The Angel Tree

After reading this today, written by Southern Sea Muse, I had to share it with all of you.

The Sequestered Angel Tree

December 11, 2011 by Southern Sea Muse

In a land far away from our minds stands a lone angel tree today, seen by few, known by fewer. This tree is different from the rest.

You know of the others. Right now in stores across the United States stand hundreds of “angel trees,” decorated with carefully disguised identities of needy children in the community. These are children who through no fault of their own are in situations which render them financially less fortunate than other children on Christmas day. These children may live with their families or perhaps are foster children, but they still have the freedom to live with a family, attend school, and, although challenged, have a fairly typical daily routine in the daily world.

Allow me to introduce you to a similar, but rarely seen angel tree.

This tree also has the names of carefully disguised identities of needy children, but these children are apart from the community. These children are the emotionally less fortunate who, through no fault of their own, have been subjected to and somehow survived unconscionable circumstances which have scarred their souls so badly, that they are unable to function in society as we know it. These children cannot live in a home, neither with family of origin nor foster home. These children cannot attend school due to their disintegrated hearts.

These children are locked away in an institution, both for their safety and for the safety of the community, or because they are the most emotionally fragile of children. They simply cannot handle life as we know it. They are there to mend their hearts and souls, and remain there until they are fit for society. This may take days or weeks for those in acute care; months, or even years in the long-term residential facilities…all of which are eternities, in a child’s eyes.

There they spend their days and nights, eating and sleeping, playing and fighting, wondering how they got there, and contemplating what they need to do to get out. There they try their hardest to get through each day with the shadows of their past following and haunting them, trying to do what schoolwork they can, trying to get along with others, with varying levels of success.

Some try their hardest because they have hope. Others do not try because they have given up hope, and need encouragement from one moment to the next. Still others try their hardest to show others their very worst, because if they can be disliked or violent enough, they can reject others before others have yet another chance to reject them…at least it is one thing in life they can control.

Their angel tree sits quietly in the corner of the small, empty lobby, the only unlocked room in the building. Other than the receptionist, it is only seen by the few still connected to these children who are able to visit: the state worker who must ask the child to choose between a voucher for clothing or a voucher for toys and who will be home with their family on Christmas; the ashamed, distant relative who is reluctant to be involved but wants to make a good show, the occasional lost driver who took the wrong turn down the end of the long road; the tireless staff and nurses doctors. Oh, and the UPS guy and mail carrier, neither of whom bring things addressed to specific children living there, except on rare occasions.

The requests for needs for these children seem somewhat unusual. The angels on this tree bear wishes for things like socks, because their roommate flushed their last good pair down the toilet during another one of his nightly rages, with enough bone-rattling shrieking to create a new nightmare for another child down the hall on the unit, unable to sleep…and not a shred of memory of the crisis, come sunup.

Like playing cards, since many of the games on the market, electronic or otherwise, further cause them to be unable to distinguish reality from fantasy, and may trigger violent flashbacks. Or reinforce their tendency to want to solve problems with disconnected sarcasm and indifferent violence.

Like soft, stuffed animals or dolls, since anything battery-operated requires batteries – and anyone who’s been behind those locked doors long enough knows that if you slam a battery in the door near the hinges just right, it will expose a very sharp object that can be found in the core of the battery, which can then be used as a weapon to hurt someone. Or, for the self-harmers, to cut on themselves and draw blood, and wind up wearing scrubs and on 24/7 observation for days as a result. It is unfathomable to think how a young child might learn such behavior, but there it is.

Hygiene products are also popular, since the hospital-issued products are not exactly kid-friendly, and it is much more fun by far to brush your teeth with sparkly bubble gum toothpaste, like most other children enjoy on a daily basis. A pretty ribbon for her hair. An emery board, since nail clippers are not allowed on the premises, and long nails can be used to gauge eyes in a sneak attack from behind. A SpongeBob blanket for a bed instead of the typical ho-hum hospital sheets. Warm Cinderella footie jammies. Or a visit from a volunteer big brother/big sister or mentor, an objective other who will play a game with them and listen to their story…a story most can’t bear to hear, a story which defies common sense and human rationality.

Food item requests are never found on this angel tree; some children are on strict diets due to side effects of medications. And besides, the child who roamed the streets for his next meal has been known to wheel deals with other children: “I’ll give you the coupon I earned for extra game room time, if you give me your snack.” Snacks are then discovered hoarded under mattresses, up in ceiling tiles or in the paper towel dispenser in the bathroom which the adults all assumed were locked and childproof.

Some children ask for earmuffs to block out the incessant noise, which may come from either side of their skull at any given moment.

How did they get there, anyway? It may be because their parents sold them for sex in exchange for drugs. Or left them for long periods of time to fend for themselves. Or perhaps they locked them in closets or entertainment cabinets for their convenience. Or molested them repeatedly over the course of years.

These are the children who don’t know where their parents are, and the parents are either dead from their misdeeds or are happily homeless, preferring drugs and alcohol over their child….or simply abandoned the child and left the state, never to be heard from again. Some children may know where their parents are, but their parents voluntarily turn them over to the state because they don’t want them anymore. These children may have been in 15 foster homes, with no stability or sense of permanency. These children may have been along for the ride and witnessed a drug deal gone bad, resulting in murder. Or witnessed murder in their very own living room. Or tried to murder their family during a psychotic episode.

The end result is a child who is unable to make sense out of the world, who relates to others as they have been related to, and who does not and may never know childhood, as it is supposed to be known.

These are the children we forget about because they are quietly locked away from the rest of us while they pick up the pieces of their bewildered, shattered lives. You will not see them in schools or on sports teams. You may spot them briefly at the store, at McDonald’s or on a playground closely monitored by staff, if they are deemed well enough to go out into public at the time and their medication and behavior are stable. If that is the case, you will likely not know it is them you are seeing, and it likely will not register in the moment you see them, just where it is they lay their head at night – a place where they must be to work out their raw feelings of depression, anxiety, trauma, psychosis…their fear, their disappointment, their confusion, their rage

The angels on their tree represent a completely different type of need – a need that is real but often goes unknown and unheard by most.

Still needing and wanting to believe in something despite their inability to trust mankind, the younger ones hold fast to their belief in Santa. No, there is no chimney in this place, but they are assured that Santa has keys to the joint, nonetheless. Their lives may have taken an unthinkable course, but their anticipation and hope in being loved and cared for like any other human is entitled to, is no different from yours or mine.

I urge readers (and writers) to locate the nearest children’s psychiatric hospital in your area (and they are there, somewhere…I cannot point you in the direction of the children I know due to privacy and confidentiality issues). Please consider dropping off a small gift  for one of these children who will wake up Christmas morning behind locked doors…on the inside looking out, never sure when they will be ready, if ever, to be the one on the outside looking in.

This gift needn’t be material…write them an anonymous letter and tell them how brave they are, how proud you are of them for enduring all they have. Tell these children that they can do it, that they are loved, admired and respected. That they are believed, that their feelings are real and important. Tell them that they matter. Color them a rainbow with your words, that they might be assured that their world will hopefully not flood like that again.

Such a small gesture has incredibly meaningful ramifications.

For what is small to us, is huge to them, bigger than we might ever guess…whether or not we remember about their angel tree now and in years to come. Like a standout, cherished childhood memory, they will remember, and it may just be the one memory of hope and love that will help heal them on their horrific journey. It may be the one thing they have, hold, hang on to and refer back to as the biggest spark of light that brought them through their darkness.

God, help us all help the sequestered and forgotten children of the world, the ones least seen in our communities – the ones who most need miracles and a reason to believe again.

Looking Back…

As 2012 draws closer each day, it gives me pause to reflect a little on this past year…indeed on many years gone by. Every day each of us is closer to the day of no return. I don’t mean to be morbid here; in fact, I am approaching this topic light-heartedly and with tongue in cheek.
How would MY life be summed up, I wonder? There are likely various answers depending to whom I may pose this question and a few I do NOT want to hear about at all. (:)) So today I am going to be open and honest with myself. I will not go on and on and rant and rave here. Surely I have long since done that to death. But I will sum it up with a few words.

The first third of my life was filled with laughter, music, family and fun.

The second third was sadly dominated by tears. Oh my life was rich and joyful more often than not, but looking back… man oh man I was one big assed cry baby. I have to laugh now at myself. I was Miss Drama and I herein apologize profusely to all ye who had to endure the bouts of crying. If I was angry or irritated I was likely to dissolve into tears. When my husband and I had “marital adjustments” I cried to my sisters long distance. If the children were unruly, I cried with frustration. I cried to friends and neighbors……WOW……I was a royal pain in the neck! And no I was NOT depressed. I just cried so darn much.

Then I hit MENOPAUSE!….

The final third of my life and I can NOT cry. I laugh; I smile; I get angry; I get fed up; I am impatient; I am loving; I am becoming happy with how God is changing me (He still has SO much to do!) and I absolutely am thrilled to be alive.  I am strong and I am determined and it is great to feel so much more in control.  In some ways I am way more tolerant but all too often I cannot bear to endure certain people and topics. I am a mixed up bunch of dried up hormones and I am ready to face whatever the new year has to offer. Besides, what choice do I have?

 

Three Cheers to OLDGIRLNEWTRICKS

I am SO proud of my sister that I had to toast her in this post.

My Sister Maureen on the right

After many many years of living in one city where she has had a whole slew of friends, she is making a move into a “brave new world”. To be 66 and face this new adventure is both exciting and it has to be somewhat frightening. She has had to say good-bye to all that is comfortable and familiar and to dear dear friends. But she has done all of this with cheerful courage and excited determination. She has blogged about this “My Move” all along the way from when she first started downsizing last year to last night’s, “My Move Part 4, Final Day”

My sister began her life of adventure when she was just 20 years old. She had just graduated from University in our small town in Nova Scotia, one of 11 children, she made a huge move to Edmonton Alberta, almost 4000 miles away. There she became a teacher and met and fell in love with her husband of 45 years. They moved to Africa after they were married and the adventures for them were off and running.

Change can be very difficult at any age but after we hit our 60’s it can be very traumatic. Knowing my dear sister; however, I feel sure that she will take it one day at a time, one new experience each day as she continues to meet and make new friends, and set forth to live her life to the fullest.

Get ready for new challenges and happy times, Maureen.

 

 

 

 

I SALUTE YOU, Maureen!

Maureen in Bermuda with my Granddaughters

What NOT to Buy

Studying my granddaughter’s extensive Christmas Wish List, gave me cause to smile. It’s as though she feels, the more she adds to the list, the better chance she has of obtaining what she really wants. If she were to choose perhaps one or two items, I am thinking, one of them could be some rather too grown-up styled shoes. You see, this little darling is all of ten years old and she is a petite little ten year old. Oh, she is not dumb, our little lass. She has composed a letter to Santa wherein she mentions first and foremost what the REAL meaning of Christmas is, the birthday of Jesus. She also points out that this is indeed most important to her and I believe her. In the meantime, she is still a child and she loves things that sparkle and glitter like almost every little girl who ever walked the face of this earth. She is very clever and so she has buried in the midst of this list a very unusual request, perhaps in hopes that Santa will grant her this special gift. I am quite sure she realizes that this is a pipe dream and even that she could not really go out in public with this wardrobe addition but…..

As a parent/grandparent, I can tell you before I actually looked up the web address for these shoes, it would be something I most definitely not buy for her…..ever!!!! I mean never, ever, ever….

well the shoes are called “Bordello-Teeze”

Bordello: (noun) cathouse; brothel, whorehouse; strumpet house; house of ill repute Webster’s Dictionary

No, Never, Not ever, ever! No way!

Annual Christmas Pageant

It may well be called the “Pageant” but I am wondering who seriously thinks that any such performance is anything……

1. to do with Christmas and 2. Pageantry

Merry Christmas????

When I think back to our own 4 children and their annual Christmas shindig wherein WE provide costumes, WE help them learn their lines,  WE have to listen to them screech and sing a modern version of Jingle Bells or Rudolph, and then WE have to fork up $20.00 to actually attend aforementioned Pageant, well, TIME OUT please?

Ah, but my children are all grown now and out of the nest so we are free…..weeeelllll, not quite. We have managed along this particular byway of life to watch our family grow into a new bunch of kids and plays and concerts and assemblies and pageants in the lives of our cherished and darling grandchildren…TEN of them so far! Yikes! Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE attending their little functions because what once may have worried me about my child’s recitation of lines being forgotten or a costume malfunction in front of the other parents now affords me GREAT amusement. These days my husband and I race to see a play or hear great words from the stage, in great hopes of 1. every other attendee at said function will recognize that OUR grandchild is the cutest, most clever, bursting with incredible talent and not to be outdone by any other child and 2. it gives us hours of before-sleepy-time chit-chat at night. It would seem, that now we are grandparents, our favorite conversations just before bedtime prayers is discussing what one grandchild said or did that was brilliant that day. Heck, we even laugh when they may possibly show signs of …ah…..er…..something less than brilliance.  And we laugh together and share and plan on emailing all our friends the next day. Well, by the time morning startles us sane, we keep pretty well most of it to ourselves. After all some things are best cherished in our own home. (or in my case posted across the web via my blog)

And so, you may have noted, we are into the season of “Pageant-Hopping” since the children are not considerate enough to attend the same school and even share the same date of birth, ranging in age from 16 years down to 3. So in December we book ourselves out for various Christmas functions and are thrilled to partake in the entertainment that certainly could outdo any ET (that’s Entertainment Tonight apparently on TV)

The first play we did miss out on but the reports are in. My daughter’s Facebook status last evening said it all,

“I can’t believe I am watching a bunch of Shepherds break-dancing!”

Christmas Means…..

You hear it every day on the radio, television, read it in magazines and newspapers and hear it at social events and sadly, even some pulpits.
“Christmas means family” or “Christmas is a magical time” or “Christmas means love and sharing”

Whilst all those sentiments are positive and give one a sense of ‘goodwill’ toward our fellow men, it is not really what Christmas means and I am sick of yelling at the TV to inform them. I am tired of planning letters to the Editor to correct any and all comments like that. I am fed up with sitting in a church pew and not hearing the real message, the TRUTH of what Christmas means. (In fairness to our present pastor, he has hit the nail on the head but are our people really listening?)

Christmas:  a. A Christian feast commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ; b. December 25th, the day this is celebrated.

 

 

All my life, as a parent, I have tried to instill in my children the true meaning of Christmas; in fact, I am now working on the next generation, reminding my grandchildren about Jesus being born to become our Messiah. A fairly new Christmas song playing these days is just wonderful. “Mary, did you know?” It was composed by Buddy Greene with lyrics by Mark Lowry. I love its sweet simplicity and wish that every child would learn and understand this song. Kenny Rogers does a brilliant rendition.

When my husband was a Partner at the largest Accounting firm here on the island (Bermuda), he was always the Emcee at social events. One year, just before he retired, another of his partners said to him before the evenings’ event began, “Maybe you’d better not pray before the meal tonight, Ray. After all, we have Hindu staff as well as Muslims and so on.” Ray listened and just nodded his head to show he got the message. Just before dinner was served that evening, Ray stood at the microphone and said, “Here in Bermuda, we celebrate Christmas because of the birth of Christ. I realize that some of you are not Christians; however, we are here tonight because it is our Christmas party celebration so please bear with me as we pray…” He bowed his head and blessed the people gathered together, our families, those who could not be here and then our food, all in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Afterwards so many people came up to him and told him how wonderful it was. In fact, the first person who said this to him was himself a Hindu. He said he had great respect for Ray.

I agreed then and I agree today.

Jesus truly IS the reason for this Christmas season!

 

Vanity and the House of Mirrors

 

 

I have 18 french doors in my home. And 90% of them are mirrored (for privacy).  That, along with other mirrors,  would make it seem that we are a very vain couple.
I will confess that I often watch myself prance (yes I do prance)about the house; it’s virtually impossible NOT to but I will say, in my own defense, that I am far more apt to be self-critical than anything else but I realize that too can be a sign of vanity. So I am vain. I compare myself to others; I check out my rounded shoulders, my too large waist line. I scold myself when I see myself coming AND going since neither view is particularly pleasant but what I am totally amazed at is the total LACK of VANITY in my dear husband. In fact, in over 41 years of marriage I have NEVER seen him look at himself in any mirror or reflective surface other than to shave or brush his teeth. Even then it is as though he is completely satisfied with what looks back at him. He is neither excessively pleased nor displeased.  Sometimes I reach over and straighten a wispy bit of hair for him or tidy his collar and he just shrugs his shoulders and tolerates my fussing.
At one time I used to wish he would care more about how he looks or dresses but that was the silly immature me. I actually am put off by men who are overly conscious of their looks be they wonderful or seriously lacking.
I love that my man is just the way he is!

I happily reside in this House of Mirrors with a man who could live without them.

Baby Boomer Fake

At the age of 62, technically I am often referred to as a ‘baby boomer’.

Some how I am NOT on this list???

Things like, “Baby boomer grows up” and “Baby boomer goes for a radical new look by not colouring her hair”  (AS IF, anyone ever would write about me…but I’m just saying, ya know…

Anyway I am here today to make a serious confession.

I am a FAKE.

The very reason any of us have been labeled part of the ‘baby boom’ is because it was those post war years that folks started popping out babies in record numbers. The heroes were back from the war and their spouses ‘rewarded’ them for their bravery and cuddled up to compensate for the lonely years and HERE WE ARE…

However, in my case, I was the 7th child out of 11……My parents were THE BOOMERS all along. There was never any let-up, it is pretty obvious.  They were, I’m going to be bold and state, the trend setters. They were married in January of 1937 and the first child was born in December of 1937.

Me & my siblings???

 

 

 

Mom was pregnant for 20 years……

So in that, I am a big FAKE.

Pardon me for my duplicity.

 

 

Me & my Man in 20 years?

I Once Was Lost….

I follow a lot of blogs and enjoy them. They are a mixed bag and stimulate my mind, make me laugh, bring a wee tear to my eye at times, and give me a great start to my day.

Well, almost always. For the first time today I have been saddened by one particular blog and no it is not yours or yours or yours. (:) it is not one of my followers, rather one I checked out because of someone else’s recommendation)

The topic wasn’t what made me sad per se but rather the tone. I can laugh like anyone about menopause making us crazy and even being angry about many things around us; in fact, too often I am angry (I’m working on this one folks) but I am not yet about to give up on the human race. I am not settling for “that’s just how it is”. I am not prepared to damn every sorry person for what I may see as stupidity or laziness or apathy etc. I am prepared here today to say, Let’s NOT give up on young people. Let’s not ignore the lost souls around us; let’s look past their sloppy, tattooed, pierced bodies and seek the aching heart that beats therein. Let’s stand before the throne of God on behalf of these young people. Let’s lift them in prayer. Let’s believe that lives can STILL be transformed by the power of God. Let’s stand in the gap for the alcoholic mother. Let’s open our hearts to the pain that lies deep within. Let’s look for how we can touch someone, one kind word at a time, one day at a time. Let’s show them that we care. We are not just aging women and men; we are vibrant and powerful prayer warriors. Let’s stop being so self-centered and reach out to the lonely, the hurting and the forgotten.
Let’s ask the Lord to fill us with His compassion. For surely we were once lost. We were once broken and we were once looking for peace.

You see, though I boast not one tattoo; though I have not been arrested; though I have not been a drunk nor done drugs, still I was a sinner. And Jesus set me free.
I am still a broken woman and full of sinful tendencies but because of the love of Him and His shed blood. I can stand pure and clean.

God put us on this earth for various reasons. He gave each of us talents (though some are not always obvious) but I know that one purpose He has for my life is to share His love, His joy, His hope and His salvation.

Thank you in advance for joining my side as we humble ourselves and seek the face of God and pray for those around us.

Forgiven