Oh Alice, how I love thee

March 12

Bedtime stories

What was your favorite book as a child or adolescent? Did it influence the person you are now?

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll has long been one of my most favorite and influential books to date.  Though in truth there are so many that helped shape who I have become.  Each time I read Alice I take something new from the book.  It’s the only book that I can say has grown with me when reading it during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.  In my opinion, it makes this particular story timeless.

The loss of childhood innocence, learning quickly that the world will think you too small or too tall, never really being the right fit for what is needed.  As an adolescent, this struck me to my core.  In fact, I held on to it for far too long.  During puberty and into early adulthood I had the horrible feeling of not being enough.  It took me a long time to grow out of that – to figure out that I’m good with me and I don’t need approval to be me.  Through this story, I, like Alice, learned that I am the right size, after all.  I learned not to let the opinions of others dictate who I was to become.

The Cheshire Cat, with his broad grin and fearless behavior, can be thought of in so many translations. As a child, I thought him to be the secret, imaginary friend that tried to get you in trouble by leading you down a path you didn’t know and then disappearing.  As an adolescent, I thought him to be cunning and too knowledgeable.  The best line, for me, was when she asked which way to go and after she answered she didn’t know where when he asked, he simply said it doesn’t matter she will end up somewhere.  How true is that?  We never really know which path to take, but no matter which one it is, it leads us somewhere.  There is hardly a right or wrong.

The Caterpillar is another example of changing each time I read this story.  A simple three-word question and with it says everything.  “Who are you?” She has such a difficult time answering him, you can only assume she doesn’t know who she is anymore.  She’s changed.  Don’t we all?  She insults the cantankerous caterpillar by explaining it is dreadful being only 3 inches tall after all the caterpillar is only 3 inches tall.  Alice who struggles with her own image judges harshly the caterpillar’s size though it’s the same as hers at the time.  We often run into cantankerous, confusing people, but it doesn’t do well to insult them.

This story mostly taught me about adversities in life.  How the world constantly changes and confuses.  It taught me to expect the unexpected and learn that sometimes there is no logical answer to it and that’s ok, we’ll get through that maze one way or the other.  In this way, the story taught me to be more open-minded, not to follow simply to follow and to go with my gut in all journeys through life.  Life is a mess of puzzles, problems, oddities, and no two people are the same or think the same; we have to learn to accept it and move on.

 

Other people’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality
Les Brown

 

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March 6

March 6

Ode to a playground

A place from your past or childhood, one that you’re fond of, is destroyed. Write it a memorial.

 

You were a breath of fresh air on a hard day.  At the first sight of you and my spirits lifted with ease, anxious for you to envelop me with all the familiar scents and sounds that calmed me.  It was you I would run to when I was afraid, when I was tired, when I was hurt, and when I just needed a break.  You loved my friends like your own and they, in turn, loved you.  Holidays and birthdays were such big events with you, we made sure to include you in almost every single one.

I can still feel your embrace at night, how safe you made me feel.  It’s as if no time has passed at all.  There were many times I took you for granted, to be sure, but I hope you know that looking back I could never love another quite as much as I have loved you.

As an adult, I’ve grown more appreciative of the times I had during my youth.  I look back with such fondness of you.  You will always have a place in my hear and the memories of you will live inside me for many, many years to come.

I bid you farewell, my lovely childhood home, I will surely miss you.

1996

March 5

Buffalo nickel

Dig through your couch cushions, your purse, or the floor of your car and look at the year printed on the first coin you find. What were you doing that year?

1996

I rummaged through the crap mess in the console of my truck and not only realized I desperately need to clean it but found a dime and on it was stamped 1996.

It was 1996, the year I graduated high school.  It should have been a time in my life of festivities and prepping for senior prom and senior skip day with my best friends while making memories of a lifetime; instead, I saw it as utterly painful.  I didn’t realize then that I was still making memories of a lifetime and that I would make a new friend to carry with me the rest of my life.  I lived in Ohio at the time because my father was transferred there during my senior year.  I met one of my very best friends there.  Both of us were dealt the horrible fate of spending our senior year away from our original high school and all our friends.  I moved from Atlanta and she from New Jersey (though originally from Alabama).  We formed an instant friendship.

We both had to leave high school boyfriends behind, obviously and neither of us was too pleased and we bonded over that quickly.  We became a quick cliché of Misery Likes Company and we kept to ourselves for the most part.  To make sure everyone knew just how miserable we were, we dressed in head to toe black on Valentine’s Day because, well, why not.  It was still the grunge era so we had a lot of black hanging around.

I graduated in May and by that time my father had been transferred again, this time to Florida though I was convinced I would be stopping and staying in Georgia.  I was eager to get back to Mr. EMT and could see no reason why I couldn’t stay on with a family member and attend college there.  1996, coincidentally was also the year the Olympics were in Atlanta so my parents rationalized that it wouldn’t be a good time for me to move back, and I should just wait a little while longer.  I didn’t realize at first that it was a ploy to try to keep me in Florida where they knew my future would probably be brighter since I would be in college.  They were smart, my parents, they knew me far better than I knew myself.

Fast forward to the end of 1996, after a few new friendships and entirely too much partying, I decided it was time to go back to Georgia.  I secretly bought a bus ticket, gave my 2-week notice at my job, and was prepared to leave my parents in almost a haste.  I knew they wouldn’t approve.  I knew they would be desperately disappointed, but I missed Mr. EMT so much that I felt I would lose him completely if I didn’t return.

My mother, being the brilliantly smart woman she is, somehow found out that I was leaving and she drove me there.  In almost complete silence.  It was one of the most heartbreaking moments of my life.  I could feel her anxiety, I could feel her fear, and I could feel her love.  She was going to let me go, but it was going to break her heart.  She knew the struggles I would face, but I was 18 and I wouldn’t hear anything about it.

1996 was a monumental year for me, almost as much as 1997 when Mr. EMT and I welcomed The Eldest long before we were prepared to be parents and started going through the struggles my mom knew were coming.

To be or not to be…transitioning

My friends over at Merriam-Webster define transition as such:

     a:  passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another :  change

     b:  a movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another

I suppose I am speaking about definition ‘b’.  You see, in 8 months The Eldest will be 18 years old; he will be an adult – legal age.  He will also be a senior in high school and, in my humble opinion, this makes him still a kid…cause he’s still in school…duh.  All this brings me to a conversation he and I had on the way to school this morning which I will share shortly.  (No, he doesn’t drive yet which is another kid thing)

He’s been moody this week.  Not disrespectful, but not his normal, chatty self.  He’s also been grounded from phone and Xbox use due to a failing grade.  Granted he’s struggling in the subject, but he failed to bring this to his dad’s or my attention before we found out about the grade.  We don’t punish if a kid is genuinely struggling as long as we know and they are seeking additional aid in the subject.  Neither has happened, thus he is grounded until the grade is passing.  Simple, no?  Well, not for him – evidently.  Mr. Grumpy Gills (to quote one of his favorite kid movies…) let it be known today that he disagrees which got me thinking about this whole transition from kid to adult thing we are going through.

Me: What’s with you this week?  You’re unusually grumpy.

The Eldest: I’m still upset.

Me: Ok, I’ll bite.  Why are you upset?  Let alone still…

The Eldest:  I’m grounded.  You realize I’ll be able to vote this year, right?  And I’m grounded like a kid.

Me:  There’s not an election this year so you can’t vote.  You’re 17, in high school, and I’m driving you to school – you’re kinda still a kid.

The Eldest: I’m probably joining the military this time next year, I drink coffee, and I could vote if there was an election this year…and you’ve taken my phone from me, I’m almost not a kid.

Me: ….

The Eldest: ….

Me: Ok….but since you’re almost not a kid and you’re absolutely failing a class and you’re definitely not paying for said phone because you don’t even have a job…you’re still grounded until the grade comes up.

The Eldest:  *sigh* *facepalm* You never understand me!

Me: Haha…there it is, the adult conversation I was looking for.  Nice try, kid…go to class.

So, the normally articulate one wasn’t able to pull off a good enough reason to not be grounded.  Maybe it is because it was first thing in the morning, maybe it was because he didn’t take but 2 sips of coffee because he didn’t add enough caramel creamer to give a diabetic a coma, or maybe…just maybe he realized his mom is right.  HA!  Fat chance.  I think it’s because even though we are transitioning from kid to adult, he is still very clearly a kid.  I don’t remember this transition when I was his age, but I’ll bet my parents do.  This next year should be entertaining at the very least.  Wish me luck.

From a child’s eye

Images courtesy of freeimages.co.uk
Images courtesy of freeimages.co.uk

I was 12 years old and my brother was graduating from Navy basic training in San Diego, CA.  I remember his going away party like it was yesterday.   This party, though, was one for the books.  We had a 3-floor split level home and one of my dad’s best friends brought a gas station sized American Flag to drape in front of our house. There were so many people, so many laughs, and so many tears.  I don’t really remember the day he left, but I remember the sadness that overtook the party at the end when everyone wished him well.

Fast forward 8 weeks and my parents let me know we were going to be flying to California to watch him graduate and spend a week touring.  California!  This was the summer of 1990, people!  Just after the movie, Pretty Woman was released.  You could imagine my excitement to see Rodeo Drive!  Of course, that was before I realized San Diego was not at all near Rodeo Drive.  (My dad, being the awesome man he is, later got us to Beverly Hills and the Hollywood sign for a day anyway)

After his graduation and after I melted over the fact that I used the same bathroom in the USO building from the scene in Top Gun where Maverick followed Charlie, my dad wanted to visit Mexico.  Wow!  Mexico? Another country?  This was quickly turning into the best vacation ever.

It wasn’t a long drive, I remember, and we ended up at what reminded me as the toll booths on our highways back in GA.  We go in and Dad gets us to Tijuana, Mexico.  Naturally, I had no way of knowing what to expect.

My dad wanted to go to the shops in the town to barter for items on which he knew he could get great deals.  We ended up going down a small open tunnel that smelled of urine, rotting food, and God only knows what else.  I was scared beyond any of my monsters under the bed imaginations I had up until now.  I remember women and men off to the side-eyeing us.  Luckily, my father stands 6’4″ so no one really talked to us.  Except this little girl who couldn’t have been more than 4 years old and there she stood with her coffee can looking at us with these huge sad, brown eyes.  My heart broke.  This was the first time I saw real pain and real sorrow.  She was hungry.  She was poor.  After much begging and pleading, I got my dad to give her some money.

The vacation ended up being very wonderful, but there are so many times in my life where I find myself looking back at that little girl in that tunnel, and for an instant, my problems seem so small.

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Strength

Strength is one of those words whose meaning changes with each person and each situation.  I have overcome a lot in my lifetime; some would probably even consider that I have strength or gained strength because of the adversities.  Looking back, I cannot say the same.  I remember praying for strength at an early part of my adult life.  When I consider what events unfolded after, I chuckle.  I’ve always been told by the wise women in my life that God answers you in ways you wouldn’t foresee.  For instance, if you pray for patience, you don’t become patient – you are presented with an opportunity where patience is needed.  If you pray for love, you aren’t given a knight in shining armor but instead a situation in which you either give or receive love.

I prayed for strength when my oldest son was born.  I shortly thereafter became a single, twenty-year-old mother, working three jobs, and living on our own.  I found the need to be strong, not strength.  Strength, I later realized, was inside me all along.

After a conversation with someone who is quickly becoming a very, very dear friend to me and someone I value a great deal, I began to think about those times of prayer.  It’s something she said to me after a heartfelt conversation, ‘when it’s time you’ll know’.  She’s right.

I’ve come to the conclusion that God gives us the qualities we pray for on the day we take our first breath.  He has already gifted us with these abilities and rather than conjuring them at the opportune time, He teaches us by putting us in situations in which we need to use these gifts to our fullest advantage.

Today, I chuckled after beginning a prayer to receive answers and strength.   I laugh out of fear.  Fear that not only do I possess the answers I request, but also because I know I have already been given the strength needed when I hear these very same answers.  It’s what I decide to do with the answers that define where my strength is most powerful and as I’ve been told once today….when it’s time I will know.  I find a bit of comfort in that when I know, I’ll be strong enough to overcome and close another chapter in my life.

Life is chaos, love, chances, decisions, heartaches, and strength.  Life is also as short as a baby’s breath.  I intend to live it to the fullest while I can.

When the Fat get going, America Fails

I wrote this one earlier in the year for Sudio Thirty Plus – I found today after shopping for sensible foods, it still applies.  Enjoy:

The husband and I have been together for nearly 20 years, since we were thirteen years old.  We’ve had ups and downs, and three kids.  Over the years our weight has also had ups and downs.  Unfortunately, we have lately had more ups than downs.  We tried the devil incarnate program called P90X.  We started with workout day one and decided to go the full day.  It didn’t end well for me.  A trip to the ER because of a workout is frowned on, in my book.  We quickly realized that this particular workout regime was for people who regularly worked out.

After weeks of healing, we tried a 30-day trial period at a local gym. With machines I still don’t know the names of and the sweaty, chiseled blondes that sprinted past me with arms puffed up like a puffer fish while their ponytail swayed tauntingly.  I could hear it mocking me as its owner passed.  ‘Like, OMG Becky, did you see that whale of a girl sweating profusely while walking 1.2 miles per hour.  Pffft.  As if.’ *eye roll* (yes, her ponytail had eyes, obviously)

Feeling much like a fish out of water or a whale on a sandy beach, I decided I should reevaluate our food intake as well as trying to figure out the large machinery in the gym.  We thought it would be best to cut out richer foods, switch to leaner meats, chicken and turkey rather than beef, raw veggies, and more whole, organic foods.  All the doctors of the world seem to condone this type of diet.  We head out in search of these foods, excited that we’re making such a positive change in our already budgeted grocery run.  Evidently, if one wants to eat healthy, lean, and whole you have to be a freaking millionaire or at least be able to budget $300 a week for groceries.  It was then, at the ridiculous prices of the food that’s great for you that I realized America’s problem.  We’re the fattest country because good for you food cost not only your arm and leg but your first born as well.  Or, you have to take turns eating.  “Sorry kids, there’s no dinner tonight, Dad made a sandwich.”

Can anyone explain to me why fresh food costs five times more than a bag of processed Cheetos?  I mean, it’s a plant.  It grows in the dirt. You go outside and pick it.  You put it in a basket and take it to a market and voila!  It’s a squash, people.  And if the posted sign is correct and all of it is community grown, it didn’t have to be shipped or trucked – you just had to drive it down the road.  That’s it.

Now my mind wonders to the crazy side of the spectrum and I begin to think that this whole ‘fattest country ever’ thing is a conspiracy to fuel the pockets of the doctors, gyms, diet plans, and insurance companies of the world.  ‘They’ don’t want us to lose weight and get fit; ‘they’ want us to stay sloth-like and eat cheaper junk food and visit the doctor every month for our failing health due to our excessively gargantuan backsides. Fat Fucking Fail America.