When people ask me how I can smile & remain upbeat in the face of life's disappointments, I am going to give the gift of these mighty words by Maya Angelou. When people are incredulous that I can find rapture & joy in this big, beautiful body, I'm going to give them this fierce decree. When I get lost in the memory of my past, I'm going to reach for this message... And Still I Rise! Peace, B.
Still I Rise
by Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history's shame
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
This column appeared in the Sunday, 09.19.10 edition of the Covington News.
Seems like we’re never very far out of diapers and training pants before we introduce some new pooping and peeing machine into the Hallman household. Now, don’t go getting any crazy ideas about another baby. Y’all would be reading about me on the front page of this fine publication if that were the case. Something like "One Fabulous Mama attacks former OBGYN." Tubal ligations are no laughing matter. Make a note of it.
We adopted. Not a human baby, friends. A little ole’ puppy dog. Well, he looks more like a fox crossed with a dingo, but he’s all puppy dog when it comes to the house training, I assure you. It was time: No one was pooping or peeing on themselves in our house anymore. Only seemed right for us to go rescue a puppy.
The Universe conspired for me to meet this little dingo-fox hybrid. This was by no means a happy coincidence. Being Masters of Procrastination, we found ourselves in Conyers, far from the chores and tasks of our new home. A few errands turned into a quest for the perfect end of the season, discounted grill. When said grill proved too difficult a find for even seasoned bargain hunters, we settled for the perfect end of season, discounted grill tools. Gracie Cakes, not a Master Procrastinator, but a girl who knows how to get what she wants, suggested we move on to a new quest: In search of the perfect hamster.
So, there we are, Mr. and Mrs. One Fabulous Mama and their youngest Little, standing in the parking lot of PetSmart. And there’s a huge white tent. And barking dogs. And volunteers with bright smiles. Like a moth drawn to the flame, I start walking toward the white tent. Even when every sane, rational thought is telling me to go inside, find a hamster, and get the heck out of Dodge, I find myself being pulled willingly over to check out what’s happening beneath that tent.
I was skirting the tent, not making eye contact with any of the volunteers or animals. I was gonna get through this oasis of irresistible cuteness, this bastion of sad stories without so much as a hi-how-are-ya. I was reading some information about Pound Puppies N’ Kittens (PPNK), the nonprofit, no kill organization who were responsible for the 100 animals in the middle of the PetSmart parking lot, when my husband called out to me.
And there he was. The little dingo-fox puppy who was meant to be mine. That was it. I nearly trampled a little girl on my way over to the enclosure that held my dog. Because he was my dog. No matter what else, this precious, adorable, 10-week-old mutt was mine.
You know how I knew? It’s happened to me once before. I have a 3-year-old Pomerian-Poodle mix. I didn’t want a yippy-yappy little dog anymore than I want a dingo-fox, but I saw Luca Brasi (why yes, I did name him after Vito Corleone’s chief enforcer and kudos to you for knowing your "Godfather" trivia!) and that was my dog. And now, I was bending down to collect my new dog, Felix.
In all this cosmic acquisition of a new pooping and peeing machine, we met some really nice people. Beth Kelly, the very cool-headed, Zen-like vet who was running the show Saturday, told me that PPNK has a nifty new sponsorship program for dogs and cats that have been in foster care for over six months. You can help pay all or part of an adoption fee and the good folks at PPNK will look for an approved family. You can go to www.ppnk.org to learn all about this program and to view the many animals they have up for adoption.
Beth told me she wished more folks would consider adopting adult dogs and cats. Adult dogs and cats are easier to bring into your family because you don’t have to guess about their size or temperament and they’re easier to house train. Sounds like a good deal to me. Despite my track record, I’m all for less poop and pee.
Beth McAfee-Hallman lives in Covington and can be e-mailed at email@example.com.
UPDATE: Felix is now named Catullus.
Published in The Covington News 09.05.10.
We sorta, kinda home school. The two Littles attend Georgia Cyber Academy, an online public school. To home schooling purists this is at best home school light and, at worst, an unholy union between the state and home school. I think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. (You’ll want to Google Georgia Cyber Academy to find out more, friends.) We call our school "The Hallman School for Fabulous Girls" because we’re just silly like that. The freedom of schooling this way is wonderful and suits our family well. Day One at the Hallman School for Fabulous Girls this year was not so fabulous. We were having technical difficulties. A whole mess of them. Since we do most of our schooling online, this was not conducive to much learning. Here I am, trying to show Gracie just how cool and wonderful kindergarten is going to be, and I am freaking out, losing it over technical difficulties. Not being a very good role model at all.
We’ve carved out this little nook between the stacks of boxes and piles of picture frames that signifies the beginning of our big move. (The Hallman’s are now at the end of that big move which took us out to the wilds near Alcovy High School and the lake.) Poor Gracie is sitting in her little chair across from me, watching me fret and fuss as I get bumped from one online meeting after another. She enjoys the first 10 minutes of a math lesson until we get bumped from that as well.
Now, I could have embraced this craziness as an opportunity to illustrate how we just go with the flow here at the Hallman School for Fabulous Girls. I could have relaxed and gone into my super faboo mama mode and made a fort and called it a day. I didn’t do any of that, though. All morning, I was uptight and unhappy. I was grumpy and childish. My two Littles just didn’t know what to do with me. I didn’t know what to do with me.
I reached out to my Facebook family and everyone suggested a lunch break and then, try it all again. Now, friends, I am a BIG fan of the do-over. My life is just one big series of do-overs if I think about it.
We take our lunch break, I breathe deeply and slowly, and we go back to it in the afternoon with much better results. We still experience technical difficulties, but I commit to a positive response to them. When we can’t access our online lessons, we come up with some of our own. When we can’t pay attention anymore, we go jump on the trampoline. When we master a particularly difficult concept (cosines anyone?), we reward ourselves with a walk down to Scoops for some banana pudding ice cream. Most importantly, this mama takes the focus off what we can’t do and places it on what we can do. That’s a life lesson, not just something for teachers and mamas.
Gracie ends the day with a smiley face, a smug sense of self and shapes, three Smarties, and the ability to articulate that the "m" sound is made with her lips, not her teeth or tongue. (No small feat, I assure you). Shelby finds herself at the end of semester one for vocabulary, language arts, and Latin because she worked through the summer. She is one excited girl. Plus, she really misses science and world history and experiencing those lessons is like visiting with old friends. I end the day knowing I can be a better mama and teacher, but comfortable with how the Littles faired that day.
I know I’m not accumulating mama points to be averaged for my yearly grade, but I am learning some big lessons on this journey. The Universe is bearing witness to the lessons I learn while I am mama to these incredible girls. My job isn’t just to wear my many hats (wife, mother, teacher, friend, writer, volunteer, etc). My job is also to grow my soul. And you know how soul growth happens? With technical difficulties.
Beth McAfee-Hallman lives in Covington and can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This was me this morning, friends- curled up in my bed, comfy pillows all around, a hot cuppa joe within easy reach. My childhood had been lurking in my dreams the night before and now, it was peeking just around the corner of consciousness. My dreams are sometimes powerful reminders of the past, but these images that floated just out of reach were begging me to make a connection. I concentrated on the too skinny kid with coke bottle bottom glasses- a seven year old child who was lost in a house filled with the voices of people who hurt. I knew I could summon my childhood by calling out to my Child Self, a relationship I've been developing for many months now.
I slipped a second grade picture of myself out of my journal. I tucked it in there after I recently connected with the daughter of my second grade teacher, but that, my friends, is a-whole-nother story. I imagined inviting my Child Self to curl up beside me like my sweet daughters would. I imagined asking this Child Self what she wanted from her mama. This was going to be one of those Good and Right Moments, so I grabbed my journal and started listing all of the qualities, traits, and skills my Child Self wanted in a mama.
Gives Me Smiles
Makes Forts and Cupcakes
Is Patient with Me
Reads to Me
Gives Kisses when I Fall Down
Wipes Away My Tears
Thinks I'm the Best
Doesn't Yell Unless She's Excited
Dreams with Me
Loves My Daddy
Is Proud of Me
Can Bait a Fish Hook
Takes Me Everywhere with Her
Keeps Me Safe
Loves Me Every Day
Will Get Dirty
I was crying as I made this list, my friends. Tapped into this place where my Child Self lived, still needing attention and healing, I read the list I out loud, pausing after each one to let my Child Self know she was worthy and deserved this mama we were dreaming up together. I could FEEL her growing and healing. I understood intuitively the change in my Child Self meant a change in who I am now.
Bailey and Johnny left for school and it was time to start the day with my two little Hallmans. Over pancakes, I asked them what they think are important qualities for a mama to have. The things they said and the list I made with my Child Self aren't exactly the same, but they're pretty close.
In the sticky sweet smiles and laughing eyes of my children, I saw the connection. This present day Beth is the mama her Child Self deserves. The connection between the past and the future is Me. How is that for some Truth, friends?
Healing is mine, friends. Namaste.