First of all, I have to say that I’ve missed this place- and reading what others have been up to. I knew I’d be gone for a week, maybe two, but my absence extended and I began thinking my writing thoughts were done. Since my last post in January, I endured a 3.5 hour trial so a judge can determine my fate in my divorce (nearly a year after filing), I unloaded the burden of ‘too much house’, lived with a neighbor for several days while in between houses, moved into a much smaller house that I selected on my own, and got knocked down by a nasty cold. Things are nowhere near where I’d like them to be but that will take time. And the things I want to do to make this house my “home” take money.
And this is what started the poem I’ve posted. As I was patching nail holes throughout my house, wondering how someone could possibly have so many things to hang on the walls, I contemplated the idea of having someone paint the interior. I quickly nixed that idea because I don’t really have money for paint, much less the luxury of someone to do the work for me. I thought, I don’t have time or money, but right now, I have more time than money.
That realization sent me thinking about how everything seems to come down to dollars and cents these days. I’ve spent the last year and over $18,000 fighting a soon-to-be ex who seems to view me as his meal ticket. I could rant about that but I won’t, because I’m tired. And besides, there’s no point. My fate is now in the hands of God, and the judge who will determine how much I will lose. As I look back on this last year, I’m most disappointed that my value seems to be, well, in my value… as in my salary, my savings, etc. If I didn’t have the kids to care for, I would quit my job and live nowhere… and everywhere. I’d earn enough money for my necessities, but not enough for anyone to bother to take advantage of me.
But this is the real world.
I feel more hope than I did a year ago, but honestly, I still struggle with lows that make me wonder if I will battle darkness every day of my life. I wonder if I will always cry when I should be happy, or feel this weight inside me when I should be soaring. Only time will tell.
Although I’m more realistic (cynical?) than I’ve ever been, I still want to believe my thoughts, ideas and dreams cannot be appraised and converted to currency. I have to believe that darkness isn’t a certainty and there is more to hope for than whatever this life brings.
Those are the thoughts/inspiration behind the poem. Have a beautiful Wednesday!
Bjorn Rudberg invited me to check out the First Quadrille at dVerse. The challenge invites us to write a piece in exactly 44 words, using the word “dance” as a verb including an object. If you’d like to join in, the prompt is still open.
For those of you who read the poem and are thinking, “huh?” this is where I normally help by explaining what I was thinking when I wrote it. Unfortunately, I can’t be so specific as to name the addiction (and I can’t say why, either), but I can say I was writing about the impulse (beast) that lives within, unchecked. It thrives, hidden by our own denial, gaining strength as it consumes us. Left alone, that impulse/behavior becomes us and we lose who we used to be. The frightening thing is, others can see this happening, but the afflicted person is often clueless.
I’m sorry I haven’t had as much time to read and comment on blogs – I have about a week before I need to be out of my house, so things are crazy right now. It will probably be a couple more weeks before I am able to really get back into things – please be patient with me! Have a beautiful Thursday 🙂
Well, I did it again… Emilio Pasquale (at Photos by Emilio) gave me this photo to write for December, but I’m a tad bit later than I hoped I’d be. If you aren’t familiar with this collaboration, Emilio sends me a photo for inspiration and I write a story… my story follows immediately after the photo. Oh, and if you aren’t familiar with Emilio’s work, you really should click the link above to check it out 🙂
“You can’t do it?” Nikki laughed. “Oh, it’s too late to back out now, Laura. A deal is a deal.”
I cleared my throat. “Look, I had too much to drink and I over-committed myself.”
Nikki’s eyes narrowed as she handed me an envelope. “The cruise leaves at five o’clock on Friday. You’ll have about 24 hours to accomplish what you promised.”
“I just told you, I can’t do it.”
“You’ll get the $500 when you bring me proof that you took care of business.”
“Do you want me to bring his heart back in a box or what?”
Ignoring my sarcasm, Nikki smirked. “No proof, no cash.”
“So when do I find out who he is?”
“You’ll know when you see him.”
I grunted. “So that’s it? Nothing else to go on?”
“And why a cruise? You know how I feel about boats. And water.”
“Good thing it’s a ship then.”
I stared at the cruise ticket and itinerary in my hand. “Fine. I’ll do it.” I stood and stomped from the restaurant, fuming that Nikki’s laughter taunted me all the way to the front door.
*** *** ***
I’d learned a valuable lesson on New Year’s Eve that business and friendship didn’t mix, and deals should never be made over cocktails, behind the cloak of new years and fresh starts. I couldn’t help but wonder if that’s how the corporate world had gotten so messed up. My new policy is that alcohol should be consumed alone (if ever), and if others are present, complete silence is preferred. I’d only had a few days to prepare, but somehow, I crossed the gangway fifteen minutes before departure; make-up and hair professionally done, wearing a knee-length party dress with enough sequins to make a dance mom envious.
I scanned the room and immediately realized I was over-dressed- as in wearing too much fabric. I’d long suspected it, but this just proved that imagination had become endangered through evolution. I remained determined to not let it go extinct. I lifted my chin in protest, proud that I was not one reach away from a wardrobe malfunction.
The conflicting scents in the room made me dizzy. Musk, floral, citrus- they all smelled like desperation to me. But the dusting of glitter on too-exposed bodies made it pretty, I guess. I winced. Nikki might’ve been right: I’m too sarcastic to socialize. I reminded myself that this wasn’t a social event, per se. I had a task to accomplish. I shook my head to clear the perfumed thoughts and searched for anyone who appeared like they were looking for someone else. Isn’t that everyone here? I wondered in frustration.
“Hey, sweetie. Looking for someone?”
My nose involuntarily wrinkled as I turned toward the male voice right next to me. I forced my gaze away from the silky sheen of his gelled hair; the lights literally glared off it. I shook my head and stepped away. “No. Actually, I’m not.” I almost laughed at the stunned effect of my honesty, so I walked away before he mistook the reaction as a come-on. I happened upon a staircase leading to the upper deck. As I climbed, I smiled; thankful I had sense enough to wear ballet flats rather than pinchy, strappy high heels. They have rhinestones, I reminded myself, as if to justify my shunning of fashion.
I leaned against the railing that had been strung with white lights. The golden lights from nearby vessels seemed magical against the backdrop of the darkening sky. They almost made me believe in fairy dust, unicorns and love, but when I closed my eyes, I could still discern between fantasy and reality. My shoulders slumped when the thought occurred to me that gazing at lights did nothing to complete what needed to be done. I turned toward the stairwell and tried to make myself move, but my feet remained firmly planted.
Then I saw him and gasped. It couldn’t be. But his profile looked just like Chas Spencer, my ex-fiancé. From a distance, one might view him as cunning, even clever. But I knew better. I knew there was no substance behind his too-white smile- or beneath the knock-off designer clothing and Calvin Klein boxer briefs- I could see the waistband peeking between the top of his slacks and the bottom of his untucked shirt when he leaned over to tie his shoelace. I knew he tried to project the air of casual wealth, but the message I got was: I’m broke and make bad decisions. I spent all my money on underwear so I couldn’t afford a belt.
Certain he was the real deal and not a doppelganger; I became furious at Nikki and grew more determined than ever to succeed at what I came here to do. More than the $500, I needed to prove Nikki wrong. I could do this.
I would rather have been at home wearing fleece pajamas and eating Häagen-Dazs while watching movies on Netflix, but I pasted on my best smile in hopes of hiding my true feelings.
“Chas, is that you?”
His eyes widened. “Laura!” His gaze darted from one side to the other, and then back to me.
“Are you here with someone?”
“Well, uh, sort of. Oh, man, this is awkward….”
My smile became more genuine. I truly enjoyed watching him squirm. “Oh, I’d love to meet her. Where is she?” I raised my eyebrows. “It is ‘she’, right?”
“It’s a blind date. I haven’t found her yet.”
“I think maybe you have. Nikki sent me here.”
The color drained from his fake-tanned face.
I shrugged. “Sorry dear, but it looks like it’s you and me tonight.” I wasn’t really sorry.
“I-I was supposed to start the New Year with a fresh start.”
“Isn’t that kind of hard to do when you’re the same old you?”
He glared at me.
“Look, we’re stuck here, so we might as well make the best of it.”
“What’s your game?”
I tilted my head to the side. “Game?”
“Yeah, when you found out I cheated, you told me to drop dead… and some other things.”
“You never did listen very well. Hey, how about we get a drink?”
After several seconds of skeptical scrutiny, he headed to the stairway. I followed and exhaled a relieved sigh. Once upstairs, I told him I’d get the drinks. He started to protest, but I pretended not to notice and walked away.
I handed him his usual: vodka gimlet.
“What did you get?”
“Rum and Coke,” I raised my voice so he could hear over the band that just started playing. Minus the rum.
Fifteen minutes later, I plucked the empty glass from his hand. “I’ll get you another.” He didn’t argue. His attention was focused on the band’s lead singer; a busty blonde sporting strategically placed swatches of black leather. This is almost too easy.
After the fifth drink, I noticed it was almost midnight. I asked, “Do you mind if I take our picture? You know, for old time’s sake?”
He looped his arm around my waist and pulled me toward him. I snapped the picture just as his lips landed on my cheek. I extracted myself from his grip and offered to get him another drink.
I lost count of the drinks, but I was down about fifty dollars when I noticed Chas struggling to balance on the backless stool. “I think you’ve had enough. I’ll walk you to your room.”
He smiled; a sloppy grin. “You just want to get me alone.”
“You got me figured out.”
Using me for balance, Chas managed to get to his room, falling only once.
“I need your room key.”
He leaned against the wall by the door. “It’s in my pocket.”
I sighed. “Which one.”
He winked. “I don’t remember.”
Five hundred dollars, I reminded myself. I guessed right and found the key in his left front pocket.
Chas fell onto the bed and pulled me on top of him. I scrambled away. “I need to use your restroom.”
“I’ll be right here, baby.”
His slurred words made my stomach lurch. I stayed in the locked bathroom until I heard his rumbling snores. I slipped out of the bathroom and searched the duffel bag by the bed. I found what I needed and stuffed it into my purse. I ran from the room, relieved when the door latched behind me.
I did it.
*** *** ***
“I don’t believe it,” Nikki said, mouth agape.
“I think you owe me $500.”
“I-I didn’t think you’d do it.” Nikki handed me the envelope.
I lifted the flap and counted the bills, then shoved the envelope in my purse.
“You don’t trust me?”
I smiled. “I used to. Before you and Chas.”
Nikki stared at the table. “I regret that. I wanted to make things right again; to get you back together.”
“Not in this lifetime.”
She lifted her gaze, puzzled.
“Nothing happened. After he passed out, I took a pair of underwear from his duffel bag.”
“You cheated! The bet was that you had to spend the night with someone I set you up with.”
“No, you cheated. I just played your game and won.” I smiled. “And I did spend the night with him- a very long evening of observing who he really is. You know, I hated you for what you did, Nikki, but you actually saved me. I don’t know if I can trust you again, but I do forgive you.”
This time, I strode out of the restaurant in peace; leaving Nikki in stunned silence.
The obvious inspiration for the story was Emilio’s photo. But I’ve had other stuff on my mind that may have affected the story that developed. Mainly, I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness, and how hard it can be to reach that point where you can truly release a hurt and heal. I also think when we’ve hurt someone, sometimes our attempts at “fixing” things are misguided (like Nikki), and might be more for the benefit of easing our own guilt, rather than for the person we’ve hurt. Now, I’m thinking I just might think too much… so I’ll stop now 🙂
Another page turned,
365 days of memories
fresh in my mind;
like too-thick paint
on an oil-slicked surface.
I wake to the problems
of so many yesterdays,
yet resolve to remain resolute
in my desire to see hope
where I once saw darkness.
It’s hard to lift my chin
and I search my heart for praise
clutching a half-full glass,
trusting it will never be empty-
rather, overflowing with counted blessings.
As I do with poetry, I’m going to explain the thoughts behind the words I chose. I wrote this poem on the first day of the year. I admire those who approach the new year with such a strong sense of hope and excitement for what the next 365 days might hold. I want to hope- I really do, but if hope was a candle’s flame, reality would be the wind gust gathering the strength to snuff it out.
I woke up on New Year’s Day, hoping my heart would feel giddy anticipation for the promise of a new year; a clean slate of sorts. Instead, my consciousness noted the fact there is no clean slate – my slate is already filled with the stuff that’s happened the last year, and it’s too gunked up to be wiped away. Before the end of the year, I received a confirmed diagnosis of the culprit of my younger son’s pain: juvenile arthritis, specifically, ankylosing spondylitis. (He is an amazing kid who happens to turn 10 this week.) The new year doesn’t change the fact I’m left with choices that don’t feel very much like choices at all. The first seven lines of the poem speak to this.
Even under the weight of reality, I still want to hope and remember the ways I am blessed. I spent most of 2015 in a suffocating darkness where I could see no reason for my next breath. I don’t make resolutions, but I do resolve to do everything I can to not go there again. Praise is a chore at times, but I want to trust with all my heart that under the thorns of my burdens lives a joy I couldn’t fully appreciate without the struggles. The last part of the poem is a pep talk to myself to not let my past hog-tie my future and take away my ability to experience joy.
May you find peace today, tomorrow, and the days following- even during trying times. Have a beautiful Wednesday!
Sometimes we don’t have the benefit of knowing when our words or actions affect someone else, and sometimes we can’t see how or why things happen. This post is about a chain of events that has affected me deeply- where everything happened at the right time; so perfectly that I know it’s more than coincidence. This post may get lengthy, but I do hope you take time to read it.
I’ve wanted to write this post for nearly two weeks, but I couldn’t figure out where to begin. Now I’m thinking it simply wasn’t the right time because more has happened since the initial events I wanted to write about.
The Sunday before Thanksgiving, I sat in church as the pastor delivered one of the most dreaded sermons: giving. It has to be one of the most uncomfortable topics to discuss, both for the pastor and the congregation. I have sat through many of these sermons, and frankly, have found some of them to be offensive and condescending. I felt differently this time, though. I heard the right words at the right time.The thought came to me that I should write and let him know. Just as quickly, I told myself that was crazy talk because of our history. Here’s a brief summary:
I won’t go into a lot of detail because my kids could possibly get their noses out of their games and come across this blog, but earlier this year, after I filed for divorce and other things didn’t convince me to change my mind, my husband scheduled a counseling session for us with my pastor- behind my back. He isn’t Christian and rarely attended church, so I saw it as manipulation (also concluded by other things he’d done.) I went to the session, but felt forced into it. The pastor affirmed that divorce is wrong and made a comment about how my hardened heart would cause me trouble in the future. I was upset because I felt unfairly judged, but I continued to attend church, however, avoided the pastor when possible.
Still, for nearly a week, my thoughts drifted to the pastor’s words from the giving sermon. On Saturday night, I wrote an offering check to give on Sunday. I then penned a hand-written note to the pastor and folded it around the check before sealing it in the envelope. In this note, I admitted that I had been thinking I would give an offering once my credit card bills were paid and I wasn’t living in a house I couldn’t afford and I now realized that this showed my lack of faith in God. That check was a symbolic leap of faith to show that I was finally putting my trust in God that He would provide. I also wrote that I didn’t really feel welcome there since the counseling session, but the money was for God not the church. I wrote other things- a full page, in fact, but I can’t remember exactly what.
To my surprise, I received a letter from the pastor. I don’t check my mailbox often, but I did on my way to work on December 9th (over a week after he wrote it.) In this letter, he told of how he’d been discouraged because the offerings once again didn’t meet budget. Some of his exact words: “I said to myself, “You know, I’m not going to preach on giving anymore because it never makes a difference. I don’t know how people can take it so lightly. Then I read your letter. Wow! It didn’t raise the offering any, but it reminded me of the real truth that it is God’s money and He always provides. Your letter was like the voice of the Lord to me.” He then assured me that I was welcome there and to let him know if I needed financial or emotional support.
I teared up. My words reached him at just the right time. And the knowledge of that reached me at the right time as well. I would never ask for a handout, but knowing emotional support was available came as a relief. He ended the letter instructing me to be at ease and know they were here for me. Life didn’t feel nearly as heavy.
That is where I first thought this post would end, with the message that we should never shy away from complimenting or showing love because it could very well be a case of the right words or actions being delivered at the right time. But like most late-night infomercials, life said, “but wait… there’s more!”
The same day I read the letter from my pastor, I got home from work to find a pallet of pellets sitting by my front door. (Pellets are a type of fuel made from recycled wood products and sawdust and are packaged in 40-lb bags. I use these in my pellet stove to heat the house.) I searched the plastic wrapping and found the store phone number and called because I knew there was a mistake. The woman looked up my information and said, “aw, that’s so sweet…. all it says here is ‘gift.'” I asked if she was serious and she said, “sweetie, someone gave you a $300 gift, be happy.” I was, but I still cried. I have no idea who did this, but I hope they know how grateful I am. I’m able to keep the house a little warmer, which is good for my younger son (that is another post.)
The gift of heat came at the right time. Knowing I have what I need to heat the house until at least mid-January lifted a huge burden. My house has been on the market since before summer and I’d been told winter months are slow for real estate, so I settled in for a long winter.
A few days after that generous gift, an offer came on the house – it’s now in escrow. I found another (much smaller) house and she accepted my offer. Inspections are next week. It’s all happened so quickly and it’s a blur – especially during the holidays, but it’s all happened at exactly the right time.
Last week, I qualified for a home loan. Even with the worst-case spousal support payout to my soon-to-be-ex, I qualified. More relief. As I was reading through the required documents, I saw ‘divorce decree’ listed. The loan officer confirmed that the final decree was needed to fund the loan. Trial is scheduled near the end of January, and my new house is scheduled to close the beginning of February. If my house would’ve sold during the busy summer season, I wouldn’t have been able to get a loan. I didn’t know that.
All of this is proof to me that even if things don’t happen on my time, they do happen at the right time. It’s also shown me there is comfort in loosening my white-knuckle grip on control and trusting that God will provide. I have a feeling that as I learn to share more freely, I will experience some positive life-changing side-effects.
If you’re reading this, it means you survived this lengthy post. Thank you for not giving up! I will keep up with blog reading as best I can, but the next month or so will be really crazy for me. Just know, it is only temporary 🙂
Have a beautiful Monday and I hope you enjoy the blessings of the season!