20 Year High School Reunions and Tree Frogs (Yes, They’re Related)

toilet-mugI was going to write about my 20th high school reunion being tomorrow and the fact that I was a complete loser in high school who was bullied a lot, which made me feel even more like a loser until I discovered anti-depressants, retail therapy, alcohol, men (eventually James) and Miracle bras.

I’m not going to the reunion because I’m afraid those who do attend will be all like…. “What’s SHE doing here? Nobody liked her!” And I’ll wind up sitting at a table alone like in the school lunchroom. And then to compensate, I’ll drink too much and get really sloppy wasted and belligerent and try to start a fight with the guy who used to imitate my lisp and knock my books off my desk. But I’ll be too drunk to fight and wind up falling backward into a ficus tree where I’ll vomit and eventually pass out….

Yeah, I was going to write about that, but my shattered childhood self-image seems too light and trivial of a topic. So, I’ll tackle a much tougher issue with lasting political and social impact.

I really, really need to cook dinner right about now, but I can’t. I mean physically I can. It’s not like my legs are broken. But there’s one of those little, green tree frogs lurking in my kitchen and I’m terrified of them.

Give me a black widow spider any day and we’ll happily don aprons and whip up Thanksgiving dinner together. But a tree frog! They’re darty and shifty and can jump on your head and urinate and give you warts and tuberculosis! (That’s not scientifically proven, but no one has ever ruled out a link between tree frogs and TB either…., maybe even Ebola!)

I’m not sure how he got in, but he’s there! And just as sure as I let my guard down and start browning ground beef, he’ll hop onto the counter in front of me causing me to jerk the pan, spilling hot grease everywhere, which will result in a kitchen fire, third degree burns on my hands and arms and a terrible hassle with our homeowner’s insurance claims people.

It’s clearly not safe in there.

I don’t recall ever seeing a tree frog when we lived in California. I wonder if they’re a uniquely Southern thing. Let’s consult Mr. Google. Shall we?….

This excerpt from Melissa Kaplan’s “Herp Care Collection” clears it up.

The green tree frog is native to the south-eastern parts of the United States. They are commonly seen in Florida, South Carolina, Arkansas, and southern Georgia in the local shrubbery of the neighborhoods. They can be heard calling at night in the spring and early summer along side lagoons and ponds. They are a simple yet attractive frog that can make an interesting and neat but easy to care for pet.

I love how she describes them as “simple, yet attractive,” like a Pottery Barn lamp.

When I was a kid, having a tree frog in the house was a weekly experience. I’d probably consider them harmless if it weren’t for my mother screaming for minutes on end when she’d encounter one. Thanks to her histrionics, I’m like one of Pavlov’s dogs, shrieking and running out of the room at first ribbit.

*** Those who have known my mom for any length of time know that her general reaction to any stimulus is to scream in a tone piercing enough to shatter stemware…which is probably why she doesn’t drink wine.

She did once bake a particularly unfortunate tree frog when I was about 13. I remember it vividly. My mom had opened the doors and windows to welcome the autumn afternoon breeze. She’d also opened the oven door. Strangely, I don’t remember her ever actually cleaning the oven and I certainly hope she didn’t think that it was a window (although she is a natural blond).

Spying the open patio door, a tree frog with a stronger sense of adventure than safety decided to pay a visit. Eventually he hopped up into the oven where he went unnoticed until the chicken pie Mom had been whipping up was ready to come OUT of the oven. Along with our dinner, she found Mr. Frog, who’d gone from supple green to looking like a French fried onion. Poor guy.

If that happened to me today, I’d totally keep the little baked critter. I can think of so many uses for him. A random dinner garnish when company is over, a surprise in Andrew’s lunch at school. (I’ll think of more). It could be one of those family heirlooms that’s passed down among generations. I guess my family just wasn’t sentimental enough to see the value…..which is probably why I turned out to be a loser in high school.

See, it’s all connected.

Bio: Angela Weight is an award-winning humor writer, wife, mom of two boys and rescuer of a motley collection of animals. Her family recently moved from rural Georgia to the burbs of Richmond, Virginia.  You can find her neurotic, ADD-laden musings at Angela Weight, Facebook, and Twitter

The Thich Nhat Hahn Quote that Led to Babies

ScannedImage-193My husband is driving back from a day with Thich Nhat Hahn (Tic- not- hon) today. We’ve been big fans of his teaching on peace and mindfulness for years. In honor of his trip, I thought I’d share my favorite Thich Nhat Hahn quote with you all.

I came upon it during a long and restless plane ride to Greece during which I was listening to No Fear No Death on tape to keep me calm(er). We had been going through a particularly difficult time coming to terms with our probable infertility and were trying to figure out where to go from there. Should we adopt? Do invitro? Give up on parenthood all together? It was in the midst of this grief and confusion that I heard Thich Nhat Hahn speak these words into my fearful ears:

When the Conditions are Right, Things Manifest.

I felt my soul shift inside of me up at 30,000 feet. I pretty much ran those words around my head for the next few hours while I, along with an elderly Greek man paced awake on that sleepy flight. If I’d been conversant in Greek or he in English, maybe I’d have told him about how I’d been working way too many hours at my job and was courting exhaustion. Maybe I’d have described to him our house which we rested in so little that we had never taken the time to fully settle in, much less thought about which room would be the nursery. Maybe he would have lent me his worry beads to roll in my hands as I came to the conclusion that the conditions in my life were barely right for me to survive, much less for me to support and sustain another human being.

On the flight back to the US from Greece, my husband and I began to talk of the moves we would make. We would make the move to pursue international adoption though we were not yet sure from where. I would make a move to another church job that was less stressful and demanding.

That move would lead to us to a new home. One where we marked out the nursery room the day we moved in.

It took a while for all the changes to play out, but eventually the condition of my life looked quite different. I had some free time, which was good because the road to adoption is long and busy. We made efforts to actually live in our home. And a couple of years after that plane ride our once stressed and sad life looked like this:

If I look a little rough its because having two under two yrs is as traumatic as it is wondeful!

Yes, when life manifested for us it came as a combo deal. We were one of the 20% of couples that got pregnant after pursuing adoption. I will never know why we were so lucky to receive these two gifts in the beautiful manner that each came to us. And I’m sure the release of the block that prevented us from having children involved much more than changing jobs and setting up a nursery. The business of life coming is intricate and mysterious no matter how it happens. And God knows there were still a hundred changes we had to make in our lives in order to sustain two children under two years once they arrived in our home.

But I’ll never forget this quote by Thic Nhat Hahn, for I think in hearing it I understood for the first time that I would be a mother. I would just have to start the process of becoming one before my children actually arrived into my life.

Bio: Read more about finding grace and balance in the midst of life by visiting Dena’s blog, Centering Down.  You can also find Dena on Facebook and Twitter

If I Had One More Day..

BrodyIf I had one more day, I would tell you a million times how much I love you.

If I had one more day, I would hold you for the whole 24 hours.

If I had one more day, I would tell you I am sorry. Sorry for all the times I was mad, for all the times I was frustrated and maybe not so nice. I would tell you that you are the most special person in the whole world, and hold you to your promise to never grow too big for me to cuddle.

I would let you play in the rain. I would roll around in mud puddles with you, and smear ketchup all over our faces. I would have a food fight, and leave the mess until the morning so we could watch a Star Wars. I would give you ice cream for breakfast (more than just once), and let you eat cake for lunch – with vegetables for dessert. I would play dress up and Lord of the Rings and have sword fights. I would build bed-sheet forts in the backyard, with the good sheets, and tear them to pieces in an instant if we needed costumes.

If I had one more day, I would try to tell you all the wonderful things about the world, and but not about how dark they went when you left it. I would carry you around all day, and not care how heavy you were. I would spend (more) time making silly faces and drawing on the walls.

I would show you all the things, 873 times over if you wanted, and answer every single question with a real answer. We would eat  popcorn in bed, and go to the park whenever you wanted.

Because of you, we do those things, your dad and me, with your baby sister. We know the value of an hour, a minute, a second. I wish we never had to learn the value so acutely, but we did. You are there, with us, in her eyes and her giggles and squeals, and the ridiculous way she holds her spoon. You two would have had so much fun driving me crazy. The holes in our hearts will never heal, but are held together by our memories and the love for you that will never, EVER, die.

If only we could have just one more day…just one.

Bio: I am a 38-year-old working mother of one 16-month-old daughter, from Toronto. My blog, www.mommiesdrink.com, contains my commentary on everything from serious events to the ridicluousness of parenting, life, family, and a little entertainment. I can be found on Twitter (@MommiesDrink) and on Facebook.

Hard things

My single mama self tends to write about the fun stuff. I tend to talk about the fun stuff too. What I like to call my adventures. Maybe with men. Or the times when I connect with people, either on a quick five minute car ride in Atlanta or when I end up having dinner with a 80+ year old member of Mensa at a bar in Houston. Or when I meet a friend for dinner and then the night takes some fun turn and I roll home after midnight after making a bunch of new friends.

This is primarily because in my life, I do focus on the positive. I don’t see any point in giving the harder, more negative things too much attention. Why would I? What does that accomplish? Why feed the negative?

But that said, there are hard things, of course there are.

I spent some time with one of my Hard Things last night. This Hard Thing is no stranger to me. As a matter of fact, we’ve kind of become friends, since we’ve been together for over 15 years. I’ve learned to live with it, and let it hurt when it needs to hurt, and then let it be. Last night was a night to let it hurt.

I am so loving going to my daughter Sarah’s high school football games on Friday nights and watching her dance at halftime with the drill team I cannot even tell you. It’s a combination of things. Mostly, it’s getting to watch her have this experience. The production of a high school football game in Texas. The drums. The uniforms. The lights. The game. I just die every time I see her in her drill team regalia. And then? I remember my own experience. And how much I loved it. Being drum major my senior year. It was cool. It really was. Not cool in the social sense maybe but cool in a much more important way. I know how much I loved it and it thrills me that she is having her own experience. That she will remember when she is my age and doing this with her own children, if that’s the path she takes.

But? I go to the games, alone. Alone. And last night it was all I could do not to burst into tears about it. Now don’t get me wrong, I always talk to people. I know many of the other parents and I feel comfortable with them. Last night before the game I ended up eating dinner kind of randomly with some football parents I had never met before. Tony and Sarah, if you will. I am a social creature; I don’t sit in a corner by myself. Yet? I am still there, alone.

But it’s not even that I physically go to the games by myself, although I would be happy if I had someone with me. But having a friend or a date or even a love go with me wouldn’t actually solve this Hard Thing. This is a thing of divorce. This is knowing there is no one else on this planet with whom I can really and truly share this love and pride I feel for my daughter. And that feels so lonely. It comes packaged up in the divorce decree. It’s there, in the fine print, but you don’t realize it’s impact right away.

I say I’ve lived with this Hard Thing over 15 years because I’ve never really felt like her dad got it. And maybe that’s just all dads, I really don’t know, I only have a bit of experience with one of them. A time I remember vividly was the day we found out if we were having a boy or girl. This was a big deal to me. This was huge. Who is this baby growing inside of me? And we fought terribly that day because he wasn’t really there. He was completely distracted by other things. And I could not get my head around the fact that there were things to him, in that one hour at the doctor, that were more important than what was going on with that ultrasound. I was alone then too, just not physically. So, I suppose for me this thing was here before divorce. Maybe this Hard Thing actually comes with a bad marriage. Again, I don’t really know.

I just know that last night, I wanted to cry buckets of tears sitting there in the bleachers in the perfect night air. I just did. For what I don’t have, and what I won’t ever have. I am perfectly certain that I will find a great love in my life when the time is right. But this, this I will never have. No, it’s just me and this Hard Thing that go to dance competitions and football games and school events. The Hard Thing piles into the car with me. Sits next to me in the cold dark auditoriums for performances. Sits with me in the bleachers at the football games. It’s standing there when I am holding her hand through a particularly rough patch. It’s peering over my shoulder curiously, seeing what I’ll do when I don’t know what to do.

This Hard Thing though? Has made me stronger. Has made me a better parent than maybe I would have been without it as my companion. It has shown me that I can do this. I will always mourn what wasn’t. I mourn it for myself, and I mourn it for Sarah. I will probably want to cry buckets of tears many more times before my work is done. But me and this Hard Thing, together, have been there for that kid every step of the way, and that? Fills up my heart and pushes those tears off to the side. At least for awhile.

Bio: Clare is a single working mom who blogs to maintain her sanity. Irreverent, funny and up for anything, Clare lives life with passion. She loves deeply, laughs often, and is a devoted single mama to her beautiful daughter. Read more at Be Your Own Badass Self

Crisis Averted

Our family recently set off on an adventure of sorts, renting out our newer house on 2 acres in suburbia, and moving to a 70 year old house in the heart of an historic old town.

The move came with some trade offs, like no more cable television and downsizing to one car, in return for being closer to family and living in our ideal small town setting, that allowed us to walk to the playground, post office and ice cream stand.

This was an exciting change for my husband and I, but I wasn’t as confident about how my 2 and 4 year old kids would react. We had moved before, but they were infants then, and didn’t even seem to notice since the crib and milk supply didn’t change with the relocation.

Growing up, I loved living in the same house until I went to college, but this would be the 5th place my 4 year old had lived in her few years of life. We’d been in the last house for 2 years, so I braced myself for the immense guilt I would feel for uprooting her yet a fifth time.

I started talking about the new house a month before we moved and had them go for a pre-move-in visit. We reassured them that all our stuff was coming with us and answered strange little people questions about how we would move the carpets, sinks and walls. We included them in packing activities and talked about all the new house perks, like being closer to Grammy and Grampy, having a separate play room, and my daughter attending preschool down the street for the first time (something she was living for).

On the day we moved in, the kids loved running around and exploring the new house, unpacking toys they had not seen in weeks, and setting up their rooms. Two nights passed with smooth sailing. I penciled in breathing a sigh of relief for the following day.

On night three my husband came into my daughter’s room where I was tucking her in to tell me my son had just asked to go to the old house. He even repeated it in my son’s two year old speak to really drag me down in the depths of sadness with him: “Want to go old house”.

Latching onto this, my daughter said she was ‘homesick’ and started to cry. Before long she was sobbing with her main vocalized concern being that she liked the color of our old house (yellow) better than our new house (brick).

My mind instantly skipped ahead to the thousands of dollars worth of therapy my kids would need for being ripped out of their home for our small town whim. I imagined the sleepless nights ahead with both children inconsolable and missing their old rooms. I started a countdown to a day in the not too distant future, when both kids would set off with their tiny bandana knapsacks hitchhiking for our old house and cutting all ties with their serial mover parents.

In reality, both kids were asleep within minutes and the house was quiet. Crisis averted.

The next morning everyone resumed their activities and the kids continued to explore and enjoy the old house and old town that were new to us.

Apparently no adventure is complete without a side of drama, and most of the time fall out from that drama is nowhere near as bad as my over active imagination and the bedtime tears of two toddlers would have me believe.

Bio: Susan helps other bloggers get featured on the sites they aspire to, on her blog resource site Beyond Your Blog. Pecked To Death By Chickens is Susan’s humor blog, though occasionally she’ll author a poignant post revealing her soft underbelly (a euphemism AND a literal description). Features on sites like BlogHer, Blunt Moms, BonBon Break, In The Powder Room and of course Scary Mommy, help feed her attention seeking behavior. She still hasn’t figured out what Instagram is, so check her out on Facebook and Twitter instead.

A wizard once told me

ruby slippersThe wizard of Oz once told me I could be a successful writer some day. Perhaps I should explain.

Sometimes, when I’m feeling lost, I go to a psychic, palm-reader, tarot card reader or some other kind of wizard behind a green curtain to help me with perspective. No judging, please, its not like I change my life based on what they say. Much.

I will confess that possibly I have given these people too much power over the direction of my life but in my defense, at those times my internal compass was totally whacked out and spinning like a top.

Besides, their guidance has often been very good. It was a psychic, who is a wizard in Australia (I swear I am not making this up), who told me over the phone that if I looked at my employer’s intranet I would see a job waiting for me in New York. I looked the next day and he was right and I ended up in New York. He had actually advised me to chuck in the corporate job altogether because I could create a successful career as a writer if I wanted. It has taken me a few years to take his advice, but I’m hoping it might still come true.

Lately the future has yawned out in front of me like some huge, terrifying, deep abyss. But today, I’m feeling pretty good: joyful, actually, and excited about the possibilities that lie before me.

I’m concentrating on the excitement of my upcoming trip to the States and not all the unknowns after that: What will I do when I come back to Oz with no job, no home? Where will I go? There is none of that. I’m thinking, “This is awesome, I’m flying free, I’m finding my voice, I feel fresh, clean, new and pregnant with hope (lower case ‘h’, people, i.e. the emotion, not a baby called Hope).”

So while the itch is there to see a good psychic again, I’m holding off because I feel like its time to take full responsibility for my own direction, like Dorothy who found the power to get home was with her all along, and not with the Wizard of Oz.

Also, the last psychic I saw was not a great experience. My friend Lindsey in San Francisco recommended a certain psychic highly because her reading had been excellent. However between bites of pancakes at a local diner she also told me the psychic said she was going to be single for the rest of her life. It was almost enough for me to stand up, walk down to the Golden Gate Bridge and throw myself off in her honor.

However she genuinely seemed okay with the psychic’s insight and said she had long suspected that would be the case. I had taken the psychic’s number gingerly, not sure if I would want to hear such brutal news. Fortunately for me, and whomever fetches jumpers from the GG Bridge, the psychic told me I would meet someone by the time I was 37, which was the only saving grace in amongst a whole heap of other horrid predictions.

She started off base right away by saying repeatedly, “You are a very loud, stubborn, opinionated and persuasive person.” I was kind of stunned in to silence because except for the stubborn bit, this sounded absolutely nothing like me.

I sat on the window seat in my apartment dumbfounded while she told me over the phone that I would never live in Australia again (I’d just like to remind folks that I’m living in Australia right now), my mother was going to suffer some terrible illness (my mum is well, thank you) and that I should stick with the day job because it suited me and there was no money in a career as a writer for me (oh, please God, say it aint true).

I’ve pretty much dismissed everything she said as a dash of cray cray, since that works much better for me. Except the getting shacked up with someone by the time I’m 37, that bit will be totally true.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t trust psychics, wizards or any other kind of smoke signal sender anymore. And maybe I’m talking a little tongue in cheek here, which lets face it is inarticulate and produces a tad too much spittle, but wipe your faces off people because usually psychics can provide a large source of hope for me (It goes without saying I’m not counting the last one).

They give me a hang-glider to cling to while I soar over the chasm of the unknown. Everything is going to be okay, they (usually) assure me. I feel heard and deeply understood in the space of an hour and that’s a pretty powerful gift.

The thing is, that now I’m writing regularly and getting my blog out there, I think these acts are giving me the same thing. Maybe I don’t need to look to others to provide direction anymore, or at least not right now anyway. Don’t get me wrong, a good recommendation never goes astray and I might need one when the abyss seems deeper and darker some day.

Besides, while Dorothy had the power to get home with her the whole time, it was those sparkly red shoes that did it and a witch gave her those. So, maybe if you have one to recommend, send me the details of witch. A white one this time please, with good taste in shoes.

Bio: Narelle Hill writes fiction and creative non-fiction and is the author of personal blog Life in the Chrysalis where she explores change, transitions and life as a thirty something single woman. Read more at Chrysalis Emergent and on Facebook.  

Why I stayed and why I left

I was 16 and he was the first boy to ever show any real interest in me. I was flattered and excited. Even though we were in the same high school and had a class or two together, we never really talked much until the night of a mutual friend’s sweet sixteesundress-336590_1280n party.

The party was held at a local hall that hosted weddings and proms. My mom had taken me shopping for a dress and I found a wonderful red velour dress that made me feel special. We couldn’t believe our luck when we noticed the price tag, $9.99, which was a bargain even in the 70s.

It didn’t take long for him to approach me. He complimented me and told me how pretty I looked. After that, nothing else really mattered because it was the first time a guy other than my dad had said that to me.

We starting dating the following Monday.

At first, it was fun. We met between classes and held hands in the hall. He lived in the neighborhood behind the school so sometimes I’d go home with him to hang out. His family was nice; his dad was a cop and his mom was a homemaker. He had two younger brothers, the middle one was a bit of pain but the younger one was sweet.

He had recently turned 16 and had his own car. We went to the movies and to dinner, it was perfect.

And then things began to change.

He started saying and doing things that seemed out of character. He was a bit more emotional about school, friends and us. He was becoming more possessive of my time and more critical of my friends.

We were beginning to look into colleges and he was adamant that we go to the same school. The only problem was that I was looking at schools in upstate New York and he was planning on staying home – he wanted to be a cop just like his dad.

One afternoon, we were in his basement hanging out and I said something that upset him. I think it had something to do with going away to school but I can’t remember. What I do remember is what happened next.

He began to cry and hit himself with his fist. He then got up and banged his head on the pole in the basement. He walked over to a table across the room, picked up a baseball mitt and threw it in my direction.

I was stunned. I did everything I could to calm him down. The only thing that worked was promising him that I would consider staying home for college.

Over the next several months, he became more possessive and more adamant about me staying home for college.

When I got a job at the local mall he yelled that it would ruin everything because it would take time away from us. I told him that I wouldn’t let that happen and we continued to date.

I knew my parents weren’t thrilled with I’m but, generally, they kept quiet about their opinion about him.

Finally, after about a year of dating, I had had enough. I had lost contact with my friends and I knew that I wanted to go away to college so I broke it off with him.

He was at my house and I told him that I didn’t think we should see each other anymore. He got angry, stood up and yelled at me and called me names. I left the room and told my mom that I needed her help.

Together, we tried to calm him down all the while moving him towards the door. After he left, we both knew that we had dodged a bullet because if my dad had been home chances are someone would’ve ended up in jail and most likely it would’ve been my dad.

A few days later, we were taking the SAT exam. He approached me after the test and asked if we could talk. I’m not sure why I agreed to follow him but we went behind the gym for some privacy.

He asked me why I had broken up with him. When I told him that I thought we had different goals, he looked at me, smirked and spit in my face.

That was the last time I ever spoke to him.

My 16-year-old boyfriend never physically abused me – most of the time he physically abused himself. But there was abuse – emotional abuse. And who knows if that would’ve escalated.

Despite this experience, I’ve never considered myself a victim or survivor of domestic abuse. I usually don’t think of it much at all.

Until the Ray and Janay Rice story made the news and people started asking the question, why women stay.

So I’ve asked myself, why did I stay with him as long as I did and, at the age of 16, how did I have the fortitude to leave.

I stayed because I was 16. Because I wanted a boyfriend and because I thought I could help him.

I left because I could.

Because I had the support of my friends and family.

But most importantly because I had the confidence – even though at 16 and now at 51 I don’t always see – to believe in me.

Hopefully, the publicity that has come from the Ray Rice situation will help others believe in themselves too.

Bio: Tammy DeMel’s 30-year career in public relations has allowed her to live out some of her childhood dreams. She has worn the Miss America crown, walked the red carpet at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and spent two days with a former president. Now, this working mom, wife and mother of a teenage boy is trying her hand at another childhood dream, writing. She has started a blog and can be found sharing her stories at www.coveringthegray.com. Though she’s only been blogging for a few months, her posts have been featured in the blogosphere on such sites as BlogHer, Blunt Moms, Midlife Boulevard, and Better After 50.

We Are Women

pohlkotte pressThe World will try to contain us.

They will assign words to our fluid beings.
Our story – if we women let them,
will be defined in extremes.

That we are:
too much, or too little
too fat, or too thin
too bossy, or too submissive
too dumb, or too smart for our own good.

But you – my daughter, my sisters, my friends –
you hold within you the power of the seasons.
Your spirit is large enough to hold each one.

Just as the sun is not too bright,
or the ocean too deep,
nor is sister moon too soft with her silver light.

For it is She that causes this earth to spin.
She sends those tides to extend and retract from the shore.
The crops to rise, the fruit to fall –

It is her full embodiment of self
that allows her quiet dominion over us all.

So too, it is never your fault to be fully who you are.

We need not look to others
to define, defend, or to shape us into their liking.
We need not pretend.

You are allowed to come in like thunder,
to whisper softly as the breeze.
To change your mind.

Shed yourselves of the leaves
that no longer bear your markings,
Step out of the golden husks at your feet –

Stand.
Ready to bloom again.

We women belong to contradiction.

Our bodies start at the curve of our thighs
Winding its way along our thin spins
Before it falls curled into our tiny smiles.

We are living question marks.

Don’t let anyone outside of your skin
tell you what its worth
to be alive within it.

For this world is forever wide.

But we women – when we stretch out our arms,
Chests thrown back and hearts exposed
can circle it.

Care for it
with an innate wisdom that allows us
to grow life within our darkness.

Nurturing ourselves; and always each other
with a love that is
womb deep.

We are infinite.
We are finite.
Flawed and divine.

Woven together by dust and stars.

We need no standards.
No extremes.
We need no definition.

We are – Women.

Bio: Named one of BlogHer Voices of the Year, published author and poet, Tara Pohlkotte is a writer, mother of two sweet souls, and lover of simple beauty. You can read more of her work on her blog or connect on her Facebook Page

 

The Gift Of Nothing

CURIOUS GEORGEMy son and I were watching ‘Curious George’ one morning when I was struck by something that the Man in the Yellow Hat uttered. He was in the process of teaching George about the concept of numbers when he realized that, though George had successfully learnt so many numbers, he had no idea what ‘zero’ meant. The Man in the Yellow Hat said—

“I thought I was teaching you everything. I forgot ‘nothing'”.

That was an epiphany for me. Parents spend so much time, effort and material resources to teach their children every conceivable lesson, whether it’s to equip them academically or for practicality’s sake. But then I began to wonder how many parents really do take the time to teach the concept of ‘nothingness’ in its different facets? I am not referring to the mere abstract idea of non-existence but instead am more concerned with the concept of being able to live with, and appreciate ‘nothingness’ in daily life, in the mundane.
Have we been taught how to live with very little, or no possessions, for instance? In this modern age when most of us are so used to having, so used to accumulating way beyond what we need, have we considered living a much simpler life? Are we prepared to cope with ‘having nothing’? With the younger generations, especially in the more developed societies, I’ve observed a remarkable sense of entitlement and insatiability that overwhelm and puzzle me at times. I often ask myself how such individuals cope when they don’t get what they want and think they deserve. I wonder if they were ever socialized either by their parents, or some other significant other in their lives, to be accepting of defeat, of being empty handed and still be able to graciously move on. Are we teaching our children enough about ‘not having’ or has it been all about ‘something’, ‘wanting’, ‘possessing’? Do our children know how to give and let go, or do they only know how to open their arms when they receive?

Do we teach our children about the value of silence, saying nothing, not speaking? We often hear about encouraging speech and expression. We reward, and value assertion. We like making our presence known by speaking out and some equate power or leverage with how much they say and how loudly they can say it. But wisdom tells us that there is also much power in silence. Sometimes, all we need is a pause, a break in the cacophony that surrounds us, to afford us more clarity. Sometimes silence also says more than words and sends an even more powerful message. And sometimes we need to silence ourselves to hear another person’s truth and in the process, validate their spirit. It is in that kind of empowering silence that we find authentic power for ourselves.

Do we teach our children about the value of doing nothing, being still? I know that sounds contrary to the emphasis most cultures place on productivity. However, we all know that balance is of utmost importance. I am just at a loss sometimes when I watch our children perpetually jumping from one activity to the next. I see families who are horribly beyond exhaustion and yet still flood every hour of their days with countless activities and social engagements as if it were some incurable compulsion. Do we really need all that? Do our children really, genuinely thrive in such hectic environments? Are all these activities and the stresses that go with having to cram all these demands into a child’s daily schedule really nourishing them, or are we breeding toxicity? I am not proposing that children be idle and confined at home. I am merely suggesting that we keep these things in check and as the adult, it is our responsibility to ensure that our young ones are not drowning in such a fast-paced life that they no longer know what it means to be still. We cannot lose sight of our responsibility to also teach the value of slowing down. Anything that goes too fast, wears out much quickly as well. And the faster we go, the less likely we are able to see the details in things and appreciate that which surrounds us.

Finally, are we teaching our children enough about the value of being alone, having nobody else around but themselves? Yes, we teach our children about friendships, being kind, being social and pleasant towards others. We put emphasis on the value of getting along, forging alliances, and building relationships. But what about one’s relationship to one’s self? I believe that there is nothing greater or more important than that. Each of us needs to be equipped with confronting our own selves. Believing that someone else will always be there for or around us is an illusion. Believing that in every second and ultimately, in the end, we can really only count on our selves to be there with us, is clarity.

There is much richness to be gained in nothingness. Contrary to the despair and general negativity often times associated with it, I choose to believe that nothingness is replete with possibilities. You just need to have the courage to step into it.

Bio:  Joy Page Manuel is a blogger, stay-at-home mom and full-time over-analyzer. She was born and raised in the Philippines, but is now living in Tennessee. She served as professor of Sociology in university for 7 years prior to her 2004 migration to the U.S. In that past life, she was also a contributing author to three academic publications in the Philippines. Her blog was voted VoiceBoks Top Mom Blog of 2013. She also has several featured member posts at Blogher. Joy writes about all her angst as a mother, migrant and hopeless romantic on her site Catharsis. You can follow her on Facebook , Twitter, and Google+.

(Photo Credit: pbskids.org —- http://pbskids.org/curiousgeorge/printables/friends.html)

Nicest Things People Have Ever Done for Me

IMG_0029_best_cropheadshotLooking back over my life, I’ve been blessed with a wonderful family and great friends. A list of some of the nicest things people have ever done for me follows (not necessarily in this order):

The owner of the Stride Rite shoe store in my small town growing up promised to give me a beautiful doll with a blue gown, encased in a plastic dome case, which was on display in the store if I took part in a fashion show that my mom’s women’s club was putting on. (I was six years old, shy and very reluctant to do it; obviously my mom or I had told her about it.). That doll was SO beautiful to me and such a motivator! After the style show was over, she did give it to me. And I never forgot her kind gesture!
My ex-husband, my 18-month old son (at the time) and I lost everything we owned in Hurricane Huge in 1989, and our renter’s insurance wouldn’t pay a cent. My best friend from junior high and high school, Sue, who I hadn’t seen in years, sent us $100. I was an at-home mom, and we were all young and pretty poor then — and it was such an incredibly generous thing for her to do.
My friend Barbara, who’d been in a mother’s group I started when our children were about six months old, had moved away – but after Hurricane Hugo, she sent me a big box of clothes. Since I’d lost every piece of clothing I owned except for the three shorts outfits I packed when we evacuated, I wore those clothes for years afterwards – and always appreciated her kind gesture.
When we were in our early 20’s, and my ex-husband had been laid off from his job quite a while, my sister, J, paid for me to go on an all-day “cruise to nowhere” in Florida with her. I’d never been on any kind of cruise, and we had such fun! We still joke about the foreign staff members saying over and over to us, “You are sisters!!” That extravagant one-day trip was a real spirit lifter and a really generous thing to do. She’s done many other kind and thoughtful things over the years, but that cruise really stands out in my mind.
My ex-boyfriend brought me a bouquet of flowers every week for five years!
My friends Merry Ellen, Cindy and Deb – and my sister, J – were an incredible help to me when I planned and coordinated my son and daughter-in-law’s wedding on a shoestring all by myself. Deb helped me make all the corsages and boutonnieres, and she single-handedly created the bride and bridesmaids’ bouquets as well as gorgeous bouquets for about 25 guest tables; Cindy gave me a million wedding ideas, helped me with planning, and decorated the reception hall to make it look incredibly elegant — and also insisted on attending the reception as a server; and Merry Ellen, as well as my sister, J, drove for a day to get there and spent 15 hours cutting up fruit and preparing food for the reception. They are truly wonderful friends! (To read the details about “How to Have a $30,000 Wedding for Less Than $10,000″ see my ebook and blog post at http://www.budgetweddingsite.com.)
My friend, Mary C., made a phone call about a job opening at her husband’s company and that led to a wonderful job opportunity for me, thanks to her belief in my abilities.
After I broke my foot several years ago and had to have surgery and be in a wheelchair for four months, my friends from work, Mary O. and Nancy, took their half-hour lunch break to drive 30 miles round-trip to my house and deliver a second mattress (from Mary’s couch) for my couch (where I’d been sleeping because it was on the ground floor) so that it was nice and comfy. After four months, they both took another lunch hour and went back to my house to pick it up! Nancy also took me to get a pedicure on the foot that didn’t have a cast on it!
My friend, Joy, who – when we hadn’t know each other that long – made me about 20 pairs of beaded earrings and displayed them on a beautiful Zentangle design she drew and mounted on cardboard. It must’ve taken hours to make everything – and I was blown away by such a generous gift!
Once when my son was about 3 and my ex-husband was in college and I’d had a sinus infection for days that was dragging me down (and didn’t know any babysitters), my friend Kathy picked my son and me up, drove us around on errands and to playgrounds with her daughters for a whole day, giving me much-needed rest. Kathy also washed my hair in her kitchen sink and sat me at the table for hours doing her best to fix my hair after the worst haircut of my life!
My friend Cheryl came over to my house at 3 a.m. when my son was young and I called her in the middle of the night thinking I had appendicitis. Now THAT is a friend. She’s also been my “partner in crime” in several madcap capers over the years.
The women in my mother’s group rented a room at a local restaurant and had a surprise 39th birthday party for me right after my ex-husband left. What a wonderful gift!
The people I worked with at my government job took me out to lunch and all gave me gag gifts right after I finally got a civil service job (after being a contractor for five years). Most people aren’t lucky enough to have those kind of coworkers!
My son and his wife gave me the best physical gift ever on my milestone birthday this year, when I was suffering from a recent breakup with the former boyfriend mentioned above and a severe case of empty nest blues after they moved to another state: a typed booklet, tied with ribbon, titled “Things We Love About Diane.” I laughed and I cried — and that book is so precious that I made a color copy and put it in my safe deposit box!
The wonderful women in my book club gave me an unexpected birthday dinner this year – complete with flowers, gifts and a balloon bouquet. We really livened up that restaurant! They also spent hours helping me make wedding favors for my son’s wedding.
My friend and former business partner (we wrote a book together) Chris was able to sell the business when we were ready to retire from it — which, with my share of the proceeds, enabled me to buy my house. She also recommended me to a friend, which resulted in me getting a job as a corporate trainer in a prestigious local company. She’s an amazing person.

I haven’t mentioned my parents — because I couldn’t begin to count all the kind and generous things they’ve done for me and my son over the years! They’re the best.

I hope that you, too, are lucky enough to have family and friends like mine — and that you appreciate the things they do for you.

Diane’s Bio: Really love writing and blogging: I work as a writer and blog all day as the manager of the internal communications blog at a worldwide organization (where people jokingly call me the blog queen). Then come home and write on my personal blog at night and on weekends, taking time out to do fun things that result in additional blog post material! Thoughts, Tips and Tales is about four months old and I’ve had a lot of fun with it and learned lots of new things. Have also enjoyed reading posts by lots of talented bloggers.  You can find me on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and Twitter.

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