“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.” ~ A.A. Milne
Marie Dale’s birthday is July 4. We’re never at work for her birthday, so I’m lucky if I even remember to wish her happy birthday let alone do something for her. I’m absolutely terrible remembering important dates like that. So, tonight, I fixed that when she took mom with her to get her nails done. And after the ladies had themselves a little spa time, they joined me and dad for a birthday dinner because tomorrow is mom’s 77th birthday. Bless ’em both for dealing with my forgetful self. Happy birthday to two of my favorite people!
“You either get bitter or you get better. It’s that simple. You either take what’s been dealt to you and allow it to make you a better person, or you allow it to tear you down.The choice does not belong to fate. It belongs to you.” ~ Josh Shipp
I’ve had an excellent week capped off by a trip to Transylvania University’s Moosnick Museum and Special Collections. My old friend and former housemate Kevin Johnson is Transy Library’s latest hire. He joined us on the tour (“us” as in UK Libraries’ Special Collections crew). You sort of met Kevin way back on January 4, 2012 when the outhouse first sprang to life. Actually, you only met his wrist (watch), so this is the first time you see his face. Kevin probably doesn’t know that his calm demeanor and steady friendship helped hold me together during one of the worst periods of my life at the death of my BFF Jim Brown. You can’t replace friends like that.
I’ll talk more about Moosnick later because there’s a lot to talk about and it’s very cool, but this post is about three old college friends who somehow, after twenty years, managed to find themselves on a workday in the same place all armed with cameras, on Friday the 13th no less. We shot plenty around Transy, but we shot lots of each other, too. I think our colleagues were entertained by our three ring circus. In case I haven’t told the story: Kevin was in the MFA program at UK as Crys and I were working on our undergrad degrees (all in photography). Kevin took us under his wing, and in many ways, taught us more than we would have ever gotten from our coursework. We forged lasting friendships. Fast forward all these years and Kevin is happier now than I have ever known him to be. He has a son in whom he delights, and now he has landed a job with people who truly appreciate his highly evolved silly photog ways. He even gets big bear hugs from Marie. It makes me so happy to see him well and peaceful. He’s a great man and Transy is fortunate to have him. Me and Crystal are pretty lucky, too.
“Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” ~ Pope John XXIII
Wonder Woman, Marietta Watts, convened Humanity Academy grads for lunch again today. We were a small but mighty crowd, but make no mistake, the conversations were no less powerful. I’ve probably said this before, but it’s worth repeating: the University of Kentucky is damn lucky to count Marietta among its ranks. Her spirit is boundless. When I look around a room of HA grads, I marvel at the complexity of the personalities sitting shoulder to shoulder and being happy to be there. One of the most important things said today was that HA grads, as attendees, come to the program with open hearts. Not everyone agrees, not everyone should, but what happens after a week of coming face to face with our preconceived notions of who we think other people are is a deep understanding that we are all just human beings. Every label, every stigma, every negative thought we hold about others different from us, and even about ourselves, are products of some weird socialization that’s gone horribly wrong. It has nothing to do with our basic needs as human beings. HA grads learn to talk about the elephants in the room. Most importantly we learn to listen. Humanity Academy is a gift from Marietta and I’m so grateful Stacy Yelton nominated me to participate a decade ago. I’ve made lifelong friends from HA, and so many of my other UK colleagues are members as well, like Renee Collins (smiling), Marie Dale (head turned listening to Marietta), and Judy Sackett (way on the back), who, I learned today, was in the HA pilot program in 2006. It is amazing how good I feel about myself, and about being a UK employee, when I leave the company of our HA meetings. That is power in the most wonderful way. Thank you, Marietta, for being a light in this world.
“No beauty shines brighter than that of a good heart.” ~ Unknown
These two folks right here – Robert and Marie Dale – are two of the best people I’ve ever met. I had a hard task today, and there’s no way I could have done it without them, physically and emotionally. We had reinforcements, thank God, else we’d really be hurting. Old friend, Anthony McCarty, and Diane Ferguson more than did their share. When I left, Anthony was headed up to Stacy Fork to the Terry Family gathering. All the McCarty boys are like family to us, so Anthony fits right in. Curt Miller saved the day. This hefty hunk is not only cute, but good as gold. My hard day was made so much better by each of these divine people. I owe them a debt of gratitude that I can never repay, but I’ll do my best to try.
“You do not become good by trying to be good,
but by finding the goodness that is already within you,
and allowing that goodness to emerge.”
~ Eckhart Tolle
Way back in 2009 I attended the Humanity Academy (I talked about it in a 2013 post). Every couple of years our fearless leader, Marietta Watts (far left), brings us together for continued discussions. Today was just such an event with around 40 graduates in attendance. We did some serious work, but we also laughed…a lot. I was snorting. In fact, everyone at our table was snorting at one time or another. Admittedly, and I think all the attendees would agree, we were the fun table (I know you find that hard to believe).
Two-thirds of our table went through HA together in 2009; Annie Bassoni, Di Black (above far right), Ella Muhovic (below), and myself. (Marie graduated in 2013.) I hadn’t seen Di and Ella since we graduated, but it didn’t make any difference. We picked up where we left off, although I had forgotten just how funny Di is. I’d also forgotten that she sounds oddly like Comedianne-turned-Tea-Partier Victoria Jackson (except Di’s actually funny). She and Annie had us in tears most of the day. A co-worker’s husband, Beau Steenken, a graduate of the most recent HA class (below with Ella), was a brave man. Not only did he sit with us, he fit right in. He was a real treat to get to know, too. He’s one of the girls now; a keeper. The Humanity Academy helped me grow as a person, and from other graduates I was given some of the most meaningful friendships I’ve ever had. For many of us the Humanity Academy experience continues to enrich our lives at work, at home, and the world at large. We’ve got Marietta Watts to thank for that. The University of Kentucky is privileged to have her on the team, and we’re all better people because of her.
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” ~ Albert Schweitzer
The January babies of SCRC (minus Matt Harris since he was transferred to Young Library last year) had dinner to celebrate our birthdays. We were joined by The Lunch Ladies since we never celebrate their birthdays, especially poor Marie whose birthday falls in the 4th of July. We’re never at work on her birthday. So, this year, we decided to celebrate all our birthdays now. We enjoyed a fabulous meal, and afterward, we shared this hunk of chocolate cake. As you can see, it was huge. Even still, the photo doesn’t do it justice. It was nearly half a cake, and with the five of us each taking a generous slice from it, we still had leftovers. I think we may have started a new tradition, and I, for one, am very pleased by it.
“Who wouldn’t feel happy upon receiving a bonus at work, being rescued from a mountain cliff, or clean water to drink in a desert? The trick is cultivating gratitude for the things we take for granted, and even the people and circumstances that normally make us hopping mad.” ~ Unknown
Last week Marie and I got our latest service awards. UK gives out service awards for every five years of employment. The kick is that you have to work an extra year to get each one. This year it was slightly longer since I’m now two months into my seventeenth year. And that’s alright because I think we’re both pretty happy to be employed. I know we’re happy to work together. What gifts! (and the clock is okay, too)
“This week: Stop stressing over shitty people.” ~ Unknown
The lunch ladies had special treats today. Mama Heis (Elaine) was in town and wanted to have lunch with the lunch ladies. She drove by campus to pick up Crystal, Marie and I, and we met Stacy at Ramsey’s. We enjoyed a few laughs, lots of hugs, good talks, and we all walked out without having pie in solidarity with my diet. I love my lunch ladies, and we all love Mama Heis. A good time – and full bellies – was had by all.
“Respect yourself enough to say ‘I deserve peace,’ and walk away from people or things that prevent you from attaining it.” ~ Jerico Silvers
Mama Heis (Crystal’s mom, Elaine) came to town and she joined the lunch ladies for a dining extravaganza at Ramsey’s. It was a gorgeous fall day in Kentucky, and with these three gals, life just doesn’t get much better. I hope you’re Friday was equally as special.
“Listen to the wind. It talks. Listen to the silence. It speaks.
Listen to your heart. It knows.” ~ Unknown
This afternoon Marie and Robert Dale threw a high school graduation party for their oldest grandchild, Alexis (left). This young woman has endured a lot in her young life, and yet she has graduated with a scholarship to Campbellsville University. She’ll start in the fall. She’s pictured here with Marie, her brother Isaiah, and her first cousin/sister Skyla.
Isaiah smashed cake on Alexis’ face, and someone repaid the favor. The last time I saw Isaiah he was a short, chubby little guy. Now his voice has dropped, he’s grown at least six inches, and he’s on the high school wrestling team. Marie and Robert gained custody of all three kids several years ago. The five of them act as a singular family unit so that you’d never know they weren’t parent and child. And they’re happy – all of them! Becky Ryder, Crystal Heis, and I carpooled to Paris for the party. They were a joy to be with of course. Seeing Marie with her family was a joy, but most of all, I was so proud of Alexis. She’s a beautiful, kind young woman who is going to do great things. Doggone it, I love a happy ending, and today was one. I was honored to be part of it.