2020 – Git Outta Here

I guess I should have known on New Year’s Day, when I woke up feeling like I had been hit by a Mac truck that 2020 wasn’t going to be great, but it took a few more days to realize just how bad it was going to get.

Nursing what I thought was “the flu,” I spent 7 days at home before going to the Doctor on the 8th, which led to an immediate trip to the Emergency Room and 3 days in the hospital for what at the time was believed to be bilateral pneumonia.

After a few weeks of recovery, it was time to start moving forward. Since selling my former business, I had made the decision to take my brand “Of These Mountains,” to the next level. For months I had pondered how was best to make this happen and by early February, I had my eyes set on a retail shop.

With the help of my niece, Chelsea, I found the perfect spot in Clarkesville, just 30 miles from home and went about setting up the store with a projected open date of early March.

As I went about getting the store ready to open, I was beginning to hear about this mystery illness called COVID that was affecting people and highly contagious.

I kept working and on March 2nd, set up just the way I envisioned, with great excitement my retail store opened.

We were open for 2 weeks and then closed for 5, due to COVID quarantines and closures.

Not long after going into quarantine, I had to say good-bye to my best friend of 15 years. Rosalita “Lita” Grace Rumsey, was my companion through life’s ups and downs. She came into my life at 6 weeks old and never once was there a day that I regretted the decision to invite her into my life.

Lita’s health had been going downhill for a few months, and eventually with the help of my Vet, the decision was made to say good-bye. I prepared my heart and Brett came over to prepare a final resting place for her in my bed of hydrangeas.

To say quarantine was hard is an understatement but going through it without my Lita made the time almost unbearable.

I’m one of those people that often gets way too into my head, quarantine amplified that for me. Depression, self-doubt, lack of structure all crept into my psyche and I had to work hard to make sure I stayed strong and not get bogged down by all that was bad, but find some sources of sunlight in what were very dark days.

I sunk myself into some creative marketing for work, lots of binged television and too much food; reopening my store 5 weeks after closing. To say those first couple of months after opening were unplanned is an understatement, but people’s generosity with online orders and visits to the store upon reopening got me through.

If I am honest, the first quarter of 2020 was my worst. The rest of the year was different than normal, but I was able to keep my business open and our new storefront has been successful, and we continue to get picked up by additional retailers.

With the emphasis to online shopping our website performed well, and this year Of These Mountains gear was shipped to 30 States, plus Puerto Rico and Canada, something I am incredibly proud of and grateful for!

2020 brought about many changes to daily life. Now a mask is a common part of my wardrobe, hand sanitizer is a constant and while not refusing to live in fear of the virus, I am constantly aware.

I still don’t feel comfortable in large gatherings, while I will go to a restaurant, I am selective and the thought of jumping on a plane for an overnight stay anywhere is far from my thought process.

For me, a particularly difficult part of COVID has been my distance from friends. I’m a hugger and need those interactions, I enjoy spending time with friends and family and while I still get to see those I love, it isn’t as much as I want. Much of that is my choosing, but I also believe it is the prudent decision.

While COVID brought our world to a standstill, there was more that made 2020 one that will always be remembered.

We saw the issue of racial injustice move to the forefront. I believe that every life matters, as does our nation’s history, however, I also believe that when one segment of our population is pained, we all are hurt. When we see citizens murdered simply for the color of their skin, we as a nation still have much work to do and I pray that one day we will get it right.

All Americans have a place in our society and once we embrace the mantra that all men are indeed created equal, we will be a better world for it.

With all that happened in 2020, to me the most frustrating was our national elections. We saw every segment of our nation’s institutions questioned and degraded.

I saw friends and families split over this election and my prayer for 2021 is that those divisions may somehow be brought back together. I stand by the belief that no election, of people that will never know me and from their actions prove daily they could care less about me will ever split me from those I love.

I may not agree on many things with those I call family and friends, but an election is not going to split me from them.

The biggest gut-punch of 2020, was all those who suffered and died alone. Dying alone is my biggest fear and the thought of having someone I love in the hospital taking their last breath not being able to feel the comfort of those who love them is debilitating.

2020 saw the loss of wonderful friends, family and acquaintances that deserved a homegoing celebration for the lives they led. This year robbed us all of being able to say an appropriate good-bye and providing the love to their families they so need.

While living through 2020 has been a challenge, the year also brought about much of our best.

We saw teachers and front-line workers get the respect they deserve. When cities stopped at 7PM each night to cheer for doctors and nurses changing shifts all that is great about America shone through.

Parents became teachers and teachers finally gained the respect they have so long deserved finding ways to educate our young over computer screens instead of in a classroom. I worry about what effects distance learning will have on our youth long-term, but the ingenuity of those who work in education has been nothing short of heroic.

During this year, we have all witnessed the best and worst of our world. While the bad often seems to be what gains attention, I hope we will never forget the good we saw. Neighbors being neighbors, delivering food, checking in on each other and simply showing compassion.

Yes, there is no other way to say it, 2020 was horrible, but the light that makes Americans great did shine through. 2021 will certainly have challenges and who knows what is yet to come, but I remain convinced, that as long as we share our grace, kindness, and love for others, we will persevere.

I pray that 2020 one day will be a distant memory and as we round the corner towards a new year, we will all be blessed with good health, love, friendship, and kindness that can overcome anything thrown our way.

Git outta here 2020 and Welcome 2021, I pray you do us well!

How Divided Are We?

  • I’m not sure how this post is going to go over. But it is a topic I have been thinking about for months. I sincerely believe my viewpoints on this topic are pretty center of the road, but I guess I will find out if I am right or wrong. I don’t discuss politics as it is personal, but I will discuss my belief in our Democracy and the future of our nation, so here goes…..

For many months, we have heard how divided our nation is. How we are entrenched into one side or the other and with an election that just split at almost 50/50 from the outside one would think this is true. But, is it true? Are we as Americans so divided that our commonality is gone?

I contend that “We The People” really aren’t as split as some want to portray us to be. I do however think that we have allowed the fringe of each party to overtake our nation, ensuring that our separations fester.

On one side we have the AOC’s, Bernie Sanders & Nancy Pelosi’s of the world. On the other we have the Mitch McConnell’s, Matt Gaetz’s and Rand Paul’s of the world.

We pit the MSNBC, FOX, AON & CNN viewpoints against each other from the fringe.

But if you think about it, what do these politicians on the fringe and the media all have in common? Money and power.

The media knows these fringe politicians best friend is a TV camera attached to a microphone and can always be counted on for a wacky sound-bite. The media is always willing to give them air-time because it helps further their message, helps hook viewers and makes the media more money.

These politicians know that every time they get in front of a camera it gives them more power, which in turn brings more money into their own coffers.

TV time, fringe politicians, media access and camera time equals money and power. See the problem?

So as I think about some of the issues that supposedly tear us apart, I honestly think that the majority of Americans share much more in common in our beliefs than the media and the fringe politicians want us to believe.

The First Amendment gives us all the right to Free Speech. This Free Speech includes the right to express our opinions through protests; however, does anyone support the rights of people to burn and loot communities or show up at polling locations to intimidate people casting their votes or threatening to kidnap Governors of States that some disagree with? I doubt the majority of Americans agree with any of this, but the fringe from each party digs their heels in, gets in front of sympathetic cameras and makes it seem like we aren’t united in these opinions.

The Second Amendment. Again, I don’t know anyone who wants to take away anyone’s guns. However, if you listen to the political fringes you are going to hear that one side wants to outlaw them and the other side wants us all to have a cache in our homes that can take out a small country. Truth be told, I think most of us believe that we are all entitled to have a gun in our homes, but no one should have the ability to walk into a classroom and shoot up a room full of 2nd graders. Who profits and gains power from this misinformation?

Let’s talk immigration. Every single person reading this is a descendent of immigrants, those immigrants built America. I think we would all agree that the majority of us, are fine with LEGAL immigration. I don’t know anyone who wants to close the borders to everyone, nor do I know anyone who wants to open them up and let anyone and everyone flood into the country, but again, we are separated by the fringe that pits our sensible immigration beliefs from each end of the spectrum.

Have I made my point yet? You see, if We The People were in-power, we would find more commonality than difference. Of course, we would have differences, but I am convinced we would work-out a common ground where we all give a bit and take a bit for solutions that can move us forward.

Where did we lose our power to these fringe extremes, one simple word can sum it up…. apathy. The American people have allowed this division to happen on our watch by not keeping a check on our elected officials and media. I’m old enough to remember when the media and those who represented us in DC could be trusted. Sadly, it seems those days have passed. There’s an old adage, what’s the definition of insanity…. doing the same thing over and over again.

We have allowed insanity to take over our nation in our politics and media. As long as we continue to send the same people back to Washington DC over and over again we will continue to see the same results. And if we continue to support “our” media choice without holding their feet to the fire for truth and not idealology, we are the problem.

America isn’t as divided as some want us to believe. Sure there will always be issues that we will disagree on, but for the most part, we are all on the same side. We want to live in a safe America where every citizen is respected, where we remain a beacon to the world and where the rights of every citizen is honored. We want to be an America that makes life better for the generations to come, where each and every American has the opportunity to surpass the dreams and expectations of those who came before us and where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is available to us all.

I think it’s time that we the people start showing up and letting the fringes know they don’t represent us. We seek common ground with cooperation. It’s time that we the people let the those who want to divide us know that they don’t represent the ideals that built America.

The next time you see, read or hear someone from the fringe, on either side, spewing their hate, think about it. Who gains both financially and in power with those hate filled words? The answer is simple, the ones who benefit are those who gain wealth and power, the media, social media and politicians.

We the people deserve better, but we the people need to take our role back and hold the purveyors of fringe thinking accountable. Vote them out, tune them out and let’s move on as Americans.

It’s Time Americans Became Americans Again

I’m old enough to remember a time when Americans fought for each other. Our common good, far outweighed our differences and the unity of “We The People,” was our guiding light.

Sadly, today, it seems as though we let our differences over-shadow our similarities and common goals. My fear is that we have gone so far past everything that makes us who we claim to be that we will never again be the UNITED States of America.

It’s like we are all so quick to judge each other by our differences that we don’t take time to explore our similarities anymore. I once heard a Pastor say “if we concentrate on the 98% of things we agree on, the other 2% will work itself out.” I believe those words to be true.

Wouldn’t it be great if we found a way to celebrate our similarities over hating our neighbors over our differences?

I think there are many issues that have caused us to slip to a place where we would rather argue than get along. Social media, the news media, leaders who don’t lead (from BOTH parties), but more than anything else I am firmly convinced it is our collective apathy.

For too many years, we have allowed our leaders and media to get away with 1/2 truths, inaction and a desire for power over a desire to find common ground and do what is best for America. We have sat back and done nothing, and now, we find ourselves in a war with each other.

Instead of working together to compromise we are all so entrenched in what we believe to be true that we won’t even allow a conversation if our “opposition” has an infinitesimal disagreement with where we stand.

If we are ever to be that “shining city on a hill” that Ronald Reagan once called us to be, it’s time we got back to being what America is all about.

In a country where both sides now espouse their patriotism and denigrate the other side, maybe each side could learn some lessons from the other.

In a country where some see our past as history that should be celebrated and others see it as hurtful, maybe a mature conversation where both sides of the argument are listened to would be helpful.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time “we the people” started acting like it.

America has gone through difficulties since we were founded, but TOGETHER we have always gotten through them, I hope we are still that America. I pray, that we concentrate on the TOGETHER before it is too late.

It’s time we grow up, start having mature and honest conversations WITH each other instead of AT each other. We will always have differences, but aren’t the 98% of our similarities more important to our combined future than the 2% that is now tearing us apart?

It’s time we started acting like Americans again….. ALL OF US!

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!

Let Spicey Dance.

So, I was reading this morning where people are calling for a boycott of this season’s Dancing with the Stars because former White House Spokesman, Sean Spicer is one of the contestants.  REALLY?  Come on people don’t we have more important things to worry about than this?

I mean the real travesty here is that we have now gone through 28 seasons of a show and they actually call these people stars.  But that’s not the purpose of this post, I digress.

At some point we as Americans have got to stop getting butt-hurt over silliness like this.  The political left preaches inclusiveness, that is until someone who disagrees with them speaks out or gets recognized or God forbid dances on a silly TV show.

It’s all good and nice to tout how inclusive you are, but if you are going to talk the talk, at some point you have to walk the walk and understand not everyone sees things the same way you do….. and either accept it or get over it but stop the cry-baby crap and move on!

If we as Americans are going to really be inclusive, we have got to start accepting differing viewpoints, it doesn’t always have to be our way or no way.  That isn’t what our country was built on, but it certainly is what our country is being torn apart by.

And you folks on the right, don’t get all puffed chest because I called out the left on this one.  You are just as bad, you will boycott a brand, burn an album and turn your back on one of your own so fast it will make one’s head swim.  All it takes is a simple disagreement with what you believe at the moment and BAM, they are dead to you.  (Ironically, sometimes the folks you turn against really are dead.)

Do we not all see the lunacy of this?  We have become a nation of butt-hurt folks walking around just looking to be offended by the next person who speaks out, has a differing opinion or heaven forbid straps on a pair of dancing shoes.

It’s time we started acting like Americans again, not political parties.  Grow up, understand that we are at our best when we work together and LISTEN to each other.

There isn’t anything wrong with having a difference of opinion, what IS wrong is when we won’t even allow the other side to express it.  Who know’s maybe if we listened more and got offended less we might all find solutions to the issues in our world that really matter.

And that my friends is the end of my tantrum…. y’all go back to pouting now!