Truth to Tell

A few years ago I was having a healthy discussion with a friend’s husband about some political brouhaha or the other. Now, I like Greg. He’s treated me well over the years, but more importantly, he’s treated his wife, Jamie, like the treasure that she is. We’ve always disagreed politically but have never lowered ourselves when talking about this issue or that. Perhaps we both recognize there is fault on either side.

However, a few minutes into our animated talk I realized something I hadn’t caught on to before: Greg was a proficient storyteller, and he had no issue straying from the truth. As he rambled off some “facts” to me, points I knew objectively to be false, I glanced over at Jamie. Did she know he was lying?

Of course she did. Over the years mutual friends and I have more fully recognized the extent of Greg’s, shall we say, misinterpretation of the facts, but none of us have ever said anything about it to Jamie, nor has she said anything to us. It is understood that this is a fault, and a somewhat benign one in context, nothing of which we need to take issue. Frankly, I doubt most conversations between me and Greg would end any differently if he did diligently adhere to the facts. We would agree and disagree in the same measure.

I need to make it clear that as far as we know, Greg doesn’t lie to Jamie about issues important to their marriage. He limits the falsehoods to certain types of storytelling and political debate. It doesn’t make us question him in other conversations–he has seemingly never exaggerated his children’s success, for example, or for that matter, their failures. He is an honest businessman.

Integrity is a difficult issue to define at times. Some would say if Greg can’t stick to the truth in his storytelling you can’t trust anything he tells you. Knowing him as I do, I trust him. Has he perhaps told me Jamie wasn’t home when she simply didn’t feel like talking? Maybe. But that doesn’t bother me.

I appreciate spouses who can lift their partner up without pulling the rest of us down. This is perhaps doubly true because of another couple I’m friends with who will protect each other to the point of lying in a manner that belittles me. When I know the truth, and you know I know the truth, why would you lie about something just to make a fool of me?

It’s a delicate balance and it’s part of the reason relationships can be so challenging. Our perspective shapes the way we evaluate the veracity of other’s conversations. What some consider wrong others don’t even hear.

We all have to live with the faults of others, but as Millie Helper said in one of my favorite episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show, “People would be pretty dull without them.”

And therein lies at least one truth.


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The Final Forgiveness

There are those who hurt us and infuriate us, people who forever remain oblivious to the harm they are doing. They are locked into their own understanding of what is good and right.

You want to honor all they’ve done for you, but seeing them comes with a price. It is a constant battle of wanting to rise above knowing you will only be dragged below by your good intentions.

At what point do you let go?

It is best, purest, if it can be done now and the issues are put behind you. But they are difficult to let go of. We are human; we are — on both sides — in many ways locked into who we are and what we believe. It protects us, guides us and provides us with clarity. So perhaps you forgive, only to be set up once again for a battle of wills and false understanding. It is a vicious cycle.

Then you hear: he is dying. He is hanging on, but soon will be gone.

It is time for a final forgiveness, an acknowledgement of our own failings and the knowledge that the temporal, in the end, is a wisp of smoke, dissipating into thin air.

It is time, but it is still hard. You haven’t been heard. There have been assumptions and presumptions that wound. Rumors and lies that become fact in the minds of others.

What does it matter? His death isn’t the final word because you go on living. What matters most?

Refine me, O Lord, open my blind eyes and lead me down the path of forgiveness.


Image courtesy of Pixabay

 

Discerning the Assumption

They tell you not to assume anything. But I disagree.

I’m job hunting now, and it is (as others have told me) a demoralizing experience. But I assume at the end of the my search I’ll have a job. If not, what would be the point of continuing?

Maybe that’s faith, not an assumption.

I have a friend who’s told me she doesn’t enjoy going to movie theaters. We’ve stopped inviting her, because we know what she’ll say. It’s not that she isn’t welcome, and we frequently let her know we’re going so she can include herself if she wants to go. But why ask the question when you’ve already been told the answer?

That’s common sense, not an assumption.

When I was in college, I took a course with no prerequisites. It was, I was told, a bottom-line, basic, true beginners class — no prior experience required. It also was a graduation requirement. Turns out everyone in that class — except me — already knew these basics, so the teacher taught at a higher level and left me behind. He believed I must know more than I thought I did. After all, I was bright enough.

Now that’s an assumption. Fortunately I took the course pass/fail and he graciously passed me. I didn’t learn a thing.

There are times when we assume things based on the facts we have, yet that information isn’t complete. It seems so obvious, so clear what the situation must be, until that puzzle piece that’s been missing appears. I’ve said it before. We don’t know what we don’t know.

How do we know when it’s faith, common sense or an unfair assumption? Look at who you’re depending on for the information. That will shed some light. The rest is life experience.

Which I’m assuming you have. Just kidding. If you don’t have it now, you will soon.


Assumption

Image Credit: © Bigstock.com

Know the Truth

On my way home from work, I heard the news. Another shooting, unknown numbers dead.

My first thought was a prayer for those whose hearts are breaking tonight, and I think most of you probably responded in a similar way.

Hot on the heels of this rapidly evolving news story was the comment by one politician: “we’ve got to get serious about mental health.” A statement made before anything is known about the shooter’s state of mind, his motive, facts we can seek our teeth into. The assumption was this eighteen-year-old was mentally ill. Maybe. I don’t have the story, and neither did that nitwit congressman.

I’ll agree, we’ve got to get serious about mental health. And here’s where you start: know the facts.

  • Mental illness does NOT make you violent.
  • The majority of violent crimes are committed by people with NO mental illness. NONE.
  • People with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violent crime.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse is far more likely to lead to violent crime than the most severe mental illness.
  • One of the strongest indicators of potential violent behavior is being a young male with a troubled childhood.

So let’s get serious about child abuse, domestic violence, and drug & alcohol abuse. I’m not saying don’t pour money into caring for the mentally ill. I’m saying, when you do, know what your money can accomplish. A better life for a highly stigmatized population, but probably not a serious reduction in the kinds of horrible events that flood the news.

In the next few days, countless reporters and politicians are going to contribute to the ignorance of the American people by going in front of the camera with trite words and misleading information. Take it upon yourself to dig deep for the truth. Write to those who spread the lies. Post, tweet, and cry out for fairness.

At work, at school, at church, you may be sitting next to someone with mental illness and never know it. They aren’t crazy, and there are a lot of options for those who seek treatment.

So let’s get serious. Let’s tell the truth.

And peace to those who suffer tonight — and all the nights to follow.


Image Credit: © babaroga — stock.adobe.com

Lonely Road, Locked Away

A few months ago…and a few months before that…I told the story of a woman I loosely know who embezzled more than a million dollars from her employer.

That employer was the county government. She was in a lot of trouble.

This woman (let’s call her Judy) is dating the ex-husband of a friend of mine. Actually, he was my friend first; we worked together in the county’s IT department. Since I don’t believe in being friends with a married man unless I’m friends with his wife, I made sure I met Pam as soon as possible. It’s uncomfortable finding out a man you work with has been talking about you to his wife…and she’s not sure what to think about it.

Anyway, when they divorced, my loyalties leaned toward Pam. Her ex (we’ll call him Joe) began dating Judy, who looked remarkably like Pam. I mean, remarkably. Apparently, the similarities ended there.

I learned from Pam, who heard it from Joe, that Joe and Judy were convinced she’d get probation. After all, this was a first time offense, and she’d had cancer ten years ago. The prison wouldn’t want a 50-year-old woman with a history of cancer, right? I laughed out loud at that idea. Judy stole public funds for ten years, and the prison system could not possibly care less about your health.

She was sentenced last month. Today is her last day of freedom for nearly three years. She has concurrent sentences and this was a federal offense, and it adds up to her serving the whole time. I think she was lucky to get only 34 months. She could have been sentenced for up to 13 years.

I don’t know if it’s hit her yet, what she’s about to face and how long she’ll be there.

I have mixed feelings about all of this. What she did was terrible and foolish. Based on records published in the newspapers, she started out with a bang. It wasn’t a slow seduction into evil, for which I’d have more sympathy. It’s hard to know what to think.

Judy’s two daughters were out of her life long before all of this took place. They won’t let her see her grandchildren, and they’ve told her, actually, told other relatives, they won’t visit her in prison. Pam’s girls despise her, although for their father’s sake, they are courteous.

Speaking of Joe, he was planning to break up with Judy right about the time she was arrested. He stood beside her until now, but is ready to be free of the whole situation.

She simply doesn’t come across as someone who’s going to evoke a lot of sympathy.

Yet I don’t wish federal prison on anyone, particularly a 50-something woman with no background to prepare her for what’s ahead. People talk about “country club” prisons. That’s bullshit. There’s no such thing. Prison is a tough place to be, no matter what level it is.

Our jail and prison systems need an overhaul. Incarceration is meant to remove you from society, not punish you with subtle tortures until you learn you have no value. Remember, most of them will be back in society again, and need help to lead the lives they want to lead — and for everyone’s sake, should lead.

I wouldn’t have these mixed feelings if I believed Judy will be safe in prison. Being locked away is lonely and isolating, and that’s punishment enough. It’s a long day when so much is taken from you.

So my prayers are with her. Yes, she deserved to go to prison — but not one of the prisons in place in our country today.


Image Credit: ©cristina_conti – stock.adobe.com

Cry First, and Water the Flowers

I just heard my friend Casey is getting a divorce.

Casey is 29, and this is her second marriage. She has four children, one with her current husband, two with her previous and one from a brief relationship when she was just 15. She’s been in prison, is a recovering alcoholic and lost her three oldest children for a time because of those issues.

Here’s the thing: she is honest, hard-working, attractive and kind. She puts other people first but doesn’t get pushed around, and no one is more important to her than her kids. We worked together last spring, and I would recommend her to any employer.

My heart is breaking for her.

Her time in prison was the result of a drunken argument she had with her mother. She admits to trashing her mom’s apartment after the fight, breaking a few dishes and possibly a chair. Her mom, however, called the police and said Casey had tried to kill her and had been trying to poison her for months.

Original abstract acrylic color painting on artistic canvas. Han

When mom sobered up, she recanted her statement, but the prosecuting attorney refused to drop the case. Casey told me her biggest problem in all of this was she ended up being “too honest,” and the judge flat out stated she didn’t believe her when she admitted to all her crimes in court, but believed she was guilty of much more.

She threw out the plea agreement and sentenced Casey to 20 years in prison, which in my state means with the right programs and proper behavior you’ll serve less than four. Casey served 3 ½ years, came out sober, educated and prepared to move forward.

She worked hard to make things right with her children, met the man she later married and took any job she could to make ends meet. Eventually potential employers saw past the background checks and hired her, and she proved herself invaluable. Her children were doing well, although her teenage son was driving her batty. As fourteen-year-old boys do.

But Jim, her husband, started treating her in the same demeaning manner the prison guards had, and with a broken heart, she left him. She wasn’t going to let anyone, especially the man who vowed to love her more than all others, consider her with such indignity and shame.

I know she will be okay. I believe she will rise above this as she has risen above the rest of the detritus in her life. Still, in this moment, she is crying herself to sleep and struggling to keep her emotions in check at work and in front of her children. She smiles a little and says, “at least I don’t want to drink.”

She has been through the fire and knows it will end, something she shouldn’t have to understand so well before turning 30. It’s hard enough to get through your 20s, but two divorces, a prison sentence and all that goes hand-in-hand with those events makes it a little…harrowing. I told her 30 was the best year of my life, and she has wondrous times ahead.

Then I let her cry.

abstract watercolor painting color colorful background illustrat

Image Credits: (Three Women) © BenRoman — stock.adobe.com; (Chaos) © Gordan — Bigstock.com; (Abstract Rainbow) © Benjavisa Ruangvaree — stock.adobe.com

Pages of the World Book

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
― Augustine of Hippo

Travel, or otherwise explore the world.

It is easy to dismiss the decisions of others, particularly those of people in other cultures, if one has never traveled more than 100 miles from their place of birth. Brief trips to a large city for business travel are often sheltered, and the annual visit to the family cabin, albeit more than 100 miles away, isn’t truly traveling in the sense I’m speaking of here.

At the age of 19, my brother loaded his backpack and headed for Europe, Australia and New Zealand, hiking and taking odd jobs for about a year, as I recall. I believe that trip shaped him, helped him focus his priorities and exposed him to thinking different from that which he heard while growing up. He has always been a kind and thoughtful person, but traveling alone gave him a perspective he couldn’t get any other way.

He shared with me some of the conversations he had with complete strangers during his trip, and those words have changed me, so I know they changed him. I wouldn’t have survived the last few years without him, and I believe that foundational, transformational experience is part of the reason he has so much to offer me.

Over the years I’ve talked to parents who are agonizing over their son’s or daughter’s choice to travel for a time, giving up their dreams of a college education (or so it seems to mom and dad) for a hobo lifestyle. I tell them not to worry, and inevitably those children have gone on to greater things, some back to school, some not, but they knew that that time away from all that comforted them would be healthy.

The Whole World Kids

Even Prince William took off for ten weeks to volunteer in Chile, where he faced ribbing by other volunteers, such as less-than-complimentary nicknames, among other things, I’m sure. At the time he said, “I’m with a group of people I wouldn’t normally be with and getting along with them is great fun and educational. There are some real characters in the group who don’t hold back any words at all.”1

I imagine.

Several friends of mine graduated with honors from high school, went to a nearby college and moved on to career success in the same city they were raised in. Their standards and norms are measured by the world immediately around them, and they mock others whose lifestyle and thinking is foreign to them, even if those people vote for the same president they do. They are experts in their own world with no grasp of what motivates people outside the walls of their great city.

Not everyone can backpack through foreign countries, or even distant parts of their own country. It isn’t suitable for some to travel extensively. But the world we live in today gives us exposure through traditional and modern methods to pages of the World Book. It’s not the same as travel, but it still is an opportunity to grow.

Take the time to grow.


1 The Telegraph, December 10, 2000, “Hard work and high adventure for William in Chile.”

Image Credits: (World Map) © asantosg — Bigstock; (World Kids) © lenm — Bigstock

The Foggy Path

Science, it turns out, is sometimes just an illusion.

I was listening to a well-respected scientist speak to that issue today, telling his listeners that in previous years, what seemed to be truth rooted in science, the irrefutable, undeniable truth of science, was in fact a fatal error based on the technology used to obtain the facts.

People suffered, some died, because of that erroneous science. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in science. I’m fascinated by it, in fact, and of course science covers a myriad of sub-topics, some of which are less susceptible to the follies of technology than others.

Some place their faith in science, others place their faith in religion. I place my faith in God, believing that no one organized religion has all the facts, and ultimately we must accept the limitations of our own finite selves.

I know of some people who don’t believe in God because they don’t believe any being can be omniscient, omnipresent and all the rest that comes with the essence of the Almighty. I believe in God for somewhat the opposite reason — I believe the truth must be found somewhere, and that truth is God.

Is it possible all truth bears the possibility of being an illusion? Probably not all, but much of does. If two sides in a battle each believe they are fighting on the side of truth, they can’t both be right. Truth is a foggy path at times.

I could lie awake with eyes wide open each night if I thought too deeply about truth and illusion. There are societal norms, cultural standards and an innate understanding of how we must live our lives to guide us, as well as faith, hope and love.

And as the good book says, the greatest of these is love.


Image Credit: © denbelitsky — Bigstock

Illusion

Leap, or sit still

I sit these days, frozen, waiting for events to transpire before my next move. I’m plotting that move, knowing I have only partial control over how it will unfold.

I could get out there again and face the odds I faced before, with likely the same results. Nothing has changed that would make me think otherwise, which is why I’m waiting. In the meantime it seems my body is beginning to betray me.

Life happens while you’re making other plans. I’ve heard that one hundred times or more, and laughed and shook my head along with the others. Of course that’s true! Events conspire to re-direct our routes, or force us to remain on the same ones, all the time.

I haven’t figured out yet how to grab hold of the reigns of my life and take control. I feel as if there is some leap of faith I haven’t yet taken that I need to be willing to risk, just once, and things will change for me.

Yet I have no idea what that might be. Perhaps it isn’t anything bold that needs to be done. Rather, I may need to quietly listen to the clues around me.

Or maybe I already have the wisdom to do the right thing, and I’m following it by patiently waiting for the proper timing, preparing myself for the future and doing my best with the opportunities I have now.

Because life isn’t about having control, but you can be prepared.

Leap, or sit still. I’ll trust my heart will know what to do at the moment it must decide.


Photo Credit: © Ekaterina – AdobeStock

Forgiveness

I had a secret, and I didn’t tell, because I was afraid you would reject me.

That wasn’t fair. I should have given you a chance.

Today I know it wouldn’t matter, because I know your heart is bigger than my faults. I wish I had trusted that before.

I’m asking you to forgive me for my secret, and for keeping it from you. I’m afraid by waiting I may have created a sadness in you that will hang over us like a cloud.

But I don’t want to keep this a secret any longer.

Please forgive me.


Photo © Graphic Stock

The Truth Within

Three years ago I almost lost a good friend, largely over a misunderstanding.

Another friend stepped in and tried to straighten things out, and in doing so, made the already shaky relationship we had that much worse.

Female figures handmade oil painting on canvasShe chastised me for committing an offense I truly couldn’t see I was guilty of having done, citing a conversation I’d had with her husband as another example. By this time, I’d reconciled with the first woman, so I asked for her perspective about what our mutual friend had told me. I was concerned I might be blind to what would be a fairly significant problem.

She didn’t see the issue the same way, but I remained aware of this potential flaw in my character. Eventually I realized the problem was more likely something I’d already known about my second friend. She will not only defend her husband regardless of what he’s done (and for the most part, I can’t fault her for that), she will lash out at other people who dare to challenge him.

In this case, in my conversation with this man, we’d disagreed about an issue I strongly believe in. Typically with him I let go, even when I know he’s spouting baloney, because it isn’t worth it to disagree. This time, however, I stepped in it, rather than around it. I don’t apologize for that. I should have done it more often.

You can’t trust the “constructive criticism” that comes from a woman who is defending her husband, no matter how sincere she might be, or might think she is being, in trying to help a challenging situation.

Which brings it all back around to my response to her comments about this perceived flaw. I was inspired to write about this after reading K E Garland’s post, Monday Notes: Agreement #2, in which she discusses the second of the Four Agreements (from the book of the same name): “never take anything personally.”

The crux of this agreement is we take neither criticism nor praise personally, because it reflects the other individual’s state of mind, which can change with the wind.

I believe we should weigh what others say, both the good and the bad, but ultimately, we have to decide for ourselves what the truth is in any given situation.

lovely woman handmade oil painting on canvasHigh school was a challenging time for me, and there were plenty of days my appearance showed the depression, anger and hurt I was feeling so deeply. I could always count on my friends Leigh and Sue to compliment my hair or tell me I’d lost weight on those days. Trust me, the compliments reflected their kindness, not the truth about my hairstyle or figure.

Most of the time, our friends aren’t as transparent as Leigh and Sue were (and I’m thankful to this day for their friendship). But, on the flip side of my bad hair days in adolescence, if I know my new haircut is flattering, the faint praise of someone whose opinion I value shouldn’t throw me. She may be sinking underneath some pain she isn’t willing to share.

Trusting yourself is a scary thing. If you’re going to be truly honest, you know you have blinders. Still, that same honesty can save you when others are less faithful to the situation.

Be true to yourself.


Image Credits: (All) © RomanBen — Bigstock

What You See…

Nothing is what it appears to be.

Ever been convinced something is true, only to discover there is, indeed, another logical explanation? I admit, it’s easier for me to point out this oh-so-human flaw in others, and I know a few people who routinely will stubbornly insist they are right, regardless of the possibility there is another way of looking at the situation.

Moments ago I was proven wrong about something that seemed so clear to me…okay, I knew my suggestions were off-the-wall, but there honestly was a logic to them. And who knows, in the future someone might say, “hey, she was right…I’ll be darned!” I’m not counting on it, but it has happened in the past.

I try not to judge others, and one of the biggest reasons why is this: we simply don’t have all the information. No matter how wise, sophisticated or informed you may believe yourself to be, you are not omniscient. You are limited in your view of the world by your experience.

One friend of mine practically spits if you mention Melania Trump.

Now, I’m not a fan of our president, never have thought he was anything but a buffoon. I can’t imagine being married to him (the thought of that makes me spit), and neither can my friend. Yet just because we see nothing desirable in the man doesn’t mean some other woman won’t find him attractive.

I hear the laughter — let me finish —

Seriously, while my friend thinks Melania married Donald strictly for his money, I say this: I don’t know the woman. I don’t know why she married him. I don’t know what he was like when he was courting her. You get my point. Maybe the money was the strongest draw, maybe not. I would guess she never genuinely anticipated being First Lady, and that’s a role with a high cost, so I have some sympathy for her. My friend does not; she thinks she got what she deserved.

That’s the kind of judgment I pray you never hear me make about another.

I was the victim of some harsh judgment several years ago,

and I lull myself to sleep many nights thinking how my accusers may have fallen in their pursuit of evidence of my non-existent wrongdoing. They spent a lot of time and money chasing after this information, and someone, somewhere along the line, must have said, “what the hell are you doing?” because they never dug up the dirt they were certain was within their grasp. There must have been enough misinterpreted data along the way for them to continue in this fruitless pursuit, and I imagine they fell victim to their own limited viewpoint when evaluating the facts.

Knowing human nature, and in particular, knowing the individuals involved, they never did give up believing I was guilty of some wrong-doing. Perhaps they are still waiting for me to trip up.

I’m not suggesting
Train Passengers
Each of us has our own unique view, our own experience to draw on.

we remain so open-minded we become gullible, victims of our own consideration. There is a point where we know enough to draw reasonable conclusions. It’s when we think we know more than we actually do that we’re most likely to judge others. The biggest danger is judging people who are more acquaintances than friends, or assessing situations in which we are dabblers, not experts.

Nothing is as it seems…so judge not, lest ye be judged.


Image Credits: (Blue Eyes) © JosefArt — Bigstock; (Crowd on Train) courtesy of Pixabay

Better Choices, or, Better to Have Choices

Today, I’m grateful for CHOICES.

One of my blogging buddies, Deb, has a daily grateful post. It’s encouraging to read all she is grateful for, and while I don’t plan to copy her idea on a daily basis, today I’m saying, loud and clear, I’m grateful for all the choices I have in my life.

I can choose when I wake up in the morning, and when I go to bed at night. Yes, work and other obligations influence those choices, but the final decision is up to me. If I decide to stay up late to finish a captivating book, no one is going to challenge me.

clothes-2041864_640After I wake up, I can choose what I eat for breakfast and what I’m going to wear that day. Okay, work has this bizarre dress code — I have to wear black, white or grey — but outside of work, I can wear what I want to (well, some choices might get me arrested, but those aren’t my choices, anyway). I get to decide whether or not I want to wash my hair or work with what I’ve got.

My car, my precious little Prius, was my choice. The color was not — but I’m happy with it.

When I knit, I can choose what pattern I want to wool-1295262_640make and what yarn I want to use. There are more patterns out there that I like than I’ll ever be able to complete, and I’m grateful for that, as well. In theory, I can’t knit something I won’t like (nice theory, not always a reality!). But the abundance of beautiful patterns and even more beautiful yarns is awe-inspiring. And just plain inspiring.

Look at the multitude of blogs on WordPress alone — we have our choices of themes, and our choice of what to do with those themes once we choose the one that suits us best. We can easily switch to another, and no one can stop us.

filler-150980_640We can write about what we choose, and a lot of what we write about involves choices we have.

Best of all, I can choose how I will respond to all of life’s situations. It makes me who am I today and shapes who I will be tomorrow.

Over time I’ve learned from my previous choices, everything from what makeup looks best on me to what will truly bring me happiness in life. I’m grateful for the lessons learned from those choices, and for a life I can make better with stronger decisions.

I’ve listed basic choices here, but we all have simple and challenging decisions to make on a regular basis. When you get bogged down with having to choose, think of what a blessing the opportunity to decide for yourself is in this world.

Life isn’t easy, but it gets better. So do my choices.

Images courtesy of Pixabay. Thank you, Pixabay, for all the choices you offer, at no charge!

Help or Hindrance

While living in my last apartment, I got to know an amazing variety of people, most poor, and several with stories that oftentimes seemed unbelievable. One of these woman was Cecilia, a bright lady with a distorted view of her role in the world.

bird-1048269_1920She had twin daughters, Chantal and Sabra, who had just turned 18, but were both emotionally much younger. Chantal was the cherished child; as a result of her mother’s difficult pregnancy she had mild cerebral palsy, and every accomplishment was heralded by Cecilia as a miracle. When I say every accomplishment, I mean each one, no matter how mundane, routine, or handily achieved.

I believe in helping those with disabilities deal with their disabilities.

That is the fair and decent thing to do, to give everyone a chance to live a decent life and fulfill their dreams. But it ends there. Children with cerebral palsy are not angels. They are children.  Yes, they have special needs that must be cared for, emotionally and practically. Beyond that, they have the same mix of good and bad every child has, and need to be treated with love and discipline.

Chantal had been taught that because of her cerebral palsy, she was the angel child, entitled to whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted it. In the months after I met her, I began to get calls at all hours asking me to take her to the store and buy her treats, DVDs, games or anything else she desired at that moment. It never daunted her to ask me to spend my limited funds — and limited time — on this child I barely knew. When I refused her, she very nearly got violent in telling me off.

Sabra, healthy, smart and beautiful, was, in Cecilia’s mind, the demon child. Never mind that the girl was obedient and disciplined, she not only could do nothing right, but as she grew older her mother began to accuse her “evil” daughter of beating both her and Chantal. Cecelia showed up at my door one day and pointed to her cheek, saying, “See what Sabra did this time?!”

Hummingbirds FightingI could see nothing amiss. Cecelia asked me to come over and help her care for Chantal, whom she claimed had been beaten with a wooden spoon and thrown repeatedly to the floor by Sabra. I had my doubts. I’d caught this woman in a number of lies before, and I’d figured out the family dynamics. Still, I was concerned about Chantal. Even if Sabra had done nothing, I was beginning to wonder what her mother was capable of doing simply to get a little attention.

Chantal was stationed in front of the television, watching cartoons and eating cookies. She greeted me with surprise, and when I asked how she was doing, said, “okay, I guess, but my favorite DVD is broken and no one will buy me a new one.”

I knew that story.

“Where’s Sabra?” I asked, ignoring her attempts to manipulate me.

“I dunno.” Just at that moment, a sleepy Sabra emerged from the girl’s bedroom.

In the meantime,

Cecelia was calling 911, once again claiming one daughter had beaten the other and smacked her around as well. Since Cecelia was a good six inches and 100 pounds bigger than either girl, it was hard to believe she couldn’t have overpowered Sabra. But that was only a small part of my doubt.

The ambulance and police showed up a few minutes later. “Hi, Cecelia,” the first officer through the door said. “What’s going on today?” He sounded weary and as skeptical about the situation as I was, and asked some very pointed questions clearly meant to poke holes in the woman’s story.

It turns out Cecelia made this accusation, or one similar, on almost a weekly basis. At her insistence, Chantal was always taken to the hospital, and would return home within two hours. Charges were never pressed against Sabra.

canary-20522_1920Until a month later. I never did find out whether or not she actually struck Cecelia (at some point I figured the girl would break), but Sabra ended up in jail for two days before appearing in court, where the judge dropped the charges and advised her to move out of her mother’s home. She did just that, and within a few weeks, Cecelia and Chantal left their apartment in the middle of the night.

Two years later,

I ran into Sabra while shopping at Walgreen’s. She gave me a big hug, and when I asked how she was doing, told me in great detail about the good things in her life. Her boyfriend, her apartment, her job…it all seemed good. I knew she had a lot to overcome, but she seemed genuinely happy. Relaxed.

“Do you ever see your mom?” I asked.

Bee eater BirdThe smile faded a bit. “Never,” she said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again.” She paused. “They removed Chantal from her home. I want to see her, but she thinks I was the one who took her away from our mom.”

I decided not to ask if she had anything to do with it. “I think that’s the best thing for her,” I said. “And I don’t think you should see your mom either, at least not right now. Maybe someday.”

I hope the day comes when Sabra can see her mother again without falling back into the emotional abyss she had to be living in. This woman raised both daughters in such a manner the courts took action, but she is still their mother.

Help or hindrance, they will always need their mother. Just not the one they got while they were growing up.

Photo Credits: (birds in nests) and (bird in cage) courtesy of Pixabay; (fighting hummingbirds) and (bee-eaters) © Adobe Stock

When the Bad Defines Us

adobestock_96444752-convertedI finally got in for my long-overdue eye exam on Monday, and was disappointed when I learned the office manager, Corinna*, no longer worked there. “Corinna hasn’t been here since October,” the new manager told me, with pursed lips.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said, “but happy to meet you.” The latter statement was a moment of graciousness. I really would have preferred to see Corinna. Several years ago, when I was broke and struggling to put food on my table, she called a local charitable organization and arranged to have them pay for my eye exam, three months of contact lenses and a new pair of glasses.

Since my previous pair was more than ten years old, and my prescription typically results in glasses that cost more than $300, the glasses alone were a huge gift. Throw in the exam and the contact lenses, and I was ecstatic.

I’ve been seeing this eye doctor for at least eight years now, and when I mentioned to him how sorry I was Corinna had left, he, too, grimaced a little, and said, “She was embezzling from me for seven or eight months. I had to fire her.”

He went on to tell me how his attorney relayed four or five more similar stories from other doctors in the area. In my doctor’s case, he chose not to prosecute, since Corinna agreed to pay him back in full, and he didn’t want her children to see her in jail. His wife was ready to throw her behind bars and lose the key, but the long-term relationship, while destroyed, meant something to him.

I learned about this shortly after hearing more details of another similar, but more troublesome, story about a woman who’s dating a friend of mine. I wrote about this once before, and I need to be clear that no charges have yet been filed. However, on the local news, they reported she had embezzled 1.1 million dollars of county funds over ten years.

AdobeStock_112894681 [Converted]Of course the question arises, how could this happen? Why didn’t they catch it? The bigger question in my mind is, what was she thinking? She had to understand she’d get caught someday. Her boyfriend’s ex-wife is a good friend of mine, and has told me this woman is in complete denial about what she’s done. She believes she’ll get probation, but not jail time.

This is being investigated by the FBI and IRS as a federal crime, and whether she wants to believe it or not, she is facing years of federal time, which makes me terribly sad, and angry at the same time.

I’ve heard of people who, when facing a financial problem, commit a crime just as a matter of course. That’s how they solve their money woes. For most of us, it’s time to get creative within the bounds of the law and whatever other moral boundaries exist for us.

More than a million dollars over ten years is a lot of money in my world, and I know it was in this woman’s circle as well. She didn’t need that money. She wanted something she wasn’t able to afford, and she sought to hurt others to do it.

I don’t wish prison time on her, but I do wish to see some remorse, some understanding of what she’s done to others in her community.

I don’t know what led her, or Corinna, to steal from their employer. I try to remain empathetic and compassionate. I still like Corinna; she was good to me.

Judge not lest ye be judged. But it’s hard not to judge a little.

*not her real name.

All images © geosap – Fotolia

Desire