using the semicolon


When one becomes a person of a certain age, one sees their doctor more regularly…unless one is my darling husband who would rather hide from what the good doctor is recommending for him these days. He’ll wait until he’s bothered by his daily hacking-up-a-lung cough that becomes even worse than it already is or until his wife’s nagging becomes unbearable. Me, on the other hand, I do try to see my doctor annually and not just when I am sick. Just trying to walk the nurse talk of the importance of maintaining one’s good health, building trust with a good doctor-patient relationship and stuff like that there. So today was the day. The good doctor sits down with me going over the results of the physical exam and ordered tests. The physical exam…perfect. Cardiac function…perfect. Lab work…in his words his 30-something patients should have labs like these.

“You’re a perfect patient!”, he concludes.

“Yes, except for the depression, anxiety and panic attacks.”, I answer back.

“Yes, there’s that.”

And that is why I use a semicolon all the time.

A semicolon represents a sentence the author could have ended, but chose not to. Every single day of my life I choose to use a semicolon.

No, not usually with my writing. I know my use of punctuation could easily be criticized…and sometimes is. Have you seen how often I over-use an ellipsis?

No, the semicolon here represents the fact that my story isn’t over yet. Far from it. I am my author and the sentence is my life and as long as I choose to live this life I will choose to use the semicolon…every day.

Every.

Single.

Day.

Some days it is a struggle. Some days it can be almost a knock down, drag out fight. The fight to choose the semicolon, to keep myself grounded in the love others have for me instead of the hate I feel for myself, remains a struggle…and one I don’t always share for so many reasons. I hate being viewed as weak or less than or even just as someone who struggles. I hate being compared to the parent who far too many times in my lifetime tried to put a period at the end of her sentence. I can imagine her pain and her struggle. I lived survived a lot of it with her. It was so hard for her. So very hard. Still, no child should ever be the one to call for help because mommy won’t wake up…again. No child should ever have to try and get her younger siblings out of the house before the ambulance comes to protect them from seeing mommy this way. No child should have to run down the hill that was Davis Lane to flag down the ambulance because you can’t see that gravel road very well in the dark of night. Add that to the many reasons why I, every day, consciously choose to use a semicolon.

I should be stronger than this.

I should be braver than this.

I will always have anxiety. I will struggle from time to time with debilitating depression. I will sometimes become frozen in panic for no rational reason whatsoever. I will, at times, choose poor coping mechanisms. But I will always choose the semicolon.

My story isn’t over yet.

The Semicolon Project 416

selfie love


As if this blog wasn’t self-indulgent enough, I have been participating in a 365 day photo project: the #365feministselfie project.

The what?

Why?

Go ahead and roll your eyes. I know you want to.

You feel better now?

Good.

Talking about one’s sense of self love and self worth, Tamryn Hall recently shared, “It was not a magazine that formed my opinion of myself, it was what my mother told me…“. Ms Hall’s statement struck a very loud chord with me. How true this is. Children learn what they live. She went on recalling all the positive words her mother, her father, her extended family have always said to her about her and how that has always been with her with every success and setback in her life.

When I started writing in this blog, I began because I needed a safe place to put my thoughts, my fears and frustration. My plate was overloaded raising my five children including a very angry teen pushing hard and breaking through as many boundaries as possible and a medically fragile toddler whose weekdays were busy with appointments with specialists, physical therapy, occupational therapy, feeding therapy. My brother had recently died and honestly, it seemed like I was the only member of my family who was mourning him. So much was rattling around in my head that I had to have a place to put it and here is where most of it went. Through the years this has been a place where I could write about what ever I wanted to write about…my thoughts, my fears, my tears, my joys, my opinions…and they all mattered here.

Pretty much my entire life, even now, I have been told what is wrong with me…how I talk, how I walk, the colors in my wardrobe, I’m too skinny, I’m getting fat, my career choice, my parenting choices, my opinions, my beliefs, what I read, what I watch, what I listen to, my thoughts…and on and on and on and on….and it STILL goes on because as I approach my 52nd birthday I still need the correction criticism like I am still a child. It’s hard, very hard to recall ever hearing “I’m proud of you for being you”.

Children learn what they live.

But as this blog grew through the years into more than 3,500 entries, I have evolved and have grown to like me a lot. I like the parent that I am. I like the NICU RN that I am and I wouldn’t settle for anything less. My thoughts, my beliefs and my opinions are indeed my own and they are most definitely just as important as anyone’s…maybe more so to me because they are mine. Ten years of navel-gazing writing has exorcised a lot of demons and damage. Of course, it is a work in progress.

Which brings me to my own #365feministselfie. Pretty indulgent and narcissistic of me, isn’t it? Oh, and definitely attention seeking too.

Enough!

Attention is power.

Of course, the self-portrait is an easy target for charges of self-involvement, but, in a visual culture, the selfie quickly and easily shows, not tells, how you’re feeling, where you are, what you’re doing.

In our age of social networking, the selfie is the new way to look someone right in the eye and say, “Hello, this is me.”

Hello, this is me.

I’m discovering that in this exercise.

I’ve never liked nor respected too much the image that reflected back in the mirror at me. I’ve never really seen what my darling husband has seen and still sees…I recently overheard him say that he has a hot wife. I don’t know if I will ever see what he sees or what my kids see; but I am starting to see things in these selfies that I do like…my curves, my edges and my perfect imperfections.

Self-indulgent.

Of course.

Still it is a very important part of my exercise in self-love.

Self-love is about taking care of yourself inside and out. It’s about reminding yourself that even on your worst hair day with a red zit glowing at  the top of your nose, your heart deserves to smile. A smiling heart and a passionate life will create a beauty within that transcends the standards of most. Only the weak and superficial among us will be unable to see the smile that shines from within because they haven’t earned the privilege to see into our souls.

Added bonus is the kids will have a few pictures of me for my memorial someday.

And if the daily blog ruminations and selfies aren’t enough to cluck one’s tongue over…

It’s my birthday month!

this year’s miles


Bill gifted me with a Fitbit for Christmas which is a good thing because I was wishing for one. Then again, I can be very competitive even with myself so I am obsessed to best my total steps taken each and every day in the first week that I have been wearing that little Fitbit. Best day so far was 15,362 steps because nurses are on their feet A LOT!

I am running again…tentatively…very slow…even slower than my granny pace before I fractured my foot and rocked that boot all over Ocean City, Maryland last summer. It only took more than six months and a lot of whining and pain and perhaps more whining. At least my family might say there was more whining. I don’t know. I wasn’t listening because I was too busy walking with pain and whining about not being able to run. But yes, I am running again and I am pretty happy about it no matter how slow and how not nearly as far as I was running before I fractured my calcaneus.

So to celebrate the start of a new year and the fact that I can run, very slowly, I ran 5 miles and during that run I thought a lot as I do when I run. I thought about the previous year. It wasn’t a bad year just as much as it wasn’t a wonderful year. It was a year where I tried my best to just embrace it. It wasn’t always easy the embracing (see broken foot ramblings above) but I learned to be more accepting of the good and of the bad. I thought about my family and how we are all too quickly changing and growing and getting older because time runs on. I remembered my Aunt Kathy who died very suddenly Christmas Day morning. She really helped to save me from myself and the demons of my childhood; she and her husband and my other aunt and uncle who all invited me to come to California after high school. I thought about the life she lived. The lives she touched. Even the lives she touched that she could never begin to know about because she encouraged me to take another path away from the dysfunctional highway I grew up on. It hasn’t always been an easy path but I am so glad I got off-road making my own way. I don’t think I ever said “thank you” to her…at least I never said “thank you” formally. Still I imagine she knew of my gratitude for her firm but gentle persuasion and guidance. Conversations that we have shared over the years, yes, I imagine that she knew and I hope that even if I wasn’t her child that she was proud perhaps just a little bit.

An hour passed and soaked with sweat, I looked down at the little Fitbit clipped to my running bra I saw the miles I ran and I knew what my one word for 2014 would be.

MILES!

Not necessarily miles I hope to run this year. I will be sure to run and walk lots of miles no doubt. I know for certain I will be logging even more miles heading to dance competitions and auditions in my poor old mom-car this last year that Jodie dances competitively as well as more trips to Madera to see Daniel’s endocrinologist. Who knows how many other adventures there will be but there will be many, many miles that I will be logging one way or another. And then I recall a poem I has to memorize in seventh grade…thank you Mr. Forgey.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

I have no clue as to how many more miles I must go but I do hope that I will savor each and every one of them and the memories made along the way as best that I can because the fact that I can log all of these miles is truly something to be grateful for.

play it again: in a word


Addressing my holiday cards, I found myself searching for a particular address. I knew I had it here somewhere, I mean we exchanged cards last year but it wasn’t in my address book. Then I remembered, we direct messaged each other our addresses so that we could exchange holiday cards. Scrolling through a year’s worth of private conversations on Twitter, I find the address.

Hurray!

I also find a conversation we shared last January 4 when I found myself needing to just unload all my worries and fears…and as always, Kale listened; as Kale always does. You’re a good friend, Kale. I love you! If only you and I were geographically closer. Reading our exchange from that day I can’t help but think that January 4 must have been a pretty intense day.

It was.

Surely I blogged about it because…

I did.

Writing out my thoughts helped. They always do. But talking about what was on my heart, what was really on my heart and knowing that someone was listening was even better…so much needed. I honestly don’t think I could have chosen to “embrace” this year…this year with lots of good, some bad, too many feelings and a whole lot of adventures with laughter, tears, fears, silliness and joy.

Originally published January 4, 2013

Oh 2013, a brand new year!

Welcome!

Four days into it and I am finally considering a reflective post about the start of another new year for me. I have no resolutions. I don’t believe in making them. I’ve said that before here…over the last eight years around this time of year. I don’t. But like so many others, I can’t help but consider this a good time to reflect on what lies ahead. Like my friend Kristen said, they are “days full of wonder without any mistakes in them. Yet.” Others are making plans to run big races or get organized or maybe to break a bad habit or to lose a set number of pounds and those are all good things to work on…for them. As for me, I choose to look ahead.

Okay, fine, there is a little bit of personal navel gazing…but no resolutions.

My hair is now long enough for me to twist it up into a braid…a thick strong braid because my hairs are so dang thick. I like it. I like it a lot because, well, it doesn’t take much to make me happy sometimes. Being able to plait my hair is one of those simple things that puts a smile on my face. So while I took a break from my navel gazing, I regarded this braid of mine. It is pretty cool. It is thick and it is strong.

A braid is indeed a particular type of decorative hairstyle or an embellishment that is created by entwining or twisting round and around three or more strands. This intertwining of the smaller, weaker strands of material or hair creates a bond woven together that is stronger than the singles could ever be alone. In their unyielding embrace they are made substantial and strong.

Yeah, I was looking up the meaning of the word “braid” and as I was I came across these words: embellishment, entwine, intertwine, weave, substantial, strong, unyielding, embrace. And yeah, I was seeking a little inspiration while reflecting on my awesome braid and the start of a brand new year. While I fiddled and twirled my braided hair between my fingers it came to me…

EMBRACE

My one word for 2013.

One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live. One word that you can focus on every day, all year long.

For 2013 I choose to embrace…embrace who or what? That is to be determined each day in this coming year but I will embrace each day and whatever that day presents to me.

My well-being and my happiness is no one person’s obligation but my own so it should be my responsibility to embrace this life I am given, this life I have created, this life that I am responsible for each and every day. My life is full blessed with my talents, abilities, my darling husband, my beautiful children and grandchildren and the people I hold dear and call friends but none are the key to my happiness and well-being. No, not one of these.

I have been working hard lately on me for my own health and well-being, as well as for those around me whom I love and who love me back. In order to be a better me, to the me that I deserve and certainly the me that they deserve I must embrace every day.

EMBRACE is my word for 2013.

Don’t rely on someone else for your happiness and self worth. Only you can be responsible for that. If you can’t love and respect yourself – no one else will be able to make that happen. Accept who you are – completely; the good and the bad – and make changes as YOU see fit – not because you think someone else wants you to be different.

Stacey Charter

 

not okay, never okay


When I was a skinny, knobby knees and elbows, little girl in elementary school, I learned a song in music class that I thought was the best song ever. I think it was called “The Working Song”, actually I can not remember for sure; but I still know the words and the tune:

Zumgali, gali, gali, Zumgali, gali, gali

Zumgali, gali, gali, Zumgali, gali, gali

Zumgali, gali, gali, Zumgali, gali, gali

Zumgali, gali, gali, Zumgali, gali, gali

As we work we sing this song, we sing it all day long

When we reach the end of the day we will laugh and sing and be gay.

Zumgali, gali, gali, Zumgali, gali, gali…

Kind of catchy. Isn’t it?

Kind of annoying.

To an adult, definitely. Especially when some knobby kneed, little girl is loudly singing it over and over again while she is standing on a step stool at a sink full of suds washing dishes.

It was a song about working. Why not sing a happy working song when you are a small child washing the day’s dirty dishes piled into the sink?

But as a grownup now I get that this can get old and annoying very fast. Most adults might yell, “knock it off, Laura.“. Most adults likely would not react by storming into the kitchen and begin to literally beat the shit (and the song) out of a little kid with your open hand, your fists and then your thick, leather belt leaving swelling, bleeding welts on the screaming, crying child now curled up onto the kitchen floor in a protective fetal position.

At least I imagine most would not react that way.

I could tell you more…like the time my brother and I were outside bouncing a tennis ball against the house and from the view inside it seemed that I was the only one bouncing the ball. “Stop throwing that mother-fucking ball or I will beat the living shit out of you!“, he bellowed from the house. Fair enough. I stopped because what little girl wants to get the living shit beat out of her. Right? But my little brother had to throw the ball one more time. Because, little kids sometimes do things like that. And…well, I got beat up pretty bad. Because. Even after my brother tearfully told him that he did it hoping that my step-dad would stop slapping, punching, kicking me it still went on until again I was whimpering curled up into a protective fetal position.

I had handfuls of my hair pulled out. Got punched in the head a few times. There was always that damn belt after the open hand and fists failed to hit their mark I was sometimes naughty, sometimes not. But I was always the victim of someone’s anger, frustration, stress, boredom, fear or their alcohol or drug induced state of mind. I never understood why me, even if I was being naughty. I knew enough to understand that a grown man hitting, slapping, punching, kicking, beating a small child, a preteen and even a teenager was not okay…never okay…not ever.

As a parent I will not stand before you on a soapbox acting like I am perfect in the discipline of my own children. Far from it. Most children who were physically, emotionally and sexually abused, if they become parents, repeat that which they knew, in spite of knowing just how wrong it is. Knowing that truth for a long time I did not want to become a mommy. I was afraid to repeat such a violent cycle. I have spanked a few of my children with my bare hand a few times until that one day when I saw the red, swelling handprint shaped mark I left behind on the bottom of one of my girls.

That was not okay. Not okay at all.

Just as it is not okay, never okay for any grown up to hit any child…ever.

Nothing brings back the ghosts of my childhood back faster than hearing that a child has been harmed this way by a grownup. Nothing stirs up my righteous indignation faster than this. Nothing makes me angrier. Nothing any grownup can say or do will convince me that hitting a small child, a lot smaller than you is okay. It’s not. It’s never okay. Ever.

You should know that.

You should also know that I am a mandated reporter.

NaPhoPoMo day 23