Island Boy Finds His Once Upon A Time

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The last few weeks this true story has come up on more than one occasion, so I thought I would dust it off and share it once more. Enjoy!

The sound of the waves, the sand beneath his feet, the warm ocean breeze were all a part of him, ingrained into his very soul. He was a true island boy, climbing palm trees in the blink of an eye to retrieve a coconut, catching fish with his homemade spear in the most primitive manner. It was the only manner he had ever learned…not from his father, as he had never met the man who had given him life. His mother never spoke of him. He carried his questions in his little heart, the one place they couldn’t cause the fleeting glimpse of pain he sometimes saw in her eyes…the pain she thought she hid so well.

Puerto Rico, Army Jeep, Black and White Army Military Photo

He studied the only photo of his father he possessed, memorizing every detail. Even when he closed his eyes he could still see the way his father looked in his uniform, the way he slightly leaned into his military jeep as though someone had caught him on his way somewhere. Where was he going? Who held the camera that provided the only piece of the puzzle that was his life, his story? He held the tiny black and white photo, yet held not a single memory of this man…a stranger to him.

Mike and Mom Rita early to mid-1950's

It came as no surprise when the little island boy grew to be a soldier as well. He and his mother moved to the United States so he could join the army at the age of eighteen. It wasn’t long before the island boy fell in love, married and had a family of his own. His young bride, wanting to know everything about him would ask him to tell her about his father. She wanted to know if he ever thought of him, if he ever wondered what became of him, if he was ever curious to meet him. His response never wavered. He had a good life, a loving family, and no need for anything or anyone else. After years of seeing the hint of pain in his eyes, she stopped asking him. Many years would come and go before she would tentatively broach the subject once more.

It was the age of computers now, when the internet was becoming all the rage and she had embraced the technology. She loved being able to communicate with all the friends she made during their numerous military relocations. And, she had become interested in a genealogy website where she could build a family tree. Once again, she asked her husband about his father. This time, he handed her the tiny black and white photo his own mother had placed in his small hand a lifetime ago. She scanned it, placed it on the site and listed her husband’s name as someone looking for his father. Neither one of them thought anything would really come of it. Yet, life has a funny way of making connections so intricately weaved, they leave us mere mortals astounded.

Across the ocean, a secretary at a military base happened on that very website. She gasped when she saw the photo and immediately printed it. Her boss arrived shortly after, and headed straight to his office. The first thing his eyes landed upon was a printout of a tiny black and white photo of a man in military uniform. There was no mistaking it was his father. He immediately took the contact information his secretary provided, and made the call that would forever change the life of a little island boy. He never doubted for a moment this man was his brother. Their father had shared a story with him, and the time had finally come to share it with his brother.

Their father had been stationed on a small island and had fallen in love with a young girl. He had returned home at the end of his assignment, but headed back to the island during the first military leave he had only to find that young girl gone. He questioned friends, family, neighbors to no avail. In the end, he found one person willing to talk. The news he was given was heartbreaking. The young girl died giving birth to a baby boy who also didn’t live.

Their father had refused to believe it. In the following years, he made several more attempts to find what his heart believed to be true, but all attempts ended the same. With a heavy heart, he returned home, went on with his life, married and had children, never returning to that island.

Somehow his heart knew what no one was willing to tell him when he sought answers so many years ago. His son lived, and one day he would know their story. He had hoped to look in his son’s eyes, and share this history with him, hug him and let him know he had gone back for them. While on his death-bed, coming to terms with the fact he would never get that opportunity, he shared this story with his youngest son. Their father requested when the brothers finally found each other, the story be shared with the son he never met.

There was silence on the other end of the phone line as a lifetime of questions were finally answered. The island boy, whom my husband calls Dad and my children call Pappa, found a family he never knew he had and a story he never believed could be his own.

Island Boy Finds His Once Upon A Time

Island Boy Finds His Once Upon A Time

Red Circle Days Book Review And Giveaway

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The Mom Cafe’s official review of Red Circle Days took MY breath away! 

Check it out and comment to be entered to win your own, signed copy!

Two winners will be chosen at random on Friday, April 4th!

Red-Circle-Days-By-Leah-Vidal

Today I am introducing you to a writer who has taken my breath away over and over again with her words…her powerful themes…and passionate messages. Leah Vidal is a gifted soul, who blogs over at Little Miss Wordy. If you haven’t received her profound gift via her blog, you will be happy to know that she also authored a beautiful book titled, “Red Circle Days”.

Oh my heart…
“Red Circle Days” is one of those books you want to linger in for long. I did just that. One chapter slowly read, absorbed…processed…to then conclude my journey with a deep resounding “Aha moment.” I love books like this, that provide such a powerful purpose.

Each chapter shares a story, an anecdote about her life where she transports us to her world full of memories and significant moments that mark something profound for her…and eventually for us too. She captures a palpable substance that threads through her words as her perspective enlightens the reader from a different angle. Life’s observations can either ignite a passion or a purpose… and Leah seems to be able to successfully embrace both.

At the end of every chapter, Leah asks her readers a question that takes a pivotal turn back to their own life, their purpose, their moments. She presents herself as personal and she reveals private reflections that exhibit an open willingness to reach out and touch the reader with lessons learned, insights gleamed and new observations awakened.

Some of my favorite ‘book moments’ include a few lines that have left an imprint on my heart:

“Why do you wear that?”

-Taken from the chapter that resonates so deeply with me, Leah shares a phrase her “friend likes to use when someone comes to her whining about something someone else said or complaining about someone else’s behavior.”

She goes on to share this truth:

“On a daily basis, we run into people who say something hurtful or critical. Some of us have people in our lives that are a reliable source for pointing out just what we are doing wrong…. “Issues” or “jabs” that we are so affected by aren’t ours… “Someone else” made the decision to carry them. “Someone else” made the decision to fashion that stuff down the runway, not us.”

Oh, how I love this insight! How many of us ‘wear’ someone else’s opinions? We can choose to take them off, send them back, and keep our own wardrobe! Removing those layers would certainly be like striping off filthy pieces of clothing that weren’t ours to begin with anyway.

It’s a beautiful perspective, isn’t it?

Linger here…

Grab My Book Here!

Another chapter that still echoes in my mind and tugs at my heart:

“All Grown Up”

Leah takes us into the hospital room of her dying father’s request to be home among his beloved family. Leah claims this to be the day she had ‘grown up’, taking on the responsibility and sheer determination to get her father where he needed to be… home. After she “Made all the necessary arrangements to transport him home”, he was ambulanced back to his loved ones surrounding him…

And after asking if all of his precious family was there, “he took a deep breath and finally went home.”

Leah describes this as the moment she grew up, a daughter able to fulfill her father’s last wish.

Oh my heart…
Each chapter calls for us to pause and linger…

These are just two “Red Circle Days” of many in this beautiful book. It’s worth the read. Promise.

 You can go here to purchase your own copy, stick it in your car, your bag, or your purse- and take it out whenever you have a moment to linger.

Reflections

RIP C.R. – Gone But Not Forgotten

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Dear C.R.,

It has been one week since you departed my side for the after life. I have opened my eyes each morning refusing to believe it is true. They say time will heal and each day will become a bit easier to bear without you by my side, but how can that be true when all my most memorable moments are ones we captured together, memories we created for many years to come. I’m not sure I can go on without you. I know you were tired and it was time for you to go, but selfishly I wish you had been able to hang on just a little longer.

One With The Ocean, Beach Calls Me

 
I know I must find a way to let you go, but today I simply can’t bring myself to do it. It was you who showed me the world in a way I had never experienced before you came into my life. It was you who encouraged me to share my vision with the world and allow them a glimpse into my mind and the randomness of it. Through the years, you were with me at so many of the big occasions. Most importantly, I knew I could always count on you for life’s little moments.

It was you I turned to time and again through my children’s many stages, the good, the bad, and the ugly. You never questioned my views, yet somehow managed to always bring me back into focus on what’s really important. You helped me see the details even when I was intent on the big picture. If not for you, I shudder to think how much I would have missed out on.

I hope you are resting and in a better place, a place full of color because it was you who taught me that color can instantly brighten a mood even though seeing things in black and white can evoke a level of emotion some people just aren’t prepared for.

May you rest in peace C.R. As I continue my life’s journey, I promise to carry your lessons and memories close to my heart in all I do. I vow to create many more memories because I know it’s what you would have wanted. And, although I will eventually find another because after all life goes on for the living, you were my first and I will always have a special place in my heart reserved just for you.

Canon Rebel

RIP Canon Rebel. 

Gone But Not Forgotten

Do you have something you’ve had with you through the years that you find difficult to let go?

Rubber Meets Pavement, Fat Personal Trainer, Fat2Fit, Running Shoes

WANTED: FAT PERSONAL TRAINER

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JOB TITLE : FAT PERSONAL TRAINER
JOB ID#:4866
JOB TYPE: Personal Training
Position Type: Full-Time Regular

Rubber Meets Pavement, Fat Personal Trainer, Fat2Fit,  Running Shoes

JOB PURPOSE:

To provide a comprehensive one-on-one educational fitness program to assist client in REALISTICALLY achieving their fitness goals without spending half a day at the gym EVERY day and eating like an effing bird. Those who can currently eat their weight in bread and not gain an ounce need not apply. You’ll just piss off the interviewer.

 

JOB DESCRIPTION

As a FAT PERSONAL TRAINER, it is your responsibility to provide a comprehensive one-on-one health fitness program through realistic goal setting and education. Produce independent exercises by providing the client in-depth information on equipment usage, lifestyle management how to quit stuffing their face, and ultimately how to shake the fatty mentality that is ever present outside the gym.

 

ACADEMIC REQUIREMENTS:

The qualified FAT PERSONAL TRAINER must possess at least five years experience and hold a personal training certificate from a recognized provider or a bachelor’s degree in a sport and fitness-related field. Trainers without either must acquire a certification within six months of their hire date. Certificates are nice, but the most important requirement is that the trainer was fat at some point in their life and is now at a healthy weight in order to truly relate to their fat clients and their lifelong struggle with fitness and diet. The more years of experience the applicant has had as a fat person, the better the chances of getting the job.

Fat Personal Trainer, RealityCheck, Running Shoes 

DUTIES & RESPONSIBILITIES:

1. Responsible for understanding what it’s like to have a bad day and crave a tub of Ben & Jerry’s to make it better.

2. Attend all in-service trainings and meetings.

3. Able to understand the overwhelming wave of guilt that immediately follows said face in ice cream session.

4. Accurately record client-training sessions for payment purposes.

5. Must be able to relate to the dreaded daily morning weigh in, butt naked so as to not add another ounce, eyes squeezed shut, praying the Ben & Jerry’s hasn’t registered quite yet giving client enough time to burn it off before the next workout.

6. Given the need to relate to above, FAT PERSONAL TRAINER must not possess a metabolism that burns off calories like popcorn kernels hitting the sun’s surface. Skinny Minnies need not apply. 

7. Conduct personal training sessions within the policies and guidelines established.

8. Set realistic goals. Be aware of client’s realistic beach body not the one health magazines keep promising on their front covers. There will be major imperfections that will be glaring in a swimsuit The goal is really to disguise those with a good tan, while feeling good mentally about having hit the gym for that “beach body.”

9. Successfully complete and update CPR and first aid training (for those times when client will look like they are about to go into cardiac arrest in the middle of a workout) CPR will likely not be necessary, but client will feel better knowing FAT PERSONAL TRAINER is prepared.

10. Be understanding when client decides to reward their hard work all week with a glass of wine on a Friday night.

11. Be punctual and conduct yourself in a professional manner.

12. Be even more understanding when client explains how that one glass turned into two bottles.

13. Maintain personal training certification through continuing education. Really, just continue to recall your fatty days and be sympathetic.

14. Ideal candidate will understand client’s daily struggle to stay on track and have a life too in an industry full of unrealistic role models, going to extremes to maintain an impossible fitness schedule, while living off air and water. 

15. FAT PERSONAL TRAINER must be able to hear the fat little voice in the back of client’s head that is constantly telling them they’re just a Big Mac away from being fat again.

Destiny Isn’t For Victims. Fate Isn’t For Fools.

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Destiny

Fate

They softly flutter about us like windswept leaves dressed in autumn hues painting a picture of approaching change that will alter our landscape with a future we never envisioned, but one we readily accept because after all it was meant to be.

And yet, these same letters come together, stringing words with a weight bestowed upon them by others – promise and hope. At times rolling about like the ocean waves crashing to the shore, they lure us closer, mesmerizing us with their soothing sound and endless expanse of mystery. Reeling us in and pulling us under their spell we relax once more. Weightless we float in its sacred buoyancy, one with expectancy and prospect until we are thrust back onto solid ground, bewildered and breathless.

Squirrel Trying To Get A Nut

Why do we place so much importance on these words, this idea that no matter our actions things will be how they were meant to be? We have become a society of victims, idly sitting around waiting for the next event or discussing the latest one and how it affected us. We rise with the sun, and rather than letting it warm us in its promising glow, we focus on the shadows that will cast darkness on us all day.

The traffic jam that will ruin our morning.

The guy/girl who won’t return our call.

The boss that won’t appreciate us yet again.

The unruly child who will surely try our patience all day.

The busy schedule that will stop us from our workout.

The aches and pains that remind us of our age.

The spouse that will disappoint us.

The co-worker who will sabotage our project.

The deadline that will come too soon.

Path of Dreams

Destiny isn’t for victims. Fate isn’t for fools. They are for those who choose to remain steadfast on a path whose obstacles will merely be footholds, a brief pause to become fully aware of their surroundings. Then, registering every detail with undimmed focus they will clothe themselves with the armor those experiences provided. And, with a tool belt full of lessons face the future, not as a victim of life or a fool to the inevitable. Rather as an equal partner, walking hand in hand with their destiny.

Water Droplets

Misplaced Artist

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She was an artist. She was a mother, a daughter, a wife, a teacher…but what I remember most about her was that she was an artist. She loved to paint and as I sat beside her, I found myself watching her more than the canvas she was bringing to life with her brush strokes. With each stroke she seemed to come alive as though transported into the very scene she was creating. Mesmerized by her dreamy look, I longed to join her and with the fervor of an eight year old I wished for her to take me along on her journey.

Water Droplets

I wanted to feel the wind in my hair as my feet carried me over the rolling hills she painted or dangle my legs in the ocean water as I lay back on the wooden pier and stared up at the pale blue skies born of her imagination. I wanted to be aboard that ship, my hands on the captain’s wheel steering the vessel and myself into uncharted waters, traveling toward the unknown and embracing the anticipation that comes with not knowing where you’re headed. I wanted to be a part of the story she was telling by simply dipping her paintbrush in her palette of colors.

From a young age, I was often told I was “born old” as though misplaced somehow in an era that didn’t fully embrace me and my complex personality. I thought the same of her. Not that she was born old, instead that she was born young. Looking back I wonder how different she may have been if she had been born in more modern times when freely expressing oneself was more acceptable. A time when she didn’t have to consistently maintain a proper exterior, instead allowing herself to just be, lose herself in her art, live out those scenes she meticulously created. Embrace her passion and soar.

Stairway to Heaven, Landscape Photography, Nature

What would her life have been like if she wasn’t born in a time of horse drawn carriages when suitors came to call and ladies were obligated to always look their best, abide by the rules and never rock the boat? What if her adventures weren’t limited to the confines of a frame?

Nature Photography, Outdoors, Flower Photo

She was a graceful woman. She was a compassionate woman. She was a woman of elegance. She was my grandmother…but most of all she was an artist.

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Lover

Goodbye Nightmare Lover!

17

The nightmare took over. It came to me night after night, tiptoeing into my peaceful sleep and curling up beside me like a longtime lover. Quietly climbing into my bed, slowly inching over my body, not near enough to touch, but close enough to hover over my warm skin, its breath upon me. Beginning with a gentle caress, it traveled over me, inch by inch, plying my body to its will, allowing no resistance until the moment arrived when it entered me in my weakened state of slumber. At first came only a moan, barely audible, but enough for my brain to register it was happening. In denial, I ignored it and settled deeper into the mattress, rolling over, the universal sign for “not tonight, please…I’m tired” but with its one track mind it seemed to draw strength from my unwillingness to participate. The more I resisted the louder the moans came, until…

Lover

MOMMY!!!!!!!!!!!!! MOMMY!!!!!!!!! MOMMY!!!!!!!!

They were the screams of my daughter and they came from down the hall. The nightmares were hers, this routine one I was all too familiar with and one I was sure I could not physically keep up with much longer. While she had always been one of those children who didn’t require a lot of sleep thus never slept through the night, through the years her lack of sleep was taking a toll on my own. I like sleep. I need sleep.

Yet, every night after an exhausting bedtime routine of prayers, stories, and night lights, kisses and hugs, questions and comforting answers, more kisses, more hugs, more night lights, I dreaded allowing myself to fall into a deep sleep knowing it wouldn’t last. The nightmares would arrive, the fear would take over and the screams would begin.

I tried everything – night lights, prayers, staying with her until she fell asleep, each night putting a bit of distance from her until I sat in a chair right outside her door – Dr. Phil recommended it, claiming it helped to progressively reassure the child you were still there. Obviously, Dr. Phil had never met my kid!

As our daughter got older, my husband introduced her to one of his passions, Superheroes. He started telling her stories about his favorite Superheroes and eventually started watching some of the movies with her. He explained that in his dreams, whenever something bad was about to happen, he pretended he was a Superhero and changed the course of the dream, fighting off evil and sending villains back where they came from.

My Superheroes

One thing we never did was discuss her nightmares in the middle of the night, believing she needed comforting more than we needed a play by play in that moment. Thus, many a conversation over breakfast consisted of our dreams, nightmares, and ways we could control them. My husband insisted our brains could be trained to control our dreams as he described his often becoming quite animated. He depicted scenes in which he picked up a villain, dropped him on his head, and his cartoon teeth flew out. My daughter soaked it all up like a little sponge, but the sleepless nights continued.

One morning, I woke to the smell of toast and the realization that I had slept through the night. Not sure if I was in dream state or reality, I shuffled my way to the kitchen to find my daughter and husband laughing and hugging over breakfast. When she sensed my presence, she rushed over to me. “Mommy! Guess what?! I had the best dream last night!”

To me, sweeter words had never been spoken. Words tumbled out of her mouth as she described a dream in which terrible, scary things were starting to occur, fear tried to envelope her and she almost succumbed to it. “Instead, I became a superhero and flew above it all! They couldn’t reach me up in the sky and once I realized that, I flew around the city. You should see the view from up there!”

In dreams we set aside the rules of real life. We are in control and can be anything we want to be. Believing in superheroes cured my daughter’s nightmares. What tools have you used to control your dreams?

What I Really Want To Scream Out Loud is...

sTrEeT aRt: Through My Lens (Final Set)

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Sometimes what I really want to scream out loud is…

Click through my slide show for my spin on this week’s Finish The Sentence Friday!

Enjoy the final set of sTrEeT aRt: Through My Lens.

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Red Circle Days, Blue Circle Days, Mental Illness, Calendar Days

Blue Circle Days – You Can’t Schedule Mental Illness

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He called the other day. He doesn’t have a phone or at least not one from which he can make long distance calls. The Assisted Living Facility frowns upon that, and I guess it makes sense, but I can’t help but wonder then how all those people living away from family members reach out to someone in that moment. You know the moment don’t you?

I know it.

Red Circle Days, Blue Circle Days, Mental Illness, Calendar DaysI’ll be going about my day, some times all is routine, nothing new, and some times as the day progresses and Murphy’s Law seems to be in full effect, I think of how nice it would be to pick up that phone and call a friend. How quickly my day can get turned around with a simple phone call. At times, it’s just about laughing out loud at something and as I listen to the sound of my laughter almost echo in the empty kitchen, I feel the need to share it with someone, hear their laughter too as they smile on the other end of the line. That need to connect with someone instantly must be one that people have experienced for years. Otherwise, why would Alexander Graham Bell have found it necessary to progress from letter writing and long roads travelled to connect with a loved one, to being able to dial them up in that moment when the sound of their voice is something we crave.

And then, there are those other moments.

Through the years, I’ve answered many phone calls from him. Some were filled with grandiose plans of how he would one day rule the world, and as he described his dreams in the utmost detail for me I couldn’t help but wonder if given his intelligence those dreams may have become a reality if not for the fact that the brain filled with such promise was the same one who betrayed him on a regular basis. Maybe his big plans weren’t so much about taking over the world, but more about taking over his mind, allowing him some sense of control of his brain, his thoughts, his life.

I don’t know.

I’m not Bipolar or Depressed or whatever label the mental illness experts have come up with for him. I’ve never stayed awake for nights on end too afraid to close my eyes for even an instant, needing to keep watch lest my own mind betray me in the dead of night, giving life to my darkest of thoughts. I’ve never had to pick up the phone and dial someone’s number because I knew my survival depended on it.

Those particular calls are ingrained in me forever. The times he called because he had lost all sense of control and needed the sound of my voice to drown out the voices in his own mind. At times simply hearing me breathe on the other end of the line gave him a sense of calm. Seconds would turn into minutes as I was equally soothed by the sound of his breathing as he was by mine.

Then, there were the calls when he knew he needed more than my voice to soothe him and the call was simply a prompt for me to jump out of bed, throw on some clothes and go find him…get him somewhere that would provide the help I so desperately wished I could give him, but knew in my heart I couldn’t. Those were the times when I experienced my own sense of betrayal. How could I not help the person before me, the little brother only eleven months younger than myself, the baby who shared a crib with me? What did my own brain have that his needed? And, why couldn’t I find a way to share it with him much the same way I shared my bottle of milk? What was I missing?

Spiritual Calendar, Red Circle Days, Calendar Pages,

Many a calendar page has been turned since I’ve received one of those phone calls and I’m thankful for it. I am on my knees with gratitude kind of thankful. My brother is doing well, on the right meds, in therapy, living a normal life with assistance. He hasn’t had a “crisis” in years and his phone call recently (from my mom’s phone) wasn’t out of fear or desperation.

Instead, he had an idea his therapist had suggested during their last session and he wanted to tell me all about it. It was the first time in a long time I heard true excitement in his voice. I had almost forgotten what he sounded like when he was so pumped about something that he couldn’t wait to share it with me. His therapist suggested he work with me on a book about his life journey with mental illness. I can see why the therapist thought it might be a good idea.

My first book, Red Circle Days, is about those moments in our lives that are imprinted into our very soul. Moments that don’t require a photo album or memory book for us to revisit them time and time again. Some may bring to life the very feelings of sheer happiness they brought the day we experienced them. Others bring the heart wrenching sorrow we spend years trying to erase. These are moments that don’t need a reminder or a red circle on a calendar date, our hearts wrapping around them much like the tiny box on a calendar, keeping them contained only to bring them to the surface each year.

He even threw out a title, Blue Circle Days, and immediately many a calendar day flashed before me… hospital stays, doctor’s offices, the nights the phone woke me in the middle of the night, and the nights it didn’t ring.

As my brother’s excitement travelled across an ocean to me, I couldn’t help but wonder if I am up for that challenge? Is he up for that challenge?

He says he believes his stories will help others out there, and I believe sharing them alongside the perspective of someone who loves him and shared in the journey would likely help many families who have stood where we’ve stood, afraid to take another step for fear of what comes next, knowing at times the only comfort comes from listening to each other breathe.

And yet, as I wrap up this post if not my thoughts, I can’t seem to catch my breath.

Also in Mental Illness by Little Miss Wordy:

The Hug

Dear, Mom Can You Tell Me How You’ve Done It?

Related Sites:

The Official Blog For Mental Health Project

A Canvas Of The Minds

Sheri de Grom