What Gift?

March 14th – Five years…Five short/long years. Where exactly has the time gone? Where’s the Hallmark card for such an occasion? It’s customary to give gifts for a fifth birthday. Usually, it’s a fun board game or a perhaps that new bike seen in the store. Some folks give gifts when a married couple celebrates their fifth wedding anniversary. Did you know the traditional gift for that couple is something made from “wood?” However, they don’t have gifts that commemorate the passing of a loved one no matter how many years it’s been. If you think about it, how do you say “Happy Mourning Day?” What gift sends just the right message? Is it possible to find “just the right trinket” that puts someone in the mood to celebrate such an anniversary? I know what you’re thinking… where are you going with this weird thought? What kind of strange idea is this on the anniversary of Mom’s passing? But, those who knew Mom well were aware of her habit of gift-giving…BIG on gift-giving as a matter of fact. So, it got me to thinking.

Mom insisted on very special gifts. That’s right, gifts purchased by Sandra Stidham always had the tag “collectable” attached, marked or engraved somewhere. She could be watching QVC or an infomercial, at an auction or garage sale and know immediately just what to purchase and for whom. Not only were family members clueless about what they were going to receive; they were always surprised by the method of delivery. One year, my children received their Christmas gifts inside a piñata. Another year, it was a scavenger hunt. I’ve even known her to place gifts inside a tin box and bury them. Then, she would send you on a quest with a map and you had to dig up your buried treasure. Now, depending on the time of year, this could be quite entertaining given the hardness of the ground.

On top of those quirky habits, you have to understand what some folks (insert Mom) consider collectable and 9f05678ab5252398420843ad83e381bdwhat is truly collectable could span the Grand Canyon. If someone told my mother it was “collectable,” well, that was good enough for her. Yes, siree, you always seemed to receive something you “never knew you wanted…EVER.” It was a running joke with family members. But, on this day… this anniversary, I can picture one or two of those dust magnets holding court in a place of prominence in several homes. Collectible or not, I would give anything to receive one of those “as seen on television” tchotchkes one more time just to see her smile.

So, on this fifth anniversary of Mom’s passing, what it ultimately comes downs to is that no card, no gift, collectable or otherwise comes to mine that can help you “miss someone a little less” than the day before or the day before that or the day before that… I’m afraid missing someone is truly the gift that keeps on giving. I miss you Mom!

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Still My Page

796401d01afe0a64f854495d90cdbdb4I’m always somewhat taken aback when I see a post from individuals upset at what people post on THEIR Facebook pages. Now, I truly understand the desire to see life as children, kittens, food, and family vacation photos, but that’s only part of the picture. And, I truly understand not liking the pictures other individuals paint of the world in which we live. It can be different than the one we are personally living. It can be less than what we imagined it should be. Let’s face it, our world can be downright ugly sometimes. You are not alone in the despair and sometimes downright hate at what you see and read on Facebook, particularly during the silly political season. But, I have learned a very valuable lesson along the way. You can accept people for who they are flaws and all, unfollow them or unfriend them. I have adopted all of the above. My nearest and dearest friends and family have disappointed me on the deepest levels over the years for many reasons. In spite of trying to share my thoughts and feelings gleaned by the knowledge I have amassed by the many pairs of shoes I have occupied over the years, some folks are just not interested, can’t see what I have seen or just don’t believe what I am sharing. It has forced me to make some difficult choices along the way. I have had to let some of those folks go I and my life is better for it. There is certainly much less stress in my life which makes my son happier. Now, understand I by no means consider myself innocent in these transactions. Other folks certainly have the same feelings about me so I stand convicted and I am fine with their decision.

Facebook is a wonderful vehicle for connecting folks, friend and foe alike. Communication is never a bad thing. This interface can be a force of great change in the world and politics is part of that change. Activists have used it as an effective call to action tool like none we have ever seen before. The Arab Spring might never have happened without Facebook. Now, whether the outcome of that effort is positive or not, only time will tell. Perhaps, it is our comfort and complacency here in the States that allows us to poo poo political posts, whether positive or negative, for or against your candidate or cause of choice. We are comfortable in our knowledge that “it can never happen here.” I propose that we cannot be so sure. When so few people bother to vote and/or get involved in the political process, we open ourselves up to any new circus in town with a ringmaster capable of telling a good story and with fingers crossed promises never to deliver or worse yet promises distorted!

Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is I will continue to use MY Facebook page as I choose. I will post pictures of my family, my pets, food porn, vacations and YES, political posts…because that is who I am. You certainly have the take it or leave it option and I am okay with your choice.

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A House Divided

Where to begin today? Cops killing citizens, Citizens killing cops, Terrorists killing in the LGBTQ community, at a marathon and in the workplace, the Mentally ill killing small children in a school, in a theater and in a shopping center. Where does it end? I am reminded of the Biblical story of the “slaughter of the innocents” and Rachel weeping for her children for they are “no more”. What is gone cannot be replaced.

More troubling to me is my fear that we have crossed the line of no return. People of color live in fear. Police officers live in fear. Airline passengers live in fear. The LGBTQ community lives in fear. People of faith live in fear. Living in fear is a recipe for disaster; a ticking time bomb if you will. And, that bomb was detonated in Dallas last night. The opportunity to fix broken systems may have passed. The opportunity to hear perceived grievances may have passed. The opportunity to heal may have passed.

So, what next? I wish I had a clue. What has been broken cannot be fixed so easily. I once read somewhere that “to regain trust you need to prove how much you love through actions not words. Words fall empty to the person who lost trust in you.” This is true for ALL parties involved in a broken relationship. And, our country is indeed broken. We are going to have to prove ourselves worthy of trust by our actions with each other. We need to demonstrate those repairing ACTIONS within our broken families, broken communities, broken schools, broken legal systems, broken political systems, and broken foreign relations to begin the mending process. It will not be easy. It will take generations to undo the damage done. But, the alternative is continued self-destruction.

In the book of Mark (3:25), we are reminded “if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” Folks, our houses are splintered in so many directions. We are destined to fail unless ALL work to mend the walls and the foundation needed to guide this “one nation.” Let’s truly act in accordance aiming for TRUE liberty and justice for ALL.” Today, I fear too few are willing to participate in healing ACTIONS, finding themselves more comfortable leaving the heavy lifting to others.

Sadly, like Rachel, I weep for the innocents today!

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The Least Lovable

Someone once posted in a response on Facebook… “You like helping people. It’s like me helping with the girls’ basketball team.” That got me to thinking about the different ways we help others.

It does seem much easier to help those who are still young, at the very beginning of those opportunities to make life changing decisions, i.e. mistakes. I like those chances too. I always loved being in the classrooms of my children and now grandchildren. It brought joy to my heart to see and hear the laughter in their voices as they shared their visions and plans for the future. How I hoped and prayed that it would always be so simple.

But, given my own childhood, I knew life was never as it seemed to the outside world. Many of these same children were dealing with borderline poverty, familial alcohol and/or drug abuse and for some – even physical abuse of either themselves or a parent.  But, like me, they had learned to hide the evidence and never show the signs to the outside world.

For others, life was good until they met the outside world for the very first time and it was not as expected. So, a mistake here or there and they ended up where they never thought possible… prison, rehab centers, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters or on the streets.

That is where I have found many interesting individuals the last few years. But, they are harder to help because we now add the shadow of “blame” to their resume. A decision is cast as to their worthiness of assistance.

Imagine if God held “His/Her” children to the same standard. How many of us would pass the muster? How many of us have never done anything that required making amends to someone at one time or another; choosing instead to bypass that step.

I have no answers to the “least loveable” in our midst. I only know “I” am known to many as the least loveable and my prayer is always for forgiveness.

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Not the Mother I Deserved!

Another Mother’s Day is here and I still HATE the holiday. Trust me, it’s not because my family does not hold me in the highest regard, they do. I get the usual card, phone call and when they were smaller, the lovely gifts created at school. No, it has everything to do with my own mother. Please understand; I loved her more than she ever knew. But, I believed I did not get the mother I thought I deserved. Can you feel me? To my own children, I apologize if I am not the mother you thought you deserved, I am doing the best I can.

Now, I understand that no mother has it all figured out… not me and certainly not my own mother. As a matter of fact, she didn’t tell me that she loved me until right before she died four years ago. To say our relationship was complicated is an understatement. She was old-school. If you had a roof over your head, food on the table and clothes on your back…you were loved.  You didn’t show the world your emotions…PERIOD. You most definitely did not show your wounds. I was taught to suck it up, keep your head down and keep everyone guessing.

With children of my own, now 34 and 32, I have a better grasp of the difficulties of the role being a mother requires. No one tells you how to navigate the occupation. In comparison, I’ve had it made in the shade. My husband is kind and caring. He is has always had a job and been an excellent provider. He is not an alcoholic. He has never laid a hand on me. 9596a4d5075a69bf523e873455e07545And, he is not a serial womanizer. How my mother maintained her sanity must have been her full-time job. No wonder mothering her children took a back seat. Learning to adapt changes a person, it hardens you. I know that now. I only wish I had known it sooner.

So, on this Mother’s Day, I vow to change my own ways. I am going to embrace the mother I had because she was indeed the mother I needed. Her toughness made me tough. Her perseverance through the beatings taught me that you can get back up again and again and again. I would not be the person I am today without the mother I got. So, thank you Mom… Happy Heavenly Mother’s Day – I miss you and I love you!

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Remembering

Another anniversary will be here before I know it. Unless ones’ memory needs jogged for check writing, most people will see March 14th come and go without giving it a passing thought. For me, it is another reminder that something is missing. I still find myself shocked that Mom has been gone for four years. Given how many years she lived in our house, I still find it difficult to refer to her old room as the “orange” room since the paint job.

More than once I have raged that not much positive ever came out of our relationship. But, this past year I noticed a difference. The longer Mom has been gone, the easier it has become to let the anger go. I seem to have settled into a comfortable chair of peace and quiet. And, sometimes in that place, I discover deeply hidden and long suppressed memories I can only describe as little bits of joy. Words, touches and memories I had long ago forgotten, buried in harsh words and prolonged separations between two stubborn women. One of those memories even prompted me to get my first tattoo. My mother was not the “I love you” kind of person. But, when Mordecai came along, she revealed a side I somehow had forgotten. I believe God sent him to our family just for her and just when she needed him. She always changed in his presence, softened up I guess you’d say. Somehow, this year, I remembered that Mom always told him “I love you to the moon and back”. So, as a way of keeping her close…well, you get the picture. 20160304_215310

Anyway, this March 14th Mordecai will be visiting from Texas. Maybe his presence will help me get through the day with a smile and fewer tears. And, getting more comfortable in my chair,  I’ll allow myself to remember more pieces of laughter and joy. After all, you can’t be weighed down by long held bitterness if you plan to make it to the moon and back…!

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Thoughts on Your Birthday Mom!

Today marks the 80th anniversary of my mother’s birth. However, she is not here to celebrate having passed in 2012. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t think of her more than I care to admit. Many who know me understand that we had a difficult relationship. I think it is more common between mothers and daughters than many care to admit.  My sister and I often joked that we absolutely hated Mother’s Day because Sandra Stidham did not fit any “traditional” card you might pick up in a store.  Nothing ever seemed suitable for a woman who could not be defined by a canned verse. I remember spending so much of my life angry that she was NOT the mother I thought I deserved. I honestly believed God had played such a dirty trick on my sisters and me giving us an asshole for a father and a cold woman for a mother.  I believed we hit snake eyes on the parent front if I’m being honest.  But, what the hell did I know.

In 2016, I will turn 60 years old and believe it or not, I have learned a great deal in those many years. Funny thing is much of what I learned I have to lay at the feet ofMom and I that cold-hearted woman I’m remembering today. I’ve come to understand that in her own way she was quite the teacher. She taught me that in spite of great odds, you can do anything… you can rise above the most difficult of situations and people in your life. She taught me that you can never look down on anyone else because you never know their story…you don’t know until you walk in their shoes she used to say. She taught me that someone always has less than you do and that it is so easy to share. And, as I was reminded today, she taught me that I was never lost, I just didn’t know where I was from time to time.  Well Mom, I am lost without you… but, thanks to you, I’ll find my way…TOMORROW.

As for today, I’ll just say thank you and I’m sorry I wasn’t the daughter you deserved. I pray you had a magnificent birthday. Until we talk again… all my love!

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Thoughts From the Rabbit Hole

Down the Rabbit HoleEvents in my country these last days only reinforce my desire to leave. I haven’t a clue where in the world I would go. I’m not sure there is any place for someone as odd as myself. I only know I do not belong here in this place, in this time. Most would brand me unpatriotic. Okay, I’ve never been much of a flag waver so I guess I can live with the label. I am just so tired. I understand nothing and no one here down the rabbit hole.

Once again, I am reminded of conversations with my therapist where I share with her my belief that truly I am the crazy one walking around in this life. Others around me go about their business seeing the same things I do, hearing the same things I do, reading the same things I do; but apparently believing it normal or finding total agreement. I am out of sync with too much in this place.

Most recently, I find myself profoundly saddened, disappointed and angered by the behavior of friends, family, potential and current leaders with regards to the plight of refugees. Okay, call me bipolar. I’m okay with that label too. But, explain to me how a country whose very existence is founded on the notion of people finding refuge in a new land can so easily turn a blind eye to the suffering of so many is beyond comprehension. I weep for the hardened heart we have developed out of a fear of others. I am confused by a people who choose to live their daily lives in fear of what “might” happen. For a country who calls itself “Christian”, it must be a case of amnesia to have forgotten so many scriptures calling us to be hospitable to strangers. Perhaps a refresher is in order:

  • Deuteronomy 10: 19 You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
  • Leviticus 19:34 The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
  • Matthew 5:43-44 You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’. But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.
  • Matthew 25:40 Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brethren you did it to me.
  • Luke 10:27 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.
  • Hebrews 13: 1 Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
  • Colossians 3:11 In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.
  • Matthew 25: 35 I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.
  • Romans 12:13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

There is such a feeding frenzy for revenge in our country that I find myself choking on the stench. It is my contention that bin Laden succeeded beyond his wildest imagination in changing the face of America on 9/11. We are certainly more divided, less trusting, less compassionate and hell bent on making someone pay. At the same time, we continue to fuel the fires with weapon sales to anyone with cash in hand. And, if you own stock in military “anything” you too are bipolar as your portfolio profits increase while reaping what you sow. When Armageddon arrives, I am convinced it will be stamped with Made in America.

This commentary is not a slam on those who choose to or have served in the military. I admire and respect your dedication and willingness to a cause. At the same time, I do question the causes that send men and women to places where it seems more about business than protecting freedoms back at home. We should do more to make fewer veterans in the first place, truly be more selective in picking our battles. What is it they say… “follow the money.”

It may be naïve on my part. Perhaps, I am just too stupid, too blind to understand the big picture. But, is it not enough to let your faith be better than your fear? Is it not enough to truly trust in a higher power if you call yourself a Christian nation? As I said, I would not call myself a patriotic person, but I do know the trappings. I know that our national anthem contains the words “home of the brave”. I find myself wondering exactly where those people have gone or did they ever really exist in the first place. If so, I miss them!

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A Letter to My Beauty

Moms. We ALL have them. And, we ALL love and hate them at the same time. Well, maybe ALL is a bit of an overstatement. Maybe, only I loved and hated my mother. Anyway, this is a note about mothers and daughters; particularly a note to my own daughter. I can’t get our phone conversation off my mind. I’m not quite sure that you actually “heard” what I was trying to tell you. So, here goes.

Don’t wait until you are in your 50s like I did to make peace with your mother. Please, let it go! Don’t stress with any long held feelings you may have that you did or did not get it right growing up. Or, that you are doing it right or wrong today. I want to be very clear, come clean, and make a confession. I had absolutely no clue what I was doing as your mother. It was my “first-time.” You were a glorious experiment and the truth is sometimes I failed miserably. I was not, am not and will never be perfect at being anything, including your mother. I have forgotten more mistakes than I can even begin to imagine. Guess what, you made and will continue to make mistakes too. That’s what makes us human. But, we are still here to live and tell others about them. Well, maybe not all of them. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know about all of them. And, anyway, let’s just say – we made it!

I love you and I’m pretty sure you love me too! What I want you to hear is that you are wonderfully made just the way you are. All I can ever ask of you as a daughter is to be happy. Be a happy woman. Be a happy mother. Be a happy wife. Just be happy in the life YOU have chosen for yourself. Don’t let anyone choose your life for you. That is a gift from God to you and you alone. Please don’t hang on to garbage that can drag you down. As the saying goes… garbage in – garbage out… don’t do it! Let’s not waste precious years dwelling on past mistakes we both made. Don’t follow my example of trying to please a mother who cannot be pleased. It is a wasted life; one I know all too well. Know that this advice is coming from a place of deep love and respect for the person you are in this world and in my life. I am in absolute awe of your strength and perseverance. You are braver than I could ever dream of being. I could not be more proud to call you daughter. So, once again, hear me now – loud and clear… live your life, love your life and know that you have no standards to reach but those you choose for yourself.

Let the legacy of failure and inadequacy end here, in this moment. Let’s begin a legacy of forgiveness, healthy living and a lifetime of mother-daughter respect and love!

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My Dear Sweet Mordecai

We have just returned from a two week road trip to Maine. What was planned as an opportunity to share another part of the country with you became a going away party that I don’t want to happen. We managed to travel through a dozen states, cover 4500 miles and see some amazing places together.

I will never forget how you helped me at Niagara Falls when I was sure I could not make it another step. And, the fact that you believed Chocolate World was “heaven” still brings a smile to my face. I appreciated that you humored Papaw with his journey to Ellis and Liberty Islands even though it was the last place you wanted to be in the world. However, I know a little secret. I know that you enjoyed it more than you let on as evidenced by the look on your face as you looked at the Statue of Liberty. And, I know you were in awe as you saw the New York skyline for the first time.

Then it was off to Maine for a week of relaxation. I hope someday you find a way to give seafood a try, particularly lobster, scallops or crab. You are missing out on one of life’s little pleasures. You were fearless in the cold waters and tackled kayaking like a champ. I know your Papaw will treasure those moments with you. And, let’s not forget that we taught you one of GaGa’s favorite games – Yahtzee… yes, I know, you and Papaw belong to the two Yahtzee club and I don’t! Finally, while we were disappointed that our whale watching trip was cancelled, it turned into a blessing because our alternate plan led you to finding your favorite place in Maine. You were so happy jumping around those rocks on the coastline.

Too quickly, it was time to head home. But, we still had two more stops to make. First, we traveled to Philadelphia and a meeting with Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. You would not be moved from the video telling the story of the bell. I was so proud of you. We ended our journey in Gettysburg with Jim, our battlefield guide. I know it was not what you wanted to do that day. But, in the end, you came away able to share some information about those three days in July. You saw a bit of history that quite possibly changed the course of your country.

On this trip, I was moved by your compassion and consideration for others as you opened doors for the elderly at Bob Evans and snapped multiple family photos for others in Philadelphia. You have such a beautiful heart.

Then, too quickly, we hit the road for the final push home. You were ready. You told me, “I want to get my family back together”. Me, I wanted to keep you to myself a little longer. I confess I am not ready to let you go.

But, here we are, it’s time to do just that – time for you to head for Texas. And, much like watching your mother drive away, I am at a loss how I am supposed to tell you good-bye. You have been a constant presence in my life since the day you were born.  I have cried for you many times. I have worried about you many times. I have laughed with you many times. I have enjoyed your company more times than I can count. You are my JOY Mordecai! I will pray for you always. I will love you forever. I will be your Diva for eternity. Don’t forget your promises:

  • Call or Skype at least twice/week.
  • Get out of the house and exercise. Don’t get fat like me!
  • Make at least one new friend.
  • Try to find a sport at school, the Y or somewhere in the community and participate.

Never forget or doubt that if you ever need me, I will drop everything and I’m there. You only have to ASK.  I will ALWAYS have your back…FOREVER!

To the Moon and Back

 

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