The Thing

In their vintage, baby-blue cottage in the middle of the sunflower field, the young couple sang, twirled and laughed. Every morning the young man sang her awake, took hold of his wife’s hands and twirled her around singing, “here comes the sun little darling and it’s alright.” Whenever the young couple walked by, no matter where they were, strangers would marvel and stare and whisper to each other, “Are they really that happy. Can anyone be that happy?”

With their happiness, nature would follow. Firefly, Songbird, and Bunny Rabbit took up permanent residency at the cottage and every night the young man would tuck them all in, and then the young couple would laugh themselves to sleep.

One day, however, something else began to follow them along their walks through the sunflower field and into town. They didn’t even notice it at first, as it was good at fitting in. It blended in with the laughter and it cleverly disguised itself as a firefly, a songbird, or a bunny rabbit.

The longer The Thing followed them, however, the less the young couple laughed, the less they twirled, and the less they sang.  The more The Thing followed them, the less Firefly, Songbird, and Bunny Rabbit tagged along for evening walks through the sunflower field. The longer The Thing followed them, the harder it was for it to hide and the more apparent it was that it was not adding to the laughter and the twirling and the singing but in fact, taking it away.

The young couple stopped laughing, twirling and singing. They spent most of their time in silence and if either of them spoke, it was in angry hardened words and hushed darkened tones. He, in his overstuffed emerald green chair, glared over his tortoiseshell spectacles at his wife. She, in her grandmother’s wooden rocking chair, angrily clicked her crochet needles together as the blanket began to take shape. This was not how the young couple used to be, you see, at least, not before The Thing moved in.

Summer faded and winter took up residency. Firefly, Songbird, and Bunny Rabbit stood outside, looking through the young couple’s windows, and mourning the loss of their friends. They had no one to play with anymore and there was no room left for them in the house as The Thing had moved into their room, taken over their beds and hid their toys.

Bunny Rabbit was the saddest because The Thing had taken her most favorite friend. “I just wish it would give me back my kitty,” she said sadly, wiping away a tear with her frozen paw. “She’s so soft and I can’t sleep without her.”

They waited patiently every day for their friends to notice them shivering outside in the cold. “I wouldn’t ask to come in,” tweeted Songbird sadly. “I just keep hoping that the young couple might give us some mittens, hot chocolate or at least give us Bunny Rabbit’s kitty.”

But, The Thing was too big now. It was bigger than the young couple’s house and blocked every window with its darkness. Firefly, Songbird and Bunny Rabbit gave up and went on to start their own traditions together. They fondly remembered back to summers when they used to play with their old friends. Trying to settle into their new routine, they busied themselves with tree decorating and present wrapping. Firefly cheered when the snow started to fall gently outside of their window, remembering the bedtime story the young woman used to tell them about the magic of the first snow.

Back at the young couple’s house, the woman noticed it was snowing and stood by the window to watch in awe as it fell onto the proud-standing sunflowers. She sighed loudly and marveled at how stubborn they were, gripping tightly to the last remnants of summer as the snow tried to force them into hibernation.

Watching her staring out the window, the young man asked her with interest and sarcasm, “What is it about the first snow that you believe to be so magical?”

“It’s simple,” she said in a gentle tone. “Snow comes and takes with it all of the year’s failures and mistakes. It takes all of these things and tucks them in for a long winter’s nap. With Snow, comes forgiveness and a second chance. With Snow comes a chance to start over.”

Noticing the last bit of gold from the last remaining sunflower disappear under the snow, she sadly said goodnight to the sunflower and continued on, “Without fail, Snow falls as if it had not heard or seen a thing, for Snow does not keep a record of wrongs. Snow just forgives and keeps falling.”

Amused by her words, he gave her a half smile and put his newspaper down. Glancing up at the photo on the wall of the young couple with Firefly, Songbird and Bunny Rabbit, he thought to himself, where are those guys? I haven’t seen them in a while.

Still staring out window, she reached and touched the paint chipped panes and noticed the baby-blue paint chips under her nails. Maybe we need to do some sprucing up around here, she thought and then went on, “After Snow’s arrival, the sun always rises and brings with it a sparkle, a sparkle that Snow will hold in its eyes for the rest of winter’s stay. When Snow melts and Spring arrives, the failures and mistakes melt away and chances are, by Spring’s arrival, those failures and mistakes have been forgotten and have been replaced with the lessons Spring has to teach.”

The young man began to weep from the beauty of her words. His tears turned into a small smile and his smile turned into a grin as he began to laugh. He knew how much she hated winter and being cold, but always admired her positive attitude. He didn’t know why, but laughter and the joy came over him like a contagious bug. She began to laugh along with him. This joy was infectious, and the more they laughed the more The Thing shrank. He grabbed her hand and twirled her around the living room, sliding around like children on the maple hardwood floors to the music only they could hear. What they didn’t notice however was that the more they twirled, the more The Thing shrank.

Hearing the familiar melody of “here comes the sun” from outside their window, Firefly, Songbird, and Bunny Rabbit ran as fast as they could toward the house. They could see the light from the Christmas tree through the windows now as The Thing had shrunk, and they danced and sang in the snow outside the living room window in celebration.

Noticing the commotion outside, the young man came out to welcome his old friends, but detected this strange dark shadow in the driveway by the red shed. “Who are you?” he asked it as if he had never seen it before.

The Thing just looked at him with sad eyes, unable to speak. He bent down and wiped off its face with the sleeve of his argyle sweater to uncover someone the couple had met once before many years ago. Looking at his wife, he mouthed, “Is that who I think it is?”

“My name is Ms. Understanding,” she whimpered. “I never meant to cause any harm.  It…it… was just that no one ever took the time to talk to me. No one e,e,e,ever tried to understand me. I showed up one night while you guys were yelling. I didn’t mean anything… honest. Please forgive me?”

Underneath all the dirt was a beautiful girl in a sparkly dress wearing a tiara and red glittery slippers. She began to sing, “here comes the sun little darlin’ and I say it’s alright.” Everyone began to sing along, as she reminded them of the words to the familiar melody the young couple hummed so very long ago.

So my friends, our story ends here. Little Ms. Understanding, the young couple, Firefly, Songbird, Bunny Rabbit all went inside to sit underneath the Christmas tree and watch the snowfall.

“Hey Bunny Rabbit?” Ms. Understanding inquired. “I have something for you. I’ve been keeping her extra safe until you came back. She’s been helping me sleep at night because I’ve been so lonely. She’s the loveliest friend.” And with that, Ms. Understanding handed Bunny Rabbit her kitty companion

“Oh, Thank you!” she exclaimed, holding her soft friend close to her face. “I’ve missed you so much, kitty!”

Singing, twirling and laughing they let Snow do his job of healing and forgiving. The young couple tucked everyone in, showed Little Ms. Understanding to her new sparkly pink bedroom, and the young couple laughed themselves to sleep under the big cozy blanket she had finished crocheting. The next morning, without fail, the sun rose to show them all the new beginning Snow had left them.

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We All Deserve to Take Up Space

I was given the honor of having an article I wrote published on Elephant Journal. It took a lot of strength to share this story, but it my experience and words can help someone else out there feel less alone, then my transparency is worth it. Thank you to all of the amazing teachers at YogaSol Alaska for all that you do. You guys are changing lives and words can not express my gratitude. We must never underestimate the power of our words on another person. ‪#‎EDawareness‬ ‪#‎yogaheals‬

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/03/we-all-deserve-to-take-up-space/

I have to admit it: I went kicking and screaming into my first yoga class.

That day I was supposed to go with a friend, and I came up with 12 different excuses as to why I couldn’t. I didn’t have a mat. I wasn’t flexible. My cats might get hungry.

The truth was, I couldn’t stomach the thought of spending an hour in stillness, alone with my thoughts. I didn’t want to spend an hour in front a mirror looking at the unintelligent, unsightly, repulsive girl in its reflection.

But, go I did. I sat in the back corner as far away from the mirror as possible. Completely self-conscience of my body and positive that everyone in that room was staring at the awkward person in the corner, I tried my best to never take my eyes off of the teacher. Silently screaming hateful things at myself, pushing myself to perfection as each pose was presented.

I was silently livid that this was my workout for the day, as my heart rate was not elevated like it was in a realworkout. How was I going to burn off the smoothie I drank today?  

Then came Savasana. I had to lie there on my mat in silence, just me and my thoughts. My critical, unbearable thoughts. There was no running away. I was trapped. Hyperaware of every sound I heard in the room, desperate to open my eyes, my heart started pounding in my chest and my anxiety level rose. I thought for sure that this was it. This was the end. I was going to die in that room.

Tears of panic started rolling down my face as I cried silently in the back corner of the yoga studio. Thoughts spiraled around in my head like a tornado: You’re not good enough to be here. You don’t deserve this. You’re too fat and ugly to do yoga. You’re stupid and broken. Look around you. All of these people are beautiful. You are not enough.

It’s funny what years of trauma will make you believe.

Finally, I heard someone move, and that meant I could get up too. Freedom. Scurrying around to gather up my mat and water bottle, I ran to my car before the tears started again. That was it. I was never going back to that place again.

But, three days later, I went back.

I couldn’t let anyone think I was weak.

I went through this same agonizing process for three months. Inching my way from the back corner to the middle of the room. About six months later, the only space available at the Wednesday night class was the front corner of the room. Right in front of the mirror. There was no way I was going to spend an hour with my thoughts and my body.

Turning around to leave, I realized someone was parked behind my car. Trapped. Again.

Resolved to stay, I unrolled my mat, acknowledged the grotesque reflection in the mirror and closed my eyes. Realizing 10 minutes in that I could not go through the entire class with my eyes closed, I was forced to face my stringy blonde hair, wide cheekbones, broad shoulders, fat thighs, wide hips and rolls on my stomach. That class was excruciating. Again, it was finally time for Savasana. Finally time to close my eyes again. I laid there listing all of the ways I was going to lose 20 pounds. Tomorrow I wont eat. Tomorrow I’m going to run 10 miles. I’ll have to eat in order to run that far, but I’ll throw it up when I get home. Juice. That’s all I’ll eat this week. How many calories is that? Three cups of juice a day? 500 calories? 500 calories a day for one month. That’ll work. Then I’ll be happy. Then I’ll be able to look in the mirror….

My eating disorder’s obsessive thoughts were interrupted by the yoga teacher’s six simple words:

You deserve to take up space.

I had been so focused on staying small and taking up the least amount of space as possible for so long, it never occurred to me that taking up space was a good thing.

Thank yourself for taking this time for you. Love yourself. Set an intention for yourself today. One, if not all, of these phrases were used during every class. I painstakingly started setting an intention for myself at the beginning of every class. At first, it felt so selfish. You don’t deserve love. My religion had taught me that I was a lowly sinner who was nothing unless the powers that be said I was. The powers that be never did say I was. Countless times, I heard religious rhetoric that insisted we “kill our flesh.” I took that to heart. Fifteen years of eating disorders, yo-yo diets, and promises to myself I would inevitably be incapable of fulfilling. We’re told self-love is wrong and that we have to earn worthiness.

Looking back, these “selfish” intentions were what saved my life.

The next day, that space in front of the mirror was open again. But so was the space in the back of the room. I took a deep breath and rolled out my mat in the front row. On purpose. I sat on my mat, made eye contact with myself, and said, You deserve to take up space. You deserve love. You are smart. You are enough. Every time I made eye contact with myself, I resisted the urge to look away in disgust and instead repeated those words: You deserve to take up space. You are enough.

That corner in front of the mirror slowly became a safe place for me. Every day I repeated those words as I made eye contact with my reflection in the mirror. I realized that perhaps I was intelligent and that maybe I was smart enough to verbalize my ideas, beliefs and opinions. Maybe it wasn’t so much my lack of communication skills, but more that that people do not take the time to listen. In that moment, I vowed to be a better listener. I made a conscience choice to be present in my future conversations. Because everyone deserves to be listened to.

Every day is a challenge, but for the first time, I don’t hate myself or look at myself in disgust. For the first time, I see my body as something of strength, and something that survived. This body ice skates under the fireworks and paddleboards in the Alaskan oceans at sunset. This body runs marathons. This body is smart and brave. This body has a beautiful story of survival to share and for the first time, I really do believe I deserve to take up space.

Yoga teachers yield an influential, fervent position that enables them to change lives. This is the power of yoga.

I share this not for accolades, attention or pity, but because had I read someone’s story like this 10 years ago, I might have realized I was not alone, and that might have saved me a great deal of heartache.

Healing is possible. Self-love is possible.

Maybe, just maybe, a little girl out there will read this and say, “If she can do it, so can I.” This is for you, little girl! You’re enough. You’re worthy. You’re a brave, beautiful survivor with a stunning, unique story to tell.

Emails from Sir Walter Mittens

 

9:56am
Dear Human:

It has been two hours since you left me. I threw up on your bed about ten minutes ago, so be prepared to clean that up when you return. I see you took my sister with you again today, but not me. I wanted to come with you, but alas, you left me behind. Again. It is clear who your favorite cat is. I shall accept my ranking as number two with grace and dignity.

I know you are at work making the green papers that will in turn pay for my toys that I will inevitably play with for five minutes and then proceed to lose under one piece of furniture or another.

Until you and your favorite cat return, I’ll be here, guarding the house. About forty-five minutes ago, a tiny human proceeded to throw his toy ball over the fence. I made sure I stayed out of sight and secured under a blanket until the tiny human had left. The tiny human is not good at finding things. And as soon as the tiny human left, the squirrel came back to haunt me. I think he’s part of a gang as his cronies were in a tree, not too far behind him, cheering him on. I thought I made it very clear to him yesterday that his presence was not welcomed here any longer. I extended one paw from under the blanket as a warning sign that I meant business, but he did not respond to the threat. As a side note, we may need to work on my guarding skills when you return from making the green papers.

You left the television on when you left again and you know that I do not possess the skills to turn it off. Let it be known that I do not like watching episodes of Grey’s Anatomy all day. I do not think I can bear to watch one more horrible thing happen to Meredith. How is one person expected to endure a plane crash, a shooting, drowning, loosing her husband to a car crash and her mother to Alzheimer’s? Poor, poor Meredith.

Did you notice that you left my food dish only half full this morning? I tried to alert you before you left, weaving in and out between your legs, but you were too busy making your own lunch to worry about me. If I starve to death, I may not reply to your next email.

In case I am still here when you return home, I ask that you give me exactly three armpit scratches. If you exceed this limit, I will scratch you. This is your only warning.

I shall now spend the next six hours sleeping under this blanket until you come home. The tiny human and the squirrel exhausted all of my energy for the day.

Sincerely,
Sir Walter Mittens

PS: I borrowed your selfie stick so I could capture these photos, just in case you might forget how cute I am while you are away.

 

10:15am
Good Morning Mittens,

You know all too well that you cannot come with me to work. You throw up every time you’re in the car. You get scared and bolt out of the car at the first sign of freedom. Remember what happened last time? We don’t want a repeat of that incident ever again. You running out of the car and into the grocery store was certainly not what I had in mind for our adventure day. Do you remember the produce man dragging you out from under the apple display? You didn’t speak to me for a week after that. Besides, your sister likes car rides and hanging out with my music students all day and you Sir, are not at all fond of tiny humans.

Speaking of tiny humans, you know the tiny human of which you speak. That’s Levi! He belongs to Victoria and Arnold next door. He probably just wanted to see you through the window again. Maybe consider cutting him a break next time and letting him see more than one paw from beneath a blanket? For some reason, he considers your anti social behavior a friendly gesture.

As for Grey’s Anatomy– I assumed you got a wee bit lonely in a silent house all day, so I left my favorite show on for you. I apologize if Meredith’s misfortunes are too much for you to handle. Please let me know what your show of choice is for tomorrow.

You certainly do have enough food for the day. I left it half full on purpose. Remember what the vet said? You’re seventeen pounds and pre-diabetic. You’re living the cat version of a Dr. Oz approved life now, Sir. Welcome to your new reality.

Sincerely-
The Human Who Rescued You From Death Row at the Pound.

PS: And put the selfie stick away before you break it.

 

1:14pm
Dear Human,

I just woke up from my nap and noticed that you had responded to my last email. I was sleeping quite soundly until Meredith’s diffusing of a bomb inside a patient woke me up. That’s it! I’m banning this show from our future.

While I was weaving in and out of sleep between hospital emergencies on the TV, it came to my attention that there are a few things we need to discuss. I feel as though I have been quiet long enough.

First, we need to discuss Vacuum. I continue to hiss at it, yet it continues to keep grunting at me. What kind of creature does not heed the warnings of someone as fierce as myself? “Stay away!” I yell, yet it just keeps growling. I think it is time you ask Vacuum to leave our house. It doesn’t fit with our groove. Ask Sister. She agrees with me on this one.

Next, we need to discuss your evening visitors. I do not deserve to spend so much of my time hiding behind the toilet and under the furniture. I deserve more self-respect than that. There is nothing worse than hearing them inquire about my whereabouts upon their arrival. Before I know it, they are dragging me out from behind the loveseat yelling, “LOOK at his little mittens! Oh my GOSH! Those MITTENS!” I was born with ten extra toes, get over it man! I’m more than just my feet. And every time they come over, you guys drink too much wine and put me in my “company best.” That baby blue tuxedo is tacky.

Speaking of the couch, I know you asked me my opinion on the new yellow loveseat you bought last week. I feel as though my actions today will give you a sufficient answer. If you would have just asked me what I thought of it before you bought it, I may not have had to bring out all 28 claws.

On another note, can you explain what happened to the catnip? I threw myself into the wall one time and knocked Grandma off the mantle scattering her ashes prematurely. I demand more nip. If my demands are not met, be prepared to clean up a plethora broken wine bottles tomorrow after work.

I logged on to your Amazon account to disable Grey’s Anatomy and I saw this year’s Halloween costume choices. Let it be known that I do not want to be a lion again this year. Up your game, human! I think I’d make a stately Wizard of Oz.

Oh! And I noticed you left a Q-tip in the toilet this morning. Assuming this is where we are keeping these now, I took the liberty of adding the rest of the box. I see your big plan now as when I flushed, we ended up with that swimming pool you always wanted. My paws however? Soaked. It’s taken me all afternoon to dry them off with your favorite cashmere sweater. The pool can’t stay.

I bring all of to your attention so that we can live together in peace and harmony.

Sincerely,
Sir Walter Mittens, the Only.
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2:43pm
SIR WALTER MITTENS,

You flooded the bathroom?! For the love of all that is holy in this world, if you could only see me beating my head against my desk right now. Okay, I’ll clean it up when I get home. Until then, stay OUT of the ding dang bathroom!

The vacuum is necessary because of all of your hair. If you were better at containing it, then I would not have to use it so often. Because you scream like a kidnap victim every time I attempt to brush you, the vacuum is my only other option.

I’ll talk to Sydney and Nita about calming their excitement when they see you. But, there’s nothing I can do about their joy concerning your mittens. They are your namesake, after all! Even I still get excited about them. And the outfits are not going anywhere. I’ve spent a great deal of money on you and your sister’s wardrobe.

I swear! If what you say is true about the couch, you’re spending the night outside. That couch cost 600$!

I’ll pick up some catnip, wine, Q-tips and extra bathroom cleaning supplies on the way home today and then I’ll order you a Wizard of Oz costume. But, that means we are going trick or treating with Levi and his family this year. This is not up for discussion.

Did you get to the part where Meredith is brutally attacked by a patient yet? She’s a fighter, that one. And seriously, enough with the selfie stick. You’re going to break it and it does not belong to us, it belongs to Sydney. If you break it, I’ll let her and her little sister play kitty dress up again.

Kisses!
Your Human Who Loves You.

 

3:23pm
Dear Human,

No, I did NOT get to that part yet, and thanks for ruining it for me.

So, I think my mouse companion is in a coma. I tucked him in to our bed and told him to get some rest. I think he’s sleeping comfortably now. Do we all stop breathing when we sleep?

Also, the sink is broken. It is no longer dripping and I’m parched. If I die of thirst, scatter my ashes under the porch where I spend most of my time.

Just so you know, I changed your relationship status on Facebook. It now reads that you are in a relationship. With me!

OMG! Meredith’s sister didn’t make it out of the plane crash? She died? What kind of fresh hell is this?

Also, we can never give this selfie stick back to Sydney. I have too many good sides to capture.

Sincerely,
Sir Walter Mittens, the Perfect and Most Handsome.

5:00pm
Dear Mittens,

I hate to break it to you, Sir, but I think you finally killed your “mouse companion” that you’ve been torturing all week. Please get him out of my bed! Let him rest in peace outside!

Also, the sink is not broken. I actually finally fixed it. You can get water from your water bowl- like a normal cat.

Are you logged onto my Facebook again? Stop touching things! Log out now!

Your sister and I are on our way home now. Guess what we’re doing tonight after I fix the couch, clean up the puke, dispose of the mouse, clean up the “swimming pool,” and fix my Facebook status? Sydney and Nita are coming over for a Grey’s Anatomy and wine marathon! Which will of course end in a kitty fashion show to showcase all of the new outfits that came in the mail today.

See you soon, Mitts!

Love,
Your Ever-Faithful Human

 

Mind Your Mittens

A story in manners staring Sir Walter Mittens

There once was a kitten named Sir Walter Mittens
Everyone was smitten with this particular kitten
He was often up to no good, so the story was written
But they remained smitten with this kitten named Sir Walter Mittens
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Sir Walter Mittens was not just your average regular kitten.
His mischievous mittens got in the way time and again.
His mother told him daily to “mind your mittens
When you spend time with your family and friends.”
Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 11.06.01 AM
Other kitties would make fun of his paws and bobbed tail.
“You’re a 26-toed mutant” they would tease and tease, not being nice.
But his super power was in his mouse punching skills.
He was extra proficient at trapping flies and pummeling mice.
IMG_5990
Several paw stretches with 26 toes,lying all long ways and stretching his back,
wasn’t the worst thing you can suppose, when rolling over for a quick kitty nap.
And let us be honest,we mustn’t forget, that while dreaming of catnip and tasty treats,
it was hard to resist our urge not to pet and interrupt his sound kitty sleep.
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Sir Walter Mittens would often bother his sister
He’d sneak up on her while she was resting
He just wanted to play but instead he would hiss her
He didn’t mean to not mind his mittens in the jesting
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Sir Water Mittens was quite curious about the bath.
The soapy water made him rather nervous.
With unminded mittens he pondered the path,
as falling in would be quite the disservice.
IMG_5746IMG_5424
Sir Walter Mittens helped his human with homework,
posting up beside her, faithful and true.
Wanting in on the fun, he stole pen after pen.
Not minding his mittens, he took the highlighter too.
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Sir Walter Mittens enjoyed hide and seek
When hiding, the other kitties tails gave them away.
He could always count on hiding under blankets and sheets.
Tailless, no one would find him for days
or even weeks!
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Sir Walter Mittens’ human typed every night
writing letters, love notes and musings.
Wanting to assist, he’d stretch his paws across the keys,
not minding his mittens while he was snoozing.
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Sir Walter Mittens would go on adventures.
From his yellow backpack, he would watch the world go by.
But every so often he got distracted by birds
not minding his mittens as he too tried to fly .
Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 11.16.37 AMSometimes, when it seemed Sir Walter Mittens was not at his best,
not minding his mittens like during a test, his unminded mittens were simply the best.
Double paw stretches across the chest, while curled up in a blanket during Monday’s movie fest.
IMG_4931Sir Walter Mittens learned many things every single day
about growing up and learning to play.
He made mistakes like we all do along the way,
minding his mittens at the end of the day.
Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 11.05.41 AMSo that concludes our story of Sir Walter Mittens.
Farewell to rucksacks and rompers and whatever else he might fit in.
We’ve all grown quite smitten with Sir Walter Mittens,the mitten minding kitten
and the lessons he learned from his unminded mittens.
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A Letter

 

A Letter to the Man Trying to Understand a Broken Woman:

If there’s anything being in an abusive relationship will teach a woman, it’s how to protect her heart from anyone who attempts to break down the thick brick and mortar walls around it. Her defense mechanisms come as naturally as breathing. For four years, berating and incessant questioning defined her character. For four years, his words and moods predicted the outcome of her days. Know that your kindness will be foreign to her as up until now, “love” has not been kind. Up until now, love has been earned. Up until now, love has gone hand in hand with fear, dangled above her head like a string over a cat, always just slightly out of reach. Up until now, love was countless sleepless nights; terrified she had finally done something horrible enough to make him stop “loving” her. She spent four anxious, petrified years trying to be good enough to earn a love that was always faintly out of reach.

The day she left him is a day she will always remember. She needed to make the berating, incessant questioning, rage and confusion stop for a few days and in that defeated moment, going home for the weekend seemed like a logical answer. When she told him that she was considering going home for Thanksgiving, his anger took over again. He took his rage out by beating the six-week-old kitten he gave to her four weeks prior. In that moment she knew she had to leave. She never cared if he hurt her, but she couldn’t stay with a man who hurt an innocent, small creature. She left in the middle of the night. She didn’t know it that night, but she would never see the quilt her great-grandmother made, her photo albums or any of her belongings again. She didn’t know it then, but she would spend the next year discovering secrets and decoding the lies that defined their relationship. When she tells you these stories, listen, because these are intimate pieces of her soul that she trusts you with.

She will say she is sorry incessantly. The slightest bit of anger on your part will send her into a panicked tailspin. She’ll clean, cook, and mold herself into the person she thinks you need her to be, sacrificing herself in order to make your anger cease. It’s alright to be angry, just reassure her that she won’t have to earn back your affection because of it. It’s alright to yell, just reassure her that you won’t hurt her in the process. She will make herself very small; carefully tip towing around until you’re “better.” It’s alright to be upset, just make sure that she knows that she doesn’t have to disappear because of it.

After being made to feel so small and insignificant for so long, it will be nearly impossible for her to feel like she deserves to take up any amount of space. You’ll take her to dinner and she will feel immediately guilty because she’s been so accustomed to only receiving a kind gesture as a means to apologize for how he hurt her the day before. When you make a plan with her, follow through. Don’t leave her scared and wondering what she did to drive you away. Be patient with her; she wants to trust you.

Know that she’s been in counseling and that this counselor has helped her to learn that abuse can wear many masks. The counselor was there to help her finally speak aloud, “I was the victim of an abusive relationship.” You may not realize it, but admitting these words was the turning point for her. Don’t ever negate her past; it has made her into the person that you are attracted to.

He spent years manipulating her with his words. He used Jesus and the bible to persuade her to conform to his wishes. Little by little, those words chipped away at her identity until her very being was so wrapped up in his impressions of her that she had no idea who she was without him. This was his goal after all, to render her completely dependent on her. Be patient with her, she’s rebuilding her identity and her relationship with God piece by piece.

Be aware of how fiercely she has worked to get to this place. Try not to get angry when she acts in way that you do not understand. Try to comprehend why she gets close to you and then pulls away. She wants to feel safe and at times actually does. When you wrap your strong arms around her, her world stops spinning and life begins to make sense again. But she’s afraid of the repercussions of this feeling of safety, and this uncertainty and lack of trust in herself is what causes her look away and draw inside of herself. Be patient and try to ride the roller coaster with her. Remind her that regardless if she is running away and holding on to you for dear life, you’re not going anywhere.

Know how much she treasures you and your kindness. Know that your actions are teaching her how men are supposed to treat a woman. Know that your words are teaching her what normal is. Although she may be broken, she has so much love to give. Be patient and walk beside her along the long and winding road. Take it one day at a time and remember how incredible you are for being the man that is helping to change the life of broken woman for the better.

 

Festival Day Observations

Sitting on top of a picnic table in the beer garden of the Music Festival, she was listening to this band she heard people calling some collection of numbers she couldn’t quite recall. 905? 906? Why do they call themselves that? She wondered to herself. She was afraid to ask anyone, however, for fear of feeling foolish in front of these people who she was going to be spending her summer with.

She continued to sit quietly and listen as the lead singer sang, “It’s good to be here.” The air smells like funnel cakes, grilled salmon and farm animals, she thought, skeptically eying the llamas and cows in the pasture next to her. The lead singer looks familiar, she thought, Maybe he’s from Homer? He sure looked like he would be from Homer. Long hair, bright orange patch-work pants and this pebble mine with an X through it sticker on his guitar case. What is pebble mine? She thought. Another question she’d save for later. A lady at the visitor’s center in Anchorage had told her to go to Homer, as it was the most beautiful place she had ever seen. So, she booked a flight on a very small sketchy eight-passenger plane and headed to Homer last weekend before making her way up the peninsula to Kenai.

Barefoot kids were dancing as the lead singer stomped his foot in time with the drummer. They look like they are having so much fun, she thought, secretly wishing for the courage to join them.

In the beer garden she was nursing her coffee, holding it tightly in her hands and clinging to its warmth, she was determined to capture every last ounce of warmth it would offer her. She was wearing the yellow fingerless gloves that Daniel had given her earlier that month in Indiana before she left for Alaska. She started twisting her hair curly brunette hair, a nervous habit she had carried around with her since she was a kid. She tried to push the memories of Daniel to the back of her brain. I should probably ditch these gloves. Maybe I could give them to the singer in the orange pants. Maybe I’d make a friend. Do I really want to make a friend though? Do I have the energy for conversation? I might with more coffee. She thought, looking over to the stage at the attentive listeners in the front row Wait, is that man wearing a blue tarp as a raincoat?

“Did I see you at the The Coffee Shop?” a deep voice interrupted her wandering, inquisitive thoughts, snapping her back to the present moment.

“Yea… I k-k-k-kind of just got a job there,” she stuttered, another nervous habit she carried around with her since childhood. “I’m learning to make c-c-c-offee. GOOD coffee.”

VERY unlike what I’m drinking now, she thought sipping her weak, burnt tasting Americano.

“How long have you been at the festival?” Again, the man’s voice brought her back to the present moment. “You look cold. Like quite possibly this is your first Alaska festival and you didn’t come prepared with the appropriate layers?”

“I’ve been here all day,” she replied, shivering. “It’s also been raining all day and I only brought this hoodie.” And my feet are wet, pulling her legs up to her chest, eying her soaked yellow chucks. She really just wanted him to go away but didn’t want to be rude. She just wanted to listen to the band and not think about this “summer of adventure” that looked so promising a week ago.

“What’s your story?” he inquired excitedly.

Realizing he was not going anywhere, she replied, “M-m-my name is Samantha,” questioning his curiosity. “I’m from Indiana. I decided to spend the summer of my 22nd birthday here in Alaska.”

“That’s what happened to me,” the stranger laughed and smiled. “Twenty six years later, I’m still here. Hey! There’s a musicians tent over there. It has a few heat lamps to warm cold fingers and a refill for your coffee. Want to join me for a bit while I tune? Get something to snack on and warm up a bit?” he enquired with a welcoming smile. Eying his bald head and bare feet, she questioned his sanity. How is he not frozen?

Reluctantly, she said yes and followed the march of the barefoot stranger. The musician’s tent was divine and she welcomed the warmth. She pulled up a camp chair and realized she didn’t even know this guy’s name.

“Hey Eddie! You’re next right?” she heard someone with a clipboard and a volunteer shirt yell.

Well, Eddie must be popular as everyone is gathering to his corner of the tent in order to say hi and hug him. It must be ok to be his friend. A whole town can’t be wrong, right? Or does he have everyone fooled? Oh God! What if he is just waiting to stuff me in his trunk…

“Samantha! Come meet my friends” Eddie yelled from across the tent interrupting her racing mind.

Eddie was standing by four other women, all wearing appropriately layered Alaskan festival attire. Eyeing the coffeepot, she introduced herself to the ladies. They were all tuning guitars and mandolins and one lady had an upright bass twice as big as her.

One by one, they said their names. She repeated their names over and over again in her mind hoping to remember. She was terrible with names. They started to play a song about a bald headed man and eying Eddie’s shiny head, wondered if it was a song about him.

“Do you sing?” Nancy asked her after their sound check song was finished. She was beautiful. Tall and blonde. She carried herself with strength, pride and grace.

I wish I could feel that confident about being tall, She thought to herself, standing up straighter. She had been slouching as usual, trying to make herself look smaller.

“I dabble,” she said, underplaying herself as always.

“Sing something for us!” one of the other ladies commanded with excitement. She had already forgotten her name.

Reluctantly, she took the guitar and timidly started finger picking a C chord. She started singing the first verse to “Hallelujah.” Trying not to appear too terribly excited that they were singing along with the most beautiful harmonies, she smiled at them and put the guitar down after two verses, reluctantly accepting their accolades.

As they left her alone in the tent and took the stage, she took that moment to refill her coffee and meandered to the lawn in front of the stage. She wanted a front row seat for this show. Please no one sit by me! She silently pleaded, noticing the improved taste of her more recent coffee refill.

Three songs in to their set, a man with a brown bag sat next to her on the green rain-soaked grass in front of the stage, clutching an accordion. He didn’t speak a word, as he was very intent on staring at the band, his eyes following every strum of the guitar and pluck of the bass. She couldn’t, however, figure out which one of the ladies he was staring at. “Maybe he was one of their husbands? Or stalkers….”

Their set ended and the rain had stopped, but the humidity had set in and the angry buzzing mosquitoes had arrived like an invisible plague. No one seemed phased by their presence, however, they just went about their business slapping themselves and each other intermittently, not bothered at all by the buzzing and biting and itching. “Invest in some ding dang bug spray!” she added to her mental to-buy list. And with that, everyone was dancing, not just the kids, but the adults too. The sun made it’s way through the clouds. The green grass had turned into one solid mud put, as the bare feet tore up the area in front of the stage.

“Oh hell,” she mumbled, with the horrific realization that they were dancing to get away from the mosquitoes.

Suddenly the man with the accordion grabbed her arm and began to swing her around. “I guess I’m dancing,” she said, fighting whiplash. She caught a glimpse of a familiar face across the dance floor doing some version of the funky chicken. Still caught up in the mob of people, eyeing the easiest escape route, the guy in the orange pants yelled, “Do you know that guy?” over the band, motioning to the crazy dancer.

“I just got a job working with him at the little coffee shop downtown,” she yelled over the band.

“You get to work with Sam? He’s a good one to keep around you, that one,” he said with authority, getting swept up in the dancers.

“Hey! What’s your name?” she yelled after the man in the orange pants! “And what’s your band’s name?”

“My name’s Rick,” he yelled back. “I own the local music shop and my band is 90…” But she couldn’t hear the final number thanks to very loud saxophone solo. I’ll have to ask him next time I see him, making a mental note to visit the music shop tomorrow.

Returning to the picnic table in the beer garden, she looked at her cell phone and realized it was midnight! The time was hard to keep track of these days because it never really got dark. Eddie grinned and waved at her from across the festival grounds. Watching her newfound dancing coworker, she threw the fingerless gloves away. Too warm from dancing, Rick threw his raincoat to the side of the dance floor revealing a t-shirt that said 907 in the shape of a guitar. The band is named after the area code of Alaska, proud of herself for figuring out some of the local culture. This is going to be quite the summer, she thought, catching herself smiling at the thought of the months ahead.

Wind Chimes

Boxes. There were boxes everywhere in the dusty attic. Boxes of things she was holding on to, mostly. One box marked “Hopes,” and another “Dreams,” yet another “You and Me,” and another “Who I used to be.” Way over in the corner there was one that was labeled “Prayers,” and a small dark ragged box at the very top marked “Secrets.” She always meant to go through them. In fact, the thought crossed her mind quite often, but she always made up excuses as to why she couldn’t: She was too tired, too busy, or it was too overwhelming. Afraid of beginning because she honestly didn’t know where she’d end up. The plans she had made with him seemed so big. Too big.

She remembered back to when she was seventeen. I used to have dreams, she thought to herself. But I was afraid if I told too many people, someone would either take my dream or worse off crush it.

She felt like she was just dragging herself through her days, suffocating. She was buried in secrets and darkness and complacency. I didn’t know who he was when we were together. She thought has she unpacked the box labeled “you and me”. He told me I had to keep his secrets because if I didn’t he would get in trouble. she thought tearing into the box marked “secrets.” How could I have been so naive? I guess this is what they mean when they talk of being blinded by love.

Remembering that time, that dream and that person who she was before him, almost felt like she was remembering a stranger. I was happy before I met him she said to herself. Maybe one day I’ll be happy again.

But something about today was different, the snow was falling but the sun was out. It looked like sparkling diamonds were falling from the sky. The snow always gave her courage as it extended its hand and with it a promise of a second chance.

One box at a time she unpacked, making piles of things to keep, throw away and give away.  The pile of things to throw away was the largest. Strange, she thought. At the bottom of one box, she saw an old wind chime she had saved from her grandmother’s back porch before the developers came. She recalled that lovely and innocent time as a child when she listened to the wind chimes. I loved wind chimes, she remembered sadly. But she couldn’t even remember the last time she heard them. She took the unusually large pile to the dumpster, said a prayer for all of the remains and walked away.

She had this strange feeling something was following her but she looked around and didn’t see anything. But still, she felt a presence. She chalked it up to being outside in the cold too long and went inside. As she sat inside in front of the fire, scrolling through her facebook feed and warming up, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she wasn’t alone.

She heard a knock at the door and answered it. He introduced himself and asked if he could come in. She opened the door as her cat ran and hid under the bed. Stranger danger, she thought regretting her choice to open the door immediately. He sat there quietly on the couch, unbuttoning his oversized pea coat and untying his red plaid scarf.

“Would you like some coffee?” she offered reluctantly.

He gratefully accepted the coffee and he used it to warm his chapped weathered hands. They sat in silence for quite some time. She could tell he wanted to tell her something or maybe ask her something. Finally, he cleared his throat and explained the reason for his visit.

“I saw you throwing away all of those things back there. I watched you as you drug all that stuff down the driveway to the trash can. As you descended down the driveway, you were heavy laden as though something was weighing you down.

“Well, I was carrying a massive amount of garbage!” she exclaimed somewhat sarcastically, unsure of where he was going with this.

He gave her a look that said have patience and continued. “Then I watched you walk home with this spring in your step. I think…. perhaps… I think…. “ He stuttered. “I believe my friend Freedom may have followed you home.”

Remembering the feeling that something was following her, she looked around for this “Freedom” of which he spoke. “There’s no one here but me and my cat. You can look around, but you probably won’t see him.”

“Will you trust me?” he asked “Will you trust me and come with me?” Although everything in her was so very scared to do this, something about him made her choose to trust and she said she would go. She put on her wool coat and yellow knit mittens  and let him lead her down this windy backcountry road. The snow was simply beautiful and fell silently as they walked together.

“When you make it to the finish line,” he told her, “you’ll hate what you lost, but love what you find. When you are startled to hear the sound of your own beating heart, wait a minute or two and remember just how far you’ve come.”

Admiring his running metaphor, she replied, “I’m caught somewhere between living and survival.  I want to start over. I’m just not sure how or where to start. Everything we had was built on lies. I thought we had this incredibly strong foundation, but as soon as I found out the truth, the foundation crumbled and so did my very existence.”

“So you took everything that crumbled and put it in boxes,” he said slowly, reaffirming what she said. “Oh! There he is!” he exclaimed suddenly, pointing at Freedom. Freedom was covered in snow from the many snow angels he had been making. Each snow angel carried the label that the boxes had.

“Now all of the secrets are no longer secrets and they are free to fly away just like these snow angels,” Freedom said pointing and brimming with pride at his accomplishment.

At the end of their journey, the man asked her if she would mind if his old friend stayed with her for a while, “He’s loud and crazy and takes up a lot of room!” he told her, “But I promise, just let him stay for a few days and you won’t even notice he’s here anymore.”

So as the girl and her new found houseguest opened the door and the man stepped outside to leave, she realized she could hear them again. She could hear the wind chimes that she loved so much and they were playing this beautiful melody that sounded so very vaguely familiar.

Seeing the puzzled look on her face, he said, “My friend here carries that around with him. I hope that’s ok.”

“It’s perfectly lovely,” she said smiling, filling with gratitude.

“Will you come back and visit again?” she asked the man. “I’ve grown quite close to you in our short amount of time we’ve shared together. And I’ve given you something I haven’t given anyone in a very long time. I’ve given you my friend Trust, and I’d like to see him and you again soon”

With a welcoming smile he said, “Of course I will, sweetheart. After all, you have my old friend staying with you. I’ll need to pay him a visit now and again. I miss him if he’s gone too long and besides your Trust and my Freedom seem to be getting rather close themselves,” he said eyeing the two playing scrabble at the kitchen table. “I’ll be back tomorrow, my dear. I promise.”

With that, she showed her new friend around, tucked Freedom and Trust in for the night, said a prayer and fell asleep to the familiar and comforting sound of wind chimes.