The Kindness of Karen

Karen. Aunt Karen. She’s not even my aunt by blood, but I think of her as family. I’ve only known her for just over a year. She’s one of the nicest women I’ve ever met. Gentle, kind, a manifestation of the Holy Spirit for sure. She was my husband’s saving grace when he was a child.

My husband grew up in a strange home. Don’t we all.

He lost his parents when he was very young. His mother died when he was still an infant and his father died when he was a toddler, too young to even form a memory of his face. He was orphaned.

He was raised by his paternal grandparents. His Uncle Guy and Aunt Karen were there for those formative years as well, living just next door.

I’ve known Karen for years, without the benefit of meeting her in person, because my husband described her so vividly. Blonde-haired, blue-eyed angel of mercy in a chaotic world. A calming influence on an energetic boy. He would tell me about her rubbing his back for naptime. (He still likes to have his back rubbed. Who doesn’t?) He was certainly enamored with his Aunt Karen.

He talked about how Aunt Karen could show discipline, not humiliation, in behavior correction. His grandmother and uncle often resorted to yelling and intimidation. But Karen. She was different.

Karen was the mother he needed. Tender. Patient. Feminine. She was the female ideal. The compassion he required as an extremely sensitive child. A soft place to land.

I finally met Karen just over a year ago. She was so warm and welcoming. Immediate hugs and she accepted me totally from the first moment. She was every bit of the angel Guy recalled to me. Karen has a generous spirit. She always asks questions and she lavished our daughter with so much attention.

She lives in Colorado, so we don’t get to see her much, but we have Facebook (thank God) and she’s so supportive of my blog. Thank you, Karen!

Aunt Karen just made the first donation for my trip. An extremely generous one. Thank you for believing in me and this journey.

I truly appreciate your kindness, generosity and the immediate acceptance as a member of your family. I’m just sorry we hadn’t met until just over a year ago. You’re a beautiful person. Inside and out. You changed my husband’s life and offered him grace when he absolutely needed it. You saved him from a harsh life just by being kind and showing him nice people exist. Thank you for my husband. Thank you for the kindness you showed him. Thank you for being a mother to him, even if for a short time. It stayed with him all through the years. You ARE an angel. I know he thinks that, too. xoxo

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Pee! The world’s on fire.

My only brother, 11 years older than me, used to sleep in late. As teens do. After being out late with his friends, he would sleep late. Also, at one point, I think he worked evenings or nights at a local gas station, so he might have been sleeping during the day for that reason.

Well, my father creeps into the hallway with an impish grin. He was in a goofy, manic phase and holds down the smoke detector test button.

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!

Except, our alarm was louder and more terrifying. Enough to make you piss your pants.

At the same time, my dad hollers down the hallway, “Pee! The world’s on fire!” Laughing his country-ass off. (One of his favorite sayings was, “I work my country ass off!” I still say that. So does my husband. LOL My husband does a perfect impersonation of my father, even though they never met, mainly because I say it exactly the way my dad used to. Love it.)

My brother comes running out of his bedroom, his long, usually-perfect, feathered hair tousled from sleep and his eyes barely open. His eyes quickly narrow even further at the sight of my dad and the rest of the family giggling maniacally.

He did not pee. He was pissed though! I think my dad just wanted him up and out!

Good times.

Glad for the Dad

It’s a day late. Wish I would have thought of this yesterday, but I was busy doing things for Father’s Day! lol Like infinite back scratchies and dinner prep! Laundry, cleaning, moving, crafting, writing. Ya know, the usual.


Thanks for being Lilli’s dad, Kacey Moe. She has a better one than I did and I’m glad I get to see it. ❤ I wouldn’t want anyone else for my child’s dad. Well. Maybe Mr. Rogers. But, come on! Don’t we all??

You spent the better part of your life without an example for fatherdom. So. Wow! You’re doing the best job without any experience or training! Impressive.

It’s mainly that you fill her with all the emotional things you knew you wanted and never had. That you teach her the lessons it took you so long to learn. That you read and sang to her every day. That you hugged and kissed her every night. That you prayed over her, poured over her like precious oil, crafted her, molded her, formed her so carefully. Like our Heavenly Father does with us. That you worked so hard to stay through difficult times. Thank you for being a wonderful parenting partner. I love you.


My husband usually draws himself in this style (featured pic). So I thought I would incorporate a doodle that looks like him. 🙂

Picture Perfect

I love this photo of my grandparents. Young and newly married. They look serious and somber, but handsome.

gma and gpa

I only knew my grandmother as an old woman, but here she looks full of thoughts and feelings.

I think this frame is a perfect fit. Does my grandpa look like Ralph Fiennes?? To me, yes. LOL

Here’s to you, Gram and Gramps. To a lifetime of love and loyalty.


Featured pic is their home in Missouri during the depression and war.

My Jewels

In the play that I’m in right now, Grapes of Wrath (sorry, lots of blogs about Grapes, that’s at the top of my thinking right now), I take a pair of earrings with me from the house as we make way for California from Oklahoma.

We don’t have much room on the truck, but a pair of earrings has value and fit neatly in my pocket. I give the earrings to Rosasharon later.

When I came to Florida, we didn’t have much. Some household items: couch, TV, everyday odds and ends, enough crap to fill a U-haul, but not many valuables. More than some folks. Enough to be eternally grateful.

But. It could have all burned up in a fiery crash, fell down a cliff in a runaway U-haul, or ended up in the Gulf for all I cared.

My earrings were/are my husband and child. They are my precious jewels. The treasure I slip into my pocket when all is lost. The value I take with me. The items I can’t do without. The adornment God has dripped from my ears and hung around my neck. They make me feel beautiful.


Thank you for a wonderful birthday, Guy. It was so fulfilling.

Roundabout Okie

Hey y’all! I’s done did it now! I was cast in Grapes of Wrath here in Venice. I get to play Ma Joad. I can’t tell you how excited I am. I’m fit to be tied, I tell ya.

Grapes of Wrath is epic. Christian-themed, full of religion and tragic as hell. You could tell me it’s based on an ancient Greek play and I’d swaller that whole. I can’t wait to get started.

Hear tell, I’m an Okie. Sorta. Little bit. My kin come from all over, but my granddaddy’s daddy married a full-blooded Native American down in Oklahoma and had hisself a brood with her’n. My dad’s dad was 1/2 Chickasaw, came up from Oklahomie and put hisself thru Chiropracty schoolin’ in KC. He was a farmer, doctor of sorts and fishing lure inventor. He even patented a complicated, new-fangled, unsuccessful lure design, had a couple made, and sold a very few. My ma still has one. Ugly thing made to impress with multiple hooks, shiny plastic housing, and bright, fake insect-like bait, but in all probability, totally useless.

I am particularly proud of my tangential Okie connection. My Native American heritage. My own Missouri family history through the Dust Bowl and Great Depression. I am proud to come from a long line of working class folks. The people who work hard and do what it takes. I’m not sure how or why they (we) made it through such a terrible time, but it tells me even this minute detail:

“…we’re the people that live.” (Ma, Grapes of Wrath)

I’ve overcome terrible sickness/surgery, my own personal depression, and raging food addiction for the last 5+ years, but I am the person that lives. 🙂 I come from a long line of hellers. 😉

Back the F up.

My favorite saying is:

E’erbody bettah back the *F* up off me. Except I don’t use *F*. Well. I use the F and 3 more letters immediately following. 😀

I say it jokingly. Except when I don’t. Or I like this phrase as well. Check yourself, before you wreck yourself. I say it sassy with a few snaps and head whips. Followed by an “MM-hm!” It’s a power move. Sometimes it’s funny.

But. It’s offensive. It can be ugly. I can be ugly. Depends on the mood and reception of the audience.

I do it to protect myself. I do many things to protect myself. I lose my temper from time to time when I can’t cope with life in general any more. Tuesday night, I snapped. And not just my fingers.


I served at Tuesday’s special election in my county. It was interesting, humbling and an incredibly long day. I was at the poll for 14 hours and change.

I got up at 4 am (not something I normally do) to be at the poll at 6 am sharp. I had to drive for 30 minutes just to get to the location. Hopefully, the next election will be closer, in my own precinct or near it. Administration said it would be.

I served all day, had a small break for lunch, and 2-3 shorter breaks here and there. The steady flow of voters didn’t allow much downtime. By the time I finished, I was exhausted. Plus, I spent the day with older women who had all the time in the world to complain, moan and lecture me about the way voting should change or how I was not properly allocating ballots.

“I’m going to work the floor!” A job that most of the older women loathed. Standing (I had a chair to sit in if there were no voters on the floor), addressing the parting voters, checking the booths for left items, and repetitively explaining the tabulator/ballot box procedure (Slide your ballot over the green arrow, over the gray, under the black, wait for the waving American flag to tell you “Thank you for voting!” and then I would say, “Yay! You voted! Yay democracy!” and that would illicit usually a laugh, smile or a thank you.) But I gladly worked my tiny corner of isolation to get away from the bitching bitties.

“Oy! My back!”
“Why do you have to stay 5 feet away from the ballot box?”
“Don’t forget…!”
“OH! You did that wrong!”
“Martha, do this…”
“Martha, do that…”

Most of the older women were racist. Or bigoted. Or just clueless to etiquette, correct terminology, or considerate behavior.

“That guy who came in with the two Oriental kids.”

WTF??

“You mean Asian?” is what I wanted to say, but I just let it go.

Finally, before I left, one of the women was bossing me around, biting my neck (she had been hateful most of the day and specifically to me at times) and I finally bit back.

“Martha, put these away! You know where they go.”

My 5 o’clock whistle blew. Except it was 6:57 pm. “(Bitch), I will put them away when we close the poll!” (Her name has been changed to Bitch to protect the guilty.)

She thought the poll had closed, but we were still a few minutes from shutting the doors. “Oh, I thought we had closed. Sorry.” But Bitch said “sorry” like your husband on your period. “Saw-ree!” Like the inflective (not a word!) equivalent of “Sheesh!”

I was silent. Everyone should worry when I’m silent.

After the poll closed, I turned to Bitch and said, “I’ve never put this away before, I don’t know where they go, but I assume they go in this envelope. Is that correct, (Bitch)?” And I said it firmly, politely, but with that edge of “I will cut a Bitch.” One raised eyebrow.

One quiet, schooled, submissive “Yes.”

“Thank you!”

I heard no more from Bitch.

Needless to say, I was on edge after my husband picked me up.

On the way home, we got into an argument. It doesn’t matter why, but he did something that always triggers me. Always. We’ve had many discussions about the behavior, but he continues to do said shenanigans. After being triggered by the horrible woman at the poll for 14!!! hours, I was weak, vulnerable, tired, hungry, in a really bad place. I was not grumpy. I was not taking out my frustration on my family. I was talking about the day and my frustration with the woman, but I don’t think I was berating my family. I wasn’t. My husband and daughter had asked about my day and I had simply told them all the various good and bad aspects of working an election. Procedures, attitudes, expectations. They were interested because none of us had ever worked an election before. Overall, it was gratifying. But any 14-hour day doing anything is going to be taxing. Gratifying or not.

So, the inevitability of the situation was obvious. My husband spent most of the day pursuing a low-priority goal and neglected some crucial chores. He needed to find a power cord for an item we need to sell, he needed to follow up about a temp job for IT, and he needed to feed our daughter dinner. Or at least communicate with me about dinner coordination. Unfortunately, he waited to pick me up at 8:00 pm in hopes that we could all grab a bite together.

Okay. Not horrible. Mildly thoughtful. I say mildly because we both will use any excuse to eat out at any time and the benefit to our partner is secondary to satisfying our eat-out lust. But our daughter eating dinner after 8 on a school night is a digestive juggernaut. Not unheard of, but normally highly-questioned by my husband. It’s just not ideal. But it’s okay if he says so.

And then, on top of all of that, triggered from 14-hour Bitch, chores neglected and now, engage the boosters on trigger-happy hubby with his self-proclaimed “productive” morning routine of dragging home stereo equipment from a thrift store to transfer old tapes to digital storage and cleaning the stereo equipment on my dining room table! with alcohol.

You may not know this, and I’m not sure that he did either, but alcohol would probably eat the finish off my cheap, not-solid wood table. It would probably at least dull the surface. I would like that not to happen. I just bought the damn thing 3 years ago.

We just can’t have nice things. Sigh. LOL
That, and “I can’t take you anywhere.” LOL

Thankfully, it was fine. He put a towel down, but if it had spilled? No towel is going to help.

My husband trying to clean something is like a 5 yo shouting, “Mommie, look! I washed all your sweaters in the toilet!” LOL Just kidding. It’s not that bad. But close.

It’s just, after the day I had, and one of the first things my husband tells me on the way to dinner is, “I did a thing that we have talked about not to do. I did that and only that while you’ve been gone for 14 hours working for our family to make ends meet because I don’t make enough money any more.”

He didn’t say that. That’s what I heard.

So. I lost it. I got super upset. I was PTSD-ing all over the car. I was shrill. Screamy. Angry. We had a bad fight. But we made it through. It took a while. Lots of talking. (He hates that.) Lots of emotion. (He hates that.) Lots of stress. (We both hate that.)

I don’t like being sassy, but I tend to get that way when I feel attacked. As with Bitch. I tend to get that way with my husband, too. Sassy. Mean. Sarcastic. Hateful. It’s mainly when I feel he isn’t listening. Or understanding. Or trying.

You know, it’s like, what’s the point in behaving if I’m talking to a brick wall? Right? And then out comes the mud.

I don’t want this though. I struggle with changing my approach. I struggle with being sweet or polite or even-tempered when I feel neglected. And my family has just not been paying attention lately. Our Christian approach to life is care for each other. This is what God has intended. That’s our thinking. Except, I care for others, put myself last, and then everyone else cares only for themselves. So I get the poopie end of that stick! Feel me, Ladies? I know I’m not alone.

But. Still. I have to do right, no matter what. I have to control myself. I have to follow God. I have to ask for help not from my husband, family or friends, I have to rely on God’s Holy Spirit. No one, not me, not my husband, not my daughter, not Bitch can give me the fruits of the Spirit. That can only come from God. So I have to remember. Ask. Receive. It’s hard to remember when sin and evil are right on top of you. Biting your neck. I need help to remember to ask for help! LOL

I want to be better. Trigger free. I just know that’s not realistic. So I need to call on God. Pray. Submit. Remember. Practice.

Everyone will let you down. Eventually. I’m not perfect. I let my family, friends and co-workers down every day. We just have to reach for grace. For ourselves. For others. For the people we have vowed to love. As a Christian, that’s a vow with everyone.


God, help me. Fill me with your Spirit today and every day. Help me back that *F* train up. Help me be beautiful on the inside. Let your face be the face that others see when they look at me. Help me show your love to the whole world. Help me be an example of your grace with the help of your Spirit. I can’t do it alone. I will fail. I need you. Without you, I am not whole. I am ugly and weak and imperfect. I need you to complete your work in me: your intention, your purpose, my heart transformation, my life dedication through your providence of the Spirit. Amen.

My Daughter is…

My daughter is taking a college-level history course. It is a course designed for students to take while still in high school, before college, and they receive college credit. It is tough. Even for this ol’ bird.

Her dad and I are helping her through this very difficult class. I have to admit, even as a two-year college graduate, this mofo is HARD! And my daughter is just a freshman. Most of her peers in class are sophomores. In HIGH SCHOOL! (FYI: She’s supposed to be an 8th grader this year as well. Ack!)

I just want to say, I did not encourage her to take it. She picked it. We were all unaware of how challenging this class would be.

She thought about dropping the first week. But we encouraged her to keep going. I told her if it got worse, I would request a transfer.

“Please, though, just try to stick it out for a semester. Don’t give up just yet. You’re capable of doing the work, but how willing are you to try?”

Gosh. How many times do I need to ask myself that question? A lot. And I’m 44.

This is her hardest class. Truth of the matter, Lilli has never been challenged like this. School comes easy.

My daughter is a genius. I say that with a lump in my throat for many reasons. It’s hard to say out loud because people either think you’re bragging or lying. But she is, in fact, a genius. And I’m so thankful and proud. And so undeserving of such a gracious, talented, intelligent young lady.


This is definitely not a brag and I’ll tell you why. I am not a genius. Her father is not a genius. We are just as surprised as anyone! This has very little to do with us. This is not a reflection of our achievement. I deserve and take no credit for her accomplishments. I’m just so thankful.

We are reasonably intelligent people in some areas, but we have very little to do IMO with whether or not her brain has the capacity to house such complex thinking. Genetics may play some factor. Environment, okay. Good parenting (most of the time), good teachers (all of the time!), good school districts (thank God). But I truly believe that God has blessed her with this magnificent brain. It’s beyond what I’ve seen in most other human beings. Maturity is one big asset she has. Caring is another.

I’m just freaking lucky to be here on the sidelines. Cheering her on.


She was identified in Kindergarten as gifted after only one month of school. Her teachers in preschool had their suspicions, but after attending a pre-K summer program at public school, administrators told us the teacher would identify her. So we waited. Said no more about it. And her teacher was blown away.

She was tested and accepted for the SAGE program. Unusual to be identified and recommended in Kindergarten, administrators said. She attended the 1-day a week gifted program through her school.

Then, in 3rd grade, her gifted teacher recommended excelling. It was an exhilarating surprise. We learned early on in this school district, let the teachers recommend what’s best for your child. And they did. By the end of 3rd-grade year, we were approved to move forward. (They have to meet the requirements of Missouri state to excel.) We all wanted Lilli to skip, but it was ultimately up to her. She took the challenge knowing she’d have our support.

We spent that summer between 3rd and 5th preparing to supplement her 4th grade loss (recommended by her teachers, lots of recommendations! lol). It was an exciting summer filled with Mark Twain, Missouri history, short and long division! I’ll never forget spending warm afternoons on the bed reading Tom Sawyer with her. I was lucky enough to be her teacher for just a short while.

So, we skip 4th grade altogether and landed in 5th. She had so much fun; met a new best friend, met a very special boy, and enjoyed her final year of elementary school–one year early. She joined National Elementary Honor Society. She came in second in the spelling bee against children a year older than her. 5th grade was a challenge, but something she willingly embraced and handled with grace. Pretty smooth sailing.

But this? This history class. Sigh. This is the first time Lilli has had her feet held over the fire. She was/is struggling. But this morning?

She had a very difficult assignment this Labor Day weekend. She had 4 pages of notes to take, 5 pages of notes to rewrite by hand because the teacher won’t accept typed notes (Lil prefers typing to forcible penmanship lol), ~10-question quiz from the book, and ~30 vocabulary flashcards to make. And this is just for history. And the questions from the book would make any college freshman quiver in their penny loafers, let alone a high school freshman, OK? I even struggled with the questions.

She was struggling to finish her homework yesterday. The kid was not slacking. Granted she could have worked over several days to make sure she was finished, but what kid does that? For that matter, what adult does that?? LOL She worked from after lunch until sundown. We took a short break for outdoor beach time (best homework break ever, for anyone!), but that did her a world of good.

By bedtime, she was exhausted (and happy) and we agreed, best to hit the hay and wake up early to finish. It was a risk, but we helped her square away the meat of her answers before creeping to the sheets. In the morning, she would be able to flesh those answers out. And boy did she!

The answers she gave blew me away. I was gobsmacked at her very fleshy answers. If I were her teacher, my mouth would be agape. I never gave an answer that good in any of my classes, high school or college.

I knew she was capable of doing the work. And she did it. We have encouraged her like never before. We have held her up, held those feet over the fire (even when it hurt) and expressed our frustration and disappointment in her lack of motivation (even when it hurt all of us). But she has triumphed in this. In this little (huge) weekend assignment, she has dazzled me, Dad and hopefully her teacher.

Way to go, Lil. So proud. Your answers were thoughtful, intelligent, amazing. You will go far in whatever you choose.

I like you. Even if you weren’t my daughter, I would want to know you. It’s just less creepy this way, getting to be your mom, when I want to give you a hug! LOL Thanks for trying! That’s your success, not giving up even when you wanted to.

My daughter is…truly awesome.
Gifted writer (already). Beautiful dreamer. Great, big, sensitive heart-listener. Risk taker. Feelings feeler. Brave, courageous, gorgeous.


It is a blessing to like and respect your children.
It is more likely that you will like and respect your children
when you like and respect your children. 😉
Right??

Dumb Baby

This handsome little boy. This boy being my father.

dad

My grandmother used to tell the story:

One day, just after she gave birth to one of my uncles, she caught my father in the nursery by the crib. She paused and listened just outside the door.

“You big, dumb, fat, stupid baby.”

So antagonistic toward a little baby. That baby had it coming, I tell ya!

LOL This story tickles me to no end. But it’s a little scary! My father and his brothers had a rocky relationship from the start. But boys will be boys, right?

My mom tells me that she used to find my sister hitting me when I was just a baby. I don’t remember it. I was too young. But it explains a lot!

babytina-couch.jpg
How could you hit this adorable face??

Why do siblings automatically feel competitive and angry toward each other? I never felt hostile towards my sister. Not until she would attack me. Unprovoked!

“Mom! She hit me!!” I would scream.

Or just retaliate and knock her block off. Sometimes verbally, sometimes physically, she picked at me. It was on like Donkey Kong if she ever touched me.

I remember she pushed me down the stairs one day. Almost broke my neck. Definitely sprained my toe! I let her have it for that. And we never fought again. But I moved out of the house soon after.

I’m so glad I never have to live that way again. I don’t know about most people, but my experience with brothers and sisters is the pits.

I don’t think it has to be this way. Parents play an important role in sibling relationships. Kids are naturally at odds with one another, out of the womb. The 2nd oldest story of the bible is about how brother killed brother. Competing for resources, love and attention is understandably the impetus for sibling rivalry. But parents set the tone. Parents can teach the children to love, behave and share.

Otherwise, it’s every dumb baby for himself.

Schpider!

spiderDon’t look, Dad!
It’s a terrible sight!
If you can’t see him,
It’ll save you a fright.

I’ll protect you.
Don’t worry now.
I can tame spiders.
Mom taught me how.


Lilli and Dad at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in 2009. She was 6. We were being goofy and I thought this would be a funny picture for my black and white film photography class.