Papaw, My Hearts Highest

Robert Bruce Newberry “Bob”
Born: 24 Feb 1909
Died: 24 Mar 1995

My Papaw has been gone 26 years. He died when I was 14 years old, one month to the day after his 86th birthday. He was known as a “good” man, “kind,” “well liked,” and “loved.” Narry a bad word have I ever heard spoken about Papaw, not one solitary negative comment or connotation. I have often said “if I could be thought of as half the person Papaw was I’d be doing great.” That’s the kind of legacy we all want to leave behind isn’t it? A legacy where we were loved and spoken favorably of even after our deaths for years to come.

Papaw treated me well, he loved me and I loved him. He and I were like peas and carrots, we simply got along with each other. He corrected me, but always in a kind and loving manner. He didn’t belittle me or make me feel less than if I made a mistake. He made me feel secure and happy. I sat on his lap even after I was too big to sit on his lap and Mamaw told me as much. Papaw didn’t care though, I was his girl, his “dololly” as he used to call me. I know he loved me as if I were his own.

Many people have said as much. They would say how Papaw cared for me and loved me. They could see what I could see, what I knew, that Papaw treasured me and I treasured him. I needed him so much, I still do. As I write this the tears begin to burn my eyes, my throat grows tight, my chest feels as if it would burst. All of that is evidence of love and longing. Of the need for genuine care and companionship that only a Daddy can offer.

Papaw was the only Daddy I would ever know and he was the very best. I believe, like others have said “if your Papaw had only lived you would have been taken care of.” I know this is true. He would have seen fit to make certain that the house that’s being torn apart right now as we speak would have been mine. I would have raised my son there, gardened there and built a happy, healthy life within its walls. The home I was raised in with he and Mamaw would have been a happy place for my boy, but sadly, life doesn’t give us rainbows and sunshine every day and there are hard and difficult truths that we must face. Mine, is the loss of every thing I loved and needed before I was 15 years old.

Papaw was a hardworking, dedicated citizen of our county and state. In this newspaper article you can see what was written about him when he ran for the office of Treasurer of Dickenson County for a second term and won. It states “in his race for Treasurer’s post he polled a total of 4,842 votes….(his) majority was 1,750, the highest ever recorded in the record books.” That was my Papaw to me as well, he was the highest of any in my hearts record book. Oh how I loved him and how he loved me and to know, to truly KNOW that I was loved and believe it wholeheartedly, if you have read my blogs you know this is significant. For me to BELIEVE in love, unwavering and steadfast is difficult. I only felt this kind of love with Papaw, with my Daddy.

I was a Papaw’s girl/Daddy’s girl, whatever you want to call it. I’m not ashamed to say this. It’s good for my heart to be reminded of this kind of love. Sadly, it was this love and bond that Papaw and I had that I believe fully made Mamaw all the more set against me. She could see and knew how much he cared for me and this was a direct opposition to her place in Papaw’s life. He belonged to her and when he died she told me as I stood crying and aching for him “you could never love him the way I did.” This was true and I told her as much. I said, in my 14 year old honesty and I feel this was wise for my age “you loved him like a husband, I loved him like a Dad and that’s two very different kinds of love.” However, Mamaw meant it differently, she truly meant that I couldn’t love him as much, but I could and dare I say more and without conditions?

You see I have come to realize through therapy that Mamaw must have been just as controlling, just as manipulative to get her way with Papaw as she was with anyone. The house was hers, everything in it trumpeted with a resounding “this is Delphia’s house.” All her valuables lined the shelves, where was Papaw? Where was his mark on the home? He built it and paid for it with his diligence and hard work. Mamaw reaped the benefits. I believe Papaw loved her, but I also believe she was very controlling and that control, whatever it may have been was deep.

I asked my therapist a question I had NEVER thought of in all my years of loving my Papaw. “Why didn’t he stop Mamaw from hurting me, could he not see?”

We talked about this in depth. I came to realize she must have been withholding something from him or using her narcissistic manipulation to control him. I think one reason Papaw loved me so much was because I loved him to purely. There was no conditions or manipulation between he and I, it was just honest love with no fault finding or stipulations. Papaw would buy me a candy bar and say “don’t tell your Mamaw.” Why?

Why did he feel it necessary to hide the fact that he gave me something? He bought me two necklaces, small, only the size a child could wear. I believe he did this to make certain Mamaw wouldn’t’ take them, if they were big enough to fit her neck she would have made them her own. Eventually those necklaces would disappear, just as with anything else ever given to me. I have a school picture where I’m wearing one of the beaded necklaces he bought for me. It was my third grade school picture. I was proud of what he gave me, though through the years it wouldn’t be a lot of things more than it was love and time.

I feel hurt for Papaw when I think of how Mamaw must have manipulated or controlled him. He was such a kind man I believe it was easier for him to give sway to her control than to fight her. It was useless to tell her anything, it never worked. Papaw always took me to church with him, Mamaw never went. Sometimes I think he took me with him not just to have me learn about the Lord, but to protect me from Mamaw. At least when I was with him at the church house I was surrounded by people who loved us both. I really felt that people cared deeply for he and I. Those days on Newberry Ridge where Papaw was raised or Clinchco at the Pentecostal Holiness congregations were special. I’d get up and sing when I was little, Papaw would too.

We had a bond that I’ll never forget and one I’ll always miss. If you have parents, love them, hold them close, pick up the phone and call them, go see them. Never refuse any gift they want to give you, even if you don’t like it. Just thank them and tell them you appreciate them thinking of you. When you don’t have this, you will long for it for always. You are blessed if you are loved and have parents who take your babies to their homes and cook you a bite to eat when you’re sick or just because they want to show they love you. Hold their hands, listen to their stories one more time and laugh, just give them what they gave you growing up, time, care and true love.

Blame, Please Lift it Off

The Avett Brothers have a song called “Shame” with the chorus saying

“Shame, boatloads of shame
Day after day, more of the same
Blame (blame), please lift it off
Please take it off, please make it stop”

Though The Avett Brothers song is about a broken relationship between a man and woman the chorus to “Shame” well fits the way I feel about blame and shame in my own life. I promised that my next blog, this one, would address a quote I shared from my therapist Stephanie’s “Anchoring Hope” facebook page that said “once you have accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you.”

My problem is those “automatic thoughts” that Stephanie has tried to help me combat. I use my own faults and perceived faults against myself. That inner voice that is my Mamaw blaming me for every wrong thing that ever happened in or around our home still haunts me. I have terrible trouble combating my inner voice, that voice of Mawaw telling me how many mistakes I have made, why something is always my fault and even if it wasn’t, I was still at fault in her eyes and made to take the blame.

The very first memory I have of Mamaw forcing me to take the blame for something I didn’t do I was small, but big enough to have playmates over. On this particular day there were two girls at the house. One of them took a shine to Mamaw’s pretty crystal punch bowl that had twelve glasses hanging from the sides. She kept this displayed prominently in the dining room on one of the two antique buffets that sat in the dining area.

For whatever reason Mamaw thought especially highly of the older of the two girls. She was always bragging on how sweet she was and not while that child was around, but anytime that she wanted me to feel less than sweet and loved. Mamaw would make over other children often, talking in a sickening sweet voice about how good THEY were, how PRETTY, how SWEET, and how PERFECT. She often reminded me how unlike other children I was. She would say to me, looking down at with a furrowed brow and scowling expression ” you’re different from all of my other children.” She meant Jack, Kenny, Jeff and Tammy, her adopted son and his kids. At the time those words hurt me, because she adored them, gave to them hand over fist and thought they could do no wrong. Now as an adult I’m glad I’m different than them. I didn’t end up in jail or tangled up with the law or drugs at any time in my life as all of them have.

However as a little child, who sought and needed encouragement and praise, her words stung me and she knew that. So on this particular day when the girl had picked up one of the crystal punch bowl cups and commenced to break it, it was I who was blamed.

I remember standing there shaking with Mamaw and the girl and telling her through tears that” I didn’t touch it, I promise, it wasn’t me, it was her. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, please Mamaw, please it wasn’t me.” She didn’t say anything until the girl left, then she took me to the punch bowl and commenced to beat me up with her words. Sometimes words can do as much damage as fists, I’ve had them both and know the pain they each cause.

She told me that it didn’t matter if the other girl did it, it was still my fault “little girl.”

You are the one that had the kids in the house, you are the one who allowed her around the punch bowl, you will take the blame whether you did it or not.

YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU!!!!!

The sad fact is, I wasn’t even near the girl when she touched the glass cup, I only heard the break. How could it be my fault? Didn’t she know better not to touch an old woman’s beloved pretty’s? I knew not to touch them, I lived in the glass house surrounded by the what nots, trinkets and all manner of glass objects that were easily broken. I hated all the glass things, they were the bane of my daily existence.

A little child plays, they need to run and have fun even inside their homes. I could not, even in the huge home I resided in, there was no room for me, only the things. I was just a hazard, a nuisance, the trinkets were the treasure. I was to remain still, quiet, in the basement, outside and/or out of the way. If one of Mamaw’s flea market finds or something I was set inside a dumpster to dig out or other beloved pretty little things came up broken or missing I was blamed.

You can not imagine how careful I always was in that house. If you look back at the cover picture of this blog at the shelf behind me, you will see hundreds of glass pieces The shelf was covered from top to bottom in things. That is only ONE of many, many shelves that were stuffed into the house, that held all the breakable things you could imagine, from roosters to tiny houses, fish and even nude statues. There was no shortage of of Mamaw’s collectibles and no shortage on rules for being around them.

I was tasked to dust these shelves every Saturday. I had to meticulously lift hundreds of pieces of this junk off and back onto the shelves, dust them and the shelving, make it all clean and shiny. In my entire life living there I only broke one thing and it was because I accidently bumped a shelf where a ceramic cat almost identical to the one you see, had been placed just on the edge of a shelf. There wasn’t enough room to support it correctly. As I was cleaning the dresser next to the shelve I backed up and into the book shelf, where no books were held mind you and the cat fell off. Part of the cats back chipped off, not a large piece, but big enough of a mistake for me to be terrified of the repercussions. I knew there would be more work, less of seeing any friends and more BLAME, more pressing, pushing down, terrible guilt.

A person couldn’t have paid me to break one of Mamaw’s things. I knew how much she loved them and I wasn’t a mean child. I also didn’t want the backlash that would come, so I was careful. I often wondered for as cruel as Mamaw was to me for ever finding a broken object, why she put me to cleaning them so much. A white bird came up broken once, one of maybe 50 she had. It’s tail was broken completely off. I have no clue what happened, I just know that I was made to feel as though I had burned the entire house down.

As with everything else that happened I was the scape goat at home. I was the easiest to blame, the easiest to punish and the one who still carries with them the shame of ever making a mistake. I can’t allow myself any grace to fail, to falter, to make a mistake in the least. I apologize profusely when I blunder. Something Mamaw loved. She gained pleasure out of seeing me cry and beg her to forgive me or pleading with her to believe me. Life with her was a constant struggle, a battle for her acceptance and love.

I can remember folding my little hands, getting down on my knees and laying my head on Mamaw’s lap, begging her to please forgive me. She wouldn’t so much as touch me, but rather look down at me sternly and sometimes with a smirk of gladness for my bowing at her feet. She wouldn’t forgive me, but loved and relished in my pleading. So I learned to apologize for everything over and over and over until I felt I had some sort of acceptance. I still do this today and as I type this I want to say “I’m sorry.” I’m sorry that I apologize too much. I also say thank you over and over, because I want someone to know that I do appreciate their kindness so very much.

When a child grows up knowing they are not trusted, believed, ever forgiven for a mistake or so much as told, “honey, it’s okay, that old thing doesn’t matter as much as you do, it was an accident and accidents happen.” That’s what I tell my child, but when this is lacking it makes an adult like me. One who knows every flaw they have and uses it against themselves.

I torture myself with guilt and shame, blaming myself for any bad or wrong in my life or those around me. Mamaw instilled this fear and this shame in me. She made me into a person who has no confidence that the people around her actually love and accept her. I honestly do not know how to forgive myself for my wrongs. If someone ever becomes angry at me for something it kills me. I cry and ache and weep bitterly in true sorrow for any pain I have caused them, for in my mind I believe I’ll never be forgiven or loved.

This goes back to the “automatic negative thoughts.” I have to retrain my brain how to think. Do you know how hard this is? It feels nearly impossible! There will be triggers that cause the thought to just burst through, have you ever tried to STOP your thoughts? How can you do this before they ever come or when they ease in when you’re trying to sleep or if a song comes on the radio or a smell hits your nose. It’s so hard friends, but I am trying to combat the bad and replace it with good.

I am training in mindfulness, to be conscious of my thoughts. It’s been suggested for me to talk to myself in the mirror, but I can’t. I’ve tried and I cry. The person I see is a fragile little girl inside, she doesn’t believe anything good about herself, because she was blamed for making mistakes she didn’t make and bearing the brunt of the mistakes of others.

God forgives me for my wrongs, He loves me and I know this. I just have to forgive and love myself.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Pet 5:6,7

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. Philpp 3:13

Pity vs Love

Pity is a poor replacement for love, because it fades the fastest. Love is true and more valuable, because it sustains.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

Pity is the opposite, for it is a temporary feeling that is a response to either guilt or sorrow, these two things are feelings, just a flash in the pan. I have had pity and I have had love, there is a great difference. I prefer love, genuine, true, patient and kind love.

Matthew 6 has a good example of what I mean about pity, I believe pity doesn’t promote the heart to do good out of sincere love.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward….”

Many times I believe people confuse pity and compassion. True compassion evokes one to sympathy that moves a person to long lasting action, where pity in short, isn’t enough. It isn’t enough to see someone suffering and only put yourself in their shoes for a few seconds. You can’t just forget about the people you see.

People can easily forget the psychological implication of certain terms. The word “pity,” for example, some may say when you experience the emotion or feeling of “pity,” you feel a basic kind of empathy. You’re capable of connecting with suffering and understanding a situation. You “get it, ” but do you want to suffer through it too?

Feeling pity for someone doesn’t just mean empathizing with them, in my experience some also feel a sense of superiority. Certain people think they’re “better” than the person for whom they pity. They see social or economic status, their’s vs yours, pity vs love. Have you ever thought about what your’e feeling for another person? Is it true love and compassion or a passing pity that makes you aware of a persons pain, but doesn’t drive you into action?

Compassion comes from the Latin, ‘cum passio’ we could rephrase the term to say it’s “suffering together” or “dealing with emotions together.” Compassion means equality between peers, relatives and friends. The goal is not just to understand and feel another person’s pain, but also to commit to helping them improve their situation.

Sadly, I know I have received a great deal of pity over compassion at times. I look around and think about times I’ve bucked up the courage to actually ask someone for help, it is NOT something I can do easily. I’ve asked for assistance out of desperation for help and that person who says they “care” offered an excuse instead of finding a way to help. Asking for help to me is like taking a hot iron to my throat and then placing me at the edge of a cliff, it’s terrifying. I learned to become self reliant at an early age. I personally would much rather rely upon myself than others, because of let down. Let down hurts, so very much. I blame myself for every no or excuse from another I’ve ever received. I feel it’s certainly me and only me that’s causing the no.

“I’m not really liked,” I think. “I said something wrong,” “I did something wrong! It’s me, I’m just WRONG, no one really likes me, they just feel sorry for me.”

These thoughts and more spin through my head.

How does this relate to pity and love? In my life learning it has taught me who has true compassion for me and who it is that at the first sign of actually having to be there, they have reason why they can’t. So I’ve learned to avoid the pity and cling to the compassion.

Will you sit with someone and listen to their hearts hurt or will you do all the talking? Do you say “hey if ya need me just call” then when you’re called upon you just “can’t” at the time? Do you read these blogs and feel sorry for me, but never send a message, because you’re more curious than caring about what it is that has caused me to suffer? Do you care, with compassion and love that I have struggled to get out of bed some days and even smile?

It’s okay if you answered to yourself something to the effect of “I’ve really just had pity and not love.” The most important reason that I write is to help others. To share my story in hopes that it will help affect positive change in the lives of others. I don’t want anyone to feel guilt over their observation of my life, but rather be challenged to help themselves and more importantly others to grow in some way.

I’m not perfect by any means. There have been times I have felt terrible self pity, where I couldn’t get over the fact that I was hurt over and over by others. One of the first questions I had to ask myself and learn how to cope with in therapy was “how do I accept what others chose for me as a child?”

Poor, pitiful, pathetic little Dora, hurt by so many she can’t see her blessings. I worry that people think this as I write. I do see them friends, but I have had self pity, should I? There’s another question I had to ask myself in therapy “is it okay to feel bad for myself?” I would if it were someone else, but allowing myself grace is not something I do, I hold and find fault in myself for every bad thing that’s ever come my way.

I have felt self doubt for sharing my story with others and worrying that I should just keep it all in to save others the feeling of “pity” upon me. I certainly don’t want that, as I stated earlier, compassion yes, pity, no thanks. None of us are perfect, the chief of sinners is I. But we must choose how we focus our hearts and minds and this blog is one way that I’m trying to be brutally honest with myself and others in the sincere, compassionate, loving hope that something I say will stir the hearts of others to be better and do better or to seek healing and therapy.

There’s nothing you can say about me that I haven’t said worse about myself and believed it. That’s the depression I wade through at times. I must learn to have compassion for myself and the things I struggle to overcome and not pity. I can’t ask someone to have compassion for me if all I have is pity. The pity would have me depressed and longing for a way out, the compassion takes work. It says “feel it, acknowledge it, then do something about it!” FACE IT! That is the hard part, facing it all, realizing we are fault filled individuals in need of a savior, in need of learning that we can always be better tomorrow than we were today.

I’m thankful the Lord loves me and has given me examples of how to combat the pain and sorrow of a childhood I’ve mourned for too long.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.

— Hebrews 4:15

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

— Mark 6:34


This was a tougher blog to write than you may know. I haven’t written in a bit, because I have faced a let down after hope was given. It hit me hard. It’s made me sick and it has hurt. I had to drag myself to the computer this evening and let go of the let down with the hope of being better personally tomorrow. I have to be what God calls me to be, I have to become “Who I Was Born to Be.”

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.

— Psalm 112:3-5

— Colossians 3:12

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

— Galatians 6:2

Photo by Hernan Pauccara on Pexels.com

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us all in our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

— 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.

— Ephesians 4:32

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

— Romans 12:15

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

— 1 Peter 4:10

— 1 Peter 3:8

— Zechariah 7:9-10

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

— Philippians 2:1-2

This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’

Stalker

Every Saturday for more than three months like clock work at some point the phone would ring. The person on the other end was calling for me. It was a voice I didn’t know, but one that some how knew me or was told about me. It was my tenth grade year of high school and I was dating a senior who I had been introduced to through my best friends. This person who would call knew who I was dating, he said his name. He knew a lot and it terrified me.

I felt frightened of this person, alone and scared of who they were, where they were and what their intentions toward me might have been. Each time the male would call I would plead with them to tell me who they were. I was only 15 years old, I didn’t know how best to handle such an ordeal. I only knew that I was being hounded by a person who sounded much older than me and whose intentions were clearly not pure.

I begged the person to tell me who they were, because I was scared. I didn’t know if this was serious at first or a prank. The male on the other end of the line would tell me to come to Haysi if I wanted to know who they were. Each time I would tell them I would not do that. They would talk about the way I looked and how my boyfriend must really like certain parts of my body. I hung up on them time and time again. I told them NOT to call back. I was growing increasingly frightened with each call.

I felt I had no one to turn to inside my home to help me. It was just me and Mamaw and she really didn’t have a clue or care about what was going on with me as a person, so I knew I couldn’t tell her. I couldn’t go to her as a child when I was being tormented by an individual who was allowed freely into our home, so why should I try now? I was so terribly alone. At some point I found a number in the phone book that could be dialed as soon as an unwanted caller phoned. It would send the number to law enforcement. It was just a matter of dialing the number fast enough.
We didn’t have push button phones in the house at Papaw and Mamaw’s. We only had the older rotary style phones. I knew my time was limited for reporting these obscene and harassing calls after I hung up on the guy calling.

With trembling hands, as soon as I would answer with “hello” then hear the familiar, yet unknown voice on the other end I would immediately hang up. I felt as though I would vomit and at times pass out, as I felt light headed and dizzy with fear. After a month of the calls I knew I had to find help! It took two of the three months of the nuisance calls for them to stop. Each time I would hang up then use the old rotary phone to dial in the number to report it as quickly as my scared body would allow. Eventually the calls did cease.

But….

Did they stop, because of my reporting or because I had mentioned this to a “friend.” You see I long had my suspicions as to who gave my number to this caller. I had a bully from 8th to 10th grade. She was cruel and dangerous, she tried to coax me into a fight more than once. If she saw me in the halls she would scream at me calling me a “whore,” or “slut.” She hated me I would learn, because I dated her ex-boyfriend for only a few months in 8th grade. I was forced to be around her as we had more than one class together, though she was a year older than me. Was it she who coerced this person to calling me?

These calls scared me so badly that I was terrified to be outside of my home, near the windows or to even sleep alone. I began having nightmares that would wake me in the middle of the night and I would run to get in bed with Mamaw, leaving all the bedroom lights on as I fled my room. I would bury myself as far underneath the covers as I could get and still be able to breathe, hiding away I hoped from the fear of a stalker. I didn’t know if this person calling knew where I lived and just how far they might go. I didn’t know if the girl that I suspected of putting him up to this would push him to harm me or if he would of his own fruition. I just didn’t know anything, but the fact that I was being harassed by an unknown male and I felt I couldn’t trust the girls around me made my anxiety far worse.

I was always accepting, I didn’t stand up for myself. I did refuse to fight this bully of a girl, but that didn’t stop her from tormenting me. She would corner me behind the bleachers at football games when I was in marching band. She would corner me by the girls locker room on the basement floor of the high school. She would eventually even turn friends against me. It was heartbreaking, all over a boy I didn’t know she even cared for. How was I to know? I was just entering 8th grade at the time, I didn’t know all the relationships that had gone on before my time at the high school. This girl harbored hate for me for years, even after high school and I believe still. I think if she could hurt me now she would.

It’s scary to know that of no fault of my own that there is a person out there that has wished me harm and pain, but was she behind this ordeal with the harassing calls? Was this person harassing me a true stalker? Were they watching me at home, at school, in places I felt safe?

My anxiety was through the roof. I had no one to turn to and I had no idea that I was having anxiety, I just knew the nightmares were increasing and my ability to sleep alone was almost non-existent. I would stay awake at night for hours, wishing I could sleep, listening to every creak in the floor or thump outside. I simply didn’t know if I was safe and that’s something I was already struggling with, but didn’t know it. I wouldn’t understand much of my inner turmoil until I went to therapy. Then the answers began to come and understanding.

Sadly, still to this day I wonder if that person who called me is still out there. If he knows I’m back home, if he would come after me. I just want to know who he was and why he did this. If he was put up to it to scare me that’s one thing, but if he was just out there, doing this of his own accord, well that’s another.

My personal fears are still there. This ordeal just added one more fear to my life that I’ve always had. Can you imagine over 25 years after this episode I still watch to see if someone is following my car too closely? I watch men in stores and if I see them too many times or they follow too nearby I dart away. I have left my purchases behind on shelves. I don’t like to sit with my back to the door in a restaurant. All of these fears because of the calls from this person. I don’t know how to release this, not without knowing the truth of who that person was and what was going on.

IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS FACING BULLYING IN SCHOOL, PLEASE REACH OUT TO FIND HELP. THERE IS ALWAYS SOMEONE OUT THERE WHO WILL BELIEVE YOU, I AM ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE AND I AM HERE TO HELP, ALWAYS.

Stop Bullying Government Website: https://www.stopbullying.gov/resources/get-help-now

My Shield Wall

Have you ever walked into a room full of people and felt out of place? Have you scanned the crowd and noticed eyes glaring at you with judgement? Being a person who grew up around sometimes volatile people I learned quickly how to “judge a room.” I can tell you within five minutes of being in a group situation who I can trust and who I can’t. I know who the troublemakers are going to be and who the humble folks are. I had to learn the hard way, too many times, that you can’t trust everyone and everyone isn’t your friend. Sure there are some folks now and then who will surprise me, but 9 times out of 10 and their a rare few who aren’t exactly who they show themselves to be upon meeting. Most people aren’t very good at hiding who they truly are unless they have reason to hide it, then those are the ones who can hurt you more deeply than any other.

That being said I have learned to seek out people in social situations that I feel I can trust, that are “safe.” It’s scary to let people in and then to get hurt. I’ve always been the underdog. I wasn’t popular in high school, everyone in my student body knew who I was, but I attended a very rural school, so the biggest part of the entire high school knew one another on some level. That being said, they didn’t really “know” me.

When I say I wasn’t popular I mean I didn’t have the Levi’s and Nike. I didn’t have a car to drive to school and my last name was far from the top of the list. Through both elementary and high school I, like every other kid, desired acceptance. We all wanted to be popular and well liked. I think some folks liked me well enough, I was the class clown, super school spirited (still am) and was involved in a broad range of extracurricular activities and classes. Somehow though I wasn’t ever considered for the homecoming court, to be prom queen or any other upper echelon rank, I wasn’t pretty, never have been a looker, but of course wanted to be thought of a pretty. The football and basketball players would NEVER consider me for a date. I wasn’t invited to any parties (glad of that now), but then it meant ranking and popularity.

I did have an insider view of the popular circles goings on. There were times it hurt so bad to be the one left out, to have that insider view from a popular friend, but never be considered as one. All I wanted was to feel accepted. So many of my deep seeded fears and concerns would come out in ways that people had no idea. I worried deeply about my appearance. I would try on outfit after outfit worried about how I’d look that day, if someone would make fun of me. I was terrified of saying the wrong things in front of the students who could cause me to have it even harder from day to day.

One time I had on a pair of red fringed cowboy boots for spirit week, our school colors were red, white and blue, though we leaned more toward just the red and white. I was given these boots by a family friend, because I line danced. It was spirit week, and in I walked red booted to the gymnasium where the whole of the school was gathered. I had to walk past some of the most popular girls in school. There eyes immediately darted to my boots. I shouldn’t have worn them, I should have known better, but I wanted to wear something that matched the theme of that day whatever it was, because during spirit week we had days where we dressed up according to a theme.

The girls were pointing and laughing as I walked the length of the gym, they were about mid way down the bleachers sitting at the very bottom. Something came over me and I just yanked my boots off right beside them and left them sitting there during the entire event. I went barefoot, too embarrassed to wear the boots any longer, but also sick of this groups mockery of me. This group of girls never really liked me, they laughed at me a lot. One set in particular had made me feel horrible since kindergarten! This group would put me up to things just to make fun of me, I finally caught on. I thought maybe, just maybe they actually enjoyed my company during certain classes, I was dreaming. They were just there to laugh at and scoff at me. So I learned from this and applied it.

There are some people who won’t accept you no matter how hard you try and this I have learned is a flaw in themselves, not me and not you. However, that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt. It does. Being accepted is rooted deep down in our bones as humans. From the very earliest days of our lives around our peers we all mostly seek out acceptance, which in the end just equals love. Children don’t know this and can’t see that laughing at another student because of how they’re dressed or what they look like in general can create deep rooted hurt. Being loved is at the precipice of our very self acceptance, where we will either thrive or strive. I strived at home and at times in school. I hated elementary school and the early years of high school. I faced some difficult times and some bullies. Those stories will come later.

But I have learned, as I’ve aged and gone through trials and tribulations even as an adult to apply my marred childhood experiences to my adulthood. I have allowed these experiences to help me adjust to social situations in order to protect myself. I’ve learned to “read a room.” I think I began learning this after being around some of the more popular kids in a class and learning how far some will go to be hurtful to those they feel are inferior to them. So I began to steer clear of the judgments, stop seeking their acceptance and just live fully within the freedoms of having true friends.

I pulled off those boots that day, because I knew waiting on me at the end of the gymnasium was a group of my truest and dearest BAND mates. It was in marching band that I found my tribe, my people and my place. We had real talent, we could read sheet music and play instruments and WE LOVED EACH OTHER JUST THE WAY WE WERE! We may not have been prom kings and queens, but we were hero’s unto one another! There was no judgment in band, we were who we were and our unique qualities were appreciated and embraced. I miss those marching band days. We had the very best of fun and spent time as a team helping each other succeed.

It was within this acceptance, this group of friends that I learned what it meant to trust others fully. We were a family and that band room under the hill from the main school building was home outside the green of the field where we shined together every Friday night. After joining band and finding affirmation of true friendship I had an example of what to compare good people to. I no longer wanted those “friendships” with the popular kids. I learned that they didn’t matter, what mattered were those “eyes with pride” marching tigers that loved to entertain and triumphed in each others success! That’s right, we had no jealousy, we lived for each other and that’s what builds confidence in true friendship. It’s where you are embraced for all you give and embrace others for their gifts to you.

My friends taught me how to accept my talents, because they simply loved me for me and what I brought to the table. I do still struggle deeply with self confidence and loving myself as a person, but I learned to accept and love my talents for performance through band and that’s where I find my happiest days as an adult. I know my value in my talents, I’m still learning my value as a person. That may sound like a contradiction, but performance allows me to step outside of being me as Dora a person and instead be me as the performer. It’s a way to shield myself as an individual from being hurt and rather placing my value in what I give back or put into something.

This may not make sense to some, but to the person who struggles with self confidence and worrying about who they are, then it will make sense. Within myself there are flaws and there are talents. As a person I struggle with my flaws daily, wishing I were more in some way or another, but the performer is me stepping outside of who I am as a person and immersing myself in the show! It’s my shield wall. It’s taking what I love and using that as my confidence to hold myself up and believe that within what I know to be good about myself I can be accepted by others. It’s the only thing about me I believe in. My ability to entertain.

I’ve always been more of a giver. I don’t know how to receive, being given something scares me to the point I can’t help but cry. I don’t feel I deserve it, I genuinely, deep down feel completely undeserving. I was conditioned to believe that I was worthless, but the one thing that was always received was my ability to entertain. It calmed the storms, it brought smiles, it was the only part of me that seemed to be bright and loved by the ones who hurt me. It’s the one time I found my mother sitting in the audience. The play I did my junior year of high school brought her out to watch me. I was the lead and there she was, in the audience, the one and only time she ever showed up for something I did. What about that! That taught me that within my acting, my performing, there was real value. My mother came to see me, to support me and walked about crying!!!!! I moved her to tears, but for something I did as an entertainer, not because of WHO I was as a person you see.

Isn’t the human mind a complex thing? It’s so strange how our life experiences shape our self belief system, our sense of value.

I’m working on it all friends. I’m working on seeing me, just a person, without my shield wall, as being beautiful, good and worthy. I don’t know how to yet, I want to badly and long for the day that I look in the mirror or in my minds eye and think “she’s special.” I will get there in due time with the proper work and if it be the Lords will.

Me on the stage at Haysi High School for the last time.

My First

That title probably grabbed your attention didn’t it? We all have many “firsts” in life, our first steps, our first day of school, our first love and our first heartbreak. We remember some of the firsts and there are those we can’t recall. I wish I didn’t recall this first of mine. I wish I didn’t know any of it. This is about the first panic attack I ever recall having, but I didn’t know until I was much older what it was.

Papaw had been diagnosed with cancer when I was around 10 years old, to this day I still don’t know what kind of cancer he had as it was kept from me. He had been gone from home a long time, in the hospital either having chemo treatments or possibly surgery as well, I’m not certain. I’ll be asking those questions of someone who knew what was happening as I dive into writing about being surrounded by illness as a child in forthcoming posts, Lord willing.

As Papaw was recovering at home in his hospital bed he was changed. His once slick black and silver hair was gone and in its place was this baby soft, cotton like white as snow hair, thin and just growing in. I can’t tell you how long Papaw had been back home when this panic attack happened, but he was in and out of reality much of the time and this altered state left him almost like a baby. I’m assuming he was being given some sort of high powered pain pill or even receiving morphine shots as there were nurses that came and went from our home. I could tell he was in a great deal of pain as he would not only cry out in agony, but he was rarely awake and he was in need of round the clock care.

Mamaw’s nephew’s were all mostly good, kind men who would take night about staying at our house to help if Papaw had an episode at night or needed to get up and down to use his potty. This time lasted for awhile, nurses in and out, people staying the night, me emptying and cleaning his potty chair and helping him eat. this cancer and treatment really changed him, it weakened him terribly, he would never be the same. Papaw had previously endured many surgeries, but this was the one that broke him and the one where I realized I was losing him.

One sun shiny day Papaw was resting in his hospital bed and I was inside cleaning the back side of the living room near the porch. It was midday, bright outside and warm so I’m assuming the time of year was either summer break or it was the weekend near summer. I was dusting and heard a loud bang around the corner. I ran quickly to find Papaw lying on the floor between the bedroom door and little nook where the telephone sat. He was curled up in a fetal position and his head was bleeding profusely. He had attempted to get out of bed and walk, being so weak he didn’t have the strength to do so, but something compelled him to try that day. His forehead had been filleted open on the corner of the door and the skin was laying peeled back, a deep wound, that had blood pouring from it. I was terrified.

I ran as quickly as I could to find help. I don’t recall how I got help to him, but there were people surrounding him quickly and I stayed, frozen for awhile, watching neighbors in and around the house. The ambulance finally arrived and I found myself sitting alone under a small red apple tree below the backside of the house. I don’t know how long I had been sitting there, but Mamaw’s niece by marriage, Barb, came walking toward me. She sat with me and I just broke. Before that moment I had not had the ability to cry, I must have been in shock. I really don’t know. Barb must have realized something was wrong and came to my aid. Her mother and Uncle lived just below Papaw and Mamaw’s in a rental home they owned that sat near the apple tree. I don’t know if anyone would have even thought to check on me had Barb not seen me. They were all very concerned with the fact that Papaw was bleeding so badly and had taken a terrible fall, they didn’t have time to worry about me.

God put Barb there that day, I believe this, as He has kept watch over me in times of great need. She happened to be visiting at just the right moment. I remember breaking down and almost not knowing where I was or what was going on. I thought I was going to be alone, with no home. That thought just kept swirling round and round in my mind like a bumble bee caught in a jar with no escape. I was going to be all alone, with nowhere to go, no home, no one to care for me. I knew Barb was there next to me. I heard her telling me she would take care of me, I knew I asked if she would be my Mommy, but everything else is a blur.

Somewhere between me sitting under the apple tree and Barb coming to my side I had either walked or she had carried me or drove me to Uncle Mack and Aunt Jenny’s. I kind of awoke is the only way I can explain it. I came to realize where I was and what was going on. It’s as if I had left reality myself, kind of like Papaw did when he would call out for his sister or mother during his illness. He couldn’t help it, his mind was somewhere else, controlled by something else. I couldn’t help it either, I was the same. I just knew I had been one place, crying and scared of being abandoned and I came to be somewhere else.

I recall a feeling of embarrassment coming over me. I was ashamed that I had cried so hard, ashamed that anyone had seen me and ashamed that I had to be tended to. I was old enough to manage on my own. That’s probably why no one had bothered to check on me. I had always been self reliant, responsible, the one who watched everyone’s children when I was still a child. So this moment of weakness that I was caught up in felt horrible. I still have no idea how I got to Uncle Mack’s house. I know that Aunt Jenny was lovingly there trying to aid me. When I came to I was sitting on the couch that was always the first one you come to when you walked through Aunt Jenny’s happy doors. But the panic attack had divided me from reality as they still do at times.

That’s scary to admit right there. It’s scary to tell you that I have times that I do not recall what has happened to me. That is a horrible panic attack, that is a mind trying to prevent itself from further harm. I thought I had seen my Papaw die. I thought I was going to be left alone. There was more blood than I had ever seen come from a human running down the face of a man I loved deeply. My mind went into survival mode.

Stephanie, my therapist, taught me that our minds go into three different modes when we feel danger and/or fear. They are flight, fight and freeze. My natural instinct is to run from danger, but my mind at times says FREEZE! When I lived in Alabama from 2005 to 2015 I found myself laying on the couch in the living room unable to move. My body felt heavy, my extremities seized. I had no idea what was happening. Was it diabetes, that runs in my family. Was it something else, some sort of palsy or other genetic ailment? I didn’t know, but it was becoming so frequent and alarming that I visited my doctor. It was at this visit and subsequent visits that I would learn about anxiety and what it could do to a person.

My doctor went through a list of issues, we did blood work, we had my thyroid checked. All seemed well. Then after a few visits he asked “how are things at home?” I began to cry almost instantly when he asked, “how strange,” I recall thinking. I had just lost my aunt to suicide. I expressed to him the stress of this terrible ordeal and the fact that Shawn and I were traveling back and forth to Memphis Tennessee, three hours each way, twice a week so that Shawn could complete his bachelors degree. I was stressed and my body was manifesting the inner illness, the burden that is unseen by the naked eye, but felt deeply by the carrier. Anxiety and depression, boom.…but not just any old depression, catatonia. The big, bad word that sent me almost into a panic attack there. I felt as though I would vomit. What did this mean?

My doctor said that while this is a rare form of anxiety and depression it does happen, even if we see it in movies and laugh about it. It’s very real. He decided a low dose anti-depressant was the best solution. I had never been on any kind of medication, but one other time in my life. That was in Japan when Shawn, my husband, was in the Air Force. It was tough there some days, but not unmanageable, so I tossed the meds, because they made me feel worse. I’ve never liked doctors, hospitals or medication for many reasons. But after hearing what could happen if I didn’t get things under control I elected to begin taking medicine again, but not the stuff that made me feel worse like in Japan. Not a high dosage, just enough to help me and it did and it has. I am thankful for this medication and the doctor who cared enough to help me understand what was ailing me.

I went most of my life with no medication, I’m glad I found something that would help me. I was embarrassed to tell anyone what was going on with me, even though some asked. I just simply said “I’d rather not discuss it.” I tend to keep to myself, plus when people here the words anxiety, depression and medication they oftentimes view the person diagnosed with any of it as crazy and unstable. While this is entirely unfair and wrong, because mental health is just as important as physical well being, it’s a fact. People don’t take to folks “being on nerve pills” as they say. This holds with it the connotation that the person taking medicine is incapable of taking care of themselves or as many proclaim, “not having enough faith.”

I don’t want to be ridiculed, not then and not now. I want to be cared for and respected. I don’t want people to think I’m some kind of faithless pill popper, but there are people who believe anxiety and such the like aren’t real and that those of us who take medication are ridiculous and sinful. This is cruel and this is wrong! People like me simply have faced terrible life circumstances that shaped our minds differently. That combined with the fact that mental illness is common in my family, well you have before you a person who may just need a little help along life’s troublesome way.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

If you or someone you know needs help, seek it. I will no longer allow tiny minds to dictate my path, you shouldn’t either. I believe that if you truly suffer that God has given many scientists and doctors the knowledge they need to provide help to the suffering. I believe that God put me with the right doctor and I believe that God answered prayers on my behalf for healing. Perhaps you have prayed for help, for an answer or sign for help with your struggles, could this very writing be your answer?

Medication may not be for everyone and it may be so that many, many out there are capable of overcoming the toils and troubles of life without any type of intervention. I’m glad for those people, but they don’t suffer the same affliction as I do. I lived that way for years and years, without any intervention. I believe that God gave me my therapist Stephanie and my doctor in Alabama to help me out of the hurt. I’m thankful for the medication that I have to help me remain more at ease daily, because I am naturally a person who frets over things. I want everyone to be okay, I know that’s impossible, but as you read this blog you will understand how I became a person who struggles to have confidence that life isn’t going to beat you down at every turn. I am also a person who believes in being proactive, that’s where therapy comes in. I am learning how to overcome the tragedies of life and one day, I pray, I will be equipped with the tools I need to be as strong as I want to be and no longer have to take a bit of medication.

Follow Up Post

On April 4th, 2010 I wrote this blog on my old page. I wanted to share it with you today as a follow up to the doll I mentioned in yesterdays “The Heart Box” post.

“The Easter Bag”

“Sometimes it’s okay to lose something, because of the joy of having it returned.”  -Dora Wallace

Occasionally I write about things that are near and or dear to my heart. I write things that can be sad or melancholy. Recently I wrote about my dolls and discussed one in particular in depth. That doll was my Peaches and Cream Barbie. She was my favorite doll and she was taken from me and never returned

As children we all have one item that we treasure far above the rest. Peaches and Cream was the prettiest thing I had ever owned. I got her in 1984, I was 4 years old and kept her for several years. I kept her until she was moved from her regular home at Granny’s to Mamaw’s house. I may have had her a few days at Mamaw’s when she disappeared. I missed her and felt a huge loss. She was the nicest doll I ever had, given to me at my Granny’s. I don’t recall if she was given to me by my Aunt Gloria (Sissy) who frequently bought me dolls or by Granny who would send money by Sissy to buy me something. Nonetheless it was given to me by family that I cherished, loved, and longed deeply to be with.

This week I received an email from a dear and sweet friend of mine. For the past five years I’ve grown to care more and more for he and his family, not only are they friends, but also Christians. We have a great deal in common. The message came asking me when Shawn and I would be home and what we were doing this Thursday or Friday. Long story short, we were able to have a visit at home from my dear friend after we got home from Memphis. It’s nice to have friends over, it lets you know they want to be with you.

As our friend came in he was carrying a bag. In the bag I could see Easter colors and eggs. It was a gift. In the five years I’ve known my friend and his family they have always been givers. We sat around and talked for an hour or so and he handed the bag to me. He said there were some Easter goodies for Shawn and I to share, but one piece that was in the very middle was to be opened last and by me. I wanted Shawn to share in the opening of the gift, but Shawn said “Dora, you just go ahead and open it.”

I took the wrapped piece in my hands and lay it on my lap. I touched the top and stopped…It was a very familiar feeling to my hands, the rectangle shape of the box, the plastic on top. Before I even got the package open I felt my heart begin to swell and tears fill my eyes. I looked at my friend and said choking back tears “I think I know what this is.” 

I pulled off the wrapping and there before me was a Peaches and Cream 1984 Barbie in her original box, with everything she originally came with. I began to sob, Shawn began to cry, my friend began to cry, the emotion was palpable. The quote at the top is one that came to me that night. Sometimes it’s okay to lose something, because of the joy of having it returned. If I had never lost my precious doll, I would never have had the wonderful and heartwarming experience of having her returned to me.

This was a gesture that I will never, ever forget. I’m so thankful for the love of my friend and his deeply rooted goodness. He read my blog about my dolls and it touched him so that he wanted to do something to make me smile. I’ll never forget it, ever. I cried and looked at the doll and took her out of her package and felt the love that God says you will have for your brothers and sister fill up my heart to the brim. God’s word says that “there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” Prv 18:24 I’m richly blessed.

The gift of this doll is not in the item, but in what she represents. She was part of the family that I wasn’t allowed to remain with. She was given to me by hands that wanted to always see me smile and to always see me happy and to always show me that I was loved. Now that Sissy is gone the doll is that much more precious, Granny and Aunt Em are growing older, she is more precious because when I think of the doll I think of those faces and their love for me and my love for them. I will treasure her and keep her safe and never forget the love that gave her to me first and the love that returned her to me after 26 years.

UPDATE: This special doll is now kept inside a cabinet in my dining room that we call “our special cabinet.” It contains items that have significant meaning to our family. Things we want to see daily and have as a reminder of love and happiness.

The Heart Box

Each Valentines Day that I was able to see Granny (Lexie) she would buy for me a heart box of candy and have it waiting for me when I would arrive. I knew this box was not only given out of true, abiding love, but out of sacrifice. For Granny did not have great wealth in terms of money, but she would do her utmost to give to me, from her heart, every opportunity that she had. This heart shaped box of candy was worth it’s weight 1,00,000,000 times over to me in gold.

Visitations with Granny were all too short for my little heart. Once I was permanently placed with Papaw (Bob) and Mamaw (Delphia) at age seven I would see Granny only once a month, I had Friday night, Saturday and would be picked up on Sunday. My heart ached for Granny and Aunt Em. I hated leaving them, I only wanted to be where I knew I was deeply cherished. So when Granny gave me something I too cherished that gift with every ounce of my being. It meant more than just a little box of chocolates to savor for a moment. It was my Granny’s heart revealed unto me, tangible and evident.

The heart box of candy that came on Valentines Day was shared between me, Granny and Aunt Em. I never ate the entire box in one sitting and I always shared with them. They didn’t want the candy, they would never take anything from me, but they knew I wanted to share with them, so they would take whichever piece I picked out for them, knowing I wanted to see them happy as well.

The one box that I loved and remember the most was a medium sized heart covered across the top in a strip of white lace with a red rose attached to it. I had been given two others in the past, I didn’t always get to see Granny on Valentines Day. This particular box I had to hold closely to me, even closer than anything else I had ever been given by Granny. Most of the time I never took anything back to Papaw and Mamaw’s with me, for I knew it would be destroyed.

The other heart boxes of candy were each destroyed. The candy that was left was taken, eaten by Mamaw, then the box was thrown into the coal burning stove in the kitchen. “That’s a bunch of garbage to pile up my house now little girl,” Mamaw would say with disdain and venom. Her house could only be piled up with HER garbage, her trinkets and what nots.

I could have nothing,

I deserved nothing,

Mamaw would see to it that if I cared about something it would be desecrated with all the vial affection she could muster to see to it that I would hurt. Mamaw wanted me to love only she and if I so much as showed that I cared for a person or thing that thing would be gone and that person would be talked about like a dog, as if they were nothing short of the most wretched person alive and in times of anger she would hiss at me “and you’re just like them!”

I was stupid enough to take my Pac-Man Big Wheel to Papaw and Mamaw’s from Granny’s. I didn’t know any better, but have hated myself for my choice for years. I rode it one time the weekend I brought it home, went to school the following Monday, came back and it was gone. Mamaw had me believe that it was stolen from the carport though I had just seen it sitting where I had left it, under the carport. It was, just as every other cherished item Granny would give me, either destroyed, given away or taken to the dump.

I began to figure out what Mamaw was doing and had to devise ways of hiding what I cared about if I wanted to bring something from Granny’s. Mamaw had taken my most precious Peaches and Cream Barbie doll, one I thought I had hidden well from her in my innocence and naivety. I never saw my Barbie again, I searched the entire house thinking I had misplaced her. I KNEW where I put her, I KNEW it, but no manner of asking would have Mamaw admit what had occurred. She would just stare at me, stone faced, it mattered not how hard I cried. It broke my heart, because that was the prettiest, most special doll I had ever seen and it was a gift from Granny that meant her money, her time and effort to give something to me that I would adore and it was destroyed.

So what should I do? How could I protect The Heart Box? My little heart was bound and determined to keep the box, to have it, to hide it. A child should not have to be afraid of their caregiver. While Mamaw did not physically abuse me, she tortured me mentally. As a child I was meant to trust that she loved me, would protect me and be there for me when I was in need. Instead, she chose to break every ounce of trust I could have in her as often as she possibly found cause. In her stubborn arrogance she didn’t see that what she was doing was driving me far from her rather than drawing me near. She wanted any reminder for me of another person whom I could love to be vanquished. I did love her, she couldn’t see it, for she required all the attention, praise and glory, but I was too afraid of her to do little more than simply obey her every command to clean, to cook, to carry, but she never sought my arms. Where was her box of candy for me, her doll, her forethought in trying to show me she cared. Where were the kisses, hugs and love? She thought in giving me a roof over my head and food was enough to sustain me, that it was enough to prove her love. NO!

The Bible says “But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4 Part of that word is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Matthew 7:12 Sadly, Mamaw could not see this, not ever.

So before leaving Granny’s I wrapped the box in the clothing I had worn the day before and tucked it inside a plastic Piggly Wiggly bag. I knew as soon as Papaw brought me back through the doors of Mamaw’s house she would tell me to “take them filthy rags and put them in the hamper to be washed.” I managed to tuck the heart into the hamper, knowing we wouldn’t wash the clothes on a Sunday. Then at my first opportunity I took the heart box and found a hiding place for it. There, in the very farthest back room of the house was a long three tiered shelf full of Mamaw’s collections. It sat low to the ground, butted up nearly equal to the golden colored carpet on the floor. It was never moved, nor could it be for the other dressers and shelving that sat around it. There I gently and with love placed the heart box as far as I could tuck it back underneath the shelf.

There were many times I would find myself longing for Granny and Aunt Em. It was then I would go as quietly as a mouse to the back room and to the hiding spot. I would slide the heart box out from under the shelf and I would look at it, tears would begin to stream down my little face. I would take that heart and hold it next to mine, both arms wrapped around it as tightly as possible, then I would cry out for Granny and Aunt Em. There behind the shelf was a large picture window facing the road, draped in long, dark curtains. I would move back part of the drapes and look out at the road, reach one hand out while holding the box and weep bitterly, but silently until my throat felt as though it would close. I cried so hard from time to time that I felt I would collapse. I simply needed true love.

I never removed that candy box, even after I left Mamaw’s. That place where it hid away and held my tears seemed too special. I couldn’t bear to take the heart away from the place where it was kept safely for so long. I knew it would never be discovered as long as Mamaw lived, because she was beyond the age of moving furniture and I, her worker, was not there to move it for her.

The Heart Box of Candy means more to me every year that Granny and Aunt Em are gone. When I see them each February I think of them both. I think of my time in the back room longing for their love and now that I am grown I can look at the boxes and think of the love and find comfort in now sharing a Heart Box of Candy with my sweet boy. I tell him the story of what it means, what it signifies to me, then I give him the sweets to enjoy. I tell him “remember that this box means I took time to show you I love you, that I thought of you today and that I want you to be happy and know that Momma is always in your heart and you are in hers.”

My son and me.

Tiny Pebbles

Humans are sensory beings, we take in memories based on sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. It is our senses that give us cerebral memories when we hear a song, smell something that reminds us of a tasty meal or sweet treat shared with a loved one. These episodic memories make up autobiographical artifacts for us to pull from specific events in our lives, like the coffee you had with a friend or the colors from the wrapping paper of special gift. They also serve as warnings of what hurt and what to avoid, such as running into a brier patch chasing a ball during a happy game with another and then scratching yourself to pieces, because you were too enthralled with the fun, you know that burning pain! If the scratches were bad enough you might never have played that game again! Perhaps also, the sound of a bottle of beer popping open and what comes after that sound, for me anyway, is not pleasant.

Today however, we are remembering a joyful cerebral, episodic memory. Today, is for love and recalling something that made my life better. This is a story of happiness and I will not allow the bad to overshadow the beauty of my tiny pebbles.

This is a treasured photo of my beloved family. From left to right Aunt Em, Uncle Noah holding me, Aunt Edith, Maw and Granny.

As a child one of the very best memories I have is walking with Granny and her sister, my Great Aunt Em. Each of them would take one of my hands and we would walk to Aunt Ida’s house, to her spring, up and down the road collecting black berries near the “Little Hutty” which you will learn more about in subsequent writings. We would visit Maw at her house on the hill, Granny’s mother, or go just up beside the house to Ken and Gail’s to fill milk jugs with water to carry home. Each walk carried with more than just stepping out of the house for a spell.

As we walked my tiny feet didn’t make much sound, but Granny and Aunt Em’s did. All along the road between the Little Hutty and the main road were these tiny, multicolored pebbles that made the most beautiful crunching sound underneath the feet of my beloved Granny and Aunt Em. Those tiny brown, reddish orange and tan stones wouldn’t seem like much at all to any other passerby, but to me they meant time, love and care. Those were things I needed and always received with Granny. Each little stone that crackled meant a step taken with me and for me. Each seemingly minute stone helped to build security and a fortress of happiness with the two people who cherished me as much as I cherished them.

Sometimes after a nice rain shower the pebbles made a soft slush sound as they shifted along our path. I loved that sound too, I still do. There have been times as an adult, with a now heavier body that I’ve walked along a little stone covered path and heard that beautiful music of the crunching sound of the tiny pebbles. The sweet sound of nature and love resounding underneath the weight of a little walk, oh how lovely it is.

God gave us our senses for a reason, for the learning of what is pleasure and what is pain. We can take the moments of good and unwrap them, as gifts to carry with us long past the age when we first received them. We can pull the moments out when we need them most. I will always need my tiny pebbles and when I am taking one of my beloved walks through the woods or along a creek bed and find those little reminders of the loving walks with Granny and Aunt Em, I will linger there, listening to the tiny rocks crackle and sing to me. I’ll walk back and forth until my heart feels full.

I pray you are blessed with tiny pebbles dear reader, multitudes of them. May you have them and give of them freely to those whom you love. The very best gifts of life do not come from a store, they come from the heart.

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What?! You?!

Over the last three years, through therapy I have opened up to the idea of sharing with other that I have anxiety. No part of me before therapy could have allowed me to share this side of my life. I still sit here terrified to tell the stories of my life and the struggles that I’ve endured. I feel ashamed and afraid of what repercussions could come? Will I lose friends? Will I lose job opportunities? Will people think less of me?


You see I have mentioned that I struggle with anxiety to others who have first mentioned their struggles to me. When I say, “I understand, me too” oftentimes I have heard a shocked proclamation of “what, you?” Then person after person say they don’t know how someone who can get up on a stage and do the things I LOVE to do can have any form of anxiety. Most people know me as outgoing, an extrovert, a people person, a laugher and someone who is generally upbeat. I am, but I fight to be that in day to day life unless I’m using humor.

I love theater, the stage feels like home to me, performing is like second nature as some would say, but first nature to me. It’s a comfort to me and my way of free expression. I’ve loved performance all of my life, for as long as I can recall.

“A Bad Year for Tomatoes”

You see when I am onstage as someone else, I’m not Dora, I am the character I play, immersed in the story the cast is sharing, I am away from myself. I’m putting the one talent I have true confidence in to work and it feels wonderful! I love to make people laugh, to see them smile and happy.

I found that comedy was my way of making tough situations less tough. I found a means of making people laugh and that defused a lot of tension. My homemade costumes and silly antics were the one time I could see Mamaw smile and laugh, she actually seemed to enjoy me during the times I put her wigs on or dressed up like Steve Urkel! It was nice to have her like a part of me. I could always make my friends laugh and very much loved to do so. I could make my mothers alcoholic husband laugh or laugh with him when I sensed he was growing irritated.

When I put on a costume, work to produce a play or musical show of some sort it doesn’t feel like work, it’s not difficult, it feels like home. I sought any kind of performance avenue I could find through school, marching band, cheer, flag corps, speech and drama, forensics, 4H. If there was a talent show, I was in it. I danced, I frolicked, I felt alive even when there was no one there in my family, not one person to ever watch me thrive, I kept on.

Being a comedian at heart is a joy, it’s a protection, it’s a way to make others feel glad to be around you. Sadly, so many folks like me struggle with inner turmoil. We become clowns for a reason then build upon it. Don’t we all throughout life find what works for us then foster the good parts if we can, the parts that make us feel stronger and more capable of being?

Think about the struggles you know about with Robin Williams, one of the greatest comedians of all time and JIm Carrey as well? Both of these men have struggled with depression.

“Robin publicly acknowledged his depression and anxiety in an interview with the Guardian newspaper. In 2003, he was admitted to a substance-abuse rehabilitation center in Newberg, Oregon, to deal with his alcohol addiction.”-SciELO.com

“Jim Carrey has made a career out of making people laugh. Yet Carrey’s humour was born out of ‘desperation’ while growing up with an ailing mother and an unemployed father. To help make ends meet, he dropped out of high school and went to work full-time. Depression was a constant battle for Carrey, and he was medicated on and off for years.”-The Psych Professionals

It’s strange how comedians seem to be born out of struggle. We have natural comedic abilities and when we used them as children we saw it effect positive change in our day to day lives. For me being silly is natural, but it can be too much for some people as well. I genuinely and with my entire heart love to see people happy and laughing. There have been a few times in life I know my attempt at humor wasn’t well received. That was tough. It’s hurtful to feel unliked and unappreciated for something that has been helpful to me throughout life. Though I was using my humor and others were as well I was too much. I was the one who failed, the one who tried too hard to reach the hearts of others through the one way that’s always worked in the past. It’s my own fault for trusting that I could be a source of comfort to people who really would rather go about their lives than to be fooled with a fool like me. In the past my comedic turn has been met with eye rolls, yes I have seen them all. I’ve seen people who were used to being the one who made others laugh grow to dislike me, because they were used to the reward of laughter. When that stops, that can be a huge gut punch, I’ve felt it! I’m not always the funniest in the room or the most outspoken, some have accused me of being stuck up!!!!! Now THAT is funny! It takes me time to warm up to strangers, so those strangers at times may think me too quiet. They just don’t know me yet. I don’t trust easy and I can read a room and a person like I can read a book, I’m highly perceptive. I learned to be, I had to be. I had to watch temperaments closely to protect myself.

“Leading Ladies”

A little of me is okay, a lot of me is too much for some. We can’t be liked by everyone, all the time, but I believe every reader here can admit that they want to be! Who wants to be disliked, no one? Who cares about the quote “You can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time. But you cannot please all of the people, all of the time!” EVEN IF IT IS TRUE!

I am a people pleaser, it’s a fact, this can be good and it can be many times terrible. I shouldn’t be, but I learned to be. I learned to work, to offer help, to do whatever I could to show others that I do care and I want to help, I am worthy of your love! So even though I am an anxiety ridden fool, I can be on the stage and do what I do, because for all the folks out there who may not like a comedian, there are thousands more who do! So I keep on, because the only part of me I love is my ability to perform. I will never cease my love for the stage, theatre, laughter and giving back to others through my own self deprecation in costume and hideous makeup or whatever comes my way!

I’ll keep chasing my dreams and you should too! Even if you struggle with anxiety, depression or panic attacks like me YOU can succeed and push through the pain. Cease the gift that God blessed you with and build upon it. Don’t let anyone steal your joy or the pride you have in something you thrive in doing. We as people who have struggles need all the encouragement we can get and finding the silver lining in so many dark clouds can be difficult. When one person doesn’t laugh with me or at me I know it’s them, not me. When a person cannot laugh and they become too serious in life they have their own issues and it’s up to them to work through it.

As for me, YES, ME! I’m gonna work my hardest to be back on a stage somewhere nearby. I’m never going to allow my anxiety to take away what God gave me to help cope with the fears, dread, worry, abuse and scary times of life. God will open up a window or door or crack when we need it most. We just have to summon the courage to climb through.

A little side story…

God gave me Barter Stage ll upon the one year anniversary of my Granny and Uncles simultaneous deaths. Just at the time when I would be struggling deeply with depression and the reminder of losing my precious Granny he gave me a gift I had dreamt of. From a child I wanted to be on a Barter Theatre stage I dreamt of it, hoped for it, longed deeply for it, but didn’t think it would ever come, but just when I needed it, it was there. You see WHEN I needed it. God does know our hearts and He gives freely to those who love him, in HIS timing. He knew this would help me through the grief of losing Granny, the second person in my life that mattered more to me than anyone. I was on a Barter stage, as myself, but making people laugh. It was almost as if it wasn’t me, because me was standing backstage pacing, anxious and afraid, but as soon as that music hit I was the Dora who could do anything. You may not believe it, it may seem shocking, but being on a stage, performing is life to me and I thank God for giving me this gift and I pray that you, whomever you are, will grasp hold of your natural ability and fly high with it.


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