Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thursday Tales: V is for Vampires

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

Thursday Tales: P is for Prayer

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

Monday, April 15, 2013

M is for Manipulation

mysterious womanIt wasn't until the last couple years that I began to really notice manipulation in relationships. I'd gotten out of a friendship where, in retrospect, I'd been manipulated a lot and it really opened my eyes to the myriad of ways in which manipulation was a big part of some of my friendships.

It probably seems naive, and I guess that I was, but it really took me aback. I hadn't known. I really hadn't seen it. But once I saw it, I couldn't unsee it, and it was a strange process. At first, I was just plain hurt that people I cared about would use those manipulative ways to get me to do or be the things they wanted me to do and be.  And then I was angry that they would have so little respect for our friendship and for me that they were willing to use me instead of be friends with me. But, over time, I began to accept that I had a role in that too.  Because while maybe I was blind to it, I had also allowed it. I had caved to the manipulation. I had reinforced the habit. And I had maybe even done it back.

What followed were two years of hypervigilance on my part...  I was so tuned to the manipulation and so wary of it. I began to cut people out of my life who used it the most stringently.  But I also kept most everyone at arm's length, so worried about someone else manipulating me where I couldn't see it. I'm not sure that was the healthiest way to behave, either.

Where I am now is not a bad place.  My eyes have been opened. I am aware of the places in which I am most susceptible, and I am less naive than I was before. But, I am also learning once again to be more soft. To be trusting again.. but in a healthier way.

Baby steps.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

J for June's Downpour

“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.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H is for Hurt

I feel hurt by the things you have done and I don't always know what to do with that.

hurt heartI should be able to forgive you. I know that. It's been a long time. I should be able to let these things go by now.  Yet some days, they still hurt.  They hurt because of the things you said. And they hurt because of the things you did. They hurt because of the things you didn't say and do. They hurt because of the relationship we shared, and the betrayal that it was.

I should be able to let them go.

Some days, I absolutely believe that I have. I've put the past behind me, I've begun a new chapter, I've turned over a new leaf. I've made a choice to not let your past choices affect me so much, to not let the things you think about me cloud the way I think about me. And I am certain that I've been successful in those choices on those days.

But, other days, when I least expect it, I'm faced with the knowledge that I'm wrong. That I haven't let the past go, and that it's still there. That there's something in me that just can't figure out how let it go.  There's something in me that still feels that hurt.

And even while I know that I should be able to forgive and that I should be able to let it all go, I know too that it's okay that it's hard to do that. It's okay that this is slow. It's okay that there is backsliding. It's okay that I'm not as strong as I wish I was.

It still hurts. Someday, I'll figure out what to do with that.

Monday, April 8, 2013

G is for Gracious

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

D is for Death and Desire


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.