This Could Get Controversial…

As I write to  you now there is a chainsaw raging just outside my window.

And it has been for the last few hours.

I was so looking forward to sleeping in today, but as the sun awoke this morning, so began another day of construction and the slow destruction of what used to be the neighborhood I grew up in.

What was once a few small houses hidden from the street is slowly losing the war against one’s desire to expand an already massive parking lot. A fight we have all been fighting for many years.

To give you some background, every family occupying this neighborhood has been here since the tiny village of Roscoe began. In most cases, all of these houses have been passed down from generation to generation. To us, maintaining that close nit small town feeling is not just important, but it is tradition.

For example, my house was originally the home of my great grandmother. She raised her six children here.

When she passed, my grandparents purchased the house and made it their own. My grandfather expanded the main house, put up a two car detached garage and built a customized woodworking shop out back.

As most of you know, my grandparents raised me through my high school years, when my mother disappeared yet again. Up until that point, I had never lived in one place more than a year or two at most.

This was the first time in my life where I  truly felt secure in knowing it wasn’t just temporary . I was finally able to take a breath, relax and settle in.

When most people step through the door, it is just another house, but to me it is so much more.

Every corner is a memory and every memory a reminder of the unwavering love my grandparents not only shared with one another, but for me as well.

Every morning when I walk down those same steps I did as a teenager, I can almost see the two of them still sitting at the kitchen table. A view I never thought I would miss as much as I do.

For me, this house is what helps to keep their memory alive. And not just the house, but the whole property. From the lilacs my great grandmother planted in the front yard to the lingering smell of saw dust in my grandfather’s shop, it is a familiarity that in times of  distress it is all that gets me through.

And that is just my story. Each neighboring house is filled with its own set of memories and traditions. All of which, we as their residents will fight to preserve at all costs.

It is a way for us to feel close to those we have lost and in our own way to make them proud by carrying on in their absence.

Over the last few years, an entity that I will not name just yet has been on a mission to take over our neighborhood and expand what is already an over excessive amount of occupied space.

As time passes and generations end, they have tried their best to scoop up any house that goes on the market. First it was the house just across from mine, which happened when my grandfather was still living.

What was once a cute little red house surrounded by trees became pavement and the ability to see our house from the main road an impending reality.

When my grandfather passed the house along to me, my neighbor came over to fill me in on what he knew of this entity’s future plans. He told me that when the elderly woman down the street had passed, they tried to purchase the property at half the asking price with the plans of burning it down and you guessed it…adding more pavement. Seeing as this would basically put both of our houses in the middle of a parking lot, he purchased the house before they were able to make a deal with the family.

We agreed that neither of us would ever sell and if for any reason we came to a place where we had to, that we would let one another know first to keep them from having the option to scoop it up. I assured him there was no way I was going to be selling this house as I had made a promise to my grandfather the year before he passed that I never would.

Not to mention how hard I had to fight for it, but that is a story for another day.

We sat together at the kitchen table as he begged me with tears in his eyes to keep this house. He said he wanted me to find someone to share it with as they did. To carry on the tradition as they had. It was a moment that will forever be etched in my mind.

Seeing the strongest man I knew that vulnerable absolutely broke my heart. He loved my grandmother so much, the kind of love I think we all long for. And they had it.

This house wasn’t just special to him because it was her family home. It was where he felt he was finally able to give her all that she deserved. Every corner in the kitchen was customized to her liking. Except that the counters are a little lower than she wanted, something she always joked with him about.

It was the place where he was able to make her visions a reality. “Handcrafted with love”, he would say.

Not only that, but this was also the place where they grew old together.

And it was at that very kitchen table where she told him, she didn’t want to fight for her life anymore.

At that end of my grandmother’s life, she was taking so much medication that she couldn’t keep anything down except bread and milk. She had very little energy and was dizzy most of the time which prevented her from doing much of anything.

So, a few days before my 21st birthday, after her talk with grandpa, she decided to stop taking her medication and let nature take it’s course.

Could you imagine, the person you have spent the last 60+ years with coming to you and basically telling you they have made the choice to end their life? It must have been so hard for him to support her in doing that, but he did.  Even in the end, he put his needs behind hers.

That kind of love doesn’t come around every day.

I was living in Seattle at the time, but was planning to fly back two days after my birthday to see them.

The call came just several days shy of my original departure date, which was now the day of her funeral.

I walked through the door that day to a broken man. And the days that followed were even more painful, but we powered through it. Here, in this house, together.

So now you can understand why selling this house, at least for me, is not an option and I know I am not alone. As I mentioned before, it is a feeling that echoes the neighborhood.

Which is why most of us were not concerned when one of our neighbors decided to sell. This entity originally offered her something insulting like $25,000 for a property that is worth well over $100,000 and she of ‘course said no. They then tried pressuring her, as they have done with many other properties they have consumed, by stating that she would be doing a good service to her community by selling.

The house sat empty for a few months after they moved out their final items, but a sign never popped up.

Then it began…

Just to give you an idea…My house is located directly behind this entity’s parking lot. This property stretches the full length from our street (we share a dead end) all the way to the main road. My neighbor’s lot was filled with trees, some over 100 years old. The yard dips down from the street and the house is set towards the back of the property, so that it is 10-20 feet from the property line we share.

Over the last few months, they have stripped the house down to its bare bones in preparation for a controlled burn. All the trees from the house to the main street have almost been cleared, giving a clear view of my house from the main road. And now they are working to level the land in order to…Yup! Expand their parking lot!!

And here is where it gets a bit controversial, although it need not be. You see this has nothing to do with religion, which is why I saved this until the end.

I wanted you to hear the story without your opinion being swayed by the knowledge of said culprit.

The entity in question is a church. Does that change your opinion?

It shouldn’t.

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Inspired Action

In anticipation for the revival, I went back and watched Roseanne from start to finish (Ya, it took a while!). I just watched the last episode.

It was exactly what I needed at the exact moment I needed it.

I forgot how powerful her final monologue was, especially the end.

When it 1st aired, I was barely a teenager, dabbling with the idea of someday becoming a famous writer from a very small town much like, if not exactly the same as, the fictional town of Lanford, IL.

Say what you will about Roseanne, I know it is not everyone’s cup of tea, but this show was a staple in my life. It may not have been as wholesome as Family Matters or Full House, but not everyone’s life was wholesome. Especially not mine.

In the midst of my dysfunction, it was a comfort (although fictional) that not every family was quote on quote normal, but it didn’t matter as long as there was love.

Lately, I have been struggling to find the inspiration to finish the next chapter of my memoir. And then today, I heard this…coincidence? I think not 🙂

Roseanne – Final Monologue – May 20, 1997 (an excerpt)

“…In choosing life I realized that my dreams of being a writer wouldn’t just come true I had to do the work. and as I wrote about my life I relived it and whatever I didn’t like I rearranged. I made a commitment to finish my story, even if I had to write in the basement in the middle of the night while everyone else was asleep.

But the more I wrote the more I understood myself and why I had made the choices I made and that was the real jackpot

I learned that dreams don’t work without action
I learned that no one can stop me but me
I learned that love is stronger than hate

And most important I learned that god does exist and he and/or she is right inside you.
Underneath the pain,
the sorrow,
and the shame.

I think I’ll be a lot better now that this book is done.”

Her last sentence reminded me of how cleansed I felt when I finished Insane Roots. It was like a therapy session of my own making and I think that is why I am struggling so much with the second book.

There are things I experienced during that time that up until now I was not ready to deal with. Pain buried so deep, I had almost forgotten it was there. Or at the very least, grown accustom to its sting.

Revisiting those memories, means the opening of old wounds and breaking down walls it took years to build.

But it also means healing. A necessary process in moving forward. And maybe someday, moving on.

The person you all know today is not the girl in the pages of Insane Roots, nor is she the struggling teenager in the chapters yet to come. She is the woman who survived them.

And I think it’s time to finish her story.

 

Weekly Inspiration: Dear Me

What would I tell my younger self?

I have been reading my old high school journals to help with the timeline for my next memoir. It is a very strange feeling to be reading the words of your teenage self. There was so much sadness and anger on those pages that I began to feel anxious. I just wanted to reach through the pages and give myself a hug, to tell myself to calm down and that it would all work out okay.

For this reason, I keep getting stuck. I have spent so much time trying to move forward and have made such great strides in self improvement that it is uncomfortable revisiting that head space. It is so far from where I am now that I have trouble relating. Although, like with Insane Roots it is a good therapy session. With each book I grow and this one is proving to be no different. But how do I keep myself from getting bogged down in the energy of it? This need to comfort my younger self?

Then I remembered what a dear friend of mine told me about a process of self healing that involved doing just that.

I am sure you can remember a time in your life when you felt alone, depressed or let down in some way. By going back to that time in your mind and giving yourself the comfort you lacked in that moment so long ago, you have the ability to heal old wounds. It may sound ludicrous to some, but if you are game I urge you to try it. After all, what do you really have to lose?  I seriously doubt it could be bad for you.

It was in one of those moments that I started thinking about all the things I would tell my younger self.

Now don’t get me wrong, if I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t change anything. I like myself just as I am, scars and all.

I would however tell myself to stop and smell the roses and to never forget the importance of spending time with the ones you love. Time is so precious and each day a gift. You never know how much time you have with someone until it is too late. So, use your time wisely and spend it with those you hold closest to your heart.

Okay, your turn! What would you tell your younger self?

Weekly Inspiration: Reflection

Hey all! I am in the middle of moving, so instead of picking an inspiration from the bowl I have come up with one of my own. I think it is fitting considering the recent events surrounding my mother’s disappearance.

What is something you have learned over the past year?

For me, I have learned to trust my gut. I think we all have those moments when we are faced with a choice and our gut is telling us to go one way or another. I cannot count the times I went against my instincts and found out later I should have listened. Over the last year, I have tried harder to rely on those gut reactions and it has saved me a world of hurt.

Not just with my mother, but my intuition surrounding our relationship is definitely been the most measurable. Had I not kept my walls up, I could be in a whole world of hurt right now.

I found out this weekend that it is just as I suspected. The state police went to speak with her old roommate and told him that she is currently wanted in 4 different states under several different names. The detective remarked that she has one of the longest rap sheets he has ever seen. Last I knew, she had 27 know aliases. Now it would seem the number of identities have drastically increased.

I am so very thankful I knew better than to let her in again. I am glad we had a chance to connect and that for once I have been able to walk away clean. Looks like I have learned my lesson…never to trust my mother! It is a sigh of relief in an otherwise awful situation.

I am anxious to hear what you have learned over the past year?!

Public Speaking…Check!

Thank you all for the words of encouragement for Wednesday’s book reading, my first! It went really well and I was able to loosen up enough by the end to really enjoy myself. It was uplifting to see the excitement in the audience after I finished the first story, My Crazy Mother. I barely finished asking if they would like me to read another when hands started popping up, followed by attentive eyes and a stereo exclamation of “Yes!”

My hands and voice lost their shake as I opened the pages to the next selection I had picked and began. After reading the title, I noticed a woman flipping the pages of her copy of the book so I said, “For those of you following along, it’s page 76” and we greeted one another with a smile. I had to hold the excitement back. Not only were people here, but they are engaged! This is exactly how I had envisioned this moment for so many years. I knew if I could find the courage to face my fears, my life would never be the same.

A friend of mine sitting in the front row said I spoke with confidence and pride as I read the lighthearted tale of my trip to Disney World with my foster family. By the end of the passage, I didn’t want it to end! I just wanted to keep reading! Which is so funny considering how terrified I was to do it at all…haha!

After the reading came the really fun part! The discussion of the book 🙂 We filled up the remaining hour with a question and answer session that basically turned in to story time with me as the lead.  I told them funny stories about my child and they shared treasured moments from theirs. It was great!  There was one particular woman in the front row who was very touched by my story and applauded me for having the courage to write it. We talked about my mission to empower others and she told me that meeting me had inspired her. It really touched my heart and gives me great hope for the mission ahead.

It was another moment I will never forget. The collection of which will continue to fuel my desire to uplift and inspire others for as long and as much as I can 🙂

So thankful!!