Reflections, Work Stuff

Thinking Outside Yourself

I was recently told by someone I see nearly on a daily basis:

“I like your blog. You’re a good writer and I really enjoy reading your work. You should write a how-to-live manual.”

(Hi Tiff)

I don’t know if she said those exact words, but that’s the take away from what I heard.

First of all, it’s SUPER weird to be outed by someone in real life. Sure, Kevin, my mom, possibly my sister, knows about my blog but I cringe whenever they mention anything about what I wrote in my blog. I honestly try to walk the tightrope between being honest, fair and authentic without coming across as a know-it-all bitch. Pretty sure I fail most of the time.

When you have a presence, or lack thereof in my case, online, when you carve out a piece of cyber space and make it your own, you really don’t think about how people in your real life would react to this “persona” you’ve developed, or nurtured, online. You feel safe because the web is so massive and anonymous, right?

Not really. Not truly. There are ways of secret identities bleeding into your reality. And when that happens, you just have to grab the exposure by the balls and own up to it. I try really hard to live by my own rules – don’t write anything you wouldn’t say to someone’s face. It’s definitely not my first choice to tell people what I really think but if push comes to shove, here’s my thought: don’t ask me if you really don’t want to know because, sweetie, I’ll tell you.

Some of this bravado comes with age, though to be honest, I’ve pretty much always been the sort of person who just doesn’t give a shit about what someone thinks of me. True, I may not have been as bold in the past and the degree of my bravado may have changed over the years but my motto has always been, on some level – I am who I am – take it or leave it. 

Because baby, if you leave it, then I didn’t want it to begin with.

I think this mind shift started in high school. I secretly wanted to be part of the popular crowd but I never was. I was one of those fringe people who just stood on the outskirts of … everything. I wasn’t popular, goth, nerdy or super smart. I had just enough personality, instinct, common sense and grit to somehow fit in with every group. A chameleon, I suppose.

And I feel like I’m like that now. I can get along with everyone, truly. Now that doesn’t mean I LIKE everyone I “get along with,” in fact, it’s safe to say most people truly get on my nerves. I don’t TRULY like very many people. I feel like people nowadays are self centered, selfish, whiny, lazy, and looking for excuses to excuse away poor planning, time management or simply incompetence.

I feel like most people have a hard time thinking outside their existence and that attitude and inability, or unwillingness, to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, or be emphatic to someone’s plight totally and completely TURNS. ME. OFF.

Which leads me to the reason for this blog post.

Though I was flattered that my real-life person said the above thing to me, it got me thinking. Why would she say that? What is it about what I have to say that she finds refreshing or worth spending her valuable time reading?

Again, I’m not especially smart. I’m not Gandhi – I don’t have any life-changing wisdom to share though I suppose if you want to count age then perhaps the mere fact that I’m more “mature” (i.e. older than most of the people I work with) could count as “wisdom”.

I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about this in older blog posts but I wonder if what Tiff sees is my ability (ability – *snort* like I’m some sort of sage) to think outside of myself.

Now don’t think this means I’m a super-giving person or self-sacrificing servant, no, I’m not. In fact, I’m incredibly selfish with my time and if I don’t want to do something, I’ll flat out tell you I’m not interested, in a nice way, of course. I’m not one of those people who like to disguise my disinterest in partaking of an activity I’m less than enthusiastic about simply to be polite and says, “Sorry. I really don’t have time for that.”

Bullshit. Just tell me. You’re not interested. Don’t try and sugar coat it and try and make yourself look more important than you think you are in your head. You have time for ANYTHING if you WANT to make the time for it.

If you don’t want to do something, then simply say, “no thanks. I’m not interested.” Okay, thanks, got it. This whole “I don’t have time to do that” , or, “Gee, I WISH I had time to do that.” just pisses me off and makes you look superficial, fake, condescending and stupid. You’re no busier than I am, I just choose to spend my time on activities that interest me. If you don’t, that’s your problem. Prioritize your time.

But I digress.

One of the best pieces of advice, or lessons, that my mom taught me is to have empathy for people – train yourself to look at the situation from the other person’s perspective.

I feel like this is a foreign concept in today’s world. Today, it’s all about ME. And NOW. Or WHAT I’M FEELING AT THIS MOMENT.

I think that’s evidenced by people assuming you care about the latest baby picture, or family drama, or emotion of the moment.

I get feeling proud. I get wanting to share excitement when something great happens in one’s life, but I also feel like most of these same people don’t take time to ask, “Hey, how are YOU feeling?” “How is YOUR family?” “What can I do to help YOU today?”

If it’s not about them, then they are not interested.

It’s sad, annoying and exhausting.

I don’t like to talk about myself much at work. I bet there are less than five people who can tell you the names of my husband and boys. On one hand, it’s sad but on the other, I haven’t exactly offered that information either.

I’ve always told the boys, if you can’t think of anything to say in a group setting, just ask the person about themselves – people LOVE to talk about themselves.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing – just that it’s the normal thing nowadays. People are truly not interested in hearing about something that doesn’t involve them, or something they’re interested in. I’m guilty of this as well, I admit.

But I feel like I have to constantly interject whenever someone comes to me with a problem, or the person needs to get something off her chest about something or someone and remind said person that there are two sides to a story.

Have they taken the time to look at that side?

Have you?

I’m not talking about just at work. I’m talking about society as a whole. Would we have the political divide we have now if people would just stop and CONSIDER the viewpoint from the other side? I’m not saying that you have to change the way you think or your opinion on something just by looking at the other side, but I do think that people would make better decisions or at least understand why something is done if we made it a habit of looking outside ourselves.

I think exercising a little empathy would help society be more patient, understanding and compassionate, but we’re all so ready to think badly of one another when again, unless you’ve walked in the shoes of that other person, you really have no right to make assumptions.

I wonder if that is what my friend was trying to say about my writing. Because I do make a CONSCIOUS effort to stop, think and reverse roles for a minute in my writing because I think it’s important to at least see all sides to a story before coming to a conclusion.

I may not change my mind, or your mind, but at least I UNDERSTAND where that other person is coming from. Ultimately, I feel like that helps guide me, people, society to come up with better solutions.

Or – maybe I’m overthinking this whole thing and she was just trying to be nice.

 

 

 

Reflections

RemembeRED: Sour Milk

Every Tuesday, The Red Dress Club gives us a prompt to, well, “prompt” us to remember something from our childhood/youth.

This week’s prompt: Kindergarten

Her name was Mrs. Bacon.

For some reason, I remember my kindergarten’s teacher’s last name, but I don’t remember what I had for dinner last night. Or maybe I remember her name because we’re scheduled to have breakfast tonight, and bacon is on the menu.

Whatever works, I suppose.

She was tall, or maybe she just seemed tall because I was only five years old at the time, everyone and everything seemed tall to me back then (though I don’t know, I’ve always been tall for my age, so chances are she wasn’t as tall to me as she was to other kids), and she was skinny.

She had a shag hairstyle with pointy lady sideburns – If I had her as a teacher in say, middle school, I might have thought she was a lesbian. She wasn’t, but she had a boyish frame and a boy haircut – you can see where I might make that leap.

She was nice, which is probably the real reason I remember her. She made school fun. School WAS fun until the fourth grade and Mrs. Hill.

*shudder*

Let’s not talk about Mrs. Hill.

We sat at round tables and we used a lot of crayons. The smell of crayons, to this day, reminds me of kindergarten.

I remember those little half-pint milk cartons and how we had milk every day at snack time , and how every day, I would force myself to drink the rank stuff because even though it smelled sour and tasted like warm cottage cheese, I drank it to please Mrs. Bacon, so she would like me – that was back in the days when I cared what people thought of me.

Those days didn’t last long.

I remember toys, in cubby holes, that we were allowed to play with if we behaved. I don’t remember really learning anything in kindergarten, but I do remember learning to get along with other children, which I suppose was the reason for kindergarten back in those days. Now you can’t even get into kindergarten if you don’t know your letters, numbers and how to write your name.

Screw socialization.

I want to say I went to half-day kindergarten, but I can’t be sure. I know half-day kindergarten was more readily accessible back in those days, now full days are expected, and sometimes required, after completing two years of preschool.

And yet, America is still behind in educational skills. You would think putting our children into a school-like structure at such a young age would give them a head start, but alas, the system breaks down somewhere in the middle school range.

Now we’re talking about making our children stay in school longer and dumping more money into our educational system when that’s not where the problem lies, our educational problems lie in an ineffective government and their insistence on taking over nearly every aspect of our lives.

But I digress.

I remember wearing dresses to kindergarten. My mom made a lot of our clothes and I was always wearing something pretty to school. I also remember her pulling my hair back really tight to keep it out of my face. Sort of like this picture … or maybe I’m remembering the tight ponytails because of this picture.

However that works, I suppose.

I remember kindergarten being an age of innocence, of being happy, of being a carefree child … as kindergarten should be remembered for every child.

Reflections

Reflections: The Basement

I’ve written about childhood rooms in the past: My bedroom and my family room.

Now, I’d like to walk you through a tour of our basement.

The basement stairs were located just right inside the kitchen entrance. When you opened the door, a waft of cool, musty air charged with burning electronic circuits would assault your senses. The stairs were narrow and you felt like you were pitching forward, forcing you to grab onto the railing as you descended them.

At the base of the stairs, on your right, was my mother’s sewing room. This is where she would hole up and make all of our clothes or work on her projects. (And may I just say? My mom is an AWESOME seamstress, thank you very much). It was stacked, to the ceiling, with all sorts of material and craft paraphernalia. I remember using her sewing machine a few times to work on a totebag for home economics in high school.

I grew to HATE that totebag because no matter how hard I tried, I simply couldn’t line up the seams right. It was the worst made totebag in the history of totebags, trust me. I also managed to sew my finger in her sewing machine, too. In fact, when the needle punctured my finger and I jerked back in reflex, it broke off in my finger (left a perfect needle-sized hole in my bone) and my mom had to rush me to the hospital while I sat there, holding my throbbing middle finger with a sewing needle embedded in it. It took four nurses to hold me down while the doctor yanked the needle out with a pair of pliers.

But that’s a story for another time. (Actually, that’s pretty much the entire story).

Exiting the sewing room, and back at the foot of the stairs to your right, was the door to the back patio. There were four/five stairs leading up to our fenced-in patio, the same patio where my brother stole my Barbie swimming pool, stripped down to his underwear, sat in the pool cross-legged and went “swimming.” My Barbie pool had two perfectly formed knee impressions permanently embedded in it from that time forward.

But I’ve since forgiven him for destroying my Barbie pool.

I have!

Sort of.

But back to the basement – when you enter the basement back through the patio door and descend the stairs, there is a shower immediately to your right. This shower has given me more than one nightmare throughout my lifetime. Our main bathroom didn’t have a shower, just a tub, and when I hit puberty and the thought of sitting in my own filth started to completely gross me out, (incidentally, it still does) I started using the scary shower in the basement. It was a no-frills, cold, concrete shower that smelled like moldy socks. It also housed many different types of spiders – I’m pretty sure I perfected my high-pitched girly scream while using that shower. In short, I hated that shower. But I hated taking a bath more, so I soon learned to live with the creepy-crawly insects that made a home in that shower from hell. (And by “learned to live,” I mean I closed my eyes and prayed that whatever creepy insect had taken up residence in that creepy shower for that day [because it seemed I saw a different type of insect/spider every time I used that damn shower] would not crawl into my small spaces, if you know what I mean).

Let’s get away from the shower, I’m starting to sweat just thinking about it.

The area next to the shower is a blur. I THINK we had a freezer (?) in that area and various other odds and ends – in essence, we used that area as a sort of storage space. I’m sure my mom is laughing and shaking her head right about now because I remembered it wrong -AGAIN. (She gets a kick out of telling me, “Oh Karen. That’s not what it looked liked/how it was at all!”).

My dad had his work area next to the storage area. He worked with electronics, so he had numerous TV sets in various stages of disrepair. In fact, most of the TV’s had their guts strewn all over his benches he had lined up around the room. He was always soldering wires, circuits and components together for various reasons so that it constantly smelled like charred wires in the basement. In fact, I can’t smell that smell today and NOT think of my dad. He spent a lot of time in his shop, working, experimenting, problem solving. I had no idea what he was doing and it was impressive that he knew what all of the tiny, foreign-looking components were. He absorbed that knowledge and later went on to write electronic classes for a college in New York.

Yes. My father is very intelligent. And yes, apparently that wasn’t a trait I inherited. Ha!

The last room in the basement was the family room / living room / TV room. We had a pretty large-sized TV and I remember watching a lot of shows down in the basement. We had our Atari gaming system down there, too, and though I played a lot of it, it seems like my brother was ALWAYS on there. I remember my sister watching a lot of cartoons as well. In fact, it got so out of control, that my parents had to step in and monitor her TV watching.

Sort of what I TRIED to do with the boys and their video games in the early years. I don’t dare monitor nowadays if I value my life. (I’m kidding. I totally pay attention to what they’re doing online and they aren’t allowed to stay on the ‘net all night long. Don’t judge, please).

It seems like dad had his weight bench and weights in that room, too, though I can’t be sure. And did we have one wall of mirrors? Like tiles of mirrors? Or maybe I dreamt that part.

I loved our basement. It was sort of a hole in the wall but I loved hanging out there (except for that shower – I avoided that thing until I had to use it. *shudder*) It was always cool and I was always hot (we didn’t have central air – just an attic fan) and though it smelled damp and musty, it was a comforting smell to me.

It was a comforting place to get away from it all.

Everyone needs a place like that, I think.

(This was only supposed to be a maximum of 750 words – it’s a little over 1,000. As usual, I went long).

Reflections

Reflections: Remember Most As a Kid

Hi Mom,

I’m giving this book to you so that you’ll return it to me. You’re so very special and this is my chance to learn a little more about who you WERE once upon a time and who you ARE right now.

It’s funny how all who touch us affect our lives in unique ways. Especially parents.

Please take some time and reflect on the questions inside and write as much or as little as you want.

I look forward to getting this back soon. And please know that I will cherish it, not because of what you write, but simply because you wrote.

Thanks.

This is the introduction inside the Between You and Me Mom book. I love these question-type books because so often we’re so focused on the future that we place the past on a shelf to gather dust and/or be forgotten. I think it’s important to document our lives, not only the special times, but all times because life is too important, and too short, to forget. Answering questions from the Mom book, and the Honey book, are my way of remembering my past and passing those special times on to my sons and you, dear blog reader. Remembering the past helps us understand the people we’ve become.

______________________________

What do you remember most about being a kid?

Going to the county fair and spending HOURS riding rides and looking at the exhibits. Always having something to do in the summer – mom scheduled days we would go swimming, to the movies, do crafts, hanging out with my cousins, going to the zoo. I painted a lot of paint-by-numbers. I read constantly. I loved to read Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries. Playing with Barbie dolls. I used to create soap opera worlds with all of my dolls; and this was before I even knew what soap operas were.

I entered a lot of my own crafts into the county fair. I won quite a few ribbons but that wasn’t the reason I participated in the fair. I worked on crafts and entered them into the fair mainly to please my mom. My mother’s main hobby / interest was (is) crafts and participating in crafts and entering the fair was something I had in common with my mom. Though I would be lying if I told you I always enjoyed working on crafts – it wasn’t my main passion – I entered mainly to please my mother.

I rode my bike a lot growing up. I felt so free and in control when I rode. It cleared my head and relaxed me. I remember having a huge crush on a guy that lived up the street from me. I desperately tried getting his attention (even befriending his little sister, who was younger than me and very annoying) and trying to appear sexy as I rode my bike by his house.

I remember living in a mobile home for the first seven years of my life. I even remember the layout of the mobile home and this one particular patchwork rocking chair I used to rock in all the time. I even taught my sister to read in that chair. I remember standing on our sofa in the mobile home and intently studying my mouth in an attempt to teach myself not to lisp. I also remember spending quite a number of hours in front of that same mirror and jiggling teeth loose. I always sort of liked having loose teeth because I liked the way it made my mouth go numb after loosening them.

I remember learning to ride a bike down our street when we lived in the mobile home. I remember my sister and I riding our bikes up and down the street, me shaky and yet confident, my sister still riding with training wheels.

I remember picking up walnuts from our backyard every season. Mom would then drive us out to the walnut husking place and we would get money in exchange for the slimy, wet bags full of walnuts we picked. Though I wasn’t crazy about staining my hands or the smell, I remember feeling very proud of myself whenever I received any money from the task. That was my first taste of earning money and I LIKED it.

I remember going camping in a tent quite a few times and hating it. Mainly because of the bugs and the fact that I had to use the bathroom over a log. I also remember going camping in grandpa and grandma’s trailer, or maybe we hadn’t gone camping in it but we were riding home in it and I had to go to the bathroom so bad I was in pain. I’ve always had this bathroom fetish (fear?) and any time we went anywhere, I refused to use it. I remember these public restrooms, out in the boonies, that were nothing but holes in the ground. They freaked me out as I always envisioned myself falling through the hole and I REFUSED to use them. (In fact, I still have problems using bathrooms whenever we travel. Bet you wanted to know that, eh? lol)

I remember washing the front of our house in the summers. I remember laying / swinging on the porch swing for hours just daydreaming. I remember kissing the cute boy who lived right next door to us one summer. I was a few years older than him and though that bothered me, I felt very feminine and sexy hanging out with him. I remember having the BEST birthday cakes. Mom took cake-decorating classes and always made the neatest cakes for all of us kids growing up. I remember one in particular, a Barbie doll cake. You know the kind – a Barbie doll is inserted into a mound of cake that is later decorated to look like her skirt. I remember having birthday parties at our house and all the family would come over and give me gifts.

I remember our station wagon and the time we were in a wreck. I believe we were hit as we were crossing an intersection.

I remember visiting my dad at the electronics store where he worked and seeing tons of equipment lying about, their guts haphazardly displayed and waiting to be fixed. I remember my mother working as a telephone operator at night to bring in extra money.

I remember visiting HUNDREDS of yard sales and coming home with bargains. I remember wearing a pair of white overalls all the time. Mom had stitched my name on the pocket in some navy blue thread and in some loopy stitch so that it felt fuzzy to the touch. I remember skirts, pants and shirts that mom sewed for me to wear to school. And how embarrassed I was to wear all of that stuff starting about sixth grade.

I remember Mrs. Bacon (Kdg teacher), Mrs. Smith (2nd grade teacher?), Mrs. Hill (4th grade teacher), Mrs. Wilson (5th grade teacher) and Ms. Roberts (sixth grade teacher). I remember starting kindergarten and feeling both scared and excited. I also remember leaving elementary school in sixth grade feeling scared and excited about starting junior high.

I went to Doling Elementary School, Reed Junior High and Hillcrest High School. Doling school has been converted to some building for the school system – it’s no longer a school – Reed Junior High and Hillcrest High are still there. I think our mascot was: Doling Dolphins, Reed Beavers (which I HATED because I thought that sounded sexually suggestive and just plain stupid) and Hillcrest Hornets (which I thought was dorky at first. But then we started winning games and I realized that hornets are actually very mean when provoked and thought it was cool).

But what do I remember the MOST about being a kid? Being happy and well adjusted.

______________________________

Your turn blog readers – What do you remember most about being a kid?

Feel free to answer the question here or on your own blog, but leave a link in my comment section so I can visit!

Reflections

Reflections: Future Mate

I love these question-type books because so often we’re so focused on the future that we place the past on a shelf to gather dust and/or be forgotten. I think it’s important to document our lives, not only the special times, but all times because life is too important, and too short, to forget. Answering questions from the Honey book, are my way of remembering my past and passing those special times on to my sons, husband and you, dear blog reader. Remembering the past helps us understand the people we’ve become.

This is addressed to my husband, minus the really personal stuff and edited for public reading. 🙂

______________________________

Long before we met, what did you picture your future mate would be like?

Believe it or not, I never pictured my future mate – ever.

I didn’t have fancy daydreams about what my wedding would be like when I was a girl. I loved acting out weddings with my dolls, but I never once gave my own wedding much thought; getting married and living happily ever after was never high on my priority list. I really have no idea why – I suppose I was too busy trying to secure my career aspirations and finding out what I wanted from life to ever really think about a future life partner.

And you know me, I’m a person who has always lived in the future, so you would think picturing, and planning for, my future husband would be something I would think about, at least once in a while.

True, I did think about having a steady boyfriend. I never really had any one boy/man in my life for very long – and that was mostly my fault for as you know, I felt it was necessary to dump the guys first before they had a chance to dump me later to protect my heart from being broken.

You certainly know how long it took you to get close enough for me to let me guard down (and even to this day, I don’t feel like it’s completely down), so you can imagine how cautious I was back then with men.

And though I craved the companionship, I was fine with the thought that it might not happen. I wasn’t one of those females who defined their very existence based on a man’s opinion or approval – I would be me and if someone accepted that, great. If not, then life would go on and I would find a way to be happy, with or without a steady mate.

Then I met you. I was 24 and really just beginning my career at the bank. I was focused, carefree and completely open to new experiences and relationships, if they happened to come my way. I certainly wasn’t going to go out and actively find them myself.

When Lacey introduced us, and I saw your handsome face and charming smile, I began to entertain the thought that perhaps it would be fun to share my life with someone else. And when you spoke to me for the first time and made me laugh, I began to hope that that someone would be you.

_________________________________

I recorded this story through AudioBoo. You can find the recording here.

Reflections

Reflections: Siblings


*photo credit

From time to time, I’ll be recording thoughts and events from my past. These memories are prompted from the Between Me and You, Mom memory book. I plan on filling this book out one of these days to pass onto my children. I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds the lives of our parents fascinating. It’s weird to think of my parents as children and it’s really fun to hear stories about their past, how they met, etc. If my children read about my past, perhaps they will understand me just a little better.

___________________________________

What was your sister and brother like when you were growing up?

I have one younger (3 yrs) sister and one younger (7 yrs) brother.

I’m the oldest.

Sort of explains a lot, doesn’t it.

But if I had to sum my siblings up in one word?

Sister: quiet. I don’t really remember talking to my sister very much growing up. And I think it was mainly because I was off in my own little world. But my sister was so quiet that I wasn’t sure how to relate to her; I don’t feel like we ever found any common ground with which to build a relationship. I take the bulk of the blame here because I didn’t make much of an effort to FIND that common ground.

She didn’t talk much. She liked to stay in her own little world and because she was so quiet and I was so self-absorbed, I just sort of ignored her and never took the time to get to know her.

Just one of many regrets in my life.

Brother: funny. He’s seven years younger than I am. So … it was like, “Oh look at my little brother. See how funny he is? Okay, now go away little boy.”

😀

I watched him grow up from afar. And when my parents moved away shortly after I graduated from high school, my brother would have been eleven or so, I simply lost touch with him. He grew up without me around.

So again, I don’t really feel like I know my brother enough to say anything more.

Wow. It sort of sounds pathetic, doesn’t it. Not knowing my own family?

And that probably says a lot about my personality.

And I’m thinking it’s not saying anything positive.

(Feel free to take this question and write your own blog post!)

Reflections

Reflections: My Childhood Home


*photo credit

From time to time, I’ll be recording thoughts and events from my childhood. These memories are prompted from the Reflections from a Mother’s Heart – Your Life Story in Your Own Words. I plan on filling this book out one of these days to pass onto my children. I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds the lives of our parents fascinating. It’s weird to think of my parents as children and it’s really fun to hear stories about their past, how they met, etc. If my children read about my past, perhaps they will understand me just a little better.

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Where was your childhood home located? Did you enjoy living there?

We lived on Johnson street. The house is still there today but looks quite different. Not only is the trim blue (it was black back then) but the huge oak tree that was in the front yard is gone and there is a white picket fence surrounding the front yard. I think that fence looks silly, personally, but hey, to each his own.

I loved that oak tree. It was HUGE. We lost quite a few limbs one year when a tornado touched down on JUST OUR STREET! It was really scary. I was spending the night at a friend’s house about a mile away. She had a basement and we all went down to their basement while the tornado sirens wailed. I was scared to death. I wasn’t worried about myself – I was scared for my family. I prayed they were safe. The next morning, when I went home, I was horrified to find several of the limbs from the big oak tree had fallen. These limbs were as big as the pipes you see construction crews placing in the ground alongside the road. They had fallen in a criss-cross pattern across the front yard until they reached the house. The limbs had pushed our front stairs completely under the house. I remember having to jump from limb to limb to reach the porch because the stairs were no longer accessible. We were lucky though, any closer and they would have come crashing through the front of the house. That was the only damage that had been done at our house, but houses all up and down Johnson had been damaged in some way. Tons of trees were down (we lived in an older part of town so the trees were mature and huge) and it was a few days before anyone could drive down our street there were so many trees down.

I also remember laying out in the sun in the front yard (there were too many trees in the back yard to get any sunlight. We had three or four walnut trees back there). I was (still am) self-conscious about my feet. I’m not sure why, they are normal feet, just long. I guess I hated the fact that I wore a bigger shoe size than most of my friends. I layed out with socks on and sunglasses. Unfortunately, I fell asleep and woke up with white feet and raccoon eyes. I had burned all around my sunglasses and literally looked like a raccoon. I was horrified. I PLEADED with my mother not to send me to school until the worst of the burn was over, but no dice. I had to go to school (I was in high school) looking like some freak with white eyes and red face. As you can imagine, I was teased endlessly. I was never so embarrassed in my life. I learned my lesson and have never layed out with socks or sunglasses since then.

I really liked our house. It was comfortable and yet roomy enough that five people could get around easily. I liked my attic room and the fact that I could escape into the cool basement when it got too hot upstairs. I liked our attic fan because not only did it keep me cool at night (sleeping next to a window I caught a great draft) but the whir of the blades often times lured me to sleep. To this day, I still enjoy falling asleep with a fan nearby. It’s just one of those sounds from childhood that comforts me. I liked the location of the house, too. It was right in the middle of a residential area and a lot of my friends lived blocks away. It was also far enough away from my middle and high schools that I wasn’t constantly tortured with the fact that I had to go to school. I remember riding my bike all over the neighborhood and spying on boys’ houses whenever I rode by. We had a church on the corner and I rode my bike around and around their parking lot, sometimes for what seemed like hours. Riding my bike was something else that soothed me. I wasn’t a particularly excitable person, but I was a teenager and I had all of the uncertainties that came with that territory – boy problems, puberty, popularity, appearances, clothes, etc. I have a lot of fond memories of the house on Johnson Street.

(Feel free to take this question and write your own blog post!)

Abundant Life, Reflections

Reflections: Power of Prayer

From time to time, I’ll be recording thoughts and events from my childhood. These memories are prompted from the Reflections from a Mother’s Heart – Your Life Story in Your Own Words. I plan on filling this book out one of these days to pass onto my children. I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds the lives of our parents fascinating. It’s weird to think of my parents as children and it’s really fun to hear stories about their past, how they met, etc. If my children read about my past, perhaps they will understand me just a little better.

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What kind of prayer did you say before you went to sleep? Who taught you how to pray it?

“Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord will keep me safe. If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

That was the prayer I used every night for years before I went to bed. For a while, I did kneel at the side of my bed, but I don’t remember doing that very long though I’m sure I did up until I was in about the third or fourth grade.

Mom taught me how to pray. First that prayer and then later, when I felt I was too old for such a kiddie prayer, to “talk” to God. There wasn’t a formula; I just remember her talking about God as if he was an old friend and how she trusted him. From that point on, I “talked” to God and didn’t really have a set prayer or pattern in how I prayed. I don’t have a set prayer today but there is a certain pattern that I follow. I pray for Kevin and his job situation, I pray for the kids and whatever is going on in their lives. I pray for our country and for strength to maintain our Christian faith, I pray for my extended family and finally for myself. I always end my prayers with “In Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.”

It wasn’t until some years later that I learned the power of prayer. I’ve always been suspicious of “religion” and never felt comfortable with any teaching methods. All I knew was that I was a Christian, I believed in God and his son, and in the Bible. I distrusted preachers and their motives.

When my husband came along, he taught me A LOT about the Bible. He introduced me to classes that he had taken that really opened my eyes and taught me how to read, interpret, and understand the Bible. We took classes together and I knew it was right because it FELT right. It all sounded so logical and I finally UNDERSTOOD how all of the information fit together. I finally understood why people believed what they did, though I still feel impatient with people who are willing to accept someone’s word that something is “right” without taking the time to check it out for themselves. The Bible is a giant jigsaw puzzle; it takes time to put together and all of the pieces are not readily available (it’s sometimes necessary to understand the language that was used in those days and how it’s interpreted in today’s language as well as the culture of that time period) but it all fits together – there are NO contradictions. And contrary to popular belief, the Bible was MEANT for us to understand – it’s not a mystery, but a secret. Mysteries imply that they will never be solved. Secrets will be revealed, when the time is right.

I speak in tongues. In essence, speaking in tongues is a private language between you and God — you are not meant to understand it, others will likely not understand it (though there were times when the disciplines in the Bible spoke in tongues and others understood them), but God will. He will understand.

I speak in tongues privately. I have not, nor will likely ever, speak in tongues in front of people unless I am willing to interpret for others to hear. Speaking in tongues is a chance to empty my soul and heart to God and I feel incredibly peaceful after my “conversation.”

God wishes Christians to speak in tongues — it’s part of prayer and it edifies and blesses a Christian believer.

Prayer is a crucial part of our Christian walk.

Reflections

Reflections: My Grandparents

From time to time, I’ll be recording thoughts and events from my childhood. These memories are prompted from the Reflections from a Mother’s Heart – Your Life Story in Your Own Words. I plan on filling this book out one of these days to pass onto my children. I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds the lives of our parents fascinating. It’s weird to think of my parents as children and it’s really fun to hear stories about their past, how they met, etc. If my children read about my past, perhaps they will understand me just a little better.

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Describe your grandparent’s houses. Did you visit them often? Why or why not?

Describe my grandparents’ houses? Hhmm…they were very different, at least, they were to me.

I’ll start with my mom’s mom. I never knew my mom’s dad; he died when my mom was three years old. My grandmother never remarried, which I thought was really cool, and still do. She never found anyone who could replace my grandfather and I thought that was the epitome of true love. (In fact, she’s buried next to him now).

Grandma J. was a down to earth, countrywoman with simple tastes. She wasn’t interested in putting on airs and as long as her clothing was comfortable, she didn’t care what it looked like (to a certain point. Please don’t think that she was THAT simple).

Grandma J.’s breath always smelled like coffee. It was bittersweet with just a touch of cream. I don’t ever remember her smelling like anything else. In fact, it seemed like she was always holding a mug of coffee and taking noisy slurps. I wasn’t close to Grandma J., but I was comfortable with her. She never made me feel self-conscious and she was always herself, to hell with what anyone else thought. She was tough. She raised five kids on her own. She sewed their clothes (she was a seamstress for a number of years) and very thrifty. Mom grew up poor and though she knew it, it didn’t seem to bother her overly much.

My mom has one brother and four sisters, one sister is deceased. Mom is the fourth child. I think growing up in a large family prepared my mom for motherhood and indeed, that’s all she ever wanted out of life, to get married and have a family of her own. Other than missing not having a father around, mom really hasn’t talked much about her dad, probably due to the fact that she doesn’t remember a lot about him.

Growing up, we were over at Grandma J.’s a lot. Mom and her younger sister, and her two kids, my sister and brother all hung out a lot during the summer months. In fact, Mom and her sister planned something for us to do every single day (other than the weekends.) We went to the movies on certain days, went swimming on certain days, the park (on cooler days), shopping, worked on crafts, you name it and mom kept us busy. We didn’t have the video games like the kids have nowadays so it was harder to keep us kids entertained. We stayed home a lot but I don’t remember ever really being bored.

Back to Grandma J – her house was very simple. It had hard floors…and I’m not talking wood, but rather concrete blocks. At least, that’s what I remember, I’m sure they were linoleum or some such. Her house always smelled like musty linens and her TV was always turned up too loud. (It seemed to get louder as she got older).

Grandma J. lived by herself for a number of years until her sister was unable to handle living on her own and she moved in with Grandma. My great aunt was a VERY cool lady; she used to be a teacher; so she was very smart and sharp with witty comebacks (something she probably picked up through her years dealing with kids). I remember laughing a lot over at Grandma J’s. Grandma J was always saying something funny and the way her upper lip curled around her teeth when she smiled or laughed was comforting in an odd way.

Grandma J always had fabric and knickknacks lying around. Though she wasn’t into crafts like my mom and aunt, she did a fair amount of sewing and was the one who taught my mom how to sew.

Her house was a pea green and as the years went by it faded to a pale mint green. She had a big backyard that bordered the parking lot of the Baptist Bible School. I remember walking through the school’s campus and admiring all the “cool” college kids and wondering what it would be like to live in a dorm. Thinking back on it now, I think walking through that campus helped plant the seed of wanting to go to college someday.

Grandma J. hung her sheets out to dry on a clothesline. I remember purposefully walking into the sheets so I could get a good whiff of fresh air, hot sun, and laundry detergent.

There was always something to eat at Grandma J.’s. I remember muffins and hard candy the most. In fact, Grandma J. had a weakness for those butterscotch hard candies. I remember popping those yellow circles in my mouth and happily sucking away for hours.

Grandma J’s house had three bedrooms, one bath, a living area and a kitchen. That was it. Though small, it never felt cramped. Grandma J had an old rickety coffee table on stick-thin legs that wobbled whenever we played on it.

We had quite a few yard sales over there as well. Grandma J. lived on a busy street so there was always plenty of traffic driving by which made our yard sales pretty popular.

An old man lived next door to Grandma J and I remember thinking their relationship was odd. He was a black man and though they became friends, it was a reluctant friendship. I don’t think Grandma was prejudiced, but she did come from a different era and they thought differently about African Americans. The old man eventually died and Grandma J. took it hard. That’s how I knew they had ended up being friends. I think, from that point on, Grandma J. went downhill a bit. She broke her hip a few years later and she died from a blood clot in the hospital. It was the worse kind of death, one that took us all completely by surprise and I have never felt more sorry for my mom in my life. She was crushed as she was close to her. It scared me because that meant my mom was the next in line to go and even thinking about her dying now makes my heart clench with fear.

Grandma and Grandpa H. (GGH) are my dad’s folks and they are still alive and kicking. Though getting up there in age (both over 80’s and fast approaching 90’s), they are both very much alert and active, though they are slowing down. I’m very proud of them for not ending up in a nursing home, they both still live together and by themselves. I can only hope I’m in that good of shape when I get to be their age.

Dad is the oldest with one younger brother and two younger sisters. Grandpa worked in construction for years and years and as a result, he’s very good with his hands. In fact, considering we live in tornado country, he built a basement under their three bedrooms, two and half bath house by planting dynamite and blasting through the rock. I wouldn’t recommend anyone else doing that but considering Grandpa did that for a living and knew what he was doing, he managed to dig a pretty good-sized basement without blowing up the house. I can’t imagine what it must have been like living on top of dynamite like that, literally!

Grandma has always been a stay-at-home mother. In fact, she never got her driver’s license and if she needs to go anywhere today, either Grandpa or one of her daughters takes her. Grandma is emotionally aloof and Grandpa is a cutup. He’s always teasing people and giving them a hard time while Grandma stands on the outskirts and rolls her eyes. Grandpa CONSTANTLY teases my Grandma and though she scowls and says, “Oooh..stop it!” I think she secretly enjoys being the center of attention.

GGH has a strange, but cute relationship. Grandpa is obviously head over heels in love with Grandma and though I think Grandma loves Grandpa, I don’t think she loves him as much as Grandpa loves her. Though my Grandpa is feisty and full of life, I think if he loses my Grandma his life light will flicker and eventually go out. They are quite the pair.

We went over to GGH a lot for “visits” and holidays. In fact, we all still try and get together over at GGH’s on Christmas Eve, a tradition, every year.

We went over there every Christmas Eve and had a party in the basement that Grandpa built. We received our gifts from GGH and spent the rest of the evening playing with them. It was always a lot of fun and that’s a memory I’ll always cherish. When I graduated from high school, moved out, and eventually got married myself, I still wanted to gather over at GGH for Christmas Eve, it just didn’t feel right NOT going.

I’m not close to my grandparents and I couldn’t tell you why. Grandpa always got on my nerves and I still don’t know why. His teasing got old, I guess. I think I have a lot of my Grandma H. in me. I tend to be a cold fish, emotionally, and I don’t have patience for silly people, though I can’t imagine my life without those very people in it. It’s an emotional tug-o-war.

GGH’s house was pink, though I don’t think it’s really supposed to be pink. I think it was red at one time but has faded over the years. GGH had more money than my Grandma J. and their house had newer furniture and more expensive knick-knacks. Grandma H still has a houseful of “prettys” which consists mainly of figurines and angels, (she collects them).

I’m ashamed to admit this, but I’m still VERY uncomfortable going over there (which now consists of once a year and that’s Christmas Eve). I honestly could not tell you why. I feel like a stranger to my aunts, uncles, and cousins and it’s entirely my fault. I’ve been so self-absorbed over the years that I never took the time to get to know any of them. That makes me sound like such a cold fish, I realize that, but I can’t lie. I don’t know if it’s because I never felt I had anything in common with any of them, or what. But I can’t put a finger on why I’ve been so …distant over the years. I’m not proud of the way I’ve interacted with my family and I know I’ll regret it one day. It’ll be one of those things that I wish I could have changed if asked but know, deep in my heart, that I would probably act the exact same way if given that chance.

I’m not proud of my emotional coldness, there’s no excuse for it. All I know is that there is something, some mental block, that I can not get around and I hope I didn’t pass on to my own children. I’m not proud of being a recluse, though I suppose it has advantages. Being distant from my family is not one of them.

Reflections

Reflections: My Parents’ Day Job

From time to time, I’ll be recording thoughts and events from my childhood. These memories are prompted from the Reflections from a Mother’s Heart – Your Life Story in Your Own Words. I plan on filling this book out one of these days to pass onto my children. I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds the lives of our parents fascinating. It’s weird to think of my parents as children and it’s really fun to hear stories about their past, how they met, etc. If my children read about my past, perhaps they will understand me just a little better.

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Where did your father go to work every day and what did he do?

I don’t remember the name of the place my dad used to work, but I remember the building vividly. He was a TV repairman, he worked in electronics and he was quite good at it. He had books with circuit explanations and all kinds of complicated looking equations and mathematical questions and I was quite proud of how smart he was.

The building he worked in was a small, brick building on a corner lot in the middle of town. The shop was not located in a very “good” part of town and I think that’s my really first experience being around African Americans. It never really bothered me, it was just different being around so many people who didn’t look like me. (we didn’t have very many African American students in my schools).

Dad worked for someone, but the name escapes me. It seemed like it was just him and his boss that worked at the shop, but I could be wrong there. I remember walking into the shop and being overwhelmed with the metallic burning smell as they smoldered wires together. The shop was littered with TV, radios and VCRs. I remember there being TVs everywhere. Most of them had been gutted or were in the process of being worked on so tubes and wires were hanging out of many.

It seemed like dad worked ALL the time. But he had to. Mom was a stay-at-home mom, for which I’m most grateful for now, so we didn’t have a lot of money. My parents are money wizards and it didn’t seem as though we really went without too often. I do remember going to garage sales A LOT, but other than that, I didn’t really feel like a “poor” child until I got to middle and high school.

Dad had a shop in the basement of our house, too. He spent quite a bit of time down there working on TVs and various other electronic gadgets. My dad is quite an expert at circuits and electronics. In fact, he has written nearly 20 courses (could be more) for a school in New York. He’s highly intelligent and very logical.

Solder is still a comforting smell to me and every time I smell it, I think of dad.

How did your mother spend her day?

Mom was a stay-at-home mother. She was like the perfect 50’s type mother. She cooked for us, she made us clothes, she cleaned, she ran us places, mom was ALWAYS there. She bailed me out of so many things I can’t even begin to tell you.

I’ll never forget this one time though. It was when I was in the sixth grade. Ms. Roberts, my sixth grade teacher, had assigned a map of the United States. It was the size of two poster boards side-by-side and we had to cut out all of the states, color them different colors, locate their capitals and then glue all of the pieces, like a giant jigsaw puzzle, onto the poster boards. My best friend, Debbie, and I procrastinated and the night before it was due, we panicked. I think that was the time period that Debbie lived with us for a while (she was having domestic problems) and we begged mom to help us with our projects. We literally stayed up all night and worked on them. In fact, I was so tired, that I made a huge mistake and glued some pieces in the wrong places. I was about ready to give up and accept the “F” that I deserved anyway, when mom, being the creative and crafty person she is, came up with a solution. She fixed it. I still, to this day don’t know how she did it, but she cut that sucker in two and pasted it back together again. It wasn’t pretty, but it did the job. I think I ended up getting an “A” on the project, but I knew, even then, I didn’t deserve it. Mom should have let me get an “F.” I think one of the reasons I got the good grade is because Ms. Roberts liked me.

Did she have a job or do volunteer work outside of the home?

The only job I remember mom having was being a telephone operator. She worked evenings and I hated not having her there. In fact, it caused so much stress on the family not having her around that she finally quit – the money simply wasn’t worth the heartache it was causing and I knew mom was terribly unhappy being away from her family.

Mom was HEAVY into PTA. This used to embarrass me to death at the time, but now I really appreciate the fact that she was around the school. There was something cool in hearing other kids call mom, “Karen’s mom” and seeing her face in the hallways. She helped out in the cafeteria, too. When mom was involved we always had the best homeroom parties. Mom always went all out, making all sorts of delicious goodies and making cool stuff for the kids to take home. I was very proud of her for making so many kids happy. I was very fortunate to have a mother who was always there, who had ENDLESS patience with me and who still loves me unconditionally.