The Generation That Built Us

Having a daughter has completely derailed me. Things that I have kept high on a shelf, have come down to tiny hands that don’t understand the frailty of the memories they hold.

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This bunny has a good 25 years on her new owner.

My father being in the military, we rarely lived close to family. When we did go “home” to visit, we stayed with my grandmother; my father’s mother. I only just recently found out my own mother hated it. But my brother, sister and I loved everything about it. The cookie jar that held snack cakes instead of just plain ole cookies, the “haunted barn” we’d explore only supervised by my aunt, who would later in life become my roommate, the smell of coffee and cigarettes at all hours of the day, and Grandma. Her cooking, her gifts, her love, and her pride in us: the grandkids.

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Always so proud of us (I’m the bottom left of the main photo.. My cousin is the innocent by-standard. Her blog can be found HERE).

My Grandmother was the face of everything that the subsequent generations wanted to be to their family: the Matriarch. There was not a get together that she was not in the center of. Her cooking alone is enough for its own post.  It was never ever about what she bought us. What she gave us, she made with her own two hands. I am happy that even at a young age, I recognized the prize that was handed to me that Christmas.

Hand sewn bunnies, like the one gifted to me in the first photo, were given to all the granddaughters she had at the time. Many MANY more came later, but as her eye sight went, and her arthritis worsened, fewer things were sewn and less gifts were made.

And now as a mother, I treasure more the things my mother makes for me and my children. I want her to be proud of my children like my grandmother was proud of us. I want my daughter to know the line of strong women that she comes from. I also want her to know the value and worth behind taking a few abstract materials, a little bit of finesse and a lot of love and transforming it into an heirloom; a token of love and life that will transcend her own if treated delicately.

Grandma, thank you for sharing your gifts with us. I hope I do well to teach my kiddos of your diligence, your love and your pride in them. Even my littlest little who did not get to meet you. We love and miss you dearly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Do I Say When…?

 

As an introvert, I do not often mix work and my personal life. At work, I am “on”. I enjoy the people I work with and give as much of myself as I can. At home, I put up a protective barrier and little gets through, maybe aside from Social Media. But then there are certain people that also give of their energy instead of taking.

I have a dear friend that has such a wonderful and eloquent way with words. She is such a positive light, even in her own hurt. I sometimes joke when I introduce her to people, that she could tell you about a dog taking a poop in a way that would make you WANT to pick up that poop. She finds, identifies, and celebrates the good in people and situations. She is truly amazing in the way she breathes life into people.

So it absolutely broke my heart when I learned that this awesome woman lost her father. I am really horrible at condolences and often just give space to the grieving. But as we both are very articulate of our feelings, I simply asked if I could share her gift of word with the world.

“Nearly 15 years passed after his first stroke, but his tenacity never wavered. That ogre called stroke suppressed his body, but not his will. Today, he unexpectedly surrendered to the daily plight endured, cast hemiparesis aside, and walked into heaven’s gates unbroken. While dense fog permeates our midst, we have been lavished with an outpouring of love.”

She wrote an email upon her return from the service:

“I return to work today still feeling afflicted and emotionally bankrupt, but at the same time, attempting to find gratitude for the small lights of love in my midst. Those came by way of a multitude of messages and expressions of kindness.

I kindly accept warm embraces and must add, those have sustained me in the past week. While I will readily accept all hugs, I do ask that all refrain from questions. I know that any conversation about my dad will erupt in a flood of tears.

My dad’s services honored his life and highlighted his will to serve. I hope to continue carrying the torch he so readily upheld.

I wrote the following piece, printed 50 copies, and had all our family read along during a dove release ceremony. Thought I’d share below:

Your soul is released to a place on high;

Where trumpets sound in the celestial sky.

Those left behind your hand wish to hold;

We trust in God and will rely on one another, further cementing our bond as if cloaked in gold.

We promise to band together, to forge and cinch our allegiance and unity;

To honor your life and remember you for all eternity. ”

 

She told me that a conversation with her niece sparked her inspiration for this poem. She felt the need to pull her family together. Time had waned the urgency of family and life took priority of making memories. We talked about coming of age where we leave much behind to work hard and make it on our own, that sometimes we no longer make time for those outside of immediate day to day life. My friend did not want her family to feel regret, or dwell in a place of division or seclusion. But she wanted to honor her father in the way that memorialized who he was.

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My dad loved to spend time on the water, so we spent the weekend at Grand Lake sharing stories and honoring his life.

She went on to tell me that her father had the gift of word. That he had a way of speaking life, hope, and happiness into anyone. Something she wanted to carry in his legacy.

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“You left my world unexpectedly;

without notice or advisory, you were taken from me.

While I cannot comprehend why you are no longer here,

I try to hold on to reason and rationalize my fears.

Many of us want to rewind the clock, to hug you one more time,

and feel your embrace, hear you try to make rhymes.

Sometimes your words were poetic to me.

You were gifted and talented in prose, with a God-given ability to speak.

When inspiration knocked, a flood would emit

and the end resulted in persuasive words that yielded significance.

I will honor your legacy by appealing to others with your gift of word,

And continue your tradition of inspiring others with purpose to serve.

Your words infused conviction for all humanity.

You manifested God’s love, showcasing a life of integrity.

Thank you for the gifts bestowed along the way,

For establishing a bedrock of truth, for that and more we honor your life today.”

 

My heart is so full of this woman. Her words are always so heavy with love, encouragement and praise. It was no wonder then when she described her father’s gift of word, where she had gotten it from. She spoke of him in a way that made me wish I had known him. There is no doubt that everyone that had that privilege was a much better person because of it.

 

Dear My Sweet Friend,

I cannot fathom the emptiness left by the physical absence of your father. The hunger and thirst to hear his voice, and receive his words that would pick you back up and set you on track. You have worked so diligently to ensure that your family is able to feel warmth and love in a time when otherwise would feel cold and regretful. I also can see that this is the constructive way that you have chosen to heal. You have strength beyond measure and his light and gifts shine through you every single day. You honored him even while he lived and you continue to do so. You are allowed to be emotionally taxed. You are allowed to cry. You are allowed to set those boundaries for yourself. But know that you are supported by people that admire and love you. Thank you for letting me share you, your father, and your story with the world.

Six Facts Sunday- Domestic Violence-Please Share!! It could save a life.

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Today’s facts are not happy ones, but they are true to far more women than should be. Domestic violence is “violent or aggressive behavior within the home, typically involving abuse of a spouse  or partner” is the google definition. For some reason, this very clear explanation comes with some grey areas that I want cleared up.

  1. NO ONE deserves to be hit, manipulated or forced to remain in a situation that is unhealthy. If you would not want your daughter in the situation, you need to get help.
  2. These are some signs that someone is being abused.
    1. they are afraid of their partner or are anxious to please them
    2. stops seeing friends and family or cuts phone conversations short
    3. their partner often critizes them in front of others
    4. they are forced by their partner to do sexual things
    5. their partner controls the money in the relationship
    6. they might mention their partners temper, jealousy or possessiveness
    7. they become depressed, lose their confidence are very withdraw or anxious
    8. they have physical injuries with unlikely explanations
    9. if they leave for any amount of time for any reason, the partner constantly calls, harasses, or follows them
  3. What can I do as a friend? BE SUPPORTIVE. Judgement and criticism will discourage a person from opening up and being honest. Understand that it may seem like a private matter, but your support can make a difference. To suspect and do nothing fosters far worse consequences.
    1. Listen to what they have to say
    2. Believe what they tell you
    3. Take the abuse seriously
    4. Help them recognize the abuse
    5. Let them know how incredibly brave they are. They need confidence in themselves, now more than ever. THE ABUSE IS NOT HER FAULT!
    6. Help them protect themselves
    7. Discuss what they can do and offer practical assistance
    8. Respect their right to make decisions
    9. Maintain regular contact with them
  4. They might stay for a number of reasons. Mostly they love the person they are with. They might be afraid of what would happen to them if they leave. They are scared of getting into legal trouble. They might stay because they have all the same mutual friends and they feel there is no safe place for them to go. Understand there is nothing wrong with her and it is not her fault if she has not left. It is possible that she has been manipulated to think that she could not make it without her partner they are stupid and worthless to everyone because of past decisions she has made. These are lies.
  5. What can they do? For anonymous confidential help 24/7 anyone can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 as soon as they can. They can just ask for advice and will not be forced into anything. They can request information as well. They can also call 911 anytime they feel in danger, even if the abuse happened the day before.
  6. People die from domestic violence. This horrifying fact has wrecked my world. I wish I had known the signs and knew she was reaching to me for help before the worst occurred. I will not stand by and let it happen again to someone I love. So if you are reading this and I have described your current relationship even just a little, PLEASE reach out to me or anyone else, call the number above, please get help. You deserve to be happy and feel safe and loved.

Little Mary Magdalene

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I know it is a little early, but in the month of April I will be interviewing family members to compile stories of my late grandmother and posting them here.

My paternal grandmother, Mary Magdalene Gilliam, was the gem of the family. Every family event revolved around her. I grew up states away from my extended family, but holidays often found us back in the same house surrounded by an ever growing crowd of loved ones. Her passing a couple of years ago was difficult for many.

I recently took a trip with my two kids back home to visit this part of my family and for some personal healing. One of my aunts has spent a good amount of time on tracking our genealogy. She had a picture and a story about an ancestor from around the mid to late 1800s. We compared his photo to my daughter and could see a great resemblance even generations down the line. It was incredible. When I returned home, I wondered if anyone had ever written stories about my grandmother, and if not, someone should or else she will be lost to our future generations forever.

This journey is a tracing of not only my grandmother’s roots, but also a journey to discover the woman that was revered by her children and adored by her grandchildren. Her great-grandchildren and great-greats continue to be born. It is my hope these stories will make it from the mouths of those that knew and loved her, to the hearts of the generations to come.

Baby Grandma-

So far the earliest story I have been able to dig up was more about my Great-Grandmother, Regina Philomena Werner (Schmidt). This story was told by my grandmother to her daughter, Jacqueline, who shared it with me for the purpose of this documentation.

Grandma never really spanked. But if you got in trouble she would sit you down and lecture you for so long, you’d wish she’d have spanked you just to be done with it.

When Mary was four or five years old, she wanted to help on the farm like her older siblings. They all had responsibilities to help the family make their livelihood and she wanted to be big and help, too. So Grandma told Mary, “There’s a storm coming. Go out and collect all the baby chicks and shut them in the coop before the storm hits.”

Little Mary, bless her heart, could not tell the difference between baby chicks and baby ducks. So to air on the side of caution, she collected all the baby chicks and all the baby ducks and stuffed them all inside of the coop. When she was done, she came back and announced her success and pride at completing the task.

It wasn’t until the next day that Grandma discovered Mary’s mistake. You see, the baby ducks were much larger than the baby chicks and those ducks crushed many of the little chicks.

Grandma sat Mary down in the kitchen on a wooden stool for hours, lecturing her on the difference between chickens and ducks and the importance of the chickens to the farm and their way of life. Chickens needed to grow, so their eggs could be gathered and they could be eaten. If all the chicks died, there would be no chickens to sell or eggs to eat. Poor little Mary learned a hard lesson that stuck with her for nearly seven decades.

This is by far the cutest story I have ever heard. This would have been around the time World War II had begun but before America had joined the war. The great depression and the dust bowl of the Midwest were slowing being resolved.  I can just imagine Little Mary Warner with her brown curls chasing after baby chicks and baby ducks, with arms full of feathery fluffs cheeping and quacking maybe even unaware of the fragility of her family’s farm or the harshness of the times. I wish I could have asked her everything about this time. I am sure she would tell me that though they did without, they did what they had to do and just kept on.

 

The imaged used was found on Google Maps and can be retrieved HERE. It is an image of Claflin, Ks which I believe was where my grandmother was born.

 

TBT Fun!

Apparently (I use this word because, like I have mentioned before, my memory is shot) my cousin and I used to be pen pals. Of the many MANY cousins, there were three of us girls around the same age. One that I just found out has had a blog for a year and never told me until yesterday… The other is a very successful dance teacher and Silk instructor (not her in the video obviously but an example of what she does).

Anywho- Dancer cousin and I used to be pen pals. (Blog cousin and I used to live together which will probably fill many many future posts).

I am a year older and I think around the time we were 11 and 12 or 12 and 13, we wrote back and forth a few times. WELL… I uncovered this treasure in my pile of junk.

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A few things stand out to me about this.

  1. She wanted to know about my life. I wanted everything she had. Her house that never changed. Her friends that she could keep as long as she wanted. Her room that was HUGE. Even the easy bake oven that Grandma got her for Christmas, instead of my Barbie Car. But here it is. SHE wanted to know about ME.
  2. My handwriting is not much different 20ish years later.
  3. Our dreams and wants were the same at that age. I wanted to be a Biochemist and work for NASA growing crops on Mars. And who doesn’t want to look thin. I didn’t get either of those things. Boo.

My cousin and I lost touch for a long time. I remember one year at Thanksgiving, she brought her then fiance. I was so jealous that she was getting married before me. A couple years later I reached out to her on my way to desert training for the military. It was a long bus ride so I had plenty of time. She told me about her horrifying emergency delivery. I listened and burned the story into my mind. Even through the birth of my son and daughter being unplanned C-sections, I remember her story and would never wish it on anyone.

My cousin was a key player in the healing of my miscarriages before Little Miss came along. Well placed inappropriate jokes helped me get through the utter loss that consumed me. She made me more comfortable to discuss them, and to write about them. I hoped to one day be that support for someone else.

When our grandmother passed away, my sister and I stayed with my cousin. I feel like there was not nearly enough time spent together, I realized how these women in my life (Dancer and Blogger) are my sisters. I feel so much warmth and love for these two along with my own sister that I truly cannot articulate.

Though I moved around so many times as a kid, and only have exactly one friend that I am in constant contact with, I know that these women will always be my best friends and be there for me without question or judgement.

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There is still time to enter into the Give-Away!

How do I enter??? 

First- Follow my blog by clicking the “+Follow” button at the bottom right side of your screen.

  1. Reblog your favorite Britestfyrefly post on your own page and link it back to me so I know who you are.
  2. Share the link to one of your favorite posts on Facebook and tag me.
  3. Email the link to your favorite post to a few people and CC me.

 

You may share as much as you want. Each link shared will get you an entry into the drawing which will happen Live on Facebook on February 28th and be posted and shared later that day.

Thank you all for all of your support through the last couple of years. A writer is nothing without readers 😀

 

Hey Jude…

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Some weekends I get a sudden burst of energy and use crafts as an outlet. Here are a couple more, but this is a new one that speaks far louder to me than the simple words shadowed by the shelf.

“Take a sad song, and make it better…” Most everyone is familiar with the song “Hey, Jude” by The Beetles. In this one line sits many devastating stories of my life, some of which I have shared with you in earlier posts, and others maybe not.

My Willow Tree collection started accidentally. During my first deployment, my very best friend sent me two friends holding hands (second from the left). This is now my memorial for her as she was taken from this world only weeks later.

My second Willow Tree statue (center) was a gift from my husband for Christmas when I was pregnant with our little guy and our first child. I usually have to tell my husband what to get me for Christmas, but this was completely on his own and seeing as how Sami’s statue held such a strong position in my heart, it only made sense that our growing family sit right there with it. Its present position on the shelf is very important, as we walk through this life together, the rest of the world happens around us. The puppy to the right of center is our family pup, and trial child, Watson. The little boy angel to the left of center presents the 3 little people that we never got to meet.

I purchased the sisters statue (second from the right) because of everyone in this world, my sister has always been a support and friend. My cheerleader and sounding board. (Love you!)

The last two of my collection were recent gifts also from my mister. The far left is the little boy and his mama and the far right, a little girl and her mama.

I’ve had many sad songs play in my life, but turning them into something so incredibly beautiful has been a welcomed journey.

 

 

Gone… Damn you 2016.

via Daily Prompt: Gone

Gone. This word sums up my 2016. I was driving home from my father’s house after celebrating with his family and my children and I spent about an hour and a half reflecting on what it meant. Guilt and shame poured over me as I realized that even while I look at these two very beautiful miracles in my back seat, one given to me just three months prior, they cannot extinguish the pain and sadness that I still harbor from last year.

I have been tried before. I have come up against stronger adversaries that took far more than I have ever had to part with since. But coming into 2017 I still cannot find the air to breathe; a footing to stand back up. I was knocked down and still lack the strength to recover.

I am gone. Lost. I struggle against my own thoughts that were once so easily dismissed. Events took place in 2016 that only gave face to my doubts and fears. All the thoughts that I had questioning myself and my worth were suddenly made real and given a name; a living and breathing being that laughed at me as it knocked me down. It stole from me things that i cannot replace.

I hesitate to say things like “I hate myself.” I do not like feeling like the shell of the woman I was. Empty, unfulfilled, ugly, grey, and lifeless. I move and act out of necessity. Under the veil is a deep cavern, and somewhere at the bottom of that pitch abyss, is me. Small. Weak. Tired.

That girl would have resolved to climb out with every fighting beat of her fiery heart. She’d spring from behind the veil and punch that evil beast right in its potato face. She would gather all the stolen things, left the broken ones, and built a fortress around herself to never be hurt again. Then she’d look down from her fortress and spit on the beast repeatedly.

But me? I’m tired. I’m gone. I don’t know her anymore. I wake up and give them everything I am, then return to myself to find more to give the next day. And what 2016 lets me keep, I cherish like they are the very last special things I will ever have. And I blame myself for not fighting back.

Goodness… Might I also add that I am literally tired, not metaphorically. I seriously have not had good sleep in over four months, which often times directly effects how deep my mood is. Or maybe it really is as bad as I think.