Monday, May 25, 2015

The Apology

I stood there, frozen, with a basketball in my hands as I listened to the daring taunts of my preteen peers.

"Throw it Lisa"

"Throw it Lisa"

"Throw it Lisa"

The target? The garage door of the Smith House (not their real name).  My peers had been bombarding that garage door all day in a successful attempt to annoy the Smith family. For reasons I'll never know, they decided that I should have a turn, and handed the ball to me, a shy, gawky 11-year old who most certainly knew right from wrong.

If I threw the ball I would betray all the good my parents had instilled....if I didn't throw the ball I knew that my preteen peers would find a new

Be bullied or become a bully?

Those were my choices.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith had three sons, ages 4, 7, and 10.  To this day, I'll never quite understand why the Smith family was so disliked by every kid on my street.

Those poor Smith boys were teased.

Relentlessly teased.

Most of the time the assaults were verbal, although on occasion the oldest Smith boy bore the physical brunt of one or more of the brutish boys on the block.

On that fateful summer day, the kids had decided that pounding the Smith's garage door with a basketball would be a great way to while away an afternoon.  Each time the ball hit the garage door, Mr. Smith screamed out the window for them to stop, giving those kids even more incentive to take turns throwing the ball with all of their might.

Then they handed the ball to me.

Be bullied or become a bully?

Much to my overwhelming regret I chose to become a bully.  I threw the ball, which hit the garage door with a sickening bang.

An uneasy silence followed.

We waited for Mr. Smith's familiar scream out the window.  But no scream came.

Suddenly.....the unthinkable happened.

Mr. Smith came storming outside as a group of petrified preteens scattered in every direction!

No sooner had I run into the safety of my house, a knock came at the door.


Even though at least a dozen kids had thrown a basketball at his garage door that day, Mr. Smith chose to speak to my mother.  I suppose he thought of me as a good girl.  A shy, gawky 11-year old good girl who wouldn't succumb that easily to peer pressure.  He expected bad behavior from the other kids...but surely not from me.

I don't remember my mother's punishment that day, nor after all this time does it really matter. I just know that nearly 40 years later, the memory still haunts me.

Shortly after that incident, a "For Sale" sign went up on the Smith's front lawn. I heard that they moved to protect their kids. They found a neighborhood where their sons could grown up without being bullied.

For years I longed to apologize to the Smith boys for the small role I had played in forcing them to move. But I soon learned that saying sorry isn't always the best way to go after I received a very strange apology from a woman I barely knew.

Her guilt-ridden words came via Facebook messenger.  She wanted to apologize for something mean she had said to me during our senior year of high school, way back in 1983.

I had no recollection of the incident. What's more, I had no recollection of this woman. I didn't remember her name, nor did I show any glimmer of recognition when I viewed photos on her Facebook page.

I wondered why, after all of these years, she had reached out to me. If she somehow thought her apology would make me feel better after being the target of a hurtful diatribe spoken decades earlier, she failed miserably. Why on Earth would I want to be reminded of something hurtful that had long been forgotten?

Perhaps she wanted to assauge her own guilt, rather than ease her victim's pain.

That's when I realized that my reason for wanting to apologize to the Smith boys was completely selfish. I too, wanted to assauge my own guilt, rather than ease their pain.

I reconnected with one of the Smith boys not too long ago.  I appreciated his warm greeting even though he barely remembered anything about me.  He had been blessed with a beautiful wife and children, and most important, he seemed quite happy.

I could have apologized for throwing the basketball against his garage back in 1976.....but why bring up something that had probably long been forgotten.

So I didn't apologize.

There was no longer any need.

Me, circa 1976 - during my gawky preteen days

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Mother's Day Video

My small family reluctantly stumbled out of bed much too early than should be allowed for a Saturday morning.  After listening to our alarm clock force us awake at 6 am every morning of the work week, my husband Bob and I longed to take advantage of the weekend break and cuddle for just a few minutes longer under the cozy, warm covers.

But alas, t'was not meant to be.

Dozens and dozens of teenagers were waiting for my 17- year old daughter Melissa's arrival at their youth group weekend retreat located at an overnight camp roughly an hour and a half away....and mom and dad could not disappoint.

We ran through the house, grabbed our coffee and keys, and gently encouraged Melissa to get it in gear, lest her friends dare start the fun without her.  Before walking out the door Melissa pointed to a sealed envelope sitting suspiciously on top on her computer keyboard.

"You are not to open this until tomorrow morning!" she commanded.

"Ok," I replied with a shrug.

"I'm serious," she said. "You can't open it until Mother's Day. Promise me you won't open it until Mother's Day."

"Ok, ok, I promise, now let's go!"

As Mother's Day dawned the next morning, I realized with a twinge of sadness that the people who meant the most to me, the people who had made me a mother, were not there.

Melissa would come home later that day, happy and exhausted from her weekend retreat.

Bob had kissed me goodbye an hour earlier as he put on his "music producer" hat and headed to a studio to put the finishing touches on five beautiful, original songs that Melissa wrote and recorded. He too, would be home later that day.

I knew a call would come soon enough from my step-daughter Jessica and her husband Brian, whose love spanned the three hour distance between us.

Yet, at that moment, in the wee morning hours, my family seemed like worlds away.

I was a mother, alone, on Mother's Day.

Fortuately, I still had the envelope. The suspicious envelope that sat on top of the computer keyboard, waiting to be opened.

I pulled out a greeting card which contained the following instructions, hand written by my daughter.

Step 1: Go to my lap top
Step 2: Open it
Step 3: Located in the middle of the screen is an icon that says "Mother's Day Best Day" Click on it
Step 4: Watch and cry

She should have included "Step 5 - Get Tissues".

The video featured Melissa playing guitar and, with a voice like an angel, performing a cover of  "The Best Day", a heartfelt song written by Taylor Swift as a poignant tribute to her mother.

As my baby girl sang, a photo montage transformed the computer screen into a visual history of my cherub's life journey with mom by her side.

Melissa playing in the snow, bundled so tightly she could barely see.

Melissa dressed as Tigger, experiencing Halloween for the first time.

Melissa and mom splashing in the pool.

Daddy and big sister Jessica.

Birthdays and holidays.

A high school awards ceremony.

The Junior Prom.

My tears came without warning.

Uncontrollable tears.

Tears for a young lady whose childhood seemed to have slipped through my fingers...despite my monumental efforts to never let go.

Tears for a sweet baby who has evolved before my very eyes into this incredible person who is now in high school, who drives a car, who writes her own music, who volunteers as president of her youth group, who works a part-time job, who spends hours laughing with her friends.

Tears for a beautiful young woman who has less and less time ......for me.

Next year, she will graduate high school and continue on her life journey alone, with mom no longer by her side.

Yet, the time and love she put into the video told me one very important thing.

I still matter.

And I know I always will.


Click the link below to watch Melissa's Mother's Day Video.

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Sunday, May 3, 2015

*Bathing Suit Shopping
(A great way to build self-esteem)

Walk into your neighborhood book store and head on over to the self-help section.  Once there, you'll be sure to find rows upon rows of well written words of advise from self-proclaimed doctors, psychologists, and get well gurus who will gladly fill your head with pages of wondrous wisdom designed to lead you on the path to endless joy and self-fulfillment.

However, I have a faster way to get  you thinking about how wonderful you are.

Go bathing suit shopping.


In every department store in the world, sales reps should change the signage from "bathing suit" department  to "self-help" department.  For once there, you'll hear women crying, screaming, pounding their heads on the walls, all in an effort to "let it all out" and follow that glorious path of self-improvement!

It had been quite some time since I took this self-improvement journey.  However, during a recent visit to  our local swim club, I looked down at the bathing suit fit snugly on my body and noticed a (gasp) tear in the fabric.  Hoping my fellow pool mates would not see the 10 foot long  quarter inch rip across my stomach, I hurriedly threw a t-shirt over my head and hid my suit from public view  for the remainder of the day.

Of course, after discovering this wardrobe malfunction, I realized I could no longer don this particular piece of swim wear, leaving me with only one bathing suit left in my closet.  I could opt to wear this same suit over and over, however, my pool mates would most certainly notice.

Pool mate one:  "Can you believe Lisa is wearing that bathing suit again?"
Pool mate two: "I know, she wore it last weekend, can you believe it?"
Pool mate one:  "She probably didn't even wash it."
Pool mate two: "Well at least she's not wearing that horrible suit with the 10 inch tear."

With no other choice left to me, I set out to procure a new bathing suit, and to build some self-esteem along the way.

So off I traveled to the department store and proceeded to the "self-improvement" section. I suppose many women had already visited this part of the store for enlightenment, since the majority of the suits were marked at 60 percent off.  Woo hoo!  I felt better already.

Although the self-improvement section had slim pickings, I managed to find a handful in my size (whale).  Carrying suits of yellow, orange, black, and blue, I made my way into the dressing room.  The distinct sounds of sobs told me I had come to the right place.  I smiled to myself, knowing that so many other women were coming here to feel better.

I secured the dressing room door and wrestled with bathing suit number one, which immediately transformed me into a hippopotamus.  Although the "zoo animal" look certainly was chic, I decided to keep searching.

A sizzling, multi-colored number beckoned to me, and I happily struggled to get my various body parts through and under and around and over the multiple twists and straps.  I glanced in the mirror, only to see a reflection of a well endowed woman who revealed much more of her "endowment" than anyone but her husband should ever see, if you know what I mean.  I could feel the lump start to form in the back of my throat.  Oh boy, my self-esteem monitor was really started to rise!!

Next came a black beauty which promised to turn each woman who dared squeeze through the straps into a runway model.  I put one leg in, then the other, and up I pulled.  Yes, I could certainly see myself walking down the runway in this little baby....if I had been modeling MATERNITY CLOTHES.

The lump in my throat grew in size as I wiped a tear off my puffy cheek.  I was not afraid to let my emotions flow freely and fully embrace this self-improvement stuff!

One more to try on, a conservative blue and white bland bathing suit which sat alone on the rack, marked at 80 percent off, and praying that someone, anyone, would take it for a spin.  This time, the suit slid on quite easily, and my "endowment" fit nice and snug and secure in all of the right places.  I turned to look in the mirror and there, staring back at me grandmother.  Perhaps the suit was a bit too conservative.

With tears flowing freely, I took all of the bathing suits and threw them on the floor of the dressing room, feeling much, much to good about myself to properly return them to their hangers.

I walked out of the department store empty handed, but with a healthy dose of renewed self-esteem.

I can't wait to go suit shopping again!!!

Me at about age 5...the last time I felt comfortable in a bathing suit!

(*This post originally ran in May, 2012 - and I still "enjoy" bathing suit shopping just as much!)

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