8th Grade – The Turning Point

For me, seventh grade was probably the best of my school years – but then tenth grade was too. Ninth, eleventh, and even my senior year were not special. Not even my graduation sticks out. When I look back to that day, the only thing I cherish is the time spent with Allen. We walked with each other to our seats that day. He was one of my best friends. He is gone now. His life ended too soon.

Eighth grade for me was horrible – until it wasn’t. I was sneaking out of the house, hanging out with people I shouldn’t, drinking, doing drugs, and running away. Then I moved. I will say it over and over; the move to Parker saved me. It was my turning point.

So flash forward thirty-four years after eighth grade, and put me in a classroom every Wednesday morning from 7:00AM to 7:50 AM with nine truly amazing eighth graders from Cimarron Middle School in Parker, Colorado. I just finished mentoring in a program called Ambassadors for Compassion, AOC.

I went to give, but like always when you give, you really end up receiving. Basically, it was The Breakfast Club crew, without the criminal. The so-called-criminals either don’t exist anymore or the teachers didn’t want to disrupt the setting. I hope it is the former as I was that so-called-criminal at the beginning of eighth grade. I would have loved a program like this. I also relate to kids who struggle. I understand why they’re pissed off. It’s the good ones that I don’t usually get, or I can’t relate to. And it’s the good ones that help the ones who struggle. We need both.

Kids are stressed right now; they are overworked, over involved, bored out of their minds, over stimulated by the web, worried about failing – but in my opinionnot knowing how to fail and move on, and way too worried about how many “likes” they get.

For three months we sat back and talked. We shared our hopes, our dreams, and our fears. We listened. Not once did I ever (I repeat, not once did I ever) need to tell one of these amazing, incredible kids to put their cell phone away. They wanted to talk. They wanted to listen.

Kids are smart. They know what they want. They even know they have to work to get what they want. They understand that the world changes and they may have to bend, wiggle, step forward and step back in their journey in life.

Failure is part of life. We all need to fail. I think it’s how we react to the failures of those around us that determine how they deal with it. I have failed at so many things, yet I don’t feel like a failure. I keep trying even when I’m scared. And I continue to put myself out there. Sometimes not enough, but I’m getting better. Like I said, I learned a ton from these kids.

So what is my point? With all of the hurt and chaos that goes on in this world, I was just given the grace of comfort and peace. I watched eighth graders realize that no matter what group you are in, we all have the same struggles and fears. I think we all forget this. I want us to remember. I want us to remember our turning point. What was it that changed you? What was it that made you move forward? I hope we all can be a little of that to someone else.

My Dad Came to My Soccer Game

For those who know me, this title is funny. For those who don’t, I will explain. I don’t play soccer, in fact I don’t play any sport. I write about football, but truth be told I only know enough about football to be able to half ass watch a game. I like high school football because of the energy and because I kind of have to since my husband coaches. Sports and I are like math and me – contradictory.

When I was growing up, I tried to play soccer. All I remember is that I hated running and during a game I went the wrong way on the field. In elementary school and seventh grade my extra-curricular activities include playing the piano for a short while and then playing the flute. I wasn’t bad at the flute.  I actually remember going back and forth from second to first chair. I also remember going to Dairy Queen after concerts and eating banana splits to celebrate.

My brother however was a super jock. He played soccer and received a scholarship because he was such a good player. After college, he even played pro for a while. Yes that green monster was there. I was jealous. But I was also always very proud of my brother. So was my dad. He went to all of his games and talked about him all of the time. Okay this may not be factual, but in my eyes my father’s favorite was my brother because he was a super stud soccer player – unlike his adopted non-athletic daughter.

Oh the pains of wanting to be the favorite child.

My dad now has seven children. Not all are from his blood. He loves each of us in a different way and does the best he can at being a dad to us all. Who is his favorite now? I would say it changes daily. I no longer need to be his favorite. I just need to know he loves me. And I know that.

He was visiting from Kentucky and came over for dinner. I got him to myself because it was Halloween and everyone else was busy. The need to have his undivided attention will never go away. When we talked earlier in the day, he said he was going back to my brothers to finish my book. YES! My book! I about shit my pants. My dad was reading my book – my young adult novel about a girl and boy, friendships, stepparents and football. He had forty or so pages to go.

He was at my soccer game, rooting me on. He said he had tears in his eyes at the end.  I feel like I kicked the winning goal.

Side note – My mom read my book too. But I’ve always been her favorite, I was the first.  Love you mom. (Truth be told – I think my baby brother is actually her favorite. And now that she has grandkids who trump all of us.)

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Drunk Calling

You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all done it. Haven’t we? I’m thinking that I can’t be the only one who did it. I was lucky. When I did it there wasn’t any caller ID. In my day, did I just say that? Holy shit! I did. Anyway, back in my day, a person could call at 3 AM as Meghan Trainor sings, and then you could hang up. But now we’ve got all of this social media. I wonder a few things. Since people can’t hide on the other end of a phone line, and we put everything out there anyway, do people:

  1. Drunk Tweet?
  2. Send a message through Facebook to long lost loves when they shouldn’t?
  3. Drunk Snapchat?
  4. Drunk Instagram?

Okay, I know this answer or I would assume it safe to say that I do. But what I want to know is what do people say and after it is said, do they regret it? Do people look at it the next morning and want to crawl in a hole?

And then, I wonder it you could send a 3 AM message, who you would want to send it to and what would it say. I’m thinking that sometimes we just have unsettled things that we want to say. I’m not talking about rekindling relationships. I’m talking about loose ends or closer that a person needs.

I called a radio station once and dedicated a song to my boyfriend from when I was 19. He would never hear it because he is gone, taken away too young. I wanted closure; I wanted to say something out loud. I obviously knew I would never get a response.

I think that sometimes we are holding on to something and need to say it even though we want nothing in return.

And that is my thought before I go to bed.

Oh – Who would I drunk message? People I wasn’t so nice to, even if I thought I wasn’t in the wrong. Because life is short and most everyone that crossed my path, taught me something and I think made me a better person. And the relationships that didn’t work, well they got me where I am today. Happily married to a man who loves me.

I’m Going Here, There, or Wherever

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Okay, so I’m going here, there, or wherever. I usually don’t rant on the big issues because my opinions are mine, and I keep them that way most of the time. But, I’m so sad that instead of loving each other, we continue to hate. And, we now have so many ways to hate publicly.

I’m going to break one of my biggest rules. I have not been asked my view on these big topics and I’m going to give it anyway – publically.

I’m going to first start off by talking about my political affiliation. You may or may not know that I am a republican. And for the most part I consider myself a conservative republican (update – I am now an independent- I did NOT vote for Trump or Hilary!) , but when I take those quizzes I usually find myself in the middle of many issues. While I believe that many people on welfare should be drug tested, I also believe that all children regardless of where they come from, should be taken care of at whatever cost necessary.

I am a writer. I’ve noticed that many of my creative type friends are not conservative republicans. Really? Ha ha. And most of them still accept me for my faults. This is why I love them so much.

I follow the Pope on Twitter, yesterday he said this, or he had someone else say it for him (I can’t imagine him typing out a Tweet on his iPhone), “The Church is a mother with an open heart, ready to help all people, especially those who try the hardest. “

Now where am I going with this?

When I read the Pope’s Tweet, I was happy to know that the Church as my mother loves me with an open heart no matter what. Like most mothers, she will take me back in and help me find my way. Instead of focusing on the world around me, I TRY to focus on myself. I need to worry about my actions and not everyone else. But that only lasts so long. And here I am on my blog, which will post to my social media sites. So where is my focus now?

My beliefs are mine, and I chose to be Catholic, I try and follow the rules of the Church but I am a child and will always be. I fall many times, and sometimes I’m purposely defiant. When I do what I want to do, I am not one with the church. That is my choice. I will say again, that is my choice.

Because I have been given free will, I get to choose. Yes, the church can give me rules and tell me that I cannot be in full communion because I am not following the rules, just like a parent can make the rules for their children. And like a child, when I don’t follow them I’m punished. I look it at it like I’m grounded. Until I do what I need to do, I can’t have this or that. For me it is the Eucharist and FOR ME, missing out the Eucharist hurts more than anything.

But I will tell you that there are many, many times I struggle with my faith and my church. For my Catholic friends, don’t worry I don’t need any intervention. I’m not leaving. As much as I struggle, I love my faith. Mary Magdalene struggled with impurity and Mother Theresa struggled with her faith. If these wonderful women got through it all, so will I. I personally have struggled with both.

To say I wont judge is a lie, because if I weren’t judging, I would not be writing this. But, I want to make it very clear; the only thing I am judging is HATE. Everyone has free will. Everyone gets to make his or her own decisions period.

So I am going to publically comment on some big issues.

  • I am Pro Life.  My mom had me when she was 16. I had two children out of wedlock and I was scared to do it on my own. I wouldn’t change my world. I know several women who have aborted their children. Some are okay with their decision, while others are not. My job is to love these women. Period. I don’t and won’t hate any of them.
  • I believe in the 2nd Amendment, but I hate guns. I have never shot one and I don’t plan on it any time soon.  It is horrific that a terrorist walked into a church and killed people because of the color of their skin. It is scary that our kids don’t feel safe in their own schools. While I personally don’t think that taking guns away will fix these problems, I do believe that we should have laws to protect us. But I also believe that those laws wont always do what they need to do. Case in point, restraining orders do not always protect. I don’t have an answer for this. I do believe if we were kinder to each other and talked more, many evils would go away. I need to start with me, I’m not always nice.
  • I am not a homosexual. Therefore, I cannot make any statement about how you feel about anything. I don’t know your struggles. I am the white heterosexual girl looking in. The only discrimination I know is that of a single mother. That was hard. Many people looked at me with either pity or disgust. I didn’t need that either. What I needed was for those around me to be kind. And most were kind, even if they did not agree or understand my choices or circumstances. Because of my belief system, I cannot even think of having a homosexual relationship with another woman, and I’m married and that would be cheating. Also, I’m not attracted to women that way. So my point? What do I know? NOTHING! I have LBGT friends. I love them. I respect them. Some of them are married. Some of them are parents. For those out there who want to protect children from “all of those homosexuals” from becoming parents and ruining the children of the world, I would challenge you to start taking in foster kids and making a difference in the world instead of hating against those who are actually making a difference. My sister is a lesbian. She is married. She is not only my sister, but my friend. I love her. I’m grateful she is in my life.

I don’t believe the Catholic Church will change her views on the big things such as marriage, women in the church, and abortion. That is over 2000 years of beliefs. I also believe that is why there is division. Right or wrong, the division is there. It is why the Eastern and Western Churches divided, it is why Martin Luther left the Catholic Faith, and it is why there are different Lutheran communities, different Baptist communities, and Non-Denomination communities. What I will never believe is that it is okay to hate. We are called to Love.

None of us have to believe what the other believes.

We should however, be kind. We should treat every human with respect. We should take care of each other.

If we are going to bring God into this, then we have to remember he created all of us, knowing what we would become. And he still loves me anyway.

The First Spark

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The First Spark

A post on Facebook about dating got me thinking. That is sometimes a dangerous thing for me – thinking, not dating. Dating is good for me as long as the date is with my husband. And that is the only person I date, so I’m good there.

After reading the post, my mind wandered back and I thought of those times I was out on a date and my heart fluttered. This is the reason I love to read and write YA. I love to be transformed back to a simpler time when everything was new and I was less cynical. I believe that many of us crave that feeling of first love.

For me, it always started with that first spark. I didn’t need anyone to move mountains. It was always the sweet little things that made my heart race:

  • When your fingers accidentally touch.
  • When he opens the door on his side of the truck so that you will sit in the middle next to him.
  • When you are getting a piggy back ride in the middle of a parking lot while it is raining, and you swear it is the spark between you that sets off the thunder.
  • When he pushes the hair out of your eyes so he can take a closer look.
  • When he offers you a cherry sucker but the taste of the fruit is from his lips.
  • When he writes your name + his name in the snow.
  • When the instant message on your computer pops us and it’s him on the other side of the country wanting to talk to you. (Now thats called  a text message)
  • When he can dance. I mean really dance and he takes you in his arms and you do that Cowboy Cha Cha thing at the county fair.
  • When you get ice cream and then go to the swings at the park and he holds your hand while you sway back and forth.

I would love to hear about your first spark.

What I Brought Back From Kentucky

When traveling, I like to bring back a little something that will remind me of the place or the experience. The last time I visited Kentucky, my dad took my family to Fort Boonesborough. I’m not a history buff like my husband and daughter. I went for the time with my daddy. That trip a handmade piece a pottery to fill with my daily java traveled in my luggage back to Colorado. When I use that cup, I always think of that day. We ate Barbecue at a picnic table, walked in the footsteps of those who were here long ago, and spotted a gorgeous yellow flower on a popular tree. Later my son sketched the petals for my dad. My dad has the original and I have the print. I love that piece of art and so does my dad.

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This trip to Kentucky, I went alone. My dad turned seventy -four in July. My dad and I have had our ups and downs over the years, some of it I’ve caused and other times I haven’t. In the end it doesn’t matter. This year my dad bought me a bamboo hat rack, he gave me a teapot that he had excess of, and I found some gifts along the way for my husband, my son, and my son-in-law. This week my table arrived. The solid wood piece is tall and long and I’ll be able to fit bar stools underneath it. It now sits in my kitchen where people will gather around it. I’m really excited about the table. But things are only things. You can’t take them with you when you go.

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The most precious item I brought back isn’t tangible, but it is the most important, memories. I brought back many that are filled with love. The time that I spent with my daddy was priceless. I spent eight full days with him, ten if you include the travel days. I had his undivided attention most of the time and shared him with his kind, loving and caring significant other Debbie.

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Okay the real truth; I did have to share him with Cleo, his mastiff, who I’ve nicknamed Sister, and the four cats, Bones, Tom, Fletcher, and Francis. Francis is sick and she will not get better. She is my favorite because she needed more love, which allowed me to love more. Don’t tell Cleo.

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I’m very blessed. Except for my father, my side of the Duff clan lives in Colorado and we are close. My mom is a few miles away and even though I don’t see her everyday, I could. I know she is there if I need anything and I’m glad she has all of her children in the same state so that we can take care of her when she needs it. My dad does come to Colorado four times a year. It’s great when he’s here. But he has seven kids and nine grandkids that he needs to see, so getting time with him alone is hard. It would be selfish to hoard his time.

On my much needed vacation to Kentucky, every morning that I shuffled to the kitchen for my tea, my daddy was there. When you are young, you take that for granted. We didn’t do a ton, which was exactly what I needed and wanted. I was able to edit my manuscript, read a book, watch too many episodes of Once Upon a Time, eat thick Chris Duff (my dad) milkshakes every night, run errands, really look at sunsets, spend hours at antique stores without rushing because my dad loves them more than I do, go to doctor’s appointments, cook, and eat. I not only was taught how to make beef stroganoff, my daddy made it for me and I had it for breakfast the day I left to come home. I need to make that for dinner this week.
And every night he told me he loved me. I didn’t literally get tucked into bed as that would be seriously weird, but each night I got my hug and kiss.

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When he dropped me off at the Cincinnati airport, I got the hug of a lifetime and I clung on tight. I don’t believe this will be the last time I see my dad, but it may very well be the sweetest memory of time I will ever have with him. It was precious because I will always know how much daddy loves me.
As for the table, it will be my everyday reminder of the time I spent with my daddy, not that I need it. The memories are tightly held in my heart. I’m thinking we probably get to take the memories when we go.

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