The Last Lady Slipper

My best friend’s grandfather is dying.  He only has a few weeks or so they are guessing.  He is not exceptionally close to his grandfather, but it is going to be hard nonetheless – if only for the fact that a genetic marker is gone…a unique place holder of a person in time and space and life is no longer there.  An anchor pulled up that leaves the survivors a bit adrift.  I have mixed emotions for my friend.  I am glad he won’t be in a ton of agony and emotionally distraught over missing someone really significant in his life.  But I am also a bit sad that he didn’t to experience what I had with my Grandma.

If you are a faithful reader, you know I have had a pretty rough childhood.  If you are new…read the ugly truth and maybe the about me page.  I didn’t have a lot of nurturing or anywhere near a normal situation.  But I did have an awesome woman for a Grandma.  She lived with her younger sister, my Great Aunt Dell, who was a pretty phenomenal gal herself.  These two feisty, strong, straight forward women had a great impact on me.  

When I was about 3 I lived on a farm in Southern Ohio with my mom, dad and brother.  Grandma and Aunt Dell lived on our property in a trailer a couple hundred feet away.  I did say SOUTHERN Ohio…did I not?  But you would be amazed at my Grandmothers trailer.  When you walked inside you were no longer in a trailer…you were transported to some other dimension in time and space.  It didn’t feel or look like a trailer…it felt like a quaint Chinese shrine of some kind or something…she had impeccable style on a budget and was ahead of her time in decorating.  And she kept it immaculate.

This little dwelling was my safe haven.  It was the place I would escape to when the screaming was too much.  I could go there when mom was talking to the voices that I didn’t hear and was freaked out by her behavior.  I could just go there and know I was in a safe, neutral place.  I felt the peace in that space.  There was order, calmness.  Grandma was the work horse of the house, Aunt Dell was the outdoor girl.  She was a tiny 4’9″ (maybe) feather of a woman, but tough enough to wrestle a bear.  She loved to take long walks.  And I loved to accompany her.

I inherited her love of nature.  On our walks she would pour out information effortlessly as we passed by any plant, tree or shrub as she called them all by name.  I eventually started learning the genus and species of certain plants and Grandma and Aunt Dell would always get such a kick out of it when I got it right.  They would make a big deal out of me like I was some genius kid, when really I was just soaking in and repeating the wealth of knowledege Aunt Dell was so kindly sharing with me. 

Our farm was big – a few hundred acres.  It was beautiful – rolling, tree covered hills, creeks and streams to play in, gardens to sneak snap peas from, lots of kitties and puppies, barns and corn cribs to play in, corn fields for hide n seek – a childhood dream.  One of Aunt Dell and I’s favorite walking destinations was a place we coined, “The big rock and fallen tree”.  Because there was a…can you guess?  YES!…a big rock near a fallen tree…and it just so happen to make an excellent stopping point to have a snack, study lots of different species of moss and lichen, or sometimes just listen.  Listen to the wind in the trees, the birds calling to each other, life standing still. 

We had to pass a small cabin on the way to this coveted destination.  This cabin was always a fascination of mine.  Who built it?  How long had it been there?  Had someone actually lived there?  It was so small and there was no flooring.  Just a small structure, a tin roof and openings for a window and door.  Nothing fancy by any means, but so magical to me.  I still have no clue the real origins of it, but I was convinced that Indians had built it and lived there.  Of course I was too ignorant to realize that Indians would never build that type of structure.  But – hey…God love my famliy for not ruining at least one fantasy of mine.

One quest Grandma who would always stay behind and utilize her alone time to clean and cook and can vegetables and who knows what else…the one quest she would always give me was to find her favorite flower – the elucid and rare Lady Slipper.  I always thought them to be strange and unattractive flowers as a child.  I know now that this is a type of orchid that was rapidly vanishing and is definitely endangered…if not, sadly, extinct by now.  I am personally responsible for probably helping that extintion along.  For at the time, it was my task and mission in life to find her a lady slipper.

It was so thrilling to actually find one.  And when I did find it, of course I had to pick it.  By the time I got it home, it had become a wilted sad excuse of a living thing.  But Grandma always made me feel as if I had just given her the most precious treasure in the world.  She would fuss over it and put it in water and somehow manage to keep it for days despite the battering I gave it. 

These are some of the greatest child hood memories I have.  Shortly after I turned 6…maybe 7, Mom and Dad couldn’t stop the inevitable and had an explosive divorce that resulted in mom basically kidnapping me of sorts, took me into hiding for a few years where dad couldn’t find us, and I don’t remember ever seeing the farm in tact again.  Dad had to sell it, Grandma and Aunt Dell moved their trailer and I never got to say good bye to the hills, the trees, the cabin, the big rock and the fallen tree, or anything.  Not even the lady slippers.

I heard a few years later the farmhouse was burned to the ground.  And the new owners of the land thought it would be profitable to rape the hillsides and sell the lumber.  The result was a drastic degradation of landscape as erosion took hold and the hills fell into the streams and forever changed the place to something completely unrecognizable.  I have never had the guts to go back and quite honestly, have no idea how to get there now of if the road even exists anymore.  But I guess dad went back once and he couldn’t even speak about it.   

Aunt Dell died a little over 2 years ago.  Grandma followed her shortly after hanging on to life solo for amost a year.  I miss them.  A lot.  I got to reconnect and spend some really good time with them their last few years.  Despite the 2.5 hour drive one way with a toddler in tow, I would make a point of visiting them every few months.  I learned so much about them that last year in particular.  Grandma would open up and talk about their childhood…their corn husk beds, unheated home with dirt floors, and her dad’s first model T Ford! How she was fascinated and frustrated with the ‘Eisenglass’ curtain window-like enclosures that never worked properly to protect from the rain.  She was becoming a real person…not just a far removed grandma like entity. 

She told me of her romances and love with a man named Carl before she had met Grandpa and how he died in a parachuting accident.  She showed me the yellowing sepia toned photos of faces and people that were long lost generational relations.  Of course there would also be my dad as a toddler and teen ager, and Grandma and Aunt Dell as young women with hip hair styles and trendy glasses.  And I never tired of seeing these photos…time after time after time.  I soaked it in.  I just loved hearing Grandma talk. 

Grandma had always been a woman of few words.  She was a blunt, matter of fact gal and said what had to be said, and not a lot more.  She wouldn’t sugar coat things – I think I may have inherited her social tact.  I still remember a convicting comment she made – so simple but harsh.  She asked me if I had done anything with my music.  She had many time been my lone audience as I banged out composition after composition on the old upright piano that we were storing for moms sister.  She knew I had something special.  When I ashamedly said, “No”.  She said.  “It figures”.  Ouch! 

A year after that I made my first and only real completed CD.  It is just instrumental piano music, but it is something.  The sad thing is that she was too deaf to ever hear it.  But Aunt Dell loved it and told her all about it.  Aunt Dell was Grandma’s ears, and Grandma was Aunt Dell’s legs and helper as Aunt Dell became increasinly less and less mobile. 

So I loved those last years with her…listening to her chatter like a little girl sometimes about the details of her interesting life.  Eventually she would talk herself out and since she couldn’t hear and would get so frustrated ‘trying’ to hear, sometimes she preferred to just sit together and hold hands.  Which I loved too.  One of my favorite moments is where I was at grandma feet and I leaned in to hug her, which turned into more of holding on to her and my daughter came up and joined in and we just stayed in that embrace for awhile.  3 generations collided.  At that moment we were all one mass.  Even though my daughter was only about 5 at the time, she seemed to sense the specialness and lingered in the beauty of something she couldn’t explain or fully understand, yet was drawn to. 

I have a picture from that visit.  One of the best pictures ever.  I was blowing bubbles and in the picture you can see the bubbles and one very young sweet hand and one very old and wise hand…waving and playing together.  Young, old souls.  Which, inspired me to write a song of course.  I’ll share in a different post…this post is long enough.  

Both funerals were terribly disappointing.  Sadly they were canned, non-unique, regurgitated words from a man reading off of some note cards to pretend that he really knew them.  And one designated family member was chosen to say a few proper words, in which he received lots of praise for by those that chose him to do the job.  They were Jehovah Witnesses, and I am not here to talk about the rights and wrongs of belief systems here.  I am just saying – it was the most drab, insincere and unsatisfying endings I have ever had to experience.  And I am still disappointed in myself for not storming the podium and saying what should have been said.

That these women were two of the strongest, feistiest, wittiest women you could have ever met.  That though they suffered phenomenal hardships, they remained stable and true.  They laughed out loud.  They said the hard things.  They loved each other and looked out for each other…their entire lives.  Though they had each loved and lost in very different ways…they had each other…always.  Their love and committment to each other was a beautiful and inspiring testimony of real love.  They were able to live with each other peacefully for nearly all of their 89-98 years of life…because they were about 8 years apart. 

It should have been said that they loved music!  Grandma was a terrific piano player – a charismatic, keyboard pounding, amazing musician.  Fittingly, Aunt Dell loved listening.  Grandma was the doer the provider, the leader.  Aunt Dell was the follower, the supporter, the companion.  Grandma made the earth’s best blue berry pies.  Seriously…there will never ever be a better pie.  Grandma loved to have a beer now and then.  Sh…!  Don’t tell the Jehovah’s.  But she did like a “malt liquor” as she would call it now and then…something like Blatz or something?? Ring a bell to anyone?  Had a bull on the can or something…too funny.

And they loved nature.  NO ONE TALKED ABOUT WHO THEY REALLY WERE!!  They were nature faires.  They were girls united together against the world.  They were full of life.  Aunt Dell was a wild woman who loved roller coasters and thrills, fast cars, and speed.  Grandma was too practical for such luxuries and silliness, but they always respected each other’s differences.  They were real.   They were old ladies with young souls.  They were full of life and experiences and had done something very few people in the world can claim…they stuck together in life!  They loved.  They put their own selfishness aside and stayed committed to each other and loved each other more than I have seen any other sisters love. 

I wish I could have said those things.  I wish I would have had the guts and grit to do for them what they deserved.  I wish I had the courage and guts to do something in that moment that they had done their whole lives…the right thing.  They were rare and unique, just like Grandma’s favorite orchid.  They were sometimes hard to find.  You had to go out of your way to get to them sometimes – they wouldn’t come to you.  But if you made the journey and took the time to meet them where they were, what an amazing, priceless gift awaited.  I wish I would have said all that.  And I wish I could have found a lady slipper to give to Grandma…one last time.

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Random things and Fairy Wings

E is 1 009Camping and Chihuly 108I love seeing the evidence of my 2 year old’s busy mind and fingers at work…randomly placed objects placed in the most odd and curious places…but ever so delicately and purposefully.  Today I opened the refrigerator to put some leftovers away and found a cootie head on the bottom shelf.  Perfectly placed right in the middle of some open space.  What was even funnier was that it had the little plastic eyes in the right holes.  She normally tries to put them anywhere but the right place.  I should have taken a picture of it, really.  These moments won’t last.  I am painfully aware as I remember these moments from my now almost 8 year old. 

She no longer puts tiny little trinkets or stuffed animals in pantries or cabinets or refrigerators while I am not looking.  She is becoming an amazing girl with her own unique ways of making me laugh and smile and try to hold onto the moments that I know will not last.  I can’t believe how blessed I am to have not one, but two precious girls.  

I wrote this song when my oldest girl was only about 3 or 4.   Some of the words were actually her own words or sayings.  Now I love to play and sing this song to both my girls and watch them dancing, twirling and laughing together.  It’s extra special when my oldest actually sings it to her little sister along with me.  It’s one of those kind of moments where you wish you could make time stand still.        

Butterfly ~ 

Dance your dance, sweet butterfly, Wings outstretched, oh sweet butterfly

Colors twinkling in your eyes.  Tiny hands reaching towards the sky

 Round and round you go butterfly.  Spin so graceful as you flutter by

I’ve never seen beauty such as this.  I love you so, you’re magnificent

 So Fly————— sweet butterfly

 Flap your wings, sweet butterfly.  Clap and sing, oh sweet butterfly

Voice so sweet and words so dear.  I’ll keep them in my heart so near

 In years to come, my sweet butterfly.  You’ll grow and soar, as the years pass by

You’ll spread your wings and you’ll fly away.  And have a butterfly of your own someday

 So fly———————-sweet butterfly

 Bridge:

Mommy, Daddy look at me…I’m a butterfly!

See my beautiful wings?  I cracked from my cocoon.

Get on board…I’ll fly you both…to the moon 

             ~  musical break ~

 Say your prayers, sweet butterfly.  Rest your head now and close your eyes

Till the moon goes down and the sun does rise.  And a new day dawns with hope and surprise

And fly———————–sweet butterfly

I think I already mentioned this story in some previous blog a few months ago – probably the one about sibling bliss and scattered fussiness – but anyway, the memory goes along with this butterfly theme and is worth repeating because it is such a great memory.  I was putting my oldest to bed and doing our nightly ritual of reading, praying, snuggling and telling a story or singing a song.  We made up a place called dreamy land that has since turned into a place called Unicornacopia, which has it’s own song now too – see below. 

But as we got more tired we talked about meeting each other on the other side…in this dream world we created.  She used to ask, “Mommy…how will I find you?  How will I recognize you there?”  And I would say, “Oh, I’ll be the one with purple and blue wings tonight.”  Because our wing color could change from night to night to keep things interesting. 

One night I asked her the same question.  She answered, “Ill be the one carrying a cocoon really tightly.  Because it will be Evie and she doesn’t have her wings just yet”. 

I love that memory.  It is one of my favorites.  I love that she embraces her inner butterfly/fairy.  And not just for her, but for her sister now too.  I don’t feel like I was allowed to do that as a child.  So the great thing is that I get to experience it with my own girls now.  I get to fly off to a pretend fairy world…even if just for a moment to entertain my little girl. 

Here is Unicornacopia.  My oldest also helped me write this one (I’m just not this creative all by myself) and can also sing it by heart.   

Unicornacopia ~

Unicornacopia.  A Unicorn Utopia.  Where little girls can visit…if they truly believe.

In Unicorns and Pegasus.  Just believe, and they exist.  Close your eyes and picture it.  And you can go there too.

But not many grown ups ever make it there. 

The realists, the cynics…they’ll never get through.

But oh what pure happiness, awaits those that do.

My little girl…she took me there. 

On her wings, we flew.

To Unicornacopia.  A unicorn utopia.  Where little girls can visit…if they truly believe.

I love being a mommy.  It is the best thing that has ever happened to me.  I have been able to look at life through their eyes and enter a place where every girl should get to go to sometimes.  A world where they are special.  A place where anything is possible.  Where faith is a way of life…believing actually brings the dream into existence.  Where flying is even possible.  

I admit that sometimes I am guilty of being that cynic or realist, but I am so thankful for the times when I am able to let go of my grown up inhibitions, dust off my fairy wings and go to that place of dreams and hopes with my daughters.  My oldest asked me if she was really a fairy one time.  And I said yes.  She said, but I don’t have wings.  And I said…yes you do.  But only I can see them.  She smiled and knew that I meant that I love her in a way that no one else can – unconditionally.  I pray she always knows and feels that.  And I pray that even in the years to come…I can always see their wings.

Rainbows or floods

My daughter and I have developed a little system of checks and balances to help each other through some of our less graceful moments.  I have already mentioned in a previous blog our code words “flowers or weeds”.  This means – “Hey…are you going to spread flowers or weeds from your heart today?”  It is basically meant to make you think about how you are treating others.   

Today my 7 year old added a new phrase.  She was complaining a lot and just looking at the bad side of everything instead of looking at all the blessings around.  It was wearing on me to the point where I couldn’t even think about flowers or weeds…I was focused on getting the grocery and possibly selling my child out in public while I was there. 

I finally said…”Look, you can choose to continue to look at all the negative around you and be miserable, or you can focus on the all the great things in your life and be a lot happier.”  Again…I felt a little tap on my shoulder…and I was thinking maybe she was just acting out a behavior she learned somewhere…like from me.  Oh, I can sometimes be a master complainer.  Traffic lights, crazy people on the roads, too many rainy days in a row, how there is not enough time in the world to get everything done…etc. 

In my conviction I went on to say, “Bad things are always going to happen in life, but even then and along the way, there is beauty to be found.”  And she said, “Like the rainbow.”  And all was quiet for a moment.  How brilliant.  Then she said what I was already thinking.  “Hey Mommy, I think we should start asking each other “rainbows or floods?’ when we need help being reminded of the good.”

Now, not only can we think about how we are acting and try to remember to spread flowers, not weeds.  But now we can focus on how we are looking at life.  Are we looking at all the bad or all the good.  Not that we will be successful in remembering these tools every time we need to, but it’s something.  Love it!!  I am so thankful to be a mom.  I’m just not that creative on my own.

The little twig that could

Just when I think I am making some real progress in getting past last years divorce…I do something stupid and realize just how much I am still holding on to so much anger that I suddenly explode like a volcano erupting, spewing out all kinds of ungraceful comments that just don’t need to be said anymore.   How does he still manage to get me so worked up about stuff?  Why do I give him that kind of satisfaction? 

I mean, here I am thinking I am rising above it all and actually making some progress in the area of forgiveness, and he says or does something that opens up the scar and sends me back to square one, I lose my foothold on forward progress and come crashing down the mountain.  Not just a little stumble, ‘oopsies’ kind of thing.  We are talking like exteme sports kinda crashing – bone crushing, body slamming, lifeless ragdoll falling kind thing.  Yes, the kind that makes you squint, turn your head and say outloud, “Ouch”!  And just to clarify – I am only speaking figuratively…there is no physical abuse going on.  Just a very disappointing back slide of emotions. 

I think it has to do with his lack of repentence and consistent arrogance through this entire thing.  He claimed I was his dream girl of 20 years…his golden standard…the one that got away.   He finally gets me, knocks me up, then pursues another so called ‘dream’ while I am pregnant and having our baby.  It turns out I was just a thing to be conquered and put into a high tower.  He lied to me countless times…BIG, HAIRY lies…And he continues to do so and walk around like he is some great sincere guy.  It is mind boggling to me.     

I have read extensively on what happens to the psyche of people who’s spouses have had affairs.  I had to do this because I honestly thought I was losing my mind and since we spent too much money on a marriage counselor that only raped us financially, shook our hands and said, “Yep…looks like you guys are headed for a divorce.” I had no money left to get some much needed grieving counseling.

I have experienced such extreme lows and fits of rage this past year that it is embarrasing to blog it out, but I am simply doing so because maybe someone else can feel some comfort in maybe knowing that they are not crazy or alone if they have gone through or are going through something similar.  I am thankful to say I have never hurt anyone, my rage was always taken out on inadament objects like a poor unsuspecting cell phone or a plastic laundry detergent bottle or shoes.  They became little missles I would launch in the privacy of my own home when I was all alone.   

I have come so far.  Really.  Even my dad said to me recently that he is so glad to see me in such a better state of mind than last year.  He confessed he was so worried about me that he didn’t quite know what to do.  There was one time in particular that really scared him…I was in the very pit of despair…at the climax of vomitting out all the shock, pain and confusion…I was actually saying the words “I want to die”.  It wasn’t just words I was saying.  It was a deep groaning of my soul, an exhausted waving of the white flag, and death of a love that I didn’t want to accept. 

The ONLY thing that kept me from doing it was my girls.  That plus the fact that I remember distinctly the day that my own mother almost successfully attempted suicide.  She had tried several times with drugs that seemed more like a cry for attention.  But this time was different.  She had slit both ankles and wrists and was bleeding to death in the bathtub.  I was supposed to be the one to find her at the ripe age of 8 I am guessing…my childhood is a blur…exact dates and times escape me.  The only way I can place that age is because my brother and I are 8 years apart and he had just started driving. 

He had some kind of 6th sense going on that day.  He raced home from football practice early and found her in time to save her.  I got off the school bus to find an ambulance at the house, a stretcher carrying a lifeless body with a sheet covering it completely and my brother following behind as white as a ghost.  I really thought she was dead.  Life changed that day.  I have only thanked Mike once for that…because we have only spoke of this event once.  It is a memory too painful and horrifying that we as siblings just don’t approach.  But with all that said as much as I may have felt like wanting to do it…there is no way in hell I would ever do that to anyone I love…especially my own children.   

So I cried more last year – deep, convulsive, body shuttering sobbing – than I thought was possible.  When I wasn’t actively crying, I would passively stare off into space, sitting there lifeless, as my baby – not even one yet – would be trying to get my attention and looking at me as if to say, “umm…what’s up mommy…que pasa”? 

I remember thinking how thankful I was to have my sweet girls…keeping me going, but also forcing me to have to function, and respond to them and put on a happy face.  My ex and his parents told me to never let the children see me cry.  Well…my children saw me cry.  I did try to minmize it, but I wasn’t always successful.  I actually found it to be a chance to talk about emotions and how it is healthy to express yourself and be real, instead of putting on a fake plaster smile – at least with my older daughter.         

All this depression and emotion was a strange reaction to many because we had been fairly unhappy for quite some time.  Many people didn’t really see it as a surprise that he had been having an affair at all.  I, on the other hand had refused to see the truth, as many victims tend to do.  We make excuses, justifying events just because we are simply naive and in a blind state of love.  Also, if you are a loyal kind of soul, cheating is so unfathomable that it is honestly the last thing you would think ANYone would do…especially your own spouse.  You think to yourself – that could never happen to me.  

WAKE UP!! It CAN happen to you.  If you are married, you are at risk.  The break down of a marraige is like tooth decay.  Fortunately everyone is aware that you have to brush your teeth at least twice a day to keep your teeth from rotting out.  Well…marriage requires the same kind of proactive work.  Not just being aware of each others needs, perspective,  feelings, desires, and dreams but…actually loving that other person even when you don’t feel like they deserve it.

When spouses travel a lot, the risk increases exponentially.  My ex was gone 80% of the time and sometimes more.  When a spouse is gone that much, there is not a lot of time for the proactive kind of work that needs to be going on.  There is a lot of desperate action and reaction and starvation of emotions.  In my case…I just starting shutting down and going into a depression-and-isolation mode while he chose a more social, lean-on-a-close-friend kind of route. 

I could go and list all his offenses.  There are so many.  But I would only sound like a bitter and self righteous victim.  I am not blameless.  I ignored my spouses cries for attention.  Wrapped up in my own isolation and depression I couldn’t reach outside of my own selfish needs and give him what he desperately wanted and needed.  He, in his busyness of work and traveling, being pulled in a million directions and feeling overwhelmed couldn’t see beyond his own selfish needs to recognized my needs.  We both had such very different needs. 

He needed his ego stroked.  He needed to know that he was important, the greatest at whatever he was doing.  He needed to know he was the center of my world, a hero, the most important thing.  He needed someone to listen for hours upon hours about how he was the only one in the company that really cared or worked as hard as he did.  He needed physical acts of submission and love that I couldn’t sincerely muster up because I was so starved for so many other kinds of emotional needs that were not being met.  Men…you don’t just show up after being consistently absent from your family’s life and so many important events and get to have the Hollywood sex scene moment.  Wives – especially stay at home wives with younger children are exhausted and neglected and need a little more than a body fresh from the airport to get in the mood. 

At some point along the way, we ended up on very different pages of life.  That is how it happens.  The decay of a marriage.  Just like with teeth…it doesn’t happen over night.  It is a long term neglect that left alone slowly eats away.  Little by little a hug missed here, a hurtful comment there, and before you know it a chasm starts appearing – that left unchecked can become a grand canyon.  You look at your spouse one day and they are miles away from you though you are sitting on the same couch. 

I had always hoped that I would be a lucky statistic that got to talk to folks about how they can repair their marriage – because I had been there and we made it through!  But instead, I am a different statistic.  I just get to give some warning signs and observe where it went wrong.  Because two people really have to want to be a statistic on that survivor side together.  You just can’t do it alone.  Maybe that is why that marriage counselor washed his hands of us the 2nd visit we made to his office.  He was the expert who had seen that look in a cheating spouses eyes a million times.  He could spot a man who had already ’emotionally checked out of the marraige long ago’ when he saw it. 

I think in our case the chance for reparation had already passed.  Like a stage 4 cancer, I guess.  If we had only arrived at the counselor’s office a year ago…maybe there could have been a chance.  Though I was just silly enough to still believe in miracles.  It’s all total speculation at this point.  My ex happens to have a character flaw that put us at a disadvantage – he had already done this once.  I just didn’t really know all the details until my own marriage started crumbling – then people start revealing the ‘other side of the story’.  He had been married once before and had an affair and ended the marriage.

All this to say – I am just not over it all yet, dagonit.  As much as I wish I could stand here victorious and healed and restored…I am still just a work in progress.  I realize that I have not completely forgiven him or her.  I also have some serious struggles with trust.  As much as I would like to say I am beyond it all, I am just not.  I am still so angry.  I keep trying to let it go and move beyond it.  And, yes, I AM making progress, but I have just not arrived to that place of peace yet.  I have had moments of it.  I have more good days than bad now.  But I am still somehow under the influence of anger and unforgiveness. 

My hope this year is to get to the real root of it all.  It may not even be what I think it is.  I have had a rough life.  Not saying that in a poor, pitiful kind of thing…just in comparison to the majority of people I know.  It can take a toll on the soul after awhile.  In the interest of my girls and myself, this year, I hope to dig it up…get to the heart of it and get it behind me.  I couldn’t stop the decay of my marriage…well not in time.  But I can stop the decay of my soul.  I know it is all about perspective, but there is something even deeper that I need to embrace.  Perspective can change too easily depending on what side of the fence you are standing on from day to day. 

No, what I am talking about is deliverance.  The kind of thing that looks and feels like a miracle.  I couldn’t be that miracle of the ‘repaired marriage’ kind.  But I do hope to be a miracle of the ‘divorced single mom’ kind.  I hope to be the kind of person that people can honestly say – wow…now there is a gal that has been there and has it together now…a picture of hope and joy.  If for no one else in the world than for my girls.  I want them to see what total restoration looks like.

Yes, I am still a twig.  A little twig pushing my way through the dirt after a fire (if this is cyptic to you see the ‘about me’ page for clarification).  Still hoping and praying to be a big strong tree someday.  I’m a little twig that needs to dig deeper, stretch my roots deeper into the dirt to find the room and strength to keep reaching my arms up higher towards the sky.  That is the only way I am going to be the strong tree that my girls will need me to be.  The time is now – I know that I have to dig deeper to reach higher.

Great Expectations

Again…a blog with a great classic book title, yet nothing to do with the classic book.  I just like the titles.  I think I will have to come up with future blogs entitled To kill a Mockingbird, and A Death of a Salesman.  Hmm…my ex husband was a salesman…I am thinking I should stay away from that one.  Err!  Tangent break… 

Before I became a mom, the God I knew was very real, but also very rigid, stern, distant, and vengeful. I definitely had a healthy fear and respect for the Father. But I didn’t get that He is also a compassionate daddy that really loves me and is in my corner…rooting me on every step of the way. I never understood that until I myself became a parent. As I long for joy, happiness and success for my own daughters, I am slowly realizing just how much my heavenly daddy wants that for me in my life too.

 
A few weeks ago I had the great plan of taking my 2 year old to a place called the ‘Kingdom of Bounce’ (you have to say this with a cheesy game show host voice and put an echo on it…go ahead…do it. I’ll wait). Well, my 2 year old was completely happy with taking her usually walk around the block for the 100th time that week. But it was cold and rainy on this day and personally, I couldn’t wait to see the joy in her face and excitement when she got to this great place. I knew she would love it.

 
But, as a 2 year old would do, she protested. She threw a fit. She knew what she wanted to do. She had her own agenda and was oblivious to my great plans for her. Hmmm…what should I do at this moment? Take her kicking and screaming against her will, strap her into the car and reward her anyway for throwing a tantrum and disobeying me? That didn’t seem right.

 

I decided to wait. I tried telling her what I had in mind, but since she had never experienced it, she really couldn’t grasp it fully. Thankfully she finally got enough information, turned around and came on her own free will. Though she didn’t fully understand exactly what I was saying, she did at least decide to put enough faith in me to settle down and submit her own will…and take a chance that I just might have something good planned for her.

 
I saw myself in that moment. I have many times been that little girl throwing a tantrum because I want to do what I want to do. I get so afraid of missing out or doubt that God really knows and understands what I really need at that moment. I am guilty of thinking that following the plan and guidelines that God has laid out for me might be boring, or less fulfilling than what I think I should be experiencing. Too many times I have settled for a rainy walk around the block rather than surrendering my own will and getting to experience the Kingdom of Bounce (go ahead…I know you want to do it…you know…the echo thingy).

 
But God won’t force us to do the right thing. No more than I can force my daughters to make the right choices. Unfortunately, sometimes they have missed out on some great plans I had for them, just because they were being stubborn at the moment. And If I, in my limited capacity am always hoping for such wonderful happiness and things for their lives…how much more is a perfect heavenly daddy planning awesome things for my own life and for the life of my girls?

Jeremiah 29:11 says:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.

 
That is a pretty awesome declaration. He’s not just our daddy, he is our creator. He molded us. He carved us out. He is hoping and waiting for us to choose the right thing…just so, like me with my own children…he can catch us doing the right thing and reward us. I mean – he had the Garden of Eden in mind for us!!!  God’s plans are not meant to detract from or completely sap the joy and fun right out of our lives…honest.  If you know me, you would say I was a pretty fun person to be around…I think…maybe?  Monday’s don’t count…oh yea…and neither does last year.  Anyhoo… 

It’s kind of like this. “This is your life” Now picture a little kid walking around the block pulling a wagon in the rain. “This is your life on faith” Now picture a little kid bouncing on a huge inflatable bouncy thing laughing and having the time of their lives.  Now THAT’s what I’m talking about.  Faith and obedience doesn’t take away joy…it enhances and adds to our potential joy.

In our limited capacity to hope and dream, we could never imagine what great and awesome things he has laid out for us. He knows what makes us tick…He knows what we really need…He desires for us to come willingly when He calls rather than kicking and screaming. The challenge then for us is realizing that, learning to listen and obey, and then experience some real and total joy…far beyond what our limited great expectations could ever be.

You Are So Beautiful

One of my favorite songs to sing to my daughters is Joe Cocker’s You are so Beautiful. They are everything I hoped for and everything I need, and so completely beautiful to me. From head to toe and everything in between…I simply love every single inch of them…even their arm pits. Now THAT is love. I think I have horrified several people when I say that at times I feel like I could eat them whole – especially at the 1-3 years age range. It’s just my way of trying to convey they are so irresistibly beautiful and yummy to me that I can’t put in words how much I love them…I can’t get close enough…I want to consume them.

But their beauty is not just skin deep to me. I love their hearts and minds and souls. I love big things and little things about them. I love listening to my little one drinking her milk, breathing at night, hearing all the little sounds and new words she is discovering. I love being on the journey with my older daughter as she is learning to read, write, teach me new facts that sometimes I actually did not know. Are you smarter than a 5th grader is apparently too advanced for me…I am many times enlightened by my 2nd grader.

And there is nothing more beautiful to me than watching them dancing, laughing, playing, reading and singing together. Nothing. Sometimes they are in their own little worlds oblivious I am watching. Other times they make a big production and insist I sit down on the couch just to specifically watch them do their thing. And what a great thrill it is when they pull me by the hand and invite me to join in on the performance. We all rock out together. These are some of my favorite moments in time.

Their beauty is always there. I can always manage to find it. And it is not because they are the world’s most beautiful children. I mean, they are gorgeous, but that’s not the kind of beauty I am talking about. I am talking about some inner, unique beauty that they possess that only I can really see completely. Because as a parent I think they are so full of potential, life, joy, and learning that just seeing the world through their eyes makes me love them even more.

My 7 year old is approaching the dreaded age of self awareness. She is starting to be aware of self image, body shapes, hair styles and clothing choices. I am lucky – she has been pretty laid back compared to some other girls her age. We have not had any fits about clothing or hair yet, she is just starting to have an “opinion” about likes and dislikes. I’m ok with that. I am NOT ok, however, with her being worried about her weight already and being concerned if she is too fat, too skinny.

The root of her question is much deeper. She is asking…am I lovable. Do you think I am pretty…do you think I am beautiful…do people like me…do you love me? It tears me up that she would even ask such a thing. But then I feel that tap on my shoulder and realize that I am in her same shoes. I wonder those same things. Am I good enough? Am I smart enough? Am I pretty? Am I lovable?

At my jaded age and experience, I have some valid reasons to question these things. At least that is what I tell myself…until I start to think about how my creator must feel when I ask that question. He probably feels the same exact hurt that I feel when my daughter questions her worth, her value, her beauty.

To me, she is the most perfect little creation. She is exactly how she is supposed to be. She is mine and I love her – imperfections and all. It kills me to think she doubts herself. It makes me feel like I am not enough. It is like a slap in the face when I give so much of myself to her, for her, and love her so completely, yet she still has doubts about feeling loved. How could she feel that way?!

 Umm…well, I do too. And why do I do that to me? Why do I do that to my creator? Didn’t he create me just like he wanted me to be? When I cut myself down…aren’t I really just cutting down God’s own creation? I am criticizing his work of art. He took the time to make me the exact way he wanted me, and yet I dare reject it? Who am I to be so ungrateful and spoiled?

Yet, I love my daughter SO much that even during her times of doubt and questions, as much as it may hurt me, I still feel mercy, grace and kindness for her. It makes my heart ache to love her even more. Instead of wanting to give her a speech about how much I love her…I want at those moments to just show her…to wrap my arms around her and assure her that she is the most beautiful thing in the world to me, and remind her how greatly loved she is by all those around her.

If I, in my imperfect love, my conditonal love – as hard as I may try to love completely unconditionally and I still fail…but if I can love my daughters as much as I do with all my failures…How much more does the pefect heavenly daddy love me?  I also try to tell my girls that – I tell them, “Do you know how much I love you? – well God loves you EVEN MORE!!!”  I am always so afraid that in my short comings I might skew their view on what real, unconditional love is. 

Being a mommy is the closest I will ever come to understanding, if even a tiny bit, how much my creator possibly loves me and how beautiful I am in His eyes…even when I don’t feel like it. I don’t always do a good job of remembering this or acting like it. But as I get older I am starting to realize that life is really not all about me and that my outward beauty really doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.

I know some stunningly outwardly beautiful people that act so mean and ugly that they are actually unattractive. I honestly have to remind myself that God made even them too and that He loves them…no matter how disappointed he is in their behavior. I also know some people that by the world’s standards may not be “lookers”, yet they are so good, so kind and possess some kind of inner strength that they are absolutely beautiful.  I am drawn to these people and want to be around them. 

I try to focus on that fact. I fail a lot, but I try to remember that at the end of the day, it is really not how many people thought I was pretty as much as how many people I made a positive impact on. Everyone loves a good compliment now and then. I am no exception, but the best compliments I can receive have to do with comments on my character or actions rather than my looks.

I try to convey this message to my 7 year old. I think she gets it in her head…not sure how deep in her soul it is sinking. She has a lot of lessons and growing to do. After all, her mom of 38 is still learning and struggling with it. I may be farther along than her, and can hopefully guide her in the right direction…reinforcing her inner beauty, her sweet characteristics, all the things I love the very most about her. All of which really have nothing to do with her looks.

Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. What kind of eyes do you see people through? I hope to be beautiful. I try to be. I fail a lot. But the great thing is that even when I fail, I am still loved. That is the main thing I hope my girls know. I love them all the time. When they are on their best behavior or at their lowest point…I may not always like their actions, but they are always so very beautiful to me and more importantly…I always love them.  If I get through life and my girls can honestly believe that…I will feel as if I have really accomplished something very, very important.

The Giving Tree

This is not about the Shel Silverstein book.  I am honestly not a big fan of that book…it is depressing to me.  It seems like such a one sided relationship of the tree giving everything and not really receiving anything back.  Since I am also a big nature nut and tree hugger at heart, the story was more hurtful to me than positive.  But hey – for you fans out there…more power to you. 

No, the giving tree I am talking about tonight is the circuit of giving and receiving.  The concept of Paying it forward, if you will.  I just had that happen to me tonight, and it was amazing.  I didn’t write my last blog as a ploy to get readers to feel obligated to reach out and help me in a time of need.  I hope I didn’t sound pathetic and distraught.  I was merely sharing what is going on in our lives right now and being my brutally honest self.  But I am also going to be very clear in saying a huge thank you to those that did feel moved to act.  Thankfulness eclipses any sense of pride in this case.

Thanks Judy for coordinating a donation of groceries and gift cards and delivering it to my door.  Wow.  Tara, thanks for your gesture and showing a bit of vulnerability that only makes me feel closer to you.  Though I think we could have squeaked by without these acts, I am so very thankful we don’t have to.  The groceries met a real physical need.  The thought and act met a deeper and probably even more important and spiritual need…it brought “hope”.  Hope that we are not alone.  Hope in humanity.  Hope in community.   

Though I don’t go into the gruesome details of our situation with my 7 year old…she’s not stupid.  She sees our pantry at an all time low.  She gets the messsage that things are a little different right now.  She was home when Judy knocked on the door and delivered the bags.  Just an hour earlier we were having dinner discussing angels, and pondering how is it that God can actually see all our lives at the same time.  You should have seen the look of joy and eureka when I got to tell her that “Angels have been at work”.  That was awesome. 

I also have to say that I am thankful on another level.  This one is interesting to me.  This past year I have donated groceries to food pantries, food drives, and animal shelters.  I have also hand delivered groceries and meals to several friends and families in need, just because.  Because ignoring the situation would have slowly numbed my soul and turned my heart to stone.  When I give, it feels good to me.  Though selfishness is not my driving motivation – I honestly want to help people, I am just saying…it is an interesting consequence.  It helps me to remember that when I am on the receiving end of things…knowing that if I refuse the help or deny someone of doing something they feel led to do…I would not only hurt myself, but I may also rob someone else of a different kind of blessing.  It feels good to give.  It makes you feel alive.

Along those same lines – and I think this is important too.  I am so thankful I gave when I could because at times like this…it makes receiving even sweeter.  I wonder if I had not given when I felt led to do so…if I would be over burdened with guilt, rather than just be able to receive the gift and count it as a blessing?  I am not sure, but I am guessing it may have taken some of the joy out of it.  So, please…I am not saying how great I am for giving in the past, and I am not minimizing the blessing that I just received.  I am just saying – I think it all works together…like a “real” giving tree.  You plant a seed, it grows and produces fruit, you pay it forward, plant a seed…etc. 

You can bet when we are back on our feet again, we will continue to look for opportunities to help and spread “hope” to others.  We sponsor a little girl in Haiti that my daughter helped choose on line (sounds a bit weird when I put it like that).  Though I may have to postpone my payments for a period of time, I am so thankful for this little girl in our lives.  We get to write letters to her and receive letters from her and my daughter has in increased awareness for the plight of others.  Not that she always acts like it or remembers it…but heck, neither do I. 

But this situation we are in, brings it all home on a different level.  When you are not sure where your next meal is coming from and suddenly groceries appear on your doorstep…it is powerful. 

Hey. I know I am brutally and self depricatingly honest.  Maybe to a fault.  You either love me or hate me for it.  I write details of my life for me, not to impress, anger, or shock anyone.  I share it in this blog because it is real and it is also something I feel “led” to do, at least for now.  As long as I continue to feel that whatever I might be sharing is in a positive light and that it just might help someone else, I will keep doing it.  If nothing else, it might be good to know that you are not alone or perhaps you can use me as an example of how your life isn’t really so bad after all (yes…laugh here…just a little bit please). 

I have been hit with a pay it forward.  The giving tree visited and I am thankful.  If I had any doubts before that we were going to be ok, I am greatly encouraged.  We are not alone on our own island of isoation and desperation.  If anyone out there thinks you are on that island, you are wrong too.  But you may have wave a white flag, swallow some pride and send out your “SOS” bottle to make your needs known if you really want some help.  Don’t expect that the world will just “know”.  You may have to be a little self depricating too, or take matters in your own hands.  I honestly had readied myself to head down to the food pantry and may still have to do so before all is said and done.  I honestly didn’t expect groceries to arrive at my doorstep, but I am so thankful they did!

We are all part of this tapestry.  This awesome and terrible condition called life.  We are like trees…roots all intertwined and connected beneath the surface.  When you are in the situation to give…give.  When you are in the situation to receive…recieve.  It is just the way it is.  Depending on which side you are on at any given moment doesn’t make you “better than” or “worse than” anyone else.  It makes you human.   

Thanks you wonderful readers you.  Have an awesome day!  I would love to hear some of your thoughts out there on this or anything on your mind.  Don’t be afraid to leave a comment.  Sometimes I feel all lonely here in cyberspace just spilling my guts to the world.  = )     

See Ya,

Lee, serotinous seed, and hopefully one day…a tree.  Maybe even a giving tree.