Christmas without my girl

Light showEver wondered what it’d be like without your child at Christmas? Well, here’s what it’ll be like for me this year:

I’ve been a single mom now for two of my daughter’s birthdays, one Mother’s Day, a dance recital, one softball season, a year and a half of school, and this month will mark my second Christmas.

However, this holiday won’t be like any other – I won’t be with my daughter. And like Elvis once sang, “it won’t seem like Christmas” without her. Riley will be with her dad, visiting his relatives halfway across the country. While I know she will enjoy her time away, I’m dreading it.

What do I do on Christmas morning when she’s not here to wake me up, shouting that Santa left boot prints on the floor? How will I handle seeing her stocking on the mantel the day after Christmas? Do I want to go to my family’s big Christmas dinner with everyone else’s kids there? Or do I want to go to a movie alone and wallow in my sadness for a couple of hours first?

Keep in touch
Recently, I was clicking through Pinterest, an online bulletin board where you collect ideas for crafts, books, outfits, home decor, and I saw a recipe for a crockpot breakfast casserole with the note “great for Christmas morning.” It sounded yummy, so I repinned it to my board. Then I thought, “Oh, never mind. Riley won’t be here, and that’s too much food for just me.” It’s the little things that sadden me most.
Of course, I’m not the only one going through this – in 2009, 40,000 other Alabama residents saw their marriages end, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  And many of us are wondering how to handle the holidays, especially the first one away from  our children.

According to Lee Block, a life coach, author of The Post-Divorce Chronicles blog, and a divorced mom of two, it should be a priority for children to talk to both parents, if possible, on the holiday. “It’s a great way to still feel connected and also help the other parent who is without the kids,” she explains.

Because I knew my daughter would be out of town over the holidays, I decided to upgrade to an iPhone with FaceTime, or video calling. When I message my daughter’s iPod Touch, we can actually see each other when we talk. If I can’t wake up to her smiling face in person, at least I will have the gift of seeing her via modern technology on Christmas morning.

IMG_0432If you don’t have an iPhone, try Skype to video chat – all you need is a computer, Internet connection and webcam. It’s easy to set up and free.

Invite folks over
Another way to banish the holiday blues is to make yourself do something fun, Block says. Fill your home with the sounds of laughter and friendship to ward off the melancholy.

I’m sure with all of the prep and planning and buying and wrapping some of my friends could use a breather right about now. A night of cocktails and cookies, no prep needed, would be a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of the holidays – just bring a favorite drink, whether it’s a hot chocolate or a hot toddy. Or how about sharing the wrapping duties while watching a holiday movie, sipping lattes, and making plans for the new year? Hmm, I think I’m on to something!

“Just because you’re alone on the holidays doesn’t mean you have to wait to get an invitation somewhere. Have your own celebration and invite everyone to you,” Block says. “Having a house full of people will keep the loneliness at bay.”

Start new traditions
Of course, because your family has changed, the way you celebrate will change, too, so Block suggests creating new traditions for your kids. “Because you are no longer the same type of family unit, it is important to do things a different way than you did them before.”

Each year, Riley and I open one gift on Christmas Eve, bake cookies for Santa and leave him a letter. We make reindeer food and sprinkle it in the front yard so Rudolph and his pals can spot our house from the sky. And each year we get out the Nativity sets and read Luke 2 aloud.

But this year will have to be different. Since we won’t have Christmas Eve together, maybe my daughter and I can make New Year’s Eve special. We could get dressed up and go out for a fancy dinner then to a movie. And top it off with some hot chocolate, admiring the gigantic tree at our favorite outdoor shopping area. Or we could invite a few friends over to ring in the new year with a Wii Just Dance tournament.

If we make it through December
Nothing will cure the ache that I’ll surely feel when I hear “Blue Christmas” on the radio around December 23 and I’m missing my girl but having a plan to lighten up when the holiday blues creep in makes me feel a bit better. And time apart will make my time with her that much sweeter.

And while I know Riley is excited about her trip to see her dad’s families, today my heart broke for her. As we were driving home from school I was singing along with the Christmas songs on the radio. Normally she sings too, but she had her hands over her ears and wouldn’t even listen.Pretty pretty lights

“Mama, turn off the Christmas music. I don’t want to hear it.”

“Why not? You like it.”

“I don’t want to listen to it.”

“Why? What’s wrong?”

“Because I want to be in Alabama with you on Christmas.”

Oh my heart! I told her that it was OK and that she will have a ton of fun on her trip. I reminded her that we’re going to do Christmas with my whole big family before she goes and with me and my parents when she gets back. She’s satisfied for now. I sure hope our FaceTime works while she is out there because it’s going to be hard without her.

A Southern afternoon long ago

This short short story is just a compilation of memories from my childhood. I’m not sure if the people and dates actually match up, but this is a snapshot of a day in the life of two little kids in Town Creek.

Family circa 1980s
We were at some cookout somewhere on the river.

 

After School

by Tiffani Hill-Patterson (April 7, 1999)

Rrrrriinnnnngggggg. Finally. School is out. Time for a Coke and a candy bar.

I grab my books and wait on my little brother, Michael, to meet me at the end of the hall. I’m 10, he’s 7 and we both go to Hazlewood Elementary School.

“What took you so long?” I ask.

“Miss Davis made me stay after,” Michael says.

“Did you get in trouble for not having your homework again?” I ask him.

“Yeah, I’ve got to get a note signed, too,” he says, frowning.

“Oh, well, you probably won’t get a whipping or anything. They’ll just make you miss ‘The Dukes of Hazard’ tonight.”

Daddy is waiting for us at the end of the road by the school. Our house is right across the highway, but he doesn’t want us to cross the big four-lane by ourselves. So he meets us whenever he is off work to help us. If he’s at work, we walk to the babysitter’s because Momma works, too.

“Hey, y’all,” Daddy says. “How was school?”

“Fine,” we say together. But Michael hands Daddy his note.

“What happened with your homework?”

“I forgot about it. We had baseball practice and I forgot.”

“Well, I’ll let you off this time, but from now on you better have it done,” Daddy says sternly.

“Yes, sir. Can we go to the store now?” Michael asks as we begin to scurry across the highway. Traffic is heavy at this time of day in our little town. High schoolers who drive and parents who pick up their kids from school form a line that stretches about 100 yards from the red light and past our house.

“Not yet. I’ve got to go to the post office and go pay some bills,” Daddy says as we reach our road.

“Awwww. That’ll take forever,” I whine, walking up to the carport.

“Get in the truck and we’ll hurry,” Daddy says. So we all climb into the old gold Chevy, roll down the windows and turn up the radio. The post office is two minutes up the highway and City Hall, where Daddy pays the water bill, is a minute from the post office.

We pull up to the post office and climb out of the truck.

“Daddy, can I open the box?” I ask. Daddy picks me up and tells me the combination of letters as I turn the knob. I get the box open and out tumbles the mail – a Field & Stream, a couple of “duns” as Daddy calls bills and a Marvin Morgan Furniture circular. I love getting the mail.

Daddy gathers all the mail while Michael and I stare at the FBI “Most Wanted” posters behind the glass casing. We memorize the faces, just in case.

Back in the truck we head down the street to City Hall so Daddy can pay the water bill. He never understands how it can be so high. It’s probably because Michael and I run the hose outside for so long, squirting each other to death.

Michael and I play with the radio a minute, and then Daddy walks out the door. Uh-oh. Mr. Hoover stops Daddy to talk.

“Look, Michael,” I say, nudging him with my elbow. “Now we’ll be here all day.”

“Yeah, Mr. Hoover always talks too much.”

After listening to The Oak Ridge Boys sing “Elvira” on the radio, we finally see Daddy shaking Mr. Hoover’s hand and walking to the truck.

“Can we go now?” Michael asks.

“OK,” Daddy says as he cranks the truck. “Where do you want to go? Clayton’s or Mr. Reg’s?

“Mr. Reg’s,” we yell.

Mr. Reg has a punchboard that you can play for a quarter. We love to punch out that piece of paper, hoping to win something.

We go home, get out of the truck and walk through the backyard to Mr. Reg’s. It’s easier to walk than drive and park at Mr. Reg’s. His parking lot is on the corner of two highways and it’s barely big enough for one car. So we walk through our grass, stop on top of the grate to look down the water drain, jump up and touch the Joe Wheeler State Park sign, and finally step into the cool, damp store.

“OK,” Daddy says. “Tell Mr. Reg what you want.”

“I want a Coke and a plain Hershey bar,” I say.

“I want a Dr Pepper and a Whatchamacallit,” Michael says.

“And I’ll take a Coke and a bag of peanuts,” Daddy says.

“All right,” Mr. Reg says and hands us our food. “That’ll be $2.50.”

As Daddy pays for the goodies, we grab the drinks out of the cooler and stick them under the bottle opener and pop off the caps.

We walk back to our yard and settle under our big oak tree next to the highway.

Daddy dumps his peanuts in his Coke, and Michael and I tear open our candy bars. We play the car game – the red cars are mine, the blue ones are Michael’s. And that chocolate tastes so good.

President Barack Obama sounds good

I blogged about our trip to see Obama when he was in Birmingham nearly a year ago. We had high hopes that day:

I’m glad we went, and I hope Riley will remember the day she danced and clapped and shouted and cheered for the person who could be the next president of the United States.

And today those hopes are on their way to being fulfilled. It wasn’t only about Obama becoming president; it’s about what he can and will do as president. It’s about what this country can become with him as president and the nation heading in the same direction, for the same purpose, to make this country the best it’s ever been.

Happy Inauguration Day! Now let’s get busy making changes in our own communities.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream

Today we remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his work toward equality for all. Ryan and I stayed up late to watch “King” on the History Channel last night, and what I saw made me terribly sad, angry and mortified.

Is it possible to be ashamed and proud of something at the same time? Because that’s how I feel about my state. I am so ashamed of the bombings and fire-hosings and beatings and cruelty that happened during the struggle for civil rights. To see people toss food on someone sitting at lunch color just because they were different was disgusting. To see peaceful marchers attacked because they weren’t white made my stomach churn. I can’t wrap my head around hatred because of skin color.

Yet, I still have a sense of pride that this is where the movement started, with one woman standing her ground and refusing to give up her seat. With thousands standing up to the racism and inhumanity. And with television cameras capturing it all for the world to see.

With President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration just one day away, America has come a long way and many people have sacrificed their time, their jobs, their reputations, even their lives to get us here.

I hope we take advantage of this new chapter and continue to make the United States of America a more perfect union, where our children can be anything they want to be if they try hard enough, where they are not judged by their skin color, where we live by this Declaration:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Visit the King Center site to hear what it’s all about.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

A couple of weekends ago, my friend and I went out to eat for our annual birthday celebration; mine is Feb. 23, hers March 6. We reminisced about high school and old friends we hadn’t seen in awhile, including Robin. For an instant, her phone number popped into my head and I thought, “I should call her.”

Later that week I read this verse during my nightly Bible reading Wednesday night.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. Psalm 116:15 (NIV)

And I stopped and thought, “That’s kind of weird.” Then I read it again, and thought, “OK, I get it now. That means His child is now with Him in heaven.”

Thursday morning my dad called to talk to Ryan about some golf range balls, and I heard Ryan say, “You’re kidding me. Oh, no.” I wondered what that meant in a conversation about old golf balls.

“Tiff, I’ve got some bad news.” My heart started beating faster.

“Robin died.” What? What do you mean? I felt numb, and I couldn’t move. It just didn’t seem real.

He put his arm around me and the tears started. My dad couldn’t tell me that one of my best friends in high school died, so he asked Ryan to. I’m so glad he was there when I found out.

We’ve been friends since kindergarten, and even though we’d go long periods without seeing each other, when we did bump into each other when I’d visit my hometown, the friendship was always there. Robin was sweet, smart, pretty and a good person – homecoming queen, a cheerleader, Miss Hazlewood.

Thursday night’s Bible reading was titled “It’s Later Than You Think.”

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 (NIV)

Kind of hard to do, but as I thought about it, I gave thanks that I knew Robin as long as I did. The gist of the devotion: “Our greatest fear is running out of time.” We’re constantly rushing to get things done, and we tend to forget the important things: friends, family, rejoicing, being thankful.

Monday’s homegoing celebration was sad and touching. Her family barely held up; her fiancé shared about his love for Robin – “She made me feel like a man again” – and it was heartbreaking. After lots of struggles, she was finally happy. And it was over. You know what verse the preacher chose to highlight?

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. Psalm 116:15 (NIV)

If a friend’s phone number pops into your head, call her. If you have thoughts about someone you haven’t seen in awhile, get in touch. It could be God’s way of preparing you for something. Maybe they need a friend; maybe it’ll be the last time you talk to them.

The Hazlewood High School Class of 1990 lost another friend; Michael T. died about seven years ago. Robin leaves behind three young daughters; Riley could’ve been great friends with the two youngest if I’d done more than think about getting in touch. I should’ve called her, spent time with her and her girls, shared mom experiences.

It’s too late to do these things with Robin now, but I hope my regrets inspire me to keep in touch with other friends, do more fun things with my family and be grateful for the blessings I do have.

I’ll never see Robin on this earth again, but I will see her again. I take comfort in that. Show your love whenever you get the chance.

http://media.imeem.com/m/Oz5RytCydO/aus=false/

Love to y’all!

Hail to the Chief


President Clinton at Huntsville High
Originally uploaded by Tiff1723

Listening to Bill. He’s down and to her right, the circle of white light is his head, and it looks like he’s holding a square of white light.

It was cool to hear a former president speak; and I got some decent pictures, which, of course, I’ll have to upload later. Bill touted Hillary’s experience, talked about health care, the mortgage crisis and education. What he said sounded a lot like what Obama said. They have many of the same ideas, just different ways of implementing them.

It’s exciting to think of having a woman as president of the United States. In high school, I was all about “girls can do anything boys can do” if we have the same resources. The football team didn’t have to raise money for uniforms or trips by having car washes like the softball and volleyball teams did. We had 5 different coaches in 6 years; the football and basketball teams had the same ones. Everytime we’d get a good coach, the school board would not renew her contract for the next year. It sucked being a female athlete in high school as far as respect and resources, but we were pretty good anyway. And I love playing sports, and so far Riley does, too. (Another post for another time.)

However, I won’t base my vote on the fact that Hillary is a woman or that Obama is black. Either one would show that America has progressed from white men only. And I think that’s important. But what’s most important is what they’ll do to fix the mess we’re in in Iraq, make health care and college affordable, make our schools better, take good care of our veterans and repair our standing in the world.

We’ve got two more days to decide. No matter who you choose or which party you like, make sure you vote Tuesday!

Electricity

The rally for Sen. Barack Obama Sunday was like a rock concert and revival all rolled into one; 11,000 people showed up to fill the arena. There were gospel singers, soul music blaring from speakers, folks holding up their cell phones to light up a darkened Bartow Arena on UAB’s campus. It was electric, energetic. It felt like we were part of something bigger than just Birmingham, bigger than Alabama, bigger than the South, big enough for America.

People clapped, cheered, raised their hands and shouted “Amen!” My mom, Riley and I clapped and sang, and if I didn’t clap when everyone else did, Riley made her displeasure known. “Mommy, clap!” 🙂 She enjoyed it as much as we did, but she fell asleep about three-quarters through. Afterward she said, “Mommy, I saw Obama!”

I liked Obama’s style; the only time he used notes was for his thank-yous to start the speech. The rest of the time he just talked to us, like we mattered. A couple of quotes that stood out to me:

Hope is “reaching for what you know in your heart is possible.”

On education: “I can give you that $18 billion for education, but all the money in world won’t matter if parents don’t take responsibility for their child’s education.”

“We don’t want to play that old game, that game that has held us back. That game that says some of you got a black child in a bad school and a white child in a bad school and that’s two different situations. They’re the same situation, and we need to get black and white children working together with their parents to create good schools for every child. That’s what America’s about.”

On the justice system: “No more Scooter Libby justice for some and Jena justice for others.”

————————————–
From The Birmingham News” story by Charles J. Dean, News staff writer

Photo above is also from The Birmingham News

“We cannot wait to fix a broken health care system. We cannot wait to fix our schools. We cannot wait to bring an answer to global warming. We cannot wait to create new jobs with good benefits, and we cannot wait to bring this war in Iraq to a close and bring our troops home. The time for change is now.”

“There is nothing we cannot do if the American people decide it is time,” Obama told the cheering crowd at UAB’s Bartow Arena. “There is a moment in the life of every generation, if it is to make its mark on history, its spirit has to come through. This is our moment.”

“This is our time. And, if you’re willing to stand with us, and if you’re willing to march with me and organize with me and vote for me, I promise you we will not just win the nomination, we will win the general election, and you and I together will transform this country, and we will transform the world,” Obama said as the crowd filled the arena with shattering applause and shouts of, “Obama, Obama, Obama!”
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It was well worth the hour-and-a-half drive, the half-hour wait to get inside and the hour wait until it all got started. I’m glad we went, and I hope Riley will remember the day she danced and clapped and shouted and cheered for the person who could be the next president of the United States.

A Change Is Gonna Come

I’m going to hear Sen. Barack Obama speak Sunday; I’m taking Riley and my mom to experience it with me. When I first read that he was going to be so close to us, I got a tingly feeling and my heart skipped a beat, like this could be something big and I needed to be part of it. And I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t go. How many times will a presidential candidate hold a town hall meeting free to the public in Alabama?

Whether he wins or not, this is still a historic event. I’m excited about being part of the process and maybe helping change things for the better. And I want Riley to see that she can make a difference, too.

I’m still undecided about who to vote for Feb. 5, so this should help me make a decision.

When your time comes, GO VOTE!