Midnight Chicken

Lee used to bring me chicken at midnight.

When I got up Monday afternoon, Heidi said: Our kids and grand-kids are all OK. The rest of the family is OK and everyone here on the rig is OK but I have some sad news. Lee was killed last week.

I’d been watching for him for several nights. I’d already set aside the peanut brittle I was going to give him.

Lee was a pusher (field supervisor) for a company that we’ve worked with for the past year and a half. I talked to him almost every week, sometimes several times a week. We work with so many nice guys, but he stood out. Lee wasn’t unusually handsome or charismatic. Lee stood out because he was unusually kind.

He was always worried about my torn meniscus.  He’d jump out of his truck to meet me on the RV steps so I wouldn’t have to make the climb. When it rained, he’d race to the door to make sure he was the one who got wet.

Lee would check out our next location before we even knew where we were headed. On his own time, he’d drive the torn up Texas back-roads to find the route that would cause the least amount of rocking and rolling to our RV. The glove compartment is stilled stuffed with his hand drawn maps.

Lee was only 45 years old when another driver crossed the center line and hit him head on. He wasn’t even supposed to be there. Like me, Lee works nights and his shift  was over. Typically, he volunteered to make one last run to save David the long drive out.

David’s face fell when he told Heidi the news.  Everyone is sad. Everyone says the same thing: He was a very good man. Unanimous praise is rare in this industry.

Someone new just came in a few moments ago, with Lee’s plate on his truck. I felt my gut synch-up as I wrote down HN6 and asked him how he was. He said: I’d be better if I didn’t have to be here.

He may be nice enough. I don’t know. I only know he isn’t Lee.  I was thankful to make it through Be safe and have a good night before my throat closed up. Tears were flooding my face as his tail lights faded.

The nights down here are quiet and sometimes lonely and I’ve truly lost a friend. There won’t be any more gifts of chicken at midnight.

But I didn’t sit down to write about me or my grief. I sat down to write about Lee and about how one man’s kindness moved my heart.

Life is short.

Be kind. Be kind all of the time because there may not be another time.

Cords: The Ties That Bind – A Tribute

To say that we aren’t “crafty” would be an understatement of some magnitude. You’ve seen my drawings and my pumpkins so you have some idea. The fact that you haven’t seen any drawings or pumpkin carvings by Heidi should help fill out the picture.

And, of course, you know about my knitting – scarves – just scarves.  Shortly after Hurricane Sandy, Heidi connected with some folks on the East Coast that were in desperate need of scarves and and mittens. I was thrilled to box up garbage bags full of scarves, knowing they were going to add the smallest bit of comfort.

That’s what we want to do when in light of unimaginable sorrow – try to find some tangible way to comfort.

Our TSA boss asked if we would make something out of blue and yellow ribbons for everyone to wear today. Last night we were given spools of blue and yellow cords. I had no idea what to do with cord. I tried braiding bracelets without much success. I finally gave up and fashioned pins that I hoped look a little like children.

We all wore them today – everyone who works here, everyone who came here. All over the nation, people were wearing Sandy Hook’s school colors: green and white or blue and yellow, because we want to do something, anything. We want to help and we can’t. Feeling helpless can lead to hopelessness. It can also lead to indifference.

Mourning is love with no place to go. ~ anon

Today we wore their colors… for at least one more day, we remembered and prayed. Before long, the news coverage will switch to the fiscal cliff or another tragedy and most of our lives will settle into a routine of regular-ness. It has to be that way or we couldn’t survive. We can’t carry the weight of all the grief and sorrows we hear about each day. But today, we cry. Today we pray.

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief… and unspeakable love. ~ Washington Irving

What we can’t afford to do is to become indifferent. We’re bound together by cords. This isn’t a post about guns or mental health. It’s not a platform. It’s personal. It’s a call to care, to pray, to remember. I’m going to leave my little blue and yellow cords on until they come a part just to help me remember a little longer.

Quiet and sincere sympathy is often the most welcome and efficient consolation to the afflicted. Said a wise man to one in deep sorrow, ‘I did not come to comfort you; God only can do that; but I did come to say how deeply and tenderly I feel for you in your affliction. ~ Tyron Edwards

Tonight The Voice opened with a moving tribute – click on the Watch on You Tube link.


What Not to Say When Someone is Grieving

In the world of grief, I’m still an apprentice. I think most people sincerely want to bring comfort to the grieving but just don’t know how. I had a conversation after yesterday’s post with someone who thinks I was being a bit too critical. Their position is that it’s the intent, not the words, that matter.

That’s caused me to  rethink what I write tonight. Instead of being philosophical, I’m just going to list some things that were said to me that, however well intended, hurt more than helped. In italics, I’m including my reactions. I didn’t say any of these things. I didn’t say much at all. I’m not proud of everything I thought, but I wanted to honestly offer a glimpse of the inside of a hurting heart.

When I miscarried near the end of my second trimester:

At least you already have a girl and a boy   I love them more than life. How does that, or gender have anything to do with this baby
This is just God’s way of taking care of His mistake   God is taking care of HIS mistake, I don’t think so
God needed another angel   God doesn’t need anything and He certainly wouldn’t change His mind, halfway through
It wasn’t a real person anyway  Yes he was and I already was in love with him
Remember, God is in control  I never doubt that, although I have no idea what you mean when you say it
You should have taken better care of yourself   I didn’t even take an aspirin or drink a cup of coffee
It’s been a month, you need to get over it   Is there a secret grief time-table
I had a miscarriage 20 years ago and it ruined my life   Well, that was encouraging
It was your fault: you shouldn’t have gone on vacation, played tennis etc…  Believe me, I wonder every moment if I did something to cause this or could have done something to prevent it
I was 28, heart-broken and already an expert in guilt. I never brought the topic up, but I got to the point of cringing when someone new would approached me. Most people were very kind. There were many wonderful people who hugged me, or said how sorry they were or who reassured me of their love and prayers. But I’m highlighting these comments to try to illustrate that, yes, the words do matter.

Twenty years later, when my parents died 11 months a part, I was less vulnerable to the effects of other people’s opinions and remarks, but I was rather stunned by these comments; most said in the visitation line at the funeral home:

I’ve never watched anyone die. What was it like?  Are you really asking me to describe the 18 hr death rattle, or how it felt to watch them tie my father’s jaw shut? Or are you asking what it was like let go of my mother’s hand for the last time
You had her for 50 years. You shouldn’t be sad. My Mom died when I was 23   Imagine how huge a hole 50 years leaves
She’s an angel now   Actually, angels and humans are different creations, you don’t die and turn into an angel
Think of the example you’re setting for your children when you cry  My ‘children’ are in their 20’s, they’re all grown up,and I promise, they’ve seen me cry before
At least you won’t have to take care of them anymore  Taking care of them was an honor, not a burden
They’re looking down on you, watching everything you do  OK, that is just creepy
You need to… I quit listening as soon as you started giving me advice
• When my dog died, I didn’t think I would ever recover  I quit listening as soon as you said dog
I know just how you feel  You have no idea how I feel
Time is the great healer  Time isn’t some mystical, magical thing  Time alters grief, it doesn’t heal it
You’re Mom and Dad wouldn’t want you to be sad   My Mom and Dad would find my sorrow honoring, not embarrassing
Every cloud has a silver lining  In addition to being trite, I have no idea what that has to do with this moment
I know what you’re going through, I…  I quit listening when you started telling your story
Your Mom wouldn’t want you to cry  If you really believe that, you don’t know the first thing about my Mom
This isn’t about you, it’s about them You couldn’t be more wrong. They’re gone, I’m here. This is absolutely about me
They’re in a better place  Of course they are. I’m not grieving for them, I’m grieving for me, here, without them

I believe it does matter what you say if you don’t want to hurt the hurting.

Don’t say: I know how you feel; Don’t use clichés and platitudes; Don’t try to help the grieving person gain perspective; Don’t minimize the pain; Don’t speak for God (He can speak for Himself); Don’t speak for dead people; Don’t blame the grieving person; Don’t decide how long or in what fashion they can grieve; Don’t use this as a teaching/preaching moment; Don’t try to fix it

Do say: I’m so sorry; I love you; I miss them, too; I have such special memories of when we… Give a hug; Send a card that just says ‘I’m grieving with you’; Send a gift certificate for pizza or carry out; Say a prayer

Today would have been my Mom and Dad’s 67th anniversary. I’d like to leave this topic with a song by Andrew Peterson. It’s only 3 minutes long. There is More.

What Do You Say to a Heart That’s Breaking?

What do you say to a heart that’s breaking? Not a whole lot.

Yesterday I mentioned my qualms about saying: I’m sorry for your loss.  This reminds me of the e cards where they ask: Don’t know what to say? Pick one of our suggested messages. But the truth is, we often don’t know what to say when someone is grieving.

I think the first thing to let go of is the need to make things better.

1.There is nothing I can say that will change the circumstances of another’s suffering.

2.There is nothing I should say to try to change the perspective of the person in pain.

How often have people tried to help you by trying to talk you out of your pain? As I talk about grief, it’s without qualifying it or ranking it on my arbitrary scale. Grief is grief. It’s terribly unfair to say one person’s is worse than another’s. If someone is grieving, their pain is large. If you feel they brought in on themselves or that they’re over reacting, walk away. This is not a teaching moment.

I believe what helps a heart that’s breaking is patient, gentle, loving support, offered in the way the hurting person prefers to receive it, not necessarily in the way I prefer to give it. So I have to begin by asking myself, am I invited? Are we close enough that I’m a safe sanctuary for your broken heart, or do I just want you to know that I care?

If we’re not close, I’m not likely to be the person that can offer true comfort. I can bring a meal, wash the dishes, tell you how terribly sorry I am. I can pray and I can remain available. I may even be able to take your hand for a few moments or sit quietly in the same room. But sharing in the sorrow and anger and fear of your grief is something I earn through relationship, not something that I can force in the midst of crisis.

If we are close, and your heart is grieving, it’s my job to let you chose when and if you want to talk. Sometimes, you may say let’s talk about the weather or let’s just take a walk or you may want to hear some trivial tale, a temporary diversion, unrelated to your struggle. It’s a time to restrain the instinct to prod and probe. It’s your story so it’s up to you to decide how much, how often and how deeply to share it.

There have been times when my heart was breaking and I’ve said, I don’t want to talk about this anymore, it hurts too much. The topic is changed but my heart is so consumed that in a few moments, I’m the one, once again, bringing up bits and pieces of the pain. Sometimes I’ve wanted solitude. Solitude has been five minutes of wailing in the bathroom with the fan on and the water running. And solitude has been hours of staring off into a world of memories.

Which leads to the next suggestion: Don’t expect the hurting heart to know what it wants. Be steadfast, patient and freely extend grace. That may sound easy, but riding in the emotional surf of grief with someone can be bewildering. One moment you may be pulled in close and the next, pushed away. It feels personal. If you’re unacquainted with grief yourself, staying gentle and steady will be even more of a struggle.

Possibly the greatest mistake I can make is thinking that I know what you need by putting myself in your place. That would be figuring out what I imagine I would need. It wouldn’t be listening to your hurting heart and answering in the ways that are the most comforting for you. It isn’t something that has to be, or even can done perfectly. But I don’t believe that sincerity alone is enough.

So much damage is done when we grieve the grieving. If we’re invited into someone’s heart at such a fragile time, then I think we’re responsible to enter thoughtfully and with a willingness to step outside of our own experience. It’s a time for grace.

Tomorrow I’d like to look at what not to say to the heart that’s breaking. Once again, I value your perspective.

She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts.  ~George Eliot

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word by Elton John was huge a hit  in 1976. I’m wondering if the word sorry is still a hard word to say today? It can be a balm, or a bane.

Growing up, saying I’m sorry was serious business in my family. I don’t remember needing to be prompted. I’m more of the over-apologizing type. Occasionally, I was mostly sorry because of the consequences. Usually, I was truly sorry when my behavior had an adverse affect on someone else. Sometimes both came into play, like the one-and-only time I ever stuck my tongue out at my Mom. It had an adverse affect on her heart and on my bottom.

Like Love and Hate, Sorry used to be a strong word. It was difficult to say because it meant something. Sorry from a sincere heart or choked out through tears is a balm. Sorry said with a raised eyebrow, or a hint of a smile is a bane.

Bane first: Oh, I took your parking spot. Sorry. I spilled my latte on your jacket. Sorry. I dinged your car door. Sorry about that. You lost your job. Sorry to hear it. I hurt you. I’m sorry you feel that way. (implied: you’re so thin-skinned)

Often, somewhere hidden in I’m sorry is a lack of compassion tainted with the innuendo of guilt. You brought it on yourself; other people have it so much worse; get a life; get over yourself; or any of many other less than genuine expressions of care and concern. When used that way, sorry is the social band-aid that doesn’t heal what ails us.

The real sorry:


–adjective, -ri·er, -ri·est.

1. feeling regret, compunction, sympathy, pity, etc.: to be sorry for a remark; to be sorry for someone in trouble.
2. regrettable or deplorable; unfortunate; tragic: a sorry situation; to come to a sorry end.
3. sorrowful, grieved, or sad
When we’re truly sorry, in any of the ways described above, sorry is a kind and tender word.
Over the course of the next few nights, I’d like to begin a dialogue with you. To start with, I keep hearing a phrase over and over that really bothers me. I’m not questioning the intent, only the value:
I’m sorry for your loss.

What does that mean? I hear it in conversations and on TV in everything from Criminal Minds to Reality TV to commercials. This week I’ve heard it applied to: the death of a loved one; lost car keys; the end of a relationship; the death of a pet; a disappointing outcome; a poker game; the stock market and a car repo.
It’s become the thing to say when we don’t know what to say, or in some cases, just don’t want to bother.
It feels insipid and trite to me. Wouldn’t it be better to stop with a simple I’m so sorry or to add something substantial when there’s more to say? How do you shrink the death of a spouse or a parent or a child into something as small as a loss?
For the next few nights, I’d like to look at the things we say when someone is hurting: not as an academic discussion but because right now, so many people I love are in a world of hurt. If you’re not comfortable with that, this would be a good week to read something else.
If you’re willing to share your thoughts and feelings, I’d be honored.
Tomorrow’s topic: What do you say to a heart that’s breaking? I’d love your input.


racquetball Pictures, Images and Photos

Reading this blog  must be akin to being a spectator, standing in the middle of a racquetball court. You never know which wall the ball is going to come flying off of! I get it. I’ve got the racquet and I can’t see it coming either!

I was hoping that I’d find my voice, develop a steady style and land in some niche somewhere. I don’t see that happening.

I’m resigned to the fact that I have eclectic interests. In this past week, I’ve written about: Mighty Mouse, the Moon, Shaving in the Shower, Tarantulas, Blogging and Drilling a Well. It’s no wonder someone typed never turn fool at the fork in the road yesterday in their search engine and landed in an oil well in Texas! I added a new category tonight: You Betcha! for posts like this one that even I can’t tag.

I hadn’t planned on writing tonight. That all changed over a jar of Creamy Jiffy Peanut Butter. Heidi bought creamy by mistake.

Ron is one of our drillers.

Not only did he share his crock pot tarantulas, he also gave us a sack of squash that he brought back from his garden at home in Louisiana.

I stopped him on his way back in from town to see if he wanted the PB. He took it, drove a few yards and then backed right back up.

Look what’s in the road, he says. Maybe he’s a tarantula magnet? Of course, it could be me. There was that incident with the tiger shark in Oregon.

I came inside, grabbed my camera and started taking pictures, which is semi-remarkable since I’m rather terrified of spiders in general, even real little ones.

This particular tarantula was not only photogenic but seemed to be interested in establishing a relationship. I walked toward him and he rushed happily up to greet me. I thought they were suppose to be shy?

Photo op complete, it became apparent he had designs on the RV. Heidi strongly objected.

Ron, knowing that arachnophobs like me, don’t bond well with arachnids, jumped out of his truck, got a can and scoped him up.Sorry for the poor photography. It wasn’t my finest moment.

About an hour later, Ron made another trip to town. When he came backed, he pulled up and shut his engine off. If you’ve been following Fork, you know what that means. I’ve learned to just come back inside and get my camera before I even ask.

I knew you’d want to see this, he says.

As we were examining the snake, 2 scorpions scurried around his feet. One crawled into his slipper which he promptly kicked off his foot, straight at me (he apologized later).

We move to a new site tomorrow. It’s only 4 miles away. However, it’s not in a wheat field. I’m hoping our menagerie here is partial to wheat. I’m writing this at 10:30 pm. That means I have 8 more hours of darkness ahead and many trips to make out to the road.

All this time I thought the rustling I heard was the wheat blowing in the wind, even on the nights there wasn’t any wind. Now I know better.

I promise this is the last post with spider pictures unless I see one as big as a dinner plate (like my Sis did in her driveway in Tuscon). For a change of pace, I plan on writing on grief tomorrow night, of course, that could change.

Be prepared to duck!