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The Working Title Is…Lessons of the Journey

I can’t remember the last time I was more excited about an invitation. 

It’s been years since I’ve experienced live theatre. And I’ve never received a handwritten invite to a production before!

So, yes, I’ve been counting down the days until Chicago’s St. Andrew Elementary Second Grade production of Arthur’s Christmas. I’m on pins and needles anticipating the directorial debut of my favorite thespian, Clare Parks.

At some point, I thought to myself, “Might be fun to take the train!”  And it was, until just outside of the Battle Creek station when we came to a screeching halt.

It’s actually left me quite nostalgic. In August 2003, Pat and I surprised our girls with a train trip to Chicago, and somewhere between the Royal Oak and Detroit stations, the major northeast blackout happened, leaving us trapped on the train for more than 12 hours.

So no big whoop that this has been my view for the past three hours.

At least the club car is attached.  We didn’t even have that for the first five hours in 2003! I remember feeling very anxious back then…we were unsure of the cause of the blackout, and the events of September 11th were still a very recent memory.

I don’t know what word describes how I’m feeling right now.

Across the aisle from me are an adult woman and her physically disabled father.  She hasn’t stopped yelling at him since the train stopped. [Edited transcript] “This always happens when I ride with you! I should have never said yes to this trip.”

Now, don’t get me wrong…I’m a huge fan of a well-placed expletive, but the way this woman is speaking to her father has the entire train car cringing.  She is unrelenting in profane complaints and double negatives. 

Her single act of kindness came when her dad asked her to reach down his computer.  He pulled up some website that showed real-time passenger and freight train activity. He tried to point out the trouble spot, but she quickly and decisively shut him up.

Not long after, I got caught staring in his direction. We shared a smile behind masks and he said, “I like to track the trains.”  As his daughter was (NO LIE) busy brushing her hair in the seat next to him, I said, “My brother is a huge train fan too, I get it.”  As he started to point out what was on his screen, the conductor came on the loudspeaker to explain the reason for the delay was a police situation on the tracks just outside of Kalamazoo. Minutes later when walking through our car, the conductor told my train-loving neighbor that this was the third suicide in the last ten days along this route.

I’ve already painted a horrible, albeit accurate, picture of his daughter so I will refrain from sharing her disgusting comments that followed.

Equal to my love of a well place curse word is my love of a good fight…one of words, mind you, and I am gearing up to put this bitch in her place.

My head is spinning and my internal voice has finally drowned out hers. But as my planned oratory assault reaches epic, launch-ready levels, deep emotion renders me mute.

I would give anything to be trapped on a train with my Dad. 

I would give anything to travel back in time…anxious and snackless…to be trapped on a train with my tiny girls who fell asleep in our laps while Pat and I held hands. 

I would give anything to hold Pat’s hand.

Three suicides in ten days along this one train route?  My God.

I would give anything to miraculously intervene in those troubled lives and help each person find the words to ask for help.

I would give anything to comfort the family members whose hearts are broken and who will face the horror of an empty chair this Christmas.

I would give anything to bring peace—of mind, heart, soul and spirit—to friend and stranger alike.

We started moving a bit ago. As my neighbors stood up to disembark at Battle Creek, I stood too. Toe to toe, I stared right into that woman’s eyes and said in a whimper, “Hope your day gets better.”  And in the true spirit of the season she said, “Jesus Christ, I need a f*in cigarette.”

The lesson of this journey has me counting my blessings, cherishing life, and praying for peace in the hearts of all. 

Yes, all.  Even the foul-mouth, grammatically deficient, wickedly unsanitary, public transportation-dissing, heartbreakingly paternal-alienating monsters of our world. Clearly, they are struggling with something too. 

May peace and joy surround everyone this Christmas.

kmp

xoxo

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faith, family, grief and loss, hope, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Quarantine Lessons from A-Z in 500 Words or Less

A is for Amen

The Working Title is…Can I Get An Amen?

Like the rest of the world, the last few months have left me feeling anxious and unsettled.  I usually put pen to paper when emotion gets the best of me, but even that has seemed impossible.  Nothing feels right anymore.

Can I get an Amen?

I know there are lessons all around.  Truths waiting to rise to the surface in a sea of confusion.  But the weight of the world keeps dragging me down.

Can I get an Amen?

While true strength comes from within, it only exists there because of what feeds it….

Family, friends and faith (see future Chapter F) are the one true constant on which a devoted heart can depend.  In the absence of extensive human contact, these months have been defined by imagery.  Can I see past the divisive, painful imagery found in social media and the accompanying comments filled with vitriol?

Even though I may feel lonely, can I acknowledge I am never truly alone?

Can I get an Amen?

My head has been spinning over the barrage of misinformation that comes from every angle.  True verifiable facts seem non-existent.  I’ve had to “leave the conversation” of three group chats because they made my heart race.  (Sorry, girls, I’ll be back one day when all we talk about is bad television and good wine.)

I don’t know where to turn for reliable insight, sage advice and pure fact. (See future Chapter I is for Information.)

I took a journalism class or two at Marquette University and had a former White House Press Secretary as my Academic Advisor.  We were taught to have TWO credible sources for every fact quoted. Hey NBC News, you know what “he had heard from colleagues” equates to?  Hearsay. Disallowed in a court of law and should be disallowed in the court of public opinion.  Maybe it’s true, but how about you (and by “you” I mean all journalists) quit being so lazy and sucked into the trap of a 24-hour news cycle where verifiable facts don’t matter anymore.

Can I get an Amen?

My heart has been heavy because my mind’s eye can picture a loved one in respiratory distress, and I intimately know how a ventilator can steal the chance at Goodbye.  (See future Chapter G.)  I count my blessings everyday that my family has not yet been touched by coronavirus.

Can I get an Amen?

Ok, ok…in the interest of journalistic integrity, I confess that none of those future Chapters are written yet.  Not a one. They’re all just bouncing around in my noggin.

And maybe that’s the most important lesson of Quarantine.  If you have something of value to say…say it. Reach out to an old friend.  Tell someone they’ve made a difference in your life.  Ask forgiveness.  Let go of anger.  Offer praise.  Say I love you.  For we may have all sorts of plans bouncing around our noggins, but only one thing is guaranteed…right now.

Can I get an Amen?

kmp

xoxo

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