Monday, November 28, 2016

The Unfriending of America

While I personally have seen a lot of good stem from social media and increased abilities to instantaneously communicate and connect with other people, there is a disturbing undercurrent raging these days.

Never before have we had such a climate of contentious happenings and over powering opinions. Well…..opinions are like that bodily orifice which shall remain nameless…we all have one. Some of us are better at expressing ours, some of us buy what we are spoon fed by others, some of us believe anything and everything we read and hear, others refuse to believe what they see with their own eyes, some of us ignore the rattling skeletons in our own closets while dragging others through the sludge, and fewer of us take the time to be well informed and truly knowledgeable about what we believe. We are all different…we are diverse…we are each unique…and we are each important.

Many years ago I was told there were two things you should absolutely NOT discuss….religion and politics. I used to wonder why because both of those subjects were interesting to me personally because I wanted to know why people thought and felt the way they did about those two issues in particular.

After the past few years, I no longer wonder why those things should be taboo. Those two things can cause more misunderstandings, divisiveness, and actual pain than anything else on earth.
We are a better informed people….some of us are at least, but all of us want to think we have the answers and it usually fits our own agenda and how we will personally be affected by that viewpoint. Does it make any of us wrong? Therein lies the question of the ages…..if you base your opinions on your own experience and your own need and your own information….are you wrong? And, if someone respectfully disagrees with you based on their own beliefs and tries to bring another tier of discussion to the table, how should you handle that? I believe a respectful and free thinking people are enriched by good and honest debate.

About 5 years ago I started to see a trend in my own social media experience. Suddenly….there were some folks who had dropped me like a hot rock because I didn’t think or feel the same way they did. I am grateful, I think, that they didn’t make grand pronouncements….they just sort of slipped away. It made me sad….some of them I had known since I was very very little….but because I had differing opinions, they chose to “break fellowship” with me. And, I missed them.

The first instance of this happening made me vow that I would never be someone who cut ties with anyone because I did not agree with them in a social media forum. And….I have remained true to that vow. I’m not going to say that I have failed to express myself both on my own postings and the postings of others because I most certainly have utilized my right to defend my position when I felt I should but I will say I have tried very very hard to be respectful, kind, humorous and tolerant in doing so. I hope I’ve been successful. If I haven’t, I have no doubt someone will make sure to point it out to me.

One of the things that has been most disturbing to me is the willingness of people to allow their “like minded” so called friends to verbally eviscerate someone who disagrees with them….even if that person is someone they have a very close connection with. Does this mean we are willing to lose very real people in our lives in order to have the stamp of approval of those we will probably never have to physically interact with in life ever again? Allowing anyone to call someone else vile, disgusting and a traitor to their race or gender on one of your posts is simply unacceptable to me. And….I don’t care who you are….or how thick your skin is….things like that are hurtful.

One of the things that might fix our divisions in some small way is if we could manage to communicate without resorting to hateful name calling or labeling those of us who feel differently than we do. And we are all responsible for how we allow people to be treated in our commentary….you cannot plead for tolerance for all people while allowing someone to be shouted down and maligned without your own intervention.

It seems that the ability to hide behind a keyboard and a monitor while sipping coffee in our pajamas is not making us a kinder group of people. We are retreating into our own little comfy bubbles of our own opinions while forgetting some of the people who might disagree with us actually really love us and are the ones who are listening when we have problems and are the ones who will “step up” in spite of a ridiculous difference of opinion.

And so, in closing, if I liked you last year…..I still do. If I loved you last year….I still do, more in fact. If I’ve allowed anyone to disrespect your opinion by labeling you or trying to make you feel less than you are….I am horribly sorry. If you’ve allowed that to happen to me….I forgive you. I’m hurt, but I forgive you and am waiting to resurrect that which has been lost between us. But, if you are content with a separation I release you and wish you peace!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


This was my childhood paintbrush.  When all I saw were the colors black and white.  There was good....there was bad, hot and cold, up and down.  I had not yet learned the different shades of black or the infinite boredom of only white.  I believed what I was told by everyone because I had not yet learned that there were things such as lies, betrayal....lukewarm feelings.  The revelation of those things caused me to learn to paint sometimes with gray....neutral...non-threatening....easy because it blended with everything and offended nothing.

As a grew a little older my paintbrush was heavy with the colors of the rainbow and all the shades in between.  I learned to look for nuances in shade and tonality and I began to see people as colors.  Some people were vivid....vibrant.  Others were plain and pale and uninteresting.  I wanted to be all the colors....but more than any I wanted to be a bright, happy, and sunshiny yellow.  While my childhood was often turbulent, it was full of events that sometimes made me have to step out from the comfortable places and face things.  Sometimes I faced them with my rainbow paint brush, making things seem better than they were.  And, sometimes, I reverted to unassuming, non-confrontational gray.

As time passed I found myself defined by other maroon and white which represented my school, my friends, and my safe haven in times of trouble because more than occasionally I found areas of my life were very black.  During these times....I found myself longing for the grey days when I could simply blend with little expected of me.  But, for me, gray was cowardly, so, I threw myself into maroon and white with like minded people and spent several years hiding out in the colors of my cheer uniform.

I became older....terribly old at 18....and I married.  Often my paint brush during this time was bright red....blood red....angry, angry red.

  But my babies came along and the purity of the love I had for them turned my paint brush a soft pink.  This became my favorite brush and I tried to make it last as long as I could, but sometimes the other colors leaked in and I found that each time they did, my pretty soft pink brush just didn't paint quite as nicely as before.

I've often had a passing romance with a blue brush when tears fell like rain and mixed with every other color making a confusion of patterns.  

 I've even painted with a green brush from time to time....envious of other people and other things....things that seemed easier and more pleasant than what my own reality had become.  I've dabbled in dirty brown paint that was hard to clean off and I've often been a ridiculous shade of purple - so angry I boiled.  

I've come to know that each color I've painted with for a season represented what kind of person I was at the time.  Even when I revisited certain colors their vibrance was a little different, sometimes softer....sometimes bordering on a disturbing neon version.

I'm different today.  I paint a lot in red....not because I'm angry anymore, but because I like is strong and can stand up to other colors.  I also paint in yellow now more than ever...because I've found I can be happy with myself even when others are not.  I am the only one who knows my heart.  I still have moments when blue and green come calling but I'm happy to say that brown and black are nearly a thing of the past.  I don't have time for life left is short and I don't want dirty or hurtful things to color any of my days.  I learned to use  gray again,  because it is in my gray areas that I find my tolerance for others who may not think as I do or agree with me.  The tolerance for differences and the tolerance that helps me understand that someone may be having their season with a particular paint brush and they just need to paint it out till it is finished.

I am so very different than I was at 14, 18, 25, 40....50.  In fact, probably my biggest transformation has come in the last 5 or 6 years.  Life dealt me an exhausting and heart wrenching blow that changed me forever.  I struggled to find anything that remotely could represent that time frame for me and all I can think of was that I was painting for a while in transparency.   
My feelings were out there, raw like an open wound but most of the time I felt almost invisible.  With the exception of a very few people, I don't think anyone was aware of the magnitude of my isolation.  Losing your mother as an only child of hers with no one to share that pain....that ripping hurt and then having to nearly single handedly spend years putting her life and her things away was demoralizing and sometimes dehumanizing.

I was a living ghost going through the motions of life, trying to hold together my own fragile person.  On the day I shredded the final piece of paper of all the records mom had kept for decades was the day I begin to feel a lightening in my spirit.  As the last tax return (from 1962) slid through the shredder with staple intact it seemed to pull my anger, pain and disappointment with it.

It didn't happen quickly or easily but finally, all the things that seemed so important and all the issues I felt so strongly about sort of faded into softer shades of themselves and I gathered them in to my colorful life and tried to make sure they remained part of my palette but that none of them would ever dominate the picture again.

I have strong feelings....even stronger opinions but I have learned a tolerance for things I never thought I would.  It is not that I agree with them, but I have realized that I can only paint my picture with the colors God has provided me with and allow others to do the same.

More than anything else, I've realized that I am strong and if I were not me I think I would like the person I am today.  The bristles on my brush are more than a little worn and there is evidence of all the past colors used and cleaned and used again, but more and more I find myself picking up the happy colors.  I have days.  Days when I go black, dark and dirty.....I hope that is natural.  I think what is important is to learn to not live in the dark and dismal side of life. To always be seeking the light and happy moments that make things better for ourselves and maybe eventually for others...particularly those who might have gotten splashed with some of our more unattractive colors when we weren't being very careful with our life...our words.

Peace my friends....pray for each other....those you know and those you don't.  Pray for our county and the people in authority over us.  Pray for me that I will one day lose all my brushes but the happy ones.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

In the Beauty Pageant of Life, Just Call Me....

Miss Understood

I guess we all have those moments when we wish other people had insight into our circumstances without us having to rip open our hearts and show the bleeding remains of heartbreak.

As I get older, I am seeing a greater disconnect between people and with that comes a more distinct unwillingness to give anyone the benefit of the doubt.  People no longer seem to even attempt an understanding of what someone else has struggled through or is wrestling with in the moment.  We as a body of human beings are losing much of our humanity in only thinking about how someone else's behavior is affecting US.

No one should have to explain their personal pain, and yet....if we don't, someone is most certainly apt to get offended and stay that way.  To that end...I am just going to lay my "stuff" out there for anyone who cares to know.  And if they still are resentful or hate filled at the end of it, then I am just going to have to say "that burr is remaining under your saddle blanket by YOUR choice."

I'll go back a ways and briefly do a personal history first.  My biological parents divorced when I was very very little.  So small that I don't remember them being married at all.  I was raised by my mother and step-father.  My mom had always been a caregiver for HER mother and never enjoyed being able to feel like she was the child - she was always pushed into a parental role.  Because of this, she wasn't the most "touchy feely" mom in the world.  My step-dad suffered with the pain of not having his own biological children with him and had difficulty at times being the daddy a little girl needed and wanted.  My biological father disconnected emotionally from me at a very young age and was always this shadow figure that I knew should hold importance in my life, but I could never effect a re-knitting of our relationship.

As I grew older, my step-dad and I became closer and began to bond as a family should.  Part of this was due to the fact that my step-brothers came to live with us, and so,  Daddy had what he had always wanted and needed in his life.  Fortunately, my step-brothers and I became close as well and our family as a whole was better for their inclusion into it.

All of these things set the stage for what has been the darkest of nightmares in my life.  In the span of approximately 4 years....I lost my Daddy, then my oldest brother Nick, and then my brother Dave.  And then....I lost my mind.  I had a total mental breakdown which had been building due to an undiagnosed medical condition and kicked over the cliff by not 1, not 2...but 3 deaths in rapid succession in my immediate family.

My medical problem was revealed and treated and I grieved for my family and began to heal.  However, while all this was happening I was also "doing" life.  I had a great husband and a big family I was partially responsible for.  My husband and I both worked very hard but we struggled in our attempts to manage financially and to "blend" 2 families.  All of the 6 kids involved were in their teens and all but 2 lived with us full time.

I will stop here and state that I genuinely love all of these now adult kids.  Roger and I were different types of parents but we each had areas of strengths where the other was weak and I felt it was a very do-able process.  I will be the first to say I am in no way a good candidate for mother of the year, but I have given motherhood my very best shot with both my own and Roger's kids.  Roger, on the other hand, is a fantastic dad!  He is 100% selfless in his approach to life and the people in it.  I wish I were worthy of his example.

We had hiccups, bumps in the road, misunderstandings, out and out fights, and a lot of tears, hurt feelings and misunderstandings.  Both of us lost our jobs, we tried to have our own business (twice)  but because of the economy and a situation of no cushion to hold us up during the early formative days of business, we were not successful in keeping that balloon in the air.  The really horrible part of that was while we were struggling to keep a business going, we were barely paying our own bills and we had two of our sons working for us.  We tried to make sure they got paid, even when we didn't.  We sunk every dime we had into it until it sunk us.  And yet, even still, we also had a lot of fun and laughter.  It worked....or I thought it did.

But mom got sick.  I quit my job with a local landscaper and went to Amarillo right after Thanksgiving that year.  I was still recovering from H1N1 and had very little emotional or physical strength.  Roger was watching his business fall apart right in front of his eyes and neither one of us could lean on the other.  We both had to just stand on our own and try to make things better without burdening the other.  It was a bleak time.  It was an unhappy time.  It was a damn frightening time.

I spent the entire month of December 2009, in Amarillo by myself (with visits and support from very good friends) while Roger remained in Arkansas  trying to hold our life together.  My days were filled with visiting my mom in rehab, watching her deteriorate mentally, and packing and moving all of her household goods into storage.  I had been told she would no longer be able to live by herself and with no family in Texas to help, I needed (and wanted) to bring her to Arkansas with me.  To say mom didn't want this is an understatement and so we struggled with each other over that repeatedly.  On January 4, 2010, my daughter Kaylee flew to Amarillo and she and I drove my mom,  her clothes and a few of her possessions from Texas to Fort Smith.  Roger and I installed her in our house, in our bedroom... in our bed. 

The weather was horrendous that year and we were basically housebound for several days.  But, mom's spirits had improved and she finally seemed to be okay with the realization that her life would be here now instead of "home."  For many months, Roger's dad had been very ill as well, and he and his siblings were rotating in and out of the caregiver role.  I was so glad he had brothers and a sister to share that is an awful thing to shoulder alone.

Mom started having "spells" and eventually had to be hospitalized.  As our luck would have it, my mom was in a hospital room while 2 doors down in the same hospital Roger's dad was fighting for his life.  Again, neither of us could lean on each other - we each had our hands full and while Roger had his siblings, I had no one.  I just couldn't ask my kids to walk that journey with mom as she had settled into full blown dementia and I just never knew what she might say or do.

After almost 3 long weeks in the hospital mom just gave up.  She passed away and her last words to me were angry ones because she truly didn't know what she was doing or saying....but it hurt all the same.  Mom's passing left me with a full time job of settling her affairs, dealing with all the remains of her life and trying to work my own recovered job at the same time.

I was of no use to my husband or anyone else.  I sank deeply into my own knee jerk reactionary mode and just went about the task of trying to settle things as quickly as I could.  My poor husband was watching his dad lose his fight and he was losing his own fight for his business - none of which I could help with except to try to help financially.  Emotionally I had nothing.........for anyone.

There was non-stop arrangements to be made.  A funeral here with a memorial and burial in Texas.  The sale of her home and tying up the loose ends of her life in Amarillo.  All of which I was having to do long distance, which meant marathon telephone calls and having to impose on friends in Texas to do things for me.  Things like check on her house, keep the appliances running, the yard cleaned up and then showing that house to potential buyers.  There was not one moment of one day when I could just let down and allow my mind to rest.  Once the house was sold, there was the chore of moving all her worldly goods from Amarillo to Fort Smith and putting them into storage here.  I spent over a year sitting in a storage unit for a lot of time, practically daily, sorting through things, tossing things, piling things in categories and crying.  My mom died in January of 2010 and about 8 months ago I finally shredded my last document and was able to see an end to what my life had become.  It was at that moment that I finally allowed myself to begin to truly grieve for mom, for daddy, my father, two of my brothers and a few furry friends along the way.  I couldn't afford myself that luxury before that moment. 

During this time, Roger lost his Dad and his Mom.  Both were devastating losses for him, but losing his Dad was particularly hard because he always had his dad as his sounding board and his staunchest supporter.  I hope I was able to pull myself out of my own fog enough to be of some help to him.  I'm almost afraid to ask.  On top of all the actual human loss, there had also been the loss of two jobs with nice incomes, both Roger's and my own, people we loved who were struggling with problems, and just the general day to day life events that everyone has.

But over the course of the past 6 years, our family crumbled and I know that I am to blame a great deal for it happening.  I hate it.  I hate it so much that I would do anything to fix it.......and I feel like I've tried.  But if you only have the materials to build 2 walls of a room you can't  finish it without the other 2.

I will not make excuses for doing what I had to do during those 6 years to survive, to stay sane, and to bring myself back from the edge of the abyss.  I am blessed with my husband who has allowed me to "feel" throughout this whole ordeal without putting pressure on me to pretend that I was in any way, shape or form....okay.  Because I wasn't.  And he and I had both arrived at the understanding of what happens when you squash your feelings so far down they sit on top of the internal raging inferno with  nowhere to go but up and out when the pressure becomes too great.  He and I are well matched, we love each other and in spite of what a lot of people think we are truly happy together.  We have a lot of unhappy moments, mostly rooted in the fact that our family is shredded and there seems to be absolutely nothing either of us can do to fix it.

Am I sorry?  Oh my goodness, yes.  A thousand times yes.  Do I still love everyone in my family? Infinitely and eternally.  Can I guarantee that there will never be problems or issues again?  No...I can't.  And I shouldn't be expected to have to live up to anyone else's ideal me.  I am deserving of being myself and being forgiven and loved in spite of my warts, flaws and shortcomings.  Everyone is deserving of this.

I guess the lyrics of that song about walking a mile in other people's shoes might be helpful to some.  I know that because of my journey these past 6 years, I am certainly a much more tolerant person than I ever was before.  And I've also come to understand that just because people don't talk about what they are struggling with, it doesn't mean they aren't suffering and doing the absolute best they can do.  It also doesn't mean that just because someone doesn't call you out on your behavior, they approve of it.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Stagnant Water

God has blessed me with a very good memory.  At this time in my life I am most grateful for that blessing, even though, I do occasionally drop the ball and forget something "today" - I remember my life's milestones pretty vividly.

Growing up, I attended a VERY small school in the Texas panhandle.  How small was it? You ask.

This was my entire 8th grade graduating class!
Pringle Elementary 1964

I remember that night like it was yesterday.  There were a lot of tears - we had been very sheltered in the 8 years we walked the halls of that little school.  We had the equivalent of a private school education and we had great teachers!  I'm not sure about the other 6, but I did not attend a pre-school or Kindergarten.  I just started off in 1st grade, a little only child, and, for me, the first time I had experienced more than just a few other children remotely my age.  Needless to say, we were all pretty tight...some of us still are.  I do often wonder what happened to Gary Kelley, Freddie Mayfield, Sharon Freeman & Karen Blanton.  But I know exactly where Canon Knight and Mary Hembree are and we talk from time to time.  

I remember the somber yet celebratory mood of the evening and the knowledge that after the tears and speeches, we would be headed to Borger for a Bar-B-Q dinner at Sutphens with our sponsors and parents.

When I was this age, I was pretty enough to be the Salutatorian of the class.  No one could outsmart Karen - she was hands down the smartest chick I've ever known.  As the Salutatorian, it fell to me to address the assembly.  Back then, no one trusted you to write your own speech (and honestly, I'm not sure they should have....then....or now.)  My speech was written by my English teacher, Rita Chisum.

Mrs. Chisum was a great teacher, one I always tried not to disappoint.  Disappointing Mrs. Chisum hurt......because she hurt for you.  She was a fabulous role model and she gave me great words to say on an important night.
Unfortunately, I can't remember the whole speech but I do remember one part of it, "Our lives must be always moving forward to remain fresh and full of promise.   Like a river, we must be continually flowing - for standing water grows stagnant and stale.  Nothing good grows in stagnant water."

Over the course of my lifetime, this phrase has played out many times.  And, I must admit that it has been a primary driving factor in what I do.
It is the reason that I recently stepped out of my work comfort zone to learn something new.  I went in an entirely different direction than the one I had spent my entire working career traveling.  It is challenging, fast can be frustrating and the environment is busy and loud.  I have to be quick....I have to be accurate and most of all....I have to be mentally alert, well rested and focused.  There is no skating through my job as there is a great deal of accountability.

There is also a great deal of satisfaction in knowing I still have the capacity to learn new things, to thrive in new environments and to be productive.  I feel lucky.

And I hope somewhere in some way I have made ALL of my teachers proud of the lump of wet clay they had a hand in molding into a person who is not content to stagnate.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Bless the Beasts AND the Children

I’ve been listening for a couple of days at all the back and forth regarding the child who managed to get himself into the gorilla enclosure, leading to the death of the gorilla. I’ve listened to animal rights activists, parenting experts, zoo authorities, animal psychologists and hundreds of other so called “know it alls” on what happened, why it happened, how it could have been prevented and how it should have ended.

Here is what I know for me…….as a parent and grandparent……..and a lover of all animals large and small.

No matter how careful you are, at some point in your parenting career you have momentarily misplaced a child. They are like little colts, they bolt unexpectedly, their attention span is nil and they are determined to go where they shouldn’t go. The very nature of being a parent or a grandparent is one of hyper-vigilance and it is exhausting. I have quietly grieved and somewhat understood those people who have forgotten a child in the car. While I don’t think I ever could….I have no clue what someone else is dealing with that makes them just not present enough. And….I have no right to judge. Granted, I do believe that some of them were deliberately negligent and it breaks my heart. But for me to sit in my living room and rant and rave about how irresponsible people are would be hypocritical at best. I will say that given the fact our cars can tell us when our lights are on, our seat belts unfastened and our door unlocked they should be able to sense and alert when something weighing more than 10 pounds is on a seat. But that is a post for another day.

Confession time….when my son was still in diapers but mobile he would patrol the house looking for liquids to drink. One could not clear a table fast enough to avoid him trying to drink all the left over cups and glasses. At that time in my life, I painted….A LOT. And, one day I was sitting at my table painting when the phone rang (pre-cell phone days). I turned to pick up the phone and as I turned back I saw him replacing the orange juice container that had held about 1/4 of a cup of turpentine. Yep……he drank it. I grabbed him up and whisked him away to the doctor (you could still get in to see a doctor in those days as well) who gave me a laxative for him and recommended a good double diapering. I won’t go into the epic nature of the resulting blow out but he did have a nice burned bottom to show for my lack of attention (for a split second.)

Fast forward to a few years ago when I was baby sitting my granddaughter Audrey. We were sitting on the couch watching TV. I got up to use the restroom and came back and she was gone. For what seemed like a hour (probably more like 3 minutes) I tore my house apart. The doors were all locked…..the garage door was down….and yet I could not find her anywhere. I searched closets, cabinets, the washer and dryer and even resorted to looking inside the break maker………no kid. I was sobbing I was so terrified and yet I knew she had to be in that house somewhere. She would not answer me and I was scared to death. Finally……I said, “Audrey, I’m going to watch Monster House. Do you want to watch it with me?” From the corner of the living room came a small little “yes.” That child had been sitting under an end table right there in plain sight the whole time, hiding. This led to a discussion regarding the rules of hide ‘n seek. If I say 3 times, it’s time to come out….you HAVE to come out. My blood pressure did not return to normal for quite some time.

I confess these things to say I understand how things can go wrong and I feel badly for everyone when they do. Sometimes bad things happen to good people….sometimes bad things happen to bad people. Sometimes things just happen.

To me the greater question in the issue at hand is how an enclosure meant to secure a huge wild animal was able to be breached by a small child. And once it was the whole situation became a flaming train wreck headed to one ultimate conclusion. Something was going to have to be done and quickly. Wild animals are wild animals – they operate on instinct…..and they can flip a switch without any warning. Even the family dog that has always been a kind and patient animal has the capacity to revert to that inner wolf given the right provocation.

Was there a different ending for this story……..maybe. But, I don’t know it. I don’t know the animal in question…..didn’t know his nature or habits. Sedating him might have worked and it might not have. Again….we never know what single action will flip the switch on the nature of a beast.
I am an animal lover and yet I have no problem with eating meat. I believe God put plants and animals here for man to use and enjoy. I don’t agree with hunting unless you are putting food on your table. I do believe the meat industry could do a much better job of being humane in the treatment of food animals. And wild animals are a mysterious source of wonder to me. Zoos are the only opportunity I will ever have to see the magnificent animals found in the wild. And I believe that for the most part good conservation is practice by zoo authorities.

But………..I believe the life of a child trumps the life of a beast in this situation. It was not the child’s fault he found himself at risk. Maybe it wasn’t anyone’s fault… was just one of those random crappy things that happen that give us all the opportunity to sit back and arm chair quarterback the play by play. We all have an opinion but that doesn’t mean we are right. I venture to say there are a lot of people who feel dreadfully about how this played out and even more who are second guessing their own actions and behaviors in resolving it. 

Be careful in loud affirmations that you WOULD NEVER, COULD NEVER be in the situation all those people found themselves in that day. Because you very well could and might if you deal with beasts and children on a daily basis.

God bless all the beasts (large and small)
And all the children (short and tall)
And all the parents and standers by
Who had to bear witness….
Bless those who cried.
Bless those in charge
Who had to decide
And bless dear God
The beast who died.
And bless the child with infinite measure,
Help him know his life is a treasure.

Friday, May 6, 2016


"Probably there is nothing in human nature more resonant with charges than the flow of energy between two biologically alike bodies, one of which has lain in amniotic bliss inside the other, one of which has labored to give birth to the other.  The materials are here for the deepest mutuality and the most painful estrangement." - Adrienne Rich

As I reflect back on motherhood, as the child, as an observer, and an active participant, I find the above quote to be absolutely on point.

Maya Angelou described her own mother as a "hurricane in its perfect power" and "the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow."  Wow!  She must have known my mother too.

I believe that you never fully understand or appreciate your own mother until you are one yourself.  It is in those dark moments of worry in the wee hours of the night wondering where your child is and what they are doing, that make you regret the agony you inflicted on the one person who would lay down their life for you.

When it has been a minute since you've seen your children's faces, you wonder how often your own mom yearned to see yours.

A thoughtless, unkind word delivered from the mouths of your own seedlings sends a dart of poisonous regret through your heart when you remember how often you were short, unthinking and hurtful to the one who would forgive you anything and everything.......and did.

Did my mom ever wish I would just show up unannounced only to spend a moment with her?  While she might have wished it, my mom knew that was impossible because we lived too far apart.  And my mom was fiercely independent.  She enjoyed being on her own, having her own life, doing her own stuff.  When she was alive, I might call her only to have her say "did you need something?"  "No......I was just calling to check on you."  Wrong Answer!  She was fine thank you very much and after all we had just talked last week.

While that stung a little, I have come to know that she knew I couldn't fix anything for her.  And, maybe....just maybe....had I called the day before, she might have actually needed to talk to me.  She was busy living and being present in her own life and her own space.  And...good for her.

And, while she still loved me completely she was okay with me having my own life.  It was my knowledge of my failings as a daughter that made those moments of disconnect so painful for me.

As a girl, a little girl, I thought my mom was perfect.  As I grew older, I expected her to be perfect.  And, ultimately the time came when I "saw" her as the perfectly flawed individual she was.  And, shame on me....I resented her for it.  Yes, I knew that everyone had their little blemishes and warts....but my mother was supposed to be perfect.

I mean....come on!  This was the person I was supposed to listen to!  This was my role model, the person responsible for shaping me into a good role model for my own children and a beautiful partner for a husband.

This woman was my road map to being LOVELY, and she was anything but lovely herself at times.  Her standards were unreachable, her temper a frightening thing to behold, her criticisms were biting and much too often right on the button.

She did not raise me to think I was a fantastic person, even though she often told others that I was.  She frequently remarked on my use of hair color (when I wasn't coloring my hair), and never failed to mention that after worrying about me not eating as a child, she was surprised to see that I had gotten "fat."  Not heavy, not plump, certainly not voluptuous....just plain old fat.  I would venture a guess that she never said that about me to anyone else....other than family.

Mom did not guard her tongue.  And while that was certainly disconcerting at times, in some ways it was delightfully refreshing.  You always knew where you stood, what she approved or disapproved of, and exactly what she was thinking.  I've realized, with time, that she operated in the only way she knew how.  She had not grown up with a loving, engaged, and nurturing mother herself.  Therefore, she lacked a certain amount of insight into child rearing.  We were both lucky that through my formative years, I was a pretty easy kid to raise.  It was only after I reached the teenager period that we chafed against each other.

But....I also saw her loving, compassionate nature exhibited in her care of her own mother throughout her life.  She had taken care of her mother when she was a child and continued to do so as a grown woman.  She also never complained about the toll my Daddy's illness took on her.  She was a born nurse and it was in these situations that she shined.  She had been a care giver her entire existence and it was almost as if she never quite knew what to do with herself without someone who was ill to look after.

Mom raised me to be humble, hard working, independent, and STRONG.  She taught me that it was okay to be myself.  Imperfectly perfect and perfectly flawed.  At some point, my own children will have occasion to look back on their own mother and analyze what made her tick.  That frightens me a little.  My husband has told me that the dynamic between my mother, myself, and my daughter is one he can't figure out.  Maybe it is because (and none of us EVER want to admit it) we are very much alike at our core.  We are like the bumpers posts in an old pinball machine sending objects and people ricocheting off of us.  There is a lot of noise and confusion at times.

While my relationship with my son in its early years was hard, that has leveled off and we have settled into a pretty good place with each other.  Boys are like that...I think they really want to see the best and think the best of their moms.  My daughter was an easy raise and for a long time...she adored me.  I mean she was absolutely mine.  As she grew older, she came to know my failings and faults as well.  I feel bad about that because I know how much it hurts to see those unlovely things in your mother (your role model)  and try to find a slot to shove them in.  And bless her little heart....she has two daughters.  The circle of mothers and daughters Chapter 5.  But, I am in awe of her as a mother.  I couldn't imagine a better person to raise my granddaughters.
And so, on Mother's Day...I pay tribute to my Perfect Mother who in all her imperfections became the standard I will forever hold myself to.  Thank you mom, for loving this imperfect creature you gave birth to and for always forgiving me in my shortcomings as your child.  Oh, and mom, do you know what that white stuff is in bird crap?'s bird crap, mom.  (for the 100th time - she always fell for it)