Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Patriotic Pride

In about an hour I will leave here to go vote in my fourth Presidential election.  It seems to small when I try to put it into words, but it's not.  It's huge.  It's huge for any American who chooses to partake of their right to vote for their government, but for me, right now, it's even bigger.

Twelve years ago(ish), I voted in my first Presidential election.  I was a senior at Eastern Illinois University and recently started dating the man that would become my husband.  I voted on campus, and then promptly drove back to my battalion commander's home in order to assist in some planning for our Army ROTC pancake breakfast that was coming up.  That was Bush vs. Gore.  And as I recall, we really didn't know for quite a while who was really going to be the winner (thank you Florida).  {{why do I get the sneaking suspicion that this election may prove to be the same?}}  It felt neat to vote for something so big for the first time.  I think I thought I was a big shot.  My how our perspectives change...

Eight years ago, I sat at our dining room table in our home in Ft. Richardson, Alaska, going over our absentee ballots from our home of registry--Illinois--with my husband.  "Who is this Barack Obama running for Senate?" my husband asked.  I replied with what little I knew about the Senate race in Illinois that year: that the Republican nominee for the seat had dropped out of the race on account of a recently publicized sex-scandal and that they had brought in some guy from Maryland (who somehow owned land in IL which thus made him eligible to run for Senate from my state) by the name of Alan Keyes (at least that was what I could come away with...Keyes story was hard to follow for me).  We both agreed that voting for someone to represent our state who was NOT FROM our state seemed hypocritical, so we voted for Obama.  The Presidential part of the election mattered that year to me, as it should have, but my choice was more clear cut.  I will say this, by this point we were parents to our oldest son.  We had seen friends sent off to both Afghanistan and Iraq and knew that inevitably, Steve would be too.  If those two things don't open your perspective on who or what to vote for, if not clarify it, then something is wrong with you.  My "first time" voting for President made me feel cool because I was 21 and a "with-it" college student."  This second time, who I was had changed thus who I considered voting for changed too.

Four years ago, we sat at that same table--this time located in a stairwell apartment in Bamberg, Germany--and again filled out our absentee ballots.  My husband had just returned from his first deployment to Afghanistan, and we were now the parents of two energetic and bright boys.  Again, our perspectives had changed.  After you've said goodbye to your soul mate for 15 months, full well knowing he's going somewhere dangerous to not only ensure that our country can keep it's liberties, but to assist in bringing those same liberties to those suffering under tyrannical rule, well...it's real.  It's beyond just saying thanks to those who have guaranteed our freedoms, but living that thanks daily.  And all those "red messages" I had received during that deployment--emails informing you of casualities within the unit--made it so much more real that by not voting, by not educating yourself about who and what you are voting for was a spit in the face to those who died and to those to whom those "red messages" were delivered in person, with a folded American flag.

So now I sit here about to vote for President for the 4th time.  We are parents to 3 boys and daughter somewhere in India whom we have yet to meet.  We've endured 2 deployments and are in the throws of a 3rd.  My husband had been in literal near-death experiences.  We've been to memorial services for fellow servicemembers who paid the ultimate sacrifice.  We've seen the less publicized sides to all this as well: high divorce rates, families torn apart, suicides.  But we are constantly reminded of blessings too.  It's a bittersweet but awesome experience, this life we are blessed with.  Not only do our perspectives change but if we are lucky enough, we have friends along the way who warmly challenge us to understand why we take the certain stands we take.  After all, if you say you believe strongly in something, know WHY you think that, don't be ashamed, and be able to kindly dialogue with others--even those who disagree with you--why you believe what you believe.  That is the beauty of our nation; to be able to say, "I can see that you are passionate about your beliefs and I can understand WHY you believe that way, but I do not, yet I chose to treat you with love and respect and humbly ask that you do the same."

I cast my vote in person this year.  Thank God we have the ability to do absentee ballots, but there is something inherently beautiful and American about being able to walk into a polling place proudly and cast your vote.  When I have been forced to vote absentee in the past, while I am grateful, I am always saddened a bit.  Dropping your ballot in the mail somehow lacks the thrill of patriotism that stepping behind the curtain holds.  In my little home town, election days is usually chilly.  The same ladies are there year after year as judges: the Wagner sisters and Ochs' sisters-in-law.  I enjoy seeing them and the handful of other neighbors who are voting at the same time as me.  It draws me back to tradition, to history, and into something much deeper than my own right to vote.

I have had the blessing to live in different states and in a different country.  My husband has lived in 2 other countries as well.  Germany was beautiful, it was serene,  but it was not home and I was constantly reminded in many small ways that although I love to travel, America is my home and America is where I will return.  It also reminded me to look beyond the frontal images of who is running for office as their motives can sometimes be well-hidden but sinister.  See the remains of WWII on Germany's landscape, and that thought is not far off.  Korea reminded my dad--who fought there--and my husband who served near the DMZ for a year that if we cannot see past our differences, it can literally tear us in two.  And Afghanistan...he has constantly said that if a tour there doesn't brand the importance of your freedoms and rights into your psyche, nothing can or will. 

So today, as I go into vote in little ole' Ste. Marie, I refuse to see potential democrats or republicans, Obama or Romney supporters.  I chose to see Americans and only Americans.  And whatever, tomorrow brings, America we will still be.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Call to India

I am sitting here at a complete loss for how to begin this story.  After moving my gaze between computer monitor and messy desk over and over again in a 5 minute period, I decided the best thing to do was to simply start typing.  Just let the words flow as the experts say.  And of course they'd say that...words flow forth from them like water over the falls at Niagra.  Time will only tell if mine flow as brilliantly.

Just yesterday we went "public" with our adoption.  AKA we announced it in a status update on FB.  I promised within that brief and joyous announcement that a blog post would follow soon giving the back-story.  Do we need one?  No not really.  If we want to adopt, it's our choice and our's alone.  But I guess the reasons why I wanted to tell our tale were three-fold.  First, we knew that in a perfect world, where we would have been able to have told everyone face-to-face, we would have been asked questions--some perfectly normal and well-founded and expected and some, off-the-wall and bizarre and abrasive.  So we wanted to answer some of them in a one-stop-shop sort of way.  Second, we simply wanted to share with the world our journey to the call of adoption.  Our third and final reason to share is the most important: to put our story out there so that maybe, JUST maybe, someone else will be led to explore the wonders of adoption.  Because, you see, it was in a similar medium that we read our friends' journey to adoption and that was truly the spark that started our burning desire to answer this call.

Almost from the very beginning of our marriage, my husband has felt the call to adopt.  Not just a "hey, I think that adoption is a really good thing and I might look into it" sort of way, but in a true Divinely called sense.  But this marriage is a partnership and I as the other partner was not hearing that same Divine phone line ringing.  I LOVED the idea of adoption.  I would raise my hands in excitement for families who were growing through it!   I would dance the dance with them, praying for patience during the waiting times, calmness through the frustrating paperwork times, and understanding during the adjustment times.  I had a niece and nephew both adopted from Guatemala and can't imagine life without them just as I can't with any of my biological ones.  I loved adoption.  But loving it and feeling called to are two totally different and separate things.  Through our 10+ years of marriage, my husband would bring up the subject, and I'd politely (ok, sometimes not so politely) shoot it down--it wasn't the right time, it cost too much, he was deploying again, I can't handle the kids I already have!  But I always knew he still felt called.  I eventually just sort of grew to ignore that part of him as selfish as that may sound.

Let me break in here with this little nugget of honesty: in the RARE moments I did feel slightly more inclined towards the idea of adoption, I would end up reeling back from it for gender reasons.  I don't know specifically where I read (or possibly watched on some news program) it, but quite sometime ago, I remember hearing about some psychological research that had been done.  It basically said that when a family has children biologically before deciding to adopt, they might want to consider gender in the sense that if all of their children are of one gender (I have all boys), it is often easier for the existing siblings to grow used to, attached to, and bond with their new adopted sibling if he/she is of the opposite gender (for us that would mean adopting a girl.)  

Before you go "hmmf," and blow this research off as nonsense, consider a 4 year old boy (or a girl, but I have a 4 year old boy so that is who I am going with ).  You have one older brother and one younger brother.  You are  beginning to work your way into understanding the world more and more, but you are still a little kid, innocent in mind and spirit.  To you, siblings start out as babies, and before that they grow for a LONG time in mommy's tummy.  When they finally come out  and come to live with you they are this tiny squirmy ball of cuteness and fuss who can't be played with just yet (which is a bummer) but also can't get into your stuff yet (which is a great thing).  So one day mommy and daddy sit you down and tell you that they are going to adopt a sibling.  Cool.  Adopt.  You have a few questions but you really still have very little idea, if any, what adoption is.  And then the sibling comes home.  Now, if the sibling is a boy just like you and your brothers there is a good chance that you will be really, in all honesty completely confused, even if you are excited.  Because, wait a minute, this isn't a newborn--he's 2.  And wait, he looks a little different then us.  Oh...and why, or when (and if so, how did I miss it) was he in your tummy.  And above all...he's my brother?  Now, if the sibling being adopted were a girl, ALL those same confusions and question will still be there, but wait...she's my sister!  I don't have a sister to compare her too--she's my ONLY sister.  In fact, other than mommy (whose not a kid so it's not the same), she's the only girl in the house!  In essence, the fact that she is a girl and is the only sister they've got really diminishes all those other questions that to a 4 year old can really feel like a big deal and prove to be rather big obstacles to forming a bond.  Some may disagree, that fine.  And this certainly does not mean that a family canNOT adopt a child of the same gender of their existing kids.  But for me, it made sense--even for a parent.  And yet, everytime I would think "okay so if we DO adopt, we should focus on gaining a daughter," I was simultaneously hit with a tremendous amount of guilt.  For, by saying, yes to a girl, I was say no to all these perfectly wonderful boys!  UGH.  

It really got to me.  I LOVED being a mom of only boys.  I mean this quite seriously and in all honesty.  I relished the fact that I had 3 boys who loved their mama.  I felt a real comfort in the fact that in having only boys, I didn't have to worry about frilly dresses, tu-tus or tiaras.  I was the only one whose hair really needed in the mornings--and that, thank you, was taking too much time anyway.  But mostly, I felt as if God were entrusting these boys with me to raise up to be fine, caring, compassionate gentlemen--an increasingly rare find these days.  I was ever comfortable and content with this.  I was meant to have boys.  So...adoption was off the table again.

All that changed in February.  Some friends of ours had put on FB that if we wanted to receive some exciting news from them, we needed to private message them our email address.  So...I did.  And--again, this is a tough admission on my part--it was purely out of nosiness.  That evening I received an email from them that would end up changing our lives forever.  In it, they announced they'd decided to adopt from India, and MUCH to their surprise they were given a referral extremely quickly for two biological sisters there!  What wonderful news!  But if she had just simply ended her email there and not included a brief sentence as to why, that email would have not had much impact at all.  I am paraphrasing here, but what she typed was something like, "...we felt so called to help the plight of girls in India..." and included a link to a news article they'd seen.  I clicked on it, watched it, and nothing has been the same since.

The plight of girls in India?  What?  Huh?!  Here, watch this: 
...but wait until you've finished reading my blog post first, if you don't mind.

Suffice to say, that after seeing that, the whole guilt over specifying that we'd like a girl if we were to adopt thing, went out the window.  For no fault of their own, and simply because they are female, they are not wanted.  Orphanages full of nothing but girls and villages full of nothing but young men who worry they will have no one to marry.  Yes.  It really is that staggering.

My spark had been lit and began to look into adoption--my husband was gone that week for work and perhaps it was a God-send because it allowed me to discern this calling on my own, with no pressure from anyone else.  When he got home, I immediately spoke to him about it and of course, he felt like his years of prayer that my heart be moved to adopt were finally being answered.

I won't lie though the next couple of weeks were tough on me.  It was almost as if the devil knew God had written this wonderful thing on my heart and he--the devil--was going to do everything in his power to stop it from going any further.  Most of it revolved around my ability to parent.  I had some ROUGH days during which I would think as I looked in teh mirror, "seriously, YOU want to adopt!!!??  What kind of crazy joke is that--you can't handle the ones you've got!  You snap at them and loose your cool way to often!  How can you be a loving mother to an orphaned little girl when you can't even be that to your sons?!?!"  But always, through my tears, God would have some tiny little sign--unmistakable and unmissable--to remind to put the devil behind me and focus on Him.  

One morning, as I drove home from gym, feeling fat and unfit as a person, and even worse as a mother listening to Josh cry in the back seat (he was dreadfully unhappy because I had dared to subject him to yet another half-hour in the gym's daycare), I pulled up to a red light and noticed the mini-van in front of me had a little round magnet in bold beautiful colors that said simply, "Adoption--a gift of a lifetime."  I stared at it for as long as I could and marveled at how magnificently God works.  When He truly has a path for us laid out, he makes it crystal clear, even if we have to see it blurred a bit through our tears of self-pity.

This journey to adoption--which turns into the journey OF adoption--has changed my life on so many levels.  I have learned to let go and let God have control of my family and much to my amazement, thinks work much smoother.  I learned to focus on our family as an entity rather than 5--soon to be 6 (soon being a figurative word as the adoption process takes a while)--independent humans who through their neediness wear me down.  It sounds ugly, but that is how I went through most every day prior to this.  My husband needed affection, a clean home, clothes, and dishes, and the bills paid on time.  My eldest needed constant reminding of not only how and where to put his stuff but that he was loved and worth the world.  My middle son was bull-headed, stubborn, and needed a firm handling or the whole world would go to pot that day.  My youngest, he just needed a regular schedule to sleep properly and not be so fussy that I wanted to pull my hair out.  And me...well, I just wanted some sleep and for people to freakin' leave me alone!  Yeah I know, it sounds dreamy (hint the sarcasm) but that is exactly how every day seemed to feel for me.  But after God hit us upside the heart with this call, He also just sort of gently took me to a calmer place where I was reassured that I could do this.  I began to see my husband and my kids in a brighter light.  I realized I had to stop focusing on what each of them was taking from me (which left me feeling empty) and start focusing on what each one gave TO me that I needed to feel happier, fuller, complete.

I'm still real.  Today in fact, kinda sucked.  It rained and I just felt blah all day, but that happens to all of us sometime.  I don't let it get to me.  I don't take one dreary day and let it tell me I suck at life, at parenting, at loving.  Because I don't.  And even on those down days, I'll still be giving our daughter--the one I haven't met yet--a mother, a family, a forever home, thing she has none of now.  A mother who is there to pick you up when you fall and reassure you that you will heal, you will get back up and carry on--even if that mother is melancholy that day--is far better than having no mother at all.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Who You Is

She wasn't exactly sure how old she was, having been born a slave to a master who kept records of his horses more accurately than he did his human property.  But age was of little importance when the life you'd led had been full of enough tragedies to kill you but just enough joys to sustain your hope for better things to come.  She took one last look around the tiny cabin that had been her home all her life.  Its walls slowly caving in, its floor dirt, it was filthy no matter how hard it was scrubbed.  It was the only home she had ever known.  She squeezed the frail hand that held hers and looked at the body it belonged to.  Small, growing ever weaker, her grandmama's spirit was still as strong as ever.  "You sure you ain't comin'?" she asked the old woman. 

"Nope.  Too old. I's born here. I's gonna die here." replied the grandmama.  "I's born here a slave, but I gonna die here free."  She said that last word with such relaxed certainly that she couldn't hide the smile of satisfaction that crept onto her wrinkled old face.

"I hate leavin' ya here like this, all by your lonesome."

"I ain't alone.  I got my memories of the past, and hope for the future.  Dat is all I need."  Grandmama pulled the threadbare quilt tighter around her small frame and patted the girl's hand, "You's scared, ain't ya'?"

"Yes'm." Silence as think as mud filled the cabin around them as the girl searched for words. "I ain't never been anything but a slave and now...now...I'm free.  But the only person I got left in the world is you.  And you ain't leavin' and I got to.  What am I suppossed to do?"

The old woman took a deep breath, gripped her granddaughter's face gently in her hands, and lifted it up to her's, "You was born a slave and ya got so used to it, ya thought you'd die a slave too.  But you is FREE.  Just cause the only thing you ever known is being a slave don't mean that is all you ever gonna be. You is scared because you ain't ever been free before.  And you don't know exactly what that means.  It means YOU bein' You."  She smiled a half-toothless smile at her grandaughter, kissed her on the cheek, took a deep breath, and said,

"Who you WAS ain't gotta be who you IS or who you GONNA BE."


I thought of that scene and the dialogue one evening while driving home from a quick trip into town while home visiting.  I had seen a handful of people I'd known almost my entire life within the course of 5 minutes and for some unknown reason, I couldn't help but wonder how many of us go through our lives defining ourselves, at least in part, by who we were in the past.  Because, you see, one of the curses of living in/growing up in a small town is that people know each other a little too well sometimes and although "they" may never intend to, they seem to develop their own definition of you.  Don't get me wrong: I LOVE small towns!  We plan on retiring back there after our Army years are over.  All places, big or small, crowded or not, have their pros and cons.  BUT...if you ever want to buck the system and redefine yourself, the smaller the town, the bigger the challenge may become.  Not so much because "they" won't allow it (although that still does happen from time to time), but because you've gotten yourself so used to it, that you have a hard time deciding where your definition ends, and theirs begins.  

I'll spare you some years, some trials, some tears, and some drama, and just sum it up the best I can by telling you that by the time I graduated high school I knew my strengths and my weaknesses.  I excelled at school--I loved learning and took to it easily.  My best areas were and still are history, composition, and literature.  My worst was math, but advanced math.  I got all A's in math until senior year when Trig started to kill my all A average and simply said, "To hell with it" and dropped it.  I knew the areas in which I would go onto study would not require even close to that level of math and I felt no remorse in dropping it.  (I never have encountered an area that has made me say, "I wish I'd have stayed in Trig and I might have known this.")  I could sing well and was active in the chorus.  I could act.  I could make people laugh--on stage and in the hallway.  I could give speeches without notes that got my point across well and touched a few people and made them think about things that they otherwise might never have given a second thought to.  I was kind and had a gift of being able to help those close to me through tough times by putting things into perspective using kind words and everyday analogies...oh...and did I mention...making them laugh.  I was NOT however good at holding my head high and shrugging off harsh comments, criticisms.  I was not attractive with my unibrown and boyish haircut and frame (good grief, why didn't anyone kindly tell me to grow my hair out even just a bit!?!?!) and knew that try what may I would never be a pretty and/or popular girl.  But perhaps more evident to me than anything else, I knew I was not athletic in the least.  Not only did I stink at all sports, but I was dreadfully out of shape as was evident by the inability to complete one lap around the outdoor track without dying.  I attempted to play tennis my sophomore year, because I so erroneously thought it was an easy and "lady-like" sport.  I dropped out a few weeks later because the coach actually had the audacity to make us run the equivalant of a quarter mile before each practice and I couldn't do it.

Fast forward a few years...

I joined WeightWatchers in 2004 because I have a family history (on one side) of obesity and saw myself slowly creeping in that direction.  35lbs lighter, I became a Lifetime member of WW in mid-2006 and with the exception of pregnancies, have kept that status: 90% by eating better, 10% by walking more. Sure there are moments (some weeks, some months) when I was a few pounds over, but I always caught myself and got myself back on track.  

One of those moments was about 3 months ago.  I put back on a few extra pounds that I wanted gone.  But that wasn't all.  I finally realized that I had this new and DEEPLY seeded desire to shed this "passive mommy" persona I had going on. You see, other than a leisurely but brisk walk, I'd NEVER in my post-pubescent years been active.  I'm not a big fan of sports--watching or playing--perhaps due in part to my lack of coordination and partly because my husband is not a sports fan either.  But he is VERY active.  He enjoys running, having completed 2 full marathons and countless other "runs for fun," and has always been into weight training as well.  So...I guess up till now I'd just sat back and let him be the "active" parent.  The one to take the boys on a jog, jump on the trampoline with them. Go hiking.  Consider kayaking as a family.  And the entire time, I'd just sit back and watch and smile.  Like I said earlier...I'd always just tended to know what it was I was good at and stuck to those few things.  And since I couldn't run a quarter of a mile without stopping, I automatically defined myself as a "passive mommy."  I would be the one to read to/with them, do crafts, cook, push them on the swing if I had to.  Watch from the side.  But somewhere, somehow, something sparked this desire in me to change that.  I no longer wanted a seat on the sideline.  I wanted in on the active fun!  Even if some of the activities my husband proposed still scared me (kayaking as a family for one), I wanted to overcome that fear and jump up and join in!  Not only did I want my kids to NOT remember me as never wanting to rough-house and get physically active, I didn't want to remember myself that way either!  But where to start?  The desire to redefine yourself can be easily found, but knowing where and how to do so is the hard part.

And then I remember something: at one point in ROTC years ago, the lieutenant colonel in charge looked me straight in the eye and said, "you know what the saddest thing about you is?  You are scared to push yourself beyond what you don't already know you're good at."  At that time, I knew he was right but I brushed it off and "b.s.-ed" my way out of the conversation (b.s.-ing being something I knew I was good at.)  But his words stuck with me.  He was right.  I knew what talents God had blessed me with and therefore just assumed that anything else was just automatically either not meant for me.  I would either never like it and/or always suck at it no matter what.  

The first step was admitting that I was holding MYSELF slave to what I thought I would always be.  Nobody else was doing it to me.  It was me.  The world was free!  The handful of people I ran into in the store while home didn't and wouldn't care if kept on being the "old" me (who I was), or if I completely changed my outlook and redefined myself as active person, heck, even an athlete (who I is!)  It was me who cared.  Me who was afraid to take any step outside my comfort zone.

After that, the next step was easy.  For me, it was starting Couch to 5K and getting myself to the point where I could run an entire 5k race.  And I'm almost there.  And I've found I love running!  I may not run long distances.  I may find other active fitness options I like better, but I know I am the only thing standing between me and the finish line.

Some one out there may be the total opposite of me: athletic all their life and wanting to go back to school, or paint a picture, or write a novel, or just step it down a notch.  The freedom to change has always been there.   The key to our futures lies in our pockets the entire time; we must merely have the courage to reach and take a hold of it.

Who you was ain't gotta be who you is or who you gonna be!

Excuses, Excuses...

"If I had a penny for every time I..."  yeah.  Heard that before.  Well, just sit down and hear it again because I'm here to tell you that if I had a penny for every time I wanted to, considered, needed to, or was asked about writing in my blog (and of course, for various reasons, did not) I would have a whoppin' $4!!  Not surprisingly, it is the profound amount of fictional money I missed out on that makes me sad that I didn't blog; it's the sheer feeling of emptiness and failure to self that get to me.

The thing is, life happens.  Really it does!  And do NOT pretend for a second that your life is all picture perfect, smelling of roses, with everything going just as you'd planned on a daily basis.  Yours is just as messed up as mine, and on certain days maybe even more messed up.  In the words of friend of mine on her video blog, my issues are very much "a middle class problem."  Or as another friend phrased it, our problems are very "first world."  BELIEVE ME...I know and I am grateful (as bizarre as that sounds) that God's grace has landed me in a life that provides me with food, water, shelter, and love of other humans on a daily basis...things could and truly are much worse for way too many people around the world.  But I am who I am, and the life I have is the only one I know, so I can't sit around and beat myself up constantly for the issues that creep up and make me sad, tick me off, irritate me, etc.  Hence, let me get back to my rant...

My life?  Most days, even on the best of them, smells of dirty diapers, butt paste, and sweaty little boys.  My house is clean...enough.  Sure, I'd like everything to be in it's place at all times and for each family member to chip in and do their equal share without my asking (oh who am I kidding--without my begging or screaming at them).  There is ALWAYS laundry and dishes to be done and crumby floor sto be swept, and as of my writing of this my baby has yet to grasp the concept of keeping his food either on his plate or in him mouth, my preschooler had yet to lovingly and oh-so-helpfully put away his current toys before moving on to others as he does for his teacher at school, my third-grader can't expend the extra energy to move his shoes one foot up into their aloted space in the shoe cabinet thus leaving them on the floor in FRONT of the cabinet, and my husband...God love him he does his best and helps a lot, but I'm a woman, he's a man and we come from completely different housework planets.  AND, AND....don't even get me started on time management and daily planning!  WHAT A JOKE!!!  Between snow days, illnesses, changes in what is demanded at work, temparment of any given child (or their mother), amount of sleep received or lacking, I can plan a day out even with flexibility and BOOM!--it's gone.  Decimated.  ...oh and guess who gets to clean up the mess?  ha!

Now, with all that said, let me know add this concept to the mixture: exercise.  Hmmm...where to put it?  I learned a long time ago in a Weight Watchers meeting that if you want to improve your health by exercising, the first step is to schedule time for it.  Insist that it be just as important on your schedule as a doctor's appointment, that trip to the post office, grocery store, bank, etc.  Because if you go through life just assuming you'll squeeze a walk in at the end of the day...well...you won't walk much.  How true that advice was and remains.

...I am going to finish this little story in my next posting..."Who You Is"  ...I needed to break it into two more easily readable posts and found this the best breaking point...sorry for the strange disruption!