Deadly Addictions

I loved him. He was my brother. But there were times I wanted to kill him. Like when he was fourteen and burned down the vacant house up the street. When he broke into schools to steal pencils and erasers. When the cops came knocking on our door. When he made my mother cry. When he cussed me on the phone at three in the morning. When he stole from my husband. When he’d abandon his wife and kids for days. When his promises went up in smoke. When he shook his fist in my dad’s face and called him an old man; the same old man who bailed him out of trouble a million times over; the same old man that he never saw again after that. Didn’t even go to the funeral.

Drugs were his food. Alcohol was his water. Prison was his home.

Addicted to a life of thrills and chills, he was a living, breathing hurricane of total destruction in the lives he touched. Truth was a foreign language. Denial was a constant companion. Honesty was as fake as a two-headed dragon.

Why? Why was he so bent on self-destruction? What was so enthralling about running from the cops or living in the woods or spinning tails that even the devil couldn’t believe? Why did he think he was so entitled to do whatever he pleased regardless of the cost to society, to his family, to himself?

Why didn’t he do something constructive with his art, his poetry, and writing? He was brilliant. He could have flown as high as an eagle but chose to wallow in the mud like a pig. Why?

I don’t know. I just know that while he was high on drugs and living a life of crime I was wishing I had a brother I could depend on. A brother I could talk to. A brother I could trust. I was wishing he would straighten up before it was too late. I was wishing he would remove the blindfolds and see how much I loved him.

A few days before Thanksgiving 2014 we had a screaming match over the phone. I hung up on him, wishing he was in front of me so I could smack him upside the head. A few days later he called back. As always, I accepted his apology. The day after Thanksgiving, he was found dead in his apartment.

He was sixty-three.

It still hurts. I still miss him. I still wish he had chosen a sensible life. And regardless of the things he had done, the people he had hurt, the destruction he caused, I loved him. I loved him then. I love him now. I’ll love him till I die. He was my little brother and now he’s gone.

So I sit here, barely able to see the screen through my tears, wishing I could hear his voice once more. Wishing I could tell him I’m praying for him once more. Wishing I could convince him to change his ways before it’s too late . . . once more. Now, I can only hope that he did.

 

 

 

I Want More of This and Less of That

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A House Without a Dog is Not a Home

When Rascal, our handsome, Australian Shepard mix of eight years died, he took part of us with him. The grief was so unbearable that I never wanted another dog to wrap my heart around only to have it ripped apart.

But hubby couldn’t stop grieving and I couldn’t stand seeing him suffer. So, for his birthday, we paid a visit to the animal shelter, and there she was, curled up in a big cage on a skimpy blanket on that cold cement floor frightened and all alone.

Hubby fell in love.

I didn’t. She wasn’t Rascal.

So we kept looking.

No Rascal anywhere.

But hubby wasn’t looking for Rascal and kept dragging me back to that pitiful, scrawny, long-legged Greyhound mix curled up in that dreary cage. I guess I’m a sucker for pitiful, so we adopted her.

That was three years ago. Yep! Three years of wanting to wring her neck for chewing up her bed, and my pillows, and my couch; things Rascal NEVER did. Three years of her hyperactive personality, her jumping and jerking around when we tried petting her. Three years of trying to stop comparing her to Rascal.

Then a year ago Pepper came into our lives. Sweet, dainty, loving little Pepper. She was more dead than alive after being abandoned along with fifteen other dogs. She was so skinny I could barely feel her when she jumped on my lap. Then she licked my face, pierced my soul with those big brown eyes, and that did it. We bundled her up and took her home, hoping and praying Bella would approve.

It was love at first sight. Kindred spirits.

Having two dogs at one time in the house is more than challenging. It’s insane! Pepper loves jumping on the table, and countertops. Heck, she just loves jumping! The higher the better. Now Bella thinks she can jump that high, too. And Pepper is a chewer. Bella stopped until Pepper came along. And she was potty trained till Pepper came along. She was getting more settled till Pepper came along. We had to potty train her all over again. And Bella poops and pees like a cow. So yeah. I was tempted to haul them both off to the animal shelter. But, you already know what a sucker I am for pitiful.

In spite of all their frustrating antics, they are beautiful, loving dogs. They love each other and can hardly stand to be apart. And they love us and children and whoever comes to visit. Most of all, they bring us joy and happiness and a ton of laughter. And when I think where they might be today had we not rescued them, I want to cry

My Four-Legged Babies

It’s 2:10 pm and hubby and both dogs are still sound asleep. I thought of waking them, but it’s so peaceful and quiet that I changed my mind.

Bella and Pepper have been driving me nuts! For three years, Bella was the only child; potty trained, and over her chewing the furniture and pillows stage. But, after rescuing Pepper a year ago, our house hasn’t been the same. Oh, the couple loves each other, that’s for sure. But, even as sweet and gentle and dainty and loving as Pepper is, she brings out the worst in Bella; our hyperactive-tough-as-pig iron problem child. She’s more hyper, more mouthy, and has reverted back to peeing and pooping on the floor as if to say, “Pepper does it, so I can too!” Oh, and Bella’s a digger. She’s dug holes she can stick her big head into all over the backyard! And she thinks she’s a lap dog, now. A lap dog that takes up three and a half laps to sprawl on. I feel like I’m raising two kids instead of two dogs.

Well, Pepper and Bella are separated for now. Pepper was spayed Tuesday and hubby brought her home yesterday saying she has to be kept quiet for two weeks. That means two weeks of no jumping up and down like a kangaroo, and wrestling Bella to the floor and taking off with her chew toy. Two weeks of no racing Bella to their food bowl, and dancing around like a ballerina. She’s either in her crate or Bella’s in hers.

And I have to say, It’s the calmest and least frustrated I have felt in months. Hubby has a ton of tolerance, I have NONE! So yeah. I’m letting them all sleep as long as they want to today . . . and maybe tomorrow and the next day as well!

True Love

Growing up, without saying a word, my dad taught me men are not to be trusted. They sleep late, work when they feel like it, and treat women like dirt; expecting them to do everything, be everything, and keep their mouth shut. That’s when anger gave birth to the Incredible Hulk. That’s when a sweet, faint-hearted child became a strong, courageous woman fighting against injustice toward women and all the underdogs of the world. No womanizing, woman-abusing anybody-abuser was safe in my world.

It’s no wonder my ex-husband and I didn’t stay married long. His big mouth was as abusive as his rough hands slapping me till my ears rung and slamming me against the wall squeezing my throat. He just didn’t realize he had a tiger by the tail until he dragged his butt home from work one day to find his bags sitting outside the door and the locks changed.

Now, holding my nine-month-old son on my lap, my cynical, twenty-year-old heart told me I can trust no one. I can depend on no one; not my family, not my friends, not my church, no one. I’ll have to buckle up, woman-up and stand on my own two feet.

As a single mom, divorced and back in the dating scene I soon discovered that guys only wanted one thing from me, and it wasn’t my keen mind. Fueled by the memory of being molested at the age of thirteen, sexually harassed on the job, and nearly date-raped one horror-filled night, the Hulk inside me grew increasingly fierce and strong; fighting all men and needing none because no “real” man existed in this so-called man’s world!

So I stumbled along, alone and raising my son the best I knew how. He was my little man, my hero; the only living soul my heart truly trusted and believed in. Still, my heart yearned for the right man for me. I was too young to go through life alone, and besides, my son deserved a loving father. But the wall of steel protecting my untrusting heart would take the strength of Superman to break down.

One Friday summer’s night out with, my niece and five-year-old, we dragged up and down Main Street in Debbie’s bright yellow, 69 Mustang. It wasn’t my style to do such a teeny-bopper thing but that night I decided to go along just for the fun of it.

Then we spotted them. Two neatly dressed, good-looking guys sitting on the hood of a fire engine red, 63 Ford. Immediately, boy-crazy Debbie pulled into the service station where two curious guys slid off the hood of the car and strutted towards us like a couple of peacocks.

I had just broken up with a church-going-God-professing-born-again Christian who proved to be a druggie, a liar and a cheat, and just plain crazy! Shortly after our break-up, he barged into my apartment waving a gun. I never felt as afraid for my child’s and my life as I did that day. You can only imagine my relief when he said he was going to kill himself and stormed out the door.

So I was far from ready to strike up a conversation, let alone a relationship with Prince Charming poking his head through the car window.

However, soon after meeting that night, Buck and I began dating. But my heart was never off guard. Not even when I saw how much he loved Robbie. Not even when he knelt beside me, gazing into my eyes with the love I’d never seen before. Not even when he asked me to marry him.

My brain said he was a good man. My heart said he’s just like all the others. My brain said he’s good for me and that I can learn to trust him. My heart said when he finds out how I really am, he’ll run, just like everyone else. My brain said to give him a chance. My heart said it will never yield to any man any time this side of heaven.

Six months later, we got married.

This man saw the worst anyone has ever seen in me before and loved me in spite of my suspicions, fears, and insecurities. He held me when I cried, he supported me during counselling, he talked to me, he listened to me, he encouraged me. He lifted me up high and taught me how to fly. No one except Jesus has ever loved me like that before.

He weathered the storm. He pushed through the barriers. He broke down the walls of steel with his stubborn love, his gentle strength and patience and longsuffering. He won my heart.

I thank God for our forty-five years together and for the love and happiness that few people share simply because they don’t push through the rough times. Most of all, I thank God for revealing His unconditional, steadfast, unwavering love for me through my awesome husband; the man He created just for me.

I still have trust issues. I still view the world as being more evil than good. I still, and always will have a fighting spirit against injustice. But because of one man’s stubborn persistence, I finally know the meaning of true love.

My Four-legged Girls

We’re sitting on the back porch, Bella pressing her regal nose against the screen watching the squirrels and Pepper curled contentedly on my lap sniffing the air.

Bella’s eyes are like those of an Egyptian Princess; only hers are naturally and perfectly lined in black, melting my heart with her wide-eyed expressions of love every time she looks at me.

Pepper is jet black, except for the white on her chest and dainty paws. Looking up at me, rolling her big brown eyes, it’s as if she’s looking straight into my soul. I press her head against my chest and whisper how beautiful and precious she is to me.

That’s when I got to thinking.

My girls don’t need to take thousands of selfies to prove to the world how beautiful they are. They don’t have to wear the latest fashions, walk with a strut, talk like the Queen, or become members of a Country Club to prove their self-worth. They don’t need hundreds of fans on Facebook or thousands of likes and comments on WordPress to boost and encourage their ego.

My girls don’t need to be painted up, jewelled up or prettied up in any fashion to be dazzling to the eyes and pleasing to the soul.

My girls are lovely and gracious, loving and forgiving, fun and playful. My girls take life as it comes and remain beautiful in spite of the bad things that have happened to them. My girls are strong and loyal and truly excited to see me when I get up in the mornings or come in from being outside for a few minutes. My girls treat me like I’m the most important thing in their lives.

And that’s why I love them. They don’t try to be anything. They don’t try to prove anything. They just are.

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!

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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.