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Sunday, August 14, 2011

My Sweet Sweet Drew

I had a knock at the door and  standing in front of me was a fellow with dark glasses shorts and tall black boots and a key chain wallet attached to his belt, he said, looking at the ground, no greeting, no hello, just, "I am Drew, Ms Betty's son, you go lay down and don't you worry about a thing, I will sit right here for as long as you need me to." You see I had been up for four days straight too afraid to sleep, I had a neighbor who had been cooking and dealing meth, basically, in my house. We shared a house that had 2 units in it, so we were in very close quarters. Kenny, my husband, was still in Florida and was several months out from coming to the Western mountains of North Carolina. What many people don't know is that there is an epidemic of meth use in the remote hills of this beautiful country setting. The kids and I had found this wonderful house, actually an old barn converted into rental units, and we worked hours on end to make it a home, however, the couple in the small front rental was a strange sight.  They were the kind of people who you always see on the fringe, they were down-trodden, sad in spirit, and you could tell they were oppressed by life, but we had no idea what was really going on in the late hours of the night.  What we did know was that from around one in the morning until around four in the morning there was a horrible stench from their eternal fire-building and they had a flow of traffic, at these odd hours, in and out of their apartment. By shear accident a local, young cable installer had gone into the basement and came back up to our apartment in absolute fear! He went on to tell me he thought there was a meth cook on the property, and I immediately knew it was not Me! The police had to follow protocol so I had about 2 weeks that  I was left on my own, before they could make an arrest. So that is what brought Andrew Larry Swift into my life. From the moment I meet Drew I knew he was different, he didn't quite fit in, he would never make eye contact, and was always slow to speak, but when he told you something I always felt somehow I could count on it. I went up stairs and called Kenny and told him, I really like Ms. Betty's son, I had a special feeling about him, he was different, and I knew that Drew, probably  his entire life had  never really fit in, but I chatted him up, like I always do, and very quickly we became friends, as best he could. As he left that day he gave me his cell number and said if I needed anything, day or night, just call him and he would be right back over there. You see right back over there was 2 hours, we where in North Carolina and Drew lived in Tennessee, so it wasn't like he lived across town, it was 2 hours. I have always had an affinity for people like Drew, almost since I was a little girl, it is so ironic that God would give me a child with Aspergers, it seems as though he was preparing my heart for the day I would have to fight for my child to be accepted into a cruel and harsh world, if you don't fit into a norm that says this is how you should look or act or learn or speak. So buddy, when Wyatt was born, I was raring to go, fighting gloves on, ready to knock on any door I had to,  not accepting no as an answer, I was determined to find him the best help he needed. I knew it would be a difficult journey his entire life. He was mine and I was not ashamed of his inabilities, I saw the beauty in his heart and how because of his lack in one area he had this uniqueness about him in other areas. He had captured my heart. And just let me say, for the first 12 years of his life it was a daily fight. A heartbreaking fight. I have never felt such physical pain as I have felt over the pain I have felt seeing his heartbreak over not being accepted. These children, these adults, want friendship so badly, it eats at their very soul, but just don't have the skills to do it, And what is so sad is, it is not something you can teach them. It is in their very fibers, they try and I have seen Wyatt get better but it is just so hard, social settings are extremely stressful for them. They are just the odd ones out. Usually the ones by themselves or the ones trying to make conversations, but the other kids, or even adults, are thinking, wow this kid's weird.  Usually they are very intelligent so what they talk about alot of times no one understands.They blurt out things, their timing is off, their jokes are very funny, but they are strapped to the history books they read or the computer games they play, so it is hard for people not familiar with those kinds of things, to make sense of.  High numbers also are musically inclined, Drew was in a band, which seems like an oxymoron, but I think there is a safety behind an instrument, the same as I see my son when he plays games on-line and he wears a headset, the safety is in not facing someone, again hiding behind something.  These children have a purity of heart that  seems to link them all together. I suspected from the beginning  Drew might have these problems. Well, over the month I continued my friendship with Drew and he made several trips over, at his own expense, one night he sat in his car all night, he did not know I knew he was there, watching over me and the kids. I had a problem with the bronco and who did I call but, Drew, and who came but, Drew. I would tease him, and say he needed to charge me a consultation fee, and he would just look away and laugh, but I could tell Drew felt accepted at my house, my children addressed him as Mr Drew and gave him respect, he wasn't on the outside in my home, he was on the inside, he was included, he was my friend, I saw past the outer and saw Dew's heart. You know there's a simple Bible truth here, and its, just simply, help someone when they ask. And that's what Drew did. He didn't wave a banner or post all the things he had done for me, his own Mother didn't know all he had done, he just did them because he had a good heart, and I think our responsibility is to look past someone's outer self and look into that person's heart, so often we judge, we see a person, even in church or at a school function dressed nicely and who do we immediately make our way to? When their might be a Drew or a Wyatt standing on the out skirts just needing a friendly smile and someone to say hello. I had alot of friends, I had a home church, but, not one person came to my house during that time to help me, but a man from Tennessee with dark glasses too shy to look me in the eyes.  On July 27,2011 Drew, was shot and killed, and I feel in my heart, finding friendship is what drove Drew possibly to his death. Acceptance is a powerful pull, being alone is a dreadful, dreadful thing. Everyone needs a friend. Even a bad friend, sometimes we can convince ourselves, is better than no friend at all. I have gone over it in my mind a million times, did I extend myself to Drew the best that I could have , did I share my faith with him, I was heart broke the day Ms Betty called me, I was heartbroke for a week, and as I reflect back, yes, I think I did. I included Drew in our family, I sat him at my table gave him my chocolate cake, the kids gathered around, Jesse Cole asked him a million questions about his band, Drew just lit up as he was talking about it. The next time he came he brought a few of his hand guns to show Wyatt, he was a different man showing and explaining those firearms to my boys. I had told him of how faithful God had been the past year to give us that big ole' barn to start a healing in our journey back from losing everything. He shared a little bit about what that house had meant to him,  and some things about growing up and how his Mom, who he loved dearly, and he, was the"team". So as I laid there, almost a week after Drew had passed, and I asked God, please always give me the opportunity to share myself, share my family, my faith with a soul that is lost or lonely, or just needs a friendly smile. I dedicate this post to my friend Drew.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Found My Front Door!

I could not believe my eyes, this was the one! Let me back up, I always get ahead of myself when I get excited and I get excited when I am building and tearing and decorating and finding good  DEALS!!! I found a wonderful store, it is connected to Habitat for Humanity, all proceeds go to fund the program, which is a wonderful, wonderful organization. It is a big warehouse, no A/C, very rough, no fluff , but my kinda store!And it has just about everything, and I mean everything. From a restaurant that has closed to a foreclosed house that has been gutted and only 10 pieces of tile have been salvaged. But, let me tell you I love, love, love  this place. You can find the most unique things, like my front door! I can only imagine where my door came from, the history, the story, it looks old, maybe another lil beach cottge, who knows, that's what's so thrilling! There is something so fulfilling about rummaging through stuff that looks like junk and finding  something that you know you can make into something great. We have all become so accustomed, almost lazy, to just buying what we need, no personal investment, no ownership, no creativity. And it seems it has made people value nothing,  have too many things. I find now, these "things" I truly love and value, because I have an investment in them. Even my kids, I will hear them tell the stories behind the things we have in our home, even they have a pride for the things I have found and made into something beautiful. It seems we are headed back to a time when my junk might be someone else's treasure. I think it  gives people a sense of community to give to each other, to be involved in others lives, it teaches us empathy, compassion, concern for someone besides ourselves. My kids will now say Mom do you think so and so could use this? Never would they have ever even thought of such a thing before we found ourselves here. So for that I am grateful. So back to my door! It is amazing! They had 50.00 on it. Which was a little high for our budget, since we have no budget, Ha Ha, so I offered the man 25.00 and he took it!!! While I was there I also  found some tile, two bags of grout, a blind for the kitchen window and the door all for 30.00!!! It was so much more fun than looking in a book and ordering it! This has been a hard 3 weeks, we have been working everyday. And not on minor things, major things. Things that keep everything in a mess and 'everything" where it doesn't belong. A womans nightmare, especially one like me, tetering on mental delution!!! You would think these things would get easier, but they seem to get harder on me with age, or maybe it is my mental capacity. It doesn't seem to hold up as well under situations like these, it almost gets muddled or confused. I know Kenny thinks I'm crazy at times, He will ask me a question, a question about something we have talked about for days, for instance the room we are framing in, and I will have this blank stare or have a stupid response, he will say, "Woman, are you alright?" And I will laugh it off, but inside I am silently concerned, embarrassed that I am crazy or something is wrong. As woman we are built to hold it all together no matter what, because no matter what, our family comes first, my children come first, my mental breakdown will just have to wait until I have the kids rooms layed out, the house in order, them in the right school and sure they are settled and happy, Kenny's needs meet, and only then I can have my breakdown. In all seriousness, I layed in bed last night feeling overwhelming. It is just one more week until school starts and I still have my kids camping in the living room. I try to make dinner and keep everyone on a, some-what of a, normal schedule, but we are not "normal", we still have a toilet that is sitting in the middle of a room with no wall around it, like I said, the kids are sleeping in the living room! We are still getting clothes out of bins. I was shopping for that front door, and for a couple of hours I just forgot it all and just enjoyed the "hunt'. I go to find something and I just keep moving things from one place to another, it is just exhausting, and a constant reminder of what a disorganized mess things are. The kids have been so great, they get up every morning and make their beds, keep their lil areas picked up, they're happy as pie, I guess I could take a lesson from them, but, like I said early on, this is my blog and I am writing about how I feel and hopefully how other women feel as well. But, the kids I see it in their eyes, feed off of my emotions, if I am happy, they are happy, they look to me to set the standard for just about everything they do. I set the "how" our day goes. That is a powerful position we Mothers hold. Wow, I guess I just spoke to myself, as woman that is why we do what we do, lil eyes are always on us, looking to us to find peace, security, joy,whatever emotion that day will bring usual the parent (Mom) sets it. As I started this day, thinking, am I little loony ?, Or do I just expect a little too much, I reflect back to the past few days, I hear the laughter of my children and I hear my eldest (Wyatt) say, "Mom I didnt know how much went into these "special" sandwiches you make me, thanks Mom", or Isabella, "Mom" as I was fixing her hair, "how do you always know just what I always need", or Coleman whispering in my ear, just yesterday, "If I want to come home keep your phone on you", he was wanting to spend the night with a cousin, and he knew, as in the past I would come get him, even in the middle of the night. So Moms, crazy, a lil, I guess yes, if managing all that we do for the ones we love, I guess it is well worth the loonicy. One day we will have this lil beach cottage done! And maybe, just maybe, in the process,  I won"t lose my sanity, and maybe, just maybe, I am gaining a lot more than just a little beach cottage.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Who Will Tuck Her In Tonight?

As I sit here writing, I have Gracing Mae to my left curled up asleep, which is hardly noticeable, she weighs 'bout 3lb, but, I also have Sweetie Pie who is a fat heifer (a mutt who weighs probably 80lbs) who is asleep at my feet on the Ottoman. I get up early so I can write before the children are awake, and not be distracted and I still find myself  with 2 dogs basically in my lap. But, as I see their eyes gaze up at me, and I feel the warmth of them, I think of the person I spoke to yesterday who has such immense loneliness in their voice, it cut through to my heart like a knife. I think about just the contact of these 2 dogs, the companionship, but, to have no human relationships in your life, ones of substance, has got to be like death. This person is in their 50s and as they spoke of the young years, the golden years, and all their expectations for what lied ahead, I knew it was, most certainly,  not what they got.  Somehow, even with a degree, a Masters I believe, a job just never seemed to quite work out. One of those cases was this person, they are not a bully or a taker but, is a kind, hard worker, one you could overlook or even take advantage of, which is, what it seems to me, has happened. It is even sadder when you see them reconnect with old friends from the past and they are not transparent or real, they act as though their lives are perfect and make this person feel even more alone. They don't even try to see that their friend is broken and desperate, they just need someone to take their hand and say, "I understand, your not alone, I am not judging you, I am your Friend, nothing can change that." So as they sit in a room full of people they know, and  have looked forward to seeing, they feel more alone than when they got there. And I'm not saying make your life something it's not, I am quick to share the wonderful gifts in my life, but I am also open and honest about the failures and brokenness in my life also. People relate to the good and the bad, what they don't relate to, what NOBODY needs, is fraud, being fake, being something we're not. It is sad because it seems our media, our music, everything around us has driven us to this mentality. But it such a sad, sad way to live your life. I have never had such freedom, or such wonderful friendship, as I have had since I have given totally of myself and our situation. Not everyone has been gracious and welcomed my "method" I guess you could call it, they have said, "Angie, you need to keep these things personal, why would you want to expose your family like this, what about your kids"..... and in the beginning alot of my anxiety was because of my family, but, when I felt called to love people and help them it wasn't with the stipulation "well God only if it doesn't cost me anything", I will do what you ask me. It was simply, yes. Even now, looking back, our family has gained so much more then what we have lost by sharing our story with others. Every where I turn I meet a devastated family needing someone to say a kind word to them, to say they understand, to offer them some hope that they will make it through losing their home, or their husband losing his job. A man so broken he thinks of suicide because he can't provide for his family. It's not even about  money, it's so far beyond that now, it's about hope. When someone loses hope, they lose the ability to live. When I drove away from 6th Ave I had lost all hope of ever setting up home again. My heart and spirit was broken. I had lost hope. Had it not been for my children I would have laid down and died. The house in North Carolin began a healing in me, that brought back a promise of hope, that one day, I could have my own place to call home. There's a security that comes with having a home, somewhere to gather your children, to laugh and eat together, lay down at night safe from the world, but what I have realized is home is a shell that can be made up of a thousand different types materials. From an RV to a million dollar board and batton dream cottage on St. George Island. "Home" is what you put inside that shell. As I was talking to my old friend, I said to him, your value is not in your mortgage, or your job, but in that boy that you have invested your entire life in, in the Wednesday boys' program you have been faithful to for 20 years week after week, that is what is of value, the care you give your bed ridden mother, those are the things which define your life. Times are hard, and I am afraid they are going to get alot harder. I was at Walmart today and I have to say for the first time I felt a sense of fear, an unsettleness when I passed two  different people, they just seemed so desperate and almost had a wild look in their eyes, like there was nothing there-an emptiness. I felt fearful. When people feel hopeless, they can be dangerous. They looked like caged animals. They just looked so poor and helpless, and alone. I had a sense that to numb the pain they both were using some kind of substance. There children broke my heart, they looked so lost as well, running to keep up with the adults, but the adults not even noticing they were there. As I thought of my friend and how he was feeling abandoned and alone, like his life had some how made a detour and how he felt as though his life was the only one that had disappointment, and I thought of those people I had seen in Walmart, the one which I have heard referred to as the "ghetto" Walmart, I had to think, God, where do all these lost people go to at night, where is that little girl at tonight? Who is making her safe, who is having dinner with her, laughing with her, reassuring her everything is gonna be alright, Mommy and Daddy is here. There cart was full of microwave dinners, is she fixing her own dinner, as I make my own children a homemade dinner, maybe she won't even have dinner. Loneliness is far worse than losing a house. Being alone is far worse than losing a new car. I can guarantee you that little girl would trade anything, to have her daddy tuck  her in bed at night and know she is safe, even if it is a one room apartment. Security comes not from what we have but from who we love and who loves us. Were the hippies right? Is there such a thing
as "free" love-Well, Yes and No! Love, defined by empathy, always cost the one doing the loving, it may cost them everything, it may cost them their life, but it Does Cost!  That is why empathy should make us more than willing to lose our "dignity", lose our "status", lose our sanctimoniousness, and step beyond ourselves.