Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Life reflections. These happen as you grow older, when you begin wondering what made you YOU. I came from humble beginnings, a little tomboy who grew up in the middle of the deep country, surrounded by woods, vegetable gardens and grape fields. (I actually lived in the midst of The Louis Jindra Winery and will admit to sneaking off from my designated play area and eating my fair share of the gorgeous, plump fruit that hung from the abundant vines...) I was blissfully happy to play barefoot in the tall grass and catch fireflies in mason jars, taking only small breaks when I smelled the scent of Mom's homemade cookies and pies riding on the gentle breezes just outside the kitchen window. I would play for hours among the clean laundry hanging on the lines outside, using the sheets as a little hideaway as I set up my princess fortress.
It wasn't until I was eight years old that I found out I was “adopted.” It was during a little squabble with my Mom that I shouted, “I wish you weren't my mother!” She sat me down and explained to me why I should not say such things. There was a certain sadness in her eyes and as I grew calmer, I could sense there was something just “not right.” Feeling ashamed and near tears, I said, “I'm so happy you had me. I'm lucky that you are my mother.” She looked at me crying and said, “I AM your mother, baby.” Still sensing discord, I then asked, “You had me, right?” Silence ensued. My heart began racing. I took my little hands and made her look at me and the pain in her eyes filled my heart with terror. I asked again, “Mommy? You had me...RIGHT?!” Gathering me up in her arms she said, “You will eventually have to know. I took you into my heart the day you were born. I brought you home when you were two weeks old. This body may not have given birth to you, but you were my daughter the day you were born. Mine. Nothing will ever change that.”
During the next few days, deeply painful days, I learned that my biological mother was my Aunt Elizabeth. After realizing that, the shock wasn't so bad...Aunt Elizabeth was fun. She lived with my grandmother and grandfather in Columbus and we would make the trek to see them a couple of times of year. I was forever mesmerized by the way she would throw her head back in laughter, the way she wore her make-up and groomed her long beautiful nails. She always had gifts awaiting for me, games planned for us to play, endless supplies of markers, crayons and paint to satisfy my endless imagination. We were inseparable during the week's visit. In fact, I remember feeling guilty that I ignored my mother during these visits but Mom always encouraged me to spend time with her.
The hard question eventually came out. I asked Mom why Aunt Elizabeth had given me away. Her only answer would be, “She was just not capable of taking care of you at the time, sweetheart.” My young heart started to feel hurt. If Aunt Elizabeth loved me so much, wouldn't she have done anything and everything to keep me? No, I did not want her as my mom...because I loved MY mom so very much, but why COULDN'T she keep me? And why did she not fight for me?
My Aunt Elizabeth, I learned throughout the years, was a free spirit. A complex woman who did not like rules. She lived by the convictions and beliefs in her OWN heart that did not co-exist with society's norm. She broke the law several times. She spent several years locked away from society. Yet she was incredibly intelligent and meticulous, and by all accounts, loving. She gave birth to me on my grandmother's couch at 49 years of age, my grandmother being the one who brought me gently into this world, without the help of physicians or a hospital staff. I later learned my mother sat by Aunt Elizabeth's side during my birth, holding her hand and encouraging her to push “just one more time” and wiped away her tears. Which led me to my next question...Where was my father? My biological father?
That is still the question 37 years later. I am no closer to realizing that answer. However, I am no longer searching. Up until about five years ago, I spent most of my time searching, asking anyone who would possibly know about the other half of my origin. I began calling everyone with the same last name as my birth name in the Columbus area phone book asking if they knew my biological mother from that time. They were all dead ends. But I am at peace. I was often told by family that perhaps I do not want to know who he was, that the father that I had the first five years of my life loved me like I was his very own. I believe that with all of my heart. He really was the best. Gentle, yet stern, but definitely not short of compassion and love for his very youngest daughter...
I never had a chance to see my Aunt Elizabeth after I was told about my birth. I did not get to ask her the questions that were raging through my mind. Three weeks after learning of everything, my Mom told me through a torrent of tears and anguish that my beautiful Aunt Elizabeth passed away quickly from pancreatic cancer. But she had a message for me...
“I love you. I'm sorry, for all the pain you're going through, but I love you and I will love you forever and forever.”
My last memory of her was her visit with me about six months prior to learning of my roots. She made the journey to my house and asked if I would like to take a walk with her and my mom. I remember standing between them, barefoot, just like my Aunt Elizabeth, and walking through the grass and relishing the sun on my face. I held hands with each of them as they, sisters, talked about life, laughed about their escapades when they were children themselves. I remember looking up at them and seeing their smiles and thinking, “I hope I am as pretty as they are when I grow up” and squeezing their hands tightly, refusing to let them go...
These things are what makes me who I am. A complex puzzle that I am still piecing together. I have came to the conclusion that there is not one life event that defines people or changes people. How we deal with life's constant barrage of surprises is a tapestry of finely woven memories, wrapped around and around our hearts. I am plump because my Aunt Elizabeth was plump and exotically beautiful for it. I am fluffy because my Mom loved to cook for her family. To this day, I still remember cuddling up to her, even as a young woman home from college break, and remembering how soft she felt and how good she smelled...and recalling how I wanted to be just like her...AND Aunt Elizabeth. My beautiful Aunt Elizabeth. The one who gave me the gift of life. The one who went through the most pain by “giving away” her daughter to the one person she knew would love me...and raise me...like she wished SHE could have done.
No, I am not bitter. My only regret is that I wish I could have ONE MORE visit with her. I wouldn't ask her why. I wouldn't ask her ANYTHING about what happened. I would just put my arms around her and hold her. I would breathe in her woodsy, flowery scent and touch, for the thousandth time, her soft hands as they held my own. I would look at her and nod, in an understanding way, and become mesmerized, once again, by her beautiful smile. Oh, how I miss her. And how much I miss her sister, my mother...
You are all beautiful beings who were shaped by your past and your present. You are all where you are supposed to be today. In this very place, at this very time. Embrace that. Embrace yourself. It doesn't matter if you are thick or thin, blonde or brunette, short or tall, you are who YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE.
You are BEAUTIFUL beyond words.
And you are loved.
God bless you all.
Tuesday, September 03, 2013
I've missed it. I've missed it to the point of taking a vacation day from work and throwing myself head-first into the swanky weeds and chigger-infested grass and breathing in the woodsy air around me. I actually hugged a tree too. Sniffed it. Felt it. Took off my shoes and felt the blades of grass between my toes. The weather was just right. High seventies. Low eighties in the sun. I busted loose a few times on the rolling hills around me. I ran down them, heaved up them, sat on them and stared out into the distance. Contemplated. Meditated. Lied down in the tall grass. Checked my hair for bugs. Then did it all over again.
I allowed my mind to wander. Not about anything of importance. Bills and work were the farthest thing from my mind. No, I wondered about how the earth and sun have managed to be in sync for all of these thousands of years without one single little hiccup. I wondered how our bodies, so intricately-made, can withstand the torrent of abuse we put them through then seemingly rebound when given the right food and exercise. Looking up into the sky, I realized it's just how God rolls. It's how God keeps everything in line so that we may given the gift of yet another beautiful day. But then my mind wandered to the presence of God. How am I so sure that He exists? It was then I caught myself laughing quietly...oh dear. All I have to do is look around me. Into the faces of my children and grandchildren to see Him. All I have to do is look within my own heart...then I know. I know He is there.
There is a peace in that, ya know. Knowing that no matter what kind of "trouble" we get ourselves into, no matter if our health throws a kink in our noodles or we get our attitudes in a wad, He is there to shine some light within our souls. He is that Voice of Reason. That Little Whisper that says, "Everything is going to be alright."
In the middle of one of my deepest thoughts, I looked over and saw this scene. There is a little dog on top of his little house and he never barked. He just looked at me and tilted his little head from side-to-side. Neither of us moved for what seemed like an eternity. I didn't feel threatened. He didn't feel threatened. We just sort of co-existed in this little time span of unity. Then I thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if we could all co-exist like this on this planet??" No worries of war. No worries of bullying. No worries of chemical warfare. Wouldn't it be cool if we could accept each other for who we, they, are and have mutual respect for each other's well-being? And not fear? Nothing?
But we do. We also fear being alone. I know that is one of MY greatest fears. It has hit me hard since my children left, trying to redefine myself, to find what makes me "ME." Seriously, what makes me tick?? What makes us all tick?? What is that driving force that keeps us getting up day-after-day-after-day? It's different for everybody. It is their careers, their families, their hobbies, their dreams. I have found since my children left home I've thought more about my health...I really need to do better. I need to do alot better. And I have so much more I want to do...there are so many people I want to meet. There is so much more I want to see. There are so many more hills to climb...
...and the awesome thing about that is, I know God is with me every step of the way. He is with me as I begin my next journey. My next chapter in life. The neat thing about chapters are, they can be as long or as short as you want them to be and there's always one after it. You can write as much as you want and fluff it up as much as you want. And you can write your life story from the perspective that you want, too. You don't have to make it dreary or hopeless. You can make it challenging and exciting. Shoot, depending on the adjectives, you can make peeling potatoes as exciting as climbing Mount Everest or racing in the Indy 500. It's all in the way YOU write it. It's all in the way YOU LIVE IT.
Live out loud, to the very fullest, my friends.
God bless. You are loved.
Sunday, August 25, 2013
To me, Bre's departure for college marks the end of summer. I have had the blessing of her presence in my life for most of those days and have had a chance to travel and see my grandchildren. Along with work, writing and doing a few projects on the side, I've seized the opportunity to grasp onto a new hobby. My camera does not leave my side. As I get older, I'm realizing the importance of capturing moments because, in all honesty, my memory isn't what it used to be. I also want to leave reminders to my children and grandchildren, hoping that they will be able to see how much joy they gave me during my time on earth. This is a picture blog which depicts the people I love and spent time with during the last few months...
Bre and me the day before her departure. Neither of us cared that we weren't wearing any makeup.
Bre and her boyfriend of two years, Cory. He didn't want to let her go.
Her beautiful smile...
On the back deck enjoying a moment of solitude...until I snuck up on her and clicked the shutter...
My youngest granddaughter, Jaycee...
My granddaughter Ayanna...
My granddaughter ReaAnne stealing a kiss from her youngest sister...
Striking a pose for grandma...
Grandma, look at what Jaycee can do!
Jaycee stealing a kiss from Ayanna...
Like this, Grandma??
That's right, girls, you got it!
C'mon, enough with the pictures...I KNOW I'm cute. :)
My daughter-in-law Leilani and ReaAnne...
More pics of Bre...
Motorcycle trip. Uniontown, Pennsylvania. Gorgeous town...giving a shout-out to AJDOVER and OLDERDANDIRT right here!
Enjoying a rare moment of solitude...
My old man...
Some of the gang we traveled with...Morgantown, West Virginia...
He's really not as mean as he looks...
Thirty-one years of married motorcycle bliss...
Relaxing after a five-hour drive...
Dinner with friends...
My editor Craig and his wife Julie...he was saying, "Put the camera down or you're fired."
Just a smidgen of motorcycles in attendance of Mountainfest...over 50,000 bikes attended...
I have so many pictures...not enough time, though. So I'm going to end this by posting one more of my heart. Have a beautiful Sunday, fellow Sparkies. Enjoy your family. Enjoy your life. Enjoy each precious moment. Life is too short not to!
God bless you. You are loved.
(Bre...twenty-one years ago...)
(...and she is just as beautiful if not MORE beautiful today...)
Sunday, August 11, 2013
She came home for the summer. When she lugged in her suitcases and the odds and ends of blenders and mismatched socks, I was ecstatic. Yes, I worked alot but I was bound and determined to make time to spend time with my girl. It was going to be like old times, going places, doing things, bonding even closer than ever before. I even made a list of things that we were going to do and posted them on my closet door. Our first evening together we were inseparable...
She was different, though. I quickly realized that, although she was growing and maturing with each passing day, that this little girl was a full-blown woman now. Poised. Meticulous. Steadfast in her beliefs and calling in life. She was older. Wiser.
I suddenly realized that I was no longer looking at the baby Bre. The teenage Bre. The college-bound Bre. I was looking at the Bre that was going to make a huge difference in this world. The Bre that is going to write grant proposals and develop programs for underprivileged women and children. The Bre that volunteers to work with teens in trouble in our judicial system. The Bre that drinks coffee in the morning and doesn't care if she wears make-up to the store. The Bre that doesn't give a crap what clothing is in style and is happy to donate her gently used shirts and purses to Goodwill. "Proud" is a word that is so understated. Proud is the giant golf ball-sized lump that stays permanently in the back of your throat and threatens to open up the dam to your heart and drown your face in a tyranny of laughter and tears. But she frowns on that. No, Mother, I'm not doing anything that everyone else should be doing. Get over it.
As much as I am proud, I feel lost now. Selfish, I know, but nonetheless, lost. I came to find out that she travels everywhere. Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo, Washington, D.C. on "missions." Her teachers, peers, advisors have all claimed she is well beyond her years in intelligence and compassion. She has received letters of recommendation from our state senator and state representative. Yet when she found I had framed these and countless other letters, scholarship and Dean's List certificates, she didn't like the "attention." She wasn't in it for the attention. She was in it to make the voice in her heart "quiet down" a bit.
Many nights I came home and found a note that read, "Sorry, Mom, but I had to go to *location* and see *person.* I will try to be home tomorrow. I love you." But! We had plans! Choking back the tears I would get in the shower and try to find sleep that night, resisting the urge to call her or text her. The next day when she came in, she would put her keys on the counter and retreat to her room to find sleep for an hour. Before I knew it, she was answering her emails, texts and voicemails once again.
I know she is someone special. Now the world is finding out. I've never liked to share. Last week I was in the kitchen and I caught a blur of her out of the corner of my eye and I went to her, chased her down and grabbed her up in my arms. I had had enough. Holding her close, it was almost as if my mind began playing a movie of her from birth to present. I could not help it and my heart began to flow, drowning her shoulder in unashamed emotion. I felt her small arms encircle me tighter and her hand gently caress my back.
"Mommy? Are you okay?"
Hearing the word "Mommy" at this point only made it worse, but I managed to choke out the words, "Where has all the time gone, Beanie?"
"Oh, but Mom! That's not the right question!"
Putting me at arms length she looked intently into my face and that's when I saw them. Her eyes. SO FULL of promise and hope for her world. A deep conviction of what she believed in and a compassion that struck every fiber of my being...
"The question IS, what are we going to do with all the time we have left?? I'm sorry I haven't been around much. But you are RIGHT HERE (*tapping her heart*). I carry you with me everywhere I go."
Nodding, I managed a smile. Not a fake one, but one of realization. I understood. I understood that drive, that heart that believes in a better place and doesn't let the world get you down. I cupped her beautiful face in my hands and I said, "You are beautiful, baby girl."
Then she said, "You wanna go raid the buffet at Giovanni's like old times??"
Nodding emphatically I started to run to the bathroom to check my make-up and she exclaimed, "Who cares!! Let's go, I'm driving!"
Yes. I'm proud. But I still don't like to share. I still miss the "old" Bre. But something tells me "this one" is loved by many others as well. I'm just going to have to get used to it. I've got to swallow the golf ball. I've got to realize it's all going to be okay now. It's okay to...let go.
It's not about my "loss" anymore. It's about her and her beautiful life, a life she NEEDS to share with others so that they may have hope, promise. What more could a parent wish for? What more is there?
God bless. You are loved. By me...and all of the "Bres" in this world.
Monday, June 17, 2013
(Originally meant to be posted for Father's Day but better late than never...)
Even though I was only five years old when my father passed away, I still have fond memories of him. He was a hard-working, tall, slim man, with piercing brown eyes and jet black hair that stood out from his weathered face, along with a smile or scowl that made you stop and take in deep thoughtful breaths. My mother absolutely worshiped the ground he walked on. But knowing my mother, as he did VERY well, it was no surprise to him when she brought me home one day, adding me to the brood that was already there, an "adoptive" addition to an already colorful family. I was treated no differently than anyone else. In fact, I may have been more spoiled than the rest now that I take the time to reflect on matters.
I remember clearly the day I thought it would "fun" to hide from them, "testing" their attention span for me and I climbed beneath the old '57 Chevy that had sat dormant for years in the side yard. I was prepared to wait for hours until they realized I had gone "missing." But it was perhaps only a good fifteen minutes before I heard Mom calling for me. Giggling to my three-year-old self, I grabbed the cat and made him lie beside me, as I witnessed her sneakered feet walking around the yard. It wasn't long before I saw the feet of my three brothers and two sisters joining her and their voices reaching an almost chaotic crescendo. Crawling a little closer to the edge from beneath the car I wondered where Daddy was...
I found out a couple of seconds later as I felt a firm grip around both of my ankles and felt myself being dragged out. Wrapping his fingers around the back of the waistband of my pants, he picked me up promptly and plopped me down before him, serious-looking, and shaking his head.
"Whatcha doin' there?"
"Daddy, did you miss me??"
"Yes, I did. What do you think your mother is going to do when she finds out you've been hiding from us?"
"I dunno! Laugh??"
"Am I laughing?"
Looking down and feeling suddenly and strangely ashamed, I shook my head no.
"What if a snake crawled under there with you?"
Shaking my head again, I slowly looked up at him.
"I'm sorry, Daddy. I won't do it again."
Dad had that way about him. He didn't have to raise his voice or punish you. Just knowing you disappointed him was enough to make you not want to do the offending behavior again.
When he passed away a few years later, being the youngest, I could not understand. I can remember Mom and my sisters telling me that he had went to live with Jesus. For awhile, in all honesty, I didn't like Jesus because Dad had "chosen" to live with him instead of us. (It's funny how, when you're young, you don't understand the concept of dying but perhaps in some ways, it's a good thing.) And when I found out all the cool things Heaven had to offer, I couldn't stay mad for long. I was able to bounce back alot faster than my mother and siblings. I missed him terribly but they told me I would see him again someday and that was enough for me. I was able to move on quite rapidly.
My three oldest brothers soon took on the "fathering" role. It wasn't long before I was being tossed in the back of race cars, motorcycles, and their shoulders for hikes in the woods. I was also used as a bartering tool, a test dummy and the first to be made to go into strange caves on our property. I didn't mind. The rewards for doing such things were awesome, like candy bars, teddy bears from the carnival and late night "escapes" from the house to roast marshmallows and dips in the pond. As I continued to grow, as they grew, I had help with homework, allies when I got caught doing something I wasn't supposed to and someone to chase off all those "nasty" boys who kept coming to the house to see me. I still remember one guy in particular from high school that my oldest brother Bob HATED. One day Edgar just stopped talking to me. I was crushed. But years later I found out that Edgar did not want to end up in the strange locked box next to the gun collection in the back of Bob's RV.
We all became adults. We all had families of our own. When I met Brian he was already a single father to eight-year-old Bobby and seven-year-old Brook. I found his parenting style strict and confining. Try as hard as I might, I could not break it. I suddenly found myself "sneaking" behind his punishments and doing things to make the kids feel better, lessening the sting of them being grounded by taking them out for a movie or ice cream. I quickly became the "cool" stepmom!
In all honesty, I didn't think Brian was mean, just clueless. My assumptions were right on, when years later, I was sick and he had to take Breanna to get a new pair of snow boots. She was twelve. He allowed her to pick out her own and she came home ecstatic with four-inch leather stilettos with fur around the top. Emphatically shaking my head from side-to-side and telling them it was NOT HAPPENING, I gave them both strict instructions on the style they were to get after they were exchanged. Another hour later I heard the front door slam as they arrived home and Breanna's bedroom door slam even harder. Rushing to the living room I found combat-style steel-toed work boots lying in the floor and Brian looking very confused. A few days later I was well enough to take her myself but I think to this day she's still mad about those stilettos!
Over the years I witnessed Brian struggling with "Breanna Boyfriend Woes" as well. Amidst her sobbing and gushing out her undying love for Jason, he would stand, shuffling from one foot to the other. Every now and then he would pat her on the head. Suddenly he would say something like, "Boys are like taxi cabs. When one passes you up, just thumb down the next one." Or, "Maybe you were meant to be a nun." Her crying would grow even louder and I would have to rush in to "repair the damage." It was different with the boys. He would hand them the keys to four-wheelers and dirt bikes and tell them to get lost. Or throw chain saws and axes in their hands to assist him in clearing the brush. Which would have been fine if they were older than nine or ten.
I worried. As the kids were growing up, I constantly fretted about the "mixed" messages they were receiving from their parents. He was strict, yes, but a little too "careless" for my liking. I was the soft place to land, teaching, guiding and striving to be the ideal parent. I was always the one to lessen the severity of his lectures, the sternness in his voice when he found out they broke the rules.
It wasn't long ago that I learned he KNEW I was "going behind his back." I asked him why he never said anything and he said, "Because kids need that. They need one strong hand to guide. Another to hold it. I chose to guide. You chose to hold. Nothing wrong with that." Just as I was feeling the warmness spreading throughout my body he said, "Besides, someone had to keep the bunch tame. If it were up to you, you'd let them run around like jungle people. Weedahad a group of savages on our hands."
Hmph. Well. Whatever.
Amazingly, all of our kids turned out quite well. Bobby works at GE Aeronautics after a stint in the Air Force, raising three beautiful girls of his own. Brook is an LPN now with a gorgeous son. Paul, the rebel child, is a father to a boy and girl, with one on the way, general manager of a restaurant with the possibility of owning his own franchise. And Breanna...my beautiful amazing girl, is in her final year of Ohio University, receiving repeated recognition on the Dean's List with a scholarship for her senior year. I'd like to say that it was because of me...but I can't. I can't take full responsibility. I didn't raise these kids well...WE raised these kids well.
By the way, if you're wondering what happened to me when Mom found out I was hiding from them all that day, I got my rear-end thumped. Mom was no-nonsense. Followed by incredible amounts of tenderness and explanations of why I could not do that to her. Subsequently followed by "I hope you have ten kids just like YOU one day." It wasn't until Breanna hid from ME when SHE was small that I fully understood what she meant...and felt.
For all the fathers in my life, I truly miss you (Dad and brother Steve) and adore you. You are all heros in your own right, in your own way. I am blessed for having so many of you, shaping me, molding me, teaching me. (And in the case of Brian, confusing me and challenging my pre-determined notions.)
And Daddy? You are not nor will you ever be forgotten. I can't wait to see you again one day. I truly do love Jesus now and cannot be mad at Him for taking you Home. I know Mom is watching you like a hawk anyways and won't let you out of her sight!
God bless you all. Hold all the dads in your life closely to you...each and every day.
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