My personal path

In honor of our 15 years of married life together, an encore post of the story of how Shonnie and I met and fell in love.

I first laid eyes on Shonnie Lavender in 1995 when we both joined the Austin Fit Green Training Group for the Austin Motorola Marathon. It was August, and as usual, hot as Hades in the capitol city of Texas—highs in the upper 90s to lower 100s. Of course, Austin runners (about ten percent of the city’s population) are accustomed to being thoroughly sweat-soaked through and through by the time they hit the quarter-mile mark.

Between 20 to 30 intermediate-level runners in our group met early each Saturday morning at Town Lake. With the support of our coaches, we ran increasingly long distances on the trails around the lake (ultimately up to 20+ miles) in preparation for the marathon that would take place on February 18, 1996. For the record, there were also beginning and elite runners groups that trained on Saturday mornings as well.

Austin Fit Green Group

Austin Fit Green Group

After running together week after week for longer and longer distances, the size of our group dwindled to seven runners. Shonnie was the only remaining woman. My first recollection of the single feminine member of our group was of a very attractive, assertive woman of indeterminate age who looked pretty damned good in running tights. Our group’s theory was if we were running too fast to chat, we were running too fast. So after many hours on the trails around Town Lake, we got to know a bit about one another, and I soon learned Shonnie was in a relationship as I was at the time. (more…)

There’s challenge going around on Facebook that requires the person tagged to list the ten books that have had the greatest influence on them. Well, given my anarchistic tendencies, my list contains 16 books.

On the Road, Jack Kerouac
Catch-22, Joseph Heller
Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, Hunter S. Thompson
Another Roadside Attraction, Tom Robbins
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present, Howard Zinn
Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
Waking Up: Overcoming the Obstacles to Human Potential, Charles Tart
The Way of the Superior Man: A Spiritual Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Women, Work, and Sexual Desire, David Deida
Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life, Gregg Levoy
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, Don Miguel Ruiz
Radical Parenting: Seven Steps to a Functional Family in a Dysfunctional World, Brad Blanton
Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, Myla Kabat-Zinn and Jon Kabat-Zinn

So what books are on your list? You’re welcome to include them in the comments section.

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Around the first of the year I asked my 88-year-old mother Sue a daunting question: “Are you ready to go?” This once powerful, dynamic, high-energy woman had fallen several times over the past few years, breaking both her ankles in one of them. As she’d slowed down and become less self-reliant, she also became more and more withdrawn and reclusive, spending most of her time in her recliner, the phone and TV set her primary connection with the outside world.

Mom briefly pondered the question, then answered, “No, not yet.”


Dad & Mom

Nonetheless, a few months later, I believe Mom decided it was time to go. And she did.

Mom fell and broke her leg and hip at her home on May 3, yet somehow managed to get to the phone to call Nancy and Mike, who immediately took her to the Harton Regional Medical Center emergency room. The next day Mom had successful surgery, and two days later she was moved to the Life Care Center next to the hospital to rest and rehabilitate. Mom seemed to be making excellent progress when Nancy got a call on the night of Sunday, May 19 reporting that she’d had a stroke and was being readmitted to the hospital.

As a result of the stroke, Mom was completely paralyzed on her left side and couldn’t swallow. She could still talk though her words were slurred. Nancy was with Mom most of this time, and Shonnie, Gracelyn and I got to Tullahoma on Tuesday. The next day, Mom seemed content and happy just to have us all around her, while the hospital staff worked diligently with her to get her to swallow to no avail.

Thursday morning Mom was unresponsive to any stimuli. Unconscious with no movement on either side, Dr. Bills confirmed that she had had another stroke and had also developed pneumonia in one lung. She seemed very peaceful and ready to take the next step in this journey we call life. (more…)

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