If I could, I’d Miss Him.

img_69265 years old:

I stood and stared, for hours, out of the window of our New York apartment building waiting for my father to show up. It was my birthday. He never showed up. I don’t remember much about New York, but I remember looking out of that window for a long time. I remember waiting.

6 years old:

We moved to Georgia. My mom, my two sisters, and me. I only think about my father when people ask. We have a step dad, but I don’t know where my father is.

12 years old:

I’m pretty good at not thinking about my father. Years have gone by, and he doesn’t cross my mind. I don’t even remember what he looks like, and I don’t care. He obviously doesn’t care about me. I don’t care about him either.

17 years old:

My sister asks, “Have you ever thought about finding your father?”

No. Why would I try to find him, he’s never cared about me.

She asks, “What if he did find you?”

It doesn’t matter. It’s too late. Why would he care now? Why should I care?

28 years old:

Maybe I should find my father. I, at least, need my medical history. Nah, forget it. I don’t care.

36 years old:

My sister finds my father’s son, my half-brother, through Facebook.  My sisters remember him. I don’t. I guess I was too young.

I learn that my father died when I was about 9 years old. On his death bed he told his son and daughter, “you have a sister, find her.”

I learn that his wife, their mother, didn’t want him to have anything to do with me. I get her disdain. I was a reminder that my father cheated and had a child with another woman. My father had to sneak to spend time with me. Sometimes he could show up when he said he would, other times he never showed up.

Mom didn’t know why he was sneaking to come see me. His sporadic visits, sometimes unannounced, worried her. She feared he was going to try to kidnap me. She got a job offer in Georgia and left without leaving any contact information.

41 years old

It’s Father’s Day, and I’m trying not to think about my father. . . again.

It makes me cry to think that I spent so many years angry at him. I wish I knew more about him.  I try to understand my mother’s fear and her decisions.

I wonder how things would have turned out if he’d communicated a bit more. If mom wasn’t so scared.

All this is pointless. He’s gone. This is all past. Why cry over the past?

I try not to think about my father again.

Forgiveness. Perspective. How I Came to Love My Mother

“She’s not my mom. She just gave birth to me.” That’s what I told the judge. I was 13 yrs old and had recently run away from the children’s home. He gave me the option to go back, live with my mom or put myself in foster care.

Going back was not an option because I was afraid of the consequences of running away and then landing the children’s home in court.

My mother was there. I stared at her across the table in the small court room and wondered why she came.  It made me angry to see her.

Where was she when I’d sent letters begging her to come get me? Why didn’t she believe me when I had complained about the children’s home?  After 5 years of leaving me behind, why was she acting like she cared now?

I put myself in foster care and for the next 2-3 years ignored my mother. I hung up on calls, returned letters, and behaved horribly toward her anytime she decided to drive four hours from Atlanta to visit me.

I guess you could say I wasn’t a forgiving child. I didn’t understand why she sent me away but kept my sisters. I’d Imagined they had a nice little family unit in Atlanta. Mom, Stepdad, and two older sisters that for some reason didn’t want me around.

If you’d told 13 yr old me that I’d grow up and have mom, retired, living with me, I’d have laughed at you. If you’d told me that I’d love her, worry about her, miss her when she took vacations to visit my other sisters, I’d have thought you were crazy.

When I was around 15 or 16 years old, mom had a stroke, and one of my sisters called my foster home to let me know about it. I declined her offer to take me to see mom in the hospital, repeating, “She’s not my mom. She just gave birth to me.” My sister showed up anyway.

On the drive to Atlanta, I complained about going to see her, about mom in general, and about my life until my sister slammed the breaks and pulled the car over.

“Will you shut up!” She said. “You’re not the only person that’s been through things. You’ve people who love you, you’re getting an education, you’re going to go to college. Me and your sister didn’t get to do that. We got put out and had to live with whoever would take us in.”

Without their permission, I can’t provide details of what my sisters went through. Just know that I’ll never forget that ride to Atlanta. I felt more grateful for my life and my mom’s choice to send me away after hearing some of the things my sisters went through as they tried to make it on their own at the ages of 14 and 15.

Some of what I learned though is that when mom made the decision to put me in a home, she was working 3 jobs and relied on my sisters to take care of me. At the time, I was 7 yrs old, they were 13 and 14. They were skipping school, doing drugs, having physical fights with my mom, and doing things that I imagine many unsupervised teens do.

When my mom caught me stoned at 7yrs old she made the decision to get me away from the environment. In her eyes, it was too late to help the teenagers, but maybe sending me away would help me.

By the time we got to Atlanta, I looked at my mom a little differently. I remember telling her, “I don’t know if I’ll ever see you as my mom. Mrs. Myra, my foster mom, is who I see as mom, but we can try to get to know more about each other, and try to be friends.”

Mom agreed, and from that moment, she never pushed it. She never tried to tell me what to do, tell me what’s best for me, or go overboard in being a mother to me. She gave me time, space, and advice as needed and over time we grew closer and closer until finally one day, I’m not sure which day, I accepted her as mom again.

Now mom is 72 yrs old, and I’m 41.  When she retired it was important to her to come live with me because she wanted to spend the time with me that she didn’t get to spend with me as a child. Though I’d lived alone for quite a few years and was very unsure of how this would work out, how could I say no to that?

Now looking back, I realize the pain I must have caused when I said, “She’s not my mom,” and ignored her attempts to reach me. I wish I’d never done that. I wonder if she ever thinks about that hateful and hurtful time of my life and I hope she doesn’t remember it as clearly as I do.

Today, on my mom’s birthday, she is off visiting my sisters for a few weeks, and I miss her so much.

I find myself reflecting on all of this, and I’m grateful.

Grateful for the time I get with my mom that I didn’t have before.

Grateful for how things worked out despite the hard choices she had to make.

Grateful for that drive to Atlanta, when my sister taught me the lesson that no matter how hard you think you have it, there are always other people going through worse.

Grateful for the lesson that there are several sides to every story. As a child, I thought my mom’s decisions were horrible. From my mom’s point of view, she was doing the only thing she knew at the time to help me and my future.

Grateful for forgiveness, perspective and love.

Relationships Like Checking Accounts

Piggy bank

Recently I heard someone explaining the key to having good relationships and friendships, and they compared it to a checking account.

Once you’ve established an account, you want to make sure the account stays in the positive and that it grows over time.

Your account grows by making consistent positive deposits, and always depositing more than you withdraw. I think in a relationship deposits would be time spent together, making time for lunch, laughing together, nice gestures or gifts just because.

Think about it, if you withdraw or take and take from an account, with rarely any deposits, eventually you will be overdrawn and you will suffer serious negative consequences.

We’ve all known a taker. Someone who never contributes to the relationship, but just needs, or wants something from you all the time. Or someone who’s always close to over drawn. It never ends well.  We don’t tend to stay in relationships like that very long. Sometimes constant withdrawals become more than we can recover and its time to end the friendship.

Thinking about the friends I’ve had over the years, I can see it. My most special friends consistently make positive deposits into the friendship account. They remember birthdays, listen when you need an ear, drop what they are doing when they see you need a shoulder to lean on. They deposit more than they withdraw.

I wonder how they see me as a friend. Am I in the positive or am I overdrawn.  I wonder how I can make more positive deposits with those who mean most to me.

One Way to Teach a Kid About Karma

My foster mom used to put a sign-up list on the refrigerator each day of chores that needed to be done. She always had 5 or 10 things on the list so that we could sign up evenly for 1 to 2 chores.

The rule was that none of us got to play or do anything we wanted to do until the dinner chores were done (chores where in addition to clean up that was required after every meal: clearing table/washing drying dishes/sweeping/mopping if needed) and then our chores list was completed.  As I became older, I couldn’t even leave to go on a date unless my chores were completed.

Having us sign up for chores was like tossing a pork chop to a pack of hungry dogs.

As soon as the school bus turned onto our street each girl would be packed up, we would make eye contact that said, “you’re going down today!”, our legs would be in the aisle ready to jump up and run down the narrow path with no care to anyone who might get bumped along the way as we raced to be first out of the gate—I mean bus doors.

I don’t remember, but I’m sure a few of us pushed or tripped a sister out of the way now and then to ensure being first across the finish line—I mean to the refrigerator. 

First one to the list meant first to sign up for the easiest chores, first one finished with chores, and first to go play.

We usually worked well as a team to get dinner dishes done so we could hurry and start our list.  But then a new girl moved in, let’s call her Fancy Nails.  She was an okay girl except when doing dishes, and somehow she always seemed to end up with the washing assignment and man SHE WAS SLOOOOOW.

Fancy Nails had half inch to inch long natural nails, and she always worried about breaking or chipping them. She would pinch a dish or utensil with two fingers of one hand and pinch the dish rag with two fingers of the other hand and slowly wash each dish that way taking over an hour to get it all done. 

Most girls can relate to concern over the fingernails, but Fancy Nails lived with 4 tomboys who found outdoor play time more important than fretting over nails.

The more she cut into our play time, the more we resented Fancy Nails. Something had to be done. 

Fancy Nails was a deep sleeper so one night I clipped her nails. 

I know, that’s not nice, and that’s exactly what my foster dad said when he noticed the bedroom light on after we all should have been long asleep and decided to check on us. He found me hovering over Fancy Nails in her sleep, trying to clip each nail without waking her.

“What are you doing?” he asked from the door way.

“I’m tired of her taking up all our free time because she doesn’t want to break a nail,” I whispered still trying not to wake her.

“Is that smart?” He asked. I was surprised that he wasn’t scolding me or grounding me.

“She needs to speed up. We are all tired of her,” I justified, “I’m just the only one who will do something about it.”

“What do you think she will do when she sees her nails have been cut?” Great question Daddy. I knew she would be mad, but hadn’t thought much more beyond that. 

He added something like, “She hasn’t lived with us long and we don’t know much about her. What if she’s violent? What if she gets so angry she tries to hurt you while you sleep? We haven’t had her long enough to know how she will handle it. I would be hiding anything that could be used to hurt me if I were you.”

My clever feeling was instantly replaced by “Oh, CRAP.” I abandoned the mission and got in bed leaving Fancy Nails with 2 long nails.
Daddy turned the light out and I tried to sleep but I couldn’t. I was no longer worried about play time, but about all the ways she might hurt me.

The next day, Fancy Nails got up, went to school, came home,and did dishes a little bit faster, but she never mentioned her clipped nails. I’d expected her to be angry and or to tattle.

“I think she’s okay with it,” I told my foster dad. “She’s acting like nothing happened. Maybe she doesn’t care.”

“I don’t know,” he said. “She really took care of those nails. I can’t believe she doesn’t care. What if she’s one of those people who stay quiet until they get revenge?”

I’m older so now I know what Daddy did here. No punishment could teach me a lesson like the paranoia he put in my head wondering what Fancy Nails would do to exact her revenge. 

Sharing a room with Fancy Nails, I don’t think I slept well for 2 or 3 weeks. Anytime she moved in her sleep, I startled awake thinking she was coming for me. Anytime she helped set the table for dinner, I worried that she put something in my drink or food. When I helped her with dishes and saw her working on the sharp object I put distance between us.

To this day, I don’t know if Fancy Nails ever said anything about the clipping. Sometimes I wonder if she knew how paranoid my foster dad made me and played along. I know I was much nicer to her and eventually I started sleeping better. I don’t think I completely dropped my guard though until she moved on to live with her family again.

Waiting For Inspiration?

At first look this quote by Chuck Close, a very talented and revered artist of our time, is a put off.

It definitely made quite a few of my optimistic, full of life, and motivating Facebook friends march full force on my page, RIDE OR DIE,  to prove the case for inspiration and how EVERYBODY needs it.

I get that. At first look, I want to resist this quote too, but that’s not what this is about. It’s not saying inspiration is bad. It’s not saying people don’t benefit from inspiration. It’s more about showing up and doing the work.

Have you ever met a painter that can only paint when inspired? A writer who can only write in the perfect setting-a perfect desk, in a specific room under a certain light with specific music. To hit a bit closer to home, what about a blogger than can only post new content under specific conditions?

Most of us can think of someone. Right now, as far as blogging, think of me. I’m a bit inconsistent since I started a month ago, but I’m working on getting better.

Since starting this blog, I’ve watched a lot of ‘How to’ videos paying  most attention to the people with huge followings like Michael Hyatt. In his video about growing a following, his advice made me think of Chuck Close’s quote. Actually, in most of the videos one tip is recurring–Consistency and process. Showing up and creating–No matter what.

Michael talks about how even after years of blogging he sometimes feels that he has run out of ideas or things to write about, but when he just starts writing. . . about anything, he eventually finds his topic. That is not inspiration, it’s process. Michael is finding his inspiration through the process of showing up and doing the work.

That is essentially what Chuck Close means when he says “Inspiration is for amateurs–The rest of us just show up and get to work.”

He goes on to talk about artists he’s known who spend years planning and building the perfect studio to create in, but then what often happens is they start planning and building another newer, bigger studio. So much time is spent planning the perfect setting to create in, but not much is getting created.  Check out this article  for more information about Chuck Close and his take on creating.

This quote and interview has rooted in my mind since hearing it on NPR last month because I see how it applies to all aspects of life, whatever we have chosen to do or to create. What if a surgeon only did surgeries, or did his best work when he felt inspired? Think about it, if you are the one under that knife, that surgeon is expected to show up and do their best work no matter what’s going on in life.

This quote has begun to echo in my mind daily. When I’m at work and I feel myself dragging because I feel tired, sick, frustrated or uninspired I’ve started to tell myself “Inspiration is for amateurs–Just get it done.”

When I’m home and I’m avoiding sitting down to write because I can’t figure out how I want to approach a topic. “Inspiration is for amateurs–Just start writing.”

When I’m not in the mood, let’s face it–I’m not perfect and sometimes I’m just tired or want to do my own thing, but my stepsons need my help with a project or just want to talk. “Inspiration is for amateurs–Just be there.”

I hope that by reminding myself regularly, I become more consistent in all that I chose to do.

What do you think?


Do You Remember? Would you have been proud?

I read a Post today by xulee1 in which she asked “Do you remember what you wanted to be when you grew up?”

My first thought was “Gosh, I wanted to be so many things.” When I thought about it longer, a common thread began to emerge.

I wanted to be a female Musketeer like Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D’Artagnan, I wanted to be Zoro, and Swamp Fox, A Regulator like in the movie Young Guns. I also wanted to be Teela from the Masters of the Universe, Cheetara from the ThunderCats and She-ra.

Wonder Woman gets a mention all her own. I spent so much time wrapping aluminum foil around my wrists to deflect imaginary bullets. Spinning in circles as I pulled my ponytail out of its tie so that my hair could fall all around me like hers did. My clothes stayed the same but in my mind, I was Wonder Woman.

Oh, and The Beastmaster. We can’t forget him.  I spent so much of my childhood staring at animals trying to communicate with them.

It all seems unrealistic, but when I look back at all the people or characters I wanted to be, it turns out I wanted to be someone who stood up for what was right. Someone who wasn’t afraid of adventure. A person who stood up for the less fortunate, and tried to do the right things to save people and the world.

I don’t know about saving the world, and I definitely haven’t always done the right things but I’ve had my moments, days and years even where young me might have been quite proud. I believe young me would encourage more adventures though, it’s been a while.

What about you? Do you remember what you wanted to be? Would young you be proud of who you are right now?