Face, to Face

Into the darkness, He came

He whispered my name

He took my hand

And the journey began

Down the steep winding stairwell

Into the dungeon of my soul

Where I dare not tread before

And I was afraid

Of the ghosts from the past

With glaring eyes and scornful frowns

Violent screams pierced my ears

Shattered my soul

Shook my world apart

And I felt worthless

Unloved

Unwanted

And I wept

I wanted to run and never stop

Then I felt His gentle nudge

So we moved on

To the bottom of the stairs

Where I saw a little girl

Gazing into a hazy room

Where her dad sat

Like a corpse

Oblivious to her tears

Her pain

Her longing to crawl on his lap

To fall into his arms

To feel his heartbeat

His love

His protection

From the angry world in which she lived

But he never looked her way

Ever

Then she turned

And saw a face

Shining like the sun

Smiling

Arms extended wide

She ran to Him

He hugged her tight

She felt His love

He dried her tears

And there at the bottom of the stairs

In the dungeon of my soul

I met my Heavenly Father

Face to face

He Was There All the Time

He was there at conception, knitting me together in my mother’s womb, watching me grow, delighted with His handiwork. And He smiled.

He was there when I took my first breath, beaming with joy as my mother held me to her breast and kissed my downy head. And He smiled.

He was there when I took my first step, picked my first flower, and chased my first butterfly through hills of green. And He smiled.

He was there when I grew up, fell in love, got married and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. And He smiled.

He was there when my body was slammed against the wall and vice-like fingers squeezing my neck. And He cried.

He was there when anger consumed my heart, hatred ravaged my soul, and darkness flooded my mind. And He cried.

He was there when I sobbed in the darkness searching for His face, questioning His love, cursing the day I was born. And He cried.

He was there when I ran away, far from His beckoning call, ignoring the thorns and choking vines along the foreboding path. And He cried.

He was there when my heart was shackled by fear when my eyes were filled with tears when my lonely soul was shivering in the bitter cold. And He cried.

He was there when I fell on my knees calling His name, surrendering my stubborn will; deeply grieved that I made Him cry. And He smiled.

He was there all the time patiently waiting to set me free, to prove His love, to draw me back to Him. And we smiled.

No More Hiding Behind a Mask

For me, writing is like eating a big piece of chocolate pie. Okay, I lied. It’s like eating cow manure.

I sit at my computer, staring at a blank screen wondering where to start. And that’s really tough because most of the time I don’t even know what I want to write about. So I sit fidgeting at the computer, smear vaseline on my lips, blow my nose, clip my nails, paint my toenails, jump up and let the dogs out, trying to squeeze words from my tiny brain that’s as dry as a sponge. Finally, I plop back into my chair and a word or two trickles out and I begin typing before they evaporate and disappear. But, they’re senseless; utterly stupid.

Frustrated, I get up from my chair and holler, “Coffee time!” at my husband snoring so loud I tell him the neighbours are complaining. Like a drunk on a three-day binge, he roles over and mumbles, “What time is it.”

“It’s way past time you be getting up, that’s what time it is,” I snort.

We drink our coffee on the back porch watching the birds at the bird feeder and yell at the dogs for pushing out the screen when a squirrel gets too close. We talk about old people stuff, like how kids today are nothing like the kids were in our day. Instead of sitting around like zombies texting or playing video games, we played with normal things, like frogs and lizards and rode our bikes for miles getting sunshine and exercise. And kids are so rude and disrespectful these days.

After three cups of coffee and solving the world’s problems, my bladder is screaming. Besides, it’s too hot by now sitting on the back porch. Between the heat and humidity, I feel like crawling inside the refrigerator, which is what the house feels like compared to outside. But that’s early summer North Carolina weather for ya.

I pour another cup of coffee, hubby gets on his computer checking his mail and visiting friends on Facebook, and I drag my butt back to my lonely computer chair and take up where I left off a few hours ago.

Finally, a story pops into my head. Waite. I don’t want to write about that! Besides, it’s way too personal. And I don’t like spilling my guts all over the place; too much like self-sabotage.

And if not for my family and friends encouragement, I’d either wear a mask when I write or not write at all.

And speaking of masks, I wore many of them growing up, trying to be what other people wanted me to be; in school, at home, in church. Like a chameleon, I’d change my thoughts and ideas to blend in with people’s likes and dislikes, pretending that I was calm and collect when my insides were blowing up. No one liked the real me, and neither did I. Then I wondered why I felt so anxious all the time. Why I was so confused, why I felt like a tattered rag doll tossed at the bottom of a garbage bin.

Then I went through a series of agonizing events that gave me glimpses of the battered child within trying desperately to get out; clawing her way through the rubble of lies and deceit and anger and rage, being what other people wanted her to be.

Like an onion, I began peeling off the masks, one protective mask at a time; feeling naked, vulnerable and shaking with fear inside my skin. Some people didn’t like that I arose from the dead. I started speaking out, expressing my hurt and anger at being emotionally bullied just to make others happy. And I admit, after years and years of holding back the furries of Hell, I turn into Adolph Hitler when the words start gushing out.

So, yes. Writing for me is like eating cow manure. I have to pry the words out of my brain, weigh them on the scales of truth and justice, swim against the tide of my anxieties, and agonize over whether or not to post what I spent hours, sometimes days writing. But the yearning deep inside my soul to write what I feel won’t allow me to write any other way.

 

 

 

 

It’s Funny, But Not Funny Ha, Ha

I’m not the only one with this neurotic disorder. I know because I went online to see if there was even a name for it. And there it was. Trichotemnomania, a disorder characterized by compulsive hair cutting or shaving. It is often triggered by intrusive ideas or stressful experiences.

It’s scary having a disorder I can’t even pronounce but at the same time, I’m relieved knowing that I’m not crazy all by myself.

And for me It goes way back; as far back as the time that I made all my Barbie dolls look like Ken and our neighbor’s ten-year-old look like a skinned cat after cutting his hair with the electric clippers. I watched mom cut my brothers’ and daddy’s hair so much that I was sure I knew how. I did okay till I removed the attachment to get it just a little shorter. I should have stopped while I was ahead. But his dad liked it, so it was all good.

Then I began bugging mom to cut my long, red hair; an absolute no-no according to my grandmother who only had her hair cut once in her entire seventy-something years.

Finally, to shut me up, mom got out her big silver shears and cut it. I felt like the weight of the world was lifted off my scrawny shoulders.

From there it escalated from mom cutting my hair to me cutting my hair. After all, I had plenty of experience.

When I was a teen I wanted everyone’s hair but my own. Every Sunday at church I sat behind Freda, drooling over her short, dark wavy hair neatly combed back into a drake’s tail. She was beautiful, like a China doll, with big brown eyes, thick dark lashes and porcelain complexion.

And I’d sit there thinking if my hair looked like hers, I would be transformed from an awkward, ugly duckling to a beautiful, graceful swan. My freckles would disappear, my straight, unruly red hair would become dark and wavy, and I would finally like the gawky kid looking back at me in the mirror.

Thus began my full-blown hair obsession. I’d cut it, color it, curl it, tease it, and spray it. Some mornings I’d spend hours doing and redoing my hair till it was perfect. Other days I’d get so angry and frustrated that I’d throw my hairbrush across the room and cry. And yes, most mornings I was late for work in spite of getting up at four in the morning to be at work by seven.

I bought wigs to cover the shame of cutting my hair too short. But, even my wigs weren’t safe with a pair of scissors in my hand.

Beauty School taught me the do’s and don’ts of cutting hair, but I taught myself how to use the electric clippers.

That’s when I really got crazy. There’s just something about the sound and smell and feel of the clippers in my hand, especially when I’m feeling stressed and anxious. A coworker once told me that she knew how stressed I was by the length of my hair. So when I’d come to work wearing a ball cap, she was tempted to call the Mental Health Hot Line.

One time my husband hid my clippers, but I hunted till I found them.

I could go on and on telling you how I’d stay up all night cutting my hair, but that would really make me look stupid. And I could tell you that I like wearing my hair short, and laugh when strangers ask me if I have cancer and little kids asking me if I’m a girl, but I’m afraid you’ll think I belong in the loony bin.

But I can tell you that I’m okay with cutting and wearing my hair short and that when I screw it up I slap on a ball cap till it grows out and I begin the madness again. And I don’t mind telling you that my family laughs at me, and that’s okay because I laugh harder at myself.

So yes, I admit to having OCD. But, believe it or not, I’m dealing with it. I take medication, which sometimes isn’t enough and I feel like getting good and drunk. But I did that once and got so sick I swore I’d NEVER do it again! Besides, I can’t stand the stuff.

OCD is painful. It messes with my mind, heart and soul. It cripples and enslaves and makes me feel like I belong in a freak show. I’m restless, my mind races, my insides feel like a bomb exploding and I wonder why I was even born. I question if God really loves me, I’m so messed up. Some days I can’t stop crying, other days I’m so depressed I think I’d be better off dead.

I pray and read my Bible. I talk to family and friends and realize that they love me in spite of my insanity. Most of all, I continue working on myself. Medication alone can’t fix everything that’s wrong; I wish it did. And although God doesn’t remove the thorn in my side, He gives me the strength to bear it. Sometimes, like the one set of footprints in the sand, He carries me till I can walk on my own.

I couldn’t make it without God and family and friends. They’ve been there, helping me pick up the pieces of my life, loving me, encouraging me, and seeing me through the darkest shadows of despair. I’m thankful and blessed that God loves me so much that He never leaves my side.

So does that mean I’m throwing away my clippers? Are you crazy?

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teacher From Hell

Every day, for no reason at all, Mr Savage, a dark-haired short little man with a great big ego, punched Eugene on the shoulder. Maybe he didn’t like the way he sat in his chair or that he wore glasses or had curly hair and a Robert Mitchum dimple in his chin. Maybe he didn’t like that Eugene was bigger and smarter than he was. Or maybe it’s just that Mr Savage had to live up to his name by intimidating his seventh-grade students.

Well, like clockwork one day, Mr Savage marched over to Eugene and punched him harder than usual on the shoulder. Suddenly, like a mad dog, Eugene jumped out of his chair, shook his fist in Mr Savage’s face and snarled, “Now, hit me again!”

And sitting across from him still as a mouse on the outside, I was jumping up and down on the inside and yelling, “Yeah! And that goes for me too!”

He must have heard me because Mr Savage left Eugene alone and started bullying me.

Day after day Mr Savage singled me out, asking me questions in hopes that I’d give the wrong answer. And day after day, escaping embarrassment and humiliation of looking like an idiot, I just sat there, my mouth clamped shut, shooting green-eyed daggers at his head.

This didn’t sit well with him. So one day while the students and teachers were lined up to go to their classrooms, Mr Savage approached me and snarled sarcastically, “What’s the matter with your mother? Is she an invalid or something?”

Dumbfounded and wondering what the heck invalid meant, I blurted, “Yes sir, she’s in a wheelchair.”

Suddenly, the hall fell silent as teachers and students turned their attention on us. And before I could utter one word of explanation, Mr Savage stormed off, his face blazing like fire.

God had my back that day. I didn’t know Mr Savage had written my parents requesting a conference with them because I was failing Social Studies. It wasn’t until much later I discovered that daddy wrote back telling him about mom’s back injury and that if he wanted to talk to them he’d have to come to the house.

Like a Mighty Warrior, God became my hero that day. He grabbed the savage beast by the horns and gave him a swift kick in the butt. And from that day forth, Mr Savage never bothered me again.

Yes, I failed Social Studies, but Mr Savage utterly failed the art of teaching.

“Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit they have made. The trouble they cause recoils on them; their violence comes down on their own heads.” Psalm 7:15,16 NIV

 

 

 

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy

Okay, daddy, since we never went on a coffee date before or even shared an intimate moment anywhere together for that matter, I’m taking you out. Just in my mind of course; you’d never come any other way.

So where’s it going to be, Starbuck’s? I forgot, Instant Nescafe’ hot water straight from the spigot with creamer and sugar in that coffee-stained cup you yelled at me for thoughtlessly washing one day. Okay then, let’s just have coffee in the kitchen in the old house where we used to live a long time ago. Doesn’t matter to me. I just want to talk to you.

I’m sorry for my rebellion during those troublesome adolescent years. I was just a kid and didn’t understand your cryptic silence. And on those rare occasions when you decided to break the sound barrier, I didn’t understand your joking and kidding. I thought you were making fun of me and that you didn’t like me. That hurt me deeply and I wanted to hurt you back.

I just wish that one time you had held me in your arms and said you were sorry; that you had poked your head into my shattered world and see how much I needed your encouragement and love and protection. Instead, you crawled into a tomb of apathy; dead to my fears and troubled emotions.

There’s so many things you didn’t know about me like; how I wanted to be a daddy’s girl; for you to tell me that I was beautiful and smart and funny; for you to have met my first date at the front door with a Smith and Wesson and stood up to my X-husband the first time he hit me. When my baby was born too early and I thought he would die, I wanted you to hold me and tell me everything would be okay. But, you never did.

But, that’s okay daddy, I didn’t invite you here to condemn you; I’ve done enough of that throughout my life. I just want you to know that in spite of your lack of concern, I learned to stand on my own two feet, fight my own battles, and communicate my deepest feelings. I faced the demons of anger and rage, and overwhelming feelings of rejection. I’ve learned to cope with loneliness, anxiety and depression.

So thank you for meeting with me today and allowing me one fragmented moment of the rest of your time in eternity. And before you fade into the shadows of my mind, I want you to know that I’m glad you were my dad; that without realizing it you made me determined to love my son the way I wanted you to love me. And because of that, I am reaping a bountiful harvest of love and joy and happiness through him and his growing, loving family.

So thanks, daddy. Happy Father’s Day

 

Our Fur Babies

Meet Pepper, our dachshund lab mix. She’s cute and lovable and charming. When people come to the house they want to take her home with them. And some days I’m tempted to let them.

She’s a jumper; a straight-up, five-foot jumper! I’m not kidding, she can jump as high as my head and I’m 5’3”. I swear she has springs for legs. She’s hilarious and entertaining for our company but a real pain in the neck for me at times. When I let her out of her crate in the mornings she jumps up and down beside me, behind me and all over my feet to her food bowl, to the back door when I let her out, and when I let her back in. I can’t move without her jumping sky-high like a crazed kangaroo.

Now she’s learned she can jump on the dining room table. And if that’s not bad enough, I caught her on top of the counter the other night eating Bojangles’ biscuits we were saving for later. So much for that! I ran her off and put her in her crate, thinking that would teach her not to do it again.

Well, she’s a slow learner, too. After a few minutes of letting her back out of her crate, I heard a thump. I snuck into the kitchen and found her walking and sniffing on top of the stove! Never had a dog that did that. Never even knew dogs would do that.

Good grief! I have a cute little dog with a neck like a giraffe, that jumps like a kangaroo, eats like a pig and thinks she’s a cat.

Meet Bella, our greyhound mix. She’s tough as pig iron and just as hard-headed. When she’s focused on something, especially a squirrel or a bug, she becomes stone-deaf. You can yell your head off to come here and she won’t hear you.

She’s sweet and loving but on her own terms. Where Pepper is all over people when they come into the house, Bella barks and sniffs them to death before she’s half-way sure she wants them on her turf. She doesn’t bite, but she wants people to think she will. So I tell our guests to ignore her and let her make up to them on her own. And when she finally does, she suddenly becomes a clumsy, overgrown lap dog.

When we first adopted Bella she was skin and bones and preferred her crate to being with people. She was so timid and skittish that We felt she had been abused. I wasn’t sure she would ever learn to trust her new home and the people in it. But after a few months of gentle coaxing and giving her space, she became less jumpy when we tried to pet her. Now we can say, “Let’s cuddle,” and she’ll back up against us or between our legs to be hugged and petted.

And something new we learned about Bella a few weeks ago. She is extremely protective of babies. When kids, as well as adults, got too close to our one-year-old great-grandson, she began barking and herding everyone away; even his mother!

Both dogs are a joy; they love us and they love each other. And although they get on my nerves at times, I’m so glad we rescued them from who knows what and are willing and able to give the love and protection they need.

Animals always give back far more than they get. They are loyal and devoted and quick to forgive. They fill the void of loneliness. they are more entertaining than a sitcom. And in their own language, they tell us how much they love us and how thrilled they are to spend the rest of their lives making us happy.

So no. You can’t take Pepper or Bella home with you, no matter how much you beg.

 

 

 

 

Wrong Assumptions

Hubby and I were at Wal-Mart the other day and ran into a friend we hadn’t seen in a while. As we were standing in the aisle talking, a lady pushing an empty buggy stopped and gave me a great big, I-think-I-know-you smile. I didn’t know her, but I smiled back because that’s what southerners do. Then, in broken English, she said, “Can I talk to you?”

Dumbfounded, I pointed at myself and said, “Me?”

Like a kid sent to the principal’s office, I shuffled toward her, wondering what she could want with me. The last time a stranger got all friendly with me like that asked me to buy her one of the two jackets she had draped across her arm.   

Standing beside her she wrapped a hefty arm around me, pressed her lips against my ear and whispered slowly, “Do you have cancer?”

Suddenly, I was back at Lowe’s checking out, my little pink cap covering my buzzcut and the cashier’s sympathetic words ringing in my ears, “Keep up the good fight!”

All my life I’ve kept up the good fight against injustice, against discrimination, against abuse, but never against cancer.

Laughing I said to my amazon captor, “I did have cancer, but I don’t anymore. I just like wearing my hair short.”

She must have thought I was in denial because she wouldn’t release me and insisted I drink a particular type of water. I can’t tell you what it is because she said it was a secret. But the real reason I can’t tell you is that I couldn’t understand her. So after the third, embarrassing “huh?” I just smiled and pretended I understood every incoherent word.

Standing too close for comfort now I looked into her big, droopy brown eyes and straining to make sense of her blundering words, I wondered if she was on medication or drugs. But more than anything I wanted this confusing encounter to be done and over.

But she wasn’t done with me yet. Nope! With her arm tightening around my waist, she told me I had to eat something too. Could have been roadkill for all I know, or a toad. Even if I knew what it was I wasn’t eating it . . . ever!

This concerned soul was so convinced that I had cancer and that she had a magical cure that I feared she was going to perform voodoo magic right then and there. But, to my relief, she released her arm from around my waist, smiled real big and said, “I want you to drink that water and eat (whatever she told me it was) because I want to see your pretty face when I come back to Wal-Mart.”

I don’t think I’m going back to Wal-Mart!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nobody’s Perfect!

I think it started at conception because I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t pushed around by a perfectionist bully and it screaming in my ears, “You gotta be perfect to be loved and accepted in this world. Nobody likes a failure!”

Nobody told me that it was okay to make mistakes, that they’re all part of growing up and learning and discovering who I am. Nobody told me that not everyone performs at the same level; that we all enter this world wrapped with our own special talents and skills.

So it was really tough for me in school; especially when it came to Math. How I hated Math! Made no sense to me whatsoever. And how painfully vivid I remember sitting at my desk in the third grade, the sweetest teacher I ever had trying her darndest to help me understand the stupid problem glaring at me from the page. But what she didn’t understand was how hard I was trying and how utterly embarrassed and angry and frustrated I felt until I plopped my head on my desk and cried. Exasperated, she shook her head and walked away leaving me crying and feeling like the dumbest kid in the class.

And to make up for my failure in becoming a mathematician, I dared not ever turn in my homework with eraser marks all over it. No, sir! I kept redoing it, over and over, wasting time, energy, and paper till I got it right; no eraser marks, no wrinkles, tears or smudges. One hundred percent perfection.

I could go on and on about the wreckage perfectionism caused throughout my life, but this short post would become a thousand page novel. Instead, I want to share how I’m gradually accepting the cruel hard fact that I am not and never will be perfect.

It started with my sweet daughter-in-law. No, she hasn’t bribed me and doesn’t even know I’m writing this post. She is the most well-rounded, self-confident person I know with a bubbly, joyous attitude that brightens any room she enters.

And besides being a faithful, dedicated, top-notch nurse, wife, mother and grandmother, she’s not overly bothered with crooked pictures hanging on the wall, dirty laundry, and dishes in the sink; unlike her perfectionist mother-in-law. She spends her time and energy enjoying life instead of agonizing whether or not every hair is in place before sticking her head out the door.

So do positive, non-perfectionist people really have an effect on others? Well, let’s see: I’ve got dirty dishes in the sink, an unmade bed, and dirty laundry. The screen on my back porch is torn, the deck is green from algae, and my carpets are pee-stained in every room. Oh, and the toilets are yelling, “CLEAN ME!”

And I have to say that, although I’m still a perfectionist-junky, I am gradually kicking the habit. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to jump up, wash those dirty dishes, stick a load of clothes in the washer, and make up the bed. And it surely doesn’t mean that I’m jumping up and down with joy that things are old and falling apart that we can’t afford to fix right now. What I am saying is that I’m learning to live in peace with it.

So what does perfectionism do for you? Well, if you enjoy being tied in knots every day of your life; feeling like a total failure; afraid to do anything for fear of not doing it perfectly; comparing yourself to others; tossing and turning all night because you did or said something wrong; working yourself to death, getting ulcers, and making others miserable, then it goes above and beyond tearing your life apart.

I thank God that He has put all the right people in my life that have taught me to love myself, defects and all, and to stop being so hard on myself. I’m thankful that I no longer feel like I’m being scrutinized under a microscope when I enter a room full of people. And I’m thankful that, although my childhood was miles from being perfect, God gave me the parents He wanted me to have, that one day, in His own perfect timing, He would reveal His perfect love and forgiveness to me.

Okay, I just couldn’t stand it anymore. It’s 11:34 pm and I just got back from tossing the dishes in the dishwasher and wiping the stove, and countertops. But, I didn’t scrub the kitchen sinks till my fingers bled, and all the other chores are still waiting in line, so I’d say I’ve made some progress today. Not bad since I used to scrub and clean every single day and still feel my house wasn’t clean enough. I can honestly say those days are far behind me, except for an occasional relapse. But hey, nobody’s perfect!

 

 

 

It’s a Pain in the Feet!

It started ten years ago with numbness, mostly in my left foot, and my right foot feeling as though I had a marble in my shoe when I jogged. But, because I stubbornly believed and still believe that moving is good for the body, I continued jogging for seventeen years. No, I’m not a glutton for pain, I just learned to push through it. I’m tenacious that way.

A few years ago, however, my feet, mostly my left foot, have advanced from numbness to swelling, redness, stinging and burning like they’re in a fire pit.

My doctor started me out on 1000 mg. of Vitamin B12. Doesn’t help my foot pain but helps prevent anemia so I have to keep taking it.

Then came the trial and error of anti-seizure medications, one of which was Lyrica. Well, if I needed more meat on my bones, which I don’t, gaining twenty pounds in four weeks would have been a great side effect. And since depression has been a demented tag-a-long most of my life, Lyrica, along with all the other costly so-called-pain relievers with their hateful side-effects no longer line my medicine cabinet.

So what do I do for my poor, pitiful feet? I freeze them to death in cold water, sleep with my feet sticking out from the covers, and walk barefoot around the house. In the winter, I walk outside on the deck barefoot and stand there till they quit burning.

The weird thing with neuropathy is that my feet don’t burn and sting twenty-four-seven, which is a blessing. During the day, like right now, they feel like normal feet; you know, feet that aren’t screaming their toes off. But let evening come when I want to lay down and cuddle with my dogs and watch Forensic Files on Netflix (I hate stupid commercials), my feet begin screaming like two spoiled brats demanding my full attention.

And they won’t shut up till I drag myself out of bed, fill a basin with cold water and sit and soak my feet till they’re numb. Then they’re good to go . . . till they thaw out.

So this is my three to four times daily routine when I’m at home. When I’m out shopping all day, my feet throbbing and burning, even in my high-dollar shoes, that’s another song and dance. What keeps me from going insane are visions of icebergs floating in my little white basin and plunging my naked feet into the freezing water when I get home.

Sometimes the pain is so unbearable that I feel like cutting off my feet. Then I’d probably suffer phantom pain the rest of my life with no relief at all since I’d have no more feet to soak. It’s a lose-lose battle.

And I have to tell you, neuropathy is no respecter of persons either. It doesn’t just pounce on diabetics; I’m living proof of that. Hubby’s diabetic but doesn’t have neuropathy and I’m glad he doesn’t; I just wish I didn’t!

So that’s my sob story for today. I guess my last words would be that I’d rather suffer pain I can tolerate and control than getting hooked on painkillers with worse side-effects than the pain itself.

Maybe one day there will be a cure for neuropathy, until then, I’ll just keep soaking my feet in ice-cold water in my little white basin till I can’t feel them anymore.