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Pieces of me

Inspiration for those who warrior on

flag of U.S.A. standing near tomb

My dad died on April 17, 2011. This is the anniversary month. Obviously, it’s not a celebratory anniversary like others. No mushy, look how far we’ve come babe, cards are exchanged on death anniversaries. There’s no looking forward to the next eight, like with a wedding anniversary.

However, anyone with a deceased loved one is well aware of this lack-luster anniversary.

When April rolls around, I always begin dwelling more on my dad’s passing. This year, however, it’s already been in the forefront of my mind. A dear friend lost her father recently. Everyone’s relationships and loss and reactions are unique, of course. Nonetheless, walking beside my friend as she’s been thrust onto this path has pushed my consciousness to my early days of grappling with the shock and haze.

Is haze a feeling?

Haze was certainly a state I went through, and have seen on others. I’m sure there’s some psychological term for it, and I seem to recall being told that it’s a defense mechanism to protect the psyche.

In my layman’s terms, though, the haze helps you ease into the void that is is the “new normal” in your life.

The haze numbs just enough to allow you to get out of bed (albeit at noon) and make funeral arrangements. The haze mutes you so that when everyone keeps going about their daily life, you don’t scream at their audacity to live life when you are now fatherless.

Seriously, I wanted to accost strangers at the grocery store and shake them for buying bread like this was just another Tuesday. I wanted to tell everyone every where I went that I no longer had a daddy.

I was 35 with a husband and kids, but I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to not have a daddy and people needed to know that! They needed to know that I still needed him to call and ask to speak to two toddlers who didn’t want to or know how to properly conduct a telephone call. I’d roll my eyes at these requests and try to hold the phone close enough to my daughter as she bounced on the couch and dutifully repeated the words I fed her. “Hi, Popa!” “I miss you too.” “I’m playing dinosaurs.”

I’d run after the boy and try to at least get him to say “I love you, Popa” loud enough for Daddy to hear and chuckle over. He probably knew what an inconvenience it was for me to try to get the children to talk to him, but that probably just made him chuckle all the harder. Pay backs are a bitch, some might say. Now, my dad wouldn’t use that kind of language, but he’d sure chuckle and that was the same thing.

In the early days, the haze was so thick I’d think about those phone calls and pick up the phone intent on calling him. Somehow, in the distortion of the haze I thought I could simultaneously feel the pain of his loss and call and tell him about it.

The haze hadn’t let me wade out far enough into the depths of grief to comprehend that those two things couldn’t be done.

People felt awkward around me. I could feel it through the haze. I didn’t help. I wanted to talk about my dad, a lot. I could tell others didn’t know what to say about my stories. They looked anxious, like they were holding a delicate knickknack, which they would rather put away safe behind glass.

I have a proclivity for speaking in stories anyhow. The ebb and flow of casual conversation has never been a strength. During the haze, my social inadequacies were magnified. I wanted to tell stories, even the worst, icky parts of taking Daddy off life support, but no one wanted to listen to those stories. (My dad’s advice on what to say to the grieving can be found here.)

I had no interest in anything other than my loss. All I had, or so it felt, were my stories. Moreover, talk of anything else would crack the haze and chill me with the reality that time was still in motion.

Some people get mad at God. Some a person or force that caused the death. Some the deceased himself.

I was most angry with time.

I was mad that it couldn’t be bothered to slow down enough for me to wrap my head around what had just happened. I needed more time with my dad. He never got to visit us in south west Florida. I needed more time to grieve before having to talk about something other than him.

I needed less of the new time without him. Time wasn’t giving me anything! Callously, it just kept moving forward dragging me in my head fog along for the ride.

Over the next 12 months, the haze came and went. Time brought birthdays, holidays, and random afternoons when I’d forget (yes, straight up forget) he was gone. For two blissful seconds, I would pick up the phone to call him. Then, I would end up in a pile of tears, cursing the haze for not being there to cushion this fall.

This April makes eight years he’s been gone. It seems like such a long time, but the anniversaries always bring a bit of the haze and time hating with it.

On the 17th, I’ll remind myself how he would say with regards to difficult times that you can laugh about it or cry about it, but he prefers to laugh. I will decide to laugh that day. I will tell the children some of his silly sayings, like answering the phone with “Yellow?” Their memories of him are just my stories, but they oblige me. I will embrace enough of the haze to get by and then, tuck it away for another time its services are needed.

I respect the haze. I know I can’t live there, but it has good intentions. I appreciate that.

For the children’s spring break last month, I visited his grave. I did it without thinking or preparing. I walked up to the large grey stone with my maiden name at the top without considering I might need the haze. My eyes immediately caught fire, and I instinctively tried to fight them to no avail.

No, no, no, I thought, I’ve got this. I’m good. I just swung by cause I “should.” It’s just a place. I don’t need to cry anymore. Damn it, where’s the haze?

But it was too late. I had gone in without my safety net and my eyes and nose both flooded despite my attempts to dam up the emotional release.

So, I did what people do. With a raspy, quivering voice, I spoke to a rock. A rock that represented all that the haze tries to cushion for me. I rubbed my eyes and nose like an overtired toddler and let it all out.

After, I stood shaking and in awe of the depth of grief and love. Time will continue to do what it does, but as long as I love my daddy, there will be grief. And try as it might, the haze cannot shield all the pain, and time cannot erase the love.

So we are left to cry, to feel hazy, but most importantly to keep loving.

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I know it isn’t me you are calling beautiful.

This isn’t my first day in this packaging.

Brown paper tied up with twine. It doesn’t evoke praise.

Come closer, though, and see what’s beneath.

I will not leave you to shine my colors to all the world.

Come closer and see that I have a passionate fire burning below the surface.

Come closer and know that my beauty doesn’t lie in what your eyes see but in how I can make you feel.

Come closer and see that my worth doesn’t arise from my aesthetic.

I attract people by showing my concern for them.

Many find my honesty beautiful. My kindness invigorating. My loyalty a solace.

Come closer and you may realize I establish my own worth from within.

Meme with crown: Get comfortable being uncomfortable

Today is the legendary Black author, Toni Morrison’s 88th Birthday. If you are not a fan of hers, I’d be willing to bet you have not read much or any of hers.

About a month ago, I wrote this piece, ON MLK’S HOLIDAY, I’M ASKING WHITE FOLK TO GET UNCOMFORTABLE. Therein, I encourage introspection and listening in these times of racial tension. I truly believe that we need to do more listening to voices that differ from ours in order to be our best selves.

If that means something to you and you have not (or even for those of us who have), today is a good day to start one of Morrison’s glorious portrayals of Black America.

Books are a form of political action. Books are knowledge. Books are reflection. Books change your mind. – Toni Morrison

Her writing took me to a world that I didn’t know or understand. Her words seeped into my pores, allowing me to feel and experience that world that I have never lived in and never will. Her characters play out themes and ideas with a skill level few have achieved, but in an effortless way for the reader to absorb.

Ms. Morrison has a gift that she has shared with the world. Don’t miss out on it. Open up Song of Solomon or Paradise and surrender to the world she wants to share with you.

Don’t impose your world view on it. Don’t judge it by your limited experiences. Embrace that which is foreign and maybe uncomfortable, at first. If you do, you will soon enjoy it. Sit with it. Soak in it, and let yourself grow as a human in this wildly, rich, and complicated world.

Happy birthday, Toni Morrison.

Where to start with Toni Morrison Books.

person holding pen writing a valentine or love note

Love is elusive sometimes when we seek only romantic love.

But love is patient. Love is kind, and that may be easier to find.

The “why don’ts” fall off the tongue so easily, like little truth bombs.

Why doesn’t my partner do this and that? Why doesn’t he notice this or why doesn’t she understand that?

They are accusation bombs that feel like truth to a thirsty soul, but they are not patient or kind.

Love is more than the facts of interactions between two souls.

Love is a kiss goodbye when your hair is greasy and unkempt. That’s patience.

Love is a ham and cheese omelette that stuck to the pan, but tasted better than it looked. That was kindness.

Today, I choose to look for the patience and the kindness my partner shows me. Because in those I find the love my “he doesn’t” accusations miss.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

person holding pen writing a valentine or love note

It’s February, the love month. While the commercialization of the holiday can be off-putting, there’s no reason to forgo the opportunity to focus on love.

My dad was a preacher, so excuse me a moment while I geek out, or Greek out, to be exact. In Greek, there are several words for love. Philia is friendship love. Eros is romantic love, and apage is unconditional love.

In English, we say we love pizza and that new series on Netflix, and then use the same word to talk about how we feel about our kids or other loved ones. We all know there is a huge degree of difference in the feelings we have for objects as opposed to people. Moreover, we love our best friend differently than we do a significant other.

However, during this love month, let’s be more mindful of those deep connected feelings we have for our friends and family. It is and it should be different than how we feel about our favorite pair of leggings (although, that’s a special feeling too).

I found a great idea on momsoftweensandteens.com. It’s a simple idea. Put a heart on your kids’ door every day in February telling them all the things you love about them.

It’s been helpful in making me focus on my love for my kiddos. I won’t lie, though, it’s been a bit challenging. Loving my kids is pretty easy, but articulating a specific aspect about them every day that I love and appreciate is not something I’ve ever done. I don’t know what they are getting out of it, but I am having to stop and think about it.

But that’s why I recommend the exercise. We’re so busy chauffeuring them to activities and doing homework and projects and trying to get them to eat right and not melt their brains with too much screen time. These things we do for and with our kids (family) are all outgrowths of our love for them. They aren’t bad things, but the business keeps us from stopping and being mindful of why we love them.

So, whether you decorate your kids’ doors with paper hearts or not (or even have kids), I do hope you find a way to slow down and think about your love for the people in your life. Think about why you love. Think about how you show your love. Think about the importance of that love.

party balloons and confetti

Happy Blogiversary to pieces-of-me.com! Don’t you love made-up words? But it has been a year since I dusted off this website which I had opened in 2014 thinking I would use it to tell kid and gardening stories. I wrote This is Me, and just kept writing.

Inspiration

In the background, I was being inspired by Jen Sincero‘s book You’re a Bad Ass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Live an Awesome Life. It was therein that I found the permission I somehow thought I needed to do things I love, like write.

Then, I moved on to Mel Robbins’ The 5 Second Rule and that turned into a 30-day experiment in blogging every day in June. See #30daysofGrowth. In six months, I went from “I feel inspired to tell some stories” to “I’m going to push myself way out of my comfort zone.”

Second Half

At the end of the summer, I focused on getting published on other blogs, which helped me connect to a lot of new readers and find more quality blogs for my own reading enjoyment.

I had the following three articles published on three other blogs:

Don’t Push Your Embarrassment Down: Embrace the Burn

Dear Mothers of Tween Girls, There’s So Much at Stake

Why We Need to Stop Hiding and Share the Beauty in our Brokenness

The year ended busy and less focused on my writing than I would have liked. That’s clearly an area to grow as this year begins.

2019

Personally, my 2019 has started off less than stellar. In fact, some friends and I are planning a new, New Year celebration for this weekend. While we needn’t “start over” every time life deals a bad hand, the point, as discussed in The Fresh Start Effect, is that a temporal landmark is helpful in changing one’s mindset. But it can be as simple as a walk around the block, but drinks with friends is fun!

As I move forward this year I’m hoping to post on a more consistent time table. I’ve plotted out ideas for each month this year to help keep me on track. I’m also planning on publishing on outside sites again, as that was a great way to interact with more people.

Hands down, the best part of this past year’s blogging adventure has been the emails or private messages from friends and strangers telling me how something I wrote personally touched them. That’s what it’s all about. Connecting with others and feeling a little less alone in our struggles and joys.

Bring it 2019, or new 2019!

Martin Luther King Jr. day has become very odd to me in recent years. People who rail against peaceful protests the other 364 days of the year suddenly quote the man who became the icon for peacefully protesting inequality.

On this 33rd year of this federal holiday, I’d like to just talk to the good white folk. I know, that’s a bit ironic too, but it’s because I don’t feel qualified to speak to people of color about racial inequality. I will gladly listen, though, and that’s what I want to say to those in positions of privilege. Listen!

Today is not a day to celebrate racial equality. Today is not a day to feel good about all we’ve “given” black folk the right to do. Today should be an uncomfortable day. While I am not the wokest person around (I’m not even sure that woke can be made an adjective, but I digress), let me be clear good white friends, we have not achieved MLK’s dream. We are not at the finish line. I think that is very clear these days, but I fear it needs to be said.

Moreover, we are in some of the most racially charged times of my life, at least. This is again, why I am so troubled by the disconnect I see with how we whites go about business the rest of the year and then pay lip service to this holiday celebrating a man of such radical ideals.

Here’s what I see is at least part of the problem. We still have these ingrained notations that we get to dictate what is equal “enough” for POC. We subconsciously thing we get to prescribe how they protest. We think they should be happy with what they have, i.e. what we’ve chosen to give up. And that’s not equality. That’s still supremacy, or at the very least paternalism. ….and it’s very uncomfortable to think that’s what we’re doing, but I think that introspection and sitting with these uncomfortable thoughts is more in line with the memory of MLK than just posting quotes on social media.

Personal trainers always remind us, we must get comfortable being uncomfortable. They say things like change only happens outside of your comfort zone. So, I’m encouraging my goodhearted white readers to not resist the uncomfortable truths that these tumultuous years have revealed.

We haven’t been listening when POC said, we’re not there yet. We haven’t seen their struggle. We have failed them. I know, I know we weren’t being malicious in our blindness, but now we know better. Thus, we can’t keep sitting back and quoting MLK’s words of love, patting POC on the head, and telling them to be thankful for what they have.

MLK’s legacy shouldn’t be one that makes us feel comfortable with “good enough.”

“I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up.” – Dr. King

I’m a glass is half full kind of gal, or I try to be. So, I’m going to end on a positive, don’t you worry. See, I truly believe that these rough days are like cleaning out your closet. You know when you have pulled everything out to sort through the good, bad, and the outdated? Everything is out on the floor, and now your whole room is messy. You start questioning if you should have even begun, because it’s overwhelming and what was once a mess contained to the closet is now all over your floor and bed and there’s no going back.

I think/hope that’s what’s going on in our country. We hid away this awful history in our country. When a piece of it fell out, we kicked it back in the closet and hoped it would go away, but then boom, that ugly orange outfit that we never should have bought and tried to stuff in the top shelf came tumbling out. We’re going to have to go through this shit and determine what needs to be discarded and what “sparks joy.”

Let’s take today to realize we’re going to have to face this mess and get rid of some shit. Let’s take today to realize it’s not going to get better if we aren’t prepared to get a little uncomfortable and have uncomfortable conversations and write uncomfortable blogs and listen to things POC have to say that we don’t want to hear.!

Here are some words from the man of the day, which I cling to these days.

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.” -Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech.

In these racially charged days, I find comfort in many of the sentiments Dr. King articulated during his Dec. 10, 1964 acceptance speech. The above is most profound to me as I try to assure myself that we are simply in a time when right is temporarily defeated.

The full speech may be seen here: https://youtu.be/5r98tT0j1a0

As long as there are resistors to inequality, evil is not triumphant and we are merely temporarily defeated.

As long as some still believe in Dr. King’s dream, evil is not triumphant.

As long as some are willing to cross over and listen to the other side, right is just temporarily defeated.

As long as some are willing to examine themselves and consider others’ experiences valid, evil has not won.

As long as some recognize equality as superior to maintaining their privileged status, evil has not won.

As long as when we know better, we do better (as Maya Angelou taught). 

This may be a night “darker than a thousand midnights,” but evil is not yet triumphant.

“This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future.” – Dr. King

We are not there. We never were, and we failed people of color when some of us imagined we were.

I still believe that we can learn and understand and do better.  

Reading suggestions for those who are willing to get uncomfortable:

https://www.teenvogue.com/story/mlk-more-radical-than-we-remember

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

New Year Fresh Start

Here are some articles about the fresh start of the New Year from blogs that I enjoy reading:

New Year, Same You?: In praise of positive choices

“A new year is a great time to make changes, make resolutions, set intentions, etc., but don’t let it be a time when you beat yourself up for all you’re not yet doing, forgetting about all the positive choices you’ve made (or are currently making). ” – Dani DiPirro @positivelypresent

New Year, New Me

“If you make a step toward your goal every single day, eventually you will get there, so don’t  wait until next year. Do it now.”   – The Nerdy Lion

January Goals: The Happiness Project

“Did you know that you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down consistently?” – Jubilee Meyer

2 Magic Words I use Year Round – instead of Resolutions

“[B]eginning again with something new—having succeeded at last month’s goal—filled my self-worth cup in ways that a forgotten list of resolutions at the start of each year never could.” – Catherine Monkman

30 Days of Doable Change

“Lose all the weight. Never procrastinate again. Overhaul your life. Whew! Those are some ambitious goals (you’ll probably drop by February). Instead, why not crush 30 smaller self-improvement to-dos to feel kick-ass for the rest of 2019?” – TheGreatest.com

New Year, New Mindset, New Results

My world-traveling friend, Jen Byer shares “5 Ways to change our Mindset and bring more GENTLENESS  into the New Year”

Time to Dance

“I’ll not go into 2019 focused on want, or lack or what is “wrong.” But, instead, engaged with life, now.” – Jeremiah Stephen

New Year Fresh Start
starting line on a race track

Previously published here.

“What’s the world’s greatest lie?” the boy asked, completely surprised.

“It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.” – The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Life certainly can feel like it’s all just happening to us, though, can’t it? The washing machine breaks the night before your in-laws visit. You receive a diagnosis for yourself or a loved one. Your husband asks for a divorce. The baby has colic.

Living an intentional life and trying to be your best self doesn’t mean life won’t happen to us. It means we refuse to throw in the towel to the whims of fate.

There’s something about the beginning of a new school or calendar year that feels like someone has hit the reset button.

While there’s no barrier to starting a project on Thursday, it feels better to start on Monday. “First of the _____” feels like the time to make changes. There’s even some science to back this up.

According to research published in Psychology Science, people were more motivated to begin a new goal on a “temporal landmark.” Such events help the brain to distinguish between past actions and new intentions.

Makes sense, right? The researchers dubbed it the “fresh start effect.”

None of that may be news to you. Even if you didn’t know there was research out there, you likely knew that you start new things on Mondays or New Year’s Day.

Here’s the exciting part.

In one study, some participants were told to begin their goal on “the first day of spring,” March 20th. The other group was told simply to start on Thursday, March 20th. Framing the same start date as the first day of something, in this case a season, had a significant impact.

This is great news for those of us who choose to live purposefully, rejecting the lie that happenstances divest us of control over our lives. We don’t have to wait till Jan. 1st to start over and do better.

There are new beginnings all around us if we frame them as such.

There are fiscal quarters and moon cycles. Every week has a Monday.

Every day has a day break!

agriculture bloom blossom clouds
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What separates us from those who believe the “greatest lie” is not that we are immune to hardships, frustrations, or set backs. It’s that we know that whether we face a life altering blow or a daily inconvenience, there will be another fresh start.

As surely as the tides rise and fall, day will break, revealing a “first day of.” For every inhale, there is an exhale. For every end, there is a beginning.

At day break, we who warrior on get up and put one foot in front of the other. If we falter when the starting pistol fires, we find another starting line.

What may appear to be fate taking control can be a new beginning if you make it thus. Keep finding fresh starts and the world’s greatest lie will be another’s to believe.

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