Flowers bring comfort


Flowers… are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson~

Sometimes the world is plain ugly. Wait. Let me rephrase that. The world itself is beautiful. It is the behavior of some humans that is ugly.

We are bombarded by ugliness daily. Whether your reading the news, interacting at work, or driving along the highways, you have most likely seen some bad examples of humanity. Lies, greed, aggression and so much more can stress us out. Heck, the election alone has caused many of us anxiety.

In times of stress, we all have to find ways to relax and recenter our thoughts. Personally, I find that a variety of tactics help lower my stress levels. I enjoy everything from photography to kayaking. One of the simplest and most effective relaxation techniques though is looking at flowers. There is something elegant and magical about flowers. They appear so delicate and yet, tend to be fairly durable to the elements. I sometimes stand in awe of God’s creations, just studying their petals, their colors, their aroma.

The endless array of floral options remind me of the world’s beauty, restoring my hope in the goodness of the world. And when I don’t have fresh flowers around, I am just as content with editing photos of nature’s bouquets. In the photos above, I merged two photos into one montage. I liked the blend of photos and they seemed to have a dream-like quality to them.

So on tough days where I am stressed out, you may find me walking around staring at flowers or editing countless pictures of them. It will be in those moments that I am trying to forget all the ugly acts of humans and thank God for his wonderful creations. For when I see His flowers, I am reminded that the world is indeed magical, and my hope is restored.

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For Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge ~ nature montage.

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There was a time


There were times in my life where I wanted to die. Funny thing was that these times didn’t come to me when I was deployed to foreign countries where stray mortars could have landed near me at any moment. No, they came when I was in the safety of my own country, surrounded by people I love……

 

To read more, please go to the post I wrote for the Seeker’s Dungeon.

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I turned off comments for this post as it was written especially for Sreejit Poole’s blog. Please visit his always inspiring blog. It is filled with countless thought provoking pieces.

 

 

 

 

Falling on my Face in Iraq


It was the first Iraqi election and I was in charge of all the journalists who were embedded with the Army. It was a grueling job that involved endless coordination and big name journalists. At one point there were over 150 different journalist to track. My team of one was spread thin, but I tried to play it cool. Unfortunately though, I fell on my face…literally.

It was 2005 and I was a lieutenant. I was the media embed coordinator. Basically, that meant that if media wanted to or were embedded with any Army troops, I had to coordinate their arrival, synchronize their linkup with a unit, track their stories, and orchestrate their exit of the battle field.

It sounded simple enough at first as an eager lieutenant. However, as the first Iraqi election drew near, so did the mass of demands. Not long after arriving in country, I was swamped. Daily, I was inundated with emails and phone calls that demanded attention. Not only did I have to process media requests to be embedded (which required several layers of tasks), I had to pick them up at the airfield, take them to meals, ensure they got credentialed and release them over to their embed unit. Then, while they were embedded, I had to track what stories they were putting out and create charts and spreadsheets. This was all while new media were entering and others were leaving. It was a constant circle of media coming and going. Though I would get help from time to time from other Soldiers, I had no staff. The embed mission was mine and mine alone. So the help I did get was limited as everyone else had their own mission. I can’t lie, I was spread thin and feeling it.

On one particular day, I was just getting off overnight duty of watching the press center. (We all took turns at nights so that there was a 24-hour presence in our building.) I was dead tired, but had a high-profile journalist arriving. I was to meet them and escort them to the media center.

The journalist was Lara Logan. I had seen her pass through our center before and was in awe her. She was gorgeous for one thing, but more importantly, she was a classy, but ruthless journalist. She covered real stories, got hard facts and did it well. As a fellow woman (one with a journalism degree), I was star struck. So, admittedly, I was geek-like excited that I got to be her Army escort and officially meet her, one on one. For me, it was the same as meeting a movie star. No, it was actually better because I respected her accomplishments that I know did not come easily.

So, I’m waiting in my up-armored suburban in downtown Baghdad (inside of a gated military area called the International Zone where some media lived). I’m trying to pretend I am not tired. I am trying to represent the United States Army with pride. I’m trying to be professional. I’m trying to not look like a kid about to see their idol. However, as soon as I see Lara Logan approaching my vehicle, all of my goals fall short. When I open the heavy armored door with my exhausted arms and I take a step out, my weary legs fail me and I fall. And with absolutely no grace whatsoever, I tumble out of the suburban and onto the dusty gravel right at Lara Logan’s feet. Graciously, she kneels down and in a lovely accent, asks me if I am ok.

Utterly embarrassed for so many reasons, my weary mind can only manage to say, Oh Lara, I just thought I would throw myself at your feet like all the boys must do.

How’s that for personal and professional embarrassment?

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For the Daily Post ~ Boy, is my Face Red?

 

 

I Forgot Myself


My teenage self was a better actor than my adult self. Somewhere over the years, I forgot how to stand proud, act confident and create huge, wind-proof hair. It is all starting to come back to me though. Well, minus the 80s hair, that can stay forgotten.

As a teenager, I was active. I was in the marching band, took a modeling class, taught dance classes to kids, dressed like Madonna, competed in beauty pageants, and cheered at basketball games, football games and competitions. I acted like I was good enough to fit in all the crowds. I mean I was the creative writing honor roll student-band geek-cheerleader who dressed weird after all. I was walking diversity at its best back then.

From the outside, I looked like a confident young girl. It was all an act though. Inside, I was just as insecure as any other girl. I wasn’t from a wealthy family so I didn’t have the coolest clothes. Some kids teased me, saying I dressed like Madonna. At the time, I didn’t even know who that was. But I pretended I did and figured it out later. Sure enough, I had some lace gloves and odd skirts that could have easily fit into an 80s Madonna MTV video. (Remember when MTV actually played videos?)

I participated in local pageants, where as one of my runner-up prizes, I won a Barbizon Modeling course. Of course, this was just some ‘deal’ where you got a few classes free with some promise to be the next Christy Brinkley. But I went and somehow my parents paid for the potential earnings. (I didn’t become a famous 5’2” model though. Huh. Go figure.)

As a “band geek,” I played the flute, French horn and trumpet. I was actually pretty decent at the flute (but very meh at the horn instruments) and wish I would have kept up with it. For years, I toted around that stickered flute case that I got in 6th grade. I always planned to play it later, another day, but it rarely happened. It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I finally parted with it, giving it to a co-workers child to cherish. (I wonder if they still have it?)

My best friend and I (who are still friends to this day), cheered and taught dance classes. We were inseparable. We went to practices, games, and competitions in our matching cheer clothes. We taught ballet, tap and acrobats to small kids at the local studio in lieu of free lessons for ourselves. We wore crazy dance outfits during recitals that we of course thought were sexy and modern. We even had nearly identical cars by mere coincidence of our families’ choices for us. Many people called us twins and we were perfectly OK with that.

Through all of this, I learned to carry myself in confident ways. Well, as self-assured as a teenager could be. I look at the girl in these old snap shots and wonder, where did she go? I know I wasn’t really that confident, that comfortable, but geez, I sure look like I am. And boy, I sure did know how to make some big hair back then! I mean really! How did I get big hair under that band hat? Now THAT, has to be worth something right there alone. Doesn’t it?

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Over the years though, I forgot that fake confidence. I forgot that model walk. I forgot how to wear acid wash miniskirts while balancing huge hair on heels. I forgot how to play my own music. I forgot how to do a back handspring. And I even forgot what it was like to sit in a parade (on the hood of my mom’s rusty Ford Escort station wagon) gracefully waving at the people who were surely wondering, “Don’t most festival queens ride on the back of fancy convertibles? Oh bless her heart for trying.” (This is a true story. I may even find a picture of this parade!)

With age and hard lessons, I forgot the freedom of youth and the lack of concern of what others might think, or at least the appearance of it. I started to fit into less groups and limited my interests. I began to care about my reputation and restrained my creativity into acceptable forms. I stopped dressing like I was in a Madonna video. I never tried out for another pageant or anything close because I thought it was kind of embarrassing to have always been the runner-up and never the queen. I even helped the ozone by cutting down my volume of Aqua Net use when my hair became lower and less of an impenetrable, unmovable shield.

With all those changes though, I was more vulnerable. I was more insecure. I was more dependent on what the world expected of me and less of what I wanted myself.

Years passed where I was a zombie. I worked jobs to pay the bills for things I was supposed to have. I put myself into debt to support the American way. I completed a college degree only to have to join the military because I couldn’t find a good paying job in my field of study.

There were mind numbing years of existence that resemble hazy blurs in my memory. I don’t know what I did or how I got through them, but I did. And it is probably not a vastly different story line than many other people out in the world today. But here’s the thing. I am waking up and remembering.

I am learning to love myself again and walk tall, even when I don’t feel that poised in my questionable outfit of the day. I am relearning a confident stride and holding my head high as I remind myself that I never needed the title of festival queen to feel accomplished anyway. I am starting to write again and not restraining my creativity. I am taking risks and trying new things. I am not letting failed attempts hold me back. Heck, I have even been practicing my acrobats. I can’t do a back handspring (though my high school bestie still can), but I can do a mean cartwheel and backbend, which ain’t too bad for a 44-year-old. (Can I get that slow dramatic clap like in the movies?)

Overall, I am remembering the youthful girl I almost lost. She was me then, and is still me now, with more wrinkles and weight of course. With some time, I will revive all the dreams and potential she had. I will resuscitate that confident spirit and passionate soul. It is only a matter of time, before I remember the me I should have become. It just may not include such huge hair, lace gloves, and miniskirts though. The 80s are over after all.

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A few weeks ago, I saved this challenge link because I wanted to write something for it. This isn’t what I originally planned to write, but it is what I felt today. So, finally, here it is.

For Dungeon Prompts: What Did You Forget?

Text Message Break Up…At Mom’s Funeral


I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but I didn’t have time for that. My little sister was reading her eulogy beautifully. She made the crowd laugh at some humorous memories of our mother. She looked at me for encouragement and continued. My dad held my hand, smiling at the stories, but you could see the sadness in his eyes. He did lose the love of his life and best friend after all. My older sister was not at my side like planned since she was very ill and could not come to the funeral. Hence, I sat there calmly, like I had it all together. But of course, that was a lie.

Mom’s death was not a complete surprise. Her cancer had been getting worse, and there were no signs of improvement. We all prepared ourselves for it. We told ourselves it was coming. We made a visit to the hospital to say our “goodbyes” before it was too late. Regardless of how much you tell yourself that something is coming though, it is still a surprise to some extent. The pain you imagined is no longer hovering over you, but washing over you, through you.

The days before the funeral, my two sisters and I spent countless hours together. We rehashed old stories of our mother. Some were funny and made us smile. Others were harsher and made us feel a sense of guilt over our pain and anger. We asked each other, are we allowed to still be upset about this now that she is dead? Does her death negate the mean things she did? That is a hard question to answer and one that must be decided individually, at least in my opinion. However, I do think there is a tendency to martyr people after they die, like the bad never happened. My sisters and I were not all at that stage though. So we talked and talked about our feelings as we sorted through mom’s belongings that dad laid before us.

The stories revealed that each of us had similar, but yet different, relationships with our mother. There were plenty of good times of course, but there were some substantial bad ones as well. The bad times covered everything from ugly words to physical violence to her disowning grandchildren. Some behaviors could be explained and forgiven. Others could not.

Thorough this whole grieving weekend, my boyfriend at the time was relentless. At first, it was relentless caring texts. Are you OK? Hang in there sweetie. I’ll be here when you get home. After three days though, the tone changed. If you have time for that. I don’t want to bother you. If I was important enough, you would make time. Now, I say tone because even though these were texts, I knew him well enough to get the tone. I could feel his anger and attitude. So while I was pouring over piles of my mother’s belongings with my sisters, I was getting and sending all these texts. It was interrupting our grieving. It was stressing me out.

Ironically, when I left home, I reminded him that I didn’t know how much time I would have to call, and that I tended to not be so chatting when I was upset. So I told him, I would text him. I sent him multiple texts during the day. At the airport. Taking dad to lunch. It is weird my mom not being here. I don’t know if I can do this. I feel like I am going to lose it. I was communicating in a form that I could, reassuring HIM while being strong for my family. Heck. I was practically sending hourly Twitter-like updates, so it was not like he didn’t know what was going on. It wasn’t like I just disappeared for days with no trace. Unfortunately, that was not good enough because I didn’t pick up the phone to call. I couldn’t. I was almost never alone and I wanted and NEEDED to spend this time with my family. I wasn’t ready to talk about what I was going through. I wanted to finish going through it before I tried to deal with it. There was also the fact that if I called him, I knew I would break down and cry. I didn’t have time for that. So I text.

Now, with all that said, there is one other factor that I know I mentioned to him over the months we dated, and that was my basic belief on phone etiquette: if I am with people, I try to spend time with them and not be on the phone. Yet, here I was texting and texting replies to his anger and accusation. People that love each other, call each other. I thought I was important enough to you for you to talk to me. I am tired of begging for your attention. It was draining. Freaking utterly draining. But it continued and continued until I called.

I don’t remember what was said but it was not what he wanted to hear apparently. Shortly after our call he text me. I am tired of begging for your attention Michelle. So you don’t have to bother yourself with me when you get home. I am done. I stared at the phone in disbelief. Did he really just break up with me via text the day of my mother’s funeral? For a moment, I panicked. I wanted to call him. I wanted to say I was sorry. He was right, I should have called. Then it hit me. I should not be told how to grieve. I should be allowed to grieve. I did nothing wrong. So I replied something to the extent that I was done too. Are you really doing this? Right now? This way? OK. You will get what you wanted. Do not call me again.

Of course, he called. Oh. My. Goodness. He called and called and text and text. Eventually, I turned off my phone. I could not handle anymore. But I stayed strong. I did not cry. I did not break down. I simple made my way back home. By the time I walked into my house, I realized a few things and there was no going back to that toxic relationship. It dawned on me that if this man could not handle my four-day absence to mourn my mother, he would never be able to support me on my next deployment. If this man did not understand that I was just not ready to “talk” about what was going on then, he did not know me very well. If this man could not support that time with my family then, it would never get any better. If this man refused to be patient with me at a time like that, I could never expect anything more. If this man used manipulation and demands to get his way, it could only escalate in the future.

I thought about the seven months we dated prior to my mother’s inconvenient death that annoyed this man so greatly. The signs were all there. It had gotten worse over time. I just chose to ignore it. I wanted to work through it, not just give up when things got hard. That’s the thing though, when my mom died, that was hard for me….and he just gave up on me. He wasn’t there for me. He was there for him. And once I grasped that, I said goodbye to him. Too bad all that drama interrupted my goodbyes to my mother though.

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For the Dungeon Prompt: Now I Get it Moment