angel

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she placed the angel atop

the Christmas tree

like he had so many years before.

she flattened her dress

and looked at the glisten

in the porcelain dolls eyes.

she bent her knees and wept,

holding the angel like she was holding him.

“I know God needed you,

I know you were too tired to fight

but I’m jealous of the angels

who get your company each night.

you said I love you

but I never said I’m sorry

for so many things, for not saying

all I had to say.”

she touched the snow under

the tiny villages,

remembering a brighter Christmas Day.

-AR

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They Call Me Mom

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The woman you accuse of not having an equally exhausting day because she didn’t go to work all day – the woman you just bypassed when you got home and made yourself a sandwich meanwhile she hadn’t had a meal all day. The woman you didn’t bother to ask how her day was because it all sounds redundant to you, yet she never fails to ask how yours was. The woman you dictate how to raise her kids because your experience and age trumps her knowledge and instincts. The woman who made a hot fresh meal she was so proud of – mostly because she was able to cook the entire thing before the baby woke up – she didn’t even get to taste it and perfect it before your loose tongue criticized it. The woman who spent all day cleaning and doing errands just to get through one small space and the laundry, as you walk in and throw your clothes around. The woman who had multiple nervous breakdowns trying to breastfeed her crying newborn with shaking, tired hands and reasonable doubt that she wasn’t doing it right, yet remained resilient in giving it a fair shot. The woman who feels too much of a burden to ever ask for help so she begins what will become incomplete tasks. She’s the kind hearted, generous woman who won’t say a word, who won’t reprimand you or start a fight. She’ll just clear the plates or pick up the misplaced shorts. She’s the woman who won’t question if you can help her just a little so she can get some things done in the house. She’ll live with the built up mail scattered on the coffee table and she’ll handle the unpaid bills out of clear forgetfulness, because pregnancy brain gets worse after labor. She’s the woman who won’t complain, she’ll just absorb your bad behavior and negative energy, and go on doing what needs to be done to provide for her family, to raise her children, to create the life she envisioned. She’s the woman who will look passed your lack of empathy and appreciation and still do something thoughtful for you in those five minutes she gets to herself. She’s the woman who teared up in her baby’s screams and loses her mind after the twentieth time the baby spits out the pacifier but cries for its return, but then that baby smiles and it completely washes away the silly stress that her wound up just five minutes ago. While the clothes are always clean, the food is always cooked, the floors are always mopped: the house is never tidy, the clutter is always existent, and the coffee is always brewing. God bless the mess this woman creates trying to get her child and herself out of the house. God bless the daily repetitive routine she’s clocked into her brain to remember it all. God bless the superpowers in her tiny hands and enormous heart to keep going, to keep growing. She may not be out there working for some large corporation or out there saving the world but in these four walls, she’s sure as hell changing it. She’s raising a child who will grow with strong morals and values, she’s teaching her children of love and respect, of hard work and kindness. She’s raising the next generation of imaginative thinkers, logical researchers, kind humanitarians, hard workers, strong athletes, brave soldiers. She’s molding a world of possibilities and opportunity, not with two hands and some clay but with two hands and her heart.

Maybe we all need that reminder sometimes.

Thank you to all the moms out there. It’s not always easy and 9 out of 10 times we’re all just winging it- a part of this trial and error method to see what works for us and our kids. 9 out of 10 times moms are invisible in their struggle because “we’ve all done it,” is easier to say than to take a moment to step out of our own shoes and into someone else’s and just listen for a moment. 9 out of 10 times moms are overlooked and under appreciated, mostly unintentionally but still affected by this bringing us down. So from one mom to another, I see you. Thank you for being a superhero.

-Allison Ryder

Table for One

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table for one.

it’s not the loneliness that kills us.

it’s the lack of appreciation for a home cooked meal, the unmatched efforts, the unrequited love. it’s the ache in putting away that second dish after spending time and care to make room for two. it’s the putting yourself out there to end up at a table for one.

-AR

the effects of social media

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I think social media should be taken for exactly what it is; an outlet, a display of adventure and adoration, a tool of expression, to cultivate talents and passions and engage others into our work and ideas. they say everyone relationships, friendships, family did better before social media and certain technology advancements but that’s mostly a reflection on the downward spiral of people not the poison of social media. it’s only poison if you allow it to be; if you display every private nook of your life, if you take everything personal, if you make assumptions, if you disregard or disrespect the differences between us all, the differences in our beliefs and desires, if you use it as a tool to bully and hurt. it shouldn’t be a poisonous platform that disrupts amicable situations, breaks relationships, kills people, or defines friendships. what it becomes depends on people and how we allow it to define and disrupt our better judgment. we’re all guilty of taking something to heart and forgetting we’re all just people behind equipment claiming a voice, or writing our diary, or portraying how we see the world, or asking for help, or celebrating our struggles and happiness, or telling our story. like I write and I vent, generally mostly, and I photograph and I enjoy language and quotes, and it’s self reflecting and engaging during 3 Am feedings.

a lot of people took a slightly general status I made to heart and assumed and questioned when regardless of my Facebook rants, much like this one, I’m an entirely direct person with anyone I have an issue with, life’s far too short not to be, but nevertheless this prompted the writer in me and the way things like this make me ponder about life and people and all the mechanisms that make us work prompted me to think about this, to self reflect on my own assumptions, and to define my own use of these ever addicting apps. just because we have somewhere to share our opinions, and our religious and political views, and our admiration and distaste, and our adventures and love, and our feelings – we shouldn’t forget that the real feelings and adventures and disputes and conversations are happening off these pages. or at least they should be. these apps are just blank scrapbooks and diary pages to fill and monitor with life – away from disrespect or difference or opinion or personal attacks. life shouldn’t be happening on social media so don’t let it ruin yours, don’t allow its distinct differences and raw emotions make you forget human interaction and communication is always where you’ll find the truth. you knew your friends had different views before they posted that meme and you know sometimes people vent and it has nothing to do with a specific entity and you know you wouldn’t like it if women spoke to him the way men speak to you, and you knew who she was long before she posted those pics, and you knew they would be hurt that you went to that special place without them, without an invite and yet, I watch friendships crumble and relationships burn, and families cry because of these words and pictures. I’ve watched myself become undone, as someone who takes everything way too personally because of social media. but after being on the reciprocating side, I declare that it’s just an adult playground or junkyard of ideas and notions and emotions we have nowhere else to place. it’s a comfort zone for identities and for the unpopular beliefs or shy voices. but it could all disappear tomorrow and we’d be left with the most important parts; the people, the memories, the tangible photos and souvenirs of a life well lived.

-AR

Paralyzed

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I distinctly remember you putting on a show in the car and me gazing at you with a stupid smile on my face. you would notice my focus of attention and ask what I was staring at. But you knew and I knew, and yet, a million verses of poetry would spin through my mind but you paralyzed me. Falling for you was like bungee jumping and remaining suspended in air. You were only interested in the kind of bungee jumping you could run away from, not stay free falling with. You were interested in crumpling bedsheets under moonlight and being home by sunlight. You weren’t interested in my cups of coffee over warm conversation, much less my heart. And yet, falling for you was as easy as breathing, even though I knew all of these things. Because despite these things, you captured me in a way I didn’t intend to be caught.

-AR

Searching for Shelter

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No one ever told me there would be people who would scar me in ways that would make me want to feel pain because that’s what I believe I’m worth. No one told me that there were words that would provoke me to have lunch over the toilet bowl to make it more tolerable. No one ever told me how easy it was to hold it in and that the most dangerous addictions and methods were always easy. No one ever told me to love myself before loving someone else or else that toxic, cheating, manipulative partner would depict the definition of love with a mirrored self-reflection that was ugly and worthless. No one taught me about inner strength and self-righteousness in all their talk of Hamlet and the Pythagorean Theorem. They say those kinds of personal issues aren’t meant to be learned through textbooks but are meant to be instilled in the home. But I’m just a thirteen year old foster kid, bounced around in a broken system full of parents looking for a pay day while I’m looking for a parent. I take the beatings; the bloody nose and broken ribs because I’m too clumsy to make it a week without falling up or down the stairs, whichever excuse the hospital believes this time. Turning a blind eye is what makes the broken system turn. So what do I know about love and self-respect and what a family should teach you? I walk these halls obediently with my nose in textbooks to learn about how the United States came to be and the importance of language but no one wants to educate me on friendship and identity. Our bright minds are supposed to pave the future, not end up splattered on the train tracks because we didn’t know there was another option. Because we didn’t know there were other ways. Because we didn’t know anything more than how to grammatically write our suicide letters and mathematically compute the probability of our dangerous methods working out exactly how we imagined. I’m just a thirteen year old foster kid getting kicked around a broken system, how was I supposed to know anything outside of these walls?

-AR

“You’re too much.”

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To every woman who was ever told she was “too much…”

I hear this so often. She was just too much. ‘What was too much? In what ways?’ She was intense. She loved immensely. She asked too many questions. She cared too much. Past lovers told her she was too much so something is wrong with her.’

Ah. I understand. So you prefer mediocrity, someone who doesn’t care to check up on you, or build you up, or help you achieve your goals. You want someone who loves you less, who doesn’t ask questions to make sure you’re alright, to start a conversation, to take an interest in the things that interest you. Have I gotten that right? Oh, and then to top it off, you took something she told you in confidence, revealing weakness, insecurity, and vulnerability, and you used it against her to validate all the reasons she wasn’t good enough for you. The truth is, her “too much” is a rarity – it’s genuine, unconditional love and support. She’s someone who will go out of her way to ensure you’re taken care of and attempt to help you achieve every dream and goal. the truth is, she asks questions because she gives a damn, not because she wants to control you or the situation, but because she wants to be included. she wants to feel important. and you failed so terribly at that. you made her feel inadequate and not worthy of the one persons love, she was killing herself to have. you made her feel like she was trapped inside of herself, you made her hate herself. you made her question why she wasn’t worth it when you chose to pursue what she wanted with you, with other women. she’s not too much, you’re just too small minded. she wants a great, no regrets, beautifully imperfect love. that woman who’s “too much,” she is the top of the pedestal that you can only wish to climb one day. so to all you women, who have ever been told you’re “too much,” i know how much you wanted their love, how hard you worked, how much you tried but don’t ever feel undeserving or insignificant because you’re the reason great love exists.

and I can promise you, one day they’ll realize they lost everything because they were too weak to leave their comfort zones and have “too much.” instead they’ll be stuck with not enough.

one day they’re going to choose someone else and it’s gonna hurt a lot less because you’ll realize there’s nothing wrong with you. they were just too afraid to love and let themselves be loved by someone who was the real thing.

-Allison Ryder

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Love was hard with cancer. It was a poison you had to carry around as it weighed heavy on your heart. But you’d rather fight the battle in solace and silence than have someone look at you in that pitiful way. Life threatening ailments have the tendency to cause people to act out of character. They do things because they feel bad for you. They look at you in that “I pity you” type of way, mostly because no one would ever admit to pitying a cancer patient.

But back to love. Love is always hard, relationships are difficult because people are complex. It could all be so simple but as humans we tend to color every circumstance complicated. How can you trust someone is in something for the long-hall? You never can truly know that. You have to trust at face value and hope it works out forever. It’s scary, terrifying even. Now you want to add cancer to the mix. People run away at their own feelings, let alone the thought of caring about someone with a terminal illness.

And yet all some of us want is to live out our days to the fullest extent that we can, we want to love today and be hopeful of tomorrow. We want things to go smoothly with little stress but it rarely works out that way. Life happens. It messes up your perfect vision and challenges your desires. It breaks you and often times, it hurts. So we’re left adjusting to the turmoil and just rolling with the punches. But for us, ͏life is a timetable- how long will the good last, when will I relapse, can I trust remission. Again, there’s no definitive answer here. There’s zero trust. You just live and hope the people in your life could find comfort and security in the simplicity as well.

As for love, I have no idea. I can’t imagine lying about your body demolishing itself is the way to begin a healthy relationship but at the same point, why is it any of their business? I’m sure they didn’t push every secret and aspect of their life to the front at the start. But really it’s not about lying, it’s about wanting someone to look at you and truly see you, not look at you and see cancer. The worst thing in the world you can do is fall in love with someone and watch them change their i love you face to an i feel bad for you face. The second worst thing is when they stick with you because you’re a ticking time bomb instead of because they actually want to build with you. It’s difficult to separate the cancer from your own reflection, let alone your identity through someone else’s eyes.

-AR