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Spearmint Memories

I sat there for the longest time, staring at the little round spearmint hard candy on my desk . It was still jacketed in the thin, squeaky. slick plastic wrapper, but it just sat there staring back at me. The green lines around its outer edges were all uneven, meaning this wasn't one of the name brand candies I had before me, but one filled with imperfections - much like my own childhood. It had come from the candy dish I keep on my desk and always make sure is full. It's something I learned from him.
He had a large crystal candy dish on his desk that would pleasantly ring with a high pitch crystal chime when it opened. It was impossible to open that candy dish without it making noise. I think my father once told me it had been a wedding gift to him and my mother many years before. Rarely did I ever see it in the house as a child. It was always on my father's desk at work, as long as he had one.
I used to sit at his desk while he would be off working. Sometimes for hours I would play solitaire on his computer. Other times I would draw pictures on lined notepads. Occasionally I'd even do my homework. Those days were very rare, the days I'd visit my father's office, but every time I was there I always would ask permission and have a spearmint. With it resting in my mouth I'd suck air between my teeth and feel like I had the freshest breath in the world.
My father didn't like peppermints. No, that candy dish was always filled to the brim with spearmint candies. He would eventually finish his work and we'd pile up in that old Dodge Ram Charger that shared almost my entire childhood, and we'd trundle off down the road toward home. My mother would likely be waiting there with dinner - probably a tuna noodle casserole or homemade lasagna.
We haven't been a part of one another's lives for a great many years now, and there are days I'd give almost anything to go back in time to when I would sit at his desk and wait for him to finish his work so we could go home. I knew even as a young child that I would never look at a spearmint hard candy without thinking about my father and remembering some pleasant moment we shared. Those moments were few; perhaps entire too few, but they existed. I truly loved my father. I still do. He's my father, after all.
I opened the slick, unmarked wrapper and slid the spearmint onto my waiting tongue. I closed my eyes and the memories flooded through my brain. It was everything I always remembered it to be. I never cared much for Spearmint.

never liked Spearmint all that much..

Getting Started

Well, I've started a new adventure. It's far too soon to know if it will be a success or not, but I'm eager to do all I can in order to see it become one.  I'm the new Pinup Chef of Denver!  Not only am I staring in my own web series (complete with a producer, director, editor, camera man and audio technician as well as sponsorship from so be sure to check them out!), but I'm also a studio chef teaching my recipes in front of an actual participating audience.  It's really exciting for me!  The first three episodes have already been filmed, and the first one is already live.  I'm soooo excited!

Of course the audio needed work in the pilot episode.  That's when we got the audio engineer for the following two episodes. 

I have a new blog!!!  Just started it, actually.  You should check it out.

Chambers of the Heart

Chambers of the Heart

How long does it normally take
For one poor heart to finish breaking?
While the events may set things in motion in minutes,
The pain may last a lifetime. 
Like a peeling pomegranate,
Each chamber is filled with delicate jewels,
Each fragile, each only a pin prick away from bleeding. 
Is it better to leave the thick skin over the surface
And to protect the fragile inside?
Or is it better to open the skin
With the piercing of a knife,
score the surface,
Rip open the bleeding fruit
And consume the very seeds of life within?
Once they're gone, each expiring in its own way,
Gnashed apart by biting teeth and words of hate,
 What remains but the empty shell?
The last seed,
Bitten, bleeding,
Consumed by someone else.

Saltines for Isobel.

Each cracker was carefully inspected before she gingerly placed the corner into her mouth and bit down with enough force to snap it off, but softly enough to not make a sound. After each bite she would lick the salt off of her parched lips. It had been too long since she had known what a real meal felt like in her stomach. The fifth cracker was the last, and Isobel carefully wrapped the remaining morsels back into their crinkling plastic sleeve, tied off with the wide, flat, bright red twist tie. She hated saltines. She always had, but her desperate dislike and taken a life of its own since she'd come face to face with the real possibility of starvation. She was hungry, but she was young enough to still possess the will power she needed to survive. Five crackers is all she would allow herself at each meal, accompanied only by a bottle of water. It was of course tap water in the bottle, but she couldn't afford a glass to drink from so she had "repurposed" someone else's trash by cleaning it thoroughly. Some days she was even lucky enough to have chess to the freezer at work and she would enjoy somewhat chilled water when the hunger pranks were the worst. Desperate for both the Monet required for food and for a way to occupy her time instead of thinking about food, Isabel found herself volunteering for the thirteen and fourteen hour shifts at the call center amid wild corruption, stressful work material, sexual harassment and bizarre slander. About the time she didn't think she could take it anymore, something would shift. Sometimes better, sometimes worse, but always different. Life was beginning to get the better of isobel but she refused to let it beat her completely. She thought to herself that life was very m cig like those saltine crackers: she might not have been happy with what she had to eat, but at least there was something to eat.

Uphill Perception

It's a bizarre sight, seeing a ball roll up hill. Yes, optical illusion desist that cause people to thing the ground slopes in one direction when it actually doesn't. This wasn't one of those places. This was the driveway at work. The ground slanted downward. Water ran down that driveway slope. I'd seen it a dozen times before. I'd walked up that hill. I'd dropped a pen once and couldn't catch it fast enough to stop it from rolling into the street. So how in the world was I suddenly witnessing a ball rolling UP that hill with only a slight breeze to accompany it? My mind wandered as I wondered what I was witnessing. Finally the ball stopped propelling upward and westward. It tilted slightly and I watched as the cottonwood leaf fell, lifeless, at the top of that driveway.

Things are so rarely ever what we first perceive them to be, I admitted to myself. A hill might always be a hill, but a ball may not always be a ball.

Borscht for Addis Ababa

Your birthday is tomorrow, my friend. Will you be celebrating? How would you celebrate your birthday in the middle of the dessert? If you're currently held captive will you even know its your birthday? Will the days blend together and vanish into the past as though they never existed - except in the sense that a prolonged nightmare exists? How old will you be tomorrow, I find myself wondering? Not that it's an important thing for me to know, especially since it makes no significant difference to either of our lives. I'd still wonder how (and where) you are. I'd still care about your mission; about you... I'd still wonder what your parents were like, how your life was shaped by your move away from Ukraine, if you've heard about the hurricanes destroying Texas and Florida lately, or if you'll return to California safely. You disappeared months ago now. Are you alive?

In honor of your birthday tomorrow I'll be feasting on some of my most favorite Russian foods. My borscht turned out quite good last night. For dinner tomorrow night I'll make Chicken Chakobile, a dish my friend Marco originally from Georgia often made for me. He'd lived for a while in Prague and Kiev, so I'm sure there are some Czech and Ukraine influence in the recipe.

Marco was quite astounding.... he was the owner of a restaurant in San Diego I may have previously mentioned. He always had a passion for cooking. In fact, one of his first jobs was in a restaurant in Georgia, but he had ambitions of leaving. He went to school and studied hard, then earned himself a job in Aerospace in California. He lived in LA for a while, working for (I think) Boeing. Eventually he started his own restaurant in Burbank once he retired from Aerospace (where, I believe, he worked on a few special projects for NASA at one point). The restaurant did well but the rent prices were extortionate and he was sick of the gang violence during the Rodney King riots. Finally when his kids were grown and his wife had passed away, he moved to San Diego and started another restaurant.

Fast forward the calendars a few years and a little redheaded gal stumbles in to his restaurant one day after having previously been taken for Russian food in San Diego on a date, and failing to find that same restaurant. I had simply googled "Russian food in San Diego" and did what I could to find the cute little place I'd been to before. When I ended up in Kafe Sobaka that day, I knew it wasn't the place I'd previously eaten at - or at least I didn't think it was. I decided to stay and eat anyway, since I was on an airline overnight and didn't have transportation to wander the city. I figured I would just try to find it the next time I was in the area, and actually continued that search while I sat waiting for my food to arrive.

The time I'd been to San Diego on the date I was terribly nervous. I remember thinking about that as I ordered my food in Kafe Sobaka. I wondered where Dave had taken me that day and tried to remember what he had ordered, since he hadn't let me order anything or even look at the menu. He spoke fluent Russian (he'd lived there as a performer in orphanages for a few years) and he wanted to show off. His attempts to show off actually very much put me in a state of unease. I ate what came out to the table and I knew it was good, but I didn't know what any of it was. Finally the waitress came over to ask what I would like to order. I asked what her favorite items were on the menu and ordered whatever she told me she liked.

An elderly, frail looking gentleman in a wheelchair came out to the dining room then. At first I thought he might be a customer, but he looked so frail and beaten that I wondered if perhaps he wasn't a homeless person coming in from the streets to enjoy the air conditioning. Before this man wheeled himself inside I had been the only person in the dining room. Some of the tables were too close together for him to get all the way into the dining room though, and seeing his struggle, I jumped to move a chair and push a table slightly so that he would have more room. He smiled and his teeth were like a picket fence. His aged eyes sparkled with delight.

"My, aren't you pretty," he beamed at me. "Thank you." His accent was obvious, though where it might have actually come from much less than obvious. Still it was unusual and he was friendly. I smiled back and returned to my seat in order to wait for my food. He wheeled himself right up to my table and began to chat with me like we were old friends. I asked if he would like something to drink (I was poor and couldn't afford to spend a lot on a stranger, but certainly didn't mind offering him something cool to drink on such a hot day). He smiled again and politely declined. Then he reached over to a shelf nearby and picked up a wooden puzzle game I recognized as being something from the late 1920's or early 1930's likely European. He pulled it close and beamed at me continuously as he set it on the table before me. "Have you ever seen one of these? Do you think you could win the game?"

"Perhaps," I answered and lifted the puzzle box to try for him. A couple of marbles rolled around the box and the object was to avoid letting the marbles fall through the holes into the lower portion of the puzzle box. If they fell, they would need to be placed back into the maze and the game would begin again. We chatted politely as I tried over and over, giggling each time I would have to restart. He ate it up. We talked about the puzzle game at first, but that changed to history eventually, which happened to be something we were both fairly well versed in. He'd experienced it, I'd been fascinated by it. Finally my food came out and Marco grew excited.

"The borscht! You should try that with the sour cream. I think you'd like it. It's very good and very hearty. But that chicken, that's one of my favorite dishes. That and the chicken Shashlik, but that's only available certain days." Obviously he knew something about the food at this particular restaurant. He lifted his hand from the wheel of his chair and held the warped and twisted, bony fingers out toward me to shake my hand. Rheumatoid arthritis had set in several years previously. I gingerly but firmly took his hand to introduce myself. "What is your name, my dear?" He had a way of looking straight through a soul.

"Amanda. And you are?"

"I'm just a bum," he chuckled gleefully. "A bum named Marco." The server came out and asked him something in what I could only assume was Russian before he responded with a good-natured "Da." He turned his attention back to me and bowed his head slightly. "I'll excuse myself now so you can enjoy your meal. My head chef needs some help in the kitchen." He began to wheel himself backward a few turns. "I own this dump." And like that, he was gone. I didn't see him again until I'd finished eating my dinner and was so full I could barely move when Marco came back out, followed closely by the waitress who was carrying something that looked sweet and delicious.

"You must try my 8 layer honey cake before you go," he insisted, not already knowing my penchant for sweets. "I'm thinking of putting it on the menu but I need an honest opinion first."

Of course I ate the entire piece of cake and cooed over the texture and taste. It was remarkable. It was a perfect representation of Marco himself - delicate, but strong, inherently sweet, and left me with a good taste in my mouth, wanting more of the same.

Marco has been a friend of mine ever since. He's seen my life take on many changes and he (until recently) met and had to 'approve of' just about every man I dated from the day I met him. I miss Marco. I miss his borscht, his chakobile, his shashlik, his honey cake and his smile. But most of all I miss his wit, his charm, his personality and his stories. Marco is a remarkable human being. I know he won't be around much longer and that breaks my heart. Marco remains in my contact list on my phone as "Marco the Bum," just as he instructed I do before I left that night.

I wish I could somehow cook a birthday dinner for you, my missing friend. I guess in a way I am; I'm just eating it alone.

Tonight I sing!

There I was dressed in a dropped waist red velvet dress my mother had made, standing before 300 parents who'd come to hear their angels sing.  There I stood with the bright red bow causing my scalp to itch, and knowing that if I scratched my head it would draw attention to me.  There I cowered in front of the mic, having practiced my solo for MONTHS, knowing it inside and out.  There was my mother in the back of the room, beaming proudly at the shapeless 7 year old lump she'd dressed in her red dropped waist creation with a white crochet collar.  There was the entire school in attendance staring at me as I stood on the stage at the very front of the lunch room, ready to sing some Hanukkah song I'd never heard of before that school year. I looked and felt like I belonged on Santa's workshop floor painting toy cars, and here all these people expected me to sing instead.

I stepped up to the mic, and out of nowhere an angelic voice echoed through the halls of the school.  I froze.  That wasn't my voice.  That was the girl NEXT to me.  It had always been intended as a duet with the two of us opening the song together, but she was often a rather sick child (she had leukemia) and usually missed practice.  She said she wasn't going to sing.  She said she was going to let ME sing and she would mouth the words along beside me.  The roles had reversed in a split second.  I mouthed along beside her.  I swore it was a secret I would never tell.  That day, as I stood to give the performance of my short lifetime, I CHOKED.

I've looked back on that day many, many, MANY nights.  I often wonder if things would have been different had I been brave enough to actually sing beside her that day instead of fading into the background and letting her take center stage.  Would I have obtained better self esteem? Would I have done better in school?  Would she have turned out to be my best friend after that for several years?  Probably not.  Yet it's one of my earliest and very first regrets.  I regret not actually singing that day.  In the back of my mind I've always vowed to make up for that somehow.  But I always knew the next time would be different.

The next time, you see, I wouldn't be wearing a drop waist red velvet Santa's Helper dress my mommy had made.  I wouldn't have a short-bob haircut, crooked buck teeth or a bow that itched.  I wouldn't be standing in front of parents and I wouldn't have to share the mic with anyone else.  I had it in my head at 7 years old that the NEXT time, I would look like a princess.  I'd be beautifully dressed from head to toe, with some elaborate hairstyle and simply dripping with jewelry.  I would sing every note pitch perfect.  I've have a small, intimate audience, and someone out  there would be smiling at me.  That someone would be the person I'd be singing to.  The rest of the audience would fade away into the background and nothing else on earth would exist for  those three minutes.

That day has finally come.  Tonight is the night.  And though in some regard it may sound like I'm putting too much pressure on myself, I'm really not.  Remembering that backstory is actually providing me with the strength I need.  I'm prepared because I know what to expect of me and what I expect of the world.  If three people clap I'll see it as a success.  But no matter what, tonight I will get up there and finally have my solo.  It's been 30 years I've waited for this moment.  Good or not. I will SHINE.

Breakfast at Seppe's

<B>Breakfast at Seppe's</B>

Chapter One.

(Written on August 11, 2010)

As I stood looking at the lovely expensive handbags and dresses on the other side of the reflective window pane, I began thinking about the unexpected twists my life had taken in only a six month period. It hadn't been so very long ago that I would have been able to purchase anything I wanted from the designer boutique. My pockes were empty right then though. There was very little I could do to fix that at the moment. I sipped my coffee and took another nibble of my pumpkin bread before deciding I was full. I pulled my last cigarette from my jacket pocket and slid my finger over the grooved edge of my lighter, bringing it to life. The reaching flame was the brightest light around in that few moments before the sun peaked over the hills surrounding the outdoor shopping center. I marveled at the simplicity and beauty of the flame as it slowly turned the end of the tabacco into a glowing ember. 

So I was back. I said I would be back, but somewhere deep inside I don't think I ever truly believed it myself. One bad relationship after another had plagued my life as long as I could remember and yet I stood looking at dresses I could not afford as a single woman, no attachments or lovers. It was a first in a long time. Why was I so miserable then? And yet I was so contented. I had learned to accept my fate, whatever it was determined to be. Right then I knew I was ok. I didn't know what lay in store from one day to the next and that thought frighened me, but for right then I was ok. 

The sun broke over the hill, warm and inviting even through the Palos Verdes summer fog. I unzipped my jacket and took a long pull of the fragrant tobacco, breathing the bitter fumes. The thin leopard print belt in the window was nice, but I just couldn't understand why someone would think it looked nice on a neon purple dress. Yuck. 

I moved on to the next window, sipping my coffee in deep though. The shoes lined up in the window all had the brand name Seppe in the soles. What a glorious name, Seppe. It just made me want to slide my feet into a pair of the beautiful aligator stilletos. The name made it sound like I would be stepping into a cloud, a breath of air, light and fulfilling. I had always loved looking into the shop windows at Seppe. When I was feeling down and out, sometimes it was the only thing that could make me smile again. 

I jumped a little when I heard my coworkers voice so close behind me. "So did you find a place to stay?" His concerned face watched me in earnest interest. I barely knew this guy and yet he knew so much about me. 

"Oh yeah. It all worked out. I mean, its weird, but it works. I'm going to stay there with him as a roommate. That's why I am working so much overtime right now. Rent is due soon." I sighed. I didn't want to think about it right then. I had worked several twelve hour shifts that week so far, and with the hour drive to and from work, it didn't leave me with a lot of time to sleep. Waking up at two in the morning was killing me. The situation I found myself living in was taking an even harsher toll on my mental state. 

"See," he said, "I told you. Things always work out for the best." I sighed again at his words. I wondered inwardly who it was really best for, if it was best for anyone at all. I smiled. 

"Sure does, Robert.. You were right." I pondered over my own words a moment. Had I said that for his benefit or my own? 

Robert walked on, continuing the monrning patrol, and I turned to look in the window once more at a pair of red patent stilletos I had my eye on for a few weeks. The sun had come out enough to have the glass reflect my own image back at me. I looked pale and tired. I almost didn't recognize myself standing there in my guard uniform. Slowly I reached a hand up to straighten my short red hair and examine the dark circles under my eyes. I stamped out my cigarette, disgusted at myself for smoking, and walked on again to the next set of windows. Slowly thoughts of David filtered into my resistant mind. 

(written entirely on my cell phone) 

Cheryl Baker

Cheryl Baker was the teacher of a special needs class - and the year I broke my foot I couldn't participate in gym class. At first I was overjoyed at the lack of gym, but when I was informed that they would be putting me into the special needs class instead I threw a fit.  I might have been temporarily handicapped, but I was anything but special needs.  My crutches and determination meant I didn't even need a ramp to get up the steps to the school. Why in the world would they put me in the special needs class?  The stigma that was sure to accompany my being placed into that class would destroy what little reputation I had gained in the year since moving there.  I longed to be one of the cool kids.  I'd never be a cool kid if they put me in a class with "retards" I thought.  It was an unfair way of thinking but I was a selfish 14 year old kid and I didn't care.  My reputation at that point meant everything to me.  
The teacher was overwhelmed.  Cheryl Baker was her name, and all the students loved her.  The degree of special needs varied widely from children who had been diagnosed with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder to severe physical handicap disabilities rendering the children incapable of feeding themselves or even eating solid foods. My mother had this phobia of people grinding their  teeth.  Through her panic attacks when it would occur, she passed that deep seeded hatred of the noise on to me.  Mandy, one particular little girl who was fed through a tube and would never be able to stand on her own or form a sentence had a never ending habit of grinding her teeth.  At the time, I went by Mandy because that's what my family had always called me. I instantly hated the name and, though I'd decided years before to go by "Amanda" at school, at home I hadn't quite enforced it yet.  That day it all changed and I began to correct them when they called me Mandy.  I didn't want that kind of commonality. 

Ms Baker told me one day that she didn't need assistance with the others nearly as much as she did with Mandy, who thrived on one-on-one attention.  She loved stories being read or told to her, but it was a slight struggle since she was so low to the floor and I was in a chair because of my broken leg, and the other students would be easily distracted by my reading out loud.  I had to keep my voice low enough to not distract them but loud enough for Mandy to hear me.  I was a 13 year old self-centered brat.  I had no idea what that meant.  She couldn't even eat real food. She had a tube to her stomach and she ground her teeth so loud you could hear it from the hallway outside.  Would she even hear me reading? Would she care?  I could read to her from a math book, I thought, and she wouldn't ever know the difference.  Looking back I know how heartless I was those first few weeks.  

"She likes Greek mythology best it seems," Ms Baker told me after a few days.  

"And how can you tell," I sneered down my nose at what I had instantly deemed to be a helpless invalid.  There was no distinguishable expression on her face.  Her eyes remained closed as she laid, propped up, in her beanbag chair with the never ending tube feeding a yellowish sludge straight to her stomach.  

"You can tell if you pay attention," she replied with kindness and patience.  I thought for a moment about what she said and I remembered one of my own very favorite books from my youth written by author Bill Wallace called "Trapped in Death Cave" and decided to see if I could get a reaction from her.  I was as slow reader - painfully slow and shy.  My reading out loud was cramped and stilted.  I brought in that favorite book the following day and I began the way most books do, with chapter one.  I had no idea if she would ever understand what I was reading to her or if she'd be better with the Little Train Who Could, but I didn't care.  If I was going to have to read for an entire hour, nonstop, every single weekday for an entire half of a school year, it was going to be something that I enjoyed.  I wasn't interested in mythology.  She wasn't exactly going to complain.  

By the time I finished reading that book an entire week had passed.  I was still a painfully slow reader, but Mandy had almost seemed to brighten up a time or two.  It was difficult to figure out what she was reacting to, and I really knew very little about her so it was hard to tell if she was really reacting to me at all or if she was reacting to being cold or hot or confused or even gassy.  Her closed eyes would roll under the eyelids and the corner of her mouth twitched. She even let out a little shout at one of the most suspenseful parts.  I had no way of knowing if the two were related, but it intrigued me.  I was willing to try again and see if I could get more reactions out of her.  It was a great book, and it was one I'd robbed from my brothers room and I needed to return before he noticed it was missing.  I wondered to myself the rest of the afternoon what I should bring to read the following day that might get a reaction from her.  I pondered, and went to browse the library.  When I settled on a book of ghost stories, I wondered if perhaps I was crossing the line.  Would I give her nightmares, or would she not understand what I was reading? Those were the only two ways it could go in my mind.

She started to really almost lean in as I was reading to her after that.  She even got to where she would smile when I walked in the room and said hello to her.  I began to see reactions from her - from the mild to the extreme.  During one particular story she shouted at the most frightening part, talking about the encounter one woman claimed to have with an evil spirit in her mother's basement.  That day I put the book down and didn't pick it up again.  I returned it to the library afterward and I switched to more of my childhood favorites, the Three Investigators.  She lit up every time I would mention one of the boys and I could really start to read her emotions.  Finally, when given an interesting project in my English class that overlapped with a history project. I decided to have all three classes bleed together.  At long last, I brought a book of nothing but Greek Mythology to Mandy.  How she lit up!  Each time I mentioned Zeus or Hera she almost cried out from joy.  Hercules was obviously her hero, though she was deeply fond of Achilles as well.  The Odyssey was a great joy for her.  

When I finally came out of my cast I was told I could go participate in gym class. They reassigned me immediately and I was no longer allowed to read to Mandy.  I have to word it that way because I'd learned to LOVE reading to Mandy and my reading skills had improved vastly.  I begged for them to leave me in that class for the remainder of the semester.  I cried the day I had to leave Mandy.  I never went back to using that name even after that because I simply didn't deserve to share the name with such a remarkable young lady.  I was ashamed of myself for ever having felt the exact opposite about the name simply based on someone I didn't even know.  

Through it all, more than anything, I learned.  Mandy taught me so much more than anyone else that year.  I learned Greek Mythology.I learned about people with disabilities and their varying degrees.  I learned compassion.  I learned patience.  I learned humility.  I learned true kindness.  I learned how to make someone happy.  I learned how to read emotions. I learned Cheryl Baker was one of the most generous, loving people I'd ever met. 

And today I learned that Cheryl Baker was just murdered in Idaho.

Midnight on the Bridge - writing exercise

"Midnight. On the bridge. Come alone." She laughed. It was just his style to make it sound like a ransom note or random trade off when really it was something they'd planned months before. Of course she would be alone. Of course she would meet him on the bridge. Of course she'd be there at midnight. It was the plan all along. She snatched the note off of the windshield of her car and stuffed it into her purse. She still needed to finish getting ready, and there was so much to do! Margaret jumped behind the wheel of the car and took off at lightening speed down the lane and taking the corner on nearly two wheels. She wasn't expecting to have to work that late. Margaret threw open the door to her spacious apartment and raced up the stairs to her bedroom. Her closet door was half open already and one of her satin high heels was poking through the open space, hinting at that being the reason it hadn't closed behind her in the morning. That too was flung open with a mighty force and the delicate clothes within fluttered from the force of air rushing outward. She snatched down the closest hanger and pushed the shoulders of the dress to either side. The delicate material landed in a pile on the floor. She hurriedly slipped it over her head and shimmied until everything was fitting exactly as it should, tugging here and there as she went. Then she slipped into the shoes that had barred the door from closing all the way. In a near panic, she stuffed the ends of tissues around the neck opening. Out came the lipstick, dark eye shadow, mascara and blush. She glanced at the clock. 11pm already. She had to leave or she was going to be late! She raced back down and through her front door, back out to her car - not yet cooled down. She threw the car into drive and again went bouncing down the lane heading for her midnight destination and the man waiting for her there. The little car trundled and bounced down the dirt road. The lack of a roof caused her hair to blow this way and that, and for a moment she wondered what it would look like when she finally got to her destination almost an hour later after winding around the back roads through the tall cedars of Big Sur, California. A scarf tied over her hair held it together slightly better against the wind, Her mother hated that she'd grown her hair out so long, convinced it was merely a fad, like prohibition had been for the previous 13 years. Surely her mother would say something about her hair if she could see her right that moment. Finally she pulled up to a quiet place in the woods and leaped from her car. Her satin slippers hit the dirt pathway and barely caught before she was taking off at a dead run. Through the woods she bolted, hoping against hope that she'd made it on time. She rounded one last corner and there he stood, waiting for her, looking someone impatiently at his pocket watch. He was standing on the middle of the bridge just like she'd expected. "There you are," he shouted. "You're almost late!" "I know. I had to work late. I got your note though." "You got my note and you were still almost late? You look beautiful by the way. Let's go." She linked her arm through his and the pair crossed the bridge together. She smiled up at him, excited for what was to come, knowing full well that neither of them would have dry eyes in less than a minute. Just then he reached up with his free hand to wipe away a tear. He caught her staring up at him and smiled down. "What? It's not every day a father gets to walk his daughter down the aisle, you know." "I know." She smiled. As they rounded the corner heading deeper into the woods, she spotted a familiar face. As planned, her mother held out a small bouquet of white lilies that Margaret clutched close to her chest. It would be bleak for some time, she knew. But the economy would recover someday. She'd have her chance to make a happy home.

Are You Leaving?

You stuck with me through it all,
The move, the upheaval, the divorce.
You were there, never faltering,
Faithful and never wavering.
Yet as things got better,
You sent me away.

I sit here thinking to myself
"What did I do to him?"
I blame myself, even though
You've clearly said I shouldn't.
I did this to you, I know.
I killed your spirit.  Me.

Now you need time away from me
Just when I need you most.
This upheaval isn't complete yet
And you're no longer there.
I'm slipping down the well
Without a lifeline.

I pour myself into my work now,
For more than the simple reasons.
I need the money, I need the distraction,
But I need something to take your place.
I have friends.  Plenty of them.
But you're too distant for me to feel you are one.

I'm isolated, abandoned, alone
In a world still new to me.
You can't be my everything, I know.
But I have so little else.
No family, few local friends,
Even fewer I can trust.  

You're not my everything,
And I'll manage to prove that to you.
No, I have my jobs, my cats, my bills.
I have things that drag me down.
But so few to lift me up,
And now I feel you're gone too.

I may never get you back.
It's a reality I must face.
I'm brave enough to face it alone,
I just wasn't expecting to.
And yet...
I was.

Spam Diary

And the sentence is: "Screw world peace I want a pony."

Screw world peace, I want a pony. I've always wanted a pony. When I was 8 my mother told my father she wanted a Great Dane so she could ride it home when she got tired of walking it. I've evolved past that now.  I just want a pony. Don't get me wrong, I loved my great dane, and was actually small enough to ride her, even though I never did.  Instead I'd strap wheels to my feet in the style of inline skates and snap a leash on her collar.  She pulled me all over town!  I loved that feeling of freedom.

Years later I got a convertible because I wanted to feel the wind in my hair, thanks to some horses and four wheels under me.  Every car I had after that has been a convertible until the one I have now.  How I long to feel the wind in my hair again.  How I wish I could have a dog  the size of a horse pulling me along, gripping to a canvas line for all I'm worth.  What I'd give to be able to drop the top on a convertible again, tie a scarf over my head and disappear down a scenic drive.  How I long for something new. 

I don't want to save the world or be beautiful.  I don't want fame and fortune.  I don't want some Prince Charming with white knight syndrome try to swoop in and save me.  I don't even want world peace.  I simply want something far more attainable and realistic.  A pony is cheaper than plastic surgery, and a lot safer than trying to establish world peace.  Screw world peace.  I want a pony.

Butterfly Obsession

I've wanted to tell this story for quite some time.  Tonight feels like the right time.

When I was on my very last day of Kindergarten, the teachers all took us to an organized field day.  There were different activities we could participate in, from rolling painted marbles around in shoe boxes to make colorful abstract art to bobbing for apples.  Some of the activities took longer than others, so eventually there formed a spot for stalling the students.  I remember clearly as my group reached the "stall for more time" location and the teacher on duty there would have us sit in the Duck-Duck-Goose circle.  When we grew tired of playing that silly game, or when someone decided to throw a fit over being picked one too many times, the game ended and the teacher struggled to come up with a new activity. 

"Ok, Children, I'm going to go around the circle and ask each of you what you want to be when you grow up.  Remember, you can be anything you want to be.  You can be a fireman, a doctor, a lawyer, whatever you like.  I'll start here with you." She pointed to a little girl about twice my size (I was small for my age) with blonde hair.  I'm sure her family would've been proud when she responded that she wanted to be a nurse like her mommy.  The next kid said he wanted to be a fireman, another would be a lawyer.  On and on it went until finally the teacher got to me. 

"And what would you like to be," she asked of me.  I'd thought about it for the entire time I waited on other children to answer.  I knew from the first second she posed the question what my answer would be. 

"A butterfly."

She stared at me, rather shocked.  "You can't be a butterfly."  I stared back at her and began to cry.

"But you said I could be anything!"

"You don't understand," she started to explain.  "I meant as a job.  Would you want to be a doctor or a police officer?"

"No," I wailed.  "I wanna be a butterfly!"

"Ok," she finally relented.  "Maybe someday you can wear a butterfly costume for Halloween and be a butterfly for a day." I was more determined than ever to prove her wrong after that statement.

Years went by where I grew up believing I was ugly, stupid and trapped in a perpetual "awkward stage" I would never outgrow where I looked too much like an aunt my mother didn't like for her to ever be really happy with my appearance.  I grew a thick skin after years of being told how ugly I was when I cried, but never learned how to look anyone in the eye when I shed tears.  My sense of humor developed into a witty sarcasm, often misunderstood but mostly laughed at.  It was one of very few positive attributes I had, according to my parents.  I was proud of that.  Yet I still remained within my protective shell.  My humor was my mask that I had successfully learned to hide behind.  I didn't know what I wanted to be when I became an adult, though I had dreams of being an actress, a model, a writer and an artist.  I knew I wasn't good enough to do any of those things, so they would never be anything more than dreams. 

Then I became a model at 17 years old for a back to school fashion show.  It started a series of events, leading me to miraculous events I never imagined would happen to me.  I became an actress by mistake at 24 years old.  I started to actually sell custom artwork in my early 20's also.  There were only two last childhood dreams to have come true.  I wanted to be a writer and I had to find a way to be a butterfly.  I knew I'd never be a butterfly so that idea just seemed silly, so I focused on being a writer.

Another random series of events led me to flight attendant interviews one day, and much to my own surprise, they hired me.  I'd finally grown out of my awkward stage at some point, and as I stood there looking in the mirror at my new Flight Attendant uniform, I realized I finally had my wings.  I had become that butterfly I told a teacher when I was only 4 that I would someday be.  She didn't believe in me.  Nobody did, really.  Not even me.  But I did it anyway.

A butterfly can not be helped out of is cocoon.  Any that have been helped by having the cocoon opened for them have died with their wings still rumpled around their bodies, stalled out before they ever take flight.  The pressure and stretching of the butterfly wings as it tries to escape the confines of the old comfort zone is what causes their wings to stretch; to grow in strength.  Every trial, every struggle, every pain, every horror and ever nightmare I've survived have caused my wings to grow in strength.  I've become bright, full of color and life, eager to go new places, explore life, laugh and truly live in ways others might never experience or imagine.  I may not have become a tiny insect with iridescent wings, but I certainly became a butterfly. 

Glass Houses

When I was 15 my father returned from the military.  He didn't want to be out of work but wasn't sure how to go about getting another job right away.  One of his retired friends had gotten a job at Sears in the tools department and would brag about the discounts on his Craftsman tools until my father finally decided that's where he would go.  Of course they hired him right away with his stellar military background.  I don't think my mother ever told him what she told me one day, but that's merely a guess since I don't talk to them any longer.  They haven't been a productive part of my life for too many years to count.  She had no friends to talk to - my father had been her whole life since she was 15 years old.  I was barely 15 myself at the time she confided in me, but looking back I realize I should have confronted him.  Someone needed to, and it sure wasn't going to be her.

"Come with me to Sears," she said to me one day when I got home from school.  It was the first half of the school year and I was still a fairly stable student with decent, average grades.  I was never really an A student, but I was bored, and I hated homework and taking notes.  I saw no reason to take notes, even though we were graded on them.  My brain retained the information well enough on its own.  My mother even tested that theory once in the lobby of a dentist office.  She held up slips of paper with x marks all over it for a few seconds and then would ask me to tell her how many marks were on the paper.  I would close my eyes and count what I had seen.  Once for the entire time she tested me did I not have the correct answer, but there were over a dozen marks on the paper and I had been given 3 seconds to look at it.  I didn't need notes to study from, I only needed to look at the information.  I simply needed to read the text book.  During tests, I could even flip to exactly what page the answer to a particular question was on and point to what part of the paragraph I'd seen it in.  I could do this with or without having the book.  I just needed to use my memory and close my eyes.  I had a damn near photographic memory.  What I'd give to have that sort of fantastic visual memory again - or just that vision in general.  (For those who don't know, I have rather severe sun damage to my eyes and my vision is beginning to fail.)

Anyway, I digress.  My mother asked me to go to Sears with her.  I was confused since I hadn't been asked if I'd done my homework yet.  The honest answer at 4pm that day would've been no.  Yet she didn't seem to care about that and I took complete advantage.  I was only so happy to jump into her Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo, Limited Edition.  It had a memorable scratch the full length of the side from the two of us taking it 4-wheeling along the river the first month she had it.  I loved that Jeep.  I loved who we had become that year as a family.  I'd talked them into even going to church with me.  I hadn't felt that close to them in years.  The whole way to Sears I reflected on how long it had been since my parents had gone to do something fun without taking me along, like going to dinner or a movie.  It had been months since either of them had screamed at me for something random, or I had been made to feel inferior for whatever reason arose on any given day.  It had been an unusually peaceful few months.  I was a fairly happy kid.  I was having a good childhood right then.

"I think your dad's been cheating on me," my mother blurted out once we turned into the Sears parking lot.  In six words, those few months of random, unusual household peace came tumbling in around me.  Six words became a wrecking ball, destroying those fragile glass walls I'd begun to build around a house of temporary stability.  It was gone.  Everything I had ever known about relationships had been destroyed.  "I don't have any proof," she continued, "but I saw him."

"What do you mean you saw him?"

"You can't say anything.  I mean to anyone.  Ever."  She stopped the Jeep at the far corner of the parking lot.  I knew without asking exactly why we were there.  I waited patiently for her to answer my question. 

"I came to bring him lunch the other day and I saw him walking some lady to her car.  I didn't want to interrupt him while he was working so I just waited.  But then she got into the drivers seat and he was leaned over in her car in the open door for an awfully long time.  I couldn't see exactly what he was doing but it doesn't take a lot of brains to figure it out."  I looked at her fighting back the tears in her eyes.  They had met when my mother was 15 and my dad was 20.  He was her entire adult life and a good chunk of her childhood.  How could he do that to her?  Why would he cheat on someone who had devoted their entire life to him?  But behind the tears, behind the sadness, I saw fear.  What would happen to her life without him?

"What does she drive," I asked.  She didn't have the strength to do this alone, I knew.  She had only had my father to turn to before.  Now that she felt betrayed, she had notbody left but her own 15 year old child. 

"It's a silver 80's Camaro I think.  I was too upset to look too closely.  But we are on a stake out.  You know those mystery shows you like, like Colombo and Murder She Wrote?  I probably shouldn't have told you all of this."  Her dialogue was as scattered as her thoughts.  I felt horrible for my mother.  I wanted so badly to take the pain away from her; to shoulder it all myself.  NOBODY deserved the pain she felt in that moment.

"It's ok, Mom.  I won't tell anyone."

" I know," she smiled through the pain.  "But I don't want this to change how you see your father."

"It wont," I lied.  Any respect he had gained over our few peaceful months at home vanished with the gut punch of a shattered idea - and though they never divorced, I vowed that day to do all I could to make that happen. 

What role models had I been left with?  My mother, cruel with words, was too fearful to stand up for herself against a cheating spouse.  My father, cruel with his hands, was too cowardly to remain faithful.  It was around that time I received the letter from church asking for more money from me.  Faith in my family, faith in my church and faith in myself faltered.  I broke that day, watching my mother trying not to cry, terrified of being without a cheating husband. 

All my life I thought I wanted a relationship like theirs, until that day.  My eyes were opened. Their marriage wasn't built on love, trust and understanding.  It was built on lies, cheating and a fear of life alone.  Yet, more than once, that was exactly what I ended up having for myself.  For years I blamed it on them.  But really, it was all on me.  I was simply emulating the example set before me.  No matter how hard i consciously fought against it, subconsciously I felt it was normal.  That's how life was supposed to be.  If my mother didn't deserve more than that, why should I?

We sat in the Jeep for hours that day.  I never saw that Jeep or my father the same way again. 

I never gained any respect for my father after that.  I don't believe I ever tried or even wanted to.  But no matter how many times they hurt me over the years I held my promised silence.  I was a child as torn as their bond of marriage, because no matter how angry I ever was, I still loved them both.  I still do.  That was the deepest wound dealt that day.  How was a child of 15 supposed to love people who constantly hurt and manipulate the people they were supposed to love?  In many ways I wonder if so many issues I have with them even now stem from that moment. 

I'm breaking my silence only now because I've come to the understanding that this was too much for a 15 year old child to contain, and it never should have been asked in the first place.  I also break my silence now in hopes that, even if I'm not a part of their lives, they may finally open a dialogue about that summer of 1995 so that they might begin healing after 22 years of what has surely been painful for them both.  I wish them well, I wish them luck, and I wish them love. 

Just don't bring me back into the middle of it all again.  It's not the place of your children, no matter their age, to be your marriage counselor.