Life’s Playlist… Hero by Mariah Carey

Day 6 of the 500 Word Challenge by Jeff Goins….. tell someone else’s story.

She watched her 11-year-old son, riddled with cancer, die a painful and grueling death.

I fist met her when a news report was featured on the local news channel in West Palm Beach, FL where I was living at the time.

Her child had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  The most brutal of all cancers, for a child to get the diagnosis was quite rare.

The news report told the story of a fund-raiser for the child that had been scheduled at his school.  Due to regulations, my friend had been informed two days before the event, that it would have to be cancelled.

The news unsettled me,  how this event had to be cancelled over stupid regulations added insult to injury for this family that had already seen far too many bad turns in their lives.

At the time, I was the Marketing Director for a local retail/entertainment center.  The story haunted me through the night and the next morning when I arrived at work, somehow I was able to locate the mom’s phone number and contacted her.

Within an hour she was in my office and we were planning the logistics to move the event to our center.

We hit it off right away, through the tragedy that she was enduring, we became friends.

The event came and went at our center, but our friendship sustained over time.  We kept in touch and she would give updates about her son’s condition.

About a year after our meeting, my friend’s son lost his battle with the disease.  He passed away in their family home.  His little body suffered and by the time he passed he was constantly in pain with his family suffering every moment with him.

During those painful months, my friend rode every roller-coaster of emotion imaginable never leaving her child’s side.  Since his passing she feels guilt, sorrow and a broken heart that will never mend.

Not long after her child’s death, my friend opened a retail store in the tiny town I served as a City Commissioner for.  The thrift and consignment store was opened as a charity to assist families of children suffering with cancer.

My friend had found a new mission, one that would honor her son and allow her to give back in ways that would help sustain other families dealing with the same issues she had endured.

From opening day through the years the store has been opened successes have been difficult to measure.  Financially, the store has never operated to its anticipated dream, located in the small run down shopping center of a neighborhood that was fraught with crime, drugs and prostitution, it was difficult to make a go of the mission my friend envisioned.

Featuring a wonderful selection of furniture, clothes, antiques and accessories, the store should have been a success, unfortunately the neighborhood blocked that possibility.

My friend always kept her head-up and worked towards her mission.  Through her constant grief, her vision to honor her son never wavered.

A couple of weeks ago my friend announced the store will be closing.  Her continued battle to make the store meet her vision would come to an end.

The store will close, but I know my friend….. her vision and commitment to families who are going through the unfathomable days she went through will not.

My friend is a warrior and she is guided daily by an angel that helps her put one foot in front of the other.  The store may be closing, but my friends broken-heart will go on, she will persevere, she has already done more than she will ever know and her journey continues, through pain she will continue to heal and help others in her child’s name.

 

Small Town Values

I grew up in a small town in the mountains of North Georgia.  The community was close-knit and in my youth, that close-knit feel is one of the things I hated most.

As a youngster, my mind equated those small town values with everyone knowing your business and getting into it.

In the summer of 1982, just after graduating High School, I left and didn’t look back.  My dream was to get as far away from that small town as possible and set a course for my own life.

I wanted to live in a large metropolitan city that would give me anonymity and allow me to explore who I was without the watchful eyes of a community “knowing my business.”

After college, I made my way to that large metropolitan community.  I made my way and slipped into the anonymity I thought was so great.

I made mistakes, I had successes and unbeknownst to me, I began to create my own community, that ironically mirrored those small town values that I had not yet learned to appreciate.

After 10 years in the city, I ventured out again.  This time to a transient community in south Florida that embraced the melting pot that people from around the world could create.

When I decided it was time to come home, back to my small town roots, I embraced those Small Town Values wholeheartedly, but quickly realized, they had been with me, and in evidence all along.

Small town values epitomize, faith, family, friendship, hard-work, love of country and taking care of your fellow-man.

As a child I was taught these cornerstones of life were what leads to success and happiness; those values are found not only in small town America, but in the small communities we create for ourselves in cities large and small, urban environments, suburbs and in the workplace.

FAITH – My parents instilled a faith in me that has carried through my life.  While in my early 20’s, I did what many people my age do.  I abandoned my faith and decided I knew what was best and I could forge my own path.  I soon realized I was wrong.  Once I found a faith community, within a large city, I quickly realized that this small community would lead me through life.

The community of faith, allows one to plug into a group of people who like myself, had grown up with this road map.

FAMILY – I have a strong family unit.  From an early child my father tattooed on the forehead of my brother’s and I “don’t ever do anything to embarrass your mama.”  I think if more of us held this as a family motto, we may be better off.

While my family, like most has our ups and downs, I know that when it comes down to it, we will come together and be one.  The family bond that I hold with those I love most is what brought me home, the place where I could find arms to hold me, celebrate my joys, and shoulders to cry on.

Love of family is a small town value that we all can relate to.  No matter the size of the town, or the distance we find ourselves separated by, this constant is one of life’s most precious gifts.

FRIENDSHIP – I have been blessed by friends at every stage of my life who have made me a better man.  Many of these friends, I equate to family.  Chosen family, establish bonds that support you during the good and bad times of life.

Friendships of community are the people who clean your house, replant your flower beds and make sure you come home to a place filled with love when your mom dies 500 miles away.  These are the people who gather on your front lawn on Friday evenings just to enjoy fellowship together and create silly memes for your birthday.  These friendships move far beyond a small town sensibility, if we are lucky, they incorporate every aspect of our lives!

HARD-WORK –  I don’t pretend the think the work I do is difficult.  In no way does my work equate to those who go out on a daily basis and put their lives on the line or develop callouses so deep that their touch feels like sandpaper.  What I do compared to others is easy, but I work hard at it and I learned this work ethic that has carried me through my career as a child.  I watched others dedication to their craft and knew that this was a key to success.

I haven’t always succeeded in my career.  As a City Commissioner for the Town of Lake Park, FL; I allowed petty differences to hold us back, this is my biggest regret during my time there.  We let the people down and I will always feel remorse for those years that we could have moved forward but remained stagnant.

Success however, has been with me through most of my career.  I learned to work hard and go above and beyond what was expected, this has allowed me to build a firm foundation that I am proud of.

LOVE OF COUNTRY – For much of my life our country has been at odds with itself.  I date this back to Watergate, but over the past 12 years the schism seems to have gotten larger.  Good intentioned people work to lead and unfortunately get so engrossed in idealism that the good of the country often times falls short.

We are a melting pot of humanity that sometimes erupts in ways that isn’t helpful.  However, when pushed America comes together.  No greater time in my life did I see this than when our nation was attacked, small town America and larger communities all came together to support our own.  This is the America that we all love, hopefully one day that same pride and patriotism will be a daily norm and not just an ideal found when we are broken by tragedy.

CARE FOR OUR FELLOW MAN – I learned early that when someone suffers, community rallies to support them.  When my brother died, our family was picked up and carried through our grief. I witnessed this when a friend’s young son passed away as a result of pancreatic cancer, and again when a young girl recently died in our community as a result of a horrific accident.

We are a good people and we take care of each other.  This care and compassion is what makes us great.  In our larger, yet shrinking world we find this through social media outreach when prayer circles or support pages pop up for people we don’t even know.  We care, we support and we love each other in ways that we learned from childhood through our adult life.

I was fortunate to be raised with small town values.  These values have carried me through my life, around the country and back home again.

The small town values of our lives make us who we are and I am proud to know that I have now embraced these full-force and in all aspects of my life.

Life’s Playlist…. Believe by Cher, Dedicated to a Goddess

A friend was recently diagnosed with ovarian and peritoneal cancer.

She is a vibrant, funny, intelligent woman who I served with on the Lake Park Town Commission.

I learned during our years on the Commission that she is a FIGHTER and she is already proving that in this latest battle.

Tonight, she will be hosting  “Henna Goddess Night” where she will “crown” her now bald head with a beautiful henna crown of hope and healing.

I think a Goddess crown is the perfect accessory for my friend Patti and I know that it will be a comforting accompaniment through this journey.

Most of my friends know that my goddess is Cher, so Patti, from one goddess to another…. BELIEVE in your healing and keep fighting!

 

Bert Bostrom – Dynamite in a 5′ Frame

Bert Bostrom died yesterday.  She had lived a long life and her passing wasn’t a surprise.  Her loving daughter Patti was by her side, just as they had been for much of the last forty-something years.

After years of declining health Bert’s body gave up, he spirit never did.

Bert Bostrom was dynamite in a 5′ frame, she had the ability to make grown men shake in their boots and yes, I am speaking from experience.

When I announced that I was going to be a candidate for Lake Park Town Commission, a friend told me I needed to talk to Bert.  My immediate question was “will she vote for me,” the response was “no, but you don’t want her working against you.”

I asked for Bert’s number and called her.   Bert offered to meet with me and I put on a pair of crisp khakis and button down shirt for the meeting.  Bert Bostrom held clout in the small town of Lake Park, she had a history of activism and could sink a political campaign as quickly as it started.

I drove up to Bert’s house and she met me at the door with a sly smile and welcomed me in.  We sat across from each other in her living room and she quizzed me.  She wanted to know why I was running, she wanted to know where I stood on the issues and she wanted to know my story.

Once I began talking to Bert, I immediately developed a fondness for her…….  a measured fondness.

Leaving that day, Bert asked me what I wanted her to do.  I was honest with her, I said, I don’t want you to work against me during this campaign.  My request was a tough one for Bert because the incumbent I was running against was her friend.

Bert was honest with me, she told me she wouldn’t vote for me, but she wouldn’t campaign against me….. as far as I know, she kept her word, on both accounts.

After being elected, I quickly learned that you had to EARN Bert’s respect, it wasn’t automatic.

I had begun pushing an issue that I felt strongly about and had been a hot-button during the campaign.  The program was going to be incredibly expensive to implement, so I began looking for ways to make it less costly.

When it came time to discuss the issue at a Commission meeting, I looked up and Bert was sitting in the audience.  Everyone on the dias knew, if Bert was in the audience she would have something to say.  I felt puffed up because I was convinced she was there to praise my work on the issue and give me her blessing.

After discussing the issue, it came time for public comment and Bert strode to the podium.  She began speaking and within her first ten seconds at the podium looked straight at me and said “Commissioner, that is the dumbest idea I have ever heard.”  The debate was over, Bert had spoken and the freshman commissioner had been schooled.

I ran into Bert later in the week and wanted to crawl under a box,   because I REALLY didn’t want to talk to her.  She walked up to me, reached up, kissed me on the cheek and said “I still love you.”  We both smiled and a bond was cemented.

Bert Bostrom was a character, she was a force, she was dedicated to her community and she loved those who led.  The world would be a better place if there were more people like Bert Bostrom in it.

Bert Bostrom will be missed, she was 5′ of dynamite.

 

Short Notes ~ 6.18.13

This week’s Tuesday 10 features Amy Woods

Lake Park loses a legend, Edie McConville

Do you believe they are telling the truth?

The Beatles ’nuff said

Words to Live By

Tonight is the Finale of The Voice on NBC. This person should win, however this person will win.

My love affair with 315 Hawthorne

315 Hawthorne

Our final photo at 315 Hawthorne Drive, Thursday, June 13, 2013.