Birthday Twins

IMG_0089.pngSo today, my girl turns 26, her father, 52. Not only were these two born on the same day, they were also born in the same hour, 1 am. How well I remember how furious I was, when at 1100 pm, the night before his birthday, with me in the throes of active labor, my husband, flush with excitement, sealed his fate by grabbing my hand and exclaiming, “you can hold on, you can do it, just one more hour.” Pulling my hand free, and waving him away,  with an angry expression was all I could manage at the time, but I have since mentioned several times, how annoyed I was and if I think about too much, still am. But, “hold on” I did, and although I really didn’t have much say in the matter, I’m happy that it worked out that way. And how fitting, as these two are very much alike in temperament, which has led to many arguments, tears, stomping of feet and slamming of doors, especially in her preteen years. It has also necessitated a still standing family rule that these two never sit side by side in any place that one cannot just simply move away, such as church, airplanes or movie theaters. In these cases, her brother or I sit between them to avoid potential squabbles.

Also fitting, that she was born on the same day that hurricane Bob whipped through central Maine. I wasn’t aware of what was going on in the outside world, my main concern was that when the power went out in the hospital, I was stuck with the head of my bed up in the air, trying to learn how to nurse (which although natural, does not come naturally and is not nearly as easy as it looks, at least at first), in almost complete darkness  and stationed with three other moms in a birthing suite. I think they did away with this room the year after she was born, in fact looking back, it’s incredible that they would house us all together even in 1991. Anyway, the other two moms were fine, both about twice my age, as I was a teen mom at 19, but the other new mom beside me, let it be known in no uncertain terms that she had no intention of feeding her baby, because that’s what the nurses were there for, while she groused about the food and was truly angry that she was not allowed to smoke in her room. Needless to say, I was quite ready to take my baby home and begin a lifetime of motherhood, my favorite job and the one I am most proud of.

My husband, for his part, gallantly gave up his birthday, for most of her childhood. His, was pretty much forgotten with the exception of our daughter’s one request for “peas for dad” tacked on to whatever  she had chosen for her birthday meal that year, usually tacos.  He doesn’t especially like peas, and so, this was another consession he made, not only eating them heartily, but thanking her profusely for remembering how much he “loves them.” Oh, the things we do for our children!! Anyway, If you are a very observant reader, you may have noticed that my husband, would have been 26 at the time of her birth, so that is cool. I’m not really into numbers or their meanings, but it does seem sort of significant that she will be the same age today as he was when she was born. However, I did not wake up at 0100 hours to celebrate. Actually, we have already celebrated with our traditional “guns and cake” party.  “What the…??” you probably are thinking. Simply put, we all go out as a family to a nearby sandpit, put up targets and watermelons, and shoot them with several different sorts of guns, then we go home and sing happy birthday and eat cake. Strange tradition? Not if you live in Maine. And for my international friends, this probably sounds like a bizarre way to celebrate a day of birth, and it also may lend some credence to the American Wild West stereotype. It is true, it is a tad bit weird but its a lot of fun, don’t knock it until you try it! We will get together at some point today, there is talk of going out, the birthday twins may go get a few drinks, while I tag along to drive and prepare to referee any potential quarrels that break out. But, that won’t happen today. These two, although at times, hot heads, also love each other dearly. They are both loyal, generous, and hard-working. I’m so grateful for them  and for the excitement and yes, sometimes even destruction,  that swirls around them, not unlike the hurricane winds that ushered our girl in and made us a family. Happy birthday loves. XOXO

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Mollie and Me

My niece Mollie was home recently for a visit. She and her boyfriend Blake, traveled from NYC to spend a few days in Vacationland, a final farewell before departing for a grand tour of their own design, a year-long, around the world adventure, chasing poker tournaments (Blake is a professional poker player), and bucket lists, all before the age of 35. My niece is a special person, sweet and humble with an old soul and a gypsy spirit. More like a daughter than a niece, we have been close since the day she was born, and although we only see each other once or twice a year, she is never far from my thoughts.

One of the many benefits of being the youngest in a large family is early Aunt-hood. Mollie was born when I was 13, I loved her immediately and took her everywhere. She went to high school games and parties (sorry about that, what did I know, I was only 16?!), we shopped and colored and watched movies together. When I was 17, I met my future husband, AKA Tiny. She accepted him and allowed him to join in on our adventures. Later, she acclimated to all of the apartments we rented through out the early years of marriage, sometimes sleeping on the couch, sometimes sharing a bedroom with our daughter. She came nearly every weekend and for most of the summer. Our household didn’t feel complete unless she was in it.

There aren’t many photos of the two of us together during that time, but I love the ones I do have, especially this one, taken when I was 16, and she was three. In it, we are at my mother’s house on her steps. The paneled walls and orangish carpet scream 1976 which means that it was already outdated for 1988.  I don’t remember why I was sitting there, or why she snuck up behind me while someone snapped a photo, but I love how comfortable we look together. It just captures our relationship so well.

When she came up this time, I had an idea that I wanted to take a picture of us, in the same pose, looking as close as we could to our younger selves, 29 years later. I’ve seen recreated pictures on Facebook, family photos from the early 80’s, with children in various poses, sticky smiles on their faces next to the adult versions, 20 or 30 years later. Grownups with sailboats on their shirts, ice cream grins and arms akimbo. I love looking at the differences, and adults in kid poses are usually pretty ridiculous. So, I was happy that she didn’t mind humoring me in this potentially humiliating endeavor.  I thought it would be easy, I had a brownish sweater somewhere, I still wore bracelets and I knew I could fix my hair to somewhat resemble how it looked that year. Fortunately for me, I was in a “granola” phase at the time. I listened to the Doors and The Who and eschewed the Aqua Net hairspray that the year before I could have bought stock in. However, this must have been only a year-long fad, because the next year, my senior picture shows  me clearly having a love affair with aqua net once again. I will not be recreating that picture, although my husband is in it, if only because I never want to see him sporting a pimp-like moustache like this that ever, ever again! IMG_9461

Anyway, we managed to get the picture taken although the whole production quickly turned into a movie-set like affair, starring Mollie and me as mere doll-like props, Blake as the cameraman, Nana as the producer and Tiny as the director. The cameraman gamely snapped 1000 photos using my phone while Nana, doubling as an assistant blasted a phone flashlight in our faces after someone noticed that we were back-lit by the window at the top of the stairs,  which necessitated a blanket be hastily thrown over it, thus plunging us all into darkness. The director and the producer, squinting at the original, grainy photo and back to the live set, offered helpful instructions and comments that were tossed about like confetti; “move her arm, it looks like a T-Rex”, ” Mollie you are smiling too much”, “bring your hands down more” and “Sue, put your chin down,” Obviously this instruction went unheeded as it was lost among the other commands. Unfortunately, in their quest to get the details right, the pros did not notice that Mollie, in an effort to seem even smaller than her 115 pound adult body, was hunching down in all but like, one photo. After about 10 minutes of  quivering smiles on our end, and several readjustments on Nana’s part, the cameraman handed over the phone to us, “I got tons of them” he said, as he wandered off.  He probably did not expect to hear squeals of disapproval as we flipped through hundreds of hunchy photos. The crew dispersed and Mollie and I were left to sift through 999 terrible ones until we found one that we both thought acceptable. Not perfect, but certainly good enough. Mollie claimed that her head was disproportionately large compared to mine, but I reminded her that just the other day, Tiny had requested that I cut my hair short because “it makes your face look bigger”, proof that I was the one with abnormal head size. This prompted a ridiculous but not atypical veer off topic and a name for our future fictional company; Small Face/Big Head productions.

Digression, and its cousin procrastination, is a family trait, one many in my family  come by honestly and may account, at least in part, for the lateness of this post. It has been a week and a half since they left and finally today, I have made myself sit down and write. Mollie, for her part, got right to work and with some hired help, magically plopped us down on those 1988 steps, darkened my hair, lightened the color of my sweater and may or may not have widened my face. There have certainly been some changes in 29 years, some that are evident and some that are not. But, our relationship remains the same. We do not see each other every day, sometimes one of us texts and the other doesn’t answer for days, even weeks. But, when we are together, nothing has changed. We pick right up where we left off, an easy companionship forged over years of laughter and carved from a thousand conversations. I am so grateful for the time we have spent together and the relationship we have. 29 years from now, we will have to do another one, I will be 74 and she will be 61, no doubt still small faced and big-headed, but together, and happy, nonetheless.

 

Guilt Trip

Have you ever been on a guilt trip? I have, and let me tell you that it is no vacation.  The cost? Too dear. Enjoyment? Not unless you are the sort who enjoys mental anguish. Guilt is a powerful tool when used correctly, and growing up, my mother was the travel guide to many a guilt trip.

When we were little, my mother, a sweet and mild woman, consistently used one weapon on my three sisters and me. But, what a powerful one it was. With two words, and one gesture, she could silence a whiny 4 year-old, or turn a sullen, foot-stomping pre-teen into a simpering fool. She could actually turn a surly teen from defiant to pleading in seconds. The reasons were varied but the effect was the same. Feigning casual indifference, tinged with sadness, she would say “suit yourself” and offer a slight shrug of her shoulders, physical proof that the burden was now on the offender’s shoulders and not on hers. Returning to her ironing, or cooking, the insurgent would realize that she had a choice, either pack her bags for a guilt trip and try to enjoy the ride, or choose the serenity and smugness of martyrdom.  I’m pretty sure that we usually chose the latter, I know that I did. The few times I decided to suit myself,  I realized in a hurry that guilt does not suit me at all.

If pleasing oneself is not all it’s cracked up to be, there is a reason. A happy life is not possible to achieve by always suiting yourself. As a mother and wife, I am thankful that I learned this lesson early. As a child, my mother’s happiness and approval was so important to me, that I was willing to give up what I wanted (sometimes), so that she was not unhappy. This was an important lesson to learn and has served me well. But, I don’t always choose the high road. I read this to my mother and she was not sure if she was happy about it. Ever a model of decorum, She simply said, “does it cast me in an unfavorable light?” “No, of course not!!” I scoffed, “Well,” she sniffed, “you know best” which is the grown up version of “suit yourself.” You know what? Thanks to her, I do, so I did.

Young Mom

 

Dear Young Mom,

I know that you are worried. I know that you are afraid. Being a mom is the biggest, most important job you will ever have, and so, it is right and it is good that you feel the weight of that responsibility on your shoulders. But, as someone who was a teen mom, I want you to know that everything will be alright, more than alright, actually. Someday you will look back, and be happy that things worked out the way that they did.

Maybe, you didn’t plan for this, or maybe you did. Maybe you are a young wife or still in highschool. Either way, you have felt the sting of judgement from your family and strangers alike. Maybe, people in your life looked down on you for your decision to keep your baby or are shocked when they learn that you planned this. It doesn’t matter.

But, it will be hard. When you are pregnant, you will feel large and ungainly around your tiny friends. They will be staying out late and you will be getting up at all hours with a newborn. They will be coming home from a night out, as you are getting up for the day with a toddler. It will be lonely and boring at times. You will tire of playing pretend, and Barbies, and cars, and you will wish for some adult company, but most of your friends are not moms yet, so your conversations will be strained and the choices limited. When you do have time to chat with your old friends, it will be hard to relate because their no-kid lives are as foreign to you, as your life is to them.  You might feel out-of-place and as if you are missing out.

Around other moms though, at school events, and practices, and games, you might feel awkward at times. You will look at the other mothers who seem so “momish” and assured. They have mom-bobs, clogs, and large SUVs with decals of stick figure families in the back window. They have giant, expensive purses and large coffees. They flock to the other “momish” moms. You will stand alone, afraid to approach the tight circle, worried that they might not accept you because your circumstances are different from theirs. You will feel out-of-place and like less of a mother at times.

Sometimes, you will feel jealous. On some days, you will wish that you were free and unencumbered, thin, and well rested like your old friends or at least financially secure with a gaggle of friends your age to commiserate with, like the SUV moms. Sometimes, You will wish that you did not have a toddler on your hip and a preschooler tugging on your stretched out t-shirt and wiping his nose on your yoga pants.Your hair will usually be in a messy bun and makeup? Ridiculous! You will long to get dressed up sometimes and have fun, then, sleep in. It’s ok though. This is normal, and someday you will do these things.

In the meantime, remember that you have this little person looking to you, adoring you and watching your every move. You have so many advantages as a young mom. You have energy and passion on your side. Play with them, be like the kid that you still are. This is what a child wants. They need structure and rules, yes. These things are so important for a child to feel secure, and to teach respect, and how to be a good person. But, they long to be with you. You can be a friend, and a parent too. Jump on the trampoline, chase them, play hide and seek, throw rocks in a puddle, play hopscotch and jump rope. Do everything with them now, and they will want to do things with you later, when they have grown. That’s what I did, and I don’t regret for a minute the parties and bars I didn’t go to. I felt like I grew up with my kids and now we are on the same level, like friends.

I recently saw a quote that said, “I wish I had met you sooner, so that I could love you longer.” Although this was probably not meant to apply to children, that’s what I thought of, and as a young mom, I am grateful to have been given the gift of extra time with my children, my children’s children, and God willing, my children’s, children’s children.

Young mom, don’t worry, everything will be fine. You are not alone, there are plenty of us out there, who for whatever reason, found ourselves there too and know how you feel. Your child will be fine, and someday, maybe you will be a young grandmother like me and you will realize that everything turned out as it should. Rocking chair and baking cookies? Sure, after I show my granddaughter how to do a cart-wheel, and race her inside. I have learned that God’s timing is perfect, hold on and someday you will know this too.

Love, (a young) Noni

The Importance of Fathers

These are pictures of my husband, his brother and his dad, circa 1969. These always make me so sad to see, but with Fathers’s Day approaching, I wanted to show how important fathers are. In these photos, my husband’s father came to visit. His parents, teenagers when the boys were born, were divorced and visits from his dad were rare. His mother was remarried and his dad may have felt that it was better not to interfere, or that because his own life was in upheaval, the boys were better off without him. He hasn’t come to take them to the zoo, or an amusement park or even out to eat. He doesn’t have the money for these things. They play in the back of his old van with balloons and eat candy.
This man is young, broke, and not well mentally (he took his own life years later), but the joy he brings to these boys with just his presence alone is evident. He is far from perfect, he made some bad choices, he has nothing to offer monetarily, but these kids don’t care. They only know that dad has come to play with them, and that he loves and misses them. They miss him terribly when he is not around, and as months go by without a call or a birthday card, they wonder what they did to keep him away. They think that they are bad boys and maybe unlovable. They do not think to themselves that their dad is unstable, that he is an alcoholic or that maybe he is staying away because he thinks that the new dad is better for them than he is.
Fathers, you need to know that you are enough. Your children need you. Whatever your situation; divorced, separated, teenage dad, addict, alcoholic doesn’t matter. Your children love you unconditionally and need to know that you love them, and think about them.  Don’t ever, ever think that they are better off without you. Don’t give up and think that their stepfather is enough. He maybe be wonderful, but he can’t take your place. And if your child has two men that love and protect them? That is even better. Don’t let fear of rejection or shame, keep you from trying. Give every ounce of energy that you can to your children, and if you can’t be there, text, call, Facetime, do anything that you can to let them know that you are thinking of them and that you love them. It is never too late. They may be angry, they may say they don’t want to see you as they get older, but don’t give up. On this Father’s Day, don’t be upset if you don’t get a call, you be the one to reach out. They need to know that they are important enough to keep fighting for, and fathers, you need to know that you are important too and no one can take your place.

Life lessons From the Softball Field

 

Some life lessons I have learned from years of being the only female on my church softball team. I’m so grateful for this game, my teammates, the camaraderie and the fun.
– If you drop the ball, don’t dwell on it, worry about it, let it keep you up all night rehashing it or look for excuses, just let it go. You’ll get the next one.

– When you catch the ball, it’s OK to gloat a little bit.

-If you strike out, good teammates will make you feel better, not worse.

-Men have a more comlicated social game than I intially gave them credit for. Bro hugs, chest bumps, handshakes, first bumps, the two finger wave? To whom and for what occasion? It’s all very complicated and not really a life lesson at all, merely an observaion that I decided to inset here. Sorry.

-Husbands and wives should always look for ways to have fun together.

– After years of cheering for our kids at various sporting events, it’s fun to have them cheer for us.

– It’s also fun to say,  “Dad and I are going to practice.”

– God wants you to have fun.

– If you have something, share it, you will get more back than you ever gave.

-No matter your station in life, everyone is equal on the ball field.

-If you don’t want to have someone elses sweat on your ears, get your own batting helmet!

– A little praise goes a long way.

– If someone or something upsets you, don’t dwell on, talk about it then forget it.

– You can lose a game and still have a great time.

– When you are doing something you love, exercise does not feel like work.

– Don’t let fear keep you on the sidelines.

– It is good to challenge yourself.

-Age is just a number.

– Family is not just who you are related to.

 

My Maine Woods

“We need the tonic of wilderness. We can never have enough of nature.”  -Henry David Thoreau

There’s just something about spending time in the woods that is healing. Studies say that it can lower your blood pressure, ease anxiety and lift depression. I’m grateful that I don’t suffer from any of these things, but I know that I have never once spent the day in the woods that I was sorry about, or felt like it was a waste of time. As a kid, I spent most of my days there, tramping around, building forts, leaping over mossy rocks, trying to catch water bugs and frogs, exploring and discovering old stone foundations and rock walls. At night, filled to the brim with fresh air and sunshine, I slept like a baby, knowing nothing until the sun peeked through my window and I jumped from my bed, eager to go back to God’s playground, a place where boredom does not exist. As an adult, my husband and I do the same things occasionally, but I appreciate the peace and sense of wonder even more. We like to go four-wheeling on trails and logging roads, zipping through cold and warm spots, cheeks pelted by an occasional June bug, cobweb or low hanging limb, feeling the thrill of speed and freedom, but more than that, we like to stop and explore, breathe in the silence and exhale the stress. This is what the Maine woods can do for a soul.

Each season in the Maine woods has its own smell, and if you spend enough time there, you know that even some months of the year have a certain aroma. My favorite, is June. It is so raw and so fresh and so distinctive to me that I could identify it with my eyes closed. For a child, it is the promise of days and days of freedom, for an adult it is the a reminder that all things can be made new again, and that growth is possible even after a long, cold winter. It is with the first inhalation of fresh balsam, pine, and cedar mixed with the sweetness of rotting leaves and the soil containing the footsteps of thousands of animals, that I feel the cares of the world falling off like an old coat.

I inhale and relax, tipping my head back with release, my eyes closed at first, then opening to reveal the canopy of leaves over me, screening the sun. Natures filter, the light in the woods is a photographers dream, no glare or hard lines. just a dreamy radiance. Green everywhere: different shades complimenting, not competing with each other with pops of color from purple and white violets, white and red trillium, buttercups, lily of the valley, clearings with lupine, and later in the season, daisies, black-eyed Susans, and queen Anne’s lace. Chipmunks dart away, birds swoop, deer freeze when spotted, moose lumber. Frogs are as still as statues, even when I toss grass on their backs or poke at them with a stick. Fish jump, creating ripples in the glass, jackrabbits play chicken with us, monarchs flit and the blackflys, surround my head. Deerflys, viscous and focused as heat seeking missals, are relentless, until, zipping away on four-wheelers, we finally leave them behind.

But, then we stop, and listen. Really listen. It takes a few moments to tune in. Maybe more for some people and quite possibly there are a few poor souls who never hear the sounds of the woods. There is nothing at first, just my own breathing. And then I hear it,  the symphony of the forest. God’s concert, the anthesis to the cacophony of the world. Tranquility, serenity, a hush falls over my mind and my spirit is lulled into peace. Birds, of course, but then I realize that they all have a different voice, some sweet, some aggressive, some plaintive. Frogs croak, dragonflys hum and the sounds of water, trickles through rocks. Of one accord; different, but complimentary, all together the feeling of harmony. No app can do it justice, no white noise as soothing and restful as the call of the wild.

The woods hold many treasures, hidden to all but the most adventurous, the ones who step away from the path, and venture away from man-made trails. In we go, no purpose other than curiosity, no agenda or expectations. Following the sound of water or the draw of the unknown, stumbling over fallen limbs and zig zagging around rocks. Until suddenly, my husband, ahead of me now, spots a hidden waterfall. It is beautiful, a hidden gem, and I wonder how many other eyes have seen it. Did someone venture this way last year, or maybe it has been a hundred years, or possibly it has never been seen by human eyes? The enormity of my untethered thoughts mix with the aesthetics of the backdrop and I am almost brought to tears with thankfulness. Thankful for the beauty, the feeling of innocent joy, contentment and stillness. A peace made all the sweeter because as an adult, I have felt the weight of the world and now I am unburdened. Tonight, I will sleep like a baby.

“Come to the woods, for here is rest,” -John Muir

Switching Roles

The following exchange happened via texts a few minutes ago between my daughter and me.

*sends a picture of an inner arm, with an insect bite or sting surrounded by quarter size pink area with a pink line creeping up the arm*  “When did this happen?” “I don’t know, I just came in from outside and noticed it.” “Where’s your (epi) pen?” “I don’t think it works, it was recalled.” “How do you feel?” Then, “Are you alone? Take Benadryl” All in quick succession. If you thought that I was the concerned one, you would be wrong. My adult daughter and I have started to switch roles, a natural progression of life.

I noticed this for the first time this winter, when I accidentally drank acetone ( I know, ridiculous but true!) and as soon as I lifted my head from the sink, where I was trying to wash my mouth out and told myself to calm down and stop hyperventilating, she was the first person I thought of to text. 1. Because she works in an ER, and knows the number to poison control off the top of her head, and 2, because she is the calmest person I know in emergencies. She has a level head, a practical mind, and the ability to assess a situation immediately. FYI, I was fine, apparently it’s not as dire as it sounds to take a swig off a bottle of acetone, although I wouldn’t recommend it as it leaves a terrible aftertaste. More recently, I wrote something that I wanted her to read. I wanted her opinion on it, but more than that, I wanted her to say she liked it. “Have you read my post yet?” I asked her twice. “No, I haven’t had a chance.” she said. She is very busy. Her weekdays are like that of any working mom, harried, busy, no breaks until her daughter is sleeping, and even then, there is still work to be done. Weekends are full of games, practices and catching up on chores. I’m happy that she is busy and enjoying her life and her family. This is what parents want for their children when they are small. I wouldn’t want her life to be any different. but I miss her.

Gone are the days when I heard her say, “Mama, watch this” a hundred times a day, while she jumped off a swing or attempted a cart-wheel. I’m glad that I tried to pay attention and respond with one of many standard mom responses, “Wow! Great job! That’s awesome! You’re amazing…..”  It’s a strange thing for a parent to ask their child for advice, for attention, and for approval if you think about it. But, I don’t usually think about it. It seems quite natural, actually. I do the same thing for my mother and someday Bean will do the same thing for hers. And now, I’m will pester my daughter to read this as soon as I post it,  I wonder what she will say.

New Every Morning

 

The weight of the previous night pins you to your bed and the thought of your actions pierce your heart. The sickness in your body competes with the sickness in your mind, because you promised yourself that you would stop, you told your loved ones that you were done, that you hated it as much as they did. Your days are long and arduous because your nights are short and carefree, and the disappointment of others is surpassed only by the hatred of yourself and what you’ve done, again. You long to be a kid again, with no desire for evil, before you knew addiction and pain. The call of freedom and the allure of joy, no matter how false, pulls you, and you come running, justifying your actions by telling yourself that you deserve a break, because it was a hard day, you’re feeling down and overwhelmed, or maybe the day is sunny, its Friday or a holiday. There is always a reason, there is always an excuse. When the thought of juggling lives and lies is too much, know this: it is a new day, with new mercies and a clean slate. You are loved and you are forgiven. Today, you are fresh and new. Get up, show up, don’t give up. Do all that you can, and know that what you can’t do, He will. His mercies are new every morning. This is a promise, claim it, it is yours.

Lamentations 3:22-23 (KJV)

It is of the Lord‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

The Pull of Addiction

She calls your name, and you shiver. You try to ignore her, but without her, life seems meaningless. She whispers in your ear, and you strain to catch what she is saying. Shaking your head to stop the spread, insidious and encompassing, you can’t help but wonder how anyone can live without her. What a dull life others must lead without the pull of something so alluring and exciting. “Stay busy,” you think, “that will help.” But on your feet or lying in your bed, curled up to stop the onslaught, she finds you, her voice urgent now. She needs you, you need her, her beckon is intoxicating. You think of your family, your friends. They hate her, they say she has taken you away from them, robbed you of your joy. “Don’t listen to them,” she purrs, “I love you, we have so much fun together. You are happy with me, how can something that makes you happy be bad? They don’t understand.” She tugs on the cable surrounding you, ensnaring you. It is a beautiful chain. Golden and glistening with diamonds, you allow yourself to be pulled. “She is so beautiful, beauty is good. She knows me, understands me, she accepts me,” you reason. On your feet now, walking, then running to her, excitement building, your heart pounding. Your loved ones, watch you go to her once again, and they keep watching, hoping you will turn around and see that they are still there, right where you left them. But you become smaller and smaller until even eyes sharp and bright with love, can’t see you anymore. And you? You run to her now, the decision made, the die-cast. But she turns before you can reach her, a swirl of beauty, the ecstasy you have chased just out of reach. “wait,” you say, “you promised that we would be together, you told me you loved me, I left everything for you.” Laughing, she darts out of your grasp, pulling you with her, you can’t keep up and you fall on your knees. She is dragging you now, you are no match for her strength. You try to stand, but she runs faster, the golden thread now a rusty chain, wrapped around your neck, choking you. Too late, you realize that your family was right. Her beauty is hideous, terrible and alive. How did you not see? Why didn’t you listen? Shame falls on you like a black blanket, stifling and paralyzing. You know that it won’t be long now, you have thrown away everything for her, and she will make you another victim. Taking one last furtive glance back, you can see your family, maybe a whole group still, or maybe only one left, standing on a hill, backlit by the setting sun, as steady and unfaltering as an oak, with roots so vast and so deep, they tremble below you now, and jolt you with the truth. You have been deceived, you were wrong, you hate yourself and you want to die, but you keep looking at that beautiful tree as you bump along ensnared by your master, Addiction. Hope gone now, regret, bitter on your tongue, you are ready to accept your fate until you become aware of love and forgiveness raining down on you, a sprinkle at first, then a downpour. Clean and refreshed, you struggle to your feet, causing Addiction to stop for a minute, bewildered. She’s coming back to get you, beautiful once again, whispering to you so sweetly. But, you have seen the truth, you have felt love and she is not love, she is deception. The decision made, the chains around you fall, and you trudge back up the hill, beaten and battered, but feet moving toward your shelter. She still calls you, you are still attached, but it is a thread now, and the velvet cord from your family to your heart strengthens. It has always been there, it will always be there. It is called love and it will never fail. You are still pulled, you will always be pulled, but you know that the love and devotion of others will tug at your heart with a strength that far surpasses the pull of Addiction. You are sheltered now. You are home, you are loved and forgiven, you are where you belong.