The Struggle With An After Baby Body

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By Elise Boutin

The following was actually written in July, seven months post-partum. Eight months later and one comment sparked the same feeling and thoughts. It reminded me of this piece and that maybe it was time to share it. I’ve updated it and hesitantly hit “post”…

I’m going to be a little vulnerable in an effort for connectivity. 

This is not for compliments, but for camaraderie. It’s for the woman who is breastfeeding at 3 a.m. scrolling through Facebook desperate to hear adult conversation. It’s for the mom who had to go back to work and doesn’t feel like herself. It’s for the woman who has had multiple children and has fully embraced motherhood and her feminine essence.

I’m talking about what it feels like in your own skin after you have had a baby.

I’ve just had my fourth child in under five years. I say just, but he made a year in January. I have had three c-sections where my tummy acquired a thin, discreet, horizontal line. For my fourth, however, it involved a vertical line straight through my belly button that connected to my previous scars. It looks like an anchor, pulling me into motherhood.

The difference with this anchor is that organs came out as well as my baby. At 33 years old I had a full hysterectomy to prevent me from bleeding out after birth because my placenta was attached to my uterus.

I am reminded of this fact sporadically during my reality. It’s strange how our brain copes with major issues. But that’s an entry for another time.

In July, I had a friend’s wedding to attend. I felt radiant when I left my house. I had been swimming daily and I no longer had the bedridden pasty look. I fit into an old special dress and I knew it was the best I had looked in a year. I received compliments all night, but there was the one unintentional, “So, is this your fifth baby?” I laughed it off and explained that I just had a baby. And added a little somberly that I can no longer have children.

I know it was a completely innocent comment, but no matter how exquisite I felt, I still looked pregnant. And it’s a hard thing to carry around sometimes. Some days I am empowered by the strength it takes to have four children. Other days I’m more conscious of my soft tummy.

It’s not the first time I’ve been body aware. During my freshman year of college I gained 40 pounds of Jim Beam and Taco Bell. After years of unhealthy choices, I returned to an athletic life style. It took a year to lose 50 pounds. Never once was I asked if I was pregnant during my heavier phase.

I’ve been asked for up to a year after having a child if I was still pregnant. A week after birthing my 11 pound 10 ounce first child, my youngest sister (who was 19 at the time) asked me why my stomach wasn’t flat yet. Uummmm. Because I’m 29 and life’s natural processes aren’t instant? I have to admit, I did wonder the same question. Five years and three more children later, I now understand that your body changes with each child and that your shape is never quite the same.

The expectation to have it all appear perfect is so ridiculous. Not only am I supposed to keep this child alive, but I’m also supposed to feed them Pinterest worthy snacks, have a home that Joanna Gaines could have designed (I love you, Joanna), and also rock a bod that could be on the cover of Self magazine…all while having a full-time job, too. This makes my brain hurt so much that my only logical response is to quote Cher from Clueless, “OH, As if!”

My body is finally starting to feel like my skin is sinking back to its original form. Even though I’ve lost 30 pounds, my belly still looks like I could be expecting.

After the mortality scare, I shouldn’t care about such superficiality, but here I am squaring off with the most trivial human inadequacies. Maybe it’s what distracts me from contemplating my loss of a uterus. Even though I know it was the right plan, there is a strange emptiness that exists within me. It’s not sad, just different. Slightly empowering, yet equally as weird. My body won’t be doing something it was designed to do. No periods each month. No more babies. At least the no period thing isn’t that bad.

There are no perfect words to describe the swirling vortex of emotions and thoughts that occur after you’ve had a child. Whether it’s your first or fourth, there is always something new to adapt to. Our bodies are how we interact with the world. Whether it’s the internal thoughts and pains that lend to spiritual growth or the outward shape that constantly changes, the body is a miraculous creation.

I just want to offer the reminder to work with it and respect its pace.

When that well intentioned, “When are you due?” pops up, remind yourself that you are a goddess. You grew another human being. You created life! You are strong and powerful and will celebrate your divine opportunities. Let it allow you to feel connected to your creator and your child.

Then take a cue from William’s character on This Is Us. Roll down your windows. Turn up your favorite song. And let it go. Because You, sister, are a rock star.

“You’re pregnant, again?!”

“You two need to get cable.”

“You know what causes that, right?”

“What are you going to do?!”

And then sometimes you really do get the sincerely genuine, “Congratulations! Children are such a blessing!”

But most of the time it’s a comment accompanied with a look of pity. It probably has to do with the look of exhaustion I wear daily—it doesn’t really blend well with the Mac concealer.

Yes. I am pregnant with baby number four. Now that I’m etching past the 12 week mark and the first trimester of exhaustion and nausea, the reality of what I am about to embark upon is overwhelming. It wasn’t “supposed” to happen for another year. I needed to finish grad school. My oldest is just entering pre-k and is not even four years old yet. I thought I’d have more time to prepare…as best as one prepares for four small children.

It seems like the female reproductive system is such a commonly discussed topic among media outlets and politicians. I’ve read so many blogs that talk about what we should and should not talk about with one another. But as more people discover our news, I feel like I have to have some type of stance as to why I am choosing to be so open to life. I may not seem very convincing in person because I am just so tired. 

This week I had my new students read my short story, “The Liver Philosophy”. The moral of the story is to do what is right for you, even if no one else gets it. I had my students write a summary of what they felt it meant and quite a few of them wrote about some of their own choices that they are willing to be a “Liver” for. It was both insightful and inspiring. What moved me more is that I had forgotten to live out the very words I had once wrote!

I know that having a large family is not what everyone desires. I know that being open to “God’s will” is very open to interpretation. I also know that I am not one to judge other people’s choices, as long as they can respect mine.

I don’t know what I am going to do. My motto is that I tend to take life 50 minutes at a time. It’s the teacher in me. Every time the bell rings, a new class begins and anything and everything can change. It carries over into my home life. A meltdown one moment can lead to giggles the next.

Having my children so close together is hard. I’m really finally admitting it out loud. Maybe that’s one of the reasons you have to be open to God to have bigger families. You have to pray a lot for your sanity and you also have to admit that you need other people. It’s a hard thing to do when you have a lot of pride and you were once so independent, but then you look around and you see that you have a real family and real friends who live and celebrate this one life with you.

I sometimes question if I’m making the right choice, but then today happens. After a chaotic day, my three boys will be so sweet. And we do something random like “chase the sun”, which involves driving down an open highway to watch the gorgeous sunset while listening to The Postal Service. And they talk to one another like brothers do and say in an almost synchronized, rehearsed manner, “Good night, Sun,” to the melody of how we read, “Good Night Moon.” And I think, Yes. I can have another. I will survive thrive.

See you in February Baby Bou:)

Class-action Cajun

I didn’t claim to be Cajun until I went to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. I didn’t realize the fascinating tale of my heritage. I also didn’t gather there was a distinction between Cajun or Creole or that there was actually a vast difference between all parts of my state: New Orleans is completely different from Baton Rouge; Lafayette/Acadiana is distinguished from the current and former state capitals; there are actually Prairie Cajuns and Bayou Cajuns; and north Louisiana is almost a different state completely.

Once I had this cultural epiphany, I realized  the equation that perpetuates the problem: media + advertising + corrupt politics = misinformed perception.

Louisiana has always had a colorful history with a flare for fun. After all, we are the toe-tapping boot and the mouth of the Mississippi. We literally are the shit – the excess of the entire right half of the country flows from tributaries through us to the Gulf of Mexico.

With the surge of technology over the past 10 years, the Cajun image has been contorted to a nearly unrecognizable spin-off of a New Orleans step-brother. People from across the nation assume we are one in the same, but that could not be farther from the truth. But how would they know? They see commercials for multiple chain restaurants that say, “Try our Cajun style ________, straight from New Orleans.” Or they watch new popular shows like “Swamp People” and think that we all say, “Choot ’em.”

Should we embrace the fact that people know who we are even though they don’t understand that we do not cook like New Orleans or possess the same colloquial vernacular?

In the past two weeks I have joked that we should create a class action lawsuit as Cajuns against restaurants who misuse our name for their recipes. Shouldn’t it be Cajun approved before it goes national? Anyone who has eaten food in both New Orleans and Lafayette knows that the food is vastly different. Not even all Louisianians understand this concept, so how can anyone who has never visited our homestead?

I’m sure that many denizens from other states have similar issues with how their lives are portrayed on television. For example, the first time I flew to New York City to visit a friend, I was terribly nervous to hale a taxi cab and travel solo at night. My friend commented that life in NYC is not like NYPD Blue and he assured me that I would be fine – and he was right.

This morning I saw a status on Facebook that announced a casting call for a new show, “Party Down South.” The concept is similar to that of Jersey Shore. My qualm with the announcement was this line: “The search is on for the next big television personalities who are ragin’ Cajuns and appreciate all that the Southern Gulf cities have to offer.” This may not seem like a big deal, but a sentence later it listed that casting calls will be in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama (NOT JUST REAL CAJUNS).

I feel like yelling, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!”. All Americans should be outraged. We are allowing pop-culture society to ruin our roots. It doesn’t matter if you are Cajun or not. We should not sit by and let D-listed entertainment further cripple the minds of today’s ignorance and tomorrow’s youth. How long will we let rich culture deteriorate – everywhere?

A lawsuit may seem extreme. But sometimes an extreme measure is the only thing that makes it into the sensational mainstream media.

Here’s the full Casting Call invitation. Think for yourself:

Media Alert: Party Down South Casting

Submitted by doron on June 27, 2011 – 3:09pm

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Doron Ofir Casting June 27, 2011

DORON OFIR CASTING & 495 PRODUCTIONS ARE CURRENTLY CASTING LOUD & PROUD GULF SOUTHERNERS AND CAJUNS

LOS ANGELES, CA (June 27, 2011) – Doron Ofir Casting in conjunction with 495 Productions is proud to announce the summer 2011 casting tour in search of the hottest, proudest Gulf Southerners, Bayou residents and Cajuns to star in PARTY DOWN SOUTH (working title) by the legendary Casting Company and Production Company of MTV’s smash hit series, JERSEY SHORE . . . the search is on for the next big television personalities who are ragin’ Cajuns and appreciate all that the Southern Gulf cities have to offer.

“American is the greatest melting pot of cultures, dialects, lifestyles and hometown pride! I am excited at the prospect of presenting a cast that’s rich with personalities, that capture the world’s attention by showcasing the unique flavor of this slice of the South” – Doron Ofir Executive Casting Director.

In an effort to find the most outrageous and best characters in the South, casting events and interviews will be held throughout the month of July in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Doron Ofir Casting is seeking Gulf-Coast Southerners who are at least 21 years old and looking to prove that the party down South will rise again. If you call ‘gators your neighbors, reckon Mardi Gras should be a national holiday, your daisy dukes fit just right and are ready to make your Maw Maw and Paw Paw proud, we are looking for you!

The official casting and digital application to be considered and invited to audition can be found atwww.partydownsouth.com

The preamble to proposal

This was something I wrote a few months ago when Jon and I first returned from Oregon. It’s remarkable how things grow:)

MARRIAGE TALK

We have now talked about marrying one another more so than I have with any other suiter….combined.

This morning we discussed what weddings meant to both of us while nibbling on an egg and cheese omelet that he overcooked in one of my great grandma’s thirty-year-old pots. The subject first came up during our drive back from Oregon. We were rounding a curve outside of Astoria when he mentioned that his stepfather asked if I were the last girlfriend he was ever going to bring home. He said he replied that he, “hoped so.”

That was an emotional first for me. I respected the fact that he pointed out that we don’t know what the future brings, but that it would be a cruel joke of the universe if we weren’t to work out. However, I’ve never really had anyone say that they wanted to spend their life with me. Any doubt I had prior to that moment seemed to disappear and the hopefulness has yet to wear off.

Most of my doubts were caused by initial fear of our differences. But as I allowed myself to not necessarily be “right” and I remained as nonjudgmental as possible, he grew to be something I never expected.

Both of us have been exposed to  fast-paced marriage traditions. His mother met his stepfather online and then he moved from Germany after several meetings to marry her. Not only did I just witness the whirl wind romance with my sister Meggan, but it turns out my father’s parents met and wed fairly quick as well.

The kicker: the couple who introduced us only dated for a few months and then were married. Seven years later, they are still such a strong model of love that lasts. I know that he and I both take the commitment pretty seriously and I can’t even believe that the discussion resurfaced again as we cooked for the first time in my home.

While cooking turkey fajitas, he told me that my father had stopped by the shop that afternoon to pick something up. Ronnie, his uncle,  told him later that his “father-in-law” had stopped by. At first Jon was confused, but then once the connection was made, he laughed.

I reveled silently, as to not make any assumptions. Hmmm. Most guys would not even retell that story due to it’s nature. He could easily have not told me at all, but part of him wanted me to know that they joke on that level. I was about to tip my head to overanalyzation, when he made the comment that the thought of marrying me wasn’t scary.

What?

I knew the thought was mutual for me. I mean who wouldn’t want to marry me? Turns out, quite a few. But could it be that there is someone actually really right for me? Or was I just starting to like the idea that he felt that way?

Stop overanalyzing.

When I listen to my heart, and more than just the accelerated beating pace when he touches me with his any part of his being, I feel a sense of security that I have longed for. He has seen my whole family, my whole history, my whole self, and yet he embraces the future.

Maybe we just both wanted to find one another. He had once said over the phone, “could this be it?”.

I was starting to reflect the possibility with each passing day. I felt more vibrant, yet I no longer had this drive. Most people would say the drive is what was to make me. But what they never saw behind closed doors was that same force drove me to self destruction.

With him, I face my insecurities and welcome the challenges in a much more peaceful manner. And I say to myself that as long as we can move forward through a few phases of our life, then maybe this can lead to our mystery ceremony.

Tradition versus Elise.

I am open-minded and accepting, but I am still a Cajun. And a Cancer at that! Home and family is a big part of me. So when it comes to ceremonies, I still want to be a part of what everyone else has done. But then there is a part of me that says “Change it up!”

While I sat in St. Joseph’s church (which is now just two blocks away from my house) for Meggan’s wedding rehearsal, my father made the comment that he wouldn’t have to worry about this hoo-rah for me, because I would probably have everyone outside, barefoot in a field somewhere.

I laughed because I saw its plausibility, but then told him I couldn’t specifically say because I did not know who my groom would be. He replied that he would, “probably be some moon martian just like you.”

Moon martian. Great.

So maybe I should embark upon something out of this world. It’s funny that finding something steadily comfortable is what will take me to such great heights.

But I wouldn’t make any bets yet. It’s still the honeymoon. And we’re still just talking jibberish over omelets. I would be lying though, if I said I wouldn’t be terribly hurt if these thoughts ever got scrambled.

Faith, my dear. Faith.

God speaks through a wasp

I sat on this random pew in the hallway near the receptionist’s office at the Jesuit Spirituality Center. I was here on a women’s day retreat with my mother and aunt. The first lecture talked about acceptance and how to cultivate happiness. I had just finished my first week of teaching curriculum and some of the presenter’s questions were really hitting home.

Do I let other people take away my happiness? Because I think happiness comes from outside situations based on my own agenda? Do I react with anger based on my own  fear and insecurity?

Hmmmm. When I yelled at my kids this week because they weren’t paying attention, was it really because I was scared shitless that I would not be able to teach them the material?

YES!

So after the first presentation, we were instructed to walk throughout the campus grounds silently. No talking to Mom or Carla. I walked to the cafeteria to get a cup of coffee then I strolled through the library. Out of all of the literature there, I was attracted to “Living Catholic, the Catechism.” For 10 years I have studies almost every other religion except for the one I lived the first 18 years of my life. Based upon my current set of situations, now more than ever I felt I had to explore this religion through a matured pair of eyes.

I carried the book to that pew. I read through the first few chapters, when suddenly I heard this loud buzzing sound. I looked up to the front door, which was surrounded by large, uncovered windows, to see see a huge yellow jacket wasp flying repeatedly into the window. I thought it was on the outside of the window and was just a distraction from the moment, so I started to read again.

A few sentences later and the buzzing seemed to get louder and louder–demanding my attention. So I started to watch the wasp and realized he was actually on the inside of the window and he was trying to escape I watched him jump from pane to pane. Scratching. Buzzing. Trying to escape.

I felt I could do something to help out this little fellow. I got up and opened the door. I thought maybe he would feel the breeze and follow the wind to his escape. But he just kept flying into the glass.

Other retreaters were entering the door I was holding open-they just thought I was being nice. I was just patiently waiting to see if the wasp would get my gesture. He didn’t.

I went back to my pew while the wasp stayed in the same place. It made me wonder, how often when I wanted to escape was God holding the door open and I refused to follow the breeze? How often did I just bang myself against the glass? Like the wasp, maybe I just wasn’t ready for the escape at the moment.

I walked back to the retreat room with the sound of the buzzing in my ear. He may not be ready for the wind, but I think I’m ready for the current.

Introducing the Blogroll

There are several things that inspire me: conversations, articles, art, books, observations, music, dreams, happenstance…

What I would like to start sharing with my readers are more localized inspirations. If you look to the right of this entry, you will see “BLOGROLL”. These are sites from people I find interesting. I encourage you to check them out when you get a chance. I am honored to connect you to their worlds. I will now take this opportunity to give you the 411 on each site.

“All Things Kedinger”: Daniel is such a computer whiz, I cannot find words to describe his genius. His blog is quite humorous and informational as well. He and his wife are exploring their new role as parents, so there is a a baby blog chronicling their path. Needless to say, there is something for everyone.

“Corndancer”: I met Eb and Freddie while I was in Santa Fe last summer. They live in the mountains of Arkansas. Their site will keep you intellectually stimulated, as well as updated on educational matters (Freddie is a professor at the University of Arkansas). Plus, Eb will connect you to other intelligent blogs on his blogroll.

“Dragonflies and Goosebumps”: I recently met Mel online through WordPress. She is a thirty-something writer from Puerto Rico. She is an example of my favorite reason to love the Internet-you can connect from anywhere! She writes a bit of fiction and poetry. Very moving!

“Jamie Orillion”: Jamie took senior portraits to another level. I found his style helped redefine people’s idea of photography in our little Acadia Parish. It didn’t take long for his brand to grow (he now shoots around the state and country). Once you click through his archives, you’ll see what I mean.

“Mama Gab”: Gabby was a 9th grade English teacher who transitioned into a stay at home mom and homemaker. She and her husband are raising their children on a one person income. I absolutely enjoy reading her commentary on books and products she uses and the teamwork that is involved in the process. It is refreshing to know that someone puts this much thought into parenting. I feel a lot of people should be aware of this, even if they choose a different route.

“Micah Toub”: As you may be aware, I’m obsessed with thinking. I frequently read Psychology Today. I stumbled across Toub’s blog, “Growing up Jung”. I was instantly hooked, then realized the title is from his upcoming book of the same name. He is the offspring of two shrinks and the memoir discusses how he dealt with this scenario. His web site features the blog and other columns he’s written for various magazines. I look forward to reading his book and giving you a bit of insight on my findings.

Well that’s it for now. I’m sure I will be sharing lots of new information in the coming weeks. As of tomorrow, I am officially turned on to “school mode” and my role as teacher commences with inservices. It’s interesting that I will be a student of teaching, but “in charge” of students. To a parent, that statement could sound intimidating, like I don’t know what I’m doing. But have no fear, I have never been more excited to share knowledge. I just know I am about to learn more that I ever thought possible.

To new beginnings, sharing and caring. Cheers!

Yahoo!

I remember watching the Hurricane Katrina Relief special on TV. So many of us here in South Louisiana were gravely affected by the wrath of Katrina and Rita. We had locals who had lost everything as well as evacuees wining and dining, attempting to delay their grief.

I remember the thumping sound my jaw made as I watched a stuttering Kanye West mutter the words “George Bush hates black people.” I would love to have experienced the feeling that went through Mike Meyers stomach as he realized what his co-presenter just said on LIVE television. Luckily, Meyers, being the man of so many characters, was able to keep his composure as the camera smoothly transitioned to a far away Chris Tucker.

Because I’ve had so much computer time lately, I am able to peruse through Yahoo news every day to keep “informed”. The media really only makes me realize why so many of us are agitated. The 32 stories that rotate throughout the day are mostly about celebrities, credit card debt, mass unemployment, poor housing rates, Obama hate, fast food, celebrities, LeBron James, debt, unemployment…

So why did I start off with Kanye’s Katrina Outburst? Well, I did see something about Kanye on Yahoo! about how he is cleaning up his act and his ego. Gee I feel so much better!

However, I somewhat had to agree with parts of his ego’s ramble. Not that George Bush hates black people (but one day soon I would love to talk about some great Bushisms!) but that the media can spin any story in order to sell it to the public. We’re more likely to find out the truth from a stranger rather than the news, which is why it’s probably a great idea to advocate common sense and meeting your neighbors.

Just think about this for a minute.

We pay attention to people in a box that we have never personally met. We listen and trust their facts and opinions. Yet, how many of us know the person who lives next door? The real people we see get into their vehicles and go to work, or cut their grass, or bring out the trash?

It’s something to ponder. There’s a lot more that goes into our subconscious reality than we realize. If you constantly see negative stories (unemployment, credit card scams, identity theft) right next to tales of lavish lifestyles and celebrity weddings, it will inadvertently cause you to feel slightly depressed. Coincidentally (?) there is an advertisement right next to the story with some product that will make you feel great/happy/satisfied.

My point, you now wonder. Read stories with little advertisement. Watch less television. Interact with real people. Get involved in your neighborhood/town so you personally know what’s going on. Teach these things to your children.

You know, I tried to make this a lighter entry. I was going to poke fun at Kanye and try to be funny. Maybe make you laugh out loud. But no, I had to go and get serious. And instead of going back to edit what I wrote so you would never know of this ramble, I will leave it. It’s real and it wanted to come out for some reason.

But on the lighter note, I leave you with Kanye. Because damn this clip makes me gawk every single time I see it. I really can’t believe he said this to an unsuspecting nation. It’s priceless. LOL.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pVTrnxCZaQ

(Wish I could just insert the video, but for some reason, the blog won’t let me)

Cornucopia-Part 2

The following was submitted for a short story contest last year. Some of you may not think it’s very short, but there are certain spirits that can speak to you while you read it, if you let. I hope you enjoy.

CORNUCOPIA                              (Written 9/23/09)

By Elise H. Peltier

If you find yourself reading this, you have finally reached the age to understand just how intertwined your spirit is with the great abundance of life. For years I wondered how I was supposed to relate to you how you have helped me to grow into the woman that I am; or how I could possibly be the one chosen to guide you along your path. Either way, here I am now. Alive in this moment because you are reading my words. Our words.

There can be a fascination with words: how if you link them together they can become sentences. If those sentences are combined properly, they become great ideas that then become actions. But most intriguingly,  sometimes just one word can mean it all. In order for me to tell you our story, I have to tell you its story.

Most people in Western civilization immediately associate the word “cornucopia” with a cone-shaped horn overflowing with fruits and grains. This symbol often appears during the autumn season before the Thanksgiving holiday. It is during this season where our story begins.

My mother walked into my bedroom the morning of October 22, 1998, her 40th birthday, to awaken me with the news that one of my best friends had died. Waddy was a senior at the neighboring Catholic high school, Notre Dame. It was the week of their homecoming football game. He was driving home after the parade on a road a half-mile from his house. We’re not exactly sure what happened, but his truck overturned. His window was halfway down and he wasn’t wearing a seat belt. He was killed instantly.

When my mother broke the news to me, I was beyond devastated. I had yet to experience the death of someone close to me. I remember walking around in a daze for days. I kept thinking of different reasons as to what he was doing in the truck to make it flip. I figured he was probably changing out a CD and went off the road into the gravel, then over-corrected and the truck flipped. It was no surprise to me that the windows were down. They were always down, so everyone could hear his music from miles away. I’m sure he was excited that night too. The coach had told him he was going to start a game for the first time. I could just picture him smiling as he drove his big maroon, Chevy truck down that country road. The same wind that flowed through the surrounding fields probably danced with his freckled face as he reached for a CD…and that’s when it happened.

I remember crying waterfalls at the funeral. I remember going sit at his grave with a few of our mutual friends after the service. One of the guys had “I really miss my homies” by Master P blasting through the stereo of his old white Honda Accord. The ten of us sat scattered across the grass with unspoken questions churning through our saddened, unsuspecting minds.

I reminisced about how Waddy and I originally met. Although his younger sister and I had played softball summer league together, it wasn’t until middle school youth group that we formed our independent friendship. We both allowed our stubborn personalities to cause arguments at first, but slowly our bond shifted when we recognized our similarities. He became a big brother figure to me. Since I’m the oldest of four girls, I was used to being my own protector. Although I refused to give up any control, he taught me how a real man gives genuine compliments to a woman.

We remained very close despite the different schools we attended. I was with he and his friends every weekend. He was the first friend I really discussed and shared the presence of God.

The day after the funeral, we decided to make t-shirts in his honor. The back had a quote Waddy said once at a youth group meeting, “To live and believe in God is a great adventure. To die and be with God is a greater one.”

It may seem strange that I am talking about death, when cornucopia means quite the opposite. However, some religions view death as the surface level appearance of the true birth of the soul.  According to a modern dictionary, Cornucopia is derived from Greek mythology, which continues our journey with the word into a deeper history.

When Zeus was a baby, his mother Rhea brought him to a cave on Mount Ida in Krete. There, he was nursed by a she-goat, Amaltheia. Legend has it that her horn was cut by a tree and never-ending fruit came from thee.

The relevancy of this story is quite intriguing for our own purposes.

The shape of a ram’s horn is like a spiral. Waddy’s death began this cycle in my life; a spiral.

In January of 1999, my aunt Carla, who was only seven years my elder, asked me to be a godmother to her daughter. I was a junior in high school  and was to make my confirmation into the Roman Catholic Church in March. For months, I awaited the birth of my first godchild, Malorie. I thought my role would be to teach her about our faith, attend all of her sacramental rites, and give her presents for holidays.

It was mid-June and Carla was patiently, but crankily ready to have Malorie. Who could blame the uncomfortable nature of a woman who is pregnant in South Louisiana during summer months? To my surprise, Malorie was born on June 27th, Waddy’s birthday. After careful consideration, I knew in my heart that it was no coincidence. The connection would be strong with my godchild.

Here is an interesting twist to our correlating stories: a godmother in South Louisiana is often called “Nanny” ( this is the case with me and Malorie).  The term nanny is used to describe a child’s caretaker. In older times, it pertained to a wet nurse, which is derived from Almatheia.

One more tid-bit before I continue: Greek mythology is very similar to the Cajun lifestyle due to the nature of story telling and parables in order to explain valuable life lessons. Also there is a congruency to Greek and Cajun heritage: the lushful nature of drinking and eating. I soon became abusively involved with this culture.

It’s odd as to how fast one’s life can change. A year later, I started college. The direction of my spiral went downward with the speed of a vacuum-like black hole.

For the entirety of my adolescence, I was the good kid. I was involved in school activities and youth group. I graduated ninth in my class. Once I moved out of my parents’ house, I guess you can say I went drunk with freedom. I joined several college organizations, but I was more active in night life. Eventually, I flunked out.

I could delve into detail here, giving examples of anonymous adventures, booze and bad decisions, and crazy connections, but that can be revealed at a different time during a personal conversation–should the need arrive.

Let’s just say I had to abandon everything I once practiced to make sure I was choosing what I believed in. I never lost this sense in my heart that there was a truth for me to know, understand, and feel. The void kept me searching.

As I approached truth from a more intellectual level, I began to see how many different people throughout the history of humanity, held different truths in their hearts and minds. Before college, I didn’t realize there was really a religion outside of Christianity. There isn’t much religious diversity in Rayne, Louisiana. I knew there was St. Joseph’s, the church I attended where pretty much every family tradition has occurred, and there was another Catholic church for the majority of our black community, and then there were a few Baptist churches and a Methodist Church.

After researching different religions and world history I started to ponder this possibility, “How is God only experienced through one type of worship or lifestyle?” The notion made me very weary of the validity of everything I was taught while growing up.

I started to-study Eastern philosophies. I would read the teachings of the Buddha every night. I began having conversations with people around me about what they believed. Did they have faith in anything at all? I needed something to happen.

That’s when I felt God again. It happened out of nowhere. I had been talking about philosophical principles with a group of friends and a pal made the comment that I was more of a spiritual teacher than I realized. I walked from his apartment to mine considering if that statement were true. By asking questions, did people think I had the answers?

I brushed my teeth, contemplating if it were possible to feel the answer. The song switched on  iTunes and I found myself closing my eyes. Suddenly, everything drained out of my brain and my being felt like a frequency of light. I no longer felt like I was a person standing inside of a small bedroom in a corporate complex. I felt like I was a part of everything. There was no boundary between me and the objects around me. I felt alive. I felt like nothing. I felt peace. I felt me.

I opened my eyes and the room seemed to possess a hue of God’s residue; because everything was God to me.

I fell asleep with a smile and hoped to awaken with this same knowledge. I didn’t want it to disappear as fast as it appeared.

The next morning was Mother’s Day and my family was celebrating the occasion at my mother’s sister’s house. I decided to bike there since it was such a gorgeous day. Breezy, non-humid days during May in Lafayette, Louisiana are almost unheard of. Normally, the humidity is as thick as gumbo and your sweat drops are the size of nickels. Instead of claustrophobic weather, I felt like the universe wanted to me to soak up the proof I had experienced the night before.

As I biked to my aunt’s, I began to think about the importance of Mother’s Day. I was 24 at the time and had no children, nor prospects of a husband. This is rare for a woman my age around these parts. One of my younger sisters was planning to be married that July, the other one was in a fairly serious relationship, and the youngest was only 14…but I think she even had a boyfriend at the time.

I contemplated how fortunate I was to have such spiritual, genuine women in my life as role models, especially my mother. I have never seen anyone strive for such a positive existence. She follows the rules, but also goes above the guidelines. She’s the kind of woman who saves bottle caps and popsicle sticks for the kindergarten classes. She volunteers to babysit, what seems like the entire town’s children. She recycled before it was cool. Needless to say, I always felt like I had a lot to live up to.

My thoughts reverted to my internal explosion the previous evening and the same burst of peace created a lightening of proactive force in my mind. I needed to explain this type of experience to Malorie. That was my role as godmother: not just to be there for the rites of passage, but to explain how to reach God, which is not having to reach or search at all.

She was only seven at the time, so I knew I had years to develop my own understanding.

My life took a more upward spin in the spiral. I left my secure job to return to school in order to pursue a more purposeful calling.

The following Christmas, my sister asked me to be the godmother of her child, almost precisely the time Carla had asked me nine years before. Of course I said yes. I felt I was at a more mature level to handle this responsibility.

June came around and it was no surprise that Ellah was born on June 27th. It would have been Waddy’s “golden” birthday –27 on the 27th. I cried in the waiting room because I felt the connection physically bonding the three of us.

The need to relate this story became strong in my heart, but I knew it needed time to mature.

I finished school as Outstanding Graduate of my college, then took a four-week road trip to the Pacific Northwest. I returned home in order to celebrate another sister’s wedding…on June 27th.

From death, spiraled birth and commenced with matrimony. It is the classic definition of cornucopia; abundance.

For the first time in a decade, I found myself living back at home, just in time for me to celebrate my 27th birthday.

It’s peculiar how the comfortableness of your home town can appear to be just a setting of past memories through matured eyes. I spent hours driving through familiar roads listening only to my thoughts.

One afternoon, I was lost in a daydream, taking rights, then lefts that turn into long stretches of country highways that suddenly curve without much warning. The serenity of the wind through my open windows made me wonder how I ever left this peace for a busy, dramatic lifestyle.

I found myself taking a right onto “Coin Road” and I was immediately plunged into the present moment. This was his road. It had been years since I drove past the cross that had his initials and football number, “W.F. #59”.  I realized I had never told his mother about how I had two godchildren that were born on his birthday. In fact, I hadn’t talked to her about him since a few months after his death. At the exact moment I contemplated trying to write out our story, I passed in front of his cross and my cell phone alert went “DING DING”. The text message couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time. I had goosebumps and I knew it was more than a coincidence.

I was listening to NPR that night and the DJ used cornucopia to describe something…from that vague description you can note that nothing else stood out to me. Yet, the word haunted my memory for days. Finally, I looked up its meaning and everything made sense to me. It was the word that defined my life experience for the past 27 years.

Humans have tried to explain our purpose for life since the beginning of recorded history. For centuries, It has evolved through different religions and philosophies in order for each generation to understand and relate their own internal journey. Some stories sound absurdly ridiculous to a differing culture, but it doesn’t make it any less real to an individual searching for their own truth.

Waddy passed on before ever having to question anything. He died with an unwavering faith and childlike wander. He never had to worry about social media or what information appeared when you googled your name. He is that innocence in my heart.

The only conclusion I have come up with is that if you pay attention, we are connected in more ways than one: through words, numbers, dates, people, places, interests, etc. Life can occur anyway you choose to view the lens of your glasses. The beauty of today is you have more options of what color or prescription you want in your frames.

Waddy was right when he said “To live and believe in god is a great adventure. To die and be with God is a greater one.”  Once you are no longer physically here, you can spiritually be present to multiple people at the exact same time. This knowledge brings me such a sense of joy and that’s how I feel every time I look at either of my godchildren. I experience the possibility of abundant opportunity and connection. Waddy has made my life a great adventure and affirms my belief in God.

You see, sometimes you just need a reminder as to why it is imperative to stay optimistic. Pessimism will lead you nowhere. Hope, however, will always bring another day. Then your life will be your own creation, your own cornucopia.

Cornucopia – Part 1

I have been in the process of cleaning out my life for the past few months. Last week I made a donation to Goodwill: five boxes of clothes/accessories, sporting equipment, and a printer. This past weekend, I consolidated three boxes of pictures into one, by shredding duplicates and memories that no longer serve me.

As I was going through one of my boxes, I found a paper that was written in my English 101 class, 10 years ago. It was titled, “Just Waiting for a Friend.” There are tons of things I could change, but I will share it now as an example I refer to as, “The Process.” For the same reason I shared “Mom Mary’s Magic Medicine.” Great pieces of fiction and art are not created in a day. I cannot write about a concept that I do not clearly understand. Many of the concepts I am working on have taken me a decade to comprehend…and the perfectionist in me has yet to be completely satisfied with any of these versions. I am, however, ok with releasing them into the universe in order to let them become refined.

As I clear out the clutter in my house, I am clearing out the worry in my mind. It’s time to be free.

Without further adieu, here is the first piece.  My next entry will be the a version written 9 years later.

“Just Waiting For A Friend”

By Elise H. Peltier

There was a soft, subtle breeze when I stepped out of my maroon Nissan Sentra. I strolled down the old, cracked sidewalk as I waited to see my best friend. It was late in the afternoon, but it was still very sunny. The sky was baby blue with long, skinny, puffy clouds. I took in a long, deep breath and the scent of flowers entered my body. It was quite a lovely afternoon. The scenery eased my mind and helped me to feel relaxed. I stepped off the sidewalk onto delicate dark-green grass. I looked up and there he was.

He would have gotten my attention even if Pope John Paul II was there in his little pope mobile. His headstone read in big, black, bold, capital letters:

GIVEN TO US

JUNE 27, 1981

WADDY ALLEN FAUL

GIVEN BACK TO GOD

OCTOBER 22, 1998

This was written in a square, outlined in black, centered on his headstone. Under the square, was a long rectangular box, which contained his quote “To live and believe in God is a great adventure. To die and be with God is a greater one”–WF.

In the top center of the square headstone was a silver, oval picture frame with “SON” engraved on the cover. I turned the cover to the right to reveal Waddy’s senior picture. He wore a white, collared, button-down shirt with a black bow tie. The buttons on his shirt were black and a dark sports jacket completed the outfit. His hair was a dark brown color and it was shaved on each side of his head, but a little longer on top. He had almond shaped eyes, which were chocolate brown. Above his peepers were bushy, cinnamon eye brows. A faint smile accompanied his expression. His olive skin was covered with light brown freckles. He kind of reminded me of an older Opey, just without the pointy ears.

During Waddy’s high school years, he played football for the Notre Dame Pioneers. Honoring his loyalty and dedication to the sport was a tall, rectangular, cement vase located to the right of his headstone. The upper part in a  rectangular box outlined in blue, filled in with red, and written in white, capital letters was “NOTRE DAME.” The bottom part was written in this fashion, but with “CLASS OF ’99′” instead. In the center was a brown football with “#59” written in white and outlined in blue. Inside of the vase were some of the most beautiful flowers I had ever seen. There were small white carnations and daisies, accompanied by huge purple flowers, which were a little bigger than a softball. Although I am not quite sure which type they were, the purple flowers had about four small toothpick-like stems pouring out of the center. Hunter green, star-shaped leaves sprouted from beneath the beautiful blossoms. It took my breath away to see such an elegant sight.

As I laid my hand on his grave, I felt a sudden chill due to the freezing marble. The tomb was speckled gray and black. I looked up for a moment and as far as I could see, was white. It almost looked like it had snowed in certain spots on the green grass. When I returned my gaze back to Waddy, I noticed a candle at the foot of his grave. It was a red, glass holder with three gold skinny bars around the container. The top formed a small dome with a cross as big as a credit card to complete the ensemble. The candle was lit, but looked very dim inside of the glass.

I sat and pondered a while, thinking of my friend. It was very hard to believe that this was his final resting place. It seemed like it was only yesterday that we were riding around in his maroon Chevrolet, and that I would go visit him in his warm, comfortable home. Now the only way I could see him was if I drove down to St. Joseph’s cemetery. It wasn’t the same pleasant atmosphere we used to be associated with. It is very strange how quickly death can occur. No one knows when they will die, so we must live every day to the fullest. Live life with no regrets, but also live it wisely. Make sure the ones you love know you love them. For you will never know when it is your time to travel to your final destination. I know that Waddy is now waiting for me to make my trip to visit him eternally.

I was shot in the back

My dream world lately has been quite intriguing, including visits from Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer (we’ve been watching the “Friends” series every night for two weeks).

Last night, however, stole the show.

Somehow I managed to miss my first day of teaching. I wake up within my dream during the second day of school and frantically rush to greet my students. (Of course the school I arrive to is not my real classroom, nor are they the students of my intended class).

I try to introduce myself and one of the kids makes a very smart alec remark, so I return the sarcasm. I don’t realize that one of their parents is actually sitting in the classroom and she starts buzzing around saying that she thinks I am incapable of teaching her child’s class.

That’s when the alarm goes off. And not my clock to wake me up from this ridiculous panic attack of worst fear-actualization. Someone says over a speaker that there is a gunman on campus.

Suddenly I am roaming the halls trying to find this person. I’m guessing the agitated parent stayed to watch my class while I sought out harm. I make my way to this open green courtyard and I see a kid I formerly babysat standing there with a gun. He raises the gun towards me and I calmly say “Please don’t kill me.” I hear a ruffle in the grass behind me and I swiftly turn to see a long rifle pointed at me. It was held by a man with a blurry face. He was wearing a bright red button-down collard shirt, tucked into brown camping pants, with bulky boots. His hair was brown, but his face was completely blurry. (For all I know he could have been the “Brawny Man”).

I turned to run and that’s when I hear the gun shot. I jumped in the air and felt as if I stayed there for eternity, waiting to feel the pain. Or waiting for death. Or hoping that I could turn around to see the kid I once cared for had saved us.

That’s when my alarm clock woke me up.

I think Freud or Jung would have loved me. I think we would have sat in coffee shops for hours and analyzed dreams.

Here’s what I think is interesting about this dream. It’s obvious I’m super nervous about teaching. Anyone and everyone in this position has felt these nerves before. It’s a huge undertaking that I do not take lightly.

I can laugh at why the dream played out the way it did for a few reasons: I ran into the kid’s mom at the grocery store last night (he just bought a house next to their’s); Jon and I heard a car backfire last night and we mistook it for a gun shot (when it sounded we both paused, waiting to see what happened next); and I have been reading about “Inception” all weekend long (so the whole dream within a dream thing makes sense).

The strangest part, however, was the feeling I had when I woke up. There aren’t many dreams that leave me with the feeling that I was actually there. That moment when I was dangling in the air, awaiting my destiny, it pulled me into this realm of anticipation.

Is a dream just a dream? Or is it really a way to play out your future based upon past and present experience? Does it give our mind a way to objectively look at something by twisting our reality into fantastic stories? And if you normally don’t remember your dreams, but suddenly have a soap opera going on, shouldn’t you pay attention?

All I know is, I can still hear that gun shot. It reminds me of when I ran the mile for track in high school. The loud “BANG” that indicated the start of a race. Except I didn’t feel as though I was in control of the situation like I did when I started to run.

Am I starting a new race in life? Am I finally on the right track? Which lane will finish first? I guess only time will tell.

Or maybe tonight’s dream.