Category Archives: Challenges

Losing My Identity


At one time, I was Teen Mom to a beautiful, brown-eyed, curly haired little boy.  He changed my whole world and showed me a love that I didn’t know existed inside my young, calloused heart.  He constantly wanted to be in my arms, which was quite okay with me.

Then, I was New Mom to a second precious, brown-eyed little boy.  How my heart didn’t explode from an overflowing love, I’ll never know.  He, too, wanted nothing more than to snuggle on my chest and would cry when I put him down.

I soon became Mommy to these two rambunctious balls of energy.  In fact, that was every other word out of their mouths.  Oh, how they needed me for everything – pouring cereal, tying shoes, reaching the top shelf in their closets to pull down their favorite teddy bears.

Then, as they started school, I was Momma.  But even with my change of title, they still needed me.  At this point, they were impressed with my knowledge of times tables and the water cycle.  They were both so proud to show me off to their friends as they held my hand tightly down the hallway to their classrooms.

Only a few years later, I got another title change to Mom.  I may have still been able to help with homework, but other than that, my knowledge base started to decrease.  I became much like a banker, wherein I was really only needed to fund whatever outing was planned without me.  At least I still got hugs and kisses after our bedtime prayers.

Now, as my youngest brown-eyed baby enters middle school, my label has been shortened to only Ma.  I’m not allowed in the school anymore, except for awards ceremonies and conferences.  I know that tomorrow, as I drop them off outside the school doors for the start of another school year, I’ll be lucky to even get a sideways glance, much less that hug or kiss that keeps me going.

Photo by Leslie Dobbe Photography

Photo by Leslie Dobbe Photography

Who will I be now?  Who am I if I’m not needed anymore?  What is left of me?

As I slowly lose my boys to life, I realize that I’m also losing myself.

 

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Days With Daddy


This post was written for The Daily Post’s Weekly Writing Challenge, based on this image:

Mom pulls up to the rusty yellow carousel outside the convenience store and lets her get out of the car to wait.  She leaves her backpack in the trunk for now.  Today is her favorite day of the week, but not only because it’s Friday – because she gets to see her daddy today.  She always knows when it’s Friday because she gets to ride the frog with the silly hat and the giraffe and the tiger with the pointy tail while she waits for him.

But today she doesn’t really feel like spinning on the funny circus animals.  She just wants to see her dad.  She wishes he would hurry up and get there already.  She always has to wait for him.  He works too much, she thinks, as she waits eagerly on the edge of the carousel.  Her hands grip the peeling paint of the ride as she begins to count.

Counting the seconds becomes more difficult for her once she reaches fifty, so she starts to hum her favorite song instead.  Maybe he’ll get there before she finishes the song.  Not quite.  As she finishes her second time through, she finally gives in and climbs on the frog with the silly hat.

As the animals begin to turn, she allows herself to get lost in the memories of her mom and daddy when they still loved each other.  Every Saturday, they would walk, swinging her between them, to the park, where she would ride a carousel almost just like this one.  She would giggle and giggle as daddy pushed her around and around, all the blues and yellows and reds mixing into a single swoosh of purple.

During these last several Saturdays, though, mommy hasn’t been there to watch daddy push her.  Instead, daddy meets them at the rusty yellow carousel at the convenience store and picks her up to spend the weekend with him at his new house.  The little one with the old shaggy green carpet.  Her room there doesn’t have her pretty pink pillows with the yellow lace around the outside.  She misses her pillows.

She continues to spin, now on the bunny with the big red ears, as she thinks about all the things she misses when she is at daddy’s.  She misses her teddy bears and her doll babies and her mommy.  She misses her mommy the most when she is at daddy’s on the weekends.

Her memories blur, mixing with her tears and the spinning landscape around her, as she hears his car pull up.  She hears her mom open the trunk to get her purple backpack out.  She knows it’s time to get off the carousel and start her weekend with daddy.  She starts to cry harder, but she can’t figure out why.  She loves her daddy more than anyone in the world.

Why in the world is she crying when it’s finally time to go have fun with him for the weekend?  For two whole days, she would get to stay up late, eat as much ice cream as her tummy can handle, and spin around and around on the carousel at the park.  Why was she so sad?

That’s when she looks up and sees mommy with her arms out, ready for a hug.  Mommy!  She would miss her mom!  She wishes and wishes she could come, too.  She wants so badly for mommy and daddy to walk her to the park again and to put her on the pink elephant and push her into complete dizziness.

Why don’t they love each other anymore?  Is it her fault?  Was she a bad girl?  Was it something she did?  As mommy buckles her in daddy’s car and gives her a big kiss on her cheek, she is afraid she may never know.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree


This week’s photo challenge:

In a new post specifically for this challenge, share a photo that means CAREFREE to you!

Photo by Alicia Benton Photography

Photo by Alicia Benton Photography

This photo was taken in St. Croix, where the beaches are beautiful, the water is bright blue, the rum is cold, and the people are hot.  There is nowhere in the world Eugene and I would rather be.  Life doesn’t get more carefree than when you’re enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of St. Croix – heaven on Earth.


Weekly Photo Challenge: One Shot, Two Ways


This Week’s Photo Challenge:

One Shot, Two Ways.  This week, photographer Jeff Sinon talked about his process of finding the best shot.  Before taking a picture, he studies his scene — looking at a shot horizontally (as a landscape) and vertically (as a portrait).  With this honed, critical eye, he decides what orientation works best for his photograph.

For this challenge, capture two images — a horizontal and a vertical version — of the same scene or subject.  There are no concrete “rules” here, but a) it should be evident that both shots are of the same place/location or person/thing, and b) your photographs should ideally have been taken during the same shoot — where’s the challenge if you’re just plucking out pictures of a particular location or person from your archives?

These photos are of the Morris Island lighthouse, which stands about 300 yards off of Folly Beach in South Carolina.


The Boys of Fall


Photo by Alicia Benton Photography

Photo by Alicia Benton Photography

He peered through the holes in his face mask and looked up into the bleachers. There they were – his whole family – beaming with pride at their star athlete. Okay, maybe he wasn’t a star yet. But he would be someday. He just knew it.

Photo by Alicia Benton Photography

Photo by Alicia Benton Photography

He heard the whistle blow, and he knew that this last play would determine the entire game. They were down by six, and a single last-second touchdown would seal the championship for him and his teammates.

He could feel the pressure. He could no longer hear the crowd of parents, grandparents, and siblings screaming their names, but could only hear his own heart pounding out of his chest.  Ba-boom.  Ba-boom.  Ba-boom.

He knew the team was counting on him. He couldn’t let them down. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and called his snap count. He felt the ball fall perfectly between his fingers. There was nothing like that feeling of the pigskin about to leave his hands and sail across the field.

He dropped back three steps, just like he did perfectly in practice every day. He caught a glimpse of his receiver at the exact spot on the field where he needed to be. This was it. The moment they had prepared for all season.

Photo by Alicia Benton Photography

Photo by Alicia Benton Photography

He cocked his arm back, took one last deep breath, and let the ball sail to its perfectly calculated place on the far-end of the field. The crowd fell silent. No one dared to blink. Even the players seemed to be in a trance as they watched the ball near its target.

It glided through the air and began its descent like a perfectly aimed missile. Only that’s when he noticed… It wasn’t quite perfect. It was a little too far past his eagerly waiting receiver. The crowd knew it, too. Everyone’s shoulders seemed to slump.

He could barely stand to watch as the ball landed only feet behind his receiver, thumping loudly to the turf. He heard the buzzer sound, signaling that the game was over. That the season was over. He had let his teammates down.

Photo by Alicia Benton Photography

Photo by Alicia Benton Photography

Dreading his walk of shame to the locker room, he put his head down, utterly defeated. How would he face his teammates now? He just couldn’t believe it. He practiced that exact play so many times that he was sure he could make the pass in his sleep.

As he headed back to the locker room, he thought about the irony of his refusal to look away from the very ground that caught his pass. He began rewinding the play in his mind just as he felt a hand grab his shoulder.

Sure he was going to be reamed by his coach or a teammate, he looked up slowly, fearing what was about to come. To his surprise, however, his entire team stood behind him, heads held high. He could barely keep his emotions in when it happened.

They hoisted him up on their shoulders and walked him the rest of the way to the locker room. They showered him with “good tries” and “we’ll get it next years.” He had never been so proud to be part of a team.

He knew that, at that very moment, they were more than just teammates.

They were brothers.

Photo by Alicia Benton Photography

Photo by Alicia Benton Photography


We’re Gonna’ Party Like It’s Nineteen Ninety… TWO???!


1992:

Average New House Cost: $122,500

Average Yearly Income: $30,030

Average Monthly Rent: $519

Cost of Gas: $1.05

Cost of a Pound of Bacon: $1.92

U.S. President: George H.W. Bush

Movies: Aladdin – Batman Returns – A Few Good Men – Sister Act – The Bodyguard – Wayne’s World – Basic Instinct – Honey, I Blew Up the Kids

Musicians: Pearl Jam – Color Me Badd – Nirvana – Boyz II Men – Madonna – U2 – Kiss – Mariah Carey – Bon Jovi – Eric Clapton – Def Leppard – Metallica – and of course, Michael Jackson

TV Shows: Law & Order – America’s Funniest Home Videos – Home Improvement – Rugrats – Jerry Springer – Ren & Stimpy – Matlock – Oprah – Married… with Children

January 1992: George Bush pukes in the Japanese Prime Minister’s lap.

February 1992: Mike Tyson is found guilty of rape.

March 1992: Bill Clinton is declared the likely winner of the Democratic primaries.

April 1992: Microsoft releases Windows 3.1.

May 1992: Space Shuttle Endeavour makes it maiden flight.

June 1992: I graduate from 5th grade!

July 1992: Drug lord Pablo Escobar escapes from prison.

August 1992: Hurricane Andrew hits Florida and kills 23 people.

September 1992: Over 165 people are arrested for money laundering in relation to cocaine trafficking in the U.S., Colombia, and Italy.

October 1992: Cartoon Network is first broadcasted on TV.

November 1992: Bill Clinton is elected the 42nd President of the United States.

December 1992: President Bush flies spends New Year’s with U.S. troops in Somalia.

————————————————————————————-

In case you missed it, the most important thing in 1992 happened in June – I graduated from elementary school!  This is a big deal, people!  It’s your last year as a “kid” – Next year, you’re off to the dreaded middle school to begin those years of non-stop obnoxiousness, bad attitudes, and raging hormones.

All of us in Pakansink Elementary’s Class of ’92 were nervous and excited at the same time about getting ready to say goodbye to our baby school and enter the terrifying world of lockers and changing classes.  That was obviously back before the days of cell phones, so we all said our goodbyes to each other, knowing that most of us wouldn’t see our friends until that September, when we would be standing, lost, in the halls of middle school hell, hoping to at least catch a glimpse of each other during lunch.

Of course we all had yearbooks in which we scribbled our promises to keep in touch and call each other from the rotary phones that hung by tangled cords in our kitchens.  But everyone in our class also got a t-shirt.  The teachers passed around marker pens so we could all sign our names on our BFFs’ shirts, in an attempt to never forget the good old days of chasing each other around the playground.

And that’s just what we did… We created memories on that last day of school that some of us may have forgotten in time.  But not me… I still cling to those memories of not having a care in the world.  I reminisce often about the days where we were still embarrassed to talk to that cute boy or shopped for hours looking for the perfect Barbie birthday present.

Fortunately, I’ve reconnected with my closest Class of ’92 BFFs on Facebook.  It’s amazing to me how more than 20 years can pass between conversations with girlfriends, yet we can pick up right where we left off, updating each other on the highs and lows of real life without missing a beat.  Friendship is truly an incredible thing.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Masterpiece


Masterpiece. No matter where you are (and where you’ve been), I’m certain you’ve stumbled upon something extraordinary: a place that blows your mind; a work of art or object that speaks to you; or even a location or scene that’s special, unusual, or even magical in some way.

——————————————————————————————————————

When I read this and thought about it for a few minutes, I realized that I didn’t have to look to some foreign work of architecture to find beauty, but rather, needed only to look in my own back yard.  Our South Carolina State House, in Columbia, is a beautiful masterpiece.  Built in 1854 and completed in 1903, it was eventually designated a National Historic Landmark.  Today, it adorns six bronze stars, representing the places where it was hit with shells from General Sherman’s cannons during the Civil War.

Alicia Benton Photography

Alicia Benton Photography

Alicia Benton Photography

Alicia Benton Photography

Alicia Benton Photography

Alicia Benton Photography

Alicia Benton Photography

Alicia Benton Photography

Alicia Benton Photography

Alicia Benton Photography

Alicia Benton Photography

Alicia Benton Photography

 

 

 

 

 


You Want Happy Ending?


So I’ve had two gift cards to a local salon and day spa here in Charleston for a really long time.  One I got for Christmas from my bosses almost three years ago, and the other I won from the boys’ orthodontist office for Mother’s Day.

I refuse to spend $200 on my hair (even when it’s not my money I’m spending), so I decided that a couples massage sounded good.  A nearly free couples massage sounded even better.  Here’s their website’s description: Performed in a private room with a therapist for each client, couples can share an integrative massage while enjoying each other’s company.

Oh.  Now is probably a good time to mention the fact that I’ve never had a massage before.  Nope – never.  So going with Eugene, who has had several, sounded even better.  If I had any questions, he’d be able to answer them, and he could show me the ropes.

We get there, and right away the spa girl takes us to our respective changing rooms.  She tells me to get changed, put on a robe, and come back out to wait on our therapists.  Okay, so far, so good.  Except as soon as I get nearly naked, someone busts into the room where I’m changing.  Awkward.  But that’s okay… I’m not going to let anyone ruin my first heavenly massage.

When we get into our room, my massage lady asks me what kind of pressure I want.  Pressure?  No pressure!  I’m here to take all the pressure away.  I need to relax.  No, no, no, silly.  She means what kind of pressure do I want for my massage… duh.  Oops.  I look at her like I don’t speak English and then whisper, “Um, I don’t really know.  It’s my first time.”

In response, she raises her eyebrows at me, a bit surprised, and she yells in response, “WHAT?!  IT’S YOUR FIRST TIME EVER?!  OH, HOW EXCITING!”  Really, lady?  Geez.

Anyway, once she explains what I should expect, she finally starts on the massage.  My back … my shoulders … my legs … my feet … my head.  It. Was. Glorious.  At one point, I was so relaxed, I thought I was going to fall through the little hole where you put your face.

Source: Boston Bodyworker

Source: Boston Bodyworker

The funny part about the “integrative” couples massage, though, is that there was nothing integrative about it.  I was on my table, and Eugene was on his table.  I had my eyes closed, and Eugene had his eyes closed.  And needless to say, we sure as heck didn’t talk to each other.  We were there to relax – not to talk – we didn’t want to ruin it!

When we’re done, as we’re on our way back to get dressed, my lady yells, once again – “SO HOW WAS YOUR FIRST TIME?”  Ugh.  What the hell, lady?  Can’t you be as quiet as you were while you were working?  You’re ruining it for me.  It reminded me of when Eugene tells me that I’m sexier with my mouth closed.  Now I know what he means…

After we get in the car and we’re on our way to the next best thing of the day (Starbucks!), Eugene asks me how I liked it, what my favorite part was, blah blah blah.  I tell him all about what I thought of it, and then I ask him what his favorite part was.

His response:

“When my girl lifted up the blanket and folded it over so she could do my leg, she accidentally touched my balls.”

Jackpot.  Money well spent.


A Girl’s First Love


She stared out the window, hoping to see his headlights.  But all she saw was darkness.

She replayed the argument he had with her mom in her head.  Although it took place days before, she had it memorized – branded in her heart.

She could remember how her mom was barely understandable because she couldn’t catch her breath through her sobs.  She could still hear him yelling.  She wasn’t good enough.  She wasn’t pretty anymore.

Certainly she didn’t hear that last part correctly.  Her mom was beautiful, with silky chestnut hair and one strand that she always tucked behind her ear.  Even when it was already there.

As she looked at the swaying trees through her window, she jumped as she remembered hearing the door slam.  I don’t love you anymore.  I’m leaving. 

She remembered waiting to hear the door open again.  To hear him say he was sorry for yelling, like he usually did.  Instead, all she heard that night was Mom crying.  She wanted to go to her, but wasn’t sure what to say.

What if Mom wouldn’t forgive her for being a selfish brat, always worried only about herself?

Scared that Mom would hate her and he would never come back, she picked up her favorite bear from inside the box in her closet.  The one with the eye that was hanging on only by a thread.

It’d been so long since she’d pulled it out of the box.  As she rubbed its nose, she closed her eyes and remembered the day he brought him home to her.  She’d been in third grade.  She’d just gotten off the bus when he surprised her with it.  She slept with him until his seams began unraveling.  Little did she know then, that it was the perfect metaphor for her life.

She still had her eyes closed, trapped in 1988, when she heard a car coming.  She opened her eyes immediately and saw the glow of lights through the trees.  He’s back!  I knew he’d come back!

But then the lights disappeared.  The car must’ve turned onto another street.  More darkness.

She wondered what her mom was doing downstairs.  Like that fateful night, she thought about going down to her, talking to her.  But she remembered the argument they had just this morning.  Mom was worried about her.  Only she didn’t just tell her mom not to worry, that she was worried for nothing.  No.  Instead, she yelled at her and told her to mind her own business.  She didn’t need to worry.  What did she know about her anyway?  She couldn’t even keep her marriage together.  Why was she worrying about her daughter who she knew nothing about?

She sighed.  Why was she blaming Mom for his leaving?  Nothing she did would have ever been enough to keep a man around who was already insistent upon leaving.

Why was it that she missed him so much it hurt, but when it came to Mom, who really was the only one she could always count on, she was still a conniving little witch?  As much as she hated to admit it, she had always wanted nothing more than to be his little girl.

Now she wanted nothing more than to believe that it was Mom’s fault that he left.  But she knew better.

And she also knew deep down that he was never coming back.

Oh, how she wished that he would realize the truth, too.  She wished with all of her aching heart that he would see what she really needed:

Her Daddy.

Source: we heart it

Source: we heart it


“You can go a long way with a smile. You can go a lot farther with a smile and a gun.” ~Al Capone


Source: lovebuildsthishappyhome.blogspot.com

Source: lovebuildsthishappyhome.blogspot.com

Sunday’s Be Happy Challenge:

– Favorite Photo of You Smiling. –

I hate pictures of myself.  Maybe it’s because I need want braces and a boob job.  (There’s my birthday list, honey…)  But, for the last Be Happy Challenge post for June, here’s my favorite pic of me smiling.

Photo by Leslie Dobbe Photography

Photo by Leslie Dobbe Photography

This was taken at my little sister’s wedding.  I love this picture because I actually have a real smile on my face!  I’m infamous for my “fake” photo smiles… You know – the ones where someone with a camera says, “Smile!,” so you paste a quick smile on your face, and then as soon as they’re finished taking the pic, you wipe it off really quickly?  Yeah, that one.  Well this is a real smile!  I’m so happy for my sister and new brother, and this day was a happy one in the midst of several darker ones for me.


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