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No matter how far along I get in life, I'll always refer to myself as "That chick that grew up poor in the drug-filled streets of Port Arthur, Texas." Always a bad ass!

Right now, I'm going through a top-down transformation. I'm starting with my hair - taking it from processed to natural; and so far I'm loving it. Get updates on my process on newtonatural.com.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

No "Goodbye Daddy" for me

My Dad is dying of prostate cancer.

It's a frustrating fact that I've known for some time, but the desire to be sad about it became even more intense two days ago when I called to check in on him and his hospice nurse told me that he was so deeply drugged with Morphine that at this point, he has about a couple of days to live.

If it were my Mother, I would've hung up the phone, packed up the kids and the car, and got on the road to Texas. But it's my Dad, and there are obstacle -- really ridiculous, frustrating, hateful obstacles that should not be in my way. . This has just gone too far.

Most Recent History of The Obstacle:

My Dad got really sick just before Thanksgiving. All indications were pointing to eminent death. He was delirious. He weighed in at 85 lbs. He had a crazy high fever. And he could not get out of bed. So, I went to my hometown, Port Arthur Texas, four days before Thanksgiving to be with him. I needed to say goodbye before anything happened to the man that it took me half a lifetime to finally get an audience with. The man I'd day dreamed about as a child, but did not get to know until adulthood.

Going to my Dad's bedside turned out to be a horrible mistake. It killed a lot of childhood fantasies that I'd concocted and held onto into adulthood to hold on to the sense I'd made of my life. For example, while I was at my Dad's home over the Thanksgiving break I learned the following:
  • My Dad had acknowledged me to several members of his family (including his late wife), but never to his only son.
  • My Dad's son has known of my existence and resented me to the extreme.
  • My Dad's son is powerful and mean.
  • My Dad's son hates me.
These insights weighed heavily on me. They still do.

As a child, I envisioned a day when I'd be reunited with my Dad, the proud Reverend, and he would bring me into his big, beautiful home to live with his beautiful wife and their son. In this fantasy, my Dad's new family would love me the way I loved them. Why wouldn't they? We all had the same last name, and I look just like him. To a small child, this fantasy made a whole lot of sense.

Of course, in reality, I saw my Dad about 6 times my entire childhood. By the time I turned 18, I had abandoned all hope of him ever wanting to have anything to do with me. That's just the way it was.

Then, a small miracle happened. One that I'd prayed for from as early as I can remember: As I packed the car up to move to Arkansas after graduation, my Dad pulled up in front of my Momma's house and told me that he wanted us to have a relationship. It was a true indication of the goodness of God to a woman with the heart of a girl and the never-ending desire to have her father in her life.

From that day on, me and my Dad have had a really amazing relationship.
  • Me and my Dad have talked 4 or 5 times a week on the phone.
  • I've spent countless nights with my Dad in his home.
  • My Dad has been an incredible grandfather to my children; especially my sons who love him dearly.
  • My teenager daughter has spent the summer with him.
  • I attended his50th class reunion with him and my two uncles; which is one of the highlights of my life (pic of my Dad and his brothers at a reunion event I attended with them)
A little late coming, but my relationship with my Dad has been all that I had dreamed of as a child. Even better because he has become my best friend.

Fast forward to today. My Dad is dying and I've decided not to go home and be with him because if I do I'd face a very angry half-brother that will do whatever he can to make sure I feel like the outsider he's determined that I am.

When I was there for Thanksgiving, he said, "I will not spend one moment under the same roof with this woman. I do not know her, and I do not want to know her. She is not my family." Daggers to my heart.

I'm stuck now. I'm hurting because we are in the last days of my Dad's life, and I'm too afraid to return to Port Arthur to tell him goodbye. It would mean that I'd have to face my Dad's son and his look of disgust, and just don't have the strength. I will not let anyone take away the memories we've built over the last 15 years. These wonderful memories that I cling to that warm my heart every time I think of my old man. These wonderful memories that are just not strong enough to erase the childhood of disappointment and grief I suffered as a result of not having my Dad in my life. I just can't let him take the good memories away from me. There are not enough of them to shield me from the bad that wait just underneath.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A life-changing lesson brought to you by Mr. Bear

I was outraged last night when I saw my 6-year old J punching Mr. Bear in the face. I felt physically sick and became more upset than he could possibly understand.

I barked at him, "Put Mr. Bear in my room where he belongs!" He looked at me like I had lost my mind. I'm sure he was thinking to himself, "It's just a stupid stuffed animal!"

I really wanted to tell him what that little yellow bear means to me. I'm not smart enough to describe on a 1st grade level how that stuffed animal continues to impact my life. However, we're all adults, right? So, I figured I'd just tell you, instead.

For my 10th birthday, I wanted this really cool Schwinn bike and a pair of baby blue and pink Pro Wing tennis shoes for my birthday. I only told my Momma a gazillion times what I wanted - every detail of the color, brand, smell, feel, everything. So when I went to bed the night before my big day, I just KNEW I had my gifts on lock down. It was just a matter of waking up. I just KNEW it!

I woke up the next morning, which was a Monday, and got ready to go to school. I put on my nicest pink shirt that I knew would compliment my new shoes. Everyone needed to see the coordination, the planning, the final result.

I was in my Momma's room about 2 hours before I even had to be at school. The entire house was still dark. But of course, she was up. She was sitting in a chair in the corner of her room reading her Bible.

I walked in with a big smile. "Good morning, Momma." "Happy Birthday, baby," she said, and gave me a big hug. I peeped behind the chair while Momma was giving me the hug to see if I could get a quick preview of my gifts, but did not see anything. No worries. We had an awkward moment because I never had to actually ASK for my gifts before. Usually, when I woke up, they were on my bed or in the doorway of my room, or in the living room or the back porch. I had already checked those places and come up empty, so now I knew I would have to show my 10 years of maturity with an extra level of patience.

Keep in mind, I have not mastered the whole patient thing to this day. But I did not want to explode and lose out on my gifts, so I gave Momma about 45 seconds to up the loot, but still got nothing.

Finally, I just had to ask, "Momma, where are my presents?" She bit her lip for a second, and left the room. For the 30 seconds it took her, my heart was beating so loudly, I could barely contain myself. I start hopping and spinning in circles, singing, dancing. I had a mini-party going on for awhile. Then she returned.

She came back into the room with a half-smile. She was holding this pitiful yellow bear that I had seen earlier in a bag of second-hand clothes we were given that she sat on the back porch to wash. She held her arms out and said, "Here you go. Happy birthday, Baby."

What? Happy Birthday? Huh? What just happened? Is this a joke or something? No way!

I felt like Momma had betrayed me.

"Where's my bike? Where are my shoes?!! Where are my presents?" I asked.

Really quietly.. really slowly, she said, "Momma just did not have it this time!"

Before I could even think, I had thrown the bear to the other side of the room, said something disrespectful, and stomped out of the room. The house was still quiet, noone but me and her were even up. My 5 siblings did not really care what day it was. I did not expect them to. It was her job to make me happy on my birthday.

I gathered up every ugly thing I could say to make her pay for ruining the most important day of my life. I walked back into her room to let her have it, but never got to say them. When I walked up, I saw the one thing that would force humanity onto a spoiled ten-year old. I saw my Momma cry.

No, she did not have tears falling right and left. My Momma was proud and strong. She had been through A LOT, but I had never seen my Momma cry. Up until that moment, I did not think she ever did.

She had one single tear caught in the corner of her right eye. But when she looked at me, she smiled. Her smile reminded me of a lot of what I'd seen in my 10 short years. I had seen that smile when I was 4 and my brother kicked me in the face (by mistake) so hard it split the side of my mouth open. I passed out when I saw the blood, but when I recovered, I remembered seeing my Momma's beautiful smile. I had seen that smile on many of the days when the little boys in my neighborhood teased me for having nappy hair, big lips, and skinny legs. Out of the lips that held that smile, I always heard, "They don't see it now, but you are beautiful. You are so beautiful, and even better, you are smart." I had seen that smile after waiting at the door for 12 hours one time waiting for a dead-beat Dad that never showed up for a promised visit. I would not eat or drink while I waited because I did not want to get anything on my pretty dress. I was too weak and disgusted to even get up and walk away from the door when I realized he wasn't coming. Momma smiled when she picked me up and carried me into the kitchen to sit me down to eat.

I took in that single tear and that beautiful smile, and in that moment I grew up. I learned that in life you are not always going to get what you want, but if you have someone in your corner that loves you. . that really loves you, that's a gift in itself. . one that you will never outgrow.

I thank God that I learned how to love and recognize love so early on. I thank God for Momma. I thank God for Mr. Bear.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas brings back dear memories of Momma


I've erected a Christmas tree, added some lights, and even some colorful ornaments, but I cannot seem to get it like Momma's tree use to be.

We could never afford a large tree, but neither of us was much taller than 5 feet, so that was never a real problem.

She would add ornaments that she had collected over the years - ones we'd made, ones she bought, ones that were given - there were generations of people represented in that little tree.

That poor Goodwill tree that she bought for $4 after haggling the cashier down from $10. I can hear Momma now. "Isn't this a Goodwill. I don't have $10. That's my whole Christmas." I knew she had more, but the poor cashier fell for it and let a pretty decent tree go for really cheap. So, from the age of about 7 until I can remember, we loaded that little $4 tree down with glass, ceramic, paper, and every other ornament you could imagine. Then added on a layer of heavy lights.

It was beautiful!

So, what's my tree lacking? It's actually a very expensive tree with some pricey ornaments on it. Yeah, one of the string of lights is flashing - which I hate - but it's a pretty nice tree. Why is it not giving me the same satisfaction as the Goodwill tree.

Well, I can try adding more lights. I could go ahead and put a few wrapped gifts under the tree. I could even move it to an opposite end of the living room. But I know that it won't work.

What's missing is what use to be the reason I rushed to the living room on Christmas morning ,even though I often did not have any presents to open. Even my tree is missing Momma.

Boy, what I would give for her to be here. What I would give for one more chance to give Momma a gift. I would make it really fancy, too. Something that would be the proper thanks for all the sacrifices she made for me and my 5 siblings as she worked her ass off as a single mother.

I'd spend my last to send her on a cruise. I'd take out a loan to buy her something shiny. {She liked shiny things.} I'd stay up all night laughing at one of her funny stories. I'd cook her favorite food. With every sentence, I'd tell her all the reasons she was the best Mom in the world.

I'm spending a lot of time in the glow of Christmas lights missing Momma.

I'm not going to ruin Christmas for everyone by moping around. Momma would hate that.

Since I can't be with her this Christmas, I'm going to enjoy her grandbabies instead. I'm going to put our difference aside and invite my sister to share the holiday with my family. I'm going to tell each and every person that comes into my home how much I love them.

Momma passed away in November of 2007 of lung cancer. I know she's in a better place. She was a woman of God and is getting her just reward. She will never again will experience pain, loneliness, sadness or fear. But man oh man, I cannot get through a day, especially not during the holiday, without wishing she were here.

If I could have one thing for Christmas. . well, you get it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Teaching my son to be a man: Excuse my potty mouth

For the sensitive and ultra-conservative, this is not your kinda story. . To add to that, for the sensitive and ultra-conservative, this is not your kinda blog. . but let's not get caught up in introductions.

This weekend me, the kids, and the boyfriend braved the crazy cold weather to watch the Little Rock Christmas Parade (after being FORCED to watch the crappy Jacksonville Christmas Parade because my daughter's band chose to partake) which is a component of our holiday tradition that we continue to maintain.

At some point near the end, my six year old, could not wait to go pee. So the boyfriend did the honorable thing and volunteered to take my son to the potty.

As you are considering what happened next, please remember that my family is not the outdoorsy type. We generally hold our pee for indoor plumbing, so the whole "you have to pee outside" thing probably took my son by surprise.

Once he was correctly positioned to do his business, my son did what he was taught to do. He pulled his pants down to pee. Apparently, the expectation (from the boyfriend) was that he would reveal the portion of his body that needed to perform for this duty and leave the rest of his body cozily covered in the 30ish degree weather. But again, as he was taught, my son, pulled his pants down to his ankles and commenced to go pee.

The boyfriend was shocked - appauled even - to look over and see my son's bottom and a large portion of his legs bare while he went to the bathroom. He asked, "Son, what are you doing?" Of course, my son looked at him and stated the obvious, ".. going pee."

The boyfriend took note of the scene, allowed my son to fully relieve himself, and waited until we were comfortably at home to dig deeper into what he thought was a very odd tendency for my fully potty trained six-year old son. He described, as I have to you, what happened, and waited until the end to burst into laughter.

I had my back to him, so it took him quite a while to figure out that I did not get the humor in the situation. Since I had not caught on, I thought I would address him.

"What else could J do when he went to the bathroom if he did not pull down his pants?" I asked. "Ha! Well, he could've just taken it out. He can't just expose his entire body every time he has to go pee," said the boyfriend. "What does he do when he goes to a regular bathroom: at home, the mall, or at school?"

Without him saying it, I was then able to figure it out. I never gave consideration to what men do when I potty trained my boys. My eight-year old had somehow just picked it up, but not the baby. He did what Mommy does. .

I can do this. I can teach my sons to be a man. I can teach them to be caring, honest, hard-working, dependable.. all the good stuff that comes with being a human being. But my brother, boyfriend, church member, friends, ex (as much as I hate to mention him), are invaluable in guiding me and my sons on the details that I miss..

And by all means, don't die of embarrassment when you learn about the missed details in public. I'm not perfect. Bring it to light. We can laugh and move on.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Giving and getting something "different" this Christmas

Christmas use to be the bomb! Spending money. Getting all the crap I just window shopped for throughout the year. Every year, I pretty much hit the mother load. It was awesome.

I collected a bunch of loot and tried to figure out how I could prolong the new feeling of each and every present by pulling off some sort of mix and match when I wore or displayed them.

It was bananas the number of compliments I got on a pair of diamond earrings, a dazzling diamond ring, a tennis bracelet, or an expensive purse. Bananas, I tell you! I loved it. I ABSOLUTELY loved it!

Until the truth was revealed. That STUFF did not make me special. It did not make me immune from heart ache. It did not make me feel any more secure as a result. It did not even make me happy. It definitely did not make my children happy. It did deflect questions about, "Now, why are you with this guy for over a decade when you have no intention on marrying him." Having a bunch of stuff gave me a tangible way to overshadow a really dark side of myself. I had become really shallow.

So, why give it all up now? Why start from scratch now? What's different?

I've grown up. Damn, I'm 34. I have 3 children who need me to think outside of the glitter and gold and to care about the larger picture. And truly the most real reason is that I've lost enough people to know that I need to be always reflecting on the importance of what's real and staying true to who I was raised to be.

We grew up poor. On Christmas day, you may not have received a gift. You were fed. You were happy. You were surrounded by family that loved you and showed you love on that day that was more powerful than a black Barbie doll or a Walkman. It was special.

We spent Christmas laughing and bonding and loving and listening and growing. It was a really blessed experience.

That's what I want to give my children. . I want to give them CHRISTmas. This is going to be the very first Christmas that they will not have a stack of gifts that soar higher than the tree. They will not get to open their gifts and retreat to their rooms to play.

I'm going to give them the gift my momma gave me that keeps giving all year round. I'm going to give them love, happiness, and some special memories of family.

I have never looked forward to a Christmas the way I look forward to this one.

I don't need gifts. The one Christmas gift I would love I can't get, so I'm content with what I have instead.