One Moment

Many years ago I took a job at a small call center. While it wasn’t ideal, it met my needs as a wife and mother. It was part time, close to home and my work schedule accommodated my daughter’s school schedule as well. When I started, I felt like I could do the job for about a year.

The job was boring. The leadership was lackluster. But as with any job, it was more about the people I met there. Co-workers, customers and our nationwide store associates made it interesting and fun. There was one associate in Oklahoma that always made our day. We all looked forward to the opportunity of calling that specific store just because of him. When he answered, he sounded more like a radio jockey and less like a store manager. He was lively, upbeat, positive. It was contagious! His personality really helped us in the call center. We were tethered to a small desk, everything monitored down to the minute and working in an environment that was lacking in morale. He was a bright ray of sunshine when we needed it the most.

Just a few weeks before my one year anniversary with the company, I was called in to the office. I was surrounded by my supervisor, an acting manager and a manager from a call center in another state. They were putting me on a final warning for attendance (I had pneumonia and had been out for awhile). When I questioned why they were not following the company’s attendance policy, I was fired. I was mortified and relieved all at once. Looks like my feeling was right- one year it would be.

The weeks following were full of filing for unemployment, looking for a job, scrambling to make ends meet. I threw myself into my role as PTA President and treated that as my job. My ego was bruised, as I had never been fired from any job. My ego repeated internally- “I am the one that is always promoted, not fired!”. I have always believed everything happens for a reason, and I trusted this was no different. This door was slammed shut and I had to move forward.

A few weeks after I was let go, I was at home washing dishes. The man from Oklahoma crossed my mind. I thought, “I should call him and tell him how awesome he is and how much he helped our mood.” Then I immediately dismissed the notion. That’s crazy. Why would that matter? He doesn’t even know who I am. Ridiculous. But the feeling pressed upon my heart and my gut. I HAD to call him. It kept coming and felt urgent. I HAD to call him. NOW. Fiiinneee…… I thought. I’ll call him.

I dialed the Oklahoma store and asked for him. I was on hold for a few  minutes. Thoughts raced through my mind- Why am I doing this? This is stupid. I’ve been on hold for so long. What if I have the wrong store? He’s going to think I’m dumb. This is pointless. I’m hanging up. “Hello?”. A man’s voice was on the other end. But it wasn’t upbeat. He sounded rather dull, tired. “Ummm….. Hi. I’m looking for Pete. Are you Pete?”. “This is Pete.” I was still unsure. His energy wasn’t the same. This couldn’t be the same guy. “Pete, this is Oklahoma City, right?”. “Yep, how can I help you?”. I continued in spite of my uncertainty. Here goes. “Well, Pete. I don’t know if you would remember me. My name is April and I worked in the Tampa call center. I am no longer with the company, but I felt like I should call you. I wanted to let you know how much we loved calling your store. You made our day! You were always so fun and cheerful. And, well, the call center environment is pretty bad. You were a silver lining in it. I needed to tell you how you are making such a positive impact on people just by being you. You might not realize that and I just wanted to say thank you. And keep being you- you are special and you are needed!”. SILENCE. Oh no….. CRICKETS. Oh God….. QUIET. What did I do this for?! “Pete? Are you still there?”. He quietly responded, “Yes.” More silence. Oh man is this awkward! Then he spoke. “I don’t know what to say. I am going through the worst part of my life. I am going through a divorce and don’t know what to do. I don’t know how I’m going to make it through it. Then you called. I sat in the back room and I did not want to take the call. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. It took everything in me just to pick up the line. And here you tell me what you just told me. And I can’t believe it. I just have no words.” We continued to have a beautiful, meaningful conversation. I hung up and spoke aloud: “If I had to work there for this entire year just so I could have this one conversation, this one moment- It was worth every minute of it.”

~April

 

 

Know Thyself

At some point in our life, most of us contemplate who we are. I have often asked myself, especially in recent years, “Who am I?”. I have found that in order to conclude who I am, it is best to begin with the question, “Who am I NOT?”.

I am not my weight. I am not the size I wear. I am not the color of my hair. I am not the curly hair, or straight hair, or short hair or long hair or no hair. I am not the wrinkles on my face. I am not the fine hair on my upper lip. I am not the whiskers of middle age on my chin. I am not my brows, however thinning or well-drawn. I am not the cellulite on my thighs. I am not the stretch marks on my stomach. I am not my height. I am not the length of my nails. I am not the size of my breasts. I am not real boobs or fake boobs. I am not my skin color. I am not the straightness of my teeth or the broadness of my smile. I am not my past stitches or surgeries. I am not my scars. I am not my internal injuries. I am not my diagnosis. I am not my disease. I am not my posture. I am not my physical strength. I am not my muscle definition- or lack thereof.

I am not the brand of clothes I wear. I am not the high end sneakers. I am not the expensive purse. I am not the diamond on my finger. I am not the metal around my neck. I am not the height of my heels. I am not the makeup I wear. I am not the scent I prefer to spray. I am not the colors I clothe myself in. I am not capris or jeggings or boot-cut. I am not the stores I shop at. I am not the gown. I am not the sash. I am not the tiara.

I am not my job title. I am not my job. I am not my career. I am not my salary. I am not my bank account. I am not my retirement. I am not my investments. I am not my education. I am not my diploma. I am not the band member, sports player, art lover, theater performer, math enthusiast, teacher or administrator. I am not my credits. I am not my degree. I am not my university. I am not my alma mater. I am not the letters after my name. I am not the prefix before my name. I am not my instrument. I am not my sport. I am not my team. I am not my winning district. I am not my state championship.

I am not the car I drive.  I am not the house I live in. I am not my neighborhood. I am not my city or my state or my region. I am not the country I reside in. I am not the culture. I am not my ancestors. I am not my lineage. I am not my history. I am not my language. I am not my second language. I am not my mother, my father, my sisters, my brother. I am not my family. I am not my childhood. I am not the role of mother. I am not the role of wife. I am not how many kids I have. I am not how many kids I do not have. I am not where my child goes to school. I am not what my child does for a living. I am not my child’s choices.

I am not my friends. I am not my relationships. I am not my religion. I am not the church I attend. I am not my political affiliation. I am not who I vote for. I am not my sexual orientation. I am not my gender. I am not my sexual partners. I am not the person who was hurt. I am not the person who hurt me. I am not a victim. I am not a martyr. I am not a savior. I am not my trauma. I am not my abuse. I am not less than or better.

I am not what I drink. I am not what I eat. I am not my addiction. I am not my affliction. I am not the music I listen to. I am not the movies I love. I am not what I binge watch on Netflix. I am not the books I read. I am not the news station I select. I am not my favorite podcast. I am not the savviness of social media. I am not my hashtag. I am not an amount of “likes”. I am not the quantity of followers. I am not who approves or disapproves. I am not my circumstances. I am not my past or current choices.

Throughout our lives, there are so many ways we choose to attach to something we think we are. We identify with a topic or title, or we have been told we are a specific label. Today we live in a world where identification with surface level names sparks extreme emotions and often results in damaging outcomes. At the very least, unproductive. We are so quick to cling to our labels (usually unconsciously) and are willing to demean and harm others in order to maintain that box we chose to put ourselves in. Most people never even question why they are in that box in the first place. What would happen if every one of us stepped back and asked ourselves, “Why does this upset me so much?”… “Why do I believe what I do?”… “Why is it important for me to be a _____ or a _______ or a ________?” … “What would happen if I didn’t accept those labels?” …. “Who would I be WITHOUT those labels?”.

What do you identify with? What triggers emotional responses within you? Why? What labels do you claim for yourself? What would happen if you no longer attached to those labels?

Know Thyself. Not who thought you were, think you are, were raised to be, were told to be. Who YOU are beneath the names, titles, labels. Go deeper. Transcend the surface level. Explore the greater depths of your soul. Who YOU are- the presence that arrived on the planet. The part of you that knows a peace beyond all understanding. At that place is the greatest answer to “Who am I?”: I AM. And “I AM” is sufficient.

~April

Worrying

The day I told my mom I was pregnant, she said, “Welcome to the first day of worrying for the rest of your life.” She wasn’t wrong. By then, worry was a common thing for me. Motherhood just amplified it. Worry was a constant companion since I was young. What I worried about was always changing, but nothing was exempt. I think it’s very common- especially if you have experienced trauma. As I grow and expand, I view worrying differently. In fact, now it’s easier for me to just observe instead of react. Here are some thoughts about worrying that have come to me recently. The things worrying didn’t do for me.

Worrying doesn’t change the outcome. A common worry I have had since my early twenties is about finances. Well, I can tell you, worrying never put money in the bank. Worrying didn’t lower my debt. Worrying didn’t pay any bills. Worrying didn’t fix broken cars, put food on the table or clothe my family.

Worrying doesn’t change global events. If you watch the news at all, you will notice how we are completely bombarded with tragic stories and images. Worrying didn’t stop 9/11. Worrying didn’t stop wars. Worrying doesn’t stop ignorance, division, racism or inequality. Worrying doesn’t stop hatred,  crime or acts of violence. Worrying doesn’t change environmental issues or social injustice.

Worrying doesn’t lessen the blow. I have worried about numerous things in my life. Most of those things never even transpired. But there were events that occurred for me personally, that I never saw coming. Worry did not stop these events from occurring. And I can tell you, if I had worried about those events, it would not have lessened the blow it dealt. Worrying did not help me when I found my stepfather dead. Worrying did not help me when my brother-in-law was killed in Iraq. Worrying did not help me any time I experienced the loss of a loved one. Worrying didn’t lessen or stop any ounce of pain surrounding these life experiences.

Worrying doesn’t quicken the process. Often I just want to get through any discomfort as quick as possible. Responsibilities, bills, illness, car trouble, house maintenance, insurance issues, details, home management, etc. No matter the subject, worrying doesn’t help me move through it faster. In fact, I noticed it just prolongs the discomfort.

Worrying doesn’t help me move forward. Joyce Meyer once said, “Worrying is like a rocking chair….always in motion but not going anywhere.” Worrying expels tremendous energy but has no positive result. Worrying holds you in place, keeps you stuck, diminishes growth and often evades positive outcomes.

Worrying doesn’t help me make good decisions. I think the root of worrying is fear. I’ve lived long enough that I also think making decisions out of fear aren’t always the best decisions we can make. Fear, like worry, is completely made up in our head. Thankfully, we have control over what we think.

“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:27. NOPE. Not one. Worrying is a thief. It will steal your time, your energy, your focus, your dreams, your hope. Worrying will kill you if you let it.

Worry still creeps up within me. But at this point in my life, instead of a close confidant, worry has become a brief visitor. I observe it as it makes it’s appearance. I acknowledge it, then firmly dismiss it, as it no longer has power over me. One of my favorite quotes that helps me usher out my unwelcome guest: “Stop worrying about what can go wrong and get excited about what can go right.” Amen!

~April

Am I Doing This Right?

When you are becoming a mom/are a mom, there are a lot of people that are more than happy to give you advice. Some you take, some you don’t. My mom gave me two valuable pieces of advice that I clung to: 1. Nap when she naps. 2. Just when you can’t take a certain phase any longer, the phase ends and another will begin. So try to enjoy each phase, no matter how difficult it seems. Truer words were never spoken!

In the beginning there was pure exhaustion and a lot of fear. Feedings, not sleeping through the night, crying and you don’t know why, fevers, teething. A lot of questioning- Is this normal?, Am I doing this right?. They move on to toddlerhood, becoming mobile in ways you didn’t even think about (for example: climbing EVERYTHING). Falling, tripping, cuts, bruises, even a broken collar bone. Hitting her head- More questioning (Does she have a concussion? How do you know if a two year old has a concussion? Am I doing this right?).

School starts and things change again. A clear personality has emerged. There is now structure that she has never experienced, a ton of kids and their personalities to adapt to, learning, exploring, rules, sight words. I loved her elementary school years. I felt I was a good teacher for her, as well as good support for her teachers. I remember it as a fun time. Challenges didn’t really hit until third grade, and even those were minor in my eyes. I was a steady presence on campus, volunteering when I could, even holding PTA board positions. The questions were still there, though a little different (Does she know what she needs to know? Have I prepared her enough for the state testing? Am I doing this right?).

Middle school was a completely different story. It was difficult because my daughter was changing. Changing in ways she didn’t even understand, let alone myself. Learning who she was in the midst of many voices. Even as she was always very much her own person, I watched her stumble and fall in a few ways that first year. We had many tough discussions: Internet behavior, sexual harassment, sex, school violence, mass shootings, terrorism, self-harm, sexual identities, labels, etc. I felt like I was also learning from her, even as I was trying to teach her. My questions lingered (Did I explain that right? Did I inform her enough? Should I have told her that? Am I doing this right?).

High school began on solid footing. These years are interesting because there is a shift that happens. While she was still a child, she was also becoming a young adult. Some people love to say “Be a parent, not a friend.”. But these years, the boundaries become a bit blurred. My daughter needed me to be real. I needed to prepare her to become a woman- not play a power role. The subjects we discussed remained the same, but became more detailed and in-depth. At this age I share a lot of my life experiences as I feel I need to. Truthfully, raw, no bullshit, life I have lived. She has her first love, she learns to drive, she starts her first job, she continues to learn and grow as a young woman through her own life experiences. My questions continue (Am I teaching her enough? Am I sheltering her too much? Am I doing this right?).

I think about my mom’s words about phases. I’ve thought about them a lot through the years. It is true- just when you think you can’t take it, it changes. When she was a baby, I was so ready for her to fall asleep on her own, to sleep through the night, to not bite me as I breast fed, to stop crying, for her to not be gassy. As a toddler I wanted her to not fight going to bed, to stay in her bed, to eat all of her food. As she got older, I wanted her to be obedient, disciplined in her learning, stop talking back. As an adolescent, I wanted her to remember who she was, stop trying to be like other people, value herself, stop talking back. As a young adult I want her to love herself, honor herself, follow her curiosity as she grows. Every phase had it’s own difficulties. During every phase, I questioned myself as a parent. There are things that I loved in each phase, and things I didn’t.

This week my daughter received her drivers license. I remembered the excitement I felt when I received mine. Watching her as a woman, I was excited for her, too. Watching her as a mom was a whole different feeling. When I was pregnant with her, there was a comfort knowing she was safe within my belly. When she was growing up, there was a comfort knowing she was in my care. Even as a young adult, I was still driving her from location to location and there was a comfort knowing I could get her places safely.

It was difficult to be so tired in her youth. It was difficult- even painful- to nurse her. It was inconvenient to continuously clean up food on the floor. It was stressful to work and still be present for her as a parent. It was difficult to have discussions about tough subject matter. It was difficult to embrace her every step of the way, whoever she was in each phase. But the day she drove off in the car alone with her brand new license was the most difficult mommy moment for me personally. As I watched her drive down the street, I began to cry. Through my tears, the thoughts came: Have I taught her enough? Have I prepared her enough? Have I done this right?

~April

 

Podcast Conversation

In September of 2018, I had a conversation with my friend Thomas for his podcast: RISE/Inner Monologue. The story I chose to speak about was my most life defining: finding my stepfather dead from a prescription drug overdose when I was 13.

I’m not afraid of public speaking, to talk in general or to tell my story. Over the past thirty years, I’ve talked about it with numerous people. But to talk about it in this forum made me nervous and anxious. How many people would hear it? Who would hear it? It would be out there FOREVER.

I chose to do the podcast with the intention of helping others. Maybe my story or something I said would resonate with someone. I wanted to be open and honest and (in spite of the fear). The episode (162) aired yesterday and I am so happy I did it! I am grateful for the opportunity I was given to share. I did what I set out to do- I showed up and shared authentically.

If you haven’t listened to his podcast yet, I encourage you to do so. He has a different guest every week. Awesome people of various backgrounds making a great impact in the world!

~April

http://www.risephoenix.org/

 

What I Wouldn’t Know….

If I didn’t have my life here on earth, I wouldn’t know….

The smell of the rain
The warmth of the sun on my skin
The comfort of a hug
The chill of a winter
The beauty of blooming in spring
The vibrancy of a sunrise
The peace of a sunset
The intensity of passion
The depth of love
The contrast of life experiences
The joy of motherhood
The pain of loss
The shadows of grief
The sweetness of a bird’s song
The scent of a flower
The giddiness of blushing
The challenge of relationships
The ability to heal
The fulfillment of giving
The honor of sharing
The expanse of the ocean
The strength of a mountain
The value of a smile
The power of learning
The gravity of language
The resonance with music
The fragility in living

There are numerous challenges we face in the physical world. But in the midst of the challenge, the fear, weariness, loss, confusion, heartbreak or disappointment- In the midst of elation, accomplishment, satisfaction, happiness, bliss- In every breath- There is possibility.

~April

 

Legacy

My husband and I recently ate dinner at the local Cracker Barrel. I’ve always enjoyed their simple meals, the friendly staff and of course, the post-meal gift shop perusal! However, one thing has always bothered me about the restaurant- the décor on their walls. Don’t get me wrong- I love looking at vintage ads. I enjoy the antiques and guessing what they are and what they were once used for. But there are always pictures. This is what bothers me.

Usually you are sure to find a black and white photo of a stern-faced woman or a serious looking man that clearly lived well over a century ago. Sometimes they are vintage photos of people enjoying fun activities, or maybe even a group family photo in an antique frame. No matter what the subject, they are there. Staring at you as you eat your southern meal.

These pictures bother me because to me, they represent life. Life lived, life over. I stare at the faces, wondering why in the world they are hanging in a local eatery. Where is their family? Were these photos sold in bulk at an estate sale? Was there nobody to pass these wonderful photos to? Who are these people? Where did they live? What was their life like? What happened in their life that this would be the final resting place for their picture- that at one time was important enough to someone to be documented at all?

This leads me to the subject of legacy. I’ve been pondering this concept for awhile. Often, we think of legacy in terms of it’s first definition: a gift by will especially of money or other personal property. I know I have. I know I have thought about what my legacy will be. What will I be able to leave my daughter, my family, upon my death? Will it be enough? Will I have anything to leave at all? I believe most people want to leave something for their family when they pass away. Many believe this is their legacy.

But there is a second definition: something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past. This is the definition I’m leaning in to. This is the definition that has been speaking to me. This is the definition I believe is more valuable than any dollar amount, bank account or piece of property. This is the legacy that is less tangible, yet more impactful.

Maybe our legacy is emotional. Maybe it’s how we teach our children- or WHAT we teach them. Maybe it’s the way my child learns how to have fun from her Grandma, how to be strong like her aunts, how to be kind like her uncle, how to be loving like her mom. Maybe it’s the learning of how to continue to move forward even if you want to fall apart. Or how you can face adversity and still be grateful. How you can have a passion for life in spite of hardship. How obstacles will exist, but it’s all about how you overcome them. How pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. How to remain hopeful. How to make their mark on the world, showing up authentically and living their best life. Maybe our legacy is tied more to life experience and life lessons than material stuff.

I don’t know what my legacy will be. I don’t know what, if anything monetarily, I will have to leave my daughter when I die. I DO know, she will be left with everything money can’t buy. I know she will have inherited knowledge and wisdom from generations of life experiences. Strength, love, hope, perseverance, positivity, authenticity.

My sincere hope is that my photo doesn’t end up on the wall of a Cracker Barrel. But if it does, maybe someone will look at my face and ask themselves the same questions I once did. Better yet, maybe they will come to the realization which definition of legacy is most important to them. You know, thinking about those pictures on the wall- maybe that was their legacy all along.

-April