Friday, December 9, 2016

You are Not My Mother-Revisited

I posted this a couple of years ago and as I walk through this holiday season, my 21st without my mother, I think about her so much, and miss her even more.  I was looking for a photo, from my blog, unrelated to the holidays or my mother, and this blog post showed up and I loved it so much I wanted to repost it.  I know some of you can relate.

A friend posted on social media the other day, sharing her grief. Sharing how much she wished she could go talk to her mother again, just one more time. Her mother died less than a year ago and she is having a hard time with that empty space, believe me, I know that feeling.  More than 18 years later I still have times when I find it hard to cope with the empty space, wish I could talk things over with my mother, get her point of view and advice.  The grief can, at times, feel overwhelming.  One person commented saying, "I am always here if you need someone to talk things over with", or something like that, I don't remember exactly. 

I get that a bit as well.  Those, well meaning individuals, offering up their time.  "I am here to stand in for her if you need me."  "When you need someone to talk things over with just call me".  So many different offers, in different ways.  From people I barely know and a couple from family members.  But you know a brother or an aunt is not the same, let alone some stranger I only know online. 

I am not trying to hurt any one's feelings, or discount the generous offer.  I know the offers come from a good place, a place of love and care. But it feels at times like these offers are minimizing the importance of my mother, and her place in my life.  It feels like there is an implication that my mother's presence, thoughts, feelings, history can be replaced, or her absence eased.  That is NOT the case.  My mother was insurmountably important in my life, that space can never be filled, her absence is deep. 

If you have lost your mother, you get it.  My mother was not perfect, and our relationship had its ups and downs.  I don't parent the way my mother parented me, we are very different.  But she knew me from the beginning.  She knew me inside and out.  She knew how I felt when my first boyfriend moved away.  She knew my thoughts and feelings when I joined the army.  She was there when I was young and worried about death, started my period, started driving, met Jackson.  She shared the joys and fears.  She loved me truly unconditionally.  And there is a difference.  I know that if I have a disagreement with family, we might not talk for a while, but they will always be there for me, and I for them.  But with my mother, we could have a disagreement of any magnitude and she would be there to tell me it will be OK, that I have to do what I think is right, that I have to think for myself.  She would hug me and we would go on, and I would turn to her the very next day to talk about something else.  With my mom it wasn't always about having someone to go to and talk about life's problems.  It was having someone that I could be with and not talk at all, and she would know already what was wrong.  That she knew the history behind all my decisions, faults, joys, accomplishments, and relationships.  I didn't have to explain where I was coming from, because she knew. 

I do have family and friends that fill some of the gaps that her absence has left.  But there are things about that mother-daughter relationship that I will never know.  And that can never be replaced.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Holiday Cheering Up

I have not blogged lately, I just haven't had the heart after this past election.  I was so saddened by the open demonstrations of hatred and bigotry here in this country, especially here in the South.  I fear for my friends, their rights and their safety.  It really hurts my heart and disrupts the peaceful environment I work to create for myself and my family.

So the week after the election, Phillip and I decided we needed a little early holiday cheer.  Here at our house we always have a live tree, and start decorating the day after Thanksgiving.  This year we decided to start a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, so we opted for a second tree, and yes a fake one.  So our first tree of the season came from Lowes, and Phillip helped me pick everything out.  I had originally picked out purple and teal decorations so I am not sure how we ended up with red and gold, but it is beautiful and just the pick-me-up I needed.  Here is the tree...

It is a little more manicured than our real tree, and even though it is beautiful it isn't totally my "style", but it does the trick.

After we decorated the tree it needed a tree skirt.  I wanted to crochet one, I knew I could find a pattern online somewhere and I did.  The pattern is SIMPLE, and I found the yarn at OSuzannah's Yarn on Union Street here in Morganton.  I picked the traditional colors to go with this traditional tree, but she has so many different colors I can see this in purple and teal, haha.  The pattern is called SmoothFox's Christmas Tree Skirt and it is a basic chevron pattern, I altered it a bit but the pattern is easy to follow.  A beginner pattern that can easily be completed in a weekend.  

This tree has just brought my light back, I can feel it.  That tree and time.  I am a processing person, whenever I run up against obstacles or problems, I need to work the problem. I spend time thinking things through, or if you ask my husband, talking things through.  That out-loud process really helps me think, even if I am talking to myself.  Then I need a plan.  Before I can get back into my peaceful space I need to have a plan forward. And I have one.  There are a couple of things I plan to do to help here, in my local community, work for and with my local community.  And I think that will help me move forward.  I am back on track and have a few more blog posts planned for the near future.  So do whatever it takes to bring peace and light to your life, it is worth it, take care of yourself before you can take care of others. Sometimes I think we forget that.  

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween

We enjoy Halloween.  For the past I don't know how many years, we have gone to a friend's house for a Halloween get together and this year it was last night.  We enjoy dressing up, although I generally don't have time for myself, this year I did.  I just like the connection of the holiday.  That time I spend with the boys helping them figure out how to make their characters come to life, what tools, make up, costume pieces we will need and how much time I think it will take to pull it all together.  The boys are generally more creative than I, but this year I came up with a couple of great ideas myself.  Jackson on the other hand.....what can I say, he has his own sense of humor about Halloween and comes up with his own character ideas and costumes.  Here are a few pics from yesterday.

Dallen as the headless horseman.  I thought his make up turned out pretty nice.

Phillip as Arthur from Stephen King's, I Am the Doorway.

My witchy self.  

Jackson as Cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Why I Vote...

I was asked recently, for a different project, to sum up why I vote, in one or two sentences.  Yeah, in just one or two sentences, not an easy task.  So I thought about it for a while, I had to separate "what I vote for" from the real, deeper reasons "why I vote", the why not the what.  The what may change from year to year but the why stays the same.  This is what I wrote

"I feel it is my responsibility to vote. 100 years ago I would not have been able to vote. The women that fought for my right to vote, hold me up on their shoulders, encouraging me to go higher. I vote for myself, and to honor that commitment. The second and third reasons I vote, are my children, the boys in the photo. I have nurtured them all their lives and I feel it is my duty to ensure that I do my best to leave this world in a better place, for them, in many different ways, part of that includes voting."

Not bad, for a couple of sentences. But in contemplating the what and the why I got teary eyed thinking about  my boys and the voting process. I have always tried to be an example for my boys. Living my process out loud for them to see and hear.  My boys are now 19 and 22. My oldest voted in the past presidential election, for my youngest this is his first presidential election. I have always taken time when preparing to vote. I research all the candidates, watch debates, go to forums and town hall meetings, from county commissioner on up. I really think local elections are so important on a local level, even more so than presidential elections. I have always tried to involve the boys in this process and I had taken them to the polls with me when they were younger. Now, years later it is nice to see them researching the candidates themselves and taking this seriously. I know younger citizens don't feel as much of a "need" to vote, often times bypassing the process altogether. My mom instilled in me the importance of voting and I wanted my boys to pick that commitment up from me as well.

I love hearing their thoughts and ideas about different candidates, I love listening to them pick the candidate's web sites apart, and discuss what the candidates are NOT talking about, the meaning behind candidates words. It just makes my heart burst to see what thoughtful, informed voters they are. Love my BOYS, such good young men!

So if you have young ones yourself, involve them in the process.  That doesn't mean making them research candidates with you.  Just live your life out loud, take them with you when you can (if they are real young bring toys with you to keep them entertained if you have to wait).  Be the example. It does make a difference.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Sexual Assault is NOT a Joke

I have been holding off posting this, I just wasn't sure that I wanted to go public with such a private matter in my life.  Even after all these years and knowing what I know now, there is still that twinge of fear and shame. The words sexual assault have been tossed around recently until they have almost no meaning any more. People have said that it is "boys will be boys" and the talk of sexual violations has been deemed "locker room talk".  I want to tell everyone reading that sexual assault is very much real and devastating.

I was sexually assaulted at the age of 15, every school day for over a year, by a teacher.  I was a naive 15 year old.  But this man groped, grabbed, kissed and fondled me every school day, and I cried every school night, and some days too.  I remember feeling ashamed and fearful.  I remember feeling like my body was not my own.  I remember wishing with all my heart that someone would figure it out and set me free. I was afraid to say a word.  I was paralyzed.  I lived day to day until I finally gathered together enough courage to tell him to stop. I remember realizing, at that point, that he was more afraid of me telling someone, than I was in all of my fear.  Would anyone have believed me? I don't know.  But I never told anyone for a very long time.

I worked through much of this with a couple of college professors that really helped me process what had happened and my feeling about everything.  I told Jackson and a couple of close friends, and that is it.  I have kept it in all these years.  More fear I guess.

But I need to say something now, share my story.  Sexual assault is not a game, it is not something to laugh at, or set aside.  It is real, it hurts, and it shows something about the character of the perpetrator. Don't sweep it under the rug, shed light into the dark.  Remember all the stories you have heard over the past weeks as you head to the polls.  Remember me, remember my hurt, remember my fear, See my face as you vote. Remember the lives devastated by sexual assault and ask yourself if this is what you want to see in your president.  Sexual assault changes a person, it changes the course of their life, how they live, how they think about the world and about themselves.

I carry ALL of my baggage proudly now, as it is what has made me the woman I am today. I feel that the events of my life have helped birth (with a huge amount of work) a strong, confident, powerful woman, and I can now say that I love who she was then, and I love who she is now.  I can give comfort to that assaulted child that still lies within me.

This is a page in one of my art journals.  A friend added the picture on the left and the quote she wrote is spot on and means a great deal to me.  If you can't read it, it says "I can't abandon the person I used to be, so I carry her."  I do, I carry her.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Ups and Downs of This Year's Herbal Conference

I was excited about this year's herbal conference, I was unable to attend last year and really missed that boost of herbal mojo.  And this year did not disappoint.  It was such a beautiful weekend up in the mountains, the speakers were engaging.  I learned a little about herbs, and a little about myself.  I came away with that boost I had been missing and I can't wait for next year.

Let me start with the down, for me anyway.  The very first session of the entire conference started out with us yelling out our names, OK so that let me know what kind of a session this was going to be.  And the last 30 minutes or so was "SMALL GROUP INTERACTION".  Yes those dreaded words, break up into groups of three and.....  I  hate hearing that, "break up into small groups".  And we each took turns, in our groups of three, talking about ourselves (yes there was a specific topic) to two strangers.  That isn't really my thing.  So I spoke for a minute, volunteered to go first to get it over with.  And yeah, no I didn't take up all my "allotted time", and no I had nothing else to say.  I know many people find it easy to share their souls to strangers, more so than to friends.  I am not one of those people, for me it is harder with strangers.  That feeling of judgment maybe, I don't know.  Luckily for me that was the ONLY session of the conference that had any "group activity".

I did bring my knitting along, and that provided a couple of benefits this time around.  The one benefit, that I recognize and why I bring it, is that I have something to do, so I don't feel like I am just sitting there staring.  I have something to do, to take my mind off of things.  Also this time I had a couple of people come up to talk to me about knitting, an easy topic for me to talk about and connect with people.

A real positive for me this year, happened during lunch on Saturday.  There were a few food trucks at the conference and a few picnic tables, lots of space to spread out on the grass if you want and have lunch and just relax and process or socialize if you like.  In years past I generally get my lunch and then go spread out on the grass somewhere, knit, eat and relax.  This year I decided I was going to sit with a few other women if there was space at a table, and there was.  I think that space was waiting just for me.  So I went up and asked if the spot was free, introduced myself and sat there.  The other women were so nice, we chatted about the conference, about our lives, where we were from etc.  Just general chit chat.  It was nice, it was out of my comfort zone, and I enjoyed it.  I need to do more of this. ....Maybe next year.  One year I hope to fully embrace the social experience of the conference, and not just the information side, baby steps.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Suicide Prevention-Out of the Darkness

Many of you know that my family and I participated in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's "Out of the Darkness" walk, in Asheville NC this past Sunday. It was such a moving and emotional experience, I shed more than a few tears.  There were so many people there, far too many.  People who had lost friends, relatives, parents, children or were struggling themselves.  Here is a picture of my family before we headed up the mountain for the walk.  I just love my family and am so glad they decided to share this day with me, they were there to give me hugs and offer support.

I gathered photos for the memory wall at the event.  And it always hits me hard when I think about all that I have missed out on not having a father during my parenting years, and all that my boys have missed out on, not having a grandfather. So many missed memories, so many missed connections, and just a life that my boys will never know.  
He was an awesome grandfather.  Unfortunately my oldest doesn't remember him at all, and I was pregnant with my youngest when we lost my father to suicide.  So much missed.

For those of you that don't know our story, I lost my father to suicide on Halloween, 1996.  So it will be 20 years ago this coming Halloween, October 31, 1996.  We were living in Germany at the time and we were handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters.  My older brother was the one to call and tell me the news.  Not a memory I like to think about.  

As we approach Halloween, I think of him often, more often than usual.  And I think about all we can do to prevent suicide.  So as you look at my photos let me give you some facts to think about.  Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.  The annual suicide rate per 100,000 individuals is 12.93.  The North Carolina rate is 13.04, we rank above the national average with Burke County falling in at 16.99, ranking us 13th out of all 100 counties in North Carolina.  It is the second leading cause of death for 15-34 year olds and the third leading cause of death for 10-14 year olds.  These are OUR CHILDREN!  This is preventable.  

We need trained nurses in the schools, we need teachers, parents and peers trained in signs of suicidal thoughts, and what to do if someone is thinking/talking about suicide or struggling with depression.  This is a HUGE deal folks.  You can learn more about what you can do here at the AFSP site.  

Also read about your state statistics here at the AFSP statistics page.  And ask questions when talking to your candidates for city and county commissioner.  Find out what they plan to do to reduce suicide in your county, let them know that this is a priority and you are watching/listening to what they have to say and will vote accordingly.  This is a national epidemic that is swept under the rug, ignored, shamed.  Mental health is important to us all, living in a healthy society benefits everyone.