If Her Boots Could Talk

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A few nights ago after tucking my daughter into bed, I walked into the living room with the intent of tidying up a bit. In my haste, I promptly tripped over something that I hadn’t noticed in the floor.  There, in a pile on the living room floor (in exactly the same haphazard manner that they had landed in when she kicked them off of her feet earlier in the evening) were my daugher’s favorite cowboy boots.  Countless times over the years I have tripped over those same boots, and countless times as I picked them up, I have muttered under my breath about how dirty and worn out they looked.  More often than not, I would also catch myself thinking that it was far past time to toss those old boots out.  However, this time it was different.  This time I instantly remembered the sound her boots had made earlier in the day as they hit the floor with a thud. I remembered how she hadn’t taken her eyes off the page of the book she was reading when she kicked them off.  I remembered thinking to myself that the book must be extremely well-written, as it was clear that she was making herself comfortable by curling up on the couch so that she could finish reading.  As I limped to the couch with my twisted ankle, instead of muttering under my breath about how dirty and worn out her boots looked, I picked them up, held them tight to my chest, and smiled.

I let my mind wander back to the day that I first laid eyes on those boots.  All of a sudden, I was transported back in time to the Spring of 2013.  There I was scrolling through listings on Amazon.com looking for an out of print paperback book.  Isabella had borrowed a Babysitter’s Club book from the library, and somehow it had “disappeared” from her desk at school. Since the book was out of print, the library was unable to purchase another copy.  They offered to let me pay the cost of a new book that they wanted to purchase for the library, or to find a replacement in good shape.  I decided to give the internet a try.  So there I was searching through the book titles, and out of the corner of my eye under the “you might also be interested in” section,  I saw a pair of adorable white boots.  I clicked to enlarge the picture, and immediately knew that my little girl just had to have those boots.  They were white with butterflies and flowers embroidered on them.  What 9 year old girly-girl wouldn’t love a cute pair of boots with butterflies and flowers?  As fate would have it, they only had two pairs left, and neither was in her size.  One pair was a size too big, and the other was 4 sizes too big.  Since it was only Spring, I figured that she would grow into them by Fall, so I went ahead and added the pair that was a size too big to my cart.  I made sure to have them shipped to me at work, so that she wouldn’t inadvertantly see them before her birthday.   

The day the boots came and I saw them in person, I realized that there was no way that I would be able to hold the boots back until her birthday.  Yes, I can be worse than a child waiting for Christmas morning.  I just couldn’t wait to see her reaction, so I decided to give them to her when we got home on the same day that they had arrived on the big, brown truck.  I still remember the look on my soon to be 9 year old child’s face when she opened the box that held those “magic” boots.   Do you remember the feeling you got when you locked eyes with the love of your life for the very first time? Or the feeling you got when you saw the face of your child for the first time after they were born?  That is exactly how Isabella looked at those boots.  She was clutching them to her chest and swinging around the living room.  She ran straight to her room for a pair of socks so that she could try them on.  I remember warning her that they were going to be a little big, but she wasn’t hearing any of it.  A few moments later, she was in the living room floor trying them on.  She stood up, and waltzed around like she was the next Queen of England.  Those boots boosted her confidence so much that I can still remember smiling and thinking that she looked like she had grown 4 inches in the time it took to walk around our tiny living room.   I hope that as old age takes over, that memory never leaves me.  It is definitely one of my most cherished moments.   

I had no idea at the time that I gave her that box, that we were about to embark on an amazing 3 year long journey with those boots.  Over the next three years, she and her boots went all over the place together.  Skating rinks, movie theaters, school hallways, concert halls, sporting events, graduations, libraries, hospitals, beaches, bars, music video sets, several different U.S. states, walks in the woods, and countless other places. 

If her boots could talk, oh the stories they could tell.   They could tell the story of the butterflies Isabella felt when she got that check yes or no note from the cutest boy in class in 4th grade.  They could also tell the story of her heart breaking when the same boy broke up with her almost a year later.  They could tell stories about shopping with her best friend…those perfect days when the two of them would try on clothes for hours on end, twirling around in dresses they would not buy, and collapsing in giggles in the dressing room.  All the while my friend & I would stand outside going back and forth between exasperation at spending hours in the store, and the shear joy of hearing our girls making memories and enjoying life.   If those boots could talk, they would talk of climbing rocks and other tasks that really are best suited to hiking boots or tennis shoes. 

If her boots could talk, they could tell stories about the wonderful people who have come into our lives over the past three years.  They could tell of the amazing adventures and numerous road trips to see the Joe Lasher Jr. band.  They could tell funny tales of Isabella at Hillbilly Woodstock doing cartwheels in her cut off jean shorts and flowered shirt, looking like she could easily have been part of the Moonshiner’s cast.  Her boots could tell of trips to see old friends, new friends, and family both far and wide.  They could tell stories of us singing to the tops of our lungs, dancing on beer-soaked floors in bars that a girl her age probably shouldn’t have been in, taking road trips with the windows down, Bon Jovi blaring through the speakers, and wind blowing through our hair.  Those boots could tell stories of that precocious child stomping in mud puddles “just because she could”, riding rides at amusment parks, convincing her mom to go on a midnight run to Walmart just to buy a package Oreos, and stories of sunny days that turned into perfect moments for impromptu photo shoots.  Those boots could tell of a million other moments that we spent together, me in my flip flops and Isabella in her “magic” boots.

Over the past few years, Isabella has purchased and been gifted several other pairs of boots.  Though she likes all of them well enough, none of them have been able to replace those “magic” boots that she loves so dearly.  We call them “magic” boots because they have somehow managed to grow along with Isabella’s foot for the past three years.  She has gone from a size 1 shoe to a size 5 shoe in the past three years, but some how or another, those “magic” boots still fit.  Granted, they are growing less white and more snug with each passing day, but she loves them as much today as she did the day she got them.  I spend hours cleaning and polishing them, only to have her return home a few hours later with her boots looking like she has walked through a mudhole. I realized the other night as I was clutching those boots tightly to my chest, that Isabella sees those boots in much the same way that a mom sees her child.  No matter how old my daughter gets, and no matter how much time ages us both, I will likely always see her as that little girl with rosy cheeks twirling around in our living room…trying on her “magic” boots for the very first time.  

 

 

Photo credit to Kristy Silver

 

 

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Where is the humanity?

Over the past several weeks, I have been incredibly hurt and saddened by witnessing an enormous lack of humanity. Not just a lack of humanity in the world, but more specifically, amongst a handful of my facebook “friends.” I have seen many disgusting, inhumane, nasty, ignorant, and downright sickening comments, posts, etc… by people that I counted as friends, and even a few that (I am ashamed to admit)… are family members. Some of these people are even masquerading as God-loving (or God-fearing), Bible-reading Christians, who are following the teachings of the Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Passenger planes full of innocent people being shot out of the sky, Gun control (or the lack thereof), Children being murdered all over the world, Ebola, Immigration, Abortion, Human trafficking, Homelessness, Starving people, etc… Pick a topic, and someone that I know has made some ignorant comment about it.

Normally, I can handle the ignorance that I see tossed about. But that is because for the most part, it tends to come at me in small doses. However, for the past several weeks, it has been something that I have been confronted with every time I have logged into my facebook account. People spewing hateful comments about things that in reality, they know virtually NOTHING about. Sure, they’ve heard whatever stories one of the various news outlets or media organizations have posted (which may or may not be factual), but they don’t have any first hand knowledge of the subject about which they choose to speak so freely and ignorantly about.

Let’s use the topic “Crisis on our border”, which seems to be on every single newscast these days. I picked this topic because first and foremost, I have a child. Secondly, that child also happens to be half Mexican. Therefore, this subject is something that I have quite a bit of knowledge about.

You have no idea how many times over the past two weeks that I have seen or heard one of my “friends” say something along the lines of “Well, I kind of feel sorry for the kids, but we need to just send them right back where they came from. They aren’t legal, and they aren’t our problem.” Wow. Just, wow. So let me see if I understand this properly. Homeless, parent-less, starving, penniless, and scared children that are on American soil (or any other soil for that matter) are not “our” problem. Since they don’t have a U.S. birth certificate, we should just look into their poor, tired, hungry, scared faces and tell them that we feel sorry for them, but not sorry enough to keep from sending them back to a life of extreme poverty or certain death. I mean after all, Jesus would tell us to only feed the hungry or shelter the homeless if they have their U.S. citizenship, right? Isn’t our U.S. citizenship also our ticket to open the pearly gates when our time comes? After all, Jesus only fed the five loaves to U.S. citizens, right? Oh, and our founding fathers, you know…the ones that drafted and signed the Constitution, what would they have to say about this situation? Surely, they would say something like “Sorry, kids. What rotten luck you have being born into poverty in foreign countries, where freedom of religion does not exist, and you can be murdered for praying in public. To those of you whose parents are still alive but cannot afford to feed you due to the famines, diseases, droughts, or corruption in your home countries, well, too bad, so sad, and shame on your parents. They should have thought about those things before having you. Sorry, but even though we feel sorry for you, we’re gonna have to take a pass on this one, and just tell you to hurry and get the hell out of the good ol’ U.S. of A. because you aren’t our problem.” Right? Yes, I am sure that when our founding fathers were literally risking death to come to the U.S. to escape religious persecution, they did not have any intentions of helping others do the same.

How do people sleep at night with that kind of mentality? Seriously, I want to know. Enlighten me, please. I just can’t comprehend it. Maybe because when I see those children lined up in chain link kennels like animals at a shelter, I don’t see a Guatemalan child, a Mexican child, a Haitian child, an immigrant child, etc.. What I see when I look at one of those children is, a CHILD. A member of the human race. I see my child, your child. I see an innocent young person who needs food, shelter, medical attention, education, and LOVE. They are all “our” children. Every last one of them. Has it really come to this? Are we really a nation of people who can look at a child as though it were not a living, breathing human being, just because it was not born within our borders?

You see, I suffered as a child, so I have actual life experience to compare their circumstances to. My early childhood was consumed by extreme poverty, homelessness, alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and mental abuse. I know what it feels like to be hungry. Not your everyday one hour before dinnertime hungry, but the I haven’t eaten in several days kind of hungry. I know what it feels like to be homeless. I’ve slept in cars, on park benches, and I can even still vividly remember my mother, brother, and I sneaking into a mental institution every night for two weeks to sleep on the floor in the room of a drug addict my mom had befriended, when I was only seven years old. I also know what it feels like to be beaten, broken, and left for dead. I know what it feels like to have a gun held to my head, and to believe that I was about to take my last breath, but not really caring if I did because it had to be better than my everyday life. I knew what all of these things were, and more importantly, I knew how they felt, before I had even had my ninth birthday.

I can relate to these children on a whole different level than the average American. I look at them and I see the future of our planet. The future of our humanity, or maybe our lack thereof. When I look at them, I see the next Albert Einstein, Charles Babbage, Leonardo da Vinci, Amelia Earhart, Galileo, Ghandi, Mother Teresa, John Lennon, or Marie Curie, all of whom were U.S. citizens, right? Oh, wait. That’s right, they weren’t. Who is to say that the next brilliant mind isn’t among those starving children who risked life and limb to come to America?

We see terrorists on television every day. You know the kind I mean, the ones who bomb, beat, and starve children without batting an eye. We all wonder what kind of monsters can do such horrific things to children? I’ll tell you. They are your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers, and maybe even your family members. They are the kinds of people who have no problem seeing starving children and saying “Well, I kind of feel sorry for the kids, but we need to just send them right back where they came from. They aren’t legal, and they aren’t our problem.” Think about it. Are those folks really that different from the terrorists? The only difference is that they aren’t bombing them, or putting a gun to their heads and pulling the trigger. Instead, they would send them back to poverty stricken or war torn countries to suffer unfathomable circumstances before they eventually die from hunger, or something worse.

The next time you look into the eyes of your children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews, realize that had it not been for a fortunate stroke of luck that they were born U.S. citizens, they could be one of those children involved in the crisis at our border. Look those same children in the eyes, and tell them that they deserve to be given food, shelter, education, to be shown compassion, and to be protected by the Constitution of the United States of America, but those kids they see on tv every night are not worthy of the same simply because they were born on the wrong side of the border, and do not have the proper paperwork.

I don’t claim to have all of the answers, but I do know that we can do better than this.

Where’s my medal?

Life should not be a competition.

Have you ever met someone who has a deep-seated need to compete 24/7?  These types of people have this burning ambition to be the best (or worst) at everything.  You know the kind of person I am talking about.  Their kids are always cleaner, smarter, funnier, etc… than your kids.  Their jobs are always more fulfilling.  Their cars are always newer.  Their houses are always in a nicer neighborhood.  Their meals are healthier.  Their nails are always better manicured.  Etc… etc… etc… ad nauseam.

Well, today’s rant…uh, I mean, blog-like post, is about those people who also feel the need to compete in the opposite direction.  They need to feel as though they have suffered more than anyone else on the planet, and no one else can possibly understand their pain.  Why have we become a society of people who want to “brag” that our lives are more miserable than someone else’s?  It is a terrifying phenomenon. Oh, it starts off simple enough, but quickly escalates into absurdity.  Let’s take a casual conversation between “Sally and Jane” as an example.

Sally:  “Jane, your baby is just beautiful!  And you, look at you!  You would never know that you just had a baby.”

Jane:  “Thank you, Sally.  It was the hardest 9 hours of my life!”

Sally:  “9 hours?  Wow!  If my labor had only lasted 9 hours, I probably would have had ten kids!  I was in labor for 3 days!  Of course, my grandma says that is why my daughter and I have such a close bond.  They say the longer your labor, the tighter the bond.”

Now, I am not sure if Sally is aware that she just totally belittled Jane’s birthing experience.  She might also be unaware that she basically just told her friend that she will never have a close bond with her child, solely because she didn’t suffer a long labor.  How absurd, right?  Sadly, these types of conversations happen every day.

People banter back and forth about how horrible their childhoods were all the time.  You know what I mean.  Something like…

Roy: “I had to walk two miles to school every single day when I was a youngin'”

Pat:  “Heck, Roy.  I had to walk three miles up that long ol’ hill in front o’ my granny’s place, just to get to the road to start my walk to school.”

Chuck:  “Y’all ought to be thankful that you had shoes on your feet to walk to school in.  Man, when I was a youngster, I had to walk barefoot cause my folks couldn’t afford shoes.  Whenever it was raining or snowing, we had to stay home on account of we could have gotten sick.”

If you haven’t heard that one, maybe you can relate a little more closely to these friends….

Betty:  “Man, these kids today don’t know how good they’ve got it.  When I was a kid, my daddy would have knocked me into next week if I talked to him like that.

Sarah:  “Lordy, lordy Betty.  You know good and well your daddy wouldn’t have never beat you like my mama whipped me.  My mama made me cut my own switches.”

Jill:  “Switches?  Ha!  I wish I had been whipped with switches.  My grandpa used to have a friend that used to tan hides, and make the straps my daddy beat us with.  If I smarted off to my mama, he would have beaten me within a inch of my life.  Blood would have rolled down my legs before he quit.”

Now, I realize that I have “Southernized” these conversations a bit, but I live in the South, and I love all of our Southernisms.  However, you could change the wording, correct the grammar, etc…, and one could hear conversations like these anywhere in the US, at any give time.  What I can’t understand is why we do it?  We all do it.  Some of us more than others, but we all do it.  I am the first to admit, I am guilty of this type of nonsense as well.  But why?  Why do we feel the need to be the best at being the worst?  If my childhood was worse than yours, do I win a prize?  Does it make me special?  More important?  More popular?  No, it doesn’t.

No one can feel someone else’s pain.  It doesn’t matter if that pain is physical or emotional, none of us can measure the depth of someone else’s pain.  We all have different thresholds or tolerances for pain.  If my childhood story makes more people cringe than yours, do I win the worst childhood ever award?  Can I wear it like a badge?  Better yet, can I use it as an excuse to treat people badly, become an alcoholic, or neglect my children?  Let’s see who wins todays prize.

Adam:  “When I was a kid, I lived in 23 states, and had to go to 32 different schools.”

Bea:  “When I was little, my uncle molested me.”

Clay:  “My dad died when I was 2.  My mom couldn’t handle it, and left me at my grandma’s.”

Darlene:  “When I was 9, I was kidnapped and held at gunpoint for 3 days.”

Edward:  “My dad killed my mom when I was 4.  He got caught, and has been in jail for 30 years.”

Frank:  “I was born addicted to crack.  My mom was a prostitute who overdosed when I was 3.  The people who adopted me treated me like a servant, and beat me daily.”

Which of those people had the worst childhood?  Come on people, it isn’t that hard.  Clearly there is a winner among them.  Oh wait.  We are forgetting about the 15 year old girl in the middle east who was shot in the face just for wanting an education.  Oh, and what about the three girls in Ohio who were kidnapped, raped, and beaten for over a decade?  I suppose Adam & the rest of the gang have now been disqualified.  There is no way that their pain can compare with the pain of these ladies, right?  Wrong.  What I might consider a tragedy, someone else might consider a speedbump in the road of life.  No one can quantify the pain of another.  No one can determine that your suffering is worse than mine.  What we can say with a certain amount of confidence is that no matter how bad your life is, or has been, someone out there somewhere has it worse, has had it worse, or will have it worse than you.  There is no prize for having the worst life.  If there were, would you really want to be the recipient?  What we can say, is that most of us have suffered at some point in our lives.

I think we need to make a change in the way we handle these small moments in our lives.  The moments when we have the opportunity to make someone feel better about themselves, instead of belittling them.  I propose that instead of spending countless hours debating how bad our lives are (or have been), let’s start spending that time bragging about the good things in our lives.

Sally:  “Jane, your baby is just beautiful!  And you, look at you!  You would never know that you just had a baby.”

Jane:  “Thank you, Sally.  It was the hardest 9 hours of my life!”

Sally:  “That same child who gave you the 9 hardest hours of your life, will soon give you more joy than you can possibly comprehend.  I am so happy for you.”

One final thought.   Having a crappy childhood does not give you the right to act like a jerk.  It doesn’t excuse the poor behavior, poor decisions, or poor attitudes of your adult life.  What happened to you when you were 5, is not the reason you didn’t get promoted at work last week.  Take some personal responsibility for your own actions.  Start practicing gratitude.  Start small.  Pick one thing that is good in your life, and just be thankful. If you think there is nothing good in your life, realize that you woke up this morning.  Being alive is a pretty big reason to be grateful.   Tomorrow, pick two things you are grateful for.  And so on, and so forth.  Pretty soon,you will realize that there is more to be thankful for that you ever thought, and those crappy childhood memories, will fade into the past where they belong.