Fifteen Years and Counting

Yesterday marked the fifteen year anniversary of my high school graduation. As I sit here in my own classroom, now devoid of students awaiting Saturday’s graduation festivities, I realize two things:

  1. I’m officially old. Not Jurassic Park old (though it did come out when I was in eighth grade), but older than I’ve ever been before.
  2. I am so much better now than I could have imagined.

So it is with a nostalgic heart and a smile that I dedicate this, an account of my growth since I marched into that iconic theater in my purple gown so many years ago.

I am real.
Bigger than I was in high school, I would love to be somewhere between the size I was then and the size I am now. What matters the most, however, is that I am not totally defined by looking the way I think I should look. I am not skipping meals or eating like a sparrow to keep someone else happy. I am not convinced I am fat while my stomach is smaller than I ever thought it was. I am a real woman. Curvy, bumpy, and natural. And I’m almost ok with that.

I am intelligent.
In high school, I thought intelligence was defined by the classes I took and what my grades were. Now, more than a decade later, it is not the degree I hold that determines my intelligence; truth be told, I have learned far more from my life experiences than I did in high school and college combined. I’m still a work in progress, but the world around me makes more sense. And it scares the hell out of me. No longer trapped in the microcosm of high school, I know what lurks in the shadows. And in the sunlight. I know more than I ever thought needed to be learned.

I am valuable.
My worth goes far beyond what I could have understood fifteen years ago. My paychecks may never be grandiose, but there are aspects of my world that would cease to exist if I wasn’t there to take care of them. No one can ever be me. They may be good, or important, or often even more competent than me, but they will never be me.

I am genuine.
High school was a blur of trying to be liked and trying to belong. Things were said or left unsaid for the benefit of my peers. Now, I am what you see. Though I still often second guess myself, I am who I am. I will not lie or deceive to hide from the truth. Even if it is not a truth you want to hear. Or that I want to hear. Life if better when lived up front.

I am a fighter.
High school was a time of conformity. Now, I fight for the things that are important. I fight for my students, for they deserve more than they are sometimes given. They also deserve to be taught to fight for themselves, to prove their worth, and to value the knowledge that is given to them. I fight for my children because they are precious to me. They deserve the world, but they also must value it. I will fight for them until my last breath.

I am a mother.
This is, by far, the most important. My world was rocked when Maddie was born. She and her sisters are my greatest accomplishment. My days are lived for them. They are the reason that I know my worth. It is impossible to feel the love they give me and not feel both blessed and humbled. And so very important.

I am so much more now than I ever was then, but I still remember where I came from.

Here’s to the class of ’99. May we be strong, may we be wise, and may we leave this world a far better place than we found it.

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What’s in a Name?

To my beautiful daughters,

By now I’m sure you have realized that your parents bicker. We love each other very much, but all decisions are accompanied with a healthy amount of friendly discord. All decisions save one: your names. You mean more to us than any other thing we could have wished for. You are our pride, our joy, our sleepless nights (Mommy’s especially), and you are as strong and powerful as the women you were named after.

Madison, I dreamed of you years before you were born. I knew what it was to hold you in my arms, and in my slumber I called you by name. Your middle name is shared with your Grammy. She is a unique combination of love, strength, and courage. She would fight a grizzly bear to protect any one of you, and she would win. It is not by coincidence that you, our cowgirl princess, share her name. She loves all three of you so very much.

grammy

Makayla and Abigail, you were named after three amazing women. Though they left us before you arrived, you are their legacy.

Your Aunt Joyce taught me strength and dignity. She was long-suffering and spunky. Joyce shared a middle name with your Granny Bowman, who helped raise me. She was the type that thought babies were meant to be held at all times. She was my refuge. Makayla, it was with purpose that we gave you their middle name.

joyce      granny

Abby, when we learned we were having twin girls, we chose to honor the third of the matriarchs on Daddy’s side of the family. Your Aunt Marilyn was warm and nurturing. Living beside her when our marriage began, she taught me a great deal about how to be a wife and mother.

marilyn

My wish for you is that you all know that you are loved. Your names were crafted uniquely for you. They embody the strength and love possessed by women that have shaped your world. They love you beyond belief and to the moon and back.

Love,
Mommy
 

 

 

Finding a Boy in a Tree May Just Change Your Life

Thinking back, there were things that I was allowed to do that would scare the crap out of me now. Being a parent myself, I understand why children can’t roam unattended, but days were different then, and apparently there was a network of moms, unannounced to their kids, who worked together to keep an eye on our location. As I grew up, I truly do remember days when the lightning bugs came out before we went in. Our moms were somewhere in the background by that time in the evening, but all I remember was the fun created by a random game in someone’s yard.

For the life of me I can’t remember how I managed this freedom, or how I escaped the back yard without an armed escort, but I’m so thankful for whatever trick I employed that lead me to the woods behind our yard when I was only four years-old. The memories are fuzzy, but I know that was where I met the slightest of children, blonde and pixie like. Staring up into the heavens, she stood looking at her brother, but I am sure she was placed there for me to find.

As an adult, I now know that finding a male in the top of a tree is cause for alarm. Then, however, it seemed just as amusing to me as it did to her. I don’t know why he chose to climb a tree behind my house, it was nowhere close to theirs, but I do feel that it was kismet that we met, almost thirty years ago, and I know my life would not be the same today if he had chosen any other tree.

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That was the summer of 1984.

As fate would have it, our moms also grew to enjoy their time together, which made it so much easier for the three of us to spend countless hours. I still have the layout of their home ingrained in my memory for it feels like I spent as much time there as I did in my own home. Her family was my family. School, Girl Scouts, camp… we did it all together. She and her brother even sat in the hall with me when my brother, eight years younger than I, was born.

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Then the Coast Guard called, and they had to leave…

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Off to Florida went my best friend, with the rest of her family and my heart. A year later we moved, and that’s where the story gets really amazing. At the age of eight, I lost all of my friends and had to start over in a new school, but one of them remained despite being separated by four states. Phone calls and letters, newspaper clipping and pictures, somehow we were still a part of each other’s lives.

Then they moved to Michigan, where apparently it snows at least eight months out of every twelve, and still she stayed in touch. Somehow we grew up together, even though we really didn’t.

She was back for my high school graduation, stood as my Maid of Honor at my wedding, and has come after the birth of my children. She is the sister my parents didn’t give me, and for that and much more I am ever so grateful.

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Her family is my family, her parents an extension of my own.

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As for that boy in the tree so many years ago, I continue to give him thanks. Had it not been for him, I would not have met her.

I would not have received the text yesterday: “Box #1 sent out today.” You see, that means something more to me than it probably does to most people. It means her stuff is on the way… and so is she. There’s no turning back now.

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Look out world… Auntie Gina is coming!!