Day 29/31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2017: FOLLOW

Day 29

If one were to follow the track of my life, it would not be a stretch to say I’ve moved around a lot.  I was born in Bethesda, MD, grew up for the first 16 years of my life in Northern VA, spent the last few years of high school and all of my college days in Wilmington, NC, moved to Baltimore for three and a half years after college, then back to Wilmington from September 2004-2009, moved to Denver in September 2009 and lived there until July 2014.  Then, I moved to Connecticut to get married, and we lived there until July 2017, and have since been living in Charlotte, NC.  What a meandering path.  Each move was for a good reason, although I know from the outside, it must have seemed like I had no idea what to do with my life.  Partly (okay, maybe mostly) true, but thankfully, throughout this nomadic wandering, God’s hand has been on me.  There were periods of time I ran from him, but he kept his steady hand on me the whole time.

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Missing My Uncle Mark

The end of September in 2004 was the last time I saw my uncle Mark.  He and my parents had driven up to Baltimore to help move me out of the condo I was living, since I was moving back to Wilmington, NC.  He was so strong, lugging my dressers and couch from up and down the stairs.  There was no indication to any of us he’d have a heart attack on a crisp cool October morning while hunting, just a few weeks later.

In the line of my mom’s biological siblings, he came third, and my mom was fourth.  My mom and Mark always were together.  When my mom first moved out of her parents house, they were roommates, and he still lived with us until I was in High School.  My brother was probably in first or second grade, and my sister was in third or fourth, but I know he was a huge part of their formative years.  In my childhood memory of my Gramma and Poppy’s house, there was a Norman Rockwell painting of a boy and girl sitting on a bench with a knapsack on the ground behind them with the sun in front of them.  It always reminded Gramma of the two of them, so now it does the same for me, too.

Mark was probably the easiest person to like that I’ve ever met.  He always wore a smile, except when the camera was pointed in his direction.  He would either just stare unsmiling at the lens, or put his hand up in front of his face.  Out of all the pictures ever taken of him, that’s what you saw.  UNLESS he had a fish in his hands that he’d just pulled out of the water.  Then that smile would be as big as the fish tales he would tell.  He was always agreeable, yet annoying in a big-brother kind of way.   At mealtimes, he insisted on sitting to my left, so we constantly bumped elbows.  I’m a lefty, and he was a born righty, having to switch to being left-handed after royally messing up his right thumb so it couldn’t bend.  He’d also know just when to swipe my hand out from under my head when we were watching tv.  I’d be laying on the ground with my head propped up by my hand, and when I was most absorbed or oblivious, he’d whack my arm back and chuckle as my head nearly hit the floor.  He always let me punch him for it afterwards, which was satisfying.

We were never without milk or bread in the house because nearly every night before he came home from work, he’d stop and grab one or the other, or both.  The only time he took days off from work was for for the opening day of duck, buck, turkey, or bow season.  He worked for Transmission Incorporated, and I still can remember his work phone number.  His fingernails were always rough from working and black with car grease.  He always wore a ball cap.  It was strange to see his head, he wore a hat so much.  In the summer, he’d let us all pile in the pack of his gray Toyota truck for a 7-11 Slurpee run.  When we got home, we’d jump in our backyard pool.  We would all have our swimming suits on, except him.  He always wore his navy blue Dickies in the pool.  I never saw his legs above those pink ankles, and I don’t think he ever wore shorts beyond his teen years.  I remember his bedroom was just off our family room above the basement.  It always smelled like stale smoke, even after he quit smoking.  He had a waterbed, and we all thought that was the most amazing bed to lay on.  He also had a tiny 5×5″ square black and white television on his nightstand with knobs to change the channel and volume.

I remember one night, probably after watching MacGuyver or Tour of Duty, he told me about seeing bullfrogs as big as his forearm.  I wanted so badly to see one, so he offered to take me, on the condition we had to wake up before the sun the next morning since I had school and he had work.  I woke up the next morning, after the sun, and went down to his room.  A man’s sized shoebox was on the floor wrapped in a rubber band, and a note scribbled from Mark that here was my bullfrog.  I opened the lid, and sure enough, the biggest frog I’ve ever seen in my life was sitting inside.  Wonder, awe, and guilt rushed through me.  I didn’t want to leave the poor frog inside the shoe box all day- I am a child of the 80’s and saw E.T. dozens of times.  So, I took him out to the backyard and released him near our creek, praying he’d make it back home unscathed.  I loved Mark for going and bringing me back this magnificent creature.  To this day, I still kick myself for not waking up early to go with him.  It would have given me just a few more hours of memories.

 

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Day 28/31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2017: CONNECT

Day 28

I’m transported back in time to my one bedroom row house in Baltimore.  I’m sitting on my Ikea sofa, freshly gleaned of any loose change so I could buy gas.  I was so lonely, desperate to connect with someone.  But it was one of those days when nobody was around to answer their phones.  I’d dial my parent’s number holding my breath.  As soon as the voicemail clicked on, my throat would tighten like a string, and the pitch of my voice was sharper, holding back cries as I calmly left my message in that strange voice.  Another number, and the same thing happened.  It was an invisible day.  When it felt like nobody even remembered or missed me.

CONNECT

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Day 27/31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2017: OVERCOME

Day 27

Being overcome by sadness feels like being overcome by exhaustion.  The weight of memories and regrets make the tears fall harder.  We all deal with grief differently, but I myself as a complete sap and someone who wears her heart on her sleeve has a very difficult time with those who are stoic and show no emotion at all.  Are you in there? Do you feel anything?  Are you hurting?  I can’t tell.  My throat feels raw, my nose is running, and my eyes brim with salty tears.  But all I see is that you are bitter and make me feel small for feeling.

OVERCOME

 

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Day 26/31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2017: CHANGE

Day 26

Change is

seeing the tips of green trees turn gold and red

wearing shorts and flip flops, only to open the door to a chill

watching my pregnant belly grow rounder

seeing our baby girl stagger around on two wobbly legs

expecting the usual grunt or scowl and be instead greeted by a smile

using a shiny key to open the front door of our new home

saying goodbye

leaving the negative past in the past

 

CHANGE

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Day 25/31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2017: BECAUSE

Day 25

We can’t stand it when we don’t have the reason for something.  I remember when I was young, probably in second or third grade, and I had a math homework question for my dad.  He was downstairs in the basement lifting weights, and I handed him my math book so he could review what I was learning.  As he explained, he said, “Zero point five is the same as one half.”  This blew my mind and was a completely bizarre concept for me.  “Why?” I asked.  “Because it just is,” he said.  And that was that.  As unsatisfying as that answer was, I never forgot that math proof.  Later on, it certainly made more sense once I learned fractions.  There are times in life when we go through trials and we shake our fists at God demanding to know why.  It ends up that often much later, maybe years or even a lifetime later, we understand.  It’s because we are meant to learn and grow, depend on God, and help people through their trials.  And most often, it is after we have been through those same trials that we are able to help and comfort most effectively.

BECAUSE

 

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Day 24/31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2017: REVISE

Day 24

Today, I decided to check out a park nearby that I’d heard about from a mom at MOPS last week.    After a late start, I was strapping my daughter, Noelle, into her car seat about 30 minutes before I usually put her down for her afternoon nap.  The sun was in her eyes for most of the 11 minute drive, so she was a bit groggy when I plucked her out of the seat to strapped her into the stroller.  I wanted to scope out the park with her in the stroller and see what all was there to explore, but as soon as we passed by the playground just for little ones, I knew I had to stop and let her out.  Even though my girl has started to walk (albeit VERY shakily), she immediately started crawling around the wood chipped ground.  I corralled her to the stairs so she could climb and then slide down the slide.  I could hear this woman incessantly giving restrictions to this adorable little girl in a skirt. “Don’t go down that slide.  It’s all wet.  Don’t crawl on the ground, you’ll get your outfit all dirty.  No, don’t go there…”  I mean, why take your kid to the playground if you won’t let her get dirty?  So, already I had a bad attitude about this lady from afar.  Then, Noelle wanted to go over to the see saw where the lady and the little girl were.  She crawled over to the little girl, and waved, and said, “Hi.”  The girl was a little shy, so she didn’t say anything.  The lady just commanded the girl, “Don’t push down the seat or you’ll bump that baby’s head.”   Ugh, I couldn’t take it, so I intended to duck under the see saw bar to take Noelle to another, more welcoming spot on the playground.  Unfortunately, my baseball hat prevented me from seeing how low the bar was, and I smacked my head right into it.  “SH*T!” I erupted.  “That hurt!”  I grabbed Noelle, sort of gave a conciliatory look to the little girl, and marched over to the swings on the opposite end of the playground.  I was embarrassed, ashamed, angry, and wanted to cry.  By the time we got to the car, I was done.  I put Noelle back into her car seat, gave her the “fireplace” book (Goodnight Moon), and got in.  When I turned the key to the engine, I realized I’d left her passenger side door wide open.  Gah!

We had nothing for dinner, so I had to stop by the grocery store before we could go home.  I decided to stop at ALDI since we were just a mile away. As we walked up to the carts, I was pretty pleased that I actually had a quarter on me so I could get a cart.  Once inside, the place was a zoo.  Noelle was so ready for a nap, she whined the whole time.  I didn’t know where anything was, so naturally we had to walk through every aisle at least twice.  By the time I’d gotten everything on my list, Noelle didn’t want to sit in the seat anymore so she stood up, ignoring the strap around her chest.  I couldn’t let her stand, so I held her as we stood in line.  Again, I wanted to cry.  She was leaning over so she could pretend she was pushing the cart, so all I had to hold onto was her leg and bottom.  Blessedly, a grandmotherly lady got in line behind us and started talking to Noelle.  Noelle immediately started smiling and stopped breaking my back by leaning over to push the cart.  Seeing that I was struggling, the lady offered to help unload my cart to put the groceries on the checkout conveyor belt.  “Thank you so much,” I gushed.  “You made my afternoon so much better.”  She really did.  That small gesture meant so much and totally revised my attitude.  Sometimes that’s all we need.  Even if our circumstances don’t change, someone smiling or doing something nice that we don’t expect can absolutely revise our mindset.  I got to the car and thanked God for giving me that ray of sunshine, even though I’d felt like I’d blown it earlier.  I pray that my eyes would be open so that I can be that person for others, and am so thankful for those that do the same for me.  And thank God for his grace that allows for revisions.

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Full disclosure:  this took about 25 minutes to write

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