The End

The day I said good-bye

Fear rose within my chest

For I didn’t think I was okay

I didn’t feel I was the best

The day I said farewell

I knew that it was done

I pointed towards the horizon

And waved at the dipping sun

The day I walked away

I felt that I couldn’t breathe

I sunk into myself

And knew that I would grieve

But the day it was the end

No story left to tell

The pages had been torn out

And thrown away to burn

You held the pen, I held the page

And together we’d set ablaze

The love story once written

On the creases of my heart

And left to bleed and die

Farewell. No place to call my home.

***EAHamm

2/05/18***

Three Christmas’ Later

I tossed around the idea of this subject for a little over a week now, and today, being Christmas Eve, I decided to go ahead and dive right into it. Grief, a scary five-letter word, seems to be something that in today’s day and age is just not spoken about very often. I’m unsure if it’s always been this way, but after my dad passed away in May of 2015, I realized first-hand just how uncomfortable that very word made people feel. Close friends of mine didn’t even know how to act around me, and it was the people I thought who would be there who just weren’t. Looking back, I don’t blame them at all because it just seems to me that we don’t seem to have enough knowledge on the subject. Let’s face it: if you’ve never experienced this roller coaster ride of emotions tacked onto yourself by your own personal loss, you can’t really know how deep that kind of emotion really feels. Yes, you can empathize, but unless you’ve faced a deep loss, you can’t fully be prepared for that kind of pain.

Yet, as a human being, one can take the time to learn all that they can on the subject and learn how to react, speak to, and even be with a close friend or family member during that particular hard moment. I can almost guarantee you that the average human is unaware that grief is a lifetime experience because quite often after the funeral, everyone goes about their normal daily lives and often forgets about that person who lost that loved one. It’s just how the world turns, and it’s how we, as humans react. What isn’t in our faces everyday of our lives is often placed on the back burner to be forgotten.

As this Christmas approached, for me, I was more positive than I have been since my dad passed away. I remember that very first Christmas without him, and how I had lost any interest whatsoever of even celebrating. I couldn’t bring myself to decorate the tree or do anything. I didn’t want to even acknowledge Christmas. If I could have, I most likely would have holed away in my room and emerged again once the new year was in full swing. I was not in a good state of mind. Last year was a tad bit better, but I still struggled to listen to Christmas music without crying. I struggled as Christmas Day drew near, and I wished that it would come and go without much fuss because again, Dad wasn’t there.

This year, the excitement I used to feel around this time of year suddenly was reborn. I found myself playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving which is something I used to do every single year. I dove right into this holiday with enthusiasm, buying a candle to burn in Dad’s honor, and just smiling and laughing more. And as today is Christmas Eve, I’m just beyond excited for tomorrow morning and the looks on each of my family member’s faces as they open their gifts. That’s not to say that that hole is now filled because it’s not. In fact, I have been dreaming of Dad non-stop now for a little over a week. In each of my dreams, no matter what the dream entails, he’s always there off to the side with a big smile on his face. He doesn’t say a single word, but just smiles. And as frustrating as that is for me, it’s also a sign that he’s nearby.

I want to close with a sweet story that happened just last week at church. I had decided to take my kids to see a Christmas play at one of my friend’s church as she had written and directed this play. I was excited to see how her hard work paid off, and all around was excited to just be in church. As we sat there waiting for the service to start, some praise and worship music was playing over the speakers, and Charity reached over and tapped me on the shoulder. I looked at her only to see giant tears rolling down her face. Of course,  I wondered what was wrong because it’s not often that my little girl cries. She looked at me in wonderment and said, “Mom, I just heard Grandpa talking to me! He was right beside me and talking to me! I heard him, Mom!” At first I was a bit skeptical, but having had my own stories and accounts of knowing my dad’s presence was near, I simply asked her what he said to her. She wiped her tears and whispered, “I don’t know, but he was telling me something about God, Mom. It was him. He was here.” And then, she simply fell into my arms weeping. Of course, I cried with her, and I just felt this sense of peace wash over us.

So, whether or not your grief is fresh and new, and you’re still in complete and utter shock or your grief is over 20 years old, I say to you, grief is grief. Allow the comfort of those who will try to comfort you to the best of their ability to console your aching heart. Allow yourself to hurt. Don’t try to pretend it’s not real or that it’s not that bad just because you know you’ll see your loved one again. Instead, embrace the pain. Embrace the hole you feel in your soul, but also remember that there is an entire community of people who feel like you are feeling right now, and you are not alone. This isn’t a new emotion. This isn’t a new thing to happen to mankind. And yes, people may be smiling and laughing like I am this Christmas, but there will be moments when they are alone where they will sit and remember and have a good cry.

So, Dad, yes, you’re still influencing us down here even though you’ve been gone for three Christmases. You still have a major impact on my own children’s hearts, and the memories they share are so special. Thank you for reaching out to Charity last week. I think you made her year. Merry Christmas in Heaven, Daddy. Until we meet again…..Elizabeth

Moving Forward

For years I’ve allowed the many voices from my past dictate to me what I can and can’t do in this life. Having grown up to respect my elders as well as other’s first, I have always done just that. But as of late, I have begun to re-wire my thought process, so to speak, in a way where I now have begun to look at myself first and ask questions, many of which begin with the word, “Why.”

If you know me, you know that even as a small child, I’d be the first one to raise my hand in class and ask the teacher, “Why?” In many cases, it was further explained to me, or even I found some answers in a book or in my study guides. But one of the answers I often received when it came to life, in general, was, “Because it is,” or “Because I said so.” That never really sat well with me, but I had been trained to take that statement at face value, and for years, I did, even if I was rebelling deep inside myself.

I say all of this to say this: I have always, always had one particular dream, and that was to become a published, in print, name out there, author. My dad used to say, “What you say gets put into motion,” and I never really understood that one single bit. Was that some kind of ritual or voo-doo rigmarole that I was supposed to be doing? Should I be dancing to the gods for what I want to have happen in my life? Of course, I’ve over-dramatized my thought process, but you get the point.

That being said, I began to call myself an author. I’d tell people I wrote & that was my vocation, but sadly, I had nothing in print except for a couple of poems in the Library of Congress. What I didn’t realize was that you can say things until you are blue in the face, but if you don’t put action behind your words? This stuff just isn’t going to fall into place. We need to be putting our feet behind our words and begin to work hard toward these dreams, goals and desires.

Moving forward, my eyes began to be opened to this truth, and when I realized that, I began to research and study and figure out what exactly I needed to be doing to make this happen for me. I have been writing since the age of 11, and I have many, many stories as well as poetry penned, yet not a one of them is in print. But all of that is changing even right now as I write this. I am now putting work behind my dreams and what I speak.

I am excited about my future, and I have not been full of this much enthusiasm since the day I found out I had earned the Valedictorian award. I seriously knew back then that I had worked very hard for that to be accomplished, and I need to work just as hard now to accomplish this next step.

As I move closer to being 40 years old, life has made it known that it’s short, and we aren’t promised a tomorrow. We have to make the best of today, and we do that by setting up goals for our future. To only work, eat, sleep, party on the weekends and repeat is no way to live. We truly begin to live when we actually set a goal and do everything we can to achieve it. What are some goals you have set or will be setting in this upcoming year? I’d love to hear from you!

Depleted Energy

Over the course of a couple of days, I tried to help a dear friend of mine who was being bullied on a public sight. The problem with this particular sight is the fact you have an opportunity to leave a message anonymously as a “guest,” and if you do log in under a name, your comment cannot be deleted by any means. This does not leave one feeling very secure because you have no way of protecting yourself against cyber bullies. Believe it or not, it’s dangerous to not only one’s ego but also to one’s mental health. 

I wanted to take the time to talk about bullying when it comes to the writing field as well as on social media. I, myself, love to write, and I’ve written for well over 26 years. My degree is majoring in English, and I worked a job using that to proofread for an institution for a few years. I don’t pretend to know everything there is to know about the English language, but I do know that the more someone writes the better they become. 

Over the course of the last week, some people took it upon themselves to attack one of my friends about her writing. And it was one right after the other leaving public comments telling her not only how horribly she writes but also going as far as telling her NOT to write but to take some writing classes. Now, I don’t know about you, but as someone who critiqued writing for a living at one time, I found this to be highly offensive and childish. To flat out tell someone that their writing IQ is that of a 3rd grader tops the cake. I was insulted, and it wasn’t even my own writing work! 

You may wonder why I have taken time out of my life to even speak out about this on a post, but the truth is simple: who will stand up for the bullied & speak out about those who continue to do this type of “cyber bullying?” Cyber bullying comes in all shapes in sizes, but the ones that stick out of me are those who will hide behind their passive aggressive statuses on Twitter or fake accounts. I understand it’s not only Twitter, but also Facebook and any other sight including YouTube.

Demanding an actresses’ attention to the point it becomes too much for them to even attempt to socialize with their fans is a form of bullying. Not understanding why a famous person doesn’t follow you, and starting passive aggressive rants for the whole world to see is a form of bullying. Sending tweet after tweet that you wished they saw you, and they don’t care about you is a form of bullying! These people are famous! This doesn’t make them any less human than the next person, and to expect so much from them that they feel they have an obligation? Is inconsiderate & just wrong! 

Getting on social media and blasting someone passive aggressively is just as bad as standing in the same exact room and speaking loudly about them for not only them but everyone else to hear! When will we learn that once we put something out into the universe on a social media sight, everyone can see it, and speaking out about ANYTHING, good or bad, can have both positive and negative affects. 

When I was growing up, I had to worry about the bullying that happened by other’s spoken words. But today, I have to worry about my own children & the fact that social media has heightened bullying to the point young kids are taking their lives! Just last year, a 13 year old girl in this area killed herself because she was being bullied online by some kids from her school. Because it wasn’t on the school property, the principal didn’t do anything. I stand here and say, “Enough is enough!” 

What should we do about this bullying nonsense? First of all, we should search our own lives and work on not practicing some of these things. Some of us may be unaware that’s what we’ve been doing when we post online. Secondly, don’t just stand there and allow it to happen right in front of you. Stand up for others! But don’t stand up in such a way that you become a bully to the bullies. Choose your words carefully, and stand up for those who are being torn down. 

A bunch of us, writers sent kind and supportive messages to this friend of mine who was being targeted about her work. After many tears, those kind words began to lift her back up, and she began to see that there were more people who loved her than would do her harm negatively saying mean and nasty things to her. 

I want to close a favorite quote of mine by my all time favorite poet, Maya Angelou. “The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God – if they call God at all. I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But to be a blessing to somebody. That’s what I think.”

Set Me Free

This is one of those blog posts I don’t have planned in my planner, but as of last night, I knew I needed to write it…I’ve known for some time, but I’ve fought it because writing it meant that I was about to launch into the deep and relay a story about a girl…a girl I know and watched grow up, emotionally and mentally abused. Stories like this are particularly hard for me because I am the type of soul who would rather see the light & laughter. Maybe that’s why I married a man who makes me laugh non-stop…one who can take a bleak situation and turn it into humor making me see the lighter side to life. Maybe it’s why I’m drawn to my son who talks non-stop about his passions in life & creates his own version of fantasy, making anyone who meets him laugh and say, “This kid is going places! I love him!” Maybe it’s why my own baby girl, who really isn’t a baby anymore, can hug me in such a way, I feel 1000 pounds melt away….she has a love so deep, it can be felt from far away.

The story I am about to tell is sad. It’s not all fun and games because this girl was once very innocent. She loved deeply and thought nothing of giving something to someone in need. She was outgoing and gave of her light and laughter. She held on to the belief that her life was amazing, and she felt like a star. Everyone loved this girl. She didn’t mean to be the center of attention, but she had a demeanor that captured the young and old. I’m pretty sure it was her smile: a radiant light that would light up any room she entered.

One day, she decided to write a note to someone she admired. Something about this person captured her attention, and she decided to give a piece of herself by sitting down and writing a heartfelt letter, from a 10-year olds point of view. The thing is, the woman she was writing to was 29…she had an aura surrounding her that everyone loved and it captured this girls eye. She walked up to her and handed her the note with a big smile on her face, her heart beating fast. This little girl wanted to be just like this woman when she grew up. She was taken in by her demeanor and personality, her charismatic ways.

The only problem is: the woman had a husband who was controlling. He had no concept of being a husband, let alone a person in power. He used his power to get what he wanted, and what he wanted was to control everyone who crossed his path. This included the little girl. The girl who wrote his wife a note saying she was pretty and wanted to be like her when she grew up. He read the note and called the little girl into his office: his lair of sinister and cruel power. He got in the little girls face and told her she was not to write his wife again…that she was only 10. She should make her own friends and leave his wife alone. The girl was confused and frightened. She had always written little notes of love and light and now she was being told it was dirty, wrong. He got in her face and said he would tell her dad and mom if she continued to write notes to his wife. She felt dirty, sad, confused as she walked out of the office.

You’re reading this and scratching your head wondering, “What in the world? Who does that? People actually who are 30 years old feel threatened by a 10 year old?” The answer is simple: yes. I wouldn’t believe it myself had I not witnessed it. This is just the beginning. The very first time this little girl suffered from bullying, threats, humiliation. From that day forward, this girl walked around scared. She was afraid to show love or be loved. And the stories keep on spiraling.

I plan on continuing her story because it needs to be told. Don’t worry. This story has a happy ending. It’ll take up many blog posts to completely tell it, but she has asked me to write it. She wants her story out there. She told me she hopes it will help someone who lived a life of mental and emotional abuse. Until next time….

Embracing The Empty Spot

daddyand

I hesitated to even write this blog post. I had it planned weeks ago when I was all “gun-ho” about this series of blogs I’d be posting this month. Needless to say, I was unprepared for the last week and a half and how I would feel as Christmas neared. I thought this year would be a little different; that I would be able to face it with a broad smile and a peace in my heart. And to some extent, that is true. But the realization remains: Dad is not here with us. It’s hard to smile and remain smiling when I think about it for too long.

I wanted to do something special for him. Since we don’t have a burial spot, I decided to look for a really nice poinsettia to place beside his urn. I searched high and low, including deciding whether or not to get a fake one that I could use every year. But nothing seemed good enough…nothing was good enough, and the harder I looked, the more frustrated I became. Either something was too big or too dusty, or just too ugly. A few weeks ago, we took the kids to a nearby place that decorates beautifully for Christmas, Kraynaks. While there, I remembered that I was looking for this perfect plant, and decided to search as the decorations at this place are gorgeous and one of a kind. Then I spotted it: the perfect little poinsettia in a small square potting with a painted cardinal on the side. Tears came to my eyes because this is what we’ve come to recognize my dad as since he passed away: our red cardinal. I proudly bought it and set it beside his urn as I told him, “Merry Christmas, Daddy…this is for you!”

As I finish this blog post, which is short and sweet, there are some tears that blur my vision. We are leaving here shortly to head to our annual Christmas Eve service where JW will be dancing with his group, Switch Kids. I am so very grateful for this time we have with our family, and for the ability to lift our voices of praise and worship to Him. I know that Dad is with us, smiling down, and no matter what anyone says, I refuse to believe that he’ll be anywhere but with us tonight and tomorrow. I’m still learning to embrace this empty spot in my heart…in all of our hearts, but each and every holiday, I hope will be a little bit easier.

In closing, I want to share one of my poems, written just for Dad.

As you look down from up above

And we go about our lives

We feel the emptiness within our hearts

 But we know you’re well and alive

Tears that stain our faces

Empty holes within our hearts

Clear reminders this Christmas

Holds such a giant empty spot

But with hands held together

 And love clearly on our face

Still together in sweet harmony

Heaven is such a sweeter place…

Merry Christmas, Dad.

Channeling Coping Skills

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“Some days there won’t be a song in your heart.  Sing anyway.”  ~Emory Austin

For as long as I can remember, music has been a part of my world. I love music just about as much as writing, and somehow they go hand in hand for me as I can listen to a song and can come up with the prettiest poem or the craziest story depending on the genre being played. I can say that music saved me a great deal in my teenage years, as I would sit for hours on end just playing songs. I could hear songs in my head 24/7, but I was never really good at putting them down on the piano. Music was a way for me to express the sadness, exhilaration, mellow moods and even emo feelings that would rain over my brain. My mom used to say she knew when I was sad because she’d hear it on the keyboard as I played.

When I went to college and took piano lessons, I was thankful for the little piano rooms we could practice in because I’d sit for hours in one of them and just make up a bunch of chords that sounded beautiful and were soothing to me.

Along with music, was and always will be my writing. For years, I wrote poetry. I started off with the old-fashioned poetry where every other line rhymed. Sometimes, I’d mix it up and have two lines rhyme and so on. Then I discovered my ultimate favorite style of poetry, and that’s free-form. I actually did a Nanowrimo a few years back where I wrote all 50k words in free-form poetry. Looking back on that phase of my life, it was all too flowery, and I doubt highly I will ever allow the world to see those poems. That’s kind of when I lived a part of my life, like an “ostrich with its head buried in the sand.” I didn’t want to face reality. Everything was hunky dory while everything really was not…but writing kept me sane.

Now, I have to say that keeping myself organized is another coping skill that I use in the way of a bullet journal. Because I am so creative, the bullet journal is very relaxing for me to draw in as well write down what needs to be done, books I want to read, etc. Each bullet journal that I’ve seen is different from the next because that’s what the whole purpose of it is: make it your own.

I don’t know about anyone else, but my anxiety will tend to make me hyper at times, and this whole walking away thing does not really work for me. One thing I have learned to do in the manner of coping skills for that is giving myself a ‘time-out” for however old I am at that time. So, I am 36; therefore, my “time-out” is for 36 minutes. And during that time, I am inhaling deeply, counting to 10 and exhaling slowly using my diaphragm. I didn’t learn about this one until I went to therapy, and my therapist noticed I’d get so upset I couldn’t breathe and was in a sense starting to hyper ventilate. Proper oxygen wasn’t getting to my brain, and doing this exercise is a way to get that oxygen to your brain so you can calm down.

I also love to go on long walks. Walks in the spring and autumn are my absolute favorite when I can breathe in fresh air, hear the birds sing or fly south and just enjoy creation. One of my absolute favorite places to hike was in Harper’s Ferry, WV. I used to love hiking up to Jefferson Rock then on up to the cemetery. I loved looking down at the river and up higher at the Appalachian Trail. To me, there is something so calming about nature itself.

There is one more thing that I need to research a bit further on and that is the weighted blanket. This is supposed to be used for anxious people to calm them down and allows them to get a good night’s rest. If anyone knows more about that, feel free to leave your feedback in the comments.

As for coping skills for depression? That’s a little different as sometimes, one can barely move let alone get out of bed. But making yourself move, making the blood flow through your body by that movement, and making yourself follow a daily routine is probably about the best advice I could give. I happen to have two beautiful children who are my reason at getting out of bed. Even at my lowest points, if I could just get out of bed and make them a bowl of cereal, I was feeding them and making sure they were okay. There was nothing sadder than the times, they worried about me. Hearing the words, “Are you ok, Mom?” was a heartbreak for me as I wanted to lie and say everything is ok. Kids have a way of kicking one in the seat of the pants.

In closing I want to add a short poem I did about a year ago.

Return To Happiness

Today is the first day

Of the rest of my life…

I will show up to wherever I am needed

I will smile because I can…

Tomorrow has yet to arrive

And yesterday is gone… 

I only have today

To make memories and dream dreams…

My return to happiness is slow

But steadiness will win this race…

Embracing my deep pain with a smile

For the opposite of death is life…

I close my eyes and look at the stars

Wherever you may be…

I feel your presence ever near

Keeping a hold on me

Reminding me, it’s about today…

The first day of the rest of my life.

Showing me I can hold an outstretched hand

For those near and far, past and present

Are forever, here together.