Who Am I? Why Do You Care?

I am a woman on a journey. Where I'll end up is yet to be discovered.


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Embrace Kindness

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What are your hopes and dreams for 2017? What do you want to accomplish this year? Are you prepared for what needs to be done in order to see those goals realized?

On New Year’s Eve my daughter and I set fire to the things we didn’t want to carry into the coming year. Emotional burdens and hurdles like anger, negativity and past hurts. Some things did seem to evaporate in the smoke from that little garbage pail fire on the back porch, while others are going to take a bit more work – but still – the thought is the same. We no longer need to carry the things from the past that hold us back. We need to shed those things in order to see a brighter future.

At the same time, we wrote down the things we wanted to do more of in the coming year. Some may call them resolutions, I just like to think of them as the things that will help me to become the person I really want to be. My daughter had several wishes for herself in the coming year, but to me, one of the most powerful was the little statement she wrote above.

Embrace people’s kindness.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? How hard can that be? Truth be told, how many of us are free to embrace the kindness of others in our daily lives? I’ll bet it isn’t as often as you think.

Too many times we refuse the kindness someone tries to show by the gift of their help. We tell them, “Oh, you can’t do that, it’s too much!” Or we see simpler things as something we should be able to do for ourselves. “Oh, no, I can do it, but thanks for asking!”

Sound familiar? It’s hard to accept help, isn’t it? But by offering help, those people are extending kindness.

My daughter knows she has a difficult time accepting acts of kindness. She doesn’t like to be complimented, she doesn’t like to accept help, she doesn’t like for anyone to do anything for her because she then sees herself as a burden.

Accepting kindness is a way to be vulnerable and open yourself up to others. This can be terrifying. Vulnerability is scary. I know. But as humans, without that vulnerability, without opening ourselves up to others, we lose the very connection that makes us human. I’m not so sure I’m ready to give up on that. Are you?

I believe that this very simple thing has the power to transform lives. It can be easy to show kindness to others, but accepting it in return is the the difficult part. Choose to allow kindness in, and I imagine you will start to see the world, and yourself, differently.

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Can’t Have a Beginning Without an End

This time of year can be kinda tough. On one hand, a whole new year will be here soon – a beautiful blank slate to color any way we choose. We can look forward to the turning of the calendar with excitement and that tingly feeling of not knowing what lies ahead – or with the giddy glee of making new plans.

That new beginning means something else, too. It means this chapter is coming to an end. All those plans we made last January for this year will either be an accomplishment or just a vague memory now.

I always feel a bit melancholy in December. As a child I loved the holidays. There was so much magic in the air! The lights, decorations, sounds, smells and music made me happy. Now it seems like work to get from the beginning of the month to the end. I can’t help but think about my dad, and how much I still miss him. I think about how fast the year went, and how I didn’t do nearly all the things I said I wanted to. I think about missed opportunities, things I procrastinated on, things I started but never finished. Suddenly the last year becomes a blur, and I’m not sure where it all went. I’m not sure what I accomplished. I have a feeling that I could hunker down amid a fluffy blanket and a few books and hide my head until December is over and gone. If only I could.

Life won’t let me hide, so I guess I have to face this last month of the year head on. And do you want to know something? I got a lot of sh#! done this year! Okay, there’s a lot I didn’t do, but despite that, it’s been quite the year. I’ve grown stronger, I’ve learned things about myself, I’ve changed and I’ve grown. I’ve read good books, and I’ve enjoyed times with my daughter. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve screamed. I’ve been sad, I’ve been happy, I’ve been up and I’ve been down. I’ve written stories, I’ve written books, I’ve watched movies and I’ve colored pictures. I’ve knitted, I’ve sipped tea and I’ve loved and been loved. I’ve been wrapped in the arms of a mischievous teen girl, and I’ve gone out of my comfort zone once or twice. I’ve learned new things, I’ve gazed at the moon and I’ve enjoyed the orange glow of a sunset. I’ve seen rainbows, played in the rain and stood on top of a Mayan temple in the middle of the forest. I’ve encouraged and I’ve been encouraged. I’ve experienced the kindness of strangers and the support of family and friends. I’ve gained insight, gained wisdom and lost bitterness and cynicism. I’ve been afraid, and I’ve been strong. I’ve been true to myself and I’ve lived.

In this, the end of the year, that is all I can hope for. I can look back and know one thing for sure – I lived. I’ve survived my hardships and I am ready for what lies ahead.

Some things end. Some things are just beginning.

 


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I Want To Do It All. (Are there instructions for that?)

I think I want to do too many things. At least I think that’s the problem. Then I have so many things swirling around in my ADD brain that not much of anything gets done! I think I need an intervention, or at the very least a self help group for procrastinating over- achievers. There just does not seem to be enough hours in the day for this single mom and would be writer-poet-knitter-reader-baker-craft maker- and don’t forget the laundress-house cleaner-painter-lawn maintainer-light bulb changer-car washer-tutor-errand runner. I guess what I’m saying is I have yet to figure out the balance that is working a day job THEN finding time to write as well as keep up with any hobbies I may wish to try and then all the housework/maintenance mundane no fun stuff on top of being mom to a pre-teen with a precarious emotional state.

My number one job, and favorite by far, is being mom to my girl. NOTHING else is as important and I would forgo any other thing on the planet to take care of her and make sure she’s okay and to just spend time relaxing or having fun with her. My second favorite thing is writing. (well, maybe writing and reading tie?) I need organization in my life. I need balance. I need to figure out how to get everything done. I know there is a way. I see other people balance beautifully without having an overload and shutting down. I mean, right now, my house looks like a tornado would probably do it a favor. I mean just rip right through and take everything and it would probably be an improvement. Okay, on second thought, I like having a roof, so I guess that would be a bad idea. The gigantic balls of dog fur add ambiance, right? Sure they do. I like them just where they are.

I’ve begun work on a new project. I’m just not entirely sure of its direction. I am having a difficult time right now finding writing time every day, but I haven’t been too worried about it. My daughter is having some difficulties right now and it’s more important to me to be with her and to just do nothing some evenings but sit and watch movies with her, or talk or whatever she wants to do. I have to admit to myself though, that maybe just maybe, I’ve gotten a bit lazy as well. It’s like in my HEAD I can see me completing all kinds of tasks. I see myself getting up in the morning and am off and running on a super productive day. I exercise, I eat right. I go to work. I come home and make dinner. I write. I knit. I mow the lawn. I clean the garage. I organize the house. I do the laundry and ACTUALLY put it away instead of pulling what we need out of the pile on the sofa for a week. You know, I want to get things done. Like a normal person. Is that just some fantasy I will never achieve?

Tonight my daughter and I were talking, and she is always telling me I’m awkward. She isn’t being mean, it’s true. My social anxiety makes me really awkward around people. I could be a recluse in a heartbeat. I fantasize about it. She was laughing, saying she would have no idea what to do if she had a “normal” mother like the other kids she knew. She said she would absolutely suffocate and die if she had a mother that was not quirky like I am. I told her it wouldn’t be any picnic for a “normal” mother to have to parent her quirky self either. She agreed and we laughed about it. While I’m glad my daughter appreciates my somewhat untraditional approach to parenting her (yes I have rules. Yes I require my child to behave herself and be respectful and all the other things “good” parents teach their children — we are just both sarcastic and snarky and I don’t sweat the small stuff. We have a unique way of communicating and we appreciate one another’s quirks and eccentricities for what they are. It’s awesome.)

I wish though that I could figure out the magic formula for allowing me to do ALL the things I want to do. Heck, I’d settle for half. Or less than half. Right now, I have high hopes of deep cleaning and organizing the house WHILE making time to write every day. For now I guess I’ll just muddle through. I haven’t had as much writing time lately as I’d like, but little by little the story is taking shape. I love this first draft stage when the characters are revealing themselves to me. I like looking at them and finding their weaknesses and seeing what makes them human. I like to see how they live their lives and how they solve their problems.

I keep trying to figure out what kind of writer I am. I like to read so many different types of things that I have a hard time narrowing my writing to a certain genre. I want to write things that make people laugh. I want to write things that make people cry. I want to make people think. I want to write tales of horror and tales of life and death and pain and redemption. I suppose all of those things can be found in the essence of human nature. I want to write stories that mean something to me. As long as I do that, I suppose there is no reason to try to decide what category I fit into. At least not right now. If I write what speaks to my heart, the category to which I belong should become clear. At least I think it might.

Being a writer is who I am. I cannot change that. I cannot deny it. Being a mother is the most important thing I will ever do. I guess all the rest can wait.


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Short and Sweet. Maybe.

No, I’m not describing myself.

I’ll try to keep this post brief. Yeah, I know, you don’t believe me. You already know I’m hopelessly long winded.

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I last posted. I am happy to say that I resolved the major issues of my book, both print and the Kindle version. (at least I think I did. I’m sure someone will point out glaring errors that I missed.) Putting out this book has been fun, and my local launch party is in the works and coming up fast. I am looking forward to the chance to get together with some people and thanking them for the support.

I’ve not really started any new projects. Well, Okay, I have started some. I’ve taken some notes, written a few random sentences that I didn’t want to forget, did some minor plotting. But my behind has not been in a chair in actual writing mode for a few weeks now. After the launch party is over, I plan to take that break. I plan to read wonderful stories and maybe watch some movies and refuse to allow myself to write. I need to soak in the words of others, bask in strange worlds and learn from them. I need to study so that I can become a better writer. I believe now is a good time for that. I’m sure I won’t really take off for more than a couple of months, but as long as I do that every so often, it will help me to grow as a writer.

Right now, I’m really just being lazy. I don’t have any major projects going, and I’m trying to curb that antsy feeling that takes over when I’m not in the middle of something. I’m spending lots of time with my daughter, and reading some books that she has enjoyed so we can talk about them. It’s soccer season, so that is keeping us pretty busy too. Practice twice a week and then a game each week is keeping DD occupied, and she is loving every minute of it. I regret not letting her play the last couple years. I really had no idea how much she truly missed it. She’s doing pretty well in school so far for the first quarter. Her grades are steady, I haven’t seen the tons of zeros that I’ve seen in the past from her disorganization and forgetful nature. She’s unfortunately been sick some and already missed four days of school, but not much I can do about that. First it was an ear infection. Then it was an awful cold. Last week she had the hives. Seriously. She’s dealing with some tough issues right now, and keeping her head up, for the most part. I wish she knew how incredibly proud of her that I am for putting up with the crap she has to put up with. Some days I am afraid that the garbage is going to get the best of her, but she always pulls through. She is a fighter. Thank goodness. I wish I had half her spark.

I’ll work on getting back to a regular posting schedule, and I’ll work on some actual interesting topics to write about so I won’t continue to bore you to death. Right now, I think I’m a little burned out. Not sure what I’m burned out on, I just am. But you know what? I can be a fighter too when I need to be, so I’ll be right again in no time.


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Does He Know? A Tribute to My Father

This Friday, February 14th will be the anniversary of my Dad’s death.  There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about him.  I miss him every single day and I can still hear his voice and the sound of his laugh.  I can see the mischievous twinkle in his eye when he tried to cheat at card games.  I miss playing rummy with him, and above all, wish I could play just one more hand of cards.  I wrote this piece a couple of years ago for another project I was working on, but it seems fitting to share it this week in his honor.  I love you Dad. Always will.

DOES HE KNOW?

 My father was a simple farmer who kept his children clothed and fed by his sweat and blood. He began his education in a one room school house, where he was passed over because he couldn’t learn. Dyslexic and confused, he finally dropped out to haul paper wood. With the reading skill of an average six year old, he may not have been the most educated man, but he was much more.

My father loved to tell stories, often the same stories over and over. He told how he accidentally burned down the school house one cold morning by shoving too much wood in the stove. He told of the boy who licked home plate every time it was his turn to bat. Dad never tired of telling these stories and even though I’d heard them hundreds of times, I never got tired of listening. I remember his smile when his eyes focused on a distant memory, and the story would come…one more time.

Dad was forty-eight when I was born, the youngest of eight children. I remember following him around the barn and pastures “helping” him work. He would come in from the field, caked with dirt and grime from a long day on a jerky, dusty tractor in the withering Alabama heat, and still pitch a baseball so I could bat. I can see him even now, my twelve year old self standing ready, his arm swinging forward to release the ball. The satisfying crack of contact would thrill me as I ran to fetch the ball for another chance. Looking back, I can only imagine how tired my then 60 year old father would have been, pitching that ball after working all day. His sacrifices became the basis of many of the stories I tell my own daughter.

I spent many summer afternoons fishing with Dad. My father was not an expert fisherman, nor was I, so those afternoons were really about mercilessly drowning worms while eating ham and cheese sandwiches and sipping RC Cola. I don’t remember catching much that wouldn’t fit into a Maxwell House coffee can, but I begged incessantly to go. Did he know then what I know now- that those days, sitting beside him, staring at that red and white bobber as it floated on the still water – would one day come to an end? Does he know that those are my favorite childhood memories?

My father loved to square dance. This always amused me because he had no sense of rhythm and could barely manage a two-step on the dance floor. He could square dance with the best of them, though. When I was fourteen, it was my turn to go through lessons with him, just as my older sisters had. Personally, I looked forward to it. Other ninth graders may have laughed at me for spending my Friday nights square dancing with my father, but I loved how happy it made him then and how the memories of it sustain me now. I only wish now that I had kept going with him for longer than I did.

I loved playing jokes on my dad. There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t fall for. April Fool’s Day was a chance to top the previous year’s prank. I could always get him with food. My father liked to eat. There was the lemonade with no sugar, the glass of soda that was really coffee, the fake lollipops, the wax banana split (I think that one was really my sister’s prank), the stale cornbread muffins iced like cupcakes (with iced coffee to wash it down!), and the rubber roach that found its way into several places.

However, jokes weren’t just reserved for April Fool’s. The time Dad said he didn’t need anything for his birthday because he already had everything was an open invitation. I wrapped up about twenty of his belongings, starting with the not so obvious and ending with the big sunglasses he’d been given after cataract surgery and a tattered old denim work vest. As my family arrived, I exchanged their gifts with one of mine. No one laughed harder than Dad as he finally caught on.

My father had his faults, we all do. He might have been far from perfect, but I never once wondered if he loved me. I always felt it, but as a child I took it for granted. Did he know how much I loved him too? Did he know everything he was to me? He was the strong, work-roughened hand that held onto mine. He was the smile that looked down at me as I trailed behind him like a shadow. He was the smell of Old Spice, the April Fool’s jokes, the countless hours playing cards, and the voice I can still hear calling my name. I remind myself every day of the sound of his voice, lest I forget.

And I wonder – does he know?


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Celebrating a Brave and Beautiful Life

A year ago in August, a child at my daughter’s school was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, an inoperable brain tumor.  I didn’t know the family well, only to say hello at school functions or at church, and my daughter had only just become friends with the child a few weeks prior to her diagnosis.  The survival rate for this type of tumor is zero.  That little girl fought bravely for just over a year and passed away yesterday.

Like other members of the school and church family, we watched and prayed, hoped and dreamed as we waited for updates on her condition.  She attended school sometimes for a few hours, when she felt strong enough.  I watched the children of the small school come together in prayer and hope for their friend.  They initiated ways to help raise money among themselves, such as days where the students paid $1 to wear hats to school, or a t-shirt from a favorite sports team.  There was they day they dressed as super heroes, many with capes that bore her name, because SHE was their super hero.

As adults, we know that one day we all must die.  None of us is going to live forever.  Many of us fear death, and hold out hope that it is something that won’t come for us until we are very old and have lived a full life.  We are angered by the seeming injustice when a child is taken from us.  We wonder why.  It is truly sad.  Sometimes children are taken abruptly, and other times, an illness claims them a little at a time.  Those children, who know they will not be in this world a long time, have a strength that is beyond measure.  When I look into the eyes of a child that knows their prognosis, and knows they are going to die, what I see is a light in their eyes that shines with fierce courage and strength.  I see determination and power.  It is a beautiful strength, this strength that comes from knowledge and acceptance. 

I watched as the child’s classmates tried to help her experience things she would not get the chance to experience.  They held a prom in her honor, because as a middle school student, she would never get the chance to experience a prom of her own.  Her friends created a beautiful tribute to her for their computer fair project.  We watched, we prayed, we hoped, but we knew it would take a miracle.  I do believe in miracles, but I also believe that we can never understand the will of God. I watch now, as her classmates and family carry out her final wishes.  She made lists of what she wanted them to do after she was gone, and made cards and letters to be delivered after her death.   I admire her bravery, and her selfless desire to try to ease the pain of others when she knew they would be hurting the most.

My heart goes out today for this child’s family.  My heart goes out to all families living with the knowledge that their beautiful, precious child is only meant to be in this world for a short period of time.  As parents, we are filled with joy when our children are born.  We are also filled with hopes and dreams for that child.  We can envision Little League, ballet classes, first dances and first dates.  We can dream of college, and marriage and of our children starting families of their own.  All too often we take these things for granted.  We relax and know that our child has their whole future ahead of them. It isn’t always so, and I marvel at the strength of parents that know they have to let their child go.  I honor those parents, and their courage.  Sometimes when we need words the most they fail us.  In tragedy we do not always know what to say, for fear of saying the wrong thing. We want to offer some comfort, but know mere words are little use to a grieving parent.

I honor this family’s bravery and their love and dedication to their child.  I offer my sympathy and prayers to them.  I offer my prayers to all families who have a sick child, and to families who have lost their children, through illness or accident.  I honor the children who fight with such strength and courage, and I am humbled my their bravery and beauty. These children, these parents, these are the true super heroes of this world.