Wednesday, June 23, 2010

When I Need a Smile

Sometimes life is stressful. I know that comes as a surprise to some folks. I adopted the motto some time ago that I have enough necessary stress in my life so I avoid unnecessary stress whenever possible. Funny how even when I'm trying to avoid it - especially when I'm trying to avoid it - it finds me anyway.

Sometimes the stress is small - I can't find the belt to my dress. That happened this morning. But it shouldn't have caused me any stress at all. I couldn't find the belt to this same dress last week when I wore it.

Sometimes the stress is big - my youngest daughter saying mean and derogetory things to her brother. That happened last night, but I just heard about it this morning. I imagine this would cause me some stress if the remarks had been directed toward one of her older sisters - they've been going back and forth at each other for a long time. I've already written it off because I heard it happening both ways and I know it's usually a matter of steel sharpening steel. But now - it's her brother - who is not only 6, but also has only been her brother for a little over a year. He doesn't have the benefit of knowing (or at least believing) that she's not trying to hurt him. Nor do I have the complete confidence that she wasn't, in that instance, just being mean (which I've seen from time to time.) Adding to the stress is that the report came from my husband about his biological son and his non-biological daughter. And my hyper-sensitive ears can't help but hear the report as "your daughter is bullying my son."

Not exactly the best way to start the morning . . .Funny, I was in a perfectly excellent mood up till that moment.

Anyway - although I left home frustrated, with a lump in my heart and in my throat - I was (am) determined to not let the rest of the day stay in the toilet.

One of the things I do when I am having a bad day is look at pictures of happier times. Through the beauty of the computer, I have access to photos from our engagement photo shoot, our wedding and multiple family outings - photos taken on happy days when everyone is smiling . . . and I remember that we have had some great days together. Also, since some of the photos are more recent than others and since I can recall days between those pictures that weren't always so wonderful - I know there is a certain ebb and flow. I know that better does exist.

In my quest toward happy memories this morning, I ran across this picture from our wedding. It was sort of a hidden gem . . . I'd forgotten it was taken. This picture shows a family that is happy and joyful. The woman in this picture is clearly in love with this man and the man in this picture is clearly happy about the life he is entering. There are a myriad of other emotions displayed by the other people in the picture, but mostly - people who love and support this man and this woman . . . .what a beautiful memory from a truly happy day.

Photobucket

This picture makes me smile. And it has added some sunshine to what started out as an overcast day. And lookie there - it's time for lunch . . . the day just keeps getting better!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Dorothy We're Not in Kansas Anymore

This week, my oldest daughter transferred from one of the highest academically ranking schools in our school district to one of the lowest academically ranking schools in our school district. She struggled with math in general beginning in ninth grade and specifically now, in her Junior year - Pre-Calculus and Physics (which is more math than science). Rather than continue to flounder in a situation that left her feeling unsuccessful and totally stressed out, she asked to be transfered to the school she is zoned to. Houston ISD does not allow more than one Magnet transfer per school year, so that really limited the selection process.

At her old school, she was just another smart kid. Afterall, because of the school rankings, the best and brightest from all over the city make their way there. The school is neat and orderly. There is one full-time police officer. The office is run efficiently. There is a uniform and it is actively adhered to. The children respect their teachers and listen in class - they know why they are there and they know what it takes to stay there. At the same time - there is a lot of pressure for success there. The competition is stiff. The work is challenging. Being there comes standard with a lot of sleepless nights trying to complete (often college-level) homework assignments. Leaving middle school it's where we all thought she needed to be. And we were right. She "fit" there.

At her new school . . . there are likely a lot of smart kids who don't yet know how smart they are. Or they've learned that is better to be cool than to be smart. Or they've learned that being street smart is better than being book smart. No one is beating down the doors to attend. They, in fact, are working hard to overcome the fact that they have one of the highest dropout statistics in the district. The office workers are very nice and polite. They do the best they can to point you in the right direction, but yesterday was the second day of school and my daughter was finally issued textbooks and does not yet have a locker assigned to hold them. The principal has instituted a uniform dress code and the children are not taking it well . . . it make take her longer than she plans to get it catch on. The school is neat and orderly - at least on the days when I visited it was. There are, I believe, 4 full time police officers on duty. They are not hard to find. My daughter says she saw two people get arrested on day one and she's told that is a regular occurence. There are pregnant students and students who are parents. My daughter knew the statistics surrounding these "kinds of events" and know she knows it up close. Dorothy we're not in Kansas anymore. She said she doesn't understand why so many conversations, no matter where they begin, end with a discussion on "doin' it." I'm glad these things come as a shock to her.

On the other hand, she has gotten the first restful, full-night's sleep that she's had in 3 years. Her spirit is lighter and she's smiling a lot more. She's a bit of mystery to the people at her new school - adults and children alike. She's always been a bit of mystery to me too. And I think she likes that about herself. She's very much her own person and not easily swayed, so I don't worry that her new daytime environment will engulf her. I do believe, though, that it will help to round her out and make her more in tuned to who she is.

Right now the people of Munchkin land just want to know who this girl is who fell out of the sky and landed in their city. She looks different. She talks different. She acts different. The trick will be finding out if they can point her towards Oz and if when she gets there she'll be able to show them that the big scary stuff they've all feared is just smoke and mirrors.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Words

It took me a while to decide if I would blog about this. I live in Houston, TX. In the news recently there has been a lot of discussion (rightfully so) about the shooting committed by Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood in Killeen - which is a few hours drive from here.

13 people died in the shooting. By any account, this is a horrible incident.

The following day, I had a conversation with a man who said, "Well, I guess we should put an end having Moslems in the military." My mouth fell open. For a minute I thought not to respond - not to engage in any way. But then I said, "I'm not prepared to make a blanket statement about all Muslims just because some nut lost it." His follow up comments, which I do not remember verbatim, were something along the lines of - He wasn't just some nut. He was shouting Allah while he was shooting. He was following the Qu'ran. Etc. . . .

Oh my God! I wanted to just start shouting right then but I didn't. I tried to ignore him, but he just kept talking for another five or so minutes.

Perhaps the man did not remember that for about six years on my Spiritual journey, I practiced Islam. Perhaps remembering that wouldn't have made him any difference at all. He felt it. He felt like he was entitled to express it.

Let's suppose for a minute that the gun weilding person had been a black man and instead of shouting Allah, he was shouting - Death to Whitey! Or supposed the gunman had been a gunwoman and she attributed the breakdown to PMS. Would this man then have said that's the end of letting all Black in the military or all women? And haven't we already been down both those roads before?

And since I happen to be both Black and female, would he have felt as comfortable sharing his sentiments with me then, if by chance he didn't feel like he would have found some solidarity in his statement? I wonder.

I wonder if we truly understand the power of our words to affect change - both positively and negatively. I wonder if we honestly consider what we say and its ramifications - not just on our immediate environment, but on the world.

What a sad world we live in. What makes me even more sad is the thought of Muslim (Moslem) soldiers in the US military having to face this kind of ignorance and having to watch their backs - not just in "enemy territory" but in their barracks.

I hate that it is even necessary, in 2009, to have to write such an editorial. In kindergarten I learned a song, "Let There Be Peace on Earth." The lyrics say, "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me." And so I begin - one peaceful word at a time.

I welcome your feedback.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

When Love Holds Your Hand

When love holds your hand
That hand feels empowered
To handle any task
To open any door
To move any mountain
To wipe any tear
To take any test
To mend any rip
To clean any stain
To sow any field
To scold any wrong

When love holds your hand
That hand feels encouraged
To hold another hand
To keep holding
Even when the grip is loose
Even when the joints ache
Even when it’s wet from tears and sweat
Even when that hand wants not to be held

When love holds your hand
That hand knows it’s been held
There’s no mistake
There’s no confusion
There’s no doubt
There’s no worry
There’s no fear

There’s just love

When love holds your hand
Hold on.

Tracie Jae 8-20-09

Monday, May 4, 2009

Transparency

Our church has a series of videos called Transparency. They are available to view on several places on the web: YouTube, www.LifeMill.ning.com and Facebook.

Oftentimes people are afraid to be transparent for fear that if people know too much about them, they may not be accepted. Deep down and sometimes, right on the surface, we all want to be accepted.

I've never considered myself to be hard to figure out, or hard to get to know. I have realized though, that I used to hold a lot more of myself back. The older I get the more inclined I am to say what I feel and to be very much the same person in all surroundings.

I'm more likely to be transparent.

That freedom of transparency has transferred over to my marriage and I love it. We had a few very open conversations this weekend about ourselves, each other and our union. I feel the brink of a communication breakthrough.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Keep Smiling

Because of the nature of my job - front desk at a busy, downtown church - I am expected to smile. No matter what, keep smiling.

It doesn't matter if my shoes don't fit, or I woke up late, or someone at home ate my apple - I'm expected to smile.

This isn't my first front desk job. In my early working days, I spent a lot of time at some front desk or another. In doing so, I learned to mask my emotions. I learned to smile without really smiling. I learned to always be on guard because you never know who might walk through the door. I've also learned to take a deep breath and smile before I answer the phone so that my heart isn't heard in my voice.

I've done this so well for so long, that even away from work - people tend to expect to see a "smiling Tracie Jae."

Well, dammit, sometimes I don't feel like smiling. (Shock and awe!)

Sometimes I just wanna look the way I feel that day - sour, irritated, angry, tired, frustrated, undone, whatever the emotion - real.

I know a guy who always says, "Real talk." It used to work on my nerves because he said it after almost every sentence. But, just to borrow from him, "Real talk. . . some days are not so smiley."

These days, I have a lot of great reasons to smile. . . a great husband, great children, a nice home, a nice vehicle, gainful employment, healthy parents, a supportive church family, a sound mind (mostly). And yet - even in the midst of all the greatness around me - there are still some days that I don't feel up to smiling all day.

But I do it. I smile all day.

And ever so briefly thoughout the day - I get a chance to breathe. And sometimes in those moments - I'm still smiling . . . and sometimes not.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Add a Word

If you've visited my blog in the past, you'll note that my description has changed by one word - Wife.

I've been, until now, 'Believer, Mother, Friend, Author, Poet.' On January 30th, for the 2nd time in 16 years, I added the word Wife to the line-up.

It's a word that's long overdue. And a word that, perhaps, I've only recently begun to understand. Even in my first go at the job, I didn't have it quite figured out. And at 20 - we don't tend to have most things quite figured out. But who can tell us that?

I am, and my job as Wife is, still very much a work in progress. Looking at my other descriptors, though, I'm still growing and evolving in all areas listed.

As a Believer - I've committed to a particular church and give of my time and my talent when I can. I study the Scripture more often than I had at other times in my life. I suppose marrying a pastor has had a profound impact on all of the above. Having said that - folks who know me - know that I'm doing the things I WANT to do and that I am growing at a pace that is comfortable for me.

As a Mother - My daughters are now 11, 13 & 15. My husband has two boys - ages 5 & 6. The girls challenge me to remember being a teenager; to remember how challenging and awkward and unforgiving those years can be. They remind me that just because you're an authority, doesn't always make you right; and when I'm wrong - I'm learning to admit it. (But I HATE to be wrong.) I'm reminded that we are all individuals and the things that work for some of us - don't work at all for others of us. As for the boys - whew! That's a whole other ballgame. We are only with one son full time - he's 5. I remember my girls at 5: hyper, precocious, inquisitive, loquatious. And he is all of those things. And yet, the little extra bit of testosterone changes the equation. He's slightly more fearless than I remember the girls being at his age. He takes more risks. Sometimes it's my heart that can't take it. Sometimes it's my mind. And sometimes, it's his fearlessness that makes him wonderful to watch. Each of them push me to love more aggressively and to love equally and differently all at once.

As a Friend - I'm learning to let go. I'm learning to appreciate people where they are and also recognize that I can't always be where they are with them. Sometimes, it's better to walk away. I am learning to accept help when it's offered and say thank you more often. I have been a better friend to some folks than they have been to me. It's a blessing and a curse that I have carried with me from adolescence. That statement does not mean that now I will become less of a friend. It means that I will place a higher expectation on the people I allow to wear that badge.

As an Author/Poet - In December 2007, I publised a book of poetry called "Freedom's Verse." Most of the poems in the book were written well before December 2007. Before that, I published a novel entitled, "The Puzzle." That feels like a lifetime ago. And in many respects, it was. For a while, I'd lost my desire to write, so even the projects that I began felt like work and writing had always been a passion and had never felt like work. So I walked away for a while. I stopped journaling and blogging and writing poetry - almost forgot how to do it - began to develop gift atrophy. I feel a few projects brewing inside: a poem with only two lines, a book I started long ago, another blog that perhaps will write itself tomorrow - my heart is beating again. It's hard work to recover from a coma. But at least now my eyes are open and I'm making audible sounds.


As for where this blog began: As a Wife - I am learning to trust - not in the sense that I believe my husband will be faithful (although I trust that too.) I am learning to trust that someone else can have the same good intentions for me that I have for myself, that someone else is capable of looking out for my best interest, that someone else can make decisions that affect me and my daughters and it will be okay. I am learning to be transparent in my feelings and my fears. None of this is easy for me. I am learning to not only do the things that are expected, but a few unexpected things too. Although I'm not so easily swayed, I am also learning that there are other points of view beyond my own. Marriage has reinforced the idea for me that small things matter: small kindnesses, early morning kisses, hot meals, midday phone calls - all matter.

Here I sit, Tracie Jae, 'Believer, Wife, Mother, Friend, Author, Poet' - a work in progress.