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Once Upon a Time

I just finished watching this week’s episode of Once Upon a Time, one of my favorite shows!

I must confess something.

I shed a few tears near the end when Snow and Emma (mother and daughter) hugged.

In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, let me just quickly get to the point by saying that Emma is Snow White and Prince Charming’s daughter, whom they had to send away to save from the evil queen.  Emma grew up without knowing who her parents were, and she’s been quite unforgiving even after learning about why they had to give her up.

Watching mother and daughter hug tugged at my own heart strings for, as you’re well aware if you’ve read my blog over the years, I’ve had my own tumultuous relationship with my very own Chicky.

It’s only been in recent months that I sense the healing that is taking place.

On Friday, I took 1/2 day off from work and drove to Lakeland to spend the weekend with my girl.

The weather was gorgeous…

The drive is a long one, but the beautiful scenery as I got closer, plus the knowledge that I’d be seeing my baby, made the hours spent in the car very worthwhile.

I arrived around 8pm local time and waited until Chicky returned from eating dinner.

I gifted her with a Halloween surprise before we headed to her dorm, where I would be camping out for the next couple of days…

The cat bag belonged to Chicky.  Shh.  Don’t tell Rooster, but Frankenstein will be mailed to him.

😀

Chicky chuckled and then moaned as she saw all of the stuff I’d taken on the trip…

Yeah.

I know.

Throw in the kitchen sink, and I’d be completely set, eh?

Chicky and I ran to Starbucks for a late-night treat, and she filled me in on some of the details of her life…the kind of stuff you don’t really talk about over the phone.

My heart hurt for her as she shared some personal challenges she’s been facing.

I could not help but feel so proud of her, though, because of the way she’s handling these challenges.

I won’t share details out of respect for her privacy, but I will say that she is certainly showing more grace (and extending it as well) than most people would given the same situation.

We returned to her dorm and settled in to watch a movie…one of our favorites…Phantom of the Opera.

That night, I slept on a cushioned chair thing that unfolds to become a bed.  I was quite content simply to be in the same room as my girl.

We slept until 9 or 10 and putzed around the dorm until it was time for Chicky to go to the locker room to prepare for her game.

I did a little bit of grading but spent most of my time reading.

Game time arrived, and it was HOT!!!!  Oh word!

I was happy, though, to be spending the day doing what I’ve done since Chicky was six years old…spending a Saturday watching soccer…

I sat and listened while people talked about my Chicky’s ability to maneuver the ball and beat everyone on the headers.  For a tiny thing, she gets more air than just about anyone I’ve ever seen.

The game ended tied, unfortunately, but the girls had played well, so they had nothing to be ashamed of.

Afterwards, I saw my nephew, and Chicky invited him to eat dinner with us.  What fun to watch the two of them chat.  My nephew is an amazing young man with a good head on his shoulders.  His sense of humor is very dry, which makes me chuckle all the more.

Later, we returned to the dorm and watched a bit of football.

Chicky wasn’t feeling too well.  Unfortunately, she’s becoming more and more sensitive to milk (she’s hating her gene pool right now because cheese is her favorite food), so I offered to rub her belly.

Totally not cool, let me tell you.

Instead, she “allowed” me to scratch her back.

I hopped up on her bed gleefully, and we spent the next hour chatting, watching TV, and talking with her roommate and her roommate’s friend, who was staying over as well.

The night ended with me crawling onto an air mattress out in the common room so Chicky’s roommate’s friend could have the cushioned chair/bed.

Sunday morning arrived all too quickly, and it wasn’t long before Chicky was escorting me to my car.

I.

Hate.

Goodbyes.

They are so tough…

Still…

After three years.

I put on my brave face, though, and hugged and kissed my girl.

She hugged me back.

I drove away from my girl, and I sighed as I left campus…

Which takes me back to the beginning of this post.

As I watched tonight’s episode play out, my mind returned to the evolution of my own relationship with my girl child.

There have been so many misunderstandings…so many hurts…that we’ve had to get through.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes, as is typical of a mama who wants desperately to have a better relationship than what she had with her own mother.  I’ve definitely over-compensated.

Chicky’s fought my iron-clad arms.

For so long there’s been a chasm between us that is finally, finally, finally beginning to close.

Oh, I realize that we don’t live in a fairy tale, and that happily ever afters cannot be had by sprinkling pixie dust around.

However, through God’s grace and mercy, we can and will have our own happy ending because we are choosing to forgive one another and move on, actively cultivating a relationship built on trust.

That is the best happily ever after that could ever be written.

A Hug is Not Just a Hug

I think I’ve said, a time or two, how fantastic my church’s newest pastor is.

Well, yesterday, Tom was in rare form as he began his sermon.

He utilized a member of the congregation to demonstrate various types of hugs and even broke down, step by step, the symbolism of what each part of a hug means.

Sound silly?

It was, a little, and we had fun laughing along with Tom and his “volunteer.”

BUT, the application to real life…trust…boundaries…fear…

Oh.  My.

Deep.

I sat there thinking about the boundaries I’ve set up around me and, perhaps, how I don’t respect others’ boundaries or how I react when others don’t respect (or fail to notice) my own boundaries.

We, as humans, need to establish boundaries to deal with life.  As we grow older, we build up walls in reaction to the “stuff” that happens in our lives.

These walls determine the kinds of hugs we give and are willing to receive.

It’s no secret that I have issues.

I’m not alone though.  Don’t pretend that you don’t.

My issues stem from being the child who, as the oldest of a sometimes single mother, had to fend for herself…most of the time.

I have trust issues.

I have issues with love, though my issues haven’t affected my ability to love my own children with a fierce intensity.  This love extends to the students I teach.

Still, I tend to distance myself from others in my life who do love me, or I shy away from opportunities to let new people in.

I think it stems from the fear of being rejected…not being in control.

It’s also a fear of letting people down.  As a result, I am, at times, a people-pleaser.

I think I fall somewhere in the middle of the fear/boundary continuum that Tom mentioned in his sermon (I won’t go into more details because I’m afraid I wouldn’t do his words justice).

Holidays are the times when my fears attack me the worst, so I honestly don’t look forward to what should be special times.

Too many expectations…too many opportunities to be rejected (this is a lie Satan tells me) or to lose control.

Mother’s Day is no exception.

In fact, it’s one of the worst of the holidays for me.

Especially where it comes to acknowledging my own mother.

Sad, and I know it would hurt her to read this, but true, and I think she’d understand.

Soooo much water under the bridge…so many hurts have passed between us over the years…so little trust…so many walls built up.

She’s trying to reconnect.

I don’t want to be hurt any more.

BUT…

I called her yesterday…trying for once to be a good daughter.

And do you know what?

We had the most normal conversation we’ve ever had.

It didn’t have any expectations tied to it.

It was simply a woman-to-woman chat…about cell phone service…about the kids…about work.

And it gave me hope…

That one day when I hug my mom, it will be like the last hug that Tom demonstrated…

The one that signifies true joy at seeing someone who has been deeply missed and is deeply appreciated.

One like what Chicky gave me before she went back to school…

The one I keep reliving over and over because of its depth and sincerity.

I’m not an easy person to love, and I certainly don’t love very easily either.  But my hope is that I will be able to work through my fears, loosen up the tight boundaries I’ve set up in my life, and love freely…both in giving it and accepting it back…

Through whatever kind of hug a person chooses to give me (hopefully not the last, stalker-ish one that Tom demonstrated a little too familiarly 😉 ).

How are You Today?

Sundays are amazing.

These are the days when I get to sleep in a little later than weekdays and then attend church.  The worship songs lift my soul, and then my wonderful pastors reveal great truths.

Oftentimes, I find big lessons in the offhand things that are said.

Such as today.

Folks, I think I finally figured out why I scare people away.

It all boils down to one question:

“How are you today?”

I am sure that we can all attest to the fact that we hear this question at least a half-dozen times a day.

And most people, I’m sure, respond with a well-rehearsed, “I’m fine, and you?”

There have been many times when I have answered this way when, in fact, I felt totally the opposite.

And you know what?

I felt like a total fake for saying those words.

So, one day, I stopping answering this way if I didn’t really mean it.

I did the unpardonable.

I starting answering honestly.

Some of my responses?

“I’ve had better days.”

“I’m not feeling all that well today.”

Or, on one of my most emotionally draining days…

“It’s funny you should ask.  See, I was on my way to work, but I had to stop and take my dogs, rats, and bunny to the boarding facility, and then when I took Molly in, I left the other two in the car, and when I got out, I found my Chicky’s sweet bunny dead in the back of the car because the two dogs had pushed her cage open and chased her around until her tiny little heart gave out.  Oh, by the way, how are you?”

Thud.

Yes, folks, that really did happen, and that “thud” was the look that crossed the face of the people who asked (and I encountered many people that day thanks to it being the day before Christmas break and having a soccer game to attend that night).

It’s no wonder that this morning, when my pastor made the great announcement that, “How are you today?” is simply a greeting and not an invitation to spill one’s guts, that I thought to myself, “Whoa!  Maybe this is why your’s truly does not have a lot of friends.”

Seriously, folks.

But see, here’s the rub.

When I ask that question, I am sincere.  I DO want to know how a person is doing, and not in a superficial way either.  I care so much for people that it matters to me if they are having a bad day.

This is how I empathize with people.  I now can direct my prayers toward a specific purpose.

Oh I know…we don’t all have time to stand around and listen to each other’s problems.  But what if we took an five extra minutes?

Do you know what happens?

It creates a personal connection with the person you are listening to.

We often discover that while we thought we were the only ones who had such-and-such issue, we are, in fact, not alone.

I remember when this happened one day at the school.

Someone asked me, “How are you today,” and I answered honestly, of course.

As the conversation grew, I shared a few things I had not shared with others (this was a closer friend, by the way).

She looked at me and said, “Oh my gosh!  You always look so put together, and everything always looks like it’s going perfectly for you.  I am so relieved to know that you feel this way too!”

And now, when I see this lady, we smile a secret smile, knowing we share a bond that nobody else does.

Think about this the next time you ask someone that question.  Ask yourself if you really want to hear the truth.  Prepare yourself, in fact.  You never know the friendship that might come about because of it.

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