Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thursday Thirteen: Thirteen Pivotal Moments That Impacted My Life

It's Thursday once again...time for the Thursday Thirteen.  This week, I'm focusing on thirteen moments that were pivotal points in my life.  

1. When I was very small, my family traveled halfway across the country to visit relatives including my Native American great-grandmother.  In a small house surrounded by a sea of tall corn I took my great-aunt Mae's hand and walked into a bedroom to wake Grandmammy so she could enjoy our visit.  As we approached the bed, I stared at the ancient woman, the oldest person I had ever seen at that point, lined and wrinkled but she opened her dark eyes and met mine.  In that moment, we connected on a level beyond the usual.  Her eyes were so vital and alive as they looked into mine.  We bonded in that moment and from that day forward a part of my soul remains tuned to that Cherokee portion of my heritage.

2. On a humid summer day in 1971 at a multi-generational family reunion held in Kansas City's Swope Park, I sat on the grass at the feet of my grandmother's uncle, Paul Lewis.  My mother took me over to meet her great-uncle and he all but commanded her to leave me with him for awhile.  Out of the dozens of children present, I don't know what he saw in me that made me a stand out but he talked to me about our shared family heritage and how they came to Missouri as pioneers.  He sparked a lifelong passion for family history and history in general.

3. On April 24, 1975 my family lost their home in a tornado that wreaked death and destruction along a narrow path through southwestern Missouri.  As I walked back into the rubble of our home, pulling my brother away from live power lines, calling out for my father, I learned at the age of thirteen that the human animal can survive a great deal.  That lesson hit home often in the following days as I picked what odd bits could be salvaged from the scattered pieces of our lives.

4. During my first year of college I lost my virginity, my beloved paternal grandmother, and worked long, hard hours on the Work/Study program.  I racked up almost forty college credit hours because I took twenty six hours the second semester.  I learned that I could endure, that life goes on, and that just as my grandmother taught me if life knocks you flat on your ass, you get up and go on.

5. Although I embraced the academic life, during my senior year of college I wanted nothing more than to graduate and start life.  I felt like I was just marking time by then and was eager to get out into the real world.  Then I graduated with my degrees and ended up working at Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers until the next January.  I learned that having an education isn't always enough to earn a living - but like my great-aunt Mae taught me, education is valuable and it's something that no one can ever take away from you once you have it.

6.  My first "real" job was in broadcast radio.  I started from the bottom and did a little bit of everything at the first station I worked at.  I wrote ad copy in the beginning and by the time I changed jobs, I could do everything.  I had an FCC license, did on air work, news interviews, newscasts, produced commericals,  did the weather, live work and everything else, from on-air to office.  I thought that gave me job security but when I went on my first long vacation after seven years of employment, I came back to learn that my job had been eliminated.  I realized that there is no real job security and other than my own work (writing) I have never poured heart and soul into any job the way that I did that first one.

7.  When my maternal grandmother, who loved me and whom I loved dearly, did not make the trip to watch me graduate from college or be married, I learned that once we grow up, we are no longer the center of our loved one's universe and that's it is more than okay that way.

8. Two days before my wedding, I drove behind my soon to be husband to go dump some junk the previous owners left from our first home and I realized that I would, in one way or another, be following behind him from that moment forward as his wife. That revelation tempered the romantic aspects of marriage with a dose of reality as it sunk in that once married, many of my considerations would have to be "we" and not "me".

9.  When each of my children was born, I looked into those tiny trusting faces and innocent eyes to realize that I would do whatever was necessary to protect them.  That maternal instinct is a fierce one and yet I also learned that no matter how much I love them, they will grow up and go out into the world.  So I have always tried to give them independence without smothering, the gift of being themselves and allowing them to make choices. 

10.  In the last decade as I grow older (it happens to the best of us) I've realized that true bonds and ties forged during childhood remain if they are strong.  I come from a large extended family and those that remain close to me are the ones who always were.

11. Although I've told stories, written them down since I was a child, when I first received a check for something I wrote, I realized that this was not just a hobby or something I liked to do but what I was meant to do in this life.  I made a concious decision to work toward making writing a career and it happened.

12. My Granny taught me well and her life lessons are those that sustain me as well as guide me.  One of things that she taught me is that death is a natural part of the life process.   When she died, I felt like I'd rehearsed for this role and although I was just eighteen, it was me who told the funeral director how her service should be and chose her clothing.  One of the most difficult tasks I ever faced was being the one who cleaned out her bedroom alone.  Family members helped with her entire house but that inner santcum fell to me.   Her lessons served me well when my father died unexpectedly in 2009, a loss that I will never completely heal from.  Within a year or so before his death, we'd talked about the reality that as an older man, he would die and he accepted that as a matter of course.  When I rebeled against the eventuality, he said, "You know that's how it will be - the same woman taught you that taught me."  And she did.

13. The last thing I expected when I returned to my hometown last October to attend my aunt's funeral was to experience a hotel fire.  But on that first night back, the hotel where I happened to be staying with my mother, brother, and daughter caught on fire.  My close cousin and I were standing outside at a very late hour when we saw the smoke pouring out of the laundry room.   We told the desk clerk, also outside because he was playing kissy face with one of the maids who'd driven out, who blew it off until we insisted.  By then flames were leaping from a dryer up the wall.  Bill and I rushed inside to get our family members out but along the way we also managed to evacuate most of the other guests.  We acted in tandem in a crisis situation, did what had to be done, and moved on.   To us, we were just stepping up because someone needed to do it but some called us heroes.  I still shy away from that label but the experience just illustrates you never know what can happen.


  1. Thanks for sharing these moments. They were quite touching.

  2. There is so much here. It's a great TT format.

    I'll never forget the first time I was paid for writing either.

  3. Wow. A lot of stuff in your life! Thanks for sharing. And you probably are a hero.

  4. Amen to your grandmother.

    Have a great Thursday!

  5. A great post, it was a real window into your life. Thanks for taking the time to share.


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