I am grateful for hope. Hope is what helped a little girl survive a bad childhood. Hope is what led a stubborn teenager to a great big world. Hope is what pulled a lost young adult through the haze of drugs and alcohol to the family that waited on the other side. Hope is what heals, guides, and comforts this 39 year old mama on her darkest, weariest, most troubled days.
I truly believe in positive outcomes, friends. When I say "everything's gonna be alright," I mean it. Plain and simple. Maybe it was the sound of the birds outside the window of my childhood. Maybe it was the policeman who could have thrown me in jail, but instead made me drink a cup of coffee while he called someone to get me, saying to me over his shoulder, "I hope this person loves you more than you love yourself." Maybe it was the true blue wonder of Johnny Hallman's eyes flashing a love beyond my reckoning while we floated down a lazy river one long summer's day. Maybe because I believe, hope has a way of stepping in and taking over.
I am grateful beyond all measure, beyond all my other posts this month, for hope. I want you to tell that inner cynic of yours to shut it and I want you to focus on your postive outcomes. I want you to hope, my friends. Grab on to whatever you need- the bird, the act of kindness, the blue eyes of your lover- and I want you to hope. Not wish, not dream. Hope.
Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tune--without the words, and never stops at all, and sweetest in the gale is heard; and sore must be the storm that could abash the little bird that kept so many warm. I've heard it in the chillest land, and on the strangest sea; yet, never, in extremity, it asked a crumb of me. - Emily Dickenson
Always... Patsy Cline 2007
I am grateful for the theatre. You either love it or you hate it. I should have been a gay man. That's how much I love theatre. I break out in monologues and/or songs any time, anywhere. My life was meant for the stage, dahlings. Unfortunately, my singing voice was not.
I won't give you the whole "...and then, my junior year, I..." story, but I will tell you, friends, that I knew I loved everything about live theatre from the moment I experienced it. I could get lost in a book, but on the stage, I found home. Can you imagine what play pretend was like for someone like me? I was a poor, awkward teenager who craved attention and was determined to not fit into anyone's idea of who I was going to be.
I've performed in a lot of community theatre in my adult life. I even spent some time as a paid theatre director. Gone to a lot of live shows on Broadway and in little old hole in the wall places that couldn't hold the talent within. Since we've been in Covington, I've done no theatre and it hurts a little. I miss it very much and hope to find a new theatre home again one day. I am grateful for the theatre, where even a big chicka like me can be a star.
My drama class at Satsuma High School, 1987-1988 That's me smack dab in the middle with my foot hiked up in the air.
I am grateful for the Disney princesses. I know, I know. I crossed over to the dark side of commercialism. I drank the kool-aid of mass marketing. I sold out to the corporate machine. Whatever. I love those sassy chickas.
I am the mother of three daughters; three atypical, trend setting, rule breaking daughters who still find joy and inspiration in the girl power aggression of a well made Disney film. I do too. Always have. I was singing along at the top of my lungs to the Little Mermaid before the Teenager was born.
I went on a date with the little-Little today. (I make solo time for each of the Fabulous Hallman Girls, because I know from experience how easy it is to get lost in a crowd of kids.) Tangled, Disney's latest film, was the order of the day. 107 minutes of a magical fairy tale repackaged and improved by the genius of Disney. With Broadway worthy tunes and witty dialog, we found ourselves comparing Rapunzel to Ariel and Belle- high praise from the Hallman Girls.
I think what it all comes down to, friends, is that we're all princesses. If you're cringing at this statement, then you might want to avoid any posts I make where I refer to myself as (gasp!) a homemaker. Now, I don't mean a simpering, swooning mess of a princess. I mean a butt kicking, song singing, problem solving, fashion forward every woman who kicks butt and takes names. Like Rapunzel, Ariel, and Belle. These are role models I want for my faboo daughters. Now, if I can just avoid the merchandising...
This article appeared in the 11.28.10 edition of the Covington News.
As the weather turns cooler, I often turn inward, seeking warmth and clarity after the active, overtly outward living of spring and summer. November marks the beginning of such spiritual shenanigans for me with the blustery days leading up to our big day of Thanksgiving. I spend time everyday giving thanks and taking names. This year, I took the idea of reflection a step further with a series called "Hello, my name is Gratitude" on my blog - daily posts dedicated to reintroducing gratitude into my life and, by extension, my readers' lives. Here's a few of those posts, a montage of gratitude, if you will. Cue the 80s soundtrack. I am grateful for coffee talk. Once a week, my friend and I meet at Frank's Restaurant and talk over copious amounts of coffee. We're working on month three of coffee talks and, I gotta tell you, there's something to the whole coffee, friends and talking mix that is simply Right and Good.
The folks out at Frank's are some kind of wonderful, but I think we are their first regular coffee talk customers. Behind those sweet smiles and welcoming words, I can see some trepidation over what we could possibly be discussing week after week. We bring our own flavored creamer and we usually order a plate of very bad for us, but oh, so good, fried foods to share.
No agenda, no books to discuss, or lives to save. Not a lot of complaining or purpose driven soul searching. Just two friends, enjoying one another's company over cups of coffee, a little respite for mamas who give as much as we have, as often as we can to our families and friends. Coffee talk helps keep my mama mojo flowing and reminds me to just be Beth in everything I do.
I am grateful for do-overs. I used to get caught up in the mistakes, the regrets, and the intensity of living, friends. Then, I embraced a wonderful concept from childhood, the do-over. An unwritten bylaw of youth, an axiom of the gods, a tenet of universal rightness, the do-over is our greatest gift to ourselves and others.
I give myself permission to screw up. I give myself permission to heal. I give myself permission for a do-over any time I need one. Hair grows back and life goes on.
I get do-overs. I make sure my kids know this about life and living, so they'll be gentle with themselves. Maybe it's a poorly written essay or a cake that won't rise.
Maybe it's a stalled career or a failing relationship. Maybe it's the mother of all bad hair days. Whatever it is, we all get as many do-overs as we need to get it right. Isn't life incredible, friends? Do-overs and all.
I am grateful for my friends. Soul sister friends and bestest friends. Friends I only know through facebook and friends I haven't seen in 20 years. Band parent friends, former student friends, couponing friends. My friends are the family my soul craves!
I think life is all about making connections with other people. I make connections often and deeply. From the person in front of me in the grocery store to the mom sitting on the next park bench, I'm gonna reach out and make a connection. Odds are if I talk to you, we're gonna be friends. Maybe wave at each other friends, but maybe - just maybe - play together friends. It doesn't matter. Every friend I make is a soul friend.
I am grateful for warrior women. Warrior women who put on uniforms and march out into that good night. Warrior women who leave their families behind, so all American families can be safe and free. Mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, friends...warrior women.
Wahatchee means "war woman" and is the name the Creek Indians gave to Nancy Hart, a rough and rowdy redheaded Georgian who took no guff from the Tories during the American Revolution. This original Wahatchee stood over six feet tall, cussed, smoked, drank, and was feared and respected by the Native Americans who lived around her homestead. She became my hero the moment I learned her story. I whisper the word wahatchee aloud whenever I need a little extra courage and spirit to get me through the day.
To all you modern day wahatchee who have served and protected Americans and to all the wahatchee still serving and protecting, I offer you my heartfelt gratitude. I celebrate you and recognize your sacrifices. I respect and admire you, my sisters, my wahatchee, my friends. Today, I won't whisper the word wahatchee; I'll shout it loud and clear in your honor...WAHATCHEE!
I am grateful for my daughters. Collectively known as the Fabulous Hallman Girls, they embody all that is right and good and wonderful about this journey. Champions of the underdog. Bearers of kindness. Harpies. Saints. Sinners. The Teenager with her eagle eyed sense of being and self. The middle-Little with her old soul doctrines and quirky sense of how. The Little with the wit of a curmudgeon and the charms of a princess. My daughters, my fierce warrior women, my loves.
I am grateful for Johnny Hallman. He rescues me when I am a damsel in distress; calls me on my BS; kisses me when I need/want kissing; plays drums like a rock star; kills bugs and takes care of gross things; needs me; wants me; loves me; fathers our children with patience and kindness; teaches me something new almost every day; is the smartest man I know; teases me when I take myself too seriously; puts up with my dog; puts up with me; makes crude jokes like a 12-year-old boy; and is the most handsome man on the planet. I am grateful he picked me. Grateful beyond words.
Beth McAfee-Hallman lives in Covington and can be e-mailed at email@example.com.
I am grateful for enough. Enough love, enough time, enough money, enough passion, enough self control. The lie I told mySelf for years was that I don't have enough. Enough security, enough warmth, enough intelligence, enough will power, enough worth. The wanting, the needing is the lie. Abundance is the truth. Enough is the reality. I am eternally grateful for enough.
I am grateful to be me. I love everything about being this goddess, this earth mother, this beautiful being. Despite the mood swings, the tangents, and the crying, I think being me is pretty darn fabulous.
I love this big, beautiful body and this ever moving mind. I love this damaged spirit and healing Self. I love this great and terrible ego that drives me to truth and awareness.
I love Beth. Been the president of my own fan club since 1971. Don't plan on ever stepping down.
I am grateful for being unconventional. The Hallmans have always found it difficult to conform to the social mores that define so many others. I'm not shunning convention, friends. We just tend to listen to our hearts, go our own way, and carve out spaces for ourSelves in a culture that finds comfort in sameness.
My children love and hate this unconventional approach to living. When other parents- whether on purpose or subconsciously- are pushing conformity, our kids find us encouraging and celebrating their own unique sense of being. They'd have to conform in order to rebel in our family. I'm sure it can be stressful to be a member of that family, but they find strength and belonging in our weirdness. I know I sure do! We have the freedom to live life to its fullest. We allow ourselves to experience and discover who and what we are without waiting for someone to give us permission or tell us how.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving in our way, I imagine families everywhere shedding the idea of someone else's holiday and building the reality of happiness. Wouldn't that change the grumbling, mumbling, grumpiness of traditional holidays! As the Hallmans belly up to an Italian feast with folks we adore, football playing on the big screen and a board game in full swing, I am most grateful for going our own way, for being unconventional.
I am grateful for books. Of all shapes and sizes. All genres; all manner of subject; all manner of styles. Old books. New books. Trash, classics, and best sellers too. I'm an equal opportunity book worm.
Books were the great equalizer of my childhood. I wasn't the poor kid when I was reading a book. The rumbling of a too small meal in my belly was easier to handle with my nose in a book. The yelling of unhappy grown ups and frustrated brothers and sisters grew distant when I stepped inside a book. I wasn't a lonely, skinny kid with coke bottle bottomed glasses and bad teeth as long as I had a story to read.
As an adult, books have grown from great escapes to true friends. Some titles are so familar to me now, so dear to me, that I return to them again and again. Books like To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride & Prejudice, and the Harry Potter series. Some books are more like one night stands in my long love affair with the written word.
I've passed on my love of books to all three of my daughters. They all stay up too late reading. They all spend too much money at the bookstore. They all have two of three books floating around the house, bookmarks stuck here and there, marking pages and time until the girls return. I smile when I catch them reading when they are supposed to be sleeping because I can see something very good from my very bad childhood crossing the divide between then and now.
I collect books for my family. I donate books to charities. I share them with my friends. Books continue to hold me, nurture me, take me places, show me things, guide me, hide me, and love me in ways only a scared little girl can understand, in ways only this ever healing, ever growing soul can appreciate.
I am grateful for my big brother, Scott. I come from a very large, very poor, very dysfunctional family. I've spent most of my adult life coming to terms with my childhood and disowning my biological brood. I do the disowning in fits and starts, but at 39, I'm not on speaking terms with many McAfees.
And then there's Scott. I'm the youngest; he's smack dab in the middle. Older by five years, he came with a big pile of learning disabilities and a bigger pile of determination. I remember the night he left home. We were both crying as he pulled me awkwardly into the hallway to tell me he loved me. Our mother was yelling and throwing things, but he had to say those words. "You know I love you, right?" I think he felt like he was abandoning me even as he fought hard for his own escape.
His daughter (my neice who looks more like me than my own children) tells me how proud my brother is of me and this makes me so happy. I was foot painting (like finger painting only outside with rolls of newsprint and your feet) with the kids a few years ago. My brother told me casually that he wished I had been his mother. Yeah, Scotty, I'm the mother we both deserved and it feels so liberating to embrace that idea.
We don't speak as often as I'd like but when we do, it's a bittersweet homecoming. We're like old army buddies. We were in the trenches together and we survived the war. We can't help but remember how hard it was when we young and powerless. Love is there between us, but so are all those hard places left behind by the battles we fought side by side.
I am so grateful for my big brother, Scott, who got out of the mess that was our childhood, who made something of himself, who makes me proud.
I am grateful for honeysuckle. It's that scent for me, friends. You know the one? Yours may be floral like mine- maybe gardenia or roses. Or maybe it's just made cookies or freshly cut lumber. Honeysuckle triggers that happy feeling in me that makes every little thing alright.
Sometimes, I think I must have smelled this often as a child. Perhaps I associate it with summers at my grandparents' house in Foley, Alabama, where I always felt safe, cherished, and loved. Whenever I smell it now, I know something soulful is coming my way. Clarity of spirit vision if you will. Knowing is in the making.
"From morning suns and evening dews
At first thy little being came;
If nothing once, you nothing lose,
For when you die you are the same;
The space between is but an hour,
The frail duration of a flower."
-Philip Freneau's The Wild Honeysuckle