A Child’s Tea Party

 

Sitting in the large Victorian parlor with its high ceilings and antique furniture, was my grandmother and four of her dearest friends. Being a part of such classy women with their braided buns and hair nets and ankle-length dresses was the highlight of my growing up years. Sometimes I would sit at my table and color, listening to their hushed tones echoing through the room. Other times I would sit quietly, my eyes bouncing from one face to the other wondering why old people get so wrinkled.

But this day, I didn’t want to color or just sit and observe. This day I wanted to be as sophisticated as the Queen herself. Not that I didn’t enjoy having tea with my dolls. They were always willing participants. But this day I wanted real live people at my tea party.

Cup after cup made its way around the circle of women, each one swallowing the cool, clear liquid and smacking their lips with delight.

I felt so proud.

Suddenly, wondering where I was getting the water since I couldn’t reach the kitchen sink, my grandmother followed me and watched in horror as I dipped my dainty little teacup into the commode!

I think that was the last tea party I ever had at my grandmother’s house. Come to think of it, I think that was the last tea party ever!

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Secrets in the Attic

I can still hear the distinctive scraping sound of the board sliding across the opening in the floor and see her creeping down the ladder. She only came down to empty the slop jar and replenish her food and water supply. How long had she lived up there, a week? A month? A year? I don’t remember. But I will never forget her dark, glaring eyes and wrinkled frown when she turned and saw me standing there. I’ll never forget the cold-steal blade of anger and hatred piercing my soul or the hurt and confusion I felt.

It was a makeshift bedroom daddy half-heartedly put together for the two of them when my grandmother came to live with us. Mom laid a carpet remnant across the plywood floor and somehow, daddy maneuvered a full-size bed through the narrow opening. Then came an old dresser, and a couple of makeshift night stands and TV. Mom added some personal touches with a few lamps, a pretty bedspread and setting pictures on the dresser. There were no windows or walls or ceiling covering the exposed, unsightly wiring. No heating or air. Just a temporary, cave-like room for my parent’s privacy.

Now, mom made it her permanent home; her escape from a disgruntled mother-in-law; an emotional strike against a family who didn’t seem to care or appreciate the sacrifices she made. Let them fend for themselves. Let them do their own cooking and cleaning, washing and ironing and dealing with the bill collectors banging on the door.

But that’s not what drove her to live in the attic. That’s not what pushed her to the brink of insanity.

For years I hated her foster-mother and the abuse my mother suffered at her hands. I hated my grandmother for putting her in an orphanage and my alcoholic grandfather for molesting her. I hated that my mother was too afraid to run away from her foster home and get help. I hated that she was never able to recover; that she never experienced freedom from her horror-filled childhood. And I hated that the aftermath of her abuse ricocheted through the family poking holes in our souls.

Even today I still wonder how it feels to a child to be held and kissed. To be praised and loved unconditionally. What does the world look like through their fearless eyes? What does it sound like without cruel and condemning voices shouting in their ears?

Looking back, the attic is as dismal today as it was decades ago. Secretly, it holds my mother’s tears, her broken soul and raging screams against an unfair world and a God who would allow bad things to happen; especially to a defenseless child. It holds the secrets of a little girl longing to be loved so that she could know how to love her own children; to be less critical and more patient and understanding. Only the attic knows how she longed for her husband’s physical and emotional support; to help lift and carry her heavy burden and to prove the words of love he spoke to her. And only the attic knows what led her to climb down that creaky ladder that day, put away the slop jar, and join her family again.

I wish I could say that things got better after that, that my youngest brother stopped getting into trouble, drinking and doing drugs. I wish I could say mom never had other breakdowns and that daddy got a job and mom didn’t have to work three jobs to keep our heads above water. I wish I could say that we learned to communicate without screaming and yelling and hurting one another.

But I can’t go back and change a thing. I can only keep pressing forward with a better understanding and perspective than I had as a child. I can appreciate the loving family God gave me through my husband and my son and his growing family. And I can accept that I live in a broken world and bad things are going to happen. It’s not my fault. It’s not God’s fault. It’s just the way of a fallen world. We all have a choice in how we play the cards we are dealt.

Crazy Quilt of Memories

Dear House,

We’ve been together a long time, you and hubby and me. We’ve opened our hearts and doors to family and friends, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and abandoned pets. We’ve made happy memories, sad memories, and memories I’d like to forget.

Like the time my niece tricked me into inviting her and her fifteen-year-old son and their dog to live with us. We hadn’t heard from her in forever. Didn’t even know where she lived. But when she needed a place to stay due to a failed marriage, and having used up all her other options, she knew exactly where to find me. All her silky-smooth promises to get a job and a place of her own slid off her back the second she and her obstinate kid and their untrained dog waltzed through our door. I was never so relieved to kiss two people and pat one dog goodbye in my life.

Then, there was that time my half-sister’s half-brother called me. My sister had a brother? When did that happen? After all these years why am I just now finding that out? My sister had passed away years before that phone call; still, we wanted to meet each other. So that following fall we anxiously awaited their arrival as they made the three-day trip from Colorado to North Carolina.

He had my sister’s baby blue eyes, short bowed legs, and curly gray hair. The four of us embraced like long-lost friends. From the moment they walked through the front door the week-long visit was filled with chattering into the wee hours of the morning, eating out and shopping and laughing till our sides hurt. We enjoyed each other so much that we invited them back again for a two-week stay. Even paid for their plane tickets. But, somewhere between that year and a half wait and absence makes the heart grow fonder, something went haywire.

The first three days, He and his wife were at war with each other. When that war ended, he started a war with me, which was a very bad idea. I told them to leave. My husband, the peace-maker asked them to stay. So the four of us, plus two of my grandkids and a dog, trudged through his grumpy, complaining, sarcastic, rude, insufferable attitude for the next ten days! When the day of good-riddance finally arrived, we rushed them to the airport, making sure they got on the plane, and haven’t heard from them since.

And remember that cold, early morning I got up to find my youngest brother sitting on the porch swing shivering? Though it had been a while since I’d heard from him and his mischievous, little boy grin tugged on my heart-strings, I couldn’t say I was happy to see him. Oh, he was playful and charming laced with a Bob Hope sense of humor. But I knew too well what lay beneath that innocent, enticing mask. He was addicted to drugs and alcohol and crime. He spent most of his life behind bars and leaving a trail of broken promises, bleeding hearts, and confusion.

The white van parked in the driveway wasn’t even his, although he tried to convince me it was. And why was he driving without a license? Foolish of me to even ask. So with a faint, apprehensive smile and hoof-pounding heart, I invited him in wondering why he was here, what he wanted, and when was he going to leave. Hours later, and fearing the inevitable, can-I-stay-here-the-night plea, I kindly sent him on his way. But it would be days before I could shake off the flabbergasting disturbance.

And let’s not forget this summer’s events when our strong-as-an-ox Whippet mix jerked me off the deck making me fall and hurt myself. She liked doing it so much that she did it again when she broke from her leash and again when I tried to catch her. Between over-doing it with the yard work and falling one too many times, sent me to the emergency room with severe back pain. A few X-rays and four painful hours later, I was released feeling like I’d been hit by a bus.

Still recovering from that, hubby’s sister came to stay with us for a month. Never saw that coming! I’ve had many goals in my life, but at the age of seventy-one, none of them consisted of caring for a seventy-six-year-old twenty-four-seven with short-term memory loss and other frustrating annoyances. But when she was abandoned for three days without food or water or electricity, we opened our doors yet again. Finally, after weeks of collecting and getting documents signed and notarized and being put off and lied to by one care giving facility and another, she is finally in a nursing home where she is happy and safe.

After weeks of having our lives turned upside down, we are finally getting settled. I don’t have a strong urge to choke someone anymore and I can finally enjoy sitting on the back porch with my husband, our two dogs, and a hot cup of coffee without interruption. The cool mornings are peaceful and quiet. Hubby and I play with the dogs and laugh at some of the crazy stuff we’ve met with over the past few months. We share our intimate feelings and thoughts with each other. We read our devotions and thank God for the many years we’ve spent together in our house.

But, sadly, House, I’ve been noticing some drastic changes in you. Like me, you are showing signs of wear and tear. Your handrail on the front porch is loose, one of your steps is sagging and the cedar siding is faded. You need new windows, and doors and grass planted in those huge bare places in the front and back yard. And you’re old and outdated. You really need a serious face lift!

But these are just minor things compared to the thirty plus years you have served us. You’ve sheltered and protected us from hurricane winds and rain and ice storms snapping massive tree limbs that fell across the driveway. And somehow within your crowded space, you always make room for large gatherings of family and friends and for lots of rowdy kids to play.

To the world, you’re just a little house that needs a lot of work. But to me, you are my mansion on a hilltop, my castle in the clouds, my sanctuary of learning and thriving and growing and pushing through some of the most difficult times of my life. I’m looking forward to spending many more years within your walls, sharing your warmth with family and friends and continue making a crazy quilt of memories.

Just Let Go!

Old age is not for the faint of heart! To get there, you have to push through the birth canal, survive childhood, adolescence, peer-pressure, and acne. You go through High School, puppy love, and heartaches. You skip college, get a job and hopefully earn enough money to pay for the used car you bought. Then you fall in love. Get married. Get your own place. And have a kid.

Now the fun begins. With true grit, you battle with his temper tantrums, potty training and cutting up in kindergarten. In Junior and Senior High you struggle through the designer-clothes-thing you can’t afford to buy, wrecked cars, girlfriends from Hell, and strange ideas; like living in the wilderness some day. You feel his pain and heartaches, get frustrated when he rebels, and want to clip his wings but let him fly. You pray for him, lose sleep over him, and want nothing but the best for him.

Then, he gets married and leaves the nest to start a family of his own. You’re happy for him, but you cry and grieve for the mischievous little boy who once was but will never be again.

Then he has kids that feel just like your own. You play with them, read to them, make up stories for them. You dry their eyes, rock them to sleep and tell them how precious they are and how blessed you are to have them in your life.

Then they grow up and have kids of their own. But things are different this go around. Your kid is now the grandparent. It’s time to take a back seat and watch as his grandkids run to him, jump in his arms and giggle with delight as he tickles them. It’s his turn to feel the love and the joy of being a grandparent. It’s his turn to help guide and direct and let them fly. It’s his turn to shine.

By now, you are feeling like a shadow. A stranger in a world where great-grandparents struggle to belong. You know you are still loved, but no longer feel needed or that your opinions are as valuable as they once were. Like sitting in a drifting boat, things that were once bigger than life become tiny specks on the horizon. You cling to your memories, grieve for your losses, and long for the moments in time that once were but will never be again.

This is the part where you face the naked truth that it’s the way of life. That you can’t build your dreams on shifting sand; changing relationships, ideas and opinions. This is the part where we must lower our expectations to protect our fragile feelings from anger, bitterness, and resentment. This is the part where we stop pining for the good old days, keep pressing forward and live each day to its fullest. This is the gut-wrenching part where we must unclench our white-knuckled hearts and just let go.

For the Love of a Canine

Passing cage after smelly cage, dog after sad-eyed dog,

My hopes, like fat droplets of rain splattering to the dingy floor,

I thought we’d never find the one. I wanted to leave. Then we spotted her

Curled in a ball like a lonely forsaken fawn on a thin ragged blanket

In the middle of the large, cold and desolate cage.

When she saw us standing there, she sprang to life and came running,

Her tail wagging furiously. Oblivious to the deafening barking

And howling echoing throughout the heart-sickening kennel, she jumped

Up and down like a bouncing kangaroo as if auditioning for the role of a lifetime.

Unable to resist her persistent charm, we cracked the cage door, and barely

Clasping the leash to her collar, she pulled my seemingly drunken husband

Through a crowd of bystanders straight to the doggie playground outside.

Squinting against the bright sunshine, we unfastened her leash and like a flash,

She raced around the playground, sniffed a few tattered toys scattered around,

Then like a playful cheetah came charging full speed towards me.

Unable to stop, she slid completely under my chair, backed out,

Snuggled close beside me and plopped her head on my lap.

That’s when I decided that having a Greyhound mix won’t be so bad.

However, since adopting her that day, I’ve questioned my sanity,

Wondering if I would survive this long-legged, faster than lightning,

Over-active, sassy, jittery, destructive chewing, hard-to-potty-train canine.

Now, nearly a year later, Bella has become the absolute funniest, most adorable,

Loveable, playful, snuggling, heart-melting, four-legged joy of our lives!

Click on a picture to start slide show

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opposites Attract

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He sees his man cave as orderly as a doctor’s office

I see the aftermath of a hurricane

He wants it done tomorrow

I want it done yesterday

He sees the bucket half full

I see it half empty

He’s cool calm and collect

I’m as nervous as a jack-rabbit

He thinks before he speaks

I spew it out and think about it later

He loves a crowd

I’d rather have a tooth pulled

He likes being on center stage

I hide behind the curtain

He likes sleeping late

I like seeing the sun rise

He likes to cook

I’d rather clean the toilet

He thinks country music is soothing to the soul

I think it’s like fingernails raking across a chalkboard

On and on I could go

But there’s no point

Because with all our differences

Like a crazy quilt of many colors and patterns

Our hearts have intertwined as one

Creating a beautiful

Sometimes crazy marriage

That has not frayed or faded in forty-five years

So I guess opposites really do attract!

 

 

 

 

 

Never Give Up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lord

I’m just going to be honest with you

I don’t like myself today

My leg feels like a gang of Ninja Turtles

Is stabbing it with knives

My house is draped with cobwebs

The laundry is piled to the ceiling

My flower beds are crawling with weeds

The dog needs a bath

The car needs washing

And I’m too tired and depressed to care!

Could I please have a new body

And a new brain

Because I’m not feeling the joy right now

Maybe I will tomorrow

Or the next day

Or next week . . .

What’s that you say?

Get off the pity pot?

Not what I wanted to hear

But you’ll have to help me up

Because of my leg and all

And you’ll have to help me to keep

Trusting you because you know

How easily distracted I get

Like when I walk into a room

And start doing something

And walk into another room

And start doing something else

Till the whole house is torn up

Driving my husband nuts

And keeping the dog confused

So help me to stay focused

And to remember the countless times

You have helped me in the past

Through harder times than these

And give me strength to endure the pain

Because mine is all used up

Give me a heart of thanksgiving

Because sometimes the darkness overshadows

The beautiful blessings that surround me

But most of all when clinging to the edge

Of the jagged treacherous cliff

And my fingers are cut and bleeding

And my hopes plunge to my toes

And help seems miles away

Help me to trust and believe in who you are

And the things you have done

And the promises you have kept

And help me above all else

To never ever give up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Prayer for Our President

 

 

 

 

 

 

I kneel before you, Lord,

Appalled at the vicious attacks

Made against him every single day.

Put a wall of protection around him.

Give him peace. Give him grace.

Give him wisdom and strength and courage

As he continues to do what is right,

Cleaning up the sloppy messes others so

Greedily and carelessly left behind.

Our country has been invaded with so much evil,

So much hatred and slander and murder.

And our President needs your help

To get America back on her feet.

Bless him, Lord, and may all your people

Pray, and keep on praying for him

And his beautiful family. Most of all, help him

To see his dire need of you as he continues

On his rocky, twisted presidential path.

Help him to know that you are the One

Still in control, and that you are the One

Who will see him through.

Thank you, for President Trump.

Thank you for his courage and his bravery

And his undivided love for his country.

Shut the mouths who slander against him!

Grasp the hands who wish to harm him!

Close the ears who feed on filthy lies to disgrace him.

Let justice be served and let America be great again!

Let her be victorious in spite of those

Who are so doggedly working to destroy her.

Lord, Help us all to stand behind

And faithfully pray for our President!

And thank you, Lord,

For hearing and answering my earnest prayer.

 

 

 

Blessings from Above

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lord

What a pleasant surprise when our next door neighbor

Joined my husband and me on the back porch,

His face beaming, pen, and paper in hand.

Sitting in the rocker across from us, and as if

The words could hardly wait to jump out of his mouth

He pronounced, “Okay. This is what we’re going to do . . .”

And true to his word, the very next day

Two, happy-faced fellows from his church

Bravely crawled under our house with the bugs

And cobwebs and spiders and snake skins

And replaced our broken down leaky water heater

With a brand spanking new one. Paid in full!

We are still speechless, Lord.

Only you know how truly grateful we are

To you and our neighbor and his church

And the two young men who donated

Their valuable time to help us in our time of need.

It’s no surprise, coming from you,

But we’re accustomed to helping others

And not the other way around.

And you know how I despise being the one in need.

But this time, you tied my hands behind my back

opened my eyes and helped me to see the blessing

Your people received from you by obediently helping us.

The pond in our front yard is slowly drying up

And we now have the hottest water we’ve had in weeks.

Thank you, Lord, for always being faithful to your Word

And for putting people in our lives who are willing

To be your feet and hands to shower us

With blessings from above.

 

 

Real Love

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was the worst argument ever!
My husband, sitting in his big black
Fake leather recliner, suddenly
Metamorphosed into the Incredible Hulk.
Not to be outdone, I parked my broom,
Plopped on the couch
And began shaking my long,
Crooked finger from across the den.
The battle of the wills was vicious.
Like being in a house of horrors,
Angry words went flying around and
Screeching like a bunch of demented bats.
Even the dog ran and hid.
I couldn’t take it anymore.
I grabbed my broom and flew out the door.
I almost went back, afraid of driving
Without a license, but I didn’t.
Stupid wasn’t out of my system yet.
I needed to run away. Be by myself.
Just like I did as a kid when the screaming
And shouting began at home.
Run and keep running till I collapsed
Under a tree and cried a puddle of tears,
Wishing I never had to go back home again.
Since it was too hot and I’m too old to run,
I hesitantly took the car.
There was no place in mind I wanted to go,
just away. I wasn’t liking my husband
Very much right then, and I even wanted
To crawl out of my own skin.
I pulled into a vacant lot surrounded by trees,
Under the shade, far away from people
And cars and cops. And there I finished
Spilling my guts to the glaring windshield,
The dusty dashboard, the trees dancing in the wind,
And the birds flying by. I think God was there too,
Reminding me that life is too short
And we’ve been married so long
And the argument was completely fruitless
And that I push too hard, expect too much,
And my husband can’t take it anymore!
“But I need more help with the yard,” I bawled.
“Pulling weeds and trimming trees and bushes
Are too much for me now. And besides,
He’s the one who wanted that gigantic yard!”
Three hours and a million tears
And unanswered questions later,
I turned on the ignition and slowly
Drove back home. The long way.
Through the winding country roads
Where cops seldom tread.
I pulled into the long, tree-lined driveway,
Parked the car, and grabbing my broom,
I flew back into the house.
“Do you know what a chance you took?”
Mr. Hulk flared.
And jutting my long pointy chin toward
The popcorn ceiling I screeched,
“Jep! But right now I don’t care!”
Before the sun went down like we always do,
We talked things out, going through the I’m sorry
Scenarios and how much we hate arguing,
The shame and regret that we felt,
The hugs and kisses, reassuring one another
That we will get through these hard times of
Running short of money before the end of
Every month; that God is and will continue
Taking care of us; that the VA is going to help him
With his PTSD and the horrific nightmares,
And that I will try to be more understanding . . .
And talking and working things out
Is why we’ve been married forty-five years,
Why we haven’t left each other,
Why we haven’t killed each other,
Why we understand each other . . .
So life is short and it’s tough and unfair,
Married or single, rich or poor, young or old.
But real love always wins out in the end!