In this season

Hello friends, and I hope this finds everyone having a very warm, wonderful, and blessed holiday season. We are almost out of 2019- how did that happen?

Photo by Craig Adderley

As I sit with my tea still enjoying the glow of the Christmas tree several days after Christmas, surrounded by my children happily playing with their gifts, still caught in the magic of the Christmas feeling- I can’t help but to feel the need to acknowledge that familiar feeling of a heavy, sensitive heart at the holidays due to the loss of family gone and those slipping away.

My beloved Aunt who has become a second mother to me since my mother- her sister’s- passing, is in the end stages of a cancer that she has fought more bravely than I could ever imagine anyone else ever doing. She received the news of it’s return around the same time of her husband’s death. She dealt with his passing and her own news- all on her own so far away from me and her family here. I want so badly to be with her… to be near her in this time, but also to share in this time with her. To share stories and reminisce. To hold space for one another as families need to do. I miss her even more intently now that our family has dwindled so much, and because I know her time here is so precious. Each day is a gift. Every hour is a gift. Her fight reminds me to never ever take time for granted. The ordeal and the strength she has shown has changed me in a way that I do not yet fully understand, but what I do know is that time is a gift and I don’t wish to waste anymore on wishing that things were different.

My “overly sensitive nature” as I have heard it called many times, heavily weighs on my heart this time of year. I read not long ago in Victoria magazine about a woman writing of her “difficulties” with sensitivity and how she had also spent her life being shamed for it, and I love what she wrote about it as I take this time to fully allow myself to feel as I sit here reflecting and to be fully aware of it all now:

“…As it turns out, being sensitive is a lovely trait. It doesn’t mean I am thinned-skin; it simply means I am willing to put my heart in someone else’s skin. Once there, I must be very, very still in order to determine if there is more that I can do or give…”

Mary Sanderson, Kindly Gestures. Victoria Magazine. Jan/Feb 2020.
Photo by Ylanite Koppens

Christmas has always been such a magical time for me. Growing up, we had our holiday traditions that were so ingrained in us and our routine, that those acts- the gathering of the family, the unwrapping of beautifully papered gifts so thoughtfully chosen for each person, the secrets whispered by the many, many foster children my mom kept and whose excitement for Christmas was palpable – all these acts were especially precious to me due to the fact I was adopted and had never experienced a holiday until my 8th year of life, and had never experienced the closeness of family. I think because of my abused background, the importance of family was not only somehow made more important to my holiday traditions, but also to my life in general.

Our family began thinning- first my grandmother’s passing in 1988, a loss felt so strongly- not the least of which at the holidays- and my uncle’s passing in 1996. He was a man among men- gentle yet strong, loving yet reserved, a gentle giant that could do anything it seemed to me, but most importantly- he was the man who gave a me the safety within his arms and life that I would not be hurt physically or that he did not want something more from me in exchange for being a father figure. It took many years for me to trust any man- and it would not have ever happened if it had not been for this man. I owe him and now his memory so much. A true gentleman whose patience, kindness, and love brought a scared little girl terrified of men out of her shell and made her able to trust. A man I still miss keenly and whose presence will always be missed in my life. I wish I’d had more time with him. I wish I could of told him what his life meant to mine.


A few years later, my mother’s passing solidified the disintegration of our family as I knew it. Her passing took something of me with her. A firm foundation- a knowledge of who I was and where I was going. The rock the family seemed to depend on without realizing we did. Strength that held up our family and the glue it seemed that held it all together. Her shoes were too big for me to ever fill. I tried for many years to honor her memory and her life in continuing with her life’s work in keeping my invalid “sister” (not biologically related but I spent every single day of 30 years with her), and the rituals she fulfilled for the family. I saw the sacrifice of my education and job offers and relationships as honorable and thought I was doing what she would of wanted. I see now that I was only hurting myself and setting myself up for a great deal of pain and sorrow that turned into a hurtful regret over the years. It took me so many years to figure out that I am not my mother. And that she would not have wanted me to be her. She would not have wanted me to walk in her shoes- to hurt, to uphold, to be that glue. She would of wanted me to live my life and make my own choices- not hers. I have learned these lessons slowly and with a great deal of emotional pain that I brought on myself. The growing pains were not something I would want for anyone- and I plan to make certain my own children know they must lead their lives for themselves and never, ever second guess this or their own hearts.

While I was buckling under the pressure of being my mother, my life simultaneously stood still and took wrong paths at the same time. My family continued to disintegrate and so many hurts collided in on us and tore us in to different directions and we became estranged. My other uncle’s passing which I was not permitted to attend, my husband’s family members passing away. And then the estrangement of his family- from each other-and from us.

I feel the weight of this loss but understand that life isn’t about holding on to a picture perfect idea of who our family should be or what we should do in it. I cannot make people see or feel through my eyes. I do not wish for any of them to know the hurt I have felt to understand me. I have come to realize that I am the person God made, and with all my faults, I can be loved and deserve to be loved. It is a family’s job to love a person- their family– through their faults and to accept them, but whether my family chooses to do this or not, I no longer allow it to define me.

Photo by Matt Hardy

So while I can remember that this was a Christmas some of our family chose not to honor their loved one’s memory in my children’s lives, or that other family chose to exclude us once again, or that we made new memories- and hopefully new traditions- with unexpected family- we are still making memories- as our own little family. We can still enjoy the season for what it is- and remember our blessings and not be weighted with guilt, regret, or hurt. And it is in this way, I can find who I am now. I can be still and sound in the knowledge of who I am. And I can enjoy a holiday without the familiar pull of my heartstrings from loss and regret. I can be happy- and sentimental and sensitive all- without attaching my self-worth to the memories of family- and times- past.


What did you marvel on this Christmas? Do you have family hurts that weigh on your heart and mind at Christmas or the holidays? Please share with me, if you feel like sharing or talking, in the comments below. I would so appreciate hearing your words of wisdom on how you dealt with family issues/loss/grief. Let’s go in to 2020 together, knowing that we have each other – that family is more than blood – and that family can be who we make it.

Photo by Kat Jayne

SOME REAL STUFF

I am going to share some real-life drama stuff today here on the blog. As you know, I have two children, Grey and Lily.  Normally, cherub faced angels that fulfill our lives as much as a Hallmark movie would portray. And then there are days like today. Days that leave me crying while hiding in the bathroom on the toilet days.

It started declining pretty much as soon as I opened my eyes. My son (who is almost 8 and is a highly-functioning autistic) is standing in front of me in tears crying because he got banned from his favorite online game for using a less-than-child-like word that he picked up at the end of the school year when another little boy shared it with everyone. My tactic with things like this is to down play it so as not to make it seem more interesting to him by making a big deal of things. Apparently, this is a word I should of dwelled on the fact that is a B.A.D. word. So, after dealing with the fallout of this (punishing him by taking away his computer privileges for two days), I get further bombarded with hearing him screaming in his room, “I HATE MOM!!” Ok. So, this adds insult to injury. I confess, I didn’t know how to handle it, much less what to say. This is something I hear other parents deal with, not us. In my naivety, I never thought it would EVER be something we would be facing, much less having to deal with. So, I cried. I stood there and cried. With “normal” kids, they see a parent doing this, they deal with the issue in the moment, and more often than not, kids get over things quickly. Not my son. Not in his little mind. He sees me cry (or any emotion, really), and it sets off a tail-spin of fits, stemming, and o.c.d. behaviors in him. Its almost more than I can bear on a good day, much less a day that was already hard.

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He is such a high-functioning, that most everyone do not see what he is enduring trying his best to “fit-in” or be “on” as I call it. It drains him. I am still trying to determine if our putting him in public school was the right choice. On one hand, I knew he learned best from a small amount of peer pressure. But as he has just finished first grade, it is already becoming a little more than “a small amount” of peer pressure. Yes, most of the children treat him wonderfully, he rarely gets made fun of, but what is changing is the fact that he is aware of the difference and the patronizing. It seems an impossible choice most days. We just pray. Pray over him, pray for him, pray ahead of him, and behind him. And we try to go with the flow the best we can, and most days, we get through just fine. Then there are days like today that end in tears: mine, his, sissy’s, dads. Tears and feelings of failure and frustration. Did we do the right thing? Did we address it the best we could? Did he understand what we were saying? Should I have talked to him more than I did? Less? Days like this are ones that I truly wish came with a manual.

THE BUSINESS OF WRITING

THE BUSINESS OF WRITING

Hello, friends. I have been debating on whether or not to take on the added responsibility of a blog for some time now. I decided to go ahead with this endeavor because there are so many times I would like to share something on my mind about this stage in my life and business, so… here I am.

I am currently on Instagram (who isn’t these days? – as I am finding an overly saturated market) as greylilycalligraphy and, for lack of a better way to put it, am learning the business end of a craft while learning the craft itself. I am finding this isn’t for the faint of heart.

I took a step out of my comfort zone the other day, and sent out a “questionnaire” to some of the calligraphers I admire the most. I was at a loss as to how to grow my following, and thereby, grow my orders (shop temporarily down). I got some very interesting responses, some positive, some not so much – from surprising sources. In any case, I did receive some helpful information.

I am going back here, to how it all began for me. This is a little bit of my journey to how I arrived here, today, writing this.

But, my friends, learning while doing is a difficult task, no matter who you are. My background is in criminology of all things. Years worth of work in a degree field working to obtain my Bachelor of Science degree, and during the years of hard work, working up to 4 jobs at a time, carrying a full load of course work, taking care of my mom in the end stages of cancer, all while assuming the responsibility of caring for an invalid sister…well, they were difficult years. And during those difficult years, I knew my heart was not in the field. My hopes were to go straight in to my MS in forensics, but life had other plans for me. I sacrificed my life for others. Not as noble as that sounds, because I have regrets, I let fear be in the driver’s seat. Much of what I did was out of fear…letting people down, trying to keep all the balls juggling in the air. And, as is the due course of trying to keep too many things going with not enough resources, dropping many of those balls (re: finances) with devastating results.

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Looking back now, I see the silver lining. Not finding work in my field for years (while being at home with my sister and then, later, my special needs son) led me to reach for the things that were in my heart. I brainstormed at one point and discovered, if I had listened to my heart to begin with (and not been afraid of letting my family down), I would have gone into history from the start of my college career. Of course, that path may not have led me anywhere but where I am now, so who knows? Fickle fate, or being led…I am not certain anymore. However, my path did lead me to dig into what my passions really were, and through finding history, I specifically came to realize that I have always had an admiration and love for writing and communication, and then, “beautiful writing”. So I set out to study it, that was a good 15 years ago now.

I started reaching out to (harassing, really) calligraphers years ago. Where I live, the arts are not a focus. It was difficult in those years (these were the days before having the internet was an everyday thing for everyone) to find people to reach out to. Eventually, I was successful, I found IAMPETH (here) on this journey. I could not travel because of the responsibilities of caring for my sister and son, so I reached out. Eventually, people started putting things online, resources, and even classes. I grabbed for those every chance I got. I have now been practicing (I call it that, because calligraphy is one of the arts you never really “arrive” at…you simply continue to practice and hone your hands. There are those few that reach such a level of perfection they are deemed “masters”. To my knowledge, there are around 10 of those in the world), for around 5 years now.

During the years of practice, and taking my little photos of my “aha!” moments, there was a change in the social media world. A “professionalizing,” with people seizing the opportunity of a free means of advertising, both with good and bad consequences. Hence, up arise the individuals offering the “business skills” in “getting you followers.” I once made the (possible) mistake of telling one of these such people who were offering me a “follow and follow back” that I was looking for “quality over quantity”. Silly me, I didn’t realize what I was doing. After I realized I was going to have to step up my game with social media, I began taking courses in business…in Instagram itself (of all things!), and any other part of selling of myself and my skill I could find. This business is not easy. But I am learning.

So, in the end, I have found that I need an outlet to discuss and share the things I am learning and doing other than the business arenas of Facebook and Instagram, and even Twitter to some degree. Therefore, I am writing. I do love a good blog, and have made some connections with people who are so dear to me. I have hopes of doing the same with this one myself. Won’t you join me?

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THESE ARE THE DAYS

It has been hot here. East Tn. is not known for temperature fluctuation the way we have been experiencing it the past couple of years. I can only guess climate change. And our a/c unit picks the hottest day to caput on us. So, we (the children and I) decided to use the opportunity to get outside for fresh air & a scenery change.

It is so true that nature heals- the soul along with mind & body. We really enjoyed Spring’s beautiful abundance this weekend. There was so much beauty, I feel I must share it with you, friends.

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I have never known Irises to grow in a marsh! These were breathtaking in person, and filled the marsh!

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Grey looking out at the mist created from the generating at the dam. It was so cool and felt wonderful in the heat.

 

There is so much folklore about the area in which we live. I adore history, and especially folklore, so I read up as much as possible. This island we visited is said to be haunted by the ghosts of the Native Americans that lived in this area who thought this island to be sacred. I am not certain of that as fact, but it sure adds to my love of this place. Is it not beautiful? I hope you all are keeping cool in the oncoming heat, and getting out into beautiful nature.