Posted in Childhood Memories, Random Writers

A Light Dinner

Random Writers Week 12 Topic: What is your most memorable meal?

I come from a long line of farmers, harvesters both of crops and of animals. In addition to the cows, pigs, chickens, corn, peanuts and fresh vegetables that were grown to sell to others and to markets, my family always had well stocked pantries and freezers with the gathering of these ‘fruits’ of their labors.

Growing up in the south afforded me many opportunities to eat foods that may seem a bit odd to most, especially you Yankees out there. If you know anything at all about southerners, you know they don’t waste anything when it comes time to take an animal to slaughter. Very few ‘pieces and parts’ went unused, so in addition to the regular supply of bacon, pork chops, ground beef, sausages and steaks, there were always other miscellaneous meats to be found. It wasn’t at all uncommon to open the freezer and find some eerily recognizable shaped parcels wrapped in white butcher’s paper and sealed with masking tape. Each package’s contents would be identified with stamped block letters in purple ink.  The largest of these packages usually a contained a head and the oblong skinny packages probably held feet or hooves of some kind.  With or without the stamped words, you just knew what these were.

I could handle the white packages all wrapped up in the freezer but I found it pretty unnerving when I would open a big, boiling pot on the stove to find the snout of a pig staring back at me. I wouldn’t have eaten it if my life depended on it, but I knew my grandpa was just a day away from a new batch of his beloved Hog’s Head Cheese, or Souse, as it was called in our house. To say that most of these southern delicacies grossed me out would be an understatement. I was a super picky eater as a child and I did tend to stick to the more traditional meats that you can find in any grocery store today.

However, there was one dish that I remember with the fondest of memories. It was prepared and served every New Year’s Day by my Granny Walker. It was my grandmother’s world famous Hog Hashlet. Okay, maybe it was only famous to our little immediate family of nine but that doesn’t matter. This meal and this day each year was very special and memorable to me.

I would look forward to this gathering and dinner (that’s what we called the meal at noon) all year long. Not only did my grandmother prepare this dish I loved so much, she would spend hours in the kitchen cooking up all kinds of nom noms for us to enjoy. For my father, she cooked a coconut pie using coconut flavoring because he didn’t like the coconut pieces. For the rest of the family, a coconut pie with the coconut pieces. This was in addition to other desserts like pecan pie and banana pudding. She would make rice to go with the hash and we could always count on some kind of greens being served. We had the customary black eyed peas and she was a tyrant about the fact that everyone had to have at least a spoon of them or else their year would completely go to shit. That may not have been the way she phrased it but we knew that’s what she meant so we devoured our peas, but only after saturating them with homemade pepper sauce.

So, let’s get back to the Hashlet. As a child, I can remember asking what was in this delicious soup and being told it was mostly made with ribs, liver and lights. The meats were boiled in water with seasonings and a few hot peppers. It was mostly just a broth, but when poured over pieces of thinly fried cornbread, it became one of the most heavenly things I have ever eaten. The meat was cut up into bite size pieces. The hog liver was a very course meat that seemed to be served in crumbles more than slices. The lights. Oh the lights. This was my favorite part. I could not wait to shove forkfuls of this spongy, soft, porous meat in my mouth. It wasn’t at all chewy and seemed to just melt when you started eating it.

I did some research before writing this blog post because I wasn’t sure if what we called Hog Hashlet was actually a real dish or just something my grandmother made up so she could use the last of the hog parts. Turns out, this is a very real dish dating back long before my grandmother. I found versions of granny’s recipe in collections from all over the world. As it turns out, one of the dishes I found was called Hasslet. I’m assuming my grandmother’s Hashlet was simply a bastardized renaming of a centuries old dish. I have to admit that little tidbit made me feel less like a pieces and parts eating country bumpkin and more like an international food connoisseur.

I’m not sure at what age I realized I didn’t know what lights were. By the time I found out the more scientific term I was already hooked.  There was no looking back or thinking about the grossness of the idea of eating what I found out was simply the lungs of a pig.

If you haven’t already, please take a moment to read my fellow Random Writers bloggers, Gil and Lindsey‘s posts on their ideas of success.

Posted in Random Writers

I Trust You

Random Writers Week 12 Topic: What is your definition of success?

I was recently reminded of a comment I made to a blog post back in December, 2010.  The post was all about being useful and it’s one of my all time favorite blog posts ever by one of my favorite bloggers ever. I highly recommend you take a moment to read it. After I read the post I wanted to jump up and down because an epiphany hit me like a ton of bricks. After I was finished with my little epiphany moment, I took a few minutes to very mindfully post a comment. Here’s what I said:

During a recent workshop I was asked three questions. What do I want to BE? What do I want to DO? What do I want to HAVE? In one single blog post you have given me the answer that was so hard to come up with during that workshop.

I want to BE useful. What better feeling can one get than helping others, whether it’s providing a copy of a lost email (I never delete anything and everyone knows this about me) or hosting a fundraiser to change someone’s life. Both acts provide such a feeling of grace.

I want to DO useful acts. (see BE useful)

I want to HAVE trust. To have people trust you, to know they can count on you for not only the little things but for the big stuff, too, THAT is the ultimate reward. To know that my friends can turn to me when they need an ear, to know my boss can turn to me when he needs an important project completed on time, to know my coworkers can come to me for advice or assistance with a task, to know these people have trust that I’ll be there, that is the thing I most desire.

My dad was a big stickler about trust. It was something you had to earn and if you ever lost it, it would not be easily granted again. I can remember a few times when I betrayed my father’s trust and he did not forgive that betrayal quickly. Earning his trust again took a really long time and a lot of hard work. My father’s thoughts on this were so instilled in me that I’ve carried them with me my whole life.

I strive every day to do those things which inspire trust in me. However, I’m an over-committer. This means that I have a tendency to agree to do more than I have the time, energy or financial means to do. In most cases I can make it work but there are still times when I fall short of my commitments. I know that this may cause someone to trust me less and when that happens, it tends to eat away at me. Even when my failures to follow through aren’t significant, I really beat myself up for it.

People’s definition of success can be so varied. Some people define success in terms of financial stability or by their children’s happiness. For others, success can be making it through the day without a drink or a cigarette. For me, it’s hearing three little words – “I trust you.” I’ve always valued other people’s trust in me and my actions, and this is something by which I define my success as a human being. After all, if my word doesn’t mean anything, then I’ve failed others and I’ve failed myself.

If you haven’t already, please take a moment to read my fellow Random Writers bloggers, Gil, Jeff and Lindsey‘s posts on their ideas of success.

Posted in Childhood Memories, Random Writers

Front Porches and Supper Tables

Random Writers Week 11 Topic: What is one thing you miss from your childhood?

This has been a really tough week for me. I had to travel back home to Alabama to be with my family during a very difficult ordeal. My 20 year old cousin was killed five years ago, and the man responsible for her death finally faced a jury this week. The trial was not easy and sometimes brutal in its honesty, but we endured because we had to.  That’s what families do for each other. We are there. No questions, no regrets.

While I sat in that courtroom, surrounded by only three and sometimes only two family members, it got me to thinking. I realized just how alone I felt, and I began to reminisce about the times when I felt the least lonely. I recognized those times were during my childhood when I was surrounded by my family. There was a sense of invincibility that being surrounded by family provided back then, and I realized how much I missed that feeling that nothing or no one can penetrate a wall created by kin folk.

I wondered in that courtroom what it would have looked like 20, 30, or 40 years ago. I wondered if all of the grandparents, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, and uncles would have come to lend their support and strength to those who needed it. I pictured a room filled with overalls and work boots and maybe even an apron or two as supporters left their tractors, cows, domino games, fishing poles, sewing machines, and kitchens to come hold a hand or wipe a tear. I’m a realist and I know that people have obligations such as jobs, children, and parents to take care of. I know times are so different now and that anyone who could have been there with us would have. I hope that my words don’t come across as judgmental or bitter because that is not my intention. I don’t hold any hard feelings for those who couldn’t be there. Those three days were filled with disturbing testimony, and I wouldn’t have wished anyone the pain we felt as we listened on.

When I was a kid, I lived for family get-togethers. I lived in a pretty secluded part of the country, so there were no other children except my cousin and my sister to play with. Sleepovers with classmates were a rarity. Play dates with other children just didn’t happen. This left me craving the times when our family would gather on a front porch, around a kitchen table, or on a fish pond. For me, these times were the best of times.

I fondly remember the New Year’s Eve parties at the Baileys each year. This was by far the highlight of my social life. There was also the annual Easter gathering and Egg Hunt at the Walker pond.  Any time someone had a long lost child come for a visit, we got together. When someone had a wedding or a baby, we held showers. When someone had a birthday, we gathered to celebrate it. If there was a holiday, there was a supper table filled with food for aunts and uncles and cousins to enjoy. As bedtime came around, the blankets and extra pillows were pulled from closets and pallets of children covered floors and hallways. When someone had a tragedy or a death in the family, we circled the wagons and made sure that family in need was taken care of through whatever hardship they were suffering.

I was brought up to believe that nothing was more important than family and spending time with them. I miss that sense of comfort in knowing that no matter what we did, these people would love and care for us our whole lives. And then I grew up. Other things became more important to me. There were boys and friends and jobs and school and ultimately, distance.  I have aunts and uncles I haven’t seen or spoken to in years. If you had told me as a kid that I would not see these people for so long, I would have insisted that you didn’t know MY family. My family would never allow so much time to pass between visits. It just wouldn’t happen. Except, it has.

I know times are different. All of us have grown up and have gone on to create our own families with new ties in new cities, not to mention new relationships and traditions. I have friends whom I cherish as much as if we shared the same DNA. These new families and friends are what make up my family structure now, but I will never forget those childhood memories.

I know that I am the most guilty of letting those early family ties just unravel around me. I have found that in my darkest times, my family has not been the people I’ve turned to. I don’t know why that came to be, but I vow today to make a change in my life. I may not live in the same city as the family by whom I was surrounded as a child, but I will let them know I think about them, that I pray for them, that I miss them.

If you haven’t already, please take a moment to read my fellow Random Writers bloggers, Gil, Jeff and Lindsey‘s posts on the things they miss most from their childhood.

Posted in Random Writers

Hero of Hope

Random Writers Week 8 Topic: Write about someone you consider to be a hero.

My original plan for this topic was to write about a woman who has been a huge inspiration to me for over a year now. That woman is Stacey Monk, and I’m pretty sure I would follow her to the ends of the earth if she asked me to. The goodness and beauty and love in her heart is surpassed only by the light that she radiates to those around her. She is a bright, shining soul that I’m honored to call friend.

When I first met Stacey and her now fiancé, Sanjay, in early 2010, I was taken aback a little. I’m not a person who sees auras and I’m not even sure I fully believe in the idea of auras, but for that day, I did. I’m not sure what it was but I came home that night and told Gil I thought our lives might be different because of this woman I just met. That night I learned a little of the story of Stacey and how she and Sanjay started the non-profit Epic Change a few years earlier. I had no idea that night just how impacted my life would be.

Over the next 18-20 months, I would work with Stacey and support her dream to build a school in Tanzania. I would devote time and money and crazy amounts of love into a project that meant nothing more to me than the fact that it meant something to Stacey. It was also during this time that I began to understand just why this school was so important to her. For Stacey, she had found hope after a devastating tragedy, all because of one woman and her dream. While in Africa, Stacey had found Mama Lucy, and in doing so, found hope in her life and her world.

Mama Lucy Kamptoni is a mom who had to take her children to neighboring Kenya in order for them to get an education. After leaving three children in the care of strangers, she knew something needed to change so that other mothers and fathers did not have to do this for their children. In 2003, Mama Lucy told her husband she was going to take the money from her small chicken business to rent the house next door, and that she was going to start a school. And that’s exactly what she did. After hiring a teacher, she posted notes throughout her town and in churches that she was starting a school; and the children came. Six showed up on the first day. By the end of the week, there were 10. The children came and came and came.

Mama Lucy continued to educate as many children as she could in that rented house until one day she was told the house and land would be sold and she would need to find a different place to teach the children. This news came shortly after Stacey and Sanjay had visited and volunteered at Shepherds Junior School. When Stacey and Sanjay heard this news, they knew they had to help. Oh, and help they did. Through some of the most successful social media fundraising campaigns ever, Mama Lucy got her new land and a new classroom. Soon, more new classrooms were built. When the need for a dormitory to house some of the children was announced, more funding was found.

Mama Lucy had a dream of educating the children of her country, and what began with six children is now 503. What was a small rented house is now a Pre and Primary school with multiple classrooms, a computer lab, a dormitory and a staff of 47 educators and administrative support.

I asked Mama Lucy if she found that people told her she couldn’t do this? She responded with an emphatic “Ohhhhh YES. How did you know?” I knew because it’s often our first reaction when someone throws some farfetched idea out there. I can only imagine people’s reactions to her dream. “Who is this chicken farmer to think she can build a school?” I never got a chance to elaborate with her, but in my next face to face conversation with Mama Lucy, I firmly intend to find out what her responses have been to those people. She obviously didn’t let any of those Negative Nellie’s slow her down in pursuing her dream. Throughout all of this, Mama Lucy has never given up. She’s had her struggles and each time, she has found a way, either through her own hard work or through the sharing of love from around the globe or from some ginormous combination of both.

I met Mama Lucy on Tuesday. I also met two of her amazing students, Leah Albert and Gideon Gidori. Earlier in the day I had posted a blog about how I felt a darkness creeping into my life. It was just one of those bad mood feelings that I couldn’t shake.  Within moments of meeting these three people, the bright light shining from their souls left me blinded. I was no longer consumed with my own feelings of hopelessness. I had been filled to the brim with two four letter words: HOPE and LOVE. You can see both so clearly in Mama Lucy and in these kids. I have no doubt the hope Leah and Gideon have is a direct result of Mama Lucy’s perseverance and unwavering dedication to love these children and provide an  education so that they can grow up to be pediatricians, astronauts, or anything their beautiful hearts hope to be.

Mama Lucy is my hero. She had a dream and she made it come true. Now, because of that, 503 children can also hope for their dreams to come true as well. The thing with Mama Lucy is, not only does she channel the ability to hope into these children’s lives, she also showers them with unconditional love. By doing that, she has also flooded my world with love. For this reason, I can’t help but put that love right back out into this majestic universe we live in. How amazing is it to be filled with so much love that you HAVE to share it with others?

If you haven’t already, please take a moment to read my fellow Random Writers bloggers, Gil, Jeff and Lindsey‘s posts on the changes they wish to see in the world.

Posted in Random Writers

I Imagine

Random Writers Week 8 Topic: With a miliary theme in mind, what is one change you would like to see in the world?

I go to great lengths to keep my blog as politically neutral as I can and still be true to my authentic feelings. I don’t like political discussions and just the thought of getting in the middle of one makes me queasy. I watch Gil get in heated back and forth exchanges on Facebook and on his blog and I always give him the look. You know the look, right? That “Why can’t you just let it go?” or the “We’re going to lose friends over this, aren’t we?” look. If you ask me how I feel about a specific topic, I’ll probably hem and haw and pretend to forget the question and then start rambling about my latest CD purchase or an unfinished craft project. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have an opinion; it just means I don’t want to share it an ultimately have to defend it.

Well, this week’s Random Writers topic is forcing me to open up a can of worms that I never thought I would open, and it’s going to leave me totally wide open to criticism and backlash that I know I’ll probably regret. However, this blog is about me being honest with who I am and how I feel. So, here it goes.

In keeping with our Veteran’s Day theme, the one change I would like to see in the world is that the need for our military ARMED forces would simply vanish. I hate this war we’ve been fighting for a decade. I hated the war before that. I hate reading about wars in faraway lands, and I hate hearing about the wars our grandfathers fought.

Ok, there’s that. Now, I hope you’ll give me a chance to explain. First and foremost, I have more respect for the 18 year old Grunt than I do for any member of Congress or the Senate. I think those that volunteer for military service are the bravest men and women out there, and I am grateful every day for their service. I will support our solders, airmen, seamen, etc. as long as the sun rises and the sun sets. I’m in awe of their fortitude, perseverance, dedication and sacrifices. I could not do what they do, and I recognize I don’t have to because of their service to our country. But my feelings boil down to this:


I hate violence. I hate the idea of the physical and mental torture these men and women are asked to endure. I do not believe that what we are doing is for the greater good of us as Americans. I’m tired of reading about soldiers dying and funerals and families ripped apart for nothing. What are we gaining by these deaths? And even worse, what about those that come home alive but are dying on the inside? The psychological effects of war on young women and men whose brains aren’t even fully developed yet are making the surviving warriors wish to join their fallen comrades. Teenagers are coming home from some God-awful place without arms and legs and ears and eyes, and I’m just sick of it. I don’t want to see another war-ravaged soul have to explain why they have no ears or nose or fingers because they were burned off in some attack half-way around the globe. I want them to come home, and I want them to never have to go back. Ever.

I recently read the Tao Te Ching, which literally means the way, strength/virtue and scripture. Even though this book was written over 2,500 years ago, its message is just a relevant today, as evidenced by the passage below.  

“Whenever you advise a ruler in the way of Tao, counsel him not to use force to conquer the universe. For this would only cause resistance. Thorn bushes spring up whenever the army has passed. Lean years follow in the wake of a great war. Just do what needs to be done. Never take advantage of power.
Achieve results, but never glory in them.
Achieve results, but never boast.
Achieve results, but never be proud.
Achieve results, because this is the natural way.
Achieve results, but not through violence.

Force is followed by loss of strength. This is not the way of the Tao. That which goes against the Tao comes to an early end.”

I imagine a world where our militias are providing aid to those in need, rather than waging war on a battlefield. I imagine a world where those who are tearing down tyrannical regimes, could someday build bridges of hope instead. I imagine a world where the only war we fight is against the hungry, the sick and the poor.  I imagine a world where no parent, sister, brother, son, daughter, cousin, friend, coworker, grandparent, aunt, or uncle will ever be told their loved one died in battle. I imagine a world in which peace, love and compassion for our fellow man is enough.

I imagine a world in which the bravest men and women of our country are no longer dying for it, but truly living in it.

If you haven’t already, please take a moment to read my fellow Random Writers bloggers, Gil, Jeff and Lindsey‘s posts on the changes they wish to see in the world.

Posted in Random Writers

Brick by Passive Brick

Random Writers Week 7 Topic: What personal prisons have you built out of fear?

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. ~ Dale Carnegie

A few weeks ago I received an email from a very dear friend that contained the following statement: “…I feel awful and I avoid you because I haven’t been a better ….”. My heart went into an instant tailspin. I wanted so badly to reach through my computer and hug this person because I could so empathize with what they were feeling. I could empathize because I have the same ‘flight’ response when I know I’ve either done a bad thing or haven’t done something I should have. I avoid situations where I know I’m going to be scolded, reprimanded, belittled or punished, even if only in my own mind. I am truly my own worst prison guard.

Many years ago I created a horrible situation for myself, and others, because I could not overcome the fear I had created in my mind.  When my ex-husband and I decided to divorce, it was not your typical marital dissolution. We lived together through a separation, coordinated ‘date nights’ and who would get to use the house for those nights, and even chatted openly about our respective new dating lives. We were friends who had love and respect for each other, just not as husband and wife. We also evenly distributed our assets and debt. And, there was a considerable amount of credit card debt to be split up.

I eventually moved out of the house and in with a roommate. The roomie and I rented a house that was by far more than either of our budgets allowed, and the financial stress, among other things, resulted in me leaving that situation and moving into an apartment on my own. As a result, I began to not only use my existing credit cards to pay regular household bills, I also accumulated more credit cards and used them to pay for all of my extracurricular activities and my completely unnecessary purchases. This vicious cycle continued for more than a year and while my income did increase, so did my debt.

I was in trouble. I was terrified. I knew that some of the credit cards I maxed out were in my ex-husband’s name. I couldn’t tell him. I would think about telling him and my fear of his response kept me silent.  The collection phone calls came with such frequency that I became deaf to the ringing phone. I disconnected my home phone in an effort to avoid the reminders. I ignored letters and emails. The more dire the situation became, the more I ignored it.

Unfortunately, my ex-husband found out what was going on from one of those credit card companies when they called him to collect on my bad debt. I could not hide anymore. My world came down around me and my fear grew even more menacing than before. I crawled into such a dark place that I didn’t see light for a really long time. That call from my friend – my ex – was the last time I ever spoke to him. A few days later, I filed for bankruptcy.

I lost a great friend when I betrayed my ex-husband, but more than that, I lost a family. Not only did he hate me, but so did most of his family.  To this day, I think they still do. I loved his mom like she was my own and I lost that. I lost four beautiful nieces and some great friends in my sister-in-laws. My fear cost me so much. If I had just acknowledged to someone I was in trouble, maybe they would have helped me. I was just too scared to tell anyone. I was too embarrassed to admit I had been careless and irresponsible.

My fear of admitting my mistakes, of confessing my ‘crimes’, put me in a prison that only bankruptcy could get me out of. The problem is that even though I was released from the prison of my debtors, I believe I will forever be on proverbial probation and parole. I live with the guilt of my reckless actions and the ensuing denial of my problems. To this day, I can’t shake the sick feeling I get in the pit of my stomach when I think about it.

I don’t live my life with my head in the sand anymore, but I still struggle, just like my friend above, when I know I should confess some action, or lack thereof. My prison walls were not built in a day but I did lay each and every brick all by myself. My fear that the people in my life would judge me, berate me, criticize me, and even not love me anymore, kept me from coming clean about the fact that I screwed up and needed help. I look back now and can’t imagine anyone in my life at that time turning their back on me if I had just acted and said something. The quote from Dale Carnegie is spot on for my situation. My fear led to my inaction, which led to more problems, more fears, and more doubt in myself and those around me.  

I like to think that I live my life in a more honest and straightforward way now. I’m no longer afraid of other people’s judgment of me when I screw up.  We all make mistakes and we all need a little help every now and then. We just have to let go of our fears and ask for it.

Posted in Random Writers

My Mom’s Second Chance

Random Writers Week 6 Topic: Who would you give a second chance to?

When we selected our random topics and this one was chosen, it was quite serendipitous that it fell on this week. Once I saw the week and the anniversary that also falls during on this week, I asked Gil if he would swap days with me. I knew I would want to write and post my blog on Monday, the six year anniversary of my mom’s second chance. I also knew that I was going to deviate from the topic slightly by talking about a second chance that has already taken place, and not a hypothetical future second chance.

On October 24, 2005, my mom’s house was raided by the police. I was more than 350 miles away when I got the call from my sister that police were at my mom’s, an ambulance had just rolled up and they wouldn’t let my sister near the place. She told me that some deputy told her that my mom had a seizure shortly after the surprise invasion and that she was fine, but the rescue squad had been called as a precaution. My body’s physical reaction to all of this was almost more than I could stand. And I can’t begin to describe the sense of helplessness I felt in those first few hours.

It was no surprise to my sister or me as to why the police chose her house for this late night raid. After my father’s death, my mom had become involved with some less than upstanding characters and drugs became a big part of her life. So big in fact that many times over the years I felt that my mom often chose drugs over me, my sister and my nephew.

Throughout that night there were several more calls with my sister as she learned bits and pieces of what was happening. The hardest part for me to deal with was the mental image of my handcuffed mother being put in the backseat of a police car. I spent the rest of the night planning my early morning trip back to Alabama. That six hour drive was filled with question after question to God about how this could happen to her and to us and what I was supposed to do next.

I drove straight to the county jail and requested to see my mom. They brought her in and sat her on the other side of that thick plate of glass where we were only able to communicate via a telephone handset hanging on the wall. At first she was happy to see me, but that mood didn’t linger for very long. She started making demands that I refused to honor. I asked questions she refused to answer or at least provided answers that were completely opposite of what I needed to hear at the time. The conversation turned really nasty and hateful, and I can assure you there was no love or compassion flowing through that pretend telephone line by the time I hung up that handset. I left her there and went to talk to the sheriff and an attorney. And that’s how the next couple of days went; sheriff, attorney, family, banker, attorney, sheriff, back and forth while we negotiated the release of my mom. She was brought into one of the meetings, complete with an orange jumpsuit and wrist and ankle cuffs. I can assure you this is not a vision I had ever in my wildest imagination expected to see. I’m even more sure it’s not one that my mom expected to find herself in either.

After a few days, an agreement was reached. I went to the jail with some documents that my mom would need to sign. Basically, land she owned would be sold in order to make bail. She would have to sign a power of attorney to me so that I could take care of everything for her. When this was presented to her, she at first refused. To say she was defiant is a massive understatement. More nasty words were spoken but in the end, she signed the documents. I returned with the bail money and she was released to me. Part of the terms of her release was that I would get her out of state. This was not a safety issue but one of concern. Everyone in her life knew that if she stayed in Alabama she may not make the right choices and revert to her illegal and destructive lifestyle. The sheriff, my family, and I all agreed that we had to get her as far away as possible and that’s exactly what I did. During the night, we packed anything that she might need in the coming weeks and left first thing the next morning. My plan was to get her back to Tampa and find a treatment facility so she could get the help she needed. I was so very fortunate to not only find a decent place, but it was also one that accepted her insurance so there was no financial burden on either of us. This place was not only going to treat any addictions she may struggle with, but they had a staff of psychologists who would be working with her on the root causes of the addictions. THIS was the most important thing to me.

Over the next few months, mom worked on herself while I worked on the legal issues we had. My mom had never been the target of that raid and the charges against her were mostly because drugs were found in her home. I spent hours and hours communicating with her attorney and the sheriff’s office, and in the end, one felony charge was dismissed while she was able to complete a pre-trial diversion to have the remaining charges removed from her record. Her criminal record only reflects an arrest but no convictions. We were able to use the remaining money from the land sale to pay her fines and fees and after two years, it was over and completely behind us.

There were so many times I wanted to walk away from her, just like I felt she had done to me for several years. For so long I prayed for her to come back to us and to leave that life behind. There were screaming matches and long periods of silence. People say that someone has to hit rock bottom before they can see what’s happening to them. Well, I can tell you that my mom did just that. She was left homeless and penniless and could have easily found herself in a different set of circumstances.

My mom was blessed with a second chance from the legal system by being allowed to complete a series of steps to have the charges wiped out. The mental health system gave her a second chance by helping her to work through some childhood issues and events that were an underlying source of years of pain. Our family came together to help support my mom with love and prayer or financially when it was desperately needed. We could have easily shut her out and turned our backs on her, and Lord knows she certainly gave us plenty of reasons in the years following my father’s death.

During those years that my mom was spiritually far away from us, I often played out the scenario of walking away from her and never looking back. I thought about all of the hateful and loveless things I would say as I kicked her out of my life. I was so angry and filled with resentment. However, when push came to shove, the easiest choice I have ever made was to give my mom a second chance.  Looking back at the past six years, I haven’t  regretted it for a minute.

Posted in Random Writers

That Was Some Crazy Ass Thinking

Random Writers Week 5 Topic: What is one thing you felt strongly about but changed your mind?)

When I first started my blog I only knew that I wanted to use it as a way to discover my authentic self and simply to get more real with my internal thoughts and feelings. I wasn’t at all sure of where I was going to go with it and I have to tell you, I’ve really surprised myself with some of the things I’ve written. There have been times I sat down to write one thing with a clearly defined conclusion in mind and ended up somewhere completely different, a thousand miles from where I started. For this reason, I feel that I’m a long way from completing this journey but I know I’m on the exact path I was meant to take.

Herein lies my problem. When I started this blog I had in no way intended for it to be a blog about God or faith or religion. I know there were a few posts back in January and a couple sprinkled in since, but for the most part, I would intentionally leave God out of my writing if I could. I had this very strong belief that if I wrote too much about my faith, that it would turn people away. I felt that way because of some of my own ideas toward others who openly and loudly proclaimed their love for Christ.

Let me explain a little bit. There have been times in my life when I’ve been surrounded by ‘in your face’ Christians. I’ve had family members, coworkers and acquaintances who only spoke in a language where every other word was God or Jesus or Heaven or hell. I found myself in situations and conversations with these people that left me feeling angry and this would typically result in an eye roll and quick exit. I think it was these situations early on in my adult life that turned my faith inward and I became much more reserved in what I shared about my beliefs. I know that God wants us to share His word but I was too busy hiding from it to make it known it to anyone else.

There was also a big part of me that was scared to share my beliefs with others.  I always felt that I wasn’t a very educated Christian so, rather than find myself in situations where I had to back up my beliefs, I just remained quiet. Even though I grew up in church, I don’t feel like I retained much of the knowledge that was shared with me by teachers and preachers. I didn’t grow up reading and studying the bible in a way that I should have and by early adulthood, I very rarely ever stepped foot inside a church except for weddings, funerals and Easter services. I just couldn’t explain why I believed and refused to put myself in a circumstance that required it. I found if they were challenging me, they wanted definitive proof and most people just didn’t accept “because the Bible says so” as proof of God.

It’s so sad but these feelings have followed me into my Forty’s and I didn’t even realize it until recently. I never talked about how I felt and that I was intentionally excluding my faith from my blog and my journey to find my authentic self. Well, that’s not true. Back in May I wrote a post about addiction. Near the end of the post I mentioned ways someone might help another who is struggling. When Gil read this post he actually called me out on how I didn’t mention prayer. I had typed it, then deleted it. I told him I had done that and how I didn’t want my blog to become one of those ‘crazy Christian’ blogs. I explained that I was concerned about turning people off with an overtly religious sentiment. I’m sure I spewed out some other lame rationales for not including the suggestion of prayer but I can’t remember them all now.

What it boils down to is that I felt very strongly about not turning my blog into something that might turn a so-so Christian or a non-believer away.


What kind of crazy-ass thinking was that? THAT is exactly who I should be sharing my faith with. Can you believe how much I allowed the devil to creep into my thoughts and hold me back from sharing a message as powerful as the love of God? So, here’s the thing. I’ve come to realize that I was writing for who I was before. Now, I’m writing for who I want to become. And that person is someone who is proud to say that I love Christ and I’m trying to live a life that would make Him proud. I’m not always successful but that’s the beauty of God’s grace. He will forgive me when I mess up.

I’m not planning to change the way I write my blog but I’m certainly not going to censor myself when I feel God speaking through me. Gone are the thoughts that I need to justify my faith in God by spitting out scripture and passages from the bible to back it up. I’m not teaching Sunday School. I’m sharing my story and my story doesn’t exist without God’s grace. I’m writing this blog for me and I cherish those of you who continue to read each post and those who pop in and out when you can. The last thing I want to do is turn someone away from me or from God because I write too much about my faith journey. But, what if the last thing I do is turn someone toward God because I shared my story?

To read about how my fellow Random Writers’ changed their minds, please check out thier blogs (Gil, Jeff, Lindsey) or read them all at the Random Writers website.

Posted in Random Writers

My Greatest Discovery

Random Writers Week 4 Topic: What is the greatest discovery you have ever made? (In honor of Columbus Day this week)

As a child, I attended a small southern Baptist church where a Sunday with 35 people in attendance was a good day. For me, church meant Sunday School, then preaching on Sunday mornings, Sunday night services, and let’s not forget Wednesday night’s prayer meetings. Let’s just say that as a child I attended church a lot but I was never really present. And when I was there, most of the lessons I heard were sermons preached to adults. Even though I heard what the preacher was saying to us, I’m not sure I ever truly understood what it any of it meant. At some point during these sermons, I completely missed the message about having a personal relationship with God.

My greatest discovery has been the discovery of my love affair with God. Yes, I said ‘love affair’. I read a book a few years ago called The Sacred Romance and it changed my life. (I invite you to read a blog I wrote back in January that tells a little more about just how this book affected me.) I took the message from that book and applied it to everything I had learned in that small southern Baptist church. I took those previous teachings and turned them all upside down, shook ‘em up sideways and out spilled this phenomenal new view of what it means to have a relationship with God. And not just what it means but that God is and has been romancing my heart all of my life. He has been fighting for my love and I’ve been too blind to see it.

Besides the book, there are two other things that I found on my path to this incredible discovery. The first was Relevant Church. For years I said that visiting a building once a week would not bring me any closer to God, I knew him and I loved him. It wasn’t until I discovered (through a friend) Relevant that I found out just how incredibly wrong I had been. For the first time in my life, I look forward to Sunday mornings. I crave the message that our pastor, Paul Wirth, is going to deliver. He has never failed me. Maybe I should I say God has never failed to deliver His intended message to me through Paul. Every Sunday is like the biggest Oprah a-ha moment ever. I am more often than not moved to tears by witnessing Paul’s love for God. It is impossible to deny God’s love for us when you watch what He does through Paul.

The final stepping stone on my journey to discovering God’s love for me has been the music of the band Needtobreathe (discovered through Relevant and a friend). I struggle to find words to describe how their music affects me. I’ve never been a fan of Christian music and Needtobreathe doesn’t promote themselves as a Christian band but there is so much spiritual emotion in their lyrics that it’s almost impossible for me not to find God when I listen to them. Here are a few samples of lyrics from a few different songs:

I’m giving you my heart to break again, Oh I’m leaving you a way to get back in, Return to me ~ from the song Return

I want you to know, I’m leaving to let you go, And someday we’ll walk upon, The streets of gold ~ from the song Streets of Gold

If you’re lost and lonely, broken down, bring all of your troubles, and come lay ‘em down ~ from the song Lay ‘Em Down

This new discovery of the old teachings from that small, country church Sunday school classroom has changed my life in unimaginable ways. I’ve always known that God sent His Son to die for my sins but it wasn’t until I witnessed Paul Wirth standing in front of all of us, tears streaming down his face, that I felt it. I truly got it in a way that had never been clear to me before. Today, I sit in church on Sunday mornings and I am more present than I’ve ever been.

I feel that sometimes people think of making discoveries as being something grand and on the scale of a Christopher Columbus type of discovery. Sometimes, a discovery can be as simple as finding new meaning in old ideas.

To read about my fellow Random Writers’ discoveries, please check out thier blogs (Gil, Jeff, Lindsey) or read them all at the Random Writers website.

Posted in Random Writers

Ask Seek Knock

Random Writers Week 3: Write about a closed door that led to an open door.

Gil and I spent the majority of 2009 trying to buy a house. It was a crazy rollercoaster ride of emotions that often left us beat down inside. On October 8, 2009, Gil blogged about our journey and two family’s lives would never be the same again. I will ask that you take five minutes and read it so that you understand what we went through and how we got to where we are now.

Go ahead…I’ll wait.





Did you hear that door closing on our dream? It didn’t just close, it was slammed in our faces.

Now, travel back in time with me to the evening Gil posted that blog. Gil was still reeling from the anger he felt towards SunTrust Bank and I was still wiping away tears that wouldn’t stop flowing. As he mentioned in his blog, we both agreed the best thing to do would be to wait until 2010 and start anew. That would give us (me) some time to heal from the shattering heart break this whole experience had dealt us. As we sat there talking about our plan for the future, I made a statement that we kind of laughed off since we both knew it was a dream outside our scope of reality.

Through my drying tears, and in an effort to lighten the heavy mood, I had jokingly said, “Besides, I think we should just wait until we can afford to buy Andy and Melissa’s (A&M) house.”

It was a comment made in jest and we both knew that that the home owned by our friends was just too expensive for us. We laughed about how awesome that would be, but seeing how it was terribly outside our budget, we brushed the idea aside and forgot about it.

We forgot about it for 12 hours.

It was exactly 12 hours later that my phone rang and our lives were shaken to the core, in only a way that God can shake you.

Here’s how the conversation went:


                “Hey, it’s Melissa. I read Gil’s blog last night. I’m so sorry.”

                ‘Thanks. It sucks but we’ll figure something out.”

                “I wanted to call to ask you what it would take to get you guys in our house?”

This is the point when I had to pick myself up off the floor of my office.

                “Ummm, move out.” I sarcastically responded.

I knew there was no way we could afford to buy their house.

                “I’m serious,” she said.

They wanted out.

A&M had been trying to sell their house for a couple of years, but were unsuccessful due to the housing market crash and an absentee real estate agent. They both hated their commute so they were trying to sell in order to move closer to their jobs. Also, they had a longer term plan of moving back to the Carolinas, which they considered ‘home’. Melissa and I had hours of conversations each time a potential buyer came by to see it and their disappointment when nothing ever came of it. We talked about how much they had done to make it more appealing to a potential buyer. Weeks and months went by without so much as a nibble. They finally gave up and took it off the market, resolved to just stay put until the market leveled out.

We wanted in.

I had dreamed of living in that house since my first visit in 2004. I can’t explain why I loved A&M’s home so much but I did. It has an unusual floor plan that makes it appear deceivingly larger than the square footage number indicates. It has a nice pool and lanai and beautiful landscaping in the front. There are enough bedrooms and bathrooms that we can all spread out when we need to or we can come together in one of several common living areas. It’s in a great location that is central to the North Tampa/Wesley Chapel area and is only minutes from the kids’ mom’s home and work. Gil loved the house, too. We had several conversations over the years about how much we would love to live there and when it was put on the market, I think we both spent a little time in our personal dream worlds imagining what it would be like to live there.

Melissa and I continued our conversation and formulated a plan. As I hung up the phone, I hit the floor. I literally, right here in my office for anyone to see, hit my knees in a state of thankful prayer unlike any I had uttered before. I was so overcome by emotion and filled with so much of God’s love and grace that I could barely dial the phone to call Gil and tell him what God had just done. As I tried to get myself together and explain it, he began to feel all of the same emotions that I felt. In that moment, we shared the awesomeness of God.

A few days later we all met over dinner and drinks. In the next 4 weeks, A&M had leased a new apartment downtown, moved into it, and Gil and I had moved into our dream home. We don’t own it outright just yet, but for now we are all more than happy with our lease-to-purchase agreement.

A&M have since moved from their downtown Tampa apartment to her family home in South Carolina. I often wonder if Gil and I went through what we did so that my friend Melissa could make her dream to move ‘home’ a reality. I wonder if our door closing was her door opening. Either way, we both saw an opening and we stepped through it to realize our dreams.