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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Paths to Power, Chapt. 2

Chapter 2

The stench of death was heavy in the air as Kian O’Riley made his way through the crowd of spectators, cops and reporters huddled in the dark alley. There wasn’t a large crowd at 2 a.m. Still, the less publicity this particular case received the better. Kian towered over the crowd, his 6’6” frame held an authority he didn’t always feel, but at least it got people out of his way. He ran his hand through his thick brown hair in frustration. This morning he’d found a few grey hairs. At 27-years-old this job was already aging him. He shivered, though it was a relatively warm August night. Warm for Washington that was. He zipped his leather jacket, running a hand over his S&W 40. Not that he’d need it. Just made him feel better knowing it was there.

“Detective, over here,” a young rookie cop waved. Kian couldn’t remember his name. He was forgetting a lot of stuff lately. He’d be worried, if he had time for that sort of thing. Fortunately, he didn’t.

“What’ve we got?” Kian asked, knowing the answer. The body was already covered. Didn’t matter. He could sense what happened. The pain and agony this victim had endured before death. He could sense it, he just couldn’t stop it. What a crock! He thought. What’s the point of knowing things others didn’t if it didn’t make a damn bit of difference?

Usually his ‘instincts’ lead to a higher arrest and conviction rate, thus his unusually fast rise in the ranks. This case was the exception, and was quickly becoming the albatross around his neck, and a pain in the ass to boot. He was sure he could think of a few more overused figures of speech if pushed. Oh yeah, this case pushed all his buttons too. He almost grinned at his own stupid sense of humor, almost.

“Looks like the ‘Bar Hopper’ struck again,” the young cop said. Kian glanced at his uniform. ‘Kendell’ was his name. Now he remembered. John Kendell.

“Don’t call him that,” Kian snapped, narrowing his blue eyes at the cop. He hated that name. That’s the only connection any of the victims had, that they had recently been to a bar. The press of course had jumped all over it.

“Sorry,” Kendell said as he walked away muttering under his breath.
Kian stopped him, his face hard and angry. The pounding music from the bar in the background was grating his nerves. Weren’t they supposed to be closed by now?

“Get that bar to shut off that damn music and hold everyone for questioning,” he barked before returning his attention to the girl, err…body, in front of him. Best not think of her as a person. He’d never sleep. Not that he did much of that anyways.
Kian knew he had a reputation for the weird, and that he seemed unapproachable by most. He didn’t care. He got the job done. Usually. He seemed to be amending a lot of his self-reflective statements lately. That probably had some meaning. He didn’t care. Sighing, he prepared himself for what he knew was coming. The black tarp taunted him as he slowly pulled it up, revealing the body lying motionless underneath.

“Tell me what you’ve got so far,” Kian said to the Medical Examiner who had arrived before him.
“Female. Late 20s. Died somewhere between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. No visual signs of attack. Won’t know more ‘til I get her on my table. But, you know as well as I do what I’m going to find,” Dr. Sheraton said bitterly. He was as frustrated by this as the rest of the department.

Kian nodded. He did indeed know. All organs would be healthy. No major health conditions, no trauma, no drugs, no obvious or even subtle signs of death. Just alcohol. But not enough to cause this. The victims, all five of them, now six, just stopped living. There was no explanation. At least none that medical science could propose. Kian had his suspicions, but knew he couldn’t voice them.

He looked at the victim. An average looking girl with dull brown hair and uneven features. No one who would stand out. Lying there she looked almost asleep. Except for the rigid stillness of her body, the utter paleness of her skin and the scent. Oh yes, the scent. It’s the first thing they noticed.

The body had not decomposed. No time. But it smelled as if it had been left in the humid forest for weeks, decaying and rotting. Like death, which most people didn’t realize smelled like a combination of sweat, piss, shit and body odor. Sometimes decaying flesh. It’s probably a good thing most people don’t know that, Kian thought. And there was one other detail that had not been released to the press and was being treated as a closely guarded secret, mostly because the rest of the department had no logical explanation for what was happening and therefore didn’t want to talk about it. Whenever a victim was found, all natural life form around the victim (plants, trees, flowers, grass) was dead. Not naturally dead, but withered overnight. Even the alleys in Washington had their share of nature.

Kian covered the latest victim, fighting the familiar headache this case inevitably brought him. A breeze raised the plastic, floating a sweet scent of perfume to his nose. He frowned and looked more closely at the body. Leaning down he inhaled deeply, preparing himself for the onslaught of stench he’d come to expect. He could see other cops looking at him quizzically. Let them think what they want. Closing his eyes, he waited for the olfactory attack. None came. Just a sweet, light smell. A normal girl perfume smell. That didn’t make sense. Why would the crime scene stink of death if the victim smelled so…so alive? He wondered. He made a note to include this in his report. Not that it would make a difference. He was sure it wouldn’t. But it might help him figure out what was doing this.

His partner, Detective Sal Bruns, ambled over, his large belly hanging over his belt.

“Nice of you to join us,” Kian muttered with some disdain.

“Sure thing,” Bruns replied lightly, as if he was doing the department some huge favor by doing his damn job.

Kian sighed and filled him in on what he knew.

“So, super cop, what ‘er yer extra senses tellin’ ya about this? Is it a monster? The boogeyman? Maybe a demon?”

Bruns’ wisecracks were so old that Kian didn’t even flinch. Though inside he was thinking through the possibilities. Was this a demon? Or some kind of otherworldly monster? He had some suspicions, but he hoped he was wrong. Because if he was right, these victims suffered more than even he realized. If he was right, they’d had their souls ripped right out of them. And if he was right, there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it.

As senior partner, he sent Bruns into the bar to conduct the interviews while he examined the parameters of the crime scene, looking for anything new that might give them a fighting chance against this monster.

After several minutes of searching, he was about to give up when something caught his eye. A large black feather stuck in a dead bush near the girl’s body. He searched his memory, trying to recall any other feathers found at the scene. He couldn’t remember, though he was sure none had been entered into evidence. He’d gone through those evidence boxes so many times he had it all memorized. Still, his gut told him this was significant, and he never ignored his gut. Taking out an evidence bag and slipping a glove onto one of his hands he plucked the feather out of the brown, dead leaves and dropped it into the bag. He examined it, looking for any reasons this feather would stand out. Nothing visible presented itself, but he did feel something ‘off’ about it. On instinct, he sniffed the bag and nearly gagged. The scent of decay and death was stronger than ever. He knew the smell of death well, and this feather reeked of it.

Hmmm… he thought, this might finally be a clue I could use. Now to get it to the lab to determine what kind of bird it came from. With the smallest seed of hope, Kian released the body to the ME’s office and headed back to the station to write up his report. He also needed to get to his computer to check on something. He had a thought building in the back of his mind but he needed to do some research before he could be sure. A ball of fear formed in his gut, confirming viscerally his worst fear. He would try to prove himself wrong. He had to. Kian would not accept defeat, and if he was right, that’s exactly what it would be.

All work copyrighted by KA Kinrade 2008

Friday, January 30, 2009

Cutting The Ties That Bind

Sometimes we hold on when we shouldn't. We stubbornly refuse to acknowledge when something or someone has served its purpose in our life, and we in theirs, and the ties must be severed. This can be a 'gentle passing in the night', or more of a 'claws of death tearing us apart' kind of experience. More often than not it is the latter.

Why can't we walk away when it is time? Do we fear the unknown so much that we would willingly subject ourselves to abuse, misery and misfortune just to remain in the familiar? I'm afraid so.

Last year I created an intent for my life. "To live my authentic self organized by the high math of love." And this last year has been quite an adventure. Never did I imagine that by committing these words to my universe I would be opening up Pandora's Box. I have been besieged by all manner of heart ache and pain in attempting to live true to this intent.

And now, I am learning to cut the ties that have bound me to abuse, misery and misfortune. To walk away, head held high, knowing it is not just OK, but fully right and necessary to take care of myself and my children in the best way possible. To insist that my life be filled with love, that the people in my life be of like-mind and intention. This is much easier said than done.

This is not just a one time action that I can then wash my hands of and move on. Oh no, it couldn't be that simple, where's the fun in that? No, this is the kind of action that requires minute by minute choices. Hard choices. Messy choices. Painful choices. Choices with consequences. Choices that make me want to crawl under a rock and hide. Choices that leave me breathless, changed, transformed into someone that maybe someday will more closely resemble that which I strive to be.

In the meantime, I keep cutting, and I endure the bleeding and pain as I release my hold on the familiar and branch out into the unknown of my authentic self.

The End

I just finished reading to my children "The Last Battle," by C.S. Lewis. It is the last book in the Narnia series, one of my all time favorite set of books ever. I've read this book several times, and finished reading it this time several hours ago. I'm still a blubbering mess.

What is it about endings that tear us up inside? This book is not only the end of the series, but is the end of Narnia as we grow to know it. It is the darkest and saddest of all the Narnia books. I cried many times while reading it to my children.

Endings are a part of this world. They are inevitable. Everything ends given time. Jobs. Beauty. Great stories. Great sex. Marriages. Lives.

There is a Buddhist story about a great King who struggled with depression and anxiety. He called upon a very famous wise man to help him resolve this difficulty. The King offered him anything he desired if only a cure could be found. The wise man said "Even your entire kingdom would not be enough, so I shall do it as a gift." The next day the wise man came back with a very finely carved box of jade. In it was a golden ring inscribed with the words "This too shall pass." "What is this?" the King asked. "Whenever you feel anxious or depressed, look at this ring and remember that this too shall pass. Nothing lasts forever." The King thought for a moment and asked, "But what about joyful moments? How will this bring me comfort during those times?" The wise man replied "Those too shall pass. It is only in knowing this that you can achieve happiness in all circumstances."

This too shall pass.

Everything ends except what really matters. Our souls, our connection to the Divine. What ends isn't really real anyways. What is truly Real lasts forever. Like Aslan's country. The Real Narnia. The Real London. He refers to Plato's idea of reality. This is all a shadow, a copy of the Real thing. The True thing. We live in the Shadowlands.

But as I look around my world, it seems so real. The illusion is so convincing. I attach myself to this illusion and find pain and despair at the end of it. For no illusion can last. I despair over the seeming endlessness of despair and grasp firmly to the moment of joy, only to have those torn from my hands.

Eventually the sun will set for the last time and will never rise again. But it wasn't real. The friends of Narnia realized this. They saw that they loved Narnia only because it reminded them ever so slightly of the Real Narnia. Of Aslan's country. It wasn't Narnia they loved, but what it represented, though they didn't understand it at the time.

Now I don't necessarily agree with C.S. Lewis on all theological points, but he is a damn good writer. And he has a point about this. Am I perhaps so attached to the relationships I form in this life because of the ever-so-faint resemblance they might have to my connection to the Divine? Do I cling to this world in blindness because the brightness of Truth is too much for me to see?

When I was reading this book to my children, it was real and alive for us. We were drawn in and emotionally involved in the story and its outcome. (Obviously, if I'm still shedding tears over Jewel the Unicorn's death!) It's the willing suspension of disbelief...which is necessary for the success of any story, movie, book or play ever written.

However, I think we employ the same level of suspended disbelief in our "real" worlds. Because we then place our happiness, our joy and our future in the hands of these temporary and fleeting "realities." But, if we look closely, we just might find that this too is a story we are telling ourselves, and that the reality of Truth is so much greater and more glorious than our piddly imaginings have lead us to believe.

So, when we get to the end of something we hold dear, we might want to ask ourselves what we have lost. Have we really lost anything? Or do we just have an opportunity to remember what is Real? To remember that our connection to the Divine cannot be severed, and all else is silly nonsense.

The End....or maybe, The Beginning?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Paths to Power, Chapt. 1

PATHS TO POWER
by K.A. Kinrade

She was born to power—power that could destroy worlds. He was born to stop her, whatever the cost. They didn’t plan to fall in love. Will it save them…or lead to their foretold destruction?

In the Urban Fantasy Paths to Power, the very nature of good and evil is turned on its head as one woman struggles with duty, destiny, love and betrayal to discover the heart of her own power – and realizes that while magic isn’t everything, it sure does help.

Corinne Driscol believes her life is under control, if not perfect. She’s a martial arts champion with money, beauty, brains and the ability to see and talk to elemental beings. The power she feels deep inside her still causes pain and depression as she struggles with her inability to access it, but she’s coping. Everything unravels, however, the day her childhood cat, Mothball, magically appears in her Washington cottage after a two year absence. He bears gifts that begin to unlock her powers and shake the very foundation of the life she’s always known.

As a string of supernatural serial murders threatens her hometown, Corinne becomes involved with sexy Irish homicide detective Kian O’Riley. Things go from complicated to chaotic as Corinne is attacked, beaten up and nearly killed. Their potential love is further tested by prophesies that, unbeknownst to Corinne, have been dictating her life from the beginning. Will Corinne bring the end of the world, as Kian has always thought, or will she be the savior her mentor believes her to be? While maintaining the escapist excitement and archetypal magic that fantasy readers love, Paths to Power offers a new look at the oldest story ever written.

Kimberly@KAKinrade.com
www.KAKinrade.com
Publication date to be announced
All work copyrighted

This is a VERY rough draft of Chpt. 1, with more to follow. Enjoy.

Chapter 1

I never knew how IT got there. One moment the spot was empty, the next it was there.
Isn’t that the way of my crazy life? To always leave me wondering.

Things like this didn’t happen to others. I’d learned that the hard way. Raised by my aunt in Olympia, Washington, and attending a local Waldorf School, I’d always been surrounded by magic. I couldn’t do magic -- I'd tried, oh, how I'd tried -- but it was still a big part of my life, When I told kids and teachers at school that I could see fairies and spirits and that things sometimes appeared before me, they accepted that as par for the course. It was that kind of school. Unfortunately, not all the world met me with the same acceptance or grace. Go figure. So I learned to keep my mouth shut and tried to keep my eyes focused on what everyone else could see.

But it was 2 a.m. -- so much for getting a good night’s sleep -- and I was alone in the cottage I’d had built on our property once I came into my inheritance. I was allowed to be my crazy self. Besides, this was truly the most interesting thing I’d had appear in front of me ever. Which was saying something.

It was a cat. But not just any cat. It was Mothball, my cat from my childhood. My constant companion for years, who suddenly disappeared two years ago, never to be seen or heard from again. We’d spent months looking for this cat -- trips to the shelters, ads in the paper, posters everywhere and late night searches through nearby woods. Aunt Alana even used magic to track him. Nothing. No sign of him. We’d assumed he was dead. Such was my life.

Woe is me. Sometimes it bothered me a lot, being so down. I knew, objectively, I had much to be thankful for. I had everything I ever needed or wanted, or at least what my aunt thought I should need or want. I saw things others could only dream about seeing. Even my name, Corinne Callan Driscol, had power. Corinne means “fair maiden” in Gaelic; Callan is “powerful in battle” and Driscol, “from Wild Roses”. That was me. I led a charmed life by most people’s standards ... if you take out the whole disappearing parents thing. But even with charm there was pain. There’s always pain. It’s one of the four noble truths, according to the Buddha, though some days it didn’t feel all that noble to me.

I shook my head, dismissing the thoughts. Existential crises notwithstanding, I had a cat, MY cat, sitting on the oak table next to my small prayer altar, looking like a guardian angel with golden fir trimmed in white, and a strange pouch tied around his neck.

I could feel the familiar pull to unleash my own magic. The lingering anxiety that was a constant companion of mine receded as the piercing pain that accompanied my reach for power burned through my body. I closed my eyes and fought to reestablish the razor edge of balance between the two that kept me sane. Most of the time. Besides, no matter how hard I tried to reach my power, no matter how deep I went into myself, no matter how much pain I endured, I could never reach it. I could never use it. Once I even passed out from the pain while trying. It was futile. But if I didn’t try a little, the depression would overwhelm me. I looked at the faint white scars on my arms and cringed in shame at my one and only descent into that abyss. Never again. I’d gladly suffer the pain.

Once I had myself under control I refocused my attention on Mothball. He sat there quietly gazing at me with the same knowing expression I remembered with fondness. Always an unusual cat, Mothball seemed more human than catlike. He came when people called him, knew instinctively what I was feeling and what I needed from him, and had an intelligence in his yellow eyes I’ve never before or since seen in animals. But he couldn’t talk, and right now I needed answers.

Time to call Aunt Alana. She, too, was named for her most brilliant qualities – harmony and nobility. As an Anthropology major focusing on linguistics and storytelling; words, names and history held special meaning for me these days.

I grabbed my cell phone and hit the speed dial. There were two people in my life who knew things others couldn’t. But my lifelong friend Sylphy likely wouldn’t appreciate a call at 2 a.m. Aunt Alana, on the other hand, would be expecting it.

Ring. Ring. “Hello, Corinne,” said the voice of my dear aunt on the other line, not sounding the least bit tired. Yes, she'd been expecting it.

“Hi. How do you do that?” I asked for the umpteenth time. She didn't have caller ID. She didn't need it.

“Magic, my dear. I’m psychic.” The running family joke and catch-all answer to any question relating to the fantastical. Nor was she done being psychic. “I take it Mothball is back and is at this very moment confounding you with his presence at this unseemly hour of the morning.”

I sighed. “Yes, of course you know all about this, probably before I did. So tell me, what’s this about? Where’s he been? Why’s he back now?”

“Does it matter? You have your precious cat back." I blinked. That seemed a bit harsh. "You should be grateful! Are you coming by the house tomorrow after class? I’ll make your favorite lemonade and we can catch up. I’ve hardly seen you in weeks.”

“Nice change of subject. I know you know more than you’re letting on. Don’t think I’m going to let this go. And yes, I’ll come by tomorrow, but I’ve got a hectic schedule so I can’t stay long. Master Song is training me harder these days to prepare me for my next belt. Plus, I’ve been working on a big research project for school,” I said.

“Yes, well, I don’t see why you have to train so hard. You’re going to get yourself hurt if you push yourself too much. I just think…”

“Aunt Alana!” I said, cutting her off. The middle of the night was not the time for this conversation, if indeed there ever was such a time, but she didn't seem to get that. “I know you’re worried. But I’ll be fine. Now, I have to go get some sleep or I will be pushing myself too far, and you wouldn’t want that, would you?”

“No, I suppose not. I’ll see you tomorrow, you promise, right?”

“Yes, I promise. Good bye.”

“Night, dear." Yeah, right. I knew better than to hang up immediately. "Oh, wait." Inevitably. "I’ve been reading some terrible things in the news lately. People dying horrible deaths, and I see a very dark force around it. Be very careful. Something's come here that’s not normal.”

I’d read about the murders, but chalked it up to some wacko. That Aunt Alana was concerned bothered me. Yes, she was overprotective, but she wasn’t easily spooked.

“Okay, I’ll be extra careful. Good thing I’ve been training so hard. I’m in top shape,” I said, hoping against hope to end the argument once and for all.

“I just worry about you Corinne. You train all the time. You don’t have any friends. You never go out. It’s just not normal.”

I sighed. That was getting old real fast. “Aunt Alana, I’m happy. I like my life just the way it is. So, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“All right, dear. You’re right. It’s good that you’re so skilled and beautiful, I don’t just don’t want you to end up alone.” Like me.

The last two words hung silently in the air. She didn’t have to speak them, I knew. I softened my attitude, knowing she was just looking out for me. She must have been lonely, and scared that I’ll end up like her. I felt a familiar guilt return. It was my fault she was alone. She’d been forced to raise me when my parents…were killed. It couldn’t have been easy. I tried to remember that whenever her overbearing protectiveness got to me. Still, it’s time to cut the chords, I thought. If she was so lonely there was nothing holding her back from changing that.

“I won’t. Promise. Now good night.”

“Good night.”

I hung the phone up with more force than was absolutely necessary -- I'd wanted answers, not smothering overprotectiveness -- and stared at Mothball. I cursed; I'd forgotten to ask her about the pouch. Oh, well, there'd be time tomorrow. I wasn’t about to call her back and invite another lecture about my hectic schedule or empty social life. If she had her way, I’d quit my training entirely to become a ‘normal college student.’ Not likely.

“What do I do with you now?” I asked the cat, who stared at me without moving. “Not that I’m not thrilled to see you, but I’m really tired, I’m not a big fan of sleep deprivation, and I was REALLY pissed when you left!”

Mothball stared at me silently, as if waiting to see if I was finished. Finally, the cat gave a tiny meow, and my will collapsed. I picked up the big fur ball and held him close to my chest.
“Dang, you’ve gotten bigger. What’ve you been eating? Whatever. Gotta get some sleep. So, let’s see what you brought me.”

I untangled the pouch from around his neck and studied it carefully as I carried him to my bedroom. I threw Mothball on the bed and sat next to him. The pouch was made of a smooth white leather that appeared aged, but wasn’t stained or discolored at all. There were four amethyst beads, two on each side of the leather strips that tightened the bag. In the middle there was a silver design of a full moon in the center with a crescent moon on each side. I ran my finger over the moons and felt a shiver of recognition.

The design matched a unique birthmark I had on my right hip. How odd. The pouch had the look and feel of a medicine bag. Taking a breath, I opened it and gently poured the contents unto my purple comforter.

There were two items in the pouch. The first was a necklace. On a silver chain hung a heavy symbol that looked ancient and like nothing I had ever seen in any cultures I’d studied. It reminded me of a cross between hieroglyphs and Asian symbols, but even that didn’t fully explain what I was looking at.

The metal was thick and had a liquid quality to it, like melted silver. It was cool to the touch, and sent a shock through my body. I would have to have it analyzed to be sure, but I didn’t think this metal was found on Earth. Maybe it was made from some sort of meteorite? Regardless of its origins, I knew immediately that I needed to wear it. I took off the Ankh I occasionally wore and slipped this around my neck. I wasn’t at all prepared for what happened next.

Heat moved over my skin, like fire caressing me. I expected to feel burned, but instead felt a warmth seeping into me, causing my body to become jellylike. I had the fleeting thought that this must be what a Morphine overdose felt like. My breathing became labored and I struggled not to panic. I searched frantically for a spot in my mind that wasn’t racing. No such luck. Had to get out of my mind. I refocused my attention to my body, my breath, pulling in all the tricks I’d learned after years of meditation.

Then I screamed. A sharp tearing in my chest sent me back to panicking. I couldn’t breathe. I tried to claw at my neck in an effort to tear the necklace of me, but I couldn’t move. My ribs felt like the were cracking into tiny pieces, piercing my lungs in the process. I was sure I would die if I couldn’t get this blasted thing off my neck. I began to lose consciousness just as I felt my body split in two. Then nothing.

Was I awake or dreaming? I didn’t know. The pain was gone, but I wasn’t in my bedroom anymore. I was floating through rainbows of lights amidst a jet black sky. The lights entered me and floated through me. My body was gone. I was an expansion of all that was, is and will ever be. I was an expression of eternity. Freedom and power coursed through every aspect of my being. Power without pain. Joy without the shadows of depression. My heart soared. My soul breathed in the stillness of the night and rejoiced in the beauty.

When I opened my eyes I was struck by how dull and lifeless everything looked. My body, a body I had carefully trained to be lean, fast and skilled, felt like a lump of lead. My head was spinning with conflicting images and thoughts. I took a few deep breathes to steady myself nad tried to sit up. Mothball was next to me, lending me his warmth. I looked down at the necklace on my chest. It was warm against my chest and it glowed with a firelight that reminded me of my recent dream. Was it a dream?

I felt different. Unlocked, somehow, if that made any sense. The necklace had become a part of me. A power greater than I had ever felt surged into me. Like something was opening up inside of me, a crack forming where the wall blocking my power stood. I sat on my bed, closed my eyes and let this power flow completely through me. It wasn’t with the same intensity as I had experienced in the ethers, or wherever I’d been, but it was more power than I’d ever been able to feel before. I could almost imagine the very chemicals in my body reshaping themselves to accommodate this new presence.

As an experiment I tried to channel my power to the mug of cold tea left on my bedside table. I willed it to move. A small flare of pain surged through me, but nothing like I’d experienced before. However, the exercise was futile. Nothing happened. I didn’t know what to make of that, so I distracted myself with the remainder of the pouch. I picked it up nervously. I wasn’t sure I was ready for another adventure like that. But, I also wasn’t the patient type. I’d deal.

It was a small pillow of crushed herbs. The material was soft and thin, almost like gold silk. It looked as if it would disintegrate upon touch, but it was obviously more durable than that. I inhaled the scent carefully, not wanting to saturate myself with a rancid or unpleasant smell. The memory hit me with a force of emotion I’d never experienced. I was thrown to my bed and immediately transported.

“Mama, what’s this flower called?” Corinne asked as she pointed with her stubby 2-year-old fingers.

“That’s a ‘sangrisha,’ which is old tongue for sorrow.”

“Why’s it sad?” asked the tiny girl, full of wonder and blond curls, silver eyes big as saucers with the specks of blue reflecting the light in the air.

Her father approached from behind and lifted her off the ground, throwing her high into the sky. Her laughs and giggles were a contrast to the beautiful, sad flowers.

“They’re sad because they didn’t get to be your parents,” her father said as he set her back on the ground and held her little hand.

As her mother caught her other hand Corinne felt happy, safe and most of all loved.
The sun was setting, and Corinne saw three moons rising in the sky. One was full and two were crescents. Corinne loved the moons.

“Look, Mama, Daddy. Lunaria and her sisters are up! Can I say hi?”

“Of course, dear girl; the moons love you,” her mother assured her.

Corinne dropped their hands and clasped hers together before her chest. Raising them in prayer, she sang out a single note into the sky. Her voice was hauntingly beautiful in the cooling night air. When she was done, she sighed and grabbed her parents' hands again.

“They said hi to me, too!” Corinne said excitedly.

“That’s lovely. Well, Corinne, it’s time to get back to our Live-In. We’ve got evening meal to prepare and our lessons to finish,” her father reminded her.

“Oh, okay,” Corinne said. She loved helping Mama and Daddy prepare evening meal, and she really did like her lessons. This week she was learning how to listen to bees. It was great fun! Sometimes the lessons were boring, like the week she had to learn to see a rock. She’d eventually gotten it, and now she enjoyed it, but the lesson had been not so fun.

“But can I take one flower home?” she asked. “I want to make it happy again.” Being an empath and healer, Corinne knew what other beings of all forms were feeling.

They agreed she could keep a few flowers in her basket. She happily picked her favorites as her father retrieved her basket from his bag. She filled it with sangrisha and began skipping back to the house humming a song known only to her and the Muse of Music.

Her parents followed, holding hands and watching as their daughter shared with them her joy and enthusiasm for life. Shadows, unseen by Corinne, haunted their joy in her. Fears deliberately buried. Troubles they hoped she'd never have to face.

They should have known better.

Corinne heard a terrible crash and scream. She turned her head, dropping her basket, and saw two giant black birds appear as if from nowhere and fly directly for her parents. She ran to them, but her parents threw up a field around her and she couldn’t move. She saw them hold up their arms to fight, lightning bolts coming from their hands. The birds wavered, but they didn’t stop. They continued their descent, smoke billowing off the wings that had been hit.

They approached Corinne’s parents with speed and grace and dug their talons into them – tearing right through them. Her Mama and Daddy fought, using magic and muscle to escape the talons of the supernatural beasts. Corinne cried and screamed, running as fast as her chubby little legs could carry her, but it was no use, she couldn’t break through the field her parents had set.

Furiously, Corinne hit the field over and over.

Bolts of lightning flashed from her fingers, and the field cracked.

The cracks sent fresh energy surging through her. Corinne kept pounding until she made a space large enough to crawl though. Leaving the dying sangrisha, Corinne ran to her parents, bloodied, sorely wounded, but nearly free of the nightmare birds, who'd been distracted by Corinne.
Nearly free, but not enough. The birds renewed their attack, using their own dark magic, tearing into the dying bodies of her parents and carrying them off. Corinne held her arms up and channeled her anger through her little hands, willing the evil birds to leave her mama and daddy alone. Another stream of lighting escaped her hands, crashing into the birds, but it was too late. They were already in the air, and as her power hit them they disappeared from the sky, leaving behind them clouds of black and a broken-hearted and exhausted two-year-old who lay crumpled on the ground crying over all that was left of her beloved parents. Their blood seeping into the dirt.

It took me several minutes to regain my composure. I had tears running down my face, and veins bulged from my hands gripped tightly around the satchel of herbs. I was so overwhelmed by what had just happened that I didn’t know what to do. The tears kept coming, and I made no effort to stop them. That was the first memory I’d ever had of life with my parents. I could see them clearly in my head. My mother had long red hair in several braids down her back, flowers woven into them. Her green eyes popped with mischief. She was the most beautiful women I’d ever seen. My father was tall and strong, with dark brown eyes and midnight black hair. They were so in love.

All I had ever been told about them was that they were in a terrible car accident when I was a child, and they were killed, which is why Aunt Alana, my mother’s sister, had raised me. I’d had my doubts about that story. She'd tried to convince me that I’d blocked the memory. And all the records and news reports? Surely such an accident would have been written about, if only briefly. In high school, I tried to research the accident, or anything about their lives, and came up blank. Once I was a legal adult and no longer under my aunt’s thumb, I hired the best private investigator money could buy to get information about them. He came up blank.

I'd challenged my aunt when the detective had failed. She'd given some vague response about a mix-up in the records and told me to drop it. We hadn't broached the subject since. But I still had my doubts, and I wasn’t going to give up.

I got my journal out and wrote down every detail I could remember of the experience. Then I pored over it, analyzing every word, every scene, every emotion, every nuance. Was this a real memory? Or some creation from my overactive imagination? Obviously, some of it was make-believe, like the moons. The flowers and names of things could have been my parents playing make-believe with a 2-year-old, though I could see the flower in my mind and I’d never seen or heard of a flower like that. Perhaps we'd been traveling when this memory happened?
And then there were the birds, the nightmare birds.

Obviously, they were a child’s mental stamp over the truth, whatever it might be. Clearly my subconscious mind used my insane fear of black birds to cover something it wasn't capable of facing. But why? And why now?

I looked at the small pillow of herbs in my hands. Scent was a powerful trigger for buried memories. But memories weren’t always reliable. How much weight should I give this one? One side of my brain argued not much. But another, deeper part of myself said to trust every image. It was so vivid and clear, as if I had been there in that moment. I felt the ache for my parents emerge with new force and power, creating a longing in me so terrible I thought I’d never recover from it. Goddess, how was I to move forward with this weight on me?

I could feel the familiar talons of grief grip me, causing a painful tearing in my heart. I fought it, but this time it was harder. This time it ripped at me, cutting into me deeper than anything had in a long time. Twice in one night I was forced to look at my healed arms to keep my delicate hold on reality. Not good. Reaching over to the side dresser next to me bed I grabbed two of the three bottles of pills. With an ease born of routine, I unscrewed them, poured two of each out and popped them in my mouth, swallowing without the use of water. I put the bottles back on my dresser. Xanax and Vicodin. No better combination for pain and anxiety. The last bottle, Wellbutrin, was only taken twice a day. It helped, sometimes. A little.

Mothball rubbed his head against mine and purred comfortingly. He knew the terrible balancing act I performed nearly every day. Two years gone, and he hadn't forgotten that. I almost lost my balance the day he disappeared. Having him back brought a surge of warmth into my gut. Mothball is back, I thought. I let him snuggle with me, as his scratchy tongue licked the tears from my face. It eased my crying, and I regained control. I was not powerless. I would not fall back into that abyss. Besides, Mothball’s reappearance had come with a few mysteries that needed to be solved. I was anxious to get some answers. I looked at my clock. 3 a.m. Patience not being big on my list of virtues, I paced the room and then went to my office and flipped on my computer. Maybe the internet had some answers. Hours later I had come up with only one vague clue that left me with more questions than answers. A word. Maybe a place? Dug up from some ancient writings by even more ancient people. Aaiddynn. But what did that mean?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Stalker at the Bus Stop : Short story horror

Melanie Roberts put a protective hand over her bulging belly as she leaned against the post by the bus stop. She glanced at her watch and tapped her foot impatiently. She was 7 months pregnant for Christ’s sake, and she managed to get here on time. Why couldn’t they? she thought.

She glanced to her left and saw a tall, dark-haired man looking at her. She let her short red hair fall in her face, avoiding eye contact and nervously clutching her purse. There had been a rash of purse snatches at stops around here, and she didn’t want to be the next victim. She looked up again but this time he was looking at the street. Probably just as impatient for the bus to be here as she was.

She mentally swatted herself for being so paranoid. It was the pregnancy. It was really messing with her head. Looking the man over she realized he did not look like the purse-snatching variety. Good looking, strong jaw line, tanned skin, the kind you get from really being outside, not just in a tanning booth. Muscles made from hard work and hard play. His eyes were brown, if she remembered correctly, but she didn’t need to see them again.

Her husband had left her when she got pregnant, and that made this whole ride a very adventurous one for her. Single mom. Single working mom. Oh goody! She sighed and stretched her back. She saw the man smiling at her and she smiled back.

“Are you OK, do you need to sit down?” he asked kindly.

Ah, he’s just a good Samaritan worried about the pregnant lady. Nothing nefarious about that, she thought as she smiled back.

“No, I need to stretch. Too much time sitting gives me muscle spasms. Those suck,” she joked. He nodded and went back to staring at the traffic.

Just as she was about to complain about the wait to her new bus acquaintance, she heard the screeching metal as the bus came to a stop before them, spitting smoke as it did. Great, now I’m killing my baby’s lungs before she’s even had a chance to use them, Melanie thought with disgust. She was noticing how much more sensitive she had become since she got pregnant. She had this overwhelming urge to clean the whole planet, but she lacked the energy to even clean her two bedroom apartment on most days.

As she waited in line to claim her seat, she noticed a black cat with a painful looking crook in its tale slither through the crowd and stop at her feet. Was that the same cat she had seen last night in front of her apartment? It couldn't be, she thought. It wound around her ankles purring and then looked straight into her eyes. She let out a small gasp at the sight of it. The cat’s eyes were bright red and glowing, releasing an aura of pure evil. A shiver went through her spine and straight into her heart. She clutched her chest and struggled to breath. The man behind her put a steadying hand on her back.

“What happened, are you OK? Do you need a doctor?” his concern was palpable.

“No, no doctor, I’m alright. I just was startled by a cat. It’s nothing,” she motioned to the cat, but when she looked down, it was gone. Her breathing started to return to normal.

“Guess it got scared away by the crowd,” the man said.

“I suppose so,” Melanie said, but the conviction of her words never made it to her eyes. Her eyes looked haunted and nervous.

Before she could process what had happened, it was her turn to scale the small steps up the bus. She prepared herself for feeling like a whale as she maneuvered her belly around the tight corner and flashed her pass. She chose a seat in the back and settled in for the long ride by flipping open her paperback, and propping her legs as best she could on the seat. No one behind her, no one next to her, perfect.

Before the bus had even started moving she was lost in another world, so she didn’t notice right away when the friendly stranger she’d just met bypassed many empty seats to sit in the one directly across from her.

The bus lurched and came to its next stop. Melanie looked up from her book in time to see a small black cat with a crook in its tale walk past the bus door and look at her. The red eyes were filled with the same sinister violence. A pregnant silence engulfed the bus. The world seemed to move in slow motion for a moment, and then returned to normal. Melanie rubbed her head, trying to erase the headache that had just attacked her. She was a firm believer in drugs if they helped, but not when she was pregnant. She got her water bottle out instead and took a swig, hoping hydration would do the trick.

That was when she noticed the man in the seat across from her. He was leaning comfortably in the corner with one leg casually crossed over his knee, and he was looking at her and smiling. The smile seemed far too intimate and made her very uncomfortable. She nervously moved her hand over her stomach and looked down.

Isn’t it nice having the bus as an option. So much more convenient than having to drive everywhere. Don’t you think?” he asked her.

She hesitated. Should she respond? Maybe she should just start reading her book and ignore him? Or maybe, stupid girl, you’re just being a paranoid bitch. Snap out of it. He’s just being nice, she told herself.

“Yes, I do prefer the bus, though as my pregnancy progresses, even this gets challenging,” she finally said reluctantly.

“I can imagine,” he chuckled. “Well, I can try to imagine. Obviously only other women can really relate.”

Well, at least he wasn’t an idiot. That was a plus. Maybe he’s noticed that I’m not wearing a wedding ring and he digs pregos…she thought with a little giggle.

He arched an eyebrow at her outburst, but said nothing.

Looking up, she realized her stop was coming up and she’d need to transfer to the downtown bus. She pulled the rope to her side, alerting the bus driver, and started gathering her stuff. She noticed the man next to her doing the same. Well, it was a common enough stop. Most of the bus was preparing to exit here. It certainly didn’t mean anything sinister, she reminded herself.

She scooted herself through the bus, trying in vain to suck in her belly and wishing she’d sat in the front, when she felt the man behind her brush up against her. She couldn’t tell if it was deliberate or if her delays had caused the contact. She struggled with mixed feelings of fear and arousal as she stepped off the bus. After all, he was good lucking and she hadn’t had sex since her baby was conceived, and she was in the horniest trimester of her pregnancy after all. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to exchange numbers and see where things went.

“Can I carry that for you?” the man asked, referring to her backpack. “Since we’re going the same way anyways,” he said with a small laugh. The guy equivalent of a giggle, she thought.

“No, that’s OK. I’ve got it. Thank you though.”

They walked side by side in silence to the next bus stop around the corner, and then waited. She was relieved that they hadn’t missed this bus after the last bus was late. She looked around and took a deep breath. The morning was still cool and the streets teemed with people heading to work and running errands. She loved this city with its life, vibrancy and diversity.

The bus stopped in front of them, splashing dirty water on those closest to the street. One man cursed and swatted at his suit. A black cat ran by, nearly tripping an old lady in front of her. It stopped at Melanie, looked up at her and then hissed and scratched her left leg, tearing her nylons and cutting deeply enough to bleed. Everyone started loading the bus.

This time Melanie stayed in the first row, hoping to avoid the belly ordeal. This time the man sat right next to her before she had a chance to claim the entire seat for herself. She forced herself to relax, reminding herself that she wanted this. She wanted to examine her leg, but couldn’t reach it in such close quarters.

“Here, let me take a look,” the man said, and bent down before she could say no. “It’s not too bad, I’ve got a band aid I can put on it, but you should see your doctor to make sure you didn’t catch any diseases from that stray. That was such strange behavior for a cat.”

“Yeah, strange” she muttered as he bandaged her up and then slid his hand up her leg.

“I guess you’re going to have to get rid of these nylons, huh?” he said suggestively.

This may be what she wanted, but not on a bus, before knowing the guy’s name. She got a very uneasy feeling in her stomach. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Most villains don’t look like villains after all. Isn’t that what they always say on the news when some psycho has just killed his entire family and buried them under the roses. “He was such a normal looking guy, how could we have known?” Indeed, how? She wondered. She pulled the rope and planned a hasty retreat.

“Where are you going?” he asked with confused, even pained, look on his face.

That made no sense, she thought. Why should he be hurt?

“This is my stop,” she said as she grabbed her backpack and scooted past him. Not an easy task at all.

“Since when?” he asked with mounting confusion.

Oh my God, was he stalking her? She wondered. She suddenly knew she had to get off this bus immediately. Terror rose up in her as she thought of the life of her baby growing inside her. She would do anything to protect this child.

The bus stopped and she practically ran off. The man ran after her. She heard him calling out.

“Wait! Wait, damnit!” he yelled as he ran. Soon he was on her. He grabbed her arm and spun her around. She’d led them both straight into an alley. Great! Just perfect. She couldn’t have run into a Starbucks instead? At least then there’d be witnesses, she thought.

She faced her attacker while looking for something, anything that could be used as a weapon. She saw a crowbar lying by the backdoor of a local bar. Pulling her arm painfully out of his grip, she ran for the door and grabbed the makeshift weapon.

“Get away from me. Just leave me alone!” she shouted.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” the man asked, angry.

“I just want to be left alone. I’m sorry if I gave you the wrong impression, but leave me alone.”

Melanie could feel tears slide down her cheek. She’d never been so scared in her whole life. Her body trembled and her hands were numb. Her gut contracted in pain from stress and fear. She felt like she was going to puke.

“Honey, come here. I was just teasing you on the bus. I didn’t mean to make you mad. I thought you’d like it. Come on, let’s kiss and make up,” he said.

He came towards her and put his arms around her. She felt his face close in and felt his lips crush against hers. Her heart stopped. She felt another painful spasm in her belly and felt fluid run down her leg. God, she couldn’t be in labor. It was way too early. The man held her tighter and started moving his hands over her breasts. What was she doing? Why wasn’t she moving? She had to protect her baby. She couldn’t let anything happen to her baby. She squeezed her fist around the crowbar and swung as hard as she could.

She heard a crunch as it landed against his skull. Bits of bone and brain flew towards her. She saw a look of pain and betrayal cross his face as he reached again for her. She swung again, resisting the urge to vomit. She closed her eyes and kept swinging, crying the whole time. Pound, pound, pound, over and over.

When she could no longer lift her arm, she dropped the crow-bar and began vomiting. Another contraction clenched her belly. Blood and brain were everywhere. She was covered in it. He didn’t even look human anymore, just a lump of meat with bits of clothing thrown in.

Another contraction hit her belly. She passed out on the cold asphalt next to her assailant.

A black cat with a crook in its tail walked by and sniffed at the two bodies. Holding its head high, it walked away without a backward glance. It looked like a cat looks after it’s just eaten the canary.

The first thought Melanie had was one of pain. Intense, physical pain. And emptiness. Something was missing. A part of her was missing but she couldn’t figure it out. What had happened? Where was she? She tried to open her eyes but couldn’t. She couldn’t see, but she could hear someone talking.

“Such a tragedy,” a woman said softly. “Of course she lost the baby. But it was deformed. It never would have survived even if she’d carried it to term. The doctor’s are wondering if perhaps something in the baby made her sick, and that maybe that could explain what happened.”

“I heard they were crazy in love,” another woman said.

“Crazy something. You know he rode the bus with her every day to her work, and then went on to his own job. The bus driver said they always acted like teenagers in love, making out in the back. He said they were his favorite passengers.”

“I can’t believe she would just lose her mind like that. How horrible!”

“I wonder what’s going to happen to her now?”

Melanie felt the memories return. Awful, horrible memories. Dean, his kind brown eyes, his strong face, handsome, wonderful, love-of-her life Dean. The bus. The crowbar, oh my God! She screamed silently, dying inside as the memories invaded her mind. She’d killed him. How could she? This must be a nightmare. She closed her eyes and willed herself into sleep, into a better dream. She saw the glowing red eyes just as she heard a beeping noise. She struggled to wake up, to get away from the eyes, but it was too late. The beeping got louder. And then silence. Nothing but glowing red eyes and the smell of fear.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Unexpected Encounters of the Best Kind

Moving into a new community is the grown-up equivalent of the first day at a new school. Will I make friends? How long will it take me to settle in to my new routine? Will it be hard to find all the places I need to go? Will I like it? There's the excitement and the fear all mixed together. For those of us who liked school (OK, I'm still a bit of a nerd), it was an adventure.

And so it is that I am on a new adventure, in my new home and community. This isn't just another Anywhere, USA with a McD's on every corner and streets that all look the same. I now live in the country, where the nearest McD's is too far for convenience (thank goodness) and nobody delivers pizza to my house (much to my dismay on moving day!) No movie theater, no shopping malls and only a few street lights.

I LOVE it! I came here knowing one friend. My closest friend. Fortunately, she's very well connected and has helped with the transition. But still, we're not tied at the hip. We do live on the opposite ends of town and don't actually see each other all that often. I still have to create my own routines, and make my own friends. And I am. In unexpected ways.

My first new friend actually let me and my daughter stay at his house while house-hunting. He and his family were on vacation. I didn't even meet him in person until I had been here a few weeks, but he and his family are now neighbors and have been instrumental in getting my daughter to school on sick days, or the week my car was in the shop.

I made one new friend taking my puppy and cats in for their shots. Our daughters are now great friends. I made another potential friend while taking my kids to the town Christmas celebration. We have daughters in the same class, a mutual interest in writing and shared a very long line to Santa that night. Another friend helps me clean my house for service or product trades.

And tonight, I made a new friend. She was a babysitting referral from another woman whom I'm sure to find some level of friendship with, though we've yet to meet in person. She wasn't available the day I needed a sitter, but our phone conversation made it clear that we might enjoy each other's company. So, I invited her to dinner. We had a lovely time and I was happy to introduce her to the world of blogging and facebook. I look forward to seeing her writing life grow. I look forward to spending more time with her.

Most of these friendships have just been planted. But they are growing. In the past few months I have enjoyed the benefits of giving and receiving the affection and help of a small community. People I don't know or know very little have gone out of their way to help me during difficult times. I have in turn helped others when I can. I am putting myself in the world in the most authentic way I can and allowing love to move in my life.

The last few years I spent so much time working to make money and support my family that I lost touch with myself, my children, and my community. I just didn't have the time or energy to be involved. I've made many changes in my life that are now allowing me to reconnect to the people and activities that matter the most. And so, as I move through the year in my new playground, I realize that it's not that bad being the new kid. If I stay real, and reach out with love and good will, I receive that back in abundance. I also receive friends who have many of the same values and priorities as I...which allows for mutual growth. That's the best kind of adventure I can imagine.

How can you reach out to someone new this week? What kind of friends do you attract to your life?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Much Ado About Money

Money makes the world go round, they say...and yet we understand so little about how to manage it and use it as a tool, not to mention the energetic nature of money.

Little coins, pieces of paper with specific designs or account numbers on them, a plastic card...mundane items with immense power. These items are like little objects of power, they carry some essence of us when we use them as an exchange for something. (I'm not suggesting that money is in any way magic, though it sure seems like this at times, just that it represents a form of energy.)

I'll be the first to admit that I'm as uneducated and stupidly naive about money as the next person. I've spent most of my life living above my means, in other words, too many items of energy going out, not enough coming in. I don't just do this with money, but also with my energy. Maybe there's a closer link than even I realize. All I know is at the end of every day, my bank account and my emotional and energetic accounts are both near empty or even theoretically overdrawn. (Bills I can't pay...debts still floating in the ether of the credit world...)

So, this year, I've committed to learning how to live below my means, in all ways. Wow, so not easy! I've been observing the pattern in my life that lead to where I am. Namely, broke and in debt and struggling to make the bills each month. I have no savings, no cushion, nothing. Sound familiar? It's not that I don't know how to make money. I do. I've made up to 11K a month at times in my life. Not rich, but most people would say that's good money, especially in a two income household. However, I'm now realizing that the more money I made, the deeper into debt I got. How can this be? Wouldn't more money mean more freedom? No. More money meant more opportunity to live above my means in greater ways. New and bigger house. New and bigger car. New furniture. And so it goes. Until all that new stuff took over my life and even when I was making the most I could I was still coming up short. I've lived on almost nothing a month at times in my life, and yet I couldn't make it on thousands of dollars more than most people make? Absurd.

I made some radical changes at the end of last year in an effort to live below my means. I walked away from the bigger house and car and the private schools and in fact the state I was living in, and moved to a community with a free charter school, less expensive rent and a much more affordable car. I structured my life so that my family and I could live on my spouse's disability and VA benefits. Neither of us would have to work. I could write, heal my body and take care of my 2 and 4 year old..spend more time with my 6 year old when she comes home from school. My kids wouldn't have to spend 10 hours a day in day care because I was working all day and my spouse wasn't capable of taking care of them. They would have a better life. My spouse could recover from his illnesses and injuries, write and do whatever he wanted without worrying about supporting his family. We would all have a better life. We would have some wiggle room for savings. For fun. For maybe even paying off debt!

We made the move. Said good-bye to a community we loved. A house we loved. Friends we still love. I thought...OK, it's done. I did it. Moving on. Well...not so fast...

Apparently, this is a lesson that needs to be really embraced for me, through all obstacles. Shortly after relocating, my circumstances changed again. My spouse and I separated, and I was again in a sticky spot. This house, this life, was budgeted on all of us living together on his income. It was not budgeted to support two households. Now I'm struggling again, unable to pay the bills, knowing my outgoing expenses (not including savings and debt repayment) are more than what's coming in. I have some choices to make. Some hard choices to make.

I could do the obvious thing and get a job. Somewhere. I live in the country, so I would likely have to commute over an hour to the city. Again, didn't pick this place for work. I even found a job online that would pay what I used to make with all the perks, including a car. Should I apply? Certainly we'd all be happier if we were making more money, right?

But I fell into that trap before. I'm too physically ill to work with my own health conditions. If I pushed through it I would likely make myself worse or end up in the hospital and the few hours a day that I was home I would be too sick and exhausted to be a mom at all. My kids would be raised by others. They've already lost the daily contact with their father, they would lose me as well. Is that fair to them at this stage in their life?

Then there's the fact that since I haven't learned how to live below my means, I would likely end up just as stuck, no matter how much money I had coming in. Yes, now I have less to live on. But I do have something to live on. The challenge is structuring my life so that what I have coming in is more than what I need to spend to survive. Much more. I need a 10% shit happens cushion. I need a savings, and I need to tithe. I need to start tapping away at my debt. I can't do that if I'm struggling to pay for propane. This isn't as easy as it sounds. It's requires a serious shift in my worldview, one that is painful and slow.

My inclination is to have stuff. Not obsessively like those people who's houses become the topic of the nightly news, but enough that my kids now have more clothes than they can ever wear. (Very little of it has been bought by me, but sadly, all of it has to be cleaned by me.) I have more knickknacks in the house than I can put up. More furniture than we need. It is time to scale down. To live simply. So...

I am moving...or getting a roommate. Something to lower my rent. I am selling off clothes, furniture and anything else that really doesn't serve my family. If I move, it will be into a much smaller house and I'm not putting anything in storage. If I can't fit it into my house and use it, I don't need it. (Don't worry mom, I'm not throwing out my box of baby stuff.) There are some things worth keeping, but if I was honest, those could probably all fit in my closet. If the clothes demon hadn't invaded, that is. I am also creating a budget that is reasonable. And...here's where it gets serious...I am not just holding myself accountable, I am being held accountable by a dear friend from my church. She is my confidante and my coach. She helps me see what is really necessary and what isn't, and she helps me creatively discover news ways of structuring my life for ease.

That way, I won't have the stress of living above my means. I will be comfortable. I can spend less of my personal energy worrying about money. What I do make through the things I love to do will only enhance a budget that is already in place. I can do a spa day, take the kids somewhere fun or pad my savings account. I can spend time with my kids and raise them myself...though as a single mom I do need some time without them to write and run non-kid errands. To heal. I am learning that simple is better. This year many changes are taking place in my life, my health, and my bank account.

I am also learning to say no to demands on my energy. To scale back. I was recently doing a favor for a friend by watching her daughter. I already have 3, what's one more a few afternoons a week? A lot, apparently. The girls all got along great, but it was sapping me and I couldn't give attention to my little ones. I had to say no. I'm learning to stay focused on what I need to get through my days sanely. I haven't gotten there yet, but at least I'm headed in the right direction.

Once I get the basics in place...money, health, time...I can start to really fly.

How can you simplify your life to add dollars to your energetic and physical bank account? In what ways does money drain your life rather than serve you? Is there someone in your life that can be a partner for change with you? Please share any great ideas on how you've been able to manage money, reduce expenses or change your views on finances.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Heart of Hope

Hope. A powerful word. Change. A word riddled with mixed emotion. Some change is good. Some we see as not so good. But it happens whether we like it or not. Nothing stays the way it was...and likely we'll experience change sooner than we think.

Today we made history and took a very powerful step in healing wounds so very old. We brought hope to our country, to our world. And we brought change. Many people are celebrating today, full of emotion over this incredible event. I surprised myself with tears as I listened to President Obama take his oath. I didn't realize how deeply affected I am by this event.

Many people are also disappointed today. They wanted the other guy. Regardless of which side you were on, I think we can all agree that it's an historic event. Sixty years ago President Obama wouldn't have been able to vote, let alone run for president...and WIN! Sadly I was shocked that he won. I didn't think we were ready. I was wrong. Never have I been happier to be wrong.

So, we have change. And we have hope. This country has to change if we want to survive. If we want our families to survive, our children to mature into real adults who are educated, disciplined, free-thinking and able to see the big picture of what it takes to care for this earth. As of now, we are 'raising' children who slip through our educational system without basic skills in reading and math, who are never fully emotionally mature, and who are unable to see past their own noses. This isn't all of them, there are some great kids out there, but this is many. Too many.

Change. Hope. This is BIG. These needs, these problems, so big that I'm often tempted to turn the channel, put down the newspaper and sigh in despair. What can I do? Nothing. It's too big. Too much. I'm just a mom. A writer of some little blog and some articles, maybe a book. But I can't change the educational system or impose higher standards of parenting for others. So I give up. So many of us give up and think it's beyond us to do anything.

President Obama has shown us nothing is beyond our doing. He won! A black man is President of the United States. In my lifetime. He took many small steps to get where he is. So must we. Most of us don't have presidential ambitions. I certainly don't. But I do know that change is needed in my life, as it is in the country. I must really look at my little corner of the world and find that which is not working and remove it. I must stay vigilant, allowing nothing in that will distract from my purpose. To care for my children, to live below my means, to be healthy with myself and my children, to live gently on this earth and care for her body and soul, to love God and reflect that love at all times...and to write.

Change must happen for me to realize my optimal health. I won't get there following the same path I've been on. That path lead me to dis-ease and pain. Our country cannot follow the same path that lead us here. So I change. I plan. I ask for accountability in my spiritual community. I open myself to allow others to see the dis-ease in my body, soul and mind...so that I cannot stay blind to it any longer.

President Obama challenged us to open our eyes to what's not working in this country. I challenge you to open your eyes to what's not working in your life. Be honest. Be consistent. It's sometimes painful to remove the poisons that allow our dis-eases to fester. It requires letting go of patterns of behavior, commitments or people who aren't in alignment with our intent. It's unfamiliar and scary. I'm terrified sometimes. But I also have HOPE!

I know that with this change is coming joy and peace and a level of calm I've never had before. With this change I come a little closer to living in the Love of God. That gives me hope, that my delusions and self-abusive patterns won't last forever, if I'm committed to change and hold on to hope.

My heart goes out to the Obama's. Thank you for bringing us Hope. Thank you for committing to change.

But for them to succeed we each have to do our part. We have to change. The time is NOW.

What changes do you need to make to be closer to your optimal self?
Are you holding on to Hope?

Monday, January 19, 2009

What's your dream?

We all have dreams. Some big, some small, some unmentionable. But we have them. What do we do with them? That is the question. Dreams aren't much on their own, they need real action to make them meaningful. Like love, dreams alone aren't enough. Alone they fall empty...wishes made on shooting stars dying in the sky.

Greatness is achieved by taking those dreams and making them real. By giving birth to them in a tangible, messy, visceral way. I've given birth to three children. I know how painful it is to carry this extra weight of wonder and new life, to worry and fret and plan and pray, to feel the changes that this creation requires in all areas of life. I know what it feels like to not only rearrange my life, my even my internal organs to accommodate new life!

And then the birth. Messy, painful, sometimes complicated, always miraculous. Dreams made real radically transform our lives. They can't help but change the paradigm in which we live. Even if they seem small...it's the butterfly effect. One small change here can have a monumental impact a world away.

When we take a step in a new direction, we change more than we realize. We change the shape of reality. We create new pathways in our brain...like tiny highways that we use everyday to get from one place to another. It is often too easy to coast along on the same highway we've always used, but then we never grow, we never learn and we never realize our dreams. What kind of life is that, I wonder?

I've had many dreams in my life. Dreams of traveling, adventures, excitement, love, sex, romance, fame, fortune, stability, beauty...dreams of lives never lived. And it's often easy to set aside those dreams when the dishes are piling up and there's not a single clean item of clothing to be found in the house, and the kids are all demanding pieces of me...my dreams can often get buried. Abortions of possibilities. How many aborted dreams must I endure before I finally allow myself to take that next step and reach a little higher?

This year I'm not just dreaming. I'm putting myself on the line and allowing my body, my life, my entirely reality to change as I take a new step, and create a new path for myself and my children. Today isn't just about freedom, equality and justice. Those are all so very important. But it's also about dreams. And about living those dreams regardless of the cost. Because when we live our dreams, we inspire others to live theirs. And what better way to create peace, freedom, equality and justice than to set free the most inspired dreams in all of us, so we can all take a hand in creating a better reality.

What's your dream?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Men: Can't live with them...can't...what?

Love. Such a loaded word. I love my kids and I love strawberries. Surely the same word cannot be used for two such different experiences, and yet they are. The Greeks had more originality when it came to this word, using terms such as agape to denote feelings of good will and affection for family. S'agape means "I love you," in the way we might say it to our children or our spouse. However, agape also means equal opportunity love for one's friends as well as one's enemies. It is the closest to a spiritual form of love we get in this language.

Philia is the word for the love of a friend. It is a dispassionate, virtuous love. The word was developed by Aristotle and the emphasis is on virtue.

Storge is another term for affection, but specifies natural affection, as one has for their own child.

Thelema refers to desire, but not sexual desire. This is the desire to do something, to be involved in an activity that is worthwhile and fulfilling.

And then there is of course, Eros. This is the passionate sexual love that fills most of modern society with dreams of "happily ever after" and all that nonsense. It's the romantic version of love, one which is often confused with lust or infatuation. It's interesting to note that Plato revised this definition to include a platonic love, one that is more than philia but less than sexual. He also expanded the idea of this love to include the beauty of a person's soul, the beauty of a flower, the love and search of beauty altogether. He said that eros helps the soul recall beauty and contributes to an understanding of spiritual truth. When I look at all the beauty produced by various religions in the form of art, architecture, music and more, I can see the truth in this.

So, what does this have to do with the price of gas? Nothing. But it does bring me to my point, which is a question actually. Why are we as westerners, so obsessed with the notion of romantic love? Why do we feel incomplete without some romantic partner of our own with which to make love, make house or just make out? We are addicted to feeling in love. We are addicted to a cycle of climaxes, but the end result is always the same. When the initial fervor of loves wears off, which it will, we are left with reality. We are left with ourselves and a partner who may or may not know what they want or need. We are left with the knowledge that this person doesn't actually complete us the way we'd hoped.

I watched a movie last night "The Holiday", about two career women who've both been burned by love. One lives in England, one in a grand mansion in L.A. They decide to house swap, and of course, cure their broken hearts with new bo's. What the story doesn't reveal is that in six months, a year or whatever, both couples will have to choose who's going to live where, (since we feel it's essential to share a house with our romantic partners,) and both are going to have the same problems everyone has. They will also find that they didn't know each other as well as they thought and that great sex and awesome chemistry do not a marriage make.

Now please don't think I'm anti-love or anti-men or anti-relationship. I'm not. I've grown and been inspired by my love for another, and I've helped bring three amazing beings into this world through that relationship. But why the obsession? There are different ways to live. Ways other people, other societies, other cultures have found to work. Why aren't we willing to try something new? The answer, in part, lies in the way our culture is structured. We don't live in community, the individualism that makes us so American also gives us the feeling of being cut off and separate. As a result, we feel lost, incomplete, and we strive to find our"other half," or our "soul mate."

What's the difference? You may ask. Why should it matter why we mate, as long as we're happy? But are we happy? It doesn't look like it. Perhaps you are, and that's great. But would you be happy if you lost your spouse to something, anything? Death, life changes, divorce. Who knows? Would you still be happy? If not, then I would challenge your definition of happiness. If we're depending on something outside of ourselves to make us happy, then can we really claim that happiness as ours?

For years I have worked hard to make someone I love dearly, happy. I gave him everything he claimed to want, and still he's not happy. Have I failed? Yes. Did I ever have a chance of succeeding? No. I can't make anyone happy, and no one can make me happy. That's got to come from inside me. Inside him. And it is there, in all of us. We just spend so much time looking for those feelings of "eros," that we forget what we have inside us. I forgot. I still forget. But I'm fortunate that I have friends around me who remind me who I am. Who remind me that I am not separate from the love and light of God. Of the Universe. Of Life. I am connected to all and all is connected to me. In a very real way.

Does this mean I'll never have love, or even eros, in my life? Am I abandoning great sex for a life of contemplation? Not yet. I'll always have love in my life, and even eros, particularly if I incorporate some of Plato's ideas of eros into my definition. To see beauty and allow that beauty to lead me truth sounds like pretty amazing love to me. And to find the love and completeness in myself, so that I can live with or without someone and be happy, that sounds wonderful. Better than a first date, better than falling in love. Better even than great sex.

My question to you is this...what ways do you look outside yourself for feelings of completeness, happiness or love? Is it working for you? What would happen if these things stopped working, or disappeared? I challenge each of you, myself included, to examine the patterns that lead to addiction. Not just major--needing of treatment--addiction. But the addictions we all have that leave us feeling incomplete and miserable and searching for something or someone to make it all better. Are these true?

One more question. Can any of you, from experience or heresy, think of other ways relationships can be structured to support cooperation, internal happiness and less co-dependence? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Men, women, whatever your preference, we can live without them. And we can live with them if we come into the relationship complete and happy and looking to it for a mirror in which to see ourselves more clearly in order to grow. However, regardless of how miserable we feel they make us, in most cases it's not OK to shoot them. Sorry. :)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Shit Happens

Blogs are popping up everywhere, by everyone to discuss everything. I've been a professional writer for many years, but have resisted the blogging fad. What could I possibly add to the collective discussion that isn't already being addressed by someone else with more...something...than I've got? Well, if I were to live by that standard, I'd turn in my pen and never write again. (Or turn in my computer, as it were.) Since that's not likely to happen, and since I've been encouraged by a few people very close to me to give it a shot, I figured, why not? You don't have to read it if you don't want to.

The real challenge for me in this first post was figuring out what to write about. Surely I must have something interesting to write...even if no one but my family reads it.

What I have to say today is just a reflection of what this week has taught me and what...I'm sure..this life will continue teaching me. I am not separated from the universe and I am not a cosmic victim to all the unfairness that exists. Shit may "happen," as many are so fond of saying, but what I do with it is entirely up to me. Certainly this week tested this.

As a newly single mom I have had my share of upheaval this year. A major out of state move ended 2008, with the end of a marriage, and the beginning of a new chapter, nay a new book, in my life, (figuratively and literally.) As I am struggling to settle into my new life, this week has presented all the challenges a young mom dreads. My babysitter didn't show on a day when I had a very important doctor's appointment. So, I scrambled, calling on all the local resources I had amassed, and discovered a young lady with whom my kids are so much happier. Then, on the way home from my doctor's appointment, my old faithful car broke down an hour from town in the middle of nowhere. Many hours later I was home, to a tired but angelic babysitter and three wired kids.

As if all that weren't enough, my car was deemed not worth saving at a time when I am struggling to pay the bills. A car that is paid off. So, I had to wipe out my savings to buy a "new" used car. And I had to take on a payment I didn't want.

Crappy week all in all, right? Wrong. If you've ever watched Japanese animae you may be familiar with the hero's journey. (pick up Jung or Campbell if animae isn't your thing.) The hero in any good story must undergo a series of challenges, each one making her stronger and giving her more tools with which to navigate her world. I am that hero, living that life. We all are. And this week, I finally saw how valuable this process is, and how silly it is to panic, get hysterical or in any other way worry about what is to be. That's not to say I didn't plan and work and get information to make intelligent decisions, I did. But I didn't freak out. Instead of anger, frustration, and impatience, I gave to those around me love and gratitude. I realized bodily, that I am not alone. I am connected to the Source of all Life. Call it God, energy, the universe, whatever. I feel it. And through God, I am able to see that all is well. All is as it should be. And all my needs will be met, I just need to trust.

I did that this week. And I always received what I needed, when I needed it. I found a better babysitter. I made friends with a couple who live on a lovely orchard. I passed this test and because of it, I have earned new tools with which to navigate my life. Tools that will allow me to be a better mom, a better writer, but most importantly, tools that will help me get through the next crisis. Because make no mistake, its coming. The question isn't whether or not shit is going to happen, it's whether or not I allow it to "happen" to me, or whether I arrange myself to meet all circumstances with peace and love and faith, knowing that I have nothing to fear. After all, the right kind of shit placed in the right environment can make great fertilizer for growth. And I am all about growth.

By the way, I just got a notice from the IRS that I owe back taxes, and I may have to move again, from a house I dearly love to something more affordable...so I'm letting this shit settle a bit, because I know new growth and new tools are sure to follow.