A Long, Hard Look by Lois Hewitt

WARNING:  if you are easily offended, you may not want to read any further.  Depending on how badly this goes, it may be my last post.

Lately, I have been taking a long, hard look at life.  In fact, the last few years, that is all I have done.  I have tried to maintain a sunny outlook on it all, but lately I cannot muster up the strength to do that anymore.  The untold story starts way back….

I was raised by my father after my parents divorced in my youth.   My dad was a gentle giant to most, at 6 ft. 6 in and around 300 lbs.  He did have a heart of gold.  But he was unequipped to raise an insecure, needy daughter.  He did his best and he did teach me some valuable lessons.  Lessons I still use today.

Dad drank hard and he played hard.  Never missed a day’s work due to drinking, heck I do not remember him ever calling sick.  When he was diagnosed with cancer, he did not even miss a day. I am rather a wimp myself and do use sick days.

He taught me to drive before the legal age, so that I could drive him home from the bar.  I was never afraid being a young girl sitting alone at the bar doing my homework for he was never far and no one dared mess with me.  He was my protector.  And that job he excelled at.

He taught me about guns.  He was an excellent Skeet and Trap shooter.  From an early age, I knew the ABSOLUTE truth about guns.  You don’t mess with them.  They are NOT toys and you NEVER EVER point on at someone unless you mean to shoot them.  I knew from a young age, that is not something you never touched.  I would carry his shotguns for him when he was at tournaments, but gun safety was always key.  He also taught me the foolish things Hollywood did with guns was not reality.  I never once picked up his .38 just to pretend.  The cavalier attitude today about guns absolutely surprises me.  There were guns all over the house, some loaded.  I knew if someone tried to do us harm, who would be the victor.  All this talk about guns today, I think if more people had my healthy fear of them, you would see a lot of this unnecessary carnage disappear.

He taught me about cars.  Cars are as dangerous as guns.  Cars kill and maim people.  He would have kicked my butt today if he ever saw me trying to talk on a phone, watch a movie (I’ve seen it) or any other activity other than driving.  I still drive with both hands on the wheel.  I use my turn signal, even coming out of my driveway.  I strongly remember those things he taught me.  When I was young, living in a small town with no transportation, I wanted a bicycle so I could go to friend’s houses.  He told me that he would get me one when he wanted me to get killed.  He said where we lived was full of dangerous hills and curves, that riding a bike on those roads was suicide.  I was mad at him for a long time, but now I understand that he was teaching me about vehicular respect.  Car or bike, no difference.  Both are dangerous and you cannot be distracted using either one.  The things I see today that people do while driving is so out of control.

He taught me about money.  This is a lesson I never fully learned.  After the divorce, money was really tight.  My father only had an eighth grade education, because he had to work to support his family after his father passed away (as did his other siblings).  He was a stellar mechanic, one of the best.  He could fix anything.  We never called a repair man, Dad knew how things worked.  Things got really tight when foreign cars started pouring into America during the 1970s.  He went from full time to part time work.  He was devastated, but optimistic that is was only temporary.  I remember the day we went to the local grocery store and bought a few items.  The woman in front of us was buying steaks, wine, cookies, chips, and other food I would have died for.  She paid with food stamps.  The balance of the bill was paid with a $100 bill.  Dad had $20 to his name at the time and never flinched even when I asked him why we could not have steaks.  We followed the woman out to her new Japanese car and I realize now that Dad’s heart broke a little.  Granted I did not know the lady or her situation, but I knew ours at the time and it was one I did not understand.

He taught me about politics.  In middle school, I remember we were learning about JFK.  I came home and asked Dad about him.  I was unprepared for the answer.  He had a deep dislike for the entire Kennedy family.  He hated their politics.  We discussed it for a while and I felt I understood his stand.  The next day at school, I quickly learned that my family might have been in the minority.  Dad still respected the man, after all he was the President of the United States but he did not necessary adhere to his politics.  This is a subject I have skirted because, frankly, I am afraid of the backlash.  Here goes…I was born a Republican and that is where I stayed even after my youth.  I have always respected the Office of the President, even if I did not agree with them.  This absolute intolerance for our current President is one of the most outrageous things I have ever seen in my life.  Total disrespect and it is something I truly cannot understand.  Don’t comment back all the things wrong.  I understand the situation.  I also know he was elected by the people and he deserves, at a minimum, the respect the office presents.  The other thing Dad taught me is that everyone has their right to their opinions.  Politics is not a subject to be discussed.

He taught me about sex…sort of.  He always said there are three things you do not talk about:  sex, politics and religion.  He explained what it was that teenage boys wanted and left it at that.  But later on he also taught me that what two consensual adults do is their business.  I did not always listen to this advice, especially if I thought I could get a laugh out of someone, but today I understand what he was saying.  Today, we are spoonfed constantly sex on all levels.  Maybe it is too much information today.

He taught me respect.  I never called his friends anything but Mr. or Mrs.  I never sassed back to an adult (I did rebel about in my later teenage years and for that I am terribly full of remorse).  I learned to respect people, their things and their time.  Today, respect is a bad word almost.  We are losing that for the likes of “all people for themselves”.  You are not as important as I am, so you need to get out of my way.  There are some people that you do not even try to engage with, even if you are trying to assist them.  Dad respected all people.  He was literally and figuratively colorblind.  Respect was a big deal when I was growing up.  It was not an automatic thing you received, you had to earn it.  It could also be lost and then you would have to re-earn it.  In my youth, there was no respect participation award.

You get the picture.  He taught me some hard and fast rules.  Rules I live by today.  Today I see those rules being pushed aside.  I see people who are so easily offended by the smallest things.  I used to be thin-skinned (as he called it) and every infraction cut me to the bone.  I felt that it was always personal.  So I understand, but I also ended up having to “grow a pair” because the constant pain and insecurity took its toll on me.  I literally got tired and am still recovering.  It was once I learned that not every infraction aimed at me was about me. That is a very self-centered view by the way.  Some people are just plain nasty, some are having a rough time and some have problems I cannot see.  So I learned to turn the channel, put down the book, or unfollow someone who seems offensive.  I do not write nasty comments to people from the safety of my house.  I hate that we are all so quick to call others idiots or racist or other derogatory terms.  It is really easy to play God sitting alone in front of a computer screen, but that surely does not make it right.

He taught me that religion was ok.  My Dad was not an overly religious man, but when I became a Christian in my mid teens, he was supportive.  He saw that it was making me a better person.  During those times, it was still okay to be a Christian.  Today, it is a totally different story.  This country was founded on religious differences, yet today Christianity is the least tolerated.  Yes, there have been some really bad examples of “Christian” people in our past.  People who abused their power and did terrible things.  I cannot deny that, but I have a profound and deep love for Jesus.  I know for a fact I would not be here today if it were not for Him.  Does that make me weak?  Does that make me like a mindless sheep?  I, personally, do not think so.  I think that my faith makes me stronger than if I did not have it.  It makes me more empathetic and it also makes me hurt more when I see man’s inhumanity to man.

He taught me to think before I act.  I remember when I had family come back from fighting in the Vietnam War.  Bodies badly broken and spirits broken as well.  They went off to fight a war because they felt it was their duty.  They did it wonderfully and paid a very high price for it.  They came back to the land they were protecting and were spit upon.  They were called names and hated.  War is never good, especially when the objectives are not clear.  But many men and women gave the ultimate cost for the rights we hold dear today and yet we showed them so little respect.  Today, you hear “thank you for your service” all the time, but do we as civilians understand what that sacrifice meant?  No, I do not think so.  How many people think Memorial Day and Veterans Days are just long weekends?  We need to think before we act.  Get the whole story.  Today, it is so easy to just hear a sniglet of a partial conversation and think that is the entire story. That is just not the case, most things run much deeper than we think.

If we are going to base our lives on what the Kardashians (sp?) think, or other informers or whatever they are called, we are guaranteed to get only half a story.  The Internet is full of half stories, rewritten stories and speculation.  We need to stop following and start looking at things for ourselves.  This is a very unsettled world we live in and every single infraction causes it to tilt a little more until one day it completely tips.

So friends, now you know the truth.  I am a Republican, a devoted Christian, and am pro-gun.  I do not care who you sleep with.  I do not care about your politics because you have the RIGHT to your opinion.  If these facts make it so we cannot be friends any longer, I apologize.

I had a job once where when of my coworkers was constantly bashing another coworker.  It make me extremely uncomfortable but I never said anything figuring it was okay because I was not agreeing with them.  Turns out my silence was taken as an affirmation of the terrible things being said.  I learned a lesson then.  You can skirt an issue for a while, but you truly have to pick a side eventually.  So goodbye to those who will loath me because of my stand.  I will not beat you over the head with my views any longer than this blog is.  I am sorry that you cannot do that one thing you claim to want to do…coexist.  To those who are still okay with me, thank you.

Please do not comment back with an argument. I only wanted to clear some air that has been weighing heavy on me.  I am not looking for a fight.  My Dad never looked for a fight, some went looking for him but he never went looking himself.


Thanksgiving Eve by Lois Hewitt

Tis the day before Thanksgiving and I’m at work…. That’s all I got. I’m not good at flowery prose.

I am, however, sitting at work waiting for my shift to start. I’m working Thanksgiving so the day will probably pass by before I even realize. So I decided to take the time now to list what I’m thankful for.

I’m thankful for a roof over my head. I know that is not always a given. Our landlords are the best and I’m very content there.

There is food on the table, clothes on my back, a vehicle to get me to work and all the things I need in life. I cannot think of a thing I want… Except Jennifer Aniston’s genes😉.

I’m sitting in this marvelous place, with wonderful coworkers and a strong history.

Those things are pretty standard, along with my friends and loved ones. I’m truly blessed.

But there are a few more things I am thankful for. I do not ever remember a time when this country has been so divided, a time when hate has been so prevalent. Violence is rampant and fear is on the rise. Never have I heard so much talk about coexisting with so little action to back it up.

People are hurting and resources thin. The people who are supposed to help us are busy with things that are not helping. Vicious talk is becoming the norm. Where is the love?

With all that set aside, we still have much to be thankful for. We still have freedom in this country. We can pray to whom we want or to nothing. We can say what’s on our mind, although maybe a little more quiet would make things better. We have the right to fight for change but we don’t have the right to spew hatred.

This country is still great even though we are losing the ability to understand other opinions. Manners seem to be slipping through our fingers. Entitlement is the word of the day…. Every day. These things are ruining our society, but we still have have much to be thankful for.

I am honest in that I know the good old days weren’t always so good. I am praying for better days.

We are in turmoil but I’m still grateful for so many things. Being grateful changes your attitude it makes you more grateful. So today, I’m grateful and will try to be that way every day.

I hope everyone has a blessed day.

The Written Word by Lois Hewitt

blur close up composition craft

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Pexels.com

When I left Ohio, I left behind all the material things I thought were important.  If it did not fit in the car, it was not going with me.  I left behind things from my childhood, things from my adulthood, almost everything was thrown out, recycled or donated.  I did keep a handful of things that really mattered and fit into the car.  During all the travels and the several recent moves, I lost track of those things too.  Until today….

Today, I was doing a little cleaning and I came across a small box.  The box had all my magical things inside.  There were just a handful of my most precious photographs, people no longer with me and a few of those that still are.  There were a few silly charms and cute little gifts I received over the years.  But the things that I had forgotten about, the things that really touched me, were letters and greeting cards I kept through the years.  I sat down and reread them.  Tears filling my eyes.  My heart so full of love.

Letters from friends and family, cards for special occasions and other correspondences that I could not bear to discard.  Then I remembered something.  When I was younger, much younger, my mother and I would plan a trip to the Hallmark store.  It was a big deal because we would, literally, spend a couple of hours picking out just the right greeting cards for friends and family.  I would peruse the stationary aisle so that I could write handwritten letters when a card just was not enough.

Every correspondence I sent also had a seal on the back of the envelope as well as occasion appropriate stickers on the front.  Sometimes I would right a Bible verse or happy thought along the edge of the envelope fold.  I even bought the prettiest stamps to be used for mailing. I learned this from my mother and sister.  Each correspondence was unique and directed to that person.  Extreme care went into each card or letter.

Then came email and e cards and I forgot about doing those things.  Once in a while I will pick up a greeting card at the grocery store, but they seldom ever see the inside of a mailbox because they sit in a box or a bag.  I never have stamps anymore, so it is a futile endeavor.

This is how crazy I was about it…every Christmas card had to have a personal note in it.  The thought of just signing my name was extremely unacceptable.  If you were not going to write a note, don’t even bother was my philosophy.

As I looked over the items I kept all these years, I am reminded of that special feeling one gets when there is a letter or card in the mail.  I think we have lost that little slice of humanity in our lives.  Sure there are still cards and stationary, but they feel less sincere today.  The cards of old where printed on high quality textured paper, the sentiments were sincere, not just non-offensive, and envelopes were more than just plain white.  Hallmark used to be the pinnacle for me, now they just look like every other card.

I wrote a post awhile back about starting to write letters again.  That was as far as the idea ever got.  I seem to have lost my ability to sit down with pen in hand and actually write down words.  I do it once in a while, but not like I used to.

Isn’t funny how something so very small and seemingly insignificant can actually make the most change.  I have a few cards from loved ones when I was going through an extremely difficult time and as I reread them, my heart swelled with love.  I get some amazing emails, but the feeling, the connection, is just not the same.

Mike and I met an amazing young couple a few months back.  Very dynamic, very worldly and just incredible.  They have traveled the world, unlike myself.  When one of them was headed back to his homeland in Denmark for a visit, Mike asked him to send us a postcard.  I know how daunting that can be to send even a postcard internationally.  But he did it, in fact, he sent us three. I felt so honored that he had taken the time during his visit to honor that request.

A former boss of mine, found hundreds of postcards that his mother had collected during her youth.  He gave them to me so that I could sell them on Etsy.  I plan to start doing that again, but I did it for a while.  As I posted each card, some dating back to the turn of the century, I realized that each post card was a slice of history.  A moment in time that has forever stood still.  On the front a hand painted design and the back a handwritten note detailing a visit or other thought.

I now understand the importance of these things, just not on a superficial level, but on a much deeper, human level.  These little pieces of paper full of ink markings connect us all as humans, they touch our hearts and our souls.  They remind us that there really is someone out there who cares about us.  In our world today, it is so easy to feel alone.  But that is not necessarily the case.  An email does not stir me the way a note does.  Maybe it is time to bring back some of those antiquated ideas.

Maybe sending a note instead of an email once in a while will change the world.  Probably not, but I think it is worth a try.

The List Grows Shorter by Lois Hewitt

photo of planner and writing materials

Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

For most people, this time of the year is full of baking cookies and treats, shopping and wrapping presents and attending holiday parties.  For me, this time of year is my favorite because I get to have a new calendar and contact book.  Yes, I still use a paper calendar and contact list.  I love the anticipation of transferring all my information and contacts into to new calendar.  It is an amazing time for me.

I do not despise electronics, but, for me, there is nothing like the feel of a good writing pen in my hand as I write information down onto paper.  I love the feel of paper and the smell of it too.  Half the fun is shopping for just the right calendar that will fit all my needs throughout the coming year.  When I finally find the right one, I wait for just the right moment to start transferring the information over.  There is a whole process involved.  OCD?  Yes, but it has worked for me for over 30 years.

I was the person in the 1980’s with the three inch Franklin Planner full of dates, information, contacts and anything that would fit in it.  I carried that planner with me for years and years.  My purses had to accommodate the planner.  I never went anywhere without it.  I could literally run my entire life from any location on the planet because that planner contained all my information.  Today, I do not have the need for such a complicated system.  I have one date book that has contact pages included.  I can still track bills, errands and due dates from a much smaller, compact unit.

Today was the day I was finally going to open my new planner and start moving information over.  I have been waiting for just the right time and today just felt right.  So I opened my new calendar and start writing down contacts in the back of it.  The first two were people I had not seen or heard from for many years.  The next three were people that had passed away.  And as I continued down the list, more and more of my contacts were no longer relevant. My chest grew slightly tight.

It made me think back to the Franklin Planner days when my contact section was one of the fullest sections.  I had business contacts for the work I was doing at the time, customer contacts for the business I was running and there were many family members who have long since passed.  I had lists of “friends” that required days and days of signing Christmas cards to, but sadly heard back from only a few.

Back in the day (my 20s), I thought the more contacts I had, the more friends I had.  Today I realized that every year since then my list has grown smaller and smaller.  Today, I barely fill up two pages.  I used to think everyone I met was my friend, somehow it fed some sort of ego need inside of me: some fake self-esteem.  I would send birthday cards, holiday cards, thinking of you cards to so many of these people with the intent of staying in contact and then I just never heard back from them.  The idea of someone not liking me was not even a thought I had when I was much younger.  Now I realize there were many years that I was unlikeable and very needy.  That scares people away.

Over the years, as my friend and contact list grew less and less, I never really thought about it consciously.  But today as I crossed out people from my old calendar, I realized that the people from before who never really gave me the time of day, were not my friends.  That stings a bit.  I do have a few handful of good friends who have stood the test of time, but I am speaking of the people who were nice to my face, but not so nice when I turned my back.  I cringe at how unaware I was.  In retrospect, I can see who was simply putting up with me and who really cared.

After mulling it over for most of the morning, I returned to that contact list in my new calendar and I smiled at the names that were in it.  Those names were the ones that mattered, not the others.  The people I have in my life now are the ones who are making my life full and rich.  I no longer need my ego stroked in order to have some sort of self-worth.  Man, that is liberating.

No more walking around on eggshells, no more making sure everyone liked me.  Today if you like me, great: if not, that is ok too.  Not everyone is going to like me and visa versa.  I guess when I went around liking everyone, I was not being my most authentic self either.

Now my new calendar is ready to experience the upcoming year with me.  All the ups and all the downs.  I will write milestones and small achievements as well in it.  I will use it to keep in contact with the people who want to be in my life.  I do miss those I have lost, but that is simply a part of living too.

My paper calendar is so much more than just a date book.  I keeps me on target for goals, helps me to remember important information and creates a personal space for which I can be me.  I love my paper calendar, it has more feelings than an electronic version.  It is one of those true friends that has stood the test of time.  As of today, I am a little sad over the losses, but I still have gained so much in this life.  Realizing that the most important moments are necessarily the big ones puts life into a reasonable perspective.

Thank you to all my old and all my new friends alike.  You may not be in my contact book, but you are definitely in my heart.

The Look on Her Face by Lois Hewitt

beautiful clouds country dark

I had an epiphany the other day at work.  I knew the meaning of what I do for a living but my vision became so much clearer.  I was doing my job, escorting a guest to see a slideshow presentation of rooms that are only accessible by stairs.  This guest chose not to attempt the stairs and wanted to sit for a while.  I proceeded to do what we are all supposed to do, ask how her day was going, move the ropes and direct them to the sitting area.  When we arrived at the destination, I wished her a wonderful day and thanked her for visiting.  The look on her face stopped me in my tracks.  Her words were nothing compared to her facial expression.  She looked at me like I had just done the most compassionate thing on the planet.  Her eyes were wet, her smile huge and our eyes locked for just a second then I moved on.

I was busy and did not think much of the event until some quiet time.  Then I looked back on the encounter and realized something so very profound.  That guest seemed, to me, as almost shocked at my kindness.  I did nothing overly special, just what I am supposed to do.  But I realized that in our world today, basic kindness is hard to find let alone anything even remotely over that.

It is so easy to forget in the middle of busy mode, that people are looking for, actually craving, some sort of kindness.  We spend our days being cut off in traffic, yelled at by guests because things are not as smooth as expected, service is rushed, and kind words have fallen by the wayside.  Any number of slights can be experienced in a single day.

I believe that is why so many people have their heads down, ears full of ear buds, eyes deflected from contact and buried in phone screens.  We are scared of being rejected or treated badly.  It seems that is the norm.  Today, at breakfast, our waitress came to the table with the first words out of her mouth as an apology for the delay in getting to us.  We had not even noticed any delay.  We joked around and explained that we were in no hurry.  She looked amazed that we did not give her a hard time.  Then we learned she had been yelled at for slow service by another group. It was a Sunday morning for goodness sake.  Can no one chill out anymore?

The world is a rough place in these modern times.  My gosh don’t trip or you will be eaten alive by the vultures we call our fellow humans.  That makes my heart break.  But it makes me realize that I work in a place that requires that we show “gracious hospitality.”  At work, it should be a respite from the emptiness of the “outside” world.  I need to be better than anyone on the outside of the estate.  It was required in 1895 by George Vanderbilt, and is still required today.

Then I kept thinking, I am a Christian.  Jesus calls us to be of service to others just as He was on His time on Earth.  We do not particularly like that concept in today’s world.  Are we not all too important for that?  Are we all not too busy for that?  When we lose the call (which I have many times in my life) to serve others, don’t we hurt society.  A simple act of kindness should not be the rarity in life, should it not be the norm?

I have written on this subject many times, but with each passing day I learn more about the far-reaching effects kindness can have on others.  I realize that I am responsible for my actions and I have always been called to service for others.  I can no longer allow my ego or my hurt feelings from previous encounters skew my view of service.  Man, sometimes you get yelled at and it is hard to come back from that.  I am called to take a higher road, one that says shake it off and do not sink to that level.  Swearing and kicking things seems so easy for me (especially the swearing part).  The hard part is looking the next person in the eye, giving a genuine smile and asking what they need.

It is difficult for this introvert to be so open, but if I can make one person’s day better, isn’t it worth it?  Of course it is.  I wish the high road was smoother but there is no satisfaction in that.  The look on a guest’s face, a big full-on smile or a thank you are the payment that makes it all clear.  Sometimes, there is no recognition for the effort and that also requires taking the higher road.

This idea of super-hyper self awareness is so very hard. This journey started out just about me, but quickly changed to not being about me at all.  Although I am learning how to act as a human, it is truly about others.  People I see for a minute and never again.  But I have the ability to create a memory that can last for a long time.  I still hear from people who I served on the train and that was over two years ago.

That gives me pause.   Do I return the rudeness or rise above it?  Gosh, it is hard but it is my calling and one cannot deny their calling.  Here goes to making the climb to the higher road.

Things Not Earned by Lois Hewitt

It should be a fairy tale ending. A young girl is given a car at 16. When she marries at 19, she gets a house. She basically has not done a thing to earn these things.

The house is too big for the two of them. It’s not what she wants but feeling that way seems like she is ungrateful. She is not that, but there is a lot of guilt that goes with the gift.

All her friends are struggling to make a start. She, although it is not spoken, wishes she could get a small place and grow into it. That is the normal progression of things. She sees it in everyone’s eyes… Must be nice and what did you do to deserve this. This could be real or imagined or a little bit of both.

Bad decisions are made, the kind that haunt for years to come. High expectations are made as to how she should act. Forever grateful although racked with more guilt every day.

That girl was me. I was given the family house when I got married. I never felt right about it because I didn’t deserve it, I had not earned it. I stayed there silently feeling like a prisoner. Even saying that after all these years sounds so wrong. But I felt I had no way out.

I know the gift was given with the best of intentions. That made it so much harder to hate. By the end, the place was underwater financially, I was drowning in my own years of remorse and regret. When I left at the age of 52, I still didn’t feel deserving.

That’s probably why I went all the way to the other side. I didn’t want anything. The things had owned me for so long, I wanted to be free.

A few years have passed and my list of possessions is a little longer. But this time, I worked for them. This time I earned them. Earning something tastes so much sweeter then the bitter taste of entitlement.

Today, I would rather have less and be able to look in the mirror in the morning. My gratitude is so much more with less.

As I look around our society and I see the entitlement mentality and I wonder if it’s based on some sort of hidden guilt. There is a satisfaction that fills your soul when you work for something. I’m not saying gifts are not nice, but being able to hold your head up means so much more.

I’m not sure why I’m writing this. I feel horrible that a loving gesture turned out so wrong. I felt compelled to tell this little bit of my history. Today is better for what came before.

An Extroverted Introvert by Lois Hewitt

What does a perfect day look like to you…mine is a chilly fall day, an oversized, soft chair with a snuggly blanket. A cup of hot tea, some kind of treat and either a good book or a journal with a good quality pen. No noise or very soft music in the background. Over the years I have learned to enjoy my own company.

Now do not get me wrong, there are plenty of people I like to hang with, but it’s easiest when it’s just me. That’s one sign of an Introvert. I guess I have always been one.

When I was young, talking to more than four people terrified me. Public speaking was some kind of torture technique like waterboarding.

If I saw people approaching me, my head would go down, my eyes would look away and I would keep walking. I would repeat in my head…. No eye contact ever. Small talk was a big fear of mine.

I would miss school if I had to do a book report in the front of the class. It meant pure terror to me.

While I was working at Kinetico, my job sometimes required that I give a presentation occasionally. I would fret and stew about it for days or weeks. One day, my boss suggested sending me to a Dale Carnegie class for public speaking. Eight weeks to learn how to talk in front of people.

I signed up and immediately tried to come up with an excuse to not go. It seemed like a good idea in theory but the reality was terrifying. But I did not want to let my company down.

When I got to the hotel meeting room for the first week’s meeting, there were 19 other people in attendance. Some looked calm and others, like me, were freaking out.

That first night we had to give a simple two minute speech to the group about ourselves. Nothing fancy or elaborate. My idea was to wait to last and maybe there would not be enough time. I do not remember much except there was plenty of time for me.

I walked to the front of the room, now physically shaking and sweating profusely. My eyes filled with tears. My mind racing as well as my heart. I had experienced terror before and this was one of the worst.

I stood there, head down, streaming tears, voice warbling and said something. I have no idea what. I cannot remember a thing. Afterwards, my classmates all hugged me and said encouraging things. It must have been pathetic to watch.

With each week, it was a little easier. The people in my class were awesome, it was such a safe place. We all improved and on graduation day we all celebrated.

I proceeded to give the random speech here and there. I took several public speaking classes in college. It was still never easy but I was able to cope with the stress of it all.

Fast forward a lot of years. I had not done much public speaking and was reverting back to my intense introverted ways. I find a job on a scenic railroad as a host. I thought it was mostly serving beverages. It turns out it was about being entertaining also.

I had learned that the better you know a subject, the easier it is to talk about it. So I started learning local history. It was a wonderful challenge.

My tours now consisted of a few facts and a few sentences about history. At the end of the trip, I expected huge accolades for all my knowledge and entertainment. In reality, I was greeted with mixed reviews at best.

What was missing? I talked with coworkers and I found out facts where not enough. I had to learn to tell a story. So I started watching comedians and seeing how storytelling was part of the big picture.

So I came up with a way to make the facts more interesting. The sentences turned to paragraphs. I thought I had found the answer. Still mixed reviews.

What was I still doing wrong? According to my classes and the books I read, I was doing everything correctly, but something was still missing. On the train, I got moved to First Class. Now I had to up my game but my concern was that I just did not have the extrovert gene. Maybe this was something I just could not do.

I kept studying. I kept working on my technique. One day watching an older Dave Chappell comedy special, I saw what I was missing. Two things: passion for the subject and a connection to the audience. Without those two things I was always going to be like a flat soda. A flat soda can still quench your thirst but it is not very satisfying.

Tony Evans, from Dallas Theological Seminary, is one of the most dynamic speakers I have ever listened to. I studied his delivery, the way his voice changed and his mannerisms. There I saw what I was missing.

I started learning the history and facts in a way that was more than information, it became alive. Then I started to talk about it with enthusiasm. The more I did that, the more passion I felt. I added antidotes from my life as a way to connect with my guests. Then I started to hear comments from guests that reflected their enjoyment. Being entertaining for four and a half hours now was fun for me and them.

Now I work as a Historic Interpreter. My job is talking to strangers about what they are seeing. The passion I feel for this job sometimes overwhelms me. I feel good about the story and I want to pass it on. Understanding where the audience is coming from and knowing where you want to take them bridges any gaps in the way to a connection.

Of course, there will always be people who do not want to be reached. All you can do is try and move on. For those people who are interested, the sky is the limit.

The last component to remember is, no matter how many times you say something, you must always be genuine. Even if you have said that same thing a thousand times.

On my days off, I am still an introvert. On the days I work, I am an extrovert. It just goes to prove that labels do not necessarily have to define you as a person. Great lesson learned.

Pure Joy by Lois Hewitt

I am in a mood today. It’s about to get real….

My youngest memory of pure joy was when my mom still lived with us. Hot, lazy summer days. She had a consul stereo, she loved music. We would listen to Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and the like. We would sing and dance. My sister even danced in her wheelchair. Then we would change to Stevie Wonder and Blood, Sweat and Tears. I wished those times would never end as we laughed the afternoon away. Life was still simple and innocent.

As life tends to do, the innocence leaves and the times become complicated. Music was not so much a source of fun any longer but a companion and a comforter. Music stayed with me in my loneliest hours. Music in those teenage years was loud and visceral to keep the inner demons out.

Then came my rebel years full of Urban Cowboy, country music, lots of beer and Jack Daniels. Smoking and two stepping were the order of the day.

Then one day a Little Red Corvette appeared on MTV and I was thrown into what was called Urban Contemporary. My view expanded from the small town I lived in. Prince amazed and thrilled me. I could not get enough.

Then came flannels, messed hair, work boots and grunge. The demons were back talking about a world on the brink. Misery filled the days.

Then the women stepped front and center. Alanis, Alicia, Lilith fair. Powerful, angry women making music to allict change and to say it was time to be heard.

I started to get tired, still unsure of who I was. Racing toward 40 and feeling in a rut. I worked for a great company and I had my own office in the back of the building with windows all around. I had a fantastic view of the woods.

I would go to work on Saturdays especially in the summer and sit in my own private domain. A place where everything was in its place and order was the word of the day.

I would play music on my computer about catching a freight train or having the Keys To The Highway. I day dreamed about a life on the road with no ties to anything. I dreamed of running away. Music was my soundtrack.

I finally did run away but the reality was nothing like I dreamed. I longed for an uncomplicated journey. I longed for the past to finally be in the past. But it alluded me as did music. I was even more lost than I had been and I had no compass to show me the way.

Then came a crazy train and a place in North Carolina. A place where I got to figure things out. Where the music I loved back in the day revisited me. I was starting to feel whole. The past took its rightful place away from the present.

Today, my skin is mostly comfortable. I know more who I am and I am good with that reality. I see with clarity all the roads I have been down. Some I took and some others took me. But they all lead to this place, a place set in 1895 that is the most comfortable with people from a different time. Yet I can relate to them.

Today music is like those first days dancing with my mom in the living room. She is no longer here but she still dances with me. I think she would have really liked Michael Buble.

Listening to a wonderful song transports one away from the hurts and pain. It clears the mind and frees the soul. Today I will experience pure joy once again. Thank you to everyone who makes music, you make the world a better place.

Breakthrough by Lois Hewitt

Finally, I’m starting to see clearer and feel better. The meditation is working. I have only been at it a short time but the results are in my view.

I am experiencing the beginning of being more present. Instead of worrying about my entire day at once, I am only focusing on where I am at in the present. I plan things like dinner but I do not obsess any longer. It is not completely ingrained yet, but it is a start. My mind still wanders but that is OK.

I have had thoughts about a lot of different things, especially those issues that are causing my anxiety. I have started to notice how I react to things that I do or that happen. I have noticed a distinct issue with technology lately.

For example, I hate my phone. I cannot make or receive calls in certain places. My stick fingers cannot seem to text without several corrections. My mind goes back to my childhood rotary phone. Only time that beige beast did not work was when the phone line was down.

Along that vein, texting is a necessary evil in my mind. I am going to start writing letters or cards again. I miss that tactile feeling of holding a letter in my hand or the simple joy of finding one in the mailbox.

Same goes for books. I thought, at one time, that being able to carry a hundred books around with me would be the most awesome thing. All of my books are now gone, moved to someone else’s home. I have a lot on my iPad, but the pure joy of reading them electronically is gone. I miss the feel of the pages on my hands and the smell of the paper.

How about solitaire? I miss shuffling a deck of cards, listening to the sound and again feeling them in my hands. Playing online simply becomes about beating the clock and starting another game. It all seems so rushed.

In my quest for better health, I have slowed down my consumption of soda. But even before I made the decision, I slowed down because I dislike the taste in plastic bottles. I grew up drinking an ice cold Coke in a glass bottle. I then graduated to only drinking beer from a draft or a glass bottle. It just tastes better. Many an outing was funded by returning bottles and collecting the refund.

No more fast food. I know want good food eaten slower. I have spent the last few decades eating either in the car or just chugging it down in a hurry. This has truly contributed to my health issues as well as the weight I can never lose. I have to learn what real food tastes like.

I remember on a slow summer day, jumping in the car for a drive to nowhere in particular. Windows down, music loud. No one in front of you and no one behind. Driving today is so stressful, I do not want to go anywhere. I am not an aggressive driver, so driving today is pure anxiety because the thrill is gone.

I miss the sound of a needle on a vinyl disk. Music, in my humble opinion, sounds spectacular on vinyl and flat electronically. I miss the nuisances of background sounds that are engineered out today for a cleaner sound. Yes, electronic music is more convenient but you have to give something up for that.

I miss homemade chocolate chip cookies. I miss eating cherry jello with real whipped cream. I miss eating apples right off the tree. I miss the excitement of going to a movie theater.

I am not trying to be unreasonable here. But I think some of my anxiety of late has manifested because I feel that I no longer fit into this modern world. Technology is passing me by at an alarming rate. I have lived for a long time under the umbrella of speed and convenience.

Have you ever seen a movie where a character is standing still while everyone else around them is moving in fast motion? That is how I feel every day and I just never realized it. I have joked about the sloth being my spirit animal, it turns out it is not a joke.

I want to taste life but I have conditioned myself to always be running (not literally… That is not happening). If I am not busy, then I am lazy. If my to-do list is not full, then I am doing something wrong.

I have no answers yet, but I feel that I am on a path to figuring it all out. It is going to be a long process but one that will be enlightening.

A New Epic Journey by Lois Hewitt

Today is the day I have decided to embark on a new epic journey. As of late, I have been dealing with a lot of anxiety. I don’t feel comfortable in my skin. I feel very out of balance. All First World problems, I know, but my struggles nonetheless.

The original epic journey was about me changing my life about seeing the country and beginning again. I did those things without the outcome that I had anticipated.

Wonderful times were had along the way. I have had the extreme privilege of meeting some of the most awesome people… Many I am still in contact with. I have changed but many of my old thought patterns remain.

I feel on edge a lot of the time. Peace is still at arms length away. I have come to realize that there are choices I need to make. There are behaviors that I need to throw away once and for all. I need to start controlling my life, instead of it controlling me.

My faith has seen me through and that is not going to change but I am going to start adding a new component to my life. Mindfulness. I, truthfully, do not fully understand the concept. But I am always living either in the past or worrying about the future. The present is the one place I need to be.

My doctor suggested that I study some mindfulness techniques to assist with my high blood pressure and other health issues. I want to do it to calm my mind. I realize it does not cure my problems, but it can help learning to live with those issues.

So today, I trudged to Target. I hate shopping but I chose to try to enjoy it. I purchased a large, soft pillow and a comfy, soft blanket to cover a loveseat. This is going to be my meditation place. Just a place dedicated to breathing and clearing the mind. It is not much, but it is a start.

I have a few things to read to help me on this journey along with an audio to listen to. By all accounts, I have heard the process of learning these techniques can take some time. I am dedicated to start living in the present. I cannot change the past and my constant worrying about the future has done me no good.

I am going to try to document the process. Over the years, I have forgotten what used to make me happy, hobbies and what have you. Everyday I worry about my health issues and it can be consuming.

So tomorrow I wash my new blanket and set up my space. Step one is always the hardest. If I can change the way I think (and fear) about life, maybe I can start to have some fun again. Mindfulness, here I come.