Archive for the ‘home’ Tag

29 Days: Going Home

After an exhausting, whirlwind week of rallying for 2016–in which I strategized with senior leaders, was promoted, spent quality time with teammates and colleagues, helped bring financial accessibility to the poor, encouraged sales teams to excell with responsibility, road on a 150-foot luxury yacht and was inspired to be excellent in my role–I’m finally heading home. I’ll sleep in my own bed tonight and have the day off tomorrow. That’s a very good thing. 

My Dad

This is the first Fathers Day I can recall spending entirely alone. My dad died when I was a teenager, but I’ve had uncles, brothers or chosen father figures that I’ve shared this day with, as far as I can remember, for every year since his death. This year things just worked out differently. 

I’ve seen a lot of stories, pictures and posts on social media today about dads in general, dads of particular friends, dad ‘substitutes’ and complicated dad relationships. I’m glad that there are many of my networks of friends who have loving fathers or fond memories of loving fathers. 
Memory can be comforting and complex and tricky, all at once. Since my memories of my dad are thirty years old this year (the last of them, at least) and growing farther away as each day passes, I try to carefully examine them before relying on them, so that I don’t lie to myself. But I am confident in at least one aspect of my memories of my dad: he loved me fiercely, deeply and well and did a great job of letting me know that in a lot of different ways. 
Just like all humans, my dad was flawed. He drank too much at times, was absent from home in favor of work more often than I liked, could be embarrassing in front of my friends and on occasion made my mother cry. 
And, just like every other human I know, my dad had some wonderful qualities and amazing skills that helped shape the beautiful human that he was. He thought about the world around him and tried to make it a welcome place for everyone. He laughed freely and inclusively. He considered it an honor and pleasure to be a father and husband. He chose to teach his kids to work hard, be brave, stand up for themselves and others, to always see the best in people, to never, never give up. He loved by providing a home and environment of safety, by giving of himself and teaching all of us by his actions that anger and violence are separate choices that need not be directed at loved ones even under provocation. He lived tolerance and peace in a community where he didn’t always receive it because of his brown skin and ‘foreign’ accent. He taught me to earn and keep respect of others by respecting myself. He loved me through discipline, of himself as much as of me. He loved me by loving my mother and siblings and me more than himself. 
There are many ways to love and raise children and make a family. It’s hard to judge if any is objectively right or wrong from the outside, when the big criminal things are, thankfully, absent (abuse, neglect, etc.).  But from my perspective, looking back to that long ago childhood when seeing my dad before he went to work or on rare days off made me happier than I can describe, all I can say is I think he did a great job of loving me and being my daddy. 
Happy Fathers Day, dad. Rest in power. 

Middle of the Block

Day Eleven: Size Matters (In Sentences)

Today’s Prompt: Where did you live when you were 12 years old?

Today’s twist: pay attention to your sentence lengths and use short, medium, and long sentences as you compose your response about the home you lived in when you were twelve.

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Oof. This ones a bit rough and rambling. But I’m not going to edit. It was fun to write and is a glimpse into my awkward past.

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I had a lovely childhood. Not perfect. No one has a perfect life. Sometimes, the imperfections add interest and character without destroying the beauty. That’s how I feel about where and how I grew up.

It was a big town for a sparsely populated state. As a kid, I thought we lived “in the city”. (Those quotation marks were present in my head whenever I considered our home town. I thought in quotes. Weird.) To me, it was a huge, exciting place full of amazing things. And I wanted to see them all.

From my perspective, being a “city girl” helped explain why I was so different from what I learned to believe the world expected all girls should be. I lived in a big city, so I had to be tough and ready for anything, not some frilly princess. My jeans and rough sneakers and ratty t-shirts were armor, they were my first layer of tough. I believed I would grow the tough inside to match my clothes, if I worked hard enough.

Never mind that I lived in a perfectly lovely, ranch-style house in the middle of the block on a bucolic street in a Beaver Clever town. There was little that I had to be tough against that didn’t live in my imagination. But that’s how I thought of myself, a tough city girl in a big city.

The reality, looking back with 34 years of life between me and 12 year old me, is very different. Not better or worse. Just different. I imagine I have a clearer sense of what reality was back then, because I have grown and matured since then. But, I’m not going to pass judgment on the quality of my 12 year old assessment of her then-reality. What I believed back then made sense for who I was then.

At 12 years old, I was the epitome of the grubby, awkward, tomboy so often depicted in movies and literature. It’s hard now to decide if I came by it organically or if I was heavily influenced by those media tropes. Whatever the origin, that was me. Even then, perhaps especially then, I was out of sync with my surroundings.

My house in the middle of the block was neat, with trimmed grass and big, shady trees in the front yard. It started off an oddly aqua colored clapboard house with a big screen porch. Then, at some time in my childhood that I can’t pinpoint, my parents had aluminum siding put on, turning it white with black shutters. They put in plexiglass windows on the porch, though left the corrugated fiberglass roof of the porch a jarring, mis-matched green.

Despite the odd porch, our house in the middle of the block was nice-looking and welcoming. It matched the other houses on the block, mostly. Each one had at least one small oddity about it. The brick Tudor-esque house across the street was tidy, but had foil on several windows, instead of curtains. The house to the right of ours was occupied by a wonderful elderly couple, yet had a speedboat parked in the driveway most of the year. The house to the left had the meanest dog in the world, even though it didn’t weigh 10 ponds. And the house at the top of the block was scary, as much because of the heavy traffic that flowed past it constantly on a busy thoroughfare, as because of the barren yard with twisting, exposed tree roots that seemed to magnetically attract balls and other toys that were brought too near.

Our block was split by an alley that ran behind our house, separating my side of the block from the other, where lived the boy who was my most frequent playmate. Only half a block, but a foreign world to my youthful eyes. I always felt a stranger in a new world when I rounded that corner on my bike. But I grew to love that street as much as my own, even though it wasn’t home.

The house directly across the alley from ours was basically a junk yard. There was such a huge mess of rusting metal and unidentifiable debris, I always marveled that the inhabitants could find their way to the alley to take out the trash.

At twelve years old I yearned constantly to explore that junkyard, but (a) I wasn’t allowed to speak to those people (some long forgotten feud that I never understood); and (b) I was terrified of their dog ripping my head off if I went in uninvited. So I’d hang out in the fort I built in my back yard and plot endless excursions to the junkyard that went unfulfilled. Daydreams of an awkward kid in a play fort.

You might think twelve is a little old for forts and such. But it was so much more than a play place. It was my own world. I didn’t actually build it. Nature did. But I made it my own with cool stuff scavenged from hither and yon on the block. A wooden cable spool was both chair and table. An old school desk was there for a while, until I nearly cut my finger off with the lid hinge (a story for another time). A secret cache for treasures, and toys and gizmos of every type made my fort the best, homiest place I knew.

It was just a hollow space formed by massive lilac bushes growing along the fence line, creating a pocket behind themselves at the far corner of the yard. But, to my pre-pubescent mind, it was a magnificent sanctuary.

At twelve, amid my awkwardness in my eminently normal family in our lovely square house in the middle of the block, I often craved solitude. My fort provided it. When the pressure of being too odd, too big, too loud, got to be too much, I’d head out to my fort where I could be myself without anyone looking at me funny. I would sit on my spool and read leaning back against the trunk of a tall elm tree growing through one of the lilac bushes. Or else I’d listen to the birds and be so still, willing them to come visit. They never did. Sometimes, I’d just go there to think. Always the fort was my own oasis.

When I couldn’t be out in my fort, I hung out in my room. It was less oasis and more chamber of opposites.

Our house in the middle of the block started off as a three bedroom house with an unfinished basement. My folks semi-finished the basement, forming bedrooms for my brothers and a rec room with the bulk of the space. Upstairs, after my sister left home, they took out the wall between their room and hers, making a large master bedroom. But everyone had a spot of their own.

Around about my eleventh birthday, maybe a little before, my parents made what would become a last-ditch effort to make me more of a girl. They remodeled my room, painting it dusty rose and cream, giving me a lace canopy bed and a fuzzy pink rug. It was everything I was not. But my parents worked so hard to give me something lovely, I couldn’t reject it. So, even though it was a place that I felt completely disconnected from, it was my own. I spent a lot of time in there. Study, play, quiet reading time were all my occupation in that prickly pink room. It wasn’t comfortable, but it was private.

The rest of our house was more comfortable to me. Lots of places to sit in a big, open living room. Shag carpet and long curtains made it quiet and pleasantly dark or light, as one desired. There was space enough for everyone, though we didn’t often test the limits of its capacity.

The dining room at the back of the house was an addition before we moved in and was constantly freezing in winter. But the tiny galley kitchen, though cramped, was the hub of life in our house. It served as intended, to prepare meals. But it was also the messaging center with phone and note space on the wall next to the stove. It showcased achievements in pictures and ribbons and report cards on the fridge. And if anything was ever missing, checking the kitchen catch-all drawer or the freezer (I said I was a weird kid), usually found it fastest.

Our house in the middle of the block was as never the height of fashion. It was furnished with big, heavy, western style wooden furniture in durable fabrics with busy prints that stood up to wear. The massive couch and swivel rockers invited you to sit and enjoy each other’s company, despite the busy fabric pattern. But whatever it looked like, the home was only a home because of our family.

We were a family that strove to project an image of middle class values and normalcy. Despite being the token interracial family in the neighborhood, I think we succeeded pretty well. We were busy, active and private. We had friends and acquaintances who visited occasionally, but we kept to ourselves, mostly. We checked in with each other, helped each other, argued and made up with each other. And at the center of it all was our square house in the middle of the block, where we lived and loved together as a family.

Love lived in that square house in the middle of the block. That’s what I remember most about where I lived at twelve years old.

My music

I’ve heard others comment on the musical quality of someone’s voice. And music has long been used as a comparison device for any number of romantic or sentimental notions. People wax poetic, many with great skill of description, imbuing their prose with lyrical grace as they speak of the moving, restorative, healing, calming and spiritual power of music and their love’s likeness to this musical miracle.

I find myself drawn to these comparisons and metaphors, as well, because music is so fundamentally moving. It’s universality can connect people from polar opposite demographics and walks of life. People who can’t even speak the same language, can often find common ground in the music they experience together. And the emotion, the artistry and spiritual expression in some music, sometimes not even intentional by the composer or performer, stirs the soul in ways no other stimulus can.

Except for love.

That’s why love and a lover’s voice is so often compared to music, a symphony, the melody, harmony and soundtrack of the soul. Love and music reach to the deepest depths of our being and move, motivate and transform us in unique and fundamental ways. Love and music are elemental forces that work on a level that requires no language and is independent of conscious influence.

That’s what my beloved is to me.

She is the music, the symphony of my soul, the melody that accompanies the progress of my life. Her voice stirs my emotional response like no other’s voice can. Hearing her sing makes me happy. Every. Time. The sound of my name and her terms of endearment for me from her lips is a welcome, motivating drumbeat that can’t be recreated by anyone or anything.

I’m so thankful for the blessing my Special Femme is in my life. She is the light, the joy, the blessing that immeasurably enriches my life. She is the symphony of home and heart that calls to me, moment by moment, day by day, regardless how many miles lie between us.

My Lulu is the music of my soul.

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