Hardening the Spirit

“It is the season of your spirit hardening, my dear” He said.

A recent conversation with my father regarding life took place yesterday. Not gonna lie, it was a shit day, yesterday. Nothing hurts more than family turmoil and in the end, I turned to the one rock in my life that I knew would give me a better sense of stability, peace, and calm.

My dad. He is a man who is wiser than he lets on. A man who loves with the gentleness of lamb and the fierceness of a lion. He would kill and be killed for his children and grandchildren, gladly laying down his life if it meant keeping his family safe. My dad. My rock. My hero. His words helped me feel better. Quiet and unyielding support is what he gives, words that help, analogies that only make sense to the both of us.

I’m a daddy’s girl through and through.

But this past year…and the one before that…hell, for the past 3 1/2 years, it’s been hard. I did a LOT of growing up in a short amount of time. Growing up that, perhaps, should have taken place long ago, but was delayed for selfish reasons. A lot of tests, a lot of trials by fire, a lot of blindly stumbling my way through the darkness with only a small pinpoint of light to guide me through safely. (I wrote about my guiding light. My husband is a good man.)  But I remain unbroken, not lost, and still breathing and ready to take on whatever else is thrown my way.

“There has to be a reason for this,” I said to him, “I have to be being prepared for something bigger. There has GOT to be a reason for all of this.”

He responded that it’s probably my season of my spirit hardening. I’m experiencing things I was pretty well shielded from as a child. I have him and my mother to thank for that. I try to shield my children from life’s cruelties… but I am afraid they have experienced some of it and for that I am sorry, but I digress.

So this is my season. My season of hardening. My season to mature my spirit and grow in wisdom. At least, that is what my dad says. And hey…he has a few years on me. He must know what he is talking about, right?

Time Marches On

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”
Dr. Seuss

Tomorrow is the last day of school for all three of my kids. When school starts again, I will have two kids in middle school and one in high school. It is really hard to believe that in just 7 short years, my youngest will be graduating high school.

7. Short. Years.

I say short years because as I get older, it seems that time passes more quickly. I used to think that my parents were messing with me about time. They would always warn me to enjoy my childhood, because once you are older, time seems to pass more quickly. I never believed them. I would roll my eyes once their backs were turned and tell myself they had no clue.  As a child, growing up seemed to take forever. My parents had no idea what they were saying… growing up was what life was all about, right?  I was sure, at age 5, that I would never make it to age 10. Once 10 was reached, 13 was the newest goal. And then 16…18…21. But once my children were born, my concept of time changed. It felt as though I would blink and they would have reached a new milestone, a new birthday, a new shoe size. I began to realize the wisdom my parents shared with me was no longer wasted wisdom. I understood.

Growing up was just a small part of my journey in this life. As an adult, though, it is easy to lose perspective on how growing up and time is viewed, depending on age. I find myself saying the same things my parents said to me to my own children…or any young person for that matter…and the look they give me is the same look, I am sure, I gave my parents. I find myself waking up and realizing the year is almost half way over. I am this close to having a 16 year old, my middle child is 6 months away from being 13, my youngest is already being mistaken for a teenager. Time is flying and I didn’t even realize I bought a ticket for this flight but here I am, strapped in and stuck and wondering how I can make it slow down.

I don’t know how to slow down time. I don’t know how to stop children from getting older so I can enjoy them a little longer. I don’t know where the pause button is so I can stop and take a breath. I do know how to hug my kids. I know how to take pictures and videos. I know how to make sure they are loved. I know how to tell them how precious they are to me. And I know how to step back and let them grow and experience and mature. Because that is what my job is now. To help them grow, to learn how to live, to experience life in all its wonder. And to be there for them when life gets hard to hold them, comfort them, and bolster them so they can get up and go back to living, experiencing, growing.

So, here I sit, watching as time marches on.  I wouldn’t miss this experience for anything.

“Sometimes I feel like if you just watch things, just sit still and let the world exist in front of you – sometimes I swear that just for a second time freezes and the world pauses in its tilt. Just for a second. And if you somehow found a way to live in that second, then you would live forever.”
Lauren Oliver, Pandemonium

Dream A Little Dream Of Me

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” ~Victor Hugo

I often find myself humming a song that I have heard in movies mostly. It’s been recorded and re-recorded and re-recorded. It’s a love song, as most songs are, but it’s a sweet song that has notes of whimsical melancholy interspersed throughout and it makes my heart smile every time I hear it.

I hear it when I daydream. I hear it when I am sitting at my desk, humming to myself as I work through the day. I hear it when my love and I aren’t together. Want to know the name of it? Enjoy the music! I hope you enjoyed that  little tidbit. I love to share the music that makes my heart happy. I love it when others share music that makes their hearts happy as well.

I grew up with music. One of my earliest memories was when I was younger is of my father, plying his guitar and telling us stories he made up to go along with the notes he played. He would lull us to sleep with his gentle playing, singing softly to us as we drifted into slumber, dreaming of the places about which he sang.

Music is the language of the soul. It can speak to you in a language that is understood by all. Music can bring tears to your eyes, a smile to your face, peacefulness, excitement, boldness, determination. Music is the universal language that no one can deny understanding. Music evokes feelings long thought dead, reviving them with ease and grace and reminding us of people and places and times gone by. When I dream, melodies long since forgotten replay themselves as a score would play in a movie, narrating my dreams with sound and emotion. Music, simply put, is my happy place.

I grew up with music. I listened to classical symphonies, danced to country and blue grass, jumped around to pop and classic rock, banged my head to heavy metal. I heeded the call of music, picking up the violin and playing all through school. I still play today. I pick up my violin and draw the bow across the strings, watching the dust of rosin puff up in swirls as I create sounds, bringing the notes together into a cohesive group that becomes a song that sings to my heart and my soul and lets my story be told without words.

I will continue to let music be my happy place. I will continue to fill my life, and that of my children, with music. Music is imperative, at least in my mind, to dreaming dreams, living life, and experiencing emotion. Music is good for the soul.

 

“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” ~ Plato

The Polite Assassin

“Terribly sorry. Won’t be but a moment.” I shook my head at my mistake. My hand wasn’t as steady as it should have been when I pulled the trigger. A tiny little tremor was enough to displace the bullet from it’s intended bulls eye, hitting the mark in the shoulder rather than in the head, like I had intended. Too much caffeine today, I suppose.

Cries of pain and angry cursing filled my ears as I advanced towards the mark. He was an older man. Silver hair. Bronzed skin- most likely a boaters tan. Well groomed and even better dressed. Money. My assignment wasn’t simple. Meet this man. Get him alone. Kill him. Take a picture with a throw away cell phone, send it to an anonymous email, and then the money would be in my off shore account. It was getting him alone that proved difficult. He, lets call him Frank…Frank was cagey. A well known player in the local underworld, mob run and deadly dangerous if you crossed him. But Frank also had an eye for a beautiful woman. And in my business, beautiful hit women that are able to remain anonymous are few and far between. So that was my “in”.

I met Frank at a local night club known for mob ties. I’d watched him visit that place for well over a month. I like to take my time with assignments. Measure twice, cut once my dad always said. No room for mistakes that way. I sighed again, recalling that saying as I readjusted the grip on my pistol. I checked the silencer. Made sure my aim was true. Frank stopped moving and went silent, looked at me with surprise, and then started to advance.

“Terribly sorry, Frank. It’s nothing personal. Just business.” I squeezed the trigger gently, twice. A double tap to the head. If anything, I always make sure I am polite when I kill someone. Nothing messy or disrespectful. Not my style, you know. I grew up in the South and us Southern girls are raised on good manners and sweet tea. Not that Frank cared abut my politeness. All night his hands had been all over my body, groping and grabbing, claiming his ownership, if only for the night. I had tolerated his touch if only to get him alone. The club was dark. No one knew me there. The lights were flashing, loud music pulsing, and the crowd was focused on that pulse. They moved as though their heart beat in tandem. As long as I let him keep his hands on me, I could lead him closer to the exit, closer to my goal. If he saw the door and noticed I didn’t move his hand off my ass, he would think of sex and that door would get him closer to it. That desire for sex would lead to us going to his place. And he met all my expectations. So predictable. And now he was dead. I smiled and snapped several photos of him, sent the email, and waited for the return with the transfer confirmation.

Now the messy task of clean up. I looked up the contact, dialed the numbers, and waited.

“Yeah.” A gruff male voice answered.

“Bones. I got an assignment for you.” I gave him the address, wired money to his account, and left.

I pulled off the wig, took my dress off and turned it inside out, reversing the color and changing the pattern completely. Stuffing the wig into my bag, I put on my dress, added gloves to my ensemble and left. No need for me to leave any extra prints. Bones and his guys were always thorough, but I didn’t like to take risks.

The phone buzzed in my hand. I looked and the confirmation of the money transfer blinked onto the screen. A low purr of satisfaction escaped my throat. A nice sum for this man. $500,000. He must have made someone *very* angry. No matter to me. I took the battery out of the phone, threw it away in a public garbage can. I removed the sd card and burned it. Then I smashed the phone and threw it in the river. There would be no trace of that phone ever again.  I made my way to my safe house. Time to hole up again, count my money, and research my next mark. Another mobster, but this time in London. It had been a while since I’d been in London. Maybe this time I could actually go sight seeing.

Being a hit women is a solitary life. But for what I lack in personal relationships, I make up for in the politeness I show everyone I come across. Good manners. I may be there to kill you, but at least I treated you with dignity and showed you courtesy in the end.

It is, of course, the least I can do.

Bricks and Ice Cream

I want to take that brick and smash his face in, Tamsin thought as the neighborhood bully continued to exert his reign of torment on the younger kids. The summer had just begun. Tamsin was a new kid to the neighborhood. She was 15, pretty in an unconventional and exotic sort of way and deadly smart. Her cunning and wit got her into as many scrapes as they got her out of them and now her mind was working in over drive as she watched Kyle-an obnoxious 16 year old wrestler with an ego the size of Russia and a brain that rivaled a goldfish-oversee a game of touch football in the cul de sac where they both lived.

Kyle wasn’t tall, but he wasn’t short, either. He was stocky, solidly built with a thick neck and meaty arms and legs. He wore his signature basketball shorts and muscle tee and basketball sneakers with no socks. He was the captain of the high school JV wrestling team, a football player, and he was a cocky little shit. His voice was deep, loud and commanding, with a touch of cruelty that became more prominent when someone caught his attention and they appeared younger or weaker than him. Tamsin sat back on her porch steps and continued to watch him over the top of her book. How was it he had become so damn mean, she wondered. She shook her head and sighed to herself. Thank goodness she didn’t have younger siblings. They would have to put up with his obnoxious attitude anytime they went outside. That would be miserable.

“Hey!” Kyle’s deep voice was loud again. “Hey…what’s your name again?”

Tamsin looked up from her book. Kyle was standing at the bottom of her driveway facing her. She had only lived next to him and rode to school on the same bus as him and sat in a few of the same classes as him for the past two months. But she was also quiet, so maybe he hadn’t paid much attention to her. She looked at him a little more closely. He looked nervous. Awkward. Something about the way he kept shifting his weight from one foot to another.

“Tamsin.” She called back to him.

“That’s right. I’m Kyle. So…um. Hi.” He started to walk towards her. Tamsin noticed more about him as he walked the length of the driveway. His hair was dark, cropped short and close on the sides and back. He looked almost terrified under that mask of feigned confidence. His eyes were bright blue and shy. He would glance at her then away quickly, always before their eyes met. Tamsin glanced to her left…the brick was still there. If he started acting like an asshole, she would pick it up and drop it on his head, she told herself.

“Hi.” she replied. Kyle had reached the steps by then. She could see his face better now. His cheeks were flushed-from running around outside or from embarrassment, she did not know- and he was smiling wide. He had a nice smile, she decided.

“What are you reading?” Kyle asked her, propping a foot up on the bottom step.

Tamsin blushed slightly. Her book wasn’t what she normally read, but it was different and it was a nice break from all of the classics she normally buried herself in for hours. “It’s some romance smut book I found. I think it’s my mom’s? Anyways, it’s mindless reading. I’ve finished all my other books.”

“A sex book?” Kyle laughed,”My mom reads those, too. I’ve looked at them some.”

They both looked down. The silence was awkward. Tamsin shifted on her step. Kyle took a deep breath, climbed the stairs, and sat down next to her, exhaling forcefully.

“So…” he said. It was obvious he was trying to make small talk. Tamsin closed her book, not even bothering to mark her place. She turned towards him until their knees were almost touching.

“So.” she echoed. He looked up at her and at once their eyes met. Tamsin held her breath. His eyes were beautiful. Long, curly lashes. Bright blue eyes that were deep and sparkling. Okay, Tamsin thought to herself, he’s kind of adorable. Kyle smiled again and she found herself returning the smile easily.

“I was wondering” He began, his voice a little shaky,”if you liked ice cream. I mean…of course you like ice cream. I saw you eat it in the lunch room one time. I mean…I wasn’t watching you I was just…um…I mean…wanna go get some ice cream with me?” The last bit tumbled out of his mouth and he held his breath and looked away.

“Sure.” Tamsin said.”I could go for some ice cream. When?”

Kyle looked back at her, astonished. “Really? I mean…you do?”

“Yeah, it sounds like fun.” Tamsin smiled. “I’m new, ya know. I don’t know where to get ice cream that’s good. When do you wanna go?”

Kyle stood up quickly. “Let me go change. I’ll be out in 20 minutes.” He took off down her steps and to his house next door.

Tamsin watched him run in the house. As soon as the door slammed shut, she bolted into her house. She brushed her dark auburn hair, threw on a pale green sundress, slipped on her sandals, and smoothed on some lip gloss. Her skin was already bronzed from laying in the sun after school and on the weekends so make up wasn’t really necessary. She sprayed her favorite body spray and walked into the mist. The fresh, light scent of jasmine kissed her skin. As she was walking out her front door, she saw Kyle walking over, freshly showered and in a nice polo and cargo shorts.

“You look nice.” He said and offered his arm. Tamsin smiled.

“Thanks” she said, “So do you.” and took his arm. They walked together to the ice cream shop down the road as Tamsin thought to herself, glad I didn’t use that brick.

 

Let’s Play a Game

 

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.” ~ Richard Bach

“Let’s play a game”

Generally in my house, that phrase holds within in a realm of possibilities. With three kids and a husband who all have a slightly vicious competitive streak, playing games can be a fun family past time or a declaration of war.

If I am playing with my husband, it is on the XBox. I will be honest-I suck at video games. I was never a true “gamer” nor did I ever attempt to be, but my husband loves his Call of Duty games and so, I will try to oblige him by playing with him. It usually ends with me almost throwing the controller while yelling “I don’t give a damn. It’s justGAME!!!” while he fusses at me for not trying hard enough. I mean, jeez…I grew up on Nintendo and Atari. All these new fangled buttons on the XBox controller gets me flustered.

With my kids, I play on the Wii. We play MarioKart or bowling and yes, I still suck at these games, too. I will play a few rounds of MarioKart but after that, I am gamed out. My hand eye coordination is just not there. The girls aren’t so interested in playing video games, but if I ask them to play with me, they will. Or if they want to play and ask me to join, I will.

Now, board and card games are a completely different story for me. I will play some board and games and I will kick your booty. At least, I will try my damnedest. Monoploy? I will bankrupt you with hotels. Uno? I will make you lose a turn or draw cards. Checkers? King me! I love the old school games where you have to actually speak with each other to play the game. Pushing a few buttons on a controller is far less satisfying to me than knowing I will collect $2500 from you in rent because you landed on Park Place and I have hotels all over that bitch and that will bankrupt you and I will win. (Maybe that is where they get that competitive streak!)

Participation in their lives is important. Showing my husband that yes, I will at least try to play a game with him tells him I care about what he does. Showing my kids that yes, you can beat me at a game and the world will not end helps them see that playing for fun is acceptable and not everything has to be about who wins. And letting my kids in on the fun that I had growing up playing board and card games is so fulfilling. I feel as though I am teaching them secret skills that their friends might not ever learn given the current youth obsession with everything digital and/or electronic.

Quality time with family is important. Taking time out of your day or week to really spend time with your family is paramount to building and maintaining those strong bonds. A family dinner, followed by a family game. Or movie. Or outing. But doing things together…THAT is what is important. THAT is what my kids will remember.

“Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” ~Michael J. Fox

Respite

In the vastness of this land

I walked alone

Broken

Battered

Bruised

Stumbling over obstacles as I searched for meaning in the dust

Your heart’s fire was a beacon

Your soul’s light was a signal

Calling to my starving spirit

Beckoning me home

Your warmth a comfort

Your touch nourishment

Your words the water to satisfy my thirst

I found what I was searching for in the dry, unforgiving dust

With you, I am alive

With you, I flourish

 

Summer

Sweet scents tickle the nose

tempting young souls to pick their source

Warm, soft air swirls

freshly cut grass

salty spray and sand

earthy dirt clinging to shirts, shoes, and little hands

Splashing and squeals from turquoise pools

Breezes carry laughter and music to neighboring homes

night time gatherings around the bonfire

lightening bugs in a jar

star gazing in a field

sparkling celebrations

Summer is here

 

Life Gets In The Way of Good Intentions

“Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination: never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield

Yesterday was a complete cluster-fuck. I had zero time to carve out for blogging, my daughter had her end of the year chorus concert, work was I N S A N E…I am still exhausted. BUT, Everything I needed to complete for work was done. I met my deadlines.

I had every intention of hammering out a blog for my post a day challenge. I had every intention of writing some well thought out, meaningful, insightful piece and I just couldn’t. I didn’t have the time. I didn’t have the energy. I didn’t have the words to properly convey everything I wanted to, despite having this window open and staring at me during my teeny tiny moments of freedom I did manage to sneak.

An empty page. A frazzled brain. That is all I accomplished with my blog yesterday. I am okay with that, though. I’m a mom. An office manager. A wife. An assistant, a shipping coordinator, and event planner and so many other things. And yesterday, I did all of those things. At once. My busy life got in the way of my good intentions. Even after my day was almost complete, I still had to let personal things slide because the day was just too short to try and accomplish anything else. I fell into bed, wiped out, put on something soothing to listen to  so I could sleep while my husband watched Mountain Men and drifted off into his own needed rest. It was just one of those days.

Yesterday I did manage to reconnect with a friend I haven’t spoken to in a while. We made plans to try and get together for lunch at some point. She had reached out through Facebook, stating she had been a bad friend because of her absence in my life. I told her life gets in the way. And from there we made plans. But it is true. Life gets in the way. We get so caught up in our own shit, so consumed by it that we walk around, missing out on the people and the crazy, chaotic, wonderful things that surround us. We lose ourselves in the mire of everyday normality, forgetting that variety and experiences are the spice of life and in order to do that, we have to actually LIVE. We have to stop the zombie-esque shuffle from one task to the next and actually get out of our comfort zone and experience new things, meet new people, feel new emotions. We have to start living intentionally and making the most of what we have.

So, step by step, I am going to start to try living intentionally. This is not a “Resolution”, but merely an attempt at being more present in my own life. This will lead to me being more present in others lives, ie kids, husband, friends.

Life goals.

The struggle is real.

“Intentional living is the art of making our own choices before others’ choices make us.”
Richie Norton

 

Baby Steps

“No, this is not the beginning of a new chapter in my life; this is the beginning of a new book! That first book is already closed, ended, and tossed into the seas; this new book is newly opened, has just begun! Look, it is the first page! And it is a beautiful one!”
C. JoyBell C.

I will try to start and end these posts with a quote. But no promises.

It’s Monday and I am frantically pounding out these words as I struggle to make all the jumbled mess of half thought through ideas form and congeal to make some sort of sense. I have started and stopped a half dozen different blogs. Each one trying to be something I thought the reader would want rather than what I really want to write. And each time, I stopped writing. Not because I wasn’t interested in what I was writing…strike that. It was because I was too interested in being the kind of writer I thought people wanted. Brilliant, witty, firmly planted in the soil of my convictions, hoping to grow a readership writing about shit I had no business writing about because the experience needed to actually write well about those topics was barely there and not seriously taken.

“Write about what you know” is a phrase I have heard and read so often I am beginning to associate it with the “P” word that I hated so much growing up-“Potential”.  “You have so much POTENTIAL” they would tell me, frowning as they looked at my grades, wondering where my head was. I was an A B C student. I liked A’s…but they were never as important to me as they were to my parents. But that word, potential, was shoved down my throat for my entire school career…potential to get scholarships, potential to letter, potential to be something great…wait…why am I not already “great”? I wasn’t a bad kid. I participated in normal crazy teen aged antics, but I never got myself in so much trouble like some kids I knew. My brother was a track and cross country star and apple of my mothers eye. My sister was a straight A student who could do no wrong. I was the one who didn’t seem to fit anywhere…but I had “potential”.

Today I find myself uttering those same words to my children and I understand a parents frustration, MY parent’s frustration, in knowing how much your child can accomplish only to watch them seemingly waste it on frivolous things. But…I haven’t been a child in almost 20 years so perspectives have changed. But sitting here, I realize something that I never realized before. My fear of not meeting their expectations, my fear of their belief in my “potential” strangled me in a way that only hurt me. And I still do things like this today.

My point is all of this is that I will no longer write so that I might please a set group of readers who have beliefs or expectations about my potential as a writer. I know I am a good writer. Now, I need to do what I love best and actually write.

“There are as many worlds as there are kinds of days, and as an opal changes its colors and its fire to match the nature of a day, so do I.”
John Steinbeck