Hearts as Helium Balloons

Hearts as Helium Balloons

Helium balloons are often used as an expression of emotions. Whether it’s love, celebration, sympathy or decoration, helium balloons accessorize any occasion. Sometimes, the human heart can be equated to a helium balloon. It expresses emotions, can feel lighter than air, dies out when held down, or soar to unknown heights when let go. It can be broken and used for mockery or to make a joke using its contents in spite of its pain or destruction. Recent changes in my most important and closest relationships have provoked this metaphor: a heart and a helium balloon.

My heart
as a helium balloon
colorful, shiny, bright
“Happy Birthday” or “Get Well Soon”.
Filled with stuff
lighter than air
stenciled with words
to show my care.
You choose me
for whatever appeal
show me off to others
to express how you feel.
That’s just fine
it’s all well and good
time goes by
interest wanes as it should.
The helium seeps out
the balloon deflated
just as my heart
is no longer elated.
The balloon withers
as its held down by time
then totally discarded
into trash or scrapbook of some kind.
But, I should be grateful
I should be glad
you’ll look back at me
and think what fun you had.
You could’ve popped my heart
take its air into your throat
then make a funny voice
my heart’s contents your joke.
At some point in life
you’ll get another heart as a helium balloon
another “Happy Birthday”
another “Get Well Soon”.
As you hold it in your hand
looking up at it towards the sky
the heart as a helium balloon will say:
“Are you going to hold me down
with time and let me die?
Or let me go
and watch me fly?”

http://www.TamikaTrammel.com author of “18 Years of Grace and Mercy: A Teenage Mother’s Testimony, Vol. 1” and “The Pusher, the Prostitute and a Preacher” available on Amazon, B&N, Google Books, AmericaStarBooks.com Online Bookstore in e-book and soft cover

Learning Something Useful with My Hands

My hands have done a lot in my lifetime to help others.  I’ve worked with people’s food, money, health, well-being and public safety for over twenty years collectively.  Lately, I’d been feeling trapped and idle having to remain at home, caring for my disabled son  until an opportunity arose that I simply could not refuse.  A lady in my church knows sign language and I’ve begun taking lessons.  I’m like a kid on the first day of school all over again.  However, I’m not that kid that’s nervous or withdrawn.  I am the excited one, eager to ask questions and more importantly, impress the teacher.  I knew the alphabet, count up to ten, and some simple words.  I accomplished what I set out to do: impress the teacher.  She was happy to see that I had a good sign language base.  I owe that to my childhood friend who is deaf.  He and his sister taught a few of us interested children in daycare how to sign some basic words, and the alphabet.  Learning how to fluently sign had always been something I wanted to do, but I let this simple phrase of five words kill the ambition:  never got around to it.  Well, now I am back at it without anything getting in the way.  Several weeks ago, I thought learning sign language would be the only option for communicating with my son.  He hadn’t passed a hearing test at all, including his infant hearing screening, and had to undergo a hearing test under anesthesia.  The results came back normal.  He’s also had three surgeries on both of his ears.  I am very grateful his hearing is normal, but I am not letting that stop me from learning a skill that had always been a desire of mine.  His speech therapist told me there are people that use sign language to communicate and can hear perfectly well.  Signing is an easier way to communicate for some children who are learning disabled.  So that is very advantageous.  However, I must admit, I am going to be selfish with this one.  I am going to learn to sign fluently because I want to, not because I have to, not to become more lucrative, just simply because I want to.  There is a beholden beauty in sign language, and I’d love to be to speak, not just write, with my hands.

Friends as Rest Stops on the Road Trip of Life: A Tribute

If my life is described as one long road trip without a map, best friends would be the rest stops along the highway. Like rest stops, my friends take my crap, allow me to get cleaned up, and actually rest before moving onward. They do so by listening to me without judgment, offer advice and alternatives, and when I’m right–they tell me so. When I’m wrong–they tell me so. I lost friends when I moved from Maryland to Arizona, but one bond remained intact, if not strengthened over the years. For the purpose of the blog and to give her anonymity, I’ll call her “Shero”.
Shero and I became friends more than ten years ago when we had a lot in common. We were both recently divorced mothers raising adolescent daughters at the time. The struggles we had were different in circumstances, but the same in cause. For example, we are the proverbial crutches for our family members. If there’s a problem in her family, she’d get the desperate phone call. The same goes for me. In spite of us having to raise our children on our single incomes, we were our families’ ATMs. Not because we were rich, or making good money, but because we handle our adversities with unforeseeable strength, and others wanted it too. It’s been that way for years, and still is to this day. I haven’t seen Shero face to face in over three years, but hearing her voice at least once a month keeps us close. (I know there’s Skype, but I haven’t become consistent with it yet.) Having her insight from a distance keeps my perspective. I know that sounds somewhat a contradiction, but it keeps me in full view of my problems and solutions. Her outside looking in gives me insight I otherwise wouldn’t pick up on with my tunnel vision. And I reciprocate in our friendship. I provide the outside view to her tunnel vision. In fact, we’ve declared each other as the “tie-breaker”, “unbiased opinion”, and “second opinion” for each others circumstances. We didn’t begin our friendship this way, but it has blossomed as such. And our friendship isn’t always full of drama, suspense, or tears. We are happy, and each traveling our way to even happier. The Lord knew that we would need one another in our lives for this season.
As I’ve said, I lost friends after making the major move. We didn’t stop liking each other, but lost some of the attributes we had in common. Phone calls became, “I’ll call you right back” and not get a call back. Texting became less and less words. Meaningless statements like: “we’ll get together” and “let’s have lunch” are said for politeness. Not everyone understands what it means to follow dreams and be obedient to the Holy Spirit. Maybe their dreams lead a different direction or they simply decided to stay their course. So, we’re not caught up in one another’s traffic anymore. And that’s fine. I still love all the people I’ve ever called a friend or confidant. Besides, I wouldn’t have realized just how special Shero is. Everybody should have a Shero in their lives, a great friend to stop and rest with during the long trip. It makes the travel on the road trip called life more pleasant.

My Process of Becoming a Writer –More than learning the writing process

Last week was a heavy one.  The doctor did not have good news (a trademark of the medical profession maybe?) as my son’s development is practically non-existent.  However, at this precise time is where faith steps in and the Holy Spirit lets me know that everything will be alright through the actions of others.  The same day, my son pooped in the toilet.  It was completely against his will on his part.  I had to hold him while he wriggled but the task was completed.  Although it hasn’t happened again, he must’ve gained some confidence because he’s no longer afraid to go into the bathroom by himself.  Just earlier tonight, I overheard him lifting and dropping the toilet seat. Within seconds, he was pulling on me because his pamper was loaded.  I missed the cue.  Communication with my son is an ongoing daily learning process for me.

A process…seems to be the description of my entire existence right now.  To go from an independent and securely employed mother of two teenage girls in 2010 to a mother of two young adult women, one slow learning disabled son and dependent upon SSDI (Social Security Disability Income) was not a part of my plans by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, I was always saying how I was going to do just the opposite.  People always asked, “When are you having a little boy Tamika?”  My response was always, “Never.  Ever.”  My plans were to put my daughters through college while continuing to work for 9-1-1 and take extravagant vacations whenever I could.  Writing books was going to be my side hustle.  I used to write all of the time on the midnight shift when the call volume was slow.  I mostly wrote personal journal entries to relieve the stress caused by my personal life.  All of my cursing and screaming, crying, etc. was done silently on notebook paper just so I could tolerate callers who cursed at me (as if their personal problems were all my fault).  So, to keep from cussing back at them, I had to write.  I started with my rookie novel:  “18 Years of Grace and Mercy: A Teenage Mother’s Testimony, Vol. 1” (America Star Books, Jan. 2012).  It was a novel that I was going to “put on the shelf” and shop around for a publisher, agent, or whatever came next.  I had no experience in publishing whatsoever back in 2010 when I wrote the novel.  Once the novel was completed, all hell broke loose in my personal life.  My father became deathly ill and I became unexpectedly high-risk pregnant.  My paternal grandmother had also became extremely ill, which was important in my life because I had been transporting her to her doctors visits for a few years.  My grandmother was an old-school Christian woman and ordained minister.  Going to church every Sunday morning is of utmost importance in the doctrine she reared her children and grandchildren.  I could not make it to church every Sunday because of my job.  Therefore, I’d take her to her appointments in the the middle of the week when I had days off and no one else was able to help her. It was during all this turmoil, that I received divine instructions to pursue a writing career. Credible information regarding publishers and the writing industry was being told to me without my asking or researching. Since then, my grandmother has passed away, and my father’s health has been up and down. My priorities have changed to developing my writing career and caretaking of my son and father. Hindsight is always 20-20, and to this day, I do not regret making the major changes because it would have been very difficult to work such a stressful job and take care of my incapacitated family. However, the independent working woman deep within is starting to become bored and dissatisfied. For the past several months, I’ve felt trapped by my circumstances. I wanted to get a part-time job, but my boyfriend got a new job with hours that won’t allow me to do that without interfering with care for my son. I’m having to let go of my father’s care because he’s become so dependent on me that he hardly does anything for himself and doesn’t go anywhere outside his apartment anymore. The working woman within never liked staying at home, housecleaning, caretaking and other tasks on the long list. So now, I am having to re-channel her energy into my writing career. Instead of working for others, I have to work for myself. I do a lot of research on the writing industry at my public library. What I’ve read thus far is pretty discouraging, especially to those who expect to get rich quick from having a writing career. For some folks it happens, but for many, it does not. In order for my inner working woman’s career to take a path it’s never taken, she’s got to go places she’s never gone, and do things she hasn’t done before. For example, blogging. I don’t completely understand it, but I am doing it, and expect to get better at it. I recently attended a “Night of Conversation and Poetry with Dr. Nikki Giovanni” in Mesa, Arizona. They had a question-answer session. My question was the first one, and it was asking for advice for writers using social media and the internet to advance their careers. Her advice was simple, “Yeah do it. Because in one hundred years, you’ll want your work to be mentioned and this is how it’s getting out now.” I never thought my career would be successful bypassing the internet nor social media; however, I wanted to be sure it was worth the time and effort taken away from developing current writing projects. And that seems to be the position of most current writers. Another area of my career that needs developing is financing. I asked the Lord in prayer one night why would He instruct me to leave a $80,000/year job to get on disability and start a writing career. It’s too hard. Cumbersome. Burdensome. Depressing. I didn’t get my answer for a few nights and it was over the pulpit in a sermon that I received the answer. It came from a guest bishop who was delivering the sermon on a Friday night evening service. I had no prior conversation with him, and he’s not a local minister. His words were: “God uses nothing to make something. He always makes something out of nothing. That’s how we know it’s Him.”
Well, I am going to blog through this process of being made something out of nothing. I take that back because I am more than nothing. What I have is more than nothing. So, the process of becoming something more out of something already is what I’ll name this process. I succeeded raising two beautiful women when I became their mother as a teenager. My family, friends, and society at large all said we were doomed for failure. It was the Lord that brought me through that social stigma; therefore, I am going to trust Him to remain good on His promises to me, and help me endure two other social stigmas (caretaking for autistic son and diabetic father) that are affecting a great number of people more so than it has in the past. It’s tough keeping the faith, but as I stated before, whenever something bad happens or has been said, something else inspiring happens to keep me on the path of faith and enduring the process.

The “Forrest Gump” Comparison

My heart was trampled on this week by my son’s pediatric developmental specialist.  She didn’t mean to do it.  She was doing her best to explain the inexplicable because (I assume) there’s no medical textbook explanation for my three year old son.  Some of his behaviors are characteristically autistic, while most are not.  She couldn’t give him the “complete autism diagnosis” because not all he does (or doesn’t do) pertain to the disorder.  She called him a “very slow learner”, he has “lack of intelligence” and compared him to “Forrest Gump”.  Had we been outside in the hallway or out of the building, I probably would’ve went to jail for second degree assault for kicking her ass, but, we were in her office and she was doing her best to make a complex condition very plain to me.  Her explanation sounded more like a surrender than a diagnosis.  She told me to start preparing now to have to care for my son for the rest of his life, and make legal plans for his care in case me or his father died.  I left the appointment feeling extremely burdened and discouraged.  Soon after, I had another appointment with another agency regarding my son.  They checked his growth rate, which has fallen below average for a child his age.  It’s what I expected to hear because I told them my son refuses to eat.  They repeated techniques for me to try that simply do not work for him.  I know because I’ve been trying them for over two years.  I know I’ve never heard of such, and you may not have either, but an anorexic three year old boy exists.  And I can’t believe he’s my son.  I’m hoping he’s not the only one, and there is some medical explanation out there that hasn’t been brought to light yet.  Even Forrest Gump was smart enough to eat.

The “Forrest Gump” reference bothered me a lot.  I had knots in my chest, lumps in my throat, and tears in my eyes for a couple of nights until I stopped reacting and started thinking.  First of all, I love the movie.  It’s one of my favorites and in my opinion, best shows one man and his many achievements in spite of his “lack of intelligence.”  The movie best displayed how a person doesn’t  have to be smart (by society’s definition) to reach Forrest’s level of accomplishments and prestige.  And, the catalyst to Forrest’s success was the sacrifice and strong will of his mother from the very beginning.  Thank God times have changed a lot, so I will not be sleeping with any school administrators to get my son placed into programs; however, I will continue to have him enrolled in programs and be an active participant in his education.  I was an active in-school volunteer for my daughters when they were growing up.  Both of them are full-time college students now.  (I told the pediatrician as well because it was the only ‘comeback’ I had for the “Forrest Gump” comparison.)

I was angry.  Too angry to cry tears even.  I had words of discontent for God, but didn’t dare utter them.  I had to recite the Lord’s Prayer many times out loud before I felt myself calming down.  I was pissed off like an employee who had been promised a holiday off, but then got scheduled to work it because of some issue beyond their control.  I felt Jesus was betraying me, for having me and my son survive all we had to live like this–in the scrutiny of others and simplistic adolescent behaviors turned into complex obstacle courses.  But, if I didn’t have this going on, I wouldn’t have anything to blog about because I’m basically a boring person.  I mostly stay home, and take care of my family, a lot like Mrs. Gump, and I can’t be mad at that.

Super Mom-dom–Raising a Learning Disabled Child

My first few blogs were intended to give a brief recount of the past to bring readers up to date about me.  I am still learning to blog, and I found it difficult to start at the actual day of my first blog.  So, I went back in time to explain why I am where I am today.  I raised two daughters who are adults and thriving.  I have a toddler son who has global developmental delay and PDD-NOS, both considered to be on the autism spectrum.  He is three with the behaviors of an almost two year old.  We had a check-up for him yesterday where the doctor gave me discouraging news.  I try not to take it personally.  It’s her job to tell me the worst so we (my son’s father and I) can prepare and provide the best we can.  My son is currently enrolled in every early learning development program available to us through our state.  He receives multiple therapies and instructional learning several days a week.  However, it’s truly a mind-numbing and patience practicing experience to raise a learning disabled child.  I’ve had to learn how to be more patient and slow down my expectations of him.  It’s not as awful as it sounds.  In fact, it’s quite beneficial to the both of us.  He’s unable to talk, but uses actions to let me know when he’s thirsty, hurt, tired, or needs a diaper change.  Before having my son, my philosophy about diaper changing was only for people two years old and younger.  Training my son has trashed that belief.  My son wouldn’t come near his potty seat.  He doesn’t like going to the bathroom with his father.  Therefore, I had to combine two activities.  I used his potty seat as a sitting place at his table.  He felt comfortable sitting on it at the table rather than stand alone.  Now, I have to figure out how we’re going to practice getting his pants down, and then diaper off.  This is a big difference from when I raised my girls.  They were easy to train because they could speak, listen and comprehend.  My oldest daughter practically potty trained my younger daughter.  My son doesn’t have siblings or playmates his age to learn skills from. Kids learn from one another better.  I saw that with my daughters.  But, since I don’t have access to other kids at the moment, my son has to learn from me, which means I have to go down to his level, not try and forcefully bring him up to my level.  Over the years with my son, I’ve gotten plenty of unsolicited advice, mostly from grandmothers with old wives tales.  “Don’t give him anything else but vegetables.  He’ll eat them when he’s hungry.”  “You do too much for him.  He should be able to do that by now.”  “Stop carrying him around and he’ll walk.”  “Mothers nowadays give in to kids too much, making them spoiled.”  There’s plenty more, but I’ll stop there.  None of these comments are true when it comes to my son.  His will to hold out is longer than mine.  I’m not going to starve him when he is willing to starve himself.  He’s never been like regular children who have to put everything in their mouths.  He is very picky about what he puts in his mouth.  It has to pass his sight, touch and smell examinations.  Just about anything on a spoon is automatically rejected.  He doesn’t eat candy because it gets sticky.  His lack of eating is becoming a bigger problem as he gets older.  He’s falling behind on the growth scale, something I anticipated months ago and reported to his physicians.

I was very young when I had my daughters.  I thought that raising them to become independent, intelligent, and careful was the epitome of parenthood.  I tried my best to make sure they didn’t replicate the mistakes I did, which was basically not giving myself a chance to live life before accepting someone else’s type of love to sustain me.  They have made me proud, but most of all, they are happy and successful.  I’m taking a small amount of credit for that.  It wasn’t easy by any means, and there were a lot of obstacles in their childhoods.  (“18 Years of Grace and Mercy: A Teenage Mother’s Testimony, Vol.1  Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, http://www.TamikaTrammel.com)  However, in myself I failed a lot, but in my daughters I succeeded.  I thought I was the greatest mother on Earth, and had parenthood by the short and curlies. But now…

This journey, of raising a learning disabled child is what I call the golden ticket into “Super Mom-dom” (or “Super Dad-dom”, think “kingdom” but in the realm of parenthood).  I feel like I am getting to know my son rather than him getting to know me or the surrounding world.  Every day is a learning experience.  Not just for him, but for me too.

Does Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, Keep His Promises? pt. 2

So, my son and I survived a high-risk pregnancy that several doctors were certain would leave one of us dead.  The pregnancy was hell on Earth, and my suffering wasn’t over.  Two weeks after giving birth, the cesarean incision re-opened due to three large hematomas (oversized blood clots) that formed in my abdomen.  My life again is endangered more so than before because this time I “saw the light.”  Well, actually, I didn’t see any light at all.  In fact, I became light, as in weightless, motionless, unaware and unwilling to fight for vitality until I noticed my boyfriend weeping his eyes out and begging God for my life at the hospital bedside.  It was a moment of euphoria and elation like I’ve never experienced.  It was calm and easy without worry or care.  I always thought I would leave this Earth kicking and screaming, fighting to live life for myself and my loved ones, but no.  Not this time.  There was no time for a repentance prayer, and the comfortably light feeling of death was ready to take me whether I was ready to go or not.  There can’t be any substance on Earth natural or man-made that creates the lightness I felt.  I seriously did not realize what peril I was in until I heard the sobs of my boyfriend.  The fight within me kicked in instantaneously.  Suddenly, I was awake, aware, and metaphorically kicking and screaming to live.  He was relieved to hear me speak, and I don’t remember what it is I said.  What I do remember is later on that evening, the same voice that told me that I would survive gave me more conditional promises.  Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, instructed me to leave 9-1-1.  It was my intention to return to work full-time after my maternity term expired.  The job was very secure, and I made good money with a lot of available working hours and great benefits.  I took that instruction very hard.  I didn’t want to leave the job I so much loved.  I had friends, memories, and it provided stability for me having to raise my daughters as a divorced mother.  Moreover, I acquired the job by divine inspiration to begin with.  When I applied for the job, I had a sister in Christ with me pray over the application, and claim the job.  I needed that extra prayer because my ex-husband was on the wrong side of law enforcement, even though I’ve never had a record.  Anyhow, I couldn’t fathom why it is Jesus would want me to leave.  He said if I left and moved to Phoenix (with my oldest daughter and mother), my oldest daughter will attend college, my youngest daughter will run track, go to 2016 Olympics, and attend Arizona State University, and my son will be taken care of for life.   At the time, my oldest was in an emotional rut because she couldn’t find a job or attend college because I couldn’t afford to pay out-of-state tuition at the community college.  My youngest daughter had become a high school track and field champion and I missed most of the meets because of the pregnancy.  And my son, well, he was a newborn so I needed the job to raise him of course.  The Holy Spirit also promised me a successful writing career.  Just before I became pregnant, I had finished my first novel: “18 Years of Grace and Mercy: A Teenage Mother’s Testimony, Vol. 1” and was looking for a publisher, and researching the industry.  It was never my intention to leave my day job to start a writing career.  I discussed the divine instructions and promises that I received with my boyfriend.  I told him we would have to move to Phoenix, Arizona.  He replied, “let’s go.”  He was (and still is) supportive.  I also had to bring my father with me who became ill with advanced complications from diabetes.  Needless to say, I decided to move across the country with a cumbersome load of responsibilities, leaving behind my hometown area where I was reared, educated, employed, and most of all, loved.  That was back in 2011.  To date:  my oldest daughter works and attends community college full-time.  She has her own apartment and doing well.  My youngest daughter graduated high school and is currently a freshman at Arizona State University, on academic merit scholarships.  If she makes it to the 2016 Olympics remains to be seen.  Right now, she’s not putting forth the effort, but that’s a whole other blog entry.  And my son, he was born healthy, but has global growth and developmental delays for which he is receiving services for, and may have to for the rest of his life.  He is on the autism spectrum.  Being home with him every day is much tougher than working for 9-1-1.  My writing career has been started with two novels published (“18 Years….” and “The Pusher, the Prostitute, and a Preacher”), a website, Facebook, Twitter (@18graceandmercy), LinkedIn, Goodreads.com, and my own website http://www.TamikaTrammel.com.  It’s not nearly what I (or anyone) would call a success, but every day that I am breathing is another opportunity to become more successful.  So yes, Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit does keep His promises in spite of the sins I commit, I’m not always faithful to His instruction through church leadership, and I fall short every day of His glory.  However, in spite of dark moments of despair even lingering regret at times, He sends messages through others that He hasn’t forgotten me, nor the promises made to me.  I asked my boyfriend not long ago, “I wonder what would’ve happened if I stayed home?”  He replied, “You would’ve died.”  The Bible says in 1 Samuel 15:22  “…to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”  Therefore, I am encouraged that what I’ve done is pleasing to Him, because I live in faith rather than substance.  My faithful works will bring forth substance.  My work will not be in vain.  I will continue to be living proof that Jesus Christ keeps His promises.