Archive for October, 2013

ImageI am currently enrolled in iversity’s Future of Storytelling.  My first assignment is to recall a story (written, heard or seen) that greatly impacted me.  After summarizing the story, I have to explain the context in which the story was important to me or influenced me.  Below is my response to this assignment.

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams is a children’s story that explains how a toy can become real through a child’s love.  The Velveteen Rabbit begins his stay in the nursery as the laughing-stock of all toys because he is an old-fashioned stuffed animal with no modern-day mechanics or tricks.  He actually sits neglected for a long while until he is used to replace the boy’s missing bedtime toy.  The boy becomes attached to the Rabbit and takes him everywhere.  The Rabbit becomes shabby in appearance but does not mind because the boy believes the Rabbit is “real”.  The boy becomes sick with scarlet fever and the doctors insist all the toys and bedding must be burned or thrown away, including the boy’s beloved bunny.  The Rabbit cries while mourning his fate.  The nursery fairy then appears and bestows upon him some magic to turn him into a “real” rabbit that he has seen in his forays into the forest with the boy.  The Velveteen Rabbit is overcome with joy at being able to run, hop and play with the other rabbits and still remain close to his boy.

I don’t know how old I was when I first read this story but I remember that I began to place a lot of sentimental value on all of my stuffed animals.   I did not drag my toys around or even play with them enough to lose their aesthetic value.  I did remember the occasion in which I acquired each animal and I used those toys as a never-ending bond to the giver of each one.  When I was twelve, I was in a car accident that required a hospital stay and subsequent surgeries.  I racked up quite a collection of stuffed toys during that three-year duration.  Even though I was well into my teens and had outgrown the security of my many plush toys, I refused to give them away or trash them.  I was emotionally invested in the toys merely because of the circumstances in which I received each one.  To me, they were all “real” in that they represented real people who had shown me real compassion at a time I needed it most.  In ridding my room of these toys, I felt I was dishonoring the memories of those that had loved me.  When at last I was married and acknowledged the need to sever my ties to these childish items, I passed them on lovingly to other children that I hoped would love them and make them “real” in their own hearts.


Parental Struggles

dyslexiaI find it ironic and extremely frustrating that I have two children that have learning disabilities that inhibit their ability to communicate effectively.  I always excelled in writing and public speaking throughout my childhood and college years.  I even majored in Communication Studies (after the evil administrators at UNC-CH thwarted my desire to go into television.  But that’s a blog post for another day).  I realize that I take for granted my ability to put my thoughts to paper and, more times than not, effectively speak my mind.  David was blessed with the writing ability but struggles with the public speaking only because of his lack of confidence.  Once Hunter’s speech delays were identified in first grade, I had imagined that he would blossom into a vessel of self-expression.  It was upsetting to acknowledge and embrace that there were neurological causes for him to struggle with reading and writing.  While he can speak his mind, he now lacks the confidence to do so with conviction because of his issues with dyslexia and dysgraphia.  Hunter has made ASTOUNDING progress in the past year to overcome these obstacles academically.  Tests show that he is now reading on grade level, but tests do not illustrate the amount of effort it takes him to do so.  His writing abilities have improved as well now that he utilizes a computer for most of his school work.  The keyboard does not present the same challenges as a pencil to his dysgraphic mind.  It is by sheer force of will and work ethic that Hunter has achieved so much.  We are fortunate that he is surrounded by teachers that believe in his abilities and do everything in their power to assure Hunter that he is much greater than any of his disabilities.  I struggle as a parent in walking the fine line between wanting to make school work as easy as possible for Hunter while making sure he/we do not take advantage of any modifications to his academic work plans.  It is also a struggle for me to understand what Hunter experiences because the written word has always been so easy for me.  Luke seems to be on the same path as Hunter.  We diagnosed Luke’s speech developmental delay at four and began his speech therapy two full years ahead of Hunter.  While we have seen vast improvement with Luke’s speech, we know it greatly affects his relationships with peers his age.  Adults attempt more patience at conversing with Luke.  Other five and six-year olds don’t have time for that!  Since beginning kindergarten in July, it is has become obvious that he has issues with recognizing letters and numbers.  He is currently well behind his classmates in his writing and pre-reading skills.  Luke will have several diagnostic evaluations completed this week so we can determine what other services may benefit him.  Of course, whatever we discover with Luke, we have the advantage of having “been there, done that” with Hunter.  I can’t help but wonder how I have failed these two children — they are extremely intelligent, outgoing children that should not be hindered in their abilities to interact with the world.  I know there is no fault to be assigned, just as there is no miracle cure for their issues.  While I grieve the opportunity to wield my red ink pen on their assignments, I am grateful that they have not let their learning disabilities define the boys they are and the men they will become.

Novel Excerpt

It is no secret that I have been working on a novel for the past several months.  This journey is much more difficult than I ever imagined.  I have become emotionally invested in my characters and have a very difficult time deciding their fates, as I want to protect them from heartbreak and pain.  In a lot of ways, they have become like my children.  I am struggling with the direction of the novel because I am trying to follow my literary instincts instead of emotionally manipulating the outcome.  Since I have hit a wall of frustration, I thought I would share a short excerpt from the story.  I am hoping that if I release some of the protectiveness I feel for this story, I will free myself to write more effectively.  Plus, I just can’t get enough of Devin.  🙂  

Devin propped his long legs on the weathered pallet that served as a coffee table on his private dune-top deck. This was his favorite place in the world.  Well, second favorite, barely losing out to being in his bed wrapped up with a beautiful, voracious lover. He brought the chilled bottle of Buckshot Amber Ale to his lips and drained half the bottle, lost in his thoughts.

He had visited the Kindred Spirit mailbox that afternoon and enjoyed perusing the many entries that filled the journal’s pages. Most days he just skimmed the random musings but today his attention had been drawn to the sweeping lines and curves of an eloquent, cursive handwriting. He had run his fingertips over the pencilled words that flowed over the page like calligraphy. He was curious what the passage contained and imagined a flowery pledge of love. He was touched by the plea hidden in the artistic writing. This Genesee woman seemed to be lost but intent on finding a direction forward.  Devin knew better than most how helpless a soul could feel when discovering your life’s compass had malfunctioned. Devin’s desire to gain back control of his life had led him to Sunset Beach ten years ago, against the wishes and demands of his family. Somehow, the day he first crossed the pontoon swinging bridge, he knew he had found his way home.

In all his time on this island, he had never bothered writing or responding in the Kindred Spirit notebook. Today, he succumbed to the yearning to offer some solace to the mysterious Genesee.

Dear Genesee,

Our Kindred Spirit is still in residence here. At least that is what I tell myself when I feel there is no one else to listen to me. I hope you enjoyed your wine and were able to celebrate the breathtaking sunset yesterday. I must admit I find myself very skeptical of the everlasting love and soulmate quest. Perhaps the closest we ever come to that is another Kindred Spirit passing through our life … for a few weeks or even a few decades. Enjoy your return to Paradise, my forever home. I will raise a beer and toast you moving forward in life.  In Passing, The Wanderer

As Devin finished the last of his beer, he surveyed his island home.  For far too long he had been plagued by a sense of deja vu while walking through the dunes and down the barren beach at Bird Island. He often felt there was a deeper pull for his life to be anchored to this place but so far he had been unable to figure it out.  He set the empty beer bottle down, settled back in the wooden swing and let the ocean breeze and lapping waves of the low tide sweep away any lingering thoughts.


Mighty Fine Men

I cannot deny that I have always been a bit “boy-crazy”.  In preschool, my free play consisted of bullying the cutest boy in our class into playing house with me.  In kindergarten, recess was spent dragging scared, innocent boys behind a tree so I could kiss them.  (Not to worry, guys.  I didn’t go to Bunn until the middle of first grade!)  I fondly remember each of my elementary grades by the boy that I was crushing on or “going with” at the time.  My parents memorialized my first love by wood-burning into our front porch railing my pathetic cry of “But Mom, I’ve loved him since the third grade!” when I found my heart broken once again in the sixth grade.  Amazingly, I even had boyfriends during middle school while I was in the midst of ear and facial reconstructive surgery.  High school opened up a whole new sea of possibilities for me as I found myself attracted to various jocks, nerds, skateboarders and smokers.  Even though I may have treated each break-up as a world-ending drama, I can honestly say I never had a bad break-up.  Yes, we may not have spoken for a few weeks or even months, but each boyfriend ultimately remained in my heart as a friend.  Since the end of high school, only two men have taken hold of my heart and I married both of them.

Looking back at all the guys that I have given a piece of my heart, physically there are very few similarities among them.  There has been tall and dark, short and red-headed, lean and blonde.  But it’s the qualities that we can’t see outwardly that made each of these guys special to me.  You will have your own list of non-physical “turn-ons”.  This is mine:

1. He must be able to look me in the eyes.  I’m not sure if it is my Aquarian nature or just a genetic glitch, but I can discover a lot by looking into a person’s eyes.  The eyes can show dishonesty when words ring true. Eyes shine with passion even with the body makes no moves.  Eyes show pain when we plaster a smile on our faces.  If a man is unable to look me in the eyes, then he and I will have nothing to build a friendship on as hiding one’s’ eyes is more obvious than wearing an unwelcome sign!

2.  A man that makes me laugh is sure to be a quick friend.  I have appreciation for humor that ranges from goofy slapstick to dry, sarcastic wit.  While it is rare that I am impressed by gross body noises, I do have three sons and know when a well-timed snort is appropriate.  Laughter breaks down walls, erases insecurities for a few seconds and allows our hearts to extend outside our bodies.

3. I am a talker.  Seriously.  And I happen to be opinionated.  I enjoy having a conversation with a man that has opinions and can intelligently discuss them.  I also appreciate a man that understands that while I will engage in controversial conversations, there is no need to attempt to convert me — in politics, sports, religion or philosophy.

4.  I really like  a man that is unafraid to show affection in public.  No, that doesn’t mean I am drooling over your man if he holds your hand in the grocery store.  It does mean that I know that your man is very secure in his feelings for those he loves.  In church, I find myself mesmerized by the men that unconsciously rub their partner’s shoulder or pull their wives/girlfriends closer while singing a hymn.  Of course, I was a huge supporter of PDA’s, even in kindergarten.

5. Compassion for others.  Wayne is probably the best example of this particular trait.  And I will suffer from sharing this so publicly … no more PDA’s for me for a long while!  Wayne cannot watch any commercials, telethons or charity concerts that show people in need.  Whether it is a child that is suffering from leukemia, a family that needs a mosquito net in Central America, or a woman that is starving in Africa, Wayne’s heart bleeds for these strangers.  There are many times he has been brought to tears and it has stunned me to my core.  The Youngsville Blue Coach Pitch All-Stars witnessed Wayne’s tenderness when he was so choked up during his final speech to the team, he was barely able to speak.  I have needed men like this in my life to teach me to be more empathetic.

While my husband embraces all of these qualities and I’m certainly NOT looking for anyone else, I do appreciate these qualities in my friends’ husbands, my boys’ coaches, the school dads and our extended family.  These men are the ones that I seek out to be role models for my own sons.  These are the ones that helped me make it to forty with my heart intact.  These are the finest men I know.


Reaching Out

ImageI must admit I am completely stunned and humbled by the response to yesterday’s post.  I never imagined how many of my friends would be affected by my story.  I also never realized how many people cared for me during that time in my life (and years afterward) and never found a way to share their feelings with me.  As youngsters, most of us had insecurities that prevented us from sharing such sentiments.  But what is our excuse as adults?  What drives us to bury our thoughts, feelings, desires from those we cherish the most?  

Many of you know that I was blessed to marry one of my best friends, Christian.  Before we dated, we shared everything with each other.  I knew all of his secrets (yes, he had plenty) and he preserved all of mine.  As friends, we hurt each other with selfish actions, but we never doubted our love for each other.  As we grew older and our relationship changed to one of intimacy, we became more guarded with our feelings.  We were hesitant to share our moments of sadness, fear, regret, temptation, etc.  Eventually, our conversations grew less meaningful, our silences became more profound.  When I felt Christian withdraw emotionally from me, I responded by building a concrete foundation to secure my own doubts and pain.  After a  time, when Christian found that he needed to reach out to me, he was unable to cross the barriers I had erected and I was too stubborn and prideful to tear them down myself.   We lived in the same house, but there was an ocean dividing us.  

It wasn’t until Christian’s dreadful diagnosis of lymphoma in 2002 that we were forced to “get real” with other.  We had an infant to think about.  We had to put aside the years of mistrust and decide how to move forward to secure a future for our son.  There were attempts at complete reconciliation, but the time for us to mend our internal wounds for a successful marriage had passed.  We poured our hearts out to each other, claiming responsibility for our marital carnage.  We extended a friendly truce to each other, not just for David’s sake, but for the sake of two kids that had once been the best of friends.  When Christian died in 2003, I was distraught.  I was unsure how to make it through the days without hearing his easy-going voice or endless jokes.  The one thought that made Christian’s death more bearable, was knowing that he and I had made peace with each other.  I have never had a single night of regret that Christian did not know how I felt about him or that I would have to live on this earth without his forgiveness.  He and I had overcome the worst of circumstances to become the best of friends again.  But we had to throw away our insecurities with each other, open wide the doorway to our vulnerabilities and lay claim to the love we could resurrect from all of our years together.  

A life-threatening illness, an innocent child and a wrecked marriage motivated our conversations.  You would think that I would have taken that to heart and used that as a learning opportunity to never let another day pass by without telling everyone I love — on whatever level — how much they mean to me.  I should know not to overlook an opportunity to express gratitude, extend a congratulations, share heart-felt sympathy, say a simple “Love you”.  But that childish fear holds me back, makes me question how my sentiments will be taken.  Will they be embraced or thrown back in my face?  Will I be laughed at or turned away?  Looking into that 12 year old girl’s face yesterday, I realize that I have faced much worse in my life.  No one can make me feel as small, lonely, and terrified as I did 28 years ago.  I have nothing to lose by reaching out to those around me.  And honestly, neither do you. 

Conversation with Myself

I am doing something today that I never thought I would do.  I am going to share a very open, emotionally raw conversation I had with a photograph of myself, taken when I was 12.  I wrote this conversation as a form of therapy.  I wanted to acknowledge feelings of pain and loss in a safe environment.  But I am just now realizing that I am living life too safely.  I am not allowing people to get to know ME … I only allow those around me to get the fabricated strong, sometimes bitchy, version of who I am.  I feel as if I should apologize to those that will be uncomfortable with this post and most likely with some of my future posts.  But I can’t be sorry for being myself.  I am not perfect — not even close.  I don’t always make the wisest decisions. I sometimes hurt the people I love the most.  I am not always emotionally present in my children’s lives.  I often pull away from close friendships in an attempt to protect my heart and this 12-year old girl you are about to meet.  But maybe if I begin to open up, you will understand me better.  It doesn’t mean you will like me more (if at all) — but at least you can base your feelings for me on the truth.  

*In June 1985, I was in a car accident along with a very amazing woman and several courageous girls.  To those that were there that day — I hope this doesn’t upset you.  That is not my intention at all.  I value the friendships that have endured this trauma as well as all the years in between.  

Me: I can’t believe I’m actually talking to a photo of myself.

Photo: Why not? You always talk to yourself in your head.

Me: But this is different.  I’m talking to a 12 year old me. I don’t converse well with children.

Photo: That’s nothing new.  You always preferred to talk to adults, even as a child.

Me: It’s hard looking at the picture, you know? So many bad memories, so much sadness, a lot of anger.

Photo: How do you think I feel? You’ve grown up, found a new life.  I’m stuck in this pained, scarred, bleeding body.

Me: You are awfully brave, though. You have so much strength.

Photo: You’ve got a really bad memory.

Me: No, hindsight is 20/20. The strength you possess has really carried me through some tough times as an adult. If you weren’t suffering, then I would have never been able to become the person I am.

Photo: But you still have problems – problems that you blame on this accident.

Me: I do.  I have a lot of bitterness about being abandoned by the church and not having any close friends that stuck with me through that trauma. But I want to know what you’re feeling.

Photo: I hurt … all over. Every breath I take feels as if my ribs are splintering through my skin. My head is constantly throbbing and itching from the scabs. And I want to take these wire cutters and snip the wires between my teeth so I can open my mouth and EAT. I just want a French fry. And chocolate cake. And maybe a little steak. I don’t want to look like a freak show. And this horrible figure 8 brace.  If only I could figure out a way to shred it so I can sit hunched over and hold my stomach and sides and give myself some comfort.  I’m not finding comfort from a friend that is for sure. Are kids staying away because they don’t care or because their parents don’t want them to see how horrible I look?  The swelling is finally going down in my face – it’s no longer the size of a basketball. But the road rash is so disgusting. Mom is picking pieces of glass out of my skin several times a day. I can also smell the blood and oozing from the scars on my ear and face. I truly do feel like a freak.  It does get better, right?

Me: Yes, it does.  I mean, I have always doubted my beauty since the accident, but I’ve been told all females go through that. Dr. Peacock once told me that even the most beautiful women find flaws in their faces and bodies – that is how he became a very successful plastic surgeon.   Again, without what you are going through now — I wouldn’t be so lucky today. 

Me: So, have you had your 30 minutes of pity time today?

Photo: So what if I have? Like 30 minutes is enough time for a 12 year old to grieve for her old life back? To make peace with not having any friends here supporting me? For losing my dreams? So yeah – I’ve probably had 2 hrs. of pity time today so far.  But what Mom doesn’t know, won’t hurt her.

Me: I guess I should tell you now that the limited and dwindling pity time does you no favors in the future. It just teaches you to put on a mask around others and pretend that life is “just fine” when we know we’re drowning with no life preserver in sight on the inside. If I decide to write about you, what do you want everyone to know?

Photo: That having years of reconstructive surgery SUCKS! And I am so sick of hearing, “This happened for a reason. God has a plan for you.” Or even better, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle!” I know people mean well, but seriously, those words mean nothing right now.