Monday, December 23, 2013


They were mistakes, no doubt.

But, they were beautiful mistakes. Not so much because it was good to have made them, but because it was good to have learned from them.  When she looked back, she could see the turns she had taken that maybe weren't the wisest choices.  But, when she looked back, she could also see how those turns had taught her something.  Lots of somethings.  And lots of somethings that were important to learn.

They hadn't been easy lessons. Some of them had hurt deeply in the learning.  Sometimes they had hurt her.  Sometimes they had hurt other people. They weren't lessons that had come without a price.  Some prices, she was happy to pay.  Some prices, and mostly the ones for which she wasn't the one who had to pay, she wished she had somehow made other choices. But yet, in the end, they were prices that had been paid, choices that had been made, and there was no going back and choosing other things. There was no going back and paying other prices.

So she looked back and she simply found herself grateful for the lessons. She was grateful for the wisdom. She was grateful for the opportunities to grow and change and become something else.

And yes, she was grateful for the mistakes.  Hard mistakes, but beautiful mistakes.

For they made it possible to be who she was today.  And who she was...  well, that was beautiful, too.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Choose who you want to be, 
despite what anyone else does, says, or thinks.

In the end, I suppose this was my theme for 2013. It's something I stumbled across early in the year, and I really liked its idea.  But, I kept returning to it over and over as the year wore on.

I suppose that I am (and perhaps we all are?) a pretty responsive person. I don't act so much as I respond. I change what I do and think and am, based on what other people do, think, and say about me.  And perhaps that isn't un-understandable.  It's difficult to not let those things affect us.  But, I came to a decision early on this year that I was responsible for who I was. I was responsible for what I did and thought and said. And it wasn't okay for me to blame other people for those things.

Because, at the end of the day, I got to choose who I was.

And who I was... it wasn't dependent on other people's choices and thoughts and words.  Those were their things to choose.  I couldn't control those things, and neither should I try.  But what could I control?

I could control me. I had power over me. I could choose the person I wanted to be and I could make choices based on that person.

I'd love to say that I was a rousing success.  But, it probably wouldn't be true. I often had to be very strict with myself and reprimand, "No! You get to choose. Don't change who you are, the person you want to be, the kind of friend/parent/etc you want to be, based on someone else's actions. Let them be responsible for them. You be responsible for you."  Sometimes I listened.  Sometimes I didn't.

But I think I'm ending the year content in those choices. Part of me wishes that I'd chosen deliberate action more often, and responsive action less. But, I think I'm ending the year content in the choices I made, content in the times that I went right along being who I wanted to be, no matter if anyone else was on the train with me or not.

Be the person you want to be, Jo. It doesn't matter what anyone else does.

I think I'll take that into 2014 with me, too.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


These are hard words to say and sometimes I just don't know how to say them. Or sometimes, I'm worried that, if I say them, you won't hear them right or you'll hear the wrong tone and you won't understand what I'm trying to say in the first place.

So I say different words. And we talk about different things. Because the things I really want to say are too hard, too fraught with danger, too untrustworthy.

But, the hard words are still there. They haven't gone anywhere and there are parts of me that still need to say them. That still need to be heard. So I bury those parts and I bury those words and we don't talk about the things.

Because they are hard to say.

Monday, November 25, 2013


When I got involved with being a Celtic Thunder supporter, I was a passionately exuberant fan. There were a lot of reasons for that - some of them personal, some of them less so. But, one thing that drew me was that there was something quite inspiring and rewarding about watching someone achieve their dreams. Real life Cinderella stories played out in people I'd actually spoken with.  Perhaps, it's something of what draws us to watching shows like American Idol and the like, too. Very simply, it was a fun thing to be involved in.

And involved, I was. I threw myself headfirst into participating, supporting, and promoting in any and every way that I could. I was delighted if those things contributed in any way to the success of the artists I admired. And even if they didn't, I was thrilled just to see those people succeed, anyway. In many ways, there was nothing wrong with that delight. Wanting to see others achieve their dreams is a good thing.

One of the members released his first solo album a couple years ago, and on it, he covered a song called "Safe in the Harbour" that began to really speak to me.

"Some men are sailors, but most are just dreamers
Held fast by the anchors they forge in their minds.
In their hearts they'll know they'll never sail over deep water
To search for a treasure they're afraid they won't find.
"So, in sheltered harbours, they cling to their anchors
Bank down their boilers and shut down the steam
And they wait for the sailors to return with their treasures
That will fan the dull embers and fire up their dreams."

Every time I heard it, it nagged at my heart. And I ignored it - because listening meant change. But, when I could ignore it no longer, I began to understand what it meant for me. You se, that well-intentioned desire to see people I barely knew attain success had become my personal top priority. It was what I worked for. Their success had become mine - only it wasn't true.

For as fun and rewarding as it was to see their dreams come true (and it was), the truth was that their dreams weren't mine. I had my own artist's heart burning within my chest. But, by throwing my all into fanning the embers of someone else's fire, I was pouring buckets of water onto my own. There was simply nothing left for me.

There is great value in supporting each other's dreams. We should all be doing that for each other. Supporting, encouraging, sharing each other sensibly when we can and helping each other up when we fall. But, we each are given a burning purpose in our hearts and souls, and they are each weighted with value. When we douse our own flames to make someone else's more valuable, we insult the impact that we were meant to have.

It's not a bad thing to support someone else, and I don't mean to communicate that there is. There is good in that and likely none of us would see much success if we didn't share that support. But, I was wrong in how far down that road I allowed myself to go. I dishonoured my own passions and talents. I disrespected my own dreams and value. And those were wrong things.

Balance is a good thing. Support each other, but follow your own dreams, too. Not just someone else's.

Friday, November 22, 2013


I thought I would be different...  when I got through it all.
And I was. I was different.
I saw things different. I said things different. I felt things different.

But I was the same, too. I had the same past and the same face and the same pain and the same happy.
and I wasn't really sure how to be both.  To be both the same and different.
Perhaps I'm still not sure.

I'm still the same. And I'm still different.
But I don't always know which I want to be.

And I guess that's okay. It's okay to have changed.  And it's okay to have not changed.
And it's okay to be both. and it's okay to not be sure which I am at a given moment.

It's even okay that I see things in me that maybe others haven't seen yet.
It's okay that I'm not always who people think I am.

This "becoming" business isn't always pretty. There are stops and starts and they don't always make sense.
It's a twisty topsy-turny road...  but honestly, I wouldn't want to be on another.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


I looked out the window and I watched the hands move on the clock across the courtyard.  Minute by minute, they ticked away.

I'd always knew this day was come. When I got involved, I knew what could happen. But somehow, I never thought it would happen to me. Like I was immune from the risks inherent in the situation. Sure, I knew others who had fallen. But me?  Never. I don't think it really ever entered my mind that I would somehow ever be here in this room, facing what I'm facing today.

I thought I was superhuman.  But, as it turns out, I'm just normal-human.

The hands ticked again.  Up to 12.  There was a pause, as if the clock itself was inhaling sharply, unwilling to toll its bell and signal the beginning.  I waited, and eventually it could stall no longer.

The bell rang out.
The door to my room opened.
And suddenly it was all dark.

Today was Execution Day.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


"Let's go back to the start," we said. "Where it all began and let's start over..."

and so we tried. But, it never quite worked.

I think that's where we messed up -- by trying to go back to the start.  Because you can't do that, not really. You change, they change, we change. And going back to the start is trying to go back to fixing something with people who don't even exist anymore. You can't build a relationship on ghosts.

What you can do is start again, but where you are. But, it's not going back to the beginning. You have to deal with what's come between the start and the now.  You can agree to forgive each other, and that can be a part of the dealing and the healing. But, you can't go back and pretend that those things didn't happen, and you can't pretend that those things didn't mean something.

Because they did... if they didn't, you wouldn't need to start over and you would have no reason to even want to go back to the beginning.  They meant something.  And because they meant something, they matter and you can't just ignore them and hope they'll go away. They mattered and we need to respect that.

But, just because you can't go back to the beginning doesn't mean that you can't still have something beautiful. It might be work for a little bit...  but beauty is not easily achieved.  But, when you get there, it is sweet and it is beautiful and it is worth it.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


You laughed.
You laughed today like you laugh every day.
And I said nothing...  Nothing because I am the quiet girl.

But I went home and I cried.
And when I was done crying, I planned.
And you never knew.

And you never saw it coming.
Because I am the quiet girl.
And you didn't know what I was capable of.

But now you do.
And you won't make that mistake again, will you?
Because now you know....
You don't mess with the quiet girl.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


I've changed.

I'm not who I was a few years ago.  I've grown. I've matured. I've altered the things that are important to me, and I've tweaked my focus. I care about different things than I did. I've learned a lot about trust, about friendship, about people -- about me. I've been hurt, and I've been healed, and I've learned to let go and move on and embrace new things.

But sometimes I still want to hold on to the girl I was then. I want to be new, but I want to be familiar, too.  I want to keep things that I lost, even as I'm embracing the things I've gained.

I've learned to let go of a lot of things --  and I'm learning that it's okay to let go of who I was, too. I'm learning that it's okay to change and it's okay to be different.  It's okay if I don't always recognize the girl in the mirror and it's okay to take awhile to get to know her.

I'm learning that I like the person I'm becoming, and it's okay to be her.  And it's okay to say goodbye to the girl who lived in my skin before.

Monday, September 23, 2013


I found you on my mind today.

I thought about picking up the phone and telling you.
but I didn't have anything else to say -- 
and I thought you'd think I was dumb.
so I never dialed your number

I thought about opening an email and telling you
but written words are things you can't get back, stamped there in print for eternity
and I wasn't sure if I wanted you to know you were on my mind if I wasn't on yours.
so I never sent the message

I thought about stopping by your house and bringing you coffee
Like maybe a peace offering of caffeine would somehow alleviate the tension that once was
but I don't even know if you like coffee anymore and I was afraid of what you would do if you saw my face there on your doorstep
So I never came over

but you were still on my mind.

and so I'm telling you here... in this place you probably never read
so that somewhere, it's there. and if you're interested to know... 

You were on my mind today.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


I've been thinking about the idea of forgiveness again. I struggle with it -- maybe not so much with the idea of forgiveness itself, but with the line that lies between forgiveness and wisdom. I've often walked the side where I have been very open with forgiveness and have let repeat offenders cross line after line. I got burned by that, deeply. And then I cowered back to the other side of the line where I was afraid to let anyone who had hurt me before have the chance to do it again.

It seems that there should be some middle ground there and I'm trying to find it.

I want to be the kind of person who can have the courage to extend grace to those who have been hurtful. But, I also want to be wise and not invite in disaster.  It's like if someone came into your house, totally trashed it, and then left -- without a second thought or a care for what they left you with.  It is a good thing, I think, to be able to forgive them for their actions and their thoughtlessness.  But, would you let them back in to do it a second, third, fourth time?

I guess that's the rub. -- But it's also what I think about on both sides of the coin.  I haven't always been faultless either. I've made choices that I wish I hadn't, said things that I wished I'd kept silent on.  So, when I'm faced with someone else's mistrust, I have to understand that and not be angry over it. I have to understand that maybe they're struggling with forgiveness and the ability to trust, too.

That we're all trying to find that middle ground.

Sunday, September 1, 2013


She eyed me from across the table over her water glass. "Have you ever gone back to something?"

"What do you mean?"

"I don't know exactly," she shrugged. "Just... something."

I raised an eyebrow at her and let the silence linger until she set down her glass and picked up her fork to pick at the meal in front of her.

"I've tried," I finally said. "Once, after I left home, I tried to go back. But, there really wasn't a place for me anymore. They'd all adjusted to my absence and life had gone on, and I became something like a guest."

"That's terrible."

"Not really. We're meant to grow up and make our own lives. Another time, I tried to return to some friends that I had walked away from.  But... when I went back, the hole that was there to fill was one left by the person I had been.  And I had become someone different that no longer fit that hole. So, that didn't quite work either."

I stared into the candlelight and tried to think of something less... failing.

"Once I tried to return to a relationship that I thought had died. But, when I did, I found that we'd both changed and no longer fit the relationship we had before."

"So that didn't quite work either?" she asked me.

"No," I said slowly.  "No, it didn't.  But it was still important, so we found new ways and new expectations and a new relationship. I suppose I've never had much success with going back to something, trying to recapture the past."

"I guess you can only go forward."

I smiled at her.  "I guess so."

Thursday, August 22, 2013


I'm starting to like you and it scares me.

Until now, it didn't matter. You were just a person and I was just a person, and we were just two persons living in the same world, not mattering to each other. It didn't matter if we messed up or if one of us thought the other person was weird or crazy. Because we were just two people. Two people who didn't matter.

But I'm starting to like you.  And it starts to matter. It matters what you think of me, even if the world tells me that I shouldn't care about that. It matters what I think of you. What you do matters. I suddenly want you to be someone who is worthy of my respect and my affection. I want you to be all you can be, and I want to be all I can be - because I want to be someone who is worthy of yours.

And this all scares me.  There's so much more pressure now than when we were just two people who didn't matter. Now we matter. Now what I do and say, it all matters. And maybe it always mattered, but now I'm suddenly aware of it.  I guess that's a good thing.

It is a big world and, with so many people in it, it can start to feel like it doesn't matter - like we don't matter.  How could we? We're but pebbles dropped into a big ocean. And so to be suddenly faced with our own mattering, it can be a lot to get our heads around. And it's a little frightening to realize that you matter. That what you do and what you say and what you think and what you feel... it all matters. It's important.

And suddenly I can't go back to thinking I don't matter and that you don't matter and that we don't matter.  Because I know the truth now. I know I was wrong.

It all matters.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


"The way their eyes follow me, laughing with malice, across the room."

Her pen came to the end of the line and she dropped it at her side.  Ripping the paper off the notebook, she folded it in half twice and set it on the top of the others.

"The time I tripped in front of the whole class."

"The day they told me to meet them at the Dairy Queen and then they all went to Starbucks instead."

A whole stack of them.

"How I'm afraid I'll never be good enough."

"How I can never seem to say the right thing."

"How my dreams seem so unattainable."

She fingered the last one and picked it up, turning it over slowly in her hands. Moving almost as if in a dream, she lit the first match and touched it to the paper, watching it begin to crumble into flame.  Releasing it into the air, she picked up the next piece and set it on fire, too.  One by one, she went through the entire stack until the air around her was filled with the burnt embers of her fears and insecurities.

She sat there in the grass, watching it all burn.

She sat there until every flame died away.

Then, she stood up and walked away. Today would be different.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


"What do you think I'll be like when I'm old?" I peered at my husband over my coffee cup as we sat entwined on the stairs of our new home.

"Well," he said thoughtfully. "You'll have laughed a lot by then, so you'll have lots of wrinkles around your eyes and mouth, and you'll probably be all bent over.  You'll wear your hair up in one of those old lady bandanas so we can't really see what color your hair is.  And your voice will be all creaky like an old rocking chair, but the kids in the neighborhood won't care because you'll be the lady with all the cats who makes all the cookies."

I wasn't exactly sure I liked all that. He reached forward and touched my cheek.  "But I will love you just the same... only better.  How about me?"

I grinned at him.  "I'll love you when you're a wrinkly old lady, too."

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


It had been a long season of hard heartache. Broken relationships, shattered trust, disillusioned expectations. Weeks had been spent in tears until I no longer even had those left... only an empty husk of a heart that was afraid to move in any direction, lest its last remaining thread strength be ripped away.

I felt like there was nothing left of me.  I looked in the mirror and I didn't know that girl anymore. I knew the smiley one, the one who could find humor in anything.  But this broken girl?  I didn't know her.  I didn't want to know her. She seemed to be every weak part of me, all rolled up into one person. To know her was to accept her. To accept her was to ... be her.

Over time, I came back to myself.  Because you do.  That season of heartache doesn't last forever, and you eventually come back to yourself. The laughter you knew before, it comes back.  When you look in the mirror, you begin to see more and more glimpses of the girl you used to be, the girl you liked being.

But, the girl you were in the midst of the heartache, she's there too.  Behind your eyes, she's still there and this is probably a good thing.  For going through the heartache isn't just about getting through it.  It's about healing and it's about wisdom. It's learning lessons about yourself and other people.  It's about changing and growth.

You will learn to recognize yourself in the mirror again.  You will come back to yourself again.  But, you will be different, too.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


I watched her sleep.

I know that sounds creepy and stalkerish. Maybe you're right. Maybe it is creepy and stalkerish.  Maybe I am.

But, I couldn't help it. I watched her sleep, clutching the rose I had given her over dinner before I'd walked her home.

Sometimes I wished that I wasn't what I am, or that she wasn't what she was. I wished I could tell her the truth and I wished that there were some middle ground where we could co-exist. Together.

But, there wasn't.  She was who she was and I was who I was, and there was no helping either one. Loving her was dangerous.  Dangerous for her, dangerous for me. But can you help the one you fall in love with? Can you just tell yourself "No" and have your heart follow your directions?

If you know how, I'd love to know the secret.  But, also... I wouldn't. For, as much as it hurts and as much as I know it isn't wise, loving her is an exquisite pain and one I would not wish to lose.

And so I simply watch her sleep.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


It was a day of Deliberate Emotional Catharsis.

The situation was complicated.  Someone I knew and had supported had gone slightly (read: a lot) crazy and I was angry.  Hurt, confused, and angry. He was an artist and I had purchased a couple things from his website's merchandise, so on the day I decided that enough was enough, I marched out to the greenbelt behind our house, with a trademarked coffee mug in hand.  I let myself out of the backyard through the gate, carefully took aim at a nearby tree, and hurled it as hard as I could.

And then ducked. That coffee mug bounced RIGHT off of the tree and nearly took out my head!!

Not to be deterred, I ran after the cup, picked it up, and threw it at another tree.  And ducked again.  What the heck was this cup made of?  Steel??  I followed its path rolling across the dirt, picked it up again, threw it, and darted out of its return path.  Eight trees later, I was laughing at myself.  How hard could it be to smash a coffee mug?

The mug didn't fare as well once I got out the sledge hammer.  It didn't really fix anything, but it made me feel better... at least for awhile.

Sometimes you just have to smash things and let the emotions out.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


I wonder what you remember.

I wonder what you remember, and if it's the same things that I remember.  But then, I think, how could they be?

Because I remember the things you said and the things you did. And I remember the way your laughter made me want to laugh, too. And I remember how you made me want to be better. Better at life and just better at... being a better me.

So, how could your things be the same as my things?

and then I wonder, what do you remember? What were the things about me that were worth remembering for you? And I wonder if they're good things or if they're things that I wish you didn't remember.

Whatever they are, those things you remember, I hope that you smile when you think of me in the same way that I smile when I think of you.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


I always wondered what it would be like to walk into a meeting and say, "Hi. My name is Angela.  And I'm a pyromaniac." Only that wouldn't quite be true. I'm not a pyromaniac.

I just set things on fire.

consumed by fire
It's not with matches or with a lighter or kerosene. It's with my mind... like that girl in Stephen King's Firestarter book.  To be honest, I've never read it. You'd think I would have... but I know that he writes horror and about things that are evil. I've just never wanted to read something where I might be the thing that was evil or worthy of horror.

I'm just a girl... who sometimes sets things on fire.

Sometimes I can do it on purpose... if I summon up enough control of my own mind, I can set something on fire.  That's great for camping trips.  But, most of the time, it's something involuntary.  I get mad or upset, and it just happens. It's not intentional. No one sets out in life hoping to be the freak. It's cool to be Katniss Everdeen, The Girl on Fire.  It's less cool to be Angela, The Girl Who Accidentally Ruins Everything With Fire.

No one forgets the day in kindergarten when you accidentally envelop the class hamster in flames.  No one forgets and no one forgives.

Chapter 2

One time, I was "house"-sitting for my grandparents. They had an old farm that they usually rented out. But, this one month, they didn't have any tenants, so they asked if I'd go look out for the place for awhile. It sounded fun, out by myself with the chickens.  Who wouldn't want to play farm girl?

It was fun. I spent some time going through old closets and looking at things from my grandma's childhood. I wandered through the fields. I napped in the meadow under the sun. I fed the chickens (not as glamorous as it sounded). It was fun.

In the evening, I sat on the swing and watched the stars come out. My mind started to wander and I began to think about school. Rachel had been pretty mean that week. I could feel the stares of the other girls as I walked down the hallway and I wondered if I'd ever really belong, if there would ever be anyone out there who would be willing to jump past the weird to be my friend. To be my anything.

A tear spilled down my cheek.  And then another.  And then another. I didn't think anything about that... until I smelled the smoke.

I looked down and where each tear had fallen, the porch had begun to singe. One tear might have been okay.  The ten or whatever was... not.  A flame had sprung up out of my sorrow. A flame on my beloved grandparents' porch.

Panicked, I bent down and blew on the flames, trying to snuff them out like you would a birthday candle. But, it was the exact wrong thing to do. The air blew the flames higher, and they began to lick their way across the porch to the outside of the house.  I ran around the side and tried to fill a bucket with water to douse the flames.  But, by the time I got back to the front, the flames had--  There were just too many of them.

I could start fires. I just couldn't put them out.

Eventually, I gave up.  I retreated to the top of the driveway and I watched what I'd done burn itself out.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Alyssa!" My friends called from a back booth. "We're over here!"

dark hairThe door to the local Vamp Cafe closed behind me and I was finally able to push my sunglasses back up on top of my head. It was very bright out this morning. Sliding beside my next door neighbor Jesse, I greeted the table. "Hey guys... how was your nigh--  What is that smell?"

Rebecca glanced up from across the table where she was picking white bits out of her long curly hair. "I'm sorry... Old Lady Peterson threw minced garlic at me again last night. I don't know why people insist on thinking that's going to do anything."

Her boyfriend Kevin leaned in close to her, nuzzling her neck and inhaling deeply.  "I don't know," he murmured.  "It's kind of hot."

Jesse and I both wrinkled our noses in disgust.  "Gross."

Helga, the witch that ran the place, called out from the kitchen. "Your usual, darlin'?"

"Yes, please, thanks! Newt blood pancakes and a cup of black coffee!" Remembering the last time we came here, I added, "And no dragon's teeth this time!!"  I could hear her cackling in the kitchen. Witches could never be trusted.  I turned back to my friends at the table. "Remind me again why we don't just go to IHOP??"

Thursday, April 18, 2013


book banner

There lived a girl, a very sad girl. Having suffered requisite untold tragedy, she was left alone with nothing but her sorrow and her heartache to keep her company. Every day, she would go to the lake near her cottage. She would kneel by the lakeshore, and she would pray. She prayed for solace, for company, for someone to share her sorrows. She prayed for hope and happiness and peace.

Down the lane, there also lived a boy. The boy was not sad. But, every day, he passed by the lake and he saw the girl praying at its shore. Every day, he would walk by where she rested, and he would ask her the same question.  "Is there anything I can do to help you , miss?"

But, every day, she shook her head and explained, "I'm praying. Help will come." So, the boy would nod his head, smile sadly, and continue on his way, not wanting to press her.

One day in May, the girl was particularly sad and praying with particular ferocity when the rain began to fall particularly hard. Racing home from town, the boy was surprised to see the girl still at her lakeshore, and he ran to her. "Miss, please. You will get stuck in this storm if you don't come in. Let me help you."

But, the girl only shook her head and told him that help would come. So, he continued on his way home.  The girl stayed at the lakeshore.

The next morning, the boy returned to the lake to see how the girl had fared in the storm. When he saw her, he ran to her and touched her cheek, whispering "Oh Miss... if only you had let me help you."

And to this day, he visits the lake and the girl. He kneels in front of her, and he asks her the same question. "Isn't there anything I can do to help you?"

girl in prayer

Thursday, April 11, 2013


“Sarah! Would you wait up?”

But, I only laughed as I ran down the dirt road in the summer rain. “What’s the matter, Seth? Keep up!” I heard him curse behind me and it just made me laugh more. “Come on, we’re almost there.” I could feel the rain soaking through my jacket now, and I knew that Seth must be even colder in only a T-shirt.

running down roadI crashed through the doors of our neighbors’ old barn and turned around just in time for Seth to slide his arms around me and flatten me against his chest. “You are impossible,” he smiled.

“Agreed.” Sliding my arms around his neck, I demanded, “Tell me again.”

He dropped a kiss on the tip of my nose. “I love you.”

And then he kissed me.
And then he kissed me.
And then he kissed me again.

I shook my head to clear the memory and had to ask her to repeat her question. “I’m sorry?”

“How did you know Seth?” The hands of his widow held mine in the church sanctuary, her eyes fresh with shed and unshed tears.

I glanced at his coffin sitting mere feet away and chewed on my lower lip for a moment before smiling sadly and merely replying “I just knew him from when we were kids… in school together, you know.  I’m very sorry for your loss.”

She patted my hand and thanked me for coming before turning to the next person.

In school together, you know.

Monday, April 8, 2013


It was 9:00 on a Saturday morning, and I was on my way to a meeting. But before that, I stopped into a local Starbucks. As usual, the line was long and full of fellow Seattle-ites, desperate for their morning shot of caffeine. I didn't really pay much attention, and shuffled through the email on my phone while the line slowly shuffled forward.

latteWhen it was my turn, I greeted the cashier with a smile, ordered and paid for my latte over a little chitchat, and was about to turn away to the "wait for your caffeine here" area of the store when the young man behind the counter stopped me.

"Can I just say 'Thank you?''" he asked quietly.

"Well sure...  though I don't know what for."

"You're the first person in about 15 people who's smiled at me this morning, and I just wanted to thank you for being kind."

I smiled at him again just for good measure. "Aw honey, you're just on the wrong end of the coffee.  But you're welcome... and I hope your day gets a little brighter."

I thought about that as I picked up my coffee and left the store. A little graciousness to touch a frustrated heart cost me very little. A smile, a kind word. That's about it... and yet went so far.

A little grace goes a long way.

Thursday, April 4, 2013



Tessa slammed her hand against the alarm clock, switching it off. She didn't even know why she bothered turning it on. When a person stops sleeping, they don't need an alarm to wake them up. Another sleepless night, another bleary pre-dawn morning. Another day to get through.

It was the 11th day since her beloved husband Mark had died. Everything was numb. But, numb was better than the pain that filled her head when the numb wore off.  And at some point during the day, somewhere between the condolences and the pity and the shielded looks, at some point, the numb would recede and she was faced with the piercing knowledge that Mark would never be back.

And for the 11th day, she would face it all again.

Tessa pulled herself out of bed and slowly padded toward the bathroom. As she reached for the lightswitch, a voice murmured behind her. "Tess." She screamed and threw herself through the bathroom door, slamming it behind her and flipping the lock quickly.

"I don't who you are," she yelled through the closed door. "But get out of my house. I have a gun!"

The voice chuckled. "You do not."

She frowned. That voice sounded familiar. "Fine. A knife, then!"

"What are you going to do, Tessa? Throw a bottle of shampoo at me?"


"Please come out, darling. There isn't much time."

Tessa opened the door cautiously, and peeked around it. Sure enough, there in the dark, she could see the form of her husband.  Her dead husband. "I thought you were dead?"

Mark shrugged. "I am-- sort of."

She wasn't sure that she cared. With a cry, she launched herself out of the bathroom and into his arms, staggering them both backward into the middle of the bedroom. She pulled his head down to hers and pressed her lips against his, their mouths parted, as his hands roved over her back.

"Tessa," he breathed heavily. "I can't... I only have a minute." He glanced quickly toward the window and tried to step away. "There's a letter in my desk downstairs. It's addressed to you, and I need you to read it when I'm gone."

"Fine, yes," she waved the demand away and reached for him again.

"It's important, Tessa." He looked down at her and ran a finger over her cheek. "God, I wish I had more time." Bending his head, his lips claimed hers in slow tenderness, his fingers caressing her hair.

It was too late. As the sun peeked through the room's curtains, it was as if he began to disappear. It wasn't so much a fading, as it was that slowly, parts of him flew away. Despite her cries of anguish, it was only moments before she was once again alone. Once again without her husband. Once again numb.

Hours later, she remembered what this phantom husband of hers had said. And opening the letter she found, she began to read:

My darling Tessa...  I'm not who you think I am.  I'm not WHAT you think I am.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


"What are you doing?" I demanded, looking into her eyes.

She stared back at me just as fixedly, but in silence.

"You never make any sense," I tried to explain. "With your fits and stops and starts, I don't know what you're thinking anymore. You go this way and that way and I don't think I can trust you."

She seemed to start to answer, but stopped herself. She couldn't.

"You've been wrong so many times," I continued, "and I've listened to you every time.  And every time, you lead us into just... trouble. How do I know you won't do it again?"

The corners of her mouth quirked up into a sad smile and she shrugged helplessly. She knew her faults. She didn't need me telling them to her. She knew them well.

"I just don't want to be hurt again," I confessed, a tear sliding its way down my cheek.

She slid her hand over her heart and tapped it, nodding insistently at me.  So, I did the same.

"Okay," I agreed.  "Together.

Thursday, March 14, 2013



I can hear the door to the cell creak open, but I barely lift my head. It's not even worth the effort anymore. My eyes stay closed.

I try not to move, like he won't notice me if I stay still. But the awareness of him being back makes me aware of the tiredness in my arms. I try to resist, but I can't. I flex my fingers in an automatic attempt to get the blood flowing into my limbs again.

He notices.  He notices and he laughs.

It's not a laugh of humor... or maybe it is. Maybe he enjoys this. All I can hear is the cruelty in it.  And I cringe.  Inside, outside. It doesn't matter. He knows.

As he moves forward, I can hear the whip slide across the floor. He asks me what he asks me every day.

I respond the same way I respond every day.

Again, he laughs. I answered wrong. It long ago stopped mattering what I answered.  Every answer was wrong.

He shuts the door. He cracks the whip.

I retreat inside myself to the one part of me that he hasn't yet broken. It's a small part but it's still mine.

Maybe for just one more day.  But it's still mine.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


The sky outside his bedroom window slowly changed from nearly black to a dark grey. Morning was on its way, but he knew that the rest of the house would yet be in bed for hours.  The young man slipped from his bed and pulled on the nearest pair of pants.

Pulling his backpack from under his bed, he began to fill it with all the essentials for his trip. A change of clothes, his lucky charm, a bunch of bandages just in case. Today was the day.

With his backpack slung over his shoulder and his sneakers in his hand, he slowly opened his bedroom door and peeked into the hallway.  The house was still silent and it was safe to proceed. He tiptoed down the stairs, grabbed a cookie from the counter, and snuck out the back door, stopping on the back step to slip his feet into his sneakers.

There it sat.

"Only in the driveway," they had said.
"You must be very careful," he had been told.
"Always where Mother can see you," had been the refrain.
And, of course, "Don't ever ever ever ride it down the hill."

But, he wheeled it to the top of the hill, regardless.
He sat on its seat.
And with a deep breath, he pushed off.

It was the most exhilarating ride of his life.

Monday, February 25, 2013


Broken hurts.
It is full of rocks and nails and glass where you can hardly move without your wounds being reopened by something, bringing all the pain back up to the surface where it breaks you again and again.

But broken is also where the healing begins. 
Broken is where you strip away everything that you thought you were, where you find out who you really are.
Broken is where you find out what's really important to you, what you truly need and what you really want.
Broken is where you learn about strength and courage, forgiveness and compassion.

Broken is where you begin again.
Broken is where you become a new you.
And sometimes you find that the broken place was really a healing place.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


I stood at the gates and peered in.  Dark and foggy, the path stretched on into the morning. But, there was nothing that would tell me what would lay down it.

An archway stood above me, its stone marble both smooth and yet cracked with age.  The words carved into it were simple and straightforward.

"Come. Your way is here."

Was that a message to me? Or was it simply what it said to everyone who passed this way? An invitation to peace or peril? I didn't know.

But I looked behind me along the path that had brought me here, its twists and turns already overgrown with brambles. I knew that I could never go back. I knew that going back was closed.

Here, as in all life, I suppose...  here, the only way was forward and to face what waited down the road with what courage I could find.  So I stood tall, shook my hair back from my face, and approached the gates. I stepped into the story of what was yet unwritten.

Just inside, a small fox approached me. I watched him with trepidation, ready to swing the nearest stick at him if he attacked.  But, he simply sat in the middle of the path, nodded his head at me, and said simply, "You came. Thank you."

And so the story began.

Monday, February 18, 2013


So I miss you. I can admit that.

I miss the friends that we were and the camaraderie we shared. I miss how we used to have each other's backs and protect each other's hearts. I miss that. I miss you.

But, a lot's happened. Valleys and gulfs between us, pushing each other away. Terrible words said.

It's not even just that. We're different people now, and the things that made us friends before... maybe we just don't have those things anymore. I've changed in some ways, you've changed in other ways... and neither of those ways are bad things, but they put us in places where probably friends are not something we'll be again.

I guess that's okay. I'm okay with that. Our lives are what they are, we are who we are. And I think it's okay to move on in our lives, but still occasionally think of the ones who were a part of our pasts. You are a part of me, a part of who I am now. So today, I will think of you, and hope good things for you, and yes.. I will miss you.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


This is Valentine's Day.  Or 4 am during the night that follows it. Right now, I should be upstairs, wrapped in his arms and cradled against his chest.

But I'm not.

I'm on a bench across the street from our apartment. A suitcase rests beside me on the ground. I'm waiting for a cab that still hasn't come. I'd call again, but I don't really want to go.

It's raining.  I'm still wearing the dress I bought for tonight, for our night out. The night we never even made it to before we started fighting.  And fighting. And fighting.

I don't even feel the rain now.

It's Valentine's Day. It wasn't supposed to end this way.

A light flicks on in our bedroom and I can see his form wander from our room to the kitchen. I can't see him now but I imagine him opening the refrigerator, pouring himself a drink, and padding back to our bed.  He stops in the living room and glances out the window.

I don't think he sees me.

I'm wrong.

The door to our building opens and he jogs across the street in pajamas and slippers. I don't stand up.

"What are you doing out here?" he asks me.

"No one came," I answer simply.

He shifts from one foot to the other, uncomfortable. "Do you want me to call again?"

I shake my head. "No. No, I'm fine here."

"You're soaking wet," he begins to argue with me.

But I just shake my head again. "It doesn't matter."

"You're crazy," he mutters.

I just shrug and look at the ground with a frown. "I know.  I'm sorry."

He pulls me to my feet and wipes the water away from my lips with the pad of his thumb. "Don't be," he whispers. "I love your crazy."

And he kisses me.

And he picks up my suitcase. And he picks up me. And we go back inside. And I sleep in our bed, cuddled against his chest.

And the cab never comes.

And this is Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


How did you make it past my defenses? I really thought that I had built them too high for anyone to climb over. That I was impenetrable.

and yet here I am, lying at your feet.

I feel tricked, misled, taken advantage of. I trusted you, but this brokenness is all you have left me with.

just broken

And I don't know where to go from here. I don't know how to heal the damage you caused. I don't know if I can learn to trust again.  Not just you... but anyone. How can I trust anyone when my judgment has proved to be so poor?

What I want is to be reborn and to build walls even higher. If you could scale them, someone else could, too.  But... higher is just a bigger challenge for the next one, isn't it? And it may be higher, but I've learned that, no matter the height, the walls are never unscalable. There will always be someone, with enough motivation or desire or, yes, capacity for cruelty, who can top them. And then where are we left?

And so, I am lying here on what remains of our battlefield and pondering... where do I go from here? Is there such a thing as enough protection to stop this from ever happening again?

Or am I simply left forever, lying at your feet, craving something that I don't have a name for.. but only a desperate longing for something else.