To The Woman Who Owned My House

59

Compassion. Ten little letters which on their own are insignificant. Yet, when placed side by side, come together to spell a feeling so strong it can move mountains. And, when that word takes action, the world is a better place for it.

#1000Speak, Compassion, Key

To The Woman Who Owned My House,

My family and I looked at many houses during our search for a home to begin the next chapter of our lives. Some were professionally decorated, perfect paint colors and gleaming hardwood floors fit for the glossy pages of a magazine. Some felt like the word “home” would never find a home in my heart as I walked from room to room trying to imagine my family in them. When we first visited your home it was apparent it needed a little TLC, but not enough to turn us off to it. You see, I had already gathered you were recently divorced and had been living in the home on your own with your youngest of three children for a while so I expected some wear and tear to be evident as I imagined touch up paint and home maintenance may not have been at the top of your priorities nor possibly in your budget.

As we walked through your home, I saw the carpet that needed replacing, the walls that needed a fresh coat of paint, and the landscaping that needed some sprucing up. I also saw years of love, of life and memories on the walls (your children’s growth chart marked on the door frame in the pantry brought tears to my eyes).

As we continued our home search, we began to refer to your house as “the one with good bones, a solid house with great potential that just needed a little TLC” and came back for a second visit as we moved along in the decision process. With each visit, I began to envision tucking my children in at night, each in their new bedrooms and walking down the hall to the master bedroom to wrap up another full day of living in our new home. I could see us around the table in our new dining room, enjoying home cooked meals and conversation. As I slowly made my way through your home, the picture began to take shape as each scene painted the house as my home. With each step I took, I could more clearly see my family creating memories in each room much like yours did through the years.

compassion, #1000speak, home

At the closing, you rushed in late, looking a bit out of sorts. You ran back out to the car, having forgotten something. I watched you through the conference room window and tried to imagine what you were feeling. I felt sad that the end of your chapter was the beginning of mine as though I was taking something from you that didn’t belong to me.

I suppose that’s just how it is.

Life is an endless revolving door of experiences where one person exits and the other enters. Each compartment only allowing for one person to be fully present in that moment. 

You took a deep breath as you settled in across the large, mahogany table from me, and only then did you look at us. In that moment, I wondered what was going through your mind as you took in my husband, myself and our children. Were you taken over by flashbacks of your own family, once intact, as you raised your children in the home that was about to become ours? As you handed the keys over, after documents were covered in ink, I saw tears in your eyes. I wanted to stand, make my way to you, and give you a hug. Instead, I simply said, “Thank you. Know that we are excited to make this our home and will create many happy memories in it.”

After we moved in, you and I texted about forwarded mail, trash pickup, etc. You could have ignored my queries as I’m sure you didn’t need to prolong the transition into your new life. I could have ignored your messages when your cat went missing and you were sure she had tried to come “home” once again. We didn’t.

As the weeks came and went, text messages became a bit more personal as we asked each other how we were settling in, how the kids were adjusting, how we were adapting to our morning cup of coffee in a new place. With each new message, I could see the transformation in you as you went from a woman whose life experiences had her doubting her future, hesitantly closing the door on a life lived and taking her first steps into the unknown to a woman who has not only embraced her new place but ultimately her new place in life.

I want you to know that your home has become our home. We have embraced it with love and excitement and already creating memories we will carry for a lifetime. We may have painted, re-decorated and spruced things up a bit, but we were right when we described this house as “one with good bones, a solid house with great potential that just needed a little TLC.”

Apparently, that description fits the prior owner as well.

Sincerely,

The Woman Who Has Made This House A Home

Check out #1000speak posts all in one place!

Will The Internet Catch You When You Fall?

4

The internet is a funny thing. It can suck you into a time-consuming black hole of social media, leaving you informed on news you could have lived the rest of your life not knowing. Last year, I wrote “When 547 Facebook Friends + 832 Twitter Followers = A Negative Number.”  It was about a beautiful friendship between two men who started their journey as childhood friends, sharing treasured experiences throughout the years, only to have that journey end tragically with a cancer diagnosis. In that post, I touched upon the fact that I believe real life friendships, the kind that allow for eye contact, hugs that stay with you forever and the day-to-day that comes with it are unique and can’t be experienced in internet friendships. I don’t mean a real friendship can’t exist, but in my opinion it’s not the same. There’s something to be said about holding a complete conversation with your best friend without saying a word because you know each other so well that one look is all the communication you need or how one little squeeze of the hand can give you the strength to face your biggest fear.


Hand in Hand 21

However, a movement called #sogladtheytoldme, by blogger Stephanie Sprenger of Mommy For Real has stirred something within me that wants to address this in a whole new light. Sprenger wrote a response post to  “They Should’ve Warned Me” about motherhood and the warnings or lack thereof that new moms are given by experienced moms in their lives. In her article, “I’m Glad They Warned Me” Sprenger spoke in detail about the fact that she respects experiences such as the one Jenny Studentroth Gerson had as a new mother where all went smoothly and she simply embraced motherhood like a natural and  felt they should have instead warned her of all the positives of motherhood.  More importantly, and the reason I believe Sprenger’s post went viral is her focus on making sure all readers, especially new mothers, understand it is okay to have a different experience.

Motherhood is a very personal journey and no one should feel pressured to have a storybook pregnancy or feel like a failure when the whole nurturing thing doesn’t come easily. Colicky babies, postpartum depression, raw nipples, and sleepless nights are a reality many mothers face.

#Sogladtheytoldme is allowing mothers everywhere to know they are not alone. And, if you’ve ever felt truly alone in your plight as a new mother then you understand the magnitude of Sprenger’s movement.

Lisa – She can’t keep her eyes open after weeks of sleepless nights with her newborn baby girl. She has finally gotten her down for a nap though has failed at getting her to sleep in her crib yet again. As she tries not to disturb the baby, asleep on her chest, she gently shifts her body on the couch and reaches for her phone. She knows she should sleep when the baby does, but she’s also desperate for some adult interaction even if it is online. Lisa scrolls her Twitter feed coming across the same hashtag time and time again. Mother after mother shares a story, a photo, a simple line, all conveying the same message, #sogladtheytoldme. And, with her newborn snuggled to her chest, Lisa no longer feeling alone, drifts off into a peaceful sleep…if only for twenty minutes.

Like Lisa, I can’t help but wonder how many other mothers are being touched, saved, by knowing they are not alone in wanting to run away some days or wondering if they just aren’t equipped to be a mother. Single mothers, working mothers, first time mothers and mothers of three can all relate to navigating the course of motherhood like a newbie at a Spartan race. I wonder what they feel like when they come across another mom online admitting they are so glad to have been told it’s okay to not be a perfect mom all the time or even half the time. It’s okay to cry because you feel like you are failing this precious gift you were given, yet maybe don’t truly deserve. You’re not the only one.

I still believe there’s nothing like having a friend that can show up on your doorstep when you need them most. I still believe there are certain experiences only to be shared in person, but I think I may have been wrong when I said, “The internet won’t catch you when you fall.” Stephanie Sprenger has proven just the opposite.

 

A Christmas Tradition

12

“Lord, give me strength.” She pulled up to the house in the dark of night, cut off the engine, and leaned her head back against the seat. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. And so began her nightly ritual as she arrived home from her second job each night. She reached across the seat and grabbed the small bag containing toilet paper, toothpaste, a gallon of milk, and a loaf of bread before exiting the car. She prayed it was enough to hold them over until Friday when she would once again stretch her small paycheck like a magician pulling colored scarves out of a hat.

Gold Cross1

She quietly entered the old house, treading lightly across the creaky old floorboards so as not to wake anyone. After placing the milk in the fridge, she willed her tired muscles to carry her up the stairs, knowing once she reached the top her exhaustion would be forgotten as she stopped in for a glimpse of her sleeping angels. Her life wasn’t always that of a single mother with three children, but life doesn’t always turn out the way we once dreamed. She was living proof of that. And yet, she wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world if it meant erasing the three greatest blessings in her life. As usual, she found the twins cuddled up together in one twin bed as though reverting to the comforting days of the peace they experienced in the womb. She covered them with a second blanket, kissed their foreheads, and made her way down the hall. She passed Jacob’s room, knowing she would find her ten-year old son asleep in her bed once again. She no longer moved him back to his own bed, taking as much comfort from sleeping with him as he did with her.

As she did every night, no matter how late she arrived, she filled the tub and soaked for a bit. Surely, it made more sense to take a quick shower and jump in bed, but she needed these baths. It always felt like a cleansing of sorts as she imagined washing away all her troubles before laying her head on her pillow. Otherwise, she knew her worries would circle her mind and sleep would elude her when she needed it most. Thank goodness she still had her mother with her to stay at home with the kids while she worked. She wouldn’t know what to do without her help, but she also knew she was getting older and that wouldn’t always be the case.

This time of year was always the hardest and loneliest for her. It was when she seemed to feel the full brunt of being a single mother the most. She wanted a magical Christmas for her children, but she had stopped believing in magic long ago. How do you continue to help your children believe when the world has stripped you of your hope, your dreams, your faith? As she lay beside him, she watched her son sleep and realized the tranquil look he once possessed was beginning to fade even in his dreams. “Lord, please give me strength.”

She woke before the sun. Gathering the envelope labeled “Savings” in her nightstand before heading out once more. She hoped to make it back before the kids woke up. As she pulled into the Kmart parking lot, she ran the numbers in her head and knew she would have to choose only one item on the list for each of her children. She didn’t have enough for the rest of the items she had placed on Layaway, but Christmas was just days away and she had to have at least one gift under the old Charlie Brown tree in the living room.

She asked the Layaway attendant to please pull up her list so she could select the items she could afford. The list wasn’t long, although she had surprised herself that day by allowing herself to dream for a bit, imagining she actually had the means to give her children the items they asked for this year.

The young girl hit a few keys and said, “Paid in Full.”

img_4616

“There must be some mistake,” the woman said and repeated her name. The young girl gave her the biggest smile she had ever seen. “I was working the evening shift last night, when a couple came in with their two young children. I heard them explaining to their kids the meaning of putting something on layaway and how blessed they were to be in a position where they had never had to do that. They then asked me to pull up a layaway list that included children’s items and paid it in full. When I asked them if they wanted me to contact the person, they said no. Just tell them we said, Merry Christmas and God Bless.”

The young lady then proceeded to hand the items over to the woman who stood motionless, tears streaming down her face. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” The young lady handed over the final item and said, “Don’t thank me, that family gave me faith that magic still exists. Merry Christmas to you and your children.”

This is our yearly tradition with our children, and all of us have come to look forward to it more than any other aspect of our holiday season. The story above is just one of the versions I’ve imagined in my heart throughout the years.

How do you give back during the holidays?

When I Get Old, I Hope To Look Back On My Life And…

16

When I get old, I hope to listen to the steady creak of the rocking chair beside me and know that you are still by my side on our front porch. I hope to look over and not only see the aged man you’ve become whose every wrinkle reflects my own, but also relive the stories each line on our skin has told.

Front Porch

As I reach out my trembling hand for yours like I have done so many times since we met as young college kids, I hope it reminds you of all the times your hand in mine made a world of difference in our relationship. I hope we recall as we sit and rock during days of no demands and no schedules, all the obstacles we faced and more importantly all those we surpassed to reach this day.

I hope we remember where we started, our trips through stores we could only dream of shopping in as a young couple just getting started on life’s journey, creating our wish list of items we would one day purchase for our first home as a couple. I hope we will have filled the shelves with photo albums of all the places we only dreamed of visiting back then.

When you look at me, I hope you not only see the young girl you met who became your best friend before our first conversation even ended, but also the strong woman and loving mother she grew up to be with you by her side.

I hope as we take in the view from the comfort of our front porch, we take a deep breath and thank the Lord for having made our dreams come true. I hope we never forget the struggle and hard work we endured to reach this moment, because it will be those sacrifices we made that made us who we are today.

I hope we open our minds and hearts, dust off the cobwebs, and turn the pages of our life’s album together. I hope if we listen hard enough, we can still hear the patter of little feet, bedtime giggles and even the cries, wails, and tantrums that will now be music to our ears.

I hope we will have filled our home with more laughter and happiness through the years as we created memories with our children, their children, our family and many friends.

I hope when I get old and I look back on the roads I have traveled, I see you and our children always walking alongside me, hand in hand. And, when I get old and look in the mirror, I hope each and every line on my aged skin, reflects a life lived, all the love bestowed upon me in each and every crease, and many many laugh lines from smiles shared with my best friend.

 

This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday prompt, where writers and bloggers each finish the same sentence and link up to read one another’s answers. This week’s prompt was “When I’m really old, I hope to look back at my life and know that I…”

One Ring To Rule Them All

3

“I inhaled deeply, filling my lungs with air, slowly lifting the weight that seconds earlier was crushing my chest. My relief at hearing his voice didn’t allow me to focus on his words. In his endless string of hurried phrases strung together with pauses to catch his own breath, I could only make out a few words. Wedding. Flood. Ring. Elevator. Almost died.”

I Love You

My first contributor post is live on Felicity Huffman’s website, What The Flicka?

Head over and check out One Ring To Rule Them All and take a moment to look around.

You won’t be disappointed!

Please and Thank You…Say It With Me

24

From a young age, we are taught to say please and thank you. Over and over, we are told to use our manners, thanking someone for inviting us over for a playdate, thanking someone when we are given a compliment. We are encouraged to say thank you when a treat is bestowed upon us and we are expected to say thank you when we are given a gift.

And yet, as we grow into adults focused on getting through a busy day, we throw out “thank yous” without truly meaning them. We often go through the motions, rushing to the next appointment, meeting, deadline without really seeing all the little moments we have to be thankful for, the little gems throughout our day, our week. We fling a thank you in the general direction of the person wishing us a good day, throw out a quick thank you to the one who paused to hold the door open for us.

The slightest smile when we’re having a rough morning can change our mood if we allow it. A few words from a  friend, letting us know they’re thinking of us is something to cherish. We read them, smile, let them wash over us and warm our heart, yet often quickly move on after hitting send on the little eight letters that make up T-H-A-N-K Y-O-U, the response that has likely brought a smile to the recipient.

Trees, Landscape

Looking back, I would like to thank ten people who have made a difference in my life this past week, big or small. I challenge you to do the same!

1. To the doctor who really listened to me and ran the proper tests to help me find answers. I thank you. It makes a huge difference to find a doctor who cares enough to listen.

2. On that note,  I am thankful for the medical system in the United States. After having experienced others firsthand, I will no longer take this one for granted.

3. To the school bus driver who made it a point to wish me a good day every morning when picking up my son. It’s a nice start to the day. Thank you.

4. To the stranger at the grocery store who complimented my hair. I’ve been having good hair days since moving to a less humid climate, but it is always nice when someone notices. Thank you.

5. To my husband, my other half, who was home all week instead of traveling. It’s nice to have you home sharing the responsibilities of this exhausting thing we call parenting. Thank you for being my partner in life.

6. To the people at Nordic who make treadmills, thank you for making mine. It has been a savior as I try to ease myself back into exercising as I continue to recover from my fractured foot.

7.  To my daughter, I thank you for wanting to sit and talk to me about your day every, single, afternoon. I cherish those conversations with you and it warms my heart that you ask me to stop what I am doing and sit at the table with you for our afternoon snack.

8. To the trash guys who must be so sick of picking up my numerous empty moving boxes. I’m almost done. I promise! Thank you.

9. To my son, I thank you for your humor.  Your laughter is contagious and you make us all laugh when we need it most. I treasure the fact that you still enjoy cuddling with me and can’t walk past me without stealing a kiss or wrapping your little arms around me for a quick hug.

10. To God, who has blessed me over and over again in so many aspects of my life. I can’t thank you enough. My heart is full because of you. Thank you.

 

Link up your Ten Things Of Thankful Post here!

d8fc4-tenthingsbanner

Dear High School English Teacher, Don’t Kill My Buzz

22

I sat at the old worn oak table and nervously tapped my foot on the linoleum floor, stealing glances at my parents as they sat next to me trying to hide their own anxiety. How many students had awaited the unknown in this very room through the years? How many parents accompanied their children, likely being transported to a time when they were the student awaiting the fate thrust upon them by adults they never imagined becoming?

As the hands ticked on the unsuspecting clock hanging on the wall, student became teacher, teacher became parent, parent became teacher, in a place where respect was demanded, expected, drilled into our psyche alongside the alphabet.

You, sir, entered the room without so much as a greeting, never acknowledging us as you took the furthest seat possible, distancing yourself and immediately setting the tone for our meeting.

My parents said, “Good afternoon.” You nodded, shuffled a few papers, letting the silence hang heavy between us.

“I’m told you want to be in Honors English. That’s not a good idea.”

Looking at my parents, I took a deep breath.

“I’ve been in Honors English all through high school and would like to continue taking an Honors English course at this school.”

Another deep breath.

“Just because you’ve taken Honors English at your old school doesn’t mean you belong in my class.”

My father spoke, “Her current English teacher recommended she transfer to your class. She’s doing so well.”

You looked at my parents as though you were surprised to find them in the room. I could see the disdain in your eyes because they expressed themselves with an accent, English not being their native language. You stared them down as I shifted in my chair. I wanted to tell you I was no longer interested in your class. It was evident to me you were a horrible teacher and even worse human being. Anger bubbled up inside me when you finally responded to my parents. So did a little something called determination.

“Obviously, English isn’t your first language and while your desire for your daughter’s transcript to reflect four years of Honors English is evident, I don’t believe her past courses have prepared her for my class.”

Looking back, I should have bowed out then, thanked you for your time and not pursued your class. However, I was young and naive, and you made me feel like I had something to prove. I’m not sure what finally convinced you to allow me into your class, but so began the year of English hell for me.

You were as determined as I was, except your goal was to tear me down, constantly remind me I wasn’t good enough for your class. You shot down my creativity, demanding I follow a set formula for every assignment, going so far as to insist I begin every last paragraph with the word “Thus” and never giving me a grade higher than C. I tried so hard to write the way you wanted, losing my voice in the process, but determined to show you I was a good writer. I approached you for help yearning for positive guidance.

“What can I do to earn more than a C? What am I doing wrong?”

Your response stayed with me for years.

“Nothing really. You’re just not a very good writer.”

And, just like that you extinguished my creative spark. You planted a seed of doubt that grew with each sentence I wrote for many years to come.

I don’t know what became of you, but I want you to know something. My creative spark was reignited. These days, I grow more confident with each sentence I write. I make words come to life and never start my last paragraph with the word “Thus” because to this day that word makes me cringe.

However, I’m going to make an exception today because (no thanks to you) I’ve learned I have a way of expressing myself in writing that touches people enough for them to come back for more.
The beauty is I didn’t have to lose my voice to do so.

Thus, I AM A GOOD WRITER.

Why Did The Blogger Cross The Road?

22

The streets of San Jose are expansive lanes of cars zipping this way and that, each rushing to their individual destination. Standing on the corner, a bit intimidated by this new city, I watched from the safety of the sidewalk as drivers travelled their path. I wondered what their journey entailed on a Friday morning in the middle of summer. Where were they coming from? Where were they going?

I was anxious to cross and make my way to my first ever BlogHer conference yet I was hesitant to step out of my comfort zone as the traffic light changed and the countdown began. I didn’t trust the 14 seconds given to navigate my way across the four lanes of traffic with a track in the middle for public transportation, but each time I found myself being carried in the throng of pedestrians performing a tribal dance of street crossing and floated with them until I was safely on the other side.

IMG_0268

BlogHer was much the same way for me. I entered a sea of bloggers whose energy vibrated the floors and bounced off the walls of the San Jose Convention Center. Wide eyed, heart pumping I stood in the lobby and took it all in, hesitant to take a step in any direction. Bloggers zipped around me and I found myself wondering about each of them as they travelled past me.

As a new countdown began, another wave of conference attendees entered behind me and I was once again caught up in their midst. I let their energy carry me toward the registration desk, stepped out of my comfort zone, and let the adventure begin. I searched for a familiar face in the crowd and found it in the form of an online group I belong to called The Bloppies, a group of bloggers I had interacted with online for months. These women and more experienced bloggers were just as excited to meet me in person as I was to meet them.

And, just like that I found myself breathing a little easier.

After a whirlwind weekend of highs and lows, laughter and tears, and my moment in the spotlight as a 2014 VOTY I found myself at the same intersection waiting to cross the street once more. Except, this time it was different.

I was no longer intimidated by the fast pace or hesitant of stepping out of my comfort zone and navigating my way across the street. I was leaving San Jose with confidence in myself, my writing, and ready to take on the blogging world. I was not going to take baby steps, but run full force into all the opportunities I had shied away from before and put myself out there. As the sign switched from “talk to the hand” to the walking man, I took action and began my journey across the street. About halfway there I realized I had less time than I thought to get across before the light changed and decided to jog the last few steps. My ankle twisted and I fractured my foot.

20140728_170046 2

It was then I realized why I had crossed that intersection the first time upon my arrival. It wasn’t for the words I would hear from speakers and panelists or the tips of the trade shared in group discussions. I crossed the street in search of my tribe, not knowing I had already met them online. As I leaned on the women around me that last night, I realized every cent I spent on BlogHer was worth being in their presence all weekend as they applauded me, encouraged me and supported me in so many ways.

My best BlogHer swag came in the form of a tribe that may not have fit in my luggage, but I will forever carry close to my heart.

10514632_10153007594299428_8716522242626237999_n