Blank Slate

Dear Self,

Sometimes I pray to a God I don’t consistently believe in, but where the notion makes me feel less crazy about speaking into air. Today, we’re simply going to talk it out between ourselves. It has been far too long since we’ve composed anything, so let’s get to it.

I know you’re tired and lost. I know you might be a bit depressed and overwhelmingly perplexed. I know life isn’t what you envisioned it would be by this point, but don’t you ever forget to count your blessings and be thankful for what you have in each and every moment.

I realize you put a great deal of pressure on yourself and all the areas of your life; at work and at home and in general. Keep striving, but don’t be so quick to surmise you’re worthless because you choose to compare yourself to everything you aren’t. In darkness, recall positives. Stop the negative tapes. They only make it worse.

Let go of the past. Every piece which doesn’t serve you constructively. You aren’t, nor will you ever be, who you once were. Aging is part of life. We can fight it, try to improve upon it, but you’ll never look the way you did at eighteen at the age of forty-two. However, you could look even better. Food for thought, huh?

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I’ve never shared this photograph publicly, especially not on an outlet where the entire world can view it. Yet here I am, venturing out of my comfort zone today. It was captured in March of 2006 when I was thirty years old. The picture is twelve years old. Yes, when I see it, it makes me cringe. It’s uncomfortable to look at someone I hated, a life I wished to leave. In a sense, I did leave that life. Simply not in the originally contemplated approach. Which is a huge accomplishment. I didn’t just give up. No, instead I fought harder. I made myself a priority. And it worked out.

I’m not a man so I cannot speak to their size difficulties. I am a woman and I know how society views me when I fail to fit the “beauty mold”. I’ve been conditioned to believe men don’t seek large women; they aren’t physically appealing. My first marriage solidified this idea for me. When one is repeatedly told they’re worthless, that no one else would want them, it becomes an imprint. I became a robot, going through the motions without much feeling as it was easier. Until one day I woke up. Regardless of the size of my body, I am still a good woman. This paved the way for me to find the courage to leave a bad marriage in favor of an opportunity to give myself the life I believed I deserved.

It was not easy. I lived in motels with my young kids until my name topped a list for affordable housing. Even then, it still wasn’t easy. I had very little but it was enough to keep me motivated. I found a new boyfriend. I thought everything was going to be happily ever after.

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Anything worthwhile takes time. In less than two years I transformed myself into the person above. I was thirty-two years old. I ate healthy and went to the gym at least five days a week. I grew my hair out and dyed it black. I had more energy. I felt better about myself. I learned to care for my kids while taking care of myself. I lost one hundred twenty-five pounds; no surgery, no gimmicks. I threw out all my “fat clothes” and embraced myself. I felt proud and appreciated. It was truly a wonderful time and a place which I hadn’t pleasured since college.

However, smiles occasionally hide sadness. During the next six years I continued to struggle with self-image issues. If I gained weight, I felt like a failure. If I lost weight, I feared eating anything since it might tip the scale. Like addicts often swap one addiction for another, I swapped differing items to gauge my sense of worth. When I felt bad I wanted to medicate myself with food. It was a coping mechanism I learned as a child.

Life is one non-stop journey; always hurdles to jump and issues to face. The problem is when one pops up, I frequently lack the fortitude to come out completely intact. A close friend of mine died in a tragic accident, then my dad died. In January 2012 my father-in-law (the paternal grandfather of my kids) lost his battle with brain cancer. All the loss left me reeling from emotional pain. I wasn’t sure what direction I should go in and I began to question everything I had done since the inception of my physical changes. Sure, I looked decent, but inside I didn’t feel well.

Pressure and confusion led me to end my five-year relationship. It was a tough choice, actually, but I was no good to anyone in my state. I was alone for the first time in over a decade. I had no idea who I was or who I wanted to be. I was desperate to rediscover myself and reconnect to my roots, although I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant.

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This was me only six short years ago. I was thirty-six years old and my life altered again; older kids and another new boyfriend. I felt as if I could conquer the world! I was truly happy and excited and enthusiastic about the future. With new goals and aspirations I was invigorated to walk my next path. For about a year I clung to these inspirations. Until they ceased.

Because somehow I lost my balance. I began specifically doing for others and putting myself last. I allowed old wounds to open and new ones to form. I’m bitter. I’ve stopped talking. I’m easily aggravated and frustrated. I find very little joy in anything I do. I’m angry at circumstances I can’t control, but at the same time I can’t seem to let them go. I’m stressed and maybe even a little scared. As a result, I’m currently not very fond of myself.

I had to deal with an unexpected kid trauma several years ago. I’m grateful the scenario has improved, but it isn’t solved. Likely won’t be for a couple more years. Or maybe never. Every morning I try so hard to wake with a positive mind but when good morphs into bad, it sucks and it’s so hard! I don’t know right from wrong and I constantly second-guess myself. I worry about my ability as a mother; something I never worried about before. I lay awake at night trying to piece the puzzle together and no matter how I maneuver the frame, something is still missing at the end.

I am an adult but the child of a parent. I’m struggling to help and to be honorable, but it is so lonely when you’re doing it all alone. This pit in my stomach has me beckoning my Dad for guidance I know I won’t receive. He’s gone. So it’s up to me. I never asked to suffer consequences of circumstances from before I was even born, but sometimes that also becomes a component of life. A piece of me wants to pack up and run away…but in those moments I recognize my father didn’t raise me to be a quitter. So I keep going. And praying to whatever, whoever, may listen.

I am extremely stubborn. It is a characteristic which has both served me and been a disservice to me. I rarely request assistance because most of the time when I do, it doesn’t occur [for whatever reason]. Therefore I have become my own support system. Words with well-meaning are nice, but actions are often better. There have been many positions I never imagined I would traverse, but I did. I’m so tired of excuses and of bullshit. Alas, I am not an easy person to be around; I’m opinionated and headstrong. I have a bad habit of nagging. I have high expectations, but only because I likewise hold myself with high expectation. I work hard and I guess I feel others should, as well. I believe much of existence involves teamwork. People lament there’s no “I” in team, which is why I’m amazed when I’m left in a league of my own.

I honestly don’t enjoy complaining…but at times I need to vent.

34859909_10212847362120154_3622843886709243904_nThe most useful contribution of social media technology is the invention of “filters”. They allow us to erase imperfections and look like we’re ready to walk the runway. Some people really don’t need them. Their beauty exists without bunny ears and precisely placed freckles. Some of us on the other hand…such as my current Facebook profile picture. I look nothing like it in real life.

Above is me now. No filter, other than that which captures a face in a camera frame and quality natural lighting. I am fifty-three pounds heavier than I was six years ago. I don’t wear shorts because it gives me anxiety. I haven’t been to a beach or gone swimming in three years. I don’t permit pictures to be taken of me because I feel horrible about myself. I try extra hard to be nice to customers I wait on because I feel ugly and somehow hope a nice personality will earn me a decent tip. I hate going shopping and I dislike getting ready to go out. I almost wish I could hide inside forever. My heart knows I’m more than my weight but my head keeps me captive.

I understand this blog is all over the place, a plethora of negativity, and won’t go down as one of my best. But stay tuned…I’m changing it up effective immediately.

If life has taught me anything, it’s that I become my best when I’m at my worst. When I’m nervous and vulnerable and brutally honest with myself. When I can’t even find the tunnel, let alone a light at the end of it. When I feel most like giving up is generally when I produce my most immense courage.

The physical changes I made many years ago did not manifest from sitting around engrossed in a pity party. They didn’t happen overnight. It took a hefty amount of sweat and of self-control. It involved highs and lows and many plateaus. I slipped and I fell and I got up and I kept on going. Small steps set the pace to discover avenues for various changes, and to then sew the seam straight. The package was delivered by me, for me, because of me. I’m strongest when I’m at my weakest.

12651351_10206170760289281_7973945014332884286_nHere I am at eighteen years old, with the most amazing man I will ever know. Back then I thought I knew everything. Little did I know, our plans don’t always pan out. Life isn’t fair because it teaches us how to persevere. We make mistakes so life can teach us how to overcome obstacles. We take two steps forward and then take three backward so we learn not to take the good for granted. We grow and we mature and we change and we always have the ability to begin again.

  • Balance is not about ignoring one thing for another. It involves every aspect of what we cherish and deducting priorities appropriately.
  • I am not more or less important than others. I can do one because it brings me peace and do for myself because it will bring me solace.
  • I will lick all my wounds and watch the scars fade. They are reminders of battles I’ve encountered and lessons I’ve accumulated.
  • Bitter is a taste best left to the cluster of buds on my tongue. It serves no further purpose.
  • I will begin to talk once more. Even if no one listens.
  • My aggravation and frustration is not a result of outside influences but rather due to dissatisfaction in myself.
  • I will strive to find little joys. They are more beneficial than the absence of any joy.
  • I will throw my hands up and wave the white flag at my anger. It’s too draining to be mad all the time.
  • Stress will exist as long as I breathe. The trick is to seek more eustress instead of distress.
  • Fear can tear me down or build me up. The choice is mine. The future is my creation.

Henceforth, I begin with a blank slate. A chance to start over and make the coming weeks and months the next “first days” of my life story. It worked before, and with the same process, shall work one more time. With a lot of faith, some love for myself, and a bit of what my name means…who knows what’s possible…

“You leave home, you move on, and you do the best you can. I got lost in this whole world and forgot who I am.”

Miranda Lambert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Sand Dunes and Salty Air”

WordPress is a domain where anyone in the world may browse and read. Today my soul feels shattered as I reflect on the area where I reside, following a tragic event which occurred yesterday afternoon. I ask visitors to bear with me as I sort myself through writing, which is the only true avenue to ever bring me genuine peace. I share my Blog via my personal Facebook page. This article is dedicated to my home and to my community.

A thirty-two year old K9 Police Officer was killed in the line of duty yesterday afternoon. Sean Gannon was an eight year Patrolman of the Yarmouth Police Department and served in other capacities beforehand. It has been disclosed that he leaves behind a Wife and a plethora of public involvements. He was part of the “Big Brothers, Big Sisters” organization and loved by many. He was dedicated to the uniform he wore and all it stood for. I have read one does not simply become a K9 Officer; it takes intense training and loyalty for this acknowledgement to come to fruition. The Chief of the YPD expressed that Officer Gannon embodied these characteristics which is how his title came to be.

Officer Gannon was at a residence in the village of Marston’s Mills to issue a warrant. He was shot in the head. Injured also was his K9 Officer, Nero. This brave man in blue sacrificed his life in service to our town. Nero is currently clinging to his canine life. I knew neither the man nor the animal involved. It doesn’t mean I don’t care. It doesn’t mean a piece of me fails to grieve. And that’s alright. I didn’t have to know them directly. Relationships, whether personal or not, are what tie us together in compassion.

Growing up on Cape Cod I often heard the statement, “The Cape is a small place“. As yesterday afternoon unfolded, this brought life to that very proclamation. Our peninsula, though endowed with visitors throughout the summer months, is a tight-knit territory of native and wash-ashore inhabitants. Living in the town of Barnstable for forty-two years, I know people from the bridges to the tip. We either went to school together or we worked together or I know them from my food service employments. In any case, I constantly see familiar faces. Gathering decades in this area, I feel a strong connection to it.

In addition, I associate with several male and female law enforcement personnel. In our society there is a lot of negativity surrounding these badges and I’m not sure why anyone would willingly elect to wear one. Unfortunately, our world has begun to categorize entities as “all good” or “all bad“. In the case of Police Officers, the negative actions of a few sprouted the idea that each one of them will respond poorly. What a shame. None of the Officers I know fit this classification. They have families like I do. They have lives like mine. They are human beings who chose a career to serve and protect. And they aren’t always met with support nor admiration. I know not of their daily struggles or of the challenges they face or of the scenes they process. What I do know is I am not a person who judges all on the actions of some.

Imagine for a moment, instead of going to your regular job, you dress in garments containing a gun and handcuffs and a bullet-proof vest. Before this honor is bestowed, you must first endure grueling Academy training. Thereafter, your mode of transportation becomes a vehicle capable of high speeds with advanced technological communications. You proceed into situations most run from. You bid goodbye to your loved ones who pray for your safe return. Strangers yell at you, equating your status to that of a swine. People mock when the lives of your comrades end. Yet, you go to work. Every damn day. Still hoping to make a difference.

Examine what it might be like to strive to remove criminals from the streets, only to have our judicial system set them free. Officer Gannon [along with additional backup] was on a block here where most folks would never imagine such a horrific episode transpiring. It’s residential. An area regarded as decent. Who would think there might be an armed suspect in an attic? Who would believe someone could be shot and killed on this stretch of pavement? Honestly, not me. But it happened. A man with over one hundred previous offenses was staying on a street with children and mothers and fathers; with grandparents and pets and a daycare and schools nearby. Why? How? What allowed justice to not place this dangerous assailant behind bars? It no longer matters. What does is that it resulted in the death of a courageous young man. And my heart broke.

This situation was visible on television news and appeared across social media. It was  everywhere! Real and brutal. Elementary School students had their busses diverted to secure locations. Parents couldn’t retrieve their children from a local childcare center as it was on lockdown. People were unable to return to their homes. A woman I know lives across the street from the crime scene. She was interviewed by reporters and explained when told to vacate due to safety, she immediately fled with her son. Barefoot. I know others who live in this neighborhood, as well. It was too much to wrap my head around. So I cried for everyone involved.

Today is a new day. We wake, albeit dazed. Our community is traumatized. Surely the Cape is not immune to this type of action, but circumstances such as this are not a daily broadcast. Perhaps this lends itself to why it is so difficult to comprehend: since we don’t deal with it frequently we haven’t become desensitized. I listened to a local radio station this morning (@danandstephanie) and was grateful to hear the male and female co-hosts share their views and use their platform for expression instead of carrying out business as usual. They were compassionate and professional. On Facebook I was pleased to hear a local male (@jtchronicles) attempt to shine positivity even in this period of trial. He never fails to enlighten. Taking bits and pieces from items I’ve read and heard, here is where I stand…

Whenever misfortune strikes, my faith in decency is restored. I believe it is human nature to merge during chaos. My community has done exactly this. Friends from far and wide have changed profile pictures and cover photos in support of our region. Funds have been established for donations. Buildings of worship are available for guidance. Radio stations keep lines open so voices may be heard. People are talking. But then what?

Not that anyone has forgotten 911, not that anyone fails to remember bombings and other crucial events, but those critical moments cannot last. They would cripple our society. So what do we do? How can we make a real difference?

Make your actions matter. Write to the legislature and express your positions. Teach our children that saying something isn’t snitching if it saves lives. Cherish the small stuff, like a captivating sunset. Listen to the birds. Stop and smell the flowers. Hold doors. Use manners. Lead by example and let kindness be your guide. Most importantly, do all this without the need for recognition.

Days will turn to weeks and weeks to months. We will rise above this travesty, better and stronger than before. Not if we don’t recognize our blessings, though. If we are granted the opportunity to open our eyes the next morning, we must set forth to be more than we were the previous day. For me, this means honoring my family and friends. It means even when pressed for time, I stop and wave a car ahead of me in traffic. They may have a destination to reach more important than my own. It means assisting a senior citizen in an endeavor or teaching a skill to someone coping with hardship. It means smiling more and striving to complain less. It means being a leader where I’m able and being a mentor when necessary. I am only one single person. We all are. But envision the individual influences we can bring to the world. Then, help to change it.

May God bless the emergency departments of Cape Cod. Today. And always.

 

 

 

Finding Light

As I begin this article please bear in mind some components I expand upon are directly related to the area I reside as well as a personal stance, revolving around my own decades. I do not seek to judge nor mock others. When a topic takes up too much space in my mind I generally note this as a signal to write it out. Therefore, take nothing personally if your scenario(s) played differently. We all bear daily crosses. My intention is to support and uplift through ideas and instances I withstood.

This particular idea came upon me recently: I know young kids who are embarking to become single parents. I have acquaintances who confront challenges with shelter and job security and such. My story is not too different, except my phase was initiated in my mid-twenties. Here I express what I did, as a woman and as a mother, to reach the plateau I stand atop today.

“The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

At the age of twenty-two I accepted an engagement proposal from my boyfriend. We had been “high school sweethearts”. When I opted to further my education and he continued the education of hard knocks, it was time to bid adieu to the “sweetheart” token. We went our separate ways and dated different people. In November 1996 our paths crossed again. We’d grown and realized we saw destiny together.

He and I were quite smitten with one another. We had good jobs and good friends and good fun. Why would we not choose to marry? After all, that’s what couples were supposed to do eventually. So we set a date for November 2000. Plans were drawn and the ball ready to roll.

“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell

On Valentines Day 2000 I discovered I was pregnant. I sat shocked on a bathroom floor, mostly because I’d been advised this wouldn’t be a likelihood for me. I wasn’t young per se, twenty-four years of age, but my mind was very immature. And I was selfish. I wasn’t even sure I wanted kids, primarily due to the childhood scars I wore. After careful contemplation I chose to carry my unborn baby. My faith told me a bigger plan was in store and I was not one to intervene.

I cancelled my wedding arrangements. Out of respect for my father I moved up our date to become a Wife before I became a Mother. We eloped and got hitched on Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire. I was seven months along and we went camping anyway. We took a week to explore and gather ourselves for what was ahead. It was blissful and perfect.

“Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.” – Swami Sivananda

Success can mean many things to people. Perhaps it’s a degree or a career or crossing an item off a Bucket List. In the infancy of both my marriage and of my youngest child, for me it meant a spotless residence, complete meals, and laundered apparel. It meant returning to work and taking night shifts so my husband could work days. It meant shelving my aspirations and instead supporting my husband’s dreams. It meant a cease to my existence in exchange of putting the needs of others before mine.

My firstborn was easy. He slept through the night by three months. He was inquisitive and active. Nevertheless he missed milestones. As he grew I sensed something different about him. This put stress on my matrimony. My husband refused to believe anything could be wrong. But my intuition was correct. Our son had Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and “Asperger’s-like tendencies”. It was a lot to learn about, yet I sought to educate myself to be the most effective parent possible.

Unfortunately, the stress between my husband and I grew. We fought frequently and communication became challenging. We still decided to have another baby. Maybe we thought it would save us? Maybe we hoped it might complete us? In any event, we both wanted a sibling for our oldest child. Neither of us were only children. Our last baby joined us in February 2003.

“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.” – Jim Rohn

Regrettably, our last baby couldn’t actually save us. We had been doomed for many months. The problem was I wasn’t ready to admit it. Doing so would leave me feeling a failure, like I hadn’t done enough. I stayed. Through the emotional abuse and the tangible neglect I experienced. I rationalized since my kids were cared for, I didn’t matter. Until one day I woke up.

I had been reading an article in a parenting magazine about raising strong adults. How could I achieve this if the example my husband and I were setting was everything opposite? During my six year marriage I had let myself go completely. My hair was a mess and I was twenty-five pounds away from weighing three hundred. On a whim my husband went south for construction work following Hurricane Katrina. I switched my work shifts to days and called upon friends and family for help. The first week was frightening. Thereafter, I felt intense peace and relief.

“You can’t live your life for other people. You’ve got to do what’s right for you, even if it hurts some people you love.” – Nicholas Sparks

It was a difficult task, telling my husband I wanted a divorce. I worried about my young children and how they would manage. I was concerned if I really had what it takes to be a single mother. I was scared. My husband was angry, lamenting alternate reasons for my position. He dismissed any responsibility on his part. And that’s alright. I’m not mad anymore. We are all entitled to our opinions.

Fault didn’t matter. It wasn’t important. What was important was ensuring I could eat from this platter I’d set before me. I needed to keep a roof over our heads in order to keep our little family together. I needed a steady income, and possibly some outside assistance. I was determined to be the best me I could be. For myself as well as for my offspring.

“We accept the love we think we deserve.” – Stephen Chbosky

The daunting aspect to relationships is how we justify reasons to stay. I wasn’t dumb. I knew signs and warnings. I realized my marriage wasn’t healthy anymore. I acquired very little positive pleasure throughout our final year as a couple. I was extremely close to giving up entirely. My kids kept me going and provided me purpose. In the end, they were actually my reason to expect enhancement.

I went from a girlfriend to a wife to a mother in a matter of months. As a result I believe I forgot who I was beforehand. A once healthy, energetic, outgoing woman I had become a shadow. Initially I remained as an obligation to my kids. However, staying together for the kids is a disservice to everyone involved. Misery doesn’t make one a martyr. It breeds discontent which is apparent in every instance. It is never advisable to sell your soul to make anyone happy. Love is everywhere. It manifests itself often when we least expect it.

“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” – Neil Gaiman

No one enters a commitment with the expectation for collapse. We all want a happy ending, to grow old beside our partner and enjoy grandchildren. I clung to those possibilities, as well. I have always been a thinker and a planner, leaving very little to chance. Therefore, as soon as each of my kids were born I placed their names on a wait list with a local childcare network. Not necessarily because I foresaw future issues but rather as a safety net. What if my husband or I fell ill or suffered permanent injury? What if we both had to take day jobs instead of swapping care between us? My hope was to never need such a commodity, but it certainly didn’t hurt to take the precaution. I could always decline if a spot became available.

Finances were rarely plentiful in my marriage. Still, we never sought assistance. My husband was hard-pressed against it. He didn’t fancy being viewed a statistic. I learned quickly there was a difference between abusing a system and gaining a stepping stone. After we left our home we lived in motels for almost a year and a half. It is not a cheap route. Yet it is a roof and a place to dwell together. I had no reliable transportation and little savings. I welcomed a promotion at my job as a manager to earn a steady income. I applied for Food Stamps. I also activated an application at a subsidized apartment complex. Paying rent based on my income was the only way I could envision a stable environment.

For two months I paid for daycare from my pocket. Then a miracle occurred; my name rose to the top of the childcare network list. I took it. This organization provided me a discount. I could work with my juveniles accounted for. I used this service until my kids were in sixth and fourth grades. I remain truly grateful to have benefited. Most importantly, to be given the ability to provide after-school and summer camp experiences to my kids, which I otherwise may have not been able to cultivate.

It was my choice to stay in motels and I placed our belongings into storage. I firmly believed our situation wouldn’t be permanent. Our first motel had two bedroom apartments with a kitchen/living room area and a bathroom. They were far from fancy but decorations and items from our previous home made it comfortable. Within ten months it was scheduled to be shut down for offices to be built. Thus, we had to leave the premises. Our second motel had efficiency units with a small kitchenette. This was imperative as I had to prepare all meals to save whatever money possible. Honestly, it was almost like a vacation. It was June and there was a pool onsite. Maids changed the sheets, vacuumed, and cleaned. The owners were nice and it suited our temporary urgency.

School came into session again with mornings containing a slight chill. At work one day, I received a call which threw me into tears of joy. It was the apartment complex calling to inform me they had an apartment for us. It was a dream come true! My determination was paying off. After months of feeling hopeless, I suddenly felt hopeful.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

It is so much easier to make excuses for our circumstances than it is to face them. If I hadn’t been proactive, even when my journey was decent, my present may be drastically different. Perchance you and your partner get along swimmingly, barring absent resources. Or there’s no one around to lend a hand or watch your kids or provide transportation. It may be a lack of affordable housing or family services causing concern. Whatever it is, get up and rise up. We never comprehend how strong we are until we have no other avenue. Trust me, there were epochs I felt like the worst mother in the world. Weeks where I wondered if it was worth it. But when I had no ride, I walked. When food was scarce, I sacrificed my plate. I never allowed myself to stay in a rut for too long. I acknowledged and moved on in an effort to move up.

Thankfully, that book of my life is closed. It doesn’t mean my new book is an easy read. I continue to frequently doubt my abilities. The difference is I glance at my teenagers and recognize they need to learn from my mistakes to avoid repetition. I want them to perceive foundations for a healthy relationship. I don’t want them to settle because it seems uncomplicated. I desire for them to possess the courage to defy the odds, to turn doubters into believers. I owe it to my kids to wake each day, improved somewhere.

There is also no genuine place for blame in my case. It was not the responsibility of my boss to cater to my needs. It was my job to have more than one plan. It wasn’t the obligation of my friends or family to babysit (unless they wanted to). I had to conjure alternatives. It was not an assignment for anyone to make up my shortages. It was my place to do so. My trials were not my ex-husband’s fault. Because I accepted the role to raise our children. Through sheer dedication, I complete this vital task daily.

So when you feel you’re at the end of your rope…when you want to wave the flag at defeat…please recall your courage and your value. If I can make it to the light at the end of the tunnel, anyone can. Blessings to all…

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou

 

 

 

Open Book

I recently read a Blog post about writing. It discussed how as writers we aren’t supposed to make excuses for “not having time” to dedicate to our passion. Furthermore, we should push through those moments of excuses and instead propel forward to produce even a small something.

I decided to inventory myself. Am I a writer? Am I “in it to win it” or satisfied with settling? And why do I write? What draws me to use words rather than voice, when frankly the latter is generally less time-consuming. How was the writer in me born?

I was the youngest member added to a family possessing a great deal of drama. It prevailed decades before I breathed air. As a result, I was spared personal accountability, yet was still involved. Intermittently it was major and I had no choice but to suffer the effects. Periodically it was minimal so I was happy to pretend it didn’t exist. I matured quickly in these surroundings. I was basically an only child and fought hard for recognition by both my parents and my older siblings. I played a few sports and enjoyed small parts in drama club productions. I was active in chorus and talent shows and show choir. I got a job. I attended college. However, my successes weighed me down to an extent. There was always something else going on at the same time. I never felt I had a spotlight. To ease my dilemma I scrawled fictional stories.

At one point in my early teens I was lost. Very lost. In an English class we received a lesson on poetry. My teacher was incredible and her instruction piqued my interest. There was so much going on inside me, never mind around me, and this genre helped restore my temperament. I wrote poems for every occurrence; at school or work, when I was happy or sad. I administered few, but the ability to recall helped remind me where I had been to how I’d grown.

In a high school creative writing class my eyes were further opened. I learned about the “person” perspective. In this room I penned my inaugural “first person” tale; one describing my perception about living in my family. My teacher was moved to tears and my fellow peers awestruck by what I’d confided. Although I wrote additional pieces in second and in third person, the aforementioned was where my heart fluttered.

After years of pen to paper, I found the chapter by which to build my climax. I discovered my drive and the purpose for my passion. Opening up was a platform granting me permission for my sentiments. For so long I’d kept inside what I didn’t think was alright to bear. Suddenly, I wasn’t scared and worried little about judgement. I was free to be myself. I felt brave and strong. I still feel that way today.

The inviting portion for me is constructing sentences to match circumstances. To mirror vision and offer insight. I feel sheer exhilaration as soon as an idea strikes, compelling me to expand. I answer the call whenever I hear it, even if I’m unable to publicize immediately. My inspirations are drawn from situations I’ve witnessed or questions I seek to resolve. I compose with my soul, utilizing every ounce of my being. I broach tough subjects and periods during my life where I’ve endured extreme doubt and struggle. From time to time I’m met with backlash. As a younger me, I took this personally. As time has elapsed I’ve learned not to. No one will understand or appreciate every element I attempt. That’s part of being a writer, though. Like everyone, we have good moments and not so good moments.

In college I walked onto campus as a Journalism major. I was prepared to take on the world. By the culmination of my first semester, I realized this was not my career path. I had no yearning to cover popular features or be sent on an excursion I lacked connection to. Instead I coveted the flow of my own personal juices. There was a lot which made me tick. I simply hadn’t yet figured out how to bring it to fruition. Thus, I set aside my love for writing for a long time. Until I became a mother, gathered several life lessons, and accumulated a bit of wisdom.

I currently write to experiment, to broaden my horizons and to illustrate conditions. My enthusiasm surrounds doing what I love and, eventually, supplementing my income by such means. For anyone who grapples over choosing employment over empowerment, here’s my suggestion: Money is a necessity. It feeds us and shelters us and clothes us. A job is essential to support our livelihood. But remember balance also plays a role. We can work every single day, yet if we never truly live, did our efforts matter? Find your affection and run with it. Or write with it.

 

 

 

My Little Daddy

March 16th, 2008 was a typical Sunday. I awoke and dressed as the opening Server at my job. I stopped at a nearby Dunkin Donuts for an iced mocha coffee. I set up the restaurant and greeted my many regular customers. My shift consisted of breakfast and lunch; a total of ten hours. Yes, it was typical in every way…until it wasn’t.

Growing up I felt like the luckiest kid in the world! My family dynamic was quite different from most households in the 1980’s. My father had a heart attack when I was still tender. My dad was forced to welcome early retirement. Thus my mother became our family financer. She went to school and became a Home Health Aide. This left my dad as my caregiver.

He was forty-five years older than I. Despite our age difference his zest for life surpassed many of my peer’s parents. He was up at dawn, working in the yard and feeding birds. He constantly had some type of chore to accomplish. He was energetic considering his maturity. I was never bored. We dug quahogs at the beach or drove around singing or walked the local mall. He took me to playgrounds where I always exclaimed, “Push me higher, Daddy!”

As I grew and began school his commitment to being executive in my days continued. He attended academic functions and assisted me with homework.  He not once missed a drama club production or a poetry reading or a sporting event. When I sang at a high school chorus concert his proud face smiled at me, mouthing the words of the song I’d chosen. Throughout moments of anxiety his magnitude was magnificent. As a result, I was never too scared to do anything I set out on.

His faith in me at no time faltered. When I wanted to be a model he drove me to Newton against the wishes of my mother. It was from his urging I took my first job. He was my sponsor when I attained my driver’s license. As I walked to accept my diploma he cheered loudest. Viewing my college dorm room his feet were right behind mine. Communication with him was consistently open; my sounding-board, my ear to listen, my inspiration.

As my adult years loomed, he was already sick. Initially it was Diabetes. I spent the majority of my adolescence thinking he simply enjoyed multiple glasses of cold water. As a teenager, how was I to know it was a symptom? Regrettably, his condition affected his vision. By my Sophomore year at university he was legally blind. He handed me the keys to his beloved 1989 Mercury Grand Marquis and told me to enjoy the ride.

On my twenty-fifth birthday my dad was three weeks and three days from his sixty-fifth birthday. I was a new mother and he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Although flexibility was becoming difficult he accompanied my mother to my home, assisting with the new duties I was grasping. He was unable to read to my to newborn son so I read to them. He desperately wanted to create memories with each of my children. As a result they speak of him often.

In 2006 my dad became resident at a nursing home. My mother’s years of practice with others paid off. She became not only my father’s Wife but also his keeper. She dwelled near him everyday, spending countless hours in this building instead of the constant comfort of her residence. They made friends and he joked with nurses. My siblings and I celebrated birthdays and holidays in the family room. Yet it didn’t feel enough. My dad dedicated the onset of his “golden years” specifically to raising me.

I possess a plethora of fond reflections surrounding food. My dad loved eating, using it as a means to gather and laugh. My older brother and I would stick olives on our fingers. My older sister would stake claim on end pieces of ham. My oldest sister would stop by with my nephews in tow. Dialogue was had about my oldest brother’s temperamental cat. Admittedly, my mother wasn’t much of a cook yet she could bake a cake like no other. And there were cakes for every occasion.

It’s no wonder as my dad suffered consumption issues we couldn’t imagine him receiving sustenance via tube. He was no longer mobile and his words few, but given the option, we believed he would desire a somewhat normal quality of life. The elected surgery was “routine” and we understood the risks. Unfortunately, when a body lacks the capacity to move freely liquid collects in places it shouldn’t. One good moment can be overshadowed by the next bad one.

I saw my dad Friday after the procedure. He was tired but his pale eyes twinkled. Saturday he chuckled at jokes, with a developing cough. A chest x-ray confirmed fluid in his lungs. The bed was raised and pillows propped his frail body. I kissed him and promised I’d return after my shift the next day. I did. Beside him I told him of my day and he heard me. My kids were seven and five, in the custody of their own paternal parent over the weekend. There was school and daycare and work upcoming. I embraced my once strong father, assuring him I’d bring his grandchildren tomorrow.

Tomorrow never came…

En route to retrieve my youngsters I obtained a call from my frantic mother. I was to collect my sister and rejoin at the hospital immediately. A turn for the worse had transpired. The next twenty minutes passed in a blur. I’m not sure I was inside my body. Looking at my dad, peacefully sleepy looking, he was gone. My mother, brother, sister-in-law, nieces, and sister wept. I didn’t. I closed my father’s eyes, held his hand. Uttered admiration and peace to him. I kissed his cool cheek one final time. And the rest of my life changed eternally.

Death has a way of altering us, regardless of how strong we think we are. During this period of trial I allowed no tears to slip from my eyes. I met with my family to make arrangements and choose a coffin. I sat in a room discussing Wake and Funeral plans. I penned his obituary. I felt it vital to be strong for the people whom I shared blood. My mindset was “business”. I clung to the notion this newfound courage was sent directly from my father. A little over a week later, with an attractive wooden box draped in flowers and as voices in unison recited the Lord’s Prayer, I finally sobbed. Publicly.

Tomorrow marks ten years since this emptiness in my soul became part of my existence. Some days it feels fewer, others many more. I witness my dad all around me; when I see a sparrow fly or spring flowers creep the surface. I feel him in the ocean breeze and when I taste the flavor of cotton candy. I sense him in the laughter of my children. He is no longer a physical essence, nonetheless his sensation withstands.

Losing a parent is an aspect to living which subjects our conscious to mortality. The significance in the statement nothing lasts forever. The first year was tough. Finding the fortitude to move on and not become crippled. The lesson it teaches us as we activate our own offspring. The day my dad died is one I will never get over. Honestly, I don’t want to.

My dad is the only man in the world I will love until I take my last breath. He taught me plenty in the thirty-two years I had him. He illustrated kindness and compassion. The importance of forgiveness. His instruction made me who I am. Made me who I will always be. Why would I ever want to forget?

In moments of weakness I call upon him for guidance. When I’m confused I recall his direction. During triumph I pray he remains impressed. He continues to be as important to me now as when he was alive. These mere components are the ways I determined to live without him.

I will never cease missing my dad. No day passes without him on my mind. The ache in my heart will never stop. But his disappearance helped me locate my true self. For each day I am lucky enough to wake, I stay blessed to be present for my teenagers. I am able to give of myself to others and love unconditionally. I speak with friends and relish our joy. I lengthen decades with those I’m connected. My dad endured each epoch to its extreme. I honor him in this fashion by choosing to survive, through his gratitude and perspective.

Until we meet again, I love you my little daddy…

 

 

Lockdown Lifestyle

Whenever I experience a situation which affects me deeply, I sense my way through. I cling to various emotions and seek the most substantial to lead me out. Yesterday was no different, really. Dealing with the cards dealt until a text message buzzed me from my trite.

Not too uncommon. I beg my kids to utilize their hours in school for academics, still occasional affairs arise. Whatever. Parenting is a non-stop job. One I take very seriously. I opened the text.

And my worst fears became reality…

I live on Cape Cod. I reside in the Town of Barnstable, a small city composed of seven villages. A destination travelers from all over the world visit. I was born and raised here. I attained my elementary education and my diploma here. My kids were born and are also being bred here. I work in the community. I’m surrounded by friends and family. Its beauty is breathtaking and its atmosphere amazing. Although I’ve held addresses in other locations on this peninsula, Barnstable has been where I call home the majority. For as much as I may sometimes dislike it, I also love my homeland.

A few weeks ago a school shooting in Parkland, Florida swept visions everywhere. Gut-wrenching and tear-jerking, I watched images and listened to audio. Those poor children. How is this happening? What is going on in our world?

The text I opened was from my oldest child, a Junior at our district’s high school. He told me of increased police presence due to “an anonymous call” regarding a student, possible ammunition, and a firearm. The school wasn’t currently on lockdown. He just wanted me to know.

Are you fucking kidding me?!?

Immediately I tapped my Facebook icon, surely more information would be there! Scrolling and scrolling, and nothing. No posts to breathe truth to my child’s text. No blatant causes for concern. I cautiously exhaled. Perhaps it was a Snap Chat story gone awry? I hadn’t received a call from the school nor an email. It couldn’t be fact.

Until it was…

My ex-husband phoned, then my mother, relaying a Robo Call detailing specifics and assuring parents all students were safe. Next an email forwarded stating no threat deemed and school would continue normally for the remainder of the day. Suddenly Facebook posts appeared with people asking what was going on at Barnstable High School? Inquiries about the surplus of police cruisers on campus. Last, my youngest sent a text saying they were alright but scared and wanted to be picked up. And me sitting at home thinking, “God, please no.”

How am I supposed to behave in a situation of such nature? If you’re a parent, you know what I mean; the protection instinct kicks in, and yet you don’t wish to overreact. I sat perched on the edge of my sofa in shock. What am I supposed to do? Speed to the school and release my kids? “No imminent threat”…instead do I explain today’s world and how mastering the indicated scenario is fundamental? And where the hell is the phone app for this endeavor?

Nowadays, school systems have the unfortunate duty to prepare students and staff for the unknown. Teachers fasten doors and classmates cluster and Principals plan and emergency response departments deploy. They “lockdown”. Even when carried out in practice, it does little to reduce uneasiness. However, the individuals within the buildings develop a system. It’s executed several times a year. In rooms and on busses. This is not something I considered during my own scholastic years. I am not proficient.

My reaction was fear and stress and confusion and frustration and helplessness. I quickly read social media replies and gained insight. The setting was in fact controlled. Friends in different districts shared similar recent occurrences and reflections. Some parents retrieved their kids, others declined. Once I recognized my kids weren’t in danger, I prayed for guidance. I didn’t hanker a negative move. I distressed over getting in the way, over making it more difficult for the patrolling uniforms. I worried whatever I concluded, I may fail at this crucial teachable moment.

I based my final choices on the tender sentiments of my flesh and blood. My oldest is strong, both in mind and in heart. He’s a thinker and a protector. Despite these traits, he confided hiding in a bathroom and my heart broke. My youngest has severe emotional impairments which make attending school a challenge to begin with. Amidst words of sheer anxiety and desperation, I acknowledged my littlest may not reach dismissal.

Thirty minutes we went back and forth. I calmed them as best I could through script. They began to function, albeit shaken. I believed they had undeniably cultivated a lesson in being a pupil in the year 2018. Initially, my verdict was to preserve their typical day. Until my oldest asked what to do during dismissal: Should they depart in the herd toward the busses or wait briefly?

I picked them up early. Half hating myself and half liking myself.

You see, I have never experienced anything of this magnitude. At first I was prepared to jump in the car and rescue my kids. My immediate desire was to bring them home to security and coddle them, not a usual piece in my parenting. I longed to see them, have them near, where at least I had a fighting chance to myself protect them. Most of all, I desperately wished this wasn’t something any parent or child had to face. Ever.

Alas my kids were, in fact, slightly upset with me when we arrived home. Due to the stress of their days, I lamented they weren’t capable of logical thought. My retort wasn’t well-received. I understood. A meeting of the minds was had. Because kids want to know their parents care about them more than anything else. They crave the awareness of our love. Schools have a tough job. Ours is more tough, though.

My kids could only live in the confronted moment. At that juncture, scared, they needed me. Trust me, I also needed them. Nonetheless, I had a further obligation to entertain every possible outcome in order to reach the best resolution. Schools fail to teach this aspect because their plates overflow. Therefore, as guardians we must.

I permitted my kids to collect an absence today. I’m not running for Mother of the Year. Neither of them possessed the competence to recover from yesterday as promptly as their school expected. I’m sure I’ll be in trouble for this action. Notwithstanding, I’ve grown accustomed. As an adult I’m capable to stand my ground.

It wasn’t a contrived election. It contained purpose. They completed assignments from home. And we further discussed yesterday. I perceived a need to expand the [big] picture for their young minds. When I mentioned their initial disdain, it was the result of their inaptitude. I sought to shed light so they wouldn’t conclude I didn’t care.

As parents we play many roles to the lives we are raising. But those lives linger egocentrically for quite some time, at least until amassed wisdom contributes to the notion that every action does bear a reaction. Perhaps if the threat was imminent I would have proceeded hastily. Maybe my division would have lacked quality. Likely, I would have been in total shambles. Thankfully, I don’t know.

I sat between my adolescents and shared my own life experiences, stages I had maneuvered adequately. I gave definition to my receptivity. Upon notice of my son’s first text, keeping my wits was critical. I’m useless with a scattered mind. Next I had to garner information. The troubling piece for my kids to grasp was me “not jumping”. I told them running into a dangerous situation was counterproductive to preserving the safety of all involved. If I couldn’t get there, I better figure out an alternative for instruction. In the event I’m not physically present, I will be accounted in spirit. They asked why I considered leaving them at conclusion. And the authenticity of life was uttered.

Simply, this is existence at school in our society. It is absolutely impossible for me to hold their hands through every struggle they’ll face. In this case, crisis was averted with no risk in the end. I may not fancy a tenacious approach but it is necessary. The urgency for my kids to manage the good along with the bad subsists. They must be versed in emergency procedures. To obtain the courage to think through trials, even when the potential may be extreme. It is imperative their logic protect them when they are alone. I need assurance that what I have spent every second since their births instructing might bring them home to me. Safely.

Together we spoke of circumstances and strategies. Concerns were addressed. In conclusion, I added although their school isn’t equipped with metal detectors or the latest devices seen on websites, they are protected. An armed officer is present. The doors are locked from start to finish. Loopholes do loom, however, I firmly believe the staff genuinely care about the student body.

My kids shall return Monday, to start the very week for Wednesday walk-outs planned throughout states. My Junior and my Freshman are free to partake. Or not. As long as they are true to themselves. Concerning people ridiculing participants, please rethink your position. This is not only about gun laws and amendments. It doesn’t solely revolve around mass shootings and public security. If for one minute we step outside ourselves I believe we might witness history in the making. If you disagree with youngsters, hear the teachers also calling for action. The generation some look down upon are the very humans who will one day care for us. They are as important now as they will be then.

I am unsure what the upcoming week holds. I have no clue what will occur months down the line. What I do know is my naïve outlook kept me in a bubble. I never imagined anything like this could happen here. Nor did parents at other schools where it did. I resigned my area safe from this type of activity. As did those dancing inside a nightclub or attending a concert. And so I face each day with knowledge gained a day ago. I will arm myself against a world with violent tendencies through patience and positivity.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

“To the world you may be one person but to one person you may be the world.”

 

Pieces of Me


I birthed you many years ago,

Pleasantly surprised I’d need pink bows.

Because your nine months were like the others,

The ones in which I grew your brother.

Yet you came out to shock us all,

And I couldn’t wait to buy your first doll.


A smile as vast as the open sea,

Such happiness you brought to me.

A shine so bright in your hazel eyes,

You were perfect and divine.

Your persona was loud and had to be heard,

But now you say so few words.


What happened all that time ago,

To alter so much of your ego?

A child so liked and nice and fun,

What could this world have possibly done?

To change your boisterous amusing ways,

And in their place leave you sad for days.


It must have been tough to face your facts,

To feel death a more plausible act.

To view the world without you in it,

Still tears me apart every minute.

Because you are my child always and forever,

Not support you I would never.


I love to glimpse a smile upon your face,

And feel so sad as I watch it erase.

So guarded you have become,

But my child you don’t see all you’ve done.

You’re learning to listen and learning to speak,

Not only for yourself but for also the meek.


You’re standing your ground and sharing your ride,

Regardless of many difficult divides.

You know your heart and mind and soul,

To follow a path toward your future goals.

I don’t care what others do,

I care less if you wear pink or if you wear blue.

Opinions don’t matter at all to me,

You’re free to be my she or he.


Through the years you’ve taught me much,

My soul indeed feels your touch.

You are a creation from above,

No matter what you I love.

Ups and downs and in between,

You in my life is all I need.

I’m always proud to call you mine,

You shall never be left behind.


From the time I wake to when I sleep,

In my heart you I keep.

No matter where your life will lead,

Forever you’ll hold all the pieces of me.


 

Reaching

Much of my life has been spent doing what this title suggests: reaching. Reaching for the next paycheck, the next bill to pay. Reaching at the next unexpected trouble or at the possibility of a brief plateau. Reaching the next goal and the next step. Reaching in an effort to just keep reaching.

I’m at the point where I consider myself “mid-life”. Longevity doesn’t run in my family and I have no idea what the future holds for me. That very notion used to keep me up at night, slightly aggravated, since no one is given a crystal ball to peek upon. Throughout my years, I not only learned to accept this fact but to also appreciate it. In times of trial, my struggles have supplied lessons and shaped my views. In times of triumph, my accomplishments have illustrated strength possessed, even when I didn’t feel it. Not knowing prevents me from becoming complacent. It propels me onward to be better than I was the day before.

Almost two months ago my sister signed me up for a class about Blogging. I’m certainly not new to this type of thing but it’s been years. I had no idea what would be covered but I figured something was better than nothing. I entered the classroom like an awkward high school Freshman. To my relief, there were only two students and a teacher. We were told we’d be taught how to build a Blog through WordPress, explore different layouts, then launch our own sites. I was excited and nervous. Excited about a new outlet and nervous because I am not tech savvy. The patience and knowledge of my instructor brought me where I am today. My love for words will carry me forward.

When most folks hear I want to “be a writer” their instinct is to ask questions about the type of book I’ll slave over? More often than not I’m met with, “Well what are you going to do that for? You won’t make money your way.”

And they’re probably right. Yet it doesn’t mean I can’t try.

There is nothing thus far, fact or fiction, fueling my desires. Yes, I wrote some decent stories as a student and penned many poems as an adult. I’ve toyed with ideas for manuscripts and screenplays. Nothing clicks. My passion is absent. Money is wonderful but it doesn’t offer the fulfillment I seek. I find immense satisfaction when I put my own thoughts together for others. When I experience elation or frustration…I want to publish my journey. In the moments after posting, the response which completes me is when someone says, “Thanks. I was going through something similar and it helped to know I wasn’t alone.”

Let’s face it, life is a lot more meaningful with others present. When we aren’t lonely we feel supported. I frequently wish my life was a bit less crazy and a bit more calm, but it isn’t. And that’s alright. Because for as much as I face, someone else faces something more challenging. For the hurdles I leap, someone has lost their ability to jump. Words have an ability to do what voice sometimes fails to do; bring people together. They elicit melody when coupled with music. They bridge gaps. They bring solace and peace. They honor and cherish relationships. Speaking has never been easy for me. Typing on a keyboard…that is like my harmony from Heaven…and I was blessed with the capacity to express myself through it.

The years we gather form our legacy. The ways we influence those around us and the contributions we make to those we cherish. On rough days, I consider my position and if I might touch someone also troubled. We all hit walls and go backward. Likewise, we overcome and catapult forward. However, the drama can last much longer than we’d prefer. The issues can linger longer than we’re comfortable with. Reading can provide a safe escape, be it a best-seller or a self-help article. For me, when I’ve rock bottom fallen, hearing anyone has been there helps me believe I will get up again. It gives me hope for tomorrow.

I’m not a psychiatrist nor a psychologist. I hold no degrees to advise. I’m not a medical professional…I’m just a waitress. The pieces to my puzzle are circumstances I made it through. Situations I found my way out of. Moments of weakness and periods of empowerment. I’m a single mother. I’m a content failure and an endless survivor. I have opinions and morals and values and they shine fearlessly. I’m stubborn and soft. I’m loving and vicious when necessary. I’m loyal and naïve. I’ve battled weight issues and issues weigh on my mind constantly. I have traveled so many paths…and I like telling my chapters.

My life is my book. Open at leisure. It won’t be found in a store or the isle of a market. It exists in first person, thereafter spelled out on page. It is public and it is honest in form. All the good and the bad; the naked and hard truths. Some items I wish I could run from. Other items I beg to hold tightly. I write candidly, from my heart. I feel every sentence. I ponder each paragraph. I may discuss topics of dislike. I may cover tribulations I have not liked, either. I will always write from my soul. Life doesn’t stop. The fashions maneuvered are how we move along toward the tunnel’s light.

“It’s better to create something that others criticize than to create nothing and criticize others.”    – Ricky Gervais

It was always so difficult for me to connect with peers because I never honestly felt I had the grounds to do so. My parents were much older than my friends’ parents. I was the youngest of five, by at least twelve years. I had siblings but we didn’t have commonalities because I was a kid and they were teenagers and beyond. My mother worked and due to health reasons, my father stayed home. I rarely received new clothing, never mind constant name brands. We had a nice house, but nothing excessive like a pool or a fancy neighborhood. I was a chubby kid and was nicely picked on. I grew up feeling I was nothing. I would never be anything special.

When I entered my teenage years I developed a very unhealthy coping mechanism: lying. It wasn’t done to be malicious. Frankly, I was jealous of basically everyone I was surrounded by. I thought I could become more than I felt I was. I sought to recreate myself and be anyone except who I saw in the mirror. I had a burning desire to be cool and popular and liked. I thought this would finally make me important. However, it cost me my two best friends. And all our mutual friends. Lesson learned. I discovered being cool didn’t matter if it wasn’t true. And it mattered less when the person you saw in the mirror was suddenly all alone. The teen years suck. Having no one to confide in compounds the situation.

During this epoch, and at the suggestion of my therapist, I began keeping a journal. It was the best decision I ever made! I went from suicidal tendency status to a young girl prepared to grow into whomever she was supposed to be. I made new friends. I made lists and plans. I set goals and gave breath to wishes. I collected experiences, positive and negative. My collection brought me happiness and courage. When the time arrived for me to set out on life as an adult, I didn’t have all the answers, but I trusted myself. I wasn’t quite so afraid of not being liked, and I vowed to make up for my mistakes and use them as stepping-stones throughout the rest of my days.

So here I am. I write as a means to share the scary instead of pretending it doesn’t exist. I share the doubts and the hopelessness and the pain rather than running away. I leave myself vulnerable to ridicule and judgement because I genuinely care about people. It is never easy to admit we’re wrong, especially if we’ve wronged another for selfish reasons. I am no longer a selfish teenager. I don’t have the freedom for the slip-ups I had in my twenties. I can’t allow myself the blockades I picked up during my thirties. I am now in my forties. I wish to leave the past where it lays and move forward with the knowledge I acquired on my foot trails.

I exist amongst countless reasons for gratitude. As a result, I welcome all who visit my Blog to join me for my life story. The book of me, by me. It will not likely win awards, and yet it will be rewarding to me. Please, comment if inclined to do so. Ask questions. Reach out. I am here. My wish is for no one to ever believe they don’t matter. We all have a purpose. Sometimes it can take longer to find it. As for me, this is my purpose…

 

 

Sharing is Caring

During the last three years I’ve reverted to Facebook when I feel the need to write. I know the people on this social media outlet (the only one I use) and it’s my comfort zone. When I returned home from work this afternoon I thought, “Why go there?” I mean I have to get this Blog off the ground eventually, right? Besides, when I feel it’s ready to launch and announce to my friends I can simply share a link to these musings directly. So here’s me, venturing out

I have worked in the food service industry for an array of reasons since I turned fourteen and became old enough to work. In an effort to offer strangers an idea of how many years this encompasses, I celebrated my forty-second birthday in January. Yes, twenty-eight years folks

Unfortunately, many individuals view wait staff as uneducated. They see us as lazy or as “settling”. While this may be true for some, it isn’t for me. There is no diploma from college hanging upon my wall, yet I’m intelligent. I work all the time, sunrise to sunset, because I am a single mother. Perhaps I settled, but given my circumstances, it meant more to me to feed my children than it did to search for titled status.

Seventeen of my twenty-eight years in this business have been at my current job. Highs and lows and changes and plateaus. I open the door and actually breathe a sigh of relief; this is rent, this is meals to eat. It’s car insurance and it’s family entertainment. I’m thankful to be employed. Alas, decades in this type of work can wear down even the most steadfast. Everyone has someplace to go and their poor time management becomes your fault. There are less manners and more demands. Less gratitude and more complaints. Here is where I touch on my issue today…

When I first began at my job we gave individual children placemats and crayons. me’re a family-friendly establishment. We strive to learn the names of sons and of granddaughters. We attempt to connect with uncles and aunts and caregivers and nannies. We recognize disabilities and try to protect these little humans from judgement. We want all of them to feel special.

A couple years ago our company decided to forge a new idea; the family activity mat. The paper is huge! There are all sorts of activities; word searches and tic-tac-toe and hidden words and wrong item drawings. In my biased opinion, they’re terrific. The notion is a family of four receives one mat for everyone to be involved with. A family of six would have two mats. Throughout the last six months I hear this statement almost daily: “We need one mat and crayons per kid. Oh you know, our kids don’t like to/can’t seem to share.”

Really people!!!

Since when can’t kids share? Sure, no kid likes to, but does that mean we aren’t supposed to teach them how? Won’t they, at some point in their lives, have to share responsibility for a class project? What about sharing a dorm room at college? Will they not share meals with a partner eventually? Is it appropriate to believe they’ll know how to share hours with their own kids someday? Why does it seem parents are no longer teaching this skill?

If your child has a total meltdown over a piece of paper, let it happen. Explain why they need to learn to take turns and how to lose a game with dignity. Illustrate how this simple lesson will assist them in years to come, and use every moment we’re given as parents to teach life lessons.

And don’t be embarrassed. Children are not born with the ability to regulate emotions. This is a learned behavior. They must experience frustration and anger and sadness and everything else within our bodies we deal with as adults. It’s crucial to do so while they are still young enough for outbursts to be socially acceptable. Otherwise, they will look silly stomping their feet when they aren’t crowned Homecoming King or they don’t find accolades for their latest Snap Chat story.

I own the mistakes I’ve made in rearing my kids. When my three year old screamed for a lollipop at seven o’clock at night for thirty minutes I gave in. I was exhausted. We parents live exhaustion. However, when my four year old threw a drink in public because his sibling appeared to have more French fries, we sat outside until common sense returned. If they weren’t in the mood to share television time, there was none. If they couldn’t share a toy, it became mine until they could. My kids are far from perfect, even with a touch of “tough love”, yet they are kind to one another and patient with others.

Families with young kids often speak of how they fear for the world when their kids grow. Has anyone explained to them that paper comes from trees? Do they not comprehend that their trash becomes waste and colored pictures sit in landfills for years to decompose?. Yet everyone wants to carry fancy reusable water bottles and drive hybrid cars and plant trees on Earth Day. Amusing as the miniscule aspects account for a lot of what may go awry ten years from now.

My favorite are the sports teams who dine with us. All twelve kids need their own mat, which is torn into shreds and used as confetti, while they play Subway Surfers on tablets their parents carry. Or the birthday parties of six members with food-covered mats and no conversations had because everyone is too busy posting sundae photos to Instagram and checking-in on Hangouts. If digital dining is predetermined, maybe forego the mats so someone else might enjoy them.

My point is, let kids be kids. Let them yell when they’re young. Let them scroll when they’re older. If they yell, remove them from the table so they learn manners. If they prefer to watch YouTube, pick something as a family. Spend time together, quality over quantity. The meltdowns pass and our red cheeks fade. Children also learn by example. I can’t speak for everybody, but I know I work hard at being a positive role model.

So if you ask me for five mats and I give you a look, don’t assume I mean harm. I don’t. I’m not passing judgement because I don’t know you. Instead I do it because I care. I do it because I want you to care, too.

 

 

Ray of Hope

Written one week ago via Facebook as a Living Tribute to my best guy friend. Shared to shed light on an understudied disorder. Passing along to solidify the fact that nothing is ever promised and love should be shown throughout life, not only upon death.

Dedicated to Raymond Wilson, who shall forever be my “Ray of Hope”.

 


Backstory: Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (A1AD) is an inherited, genetic condition which revolves around a deficiency of alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) in the blood. This enzyme is produced in the liver to protect body tissues during infection. Low blood AAT builds up and can cause liver disease. Alpha-1 Proteinase Inhibitor is also made in the liver and its job is to protect delicate lung tissue against substances released by white blood cells. Chest infections are typically controlled by the liver and it releases more AAT to neutralize the enzyme before it causes too much lung damage. But with a decrease of AAT in the blood this often leads to lung disease. [¹WNDU]


 

In my life I have delivered eulogies, added words within life celebrations. Thought long and hard about how best to encompass an existence. Today is different. Today I learned my best male friend is coming upon the end of his road. And it is so fucking unfair! He doesn’t drink or smoke. He doesn’t do drugs or lead an unhealthy lifestyle. Instead he has a genetic disorder which has overtaken his body, past the point of medical interventions, at this point.

It is said that “only the good die young” and in this case, it couldn’t be more true. It is also said to “tell those you love they matter before they’re gone”. I have decided to do just that. To give my friend the opportunity to read my words while present, so when the time comes where his spirit lives only in my soul, he will rest knowing how special he is…how loved he will always be.

About ten years ago when my job was still Corporate they decided to file bankruptcy and close several stores. West Yarmouth was one of them. The offer to transfer was put out and we received a few new employees at our store in Hyannis. Ray was part of the group. In walks this quirky, hilarious guy who knew none of us, yet fit in as though he’d been with us from the start. His sense of humor was unmatched and he was precisely what we needed when we needed it. He was like a human book of adult jokes and a glossary of terms you’d never heard before. He was quick-witted and sarcastic. He was the type of guy you sought after a bad date or the ear you spoke to when you couldn’t imagine facing another day. He was never too busy to help, in any way, and he also became a father-figure to many of our staff kids.

When I met Ray I was newly divorced. I had very little. Furthermore, I had very little faith in men as anything. Ray taught me it was possible to be “just friends” with a guy, and the payout I received in taking a leap of faith is quite possibly the most profound reason I am who I am today. When my kids needed a ride and I was stuck at work, he dropped everything to help me. If I had to take my kids to work due to unforeseen circumstances, he played with them, and kept them entertained by teaching them everything I didn’t want them to know. He was, himself, like a big kid trapped in the body of an adult. This is probably why all our kids grew to admire him so much. My kids weren’t the only Ray befriended. He played roles for many others, too. They will all miss him. My two are devastated by this news.

Ray and I both lost parents fairly close together, yet he lost both before I lost my father in March of 2008. He was there every step of the way, a soundboard when I wasn’t sure if how I felt was normal or when I wondered if I would ever smile again. He attended the Wake and checked on me daily throughout that first week. Moreover, when my father-in-law succumbed to a battle with brain cancer, Ray was there again. To cover my shifts and listen to my thoughts. It was a trying time. After losing my father I lost a close friend and then my father-in-law and finally my mother-in-law. After all these losses in a short span, I was concerned about my kids. Ray set out to assist, watching YouTube videos about loom bands with my youngest and helping my oldest set up a new IPod.

In over a decade and a half at the same job I have watched people come and people go. I have witnessed changes and alterations, some good and some not. I think the most pivotal came about five years ago when our GM was fired suddenly. Many of us were shocked and saddened. Some didn’t know what to do. Once word spread Ray messaged me asking if I planned to stay? When I told him I did, he said he also would. And so we moved on. Through the array of bodies shipped to our store, then replaced, and replaced again. We celebrated when we finally saw the only woman fit for a replacement land in our “home”. Our life as servers would make a great television drama…and Ray would certainly have a starring role.

I share a special work bond with this man. Companies such as ours enjoy high profits at little price. And so the “Ray and Hope Show” was born. It consisted of afternoons with two lone servers doing quadruple duty as dishwashers, secretaries, carry-out salesmen, and ice cream creators. It was a roughly three hour sight for sore eyes, but we always made it work. And we made it work damn good! The place stayed clean and organized. Customers were happy, albeit via sheer entertainment. Side-work was completed and the night shift set near perfectly. We were like two left feet who made great dance partners against all odds. It was my therapeutic time where I could speak my mind and know someone was there for me. Those hours, though short, served as my sanity. Alas, our final curtain call arrived many weeks ago when Ray began working less and decreased the length of his shifts. It leaves my heart heavy and my mind uneasy. How am I supposed to put on a show with people I haven’t yet clicked with? Who will scoop Fribbles while I ring, or vice versa? They don’t know how to cook so when will they know the stupid Fishamajigs are done frying? And who will make me laugh…and throw trays with me…and who will clean up the nasty bleu cheese dressing when I forget to put the bottom on the bottle?

In over two hundred months at my job I have made many friends, and watched many friends walk out the door for the last time. Their lives led them to new journeys of opportunity. They relocated or chased their dreams. They set forth on paths which kept us connected in mind but without daily vision. Our friendships remain, our lives continue. We stay abreast of what’s up by social media. If we bump into one another out in the community, it’s as if no time has elapsed. Even if brief, our conversations are never forced. They flow and cease like the tide rolling upon the shore. I leave happy, anticipating what lies ahead for them.

This current situation leaves me upset. Because a man who deserves to find opportunities and to chase his dreams must let them go. He must face the hard facts by no longer planning life but instead pondering death. He is doing so with courage and strength. He illustrates integrity, sharing his decision publicly without need for recognition. Simply so those he cares about learn his fate directly. I am writing this as a result of his choice to vocalize his situation. Not beforehand because this is his story, not mine. I’m just so darn grateful I got to be a part of it.

Dearest Raymond,

There are so many things I had left to share with you. For you to watch my oldest graduate high school and see my youngest overcome hurdles. I wanted to eat at Olive Garden and then maybe bake our own lava cakes afterward. I wanted to but you a non-alcoholic Pina Colada and laugh at Tiki Port for hours again. I wanted to hear more crazy New York City alley stories and see pictures of you under women’s bathroom stalls. I wanted to hear about your next cruise and the ports you’d visit and the hundreds of photographs you’d take. I wanted to eat rice crispy treats with you this Christmas. And bitch about annoying customers. And take pictures of the dish room. And crank call the store phone. And make up new languages. And watch you grow old…

I understand we can’t always get what we want. I know I can’t control everything. Sadly, I realize no matter how much I wish I could, I can’t cure you. I can’t swap places with you nor give you any of my organs. But I would. Because the world needs more people like you. People who give selflessly and care genuinely. People who do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do. People who love unconditionally, like in the truest definition, and in turn make us better people in leading by example. People who help others not for recognition but because the act alone is enough to make them feel satisfied. People who don’t complain, when they have too many reasons to make it alright to. People who appreciate life, the good and the bad and everything in between.

I cannot fathom how you must feel right now. I can’t imagine the thoughts in your mind or the tensions in your soul. I can’t comprehend the tasks in front of you. I can’t pretend it all away for you, either. But I would. Because you would want to for anyone else. Because you are never jealous or spiteful. Because you celebrate triumphs with people, instead of merely beside them. Because you value relationships more than material. Because you know what really matters.

You were the exact type of friend I needed when you came into my life. Your encouragement kept me going and your praise kept me motivated. Even when I didn’t like what you said, I’m so glad you said it. It was always what I needed to hear but no one else could say. I appreciate all the moments you gave to listen to my latest issue. I appreciate more that you heard me. You have an ability to voice what others can’t and make it sound sensible. It has to do with the way you portray your messages, to people individually and uniquely. It’s one of your greatest attributes.

In this precious time we have remaining, I want you to open your eyes each day and know how much I value our friendship and how deeply I love you. You have been a gift from Heaven to me. When the time comes where your eyes open no more, when you go to rest eternally, please fly high and remember how immensely you touched my life, and how I will strive to keep your spirit alive.

Much Love Always,

Hope


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