2009 in Review

Today I got home from my trip to NC.  I didn’t do as much as I’d planned to on the trip (sorry if I flaked on you and you’re reading), but did get to spend time with my family, my best friends,  Amy’s mom and the baby boys.  We arrived home this evening two hours later than planned, thanks to some terrible traffic in SC and GA.  Mark just brought in the mail and something very special was in it.  Every 1st Sunday of the year at Unity Eastside, we write a letter to God describing the vision that we hope to create in our life for the year.  So I thought I’d share last year’s letter dated 1-4-09.

Dear God,

I set aside the little I and now focus on the big I.  I keep my mind on you, with you, and in you.  My life shows forth that which you have planned for me.  I am an instrument and I am fulfilling your purpose for me.  I am propelled to do that which is of service to others and is directed by you.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  I am aware and awake.  My life is in you.

Leslee

I was a bit surprised to read the letter.  I remembered it being more of a “surrendering to the plan” rather than setting goals for myself, but it was still interesting to read almost a year after writing it.  I don’t think I’ve been successful at setting aside the little I (the ego) as much as I’d hoped.  This year has certainly had it’s share of drama and I’ve let myself get caught up in it at times.  I do think that so much of what has happened this year has been a part of the plan and I feel like I am following an inner guidance that, despite how it feels at times, has everything in control.

I plan to write a similar letter this year (despite lots of “resolutions” that I may write about tomorrow).  The best thing I can do for myself is to just let go of the wheel.

A lot has happened this year.  I’ve healed and made stronger some relationships, while others have experienced blows.  I’ve dealt with the death of one of my oldest and dearest friends, but was able to hold her baby boys just two days ago.  I started this blog and have exposed my inner thoughts, gone out on a limb, and stepped on a few toes along the way.  I’ve learned both easy and hard lessons here.  I’ve met some amazing writers and bloggers who inspire me daily.  I’ve continued to ask questions and take notice when the answers present themselves to me.  I have been incredibly human and also had beautiful moments in communion with God.  I’ve reminded myself far too often to “be present” and stop thinking about the past and the future!  Mostly I’ve tried to be the instrument as often as I can.  If even one person received something from my words or my deeds this year than I succeeded in that!

Happy New Year everyone!  Have fun tonight and be safe…

Letter to the Boys…

Dear Gavin and Brantley,

It has taken me two months to get around to doing this.  At some level the longer I put it off the less real it would be that your mommy is no longer here in her body, walking around with us.  I miss her so very much and am so sad that you’ll never have the opportunity to be in her physical presence.  I wanted to finally take the time to tell you about her, from my perspective.

I met Amy in high school.  We were on yearbook staff together and in Ms. Brown’s math class.  We were both the teacher’s pet that year, Amy more than me because she could actually excel in Math Concepts, I squeaked by because Ms. Brown remembered how good I was in Geometry.  The day that we really became friends was when we ran into each other with our moms on a tour of UNCC.  As a part of the tour a girl let us check out her dorm room in Moore Hall (the freshman dorm).  In that moment Amy and I looked at each other and said “Let’s room together and live here!”  It was decided.  I called the friend I was supposed to room with and weaseled out of our agreement then filled out the housing paperwork to room with Amy.  We started to hang out a lot together leading up to going to college.  By the time we moved in together in late Summer of 1993, we were already close.

That year was a great one.  We had so much fun and became like sisters.  When we weren’t out hitting the frat parties, or dancing at The Pterodactyl, we would just stay up into the wee hours talking, “roommate gab” we called it.  One thing I learned about Amy that year is that no one could help but fall in love with her.  She had the best personality and was so easy to talk to.  Unlike me, she could be the life of the party without having one single adult beverage.  A lot of guys had crushes on her that year.  And over the course of our friendship at least one guy I was into lost his heart to Amy.  I was pretty upset when that happened, but she went to great lengths to get me to forgive her and of course I did.

Amy was always a good friend.  She was there in the hard times, always.  One thing I remember is that she had such an amazing instinct about things.  She’d warn me about people and I’d never listen.  Back then I thought she was jealous.  Now I realize she was just very aware of people.  Every time she was bothered by a relationship (whether friendship or “love”) I was in, it always turned out badly.  She never said “I told you so” although she could have on several occasions.

There is so much more I could say about her.  She was silly, fun, enjoyed nice things, loved talking to people (was the first person I knew to have a cell phone), never compromised on her standards, and knew how to love and be loved!  One thing that stands out about our freshman year of college is fire drills!  Since we lived in the freshman dorm, someone was always pulling that alarm.  During those drills, we’d go out and sit in Amy’s blue Ford Probe listening to “Vacation” by the Go Go’s.  It would play over and over and we’d sing at the top of our lungs until we saw our dorm mates heading back into the building.

I will say for certain that Heaven has a very special angel now.  Your mother was AMAZING!  She was a gift to so many of us and was so generous that before she left, she gifted us with the two of you!

I love you boys!

“Aunt” Leslee

Hope’s Click

The following click story was left in a comment on my “writer’s wanted” page.  Names and some details have been changed for privacy….

~Silly girl fairy tales aren’t real~

Lately on my Facebook page my friends may have noticed some bible verses and things about going to court and asking for prayers.
Of course no one plans on going through a divorce, not in the beginning.  I didn’t. Ah, I’ve been married twice to the same man. The second round we told each other contently how we must be meant for each other for three years to pass and us to fall right back into love like we never left. I loved him so much.  Neither one of us had jobs when I came back from NM after being in the air force… and then we both got jobs right away it. It seemed like everything was falling into place so quickly, I wanted a baby. I wanted to be settled, play house if you will. I’ve never been big on going out with the girls or even really had many girl friends. So what else did I have to look forward to in life? I wanted my life to have more meaning, I was depressed. In my head I thought if I have a baby my life will have more purpose… Not a lot of women will admit that they feel that way. So what a perfect time to have a baby.  I’ve mended my old marriage, I always planned on having a family with ‘Him’, at least in the beginning. I ask myself now why didn’t I look back at all the hurt he put me through before… and the only answer I can come up with is, well “Love is blind”, and also being a women or maybe being a Christian I forgive, and unfortunately forget too. I thought to myself we were young, stupid and out of our environment (away from home).

So I told him I wanted a baby, he of course was willing to try…(eyes roll). I wasn’t concerned about getting remarried because we already did that. I told myself God brought us back together and in his eyes we were never divorced. I came back from NM in March, moved in with him in April, got a job the same week… and found out I was pregnant in May. My son was born a month early on Jan 25, 2009. And spent 2weeks in the NICU. He is a healthy bouncing baby boy now.
I never really accused the father of my child of drinking the whole time I was pregnant. Although there were plenty of signs that he was. Those times he came home from the night shift and smelled of beer, I would ask him “have you been drinking?” When he would come in to kiss me goodnight… he would quickly jump in the shower. And then there was the time I found him passed out in his truck with it running, beer cans and him falling out of the truck when I opened the door. What happened to him while I was gone? He wasn’t this bad before he just didn’t work (he was too young to buy beer before). Then there was the time towards the end of my pregnancy; we had a yard sale trying to make room for the baby… He was upset about getting rid of some of his things and said he would help me with the yard sale as long as I let him drink. I said no, so he hid it.
By the time the time our baby was 12 weeks old I had no idea this was going on behind my back it all came out later how bad the drinking really was. I left the house and everything in it when our son was 12 weeks old. My son and I had nothing, just the clothes on our backs, it wasn’t a planned escape. His grandmother almost pushed us out the door, I now believe she thought she could get this new mother so upset I might leave the child with her… didn’t happen.
Stupid me we never married, but it could of been a good thing. Until the day came for us to go to court for child support. We made amends I never wanted any of this and besides it wasn’t his fault he took his grandmothers side and left us with nothing and never called to hear my side of the story or to even see his son, for 3months? But he could go to church and sit with the other babies and the nursery with his father also a recovering alcoholic…

After that we remarried
Again I forgave him we said we’d work on things, he would go to AA, we would go to counseling. He went to 2 AA meetings.
Then one day he was off the wagon… it got physical.
I’ve never felt the warmth of blood running down my face before. A bloody nose…
Anything after this point just seems redundant…
I knew my life would never be the same when I found out I was pregnant; I had no idea this was in store for me.
Well I remain hopeful, just like my name.

Nicole’s Click

The following post is written by a Twitter friend, Nicole.  Nicole really brightens up the Twittersphere and is loved my so many!  I am honored to have her write for me.  On Twitter she is @Kitterztoo and you can also visit her extremely open and honest blog here.

In high school, I wanted someone to love me.  I didn’t feel loved by my parents, and I so desperately wanted to be loved by anyone. More importantly boys, of course.  The first guy to say he loved me, had my heart.  I soon discovered that the only way to keep that first guy was to have sex with him.  I didn’t think very much of myself and it pained me to be rejected or ignored by guys.  I wound up accepting whomever would have me as a girlfriend.  I learned to tolerate and even think I deserved abuse from them.  My first three boyfriends treated me horribly either through emotional or physical abuse.  To add insult to injury, they told everyone what they were doing to me.  I felt I deserved it and kept coming back for more.

When those guys graduated, I had a year left in high school.  I was desperately seeking anyone that would love me. I chased after guys I hoped would treat me better.  Eventually, I gave up trying. I figured I wasn’t worth being loved.  I thought for sure I would just be alone forever.  I gave up.  By this time I was punishing myself for being lower than dirt by self-injuring.  I hid my emotions behind a bitch exterior.  Nothing could affect or bother me that way.  I remember one guy showing an interest in me, so I took a chance and wrote my feelings to him in a note.  What I didn’t know, is he passed that note around to all of his friends and cracked jokes about how he got a “senior” around his finger.  Luckily, he did not make it to the boyfriend stage.

Marching band season started up, and after a football game I’d performed at, I changed and went to my car to head home.  One guy happened to be out in the parking lot leaning against the hood of my car.  I recognized him immediately.  Phil was a friend of my best friend, but I had no idea why in the world he was hanging out by my car.  I was so stunned by him being there, that I don’t really remember much of what he had to say.  He did ask me out though. I was shocked.  I wasn’t pursuing him, wasn’t chasing after his affection, and I didn’t see it coming. Something in his eyes seemed different, genuine.  Hell, I think I was more confused as to why he would even remotely be interested in me.  As he shut the door to my car, my brain was swirling with thoughts.  I don’t think I quit smiling for the whole drive home.

That was the beginning of our relationship.  Phil was so kind, funny, and he even stood up to my mother. That took guts since my parents made Mommy Dearest look like the Snuggle Fabric Softener Bear.  When I started feeling like sex was the only thing that would keep him interested, I asked why he hadn’t pushed it with me.  He said that it if it happened eventually, it would be a bonus, but that wasn’t the main reason he was with me.  I also asked him, “Why me? Why are you interested in me?”  Phil saw the note that got passed around that I’d written a month earlier.  He thought, essentially, there were feelings behind the bitch exterior.  He’d found me behind my wall of protection, and liked that side of me.

Phil and I were together about a year.  He treated me with the utmost respect. I truly felt loved and cared about. He showed me I was worthy of love and kindness.  I could say anything and not be afraid.  He treated me like a lady and I loved him for that.  He had a wicked sense of humor and made me laugh a lot.  When I was in a car accident, he was there for me.  When my parents beat the hell out of me, he was there to allow me to cry on his shoulder.  I realized this is what love should be and how I should be treated.  When we finally did have sex, I felt so loved and attractive.  I never regretted that decision ever.  Phil was amazing.  He sort of was like the character, Lloyd Dobbler in the movie “Say Anything”.  He’d be the one who could say, “I can’t figure it all out tonight, sir, so I’m just gonna hang with your daughter.”

When I left for college, it sort of ended our relationship.  I won’t go into why the relationship ended because that’s not the point. That’s now how I remember him or what we had.  Phil would become the template I would measure other guys against.  I don’t think he ever knew that fact.  In college, I knew I deserved all the things he gave me.  He showed me I didn’t have to compromise when it came to being treated with respect.  He opened my eyes to the beginning of self-worth. In fact, when I met my future husband, I looked for the same qualities Phil had.  He had to be sensitive, humorous, and above all, I had to feel safe.  Even to this day, I choose friends with that same “template”.  Ironically, just when I was thinking about him a few months ago, he sent a friend invite to me on Facebook.  I thought I’d never hear from him again, but it’s strange how positive people you think about from your past have a way of finding you.  Phil was my first “click” moment, and because of that I can’t thank him enough.  He has meant more to me than he’ll ever know. So, Phil, thank you.

Guest Poet -Megan Harner

Jellyfish

I feel like a jellyfish.
Floating amongst a sea of beauty,
Attempting to steer clear,
of the chaos the waves create,
that leave me stranded ashore.
Still floating with the current.

I feel like a jellyfish.
Unaware of the beauty I hold,
Unaware of the total effect
I have on things around me.

I feel like a jellyfish.
I know not where I will be tomorrow,
I will still be floating with the current,
trusting that my instinct and God,
will take me right where I need to be.

Merry Christmas!

I am going to make this one short and sweet.

I am so very blessed to have such wonderful family and friends.  This year has been filled with great joy and also great sadness.  I have learned a lot about myself and the people in my life.  I have connected and reconnected with some beautiful souls who, whether for a season or a lifetime, are changing my life for the better.

Love and light to all of you this Christmas!  Take a moment today to send a prayer or loving thought out to the families who lost a loved one this year.  For me I will have the families of these beautiful souls in my heart:

Ryan Puckett (10/31/74-6/23/09)

Chris Lutz (9/7/1976-7/16/09)

Amy Christine Stephens Pardue (7/23/1975-10/25/09) (I love you, Amy, and miss you so much!  Can’t wait to meet the boys on Monday!)

Teresa (Traci) Spradlin (12/3/1966-12/10/09)

Kent Gibson (10/1/1965-12/19/09)

Christmas Wish

I’m writing this on the 23rd and of course it is posting on Christmas Eve. Between the cold I’m suffering from and the stress of preparing for Christmas day and a trip to NC, I’m low on insightful reflections. I thought I’d just take a paragraph or two to tell you what’s on my Christmas list.

I’ll start with the simple stuff. These are the items I’ve shared with Mark and may or may not be receiving on Christmas day. I want an Ipod dock/charger/player. I love my Ipod but get so annoyed when I have to charge it on the computer. It takes a few hours and I have to constantly check to make sure the computer hasn’t “gone to sleep” thus halting the charge. I’ve gotten to where I just forget to do this and then when I’m all psyched up and ready to go to the gym, I realize I have no music. Having no music to listen to while exercising has become excuse number 1 not to work out at all. It’s a vicious cycle that I feel confident will end once I have an easier place to charge the Ipod.

The other item on my list is a bible (King James version with Jesus’ words in red). For as much as I write about spiritual stuff I am embarrassed to admit I don’t have a bible in the house. I’ve had my mother searching her house for the bible I had as a teen and she hasn’t had any luck finding it. I’ve said before that I read a lot of books by people who quote and talk about the bible, but now it is time for me to practice what I preach and read and study it for myself.

Now for the more complicated wish list. These requests truly require a miracle Santa to make happen. What I’d absolutely love is to have more time and money to take a few trips this year on my own. The first is a cruise or Caribbean vacation with my two best friends, Heather and Kristin. The second is the Goddess Retreat at Amrit Yoga Institute. The third is the BlogHer conference in New York City with my Twitter friends @2MuchPerfection, @OpinionatedGift, and @Kitterztoo. I’m pretty sure the first of these will happen. It will be a small miracle if I am able to participate in two of them and an extraordinary feat if I’m able to do all three.

Now what about you guys?  Care to share your Christmas wish list….

Clearing

We have these huge Oak trees in our front yard and they have thousands of leaves.  During Autumn and Winter the leaves fall and blanket our yard.  Mark hates to let the leaves sit, but cleaning them up is an enormous job.  Every year we find a different way to approach it.  The first year in the house, we bought a couple of rakes and did it the old fashion way.  The year after that we bought a leave blower that converted to a leaf vacuum and filled the bags that way for a couple of years.  Last year the blower broke and so we hired someone else to do the job.  This year we purchased a new lawn mower with a bag and gathered the leaves that way.  It is always Mark’s idea to take on this job with my help.  He insists that if it is not done the grass beneath the blanket will die and our yard will be ruined.  I am always the whiney one…”awww, do we have to do it?”

As we mowed and bagged yesterday evening I thought of the job and what it represents in my life, especially at this time of year.  It’s been an emotional year for me and a bit hectic.  I’ll admit that I’ve been somewhat scattered, with my thoughts in several  different directions at times.  There is a lot I think of doing but find excuses not to.  I give myself jobs to accomplish and then put them off “Let me just do this one quick thing first.”  The one quick thing ends up taking an hour and the job I’d intended to do gets put off or done half-ass.

So just like with the leaves, it’s time for me to do some clearing in my life.  I’m preparing for the new year, hoping that it will be a new start (we all say this at this time of year though).  I need to release the bad habits which for me is mostly just one…being online way too much without doing anything productive.   I need to pull my thoughts back to the present.  Every time I find myself focused and truly surrendered to the moment something good happens.  Whether it’s an exciting email or a great idea, I tend to get caught up in it and find myself planning the future and wondering where it will lead.  Once I’m out of the present and back in the future, everything slows down or halts.  I also want to let go of some emotional baggage.  I seem to be taking my pent up feelings and projecting them.  The uncertainty I sense about some situations and relationships causes me to over analyze what is going smoothly and seek glitches that aren’t even there.  Finally, my house does not reflect who I want to be.  I don’t have a lot of stuff, I’m probably the opposite of a hoarder (or almost), but when the clutter gathers I feel cluttered too.  And I haven’t been so motivated to stay on top of it.

Like I said yesterday, things are getting easier and more peaceful for me.  I think that’s why I can write this.  I can own up to what’s been wrong and declare that I want to change it.  Just like the leaves that damage the grass in my front yard, the bad habits, scattered thoughts, pent up emotions, and clutter weigh on my spirit.  What about you?  Is your life too hectic for your spirit to soar?

Truthwalker’s Click

The following post is written by the author of the second blog I started reading regularly.  I found Israel’s blog around the same time I found Kelli’s by searching “self-discovery.”  He writes about his spiritual journey from being a very devout pentecostal to a very peaceful atheist.  I have enjoyed reading about his experiences.  His blog is very eye-opening and not just on the topic of religion.  His series of posts on the health-care debate provided me with a great deal of insight on that subject.  Currently he is in the process of ending his current blog and starting a new one.  If you read his latest post you can find out how to continue reading his thoughts…

High School Sexual Culture

The trip had begun like most of our church youth group trips had, with me working on the 1970-too old, Dodge Crap-O-Van. Was it a new water pump that time or a bad alternator? I can’t remember. I do remember the crunch of gravel under my feet and the singing of the cicadas from the church parking lot’s only tree, so I know it was in August. I remember praying to God for the strength to get through the whole repair without using sinful language, but I prayed that prayer frequently working on old vans.

I can’t remember what the trip was for, either. Were we going to some Bible college? A Christian rock concert? Or was it the trip to Denver where we spent two weeks doing vacation Bible school puppet shows? It’s been so long since then, but those youth groups trips were incredibly important to me, at the time. My father’s post traumatic stress and my mother’s agoraphobia created a home where friends weren’t very welcome. We lived deep in the cornfields, where dad could shoot paper targets until the fear went away and mom could drink in the sun and trees until the strain of normal life was lifted. I came of age not at school, not hanging out with my friends, but at Bible camp, in Sunday school, and on the sticky vinyl seats of our church’s 15 passenger van.

For whatever reason we’d gone, I will never forget the trip back. We were exhausted, and all of us were fading in and out of sleep. The engine was a continuous roar, drowning out conversation and the tires droned out a hypnotic hum down the interstate. I was in the first passenger seat, in the middle between several thousand dollars of sound equipment on the left, and Darcy Trigg was on my right. I laid my head against the cold, hard fiberglass of the roadie boxes, and closed my eyes.

We hit bump and I awoke, conscious only of scratchiness across my face. I moved my hand up to the scratchiness, and confusingly found something soft, and warm. The fog of sleep clearing, I realized that in my sleep I had turned away from the hard case, and turned instead to Darcy. My eyes fluttered open, and I froze. The scratchiness was the collar of Darcy’s sweater, stretching across my face from chin to widows peak. Not only had I turned to her in my sleep, I had laid my head on her chest and slid down. One eye looked down the front of her sweater, but the other was on the inside, her ample breasts and white satin bra, cast a warm pink by the sunlight shinning through her top.

She must be asleep, I thought, and there is no way, that if she wakes up she is going to believe this is an accident. She’s going to to know what a disgusting pervert I am, and no girl will ever talk to me again…I will be “that guy.” I closed my eyes, and very carefully and very slowly moved away, sitting perfectly straight, and not opening my eyes until I was in a position to stare straight ahead. Then, and only then, did I slowly turn my head to Darcy.

Her chin was in her left head, her arm on the window sill, watching the cornfields shoot by. She’d been awake the whole time! Clearly she hadn’t pushed me off or woken me because she was mortified with embarrassment. I was so ashamed, and yet I didn’t want Darcy to think that I thought she was ugly. I wanted to say that I thought she was beautiful but at the same time I was terrible sorry for violating her. My mouth was dry and I felt shaky.

“Darcy..” I whispered loud enough for her to hear, but too quiet to carry over the road noise to any other listening ears, leaning towards her for greater privacy.

“I…I was asleep…I…didn’t…” I stammered.

She turned to me slowly, her eyes big and kind, bashful from underneath her brow, a slight smile upon her lips. She leaned toward me, closing the space between us I’d made by sitting up straight, and laid her hand on my knee.

“I didn’t mind,” she said softly. She searched my eyes, her serenity and kindness pitying my confusion and fear. Squeezing my knee, she sighed contentedly and returned to watching the landscape out the window, giving me a last over-the-shoulder smile.

I sat in total confusion. Darcy was the kindest, most gentle soul I knew at the time. Growing up in a world that divided women into nice girls and sluts, Darcy’s credentials as a nice girl were impeccable. She was quiet, demure, modest, and serious. She knew the Word, and walked the walk…and she told me that I had done nothing wrong and she enjoyed having my face down her shirt. I realized then that maybe good girls did want to be kissed, held, and touched. Maybe, just maybe, good girls might have sex drive, and maybe a girl could want me, the geeky guy with the thick glasses, because I was OK, and not because she was screwed up.