A Plea to Women who Know Girls

“I’m still healing from the injury of self-loathing, of my own enforced body hate”
So many of us are. I loved this. I have a bathroom mirror that I’ve covered in “truths” that I forget about myself when my pants won’t zip or if the hat I wore when I was 22 suddenly looks a bit silly on me. But I am learning to remember. Truths like “I am more than than the size of my waist.” And my personal favorite “being really beautiful always starts from inside of us..always.

Remembering Wesley

When the phone rings very early in the morning, it’s rarely a good thing. I picked it up, and I could barely make out the words my little sister was speaking to me through her tears.  My cousin Wesley Gaddy had died.  He had been taken from us that morning, in those early hours while the rest of us were sleeping.

That familiar road home to Georgia seemed to stretch out longer somehow. The only thing that I wanted to do was to pull into that driveway on Corinth Road and wrap my arms around my family. When I finally got there, it took a minute to get out of the car.  I allowed myself to be pulled back to a different time. A time where days were spent on those red clay hills in front of my grandmother’s house with my cousins. With Wesley.

We have a really big family. My grandparents had eleven children between them, and so I always had a lot of playmates at my grandmother’s house.  We would rake out elaborate dirt houses in the pine thickets. Our imaginary homes didn’t have any furniture, but inside of those made up walls, lots of magical memories were made.  It was a season of innocence that I will treasure forever.  Inside of those walls, we were protected from the knowledge of how hard the world would be for us.  Inside of those walls, we were children who were beginning to dream of what our lives would be like. I am grateful that we had that those moments.

My cousins Wesley and (little) John would sometimes lead our adventures outside of the pine thickets. We weren’t allowed to go play down at the branch behind Wesley’s house, because it was too dangerous. Of course, that made the place that much more appealing to us, and so we would slip behind the old metal barn (long gone now) and navigate the overgrown path down there. It was exciting until our grandmother would get wind of it. The excitement tends to become a little muted when a hickory switch comes into the picture.

There were so many of us, that we all had this wonderful sense of being a part of something far bigger than ourselves. We had nicknames for each other, and if you were lucky enough to get gifted one of those, chances are good that your cousins still call you that.  Not out of some sense that we need to embarrass each other. It’s more of an acknowledgment of the history that we share. It’s a nod to that kid that played in the red clay and pine thickets. It’s a precious reminder of those days that we can’t get back to, but still live on in our hearts.

As the years went by and we grew up, life kind of took us away from each other.  We used to have family reunions and Christmas Eve at my Aunt Hazels house in the springtime.  But Breast Cancer took her from us far too soon.  My cousin Tami worked hard to keep that tradition going. She understands how important it is for us all to remain connected. To once-in-a-while fight our way out of the “busy” and back to a place where we can come together and honor the love we have for one another. Nothing has driven that home to me quite as much as losing Wesley.

I sat beside my cousin Sandy who was always more like a sister to me, and I wondered why we haven’t seen each other in so long. Yes, life get’s busy. But how have I allowed my life to get so busy that I haven’t gone back to see her?  I want to rejoice in the goodness of her life.  I want to be there for her when things are hard. Her children have grown up and I wasn’t there to see it. It saddens me.

One thing that losing him has shown many of us is this: tomorrow is never promised to us. If it arrives, it is nothing short of a gift.  We can’t go back and say the things we want to say to someone who leaves this place before we do. We need to make sure that nothing remains unsaid. We need to be sure that no kindness remains undone.  I know that Wesley knew that I loved him.  I just wished I had said it more. He may not live here with us on this earth anymore, but he will always..always live inside of my heart.ImageImage

I am one of those women.  A woman who tackles  baseboards, walls, and the inside of cabinets with regular frequency.  I notice dents.  Dings.  Scratches.  And I can’t sit down until I have put them right.  I used to tell myself that it was absolutely normal to be this way.  But there came a point when I realized that the “never clean enough” was somehow a symptom of a far deeper problem.  That point came after a melt down that happened as I looked over my “must get this done this week” list.  There was pressure washing, painting,and pulling down some old wall paper just to name a few. So after the melt down ( which was epic by the way) I sat down and really started to think about the “why” of it all. Because the older I get, the more the “why” matters to me.

What I am coming to realize  is that the problem isn’t really a scratch on my kitchen table or grout lines on the tile that are a little too grimy. The obessive cleaning is just my way of avoiding the real work that needs to be done in my life ( and heart).  Quite moments often reveal places in our hearts whicht are caked over with the grim of regret or shame. And I..I can’t clean that. I can’t repair the broken pieces that are heaped in a dustyand forgotton corner in my heart.

But I know the One who can. Next year I plan on spending less time yanking down wall paper and cleaning out closets. I will spend more time inside of the  pages  that are alive with the promises of the One who can do the real cleansing that my life so desperatly needs. I am going to ask Him to pressure wash those grimy windows of my heart so that the light, the beautiful SONlight, can penatrate and scatter any darkness still inside of it.

Walmart.. It’s all the rage.

I love Walmart.  I’ve never been one to understand how people can bash a place that sells chocolate and fishing gear all under the same roof.  I’ve heard all of the arguments.  I am not swayed.  I just love the place. But one thing is for certain:  people in Walmart seem to be a little bit angry.   Even more than that, I would say that they are down right hostile. Ever find yourself launching out of an over crowded aisle only to meet with someone moving in the opposite direction?  I have.  In fact, it happens all the time.  And it should be a situation where a person can just say “please excuse me” and be over it.  But that rarely happens.  The “look” is given.  You know, “the look” that basically says “I would love to mop the floor with your butt but I don’t want to go to jail”.  I get that look all the time.  And it confuses me. I mean, this isn’t the buggy ( southern term for “cart”) derby.  I am not trying to wreck as many carts as I can on my way to the checkout.  It isn’t a personal attack.  But that’s exactly how some people take it.  One lady in particular went so far as to tell me that I needed to ” (expletive) watch where you are going.”  I asked her how I was supposed to see above that mountain of Keystone Light at the end of the aisle, and just like that we found ourselves right in the middle of an all out verbal smack down. She was a bit more animated than I was.  For the record, that is unusual.

I went to Walmart that day to pick up some TP, and it turned into something ugly.  Primal even.  I say primal because I do have, what southerns call, ” good raisin.”  Kids used to hear ” ain’t you got no raisin?'” all of the time when I was growing up.  And it wasn’t something to be proud of.  In fact, if those words were uttered in the presence of a mama..most notably mine, then the switch bush was going to be missing a limb.

But it’s hard to remember that upbringing these days.  Especially in Walmart.  But I do try.  I also make every attempt to turn the other cheek.  But the reality of it was that if I had done that, she would have likely taken a bite out of that one too. And sometimes my flesh gets the best of me.  It’s a work in progress as am I.

I picked up everything on my list and moved to the check out line.  My new buddy from the beer aisle was in the line beside me.  Still mad.  With everything going on in this world, how is that even possible?  Oh, and for the record, she had waaayyyyy more than 20 items in her cart.  You can guess which lane she was in.  <SIGH>

There’s an old Ricky Skaggs song called “Don’t Get Above Your Raisin.”

Don’t get above your raising
Stay sown on earth with me
Now looky here gal you better be yourself
And leave that other stuff on the shelf.

I don’t think I went above my raisin’ on that one.  I’m pretty sure I dipped beneath it.  Note to self: try to behave in a way that is pleasing to both God and your mama.  That way, all of the bases are covered.

Winning!

The bidding outlook wasn’t brilliant for the southern gal that day
The score, in terms of minutes, left but one short inning to play,
And then when bidder one died at first, and Bidder two did the same
A pall-like silence fell upon the players of this” take home those shoes” Ebay Game

Alright, I’ll admit it’s a little dramatic to go editing a  poem that I was forced to learn in grade school to describe an E-bay auction, but helllllo..have ya met me?  I may not be bold enough to wear white in the winter time, but I can take a classical poem and kill it in the name of creativity.  Somehow I don’t think that particular English teacher would approve, but I digress. The shoes? FABulous.  AHmazing.  I loved them from the moment I laid my wandering eyes on them. I found myself counting down the seconds..knowing that she was out there, some anonymous woman with really good taste in shoes, readying herself to steal the game in the final seconds. But not this time. This time..the shoes are mine.

This time:

Somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,

There’s music on the ipod, and her new shoes they fit just right;

And somewhere there is laughter, cause her husband took her out,

But there is no joy for the auction loser as this time she struck out

The Best Laid Plans..

Today, the court officially closed out my first case as a Guardian Ad Litem. Happy ending? This one..was just..an ending. I have no idea what will happen to these children now as the mother has fled the state. Their whereabouts are unknown.

The Guardian Ad Litem office became involved with this family when an instance of domestic violence occurred resulting in the arrest of the infant child’s alcoholic father.  The children were not physically injured, but after meeting with them at school for the first time, it was very evident that they had been through a lot in their young lives. The mother is a drug addict.  Compounding the problem, she’s also newly diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder . Under ideal circumstances, this disorder is very difficult to treat.  And the circumstances for this family were far from ideal.

The oldest child had been functioning in a caregiver capacity for the family for quite sometime.  His childhood?  He didn’t have time to be a child.  He cooked, cleaned, and provided care for both of his brothers.  There was no time for video games, playing outside, or homework.  No hanging out with other kids.   When I asked him if he would like to go and speak with someone about everything going on in his family he said ” Could I go after school?  It would be nice to have a little time for myself. But only if my mom will be ok while I go.”   It took everything in me to not cry in front of him at that moment. I kept it together long enough to make it to my car.

Throughout everything,those children loved their mother fiercely.  Children always see the best in their parents. And it is very important to respect that.

I learned a lot.  The most important thing that I’ll be taking with me from this case is the knowledge that I will rarely feel that I am making a difference.  But  regardless of that, regardless of the outcome, children need a voice.  They deserve a voice.  And many times, too many times, their Guardian Ad Litem is the only voice that they have.

Children will undoubtedly come into contact with many people while their “case” works its way through the system making it hard for them to trust that anyone is working in their best interest. But that is exactly what their guardian does.  Their responsibility, my responsibility, isn’t to the parents. It isn’t to the court.  It is to the child.  Part of that responsibility is getting to know the child, and earning his trust.  It isn’t always easy.  But it’s possible.  Necessary.

I don’t know what will happen to these children now that the file has been closed.  I can only pray that their mother will eventually reach the point where she is willing to admit that she has a problem and seek help.  That she will realize that her children deserve better than what they have been given.  As does she.

As for me, I’ll be onto the next case.  A little wiser, but completely committed.  I read a prayer once that stayed with me.  Because it’s easy to allow our hearts to harden so that all of the sadness around us doesn’t sting as much.  But a hard heart is never a good thing.  Good seeds can’t grow there.  So I pray this prayer, knowing that only through Jesus can I stay soft.

Oh God,Give me strength to live another day.

Let me not turn coward before its difficulties or prove recreant to its duties;

Let me not lose faith in other people;
Keep me sweet and sound of heart, in spite of ingratitude, treachery, or meanness;
Preserve me from minding little stings or giving them;
Help me to keep my heart clean, and to live so honestly and fearlessly that no outward failure can dishearten me or take away the joy of conscious integrity;
Open wide the eyes of my soul that I may see good in all things;
Grant me this day some new vision of thy truth;
Inspire me with the spirit of joy and gladness;
and make me the cup of strength to suffering souls;
in the name of the strong Deliverer, our only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ

Perfectly Imperfect

I read a quote once that said “Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.”  And that sums up quite nicely where I have finally arrived at in my professional and personal life.  I’ve spent the better part of the past five years agonizing over which road I would take.  Pressure.  Oh the pressure.  But where was that pressure coming from?  It certainly isn’t coming from my husband.  He’s most happy with just letting Angela..be Angela.  Wherever that takes me.  So that only leaves one person and she can be quite the taskmaster.  The pressure has been coming from somewhere inside of me.  There is that part of me who believes that a certain degree will tidy all of the proverbial “loose ends” in my life quite nicely. It will make everything just perfect. That really doesn’t make that much sense does it?  Because what we do is not who we are.  And it really took me a long time to figure that out.

I have truly enjoyed my many years working as a nurse.  But nursing has changed so much over the years..and quite frankly, so have I.  There has always been something inside of me left unfilled.  Empty.  I always thought that advancing myself further through my education would bring me to the place where that feeling disappeared.  But that isn’t what happened at all.  The more “educated” I become, the more I find that most of the time, theory prevails over practice.  The less “hands on” transpires.  And one truth I’ve built my life on:  experience trumps theory any day.

School starts for the little man this September, but it’s already started for me. In fact, it’s a life work in progress.   My plans are to continue to aggressively pursue a Masters in “Lessons Learned by Living” for a while. There’s no rush to make a decision. Sometimes..sometimes not making a decision is actually making one. A huge one.  Learning to be ok with that is another lesson entirely.  I’m working on that.

No matter how hard I push, pull, agonize or organize, life will never be my version of perfect, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Who wants to have all glitz and no dirt?  All shine on the outside and no sand on the floor mats?  Every single dish put in place?  All order and no beautifully random chaos?  I don’t.  Not anymore.  I am now a little less concerned with where I will arrive than I am with how I am getting there.  So me and the little man will spend the rest of the summer getting a little dirt on the tires, sand on the floor mats, and leaving dishes in the sink.  Doesn’t that sound kind of..perfect?