So, How’s Your 2020 So Far…

I started 2020 like most years, sending best wishes, making plans for a new year, yada yada.

During the day, I made a smart-assy Facebook post about the Georgia Game starting too late and at my age I wouldn’t be able to make it through the game.

Yeah, smart-assy comment…….. by 6PM, I was down.  I was in bed, achy, headache, cough, all that loveliness that certainly signified I had the flu.

Next morning, as I am prone to do, I asked the proverbial “what do I have” question on Facebook.  Resounding answer, you’ve got the flu dude, hydrate, rest and stay home.

So for the next week I stayed home, I hydrated and when asked, I said I felt better.  Well that was a big ole lie, but who wants to be the person that others have to worry about.

To make a long story short, being stubborn and not wanting to worry anyone else was dumb and only made things worse.  A week in, I finally contacted my Dr to make an appointment.

At this point, I was having lots of difficulty breathing, spending more and more time asleep, not eating and not functioning.  The next morning, my brother took me to the Dr and within an hour, I was in the ER being checked into the hospital.

No flu, nah I jumped right past that to bilateral pneumonia.

I spent three days in the hospital and am now back home.  It’s going to take some time to get my strength back, but I’ll get there.

One of the things I pride myself on is looking at situations going on in my life and trying to learn from what’s happening.

Now, trust me, I get it, I don’t have ANYTHING figured out, I still make elementary mistakes that leave me confounded on a daily basis.  But, I think I did learn a lesson through this, and I am sure that I am just on chapter one of what I will learn.

I have been pretty fortunate through life to have good health.  I’ve had a couple of minor surgeries and injuries and stuff, but until this, nothing ever serious.

Until these past couple of week’s I have never had a fear that I “wouldn’t make it.”  But when you are struggling just to take your next breath, I can see how things get serious quickly.

I think it is pretty normal to sometimes get complacent with life and I have gotten there.  I remember thinking one day before Christmas, “you know at this point if something happened, I’m good.  I have had a good life, I have the best family on the planet, I have wonderful friends and I have had some awesome adventures…..I’m good.”

I was “good” until laying on an ER gurney I realized, I wasn’t and I realized all I wanted to do was keep breathing…… keep living and get well to see what the next adventure may be.

So, how’s your 2020 so far – mine so far has sucked, but you know what…. that may be exactly what I needed to find out just how awesome 2020 and beyond can be.

I’m gonna keep breathing through it and see what happens.

2020 – Coming Into Focus

a5649117efe5e16222a72001a4b11a73As I write this, we are just hours from a new year, a new decade.

With the dawn of a new year, comes the opportunity to look back on what has come before and to look ahead to the endless possibilities just around the corner.

Like most of you, the past year was a mixed bag, I had highs and lows, some of them had a greater impact than others.  Some of my own creation and some that I had no control over, that’s life, it will happen again in 2020 and every year that we are blessed to walk this earth.

What I have learned through the years is, I can’t always control the situation, but I can control how I react.  For 2020, my hope is that I don’t sweat the small stuff, but concentrate on the things that matter, the things that will have impact on my life and those around me.

I pray that I never lose my sense of adventure, to dream big and step into new challenges.  Some of my best decisions have been those cockamamie choices I have made that from the outside make no sense, but in my heart are the only viable direction.

For our nation, I pray that we never forget who we are, we are America, the greatest nation to ever inhabit this planet, a nation that provides hope and opportunity to anyone willing to invest in the American dream.

Moving into 2020, my greatest fear is for our country.  We have become a polarized nation unwilling to work together for the common good.  I pray that this year, we think more before we react, we learn to look beyond our own interests and to what is best for all and I pray that above all else we learn to work together once again, our nation’s future depends on it.

I pray that our world finds long-lasting and true peace.

For each of you, I pray that your dreams will come true in 2020.  I hope that all of your goals and aspirations fall into place and that your days are filled with love, laughter and health.

Above all else, for 2020, I pray that we all find grace, hope and community. I pray that we overcome the hard times with the help of others and that we celebrate our joys together.

For 2020, I will pray for you all and ask the same in return.  For 2020, my goal is to be a little kinder, a bit more joyful, more present and understanding…. for 2020, my goal is simple, just to try and be a bit better every day.

Happy New Year friends, may God bless you in 2020!

She Put Music In My Heart

Ann AlfordToday I told a friend that I write when I grieve, there may not be enough words for this one.

Ann Alford has finished her concerto and now she has gone home to play for the Lord.

I was at the dentist office this morning waiting to be called to the back.  As I scrolled through Facebook, I saw a post from my friend Von, about Ms A passing.  I hoped it was someone else, but once I got back to my office I looked further and found out indeed it was her.

My heart immediately broke and I had to take a few minutes outside to myself, all I could think about was how much she loved us, all of us.

We were her band kids, a mis-matched group of high-school students that she challenged, rode hard, and saw reach our potential, all under her watchful eye.

I had quit band in the eight grade, too cool to be a band geek; that is until my 10th grade year when Ms. Alford told me I WOULD be in the symphonic band.  I didn’t argue with her, I just signed up.

I wasn’t a very good trumpet player and years away from the horn made me even worse.  I sat last seat, but she made me know I was where I belonged.  She pushed me and eventually I started to get better.

By the time marching season rolled around in the Fall, I was no longer last seat, I had graduated all the way up to third from last.

Ms. Alford drove us to be our best.  When we screwed up, we ran laps, when we didn’t live up to our potential, she had a steely gaze that could melt the toughest exterior, but we never doubted she loved us.

We were her kids and nothing made her prouder than when we did well.  As she flailed her arms to the beat, that wicked smile would sneak in and the twinkle in her eyes let us know we had it.

One year, as we were preparing for Marching Festival we had been a mess, it seemed like nothing we did was coming together to the standards Ms. Alford had set for us, not to mention the standards we had set for ourselves.

Thursday afternoon before Festival on Saturday, when it was time for rehearsal, we were instructed to meet Ms. Alford at the practice field and leave our instruments in the band room.

This couldn’t be good.

As we approached the field, I think we all expected to be running laps and marching drills, but when we arrived, cupcakes and drinks awaited us.

We got a pep talk that day about how good we were and how if we just put it all on the field, there was nothing or no one that could beat us.  Needless to say, we pulled all Superiors on Saturday beating much larger bands in the process.

Going into Symphonic Band Season, our end of season Festival would be the competition that would prove just how good we were.  Symphonic season wasn’t like football season, it was all about technique and skill, not putting on a great show.

On the first day of Symphonic Season, Ms. Alford put two pieces of music in front of us that had more sharps, tempo-changes and notes than most of us had ever seen before.

If I remember correctly the music was “Firebird” and a piece called “Mosque.” (Feel free to correct me if I am wrong.)

As we struggled through those pieces of music, Ms. Alford wouldn’t let us be defeated.  We were challenged in ways we never imagined and finally the notes started to fall into place, the tempos came and all those sharps didn’t seem so difficult any longer.

By the time Festival rolled around, we knew we were good, we knew we had it and so did she.  We walked onto that stage knowing we were about to blow the roof off and we did.

The smile on Ms. Alford’s face when we finished will always be etched on my heart.  Once again we ranked all Superiors and got a standing ovation from the crowd when we hit our last notes.

Ms. Alford knew our potential and she knew how to pull it out of us.

After symphonic season, we began planning for our Spring Concert, my favorite concert of the year.

The Spring Concert featured more familiar songs, ones that we could have fun with.  Not long before the spring concert season began, I had been chosen to participate in a regional competition in voice.

One of the pieces of music we would be playing that year during the Spring Concert was selections from the Broadway musical “A Chorus Line.”

Ms. Alford had an idea, I would sing “What I Did for Love,” the big solo number featured in the musical, I would be accompanied by the band.  YIKES, nothing like some pressure.

True to form, Ms. Alford coached me through it and on the day of our performance, I stepped to the microphone and did it, I sang accompanied by my fellow band members.

For all the years that I knew her, she was ill, but she never, ever let her illness affect her dedication to us.

She showed up every day, she challenged us and challenged her body to keep going.  She was dedicated to us and we were dedicated to her.

The last time I saw Ms. Alford was about eight years ago at my nephew’s High School graduation.

I had spotted her in the crowd shortly after we took our seats and she spotted me about the same time.  She smiled, I smiled and I mouthed “I love you.”  She smiled brighter.

After the ceremony was over, I made my way over to where she was, “Ken Rumsey, get over here and give me a hug,” she said and I did.  I hugged her with all my might and she hugged me right back.

She wanted to know about me and when I asked about how she was, in true Ann Alford form she never complained, she just laughed and said “old and mean.”  She was neither,  in my eyes and heart, she was still the loving woman who challenged me to be my best.

Ann Alford was more than a teacher.  She was an inspiration to a lot of kids that needed it, myself included.  She taught us to never settle for anything but our best.

Ms. Alford has now passed, I wish I had gotten to tell her one more time how much she meant to me and how much I loved her, but I suspect she knew that.

We all loved her and when the music fills my heart and my spirit soars, I know she is there, counting the beat and striking up the band.

Thanks Ms. Alford, this band geek owes you more than words can ever express and grieves more at your passing that one blog post can ever relay.

 

It Is Well

I struggle every day.

I struggle with not feeling good enough, I struggle with money, I struggle with relationships, I struggle with decisions that I have made and I still have to make, life is a struggle.

While the struggles of everyday life weigh upon me, I have come to a peace in my life that I know comes only from a faith that has been instilled in me since childhood, since the days of the simple stories of the Bible, through life lessons as a youth and joys and disappointments as an adult.

I’m one of those “wear your emotions on your sleeves kind of guy.”  Once when my  brother was picking on me, my grandmother spoke up and in her most grand-motherly of southern belle grand-motherly voices said “leave him alone, he is a sensitive child.”

While that joke has been told and retold through life, it is true, I am sensitive, I ache when those around me ache, I cry for a nation that has lots its way, I mourn when I witness bigotry and oppression of people who are simply trying to live the lives that God created for them, yes, I am sensitive and I struggle.

When the same grandmother, who told my brother I was sensitive passed away, I had a meltdown in the funeral home.  My mom and dad took me into a back office to help me regain my composure and my mom told me something that struck home.  In that moment of pain, my mom told me “let it out, I wish I could.”

As I have matured, I have realized my sensitivity is a blessing, not a curse.  Sometimes I wish I could have a harder shell, but I don’t.  My emotions seep out of me like a river of lava from the deepest bowels of the earth.

I understand that being a sensitive child, sometimes makes life for those around me more difficult, but it is how I am wired and I accept that.

When I tell my co-workers and friends that I cried during a TV show, they just laugh and say “of course you did,” it isn’t meant as a condemnation, but more an acceptance of who I am.

This week, I have been having a hard time, I have thought about a relationship that I wish was stronger, my heart hurts for recently divorced friends that are struggling to find a way in their new-found reality and I have thought and prayed about recent events that have ostracized groups of people who simply want to share their faith the best way they know how and have been pushed away.

This week, a simple message has gone through my mind over and over again…

while we as humans want things done in our time, in our way, we must have faith, FAITH in knowing that HIS time is omnipotent and one day, someday, HIS plan will be revealed, we just have to stand strong, stand in our truth and TRUST.

That prayer filled message has been constant, I know it to be true and trust in the words of God that all will be well.

This morning, as I came into work and flipped on my Pandora, the first song I heard was “It is Well,” a song that has always had tremendous meaning for me, but one that speaks to me stronger today than usual.

It is well, yes because of faith, indeed IT IS WELL.  My sensitive self listened with tears strolling down my cheeks and a joy in my heart, still struggling to understand, but steadfast in knowing that HIS plan will be revealed in HIS time.

It Is Well…….

 

 

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mama and grampsThe couple pictured here, on their 50th wedding anniversary, are my maternal grand-parents, Sam and Vera Bellamy.  Most of you would have no reason to know them.

My grand-father was the finest man I have ever known, he loved God, his family and friends above all else.  He was a loyal man who I never heard utter a negative word about anyone.

My grand-mother, Ma-ma, was the second most important woman in my life, just behind my mother, allow me to tell you about her.

As a young child I spent a lot of time with my ma-ma, my mother spent weeks at a time in the hospital as a result of injuries from a car accident and as the youngest child in our family, I spent my days underfoot of my grandmother.

Ma-ma never worked outside the home, but she was the consummate homemaker running a tight-ship where everything had a place, a home-cooked meal was on the table each night at 6 and she did all this dressed to the nines.

Some of my favorite memories are sitting at my grand-parents kitchen table for breakfast with my ma-ma.  During our morning routine, we would have toast with homemade strawberry jam and she would pour me a cup of coffee while we talked.  The “coffee” consisted of a few drops of coffee and an abundance of milk.  We would sit at the table, plan our day and talk.  Unbeknownst to me, those morning breakfasts were laying the ground-work to my character and passions of life.

We spent hours in ma-ma’s flower garden, making sure each bloom of gladiola, chrysanthemum and rose was nurtured and cut to be arranged at just the perfect moment.

A couple of afternoons each week we would bake.  A pound-cake or pie or some other delicacy that would be our dessert for the coming meals.  Always from scratch, always delicious.

As the youngest of four grand-children, I was sure I was her favorite, but ma-ma had a way of making us all feel like we were the one, yet still today I like to think I held the top spot.

She pampered us all, when she found us playing cowboy and indians on the gas tank in the back-yard, she sewed us all costumes to make it more authentic.  She designed and made all of our special outfits, Easter, Christmas, birthdays, my brother’s prom tuxedo, there was nothing she couldn’t sew that looked better than anything you could find in a department store.

As much as she pampered, she didn’t tolerate foolishness.  If you were caught misbehaving part of your punishment was to go outside and cut your own hickery that she would use to swat across your legs.

The memories I have of my ma-ma are cherished, she gave me an appreciation of baking, flowers and quiet moments with those you love.  She taught me to honor the past and cherish mementos from times gone by.

Ma-ma was always an important part of my life, as I got older I made sure to call her every week to check in.  When I went away to college I could expect a weekly note, card or letter in my post office box and my visits home always included a stop to see she and my grandfather.

I had a connection with my ma-ma that is hard to describe, we just clicked and could talk for hours on end or just sit together and not say a word, it didn’t matter, it was cherished time together.

As her health began to fail, I was living in Atlanta.  When she was at her worst, she would be admitted to Emory Hospital in Atlanta and we were able to spend quality time together.

On the evening before her death, I had gone to visit her.  Knowing our time was short, I sat in the room, alone with her.  During those finals minutes I was able to tell her how much she meant to me and how much I cherished our days together.

As we sat in her room that evening, I held an Ensure bottle to her lips while she sipped her final meal.  The next day, around 1PM she was gone.

I miss my ma-ma, I am thankful for the life she led and the lessons she taught me, but most of all, I am thankful for her simple acts of kindness and love than she showed me each day of my life.

It’s now been many years since she passed, but I still find myself thinking of her when I do something that reminds me of our times together.

Rarely do I see a beautiful garden of flowers that I don’t think of her backyard beauties.

Holiday planning always includes special treasures that came from her home and I can feel her presence during family gatherings.

I loved my ma-ma and appreciate the lessons she taught me, I am forever grateful for our times together.  I look forward to the day when we will again sit together, in the most beautiful flower garden you can imagine, we’ll have a cup of coffee and a piece of pound cake and we’ll talk.

Today is her birthday, if she had lived she would be 111 years old.  In honor of the life lived by Vera Clark Bellamy, my ma-ma, I just thought you should know about her.