Spring Break 2017

A couple of months ago I decided to take a road trip with my crew. As I contemplated where we would go and how long we would stay I looked up at a picture of the kiddos with the ocean behind them and I smiled. That was our first road trip alone. We drove nine hours to North Padre in Texas and spent a few days there then we journeyed on to Alexandria, LA for a retirement party. 

My youngest was two and a half then and we had to stop often for bathroom and hug it out breaks. Sitting in a car seat for hours upon hours just wasn’t fun for him no matter how many rounds of Do Your Ears Hang Low we sung. Our radio went out on the second leg of our journey so we sang a lot to pass the time. I remember being nervous but I was determined not to allow my emotions to take over my desire for the Fantastik4 to see the ocean and for the five of us to have the first vacation without their dad. 

Quick back story, we were not divorced but I had already begun mentally preparing. 

The five of us have flown to the Virginia, Maryland, DC area on multiple occasions to visit my friend Yvonne and her family. From there we have journeyed to Pennsylvania and saw a civil war reenactment. We have gone to New York and experienced all of its glory. 

This year I decided to take a road trip over spring break and drive to San Diego, Creston, San Francisco, Las Vegas and see the Hoover Dam as well Grand Canyon while we were on the road. After a brief conversation with my manager I removed two stops and decided to stay longer in San Diego and Vegas. That was the best decision ever. 

When my oldest is not being a typical 17 year old guy he is quite wise. Years ago during dinner discussion he said to the other three, mom does things for us to make up for things she didn’t have in her childhood. He’s right. I never went on vacations as a child. I never left the state of Texas until I was in college and I only left the Dallas area a few times for day trips. I have been to California and I’ve been to Vegas but I’ve never seen the Grand Canyon or driven through the mountains. 

I’m a certified procrastinator. I just am. We left at 5am on a Saturday morning and I made the hotel reservations the evening before. Shrug. I like living on the edge sometimes. I did not have an agenda. I wanted to determine what we would do when we arrived at each destination. It worked out well for us. The beach in Encinitas, CA was cold but they jumped waves anyway. 

The trip, the journey was also about reconnecting with my babies. Jordan aka the teenager is in the 11th grade this year and like most teens his age he has an active social life. He’s not always home for dinner and when he is home he spends more time in his room than talking to us. 

What surprised me the most was other people’s fear. I was nervous about potentially getting stuck on the side of the road because I don’t know how to change a flat but other than that I wasn’t afraid. We met a woman in San Diego who was visiting her son. I was standing in the lobby as she checked out. She looked at me and told me she was proud of me as a woman and as a mother. She was impressed that I drove from Texas with four children. She said she would not have made the trip with her one. 

Their reactions to the mountains, ocean, Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon made the  journey of 3000 miles was worth every minute in the van and dollar spent. Hearing Josiah say, look at those mountains! It’s beautiful mom. Just beautiful. Over hearing Melody say to herself, “I never knew I needed this in my life”, as she looked at the Grand Canyon made the trip invaluable. 

Watching them skip rocks in the sand dunnes of Southern California, hearing them yell and cheer during the Tournament of Kings in Vegas and most of all watching them reconnect with each other by talking, laughing and loving on each other was my dream come true. 

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The Nights

I hated the summer nights more than anything. It had nothing to do with the long, hot and humid nights. Growing up in the Deep South I was as accustomed to the heat as anybody could get. 

In the winters all of the shutters were pulled to and latched. The windows were closed. The heavy curtains were drawn at night to keep out the draft. Three layers of wood, glass and the best material this side of the Mississippi kept the house silent at night. But in the summers, sometimes in the late springs, curtains were pulled back and windows were open and the shutters no longer blocked the night sounds. This was the beginning of my sleepless nights each year. 

The land we lived on and the house we lived in was my granddaddy’s and his daddy’s before him. My mother was the only surviving child of six. When she married the land went to my daddy. Since my mother only birthed girls this beautiful land went to my husband when poppa died. It helped that I had married well and he proved to be a good business man. Poppa loved John like a son and better than his own daughters. 

I never paid much attention to the sounds until I was older. It was after John and I married that realized what was going on. I went to momma. I cried tears of despair in her lap. She stroked my hair and told me it was not my place to ask John any questions. This was business and the best way to keep a plantation thriving was through the labor of the negros working the land. The way we kept cost down was by creating our own laborers. That’s one of the reasons we had huge profits. She tilted my chin up until I was looking her in the eyes and she said, “Never mention this conversation or cry another tear. This is our way and has been for generations. Now get up and make yourself presentable to your husband when he walks through the door.”

I did as I was told. In all the years of marriage I never said another word. But the night cries kept me awake. The seasons held me hostage. No amount of singing, cotton in my ears or strong drink could drown out the night.

It was not love, she told me. It was business. It was how we as a family continued to thrive. It was necessary. 

I believed every word until I saw a mulatto baby boy toddling around the quarters. He was an exact replica of John. Only with brown skin and curly hair. I had yet to give him an heir. Much like my mother I was cursed with girls. Three beautiful girls who adored their father as much as he adored them. But still, only girls. 

Her

I’ve known her for a long time

No matter how much I try 

I don’t like her

When I see her walk in a room

I cringe; I frown

“Did you really wear that today?”

“Look at your hair.”

Everybody seems to like her

She smiles with her eyes

She lives a carefree life

I’m jealous

Her life reminds me of my pain

Her dreams are ones I never dared dream

Her friendships are deeper

The way she loves is meaningful

I’m worthless

I never had the opportunities

I was afraid to believe

I picked my path

When I see her I don’t see me

I wanted to be a wife

I would like to live her life

I’m hurting

I refuse to hug her

Not one word of praise

If I loved her she might think she’s better than me

I’m withdrawn

Everything I’m not is in her

Places I would like to go she’s been

I will not acknowledge her accomplishments 

I will point out her flaws

If I can make her doubt 

I’ll feel better

“Your children are high maintenance”

“How dare you breastfeed your child in my presence?”

I will neglect her

I will not protect her

I’m helpless

I didn’t have a protector

Nobody loved me

I refuse to love her

I’m lost

“You act like your father and he was nothing.”

When I see her

When I hear her

When I think of her

I’m left wanting

She calls me a name 

The one that cuts me deep

It’s a constant reminder

I glare at her as she begins to speak

“Mom…”

Give Thanks

Today I am thankful for you. You survived another day or night. You chose life or life chose you. You opened your home or decided to travel to someone else’s to share this day and moment with someone else. I’m thankful that you are serving those without food to eat. I’m thankful there is food for you to eat. I’m thankful that the struggle hasn’t taken you out. I’m thankful you have overcome the struggle. Im thankful for those who give and for those who receive. I’m thankful for those who are surrounded by love even if that love is eminating from within. I’m thankful that you escaped or have a plan or have a dream to leave. Im thankful that you stayed and everything is working out. I’m thankful for your new relationships as well as your tried and true ones. I’m thankful you found a place to lay your head. I’m thankful for the company you started, the employees you hired and for the economic difference you will make. I’m thankful you accepted the job, quit your job or sent another resume. I’m thankful that you still have a glimmer of hope in the midst of despair. I’m thankful your life is overflowing with favor. I’m thankful for my children, family, friends, coworker’s and you who stopped by to read my blog. My thankfulness extends beyond today. I was thankful for you yesterday and will be thankful for you tomorrow. Virtual hugs, pat on the back or just a warm smile to you.

5:37 PM

There it is, the garage door is opening. I glance at the beautiful clock on the mantle. It was a wedding gift from one of my friends. I am not sure why I bothered to look. It’s always the same time everyday, 5:37. I sit there wondering. How does he manage to get home at the exact same time. I wonder if he ever gets home early and just sits around the corner waiting until it’s time to open the garage door. He never runs late, never. It’s always the same time.
When we were first married we would commute together, well to the bus station at least. He would drop me off in the mornings then pick me up in the evening. It was a great time to get to know each other better. We would talk about a variety of things, there was no limit to the conversation. When he picked me up from the bus station in the evenings, he would hop out of the car, greeting me with a kiss then and open my car door . He asked about my day and listen to me as I filled him in on the ins and outs of my daily adventures.
When the first baby came, we agreed I would stay home. That was the same year we moved into our first house. I was always excited when he arrived home. The sound of the garage door opening meant so much to me back then. It meant adult conversation, somebody else to hold and change the baby and time with my honey. It was great. We were a happy family of three until the other baby came along. Then we were a happy family of four. 

The kids and I would run to the back door when we heard the garage door open. I would lead the way yelling, “daddy’s home!!!” and they would follow saying the same thing in their cute little toddler voices while clapping and smiling. He would walk in the door with a big smile. After kissing me he would pick them up and kiss them. Daddy was home. 

Then one day or maybe over the course of a few months, something changed. I no longer led the charge. I did not feel like being the head cheerleader. I stopped running to the door. Without me leading them and encouraging them the children stopped too. 

I looked at the clock, 5:39 pm? He’s late? He’s never late. I wonder if something happened to him. 

Are you hormonal?

How often are hormones blamed for a woman’s “attitudes”? How often do others mutter under their breathe, “she must be hormonal”? Depending on the stage of life our moods are attributed to PMS or the various stages of menopause. 

How often are men approach and asked if they’re hormonal? How often do you walk away from a conversation with them thinking, I’ll just avoid him for the next couple of days until the coast is clear? Never?!?! 

When a friend of mine decided we needed to have a heart to heart in which she danced around my new found freedom to speak my mind, her questions came back to, are you hormonally balanced? As I rolled my eyes and threw out some random justifications I reviewed the last five years of my life.

Divorced
Began working full-time after 10 years of being a stay at home mom
Moved twice
A year long custody battle
Incurred legal fees out of the wazoo
Although I’ve been working for the same company for five years I am in my third department
I have four active kids
Attended grad school for two years
I have a teenaged son (enough said)
My ex has been unemployed for about two of those five years (no financial support during that time)
I made some commitments to myself to become a better leader, mom and eventually partner. You see, I typically avoid confrontation but a few years ago I decided to stand my ground and express my opinions.

The answer to the question is maybe but why is that the first thing that comes to mind rather than reviewing my circumstances or just patting me on the back and saying, “congratulations on your personal growth and for not only surviving the last five years but excelling in school as well as work and coparenting four amazing children who are well rounded, funny, and intelligent, all while maintaining a healthy lifestyle and being a great friend to many”? 

I still wonder if I were a man would we have had the conversation at all?

The betrayal

Something was not right. Her intuition’s sirens had been blaring for a few weeks. She kept silencing the alarms. She could easily tune them out while focusing on the kids. But as soon as there was some semblance of silence the alarms would sound again. Louder. More determined. Warning!!!

They had been married for almost a decade. They had five children together. The youngest was a baby. They took on traditional roles in the home. She was a stay at home mom and he worked outside the home. She did all of the cooking and most of the cleaning. He gave her a much needed break from the chaos of five active kids when he arrived home.

Some things changed. They were subtle. If wasn’t for the insistent alarms she might have missed them. He started working out. Consistently. No big deal. It happens all the time. People make commitments towards better health every day. He began leaving for work earlier than normal. Shrug. He could have had a major project he was working on. That’s not uncommon. He stopped answering her calls or they had abbreviated phone conversations even while he was driving home. Okay. He decided one day that he needed to start working from a coffee shop rather than at home after the kids and she went to bed. Why?

If you look at each of the incidents separately you find yourself asking, what’s the big deal? But the alarms. The alarms were telling her something was not right.

One day she decided to do what she had never done in the near decade they had been husband and wife, she signed on to their carrier’s website and checked his cell phone records. The alarms went silent. There was the confirmation of the feeling that had plagued her for weeks. Every morning on the commute to work, every evening on the way home, late at night when the household was quiet the same phone number was there. The number had taken up residence on the phone bill and owned more real estate on the pages than hers. She didn’t cry. She didn’t get angry, initially. She called him at work and asked who she was. He denied it at first. Cheating man rule #1 deny, deny, deny. Then he finally confessed. It was infatuation. He would leave her alone. But he didn’t. Things were normal for about a week. Then the alarm sounded again. This time she was angry. She wasn’t thinking logically. Maybe she was. She went to their closet and gathered up his clothes hanging the the closet and began tossing them in the front yard. Next were his shoes. After that she pulled the drawers out of the dresser and tossed those in the yard as well. (Perhaps she had seen Waiting to Exhale one to many times) After a quick trip to the hardware store boom bam bop, the locks were changed on the doors. She manually locked the garage door. Then she called him.

Come get your %#&! out of my yard before I turn the sprinklers on!! He talked to the other woman on the way home. She watched through the window as he filled his van with his belongs. Her anger subsided but her heart was broken. That day they began a journey down a path that was filled with twists, turns, forgiveness, and repeated betrayal. They would eventually come to a fork in the road and choose separate paths. They would no longer walk as one.