Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Life is too fleeting to hesitate. - JRS

Others had left my life and heart with huge holes, regret would creep in and take hold of my head and heart for days. You and I discussed my regret occasionally; you'd heave a heavy sigh and look off, thoughtfully, into your history. You explained the urgency of life and how I'd continue to pay for the moments of hesitation. You thought that the call to action I would feel my heart give was a warning of pain, to my brain. It was reminding me of the fragility of life and allowing me the chance to heal before the real hurt would inevitably come.

I took your words to heart. I believed it would protect me from feeling the devastation of loss in the future and I guess it did, in a way. My heart is not broken from the regret of moments not taken, instead I am haunted. I now relive that moment when I looked into your eyes and said, "I'm sorry but I have to," I leaned in to kiss your cheek and I held on too long as I hugged you goodbye.

I look back at that lovely weekend we all spent together and I slightly chuckle. You were right. My heart was warning me but thankfully this time, I listened. The time at the beach is well documented with pictures that you begrudgingly allowed me to take. We all woke up too early and stayed up too late, each day that we were together. We were all present and soaking in every moment - we were all together again.


The deliciousness of all our time together made it so difficult to leave that morning. We all got into our respective vehicles and began our journey home. Playful texts were exchanged between you and Bob as he recounted the 30 mile sob-fest I engaged in, as we departed. It was proclaimed that I cried for the appropriate amount of time that morning, as you thanked us both for an amazing weekend.

Sporadically peaceful sleep eludes me now and on those early mornings I lay in bed looking up at the ceiling, crying angry tears. I'm heartbroken to live another day without you but grateful that I was paying attention. When I was presented with the chance - I kissed you one last time, I held you so close and hugged you too tight.


Thank you for that, Josh.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Conversations with Cheetah

Previously I have described my probing conversations with Cheetah, the short morning and afternoon commutes quickly become a formal inquisition. The years have been racing by but the daily scrutiny has remained, but he has up-ed the ante. He stuns me daily, as his subject matters widely broaden, I imagine this is due to his veracious reading, YouTube viewing (he does so in the living room, under our screening - no parent shaming needed), and countless hours of video game playing.
He plays good cop/bad cop as he grills me for answers while testing the validity of the responses with additional inquiries and promises of "googling" when our discussion has ended. After nearly ten straight minutes of examination, I pull into the driveway hoping for a reprieve. I close my eyes and try to get my heart rate back into the safe zone, while beginning to replay my answers in my mind.
Did I respond to his question about Herpes too graphically? Maybe he is too concerned with what his classmates think of him. Why in the world did I try to describe the Holocaust by myself, when I know I become too passionate? How else was I supposed to approach a questions about sperm? Thank goodness all we talked about was bugs and lizards today. What did he mean by, "but he did throw like a girl?" These moments of reflection leave me ready for round two, which never goes as well as the round he initiated; but I attempt to solidify my point or opinion, as I watch his eyes slowly begin to glaze over...

And there en lies the problem, he is only prepared to actively listen when he is ready to discuss issues with me; which I am learning happens less and less, in direct correlation with the amount of birthdays he has experienced. I'm unsure if I should be proud that he is growing more aware of his environment, that he catches every detail and written word that is around him or if I should be worried that he seems too aware of the world around him and isn't more lost in the thoughts and musings of a care-free child.
Those concerns lead me to a realization, maybe that's why many school districts have a completely separate school for children of this age, Middle School. It must be a place dripping with angst, overrun with attitude, and full of students who's eyes are stuck in the "rolled position" - what a drastic change from the light, airy, and happy hallways of the cute elementary school he currently attends. He's nervous to make that jump to the new school full of older kids, and I'm down right terrified.
I do have an ace up my sleeve though, a friend who works as a Counselor in the Middle School that Cheetah will be attending. We've discussed what changes I can expect and she assures me that things aren't as scary as I am envisioning. She has almost convinced me that Middle School is a gift to parents. It's the time in which we can train our hearts and bodies for the marathon ahead; to prepare for a barrage of arguments, patience obliteration, and additional limit testing.
As I continue to enjoy our last year at elementary school, I invite you fellow parents to incoming Middle Schoolers to take this school year and summer to cuddle your kids - when they'll let you, enjoy your conversations with them about their friends and hobbies, and try to keep your cool under the bare bulb of the investigation room.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

#2016TheYearOfTheJump

As 2015 was drawing to a close, like many of people, I was contemplating the promise a new year gives. I felt like I was at a crossroad, mere steps away from embarking on a journey that would lead me to endless opportunities. But how could I ensure that I began the new year with the right stride?
I delved into researching the making of resolutions and embodying a mantra but quickly decided that they were either too ambiguous or too easy to get lost in finding the perfect fit; it was then that I stumbled onto the theory of a "Word of the Year," a word that would help guide me. I contemplated on what my word would be for several days, I googled a few choices but JUMP kept popping into my mind. A few days later Steve Harvey posted a video on his Face Book page that sealed the deal! The year would be #2016TheYearOfTheJump
During the Year of The Jump I would leap at opportunities when they presented themselves; I would say, "Yes" when I would typically find reasons to say, "No;" I would do things that made me uncomfortable or challenged me to push the limits; but most importantly I would not be the same person on December 31, 2016, that I was on January 15, 2016. Keeping a word forefront in my mind for an entire year was much easier than observing a resolution for 365 days, 2016 did not disappoint.
In 2016 I started 2 new businesses, quit my full-time office job to work for myself, attended a Girls Weekend when I only knew one out of nine people, set a goal and failed to meet it, set several more goals and crushed them, met new friends and established lasting friendships, and began dying my hair - just to name a few of my vaults.

As you can imagine my successes in 2016 have led me to another genesis, 2017. How do I follow such a great year of change and adventure? I had been pondering that exact thought for days when I decided to put my question on Face Book and within minutes I had struck gold. My dear friend MMorgan suggested SOAR, saying that there was no better word to follow #2016TheYearOfTheJump and I concur, completely.
IMAGE SOURCE: SOARCONNECTION
While many are lamenting that 2016 was a year that crushed dreams and ruined lives, I can look back on those 525,600 minutes knowing I tried my hardest and gave it my all...watch out #2017TheYearToSoar - I'm coming for you!
IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

For the sake of replication.

On a recent road trip I was catching up on podcasts, I was listening to Episode #566 of the Art of Charm Podcast; I highly recommend checking out any and all episodes. During this installment Phillip McKernan discussed the importance of identifying the Five Happiest Days of your life, an exercise to explore your passions, by identifying the clues your life is leaving you. My interests were peaked and I became inspired to complete the exercise on my own.

He had a few tips to make sure you pick the best of the best: don't select days that you may feel obligated to pick (ie: wedding days or the birth of a child); don't get stuck on finding five, if you're able to come up with three you will still be able to learn something; and the day doesn't have to be great from start to finish - maybe there was just a moment, a touch or a kiss. McKernan then suggests to arrange the days in order of their greatness.

Upon beginning, I immediately selected two of my top five days but quickly became stingy with the remaining three spots. I have spent the last couple of days trying to whittle down my top seven days to five; I am sharing them here, in the hopes that writing them will help me identify the bread crumbs along my trail and where they could lead me.

One:
June 12, 1984 - The day my parents were married. It was a gorgeously warm summer day in South Louisiana when my parents were married on a bridge in the middle of a swampy State Park; you could feel the hope for the future in the air and positivity seemed to exuded from each guest. I was finally going to have a real family and would have a father who wanted to be my Daddy. My Great Grandmother, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and family friends all gathered under the shade of the trees to celebrate their union and surround them in our love.
Two:
Castaway Cay Day - In 2014 The Smith family went on a Disney Cruise with the family of one of my best friends from college. It was one of those rare days in life that was beautiful from sun up to sun down. I never really understood when I heard the phrase, "Living On Island Time," until this day. We relaxed by the water, played in the sun, and floated in the waves. No thoughts given to our daily lives, we were all living in the moment and it was amazing. This was the first time Cheetah had the chance to spend an entire day at a beach; the moment his feet hit the sand, he was home. He was smiling bigger, playing harder, and laughing louder than I had ever seen - he just came to life. When the day was drawing to a close and our party numbers began to dwindle, as everyone began heading back to the ship, Cheetah and I decided we would stay until the very last moment. We spent the last hour, together, in silence; sitting by the water, listening to the tide roll.
Three:
Junior/Senior Rivalry - This is an event that is part of the tradition of Mississippi University for Women, for over one hundred years now. It was the night that I was chosen by a sisterhood of dynamic, strong, and inspirational women to become a pledge of the BlackList Social Club; the top (most well-rounded) thirteen Juniors were selected as pledges. We pledges were brought together for the first time, that night. I was elated to be among the chosen, I knew that these stellar young women would become the sisters I was destined to call mine.
Four:
O'ma and O'pa's 50th wedding celebration - This was such a joy-filled day, there was a huge turn out of friends and people whose lives were touched by my grandparents; the outpouring of emotion was outrageous. Their relationship had such simple beginnings but over the years, the lives they built were big and involved more than just their families; they gave so much of themselves to others. The grandchildren performed a special skit that told their love story and celebrated all the change their marriage brought to the world. The entire extended family spent the weekend together, regaling vividly animated stories of our history.

Five:
October 29,2016 - A whirlwind trip to Memphis proved to be more than expected, I was coming to town to witness a dear friend marry the love of her life; the night was splendid.  The commitment and love the couple expressed for each other was beautifully enhanced by the promises and pledges given to them by their family and friends. As the reception commenced and old college friends assembled, it was as if no time had passed. Bathed in the light of The Levitt Shell, we laughed and danced the night away. I had felt disconnected from myself but that evening I realized that while I have more responsibilities than I did in 1996, I was still Jane and she is great.
Honorable mention:
Mardi Gras week 2013 - Tarzan and I took Cheetah to Disney World for the first time, it was just perfect. Sharing my favorite place with Cheetah and recounting memories of our Honeymoon with Tarzan fully cemented my connection to this magical place. Watching Cheetah's face light up time and time again allowed me to see the fantasy of the parks, through the eyes of a small child, which was something I hadn't had the chance to experience for myself.

This was a very revealing exercise, I was pleasantly surprised in the number of wonderful days it helped me commemorate. I have since spent time shuffling through photographs, deepening my connection with the gleeful days in my past. However, I am still working on the common denominators and clues that these Top Five/Six Happiest Days of my life have given me; but they are all rooted in great affection, filled with family and friends who compose my inner-most circle.















#2016TheYearOfTheJump


This year has been one of the best for growth and change, in my nearly 39 years

Monday, November 28, 2016

To stand where they stood and see what they saw.

In 1976, Randal (my biological father) was stationed in Mannheim, Germany for three years, being newlyweds, my Mama joined him overseas. Once the three years were up, Mama and I returned to Louisiana and have not been back since. Over the years Mama and I discussed returning to Germany, to see where I was born, but life sped by us. So you can imagine how thrilled I am to say that the Smith family will begin an expedition through a large chunk of Europe, in May 2017!
Me, Mama, and Randal
It's more than a family vacation, this is a pilgrimage to my birthplace, nearly 39 years in the making! It will be an important point in our family's history: a shining spot in Cheetah's memory of the summer he spent in Europe, with his parents (before he realized how dumb they are); and for us, a fantastic journey with our little boy (while he still enjoys our company).
Tarzan, Me, and Cheetah
We plan to visit Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy and Austria. We will explore Germany in two parts of our trip:  During the first stopover we will locate the historic site of the former Armed Forces Hospital (where I was born) and explore the city where we lived - Viernheim (the two places where we lived and the neighborhood we called home); and the second stopover will be to traverse some of the countryside and take part in the 403rd castle illumination in Heidelberg - our good friends will be accompanying us on this leg of the tour.
1st apartment (top 2 windows), American Armed Forces Hospital, and 2nd apartment.
I am excited to have the opportunity to show Cheetah part of the world and explore some of the most historic sites in Europe. As our itinerary continues to take shape, I am surprised by my mixture of emotions.
The basic route for our trip.
Being someone who believes in the healing powers of self exploration, I've longed to return to where my odyssey began in hopes to complete my origin story. I have spent years thinking that something in me will just "click" when I lay eyes upon the places that my Mama and Randal called home. To me, Germany is more than a country or home to a military base that beckoned two young newlyweds from Louisiana; it is a place that changed him, her, and my entire life.
Mama (and me!) in our Viernheim apartment
Germany was the site of a pivotal moment in the lives of 3 people; it is the place where promises were broken and hopes of better a tomorrow were created. I need to see where my Mama was sad, scared, and lonely. I need to see the scene where Randal decided it was too hard, where he was cruel, and where he gave up. But more than that, I need to see where my Mama was brave, strong, resilient, and happy. I need to find forgiveness, for the scars he left her with.
Me, Mama (Sheron), and Daddy (Freddy)
However, this IS just a place, a mere speck of dust in the grand scheme of her and my life but without these 3 years of our past, the truly fantastic life we have could have never been. Maybe seeing these places and finally returning to the beginning of it all will prove to be anticlimactic, that's why I know this is not a trip I should do alone. Someone needs to be there as a reminder that it isn't just the moments or places in my history that define me; and I know Tarzan and Cheetah can be that reminder for me. Going on this sojourn with them lessens the pressure of finding closure and creates an opportunity for them to see Germany through my eyes, understand how important this place is, and help me create new memories there.



Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Tightening the purse strings.

This has been a big year for me and the Smith family, I'll expound on that in a later post, but one of the biggest occasions has been booking the Smith's 2017 trip to Europe. I was born in Heidelberg, Germany (my parents were stationed there at the time), in 1978, and I have never had the chance to return to my birthplace but that is going to change. We head abroad at the end of May, for a "quick" trip and I am beyond thrilled.
As you can imagine, the trip has been a very frequent topic of discourse in our household. For months now we've been discussing itineraries, flight schedules, passports, & rental cars. I have selected all the cities and sites (Disneyland Paris & the Neuschwanstein Castle made the list, of course) that are mandatory stops on my thirty-eight year old, Trip of a Lifetime; Tarzan is just happy to come along, he makes planning a trip such a breeze. Cheetah has added Rome, Italy, as his must see city on our European trek, and continuously adds new venues to our expedition through Europe.

Due to the hefty price tag that comes along with a trip overseas, we've been tightening the purse strings at the Treehouse. We've instituted meatless meals, elemenated eating out, greatly reduced our outside entertainment budget, and have begun keeping each other in check on our frivolous spending.



I began asking myself, "Do I need/want this? Would I rather _____ while in Germany or France?" - each time I consider purchasing new clothes or shoes. I have also been prompting Tarzan when he is contemplating a purchase and Cheetah when he is requesting a new toy or game, with the same round of questions and have found this practice to be the most helpful; until recently. I believe that I may need to create a different method to remind the family, The Boy especially, as to why we're currently sacrificing our wants for a future time and location:



One day as I reviewed the weekly grocery run with The Boy, we were both adding our lunch & dinner items when I mentioned needing to add tampons to the list. Without skipping a beat, Cheetah demanded, "Do you really need tampons, or can you wait to get tampons in France?"


It took several minutes for me to reign in the snorting and tear shedding laughter but I was able to smile lovingly at him and counter, "Yes my dear, I am sure that I need the tampons now. I may even need tampons while in France, too."


It can be tough on a frugal mom, check out this link for a little comedy relief.





Thursday, November 10, 2016

They left a legacy.

Yesterday she would have been 95; to say she was the best grandmother I could have asked for would be an injustice. She was half my heart, the snort in my laugh and the light in my eyes. Her blood runs through my veins and continues to pump life through my scarred and lonesome heart. Sure the pain is somewhat dulled but my eyes still well up, easily spilling over with the mere thought of my life without her.






The loss of her sometimes seems to overshadow the loss of O'pa but I think that's just because we helped each other through loosing him. I stayed with her for over a week after he died because I wasn't sure I would be able to breathe again, if I left their house. We spent days without talking, going through the motions. I would fix her meals and we would both pretend to eat; at night I would lie beside her and we would cry until our bodies ran out of steam. On the night before I left she admitted to staying up late the weeks he was sick, and spending hours sitting in his chair just to feel close to him and smell him; her honesty was so comforting that I admitted to sneaking into his room when my shift was over and it was someone else's turn with him, because I was afraid I would regret not being with him for every second he had remaining. That night was the first night I hadn't cried my self to sleep since the beginning of August (he died on August 18th). I still didn't want to leave the safety of their home but at least I wasn't leaving scared, she had given me hope because I still had her.






You see, my relationship with my O'ma and O'pa was anything but typical. I was blessed with a wonderful set of parents who have always done above and beyond what parents (and people) should do for me, but O'ma and O'pa were like Parents+. I spent my Summer, Winter and Spring breaks happily by their sides. In large part, I have them to thank for being able to see all 48 Continetial United States; our times in the camper, seeing America will never be forgotten. We stayed up late playing games, teasing each other, and mapping out the next day's route. We spent countless hours discussing life, love, and trials. I was given unriveled access to their stories, lives and histories; nothing was off the table, I could ask them anything. There were times when I could tell that it was a tough topic, there were many pregnant pauses and answers that began with, "It was a different time..." They told me the truth.




There were times in their past where they disappointed themselves; but as they recounted these moments, they made sure to inform me that Parents and Grandparents are people and that they make mistakes. This was probably the best information they ever game me; sure it lowered the pedestal I had placed them on, but it was vital. I was able to go back to this lesson as time marched on. I used it as a point of reference with my parents and once I became a parent; it puts things in perspective and lowers anxiety levels when considering some of the tough choices that parents have to make.






These two were good people. They showed me how to be a person, how to live my life, and how to die with dignity. The world was a better place because of them and I am a better person for having known them. This legacy that they left me, must be handled with care and put into place. I will leave this earth much better than how I found it.