholeheartedly,

-Jon



This blog is dedicated to the life and memory of William Orten Carlton, aka Ort.

LIFE, HAPPINESS, AND THE WAY IT USED TO BE

On this Sunday evening that I am writing this to you, I decided to do a story reading on my personal Facebook page. Nothing out of the ordinary for me, as I have in recent weeks been doing an increased number of them, as I set about publishing a poetry or short story book of my own in the future. I elected to do a reading from a book I had gotten in the mail the day before, a book by Garrison Keillor called Lake Wobegon Days. I read a section of a story in the book called “Fall”, and went for just under an hour in the reading that I did. After I had closed the stream, I decided to take a look through the log of streams that I had done from the amount I have on the streaming platform I use. It is the same one I have used many times, in hosting shows and recording interviews, doing poetry reading or concerts, etc. And virtually thumbing through the stream log, I saw many things that I had did over the past 18+ months I had been using that platform. Many memories came back to me. And a twinge of sadness darkened my door once again.



I remembered back to those salad days of my virtual creative journey. How I thought I had the tiger by the tail. How I thought I was on the cusp of reeling in the interview, the one that would get my name out there, How I thought I was growing alongside my creative friends, not knowing the strain and worry, spats and darkness that would come in the future. And it made me wonder: Has it always been this way? Has this feeling been a cornerstone of my life?

As mentioned many times prior in my blogs, I’m always one to slink back to the past at times, to the way things used to be. In some part of my mind, I think that, if I go back to that point, I will find a little retreat of happiness, like a shelter or lean-to on a long trail, a tiny roadside chapel on a highway, or something similar. But I catch myself looking back at those places I go to in my mind, and I remember what I was going through during those times. And in many instances, I was absolutely not happy or satisfied or whatever in that period. I often find that I was in a less-amplified state of where I am currently; though the difference in then from now is, back then, I didn’t have as many aggravating factors in my life. I did not have commitments, meetings, shows, platonic and romantic feelings and terrors of creative failure………

…….But I damn sure paid no attention to the mental scars I bore that were weeping and festering, nor did I pay attention to the tornado-in-a-china-shop state of affairs in my heart, mind and soul, and how my happiness and peace of mind were in complete tatters, ragging in the breeze.

So were times ever really better? Or are these times in which we live really the good ol’ days?

It all boils down to perspective. One could easily look back at where I came from in my life and where I am now and say, ‘well, he was a lot better off in the past, if ignorance really is bliss.’ I could have kept putting off the inevitable and kept putting on a happy face and kept going out into the world, wearing my heart on my sleeve, and making cries for help that I thought at the time would go unanswered. I could have kept staying awake until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning stressing over factors and people that were many miles outside my control. I could have kept bottling everything up inside, and letting feelings and fears and emotions control my every move. I could have kept doing it.

But at this very moment, I have so many more tools than I had 10 years ago, 5 years ago or even just a single month ago. Yes, I may have a lot more things going on that amplifies what I go through on the inside, and I may have more eyeballs on me at every turn, and more people willing to spout off with a comment. But, at the same time, I have outlets to channel into when I feel down. I have a therapist I am seeing once weekly. Many of my friendships and creative partnerships are stronger and tighter than they’ve ever been. And I am starting to fall in love with the idea of living again. I am addressing what desperately needed to be said, and in turn, beginning to clean, dress and heal those wounds in my soul. While I may not have my mother in my life, I now have 10 ladies carrying her power and grace at any given time.

So in some ways, the traits of the old me served me well. But in a many myriad of different ways, the me of today is much stronger, with thicker skin, clearer eyes and sharper visions, and with renewed goals for tomorrow. And for that, I am grateful. ❤

I hope this blog finds you well, and in the comments, talk about how you’ve overcome obstacles in your past, and how you can focus on the good of the past!

As always, take care, much love and may God richly bless,

-Jon

JUST DON’T

It’s that moment in a social situation when things get awkward. When the person you’re talking to starts squirming & fumbling for words. They are struggling to keep the conversation going. That moment when people are at a loss for words. I realize my illness, my pain, my wheelchair & dozens of other chronic illness-related issues, I live with make “them” uncomfortable. If I’m being honest, saying the wrong thing happens a lot.

These are innocent, benign comments from people with no malicious intent. Many times they think it’s funny and yet they’re completely serious. Sometimes I can shrug it off or laugh it off. Other times, my bitch switch is flipped and it’s on. I’m ready to completely obliterate someone in anger and frustration. Faster than you would think, anger turns to frustration, and frustration turns to pain. Before you know it, I’m launching headfirst into the abyss that leads me down the dark road to depression.

“You’re so lucky you don’t have to work.”

“I wish I could stay home all day, like you.”

When you want to say it, just don’t.

I hear this often. Each time my mind’s eye suddenly sees my day in what it perceives, they think I do all day. There I am on a lavish sofa, the sun gleaming through the windows, making me appear like a starlet under the glow of the spotlight. I have snacks to the left of me, a controller to my right, and I’m snug in the middle with… Netflix. My dogs are at the table playing poker with their friends. My house is a magical place where dirt evaporates and items walk themselves back to where they belong. Once in a while, I glance up from the TV long enough to see my dishes take a bath and dry themselves with my self-cleaning dishcloths. All I do is think about dinner and bam! There it is, ready to serve itself when the time is right. The washing machine collects dirty laundry and bedding, proceeds to wash, dry, put it away, and make my bed. I’m like 5 episodes into my binge-watching by now. This fantasy vision is short-lived, and my brain brings me back to reality.

What they don’t think about is the fact that you can’t work because you can’t function. Your day is consumed with effort through pain, fatigue, and brain fog. There are meds to take, scripts to fill, doctor’s appointments, organizing all of this, and dozens of other equally not-fun medically related things that need to be done. They have not had to consider the implications of being unable to work for an extended period. How do you pay for your bills and healthcare, the isolation, your lack of relevancy in the world, and a multitude of other equally reasonable questions that rattle in your brain, echoing throughout your life?

I don’t work in a regular, scheduled, leave-my-home capacity because I’m unable to. I have physical limitations. I would give anything to be healthy enough to go back to work. I’m not on vacation.

The truth is, when you’re chronically ill, you spend most days just trying to stay alive. Prioritizing what has to get done & figuring out which filth you can live with for today. Because it’s not all getting cleaned. By the time most people arrive at work, your body has already begun to retaliate, to get you to retreat to your bed.

A lesson I’ve learned the hard way is that when someone living with a debilitating chronic illness shares their time with me, I must be very important to them. I know what sacrifices were made for them to give me space in their lives. Don’t depreciate their value. Appreciate every minute they give to you.

TAKE INVENTORY

I may be an enigma. If I am, I’m ok with being odd-woman out.

I do not play with drama. I will not listen to gossip. When it comes to love I’m all in. My integrity means more to me than anything. My reputation is so far down on the list of things that matter. Giving first is a compulsion. I trust until given a reason not to. I’m not afraid of confrontation. As a friend, I’m all in. I choose kindness, honesty, love, & peace.

I have a few sayings that if you know me, you’ve heard.

~“Don’t waste your minutes.” Life is short we are only given so many minutes, don’t waste them.

~“Make good choices.” We all have choices. Don’t let anyone make them for you. Remember all choices come with consequences so put thought into them. Once you’ve made a choice, own it. If it was the wrong choice, learn from it, make amends, & move on.

~“Protect your peace.” Set strong boundaries. Do not bend them for anyone. Personal peace is as vital as breathing when it comes to quality of life.

I don’t try to fix people or their problems. I support them, love them, but allow them the space to fall. All of life’s stumbles teach us how to be better. I won’t take the chances to learn away from others & I do not let them take them from me. I’ll handle my business & be grateful for loved ones support.

This time of year we all start taking inventory of our lives. Checking in with ourselves, what we like, what needs work, what we can leave behind, what we need moving forward, etc… We seek out & celebrate our blessings, reminisce about those we’ve lost, & make an effort to express our gratitude to those still here. I always try and do this all year. But life is busy & messy. I’m grateful we have this time to remind us to focus on what is important & to contemplate changes that may be needed.

Kindness doesn’t have a season. It’s so simple. Start with being kind to yourself & it’ll grow. It’s so much better than growing the gossip grapevine.

THE REALITY WE KNOW NO LONGER EXISTS

As may be the case with some of you reading this blog post today, I am a sucker for the past, the way things used to be. Many nights, I find myself drifting off to sleep listening to old radio airchecks, or an album from decades ago, or even episodes of old dramas from an era gone by. To say nothing of the old sports highlights I cherish, the various pieces of memorabilia from the past I have collected, the classic cars I gawk at when I see them, and the beautiful sound of old guitars. Ditto for friendships, relationships, talks had in the past, some with complete strangers. The reality of the past is a safety blanket, and can be very useful in moderation. But as quickly as those warm, nostalgic feelings settle in over me, a cold chill flashes up my spine and puts the freeze on my mind. And riding on the frosty wave is a realization:

The reality we know no longer exists.

In the hustle and bustle of living in today’s realm, it is awfully tempting to pull off the path and look back. It’s so easy to take a turn down Memory Lane and reminisce about the way things used to be. But if you’re not careful, especially if you are an empath, you can quickly find yourself entangled in and being choked by the vines of yesterday. We will always savor a fragrance, a kiss, a hug, a touch, or sweet conversation. We will always cling to the memories of that one house or apartment, the way the light shone through the trees in a friend’s backyard, long and aimless road trips under the stars, even the sound of a new-strung guitar or the first taste of wine. Memories can be boons, but they can also be banes in our lives, hassling us, making us yearn for a situation or environment, friendship or relationship we’ve since grown out of, but still one we feel comfortable in, if for no other reason than it’s all that we knew at the time.

In my case, I have many attachments to the past. Some of these are healthy and warming, such as memories of where I was for certain sports moments, my first time visiting places, the first time I wrote a song on the guitar, etc. But still, there remains many attachments to the past that drain me and serve me no purpose other than to weight me down, such as seeing friends and loved ones suffering, thoughts of romantic relationships that never played out or blew up in my face, finding things out about friends and partners you once held close to you and in high regard, missed opportunities, no matter how small or large they may be. As much as the past comforts me, it also haunts me with its ragged whispers and icy fingers at times.



While I cannot claim to have an end-all-be-all solution to breaking those attachments and moving on, some of the things I have tried includes talking it out to someone, whether it be to a therapist, close friends, etc. Better still, if you are attached to someone from your past or even someone in your present, talk it out with them. Being honest with them and about how you are feeling can be as rewarding and healing as being honest with your own self in regard to the situation. Additionally, expunge the bad, dark memories from your mind about someone or a past situation or environment. If these revolve around a friend, lover or family member, remember the bright times you had with them, the laughs and smiles you shared, the places you went, and the time well spent. If they revolve around a situation or environment you left, turn those feelings into congratulations to yourself, for escaping that place and landing yourself in a new place that encourages your growth, healing and prosperity.

I hope this blog finds you well, and in the comments on this blog, feel free to share tips or tricks you have at dissolving attachments and adapting to the reality/realities of today!

As always, take care, much love and may God richly bless!

-Jon


NANCY PHIPPS: IN MEMORIAM

Nancy Benge Phipps. That name may not mean much to you, but that name will forever warm my heart and set my spine in a block of ice. That name belongs to the lady who brought me into this world, soon to be 26 years ago. She is my mother, and I am forever grateful. On the day I write this blog, she would have been turning 63 years young. She is the first one who shaped me, molded me, inspired me and taught me. She was my rock, if only briefly in my life. Below, I will tell you mom’s story, and I will tell you about five very special women in my life who carry on mom’s legacy in their journeys and what they do, and I will close this blog with a letter, written not by me, but by a son or daughter to their mother, under the auspices of better late than never.

November 6, 1959 was when her journey started, under less than ideal circumstances. Mom was the product of her mother, my granny, being raped, when she was just 15 years old. Her arrival into this world could have easily not happened. And in another realm or time or place, it may not have happened. But November 6, 1959, it did. Back against the wall, from birth. But nobody could back Nancy Phipps into a corner, for damn sure. Mom grew up as most children in rural northwestern North Carolina did in the 1960s and 1970s: Without adequate means, but she always made do with what she had, and always was able to pull a lot out of a little. That was and still is the way of many in the High Country of North Carolina. She was an excellent student in her school days, receiving high marks and higher praise by those she had as teachers. I still have a couple of her notebooks, many pages covered in meticulous notes.

Mom’s first job out of high school was at the Bantam Chef, one of the many greasy spoons in the little town of Jefferson, North Carolina, where her and I were born. It was here that she first caught the attention of my father, and a relationship began. May 28, 1982, the relationship culminated in a marriage that lasted to the day mom left this life for the next one. After several years of trying, on November 25, 1996, yours truly was born. It was I that first gave mom that very badge. And blessed I was, coming under her tutelage and care, and likewise my brother Evan, who came along a little over two years later, on December 28, 1998. Mom gave her all and at least 110% more to the both of us. She loved u with her entire heart, and did her level best to protect us best she could from the world and what all it can and will throw at you. And she did this to perfection. Even when the bottom dropped out.

In 2001, on a date that I don’t remember and honestly don’t care to remember, mom sat us down and broke the news to myself and Evan: She had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and that she could die as a result. I hugged her neck like I never had. I cried harder that day than I ever had. It was at the age of 4 or 5 that I first caught a glimpse of what mom was trying to protect myself and Evan from: The harsh reality of life, one of the millions of them dealt to each of us in time. Over the next 3 years, I saw sights and felt feelings no small child or grown adult should ever have to see or experience.

The sight of mom pinned to the couch, not having the energy to do so much as move.

The sight of mom and dad fighting, and getting her getting hit by the man you viewed as your father.

The sight of mom ordering, getting mailed and trying on various wigs, as her beautiful hair slowly but surely fell out due to chemo.

The sight of mom lying in a hospital bed, unable sometimes to keep her eyes open, as every morsel of energy got ripped out of her over time.

The sight of the many face masks and hospital wrist bands, demented souvenirs of the many trips to Boone hospital.

And the sight of a school full of eyes looking at me, when mom’s valiant battle ended.

February 18, 2004. A Wednesday. I remember waking up that morning to the sight of some men in suits setting up a small table in the living room. They were from the funeral home. On the small table was a book, for visitors to sign their names. They told me that mom had lost her battle with ovarian cancer. I refused to believe it. And maybe in some twisted, circuitous way, I still don’t believe it. But whether or not I decided to dwell in fantasyland, the cold reality was that my rock was gone. It did not crumble. Nancy Phipps did not crumble under those unique and hellish pressures. But it left me. The bottom dropped out from under my feet. At 7 years old, my world went dark and forever changed.

I spent several months afterward just trying to make it make sense that she was gone. I swore up and down this wasn’t real. I do not remember mom’s funeral or when we buried her. In a reverse way, I am glad that the waters of time eroded those memories away. But I remember the feelings. The moments. Hearing certain songs on the radio. Clinging to the memories of her I did have. The smells of fresh bread baking, something she loved to do. Taking comfort in friends in and their parents, including Angie Salmons, the mother of my friend Kierra, who took me and Evan in as if she were one of her own, even though she herself was deep in the throws of her own valiant battle against breast cancer. Remembering rides in the red 1994 Oldsmobile we had. Her taking me to the grocery store with her, and thinking the Lowe’s Foods in our town was so expansive. It looked like a skyscraper inside and out, to my child mind. Remembering how mom loved to watch NASCAR races on television, and how she loathed listening to them on the radio. The quilts she loved to knit. The food she made, that she aced every time, without fail. Hugging her. Telling her I loved her. How I wish I could do it all, just one more time. 44 years young. It wasn’t fair, and it isn’t fair now. But it is life. And mom would want me to move on. And I have. Or I’d like to think I have, even though the battle scars I bear from that time period may never fully heal. The milestones me and Evan have reached and will reach…….they are sweet, but also tainted with the bitter taste of knowing she isn’t present for them, and never will be. Me and Ev graduating. Evan getting married. Me publishing my first poetry book and putting out my first album. But the memories live on. And somewhere, some way, somehow, she is there. Even if we cannot see her, she is there.

I may not have her valiance and love and care in a physical form, but I for sure see it in those around me. In six ladies in particular, I see it. Six bright, razor sharp and valiant ladies in their own right. Each carries a piece of what mom embodied, and it is because of this that I gravitated toward them.

The first of these valiant ladies is my best friend, Renee Yaworsky. I first befriended Renee the day after my 24th birthday, in November of 2020. I right away noticed that the beauty of her heart and spirit matched exactly that of mom’s. This would only become exemplified, as I found out about the health struggles Renee so bravely fought and is currently fighting. I saw in Renee’s soul that it carried 10 pounds of mom’s strength and bravery in a 2 pound sack. My jaw was on the floor, and a tear was in my eye when Renee told me her story, as it so closely paralleled my own. I couldn’t believe it. It was as if I was looking into a mirror, and I was seeing mom’s reflection. I gravitated toward Renee, and it connected even more when I found out Renee so loves to wear wigs, or hair-hats as she calls them! Mom courageously rocked the wigs she owned, and I am sure she would have smiled had she seen Renee’s collection of them. From the valiance grew a friendship, which has become a close friendship, and a working, creative partnership, which has so enriched me.

To Renee, I thank you for carrying mom’s torch with such dignity and courage and respect, and for being my light on a dark corner. ❤

The next of these incredible ladies is one of the co-founders of this very site, Em Farwell. Em I came to know through Renee, after we had brought her aboard to help us in Cosmos Creative TV, the wide-spanning array of digital programming Re and I put together. I very quickly noticed how Em ran things: Tight and concise, just as mom had been in the doings in her own life. Like Renee, I soon found out about the various health battles Em faces on the daily, and how she is fighting and overcoming them. After I told my story, Em quickly took me under her wing, and made me one of her own. It’s as if God and mom each put a hand on her shoulders and guided her toward me. With Em’s encouragement, love and support, I am now charting a course to helping heal a lot of the wounds that I received in those times when I was lost in that deep, dark jungle, and was unsure of how and when I was going to get out.

To Em, I thank you for showing me a path forward, and for teaching me that it’s OK to not be OK, and for holding my feet to the fire. ❤



The next of these shining, sparkling souls is Diane Marie Coll. Diane is someone I met through Kimono My House, a virtual concert group on Facebook. As wonderful a singer, songwriter, comedienne and show host as she is, she is also a wonderful therapist, and a close and cherished confidant. When the bottom fell out for me mentally over the summer, Diane was one of the first to pick up the broken pieces of my soul and rearrange them into something presentable again. She loved me at a point when I could not, would not love myself. And moreso than that, she presented me with options and resources, and was firm but kind in her insistence that I seek help, after many years of brushing it off. And am I ever glad I listened. It was Diane’s holding me accountable and spearheading the necessary changes that got me started down the path to self-betterment, and I cannot wait to take those first big leaps!

To Diane, I thank you for being part drill sergeant and part cheerleader, and for encouraging me to see things in a completely different light. ❤

Th next of these clear, powerful voices is Sandie Dee. Sandie is another person I met via an online concert group on Facebook, this one being Socially Distant Fest. There have been few who have encouraged me and waved the pom-poms and drove the hype train for me quite like Sandie has. What she has been as a supporter, she also has been for my best interests. Sandie is a persistent, driving force in my life, and is always looking out for me and wanting what’s best for me. She’s a splitting image of mom in this regard, and I am forever grateful for this. Like Em, she has taken me in as one of her own, and although Sandie and I butt heads from time to time, it’s always from a place of love, kindness and wanting. Sandie has been there for me for so long, and her kindness and support has been greatly encouraged.

To Sandie, I thank you for always being here, and for making sure I am taken care of. ❤

The next of these human roses is Corrie Lynn Green. Corrie is another one I came to know from Socially Distant Fest, and to chronicle her journey is to have it run parallel with mom’s. Like mom, she valiantly fought cancer, in her case breast cancer. And like mom, she fought this awful disease tooth and nail. And Corrie Lynn whipped that bear. And she decided to sing out in joy. Corrie has just released an album of music from my beloved Appalachia, and like mom, Corrie loves to sing, and her voice fills me with joy. Mom would be so proud of Corrie and how she has fought and continues to fight for others, even though her battle is won. Precious is the souls who can continue to shout and advocate for those who are fighting cancer in place of mom, and Corrie’s is one I hold in the uppermost echelon of my being.

To Corrie Lynn, thank you for being a voice to those fighting, and for encouraging me to find my own, in the Blue Ridge hills. ❤

To conclude this tribute to those in my life who carry mom’s legacy, I will honor my friend Jaime Bennett. Jaime is someone I came to know a little later down the pike, though also from Socially Distant Fest. I had the pleasure and honor of directing Jaime’s show called The Warrior Within, and in that show, Jaime would always touch on a topic that was near and dear to her heart. In directing these episodes, and hearing her tell stories of things almost unimaginable happening to her over her life, it made me cry to know that she had fought many of the same battles mom had fought in her time. While Jaime’s battles align a lot with ones I have fought in my own life, it drew me that much closer to Jaime to see the battles of mom’s that she has fought, and all of them so fiercely and valiantly.

To Jaime, thank you for showing me that my battles are valid, and that I can indeed talk them out without fear of judgement. ❤

In closing, I will include a letter. This letter was not of my own hand, but is influenced by me. It is a variation of a letter that Paul Harvey read on a Father’s Day broadcast many years ago, and one that I changed slightly to be from the point of view of a son or daughter writing to their mother. The letter reads as follows:

Dear Mom,

I am writing this to you, even though you have been dead for 30 years. Whether you can read these lines, perhaps you can read my thoughts, but there is still some things I need to say, even if it’s too late.

Now that my own hair is gray, I remember how yours got that way. I was such an ass, mom……..Foolishly believing in my own teenage wisdom, when I know now I would have benefitted most from the calm, right, wholesome wisdom of yours.

Most of all, now that I have children of my own, I want to confess my greatest sin against you, the feeling I had, for which you did not understand. Though when I look back now, I know that you did understand. You understood me better than I did my own self……How patient you were, and how futile your efforts to get close to me, to win my confidence, to be my guardian angel were. I wouldn’t let you. I simply wouldn’t let you. What was it that held me aloof? I’m not sure, but despite my best efforts, my own children had to build the same wall between them and I. And there’s no way I can climb over it or go through it, and what a shame, what a waste.

I wish you were here now, across this table from me. There’d be no wall now. We’d both understand, now. And God, mom, how I do love you, and how I dearly wish I could be your companion again. Well…….maybe that day isn’t far off. I’m guessing you’ll be there, waiting to take me by the hand and lead me up the further slope. I’ll put in the first thousand years or so, making you realize that not one pang of yearning, not one morsel of thought, not one second of worry you spent on me was wasted, it all came back, and it all paid off eventually.

I know that the richest, most priceless thing on earth and one of the least understood things is that mighty love and tenderness and that everlasting craving to help that a mother feel toward her little ones. But none of her children can realize this until the roles are reversed. Even now, mom, I’m tired, weak and longing, and would hasten to join up there in the Great Beyond, except for my children…….They’re all fine, sweet, caring and upstanding young ones, all very capable, self-sufficient, highly talented and loving toward all. But, mom, I reckon I’ll stand by a little longer, to help them along, and to watch them shoot for the moon and land among the stars, and to be there for them, if they ever need me. You understand.

Signed,

Your loving child

I hope this blog finds you well, and in the comments, please feel free to share memories of your own mother, whether she is still with us or not.

Take care, much love, and may God richly bless,

-Jon

MEMORIES AND MEMORABILIA, AND THE JOURNEY ALONG THE WAY

All my life, I have been obsessed with how things used to be. I am 25 years old, but in age only. I love the way things used to be, whether it be in music, sports, you name it. Any piece of the past in something I love, I try to cling to it. Old guitars, ticket stubs from auto races long ago, vinyl records, old signs and books, I love it all. And on top of that, I am very much Mayberrian or Lake Wobegonian in my mindset, and although I don’t regret this, I do sometimes find myself standing out like a sore thumb, especially in my own generation. And sometimes, the journey through the past can be a painful one, but the knick-knacks and souvenirs picked up along the way continue to serve me well.

I often find myself not adhering to many things my generation glorifies and follows. That makes me somewhat odd in my friend circles, but I still hold steadfast. I still believe in true love. I still believe in the good in people. I still believe that there is hope. I still believe in loyalty, trust, support and taking time for yourself. I still believe that, some way, somehow, everything will get better. And if that isn’t the way to think, it’s certainly the way to pray.

Being an old soul has its perks, but it also has some pretty hefty drawbacks as well. If you’re not careful, those trips down Memory Lane can end in sadness at times, especially if you have an overactive, overthinking mind like myself. And it can be the littlest things that start you in on trips down that road. An old radio or TV commercial. An issue of a magazine. Smells of certain plants or foods. A song. A video of an old sporting event. Even the sound of the wind or the falling of snow. I have found myself taking that journey back in time off of these things and many more. And time was when I would think back to childhood, and it would make me sad. But these days, I look back sometimes, and while there is a twinge of sadness and longing for the safe harbors of yesterday, I can smile knowing I have the memories and the memorabilia to highlight the good times, while at the same time respecting the perspective that time has added to the not-so-good parts of the quarter-century I have spent on this earth.



I have mentioned my dear mother Nancy in past blogs. The memories I have of her are of her being a valiant, strong and ethereal force in my life, and being the fighter that I model myself after today. I didn’t know it at the time, but kid me was taking notes watching her and how she gracefully fought ovarian cancer for four years, after doctors only gave her six months at first diagnosis. Three memories of her stick out strongest in my mind, the first of which being her love of cooking. The lady never failed in anything she set her mind to in the kitchen, and if I put my mind to it at times, I can still taste her wonderful cooking. Whether it be something as simple to make as black gravy, or a full-on Thanksgiving feast, she excelled. Any time I smell fresh-made bread, I think of her, for she absolutely loved making homemade bread.

The second of these memories is of an excursion to the grocery store during a snowstorm, probably 20 years ago at this juncture. It was dumping the snow, so much so you could hardly see 10 feet in front of you, but still, mom persisted. I remember giant clumps of the heavy, wet snow hitting the windshield repeatedly. I remember making the comment of, “if one more of these things hits the windshield, I’m going to scream!” And just like that, the clumps of snow hitting the windshield stopped. To this day, whenever a heavy snow event occurs here in the mountains of my beloved North Carolina, I think of her and that moment.

The third one is of how she inadvertently planted the seed that sprouted into my love of auto racing, and NASCAR in particular. It was October 13, 2002, a Sunday night. Mom was flipping through the TV channels, when she landed on NBC’s coverage of the 500 mile event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Jamie McMurray, who was in just his second-ever NASCAR Cup series event, held off 2000 series champion Bobby Labonte to win his first-ever race. I remember watching McMurray doing burnouts on the frontstretch, and looking at mom and asking quizzically, “why’s he spinning out like that, mom?” To which she just smiled and said, “because he’s happy.” With that, she planted a love of motorsports that still runs strong, 20 years on.



There are also the memories that are not pleasant. Seeing her laying on the couch, hardly able to move after chemo treatments zapped her energy. Holding her hand as she lay motionless on a hospital bed some days. Climbing “The Tree,” a winding and hilly stretch of road leading to Boone hospital. Having every eye fixated on me as I walked into class the day after she died, 18 years ago. And the ongoing pain I feel from those days. Some days, I wish it were I instead of her that left this life for the next one, but then she would have had to have been saddled with that pain, and I wouldn’t wish the pain on anyone. Though more days than not, I find myself looking back on those days-and feeling a sense of gratitude. Yes, it was difficult. Yes, it was painful. Yes, it completely changed and re-shaped me. But over the long arc of time, it helped me. It helped me realize that I can overcome anything thrown at me. I can ride the waves and weather the storms and still come out in one piece. And through low times and high alike, I have the memorabilia to show for it-not all of it physical, but all of it are keepsakes of this crazy, beautiful ride I am on. ❤️

I hope this blog finds you well, and I hope you mention in the comments what the knick-knacks, souvenirs and other memorabilia you’ve collected along your journey mean to you, and the impact they have on you!

As always, take care, much love, and may God richly bless you all

-Jon

MOTHER’S DAY IS COMPLICATED

For many, Mother’s Day comes with conflicting emotions, triggered by all of the Hallmark-esque, posts, & comments of perfect children, perfect mothers, & perfect lives.

Continue reading MOTHER’S DAY IS COMPLICATED