I don't know if the camera loves me, but I definitely love the camera. Last week my colleague asked me to join him on his weekly segment- Topics that are Igniting. Check it out!

Me and My Sister

You know, my sister is one of only a few people that I can be myself with, 100%. I spend so much of my time being self conscious of myself, of how others perceive me both at work and outside of work. It's actually a major cause of anxiety for me. Do you know what it's like to spend half your life second guessing yourself? Your actions? It's not fun but with my sister I let loose. 

A couple of weeks ago I flew out to visit with Brandy for a few days, something that was much needed and definitely past due. She and I loaded up with her husband and headed to New Orleans. We eventually ended up in a bar called Howl at the Moon where we let loose and sang at the top of our lungs. Eventually they played our requested song, Me and Bobby McGee,  and I image to everyone else we looked something like this: 

"Busted flat in Baton Rouge, waiting for a train, I was feeling nearly as faded as my jeans. Bobby thumbed a diesel down, just before it rained......HEY HEY HEY, Bobby McGeeeeeee, yea. I call him my lover, I call him my friend...."

It was so nice to finally let loose and soon she'll be here in NC with me and I've never been happier. 
Friends are friends, but it's to your sister that you can tell your deepest and darkest secrets without judgement and know that she'll still love you no matter what. 

Hey, Look What I Can Do!

FINALLY! I started my garden later than everyone else and when you compared the plants I grew from seeds to the plants my neighbors purchased already grown, I was convinced my little Snoopy garden would never produce vegetation but I stuck with it. I'd put too much time and effort into it and now I have that awesome feeling of accomplishment because my plants have actually produced. It's in the beginning stages but check it out:  

I picked a few tomatoes yesterday: 

Then there are my cucumbers. Not quite ready to be harvested but any day now: 

And the Heirloom watermelon plants I planted just 6 weeks ago. They're lavish, green, happy and budding which means plants will be growing soon: 
Sadly I forgot to take a picture of the pepper plants but they're happy and healthy. And let's not forget the sunflowers that help attract the right bugs (yes I did my homework): 

More images to come, I hope :) 

My Grandmother's Chains

Old age can be cruel and unrelenting but it's all part of the life cycle so we must accept it. I just returned from a trip across the SE states to see family and have some fun with my sister and during that trip, my grandmother was put in the hospital. I've known that her life is nearing it's end for a while now and though she's still very much alive, I don't know if I have 2 days, 2 months, 2 years or 12 years left with her but of those years the worst part is not knowing how much longer she'll recognize me. 

As I sat with my grandmother today (Maw Maw as I grew up calling her), I saw a woman who's hard life is nearing its end. Sick, confused, lonely and sad, you can see in her eyes that age has finally stripped her of her most prized possessions - her strength, pride and independence. Now she's left only with her thoughts, many of which are extremely delusional as Dementia is slowly taking over but many, I assume to be the burdens she was forced to bare over the years and those burdens have become heavy chains. 

Anyone that knew of her life, knew that my grandfather left for work one day and never returned- until four years later. My grandmother, who does not believe in divorce, took him back without questioning. During those four years (and beyond) she struggled to provide for her family, unknowing of what had become of or where her husband may be. Even as he returned, many of those burdens remained weighing heavily on her shoulders. 

We know of the stories about how she'd hitch a ride to work and many times was left waiting hours after a long day's work for someone, anyone, that could take her home. She skipped meals so that her children would have full bellies and would do all of this with a smile and extra care. 

We also know that she'd lie awake at night crying to herself. We don't know exactly what the tears were for but we can only assume it was from a mixture of heart break, concern for her children's fate, worry, stress and fear of the unknown. These stories, however, were not stories told by my grandmother but instead pieced together by stories from my father and his siblings. 

My grandmother preferred to bare the weight of those burdens alone because it was more important to her that her children feel nothing but love and that in their site, all was right in the world. Instead, she focused only on love for her children, her grandchildren, her church family, her friends and even the customers at the grocery store where she worked for so many years that were happy to wait in a long line to have "Mrs. Eunice" check them out because she took the time to get to know each and ever customer and was genuinely interested and concerned about what was happening in their lives. 

My entire life, my grandmother has been a symbol of only strength, love, kindness and faith so as I see her lying in bed, vulnerable and susceptible to the cruelties life offers to the elderly, I can't help but to think that it is only now that she feels the weight of her burdens, of these chains.

I fear she holds on to life only for those that love her because she will be a loss that weighs heavily not only on my family, but on her community. However, it is by grace she was able to bear the weight of those chains all these years and as the song suggests, I know it is by grace she'll find relief. "How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed...My chains are gone, I've been set free, My God, My Savior has ransomed me."

My prayer is that God will allow her to go peacefully by falling asleep in her bed and waking in his arms.

My Grandfather and Gardening

I've recently acquired a garden spot in our community and I couldn't be more excited. It's been a rough week and when I finally arrived home today from what has been a very rough week, I thought maybe 30 minutes cleaning up the garden will relieve some stress from the last few days. 

It did that and so much more. First, I can't explain just how happy and content I was to be pulling weeds out of my plot. Of course those 30 minutes turned into me working out there until I could no longer see but I didn't realize the nostalgia I'd experience from such a simple task. 

My grandfather was a man that didn't have the best reputation. He left without a word when my father was 12 and suddenly showed up four years later with only the salvation army clothes on his back. My grandmother, a woman that should be considered a hero, allowed him back in their home, no questions asked. From what I understand, the feeling wasn't exactly mutual with my father and his siblings. Growing up I could see the resentment my father and his brothers and sisters held against him, though they loved him I don't think they could ever forgive him for not just leaving them but for what they put my grandmother through as a result of his actions. Beyond that, I know he had a drinking problem, though he hid it from everyone (or so he thought) and he had a major case of grumpiness. I could see the pain he caused and the indifference many of my aunts, uncles, cousins and even siblings showed towards him and that made me sad. Sad for them because I can't imagine how I would have felt if I found myself in that same situation. 

The weird thing, however, was I couldn't have loved him more. He and I had a strange connection. I had a big big heart as a child (sometimes I miss that innocence) and I saw the love he could give if given the chance. It's as if we understood each other. 

The first home I remember living in had a huge yard so my dad gave him a huge plot of that land to use for a garden (much much larger than my current 8 X 16 ft plot) and I was always right there with him when he came over to work in his garden. It's one of the fondest memories I have of my grandfather and I can remember it like it was yesterday. I had a small green watering pale with a white flower on the spout. It held maybe the equivalent of 10 cups of water and I would follow my grandfather down each row. He'd use this large post hole digger and he'd heave it into the ground and pull our a large chunk of dirt. It was then my job to drop in the seeds and he'd replace the dirt ready for my second job- watering the spot. 

We moved slowly down each row, digging a new hole every foot or so and I'd have to run to the house to fill my watering bucket after every 5 or so holes and he'd be there, patiently waiting for me as I returned. We'd work quietly and in unison for hours. Once our work was done, it was a quick trip to the gas station for a double cup cone of rainbow sherbet. Once we returned home, I'd pile up in his lap so he could read me the story of Little Lulu's trip to the beach. 

I remember the images from that book so clearly and he'd hike one leg up on the other to create a "chair" for me in his lap. I'm pretty sure the story changed every time and he probably stopped reading the actual words after the first 100 times but he'd tell me the story and I'd sit there and goof off with him. 

As much as it pains me to know the torment and mental damage I know he caused those I loved most, I couldn't hold any contempt towards him. I can't help but to wonder why he left and what brought him back. I like to think that he was looking for a second chance but maybe didn't know how to properly do that. I can't help but to think that maybe because of all the pain and hurt, no one ever thought to wonder or ask if there was something that hurt him or pushed at his core so much that he had to escape. As a child I couldn't imagine a reason why anyone would just leave like that but the more life I experience and the older I get, I'm realizing more and more that there are things in life that can eat at you and if you can't control it, can't express it or at least muster the courage to seek help, how else do you handle it?

The thing no one really focuses on is that he did come back. I'm not making up excuses for him nor do I think anyone should have or could have simply forgiven him completely but I only wish that more of the family could see what I saw. I wish more people could feel the love I felt from him and for him. It's funny but the first time I realized that I was the only one that actually connected with my grandfather was shortly after I graduated from high school. We had a family gathering the day I graduated to celebrate and we were taking pictures throughout the day. After having the film developed, the picture of me with my grandfather caught my dad's eye and he made the simple statement that his dad has never smiled in a photo but there he was in that image, our arms wrapped around each other and my grandfather with a very wide and genuine smile. Suddenly that picture became, and remains, extremely special to me. 

I will never reprimand or argue against my dad or anyone else in my family about him being a big grouch, because to them he was but to me he'll forever be the grandfather I loved. The grandfather I cherished every moment spent together because to me, he was special.

Thankful Thursday- on Friday

I decided a year ago that I was going to run from the darkness, so to speak, and I've wanted to publish a new post for so many weeks now. However, the problem with that is that every time I wanted to post, I realized I couldn't figure out a way to be positive. It's like I'm falling back into the darkness and with all of that I find myself scared and anxious and I just want to be happy. 

Then I was reminded this week of why it's stupid to allow myself to fall back into that pattern. Nearly weekly, I have a friend that does a Thankful Thursday post and just a few simple acts thinks weeks from the people currently in my life, reminded me that I have a lot for which to be thankful. I wanted to post this yesterday since Thankful Thursday makes sense to post on Thursday, right? Well, that's why my blog is called A Different Walk- because I just do it my way. 

Here's what I'm thankful for right now: 

1. I'm thankful to work for a company and a group of people that really do care about your well being and that insist on putting health before work (though I don't know how to get myself to acknowledge this) and are supportive and push me to continue seeking the reasons I've been so sick. 

2. I'm thankful for friends that do what they think are just small acts of kindness to let me know they care but for me they're huge. To come into the office after several days of feeling horrible and scared, I find flowers on my desk, a desk that's been organized (because I can be a bit messy) and a note to remind me that it's a new day. To me, that is no small act of kindness. To me, this is a major act of kindness and to me it's these types of things that keep me going, that propel me forward and encourage me to continue looking at all of the good in my life.

3. I'm thankful for parents that, no matter how much it drives me crazy, are calling or texting daily for updates on how I feel. It means a lot to know just how much they care.

4. I'm thankful that I now have a garden plot....I just like growing things. I'm excited about getting out in the sun.

5. I'm thankful for every friend, acquaintance, co-worker (mixture of all three) with whom I see on a regular basis because you can learn a little something (sometimes a lot) from each and every person in your life. 

6. I'm thankful for my cousin (by marriage- as if that's important) for sitting with me for hours in both urgent care and the emergency room last week for hours, d taking care of me like my mother would have had she been there, when that day was actually supposed to be a spa day. 

7. I'm thankful for that moment every night when the lights go out, I actually feel all of the muscles in my body relax and my husband wraps his body around me so that his warmth creates this safe zone where all the worries of the day fade and I can breathe. 

Despite the things that are going wrong or maybe just not as I planned or as quickly as I've hoped for, I'm so so thankful for the all the good things in my life that remind me all will be well, all is well. 

Admiration for Others

"Tell me who admires and loves you, and I will tell you who you are." ~ Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve

To be admired is a gift or reward for something you've worked hard to accomplish or for being someone worth admiring for whatever reason. I've been told people admire me for being such a hard worker and for being determined to make it work, one way or the other but I don't see it as something to admire. For me, I do it out of necessity. Bills must be paid, food must be on the table. These are things you can't ignore so you can choose to sit back and give up to sooner or later be left with nothing or you can do something about it. My dad was a do something about it kind of man and I saw how his hard work paid off so why wouldn't I be that way?

But there are other things for which I wish I was admired. I admire a number of people for reasons I wish I could be admired. I admire my best friend from high school because she was always, 100%, unapologetically herself, something I wished I could do but I worried too much about what others thought of me to let it go. There are people that see me the way I truly am but it took time and years for them to see that. It's something that a lot of times not even my parents or siblings can see because I don't feel comfortable enough around them to let it all out. 

I admire a number of people that have been put in my path throughout the years that are so dedicated to serving God and to showing others God's love and they do this without hesitation. I admire them for standing up for their beliefs no matter what happens as a result of their tenacity. I, however, have always been afraid of judgment and of ruffling feathers. So what if I do that? Right? Well, I like to think that but for those times I have stood up for my God, it took every ounce of strength I could mustard to stand my ground. 

I admire my husband for always being himself and for doing what he wants to do instead of worrying about or seeking approval of others. He does what he wants, that's the way it's going to be and who cares what others think. How can he do that? I can't- I'm too afraid of hurting feelings or stepping on toes. 

I feel chained down by my own hesitations and weaknesses sometimes and because of that, I lose my happiness a little when these realizations start to weigh heavily on me. 

I've publicly asked what words others would use to describe me and they were all the same: hard working, dedicated and team player. I'm not upset those words are used to describe me. I definitely do work my ass off to make things happen but one day I'd like to add some more to that. One day, once I figure out exactly what it is, others will talk about how devoted I am/was to my beliefs. One day, I'll hear less about my hard work and dedication and more about my creativity, my brilliance, my tenacity and about how I'm always unapologetically myself but in order to do that, I first have to make some changes in my own life. Those are things I'll work towards in the coming years. 

What do you admire most in people? What words would you like others to use to describe you?

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