appreciation, change, clarity and direction, comfort, death, dying, enlightenment, eternal life, families, honesty, hope, letting go, living and growing, Love, mourning, new life, peace, perspective, spiritual growth, struggles

Living in the Valley

I moved to the valley, eleven years ago when my father first got sick.  Six years ago, he died.  I thought at some point after his death I would move out of the valley.  Instead, my mother, after years of caring for my Dad, got sick and my life in the valley continued.

You probably know this valley.  It’s the same one mentioned in Psalm 23….”Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”  Yeah, that valley.

I chose to move here years before I understood where I was moving to.  Back when I was young and had no idea of what it would cost me. I knew I wanted to stay in the same city as my parents.  My plan always was to care for them, when the time came.

The funny thing about moving to the valley is that you don’t necessarily realize you’ve moved until you’ve lived there for a while.  The move is both gradual and sudden.  Your loved one ages and you start to help in little ways.  A sudden illness or injury and you help out a bit as they recover.  What you don’t know at the time, is that sudden injury or illness is starting a chain of events that would have overwhelmed you had you ever realized your address had just changed and there was no moving back any time soon.

We all know what valleys look like.  They are low places, with shadows that hang over on all sides..  And these low places are filled with things most of us try to avoid.  Like fear and death. In the valley, fear takes on a life of it’s own…it has a form and a shape and it looks like death.  The threat of death, is always lurking in the shadows.  And then there’s the bone wearying tiredness and overwhelming and sometimes debilitating sense of loss, along with a need to always be on guard for the next problem.

In the valley you learn to fight.  Against ignorance…your own and others.  You fight against your nightmares, which threaten to become reality.  You fight to do what’s right. You fight against yourself when you want to quit and with others when they want you to quit.  The valley can be an exhausting place.

With all the lows of the valley, one might think it is a place to avoid.  Certainly anyone who chooses to live there can’t be right in the head!

But here’s the thing….there is beauty in the valley.  Beauty you can’t see anywhere else. There’s a beauty in the valley that transcends even what a mountain top view can offer. And the company in the valley is the reason for the view.  Psalm 23….The psalm that talks about walking through the valley of the shadow of death, also gives a promise.  And it’s the promise that provides the beauty.

“Yea,though I walk though the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for YOU are with me…..”.

Early on in the valley, I feared evil.  I was terrified by it.  Death was evil.  It was the enemy that you knew would win in the end, but that you would fight against with all your might.  The exhaustion that comes with fighting an enemy that is guaranteed to win is not only exhausting, it’s foolish.

I was controlled by my fears until I met Submission.   Submitting to the reality of our inability to control when someone dies moves you from a very dark valley, to a new valley where there is beauty and potential….right in front of you, that you are now freed up to see.  Submission is not giving up.  It’s not laying down the fight.  But it is recognizing what you can and can’t control.  Its choosing when and where to fight.  It allows you to see who the real enemy is.

Sometimes the enemy is ourselves…Fear is everywhere in the valley.   Left to our own devices, fear can overtake us.  But when I remember that the Psalm promises….”YOU are with me”...the fear is tamed and in the best moments, it is vanquished.

That YOU it mentions, is the Creator of Heaven and Earth.  I don’t just have a good friend or family member with me…..(though praise God when I do)……I have the God of the Universe with me!  He reminds me that even though I live in the valley, the valley isn’t all there is.  I’m choosing to live here for a time, so that the people I love don’t have to walk through this place alone.  Walking alongside someone who is in the valley, has eternal significance.

God knows how we look at death.  He knows how death and the fear of death motivates our choices.  He knows we need him beside us to walk though this valley.  When we freely and willingly go through the valley so someone else won’t be there alone, we are doing exactly what He has done for us.

And that is what love does.  It comes alongside.  It sits with us in the mess that the end of life can bring.  It is a place filled with loss and sadness.  They grieve and you grieve with them.  You grieve for the pain they feel.  For who they were and what has been lost. Their address has changed since coming to the valley and it makes them disoriented.  You remind them, no matter where they live, whether it’s in a place they’ve always known, or a dark valley or in heaven…they are loved.  You are the physical hands and feet of Jesus as they journey to what’s waiting for them, at the other side.  It’s an opportunity to bring light to the shadows and love to dark places.  And that love, makes it all worthwhile.

So these days, if you’re looking for me, you’ll find me in the valley.  I’m not sure how long I’ll be staying, but I won’t regret a moment spent here.  For although the walk is shadowed by death, the path is filled with life and love.

 

 

 

 

 

Standard
appreciation, change, clarity and direction, Discovery, enlightenment, families, inertia, living and growing, perspective

How $25 Changed Me

It seemed so simple at first.  Give each of my (adult) kids and my husband and I, $25 at Christmas time.  $25 with a catch, that is.  We each had to spend it on someone else.  Someone who had a need.   We distributed the $25 on December 1st.  We had 25 days to find a worthy cause to give our money towards.   And we agreed that on Christmas day we would share with each other where we had given the money.

There were no rules, other than you had to see a need and give the $25 away.

Seemed simple enough.

But what I learned through this process was unexpected and transformative.

I thought I would have no trouble giving my $25 away.   I assumed that there is need all around me and that within the first week, the money would be gone.  Instead I discovered that I live a truly insulated life.  That someone with obvious need, is not constantly in front of me, just waiting to be handed money.   I live a comfortable life, surrounded by other people, who even when they struggle, do so, pretty comfortably.

The first couple of weeks went by and I was chill.  I was certain that some type of need would present itself to me.  So I waited.   But nothing appeared.  Sure there was the Salvation Army bell ringers…I ran into them every time I went to the grocery store.  But I already give to them.  I thought about dropping the $25 into the kettle and being done….it’s more than I usually give and I could be done!  But no, it seemed too easy.

By week three, I was really paying attention to the world around me.  I started to accept the idea that I would need to find a cause to donate to instead of a person to hand the money to.  An ad came on TV for the American Cancer Society.  I know too many who have lost the battle to cancer.   This could be a worthy recipient.  But online giving seemed too easy.  So I watched and waited.

During week 4, I saw a program on TV about Yemen.  The children.  The famine.  The heartbreak.  I did more research on Yemen and was reduced to tears.  This was worthy.  But $25 seemed so little.  Ineffective against all they face.  But here’s the irony.   Had I not committed that $25 to give away, I wouldn’t have given anything towards Yemen relief.  Not a penny.  In light of that, I recognized that $25 was pretty good.  It still took me till Christmas Eve day to make my decision.   Yemen would get the $25.

But getting to Yemen, if you will, was a challenging process.   This experience revealed to me how influenced I was by my early years of marriage.  With 5 kids and only my husband’s salary, we were broke.  When you are broke, giving money away isn’t an option.   When we gave, it was usually to a family member in greater need than ourselves.  We were, more often than not, the recipients of people’s generosity.  They saw our need and gave.  We were grateful.  And for that and other reasons, we gave back.  But with no money to give, we gave our time.  And a pattern emerged.   Giving my time became part of the fabric of who I was.  I was generous with my time and gave freely.  Sometimes I gave too much.  But I gave my time because it was what I could offer.

Fast forward 30 years and money isn’t so tight.  There is extra.  Or there could be.   But I still behave like there isn’t.   Extra money gets funneled towards nice things or helping my kids. Until that $25 showed up.   It opened my eyes to the fact that things have changed.   Just being able to hand 8 people $25 and say, “give it away’ is an indication that I am no longer broke.  So what to do with this new insight?

I recognized that giving to family isn’t bad, but perhaps I needed to expand my idea of family.   Those 2 year olds in Yemen, with arms and legs that were pencil thin….my tears were telling me, they are family too.  And I find myself heading into the new year with a broader perspective of need.  A deeper understanding that I could and should do more.  Not just with my time, but with my money too.

As my husband and I gathered with our kids and heard about how they spent their $25, I realized I wasn’t the only one who found the process difficult.  So with anything that is difficult, the only solution is to practice until it becomes easier.   We will be doing this again next year, though we decided Nov. 1st is a better date to start.

In only 25 days, that $25 gave me a fresh perspective.  And it enlarged my heart.  Now that’s time and money well spent!

Standard
appreciation, families, Love, mothers

Mom

I don’t know how to talk about her.   I never have.   My love for her grows up from such a deep place within me that words have always seemed elusive.  Few others matter as much as her.  Still, the words to describe how I feel about her, seem to slip away before I can pin them down.   Perhaps others might feel this as well?  There’s just something about mothers that make them so significant that they evade definition by the sheer magnitude of their importance.

I used to write about my Dad all the time.  Especially when he was alive.  Birthdays, Father’s Day and any other holiday that might require a gift of words.    It was easy to gift him this.  I could write pages about him.   The words flowed easily and often.   He was larger than life.   And he loved the words.  Loved to hear how he was seen.  How he was loved.

My mother asked me once, why I didn’t often write things about her?   She misunderstood it, I think, to mean that she meant less.   But the opposite was true.   She meant so much more, that my heart wouldn’t allow me the words to describe it.   She isn’t larger than life, she is life.

But she’s turning 86 this week.  And I know I can’t avoid it forever.   I don’t want the first words I write about her to be a eulogy.   I want her to KNOW.   So here is what feels like a feeble attempt at describing what she means to me.

I think, perhaps I can explain some of it through who I have become by being loved by her.  If you are my husband, or child and you are sick.   I am there for you.   I will climb mountains, sacrifice both my own health and my sleep, pray deeply and spare no expense…to do all within my power to restore you to health.  I will not think twice about this.   I consider it my greatest honor and my duty to be able to love you.  For when you are hurt I am hurt.   This I learned watching my mother.

Thinking back to the times when I was sick during my childhood, I can still hear my father in the middle of the night, waking up my mother….”Beverly, she’s calling you….”   I never called for him.   Always her.   She knew how to soothe.  How to comfort.   Her hands were always cool and refreshing to a fevered brow.   It seemed she could make me better just by willing it to be so.

When I grew and left home, it took me years of dealing with late night illnesses, before I stopped longing for her presence when I was sick.  It was one of the hardest things to give up when I moved away.

And my mother KNOWS things.   She always has.   Still to this day even.   “Are you alright?” she’ll ask.   I have revealed nothing, yet she knows.   I love that.   It’s an instinct she has.   Cultivated over years of having to read between the lines with her children.  And no matter her age, this instinct is as sharp as ever.

My mother is a part of everything I have become.   When I am like my dad, I am noticed.  But when I am like my mother, I am loved.  People just love her.   She’s the person you bump into in the grocery store and end up telling your life story to.   You don’t know why you did it, she didn’t ask, but something about her openness compels you.  She is a safe place to reveal yourself.   This is part of what always made her a great secret keeper!   I could tell her anything.

The funny thing about my mother is that she doesn’t even grasp how much she is loved.  She struggles with feelings of unworthiness.  Her life long focus has always been so much on others that her world is off kilter when the emphasis is on her. She often thinks people are catering to her out of the goodness of their hearts.   When the truth is they are responding to her in love and with love – a love that is just for her.

I can’t change this about her, but I have tried.  I’ve tried to impress upon her the significance she plays in her children’s lives…but she can’t hold on to it.  She struggles to understand her own great worthiness. Recently she said to me, “Won’t you be so glad when I’m gone?   You’ll have some free time!”   These words hurt, but she doesn’t mean them to.   She hates to impose.  Hates to take.   And she so values me and my time that taking up some of it feels like a tremendous burden to her.

Will I be happier when she’s gone?  Not a chance.   There is not one moment of time that I have spent with her that I would exchange for something else.   And I know, no matter how many more moments I have, there will never be enough time with her.   I will always want more.

I grew up being told by her (repeatedly!!), “You should never hate anyone.”   I was the dramatic child who hated everyone and everything when frustrated.   Her words drove me crazy.   Didn’t she understand, some things deserved to be hated?  But I regularly hear her saying that in my head these days and the older, less drama driven version of myself, recognizes the beauty in what she tried to impress upon me.   She was right.  Little did I know, she was shaping how I see others.

But she has also shaped how I see myself.  I showed her something I wrote the other day.  She read it, smiled and responded with , “You are really something!!”  And when she says it, I believe it.  I feel like something.   Who else on this planet thinks of me and thinks, “She is really something!!” in the way my mother does?  All blinders to my faults, seeing only the good…..when she says it, you know it’s only a part of who you are but she sees the best part.   And it makes you want to be even better.

My mother has always been a kind, gentle soul.  A fierce protector of those she loves.  There have been moments though, where she has had to rise to tough challenges.   Like the time when I was hit by a car at 16.   My leg was shattered.  One bone in a million little pieces and the other coming right out of my leg.   My foot torn up so much that the bones could be seen.  My mother entered the emergency room and the doctor put her to work.  I don’t know where the rest of the staff were that day, but while I lie awake on a table, the doctor and my mother proceed to clean my leg.  It was a slow, painstaking process.   I know I was in agonizing pain but I don’t remember the pain.  What I remember from that moment was my mother.  She was a rock!  She assisted the surgeon, did everything he asked and did it well.  How on earth, did she do it?  I still don’t know.   But the image of the strength she portrayed that day has stayed with me ever since.

Yes, she’s a kind, gentle soul who did whatever she needed to do for those she loved.  I’ve been the beneficiary of that love and devotion my entire life.  So when I’m spending time with her, I’m not thinking about where I might rather be or what else I could be doing.  Instead, I’m thinking….I love this woman.   Every moment with her is a gift.  And it’s a gift I can never get enough of

Happy Birthday Mom.  I love you.

 

 

Standard
families, living and growing

Transforming Love

“It’s been a slow but steady change. Something that bordered on indifference had transformed into investment and caring. An awakening awareness. 6 years ago my Uncle Ed died. His death, which came a year after my Aunt Mary’s death, shattered my father. He was the oldest of 4 siblings. He had lost his youngest brother years ago. But it was the recent death of his brother and sister, that broke him. The man who had always played the role of the big brother had no siblings left to care for and protect. He struggled with the injustice of them going before him. The consummate big brother had lost his purpose.

My Uncle Ed and my Dad had for many years, lived within a 40 mile radius of each other. They got together often, talked on the phone regularly and were deeply invested in each other’s lives. Each had children of their own and tried to get these cousins together on a regular basis.

Some of my siblings developed, early on, deep and lasting relationships with these “Framingham Convery’s” as we called them. My relationship with them was different. There were six Framingham cousins in all. Three of them were quite a bit older than me, closer to my own siblings ages. But I had one cousin a year older than me, one a year younger and one two years younger. And for most of our childhood we had the type of relationship children have when they feel forced to play with one another. I liked them more than I disliked them and as we all got older we came to like each other even more and let our own insecurities go.

But the overall indifference I felt, remained. Until their father died. Having their dads brother as my dad, I knew what they had lost. I understood the impact. Both men were larger than life. Both left a huge vacuum that time and space could not fill. My dad died just over a year after his brother. And my understanding of exactly what their loss felt like, grew.

And as that understanding grew, my indifference began to be transformed into something new. The indifference had not been born out of dislike but rather stemmed from the busyness of life. For our entire lives, our fathers updated us all on each other’s lives. No real investment was necessary. I could listen as my father would recite to me all he had learned about each of my cousins from his latest phone call. I could smile or be sad for them, whichever was appropriate and then go on with my life.

Until there were no more updates to rely on. And these people, this small band of Convery Framingham’s began to grow in importance to me. Why? Because THEY KNEW. They understood the depth of my loss. We had a shared history that I could no longer allow to languish on the sidelines of indifference. Slowly and surely I began to care. Indifference gave way to curiosity. Not a gawking kind of curiosity but the kind that develops as one starts to see the value another holds.

Each year since their dad died, my Framingham cousins have held a fund raiser around St Patrick’s day to raise money for a scholarship in my uncles name. And each year I have gone. Our dads both loved their Irish heritage and the day that allowed them to celebrate it. It’s a warm time and as the years go by, it feels less and less sad and more and more of a tribute to exactly what those two men would have wanted. The tribute goes well beyond the Irish celebrations because the real tribute is the growing relationships. It would have delighted both of them.

This year I noted a change when I went. I always enjoy it and have looked forward to it from its beginning. But this year, I felt something new. I felt at home. Completely relaxed. No pretense. No walls built up from years of indifference. I felt a deep abiding appreciation and a deepening curiosity. These people MATTER! I need to know more about them. I WANT to know about their lives. I feel that I have been given a gift……a gift stemming from the love two brothers had for each other. Finally I was open to it being passed down in a way that transformed my heart. My cousins have experienced this too…I can see it and feel it when I am with them.

I know my dad and my uncle are smiling down at us….glad we finally understand what they knew, all along. These growing relationships reconnect us with a part of ourselves that was lost when our dad’s left this earth. But connecting with each other isn’t just about holding onto to something we have all lost. Its bigger than that. This connecting transforms us. It takes us off the path of indifference and puts us on a path of deep, abiding love. That’s a transformation worth celebrating and a tribute to the special love that began long ago. A love that transforms.

Standard
Love, marriage

Milestones

This week my husband and I celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. I’m proud of this milestone we’ve hit. And I’m grateful that we not only made it to 30 years but that we made it here strong. Intact. Together. Truly happy, together.

Marriage can be hard. Insanely so sometimes. But it’s also the most satisfying thing on the planet when you get it right. And miraculously, overall, we have gotten it right. Which is amazing when you consider we were kids when we met. I was 16 and Scott was 17. A high school junior and senior. One date, led to us going out. And breaking up. And going out. We went out for 3 years and and that was followed by a sometimes rocky, 3 year engagement.

We were strangers when we started dating. And in some ways, we remained strangers for quite some time. Preconceived ideas about how relationships work and who the person is that you are dating can get in the way of truly knowing each other. We started out as opposites and we still have some basic characteristics that are very different from each other. But over the years we have learned to appreciate and value those differences. And in many ways, after 30 years, we have become alike.

Scott discovered Jesus 31 years ago. A year later I joined him on that journey. And for me, it was my marriage that made me open my heart to Christ. I watched Scott pursue this new way of life…I saw him embarking on a journey without me. And I determined I would go too, so we could stay on the same path. Eventually my faith became my own. Real and powerful. But it was my devotion to my marriage that made me take the first step.

Scott and I, always seem to chose the hard thing. We haven’t done it on purpose but its one of the ways that we are alike. We had responsibility even before we had kids, being the house parents to 9 adults with intellectual disabilities for 3 years. Then we bought a house and invited family to stay with us….got a dog, and before we knew it, had kids. Before our first child was 3 months old we were doing foster care for hard to place teens. We decided we wanted me to stay home with the kids- which meant we were broke for years! We took in more family. We took in friends. We had more kids…..and more kids. People routinely told us they ‘didn’t know how we did it” or the less tactful ones told us we were crazy. I guess we were, but we had each other so crazy felt pretty good. Then we decided to homeschool, The craziness continued.

But we made it through it all, pretty happy and content. And I think there are some secrets to our success. One secret is laughter…we crack each other up. We are not afraid to look silly or be silly and this has saved us unnecessary heartache. Heartache is self inflicted when you take yourself too seriously.

We also have always made it a point to do kind things for each other. We go out of our way to try and make each other’s lives more comfortable. We don’t keep score, we just do for each other because the other person is our favorite person on the planet and we want them to feel that. And during those times when we don’t ‘like’ each other very much…we still do it. Because kindness has a way of changing both the giver and the receiver’s hearts.

We have learned to keep our negative thoughts about each other between ourselves. Ok, Scott was always good at this. I was not. But he taught me how my complaining about him to others was hurtful and I listened. It doesn’t mean we don’t tell each other how we feel….we do. But we stop there.

And communication….we make talking – a priority. It hasn’t always been easy. Life is insistent and annoying and constantly wars for our attention. But we fight for time together to connect and share.

We have also learned together, the power of physical touch….even when you want to be mad. Even when you are mad or the other is mad at you. We’ve learned we need to not let walls be built and touch is the perfect way to stop them from growing.

We’ve learned patience. We’ve learned to let each other keep growing, We’ve learned to actually encourage each other to grow.

We’ve learned that neither of us can be everything for the other person. Sometimes it comes close, but most of the time, we need other people in our lives too. Friends, family. Making time for them is important to us. It’s not always easy to juggle this though. 30 years into our marriage and we still long for and need time together to stay balanced and healthy. With many things on our plates – sometimes, something has to give. We try not to let it be our relationship that has to sacrifice. But sometimes, times with friends is exactly what we need.

We’ve learned to forgive each other for not being perfect. For not meeting some unrealistic ideal. And we’ve discovered the importance of forgiving when disappointed. Little disappointments can add up and cause great division, if couples aren’t careful. It has happened to us. But we’ve been fortunate. Over time we saw what was happening and made a choice to forgive. Forgiveness doesnt come easily. Often it has to be fought for. But the battle isnt against our spouse. The true battle is against ourselves and the desire to hold a grudge.

I know I am blessed. People tell me how lucky I am. To still be ‘in’ love, 30 years later. And I am. I look forward to seeing him every day…..when I wake up, when he comes home from work and the moments in between. We haven’t done this marriage thing perfectly. We’ve had our ups and downs, just like most couples have. But we started this journey, determined. Determined to make it together.

I still see my husband as the most interesting person I have ever met. I see his flaws, we know each other’s flaws better than anyone else does. But I have discovered that I love him best when I allow him to be imperfect.

Our shared faith gets big credit in our story. We started our journey without it. And although we knew we wanted to be together, before sharing a faith, our relationship was rocky. So much depended on our abilities to sustain a good attitude and the right thinking. After we came to faith we discovered we now had a foundation to build on. Faith gave us a reason, so much bigger than ourselves and our fickle humanness, to work at loving each other well.

Hey, we still can annoy each other. We can still drive each other crazy and need space from each other. But even those thoughts are more balanced now. It’s ok and actually good to have a little space now and then. It is not a poor reflection on us that we need it. But our willingness to make time for ourselves is a reflection on our greater understanding of the things that ultimately make us stronger.

We realize that many people never get to experience what we have enjoyed. We see the last 30 years as a gift. The good and the bad. The happy times and the struggles. Our lives are so intertwined we can’t imagine them separate. We’ve built something of great value.

We have seen friends struggle in their marriages and we have seen marriages end. We can understand the struggle – it hasn’t been all sunshine and happiness for us. We’ve had regrets. We’ve felt sorrow for some of the choices we’ve made over the years. When our regrets loom large, we remind each other of our successes. We determine together if there are things we can do differently, moving forward, and we strive to encourage each other towards effective change. And we pray….individually and together, remembering that it is our faith that keeps us strong.

As this week leads up to my wedding anniversary on March 6th, I’ll continue reflecting on this 30 year milestone. Our story has been full of great love. And the hard parts have been softened and made bearable by that love. Two imperfect people, choosing to walk together on a journey. Choosing each other. Choosing love.

Standard
Me too, Uncategorized

“Me too”

The current “Me Too” movement and it’s focus on sexual assault, and harassment has had me thinking back.   Being born in the 60’s and growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, sexual innuendo permeated the culture.   Love American Style, Love Boat and Fantasy Island were the shows I grew up on.   Sex seemed to be everywhere and what is now understood to be harassment was in general, seen and accepted then, as ‘suggestive’ talk.

I am fascinated that the “Me too” movement has gained so much traction.   Fascinated and glad.  Growing up in the time I did, it never occurred to me that unwanted suggestive talk or advances was anything more than a troubling annoyance.   Something one expects and deals with (silently).   And as for dealing with abuse and abusers publicly, wow!  Today’s women are heroes.

So here’s my story.   It’s not truly a “Me too” story because it’s not related to workplace harassment.   Although I have had those experiences.   But it is related to the Me Too movement by a culture that encourages silence and a shared feeling of powerlessness.    It’s related by what can happen when people listen to others stories, believe them and take action.

All through my childhood we vacationed in a place called The Elms.   It was a cozy, little resort nestled in Goff Falls, NH.   I loved it there and counted down the days throughout the year until we would return for our week in the summer.   It was an idyllic place where children were allowed to roam freely, without supervision.   Parents were everywhere and everyone’s parents looked out for everyone’s kids.

But no matter what the time period or culture, kids left alone can find trouble.   And we did!  But for the most part, it was harmless fun or at least fun that fortunately didn’t end in harm.

Until that one night….  The Elms held a movie night, once a week in their dance hall.  The summer that I was ten, the movie was Disney’s, Million Dollar Duck.  Lots of people, both kids and adults would go. I went with a friend and we settled down to watch the movie.

At some point, two young men walked into the movie and one of them sat down in the chair right next to mine.  He was very tall and broad, with a short buzz cut.  He was not very good looking, but his friend was cute.  My friend and I giggled as they sat down next to us.   To ten year old girls, 20 year old men are quite exciting.

The guy next to me told me his name was Steve.   I knew he was a marine but I can’t remember how I knew that.  And then he put his hand on my leg.  It’s funny the things you remember in times like this.   I had worn a pair of yellow shorts with green trim to the movie.   On the leg was the words, “Girl Power”.   Ironic.  I liked those shorts.   In them I felt sassy and powerful.   More irony.

My first response was good.   I jumped up and dragged my friend to the bathroom.   I told her what he had done.   She was appropriately horrified.  But I was curious.  We went back and sat down in our seats and he got bolder, sliding his hand further up my leg and just for a moment, under my shorts.   At this point, my curiosity was replaced with fear and my friend and I fled.

But I didn’t tell anyone.   It was too embarrassing.

The next night, the resort had one of their regular dances in the dance hall.  It was a always a good time with young and old, together having fun.  And then Steve appeared.  He began to hang around where I was dancing.  A slow song began to play and he took my hand and said we should dance.   My parents were at this dance but weren’t alarmed by his dancing with me, I’m not sure if they even noticed.  After all, everyone got along with everyone here….

Fortunately one of my friends fathers noticed and cut in.   He said I looked uncomfortable and asked me if everything was alright?  Wasn’t he wonderful?!   I thought so.   He had saved me!   I don’t know what I said to him, though I am sure I denied there was any problem.   I stayed close to my parents after that.

The next day I was out walking alone when Steve and his friend approached me.   He asked me if I wanted to meet him that afternoon in the woods.   I don’t remember my response but I remember his friend with him saying, “Steve!  Come on!”  In a way that told me his friend didn’t understand Steve’s interest in me.  And his friend was right to be concerned.   I wasn’t only ten, I looked ten.   Pigtails, freckles….even too young for braces.   I was not some well developed ten year old who could pass for older.   I was clearly a kid.  I muttered something and ran off.

But the fear!   I was wracked with it.   Clearly he could find me anywhere.  He no longer seemed interesting to me but now, was very, very obviously creepy.   I was petrified.  And I did something that still amazes me to this day.   I went and told my father.

And here’s where the real story lies.

My father didn’t say much when I told him.   But as I write this, I am grinning at what I so clearly remember happening next.   My father went and found Steve (I watched from a safe distance).   My dad was in his 50’s, with the extra weight of comfortable living around his belly.  My dad, who was approximately 5’8” tall, went and confronted this 6 foot plus, big, buff, marine guy.

I can still see it.   I could hear my father say, “I want to talk to you, come over here.” And he led him away from where people were to a secluded spot by some trees.   I couldn’t hear anything else but I could see my father telling him something and I could practically see the sweat break out on Steve’s face.  The next thing I knew, Steve was getting into his car and tearing out of the parking lot.   I never saw him again.

I don’t know if my father ever reported it, but he wasn’t one to let things go easily.   Now I recognize that Steve was a pedophile.  I don’t think we had that name for it then.   I hope for other people’s sake, that my dad reported him.

Here’s what I do know.   My father loved me.   He was able to stand up to someone bigger and stronger than himself and come out the victor.  He never once made me feel bad for not telling him sooner.   When he was talking to that man by the trees, my father never looked taller!

So, yes, I also have “Me too” stories.   But I shrug most of them off as the time I grew up in. I didn’t know enough to be offended or to speak up.   I’m glad though that the times are changing.  Glad for my kids.   Glad for future generations.

And thankful, that even in a culture and time of great ignorance, I had a dad who believed me instantly, who stood up for me strongly and in doing so helped me to start to see my worth.  He didn’t know it, but he was teaching me to not only stand up for myself but for others as well.   That’s the part of the story worth remembering.

 

 

Standard
Discovery, Emoj's, enlightenment, letting go, Uncategorized

How Emoji’s Changed My Life….

Bitmoji’s actually.  Not the little smiley face emoji’s but the ones where you can create a cartoon version of yourself.  These types of emoji’s revealed something to me that I hadn’t recognized….I was stuck in the past!

It all started when I tried to make a Bitmoji of myself.  None of them seemed to look like me at all and I couldn’t figure out why.   It was puzzling and more frustrating than I would like to admit!

And then it dawned on me.   It was the hair!  No matter which app I tried, none of them had anything that resembled my haircut.   So I started to study the hair styles on the apps and realized the cold, hard, truth.   I was outdated!   Not quite stuck in the 1980’s but definitely not current.   My youngest daughter had been trying to tell me for years.   And she wasn’t subtle either.   But I couldn’t see it.

Until Bitmoji enlightened me.

I realized that most of the emoj’s had the hair parted on the side….so I started to look at people on the street and people on tv.  I discovered that nearly everyone with a part, had it on the side!   Where had I been?

See, it wasn’t really about staying up with fashion….one look in my closet will tell you that!   But it was more about NOT making myself look older than I already was, by dating myself with a haircut from a previous decade…or two.

So, I did it.  I cut my hair, colored it and now I have a Bitmoji who looks more like me….in a cartoon, squint your eyes, and use your imagination kind of way.   Of course, there’s more to the story than my just being enlightened by the app on my phone.   Twelve months of change and discovery is what truly got me to the place of letting go of the old and trying something new.   But that’s a story for another day.

Standard