Thursday, October 29, 2015

Minds Wide Open

As I walked the path across that familiar but unfamiliar place, my body felt anxious and excited all at the same time. The last time I’d walked those steps, it was a high school and teenagers were strewn about everywhere, doing whatever it is teenagers do during lunch break in a school courtyard. I glanced over at the empty green benches and felt a small sense of melancholy that was soon to be forgotten.  
I continued to walk, opened the door, and stepped into a room where the tables were all low, the chairs small, and the pictures made for learning the alphabet; as I turned my head I would see a rug on the floor that was painted in blocks and all the little bodies who owned this room, sat cross-legged on a color.
Their fresh little faces matched their body language, which were twitching with eagerness and thoughts that something different was about to happen, and they knew they had the best seats in the house.
As I moved closer to the center of the room, I was immediately aware that they had been prepped, for my name rushed out of their mouths both in unison and in individual spurts, making me feel as welcome as I had felt in a long, long time.
Thirty days prior, I was invited by a friend of mine, Holle Boykin, who teaches/challenges/loves the 4K class at Greensboro Elementary School - to attend a very special event called JumpStart to Reading Day. She asked if I would like to visit and read to her class, and I promise you, I couldn’t say YES! Fast enough.
Story-telling is a basic human interaction. It’s how we make sense of the world. It encourages creativity and imagination, and it’s important for children to have safe-places and story-books that can make that happen.
When my children were small, it was pretty cool to be the Mommy who could make them react with wild-eyed laughter/giggles and seem mesmerized by funny sounds and created characters. To know that when they climbed-up next to you with their little pile of books, the fun and excitement was about to begin, and memories made.  
As it would turn out, I was able to read not one, but three books that morning. Holle is a wonderful teacher, and with her prompting questions after each book-reading, was able to receive relevant responses from interested little minds, as all of the children in her class are so smart, inquisitive, and attentive.
When it came time to leave, they were all waving and telling me goodbye when a little boy named Ruben Francisco rushed-up and slammed his body into mine, creating a full-throttle body hug, ensuing the rest of the class to follow suit, for one of the best group hugs I’ve ever had.
I was told when I left that I was welcome back anytime, as well as discussing a for sure set-date of March the 2nd – because I can’t think of a better reading-celebration-day than Dr. Suess’s birthday! To reach their hearts and open their minds – read them a book.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Save The Women

Usually I would have already talked to you all about this – the importance of it, the necessity of it, the life-changing / life-saving need of it; but it’s been a good year. I’ve received no new phone calls and there have been no new discoveries that I am aware of, which means, that all is well for now.

For the past five years, and for every single one of those five years, I have had at least one girl-friend receive the news that no woman ever wants to hear: “Ma’m you have tested positive for breast cancer and we must begin a plan for treatment”. One year, two of my friends received that same, awful news, so the count for five years is at 6 women and running. That doesn’t even include all the women that you already knew who survived it, or the new fighters you will meet while you walk through someone else’s journey with them, hoping to provide comfort and support.

This has been a good year, and as silly as it sounds, I didn’t want to jinx it by saying so. My last friend who received her own news September of 14’, finished her last chemotherapy treatment this past October 1st. She is a traveling store organizer for a national company and she’s back at work full-time. She travels from one store to another, setting and re-setting their store-fronts for business. It can be hard physical labor, but she is tough and she has persevered.

As far as I’m concerned, every single woman who has been diagnosed are tough, strong and determined. I don’t know a single one who sat down in defeat and refused to do whatever it took to make sure they would still be here for themselves and their families.

But you know I read something the other day and the author was talking about all these advertisements and catch-phrases that are used to get people’s attention and raise awareness – one of them being those bumper stickers that say things like “Save the Ta-Ta’s”. Well it got me to thinking, because I have one of those very same stickers on the tailgate of my truck; I’ve had for at least five years or more. I bought when my first close friend was diagnosed, calling it a show of support – I guess.

Well what I read was talking about how all these stickers are certainly recognized for what they are – but how about we make some stickers and signs that just simply say – Save the Women. And I thought to myself, what a powerful statement that is – because in the end, although losing body parts is not a wishful or encouraging thought, it is a better thought than losing a person, losing a loved one.

We love people, we love women; not for their appendages, but for themselves and who they are: as mothers, grandmothers, wives and friends. Get your annual mammograms - matter of fact - get all of your women well-health appointments every year. Be proactive in living, save the women – save yourselves. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Sunflowers in October

For the last six years, his mother and I have shared football team-feeding-duties, hot and cold bleacher seats, seen plenty of exciting wins and hard losses, shared worries about our children who now use heavy equipment for a living, and we have shared sons. I’m more than sure that she has had my son around her kitchen table as much as I have had hers around mine.  He has always felt like one of my own, he always will.

I went in and took a seat in the pews, my husband and extended “family” trailing behind me. The piano keys were streaming with live music, there was quiet chitter-chatter from most any direction, and craning necks from all, looking to see who else was coming-in and where they would be sitting.

As I sat there looking at all the sunflowers draped-onto/attached-to-burlap presented as an art form, I silently contemplated as to whether or not to break-out the camera I
had stuffed down into my purse. It didn’t take me long to decide that there was no way I was going to miss out on snapping those “pretty as a picture” decorations, and I began my camera-eye’s journey around the room.

It wouldn’t be but a few more minutes and the ceremonial music would begin. The groom and his groomsmen would began their walk down the aisle, take their places, and stand stiff as soldiers at attention. Their faces taunt and without much expression, I was remembering two of these young men as they were, in what seemed like just seconds ago: with laughing, carefree faces, playing football, having ping pong contests, and Xbox matches for hours at the time; and then that one afternoon both of them spent hours in The Man Cave, stapling the latest swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated to the ceiling.

Now all I see is two handsome, grown young men, one watching his best friend and business partner with solemn eyes and a stoic expression, and the other, waiting on the love of his life who was about to begin her own journey down the aisle, to stand next to him, for the rest of their lives.

She was a picture of absolute beauty as she began her journey down, her hands slightly shaking, and I watched as her husband-to-be began to swallow rapidly and his face began to flush. Some might say the ceremony was old-fashioned – I will say it was real, original, and using all the words that are tried and true. It was one woman and one man, pledging to belong to, and care for, each other, forever and ever amen.

These days will come closer and closer together I am sure, all these children who have turned into adults when I wasn’t looking, will be finding their life partners and saying I do to forever. But this day was special for me, because this is the first couple-marriage of my second born child’s generation.  Congratulations to Matt and Taylor Carter – May your new life together be everything you ever dreamed of and more love than you ever imagined.  

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Tools Of Our Destruction

Her car breaks-down in an unfamiliar part of town, it’s late and it appears the rest of the world doesn’t exist. The streets are empty of humans, or any machine passing-by that could take her to safety. She has walked for miles, she is tired, and her body is rigid from the tenseness of staying hyper-aware with every step she takes; for she knows, this is not where she belongs.

It would be days before her family and the police find her, and they would all wonder why she was there, it was not safe, bad things could happen there.  She was found hanging in the basement of an old building. Her family would cry, grieve, and then angrily wonder; when will the color of your skin, no longer kill you.

She was so excited! She had received her very first invitation to her first teenage party and everything had to be perfect. She would spend hours buying a new dress, having her legs waxed, and last but not least; her facial hair waxed to cover the beard that was now in full growth. Her name was legally changed, from Max to Mackenzie, and she was flourishing with her new life, happier than she had ever been.

There was loud music and alcohol flowing from every room of the big house. She was uneasy, but sure that her invitation was sincere, and with that felt safe. Hours later, a group of kids would find her in the back yard, stripped of her dress, lying on the cold ground with a gash on the back of her head from a hammer-blow that she never saw coming.

Her family would cry, grieve, and then angrily wonder, why their child would be treated with hatred and intolerance, when she wanted nothing but to love and be loved for who she was in life. She didn’t live to know a day of tolerance; the day when the world would learn to love others who were different without fear and judgment.

They would all stand in a classroom, seemingly just like any other day, when suddenly the door would come crashing down, and a gun wielding mad-man would stand before them demanding to know their religious beliefs. One by one they would be asked and would answer “I am a Christian” and one by one, they would fall for their sacrifice and beliefs.  

Their families would cry, grieve, and then angrily wonder, how has this day come that their loved ones believing in their God would cause them to meet Him long before they should have been ready.

This isn’t about gun control - it’s about a rope, a hammer, and a gun; used with racism, hatred and intolerance. Our nation has to accept the responsibility that we’ve failed in our job of raising a generation of people with the fundamentals of human compassion and love for all.

Killing people for their sexual/gender orientation, their skin color, or the God that they believe in, are the headline captions every day, as the rising death-count silently pleads; wake-up America, before it’s too late. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Shovels and Snow Tires

Isn’t it amazing how the first day of fall hits and automatically the temperatures drop about five degrees per day; it’s cloudy and all “falley” looking outside, I mean it’s like a literal switch was flipped.  I’m sure there’s some kind of quirky “cold front” that came through – as if THAT’S a real thing here in Florida, but the timing is unreal just the same.

Either way, it’s a nice change of scenery and temperature, because last night as I sat out on my glider at 5:15, I wasn’t choking to death from the heat. There was a nice cool breeze, and as I sat there I was wondering what the temperature actually was, so I checked the weather app on my phone and it was only 81 degrees!

What a remarkable difference, because just last Sunday I was sitting in that same spot about the same time and I was about to burst into flames it was so hot. I was talking on the phone with my oldest son who lives in Vermont now, and as I was listening to him talk about their weather changes, I felt as if I was melting away in my seat, and dripping onto the porch creating a puddle of liquefied human.

He was saying how cool the nights in Vermont are now – like 55 degrees every night and that the days are about to start cooling down as well to a low of the 70 degree range. That particular day in Quincy Florida it was still 91 degrees at 5:30 and as I listened to him drift into conversation about the winters in Vermont, my gator fan was blowing on high behind me, so the roar was pretty loud, but I could have sworn I heard him say something about snow tires?

This year will be quite the test for him living out a winter in Vermont, the temperature highs some days are near zero or below, the snow can be crazy and yes, he may have to purchase snow tires at some point. He knows that to be able to go to work, shoveling drive-ways is a reality in his future. He is also a Georgia/Florida native so all of those things are going to be quite the change for him.

But he’s also about to see one of the most magnificent fall-changing-color-seasons he will have ever seen in his life. Every day now he wakes-up to mountains right outside his bedroom window. His desk is also facing that same window, so that when he writes, he always has the most peaceful and beautiful scenes one could imagine.

In another week or so the leaves will begin to change there and the menagerie of colors will be nothing short of breath-taking. People from around these parts drive hours and hours, spending money on hotel reservations just to see a glimpse of that beauty for a few days. To have it all right at your finger-tips – well one would have to wonder if those sights of natural beauty would ever get old? I am surely thinking not.