Sunday, June 5, 2011

Meeting Julie

[Note: if you are reading this on Facebook and it doesn't look quite right, the original entry can be found at]

Introduction: when I first started contemplating this blog entry, I never anticipated that the relationship would end before I posted it. My relationship with Julie, so soon after beginning so well, is over as I type these words. Part of my way of dealing with grief is writing about it, and there is nothing I wrote here that is not still true, so I post this as part of my blog, which is, after all, “a journal of my journey with God”. Part of my reasoning isn't just that in some way it's an expression of my current grief, but it contains some good writing (I think) and is funny (I hope) , so I hope you can read it that way. I have not edited the original entry except for adding this short into.

I have been writing about change and possibility for the past few entries of this blog. Sometimes, change catches one unawares. So it is with what I now write.

You rang?” I was driving back to Topeka on a Saturday afternoon. Terry had been on vacation, so I'd been driving solo all that week. I was tired. I was thinking of all the things I had to get done when I got home. I was annoyed because my phone, which I had previously baptized in a truck stop bathroom , was not working right. I had just recently been to Georgia when Deb, a cousin whom I loved dearly, had passed away. (I wrote about Deb here .)

I had set up my old phone so that it let me know I had a message by emitting a sound like the gong they used on The Addams Family to call Lurch. Lots of times when I would hear that gong sound, I'd say, “You rang?”, trying to imitate Lurch. I know, I know, but if you know me, that won't surprise you that much.

So, anyway, on that Saturday I was almost to Salina, Kansas, when my phone gonged. I said, “You rang?” to the silence in the truck, and when I stopped in Salina, I looked at my phone, thinking I had a text from Terry or my sister probably.

It was not.

It was a message saying someone had sent me en e-mail on, an online dating site that I'd signed up for in January, but that never went anywhere. I had intended to let my subscription expire, and had largely forgotten about it. And here was a message from someone. Oh, well. Probably spam.

It was not spam. It was a message from someone in Emporia, Kansas (of all places), named Julie.

That first message basically said that she liked my sense of humor and that my profile had made her laugh. I answered her e-mail, and a few hours later, we were talking on the phone for the first time. We talked an hour and twenty minutes, laughing for much of that time. From the very first time we talked, I felt comfortable with her. I wondered if that would translate if we ever met in person.

We talked and texted quite a bit every day after that first day, and we soon decided that we would go out on our first date on Saturday, April 2 nd.

What day is it?” Things were going well. The day before we were to meet for the first time was April 1 st , which is a day I love because it's an excuse to play jokes on people.

I was driving nights, and all that previous night, I was thinking and planning about possible jokes and people to try to fool. Honestly, my list has grown rather short in recent years because I've pulled stuff on my family for so long, they are on to me most of the time.

I knew I was going to try to get Terry. But who else? How about Julie?

I could see the clouds of potential disaster on my horizon. We hadn't even met yet, and we were supposed to go out the next day. Would I risk it all just to play a joke?


I had considered several scenarios and had discarded most because I didn't want to traumatize her too much. I wasn't sure how she would respond, even though I knew she had a good sense of humor. Finally, I settled on a possible scenario.

It was about 6:00 am, and Terry had started driving. Julie was at work. I composed a text and just before hitting “send”, I told Terry, “Watch this. My phone will ring in about 15 seconds.”

I sent the text, something like this: “I know you are at work, but I heard something disturbing last night I need to talk to you about. Call me when you can. Have a good day.”

Literally, 10 seconds later, my phone rings. It's Julie. I started cracking up before I even answered.

“ Hello.”


“ Oh, hey Julie. Well, last night I was at the warehouse in Topeka, and I saw another driver there who lives in Emporia, Earl Crumbley. [Of course, I know no one else from Emporia, and no one named Earl Crumbley. Ain't I mean?] We were just shooting the breeze, and I mentioned that I was about to go out with a woman from Emporia. He asked who you were, and I ended up showing him your picture.”

By now, I can hear Julie's breathing start to get heavier. She is hooked.

“ Well, he saw your picture, and he said he didn't know you personally, but said everyone down there knows who you are. He said about two years ago, you were arrested and convicted for embezzling funds and got off on a technicality, but that you were guilty.”

I could literally feel the tension through the phone as the breathing got even heavier and more rapid.

Finally, she couldn't stand it. “ You can do a background check on me! I haven't ever been in the paper for anything like that!”

“ Julie, do you know what today is?”

“ It's Friday.” An exasperated pause. “Are you messing with me?”

Happy April Fool's Day!”

A short silence as I heard her breath catch, followed by some declarations I won't quote here.

Then we both laughed and I knew everything was okay.

But she did vow revenge.

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind.” I swear it was an accident. Sort of.

You see, we were on our first date. We had gone to Longhorn Steakhouse in Topeka for a late lunch. We laughed, talked, and started getting to know one another better. It was all going so well.

One of the things that happened is that when Julie excused herself, I called her cell phone right away, hoping she had taken it with her, and that I could cause a little excitement or consternation in stall number 2. Well, she had left her phone in her purse in her seat, and when it went to voicemail, I started leaving her a message and then saw her coming back. I then started acting like I was talking to Terry (all the while still on her voicemail), acting like he was saying we had a surprise load and I would have to leave right away, that kind of thing.

When she discovered what I had done, we both laughed for a long time. It was a good beginning. Until afterward.

We finished our meal, finished tormenting the poor server dude, and we walked outside, still laughing and joking around.

Suddenly, I knew it was coming. You know how you know it's gonna happen, but you're not sure just how serious or loud it's going to be? I thought I knew myself pretty well in this regard. Not nearly as well as I should, it turns out.

I thought it was going to be silent. Honest to the Lord, I did.

The moment finally came to launch or abort, and I felt confident that it would pass unremarked since Julie was a safe enough distance away. Past the point of no return now.

When an older couple walking across the parking lot at Olive Garden hundreds of feet away turned around to see what the noise was, I knew I had grossly miscalculated. And it was too late. It was one of the loudest and longest of my career, and in the right setting, it would have been a proud moment.

The right setting was not a first date.

Julie heard the offensive cacophony, and started running away quickly.

“ Nice icebreaker, Allan!”

There was a moment of awkward silence as the aftershocks of the blast subsided, and then we both started laughing.

At that moment, I knew I could fall in love with this woman.

And I have.

There is much more to this story, but that is enough for now. Our journey together so far has been one of the greatest joys of my life.

Until next time . . . remember that there is a time and place for everything . . .


Saturday, March 19, 2011

"Constantly Changing"

[If you are reading this blog entry on Facebook and the formatting is messed up like it has been lately, you can go to to read it with the correct formatting. Sorry for the inconvenience but FB doesn't always play nice when it pulls them over. Thanks for your company wherever you're reading this.]

Constantly Changing”. I borrowed the title of this blog entry from one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands, Jerusalem. The song “Constantly Changing” is from their 1981 album, Warrior. I was surprised just doing a by-chance-just-in-case search on Youtube that there is a great video of this song here from the 1980's (and you can tell it's from then but for fans of Jerusalem, it's great). Lyrics to the song are here.

I first heard the phrase “change is the only constant” when I was working at Charles Schwab back in the 1990's, as a reference to the company's continual evolution and innovation to meet the needs of our customers.

Because so many things seem to be changing for me personally right now, and that force of change is echoed in the larger world in significant ways, it seemed a good theme for this blog entry. I don't know for sure where it's going to go yet, but I hope you will stick around for the trip.

Leaving OZ – wait a minute, not so fast! From the time I came to Topeka in January, 2010, I have been focused on leaving at the right time. At first, I thought I would meet my obligation to be here for a year (which I committed to in order to qualify for the sign-on bonus that was my primary motivation for coming here in the first place), and would then go back on the road but be based in Dallas.

That year has come and gone, and I'm still here.

I wrote a couple of entries ago about the “ Possibility” that seemed to characterize the work going on in my heart at the beginning of this year. Included in that mix was an openness in my heart to relationship once more for the first time in years.

In January, I began talking to a very nice woman here in Kansas, and thought that might lead to something substantial, and would therefore anchor me more firmly in Kansas – potentially the rest of my life. As it happened, things didn't progress very far before we both lost heart for its potential.

(I heard that! What do you mean, “ Well that's one area that doesn't seem to be changing”? Who said that anyway? Don't make me call Blog Security to this entry! Well, anyway . . .)

Then I thought that since Terry is engaged to be married, I would leave Kansas when we no longer shared an apartment – but I was having thoughts of being based in Georgia again instead of Dallas for now. I had actually decided to leave when our apartment lease is up at the end of April, and even started preparing for that change, talking to my family and friends about it.

But the week after I'd decided to leave, Terry and I had a long talk on the road, and for various reasons, it seemed the only right thing to do was to stay here a little longer than I had anticipated. In some ways, I feel like Dorothy must have felt when the Wiz is in the balloon on his way back to Kansas, and she misses it, and is stuck in OZ. Of course, I was trying to get away from Kansas, but that's a minor technicality, isn't it?

Ironically, days after I decided to stay in Kansas after all, some things happened with Jon and his family that caused my connection to them to be even more significant, and that confirmed for my own heart that I had made the right decision. How often have I wished to have those confirmations before the fact – or at least a little hint? (Oh, now that's just going too far – so you don't think I could take a hint even if it was given, huh? [You guys see what I have to put up with here?]) – but that's not how things work generally in my experience. And, as I have said so many times in this blog over the past year: the important thing is not where we are or what we are doing but the condition of our hearts at any given time.

And, along with staying in Kansas, I've also gotten a car after a year of Terry letting me use his truck, and I'll be getting a new roommate, a guy Terry and I work with named Ernie – a good guy.

So the sum of the situation is this: in the middle of all the change, it turns out that the main thing supposed to change (in my mind) is remaining the same after all.

Will I ever leave Kansas? Anyone have any heels I can click?

Until next time . . . celebrate “ constantly changing” . . . blessings and love to you all!


Friday, February 18, 2011

"And Now You": Remembering Deb

[My cousin, Deb Wilson, passed away today – February 18, 2011 – her birthday. We all process our grief in different ways – one of the ways I express grief is by writing. If you knew Deb, I hope this encourages you to think about your own special memories of Deb. I love you, Deb.]

Hey Deb . . .

I just found out that you have left us, and I wanted to write this to help me think about all the special memories I have of you.

I know it might be a while before you get around to reading this, because I know you are enjoying a special reunion with everyone there – your Mama and Daddy, Harold, David, Jimmy, B.J., and so many others. Lord, sometimes it seems like I have more family there than here – and now you. Please tell everyone there I love and miss them – especially my Boe.

Don't worry about trying to answer this letter – I'd probably end up like Nanny said she'd be with Boe. You remember that don't you? You, Nanny and me were at her house one Saturday night sittin' in the kitchen. I had just made the regular Saturday trip to Zaxby's to get us all something to eat, and we were just visiting.

I don't remember how it came up, but Nanny started talking about this cousin (I don't remember who it was, but I think it was a cousin on the Rice side of the family) whose husband passed away. Well, she was telling Nanny how she felt like her husband was still with her, went everywhere with her in the car, and how she would just talk to him and he talked to her. Nanny said she'd always say something like, “we went to the store, we went here or we did this.”

I was living in Florida back then when Nanny was talking to this cousin, and Nanny was wanting to come down and see Charlotte and me. Well, this cousin mentioned that she was going to Florida (she said it like “we are going to Florida”), and invited Nanny to ride down with them. Nanny said she told her she wouldn't ride with her across the street if her dead husband was in the car. “No sir,” she said, “I ain't goin' nowhere with you, and you can mark that down.”

I remember you and I both just cracked up. Then I said, “Well, what if Boe came here to talk to you?”

She said, “If Boe Mills ever comes here to talk to me, he'll be talkin' to his-self, 'cause I'll be gone. You know, I'll take off runnin'.”

Another thing I remember when I'm thinking about all the times we shared together is the time back in 1988, when I was in Rome for the summer. One Thursday night, we were all – you, your Mama, Mary, Nanny and me – just sittin' in Nanny's kitchen talking and playing dice. Somebody mentioned how they'd love to go to the mountains and Nanny said, “Well, let's go. They ain't nothin' tying me down.”

That settled it. We were goin' to the mountains that next morning.

Well, you and Phoebe went home to get packed, and way up in the night – Lord, it must've been after midnight, me and Nanny were sittin' around the kitchen table, and Nanny said, “Lord, I don't think I'm gone be able to sleep a wink, shore 'nuf. Why don't we just leave now?”

Of course, Mary had gone to bed and wasn't planning to get up at midnight to leave for the mountains, so when Nanny went in there to get her up, Lord, you shoulda heard Mary! I can't even write what all she said seein' where this letter is goin' and all. But you know Mary, so you know what I'm talkin' about.

Well, then she called up to your house, woke you and Aunt Phoebe up, and told you we were leaving right then, to gather up your things, and get down there. And I can hear your Mama saying, “Well, Eula!” just as plain as anything.

But, we got all packed up, and we all piled in that little white car Nanny had. I reckon it musta been 1 or 2 o'clock when we pulled out of the driveway. I drove, and here we went up to Cherokee.

Well, we pulled into Cherokee about 6 or 6:30 that morning, and of course by the time we got there all any of us wanted to do was sleep. So here we go a-lookin' for a motel room. Well, every last place in Cherokee, North Carolina, was full – I mean, we couldn't find nothin'. 'Course, Mary let Nanny know what she thought of her idea to leave in the middle of the night to come up to the mountains. I remember we were all pretty ill.

We had to just wait at one of those motels til somebody checked out around 9 or 10 o'clock, and they let us have the room as soon as it was clean. And I remember we all just slept the whole day away just about.

You know, that was one of the funnest trips I've ever been on. We had so much fun! I remember when we drove over the mountain to Gatlinburg one day on that trip. Nanny's car started overheating, and here we go tryin' to pull over on the side of the road going up this mountain., and there wasn't hardly any room before the road just fell away down the side of the mountain – no guard rail or anything. I remember Nanny and your Mama were as nervous as if we had dynamite in the trunk of that car. Of course, Mary got so irritated with them, she was fit to be tied – but she wasn't worried about fallin' off the mountain. And you didn't say a word.

But we did okay, and everything after went smooth as far as I remember. I know we all had the best time.

I will always treasure the time I lived in Rome a few years ago and you and I were next door neighbors and friends. I never felt closer to you than that time. And one of the things I remember about that time is the Sunday morning you called me to tell me something was wrong with Patches. I remember us all going over to the vet out in Armuchee, and him telling us there was nothing he could do, so he put Patches to sleep. One of the hardest things I've ever had to do was carry Patches out in the back yard at your house, dig the hole, and bury her with you standing there. I think we both cried all day that day.

I remember the times you and I went to Alabama to see different folks and the times me, you and Mama went out to eat.

I remember calling you every week when I was on the road. I don't think I ever called you without trying to mess with you on the phone. There was Mr. Sassafras telling you that you needed to come over to the Walmart in Lindale (and they don't even have a Walmart, do they?) and work a double shift to fill in for somebody on vacation. There was Rev. Mac Fleetwood calling you about $5 that was taken out of the offering plate at a revival when you were about 11 or 12 and asking for it back. There was attorney Bruce Shenanigan calling you investigating you for stealing some rich lady's identity up on Saddle Mountain and goin' on a spending spree.

You always just laughed and said “Allan, what are you doin'?” or you'd say, “Allan I know that's you.”

Well, I know you've got forever, but I don't want it to take you forever to read this, so I will end this here, and just say that I love you and miss you and I can't wait to see you and everyone else.