The Best Cat in the World

This is Cowboy. As the title of this post might suggest, he’s the best cat in the world.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Cats are evil, right? They hide under the bed when visitors come. They hiss and scratch if you get too close. They sit on your keyboard or book and refuse to move. They knock things off your dresser for no reason. They camp outside your bedroom window and sing at three in the morning or decide to make your front porch their litter box. They leave little paw prints on your car. They suffocate babies. Etc, etc, etc.

Most of the people I’ve met have had horrible experiences with cats. I can relate; I had some pretty crazy cats for pets when I was growing up. But Cowboy is unlike any other cat I’ve ever met. In fact, he isn’t really a cat; more like an old dog trapped in a cat’s body.

He does three things; sleep, eat, and poop. If his litter box is too full, he’ll sit outside the laundry room door (that’s where the littler box is kept) and meow until we change the litter. If his bowl is empty, he’ll do the same. If he wants milk, he’ll follow us into the kitchen and sit by the fridge to meow until we comply. Otherwise, he’ll wait until we sit down somewhere and cozy up next to us (or between us) to take a nap. He’ll fall asleep touching us somehow (with his chin on a shoulder, or his paw on a wrist, or a leg thrown over one of our legs). Like he’s claiming us as his.

When visitors come, he jumps down from the couch and wanders over to sniff their feet. If anyone sits on the couch, he climbs into their lap. He will sit there and let you pet him for as long as you want. He’ll purr and drool and look up at you like you’re his best friend. Even if it’s the first time you’ve met.

If there are any discarded shoes or clothes on the floor, he’ll sit or lay on them. If it belongs to my husband, Cowboy will rub his face all over it. He’ll ask to taste whatever crunchy, salty treat you’re snacking on by pawing at your hand and purring. (His favorites are Cheese Puffs, Wheat Thins, Doritos, and tortillas.)

He used to sleep in my husband’s bed before we got married. He still tries to sneak into our bed when I’m not looking. He’ll look up at me innocently when I catch him lying on my side of the bed. It’s hard to be mad at him, even if he does leave bright orange hair on the sheets.

He loves to sleep in the sun. He’d lay outside in the grass all day if we’d let him. Only problem is, he loves to eat the grass too. Then he’ll come inside and promptly throw up on the carpet. So he lays down by the sliding glass door and looks out into the sunlit backyard instead, waiting for his opportunity to sneak out. He’s big but he can move fast when he wants to. He’ll eat and throw up flowers too. When my husband gets me roses for my birthday or our anniversary, we have to put them somewhere up high where he can’t reach them. It’s kind of funny.

Cowboy’s one flaw? He doesn’t have the patience for small children. He has bitten each of our nephews at least once. He didn’t like our son when we first brought Bennett home from the hospital. He avoided the baby whenever he could and turned his back on Bennett if they were sharing close quarters. But, as you will see in the pictures below, Cowboy has grown accustomed to Bennett. Might even like the boy now.

 

He’s technically my husband’s cat, has been for fifteen years. But when we started dating, Cowboy and I had an almost instant connection. Even though my husband started snuggling with me more than his cat, Cowboy still loved me. Even though I kicked him out of our marriage bed, Cowboy was big enough to forgive me. Even when I put him on a diet, Cowboy refused to disown me. We’re so close, in fact, that we made a pact: he was going to live forever. Our kids were going to grow up loving him as much as I did. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Cowboy took our pact very seriously. He lost weight, he held onto his zen-like attitude despite how many times our dog tried to annoy him, he kept sleeping a ton, and exercised by jumping up and down from the bathroom counter to eat his meals.

Then, about three weeks ago, we discovered Cowboy had a limp. We thought maybe he’d hurt himself jumping down from the bathroom counter so we put his food on the floor and made sure the dog didn’t go anywhere near it. But he didn’t get better. We took him to the vet, who summarized it was a sprain of some kind. He gave Cowboy a steroid shot to help with the swelling (that was fun…not), and gave us additional medication to force-feed him. Even after we ran out of that medication, Cowboy’s limp persisted. In fact, it got worse. A growth appeared seemingly overnight on his bad leg, the one he’d been babying this whole time. His appetite decreased. Drastically. It became harder and harder for him to climb into his litter box. Then he gave up trying to use the litter box altogether. Yesterday, when he hadn’t moved from his spot even to relieve himself, my husband and I looked at each other. And decided it was time to say goodbye.

I’m tearing up as I write this. I can’t believe it. I never thought I’d become so attached to a pet. He’s just a cat, right? Wrong. He’s been there since my husband and I started dating. He has been sitting next to us on the couch since we came back from our honeymoon. When we wake up in the morning, he greets us. He sits on the carpet and keeps me company while I’m getting ready for the day. When we come home from work, he’s there. When we go to sleep, he tries so hard to join us. When we go out of town, he stress-eats until we come back and then cries with joy when we walk through the door. He’s our furry roommate. He loves us and we love him. He tried so hard to live forever, just like I asked. But his body has given up on him. We can’t let him keep going like this.

The appointment has been set for this evening. Isn’t that horrible? I had to call the vet to ask if we could schedule a time to put our beloved Cowboy to sleep. Permanently. My husband says it hasn’t hit him yet, but when it does it’ll hit him hard. My heart is heavy. I’ve been mourning all week. I don’t want this to be the last time we see Cowboy. For the first time ever, I find myself hoping animals go to heaven. Whether it’s true or not, I want to believe he’ll end up there. I want to believe he’ll find the mansion that’s been made for us, jump up on the couch, settle into his favorite spot right up against the armrest, and wait for us. It might sound silly, but that’s how much I love this stinkin’ cat.

Maybe someday we’ll get another cat, but I’m pretty sure Cowboy has ruined cats for us forever. After all, what feline could compare to the best cat in the world?

Goodbye, old friend. Don’t tell the dog, but I love you more than any other pet I’ve had. Keep that heavenly couch warm for us. We’ll see you again soon.

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The Andromeda’s Ghost update

Hey all!

I’ve been super busy with my science fiction manuscript but it’s finally finished and ready to be viewed. I queried a few agents to see if I would get any bites but, alas, it wasn’t meant to be. I’m kind of bummed that this is my fourth manuscript and I still haven’t been able to land an agent or a big house publishing deal. But I don’t stay bummed for long. It’s onward and forward! I believe in this story. I love the characters and I know others will too. I’m excited to show my manuscript to the world!

I’ve decided to submit this story to Inkitt. For those of you unfamiliar with Inkitt, it’s a publishing company that offers publishing deals based on a book’s popularity. Undiscovered authors can post their finished manuscripts on Inkitt’s website. The more people read their books and vote on them, the higher their chances of getting offered a publishing deal. This is how I Dare You to Love Me was published. Although the process takes time and effort, the results speak for themselves. Out of my three published books, I Dare You to Love Me has done the best review-wise and sales-wise. I believe this was due to Inkitt’s emphasis on reader engagement and voting. They helped establish a fan-base before the book was put on the market.

Now it’s time to develop a fan-base for The Andromeda’s Ghost, and see if it has what it takes to do well as a published book. I need your honest-to-goodness opinions and your help getting the word out! I’ve had two beta readers go through it and I’ve edited it three times myself. The best possible version of this manuscript is available to read for free on Inkitt’s website. If you’re a fan of science fiction, romance, adventure, and survival-like stories with a broken but loveable cast of characters, click on the link below. Once you’re finished reading, leave a short review to tell me what needs improving. Constructive criticism is very helpful to my story crafting process and can only help the manuscript succeed! If science fiction isn’t your cup of tea but you have a friend who loves the genre, tell them about it.

If I could get this book published by sheer force of will, believe me, I would. I hate asking other people for help, especially people who have already done me huge favors by purchasing my other books and supporting my dreams. But I know my limits. I know I can’t do this by myself. And so I leave the fate my little manuscript in your hands.

I hope you guys like it!

https://www.inkitt.com/stories/scifi/229153

A much kneeded break

Back in September I wrote a blog post about my husband tearing his meniscus. It just occurred to me last week that I never followed up. After the official diagnosis, my husband went through approximately seven weeks of physical therapy while we waited for his work insurance to approve corrective surgery. During that whole time, he was limping along on crutches and on “sitting duty only” at work.

The week of Thanksgiving, we finally got the approval we needed. The surgery was scheduled for Cyber Monday. I drove him to the surgical center at five in the morning. My grandparents very graciously offered to sit with me while he was in surgery. Because neither my car nor my husband’s truck could fit him with his new, rigid knee brace, they drove him back to our house in their car. And ever since then, I’ve taken on his responsibilities on top of mine.

It was easy at first. He was in pain and physically incapable of doing even little things on his own. I could see how miserable and frustrated he was. I was willing to do anything it took to make him comfortable. I happily served his food and jumped up to get his drinks or his medicine. I did all the chores around the house. I even scooped the cat litter, something my husband has done without complaint since we got married, something I abhor doing because of what it does to my sinuses. I changed out the five-gallon water bottle and brought in the groceries all by myself. I often forgot to put the trashcans on the curb on Thursday mornings but I got better at remembering.

My husband was so appreciative, apologizing repeatedly for not being able to help.

But, the more time has passed, the harder it has been to do everything with a good attitude. Because it’s exhausting. I feel like a kernel of corn popping around in a corn popper, rushing around to get things done, finally sitting down to rest, only to realize I forgot to do something or get something for him. And up I get again. He is still appreciative and he still apologizes, but (if I’m honest) those words are starting to lose their impact. Him being appreciative or apologetic doesn’t change anything. I still have to do everything.

Traveling to Wisconsin was what pushed me over the limit, I think. I’ve come to love traveling with my husband because he’s so calm and collected at the airport. Plus, he packs lightly and efficiently, which helps. But this time around, I had to do the packing for both of us. All of his winter wear is in boxes, scattered in various closets around the house, so I had to do a lot of scurrying and searching. Once everything was assembled, I was the one dashing from window to window to door, checking locks. I was the one hauling our dog and her kennel to a friend’s house. I was the one pulling our enormous rolling suitcase around while carrying the large backpack carry-on plus my purse and my heavy jacket. I was in charge of our tickets, checking in our bag, and getting all of our things through security. I was stressed out. He got to ride a wheelchair.

Then we got to my mother-in-law’s house. We had a blast with our family, but I took an hour long nap every day we were there. At the time, I was confused as to why I was so tired. Looking back now, it’s obvious. I was in the kitchen with my mother-in-law half the time, whipping up eggs and waffles and french toast and bacon and cookies and pie. When I wasn’t in the kitchen, I was rushing around the house, getting things for my husband. I had two evenings where I got to sit and enjoy a card game or a movie. Then we flew back home and went right back to work. I didn’t get much rest while on my vacation. Still, I comforted myself with the thought that I had the Friday before New Years off, which meant a long weekend of resting.

But it wasn’t really. I spent that time cleaning and cooking some more and helping my husband. Another week is almost over and I’m still as tired as I was before. I need another vacation, one where I don’t. Do. Anything.

Anyway, the good news is that my husband is healing. He’s not in pain anymore, which is good. He can comfortably bend his knee to ninety degrees and even put some weight on it. We have another doctor’s appointment this upcoming Tuesday. We’re both hoping the doctor will give the “okay” for him to ditch the crutches and start physical therapy. Then life will slowly start going back to normal. I think.

I’d like to say that this experience has grown me as an individual and has strengthened our marriage, but I don’t think I can. Not yet. What I can say is this: I have a new found respect for women whose husbands have a disability. I mean, I always admired them but now that I’ve gotten a taste of what it’s like…they’re definitely on a pedestal. At least in my case, there’s an end in sight. I can’t imagine doing what I’ve been doing every single day for the rest of my life and keeping a good attitude throughout. That takes a kind of patience and endurance that I clearly haven’t developed yet.

And maybe that’s the lesson to be learned here; I still have some growing up to do.

White Christmas

For those of you who don’t follow me on Facebook or Twitter, my husband and I went to Wisconsin this year to spend Christmas with his mother. She is originally from Phoenix, like us, but she moved there two years ago for a job. She treated us all by purchasing our plane tickets to come see her. My husband’s three brothers were there longer than we were, but we had five whole days together as a family. There was food, games, naps, Christmas music and movies, lots of laughter, and snow.

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The breakfast of champions cooked by my mother-in-law and yours truly.

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Bailey (Duncan’s girlfriend) and I decorating cookies.

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 The fruits of my labor. I don’t think I’ll be quitting my day job anytime soon.

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My mother-in-law’s barn.

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A fallen log on the side of my mother-in-law’s property.

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The view from my balcony.

I’ve only been in the snow three times in my entire life and I have to say, this was the best time of them all. The key to comfort in below zero temperatures? The proper attire. Thanks to my mother-in-law, we had snow jackets, snow pants, hats, mittens, and the thickest socks known to man available in many different sizes. We each had a layer that fit us so, when we went outside, we were comfortable. It was great.

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My husband and I, ready to go out into the snow!

While we mostly stayed indoors and enjoyed each others’ company, we did go out a few times…

To see A Christmas Carol, the play.

20171222_153810The Children’s Theater in Madison, Wisconsin, during intermission.

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My husband, the recovering cripple, and I.

To pick out our live Christmas tree.

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BTWs: it was fourteen degrees outside.

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This is where we went to get our tree.

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From left to right: my husband, Devo (otherwise known as Tiny Tim), Donevin and Duncan (the twins), and Dallas.

 20171224_103253My husband and I being all cute and stuff.

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From left to right: me, Joan (my mother-in-law), and Bailey (Duncan’s girlfriend).

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Me and my mom-in-law.

As you can see, we had a lot of fun choosing out our tree. This Happ’s place was amazing.

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It was basically an enormous evergreen field.

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Can’t decide between a live tree and a colored one? No problem at Happ’s! They’ll paint a live tree for you.

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Don’t ask me how they do it because I don’t know. But it sure looked pretty!

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This is Dallas dragging our tree to the car after it was cut.

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And this is our tree after we brought it home and decorated it.

We also went to Christmas Eve service at my mother-in-law’s church but I didn’t get any pictures of that. Suffice it to say that we had a lovely time singing Christmas carols and remembering the reason for the season. It was also super cute to see my mother-in-law glowing as she introduced us to everyone.

On Christmas morning, we read about the birth of Christ from Matthew and then opened our presents. (Please excuse the poor quality of the following photos. It might have been mid-afternoon but I was half asleep when I took them.)

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Duncan and Bailey.

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Donevin, Dallas, and Duke (the dog).

 

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Joan and my husband.

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I was there too, see?

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Yeah, we can’t take serious pictures. #sorrynotsorry

We were blessed with new clothes, shoes, books, games, Amazon giftcards, and Star Wars action figures, but I’d like to shed a spotlight on the gifts we received from Bailey.

20171225_124631This talented gal made ceramic mugs and cups for all of us.

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See how the glaze runs and fades into different shades of color? She did that herself! So cool.

And just like that it was over, this long awaited holiday, this merry get-together. My husband and I rolled out of bed on Tuesday afternoon, packed up our gifts and clothes, and got into the car. Two hours later, we boarded our plane and flew back to Phoenix, back to sixty degrees and reality. As we lay in our own bed that night, we started listing the things we already missed.

“The snow,” he said.

“Driving around in the same car with everybody,” I said. (We had the funniest conversations.)

“The sound of my brothers talking in the next room,” he said.

“Not having a schedule,” I said.

[insert big, nostalgic sigh here.]

Now we’ve entered that strange time in-between Christmas and New Years. We’re going to work and slowly getting back into our regular routines, but the upcoming holiday is sure to make things a little screwy again. We usually drive down to California to spend New Years with my family but we’re doing something a little different this year. My sister is going to Europe with her boyfriend so we’ve postponed our New Year’s celebration until the second weekend in January. That way we can all be together. My husband and I are spending New Years with friends for the very first time. We have no idea what we’re going to do but, by golly, we’re going to do something.

And then 2017 will be over.

Wow.

I heard it said once that days go by slow but years go by fast. That saying becomes more and more true the older I get. It’s incredible.

Well, I hope everyone had a fun Christmas! Be safe during New Years! I’ll check back in on the fourth of January.

A mermaid tale

In the spirit of challenging myself, I decided to write a short story about mermaids. I honestly don’t know why I haven’t used them in a story before now. I love fantasy and many of the fantasy “monsters.” I do feel like mermaids are the more unexplored monster in modern fiction, but maybe that’s just because I haven’t read or watched very many stories about mermaids. I’ve only ever seen them portrayed three ways:

As innocent and beautiful.

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As murderous and beautiful.

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As strange and mysterious.

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Even in this small pool of examples, these mermaids are as varied as the many stories about vampires, werewolves, and ghosts. It just serves as a reminder that anyone can adopt a mythical creature, use some of the basic legends recorded about them, then add random twists or facts, and make it work for their story. So this is me, adding a little twist of my own. Hope you like it. I’ve titled it: Entering the Deep.

 


 

I’ve had the same dream for as long as I can remember.

I’m floating in a basket somewhere at sea, tossed and spun by the waves. Thunder peals, shaking the basket around me. A moment later, a crack of lightning streaks across the sky, and illuminates the water. I can see the remains of a ship in the distance. Pieces of wood drift around the torn hull, which is slowly being swallowed by the sea. Crates, clothes, and food bob along the surface of the water. I can hear screams but I don’t see any people.

I’m crying, waving my little arms and legs, hoping someone will hear me.

Suddenly, a head pops up from the sea before me. It’s a woman with raven black hair clinging to the sides of her face. Her pupils are dilated to an abnormal size, with only a thin ring of blue to surround them. Her full lips are slightly parted, revealing pointed teeth, and her brow is crinkled in concern.

She casts a quick glance over her shoulder at the wreckage and then ducks back down into the water. The basket moves underneath me, propelled by a mysterious pressure on my back. The sinking ship becomes smaller and smaller until it’s completely obscured by the rolling waves.

Then I wake up.

I know I’m not my parents’ son. Father has a big, round chin, blue eyes, and fair hair. Mother has a pointed, little nose, green eyes, and curly red hair. I have brown hair, brown eyes, a nose that’s too big for my face, and a pointed chin. Mother and Father won’t tell me where I came from. They insist I’m theirs and become upset when I press them for answers. I’ve often wondered if this dream actually happened, if this is the story of how I came to them?

Maybe my story’s simply too horrible for my parents to admit.

I love the sea. I love the way the moon’s reflection glows over the surface of the water. I love the sound the waves make when they crash against rock and sand. I love the wet feel of the water, elusive to my clutching fingers.

Mother is afraid of the ocean. She shouts and cries whenever she catches me near the beach.

“Why do you live here if you can’t stand the sight of the sea?” I asked once, angry at being dragged away from the water yet again.

Mother stiffened. Assumed her school-marm stance. “The sea is dangerous.”

Father, silent and meek, followed her lead, often catching me around the middle and throwing me over his shoulder whenever I tried to sneak out to the beach.

“You’re not ready yet,” he said over my protests.

“Not ready for what?” I demanded.

Then he looked away or distracted me with a treat.

But he never answered.

Today is my sixteenth birthday. I want to spend it in the water. I haven’t felt like a child in a long time, mostly because of the hair sprouting all over my body and the stomach-flopping feeling I get whenever a pretty girl smiles at me – but also because of the calluses on my hands and the aches I experience after a long day at the tuna canning factory. I’m practically a man, and men deserve to know where they came from.

“Father,” I say after another day’s hard work. “I want to have my birthday dinner on the beach.”

Father processes this in his methodical way, turning the keys of his car over and over in his hands. “All right,” he says at last. “I’ll talk to your mother.”

And they do talk, from the moment we walk in the door right up until dinner time. I pace in the sitting room, glancing occasionally at their locked door. I fight the urge to press my ear against the wood. Mother hates it when I eavesdrop. I run a hand through my hair, still damp from bathing. After an hour of this, I sink into the armchair by the fireplace.

Then the door opens. I sit up. My heart thumps so loudly in my chest I’m sure everyone can hear it.

Mother’s eyes are red. Her mouth trembles. She marches straight into the kitchen without looking at me and puts on her apron.

Father looks tired. He’s still in his dirty work clothes and boots. He smiles at me. “Your mother is going to make us a picnic basket. I’ll bathe and then we’ll go.”

I nod because my mouth is suddenly dry. I can’t speak. Father goes outside to pump water from the well. I lean back into the armchair and watch Mother work. The picnic basket is packed and Father returns to the sitting room, clean and dressed in fresh clothes.

Mother stands away from the dinner fixings. She signals me to come to her. Pulling me into a tight hug, she whispers, “You’re still my boy, Jacob. You always will be.”

“It’s only a picnic, Mother,” I say, surprised by her emotion.

She steps back and presses a handkerchief to her mouth.

“Come,” Father says.

I grab the packed dinner basket and follow him outside.

Father and I walk down the hill and across the beach. The seagulls call out to us from the sky, their bodies rising and falling in the invisible breeze. The waves are strong today; they smash hard against the sand. The water rushes across the beach, hungrily reaching for our feet before the tide tugs it back to the ocean.

I grin and begin to unlace by shoes.

“Jacob,” Father says. I straighten up. He stands a stone’s throw away from me, pointing at the bend of the island in the distance. “This way.”

Confused, I glance back at the water. “But—”

“Trust me, son,” he says.

I obey.

We walk along the sand for a long time. The sun, which hugged the horizon when we left home, has officially been swallowed by the sea. The stars wink at me from the heavens. The night becomes darker and darker every moment we walk.

“Father, should I make a torch?” I ask.

“No need,” he says. “We’re almost there.”

We reach a wall of rock, the side of a cliff that hangs over the ocean. Father leads me to the entrance of a cave. There he takes out two long, white candle sticks and a box of matches from our picnic basket. Once lit, he hands me one of the candles. Then we continue into the cave. Black walls reflect the light from the candles; sparkling stones in the ceiling mimic the twinkling of the stars.

“Watch your step,” Father says as we navigate the slick and uneven stone.

We come to a hole in the middle of the ground, full of water. The sloshing and whispering of the sea echoes all around us.

“What is this place?” I ask.

“This is where we found you,” Father says. “This is where she brought you.”

I look around, as if she will still be here. “Who?”

“You’ll see,” says Father.

Then she pops up out of the hole in the ground as if she’s been there this whole time, waiting for an invitation. I skitter back in surprise.

A few feet out of the hole, suspended in air, seemingly, is the woman from my dream. The black hair. The impossibly large blue eyes. That smile full of sharp teeth. Sea weed is wrapped around her chest. Green scales grow across her abdomen. I can’t look away.

Seeing that she’s startled me, she lowers herself back into the water until only her head is visible.

“Is that a—?”

“A mermaid? Yes.” Father sets the picnic basket down, as calm as if he sees things like this every day. “Her name is Alga. She can understand you. Go and speak with her.”

I approach the hole in the rock with caution, holding the candle out before me. Wax drips down the stick and burns my knuckles, but I can hardly feel it. My heart stutters. My mouth is dry. I force out some words. “Did – did you rescue me from the wreckage of a ship when I was a baby?”

She nods. “I pushed your little basket to shore and hid you here. I fed you from my body, taught you how to swim, sang you the song of the sea.”  Her voice is melodic, a chord struck on a harp. “Does it call to you still?”

“It does. Why?”

“Because once you hear it, you can’t stop hearing it.” Alga rises from the water, reaching out as if to touch me. “I gave birth to a son mere weeks before I found you. He had no heartbeat. I thought I would lose my own heart but you restored me.”

She lowers her hand. Glances at Father. “You needed the humans so I let them take you. But now you must return to the Deep.”

“What do you mean?” I ask with a nervous laugh. “How can I live in the sea?”

“You were over a year old when we found you in this cave,” Father says, drawing my eyes to his face. “For months, you survived from her milk. You grew up as a creature of two worlds; the land and the sea.” Father puts a hand on my shoulder. It feels heavy to me. “But no longer. Once you’re submerged, you’ll become like her.”

“But…” My head is spinning. I can barely breathe. Suddenly, it comes to me. Mother knew. She’s known all along. That’s why…I swallow hard. “Will I see you again?”

Father smiles with tears in his eyes. “We’ll always be here, son.”

I throw my arms around him, fingers digging into the back of his shirt. He embraces me for a moment and then gently pushes me away. I wipe at my stinging eyes and face Alga. She sinks down, allowing the sea to swallow her whole. Her eyes stay open and fixed upon me as she descends into the depths, her hair moving in the water like ribbons in the wind.

The ocean rises, whispering, calling.

I take a deep breath, and jump in.

The water wraps me in its cold, refreshing embrace. The shock of it steals my breath. For a moment, all I can see is a cloud of bubbles around me and dark blue beyond. Then unbelievable pain grips my legs, as if a flock of angry woodpeckers are attacking me. I scream and double over in the water. I reach out to swat away the invisible creatures tearing into my flesh and bone.

Has the mermaid deceived me? Has she lured me to my death?

I expect to see holes in my skin, blood in the water.

But there isn’t any.

My trousers have torn. My legs are covered with midnight blue scales. My ankles and knees are drawn together suddenly, bone grinding against bone. Writhing in the water, I let out a sob and then greedily suck in a gulp of air.

Air?

I momentarily forget about the pain. Have I been breathing under water all this time? With a snap, the transformation is complete. A long, fish tail has replaced my legs; a thin, web-like fin sticks out from the end. I can feel every movement of the water against my scales, the subtle pressure changes. I can’t feel the shocking cold of the water anymore; it’s become muted and comfortable.

The world sharpens into focus around me. Colorful stones covered in fuzzy algae pepper the ocean floor. I spot bright orange starfish, pink coral, and strange ocean bushes with tentacle-like-branches swaying in the water. Different kinds of fish dart all around, avoiding me. Alga floats among them, smiling.

“Welcome,” she says, “to the Deep.”

Concerning dirty dishes and interruptions

Quite unexpectedly, my husband and I found ourselves attending a marriage conference last Friday. My husband’s cousin and his wife just so happened to have extra tickets to the conference and invited us to go with them. We hadn’t seen them in a while, plus we’d never been to a marriage conference before, so we went. The four of us drove over to a church I’d heard about but had never actually attended. The large auditorium was full with several hundred people. After some announcements from the hosts and a short introduction, the speaker, a Dr. Randy Carlson, came on the stage.

His points and insights, although familiar, were good reminders of things married people can do to create a happier marriage. Saying ‘I love you’ every day, listening without interrupting, abandoning criticism, forgiving one another, using words of affirmation, and etc. He called them Love Habits. By the end of the hour and a half, he challenged us to pick one thing we could do for our spouses for thirty consecutive days. Stopping bad habits and creating entirely new ones can be daunting, but doing one thing is all it takes to start the process. Or at least, that’s what he said.

I sank in my seat when Dr. Carlson mentioned listening without interrupting, sure he was talking to me. It was just too coincidental that he would mention it days after my husband himself pointed out this bad habit of mine. I don’t interrupt to be malicious or to hog the spot light. Sometimes, as he speaks, ideas or opinions pop into my head and I verbalize them so that I don’t forget. Half the time, I don’t even realize I’m doing it. During one conversation, it got to the point where my husband just stopped talking. Once I was through with the point I wanted to add to the conversation, I turned to him expectantly, waiting for him to finish whatever he had been saying before. When he didn’t, I asked if there was anything wrong. He admitted he was frustrated with me and was trying to collect himself. Surprised, I asked him what I’d done to upset him.

“You kept interrupting me and I kept having to repeat myself,” he said. “I don’t like repeating myself so I’m just not going to.”

Feeling like a jerk, I apologized and promised to work on it.

After the marriage conference, I used my added guilt to make that committment. I was going to be a better listener. I was going to be more considerate of my husband and that was that.

Well, it’s been more of a challenge than I thought. I’ve found myself literally biting my lips to keep myself from interjecting. Worst of all is trying to really listen to what he’s saying while I’m trying to remember what it was I wanted to add. Who knew something so simple would be so difficult? I’ve messed up a couple times and spoken when I should’ve been listening, but my gracious husband has forgiven me every time. I’m happy to report that it is getting easier! I just have to keep focused.

My husband had been having some trouble thinking of one thing he could do for me. Not to brag or anything, but he’s pretty awesome and he does a lot of the things Dr. Carlson mentioned in the marriage conference. I cook every evening (with the exception of those rare mornings when I get up early and make dinner then or when we’re having lasagna and I can just leave a note for my husband to throw it in the oven an hour before I get home from work). But I also wash the dishes 99% of the time. I hate having a dirty kitchen. It immediately sucks the energy out of me when I come home from work to see a pile of dirty dishes on the counter. I finally expressed my frustrations to my husband, who gets home three hours before I do.

“I’m sorry, babe. I just don’t notice when the house is dirty,” he admitted. (Which is hilarious because he can spot a finger smudge on my car window from a mile away while I can go weeks, even months, at a time without washing my car.)

Men and women are different; I’ve seen evidence of this all my life. I never realized just how different they were until I got married. This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, I believe it’s perfect. We complete each other this way. But it’s so easy to allow those differences to drive us insane! I expect certain things from my husband because, to me, they’re obvious. I mean, why wouldn’t he notice the dishes? It’s the first thing I see!

It takes a lot of selfless love to be able to set our expectations aside and see someone for who they truly are, how they operate, how they think and feel. I’ve decided to let my expectations go, face reality, and try to see my husband for who he is, not necessarily who I want him to be.

My husband decided to make his one thing washing the dishes every day, even if there’s only a handful of plates in the sink. He doesn’t care about the state of the kitchen so long as there’s food in the fridge. But I’ve told him it bothers me, so he’ll do it for me. A whole week has gone by. My counters are clean. The sink is empty. The dish drainer is full. And I’m considerably less stressed. It’s amazing how something so small can make such a difference. I’m so thankful! I hope my one thing is making a difference in his life as well.

So, married folk, what’s your one thing going to be?

My newest “short” story

I might have mentioned this before but I’m taking Intermediate Fiction this semester and having a blast. The class is challenging me to come up with short stories every two weeks, giving me plenty of practice meeting deadlines. My problem now is that I feel like writing a novella or even a whole novel to expand upon this story! I wish I had more time…For now I’m keeping a list of ideas so that I can work on them later.

This story was inspired in part by my novel, Asta and the Barbarians. Like the novel, this story is set in an older time period with gods and goddesses, and the main character is both a woman and a fighter. Who knows? This might become a companion to Asta and the Barbarians. Anyway, I hope you like it. I’ve tentatively called it “A Match Made in the Hollow.”

 

Anwyl’s face twisted as she screamed, marring her otherwise unparalleled beauty. She thrust her arms out before her and the earth shook. Fissures like spider webs erupted over the ground, spreading from her feet and reaching out across the entire hollow. Animated corpses of men, any man who had ever prayed to Anwyl for guidance, clawed their way out.

“Attack!” William Eckersley waved his strange sword in the air before he banged it against his shield. “For your kinsmen, for your families, for your lives!” Then he charged.

The men who had volunteered for this quest shook where they stood, but they drew their weapons and followed Mr. Eckersley’s lead.

Jessa Copeland was frozen with terror. Even from a distance she could smell the putrefaction of the undead, hear their guttural moans, and see the grotesque patches of missing flesh. Her hand grew slick with nervous perspiration; she squeezed the revolver tighter but what good were the weapons of mortals against the minions of a goddess? What good was an amateur to a group of trained men? She could trade in her corset and bonnet for a coat and some trousers, she could rub soot into her skin and tuck all of her blond hair into a man’s riding hatbut she couldn’t hide who she really was: A child who had rushed into something she wasn’t ready for.

Jessa blinked away tears.

 

“You’re mad,” Charles said through the slot in his door.

“Perhaps.” Jessa leaned forward and lowered her voice. “But if I don’t do this, I’ll be Mrs. John Lamberton in six month’s time, and I’ll never be able to work or travel or go to school or —”

“You don’t want to go to school,” her brother said. “It’s boring.”

“I’d like the option! I know John won’t give it to me.” Jessa impatiently brushed the hair out of her eyes. “He’s a good man but he’s so stubborn. He’s already said he expects me to give birth to five children and run his house for him.”

Charles adopted a mocking, wide-eyed look. “You mean he expects you to be a wife once the two of you are married? The nerve of some men!”

Jessa sighed and pressed her forehead against the rough wood. “I’d like to learn more about myself and the world before I’m confined to a single role. Is that so wrong?”

“Have you tried talking to Mother and Father? Perhaps they can call off the wedding.”

Jessa snorted. “Father? Go back on his word? Do you know him?”

Charles shook his head. “This isn’t going to work.”

“Father has disowned you. That makes me the first born. Our law states a first born over the age of eighteen has a right to answer any call-to-arms from any noble family.”

“Yes, but—”

“That quest, once completed, will mark that individual as an independent adult, able to own land, move out of their parents’ home, seek higher education or employment, marry or not.”

“You’re a woman. The Right of the Firstborn doesn’t apply to you.” Charles sighed when his sister scowled. “I’m sorry, but it’s the truth.”

“Will you lend me the swords and the revolver or not?” Jessa hissed.

“I can’t. I’d be sending you to your death.”

“Brother, please, I have to try!” Jessa licked her parched lips and glanced over her shoulder, hoping none of the passersby on the street had overheard. “What was the point in teaching me how to fence and shoot, and the basics of running a business if you never intended me to use any of it?”

 

The ground cracked open to her right and bony fingers reached out from the depths, greedily searching for the light. Jessa shrieked and backed away, heart hammering in her throat. She pointed the pistol with a trembling hand, trying to remember everything her brother taught her. The memories of her training escaped her no matter how hard she tried to hold onto them, like grains of sand slipping through her fingers. All she could think about was the body rising from the earth before her.

His neck was bent at an odd angle; splintered bones stuck out from the gelatinous tendons. Pink veins spread across his wide, unblinking eyes. Chunks of hair were missing from his scalp. There was a hole in his cheek where Jessa could see the bone of his jaw. He gnashed his remaining teeth at her and growled. Then he yanked the sword out of his chest and advanced.

 

“Goddess of travelers watch over you,” Charles said as they embraced. “Try not to die, little sister. I’m awfully fond of you.”

 

Jessa screamed and pulled the trigger. The bullets embedded themselves in the dead man’s throat and chest, but he continued to advance. Jessa shoved the revolver back into the holster at her hip and drew her short swords. She ducked out of the way when the corpse brought his weapon down; then she straightened up and swung both swords over her head. The blades sliced through the flimsy tissue protecting his ribs.

The corpse howled as new blood stained his torn clothes. But he didn’t fall. He used his sword with skill and speed despite his appearance. He blocked every one of Jessa’s blows. They moved back and forth, dancing just out of each other’s reach. Then Jessa’s sword sliced the air, severing whatever tendons were left in the undead man’s neck. The head flew about a yard or so from the force of her swing. The man dropped to the ground at last.

Jessa took a moment to sheath her swords and reload the revolver. Then she aimed for the heads of the corpses fighting her comrades and shot as she walked, pausing only to cut down the occasional animated cadaver in her path.

“The heads!” she heard one of the men shout above the noise of battle. “Aim for the heads!”

She didn’t pause to see if anyone heeded this advice. Her gaze was fixed on the shifting form of William Eckersley, who battled the goddess herself on the other side of the hollow. She could still hear his voice at the back of her mind, see his face thrown into shadow by the fire last night.

 

“Is it true what the men are saying?” she asked, deepening her voice in an effort to sound masculine. “Did you reject the affections of the love goddess?”

Eckersley stoked the logs of the bond fire with his cane, his dark eyes reflecting the flames. “I rejected Anwyl’s twisted will, not her affections.”

“Did she dare ask the most eligible bachelor in the county to choose a wife?”

Eckersley smirked at her. “If it had been as simple as that, I might’ve conceded.”

Jessa blinked in surprise. Every woman in town gossiped about this nobleman. Some sniffed at his pride, called him a pompous prince who thought himself too good for any of the ladies his mother had tried to marry him off to. Others spoke of his good looks, his quiet manner, and his riches in hushed, adoring tones. Could it be that William Eckersley simply hadn’t found the right woman to marry yet?

Eckersley leaned back against a tree, throwing his handsome face into shadow. “Anwyl appeared to me in a dream. She told me she had planned a clever love story for me and she would put it into action very soon. She was quite proud of herself for coming up with the scheme and thought I would be pleased. When I refused to be a pawn in her game, she cursed our city with a mysterious, incurable disease.”

“That’s why so many of our people are dying,” Jessa whispered in horror. “And you think the only way to stop this disease from spreading is to kill the goddess herself? How will you do this?”

 

The gold and copper sword swung down, only to be deflected by a sword of glass. Anwyl smiled and cast Eckersley aside with a mighty shove. He stumbled but didn’t fall. He blew the strands of dark hair out of his face and advanced again, shield and sword at the ready.

Jessa swerved around skirmishes. She ducked to avoid the swings of the undead. She, straightened up and fired a few rounds, and then continued to run. She knew she needed to help Eckersley somehow. He couldn’t finish the goddess on his own.

 

“The place we travel to is called The Lover’s Hollow. One of Anwyl’s altars was built there many years ago; it’s considered to be a sacred place. If we burn incense and pray to her, she’ll have to come. As for how I’ll vanquish the goddess…” Eckersley rose, drew his sword, and held it out over the fire so that Jessa could see.

It was a curious blade; the fuller divided an edge of gold and an edge of copper. The cross guard was slightly uneven, thicker on one side than it was on the other, and it appeared to be made of pale yellow bone.

“I’ve never seen the likes of it before,” Jessa said.

“It was forged on the night of the summer solstice using goblin’s gold, the copper of a poor man who was pure of heart, and the ulna of an expert swordsman.” Eckersley took a few experimental swings. “Sprinkled with the tears of Druce, god of wisdom, it is said to be one of the few weapons on earth that can slay a minor god. They call it—”

“The Sword of the Divine,” Jessa said, recalling the old story. “But…it’s just a legend.”

Eckersley sheathed the sword. “To every myth there is a bit of truth.”

“Yes, but we can’t know which part of the myth is true,” Jessa said, trying to fight her rising panic. “This sword could indeed be made with all the components you described, but it may not have the power to kill a god. Still, you’d risk your life and the lives of these men—”

Eckersley’s brow flattened with determination. “For my city, for my family, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t risk.”

 

Anwyl, despite being clothed in a billowing dress of red and white, moved flawlessly over the uneven ground, twisting, thrusting, blocking, snarling. Her sunshine gold hair miraculously stayed out of her face.

Eckersley, although an excellent swordsman, struggled to break her defense.

Jessa hastily replaced her empty pistol with her second sword as she drew nearer. Holding one sword above her head and the other by her waist, she spun toward Anwyl. The goddess kicked Eckersley in the stomach and jumped out of the way, just in time to deflect Jessa’s blows. Eckersley lost his shield as he rolled in the grass, but he leapt to his feet again, gripping the Sword of the Divine in both hands.

“What are you doing?” he shouted at Jessa.

Anwyl grinned and stepped back, then slowly lowered her sword.

Jessa kept her swords up, confused and out of breathbut ready.

The goddess threw Eckersley a sly look. With her free hand, she blew a kiss Jessa’s way. A blast of cold wind washed over Jessa, pushing her a few paces back. When Jessa regained her footing, her disguise had melted away. Her weapons were cast aside. Her skin was clean and her hair was curled, and flowed over her slim shoulders and down to her lower back. She wore a purple silk gown she’d never seen before. She gaped at herself in horror. Then she turned to Eckersley. He stared with a mixture of shock and wonder.

“William, meet Jessa Copeland,” the goddess said with triumph. “Your perfect match.”

Anwyl waved her sword; the undead bodies collapsed like marionettes whose strings had been cut. The men who remained lowered their swords and rifles, blinking in confusion.

“My work here is done,” Anwyl said.

With a wink, she vanished.

A true account

Sunday, 7:45PM:

“All right, babe,” I say as we get ready for bed.

“Tomorrow we get back into our workout routine?” my husband assumes.

“You got it. We’ve slacked off for too long.”

Monday, 11:40AM:

‘So I hurt my knee at work today…’ he texts me.

Doesn’t sound too serious, I think. Maybe it’ll be all better by the time I get home.

Monday, 5:50PM:

“It hurts to walk,” he says as he plays Destiny 2. “I can’t put pressure on it.”

“What?” I gasp. “It’s that bad?”

“Yeah. My boss said to go to urgent care if it doesn’t feel better by tomorrow morning.”

“So how does this work? You’ll get up tomorrow at the same time you always do, get out of bed, and if you can’t stand, I take you to urgent care?”

“Sounds about right.”

I try to remain calm despite the ringing in my ears. “Okay.” As soon as my back is turned, I text everyone I know and ask them to pray.

Tuesday, 3:45AM:

The alarm goes off. I crack an eye open to watch him crawl out of bed. He tries to put weight on his injured knee and collapses back into the mattress with a groan.

Looks like we’re going to urgent care…

I throw the blanket off and hurry around the bed to help him.

Tuesday, 4:00AM:

“Can you grab my shoes?”

“Yes, love.”

“Oh, and a hat too, please?” His hair is so long and unruly; he’d rather cover it up than try to fix it.

You’re so cute. “All right. I’ll be back.”

“Don’t forget my wallet.”

“Yes, dear.”

“Oh, babe? Can you get some socks too?”

“Here you go.”

“Um…” He holds out the right sock. “Can you give me a hand?”

I suppress a smile as I bend down before his injured knee and carefully slide the sock over his foot. I can see myself doing this in the future, when he’s old and has arthritis or something. In sickness and in health…

“I’m sorry I’m such an invalid,” he says with a sheepish smile.

“Don’t worry about.” I’m supposed to take care of you, silly. I’m your wife.

“Your car is too low to the ground. I don’t think I could get in or out of it,” he says. “Are you going to be okay, driving my truck?”

The thought makes me nervous, but I say, “It should be fine.”

I sit in the driver’s seat, scooted all the way back to accommodate my six foot two hunk. I scoot it forward and adjust the mirrors. I’m tiny when compared to him. The key slides timidly into the ignition. With a roar, the truck comes alive and rolls out of the garage. It’s still dark outside.

“If you were the one injured, I could just carry you,” he murmurs, using me as a crutch to get to the idling car. “I’m sorry you have to do this.”

“Stop saying sorry. You’re fine.” At least, I hope you’re fine…Please, be fine.

Tuesday, 6:30AM:

“We couldn’t find anything on the x-ray,” the doctor tells us.

My husband sits in a wheelchair.

I swallow hard. My rock, my bear, my safe place…in a wheelchair. It’s almost painful.

“We’re going to schedule an MRI but it could take up to two weeks.”

My husband exhales. He hates getting MRIs.

“If your knee heals on its own, we’ll cancel the MRI,” the doctor continues. “I’m going to give you a prescription for naproxen and a muscle relaxant in the mean time. The muscle relaxant you’ll take before you go to bed. It’ll help you sleep.”

“Thank you,” my husband and I both say.

Tuesday, 7:00AM:

My husband leans on his crutches as he talks to the nurse at the front desk. I watch him from the other side of the waiting room. He nods, accepting the papers she hands him, and then starts ambling carefully toward me. I jump up and hurry over to take the papers from him.

“Thanks. I have physical therapy tomorrow,” he says.

“What time?”

“After work.”

I blink in surprise. “But you’re not going to work.”

“I might.”

“You should be resting,” I protest.

“I need to work,” he says seriously.

I bite my tongue and hold the door open for him.

Tuesday, 7:45AM:

A headache is building behind my eyes and across my forehead.

“Are you going to work?” my husband asks as we wait in the drive-thru for our breakfast.

“I don’t know. There’s technically nothing wrong with me. Now that you’re on crutches, you don’t need me as much anymore…But I am tired.”

“Do you have any vacation days left?”

“No, but I have sick days.”

“It’s up to you, hon.”

I glance at the clock in the radio. “Well, even if we got home right now and I rushed to get ready, I’d still be late. And I don’t feel like rushing.”

“So stay home with me.”

“All right. I’ll stay home.”

Tuesday, 9:00AM:

“I’ve got your drugs,” I say, setting them down over the counter. “Do you want to take anything right now?”

“I’ll take some naproxen,” he says, his eyes on the TV screen.

I wait until he’s done battling robots before I hand him the pill. He swallows it dry and smiles.

“Thanks.”

I love you.

Tuesday, 12:15PM:

I reach across from him to place a soda on the chair he’s using as an end table. “Need anything else?”

“Not right now.”

“All right. Let me know when you’re hungry.”

Tuesday, 1:30PM:

“What did you say was for lunch?”

“I have chicken thawing in the fridge,” I say. “I can fry it for you and make mashed potatoes or I can make you a salad.”

His mouth works for a moment as he processes his options. “Neither sound really appealing right now…”

I chuckle, reading his code. “Would you like to order in, love?”

He grins. “Pizza sounds amazing.”

I whip out my phone and start the order.

Tuesday, 7:00PM:

I lower the book and poke him in the side. “Hey, are you falling asleep on me?”

“No,” he says drowsily.

“I’m almost done with the chapter.”

“I’m listening,” he insists, eyes closed.

I smile and continue reading out loud from The Order of the Phoenix.

Wednesday, 4:00AM:

“I’m taking my phone off of do-not-disturb mode,” I tell him, handing over his lunch box. “If you need anything, call me, okay?”

He puts his lunch in the passenger’s seat and gives me a kiss. “All right, babe. I love you.”

“I love you too.” I close the door and step back.

Please, keep him safe, I pray as I crawl back into bed.

Wednesday, 11:00AM:

My phone buzzes on my desk and I flip it over to check the text. Finally, he answered my text from this morning.

‘Yes, babe. I did get to work okay.’ Smiley face.

I breathe out a long sigh of relief and text back. ‘Was it hard to drive?’

‘Not really.’

‘That’s good! What did you do at work?’

He tells me and I smile. I was worried they wouldn’t find anything he could do while sitting down. I can’t wait to see him.

Wednesday, 5:35PM:

“How was physical therapy?” I ask, falling into the couch beside him.

“It was all right I guess. Painful. Oh, and there are little pieces of bone floating around in my knee.”

“What? I thought the doctors couldn’t find anything on the x-ray.”

“Well, the physical therapist took another look at the x-ray and said he saw what looked like pieces of bone floating around my knee.”

I shake me head. “How…?”

“No idea. The therapist thought the bone pieces could’ve been there since I tore my ACL and had surgery to fix it.”

“Wow. Okay. So how are we going to get those out?”

“I don’t know,” he says with a shrug. “But they’re not going to do anything until I get an MRI and they can confirm that’s the only problem.”

I lean back into the couch. Lord, have mercy on my baby.

Wednesday, 7:10PM:

“What if you have to have surgery on your knee again?”

“Then we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. You just have to trust God in these situations.”

He says it so easily! I roll over to press my cheek against his chest. “What if it takes you months to recover?”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

“What if–?”

He gives my hand a squeeze. “We’ll be fine, babe.”

I shut my eyes. I want to believe, God, but I’m so afraid. Help me not to be.

Thursday, 3:55AM:

The truck’s lights disappear around the corner as I pull the trash cans out to the curb. I want to go back to sleep, but the dishes are piling up. I plan on making fried chicken and potatoes for dinner. If I put it off until I get home at 5, it won’t leave me much time to hang out with my husband before we have to go to bed again. I could make it all now, put it in the fridge, and just reheat it when I get home from work. I amble into the bedroom for my glasses. The world sharpens into focus and so does my mind. Squaring my shoulders, I march into the kitchen and start the day.

Faith, love, and hope remain

“All attempts have failed
All my heads are tails
She’s got teary eyes
I’ve got reasons why

I’m losing ground and gaining speed
I’ve lost myself or most of me
I’m headed for the final precipice

But you haven’t lost me yet
No, you haven’t lost me yet
I’ll sing until my heart caves in
No, you haven’t lost me yet

These days pass me by
I dream with open eyes
Nightmares haunt my days
Visions blur my nights

I’m so confused
What’s true or false?
What’s fact or fiction after all?
I feel like I’m an apparition’s pet

But you haven’t lost me yet
No, you haven’t lost me yet
I’ll run until my heart caves in
No, you haven’t lost me yet

If it doesn’t break
If it doesn’t break
If it doesn’t break
If it doesn’t break your heart
It isn’t love
No, if it doesn’t break your heart
It’s not enough
It’s when you’re breaking down
With your insides coming out
That’s when you find out what your heart is made of

And you haven’t lost me yet
No, you haven’t lost me yet
I’ll sing until my heart caves in
No, you haven’t lost me yet
Cause you haven’t lost me yet.”

-Yet by Switchfoot

(Thank you, AZLyrics.com)

I heard this song numerous times growing up, but I never truly understood what it meant. I assumed the writer was talking about a relationship of his, maybe a difficult time he and his girlfriend were having. Despite the sad tune, the words are hopeful. He sounds as if he’s reassuring his girl that no matter what happens, she’s not going to lose him. It should make me feel happy, right? Somehow, that’s not what I felt when I heard this song, and it’s still not what I feel when I hear it today. Because the words I tend to focus on are, “If it doesn’t break your heart, it isn’t love.”

Boys have broken my heart in the past and I’ve come to realize what I had with them wasn’t real love. My husband, my true love, has made mistakes and has hurt me before. But I can honestly say he’s never broken my heart. So maybe this isn’t the kind of love the song is talking about. Now that I’m older, going through a difficult time with my sister, I’m thinking I might understand what kind of love this song is talking about. (I might be totally wrong. I don’t know the artist so, obviously, I can’t confirm it with him. But the more I think about this song, the more it applies to my situation.)

No matter how much we talk, neither seems to truly understand the other. No matter how desperately we might want to fix our situation, we do more harm to each other than good. What one perceives as help or enlightenment, the other perceives as an attack on one’s character. But because we’re friends and, more importantly, family…we still love each other. We still want a relationship. And I think that’s why I can finally understand the song writer’s struggle. I can see him searching for ways to fix his situation. I can see him being so burdened by what he’s going through, so depressed because there seems to be no solution. But he knows he can’t give up hope.

I looked up the meaning of this song, and found a quote by the writer, Jon Foreman:

“The song is about hope. Hope is always reaching towards the future, reaching for what has not yet come to pass…Hope is a “holding on” of sorts, an expectant belief, a desire as of yet unfulfilled. I wrote this song from a really dark place, looking for some form of hope. And maybe searching for hope is a form of hope in itself. There’s a moment of honesty when your mask drops, when you can no longer pretend to have it all together. When this pretense is gone, you breathe in your first real breath. When you’re no longer pretending to be something you’re not, you’re left with a truly honest assessment of the situation. Very little is left, [but] “Faith, hope, and love remain. But the greatest of these is love.””

(See full quote here.)

I love that Mr. Foreman tacked on that quote at the end. It’s from one of the most famous passages in the Bible, I Corinthians 13, titled the Love Chapter. It’s funny; this passage is often read at weddings and quoted to people who are in a relationship. Originally, this chapter was written by Paul to the Corinthian church, which had several different issues, the chief of them being selfishness. Paul was reminding the church that without love, none of their great works was worth anything. Because talent, skill, words, and actions can fade away in time but things like faith, hope, and love never will.

This conflict between me and my sister has gone on for a little over two years. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe it will ever come to a peaceful resolution. I feel as if I’ve tried everything. People keep saying our story isn’t over, God’s work isn’t finished, and so long as the two of us keep trying to understand one another, eventually we’ll find peace. I’m sure they’re right. It’s times like these, after failing to bridge the gap yet again, that I can’t help but wonder, “Is this what it’s going to be like for the rest of our days?”

I’m tired, I’m breaking down, I feel like my insides are coming out…again. But my faith, my love, my hope, will remain.

The plight of the married couple (I think this counts as poetry…)

They march about the house,

Soldiers pacing their designated wall.

With barely a glance at each other

They go about their business, big or small.

You wouldn’t know it if you peeked in,

But they’re married and madly in love.

A slip of the tongue, a word unsaid,

The wrong gift or lack thereof

Upsets the wife, frustrates the husband.

They stew and huff and grumble and then

An argument pushes them over the edge.

Where is your tolerance, your ability to bend?

It must have died at the end of your dating.

Didn’t you marry him because he was the best?

Didn’t you marry her

Because she was kinder than the rest?

How easily you both forgot!

Remember the silly girl you fell for,

The one who obsessed about her hair.

Remember the guy who opened the door

Let you go in first, let you have your way

Happily you once apologized and forgave

So she said the wrong thing to your mother,

So he left the sink dirty after his shave.

You were human then and you are human now.

Don’t yell, accuse, or bargain

Remember how it was then, let go, forgive

And try again.