Little Lejla

She was much smaller than her age indicated. Glancing again at her file to be sure I had the right girl, then back at her before calling out “Sta ima, bona?” Her little head bobbed up from the coloring book upon which she was focused. She jumped up and bounced over with her light up shoes glowing at her feet. “Wow! Those are pretty shoes, Lejla! My name is Ms. Rhonda.” She grinned sticking one glittery sneaker out for me to admire. I instantly became attached to her, this precious little one who had just arrived to Phoenix from a refugee facility in Germany. Originally from Sarajevo, a thriving metropolitan city of Bosnia Herzegovina- Lejla and her mother with her gorgeous olive skin fled Bosnia in the middle of the civil war. They crept on the hillsides with other refugees hiding among the trees in the cold until they found it safe enough to travel further. Her mother was Bosnian. Her father was Croatian. Their marriage, which had been celebrated several years earlier with a joyous ceremony and a feast, had later become filthy and despised. Sadly in the course of terror that overtook the city, Lejla’s father was taken and killed. Her uncles and older male cousins had been separated from the family and forced into camps. Fortunately they survived and were reunited in Germany before coming to Phoenix.

Lejla’s eyes resembled big, dark marbles…the kind that have a hint of shimmer in the center but only visible when luminated just so.  She had short dark hair that highlighted the large round eyes underneath. Her front teeth were silver due to lack of proper nutrition during the siege. Her laugh- a raucous phlegm filled laugh- tickled my funny bone and never failed to make me laugh too, not for its sweetness but because such a laugh could come from a tiny being. She, however, was sweet. Over the course of my visits, I gave her a nickname- miš mali. Little mouse. She was just that- cute and small, curious and observant, quiet…except for her laugh.

Starting over again in the United States is not easy, especially as a single parent; especially after seeing all they had seen, feeling all they had felt- the tremendous heartbreak and loss. Lejla was frightened by loud sounds. Miš mali. She slept in her mother’s bed at night because every time she heard a helicopter overhead she would tremble. Once at school a few of the other girls made fun of her speech, her boyish hair and her teeth to the point that Lejla cried. After school, the heartbroken little mouse cuddled up to her mother for consolation.

Even still, among her fears and adversity were bright moments of happiness. Happiness so dazzling you could see a shimmer in the darkest of marbles. I still remember when she learned to swim. Her thin arms swinging as she ran towards me blurting out all at once, “MsRhondaMsRhondaIcanswim!” It was a delight to share with her a love of reading. Her pale cheeks would practically glow with joy at learning a new word. I would bring her books, some of my childhood favorites or an occasional stuffed toy. In return I received a much sweeter gift- a big hug from her twiggy arms. 

In time, Lejla made friends. She learned English much faster than anyone else in the family and loved correcting her mother. She grew taller. The silver baby teeth fell and shiny pearls took their place.  Her mother found work as a maid; a lower position than she held in her country, but it was work. They found an apartment to maintain on their own. No longer did they need to live with other family members. Lejla made the honor roll in school, time and time again. Her mother later remarried and not to a Bosnian. She proclaimed early on that she would never marry a Bosnian, nor a Croat. No, she would marry an American. It wasn’t for papers as refugees are given green cards shortly after entry to the U.S. She wanted to marry an American because she now was American. She wanted no memory of the sorrow she left behind. She moved away from the Bosnian filled neighborhood and surrounded Lejla with American friends. She was determined to make a new life for her little mouse.

As she grew, Lejla learned to dance. Silky slippers replaced her sparkling sneakers. She would glide across the stage, her arms now strong, her legs muscular, her dark hair long and thick flowing with every whirl and leap…her eyes gleaming as bright as any of the stage lights. She had earned a new nickname. Not ready yet to let go of the little girl, I renamed her mala ptica. Little bird. ❤

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Cry, Little Sister

Mornings arrive and many nights pass,

Memories of her forever last.

 

Childhood laughter and tear streaked faces,

Echo in my thoughts and leave faint traces.

 

A familiar face in the children she bore,

Although her smoky voice will be heard no more. 

 

Long, wavy locks that floated as she danced

Hips swaying to music, lost in a trance.

 

She knew things some could never understand,

Sometimes a foe, eternally a friend.

 

Shared experiences led her to a painful journey,

A life cruelly stolen, a mother taken too early.

 

Each day I am gifted is truly a treasure.

This life brings to me fulfillment beyond measure.

 

Still sorrow waits in misty morn and sun-kissed mixture,

Love and joy do not lessen the loss of a sister. 

An Un-forgone Conclusion

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I consider myself fortunate. I say this not in a trite tone or the pat reply you so often hear that is spoken without due consideration.

At fifteen and a runaway, I had experienced violence, homelessness, poverty, seemingly endless meandering and searching for truth on the part of my parents, their drug use and poor decision-making that led to a life of constant moves, new schools, new towns, new states. We were uprooted faster than a turnip by Peter and his colony of cotton-tailed rabbits. More than once, we were even deprived of an education in a public school system that did not know what to do with homeless kids. We didn’t have a home, so there wasn’t an address under which to register us. Even now I shake my head at the ridiculousness of it all.

My future did not include drugs, drinking and despair. I’ve never battled depression or addiction. I was fortunate. At fifteen and a runaway, I could have been taken advantage of, raped, forced to live on the streets, become a teenage mother, a high school dropout or addicted to any number of substances. Instead I worked. I had an address. I graduated high school. I attended college. I built a life for myself. To be certain having so little for so long did have an affect upon me. I do not require a lot of things to feel happy. I am content with the few things I have. I have joy. I have peace. I have faith. It is in these that my happiness lies.

This good fortune was never lost on me. It is something I have known with acute awareness within a few weeks of leaving my family. It is something I give thanks for daily and will never take for granted. It is because I am so keenly aware of this fortune bestowed upon me that I have faith. I have faith in God. I have faith in humanity. Yes, even in these days…the faith I have in my fellow-man remains intact. I have faith in myself and my abilities. Love flows freely in my veins and my heart is still tender to the world around me. Yes, I am very fortunate.

I have seen firsthand people overcome insurmountable odds and pain to build the most exquisite existence. I have witnessed the transformation of addictions and the glory when addiction is fought and life reclaimed.  I have hugged a woman who had been tortured and raped by a gang of rebels only for her to smile with complete warmth and sincerity. I have seen men crippled by explosions during a war handed to them by cruel dictators, look upon the faces of their children with true pride and joy. The power of the human spirit to defiantly fight back, challenge defeat and love with grace is divinely beautiful.

I am fortunate because I realized that within me was the power to fight back. I realized from a young age that the life provided to me was not meant to be; that it must not be willfully claimed simply because it is what was.

It matters not what your experience has been heretofore. It matters not that you have hurt or caused others to hurt. It matters not the mistakes that you have made. It matters not who you were, who your family was or what riches you once had or lacked. Your life is not predestined for permanent defeat simply because you have had defeats. What was does not have to become what always is. Fortune will not find you unless you actively pursue it. Your value is not worthless simply because yesterday or all the yesterdays before today have not amounted to much. Defy your challenges. Make your future invaluable. ❤

A Splendid Torch

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To know and accept your purpose in life is to truly live a life fulfilled.

As I know my purpose, I don’t compare myself to others. I do not evaluate my possessions and travels against that of another and feel greater or less. Envy and jealousy do not encompass my thoughts. I feel joy, true joy and look forward to walking this path; confidently existing within myself. It leads my days and provides peace of mind to sleep at night. That’s not to say that I am without err or fault. Mistakes are often made. Knowing my purpose helps redirect my actions and thoughts. Even Love, as powerful as it certainly is, cannot alone fill your being in the same way as Purpose.

It is important to understand that purpose is not the same as profession. Our work is just what it proclaims to be- work. It may be part of that which defines you but your profession is not your identity. As an example, I have a dearly loved friend who studied to become a stylist. It was a lot of hard work and dealing with personalities. Through it, she learned a great deal about herself. The most important part I think she learned is that while yes she enjoys her work, her work isn’t her purpose. Her purpose and true fulfillment is found in making other women feel beautiful.

About purpose, George Bernard Shaw wrote, “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.”

This may leave you wondering, “how does one go about finding one’s purpose?” It is certain that the journey towards purpose varies greatly from person to person. I can only share some of my experience. For me it was through first knowing myself. I had to look in the mirror with complete honesty about who I am and who I am not. Who I am is a human; full of fault, flaws and imperfection. The next step was accepting that who I am at any given moment is enough, while at the same time challenging myself to improve in the next. If I continually saw myself as not enough in one moment, then that thought process would only hinder me from doing anything to qualify for the next moment. The final piece was to do those things in which I found lasting enjoyment. Not temporary gratification like a roller coaster ride, a night on the town or eating a cupcake, but those things that left me feeling a little fuller; a little better even weeks later. Afterwards I took time to pause and reflect upon my thoughts and feelings. I prayed, meditated and wrote down my thoughts, then set them aside and read them later to gain clearer perspective. The more activities I did which made me feel happy and joyful, the clearer my purpose became.

Your purpose may be to share knowledge. It may be to heal others. It may be to mother and nurture. Your purpose may be to dance and sing. It may be to lessen the hurt of ailing animals. It may be to explore and allow others a glimpse of the other side of the Earth through your photos. Your purpose may be to enact laws. It may be to develop ideas and enterprise. Like me, your purpose may be to give of yourself in service to others. Whatever your purpose is, act upon it with your whole being. We all have skills and talents. Some are creative while others are intellectual or spiritual. Those skills and talents are gifted to you. Embrace them. Be proud of them. Be grateful for these gifts by utilizing them successfully in your purpose.

I encourage you today to seek your purpose. Think upon it. Meditate upon it. Then simply accept it, live it and let it fulfill you. ❤

Parenting. Doing it right, at least for today.

mommynmaddieThere are numerous books on parenting; entire sections of Barnes and Noble dedicated to it, monthly publications focused on it’s techniques. There are many women’s magazines that share silly anecdotes and websites devoted to  “you’re doing it wrong/right” pictures. Funny stuff.

The quote about parenting that has most resonated with me was said by the incomparable Frank Zappa. “The first thing you have to do if you want to raise nice kids, is you have to talk to them like they are people instead of talking to them like they’re property.” I actually choose not to read most magazines and books about parenting. After moving beyond the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” phase, I chose to parent naturally. What can a book tell me about my child that listening and spending time with her does not? She is exactly the girl I have raised her to be, or more like allowed her to become. She is snarky, smart, sarcastic, clever, creative, beautiful and lovely in all her introverted fabulousness.

Truth be told, I have made and will continue to make mistakes…as a person, a woman, a daughter, a sister, and yes- as a mother. I am imperfect. Shock. I know. So instead of feeling like a complete moron, I choose to embrace it! Apologize when necessary. Learn from it. Move on and let go. Celebrate life and those moments that are as close to perfection as we can have here on Earth. Fortunately those moments happen often enough that it keeps one encouraged and not so often that I get spoiled. One such fantastic moment of parenting perfection happened yesterday.

The night before I was discussing with my 13 year old girl, the importance of her life skills education. I told her that she will be required to take more responsibility around the house (chores), for herself and her belongings. She will start helping me prepare dinner and complete tasks so she can learn. The goal being to prepare her for life on her own.  It is true that I do a lot for her that she could do for herself…not because she isn’t capable but because I enjoy taking care of her. However a few years from now she will be off at college. She will not have me to take care of things on her behalf so because I love her and her happiness is important, I need to step it up! Life Skills 201 has begun! She scoffed at the thought. If I listened hard enough, I’m sure there was even a snort hidden in her scoff. The look on her face was an “AS IF!” in perfect Cher Horowitz’ fashion.

Then it happened. That moment of near perfection. When I awoke the next morning, I could hear sounds of her from the front rooms. Walking down the hall as silently as I could, peeking around the corner I observed her stacking DVDs on a shelf. The shelf was not where it once was. She said, “Hi Mom. Go have a look at the living room.” The living room had been cleaned, dusted…including the ceiling fan. Exclamation point! She then pointed at the built in desk which prior to the “it” moment, had been a hodgepodge of mail and other items. However now neatly on display was her 27 inch all in one desktop with a cute Wizard of Oz background and a sticky note pinned to the top right corner.

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She is exactly the girl I have raised her to be. I would not expect anything less. As if! ❤

 

Morning Cheekiness

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Good morning sunlight on my face,

peeking through curtains like a hesitant admirer;

a snooze alarm of giggles from another room.

 

Sleepy eyed consciousness;

a caffeinated aroma soothing the haze.

Joy cometh in the morning!

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Ode to you, my creamy pleasure!

Fill my cup. Fill it to the rim.

Espress yourself. Indulge.

 

Ode to you my morning lover, delighting my senses!

Le Temps De Vivre Plus Fort.

Carte Noire luxe.

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Ode to you, daily dose of goodness!

Taste sensation.

Perfection in a cup.

 

Ode to the best part of waking up!

Sugar and spice and everything nice.

You are good to the last drop. ❤

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