Monday, October 15, 2012

A Dreamer

Since I was a little girl I have always been somewhat of a dreamer. Some would say I had a vivid imagination while others might say I had faith and was a believer.  I would imagine scenarios in my mind -- from"seeing" myself singing a solo on stage, making drill team then the cheerleading squad, being a teacher, lawyer, or photographer, or simply being a mother.  I dreamed of making a difference in this world; making the world a little better for the generations to follow. I dreamed of falling in love with a wonderful man and riding off into the sunset together.   I could always "see" it clearly in my mind.  Some of these "visions" came true, while sadly, others did not. 

As I got older I would let my mind wonder, but stopped allowing myself to dream as much.  I would still visualize things like getting my badge, making detective, etc, but those "visions" became fewer and farther between.  Perhaps it was the disappointment of the real world or maye it was really the fear of actually getting all I ever wanted.  For a period of time I stopped allowing myself to dream...as much.  I focused on work and only briefly stopped to dream.  A part of me stopped believing, dreaming, hoping - having faith- in a lot of things. 

About six months ago I moved to the beautiful  place I now call home.  Even before I moved I made a committment to reprioritize my life here.  I made a committment to find a church to raise my son in where he could learn about the God that has always carried me through and I could work on reconnecting with God.  I made a committment to focus on having a life outside of work - to enjoy and cultivate hobbies, friendships, and maybe even find love.  I made a committment to create a life in which my son could play sports, engage in after-school activities, have sleepovers, and have a "normal" life.

It has been a little over six months and I have learned a lot - about myself, my family, and friendships.  I have learned that life goes on when you leave and in some cases it goes on without you in it - and that is ok. I have learned that to some distance means everything and to others it means nothing. I have learned that family is everything and no matter what the distance is, family is only a heartbeat away.  I have learned that writing a letter, sending an email or text, or sending a photo can make someone's day, but in the absence of words a hug can heal the heart.

In six months I have lost a cousin, a grandmother, and a man that was like a grandfather to me.  I have watched my sister from another mister as she cherishes every second with her mother who  fights for her life while a new friend bid a teary fairwell to her father. I have watched from afar as my daughter has began forging her own way and watched while my son has blossomed and grown in his new environment.  I have watched  from afar as my mother and stepmother deal with their respective grief and struggles with grace, fortitude, and in some instances humor.

In six months I have met a lot of amazing people, but only made a few friends - something that will increase with time as I continue with reprioritizing my life and cultivating outside interests.  I have picked up my camera and allowed my creative mind to  come alive again drive it's actions and am preparing to take classes to enhance my skills.  I have picked up a pen and tapped the keys on the computer and begun to write for pleasure here and there and write daily for my job.  I have begun the work of reconnecting with my God by being in church and while I hike in the beautiful mountains and walk by the powerful sea where I am reminded of His presence. 

And in the last six months I have begun to allow myself to dream.  I am allowing myself to dream of being a teacher, an author, a photographer,  and a person who makes a difference in this world.  And little by little I am allowing myself to dream of love - the all-consuming, can't catch my breath, heart stopping, toe curling kind of love I know is out there because deep down (really deep down) I have never given up and have to believe it exists and will find me here under the Carolina blue skies I call home.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Kids

For the last few days I have been thinking a lot about kids.  How they are raised. How they behave differently than they did when I was a kid. How I want my kids to be when they are adults.  Today my neighbor told me that I had "trained" my son well, then quickly corrected himself and said I was "raising" him well.  I think he had it right the first time. You see we do train - we train our children so that they automatically do things.  Let me explain.
When I was a kid my parents trained me to say "please" and "thank you." I was trained not to lie - even if it meant I would be in trouble. I was trained to never show up to a family dinner empty handed and to help clean up afterwards. I was trained to respect my elders (I would never even think of cursing in front of my grandmother).  I was trained to work for what I wanted and not to expect anything to be given to me.  I was trained to treat others the way that I wanted to be treated.  And the list could go on.  So now, as an adult I say "Please" and "thank you." I say "sir" and "ma'am" and I work. And every now and them I will hear my dad telling me, "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" or "if they are talking about you they are leaving someone else alone." 

And I train my children. I train my children not to lie..and I hear my mother telling me, "you may be in trouble, but you will be in a lot less trouble if you tell the truth" and I repeat those words to my children.  I train my children to treat others the way they want to be treated and to work for what they want.  I have trained them to say "please" and "thank you" and we are still working on the "sir" and "ma'am."  And my son works...he doesn't expect for things to be given to him. So when he wants new things he asks for chores to do and he tells his friends he can't play because he has to "earn money." 

Every day I work to be a good parent. I do not do things exactly like my parents did and I make lots of mistakes, but the one thing I do right every day is I love them.  And hopefully as they grow into adults they will take those things I have tried to teach them and pass them on to their children..and train them in a similar way.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Play

A year or two ago one of my best friends gave me a necklace for my birthday or Christmas. The pendant had a little girl with the word "Play" on it.  She said it was to remind me to take time and play.  I cherish that pendant and the sentiment that goes with it.  When I received it, my life was full of work and very little play.  This move has been good at helping me to learn the balance of work and play.

The town I live in is large enough to have everything I could possibly want or need, but small enough that people wave when they pass you on the street and  your neighbors come out and try to get to know you.  We have festivals, farmer's markets, free Friday night concerts, and a sock hop on Main Street on Saturday nights.  We have a lovely old courthouse that has been made into a museum and a downtown that is something you might see in a magazine of a nice southern town...as it is. 

About a month ago the town was invaded by bears...not the furry wild animal, but the beautiful artwork.  Every year a group of artists paint stone bears and then sell them at an auction in the fall.  The money from the auction goes to local charities and the person that bid the highest on each bear gets the privilege of taking the bear home.    Occasionally, when driving through town, you can see bears of auctions past sitting on lawns of the lucky winners.

One Saturday evening, the day after the bears made their debut on Main Street, I took my beloved camera and went to town to snap some photos.  I tried to capture a little bit of their personalities with the lens.  There are too many photos to put them all here. 
The bears all represent something within the community from agriculture to Girl Scouts.  There are bears for the Humane Society and many other wonderful charities.  My very favorite bear is Amelia Bearheart.  Amelia Bearheart is going to be auctioned off to benefit Mainstay - a local Domestic Violence Shelter.    I believe in the organization for which she will be auctioned, but I also think it is just sweet the way the mama bear is holding her baby.  I could just see this beautiful bear sitting in my yard!
 Although the bears are for good causes they are still whimsical and fun - as you can see with this bear adorned in her jewelry and lipstick.  The bears bring playfulness to Main Street.  As I walk or drive down the street the site of these bears make me smile. Bears with books, bears with lipstick, and bears with animals and sayings painted on them.  Each bear has a story to tell and each invites the people looking to stop, take a look, and grab a photo or  two. 
       
Incidentally I still have that necklace and wear it - especially when I need a reminder to "Play."   


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Balance

Balance can have many different meanings depending on how it is used.  When I think of balance I think of an equal distribution of elements in your life; something my life has lacked for a very long time - mostly at my own doing.   For the last several years I have immersed myself into my work;  trying hard to save the world, one case at a time.  I have a driving passion for the work I was doing and deciding to make a change was not easy.  My identity was wrapped tightly into what I did - possibly because I spent so many hours doing it and believed so strongly in the fight.   About a year ago I attended a workshop on Trauma Stewardship (aka vicarious trauma).  I learned that, among other things, one of the ways vicarious trauma shows itself is through the loss of creativity.  I realized I had lost all of mine.  I had lost balance in my life 

I decided when I moved to NC that, although I was still going to do this work and fight this fight  with all the passion I had before, I was going to go in search of the ever elusive sense of balance.  It became important to me that I have a balance in my life, but even more important that my son have a "normal" childhood.  For the last few weeks I have heard the words of one of my favorite songs repeated over and over , "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it all." (from Home, by Chris Daughtry - a Carolina boy).

My son Bailey has made many friends in school, but especially in the neighborhood.  There are a group of five (including him) that are inseperable.  Daily they gather outside after school (and homework) and play a myriad of games that usually involve toy guns (sometimes containing water), swords, running, climbing trees, and imaginings that you find in the thick books that line Bailey's bookcase.  The boys range in age from nine to thirteen, but the differences don't seem to both them (most of the time). We have not been without injury and heart-stopping moments.  From a tooth getting knocked out to falling out of a tree, I am simply grateful that no one has been seriously injured.  And, as crazy as it sounds, I am grateful that my little boy is getting to be a little boy - even if my heart needs a jump start every now and then.

The past few weekends we have had sleepovers at our house on Friday nights, with this past Friday being the biggest.... all five of them overnight.  I am not sure what time they went to bed, but know that it was after 330am.   I survived and they thrived.  I am confident that come Friday night I will hear a little boy say, "Mom can ......(fill in the name or names of the boys) spend the night?"  Of course the answer will be "sure, as long as their parents don't care."  It's all part of the childhood experience.
                                                                                                                            Part of the search for balance has involved family, career, work at home, and play time.  Since the move the battle has waged, but mostly the battle of work at home and play time.  I have made tremendous  efforts at trying to fit both into the weekend, and an equal amount of effort at not doing work-work at home.  Since I have not had the chance to make many friends, it has been a challenge to not bring work home to occupy my time--but it is a challenge I continue to resist.                                                                                                                 This past weekend Bailey and I did some yard work.  The house we live in is over seventy years old and sat vacant for awhile.  The house was in pristine condition, but  you could tell the yard had been maintained, but not loved. So, while in quest for balance I have made it my mission to put a little TLC into the yard.  Bailey worked hard at planting flowers (which he helped pick out) while I used my hedge trimmers to manicure the bushes.  They may need to be cut down some more, but I made need more tools for that.  One thing is for certain, those that were driving by were sure to get a giggle as this 5' tall girl was wielding electric hedge trimmers above her head while standing on a ladder.
                        We picked up a little  pedestal at my favorite second-hand shop and a fountain for a mini-patio that I built a few weeks ago, but alas it wouldn't work there, so we improvised.  Hopefully the flowers that surround it will give it the serene look that I was going for.  
Since we did yard work on Saturday, I took the boys, my camera, and our little dog Miss Isabelle for a hike on Sunday after church.  We went back to Dupont State Park to do some more exploring.   First stop was High Falls.  The roar of the water cascading over the rocks is amazing.  I find myself mesmerized by the power of the water and the pureness of the air around me.   Breathtaking does not seem to do it justice. 
The boys like High Falls but want to keep moving. Off to Triple Falls we went. As the boys led the way they let their imaginations guide...we were no longer in a forest in North Carolina, we were transported back in time..or maybe forward depending on the game of the moment. One minute they were deciding who was "it" and the next they were fighting off forces only they could see, working together to be victorious. They ran ahead, but every now and then, one of them would slow down and walk with me as I captured photos looking for that perfect shot..of what I am not sure. We would talk...talk about school and what they want to be when they grow up. And sometimes we just walked. Mostly I tried to just listen. Listen to what they said to me, listen to what they said to each other, and listen to the sounds of the wind in the trees, birds chirping, creeks gurgling, and the waterfalls in the background. We would meet other hikers and although the faces changed, the smile on their faces and the "Good Afternoon's" were the same.  As the roar of the water got louder we knew we were getting closer to Triple Falls so the boys hustled ahead - anxious to climb the rocks.
Finally we arrive and descend the 100+ stairs to the base of the middle of the falls. The rocks were smooth and in some places damp. Signs are posted warning of the dangers associated with climbing these rocks. The boys just smile and nod when I tell them to follow the rules, and off they go. The views are gorgeous from the base of the second fall, but the boys wanted to explore so they ventured up to the top (against the rules of course) where they tasted the cool mountain water.  The boys climbed while Isabelle and I relaxed in the warm sun.  Every now and then I would see something that caught my eye and I would snap a photo or two - mostly of the boys. 

My quest for balance is an ongoing task.  I have an intense desire to succeed in life, while making a difference along the way.  I won't give up the passion for the change, but as a dear friend, and mentor, of mine told me yesterday - I am not in emergency work anymore.  I no longer have to go Mach 4 with my hair on fire.  The lessons will still be there to be written in the morning and those articles will get read.  This opportunity has been presented for me to be able to do the work I love and still make a difference along the way....all while enjoying the childhood of my youngest and slowly finding my way back to me and the sense of balance we all need.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

We're not in Kansas anymore (not that we ever were)!

About nine years ago I decided to take a trip on my own.  I purchased a round-trip ticket to Raleigh, NC and reserved a car.  I set out with my 35mm camera and a guidebook to the Outer Banks.  My goal was to drive the entire coastline of this beautiful state in a quest to see all of the lighthouses.  The journey was more than a roadtrip to a beautiful place, it was a journey of self-discovery.  It was on that trip that I became comfortable in my own skin.  I spent five days alone and learned that I am pretty good company.  I ended the journey on November 15 in Atlantic Beach NC where I took a walk in the sand at sunset.  The date is easy to remember, as it is my birthday.

I returned to Atlantic Beach two more times over the next nine months and then at least once a year afterwards.  To say that I fell in love with the area is a major understatement.  The beach became my place of respite...the place where the evils of my work disappeared, even if for just a short time.  Each time I returned, I could feel my shoulders relax and my breathing slow as soon as I crossed the state line.  The closer I got to the coast, the more relaxed I became.  Suddenly there was no rush to do any one thing, but instead a pace to enjoy all things.  Bailey saw the ocean for the first time, learned to swim, and skip rocks on the NC Coast.  He learned to love riding bikes on Ocracoke Island.  When asked why I returned to the same place every year, the answer was simple.  Tradition.  But to add to that, no where else gave me the same feeling as being here.

In 2007 Bailey and I did the Mountains to the Sea experience, traveling from the western part of the state to the coast.  It was here that Bailey went hiking the first time.  It was here that I saw my first waterfall (Hickory Nut Falls,  Chimney Rock).  The lush beauty of the mountains and the crisp, clean air was intoxicating. 

A few years ago I decided I wanted to move here and began the job search.  My challenge was finding something that would keep me in my work, but allow me to give more to my son.  Unbeknownst to me, my dad told my sister that he would help me move once I got the job.  Unfortunately God called him home before this dream was realized.  When I came across a disc that contained photos of him I had to wonder what he would say.  Probably, "I knew you would."  As smooth as the move went, something tells me he was here the whole time.

When the dream of relocating became a reality, a few people thought I would be disappointed.  Some believed this sense of peace and joy was merely a vacation response.  I would be a liar if said I did not wonder it myself.  I worried about leaving my twenty year old daughter in MO and uprooting my eleven year old son from the only place he has ever called home.  I worried that it would not live up to my expectations. All of these fears aside, I decided to take a leap of faith.  With this blog I will share the journey that came from taking the leap.


On Easter Sunday, 2012, Bailey, the animals, and I settled down in the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains.  Every single day I look around and the mountain ridges and I marvel that I am lucky enough to live here.  I once thought the coast was where I wanted to be, but suddenly I feel that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.  Bailey and I found a house that is as close to perfect as it could be, with neighborhood children for him to play with.   I am home every night to have dinner with this beautiful child and off every weekend to take him exploring the area.  We hike to various locations, camera in tow.  We have found a church that is uplifting to both of us and are slowly getting acclimated to the shear kindness demonstrated by those around us.  The kindness that is the south.  My co-workers have opened their arms and welcomed me into their group.  It is a joy to come to work each day knowing that I get to work with some great people doing what I have been dreaming of doing.  And when I lay my head down at night, I am grateful for the blessings I never thought I'd see.  But what made me finally know that I had made the right decision was when Bailey said to me, "Mom, I'm glad we moved here."  When I asked him why, he had a variety of reasons ranging from making new friends, having a great house (with an awesome room), learning of a new game, and finally..."because you are happy mom."  Out of the mouths of babes.

So, we really aren't in Kansas anymore....we are finally home.