Hallway

I’ve come to appreciate when the need to reflect comes to me. Sometimes it drops in like an unexpected guest. I try to ignore it but it still finds me.

Today I was called to remember things that I have left behind.  I went thru my drawer of memories and found a gem and have  decided to share. dark hallway

Hallway 7/8/2004

The places that I lie are not the same I used to abide.

You can find me hiding in a darkened hallway filled with scents of youth; light of adolescence. The taste of bittersweet chocolate in my mouth, making me thirst and parched.

There is a heated drum echoing from the walls ending within the walls; beckoning to break down the shelter that holds back the sunlight. Too bright to enter.

The light of years ever changing.

Flickering to near darkness than blazing to giant flames; much like my mood.

Tides of light flooding long corridors; revealing doors with unbreakable locks and unchangeable handles until a cascade of embers unleashes it’s magic. Unpredictable.

Abruptly the doors swing open to realize a song, a memory….a hint of something in the air. It’s green and bright and makes me smile.

A thought of unique inspiration. Perhaps a glimpse into another dimension where other feelings waft in the atmosphere like giant bubbles bursting into blades of grass. Accidentally finding an open window where a light breeze slowly takes the sphere into the unknown. I can’t catch it before it disappears.

Suddenly everything stops.

The heated music, the tempestuous blaze. The scent in the air.

Total silence engulfs me. Darkness overwhelms my spirit and no windows can be seen to escape from. No light to find my way.  No wisdom floating to capture. The doors evaporated. Trapt.

I’m left running down an endless hallway yelling and only hearing my thoughts ringing through my being; growing stronger with each second.  There is no sound.

I remember their faces and I  look into eyes of those I know for help, for affection.

I find I hurt more when I turn away and The memory of when they cared does not stay.

 

Advertisements

Dreaded questions

As women we look for ways to connect with other women.  We want to be able to understand each other and say “me too!” after we first meet each other.  It so often that as a woman….as a person; we claim our identities by our lifestyles.  What we do with our time every day…if we work…what our family looks like…if we are married…have kids or not.  We can became emotional and very protective when a question is asked of us that points in us an area that we feel is lacking.  I call this the dreaded question.  It usually comes up when someone well meaning is trying to get to know us; someone like the dental hygienist the first time we meet; or the woman in the new life group at church. “So tell me about yourself…” “What do you do for a living?” “Are you married? How long” etc….I’ve noticed that thru the years the dreaded question for me has changed.  Back in my late teens it started our with- what do you do for a living- I was working a McDonald’s and felt somehow when I turned nineteen that this was no longer an acceptable place to work, despite others who were much more older than I working there.  I felt judged, not good enough.  I would take a deep breath and say “I work at McDonalds” followed by a rush of “it’s a job you know…I’m going to school so..” hoping that they understood that I was better than the label of working at McDonalds…and that I was not stupid.

The question later changed. After I had my son, when someone found out I had a child, there were two dreaded questions.  It often began like this…co-worker/new friend/mom at the practice seeing me with my son….  “so how old is your son?” followed by small chat then by the dreaded questions “How old are you?” I cringe.  I would always debate whether to be a smart ass or one of those people that has a saying when asked about age. “Your only as old as you feel” or something like that. The problem is: I was…and I guess still am…Young.  Young people can’t get away with those sayings…and they are already smart assy enough.  I feel like if you asked me this question you wanted to figure out the math, so often I would just say- “yeah, I started young” or I would be truthful and tell them my age as I half smiled and waited for the what would come next. Here is the problem with this dreaded question-  95% of the time it would be some variation of “you look too young to have kids that old”.

Think about that for a minute, re-read if necessary.  Clearly I am not too young to have kid(s) that old- I did so…. thank you very much judgy mcjudgy.  I get it. I guess I may have said something similar- but what are you really trying to say to me at that moment? Are you saying that you are expecting me to be withered and disgusting when a kid is that old? are you saying I look good for my age? or are you saying that you feel I should not have had a kid when I did? Are you questioning my ability to raise a child? Those are all the thoughts that go through my head when I hear that comment.  The only good one that I got out of that is you possibly may think I’m a hot momma, it’s more likely that you feel the need to remind me that I am a young momma. I might add that it is mostly women that say this to me. Guys are like- “Cool”  I may be overly sensitive here, but oddly- as I have gotten older and married this response has declined significantly.

Which brings me to the second dreaded question. Like a firing squad this one was often asked in succession after being insulted for being young.   It typically started with a serious of looks  first to my ring finger…” so are you married?”  Sometimes the question was followed up by more questions trying to figure out the status of my relationship with my son’s dad…if it might work out. Often a well meaning person would  give me a pep talk about how awesome I was doing as a single mom and how I would make it thru this world. While I appreciate that well meaning thoughts; I am not lacking as a parent. You don’t need to be married, or even in a committed relationship to be awesome.  There are plenty of woman (and men) that are killing it in the parenting department- married, single, divorced, pet-parents, step-parents, parents to adopted children and even mentors that are never officially “parents”.  My parenting is more than a relationship status.

Most recently the question changed again…Most people assume by my age and my ring finger than I am married. The first question that I now get asked tends to not be about my occupation but about my “mom status”. ” So do you have any kids?” There is a brief moment where I decide how much I should disclose before answering.  Some days the answer is a straight up “yes, 4 of them.” Other times the answer gets a little complicated and feels like a slight dump on the askee ” yes, I have one biological son, and then three step kids- but they live with me so I consider them my kids”.  The dreaded question intensives and gets worse…”So you and your husband don’t have any kids together…are you planning on having any more?”

I know it’s well meaning.  I know that they are not trying to be rude.  I get that people what to identify with each other and I know that I am guilty of this too.  These personal questions are alot more interesting that asking what someones favorite hobby is or if they heard what the weather was going to be like for that day.  These personal questions are hugely telling and can be an area of massive sensitivity.  I wish there was an easy way to answer without fumbling or becoming defensive.  The answer to both of these questions for me, like the Facebook relationship status button…it’s complicated.

What I can’t adequately describe is the multiple layers of a non-traditional family.  When you ask me if I identify as having kids….I think about if they identify with me as their mom.  The answer would be no then. Some days my youngest step daughter calls me mom.  Most days however she makes it clear that I am not her mom and there are even times she tells me that she would rather not know me at all.  The other step kids accept me as a parent; but there is distance that cannot be fully described. It’s different.  My experience as a step-mom is not that of a typical parent and not even as a typical step-mom.  It’s unique, defined by circumstances distinctive to my family.

When you ask me about being a mom…I think about the moments I wasn’t a mom.  This comes up in the weirdest of ways.  Taking my step-kid to the doctor for instance….I don’t know the history of their birth, their first few years of life.  Did they get their shots on time, or had on target milestones.  I wasn’t there for that.   Sometimes In recent events, I wasn’t a mom because their real mom was there and I felt like an intruder, or I let their mom take the lead on events when both of us were present. Those times- I was the outsider- the parent that is not the mom, but this weird ambiguously defined role.

When you ask me about being a mom….Emotions immediately start to flow I get angry sometimes about my status.  I get jealous that I am not the bio-mom but the “evil stepmom”. I can’t measure up to this person that is equally as human as I am, and has made alot of mistakes where the kids are concerned.  I think of the struggles that I deal with day in and day out…and how I don’t always want the responsibility of everything….I then feel guilty for being upset. I think about the responses I get when others find out that I am a step-parent and try to dismiss my role, I try to phrase my answer adequately so you can understand how very complex my life is at the moment. The dreaded question always has a dreaded answer, even when it’s answered in silence.

I guess its the dreaded question because of crazy amount of emotions associated with the answer. It’s not like- “hey, what’s your favorite color?” Or “When’s your birthday”….the dreaded question has expectations around it.  I’m not sure how to best answer it, or how to even acknowledge the hurt that it can bring.

What has been helpful to me is knowing that others usually mean no harm with the dreaded question. People are curious and want to get to know you.  Hopefully the conversations that are had because of the dreaded questions can bring about a relationship and mutual understanding instead of  feelings of inadequacy.  The other things to remember is that everyone has a dreaded question and I truly believe it’s not the same for everyone.  Mine was as simple as “how old are you?”. Which may seem ridiculous to you, but hey it’s mine. When someone asks me that;  I know someone is not calling me a dirty word-  my reaction to it is reflective of inner insecurities. So when your dreaded question comes up recognize this and reflect- why are you getting so upset about this?  What do you think you may change to make you feel better?  I would even suggest praying for understanding and healing if necessary.  If it was really judgy tell that person; they may not even know that is was judgy.  I know we are in this together and I hope as woman we can accept each other regardless of our status and move on.  Life is too short and too precious to be asking about the weather all the time. Relationships; family; feeling of belonging that is where it’s at.

I’m with you

I'm with you

My brain works in weird ways. I often realize that I live in my head; thinking about things that have occurred in the past without reason or rhyme.  Today I was reminded of one of the best memories of recent times; and I thought today was the day to share it.

I was attending a woman’s conference that weekend- the theme was called “I’m with you” . The conference talked about how as a woman we need girlfriends to share our lives with, to laugh and to cry with.  The presenters shared their personal experiences with how their friendships are.  They shared sad moments together and how they supported each other through it all…and happy moments; their laughter and pure joy on screen was contagious with the audience.  It was an awesome inspiring conference and I felt the love and bond that these ladies shared with each other.  There was one problem…. I had attended alone.  I didn’t have any friends sitting with me, and hearing their stories of how they were doing life with each other; I was suddenly hit with an onslaught of negative thoughts. How I didn’t have anyone that I felt close enough to invite to attend to me…how all my friendships with girlfriends seemed so distant that I couldn’t share what these ladies were sharing with any of them.

If I was honest with myself- I had friends that would have loved to spend time with me that day; and likewise there were several people that I would have loved to be there had I taken the time to connect with them and extend the invite to attend.  However in that moment, my negative thoughts took over and overwhelmed me.  I remember trying desperately to hold back the tears as I quickly ran to the bathroom.  The message that was ripping thru me was opposite of that weekends whole idea…I felt alone and unloved.  I felt not worthy. I felt defect…I kept asking myself why couldn’t I have more friends and what was wrong with me that I didn’t have friends like these ladies. I was jealous and hurt. I felt like everyone in that crowd of women that attended that day had someone sitting next to someone that they could call a friend, everyone except me.  Blame it on whatever you want, but something at that moment broke me.

I left the conference a half hour or so early.  That same evening I was volunteering at an event called A Weekend to Remember; thru Family Life, this is an event where couples focus on their marriages.  I left trying to pull myself together as I was about to minister to a group of people that desperately needed healing and faith in their marriages.  I drove alone; as I pulled into the parking lot I noticed that the lanyard I wore had the theme of the woman’s conference “I’m with you” written across it…I scoffed at this idea as thoughts of about how unlovable and alone I was reverberated in my head.

Then it happened….the group that was volunteering for the marriage conference was lead into prayer by an older lady. She was a regular volunteer for this ministry from out of town; some would call her a “prayer warrior”, She was amazing to watch in action.  She started to put her hands on each individual and prayed out loud for that person and the prayers that she said were spot on….she hadn’t met most everyone in that room until that day but the things she prayed spoke into each persons life in almost a eerily accurate way.  There was an individual there that was involved in young men’s ministry- she prayed for guidance for him to specifically guide the young.  I was inspired by her gift as I watched her walk around the room and pray these awesome prayers that were clearly influenced.

She got to me…I was thinking; what on earth was she going to pray for me for, she couldn’t possibly know my heart. She put her hands on me and didn’t speak for a few long seconds and then she said words I will never forget. She looked me in the eyes and said  “wow….do you know how special and loved you are? wow…God has big plans for you.”  I was speechless. I remember a wave of peace going thru me; and I couldn’t help but thinking- wow I’m loved….and for the first time in a long while I DID feel loved.

I’ve thought back to that day and that moment…..I have wondered several times after she said those things …why am I special? Is it something that I did? Is there something that I am suppose to do? What are these big plans that he has for me? There are some days that I think…yeah…maybe I am special because I did this thing or maybe I will do something amazing in the future that God will smile upon. Truth of the matter is God thinks everyone is pretty special. He created me and everyone else for goodness sakes! He knows me pretty intimately and there is none a darn thing I NEED to do for him to love me.  I am his child, and of course he thinks I’m awesome!

Reflecting back to that day, During the conference while I was focusing on my perceived deficits he was working on a plan to draw me closer to him and remind me how much he values me.  While I was blinded in my moment of self pity; I thought the theme of the day “I’m with you” was about a friend sharing your experience. While I still wish I had taken the time to invite one of my friends to come with me; I realize now that I was far from alone at that conference. I had an amazing God with me. While my friends may know me and share some life experiences with me, noone but him can understand my heart. While my friends are busy with their lives and cant always be there, God is always there.   He has always been with me, and he always will be…and wow he loves me!  I am simply in awe.

 

 

The “In my Lifetime List”

A couple of weeks ago, going thru some old journals I found my old college to do list. I laughed at my silly goals that I had at that time like #5. Say hi to the guy that stands by the locker you see everyday. or #7. Find a route thru Campus that you are not outside for less than 30 seconds. Most of my goals at the time were small but intimately represented bigger aspirations that I had for myself. For instance I could interpret goal number 5 as being more open to meeting people or being brave when meeting the opposite sex. For goal number 7 my bigger aspirations may have been to be the first to strategically use all the campus buildings to find a traveling path from my car to my class….at least that sounds more ingenious that probably me just being lazy and wanting the comfort of staying inside while commuting to classes.

I’ve discovered more recently that as I have gotten older and my bigger goals have been accomplish such as graduating with my bachelors and Masters, getting married, getting a house, going to Disney,  having kids……I don’t have many things left to check off the list of things that I’ve always dreamt of doing. Don’t get me wrong the big stuff list is awesome…and I’m so grateful that those things are checked off, but I’m kinda left with thinking now what? Maybe cause I like checking things off… (yes I have written a task down after Ive done it just so I could cross it off, so what? ) and the fact that no one is guaranteed tomorrow as I have been solemnly reminded thru friends and family that have gone before their time; has caused me to re-evaluate the little things and start to develop this list of  things to do in my lifetime.

it’s a work in progress…so In no particular order:

1) Become a wine connoisseur:

wine lover

Because lets be honest people….wine is the way classy people get drunk.  I’m always impressed by how inciting wine is presented. I want to be able to describe alcohol as tasting like “a rich mixture of luscious raspberry with tones of decant chocolate that finishes with a tone of cheesecake” If I ever find wine like that I will make sure to let Everybody know! Plus I think it would be awesome to have a wine collection that whenever I have company over I can whip out a bottle and pair it with something that actually makes the main dish taste better.

2) Take a cooking class:

cooking_class

Have you ever watched that tv show chopped? If you haven’t its a competition where cooks get several mystery ingredients and they have to whip something up that tastes delicious.  I am always in awe at these people. Who can make something edible with pickles, cows tongue, Cheetos and Lemon… Me!! I could after taking a cooking class…… just with  four other different ingredients.

3) Start a cupcake charity:

smore_cupcakes_2

If anyone of my co-workers really know me, they know that cupcakes make me crazy happy. Some people get excited by football and other sports, some people are enthusiastic about politics…My passion and vice are cupcakes. How can they not make you excited? Seriously!? They have just the right amount of dessert and they can be made into many different awesome flavors such as   Blueberry Lemon, chocolate, red velvet, vanilla, cookies and cream, orange dream, German chocolate, coconut with dark chocolate, strawberry shortcake…need i go on? They invite my curious taste-buds, and like the wine connossuiour dream I want to be knowledgeable about all the different possible cupcakes there are to be had.  I haven’t figured out how to make really good cupcakes but when I do, the world better prepare because I would love to share my happiness and yummy good cupcakes with others.  I want others to smile when they taste cupcakes and have a better day because they know someone cares about them.

4) Run a 5k:

5k

I just asked my husband if a half marathon was the three mile one, and was told no indeed it was the 5k. Yep, that’s the one I wanna run. I  know…I know complete opposite of the other goals that are already listed. I have a love/hate relationship with running. I feel that accomplishing a 5k would make me feel proud.  Its also kinda saying ha! Look what I can do with my body,  to that part of me that hates running.  Plus I want one of those stickers on the back of my car 🙂

5) Learn how to play the Piano:

Growing up a majority of the time we had a piano at my house, and I never knew how to do anything on it except bang on it and make my parents yell to stop. I think to know how to create music and be able to share emotional states thru music is great. I’m a little jealous of those talented enough to learn a musical instrument. So before I leave this earth, I for sure want to learn how to play something and hopefully get a different reaction than the typical.

6) Be a spiritual leader:

This dream has started to come true a few times, and then has ended abruptly. Last year a lady from church asked me to assist being a leader in the Moms ministry that is offered thru my church, but do to class I could not attend at the times that the group was going on. More recently, I was asked to be part of a christian organization called Emmaus and their ministry as a table leader, sadly I had to decline.  I want people to remember me as a woman of faith. Hopefully not just because I say that I am a christian but also because I’m living like a Christian.

7) Own a library:

th

Yes I am a dork and love books. when I was a kid I thought the coolest thing would to own a school as a house, i’ve grown up a little…Now I just want the school library in my house.  It would be sweeeeeeeeeeeeet. I am getting goosebumps just thinking about it.  Sadly, my family may never see me again as I would probably never leave the library. okay, okay so maybe a smaller office sized library with time limits would ensure that I still have a happy marriage and not neglected children to come back to 🙂

8) Travel the World:

Not sure exactly where to go…but there is so much to do, so much to see.  I would love to explore what this world is all about.

9) Have a successful garden:

I never knew so many things could go wrong with growing food. Call it nativity, ignorance or just plain not a “first world problem”, but I assumed that all food would look like  and taste like what you see in the grocery store.  I thought all food was relatively easy to grow, and that all food would grow soon. I was so wrong. It makes sense now that I think about it and realize by the time I get the fresh produce at the grocery store it has been long picked and handled by many individuals. It has been sprayed to stay fresh so it is edible by the time it is sold. For those of you who have never tasted fresh home grown veggies or fruits, don’t be fooled like I was. There is a difference. We grew tomatoes last summer, holey cow were they the best tomatoes I’ve ever tasted!  We tried growing them this year, wouldn’t you know there is a giant tomato bush in our yard but I have yet to pick off a tomato! I want to perfect the art of gardening.

10) Find the perfect pair of jeans:

th (1)

At the end of the day I’m a girl, and for those girls who are out there you ALL know what I’m talking about. This is a quest that we are all on.  A never ending quest some days it seems. Guys: this is the reason your girlfriend/wife has several pairs of the same jeans at home. The reason that woman are so frustrated with department stores when they discontinue a product unexpectedly.  This is our hunt, our struggle…It once was won, at least for me. There was a day I remember Lee’s produced the “one true fit” jean in stonewash.  Ah! be still my heart. It was made for me I owned three pairs and wore them untill they had holes in the knees and the crotch…..alas, it is no more, and the hunt continues. So if my jeans sag a little too much, or if they are tight, please be kind they are not “the one” and I know it.

 

 

 

 

Classy Audrey

Classy Audrey

Walking thru the lobby and bathrooms of the local gym there are several pictures of Audrey Hepburn. I always scoff at the pictures and think “that woman didn’t have to work one hard moment in her life to be that beautiful, to be that classy”. Honestly, I don’t know anything about Audrey Hepburn and I’m really only assuming that she had it all together. It’s always so alarming when I start to hear myself self talk of how much I don’t measure up to whatever invisible standard I have of myself in life. I start to question why I’m not as beautiful as the person next to me, why I couldn’t pull off the latest fashion that another person is wearing near me, how my family is not as perfect as another….how I’m not as strong a leader as my co-worker…how my faith is not as strong as the next person. The list goes on and on, sometimes I find my insecurities are draining; and frankly dare I say it Ridiculous! It’s so easy to tear myself down and not to focus on all the gifts and blessings God has given me.

I realize when this self talk happens I have a choice, a choice that I need to make that second. To think am I being fair to compare myself to “Audrey?” Who am I to judge myself against this invisible standard that I will never measure up to to, and really why am I doing it? The funny thing is if I take a step back and think about what I’m judging myself against I realize that there is no way I could win. I start to lose the moment I allow myself to compare to another person.

I also think…what is this proving? Where do I go from here? It would one thing if after having these thoughts about how amazing Audrey is and how dopey I am, I kick butt at the gym. Alas, that is not the case at all. Instead I get super emotional; decide that working out sucks, and think about stuffing my face with cupcakes and crying to make myself feel better. Then of course after I skip the workout and eat like a fat kid I beat myself up some more about how much I suck for not having any willpower. UGH! The cycle continues….

This is what I know to be true, and has given me such great hope. Classy Audrey could not be me. She couldn’t be anyone else but who she was. Likewise, there is no-one that will ever be like me. My laugh cannot be duplicated, my smile is my own, there is for sure no way anyone could model the same thoughts I have day in and day out or act like how I act everyday. It’s the same for all of us. God has designed us all so uniquely for his pleasure. I’m glad is some ways that when I look at everyone I can see something that I envy. I know that there is a part of everyone of us that God wants to shine as a testament to his greatness. What an awesome God to design so many different facets of people!

I am so thankful for who I am. Although I still continue to struggle with self-doubts and degrading feelings like everyone else, I know that God designed me like that for his purposes. My quirks, strengths, weaknesses….all of it was meant to be.

ps.

You know as it turns out,  Audrey Hepburn didn’t think she was all that.   There was an article written after her death that says she struggled with thinking she was beautiful.  There are also lots of fun quotes on the internet about beauty from her. She was quoted as saying that “True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul”  That sounds like a woman who may have had an inkling  about God’s design for women.  I think she figured out that there is much more to a beautiful person that what you see on the outside. There’s also this quote she made:

“Let’s face it, a nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me.”
― Audrey Hepburn

Audrey, I like you ALOT better today than I did yesterday.  🙂