roaring chickens: how I found my voice

One of my Mom’s many stories was about how she kicked the bucket…literally:

I had a job stacking pails coming off a paint line. One of my bosses came in and told me to stack them one way, and so I did. Well, then, my other boss came in and told me to stack them a different way. So I did. Then the first boss came back in and asked: “Why are you stacking ’em this way and not the way I told you to?” Well, I’ll tell you what I did. I kicked those pails all over the place and turned to them and said: “When you two get your shit together, come and get me. I’ll be in the break room.”

This story can be filed under the motto of my Mom’s life of strength and fire:

You picked the wrong damned chicken to mess with!

For most of my life, I’ve been the perfect chicken to mess with. Being the youngest in the family, I fell naturally into the role of making peace. I didn’t want tension or drama at any cost, and so in my naivety, I’d be the go-between, trying to make all parties feel better. In my past jobs, I rarely spoke up, letting people run over me rather than dealing with the ramifications of protest. For my first years as an educator, I struggled in the middle-ground of blatant wrongdoings against our students and staff while wanting to keep my job. I was a woman whose voice burned within me, but sadly, never manifested externally.

During many of my conversations with my Mom, I was haunted by her persistent call to courage:

Mary, you can’t just let people run all over you.

Her deathbed words to me (though not on her deathbed, but on the owl-light-lit porch, in the darkness of night) were:

Mary, be strong.

Her conviction and her challenge have been planted in my deepest parts since she died in September of 2013. Slowly, painfully, the seeds have cracked open under the dirt of my grief, broken through the shattered pieces of my heart, and have reached toward the warm sun of her legacy. There, they bloom, while the birds’ songs harmonize with my own resurrected voice.

In this expansive field of flowers, I see and hear my Mom within me. I have cut toxic people out of my life. I have learned to declare and honor my protective no’s and my worthy yes’s. I say what needs to be said, shooting through the heart of the elephant in the room. I ask hard questions instead of making easy assumptions. I openly admit my faults but do not minimize my strengths. I talk to people instead of about them. I am the microphone for the voiceless. I foster discomfort, assured of the future benefits. I feel good in my skin, knowing I am Created. I have found my voice; I have rightfully claimed my voice.

For much of 2014, Katy Perry’s “Roar” would come on the radio…and it felt like my Mom was singing to me, reminding me of her strength and fire. This was my song, my anthem, of a life spent hiding, then finding my voice; like mother, like daughter; the wrong damn chickens to mess with.


This post was inspired by Synchroblog’s January prompt. Follow these yellow-brick-links to other ponderings!

Mom’s famous balls

Peanut butter balls, that is. (Yes, she’d get a kick of that title…she’d probably tell the story of the time we saw the cock rock…but alas, that’s another post.)

For as long as I can remember, Mom made her famous peanut butter balls (along with fudge) every holiday season. She’d store them on the back porch…where the winter air would chill them so they popped ever so perfectly when you put them in your mouth. They were a holiday staple in our home.

I don’t want to lose that. Making peanut butter balls–from the mixing to the rolling to the coating–is a way that I can still see my Mom’s rough hands cupping and forming…a sugared prayer of love.

So, this year, Dave and I bought the pounds of butter and sugar and chocolate affection.

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After the butter camped out all day on the counter and softened in the unusually warm Colorado winter air, I kneaded it into silk, like Mom’s stories on a porch.

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Just like I did as a little girl.

232323232-fp83232-uqcshlukaxroqdfv4-4-=ot-235;=84-=948=XROQDF-2-5-8989--23-ot1lsiThen the hard part came…the part Mom openly admitted she hated…the endless rolling into balls, like wheels and waves of memories being shaped in our hearts’ palms.

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IMG_3948We tried hard, but no one can master Mom’s tried and true technique.

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After the rolling came the dipping. After we tasted it, I realized I used the wrong kind of chocolate. Sorry Mom–stay tuned for next year’s modifications!

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We used a double broiler…but Mom always kept her chocolate warm over a low flame. The tilt of the pot (not shown here) was her signature, like a nod to the peanut butter ball gods.

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Ours did not look near as adept as hers…but she had many years on us. Hopefully, she’ll grace us with a dusting of powdered sugar technique from heaven. However, there were lots of goodhearted laughs and reminiscing from Dave and I as we realized where we were failing her recipe. I’d like to think we got this hearty laughter from her, seeing as not so many years ago Mom and I were deep-throating peanut butter ball snowmen.

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Don’t worry, we posed for a proper date photo first.

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Because our family is not together this year, Mom’s delicious peanut butter balls (at least our attempt at them) will be traveling in the sleighs of mail. (To her protests that I can still hear, she’s disappointed that we chose the USPS: “Remember that year I mailed you a card and it didn’t come for months… no [pronounced newwwwwwwww with an accented head shaking and smack of the mouth], can’t trust them anymore.”)

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But, without fail, the sleighs have delivered. And Mom’s sweet love continues to spread throughout our family.

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