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Common Threads

March 24, 2013 9 comments

CommonThreads

About a week ago, I spoke on a Victim’s Impact Panel.

Somehow I ended up speaking last. For the past two and a half years, each time before this time, I spoke first. Not that it matters what order we go in. It’s just how it’s been. And even though going first was the same experience before, there’s always a different kind of vibe to being in front of this room-full of offenders. The first time was scary, kind of like having an out-of-body experience. Surreal. I was fixated and fascinated by the men and women who sat before me. I knew I was speaking but I couldn’t really hear myself. Six months later, the numbness had worn off. My wounds resurfaced and there was anger in my words. The anger stayed with me for the third time as well. Time I have discovered does indeed heal wounds but it does not take them away, completely.

After that, I realized in having their undivided, mandatory attention, if I could manage to get over myself and my hurt, maybe I could seize the opportunity and convey a message. One that might say something like…

“Hey, you had no right to do what you did!” with composure and conviction instead of anger.

So that’s what I did.

There’s a certain kind of pressure that comes with going first though that leaves you wishing you had said ‘this or that’ by the time it’s over but this time, I spoke last.

This time, I began with the words “I’m blessed, because I am. In so many ways.

Being the last to speak gave me the opportunity to really hear the others’ stories in a way that I hadn’t before, even though I had.

After hearing the other women panelists’ speak, I realized in comparison, how truly blessed I was to be in the company of such courage. I also realized how truly blessed my family is. We did not suffer physical assault. We were not beaten like the two brothers that were jumped for their iPods on their way home from school and ended up in the hospital. There was no loss of limb like the carpenter whose thumb was taken from him by a machetes-wielding, teenage boy who pushed his way into his home looking for his daughter. There was no rape; no loss of life. For us there was a repeated home-invasion over a period of several months, there was, the not knowing who or why for so long, but our obvious losses were only material ones.

This time despite how different our stories are I set aside the details and through all of our anguish, heard the common threads.

Fear. Stress. Anger.

We are bonded by these common threads that continue to reappear in our lives as a result of the actions of another human being. We are all still trying to pick up and put together some of the broken pieces of our lives.

So, yes,I am blessed” I said,

BUT…

“…the tentacles of your crimes extend further than you can see. Further than you can imagine. Further than I ever imagined they would continue to go even after you were arrested.”

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And still, they reach.

No matter how far we move away, or how much we move on, no matter how long it’s been or how incredibly, fiercely, strong we have become, the domino effects of what you did lingers in the lives we live today.

Fractured families.

We all have them, now. Once, we were whole, in a way; in our own livable way but what you did served to sever that. We became unraveled. All of us have children that were affected. All of us felt helpless when it came to protecting them. This is the saddest common thread of all. All of our families are fractured now. Alcoholism. Separation. Divorce. Suicide. Everyone copes differently with any given circumstance. When a tragic event occurs, some of us find the strength to keep moving forward. Some of us get stuck and can’t move forward. Some of us never will.

My message this time was that your actions affect other people – hugely—in ways you can’t even begin to imagine.

Think.

At that moment in time, when you did what you did, you couldn’t possibly have thought ahead, to what your behavior then, might bring two or three or five years down the road. There is no way you considered how many lives; children, families would be negatively effected by your deeds. If you had stopped and thought about it, even just a little, maybe, oh, just maybe, you would not have done what you did.

Bryan Quain unlawfully in my home #1

©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & Takingtheworldonwithasmile.com

Bryan Quain unlawfully in my home #2

©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & Takingtheworldonwithasmile.com

Bryan Quain unlawfully in my home #3

©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & Takingtheworldonwithasmile.com

I’m blessed it’s true, to be bonded to these women who continue to be a power of example to me, who continue to help me move forward in gratitude.

Related Posts: My Edward,  Life’s Terms – Not Mine, Unsolicited Journey

Photo Credits #1 & 2 Google Images

Dinner For Two

April 22, 2012 18 comments

I have a standing dinner-date every Thursday with the same guy for the past five months.

Truthfully, I was the initiator. In fact, at first he resisted. I insisted. And although it started out a little shaky and often felt tentative right up until the last-minute, somehow, he always “showed-up“. In the beginning clearly, it was to appease me, more than likely out of a feeling of obligation. I understood. I gave him space. There was a lot of silence at the beginning too, not exactly awkward; more like “dead air”. I let him breathe and get used to the idea of spending time alone with me. I searched my brain for stimulating conversation and tried to bring up things I thought would interest him.

I have an amazing relationship with my daughter for which I am very grateful. My reluctant dinner-date — who also happens to be my 13-year old son — and I, have struggled quite a bit over the last two years. Living life on life’s terms and dealing with all that’s come with it, has taken its toll, created confusion, distortion and a disconnect between us.

Grappling with how to get him back, I tossed, turned and weighed many possible scenarios over and over in mind. I kept coming back to this weekly, dedicated time and space, this  Dinner For Two.

At some point, you have to listen to your heart, trust your instincts and take a leap of faith. I had faith in him and me and the mothering and nurturing I’d done for the first eleven years of his life. And even though it was very difficult for the first few months, I never gave up.

Neither did he.

You can bore through hard things and get to the other side, as long as you don’t give up.

Patience and perseverance paid off. Time has healed.

It occurred to me this week, that now, it’s a given and there’s no doubt that we’ll have dinner on Thursday, just him and me. It’s become part of the schedule, part of the “routine” of our week.

It’s something I look forward too. It’s not however, something I take for granted — not for one second. I cherish and appreciate this time well spent; this time where I can just be my boy’s mom.

There are no more awkward moments of silence. Our discussions spread across a wide range of topics these days. I’ve learned a lot about various basketball, football and baseball players as of late. He asks me about my day and my interests. He’s forthcoming with the happenings at school.

It’s not perfect, nothing is but we’re connected again and I’m grateful.

“A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.” — Agatha Christie

Photo Credits #1 & #2: Google Images

It Smells Like Updog!

February 19, 2012 8 comments

It smells like updog in here!

Updog?

Yes. Updog.

What’s-Up-Dog?

Oh, not much!

Come on, you know you’re laughing. Let’s face it, that’s funny!

That’s also the kind of humor you get subjected treated to when you spend a long weekend with two teenage boys, a 10-year old girl and her 9-year old comrade. Oh, and there’s the girlfriend of the thirteen-year-old (yes, I said, girlfriend) who makes her presence known with the constant text-ing that is revealed through his ringtone which loudly and annoyingly announces:

“Excuse me boss, you have a text message.”

Every 5 to 10 minutes.

I truly feel like she came with us.

It started with a simple statement. Me, telling my kids I was taking them up to our place in the woods for this President’s Day long weekend. Before I could be consulted, a cousin was quickly added to the mix and then a friend.

It became the perfect blend of a very unlikely pairing of people.

It takes two-hours by car to go through the Catskills to get to our destination, a place I usually go to for serenity. The car-load spent their time partly singing Katy Perry’s Fireworks (over and over again) and partly playing Truth or Dare.

I love kids. They’re so honest, especially when they’re playing a game like Truth or Dare. They feel completely obligated to tell the truth.

It was basketball on the driveway. Tacos for dinner. A game of Striker on the ancient but still functional game-cube. Ice-cream at the Penguin. Man-hunt in the dark with flashlights, in the middle of winter, while it was snowing. Hot cocoa with whipped cream. Playing monopoly while watching Jeremy Lin magically maneuver the ball on the court against the Hornets and tea and cookies before bed.

These are the things kids’ dreams are made of.

It’s good to take a break from life, if you can. I’m extremely fortunate to have the place to escape to and these fabulous children to escape away with. I’ve been laughing-out-loud now for nearly three days straight. It’s a privilege to be the fly-on-the-wall, allowed to listen in to the lively conversations that span the wit and humor of the seven-year-age-difference between the youngest and oldest in this motley but most-loveable crew, thrown together by chance and circumstance. They’re truly making the best of it.

Sometimes, the best times are had with the least amount of planning.

It’s been an incredibly difficult time for my kids, in particular these past two years. There’s been lots of upheaval and turmoil and change and it has been a very long time since they’ve been in a relaxed enough environment where they can just  have fun. It’s a joy to witness.

But it’s the never-ending laughter that I am so grateful to hear.

Seeing your kids laughing and happy is what parents’ dreams are made of.

It’s the middle of a strangely warm winter but nothing warms a mother’s heart more than to hear the echoing of her child’s laughter.

Photo Credit #1: What’s Up Dog Hat

Photo Credit #3, 4 & 5: Karen Szczuka Teich & http://www.takingtheworldonwithasmile.com

Birthday Wishes

January 8, 2012 23 comments

My horoscope keeps telling me to go forth in the way I intend to be. It says with Jupiter in motion, I’m headed into the “luckiest” year in a decade, one that holds the promise of growth, stability and love. ~ Bring it on!

Even though I only blog once a week, the topic doesn’t always come easily or show itself readily. Sometimes it jumps out at me at the beginning of the week and by Friday, I’m in edit-mode. Other times, I’m at a loss. Lately, my weeks have been filled with events, expected and unexpected, and it hasn’t always been clear to me what to write about. When the topic isn’t clear, it often means there’s something tugging at my insides, gnawing at my thoughts, wanting to be recognized and released and for-whatever-reason, I ignore it until I find myself scrambling to put something together at the eleventh hour, a place I do not like to be but where I finally allow whatever it is to surface.

This week I felt stumped — again.

There is of course, the huge elephant in my room that I could write about. The senseless event that occurred at my new house, during the first week of my move that I can’t seem to find the meaning or message in. It’s so freakishly bizarre, that I can hardly process it. I can’t wrap my brain around it, let alone write about it —yet anyway. And, there are always those thoughts and feelings that linger in my mind that are too personal to reveal or express to the blogging world. Those are best kept private and close to my heart. I often struggle with not wanting to get too personal in my blog but needing to be true to whatever it is that I am feeling strongly about at the time.

When I finally sought advice from my ten-year-old editor, she told me to write about my birthday which was this week. She’s truly insightful although this seemed too simple. I rejected the idea until I sat down to see what words would flow.

My birthday.

She was right. I received so many warm, lovely wishes from old and new friends; people near and far who I often think about. I was surprised and touched by some. I heard from people I love and miss – a lot. I took a risk, spoke a truth and it was reciprocated in kind. It gave me pause and cause to think about my happiness, what I want, who and how I intend to be.

I had dinner with my family. We talked. We laughed. My kids came home and played Dance Central 2 on XBOX-KINECT. It was fun, a real treat for me to watch them dance, giggle and enjoy their time together.  It was the BEST gift I could ask for.

It was simple.

Life comes with so many complications, trying to keep things simple, is my resolution this year. It’s the theme that keeps replaying itself in my head. My birthday and keeping it simple is what’s been strongly on my mind this week, that which would not go away, bringing with it messages that tugged at my heart.

There’s something to be said for the attitude we maintain and the thoughts we allow to occupy our minds. It takes effort to stave off pessimism and not wallow in the comfort of one’s own sorrows, the could-have, would-have, should-haves, that can easily take root and grow in our current state of being– if we let them.

At this end of one year and beginning of another, I can’t help but reflect upon what is now and the possibilities that can be. I’ve come to realize that choosing to create my own happiness takes resolve, hard work and starts with keeping things simple. I’m staying away from the could have, would have, should haves and going forward the way I intend to be, leaving nothing out of my realm or reach, becoming closer to the person I used to be; bursting with color, energy and excitement about the possibilities that lay ahead of me.

Photo Credit #1: Capricorn Woman-Google Images

Photo Credit #2-4: Karen Szczuka Teich & Takingtheworldonwithsmile.com

Categories: Family, Life, Love Tags: ,

Message in the Attic

June 12, 2011 5 comments

Somehow I let myself slip into the delusion that life would get easier as I got older. Maybe older, is meant for the over 60 crowd, in which case, I still have a little while to go. As for this mid-forties mom and for reasons I can’t begin to fathom, life just seems to be extraordinarily difficult right now and I find myself in the position of having to “let go”… of a lot.

Coincidentally, while recently rummaging around in my attic again (looking for more things to sell) I stumbled upon an old, yellowed-out piece of paper at the bottom of a box labeled “Childhood”. I’ve no idea where it came from or how I got it but of this I am certain, it’s mine and it feels like an appropriate time to share it.

Without credit of an author and in an old, bold, script type face, this is what was written on it:

Let go……..

to “let go” does not mean to stop caring, it means I can’t do it for someone else.

to “let go” is not to cut myself off, it’s the realization I can’t control another.

to “let go” is not to enable, but to allow learning from natural consequences.

to “let go” is to admit powerlessness, which means the outcome is not in my hands.

to “let go” is not to try to change or blame another, it’s to make the most of myself.

to “let go” is not to care for, but to care about.

to “let go” is not to fix but to be supportive.

to “let go” is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.

to “let go” is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes but to allow others to affect their destinies.

to “let go” is not to be protective, it’s to permit another to face reality.

to “let go” is not to deny, but to accept.

to “let go” is not to nag, scold or argue, but instead to search out my own shortcomings and correct them.

to “let go” is not to adjust everything to my desires but to take each day as it comes, and cherish myself in it.

to “let go” is not to criticize and regulate anybody but to try to become what I dream I can be.

to “let go” is not to regret the past, but to grow and live for the future.

to “let go” is to fear less, and love more.

Sometimes I can get so bogged down by the details of  “the issue at hand” that I just can’t see the obvious. Lucky for me, I believe in receiving signs, messages and answers from the universe (or whatever higher power has it’s hand in our fates) and I believe they can come in many forms and places. This time, it was in the quiet of a warm, stuffy attic and it was clear; certain circumstances are just out of my control and I need to let go.


Photo Credits #1 & #2: Google Images

I’m A “Bet-Nee” Wanna-Bee

February 13, 2011 1 comment

A friend of mine is writing a book. It is a labor of love that she has been mulling over in her head now for the better part of 10-years. It also happens to be a fascinating story that is very near and dear to our hearts. She’s finally at a point in her life, where she has the time to focus and can sit down and write. A couple of weeks ago she asked me to go to Pearl River with her to interview a woman I know for her book.

At just over four feet tall and weighing in at about 105 lbs. Betty, is an absolute powerhouse. Her hair is short and a soft golden, auburn color. Her eyes are a sparkling blue. Her smile is slight but constant. At lunch, Betty is all go; non-stop chatter, breaking her beat only long enough to take a sip of her Pinot Grigio with ice. It takes her one-hour to drink one glass of wine and you can count on her drinking at least two, probably three. At 82, Betty is single. She likes her coffee “dark like her men” and is looking for “a rich man, with a bad cough and one foot in the grave.” I sat across from Betty, studying her, marveling at her quick wit and sharp memory.

She talked about her childhood and the various jobs she held at the Industrial Home (orphanage) that she grew up in, during the 1930s, in Ireland. Catholic nuns ran these homes with little love and no money and while thousands of girls, ages five and older were accepted into them, Betty’s case was unique. She was the only infant to be admitted into her “home”.

“I was the pet you know. They (the nuns) called me Bet-Nee.” She told us proudly. “The other girls knew I was the pet so when they wanted something, like to wear long socks or play in the field, they would send me up to ask for it.”

After 3 1/2 hours of being mesmerized by Betty, I finally asked for the check. Upon its arrival and without hesitation, Betty grabbed it from the waiter. Slightly shocked, I watched in awe as my friend, who was sitting next to Betty, tried to wrestle the paper out of the tiny woman’s, tiny hand, unsuccessfully. (“She’s really strong!” my friend later told me.) Betty did not give up the check. My friend and I are a bit old school, and there is no way we would let an 82-year old woman pay for lunch so before she could get to her wallet, I handed the waiter my credit card along with a “look” that required no verbal explanation. He was off and Betty was pissed.

She admonished me, profusely.

I have no desire to upset an 82-year-old woman, so when she insisted we come back to her house for a minute before heading home, there was no back talk. We obliged. Once inside, she took us into a spare room and showed us a beautiful portrait of her parents that she has hanging on the wall. Her mother died shortly after she was born. Her father was too poor to care for her and with the help of his sister, brought Betty and her sister to the Industrial Home. After a few minutes of chatting, Betty disappeared into the hallway. A moment later she popped back into the bedroom carrying a short, pale blue, wool, winter coat.

“Here.” she said gently and handed me the coat, “I never wear it. It should fit you.”

I was stunned. I didn’t know what to do. Puzzled, I looked deep into Betty’s sparkling blue eyes for clarity and in that instant, she gave me, a “look”  that required no verbal explanation. I was humbled.

I took the coat from Betty and thanked her, profusely.

My lesson was learned. Old school or not, I would not disrespect this gesture. I would not say “no” to Betty twice in one day or perhaps, ever again.

In short, Betty’s story about growing up in the Industrial Home was indeed a heartbreaking one to hear but she is not broken and there is no bitterness in her words. “We did the best we could with what we had.” she said. Her attitude is remarkable and so is she. And I can only hope and pray to be like her, one day.

So yeah, I’m a Bet-Nee Wanna-Bee.

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