Author Archives: donnasmall

About donnasmall

I was born and raised in Massachusetts and moved to North Carolina in 1995. My first novel, Just Between Friends, was recently published by SecondWind Publishing. I live in Clemmons, North Carolina with two daughters, two cats, a bassett hound and a beagle. My next book, Through Rose Colored Glasses, will be out early this summer.

Change…

I often pride myself on being one of those people who actually enjoys change.  For instance, when at work, I’m normally the person who suggests we try things a bit differently.  I figure, if it doesn’t work better, we can go back to the way it was.

Want to try a new software system?  I’ll try it.  How about a new route to work?  Sure.  Bring it on.  Pinterest recipe?  I’m on it.

What’s interesting is that despite my genuine love of change, I tend to be unwilling to try to change things in my personal life.  I have stayed in relationships that I knew were going nowhere, stayed at jobs I was miserable at, and spent time with people I knew to be a bad influence on me. It seems that in my personal life, I’m unable to make the most important of changes.  Often times to my own detriment.

It seems that somewhere in my mid-forties, I got over this reluctance to make big changes in my life.  I pushed the self doubt and fear from my mind and took a huge risk.  Now, that being said, I did so only after doing much research and determining the best possible path to make said change.

Let me explain:

For the better part of my adult life, I, like most of you, have worked for someone else.   I’m an accountant.  Always have been.  It’s like, the most conservative field there is.  I was comfortable there, so there I stayed.  Day in and day out.  Working for someone else.  Knowing that no matter how hard I worked, my salary and success was based on someone else’s perception of me and my performance.  And quite frankly, normally I worked for people who didn’t know anything about accounting.  Yet these were the people I needed to impress with my knowledge of debits, credits and financial statements!

This past fall, I’d had enough. Like most people who make the change I was thinking about making, I realized I was working too hard for too little money and not nearly enough recognition.  I was coming home each and every night completely and utterly exhausted.  The slightest thing would upset me and I would take out my frustration on my children.  I couldn’t muster the energy to do much of anything in the evenings and if asked to drive one of my children anywhere, it was all I could do to haul myself off the couch and make my way to driver’s seat of the minivan.

I had to make a change.  I had to take control of my life.  But what to do?  I had an accounting degree, which was marketable, but changing jobs would only put me in the same place – working for someone else.

Then I began to think about what made me happy.  What did I enjoy doing?

Well, I’ve always enjoyed crafts, but I’m no Martha Stewart.  I’m an animal lover but I wasn’t about to walk dogs for a living (Not that dog-walking isn’t a very respectable job; it’s just not for me).

Then it began to dawn on me.  I was an HGTV addict.  Every night, I came home and would watch HGTV.  It didn’t matter what was on.  As long as there was something on the channel, it was on at my house.  I’d pick up those free magazines that were located at the exit of grocery and convenience stores.  You know, the ones that list all the houses in the area that are for sale?  I’d peruse them contantly, despite not being in the market for a new house.

I’d had a listing book account for the better part of fifteen years and would peruse that website just to see what homes were on the market. That was when it hit me.

I was going to get my real estate license.

The decision was the easy part.  The work that followed was the challenge.  Research, research, and more research.  I called real estate firms and other real estate agents to find out what was involved, what the costs were, how you got started in the business, and anything else I could think of to ask.  Once I felt as though I had enough information, I registered for the class and picked up my textbook.

I read many of the chapters and took the sample exams at the back of each chapter before continuing on.  I felt confident.  While I wasn’t getting perfect scores, I found the material easy to understand.

Then I got to class.  It was filled with people who had taken the class before and were taking it again for the second or even third time.  My confidence began to wane.  Instead of backing away from the work, I pushed harder.  I did every thing the instructor said to do.

If he said read each chapter three times, I did that.

He told us to take each exam countless times.

I did that.

By the end of the three month course, I felt as though I’d done nothing but study!

Thankfully, all the hard work paid off.  I passed my class exam, took the state exam the following week and passed that as well.  I was now a licensed real estate broker!

It was only one week after passing the exam that I was approached by another real estate agent who offered me a position with her company.  After meeting with the recruiting manager, I decided it was a good fit.

Then the full impact of what I’d done hit me.  I was about to embark on something that, while exciting, was fraught with challenges.  For I was about to leave the “security” of working for someone else.  A position where vacation, sick and holidays were given to me.  I had health insurance.  A pension plan.  Benefits that most people desire and strive to obtain.

And I was actually thinking about giving it all up.

But then I thought about it and realized that this would be the opportunity of a lifetime.  While the path I’d chosen had its challenges, I knew I’d be much happier in a position where the only one I was accountable to was me.

I made the leap.  I embraced the change and took a chance on myself.  And honestly?  I’m thrilled about my decision.

And the best part?  I think I’ll be great to work for.

 

Donna Small is the author of Just Between Friends, A Ripple In The Water, and the forthcoming Through Rose Colored Glasses.  She lives in Clemmons with her two daughters and their pet menagerie.  She is desperately trying to start her real estate business while writing her next novel. 

 

 

 

 

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Living In The Moment

It wasn’t long after school was back in session that I began to notice a shade of orange everywhere I went. Pumpkin spice everything seemed to have taken over.

 
It was odd, I thought, that I was still wearing flip-flops and shorts yet there were signs of fall every time I went into a store. Then the spooky things began to appear, which told me that Halloween was just around the corner.

 
It was barely Labor day.

 
Before I could get costumes and candy for the kids, I began to see displays of Christmas items. There were lights strung up, Christmas-y wrapping paper began to appear in the center of aisles, and Santas of all sizes were suddenly in my line of vision. Even the grocery stores began to display all the food items that we normally associate with Christmas. There were tins of cookies, candy canes, and fruitcakes every time I turned around!

 
Like everyone else, I shopped nearly every day between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, trying to make sure my children had everything they “needed” for Christmas morning. (Yes, I meant to put the quotes around the word ‘need.’ I mean, who needs a second pair of Uggs?)

 
I wrapped each night after they went to sleep, planned my Christmas dinner, and tried to think of new places to hide the presents I’d purchased but hadn’t managed to wrap yet.

 
Then it was all over.

 
But before the last present was unwrapped, I noticed that all the stores I shop at suddenly had a lot of red and pink in them.

 
Could it be?….

 
But of course. We are already preparing for the next holiday! We are doing this with such speed that we aren’t even able to enjoy the holiday we are currently celebrating!

 
Honestly, I find it a bit frustrating. It seems that we are now becoming a society with a huge case of ADHD. We can no longer sit and relax or have even just one day where we have nothing to do, no plans, no place to go. And if we are one of the lucky ones who find ourselves with such a day, we tend to feel guilty and a bit out of sorts because there is that nagging feeling that “surely, I should be doing SOMETHING.”

 
This concept of enjoying the moment seems to be a lost art. I see this same trend with my kids and their friends. They are so engrossed in taking a selfie that they forget to enjoy the event they are actually supposed to be attending! Instead of simply enjoying a delicious Starbuck’s Frappuccino or delectable coffee drink, we snap a picture of it so we can post it to Instagram for our friends to see. Honestly, every time I see a picture of someone’s dinner plate, I want to reach through the phone and choke them. Does anyone really care what you had for dinner?

 

Just eat it, for God’s sake!

 
We’ve lost the ability to simply enjoy the moment we find ourselves in and instead focus on ensuring others know what we are doing, eating, drinking and who we are with at every moment of our lives.

 
So for this new year, I vow to be in the moment. I vow to enjoy what is right in front of me instead of taking a picture of it and then tracking the number of “likes” I get. Because all that really matters is that I like what I’m doing at the moment and that I’m enjoying it with people I care about.

 

I mean, do you really care that I just had a granola bar?

 

 

Donna Small is the author of women’s fiction novels.  Her latest book “Through Rose Colored Glasses,” will be released shortly from Indigo Sea Press.  When not writing, she can be found at her home preparing for the Zombie apocalypse with her two daughters and her dogs, Charlie and Finley.  She is currently at work on her next novel.  

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Christmas “Special?”

Despite the fact that Christmas occurs on the same day each year, somehow it has managed to sneak up on me again.  It seems only yesterday I was purchasing new backpacks for my daughters and attending open house.  Now, we are two weeks from Christmas break, there are lights all over the place, and I’m out of money.

The one thing I do love during this time of year is the fact that the holiday specials I grew up watching are on television still.  I just love that my children can see the shows I used to watch when I was their age.  And despite their not having the technology that shows today have, they somehow manage to grab the attention of my children.

They’re classics.

But here’s the thing.  There’s something just a bit off with one of my favorites.  It comes very close to promoting bullying and  in fact, if that show would have been created today, there probably would have been an social media outcry because it would have been considered insensitive or politically incorrect.

Of course, the television special I am referring to is Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Allow me to explain:

At the beginning of the show, Donner and his wife give birth to a young fawn.  While they are surprised to find he has a glowing, red nose, they are thrilled with their young son.  Along comes Santa, the lover of all children.  The man who brings presents to all the good boys and girls all over the world.

And what does he do when he sees Rudolph?  He tell Donner in no uncertain terms that Rudolph will never pull his sleigh if this “Red-nosed” trait continues into adulthood.

Huh?

Exactly.  Santa Claus is chastising a parent for giving birth to a child that is “different!”  He is saying that because Rudolph is different from the other reindeer, he has no future.  After all, when you’re a reindeer, your future is to pull Santa’s sleigh.

To make matters worse, because of what Santa has just said, Rudolph’s father shoves a bunch of dirt on his nose to hide this “abnormality.” The father of the reindeer who is different actually buys into the warped opinion of who is, in essence, his boss, when he tells him there is something wrong with his son.

But wait.  It gets so much better.

Rudolph gets older and one day goes out to play with all the other reindeer.  While playing, the cover of Rudolph’s nose comes off, revealing his “non-conformity.”  It is then that all the other reindeer make fun of him.  And then, as if it weren’t bad enough, Coach comet, another of Santa’s reindeer, actually encourages this behavior by poking fun at Rudolph and telling him he can no longer play with the other reindeer!

There is a little hope for poor Rudolph, however,  A young fawn by the name of Clarice, doesn’t seem to be the slightest bit bothered by Rudolph’s nose.  She likes him just the way he is.  Her father, on the other hand, is appalled that his daughter is still friendly with the reindeer with the weird deformity and forbids her to see him.

Now I know, the moral of the story is that Rudolph swoops in to save the day and all the characters in the special are “misfits” in one way or another.  But what is so so shocking to me is the premise of the story – alienating, poking fun, and excluding someone because they are different.  It is that simple concept that goes against everything I hold dear.  And personally, I find it surreal that this story has been a fixture in our holiday season for so long.

What is perhaps even more strange to me is that I’ve watched this story more than fifty times and the last time I watched it was the first time these thoughts occurred to me.  What does this say about me?  Am I insensitive to the plight of people who are different?  Have I become so accustomed to what I perceive as “normal” that I am no longer aware of exclusionary activities?

I certainly hope not.

I will choose to believe that seeing this special as I have only recently means that I still have a sense of what is right and what is wrong.  I will choose to believe that in a situation where one who is different and being picked on because of it, I will stand up for them.

And yes, I will still watch Rudolph.  Because after all, there is something very rewarding about a youngster who is horribly picked on in his youth coming back to save the day. All those who picked on him are now at his mercy; dependent on him, if you will.

The only thing that would make this better would be if Rudolph, while leading the sleigh, yelled something a bit salty like, “How do you like me now, bitches?”

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Trick or Treating Escapades

This past weekend, like other years past, I took my children trick or treating.  Well, let me clarify…I took my youngest trick or treating.  The eldest went with her friends since, for the most part, she is too old to be seen walking around with her mother.

And so, it was just Abby and I who traipsed around the neighborhood, begging for candy.

This year, Abby worked particularly hard on her costume.  She is a huge fan of Dr. Who and this year, wanted to be the TARDIS. Now, I have no idea what it is or what it means but if you ask Abby, she’ll give you the full run down…when it’s used, how it’s used, the pro’s and con’s of it…

What I did know is that we needed a box to complete the costume.  A quick request on Facebook turned into a trip to a friend’s house where I was able to pick up a wardrobe box she’d just used when moving into her new house.

Abby had major plans for her costume.  She gave me a list of supplies and began working on painting said box two weeks before the October 31 deadline.  Each night, she would spend an hour or so in the garage working on her costume.  Toward the end, when it began to resemble something like a phone booth, I was not even allowed to peek.  The day before Halloween, she held the big reveal in my kitchen.

I was astonished.  My daughter stood before me in a blue box that was decorated so well, it could have been used as a prop in a Dr. Who production.  She’d painted it blue, put “windows” all around in white, and detailed everything with black paint.  Though I feared what my garage floor looked like, I smiled and cheered when she stuck her arms through the holes on the side of the box and pulled her head through the top.  She was a TARDIS.  Truly.

Even her sister, who normally torments her constantly, smiled and admitted the costume was pretty “swag.”  Elder daughter even stood for a photo op.

Abby was beyond thrilled with her costume.

Saturday evening quickly approached and I feel certain that, if I’d allowed it, Abby would have put on her costume that morning and hug around my living room in it all day.  Luckily, we had errands to run so we held off putting the costume on until later in the afternoon.  I knew once it was on, there would be no way to stop her from heading out the door.

Once the appropriate time arrived, we headed out.

That’s when we realized we hadn’t thought about the actual walking part of being in a cardboard box….

Poor Abby hobbled up and down the streets of my neighborhood for the better part of three hours.  She managed to pull in an entire bag of candy but the process was nearly unbearable to watch.  With every step, the front of her ankle kicked the front part of the box, making it tug on her arms and neck.  It simply wore her out.  At each corner, she had to take a break by resting the box on her road while she hunched down inside of it.

I”m still thankful that older sister went trick or treating with her friends because there is no way she would have tolerated the slow pace in which Abby went from house to house.  Curbs?  Yeah, those were a nightmare.  Hills?  Don’t even get me started.  I would have driven her around but the box wouldn’t fit in the minivan with her in it!

Abby didn’t utter a word of complaint.  And you know why?

Because she made the costume herself.  Every parent knows that if you have any part in whatever it is that is irritating your child, you are solely to blame.  Because I wasn’t allowed to even look at the costume, let alone help with it, there was no one else to hold accountable for the all around pain the ass that costume was.

And believe  me, it was a HUGE pain in the ass.

Donna Small if the author of three novels: Just Between Friends, A Ripple in the Water, and Through 
Rose Colored Glasses.  She lives in Clemmons, NC where she is at work on her next novel.  

abby costume

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Perspective

Most of you know that during the day, I work in a school for children with special needs. I’ve always felt that being around these kids has given me a good perspective on things. There is something very humbling about working around a group of children who’s lives are filled with struggle. For some of them, even taking a step or enunciating a word is a huge accomplishment.

Given the fact that I see these children struggle every day, I am less inclined to complain when something doesn’t go my way. How can I complain about a parking spot on the far side of the lot when I walk into my office and see a child with no legs? How can I be so insensitive as to complain about the price of gasoline when the children I see every day will never be able to drive on their own? Instead, they will be driven around in the back of a minivan while securely strapped into their wheelchair. How can I be the slightest bit impatient with my own children when they demand more of my time to tell me yet another story when there are children I see every day who will never be able to tell their mother how much they love her. How can I even, for a moment, think of the endless tasks I need to attend to when my child simply wants to talk to me?

Perspective.

We can only truly appreciate what we have when we see others who have less.

This past weekend, I was given, perhaps, the greatest dose of perspective anyone could ever receive: I went to see the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. Visiting this museum has been on my bucket list since I first saw Schindler’s list many years ago. Since that time, I have read pretty much everything I could find regarding the holocaust. I have seen the movies, the documentaries, and I have been to Temple to hear survivors speak about their experiences.

Despite having done all this research and thinking I knew all there was to know about this horrific time in history, I was immobilized when I stood on the top floor of the museum and stared at a uniform worn by one of the prisoners.

It. Blew. Me. Away.

The artifacts were overwhelming, the pictures were horrifying, and the video footage was unbelievable. There is actually one part of the museum where you sit and watch a large television screen. On it, is a continuous feed of survivors telling their stories.

I’m not ashamed to tell you I shed more than a few tears.

One survivor told of being on one of the “death marches.” When Nazi Germany realized they were losing the war, concentration camp prisoners were marched for weeks and months in the snow, with very little rest and scarcely any food. This particular survivor marched for four months in the freezing cold. If you fell behind or couldn’t keep up, you were shot and left for dead on the side of the road. She actually saw women breaking off their toes due to frostbite.

Yet another survivor told of hiding from a Nazi officer with two women and their infants. He was fourteen at the time. One mother, desperate to quiet her child, held him so close to her chest that she suffocated him. Forty years later, this man on the screen in front of me broke down.

I think that’s what gets me the most. When these tapes were recorded, the holocaust had been forty or fifty years prior. Even with that amount of time passing, these people still broke down and wept openly as though the wound had never been allowed to heal.

And perhaps it hadn’t.

I can’t think of a single thing in my life that makes me cry after a year, let alone fifty.

Perspective.

The stuff I saw at that museum? It stayed with me. Even as I drove home, I found myself thinking about all that I had seen and heard. And now? It makes any discomfort, inconvenience, or minor suffering I experience seem trivial compared to the horrors those people had to ensure.

Will I go back to complaining about the price of gasoline? How much weight I’ve gained? Or how mad I am that someone cut me off in traffic? Sure. Will I return to sighing when my daughter tells me the same story she’s told me a hundred times before? You bet. Will I swear under my breath when I don’t make the yellow light on my way to work in the morning, because now I’m going to be all of three minutes late? Absolutely.

But not today. Today I will be thankful for every single thing I have.

Donna Small is the author of Just Between Friends, A Ripple in the Water, and Through Rose Colored Glasses. She lives in Clemmons, North Carolina where she is currently working on her next novel.

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What Would You do?

Your child is sick.

Gravely ill.

You’re going through treatment after treatment and still, your child is wasting away.

The doctors aren’t sure what to try next. They tell you to prepare yourselves….What does that mean anyway? How do you prepare yourself for something like that?

Then, you are approached by a member of your child’s team.

“There is a new procedure,” he tells you. “It’s still in a trial phase but your child is an excellent candidate. We think it may work.”

“It will save him?” You ask, filled with a renewed sense of hope that you know you shouldn’t have. But you cling to it. Knowing it might be the lifeline you prayed for.

The doctors talk to you about the procedure. You listen to them but you don’t really hear them. Something about replacing the bad cells in your child’s body with new cells. You pray harder than you’ve ever prayed for a miracle.

Days go by. Nothing happens. Then slowly, you see a glimmer in your child’s eye that wasn’t there before. Are you imagining this? Then you see it again. Your spouse sees it too. It is real or just the fantasy of two parents who want desperately to save their child’s life.

The doctor visits you and listens to your child’s heart and lungs. He views the chart at the end of the bed. He places it back in its slot at the end of the bed, looks at you, and nods.

“I think we’re seeing some improvement,” he says. Over your cries of relief, he continues. “It’s too soon to tell but I’m hopeful. I’ll be back again tomorrow.”

Over the next several days, others see the improvement in your child. You begin to fantasize about taking him home, playing catch with him, arguing once again over a clean room or homework.

Then it happens, he is released. The miracle you prayed for is actually happening. Your child, while still weak, is no longer dying. He is being released and is able to come home to re-join your family.

Tell me, at this moment, do you care where these life-saving cells came from? Honestly.

I think by now you realize where I’m going with this. Maybe you’re going to stop reading, but please don’t. I know what I’m writing about is hugely controversial. But hear me out.

The story above is made up and yes, it’s extreme. And this may never happen to you. But it will happen to someone…and has.

Think back to about fifty years ago. People were terrified of this disease called Polio. Swimming pools everywhere remained empty because people feared the spread of the disease. Desperate for a cure, researchers used fetal cells from two abortions were used to create a polio vaccine, thereby eliminating this disease by 1979 and reducing the number of cases around the world to 416 in 2013.

The researchers’ discovery earned them the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1954.

Here’s the thing: The parents whose children were saved by the Polio vaccine didn’t care where the vaccine came from or how it was created. They cared about saving their own child.

Fetal tissue research is not a new thing. We’ve been using this method of research since the 1930’s. So what’s all the fuss about now, you ask?

Well, you’re only finding out about it now.

I think, given all the Pro-life activism that’s been going on lately, everyone is starting to ask questions. One of the questions is “What happens to the fetus once it’s been aborted?” A valid question. What happens to any medical waste?

Look folks, I get it. Some of us are pro-life and some of us are pro-choice. While I’m pro-choice, I understand the other side of it, thanks to my dear friend Ashley, who took the time to explain why she felt as she did. I understand the emotions behind why we feel the way we do.

But let me ask you to put aside your emotions and personal beliefs for just a moment.

Abortion is legal.

It is any woman’s right to have an abortion. You may not like it, but there it is. If you don’t like it, your job it to change the law. And by change the law, I don’t mean to bully any woman who is visiting a planned parenthood. She is doing what is her legal right.

The only way things are going to change is if you ban together and change the law. Write your senator, congressman, or representative. Pay attention when it’s voting time and vote in those who share your opinions and will change the law.

And until you succeed in changing the law, it is every woman’s right to have an abortion if she chooses to do so. And she shouldn’t be tormented, harassed or bullied for doing what is her legal right. It’s not murder. Why not? Because the law says so.

But while abortion is legal, why would we not use the tissue matter that has provn to be so clearly beneficial to the improvement of mankind simply because we don’t like how those cells were obtained? Again, they were obtained in a legal manner.

Do those of you who believe we shouldn’t use fetal tissue truly believe that this world would be a better place if polio was still paralyzing some 550,000 children each year? Haven’t we made tremendous strides using these cells? Isn’t curing a disease like Polio enough to prove its benefit?

By using fetal tissue matter, we’re gaining ground in other areas as well. Parkinson’s patients have had neuronal stem cells from fetal tissue transplanted into their brains with great success. Some patients have been healthy and functional for up to fourteen years. Fourteen years! That is long enough for a father to see his child reach adulthood – something no parent should be denied.

Fetal cells have also been transplanted into patients who suffer from paralysis or macular degeneration. The hope is that the cells will regenerate inside the patient and help those who have a spinal cord injury, or those who are losing their sight. Can you imagine if someone who was paralyzed was able to walk again?

Research has also been done using fetal tissue matter to better understand and hopefully solve certain birth defects and malformation of organs. Studies on fetal tissue has been used to assist with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, the prevention of miscarriage, and the prevention of genetic diseases.

I’m sure the list of medical advancements goes on and on but I can only google so much.

The point I am trying to make is that while some of us may not like using the cells because of how they were obtained, they have, in fact, helped us with major medical advancements. And quite frankly, it’s really silly to not use something that has proven to be so beneficial to mankind simply because we don’t like the way it was obtained.

The bottom line is: would you stand on your morals if YOUR child needed the vaccine that was created from fetal tissue? Would you let your child go blind, become paralyzed or live a life riddled with Parkinson’s disease in order to prove a point? Would you let your child die if there was a life-saving vaccine created from fetal tissue?

And if you would reject that vaccine, choosing to sacrifice your own child so that you can uphold the morals you hold so dear, how does that make you pro-life?

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I am &%$#’ing terrified!

I’ve never been one of those women who falls instantly in love when she sees a baby. I’ve never run up to a child to ooh and aaah over chubby cheeks and long lashes. During my teenage years, I was more concerned with hitting softballs or perfecting my fielding ability than I was with getting my Red Cross certification so that I could earn a few measly dollars babysitting someone else’s child.  To me, sitting at home with a child who refused to go to bed while his parents were out enjoying a lavish dinner or a concert seemed a punishment of sorts as opposed to an opportunity to make a few extra bucks. In my twenties, the thought of actually carrying a child terrified me.  Not so much just the pregnancy and delivery; it was the eighteen or so years afterwards that really had me concerned.  Not only did I not know anything about raising a child, but come to find out, no one teaches you anything at the hospital either!   They let you give birth to his tiny, defenseless human and without showing you what to do, send you home with the boy or girl where you are, for the most part, left on your own.  Keep in mind that I am someone that regularly walks from one room to another and then, in the mere seconds in took me to do so, forgets why it is that I entered the room in the first place!  And these people thought I could care for a child?

Still, when I was nearly thirty, I got pregnant with my first child.  I had a picture perfect pregnancy and after only twenty- two hours of labor, a human being was pulled out of me. (And I do mean “pulled.”  There was no way a baby was passing through my hips.  Apparently, I am skinny on the inside.  Who knew?) And the moment that little girl was pulled out of me, so was my heart.  My baby was placed on my belly for a few moments and my heart?   Well, that was left outside of me as well where every cry, tear, and wail was sure to strike it, causing me pain unlike anything I’d ever known.  Like most women, I fell instantly in love and spent the bulk of my maternity leave cradling her in my arms and staring at her.  Over and over I whispered in awe, “I made this.”  Nothing. No magazine article, love story, or advice from a friend could have prepared me for the overwhelming love I felt whenever I gazed upon my precious daughter.

Two weeks ago, this bundle of love took a test and the state of North Carolina gave her a piece of paper that said she could now drive a motor vehicle as long as I was sitting beside her…. Until 9pm, of course.

When I held her in my arms all those years ago, I couldn’t even imagine this day would come.  I was, however, lucky enough to have wise friends who told me to cherish each day because they would pass by so swiftly.  Because of the words of these wonderful ladies, I have always put my children first.  If they needed me for something, I was there for them.  If they needed to talk, I stopped what I was doing and gave them my full attention.  Always.  As a result, this young woman talks to me about anything and everything.  She tells me what makes her happy and what has made her sad.  I am there to pick up the pieces, whether it’s a stupid boy in class who made her heart hurt or the tears she sheds are because her father has disappointed her once again by putting her last on his list.

The thing is, what I cherish most in this world is time with my children.  I also realize that the days when mom is needed are swiftly coming to an end.  So while I am terrified of her driving, I also realize that for the next year, she and I will spend a minimum of sixty hours where she and I are simply driving around town.  We will be able to talk to our hearts content and as any parent knows, this is time when your kids tell you everything.  They know they have your undivided attention and tend to open up about anything that is bothering them.

So, rather than look to the future and to a time where I am no longer needed, I’m going to cherish this next year, much like I did for the twelve weeks of my maternity leave.  I will spend each moment with her being truly with her and hope that no matter how independent she gets, she will always need her mother.

At least a little bit.

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The “Good Old Days”

When I was very little, I remember thinking that forty, thirty, and even twenty was old.  I couldn’t imagine being that age.  Surely someone at that advanced of an age would do nothing but sit around and talk about “the good old days.”  My parents, wanting to make sure I understood how easy of a life I had, what with color television and the invention of HBO, made sure to frequently tell me stories of their youth.  These stories mostly involved some version of how they had to walk to school uphill, in the snow, both ways, or some variation of this story that was meant to ensure I realized how tough their lives were in comparison to mine.  I can remember thinking that I would never be that person.  I would never be someone who would tsk, tsk at the poor habits or laziness of those younger than me when I was twenty, thirty, or (gasp!) forty.

I am now forty five years old and have begun to notice certain things that make me pause and shake my head in disgust.  And the thing is, it’s nothing really.  There aren’t any huge infractions or circumstances that make me want to leave this country for another.  There have been, however, countless times where I look at those younger than me and wonder how they’ve managed to survive this far with the stupidity they are demonstrating at the moment.

For example, youth today can’t count change.  For the most part, they are incapable of giving change back to a customer unless it is staring at them from the computer screen.  And if, after you’ve given them a twenty dollar bill find you have that four cents in your pocket?  Well, forget it.  They can’t figure it out.  They’ll look at you with a look between horror and confusion and say, “I already punched in the twenty.”

Then there’s this whole ‘can’t tell time thing.’  Even my own children will look at me with utter confusion on their faces when I answer their “what time is it?” question with, “Quarter of four.”

“What?”  They will cry.  “What do you mean, ‘quarter of.’  How many minutes is that?”

I will groan inwardly and wonder why our schools are not teaching the basic fact that the hours can be divided into four, equal fifteen minute increments.  But alas, our children can only tell time if they are looking at a digital letters on a screen.  It’s sad, really.   I shudder to think what will happen if, forty years from now, the power goes out in the nursing home and I’m relying on these bozos to give me my meds.  I can only imagine the scene as people who’ve never seen a clock with only twelve numbers on it, try to determine what time I am due for my next dosage.

And then, perhaps the most annoying to me is this business of not keeping a register of all your purchases and checks you’ve written.  With the age of on-line banking, most of our youth today feel they don’t need to keep track of, say, an outstanding check.  They simply look at the balance on the screen and assume they have said amount of money in their account.  What they don’t realize is that they’ve written a check for something that has dropped the balance in their account by several hundred dollars.  But these people go about their business as though they have more money than they actually do!.  The kicker is, if you are the unfortunate business to whom they’ve written their check to, you are the one to receive the astonished, angry call from the customer who blames you because their mortgage came out of their account and then you had the audacity to cash their check!

This has happened to me and I’ve actually had to tell grown men that they should keep track of all their checks so this sort of thing doesn’t happen in the future…But they don’t get it.

This past week, I took my fifteen year old to the bank in order to open a checking account for her.  The first thing I did was ask for one of those paper check registers.  I explained to her that while she can look at her balance on-line, the bank may not show the true amount of money she has.  I gave her the example of writing a check to a friend who, instead of cashing it, keeps it in her pocket for several weeks.  The money is, in essence, spent, but the bank doesn’t know about the check because it’s in someone’s pocket.

Imagine how thrilled I was when I saw the lightbulb go off above her head.

Others may not get the whole checking account thing, but my kid?  She’s going to get it.

Oh.  I’ll also teach her to how to tell time.  When my health is failing, I want to make sure someone around me can tell time and ensure I get my meds!

Donna Small is the author of three novels, Just Between Friends, A Ripple in the Water, and the forthcoming, Through Rose Colored Glasses.  Her books can be purchased here:

http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/#!donna-small/c1ewn

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A Plea on Behalf of Caitlyn Jenner

Given the events of the past week, (I am of course, referring to the Vanity Fair cover photo of Caitlyn Jenner), I thought I would write about it in this month’s blog.   Since everyone has offered their two cents, I thought I might as well jump on the bandwagon and offer up my own.  After all, I tend to be very opinionated….

After the release of the aforementioned photo, I read a few positive comments.  Unfortunately, I’ve also read many comments that are openly hostile.  To those who have written these hateful things, I have to ask:  Does Caitlyn Jenner affect you or your family in some way that I’m not aware of?  Has she caused you some personal affront?  As far as I can see, all she’s done is come out publically (probably because she was hounded by the press relentlessly) with something she says she has struggled with and agonized over all her life.

One of the first posts I read about this topic was a comparison to Caitlyn’s courage with that of a soldier.  The gist of the article was informing the reader that Caitlyn should not be considered as having courage because courage is only displayed on the battlefield.

Merriam Webster defines courage as “the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”

Read the definition again.  Does the definition tell us where courage can be displayed?  It does not.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I am thankful every day for our soldiers.  After all, it is because of them I can write this blog and have the freedoms I do.  Do I think these soldiers display courage?  You bet I do!  Every damn day of their lives!  Both on the battlefield and off.  My point is that courage can be displayed in many ways.

It can be displayed in the child who gets on the school bus every day despite being picked on.  The little girl who is in the hospital battling an illness.  A parent who makes the decision to go back to school, or even the son or daughter who decides to finally tell their parents they are gay.  In all of these situations, the person had to persevere and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.

Look, Mr. Iknowwhatcourage is:  Courage takes many forms and in no way does one form of courage take away from another.  There is not a limited amount of courage to go around.  And seeing all this hate spewing Caitlyn’s way, I’d have to say she’s got a lot of courage because I’ll bet she knew this would happen, yet persevered despite it.

Though I wonder if she knew how horrific the backlash would be.  How hurtful and vicious, and downright rude some of you would be.

Another article I read focused on the photo shopped quality of the Vanity Fair cover.  The author mentioned how Caitlyn was “dolled up in makeup and hair extensions, posing in a corset…his chest enhanced by hormone pills and silicone.”

Really, Mr. Ihatesiliconeandmakeup? Have you looked at a magazine lately? All of these items are routinely used in practically every magazine shoot and cover photo in an attempt to make women look more “real” or “normal” somehow.  This “normalcy” has resulted in a generation of women who are not satisfied with their own bodies because they are continuously measured up against these images.  Images, I might add, that are nearly impossible to achieve without starvation and all the items you mentioned with such disdain in your article.  Wake up, Sir.  No one looks like that.

Magazine covers are not, nor have they ever been, reality.   Yet those images are the standard we women are shown day in and day out at the “ideal”.  Sure, in those magazines, the articles talk about loving yourself no matter what you look like.  But what’s on the cover?  Some size zero photo shopped model who probably subsisted on water for days prior to the shoot.

And they still cut off a part of her thigh.

Photo shopping is the new norm!  And frankly, it’s really the only way to achieve the “ideal” look.  In fact, the photo shop trend is so mainstream that Aerie retail stores have based an entire marketing campaign on the fact that their models are not photo shopped.

And then there was the article that focused on the fact that Caitlyn experienced panic and regret after having facial feminization surgery.  This one might be my favorite.  This author was basically telling us that because she felt panic and regret, clearly she must have made the wrong decision.  I can’t help but wonder if people in this situation feel these things not because of the actual surgery, but because of the hatred that is hurled at them from every direction.

And here’s the other thing….I can’t think of a single life changing decision I’ve made where I didn’t experience at least a little regret and even more panic.  Aren’t those emotions normal?  For crying out loud, I experience regret after I place my order at the drive thru!  Did I want fries?  What about chicken instead of a burger….aaargh!!!!

I can only imagine the panic Caitlyn experienced (and probably will experience) along her journey.  So, Mr. I’veneverhadany regrets, good for you!  Apparently, you’ve never made a decision that concerned you in some way.  Maybe next time you write a blog, you can tell the rest of us how to do that.

And then there’s the guy who wrote about how disgusted he is because our government is falling apart, yet we’re all focused on Caitlyn Jenner.  I’d like to point out that simply by writing your blog about how disgusted you are with Caitlyn, you’re adding to her publicity.

Nicely done, Sir.

Let’s face reality here.  The media is going to print and show what we are buying.  Vanity Fair knew that putting Caitlyn Jenner on the cover would make people come out in droves for it.  Just look at the past few days.  How many times have you seen that picture of her come across your Facebook feed?  It’s supply and demand, folks.  Basic economics.  Millions of people want to see Caitlyn on the cover.  Not so many people would purchase the magazine if, say, the member of congress were on the cover.   Am I right?

And then there was the final straw today….

Someone has filed a petition to revoke the Olympic medal Bruce Jenner won in the 1976 Olympic games.

Are you kidding me?

At the time of games, Bruce Jenner (and I use the former name here because it is only now she wants herself referred to as Caitlyn) won that gold medal.  He didn’t use enhancement drugs or any type of steroid.  At the time, he was a man competing in a men’s event.  The petition is simply one person’s demonstration of hate and intolerance.  And for the record, the entire thing is completely unfounded and without merit.

At the time, Bruce, although he says he felt as though he was a woman, was not taking any hormone therapy to suppress his testosterone and begin the transition process.  If he were, in fact, doing this, he most likely would have lost the decathlon as the hormones would have put him at a severe disadvantage when competing against his male counterparts.

People have used the words perverted, disgusting, and devastating to name a few.  They’ve said he’s got psychological issues and speak to “

what he has done to himself.”

Frankly, these comments are hurtful and rude and those of you who make these statements are no better than the school yard bully.  Actually, now that I think about it, you’re even more cowardly because you’re saying them behind the curtain of social media.

Let’s remember that Bruce, ne Caitlyn, is someone’s brother or sister, son or daughter, father and friend.  How would you feel she was your son? Daughter? Brother? Friend?

So why doesn’t everyone reserve their hate for those who have done you some wrong.  Or, better yet.

Don’t hate.

Because that’s what this is.  Hate.  With a dose of fear of the unknown.  You can phrase it so that is comes across as concern for her but you’re not fooling anyone.  Those of you that speak ill of Caitlyn are afraid of that which is not known to you so your first reaction is to oppose it.    Cut it down.  Destroy it.  We fear that which we do not know.  I get it.

Now stop.

Choose your words carefully and your behaviors with even more care.  Caitlyn may someday be someone you know and love.  How do you want them treated?  What’s that saying?… Do unto others?

Caitlyn Jenner has enough to deal with without having to listen to all your holier than thou, I’ve never done anything wrong, I’m better than you negativity.

Just.  Leave. Her. Be.

Donna Small is the author of two novels, Just Between Friends and A Ripple in the Water.  Her third novel, Through Rose Colored Glasses, is scheduled to be released later this year.  You can purchase her books either on amazon.com or at Secondwindpublishing.com

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An Open Letter to the Parents of Teenagers

Last week, I found myself parked in the pick- up line of the local high school.  I’d gone to meet my daughter to give her some money for a baseball game.  Our schedules didn’t mesh exactly and I ended up waiting for her for several minutes.  I pulled up and out of the way of the parents picking up their children, put my car in park, and waited for my daughter.

While I sat there, I checked emails and Facebook and occasionally, looked around to see if my daughter was approaching.  This was when my jaw dropped to the floor boards.

Sitting a mere ten feet from me was a young girl who apparently, tried to sit on a bench, but missed.  Instead, she found herself seated upon the lap of a young man I can only assume was her boyfriend.

Their arms and legs were intertwined and from where I sat, it was nearly impossible to discern where one appendage began and another ended.

But wait.  It gets worse.

I couldn’t see this girls face.  Whyy, you ask?   It was because her face was firmly in the crook of her boyfriend’s neck so she could suck on it.

Now, this was no occasional kiss or nibble.  The behavior I witnessed was barely appropriate for any public setting, let alone the bench of the high school pick up line.

Let me be clear.  I am not a prude.  I have two children of my own, which means that if my math is correct, I’ve had sex at least twice in my life.  However, I will go so far as to tell you that I’ve never had sex on a bench in a public setting or displayed any such behavior like I was seeing at that moment. Even at that young age, I knew that if my parents were to see that display, I would be, at the very least, grounded and, at the worst, beaten to within an inch of my life. Of course, in my day, a “beating” didn’t have the same connotation it has now. Back then, a “beating” meant a swift kick in the pants or something of the like. And no, I didn’t threaten my parents with calling social services, nor did my neighbors call on my behalf. I knew I’d done something wrong and was being appropriately punished. I can assure you, the offending behavior was never done after that point.

As I sat in my car staring, mouth agape, at these two kids, I tried to figure out what bothered me so. I came to realize that what was so startling to me was that not a single person stopped to stare, point, or jeer at the couple.  Human nature dictates that we stop and stare at those things that are foreign and/or different to us.  The only person who seemed bothered by this behavior was me!  Apparently, I’m not accustomed to two people pawing at each other during high school dismissal time….yet a bunch of high-schoolers are.  And what does that say about today’s youth?

What is your reaction to this?  Would your reaction be any different if I told you that the child – yes, she is a child – was your daughter?  Or your son?

Because let me tell you something, if it were my daughter sitting on that bench, I would have gotten out of my car so fast it would have made her head spin.  Would I have embarrassed her?  Absolutely.  But, quite frankly, a little embarrassment when you’re doing something stupid, in my opinion, goes a long way.

Parents, take a stand.  We’ve all got to have those discussions. I know they’re awkward and uncomfortable – all the more reason to have them!  Tell your children in no uncertain terms that that sort of behavior is inappropriate in such a public setting!

Am I foolish enough to think it doesn’t happen?  Of course not.  I wasn’t born under a rock.  Kids are going to do things we don’t like.  They’re going to push their limits, and our buttons in the process. But here’s the issue:  It’s the audacity in which the action was performed that really got to me.  It was like the two kids sitting on the bench were just daring someone to come up to them and stop them.

And let me be abundantly clear on this:  It’s the setting of the behavior that’s inappropriate.  By this I mean that I don’t want to see anyone going at it like that on a public bench!

When did all sense of decorum leave us?  Have we gotten to the point that we are so afraid of confronting an issue like this one that we just ignore it? Or have we become a group of parents who feel they can’t punish our children unless we’ve specifically laid out the “bad” behavior and the corresponding punishment? Sorry, but there is no way humanly possible for us to think of and explain every type of bad behavior our children may explore. At some point, they’ve got to think on their own and develop an innate sense for what is right and wrong. This business of laying out every consequence and not punishing behavior that we haven’t expressly forbidden has gotten out of control. Come on, parents! Let’s teach our kids the basics and then let them figure it out as they go. And this means telling them in no uncertain terms that their choice was stupid and inapprpriate if the label fits. Stop being afraid of hurting your child’s feelings; stop wanting to be their friend.

You are their parent. It’s your job to raise a fully functioning adult. One that knows it’s not in their best interest to be sucking on their boyfriend’s neck in the middle of the high school pick up line. It’s called such because it’s where the parents pick up their kids – not where the kids get to “pick up” their next conquest. Zip up your dress, folks. It’s time to be parents again.

Oh! And if anyone knows whose child I saw that day on the park bench, call her parents.

Donna Small is tha author of three novels, Just Between Friends, A Ripple in the Water, and the forthcoming Through Rose Colored Glasses. Her books can be purchased here: http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/#!donna-small/c1ewn

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