Saturday, September 29, 2012

Friend or Foe

   I watching CNN this morning. I do it every morning. And I learned something new. You know that whole going to Mars to see if there was ever life there thingy? Well, they found round rocks. At first I did not understand it. There is really no shortage of round rocks right here on Earth. However, this was a big find. Apparently round rocks means that there was once water on Mars. Now, I can hear you out there, what the heck is she talking about now? Well, you see if there was no water, those rocks would be jagged. They would be sharp edged and pointy. They are not. They are smooth and round without a cutting edge. So this made me ponder.

  We need to take those stones that we carry, those ones that press into our flesh as we bring them into our future. We must make the edges smooth. It is true we cannot set them all down. Some are ours to carry. But, we can make it easier. We can be healthy and smart and honor the child that still lives inside of all of us. I had a small conversation yesterday, with a lovely woman how always offers me praise and support. She spoke of her hurt. The victimhood someone else's sickness has cast on her. She was carrying many things. But, a few of those stones on her back were not hers. She expressed a feeling of shame and a self blame that hurt my heart. I listened to her as she let it all out. Showing me each jagged rock. I did an inventory of everything she brought forth and I pointed out her error. She had a stone called blame. Anther was called shame and still another "dirty." I corrected her in the usual way. I explained that it was not her fault. She did nothing wrong. i felt I was not reaching her. As truthful as those words were, they are pat and predictable. We have all heard them. So I rounded back to something I knew she would grasp.

  I said to look at her own child. That sweet innocent, beautiful daughter whom carried her mother's heart with her. Then I said imagine everything, EVERYTHING that had happened to the child she had been, had happened to her child. Do it with me now. Fully feel that. Would you have blame for that child? Would they be dirty or unloveable? Would their value be diminished by another's actions? I hope you felt that hitch. That little skip in your chest, when you imagined these things. think how you would comfort your child. What would you do or give to help them? Now remember, YOU are your first child. You deserve better. You deserve a love unyielding and a life lived well. That child that you were needs you. If you abuse yourself, you abuse that child. Hasn't it been enough? Hasn't enough been taken and still more withheld? If you walk on the same path as I do, if you get drawn into the shadow, stop. Do not take that child back there. Do not take you back there. Be vigilant. On guard. Let no one hurt that tiny soul living within you. Honor the child. We cannot all get the measure of justice I was able to. Abusers die or move on. It may just be too hard. There may be family and friends who want you to bury it. A pressure we all feel. It is all too real. The message is always the same, "get over it."

  This is always uttered by those who have no idea of the pain. I say do not get over it. Mourn. Mourn the lose of innocence. Mourn the pain and the fear that has dogged you for so long. Acknowledge that you have been change and then, let go. Let go of the pain. Let go of the shame. These are not yours to carry. Lay them all down. It will be hard at first. Having labored under their weight for a life time, you may feel naked without them. but wait for it. Wait. Feel your soul getting lighter. Your mood raising up. What happened to you, does not define you. It is a bad thing, that happened to a good person. A crime perpetrated on you. I am off on a tangent today, I know. But this is on my heart and I must set it down here for you. Find a new mirror. One with no cracks or blemishes and reevaluate your image. What you project and who that makes you.

  You are not a conglomerate of things done to you. You are defined by what you do, nothing more. Love that first child. They have waited far too long for you to accept them. As always, you are not alone. We are all out here. We bare no shame. We are worthy and we are many. I send you love today. Love and understanding and always acceptance.

Friday, September 28, 2012

From Me To You

   I watching CNN this morning. I do it every morning. And I learned something new. You know that whole going to Mars to see if there was ever life there thingy? Well, they found round rocks. At first I did not understand it. There is really no shortage of round rocks right here on Earth. However, this was a big find. Apparently round rocks means that there was once water on Mars. Now, I can hear you out there, what the heck is she talking about now? Well, you see if there was no water, those rocks would be jagged. They would be sharp edged and pointy. They are not. They are smooth and round without a cutting edge. So this made me ponder.

  We need to take those stones that we carry, those ones that press into our flesh as we bring them into our future. We must make the edges smooth. It is true we cannot set them all down. Some are ours to carry. But, we can make it easier. We can be healthy and smart and honor the child that still lives inside of all of us. I had a small conversation yesterday, with a lovely woman how always offers me praise and support. She spoke of her hurt. The victimhood someone else's sickness has cast on her. She was carrying many things. But, a few of those stones on her back were not hers. She expressed a feeling of shame and a self blame that hurt my heart. I listened to her as she let it all out. Showing me each jagged rock. I did an inventory of everything she brought forth and I pointed out her error. She had a stone called blame. Anther was called shame and still another "dirty." I corrected her in the usual way. I explained that it was not her fault. She did nothing wrong. i felt I was not reaching her. As truthful as those words were, they are pat and predictable. We have all heard them. So I rounded back to something I knew she would grasp.

  I said to look at her own child. That sweet innocent, beautiful daughter whom carried her mother's heart with her. Then I said imagine everything, EVERYTHING that had happened to the child she had been, had happened to her child. Do it with me now. Fully feel that. Would you have blame for that child? Would they be dirty or unloveable? Would their value be diminished by another's actions? I hope you felt that hitch. That little skip in your chest, when you imagined these things. think how you would comfort your child. What would you do or give to help them? Now remember, YOU are your first child. You deserve better. You deserve a love unyielding and a life lived well. That child that you were needs you. If you abuse yourself, you abuse that child. Hasn't it been enough? Hasn't enough been taken and still more withheld? If you walk on the same path as I do, if you get drawn into the shadow, stop. Do not take that child back there. Do not take you back there. Be vigilant. On guard. Let no one hurt that tiny soul living within you. Honor the child. We cannot all get the measure of justice I was able to. Abusers die or move on. It may just be too hard. There may be family and friends who want you to bury it. A pressure we all feel. It is all too real. The message is always the same, "get over it."

  This is always uttered by those who have no idea of the pain. I say do not get over it. Mourn. Mourn the lose of innocence. Mourn the pain and the fear that has dogged you for so long. Acknowledge that you have been change and then, let go. Let go of the pain. Let go of the shame. These are not yours to carry. Lay them all down. It will be hard at first. Having labored under their weight for a life time, you may feel naked without them. but wait for it. Wait. Feel your soul getting lighter. Your mood raising up. What happened to you, does not define you. It is a bad thing, that happened to a good person. A crime perpetrated on you. I am off on a tangent today, I know. But this is on my heart and I must set it down here for you. Find a new mirror. One with no cracks or blemishes and reevaluate your image. What you project and who that makes you.

  You are not a conglomerate of things done to you. You are defined by what you do, nothing more. Love that first child. They have waited far too long for you to accept them. As always, you are not alone. We are all out here. We bare no shame. We are worthy and we are many. I send you love today. Love and understanding and always acceptance.

Thursday, September 27, 2012



    My husband asked me what I would do, when the day came that my past caught up with my present. When there were no more obvious stories to tell. He is silly that way. I have an abundance of words. A cornucopia of thoughts and ideas and everything is a story. When I started this journey of using words as bread crumbs, hoping you would come find me, others asked how did I do it. How did I get through it all. I have been holding this one back for so long. There is a secret to it. In the middle of the storm on the rainiest of days, I would reach out from my dark place. The one I knew so well. It was decorated with every hard thing that had happened to me. Every slight and betrayal. The shone out of the darkness. Sparkling pieces of glass and mirror. All jagged edges and painful images. I would dwell there. In that no place, where no one else could go. Where I had isolated myself and barred the door. I would not come out. It was as if I was visiting with an old friend. But really not much of a friend at all...more a thief. That place stole my joy, my hope my very desire to live. And slowly, bit by bit, I realized that I did not belong there. I did not have to stay in this world made up of pain and sorrow. Yet, how to get out? There were no windows, the bolt was shot on that steel door I hid behind and I could not make it move. Rusted in place, refusing to yield.

  So, I accepted the fact that I could not leave that place just yet. That I would have to stay. There was something in all those memories which I had missed. Overlooked in my vigil of despair. I came to it slowly, a new idea formed. I could not leave this land of sorrow, but maybe I could bring something in. I thought of things I loved and people who brought me joy. I held those images before those broken pieces of looking glass and their memories, their powers were magnified. I looked into the shards and saw the most wondrous things. Kindness bestowed upon me. I will share a few with you here.

  When I was five, after my siblings had left us and my father's attention brought me shame, we went to a bowling alley. Now, my parents were serious bowlers. My father was very good. And because my sister was no longer there to watch over us, my parents took us with them. I was supposed to be in the bathroom. I was loitering before the vending machines. Looking at all those incredible things behind the glass. I would have never have asked for money from my parents. Even at five I knew the answer. Asking for things was a no no. And so I stood there eyes wide, dreaming of the possibilities, when a woman approached me. I don't know where she came from, or what made her stop. But she did and she asked me what I wanted. There were so many choices. Everything and nothing. These were not for me. I knew that they were for others. But she pressed me again and I pointed to the peanut butter cups and she slipped the money in and they tumbled down. She motioned for me to take the offering and I shy followed her instructions. I said thank you and she passed on. I stuffed them into my jacket sleeve. I knew better than to go share my good fortune, they would have taken it from me. I waited all through their three games of bowling and the short drive home. Finally, when I was tucked into my bed, alone in the dark, I peeled open that wrapper and slow ate those two little gifts from a strange. She has no idea how she brighten my world with that small gesture.

  A neighbor once told me how beautiful my face was. I must have been ten. She leaned down to me. Looking me squarely in the eye and proclaimed me a beauty. I was too shocked to speak. Adults were dangerous in my world and I had expected no praise. She said my eyes were pretty and that my smile was special. I was curious. I went into the bathroom making sure to lock the door and I peered into that mirror. Looking at me, looking at me. I leaned in and examined my features. I tried to see what she had seen, but I did not. However, I held on to her words. I tucked them in my pocket and I would pull them out when the storms in my life raged on. I became entranced with light. The way sunlight fell on grass blade and water. i got lost in the beauty of nature. Later, my niece and nephew would be my touchstones and still later, my own children.

  You may not be ready or able to leave that dark, damp cave like cell that your pain takes you to. You may feel trapped and helpless. I understand. Look for something small. Your salvation will not be found in a lottery ticket or treasures found. No, it is much easier than that. If it is raining, look at the puddles, see how the raindrops  make the water dance? What about the joy of a child's laughter? Those precious little people who think you hung the moon. There is hope. It is like a scavenger hunt. Tucked into your memories and your reality, there is hope. Go find it. Hold it up to those wicked reflections and bask in the new view. The bolt will slip. it will let go it's hold and you can escape. Those horrid little interlopers will always be there. We can not be rid of them. However, we can make peace and we can blot out the bad, with the good. I hope your day is well reader. I hope you are feeling blessed. And I hope most of all, that you engineer your own escape.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hidden Blessings

  Having a husband in the business world can be difficult. There are always dinners and events to attend. Now, this in itself is just fine. It is not the people I mind so much. Rather having to speak to them that does. It is perfectly natural for someone when meet a new individual, to ask questions. It is an attempt to build a bridge. To find common ground in which to bond. This is a nightmare for someone like me. The thing that has always bothered me about people is their inquiries. Not because I am ashamed of my past or even uncomfortable with it. I have made my peace with that demon. No, it is for them that I am concerned. I find myself editing my life for people. It is an attempt to allow them to hang onto their views that parents love their children and mean them no harm. It would be a far more interesting conversation if I spoke the truth. However, when someone asks me about my parents, the truth is not what they are looking for. No it is just an attempt to check off the little box on an invisible form that is filled out before we both move on to another individual.

   I try to protect them. Every once in a blur moon, I will find an "other." Someone like me. Whose childhood was other than normal. Who have suffered in silence. Carrying a heavy load. Handed to them by a parent, an uncle, a family friend. They are marked, as am I. Scarred. So, I am always relieved when the questions of the past fade away and we find something we both enjoy speaking of. Sports or books, our children or our homes. Anything other than my childhood or family. I rarely, if ever ask about anyone else's past. I try to give a wide berth. you never know what lays under the surface of a smooth lake. It could be minnows or just as likely, sharks. White, powdery sand or jagged, deadly rocks. I do not go exploring where I have not been invited. It is a challenge for me to be sure.

  One of the guys my husband works with is from Australia. My Peng has always had a soft spot for him. He has worked hard and been rewarded. Three or four years ago, as we were passing close to where he lived, he invited us for a visit. We pulled up to a nice tudor brick home with a lovely yard. I had met this man before but not his little family. His wife was cute as a button. She had a new little one on her hip and another playing with a car on the kitchen floor. I got down on his level and we sent that little auto back and forth. he had a sweet spirit, but I could see she had her hands full. They were in a new state. A new house. A new life. They were working on sprucing up their home, in between his business trips and the children. She seemed a little overwhelmed. I sat with her briefly and tried to think of comforting words. Of something to let her know, she could do this. She was strong. She was tough. But in the end I told her about Mommy and Me groups and we were on our way down the road again. The next time we stopped in. A few years later. She had just had her third son. I sat and held him and tried to see how she was doing, with out overstepping. Being mindful of not wanting to push in, yet wanting to help. She seemed blue, and I understood that. I had had postpartum depression after both my daughters. I understood. I held her sleeping son and just let her be. There were so many things I wanted to say. Comfort I wanted to give. But my own sense of boundaries, my own carefully constructed walls would not let me. Her husband and mine spoke often and I would ask about her and those beautiful little boys.

   I traveled once more with my husband and again, we stopped to visit them. They had a new house. A lovely family home, with lots of room for growing and playing. There were chickens and a garden. She had made this new home her own. Her hair was cut in a sassy bob. A little longer in front than in back. With jagged, short bangs that set of her eyes beautifully. She seemed happy. And I was happy for her. She had found her way. Of course, my blog came up. She was a reader of blogs. Her husband, in an attempt at graciousness, said I should read one of my chapters. If you have been here from the beginning, you completely understand the challenge in this idea. I thought a few moments and settled on Homer. Because, I love that one. I put a lot of my heart in it. And also because I could think of nothing else that would be worthy of dinner conversation. I have no problem discussing these things, but as I explained in the first paragraph, I try not to burden others or catch them unaware.

   They were kind in their reception. And then we split up. The men stayed at the table and we found our way to the kitchen. So far, I was in the clear. But the more we talked, she in her beautiful lilting accent and me, stopping and starting. Trying to find a way around the subject of my blog. I gave a sigh and let it out. I gave her a little snap shot, an over view. She came around the kitchen island and gave me a hug. One of great quality. And as she let me loose she said "I would have never guessed you had been through something like that." If you are like me, if you know that path of shadows, you know what high praise that is. I had come to this new house, out in the country with a the idea of seeing how she was doing.  I had hoped to find her happy. I was glad to discover that she was. She laughed and she smiled and in her own way, she helped me. I have come so far. I may have scars, but they are fading. I am always nervous around people I do not know well. And this time was no different. Yet I left better than when I came. Those few little words and that much needed hug, they fed my soul and we said good bye. Leaving that beautiful little family, in their beautiful new house, more at peace than when I had first arrived.

  It reminded me, you never know when some little thing, words spoken casually across a kitchen, can help to heal your heart. That is the beauty of this world. There are blessings and treasures in the places you would never expect to find them.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Family of Traditions

I am writing something a little different tonight. This is for the fan participation for blogger Idol. This is the first assignment which is to write about our family traditions. Tuck in, lets see what I've got.

  Holidays are the center of so many traditions in families and in this, mine is no different. We are a group who love this touchstone of repetition so full of meaning. Rituals we all participate in. They are the underpinnings of our shared lives and the things we cling to when the world gets hard. First, comes Halloween. At the crack of 9:30 ish  I make my way to the kitchen and hit play on the cd player (yes, I still have one..they are classic) and music fills the house. That would be Christmas music. And it will be the backdrop of our existence every day until Christmas night comes to a close. No exceptions. I love the range of perplexed expressions on the faces appearing at my doorstep, as little dragons and princesses come to the door, parents trailing behind.  Jingle Bells blaring in the background. The celebratory season has been christened in, with "Silent Night" and "Grandma got run over by a reindeer."  Thanksgiving brings with it the opening of the first Christmas presents. Just before dinner and after the dressing of the Christmas tree. My daughters always help and we finally, all agree that their grade school ornaments of Popsicle sticks and glitter now live at  the back of the tree. With their age, comes wisdom. I spend most of this holidays in one of two places, first the kitchen for a big breakfast and then straight on to dinner preparation. A meal that will be served at approximately 1:30. This is crucial. That dinner is hitting the table and everything is served in the time it takes the Dallas Cowboys to get back on the field of play at the end of halftime. I can then be found on the couch yelling my approval or disappointment at the TV. That this special feast has three main entrees often surprises visitors . There is a turkey for my oldest daughter, a chicken for my youngest and a ham for my son. I have done it this way since they were old enough to ask for what they wanted and the process is repeated for Christmas. My own little love gift. Through out the days that bracket these two holidays, gifts are opened on a haphazard schedule. One every five days or seven. Nothing about this is written in stone. It might be something little and full of special meaning or something too big to be kept secret. There are big reveals and simple trinkets tucked into a pocket or purse. We wear santa hats as each of the children take turns being that day's elf, handing out treasures. It is a title of honor . No one ever loses track of whose turn it is next. The night ends with a trip to the movie theater. There is sure to be something great playing. We come streaming in. Taking up a whole row. We pass two big containers of warm popcorn that has been mixed with peanut m&ms back and forth amongst ourselves as the previews roll. It is not unusual to find your hand being grasped by a smaller one with a softness only children possess. Even as my children have grown, they will still reach for my hand. It means even more now, that simple gesture. The hands have grown, all bigger than mine. It gives my heart a little flutter every time.We come home to desert. Which is homemade pumpkin pie and one of apple, with a New York cheese cake to round it all out. Whatever is left will be the next day's breakfast with coffee and hot chocolate.

   There is always sparkling apple cider on hand. Even now that my children are all grown, they still look for their own bottle which will be chilling in the kitchen.  Always. Everyone gets a new ornament. One for my tree and one for their own. I try to pick something special and chances are as good as not that they will not be meant for a Christmas tree at all. A stuffed little purple elephant or a miniature silver pig are just as welcome as snowmen  or crystal angels.  We take turns singing "Fleas on the dog" to Feliz Navidad. Each member must come up with a new verse. It is a favorite part of the season and we all try to break the others composure by slipping in the most farfetched, ridiculous words we can imagine. If you laugh, it is your turn to sing.

  We have other traditions that have nothing to do with the calendar. On paydays, when my children were young we would listen for their father's work van pulling into the drive. As soon as we heard it we would all scatter. Looking for a new place to hide. My son favored tucking himself between the mattress on our king size bed. His oldest sister liked closets and behind chairs. I hid with our youngest daughter, usually in cupboards or cabinets. I would spend the entire time, while I waited to be discovered, trying to keep my daughter and myself from bursting into the giggles on a  mad Hatter level. The closer he came to us, the harder it was to stay quiet. My husband would speak out. He would  bellow out jokes and call silly names, all in an attempt to draw us out. To make our laughter give us away. When everyone had been routed out, it was time for a treat. We would order pizza and watch movies all snuggled up on the couch until we were too sleepy to keep our eyes opened. And then we would fall asleep together on the living room floor. There is also the ritual of the ducks. Which entails me wandering through one store or another with three little ones behind me. Every time we lost sight of one or another, the call would go up. "Where are my ducks?" I would ask. One by one they would each quack back at me and find their place beside me once again. I still ask "where are my duck?" even though my little ones are almost all bigger then I am and all in their twenties.  They still call back to me and it warms my heart. An ode to those years so long ago, when my children were still little, before time sped up making them each more adult like. Yet, still I will always see my little ducks in those grown up faces.

   Now, there is our first grandson and life is wonderful. I spend my time playing and cooing at him waiting for the day that he too will quack, like his mother before him, and he will too have his own bottle of cider.  As I fill carts with toys we will share I look forward to the days ahead. And think up new traditions we will have. Ones that are all his own.

PS I just thought of our first new tradition. This Thursday when my grandson turns one, (he had his birthday party last weekend) we will take this new little family to a special dinner. This will be a treat, as they are just starting to make their way in life and dinners out do not happen often. I will bring a special gift for each of them. One for my lovely daughter, who is such a beautiful mother. To my son-in-law, who is an attentive husband and father. And of course, something extra special for that child they created who holds my heart. This is just a token to say thank you to them all for enriching our family and sharing their blessings with all of us.

My facebook Friends Saved My Sanity

   Back before my medication kicked in I wanted to be numb. I would have gladly traded the good feelings if it meant I would be rid of the painful ones. It was a hard time, but I got through. I looked back over my shoulder at the past and that deep well of pain that I could not cap and I waited. I waited for the drugs to work. I waited for my mood to lift and I waited for something to catch my fancy. To rekindle my passion for life and for creating. I started hanging out on facebook. In one of those groups I had been invited into. I do not remember who suggested it to me, it was 2009 and I was looking for a distraction. It was a group of mothers and a scattered few fathers just to spice things up. People logged on to talk about their children, their significant others. Looking for advice or comfort or simply just to vent. I would read it all. It took me months to pipe in. I simply sat back and watched as sparks and witticisms flew. I slowly got drawn into other people's lives. I developed crushes on so many and started sending and accepting friend's requests. I felt so brave. So involved with something bigger than myself. I would pounce out of bed every morning and check in.

  There were so many things happening at once. Babies were being born. First time mothers were at their wits end. People were falling in and out of love. Either trying to keep it together or to tear it apart. I began to care about these complete and total strangers. I hung on their words. I said prayers and typed out hope. It took my mind off me. I was so tired of me. I never shared anything about me in those first days. What would I have said? I could not dump out my life on a facebook page. I kept it all in. Slowly, I made friends. I would talk about my husband, my children. I carefully edited everything. A little nip here and a tuck in of the truth there. I folded facts over in on themselves. Trying to hide a truth I was ashamed of. I "met" so many dear people. There was the woman who started the group, I knew her first by her alter and then by group. She had a wonderful, snappy alter. Who was very good at expressing her real life issues and still make you laugh. But just as Facebook giveth, so it taketh away and it banished her alter. There was a whole slew of alters. I tried to keep them all straight. It was an exercise in memory and a challenge to piece each of them together.

  At times my hard edges bumped into the unsuspecting souls who lived inside my laptop. It was usually not intentional. Someone would share something that hit my buttons. Mostly it was child related. I would type out a retort and then want to take it back. It is a tricky thing this cyber social experience. It is very easy to be too blunt, too truthful when there is no living breathing person in front of you. When people were boiled down to a few scattered letters and a thumb nail picture, which may or may not be them. They were all anonymous, which made talking to each other so easy. It also made  catching cues and signals hard. I hated when I disagreed with someone. Hated the drama and the hard words. That doesn't mean that I was not the perpetrator of many a spat. I would stumble into some fray and say the wrong thing. I would read something that angered me and I would let fly my own sarcasm. It would ooze across the screen and after all the venom was out of me, I regretted my actions. I hadn't meant what I said.

  I learned a lot in those early days. I figured out that my words had power. That I could choose to lift someone up or tear them down. Most of the skirmishes I got into were on someone else's behalf. I was always ready with my armor. I would pick up my shield and unleash the saber like tongue and feel the energy coarse through me as I waged a war of words. What was I doing? Beating others down with heavy accusations and judgments, rocks thrown at the wounded. And then, later that day or the next, I would reread my words and be miserable. I had failed. I had let that beast off it's leash and someone who had done little or nothing had paid the price. I backed away from the keyboard. I needed to learn to moderate myself. I found my words shameful, my motives suspect. I had to examine what set me off and how to reign in that viscous creature once again.

  I started watching how others navigated this uncharted world. Some were so deft. A beautiful woman in California who always knew what to say. A lovely soul in Colorado whom you were sure to lose to in a game of "I never". A man who worked with fire equipment, I called him Olive. And when I first started writing all of this down, a beautiful angel from Canada, patiently talked me through the steps and then, because she is such a giving soul, she set up my blog. She kept it all together. There was another angel who helped those who were in a pain so deep pills could not reach them. It was her life's work to save all that came her way. When my dog passed away, a caring woman with a fetish involving Hello Kittie talked me through it. She sent me youtube videos and checked in on me for weeks after. If I went silent for too long, someone would reach out. I started looking forward to their thoughts and ideas. A very special woman in California, whom I met playing Slingo twelve years ago was such an inspiration. When we put out my blog, a whole new group of people became known to me. I had no idea how they found me, but I loved their words of support and praise. I would get PRAISE. I had never expected that. I did not know what I thought might happen, but surely not what did. Generous, kind souls passed on my words and asked me for more. I was shocked that people wanted my words. A woman in Russia messaged me and while all her words were spelled wrong, I got her meaning by sounding them out. She wrote MOAR, MOAR! And so I wrote her more. I came home one afternoon from a long day, checked in to say hello and within minutes I was inundated with messages. Olive, asked for another chapter. I looked at his message, struck dumb. It had never occurred to me that he would read my thoughts. But he did and he always had a kind word. There are some sweethearts in Texas who kept me laughing with them and sometimes at them. I suppose what I am saying is through this invisible world where all these new found souls lived, my facebook friends saved my sanity. And I hope they all know, each and everyone of them how important they were. The many people who edited for me, wrote when I could not or who helped me navigate the electronic world I was not accustom to. I am thankful to them all.

   They waited on my words and I waited on their thoughts. I asked over and over, was it good? Was it enough? I asked that woman, the first one what she thought. I was so afraid to ask her. She was busy. She had a book deal...but I did anyway. I threw caution to the wind and asked her opinion. She said it was very well written. and then added I mean VERY well written. I printed her message out and so many others I look at them when I need a lift. Words have power. I am trying to use them to heal, both myself and, hope of all hope, others.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Reading sign language in the Dark

                                          Reading Sign Language in the Dark

       He had always said that marriage was a bad contract. I having been married for so long, and having a natural affinity for it, never raised to the bait. We simple went along as we had for a year or so and lived in sin. It was winter now and 2008 was coming to a close. We were working on still more projects. Putting in new windows and french doors. Painting and adding some tile. One evening after a busy day spent on chores, we treated ourselves to dinner at our favorite restaurant.  I had just come back from washing my hands and took my seat at our special table and Peng took my hand and asked me to marry him. I had not seen it coming. Clearly he had changed his mind. I of course said yes. We celebrated over steaks and good wine. We made a few calls to let people know and everyone wanted a date. We did not have one. I had no idea at all what we were going to do. My mother's, mother in law offered up the church that was a historic land mark in the town both our families had helped found. She called back with two dates, and we took the nearest one 12 days from the date he asked me.

  It was a small wedding. An intimate affair. One of my favorite memories. There was snow on the ground and my son walked me down the aisle. And so once again, I was a wife. A helpmate. he seemed the most generous person I had ever met. He was all rough exterior and a tender center, I thought. And I considered myself lucky. The only cloud in our sky was his sister. She was sick. She was dying and there was nothing to be done about it. She was fun and loud and loving. She was all heart and cancer had come to claim her. She fought all she could, but it would not relent and in February she took her leave. My husband was devastated. She was buried in the coldest weather on record for the Chicago area. I had never experienced that kind of cold. It was a hard time for my new family. The news of her passing was too much to bare. I could think of no words to take away the hurt. I was not close enough to any of his family to add much comfort. I sat with Homer and with my husband and I prayed that their shared pain be lifted. Even, as I knew my words were wasted, I sent them up. Hoping against hope that there would be some reprieve from this heavy stone called grief. But, no answers came. And as we traveled home, my husband became more and more still. Quiet. He had turned inward and I let him. I knew where he had gone and I knew I could not follow. I honored his grief and I left him to mourn in his own way.

  An anger descended upon Him. He had not seemed to be an angry person by nature. He was deep and wide and I never saw the undertow. I did not know how to take his pain away. And so I stood by and waited for him to come to me. I had never felt so alone in all our years together. We were apart form each other and unable to bridge the gap between us. Everything said was misunderstood. Times were too serious. It was like trying to read sign language in the dark. We could agree on nothing. Six coffee cups. He broke six coffee cups in one week. He would slam them in the sink or down on the table. He cussed. He brooded and was remote. We had our first real fight. I packed a bag. I was ready to run. I had been through too much to deal with a mean man. He went on a business trip and called me four times a day. We ichatted and tried to find peace. He came home to me with eight new coffee cups. Big Starbuck's ones to replace the ones he had shattered. Slowly he remembered how to smile. He would still get blue. Missing this woman he loved so much and I gave him room. I respected her place in his life, in his heart and I sent up more prayers. Thankful ones. Saying thank you to God for giving this man so much love and for placing him in such a wonderful family. I knew how important such things were.

  We made it through that barren season and pushed on straight through to summer, overtaking spring with the rush to get our relationship back on track. Our feelings for each other warmed our souls and gave our hearts a sense of contentment. He was usually the peacemaker. He would send up a white flag if we disagreed. He would put me into a funk with an unkind word and just as swiftly rescue me from the jagged rocks of my temper by getting me to laugh. I could never stay mad. I do not have that kind dedication to my anger. I would much rather make up then make war. And in this we agreed.

  I still felt down. it came and it went. Somedays were so hard. I could attribute it to nothing. I had no cause. Nothing was wrong. Which made it all the worse. The more He did for me the worse I felt. I had a deep unquenchable  guilt, that I was helpless to lift. I went to my doctor. It took me six weeks to make that call. To put my hand up and say I need help. I dragged myself to that appointment and I tried to explain. He dismissed me. He said I was not really depressed and he sent me away. I had no will to fight him. I could not argue for my wellbeing. It felt as if I was suffering from the slow death of my soul. I felt nothing but empty. I tried to hide it. Not wanting to put any more on the plate of the man that I loved. I knew he was fighting his own battles. I would not willingly add to it. It took a long time, for me to go back. To stand up for myself and not let someone else decide to regulate me to the margins. I changed doctors. Got a female this time. I sat in her examination room and cried out my pain. I could give no reasons, but I was firm in my need for help. She was understanding and kind and helped me find my way out of that dark place I had wondered into once again.

  The hardest thing about depression is that it is so easily slipped into and so much more difficult to pull yourself out of.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Tying Knots And Red Balloons

   After Amber got married my life settled into a new rhythm. I slowly gave up selling real estate. It was just too hard. Not the job, the emotions. I could not face one more crying couple looking for salvation in a for sale sign. I knew too much to even try to lift their spirits with tales of quick deals and flawless closings. Those days were gone and what was left was foreclosures and short sales. If Peng was going somewhere fun or if he was going to be gone more than three days, I usually tagged along. All those frequent flier miles had finally paid off. I loved it. Most of the time. When Peng was home we would pal around. Working on projects, finding new places to explore in our area and just generally enjoying each other. However, when Peng would leave I was lost. There was no reason to hop out of bed in the morning. There were no breakfasts to be made, no pressing chores and now, no business. I felt lost. I got down on myself and all together blue. I had loved what I did, the money, the people and the sense of worth and now it was all gone. It did not matter if I bathed or got out of my pajamas. I had nothing to do. I missed my children. I missed doing mom things. They were all grown up and living their own lives. My two youngest children would visit me sometimes and I planned my whole day around those few hours when there would be another voice in the house.

   I had not been alone since the short time between 18 and 19 when my husband had been out to sea. I did not know what to do with me. I bored myself. I read and reread books I had never gotten to, or had found some joy in. I gardened and watched all the guilty pleasure TV that ondemand could offer. And yet, still I felt...less than. Nothing I did made a mark or mattered. I did not know what to be. I thought about going back to school, but to do what? I enjoyed working, but when Peng was home I wanted to be too. There were trips to go on and adventures to be had. I fell into a general malaise. Finding pleasure in nothing. I would stay up very late and sleep until mid morning. I had become the teenager I had never been allowed to be. I remembered chiding my children for the same habits and I scolded myself all the more for it. I was unproductive and unmotivated. I was blessed with the very thing most of us crave. I simply had too much time on my hands. And just like Styx sang it was "ticking away at my sanity." I had lived for my children's homework and after school activities. I was over the moon for a costume for a school play and I had volunteered for everything. What was I supposed to be now? I lost myself. The thread of what makes seemed to slip from my grasp. Leaving me clutching at the air and coming up with nothing. There was a great void. A hole where what I did, explained who I was used to be.

   I never let on to Peng, I simply got smaller. I lessened myself to fit my lack of purpose and I was unhappy with myself for it. I looked into volunteering, but nothing took. I had a few wonderful stories locked in my head and I thought, maybe I could write them down. I brought it up to Peng the next time he came home and read him some of what I had written. And because he is who he is, he said to investigate what I would need. To make a list and I did. First he bought me a crazy, great laptop so I could write while we traveled. Then we picked out the books, on writing and screenwriting and all kinds of how to manuals. And then, because all the books said I needed it, he got me the writing software as well. I could not believe the generosity of that man. He never said that I could not do it or threw reality in my face. He gave me wings and offered to help me learn to use them. And so I wrote. I wrote for weeks. I wrote something I loved and then I put it down. I just stopped. I do not know why, I still had stories and ideas aplenty. I just simply could not face the next step. I let a few people read a little of what I had created. Everyone was complimentary, but the more supportive they were the less I trusted myself. Who did I think that I was? I was no writer. I had no background in it. I faltered and in the end I simple let that thread go again.

  I wrote a large part of my first blog entry in that time. I actually went on blogspot and started to write. But, it was hard. What I had to say was not hopeful or happy and I grew even more tired of myself. Why was I writing all this out. I already knew this story. There was nothing new to be added.

   I can look back now, today and see how wrong I was. But that was years ago and I had still had so far to go and much to learn. My youngest daughter set off the chain of events that got me to here, in this half real world of electronic diary entries. I like to think of it as more of a penpal relationship really. I write what is in my heart and many of you answer me back. You echo hope and support and it makes me write on. This is a little thank you, from me to you, right here near the end of this part of the story. Thank you, a thousand times thank you. She had started playing a game on facebook. She wanted me to play for her and figure out how to beat the system. I am good with games and so this was not an unusual request and again time was just ticking away, so she set up my facebook page and got me onto the game and away I went. I was obsessive when I had a goal and finally, I had something to do. I got into several games, I was feeding chickens and picking crops. Joining sorority houses and collecting trinkets. Part of many of the games was that you could communicate with others who were also playing. Now, the first twenty or so times a little message from a stranger appeared on my screen I freaked out. This was a stranger, why were they talking to me? I got over my trepidation, mainly because in one of those silly games you needed to add people, which meant talking to them and so my facebook addiction was born. Those little messages became conversations, which became invitations to other games and then to groups.In one of those groups I met many wonderful people who would later become...well YOU. All of those groups lead to talking and sharing and well, writing. So, slowly with more determination, I reached for the thread that held me bound to myself and I started to write and just to make sure that I would not lose it again, I tied a knot in that string and I wrapped it around my wrist.  It was like tying the string holding a balloon around a small child's wrist. That first blog was my balloon and I sent it out into the world, for you to find and here I am at the other end of the string,, praying that the knot holds.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Warriors and Peacemakers


                                          Warrior and Peacemakers

   I have always believed that there are two kinds of people. There are Warriors and Peacemakers. I always knew I was a warrior. Everything in my life for as far back as I could remember was a battle. But, I always wanted to be a Peacemaker. My younger brother was a peacemaker. He was friends with everyone. Never knowing a stranger or an enemy. I envied him that. Just as he could talk to anyone about anything, he could overlook any slight. I was not made that way. I was the first into battle. Even when there was no fight to be had, I would create it. There was something in me that would not lay down my armor. And because I had fashioned it from my youth, worn it so long, it was stuck to me. An outer shell keeping the world at bay. I always held back. Took the temperature of the room when I entered. I watched people, especially men. Very few got through my defenses. My children were the first. How could I resist them? They were tiny little miracles. Little people that ruled my world and brought down my guard.

  Through failed marriages and lost friendships, my armor grew. Keeping my inner self unknown. I could express anger. That I had down to a T.  I was always ready to swoop in when needed. A bully at school. I was there. A mean PE teacher, I would go to the mattresses. I once made a French teacher cry.  Right in the middle of a meeting. I pulverized he with my words. She had never stood a chance. I turned her own words against her and made her out for a fool. I once caused a girl at a fast food joint to quit on the spot. She had been wrong. They were always wrong, and I took that opening and poured out a rage that was not warranted. My children loved that I had their back in any situation, but the other side of that coin was that I went off on the deserving and the undeserving equally. I had no ability to judge the measurement of my reactions. Once I let out that rapid dog that my parent's had given me, I could not reel it back in. I embarrassed them at times. Someone would bump me with their shopping cart and I would shove it back at them. It was without thought. The monster that lived under my skin did not need much justification to rear back and take a violent swipe, all ragged claws and gnashing teethe.

  Again, it was my children who tamed it. It is not that I did not feel the rage when they misbehaved or were mouthy. No, I felt it and it breathed heavy in my chest. A real pressure. Physical and terrifying. I turned it inward. I clenched my jaw and walked away. I knew that I had to master the beast. I had to learn to calm myself. It was not so different from when I was a child. It was anger then,but fear. I would talk myself through it. Rocking forward and back talking to myself. Letting myself know that it was alright. It was going to get better. Things would change. They had to. I would not be my parents. My children would not fear me. I am not a violent person, I was never a hitter, but I could raise my voice to an alarming degree. It did not happen often. Usually just to get their attention. If you screamed all the time, no one would listen to you. I had learned that from my mother. The louder she was, the less we listened. I would talk through my anger. I would sit which ever child was behaving just like children do, pushing boundaries and testing barriers and talk to them. I would talk until there were no more words. Until I did not have that urge to smack them. I told them, I always told them. I said I was going to use all my words, explain things from every angle, because I really wanted to spank them. I was physically angry with their behavior. They were very patient with me. They would listen, or pretend to and we would get through it. Usually it would end with tears and hugs or laughter. My children had me pegged. I could not stay angry, if you made me laugh or smile it was over. Like magic whatever had caused the heavy cloak of my temper to weight down my spirit would lift.

  I am not proud of my temper or the damaged it caused. Words had power and I knew how to wield them. I have tried to take off the armor that shields me from the hurt of the world, but also from me love. It cannot let one in and keep the other out.

  And so I try. Somedays I fail. I strike back when I feel a threat, either real or perceived. And I feel a failure. A loss. It is a constant struggle. The warrior in me still hears the call of battle, but I am learning to be a peacemaker. With my children and my husband but mostly, with myself.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Dog Named Fear

                                                         A Dog Named Fear

  I had a conversation today, with my cousin. Now she has always held a special place in my heart. Even though I never knew her well. Let me explain. My grandfather Mel and his brother Cal met and married two sisters. This would be my grandma Eli (who I have mentioned before) and her older sister Evelyn. When my father was stationed in Germany, almost by divine intervention, my great aunt Evelyn and my my great uncle Cal were also stationed there. We would visit them often. They were everything I had wished my own grandparent's to be. They treated us with love and acceptance and spoiled us rotten at every opportunity. The only reprieve from my home life was when we were allowed to stay with them. I remember spending hours playing with my great aunt's jewelry. She had all these lotions, perfume and nail polish, and she let me play with it all. My great uncle was one of the kindest, nicest and indeed most intelligent people I have ever known. He and I would sit together on the couch in their living room as Camelot or My Fair Lady played on the record player. Every Sunday that we stayed with them we would wake up to the smells of bacon and pancakes. And as we drifted blurry eyed downstairs, my great uncle would put on John Cash and we would sing "Sunday Morning Coming Down".

  I don't think I would have made it through without them. As I passed messages back and forth with their daughter, she had recently discovered my blog and the ugly truths revealed there. She said she was not surprised. And we went back and forth about my parents and the like and she asked if her parents had known. No, they had no idea. She stated the truth, the obvious thing I had never believed as a child. That her parent's would have taken us in. I looked at her words sitting on my computer screen and the child that still lives in me gave a jolt. Of course they would have. The adult me had no doubts. But that child that I had been, would never have told. I felt so lucky that they liked me, loved me and I was not going to ruin that for anything. I had been afraid if they knew the truth, if they knew how it was all my fault and how bad I was, well they would reject me. Cast me out or isolate me as my parents had the first time I told. It hurt me to think of that today. Not for the life I did not have, but that I lived in so much fear. It reminded me of two stories I will share with you now. Out of order, but still worth sharing.

  Both of these stories take place in that first year after my siblings had left me. My father had decided to build a fence. It was to cut across the yard between us and a neighbor whom my parents did not like. It was a wooden fence and he had decided to stain it in a color called redwood. My father placed a paint brush in my small hand and told me to paint all the bottom boards. We worked all day, but I did not finish and so the next day, while both our parents were at work, my brother and I decided to complete the task. No, there was never a babysitter. Or more accurately, I at the age of five was in charge. We painted the fence as best we could, but really we got more paint on ourselves then anything else. I knew we would be in trouble. We weren't allowed to make messes. I knew what to do though, my father had taught me. It had been my job to clean the brushes and so I took the can of turpentine and started to pour it on our bodies. We stood in the tub and tried to get all the stain off and then we used shampoo to clean the tub and ourselves. The memory is so vivid. The smell of the chemicals. The tingle on my skin. It gave us both headaches. We were feeling very bad by the time we were done. My head throbbed, I was nauseas and my skin burned. We lay beside each other on the couch. I remember throwing up and trying to clean that as well. We held hands on the couch, too weak and sick to move. My mother came home. She sat in her chair as she did every night and read her paper. Then came her news programs and then she sent us to bed. She never noticed. We lay on the couch for hours, saying nothing, clearly not well and she had no idea.

   The other story, just as vivid was about the same time. My father being military, sometimes stood duty. This meant staying up for twenty four hours at work. My mother would go to work before dawn and when my father had duty, we were alone for long periods. It must have been summer of my fifth year and  we woke up and went downstairs. My father was sleeping. He had come in sometime after standing duty and he was dead to the world. He was sleeping on the fold out couch in the living room. For reasons that will always remain a mystery to me, my parents often slept in the living room. We lay on the floor and waited for him to wake up. We were not allowed to get our own food. We weren't allowed in the kitchen at all, unless we were sent to get something for our parents. We were also not allowed to turn on the TV. And so we waited. we tickled each others toes, being careful to be quiet. If we woke up my father, there would be a beating. I was five and my brother four. It amazes me now, after having my own children and experiencing little ones. We stayed there, waiting through the day and into the evening. I remember the hunger. I don't have a memory of being bored or restless. We knew how to be still. I just remember the cramping in my stomach and the feeling of weakness as the day faded away. We had not been given dinner the night before. My brother had had an accident.  At four he was still having troubles regulating his bathroom skills. The punishment had been swift. My brother was held up by one arm, his legs dangling in the air as my father hit him. Over and over, while he yelled about how stupid he was. How disgusting and dirty. He called him an idiot and a moron and turned next to me. I was to have taught him this by now. He never called me names. He just hurled blame and then of course it was my turn to dangle. We were sent to bed with no dinner. I tried to talk to my brother, to explain it all again. I really needed him to learn this.

   We never snuck a bite. We stayed there until after dark. Whispering and touching our fingers together and waiting to be allowed food.

  Such was the fear that we lived with. It was our constant companion. Like a special pet our parents had bestowed on us.  A watch dog, with a short leash. I can feel that fear still, of that little lost child. I can hear it's echoing bark in the depths of my mind. It is not to be reasoned with. It is certain in it's proclamation of silence. I only overcame it a handful of times. Slipping past it's sharp teeth and long claws. I can count them on one hand. The first time I told, the second time when my mother took me to that doctor and one more time, when I said it was enough. That I would take no more. The time  I conquered that fear and got my freedom. The day will come, I can feel it in my bones. I am going to do the bravest thing of all and put that dog named fear down.

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Dust Bunnies and Lost Socks revisited

                                            Dust Bunnies and Lost Socks
Wow, I wrote this in another time and place. It catches at my heart to read it now. I had set it back into the draft files because I knew that there was deep pain in it and I was not ready to address it. Today I am slaying dragons, so here goes. I trusted, I tried, I gave love and my heart and I lost and that is okay. I did not die. I still breathe. The fundamentals here are true. I simply trusted someone who was unworthy of that gift. Let me tell you, I am freer now, happier within myself than I ever was with him or before I knew he existed. Some people are set in your path to teach you things and then to be gone. Such is the case with this relationship. I am stronger for it. I am more compassionate and more understanding. There is always hope and love. Never give them up. What happened in that broken relationship doesn't matter. There simply is no room in my life for such a person and I am better for his eviction from my heart. 

   A strange thing happened when I started realizing my dreams. When my life was full of peace and love. I grew uneasy. I saw disaster around every turn. I was reminded of when my children were young. How after tucking them in, or some times late into the night they would cry out about shadows and monsters and in I would go, ready to do battle. I would look in the closets and under the bed, my heart beating faster for no logical reason. As I would lift up the blanket and bed skirt to slay demons, of course there would be nothing but dust bunnies and lost socks. That's exactly what is was like. I would check my partner's phone,  I did not want to. I hated that behavior. And yet, I did it. Looking for something, anything that would prove that it was not real. That he did not care for me. I kept an eye on him and played private eye. But there was never a hint of trouble. He gave me no reason to doubt him and instead of relaxing into the relationship that was us, I redoubled my efforts. I looked for signs and symbols. Anything amiss. Anything to tie my fears to. It took me so long, to lay down my armor. To give up the battlefield I had grown up on. It was all I had. I spent a year, maybe two rooting around fields of daisies, looking for dandelions.

  I was afraid. After so many failures and hurts. I had taken a template of all those broken relationships and placed it over this one and pretended that they matched. It was unfair.  Once I realized I had done it, I had to change. It is a pact I have with myself. An agreement. When I become aware of my folly, my mistakes, when I know I am wrong, I must change course. There can be  an excuse to be made for being wrong but not for being willfully so. That is inexcusable. And so, I tried to be more trusting. I tried to give him a chance. I stopped looking for excuses for not committing to  our relationship. Being that he was a very smart man, he called me out on it. He said I was not all in, that I was not being serious and of course as he usually was, he was correct. I will hated that and loved it all at once. A man I could put my faith in. What a frightening thought.

  Something else changed too. I lost some friends. They did not seem to fit into my new life. Some where only interested in me as a single person. Someone to fix up with other friends. With the newly divorced or the broken hearted. Others seemed to be fine when I was making my own way, but now that I had commingled my life with another's, well they seemed to disapprove. Phone calls came less often. Weekly lunches got canceled and never rescheduled. I missed some of them. Their company and insights but not enough to give up what I had found in this relationship. And so old friends left and new friends took their place. Couples. In all stages of relationships. Some falling in love, others trying not to fall out. We were happy and we wished those around us the same.

      I read this now...oh goodness! I never noticed the signs of slowly isolating me. He would say that others were just jealous, he could find something wrong with anyone and whatever fault he pointed out, I would suddenly become aware of and soon I would have one less connection to the world outside of him.

  We had never had a fight. Not one argument in two years. There was nothing to be cross about. The man gave no reasons. He was logical and kind. He was generous and oh was he witty. I never bored of his company. He was always dragging in new topics to explore. I learned so much from that man. He was a tinkerer, a putterer. Just like his father, he loved a project. It was the early spring of 2008 and he had decided to clean the garage. He did this sometimes. Every three months or so, he would insist on reorganizing the entire thing. And of course he wanted me to help. He liked the company. I think being in a family of seven children made him crave companionship. So, there we were moving around boxes and thingemajiggers, when he asked  me very casually, if I knew anyone who might want a flat screen TV. Now, in the real world, the one that this strange man did not inhabit, this question never would come up. I don't imagine very many people have brand new flatscreen TVs just laying around their garage. But nothing about this man was run of the mill. I said that I did indeed know someone who would like it. He seemed completely surprised when I said I would like it. He asked what I would possibly do with it. I told him, never expecting him to agree to it, that it should go over the tub. This new house had a huge bathroom and an a mammoth Jacuzzi bathtub. So off to the hardware store we went, within an hour it was hanging up on the wall in the bath. And a new ritual was born. After coffee and toast in bed every morning, I would totter off to the tub for a long bath and the morning news.

   I admit it took years. For me to accept our relationship. To stop looking behind me. To step out of the shadows of the past. I had read somewhere that when you grew up as I had that you were always looking for drama in your life. It was called living in the eye of the storm. And I vowed to not go back to that way of life. I would make peace with my happiness. Embrace my own life without looking for the price tag. Somethings had no price. They were free. Being loved should be free.

  It is okay to say it was not what I thought it was. I loved and lost and that is fine. I will always love. No one can stop me from loving and holding close to hope, and most importantly living in Grace. Love to you, I hope you are well. Life is hard, bad things are going to happen. That is okay. Hold on, hold out, hold fast. You are so much more than you know.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Planting the Seeds

Hello readers, I hope that you are well. I am stepping out of the past for just a moment. I have news. I am trying to make my blog into something more. To use it to help others. I never thought about that in the beginning. All those many words and stories ago. Before I found my compass. When I started pouring it all out I had no idea the why of it. I just had so much inside of me that wanted, needed to get out. I desired a witness. A friend. Someone to see the pain and say that it mattered. To connect to the world that I had spent my life avoiding. To be part of something bigger than myself. And as people shared with me and encouraged me, I grew bold. I thought that maybe there was a way to use all of this struggle, this pain to help others. Because I am not alone. How you become a shadow dweller may differ. Some are abandoned, discarded by parents or lovers. By circumstances beyond our control. Through poor health or poor choices. We hide from the world. Believing we are not enough. Either too fat or too thin,  too short or  too tall. Not the right color or sex. There are a thousand variations, reasons to be given for being less than. And we believe them all. It does not matter the reality of things, only what we are taught to think. We wrap ourselves in the pain and bow our heads.

   I say all this in the present, because I am taking your advice. You know who you are. I am submitting my blog to a contest. it is called Blogger Idol and it can be found on facebook. I really want to make it into the top 12. Really I want to go farther than that. But it is baby steps for now. I hope that you like my words and that they bring you something more than you had before you discovered them. I want to pull as many of us out of the dark as I can. Nothing good grows there in the darkness. It is not a natural state. We do not belong hidden away, in shame which is not ours. We are not meant to hide. We have value. These things do not define us. Whatever the path that lead us deep into the darkness, we can move past it. That is what every new day offers us, hope.

  I want you to know there is always hope. As long as you breathe you can change your life. Please wish me luck and send good thoughts. I am putting it all out there and hoping that something good will grow. I have planted good seeds and tended them well and I hope to reap something more. To fashion a better life out of these things that I have. To gather those stones I have shared with you and to lay the foundation of something great. To take the sticks that tried to beat me down and lash them together to make a worthy dwelling for my hopes and dreams. For my heart and my soul. A place for the very essence of me. I do not think that that is too much, too high an aim. We all deserve such a haven. And if I can find a way out of the past, out of the pain and the shame, then so can others. We can make our own world. We do not have to be ruled by fear and memories that no one should have to endure. We can lay it all down and move on.

  We must take the time to mourn. Whatever tears at our hearts. Be it betrayal, brutality, lies or indifference. Mourn for what we had and what we lacked. For the children we were and the adults we became. Honor the pain and the wound that it left. Acknowledge the scar and realize the limits we have set on ourselves because of our pasts. To learn to let go of the hurt. To release the pain. It is of no value. It is not a treasure to be held close. No, it is a poison to be expelled and discarded. I wish you dear reader peace. I am sending out my words and my well wishes and I hope you catch them up in your heart and carry the ones that you need. I will leave a new path, with my words and my stories. Lessons, some to be followed and others to be avoided. A tale of an escape route. A treasure map. Only instead of an X to mark the spot there would be a small mirror reflecting your image back at you. Because the greatest gift, the best treasure is you. I hope you know that. You are the best thing you have going for yourself and you are enough. That is the secret to it all. The answer to a million silent prayers. You are the power in your life. You create your own reality and you set the limits. Give yourself the credit and allow no one else to make you small. Take up all the room you can. Think big and dream bigger. I hope this makes sense. That you get what I am layin down. Tomorrow we will be back on our journey. Bring a knapsack and flashlight. We will have to bump around in the dimly lit corners to get where we are going. I thank you for taking the trip with me. I do so enjoy traveling with you. And no matter how we avoid it, we all eventually end up on memory lane looking for things we lost or never had. Hoping for new revelations that will make it all clear. How we ended up where we did and where we will go from there. Life is an adventure and we are all vagabonds. Pack light dear reader. Do not take things that you do not need. No ugly labels or foul names. Nothing to weight you down. Because we are going to climb out of the darkness and anything that you do not want to grow must stay in the dark places. Do not bring out weeds of hate or hurt. Pack only the good things. We have places to go and people to see. We are going to be enough. This time we are all enough.

 You can follow the goings on and vote and tweet by going to Blogger Idol on facebook.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Buying Good Memories

      I met that client in September of 2006 and his house closed in October.  I called in two months later to see if he liked his new house. He said he did not know, he had not moved in yet. I found this very odd. This man was very peculiar. It was the same follow up I had given all my clients. I would check up on them every few months to make sure all was still well. There was a terrible snow storm that winter and power went out all over our region. I lived close to a transfer station and so my electricity was on in a matter of hours. I called all my clients to see who might want my generator. I phoned this crazy client of mine and offered up instant power. He demurred  and I thought nothing more about him for a fair amount of time. I had started dating. Every now and again, when I was feeling brave. Never anything too serious really, I was not in any hurry. I had been married almost all of my adult life, I had no idea how to proceed on my own, but I liked it. That feeling of freedom. It was a heady time. I was making great money and my family was well taken care of. Every time I sold a house, I would take my children shopping. I was making up for lost time. Buying good memories to erase all the bad. There were dinners out and  lots of ordering in. We were so happy at times, usually when we were shopping or going to restaurants, Joy was disbursed in increments of cash. But it would wear off... those feelings of excitement. There was a huge addictive quality to it. Taking piles of clothes and shoes, towels and books up to registers and having the confidence to know I had the money for it all. It was a power I had never known and I craved it. I set some away. I always saved some. I never trusted it. I was certain it was too good to be true.

   My mother still called and came by on rare occasions. Mostly, she would say she was somewhere and would I like to go to lunch. Now, ever since I moved out of her house my mother would make this call. Every once in a while she would suggest we met. I always went. I could not say exactly why. I was still looking for that loving, kind mother to be disguised as my own. But that never happened. She never changed into that thing that I needed. I would always pay. It was like a ground rule or something.  When times were tough, I would have to search around for change or write a bad check for these moments of hope. It was like an investment which never paid off. And yet I still forked over the money. Thinking that time would be different. She was going to say, that she loved me, that I was special. That she was proud of me. And that she was sorry. That was my list more or less and it still goes unfulfilled. The one thing that did change as time passed is the restaurants. They  got better, more expensive. She seemed to know somehow, when the tide had risen to lift my ship and she took advantage of it. Tying her dinghy to me. She wanted a nice lunch. Somewhere she had never been. The tab went up and my feelings stayed down. But I never complained. I was glad to share these things with her. She did not have a lot. She was always broke. I felt sorry for her. I did. To have more than your parent is a hard thing. No matter how good or bad a parent they were you still want them to have enough. So maybe part of it was guilt. I could not say. I was giving her something, looking for that return, that yield that never came. I bought her a computer. A nice one, expensive. And of course then she needed a printer and paper and ink. I loaded it all up and took it to her. My offerings. I am sure she said thank you. I do not remember it, but it must have happened. That was what people said, when you gave them such things wasn't it? She would tell me what she wanted, needed and let it lay there between us. She knew I could afford it. Whatever it was that time. And she was right. It made me feel better, to give her those things. But it would always be followed with the disappointment of her still being, well her. Nothing I gave her, bought her, changed her.

    It took me years, a lot of them, to figure that out. I had guilt about money. It was so odd, but I did. I would take the names of needy children off of the charity tree every Christmas. I would buy well over the allotted amount and I put gift cards and money in the pockets of coats and jeans. A special secret. A surprise. A little hope to get someone through. I wanted everyone to have what I had. To not have to struggle. To never be hungry or ashamed of their clothes. I could relate. I knew those feelings and I did not want anyone else to suffer. I was not comfortable with money. I felt unworthy and what I did not save went right out of my bank account as soon as I got it. I felt anxious when my wallet was empty, which kept me working hard. I felt confident when I had cash, but also something more that I can not name. It was as if it was not mine. That I had to get rid of it as fast as I could. I kept myself broke. On a higher scale, no doubt. I drove a Mercedes. I had all the labels that said you had made it. My shoes had red soles. But I could make no peace with these things. I felt like a fraud. It was a whirl wind of feelings and emotions all tied up in green and silver.

   The crazy client called me again. He wanted to discuss his house. The one he had asked me to walk through. The one he told me he would let me list. I did not want to take that man's calls. But I did and I went. I had the need for more things. Pretty things. Things that said I had made it, that I fit in. We met for lunch. He talked about his job for the longest time. I pretended to listen. Finally, we got down to business. He did not like his agent. The house had not sold. What did I think should be done. I believed it was a test. Putting this man in my path was someone's incredible joke. I was patient. I kept my cool. I went over it all again. He paid for lunch and asked me to come look at the house again. I said that I would and I did. He had not listened to me this client of mine. He had redone the bathrooms, which was important. But the kitchen still had pink tile through out. The counters were pink, not bepto bismal pink, rather a flamingo pink. Tiny little square tiles on the floors, the counters, the back splashes. The appliances were still circa 1980. I took a deep breath and explained it all again. He balked. I set down at the computer with him and showed him the comps. He finally relented. I went home and all the way there on that long drive, I cussed at that man. I should have realized he was different. This odd man that tried my nerves. But I was not looking where I was going and when I tripped over his wit and fell for his smile, I was done. He had my attention. This crazy man who loved to talk and bought my lunch. It was a change to be sure.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Watering Rocks

                                                            Watering Rocks

             Weeks turned to months and months to years. Three to be exact. Many things happened, that I will not put here. Not just yet. In 2006, I was happily selling houses. Enjoying my independence. Putting myself first for the first time in my life. It was so odd. To wake up and having nothing I had to do. My profession meant that I had hours to myself and then days spent searching for new homes for new friends. I still went to the gun range and I was still a good shot. While there one evening, my estranged husband introduced me to a man he knew. He was a loan officer and we exchanged pleasantries and cards and then I went back to my life. Never thinking how once again, my phone number would change my future. It seems always to be the little things that change the big ones. A few weeks later, while sitting at my desk, I received a call. The loan officer wanted me to take on a new client. A friend of his. He said that he would be a handful, but that he thought that I could handle him. Within the hour my new client called me. He knew what he wanted. I did not have to go looking for listings. He had done most of the work for me. He emailed me the houses he was interested in and we went over everything that day on the phone. Certain things about him were obvious. He was intelligent, and he knew it. Not condescending. Just very sure of himself.  He had a good sense of humor and he was quick witted. We made an appointment for the next day. He met me at my office and we headed out with me driving. He took his GPS out of his pocket and started to put in the address. I had to stop him and try not to laugh. In our area, there were drives, and streets and courts and then came street courts. The roads had been named and renamed. There were three or four with the same name. You had to go by the house number. A GPS only made things worse. He put it away and I set out to get us were we were going.

  He knew all about houses and loans. I did not have to teach him anything about the process. He was funny and a smart ass too. We bantered back and forth as I drove. Looking at one house and then the next. The first was a disaster. It was on an island that was notorious for  having water problems in the summer. It was perched on the side of a cliff and was noticeably leaning towards the water. There were cracks in the yard, you had to jump over them to look at the house, while the rain softly came down, soaking us. The inside was no better than the out and it was easy to let it go off our list. We laughed and joked at that poor little hovel. Then came the next, it was no better. The people had run an animal rescue and there were cage after cage of exotic pets. I believe the man who lived there proudly proclaimed that he had newly rescued 23 chinchillas. There were snakes and rabbits, birds and cats. The smell was godawful. This one would not do either. The third was the last and the furthest from our starting point. I teased him on his choice of houses. I told him he should leave it to a professional next time. It was a nice house, the last one. It was on the water, with a view of Mount Rainier. There were beautiful gardens and a nice yard. It was stuck in the seventies. It would have been quite the show house in it's day. It was owned by a family who's Patriarch had recently died. They had thrown it on the market under value,  in an attempt at a quick sell. He liked it and I suggested we write an offer. He wanted to wait. Now, this is when our market was hot and while we were there others came to look at it. I was nervous for my new ward, but I could not push him. It was his to lose. We went back with the loan officer and his wife. They too wanted to see this house. They were a friendly couple and they loved it too.

    They informed him that if he did not buy it, they would. And again, more people came. I said we needed to get an offer in. My client wanted lunch first. I could have brained him right there and then. But, off to lunch we went. It was one of those long relaxing lunches, for everyone but me. There weren't a lot of waterfront properties on the market and not any at that price point. We finally went off to draw up the contract. I called the seller's agent and announced our great news. He let me know we were the second offer in. He had another offer 8 minutes before ours. Truly, I wished harm on my newest client. The agent asked for my best and final offer and I conferred with this troublemaking man as to what that would be. I knew the agent who had put in the other offer. She had helped train me when I first got my license. She was a nitpicker and a penny pincher and I knew I had her. I told him it should be full price and that he might want to waive inspections and a quick close as well. He agreed and left my office, waiving his hand and telling me not to let him lose his house. I wanted to smack him right there. He had ignored my advice for three days, with people coming in and out of that house and he was in no hurry and now it was on me if he lost it. Dealing with him was like watering rocks and expecting something to grew. This man would not listen to the good advice I poured out. The wisdom I tried to impart was wasted. But, luckily, it was enough, our offer was accepted. We were in escrow by morning. All was well, I thought. A few days into our 21 day escrow, I got a call from the seller's agent, they had an all cash offer which was $100,000 over asking price, which would have been the fair market price. He wanted to bump my client. I called my client and it was a resounding no, this was his house. The seller's agent let me know that there would be no extensions. That they would be holding us to the contract to the letter. Thank goodness, his friend was the loan officer. We got it done. During all our talking my client had informed me that he had another house to list. It was about 50 miles away, in a great market and I wanted that listing. I campaigned for it. There were more lunches and phone calls. He was in the middle of renovating this other house and he wanted my opinion. I met him there at this potential listing and of course he wanted lunch again. This man did nothing but eat. So again, off we went in search of food. He had a friend come from Chicago. They had grown up together and he was a carpenter. He was working on the remodel. He was a large Irishman. Probably three hundred pounds and well over six feet tall. He was loud and rough and he had a good laugh.

   We did a walk through of the house. I gave observations and advice and left him with the paperwork to list the house. I took pictures and did CMAs and sent him all I  wrote up.  He called me three days latter to tell me he had listed it with another agent. I was really not liking this man.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Kangaroo Court

                                                        A Kangaroo Court

    Those years with just the children and I, were busy and full. There were always extra people living with us and I loved it. I never tried to change any of them, or lecture them. I tried to be loving, to understand how they felt and what they needed. It really helped me with my own children. I realized how much they needed to feel loved and accepted.  Even if I did not agree with their choices, I tried to remember that they were their choices and it was my job to wait in the wings. To be ready if they fell. It was not my place to predict their fall, or even worse, to trip them. No, my job was more important then that. My job was to love them through it. Whatever it was. Even if they weren't lovable. It is a mother's quest. To be that solid ground for our children to land on when the world tosses them to and fro. To support their life choices, no matter how we feel about them. That is what sets a good mother, a good father apart. Because it was not easy. To watch them stumble. To know what they needed to do, without telling them. I had to realize my job had changed. We start out with these little beings, and we guide them and teach them. We keep them out of harms way. We worry and we plan. We invest everything into these little souls and then, they push away from us. I had to remind myself of my role all the time. Through bad relationships and broken hearts I had to just listen. It is not an easy thing to so. To allow someone else their freedom to fail. But, being a mother was never an easy job. It was the only peace to be had. The more I interfered the more we fought. That was not my intent. I was trying to fix things. Why did they not see that? The answer was simply, they were not my things to fix. It took me a long time. Too long to figure that one out. To hold these precious children away from myself after so many years of keeping them so close.

   It felt as if I was abandoning them. But I was not. I had to respect them enough to see them as adults. To believe in them enough to let them fail. May son told me I needed to start dating. And two days later his younger sister said the same thing. They were always doing that, telling me what to do, giving me advice. I loved it. It meant that they cared. That they wanted the best for me as I did them. So our roles had reversed. I had to stop giving unsolicited advice and they, where to shower me with their new found wisdom. It was an arrangement that I learned to love. Whenever one of them was straying, dating the wrong person, not holding down a job, the others of us would huddle. There would be phone calls back and forth. Decisions would be had and judgements passed. It is no wonder the subject of these trials did not appreciate our attention. But, we all did it. I was on the receiving end of a proclamation of wrong doing more than once. It might bring the judges closer, but the defendant, the convicted, never seemed to take their sentence with grace. No, there would be angry outbursts and claims of injustices past and present. Clearly there was favoritism. We continued this back and forth tug of war with each other convincing ourselves that we had the accused's own interest at heart. But we of course were wrong. We were a kangaroo court set to hand down a verdict almost before the victim of our justice had been sworn in. We were all knowing and wise beyond our years. We were fools in black robes. Making ourselves feel better by proclaiming someone else's guilt. Pretending that we knew best.

  It was tearing us apart. Our love for each other. And it was my job to stop it. It was easy really. I just refused to convene court. I set down the gave,l that was my symbol of power. So silly really. I had no power. And in truth, I wanted none. My children were not puppets. I did not want that. I had lived that with my mother and it was a destructive game. I let the accused go free. Without judgement or recrimination. A pardon for all. I would bite my tongue and allow them their own lives. Separate from mine and yet inseparable. It was a matter of respect. And of trust. They had earned both and I had to give it. I would never knowing withhold what they needed most. And when I finally hit upon it, for I had no guide book for such things, I relinquished both gladly.

   It made me see them differently, these children of mine. They would always be my babies. but they had all grown. And just as in their first years, they still want the same things from me. To be loved unconditionally, to be accepted as they are and to be the soft landing when they need it. I stopped giving unsolicited advice, although I still have plenty, I just don't  hand it out. I stopped predicting their fall and I never said I told you so. It is not that I never thought it. It just did not seem right to kick them when they were down. To hand them my recriminating words when they needed my grace. I had learned a lot about grace. I had begged to live in it, to be protected from my own bad choices, ill thought out plans. I could hardly deny it to those I love most.