Monday, August 14, 2017

Where Were You When. . . ?

Memories: Where were you when...?

I’m shopping in Lincoln, Nebraska, in the middle of our annual Christmas shopping tradition.  The mall is decorated in glitter and red and green.  The air is crisp and festive.  My sister has been inside a store, and I am waiting for her.  I see her now.  Her face is serious, much different from when she went in.  John Lennon is dead, she tells me.
My heart stops.  No.  This can’t be true.  My whole childhood flashes before my eyes.  Beatles notebooks.  Beatles lunch boxes.  Beatles posters.  Beatles magazines.  Beatles dolls.  Beatles 45s.  Beatles albums.  Beatles.
All I can do is hug my sister and try to breathe.  John Lennon is dead.  Shot by a deranged fan.  Our shopping day has come to an abrupt end.  I don’t even want to continue with our plans, but somehow I need to go to the . . .
Grove.  I meet my college girlfriends at our favorite hangout, The Grove.  I need to be with them and to see familiar faces of Grove regulars.  The mood is somber tonight, not the usual loud rock and roll feel.  Everyone is talking about John—favorite songs, favorite albums.  John Lennon songs are softly playing from the stage.  Give Peace a Chance.  Starting Over.  Mind Games.  Instant Karma.
Nothing will ever be the same.

Everything has changed.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Simple Journal

Right before my last year of teaching started I received the most incredible gift from my friend Kari.  We did our annual back to school happy hour, and over summer cocktails, she handed me a gift bag containing a simple journal.  I soon learned, however, that there was absolutely nothing simple about it.  Kari's gift became a lifeline to my past, bringing back memories from my thirty-two years as a teacher.

so very Kari (and Cheryl!)
Each month Kari mailed me an envelope containing three journal prompts.  These prompts were meant to elicit memories from my years of teaching, and that is exactly what they did. Starting in August and each month after, I reflected on my career.  Memories, many long forgotten, flooded my mind.  I smiled, laughed out loud, gasped, and shed tears as students colleagues, parents, classrooms, and schools appeared in my mind and heart.

The prompts ran the gamut, from




all the way to

As each month approached, I found myself anxiously awaiting Kari's handwritten envelope containing inspiring quotes, the journal prompts, and Kari's love and energy.  The year flew by as I poured myself into this journal project.  

Kari put each prompt in a library-style book envelope.
I'm forever grateful to Kari for engaging me in this nine-month journal exercise.  I hope I captured everyone who joined me on my thirty-two year journey and every miracle that sparkled along this English teacher's path.

pages and pages of love and gratitude

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

For My Little Brother

I wrote the following for a writing class. The assignment was to choose a significant person and write a series of "I remember" statements and go from there.  I love what emerged when I recalled memories of my little brother.  I think it's blog worthy๐Ÿ˜Š

I remember  . . .

MARK—my little brother.  We are only two years apart and have always been very close.  I can’t imagine life without him.

I remember the summer you and I got to go to Grandma and Ivan’s all by ourselves!  We even got out of school for the summer a week early and rode the train from Alliance to Lincoln.  The train trip was long, but waiting for us when we arrived were both Grandma and Ivan.  They were thrilled to have us all to themselves, and they planned the week out with all kinds of fun.   From swimming in Wahoo to grocery shopping to visiting Bessie on the farm to visits from Ethel, we packed in so much during that short week.  The best part was just being with my little brother at our grandparents’.

I remember when we were running around the bowling alley while Dad bowled with his weekly league.  You were chasing me, and I so desperately didn’t want to get caught.  I ran like crazy and just when I thought I might escape you, the gumball machine ended that .  I grabbed the pole trying to propel myself around the obstacle.  Little did I know that my strength was stronger than that gumball machine.  Crash—the glass container shattered and hundreds of brightly colored gumballs rolled in all directions.

I remember family road trips where you always got to sit in the front seat.  I would get so jealous seeing the back of your head tucked safely between Mom and Dad as we rolled down the never-ending Highway 2 in Nebraska.  I wished that just once I could have that coveted spot, but I always had to settle for glaring at your head and the back of your ears.  I got my revenge once though.  As I sat in back chewing my bubble gum, I might have leaned up just a tad too close.  At the same time I realized my bubble gum’s textured changed, you let out a howl that made Dad threaten to pull the car over.  Your ear lobe became my chewing gum for a split second, and it was so worth it!

I remember Joy and I talking you into going to see Kris and Rita at Red Rocks.  We were all so poor back then, and none of us could really afford the trip.  But we scrounged up enough money for tickets and gas and we all piled into the car.  Not having money for overnight accommodations, that car became our hotel room.  We found a KOA to park, and all of us somehow slept the night away.

I remember when you were awarded the full-ride scholarship to Chadron State College.  I was so proud of you,

I remember when you came to visit me in Lincoln.  At least I thought you came to visit me, but somehow I think that was an excuse to get Mom and Dad to let you take the car for the weekend.  I saw you for one night and then you disappeared.  I wish you would have just told me that you wanted to go to Dodge City to see a girlfriend, but instead, I spent the weekend worried sick, imagining you in a car accident or murdered somewhere.  I have never been so relieved to see someone when you finally showed up on Sunday, sheepish and apologetic.  Don’t ever do that again!

I remember football season, spending our weekends glued to college games and placing our crazy wagers.  We always seemed to think we found a “cinch,” but as we learned time and time again, there are no cinches.  Those weekends during the fall and early winter still bring us close.

I remember the antennae tower.  Oh Lord, why can’t I forget that?  Dad’s amazing truck with the tower that would rise to the sky with the flip of a switch was ahead of its time, and a huge temptation to two small kids.  We flipped the switch while the truck was inside the garage.  Ugh—the sound of steel hitting the ceiling is forever etched in my head.  Make it go away!

I remember all of the Blue Bird and Campfire Girl meetings you attended when Mom was the leader of my troupe.  She would bring you along, and I always thought I would die when you would want to do the crafts that we were doing.

I remember when Dad died.  You became everyone’s pillar of strength even though you needed to grieve too.  I hope you were able to.

I remember ALL of the acts of kindness you have shown to me and everything you have done to make my life easier.  I can’t list them all, but I remember everything, from fixing my brakes, yard work, hanging ceiling fans, fixing anything, paying for things.  You take care of us.

What I can’t remember, though, is a time when you weren’t there for me.  You’re the best brother anyone could have.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Russell Lee

Our 8th Royal Baby arrived last fall!  (meet all of them here and here and here and here) Russell Lee Hawk was born to my nephew Nathan and his wife Lindsey on October 7, 2016. His arrival came just a bit early, resulting in a tiny but healthy 5 pound baby.
Lindsey, Nathan, and newborn Russell Lee
Homeward Bound
The wait to meat Russel was excruciating.  All my good intentions to get to Minneapolis after the forty day ban was over (only Mom, Dad, and grandparents met him at first)  didn't pan out until April.  Six months.  That was hard!  But oh my, was the wait worth it.
Grams and I get to meet Russell.  Finally!

I learned quickly that little Russell has the most adorable personality.  He is
(he grabs everything, especially hair!)
a wannabe foodie 
(he loves to taste anything he can reach!)
(that smile!) 
(rarely a cry out of this little guy)
(I dare you not to fall in love with him)

But of course he is--he is a miniature version of his dad.  Nathan has always had a smile that will melt your heart.  And Nathan has always been a foodie.  I have clear memories of him sitting on a stool at two years old enjoying fresh strawberries dipped in the sugar bowl or ordering sophisticated appetizers as a teen (no chicken fingers for Nate) or whipping up gourmet meals in the kitchen.

And his grandparents--my sister Kerri and her husband Marty raised their family with love and laughter.  They are passing that on to Russell Lee.  Marty loves to carry Russell around and Kerri loves reading to him.

Lindsey's parents adore Russell Lee as well.  They live close by, and Russell will always be surrounded by family.

Kerri and Marty with their first grandson
Nathan's brothers, Russell's uncles and my nephews, are absolutely gaga over him.  They carry him around, read to him, and let him join in video games.  Adam and Gabe will be amazing role models for our Russell.
Uncle Adam and Uncle Gabe

I can't wait to watch as Russell Lee, our 8th royal Baby, grows and changes.  Welcome to our beautiful world, baby Russell ๐Ÿ’—
Growing up!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Dogs Remember

I often hear stories about dogs getting lost and separated from their owners for months or even years.  Sometimes they find their way back home, from blocks, or cities, or even states away. Sometimes they are returned to their homes by kind strangers who found them somewhere along the way.  No matter the means, those returning dogs always remember their families  and their homes, and everyone is filled with happiness and joy and love at these reunions.  It's a beautiful sight to behold.

Thank the Good Lord Above that my Juliet has never been lost.  But I have witnessed her uncanny memory throughout her eleven years.  The most heartwarming, tear-jerking example occurred just recently.

First, a little backstory . . .

Jewel's very first,, and probably only, friend was Ren, my sister's Toy Fox Terrier.  He was the first dog (other than her mom and siblings) Jewel met.  She was just a puppy, but Ren was already a senior dog.  She loved Ren.  Ren tolerated her.  They spent a lot of time together, and they were loved by the same family and friends.  Sadly, the day that all dog lovers dread came, and Ren's life ended.  Even though he lived a long life, we were all sad to see him go.  Saddest of all was Jewel.  Every time my sister came to visit, Jewel looked desperately for Ren.  When we went to visit my sister in Colorado Springs, Jewel searched for him in every room.  And even now, five years later, she still looks for Ren when Lynne is present, causing such bittersweet feelings.

Ren and Jewel

Which brings me back to my story.

My mom and I were watching the 2017 Westminster Dog Show a few weeks ago.  Jewel was in her normal evening spot--on her princess pillow, softly snoring.  The Toy category was being judged to see which Toy breed would advance to Best in Show.  (I always cheer for the Cavalier King Charles :)  Jewel woke up and decided to change spots. She passed near the television as she looked for her second favorite spot.  Suddenly, she stopped right in front of the TV, tail wagging and eyes transfixed.  I was reading, not paying full attention, but when Jewel started barking, I glanced up.  There, front and center, was the Toy Fox Terrier, strutting his stuff for the judges.  Ren, in Jewel's eyes, was about to win Best in Show!

Ren, in Jewel's eyes :)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

He Kissed Me (Meeting Bruce Springsteen)

Every now and then the stars align and send down from heaven a reason to believe that sweeps away any doubt that the universe really is amazing.  Such a celestial event happened to me when I got to meet my hero, Bruce Springsteen.

Flash back oh about forty-two years when I first fell in love with The Boss.  I was going to college in Lincoln, Nebraska, at that time.  My roommates and I listened nonstop to KFMQ, our favorite radio station, while driving our cars or hanging in our apartment.  The first time I heard "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" I stopped everything to listen.  The second time, I said, "Damn.  Who is this??"  The third time, I went to Dirt Cheap to buy the album.  And from that moment on, with a major revival in the 80's courtesy of my little sister, Bruce Springsteen has been my man.  From 45s to albums to cassettes to MTV videos to cds to downloads to playlists to concerts, I have followed, been a groupie of, planned English lessons around, and loved The Boss.  He has been a major part of my story since 1974.  I always hoped to meet him some day, but I knew it would take a miracle for that to happen. Enter several glorious, Heaven-sent miracles.  In late November, 2016, the stars did truly align and shone brightly on a path that led to my meeting with Bruce. Each step of the way was kissed with miracles, making this meeting just destined to be.  

Miracle One--Ticket Success!

I knew that Bruce had made previous book signing appearances in major cites earlier in the fall.  I thought how amazing it would be to attend one, but most of them were on the East Coast or in California.  I kind of forgot about that actually--it seemed like he stopped after five or six book stores.  I happened to be watching the local evening news the week of Thanksgiving when out of the blue, a reporter announced that Bruce added a few more meet-and-greets, and Denver was one of the cities added.  I had to replay the segment to make sure I heard right.  OMG--I heard right.  He would be appearing at The Tattered Cover (my favorite bookstore) the next week, and tickets would go on sale the next day at 10:00 a.m. Shortly after this newscast, I received multiple texts and Tweets from friends alerting me to the news. With less than 24 hours to process, I knew I was going to try to get one of those tickets.

The next morning I probably wasn't the most focused English teacher out there, but fortunately, it was the day before Thanksgiving break, and my students were finishing projects.  I still hadn't come up with a plan for how I was going to slip away at 10:00.  I even thought for a split second that maybe I would just skip it.  So many rules to prevent ticket scalping were attached to the event, such as--only one ticket per transaction, and the ticket holder had to be the same name as the credit card used.  Plus, I knew from experience that it's not easy to get tickets to see Bruce in concert--websites crash and tickets sell out in minutes, oftentimes resulting in disappointment,   But still, I knew I just had to at least try.   This is the point where the stars began to align.  Attendance was exceptionally low periods 1 and 2. Period 2 ended at 9:56, so the four-minute passing time gave me time to log into EventBrite to scope it out.  At 9:58 the website displayed the message, "Event not on sale."  I refreshed at 9:59 and got the same message,  As fate would have it, at this time only two students had entered my classroom.  I watched the time on my phone change to 10:00, and I made the decision to refresh one last time.  

"One ticket is in your basket.  You will have 6 minutes to complete this transaction."  What????  I wasn't ready for that.  I was a shaking mess as I slowly typed my credit card and other information, telling myself to calm down, take my time, and check that all numbers and spelling were correct.  Breathe.  Six minutes is plenty of time.  Breathe.  Everything appeared to be correct.  It was time to push submit.

Spin . . . Wait . . . Spin . . .

And then . . .

Voila!  Confirmation.  One Ticket.  Just like that, I was going to meet The Boss!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I couldn't breathe. OMG! OMG! OMG!  I am going to MEET Bruce Springsteen.

It wasn't until that evening when I fully understood just how miraculous it was that I got a ticket.  Comments poured onto Tattered Cover's FaceBook page admonishing their handling of the event--comments like:
What a cluster fuck. I was refreshing and clicked at 9:59:55 and it said unavailable. Clicked refresh as it hit 10:00:00 - saw green ticket bar, clicked, clicked checkout - immediately told me unavailable due to previous sales? Kept refreshing - every know and then the ticket bar would be there - clicked it, clicked checkout, same thing. Never even took me to a payment screen. It took 26 minutes for them to mark it as Sold Out. Not buying that tickets were all gone in the 3 seconds it took me to click ticket and check out. FUCK Eventbrite and their system.
Seriously? Had a ticket in my cart and got kicked out and now can't get back in.
LikeShow more reactions
 Same thing happened to me! ๐Ÿ˜ก
Had ticket in my cart at 4 seconds past 10. Hit checkout. Then unavailable. Bullshit
Cheryl Thompson

Write a comment...

Well that sucked 

And on and on . . .  The Tattered Cover apologized and explained that 25,000 people hit the site at 10:00, causing issues, but even with that, tickets were gone in three minutes.  With one try, a short 20 second processing spin, I had my ticket.  Thank you, stars!

Miracle Two--Nieces!

I don't know how I made it through Period 3.  I couldn't breathe.  I was in shock and close to having a panic attack.  One of my first thoughts after I realized that I had a ticket was, "What have I done??"  The fact that I only had one ticket hit me.  Being mobility impaired, I wondered who would help me get into the building.  Would I be able to get a personal day approved to attend?  I soon laughed those concerns off--the ticket was only $32.00.  If things didn't work out, it wouldn't be the end of the world.

During my lunch, I sent a message to EventBrite asking about taking a helper to just be in line with me,  Within five minutes they messaged back that absolutely a companion would be allowed but would not get an autographed book or a meeting with Bruce.  Understood.  
Thank you!

My next worry was who would want to take a day off just to go stand in an endless line for hours?  I didn't think anyone would.   I first tried my nephew Jake, but he knew he wouldn't be able to get the day off.  However, I had been texting my nieces about my ticket, who were happy but jealous beyond words.  At some point in the text, Micki said she put her name on a wait list for a ticket, and if it cleared, she would do a one-day trip from Nebraska. Wait a second, I said--I can take a helper. Then everything was turned upside down with Jill proclaiming, with love, that I had made the ultimate Sophie's Choice!

What is an aunt to do?  This aunt called The Tattered Cover directly to inquire about having two helpers, with no expectation that either would get to see Bruce.  As the stars would have it, I was connected to an angel by the name of Suzanne.  Suzanne checked with management, and they approved two assistants to check in with me, and from there, they would take over.  Done.  Both nieces were on board.  Thank you, stars!

Miracle Three--The Tattered Cover Staff

With seven days to wait after ticket success, I stressed about every little detail.  What exactly did TC's management mean when they said the girls could check me into the line, and they would take it from there?  Micki and Jill were fine with this, but I wasn't so sure.  And I really wanted them to at least see Bruce, but they were content just being in the same building.  I made at least three more phone calls to TC to verify that they both could be in the building, and each time, because the stars were still aligning, of course, Suzanne answered the phone.  Each time, she patiently assured me that both girls could check me in but would not be able to meet Bruce. I can't stress enough how helpful, understanding, and angelic Suzanne was.  Thank you, stars, for Suzanne!

And with that, 11/30/2016 arrived, and we were off.  TO MEET BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN!!

On our way!
With just a tiny cloud of worry trying to rain on my parade, we arrived at The Tattered Cover fully prepared to stand in the freezing cold (18 degrees--brrrr--but sunny--yay!) for hours.  After lucking into a parking space right across the street, we saw the line stretching outside the door.  We got in line, ready for the wait, and started talking with the people around us.  It wasn't long before we found out that we were in the wrong line.  This line was for people who had already checked in.  We needed to go to the check-in line first.  So off we went, around the back of the building, in search of that elusive check-in line.

l was starting to feel a little nauseous at this point.  Where in the world was this check-in line?  How long was it? And would the girls have to leave me at that point?  We still had no idea what was going to happen with that.  I felt a tingling on my wrist and remembered I had my Rosary bracelet on.  Knowing that, I said a quick Hail Mary as we entered the back door.  We had no idea where to go, but a friendly-looking store employee saw us in our confusion.  As we approached, her face brightened as she asked, "Are you Cheryl?"  She just happened to be the beautiful Suzanne who answered my calls of inquiry the week before.  There is just no way that Divine Intervention didn't arrange that.  She immediately took us under her wing and led us to an elevator that would take us to the check-in line.

Oh dear Lord--that line.  It snaked all the way through the bookstore (this is a large bookstore) out the front door and spilled around the block (we only learned this when we were leaving).  But never mind--we had our stars and Mother Mary lighting our way.  An attendant escorted us from the elevator directly to the front of the line.  What???  We had no idea what was happening, but another adorable employee asked for my name and i.d., verified with her boss that both girls could accompany me, and put wristbands on all three of us (theirs had a small sticker showing they were escorts) and handed us off to another amazing employee.  It was that fast, that painless, and that miraculous.

We all looked at each other in disbelief as we followed along,  We thought we would now be heading back to that first line on the other side of the building.  Instead, the employee headed to a second elevator that took us down another level where the meet-and-greet would take place.  When we exited the elevator, we followed our guy down a carpeted hallway lined with books.  We heard the distant hum of talking and laughing, and when we rounded a corner, we entered a gorgeous section of the bookstore that was abuzz with excitement.  My eyes took in a beautiful tapestry rug with a stand containing water bottles.  A row of photographers lined up in front of the rug, and behind a partition came lots of excited voices.  In a daze, we realized that our guide wasn't leading us to the line but instead took us on a shortcut and bypassed the line entirely. 

We were at ground zero, and Bruce would be standing on that very rug greeting his fans.  Still not quite grasping what was happening, I felt for my Rosary Bracelet to say another Hail Mary.  My worry was that any time someone was going to kick out Jill and Micki.  As we waited for Bruce, we scoped out who might do just that.  But all the employees were just waiting for Bruce, like we were, and they couldn't have been nicer.  We began to relax a little and just take it all in as the stars continued to align.
Waiting for Bruce!
Because the official line of Bruce fans was behind the photographers and a partition, we couldn't see most of them, but we could definitely hear their excited chatter and felt the concert-like vibes.  As it got closer for the time for Bruce to appear, a recording of "Born to Run" came on the speakers.  We and the crowd did what we would do at a concert--we sang along at the top of our lungs and yelled for BRUUUUUUUUUUUUUCE.  It was almost time . . .


It still wasn't registering with me that Bruce Springsteen would come out of the door that was twenty feet away, but at this time that door opened, and some very official-looking men walked  out to scope things out and then quickly went back and closed the door.  We knew then that Bruce Springsteen was in the building!  What I didn't get, but somehow Micki and Jill did, was that we were going to be the first to meet Bruce.  I just couldn't comprehend that, but before I could even get my iPhone ready for pictures, the door opened once more. This time, Bruce made his entrance.  

Bruce Springsteen is in the house!
Bruce stepped onto the rug, slightly bowed to the row of photographers, looked directly at us, and bowed to the photographers again.  At this point, I just let fate take complete control.  I had no idea where the girls were or even where I was for that matter.  I saw Bruce approaching me.  His eyes were focused on mine, and in that short approach, I saw every Bruce image stored in my memory--Bruce, fighting off girls bombarding the stage as he sings "Rosalita," and Bruce, leaning on Big Man's shoulder with that saxaphone, and Bruce driving a stolen car, and Bruce, dancing in the dark (with me, not Courtney!), and Bruce, singing about Reasons to Believe in Nebraska, and Bruce standing against the American flag.  I almost burst into tears as decades of memories and music flashed through my mind and heart. 
I was jolted back to reality with sounds from the clicking shutters and flashing lights as the paparazzi got to work.  I felt like a movie star and forgot everything I practiced saying.  I think I said, "Well hello, Bruce.  It certainly is a pleasure to meet you after all these years." And then . . .

Miracle Five--HE KISSED ME!!!

He said, "Hello darling" and leaned over and kissed me.  KISSED ME!
My entire face tingled after that simple kiss, let me tell you.  I might have grabbed his arm.  Yes, I think I did--I didn't want it to be over.

We both then turned to face the photographers for an official photo.  I said something else--maybe a thank you for your music line.  And just like that, it was over.  We had to move along.  

We went around a corner, and I just needed a moment to process what had happened. Micki was crying, Jill was texting, and I was in shock.  
Immediately after.  And lunch menu where we stopped to debrief!

Miracle Six--After 

Even though my meeting with Bruce was brief, I realized over the next few days just how far reaching and eternal it truly was.  For one thing, all the local news stations covered Bruce's appearance at The Tattered Cover.  I was beyond thrilled when I saw us in several segments.  Channel 7 even captured the kiss!!  Many friends texted or called to tell me they saw me on the news, and I could hear their own excitement as they relayed their news.

Of course I blasted this event all over social media as well. I heard from so many people--close friends, of course but also people I haven't heard from forever, and friends of friends, and complete strangers.  That they took the time to like or comment or call or share my good fortune added to the beauty of meeting Bruce.  It was as if they were meeting their own Bruce.  Here is just a sampling:

My heartfelt gratitude and love for everyone who shared this miracle with me.

Months have passed, but my meeting with Bruce is still fresh in my memory and in my heart.  My nieces and I continue reliving this memory and are forever bonded by something that no one else shares.  Friends still want to hear the story, and I am oh-so-happy to tell it!  My face still tingles from that kiss.  And those stars still align, casting a new glow on my soul, giving me all new reasons to believe.  

I hope you all have your own personal Bruce and that someday your prayers are answered and the stars align for you to meet him/her, too.  I would love to hear about it--please share your miracle!