Sunday, March 26, 2017

Listen to This

I hear a car pull up the driveway, and soon the kitchen door slams.  A familiar voice calls out to me.

Daughter:  Mom, listen to this.
Me:  (deep breath as I swivel around in my chair)  Tell me.

There are three things I know when it comes to my daughter:

1.  Never take my bra off  - she hosts guests without prior warning.
2.  Always have cash - there is usually an immediate, dire need.
3.  When she says "listen to this", be ready for anything.

Sometimes, what she asks me to listen to is how she got a good grade on a test she thought she'd bombed, or the latest shade on Instagram.  Many times, however, it is bigger, heavier stuff, so I have to be on my toes.

Listening is easy.  Hearing is much harder. 

When my daughter talks to me, sometimes she is drowned out by the dialogue going on inside my head, "We need to get a tutor ... she can never speak to that person again ... I'm calling the doctor ..."

I have to constantly remind myself to really listen - to receive the information before I notify the authorities and the local news.

There is a proper way to listen to a person, to hear their words and find a way to connect, appreciate, and communicate back.  And I had the most profound opportunity to listen with that type of purposeful intent this afternoon.

It was my first rehearsal for Listen To Your Mother, a show where 13 women from all walks of life will take the stage and open a brief window into their world.  I got glimpse of that world today --- and the energy, the emotion, and the pureness of our time together deeply affected me.  Of the seven readings given, all I can say is this - I heard you.  I heard the deep, expansive, deafening cry of women as single mothers, adoptive mothers, daughters and aunts.  I heard the struggle of women trying to connect with mothers long passed, or mothers whose choices were a mystery until we were old enough to understand.  I heard the pain of raising children in a world that can be volatile and cruel.  And, I heard the joy of memories that comfort us on tough days. 

And that was just part of the group.  I read last, and let me tell you, I was completely intimidated, but at the same time, honored to share the same energy with these beautiful women, and for them to hear my words. 

Listen.  Let someone hear you.  We all have a really good story to tell.

Until next time, keep crowin'!


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Year of the Rooster

The other day I was looking up rooster graphics - because you can't have enough - when all of a sudden I discovered that 2017 is The Year of the Rooster.  Clearly, the universe is speaking to me with a rousing cock-a-doodle-doo.  If you have noticed my blog background, or visited my kitchen, or even browsed my Pinterest Board dedicated to this magnificent bird, you will know that the rooster is no small fowl in my eyes.

Subsequently, I found out that I was born in The Year of the Rat.  But, never mind that - I am Rooster all the way.

I think it all began when I inherited a grandmother's rooster trivet, and then another grandmother's rooster bins.  With the addition of a grandmother-in-law's rooster salt and peppers, a collection was born. From those humble beginnings, I have filled my house with ceramics, hooks, rugs, and chalkboards, all in homage to the feather and comb.

I like roosters because they are loud and colorful.  I like that they come in all shapes and sizes.  I like roosters because they often take center stage in art, literature, and even religion.

And, it turns out, they don't need nests. 

This is particularly important to me as the empty-nest chapter of my life is rapidly closing in.  Granted, I still have a little more time until the last chick flies the coop, but once the first one takes off next year, nothing will ever be the same.

I was talking to a friend recently about prom, graduation, college, and "letting go", when she made a kind remark about this blog.  She asked me if I still wrote here, and I confessed to a long stretch of writer's block.  I explained that since my kids were never home, I didn't have as much to write about.

Later, it hit me that I am entering dangerous territory. Did I really mean what I said, that I have nothing to say if it isn't about my kids?  When they leave, is my life just going to be a black void until they come home for a visit?

Cluck, no!

This is where The Year of the Rooster comes in.  Although its significance lies in Chinese zodiac, I am taking it on as a sign from my spirit animal.  The rooster often is referred to as a symbol of strength, confidence, assertiveness, pride, and hard work.  It is a herald to a new day, a fresh chance to strut your stuff. It is a bold call to action to show the world how unique you are, both with and without your chicks.

So, that's what I am going to do.  The longest and most vibrant feather in my cap is the one named Mom.  But there are lots of other feathers in there too, and I can't wait to give them a fluff.

Until next time, keep crowin' and growin'!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Spilling the Tea

I write for two blogs.  One is for the Atlanta City Moms Blog, to which I am very committed and for which I keep all my deadlines.  I also have this blog, to which I am completely irresponsible and only write when I have an unexpected event or an a-ha moment.

This post is neither.  I am writing this one because I need to be free of a burden, and I am drumming up the courage to spill my tea.

The day before my 41st birthday, (I am almost 44 now), I was in my local Kroger.  I had lost a ton of weight, and had put lot of hard work into Choosing Joy.  However, my family was in the middle of a catastrophic ordeal, as my father had suffered a brain injury and was hospitalized for quite some time.  But his condition had improved enough that I could return home and help my mom manage things via phone.

And I was on the phone with her when, while shopping, I noticed a man out of the corner of my eye. He was pacing back and forth behind me as I put together my lunch at the salad bar.  I thought he was just impatiently waiting his turn, so I moved on.  I finally made it to the spice aisle and was texting someone when a very loud voice inside my head instructed me to “keep walking”.  I did, but then stopped further down the aisle to finish the text.  Behind me, I heard the crunch of a potato chip bag.  And then it happened.

---

I think victims of sexual assault deal with the crimes committed against them in different ways.  Mine was to freeze, to demand to know what he was doing, to tell him to get away from me, and then freeze again.

But I wish I had chased after him.  I wish I had kicked his ass.  I wish I had been stronger.

I also wish the Kroger staff hadn’t left me and my groceries alone in their deli for over an hour while I waited for the police and my husband.  Thank goodness one of the patrons there took the time to lean over and quietly ask me questions, trying to calm me down.

Although they had the entire incident on video, the police never found him, and my case was closed.  Well, for them anyway.  From the moment that man put his hand up my dress and did the unthinkable, I have never been the same.  It took me a year to re-enter that Kroger, and when I did, I had a full-on panic attack.

I retreated from my world, and, in turn, my world retreated from me.  MealTrain apparently doesn’t have a category for “crime victim.”  As time went on, feeling such deep rejection and hopelessness, I cut myself off completely. Thank God for the angel friends and family who stuck with me, despite that fact that I had nothing to give them in return.  They keep me going even now, and I bet they don’t realize how much they help me. I need to tell them.

This is so very personal.  But if there is one thing I am trying to learn, and hope to impart, it is that while my happiness is my responsibility, I cannot recover without support.  If you are going through something, and you feel alone, don’t be afraid to be raw and real with someone you trust.  We all need at least one person in our lives to whom we can say absolutely anything.  And we need to give ourselves permission to feel all the feelings, because healing can’t start until the band aid is ripped off.

I am tugging at that band aid – and it is starting to give.  So don't cry for me, Argentina.  And don't give up on me either.

Until next time, keep crowin’ and don’t stop trying to find your joy!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Time Out

Waiting for the 11th grade basketball game to finish so I can cheer on my son's 7th grade team.  Sitting next to a mom I don't know.

Mom I Don't Know:  Do you know who's winning?
Me: I am sorry, I don't.  I just walked in.  Who are you cheering for?
Mom I Don't Know: The home team.
Me: Oh, me too!  My son plays in the same league for the 7th grade team.

Lively banter follows about where the boys go to high school and the newest guilty pleasure by Julian Fellowes.

Whistle blows.   A Mom on Other Team Starts Screaming.  Gets kicked out of game. Second Mom on Other Team Takes Up Where She Left Off.

Mom I Don't Know:  Ugh.  We played a game recently where they had to hire a police officer to stand next to one mom during a game, and she still got thrown out.  She is an actress on some reality show and she is always getting escorted out of games.  The other parents loved her.
Me:  I just don't understand why people think it is ok to behave like that.

3rd Quarter.  Our 11th grade team is winning handily, but tensions are high.  Without warning, a player from the opposing team throws a punch at one of our players. 

The stands clear. 

Boys, adults, strangers are all tangled up in an explosion of violence.  Everyone is screaming.

And then.

I see Second Mom.  She is in the middle of the melee.  She grabs one of our players, throws him to the ground, and is on top of him, cussing him out, hands all over him.

This next part gets a little blurry.  Here's what I can remember.

I get up out of my seat.  I run over to some players who are trying to get in the fight.

Me:  Son, sit down!  Don't do it!
Player: Don't touch me!
Me to Second Mom:  Ma'am, please stop!  Sit down!  Sit down!
Second Mom: YOU sit down!
Coach holding Second Mom back: SHUT UP!
Me: Act like an adult! (Remind me to work on my comebacks.)

I then return to my seat, realizing my mission was futile.

Suddenly, I am surrounded with fingers in my face.

Second Mom, Her Friend, and Her Son:  You better watch yourself you better watch how you to speak to my mom you better shut the hell up unless you want to get tore up you need to leave it to the kids you sitting there acting all nice ...

Somehow, my son's assistant coach gets between them and me and saves me from injury.  They go away.  I am shaking.

The police come, and I give my statement.  They don't ask me for my name, and they don't seem that concerned about what has happened.  However, I am later told by the head of the league that charges will be filed. 

Anger. Hate. Pain.  Fear.  I saw it all manifested on that basketball court.  And in trying to digest it all, the only thing I have learned is how much I don't understand about the world, and about people.  There is no tidy wrap-up for this one - just a feeling of sadness for all those involved, and the hope that next time, things turn out differently. 

Sigh.

Until next time, keep crowin' and growin' and lovin' through hate.

Monday, March 7, 2016

For Brian

When you are an awkward teenage girl with no prospects and you go to the beach and meet a really great guy who doesn't know you are supposed to be awkward, your whole world can change.  I was that girl, and Brian Fleenor was that guy.  We met at St. George Island one night and sat together by a bonfire, confessing to each other our demons and dreams, as if we had been friends forever.  After that starry, remarkable night, we parted ways - ostensibly forever, as these things go.  Then weeks later, I received the most beautiful letter from him, telling me how incredible it was to meet me, and how our time together was bookmarked in his mind as one of those significant "life moments."  We kept in touch, he came to visit me in my small town, and he managed to make me feel more special and important than any boy ever had.

He did all these things without even once kissing me or holding my hand. We had connected in a way that didn't require anything more.

Years later, we would find each other again, after he met some of my friends at the same beach.  And then once more, thanks to social media.  I was able to see that he was happily married with an adorable son, and he could see that I had also found my way into a loving marriage with kids of my own.  We couldn't believe that our brief time together would result in a Facebook Friending!  But that is the way of the world in this new technological age.

I write about these memories now, because Brian died today.

He battled brain cancer until he could battle no more.  I find myself feeling the loss more deeply than I expected - it has been 20 years since we spoke.  But Brian was special, because he was the only man, until my husband, that showed me respect, interest, and caring without any physical expectations.  He made me feel that I was a beautiful, worthy person, no strings attached. 

I pray for Brian's wife and son, and for the family and friends that loved him so well.  And I hope that Brian, who is resting now in eternal peace, is settled in by a roaring fire on a sandy beach, surrounded by the loving spirits of all the lives he touched.  He made a difference to me, even if for one night.

Never underestimate how your life can be a blessing to another --- that is Brian's legacy, and I hope I can pay it forward.

Until next time, keep crowin' and making special moments with the ones you love.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Someone posted a video on Facebook recently of the most horrid looking thing I have ever seen.  It appeared to be a burned gherkin pickle with painted on eye balls, and it had a bright orange forked tongue that resembled the horns of Satan.















The comments on this apparition ranged from disgust to fear, including one man who asked, “Are the lambs still screaming, Clarice?”  But then the voice of reason shone through, and a level-headed nature lover declared that this was an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar.  And this is what it becomes once it is done terrorizing the villagers …











Turns out that the creepy little creature was not a warning sign for the end of days.  Turns out it was the promise of better things to come.  It just had to go through the ugly to get to the beautiful.  I bet the change was scary, though.

We have had some changes at our house too.  This week, my daughter officially exchanged her cleats for boxing gloves, and her lacrosse stick for a paintbrush.  She wriggled out of her cocoon to see what else was out there in the world. When she first told me and her dad of her plans, I was supportive, but really unsettled about it, until I noticed she's the happiest she has been in a long time.

It took courage for her to leave behind a sport she has played, and identified with, for so many years.  And she is using this new-found confidence in other areas of her life -- confronting a bully, setting higher standards in her relationships, and taking ownership over her future.  She is literally kicking butt.

I have always found change to be difficult and uncomfortable, but in this case, it has been like a strong cleansing wind that has swept through my daughter's soul and given her wings.

So, I leave you with David Bowie, who seemed to understand parenting much better than I.  And, once again, I have received from my daughter another lesson in living:

And these children that they spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They're quite aware of what they're going through
                            --- David Bowie, Changes

Until next time, keep crowin', and embrace the butterfly!


Monday, August 31, 2015

The Subtle Giraffe

Today is my 43rd birthday.  Birthdays are often catastrophic for me --- on a Biblical level.  Truly, honestly, cursed. Those who know my story can confirm that this is not an exaggeration.  I usually approach August 31 with a great deal of dread, and with the assumption that it will be the worst day of my life. That I will once again be the lame gazelle that can't escape the merciless clutches of the deadly cheetah.

But today, it wasn't like that at all.  Today I was like the subtle giraffe.

A dear friend called this morning to wish me a happy birthday, and to share details from a family funeral that occurred over the weekend.  The stories progressed in such outrageousness that I finally told her, "The universe is literally shoving this down your throat, begging you to write it all down."

And then I wondered, what is the universe trying to tell me?

Two weekends ago, my parents were in town.  My sister and her family came over for brunch, which turned out to be a birthday party for me. They were running a little late, which is to be expected when you have a toddler.  But it turns out the reason was because the baker dropped my cake and then spelled my name wrong on the new one.  My sister wouldn't leave until the cake was perfect.

Last weekend my sister-in-law and her kids made dinner for me.  When I walked in the door, my three year old nephew jumped into my arms and gave me a big hug.  He then led me around the house to show me my flowers and balloon. He wanted me to see that everything was perfect.

This morning, I awoke to texts and Facebook messages from people who chose to start their day by wishing me well.  I had a greeting card from my husband on my nightstand and breakfast waiting for me downstairs. I received a random text from my son's former coach, telling me what a great basketball player he is.  And then I got a text from my daughter.




I have experienced great pain and loss on my birthday.  But today I received the gift of the subtle giraffe.   A thing so big, yet so easily overlooked, that it took a million signs from the universe for me to open my eyes and see it.

Turns out, I am actually blessed.  Yes, some horrible things have happened to me.  And yes, I am still dealing with their darkness.  But look at all the people that love me - and look at all the good things weaving their way into my world.  I have a daughter who makes me laugh like no one else can, and is going to change the world, just by being herself.  I have a son whose drive to succeed and whose work ethic inspires everyone around him.  I have a husband that loves me so much, and a family that goes out of their way to make me feel special. 

How can I feel cursed with so many people in my corner?  

The answer is, I can't.  I will still have good days and bad days, but on this day, this birthday, I can see life for what it truly is - an adventure, a safari, in which sometimes, the cheetah goes home hungry.  

Turns out, my birthday was perfect.

Until next time, keep crowin', and look for the subtle giraffe in your life!