The favorite stray I ever picked up

One fine day I walked into a nail salon to treat myself to a pedicure.  Little did I know that I would meet one of my very favorite strays.  By nature, I am a talker, especially to strangers.  Ladies in the nail salon are typically quietly relaxing with phones, magazines or a book.  One young woman stood out the most, as she had her nose in a book that I recently read by Karin Slaughter.  Karin is a phenomenal author of thriller books that captivate you from the first paragraph.  The book was also a library book which is always a delight to see in the community.

By the time our pedicure was complete this young woman and I were Best Friends Forever.  Her name is Rebecca Phillips.  She has the most striking blue eyes I have ever seen.  I learned that she was an attorney in Greensboro, NC and recently returned to her parents to save money to buy her first home.  The poor woman did not have a chance to get away from my attention and interest in her story.  Her quick wit and sarcasm made me laugh until I cried.

One thing she said to me that day stuck with me, “You like to pick up strays!”  Confused, I asked her what she meant.  She went on to explain, “You seek out people to connect with and then bring them into your tribe so they know that they are welcomed and encouraged.”  I stopped and thought about all of the stories we shared with each other in the past 2 hours, and I realized she was right.  While on any road trip I make friends and include them in my life from then on.  From that point forward Rebecca was part of the Sunday Sushi ritual and was invited to every local event that I was able to attend.  Rebecca was often unavailable.  You see, Rebecca is a person who everyone wanted in their tribe.  There were endless birthday parties, weddings, showers and events that she was included in.  I had the privilege to learn how amazing of a friend she is.

I took a month-long trip out West in September of 2017.  At one of our many sushi nights, I asked if she wanted to play house at my home while I was gone.  She jumped at the opportunity.  In my true hyper-organized fashion, I created a Welcome to my home guide and rules of dog care, since she would be sharing the home with my 2 dogs.  Rebecca laughed at my guide while greatly appreciating my organization skills.  Upon return, I knew something was a bit off with the dogs.  They are not allowed to sleep on the bed with me, but now they lingered on the side while just staring at me. They did the same when I sat on my couch, which they aren’t allowed on either.  To say thank you I took Rebecca out to dinner.  When she arrived at the house before dinner, the dogs went crazy for her.  I asked if by any chance had the dogs snuggled with her on the couch or maybe even on the bed.  She smiled, rolled her eyes sheepishly and looked at the dogs and said, “I thought we had a talk about this before I left.  You were not to tell your mother that I promptly broke all of the rules she set for you the moment she left!  This was to be between you and I.  That is why I washed all of the bedding and blankets I put over the couch so she’d never know”  Again, I was laughing so hard tears came to my eyes.

During dinner, I shared with her the people I met and stories of hiking.  Rebecca smiled and said, “You were picking up those strays again.”  I promptly told her that she was my very favorite stray.

Rebecca went on to start a very creative business in addition to her long work hours as an attorney.  Sadly, our time together dwindled over the past few months.  When I learned that she unexpectedly passed away suddenly on January 27, 2018, my heart broke wide open.  This beautiful person was only 31 years old.  Her life had barely begun in many ways but was so accomplished in other ways.  I will forever be grateful to have had Rebecca in my life.  I simply wish it had been longer, for she was my favorite stray!

Kristin Springfield
Stray Seeker

My fire is under water

The human spirit is described as fiery, full of energy, strong and resilient.   A few friends of mine have so much inner fire that they often times have to be careful not to set a room, loved ones, or coworkers bursting ino flames.  They are described as spicy, fiery, and sometimes salty.  That inner fire is what allows you to move forward in the face of adversity.  It offers the energy needed to make a change, to be brave, and to take the leap of faith.  I have a rock next to my bed that says “Leap and the net will appear”.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Just keep taking steps even if you can’t see the destination.  The path will reveal itself as you keep moving forward, much like when driving.  I certainly could not see the entrance to Yosemite National Park when I pulled out of my driveway 2 years ago, yet I arrived just the same.  What lights the path to your life journey is that inner fire. Times like this I want to scream, “Bull Shit!”  to all of the positive messages I have displayed around my home.  What do you do when your fire is under water?

There has been a tidal wave of events recently in my life that figuratively not only squelched my inner fire but damn near extinguished it.  These recent life events are certainly not unique to humanity.  We all go through loss, grief, and having the rug of comfort pulled out from under us.  This is simply the first time I have been here with this series of events.  Depression and inner dragons have been a normal part of my life for a VERY long time.  My arsenal of coping techniques is large and well stocked to deal with these dragons under “normal” circumstances.  Yet grief from the loss of a loved one, the loss of unconditional love in dog form, and the loss of relationships has completely kicked my ass and threw me into a tidal wave riddled with riptides.  The fatigue I have recently experienced reminds me of life with an infant.  Only this time there is no one waking me up.

How in the world are we suppose to know what is best for ourselves when our spirit is under water or drowning?  What do you do to get out of the water?  In this case, I have to surrender to this riptide within the tidal wave of events.  In order to survive a riptide, the very first thing you must do is relax and call out for help.  Then you are to swim parallel to the shore and conserve your energy. Finally, you swim diagonally to the shore once you are out of the riptide.  You will be on  shore eventually but in a completely different spot.  When every part of you wants to swim back the way you came in, your mind is freaking out and in full on panic.  How in the do you override that urge?  You have a choice; do what your mind wants and die or surrender.

I surrendered and asked for help in my emotional riptide.  I find myself on the shore of life completely exhausted and coughing up water. Yet, I am relieved, happy and scared all at the same time.  The place inside of me where my internal fire lives is drying out.  I can breathe again while I collect the tinder needed.  This is a process that I find myself frequently saying, “Clearly, I don’t know what is best for me.”  Although I do know what the first steps are.  Actually be kind to myself, give this girl inside me a break, for she has just arrived on shore.  It is going to take time and small steps forward.  I am surprised to experience different small steps.  I desire to sit on the couch holding hands, to go running outside in the cold (I hate to be cold), to draw, and to consider a new way of life that scares the shit out of me. I just keep breathing in and out all day long as my fire pit dries.  I will soon be warmed by my beautiful inner fire, for this I know to be true.  I just have to be patient, which is not my strongest attribute.

I offer a word of caution to those of you who have a loved one in a tidal wave of emotions. They need to be reminded they are loved more than anything.  You can’t fix them, but you can hold their hand and stand beside them as they move through this experience.  Even though it may feel very heavy for you to watch them in this place, don’t abandon them.  If you need a break, tell them honestly.  Just leaving them without any explanation is like shoving their head back under water.

We are stronger than we think.  We are resilient.  Life is hard at times and at other times it feels impossible to keep breathing.  It is in those moments where your true loved ones and friends become obvious.  I am forever grateful for the loved ones in my life.   Support, encouragement, and love show up in surprising places and in ways I never could imagine.


Kristin Springfield

THE Eulogy, as promised

My Dad’s life celebration, funeral and burial were 12/27/17.  My brothers and I delivered eulogies in his honor.  Each one was vastly different, yet all touched the heart deeply.  We decided to speak in birth order, which left me last, as I am the youngest.  I practiced my speech a few times and became tearful about half way through.  What I had not taken into account was that I would be listening to the heartfelt messages of my brothers beforehand.

When it came to my turn to speak, I was already crying.  As I took my spot on stage, attempted to compose myself,  and looked out into the chapel pews to find kind eyes on me.  I smiled, took a deep breath and thanked my brothers for setting the stage for me to bring the house down.  As the crowd laughed as I expressed my concerns and a promise that went something like this, “I am Kristin, the youngest.  You may or may not be able to understand word I have to say today.  I promise to post this eulogy on my blog so you can read it if you desire.”  They all laughed as I looked down at my speech, wiped my tears, took the deepest inhale I had all day, and began to read the following:

I have been saying a slow goodbye to my dad for the past 7 years due to a disease that was caused by exposure to Agent Orange while protecting our freedom in Vietnam before I was even born.  Doing the right thing for what you believe in is not always easy and can bring about side effects you can’t foresee.  In that long goodbye I was gifted with the opportunity to help in ways I would never have had. My college education which he and mom paid for in occupational therapy actually paid off literally in his care.  Being his advocate after being taken care of by him was an amazing experience. After I received the call that he was  in hospice care, I drove down to be with him thinking I have said everything I wanted to say.  Peace washed over me, and then I walked into his room only to realize I had a lot more to say.  

Everything he tired to tell me that truly mattered over the past 7 years were highlighted in the last 48 hours of his life.  I will cherish the precious connected moments for as long as I live. Love is all that matters!  Love is in connection that is best found small moments and shared experiences.

Your body fails, your bank account becomes secondary, your status doesn’t make a bit of difference in the end of your life journey.  The body is just a shell that carries around your amazing spirit. Yes, take care of it so it can carry you on this great planet to connect with others, but don’t get too attached to it.  Because, some forms of love can only come into your life when your body fails you. The care dad received at the VA and Trinity Oaks proved that many times over.

2 yrs ago I took a trip to Zion National Park and completed the most strenuous hike of my life, Angel’s Landing.  Roughly 20 years early Dad and Uncle Alan did that hike together on a trip out West. After I complete the hike, I stopped by a rock shop and a purchased a heart shaped stone made from the local sedimentary rock.  Dad and I shared many stories of that shared accomplishment.  In true hippie fashion, I brought it with me and placed that rock on his heart and told him the story one more time as I lay next to him.  At one point,  he reached up and held on to the rock, took a deep breath and finally rested peacefully.  The sound of his breathing was beautiful.

At another point in those last days, he whispered “Cold” to me.  I placed a blanket over him and leaned close to ask if that was better.  He looked at me, lifted his head and kissed me.  As he held my gaze better than he had in months, I told him how much I love him, how proud I am of him, how amazing of a man he is and how thankful I am for his love.  He looked at me and cried as I continued to tell him all the ways I adore him.  Tears flowed down both of our cheeks as I spoke from my heart to his.

One evening while mom held his hand, he reached with his other hand to draw her closer to him.  Witnessing this raw authentic love was a precious gift and reminder that the simple gestures of love and connection speak volumes.

He showed me that we just want to be seen and loved for who we are, yet sometimes we get in the way.  You are loved more than you know.   Mountains were meant to be climbed not carried.   I strive to finally let all of the worry go so love can rush in,  for love and connection to others makes this life worth living.

I looked up as I concluded and there was not a dry eye in the house.  The rest of the ceremony was perfect and then concluded with full military honors at the grave side burial.  The 21 gun salute brought about faster flowing tears.  The presentation of the flag and 3 bullet shells to Mom brought about uncontrollable sobbing.

The reception, story sharing, love and alcohol rounded out an incredible day to honor Dad, his life and the love he created.  If your Dad is still breathing, call him and tell him you love him for all of us who can’t call our dads!

Kristin Springfield