Reasons and Respite 

Today I’m that little girl that wants to take off running, hair flying behind me, wildly, barefoot, not a care in the world. Not looking back, not worrying about responsibilities or belongings. Just running. Holding my skirt so I don’t become entangled in it and fall down. The wet grass feels cold and calls to mind the coldness of my life. There is no affection for me in my home. Yes, the children love me, but a woman needs to be held, cherished. His affections have been with another for so long. And that has killed anything more that I could feel for him. I’ve tried over the years to resurrect what was lost, but in this story, there are no miracles. No rolling away the stone to reveal an empty space. No, the stinking decay still remains. It is just as foul and offensive as it was the day I found them out.

On days like today, when the running is so tempting, and I’m asking myself why I refrain….I need only to look at them. The older one, the man child with the coal black eyes and high cheek bones. My Chief. He’s trying to find his place. High school is looming and he is happy about it one day and in the pits of despair the next. His boy body is changing,  as are his opinions, tastes, habits, moods. He is silent, stoic, intelligent. He believes his lot in life is to pick on my little one. After all, brothers are supposed to make each other miserable, right? Oh this one with the blonde hair and eyes the color of blueberries. My little Romeo, so loving. Almost finishing a year in grade school, yet has the essence of an old soul. He is wise beyond his years. These two are my reasons for staying and enduring. You see, even though he is oblivious to the bride of his youth, he is extremely focused on these two treasures. Even now I can hear their laughter mixed with his, wrestling and all around male shenanigans are happening in our living room. There will be bike rides, basketball games, air soft shooting, remote control gadgets of all “species”, and a geek fest of epic proportions down in our media room. He is a hands on, attentive father. They deserve a happy childhood with both parents who love them. And we do. We certainly do. Someday, when they have graduated and have moved out, things will look very different. Until then, when I am tempted to run, I will listen to their laughter, I will look at their eyes shining with joy and mischief. I may even join in some of the shenanigans, and my running will be to run with them on whatever boyhood adventures they dream up. I will choose their happiness over mine because that’s what parents do. For me, that means to stay put for now. For now.

There will still be days when the desire to run and escape overwhelms my needy heart. I’m grateful for times of escape, whenever they come. Oh, those times of sweet, sweet respite.

I Want!

I cannot write! I have been trying to write something awe inspiring, heart rending, something bound to bring tears to the driest of eyes, that will double you over with such laughter that you’ll swear it was ab day at the gym. Something that will inspire you to go out and change the world! But I’m not even motivated enough to get up and change my sheets, so you’ll just have to give a little grace here. It’s not happening. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. 

Today, I will just resort to writing what I know. Lists. I make lists. You see, I have so many responsibilities…I know…that’s a scary thought…and there are many people in my life that I must keep happy. It’s a heavy weight for these freckled shoulders, but often times, the smiles and “thank yous” ease the soreness in my tired body and undernourished heart. I can’t keep up, and woe is me if I drop the ball. So, I write it down. Lists are my constant companions (yes, plural). That is what I’ll write today. Yet this list will be for me. My wants. Desires. Dreams. This list will be my heart’s cry. Welcome to it. 

I want my children to know I love them. When they were placed in my arms, I thanked God for allowing me to be their mother. I asked Him to bless their precious birth mothers who were just babies themselves. No matter what happens in the future, I never EVER want them to doubt my love for them. 

I want to bring joy. I absolutely love to make people smile, laugh. I used to say that my favorite song is the sound of laughter that I’ve helped bring about. I love looking out from the stage and seeing smiles on faces as I’m singing. I think I’m at my best when I’m bringing on the happy. Many times I’ve been told, “You are just something else!” Thank you, I think? HAHA! A lot of my humor is at my own expense. I learned to do this at an early age. My father was always joking about my weight. He gave me a nickname of “Petunia”…Porky Pig’s girlfriend. Yep. Daddys, you can do a lot of damage to your daughters with just one nickname. To this day, I look in the mirror and see Petunia, the ever chubby little girl who was never good enough…ever So, I make jokes about me before you have the opportunity. Keep ’em laughing! They won’t see that you aren’t! 

I want romance. He doesn’t have to be madly in love with me. I just need him to think about me, want to spend time with me, care for me. I want to feel like I am important to someone. It’s exhausting to always feel like I’m doing something wrong, I look the wrong way, or I’m simply in his way. It’s as if I’m a mill stone around his neck, just weighing him down, holding him back. I don’t measure up, ever. So I want to feel like I measure up…Like I’m enough for someone. I crave the feel of strong arms around me, just holding me, learning me, bonding with me, enjoying me, caring. Even if just for a while. A few sacred moments. 

I want the nameless remembered, the friendless loved, orphans set in families. I know that sounds vague. It comes from lyrics I heard in a song recently and it kind of stuck with me. My mind was still on my recent encounter with “my” Marine/Hero (see my blog “Permission To Hug This Marine”) so it really resonated with me. I am a firm believer that each life is precious. We all have something to offer…something to add to this God damned world.  People get lost. They disappear. With no one to care for them, they can simply slip away. It hurts my heart. They were once someone’s baby. A tiny infant in someone’s arms, full of promise. How do people just fall through the cracks? What can I do to stop it?

I want to get it right. Even now, I hear him in the kitchen rattling the dishes around in the sink. That’s his way of letting me know that I’m not working fast enough, that those dishes are in his way. And he is annoyed. The socks were in the wrong drawer. The little one brought dirty baseball cleats inside and the floors weren’t swept before bedtime. Maybe he isn’t that big of a jerk. Maybe I just don’t work hard enough. Maybe if all of these things were done right, then I could earn his love. If I hadn’t been the exhausted mom with a newborn, who didn’t get a shower sometimes until after lunch, and if I didn’t struggle with migraines and depression, and the stress of a second adoption, and moving our family yet again, and had kept a spotless house, a fit body, perfectly positive and happy attitude all the time, maybe he wouldn’t have turned to her. Maybe I would have been enough.  And maybe monkeys would have flown out of my ass!!! Right?! He has his expectations. I have my plans. But I do feel there are so many things at which I’m failing miserably. I need to just get things right. Stop messing up. 

I want to be more careful with my heart. In my need for affection, I’ve allowed too many in. I’m being drawn, compelled. I have roles in my life that I must fulfill. I’m good at playing these roles. Yet when I’m with this one, talking to this one, I am myself. My true self. It’s refreshing, soothing, healing. I’ve revealed too much to too many. Must. Be. Careful. With. The. Heart. 

I want a nap. Yes. Don’t re-read that. I’m being honest. Were you expecting a well written piece of literature? Hi. Are you new here? I don’t sleep much. My mind won’t shut off and his chainsaw-like snoring won’t shut up! So, on my list. Nap. You know what I would love?! A stormy day with that special someone, stormy day sex is the best, windows open a bit so you can smell the rain, hear the gentle rumble of thunder, see the sheer curtains being blown around by the wind. Being worn out from loving on each other, falling asleep all tangled up in each other, only to wake and do it all over again. No schedules. No worries of others. Just focused, relaxed attention. But until that day comes, I will settle for a nap. Just a nap. 

I want to be finished with this blog for now. I keep writing and I keep hating it. I hear him clearing his throat downstairs. He knows I’m not folding the laundry. He knows I’m doing this frivolous thing. There are still so many wants. If I keep writing, I’m afraid of seeming like an ungrateful brat. I want. I want. Well, I want you to enjoy your day, your weekend, your life! There is much to do, yet much to enjoy!

Now if you’ll excuse me….this nap isn’t going to take itself. 

How She Loves

I’m home. Not home as in the place where husband fusses at me for putting his black dress socks in the drawer where his navy dress socks belong. Or where fevers and “ouchies” are made better with kisses and Popsicles. It’s not the place where a teenager has lost the privilege of having a bedroom door for a week for slamming it one too many times. No, this is the home where SHE is. My one who birthed me, raised me, loves me in spite of me. 

She’s had many homes over her years. She’s had many heartbreaks as well. They promised to have and to hold her. Love and cherish her. Till death would part them. It did not work out that way. Other things, other people parted them. As if she had the strength of Samson and the wisdom of Solomon, she held it together. She held us together. The glue that kept us from drifting away from home base, our true north. I remember many times when she did without so that my sister and I could have everything. If only she understood that SHE was our everything. 

Tomorrow she’ll sleep a deep sleep and the surgeon will remove the offending gland. My sister and I will sit and wait and consume stupid amounts of overpriced coffee. The hospital gift shop will love and worship us before the day is done. A few tears will be shed. We will ache from much laughter and probably from a few memories. You see, when they left her, they left us, too. I’ve often wondered how my beautiful sibling and I were left with such a capacity for loving when we have been given quite the opposite by those who left. Yet my heart quickly reminds me…she did it. She loved us. She taught us to love, simply by loving us with every exhale, every inhale. With every beat of her scarred, yet joyful and generous heart. 

When the surgeon comes to give us the report, we’ll stand and listen and thank her. This same doctor who delivered my sister’s son ten weeks early, because he was determined to enter the world on his own time, will now tell us the thing is removed, she will be fine, we can take her home once she wakes, blah, blah, blah. We smile our relief and wait for our Sleeping Beauty to rejoin us. In the waiting, we might be tempted to take selfies with our medicated matriarch, because we are such good daughters and yes, these apples have not fallen far from this precious tree. We look at her and are reminded that the “ornery” is still strong with this one. 

Over the years, she has been the instigator of many pranks and the teller of many jokes and funny stories. Giving someone a good case of the chuckles by telling a funny tale has been a favorite of mine since I was little. I consider it an honor to be from this line of laughers, story tellers, and joy givers. Many souls and stomachs have been filled and nourished in her home, giving testimony to her gift of hospitality. Food, comfort, care, love, laughter, joy. Plenty to go around with leftovers to take home. She is generous with everyone, always willing to give of herself and all she owns because she knows that she is blessed. 
When I was three years old, she sat down at the piano, started playing “God Bless America”, and told me to come sing for her. I barely knew the lyrics, but was familiar with the song. She would correct my mistakes without going all “stage mom” on me. Even when I got stuck on the same incorrect lyric and sang it over and over until I’m sure Irving Berlin was making plans to haunt me from his grave, she was still encouraging me to keep going, keep singing. “Stand beside her and guide her, through the LIGHT with the NIGHT from above!” Blaaaaahhhh!!!  She persevered and I’m now *cough cough* forty something (Can we pretend  I’m 30?) and still singing, with a Bachelor of Science in Vocal Performance. 

She, my precious mother, is a rare gem. Such a treasure to all who know her. I’m grateful she’s mine and I hope that someday my sons will feel that I have loved them much like this great lady has loved me. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, her surgery is in four hours. I need a little sleep if I’m going to look pretty in those recovery room selfies my sister and I have planned…..

Permission To Hug This Marine! 

I was in line at the grocery store and was bored. No one was chatting me up online at that moment so I was looking for some amusement. It was late afternoon, still too early for the fashion parade of tube tops being worn as mini skirts or unitards with four inch heels. Screaming, snotty nosed baby to the left. On my right, awkward teenaged couple doing the whole mauling each other, arms around each other, hand holding, hands in each other’s back pockets…whatever….gross.  

In line ahead of me was an older man wearing a red T-shirt. The back of it catches my very patriotic eyes. The crest of the United States Marine Corps. Yeah, baby! I mean Ooh Rah!! He turned around and I saw a tanned, weathered face that bore the marks of some hidden story. We made eye contact and I said,”Sir, are you a Marine?” He smiled but looked away and said,”I used to be. I mean I guess I still am. Aren’t I?” I said,”You sure are. May I shake your hand?” He extended his hand and I took it. A chill came over me. I love meeting real heroes. LOVE IT. In my book, if you wear that uniform, and leave all that is precious to you, to go fight evil or are just willing to go to preserve freedoms for people you don’t know and for some who won’t even appreciate you…HERO. I knew what was coming and I only felt it fair to warn this unsuspecting soul. “I’m just going to have to hug you now, Marine. You’ve been warned. I’m coming in!” And with that, I proceeded to hug the snot right outta that man! Right there in the check out line. I thought he would just sort of stand there, arms limp at his sides, letting me have my Hallmark moment…”ok little lady, enough with the crazy”… but you know what? That Jarhead (He said I could call him that!) hugged me right back. He whispered, “Thanks, girlie.” Got his bags, and left. I’m sure it would enhance my Hallmark moment if I told you he was wiping tears as he walked away, but no. That didn’t happen, darn it! However, he did walk out looking mighty straight and tall. Wish I had gotten his name, that ‘ol devil dog. (Yes, he said I could call him that, too!)

So what about this meeting has caused mild, even tempered moi (I couldn’t even type that with a straight face!) to be so upset?! The fact that this Marine wasn’t sure if he was still a Marine! I know there can be all kinds of scenarios here, situations of which I am totally unaware. But for some reason, this man, who has donned a military uniform and served his country, doubts he still belongs! AAAHHH! That makes my heart hurt! Has he lost touch with his Marine Corps family? Are they all gone? Has his family not encouraged him to keep in touch with his Marine Corps family? He obviously feels proud of his Marine Corps because he was wearing that shirt. This is driving me nuts! And yes, short trip. I know. But stay with me, people! Think about it. Consider all this man went through just to bear the name United States Marine! Then he served this great nation! When you put on that uniform, you’re saying “I am willing to lay down my life to protect my country.” He did that. Whatever form his service took, he did that. He gave himself. And he doesn’t know if he’s still a Marine? Gut wrenching. So painful. I just can’t stand it. Oh God, please PLEASE let him know. 

My family is a lot of things. To protect the innocent, I won’t tell you most of it. Haha! But I will say, we are very patriotic. We love our country and those who serve in our Armed Forces. My grandfather was in the Army. My cousin’s two sons are Marines. I have many close friends in the armed forces. My older son is in junior high school and already knows he wants a career as a United States Marine. When I see him in uniform for the first time, I don’t know if I will be able to handle the pride that is sure to well up inside my mother-heart. Someone get Mama a tissue! 

I hope I always remember this encounter. Tomorrow I will take my children to church and we will not have to sneak there for fear of being beaten or arrested. It’s because of our freedom of religion that was fought for by brave men like this one, paid for by the blood of those no longer with us. Yes, you are still a Marine. Yes! Thank you a million times over.

Semper Fi, dear Sir. Semper Fi. 

A War of One in a Place of Grace

Kneeling at the altar of my own heart, I quietly release the breath I’ve been holding for so long. Taking a long, slow look around it, I can see what has been done and what still needs to be done. It continues beating, the rhythmic thumps going on and on like tired, weary soldiers trying to keep some measure of decorum. My feet are bare, so I feel each piece I step on…pieces of the now crumbled wall. This was once such a sweet and sacred place. Now it’s as if the cruelest of wars was fought and lost here. Right here. But there were no battles. No armies. No commanders barking out orders to soldiers desperately fighting to hold their line, to drive the enemy far from this place of grace. This was a war of one. I did this.

I look around my pale feet, now starting to bleed from stepping on the remnants of my walls. How easily forgotten were these things used to construct the protective barriers around my heart. I bend down to get a closer look and right before my face is a photo of my parents, only it’s torn in half. An old cigar stub from an abusive grandfather catches me off guard as I step on it an feel the burn on the bottom of my foot. I lose my balance and stumble around, eventually stepping on several pieces of rocks and glass. I sit to remove the shards of glass and realize they are from that awful day a building exploded, mothers lost their babies, my state mourned, and I lost a sweet friend. She simply went to work that day and did not come home. At my bleeding feet I see dirty broken toys, shredded paper, dirt, and heaven only knows what else. It stains the white lace hem of my skirt. I can’t bear it. As I push myself on, I see an old, worn Bible and a delicate pink handkerchief. The grandparents who were taken just as I was beginning to really appreciate the treasures that they were. Oh God, I want them back! The tears have started now and I know I have to finish this painful, yet necessary inventory. There are so many things with which I have built these walls. Painful memories. Buckets and buckets of tears. Things people have said and done that have bruised my spirit. Something ahead catches my attention and urges me forward. In this menagerie of memories, I see a perfectly white blanket fluttering in the breeze. It’s caught on something that’s keeping it from flying away. I hurry to catch it and see that it’s a baby blanket used in the hospitals to wrap precious babies in as they come to greet the world. I suddenly hear voices saying words and phrases like “low sperm count” and “male infertility” and “adoption”. I see his eyes, angry, defiant, blaming me as usual. This was the death of a dream. I feel myself doing what I would do many times over the years as I saw my friends and family with their swollen bellies….I placed my hand on my stomach. Keep moving, my heart whispers. Don’t stay here. Blinded by tears, I move on. Walking on bleeding, sore feet through decorations from baby showers, ribbons, newborn announcements, I have come almost full circle. The march around this heart has reminded me of everything I have used to build up these walls. I see what I must walk through and examine next and it seems almost unbearable. Love and the loss of love. Betrayal, loneliness, mistakes….I’m suddenly tired, worn out. I lay down in the filth and grit and feel as if I have nothing left in me. I suddenly hear a song. It starts out softly, as if far away, yet moving closer.  It’s bringing me back to a place of clear thinking, of breathing normally, of being ready to move on.

I don’t know this song. I only recognize the voice singing over me and know that it has given me the strength to get up, dust off, and get with it! My feet are no longer wounded, neither is my heart. These memories, these wounds have shaped and molded me into the sassy, kick up my heels, spitfire of a woman that I am. I have these sacred moments from which to draw and become an even stronger, more glorious chaotic mess.

These walls I’ve built and am repairing do not mean I want to keep them all out. They just might help me keep in the few, blessed ones I allow close to me.

So if you find yourself “trapped” inside the walls of my beautiful chaos, my glorious mess, this whirlwind of green eyes, freckles, sass, music, deep affection, and laughter….buckle your seatbelt, say your prayers, pour yourself a cold one, friend! It’s going to be quite a ride!

Reckless Abandon 

I’ve always loved that phrase. “Reckless abandon “. I can’t remember where or when I first heard it or read it, but it’s stuck with me. Words and word pictures feed my soul. They occupy the curious girl-heart within me. So when I think of this phrase I have several pictures painted in my mind’s eye. 

Wild flowing hair. When I was little, my hair was a soft reddish brown and hung in tender waves down my back all the way to my waist. I was a tomboy and could usually be found down by the “crick” hunting for crawdads or carrying home a literal zoo of neighborhood strays. My hair was usually in a ponytail or braids when I went outside in the morning, but upon my return at lunchtime, it had managed to pull free from its ribbons and bands and was surrendering to the heat in little ringlets around my neck. Gone was the “pretty”. A new and wild appearance had taken over. Mother called it a mass of curls, outdoor smells, sticks, leaves, and mysteries! She said when I ran across the yard or rode my bicycle down the street, all she saw was my hair flowing behind me in the wind, a blur of joy and reckless abandon. Nothing hindering me. Nothing standing in the way of what I was about. I was always on a mission. A princess with a purpose. 

I visited the “homeland of my heart” last summer. Ireland. I have always loved anything having to do with the Emerald Isle. Music, food, literature, history, you name it. I joke and say that I have an Irish temper. In the Killarney National Park, there is the most gorgeous waterfall, the Torc Waterfall. We took a horse drawn carriage ride up as close as we could and hiked the rest of the way. The moment I saw it, my breath escaped me. I couldn’t move. I was frozen in that spot. The roar of the water had called me all the way up, but its voice had failed to prepare me for its beauty and power. The water fell unhindered, unencumbered to the vast pools below creating this pure white foam that took me back to my childhood bubble baths. The purple rhododendron were in full bloom along the banks and seemed to be silent witnesses to this grand, majestic display. Such glory! My eyes were riveted to the water as it crashed over and over down below. Something about it was familiar and it took minutes for my overwhelmed brain to process. Then…yes…there it was…reckless abandon! That’s what it made me think of! That water was doing its thing! Not hindered at all. Just fulfilling its mission with such power and grace and beauty. Nothing stopping it. Nothing in its way. 

This. Just this. I want to care, to love like this….with reckless abandon. I want to care for someone like they need to be cared for and not hold back one bit. I want to be totally me with them…the not perfect, I don’t have it all together me. I want to submit to them totally because I completely trust them. I want them to push my limits, test me in them. I need to learn again to trust with reckless abandon. 

I want that hair flying in the wind, not a care in the world, unhindered, powerful, nothing can stop me kind of connection. To care for one another with reckless abandon…

A Cathedral of Deadbolts

I’m not able to express what I need to. It just won’t come. This is the norm for me in many areas of my life. And for that, I’m so sorry.

I’ve been sitting here listening to the beautiful melodies of piano, violin, and guitar, wondering at this restlessness inside me. Then my eyes were blurred with tears that told me what my heart had been screaming for weeks. I turned off the station and gave ear to the soft laughter of the boys of baseball, carried to me on a cool, gentle breeze, laden with the songs of birds and a hint of ballpark dust. It’s a balm to my burning, tormented soul. I have done what I told myself not to do so quickly…to feel so much. And now I’m afraid. Why can’t I stick to my own damn rules? Why must I start picking at these walls I’ve so painstakingly constructed?
Was it his eyes? Our first kiss? The weeks of messages back and forth? The feel of his arms around me? Skin on skin? Oh God, how I need him! Air for my lungs. Water to slate my thirst. So hungry for him…as if I’ve fasted for weeks. He satisfies me, sustains me. Compels me to utterly crave him and submit to him.

I recently read this quote by Rachel McKibbens. It’s from her “Letter from My Brain to My Heart”. It sort of describes the condition of my heart before I met him. “You have my permission not to love me; I am a cathedral of deadbolts and I’d rather burn myself down than change the locks.”

I was recently given a white rose bud…closed…with thorns. They said it made them think of me. Beautiful but closed, with thorns to keep myself protected. I think this was an accurate description of me…well, except for the beautiful.

I am coming undone. Losing my grip on my resolve. My walls are tumbling and I am falling down trying to catch the crumbling pieces and putting them back in their rightful places.

However, I’m also considering changing the locks….and giving him the key. Trusting him only.