I made it up.

When I was in 5th grade a new family moved into the rental house next door. Out of the four children who lived there, two were the exact age as my brother and I.

We were delighted.

Well, I was delighted because I was a born extrovert who loved making new friends. I’m probably projecting those feelings onto my brother. Nonetheless, we played together during the last summer before ‘playing together’ became ‘hanging out’ in 6th grade.

In their backyard, we were invited into an old, dilapidated greenhouse. The wooden structure was rotting from disuse and weeds grew up between the stepping stones. Some of the heavy windows were leaning in on themselves or littered on the ground.

The potential was enormous.

The next day we brought our offerings together. Leftover paint, discarded dishes, pillows and a few books all piled together to improve the livability of our new digs. We repainted the wood – complete with our own handprints – and the loose windows were pressed back into place. We even hung up some sheets like curtains.

Once we were done, we rested comfortably in the space we created from the best of what we could find to share with each other.

This weekend I hosted the first orientation and advocacy training workshop for volunteers of The Firecracker Foundation. We announced it’s existence about a month ago and the response surprised me. Out of 25 spots available, 21 people registered and 17 were able to participate.

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That’s a lot more people than I expected.

They were each required to obtain a DHS Clearance as well as proof that they were not listed on either state or federal sex offender registries. They had to register for the training and give up 4 hours of their day on a Saturday and Sunday of the same weekend. The commitment was big.

They jumped through all of the hoops with a smile on their face and joy in their hearts. Again. I may be projecting.

Come Saturday morning, they were there and ready.

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I was there and nervous.

I don’t know if you are aware but I have never done any of this before. I’m basically making this up as I go along. However, let me also reassure you that I am not flying by the seat of my pants. I’m humbly asking questions, seeking advice and asking for a lot of help.

There’s a little flight too. I dream and plan and hope for what this foundation can be in spare moments, notes, emails and phone calls to friends. I have high hopes.

I am then taking all of the best I can gather, piling it up and making it an offering to the community. I am not alone in my efforts.

Together we are learning how to protect children, how to serve their families and how to take care of ourselves through the process. As a team we are gathering the best of what we have to offer and laying it at the feet of a community of children who have been injured. We are helping them renovate and rehang the windows.

In my mind, that greenhouse is being fervently repaired and tiny buds are starting to sprout.

As most things do, it will flourish with love.image

Spring is certain.

Tashmica

 

 

Quick Draw McPease

I remember a lot of things about Mrs. Pease.

I remember that she laughed hard and often. She had short curly hair that she parted to one side. When a fly had the gall to sneak into our classroom, she would adopt the persona of Quick Draw McPease and hunt it down with a fly swatter. We all giggled watching her stalk the tiny buzzing intruders.

In the fall, when we all had the sniffles, she would conduct an orchestra and point to us when we were supposed to sniff, cough or sneeze on cue with the music. I’m going to bet that the halls of North East Christian Academy never sounded so ill. ;)

One day, we had a special presentation about abuse. The presenter talked about neglect, physical and verbal abuse. It was the first time I recognized what had been happening as something universally frowned upon. The sexual abuse had felt wrong but I was confused and disillusioned by years of lies and manipulation.

At the end of the presentation, the presenter asked us all to put our heads down on our desk, close our eyes and raise our hands if we wanted to talk about any abuse we had experienced.

Listen.

My momma didn’t raise no fool.

There’s always some jerk watching during an altar call. I didn’t know this person and I was for sure not sharing even the smallest morsel of my secret with this stranger, if that was his real name.

After he left, our day went on. I felt like I should say something but to whom? I sat in my desk thinking through the possible scenarios. I thought through all of the threats and realized that because my father was a year dead and in the ground many would likely not be possible. I watched Mrs. Pease and wondered if she would believe me.

I raised my hand as my classmates worked through their assignments.

“Can I talk to you alone?”

She said yes and walked me out into the hallway.

I don’t remember crying exactly. I don’t even remember what I said. I just know that she was there and she told me that we needed to tell my mother. I was terrified. The cat was now out of the bag.

The rest of the day was suspense on meth. Mrs. Pease called my mother in for a meeting. I thought my chest was going to close up and cut off my air supply. I waited to die.

When my mother arrived I sat down in a chair next to her and Mrs. Pease. I remember looking down at my feet. I felt so small. I was so small.

Mrs. Pease probably tried to prepare my mother. I don’t remember that part. I just remember her asking me, “Do you want to tell your mom or would you like me too?”

I asked her to and then, just as my mother heard those hard words, I begged her not to hate my daddy.

I was still so worried for him.

I remember a lot about Mrs. Pease.

I remember one thing the most.

She stood by me. Even in the midst of delivering some of the worst news my mother will ever hear, she stayed with me.

She also listened, believed and advocated.

Somehow, her physical presence and support is what I remember the most.

So now, I am thinking through the right questions to ask my old school to get the answers that I want.

What I really want to know is, where is she now?

She is just one of many women who saved my life and I would like to say thank you.

If you happen to be from El Paso and know who she is, I would be over the moon to talk to her again. Spread this. Share with your friends. Ask around.

Help me thank her.

Desperately Seeking Quick Draw McPease,

Tashmica

True Value

Last night, my dream job announced a 6-week story telling series called, Story-A-Week.

The event kicks off with a beautifully done documentary short by the very talented Brenda Phillips.

It is so, so good. I just had to be sure you saw it too.

Watch the video for a little heart swelling inspiration this morning.

Wow. Right?

This all reminds me of how much I loved visiting Nyaka myself. The singing in the beginning of the video is a woman named Priscilla. She prepared all of my meals and laughed at me when I asked her for soap so that I could hand wash my knickers.

She didn’t believe a muzungu would even know how. :)

So many memories.

Please “like” the Nyaka AIDS Foundation on Facebook to hear stories that will keep your hopes high during what can be a stressful holiday season.

I love gentle reminders of what is most important. While the whole world seems to be crying out holiday sales, Black Friday and price cuts, I want to focus on compassion, hope and faith.

Let’s not forget where true value lies.

Sincerely,

Tashmica

Like It’s 1987

Last night, I drove into the desert with my father. It was 1987 and my telescope traveled folded in the back. It was dark and where I hoped to see Orion hunting, I found fear instead.

When writing my story, I have to take water breaks. I stop after a harsh word or phrase is chosen and I have to look away from the page. I take a deep breath, curse, grab a glass of wine or ask God for protection again.

It’s a gauntlet. It’s a bear trap I pry open with a stick. It’s a net dropped.

You must think I am a masochist of the worst kind, to walk up to that jeep and climb in. I must be crazy to lean into my seatbelt to try and discern the new path taken and why. I promise you, I am not.

I hate my story. If I could erase three years of my childhood, I absolutely would. I would abandon all of you who read this and understand all to well how promising the idea of canceling out a few years would be. I would unwrap that golden ticket and race to claim it.

Many survivors try to in their own way. I know I have.

The truth of the matter is that although it is difficult for me to rise under this weight, I am not alone. As you read this, children all over the world are being abused. Someone is ruining a piece of their life story. Someone is choosing to tear them apart and leaving them to pick up the pieces.

So.

I will not take a golden ticket.

I will climb into every room, car or memory left. I will examine and question. I will ache and bear.

The world needs to know. We cannot allow this to continue. We cannot choose to destroy our children any longer.

It is enough. It has been enough since 1987.

Indignantly,

Tashmica

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Remember The Time

Remember that time, I had a pretty good blog.

I would write things.  You would read them.

Sometimes we would laugh at my parenting shenanigans and other times we would cry about my past traumas.

We built a relationship.  We were falling in love.

I took you out for coffee on Saturday mornings and showed you photos on Wednesdays.  We had a routine.

Then I started seeing other people.  Well, I had been cheating on you for months with Roller Derby.  However, recently, I started also seeing Education.

My life is squeezing my blog out.  It is squeezing my time for reflection and creativity in this space to an all time low.  My blog already lived on the fringe of my family time.  It slept at my feet and often got kicked off the end of the bed.

Well, now The Mother Flippin’ Blog is sleeping on the floor in the basement.

Let us take a moment to review my ridiculous schedule.

  • Monday is now assigned reading night after an early evening of helping with homework and making dinner.
  • Tuesday I have an online class followed by half a roller derby practice after an early evening of helping with homework and making dinner.
  • Wednesday is my only free night and my two oldest boys have karate.  After which I try to squeeze in a little homework so that I can be ahead of the curve.
  • Thursday is roller derby scrimmage night (FUN!) after an early evening of helping with homework and making dinner.
  • Friday used to be family night and if I can squeeze that in, I end up staying up until midnight finishing my online assignments and working on my portfolio.
  • Saturday, if I do not have a roller derby bout, I have a day at home with my little ones that I spend cleaning at a relaxed pace.
  • Sunday, a final roller derby practice (Endurance. Uuuugh!) an online class and meal prep for the upcoming week.

This does not include the 40-60 a week I work, have meetings or the time I take to be a good wife, daughter, sister and friend.

I am breathtakingly busy.

I am an overacheiver by trade.  I could be less busy if I chose to get less than a perfect 10 on every assignment.  Why would I do that though?

I could have more time, if I didn’t try to help my children with their homework or insist on tucking them into bed on the nights I do not have to skate.  Who would ever want to miss those kisses and snoozles.

I have also started doing research for my book and sometimes, I open up a dusty box and find anxieties, depression and sorrows I was not looking for.  When that happens, I slip up into my attic and hide until I can allow myself to cry it out on my yoga mat or into my keyboard.

I now remember why crock pots are the greatest invention of all time.  I check my calendar every morning and still managed to miss my first physical in two years.

(Don’t worry, I will call and reschedule.)

I am tired but I miss you.  I will try to remember to call every once in a while until our casual dating can turn into something more serious.

Until then, feel free to date others but don’t forget about me.

Love,

Tashmica

PS – I have recently discovered Tumblr and I love it.  You can find me there on the go OR on twitter @MotherFlippin

Old School: The College of Mommy Guilt

It has been 11 days since I last posted here.

Maybe you hadn’t noticed.  It has been a crazy week for so many.

It felt like forever for me.

It’s not that I wasn’t writing.  I write constantly.

My job requires well crafted emails, letters, posts, tweets, reports and occasionally the nicely drafted handwritten card.

Add to all of this, school work.

That is right, ladies and gentlemen.  I have just completed my first week of college after a nine-year break.

Have you met my nine-year old son, Isaiah?

I am taking a creative writing course.  I foresee that school commitments will affect my family, derby career and my social life.  Those decisions are already starting to chafe.

This is precisely why I get so irritated when I see advertisements or articles offering women a strategy to having it all.

Here is a strategy you can count on.

If you want it all, you must want very little.

If you are willing to make sacrifices, you can commit your life to deep loves but not much else.

Take it from me.  I am a expert on the topic. :)

I am already a bit tired and hyper vigilant when it comes to my calendar.  Thanks to a coworker, I have my profesh and personal calendars all synced.  I have never been a calendar girl.  No pun intended.

I now live and breathe by Google reminders.

What about my boys?

They start Karate next week.  Two times a week they will learn their hi-yas and ker-chops.  They are both in school and need help with homework.  I have a nightly study partner in Isaiah, who needs as much practice spelling as I do in mathematics.  We are riding the routine struggle bus as we adjust to stupid early mornings and regular friggin’ bedtimes.

I am still waiting for the world to recognize the value of a slow start of 11am.

Vito is confidently sauntering into daycare waving to the drooling toddlers and teachers alike.  He has no fear.  I am not completely comfortable with him having such an independent life.  He is the first of my children to attend daycare.  It is only part-time. Why do I feel like a part-time parent?

My husband is getting emails from me regarding where he can pick up the photo I had printed for Isaiah’s class.  I invited him to view my calendar so that we can also sync.  We are thinking about having a weekly morning coffee date to discuss…whatever the hell we want to when we are not running around like a team of two people out numbered by three children.

Paul has even changed his schedule so that he can be there to pick up our boys at school and help out on days when I work from home.

This week has left my family a cranky, whiny, exhausted mess.

Why, in the name of all things educated, did I need to make things so complicated with my career, my continued education, my roller derby and my friends.

There it is.  There is the millstone around my neck.

Mommy guilt.

The internal belief that I, as the best mother in the world, am responsible for fixing, making right, soothing and coaxing the Pleasantville life I used to see on T.V. for my family.  If my children throw temper tantrums, it must be as a result of my lack of parental focus.  If my husband, can’t find the ketchup, well darn it if I forgot to organize the pantry.  If my mother-in-law shops for our school supplies, it is because I am too busy after partying with the Vixens.

Well that part might be true. :)

Do you know what I remember about the time my mother put herself through college and graduated with a degree after my father died?  I don’t recall substandard meals, missed appointments or her general disorganization.  I can’t remember one spinning plate crashing to the ground even though, I am sure it must have happened.

I boast about the kind of woman who raised me while pursuing that degree.  I am proud.

I have a feeling that in the next 16 weeks and perhaps for the several semesters that follow, I will need to remind myself that I do not have to manage it all to be successful.  I need to remember that my children benefit from my role modeling and the lifestyle I provide for them.  I need to be reminded that their behavior is the result of years of loving discipline and not a few hours I spend away after bedtime.  I may need to be reminded that my children volunteer, do yoga, attend bouts, ride motorcycles and know many trusted and loving adults that are the village I have chosen.

Most importantly, I need to push my monster mommy ego out of my own way.  My family’s life does not need to revolve around me.  I am not at the center of the universe nor am I controlling its balance.  We are a family.  Just like I sacrifice so that I can afford Karate classes my children will more than likely quit before the Olympics, they will sacrifice by reading quietly so mommy can study sometimes.

This week has been difficult.  Sacrifice is difficult.  Seeing those ends you hold together come apart is a humbling experience.  Recognizing that your lifestyle of love, peace and grace has made it possible to stretch those ends through loved ones is humbling.

We can all consider this the first lesson of the semester.

I wonder if my children will ever cease being my greatest teachers. 

Enjoy your weekend,

Tashmica

 

 

Under Pressure

I have been feeling a lot of pressure to perform lately.  Not only to perform but to perform well.  Most of that pressure, comes from me.  I am a perfectionist.  I know that this blog would tell you otherwise.  It would likely tell you that I am really great at letting go, laughing and  botching every 1st attempt at a recipe.  This would all be true.  It would also be true that if did not allow myself to giggle at my own escapades, my perfectionism would drown me.

While I do not allow it to drown me, it does often paralyze me.  If I think I am likely to get the answer wrong, I don’t answer.  I don’t move.  I stare at my shoes and wait for the opportunity to pass.  I wait for the blog to write itself.  I wait for the math class to become unnecessary.  I gently slip under the rock until it is safe to come out.

Let me share with you what has me lifting the rock.

And this time, when I refer to a rock, I am not talking about my husband.

I am a writer.  I suppose I always have been.  This year I have opened my blog up for sponsors and I am committed to keeping the traffic up.

Wha?

Here is the true story.  I am a writer.  I could care less about traffic.  I want to write words that mean something to my readers.  If I manage a sponsor this year, I would be elated. I also like money.  If I manage nothing more than having a few dedicated readers who relate to my many stories than I am blessed.

“Oooh, you’re a math avoider.” These words came from an Academic Advisor at Lansing Community College after discovering I had taken all necessary core requirements except for math and I have about 29 credits.  That is no small feat in avoidance.  I am a champion.  However, I have also decided to go back to school this year and grab a writing degree.  This will help me advance in both my career choices.

I have a lot of children.  I have a spouse too.  Sometimes they like to hang out.  Sometimes they even want a sit down dinner.  I have made a conscious effort to carve out time, one on one, with my boys.  Levi and I had a grilled cheese at the diner this week.  Isaac and I went to a movie.  Isaiah and I went to a Spartan basketball game.  I even managed a date night with My Guy.  

A is for A Team.  I tried out last fall for the Lansing Derby Vixens A Team and made it.  I instantly went from “WOO HOO!” to “OH Crap, I hope I make a roster!”.  I could have decided to not try out.  I had the opportunity to not be as competitive.  I went to a couple of meetings and gave opinions that made certain that everything was as competitive as always.  Now, I must be competitive and I feel myself waffling a bit.

All of these things take time.  They take focus and planning.  They all require an ability to prioritize.  All of these great things make my inner perfectionist scream.

You didn’t cuddle with Isaac near enough when he asked.  Great. Hot dogs. Yeah, that’s healthy.  You are going to fail math.  You are never going to make a roster.

I don’t even know this girl.  Something has gone a wry.  It’s like that joke about having a skinny girl inside you that you can shut up with a cupcake.

I have a perfectionist inside me that I can shut up with failure.

Not big failures.   Not flunking out of college or bad menu planning for the year.  Little fearless steps toward the potential failures are like tiptoeing across a fallen log about to drop.  My eyes are focused on the solid ground on the other side and not the creaking at my feet.

It is scary to do.  It is scary to make plans that will challenge you.  The possibility of failure is pretty scary.

Do you know what’s more scary?

Living paralyzed by fear, under a rock.  I am bearing my weak, negative underbelly because I know with New Year’s Resolutions bearing down on us, I cannot be the only one feeling this way.  It is time to let yourself off the hook.  This does not mean giving up but it may mean a rewriting of those goals.

One day, after sharing my stresses with my baby brother Tony, he had a question for me.

How do you eat an elephant?

Um, wha?

One bite at a time.

Get out that pen and write down the steps you need to take, no matter how small, to meet those goals most important to you.

Eat up ladies and gentlemen. It’s dinner time!

Hungrily,

Tashmica

(Phew…I already feel better.)

PS – If you sign up as one of my customers on my very own Mary Kay Website, I will mail you a free color card sample to try out.  This card comes with three eye shadows, one blush color and a lip color for you to try out.  Sign up today and you will also be enrolled in the Spring 2012 Preferred Customer Program which will earn you a copy of The Look and MORE exclusive samples!