Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day Sandra Kay. For the first time in my 62 years I can offer that greeting with all of the love mothers deserve on their special day. I have accepted both your shortcomings as a mother and my shortcomings as a daughter. Or, maybe it’s my own shortcomings as a mother. It could be that enough time has passed to allow for the metamorphosis. No matter the why, I know I find myself repeating long forgotten advice and wondering less and less where we went off track and increasingly how more like you I have become. I have made peace with our history

Anyway, to all the mamas out there whose relationships may not be Hallmark material, hang in there. My prayer is that you are blessed with reconciliation while your mother is still around. With resolution, come fewer days of regret and mourning and more days of joy and laughter.

This holiday, take a long look in the mirror…see anything familiar? Try repairing a couple of cracks and wipe away a few smudges, fingerprints and tears. You might just find the view becomes clearer. I know I did!

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I See You…

  • Black man in the flag shirt at the gas station looking for a ride.
  • Single mom calling with FIVE children at the motel needing money for another night
  • Couple at the soup kitchen with the special needs child now living in your van
  • Homeless veteran who can no longer work due to a back injury on your last construction job and still have not been approved for disability.
  • Pretty girl at the winter homeless shelter who cannot go back home because your parents do not approve of him.
  • Kenny and your drawings as you never seem able to shut off your racing mind and must keep busy.
  • Thirty something mother of three girls making it on your own after years mental and physical abuse.
  • Middle aged man with a dog at my exit flying a sign asking for any amount of money and wishing me God’s Blessings.
  • Young girl abused at a young age and physically assaulted twice before you were 30.
  • Mom of two teenage girls left widowed at an early age as a result of a horrible disease.
  • Friend mentally abused a lifetime by her mother, yet perseveres with compassion and grace to all she meets.
  • Father of two girls who gets up every day and goes to work to provide for his family. At the same time is a doting daddy.
  • A spouse who sacrificed his happiness to keep promises made on his wedding day.
  • Women who lost her child before she had a chance to live…never even knowing your name.
  • Mother who gave birth and lost her child so early in life…all the possibilities with her.
  • Mother, who guards, cares and loves her special needs child 24/7/365.
  • Pastor doing the best you can to bridge multiple divides in your congregation.
  • Older woman walking in the heat who graciously accepted a ride.
  • Homeless children at the shelter sharing your favorite subjects at your new schools…making the best of a changing situation.

I WONDER IF OTHERS SEE YOU!

I WONDER IF OTHERS CARE!

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Becoming a Grandmother!

I don’t sleep well most nights. Sometimes it’s my back that keeps me awake. But, many nights it is my head that just won’t shut down. I’ve tried all of the tricks of the trade including the one offered by the Hubs. For the record, it involves concentrating on holding your tongue completely in the center of your mouth not touching any sides. Easy peazy…sleep comes…yeah, for him. However, for me sleep has always been difficult.

Many nights I lie awake thinking about incomplete projects or projects yet to be created. Last night, I could not get the word “grandparent” out of my head. I kept going over and over the picture in my mind. Maybe it’s the recent news of two new babies coming next spring. I started to reflect on the grandparents in my life, specifically the grandmothers and how very different they were from each other. So, from the cheap seats, here are my observations.

My maternal grandmother was not very nice; at least that is my impression. I know my sister adored her. Dovie was the first person who made me feel bad about how I looked. Whenever I walked through her door, her first question to me was always “why are you so fat?” I’m convinced my issues with body image were born on her lips. The other side of that coin was my paternal grandmother, Josephine. Her love was absolutely unconditional. I never saw her enough, but when I did she always made a point of telling me how much she loved me and how very proud I made her. I still find myself reading the few letters I received from her when I went to college. I started in August. She died in October. I missed her support!

When I think of the grandparents my own children inherited, their experience most likely appeared bi-polar as well. My mother, Sandy, was the person who believed the sun rose and set in her grandchildren. That’s not to say there weren’t moments of drama as I was witness to my Beauty and Mom going head to head a couple of times. But, even she would tell you her Grandmother always had her back. Whatever they wanted, they got…even if it meant her very last dollar. At the same time, their paternal Grandmother was the distant rule keeper; at least that’s how the kiddos saw her. With job transfers, we moved often and unlike my mother who visited new locations, Emma never seemed to make it happen. I’m not sure whose fault that was and looking back, I think we should have tried harder to bridge the distance. Needless to say, fostering a close relationship with many miles in between is difficult at best. They don’t say it, but I know they see the relationship she has with other grandchildren and the child-like mind wonders…why?

Now, I am getting to play the role of grandmother and I see the differences as well. Linda is the grandmother who sews, hikes and bakes. I am grateful that such skills might be passed on to another generation. While I am the grandmother who can point the way to the Amazon “place order” button, stock a snack pantry with the best of them and can sometimes find her way around a Pinterest craft project. We are indeed different women.

My point in this entire diatribe is that mothers come to the grandmother table with so many differing styles and talents and that is just fine. Children are such resilient creatures and will take away what they need and throw away what is unnecessary. And, even the unhealthy contributions can be healed and forgiven with time and understanding. So, if you are losing sleep over your own grandmothering skill set, let it go. Just dole out a little love, patience and knowledge and you’ll be just fine. Personally, I am grateful for all of the grandmothers I have known and the one I have become. After all, it’s the only one I know to be.

Now that I’m awake, let’s go shopping. I know where the “place order” button is located!

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Desert Time

Anyone else know what it’s like to spend time in the desert? I’m not talking about a Sahara type desert, but, the kind of desert where you feel alone and challenged in long held thoughts and beliefs.  Those who have spent time in the church might call it a “spiritual desert.” I have to be honest, I’ve been here for quite some time and I’m beginning to wonder if I am destined to wander for the remainder of my days.

Since the beginning of the year, I have not attended the church that I had come to consider home. So many people who attend that church still occupy a sweet place in my heart. But, something changed and we left. The Hubs and I have occasionally attended another church nearby. We have even met with the pastor to ask questions about the church and its’ membership. But, I’m not ready to sign on the dotted line. I even explained to the pastor that I no longer felt the pull or even desire to attend church as I had done without fail for the last decade of my life. It has surprised me how quickly I have gotten out of the Sunday morning habit. And, it’s been easier than I imagined letting go of cherished activities I once enjoyed.

Added to the spiritual ache is the personal physical pain that continues to plague the day-to-day. Procedure after procedure offers the promise of relief only to be replaced by dashed hope. You get through the day, allowing others to see the face you provide to them only to collapse when the day is done.

Regular church folks know that Jesus spent time in the desert as he prepared for his time of ministry. No doubt he felt alone and maybe even harbored thoughts that God had abandoned him. I’m certainly no Messiah in the making, but I understand the feeling of being alone. I understand reaching out to my Abba and hearing no response. I understand needing reassurance and receiving nothing but a cold shoulder. There is profound loneliness when a person feels disconnected from community, country and worst of all, disconnected from God.

This is not the first time I have traveled in the wilderness. If, once again, this solitude is intended to test my resolve, I’m in it for the long-haul. I have never been a quitter.  I will keep asking questions. I will continue to wait for answers. I will search with my heart and soul for the direction to travel. It may be this new church or a path I cannot see yet. I don’t know. I will continue to talk, scream, yell, cry, swear and question all of Creation. In time the answers will come.

Until then, I dwell in the desert.

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Father’s Day is Almost Here!

Yeah…Yippee…Hurrah, Father’s Day is almost here. What to do? What to do? For a good many folks, the day serves as an opportunity to heap praise and admiration on their first love or hero. For some of us, it is a day that only serves as a reminder that we were short changed in the father department.

Now, you might think this note is going to be a “trash my daddy post” but you would be wrong. More than 20 years ago, my father taught me one of the most important lessons I would ever need to know in my life. Growing up, my sisters and I were really good at wearing masks that showed no scars. Those masks showed no evidence of what was really going on in our dysfunctional house. Our father was and as far as I know an alcoholic until the day he died. Some drunks are jovial and you can just put them to bed and they will sleep it off. Some are not. Can you guess which category Harry belonged? He was a mean drunk. He wanted what he wanted when he wanted it. If that meant a meal at 2:00 in the morning then his wife sure as shootin’ better get it on the table. If he wanted his children to witness the punishment for misbehaving, then they sat on the sofa and witnessed one slap and/or punch after the other. And, the next day, we got up, dressed and went to school like absolutely nothing happened. That was just the way things went in our house. I share this not for pity purposes, but for information only.

For so many years, I was angry. I hated him for how he changed our mother because she became cold, distant and unfeeling. That was how she learned to cope. So, in the parenting department I believed we were short changed on both fronts.

Thinking about my childhood, I remembered only wanting to run as far away from home as I could. I knew I never cared to see or speak to him again. And, I made that happen. He was not at my college graduation. He was not at my wedding. And, he did not know his grandchildren. But, that was not punishment enough. I hated him!

One day I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I saw a woman who looked like my mother… sad, angry and just plain old before her time. That’s what years of anger will do to you. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life on that endless treadmill going nowhere. After forty plus years, I realized I needed to give up punishing myself and offer genuine forgiveness to the one person who had caused so much pain. Now, I was not naïve enough to believe Harry gave a fig about my feelings. But, I knew I had to let go of the anger… not for him, but for me. So, I wrote him a letter laying bare my words of hurt and pain. And, as expected, he didn’t care. But, I knew I had brushed aside his indifference and turned a corner.

So, this Father’s Day, I can, with a clear conscience and open heart, say thank you Harry. You taught me that forgiveness is a powerful gift that keeps on giving year after year. Let’s face it people, whether we had a good or bad father, it doesn’t matter. Whether our fathers were present in our lives or not, it doesn’t matter. Whether our fathers taught us how to live, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that our fathers are one-half of our life blood. We are here because of them. So, this Father’s Day, no longer harboring any hate in my heart, I can introduce myself honestly… saying Hello, I am Jamie, daughter of Harry… and YOU ARE?

 

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NOT IN MY NAME!

“Every child is innocent. Save them from the fear!”

It does not matter how they came to our shores. It does not matter the manmade line they crossed that moved them into another country. It does not matter that small men and women with small minds cannot comprehend why others would risk everything, leave everyone, and abandon all they have ever known to seek a better life for their children. It does not matter that small men and women with small minds cannot comprehend the turmoil created over decades by the US government in the countries so many of these parents are leaving behind. The only thing that should matter is the children. The absolute very least we can do as a people who profess to be a beacon of light to the world is humanely care for the children. The absolute very least we can do as a people so insistent on the letter of the law is to protect the children. And, separating them from their parents is nothing short of criminal. To put it plain and simple so small men and women with small minds can understand; when Americans stand by and watch children torn and separated from their parents, we stand convicted of crimes against humanity. In the aftermath of WWII, the punishment for such a crime was death or life in prison. Yet, this crime continues to be carried out in our name. I for one am screaming at the top of my lungs…NOT ONE MORE – NOT IN MY NAME!

In Matthew 18:10, we read the following, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” I weep knowing that the Father is looking upon children who sob for their earthly parents. I weep knowing that we are responsible for instilling greater fear in their lives. I weep for a country so fearful of the other that children are used as deterrence. Once again, I scream NOT ONE MORE – NOT IN MY NAME!

Find the name of your Congress persons and let them know you are not to be found guilty of crimes against humanity. Tell them to fix this and fix this NOW. Reunite these children with their parents TODAY! Or, are you one of the small men and women with a small mind incapable of understanding?

 

 

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Dead Mothers’ Month

My former pastor and I have many things in common. In addition to being my boss at the church, we learned both of us had Hoosier roots and we shared many of the same political beliefs. That should have been enough. But, my pastor also helped me through the time of my mother’s illness and ultimate passing. During our conversations, she learned of the many difficulties I struggled with concerning my relationship with Mom as well as caring for her the last couple of years of her life. Thru our talks, I learned that her mother also died in the month of March. We found ourselves calling it and continue to call March “dead mothers’ month.” I know that sounds cruel and insensitive. But, for the two of us, it made the anniversaries easier to acknowledge.

Well, here we are again… it is dead mothers’ month. My mother has been gone 6 years this month and new revelations are coming to light. There was a time when my recollections of her were shrouded in the darkness of our relationship. Yes, I have missed her, but pleasant thoughts were hard to name. This year I have noticed and even mentioned to friends that more and more fond memories are bubbling to the surface. Surprisingly, many have made me smile.

I can’t help but laugh as I think about Mom dressing her three girls in nearly identical clothing for Easter or Christmas photos as though she had given birth to triplets. And, there was the strength of a mama lion when she faced down my Dad and insisted that we were indeed paying the admission fee at Lookout Mountain. There were the trips she shared with our family as we traveled from place to place with Steven’s job. Together, we saw the Grand Canyon, the Four Corners, Mesa Verde, Disney World, a mud lodge complete with Native American story-telling in North Dakota, a leaking tent at a campground in Florida, Bridal Veil Falls in Utah and lost far too much money during one of our several trips to Las Vegas. I can also thank Mom for convincing Ashley (and she believes to this day) that painted ponies ridden by Indians were on the ridge in Arizona. And, God knows I will never forget the sight of Mom dancing in the dessert with Ashley, Matthew and Keisha. It was the happiest I had ever seen her.

Sadly, I had forgotten the ear to ear smile on her face when I received my degree from Indiana State University. She was indeed proud of her first born daughter. I like to think she saw the promise of escape and adventure in me… something she had longed for as a girl. Did you know she wanted to join the Navy after she graduated from high school? But, her father would not sign the paperwork.

Maybe I have finally grown up or perhaps I’ve come to accept the old adage “time heals all wounds.” Anyway, I guess you could say I have come full circle and made my peace with our relationship. Rest easy Mom. You did well and I am fine!

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I Get It!

It’s here again; your birthday. I have absolutely no clue where the time has gone since you were physically present in our lives. Six years seems like an eternity since I heard your voice. Can you believe I actually miss hearing it? I wonder if turning 82 would have quieted you at all. Would you have learned to temper your criticism or would you have maintained your “I don’t give a damn” attitude?

I’m now thinking that attitude came with age. As time passes, I remember a period when you were not so critical. I am reminded of a stage of your life when you were not so certain about the way things should be. And, there was a season when you were unsure of what was coming next or how were things going to end. But, time and circumstances changed your voice.

As I age, I am beginning to understand. I realize that time is no longer on my side. The writing is on the wall and there are fewer and fewer minutes to share a lifetime of experiences, successes and failures with people you love…people you will leave behind. It’s made harder when they are not listening so you raise your voice and insist that you know the answer. I get it! I only wish I had understood it before you left.

Anyway, that’s my birthday gift to you. I understand Mom and I’m sorry I didn’t get it until now. Wherever the next life has taken you, I wish you good health, joy and peace. I love you and I miss you.

Happy Birthday!

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Knocked Down, But Not Out

Surprise, epiphany, revelation…a real eye-opener to say the least. That’s what I experienced last week. You think you are tucked in “your” place sheltered from storms; among folks you consider family and you find out your perceptions are all wrong. Suddenly, you are faced with the reality that people you believed to be part of your support system are actually working to erode your foundation. That groundwork is not built on rock after all. It’s only sinking sand.

At the moment, I am resting with this new knowledge. I’m trying not to let my ego or emotions rule my decisions. I am choosing to sit in the dark searching for any flicker of light that may be off in the distance. I am content to wait for that small voice to provide direction. I know I will hear it if I will just “be still.”

As I look in a mirror, I can honestly admit that perfection is NOT PRESENT in the reflection (say that three times). I work every single day to be better than the day before. Some days I am successful. Some days I am a failure. Isn’t that the way for all of us? Oh, well. If it’s one thing I Down Not Outhave learned, it’s that “life hurts” and “it’s not always fair.”

So, lesson learned, prayers and soul searching in the works. Whatever happens next I haven’t a clue. I’ve been knocked down so many times I’m surprised the referee hasn’t reached the 10 count and called the bout. As I shared with a friend, there must be another path for me and time will tell where it leads. In the meantime, I’ll pick myself up and “keep moving” as my husband would say because there are so many good things in my life too. And, I won’t let anyone take those blessings from me!

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Don’t Know About You and Mother’s Day…

What happens when Mother’s Day rolls around and you realize you’re “not enough.” Given the parents you had, you vowed that when you became a parent you would do things differently. And, you did do things differently. You didn’t work full-time so that you could be the room parent for your children. You showed up at every parent-teacher conference. You cheered at sporting events. Your children had the birthday parties you never had. You invited their friends into your home. You thought being open and honest was the way to go. You provided opportunity upon opportunity for your children that you never imagined as a child. You were always in their corner and you knew how to say “I love you” often. To your surprise, it still wasn’t good enough. So, what now? Does anyone ever get this job right? How long does it take, if ever, before a parent feels successful at the only job where failure is not an option?

Do you think previous generations struggled with this question? Or, is this a new phenomenon? I guess I’m forever left to ponder the answer to those questions. In the Forgive Yourselfmeantime, Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who feel less this holiday. I hope your day is wonderful. Like myself, my own mother, all mothers before me and all mothers after me, you did the best you could with what you knew. Maybe, one day, we’ll find out that it was enough after all. In the meantime, how about we forgive ourselves for what we didn’t know!

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