Live Happy

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Last night, a dear friend and I meandered our way into a new coffee shop near my house. We were overtaken by the incredible smells of the brewing coffee and scrumptious looking waffles. Our eyes and bodies were drawn to the colorful and whimsically displayed gifts. My eyes, okay, my eye, zeroed in on a white travel mug. If you know me, you know I have a thing for drinking vessels, so that’s no surprise. This simple, white stainless steel tumbler had two words, “Live Happy.” The rainbow colored, fun font drew me in, and as I sit here sipping my mocha from it this morning, I’m not ashamed to admit that I have found a soulmate in an inanimate object.

 
If I sat down and told my life story to a stranger, they might question how someone whose life has been one major trial after another can feel so connected to the term, “live happy.” The editor of Parade Magazine has also been slammed by the iron fist of life at times. In his book about learning that his deceased, abusive father was not actually his biological dad, he said, “Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have- life itself.”

 
Before I joined the Camp Sunshine family as a 13 year old whose typical egocentrism was exacerbated by my facial deformities, scars, and general poor health, I believe I was, to an extent, immobilized by the gravity of my loss of a normal childhood. In 13 years, I had spent more time in hospitals and clinics that most adults, I had endured relentless teasing by peers for my asymmetrical face and thick glasses. I was served through the vision impairment program at school. Now, I appreciate that I know how to maneuver buildings, stairs, and the like by counting steps and using my hands and feet. But, then it was plain torture. The gravity of my loss grew stronger when I saw kids fighting similar diseases, not survive long enough to be immobilized by the gravity. So, off I went to this camp I’d heard of my whole life, with the weight of the world on my shoulders.

 
I walked into the gym of Camp Twin Lakes in Rutledge, Georgia on a Sunday afternoon with my virtual anvil and enormous trepidation. Within a few hours, I realized that I had a couple hundred people around me who were helping to carry that weight for me. I suppose that the grounds where Camp Sunshine is held is full of virtual weights of the world of thousands of kids like me, who were given the opportunity to rise from the pain and treasure this precious gift of life.

 
I am certain that my experiences with cancer and Camp Sunshine’s intervention in my life were purposeful. Like so many of our campers, cancer wasn’t the worst thing to happen to me. However, because I learned how to rise from pain on those hallowed grounds, Camp Sunshine has taught me how to “Live Happy.”

 
Camp Sunshine has been my home for 22 years. It is my family. It is my strength. It is my happy. For 16 years, I have had the honor of watching the magic of Camp Sunshine diminish the gravity of cancer for hundreds of children. I know that the friendships that form will be the friendships that will sustain them even if life gets harder than having childhood cancer. For some of the campers, there is a blessed assurance that this week will be the very best of their all too short lives. They will have the opportunity to do crafts, to shoot a bow and arrow, to paddle board, to canoe, to fish, to swim, to face their fears, to sing after every meal, to climb a wall, to zip line, to play tennis, to do karate, and a million other things. They will leave camp lighter-hearted, happy, exhausted, and ready to face the next day knowing they have a life-long support system in place.

 
Because of the indescribable gift that Camp Sunshine brings to campers and counselors alike, many years ago, the counselors decided to do more than just volunteer our time. Each week of camp, (it’s coming in a couple of weeks!!!) we rise early in the morning to run a 5K to raise money to ensure that no child can be denied this gift because of financial strain. It costs $800 for a child’s lodging, medical care, food, and daily life at camp, and our goal as counselors this year is to raise $317,000 which would cover the expenses for all of our campers for 2017!

 
If you have ever felt like the weight of the world was on your shoulders, please consider donating to a place that lifts that burden and inspires us all to “Live Happy.”

More than meat loves salt,

EGG

Click here to donate:
http://events.mycampsunshine.com/site/TR/Events/General?px=1005908&pg=personal&fr_id=1080

A love letter to my Slick

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In today’s post, I would like to spotlight one of the Garner’s most senior “villagers.” In past posts, I have referenced the village that it takes to survive, not merely grief, but life. While each member of our village has been instrumental in our family’s survival over the last 7 years, there are some whose shoulders definitely need replacing after carrying our family’s burdens for over 40 years. While her husband is fine (Fast Eddie, we all know you don’t need an ego boost, love you), I am sad for anyone who does not have a Jane Wynn in their life. (Heretofore referenced as, “Slick,” which is short for, Slick Jane.)

While I can’t remember if my dad coined Slick as TB before or after Molly died, I remember my dad’s words when he bestowed that nickname upon her. “Jane Wynn is the friend you want with you in the trenches of war, she’s our Trench Buddy.” Mom and Dad quickly moved to, “TB,” when referencing Slick. However, we know that I won’t even watch movies that have war in them. While I wholeheartedly agree with their sentiment, everyone knows that Slick and I would be the first to be blown out of a trench because of our inability to blend in; so I will always think of her as my Slick.

Mom and Slick matriculated around the same time from West Georgia College. While Mom was a cardinal and straw, x and the gold horseshoe, Chi Omega; Jane was the president of Kappa Delta. I won’t compare the two to The Bloods and The Crips, but I won’t not compare them either. They knew of each other. In my mind, they curtly nodded at each other, straight-lipped, as they passed one another on campus, but I don’t know how accurate that is. As fate would have it, they ended up teaching together at a rural elementary school, and attending the same church. Lucky us, they allowed their Greek affiliations to morph into the modern philosophy of, “All of Panhellenic is glorious and we are on the same team!” These progressive thinkers, along with a couple of others, set the foundation for what has become a lifelong legacy of loyalty, friendship, love, forgiveness, endurance, and compassion.

My Slick has the most uncanny long-term memory. (She can’t remember why she walked into the bathroom until she wets her pants, but I digress.) She remembers more details of my mom’s pregnancies and the infancy of my brother and I than our own mother. (Sorry, J-Lo, you have a lot of strengths, but short-term and long-term memory are not on the list.) For instance, did you know that when my mom was in Sunday school the summer she had Griffin, he knocked her bible off of her belly from the womb??? I do, because Slick has told me. You might not be aware, but Slick would also tell you that I had the tiniest features and legs. The only thing my mom tells me is that I cried a lot.

I have very few milestones, holidays, traumas, or memories that Slick is not a part of. From sitting across from her at Captain D’s, Western Steer, or the Polar Cub for 6,000 consecutive Sunday lunches, to her promising me on my high school graduation that college would be the most fun time of my life, to sobbing in her lap last year when Lamar was missing—she truly has been a constant in a life of perpetual upheaval.

While Mom had to quit teaching because my constant crying might or might not have been caused by the ginormous tumor in my eye, Slick “dug ditches” every day for 150 years as a first grade teacher. (If you want pure entertainment, ask her to describe her brief, post-retirement gig as a bank teller.) When I decided to enter the education field, she was ending her career. Sure, she was exhausted. She was jaded. She knew what I was getting myself into. Most retired educators told me to run the other way. Not Slick. She encouraged me. When I spent the longest 9 month of my life with my own first grade classroom, I would call her crying and questioning my will to live, much less go to work. Slick never discouraged, only told me to keep, “digging ditches.” I survived, and somehow those children in my room did too. Like my own Mama, Slick knows me better than I know myself. A few months ago, I told my mom some thoughts I had been having about my career path, and she laughed. Just that day, Slick told my mom what she thought I needed to do, and it was pretty much verbatim what I had been processing in my own head.

Although I did not need confirmation that Slick was our “ride or die,” nothing solidified her place more on the pedestal upon which she sits than her role in our healing over the last 7 years. At first, day after day, night after night, Slick was there. She cried with us. She held us. She made us drink. She gave us medicine. She made me take a shower. She went with mom to the doctor, sat in the corner, took notes for me, and spoke to the doctor on our behalf. She helped organized the momentous task of thank you notes. She helped us move the pen when we couldn’t remember how to form letters. When I reluctantly went back to Nashville to student teach, I could do that with full confidence that my Slick was going to put her eyes on Mama and Daddy every day.

Just like she knows me, and just like I love her, she had the same relationship with Molly. Like the Kenimers, the Putnams, the Worthys, the Buchanans, and so many others, her heart was broken when Molly died. I know she went home and broke down, and I know she had to take breaks from the weight of emotion at our house, but I don’t remember that. I remember her being a rock for us. Her rock hasn’t eroded or moved since December 29, 2009. When we have questions about those first moments and days from when Molly died because our brains have protected us from those memories, we call Jane. Just like she dug ditches with thousands of first graders, she digs them with us. She explains to us why we made funeral decisions how we did. She explains why nobody let us stay by ourselves for weeks. She reminds me why I wasn’t allowed to use the hall bathroom.

So, why am I choosing the mild February night to make sure you know how sad you are that you don’t have a Slick in your life? For the first time since Abraham Lincoln was president, I can’t pull on to West Fairlawn Drive, go in the door (without knocking), and say, “What the hell is going on?” For the first time since she left Hogansville to start her path to the presidency (of Kappa Delta), Slick has left 30117. Her husband, Fast Eddie, is clearly aging and feels the need to return to his roots. While they aren’t settling in straight up Portal, they are setting their sights on the closest metropolis, Statesboro. What makes her the epitome of a trench buddy, is what makes her a wife, mother, and grandmother without parallel. I don’t do well with change, and I’m selfish. This hurts like hell, but I am happy to know that she must feel like my Mom is strong enough to get through a week of lunches and dinners without her. Emily, Cliff, Ford, Wynn, Fast Eddie: take care of our Slick. She’s spent a lifetime taking care of us.

Slick, when Molly discovered more than meat loves salt, I have no doubt that your face was a part of what that looked like.

For Griffin, Molly, Julie, Marla, Ellen, Katie, Carson, Thomas, and Sarah— We love you more than meat loves salt.

EGG

When we don’t all start at home plate

I interrupt the (ir)regulary scheduled posts about teen pregnancy, grief, maternal mortality, adolescence, and the like to throw my two cents in about the proposed U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. Read at your own risk, keep all hands and feet inside the vehicle, and feel free to buy the $50 picture of your face screaming as we all barrel down this mountain of baloney.

 

I have an earth shattering revelation. Teaching is hard. I know, I know, I better have data to back that statement up. I do, but I’ll mostly be sharing anecdotal data in this rambling. Please note that this statement does not say, “Teaching is hard, and all other professions are easy.” Every vocation has its difficulties, and hopefully any career person does find their work to be a challenge. However, teaching is one profession that has the absolute power in affecting our nation for generations. Full disclosure—I am a teacher. Fuller disclosure, there are moments in almost every day that I can name off 15 jobs that would be easier. Luckily, just when I want to run screaming from the building, a light bulb of understanding finally goes off in a student’s mind, or a student says something hilarious, and I settle back into my peace of knowing that the long days, dark circles, and bursting e-mail inbox MATTER!

 

I am not that pristine teacher you see in social media memes smiling at an impeccably orderly room full of children sitting in rows with pencils in hands eagerly awaiting the knowledge that is about to leave the teacher’s mouth and appear into their brains. Instead, I’m the teacher whose desk is a perpetual pile of papers, books, Diet Coke cans, water bottles, paperwork, half-eaten lunch cartons. My students are sometimes lying across the table with their iPads giggling at fart noises. Sometimes I’m at the front of the room getting more dry erase marker on my hands and clothes than the board. Often I am sitting at a table with a student and occasionally banging my head against said table trying to understand how a child has reached the age of 12 and still does not know that the holes on notebook paper go to the left. My classroom is chaotic. I have 50 minutes each day to teach, assess, reteach, reassess, remediate, extend, record data, and build relationships with the ever-changing pre-teens that make my classroom come alive each day. If you haven’t been a teacher, I know this sounds easy and you think I need to get my act together. True that, but those of you who have had the privilege of being an educator are laughing and saying, “Amen.”

 

I have taught in two schools during my teaching career. As my bleeding heart usually dictates my path, in both positions, I have served children who benefit from federal funding. Title I and IDEA funds, while seemingly never enough, have helped to ensure that these beloved babies of mine have a chance at getting a fair shot at life. I don’t ask for much as a teacher. But, I do find that my impossible job seems a bit more realistic when those who lead my school, system, and policy understand where my students and I are coming from.

 

In my family, we often use baseball analogies to describe society. We all agree that we want everyone to reach home plate, but we often neglect the notion that there are those that start life on third base. We rarely acknowledge that there are some people who are still home in bed and have no idea where the baseball park is. Today, it hit me that we have some people who are playing baseball in an overgrown pasture with a pinecone and stick, while others are playing in the most advanced MLB stadium with aerodynamic bats and electronic balls. (I don’t know if those exist. I am more of a football fan.) It seems that the person slated to govern those babies- who don’t even know where the cow pasture, makeshift field is, is sitting on home plate at the new SunTrust stadium in Cobb County. This terrifies me as a teacher, and breaks my heart as a citizen who believes that public education is paramount to our democracy. I do not know Betsy DeVos. I like the way her last name sounds. She seems nice. I love George Strait. His crooked grin and cowboy hat are what my dreams are made of, but I wouldn’t want him to perform brain surgery on me. I would like to explain just a few points from her Senate hearing that make my heart hear Enya songs the loudest.

 

  1. Proficiency vs. Growth

With students in poverty and students with disabilities, these are the kiddos that are either playing baseball with sticks and pinecones, or trying to get to the pasture to play with them. The lower levels Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs must be met before one can reach the Self-Actualization tier. Many of them have the potential to find their way from the pasture to SunTrust stadium, but it takes a heck of a lot of work on their end and their teachers to get them there. Although the government might not agree, there’s no greater feeling than a kid sliding into a first base marked with somebody’s shoe when they started off 5 miles down the road from the pasture! Crawling leads to baby steps, which leads to running.

 

  1. IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities ]Education Act)

Hear me out, I could wallpaper the Taj Mahal with all of the paperwork in continuously file to prove that my state uses the federal funds for their intended purpose. You know what? I’m happy to do it. It doesn’t “even the playing field,” but it does at least give children a rudimentary map to the pasture. As a child who was in visually impaired classes, I am really thankful that it wasn’t left to the state to decide if I was worthy of an education or not. Furthermore, this legislation is a HUGE piece of American policy that is cited time and time again. It has been a springboard for many other pieces of legislation that help ensure domestic tranquility for all. I’m embarrassed for her that she didn’t really understand what it was. Kudos to Senator Hassan, whose son has Cerebral Palsy for not coming over her desk like a Grizzly bear. (Sorry, had to!)

 

  1. Sexual Assault on College Campuses

For six years, the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights has worked diligently to outline parameters and enact procedures that safeguard students from sexual assault. Seems pretty legit to me. One should be able to feel safe while working to further their education. If the unthinkable happens, students should feel confident that the government will take quick action in his or her defense. Mrs. DeVos however, could not say definitively that she would uphold the progress that has been made in this area. I will just leave it there, because I just can’t…

 

  1. Financial Aid

I admit, anything with word financial in it confuses me from the start. I don’t really get all of the bureaucracy involved either. However, I am not slated to be United States Secretary of Education. Her ignorance in this matter points back to the fact that her life experiences are the antithesis of the vast majority of Americans.

 

I will stop there. School choice and charter schools still haunt my dreams. I can’t even go there. I will be the first to admit that our education system has evolved into a mess more layered than the papers on my desk. We have standards that are not based in brain development, and they are targeted toward students who have had the greatest chance for strong foundations in early literacy skills. We expect our teachers to personalize instruction, work long hours, be stand in parents, build background knowledge, be trained on new initiatives every few months, collect truckloads, data for every child, and smile throughout the entire day. We have the incredible opportunity to teach our children to use the incredible gift of technology to enhance their learning and to connect them with resources beyond our wildest imaginations. We also must teach them how to be good citizens in real life, as well as how to navigate the infinite virtual world with the highest of digital citizenship. It’s hard. It’s exciting. It’s real. It’s rewarding. We need a leader who has our back. We need a leader who believes in our children even more than we do.

 

My musings will likely never reach the eyes of the 100 men and women who will be charting the course for our 50 million public school students with their vote. My hope is that it reaches a few hearts, who can let their voices be heard as constituents and stakeholders in our schools across the land.

 

How blessed are Mrs. DeVos and I both to have been born in SunTrust Park?

 

More than meat loves salt,

EGG

Songs not to sing on your next karaoke night

Do yall feel the breeze blowing? That’s not the change in weather from rainy, to warm, to a 3 snowflake Atlanta shutdown, to a brisk 65 degrees. No, that breeze is the result of my vigorous funeral home fanning. Thank you, Jesus! Pass the smelling salts, I might fall  out again,  November and December are over! I do my best to avoid most holiday-ish things. I don’t put up a tree, and I will throw your Beats Pill speaker into the lake if you try to play a Christmas song. I don’t even care how much I love Dr. Dre!  On the way home to Carrollton on Christmas Eve Eve, I hit shuffle on my phone to avoid the nauseating melodies of everyone’s joyful love of Rudolph and Bethlehem, and came across my MRG playlist. Instead of crying over Christmas music, I wept and wailed over songs that reminded me of Molly. By the time I reached the Carroll County line, I felt like I had done one of Dr. Oz’s cleanses. Gratitude abounds that some days, I don’t need Oprah’s other friend, Dr. Phil, because I can crank up the volume, roll the windows down, and speed (no more than 5 mph above the speed limit) into a different frame of mind. Musical tastes and the evoking emotions are as varied and individualized as the instructional strategies I am supposed to be listing on the lesson plans I still haven’t made for this week. However, I thought I would share a few of the songs from my MRG playlist in case you need a dose of Dr. Phil on a Dear Abby budget.

 

Not Even the Trees– Hootie and the Blowfish

I’m a stranger in my home…Now that everybody’s gone

 

Darius Rucker (Don’t call him Hootie) channeled his grief over his mother into some touching lyrical pieces. One night, I was in the middle of a dance floor in downtown Nashville, and some song made me cry at an inopportune time. A friend who I was with, hugged me, and sent me this song to listen to the next day, and got me another beer. If Hootie himself, I mean Darius, can make himself vulnerable, then I can too.

 

A Picture of Me (Without You)- George Jones

Imagine a world where no music was playing

Then think of a church where nobody’s praying

                           If you’ve ever looked up at a sky with no blue

Then you’ve seen a picture of me without you.

 

Our daddy raised us right. Somehow, through the years and years we had to pretend to hate George Jones just to satisfy our rebellious spirits, his whiny, post-nasal drip laced voice became as comforting as solid ground after a trip in the Pacific Ocean on a rowboat. When I hear this song, I cry for my Daddy, he’s stuck here with his second favorite daughter.

 

For Good– Idinia Menzel and Kristen Chenoweth

And just to clear the air

I ask forgiveness

For the things I’ve done, you blame me for

But then, I guess we know

There’s blame to share

 

I saw Wicked three times before Molly died. (Once after, and it was ugly.) The story of Elphaba and Galinda has so many parallels, and this song just cuts to my guts. If Molly and I could have had a duet in the ICU, this would have been it. I sing this and hope she’s forgiven me.  Also, Emily > John Travolta! (Ideeeeeeeenuh Menzell)

 

Drink a Beer- Luke Bryan

Funny how the good ones go

Too soon, but the good lord knows

The reasons why it gets

Sometimes the greater plan is kinda hard to understand

Right now it don’t make sense

I can’t make it all make sense

 

I can’t remember for sure, but I am almost positive that Molly would have held Luke Bryan’s dirty toenails in her mouth if he couldn’t find a place to dispose of them. She loved country music, and she loved a good looking man. She’d be jealous to know that I’m now in an exclusive club with Luke. This dead sibling club isn’t one I’d recommend, but this song speaks to how sometimes in grief you just have to stop. I’m thankful for my friends who continue to drink a beer with me, even if you don’t want to put my toenails in your mouth.

 

Threaten Me With Heaven- Vince Gill

I hear angels through the window pane, calling my name

Someday when they carve my name in stone, I won’t be, I won’t be alone

If by chance a miracle appears, I’ll dry up your tears

What’s the worst thing that can happen,

If they say my time is through

Can they take away the love,

Or the years I’ve shared with you

What’s the worst thing that can happen,

What’s the worst that they can do

 

I know, I know. Every Southern Squallio (funeral video to the Garners) has Vince Gill’s, Go Rest High on that Mountain. Sure, Molly is resting high on some mountain (waiting on Luke Bryan to join her, no less), but this song is what I imagine played in her heart as we said our goodbyes. As much as I hate to admit it, being threatened with heaven is akin to being threated to be struck once with a wet angel hair noodle. If I know anything, I know she had the blessed assurance that heaven was the worst that could happen—for her.

 

Baby Blue- George Strait

She brought colors to my life that my eyes had never touched.

And when she taught me how to care, I never cared so much.

I try not to think of her, but I fall asleep and do,

And drift off where the grass is green and the sky is baby blue.

 

Molly can keep her contemporary country crooners with their skinny jeans and baseball hats. I’ve had a long-standing infatuation with King George. I’ve always known about his daughter being killed in a car accident, and admired how he put his family first. It’s not only admirable that he maintained his residence on his ranch in Texas, it’s the safest option for him. Had he lived in Nashville, I would never have finished grad school because I would have stalked him and possibly been on the news. Baby Blue is a tribute to his daughter, Jennifer. Molly also had piercing blue eyes, and I miss those most. (See George! We have something in common! P.S. Call me.)

 

Saturday in the Park- Chicago

People talking, really smiling

A man playing guitar

And singing for us all

Will you help him change the world

Can you dig it (yes, I can)

And I’ve been waiting such a long time

For today

 

 

If you know this ditty at all, you are questioning why this song made the list. Confession time: I love Chicago almost as much as Mr. Strait. As an older sister, I felt it was my duty to expose Molly to more music than the teeny bopper dumb stuff. (Well, I liked that stuff too. Ricky Martin, the Garner girls love you forever.) The only thing I loved more than belting out this chorus (and nailing the “Yes, I can” part) was how mad she would get at my enthusiasm for this song. When I hear this song, I want nothing more for her to tell me to shut up.

 

I’m Goin’ Home-  Hootie and the Blowfish

I guess it’s part of someone’s master plan

I see you laughing, you’re my best friend

 

As I said before, Darius gets it.

 

Sissy’s Song- Alan Jackson

Why did she have to go

So young I just don’t know why

Things happen half the time

Without reason without rhyme

Lovely, sweet young woman

Daughter, wife and mother

Makes no sense to me

I just have to believe

 

Molly loved country. Molly loved Georgia. Shout out to the West Georgia peeps who can make a song about their sister dying. Many props to you, Mr. Jackson.

 

Let it Be– The Beatles

And when the broken hearted people

Living in the world agree,

There will be an answer, let it be.

And though they may be parted there is

Still a chance that they will see

There will be an answer, let it be.

 

Please don’t hate me, but the Jennifer Hudson version brings me to tears every time. These British Boys did well with this song. Sometimes I want to punch them, because I don’t believe there will be an answer. However, they have the Monarchy on their side, so I will indeed let it be.

 

Chris Rice– Untitled Hymn

And with your final heartbeat

Kiss the world goodbye

Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory’s side, and

Fly to Jesus

Fly to Jesus

Fly to Jesus and live!

 

Molly loved this song. She made a CD of songs for my mom during a hard time, and this song was on it. When I hear this song, I know it’s what she believed. I know that’s what she’s done.

 

Light My Candle- Cast of Rent

Bah humbug, bah humbug

 

As a child of the 80s who was wrapped up in the events of the AIDS crisis, I felt it important to educate my sister on the events of decade that preceded her birth. What better way than with show tunes? I also taught her the important lesson of, “If you can’t sing good, sing loud.” My inner Mimi came bellowing through the hurricanes of life with that one line. Molly developed an aversion to A Christmas Carol, but the lyrics to Light My Candle enchanted (or haunted) her dreams.

 

Do you Realize?- The Flaming Lips

And instead of saying all of your goodbyes, let them know

You realize that life goes fast

It’s hard to make the good things last

You realize the sun doesn’t go down

It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round

 

No, I’m not a hipster. Yes, this song makes me cry.

 

It Doesn’t Get Any Lonelier Than This- Steve Earle

And there’s no place I can go

Just the dusty corners that the shadows know

Maybe this is as good as it’s gonna get

And I’ll always be this way

I’ll just wander this world callin’ out your name

It doesn’t get any lonelier than this

 

Steve Earle and I have had different struggles in life. But, I know those dusty corners that he and the shadows know. Life isn’t as lonely when you know someone else is too. I think he wrote this before Molly died. If not, I’m sorry. I have a strong diaphragm.

 

Walk On- U2

And I know it aches

How your heart it breaks

You can only take so much

Walk on

Walk on

 

If you do not like Bono, then I don’t like you. No, seriously, bye Felicia! Bono’s lyrics are steeped in scripture, and this man walks his talk. To be honest, I don’t even know where Burma is. This song was penned for the woman who fought for Burmese democracy, but some days I think the man with the rose colored glasses knew that I needed this reminder too. It makes me cry when he tells me, but he says, “Walk on,” so many times in the song, I have to follow his command.

 

Just Breathe- Pearl Jam

Nothing you would take

Everything you gave

Hold me till I die

Meet you on the other side

 

This song was released the year that Molly died. The title seems simple; but, if you have experienced traumatic loss, you know that there are days you need this tattooed on your shoulder. If it was tattooed on your forehead, you would die because you sure don’t want to look in the mirror.

 

Rainbow Connection- Kermit the Frog

Have you been half asleep and have you heard voices?

I’ve heard them calling my name.

Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors.

The voice might be one and the same.

I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it.

It’s something that I’m supposed to be.

Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me.

 

My dear friend Jon Allmett re-introduced me to this song in 2000. I thought it was beautiful and poetic then. After Jon died and his brother Justin took over full time song leading at camp, I began to tear up hearing Justin’s soulful voice ease those lyrics out. Now, it’s an all out snotfest when my Justin sings this song. He and I are the only two members in our support group, so I hereby declare this our theme song. Rainbows are meaningful to my family (not even because of the ark, but that’s cool too.) When I dream of Molly, I feel half awake. That stupid green frog makes me feel more emotions than the Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercials!

 

The Words I Would Say- Sidewalk Prophets

Three in the morning,

And I’m still awake,

So I picked up a pen and a page,

And I started writing,

Just what I’d say,

If we were face to face,

I’d tell you just what you mean to me,

I’d tell you these simple truths,

Be strong in the Lord and,

Never give up hope,

You’re going to do great things,

I already know,

God’s got His hand on you so,

Don’t live life in fear,

Forgive and forget,

But don’t forget why you’re here,

Take your time and pray,

These are the words I would say,

Last time we spoke,

You said you were hurting,

And I felt your pain in my heart,

I want to tell you,

That I keep on praying,

Love will find you where you are,

I know cause I’ve already been there,

So please hear these simple truths,

Be strong in the Lord and,

Never give up hope,

You’re going to do great things,

I already know,

God’s got His hand on you so,

Don’t live life in fear,

Forgive and forget,

But don’t forget why you’re here,

Take your time and pray,

These are the words I would say,

From one simple life to another,

I will say,

Come find peace in the Father,

Be strong in the Lord and,

Never give up hope,

You’re going to do great things,

I already know,

God’s got His hand on you so,

Don’t live life in fear,

Forgive and forget,

But don’t forget why you’re here,

Take your time and pray,

Thank God for each day,

His love will find a way,

These are the words I would say

 

I can’t capture the meaning of this song in one lyric. Molly’s last Facebook post was the chorus to this song. Although I think that post was a cry for help, now this song has become the anthem of how I navigate this world without her. I live life in fear, I have no clue why I’m here, and I find peace in Diet Coke and the Kardashians. I fail to live up to her example and forget her advice many times each day, but I will keep playing the song. I’ll keep playing it. I’ll keep crying. I’ll find a way to be her voice, even if that voice is singing off key to every Chicago song ever made.

 

More than meat love salt,

EGG

Far or fast?

If you want to go fast, go alone; but, if you want to go far, go together.

If you are a lover of dynamic orations of intricately, elouqent written words, then you are probably feeling pretty tired right now. Tonight marks the 8th night in the last two weeks that some of the most gifted  in the nation (some more than others) have had a primetime audience sharing their talents and gifts with us all. I have stayed up well past my bedtime each night glued to the television. In the vein of keeping it real, I have watched some evenings looking for some speakers to incite a debate with me from my couch. The majority of nights, I have watched, with tears streaming down my face, full of love and hope for our nation, shouting more, “Amen, hallelujers!” than Madea herself.

I know that there is much debate over the efficacy of the electoral college, but man! These conventions make me love the way we do it! You watch candidates from both parties fight it out on campaign trails for months and months and months and months and months…. and months. I can’t help but get chills at the roll calls, when the parties start to unify behind the frontrunners. Tuesday night, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be beautiful if on election night, the country could come together like they do at the conventions to back whichever person is elected?” I think Lee Greenwood would have to make another verse of I’m Proud to be an American if we could unify on election night like we do on roll call nights! (If anyone knows Mr. Greenwood, I humbly volunteer to do ribbon dancing to his new verse.) I continued to watch Tuesday evening after the roll call, anxious to hear from Senator Corey Booker. I remember watching an interview with him years ago, when he was a young mayor of Newark. Learning about how he lived in one of the worst neighborhoods in Newark during his term inspired me and resonated with this (former) inner-city school teacher. During his speech this week, I realized that we actually are best friends who haven’t met yet when parts of his speech mirrored my thoughts from an hour before. When I listened to his speech several times the next day, I realized he was speaking to this hard-headed, independent brat, and to grieving families.

Senator Booker quoted an old, African saying when he said, “If you want to go fast, go alone; but, if you want to go far, go together.” Yes, this is something we should all think about between Election Day and Inauguration Day, but it also should be tattooed on the arms of families who begin the grief journey.

When Molly died, I was a few days away from beginning my last stage of graduate school. The lapse in time from undergraduate to graduate school had been enough time for a studious, intense scholar to develop from the girl who skipped class if it rained or if a friend wanted to go to lunch in college. Technically, I could have pulled up my bootstraps, headed north on 75, and thrown myself into finishing school. I could have left those shells of my parents and brother in Carrollton, and crawled into a cocoon of school, licking my wounds, but not dealing with my pain. Instead, I pushed my internship off until the fall semester, and signed up for a couple of online classes so that all four of our shells could try to fill ourselves again. I would have gotten back into the driving lane of life faster by myself, but I have no doubt that it would have ended in a fiery crash. Maybe not that spring, maybe not even the next spring, but it would have been ugly and I might not have survived.

The immediate days and weeks after Moly died, I was certain that my parents’ seemingly rock-solid marriage was a mere mirage. I would go back and forth between the haunting weeps and wails of my once invincible Daddy in his study, to my tender-spirited, quietly sobbing Mama in the living room, who was too weak to even sit up to hug people. Once the initial shock gave us a minuscule break, both of my parents explained to me that they couldn’t bare to see the other hurting so badly, and that’s why they were in different rooms for so long. I worried they’d never be able to look at each other again. That’s when my Dad once again lived up to the famous bit we did when I was a little girl:

Daddy: Who’s the smartest man in the world?

Me: My Daddy!

Daddy: What are you scared of when you’re with me?

Me: Nothing!

He looked at me about a week or so after Molly died and said, “You can’t go back. The only thing that matters is us. We’re all we have.” I knew he didn’t mean I couldn’t go back ever, but perhaps he’d heard that African saying even before Senator Booker. I stayed home for 8 months, going back to Nashville with an entourage a few times for a Saturday class. Daddy and I sat on the front porch with glasses of wine that winter and wrote papers for my online classes. We spent our days surrounded by our best friends for months, writing thank you notes, crying, laughing, and being together Mama and Daddy turned in to each other as they’d always done, they pulled me and Griffin in, and we subconsciously lived out: if you want to go far, go together.

Going together does not mean going the same. We all made an agreement that forevermore, we would do only what we could do. We recognized that we would all deal with this differently. We all would process and heal in different ways. We’d all grow into different people than those who went to sleep on the evening of December 28, 2009. Our going has sometimes been pedaling a unicycle in quicksand, running barefoot over hot coals,  or even doing the crab walk on beds of needles and rarely any two of us traveling in the same manner on any given day. But, we love and cheer each other on through the quicksand. We hold our hand out to help pull them out if they want, or just to squeeze until they reach the end of the pit. We are so fortunate to have dear friends who have continued to go through these pits with us. Without their support and love for these 6 years (and forever), we couldn’t love each other through this.

I wish that I could stand in front of the country and tell them to heed Senator Booker’s warning. It would make our nation so much more peaceful if we could do it. More importantly, if you are a family dealing with grief, especially traumatic grief, I beg you to inscribe these words on your heart. Go together. It’s painful and it’s slow, but one day, you’ll all be able to look back and see just how far you’ve come.

More than meat loves salt,

EGG

 

Toleration Nation

When I was in my twenties, I remember my mom telling someone that she felt successful as a parent because all three of her children were tolerant. I remember another person in the group looking confused, so she continued. “Whether it was from our example or their own life experiences, they all appreciate and enjoy people from all walks of life.” While I am certain that our desire to get to know the hearts of people we encounter was a learned behavior is a direct reflection of our parents’ demands that we look people in the eyes (just one eye for me, duh), listen when people speak, and to engage in conversation with those who might not be the same as us; lately, I find the word tolerant, well I find it intolerable.

To me, tolerant has a connotation that the tolerator is reaching down from a loftier position than the tolerated. It seems to imply that a service is being given. I tolerate flossing my teeth. It is annoying and gross, but I know that I have to do it. When I drink green smoothies (no berries), I tolerate the aftertaste because I know it’s better for me than a cheeseburger. I tolerate the song “Celebrate Good Times,”  because I know that the annoying lyrics and melody make some of my friends feel like they are on a Carnival cruise ship with an umbrella-clad drink rather than sitting in Atlanta traffic. Let me keep it real, sometimes I don’t floss my teeth because I don’t want to; I eat way more cheeseburgers than green smoothies; and I have happily listened to silence and foregone the nails on the chalkboard sounds of Kool and the Gang’s little ditty. You can do that with stupid things you tolerate like food and music, but you can’t do that with people.

I spent many hours glued to CNN yesterday, as many of you did, trying to make sense of the shootings in Orlando. I watched friends and family members begging for information about their loved ones. I bawled as I watched law enforcement and government officials fight back tears. I wanted to curl up in my little house and never leave the comfort of Molly’s recliner. I listened as religious experts and political pundits suggested avenues of reconciliation for this massacre. The overall theme of the day seemed to be: tolerance.

It was suggested that we as a nation need to teach tolerance. Perhaps this individual needed to learn to tolerate other religions. He needed to tolerate those who identify themselves as gay. Our country had failed at teaching this first generation U.S. citizen, tolerance. My friends, if we approach our young people, telling them to tolerate those who are different from themselves, we are teaching them that their own lifestyle is superior. We are teaching them to view others who are different as people who need tolerance. We are telling them that it’s okay to slip back to their higher position on occasion.

Perhaps the problem is not that we are not teaching tolerance. Perhaps the problem is that we are teaching tolerance. If my parents’ example had simply been that of tolerance, my heart wouldn’t be bleeding over the loss of so many lives today. Tolerance is born out of a belief that one way is higher than another. It’s easy to let go of the something you think is beneath you. We have to change our rhetoric and our actions. We have to do more than tolerate. If we follow Molly’s example of having radical conversations with people borne out of kindness, we will see that we can leave tolerance for inconsequential things like the 90210 years without Brandon and Brenda. If we truly get to know our co-workers, our neighbors, our cab drivers, our teachers, our students, the homeless man on the street, that mom who is always late picking up her kids, the obnoxious dude in our book clubs, or the politician who leans opposite of our own beliefs, we will find that embracing others doesn’t hurt our backs from bending down, and it’s much harder to let go.

I can’t fix the problems that our world is facing. I can’t fix the heartache that so many families are feeling tonight. I can’t even give blood to donate to victims. What I can do, is challenge myself to erase tolerance from my vernacular. If someone asks my mom what she is most proud of as a parent, I hope she’ll be able to say that she raised children who embrace and allow others to embrace them.

“We but mirror the world.  All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body.  If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.  As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.  This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”– Ghandi

More than meat loves salt for Orlando, for our nation, for the rescuers, for the medical staff, for the families….

EGG

 

 

 

enough

I recognize that there’s been a lapse in posts. I’ve been asked time and time again what is happening with MollyROCK, and why I’ve been so quiet. Here’s the short answer:

My hands have been otherwise occupied, and there’s been little dexterity left to type. As many of you know, the subject of my last posts ended in our worst fears being realized. Lamar was laid to rest on March 5. My hands were busy holding my loved ones’ hands for the first quarter of the year. As I had to assimilate back into the real wold, my hands were busy writing lesson plans, IEPs , grading, spotting cheer stunts, and attempting to rest my head upon them at night.

The shock and turmoil of Lamar’s disappearance, the search, and the answers kept my hands busy, and then they, along with my body and mind, were paralyzed in the aftershock. Although I tried to guard my heart from the slip backs into deep grief that can occur when tragedy strikes, my stubborn side was overpowered. I kept my hands busy catching up with my most-dos, but I couldn’t connect my head, heart, and hands to give myself 100% to MollyROCK. While I am the founder, PR person, and program director who desperately wants to get Molly’s story out, I can’t  ignore the basis in which my passions lie. I am a sister who is grieving. I’m a person who has been shocked to find the last few months have felt like a 100 mile leap backward in this world I am navigating without her. I struggle to accept the truth with which I have lived for 6 years, 4 months, and 17 days. In fact, the realities seem to be fresh knife wounds each day, when in theory, I should be comfortable in this new skin.

It’s ugly, but it’s real. It’s radical to admit that I am stuck in this place of being paralyzed by my grief. It’s a conversation that I’d rather not have. I want to be her champion and her proxy. I am, and I will be. There’s been work and progress with MollyROCK goals, but I’m not ready to  share. Instead, I thank you for allowing me time. Thank you for still being supportive. Thank you for loving me these last few months.

A wise advisor recently told me to give up my feelings of guilt for not being strong enough right now.  She reminded me that Molly’s feelings of guilt led us to this place. So, my charge to you all is that you let go of the guilt. Who you are, where you are, is more than enough. I’m certain that there is someone in your life who needs to hear this too. A mom, a dad, a brother, a colleague,  your child, your student, the lady at McDonald’s who gives you your Diet Coke, your presidential candidate. (Well maybe instead of “you’re enough,” the last one needs to hear, “that’s enough.”)

Enough. It’s a funny looking word to all of us who spend our days trying to teach kids to read…

More than meat loves salt,

EGG