Ten Years

It is difficult to comprehend “never.”  And for most of us, it is inconceivable to think “never” will ever come.

But it does.

Ten years ago today.  A Tuesday, just like today.  An uncharacteristically warm day, just like today.  A work day I remember enjoying.  Just like today.

A routine day.

And then…  A new reality.

Ten years ago today, my mother passed away.

Thousands of days have passed.  Millions of moments.  Billions of Sentimental Synapses Coalescing in an Altered Certainty.

I do not write for sympathy or compassion because (to be perfectly honest) I am not sad.  How could I be?  She may have left, but she is not gone.  She is in my heart and a part of my very existence.  She comes to me in dreams, in memories, and in moments.  I feel her when I cry and I feel her when I laugh.  She sits with me and together we watch my children grow and succeed.  I may not have the ability to physically see her or hear her voice, but I am not alone.

They say a mother’s love is eternal.

And so, on the ten year anniversary of my mother’s death, I do not mourn.  I celebrate.  She has left, but she is not gone.  She is love.

Dear Ishmael,

You don’t know me, yet I feel like I know you.  I recently had the opportunity not only to read A Long Way Gone, but I had a chance to experience its pages in a way many people do not.  My co-teacher in the SITES program chose your book in his study of global issues.  Having never read the book, I chose to read it with our students, so that I could engage in conversation in class.

As a child of literature yourself, you may know that sometimes, a book can speak to us in a way we do not expect.

For me, maybe it was that I had just finished teaching Paul Rusesabagina’s Ordinary Man and I found the parallel between the two stories haunting.   Maybe it was the moment in our first discussion when one of our students pointed to a passage that I myself could not shake, “We must always strive to be like the moon,” and a ten minute discussion followed analyzing the truth and wisdom of these words.  Maybe it was the fact that you wrote so poignantly that I was able to transcend the delicate refinements of my life to see what I think you want everyone who reads your book to see: even though mankind can terrorize one another and bring pain and hardship, what matters is what we do after the experience.  This book, your book, stays with me because by the end, I felt strengthened by a feeling that already existed in my heart: if I only allow myself to experience man when he is at his worst, I may never know man for the potential he has: for his beauty, for his amiability, and for his love.

Last night, I had the opportunity to hear you speak.  As someone who is constantly analyzing my own place in the world, I felt like a child in a classroom.  Your story and strength of the first book were inspirational, but the limitlessness of your spirit is profound.  You are correct in your theory that happiness should not be measured by stretches of time.  It is not to be measured, but it is to be experienced.  Ultimately,  you were the victim of childhood captivity; without an alternative, you were forced to be a soldier. Yet, despite the reality of your past,  you have allowed yourself to heal, you have allowed yourself to eclipse a world speckled with hatred so that you can live again.

Standing in line with my students eagerly waiting to get your new novel Radiance of Tomorrow signed, I felt renewed.  I felt that within the hour of listening to you speak, my understanding of mankind deepened.  Ishmael, for me you rejuvenated truth:  Many people will enter our lives and they will see the flicker of our eternal flame.  Some of those people will want to extinguish it, and if given the opportunity, they will.  However, others will see us for what we are, for what we can be.  These people will take one of two actions: They will either do everything in their power to relight the flame, or seeing that it still flickers, they will protect it, nurture it, and wait for it be what it was meant to be.  Each of us has a light inside, and with the proper guidance and nurturing, it will blaze and we will live to our full potential: hopeful creatures, dedicated individuals, and spiritual heroes.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for not only signing my book but for touching my life.

I Am Not a Child Psychologist, Nor Do I Play One on T.V.

I am a little rattled by the responses I received about yesterday’s post, Sometimes, It Stings.  I have received a couple Facebook inboxes, a few text messages, an email, and a couple of comments from friends about how I handled the situation.  The general consensus is that I was probably insensitive when speaking with Carson.

I appreciate the advice and the general concern people are feeling for Carson’s well-being.  However, I do want to let you in on a little secret.  She and I talked for fifteen or more minutes, and although what I expressed in my blog was the overall sentiment of our exchange, I did not just bark at her about crying and life’s obstacles.  I did spend time consoling her as well.

I usually do not defend my parenting style, but because so many people offered advice, I feel the need to explain my philosophy.  I parent with common sense.  I do not read how-to manuals or books.   I listen to other people and I observe their parenting.  I think about my own parents and my experiences as a child.  I take away from all of it what I believe can and will work for my family.  In addition, I parent each of my daughters according to her needs.  I try to always show them that I love them, but I am not afraid to be stern.

With that being said, I have said many times that I do not think every child should get a trophy.  Likewise, I think it is good for a child to learn that she does not always get everything she wants, that not everything will always go her way, and that sometimes, life is difficult.  It is true that Carson was disappointed because she was not invited to a friend’s birthday party.  As a parent, I chose to be pragmatic and discuss the sobering reality that sometimes life kind of sucks.  She felt real disappointment and besides for rubbing her back and kissing her forehead, I could do nothing to take the pain away.  However, by talking through the situation, I know that what she is learning are valuable techniques in developing an emotionally, healthy self; she is learning to endure, to  cope, and to survive setbacks.

I want Carson to feel strong and independent.  I do not want her to crumble when she strikes out or worse, life throws a 103 mile fast ball and she gets smacked in the face.  Oh, it will sting, I know from personal experience that it stings.  However, time has the ability to assuage any hurt, and eventually, she will have the strength to pick herself up and stand in the batter’s box of life again.   Life is about swinging, and eventually she will experience the glory of the homerun, and when she does, I will be (because I always am) her number one fan cheering in the stands!