Awards Day

At the beginning of third grade, my son was excited for a couple of reasons.  If he were to make all A’s, on every report card for the entire year, he would receive a trophy.  He would also receive an Academic Excellence patch, along with another gold star for his karate uniform.  This year the stakes were high.  Actual number grades were given and an A is a 93 and up.  93 and up is an A.  When I was in school, 90 and up was an A but these days it’s a 93.  Wonder why 93 was the number they settled on…seems a little arbitrary to me, and a little ridiculous.

The first 3 grading periods came and went with my son getting high A’s, and 100’s in a few subjects, but half-way through the 4th quarter, the Graded Work Papers came home.  And the Math scores were hovering right under 92.  There was little room for error for him if he wanted to get that trophy and patch, but I had to get perspective on this thing.  I had a difficult time telling him to pull that Math grade up from a 92 to a 93 because I can’t pretend that a 92 is not a grade to be proud of.  But I knew he wanted to get his prizes, and I’d hate to see him not succeed because he was a point shy and he could do the work.

Awards Day arrived and the program began.  The coveted Principal’s Honor Roll Award trophies were given out last.  They called his name and my child went on stage, shook the principal’s hand and sat down with his trophy.  At the end of the program, I started making my way to my son and congratulating other parents on their kids’ honors while I moved forward.  I wanted get to my him and take a picture so I could text it to my husband and put it on social media.  We all know that if every moment is not documented with a photo and posted on Facebook then it didn’t happen.  When I saw him, I said, “Congratulations, Buddy!” He was underwhelmed to see me and gave me a side-hug.  I asked him to hold up his trophy and other award he received and took out my phone to get the shot.  My son said, “No, thanks, Mom.  I’ll show Dad when he gets home.  See you later!” And he walked away.

My heart broke a little, a lot if I’m being honest.  I get a bigger response from the people I know that work at the gas station when they see me.  I wanted him to run into my arms and jump and scream and really pose in a big way with that trophy. I wanted him to hug me and say, “I love you so much, Mom!” But that’s not what happened.  In that moment I was feeling awkward and a little embarrassed. I wanted to cry, and but something happened. I realized I had a choice; a choice to accept my son’s innocent response of simply being ok or to make this about me.

I thought this was about me. It felt like this was about me, and I could have gone there. I could have made that moment into a perceived rejection and hurt by my sweet son who has no clue that I was feeling some kind of way.  I was at a crossroads and I had to choose…choose whether to move closer to my son or to push him away a little by keeping a tally of this pain in my heart. Add it to the record of wrongs, as I’ve heard it said.

I could have forced the issue, followed him and made him take the picture with me and caused a bit of a scene.  And then I thought about my Mama.  That’s what she would have done.  My mind flashed through many memories of being in awkward positions to please her. I’m not saying there is never a reason to bend to someone else, everything is a give and a take, but for me I recognized something significant in this moment.

I zeroed in on the memory of my first day of college.  I had moved into the dorms at USC with my sweet roommate.  (My stay at USC lasted for approximately 3 semesters and my love affair with alcohol began!) Mom drove me there, helped me unpack my stuff and set up my room. We walked around the building a bit. And then she wouldn’t leave.

She. Flat. Out. Wouldn’t. Leave. Many parents had long gone and my friends, old and new, were coming and going and exploring the campus, inviting me to come with them. But I couldn’t because she wouldn’t leave. I was about to lose it.  She made it about her.  I wanted her to say, “Fly, my daughter.  Spread your wings and FLY!” But she didn’t, and we ended up in a huge, horrible argument and said many hurtful things to each other. Neither the first, nor the last time that’s happened. I’m 46 years old and still waiting to hear her say, “Fly, my daughter! You got this!”

In the cafeteria of the school that my sons attend, that my brother and I attended and that my mom attended, I decided to release my son a little. I wanted him to fly free of the responsibility of trying to make me happy. Free to be him and celebrate how he will. Free of trying to do the impossible thing of predicting my feelings and behaving accordingly. That’s not his job. I felt huge victory in loving him without expectation, just where he is, for just a moment.



Station 24

I was 25 years old. Young and wild, I drank like a fish and smoked as many Marlboro Lights as I possibly could. I had recently been told by my boyfriend that I was not good enough to marry.  I was too fat. Too crazy. Too Ugly. Worthless.

That’s not really what he said, but it is what I heard.  What he really said is, “You’re too much. You are too needy. I can’t be everything to you.”

In hindsight, he was right. I was insane. I had taken him as an emotional hostage and wanted him to fill that black hole in my soul that only God can fill.  That black hole that I tried to stuff him in, along with booze, food, people and drugs, if someone offered.  He’d had enough of my constant demands, drunken rages and decided to end the relationship with me.

You are probably going well, it must have started off well, right?

NOOOOOOOO!  We began our relationship the day of my brother’s funeral.  Dondi, my brother, committed suicide and this man was my brother’s lifelong friend.  I suppose we found some comfort in having each other to grieve with and to drink with, and to try to numb the horrible pain we were both feeling at the sudden loss of Dondi.  But after a year of romanticizing our relationship would blossom into a beautiful love story,  giving a happy ending to a tragic beginning, it was over.

On a sweltering mid-July day, I dragged myself out of bed and drove over the Ben Sawyer Bridge to the beach at Sullivans Island.  I felt like a train hit me. Hungover, dehydrated, nauseous from drinking dollar beers, about $20 worth.

I arrived at my usual spot, Station 24 on Sullivans Island.  Close enough to walk to Station 22 where the beautiful people go, but far enough away from the crowd so I could sleep and sneak a beer or two and make the pounding headache stop.

I tried to find a parking spot, close to the pathway and then I slammed on the brakes.

I saw his car.  At my spot at the beach.

Of all the places to go, on Sullivans Island, he was here.  He didn’t go to Isle of Palms, or even to Folly. He was here. He knew this was my favorite place.

I tried to keep calm, but then it hit me…he was there for me!

My excessive calling, inappropriate threats and desperate pleas for reconciliation must have made him have second thoughts.  Me, showing up at his apartment at 1 AM, wall-eyed, knee-walking drunk must have caused him to rethink this whole thing!!!

I grabbed my stuff and headed down the long, sandy pathway to the ocean.  It was like I was swimming through the hot humid air, and I was drenched in sweat, and very stinky from the alcohol being released from my pores.

I was excited!! I didn’t see him at first so I set down my beach chair, and opened my little cooler and cracked open a brew and carefully poured it into a cup, so that I would fly under the radar of a pesky policeman trying to do his job. I put the cup to my lips and scanned the coastline for him.

Then I saw him. He was coming out of the water and my heart jumped. I got up, headed his way, knowing he must have seen me.

But he went to an empty chair beside another chair that was not empty.  That chair contained a girl.  My heart just sank. It was like time stopped.  I was shocked and humiliated, paralyzed for a minute.

Then my anger took over and I charged down the beach to them.

I gave this girl the once-over.  She was thin, and pale and her hair was well, ALRIGHT.  Now my hair was awesome. Down to the middle of my back, dark and curly, like Alanis Morrisette, so I was told.

But she was with him.

I stood in front of him, blocking the sun, causing him to shield his eyes with his hand, and said, “Oh, Hi Dede.”  He seemed surprised. And I’m like, “Really? You are surprised to see me? THIS IS MY SPOT! THIS IS STATION 24!!”

He smiled awkwardly and said “Do you know Leigh?”

Then I broke. The tears started and screamed “I don’t want to know Leigh!!!”  Did this idiot think I wanted to know Leigh?  Why did he know Leigh?  I’m pretty sure Leigh didn’t want to know me.  Leigh slid out of her chair and walked to the water.

He tried to walk me back to my chair, but I shook him off. I was wrecked. Why didn’t he love me? But more importantly, why didn’t I love me?

I gathered my things and walked the long path back up to my car, heartbroken.

I went home and saw my mom sitting in her green chair. Her feet were propped up on her old ottoman and she was reading the newspaper. She had a cigarette hanging out of her mouth and she turned and said, “Where were you?”

I said, “Station 24”

I told her what happened. She offered me a smoke. I took it. It was a Vantage cigarette. Who the heck smokes Vantage? Brown filter. Handed it back to her.

She listened to me pour out my heart.  She said she had the same thing happen to her, minus the hangover.

Her man was Everett, but it was she who broke up with him. I had heard Everett’s name before and knew he was Mom’s first boyfriend.  Mom went on to tell me how he was a good man. Crazy about her and she was crazy about him too. Mom was in high school in 1950 and Everett was her sweet heart. He had graduated the year prior and was working for the newspaper. Mom adored him but he wanted her to marry him right away and she wasn’t ready to be married.  She wanted to work and earn her own living, and maybe go to college.

Everett laid down an ultimatum, either marry him or break up and Mom let him go. Mama said that a few months after the split, she saw Everett with his new girlfriend holding hands on the beach at Station 24.

I couldn’t believe that decades earlier my Mom experienced heart break at the same spot on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. I also couldn’t believe that Mom was at one time a young girl with a broken heart.

Everett went on to marry that girl.

Mom went on to marry a handsome Air Force man whom I called Daddy.

My former boyfriend passed away in the year 2000, too young like my brother.

And I went on to become a Mama, and sober for 16 years, I went on to  marry an incredible, wonderful man named Sean.

We take our boys to the beach so much that I’m convinced that salt water runs through their veins.

And our favorite spot is Station 24.

Mothers Day

Mother’s Day has passed for 2015 and it was very nice. I received a beautiful necklace/bracelet set and cards and hugs and kisses from my best guys. 

I spent time with Mama at the Assisted Living facility, where a gentleman named Ted played the guitar to some recorded background music. He was really good but he stuck his tongue out in a weird way before he started singing each time and that freaked me out. But I digress. 

The songs in his songbook were classics, “Grand Old Flag,” “Tip Toe Through the Tulips,” and “You Are My Sunshine.” Then came the ones that slay me. The hymns.

Gonna lay down my burdens, down by the river side

And He walks with me and He talks with me. And He tells me I am His own

My sin not in part but the whole. Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more! Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Oh my soul!

The joy on the faces of those that had lived a lifetime while singing these treasures was too much. I was a crying mess. I was fixin’ to raise up and get on out of there.

Then he did it. Ted. That horrible man. He throat-punched me with “Amazing Grace.” It was Mama’s favorite. I looked at her and she was singing her little heart out. It was precious and overwhelming. 

I wished that we could always be this way. Getting along.  Enjoying each other. Happy. 

But I know we will fuss. I’ll get my feelings hurt when she asks why I don’t bring the kids every day. Taking what she says as a slight against my choices. She will get hers hurt when I don’t want to stay and have lunch with her. 

But in the moment, on Mothers Day, we are free to sing and rejoice because right then, we weren’t blinded by regrets, unforgiveness, bitterness, anger. We saw each other as mother and daughter. And we loved. 

This is one of Mama’s Favorite Poems:

“Legacy of an Adopted Child”

Author Unknown

Once there were two women who never knew each other,

One – you do not remember, the other you call mother.

Two different lives shaped to make yours,

One became your guiding star, the other became your sun.

The first gave you life, and the second taught you to live in it.

The first gave you a need for love and the second was there to give it.

One gave you a nationality; the other gave you a name.

One gave you the seed of talent; the other gave you an aim.

One gave you emotions; the other calmed your fears.

One saw your first sweet smile; the other dried your tears.

One gave you up – that’s all she could do.

The other prayed for a child and God led her straight to you.

Now you ask through all your tears the age-old question through the years;

Heredity or environment – which are you a product of?

Neither, my darling – neither – just two different kinds of love.

Blessings and Love!!!!


Go and make disciples of all nations…Matthew 28:19

I haven’t been on an official “mission trip” since I was in my youth group at church several years ago. Over 5 years ago.  Ok.  It was 25+ years ago.

Every time there is a presentation at church about a foreign mission, inside I’m screaming, “ME! ME! ME! I want to go!!” I want to go away and freely love on people in other countries that are impoverished. I want to kiss the babies and hug the women (I will side hug the men because I don’t want anyone to think I’m coming on to their man!) I will tell them that Jesus loves them so much!

The next thoughts I have are usually along the lines of “What would I wear? And I will be a sweaty mess wherever I go so I have got to grow my hair long enough to pull back before I can go tell about Jesus. I guess I would wear the same jeans for a few days before changing, but there’s no way I can re-wear shirts.”

Then I think about my mission field. At the current time, the Lord has me called to the mission field of Mt. Pleasant, SC, my hometown.

During the course of a typical day, I am hard-pressed to find someone who appears outwardly “needy” to me. Most of the folks I run across appear to have it together. Well-dressed people in great cars, with great skin and hair and teeth!!! They are hitting Target, a popular lunch spot or grocery shopping. I count myself blessed to be among these people for this season. Largely dealing with first-world problems.

But they kind of intimidate me.

I find myself at home with those that are not perfectly groomed, those that are clearly down and out and hurting. What to do with this crowd is very obvious for me. I feel a draw to make them smile and tell them how special they are to the Lord and how there is hope in Jesus Christ. I know because He changed me from a “real bad” alcoholic who did all the “real bad” things alcoholics do.  He has made me a wife and a mother who has been sober for 15 years! And a person who is successful at holding down part-time jobs for 6 months.  But I know that the truth is WE ALL NEED HIM, whether you are wrapped in Vineyard Vines or thread-bare clothing.

The other morning I was asking the Lord to direct my steps, and I knew I had to go to WalMart. That idea alone causes me to fall on my knees in prayer, “Lord, please, make a way so I don’t have to go to that forsaken place.” I pressed on in what my daily chores involved for the moment as in my prayer time the Lord didn’t tell me otherwise.

On the way there I saw a young teenage boy sitting in the grass. Hot off the determination to be bold in my community for Jesus, I thought,

“Well look at him. Sitting there alone. He is probably hungry. Maybe even depressed or in despair! I can help him!” I had passed him before I could stop so I made a u-turn and pulled up beside him. He was maybe 16, with a backpack. He had a few patches of acne, but so did I. It is wrong to have wrinkles and acne at the same time, I’m just sayin’.

He looked a little taken aback.

I said to myself, “Of course he’s surprised that someone stopped to help him.”

He just looked at me and I spoke, “Hey there. How’s it going?”

He replied, “Fine, ” looking a little uncomfortable. God bless it!  He didn’t realize I was about to give him hope and encouragement.

I was undeterred. I pressed on, “Are you sure?”


This was going to be a hard case. “Do you need anything?”

I felt courageous with the Lord on my side so I pulled out the big guns!  I knew the Lord would protect me! I just wanted to help this lost soul!!!

“Do you want a ride?”   I had a huge smile on my face, feeling ready for anything.

He simply looked at me and pointed upwards. My eyes followed his gesture and there I saw the Bus Stop sign.

This poor kid was simply waiting on the bus!!!!! Probably going to class at College of Charleston! In that moment I realized that I probably appeared to him to be a middle-aged cougar creeper! Here he was, minding his own business! Here I come, spotting him, turning my vehicle around and harassing him!

“Hey guy, want a ride? No? Are you sure?” He probably did come to Jesus that day in prayer that the kook-nut lady wouldn’t abduct him!

I got tickled as I realized that this may have been an epic fail in attempts to minister but it did bolster my courage! I know I will reach out again, because I was mortified just then and survived. And who knows? Maybe I watered a seed that had been planted in that boy by someone else. My true hope is that he didn’t call the cops and make a report of a suspicious old lady bothering people!

Blessings and Love!

Mammogram Day

Today I showed up for my annual mammogram.  There is a history of breast cancer in my genes:  I am adopted and have been blessed to learn about the medical history of my biological family.  So I am in the breast center checking in with Linda, the admin lady. We greet each other and hug (I hug everyone) and she asks me about Mama. I tell her she’s well and has been at Sandpiper Assisted Living since October.  

And I remembered that last time I was there with Mom.  She and I were arguing in the car on the way there about something.  I don’t remember the specific issue on that day but I have a vivid snapshot of me seething in anger and my two little boys sitting beside me in the cramped waiting room.  Mom wouldn’t move her wheelchair from the middle of the room for whatever reason and I was about to implode.  I didn’t want my kids there with me, I didn’t want to be there and Mom wouldn’t act right.  She was glad to be out.  At this point in Mom’s life (she’s 81 years old), doctor’s appointments were a vehicle of socializing for her and she didn’t want the appointment to end!! The hour presented lots of challenges.  I had to help Mom get undressed (and dressed again).  Mom couldn’t stand long enough to get the exam quickly but the tech was very patient.  And my boys were unsupervised, slap fighting each other.  The oldest antagonized while the youngest whined.  They dropped snacks and knocked over a brochure rack with Breast Cancer information in it.  I sweated profusely (because I had a pot of coffee before I left the house and that’s just me.  I sweat a lot.)  I wanted to convince everyone that I was not a mean person, despite the tone of my voice when I addressed my eldery mother in the wheelchair and snapped at the kids.  We survived that visit and many others liked it with different doctors.

Today it was just me. All alone.  Solo. Uno.  Wonderful.

I had time to think about that biological history and my biological mother who passed away before we met.  She had a history of breast cancer, and thus my diligence to come for booby mashing, or breast cancer screening.  I am not worried about getting cancer today, because the Lord tells us not to worry and today has enough cares of its own.  I was lost in my own thoughts as the tech called my name.

“Mrs. Kennedy, come on back.”

I followed her and she showed me down the hall and into the small room where I could get dressed in the little gown that are used for exams.  She told me to meet her across the hall for the test.  I came out of the changing room at the Breast Center and I wasn’t 100% positive that I had my cute little mammogram smock on the right way.  I walked into the hallway and asked the tech, “This seems weird.  Does this open in the front or the back?”  She looked at me, a little shocked and said, “The gown is on the right way but you didn’t have to take your pants off.”

I realized at that moment that I was standing there in my underwear, and the half-gown shawl draped over my shoulders! All I could do was start laughing.  The tech laughed and then we roared!!!

I said, “Hold up. Let me put my pants on and I’ll be right back!!”  I was so undone with laughter that I couldn’t compose myself! We snickered and joked through the exam and the tech assured me that I wasn’t the only one to come out pantless.

I appreciated her kindness and thought to myself, “Really? Are you the lady that walks out with no pants on? How did I get here? Just willy-nilly taking off my pants?”

I thought of the scripture that says, “Therefore I tell you don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Matthew 6:25”

Clearly I’m not worried about clothes!  And we shouldn’t worry about anything because our Heavenly Father loves us.

Blessings and Love!