Virtually Kiss the Blarney Stone

St. Patrick’s Day is fast approaching! This is a wonderful holiday full of cheer and good tidings. I love the Irish blessings I see passed around every year on Facebook. Here is mine for you:

Since you are a writer, a poet, a blogger, an artist, a musician, or a dreamer perhaps….here are some pictures of the Blarney Castle for you. It is said that if you kiss a certain rock while hanging upside down at the top of the castle…you will be gifted with the finest eloquence the world has ever seen! Here’s to you and yours this wondrous St. Paddy’s Day. May you have laugh and laughter all the days of your lucky life.

I know I include music quite often in my blog…perhaps too much but I play this song often for my children in the car. It reminds me of an old Irish blessing. It was played for me on the day I graduated high school. This song has a special place in my heart from that day. I intend to play it for my son and daughter the day they graduate from high school too some day. Listen to it and have a wonderful St. Paddy’s Day!

You Cannot Break Love

Love does not come from the heart.

Rather, the heart comes from love. 

The heart may break but the origin of the heart is eternity.

When you understand this,

You understand love. 

For love flows through all things and all times. 

It permeates everything…

The raindrop, the ant, the mountain, the tree.

Why do you cry, silly girl?

Why do you hang your head low? 

Do you think you have lost love?

Do you seek it?

Do you ask yourself when will you find it?

Love is within you.

Love is near, ever present surrounding you

In the winds, the foods, the waters, the books you read, the poems you write, the thoughts you think. 

Love is in all that you do and all that has been done before or will be done in the future. 

Love is life.

Love is reality. 

Love is the past.

Love is the present.

Love is the future. 

Love exists through creation, destruction, and renewal.

Love was there in your first breath and will be there for your last.

Love was there for your ancestors and will be there for your descendants. 

All creations of love will return to the source and then flow out again. 

You cannot lose that which is never lost, never broken, never entirely destroyed. 

Dry your tears. 

Stop dwelling on sadness.

Don’t expect another to provide you this love.

Open your eyes and see love for what it truly is…immortal.    

Connect to that source that flows through you

And no man shall break you anymore.      

Coincidence

In his book, Greenlights, Matthew McConaughey talks about love. He compares it to archery. He says, “The arrow doesn’t seek the target. The target draws the arrow.” He was probably talking about romantic love.

Many of us spend much of our lives chasing romantic love like Wiley Coyote and the Roadrunner. It evades us when we force it. But if we go with the flow enjoying life and the present moment, if we stop to “smell the roses” so to speak….that love will come sit down right beside us and we don’t even have to try…much like the Roadrunner going “beep beep” to get Wiley’s attention.

Bottomline, as I get older I don’t chase love as much. For one, my knees are bad. Chasing is exhausting and makes you want to drop an anvil on someone’s head with frustration when you fail. For another reason, there’s no point in it. Policing a man or woman gets you nowhere. Love will come to us when love is ready.

Beep, beep….

But tonight, I talk of a different kind of love…the love from pets. There have been only a few times in my life that I have been drawn to something or someone like a strong magnet. One of those times is the day I first encountered my second dog.

When I saw him, I knew in my heart I wanted that dog. I didn’t go to Petsmart to get a dog. That was the last thing on my mind. I was there to get fish food. I had brought my son and one of his friend’s along to the downtown shopping district. We were just enjoying the day.

Do you believe in random occurrences or are our steps ordered in some way as if predestined? Why do I say such gibberish? I will tell you why in a moment.

This is my second dog. I took him home from the pet store that day as a spur of the moment decision. I said I’d take him the moment the volunteer said his name.

Slushy.

Such an odd name for a reddish brown border collie like this:

Slushy was his name.

Why would that name make me instantly buy him?

This picture right here:

A 1982 Slushy doll on sale.

In 1982, my grandma bought me an Avon toy called Slushy the dog. I carried Slushy everywhere. I slept beside Slushy. I ate beside Slushy. Slushy never left my side….for years. He was my favorite toy comparable to a favorite blanket. I loved Slushy with all my little girl heart.

Slushy.

How is it possible that years later I would encounter the real life look-alike to my favorite childhood toy friend? Coincidence? Random fate? Or something more…

Today, I type this by the fireplace as Slushy sits beside me napping. The fire is warm and toasty. He is resting. His eyes are closed but I know if I shift just a little, he will open them to peer at me curiously….my toy brought to life in later years, just when I would need him most. I would need his friendship once again.

I sleep beside Slushy curled up near me sometimes. I eat beside Slushy. Once again, we are inseparable. And we will probably be inseparable to the end of the road for one of us, whomever that might be.

Love amid the Lanes

This is my Valentine’s Day gift to you! I wrote a piece for a love contest. Here is the entry. It is supposed to be a heart-warming story about love in a Midwest bowling alley. Picture Kingpin meets Romeo and Juliet.

I hope you have a wonderful, romantic Valentine’s Day! Stay warm too, my friends!

Imagine Me and You

by J. Speer

In 2018, there was a little bowling alley in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  It was a popular locals’ joint and featured 12 open lanes for 12 unique teams on league night each Friday evening.  People loved going to the little bowling alley to unwind from a long week of work. 

The bowling alley manager was named Bill Casey.  He had owned the bowling alley since 1987, the year Patrick Swayze dirty danced with Jennifer Grey having the time of her life.  Bill had three great loves in his life: the game of bowling, his deceased wife Maria, and their one daughter she had named Jennifer. 

Jennifer worked the bowling alley counter.  She also was the top bowler on a league team named I Can’t Believe It’s Not Gutter.  Jennifer was a vibrant woman though still unmarried.  For years, she had looked in vain for that one true love of her life. Her team of friends was several fun colleagues from diverse occupations who shared the one commonality of being from different minority groups.  They all agreed on one thing.  They disliked the other competitive league team at Lane 1 called Split Happens

Split Happens consisted mostly of what some might call “a redneck hillbilly crowd.”  They were dang good bowlers.  The best player on the team was a handsome eligible bachelor named David Huxley.  Every Friday night, the team at lane 1 and the team at lane 2 would spar good-naturedly trading continuous barbs or pranks at each other’s expense. 

Every year, inevitably, these two teams would face off against each other in the annual Championship for the Big Balls trophy, a much-esteemed achievement.  For the past three years, Split Happens had held the title of Champion on the grandmaster board.  This was dedicated to all the great bowling league teams through the years since 1987. 

There were other teams in the league too that stood a chance at winning a prestigious spot on the leader board.  The group in Lane 3, for example, was a hardy team of independent feminists.  Their team was named Got Ya By the Balls.  In lane 4, likewise, was a team of fun-loving LGBT friends named The Sexy Strikers.  There were other lesser teams as well, such as the comic book fan team called the X-men at Lane 7.  They loved all things high tech.   

David Huxley and Jennifer Casey had grown up together, attending the same classes at the same elementary school and high school.  David had always admired Jennifer from afar.  Jennifer, for her part, held in high esteem David’s ability to hit multiple strikes.  He carried his team to victory again and again.  They, however, were adversaries on opposing teams.  For some reason, through all the years, the two had never really dated.  But that all was about to change…

It was a cold, blustery Friday night in February just before Valentine’s Day.  The league games had just ended.  Split Happens and I Can’t Believe it’s Not Gutter both defeated their opponent teams.  The sore losers for the night were taking off their bowling shoes and turning them in to Bill at the counter.  They were heading out the door. 

Jennifer wandered over to the old arcade that held the ancient Atari games and racing games.  David was already in there with a few friends.  She took some quarters out of her pocket.  She eyed the old air hockey game to the side of the room.  David looked over at her mildly with interest.  He always seemed to notice her.  She caught his glance and smiled.  Cocking her head towards the air hockey, she asked him, “You up for a game of this?  Haven’t played it in a while.”

“As I recall,” he said, “You used to be pretty good at this one.”

She laughed.  “I’m a little rusty, I’m sure.”

They put the quarters in the slot and the air hockey game commenced a humming noise indicating it had started.  The two squared off against each other on opposing sides.  Jennifer scored the first point and grinned.  David grinned back.  He quickly scored the second point.  Jennifer rolled up her sleeves to try again. 

Several minutes of aggressive play continued with David scoring three more points to Jennifer’s frustration.  She eyed him coolly at this point.  She set the hockey puck down on the table ahead of her.  She rapidly scored the next point. 

David watched her more intently.  He noticed every little detail about the way she bit her upper lip as a tell that she was getting ready to strike or the way she squinted when he would come close to scoring again.  The hockey puck went back and forth more urgently.  David noticed too that she looked quite pretty that night with her curly black hair tied back at the nape of her neck, her crew shirt, and slim jeans accentuating her appearance.  She scored another point and he let out a slow whistle. 

“Damn,” he said under his breath.  The game continued.  He ended up winning and smiled mischievously.  Although defeated, Jennifer had to admit to herself that she loved that smile.  David had always been handsome and loved to have a good time. 

“Alright, I guess you won this time.” She admitted.  They both shared a brief moment.  She figured she needed to help clean-up so she started to turn away to leave the arcade.  David frowned just a little.  He finally said the thought that had been in his head through most of the air hockey game. 

“You doing anything later tonight?”  Jennifer blinked.  She looked around at the others in the arcade for a moment. 

“No, no plans.  Why?”  She said bluntly surprised.

They agreed that night to maybe go out to the local coffeehouse after she finished work. 

Later that night, they sat together at The Bluebird coffee shop downtown and pretty soon were exchanging fun stories and engaging in entertaining banter.  Jennifer felt comfortable with David, although they both worried a little that at any moment, they might be seen sitting at the same table.  They agreed to go on a few more dates after that.  The romance started out a little slow and then quickly picked up steam.  One date was a dinner, another was a movie, and soon they were spending a lot of secret time together while still bowling as adversaries on League nights.  It soon became obvious to both parties that they might be falling in love. 

The secret rendezvous exchange continued.  It led to passionate embraces and nights spent lovingly in each other’s arms.  Neither one was sure what to say to their other team mates.  They agreed to keep things hush for the time being.    

Then, one night as fate would have it, they were discovered.  Jennifer had another secret admirer, a pretty woman from another team named Leslie Shaw.  Upon encountering the couple holding hands in the mall parking lot outside a local delicatessen, Leslie dropped her jaw in shock. 

“Holy cow,” she muttered under her breath.  This is interesting she said to herself with a slight twinge of jealousy. 

Leslie Shaw wanted her team, The Sexy Strikers, to win the leader board position too.  She devised a plan to blackmail the two lovers, threatening to expose them to everyone unless they both agreed to throw their games in the semi-final matches, allowing Leslie’s team to move forward to the Championship game.  Jennifer and David reluctantly agreed.    

Split Happens went first in the semi-finals and Jennifer watched sadly as David “accidentally” threw gutter ball after gutter ball forfeiting his team’s place and frustrating all his teammates to no end.  They shook their heads in disgust.  Some team members from Lane 2 scoffed at the losers with delight.      

As the second semi-final game commenced, a sudden fight broke out in the nearby lounge room between Team 1 and Team 2 players.  This spilled over quickly to an all-out brawl in the crowded league night bowling alley.  All the divided teams were fighting and carrying on.  David searched for Jennifer across the crowded room.  Jennifer tried to keep her sights on him too. 

Somehow in the midst of all the quarreling, David got hit by a thrown bowling ball.  Jennifer called out to him in alarm over the ruckus.  She rushed towards him.  She quickly helped him back to his feet. 

“You, ok?” she asked with concern and the two embraced.  All around them, people noticed and the room went still. 

“What?” she said defensively while looking around.  She reached hesitantly for his hand.  His fingers enclosed around hers too. 

“What the heck?!” said a few shocked onlookers.  David and Jennifer looked around awkwardly. 

“Yes, ok, we’ve been dating…” David began.  He then proceeded to explain the story of their relationship and what happened with Leslie.  Leslie looked down embarrassed.  She slinked off to the side a bit. 

 David looked around and back at Jennifer holding his hand.  He smiled at her. 

“I know we all have our differences,” he said hesitantly.  “But the truth is I love this woman.  Jennifer Casey, will you marry me?” He asked her as he started to get down on one knee.

The crowd completely stopped fighting.  Everyone waited for the reply.   When Jennifer said, “Yes!”  her teammates were among the first to clap alongside the team mates from Split Happens.             

Soon the folks that had been looking to start trouble were ashamed of their behavior.  The whole room clapped then, even Bill Casey who clapped the loudest.  It was decided that the couple would get married at the bowling alley later on that month. 

Bill Casey disbanded the league teams.  He took down the leader board which had caused so much animosity among the different groups.  There would be no more league nights, no more winners and losers.  Everyone would play as equals.    

On the wedding night, David Huxley and Jennifer Casey married at Lane 5.  He wore a tuxedo.  She wore a white wedding dress.  They kissed happily.  She tossed the bouquet.  Leslie Shaw managed to capture the bouquet too alongside a beautiful bowler named Sara.  Leslie and Sara smiled shyly at each other.  For Leslie, it seemed fated.  That’s how Leslie found her new love interest in life. 

That night, the bowlers at Bill Casey’s little bowling alley in Arkansas all bowled together as friends in a big diverse party.  Bill Casey turned the lights down low.  He set everything to Cosmic Bowling.  He turned on the music.   Happy Together by the Turtles filled the air and everyone was truly happy in that moment, especially David Huxley and Jennifer Casey. 

The Best Valentine I Ever Got: Taking a Road Trip to See Waterfalls

A few years back, my husband picked me up in his truck with our kids sitting in the back seat. It was on a Friday after a long week of work and it happened to be Valentine’s Day Weekend. There were suitcases packed in the back seat with the kids and there was a red card on the passenger seat. He said, “Hop in!” He smiled at me with a hint of mischief in his eyes as we headed mysteriously down the road to an unidentified destination point.

I settled into the passenger seat, curious to see what he was up to. I opened the Valentine card and a paper fell out. It was a small printed off map. It looked like a route with a blue line through various places in Oklahoma. I later learned from him that our family was going on a waterfall adventure trip through Oklahoma and each spot designated on the map signified a special place to visit to see gorgeous and musical sounding, calming rushing waters.

It turned out to be an awesome and fun 2 -day family trip through Oklahoma. My favorite destination on the excursion was Turner Falls. It was really pretty and a great place to wade in the waters with family or take photos together by the waters. There were hikes for exploring and other tourist spots to see.

Most states have these type of tourist routes on certain websites online. Here is one for Kansas with various routes for ghost towns, rock/geology adventures, chicken restaurant routes, and other topics. And yes, this one in Kansas has the waterfall adventure too.

So if you are planning something for Valentine’s Day……consider a weekend road trip route like these. Just Google your state and type in road trip routes. The waterfall trip is very family friendly and sorta romantic too. Or maybe your partner is more interested in things culinary or things paranormal or science related destinations.

I highly recommend these ideas as great “spontaneous” and fun Valentine gifts. Trust me, your partner will like it. I know I certainly did! It didn’t seem to cost too much either since most of the destination spots are free to visit. The only costs are gas for your vehicle and overnight stays somewhere. This would be fun to do with an RV too.

E Pluribus Unum

This was the official motto of the original 13 colonies during the American Revolution. It was proposed in 1776 by three men to become the Great Seal motto. These men were Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. Later on, this saying would be replaced in the 1950s by the words, “In God we trust.” I’m not sure where the Latin phrase for “E Pluribus Unum” originated. It really reminds me of the phrase of the French Four Musketeers. That phrase was “All for one, one for all.”

E pluribus unum simply means “out of many, there is one.” It means we stand together as a union, in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, through tragedy and through celebration. We recognize our unique qualities and diversity yet also lean on our human bond as together we pursue life, liberty, and happiness. This is not a revolutionary idea. It is a motto for all friendships and relationships and it’s loyalty is the fundamental cornerstone of our foundations in life and as a nation.

We need to bring back this motto.

New Music Suggestions from Facebook Friends

This morning, I asked my Facebook friends to tell me their new favorite songs/albums/or singers. I told them I like a diverse mix of music. Kindly, about ten friends replied with these great suggestions. I’ve been spending this evening going through each suggestion as a mini concert at home. I’m delighted by the songs they shared. Quite a few are Christian songs, probably because it is Sunday. Here are some from the list:

  1. “Here with Me” (sung by Jason Upton).
  2. “Stones” (sung by Kim Walker Smith).
  3. The “We Like it Here” album by Snarky Puppy.
  4. “You Can’t Stop Me” (sung by Andy Mineo).
  5. Any songs by MercyMe.
  6. Any songs by Skillet.
  7. Songs by Hillsong United.
  8. “There was Jesus” (sung by Zach Williams and Dolly Parton).

They were all great. I liked the mix. This one was my personal favorite:

Noel a Paris

They decided on the trip together. Usually they always spent Christmas with family but this year they wanted to try something different. Christmas was usually spent listening to Aunt Gabby’s cat stories or watching the family open presents one by one slowly. Mom usually made a big buffet and Dad usually always got a hunting gift. The grandkids would run around the house and someone would setup Christmas music on the TV. There would be hugs and family photos with ugly Christmas sweaters or Grinch pajamas sets. Generally, there would be some games…board games, card games, gingerbread house competitions and such. It was always great fun but also a little awkward at times with the big family reunion. There were lulls in conversation or points where one had to be tactful and polite, particularly in regards to political topics. And, hectic…it could be hectic too as the family packed up all the presents in the car. She’d fuss over everything especially the smashed bows on the presents or whether the tree lights should be left on while they were away. She’d always be the last to the car. The kids would be crowded together and arguing, nit-picking each other. He’d get frustrated and beep the horn.

Yeah.

Christmas with family…..

This year would be different. They talked about this months ago when she had received a great price deal on roundtrip tickets. She had stared at her monitor at her sales cubicle. She studied the advertisement photo of a beautiful lit-up Eiffel Tower on a starry night. Come spend Noel a Paris, the breath-taking City of Lights…that’s what the picture caption read. Usually she skipped these promo ads but this one for some reason had caught her eye.

It had taken some convincing for him. A couple of dinners together at night. She approached the subject each time after their kids had excused themselves from dinner. She talked to him while cleaning up dinner plates and putting food back in the fridge. Eventually, with some reluctance, he was on board too. It was probably the cheap airfare price that did it as he was an accountant by profession and nature, preferring to limit extravagant spending.

The day they left the kids at Grandma’s, it snowed a heck of a lot. The kids wished them a great trip. They hugged each one and told them to be good. He struggled to get the car through the growing snowdrifts and she watched the kids with her parents through her rear view side mirror on the passenger side until they were too far away in the distance.

The ride to the airport was blustery and cold. He had to keep the wipers and heat going on high mode. In comparison, the climate in Paris outside the terminal after their excruciatingly long flight was sunny and much less calamitous.

They managed to get to the hotel through the kindness of Parisian pedestrians and a taxi driver that pointed the way in English. Their understanding of the local language was beginner level at best but they did manage “merci” and “bonjour” from time to time.

They stayed at a four story hotel off the Champs Elysee and close to the St. Antoine de Exupery street where she’d read the couture shops were located. They ate French croissants for breakfast and wandered the streets of Paris for a day or two. They visited art museums and strolled past trendy boutiques for fashion. They went up the Eiffel Tower together and took many beautiful pictures of all of gorgeous Paris, the statues, the buildings, the homes, and the people.

It was super fantastic until Christmas eve around five o’clock. Suddenly the bustling streets and walkways of Paris were very quiet and empty. Everything had shut down…the shops, the restaurants, and all the other businesses. They walked together in the growing darkness on the still streets. They passed many brightly lit homes. There were people greeting each other happily on front steps with packages. Inside some cheery and warm homes, they could see people happily gathered in comraderie. They began to feel homesick and that feeling grew as they ate cheeseburgers at Planet Hollywood, the only place in Paris still open. They wandered back thoughtfully to their hotel room. They each got their small gift for one another. They sat on the bed and exchanged them. It was nice but the moment ended quickly and they looked around the room wandering what to do next. They ended up watching TV together and went to bed early. As they changed into pajamas, he looked at her and said, “ I kinda miss Aunt Gabby’s cat stories..”.

She smiled, relieved he felt the same way she did in that moment. She laughed, “Yeah, I miss them all too…especially the kids. I miss them so much tonight. Christmas isn’t the same without them….without family.”

They smiled and sat on the bed together. They called back home to Grandma’s and were happy when one of the cousin’s picked up the line. They spent a good while wishing the bustling and noisy household at Grandma’s a very Merry Christmas.

And that was the last time they skipped out on family time at Christmas.

In Sickness and In Health

He had Covid. He’d been sick for days. They sat together in the moonlight of the back porch of their little home listening to music together. She felt melancholic. He picked out a song and asked her to dance. It was their wedding song. They swayed back and forth moving slowly to the familiar tune. She held him closer than she had her wedding day and burrowed her face near his neck where her silent tears could fall.