Takes One To Know One

When I was a little girl, I used to play in the shelter of our carport. Arizona summers get pretty warm (I know. Thank you, Captain Obvious…), so the shade of the carport was an absolute must for outdoor afternoon playtime. Underneath the carport was a small retaining wall that surrounded windows to our basement. I loved walking back and forth on that wall. It was nothing more than rough cement but to me it was the balance beam in my illustrious imaginary gymnastic career. One day, while trying some daring moves, I slipped and fell. I must have thrown my hands out to catch myself because I scuffed up the palm of my left hand pretty badly. I remember a lot of dirt and blood and pain. I remember the panic of not knowing what to do. I did what most kids would do at a moment like that – I yelled for my mom. I swear she was there before I even finished calling. I may have strung out my call a little bit, but she was there…like magic. She fixed me up, gave me a hug, and I knew I’d be okay.

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Fast forward to my fifth grade year. We always rode the bus to and from school. Any kid who has to ride the bus knows how eager you feel to get off the bus. No one wants to stay on a second longer than necessary. After a particularly stressful day (Don’t laugh. Fifth graders have stressful days too.), I was sooooooooooooooooooo ready to walk through the door of my home and be done with the day. The bus driver stopped, my sister and I got off, we looked at the driver for the okay to cross the road to our house, and he gave it. I walked across the road but didn’t make it all the way. The young driver of a pickup truck thought he could hurry and get by instead of having to wait. There was a feeling of pain in my forehead, a weightlessness as I flew through the air, and more pain as I landed back on the ground – face down. With both my parents at work, my aunt who was a nurse at the time came to get me. She checked me over, treated me, and took me to my grandmother’s until my mom could come get me. I toughed it out. No tears from me even though I had a goose egg on my forehead and massive road rash on my arms that my aunt had to scrub all the gravel and dirt out of. No siree…no tears from me. My mom rushed in my grandma’s house. The moment she walked into the room all those tears let loose. She picked me up, gave me a hug, and I knew I’d be okay.

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When I was about thirteen, I got really sick. It started out as your run-of-the-mill cold but lingered and worsened. It ended up turning into bronchitis. My mom took me to the doctor to get some antibiotics to help me heal. That was all good in theory. That night I became super ill. I couldn’t keep anything down. Every 30 minutes, my stomach tried to send a rejection letter via my mouth. Apparently, I was allergic to the antibiotic. Who the heck is allergic to antibiotics? Well…me. Knowing timing was everything, we rushed to the ER in between the *ahem* rejections. It was a long wait. I know it was. It had to be so frustrating for my mom because she had to get up and go to work early in the morning. But she never said a thing. Never complained. She just took care of me, gave me a hug, and I knew I’d be okay.

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At 18, I was loving college. For the first couple of semesters, I lived at home with my mom. She was awesome enough to share her car with me – a pretty, red Grand Am. Anyone who knows my mom knows she loves red. We worked things out that while she was working, I could have the car to get to and from home and classes. Then I would get the car to her so she could go to her classes after she finished work. As I was heading to class on one particular day, I came to the train tracks by the campus. I was crossing over the train tracks when I realized there was a car that was not stopping at the stop sign. I guess I was a little lucky because I had slowed down to go over the tracks. I wasn’t lucky enough though because the driver ran the stop sign and plowed into the driver’s side of the vehicle. It spun me around and left me stopped a few feet from the tracks. I tried to open the door but couldn’t. I tried to kick it open with my foot only to experience EXTREME pain. I had messed up my foot. A friend of the family who also was a policeman, and on-duty, drove up shortly after. He called my mom and then worked to get me out. My mom was able to get a ride to be by me. I believe my first words were, “I’m so sorry about your car.” You see, it was her dream car. She loved it so much and I smooshed it. With tears in her eyes (and a few in mine), she told me she loved me more than a car, gave me a hug, and I knew I’d be okay.

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There are so many moments in my life where something has happened where I was hurt, whether it was a physical hurt or a hurt of the heart, and my mom was there to help me, give me a hug, and assure me I’d be okay.

I called her today to wish her an early Happy Mother’s Day. I love talking to her, offering sarcastic replies, and making her laugh. She has the best laugh. If you love listening to her beautiful singing voice, you should hear her laugh. The kind of laugh where you take her off guard and the laugh escapes before she can stop it. As we were hanging up, she wished me a Happy Mother’s Day and told me what a wonderful mother she thinks I am. Hours later, I’m still thinking about that and I’ve come to a conclusion. When my mom told me what a wonderful mother I am, I should have told her more than just “I love you”. I should have told her thank you for all the late nights when she took care of me. Thank you for all the times I was hurt and she was there in a blink. Thank you for all the times when my heart hurt and she just hugged me because a mother’s hug is the best kind of medicine. Thank you for all the times she let be me – awkward, caustic, weirdo me. More than anything, when she told me that she thought I was a wonderful mom, I wish I would have said that it was because of her.

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So, this is for my mom but the rest of you are welcome to read it too.

Mom, if I am a wonderful mom it’s because of you. I know none of us are perfect but I can’t imagine anyone loving me more than you do. I know I drove you NUTS (and still do). I know I worried you sick sometimes (and probably still do). I know I made you cry sometimes – sometimes happy tears, sometimes not (I hope I just cause the happy ones now). You have the most amazing heart of anyone I know. Once you take someone in, you keep them there. It’s a very esteemed privilege to be loved by you. I’m so incredibly grateful and humbled to be one of them. Thank you for teaching me how to love. The world is a beautiful place because you are in it.

And you think I’m a wonderful mom?

Well, it takes one to know one.

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Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

 

What My Dad Taught Me About Being A Strong Woman

Confused? Some reflection on childhood memories made me realize that my dad actually taught me some good lessons on how to be a strong woman. And, come on, if you really do know my dad then you know that there is always a lesson to be learned in EVERYTHING.

“Walk it off”

My siblings and I joke a lot about my Dad’s usual advice to walk it off. One time my youngest sister didn’t seek his advice and just assumed she’d get the same counsel as usual. Unfortunately, she was wrong and had actually pulled a muscle.

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For the most part, the words of wisdom ring true. Too often we whine and complain. Contrary to popular belief, women are NOT the weaker sex. We are not men but we are strong in our own right. I’ve watched some coddle and pamper (to the extreme and not the sweet way) their daughters to the point that their girls don’t realize it’s okay to toughen up. My dad could never be accused of babying us (may not sound like a compliment but it is).

“Life is tough. It’s tougher if you’re stupid.”

Okay. He stole this one from John Wayne but it still rings true. Let’s face it. We are ALL gonna be stupid from time to time.

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The important thing is to learn from our mistakes and move on. No matter how entertaining it is for everyone else, you’re only truly stupid if you keep repeating them.

“I don’t care if it’s 6 am on Saturday. There’s work to be done.”

My dad taught me the value of hard work. He also taught me to REALLY appreciate sleeping in on Saturday mornings.

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Every Saturday, he would wake us up, feed us breakfast, and put us to work. If we’re being honest, we live in a world where women still don’t quite get equal pay as men. Sometimes we have to work a little harder to prove ourselves. The best way to do that is to work hard and work well.

“Go ahead and cry. Once those tears are gone, move on.”

I have the tendency to hold on to things – to let them fester. We are all going to be hurt (physically or emotionally).There is a good chance that someone is going to do you wrong. It’s okay to get mad, sad, devastated or whatever. Take the moment you need, yell, swear (a lot if necessary), cry but after that, move on. Do not let someone else’s actions dictate how you live the rest of your life.

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“I love you.”

We need the words. We need to hear them and we need to say them. In a world where hate is prevalent, deceit is around every corner, and there are more jerk-wads than you could shake a stick at, we really need to know who loves us. There is something truly powerful about being loved and knowing it. Love doesn’t make you weak.

Oh…and a bit of advice from me. If someone you love tells you that they love you, please don’t pull a Han Solo.

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(If you don’t understand the reference, we need to reevaluate our friendship.)

“You’re a survivor.”

At a very turbulent time in my life, my dad said those words to me. First, I thought he was off his rocker (more than usual). Then I realized something. I am a survivor because I am smart enough to know when to lean on others. Being strong doesn’t mean you don’t ever ask for help. Being strong means knowing it’s okay to need help to go on. We survive because we know how to best utilize our resources.

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My dad is one of my best resources. He always believes in me, pushes me. He is always there when I need advice. Even though I’m well into adulthood (ask me my age and I’ll ask you your weight…), I still need him. He’s my friend…my burly, sarcastic, lovable, forgetful, buzzcut-wearing friend. I know some of my friends have dads who have passed on. I bet every single one of them could tell you lessons their dads taught them about being a strong woman. Some friends never had a dad in their lives. I bet every single one of them had some sort of a father-figure who taught them about being a strong woman. For those of us who still have our dads around, be sure to let them know how awesome they are.

I love you, Dad. You’re pretty awesome. Each night I thank Heavenly Father he placed me in your care. I wish we lived closer and that our conversations were face-to-face and not over the phone, but I will take what I can get. Wear your Father’s Day present proudly and think of me when you do.

If you’re curious what I bought him, see the picture below. (Yep. I’m a pretty awesome daughter.)

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My Mom Owes Me

Today, I made an interesting discovery: my mom totally owes me. Earth shattering, right? I read through one of my old journals and was quite enlightened by my youthful observations. Now, I know my timing may seem a bit tacky with Mother’s Day coming up but bear with me. I think you’ll understand where I’m coming from.

My mother used to force me to eat HORRENDOUS THINGS. Horrendous food numero uno? Ham. (Say “ham” and add a gagging action to understand how I feel.) She made me try it baked, glazed, sliced, cold, hot, shredded, and even in some weird pickle-mixed sandwich spread. I. Gagged. Every. Time. I began to refuse to eat it. Unfortunately for me, the rule was you didn’t leave the table until you finished your food. I spent MANY long nights at that dinner table. (…and many long nights in the bathroom yacking up said ham concoctions…) My lone savior was the the potted plant/tree/thingy next to the dining room table. I quickly learned I could hide a bit of my food in it at a time until my plate was cleared. I would then try to sneak back, gather the food, and throw it away. There were times when I didn’t make it back to clean up the evidence. My mom never said anything but after a short time, the plant/tree/thingy disappeared.

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When Mom says we’re having ham for dinner…again.

Mom (and ham) = 1

Me = 0

Plant/tree/thingy = Rest in peace

At times, my mom was down right mean. There was this one time I wanted to go to the movies with my cousin but didn’t want to bring my pesky little sister along (sorry Nat…[bats eyelashes] I love you…). My mom told me if I went then I had to take Natalie. I may have told Nat that there wasn’t enough money for both of us, got in the car, picked up my cousin, and then went to the movies with the intention of getting back BEFORE my mom got home to figure it out. Want to know what my mom had the nerve to do?! When the movie got out, I got to the car, went to open the door and had the fright of my life! My mom was sitting in the driver’s seat not looking all that thrilled to be there. I guess when she said I had to take my sister, she actually meant it. I may or may not have been grounded for a span of time after. A bonus lesson was learned; I now NEVER get in my car without making sure there isn’t someone inside. (I swear the woman took 10 years off my life!!!)

Mom = 1

Me = 0

Natalie = right to go to any movie she wanted to from there on out [I’m sticking my tongue out at you right now.]

Beyond that, my mom ALWAYS thought she knew what was best for me but she was way off base. I remember when I told her about a boy who I knew was the one for me. (I was only 16, but seriously, I had it all figured out.)

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Spot on…except I was 16.

She was all “You’re too young”, “You need to try all the flavors before you decide on your favorite” (I swear to you, she actually said that…scout’s honor…never mind that I’m not a scout.), and “This isn’t real love. Just a crush.” I mean, really, what did she know, right? I knew when we would get married, how many kids we’d have, what they’d be named, how rich we’d be, and that we’d live happily every after. Just because he started dating someone else a month after she told me all that does not mean she had it figured out. I totally decided I didn’t want him anymore before he decided he to go out with someone else. She just *sniff* didn’t get it, *sniff* you know?

Mom = 1

Becky = 0

My first crush = totally potbellied and balding…not really but it would make a better story.

Believe me. There are soooooooo many more instances like this. So I realized my mom totally owes me.

She OWES ME the opportunity to say “thank you”. Like the time when I was little, fell down, and scrubbed up my hands. Never mind the fact that I was running around even after I had been told to stop and then tripped and fell like she said I would and then slid on the cement carport like a MLB player trying to get safely home. I never had to call her name. One second, I was eating sand and in the next she was there with a washcloth and band aid at the ready. Those soothing words and soft touches have never left me and I realized that amid my cries I never uttered a “thank you”.

She OWES ME the opportunity to say “I need you”. It seems like I spent most of my younger years pushing her away – always assuming I knew what was best. I would roll my eyes at her trying to take care of me. I was independent and strong. As no stranger to pain and heartbreak, I knew where my two feet were. I knew how to stand. I knew how to do it alone. Yet in those dark moments when the pain was too great, when I was utterly lost, or didn’t know who I could talk to, she was there. No sound needed to be uttered on my part, she just…knew. Many times words weren’t needed. A mother’s embrace is the universal balm to any child’s soul – no matter how old. I may be 40, but Mom, I need you…so much.

She OWES ME the opportunity to say “I love you”. So many times when we argued or when I accused her of being wrong she never left me with out telling me she loved me. How dare she! What a way to suck the mad out of someone. She made sure there was NEVER any doubt where my place was – in her heart. Those hugs and the power behind her sentiments have brought me back to the surface more times than I can count. I realized that between my temper and pride there were times I didn’t say “I love you” back. I guess, I’m trying to say I love you more than I can say…does that make sense?

If I took an actual tally, there is no way I would be able to get an accurate count of how many things my mother has given me. I’ll admit it; I’m a very selfish, self-centered individual. Sadly, it has taken me this many years and having four of my own kids to truly realize the sacrifices my mother made (and still makes) for me. It has taken me living across the country for 17 years to realize how much her closeness means to me. If you can, take the opportunity to see what your mom “owes” you. If your mom has passed on, I’m so very sorry. But, if it makes you feel any better, I’m positive she is on the other side listening every time you whisper how much you love and miss her. She’s there still supporting you and cheering you on.

I’m lucky. Mine is still within reach. So, if you’ll excuse me, it looks like I have a debt to collect.

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The Best Prize of All…and It Ain’t a Candy Bar

My youngest sister, Natalie, and I are only two years apart. There is a large age gap between us and our older siblings. Because of that, Natalie and I pretty much spent our childhood stuck together. If I went to a friend’s house, she came with me. If I got a new dress, she got a matching one. If I got a treat, she got one too. My mom said I was fortunate because I didn’t have to find a friend; I already had one built-in. At the age of 9, that was not how I saw things.

NBC/Wifflegif.com

NBC/Wifflegif.com

Just like every other kid in existence, I lived for the summer. No school, sleep in, play outside until you were likely to get second-degree burn on your feet (if you grew up in Arizona, you know what I’m talking about…). I loved summers. The highlight of each summer was the Ward Camp-out. Every summer, our church would have a camp-out one weekend of the summer. We all would head to Mt. Graham and sleep in tents or cabins. We were one of the lucky families that had access to a cabin. I love the mountains, but I’m not a fan of using a tree as my toilet. No way was I taking my chances of getting smacked around while trying to do my business. We all know trees are the guardians of the forest. They also have a wicked mean streak. Case in point:

MGM/FYEAH-WIZARD-OF-OZ.TUMBLR.COM

MGM/FYEAH-WIZARD-OF-OZ.TUMBLR.COM

Anyhow, I digress…the absolute highlight of the camp-out was the Saturday morning breakfast and games. Everyone would get together, pitch in, and make an awesome pancake breakfast. Afterwards, the kids got to play games.

The summer I was 9, it was announced that there would be a race. The winner would earn bragging rights for a whole year AND a giant-sized 100 Grand candy bar. From the moment I heard about the race, I started training. Go ahead and laugh but I REALLY wanted to win. You see, I was never very athletic, but at age 9 I was pretty fast. Everyone around me was athletic, musically talented, super-smart, but I was just run-of-the-mill-so-plain-it-hurts ordinary. I HAD to win this race. I would run laps around the empty lot next to our house. I even ran up and down our basement stairs until I got yelled at for making too much noise. I kept working at it. I was determined. It was going to be the best summer ever. I was going to win. I could totally see it. Cue “Chariots of Fire” music please…

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You’re probably asking yourself, “What does this all have to do with her sister? Should we tell Becky she’s babbling again?” I’m getting to it…just be patient. Oh, and it’s not babbling. It’s called creative wordsmithing (…it could be a word…) So, as I was saying, I was ready. The camp-out Saturday breakfast and games arrived. I quickly ate my breakfast; I was too eager to take my time. In agony, I had to wait for them to play the little kid games first. How could they not know just how major this race was?! Finally, the moment came, and they called for the older kids to line up. I got in my place and started to focus – every good runner gets in the zone before a big race. I was just about there, when I realized there was someone standing annoyingly close to me – that should have been my first clue. Who could it be? Yep. You guessed it. Natalie was standing next to me ready to run the race. She saw me lining up, so she wanted to line up too. I tried to argue with the adults that this was a big kid event, and she was a little kid but that didn’t get me anywhere. I resolved to just suck it up and focus. This was my summer. I was determined. I was going to win.

Once we were all lined up, one of the adults went down to the finish line with a flag to give us the start signal. I crouched down – poised and ready to bolt. “On your mark. Get set. Go!” I shot out of there like a speeding bullet. This race was mine and I knew it. All of my hard work was going to pay off. I was ahead of everyone!! I was so far ahead it was like I was running at light speed. I was UNBEATABLE!

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giphy.com

The finish line was in sight when I heard a cry. It was a cry I knew all too well. It was Natalie. I quickly looked behind me and saw that she had indeed fallen and scraped her knees up pretty badly. I’d like to say that I immediately ran to her, but I’d be lying. I did have a moment when I just continued on to that finish line…but I couldn’t. I turned around and ran back towards Natalie. While I did, all of the rest of the kids crossed the finish line. Someone else was getting my win. Someone else was getting my bragging rights. Someone else was getting my candy bar. I got to Natalie, helped her stand up, and held on to her as she hobbled back to my mom. Once my mom had her, I sat back and sulked. While my mom was fussing over Natalie’s knees, I was watching the other kids surrounding the winner. Man! It should’ve been me.

I was so bummed. Natalie walked up to me – bandaged knees and all – and gave me a hug. “What’d you do that for?” I grumbled at her. “You picked me up.” With that reply, she bounced on her merry way. While I was trying to digest that moment, the adult who was in charge of the race, came over to me, and put a 100 Grand candy bar in my lap. Confused, I asked her why she gave me the candy bar. I didn’t win the race; therefore, I shouldn’t get a prize. The adult looked at Natalie and then looked at me and said, “Actually, you got the best prize of all.” Then she walked off. What kind of weird kung fu moment was that? I wondered if she was coming back to tell me to I could go “When you can take the pebble from my hand”. Whatever, Master Kan. I had my candy bar and I was going to enjoy the heck out of it.

SOURCE: M-HELENAPINTO.TUMBLR.COM

SOURCE: M-HELENAPINTO.TUMBLR.COM

At least that was my plan…as I sat down to eat that candy bar, Natalie was by my side asking for me to share. Like the good sister I was (and still am…I hope…), I split it in two pieces and, of course, gave her the bigger piece. With chocolate on our hands and faces, we went off to play and that was that.

It wasn’t until years later that I understood what “the best prize of all” meant. What I understand now, that I didn’t understand then was that the love of my sister was (is) the prize. Natalie and I have been through more things than I have time (or inclination) to mention. We have endured more pain and heartache than I would wish on anyone. The reason that we made it through (relatively) intact was because we had each other. Numerous times, she has said that I saved her, that I carried her, that I was the reason we made it – that is not the case. We saved each other, carried each other, and each was the reason the other made it through. Why? How? The answer is simple. We both had the best prize of all – the love of a sister.

Is that cheesy? Perhaps. If you don’t have a sister (or a brother), you may not get it and that’s okay. All I know is that even after all these years, I will still always give her the bigger piece of the candy bar…because that’s what sisters do.

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Love and Relationships: Looney Tunes Style

My little sister and I watched A LOT of cartoons when we were kids. We have discovered our behavior and vernacular have been greatly influenced by those hours zoned out on TV. The other day at work it occurred to me that The Looney Tunes taught me quite a bit about love and relationships. Go ahead and laugh. I’m totally serious. I wrote a piece addressing that influence and posted it to my BuzzFeed account. You can get to it here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/rph36/love-and-relationships-looney-tunes-style-1lgfr

IMG_0584You really should check it out. I mean, it’s The Looney Tunes. Who doesn’t love The Looney Tunes? If the answer bubbling on your lips is that you DON’T, you might want to keep that tidbit to yourself. We Looney Tunes lovers tend to be a bit impulsive. Something about anvils, dynamite, and falling off cliffs come to mind…

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