All posts by angie

Without Fail

Without fail, everyday failure floats to the forefront of my frontal lobe.

Without fail, everyday I fail.

(Even now I am doubting the function of the frontal lobe and considering erasing that line because, though it’s fun alliteration, it might not be “right.” This is interpreted in my crazy cranium as failure. But I’m gonna let it sit there.)

I’m gonna let it sit there because I am becoming more familiar with failure. And when you get more familiar with something, or someone, you get up close and can see bits you never noticed before. I’ve begun to see the beautiful causality of failure.

To embrace the beauty that results as a cause of failure is to accept imperfection. When one is a recovering perfectionist, such as myself, one strives to attain the all-allusive state of perfection. One is deceived by the high that is produced by the hit of the “try.” One more hit, and that will satiate my craving. It’s every addict’s justification. One more “try,” and everything will be “just right.”

But it’s not. It never is. There’s always that one more thing that needs fixed. So I get another fix and fall into the trying trap. Which is actually a type of failure. Because I fail to see the beauty of imperfection.

The beauty of failure and imperfection begins and ends in the power of connection. Perfection creates a separation and a distance, an otherness. Imperfection unites as a common thread of understanding between all humans, a togetherness.

The beauty of failure is the space created by flaws, which invites a completion from an outside source. When I fail I am forced to rely on others to help me. This open door is a welcoming energy. It’s a beautiful thing to be the kind of attractive that attracts the kindness and love of others.

The beauty of failure is that I am stripped of status. Status encumbers, trips and splats the untouchable perfect person flat on their face. When I am no longer encumbered by that perfection, I can finally be good. Or at least good enough. Which really is enough.

Good, better, best? Let’s put that to rest. Because good is enough, and enough is best.

I fear I fail my kids every day. I fear I fail at my job, with my finances, with my house keeping, in my paperwork, and the list goes on. (I fear I’ve failed at including some important thing on that list just now. Gah!)

My marriage failed. Yes. It did. Was that my intent? No. It wasn’t for lack of trying. Man, did I ever try to make that thing work. Is this judgement from some celestial deity in the form of castigating punishment for some ambiguous badness? That really was what I used to think. It’s that kind of thinking that gets me craving a hit of “try” for my next high, so that I can “try” and stop feeling so bad. But it doesn’t work. Never does.

Maybe the big feelings (that I used to call bad feelings) are okay, after all. We are human. We are feeling beings. And I’m learning that feeling on a grand scale is quite beautiful, without fail.

Angie Lynn Washington

The beauty of a rainbow is created by fractured light. Light that failed to keep it together.

Rainbows

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Single Mother

How does one become a single mother? One may birth a child and not be espoused at the time. One may adopt, without being married. An unmarried aunt may raise her brother or sister’s children in the event of a tragedy. Widowhood is another way. Divorce another. The one I find myself in could be described as estrangement. Abandonment? Yes, somewhat. Separation; more so. He moved out the Saturday night before Easter ’16. A dark night when his misdeeds of unfaithfulness came to light. He didn’t fight. He left. And hasn’t returned. He visits the kids twice a week. He pays his part of the bills to help with the costs of five kids. The children live with me. I am a single mother.

Angie Lynn Washington

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I’m Keeping My Name

I’m keeping it.

For more of my life than not I have held this name; or it’s held me. It’s the name my sisters sang to tease me when we were young. Pragmatically speaking, changing documents would be a hassle. Aside from that, my children all have that presidential surname. We’re keeping it.

I was asked to decide. I did. It’s mine.

I’m keeping my name.

Angie Lynn Washington.

(However, the signature will be undergoing a design upgrade. That thing is a mess.)

Celebrate the Socks

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We sat in the minivan, in the darkened garage. The whole way home from school I just let her cry. I tried to understand her through the sobs. She didn’t fit it. She said awkward things. She felt overwhelmed that she was expected to know basic U.S. highschooler things like patriotism and social nuances. She vented. I let her.

When the quiet came and the breathing slowed I waited. There are absolutely no words to heal the hurt of culture clash. This wasn’t the fist time we cried together, it wouldn’t be the last. I looked at her, and a thought came to me.

“When you are getting ready in the morning, are all your clothes suddenly on all at once?” I asked. She looked back at me, confusion was added to the facial expression of the misery of displacement. When she didn’t answer, I probed further, “Like, do you pop out of bed and then all of a sudden your shirt is on, your jeans are on, and your converse are laced up and ready to go?” She shook her head, still wondering where I was going with this seemingly irrelevant line of reasoning.

“Here’s the thing, babe, you don’t expect to wake up all put together. We can’t expect ourselves to be all of a sudden all put together in this new culture. When we get dressed we do it one piece at a time. The shirt. The jeans. Etc. We can’t even put both socks on at the same time. We put one sock on. Then the other.” I took a break from the analogy to remind her of the things she had been able to learn and enjoy in this culture. Simple things, that took effort at first, but were now the new normal. Drinking water from the tap. How things work with family close. Getting to know a few people. Then I made my point.

“Celebrate the socks,” I told her, “Celebrate each little part of learning to live in this new life.”

Now, when our heads start to droop from the tiresome transitional woes, we look down and let our socks remind us of the small accomplishments along the way. We remind ourselves to celebrate those socks on our feet. Poco a poco, as we say in Spanish, little by little. We’ll get all the way dressed, eventually. But for this moment we can be pleased that there are socks on our feet.

Angie

Note: This conversation took place a while back, in the Fall of 2015. There have since been many opportunities to Celebrate the Socks.

Bee in a Cocoon

On the day we left Bolivia I got a tattoo of a queen bee on my arm. It was the third in a series of images I had placed on my arm with indelible ink over the course of one year. My first tattoo is a black lace butterfly. The middle one is a dragonfly. My bee is on top. I imagine there will come a day when the sleeve is complete with hexagonal honeycomb, a beetle or two, and leafy filigree. For now, I am content with my winged trinity.

Fourteen months after the acquisition of the bee, I find myself on my college campus listening to an entomologist give a lively lecture about bees. Dr. Roe doubles as my Anatomy and Physiology professor. She does a fine job teaching about the human body, but her passion for insects is quite evident. The discourse came about as an initiative of the garden group. Permission was granted by one of the leading Sisters of College of Saint Mary for us to run a beehive on campus starting next Spring. This will be a thrill!

Did you know that bees undergo metamorphosis in a cocoon? I didn’t. This fascinates me. Cocoons have been a reoccurring theme in my life over the last few years. I leaned in to study the images on the slide as she explained the three week transformation of egg, to larva, to pupa, to fully formed bee. The egg is laid by the queen. It hatches and is fed by nurse bees. As a larva it grows and fills up it’s six-sided cradle. Then the bees come along and cap the capsule, sealing the larva inside. What happens before the fully formed bee breaks out of this cocoon astounds me.

Did you know that inside its cocoon the bee becomes liquefied? All the cells, organs, and features that allowed that larva to eat and grow break down. “Gradually the pro-pupa becomes little more than a bag containing a nutrient rich soup,” according to this video demonstration of the process: Bee metamorphosis: remarkable internal changes. Do you grasp the sheer absurdity of this fact? The construct of a wriggling little structure becomes liquid. 

Then comes the reconfiguration. In that tiny, dark, soupy cocoon, the liquid swishes around to reconfigure and reshape into a pupa. It grows legs and hair. It’s brain and DNA formulate to give the little creature an instruction manual and purpose of life. The pigmentation of yellows, browns, and golds appear from that milky goo. It’s eyes bulge. Fragile wings grow which will allow that bee to survive and soar.

My eyes welled with tears. I am in a cocoon stage of life. This liquefied stage of a bee’s life spoke to me. In this darkness, safely capped off by my community, it’s okay if I melt. It’s okay, for this time, to submit to the reconfiguration process. It’s okay to feel like I am drowning for a little bit… because that will pass. My life is getting reorganized. I will emerge from this cocoon, resplendent and ready to fly.

For now, I need to be in a cocoon like a bee in a cocoon. 

2 m.

2m

I crunched out through the dry grass of our backyard and opened the rusty hook. The house came with a shed out back. Within the shed spider webs drape what might someday help me start a garden. Rolls of fencing and stakes twist with green hose. I rip a shovel from the dusty webbing. I drag it out to the bushes. Dead leaves of last year’s flowers lie motionless. Sticks of leafless seedlings protrude from the tan brush. A curious urge to clear out the deadness overtakes me. I lift the shovel and bring it down in a fast hack near the base of the tiny trees. I expected to only see dirt. I didn’t expect a surprise. Pinkish purple catches my eye. I lean down and see healthy bulbs growing through the piles of death. I hack and hack. I uncover more and more.

Death.       Life.       Growth.       Cycles.

Things look bleak. The landscape of grays and browns possess a chilling beauty. Yet they do invoke a sense of gloom. I am suddenly struck with the correlation with my own life. Old dried up patterns, now challenged, and being hacked at. Hope for new things poke out under all the death.

Two months have passed. In this land where the seasons change we watch the plants respond. I watch my heart, too, respond to the changing seasons of my life. I mourn the death of the passing. I scrape away the dried up cover. I let the tiny little evidence of growth I see poking through my character give me hope for the new yet to come.

 – – – also, this was my 1,000th blog post. hm.

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Used To

I used to know it all.

I used to teach.

I used to read profusely.

I used to watch tv shows.

I used to write.

I used to take pictures.

I used to jog.

I used to converse in Spanish.

I used to be Angiecita.

I used to kiss people.

I used to be a missionary.

I used to live close to close friends.

I used to take buses and taxis.

I used to be warm.

I used to eat Salteñas and good fruit.

I used to suffer in silence.

I used to think the work was enough.

I used to know certainty.

I used to delude myself with auto-sufficiency.

I used to expect, anticipate, and envision.

Now the idea is that I get used to the new. 

Get used to a constant achy lost feeling.

Get used to displaced and misplaced and erased.

Get used to the glance of pity.

Get used to the empty questions.

Get used to cold.

Get used to unspectacular routine.

Get used to uncertainty.

Get used to doubting and second guessing myself.

Get used to BIG.

Get used to TOO MUCH.

Get used to SPEED.

Get used to being loved by family up close.

Get used to the familiar acceptance that wells up when I hear dear ones say Ang’.

Get used to an over-abundance of good.

Get used to polite.

Get used to crying every day.

Get used to hundreds of gifts that furnish our home, fill the kitchen, and clothe us.

Get used to a drive instead of a walk.

Get used to advocating for my soul and well being.

Get used to the default “easy”.

Get used to my cocoon of not-yet and not-anymore.

Before we moved to the States I asked my children to share their greatest fears and their greatest hopes. Had I been in my right mind I would have carefully transcribed that conversation like a dutiful stenographer. I didn’t. Now I trust the Fates to remind me of their thoughts when I need to remember them.

One of the kids said that their greatest fear was that when we got to the States that all that happened in Bolivia these 13 years would disappear, or not matter. I understand that feeling. In all our unsettling settling things look muddled. We feel shaken. Memories mix up with emotion and remembered reality morphs.

We passed the 40 day mark since leaving Bolivia. Six weeks is all; that’s single digits my friends. Gratitude abounds in the midst of the many moods. The goodness God has poured out is undeniable and comforts me.

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Week One in the Big O!

One of the nicknames of my hometown, which I have returned to, is The Big O! (With the exclamation mark, thankyouverymuch.) One whole week has passed since we began our Big New Life in the United States of America. I have come full circle. Getting re-acquainted with the place where DaRonn and I grew up has been fun. Showing the kids around and introducing them to Stateside life has been interesting. Adjusting to the new unspoken expectations has been rough.

We have noted that people in the U.S. compared to people in Bolivia:

Worry about safety a ton more – seat belts, mandatory car insurance, car seats, a disinfection wipes station for the shopping carts at the front of the store, and a very visible presence of well-equipped law enforcement officers all around town, just to name a few.

Have so many more options – huge menus, restaurants everywhere, shops full of shelves full of varieties of every type of thing you could want to buy, channels on tv and on the radio, religious expressions, styles, and employment for a wide range of ages and abilities.

Are SUPER generous with their resources – thrifts shops, homeless shelters, relief aid programs, free stuff on curb-sides and craig’s list, abundance of donations of VERY nice things from perfect strangers, sales and clearance items, and volunteering of their time, not to mention so many gifts of brand new things.

The Midwest is     S…P…R…E…A…D…   O…U…T.

The land sprawls. The ribbon of roads and highways stretch long and wide. The spaces between dwellings feel vast. The immense forests and parks preserved in these borders make me swell with pride.

At first when I began maneuvering in this spread out place I thought of all the space as wasted. My thoughts stopped short. I remembered the reoccurring theme for this season of my life. No, this is not waste, this is healthy. I am regaining the margins which I allowed to be eaten away over time. The corrosion of busy-ness crept in, cramming out breathing room. Reparation begins with the creation of margins.

Margins. Yes, I am letting the margins grow once again.

Margins of time. Margins of space.

Margins for thought. Margins for belief. Margins for health.

Margins to tend my garden. Margins to be still. Margins to breathe.

Margins which allow me to fall in step with the unforced rhythms of grace.

Margins which enable me to be kind, gentle, and faithful.

Margins which suck me down into the plushy, over-sized, purple swivel lounge chair and swallow me up for spontaneous sessions of solace.

the big O

The Big O!

Oh! I had almost forgotten what a livable life looked like.

Oh! There is hope for restoration.

Oh! My God, my Emmanuel, thank you

Removed. 

For a long while I hung my head in shame assuming that God was removing us from our “post” in Bolivia as a punishment for misbehaving. Maybe there is some truth to that, but I think my thinking was skewed. More and more, as I watch this transition unfold, I think He removed us to demonstrate His Goodness and Grace.

This evening I watched my precious nephew wriggle and wrestle and resist the sleep his weary toddler body needed. His mama wrapped him up and rocked and rocked; he finally fell asleep. I smile now as I think about God watching me over the past few years fight and fuss against the rest He knew I needed. Submission to this season came slowly. I am grateful as I look back and see God’s patience with me as He pulled me closer and closer to Him. My, how I pushed against those arms! My, how He rocked my world! Finally I fell…

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“This is NOT home.”

airplane over cochabamba, bolivia, january 2015

Our little mob of weary wanderers rounded the final corner of our 36 hour journey. Mama and Papa caught each others’ eyes and puffed out a breath to prepare for impact.

“You ready for this?” they asked.

“Nope,” they answered.

“Here we go,” they said.

All the kids, with baggage to drag, followed the plod of their parents up the ramp from the airplane to the airport. I saw my parents before they saw us. My mom, my dad, my youngest brother, and my youngest sister came out that chilly Saturday afternoon in January to gather us. You might tell me that was only four days ago; it feels like a lifetime ago.

We left Bolivia. To quote a friend, “It is not so weird that you left, what’s weird is that you are not coming back.” Oh the sting.

The impact of the separation has not yet hit me. I am sure the ones we left back in Bolivia are feeling it. I have been the one left behind, it is excruciating. I can see on the faces of some of my kids the sadness and loneliness. Others beam with relief and renewal. The colors of our emotional profile burn bright like a sunset on fire. Or is it the sunrise?

The transition material tells me that a new beginning starts with an ending. The rites of passage of ancient cultures teach us to face the end, embrace the grief, and move through to the new. Denial, slap a happy-face emoticon on it, fake-it-’til-you-make-it, just won’t do. Honest tears help wash the soul.

It hurts so much, though. And there are so many people so very happy to have us here. And we don’t want to disappoint people. But it is not fair to them if we are dishonest with our “glee” in the hopes to manage their emotions. No. This is not what we want to do. So we sit broken, together. Yet, there does exist happiness in all the grief. Sparks of hope of what will be flare up and our faces make genuine smiles.

Oh yes, I was talking about the airport.

We walked into view. My mom burst with shouts and ran to catch me. My sister cried and wrapped my kids in her arms. My brother said with pride and joy, “My sister!” My dad laughed as he welcomed us all. What was left of my mascara ran down my cheeks. I felt like my heart would explode.

Then I looked around at my children. My oldest stood off to the side, away from the huddle of hugs. I moved over to her. The anger and helplessness radiated from her reddened eyes as she met me with an indictment. Through gritted teeth and a cracking voice she whispered a gruff, “This is NOT home.”

I wrapped her in affirmation and understanding. Yes, I told her, you are right, this is not home. We cried. I told her we would talk later. She nodded.

We grabbed our 12 checked bags off the conveyor belt. I unzipped a few and snatched out sweaters and jackets for all of us. No matter how many layers and hats and scarves and gloves I put on I couldn’t cut the chill. We loaded up the people and the stuff and drove to our borrowed residence. The rest of the day rushed by as we set up beds, tended to the kitchen and bathrooms, and sorted the bags into the rooms.

When just the Washingtons remained in the home warmed by the wonder of heat blown through vents I called Raimy to my side. She initiated the conversation. Her countenance was calmed yet fatigued, and she said, “About what I said… this is not home, yet.”

Yes. That’s right baby.

Love. Be loved.

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One Week Ago We Didn’t Even Have Tickets

Can you believe that? One week ago we didn’t even have plane tickets for our family to travel to the U.S.A.. Now, we are here, have a great place to stay while we find a place of our own, and OWN a 7 passenger van (which is a whole story for a separate, dedicated blog post). A small army has been working to gather stuff for our new home. My sister and brother-in-law collected from tons of people: some beds, bedding, dressers, towels, toiletries, some groceries, coats, hats, scarves, toys, games, some kitchen items, laundry soap, a laundry basket, Target gift cards, and a coffee maker. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of a friend who set up a facebook page to organize people, a few churches helping out, and many people networking, we feel very loved and cared for.

My parents, one of my brothers, and one of my sisters met us at the airport. There were hugs, happy tears, and lots of loud. It was great! They helped us get into the house of my brother-in-law’s father, who happens to be away on a golfing vacation and graciously opened his vacant home for us to stay in for free. WOW! I am so grateful for the generosity from someone I have never even met.

Before dawn Friday morning dear, dear friends came and collected us from the missionary housing where we were staying in Cochabamba. We said tearful goodbyes and started the 36 hour journey back to the city where both DaRonn and I were born and raised. The kids are amazing travelers! There were lots of talks about our move down to Bolivia way back in 2001. We compared, contrasted, and reminisced.

Ahead of us now in the coming days are: finding a house, filling it, and settling in. Please pray for us, as I know you already have been. Things seem to be falling into place. I am so grateful.

The kids have said some amusing things these first few days. The laughter has been helpful to break up the fatigue and tension.

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Me: Tyler, when you go to the bathroom you can put your toilet paper in the toilet and flush it down.

Tyler: [look of utter disgust] That is so gross!

Me: Yep, your pee, your poop, and the paper all together.

Timothy: [from the other room, singing loudly] We will all go together when we go down!

Cultural orientation – – – in Bolivia the plumbing systems are different and the used toilet paper is thrown into the trash can beside the toilet. Here in the U.S. the used paper is flushed.

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Can I go drink from the water fountain! (Five children RUN through the airport to quench their thirst.)

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Look, a mailbox! Oh look, there’s another one!

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These houses are so beautiful! (In one of the more simple parts of town.)

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There are SO MANY  [you name it on the shelves in the stores]  to choose from!

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This pizza is SO GOOD!

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It is SO COLD! (The locals are in lightweight shirts and no jackets. We are in layers, coats, hats, and scarves.)

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You can drink the water from the faucet. WHAT? Yes, from the faucet.

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Timothy on day 2: I still feel weird drinking water from the faucet. I mean, it tastes fine, but I am thinking in my head the whole time, “I am drinking bugs!”

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on the wall of the house we are staying at
on the wall of the house where we are staying

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