Tag Archives: mother

The Power of Projects

Sondra portrait
Sondra Patton

This summer began with sadness as my family mourned the loss of my Aunt Sondra. My mom came to visit after the memorial service. The regular sound of her crying over the loss of her one and only sister broke my heart. Most days, I had to leave for work or appointments so she had many hours alone on her hands. She read, cooked, watched T.V. and helped around my house to stay busy. We were both just getting through the hard time.

Then there was “The Project.” A project, as defined by Dictionary.com is “a large or major undertaking, especially one involving considerable money, personnel, and equipment.” It’s that and much more. Since I divorced and turned off my cable television, I’ve been obsessed with one project after another.

Truth is, I didn’t really feel like doing any projects this summer. The combination of a family death, injured knee and back, over a hundred degree weather, and a bunch of health issues drained me. I was told to rest, take it easy. I reluctantly did that, but one day while I was laying on the couch icing my knee and back, I mentioned one of my project ideas to my mom. I had a goal to make my backyard into a nicer place to hang out and to eliminate some of the dead grass. The resulting project would be a brick patio. I was frustrated that I couldn’t do it, but also a little relieved. We talked about it how much work it would be and I knew I wasn’t up for it. Apparently, she was.

project 11
The beginning… ugh.

Yep, my 72 year old mom started my project! I came home one day to her shoveling up the dead grass in the backyard. This is no easy task. The ground is an old river bed and it’s as hard as cement and full of rocks, rocks, and more rocks. She dug down four inches too. She is such a studette. Although I was very grateful for her help, I wasn’t quite ready to take on this project. I didn’t want to do it, but there was no turning back. Her desire to accomplish something and help inspired me to do what I could. At first I hired some extra help because I couldn’t stand the physical pain, but over time I started shoveling and the pain subsided. I guessed that moving was the key to healing, not resting anymore.

one project
Not quite half way there. I thought we’d never finish.

My mom would get up at 6am and be out in the backyard with a pickaxe breaking up the ground. One morning she started shoveling part of the two yards of sand into a wheel barrow with the determination to move it all into the backyard BY HERSELF. I couldn’t believe it and wouldn’t let her. I actually told her to stop, but she wouldn’t. So we did it together, all two yards!

Dakota, Mom (Lavonne Rice) and Dominic. The Team

With my mom’s, son’s and a few hired hands’ help, I’ve reached the other side of the project.  As reluctant as I was to do this, I’m happy I did. It brought my mom and I closer together and helped us not wallow in the sadness. It gave my sons memories of working together that they will never forget.

I know that I NEED projects. These endeavors have helped me get through the hard times. They helped me move to the next day with something on my mind other than the suffering. Keeping busy, working on something, forces us to advance, at least on some level. It gives the brain a chance to rest and recover from the negative, and move forward.

If I don’t have a plan to accomplish something new then I feel stagnant and anxious. Although during the overwhelming moments of the projects I may have little meltdowns and say to myself, “What was I thinking?!” I know that when I arrive to the other side, I will be on another level mentally, physically, and spiritually. In the end it will all have been worth it.  It may not be perfect, but it’s mine and it’s good enough. I did the best I could do and doing the project took us all to another place where hard work paid off and made us feel proud. We still miss my aunt, but we continue our lives and honor the time that we still have by being productive.

I wonder what projects other people are up to these days??

project done
The Brick Patios! Wahoo!

No More Shootings!

No. No. NO! Not another one. I can’t believe it. I don’t want to believe it. How could this happen? What the hell is going on?Image Does every city have to be tortured with the horror of a massacre? Every time there’s a shooting, I cry, but this time I wept…a lot. Something about it being in a place close to home where I have friends, where I lived and rode my bike to college just shook me in another way. The news of the shooting in Isla Vista made me ache and took me back to my feelings after Sandy Hook. As a teacher and a mother of a fourth grader, I panicked just thinking about the possibility of that happening in my world. I rushed from work, desperate to see my son walk safely from his classroom. Tears ran down my face when I saw him.

“Why are you crying, Mom?”

“Just happy to see you, honey.” I hugged him tight.

No way could I tell him why I cried. He didn’t need to know that so many people would not stop crying for years because their children were murdered. I don’t know how those parents survived after hearing that their child had been shot to death at school. I would die.

            This week more parents must hear that their child was killed while at school, UCSB, my Alma Mater. No parent should ever hear such news. I cried while I watched one parent of a murdered young man rage publically. He yelled and screamed, demanding to know why nothing’s been done since Sandy Hook to prevent such tragedies. He shouted in honor of his son’s life and in honor of all the young children killed before. I wanted to yell and scream with him because I never want to be in his shoes. I never want anyone else to walk in his footsteps, but what do I do? What is the answer? You’d think a society full of as many intelligent people as we have could figure out how to prevent the mass murder of its citizens, but we can’t…or we won’t.

            The tragedies will continue. It’s only a matter of time before someone else’s plan comes to fruition. Whose city will be shot up? Whose children, family, or friends? The news will be shocking, but will we shocked anymore? Are we becoming so used to it, that we turn our heads and count our blessings that it wasn’t our family, friends, or city? After a few days, another news event fills the headlines and we move on. We forget so we can live. We forget so we can still take our kids to school and send them off to college or just go see a movie without a bullet proof vest. Forgetting is our coping mechanism, but it’s preventing us from uniting and finding a solution. We are all vulnerable and our children are too. Our society has created its own version of the suicide bomber, the suicide shooter, and we need to do something about it. WE, all of us.

            Nobody seems to have the answer, but at least we need to look for one. We can’t stop the discussion in the quagmire of gun control controversy. Some think the answer lies in gun control, but the truth is that there will always be access to guns and weapons. Plus, people can kill with anything. The previous killing in Isla Vista was with a car. Sure automatic and semi-automatic weapons make it easier to commit the crime, and we can wish those weapons away, but that’s like teaching abstinence from sex to teenagers and thinking it will prevent teenage pregnancy. Guns will never go away, but teaching responsibility and training gun owners might help. The gun industry could provide some training to those who buy guns. They could require a class or seminar that would help weed out those who shouldn’t own guns. That’s right, some people shouldn’t own guns. Why not require that people bear arms responsibly? What’s so wrong with that? Anyone who buys a gun should have to be accountable for some training and proof of competence. Yes, proof of mental health and stability. If someone recently spent time in a mental health facility or has posted YouTube videos about killing people, maybe he or she shouldn’t be able to buy a gun. Just a thought. When we apply for a job, employers often do background checks and internet searches to learn more about us, why couldn’t the gun industry do the same? It could save lives. Sure it would be complicated and some privacy issues would come up, but just like our bags have to get searched to board a plane, our personal baggage should get searched to own a lethal weapon.

            The bigger issue at hand is the lack of mental health care in this country, the stigma that surrounds issues of mentaImagel illness, and the unwillingness of people in authority to take mental illness seriously. All of us who know and believe that something needs to be done to stop this continual violent rampage must not forget this time. We must continue looking for solutions that address mental illness across the board. We can’t pretend like it doesn’t exist in our neighborhoods, schools, or homes. It’s everywhere. Just be honest about your own depression or someone you loves’ anxiety and people will talk about their issues. Mental health issues are everywhere. Everywhere. We need to talk about it and demand help. We need to educate ourselves about it. Everyone. We collectively created this mess. We collectively need to solve the problem. No one gets a pass. No one is safe from mental illness or the results of mental illness. It’s all of our responsibility to embrace this issue and start finding solutions. The clock is ticking. Someone else is planning another shooting. What are we going to do about it?

The “Never Forgets” By Darbie Andrews

ImageI brought in another box from the truck and paused just inside the entry way. Was this really my house? The white walls melted away with the continual movement of paint rollers. The old, dingy, and dull disappeared behind bright, bold, and fresh. I stepped out of the way as friends brought in more boxes. I sat mine down and grabbed more paint for another friend who stood high on a ladder to paint the upper corners of the kitchen. Then I brought duct tape to my buddy sitting on the floor behind the dryer. My cellphone rang; more help was on the way to finish painting and help me unpack. I smiled, but my eyes watered. I’d never forget it, the moment I realized that I’d reached the other side and the divorce had ended on another level. I was no longer broke, without friends, or fighting any legal battles. Yes, this was MY house. With the help of others and the undying need to move forward, I’d managed to create enough new joyous “never forgets” to overpower the painful “never forgets” of the past. Wahoo!Image

It really hit me when my friends who’d been there for some rough moments of the divorce walked in the front door of my new home and immediately started working. They grabbed paint brushes and rollers and painted nonstop. They were on a mission. I couldn’t believe how much time and energy they gave. Seeing them work so hard on creating a new home for me and my sons made me feel so incredibly loved. It was like they were painting away those hard times when I had cried to them about the lawyer meetings and expenses, the loss of half my retirement, the custody battles, and the loneliness of divorce,. They gave me new “never forgets”. Every time I look at my freshly painted walls I think of them and I will never forget their love, support, and hard work.

Then came the heavy lifting: appliances, furniture, bricks (yes, bricks). As soon as my friend grabbed the dolly cart, memories of my last move from the marital home shot through my head. My father had come to help. He and I moved everything alone. I’ll never forget the pain of that move. It felt like someone had cut me in half. In contrast, during this move, I felt complete and whole. Many friends came to help me begin a new exciting stage in my life. I’ll never forget how hard they worked and how much care they put into placing my things in the right place. They literally helped me move forward and claim a new lifestyle.

  As my friends painted and lifted, cleaned and unpacked, I wondered how I could ever repay them for all they’d given me. I hoped that I could give them some positive “never forgets” in the future or that I’d already given them some. Unlike the “never forgets” that I have intentionally worked for to overcome the pain of the past, these “never forgets” were a surprise. I didn’t expect the help that these wonderful people gave to me. That’s what made it even more unforgettable.

I’ll never forget the day, the real estate agent handed me the keys to my new house, but all the memories of people helping me afterwards, top that moment by far. Giving of our time and energy is one of the most powerful things we can do to make a difference.  Families give to each other because they are family, but when people step outside of their families and reach out to friends, it’s another level of giving.  We all have the power to create new “never forgets” for others and for ourselves. Sometimes the painful “never forgets” can weigh us down and keep us stuck, but only if we let them. The power of new beginnings, new memories, and new hope can move mountains.

I’m thankful for my painful “never forgets” because they have motivated me to seek new memories and experiences and they have taught me the power of moving forward and building a new life. Positive “never forgets” have helped me survive, thrive, and enjoy life. I’ve learned to value every experience and use it to create the life I want for myself and my children.Image

ImageMy oldest son who lives in two separate homes due to divorce chose bright green and blue paint for his room. My youngest, adopted son, chose baby blue paint. I handed them both a paint roller and said, “You’re going to help paint your bedrooms.” They both asked me why.  I replied, “Because you’ll never forget this.”  We need positive “never forgets” to get through the challenges moments of life and I hope to give my children and myself many more of them.

Really, a Blog??

I’m a little embarrassed that I opened up this blog back in 2012 and only posted one time. Should I shut it down and open a new one? My perfectionist side says, “Yes,” but my authentic self says, “Let it be.”  I have tons of legitimate excuses so I will share a few: a new adopted 2 year old son, working full time as a teacher at a continuation high school, becoming a Zumba Instructor, divorce, my dad died, and the huge amount of pain that caused. One other thing is that I’ve been writing, just not writing a blog. That’s actually why I’m back, or actually why I’m actually starting for real this time.

Why do I want to start a blog (again)? Why, oh why should I add one more thing to the many activities of my life? The main reason is, drum roll please…., I finished my first novel! Yes, I did, well the first draft at least. 280 pages that fill an entire two inch binder! I’m not lying! I tell you, that’s pretty impressive. Looking at all those pages in a Word document doesn’t feel the same as holding a big fat binder full of words that I wrote. It’s simply awesome.  I’m so proud of myself. I clearly remember when I only had ten glorious pages written. Baby, I’ve come a long way…in more way than one.

downloadFour years ago, during the beginning stages of divorce hell, I was moping around my empty lonely house, missing my son so bad that I physically hurt. With the television blaring, music playing in the background, my cell phone sitting next to me for constant texting, and my computer on my lap with multiple tabs open, I realized that no amount of distraction took away how sad it felt to not be a mother to my child for 50 percent of his life. Sure, friends told me that I was always a mother, even when he wasn’t home, but I didn’t even know where he was, so really, I didn’t feel like I was being a mother. No matter how many times I cleaned his room and washed and folded his clothes I wasn’t really caring for him because he was gone to his fathers. No matter how many people I reached out to or how many technical devices I plugged into, nothing filled the hole in my heart.

So… I decided I needed to produce something with all the days that I didn’t have custody of my son. I had to do more than grow crops in Farmville and like Facebook posts until he came home again.  The time I gave up with my son to save myself from a miserable marriage had to be used for something meaningful. Years down the road, when he reached 18 years of age, I didn’t want to look back on all that time that I had without him and say that I did nothing with it. I gave up so much to get out of the marriage and my decision made him lose so many moments with both of his parents. My freedom obligated me to do more.

I joined Redding Writers Forum and SCBWI to begin my writing adventure. Soon, I found a critique group. Well, first I learned what a critique group was. Who knew that people get together and read each other’s writing? Yep, that’s what I did. I brought ten new pages every two weeks to three other writers and they did the same. Together, we ventured forward in our novel writing process.  Without them, I wouldn’t have written anything.

And so my critique gals continue to lead me into the world of the blob. Oops, did I write that? The all-consuming BLOB! Well, it’s my hope that I won’t be consumed by my new endeavor, but I’m a little nervous. So, what will my blog, not blob, be about?  My son says I should call it, “Darbie’s Squirrel Moments.”  More on that later. It’s too fun of a topic to not delve into more deeply. For now, I’ll stick with “Going for It” because that’s what I’m doing!