Reflections

What does it mean to be a woman?I think that the answer lies within the heart and mind of each woman reading this.

(Still thinking of that beautiful young lady who was killed in Orlando, I’ve been stuck emotionally, and the best way to unstick is to unload.)

I don’t know her but I know she matters, and I know she loved, is loved.
I am a woman. 
I often tried to put myself into a certain group of people, and it’s not because I was craving that high school groupy-ness but because more often than not, I just didn’t fit in. It use to bother me immensely. It made me insecure. It made me someone I wasn’t meant to be….

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My femininity is beautiful. My gentleness/strength is empowering.

***** 

While trying to pen who I am, I’ve been thinking of all the women that have influenced me in the last year of life. This last year has taught me much about the human condition and all its glory/gore. The gray side of life. (Because for me as I age, the black/white, left/right, near/far on many things have melted to a calming shade of gray. There is less to fuss about. Don’t get me wrong – I still have absolutes, but in the gray I have found understanding and I’ve learned to understand.) 

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My mother, who I haven’t spoken to since last December, has taught me that I can be accepted – by me, without a desire to please her (or anyone else) and cut myself down. I have learned that I can still love her (and others) from afar, and not feel worthless for doing so. For myself this is HUGE. I try very hard to make everyone that I cherish feel that from me. I don’t ever want to let anyone down. Feeling as though I’ve failed someone feels like I AM the FAILURE. She was one of two voices I would hear in my mind when I’d done less than perfect anything. Hers by far has/had the biggest reach (1700 miles to be exact) and her words until recently cut me deeply, and had the magical ability to change me, how I viewed myself. It is not sad or tragic, though I use to feel that way. It’s life and a lesson I needed to learn for so long. 
My friend Kristal, who is raising her two grandchildren. She is a faithful woman, both with her relationship with those she loves and with God. She listens when I talk to her. She lets me know she’s there when I need that – because we all do sometimes. She accepts me AND my crazy brood just the way we are. I have learned from her, that it’s never too late to love myself. I’ve learned that through her own life story, and how her life story has changed me. 

Alyssa, who was the first person to follow Little Bits of Heaven, has become what I refer to as my ‘one in a million’. Our lives are like the reflections on the water. Almost the same, yet different enough to keep me looking, searching, but in a comforting way. She is the me if I were her and I if she were me. Her journey inspires me to look beyond the introvert I have become and be a part of the world again. She has taught me what it is to overcome, to cleanse, to use my words as a way to move through things rather than stop and stay. And that, for someone with anxiety, is a BIG deal. She is more a part of me than I thought I could find in a friend. I envy the way she can take a simple thought I pen and send it back with such illustration, with words that give life to the slow death that is each passing hour. She is true beyond measure.

My blogging buddy and gracious friend Annabella, who sends me weekly emails just to remind me that in my closed-circuit world someone’s still ‘out there’ caring about me, has shown me that I need not apologize for things I want out of life. Her wit, her desire to be authentic and trust the Lord has helped me through much in the last few months. She sent me the most beautiful something, and it’s real, tangible, touching, authentic. I could send her all the ranting/cursing that this sailors mouth could conjure up and she’d still see ME. ME. What a blessing. She doesn’t allow for shallow self loathing or to skip over the what if’s. She allows me those, and challenges me to take my life and desires head on, which sometimes I/you/me/we need.

Deb, whose life and love and gentle nature, which bleeds through every post and tugs at my heart strings, has taught me the importance of being gentle, but even more so that being gentle, even quiet – does not make me a woman of weakness, but strength. Things don’t always need to be said. Words do not need to be written just for filler. Peace, quiet, and a gentle nature have more power than I ever knew. The struggles have not taken her love away, but magnified it ten fold, in the most wonderful way.

Each of these women I would cross the country for. Be there to pull their hair back from their eyes in those sad and mournful moments, hands held tightly no matter the miles apart. I would/do/will celebrate them and their accomplishments. They inspire. They love. They are all true and beautiful. 

*****

I read what I’ve penned – and stop. I picture that young woman I’ve been thinking so much about. She must have been strong, to love herself in spite of all those who were against her. Her challenges in this life most likely gave her a loving and loyal nature toward those who truly loved all of her. Those gentle smiling eyes no doubt lit every room. I’m sure that she touched many lives in ways she will never know. She has taught me what it means to BE COURAGEOUS. 

*****

Myself, last but not least, always has room in my heart for you. I am loyal, at times to a fault. I’m a lover of God, my husband and family and the diversity of all the women who make up that which is ‘me’. I am beautiful. I have value. What I lack in social graces I make up for in my writing. I’ve lived more than I should have, but it’s given me perspective. I see the cracks in my mirrored reflection as that which keeps me grounded rather than that which stops me in my tracks. Happiness is progress. Wholeness is healing through my pain, and not allowing it to break me. I’m me, and that’s a miraculous thing to accept, more so to love. 

Thank you to all of you, and some that I didn’t mention, for helping me to find myself. It’s a journey every woman needs to take, even if it’s kicking and screaming – which yes, I’ve done that too. Thank you for the love, acceptance, lessons, and humanity. 

***We. Are. One.***

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Meth/Death and Life is…

*I had the most amazing (powerful?) post written for today….and then my baby cried and with that alone on my mind I closed the screen and all was lost. So.Very.Frustrating.*

 

The words spelled out how aging comes to a woman who use to ‘do’ (crystal meth). Craved it more than the air, more than her sanity, her life. They were words brought together by pain and suffering, loss and hunger. RAGE. The nouns though few were ‘just’ people. People who only betrayed her, easily molded her. She became a child sleeping on a park bench…night after cold/damp/dark and scary night. Sentences filled with lowly quotes, angry musings. Perhaps a thought put to the paper on how growing older is such a miracle – because it is. She is amazed she survived at all.

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The places, the things/moments that put her there were woven into what would have been real/raw/and punctuated with needed heart-breaking. A story of rage turned toward redemption. The solitude that helped her find her peace. The child that lost her innocence but found a way to give that child a home, a comforting place…deep within.

It was to be all of those ‘things’ that one remembers, of a life gone but never far enough from her mind…

The closing was to be all about the light that had shown through her window, right to her thankfully still-beating heart, as the sun was rising…

I am an addict, forever in recovery. I am 19 years CLEAN this month. Though my teeth still show the regrets of my youth, my drug use, and the ravages of time…I will take it. This age. This wisdom. This life.

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It’s the Beauty Blogger Tag!

 

Beauty Blogger Tag💜

 

I’ve been tagged by Annabella and Kate to participate in the Beauty Blogger Tag! Thank you for thinking of me.💜

The Rules are:
-Tag the blogger who nominated you
-Answer the questions
-Come up with 10 questions of your own
-Nominate 5 other bloggers, and don’t forget to tell them!

 

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My 10 questions/answers are:

1.) Where are you blogging from?

I am currently blogging – and have only ever blogged from – my iPhone. Smashed screen and all. *sigh*

2.) What is your daily beauty regimen?

My ‘beauty’ regiment (if that’s what it could be called) is washing my face with Aveeno foaming soap for sensitive skin, brushing my teeth and applying some Chapstick. Occasionally I will comb my hair. HA!

3.) What is your favorite signature perfume?

My favorite signature perfume is one no longer in production by Mary Kay…old school I know. So old I don’t remember the name, and its rubbed off the bottle. I wore it when I said “I Do” and on the first doctor appointment for every pregnancy. My mother gave it to me.

4.) What do you think true beauty is?

True beauty is who I strive to be on the inside. True beauty in others is to have an understanding that simple kindness can change a heart, save a life. Empathy is sexy. Oh – and my husbands eyes. There’s so much beauty there, often covered by the man he feels he has to be for others, but it’s what keeps me going on the hardest days. (His green eyes laugh with him…it’s so wonderful/beautiful.)

5.) How do you feel about air brushed and Photo-shopped models representing “women”? What affect do you think this has on children, teens, and women today? Do you think Photo-shopped models cause people to set unrealistic expectations about themselves?

Hmmm…good questions! I think it is less the model and more society. As we have evolved socially there is a distinct and disturbing pattern that one must be of a certain size to gain a certain ‘status’ (hint, hint…) Even my iPhone came with photo editing abilities. It’s become so engrained into many – if not all social circles, that it’s hard to draw a line in the sand on the ‘realness’ of ones self/selfie. Flaws are no longer natural/expected, but airbrushing is. My only hope is that by the time my daughter gets her first photo taking gadget I will have taught her the importance of her true beauty…so that when she looks at her picture she doesn’t see what the world thinks she should be but rather how beautiful God has already made her.

6.) Do you have a favorite brand of purse/handbag?

I can’t afford a brand! I have seven kids! No, I’m just kidding…actually I do. I just don’t own it. It’s a Vera Wang messenger bag/purse thingy…and one day it will be mine. ( If they still make it, as its been a few years since I saw it hanging in a department store.)

7.) Do you think that coloring hair in bright/colorful colors (bright pink, rainbow, etc.) is neat or not? Would you ever color your hair like that?

Well…my hair is purple. I think the ability to express ourselves in such a way is amazing, and if We don’t like it…We will just change it, cut it. I do think there’s a fine line, but I haven’t found it yet!

8.) What is the current shampoo and conditioner that you use?

I use any shampoo/conditioner that’s sulfur free. I think I’m currently using Aveeno. Like my hair color, I switch it up often.

9.) What is your favorite styling product?

Does a hair scrunchy count as a styling product? Or maybe water…

10.) When do you feel your most beautiful?

I feel most beautiful after a good nights sleep, after my husband and I have made love the night before. Is that shallow? I hope not…just being honest. I think that is one of the greatest benefits of having a life partner. There should always be that intimate connection that makes you fee like you’re the one who still captures their heart, and to me that’s so beautiful!

My five nominees are –

1.) myuneasylife

2.)lafmommy

3.)beautybeyondbones

4.)O-pen-u-nated

5.)among tall trees

 

My 10 questions for you all are the following…

1.) As a child, who was the first person you can remember looking at and thinking they were beautiful?

2.) Who in your life do you consider to be beautiful now and Why?

3.) Do you have a special memory that makes you feel beautiful?

4.) When was the last time you were told you’re beautiful?

5.) What is your favorite color?

6.) Do you own a set of dangly earrings?

7.) Do you prefer Chapstick or lipgloss and why?

8.) Have you ever permed your lovely locks?

9.) Do you think social media is a negative influence on younger generations when it comes to how they define beauty and why?

10.) If you could wear a ball gown for one night, where would you go and who would you be with?

*I know this is all about beauty, so be honest…because that/you are beautiful just by being you! (And noooo, this doesn’t count as an answer to question #4! But nice try.)*

 

 

 

Beauty School Drop-out

There is something to be said about higher learning. Though I can’t speak on this subject personally, I long to be able to.

I wasn’t able to go to college, but if I had I would have attempted to get a masters in American History with special studies in Native American History & Culture. I find the deep and rich cultural heritage of the Pacific Northwest Indian tribes fascinating, inspiring. Their roots, unlike my own, are steeped in tradition. They have a value of the world around them that is rare and beautiful.

There is something to be said about having a high school diploma/GED. I don’t have any stories for you here either, as I never got my high school diploma or a GED. I’m a drop out.

 

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At what was my second senior year in high school I was part of a gifted/alternative high school program located on our university campus. I had already had several pieces of published writing thanks to the most passionate teachers, as well three paintings that had been on display at the university and then at a local gallery. I had an A in chemistry, English Lit, and had only 2 elective credits left to earn before I would graduate….when I had to drop out to care for my son, who was a tiny and loving one year old. Going to school full time and working part time at $4.10 an hour through a grant was not enough to meet his needs, and I didn’t want to be part of the ‘welfare state of mind’ that was plaguing my growing community. So, I quit school with a heavy heart and got a job, working 60 hours a week when I could to make ends meet. Having to ‘grow up’ at light speed was just life…because my life was no longer my own.

Time moves on with or without us…

Within a few years I met my husband. We married and started our family and the months turned into years. Our oldest children are attending college, and one will (hopefully) make the decision to go this fall. My middle child Jay uses my not graduating from high school as a reason/excuse that perhaps he should not put forth any effort, and drop out. It’s a very personal matter. I find it more of a slap in the face than anything. Not because he says it, but because I know what he will be missing out on. (?) Though I’m aware he could get his GED, or become a successful human being without it, I want to live through him. I want to watch him walk down the isle, collect his diploma, and get his degree in physics, basket weaving…anything. There was a time in the not-so-distant past that I tried to get my GED. I wanted to say to my kids that it was never too late to achieve your goals. I wanted to show them that if you put the effort in to what your dreams are made of that they can become your reality. Alas, I did swimmingly on everything but the math….which I failed by one or two points, every time. And I took that test many times. I was crushed.

*There are so many things we would have done differently in our lives isn’t there?*

If I could do this all over again, I wouldn’t.

The child I had as a teenager is what or rather WHO saved me from overdosing in an alley somewhere. He made me buck up and face life head on, in spite of my fears and struggles, and become a mother in every sense of the word. Do I worry as a result of my lack of formal education? Yes. My husband is the one who provides financially for us. I haven’t had a job in almost 14 years. (They asked where I attended high school rather then where I graduated from so I didn’t have to lie…I’m sure they’ve fixed that by now.) What happens if I suddenly have to become the one to provide? Or if Jay decided to stick to his guns and drop out, how will I change his opinions on this when I’m talking in two different directions?

Writing this post has required a lot of self-exploration, and life-long friends helping me to find perspective. This next part, is in part, because of them…

There was a time I longed more than I can explain to have a high school diploma. Hearing people complain about their homework, internships, graduate degree progress or the lack there of would cause a twinge of pain somewhere inside me. How fortunate they are, I would want to say. It brings up a desire to tell them about myself and say “You are so blessed to able to go to college. Don’t waste it complaining! Make the most of yourself. Go Forth in Knowledge.”

Now, I GET it.

There is far more in my life that I have without a degree than many people have with a lifetime of higher learning. My six degrees of separation are more like two, because I connect on a level with others that those with only a formal education can’t. I have all these beautiful children, a family that is complete because I’m a part of the equation. I am lacking in nothing.

Much like Benjamin Franklin, I have worn/wear many hats…often many in one day. I am a mother, wife, friend/confidante. I make the very best gumbo you will ever taste. I have memorized all the mother goose nursery rhymes I could find and I can hook a trout with the best of them. I am a writer/artist and I have lived. I have lived a life at times that was a struggle to want to be a part of. These struggles have brought me into the lives of people from all walks – who I have given a hand to and held while they cried, people who I cherish, who have helped me grow into the woman I am…compassionate, loyal, accepting. My interpretation of achievement is no longer measured by my desire for student loan debt but rather by the amount of change I make in the lives and hearts of those I love.

So what will I say to my child when he or she talks to me about dropping out now? I don’t know, but I’ve had a wonderful education and I’m sure I’ll have the answer.

 

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Because He Loves Me.

My father died the day after Easter four years ago. He was in a hospital, surrounded by those he loved, that loved him. I was not there. I was not able to hold his hand or sit with my brother while he cried for our father. I could only call from 1700 miles away and hope that my words made a difference. I was beside myself with guilt. I missed my dad. I missed being there.

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When I was a child my father took us to Grandma and Grandpas house for Easter. Ham, homemade canned cherries, black olives on each finger. Easter egg hunts, and running amuck with my many cousins, my brother. That’s what Easter should be. Memories carried throughout our lives. The memories that we want to pass on to our children.

Though it’s been so long since I went home to see my family, they are always close. A thought, a prayer away. My dad, in my mind, is sitting by a fire, enjoying the star light, drinking the worst tasting coffee known to man.

When I became a Christian it was almost unthinkable to me that any being could love me, let alone God. After having my own and very personal tragedies in this life – and living through them, I know He does. I would not be here without God keeping watch, ever waiting for me to stop running and just be still. Protecting me from the terrible choices I made, keeping me from the depths of my own hell. I had children and my eyes were opened to that love in a new way. Giving a child up to save a stranger, let alone a drug addict, teen parent, homeless pile of worthlessness, is something I would never do – but God did that for me.

So, as I sit on my deck, so blessed, knowing what it is to suffer, I’m all too aware that there is much that the world doesn’t see about me, my life. But if I could choose just one part of myself to share with you, it would be the love of God.

I won’t push it on you full court press, that’s not who I am. If you don’t believe in God or are undecided, I don’t cherish you any less, and love you just the same. I don’t preach, I just choose to live my life accepting others as God does with me every day.

No matter your faith I hope this Easter weekend finds you with family, friends, the things you truly cherish in this life. I hope and pray that you look around and see all you have. Your very little bit of heaven may be more than your neighbor has. Know that if you’re spending it alone, or maybe lost, I’m thinking of you. You have a value within that is unmatched.

Make wonderful new memories to replace the sad, lonely moments. Each day is a blessing.

Mommyland

Trying to figure out where my extreme case of exhaustion has come from I have decided to reflect on my life as a mom. Is it that I’m older and my body just can’t keep up? Is it my anxiety? My diet? Too much coffee and then too little?

*My 11 month old is crawling all over me, literally. He’s like that little monkey in those museum movies.*

Up to the wee hours with a nursing baby, then time for myself….but in reality it’s just laying awake in bed with the hubby, said baby and a dog at the feet…I couldn’t escape if I wanted to, which by the way I should try to use the restroom one more time before beddy-bye.

Where was I? Oh, exhaustion….

So putting my midnight math skills to good use I have stumbled sleepily upon the following facts —

•I have been a mom for 18 years, 1 month and 22 days.
(Not included is my first pregnancy…because I was woefully yet delightfully clueless.)
•I have been pregnant for a total of 4 years and 2 months.
•I have been a nursing mommy to my teeny humans a grand total of 7 years and 10 months…so far…
•I have been a stay-home mommy for 13 years, non-stop, no give-backs.

•In all this time my hubby and I have spent just one, yes ONE night away from all of our 7 (yes SEVEN!!!!!!!!) kids…in total, EVER. *It.Was.Glorious.*

…And there’s that exhaustion again.

On top of all of this I clean the floors, scrub the toilets, wash the butts and wipe the boogers. I change the babies, bathe the kids, cook (I admit, the hubby cooks more than I these days.) and match socks. I do dishes, and potty-train. I grow gardens of food and flowers, mow and weed…all for everyone else. Never to perfection, but with my all, and always with what is my best.

On nice sunny days there are dog walks, trips to the park. Weekends are fishing.
School days are homework+homework+reading.
There are always sports events for the kids, choir, science fairs and girls scouts. (Not all on the same days, weeks or even months…usually, *yawn*…)

So, with all that math, and my mind wandering off to a quick and needed good night, let me say to all the moms (stay home parents of all kinds) no matter what we deal with in life…I feel yuh! You’re exhausted. You do so much, which is often too much. However!…look at all you accomplish.

For bumps in the night…
Whether sick or well…
We do our jobs…
We change their diapers…
Whether hot or cold…
We play the games…
We read the books….
The love we get back is what keeps us hooked.

Thank you exhaustion. You’ve taught me much…
In this…my little bit of heaven.

The Great Divide

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. I was raised in a tiny hick town. Hay, apples, hops and cattle. If you didn’t own a pair of wranglers you weren’t from there. Even the kids that hung out at the skate park (me) owned a pair of shit kickin’ boots. There is a small university. The big to-do is the rodeo, 4-H shows, and jazz festival.
My first job was shoveling horse poop and cleaning stalls, my brothers was bucking hay. The country lifestyle was rooted deep…

When I was in high school I met a young woman named Medina. Her family is Muslim, and she was (and is) one of the most accepting, loving, joyous and vibrant human beings I have known. She was the same age as me, and we just clicked in the most ‘no labels’ kind of way. Her family was my introduction to the world of Islam, and I’m so thankful for that. My small town was void of much in the way of religious diversity. And I can count on two hands the amount of African Americans who lived there. Medina was, but I never bothered to see it as some do, as a difference. As small and closed in as we all were, the color of ones skin was not a definition or label, but a unique and wonderful addition to who one showed themselves to be on the inside.

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I now live in the Midwest, in a large city. Our children are being raised surrounded by amazing museums, parks, a zoo. There are no farms to be seen, no weekend horseback riding. Universities and other centers of learning are scattered between the hospitals, skyscrapers. Our home is not far from all of this, but it’s far enough that I can’t see the buildings and my kids don’t hear traffic all night. A gateway to the rest of our world…

My children are friends with a vast and unique melting pot of other little humans, all of different races, faiths, backgrounds. I had hoped that raising our kids in this place would help to resonate my own beliefs deep inside them that we are all beautifully created equals…and that we all have a place to fill that only we can. (In a city that offers so many opportunities to learn and grow.) Never was I more wrong, or so unprepared for what real racism, bigotry, discrimination looked and felt like.

Our city is at war with itself. Armored vehicles patrolled city streets, riots and the burning of people’s livelihood. Lives lost, taken. Not one person matters to the other, despite the chants that they all do…or rather should. The racial divide is astounding. The socio-economic divide is mind blowing. The fear of those with a different faith is well, scaring the hell out of me.

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How am I to teach my children/how can any parent teach their children to be accepting of others and themselves if we, as tall and take charge humans, can’t live without placing others below us. How can I tell my child/how can you tell your child that they are not defined by their race, sexuality, faith when the community surrounding them is smacking labels on every forehead, building, neighborhood. Help!

*****

I worry for my daughter Birdie. She will be in middle school next year. More kids, more teachers. More intolerant behavior. Her best friends are not pasty white like she is. They are African American, Vietnamese, Russian, Muslim, Christian. They are girls, boys, and a sweet child whose name is that of a boy, but calls them-self a very feminine Linda. Will this shove into her teen years take away from her acceptance? Will it put her in a position to be judged or God forbid – to judge??

I, obviously do not have all the answers. But I hope a real conversation can be started. I long for the childhood I had to be that for my daughter, her friends. I have felt the pain of judgement and intolerance of society. Though I know it’s nothing compared to hardships others face simply because they are of a certain race, sexual identity. I believe in God, and I am sure in my heart that He didn’t create us all so wonderfully, so unique…only to have it used as a means to wage war, isolate, hate. We are all capable of choosing to accept, to love, to take just one step in the right direction.

*****

Take away the labels, the wealth or the lack of, and you are human. Your choices matter, who you are matters. Taking who you are and using your choices for the uplifting of mankind as a whole, rather than a tool to divide…it matters.

Click

It’s quite a surprise when I read that there’s another gal who not only gets life, but my life. After grumbling to myself about the social media overkill at every turn, with no where to vent, I found myself reading a picture perfect post by my fellow blogger Deborah, The Monster in Your Closet. (Tame your fears…she sweeter than she sounds.) Well placed for my current frame of mind, and having someone to bounce my thoughts to and fro with, I have been inspired to write the following, and yes…to post it.

There is a world beyond my screen. (As I stare at one, mind wandering) In a society so ill prepared for the outside world I find it ironic that the same world is discussed in depth from our beds, chairs, cars…never fully appreciating what is just beyond our finger tips…life.

Posting about being humble while waiting for that glorious thumbs up to appear. Uploading a picture and holding your breath for a comment about how cute you all are. (And you are I’m sure.) Perhaps a tweet is sent out on a birthday in anticipation of being a retweet a hundred times over.

I use to put pictures up and count the moments until I got a comment, like, re-posting. I would linger, then return to my screen over and over while I groveled at the virtual feet of my ‘friends’. Staring into the screen as if just one click would be life altering. The let down of not taking the perfect picture of my child for posting, their lack of understanding my urgency to try again.

The world is filled with wonder and splendor, which most people seek out, so they can share it.

There is a togetherness found on social media, that for some, gives them the ability to socialize from far off lands, and find peace in their world often filled with war. Lost loved ones are found, good deeds are shared. People are given a chance to help those they would have never encountered without sharing, joining, clicking. If ever there was good to come from connecting this surely, is it.

The choice is always a private one…or public? The question remains…Is there a line?

My kids aren’t allowed to do social media until they are 13, just like they can’t drive until they’re 16, smoke before they are 18, drink before they turn 21. The reason for this is their safety. It is for their innocence, and my peace of mind. The world is harsh, cruel, and narcissistic. A child’s self esteem can be decimated by posting a picture with the wrong hair style. A teens small thought of being less than will become a tragedy and loss for many by online bullying. The individuality for some can be turned into a sideshow for the amusement of others. A simple picture can be turned into something vile by the wrong minds with a simple but all consuming click.

Unintentionally void of real, tangible human interaction…. Social networking and all its glory has taken intimacy out of the most intimate of moments. A child with special needs has a post made to boost the morale of their parents and memes are made about their appearances. A home made meal at the table no longer consists of the small talk so many families need to feel a sense of togetherness, instead replaced with pictures of said meal posted and watched…to remain connected. Stopping to take a quick pic for the grand first steps of your child, and missing the second…maybe even their arms reaching out to you during the third, because you just had to post the first step. A kiss is no longer a private and loving affair, but a reason for another because the lighting won’t look right when it’s uploaded. Marriages fall apart as a woman watches her husband exclude himself from what’s sitting in front of him, all so he can post about what is on his mind rather than talk to her. Private messages are sent to someone other than their spouse/partner they knows….they can’t compete with what is posed perfectly, edited just so, coloring, glossing, unrealistic. The snare is set. The desire for human contact dwindles with each click.

It’s been over two years since I closed my Facebook account. I’ve never sent a tweet or posted a picture to Instagram. Releasing myself from its grasp was well, painful. For a month I had to literally stop myself from logging back in. My desire for a status update was almost intolerable. Almost like I was addicted. Withdrawals long gone, I don’t regret it, not for moment.

In my journey of self exploration I have found little long term value in my life from being ‘liked’ by those who would otherwise be oblivious to my existence, despite their repeated friend requests. The few I still remain close with need not poke me to know I care or vice versa. I long for life in its truest form. A life I can touch. Hair I can run my fingers through. Hands to held, and a kiss that will linger.

I have, since removing myself from the digital realm, found my anxiety to be less. My children call my name and I am there. Life moves forward with real moments, loving and whole. My life is not on display. There is no high and mighty gossip filling my time. My trials are not for show. The deep satisfaction of watching my child run after our dogs is perfectly ours. The world doesn’t miss my selfies, and I feel less narcissistic for it. Beyond all that…I am living. I am laughing. My adventures are planned to be had, to be lived. The joy of making dinner with my husband is a deliciously private affair.

Life is meant to be shared in real time. Put down your phones, tablets. Turn off your laptops and computers. Take the time to enjoy time, as it should be, hand in hand.

Funerals and Fatherhood

Mr great-grandmother was the first dead person I remember having the pleasure to meet. Her hair was beautifully quaffed, much like the Donald’s, a little less orange. Her hands rested peacefully upon her abdomen, nails done with care. Her makeup was classically simple. Beautiful.

I walked toward her casket with my aunt, who was the ‘scary’ one. Head down so as not disturb her (my aunt) but I couldn’t wait to see inside that casket. (I was 4 or 5 years old.) Looking her over one side to the other, I touched her hands, the collar of her blouse, and buttons. Then, without thinking (obviously!!) I poked her eye, but not too hard. Yuck. Then her lips which were painted for the occasion. I wasn’t afraid. I wasn’t clinching my fists, not one skipped breath. My aunt on the other hand was beside herself. She pulled me back to our seats, squeezing my hand until I almost cried. We got home and she ritually washed my fingers, cut my nails, and smacked my ass with all the gusto she could muster. Though I may on one hand have deserved such discipline, on the other I didn’t. I was after all, my fathers daughter….

******

My father Thomas was a hard working man, always early and never more than a call away for those in need of his special touch. Thomas was a funeral director. Throughout my childhood he worked in the business of dealing with death. In his own youthfulness, he drove the town ambulance when the dead needed their final ride home, eventually going to mortuary school, then honing his skills at prominent funeral homes where we grew up. When I was 8 or 9, he bought out his employer and finally had his own business. Two funeral homes, along with a partner, who he loved like a brother.

It may seem odd, perhaps morbid to some that I so loved being with my dad at work. Most of my precious yet fading memories are of spending time with him, watching the patient and loving care he showed to those who had been dealt such a terrible loss, and watching his gentle respect for the deceased. I learned much watching the way he interacted with both sides of life. Humble and intentional, always the gentleman. A man of profound integrity. His employees were our family. Birthdays were celebrated there, fireworks on the roof, bonds that remain to this day.

The building itself was brick, and not like today’s buildings that are quickly raised. It was a work of art. Old, with looming shadows and majestic window frames with ivy that grew over most of the walls. My favorite time to gaze upon it was in the morning as the sun rose to greet the day, that golden hue bouncing off the dew that had gathered in its ivy leaves. It shimmered as though jewels had been placed in each crevice.

My brother and I would wander the halls. He loved the elevator, I did not. Even for me, it was too much. ( I always thought of it as a slow descending box to the depths of hell…fire and brimstone. Of course, it was just the basement.) My dad and brother would set out early in the morning, coffee with the guys, then if the sun was out it was right to work…wash the hearses, then sweep the garage while they dried in the sun. I was more involved in playtime. Racing with the casket carts, and with the garage floor so clean…those carts would literally fly. So fast that they were often out of control. Thomas never got angry unless there were people there making funeral arrangements, visiting their loved ones who’d since passed. There was a little fridge with soda, which we often raided as we ran amuck.

As I grew older, my fathers chosen profession became an embarrassment and I often found myself the butt of cruel jokes. Kids daring ‘the dead girl’ to take them along for a first hand account of death in all its doom and gloom. Asking if I ‘saw some dead guys guts.’ They assumed I liked dead people…and in comparison to the their own need for teenaged brutality, I did. A person in a casket has found their peace, their suffering has ended. The kids that tore me down were selfish and longed for me to feel pain. My dads funeral parlor offered sanctuary…none of the teenagers who bullied me followed me past the corner it stood on. They weren’t worthy, and frankly too chicken shit to follow.

I did have a friend that came in a few times, timid and always stiff as rigor mortis. She was very close to me until she wasn’t. After staying the night and my brother having bothered us all day…she had spit the largest ball of phlegm, through the screen of his window, directly ON HIS FACE. Acting like it was no big deal she walked away laughing. My little brother began to cry. I was beside myself for him. How could she? Repulsed I did what any middle-school aged girl would have…acted like I didn’t care and plotted my revenge. A few weeks later this friend walked with me to dads office, and knowing he wasn’t there I nudged her down the hallway to a viewing room. It was dark, and I told her to step inside while I looked for him. No one could wander the grounds except me or my brother, I told her. Convinced of my honesty she stepped inside. I pulled the accordion style door closed with a quickness, and turned the light on……

A scream unlike anything I’d heard came from the depths of that girls soul. Immediately I turned on the light and pushed open the door. Down the hall she went, hands covering her cheeks, sobbing. (Inside the viewing room was a VERY well aged man, in his 90’s with his casket open.) Out the door she ran, never to return…to where I’m still not sure. We never hung out after that, but I still had my honor. Nobody spit on my brother but me. Period.

In my adult years it became a place to reminisce. My father sold his funeral homes, choosing instead to finish living out his life with a vodka bottle as his best friend. I would stop in when I was visiting just to see the place. Maroon and chalky brown carpet eventually was torn out. Beautiful paintings were gone. Desks and chairs swapped out for newer models. Many of my fondest memories…gone but not forgotten. Turning the door knob to a life without, but never over.

The last time I went to the funeral home, still with my fathers name on the sign, was for his funeral. He was dressed in his go to gear…work shirt, red suspenders, notebook and pen in his chest pocket. His hands rested on his chest. He was peaceful, handsome, clean shaved. We drove 36 hours with kids and dogs to be there. The book lay out for mourners to sign. The coming and going of so many lives he had touched, now coming to show him the same respect he willingly gave, over and over, for all of them. It wasn’t traumatic. It was far from uncomfortable. It was home. I kissed him. His forehead, his cheek. I rested my hands on his. I said “Hello Daddy. You’re home again.” My brother had followed my fathers footsteps, and in true form, was there to greet me. We both knew it was a perfect ending to his life. To be where he was at his best. My eyes met with my brothers and in that moment everyone in the room melted away, my heart swelled with pride. Eyes filling with tears I realized, he had become his fathers son.

******

Natural Beauty

The sun begins to set once more, and the view from our deck takes my breath away. Though the old and well rooted trees that shoot toward the heavens may seem a hinderance to some…I find it all the more beautiful. Fading to night the sky gives off a glow I have come to find great solace in. In the tree line is a worn and well aged Locust tree, bark long gone, clay white, broken branches. Yet there she stands still beautiful. I often imagine the things she’s seen hanging over the ravine. The lives that have passed her by.

A well hidden trail winds down to the creek bed, passing an old and rusted fence. Deep within a long and winding bramble is the foundation of what was once a beautiful cottage, filled to the brim with life and love, maybe an irresistible hideaway from the long hours of turning the soil beneath the Locust. It longs for the sunlight, to be loved once more. I am sure it too, has many stories waiting to be discovered.

The end of the trail meets the water. Deer, raccoon, coyote prints scatter the earth. Even the creek bed gives away its secrets. Bent and partially buried horse shoes, pieces of an old revolver, large rusted nails. Seasons have come and gone. Flood, drought, pain and suffering…it remains. It’s route unchanged and in its own way, rebelling against time.

As the sun nears its final bow, a warmth that is rarely felt this time of year sweeps across my face. My body turns to find its source, my eyes close and I find myself lost in the ephemeral beauty of this forgotten and enchanting place. The smell of the underbrush, fallen limbs, and new life permeate my senses. The Locust nearly lost to the darkness and with clouds rolling in, I turn to walk inside.

I have cried here. I have loved here. I have seen the decay and the growth of many seasons. Missed opportunities and forgotten sonnets…all from this place. The Locust remains a faithful companion, hovering patiently. She waits for me, day and night, unafraid of my life, teaching me the beauty of my scars, the strength of my soul. Her roots give me courage as her shadow looms under the moonlight. Her broken branches tell her story…and mine.