Read this post here.
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.
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!!
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 mom’s 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 Grandmother was even more difficult.
I don’t remember much about my mother before she left my brother and me. I was only four years old. She left me with her mother, and my brother was sent to live with my father’s parents. She came back to visit and stayed with us 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, 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, <PAUSE > 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.
“Happy old age” was always an enigma. I didn’t know any “old people” who seemed happy. Bitterness, anger, and loneliness seemed to be the destiny for anyone that lived past fifty. I will admit that perhaps my vision was a bit skewed.
From the time I was four, I lived with my grandparents and my great grandmother. Vacations each summer were spent with another set of grandparents. Each of them was miserable in their own way. None of them showed any signs of a happy old age.
When I think about each of them, I remember the frowns and downward pointed eyebrows. None of them had that sparkle of joy or peace in their eyes. Their voices were dull and mean. Yes, that is the word I needed to find-mean. Perhaps all of that anger, bitterness and loneliness had poisoned their spirit to the point that their words and actions spewed meanness.
This seemed to be such a contradiction since all of them (except my grandfather) talked about loving God and hoping for the glorious day when they would see Jesus in Heaven. My grandfather was a drunk, so his meanness came straight from a bottle. Grandmother took me to church every Sunday morning and then again on Sunday evening. When I was younger, she would take me with her to her church group “circle” meetings. The old women sat in a circle and talked about a Bible verse of two for a while, and then went directly into bashing anyone not there, as well as other church folks. Time for refreshments meant time to discuss the terrible state of the world, the disappointing youth of today, and to ask the host for the recipe of the treat of the day. Of course, they chatted amongst themselves as they left about “those treats she made” and the recipe was thrown out at home.
At church I heard sermons from an amazing pastor about God and his love for us, but at home Grandmother told the story of a different God. Her God was vindictive and just about as mean as she was. God was clearly judgmental, and perfection was required for His love. I never measured to the standard my Grandmother set for God to love me. He was just another grey haired, white bearded, crotchety, mean old man in my mind. When I was in my late 30’s I left the church, and after 25 years I felt drawn to return. I attended a variety of churches and denominations looking for a place to call a church home. One Sunday, I was looking for a church and “accidentally” found a different one. It was the farthest thing from anything I would ever have considered, yet it was where I was supposed to be-for many reasons.
The congregation is an older one with some of the most beautiful grey haired, faces with wrinkles, older women you will ever meet. I come complete with tattoos and ever-changing hair styles and colors, and they have accepted me without question. Many of them have been friends for years, and they truly love and cherish each other. The ages range from 70 to well over 90. Every Sunday and often at Wednesday prayer lunch, I look forward to seeing these special women. Their faces show wrinkles and eyes are often clouded by cataracts. They may have to use a cane or walker. Yet, all I see are sparkling eyes and beautiful smiles. I listen as they willingly share stories of the church, their childhood, marriages, families, and more. Laughter often accompanies their stories. When one is sick or has to be away, you can feel the sadness from the others. These women all love God and Jesus, but they don’t have to tell you that. You can see it in the love they have for each other, their church, their lives, and the way they welcome anyone who enters the doors of the church. I can clearly see the God of love that the pastor of my youth shared with us.
I used to be afraid of growing old. I worried that I would become a bitter, angry, lonely old woman just like my mother and grandmothers. I’m not afraid any more, in fact, I look forward to watching my children, my grandchildren, and yes, even my great-grandchildren as they grow and change. I have some very special friendships that I cherish and plan to take them with me as I journey towards old age. My prayer is that I may be just as precious and joyful as the women at my church.
A second unusual winter storm named Pax (Yeah, I don’t know when they started naming winter storms) blanketed my southern hometown of Charleston, SC with ice. Unusual is a rather mild word for this historic weather event. We typically deal with hurricanes and tropical storms, not ice storms. When we woke this morning, the ground was wet with rain, but everything above 2 feet was frozen. Icicles filled the tree branches where leaves once flourished. As time moved on so did the ice in the trees and bushes until everything was beautiful, yet frightening shade of white. Loud cracks and booms filled the day as branched broke and fell to ground shattering ice like broken glass on the ground. Reports of power outages began filling social media and the news. By early afternoon, we lost power at our house along with most of our friends in the area. Schools, business, and bridges closed for the second time in just a few weeks.
The magical wintery scene outside my window was stunning as well as alarming. As I sat and watched the trees and branches bending under the weight of ice and blowing wind, I thought about my mother. She spent most of her adult life in California and Nevada. She claimed and cherished our Native America heritage and loved to share her knowledge. When I lived in Nevada, we experience snowstorms frequently and ice storms from time to time. When ice would cover the landscape, my mother would remind me of the Native American story of “pogonip”. Pogonip is a Shoshone word meaning cloud or ice fog. They also refer to it as “white death”. The Shoshone know the dangers of people who become disoriented, get lost in the ice fog, and die from exposure. The early settlers believed they could inhale the small white crystals into their lungs causing death. The beauty of the high desert when it was covered in the white crystals and the stories, fascinated my mother.
In the next day or so, the white cover of ice will melt and the Winter Storm Pax will become a memory to share with family and friends. Each winter when the weather calls for snow or ice, we will talk about the year we had not one, but two icy winter storms. We will share pictures and memories, talk about the hours we spent without power in our houses, and debris covering our neighborhoods. We will even recall the beauty of a winter wonderland in our bit of the South.
The same thing happens when I think about my mother. I remember her life and share pictures and memories. I have been thinking about her more than usual the past couple of weeks. September of this year will mark six years since she passed away. I have often heard that grief touches grief; one grief event will trigger others. This week in the same year my mother passed away, my childhood friend’s husband died unexpectedly. Just a couple of weeks later, my best friend passed away unexpectedly, and a few weeks after that my childhood friend’s mother (my “other” mother) died.
The first part of March, I will be participating in an audition for LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER: CHARLESTON. Those chosen will bring their original, true accounts about motherhood to the stage. I haven’t finished my piece for the audition, but in preparing, my thoughts have turned to my mother, and to others who became “mothers” to me during my life. Just as I will with this year’s winter storms, I look back and remember those who touched my life, sharing them others and telling the stories one more time.
What does Luke Bryan have to do with “Must Be Present To Win?” Those who know me won’t be surprised when I explain. This post is obviously about winning. Jan and I were in the car the other day and I mentioned that I was really getting tired of the song, “Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner.”
“I don’t think I know that song? Who sings it?’ I was confused by her response since she is a county music fan and knows all the current songs.
I tried to sing a piece, but she still had no idea about the song. I decided to Google it and let her listen to the chorus, so that she would be terribly embarrassed when she realized she knew the song. I found it and played the snippet of the song I found. I then discovered that the song is That’s My Kind of Night by Luke Bryan. Here are the lyrics:
‘Floatin’ down the Flint River/catch us up a little catfish dinner/gonna sound like a winner, winner.” So, I had it almost right. And, she did know the song, of course. I still haven’t lived that one down.
On a more serious note, two years ago I attended a day conference here in Charleston presented by Google. As a surprise, they donated two newly released Samsung Galaxy Android Tablets. The first was given away at noon and the second at the closing session of the day. I had an appointment that couldn’t be changed, so I left just as the last half hour of the session started.
When I left my appointment I had several text messages and a couple of phone calls telling me that my name had been drawn to win the tablet. HOWEVER, YOU MUST BE PRESENT TO WIN! As you can see, I am not over it still.
You may know that it has been a rough few weeks. Several things are going on, but primarily I am struggling because my car died. Living in Charleston (very little public transportation), tying to go to school and work, and do all the other things I do is now a true challenge. I have cried, screamed, and prayed a lot- trust me!
Yesterday, I received a call from the local pharmacy where I fill my prescriptions. They announced that there had a been a drawing from all the people who used the online refill email last month, and I was the winner. My prize is two tickets valued at $20.00 each to a trolley tour around Summerville on what is known as the Sweet Tea Trail. While it isn’t a Samsung Tablet, I did win. As odd as it many sound, that phone call changed my mood. I didn’t do anything to earn this prize nor do I really deserve it. I won simply because I did what I needed to do.
I began to think that life is like winning both of those prizes-you must be present to win. If I choose to withdraw and be miserable or simply focus on the negative because I don’t have a car…or money…or my own home…you get the idea, then I lose. I can’t enjoy those things that make life worth living…family…friends…laughter…you get the idea.
Being present simply means getting out of bed each day, doing the next right thing, being part of the lives of the people I love, laughing out loud, acting like a kid, working, going to school, helping where and when I can, having faith that God is present in my life no matter what the circumstances, and praying. Some days I am going to be more present than others; we all have those days when we need to retreat and regroup. We might even need to cry sometimes. A friend told me that everyone has a bad day; you just don’t want it turn into bad weeks and months.
Today, I have been present. I got up early because I didn’t sleep well, but used the extra time to get a few things done. I went to school with all of my assignments for the day complete. I met my friends for lunch. We talked and laughed and just enjoyed hanging out. Right now I am supposed to be working on ten short summaries of essays for one class and critiquing three stories for another. Instead, I decided to write this blog post, first. (Please don’t tell on me!) I doubt I will have chicken or catfish for supper today, but all in all, I would say I was a winner.
I found this old post from my Blogger days. It was one of the first from the Losing It Series. Thought I would share this since it is no longer on my active site. I may pull some more posts from that series in the coming weeks.
I found the miracle cure for weight loss. I found it on the internet, of course. It is called the Tapeworm Diet. I am not kidding. There is a Tapeworm Diet; and yes, it involves a real Tapeworm. Here is the information I found about this “diet”:
“So what does a tapeworm in your gut actually do? It secretes proteins in our intestinal tract that make our digestion of food much less efficient. A less efficient digestive systems means that you can consume more calories through your food since your “body guest” is also noshing on them for his own growth purposes. Some scientists estimate that those infected with a single tapeworm can lose up to one or two pounds each week.”
Extreme? Maybe, but is it anymore extreme than allowing a surgeon to place a big rubber band around your stomach or cut out part of your intestine? What about giving up sugar and carbs totally? We could say it is easier than running triathlons, jogging for miles everyday, or spending your life and fortune in a gym.
Let’s look at those people on the Biggest Loser reality TV show. They leave their life, families, and jobs to go and live in a big house with strangers. They show off their layers of fat being pushed up by tight spandex to the entire TV viewing world. Don’t forget that they are beaten to death by two obsessed trainers.
I wonder if any of you reading this understand how desperate many of us are to lose weight and change our lives. We have bad knees, bad backs, high blood pressure, diabetes, and many other health issues caused by weight. We look at the clothing in our favorite store and then have to go to the “other” stores that sell fat clothes. Oh, wait, sorry, I meant Plus Size. I dream of the day I can fit into a size 16, while normal weight friends are mortified it they hit a size 14.
Many of us have tried the most popular solutions that have passed our way-Atkins, Sugar Busters, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, diet pills, Jazzercise, Aerobics, and more. I have even been looking online for “fat camps or fat rehabs.” They do exist, but not in my price range. One week at a well known “weight loss spa resort” in Hilton Head costs $3400 for a 10 day stay. They recommend 21 days at a special rate of $6900. The truth is that I would gladly pay that and more if it would work.
If you are scratching your head and thinking, what about good old fashion calorie counting and exercise, you are not alone. Sure it works. Absolutely. The problem is maintaining that for a lifetime. I will write more about the “cravings’, the obsession”, the inability to stop once you start in another blog post. I can’t eat ONE doughnut. I can’t even imagine why someone would eat just one. I often wonder why they make little bags for one or two doughnuts at Dunkin Donuts or Krispy Kreme? One dozen is more realistic.
OK-enough for today. Thanks for reading and following along with me on this journey.
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, a swing bridge that turned sideways to let boats go through. There were about 20 houses in our neighborhood on 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 backyard on She Crab canal that circled straight into 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 that time, and we met the first week. Carol was a feisty, freckle-faced redhead just a year and a half 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 every day 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 elusive 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 closest 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. Over time we would fill several small jars 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 the canes to get the sweet sugary juices. Another favorite treat was Pepsi and 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 to her childhood home after her father died, and I would go to the house, and sit on the front porch looking out at the river or in ever so familiar living room and share stories of the past. We would walk around that block we walked so many times before and smile. We even stopped to pick the honeysuckle from time to time.
Our lives have been filled with parallels including being born in the same hospital and being given the same name. (My name was Carolyn at birth and later changed) Today, we both live with our daughters, who were born within just a couple of weeks of each other. We talk every week without fail. Just recently we went to the memorial of an old friend from the neighborhood. It was held just minutes from our old houses on the Stono River. We stood together looking out at the river at sunset remembering our days of high tides, honeysuckle, and sugar canes.
Summer is beginning and I was thinking back to last year. June 2012 – I was at the beginning of some difficult changes at my job. I knew things were going be different, but I had no idea how different. I was excited about the beginning of summer as I always am. I was looking forward my brother visiting from Texas. I was planning a trip to see another brother and a special friend up north. I was in good physical health. I had great friends and was building some new friendships. By the end of summer, I had resigned from my job, started the process of ending my marriage, decided to go to college, and my world was turned upside down.
I haven’t had a full time job since summer ended last year. I am searching for a part time job and hope to have something in place in the next couple of weeks. I want to take time this summer to play, relax, and rebuild my health after fighting upper respiratory problems since January. I will turn 62 in August and begin collecting social security. I will taking some online summer classes at school. I am beginning to realize that I am getting older and may need to make some life adjustments. I have a sense that once again summer will bring change to my life.