My Friend, My Favorite Family and her “Poppy” #1000speak

Family

Below is a post I wrote for #1000speak in April for that month’s topic “Nurturing”. I wrote about my good friend’s family. What occurred to me after reading my friend Alison’s Father’s Day tribute to her Poppy, was that this post was not only about nurturing but it was also a post about acceptance. What I neglected to mention in my original post, was the fact that Alison’s Poppy was white. Alison, her mother and brothers are black. I met Alison in elementary school and we became friends somewhere around the late 60’s/early 70’s. This was not the norm back in those days. I honestly don’t remember being surprised and if I was, it certainly did not last long enough for me to even remember or think about it. When I read Alison’s post I realized that is was entirely possible that their road together as a family may have not been easy back in those days. They may have faced obstacles and backlash from others. It really never occurred to me. I loved them for them and I suppose I assumed that everyone else did as well…. It certainly seemed that way to me.

Alison’s Father’s Day Tribute :

There was a man who gave his love to three children that were not his own. Though not of his own blood he shed blood, sweat and tears to make them feel loved despite not being their biological father. He was quite young when he took on this task but the age it didn’t matter. He stood up to the task until he went to be with the Lord. He dedicated his life to taking on the task of being a father. Not only did he become a father to these children but also loved their friends and treated them like family as well. Now when he became a father to these children, it was taboo because they were black and he was white.

I told this story for two reasons, one because what has been experienced recently in our country regarding racism and because I wanted to celebrate my Poppy,  a white man who loved three black children and their mother and didn’t care who knew it. I honor my Poppy because he showed me that it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white.

Racism isn’t dead- it has been flying under the radar and now has reared it’s ugly head again. Poppy, I thank you for showing me that we can live in harmony and true love for one another. You were a perfect example to me that it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white it is truly the character of your heart! RIP and I miss you and love you even more!!!!” – Alison

This family and the relationship my friend had with her “Poppy” was the inspiration for the post below. I knew I would repost this post someday and I am happy to repost it now with the addition of  her heartfelt  and loving words for the man that meant so much to her and her family.

Alison’s “Poppy”

family

My friend Alison and I met in elementary school. We became fast friends and remain friends to this day. I loved everything about her, including her family. I spent so much time there, I’m sure they were afraid I would never go home. Especially in the summer. In the summertime there was more time to get there and home (it was a hike) because it stayed light out longer and the rule of “getting home before the streetlights came on” was not as impossible to adhere to. (Seriously…. how does one know when the streetlights are going to go on until they are on?)

Alison had a stepfather, his name was Tom. I also have a stepfather. This was not as common back then in the late 60’s/early 70’s as it is today. Maybe it was, but in my little world, I thought I was the only one until I met Alison.

I was always so in awe of this family and a little bit envious as well. Okay….. very envious! I wanted to live there…..

Tom would pull up on his motorcycle everyday after work and my friend and her brothers would greet him – they were happy to see him. This was just alien to me. He was happy to see them too, every single day! I was just puzzled, but impressed. From the outside looking in, one could just see how much they loved each other. This was amazing to me. I will say it again – I was in awe.

This man married a woman with three children (she is pretty amazing herself). He raised them. He treated them like his own. He loved them like his own and they loved him right back, just as much.  Now, I am sure this happens  but this certainly was not my experience in having a stepfather, and my experiences were all I had. I didn’t know it was or could be different.

Even as a kid I recognized that he was one of those special people who you’d be lucky to have in your life. I just always thought he was truly amazing and I still do.

Alison and her family moved away when I was 16. We’ve kept in touch over the years and I just went to attend her mother’s birthday party a few weeks ago. Tom has since passed. Each year when I see Alison’s post on the anniversary of his death I take the opportunity to remind her just how lucky she was to have had this man in her life. I know that she knows this, I know… but I just have to tell her, every year.

Just a few days ago I noticed her anniversary post:

Seven years ago today one of the most important men in my life went on to be with the Lord. My Poppy. I miss you every day, remember you and Love you more as the days go by. I will keep your memory alive in me until I see you face to face! Until then rest in peace…all my love!”

I never got back to the post to tell her once again, how lucky she was

-and what a wonderful man he was

-and how much of an impact their whole family had on me

– how they taught me that blood does not make a family and that some families really do care about one another.

So I am now…….

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“Every voice matters – together we’re stronger – let’s BE the Village.

Join the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion group on Facebook

Add your link . This month’s topic is ACCEPTANCE”

1000speakpage

…and sometimes a smile is all that we need #1000speak #Compassion

Compassion comes in many forms and at times just the smallest thing – a glance or a smile can mean more than the grand gesture.

I was away and not able to participate in the May 20th #1000speak and due to some unplanned/unforeseen issues going on at the moment, I thought I wouldn’t have the opportunity to participate this time around…..

Then I saw this post from a friend of mine and it made me smile. It made me smile each and every time I read it and on a day when I really needed a smile.

It always seems to be those little things, the things that no one thinks about – that no one else might even notice that can just make your whole day brighter.

Below is a post from my friend, Cedar. Her son, Colin has autism, like DC, but he is much younger.  When we are used to and dread the same reactions from people day after day when we are out in public with our children, it is wonderful to see something different and positive once in awhile. On a day that she was experiencing all of those negative vibes from people in a waiting room, this small thing, meant the world to her.

DC is 24, so we really don’t get those “bratty kid” stares or comments from people anymore – not to say we still don’t get stares, we do, but not that kind. It is obvious now that he is an adult that he is not just a “spoiled brat” that I can’t control. Her son is younger. It is not that obvious, so she has to deal with those judging comments and stares everyday.

“You Are My Angel Today”

                                 –  Post by Cedar

Describing the photo:

My son Colin had an appointment to have blood work done. He had to fast before- hand so you can imagine how loud this waiting room was. He is barefoot because he threw his shoes at the receptionist.

BUT!!! I want to find this cute elderly man in the corner. He could have been mean and glared at us like everyone else, but he got up and got that chair for Colin because Colin wanted to sit by him.

Do you see that smile? It never left that man’s face.

So kind Sir, I want to hug you, I want to have you over for dinner, I want to hear your stories, but mostly, I want to thank you again for making me feel like a regular mom. You are my angel today. Thank you.

I did get the chance to give him a hug. I was crying, but I hugged him and thanked him. He was so sweet. It seemed like he needed the hug and he thanked me for letting him play with Colin. He said his grand kids live far away and are older now. I wish I had gotten his number. I emailed the doctor later and asked if they knew who he was and if they would give him my number. I hope they will. What a sweetie.

They are few and far between; but it is the moments like this that help me to keep believing in people. ~ Cedar

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1000speakpageFrom: #1000speak Blog:

Bloggers from all over the world are coming together to talk about compassion on the 20th of each month.  The 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion movement was born when blogger and author Yvonne Spence organized over 1000 bloggers to post about compassion in one epic event on February 20, 2015.  The response was so great that it was decided to continue the #1000Speak project on a monthly basis, with a different topic each month.

Add your voice: #1000speak Facebook Group and #1000speak Facebook Page

And don’t forget to link your post to the #1000speak linky

Alison’s “Poppy” – #1000speak

family

My friend Alison and I met in elementary school. We became fast friends and remain friends to this day. I loved everything about her, including her family. I spent so much time there, I’m sure they were afraid I would never go home. Especially in the summer. In the summertime there was more time to get there and home (it was a hike) because it stayed light out longer and the rule of “getting home before the streetlights came on” was not as impossible to adhere to. (Seriously…. how does one know when the streetlights are going to go on until they are on?)

Alison had a stepfather, his name was Tom. I also have a stepfather. This was not as common back then in the late 60’s/early 70’s as it is today. Maybe it was, but in my little world, I thought I was the only one until I met Alison.

I was always so in awe of this family and a little bit envious as well. Okay….. very envious! I wanted to live there…..

Tom would pull up on his motorcycle everyday after work and my friend and her brothers would greet him – they were happy to see him. This was just alien to me. He was happy to see them too, every single day! I was just puzzled, but impressed. From the outside looking in, one could just see how much they loved each other. This was amazing to me. I will say it again – I was in awe.

This man married a woman with three children (she is pretty amazing herself). He raised them. He treated them like his own. He loved them like his own and they loved him right back, just as much.  Now, I am sure this happens  but this certainly was not my experience in having a stepfather, and my experiences were all I had. I didn’t know it was or could be different.

Even as a kid I recognized that he was one of those special people who you’d be lucky to have in your life. I just always thought he was truly amazing and I still do.

Alison and her family moved away when I was 16. We’ve kept in touch over the years and I just went to attend her mother’s birthday party a few weeks ago. Tom has since passed. Each year when I see Alison’s post on the anniversary of his death I take the opportunity to remind her just how lucky she was to have had this man in her life. I know that she knows this, I know… but I just have to tell her, every year.

Just a few days ago I noticed her anniversary post:

Seven years ago today one of the most important men in my life went on to be with the Lord. My Poppy. I miss you every day, remember you and Love you more as the days go by. I will keep your memory alive in me until I see you face to face! Until then rest in peace…all my love!”

I never got back to the post to tell her once again, how lucky she was

-and what a wonderful man he was

-and how much of an impact their whole family had on me

– how they taught me that blood does not make a family and that some families really do care about one another.

So I am now…….

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1000speak nuturing

#1000speak – 1000 Voices for Compassion

April’s #1000speak topic – #1000speak for Nurturing

Take a look at the many posts already posted at the April link

Take the long way home……. #1000speak

walk

1000speak“FISH and the Bus Driver, FISH and the Bus Driver, CHICKEN and the Bus Driver” – The school bus was a torturous place.

“FISH” and “CHICKEN” were the names they had given the girl. I don’t know why. The chant began everyday as soon as the bus pulled out of the school yard until the girl got off the bus. It went on for weeks. It was not directed at me, but it did make me very uncomfortable. I felt bad for the girl, even though the girl was older and had been very regularly awful to me. She did not make my life easy and even though a small part of me looked at this as well deserved, most of me felt bad for her.  I sat there every day not participating in the chant, praying no one would notice that I was not participating, because these girls would turn on a person at the drop of a hat. Eventually they did move on, but we all lived in fear of who would be next. The bus was a torturous place and just about everyday someone was in the line of fire.

If you think the bus was bad, for me the bus stop was even worse – they could see you coming – you could not hide….  yes, lets put the fat girl in pea soup green polyester stirrup pants on gym day (you know, the kind that 60’s housewives wore). I was teased about my weight (“You look like Mama Cass” was always my favorite) and about the ridiculous clothes I had to wear.  This was a time when girls still had to wear dresses and/or skirts to school, except on gym day. This was also the time when boys sneakers were all the rage. I remember shoving my feet into my brothers sneakers that were two sizes too small so I wouldn’t be teased about my “skippies” – I could barely walk but if I had to be teased about the green pants, I might at least avoid the double whammy of the pants and sneakers. It wasn’t much easier during the non-gym days. Long after all of the other girls upgraded from ankle socks to knee socks, I was still made to wear the ankle socks because I was…. “too young to wear knee socks”. What kind of rule is that?! Of course I was also too young to shave my legs, so those were really super fun days for me.

Often I would opt not to ride the bus at all. There was a field right next to our house and when I knew no one at home was looking, I would cut through the field, head into the woods, take the trail to a park and continue to school on the road that I knew the bus didn’t take. This was about a 3 mile hike, but it kept me away from the bus stop and off the bus. I chose that route as often as I possibly could.

Finally when I became old enough to pick out some of my own clothes and saved money to buy more of my own clothes (the dress code changed as well. We were no longer required to wear dresses) I slowly got over the whole bus stop/bus ride phobia. I still took abuse and was teased relentlessly, but it was no longer due to my appearance, it was more about the neighborhood kids’ common dislike of someone related to me. Even though this had nothing to do with me what-so-ever, I was the target of  that ridicule. I took it, all of it everyday until they did finally move on.

As the years went by, I realized that most of the bullies I remembered, bullied just to make themselves feel superior or to draw attention away from whatever they could be bullied about. The only way they could feel good about themselves was by belittling others. It’s sad, really. Now, even as adults, we find bullies everywhere. We can’t seem to get away from them, but now I view them as pathetic more than anything else. I do now tend to react, and sometimes over react when I think someone is being bullied or taken advantage of. I tend to react (and over react) when I think that something-anything is not fair. It doesn’t have to be about me, but when I think someone is being treated unfairly, I can’t let it go. I am not sure if this is a good or bad thing, but it is my thing.

Having a child with Autism, bullying has become even more of a concern for me. Bullying, as bad as it was when I was a kid, is so much worse now. There are so many more terrible ways of bullying these days. We read about it every day. I really feel for the children and teens growing up in this environment. I have been fortunate that my son has not experienced this to any great extent. He does not understand it and fortunately he often misses it completely.  But when he did come home and actually TOLD me that his friends were laughing at him at lunch at the High School, I know he did understand and it did bother him.  It is very difficult getting information out of him under any circumstances. This particular time he volunteered the information.

He told me.

He knew.

It upset him.

These were kids that he liked. They were supposed to be his friends. They all have special needs of their own. He really wanted so much to be friends with these 3 kids. I did call his teacher, explained the situation and asked that he not sit with them at lunch anymore. They didn’t have a lot of other contact during the rest of the day. He did have contact with them at other activities outside of school and although he did not notice, I had actually witnessed some of this myself. Seeing him upset, having him realize that “his friends” were making fun of him just broke my heart. I do know he could have experienced much worse and for right now I am thankful that this was the only instance (that I am aware of) of him being bullied or teased or made fun of… to his face at least.

The one thing I am really thankful for is the fact that he did not ever have to ride the regular bus to school.

Back in the day and not very long after I had gotten over my fear of the bus stop and riding the bus, the bullies saw fit to turn their attention to my best friend. So we did what only the two of us could do in that situation, what my son would not have the option of doing.

We set out on foot and took the long way home…..

 

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#1000speak “Building from Bullying” – March 20, 2015 – To participate

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February #1000speak – post

And those whose names were never call when choosing sides for basketball – #1000speak

 

“And those whose names were never called when choosing sides for basketball” #1000speak

1000Speak

I was not going to participate in #1000speak today because and only because, if given a subject and then told; “Okay write!”, I draw a blank. I was sure that in a week or two I would think of a hundred different posts that I could have written, but they were not coming to me when I first heard about this.

I was not going to participate until I read this post yesterday – A Story of Compassion by Kenya G. Johnson (please read it. It is well worth your time). It was a story about how one small gesture from one teacher made a difference in her life. This post led me to think about a teacher I had in the 7th grade.

Before I begin, I have to say that I did enjoy elementary school. I know it is not going to sound like it. I had fun with my friends, the fun was much easier to be had when I could just blend into the background, not waiting to be the second to last person chosen for basketball, dodge ball or any other activity.

I enjoyed elementary school because I had very good friends, many of whom remain good friends to this day. As someone who never felt as though I fit in anywhere, they were my sanctuary. No one could have had better friends. They will be in my heart, mind and life forever. Yes, we’ve all lost track of each other from time to time over the years but we always seem to find our way back to each other. I am thankful to all of them for being there then and now.

“A brown (blue) eyed girl in hand-me-downs, whose name I never could pronounce” **

If you were to look up “low self-esteem” or “lack of self-confidence”,  I am sure my photo – if I enjoyed having my picture taken that is, would be there right there next to the definition. I have been told by a few people these days that I hide that fact very well. Maybe I do, maybe not, but back when I was young, I am sure I did not do the best job of hiding it.

For reasons I will not get into here, I am the epitome of low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence. Always have been, always will be.  At times this was almost debilitating – not almost, it was. It still can be now to some extent. I spent most of my time in elementary school hiding behind others. I didn’t want to be noticed. I didn’t want people to see my clothes, my shoes, my sneakers or me in general. I didn’t have older sisters, but that did not keep the hand-me-downs from coming from cousins and a step-aunt who worked at a high school – she would go “shopping” in the lost and found. I didn’t feel comfortable around people. I didn’t feel comfortable anywhere.

Sometime around the 5th grade I began gaining weight. This just drove my already low self-esteem into the ground. By the 7th grade I had gained a pretty good amount of weight. I was even more miserable than I had ever been.

I will never forget my 7th grade teacher, Mr. Holmes. At the time, I did not understand why he would single me out for things – good things, activities that anyone else would have been happy to be involved in. I didn’t want any part of this and thought he really must not like me very much to keep forcing me to get involved in things with some of the other kids when he had to know how uncomfortable it was for me.

I remember one time when there were a couple of seats available for the 8th grade class trip. The powers that be left it to the 7th grade teachers to choose a couple of students to go on this trip with the 8th graders. Mr. Holmes chose me. I had no idea why he would choose me. I was sure some of the more popular kids would have been very happy to go with their also popular 8th grade friends. Instead of being happy to have been chosen, my reaction went to the “Why are you doing this to me?” side of the spectrum. As if I didn’t feel like an outcast enough with my own classmates, now I had to spend the day with the 8th graders!

I have to admit, I did have a good time when all was said and done, but I still was not understanding why he pushed me into situations that were so very anxiety-ridden for me.

The day of the annual hearing testing came. Each student had to report to the hearing test center, which was in the nurse’s office. When one student completed his/her test, he/she was sent back to the classroom with the name of the next student to be tested. “Martin” came back to Mr. Holmes’ classroom and announced “They want to see the fat one” (that would be me). I tried to look like it didn’t bother me as I got up and had to walk out of the classroom in front of everyone. I don’t know what happened after I left the classroom, I never asked I really didn’t want to know- I just wanted to wipe it from my memory and everyone else’s as well (Where’s Dr. Who when you need him?). If you think it was uncomfortable walking out of the classroom it was 100 times worse having to walk back in and announce the next name, while still trying to look as if what “Martin” said did not faze me in the least. People stared at me but it was not mentioned. I really was thankful for that.

As the school year went on I found that I was much more comfortable in the classroom. This was partially due to the fact that I had lost a good portion of the weight I had gained, which I had already begun losing when “Martin” made his announcement.  Also because I felt like I had gotten to know the other students in the classroom better having been thrown together with them so often for activities.

On the last day of 7th grade, before we were dismissed for the summer, Mr. Holmes called for our attention. He began what I thought was probably his annual “last day of school” speech – what a great year it had been, how much we’ve grown and accomplished from the students that entered his classroom back in September to the people we were now, ready for the 8th grade.

and then….

“I want to point out a student that I have seen the most growth and progress from. When she first come to this class in September, she would not even make eye contact when she was spoken to…………”

……and really, I can not remember anything else he said. I was flabbergasted, mortified, but strangely – a bit proud that someone was actually saying nice things about me to other people! I understood right then and there what he tried to do for me the entire year. He saw a problem and tried to help correct it by trying and succeeding a bit to get me to come out of my shell, to not feel so very uncomfortable, to feel like I fit in by including me in everything he could find to include me in and putting me together with students other than my friends and outside of my comfort zone.

I am not going to say that I turned a corner that day and everything was just fine, but I will say that he did help me to come out of my shell if only a little bit. I am proud to have had him as a teacher and all of these years later I have not forgotten that he made that speech or how he went out of his way to try to help me feel like I was just as good as anyone else. I will never forget him.

I am sure I was not the only person he singled out and I was not his mission in life. I am sure I was just oblivious to everyone else he was trying to help at the time. There was one boy I was not oblivious to… the boy that came to our classroom everyday before the lunch bell rang. He came every day to pick a lunch made for him by Mr. Holmes.

He did pull me aside after his speech to let me know that he understood that his speech probably had me on the brink of a breakdown but he felt is was necessary to say all of these things not only to me but to the class and especially for the benefit of “Martin”.

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From 1000 Voices For Compassion Facebook Group:

Let’s get 1000 bloggers to write posts about compassion, kindness, support, caring for others, non-judgement, care for the environment etc, and ALL PUBLISH ON THE SAME DAY (Feb 20th) to flood the Blogosphere with GOOD! Use the hashtag #1000Speak to promote this event.