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“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”  Robert Frost

Choices…Did you ever stop to think how one choice can change your whole life?  Sometimes it’s who you marry…or who you don’t.  Sometimes it’s a choice of career, or where you choose to live at any given time of your life.  All the dots are waiting to be connected, but a single choice makes a decidedly different picture.

Perhaps there truly are no coincidences in life, only choices.  And a thousand solitary choices make the whole of life. And not necessarily the apparent “big” choices.  Sometimes a small choice can make a huge difference. Like who you sit by on a bus, or what car you choose to get into.

To some degree, for those of us who believe in God, we have hoped deep in our hearts, that if we are straying too far from the path, God (in his mercy) would gently lead us back, until the original road resumed. I pray that is true.

But I believe that there are roads to be chosen, that will only lead us farther and farther away from our destiny. However, we are free to choose.  How many lives have been derailed by such a choice?  How many books are not written because of that, and how many songs unsung?  How many children are never born, and how many dreams are never realized?

A lot hinges on our choices then, doesn’t it?  Best that we should pray that the Holy Spirit would lead and guide us, and not ourselves. For we do not always choose the right path, left to our own desires. Our choices are clouded by longing, ego, selfishness, and immaturity (no matter our age.) And sometimes we don’t even realize the seriousness of our choices, for they may mean sorrow or joy, success or failure, or even life and death.

The less traveled path was clearly the best choice for Frost. He said that it had made all the difference.

In order to fulfill our dreams, we may have to let go of the predictable–the well-worn paths that are so familiar to us. The unknown often brings fear, simply because it is so uncharted and mysterious. (Sometimes we fool  ourselves into thinking that the demons we already know are safer. But such is not always the case.)

A quote that I read lately seemed to fit my present situation in life. It said: “We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Joseph Campbell

And I clearly remember that John Lennon wrote: “Life is what happens while we are making plans.”

At times, the choice is to choose to give up our “plans.” Sometimes we pull so hard on the rope, that fate lets go of its end. We’re left with what we think we want, but not what was meant to be. Are we willing to let go of our predictable life, just on the chance that there might be something more awaiting us?

Many times we choose the safe, secure path, but perhaps my most favorite quote says: “A sailboat in harbor is safe, but that’s not what sailboats are for.” Sailboats gotta sail. Fish gotta swim. And each of us has a destiny, if we’ll just get out of the way. Stop holding on too tightly to what feels safe and secure, and venture out into the open sea.

I am crazy enough to believe that an exciting life awaits me, if I will stop being fearful. The older I get, the less I have to lose, and that alone will make me more adventurous and more of a risk taker. Isn’t life and love all about risk anyway? There are certainly no guarantees, except that you can lead a sheltered, wrapped in a knit shawl existence, and die without a moment of excitement, though completely safe and secure.

Getting older has its virtues. It makes you more aware of time, and of all the things you’ve not yet done. That may be the secret to youth, if we’ll just hold onto it–to live every moment, and to become more daring with each passing year. To constantly try something new and adventuresome, without calculating every reason why we shouldn’t.

But seek above all, to be led by the Spirit. God is always speaking to us, but we are not always listening, or we may not recognize His voice. We can only know His voice, by knowing Him. He will show us the way, if our hearts are just open to His leading, for it is He who has planned our destiny.

He will lead us to the road less traveled that will make all the difference.  But in the end, the choice is ours…

My mother’s shadow still looms large in my life, even now. The pain in my heart from all that has transpired never leaves. And still I love her, as I always have. When I feel too sad, I remind myself of the things she said, and how she made me feel.

I love her, and I miss her, but I know that this cannot be fixed. I can never go back to that situation, but the ache in my heart never leaves.  I cared for her, as if she were my child the past 3 1/2 years, and it is impossible not to feel the loss of our togetherness. It’s almost like I lost a limb, and daily feel the phantom pain, of a part that is no longer with me. But I could no longer survive the heartache, pressure, or pain that came with loving her. And now, I grieve her absence like a death.

I wonder if my life would have been vastly different, if I had moved away from her many years ago, so that she could not influence my life in the ways that she  has. She moved away from me once, but not all that far. She and my step-dad journeyed to a small seaside town (where we still live), to try their hand at deep sea fishing, after a lifetime of  hard work  for both of them. They were not successful, because the fishermen were a tight knit group, and they greatly resented anyone honing in on their territory.  And it was much harder work than they had imagined. (But much like our venture with the Christian coffeehouse, it was something they wanted to do, and never regretted trying.)

I was married to Gary then, (my first husband), and times were rough for us. We were attempting to make a living at singing (our dream) but it was very difficult, and finances and jobs were tight. I had talked my husband into trying it, because he would come home every day from the gypsum factory, where he worked, covered in a white powdery substance, that couldn’t be good for his lungs. He was a fairly good guitar player, and loved to sing. I did also.  So we decided to give it a try. We were young, and anything was possible then.

Eventually, we made our way to my parents’ home, and for a very short while, lived with them, until we could afford a small, very “bare bones” apartment. We were not that difficult to please, and could make a home most anywhere. We were of the generation where material things were not the highest goal, and we were more of a mind to pursue our dreams.

But that is not my story tonight. I am just wondering what my life might have been like, had I not followed my mom here. But I think that it wouldn’t have made much difference, because Atlanta is not far away enough, to change the dynamics between us. And besides, if I had not moved here, I would never have met Rob, or married him.

 I became my mother’s shadow. For the longest time, I embraced her very thoughts. She did not look favorably on disagreeing with her opinions. They were not just her opinions–they were the right ones. I absorbed her take on things (like a sponge) for many years.

But as I grew older, I realized that I did not at all think  like she did. I was a very different person. I was much more conservative (eventually). (I think one has to mature into conservatisim.) I was much less confident, less rebellious, more sensitive, and much less daring.

As an adult, I can still remember being very concerned about what my mother would think about things. This influenced the way I would dress when I was around her, the way I wore my hair, and sometimes the things I did. (Not always.)

I think what I disliked the most, was her criticism. She was (and is) very vocal if she doesn’t like something, and she doesn’t seem to care if it’s none of her business, or if her comments will hurt. I therefore, seemed to always be trying to avoid her displeasure. I would always try to keep the peace. If she was mad about something, then I was too. I tried to come to her defense,  or to support her in her rage, but often I couldn’t understand why she would get so upset and hyper about some things.  She would often hold a grudge. I thought she was being childish, but I never said so. (As long as her disapproval was not directed at me, I was thankful.)

But I could never expect any such support from her. She could never seem to see my side of most any situation. I longed for her encouragement about some very troubling things that I was going through, but I never received it.  She was incapable of that kind of empathy.  So I felt very alone.  Always the encourager, but never encouraged.

Emotional abuse is a somewhat insidious thing. Sometimes it can be very blatant, but other times it is subtle and understated. Sometimes it was what I wasn’t getting from her that hurt the most. I don’t remember ever falling into her arms for comfort, or receiving understanding or compassion. Yet those were the things that I offered her continually.

So here I am, still in her shadow, but slowly making my own. It hurts to realize all that was missing, and wonder why it wasn’t there.  For so long, I thought it was some deficit in me, some unworthiness on my part,  but now I understand that  it was a deficit in her capacity to love me  like a mother should.

In these later, recent years, I would hold my true feelings in, until I thought I would burst. And then I would often go home in a horrible mood from being around her. (Rob noticed this often. I was either very angry or very depressed.) I had tried to be a “good girl” all my life, but her insensitivity to my feelings as an adult, drove me to the brink. If it was bad when I was younger, it was a thousand times worse when I was older. It was always about her, and only her.

Rarely would she ever seem to acknowledge the effect that she had on me, though I think she definitely knew, and sometimes enjoyed it. As an afterthought, she would sometimes thank me for things that I had done for her, and I would hang onto those words for days. I was so hungry for any sign of her appreciation or approval. She, on the other hand, worried constantly about my brother, and never wanted to inconvenience him (or my husband) with any of her errands or chores. But sometimes I could not physically endure all that there was to do, and would have to let my husband  (or one of his secretaries) run an errand now and then, but greatly fearing her disapproval.

Sometimes I would say to my husband, “She won’t like this.” (As if the world would crumble if everything didn’t just suit her.) But my world often would. She rarely (almost never) had any grace toward me, or seemed to care how tired or sick  I was, or that I wanted to be with my husband.

What is it about getting old that makes a person think one child can do everything? I was trying desperately to live two lives, and not doing a very good job of it. I was doing everything that needed to be done for her, but my life and health was falling apart. My house was disintegrating, I was becoming wildly disorganized (something I’m generally not) and I felt like I was going to have a mental and physical breakdown. But I could not stop. There was no one to do the things that I was doing. I was in this thing alone. I cried out to my cousin (who was like a brother to me) and to my uncle. They are really the only family we have left, for the most part. I didn’t feel like I could reach out to my brother (for more help than the groceries, or having lunch with my mom-his almost total contribution.) I felt overwhelmed every day of my life, since my dad died. What was I supposed to do? Keep on until I fell dead?  I could not continue on, and I knew it. But coupled with her mistreatment of me, it was beyond impossible. I not only desperately needed help, I needed a long break. And then one day the bow broke, and the cradle fell–Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall, and the Dish ran away with the Spoon. I could not take it another day. She said things that hurt me deeply–called me names after all I had done for her. It was the end, and not a very pretty one.
 
Still her shadow lingers, and I cannot stop caring about her. I wonder if she ever thinks of me, with anything but anger?  Does she remember how much I loved her, how kindly I treated her, the times we laughed together, and how much I tried to please her?

I’ve been missing for awhile now, because Chelsea has come home from England, and I wanted to spend some time with her. She crashed at our house for about 3 days, and got some much needed rest. Jet lag was really getting her down, not to mention that I don’t think she went to bed before the early morning hours, the entire time she was gone.

When she got off the plane, she stepped into an “uncivil” war between her birth mom and grandmother. The grandmother (hereafter called Nana) even refused to spend Christmas with her daughter (Chelsea’s birth mom.) Their feud has been going on for years, and the grandmother was exhausted from all of M’s scenes and actions. (But Chelsea hated that she was in the middle of this–with each one talking badly about the other.)

Her trip was nice, but the relationships were rugged, and often disappointing. She stayed with her grandmother first, who was very generous financially, but who smoked like a chimney, and never stopped talking.  At that point, early in the trip, she desperately wanted to come home. Fearing she could not survive much more, she went to the house where her birth mother was staying (rent free) with an old man, who was a friend of Nana’s. (I know, this gets complicated.)

But her birth mom turned out to be a drug addict (mostly prescription drugs, for a disease that Chelsea’s grandmother swears she does not have.) Nana says that she was there, when the doctor anounced that M did not have MS, and that M actually seemed disappointed. Apparently, she has convinced some doctor that she needs the drugs, so she has them supplied (also free) by the government medical program. Chelsea reports that her birth mom likes to drink and flirt with men. And she does this on a daily basis.

For Chelsea’s 20th birthday, she took her to a transvestite bar. (No, you can’t make this stuff up.) Chelsea called me in the early morning hours (their time) to share her birthday adventures. What kind of mother takes her daughter (who she hasn’t seen since age 3) to a transvestite bar? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

As the days wore on, the relationship between Chelsea and her birth mom soured daily. She made several calls to us, sounding very distressed and hyper, and said that her birth mom had commented, “It’s just like looking at myself at your age. Your parents think you’re great…but you’re not.” Etc. Etc. Etc. This surprised me, as we were very honest with her  (in a phone call before Chelsea went to London) about the problems that we have had with Chelsea, and told her that she was a difficult child to raise, but that she had lots of good qualities, and many talents. So we didn’t at all make it seem like we thought she could do no wrong. We certainly knew better than that.

I never could quite get the chronological order from Chelsea, of how it all went wrong, but before the trip was over, she was so angry at her birth mom, that they were barely speaking.

Chelsea said that she seemed to be competing with her, when they were in the pubs, and that her birth mom would indiscriminately give out her phone number to strangers. She seemed very angry that her mom didn’t have a steady job, and that she used drugs that she didn’t need. She said that her mom just wanted to talk about herself, and she also talked incessantly.  (She is a diagnosed narcissist, according to Chelsea’s stepdad, who has long since left her. Chelsea says that she has been married 4 times.)

Before the month long trip was over, Chelsea returned to her grandmother’s house, and was angry that her birth mom “bailed” on her for New Years Eve. They had plans to go to Trafalgar Square, but her birth mother texted her that she didn’t want to go, and later used the excuse that Chelsea wouldn’t want to be with her “mom” on New Year’s Eve. This really made Chelsea mad, and she told her not to pull that, because they had made plans, and her birth mom didn’t show. (Chelsea went out with her newly acquired friends.)  So it seemed to be one let down after another.  At one point Cheslea apparently told her that she clearly wasn’t “mother material.”

She did stay with her aunt in Bath, (her birth mom’s sister) who had a five year old son. She is much more stable.

Chelsea says that everyone in London walks, or takes the tube. Well, not everyone–some have cars, but she walked a great deal, as do many there, apparently. I feel that she was not supervised properly, because she recounted often walking after getting off the tube, through a very dangerous area to get home. Chelsea is not all that street-wise, after growing up in a small seaside town.  Of course, she is of legal age, but still very immature in so many ways. You know how it is when you are young–you think you’re invincible, and going out takes precedence over all the dangers of finding your way home. And so it was…

She did get to see many historic places, and she made friends of her own, which I knew she would, in a very short time. She is a survivor, and this was a LOT to survive.

What was the effect of all this? Chelsea got some of the answers that she needed, and her love for us grew. She told me after she got home, that she loved me, not only for adopting her, but for who I was. She said that I had always been consistent, and I could see that the instability of her birth mom had her feeling very insecure. I got a text message yesterday that she described as a “love letter” just for me. She said that she loved me more than my best home cooking, and her tatoo. Then she added, “And that’s a lot of love.” What more could any mom desire? LOL!  Truthfully, it made my day!

In the long run, this has turned out to be a very positive thing for our relationship. She seems to be truly grateful for the life she had with us. She appears to have a greater appreciation for the way she was brought up, and she genuinely seems to be thankful for the life she leads now.

(There are no fantasies anymore–just the cold, hard facts that are very hurtful.)

At one point, after Chelsea got home, she said she didn’t want to see her  birth mother again, but later changed that to say that she would see if there were any changes, but she doubted that she would ever change. This was very sad to me, as I could see that Chelsea had been hurt by her mother a great deal. (There are times when you love someone very much, that you take no pleasure in being right about a situation. I had hoped for the best for Chelsea’s sake.)

Her grandmother was very happy to see her though, and she had saved her christening dress, and some of her baby clothes, all these years, and sent them home with Chelsea.  I thought this was very special. Chelsea wanted me to have them for now, and display them in her room. Her grandmother spent a lot of money on her, and even provided the money for her airplane fare, souveniers, and one month’s rent (for the time she was out of work.) Chelsea lives and works about 45 minutes from us, in a nearby town.  Her grandmother is a retired barrister, but is by no means well to do. She lives in a small flat, in a not so great part of town, so her generosity meant that much more. I know she truly loves Chelsea. She’s a character though, and before Chelsea left, Nana purchased a motor scooter!

So that is Chelsea’s journey, and we have come full circle. Well, not completely full circle, because now she wants to find her birth dad….

Please see other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

Never have I been so glad to see an old year end, and a new one begin. Never have I felt such sadness over the past, and such joy over the future. Never have I been so hurt, or felt so happy.

Is it possible for all these feelings to coexist? Certainly.

How wonderful that we can start fresh every year, and that hope springs eternal.  For if it did not, what would be the point of going on? Hope is what propels us into the future, leaving the past behind as an ever fading memory. (Sometimes it doesn’t fade fast enough, does it?) Other times, it flys like a shooting star, when we would wish to linger.

Hope is an anchor and the foundation of faith. Faith believes that something good will happen, that somehow things will be better, and that we will understand the things that have eluded us thus far.

With every year, no matter how painful or joyful, we are different. We are changed by our experiences. Perhaps at times we wish for our youth once again, but given the chance, most of us would not really want to go back. For we have the rich experiences of our life, that have made us who we are. And good or bad, they have brought us to this time and place.

And as yesterday’s song said, “The river’s gonna keep on rollin’ on.” And we’re gonna keep on rollin’ with it, for the alternative is to die, or to become stagnant, like a river with no outlet.

Regardless of our sorrow, life is rich–full of revelations, insight, and lessons. Some of those lessons we would not have chosen to learn, but even those have increased our understanding, and hopefully our compassion for others.  The more we endure, the more we know that there are not always black and white answers to every problem, or solutions to every puzzle. Sometimes the pieces just don’t fit, no matter how we try to arrange them. Sometimes life comes out gray, as the light and darkness merge.

But sometimes it is a kaleidoscope of rainbow colors, and for a moment we smile through the tears, and laugh through the pain. And then life is very good.

But even when it is not always good, life is always precious. Every day that we breathe is a chance to learn something new, to love someone more, and to know God more intimately. For by partaking in His sufferings, we grow closer to Him, and we understand a little more.

Even though at times we would like to run away and hide, no man is an island, and we need each other to find our way. Sometimes we just need someone to listen, and how much more wonderful if they can say, “I understand.”  We long to be understood.  Deep calls unto deep.

The older I get, the more I cherish each individual day, for truly we are promised no more than that. We have this moment, and it is to be cherished. It’s not about tomorrow, or yesterday–it’s about now.  No more saving things for a rainy day–material things should be used and enjoyed now. No more waiting to let someone know how much I love them. It’s important to tell them now, for I may never get another chance. No more grieving as one who has no hope, but grieving as one who knows tomorrow will be brighter, though today may be sorrowful.

I want to see the sun rise,  and I want to see it set.  I want to look at the stars and the moon, and the night sky in all its vastness. I want to feel the wind, the rain, and the warmth of the sun. I want to breathe deeper, laugh louder, cry harder, pray longer. I want to live more than I have ever wanted to live before.

It is not too late for me, and it is not too late for you. We are not here to just exist–we are hear to live life in its fullness. With God’s help and direction, we can find happiness, and more than that– joy, which remains when happiness seems transient. Joy abides deep within. The life force is strong. Can you feel it?  No matter how you have suffered, tomorow is a new day. You will always have a second chance, as long as the sun comes up, and you do not give up.

I wish I could impart my faith to you, and my hope of what each new day can bring. For just as surely as there will be sorrows beyond what we have ever known, there will also be joy beyond our understanding. Life awaits us, and there is much to learn, to experience, and to ponder.

I wish for you a “new” New Year, full of expectation and wonder. Most of all, I hope you grow, and your understanding is increased, and that some of your questions are answered. But may many be left unanswered, so that you will forever be moving in the direction of Truth.

May you feel the presence of God as never before, and may you be thankful for each moment…

It’s strange-our last night at the ocean, I got the only negative comment that I’ve received (on my blog) since I shared my hurtful journey with my mom and brother. For just a moment it stung…but then, I could tell that I was much stronger, because I knew in my heart, that I was at peace with my decision. (And also at peace with God.) I have no regrets, and I know (beyond a shadow of a doubt) that I was going to die, if I kept on as I was.

Isn’t it interesting that so many times in our lives, others try and tell us how to live? But they are not here, dealing with the things we’ve dealt with. They have no idea what life is like for us. And yet they think they have all the answers. I am learning that people like that are poisonous. They have no compassion, no ability to empathize.

Isn’t it amazing the power that words have? And the people who use them as weapons, like to pierce you with their daggers. And yet, as my husband says-they are just words. But that is not to say that they do not hurt. They certainly do. And hateful people are well aware of what they are doing. How very empty and angry their lives must be. They are the tragic ones.

Now that I am home, I am determined to stay at peace. Even though I am back to my full time career (it seems) of packing and unpacking things. Moving in and out of our coffeehouse, moving my daughter out of her room, moving my mother in and out of assisted living, and constantly packing and unpacking for various other reasons. (A couple of years ago our house flooded in a construction accident, and we still haven’t fully recovered from that.)  There is so much work needed on our home. Right now the decks are torn down, but not replaced. (Please…don’t anyone walk out a glass sliding door, from the top floor. It might be your last hurrah! LOL!)

For now, I’m unpacking… Laughing about the sand that is still in my shoes, from walking on the beach… Finding a pretty container for the shells that we collected…Trying to find a place for all the things that are in the suitcases and boxes in my living room…Delighted to be back in my own bed.

I am going to start a scrapbook of my life from this moment on, because I believe that the best is yet to be. I will capture some of the moments-not necessarily in photographs, but in cut-outs, menus, and memories. I truly feel like my life has just begun-(in the sense of true happiness and the freedom to be me.)

The writer of the hateful message was wrong.  I am not a victim-I am a victor.  It is not wrong to grieve your past, and to feel the pain of hurtful words and actions. It is not wrong to mourn what never was, and never will be.  It is a way to understand and to heal.  It is a process, and it has to be dealt with, or it will forever haunt me. I write about it as part of my healing. And make no mistake, I am grieving. But I am also looking forward (with anticipation) to life, love, and joy. There will be many moments no doubt, when I will glance in the rearview mirror, but I will not stay there.  I will move on, with faith and hope in my heart.  And I will become the person God meant me to be, and even because of my sorrow, I will be a more compassionate  and loving person.

That peace dwells within me. The peace that only God can give. As the song says, “The world didn’t give it, and the world can’t take it away.”

Yes, people will always have their opinions-their cruel words, their lack of compassion and understanding. But that will never shake the peace that comes from within. I am becoming my own person. I am learning to trust the peace that I have found with God–“your God” as this person kept calling Him, so I know that she, sadly, does not know His wonderful love and mercy.  Yes, He is my God and my Beloved.  I trust His voice, and His peace.

    I Like this quote I dislike this quoteTo be at one with God is to be at peace … peace is to be found only within, and unless one finds it there, he will never find it at all. Peace lies not in the external world. It lies within one’s own soul.

 Ralph Waldo Trine

There is no greater gift than to have peace within…To be able to say (no matter what the circumstance), “It is well with my soul…”

Never have I been on vacation anywhere that was as relaxing as this trip.  (And never have I needed to relax as much as now.)

Some of my favorite memories of this time away are:

The sound of the surf through the open back door 

The beautiful ocean view, just yards from our beach house

Walking on the beach

Sitting on the back deck, feeling the sea-breeze and the gentle December afternoon sun

Decorating a small tree in traditional colors of red and green

Reading every night in a big overstuffed chair

Burning scented candles every evening

Simple, quick delicious meals that always tasted great

Snuggling warmly under the covers, on cold nights

Kissing to “Blue Christmas”

Listening to Anne Murray’s wonderful Christmas CD while we opened our presents

Playing “Christmas In Dixie”  by Alabama at midnight on Chritmas Eve (while in my husband’s arms)

Eating at Lambert’s (Home of The Throwed Rolls) (Yes, they actually throw the rolls to you.)

Eating Christmas Dinner in the Marriott Ballroom, and drinking egg nog

Riding the tram to the restaurant

Seeing a horse drawn sleigh with red velvet seats and a coachman with a top hat

Hearing the bells on the sleigh, and the clip clop of the horse’s feet

Riding around the beautiful little town of Fairhope

Shopping at Olde Time Pottery and Tuesday Morning

The sound of the ocean as I fell asleep every night

It was the most lovely Christmas I’ve ever had, and I could feel the stress of the previous days just melt away, day by day. It’s the only Christmas in a long time, that I haven’t been sick from exhaustion, from preparing for our family Christmas party-cooking, cleaning, shopping, wrapping presents, etc.

This is the way Christmas should be. A time to love, to reflect, to relax, to appreciate God’s goodness, and to remember the true meaning of the season. (It’s been a special time of healing for me.) We may do this every year.

Did I say how happy I’ve been? LOL! Now if I can just take this feeling home with me, and never let it go…

Tonight we went to a place called “Lamberts-Home of The Throwed Rolls.” Yes, you heard me right. They say “throwed rolls” instead of “thrown rolls.” Imagine my surprise when we were seated, and a young man two rows over from me threw a roll at me!  Wouldn’t you know it? It landed right between my legs! (Thank goodness I was wearing slacks.) The next roll he threw hit me in the chest. (Great aim, huh?) Anyway, they throw the rolls with gloved hands. But some of them land on the floor.

After you order off the menu, they come to your table with great big pans of what they call “pass arounds”. These are items like fried okra, home fried potatoes, and field peas. By the time you’ve eaten all this, you wish you hadn’t ordered off the menu!  My husband said it was the only place that he’s ever been where he couldn’t eat all the food. There was just too much! And it was good!!!!

Meanwhile, rolls are flying all over the place, but I noticed that most of the guys were throwing them underhanded, close to the tables they were serving. My waiter (or pitcher) threw me overhanded fastballs, from across the room LOL! And they were hot rolls when they landed! (Don’t know how they keep them so hot!) Anyway, what a wild place!

(It was quite a different experience, and one I am not likely to forget anytime soon.)

Then I shopped a little at Old Time Pottery, while my husband got us some groceries to take back to the beach house. It was so much fun to check out, and then go put my feet up at a snack area, and drink a coke and relax (while the rest of the world was going crazy.) Never have I had such a peaceful Christmas. We will be staying cozy for the next couple of days, except for Christmas dinner out.

I had some unexpected freelance assignments that came in just before Christmas, and I’ve been working on them for 2 days. I couldn’t turn them down, because they were the first offers that I’ve received from this company.  But at any rate, they’re finished now, and I plan to rest and sit in my cozy chair for the next 4 days. We will be returning home on Sunday, so we still have quite a bit of time. Tomorrow we’ll take a walk on the beach. (We are right on the ocean, and the view is out of this world.) It was very cold the past few days, so it has really felt like Christmas.

I feel so very blessed to be able to do this, and we may make it a tradition. It’s time for us to make new Christmas memories. I hope wherever you are tonight, that you will focus on happy memories of Christmas past, and look with expectation toward a bright future. Every day is a miracle, and you never know what’s just around the corner. God is faithful, and you are always on His mind. Merry Christmas Everyone! Sparkle

When you live in NW Florida, chances are you won’t have a white Christmas. But there is something white that we are famous for. (Our beautiful white sand beaches.) I am about 2 1/2 hours away from home at Gulf Shores–a gorgeous community where my husband brought me for Christmas. We are on the ocean, and when I look out the window and down the coast, it looks just like snow. (Bet you couldn’t tell the difference if I sent you a picture.)

The weather is cold, and I’m glad. I like it cold for Christmas. I decorated our tree tonight, and also had fun making some Christmas gift bags to go under our tree. Lots of sparkle…(well, of course.)

Today we stayed in, and had a breakfast for supper, and then played Christmas carols while I decorated the tree. This is going to be my favorite Christmas ever. For once, I didn’t have to host the family Christmas get-together, clean house, cook, wrap presents and shop endlessly, etc. I only had my husband to buy for this year, since I am estranged from my family. Chelsea is in England, visiting her birth mom.  So at our house no one is “home for Christmas.” LOL! Seriously, this is the most peaceful Christmas that I have ever had, and we may go away every year. We lit candles tonight, while I decorated. One of my favorites is Yankee Candle’s Mistletoe. It actually smells more like a Christmas tree than a Christmas tree! But I believe they retired it last year, so I probably will only find it on Ebay in years to come. I also had a terrific cinnamon candle, and a peppermint one. All the fragrances of Christmas filled our lovely beach house.

It is so nice to slow down. Since my dad died 3 1/2 years ago, and I became the primary caregiver for my mom, I have been on the go every minute. I never slowed down, or seemed to have a moment to call my own. I was on edge every minute, wondering when the next crisis call would come (and believe me, there have been many.) My nervous system was whacked. I knew that I was going to have to slow down, or die. I am very serious about that. My physical health was going downhill, as well as my mental health. I was trying too hard to please. Now, I am on the road to recovery, and I want to take better care of myself. I want to do some things that bring me  joy and happiness, and I want to spend some time with my husband. We both are worn out, stressed out, and just plain tired. But this is the beginning of real change in our lives, I pray. 

I am healing little by little from the hurt that my family has caused, and I know that in time I will be healed, and in a much better place in my life. I am learning to let go of the things that I can’t change, and to surround myself with people who will encourage me and build me up, instead of tearing me down.

I need to spend time alone, and time with God as well. I just need to slow down, and as they say “smell the roses.”

This has been the roughest time in my life–taking the very best care that I could of my mother, and then realizing that she is never going to approve of me or ever love me unconditionally. I finally had enough, and I only wish that I had seen the truth sooner. But I am sure that the timing was for a reason, and I will never regret taking care of her, and loving her to the best of my ability. But I can’t do anymore, and she and my brother have shown me the darkness that is in their souls, and I have had more than enough of it.

So here’s to the light, and all things joyful, peaceful, and lovely. Here’s to a beautiful holiday, and a truly “new” New Year. And yes, here’s to a “White Christmas…”

Writing to a friend tonight, about the grief that he is experiencing over the recent loss of his loving mother, I pondered the experience of grief, and what it means. This is what I wrote:

“Grief is both universal and solitary. No one has the exact same loss, or the exact same way of dealing with grief, and yet there are parts that can be shared and understood.

When you are grieving, every emotion is normal and understandable. Perhaps it is the closest feeling to insanity there is. (And complicated by a sometimes too calm demeanor in public.)

But it is true…until you have been there, don’t try to tell me you understand, because there is no real understanding, apart from losing one that you love so dearly, or even one who was an important part of your life. There is no finality like the finality of death, and there is no solution to it–no fixing it. It is done, and until we meet in heaven, there is no bandage for the hole in our heart, and the ache in our soul. (Only the hope of being reunited.)

But when there are others who know…who have experienced that pain…there is a fellowship of understanding, that becomes a bond. Hearts ache in familiar ways, and tears fall from unbearable sorrow. And there is the aloneness that only the bereaved can grasp. The feeling that the world is not the same, and will never be again.

There is no way to ever prepare for it, because even when we have done our best, we cannot comprehend the loudness of their absence. It is there at the table, and there in the chair, and on their side of the bed. It is everywhere, and in the most unexpected places as well.

(An envelope with their name on it, a Christmas decoration that was their favorite, a pair of shoes hidden under the bed, a medicine bottle,  a robe left hanging on the door,  a pair of glasses on the desk,  or the scent of  their cologne.) And then there are the places, where their presence cannot be denied, and the remembrances that go with those places. And what about the songs, that are as alive with their memory, as their spoken words were?

Grief is a journey, a process both cruel, and cathartic. And in the end, it is the only road to healing, though never to complete recovery. Loss is not something you “get over”.  It can only be journeyed through, and you will be forever changed by that journey…”

Please see other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

I remember one night, walking home from choir practice (not sure what age), when this pervasive sadness overtook me. It was beginning to get dark, and as I walked, I would glance into the nearby houses, and glimpse the families that gathered together inside. Seeing the lights illuminate the interiors made me feel warm. I wondered what their lives were like, and if they were happy. Did laughter fill their homes?

There’s so much I can’t remember, and I find that odd. And yet, there is so much that I do remember. We were always moving, and I would have to change schools, and try and make new friends. It was so exhausting and painful. I was hardly ever in the same school for more than a year, and consequently, I was always “the new kid.” It was nerve-wracking, tinged with horror. Always wondering if I would be accepted, and if I would be able to fit in. Maybe that’s why, today, I never like to walk into a crowded room or get-together alone. It makes me feel uncomfortable, and reminds me of all those times, that I had to make my way into a new classroom, and how lonely I felt.

I once asked my mom why we moved so much, and she said that we were “trying to better ourselves.” Well maybe, but didn’t anyone stop to consider what “bettering ourselves” was doing to me? (No, I think not.)

Just the other night, I mentioned to my husband how fortunate our daughter was, to attend a small Christian school all her life, with virtually the same set of friends all the way through, and knowing most of the teachers. It is the sort of security that I knew nothing about. Believe me, it makes a huge difference in your confidence level, and self-esteem. When I was in grammar school, I compensated for this feeling of uneasiness in new schools, by excelling in my classwork and grades. (But if I remember correctly, anything less than a “A”, might as well have been failing.) Because if I got a “B” my mom said that I should have gotten an “A.” So if an “A” was what she wanted, then I would go back and strive for that. (Perhaps this was the beginning of my perfectionistic tendencies.) I only know that I was always determined not to treat my daughter that way–just to ask that she did her best. (It was a non-issue anyway. My daughter refused to do her homework at all, and this initiated a battle of a different sort.)

I remember being kept so clean (when I lived with my grandmother) that I carried around a newspaper to sit on, if I sat on the grass. To this day, I don’t sit on outdoor surfaces, without some hesitation. LOL! But when I played kickball in the neighborhood, at an older age, I was forever knocking the knees out of my long pants, when I fell down.  (So I guess I overcame my fear of dirt and damage to my clothes.)

Perhaps my fondest memory (which is a little foggy) is of sitting in a little washtub (in my grandmother’s backyard), wearing only a pair of little girl panties, with the warmth of the sun enveloping me, on a hot summer day. After that, I was lovingly taken into the house and dried off (and most likely bathed-lol) before being placed snug and secure in my bed, for an afternoon nap. To  me, this was what being a child meant. Safety and security–feeling loved and cherished. It was an everyday feeling with my grandmother. And my grandfather would come home from work in the evenings, and I would run to meet him, and he would always have juicy fruit gum in his pocket, just for me. Does it get any better?

As good as it was for me, I think it was just that horrible for my mom. She was not happy living at home. She had gotten divorced when I was 2, but the marriage didn’t even really last that long. My dad was in the military, and was overseas a great deal of that time. (I remember finding an old suitcase with their love letters hidden away inside, when I was older. And of couse, my curiosity got the better of me, and I read them.)

But there’s was love by airmail only, and not to be found in reality. Apparently, my dad had started to run around, even before I was born, and he hurt my mom pretty badly. She told me a couple of examples over and over, throughout my life, and it was a real dilemma to feel love for someone who made my mom sad. She said his mother died when he was young, and his sister raised him, and that he was very spoiled. (But she shouldn’t have talked about him this way to me, because it hurt me. Since I looked like him, and even had a variation of his name, I felt like I reminded her of him, whenever she saw me.) And believe me, that could not be a positive thing.

I saw him until the age of 6, and then he disappeared from my life–though he always sent birthday and Christmas presents faithfully. It was strange (and exciting) to get a doll or toy twice a year, from a man a barely knew. I always looked forward to his presents. It was basically all I had of him, except for an inherited nervous giggle just like his, until I was about 10. I remember that I had not seen him for about 4 years,  and I wrote a letter telling him that I wanted to know him. And to his credit, he visited. It’s so funny–he had just remarried, and those were the days when frosted hair was in. When I saw his new bride, I thought she was an old lady, because she had what I perceived as grey hair. How funny, because in reality, she was 10 years younger than him.

On the homefront, my stepfather and I did not get along. He was very strict, and used to measure the length of my dresses every morning (before school) by the “dangerous freckle” just above my knee. Anything above the freckle was too short, and I would have to immediately change. This was in the day of the first ever mini-skirts. He was an imposing man-(6 ‘4″) and to be honest, for many years I was deathly afraid of him. Back then he had quite a temper, and we did not see eye to eye on most anything, even though I was an extremely compliant child (in general.)  (Perhaps the greatest miracle in my life, was the healing that occurred between us, when I was an adult. We came to love each other very much.)

Part of the feeling was resentment. I wanted a mother.  I needed a mother. My mom had taken me away from the only real family that I had ever known, and I kept telling myself (as a little girl) that at least I would finally get to know her, and spend some time with her. (But it was not to be.) Two men were already in her life, when I arrived in Atlanta, and she was trying to decide which one she would marry.  Her stated goal had been that she was going to Atlanta “to find a husband.”

She also always told me, that if she didn’t get me away from my grandparents, that I would never realize that she was my mother. But it makes me wonder why did she wait so long? (My parents divorced when I was two, and we then moved in with my grandparents.) And if that was in fact true, then why didn’t she spend some time with just me for awhile, nurturing me, and mothering me? ( I believe that she just didn’t have it in her.) She always made me feel horrible if I was anything less than estatic about her relationship with Sam, (who she soon married), calling me jealous, and as I said in yesterday’s post, and threatening to kill herself, if I did not get along with him. (See the details of that lovely blackmail scene in yesterday’s post.) She would say things like, “You’d be jealous of your own child.”

I know now that what I was feeling was perfectly normal. (I wanted a mother, and it wasn’t wrong. I had lost all the people that made me feel secure, and now there was a man in my life, that I did not know. I probably wasn’t even 7 yet.)

Such a rocky beginning is not exactly inducive to a warm relationship. Deep down, I think Sam and I loved each other (as best we could), but there was definitely resentment going both ways. It was stormy and wild at times, and of course, my mom blamed it all on me–because I was to blame for everything. (Apparently for even wanting a mother.)

My brother came along when I was 8, and I loved him (as they say, “to the moon and back.”) I proudly declared, “Now we’re a family”, when they called to tell me he’d been born. (Though I do remember that my mother was not happy about the pregnancy, and she let me know it.) It didn’t matter–I was estatic enough for all of us.  He was a gorgeous baby, and I was so happy that he was in our lives. Of course,  once he was here, my mom loved him very much, and dressed him in the cutest little Buster Brown outfits.

However, whenever my mother would talk about my birth, she would always speak about it in the most horrifying way. She explained that her doctor believed in his  expectant mothers not having pain medication, so that they could “feel closer to their babies.”  (Oh, please. It sure didn’t work for us.) She said the pregnancy and the delivery were pretty much hell on earth, and she never let me forget it. (That is the reason that I never had a child through childbirth. She had frightened me to death, speaking of it as such a terrible ordeal.) At least by the time she had my brother, she was given pain relief, and had happy memories of his birth.)

My mom and step-dad would argue at times, and he would even get angry when the baby cried, and once he struck him. This made my mom furious, and they would also argue about that. I remember going to a nearby park, and shooting baskets until dark. I was quite a loner at times, because of all the moves we had made. But it was easy to entertain myself, and I also loved to read. Books were my great escape, and a treasure to me always.

I was a nervous child, and looking back, I had some unusual physical maladies.  It seems that I can remember being made to stand in the corner, for nervously fidgeting with my upper lip, which had become a continuous, uncontrollable habit.  Another time, I developed continual belching, and had to sip on Mylanta constantly.  I remember feeling sad a lot, but trying to cope as well as I could. These are not normal occurences, and they lead me to believe that my nervous system was under attack.

My mother worked hard outside the home all of her life, and I  had to go to child care after school, the year before my brother was born. Then later, there was a housekeeper (not as in rich, because we weren’t-more like a babysitter for my brother.) She did a little housecleaning, and ironing also, I think (as they often did in those days.)

But I never experienced a mom there for me after school, waiting to hear about my day. I’m sure many children didn’t, but along with this, there was no real warmth. I called her “Betty” instead of momma or mom. She never taught me any differently. This seems strange to me, because a mother shouldn’t have any problem getting her child to call her “momma” if she so desires.  She said it was because everyone in the household called her “Betty”,  so I did also. But I find it very unusual.

 She did take me shopping, and out for lunch at the department stores.  (I always looked nice.) But I don’t remember the hugs, or any emotional support whatsoever. (And this is where it gets hazy.) She just always seemed angry if I was sad for any reason. (But I remember she was depressed a lot.)

My step-dad’s three boys came to live with us for awhile, but they were like kids from the jungle. They were wild, with few manners (because of a very difficult upbringing), and they did not last with us for long. As you can imagine, I felt totally invaded, and could not believe this was happening. It was just too difficult for everyone (them included), and so they returned home.

As a teenager, Sam and I fought about everything. He read my diary, spied on me, and screened my phone calls. It was like living with a private detective, and it never got any better. And sometimes my parents would fight about disciplining me, though I really did not cause all that much trouble. (Sam even told me as much later. He said that after having Tony (my brother), he realized that I was an easy child to raise.) It’s just that I never could seem to please them, even though I really, really tried. By the time I married my first husband at 17, all I could think about was getting away from there.

Other than when I lived with my grandparents, I don’t think I was ever allowed to be a child. It seems that I had to contend with grown-up issues, living in a house with a man that I was afraid of, and a mother that I called by her first name.

My life did not improve–it grew much worse, for the most part. All those schools, few friends because of the constant moves, and a miserable home life. 

I was a little girl lost.  I needed to be held and kissed. I needed to be comforted, and loved.  I needed someone to be wild about me. I needed to be in my mother’s arms and thoughts. I just needed her…

Please see other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html