Life’s Playlist….. What’s Up by 4 Non Blondes

Strawberry Fields Forever…..

Daddy was always interested in gardening. Both sets of my grandparents had gardens and after his retirement, Daddy had two (he was always an over-achiever!)

He enjoyed the process of gardening. Laying it out, planting, weeding, harvesting and then freezing or canning what he had grown. I find it easier to go to the grocery and buy what I want.

God’s country is ripe with gardens, the soil is good for growing most anything and the spring and summer weather are perfect.

One spring when I was in about the 7th grade, Daddy became enamored with strawberries. I don’t know why they were his infatuation that year but they were.

I don’t even like strawberries, so for me it made no sense whatsoever. Sam is the strawberry eater in the family, not me!

Strawberries need a lot of growing space, something we didn’t have. However, daddy heard about a “pick-your own” garden in North Carolina that grew strawberries and decided that we should go up one afternoon after school and pick.

Being a typical pre-teen, the thought of being bent over in a field picking anything wasn’t my idea of a good time. However, I didn’t have much choice about going. Daddy said we were going and we went.

After school, mama, daddy and I all piled into his two-tone Jeep Cherokee and headed to North Carolina on our strawberry picking adventure. As you can imagine I wasn’t happy about going and was determined to make my displeasure known. I pouted, but to no avail, I WAS going strawberry picking and I was going to like it….. PERIOD, end of story!

When we reached the strawberry fields, we were each given a 1 gallon bucket. The owner advised us that we paid by the gallon.

Looking out onto the fields, I decided to exert my independence and move to a far end of the field, far away from mama and daddy.

Daddy advised that we should be able to fill our buckets in about an hour, so to start picking and we would re-evaluate at the end of the time.

I was bound and determined that I was not going to be bent over in that field of strawberries picking for an hour. I don’t even like strawberries, let Sam come pick them, he is the one that likes them!

Off we went and I began filling my bucket, I picked and picked, cleaning off each plant I came across.

Within about 20 minutes my bucket was filled, but I wasn’t going to let anyone know, I was going to sit right here and soak up some sun.

I sat and waited until the hour had passed and began to make my way back to where mama and daddy were.

When I got back to the cash stand, I got THE LOOK. You know THE LOOK, it is that sideways glare that only parents have the ability to produce.

THE LOOK is the worst thing a child can encounter, it means you have just ROYALLY screwed up.

Being a typical pre-teen I asked the logical question “what?” After all THE LOOK deserved a response, didn’t it?

After delivering my genius of a response, I looked down at mama and daddy’s buckets and then back at mine….. uh-oh, now I knew what THE LOOK was for.

Mama and daddy both had overflowing buckets of beautiful red-ripe strawberries. Even for someone who doesn’t like strawberries, I knew those were pretty.

Looking back at my bucket, I saw some pretty red berries, but mostly I saw half-ripe white plants that would eventually, if left on the vine, become something worth eating.

For now, they were just unripened strawberries that were going to cost daddy money and not be used for anything.

Uh-oh, now THE LOOK made perfect sense. Daddy paid the man and we loaded back into the Jeep for a long ride home.

In my typically youthful mindset, I thought I could make it all better by talking and making excuses, that didn’t work well. I continued to get THE LOOK all the way home.

I don’t quite remember how the story ended as sometimes it is just better to erase certain memories from your brain. I do know that this trip was my one and only visit to the strawberry fields.

For the years that followed, if I was ever perceived as uppity Daddy only had to mention the strawberry fields and it shut me down, no more uppity for me!

After years …… MANY years, we eventually laughed about my inept ability to harvest strawberries.  At the time THE LOOK spoke loud and clear, thus ending my gardening adventures forever!

Today, I leave the picking to the experts, I leave the growing to the experts and I never forgot THE LOOK!

What Makes a Family

Family.  We are taught from birth that “family” should be at the center of our lives.  For those fortunate enough to have a strong, tight-knit family unit this is one of the greatest blessings of life.

For others, families are made, sometimes the birth unit isn’t ideal and we seek outside circles to complete that all important bond.

I was fortunate to have both.  My birth family is tight-knit, I grew up with both parents in the home and while we experienced tragedy, our family remained strong.

Today, my inner-circle is my family, my brother, sister-in-law, nieces and nephew.

I also have extended family consisting of cousins that make for an idyllic picture.

When I moved away to Florida, I was fortunate enough to find a group of friends who became my Florida Family.  These people shaped my adulthood and have carried me through many of the happiest and most difficult times of my life.

I am blessed and I know I am blessed.

Families come in all shapes and sizes.  I have lesbian friends who adopted a beautiful daughter of another race when her mom died shortly after childbirth.  This family is as strong as any I have ever known.

A friend has guardianship of a distant nephew and makes sure he is raised in comfort and love.

Another friend has a home filled with children of multiple races, starting as foster parents and eventually adopting the children when they become available or often times being ordered by courts to return the kids to the people who birthed them.

Families can be strengthened by “The Brady Bunch” syndrome when parents of children marry after divorce or loss.  The blended families can be strong or difficult, it depends on the parents.

Many people don’t have this same gift that I do and unfortunately sometimes our system fails those who need it most, betraying the family unit created through love and responsibility.

I have no children, I will never have children and that is my greatest regret in life.  I think I would have been a pretty good dad, but alas that wasn’t in my cards.  I make up for it by trying to be a super Uncle or supporter of my friends kids.

Families come in any shape and form and unfortunately for the most important members of the family, the children, adults often screw it up.

Case in point…. a child I will call “Henry.”

Henry is a foster kid.  He came to live with his family when he was 5, he is now 7.

At five years old, when Henry came to live with his new family, he joined a large rambunctious, fun-loving home filled with support, kindness and love.

At five, when Henry came to live with this family, he received his first pair of socks……. EVER!  Yes, at 5 he had never even had a pair of socks.

I don’t know where the dad is, but the mom was addicted and in and out of jail.

Over the past two years, Henry has thrived.  He is an adorable little boy, a bit shy, but totally a love bug!

He has a sweet smile, he has participated in school and excelled, played organized sports and been an active member of the family he now calls his own.

Henry knows he is loved and spreads that love with his parents and siblings.

Several months ago, the woman who gave birth to Henry decided she could care for him and wanted him back.

The woman who gave birth to Henry has a mother who is financing getting him back.  She doesn’t want him, she wants her daughter to have him back, like a new doll to show off.

The family that Henry has become a part of knows that he is best served by being with them and fought to keep him.

After many court dates, some the woman who birthed him didn’t even attend, the courts ordered Henry be returned to her.

Next week, Henry will be returned to a woman he doesn’t know as a mother, a woman who will be raising him in a half-way house, a woman who lives hundreds of miles from his FAMILY.

While we like to think our court system has the best interest of those who are the weakest among us, it is hard to comprehend how this is the best for Henry.

A child who never even owned a pair of socks until he was five, is being stripped from a family that has showered him with love, taught him responsibility and provided him the only real family he has ever known, will now be given to a woman who birthed him simply because she birthed him.

Are Henry’s best interests being provided for?  We can only hope and pray that he will adapt and continue to thrive, but it is my fear that this child will again be lost, a victim of a system that was designed to protect him.

Henry’s family did all they could, I pray they will one day see him again and he will be able to remind them they are HIS family and they did their job well.

Henry is one of thousands lost in the system each year.

Families come in all shapes and forms, Henry has a family, unfortunately he won’t be allowed to continue living with them after next week.

I pray for Henry, and I pray for the thousands of other children like him who fall between the cracks.  I pray that Henry knows he is loved and part of a FAMILY.

 

Life’s Playlist…. Something’s Gotta Give performed by Frank Sinatra

Before Facebook…..

Yesterday, while doing my weekly grocery shopping, I ran into a friend I have known since childhood.

Her husband and pooch had recently been injured in a car accident and I caught up on how their recovery was going.

We went about our way and then I ran into her again in the bakery.  I asked about a mutual friend who had been undergoing some life struggles and she let me know that our friend was doing well and moving forward.

I laughed as we were talking and asked “what did we do before Facebook?”  You see, Facebook is where I found out about both of these ongoing life events.

She responded back, “we talked on the party  line!”  We laughed and went on about our shopping.

As I wandered up and down the aisles of canned goods and, meats and dairy, I pondered, what DID we do before Facebook?

For the sake of conversation I use Facebook to encompass all social media.  The term could easily be, what did we do before Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat or any of the other social media platforms that I am not cool enough to comprehend.

No matter the format, what did we do before Facebook?

  • We used our phones for talking.  We actually picked up the receiver, got a dial tone, punched in a number and talked to the person on the other end.
  • We actually looked at people when we walked down the street.  We sometimes even nodded or said hello!
  • When we went to the bathroom, we did our business and left.  With the inception of social media, my bathroom breaks have grown longer and longer.
  • We didn’t overshare.  I am COMPLETELY guilty of this, I get it, but we overshare now.  It seems as though we are more worried about what our next posts will be instead of living our lives.  When was the last time you went to a concert and just enjoyed the music?  Now, we try to make sure we can get the perfect shot or video.
  • Our computers and phones were used for computing and phoning.  In this social media world we now live in, my computer is open to Facebook from the time I get up until I go to bed.  When I am not with my laptop, I have my phone in my hand.
  • Our search for a fulfilled life now competes with other’s photos and posts.  Sometimes ignorance is bliss.  When I didn’t know that my friends were at the hottest club or movie premier, I could handle it, now I suffer from FOMO anxiety!
  • Emergency room visits for walking into walls and fountains were practically non-existent prior to social media overtaking our world.  Now when someone walks into a wall, you can be assured their faces were in their phones, finding out what excitement other people are experiencing in their world.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a critic of social media.  I love it and utilize it to the fullest.  I know what you had for dinner and you know the same about me.  I know who loves Trump and who hates him.  I know when you have a kidney stone and you know when I feel excited or frustrated, it is all a part of social media.

What I fear is that, like you, our lives are becoming more about our social media posts and less about life.

Social media is a wonderful part of our lives, when we use it as a supplement, not a forerunner.

While social media has its downfalls, the benefits of these photos, posts and videos far outweigh the negatives.

Through social media, I stay in touch with family and friends around the world.  I celebrate their joys and cry for them when they suffer.

Our world has been made smaller through social media.  Prayer circles for loved ones who are suffering or being witness to the first kiss of a new husband and wife allows us to narrow our circle and become one humanity.

I love seeing your children on their way to prom, or first steps, words and life milestones from your bundles of joy.  My heart grows stronger when I see complete strangers stop in their tracks to honor a fallen soldier as his body is received back on American soil.

Our world is a complex place, filled with a humanity that moves at the speed of light.  This world is brought together through social media, so if I don’t hear from you by phone or a knock on my door, I don’t take it personally, I know you are out living your life, like I am.

Keep sharing, I enjoy watching your adventures and hope you will forgive my overshares, it’s a big beautiful world out there, let’s experience it together!