Thursday, June 16, 2016

Be Kind || the City Beautiful

When I was 14 we moved to a small town called Apopka. Even though I only lived there for 4 years, it was more of a home to me than some of the other cities I lived in. Mostly because of the people and the friends I made. High school has a way of doing that to you. Fun fact that I believe (may or may not be true): small towns in Florida are really just made small by the fact that they're surrounded by gorgeous lakes and large orange groves. To do anything "fun" (not including beach trips, or other things that I consider fun like reading books, etc.) you'd have to go up to Daytona or go down to Orlando. The drive was about 45 minutes. It wasn't very often I went there with my family, except the handful of times I had visited my brother who lived close to the airport. I would go mostly with friends. I remember several times going to Lake Eola for a walk around there, or going to the malls downtown. Every time I went I just remember being in awe of how big the city looked in comparison to the little small town just 45 minutes away.

In central Florida there are so many different cultures packed into one small area. Because of this, I have grown to appreciate people for who they are, and that everyone is different. Not only have an appreciation, but love them. I have several friends from this time in my life who are African American, from Puerto Rico, Gay, Lesbian, Canadian, from the North East states, from the Western states, my list could continue. The rich diverse culture you experience in central Florida is probably the best part of living there.

I was the only Mormon girl at my high school. Just one teenage girl surrounded by so many different beliefs. It was truly amazing to get that perspective on my life and my beliefs at such a young age. Surrounded by all this culture, you would think that others would come to just accept each other. The majority of the people did, but I remember on several occasions having to explain my religion to others who told me (didn't ask me) that I was going to be wife #15 someday, or that I have horns and they only come out at the full moon. Oh the stories people make up about other religions and people. There were quite a few days after being told my religious beliefs from several people that I would leave school feeling tiny. Feeling insignificant. Not feeling like I mattered. At the time of course I thought it was such a huge deal and this is just how life was. However looking back I realize it's just a small amount of what other people go through on a regular basis. I also realized this was just a small group of people who didn't represent all of the great people I knew in Florida, who were accepting and kind to me.

Because of the small amount of persecution, for choosing to live the way I did, I decided I would never want to cause anyone to feel that way about themselves personally. It truly helped me realize that we are all human beings with feelings. We all have our own beliefs. We all have the rules that guide our lives. We all deserve respect, kindness, and love.

On Sunday June 12, 2016 an atrocity occurred in the city I consider my old stomping grounds. 49 people were gunned down for the way they choose to live their lives. Just for choosing to go to a bar that night, and not just any bar, but the known bar in central Florida for LGBTQ community. My heart has been torn apart by this news. I was in denial that kind of hate existed in this world. I thought that we as a society had at least gotten past that much hate. I remember sitting reading all of these articles, thinking "This has to be a different Orlando. This cannot be the Orlando, Florida I know."

My personal religious beliefs do not coincide very well with the LGBTQ community. However, that does not mean that I cannot love and be kind to the individuals of this community for who they are. That does not mean I can't offer some type of feeling of remorse for how others are choosing to treat them. The great thing about the country we live in is that we can and we all do have differing opinions.

The person who ripped this much hate into the City Beautiful in just a few hours caused a type of fear I'm sure people didn't know existed in their bodies. This kind of paralyzing fear is one that I've never personally experienced. However, reading previous survivors stories from mass shooters, or bombings, can give me at least a glimpse into this. The person who did this was run by hate and fear. Two traits, that when combined, are lethal in a human.

So much has been talked about the last few days on how to prevent this in the future. I have no answers. No answers on either side of the political aisles, no answers on why this happened, just no answers.

However, I do have a thought on what we can do for each other. What we can do for each other is be kind.

Be kind without judgement.
Be kind because you don't know who isn't being kind to them.
Be kind because it's how your Mom raised you.
Be kind because it's what Jesus would do.
Be kind because you agree on something.
Be kind because you don't agree on something, and that's beautiful.
Be kind because you can relate to their situation.
Be kind because you can't relate to their situation and don't know what it's like.
Be kind  because we can all relate to being human.

Most importantly,
Be kind because we are all humans and deserve the right to be treated with kindness and respect no matter our race, no matter our gender, no matter how we identify, no matter which college team we choose to support during football season,  and no matter anything else, everyone deserves the basic right to be treated kind.

We have seen this word turned into a verb over the last several days as we've seen a wonderful community rally around each other. I mentioned above that I didn't possibly think that that was my Orlando. However the more I read about the "helpers" the more I see my Orlando. My Orlando is having too many people in line to donate blood that they had to turn them away. My Orlando is those who couldn't donate blood instead donated food or time for those who were donating already. My Orlando is people hugging complete strangers because of the grief they feel together. My Orlando is the nurses who greeted each other this morning with a round of applause after only being home for a few hours to sleep and then coming back in the morning. My Orlando is the doctors shoes covered in the blood and tears of the victims as he continues to save lives. My Orlando is the men and women in uniform who may know or be close to someone who was a victim of this horrific event still putting the uniform on to go to work today. My Orlando is the hundreds (maybe thousands) of people who gathered for vigil tonight. My Orlando is the wands raised at Harry Potter world for the victim who worked there. My Orlando is not *just* home to one of the worst gun crimes in history. My Orlando is home to the people who have volunteered time, blood, sweat, and tears into the last several days to try and help repair the damage that someone ripped into the City Beautiful in a matter of minutes.

I would like to imagine that by simply just being kind would help fix major problems, however I know it won't fix everything 100%, it certainly won't bring back the individuals lost due to this (and past) horrendous acts, but could you imagine living in a world where everyone was at least kind to each other, despite differing beliefs? That's a beautiful thought.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day

Mother's Day is a hard day. Hard day for so many. I know it's supposed to be great, Mom's are wonderful beings. I am one. I know the joys, tears, heartache, and crazy roller coaster ride that come with 4 years of raising a child, I can only imagine what the following years hold as we add another kiddo into the mix, and continue to raise our kids.

I wish I could say that every woman gets to experience this joy, but they don't. I don't understand why so many don't. So many wonderful women that I know are going to be wonderful Mother's someday. So many that I know that are so deserving. So many empty arms (whether by the sting of infertility or young children passing away) that deserve to be full of the same joy, tears, heartache, and roller coaster ride I'm on. That makes it a hard day.

I wish I could say that every woman gets the joy of experiencing a Mom who loves them unconditionally. Who is mentally and physically present. I don't know what it's like to physically lose a Mom due to death, but I do know what it's like to "break up" with a Mom due to a mixture of reasons. (For further note on this meaning please see this article.) That makes it a hard day.

These reasons seem not fair. Not fair to those who don't have a "Hallmark card" defined of life. (You know, the kind where you know exactly what kind of card to get for who you actually consider to be your Mom?) I don't know all the reasons why, but I do know that we will know them someday. We will be able to grasp why we've gone through the trials, whether it's through being able to help someone else through theirs, or it's personal growth. Whatever it may be, there is a reason.

Then there's actually being a Mom and still having to be a Mom on Mother's Day. It's like being an adult on your birthday -- you still have responsibilities, still stuff you've gotta deal with, but.... you should be able to take the day off from the "not fun stuff of being a Mom" because it's your day right? Not fun stuff can be defined as: non stop chatting/answering questions to your 4 year old who has to know everything, changing diapers, making bottles, waking up early to get the kids ready and yourself, etc.

So the expectation makes it a hard day, but you should be able to set expectations and want things right? How do you celebrate a hard day with so many expectations? With so many different things going on, so many different women experiencing different stages of their Motherhood, or not being able to experience it?

For years after my Mom disowned me I refused to celebrate Mother's Day in anyway. I called it Not Mother's Day. Then after being married, slightly warmed up to the idea of it, then I had Emma. My reason to not celebrate changed. Emma made me a Mom and she's just as much my reason to celebrate as I am hers. Becoming a Mom and holding Emma changed me. My pregnancy wasn't normal. I didn't have as many people celebrate or be excited about me being pregnant when I announced I was pregnant to them, especially people who I thought were close to me and would be happy for me. Tyler and I also went through several rough trials during that pregnancy that taught us a lot of valuable life lessons. All of these things prepared me in a way I can't describe to know the second I held that 6 pound 1 ounce 21 inches long little girl, that this was exactly where I was and what I was supposed to be doing.

The woman who prepared me for this moment wasn't the woman who birthed me herself, but the woman who let me move in with her and her family when I was 18. She is biologically my cousin. I was scared. I didn't know how to be a teenager -- let alone look at the prospects of being an adult. I was recovering from my parents divorce, and just a total wreck. She took me in and taught me how to be an adult. Helped me get my first real job, taught me the importance of hard work and how to keep said job, walked me through the steps of buying my first car, walked me through getting into college, taught me the importance of finding a good man to marry, taught me the importance of taking care of myself so I make sure I'm around for my future kids mentally and physically. Truly raised me in just a short 18 months before I moved out and married Tyler. She was there to hold me as I cried when my Mom told me she wasn't going to be, and didn't want to be, at my wedding. She and her husband were the first people I called after I found out my Dad had passed away. She was the first person who was excited I was pregnant with Emma. She was there holding my other hand (Tyler of course was there on the other side :) ) for 8 hours of my labor with Emma. She still continues to teach me things that I think I know, but really I don't. Everything I am today, I owe at least half to her. My body and breath I have I owe to my biological Mother -- of which I am forever grateful, but my mental state, the marriage I have, the child(ren) I have, the fact that I know how to run a household, I owe to her. She is so much more than just my cousin.

I could go on about other women who have shaped me, like other cousins, the sisters I have, or even friends I know who are wonderful Mom's and set the example for me as a Mom. However, this would be a novel if I were to do that.

I hope that as we all celebrated Mother's Day today that you can find at least one positive woman to celebrate or honor. Despite everything else you have going on today, whether it's emotions, feelings, or lack thereof, I hope that you got to remember a woman, somewhere, has done something for you in your life. Because women have the power to affect the world, whether we know it or not.