My life has always involved changes. I am not really fond of changes; just ask anyone who knows me. 2015 has been full of changes, and I wasn’t happy about most of them. There was a lot of loss this year, too. However, this Christmas will be a very big change for me. Tonight, I will board a train and head west to San Antonio, Texas (after heading North, then West, and then South to get there) to spend the holiday with my brother and his family.
My brother and I were separated when we were very young. I did get to spend a couple of weeks with him every summer, but never Christmas. That might have been in part due to the fact that I lived in South Carolina, and he was in West Va. buried under snow. We haven’t been able to see each other very often as adults and have only been together during the Christmas season a few times. We have never actually shared Christmas Day since he was 2 years old.
This will be an exciting time. I will get to meet his grandchildren for the first time. We will be able to spend some good quality time together and that usually means trouble. His wife might have to send us to our rooms or give us time out. She will have to separate us when football is on because he is a DALLAS fan. OMG! We will get to do a little sightseeing, try to piece together memories and share some old pictures we have been able to gather over the years. All in all, I am so very excited and ready to begin this journey.
This will be a huge change for me. For the past 19 years, I have spent every Christmas day with my two children, their spouses, and my grandchildren. We usually begin the day in our pajamas and head to IHOP for breakfast. We then return home for gift giving and fun. The day usually ends with playing games and just relaxing. This year we got together a couple of weeks early to celebrate Christmas as a family. For the past 4 years, I have shared Christmas eve with my “other family.” The day often included shopping or last minute gift wrapping followed by Christmas Eve service at church and then supper. There would be amazing hot chocolate from a crock pot and just enjoying the time together. The kids would beg to open one gift from under the tree, and then we would exchange our Christmas gifts for each other.
Christmas at my house growing up wasn’t much of a celebration or fun. It was a day I usually wondered if my mother or father would call or come to see me. Usually my mother would call, but never my father. We had an ugly silver tree with a light that revolved around it. I have written some other posts about all of this. As an adult, Christmas was made very special because of my children. I loved watching their excitement over everything that happened during the holidays. There was then a period of time when they were older that things weren’t as good, but those times passed.
Christmas really is about a time of celebrating the birth of Christ and all that it represents. It is a time to share with family and friends no matter how close or far. I will truly miss the Christmas traditions of the past years, but I know this Christmas offers something special as I get to be a “kid” and reclaim some of the Christmas spirit with my little brother.
I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas or Happy Hanukkah or Happy Kwanzaa or anything else that you may celebrate during this holiday season.
At the end of this semester, I will be junior. I have done far more and far better than I ever imagined. I looked back at this blog post today. This sign still hangs on my door. Thanks, Mia.
Yes, I am attempting the Ultimate Blog challenge again. I am already a couple of days behind because of the nasty flu virus that inhabited my body on Christmas day. It took an arsenal of drugs to push it out of my body, but it left me with broncopneumonia. I have another batch of drugs to fight this battle.
Some may question my resolve in attempting the challenge when I will begin college classes tomorrow. I haven’t been in a college class in over 40 years. My friend Anna, who is a junior at the same school has been very supportive and encouraging. However, as she prepared to return to campus these past few days, her support has taken a different tone. “Your life as you know it is over” she told me last night. “Just wait and see,” she said with a perverted gleam in her eye.
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While I am so grateful to have two best friends that I consider sisters in every way except blood, I also have a biological half sister. I am sharing an older post today because it is my sister’s birthday. Those who know me will pause and ask, “which one is this?” I have seven assorted brothers and sisters, although I grew up an only child. This post will explain my sister, Jill. (click on the link below)
Happy Birthday Jill!!
I have been blessed with 2 best friends who are not only friends, but they are “sister friends” or “soul sisters”. They both been dealing with challenging times recently. I am reposting this blog post from two years ago because this is a difficult day for my friend Carol, and for me as well. In the post, I mention her childhood home where I found support, love, acceptance, and a retreat from the chaos of my house. Today, Carol moved out of that house taking with her so many memories. I have been lazy about writing personally and for my blog. This reminds me that I want to capture all of these memories, and it is time to get back to my writing.
Summer was a great adventure growing up. I grew up along the banks of the Stono River in Charleston, SC. I lived in a small neighborhood at the foot of the old Limehouse bridge. It was a swing bridge that turned sideways to let boats go through. There were about 20 houses in our neighborhood. There was a dirt road leading off the main highway that formed a circle of about 1/2 mile. There were houses on the main river, houses on the inner circle with just a view of the water, and just off the circle was a small extension of the circle where my house stood. We had a dock in the back yard on the main canal that lead to the river. The lots that were not developed were still thickly wooded areas filled with trees and wildlife.
I was almost 8 when we moved to that house. There was only one other family with children at the time. Carol was a feisty, freckle faced redhead just a couple of years younger than I. We immediately became “sister” friends and still are to this day. Even though my grandmother was very controlling and afraid of just about everything, she seemed to feel safe letting me roam the small neighborhood. Carol and I spent everyday together with few exceptions for next ten years.
The tides played a big part in planning our day. At low tide, only pluff mud and fiddler crabs were in the canal. We occasionally braved the mud to chase the fiddler crabs. The tide had to be about half in before there was enough water to swim or get in the old john boat. High tide in mid afternoon was the ideal. We would be in/on the water from lunchtime until dinner. In the evenings, we would shrimp or crab from the dock. A few years later, more families with kids and boats moved into the circle. We would often go out to the main river on their boats, but the canal was always our first love.
Behind Carol’s house were several undeveloped lots. There was a very large oak tree with massive branches that touched the ground. One of the branches that came close to the ground was perfect for bouncing. Our tree had several perfectly etched out places where you could sit. Carol would climb to the one just above the place I chose. We would sit and talk for hours. We solved world problems, dreamed of adventures, and planned our futures.
We loved the woods. They were filled with honeysuckle vines. We would sit and pick the honeysuckle, gently pulling the stem to get the tiny bit of nectar on our tongue. We picked wild blackberries and ate them on the spot. We were yet unaware of all the things in our world that would soon prove to kill laboratory rats. The woods were filled with tics, red bugs, spiders, and more but we rarely encountered any problems. We did come across snakes a few times, but always outran them. We loved catching Daddy Long Legs and fireflies. We would sit and dig in the sandy soil and find shark’s teeth. We had several small jars filled with them. We were always filled with awe as we thought that our homes were once covered with water and sharks.
We had a small store not far from our neighborhood. It was also home to the post office. Close by there was a fresh vegetable stand. We would go with Carol’s mom and spend our meager allowance a couple of times a week. We would often buy a stalk of sugar cane to take home. After dinner we would sit in Carol’s yard looking across at the river, pulling the husk away and chewing on cane to get the sweet sugary juices. Another favorite treat was Pepsi and peanuts. We would buy bottles of Pepsi and a small bag of salted peanuts. After drinking just a little of the Pepsi, we would each pour half of the bag of peanuts into our bottle. The trick was to get all the peanuts out before you finished the Pepsi.
When people ask about childhood memories, I don’t often have many fond ones to share. Alcoholism, abuse, abandonment, fear and sadness were all things that filled my house. Moving to that small neighborhood and finding Carol and her family was the greatest treasure and salvation of my childhood. Those summer days gave me hope for something more. Carol and I are still “sister” friends. She moved back into her childhood home after her father died. I go to the house, and we sit on the front porch looking out at the river or in ever so familiar living room and share stories of those times. We walk around that block we walked so many times before and smile. We even stop to pick the honeysuckle from time to time.
Thought I would share this post from last Christmas. Hope you all have a wonderful holiday!
It is close to midnight on Sunday night and I am sitting in an empty office room. During the day, the room is filled with volunteers and staff talking on phones and with each other. But, at night there is only one person covering the phones, and tonight it is me. I work for local hotline crisis center. I have done this for over 13 years now. We talk to people who are in pain, hurt, scared, angry, lost, and sometimes suicidal.
I chose this work because without a line just like this one, I might not be here today. In March of 1987, I made a call to a local crisis line because I wanted to die. I thought I could no longer handle the pain and guilt that ruled my life. I felt that God had long since given up on me, as had everyone else. A wonderful…
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“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” ― M. Scott Peck
It is inevitable that at some point, everyone will find himself or herself comfortably seated and suddenly realize that the toilet paper roll is empty with no spare roll in sight. This situation has several solutions, although most of them are embarrassing to some degree. The worst solution, in my opinion, would be asking for help. “Um, can someone bring me a roll of toilet paper, please?”
If we are to believe M. Scott Peck, then this could be one of our finest moments. As my friend, Jan F. used to ask, “What is it I am supposed to learn from this?” One lesson may be to take more time in preparation and look next time. Another may be to have a spare roll hidden away for such an emergency. Perhaps, the “truer” lesson is learning to ask for help. (Oh, and forgive the seriously disturbed person who left the empty roll.)
This year has brought more than usual “empty toilet paper holders” to my life, and I have tried to look at each situation with an eye for a creative solution and what lesson might I learn. I will admit that this question is usually the last thing on my mind when something happens. My first reaction is pure crisis mode. I know this about myself, yet in those first moments of what I consider a crisis in my life, I panic. I decide the worst possible outcome to the problem; this is usually an exaggerated worst possible outcome. I internalize first, ask God why He wants to torture me this way, breakdown and talk to someone I trust, and then, and only then I go into solution mode.
Last Thursday presented one more empty toilet paper roll in my life. I did not create the situation. In fact, I didn’t even know there was a situation. Someone else “left the toilet paper roll empty.” It seems all I can do is move into solution mode. This financial crisis took me totally by surprise, and it will be a challenge in my life for the next three months or so.
My mother was the one who taught me most about working in a solution mode. She overcame so many obstacles in her life, and with each one, she became more determined to overcome whatever may come her way. My mother was a unique character. Her solution sometimes included being a steamroller, yelling, cursing, and being a total b###ch! She would agree with that statement and be proud of it.
I have been thinking about her a lot this weekend. Six years ago, she died suddenly and unexpectedly. While I don’t want to become like her in some ways, I hope I can be as strong as she was in overcoming life challenges. It was only in the end after fighting for so long that she gave up. She never learned to ask for help or to trust people who would help her with those life challenges. It has only been in the last twenty years that I have learned to trust and allow people into my life. I am blessed with family and friends, yet I struggle to ask for or accept help. I am working to step out of that rut and find a different way.
I imagine all of you closing your computer screen, walking by your bathroom and sneaking a look to be sure the toilet roll holder is full. You may even go and find some extra rolls to hide away. Just remember that is all else fails, you can always yell for help.
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. TS Eliot
Just one year ago, I wrote a post called Road Trip , where I talked about taking a car trip from South Carolina to a very small community called Flat Top, West Va. It gets it name from level highlands upon which it is situated—the “flat top,” which follows the crest of “Great Flat Top Mountain”. At the summit, it is 4001 feet above sea level. All I can really remember is that there was a small country store/ gas station with “pop” as they call it there, and snacks, etc. close to my grandparents farm. There was a small school house across the street, a few more farm homes, and another small country store that served as the post office. I also remember cows and chickens, although I am sure there was more to it.
In my previous post, I explained that the trip each summer was to visit my brother who had been adopted by my paternal grandparents. I was four when we were separated following my parents divorce. I would travel with my grandmother every summer until I was sixteen to visit for a couple of weeks. The first time I went to visit there was when I was eight years old. The local paper came out to take a picture and report on the strange visitors from down South. Here is that article:
I remember pulling up to the house and feeling excited and scared all at the same time. I was told that I had been there to visit when my parents were married, but I was too young to remember that. Yet, I felt a strange sense of familiarity with the house and my brother. There was a connection there, which is hard to explain.
In my post last year, I ended with suggesting that my brother Mike and I make a road trip and visit Flat Top together in the coming year. He jumped on board quickly, and we decided to make it happen. Early this year, we talked with my brother Billy (my father’s son) and his wife Susan about the trip. After bouncing a few dates back and forth, we chose the last week in July for our adventure.
Let me digress for just a moment. My father remarried shortly after his divorce. He married a young woman who lived just down the road from his parent’s farm. He and his wife had five children together. I didn’t get to spend much time with them growing up, but my brother Billy and I have always had a strong connection. In fact, he is the only one of the kids to whom I am close. Just a couple of years ago, after his mother died, he and Susan bought the farm and live there full time. We will all be spending the week together. I am working many extra hours the next two weeks to be sure I can afford the gas to get there!
I am excited to visit my brothers and sister-in-laws, and I am excited to see the place I spent so many summers. I am also a bit anxious; memories might be stirred or maybe there will be triggers during this trip. We hope to find some other relatives or family friends who may help shed some light on some family questions. I want to enjoy the peace and beauty of the mountains, as well. Some new information I recently discovered is making me even more excited about seeing Flat Top. I have been searching for information about my father (he was adopted), grandparents, and other family. While helping my friend Jan with some research on her family, I discovered some great resources. One was a great website with old newspaper clippings. I found some newspapers from West Virginia that gave me some exciting information. Before my mother passed away, she explained that my name was Carolyn or Carol Lynn when I was born , and that I was called Lynn until my grandmother adopted me and changed my name. I wrote about it in a post called “Will the Real Cathy Please Stand Up“. I was also told that I was born in the Philadelphia Naval Hospital and then moved back home to Charleston, SC shortly after.
There were some newspaper stories about the Flat Top Farm Women’s club in some of the old newspapers. Several of these included the names of the women attending the meeting. I was shocked to see my mother’s name listed with “her daughter Lynn.” By putting the dates and names together, I discovered that after I was born, my mother went to live with my grandparents in Flap Top while my father was out to sea. We lived there until after my brother was born, moving to Charleston when I about two.
I believe this trip will be a journey home for me. In the quote at the beginning of the post, TS Eliot says that we “will arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”. I don’t really know what I hope to find or gain from this journey to my first home, yet I believe it will hold more significance and meaning than I imagined when we planned this reunion. Maybe I will meet my little girl Lynn while I am there. I will surely give her a hug and tell her how very happy I am to know her.
“This is the Crisis Hotline. How can I help you?” I almost hung up when I heard those words on the other end of the phone. I was angry, frightened, and lost.
“I tried to kill myself, but it isn’t working.” I waited for a response.
“OK, let me get a counselor to help you.”
I didn’t think anyone could help, but I didn’t know what else to do. A woman talked to me that night for a very long time. I don’t remember everything she said, but I will never forget her compassion and caring that night. She listened-really listened-without judgement or condemnation. She saved my life that night.
Several years later, I made a decision to volunteer with crisis hotline in the town where I lived. The 35+ hours of training consisted of learning active listening skills, crisis intervention skills, and more. I was excited about answering calls and helping someone just as I had been helped. Little did I know that one call on that line would change my life.
I was in an abusive marriage. I knew I needed to leave, but I kept making excuses for staying. One afternoon I answered a call from a women, who was hiding in a closet while we talked. I stayed on the phone with her as I heard her husband banging on the door and screaming at her. We were able to send help to her and get her out. I don’t know what happened with her after that day, but as I talked with her I realized it could easily have been me on the other end of the call. It was time for a change.
Within a couple of months, I left my marriage and moved back home to South Carolina for a new start. A couple of years later, I saw an ad for a position as the Volunteer Coordinator for our local Hotline. I was ecstatic when I was offered the job. I have been blessed to part of the 2-1-1 Hotline here in Charleston, SC ever since.
The staff and volunteers are an amazing group of people. We have volunteers from every walk of life and every age range. We have college students majoring in psychology or social work. We have senior citizens who are retired and love talking with callers. We have people from varied philosophical ideas, from every political affiliation, from all faith and religious backgrounds, and more. The common thread is a desire to help others.
People often ask what is required to be a 2-1-1 Hotline volunteer. Here is what it takes:
- Respect of others and non-judgmental attitude
- Empathy or understanding
- Level head and ability to stay calm in a crisis
- Dependability and honesty
Our training program covers general counseling skills, crisis intervention and issue education to prepare you for the wide variety of calls you may take. We ask for a commitment of4 four-hour shifts a month, with flexible scheduling 24 hours a day, for 9 months following the completion of training.
My friend and coworker, Sonia wrote a blog post about her experience with 2-1-1 Hotline as well. You can read it here. Sonia is the phone room manager and would love to talk to you about volunteering. Our next training starts in June.
Call or e-mail today to set up an interview!! firstname.lastname@example.org or 843-566-7186
For years, I stood in the card aisle of stores searching for a Mother’s Day card. Mother’s Day cards were always hard to buy. Pictures of children with a beautiful mother or one of those moms who did everything and wore the Super Mom Cape filled the aisles. Written in verse on the inside were phrases like “You’ve always been there for me,” or “You taught me so much,” and “I love you.” On the front, were big, bold letters that declared “For My Mom” or “Mother.” I would finally settle on a rather generic card for my mother with a picture of puppies or flowers that read “Happy Mother’s Day-Hope you have a wonderful day.”
Finding one for my Grandmother was even more difficult. I don’t remember much about my mother before she left my brother and me. When I was only four, she left me with her mother, and my brother was sent to live with my father’s parents. My mother came back to visit a few times, but by the time I was six, she had moved across the county. I didn’t see her again until I was sixteen. Letters and phone calls were all that kept us connected, but my grandmother only allowed one short call a week. I think she would have been happier if my mother had just disappeared altogether.
When I was young, my Grandmother would look at me and say, “I love you” in a way that let me know she was waiting for the proper response. I wouldn’t look at her, but I would hesitantly respond with, “I love you- But I love my other Momma, too.” Grandmother told me I didn’t have to call her Momma, but I knew better. So, I did my best not to call her anything. I would walk across an entire room to get her attention and ask a question, so I didn’t have to say “Momma.” I didn’t understand what had happened or why my mother left until I was grown. In an old trunk of Grandmother’s, I found the note my mother wrote the day she left. Scrawled on small, yellowed, unlined paper, you could feel the pain and panic of her words: “Please take care of the kids. I love them more than anything in the world, but they are better off with you. I guess you think I am awful for leaving the kids like this. Me and Joe just can’t get along. I tried to talk to him, but it’s no good. It’s just not good for the kids with me and Joe fighting all the time and him drinking. Please don’t turn them against them. I don’t know if I’ll see them again, but tell them I loved them an awful lot.” My mother was not only leaving an abusive, alcoholic husband but was leaving behind her young two children; She had just turned 20 years old.
What I soon learned was that he was not only abusive to her, but to me as well. She was afraid my brother and I would be hurt if she stayed. Sadly, we didn’t fare much better in our new homes. As an adult, I tried to have a relationship with my mother, but it was hard. She walked away from me so many times; usually for a man. When my first son was born, she was supposed to come to my house to stay for a few days to help. Instead, she left home and never showed up at my house. Her husband kept calling me looking for her. I didn’t hear from her for three days. She used my son’s birth as a way to have time to leave her husband for her new boyfriend. You get the idea? She was used to shutting people out. She had been hurt by so many for so long. She once told me that she had spent most of her life running away from anything she thought might hurt her. Many people considered her to be a “hard” woman. She didn’t take anything from anyone. However, if you got to know her, you would find that she would go out of her way to help a friend, yet keep her distance emotionally.
I could never bring myself to call her Mom or Mother, but I didn’t want to hurt her feeling by calling her by her given name, so just as I had when I was a child with Grandmother, I tried not to call her anything. Not long before she passed away, I took a trip with her to the place she grew up. She told me stories of her life that helped me understand the pain that made her the woman she was. When we returned from the trip, we sat down to talk before I left for home. As I was getting ready to leave for the only time I can ever remember, she told me that she had always loved me. She paused and said, “You know that, don’t you?” I smiled, took a deep breath, and said, “Yeah, I know that.” I gave her a hug and walked to my car. I took a few steps, stopped and turned back to her. I said the words that have always come so hard for me. “I love you. ( I paused) Mom.”
It was the last time I would ever see her. She passed away four months later. After she passed away, her husband wrote and said, “You were her daughter, and she was so proud of you. You meant more to her than you will ever know. She wasn’t good at telling people she loved them, but you were the heart of her joy before I met her and still so to the end. Her greatest joy was being your Mom.” For many years, I rarely used the word love except with my children. I lavished it on them. Honestly, it was a word that scared me. After getting clean and sober and being in therapy, I was able to use the word more honestly. My kids and grandkids hear it all the time. I don’t use the word lightly or freely. If I tell my friends and family, “I love you,” I really do. .I didn’t tell my mother I loved her very often. I wish I had told her more.
If you don’t have cable TV, visit retail stores from Walgreens to Ace Hardware, or talk to other human beings, then you may have missed a phenomenon called Duck Dynasty. You have missed getting to know the Roberston family including three brothers named Jase, Willie, and Jep who run the family company “Duck Commander” in Louisiana. The company makes hunting products and are most known for making duck calls with the same name as the company. The fourth brother Alan is a preacher. The family leader is the father, Phil along with mom, Kay. Si (Silas) is Phil’s brother. All the men, except for Alan, are known for their long beards and country living and values. The show also includes all the wives and children of the brothers. A&E reports the show has broken many rating records and in the fourth season has over 11 million viewers.
Si is one of the most interesting characters on the show. He is never without his pitcher of tea and Tupperware tea cup. He starts every sentence with “Hey” and ends most with “Jack.” He is also known for off the wall comments and an odd sense of humor.
I recently passed a mobile home sales lot and saw the newest Si-Pad advertized with large banners. The Clayton Homes description of this home says, “Camouflage wall panels. Check. Si Security Locker for your hunting gear. Done. “Si’s Stash” safe for valuables. You bet. It’s an affordable, quality home designed with the needs of “the outdoorsman” in mind, inspired by Duck Dynasty® star, Si Robertson. Robertson has endorsed Clayton Homes as a “good call.”
You can find almost anything that uses the cast of Duck Dynasty including T-shirts, jackets, hoodies, bandanas, tea cups, calendars, fake beards, posters, watches, coffee mugs, hats, booble head dolls, DVDs of all seasons, and last, but not least, and most surprising…books. It seems almost all of the cast have written books. As someone who strives and longs to have a book published someday, it makes me take a deep breath and wonder if there is hope when I see the Duck Dynasty books on sale at every book store and Amazon.
You will find a book by Si called “Si-cology 1: Tales and Wisdom from Duck Dynasty’s Favorite Uncle.” Does that mean there will be a Si-cology 2? Other titles include, “Happy, Happy, Happy”, “The Duck Commander Family-How Faith, Family, and Ducks Built a Dynasty”, “Miss Kay’s Duck Commander Kitchen: Faith, Family, and Food–Bringing Our Home to Your Table”, “The Duck Commander Devotional”, “Duck Dynasty: Family, God and Guns”, “Faith in the Duck Blind”, “The Women of Duck Commander: Surprising Insights from the Women Behind the Beards About What Makes This Family Work”, and we are assured that there will be more.
A friend recently pointed out that Mama June from the show Honey Boo Boo (another interesting reality TV show) got married, and Si Roberson and the rest of the family have published books. She also pointed that neither of us were married nor had we published anything. I shook my head, shrugged my shoulders, and really couldn’t think of anything to say.
I won’t give up, however. I look at it from a different perspective. If Si Robertson and the Robertson family can write and publish books, then certainly a smart, talented, amazing person like me can make it happen. Right? Maybe, I just need a new Si-Pad as to “relax” and write. So, in the words of Si Roberson, “This thing is gonna be a humdinger. I’m talking ’bout this thing is gonna be a pants-off dance-off, Jack. We fixing to have a hootenanny like you ain’t had in your lifetime. Hey, this is going to be like the wedding from Deer Hunter. Hey, this thing is gonna be good.”