Will The Internet Catch You When You Fall?

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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.

 

Lessons From A Third Grade School Performance

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I watched you from my seat in the second row of the right side of the auditorium. Your eyes scanned the room, row by row panning left and right, left and right. Hands in your pockets, you stood tall and attentive, fully aware your third grade performance would begin at any moment. You had the notes, lyrics, moves memorized as you had been practicing for weeks in the comfort of your own home. Though, now you looked a bit nervous, standing on the stage, in the spotlight, anxiously searching the audience. You had told me to sit on the right side of the auditorium so I would have a good view of you. Today, on the drive over, we even reviewed left and right a few times to ensure I would be in the right seat.

 

Evan the Artist1

As you searched the eager faces in the room, I knew we had gotten our right and left mixed up. The more your big brown eyes sought mine, the tighter my heart squeezed. I tried to catch your attention even waving my hand in the air but you were focused on the other half of the room. I stood and waved once more and it was then your eyes locked with mine, and as your little body visibly relaxed you nodded your curly head ever so slightly in my direction.

I sat back and watched you shine on that stage much like you do in our living room every night and throughout your performance I thought of all the things I want you to know as the world becomes your stage.

1. I will always be here for you, even when you can no longer see me. You will never be alone.

2. When life’s spotlight shines too bright, blinding you from what’s really important, I will help you see it.

3. And, when that same light dims eventually leaving you in moments of darkness, I will be your guiding light.

4. There will be times when our signals will get crossed and lead to misunderstanding. Know that we will communicate and straighten things out and even through disagreements I will never stop loving you.

5. Enjoy your successes, the big and the small. Those that seem insignificant are often the ones that will fill your heart with joy when you look back on them.

6. When the spotlight is on you, remember that all eyes are on you too. Use that opportunity for good.

7. Never take life so seriously that you exit the stage completely. There’s always room for creativity, imagination, and those things that make you laugh.

8. I will always be your biggest fan –  in your brightest moments as well as your darkest.

9. Don’t ever pretend to be someone you aren’t simply to please others. Who you are behind the scenes is better than anyone you could ever pretend to be.

10. Live your life in such a way that you will exit the stage with dignity when the final curtain comes down.

One Ring To Rule Them All

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“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!

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

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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.

My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories Of Leaving And Losing Friends

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Have you ever lost a friend? Was that loss in some ways more painful than the end of a love affair? Women’s friendships so often come to a crossroads at which time two women can try to hold on to the friendship, staying connected, or the friends can take two completely separate paths without each other. Many of the essays in this book are about this moment in time, when both rupture and new beginnings are possible.

There are so many ways that friendships can end, and this book describes 35 of them, from each 35 talented and accomplished contributors. At the heart of each essay is the recognition from each writer that she has lost something very real and very personal, a connection that will never be forgotten.

I am proud to be one of the contributors to this anthology, alongside 34 very talented women writers. 

Today, I invite you to pre-order the book which I am sure will hit close to home for many readers

by using my special discount code: EX2014LV.

 

 

Pre-order the book and support our mission of sharing women’s voices, one story at a time.

Your autographed copy will be shipped on September 2, 2014, almost two weeks before its official publication date of September 15.

Pre-release sales profits will be spent on publishing and marketing expenses and on building our HerStories Project community.

The Hug That Has Lasted A Lifetime

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I cling to him, feeling the slippery slope of time catching up to me as the ticks on my watch drum in my ears like a tribal rain dance circling round my brain. If only I could freeze time and force it to turn around and head back in the opposite direction, even if it is against oncoming traffic. I know this is a route he is all too familiar with as he has spent his life on a similar road, always heading in the wrong direction, dodging incoming obstacles. It wasn’t always like this for us. There was a time when we traveled a different road, one smoothly paved with stones of hopes and promises. The uphill challenges on that road seem like small bumps compared to the mountainous climb that is his life now. I hold on tight savoring the hug, not knowing when I will have the opportunity to experience it again. My only thought being that it is the kind of lasting hug I will revisit time and again in the future, when he is out of my reach once more. It is the kind of hug that also makes me revisit the day I officially lost him.

Big Sister, Little Brother, First Meeting, Love At First Sight

I found him in his room. The youngest of three, he was the only one left with a room at home. As I approached, trying to connect words of comfort I didn’t believe existed, I realized he was putting on a shield of armor I would find impossible to break through. As he tied his green apron strings and adjusted his name tag, the look in his eyes showed turmoil more akin to a battle weary soldier than a nineteen year old stock boy. As my sister and I carried on with our distant lives in other states, my brother had lived the daily nightmare of slowly losing the man we all thought invincible, our father. He said he wished he could just go to work like normal…like none of this was happening. My heart understood his wish more than he would ever know. Still, I couldn’t let him leave as panic swelled within me and the minute hand ticked on the black cat clock on the wall, left over from our younger years and more innocent times.

I did what I thought was right at the time. I somehow convinced my little brother to stay and face our nightmare with the rest of us, and within a couple of hours of being home our father looked around him and took in each and every face in that room including my brother’s. He asked our mother if all his loved ones were there and when she reassured him they were, he took a deep breath and finally went home. I hugged my brother, grateful he had stayed by our side.

I would like to say that was the end of our nightmare, but for my brother it was the beginning of something much worse. For the next twenty-one years he has lived behind bars with visitation rights that are never long enough, and in a cell that doesn’t often see the light. He is trapped in darkness. Of his own making or mine?

You see, the day my brother stayed and witnessed our father’s death he died along with him. Gone was the nineteen year old stock boy who played basketball with his headphones on because to choose between the two things that gave him the most joy wasn’t possible. Gone was the son who took pride in handing over the earnings of a grocery store employee to help with the bills at home. Gone was the light in his eyes. When I look into his eyes now I still see the turmoil of that fateful day and no medication has ever been able to erase it. So…I find comfort in revisiting these hugs, for it is the only reminder of the person I once knew.

I Slip It On Like A Well-Worn Pair Of Jeans

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They came to this country with only the clothes on their back and a light of hope in their hearts that the strongest gust of wind couldn’t extinguish. They walked away from all they knew for the promise of freedom. They left it all behind for visions of a better future for themselves, but more importantly for their children. Those brave souls made huge sacrifices for myself and my siblings, and I wouldn’t be who I am today if not for them…my parents. As with anything or anyone we leave behind, no longer accessible to us, we don’t fully bid farewell. We still carry with us a little something that will remind us of times we will never again experience.

Denim, Well-Worn Jeans, Favorite Jeans

My parents may have bid farewell to their homes, their families and friends, and the island they called home, but they held on to their language, clothing themselves in it like a well-worn pair of jeans, slipping into it and feeling the comfort of the fabric as it wrapped them in the many memories of their history and home. While my parents learned the English language of their new country, in our home, we were encouraged to speak our native language. Around the dinner table, we slipped into it easily without even realizing it. At family gatherings, children and grown ups alike easily conversed in the Spanish sounds of a faraway land.

I may not have understood my parents adamant rules on embracing our native language, but nowadays I see things clearly. Being fully bilingual has opened doors for me in many areas of my life from career opportunities to lifelong friendships. I can easily slip from English to Spanish and back again in the blink of an eye, often amazing those around me with the ease in which I do so and begging the question, “Do you think in the language you speak or do you think in one language and translate in your mind before speaking?” To answer the question, I think in Spanish when I speak in Spanish. I think in English when I speak in English. There’s no rhyme or reason to my language of choice. I prefer to read in English rather than Spanish. I more often dream in English than I do in Spanish. However, when I pray I find I slip easily into a Spanish conversation with God…possibly because I was taught to pray in Spanish. My conversations with my mom are conducted in Spanish more often than English.

Well-Worn Jeans, Favorite Jeans, ,Blue Denim

An article titled, How Speaking Two Languages Can Improve Your Brain, at About.com discusses this in further detail. According to a growing body of research, not only does speaking two languages not confuse people or slow their learning in other areas, it may actually improve your brain—carrying benefits that go far beyond communication. According to Ellen Bialystok, an internationally known psychologist and distinguished research professor at York University in Toronto, there is overwhelming evidence that being truly bilingual—speaking two languages and using them regularly—will improve your brain. For bilingual people, both languages are “always on,” always active in their brains, no matter which language they are speaking at the moment.

All scientific research aside, I am grateful my parents encouraged me to embrace our native language. I have personally witnessed those who believe everyone should speak English as it is the universal language, and frown upon those who don’t. I have personally experienced people being offended when they do not understand a conversation being conducted near them, in a language they do not understand. Thanks to my parents, when I am around someone speaking their native language, I keep in mind that those words may be the only familiar thing they still carry with them. It may be the only remnant of their homeland, helping them keep their history alive while they make a new home and create a new history in a foreign land. And, I remember what it feels like to slip into my favorite pair of well-worn jeans, the comfort they provide, each tear a memory that no amount of fading can completely erase.

 

To My Daughter: It’s A World Full Of Sea Glass

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Happy 12th Birthday, Olivia!

Beach Treasures, Beach Finds

Dear Olivia Rose,

Twelve years ago you entered the world and as I held you in my arms and looked into your eyes, I once again voiced the many promises I had been whispering for months as I gently rubbed my growing belly. I promised to always love you with all my heart. I promised you would never be alone in this great big, complicated world of ours. I promised to love you unconditionally, and I promised to guide you on your life’s journey in the best way I know how.

You are turning into an amazing young girl full of wonder and imagination, full of compassion and love, full of hopes and dreams. In all the promises I’ve made to you, the one thing I couldn’t promise – I can’t promise – is to shield you from the doubts and fears the world will create in you.

When we take our long walks on the beach, both in awe of the amazing untouched beauty that surrounds us, I often wish I could keep you in this protective bubble of endless sea, a world in which human nature and life experiences can’t dull your spirit.

However, if I did that there is so much you would miss out on, so I shall continue to walk by your side through all that is in store for you – walking ahead when you need guidance and falling behind when you need to face the world on your own. I do promise to always remain present on your walk, understanding it is your walk and your walk alone, and all I can do is offer my love and my wisdom.

As you continue to grow and mature, my hope is that you walk through life the way you walk along the shores, eagerly searching for sea glass. I hope you never lose your sense of adventure, always imagining possibilities beyond anyone’s expectations or jaded views. I hope you comb the earth for hidden treasures and view the world as a vessel of sea glass waiting to be discovered. Each person you cross paths with a treasure, whether they’ve been smoothly polished from tumbling around or a bit rough around the edges. Each has something to offer you. Do not be quick to discard them.

Sea shell heart

As you travel, I hope you embrace the many colors you will encounter on your walk and understand the world isn’t always black and white. I hope you learn the lesson intended for you when you expectantly reach for a piece only to be hurt by its sharp point. Learn the lesson and move on. Do not let it stop you from continuing to search for the beauty that lies in wait. Never give up hope. Sometimes the most beautiful pieces are buried a bit under a layer of sand. Do not be afraid to dig a little deeper. There will be times when facing your fear of what lies down the path you are on is the bravest thing you will do. The reward will be great and the experience the greatest treasure you will ever uncover.

Walk on the beach

As I walk a few steps behind you, I can’t help but hope that you will always see yourself through my eyes because I see a beautiful young girl both inside and out with so much to offer this world. I see an intelligent young girl who is practical and wise beyond her years, but also one who refuses to close her mind to a carefree world of imagination and possibility.

My hope for you is that you never let the obstacles that lay in your path change you, but mostly that you take your time and treasure your walk one step at a time.

And, whenever you find yourself needing company, know that I’m always up for a walk.

Love,

Mommy

 

Statement: Bank Account Low. Immediate Deposit Necessary.

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“If you think back and replay your year and you don’t recall tears either sad or happy consider your year a waste.”

This line has stuck with me for some time. I don’t recall where I heard it, but I’ve carried its meaning with me each year as I’ve looked back at my life and the string of moments that are now in my past. Moments I may not have fully appreciated at the time and others I vaguely recall fleetingly passing through time…my time, my year, my life. As is often the case, life’s little moments present the biggest lessons but too often we are so caught up in what we are feeling in that particular moment that we miss the full essence of its significance. The present moment stirs up emotions that slowly roll over our heart and mind like a cloud cluster across an expanse of sky blocking the light that could bathe us in warmth and wisdom. It is only when the clouds move on that we look back, not knowing what we are seeking but sure we’ve missed something meaningful.

Beach, Sand Art, Heart In Sand

Thus, if I could give my younger self a bit of guidance now that I’ve had some time to deposit moments in my memory bank, I would share the following.

  1. Life isn’t always what it appears to be. Always take a moment to look beneath the surface. It is when you dig a little deeper that treasures are discovered.
  2. There are moments when your heart will break into a million pieces. Know that another moment will arrive that will put those pieces back together and you will be the better for it.
  3. The moment you think you can’t do something is the moment you’ve allowed someone else’s negativity to cloud your judgment. Believe in yourself.
  4. There will be moments when your heart will burst with love. Cherish them. These are the moments worth living for.
  5. At times it will feel like you’re drowning, kicking your legs, burning your lungs, clawing at the surface. Keep going because the moment where you can shoot out of the deep water and break the surface, filling your lungs with air and feeling the sun on your face once more isn’t as far off as it seems.
  6. There will be moments when you will be so proud of your accomplishments, you will want to share them with the world. Share them and bask in the glory, never forgetting the journey that got you there.
  7. The moment will undoubtedly arrive, likely more than once, when you will be paralyzed by fear. Do not let fear dictate your outcome. Pray. Listen to your heart. Choose a direction. Take the first step.
  8. If the moment ever comes when you have to choose whether to forgive or forget, understand that the two do not go hand in hand. You can forgive without forgetting.
  9. You will have regrets. Do not let them define you.
  10. Moments of failure are necessary in life. In order to be a winner, you have to understand what it’s like to be a loser.

Beach, Sand Art, I Love You

Contrary to popular belief, filling your bank account with money shouldn’t be your ultimate goal in life. Money may make some aspects of your life more comfortable, give you a sense of security, and maybe provide some experiences you might not have otherwise. However a memory bank full of moments and each tiny detail that makes up a single moment in time is definitely worth your effort.  Don’t miss out on the many opportunities to fill your memory bank with “moments.” Good or bad, each moment will be one of many of life’s valuable experiences. It will be scary sometimes to think of what the future holds, but know that it will be filled with many many moments…some of which you will learn a painful lesson from and some of which you will want to relive over and over again. Just know that a memory bank full of “moments” will be more valuable than gold when you get older.

 

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