Early last year I sent out an email recruitment message, hoping to find volunteers in specific areas where I work. Volunteers are at the heart and soul of AARP, so I'm always recruiting.
This one particular time, I got an email from a fellow in Granbury. I grabbed my handy Texas map and found it - just a little southeast of Fort Worth in a congressional district where I had no volunteers. I called, got an answering machine and left a message.
A few days later my phone rang at the office, "Hel-lo, Car-mel" a very friendly male voice drawled. "This is Lar-ry Per-ry. Larry Perry from Granbury."
We talked for a while. I explained that there were no other volunteers out there with him, but he was fine with that. He said he was going to be in Fort Worth for another meeting later that week. We set up a meeting.
Out of that meeting, I gained a friend and a dedicated volunteer. Larry was a quick study. I soon learned that he was passionate about issues such as cuts to Social Security, gaining regulations on payday lenders in Texas or ensuring that we worked in community issues such as Complete Streets. He embraced the Protect Seniors campaign last year and lobbied his member of Congress. He gave presentations and quick speeches to whomever would have him.
I'd occasionally have to call Larry and tell him to slow down. We didn't have the budget for all the mileage -- he was fine with that. He wanted to make a difference.
I soon learned a lot about Larry. He loved his two sons and his daughter more than anyone and loved to talk about their lives. We shared a hug when his long-time partner died and I let him share stories of their travels and adventures in the community.
He told me about the jobs he had held and I learned quickly how much he loved central Fort Worth and its eclectic communities.
I met him in Granbury once for a meeting with a state official and we followed up with lunch. It was hard to get through lunch because so many people stopped by to say hello. Everyone knew Larry. He was a community supporter and activist. He served on boards and knew all the elected officials on a first-name basis.
He shared with me that he always felt it was important to make a difference in whatever way you could. "Don't wait for someone else to do it, if you can do it," he said. "Make a difference."
As we gear up our efforts for You've Earned A Say on Social Security and Medicare, I know Larry will be with us every step of the way. He was excited about hitting the road for presentations because he knew how critical those two earned benefits are to millions of Americans.
Larry Perry of Granbury died Feb. 22.
I'll miss my volunteer. I'll miss those regular phone calls that always started with, "Hel-lo Car-mel. This is Lar-ry Per-ry." But most of all I'll miss my friend.
As I sat and listened to tonight's sermon and thought about the next 40 days, I felt a little stronger in my faith.
It's no secret that I grew up Southern Baptist. My husband and I settled on the Methodist church a long time ago as a matter of meeting in the middle -- he was raised a Lutheran.
But over the years, I've worked to understand and embrace the theology and teachings of my elected religion.
Overall, I don't think I identify myself as a "Methodist" - despite the tarnished image that some folks create of Christianity by their very un-Chritianlike behavior (a certain Kansas church comes to mind), I still consider myself first and foremost a Christian.
My goal this Lenten is simply to walk a little closer to my faith and let others see not ashes on my forehead but simply by obsserving my behavior that I am a Christian.
Confession time - I'm a notorious project "starter". I'm not so good at finishing projects.
I'm trying to downsize and that's forcing me to go through boxes of fabric and "projects."
Some -- like the baby blanket I started for my grandchild before she was born (she's now five) probably won't be finished. Others, i'm going to tackle one at a time.
It's my goal -- I didn't make "resolutions" this year -- I made goals.
First up, my daughter's pink french fabric pj pants. Beautiful flannel fabric with prints of the Eiffel tower. I bought it when she was in high school and she desperately wanted these pj pants.
I grab a pattern, make it smaller since she's lost a lot of weight since high school, and cut. Then I sew. Whole project time - 10 years and 1.5 hours. Seriously. Did I mention she's now 27? She was surprised and thrilled.
Next up - Bunny rabbits for the granddaughters. Easter is coming, since lent starts this week, that means I have about 40 days to finish them all. One's done - five more to go. Project started 2010 -- I plan to finish it this time.
I'll keep you updated on the progress.
This week I have a loftier goal -- I started a book many eons ago - "Chicken Fried Baptist" based on our life growing up in Texas. Goal: Draft finished by my birthday -my 55th birthday - I have 6 days to go. Deep breath - here I go.
Before the days of status updates and tweets, I started a blog. That was March 15, 2005.
The blog was supposed to be anonymous. I used a compilation of my initials to create a name. I called it "North of the Red River" because I was after all, a Texan, living in Oklahoma. The name has stuck through a stint in Florida and now back in Texas.
I wrote and it was therapuetic at a time when I needed it to be therapuetic. Then I discovered other people's blogs. I became a fan Melessa of Redneck Diva who made me laugh and sometimes cry as they shared the ups and downs of their families' lives. Diva, Melessa and I and others became mutual admirers. We met face-to-face at an Okie blogger meet up and were relieved to learn none of us were really serial killers. We've kept in touch.
Blogs became a way for me to keep up with college friends, commisserate with like-minded folks and write. I know that often I was writing only for me. My family got nervous to learn I was sharing details of our life online, but I assured them no one was reading.
I made mistakes. I changed the blog, trying to make it professional by writing reviews or sports. Each time it reverted back to what it was: a public journal shared (or not) that was cheaper than therapy.
Then came the Facebook explosion. I never really liked MySpace. I have a profile out there somewhere, I think. Does MySpace still exists? I tweeted. I posted. I played created virtual farms and chatted with strangers from Australia on sleepless nights.
And sometimes I abandoned my blog. Now, I've picked it up and dusted it off. I'm embracing it like a long lost friend.
Some of my favorite blogs from those early year have been abandoned or been completely reinvented. Most have ads.
I think maybe some of us are in a Facebook funk or just overload. Too much.
Last night was a sleepless night. I read posts from favorite reads and saw that Diva was vowing to blog more often. I read "Blogs of Note" and hopped from one blog to the next, to see if anyone was still blogging.
There are a lot more professional blogs out there now. A lot of photography blogs. A lot of family blogs with professional photos highlighting their lives. I found blogs from younger people too. Kids. Teenagers. Some were creative, others a bit frightening.
I will try to write and muse and record our lives more often. I'll read other blogs, which share everything from how to craft a kite to how to cook or garden.
More importantly, I will learn a little about myself along the way.
I learned early on in my marriage to accept the fact that people (and animals) will always like my husband better than than like me. That's ok, he's often a much nicer person than I am, but that's why I love him.
A couple of examples:
It was I who first spotted our little dog, Sammy, in the window of the Humane Society wagon. I was the one who held her and we brought her home. She somehow knew that in our home, I was the rescuer. She sat by my side every chance she got. She would run and greet me at the door excitedly whenever I got home from work.
Then Sammy realized that I'm the person who can't sit still for very long. I'm the person who disappears for days on business trips.
I quickly became second fiddle. I'm sitting on the couch, Sammy tucked in neatly beside me with my hand stroking her head, and hubby comes and plops down in the chair across the room. A nano second later, Sammy's in his lap. Hmmm.
He grabs his jacket to head out the door and Sammy's on his heels.
She clearly still loves me and I'm her first choice when I hop in bed and she wants to snuggle. But I'm playing second fiddle the rest of the time.
Now I love my husband and I don't mind playing second fiddle, well except...maybe with the grandkids.
I try to be the ever spoiling grandmother - "E" they call me. But inevitably the mom in me kicks in and says, "Too much candy," or "I don't think you should jump from there."
Papa on the other hand is unfailingly more fun.
In 2010 when my son and his daughters came to stay with us for a few weeks while his wife settled into a new job and found a house in Washington state, I was amused by how much my granddaughters, especially his shadow, Willow, liked to go to Home Depot with him.
It so happened one day, I went with Papa and Willow to Home Depot on an errand. While he was paying for some items, she and I walked outside and sat on a bench to wait.
"Papa and I always sit here when we come to Home Depot," she said.
"You take a short rest before you walk back home?" I asked.
"Nope. We eat our candy bars before we go back," she said, clearly bemoaning the fact that I had no candy bar for her.
Busted. So all it takes is a little bribery?
So now, I make sure I have gum and suckers in my bag when the grandkids are around. Sammy gets treats from me on a regular basis when my hubby's not looking. It doesn't matter that the gum and suckers are sugar free or that the doggie treats are natural, healthy and never at the dinner table.
The competition is all in jest. We know the grandkids and the dog love us equally, and second fiddle's not so bad.
Really. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some chocolate heart-shaped boxes to mail to grandkids from "E."
Simon and Garfunkel's "59th Street Bridge" song, aka "Feeling Groovy" seems to fit my life at times. This past week was one of those times.
"Slow down, you're moving too fast," I love the words to the song but I don't necessarily heed them.
At work, we have initiatives and campaigns and work plans and more. There's always been a fire in me to compete. Work is no different. We're a team, but really, we all want to be team leader. Or some of us do, I guess.
At home, the house has to be perfect, look perfect, feel perfect. That means more projects than I can handle all at once.
Just like work.
So when you're moving too fast, you ignore the warning lights that tell you you're about to hit a brick wall. That's what happened last week.
I have a high tolerance for pain is really code for I ignore it. I had been taking more Tylenol than usual, and kept promising myself I'd go see another doctor (the current one being fodder for another post.) But I had meetings to attend, and more work plans to finish and so I didn't.
The pain in my side finally got the best of me. The doctor sent me for tests. Then more tests and then I hit the brick wall. Hospital. Surgery. Talk about moving too fast, I hardly had time to take in what was happening.
The good news is that if I take it easy, I'll recuperate and live to go back to my harried life. The bad news is that if I don't, I might not get a chance to go back.
So for now, I'm going to allow myself sometime for "feeling groovy." I am taking sick leave, so I'm going to try to not check emails or voice mails. I'm going to slow down and get well.
"Slow down everyone You're moving too fast Frames can't catch you when You're moving like that" ...Jack Johnson