Childhood

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The Guidance That Will Never Come

Published June 13, 2013 by Tabby

Claudia Elaine Kisor, my memaw

I’m not normally a person who dwells on what could have been but the past few years there has been one thing that keeps popping up as I’ve done through several extremely difficult times.

I miss my Memaw. Yes, everyone misses lost relatives but lately I’ve been feeling so cheated. I not only lost someone I was very close to but a person that I feel I needed as I grew up and especially the last few years.

Claudia Elaine Kisor was born in 1946 and passed away on April 19, 1995, from breast cancer. She died just before the Alfred P. Murrah bombing. When we heard/felt the blast from some miles away I did not think of a terrorist attack. I thought it was my world falling apart.

I was eight years old. I was there in the room when she passed. I was told a few days before that she wasn’t going to make it to prepare myself. But there was no preparation possible.

She was my best friend. Since my parents were young when they had me (21 and 18) they worked liked crazy to make things work so I spent the majority of my time either at Memaw’s or at my grandma’s. I was the most attached to them than anyone. My mom used to say she was jealous of how close we were—I never wanted to go home but stay with Memaw.

I remember spending most days waking up early with her, riding in the car to drop my aunt and uncle off for high school and then spending a few hours at the Arrow Café. She knew the owner, who always stood me on a table and announced my birthday. She would visit with people, as she always seemed to know absolutely everyone, and would give me a small notepad with colored paper and a pen with all colors of ink to draw with while she had her coffee. She took me everywhere with her, I was like her shadow. And I loved it.

We were inseparable

Then she was gone. I remember the cancer coming back but at eight years old I didn’t really understand it. I went to every single chemo appointment and watched the nurses draw blood, fascinated. I never realized how bad she felt. I never thought anything of her losing her hair. Now that I’ve seen other people go through chemo as I’ve gotten older, I can’t imagine how she remained active with me despite the suffering she must have endured.

I remember her funeral. The day of her passing and the memorial will forever be burned into my mind. I cried and never stopped. I remember hundreds of carnations and a lot of purple-her favorite color. I didn’t realize how many people were at her service because my parents, aunt, and uncles kept me shielded from the others. Mom later told me there were a lot of people there, which makes sense considering she seemed to know everyone. I still can’t listen to Garth Brooks’ “The Dance” without uncontrollably sobbing.

Eventually the grief subsided. But fourteen later it reared its ugly head again. I was sitting in the LA airport on my way back from Japan and the absolute worst time of my life. I was blindsided by divorce from the person I had given up everything for. I sat in that airport, not wishing to talk to anyone but realizing I’d have to let some people know what had happened.

I sent emails and text messages, vague and short. I didn’t talk to anyone about it for months. Sitting in that airport it hit me, I only wanted to talk to one person—my Memaw. And I couldn’t.

I needed her. She would know what to say. She’d be pissed at first and probably want to go kill him herself. Then she’d help me pick myself up and dust myself off. I had other relatives/friends that were more than happy to do so, but I wanted her. I wanted her perception and her comfort.

I had never felt so cheated in my life. I needed her guidance at that moment but what about the other times in my life? I never had her to run and talk to during my preteens and teen years as I grew and my views of the world changed. I never got to talk to her as a young adult, trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted in life.

She would have been sixty-seven this July 30th. She should still be here, laughing at my bad luck, listening to my stories as I experience more life, helping me get past my doubts. Instead I imagine what I think she would have said. I think I do a pretty good job but it’s not the same.

Cancer is a bitch.

Memaw and a tiny me

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Thirty Things to Do Before You’re Thirty…

Published August 23, 2012 by Tabby

Thirty Things to Do Before You’re Thirty-As of Today I Have Five Years

 This has been on a few articles and blogs. I first saw it on my friend Mary’s blog and thought it a good idea to kind of think of these things before you reach thirty. Being that yesterday my twenty-fifth birthday I thought I’d go through and see which ones I’ve accomplished and which ones to work on.

By age thirty, you should have…

 1. One old boyfriend you can imagine going back to and one who reminds you of how far you’ve come.

  Um, no definitely not one I could ever imagine going back to. I haven’t had a lot of boyfriends but I can definitely see growth in myself from an earlier relationship. I discovered I will not be pushed around, manipulated, or told what to do. I am my own person.

2. A decent piece of furniture no previously owned by anyone else in your family.

  I still need to work on this one. Most of my furniture is from my family still (but it’s nice!). I did buy a TV stand, a coffee table, and an L-shaped desk. But they are from Walmart so “decent” may not be the correct term.

 3. Something perfect to wear if the employer or man of your dreams wants to see you in an hour.

   Done, thanks to my stylish friends. A pencil skirt and form-fitting button up with matching cardigan. I would have a different outfit for the man but I’ve found that men love the sexy librarian look.

 4. A purse, a suitcase, and an umbrella you’re not ashamed to be seen carrying.

  Purse yes. Suitcase and umbrella…no, they are a little worse for wear.

 5. A youth you’re contented to move beyond.

   I’ve learned lessons from it I need so there is nothing more left to mine.

 6. A past juicy enough that you’re looking forward to retelling it in your old age.

   Hmm…not so much. I was pretty tame and boring. I have a few fun stories…like when I was a little tipsy and somehow turned a piece of cake into an apple.

 7. The realization that you are actually going to have an old age-and some money set aside to help fund it.

   I was already doing this at age eighteen but had to use some of that for survival. Also being in graduate school doesn’t leave anything leftover. But I will save, probably starting when I’m thirty.

 8. An email address, a voicemail, and a bank account-all of which nobody has access to but you.

 A professor I had once said every woman should control her finances and her fertility. I have all of the above and have no intention of sharing.

 9. A resume that is not even the slightest bit padded.

   Well, technically a c.v. since I’m in academia. I’m very happy with it to this point and I’ve worked very hard but I still get excited every time I get to add something new.

 10. One friend who always makes you laugh and one who lets you cry.

   Yep, always.

 11. A set of screwdrivers, cordless drill, and a black lace bra.

   I have screwdrivers, borrow the drill when needed, and own the bra. My grandpa bought me a toolkit first thing when I moved out. Most useful gift ever.

 12. Something ridiculously expensive that you bought for yourself, just because you deserve it.

   My car. After the divorce and watching my previous dreams fly out the window I bought myself the car I wanted, for me. It could also count as a need too. My 2000 Pontiac Grand Am hadn’t technically died yet but was held together with electrical and duct tape and chicken wire. I even carried a small sledgehammer-the electronics wouldn’t work unless I hit a specific spot on my dash. I almost miss the scared looks from other people in parking lots.

13. The belief that you deserve it

   Definitely. I had my first professional career job and had been through a lot.

14. A skin care regimen, an exercise routine, and a plan for dealing with those few other facets of life that don’t get better after thirty.

   I constantly battle to make my skin the best but I could work a little more on the exercise. I do yoga but need more cardio and weights. As for a plan? Nope, I’ll probably wake up one morning after age thirty and see everything that’s gone south all at once.

15. A solid start on a satisfying career, a satisfying relationship, and all those other facets of life that do get better.

   Two satisfying careers have begun, one healthy relationship, and the realization that things get better.

By thirty you should know…

1. How to fall in love without losing yourself.

   That’s not so much a problem anymore but it used to be. Now I have the opposite problem of holding myself back too much.

2. How you feel about having kids.

   I want kids no earlier than age twenty eight and no later than thirty two or thirty three. I really need to stop reading articles on genetics that can be passed on though.

3. How to quit a job, break up with a man, and confront a friend without ruining the friendship.

I can quit a job easily if mistreated or angry. But then I feel guilty if I’ve just gotten a better job and need to move on. I’ve never had to break up with a man, usually I wait until they do it (I know, that’s really bad). And I’m severely non-confrontational so that last one probably wouldn’t be an accomplishment either.

4. When to try harder and when to walk away.

I’m the absolute worst at this. I will work and try for way too long, even when I know it’s something that can’t be fixed.

5. How to kiss in a way that communicates perfectly what you would and wouldn’t like to happen next.

   I hope so…I wouldn’t be able to answer that one myself though.

6. The names of the secretary of state, your great grandmothers, and the best tailor in town.

   Yes, yes, and I can fix my own clothes.

7. How to live alone, even if you don’t like to.

   Are you kidding me? I loved living alone!! But maybe it’s because I was so busy I was never really home. I love living with my boyfriend now but still relish when I get the apartment to myself for a few hours.

8. Where to go when your soul needs soothing.

Yoga, yoga, and…yoga. It’s amazing how much this practice I’ve been doing for three years has made. Physically I’m correcting some issues, and emotionally as well. When I’m standing on my head I can’t think of anything else or I’ll drop myself.

9. That you can’t change the length of your legs, the width of your hips, or the nature of your parents.

   Yep, so true. I’ve learned to love my legs and hips and acknowledged that the latter are getting bigger with age, even without weight gain. I accepted my parents a long time ago and have had no problem since.

10. That your childhood may not have been perfect but it’s over.

For me, thank god my childhood is over. I think those that truly have had a horrid one, or part of one, can look back and wish they would have had a normal upbringing, but I’m always thankful I had the experiences I did. It made me a stronger and more responsible person, not because I learned to be but because I had to be.

11. What you would and wouldn’t do for money or love.

   This is an easy one for me…except for maybe when I get my tuition bill for the semester…just kidding! There’s a lot I wouldn’t do for money. Love, however, I think we all do things we shouldn’t because love is what we want most in life. It’s learning how to give yourself to someone without losing yourself in the process.

12. That nobody gets away with smoking, drinking, doing drugs, or not flossing for very long.

So true. I don’t like any of these and fear the dentist, so I floss regularly.

13. Who you can trust, who you can’t, and why you shouldn’t take it personally.

   This is a tough one. I’m not a trusting person anyway, and aspects of life have made that even more difficult. It makes me sad when I can see that I should trust someone and I just can’t. It takes me years, even when the person doesn’t deserve my withholding. I used to take it personally if I wasn’t trusted, but then I always think of how hard it is for me to trust and that I have no right to question anyone else.

14. Not to apologize for something that isn’t your fault.

   I’m really, really bad at this one. Since I was a child, I’d sometimes apologize for things that wasn’t my fault so other people would stop fighting. I saw apologies as a quick way to diffuse tense situations. But that’s not what an apology is supposed to be. At other times, I don’t want to apologize because I’m stubborn and am sorry that I have upset someone but still stand by what I said/did. It’s all about finding the middle ground.  

15. Why they say life begins at thirty.

   Because it takes that long to find yourself and learn to love yourself. That’s part of the journey of life. I can’t wait.

From Homeless to Harvard: What It Can Mean to You and I

Published August 3, 2012 by Tabby

The movie From Homeless to Harvard is Liz Murray’s story, her journey, from drug addicted parents, group homes, to school, and eventually, Harvard. Everyone has a journey to college or wherever they go in life. Murray’s is an extreme example of what hard work and iron will can accomplish regardless of environment. (This gives away some details of the movie, but due to the title, I can’t really completely call spoiler alert).

One message I see through her story is that your environment does not have to make you. YOU make you, you make your own decisions, and you get yourself wherever in life through fight, work, stubbornness, and sometimes sheer luck. Murray’s parents were drug addicted, spending their welfare checks on heroin while her and her sister starved. Yet even after becoming homeless at age fifteen and stealing food (and self help books) to survive, she never did drugs. She never fell into that never ending cycle of abuse and dependency. Sure, I can see how if that’s what you see when you grow up, you may be more likely to repeat those actions. But it doesn’t automatically mean you have to. It is YOUR choice. As a child of a parent with an addiction, I almost become livid when young adult addicts, murderers, domestic abusers, etc. say none of their actions are really their fault because their parents weren’t the best role models. You still made the choices. It’s not about oh poor me, give me everything. It’s about being able to be proud of how far you’ve come. Break the cycle, be the change.

Murray’s story also tells of the power of encouragement and how the fact that someone cares enough to push you can mean the world to you and help you keep going. When she was a little girl there was an older lady, who was as poor as her family, who would dig in the dumpster to give Murray tossed out encyclopedias and books to read. The lady would tell her that she better go to school if she didn’t want to be an idiot. Whether it be that one special relative, an attentive teacher, or encouraging friend, that person who gave you the initial push to pursue your goals serves as probably one of the best gifts in life. I was so lucky to have several of these supportive people. In elementary and high school, I had those teachers who used to give me harder and different work than my classmates, offered to send me to science camp to get me away from my home life, filled out college scholarships for me, and gave me the approval and encouragement I so desperately craved. In college, it continued with supportive professors who took the time to praise my work, had me read my essay test answers aloud to the rest of the class, informed me of scholarships, and spoke brutally honest regarding my work. While much of this sounds like I’m a little narcissistic and an academic snob, it wasn’t about that at all. I started college on my eighteenth birthday and as an insecure, shy, timid, worried girl, I had no sense of self, nor what I was capable of. That encouragement gave me the first inkling that maybe I could do something great. Like in Murray’s story, after encouragement from her teacher she began to think of bigger, grander  goals, asking herself, “what if I worked harder?”

Murray wasn’t always the model student. She rarely showed up to school, often because she took care of her ailing mother and because she didn’t know how to learn in a classroom setting. She never really thought of school, telling her terminally ill mother that she’d go back to school when she got better. But then her mother dies, and Murray calls it the slap in the face. She talks about how she always waited for her mother to get better so she could take care of her, like a real mother-daughter relationship. But instead she was always taking care of her mother, who was like her baby. After her mother dies, her teacher tells her “now it’s time to take care of yourself.”

Everyone has a reason, that one driving force, for them to go to and graduate from college. Whether it be that you truly love learning, don’t want to work in retail/food service jobs, or you know the harsh reality of a non-educated life (for some), always hold on to that reason. That reason will be the key to your dedication. When you’re tired from working multiple jobs to pay your tuition, you’ve pulled three all-nighters, or you’re just emotionally drained, remember your main reason for your goals, for your dreams. If that thought isn’t enough to keep you going then it isn’t strong enough and you need to do some intense soul-searching to find the real reason to keep going.

I had a professor in my first or second year of college, after realizing that I hadn’t taken the traditional route to college, said it was probably an interesting story of how I had gotten there. I had never thought about it before. I knew my previous life experiences were probably different from my classmates, after hearing them speak all semester but I never thought of my journey to college as “work.” I was so excited to be there, happy and eager. Now that I’m a professor, it astounds me to hear how much people not only hate being in school, but they hate physically being in a learning environment. It makes me so thankful that I had a little bit of a rougher journey so that I can better appreciate the opportunities and experiences I have had. I’m sometimes told that I make things in my life harder than they need to be. After thinking a bit, I replied that if anything is easy, it’s not worth it. After Murray’s teacher learns of her overload of courses he says, “You’re going to kill yourself.” She replies, “No, I’m gonna live.”

There are several messages that can be learned from Liz Murray’s story in Homeless to Harvard (which is based on a real person with those real experiences). Overall, it serves as an example of taking control of your life, working as hard as inhumanly possible to achieve your goals, and appreciating the journey along the way.

“I knew at that moment I could make excuses for the rest of my life. Or I could push myself and make myself good.”

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