Besides writing, playing the piano, painting furniture, and decorating, I enjoy digital painting. Even more than candy and ice cream. Well, almost. I hope you enjoy my creations. Oh, and they are free for you to use. Click on any picture to enlarge
I got a makeover today. I asked the makeup artist to make my eyes look bigger, my nose to look smaller, and my lips to look fuller.
Yeah, I’m just clowning around. But how many of us are never satisfied with our looks? As a kid, I used to sit for hours drawing before and after pictures of myself because I never liked what I saw in the mirror: freckles splattered all over my face, eyebrows and eyelashes you couldn’t see with the naked eye, and straight, stubborn red hair. And I was skinny. Like, Olive Oyl skinny. My clothes looked better on the coat hanger than they looked on me.
But, I wasn’t alone in my self-loathing world. My best friend was so self-conscious of her weight that it was like coaxing a mule to get her to poke her head out the door. Another friend hated her feet and nose and said they were the two ugliest body parts ever. And then there was the boob thing. They were either too big, too little, or non-existent. Guess where I fit in.
It’s a shame that many of us go through life feeling “less than” for whatever reason. Why do we do that? What is so awful about that body part we don’t like? So awful that we feel we belong in a zoo; or even worse, a freak show. So awful that many have spent thousands of dollars to fix only to end up broke and just as dissatisfied as ever.
Ken and Barbie didn’t help much. And neither did models and movie stars with their dazzling eyes, flawless skin, and perfect bodies. The unspoken message was and still is, what you see is what you should look like. And if you don’t, you might as well wear a bag over your head.
And we believe it!
I fell into that deep dark hole of believing that people didn’t like me because I was ugly. The truth is, I didn’t like myself because I believed I was ugly. I believed that from head to toe something was really wrong with me. I mean, really! Other girls my age had boobs. Why couldn’t I?
According to guys, boobs were way better than brains. I grew up with brothers, I know. They would laugh and tell me I was a pirates dream because I had a sunken chest. And they hid Playboy books under their mattresses and google-eyed every girl who bounced like a pair of basketballs when she walked.
So yeah. I got the message loud and clear. If you don’t have boobs you might as well be dead.
While laying in the sun one day, my bathing suit stuffed with toilet paper, I felt completely hopeless of ever looking like a real girl. But I believed in prayer. I even believed in miracles. So I prayed, “Lord. Please give me some boobs!”
Today, I’m so thankful God didn’t give me what I asked for. And I’m thankful that I learned to love myself as I am. If we can’t love and accept ourselves, how can we possibly love and accept others? If all we see when we look at someone is their physical appearance then we’re not seeing that person at all. There’s so much more to a book than its cover. You have to open it. You have to read it. Only then can you know and appreciate what it’s all about.
So I don’t care what you look like. I don’t care what color your skin is. I don’t care if you walk with a limp, stutter when you talk if you’re gay or straight or have tattoos and piercings from head to toe. I care about your heart. And I judge whether I want you as my friend by what’s in your heart.
It’s been a long, hard journey, this self-discovery thing. A journey that most of us have traveled. And until we can realize that there is no “perfect” in this world we’ll never end that torturous journey. We’ll never be happy with ourselves. We’ll never dig deep inside ourselves to see what really makes us tick. We’ll die wishing we could be like someone else.
I wonder, did the tree cry when Eve plucked its forbidden fruit? Did it sob with grief; cry out to the universe of the treacherous crime she committed?
Did the luscious fruit writhe with pain between the jaws of death? Did it mourn for the woman who so brazenly murdered her soul?
Did the flowers become faint and did the color drain from their lovely petals? In the heat of the woman’s lustful desire did their faces burn with shame?
Did thunder shake the heavens? Did lightning strike the earth? And the mountains and streams, did they tremble and quake? Did the rocks cry out and the willows bend and weep?
And I wonder, did Satan laugh? Did his devious heart dance with glee? Did his eyes glisten with delight for the victory he thought he had won?
Did the Garden rumble when God called out, “Adam, where are you?” Did the wind whistle and blow? Did the sea become boisterous and did the sun hide its face in the clouds?
Did God cry? Did His sobbing heart split the earth in two? Did he regret forming the clay and breathing into its nostrils the freedom of choice?
Did the angels fold their wings and weep? Did their radiant faces grow dim? Did they cover their heads with ashes of grief?
And I wonder, while covering their nakedness with fig leaves did Adam and Eve mourn their radiant robes of righteousness? When standing guilty before God, did they wish they could somehow erase the reckless, devastating choice they made?
And when the final moment came, did they pound their fists against the iron gates? Did they kick and scream and beg for God to let them back in; to give them a second chance?
I don’t know. But I do know that in spite of His dreadful curse God loved the world so much that He sent His Son to die for it; to wash our hearts clean and lead us back to Him. I know that He’ll never ban me from His presence, slam the gates shut behind me and leave me to wander in the desert of fear and hopelessness. I know that when death closes my eyes on earth God will open them again in Heaven. And I know that I will live with Him there forever.
And with every unworthy breath, with every fiber of my wretched being, I thank Him and praise Him for giving me a second chance.
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!
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.
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!
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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.
We’ve never owned a dog like her before
And it’s a wee bit nerve-wracking
Okay it’s a whole bunch nerve-wracking
But she’s a dog
And I’m the boss
She’s supposed to listen
When I tell her no
To get in her bed
To pee and poop outside
To stop jumping on the furniture
And charging through the house
And bouncing around like a kangaroo
To stop biting
That constant licking of herself
Like a cat
And she snores
And she farts
And she eats like a pig
We’re old people
We like things calm and quiet
We like a clean smelling house
And slobber-less tile floors
At least she’s potty trained now
Till this morning
When she peed and pooped in the living room
And threw up in my bedroom
I wanted to wring her little neck
Take her back to the pound
And bring home a droopy-eyed over-the-hill bloodhound
But I cleaned up the mess instead
Because I love her
Because she brings more joy than chaos
Because she has left paw prints on my heart
I’m always thinking about stuff: the good old days, the movie I watched last night, the devotional I read, some of the stupid things I did as a kid.
Today, skipping like a carefree child down memory lane, I thought about Brandon, my first grandchild. Just learning to talk, he picked out names to call all the grandparents, except for me. Maybe, because I was the youngest, in his mind I didn’t fit the typical granny image. Maybe He was confused about the role I played in his world. I don’t know. Whatever his reasons, he didn’t have an endearing, grandmotherly name for me.
Then, one Sunday afternoon my daughter-in-law told me that Brandon was referring to me as Dee Dee.
“Well okay then. Dee Dee, it is.”
Brandon loved for me to tell him stories. In the car, at the mall, in the grocery store, on the porch swing . . . everywhere! All I’d hear is, “Tell me a story, Dee Dee! Tell me a story!”
Now, there’s just so many stories a granny can make up about the two of us riding on Mrs. Eagle’s back over the highest mountains or talking to Mr. Tree in the enchanted forest or creeping into a really dark, really spooky house deep in the woods. But if I didn’t come up with something he’d drive me crazy until I did. That’s the way it works for those of you who haven’t figured it out yet.
His most favorite story was when the two of us teamed up with Voltron and battled all the bad guys. We’d wield our shiny swords, conjure up our magic powers and fight till the bitter end. Then, we’d crawl into a cave where we’d regroup and strategize our next sneak attack.
Suddenly, in Brandon’s eyes, Voltron was no longer a plastic action figure. Voltron was his hero, the one who came to his rescue, who bandaged his wounds and killed all the bad guys. Never again would I be just plain old Dee Dee. I was Immortal. I was invincible. I was Dee Dee Voltron!
And after all those battles I had to fight, and all those stories I had to conjure up, I earned that title and wore it well . . . at least in Brandon’s eyes.
Brandon’s now grown with three kids of his own. And, although he no longer begs me to tell him stories, he remembers them all so well and occasionally refers to me as “Dee Dee Voltron.”
As we stood looking down at him
Laying on the cold stark table
Our hearts were broken-in-two
In spite of all our efforts to save him
From the monster invading his body
The heart-wrenching moment came
To say our last good-byes
To kneel by his freshly dug grave
To mourn for him
To miss petting him
To miss walking him
To miss playing with him
To miss cuddling with him
To miss the most loving
Most beautiful friend we ever had
Two months later
We still miss him
We still grieve for him
But we will never forget him