Family, Fostering, Free Writing

Let The Rehearsals Begin…


Dearest Readers:

Good morning, World. Another beautiful sunshiny day! After two cups of coffee and my morning yogurt parfait, I decided to rehearse the tentative songs for the show scheduled for late May — May 30, to be exact! All of my pups, with exception of grouchy little Hanks, were outside while I popped the CDG’s in the stereo. Turning the microphone on, I recognized it is not working. “Rats!”

“Unchained Melody,” starting playing, so I belted out the notes, moving and dancing around, I glanced at the carpet. Hanks the Tank sat motionless — something extremely out of character for him. His eyes stared at me, still motionless while listening to me sing.

I patted his head to thank him for his attention. The first notes of “At Last,” began, so I belted those long notes out. Hank is still mesmerized while listening to me singing.

The last song, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” is a duet I will sing with another singer. He has a great voice and I am honored to sing with him at rehearsals. As I sing the female notes, Hanks is still sitting about three feet from where I am dancing around. His eyes are still glued to me!

When I finish, Hanks approaches me…grumbling…as if to tell me he is enjoying listening to me. Funny. I’ve never noticed him listening to me while I sing. For me, this is the ultimate compliment. My energetic, grouchy, once terribly abused and unloved mini-schnauzer, Hanks the Tank, is letting me know how much he enjoys hearing me sing!

If all goes well, I will sing one song, and a duet at the show. I suppose I’ll share more details later. Now, I must decide what dress to wear. Those decisions are for a later date…after all, we still have rehearsals for all of us. We have a great bunch of singers for this variety show. No doubt it will be fun for all.

I cannot wait to get up on that stage and sing. Of course, you, my readers, know that — don’t you! This girl simply comes alive on stage! Yes, I was born to sing — and that is why I do it!

Today is a beautiful day. Think I’ll go work on my tan! Have a great weekend readers, and keep listening for more songs. Hanks is rubbing my leg now as if to say, “Sing…Sing…SING!”  Silly boy! Some people believe dogs do not enjoy music. I say — oh, yes — dogs LOVE music!

Maybe one day I will record a CD to share and to play — for my little Hanks! More details — LATER!

Carnival Fantasy, Cruising

Cruising On The Carnival Fantasy…


Dearest Readers, and Carnival Fantasy:

Yes, it is true. During January 8 – January 13, 2015, my husband and I cruised from Charleston, SC to Freeport and Nassau, Bahamas on a bitterly cold day in Charleston. Just picture it, if you will. Packing for the cruise, I listened to the weather forecast in Charleston and the Bahamas. The forecast for Charleston on the morning we boarded the ship was a whopping — 19 degrees! Yes, you read correctly — 19 degrees with a bitterly cold wind! The forecast for the Bahamas was 72 degrees.

Dressed in a turtle neck with long sleeves, a tunic, a scarf, sweater and leggings, I slipped my gorgeous fake fur coat on, along with mittens. I was certain once I boarded the ship I would change into appropriate resort clothing for the cruise. I did not!

Walking on the ship, I shivered. The ship was so cold. I asked an employee of the cruise line why it was so cold on the ship. He smiled. “Carnival Fantasy does not have heat on board.”

Br-r-r-r! I remained dressed for Alaska, or New England!

Did we enjoy the cruise? Well…let’s just say, Carnival Fantasy chose to change a few things during the cruise.

WHAT CHANGED?

Mainly, the singing competition. Since Carnival Fantasy departs from Charleston, I have several friends who cruise on this ship on a yearly basis. I was told to make certain that I sign up for the singing competition. When I inquired about it at guest services, I was told the singing competition had been cancelled — due to — the FOOTBALL game!

“You mean to tell me that I’ve paid for a cruise where I planned to enter the competition only to watch a football game?”

I should’ve stayed at home! Perhaps that set the mood for me at Carnival Fantasy; however, since this ship departs from Charleston on a regular basis, my husband and I will probably cruise on it again in the future — that is — when it is warm enough to cruise on a ship without heat!

CARNIVAL FANTASY NEEDS TO IMPROVE, OR REMODEL A FEW THINGS…

Such as Cats Lounge where karaoke was held. Cats Lounge is decorated with gigantic Campbell’s Soup Can memorabilia, and the stage consists of a gigantic Goodyear tire — with only a slight step where the performer (excuse me, karaoke singer) must EVER SO CAREFULLY step onto the thin tire edge of the stage. I wore boots, making it a big difficult to step on to the stage. My recommendation for Carnival Fantasy is to modify this stage – considering those who wear high heels and boots. Otherwise, someone will fall – and perhaps get a free cruise — due to injuries!

The sound system on the first night of the cruise was a bit off. Fortunately, an engineer climbed on to the stage to adjust the sound and all was better. Of course, I sang — several songs on the first night. The DJ, Adien, gave me a small Carnival Fantasy trophy. How nice! On the next evening, we had a new DJ. Although he tried to please the entire audience, he appeared to favor one singer – over and over again. Yes, his voice was a good voice, reminding me of Lou Rawls, and I listened with delight while wondering just WHEN I would sing again. This large, a bit disabled guy who entered Cats Lounge on a mobilized scooter, amazed me how he could get on stage! Remember, the stage is not exactly safe, nor is it meeting any ADA [American Disability Act] guidelines. Maybe they are exempt from these guidelines since they are a cruise ship. I confess, each time this man got on the stage I held my breath, and each time I stumbled wearing boots on the stage, I held my breath — since I am a bit clumsy!

I will have more details later about our cruise — along with photographs to share, but for now, I must complete my work out and get busy with this day.

Will I go back to Carnival Fantasy? Probably yes — only this time, I will inquire about the events, along with the cancelled events. PLEASE CARNIVAL FANTASY – don’t cancel an event due to football again. Guests can watch football at home!

Chattahoochee Child

Chattahoochee Child — Saga Continues…


Chattahoochee Child
Barbie Perkins-Cooper
Copyright 2014

Walking around the flower displays at the exhibit hall of the Coastal Carolina Fair, I inhaled the aromatic smells of pale orange roses. Garrett touched a rose petal. I tapped his hand.

“You aren’t supposed to touch them,” I scolded. He laughed, stepping back.

“Coral roses are my favorites,” I whispered, my mind rushing back to the first time I received roses. Garrett was in Vietnam. We were celebrating our first anniversary alone while he fought the war. The roses were delivered in a long white box. One dozen beautiful, aromatic coral roses that I would cherish for as long as they lived. I was touched by his thoughtfulness in a war zone, so far from home and so alone.

Our marriage started with everything against us. My family made bets that we would be divorced within six months. We proved them all wrong. Although some family members considered us separated when he left for war, I refused to consider us apart. I wrote letters to him every day, sent monthly care packages and lived only for him. The gesture of one dozen roses on our anniversary meant the world to me. I was stepping into a new journey in my life as a young, married woman and I was determined to make this journey a positive one. Although I was only 18-years-old, I had lived a sad, abusive life. I wanted to close the door and never look back. I prayed God would open a window for me and my marriage when I closed the door of abuse.

Admiring the artistry of the displays of flowers, a familiar song played in the background. I listened, singing the chorus while my mind drifted back in time.

I was about five-years-old when I heard the song, “I’ll Be Loving You Always,” playing on the radio while my mother drove Papa’s fishing car, a 1958 pink and white rambler four door sedan. At our house mom marched around, barking orders, screaming at me, demanding me to hurry up. I was the only child home that morning, so I rushed around, grabbing my activity bag in hopes my mother’s mood would change.

Sitting in the front seat of the car, I turned on the radio. We were driving to my paternal grandmother’s house for a visit. Mom appeared a bit agitated that morning, sharp-tongued and impatient. I turned the volume up, listening to the music. Mom sang the lyrics softly. “I’ll be loving you always. With a love that’s true. Always. When the things you’ve planned need a helping hand, I will understand, Always…”

I looked at my mom as she sang. Never have I heard her singing before. I smiled, enjoying this special moment.

Mom glanced over at me. “What are you looking at?” She asked.

“I’m listening to you singing. I’ve never heard you sing before.”

“Stupid child. It’s just a song.”

“It’s a song you like. I can tell, just by watching you.”

“I like the song,” I said… “And when I grow up, I’ll sing it to you and Daddy when I become a singer.”
Mom laughed, a snickering laughter that made me uncomfortable.

“You’re such a silly, foolish child. Don’t you know that love don’t last. That song is stupid.”

Stupid was my mother’s favorite word.

“I believe in love,” I said, lifting my head to look at the gorgeous sunshine beaming into the car. “When I grow up, I’ll fall in love and I’ll sing that song. You just wait.”

“For a five-year-old you sure have some stupid dreams. You ain’t never gonna be a singer. You’re gonna be just like me…Married to a man who beats you, and having babies again.”

My mother was pregnant again, and not happy about it.

“I’ll get married, and I’ll have a baby, but I’ll never let a man hit me. Never.”

Walking around the displays of flowers at the fair, I listened to the song, wiping a tear from my eyes. This was the first time in many years that I cried over the loss of my mother. I sat on a bench, buried my head in my hands so I could wipe my face. Garrett joined me.

“Why are you crying?” He reached for my hand.

“That song. It brought back memories of my childhood and my mother, on one of her good days. That was her favorite song.”

Garrett wiped a tear from my face.

“She was singing that song in the car as she drove to my paternal grandmother’s house. I was only five-years-old, but I remember her saying she was having another baby again. It was one of her good days. That song changed her demeanor. She actually smiled.”

Later that night, I grabbed Garrett, hugging him tightly, thanking him for having a fun day with me. Our marriage was slowly improving for the better. I sang the song “Always,” over and over in my mind until I fell asleep. The next morning, the song replayed in my mind. I went to the special window in my home, the wide open window next to my desk. The window I sat by listening to fog horns in the distance. The window that beams sunshine on me. I looked up to the sky, curious if my mother was attempting to communicate to me from the grave.

“Are you there, Mom?” Tears fell from my eyes while the lyrics of “Always” continued playing.

There’s a reason for this memory to be replaying again and again, but I don’t know what it could be. Could it be my mother making the attempt to apologize and say that she loved me? Was it just a coincidence that we walked into the flower exhibits as that song started to play? I’d like to believe this happened for a reason. In 1978, I cut the chords between my mother and me, after another verbal dispute where she told my son I was a whore, nothing more. Leaving her filthy home, I chose only to speak to her when there was a funeral or family tragedy.

During her illness, I was caring for my terminally ill father. When my mother died in 2002, I was dreadfully ill and could not attend her funeral.

“I’ll be loving you, always.
Days may not be fair Always.
That’s when I’ll be there, Always.
Not for just an hour.
Not for just a day.
Not for just a year,
But Always.”

The lyrics of “Always” touched me more than I anticipated. It had been over twenty years since I cried over the estrangement and loss of my mother, and today, the tears rushed down my face like an endless waterfall. I’ve always believed that those we have lost can communicate with us again. Today was that day. My psychic abilities were a gift from my maternal grandmother who could predict good and bad things happening to us and others. Repeatedly, I have had dreams about someone dying, only to realize the death had happened. Two days before Benjamin broke our engagement, I dreamed that he was breaking up with me. When the letter arrived, I was not surprised. When Garrett was in Vietnam, I awoke in the middle of the night fearful for his life. I circled the date and time on my calendar, staying awake the rest of the night to write him a letter. Twenty days later, a letter from him arrived confirming that he was involved in a battle where he was in the jungle fighting while struggling to keep the communication lines working. In my dream, I visualized him in a thick jungle going deeper and deeper into battle. The more I strove to get closer to him, the thicker the jungle became and I knew just from this visual dream that he was in trouble. I compared the date of his letter and the date circled on my calendar. They matched perfectly. Another vision was a reality.

Early July 6, 1999, at 3:45 in the morning, I dreamed my dad was dying. I phoned the nursing home to have them check on him, telling them I’d had another dream of his death. By now, the nursing home was accustomed to these phone calls. They reassured me he was fine. That afternoon, at 5:45 pm, I approached the doorway of my dad’s room, only to meet a nurse who was entering with an oxygen tank. “Oh, God no,” I cried. At 6:00, my dad died.

On September 9, 2001, I dreamed about several men dressed in long trench coats, dark-skinned with thick black beards, entering two planes. The planes crashed killing every one on board. Another group of men, armed with weapons, wearing trench coats approached beach crowds, shooting the families and beach bums relaxing on the beach. Two days later, I awoke to the tragedies of 9-11-01. Coincidence? Visions? Perhaps.

Visions were part of my life. Each time I had them, I recognized the psychic abilities I possessed were a reflection and a gift of who I was in life. No doubt, I was a witch.

Yes, my mother was communicating to me. Perhaps she was apologizing and the lyrics of the song, “I’ll Be Loving You Always,” were her way of letting me know that in death she recognized her cruel behaviors were due to the unhappiness she had in her life. Perhaps through the compelling lyrics expressing her love, “Always” she was communicating her love to me. Sitting at my desk, I found the song on YouTube, playing it over and over.

Today was a new day. A day to believe that now, in death, my mother loved me, Always.

Losing Weight, Weight Watchers

My Weight Watchers Saga Continues


Dearest Readers:

Today is T-minus and counting. My weigh in day at Weight Watchers. For once, I actually slept well last night, managing not to awaken for a length of time until 5:00am. I went back to sleep and didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. Most unusual for me! Slowly, I managed to get myself dressed and go to my meeting. The question at hand as I drove to the meeting was “Will I use my ‘get out of jail card free’ again, or will I actually step on those scales. Grumbling to myself as I approached the meeting, I reminded myself how discouraged I was. ‘Plateaus are killing me. I am so tired of being on this yo-yo. I’m so tired of not losing. I want to reach goal.’

I opened the door, after several members saw me standing at the door. “OK. Here goes.”

Our leader, Kathy, was at the weigh-in desk. “Great. She’ll see that I’m not losing – AGAIN!” She asked how I was doing. I grumbled. “I’m so sick of not losing,” I said. She closed my booklet, handing it back to me, she said. “Good job!”

I thought she was kidding! Looking at my booklet I realized I had lost 1.4 pounds! Shocked, I jumped off the scales and did a happy dance!

What I’ve learned in the last three years as a member of Weight Watchers is the reality that we all will have set-backs, days…and weeks of discouragement…and the recurring battle of plateaus. Yes, I have lost 35 pounds at Weight Watchers, and during weeks of plateaus and yo-yo’s I remind myself that IF I quit Weight Watchers, no doubt, the weight would pile on again. Gaining weight is not someone I wish to be anymore!

When the meeting started, Kathy, our wonderful, encouraging leader asked if anyone wanted to share their experiences from the last week. Of course, it was me – being the shy, timid, non-opinionated woman that I am – NOT – raised her hand.

“I’ve lost 1.4 pounds this week. A total shock for me…and I have something to add. Last night I had rehearsals for a variety show that I am singing in. After rehearsal, my husband and I decided to stop at Finz, a local restaurant, bar nearby since one of my favorite dj’s, Steve Russell, was playing music, including karaoke. While I do not claim to be a karaoke-style of singer, I do love to sing. We plopped down at one of the tables. Steve asked if I wanted to get this singing party started. Of course I said yes. I have enough confidence now with singing that I never hesitate to start the show. When round two of the rotations began, Steve wanted to know if my outfit was considered shorts. Perhaps I should’ve said, “Yes…but dress shorts.” I did not share that comment. The outfit I was wearing consisted of a slightly short pair of dress shorts I could not wear previously because they were much too little. Last night, they fit nicely.

When Steve called me up to sing, he introduced me with the song, “Who Wears Short Shorts,” and when the music began, I danced around.

Truly a nice night to enjoy friends, and to finally recognize that my body size is changing now! Friends are calling me skinny. Something I shall never be, but it’s nice to receive such encouraging words, especially at an age where some people say, I do not dress age appropriate. Whatever that means!

Yes, it is true. I do not dress like a woman middle-aged, or afraid to show her legs! Dreadful, isn’t it! I suppose I should be ashamed, but I’m not. I love wearing my short skirts and I love my heels…just like the commercials seen on TV – the ones where the woman isn’t revealed, with exception of her rushing high heels, short skirts and legs! When the camera reveals the woman, we realize she isn’t a twenty, or thirty-something woman, but she is one of those gorgeous women who has fought the aging process, and it is paying off!

Yeah…that’s me. Short skirts. Platform, or stiletto heels, boots…and so much more.
Just stay tuned. All to the credit of March 3, 2011. The day I joined Weight Watchers while deciding it was time for me to dance again…to love life again…to be the best I can be! Thank you…Weight Watchers. While I am not at goal yet – I simply say – STAY TUNED! The best is yet to be!

Free Writing, Toasts to the Most Influential People We Meet

February 10, 2014 — The Sad Day When Shirley Temple Died…


Dearest Readers:

This morning I awoke to a sadness. The news alert on my cell phone read, “Shirley Temple is Dead At 85.” My heart broke.

I raced to my computer to read about Shirley Temple. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtHvetGnOdM

When I was a child, my mother cherished movies with Shirley Temple as the child star. The lovely golden curls. The beautiful dimples and that amazing child star smile. I was envious! My hair was straight. Yes, I have dimples and I have been told by many that I have a ‘beautiful, inviting smile.’ My mother spoke of Shirley Temple as if she was a saint. Occasionally, when a movie was on TV, I watched Shirley Temple, her acting, dancing and singing abilities. I wanted to be a Shirley Temple clone! I danced around the house, singing “Animal Crackers In My Soup,” and other songs.

My mother would laugh and point her finger in my direction. “You are NOT Shirley Temple,” she said. How I wanted to prove her wrong!

I lost my mother questionably in 2002. She was in a nursing home at the time, although I discovered later that she did not die in the nursing home. She was admitted to a hospital and no one contacted me until it was too late. When my sister’s son phoned me to tell me of her passing, the one question he repeated over and over again was:

“Do you think they’ll do an autopsy?”

I was sick on that date with acute bronchial asthma. The doctors prescribed Prednisone, a drug that truly makes me a zombie! The funeral was scheduled for early the next morning. If I had the time to rush to the funeral, I would not make it on time, and I was much too ill to drive. I did not make it to the funeral. When I recuperated, I told my doctor to never prescribe Prednisone to me. I have way too many side effects from it. One day when I was reminiscing about my mother, I remembered the question that echoed inside my mind…”Do you think they’ll do an autopsy?”

I’ve shared that story with several friends. They suggested there must be a reason why my nephew was so concerned. Over the years, that question still rings in my mind.

Today, I reminisce about Shirley Temple and the memories of her movies, singing and dancing rush inside my mind. Shirley Temple made my mother laugh. Something she rarely did. As a small child, I sang, “On the Good Ship Lollipop,” pretending to be Shirley Temple, but my dance moves and my smile did not make my mother smile or laugh. How I wish I could freeze her smile and her laughter and remember it for eternity, but — my mother did not smile often so those memories are gone.

Today, I honor Shirley Temple Black, still wishing I could sing and dance like she did. After my mother’s death, I saw a TV commercial about the Shirley Temple movies. The Little Darling movies could be ordered, just in time for Christmas. http://www.shirleytempletv.com/Default.asp?bhcp=1

How I wish I could order those movies and send them to my mother, but now she is gone. If I ordered them, the sad memories of my childhood would return. I don’t wish to remember those times…only the good times.

Perhaps now I will order those DVD’s — to remember Shirley Temple Black.

Today is a sad day for America. Shirley Temple Black grew up to become an ambassador, a woman to truly admire in a time where women were reportedly reared to ‘be a homemaker, wife and mother.’ Shirley Temple Black had a mission and a purpose. She was an amazingly talented child who became an impressive woman before her time. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/12/arts/shirley-temple-black-screen-star-dies-at-85.html?hpw&rref=movies&_r=0

How I wish I could turn the clock back, to bring my mother back so we could watch the DVD’s “Little Darling” so I could see my mother smile and laugh again…to watch the anger and bitterness she had until her death just disappear — at least for a moment. How I wish I could sing, “Animal Crackers In My Soup,” and pretend I had those adorable curls in my hair.

Rest in peace, Shirley Temple. Thank you for helping my mother to smile and laugh — just once!

“Animal Crackers in my soup…”

Chattahoochee Child, Free Writing

“Chattahoochee Child…” Just Opening A Vein…To Write!


Dearest Readers:

If you are reading this, and either you know me, or follow my blog, you will know the struggles I have just writing “Chattahoochee Child.” Years ago, at a writers meeting, I shared the premise of this story, receiving much encouragement. At the time, I had no idea where the story would go, but now, after a few life events, I recognize I must get this story down. There have been many times I have written, only to hit the delete key, erasing everything. Now, today, I recognize the time is now. Years ago, I submitted a small portion of “Chattahoochee Child” to a writer’s competition, winning first place. Below is a comment I received from one of the judges:

“Chattahoochee Child was on another emotional level. There was an emotional honesty and vulnerability there, mixed in with some really beautiful writing that just stood out…It affected me emotionally…” Another quote from this successful writer and judge shared: “I have judged stories that were superficial, clever, or lecturing, but yours just went deep to the bone. You had some beautiful passages in there. I read one aloud to my wife and it stopped her in her tracks… You have a genuine gift…”

Today, I will share a bit of freewriting I worked on during the holidays. Today, I awoke with thoughts dancing a graceful ballet in my mind, telling myself I cannot write. I’ve fought this doubt for much too long, only to discover and re-read these quotes this special writer and judge shared. Yes, I keep his comments near my desk — for inspiration. Another discovery today for me is how important music is for me while writing. Music is my therapy!

Today, I share a letter written to the character of Rebecca:

Dearest Rebecca:
Sometimes in life we must write a letter to ourselves, for us to heal. Writing the letter gets the words down…opening the mind to what happened, how we coped, and most of all, how we learned to love again. For years, I lived without love. Why? Simple. I thought I was unworthy of love. After all, no one in this world would ever love someone so outspoken, independent and threatening as I was, at least those were the words I grew up hearing over…and over…and over again! I believed I was a monster. And so today, Dear Rebecca, I address this letter to you, after all – no one knows you better than you know yourself. You are Rebecca!

Sitting here in the early morning light, I reminisce about my childhood and I am thankful. So thankful I had a strong-willed grandmother teaching me faith. Thankful I found guidance woven within the fingertips of her hands. I watched her with a critical, curious eye when she folded her hands in prayer. When she whispered ever so softly for God to guide her and give her strength. I learned so much, just by watching her actions — the beliefs and values she taught me are priceless.

I am thankful that I got to know and improve my relationship with my father. As a child, I overlooked his indiscretions. When my mother criticized him for his quick temper, I looked to see a different person. In my innocent eyes, I saw a caring man who adored singing with me. He taught me how to harmonize, and to sing from the pit of my stomach. He taught me to believe in the power of God’s words, and when he rarely spoke about his identical twin brother who died too young, I saw the pain on my father’s face. I wanted him to love me, like he loved his twin brother. I wanted to learn more about their dreams of harmonizing and preaching the gospel to others. During the times when my father lost his temper, beating my mother, I was the one to run between them, pushing my hands on their steaming bodies to move them apart. I was the one who strove to see the good, and not the bad in relationships. I am grateful that I overlooked the sadness of a volatile man who only showed his anger behind the closed doors of our home. Singing and preaching in church, no one knew the secrets of our family. When Dad was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, I am grateful that I was the daughter to step up and care for him. I am grateful we had a small amount of time to heal the wounds of childhood while we developed a close relationship before we said goodbye.

Now, as a woman, I am thankful I found the courage to believe in myself and the goals and dreams I established at such an early time of my life. I am thankful – when the storms of life threaten me, I have an inner strength that helps me find the courage to survive. My grandmother influenced my life by guiding me as she practiced the values, philosophies and standards she shared in her actions and her prayers. Without her guidance, I would not be the woman I am today. Reflecting about my childhood, now I recognize how painful it was. Yes, as I look back into my life as a child, I could dwell on the heartache and pain, the many episodes of family abuse, and the hatred that appeared to always dance inside our moments as a family; however, I chose to move forward, as my father said to me during his torrential battle with esophageal cancer. I do want to move forward, to wash all of the hurt and anger away. While it still dances inside my mind at times, I wish to bid the anger and abuse goodbye permanently.

As a young child, I lived in fear. Fear of my parents. Fear of their habitual demeanor of shouting angry, hateful words to each other. Never did I hear my mother or father say “I love you,” to each other or the children of their marriage. Most households awaken to children laughing with excitement for the events of the day. Morning hugs are shared. I hungered to have just one morning where my mother would hug me before I left the house. Monsters appeared to live inside our household, inside the cantankerous voice of my mother and the boisterous shouting of my father. I haven’t addressed our household as a home because it wasn’t a home. A home is where a family goes to receive love, attention and a feeling of belonging. Home is a place to share life’s events and life’s tragedies, a place where children come for comfort and guidance. As a child, I was a stranger trapped within four walls. We moved like drifters, never establishing roots or cherished memories. Never did I feel a sense of belonging. Deep inside my heart, I struggled to find positive, happy thoughts, finding them only in the energy, happiness and pride I found whenever I sang, or wrote. For years, I kept a diary, hiding it underneath my mattress and that is where I slowly learned to feed positive energy to myself. “A home is where the heart is,” only my heart never felt comfortable within my birth family, with exception of the wisdom and knowledge I received from my maternal grandmother and my father – on his good days.

Once I heard the quote, “Turn a negative into a positive,” I asked my teacher how someone could do that. She smiled at me saying, “By applying positive feedback and believing in yourself. Don’t allow others to discourage your dreams.”

My teacher’s encouragement remained with me. I recognized my home situation was venomous. The vicious words I heard so often felt as poisonous as the stings from a yellow jacket or a snake, burning inside my brain and body. Hurting. Destroying. I realized to survive, I had to build myself up by feeding my brain positive thoughts. Although I was a child, I could not permit negative thoughts to destroy what I desired in my life. My life was up to me. Slowly, ever so slowly, I applied the newfound knowledge of turning a negative into a positive. Whenever I heard my mother tell me I was a stupid child, I visualized being smart. I read books. I studied. I did everything within my power not to be a stupid child, and before the age of thirteen, I realized I was not stupid. In school I made all A’s. I sang in the choir and whenever a project was assigned, I worked hard to make the best grade in the class. Teachers complimented me on my writing and researching talents. The choir director told me I had a nice voice, and when the words of destruction from my mother’s voice echoed in my head, I fed myself positive thoughts. After all, I wasn’t stupid.

Although I was young, the struggles of my life taught me courage. I was on a journey to find the young girl who would become the woman I am today. Many people have told me that as adults, we are a reflection of our parents. I was determined to break the toxic, backbiting habits of my mother. Yes, I watched her actions, making mental notes to make my life different. Observing her manipulations, I chose to do things in a different style.
Life is so precious and we must cherish every breath we take, every moment we live. The only regret I have now is the reality that my mother and I never made peace. Repeatedly, I tried. My mother allowed negativity to feed anger within her. Now, she was in the twilight years of her life, struggling to become stronger after a stroke. Prior to this, she allowed the many storms of her life to destroy her. Filled with anger and resentment she rarely shared compliments or encouragement. Instead, she spat back with a venomous attitude, telling me I would never amount to nothing but a hill of beans. I grew to hate her attitude towards me. Perhaps her resentment was a reflection of her innermost desires. Maybe she considered herself a failure, and now, in the twilight years, she realized her days were numbered. Mortality was knocking at her door and there was nothing she could do to fight it.

Or – maybe – my mother was jealous of me and the relationship I developed with my father. As a child, I overlooked his temper, and when he sang, “You Are My Sunshine” to me, I melted. Just maybe…just maybe I was lovable, after all!

During her struggle to survive, I challenged myself to look at my mother’s life. Although she never shared her childhood stories, or the romance and marriage, I realized there had to be pain intertwined within the core of her persona. The only time I recall her showing any emotion was on the day she and Dad separated. Arriving at home, I found her in tears. When I ask her what was wrong, she replied, “Your damned daddy has left me. It’s all your fault. You’re the one who told him to leave yesterday. I hope you are happy now, you stupid bitch.” Her hand slammed hard on my face, leaving a burning redness I felt for hours. Rubbing my face, I tugged at her apron strings. “But you said you wanted him to die. Over and over you said you hoped Daddy would die soon. Don’t you remember saying that to me when I was little?”

“You shut up. Death is different…You have time to mourn. Divorce…Why Divorce is something shameful, especially for a Southern woman.”

Regardless of how cruel she was, I learned to accept her as a lost woman. A woman who never achieved her own goals. A woman angry that the man she married chose to divorce her, instead of stand by her. Angry. So enraged. Infuriated that her children grew up, refusing to remain by her side. Angry that no one else wanted to be her friend or companion. The red-eyed monster of anger captivated her. She could not see the deceptions she created, blaming him for the thunderstorms in her life, nor could she accept responsibility for her actions.

Still, to this day, I regret how my mother would not allow me to be close, but now that I am older and wiser, I recognize that she behaved in the same hateful, malicious demeanor to others, especially to my dad.

After my mother’s death, I have recognized our relationship is now a closed matter. We cannot sit down together to attempt an open discussion of why we were so estranged. She is gone. Nothing I can do or say can bring her back. I have to find peace. I have to come to terms with what happened on the night of her death. Although she was an embittered woman, with a poisonous tongue, I loved her. She gave me life. Watching her actions, I learned that I was the one responsible for my character, my values and my beliefs. My life was up to me to build, and I was determined that others would not destroy me. I have come to the reality that I am the woman I am today, thanks to all that I endured. I found strength and purpose inside an unhappy home that should’ve taught me destruction. Instead of walking in the shadows of my mother, I chose to walk alone. I suppose I have finally found my way home.

Sincerely,
Rebecca

Free Writing, Music Notes

Ah…Home Sweet Home…”At Last…”


So nice to arrive home earlier with my babies awaiting our arrival. Over the weekend Phil and I participated in the Murrells Inlet Elks Lodge show, based on the Charleston Elks Lodge, Back Porch Opera Extravaganza. We had a terrific time last night. Phil served as the sound engineer, dj, and of course, I sang. No, I did not sing “At Last,” my signature song. I chose, “When We Make Love,” Alabama style, adding my one little version, of course.

We drove up on Friday, choosing to go to karaoke on Friday night at Broadway at the Beach. One thing I suggest to the City of Myrtle Beach is to establish a ‘non-smoking ordinance.’ Silly me. I assumed that Myrtle Beach is non-smoking. It is not. The cigarette plumes radiated throughout the bar and I could not wait to leave. Unfortunately, we stayed until midnight. Seems we had a bit of a miscommunication with some friends, hiring a cab driver. Trust me, that will not happen to me again! I will remain the designated driver.

At Broadway at the Beach, I sang “At Last,” and when I was finally called up to sing again, I chose, “Unchained Melody.” By that time, the audience was truly having, shall I say, a grand time…drinking…doing shots…and all that stuff I do not do. Yes, I do drink occasionally, but I absolutely refuse to drink wine from a plastic cup. It doesn’t taste right so I drank water…But, back to my song. When I sang “Unchained Melody,” I connected with the audience, belting the song out as the crowd hushed to listen.

Only a performer understands the euphoric feeling of having the audience relating and listening. I must say, it was fabulous!

To all that drove up to Murrells Inlet for the show, and to perform in the show, I say thank you. I am so proud to be a member of this amazing group of local performers from the Charleston, SC Elks Lodge.

And now, I must get back to work…to feed my children and to share with them how much I’ve missed them. This will be an early night. I am much too tired…At Last I am home…Home Sweet Home!

 

Family, Fostering, Rescuing Schnauzers

Communicating With My Precious Animals


My silly pups. Prince Midnight Shadow, my cold black giant schnauzer rushes inside to brush against the leashes, hanging near my office. He is telling me he is ready to walk today. “Mommy,” he says, staring into my eyes. “It’s nice outside today. The heat will not burn my paws. Can we go for a walk later?” I smile. Nod at him. Now, he is resting by the leashes. And to think, I’ve actually been told that only a ‘crazy person would believe that dogs communicate and understand what we are saying to them.’ I smile, snickering to those people saying, “Maybe you are the crazy one…I communicate with my animals. They understand what I say, and they love me for communicating and understanding their needs.’ Like earlier this morning, when Hankster the Prankster, my smallest mini-schnauzer, raised up by my legs, wanting me to pick him up. He doesn’t like to be picked up. He’s always afraid that he might get hurt. It is so obvious that he was mistreated by someone. It doesn’t matter who mistreated him. All that matters now is he is not closed inside a crate where he was barking…barking…barking…at the top of his little lungs when I agreed to foster him. It doesn’t matter that someone raised their arms to him, ready to attack him. It doesn’t matter that he was dropped off at a kill shelter, to end his life. What does matter is this little guy has found a home that loves him, regardless of his demeanor, temperament, and personality. He is finally getting more comfortable with us, and he hasn’t snapped at my husband’s hands in a few days. That is an accomplishment for him. Although he is small, he is powerful and quick with his mouth. He defends me from everyone!

Hank is unafraid and will protect his mommy, at all cost. He doesn’t care that something or someone could harm him. He cares about me and his home. That is, now that he has a home that accepts him and is teaching him he doesn’t need to snap at others. All he needs to do is trust. Today, when he raised up on my legs, he scratched his little paw on my leg, as if to say, ‘pick me up, Mommy.’

“What’s the matter, little buddy,” I asked him? “Do you want Mommy to pick you up?” He growled. When he growls it is usually a warning to back off, but I carefully scoop him up in my arms. He grunts, placing his little salt and pepper fur next to me, then he cuddles next to my neck. This is something he has never done before. He rears back, to look into my eyes. “What’s the matter, Hankster? Are you finally saying how much you love me and this home?”

He grunts again. I place him down. Moments later, he returns. He wants me to pick him up again, and so, I do. We talk for a bit without saying words. Our eyes stare into one another. He moans, moves his head close to my chest. He is telling me how much he loves me. My eyes fill with tears.

Today is Wednesday, a day of remembrance for me. On Wednesday, May 2, 2012, I lost my precious Prince Marmaduke Shamus, also known as “Shamey-Pooh.” Wednesdays are still a sad day for me. Words cannot express how deeply my heart ached after losing Shamey-Pooh. A tsunami of grief appeared to wash over me, like a gigantic, rushing, angry tide and for weeks I wasn’t certain if I would survive. I did survive. The sun still rose in the morning, and set at night. Bills still needed to be paid, and Father Time continued to tick, tick, tick the minutes of life by. Still, my heart ache for the loss of Shamus continued, and that is when I decided to foster Hank, until Schnauzer Rescue of the Carolinas could find a suitable home. Hankster and I bonded, even after he left our home for an adoptive home. I dreamed about him on several occasions, dreaming he wanted to come back to us. That dream came true, like many of my dreams.

Last October, Hankster returned. When I suggested allowing us to pick him up from his adoptive parents, some people were afraid he would not remember us. At first, he seemed aggressive, only to relax inside the car when he heard me singing. Silly dog. I think he remembered that I liked to sing. Arriving home, he rushed inside, to the water bowl, the toy box, and to greet our children. Hankster announced, “Hey guys, I’m back!”

Today, Hankster communicated to me — as if to say — thank you! Snuggling next to me for a few minutes, he grunted, and then he brushed my face with a soft kiss, something he never does! Now, he is resting next to me, along with Shasta, and Sandy Bear. Hankster is home! It is such a beautiful, cooler day outside so I’ve decided a brisk walk with my babies will be more healing to me than a treadmill!

Music Notes

On Whitney Houston


February 11, 2013 was the first anniversary of the world’s loss of a dynamic singer/performer, Whitney Houston. The world still mourns her loss, along with her magnificent voice.

To her family and friends, I wish you peace. Yes, it was heartbreaking to watch her “Homecoming” ceremony. I was one of the many glued to the television and my heart broke when “I Will Always Love You,” was played as she was carried in her casket from the church, to her final resting place.

Words cannot describe how much we miss Whitney. The last of her years were not that good – drug addiction along with the loss of her voice. When she struggled to come back, I cheered her on and was mesmerized by her performance in “Sparkle.”

For me, as a dedicated fan, I cannot understand why so many of our performers grow so attached to the drugs that eventually kill them. Look at the loss of Elvis Presley in 1977 – a victim of prescribed drugs. Since 1977, there have been many losses of our idols. Such a shame.

For Whitney, I wish her well, hoping and praying that she is singing her heart out in Heaven. God had a purpose for her. Although we miss her, perhaps she continues to sing “I Will Always Love You,” for our loved ones in Heaven.

God bless you, Whitney. We “Will Always Love You!”

Hawaii, Travel Writing

Welcome to Hawaii – Day Five and Beyond – Hawaii Is Like A Dream Come True!


Monday, August 20, 2012 – Sorry for the delay in sharing my astonishing dreams about Hawaii. I’ve been just a bit busy lately with several assignments to do, rehearsals for a show at the Charleston Elks Lodge, more assignments – unexpected, but so welcome, and of course, getting all the photographs I took of Hawaii printed. I had over 503++ photographs to print and I must say, my new camera certainly performed well. When Phil looked at some of the photographs, he actually complimented my photography skills. How nice!

Additional events that have kept me busy lately:

A few weeks ago I was selected as a ‘qualifier’ for the Lowcountry Karaoke Idol Contest in Charleston. For this part of the competition I sang, “At Last.” The club finals for Manhattan’s Bar & Grill were Friday, August 17, 2012. I’ve practiced my song [“I Who Have Nothing”] to make certain I knew it and could hit the notes. Piece of cake! Tom Jones is one of my favorites and I sing his songs all the time! At the competition, I was as calm as a cucumber, but I did check out the competition! Four guys, three girls will compete, and I knew one of them! I was a bit concerned because she and I are great friends and I will do nothing to jeopardize our friendship! After all, great friends (especially women!) are so hard to find. The clock was ticking…10pm and the competition begins! I listened and watched the singers, paying attention to see if they were getting into the performance. Many of them looked at the monitor – silly, don’t you know you are SUPPOSED to lose points IF you look at the monitor! Several singers were not too bad! Finally, my name was called. I grabbed the microphone, and turned away from the monitor! I confess, when I’m singing, it is a performance and I am totally focused on what I am doing. I did not notice if I had the attention of the crowd or not. I just belted out my tune, moving and grooving with the audience. Much to my surprise, I was selected for second place. The score was 66-64 and if the first place finalist is unable to represent Manhattan’s for the City Finals, then I will perform. C’est la vie! Story of my life! I suppose second place isn’t too bad – after all, it’s karaoke – except I love performing!!!

An additional surprise occurred while jet lag was refusing to leave me. Early one morning, I checked e-mail, receiving an invitation to attend a press trip to Aruba. I read the itinerary and invitation well, letting it rest on my desk while I debated about it. The press trip was less than two weeks away. Not enough time for me to query publications about story ideas. Since I’ve never been to Aruba, I declined the invitation, requesting a rain check. My rule is to at least have query letters out to publications before attending a trip. Gosh, how I wanted to go!

BACK TO HAWAII

Waikiki Beach

Today, our discussions will include additional events on Phil’s birthday – July 8, 2012 — evening events, walking to International Market Place, along with the characters we met, the street performers, and other interesting characters.

We had a nice day traveling around Honolulu, admiring the breathtaking beauty and views, the coastal highway, searching for whales, which we never found, and the amazement of Blow Hole. How I wanted to sneak a rock, shell, or something unique that I could stash in my suitcase, but I was fearful that I would get caught, so when I found something, I simply let it slip through my hands. No lava rocks to take home. No sea shells. Nothing from within the lava foundations, the sea, or within the depth of the ocean. After all, I remember that silly form I signed before departing the American Airlines plane to enter beautiful Hawaii. I suppose I am just a bit too honest for my own good. If someone asked me if I am carrying something I shouldn’t, my eyes would give me away. I suppose I will never be a good liar! Besides, according to some of the legends of Hawaii, if you remove a lava rock, you are destined for bad luck – and I’ve had more than my share of bad life in my lifetime!

Breathtaking View along the Coastal Highways

Lava rocks and the mountains are truly amazing to look at while riding along the coast. To the left, your eyes admire the unique shape of the mountains. To the right, your eyes stare at the glittering iridescent blue ocean, the white caps slapping gently on the beaches and coastline. While I’ve always had an incredible passion for oceans, nothing compares or equals the turquoise waters I admire as we travel along the coast. I pinch myself. Please God, if I’m dreaming, never let this dream end.

A few hours later we head back to the hotel. We are tired now, ready to relax and walk along Kalakaua Avenue. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyyHaVPWj0k  The sun is setting now as we walk. I am amazed at the wide sidewalks on Waikiki Beach. There are hundreds of people walking, but no one bumps into Phil or me and no one has a cell phone glued to their ears. In Charleston, people appear not to be able to walk unless a cell phone dangles from their ears, and they shout their supposedly private conversations into their phones, so the entire world can hear the latest one-sided gossip. Who cares!

INTERNATIONAL MARKET PLACE

International Market Place is only a three block walk from our hotel. Dressed in shorts and a Hawaiian print shirt, with my Shape-Ups on my feet, I am ready for the business of shopping. I admit it. I hate shopping. Rarely do I find anything I want and I am a bargain hunter. Working in retail establishments for many years, I know how much items are marked up for profit, so I tell myself to look for bargains, or appear not to love an item too much. I want to barter!

While walking I notice the designer shops. Many of them I’ve never heard of. I live on a budget so these shops look wonderful and oh so tempting, but I would probably be flabbergasted by the price tags. I choose not to go inside.

We approach the entrance of International Market Place. Merchants are everywhere. Pleasant to the shoppers, the culture of Hawaii has taught the merchants how to charm and approach them. They nod their heads to everyone, speaking to a few, probably in hopes of making a big sale. I stop at several jewelry booths. OK, I admit it…I am a jewelry fanatic! I admire the coral, shells, the beautiful lei’s. All the jewelry is so beautiful. I honestly do not know where to start!

International Market Place has changed dramatically since I visited it during our R&R. There are many specialty shops now. No matter what you are looking for in Hawaii, you will find it along Kalakaua Avenue. One thing to remember is to ask for a better price at the Market Place. Almost every merchant I approached was willing to negotiate with me. There was one shop where the shopkeeper said, “If you don’t like that price on the sticker, you will not find a better price around Kalakaua Avenue.” I left her shop without purchasing anything.

I can truly say, International Market Place is one of my favorite places to shop, because I can negotiate. After all, my trip to Hawaii was planned in less than twenty-four hours and I had no time to get to the bank for additional funds. Thank goodness. I could’ve spent a small fortune.

A wood carving artist at International Market Place

Headed back to Hyatt Regency Waikiki, the street vendors and entertainers are out. I snap a few shots of an Elvis wanna be, a man dressed in newspaper, another guy dressed in gold lame, and an interesting floral archway where a woman was inside with only her beautiful face exposed.

Only one of the many interesting street performers in Honolulu

By now the streets are filled with pedestrians. Much to my surprise, everyone moves without pushing or shoving, and everyone uses crosswalks. While we walked across the street onto an area filled with additional hotels, we stop at a park, pet a dog and decide we will cross the street in the middle of the roadway. A police officer sees us standing along the middle of the sidewalk. I reach for Phil’s hand as cars rush by. I have a phobia of crossing busy streets, reminding Phil he must hold my hand tightly if we cross here. [I was hit by a drunk driver when I was nine-years-old, suffering a severe concussion.] I’ve never been able to cross busy streets without shaking since then.

The police officer has stopped, watching us. “That’s not a cross walk,” he shouts in our direction. I jerk my hand from Phil. “We can’t cross here. There must be a cross walk somewhere.”

We thank the police officer and move towards the traffic light. After we cross, the police officer nods to us. No doubt he was ready and waiting to give us a jaywalking ticket, but we followed his advice. After all, I really did not want to spend a night in the jail! Can you imagine – Phil and I arrested for jaywalking and spending the night in a jail? How dreadful!

After we get back to the hotel, we hop in the car headed to Ala Moana Shopping Center.

ALA MOANA SHOPPING CENTER

Years ago, we spent lots of money at Ala Moana Shopping Center. We were so young and carefree and our time in Hawaii was ticking away quickly. In two days, he would catch a flight back to Vietnam. When a lovely lady at the hotel we stayed at suggested shopping at Ala Moana, we spent a day there, looking at shops, admiring all the merchandise. Phil found a double-breasted jacket [yes, they were the style back then]. I took him inside, and we bought it. I didn’t care if he didn’t get to wear it very much. He wanted it. Money wasn’t an object. I wanted his memories of our first trip to Hawaii – our honeymoon – to be something to remember!

Now, Ala Moana Shopping Center is filled with all sorts of specialty shops and restaurants. Many of these shops are designer shops. If you are looking for something unique and special, Ala Moana is the place to find it! http://www.alamoanacenter.com/Center-Information/Hours-Directions.aspx I found three pairs of shoes. Just how I would get them home was a concern, but I could not pass them up! Shoes are my weakness!

Exhausted from a full day, we decided to dine at Blazin Steaks http://www.blazinwaikiki.com/ After dinner, we rush back to our room to watch a movie. My time in Hawaii is slowly ticking away and I am so sad to see it ending. Please, if I am dreaming, Never let me awaken from this dream!

Aloha!