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Monday, April 24, 2017

  • Wednesday, April 19, 2017 4:00 AM
    I had just a few minutes to run a quick errand before checking into the hospital for surgery. I pulled into a downtown Chattanooga parking garage, and the attendant, an older woman, struck up a conversation. When she found out I needed to park for less than 30 minutes, the following dialogue ensued:
    She: "Oh, honey, you don't want to park in here! You can park on the street and it only costs 50 cents for thirty minutes."
    Me: "I don't mind. I'm not good at parallel parking."
    She: "You just hold on a minute."
    Proceeding to leave the booth, she walked out to the street. 
    Upon her return: "There are several spots right up the block. You'll find a big one, and your car will slide in easy as pie!"
    Me: "Really, it's ok. If you could please just lift the gate, I'll go on through."
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  • Wednesday, April 12, 2017 4:00 AM
    It was April 6, 1998, when my mother, after a full day of teaching third grade, was admitted to the hospital with abdominal pain. The following day we started saying goodbye, and on April 10, she passed away. 
    Every year during this time she is heavy on my mind. Even more so right now because I am in the city where she raised me. 
    Each morning for the past week here in Chattanooga, I have enjoyed listening to the whistle of the crossing guard who directs traffic outside of my apartment. When I was a kid, my mom was a city crossing guard. 
    Early every morning, and again each afternoon, she stood at the Fourth Street exit. Not only is it a dangerous traffic location, but the area is sketchy to say the least. 
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  • Wednesday, April 05, 2017 4:00 AM
    Bend an ear and listen to my version
    Of a really solid Tennessee excursion
    While recovering from surgery, I am staying in an apartment less than two blocks from the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo. The sign is clearly visible from every window in the place, and it makes me smile each time I see it. 
    I was a few days post-op before venturing out to the rooftop to soak in the sunshine. With a 360 view of the city and the mountains, I began to think I might never go home.
    I wish I had the presence of mind to document all of the acts of kindness, love and generosity people have bestowed upon me this week, but I’m still a little loopy from pain killers. Friends sat in the waiting room during surgery, took me to post-op appointments, brought delicious food, helped me dress, removed blood stains from the couch, made me laugh (albeit cautiously) and read poetry to me. I even had a guy friend stop by long enough to do "whatever I needed." He took out the trash, fixed the ice maker, did a load of laundry and rehung the curtains I had torn down while in a drug-induced state the previous night. Not sure what I did to deserve the attention, but I am ever so grateful!
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  • Wednesday, March 29, 2017 4:00 AM
    It was 3 a.m. in Berlin. She stood on the deserted bridge and stared down into the dark waters of the Spree River. It wasn’t the first time she had found herself in this spot, nor the first time she had entertained thoughts that both frightened and comforted her. She was becoming attuned to the idea of falling through the darkness and disappearing under the cold water, but the cords of motherhood bound her firmly in place. 
    She wouldn’t have been afraid of the dark, colorless river, for it matched the rest of her world. She vaguely remembered a time when colors were vivid; when she was a young girl with a purple bedroom, a yellow car, and parrot-shaped earrings in hot pink and turquoise. But for 20 years or more, she had been seeing the world in gray scale. Even her memories flickered through her mind like an old black and white film. 
    Over time her wardrobe had become neutral and non-descript. Her home was decorated in 50 shades of taupe with an occasional “pop” of sage. She needed her outward surroundings to be calm in order to keep the frenzy in her mind from becoming unbearable. 
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  • Wednesday, March 15, 2017 4:00 AM
    Nine-year-old Hudson Charles totally rocked his first piano recital. In January, he downloaded an app on his phone, and began teaching himself to play classics such as Fur Elise and The Imperial March, so I decided it was high time to put him in lessons.
    As I listened to each of the 20-or-so students take their turns plunking out carefully prepared recital pieces, my mind wandered back to my own piano days.
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  • Wednesday, March 08, 2017 4:00 AM
    I will soon be traveling to Chattanooga, Tennessee for surgery. People often ask why I am willing to drive seven hours for something that could, presumably, be handled by a local doctor. Truth is, it was a local doctor that caused my issues in the first place. 
    Because I’ve had four C-sections, I have dealt with a lot of painful internal adhesions. At one point, my kidneys adhered to my spine. In 2012, the doctor said they would have to make a large abdominal incision in order to do the repairs, and commented that if I ever wanted a tummy tuck, this would be the time. I had never given any serious thought to plastic surgery, but that sounded pretty good! 
    When I went to meet the surgeon, I began perusing the brochures, and decided to inquire about breast augmentation. I didn't hate my breasts, but after five kids and a lot of nursing, I thought it would be nice to perk them up a bit. I never made that part public because I didn’t want to be looked at differently, but people need to hear my story. 
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  • Wednesday, March 01, 2017 4:00 AM
    My middle daughter, a sophomore at Purdue University, just texted me for ideas on one of her assignments. She has to write a poem about McDonald’s. At this very moment I am sitting in McDonald’s, trying to write on a different topic because I covered that one in last week’s article.
    It’s not surprising that the place keeps popping up in my life. It has been this way since the early 70s when my family moved, and we no longer lived near a Burger Chef. I loved Burger Chef with their kids’ Funmeal and Funburgers. Thanks to their “Works Bar,” I learned at a very young age that I prefer my burgers topped with lettuce, tomato, and onion. 
    The first time I remember going to McDonald’s was in Chicago. My dad said I could order anything, so having seen a few commercials, I asked for a Big Mac. My mother promptly attempted to intervene, stating that there was no way a five-year-old could eat such a large sandwich. Dad bought it for me anyway, and I ate the entire thing, all the way down to the final sesame seed. Apparently, I worked up quite an appetite in the Windy City.
    At the age of 16, my first job was at McDonald’s in Chattanooga, Tenn. My second job was at a McDonald’s near Nashville, Tenn. And when my family moved back to Indiana, I worked at McDonald’s in Lebanon. Fifteen years ago, they tore it down and built a bank in its spot. But being the sentimental person that I am, I still have a brick from that building.
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  • Wednesday, February 22, 2017 4:00 AM
    I ventured to a new McDonald’s the other day. It was lovely, truly lovely, but I didn’t stay. I wanted to sit alone and work from my laptop. Unfortunately, the seating was similar to that which I’ve encountered on my travels to Europe. There are one or two large tables, and only a few booths scattered along the edges. This is great for a family of 15 that would typically be unable to sit together, but it’s hard to imagine a construction crew wanting to lunch with a mom and her passel of kids. Most of us prefer to wallow in our personal space, and enjoy the semi privacy afforded by separate tables. 
    I’m relatively outgoing, and can pretty much start a conversation with any living soul, but I feel uncomfortable seating myself at a table that’s already occupied. When in Rome, I do as the Romans do, but once home, I fall into the safety net of familiarity.
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  • Wednesday, February 15, 2017 4:00 AM
    Over the past year, I have been exploring the world with new eyes. I feel like I am 18 again, standing on the cusp of life, and the possibilities for my future are endless.
    Following that desire to explore and learn is how I came to be standing outside the beautiful Elephant gate of Das Buddhistische Haus; the oldest and largest Buddhist center in Europe.
    It took an hour by train from Berlin, and then a 20-minute taxi ride. As the taxi pulled away into the settling dusk of late afternoon Germany, I cinched my coat, and turned my attention to the large, wooden gate.
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  • Wednesday, February 08, 2017 4:00 AM
    For the first time in over a year and a half, all of my clothes are on hangars, and my shoes are unpacked. Since moving to the new house, which was originally built in 1860, I have been living out of suitcases, boxes, and piles. Apparently, in the mid-1800s, they didn’t have a need for closets. But now, thanks to my handy dad, I have a beautiful walk-in closet all to myself! There are high racks and low racks, cubbies for handbags, and floor to ceiling shelves dedicated solely to my shoe collection.
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  • Wednesday, February 01, 2017 4:00 AM
    Even though I did most of my growing up in Chattanooga, which sits on the southern border of Tennessee, I have never really explored the adjacent state of Georgia. In 1985, I attended my first Barry Manilow concert in Atlanta, and last year, I spent several weekends visiting in Marietta. Other than that, Georgia has never really been on my travel radar. But this past week, a couple of girlfriends and I headed down to the lovely, and haunted, city of Savannah.
    The three of us have known each other since 1983ish when we were in our church’s youth group together. Incidentally, that church was located just across the Tennessee border in Rossville, Georgia, so I guess I have actually been to Georgia a few thousand times. Every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night for seven years.
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  • Wednesday, January 25, 2017 4:00 AM
    I will soon be changing my last name, so I considered changing my first name, too. I began asking friends and family what they thought of the idea. Nearly everyone was supportive, as I knew they would be, because I am fortunate to have supportive people in my life. But the inevitable question was, “Why?
    I’ve always struggled to connect with my name. I don’t know if it is related to the tone my mother used when she said it, or because it prompted so much teasing by peers. Whatever the reason, I always cringe slightly when I hear it.
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  • Wednesday, January 18, 2017 4:00 AM
    So, I finally celebrated Christmas this past weekend. One of the repercussions of divorce was not having my kids over the holidays. There were moments when it was a bit more emotionally difficult than I expected, but they had a great time with their dad, and I made the most of having time to myself.
    On the plus side, I had three extra weeks to prepare, I hit all the post-holiday sales, and my adult children were able to spend two full nights because they weren’t committed to any other celebrations. Altogether, we were a house party of 10 for 48 hours, and it was wonderful.
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  • Wednesday, January 11, 2017 4:00 AM
    For most of my life, I have been seeking internal peace. The Christian scriptures call it “the peace that passeth understanding.” Growing up in the church, I was taught that it was something one could attain if they were diligent. But no matter how hard I prayed or worked, or how diligently I followed the rules, true inner peace was never to be found.
    Two years ago, on the streets of Berlin, an event took place that was so heinous it jarred my innermost being. In one fell swoop, everything I had ever believed about God, religion, and the life I had been leading was jerked away. A fire and strength I had never known welled up inside of me, propelling me to pack my bags and take the next flight off the continent. Thus began my journey into a world that was truly foreign to me.
    I finally realized that the only path to peace is to discover truth. Lies and falsehoods can temporarily soothe a mind that is desperate for relief from an antagonist, but when you have truth, you can settle the heart and mind on what is real.
    So, over the past 24 months, I have sought the truth about myself, about God, and about the world around me. This led me back to Berlin to face the demons I had tried to leave behind.
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  • Wednesday, January 04, 2017 4:00 AM
    This past week, my adventures included a solo trip to Berlin, Germany, where I rang in 2017 with a million other revelers at the Brandenburg Gate. It ranks as the largest New Year’s Eve celebration in Europe (third largest in the world), and was genuinely one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
    Security was tight due to the recent terrorist attack in Berlin. Roads were blocked off a mile and a half from the gate in every direction. I walked for two solid hours, and went through four security checkpoints before finally making it into the celebration. But it was worth every purse check, every frisking and every blister on my tired feet. 
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