Our Participation: The Levity Project

First let me explain where this idea comes from. It comes from Katie of THE LEVITY PROJECT.

Here is what her post said,

On November 7th, at 12:00 CT, will you laugh in a public place with us? Grab a friend, your iPOD, a good book and sit somewhere in a public place and laugh for 5 minutes. Just start by saying “Ha Ha Ha” or humming ha ha ha to yourself. Then keep getting louder and louder. I like to envision a bubble of laughter in my belly and chuckle quietly as I imagine it rising up in me through my chest, throat and out through my mouth. By the time it escapes my mouth, I let out a big laugh in celebration. Do this for 5 minutes (it will feel like a workout!).

That is all I am asking you to do. Go somewhere in public and laugh. And then, watch what happens around you. Sure, there will be the people that look at you oddly and like you may have a problem. But there will also be the people that look you in the eyes and start to smile. And even the few that start to laugh with you. After 5 minutes, notice how you feel. Do you feel a little lighter? Do you feel a like the outlook for the day is brighter? Enjoy making the ripple effect in the world around you.

Katie- The Levity Project

I thought this was a great idea and decided to take part. The more laughter the better. I recruited my daughter Sydney to laugh with me, trust me, she has the BEST laugh. Since this was decided last minute, my other recruits did not have the ability to join us. I’m sure they will want to have some WICKED fun with us next time.

I decided to go to The Parks Mall in Arlington. It’s probably the most crowded place I know. Jason opted to film the event. Thank goodness too! His height and steady hand was spectacular!

I have to admit, you feel a bit like a mad hatter, walking around laughing your head off. But it’s also very freeing. Just let go, laugh, and have a ball.

Without further ado, here is how it turned out.

Angelia: I think it turned out great! We had a lot of funny looks but some people smiled and waved.

Sydney: It was great seeing their faces. They couldn’t figure out what we were doing.

Angelia: I think my favorite part was knowing I was participating in an event going on in other parts of United States. We were all spreading laughter together.

Sydney: My favorite part was Santa waving and pointing – I mean smiling.

Angelia: I will definitely do it again. Maybe wear a smiley face shirt, hold a sign, or wear a silly hat. It was great fun!

Sydney: I’ll do it again, just to see everyone’s surprise. I wonder what we will come up with next, and if the cops will shut us down again. HA!

 

Carry laughter with you wherever you go. ~Hugh Sidey

A day in the Park, A day in the Life

I realize it’s NaNoWriMo time. I should be building on my measly 1,610 words, I wrote on day one which was still short by fifty-seven words of the daily goal. Sigh. I should be writing to make up for that and taking advantage of my day off to jump ahead of the pack. (all of my writing buddies have more words than me – including my daughter) But I have come to realize, that sometimes, I don’t have a say in what I want to write or should write. Sometimes my heart is in my fingers, my soul urges me to tell the story, and all I can do is follow that lead.

My lead was encouraged by Pastor David Daniels’ revisit to the Down and Out series at Pantego Bible Church from last February. He actually rode with a Police Officer in charge of doing a homeless count for 2009. He met and heard many of the stories of homeless people. There were several videos made. Their stories got to the gut of it. The disadvantaged, the substance abusers, and the ones that rise above it all – against all odds – to have a home after all.

It is truly a heart wrenching story of LOVE MERCY. Their strength, and daily perseverance brings me to tears. I realize it’s something some of us do not understand, and something some of us understand all too well. Whichever side of the fence you are on, you can’t help but be moved.

A lot of people wonder why they don’t just get I.D’s., get jobs, use government help – which most of them do. What they don’t realize is, if you don’t have a SSN number or birth certificate – there is NO getting an I.D. None period. If you don’t have an I.D. you can’t get a job. And contrary to popular belief, most of these people do not WANT help. They WANT to live on their own, survive on their own, and make it on their own. They have pride just like you and I. There is no difference, they are human beings made in God’s image. What makes them different is their circumstance.

A circumstance that could happen to you or to me. I was this close to falling into an endless, irreversible cycle of drug addiction. One of the worst ones – METH. This didn’t happen when I was too young to know any better. This happened as an adult in my early thirties. It pains me to think how close I was to losing everything and being on the street. It’s painful to admit, even today, but it’s true. It’s part of my past, it’s part of who I am, and why I am.

I have compassion for them. I have a glimpse of their world. I know how easily it can unravel. And I’m not saying I know, that’s not what I’m saying at all. My period was a year, year and half, theirs are decades. I don’t know anything. It’s hard, harder than imaginable.

Sunday, a friend from Facebook and Christian Mingle came to Texas to visit her daughter and new baby grandson. In July when he was born, she had planned to visit me and the Church, but unexpectedly had to return to Florida. She promised to return and visit one day again.

That day happened to be this Sunday. She called and I gave her directions to the Church to meet her in the lobby. It was a wonderful connection. She is as dear and genuine in person as she has been online. She is a very heartfelt, and beautiful. Her daughter and grandson were absolutely precious. What a gift it was to meet them, embrace them, and cuddle that precious baby boy. It was the highlight of my day.

Pastor Daniels summarized the Down and Out series, highlighting the specific messages. The true stories of the Down and Out brings tears, heartache, and tremendous hope. Hope for a new understanding, for an awakened passion, and for my friend because her other daughter is homeless, and under the oppression of substance abuse.

I can’t imagine. I can’t imagine the pain of that. What stood out the most was Pastor Daniels saying, for some, you can’t help them. You can be there for them. You can love them, but they are on their own journey with God.

It brought her great comfort to hear this. It brought her peace where their wasn’t any before. It was a message she so desperately needed to hear. A message of LOVE MERCY to a mother who traveled over 1,000 miles to hear it.

My visit of LOVE MERCY happened a few short weeks ago. I was invited by a friend to be part of Feed by Grace ministry, which is a division of Unity Park near downtown Fort Worth.

unity park bball ct

Unity Park is a fenced in area, with trees, picnic tables, and the above pictured basket ball court. The homeless can come to relax, be entertained, have coffee or Gatorade during certain operating hours. There is a small one room concrete building that houses an even smaller kitchen and bathroom. This is where I gathered with many volunteers for a women’s spa day. A very special engagement.

nailstationtable setting

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This event was by invitation only. The director had selected twenty-five deserving women that needed some pampering. Not that they aren’t ALL deserving, they are, but there were only so many spots.

I volunteered to work the nail station. Heck, I LOVE a manicure. It’s nice to be spoiled. To give that to these ladies was sure to be a blessing. Most of them had never had a manicure before. Other volunteers arranged the lunch, and drinks. Also, a paraffin hand waxing station was designated. Three teenage boys arrived to be waiters. They were dressed sharply in nice shirts, ties, and slack – complete with a white towel over their arm.

These ladies were not just being given lunch. They were being offered the royal treatment. An afternoon of sheer pleasure and escape from all their worries. This was the similar to an Academy Award event. White table cloths, center pieces, waiters, and gratification awaited them.

The first woman’s hands, I took in mine was named Beverly. I couldn’t begin to guess her age but she told me she had three children in their forties that lived in Tulsa. I would have pegged her about sixty-five. She was a small woman, mostly skin and bones, but there nothing frail about her. She was tough. She was strong, wise, and determined.

She told me her story as I caressed her weathered hands. Her pride beamed as she described her grown children. Her brow furrowed as she detailed beating breast cancer, becoming a survivor, and to find out the cancer had returned. She was in crisis once again with her head held high. She said she was going to get an apartment. She was going to get on her feet, but would not undergo chemo again. If this was her time, well then, she was ready.

I buffed a black spot on her nail, where she said a door had shut on her finger, as the black lifted away, she watched the stain disappear, her pleasure radiated. I smoothed the ridges, soaked the cuticle, trimmed, and polished her fingertips. She smiled when we finished, her nails had never been treated so well before. One last squeeze and she went back to the tables covered in cloth to await lunch. Her courage in the face of her situation astounded me, humbled me even.

Three more times, I talked, treated and tried to offer these homeless women a shred of love. The only kind I could offer, my service. Every one of them was sweet and grateful. They felt like princesses. After the nail station, two more volunteers were offering hand massages. Then they could move on to the hand waxing.

At first, some of the women thought hand waxing was the plucking of hair. We advised them it was actually much more pleasurable, some were brave enough to try it. I helped peel the wax from their hands. The exclaimed in glee as they felt their hands transformed to silk. The first thing they would do was touch their face, rubbing their soft hands on their skin, eyes closing in enjoyment. Such a small thing, yet so indulging, and so beautiful to behold.

Lunch was served by the handsome young boys. The women thought they looked like soap stars. They were star struck as they bashfully accepted a plate of food, a glass of tea, and a dessert. Giggling like school girls and shying their eyes away. It was sweet.

As the luncheon came to an end, a woman behind me stood up. In front of twenty-five women and ten volunteers she told her story of being homeless, losing her children due to drug abuse, getting herself rehabilitated, getting her kids back and learning to live and work again. Then she sang from her heart, a lullaby, written by her mother when she was a small child.

The room was silent as her voice lifted and carried, all the pain, the heartbreak, and the sheer will for a better life, lifted and touched every soul. When she finished, thunderous clapping erupted, tears were wiped away. She bared herself for all to see, in order for other women to have strength. She told her story for them to rise up and be champions. What an impact.

They were pampered for now, but back to the street they would go. To sell their bodies, or to miss their babies, or to look for shelter, or a bath, to an abusive husband or mate, and even to that addiction if they have one. Maybe this ounce of compassion could sustain them for a brief while.

Before the luncheon closed, Feed by Grace director had one more surprise for the ladies. She brought out hand knit hats and scarves, all unique, all made with a hue of brilliant color. Knitted by a group of women that pray over each thread. Women who selflessly offer their talent for a strangers warmth and comfort.

The ladies were told the hats and scarves were prayed over as a covering for them this winter. Hence the hat to cover their head and the scarves to wrap around them. A covering of protection from the cold. A covering of love and prayer. They also handed out purses filled with kits of useful things for a street person. Items we would trash, they treasure.
bag gifts

Lastly was the prayer locket. A silver chain hugging a heart that opens, inside you can put prayers, close the locket and wear it on your chest. Faith, love, and mercy – they can hold in their hand. Something beautiful to fill their every aspiration.

prayer locket
My beautiful friend Beverly as she saw her heart locket.

As they departed, I hugged every neck I could. I tried to touch them as they had touched me. I held them tightly and prayed for strength and energy and heart to go forth with them. The woman that sang her song, I told her keep singing and keep telling her story. It would change lives, just keep shining.

Some people might say what a blessing I AM. To those people, I would say – the blessing was ALL MINE. I will never forget that day, not one second. I look forward to future outings with the down and out. I hope to continue in this mission as much as I can.

You might think, WOW , I wish I was like you. But listen, I am an ordinary person. A single mom with little resource. My only resource I can give is my heart, my time, and my service. If you knit, look for those opportunities, blankets, scarves, and hats. If you can serve, find those places that need a hand. They are all AROUND you. Ask God to open your eyes to them. You will be amazed and blessed beyond measure.

Lastly, seek your compassion every day. Don’t shy away from what you don’t understand. Open your heart and receive. It will uplift your life.

1 Timothy 6:18 (Contemporary English Version)

18 Instruct them to do as many good deeds as they can and to help everyone. Remind the rich to be generous and share what they have

Prologue: A healthy reflection post

In the depths of winter, I finally found there was in me an invincible summer.– Albert Camus, author
             


Stepping closer to the light at the end of the tunnel

 Hard times are inevitable–death, financial struggle, family problems, the loss of a job, depression–all of these tough times are just seasons. Abraham Lincoln once said, “This too shall pass,” and you can apply it to both the good times and the bad. The thrill of a new relationship won’t endure forever, just as the grief of losing a loved one won’t either. So endure the hardships of life, knowing that time will eventually heal your wounds and you will make it through. Think about what struggles have occurred in your life and what they taught you. No matter how dim the light at the end of the tunnel seems, it is still a light. Each day is an opportunity for that light of hope to get closer and closer, until eventually the clouds above your head part and you feel the forgotten sunshine on you again. Overcoming pain makes you stronger and better equipped to handle the next valley.

 

I title this a prologue because the next blog entry I will post is a personal misery. I don’t particularly want to post a storm without a rainbow at the end.

But typically, this is how I live my life, knowing that with time, the dark toil of suffering has a dim light that grows bigger. That every lesson I learned the hard way, shaped my soul to be who I am. Every tear I shed,  gave my heart another layer of depth. Every heart wrench, softened me in just the right place. Every nerve wracked, brought me closer to the strength inside.

With my head held high, I tell you, I’ve made awful mistakes. I am no where near perfect, not then,  and certianly not now. I can bravely put my whole self, not just the good side, for all the world to see.  I am proud of what I’ve been through. I am proud to know God has a purpose for me.  I am proud of the good and the bad. I was wonderfully made to serve and understand so much more than so many others.

Shine. Endure. Know. You are one struggle closer to a better you, a more complete you, a more blessed you, a you that will astound…… even YOU.

The truth is that one day you will look back and see how all the pieces fit together. And how your life has been a complete and utter success.

 Be invincible!

 

Miracle Digest:One year later…. A Father’s Love

One year ago today, I kissed my Dad on the cheek as I bent over, hugged his neck and said “I love you.” I gave him one last squeeze and said good-bye. Little did I know, this was the last time I would ever see him alive. The last words I would ever speak to him. The last moment my hands would ever touch his warm body.

Oh, if I had just known….I would have spent more time visiting. I would have stayed longer, hugged harder, made sure he knew how much he meant to me. And didn’t I notice he looked a little tired? His face a little gaunt? His color just a bit off? Didn’t I know? Shouldn’t I have known?

I didn’t and, just like that, he was gone. He died the Thursday after I saw him. He had a massive clot in his heart – as hard as they tried, the paramedics, and the hospital ER staff could not save him.

As shocking as it was to happen so suddenly, in the end, can’t I honestly say, “WOW” . Look what God did. He let me say good-bye to the one man in the world that I absolutely trusted and loved with all my heart. The ONE man I could go to for support of any kind – financial, emotional, developmental. He was it for me. My Rock. My Dad.

One year later my heart and soul still mourn for him. I still miss him. I still ache. I still nurse that void in my soul. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t wish he were here.

However, that man was not my blood-related father. He was my step dad. God hates divorce, but he sure can use his mighty power and turn the tatters of divorce into a lifelong blessing to a child. That is what he did for me.

He gifted me the love of a man that did not create me. A man that did not have the pleasure of watching me grow in my mom’s belly, nor hold me in his arms when I was born, nor see my first real food meal, or even my first baby steps.

No, this man missed all that, because he didn’t come into my life until I was 4-years-old. But I never knew I wasn’t his. I never knew he missed anything. He never held his love back. He never worried that he wasn’t my biological Dad. He loved me because that is what his heart told him to do and he did it for all he was worth.

Carl had a hard life. He contracted Polio when he was young boy. It was right at the beginning of the vaccinations. I am not sure why, but he wasn’t vaccinated, and he contracted the crippling polio at age six. No longer could he run or jump like a normal boy. His left leg lost all mobility. In the first twenty years of his life, he would have over fifty surgeries, but they couldn’t correct his atrophied leg. He was crippled for life.

He had crutches and a full-length metal brace. He lived most of his life on crutches, until his later years, when his shoulders gave out, then was confined to a wheelchair. You wouldn’t have known it from how he lived. He was very smart. He never let his disablement get him down. He graduated college with a computer science degree, then went on to get his Masters. He had a special knack for technology – he was way ahead of his time.

Computer science wasn’t offered at the local college in the late 1970’s. He convinced them to put it in their program. He pioneered the entire Office Technology Department. What an achievement – to be struck down so young, but persevere and change so many young lives.

A new computer lab was dedicated in his honor several months after he died. A scholarship was established in his name. His works, still, moves through the heart of the Business Education. Today, his legacy is alive in the scholars he taught and his graduates succeeding  in their own workplace.

When Carl met my mom, he was teaching at the college, as he did his entire lifetime. She was a student and a beauty. He was a handicapped computer geek. She saw, not his legs or brains, but his heart. He saw her soul, not the looker with a lot of baggage (two divorces and four children). They accepted each other as they were. They loved what, and who, they were with no intent to ever change the other.

I still don’t understand how a single, supremely intelligent man could decide to take on my mother and the chaos (and expense) of four children, but he did. I still marvel at that –  every day – what a brave, brave man.

I remember meeting him and going to his apartment for the first time. It was fun. I do not remember wondering why he was on crutches or what was wrong with him. As a child you don’t wonder those things. Later, I would see him meet many children and not one ever wondered why he had crutches, was in a wheelchair, had a big sliver brace on his leg, or couldn’t walk or run. Not one.

It was curious, but that was all. His disability taught me to accept people as they are. No matter their flaws or disadvantages. We are all the same. I truly believe that is why I want to serve others. It’s because of his service and acceptance.

As a young child, I would sit in his lap and play for hours. We would also watch TV. I became a Star Trek fan watching old episodes with him. As I became an obnoxious teenager, of course, I rebelled. “You’re not my DAD. I don’t have to do what you say!”, but I did. He made me obey. He made me do the right things. He made me adhere to my groundings, not talk back to my mother, and do my chores.

That mean, mean man. He taught me respect. He raised me to be attentive and mindful. Only now do I know how impossibly hard that must have been for him. How it must have hurt him that he wasn’t my dad, as I so bluntly pointed out. He taught me to be a good person and to be selfless because he was so selfless himself.

When I got married in Las Vegas he was there. He couldn’t walk me down the aisle because of his crutches (he could have but I didn’t want to put him in that spot), he was my husband’s best man. *thank you Sonny, I can look back on that and KNOW how much that meant to him*

At the end of the ceremony, he had tears streaming down his face. I looked at him and the love he had for me radiated from deep in his heart outward. His baby had grown up and gotten married. That was so very precious to me.

Carl became “Poppy” when my baby Sydney was born. He rode with my mom for six hours to come to Texas, the day after she was born, so that he could hold her. He couldn’t wait even though it was hard riding in the car for that long with defective legs.

As my daughter grew, she would sit in his lap, like I did as child, and play and play and play. A crippled man couldn’t run, wrestle, or play hide and seek, but somehow all children were completely content and comfortable sitting in his lap playing dominoes. Amazing. Sydney made up for what he missed with me as a baby. She was so very special to him – all his grandchildren were.

Then I rebelled again, but this time not with him, but against life itself. He never said a negative word to me during my divorce and subsequent “out of my mind” years. He quietly stood beside me in support- no matter what mistakes I made. He suffered my pain one-hundred percent, held me up, regardless of how disappointed he must have been. He was there every fall. He pulled me out when I hit rock bottom. He listened. He cared. He changed my life by being so unchanging himself.

When I finally got my life back on track, he was in a wheelchair full-time. I ran my first half marathon. I drove to his house immediately after, and proudly, I displayed my medal to him. He took it all in with such pride. His eyes lit up and his happiness overflowed. My success was his success. It was like he ran that half marathon himself. He did. He really did.

I am overwhelmed by the love this man had for my mother and her children. I am overwhelmed that he spent his life caring for us and tending to our every wound, cry, and need – when he didn’t really have to. It wasn’t easy. It was never easy, not for a normal healthy man, and certainly not for a disabled man. But he did it. He never complained. Not once. Oh, how he taught me humbleness and utter sacrifice of self.

Dear Poppy Carl, in heaven, I thank God for putting you in my life. For turning an ugly thing such as divorce into the beauty of love – lifelong, undying, unforgettable love. My heart swells three times it’s size for having known you. May your legs be strong and healthy. May your heart be unblemished and whole. May all the rewards, you so richly deserve, be granted to you in heaven.

May you know the love you had for us a hundred times more. God knows we needed you. I guess you needed us too. Thank you for your never failing courage and strength. Thank you for showing us, no limitation can hinder, nothing can stop us from soaring. Thank you for being the best step dad a girl could ever dream of. A Father, I could love.

Rest in peace my dear sweet Dad. Rest in Peace.

May 14, 1944-Aug 1, 2008

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