This is my sixth post in Stealing Time magazine’s Fortnight of Flash.
He swings the bat, makes contact and gets his first double. He experiences the thrill of catching two pop flies during one game to get opposing players out. His team makes it all the way to the league championship game. Watching March Madness with his dad ignites his interest in basketball, resulting in multiple trips to the gym to practice lay ups and free throws and playing countless games of Horse with the Nerf basketball hoop that hangs on the pantry door. The rules of football finally make sense. He subscribes to Sports Illustrated Kids to keep up with this season’s news. He receives a special treat–a trip to New Orleans to attend a Saints game.
His passion for baseball, football and basketball knows no limit. Playing catch, shooting hoops, watching games, wearing his favorite team colors, reading Mike Lupica books, and talking stats—he can’t seem to get enough. He’s standing at the end of a fire hose of information, trying to drink it all in. He’s caught up in the stories of the teams, athletes and traditions. These stories are never ending and span across generations. There will always be more to see, more to learn and more opportunities to cheer or sulk.
During the spring and fall baseball seasons, he is a player in his own stories of triumph, loss and perseverance. He is a part of something larger than himself and feels the camaraderie of fellow teammates and coaches. And more awaits him as he looks forward to the upcoming basketball season, a new round of spring baseball after that, sports camps in the summer and maybe even flag football next fall.
His past loves expired within months, but this one seems to have some staying power. He could only pretend to be a train conductor, dump truck driver, fireman and Luke Skywalker. He is already an athlete and a fan. He experiences firsthand some of the elements of the stories that initially attracted him to the world of sports, and the ongoing and new stories continue to draw him in.
This is my fifth post in Stealing Time magazine’s Fortnight of Flash.
“I want to touch the clouds!” my daughter screams with toddler joy as I push her on the red plastic swing in our backyard. It’s a glorious June morning, and we are soaking it all in while my infant son naps inside our house. I’m weary with the weariness that comes from caring for two small children, but her exclamation grabs my attention and awakens something deep within me. She wants more. She wants to go as high as she can comprehend, and she’s not afraid to ask for it. It’s another teachable moment, and I am the student.
I’m caught off guard by how much I’m learning from her. Before I entered motherhood, I expected to be the one with all the answers, to be in charge of doling out wisdom and knowledge. But I’m seeing that it is a shared responsibility. She’s a unique person with her own thoughts and desires, and she has much to offer. She welcomes me into her world—to a place that I vaguely remember from my own childhood—and draws me into wonder and curiosity. As I take this journey with her, I realize that I am breaking through my own boundaries and exploring the far off places.
She’s content swinging for almost an hour. Maybe she believes she will eventually reach the clouds. I remember the “Dream Big” mosaic that I bought for her at an art show a few months ago. She can’t read the words yet, but she already knows what it means. And so do I.
This is my fourth post in Stealing Time magazine’s Fortnight of Flash.
It’s been over two years since we talked, since our friendship came to a halt. My anger turned to grief a few months after we traded those last text messages where we were both so sure of our own righteousness. The sadness still lingers; I believe it always will.
We did not discuss our parting in person. Sometimes I wonder if that would have made a difference. You would have seen my tears; I would have seen yours. Perhaps another story would have unfolded even though the dominoes were already in place and the first one had fallen. Maybe a face-to-face conversation would have made some room for hope and cleared some space for reconciliation.
I can’t deny that I long for this chapter of our lives to be different. I certainly wish it could be rewritten. But brokenness won. The cord of our relationship was severed, and we are both left with a frayed remnant of something that once was and will never be again.
This is my third post in Stealing Time magazine’s Fortnight of Flash.
I always have the same mission when I visit Grandma Byrd’s house. I check the freezer first. She usually has some Klondike bars or a half gallon of ice milk on hand. I prefer the chocolate coated squares of ice cream, but I’ll take anything with sugar. After finishing my treat, I head to her bedroom at the back of the house. The smell of Ivory soap greets me as I pass by her pink guest bathroom. The rose shaped soaps are only for decoration.
I walk directly to her closet to view her handbag collection. The rainbow of leather and fabric purses beckons me. I take one bag down at a time, placing straps over my shoulder or holding clutches in my hand, climbing up on her bed so I can see my reflection in the mirror above her mahogany dresser. I inspect the contents of each, hoping to find a few coins or a peppermint from a recent visit to Picadilly or Morrison’s.
My attention then shifts to her jewelry box. I open the three-tiered treasure trove with great anticipation. This is the highlight of my adventures. Her collection of costume jewelry is extensive–full of necklaces, clip-on earrings, bracelets, rings and broaches of various sizes and colors. I slip on a few strands of beads, put some rhinestones on my ears and climb back up on her bed–with more care this time because I don’t want to slip on the peach polyester bedspread and lose any of the borrowed accessories.
After placing everything exactly where I found it, I finish up in her bathroom with the Aquanet hairspray. I pump at least half of the bottle’s contents on my long, straight hair. I desperately want to feather my bangs like the cast of Charlie’s Angels, but no amount of hair product will achieve the look I desire.
Defeated, I return to the living room where all of the adults are discussing the stock market or the latest headlines. I wear the most innocent expression I can muster and wait for dinner to be served.
This is my second post in Stealing Time magazine’s Fortnight of Flash.
Tugging at the hem of my soul, it begs for attention. Terrified of the unknown; I choose to ignore it. I turn my head away, divert my eyes. “All is well,” I keep telling myself.
The ordinary is my hiding place—walking our dog, making our children’s lunches, monitoring their screen time, cooking dinner, washing dishes, doing laundry, putting off cleaning the bathrooms. Again. And again.
But desire refuses to disappear. It holds my face. My gaze steadies. Truth breaks free; the longing emerges. “There’s more for me,” I admit. Loosening its grip, the fear starts to fade. I remember my friend’s words: “Life is too short to not pursue your dreams.” She’s right. My story is not finished—in some ways it’s just beginning.
So I move forward in faith, trying to believe and hope for that which cannot yet be seen.
This is my first post in Stealing Time magazine’s Fortnight of Flash. I’m going to try my hand at flash memoir for the next 14 days. We’ll see how it goes. (Mom, Dad and others who might be worried: I’m only writing about a past manic episode in the piece below, I’m not currently having one.)
“This isn’t real. I’m hallucinating.”
“They’re all in it together. It’s a conspiracy against me.”
My mind battles itself for months, trying to sort through fact, fiction and those places in-between. My crazy meds aren’t working, so I turn to water and music. I crank up some Beyoncé, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band or Willie Nelson and fill my claw foot tub. The water envelops me; the musicians’ thoughts replace my own. Like a fugitive on the run who has discovered a hiding place, I’m able to escape. Lost in the harmony, melody and rhythm, I’m safe in a reality that doesn’t lie. And the familiar warmth of the water against my skin reminds me that I’m still here, waiting to be found.
My family has lived by the train tracks that cut through Birmingham for five years now. My relationship with the trains had a rocky start, but it has grown into one of wonder and appreciation.
Our first night in this house was rough. Sleep was displaced by anxiety and worry. My mind raced as I heard and felt each train thunder by. What had we done? Who in their right mind would build a house this close to train tracks? Would I ever sleep again?
There was a bit of improvement each successive night, and I began to sleep through the trains after about two weeks. My body and mind adjusted and even began to welcome the odd lullaby of steel wheels and blaring horns.
The trains are our loud and nosy neighbors, forcing themselves on us in the midst of phone calls, family conversations, arguments and attempts at quiet solitude. But they give us opportunities to practice a strange sort of hospitality, to learn how to hold our tongues and thoughts and to realize that it’s not all about us.
Each passing train offers a reminder that we are connected to a larger story. I choose to accept most of those offers with gratitude. It’s good to have glimpses into the world that exists beyond the walls of our home. People are working, living and travelling, and our place is a small part of their journeys.
Some who live near train tracks claim that they are no longer aware of the trains–they just blend in with the other noises around them. I’m glad I still notice the trains while I’m awake, and I appreciate that they fade into my dreams while I’m asleep.
During my counseling session yesterday morning, I described the mild depression I’ve had for the past few weeks. My counselor told me that a friend of hers calls what I’ve been experiencing “grey jello.” I love that. So I’m stealing it.
For me, this condition usually involves general feelings of sadness, a lack of creativity and inspiration, very little desire to do any more laundry, cooking or cleaning than what’s absolutely necessary, and consuming large amounts of junky carbs. I also spend less time with friends, hovering on the line that separates healthy solitude from not so healthy isolation. And there are a few tears here and there.
I know deep down that the grey jello will eventually clear. There is a part of me that worries about this being the beginning of a major depression episode, though, because that’s always a possibility with bipolar disorder. So I’m doing what I know to do to move this along and to prevent the spiral into the depths of a this-must-be-hell level of depression:
- I’m staying engaged with my husband and children.
- I’m exercising most days.
- I’m paying attention to the hopeful signs of spring during my strolls with Happy. (Isn’t it ironic that we adopted a dog named Happy?)
- I’m planning coffee dates with close friends who are okay with me being a little on the gloomy side.
- I’m listening to The Beatles.
- I’m attempting to eat a balanced, healthy diet.
- I’m offering myself grace after I give in to my junky carb cravings.
- I’m implementing a bit of retail therapy. Because shoes have less calories than junky carbs.
- I’m practicing cognitive behavioral therapy when toxic, untrue thoughts force themselves into my brain.
- I’m praying for this to end ASAP.
- And I’m writing about it. Because putting it out here on the interwebs seems to lighten the load.
I hope to be on the other side of this funk in the very near future. In the meantime, I’ll be wearing my new pewter Dr. Scholl’s “Dance” shoes to coffee with friends, gazing at the blooming forsythia and humming “Here Comes the Sun.”
In January I started writing “tiny truths” via Twitter. Here’s what I came up with during the month of February:
February 3: We perform the same dance every morning: We tiptoe through the empty lot, she searches for a perfect spot & I remove the evidence.
February 14: We sat in the psychiatrists’ waiting room, aware of our common brokenness and shared desire to be more of our full selves.
February 15: He tries to conceal his pain with words, but his eyes tell a story of loneliness and regret. She chooses to look the other way.
February 18: We saw three men digging a grave at the cemetery by Target. My children asked new questions while I silently prayed for answers.
February 18: My daughter breathes in the aroma of the rosemary white bean soup and says, “I wish you were the type that bakes cupcakes.”
February 24: The loads of colors and whites are piled high–a testimony of neglect. It’s easy to ignore our own dirty laundry.
After I dropped Riley and Brady off at school this morning I came home and climbed in bed with books and my journal. Tim was out of town this past weekend and yesterday was a school holiday, so this morning was my first chance in several days for some extended, uninterrupted alone time.
I embraced my introversion and my need for solitude, reflection, books, a pencil and paper. I thought about Ash Wednesday and Lent. I prayed for God to prepare me and to expand the space within me–to make room for the lessons of sacrifice and grace that will come over the next forty days.
I’m walking away more restful and mindful. Ready to enter into an afternoon with my children. Ready to give them more of myself. And aware that my prayers are already being answered.