Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Cover Of A Book

My reflection of 2014 continues as I look ahead to the possibilities 2015 holds for me.  I’m late with Christmas cards this year so while firmly pressing the last address labels onto the pearly white envelopes that carry photographs of our year to those that we love, I’m flooded with memories of people that have graced our lives and was brought back to an experience this year I’m embarrassed to admit.  In the spirit of bettering myself moving forward, here’s my story of one helluva good book!

Not long ago, while fighting my way through a mass of people trying to reach my Southwest Airlines gate at Baltimore International Airport, I was a minute late and almost $150 poorer in the pocketbook.  My “A 23” boarding spot ended-up-being a “C 44” due to my late arrival at the airport.  As I hastily made my way down the ramp and onto my flight, I found myself in the most dreaded place for a frequent flyer…the middle seat! 

It was summer, hot as hades outside, which meant by the time I found a seat, I was disheveled, sweating and a nervous wreck (but thankful I made the flight)!  Clumsily I fumbled my way past the woman sitting comfortably in the aisle seat, shoved my leather brief case with wheels under the seat in front of me and then proceeded to try and pull out my five pound computer and notes from the previous day’s meetings.

My years of flying have allowed me to meet all sorts of interesting people.  I usually arrive early enough at the airport that I’m able to scan my gate and view the vast quantity of people like a bibliophile does the public library.  So many different stories and chapters of each person’s book of life are represented and if I’m in the right mood, I’m anxious to see what "book" I land next to on my flight.

I hate to admit it but I judge every book by its cover.  It’s human nature I suppose but something I'm trying hard not to do as I would hate for someone to look at me and assume because I’m without make-up and perfectly coiffed hair, that I may be a bad Mom, undependable friend, lazy employee…the list goes on and on.

Alas, this day in question leads me to one of my biggest downfalls…judging the “book” next to me by the cover.  This book looked to be about 70 years old.  The cover had deep wrinkles but hints of perfection in between the chapters of the life it surely held together.  I assumed this book was well taken care of by a man as her pages were neatly manicured.  She was reading the “Economist” magazine so I assumed her story was one of wealth and advantage.  As I tried unsuccessfully to not bother either passenger seated next to me while shoving my huge case beneath the seat in front of me,  she said, “I don’t think your brief case is going to fit.”  For some reason, probably because I had already sized her up in about the first minute I was in the seat, her comment infuriated me.  I snapped back, “I fly all the time and never have had problems with my brief case under the seat.”  Admittedly, the brief case is large and the wheels inevitably cause problems with a proper fit underneath the seat on some older Southwest Airlines planes.  Though she was probably right, in that moment all I could think is how dare she saying something like that to me after the week I’d had away from my family, traveling non-stop!  “Why, a person of her age, her arrogance, and her privilege knows nothing about working,” I concluded to myself.

For the next hour she sat thumbing through her magazine and I sat like a sardine in the damn middle seat stewing about the old-timer sitting next to me.  In my mind I called her every name I could think of, had concocted an Oscar winning story about who this woman was and where she came from and could hardly wait to get off of the plane to remove myself from the situation.  Usually I don’t do this, even in the midst of the madness going on in my head I kept saying to myself, “You don’t know her and these accusations are so unfair.”  Even typing it on this post makes me sick to my stomach.  It truly was a moment in time I'm ashamed of.

Half way through the flight, she turned my way and I to her.  Our eyes met and we both looked away.  In that moment, I was completely taken aback.  She was breathtakingly beautiful.  In an instance of insanity, before I could catch myself, out of my mouth came, “Oh my gosh you are beautiful”.  She turned to look at me and said, “Are you talking to me?”   “Yes ma’am,” I said, “You are gorgeous.”  And I meant every word!

Those words started a friendship between an old book and one that has lots to learn about judging covers that encompass us all.  In two hours remaining on our flight, I learned about a lifetime that made-up her book of life.  This was the first time she had flown since her husband of over fifty years had died of cancer.  Her daughter lives in Texas and her grandson attends college in Colorado so she was flying to meet them both to get his door room set-up for another year of schooling.  She was convinced her daughter was worrying about her being at home alone and therefore invited her to Denver for a long weekend.  As we continued to discuss our lives, my new friend told me she has two masters’ degrees and worked in academia her entire career.  You see, she was not a kept woman at all but a woman that broke through barriers in order to give some smart-ass younger person, like me, a fighting chance at success in the world as a woman.  She has a brilliant mind but one that, in that moment, was incredibly fragile as she had to learn how to navigate in this world alone for the first time in her adult life.  I learned her neighborhood is full of people that love her and the church she attends has been rock solid as she continued to find her footing.  She told me she was “blessed” but somehow I could not help but feel the true blessings were to those that came into contact with her.  This is the kind of book I love to read. 

The flight ended entirely too soon and I found myself overcome with guilt about the horrible things I thought of such a lovely person.  Mary Ann and I have stayed in touch since then.  I imagine this holiday will be incredibly difficult for her and her family.  As I plan for great things in 2015, my biggest hope is I’m able to view all of the “books” around me knowing they each tell a story that has impacted how their cover looks at the moment my eyes see them.  Regardless of what the outside looks like; worn, polished, pulled together perfectly or a complete disaster, when my book is completed, I hope others can read it before they make snap judgments about me based on how my cover looks.  Of all the learnings I've gathered this year, perhaps this is the greatest one of all.


“Judge tenderly, if you must. There is usually a side you have not heard, a story you know nothing about, and a battle waged that you are not having to fight.” – Traci Lea LaRussa

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

2014 Year In Rewind

I just returned from a walk down memory lane though this walk was not on my usual route.  The usual path starts at Failed Marriage Drive, heads north down Dating Douche Bag Street, turns left on Cancer Way, heads westward when I hit the fork in the road between Dream Chasing Avenue and Motherhood Street and usually ends at Emotional Breakdown Blvd.  This path is followed several times a year where I am always drawn to the same conclusion, it's a miracle I am where I am with the crazy life I've lived!


My walk this week began while looking at my sister-in-law's new company website and searching her competition to see how she matches up.  While searching, I ran across my blog page and began reading the blogs that consumed my life for a three-month stretch of time in 2012 and decided that I needed to write about our year.  So, in lieu of sending a neatly typed note in our yearly Christmas card, this year I'm saving trees and taking up my edge of cypher space with our year in rewind. 


2014 may go down as one of the most stressful years of our lives.  I read an article recently and took one of those fun online "quizzes" that asks the fool (i.e. me) to check the box next to all of the "major life events" that have taken place in the past 12 to 24 months.  At the end I was instructed to add up my score and voila, the 300+ points I racked-up made me highly susceptible to anxiety-induced illness!!  Well, Merry Christmas to you too online quiz!!  Now, give me a moment to go throwaway my snotty Kleenex!

February 1 was a milestone for our family, Elyse celebrated her first birthday which meant we made it through one whole year with a kid that is still a living and breathing being.  I have no idea how we managed to keep her alive but we did and I thank God daily for it.

Gayland started the year with a new lease on life or at least work.  In December of 2013, Dell offered a global buy-out to all employees, which Gayland jumped on like Will Rogers jumped on Soapsuds' back to ride off into the Oklahoma sunset.  We loaded up our wagons and headed north until we found a spot that seemed like a good place to set down roots which, to these city-slickers, is two miles due east of downtown Denver, CO.  We bought a house, set-up shop and have loved our time in the Mile High city surrounded by beautiful scenery, seasons and a whole slew of fabulous people!


When you take a buy-out from a company, you are effectively, jobless, which means…no... job, no income, and a wife that's living on pins and needles.  Luckily for our daughter, she was able to spend hour-upon-hour of quality time with her Dad!  This is the best gift they could have given each other.  Gayland began his short stint as stay-at home-Dad and perhaps God’s biggest small blessing was all of the time Elyse and he had to bond.  No amount of money can buy that kind of time back and I'm thankful!


With what seemed like constant change, the one thing we could rely on was the consistency of my job, which I've had for over four years, right?  R-i-g-h-t….that is until two days after we arrived in Denver my boss called to let me know the "great news"!  The sales team had restructured and the whole scope of my job had changed.  I was now on a new team with a new manager focusing on our strategic partnerships, which essentially meant all new customers (with the exception of a few) and non-traditional restaurant companies (hotels, grocery stores, convenience stores, cruise lines, entertainment, etc.).  My territory went from six states to fifty and everything I thought I knew about the world of restaurants changed in the matter of seconds.  It's been exhilarating and scary and rewarding and fulfilling and maddening and nauseating!  If you've ever had new job you get what I'm saying!

The worst thing we endured this year was what felt like the very sudden passing of Gayland's Mom, Mary, in May.  Looking back, her health began to decline after her 70th birthday party, which was in August of 2009.  She was in incredible pain every moment of every day for the past few years and when we finally received a diagnosis of her illness, all of the years of suffering made complete sense.  Multiple Myeloma is a complete Bitch!  If it were a woman I would take her out back and give her an old fashioned ass whoopin'!  Cancer has no discrimination, fear or care of the lives it wrecks.  I hate it!


A week prior to Mary's death, Gayland landed a "hunter" sales job which put him outside again but still in technology with a company called Zones.  He actively pursues new partnerships and resale’s products such as HP and Dell hardware and software for companies like Oracle.  He loves the challenge of establishing a brand virtually unknown in the Denver technology world and new work relationships!


My summer was spent traveling non-stop, experiencing people and places I never thought in my wildest dreams I get to meet and see.  Though being on the road is draining, visiting the Pentagon twice in a few months time made it all worth it.


In November, our New York City experience came full circle when we took Elyse back to our adopted home to visit the nurse, doctors and sonographer as well as restaurants and friends that have left an indelible impact on our lives forever.  I plan to write a separate blog post about this experience but suffice it to say, it has made my heart whole again.  OH, and while in Manhattan, I was lucky enough to finally complete the NYC marathon…pretty awesome!


So, this leads me to December 9 and two days before we leave for Tennessee to visit Gayland's family for the first time without Mary.  You know, Mary was Jesus' mother and for Christians, the mother of our faith.  I can't imagine how she must have felt when her son gave his life on the cross.  It must have been horrific to lose someone you loved with all of your heart and soul.  As I think about the upcoming holidays, Mary and Mary come to my mind.  To my mother-in-law, I'm forever grateful she gave me her son to love until the end of time and for the other Mary, I'm so thankful I get to celebrate the birth of her son, Jesus, who gave his life for mine.  CHRISTmas always reminds me of the full circle of life.  


In closing, my hope is this holiday season fills your heart with peace, tranquility and thankfulness.  Merry Christmas to you all and a Happy 2015!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A year, not just a day of giving Thanks!


374 days ago, Gayland and I were sitting in a shoebox-sized Manhattan high rise apartment relishing in the fact that in one day we would celebrate two things:  Having made it to our first milestone in the pregnancy post hospitalization, 28 weeks gestation, and Thanksgiving!  Though we were without family or friends to share the season with, it still was the best Thanksgiving of our lives as we had overcome what seemed impossible and unachievable a mere five weeks before, staying pregnant!  It was a miracle then and remains a miracle now that Elyse is so perfect! 

Jump ahead a year and we find ourselves again giving thanks for the bountiful blessings for which we have been bestowed.  Needless to say, we are thankful we're in this life stage and not that one but we wouldn't trade that experience, the city or the fantastic people that forever touched our lives for the world!  

In preparing my "list of thanksgiving" this year, I thought it appropriate to look-up how the word Thanksgiving is actually defined.  Ole Mr. Webster says Thanksgiving is “the act of giving thanks; grateful acknowledgement of benefits or favors, especially to God.” Well eat a whole pie for Thanksgiving dessert and don't county your Weight Watchers points, he might as well have said Thanksgiving is defined as “Leslie Paffe’s life” because the two are one in the same!!

As I bethink on the year behind, I want to give thanks to God for my biggest blessings of 2013:

1.     Elyse Harlan Paffe – there are no words…if you’re a parent; you get it…I can’t explain beyond that.  She’s our world.

2.     Ignorance – I’m thankful I didn’t know, regardless how many times I was warned, how hard the first six weeks of parenthood is.  There is no preparation for sleeping in two hour increments, post-partum hormones (I still take drugs to remind me of those damn hormones), inconsolable crying, weird baby noises OH and balancing all of that with the fact you still have a marriage to keep in tact.  Yea, I’m thankful I didn’t know all of that!

3.    Turning 37 (in a month) - I’ve finally come into my own and this person, thankfully, looks different than the person I thought I would and should be.  I’m honored to say I’m a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, career-woman, part-time dream chaser, athlete, pie and cooking-maker, wine drinker, fantastic food enjoying friend.

4.     Family – It’s dysfunctional and crazy and maddening and beautiful and unique.  I wouldn’t trade any of them for the world.  

5.     Friends –I have been incredibly blessed to have a few that date back nearly thirty years, one that goes back to 2000 a few from my days in Nashville and newer friendships I cherish as much as the old ones.  Regardless where they fall on the timeline of my life, I’m so thankful for them all.

6.     Opportunity – We live in a free country full of opportunity if we only allow our minds to see beyond the limitations we set for ourselves.  For this, I’m thankful.

7.     Faith – It has kept me warm in the coldest days of my life and allows me to exhale deeply knowing God is in control and will lead us where we are supposed to go.  

8.     An amazing job – Working for companies life Spurs Sports & Entertainment and GSD&M Advertising look good on a resume.  Though they both provided memorable experiences and lasting friendships, not until I worked for the National Restaurant Association did I realize having a job could be fun!  I love my company, my bosses, co-workers and customers.  My wish is everyone could enjoy his or her work as much as I enjoy mine.

9.     Breastfeeding – It has been one of the biggest joys in my life.  With all the complications from the pregnancy, birth and post-partum issues, it still remains the only thing I planned to do that actually worked.  My goal was six months and I’m almost at ten.  With a strenuous travel schedule, I thought it impossible to continue, so this was, and will remain one of my biggest blessings of the year.

10.  Forgiveness – Generally speaking, nothing specific.  In the past year it has granted me the freedom to move on while still loving those that intentionally or unintentionally caused pain.  This is the biggest blessing we can give others and our selves.

As we all gather around the table, my hope is your day is filled with family, friends, memories, hope for the future and thankfulness for those things in life we take for granted.  Thanks to each of you for the goodness you have brought to ours.