My Brother, My Protector.

I grew up on a farm along the bayou, a piece of land that was a little more than two acres yet the size of a country in my young mind. It was complete with barns, chickens, cows, and most importantly a bomb shelter.  A bomb shelter secretly built in the fall of 1956 by my only brother, Norman.

A few days into the beginning of his second grade, Norman returned home from school and quietly said to me “Amy, we talked about protecting ourselves from being bombed at school today.  So I am going to build us a bomb shelter.

“What is a bomb shelter Norman?”

“It is a place that protects us from the bad guys,” he responded. “I am always going to take care of you.  Ok.  But promise me never ever let daddy to know.”

“Why not Norman?”

“Cause he doesn’t like me messing up the barns.  I will build it in the far barn so he never finds it.  Ok?  Please don’t tell him.”

With a puzzled look I replied “”I won’t Norman, I promise.”

Now this was 1956 mind you.  I wasn’t in school yet while Norman was in second grade.  In my mind Norman knew everything and his talk of us being bombed frightened me.  At that time I trusted that he knew what he was doing and that indeed he would protect me.

Norman would come home from school each afternoon, eat a quick meal the would disappear into the barn.  This was his routine for a couple of weeks.    Our dear mother one day finally asked Norman “What on earth are you doing in that old barn?”

“Mama, you know how the Russians have lots of bombs,” he replied.  “I am building a place for me and Amy to hide, to protect her from being harmed.”

Mother just smiled and replied simply “That’s sweet of you Norman.”

“I will always protect her mama, don’t you worry. “

“I know you will son,” said mama with a tear flowing down her cheek.  “You are a good big brother.”

Now I was curious little girl.  I wanted to see just what he was building.  So after school one day while Norman was eating mama’s leftover corned beef hash I asked “Can I see the bomb shelter yet Norman?”

“Not yet Amy.  It’s not done.  You need to wait till its finished.”

The two of us, under the watchful eye of our mother, did everything together.  We completed our chores together.  We played hide and seek.  Norman taught me how to play jacks and Candyland.  We even made our own farm complete with toy tractors and trucks.  Our life on the farm was beautiful in my eyes.  I had the best brother anyone could ask for.

Later that fall, as mama routinely tucked me into my bed then said our prayers, I realized Norman hadn’t been working on his bomb shelter any longer.  Was it finished?  I tried to imagine what it looked like.  Was it big enough for mama too?  How many rooms does it have?  I wanted to see it.  In the dark that evening, I tried to remember as far back as I could.  Being that young you really don’t have any perspective of time.  It seemed I didn’t remember much pass the day Norman told me about his secret project.  At that moment, that is all I could remember.  How long ago was that?  I was only four at the time.  It didn’t matter I thought.  Cause we had a great life.

Suddenly, I heard the sound of my daddy’s truck door  close shut.  A few moments later I heard the door to the side of our old farm-house slam so hard the windows in my room shook.  Frighten I sat up in bed.  I then heard yelling from outside the other side of our house.

“Shut up woman!”  I heard my father yell.   “Get off your butt and get me some food.  What in the hell you think this is.  I work and you sit on your butt all day doing nothing.”

It was my father, what was he doing?

“Oh shut up,” mother yelled back.  “You will wake up the kids!”

I had never heard this before.  What was going on I thought?  Through the yelling I could hear the heavy footsteps of my father going back and forth across the old wooden floor of our house.  I was frightened.  I layed back down and pulled the cover over my head then plugged my ears.  Suddenly I felt someone on my bed.  I sat up frightened only to see Norman in front of me.

“Amy, let’s go!” he said in a hurried voice.  “don’t say a word.  Just follow me.”

This frightened me even more.

“Where are we going Norman?” I whispered.

“To the bomb shelter! Be quiet! Hurry! Put on your slippers and let’s go!”

“That’s why my parents were yelling,” I thought.  The bad guys are coming!

So I put on my slippers and we quietly went into Norman’s room.  He had his window open and a ladder propped against the house so we would reach the ground safely.  With a flashlight in one hand and my hand in another we slipped through the barbed wire fence,  then across the pasture toward the barn which housed his bomb shelter.

“Why tonight?”  I thought as we ran.  “How did he know  the bad guys were coming?”

 I had no idea why but somehow along with the fear I felt safe.  I knew he would protect me.  As we ran across that pasture, I glimpsed back to the house and could hear yelling from the distance.  What about mama and daddy?  I looked up into the sky, scared as to what I might see. 

We arrived at the barn and Norman opened the giant doors, quickly closing them behind me.  I hadn’t been in this barn.  It was the one farthest from the house.  Once Norman had told me there were ghosts in this barn, which kept me away from the little interest I had in ever visiting this structure.  Once inside, we reached a ladder that went up the wall.  With his flashlight in hand, he told me to climb to the top then sit and wait.  He soon followed me and shined his flashlight on this huge pile of hay bales.

“We’re here Amy.  This is our shelter.”

We weaved our way to the side of this monstrous structure of straw to a little black hole on the back side.

“Okay Amy, crawl into that hole'” he instructed.

The entrance was very small.  Large enough for kids our size to fit but certainly not built for an adult.  Norman was right behind me, his light bouncing up and down as we crawled through what felt like miles of tunnel.  My body itched and my knees were hurting. Finally, I reached an opening.  It was large enough for me to stand.  It was quite impressive to this four-year old.  There were little two wooden chairs.  Hanging from the string of the hay bale ceiling was a flashlight.  Norman had equipped the shelter with water and food;  crackers.  fig preserves.  two chocolate bars.  An orange and grape Check soda.  All neatly sitting on an old door placed on another bale of hay.  Norman had another flashlight placed in the whole in the door that once housed the doornob.  This was it.  I was finally in the bomb shelter.  I felt safe as I sat quietly, waiting to hear the planes of the bad guys who Norman was protecting me from.

“What will mama and daddy do Norman?” I asked.

“They will take care of themselves Amy.  I will take care of you.”

I felt safe.  I don’t know how long we stayed in the shelter that particular evening.  It was quiet.  We hardly talked.

It was one of many nights we ran to Norman’s shelter.  They all coincided with our parents yelling.  Over time, I realized what the shelter really was.  I understood why Norman built it.  I understood who the bad guys were.  It was never an enemy of our country.  He was right here in our own house.  Norman knew it.  My mother knew it.  Eventually I did as well.

My father died in a car accident before I turned eleven.  As I got older, I realized it was alcohol related.  After the accident, we never entered the shelter again.  Norman and I never talked about it.  I never asked him what became of it.  Our shelter was now our own house, our rooms, our beds.  As it should be.

Norman did protect me from the bad guys as he had promised me years ago.  So today, on my wedding day,  my big brother will walk me down the aisle. 

My brother, my protector.

This story is fiction.  Thoughts, suggestions and critique is welcomed.

Till we meet again.  Good Day. 

Mind of Shoo

The Whole Town Came

This story is fiction.  It was written for the Trifecta: Week Fifty-Eight writing challenge.

This week we want you to write on the third definition of:
survive

1: to remain alive after the death of
<he is survived by his wife>
2: to continue to exist or live after
<survived the earthquake>
3: to
continue to function or prosper despite : withstand <they survived many
hardships>

I sit in my car on a Friday night.  Through the tears and darkness I see 12:28 on my dashboard clock.  I am outside my high school football stadium where hours before I played my last game of high school.  I dropped the game winning pass with less than two minutes.   Everything afterwards is a blur.  All I remember is a constant stream of teammates and coaches approaching me saying its ok.  Not your fault.  It’s a team game.  All the clichés.

“They can all go to hell!  I lost the game. It was my fault!”

Suddenly I notice car lights driving up behind.  It’s the police chief, my dads best friend.  He exits his car and taps lightly on my window.

“Come out and talk to me,” he says.

“No, leave me alone Mr. Landry. I want to be alone.”

“I came cause your dad would have wanted me to” he replies.

“My dad died this morning.”

“I know its tough on you. Everything has been.  Tonight too.  I know you hurt.  You have the right to hurt”

I hear another car door close.  I look over and see my mom walking towards my car, tears in her eyes.

“Are you ok” she says to me.

“I’m not mama. I lost the game.”

“Its ok, I love you.  Very much.  I know you feel bad.  It’s ok to feel that way.  Everyone loves you.  This whole town.”

I hear another car door.  I look in my rear view mirror and I see a line of cars pulling into the stadium parking lot.

Now my coach is here.  My best friend.  My postman.  The owner of the grocery store where I work.  The priest of my church.  My english teacher.  My favorite aunt.  Plus many I barely know.

A little girl I don’t know, dressed in pajamas,  steps in front of my car with a sign saying: We support #88.  Everyone starts clapping.

Through the pain I understand it’s just a game. I will survive.

Comments and critique are welcome!

Oh how I love my mornings!

I feel defeated.  I never finish.  I always have excuses.  This is my typical morning!

Self:  I need to write this morning.

procrastinating self:  No you don’t.  Look at all the blogs to read.  You can learn.

Self: But my time is limited.  I work today.  The kids will be up soon.  I need to write daily!

procrastinating self:  Don’t you get it fool, if you read more blogs you will learn new styles, learn about humor and you’ll be a better writer!.

Self:  Hmmm.  True.  Did the Sun’s win last night?

procrastinating self:  Go to ESPN dot com.  Do it!

Self:  NO!  I need to write.  But nothing is flowing at the moment. www dot espn. com just to see the score.  That’s it! Click!

procrastinating Self:  Hey, how many points did Michael Bisley score?  Why didn’t he start?  I am sure there is more info on that at AZ Central.

Self:  Yea, why didn’t he start?  www dot AZ Central dot com.  Oh an article on the Cardinals QB situation.  CLICK

procrastinating self:  The sink is full of dishes.

Self:  But this is my writing time.  I wake up at 5am just to write, ME time.  Just one more article!

procrastinating self:  Why did LSU coach Miles suspend a player?  A punter.  Hmmm that’s interesting.  Go there.

Self:  Why did Miles do that?  www theadvocate dot com.  Miles suspends punter for bowl game.  click!

procrastinating self: Things are flowing now!  Wooo Whooo!  Keep it going dude!  You still have plenty of time to write.

Self:  Last article, its short.  Oh I need to make the kids lunch.  I can do it quick!  After I read this article.  Then I’ll write.

procrastinating self:  How many pages have I written on my script?  Lets count again, just to keep track.

Self:  Ok great idea!  Then I will write at least two more pages.  Open word!

procrastinating self:  The kids will be up soon! Make those lunches now so you will have more time to write while they are up!

Self:  Great idea.  Be right back.  Then I’ll count the pages of my script.  Then write.  I have plenty of time!

procrastinating self:  Hey, you haven’t eaten scrambled eggs in a while.  That’s a quick breakfast.

Self:  let’s see, one more article to read….count pages…almost done with lunches…..its only 6 now.  We have eggs!  I am hungry, that’s true!

procrastinating self:  How about some music while you cook and finish those lunches!

Self:  hmmm am I in the mood to rock?  What will help me get into the writing from of mind?  www dot youtube.com

procrastinating self:  How about watching that Conan commencement speech to the Dartmouth Class of 2011!  You can laugh again!

Self:  I LOVE that speech.  Conan is hilarious!  Ok type that in…..conan darmouth speech.  Ah!  there it is  click!  I love the part…

procrastinating self:  Ok, just watch the first few minutes of it.  Till the part about the oak tree trunk podium!  You have time.

Self:  Yeah, I can do the kids lunch real quick and then put the speech up loud and cook.  That will get me in the writing frame of mine.

procrastinating self:  Yea you do have plenty of time.  Hey, I just heard the paper hit the concrete.  You can get the story about the firing of the high school coach!

Self:  I wonder why they fired him.  Let me get my robe on.  Darn there are a lot of dirty clothes here.  I wonder if the kids have something to wear?

procrastinating self:  You don’t want them going to school in the same old clothes, throw them in the washer real quick.  Just take a second.  You have plenty of time!

Self:  True!  Ok, just separate the kids clothes from mine.  Whites from colors.  Ok  real quick.  I got to get those lunches started.  Cook breakfast for me.

procrastinating self:  Hey you, the Conan speech is done, find something else to listen to while you are cooking, making lunches, doing laundry, reading about the high school coach, reading about LSU’s upcoming bowl, counting your pages of your script.  Are you in the frame of mind to write yet?

Self:  Ok, laundry started.  Lets find something to listen to now that Conan is over.  I wonder if Conan ever did any other speeches.  Let me google that.  www google dot com.  conan commencement speeches. Click.

procrastinating self:  Hey, it’s almost time to wake the kids.  You have to cook them breakfast before school!

Self: Oh that’s true.  I will prep their breakfast while I make mine. Just a minute.  Let’s see Conan’s speaks to Harvard Class.  Wait what is the article?  Conan donates money  click.

procrastinating self:  Son one needs to get up early to read some before school.

Self:  Oh yea, he won’t bother my writing cause he will be reading and I can concentrate.  Ok, where will I start after this article about Conan.

procrastinating self:  I love when the day starts out so wonderfully don’t you!

Self:  Oh man, I have lots to do and only a few more minutes to write!  SHIT.  Almost done with this article!

procrastinating self:  I RULE!

Self:  Damn so much to do before the kids get up!

Putting yourself down self:  Good Morning you fool you did it again.  You missed your writing time.

procrastinating self:  OH shut up putting yourself down self,  he has plenty of time later!

Self:  Damn I SUCK!  I have not time to write today.  How depressing.

depressed self:  Good morning me.  Took some time to get to me today huh!  You don’t need to cook yourself breakfast.  And the kids can eat Cocoa Puffs.

Self:  But I am  of Cocoa Puffs, all I have is Cheerios.  And they hate Cheerios

finance Self:  Damn, you don’t have any money till payday.  You can’t buy any Cocoa Puffs today.  Or pay your gas bill.

procrastinating self:  You can shop Thursday night.  You’ll have plenty of time!

Self:  Time to wake up the kids.  Where did my morning go?  I am in NO mood to write today. UGH!  How depressing.  Let me turn on the TV while the kids get ready!  Then I ‘ll start my day! Maybe then I can get in the frame of mind to write.  Yea that’s it!  It will be a great day!

You get the idea!  Self loses.  The other monsters wake up to battle me!  When can I write?  How do I make time?  I am not in the frame of mind.  I’ll never finish.  I know, its my father’s fault.  I am an adult child of an alcoholic parent and never finishing projects is a major characteristic flaw.  Ugh.  Another excuse. But  I’m off the hook!  I will shoot for tomorrow to write! 

Till we meet again.  Good Day.

Mind of Shoo

Lake Despair

When I first realized and understood fully that I was “An Adult Child of An alcoholic Parent” it was mind numbing.  How could it be?  I was in my early 40s and felt helpless.  My initial feelings was I now felt I had a something to blame for my shortcomings.  Someone responsible.  And it wasn’t me!  But was it?  I first wanted to fully comprehend what it meant to be an ACoA.  So I read and tried to relate it to my life.  So I decided to join a group that met at a local church.  Without going into detail, my time there was uneventful.  It was more about rehashing our problems from being adult children of alcoholic parents instead of ways to solve the problem.  But one thing that did come out of a few of those sessions was Lake Despair.

When I first talked to the group I was a little emotional.  I came up with an analogy of being in a boat in the middle of this lake. I was in, as I called it, Lake Despair. I had no paddles or means to either move or steer the this boat which also had a slow leak.  I was just stuck in the middle of this calm lake.  I was in this boat filled with all the issues and characteristics typical of an adult child of an alcoholic parent. Alone.  On the shore of the lake were various spots that held lessons to all the problems I needed to heal.  But how do I get there?   I knew the problems.  That was the easy part!  I needed help!  How do I fix things?  Where do I start?  I wanted a damn paddle so I could start the healing!  I had been in the middle of Lake Despair for years and now I wanted to reach land and begin to heal.

 Currently, I am still at Lake Despair but not floating aimlessly.  I am now on the shore walking from one lesson to another around the lake.  It’s a mighty big lake and also quite beautiful.  It beauty grows as I reach each lesson and learn more about myself.  As I hike from point to point, there are times my body aches, my mind wonders, and my feet hurt. I am often depressed and want to give up.  But I want to see the all of the lake and take in its beauty!  To see this, I must walk around it and navigate on land each obstacle in my path.  Lake Despair is now a journey on foot.  It’s a slow journey.  When I reach that final point I will have circled Lake Despair.  And at that moment I want to rename that lake.  Lake of Hope.

I hope others find the lake earlier in their life that I did.  And I hope once they find themselves in that boat, motionless without and means to move, they can see the solutions on the shore around them.  I hope they can somehow reach the shore and make their own path around Lake Despair. It’s by no means an easy journey.  But a certainly a fulfilling one. The journey to find the lake starts with knowing that you are an ACoA and accept that premise.  Its not easy, but I promise, the lake is beautiful!  Life is beautiful.  Seek it. 

Till we meet again.  Good Day.

Mind of Shoo

 . 

Words on a paper.

I have always wanted to be a writer in some shape or form.  There are so many words in my mind just dying to reach the tip of a pen onto paper.  I have NO professional training whatsoever.  I only started writing recently after being laid off my job.  It was a shocking event in my life.  After a few days,  those words just started to flow out my mind as if a dam had just broken.  I don’t have any classification for these words as they appear on a paper except just that, words on a paper.  It is a phrase I heard Rick Rubin, producer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (and many others), use when he described how their song “Under the Bridge” was born.  He was thumbing through Anthony Kiedis’ notebook when he came across the lyrics, which Rubin described as not yet a song but just words on a paper. 

I am about to put some of these words out for public consumption.  Am I nervous? You bet!  I am uncomfortable with it? Very uncomfortable to be honest.  However,  I feel it’s a good time and venue to begin.  A little background on these particular words on a paper, which are about to become words on your computer screen.  They came to me when I saw a beautiful picture of a tree standing alone on a mountainside.  I once heard Tommy Shaw of Styx fame talk about his song “Crystal Ball”.  He described how it came to him (at age 17 no less) in a “whoosh” and he had to frantically write it down on paper.  That is how I can describe how these words came to me as I saw this image (not the one pictured above). 

So here are my “words on a paper”.

There he sits high on a hill
All alone and majestic.
He’s bare and yet so beautiful
So picturesque against the clear spring sky
bu with green below. 

There he sits high on a hill
All alone and majestic.
His roots are deep
as he reaches for the sky.
Waiting for his leaf buds to grown.
A cycle that come yearly
that began with a seed so long ago.

There he sits high on a hill
All alone and majestic.
Sit there with me, holding my hand.
So that the seed of our friendship can be planted.
Let our roots grow deep
So our friend is as beautiful as the tree.

Till we meet again.  Good day.

Mind of Shoo

Confident Underachiever

un·der·a·chiev·er

/ˌʌn dər əˈtʃi vər/ Show Spelled [uhn-der-uh-chee-ver] Show IPA

noun

1.a student who performs less well in school than would be expected on the basis of abilities indicated by intelligence and aptitude tests, etc.

2.a person or thing that performs below expectations.

Underachiever…it is something I have labeled myself most of my adult life.  I have spent many restless nights trying to come up with ways to get rid of that label and come up with a new one.  A more impressive one.  successful perhaps?  That would be nice.  A man with a purpose?  Hmmm…NO.  Articulate?  I like that but…doesn’t fit me at this moment!  I have rejected many labels and continue to use underachiever.  Or even stronger, confident underachiever.  Yeah, that’s me!

The second part of the definition above is a person or thing that performs below expectations.  Boy, isn’t that hitting the ball out of the ballpark!  So since I lost so much sleep looking for ways to get rid of my label, its time to start finding ways to become confident and drop the underachiever.   Who’s expectations am I using to  judge myself?  Is it mine?  Or is it mine compared to others?  Heck, not even my therapist has been successful at extrapolating an answer for me.

The truth of the matter, at least in my mind, is that yes I have underachieved.  I went to a very exclusive Catholic School where many of my classmates went on the become lawyers, architects and successful businessmen.  Hell, we even got a Catholic priest out of that education!  Well, I shouldn’t have used that term hell.  Oh well!  You get the point.  But are these people actually happy?  Are they good parents?  Husbands?  I can’t say wives cause it was an all boys school!  What do they think of me?  Hmmmm.  Here lies my dilemma.  Why do I care?  I shouldn’t but I always compare!

Where does this come from?  Is it from the rough childhood upbringing?  An alcoholic father and a 7th grade dropout mother.  My mother was a loving, protecting and caring woman who did all she could for me and I love her deeply for that.  But she was limited cause she too had it rough in that house.  I am 48 now.  How long can I blame my childhood situation for my lifelong underachieving status?

Could I blame my high school guidance counselors for letting slip through the cracks?  I don’t know their official job description, but guidance wasn’t given to me.  Our class valedictorian was given plenty of guidance and help with college scholarships.  All she ever said to me was you could have scored higher on your ACT young man.  And that was in hallway.  I have NO clue what her office looks like!  But maybe I didn’t exude “Help Me” or maybe those “like me” weren’t worth her time cause she tried in the past and none of them ever used her guidance.  Or maybe I was to blame!

Underachiever, confident underachiever.  I continue to search for a better label.  But I need to fix me before I can label me!  I guess that’s a start!  Is it too late?
Till we meet again.  Good Day.

From the Mind of Shoo!

Hello World!

my_house

Wow!  Where do I begin?  From the beginning?  I think not.  How about from this moment?  Hmmm…not sure that works either.  How about from the house in the picture above.  I find that to be an appropriate beginning cause my time in that house is what shaped me to the man I am today.  Now that sentence can be looked at in many different ways.  Was that time in that house good?  Was it bad?  A combination of both perhaps?  Was it filled with love?  Who was there?  Lots of questions can be asked and answered, many of which will be touched upon in the growth of this blog.

So it is here where I chose to begin.  Shoo is part of a nickname my parents called me growing up in that house pictured in the south Louisiana town of St. Martinville.  Hence the phrase Mind of Shoo is just that, from my mind.

Since I chose to start my journey from an earlier part of my life, you may ask where am I now?  A glance in my About Me page will answer that and the subjects I will write about here will fill in the gaps in between!

So welcome to my blog! I don’t know exactly where this journey will take me but I desire to reach deep in the layers that make up the person I am now.  I hope to touch on this past as well as present!  My journey is truly no different from many Americans, but it is my hope that there could be lessons for anyone who stumbles across my humble writings here.

Till we meet again.  Good Day.

From the Mind of Shoo!