Tag Archives: Life

A Different Sort of Christmas

10639723_10153382246019606_766582423469376504_nMy 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.

 

Sister Talk

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!!

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HoneySuckle, Sugar Cane, and High Tide

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.

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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.

 

What Will Be My Legacy?

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I sat on the wooden pews in a small church waiting for the memorial service for a friend to begin. If the wall  of this hundred-year-old sanctuary could talk, they would tell the life stories of so many people, including the story of the man to be memorialized that day. He had been married in that church, as had his parents, as well as his some of his children and grandchildren. In the cemetery next to the church were buried his wife, his parents, grandparents, and other family members.

A granddaughter spoke about him during the service remembering a long life spent in devotion to family, service to community, and dedication to his church and beliefs. No one could describe him without using the words “sweet man.” What an amazing legacy to leave for those who knew and loved him.
I thought about my friend Jan F. who died seven years ago. She left behind a note stating what she hoped would be her legacy. Anyone who knew her would have to say these words are true.

I wish to be remembered for:
– my loyalty as a friend and to family
– my passion – for animals, music
– my commitment to providing caring, sensitive, compassionate therapy to my
patients. I would go the extra mile for them.
– my love of music and singing
– my laughter
– my creative, innovative side
– my integrity – as a person and as a psychologist
and anything else someone can think of.

I couldn’t help but wonder what legacy I would leave for my children, grandchildren, and friends (family of choice). My family tree is broken and missing many branches. I don’t have a long line of ancestors to share. I have made many detours and mistakes in my life journey, yet I hope that the life I have created out of the turmoil and chaos of my childhood will speak for me. I hope those who know me best will remember the person I have become.

I don’t plan on leaving this earthly home anytime soon. I have always said that I plan to live to be at least 100 years old. When that time does come, I hope the legacy I leave behind is one that causes those who knew me to smile and to know that in some small way I changed their lives.

Another Empty Toilet Paper Roll!

“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

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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.

218062_1034694790696_1325238216_81030_4576_nClaudia Haber  October 12, 1935 -September 16, 2008

I Still Want a Donut!

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Last week I embarked on what seemed to be a rather innocuous journey, and I shared a post here about it. The challenge was to post a picture every day for 100 days of something that made you happy. I started well, but floundered around day four. In the eleven days since I accepted the challenge, I have posted only seven pictures, and truth is one of them was an old picture.

I tried to take pictures of things that made me happy, but soon came to the realization that not too many things really make me happy. Well, I meant to say things I could photograph, that is. Don’t misunderstand me; I have many things in life that make me happy, but I just couldn’t find a way to make it work in this challenge.

Of course, things like the beach, a beautiful sunrise or sunset, the color of fall leaves or spring flowers, spotting a deer in the woods, and more all bring happiness into my life. However, it is a bit of a drive to the beach or the woods, and I am often not in a place to photograph those other things on a daily basis.

Yet, what really makes me happy is sharing that experience with people in my life. I don’t have to physically share the experience, but I find such joy in sharing the story with a friend or family member. Even better is when the person with whom I choose to share the experience gets as much joy or excitement from it as I did.

I grew up as an only child in a home where talking, touching, and sharing life experiences were non-existent. I had very few friends and often felt alone. As an adult, I have come to cherish the people in my life. I sometimes share my experiences with the exuberance of a young child, bursting with excitement to tell my story. I imagine that I can be a bit overwhelming to those who know me best. However, they usually smile and say something encouraging.

I have decided that I am not going to continue with #100happydays challenge, but I am going to continue to look for things every day that bring happiness into my life. If something captures my attention, and I can take a picture, I will still share it on Instagram. Keep watching! The next picture you see may just be of a donut!

Refocusing or May I Have a Donut?

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I have been watching my friend Abby, from the infamous Abby Gabbs blog, posting pictures with the hashtag #100happydays. I wasn’t sure what it was about, but I loved the pictures. Today, Abby posted that she had completed the challenge, and I finally understood what it meant.

It is a very simply challenge- every day submit a picture of what made you happy! Post the picture to your Instagram or facebook and tag it. At first it seemed to be a rather Brady Bunch, Leave it to Beaver look at your life. Yet, the more I read, the more I realized that some days I only focus on the fear or the negative. Every day has something that brings happiness. Every day I can chose to be grateful for something.   I know this is pretty simple, and I know it won’t change the circumstances of daily living, but it might just change my attitude a bit.

The challenge says, “#100happyday challenge is for you – not for anyone else. It is not a happiness competition or a showing off contest. If you try to please / make others jealous via your pictures – you lose without even starting.

I decided to take the challenge. I won’t be posting to facebook every day, but my Instagram will be updated daily. I will post again in a couple of weeks, and let you know if my attitude has changed.  I hope I don’t have to buy too many donuts!

Off the Computer and Into the Streets?

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The past few months have been a time of questioning and feeling powerless.  It began when I read the story of 200 young girls in Nigeria who were kidnapped and held hostage.  A movement called #bringbackourgirls was started, and the internet exploded with people posting concerns, demanding action, and praying that the girls not be forgotten.  I quickly jumped on board.  I chose and committed to praying for not only all the girls, but for one young girl named Naomi.   I changed my profile picture on facebook to the logo for the movement.   I signed a petition  and tweeted about the girls.

Last week, I changed my profile picture back to my own picture.  As I did it,  sadness filled my heart knowing that we are approaching 100 days, and the girls are still being held captive.  Did all my efforts mean nothing?  Is it useless to try to effect change?   I hope not.  Yet, I wonder if it is enough.  Could I have done or do more? What would that look like?

I am thinking about the answer to questions like these as I take classes this summer.  In the first semester class, we watched  Half the Sky documentary about the lives of women and girls around the world who are abused, treated as slaves, sold as property, and mutilated.   We saw sex trafficking here in our own country, as well as around the world.   We discovered girls being denied access to education just because they are girls.  We also watched a documentary about the conditions of people  around the world living without proper sanitation or access to clean water.   We looked at poverty at home and globally.

This semester we are talking about social problems and solutions.  In one of our discussion posts, I wrote about the use of the internet and social media to effect change.  I know these movements bring issues to light and help unite people around a common cause, but are they enough?  My professor asked a difficult question, and I am trying to find an answer within myself.  She called using social media, etc.  “armchair activism”.   She asked “What do you think it might take to get people off the computer and into the streets?”.

It seems like a radical idea, doesn’t it?   Yet, isn’t that how change has taken place in our country since the beginning?  Please understand that I am not talking about violence or overthrowing the government, but I am talking about finding ways to have a voice that will make a difference.   Social media can have an impact; a study last year showed that people were more likely to vote if their friend’s post about voting.  Many people learn about politics and politicians on the internet.  Social media has been helpful in creating movements that do make a difference.

Take Molly Katchpole. She was 22, working two jobs, and struggling to make ends meet. When Bank of America announced a new $5/month banking fee, she thought it was unfair and decided to do something about it. She used Change.org to start a petition, shared the effort with her friends, and got 300,000 petition signatures, which pressured Bank of America to scrap plans to institute the fee.   http://techchange.org/2013/07/02/social-movements-and-social-media-spark-a-movement-change-the-world/

Let’s talk about voting.  Do you vote?  Do you know that America has one of the lowest percentages of voter turnout for countries that allow voting?  Among the 58% of people that did vote in the last election, how many actually took time to research and learn about those for whom they voted?    Do you know that according to the constitution the only requirements for running for the House of Representatives are being 25 years old, have been a U.S. citizen for at least seven years, and live in the state they represent?  Of course, I understand that  you need to find backers with money, etc. in order to win.  Or do you?

I am asking questions because I want to do something.  I work in a field where I  talk with  so many people who are facing issues that are far too common in our country.   I look at statistics about our county or read stories in news, and  I hear people say, “That is so sad or so horrible. Why doesn’t someone do something?”  It reminds me of a couple of quotes that seem appropriate right now.

I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.”    Lily Tomlin

“Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it.” “Well, why don’t you ask Him?” “Because I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.”   (Anonymous) -a quote from A Hole in the Gospel, by Richard Stearn, President of World Vision.

Do think it is important to do something about things going on in our world?  A student in my class said that he believed people either feel helpless or just don’t care.- Do you  feel helpless?   What do you think you can do to effect change?

 

 

Country Roads and Finding Home

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:

Page 3Cathy and Mike

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.

What You Don’t Know Won’t Hurt You…

This summer I am taking Women’s Global Health and Human Rights at College of Charleston.   One of our big assignments was to create a YouTube video PSA.   Only after completing the video and posting it on the class site did I learn (finally read the rubric) that I had to get over 400 hits to get full points.

This is my first attempt at making a movie or a PSA so it is a bit rough around the edges.  Please be sure to click on the link and help me get 400 views!

Would love some feedback or ideas about how to make the next one better.  I already know that the audio on the videos wasn’t the best so that is something to work on!!

Thanks everyone!

 

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