Importance of Celebrations

February 22, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Posted in Megan's Blogs, Our Love Story, Ramblings | Leave a comment
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Love & support brings us together.

Last week, we were on the go! Love and celebrations kept us moving forward.

Last week was full of celebrations, as February 14th was Valentine’s Day, Barton and I had met on February 15th nine years ago, and Barton’s birthday followed closely afterward.

Yet, not only was it full of celebrations, but it one of our fullest weeks in quite a while. I taught four classes during the week, Barton had a conference with several adjoining events, and a barrage of emails, conversations and other to-do’s filtered throughout the week.

After Barton’s conference, we headed over with colleagues to one local restaurant, Irregardless for a celebration dinner. Owners Arthur and Anya are neighbors, and we see them often walking the path of our neighborhood. Sometimes I’ll be out with the dogs, or Barton will be zooming off to one of his meetings. This night turned out to be especially joyous. We were greeted by Arthur and Anya, students from a local school were playing incredible jazz, we shared desserts, and had a night of great conversation full of laughter. As we were leaving, the hostess asked if Barton wrote for the paper because someone had left a note for him telling him how much his articles meant- later he put it up on his desk. What an evening!

Friday, finally we had a little time on our own, and we found ourselves just being present, sharing pieces of our week, of what we learned and ideas that we had. We chatted about the generosity of others for our Kickstarter project for Ink in the Wheels: Stories to Make Love Roll and talked about how far we could go with our project. It was a delight just to feel the quiet flow of conversation and connection.

Whatever else may be going on, whatever hurdles or craziness of life has creeped up, taking the time out to celebrate, I am learning, is so necessary.

I’m one who uses lists- I have my daily to-do list, project list, creative list- it goes on. And sometimes I have a tendency to see what’s still left on my list at the end of the day, what hasn’t been accomplished. Over time, this can be awfully daunting to only see what’s left undone.

As long as we live, we will have goals and visions, things we would love to do, places where we raise the bar for ourselves, or someone else raise the bar offering a choice on whether we will jump in or stay where we are.

Taking a breath to celebrate what we have accomplished is a vital part of the journey, not to wallow in its glory, but to pause for just a moment, become aware of where we are before moving onto the next step.

There are times when these celebrations are for momentous occasions, to be shared with others, and there may be times in our lives when we need to celebrate the simplest acts, where making it through the day is a grand step, and these private celebrations are not seen by anyone.

What are you celebrating today?

Writing Through the New Year

January 4, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Posted in Megan's Blogs, Our Love Story, Ramblings, The Nitty-Gritty, Work | Leave a comment
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Over the holidays, a contract is diminishing for me and we finished a draft of our book, all within two weeks of each other. The glass half empty, the glass half full. At the moment, I’ve been sitting in the middle of the unknown- we don’t know what will happen as I am reworking one of my primary contracts, which we know will be cut in half or more, and at the same time sensing the elation of a project in the midst of manifestation after so long of talking and dreaming- it’s been quite a holiday.

Along the way, Barton has been amazing- offering the support to go with the flow, with the genuine and true belief that no matter what happens, we will be okay. And truly, there are many exciting and new possibilities at the cusp of fruition this year. Since our focus for the book has become clear with Barton’s excitement almost surpassing my own, the contagiousness of our energy has bounced off each other to create a momentum that I have not experienced before.

For me, it’s been vital to focus on our manuscript in this time of unknowing, and trust me, there has been much to do. Barton found that he could write much more material by using the Voice Memo App on his I-Phone and could record about a 7-minute piece to then email to me for transcription. I would sit down at my computer, open my in-box to find a string of 5-10 voice memos to transcribe. Since October, Barton has written, and I have transcribed, over 100 voice memos. Wow!

One by one, I would transcribe, typing about the same pace as Barton’s speaking rate, which worked perfectly. I created my own system, putting brackets around words that I could not make out, and leaving spaces between each section since the order I received them in was not necessarily the order that Barton intended.

I would also have pieces of material I was working on, and found myself as I normally do, writing at four or five in the morning to candlelight, and then later in the morning or evening transcribing Barton’s work, finally to put them together as overlapping voices for our story.

We were so determined to make our own deadline to send our draft to our editor that we worked through the winter holidays. In fact, New Years Eve, we were so exhausted we were asleep before any New Year’s celebrations began.

Yet, what a blessing to start the year of with a project that we believe in, have a clear vision for and hope that others will find what they need in their own lives. And so, for all of your inquiring minds- the first draft is done, yet there is much to do for publication this fall. We’ll keep you posted for pre-orders!!

The Importance of Togetherness

June 14, 2011 at 1:35 am | Posted in Megan's Blogs, Our Love Story, Speaking Engagements, Work | Leave a comment
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Tuscaloosa, AL

There is nothing that can prepare you for seeing house after house affected by the tornadoes in April.

This past week, I’ve posted updates about our travels to Tuscaloosa in my creative blog, Writing 4 Wellness. Yet, in taking a moment to step back, I am utterly taken back at how profound the time in Tuscaloosa was- because Barton came.

Originally, I was going to pack paintings and photography up in our little white Honda, cart it down, set it up, have the reception and drive home, and because of our budget, I was going to do it alone. But when Barton and I began discussing how we could support Tuscaloosa beyond the reception for the art show, it was clear that both of us needed to go.

I wasn’t prepared for how our trip would be a time of reflection and of honored time between us. Even as we drove into Tuscaloosa, we got off the highway at the normal exit I took to go to my mother’s old house, and as we made our way into town, Barton asked me, “Are you ready for this?” In that moment, I am so thankful I was not driving alone.

As I held a photograph up to the wall, Barton would give me directions- a little to the left, a little to the right. He was also keeper of the hammer, and in times where our energy waned, he provided comic relief as the hammer flippantly dropped out of his hand onto the floor and I became the character out of an “I Love Lucy Show” trying to hold the picture while reaching in vane for the hammer, just out of reach.

As the patterns of my photography and my mother’s artwork emerged on the walls, I found myself excited that Barton was present, able to witness the artist peeking out behind my written words. And to see how my mother’s creative spirit was very much alive and at work in my own life.

Even in the work outside of the art exhibit, as Barton and I led three creative expression classes and walked around my neighborhood with care packages to hand out, we bantered back and forth, playing off of each other, building off of the other.

Friday, the day we left was the most dramatic and intimate space held between us. It was the time where Barton and I were driving through the neighborhoods of Alberta (one of the hardest hit areas) alone- it was the time where we grieved the destruction and recovery work that lay before us in this town where we had been married and I had lived. And at first, I did not see the pile of children’s toys, until Barton took my hand, and we sat in the car a moment, crying together.

There are times when we must walk our own path set before us, and there are times when walking with another gives us strength, determination, and encouragement. I am honored enough that this time, this experience, we could share it together.

Observing the Dance of Mother and Daughter

June 13, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Posted in Barton's Blogs, Our Love Story, Speaking Engagements, Work | Leave a comment
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Megan's Art Show, Bama Theatre.

Megan's Art Show, Bama Theatre.

Traveling to Tuscaloosa to support Megan in both the opening for her art show as well as the unexpected opportunities to work with the Tuscaloosa community in the wake of the April 27th tornado, I found myself extremely grateful to be able to share such a profound experience with my wife.

As many of you may know, Megan was originally going to travel to Tuscaloosa and set up her art show without me, but in the weeks after the tornado, we felt it necessary that I join her simply because we both wanted to offer a sense of hope and possibility for whomever we may meet while we were down there. Naturally, the synergy between Megan and I continually seems to be a source of inspiration to others. Our intent in both of us going together was to offer the spark amidst all the trauma and loss. What I experienced, however, was much more intimate and profound than I had ever expected.

Sitting in the gallery amidst it’s empty walls and the partially unraveled boxes of Megan’s artwork, I watched this love of mine transform herself from one who was once hesitant to acknowledge herself as an artist to a robust and inspired creative who with each piece hung took increasingly profound ownership of her photography, and with it, her whole essence as an artist.

Two days we spent hanging her photography side by side with a legacy of drawings, acrylics, and abstract glasswork by her mom. While I never had the pleasure of meeting her mother, I felt as though through observing this transformation of Megan’s recognition of her own artistic talents, along with the physical space of the gallery, I came to know and appreciate a deeper aspect of their relationship that I had never known before. I could see in spirit the pride of both a mother and daughter supporting one another’s talents and came to understand the beauty that her mother, Anna von deBardeleben, came to bestow on my amazing and talented wife. And for that I am ever thankful.

The Winding and Beautiful Road

February 21, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Posted in Barton's Blogs, Our Love Story | 2 Comments
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Barton and Megan in Arizona.

It is amazing to me the beauty that unfolds when we let go of the unnecessary and follow with a trusting heart where we are being led. The day after Valentine’s Day eight years ago I found myself in this exact position. Though at the time, I was not entirely aware of the extent to which this was occurring.

As some of you may know, this is the day I met Megan for the first time during a brief encounter when I dropped by a friend’s house to begin a new stage in my martial arts training. I had no idea at the time that this would be the same occasion that would bring me face to face with the woman that would become the love of my life. In fact, romance of any kind was the thing furthest from my mind at the moment. I had tentative plans for the night before to reconnect with an old flame in what was clearly a futile attempt to rekindle a relatively unhealthy and unwanted relationship. When the plans fell through, I took it as a clear sign that it was not where my focus needed to be, and, perhaps hopelessly began to believe that finding partnership in this lifetime was not where I was being led. Surprisingly, I was okay with this.

But boy, was I wrong, and thank God for that! My focus the day that Megan and I met was on training. And though I thought she was beautiful, it wasn’t until we met again three months later that I even considered pursuing her in any fashion. Fortunately, I did and though it took her a while to catch on, I feel confident in saying that it was probably the best thing for either of us that I’ve ever done.

After eight years, we’ve been through quite a bit, discovering a constant practice of rediscovering who we are as individuals and as a couple. It’s been a challenging, beautiful, exquisite, exhilarating journey, and while there’s always been more to work on, it feels like we are finally beginning to understand how true partnerships flow and function.

Last week, some dear friends of ours gave us a very fine gift to use for a special dinner for Valentine’s Day. We opted to make our reservations a day late and take the chance to celebrate not only our love for one another but to take the time to look back over these eight marvelous years we have known each other, and reflect on our on-going transformations and look forward to the opportunities to grow together that await us.

A Chance Meeting for Love

February 21, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Posted in Megan's Blogs, Our Love Story | Leave a comment
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Barton and Megan in Tucson, AZ.

February is a month of celebration for us- not only is it Valentine’s Day, but over the Valentine’s Day weekend eight years ago, Barton & I met for the first time. I was in Arizona for an informal martial arts training at a friend’s house. In fact, I had skipped out on a local seminar so that I could be there.

That Saturday afternoon, I was in the hallway talking to several of my friends when I was introduced to Barton. My first thought was like most other people- how does he train in a wheelchair? Later I would quickly find out! In a flash he was gone, out the door, and I returned to training. I had not ever expected to find love within that brief meeting.

After all, I had spent the last two years recovering from the public break-up of an engagement and the death of my mother. And while I had begun training in martial arts and returned to my writing, the first steps to move on with my life, I never thought I would fall in love or get married.

Sure enough, my heart knew, but my mind took a while to catch up. When we said good-bye that April after a longer seminar, I tucked a note with my name and email and a piece of turquoise in his pocket, along with a kiss on the cheek. Later, I would catch myself talking about Barton or telling a Barton story to a friend. I couldn’t have expected the love that would follow.

This winter has been particularly difficult, and while we worked through all of the challenges that were presented to us side-by-side, it was wonderful to have such caring family and friends that allowed for us to take a breath, a break from the external chaos, and a chance to celebrate our relationship and connection. As we honor the transformation in our relationship over the last eight years, we look back at what a journey it has been and dream about what is to come!

This is one of our favorite quotes from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin that speaks to this transformation:

When you fall in love, it is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake, and then it subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. This is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the desire to mate every second of the day. It is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every part of your body. No… don’t blush. I am telling you some truths. For that is just being in love; which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over, when being in love has burned away. Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? But it is!
~Iannis, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Calm Waters- Celebrating Our Sixth Wedding Anniversary

November 16, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Posted in Megan's Blogs, Our Love Story | Leave a comment
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Barton and Megan celebrating their sixth wedding anniversary!

Barton and Megan celebrating their sixth wedding anniversary!

Last year, we thought we would do something so special for our anniversary. We decided to take a week off (the only week of the year) to celebrate our fifth year anniversary on Hattaras Island. Little did we know that after the second day, we would be in the middle of two storms systems, flooding on both the ocean and sound side, and an eventual evacuation off of the island by ferry. What an adventure!

This year, we wanted to celebrate, but on a little calmer level. It’s a quick drive over to the shore of the North Carolina coastline, so we spent the weekend on much calmer waters. The weather couldn’t have been more delightful- sunny and cool. We parked ourselves on the veranda just in front of the rolling waves for hours.

We found ourselves acknowledging how far we have grown, individually as well as a couple. The last few months, especially, we have found ourselves being more joyful and playful with each other, and coming to a focused vision on where we are headed has created a lot of excitement to keep going, no matter what the obstacles may be.

Over the weekend, we chilled out- took time out of work, home, family, etc. to acknowledge the place where we are and the challenges we have had to overcome. We see each other differently, I would say with more respect and love- there is a reverence for each other deeper than what we have known.

Over the weekend, we did have conversations about some of the changes in our lives over the last six years- from the move to North Carolina to our work, friendships, and individual work that we’ve done. Not all of it has been easy. But we have found this spark that is dynamic and undeniably delightful.

While there aren’t any wild stories this year, we are reminded that we need to take the time out to reflect and celebrate where we are!

In the Wake of Katrina’s Path

August 27, 2010 at 3:34 am | Posted in Megan's Blogs, Our Love Story, Ramblings, The Nitty-Gritty, Wild Stories You Just Wouldn't Believe | Leave a comment
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An Unusual Detour.

Though we didn't experience flooding by Katrina where we were in AL, Barton & I have been in storms where it has flooded.

 

Barton and I are huddled in the bathroom, his power wheelchair blocking the door. In the background, tornado sirens scream. Over the radio- the announcement that the EMS station lost power and they can’t tell us why the sirens are going off. The phone rings. Thinking it’s my grandfather who is two miles away and living alone, I answer. My father, stepmother and brother burst into Happy Birthday. Do I hang up? The epitome of irony…

Everyone in the South has their own Katrina story, where they where, if they were rescued, if they assisted in the rescue effort, in church praying for those who lost loved ones and homes, those on the ground volunteering in rescue camps or sorting through and handing out donated items.

I was already off work since Barton had a doctor’s appointment in Birmingham, and we had planned a night out on the town for my birthday. Instead, we drove back to Tuscaloosa with green and gray clouds swirling overhead, the news of New Orleans already blasting over the airwaves.

That night, we huddled in our safe spot, (not how I was expecting to spend my birthday) and when we ventured to the bedroom, I slept with boots on, just in case I needed to haul us out of there. Katrina was still a Category One, and there was a tree over the bedroom. I was praying that it wouldn’t fall, not only for our sake, but so that we could sell the house as we planned! We were lucky and sustained only minor wind damage, but several houses in our neighborhood did have trees down.

Two weeks earlier, Barton found out that instead of moving to North Carolina that October, we would be moving on September 1st. Unprepared for the quick turn-around, I was scrambling to sort through items in my mother’s house, prepare the house for sale, and getting us squared away in North Carolina while wrestling the arrangements for resigning from my work (as we needed health insurance for as long as possible). We decided that Barton would move on September 1st, and I would stay behind for a week.

On August 31st, I was pulled into meetings about the rescue effort, when I knew the next day I would be resigning from my job. It was a difficult moment to tell the CEO that I could not participate in publicity for relief effort. Barton moved up to NC, and I was left to fend for myself. The days following would be harrowing- news of the gas lines lead to gas siphoning, gas price gouging- I would drive down the street to get a rationed two gallons at $4.75 a gallon, and the emptying out of grocery stores. Other than the grocery store and gas stations, the streets were empty, and you could feel tension in the community rising. While it was nothing like New Orleans, I learned a lot about what happens, when as a community, we are all in panic mode. I was lucky- I was kept from watching those horrifying images over the television by the overflowing list of things to do.

While we only lost power for two days, my grandfather didn’t get power back for over a week. Though he was stubborn and wanted no help, I would take a cooler with fresh food for the day, cleaned out his freezer and leave flashlights and candles on the counter when I left. I sorted and packed items for the move and worked hard to repair the house. I made a huge donation pile for hurricane relief. (Later I would realize that a box of our childhood toys had accidentally made it into that donation & am thankful they were put to use). And I still worked, over my eight hours a day, to prepare for my exodus of seven years working in corporate advertising.

The hardest part was moving. At a time where everyone was huddling together, working and volunteering, we were leaving to go to a place where we could better sustain our family. I didn’t see or say good-bye to many of my friends until we actually sold my mother’s house six months later.

But Katrina isn’t just about remembering what happened, it’s about how we live now. Are we prepared for another natural or unnatural disaster? Really? One film called On Higher Ground talks about emergency preparedness for those with disabilities and their direct support professionals. While we have made long strides, there is still much work to be done.

Katrina made us think about what would we have done, we went through scenario after scenario- what if Barton couldn’t get the medicine he needed, what if we had to leave without his wheelchair (either of them), what if we had to rescue the neighbors (what would our different roles & procedures be), what if we couldn’t get food, what if I couldn’t get to NC? Trust me, we talked about & had a plan for everything we could think of, and some of those conversations were difficult to talk through.

Even when we moved into the new house, we asked- how could I get Barton out of the house if there was a fire blocking the exits…While the “what ifs” can drive you crazy, it’s important to know how to take care of yourself & how to take care of others.

As we approach the 5th anniversary of Katrina, we are reminded that the people around us are precious, that anything can happen, and to take steps to prepare for an emergency beyond our control.

Check out some resources to create your own emergency plan:

http://www.dotcr.ost.dot.gov/asp/emergencyprep.asp

http://www.ready.gov/america/getakit/disabled.html

http://www.fema.gov/plan/prepare/specialplans.shtm

http://www.disabilitypreparedness.gov/

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Gourmet Breakfast

April 19, 2010 at 1:27 am | Posted in Around the House, Ramblings | Leave a comment
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Once or twice a week, after Barton has gotten out of bed, I am already up and on the computer at work. He will come and ask me, with a smile and a glint in his eye, if I would like breakfast. With his morning assistant, he will make an omelet, and lately, they have gotten creative by adding onions or mushrooms. Over breakfast, we chat about little things. We have the love of writing in common with his assistant, so we often strike up a conversation with her as well.

While at first glance, it may not look like having breakfast together is important, we have found it is a vitally important part of beginning our day. Beginning our day together in this way starts everything off on the right foot.

The past few weeks, I have been a bit stressed in the mornings- between taxes, working hard get projects completed while worried about the upcoming changes to our jobs. Having breakfast together has meant more to me than anything else. Beginning off the day with a nourishing meal has been so enriching.

What’s even more is that there is a “Special Plate” that is part of a tradition by my father’s family. The Special Plate is used for special occasions- birthdays, anniversaries. It was given to us by one of my cousins for our wedding. Last week, Barton broke out The Special Plate, which of course made me smile.

You’ve always heard the advice about not skipping breakfast. And I can attest to that. But I would add, if possible, to have breakfast with your family. Food always brings family together, in celebration, in community, and in love.

To know that Barton would go that much out of his way for me is incredibly affectionate, and not just in a romantic way. It’s really important for Barton that he is able to take care of me as his wife, and not just the basics. To be able to do something like provide me with an incredible breakfast & to see how excited he is to give this gift to me- that’s worth more than anything else in the world. That’s love.

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A Valentine’s Day Adventure

February 14, 2010 at 8:10 pm | Posted in Barton's Blogs, Our Love Story | 1 Comment
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Friday night, we went out on a night on the town, consisting of a very nice dinner and a movie. I wanted to be in my power chair for the evening, and since the restaurant and theatre was only a mile from our house, we walked, and I carried Megan on my lap. We had early reservations, and as the restaurant slowly picked up, a very nice older couple was seated at the table behind us.

It was the husband’s birthday, and on their table was a pair of red roses. Now, the woman was apparently watching us interact, and came over to ask us if there was anything special about this particular evening. We told her that we met each other the day after Valentine’s Day seven years ago and that we were celebrating not only Valentine’s Day, but the anniversary of our meeting.

She went back to her table and after several minutes of talking to her husband, apparently relaying what we had told her, she returned with the vase of roses and said that we should enjoy them.

Smile, for some flowers.

Smile, for some flowers.

For the rest of our meal, we couldn’t help but wonder what it is that makes the connection between a couple apparent to others. We began looking for another couple that we could pass some flowers on to share the feeling of joy. We noticed a table with two other couples, most likely in their 80’s, who looked so happy they reminded me of high school kids on a double date. We thought this would be a perfect table to pass the roses on to.

Megan went up and asked if they were celebrating anything special, and returned saying were they celebrating Valentine’s Day as well as their anniversary. She took the roses and set them on the table. As I watched, all four of their faces lit up with brilliant smiles as Megan offered them the vase.

By the time we finished dinner, it had begun to snow. Megan taunted me on my insistence about wanting to walk, yet I was sure that the walk home would be lovely. After the movie, several inches had accumulated as we were setting off on a slippery but beautiful adventure.

As I said in my last post, it had been quite some time since I played in the snow in my wheelchair, and Megan had never had the opportunity to do this with me. With Megan in my lap, we slid down hills, spun 360s in the fresh snow, and skidded in and out of turns at high speeds. It was a ball, and a lovely way to spend our Valentine’s celebration. 

Happy Valentine’s Day- pass along some flowers and spread the love to don’t know.

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