Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Bob Dylan Experiment Continued...

Some time has passed since I started the Bob Dylan experiment, and what a time it has been!
What have I learned, you wonder, while on this musical journey?
Tons...
You probably want more.
Bob Dylan. What can be said for the buttery-smooth tones of Dylan's vocals? Nothing! In fact, if you were wondering what I was going to say next after I said "buttery-smooth tones" then you don't know Dylan. Some of his earlier work is better as far as vocals, but the older he gets, the worse he sounds.
So what!
If you DO know the work of Bob Dylan, you know that it isn't his singing that touches your mind and heart; the touch comes from the meaningful prose.
There is meaning, under meaning, behind meaning, and ladled with more meaning within the stanzas of Bob Dylan's lyrics.
My mentor, IB, told me when we sat in the coffee shop that blustery day over a month ago: "As a writer, you should study Bob Dylan." He was so right. There is so much that I have learned, and so much more to learn by studying Bob Dylan's work.
A few snapshots of wisdom that I have gained thus far:
1) Sing!
It doesn't matter what you sound like; if there is a song in your heart, sing it!
2) Be passionate about what you believe in!
People are going to like you, or not; don't let what other people may think about you, or about your work, dictate whether or not you move forward with it!
3) Be brave!
Say what you mean; mean what you say, and don't hide behind the ambiguous. It is interesting that even though there are deeper meanings within Dylan's lyrics, they can also be read or heard at face value. Just say what you need to say, and let others take or leave what they want. One of the largest obsticles that I have battled in writing is the desire to please everyone with what I write. It is a fact that not everyone can be pleased. Period. Bravery is the only way a writer can be successful.
I have a lot to learn about life. I have only been living my life for 33 years, and have done a lot of living in that time, but through something as pure and simple as music, I have learned much. I have learned how much I don't know, and that, my friends, is where wisdom truly begins!
~RR

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Bob Dylan Experiment:

Day One: Introduction

Friday afternoon was a stormy afternoon. The rain came down sideways pulling bright yellow leaves from the trees making a sunny blizzard outside of the coffee shop where I sat at a small table across from IB, my mentor.
We started out talking about our week, and ended up talking about a blog he was writing.

"It's good," I told him, taking a pull from the mug in my hand. I was referring to to his blog, not the coffee.

"You don't think it's too self-serving?" He asked.

"Nope; it's professional, inspirational, and has a call to action... I wonder, though," I said, pointing to the printout of IB's blog, "why do you always quote Bob Dylan? Who is he anyway?"

*Silence*
"What?" IB said. I could have sworn he lost some of the color in his cheeks. "You're kidding, right?" He asked me, incredulous.
"Well, no... I mean, I know he's a singer or something. Is he still alive?" I asked.
IB was silent across the table; he looked a bit ill.
"So...?" I said. He was looking at me as though I were a foolish little girl.
"I need a moment to process," he said; he leaned back in his chair for a second, and then leaned quickly toward me leaning his elbows on his knees.
"Okay," he said, "who is most influential in literature?"

"Easy," I said, "Henry James, Nathanial Hawthorne, Hemingway, a few others."
"Henry James; English author, hard to read, but highly influential, right?" IB asked.
"Yes; that's all true." I said.
"Now take Henry James and put him up against Salinger." IB said, tucking in for a true teacher/student session of education.
"There isn't a lot of depth to Salinger; his writing is what it is; each sentence means exactly what is written." IB is speaking passionately, still leaning toward me, his eyes shining.

"Sure," I agreed.
"Henry James wrote meanings within meanings; there was always something layered underneath." He said.
"Right, definitely!" I said. IB took a sip from his water glass, raised an eyebrow, and continued:
"That's Dylan!" He exclaimed. "Bob Dylan is one of the most meaningful and prolific songwriters in the world. He wrote meaning on top of meaning, and layered it with depth not seen in any other music or poetry!" He sat back in his chair again, seemingly spent.
"Wow," I said.
"Rebecca, I can't believe you are an author, and you don't know. You should know Dylan's work. As an author, you should study his work." IB said. He ripped a piece of yellow paper off of the legal pad he always carries with him and murmured bits of songs as he feverishly wrote:

It's alright Ma, I'm only bleeding
Forever Young
Lay Lady Lay
Blowing in the Wind
Positively 4th Street
Tangled Up in Blue
Just Like a Woman (he scribbled a star next to that one)
Gotta Serve Somebody
One More Cup of Coffee Before I Go
Shelter From the Storm
Maggie's Farm


IB looked up, satisfied, and slid the paper across the table to me.
"These will get you started," he said. "This is your homework; I'll bring you some CD's to borrow."
"Wow," I said again. I took the paper and folded it in half, and in half again and slid it into my notebook.
"I'll do it!" I caught his excitement, and I was suddenly resolute.
"I will do an experimental study on Bob Dylan; this will be fun!"


That, my friends, is how it started. "The Bob Dylan Experiment" is underway; I will be on a lyrical, musical journey for a while, and I'll let you know how it goes!

Live a great day!
~RR

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sometimes I don't even have to leave the house for the best dialogue gathering...


After the longest, most frustrating Sunday in history, I was getting Grover's uniform ready for school the next day...

Undershirt, polo, slacks, socks, check!

Backpack, check!

Shoes... shoes... where the heck is the other shoe???

Me: James! Have you seen Grove's school shoe?

James: Just one?

Me: Yes, just one, so you've seen the other one?

James: I saw you with one...

Me: Nevermind... Grove, where is your other school shoe?

Grove: Dunno

Me: You just wore them to church today, where did you take them off?

Grove: Dunno... (noticing the lone shoe in my hand) you have one, where'd ya get that one from?

Me: What does it matter where I got it... Where is the other one?

Grove: Dunno... Guess I can't go to school tomorrow.

Me: NO! You will just be going to school with one shoe... How about that?

Grove: Was that shoe in the bathtub?

Me: Um... No.

Grover: Maybe the other shoe is in the bathtub...

Me: Why is it in the tub???

Grove: Dunno...

The missing shoe was, indeed, in the bathtub, along with two soggy socks, and the business card of our family friend... What where they doing in the bathtub?

Me: Dunno!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My Mama Said...


Tomorrow will mark the five year anniversary since I lost my mom suddenly to cancer. While this is always an emotional day for my, this year I have decided to make a compilation of some of the wisdom that she gifted me with when she was here.


I am actually amazed at how often I think, say, or do something that I realize came from her. Even when I wasn’t actively listening to her, I was aware. I feel blessed to be able to share some of her with you.

The world was a better place when she was in it, but I am the woman I am because she was here. I wish I would have listened to mom more when she was alive; but I am surprised to find that some of her best stuff is still floating around in my head...


On Common Sense and Incredulity


“What onion truck do you think I just fell off of?”

Once, my sophomore year in high school, my mom and I were on our way to Lloyd Center on I-5 in Portland. I had skipped a class that day, and of course, mom knew (stupid automated school calling system!). She asked me where I had been during Political Science that day, and of course I lied… badly.

“I dunno.” Great! If I had been in class, wouldn’t I have stated that?

“What do you mean you don’t know?” Mom said.

“Well, I mean, maybe Mr. Beck just missed me during role call.”

“Becky, what onion truck do you think I fell off of?” She said.

No joke, there was a Walla Walla Onion truck on the freeway just ahead of us.

“That one?” I said, pointing.

We both laughed… and I was grounded for the weekend.


“When your potential is obvious, you just look irresponsible when you don’t live up to it.”

I think of this statement often when endeavoring to do things. I think I sometimes have the bad habit of pretending I’m doing all I can, and even convincing myself that I am, but this statement (which came from her the day she got my report card that included a big, fat “F” in biology) comes to me, and I really take a look at my task from a realistic perspective. What is my potential, and how conducive is my effort vs. ability?


On Love and Relationships


We should, out of respect for ourselves, and our future husband or wife, work diligently to guard our heart. Whoever you are with will guard theirs and yours as well; if they don't, they aren't the one.

This lesson came up again and again over the years. It’s funny that mom never really said to wait until I was married to have sex (although it was strongly implied). By “guarding my heart” she explained it as being careful not only how much of yourself you gave physically to another, but also how much you gave in emotional intimacy. It was a “heart-on-your-sleeve” lesson. As I learned (more than once) that what I reveal to others can often be used in hurtful ways later.


“Be careful who you trust with your heart… but when you choose to give your heart to someone, give it to them fully.”

This gem came after my divorce. Mom and I were talking about my marriage, and I told her how I felt that I had not really been open about who I really was with my husband. The truth was that I didn’t really trust him; that was my problem, not his. Trust is a choice. Love is a choice.


Keep your eyes focused upward [on God], and if your future husband is doing the same, and you both keep moving forward, then you will eventually run into one another!”

This was one of the most comforting, and most logical pieces of advice she imparted. It helped me to take my focus off of looking for a mate, and on to making my own life better… She was right, and here I am!

Out of everything mom told me, the one statement that made the most impact was simply:


I love you.”


Foster moms don’t have to love… Not to would have been inconceivable for her.


I loved her too…

~Rebecca Reece

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Scent of Grief

"Sorrow makes us all children again - destroys all differences of intellect. The wisest know nothing." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

After helping James prepare for work on top of getting both myself and Grover ready for church, we are late. I hurry Grover to his Sunday school classroom and find a seat in near the back of the sanctuary. The first song is over by the time I am settled; the music ends and immediately the guitar changes key and the introduction to the next song begins. I take a few deep, calming breaths to prepare to sing to God; not two minutes earlier I was cursing under my breath for being late to church... again.

I take a breath in and open my mouth to join the song; a wave of grief swirls around me in an invisible shroud of vanilla. The sweet, musky scent of "Vanilla Fields" fills my senses for a moment then fades. The words of the song halt in the back of my throat, and for a moment, they block my breath from leaving my lungs. I swallow quickly against the words, the lump they form in my throat, choking me, the familiar scent of my mother's perfume pressing into me.

I close my eyes tightly and wait for the scent of grief to fade, and for a moment, it does, but then returns warm and sweet, yet acrid; it burns in my eyes, in my chest. This time, I cannot stop the stinging tear from escaping my eyelid; it runs down my left cheek, hot and painful, it burns a path to my chin and lingers there.

I don't know whether or not to wipe it away. I am about to, and lift my hand to do so when I feel a hand on my shoulder. The women next to me holds a tissue out to me, on the woman's face is a knowing smile, she assumes my emotion to be religious. I am, at the same moment both touched and frustrated by her kindness; I want to be alone in my struggle. I receive the tissue with what I hope to be a grateful look. She turns back toward the front, singing in a sweet, clear voice.

I touch the tissue to my cheek, to the corner of my eye. Grief once again swirls in on a wave of vanilla and takes its' permission from the arrival of the tissue to rise again. Anger, confusion, hurt... Pain. Grief sits on my shoulder and beckons me to embrace it. I can't breathe; my stomach seizes and I excuse myself to the ladies room. I am grateful for the small miracle of an empty lavatory. I slip into an empty stall and slide the latch into place. Grief, tired of waiting for me to invite it in, punches its' way into my stomach and I vomit into the lidless toilet.

Spent, heaving with sobs, I sit down and give into grief as it grabs on to me in a suffocating embrace releasing tendrils of sadness that wrap like cold fingers around my neck. I sit down on the toilet and finally succumb gulping for air, the tears flow as my breath is stolen from me.

Why does Grief take liberties where Peace, Love, and Joy are afraid to? How long will I be blindsided by the ugly beast of Grief, or perhaps it is as I fear: There is no end to the pranks Grief is allowed to pull at its' own cruel timing.

~RR

September will mark four years since my foster-mom, my mom, was taken from us by cancer.
Jan Schmitt 1944-2005

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Guide to Perfect Parenting *(no actual guide exists, such a guide is a falacy of people who don't, in fact, have actual children)


There are two things that I have realized about myself:

1) I want to be a perfect parent

2) I am not a perfect parent

Trying to be the perfect parent can be a destructive process; since there is no such thing, it is a goal that can never be reached and as such I would either have to lie to myself, or I would have to beat up on myself for my inability to be perfect.

I have to wonder what my biological mother wanted when she was younger. Before she had children, what kind of parent did she want to be? I find it difficult (if not impossible) to believe that she wanted to be an abusive, tyrannical parent. Who grows up looking forward to parenting as being in total control of your own child so you can do whatever you want to them? No one, I would hope; and yet, how does one get to that point?

This past year, my son has come into the age that, were he my mother's child, would begin to get regular beatings and verbal abuse. I watch him grow, and learn, and I just can't imagine striking his face or pulling him by his hair. I have been frustrated with him to the point of putting him in his room so that I can have a time out, but I just can't fathom doing the things to him that our mom did to us.

I am so thankful that God blessed me with a child. Nearly daily I remember his birth and what a beautiful day in July it was when he came to be my son. That smooshed face with those big brown eyes were the most precious gift that I have ever received. I hope that I will be who and what he needs, and that God will, in the end, be as glad that he blessed me with my son as I am glad to have him.

Signs of a perfect parent:

Hmmm... I'll let you know if I ever see them.

Signs of an imperfect parent:

1) Too many toys

2) Too much tv

3) Ice cream before dinner

4) Jelly in the peanut butter jar

5) Happy, well-balanced children with great memories of childhood

The best thing I can remember when I try to be "just so," is that Grover thinks I'm pretty great! (At least for now, I may have to edit this when he is older!)

Happy Mother's Day!

~RR

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dominick the Runaway Soul

1

When the time came for a woman to bear a child, God would send a little soul to become that woman’s child. God had a favorite small soul, whom he lovingly called Dominick, which means “belongs to God.” This is the story of Dominick.
Dominick would eat his meals at God’s table, and partake of the best foods in heaven. He would spend time with God each day near the throne, entertaining God with his antics, and soothing God with his beautiful clear voice. God favored Dominick as much as Dominick favored God, and they were rarely seen apart.
One day, God decided that it was time for Dominick to fulfill his purpose to go to earth and be born as a baby. Dominick dearly loved God, and did not want to go.
“Please God,” he said, “you are my parent, I want to dwell with you here, for I have seen through the clouds the ways of the world, and I am afraid.”
God dearly loved Dominick as well, but He felt that it was time for Dominick to go for it was selfish that God should keep the best from his people on earth, whom he also loved greatly. God told Dominick this:
“It is time Dominick. You must go to earth now. You will grow into a boy, and then a man. You will learn much about life on earth, and then, one day, when your years on earth have been many, I will welcome you back to live with me forever, but first you must fulfill your purpose.”
Dominick was saddened. Part of him was excited to go to earth. He saw many things when he peeked through the clouds, things that looked exciting and fun. But he loved God so much, that he was sad too, and afraid to leave. God took the little soul to a place at the edge of the sky, a place where God liked to look down and watch the goings on down on earth. He pointed a great finger to a place in the city. Dominick saw a young woman sitting beside a tree. She was a beautiful woman, as God had created all of the women on earth with a beauty all their own. The woman was crying, and Dominick heard her wishes for a child of her own.
“She is who you must go to, Dominick. See her tears, and feel the heaviness of her heart? You can make her happy, and that right now, is your place.”
Dominick stared at the woman little while longer, and then turned to God. “I love you God,” He said bravely “and if that is where you want me to go, then I will go, but I will long to come back to you every minute that I am away.”
God smiled at Dominick, and was proud of him. “You are a good soul Dominick. I love you greatly, and I will welcome you back when you have finished.”
With that, Dominick gave God one final embrace, and leapt off of the edge of the sky and went to join the woman.
2
When Dominick had been inside the woman for a few weeks he became sad. He missed God so much, and he longed to be near him again. It was cramped and dark in the small space of the woman’s womb, and he longed for something better than the nourishment that entered him through the cord in his belly. Dominick kept reminding himself that he would be able to return back to heaven one day, and tried to entertain himself with the thoughts of dancing and singing before God again. He passed his time in the womb by counting off his favorite heavenly dishes that he would eat at God’s table again one day. He tried to dance inside the tiny space, but there was no room for that. He began to thrash about in anger, kicking hard at the sides of the uterus. The woman felt the quickening inside of her, and was overcome with happiness. Dominick could feel the pressure of the woman’s hands on her belly, feeling the places that his feet had kicked. He could sense her love for him, and was calmed by her touch and quickly fell fast asleep.
While Dominick was sleeping, an idea came to him. He dreamt that he could leave the woman, and get another soul to take his place! He could be back in heaven and eating from God’s table much quicker than he would if he stayed on for a human lifetime. Dominick woke with a start. He could nearly taste God’s dinner on his tongue and he wasted no time escaping through the umbilical cord, and out of the woman’s belly.
Dominick hurried back up to the sky. He was thinking of things to tell God about his return. He was worried, but he knew that God was always forgiving in the past, and hoped for that same forgiveness again. On his journey back to heaven, Dominick came upon Sara, another young soul. Sara greeted Dominick with surprise.
“I thought you had been sent on your earth-journey.” Said Sara. “You have been missed, God longs for your completion every day so that He can welcome you back. He has even been planning for your return feast since the day you left.”
Dominick was happy to hear this. He was certain that God would take him back early, but he still needed to fill his place on earth.
“Sara, it is good to see you as well. I have missed being in heaven, but I have done something wrong. My time on earth hasn’t finished, but I couldn’t stand it any more Sara! I want to be here with God.”
Sara looked pensive. She too knew of God’s favor of Dominick, but she also knew how much God hated to be disobeyed. “I don’t know Dominick,” she said. “He may be angry, what are you going to do?”
Dominick had been looking down when he replied to Sara. “Well… I could… I mean, if I were to find someone who would go in my place, to earth I mean, maybe God wouldn’t be so angry.” When he finished speaking, Dominick looked imploringly at Sara, he was pleading her with his gaze. Sara knew what he was asking her, and she shook her head, but without conviction.
“Please Sara. Go to earth for me. It really isn’t that bad. Just a little lonely in the darkness of the womb, but it is warm, and it only lasts a few earth months, then you would be free, and could live on earth for many years.”
Sara looked doubtful, but she had wanted God to send her soon, and she was growing excited that she could go now. Finally she nodded.
“I’ll go,” she said “show me the woman.”
With that, Dominick pointed out the woman who was walking in the same park where Dominick had first seen her. Sara jumped down to her, and entered her through the belly, crawling through the cord the way that Dominick had escaped.
3
God was angry at first when He saw Dominick, but could not stay angry long, for He had missed his favorite small soul. God agreed that Dominick could stay for a while, but that Dominick would have to go back to earth and fulfill his calling. It was well in heaven. Dominick again ate from God’s table, and danced and sang at God’s throne.
When God felt that the time had been long enough, He decided that it was time for Dominick to return to earth. Again God showed Dominick a woman who was ready for a child, and again Dominick left with sadness. It was only a few weeks before Dominick was overcome again with the loneliness and boredom that had plagued him before, and he escaped the womb for a second time. He found a replacement, and went back to heaven.
Again and again this happened. Sometimes though, he could not find a soul to go in his place, and the baby would be not be born as a live child. Often, Dominick would escape after only a few weeks, but sometimes Dominick would make it for as many months as it took to grow a baby on earth, but escaped through the cord at the last minute. Often, his hasty escape would cause the cord to become entangled around the baby’s neck. If Dominick was able to find a replacement, the baby would live, but that was not always the case.
To this day, the struggle has not been resolved between the will of God, and Dominick’s own will, much like the struggle between a parent and a child here on earth.
Many times, when a woman loses her child, she thinks that she has done something wrong. But as likely as not Dominick, the runaway soul, has probably been there, and then… gone.

My personal struggle with multiple miscarriage over the past 12 years has been a difficult one. There is nothing like hearing a baby's heartbeat, your baby's heartbeat, for the first time, and weeks or months later being faced with a horrible, yet deafening, silence. "Dominick the Runaway Soul" is my way of dealing with a the loss of my son at 4 month gestation in 1999.
If you or someone you know has dealt with the pain and grief of miscarriage, you can find out more here: American Pregnancy Association. ~Rebecca Reece

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Becky's Beans

I didn't start gardening until I was twenty-nine, actually, my husband started gardening when I was twenty-nine; I became "gardening support." It all started with one sad, wilted tomato plant that spring, and ended with a freezer full of garden-fresh tomatoes, zucchini, and beans that fall.

"Look!" My husband, James said. He had just come in from work, he was holding up a black, plastic pot with a wilted tomato plant that hung limply to the side; James was smiling like a twelve-year-old boy with a huge toad bulging out of his fist. I eyed the tomato plant, and didn't say anything.

"It's a tomato plant!" He said, thrusting it toward me. I reached my hand out toward it, then changed my mind, instead folded my arms across my chest. Our two-year old son, Grover, plowed into my husband's legs at that moment, and the tomato plant flopped limply from side to side.

"I can see that it's a tomato plant; what is it doing here?" I asked, as though the plant had followed him home like a stray kitten.

"We're gonna plant it! We'll get more, and we'll have a vegetable garden this year," he said.

He knelt down on the floor to show Grover the plant, "look, Grove, tomato plant," he said to the toddler, who promptly grabbed at the limp greens; James pulled the plant out of Grover’s reach.

"'Mato pants,” said Grover. "'Mato pants... Mato pants!" He chanted, dancing a jig around my husband.

That was the beginning of our garden. Plots were dug and the soil was prepared, gardening books of all kinds started showing up around the house. Nearly every day brought James home from work with some new plant, or more seed packets. Vegetables, fruits and herbs were planted, and started to grow in our back yard garden.

James was thrilled with each new sprout, and I was indifferent. It wasn’t that I disliked gardening; I had not been enthusiastic about anything then; my mother had died unexpectedly from a ruptured tumor in her lung a few months before, and nothing I did held much pleasure for me. Gardening just seemed like another chore to do, something else to be “gotten to,” during the day. I kept Grover out of the garden, watered it when it was hot, and just continued to muddle through my days, reminding myself to get up each morning and breathe.

It was a Tuesday evening when James brought home a packet of bush beans, and I finally began to garden.
*****

“Mom!” I shouted, running into the house from the school bus. “Mom, where are you?” She answered from her room, so I toss my book bag on the sofa and hurried down the hall to her door.

“Becky, what are you shouting about?” She said. She saw at what I was holding in my hand and furrowed her brow. “You’re getting dirt all over the carpet! Get that thing outside!” She walked toward me and shooed me down the hall, and out the back patio door. The plastic baggie in my hand had sprung a leak sometime between school and my front door, and I left a trail through the house.

“Sorry mom, but look, can I plant them in the back?” I held up the baggie toward her with its treasure inside; three small bean plants peek out of the top of the leaking bag.

“What are they?” Mom asked her brow still furrowed.

“Beans!” I say.

“You’re a sophomore in high school and you are growing beans in a baggie? What are you learning, kindergarten botany?” Mom said.

“I don’t know; I do what Mr. Thomas says. Anyways, can I plant them in the yard?” I said. I was still excited; I had visions of Jack and his beanstalk climbing beyond the clouds.

“Fine. That’s fine I guess. You’ll need to make a place,” Mom said. She reached for the caddy that held her gardening tools and ushered me down the deck steps toward the back of the yard. “Near the fence will be best. There,” she pointed to a spot by the fence, far from the tall tree that sits in the corner of the yard.

“Why not over there, by the tree?” I asked her, gesturing toward a tall evergreen with my baggie of bean plants.

“They need sun,” she said. “I had better give you a hand or they will be dead by the weekend.” Mom let out a sigh meant to be exasperation, but she was enjoying herself. She knelt on the ground next to the spot she had pointed out, and instructed me to pull up all of the weeds and stones in a small patch. Less than an hour later, we had prepared a place, planted, and watered the beans. While we worked she explained how to care for them, and then we settled into relaxed silence with sound between us beyond the rings on her hands softly clicking together. When we were finished, we both had dark patches on our knees, dirt on our cheeks, and smiles on our faces.

A few weeks that passed school ended for the summer. Mom and I would go out often to see ‘Becky’s Beans’, as she had named them, and we watched them grow together. With three other foster girls in the house, there had never been enough time alone with Mom; our little bean patch brought us together. We shared conversations, some of our talks were about growing beans, but even those conversations were about more than gardening. Some of the things we talked about were important, and some were not, but the things we shared were just Mom’s and mine.

When the beans were finally big enough to pick and eat, Mom sent me out with a colander, and I gather beans for dinner. When we ate that night, she bragged about what good beans they were, and she said all of us girls should plant a garden together next year. We never did, though, and I was glad. That year, Mom and I didn’t grow a garden together, we grew together.
*****

I planted my own patch of bush beans in the sun last year, and I watched them sprout and grow. When I tended to them, I would think about ‘Becky’s Beans’ from all those years ago, and recalled the conversations we had together over my little patch of garden. She would encourage me when I was down, and laugh with me about something else. I weeded the rows of beans with the sun on my back and remembered mom’s laughter and wisdom accompanied by the comforting clicking of her rings.

When we harvested our crop last year, and ate fresh beans for dinner the day we picked them; I was glad that I had finally taken her advice about growing another garden, even if it was fifteen years later. I didn’t just find a love for gardening; instead, I remembered my love for my mother, and found her in the dark, rich soil that just like her life, and then her passing, fostered new growth.

*This is the final edit of "How I Lost My Mother to Cancer, and Found Her Through My Garden"

Monday, April 6, 2009

Help Wanted!!!


*I did not write this, but wish I did! If I one more person says to me: "Oh, so you don't work?" I will not be able to stop my hands from wrapping around their neck... All mothers are working mothers! ~RR

JOB DESCRIPTION:
Long term, team players needed, for challenging permanent work in an, often chaotic environment. Candidates must possess excellent communication and organizational skills and be willing to work variable hours, which will include evenings and weekends and frequent 24 hour shifts on call. Some overnight travel required, including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in far away cities. Travel expenses not reimbursed. Extensive courier duties also required.

RESPONSIBILITIES:
The rest of your life. Must be willing to be hated, at least temporarily, until someone needs $5. Must be willing to bite tongue repeatedly. Also, must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule and be able to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds flat in case, this time, the screams from the backyard are not someone just crying wolf. Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges, such as small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish toilets and stuck zippers. Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars and coordinate production of multiple homework projects. Must have ability to plan and organize social gatherings for clients of all ages and mental outlooks. Must be willing to be indispensable one minute, an embarrassment the next. Must handle assembly and product safety testing of a half million cheap, plastic toys, and battery operated devices. Must always hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. Must assume final, complete accountability for the quality of the end product. Responsibilities also include floor maintenance and janitorial work throughout the facility.

POSSIBILITY FOR ADVANCEMENT & PROMOTION:
Virtually none. Your job is to remain in the same position for years, without complaining, constantly retraining and updating your skills, so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you

PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE:
None required unfortunately. On-the-job training offered on a continually exhausting basis.

WAGES AND COMPENSATION:
Get this! You pay them! Offering frequent raises and bonuses. A balloon payment is due when they turn 18 because of the assumption that college will help them become financially independent. When you die, you give them
whatever is left. The oddest thing about this reverse-salary scheme is that you actually enjoy it and wish you could only do more.

BENEFITS:
While no health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays and no stock options are offered; this job supplies limitless opportunities for personal growth and free hugs for life if you
play your cards right.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Twitter Traffic Wars! Jenni Hogan of KIRO7 is Today's Winner!

"A sale is not something you pursue, it is something that happens to you while you are immersed in serving your customer.." ~Unknown

This economy has been tough on our family; we have had to look outside of our normal travel range for remodeling work. Gig Harbor, WA to Bellevue, WA; Google quotes the drive time at 59 minutes, to 1 hour and 30 minutes with heavy traffic. The actual drive time has varied even more over the past couple of weeks; I wanted a more professional opinion.

Monday morning: Stretch, yawn, let the computer load while I get some hot coffee... I sign in to Twitter and see that a couple of the local news folks that I follow, are now following me. Interesting! Hmmm... What's the commute going to be like this morning? I Tweet...

"Gig Harbor to Bellevue?" I get answers! A couple of different answers...

"Who's right?" I wonder. Joking, I Tweet again,,,

"Whoever gets me there with the closest time, wins!"

And so it began, "Twitter Traffic Wars: Dare to Get Me There!" is born!

Tuesday is even more exciting, and on Wednesday, another traffic guru jumps in; it's RachelleKOMO! The race is on: Adam Gehrke (Q13 Fox), Jenni Hogan (KIRO), and Rachelle Murcia (KOMO), all Tweet their best guesses:
Adam: 55min.
Rachelle: 1 hour, 6 min
Jenni: 1 hour, 10 min including James' coffee stop (already winning extra points for remembering the coffee stop from earlier in the week!)

James left the driveway, and the race was on... It was looking like Adam was going to win for the second day in a row, when suddenly, an accident on I-5 Northbound. 55 min. gone... 1 hour, 6 min. gone... 1 hour, 10 min. gone... Aaaaand... 1 hour, 12 min. James is in Bellevue, and Jenni Hogan won the day!

James' commute was exciting and fun, and with narry a thought to the gas and time it takes to get to the jobsite.

This is a good example of great customer service on the part of our local news stations; acknowledge the viewers, and gain loyalty. (I have to admit that Jenni Hogan dropping my name this morning on KIRO7 may have shifted my loyalties around... Slightly...)

What can you do today to make someone feel special, or at the very least, less invisible? Let "Dare to Get Me There" be a challenge to help others get into a better parking space, a better spot in line at the grocery (like, in front of you, maybe!) or even into a better mood! Let's go out in the world today and make 'em smile!

Quote found @ www.businesstrainingworks.com
Photo of Jenni Hogan found @ http://twitter.com/jennihogan

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Live in the Moments that Matter

Happiness is not a brilliant climax to years of grim struggle and anxiety. Happiness is a long succession of little decisions simply to be happy in the moments.”

~ J. Donald Walters

The older I get, the more I am aware that time behaves like Jell-o in a sauna; days, weeks, months, and years pass as flashes of time, and I often find myself struggling to keep up with the moments.

High school gave way to college, which gave way to marriage, and parenthood, but I would swear that I could go to bed tonight and wake up on graduation day, learning that the past fifteen years have been nothing more than a fleeting dream.


I lament that my days rarely seem to last forever as they once did; I used to look forward to what I would accomplish in my future: “When I grow up, I’m gonna…”

Now I look down the path I’m on and feel like I’m traveling downhill on a bicycle without breaks; whizzing by me are memories that will be made and filed away long before I realize they are even happening yet.


How, in such a fast world do we slow down, or better yet, stop long enough to not only “smell the roses” but to tend the soil, plant the seeds, nurture the plants, and enjoy the blooming of the flowers?

I don’t have a definitive answer for that question, I do, however, know this: The best way to sabotage yourself from living in the moment is to often utter then phrase, “I don’t have time for that right now.”

“Mommy, watch!” Grover is playing with toys in the living room.

“Just a sec, Grove.” I say, not looking up from my work.

“Mommy, watch me!”

“Mommy’s working; I don’t have time for that right now!”

Several minutes pass before I remember that Grover had been trying to get me to watch him; I get up from my desk and find him in his room.

“What did you want to show me, Grove?” I said.

“You missed it, Mommy, I was amazing, and you missed it!” He says, clearly annoyed with me.

I have no idea what it was that I missed, I turn to go back to my work, frustrated, not that I had missed something ‘amazing’, but that I quit working for nothing, and then I stop, realizing that if I go back to my computer right now, I am probably going to miss the next ‘amazing’ thing, and I know that I didn’t want to.

“Grover? You wanna play something?” I say.

“Go Fish!” He shouts, and runs to get the deck of cards, instantly forgetting that he’s mad at me.

I am lucky, a few years from now (years that will past as mere moments) a silly card game will not be reason enough to forgive such a parental transgression.


Working hard to make a living is fine, but what is the point if I am working so hard to make a living, that I actually forget to live!

Excuse me please, I have a game of “Hungry, Hungry Hippos” waiting for me in the living room, I don’t have time for this right now…

It is only possible to live happily-ever-after on a day-to-day basis.

~Margaret Bonnano

Friday, March 20, 2009

Life is like a "Choose-your-own-Adventure" book with pages that disappear once turned...

I was 7 or 8 when I read my first "Choose-Your-Own Adventure" book. At first, I was annoyed at the inability to read the book from cover to cover. Once I got used to the way the books worked, I was fascinated! I was always troubled when I chose a path that took me to an early demise (I remember one story where I [the books written so the reader is the protagonist] fell into an icy crevasse, and was trapped forever...). I quickly learned that I could go back and start the story over again, just making different choices along the way. If only we could have as many do-overs as I had with those books! In "real-life" it is though the pages of the book self-destruct once they are turned; you can't undo a choice by going back, however, by making a series of choices we can get turned back around in the right direction.

We as humans are born into this world through no conscious choice of our own. We will one day die, and most likely, the choice will not belong to us then. However, for much of the time between those two chance days of our existence, we have the power to choose how our time here is spent. Even the Bible acknowledges the power of our own choices clear back to childhood: "Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right."*

Everyone is given sets of choices in their life; each singular choice is followed by an entirely new set of choices, and so on. Alongside the right choices are the wrong ones. The beautiful truth behind having the power of choice, is that we can control whether we make the right or wrong choices. Even after making a poor choice, we are then given a whole new set of choices; thus, making it (nearly) never too late to change our own destiny.

An abused child can not control what is changed within their environment by their abuser. However, an abuse survivor has as many choices as anyone when dealing with their past abuse. The easiest, and often the most tempting path to choose is the path of a victim; the victim's path is filled with people who will coddle and indulge the victim as they continue to mature, or worse, never mature.

Later, on a less cognitive level, the victim's choices eventually put them back into the arms of another abuser. This self-created cycle becomes an addicting companion to the victim. The cycle would then begin again and continue to run its devastating course until that person (the victim) begins to making choices to break the destructive cycle. This may never happen, or it may take years to happen; unless the person becomes mentally incapacitated, it is never too late to break the cycle.

The alternative to the victim role is the path of empowerment. Abuse, and the emotional grip of an abuser, can be powerful in a devastating way. Fortunately, some people come to realize that: Just as powerful as abusive power, is the choice to use that power to further themselves. By accepting things that we cannot change, and replacing the feelings of helplessness with something that we can control (positive actions), we find a way to gain a powerful and freeing autonomy.

The way we are brought up in our first few years in which we cannot control our own environment will definitely shape many things about us. However, because of the existence of personal power, we have the authority to choose a path on which we can mold and shape our environment ourselves, and ultimately lead a more or less fulfilling life in our years of independence. We can take the initiative and started making proactive choices to grasp our own ball of potters' clay to mold a life of our own.

Many people make the mistake of limiting their future by believing that they are only entitled to what they had at birth, and are then looked at in a bad light because of that false belief. It is never too late to begin making better choices for our lives unless a person is not of sound mind or is no longer living. Not only are we able to choose our own path in our story, we are allowed to bring a notebook and a pencil, and write some adventures of our own!

If it takes a person the majority of their life to figure out how to grab on to their own destiny, then so be it. For it will have been more worth it to taste the sweetness of that freedom for mere moments, then never to have tasted it at all.

*The Holy Bible, New International Version. Proverbs 20:11

"Choose Your Own Adventure" image from: wikipedia.org

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Fell Down

Rebecca (age 7)

It is incredible to me that there are children like we were: Young, vulnerable, and innocent; victims of abuse, neglect, and exploitation. When I look at our faces from ago, I don't remember us being so young, and I have to wonder how we ever survived...

I Fell Down


In the grocery people look

Stare

Some ask her, the little girl

“What happened?”

She looks at them

But not in their eyes

She says softly

Quietly

“I fell down”


Others see her

In her yard

At her church

They ask about her arm

Suspended in plaster

White

Could this be the second time?

She answers them timidly

Softly

“I fell down again”


The little girl against the wall

Crouching

Clasping her knees

Tightly

To her chest

Mama stands tall

Strong

Her fists are hard knots

Ready

Mama asks her

“What will you tell them?”


The little girl is looking

Down

Worn blue jean drink in

Tears

Small body aches, the little girl

Hurts

But she replies

Whispers

“I fell down”


~Rebecca Reece 1994

What can you do in your own community to stop the abuse and exploitation of children?

Find out what you can do to help here: www.childhelp.org/home

If you know of a child who is being abused, call the Child Abuse Hotline 1.800.4-A-CHILD.

Later in my life when talking to the adults that knew my family, most of them apologized to me for knowing something was going on, but not doing anything about it.

Children need help, not apoligies...

Monday, March 16, 2009

My Love Affair

"To be a great writer, one must first develop an intimate, sultry love affair with the written word." ~ Rebecca Reece 2004
(Grover, age 2 weeks)
I have often been asked about the books that have influenced me, and why I read so much. This will, perhaps, explain my love affair with the written word, and how it began...

As a young woman, my biological mother was a bookworm. Warn, mildewed copies of 'The Bobbsey Twins', 'Happy Hollisters', 'Trixie Beldon', and 'Nancy Drew', and 'The Hardy Boys' were all her influence on the bookcases of my very early childhood. My big brother taught me how to read from the Bible when I was just 3; I was young enough when I learned that I honestly don't remember not knowing how to read!

My five brothers and sisters and I raised one another; we all have different fathers, and our mother was mentally ill, and abusive due to her illness. Books were a lovely escape from the abuse and loneliness of being a child in my home; I devoured every book I could get my hands on.

One of the battles that mother fought was with depression; she would often spend days at a time in her bed reading. As a result, there were innumerable volumes of paperback fiction available. Whenever we moved (something we did a lot) one of the first things that happened in each new house was the installation of rows and rows of standard-and-bracket shelves to hold the boxes and boxes of books. I read them all.

It was fortunate for me, I think, that she was not the type to read romance novels, but I cannot look at a copy of Stephen King's 'It', however, without the same heat of fear washing over me that had overtaken me when I read it for the first time at the tender age of 10.

I fell in love with my favorite book to this day, 'To Kill a Mockingbird', when I was just 8 years old. I was held captive by the reality that my brothers and sisters and I were not alone in the injustices of life. I was also endeared to the characters because I found it terribly romantic that Scout and Jem had a father and no mother; with my mother's boyfriends in and out of my life more often than the changing of the seasons, my deepest, secret wish as a little girl was to have a father.

My first taste of Hemingway's work was at the age of 11; it was a collection of short stories, including 'The Three Day Blow'; there was something about the way the words fit together to create descriptions so real that I felt that I was in the cabin with that boy, feeling the pressing of the storm outside, and the warmth of the fire inside.

My favorite Hemingway (can there be just one?) is 'A Moveable Feast'. Upon reading 'Feast', I knew that I wanted to be a writer, and that I would, one day, make it to Paris and sit at the cafes where Hemingway sat, and suss out a book or two there.

I am thankful to have been lucky enough to have had my eyes opened at such a young age to the happiness, sadness, fear, magic, and complete joy that the written word holds in its' pages. At the end of my life, after I have passed many tests, and overcome many things, and experienced my life, my only complaint to God will be: "I didn't finish my list of books!"

*To Kill a Mockingbird image from www.art.com; Trixie Beldon image from www.abebooks.com, Moveable Feast image from www.log24.com

Leave a comment with your favorite book, and why.

See what's on my bookshelf: Rebecca Reece's Books

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Look At Me!

When I was a teen, and later, an adult, I was involved with an organization called Western Youth Development (WYD) (I was first a participant, and later served as their Grant-Writer.) WYD ran weekend YES (Youth Empowerment Skills) trainings for “at-risk youth,” age 13 to 18 (many of the participants were either labeled as “troubled,” in the foster-care system, or court-ordered to be there.)

We participated in numerous activities/exercises that were meant to boost communication skills, relating with others, and self-esteem and self-empowerment. One of the exercises was called “Look at me!” During “Look at me!” we all stood in two lines facing in; each person had a person across from them, and the exercise was to look into one another's eyes. Out of all of the exercises that we did, this was often the most difficult!

After a long while, this exercise got easier and easier, but it always started with uncomfortable laughter, bad attitudes, and for some, complete refusal to participate. After the initial “shock” of having someone look directly at you, and looking directly at another person, some of the youth got very emotional.

Looking into the eyes of another human is a very personal, intimate thing. Something I learned through my experience with WYD was that by making choices to be platonically intimate with other people, I felt more fulfilled, stronger as a person, and able to have conversations on an equal level with others. It was, in a word, empowering!

Not only are you empowered and confident when you give good eye contact, but the other person feels respected and listened to.

Whether you are trying to grow your business, relationships, or just grow yourself, eye contact is more important than the smile, the hand-shake, or the words that accompany them,

With so many in this world these days with a craving for intimacy, perhaps mere eye contact can begin to spread the kind of fulfillment that will seep into and fill in the vast crevices that self-esteem falls into!

Look at me; I will look back at you!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Cover-Letter

I recently applied for a job as a Part-time Moderator & Marketing Associate for a social networking site. When I finished the cover-letter, I thought it was worth posting here...
I am Rebecca Reece. I am a wife, a mom, and a wicked good cook! One the side, I am an inventor; I invented The GumSpa, and I am a (budding) Web Designer (I authored both www.thegumspa.com and www.builderjames.com, as well as having bids out for a couple more), and I am a Writer, and have turned my love for writing into becoming an avid Blogger and Social Networker.

My five favorite websites, that is, the ones I frequent the most (not counting Facebook, MySpace, Shelfari, or Twitter because we will get to those in a moment; and with the exception of online bill-paying and banking, two evils that must be stopped...) are as follows:
www.helium.com This is where I write articles, and read and rate other people's articles
www.merriam-webster.com This is the site I always have open on a spare tab for those words I just cannot remember how to spell, or to find a word that is a outside of the realm of cliche. (Add cliches to to the list of evils that must be stopped as well!)
www.playlist.com Project Playlist is the where I love to browse for, and listen to music that gives me a musical muse to write. I love being able to find songs from high school or childhood at Project Playlist. especially when writing a story/blog/article from then; music really does take you back to a place of ago, (so do smells, but sometimes it's difficult to recreate the smell of a farm inside my office, where so many of my (mis)adventures happened as a kid!).
www.webmd.com I love the availability of having illnesses, diseases, and disorders right here on my screen whenever I may need one! Whether I am writing an article, making suggestions to a friend, or looking up something interesting to afflict one of my characters with; Web MD has been the best site for all of my medical research needs!

www.writersservices.com This is the best site that I have found for finding the 'just right' quote on any topic that I may need. Sometimes I am able to find a quote here, and turn it into a thesis statement for a short piece I am writing. Often, I just like to see what other people have said about someone or something that I might relate or debate with.
Here are my Social Networking and Blogging Sites:

MySpace
Facebook
Reece's Pieces(Blogger) (you are here!)
Shelfari
Urbis
Twitter
And finally, I write and edit a newsletter for my husband's remodeling business, Build It!, you can view the newsletter here:
Build It! The Newsletter
Also, I write for, and keep up the blogs for my husband's business.

The Blogging Builder
Build It! The Blog
Build It! on Merchant Circle
Ultimately, I love what I do! I love being "in the know" (there is one of those dreaded cliches again) about events going on in the news, and what people think about those events. I have been known to offer my opinion, humble may it be, about products, services, or businesses that I have used. I enoy spreading positive thoughts and encouragement, and can often be found skipping through the Internet passing out compliments, insight, constructive criticisms, and even the occasional chain of daisies!