The List

She walked down the driveway towards her mailbox. The sun was peaking from behind the clouds. There was a slight breeze that moved the leaves on the oak tree.  A couple of blocks over someone was mowing their lawn. A few of the neighborhood kids were laughing and talking as they threw a football to each other. It was the end of a normal day but the beginning something unexpected. 

As she contemplated her day her lips curved into a slight lopsided grin. She always had the same smile when she accomplished her tasks for the day. She felt good about herself. She felt accomplished. Today she managed to cross off every single item on her list. She admitted to herself that she was slightly neurotic about her daily list. She planned her days carefully starting the night before. She read over and over again, “Successful people are organized. Successful people make lists.” Her list was on her phone. She found an app that made it easy to see the lists from previous days. From those lists, meetings on her calendar and todos provided by her manages, she composed her nightly list. Sometimes it took over an hour to determine the seven items then to rank them in order of importance. Neurotic but efficient. According to the books she read she was successful. Her system worked. 

She arrived to the mailbox at the same time as her neighbor. She broke away from her mental celebration to say hello. As she pulled out the mail and began to flip through she noticed a purple envelope. It was addressed to her but was void of a return address. She mentally went through her calendar. Was somebody getting married? Was this an invitation to a party? She tried, in vain, to to recall what event was coming up that would explain why someone would send her something in a lovely purple envelope. Her name and address were hand written in calligraphy. Something formal. She got excited at the thought of buying a new dress. 

As soon as she walked in the house she performed her regular routine of hanging up her keys placing her handbag on a hook and sliding off her pumps exchanging them for comfortable socks. As she sunk into her sofa cushions she held the purple envelope on her hands. She opened the envelope still thinking about the possibility of a new ensemble. What she read confused her instead of providing excitement. 

Dear Sofia;

Beginning at 9 pm on this day, you will have 48 hours to compose a list of twelve things you want to accomplish. As each item is completed you are expected to check that items off of your list. Enclosed you will find a check for $100,000. When those 48 hours expire, your life will end. 

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She wept

It was her right as a woman in control of her body
It was her future
It was her choice
It was her present
It was her wrong she just didn’t know it at the time
She wept
She would join a sorority with an unwritten roster
She would not have monetary dues
She would pay and collect in tears and heartache
She would know many years of regret
She wept
Who knew she would mourn
Who knew she would subconsciously count the years
Who knew of her ever present fears
Who knew it wasn’t a topic to ever discuss
Who knew the sisterhood would not offer support
She wept
She was not alone yet nobody was there as she wept
If it was so right then why wasn’t it talked about amongst girlfriends like shoes and hysterectomies
Why wasn’t there a t-shirt or a walk to raise money for awareness?
Why isn’t there a scholaship fund for the less fortunate
Why wasn’t there a support group for the nights she wept
Why didn’t somebody warn her of the shame
She wept
She wept for the life she would never know
She wept for lies she was told
She wept for the future of one she would never hold
She wept for she was full of regret
She wept because there was not a soul that could feel her pain
She wept because there were 56 million other women like her just with different names
She wept
She wept
She wept

The Unseen

She didn’t believe in things that go bump in the night. But sometimes, when she was home alone, she heard a noise upstairs. It sounded like somebody running from one room to another. That sound gave her chills.  She could hear the impression of the feet as they touched the floor above her. The first time it happened she blew it off. But it kept happening. She finally grew curious and brave enough to walk upstairs. Although she was unarmed and ill prepared, she knew it was time to confront her growing fear. 

Five Years Ago

Five years ago this month I moved out of the house I selected and we purchased in 2001. I remember being pregnant with my Honeygirl and she was born in 2002. She will be 13 this year. The divorce, that drug on for two years, was final in March but I was given 60 days to move out. Yes, we lived together for most of that time. 

The search

I have always been very budget conscience. I knew how much I could afford to pay in rent and I was determined not to pay more. Finding a place, in a decent neighborhood, zoned for good schools, that was relatively close to my job (less than a 30 minute commute) and near a good daycare was definitely a challenge. It doesn’t sound difficult but believe me it was. I wanted three bedrooms but had seriously considered a two bedroom apartment. 

That’s when I met this guy. He was tall, dark, handsome, single, he worked out, ate healthy, he was driven, determined and best of all he was a real estate agent. If you’re going to spend hours at a time looking at houses with someone it doesn’t hurt if they’re attractive. He told me I had too many children to even think about living in a two bedroom apartment and took on the challenge of finding a place for us. We had a very limited amount of time so we looked almost every night. I was running out of time. It was May. Then one day we were driving around and I saw some townhouses I had been interested in but could not afford. One of them was for lease. We walked in to look around but another agent and client were there and they were on the phone with the leasing agent making plans. My agent looked at me, as we walked out and said, “maybe there’s another one.” I told him, “no, this one is mine.” You see, when we pulled up I took note of the name of the leasing agent’s name that was on the sign in the yard, Mary Ann Turner. That name may not mean anything to you but to me it meant the townhouse was mine. My family and her family had been friends for years. I had dinned at her table. I had attended celebrations at her house. Her niece had been my best friend during high school. I got Mary Ann’s personal phone number from my mother and I called her. After explaining my situation and how quickly I needed to move she put everything in warp speed. I moved out before that agreed upon date. 

The move

I did what most of us do when it’s time to move. I rented a truck and recruited some people to help. When it came time to move the recruits were avoiding my phone call. I put out an SOS to some friends of mine on a moms group that I participate in online. These moms and I had seen each other through lots of moments in time. Besides, if you need something handled who do you call? A mom of course. After a couple of phone conversations and a few hours later my new moving crew was on the scene. My eyes still water up when I think back on that day. There were several families that showed up later that day to help me move. It was a beautiful thing. My good friend from high school came with her mom who had an oxygen tank. She moved things like pillows and supervised the little children when she was resting on the sofa. (We miss you!) By the end of the day I was moved, beds setup, kitchen unpacked and settled in to our new home. 4moms rock!!

Summer visitation

Five year ago my children were ten, seven, four and three. I had been a stay at home mom until two years before when I started working a part-time job on the second shift. February of 2010 I began working my current job. All of that was to say, I had never been away from my children for a significant amount of time. I remember spending one weekend with Yvonne in Missouri. But that’s it. The way summer visitation works for us is the ex has the option of splitting up his visitation into two time periods that equal 30 days or he can have 30 days in July. He selected 30 days in July. Oh. My. Gosh. Thirty days without my babies. Thirty days without their momma. So many tears were shed during those 30 days. He would not allow me to talk to them or see them during that time frame. I had to get creative. I went to their church. My sister in law went with me as my backup and support. I had never seen my babies look so lost and dejected. When they saw me they were timid. The younger two cried as they hugged me. The pastor’s wife told me they missed me and were struggling. I broke down. This was the hardest time of my life. Another time I cut up a watermelon and showed up at his house while he was gone. His girlfriend let the kids come outside while she watched me through the window of the house I had picked out. During that month, I was allowed to have the kids for a weekend. I selected Little Dude’s fifth birthday weekend. I invited some friends over and we partied in the pool. A few days later they came home and we sat on the sofa and cried together. They were tears of relief. Tears of sadness. Tears of joy. Tears upon tears upon tears. My babies were home. 

Today

That was the first and last summer of him taking them for 30 days. School is about to end and summer visitation is about to begin. We no longer cry. Their summers are filled with volunteering summer camps and vacation bible school. I can’t say they look forward to the extended visits but they no longer dread them. This has been a tough year for me. I have to admit I’m looking forward to the silence and the reduction in my grocery bill. We’ve come a long way. 

I Am Not a Single Mother

I feel better already. Just typing that and saying that makes me feel great. I typed those words long ago and a couple of ladies were immediately offended. They were single moms. I can’t join their club. I don’t live the same life. I don’t have the same struggles. I would be a member of a group to whom I’m not paying dues. 

I grew up in a single parent household. My mother worked a mid shift and we ran amuck. She would get home around midnight after working long hours. When she arrived home we were snug in our beds, self tucked. Oh but the adventures we or rather they, my two older brothers, sought and enjoyed. My adventures were mild in comparison. 

There were no breaks for my mom. No weekend visitations. It was us all the time. We were always there but she wasn’t. Her days off? Sunday and Monday. There were no dinners around the table talking about our day. My alarm clock woke me up and my books put me to sleep. 

I’m not a single mom. To say so would negate the weeks, days and hours my children spend with their father. They see him weekly. He picks them up for youth, coaches their teams, attends concerts, recitals, school parties, field trips and even joined the PTA. They have extended visitation. From Thursday to Monday I’m child free on his weekends. It’s a great time of refreshing for me. 

We are coparenting. We live in different houses, cities and counties. We don’t always agree but who does? We approach life differently but who doesn’t. What we do agree on is raising our children to the best of our abilities. We’ve also agreed on mediation instead of court should we come to an impass. It happens. 

I’m not a single parent. I don’t fit in that category. My struggle is not the same. To say otherwise is a disservice to real single moms and dads who are doing life with their kids without the assistance of another parent. 

If I may be perfectly honest with you, the biggest difference from being a stay at home mom and now is I get every other weekends to myself whereas before I only had three hour breaks about once a month. 

The land of What If

It’s built like the kingdoms of old. Fortified by high walls, guards, a real moat with dangerous looking fish that have sharp teeth and are always looking for a nibble. When you enter its gates it is understandable if you are overwhelmed by the sights and sounds. There is one way in and one way out. Maybe. Creative exits and entries are allowed and encouraged. That’s how the town got its name, What If. 

Like most settlements you have the naysayers and the yaysayers and then there are those who quite honestly don’t care. It’s the people who make the town what it is. What is it exactly? I’m getting to that. As the narrator it’s my job to weave a tale of mystery and intrigue. There I went and added more pressure to myself. What if you don’t agree that I’m intriguing or what if you decide that I’m only slightly interesting. 

Where was I? Ahhh yes! The town. Some of the town is rather bland and unassuming while other parts are colorful and bold. There are no rules or associations setup for neighborhood dictatation it’s merely your imagination that opens or close the door to your mind’s elaboration. The bland and the bold intermingle throughout. There is no set pattern, nor rhyme or reason just whatever was pleasing to the purchaser and dweller. They decide quite naturally depending on their reasons. What if I’m not accepted or what if I stand out? What if I have to repaint? What if I get to recreate something magical? It’s your outlook and perception that act as your interjection. 

Do the dwellings reflect the owners garbs and gowns? Not necessarily. After all, one could live in a home without color but choose to dress like a beautiful rainbow and accessorizing  with things that shine or sparkle. There is no rhyme or reason it depends on what they consider pleasing. 

What if  you take a moment to walk about town take time to breathe in the aromas of the markets’ fresh wares? Fruits, vegetables, fresh seafood and meats. Boiling soups and desserts freshly baked will flirt with your senses and draw you in like the sirens. Feel the texture of the clothes and become awed by their colors. Or you can walk past the market with a swift foot not indulging in the sights or sounds. What if you have an important meeting or want to go home after a long day of working?

What if you get to decide how to live? What if you get to decide what to fear? What if your glass is half empty and another’s half full and yet others celebrate with the chance to add ice or rum to theirs? What if you what if yourself into a tizzy? What if you have so many brilliant thoughts and ideas that make your brain dizzy? What if indeed the never ending tale. It’s been around for centuries and will continue until the end of ages. 
We had a rough Mother’s Day of 2015. We spent time off and on all day in our closet due to tornado warnings. When I put Little Dude (9 year old and #3 of 4) to bed he said he was scared. “What if a tornado comes while I’m asleep?” My response was, “I don’t live in the land of what ifs unless it’s full of positive thoughts.” We then began to what if some hopeful and silly things. He slept peacefully with his mind full of cheer and not fear. 

What is a mom?

The answer to the question depends on who you ask. The answer is created in the mind and woven in the heart and is based upon perception, experience, comparisons, actions and words. When we hear the word mom some want to bow down and worship and others begin to cry for the heartache the word envokes. 

What is a mom? It could be the person who birthed you or it could be the person who paid thousands of dollars, jumped through legal hoops, answered the social study questions correctly and attended parenting classes before bringing you home. It could also be the one who agreed to take you when you were abandoned and had no place to go. 

A mom is not defined by activities such as homemade cookies, homeschooler, biggest fan, protector, supporter, chef, chauffeur, admirer, worshiper, or spoiler.

So, what is a mom? She’s you, she’s me, she’s a coworker, she’s a friend, she’s your neighbor, a teacher, a bus driver, a clerk, an addict, a CEO, a homeless person, broken, healed, she’s any female and she’s imperfect. 

She shaped you and molded you in action or lack thereof. She’s a person not a goddess. She’s real not imagined. She has hurts and challenges. She has triumphs and victories. 

Well, what is a mom? She the person you choose to honor one day a year.