Sea Glass Mosaic

you.

you are a seaglass mosaic.

don’t be fearful of your imperfections. they are what make you.

i know the resiliency of your skin is being tested. a seemingly never-ending current of depression is sweeping up, splashing the places you’ve reassembled many times.

let the wave reflect your courage rather than shadow your beauty. stand strong. let it wash over you. embrace the tide rather than bracing for it.

your finish will crack. maybe even break. but it’s okay. each crack represents new wisdom and love for life. each break will expose a new facet of your Self.

let sadness rinse away anything unnecessary, leaving only the important pieces.

after the tide, pick up what’s left, rebuild, and glisten in the sun once more.

photo courtesy of Seth Doyle/Stocksnap.io

Penny for Your Thoughts

A dirty mattress with rusted coils poking through sits propped up like a couch in one corner of the small shack, and a stack of old paperbacks sits in the other. A candle and some matches from a local bar are on top. There is no door, only a blue tarp to block out the wind. And some of the wooden planks of the walls are loose, letting in light between the cracks.

Patty used to squat here, but last week they found her behind Walmart with a needle sticking straight outta her arm. Dead so long she had rigamortis. I’m sorry she’s gone. Patty was a good person with a shit habit. Me too, I guess.

It has been a long road, but now I get methadone at the clinic once a day. I stand in line and get a dose just big enough to keep me from getting sick.

Today I was at my regular spot, asking for change, and each car that drove by just looked right through me. It was like I didn’t exist. I get it, though. We’ve all been approached by someone asking for change. People become numb. I used to be numb, too.

But people out here do exist. We have flesh and blood and souls. Some of us have just run out of luck, and some, like me, have made a couple mistakes along the way.

I sigh and watch a cloud of crystals form in front of my eyes. The chill in my chest is hard to erase in the winter, but I’ll get through.

Other than the mattress and my books, there isn’t room for much else, but at least I’ve got a roof during the colder months this year.

I hear a rustle at my tarp just as the sun begins to dip.

“Who’s there?”

“It’s Jan. Mind if I come in?”

“Not much room, but come in,” I say. “I can share the mattress, but leave your drugs outside.” It doesn’t pay to be stingy on the streets. Or anywhere, I guess.

Jan pulls back the tarp, letting in a breeze that bites. The extra weight on her bones makes it hard for her to breathe, and every time she exhales I get a whiff of cigarette smoke and teeth that need a good brushing.

“I found this book on the street today,” she says, tossing a tattered paperback into my lap. “You read, don’t cha?”

“I do. Thank you, Jan,” I say, carefully moving the candle and matches. I add it to the stack with my others, then light the candle for extra light.

“You’re welcome, dear,” she coughs, and nearly brings up a lung. “Thanks for lettin’ me sit with ya” she says. “Most folks don’t want me ‘round cause ‘a my size and all.”

“It’s no trouble at all,” I say, giving her room on the mattress.

“A kind lady bought me a sandwich today,” she holds up the sub wrapped in white paper with green and yellow letters. “Care to share? For your troubles.”

I feel my stomach grumble painfully in response to the mention of food.

“That would be nice,” I say, taking half her sandwich.

Photo courtesy of Gratisography

Shayla’s Choice

“I’ll drop you here,” Chris says, parking his blue pick-up next to a meter, three buildings down from the clinic. Downtown has few skyscrapers. Instead, most streets look like this one, with rows of older two-story brick buildings, iron fire escapes hitched sideways against the windows. As a child, Shayla imagined running down them as they lowered to the ground.

“Okay,” she whispers, “but I’m scared.”

He has cheated on her more than once, but she chose to stay. She tries to find something resembling love in his eyes, but he remains focused on the crumbled road. Crews had yet to patch the streets after the harshness of the winter, leaving it broken, like their relationship.

“Go. And call when you’re done,” he says. Shayla brushes a tear from her eye and climbs out of his truck, shutting the door behind her. Chris drives off without a second glance, and the rush of June air his truck leaves behind smells of river water and exhaust fumes. A wave of nausea sweeps over her body.

She grips her stomach and turns in the direction of the old warehouse. A dozen angry protesters separate her from her future. With no one at her side, she swallows hard, never feeling more alone. Her heart begins to palpitate.

“Why didn’t I tell my mom?” Shayla asks herself. She exhales and steadies herself before walking towards the door. Her pale fingers clutch her purse close like a shield against the name calling.

Baby murderer! Killer!

Somehow, she pushes past the protesters, and pulls the door open. Its heaviness reminds her of the consequences she would face for this mistake.

After checking in with reception, a small boxy room with messy stacks of paper piled up in every corner, the clerk points her towards the waiting area. Pine floors stretch the length of the old warehouse, and vintage flower-patterned couches and Venetian rugs placed at odd angles attempt to create definition. She finds a spot on an over-sized beige couch full of soft lines and maroon flowers, and settles deep into its broken cushion. There, she finds a familiar comfort of home.

“Shayla Hutchins?”

Shayla looks up, adjusts her cross-body bag nervously, and smiles at the girl standing in front of her. She glances at the nametag – volunteer. She stands and follows the girl back to a small room with nothing but an exam table and a strange looking machine.

“Change into this. The doctor and I will be back shortly,” the volunteer hands her a hospital gown.

After she closes the door, Shayla changes, and watches the clock.

Knock, knock.

“Come in,” Shayla says, startled.

The doctor and the volunteer file in quietly, and shut the door. The doctor explains the procedure, but Shayla can’t seem to comprehend what she is saying. Everything sounds muffled the way it does after a snowstorm, distant.

“Would you like me to stay and hold your hand?” the volunteer asks. Shayla looks down at her hand, outstretched; her caramel-colored skin looks soft and inviting.

She slowly nods yes, and the volunteer smiles warmly.

“I’ll be right here with you the whole time.”

“Thank you,” Shayla manages to say.

“You’re welcome. And you’re going to be okay,” she says. Her eyes are hot chocolate with a sprinkle of cinnamon, bringing warmth to Shayla’s numbness.

The doctor turns on the contraption and a loud hum fills the room. Shayla closes her eyes, grips the volunteer’s hand, and stifles a scream through gritted teeth.

***

The volunteer rubs Shayla’s shoulder like an old friend and ushers her back to the couch.

“Remember, you are worthy of more,” she says, catching Shayla by surprise. Her cheeks flush.

Shayla sits and dials Chris. He answers right after one ring.

“Meet me at The Twisted Hanger,” he tells her.

“Three blocks away?” Shayla hisses.

“I’m grabbing a beer. Meet me out front in ten.”

“You are unbelievable.” Shayla hangs up.

***

No longer afraid of their words, Shayla easily walks past the protesters. What’s done is done. Rays from the June sun warm her shoulders, and the words from the volunteer replay in her head. Worthy of more.

One foot goes in front of the other until she reaches the blue pick-up. But instead of stopping, she keeps walking, fishing around in her bag until her fingers find her phone.

Shayla dials and listens to the rings.

“Hello?”

“Mom? I really need you. Can you come get me?”

 

Photo courtesy of Stocksnap.io/Ashton Bingham

300 Words on 3 Days Sober

Seventy-two hours without a drink in my hand and thoughts are no longer smothered by pressure to reach for a glass, but instead eagerly hovering over the keys with clarity and ambition, reaching for ways to display their excitement through words.

I see expression in myself, my children, and my world that I never knew was there. It’s like I’ve been living with the lights out and ears muffed, stumbling and bumping into things, never quite sure of which direction to take. After making the conscious choice to drink less, the energy around me is palpable and bright.

My lungs are expanding with greater capacity and the crispness of air refreshes my mind, bringing focus to my little space in the universe.

But it’s the moments between each breath, where a feathery touch or tinkling laugh make me realize that staying present will continue to benefit me in ways I never knew were possible with a drink in my hand. These moments were ones the bottle convinced me to ignore most, draining vibrancy from my life.

Though these feelings prove that I am worthy of sobriety, my head continues to persuade me that I am missing out on good times without a glass of my favorite red. It’s a gentle tug pulling me backwards.

I’m hesitant to say that I am free, because I know I’m not. The days ahead of me will be long and filled with uniquely challenging pressures that I haven’t yet prepared myself for. But I will figure them out one by one.

Tonight, I’ll have a glass of wine because it’s the weekend and because I’m flawed. Maybe tomorrow night I’ll have steamy chamomile tea with a teaspoon of honey instead.

And for now, I stand here: three days sober, seeing the clear skies ahead.

Photo courtesy of Annie Spratt/Unsplash

Sisters: Two Hearts Tethered Together

The young girl pressed her nose firmly against the glass and her breath made a tiny circle of steam underneath. Long brown hair fell all the way to her hips. “When do I get my bubblegum cigar?” she questioned her stepdad, unimpressed by the tiny balls of fury on the other side of the window. “I want to go home,” the girl stepped away from the glass. Her lips squished into an odd-shaped frown as she folded her arms and shuffled her small frame to her left hip. “Hospitals are boring and they smell funny.”

When she was finally able to go home, stuff was different. There was the crying. So. Much. Crying. At first, anyway. And there were the smelly diapers. Yuck.

But the worst part of this new little person, was all the sharing she had to do with her. First, her mommy couldn’t color in her Lisa Frank coloring book or watch Jem and the Holograms like she used to, because she had to feed and clean the baby. That made the little girl’s lips turn upside down into a frown. Then when the baby got older, she had to share her Beverly Hills 90210 Barbies (which the baby ruined, by the way) and the television. Instead of Jem, they were watching Barnie. Can you believe she had to watch that big purple dinosaur? Who was this small, red-faced thing and why was she suddenly so important? She was pretty sure sisters were no good.

In high school, the older sister started dancing and the younger one followed her lead. Dancing bonded them together. They were able to make their separate paths, distinct from the other, but together simultaneously. They began to share laughter.

It wasn’t until the older sister, newly wedded, packed up a U-haul for a move north that she first felt the tether strung between them. It connected them at the heart. “I’ll miss you so much,” she said, wrapping her freckled arms tightly around her sister. “But I’ll be back soon. And you can visit whenever you want.” As they untangled from their embrace, the older girl looked at her baby sister, no longer a baby, and tried to remember if she had ever felt as close to a person. She hadn’t.

“Please don’t leave,” her younger sister said quietly. “I need you.” Tears stung her already glossy eyes.

***

A sister is the only person who will willingly pick spinach from your teeth when you have no mirror or floss. And will tell you how God-awful that brand new mustard-yellow cable knit sweater looks without so much as a mouth twitch.

She will somehow be your best and worst wingman simultaneously (when you’re young and single, of course). And laugh at your honesty when you admit that you kind of thought hurricanes and typhoons were almost the same.

She’s the one who had to wear the horrible matching outfits for pictures with you, scarring you both for life.

She will let you borrow anything from her closet. EHH-NEE-THING. And will snatch that Bud Light right from your hand when you’ve had too much to drink. And tell you when you need to lay off the pizza and hit the gym. But she also tells you how pretty you are.

A sister is special because even though you may fight, it’s nearly impossible to stay mad at her. You can have pajama parties with her as an adult and make up dance routines to Footloose or Like a Virgin without feeling like a moron. She has seen your house at its dirtiest. Hell, she’s even cleaned your dishes once or twice. And If someone hurts you, she’ll cut a b*tch. Without question. Without fail.

She is the best aunt to your kids, the best listener you know, the best friend you’ve got. She’s your sister.

***

The little girl was me and the tiny ball of fury was my younger sister, Brittany. Today, almost two and a half states stretch between us, but it doesn’t matter. She is the first person I call when I need to cry. When things get all wonky, she sorts them out. I do the same for her. We’ve got two hearts tethered together.

We’re seesters.

Photo courtesy of Annie Spratz/Unsplash

Could I Please Pee in Peace? As a Mom, it’s Not Likely.

I quickly and quietly shut the door, sit on the porcelain seat, and gather my wad of white paper. I exhale loudly and shrug my shoulders, trying to relax because a moment of silence is worth more than gold in my house.

But instead of relaxing and doing what I came here to do, I get distracted and start noticing the layers of clumpy blue and pink toothpaste mixed with stray hairs in the sink. Gross. When was the last time I cleaned in here?

“Mommy!” my six-year-old shouts from the other side of the door, jostling me from my thoughts. “Sven poopied in the house again.” Of course he did. He ate whole wheat rotini and alfredo right from the garbage earlier.

Sven is my seventy-five pound gluten-intolerant dog who frequently digs through the garbage for leftovers of any kind. If he even looks at pasta the wrong way, well…poopy happens.

She dramatically bursts through the door. “Can you clean it up? It smells yucky.” She grabs her nose and sticks out her tongue in disgust. I can’t help but laugh at her cuteness.

“Where’s Dad?  I’m kind of busy.” AKA trying to pee in peace.

“Momma!” my toddler stumbles in behind her like a drunk pirate with one peg leg. Maybe it’s the missing shoe? “Momma, ode me!” She reaches her pudgy hands up, opening and closing her tiny fists over and over. “Ode me, peese.” I can’t resist pulling her short frame into my lap.

“What happened to your other shoe?” I ask as she burrows her head into my neck.

“She put it in the trashcan!” My oldest laughs. I know if I had a mere thirty seconds, this would all be over.  I could go back to mothering with my yoga pants securely in place.

“You guys, seriously,” I say, leaning over to shut the door. “I really need to pee.”  My oldest starts rummaging wildly for something under the sink.

“What are you looking for under there?” I ask her.

“Air freshener.  For the poopy smell.” She pulls out some apple cinnamon spray and smiles victoriously.

My husband knocks only once before swinging the door wide open. Sven and Roxy (the other dog) are both with him. Now the whole damn family is hanging out in the first-floor half-bath.

“I gotta go, babe. I’m running late for work.” He leans over to kiss me and the girls.

“Do you realize the whole family is in the bathroom right now?” I ask him. He turns to observe and slowly nods his head yes.

“That’s life with kids, Danielle.”

“Okay,” I say.  I finally accept the fact that we’re having a full blown family meeting in the bathroom. “But what about Sven’s poop?”

“Taken care of,” he responds, dragging both dogs out of the bathroom. “Come on guys. Let Mommy go potty.”

“Love you babe,” I say, returning my youngest to the floor in front of me.

“Love you, too.” he says, shutting the door. Finally I can pee. The door opens and my husband reappears. “One more thing,” he says.  “I found a shoe in the trashcan.”

“Choo!” my youngest shouts. “Choo on!”

***

Not a day goes by that I don’t wish I could have two minutes of silence to go to the bathroom without being bothered, or to sit and simply collect my thoughts ALONE. Who doesn’t want that? But I also accept the fact that it won’t happen. At least for a long, long, long time. And I’m okay with that. There are too many active gears turning in our family machine and if I lock the door there’s always the chance that the house will burn to the ground with me on the loo. Plus, it’s nice knowing that I’m needed so incredibly much that I can barely walk out of the room without shit hitting something.  And it’s also nice to know I can count on my husband for the dirty work (literally).

So for now I’ll just continue going with an open door policy, looking forward to the day I will finally be able to pee in peace, but knowing that even without my two minutes of silence, things are still pretty great.

Photo Courtesy of David Cohen

When Anxiety Strikes Your Fruit Bowl

I’m typically an easy going person. I try not to raise my voice above speaking level. I volunteer occasionally.  I’m tolerant and understanding. I am, for the most part, level-headed and kind. But every person has her breaking point and, well, mine was the stupid fruit bowl.

It wasn’t an extraordinary day, by any stretch of the imagination. My one-year-old was teething, AKA not sleeping and mostly just screaming bloody murder. I skipped my shower when she skipped her nap. Then I opted for extra caffeine as I consoled her, which, in hindsight, was probably not the best idea.

When my five-year-old came home from school, we struggled to complete her homework. She would scribble and erase, scribble and erase until her letters were just how she wanted, making my blood bang furiously on my eardrums. All the while, I had a red-faced baby cradling my my left hip, as I tried to simultaneously throw a meal together. I could feel the lump in my throat getting bigger with each breath. Tears were brimming my eyelids and my hands starting to tingle. My anxiety was in full blown attack mode and I was on the defensive.

With homework finally finished, I served up my half-assed dinner at the kitchen bar, so we could eat. I opened a craft beer, savoring its bitterness as it touched the back of my throat. It was cold and delicious. Silently, I prayed for my heart rate to slow down, so I could enjoy quality time with my kids. I didn’t want the day to get any worse.

Almost immediately, my oldest started playing with something in front of her, a pencil, a stray gem from our jewelry making supplies, I don’t remember. Whatever it was, I took it away.

My prayers weren’t answered.

“Eat your dinner,” I said. I could hear the lack of patience seething out of my voice.  I checked out, done adulting for the day.  She didn’t listen. Instead, she picked up her fork and started tapping it on the fruit bowl.

Ding!  Ding, ding! Ding, ding, ding, ding!

She was willing to do whatever it took to get attention: good or bad, it’s all the same to kids.  I should’ve realized what she was doing, but my head was too clouded from exhaustion and anxiety.

“Enough,” I said through gritted teeth as the baby hurled a half-eaten nugget across the room.  “Please eat your dinner.  And no throwing your food,” My youngest swept her arm across her highchair tray, sending peas flying everywhere.  My five-year-old giggled and I snapped my head back in her direction.  “Your dinner,” I pointed my fork at her plate of food.  I took a deep breath, in through my nose and out my mouth.  I needed a moment, just one single moment, to-.

DING.

My peripheral vision went blurry and my hands started sweating.  Suddenly the only thing that my mind could comprehend was the fruit bowl and how much it always got in the way. I hated how gray it was. I hated how the bananas always bruised from touching the rough edges.  I couldn’t stand how it sounded as the fork gently tapped against it.  My teeth were grinding back and forth as I thought about how the events of the day had led me there, to the fruit bowl.

I needed that stupid bowl GONE.

Without any more thought, I picked it up and threw it on the cork floor.  Just like that. I thought maybe it would bounce.  

It did not.

The sound of the clay bowl crashing against the floor and separating into hundreds of tiny shards was enough to make all three of us jump.

I thought to myself, what have I done?

I swallowed hard, noticing the symptoms of my anxiety begin to dissipate. I blinked and my vision cleared, my shaking hands were no longer sweating, and the fog started to lift. I turned back to my children, both staring at me with wide-eyed bemusement.

They were frightened by me.

“I’m so sorry, you guys. Mom made a really big mistake.” I lightly kissed the tops of both of their heads, smelling their lavender shampoo.  Calm yourself.  

“Mommy will clean it up,” I assured them.

I grabbed the broom and dustpan, took a deep breath, swallowed my pride, and reminded myself that I’m not perfect. I’m only human and sometimes humans break stuff.

Photo courtesy of Sergey Zolkin