The Devil’s Chair – a Josie story -

Dad yelled down the hall to me, “Get some sleep, Josie!”

Yeah, right, I thought.

My blood pumped something fierce as I indulged in my favorite secret activity. I made an effort to type softly though, and even dimmed my computer screen, then searched online for an image of my mother’s grave. It wouldn’t take Dad long to fall asleep to the white noise of a late night talk show. I turned back to my Google Earth search. I was staring at the bird’s eye view of Seattle’s oldest cemetery, Lakefront. It looked like a park from this distance, but as I clicked the plus sign, gray stones, white marble tombs and stone benches made it apparent what the land’s real purpose was, not to entertain or refresh, no. It was a place of rest.

I oriented myself by finding the caretaker’s cottage first, then right clicked until Chief Seattle’s grave came into the screen. My eyes blurred, and I was surprised to find the clock blinking, 11:11. “Make a wish,” I whispered to Shadow, who slept in a ball at the end of my bed. I pushed back the thought of joining my cat, I was so close. There were only twenty-or-so-feet between this grave and my mother’s. I fought a yawn, and clicked the right arrow, once, twice. Expecting to see the black angel holding the heart with my mother’s name, Sarah Jameson, etched across the face, the computer screen was filled with the image of a tombstone shaped like a stone chair. I zoomed in to read the epitaph. But, because this was real life, not some corny police show, I couldn’t make out the words.

A marker that some call devil's chair

A marker that some call devil’s chair

I opened a new tab and typed, “stone chair grave,” then scrolled through the top hits. My phone vibrated, and a quick glance told me that Seth was up late, too. My father’s rule was no texting after ten, but whatever. I read Seth’s message, he was researching the symbols carved into the grave I rubbed last week. In the text, he asked if the swirls in the middle of my rubbing could be an octopus. Octopus?

I started typing an answer, but two words on my computer screen stopped me cold, “devil’s chair.” I shivered at the search findings. I clicked on the ‘image’ button and stared into twenty-something versions of the tombstone I had discovered near my mother’s grave, same chair, different materials; iron, stone, wood and brick. Some were decayed to the point of falling apart. I texted Seth to ask if he’d ever heard of the devil’s chair, and my finger hesitated over the ‘send’ button. No. I didn’t need him to be involved with this. I deleted the message, then clicked a link to a story titled, “Sitting on the Devil’s Chair,” and I skimmed one man’s account.

On a Halloween night eight years ago, the man snuck into a central Florida cemetery in hopes of finding the devil’s chair. As he waited for midnight to come, he drank half the bottle of rum he planned to give the devil in exchange for a granted wish. As the witching hour approached, the man fell asleep, waking to a cloud of sulphur. Through the yellowish light, the devil, shiny black, not red, appeared, and with shaking hands, the man offered over the remains of the rum. Scared, tired and drunk, the man was going to run away, but the devil dropped back his head and laughed. And then he asked the man what he wanted most. Fighting to keep his words straight, he asked the devil to make him a famous actor, land him a role that would bring him a tidy bundle of stereotypes; money, women, fame.

Behind the computer screen, I stifled a laugh. What a loser. Out of curiosity, I scrolled to the bottom of the post and read the author’s name, Jason Danning. As in the Jason Danning, the man made famous by his portrayal of a specter on Broadway, literally overnight. No frigging way! I reread the part about his wish and shook with excitement.

My heart raced and I pushed back from my desk, paced the room, and stripped off my sweatshirt, suddenly flushed with purpose. Something like hope, and fear, and possibility burned beneath my skin. It couldn’t be true, could it?

What were the odds that a devil’s chair would be so close to my mother’s grave? That had to be more than chance. Maybe it was fate. My mind wandered to the wish I’d make, it didn’t even take a blink to find the answer. I needed to hear my mother’s voice again, spend a few minutes with her, let her hold me and tell me that I’d done okay without her. Tears streaked down my face. And as the drops dried on my skin, I decided that I must try. I would evoke the devil and ask for a favor.

At what price? The words whispered, not in my voice, but Seth’s, dear, sensible Seth. I crumpled the thought, throwing it into a dark corner of my mind and set about preparing. The clock read 11:23. I had thirty-seven minutes left.


This is the first part of the story, folks. Get in on the fun. Leave me a comment and tell me what should happen next. Share it with whoever you like and have them join the fun. And if this is the first you’ve heard of Josie, the protagonist of my first novel, Four Rubbings, well, for heaven’s sake, download it. Order it. Request it at your local library.

Today’s a Fresh Start

A photograph, taken and colorized by my father, Gary Riley in the early 70s

A photograph, taken and colorized by my father, Gary Riley, in the early 70s

Today is a fresh start. You can either do better, worse, or the same with your life and all its intricate components. Approach the day with the mindset that you will add to, not take away from, all that you touch. Then, would you let me know how that works out?

Wishing you a lovely day,


A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words

humuIt’s a lazy day of summer around this house. The air is a touch too warm, but I’m soaking it in like a battery – and will use the extra warmth to recharge my soul come October.

Take these simple moments to cherish the now and treasure the ease of a lazy day. And if you’re find you’re too warm tonight as that fan blows warm air on you like a hair dryer, picture yourself swimming along side this darling fish from Hawaii. He’s a watercolor I created to honor my nephew, Marcus, for his seventeenth birthday.

A Visit to the Oddfellows’ Cemetery

Well, I’d be the first to admit it. My kids haven’t had a typical upbringing. And after stomping across cemeteries in the name of research for Four Rubbings, they’ve become accustomed to graveyard visits during summer vacation. I worried maybe I’d scarred them, until yesterday. My sixteen-year-old, Ellie, asked if we could fit a cemetery visit into their first week of vacation, preferably one we’d never visited before. So, after a quick web search, I found the Oddfellows’ Cemetery in Monroe, Washington. You see, I’ve become obsessed with the Oddfellows Society as of late, with no intentions or strings attached. I’ve no plan to include this kind fraternity in my second book, but it keeps coming up in my research, and I’m fascinated with their women’s group.

The drive to Monroe was glorious. The mountains were out – the way us pacific northwesterners say that the sun was shining. As we drove, we listened to Cake and reminisced about the Evergreen State Fair. We walked that tightrope of wishing for early September when the fair would open, and being mindful not to wish away our summer in pursuit of an elephant ear and carnival rides.

As we approached the cemetery, I must admit, I was disappointed. The grounds were washed in sunlight with no menacing high fence to mark the property boundaries. Huge, very old pines, towered over the graves, their branches filled with fat robins. I wanted to feel chilled, spooked and uneasy, not comfortable.


What does that symbol mean? Do you know?

We parked and began to slowly roam the grounds, finding graves from the mid 1800s through the present day. I had to stop a few times as I walked to cough, my throat felt itchy and dry. I assumed it was pollen.  The first grave I fell in love with bore the name, Matilda M. Oliver. She was born July 8, 1852 and passed away on March 18, 1924. There was a strange star symbol beneath her name.

The three of us, Ellie, Bryn and I, were giddy. It felt like summer vacation at last. Ellie was doing a rubbing and Bryn was carefully walking between graves, reading dates aloud. Next, I saw this old lion gravestone. I came close to take a photo, and only then did I notice the lamb curled up with him. Take a look:

oddfellows lionAnd then, I paused to take another picture, of a grave of no consequence to you, I’m sure, but something about it filled me with peace and joy. As I snapped a shot, Ellie said, “That one! I took a picture of it, too. It made me feel happy.” Hmm.

During any given cemetery walk, I’m reluctant to drop everything and race to the most visually prominent grave or crypt for principle’s sake alone. I feel they receive all the guests they could ever want or need based on their size and spectacle. But, today I couldn’t resist taking a picture of this beauty. Pinkerton was no doubt a family with clout in Monroe circa 1853, and the grave reflected their importance. The ornate carving photographed well in the shade of the pines.

oddfellows graveAnd then, I was drawn away from the girls to a newer-looking grave. His name was Kenneth R. Lindsey and he served in the US Navy as a Seabee. The Seebees were the construction arm of the Navy, I found out later. I turned on the ghost app on my phone and the first word was, ‘touch.’ I was just thinking how I wanted to touch his grave marker. I stooped down and brushed the pine needles off with my hand and my ghost app went crazy with words. What I thought was a silly novelty was conveying what felt like a one-sided conversation. Here are the words, I took a screenshot – and Kenneth’s beautiful grave. I believe he was a character in his living time.

ghost words 1The phone went silent after a time, so I said goodbye to Kenneth and searched for my daughters. They were halfway across the property, staring at three graves, photoall bearing the last name Todd. The middle grave was their daughter, Lillian and she preceded her parents to the grave at a young age. My throat hurt and my stomach clenched. I took a picture and had to move away. The girls lingered, speculating about Lillian and how she died. Bryn said her throat hurt and Ellie began to cough. Was it a freaky coincidence that the three of us were suffering from a throat ailment and the word, ‘throat’ popped up on my ghost app?

As I walked to the car, they followed behind. And then Bryn froze in her tracks. Her face didn’t register fear, more like awe. She stayed there for ten, maybe fifteen seconds, stock still. When she began walking again, I asked if she wanted to share with me what had happened. She shook her head. “I’ll wait until the car ride.”

Once tucked inside, she told us that an apparition had appeared. It was gray, had the general outline of a person, but didn’t look either male or female. It didn’t scare her, but she never wanted to come to the Oddfellows’ Cemetery at night.

When we arrived home, I did a web search of hauntings and found none. I searched for the names of the Todd family and found no records. I’m curious to find out if others have had experiences in this beautiful, tranquil place.


Leaving God Behind


No matter the trouble, I think I have to bear it alone. When will I learn?

These last days have been zipping by at the speed of light, making something that happened a few weeks ago feel like it occurred last year. It was the final meeting of my bible study class. After singing one last hymn, we said goodbye for the summer. I drove away wrapped in the tingly warmth of the Holy Spirit wrapped around me like an electric blanket, and I swore to capture and keep that peace until we reconvened in the fall. I promised to stay this close to God throughout summer.

(Cue the ominous music here)

Soon after, I counted the weeks I had left to be a working mom before my kids were on summer vacation, six weeks. Six weeks?!? My head spun, I had a second book to finish drafting, six book covers to conceptualize and execute, a new book team to train, a hospice luncheon to get sponsored, and more.  This was on top of my mom duties, wife duties, pet duties and school volunteer duties. All of which were feeling more like doo-doos as I ran around from 5:30am until after 11:00pm trying to chip away at the stacks of work, which seemed to stay massive in spite of my efforts.

portland street

If you take the same route, expect the same outcome.

I dubbed myself, “Mrs. Frazzled” and carried on, losing any grace in the process. Within a week of that moment when I drove away from bible study, I’d lost my sense of peace and balance. And because I left God behind, it all fell squarely on my shoulders. The stress. The burden. The shortcomings. The frustration.

Things worsened throughout May and well into June. I was more frazzled than ever, short on sleep and even shorter on temper. My teen, an old soul, suggested we cleanse the house, not with 409, but with burning sage and prayer. She feared a dark spirit was at work in our household, something powerful enough to transform her sweet mom into an ogre, though she never said that part.

That evening, with my littlest one fast asleep and husband across the country on business, we lit sage, walked the house and prayed. We replaced the angst crouching in our shadowy corners with grace. Before falling asleep that night, I asked God to forgive me. Forgive me for being obstinate, for insisting on carrying my burden alone. But, the truth is, I have a hard time admitting defeat – and an even harder time asking for help.

Asking for help makes me feel like a failure and leaves me drenched in queasy frustration. I was raised to be an independent woman, and asking for help meant I was weak, dependent and incapable. But, God doesn’t give us what we want, only what we need. And what I need most is to learn to ask for help.

plates on wall

The outpouring of advice from all of you inspired me to try something new.

I wrote a simple post on Facebook asking why it was so difficult for me to ask for help and I got an overwhelming response from friends and family. They found it hard as well. But, they also exposed another side to me – the blessing my cry can offer to the ones that answer my call. Wow. I’d never thought of it that way before. When we help others, it leaves us feeling content, satisfied, good. I knew that feeling from pitching in for other people over the years. Yes. I could give that feeling to someone else, if only I showed my vulnerability.

So, squirming, wriggling, and wincing – these last weeks, I’ve been asking for assistance. Not only from God, but from others as well. I’ve been asking for help. I’ve asked for patience, I’ve asked for understanding, I’ve asked for professional advice, and I’ve asked for more time. It still doesn’t feel comfortable, but I am learning. I am learning that sometimes asking for help is a blessing to the person that answers that call.

I’m also seeing that, even though I left God behind for a time, He never forgot about me. Not for one moment. He was there waiting to answer my request, I need only ask.

So, for those of you that unknowingly helped me learn that asking for help is a safe place, thank you. You were my blessing these last weeks. I promise to return the favor.

She Writes Mysteries from a Misty Perch above the San Francisco Bay, Meet JT Twissel

220px-Katherine_PhilipsHi I’m Jan.  I live in a village of about 15,000 souls named after Katherine Phillips, a fifteen century poet called “The Matchless Orinda.” In her day, she was considered the ideal woman writer: virtuous, proper, and chaste. She was also thought be a “sappho.” (gay)

For as a watch by art is wound
To motion, such was mine;
But never had Orinda found
A soul till she found thine;

- Matchless Orinda


How many mysteries have the rolling fog inspired?

From the window where I write I can watch the fog roll in from the San Francisco Bay – a beautiful sight.  Pretty Kitty watches me as I write.  Pretty is a stray we adopted.  We were sure it was a girl but alas, the vet disagreed.  Pretty is a boy.  Still we can’t break ourselves of the habit of calling him “pretty,” could you?

Under the pseudonym JT Twissel I’ve published two books which are only alike in that the narrator is a young woman and she takes lots of road trips.  The first book (Flipka) was set in Nevada in the late 1970s.  I was raised in Reno which I always thought I could put behind me, but…you know how these things go. Nevada just keeps popping up in my writing, as a setting, a dreaded past, or even as a character. The lecherous Uncle Nevada, creeping in to dreams, like a house you can’t quite leave behind. (Do you ever wake up in the dark certain you are in a house you moved out of long ago? I do – all the time!)  I won’t bore you with the synopsis, suffice it to say – it’s wacky, zany and frightening.  The frightening part is that the despicable girls reformatory where the mystery takes place actually exists.

The second book (The Graduation Present) is based loosely on my travels through Europe.  It’s a coming of age adventure with a slight twist of romance – actually it has a lot of twists, period. I am currently working on a third, more contemporary piece based on a long and bizarre struggle I had with the IRS.  But working on a piece so full of black humor wears me down, sends me to places I don’t want to go and so I find myself instead blogging my fool head off about European adventures gone astray.










***(Editor’s note: Follow Jan on Twitter @JTTwissel and subscribe to her blog. Jan’s sense of humor shines through, but she also features behind-the-curtain interviews of other authors. ***

The Beauty of Being Between


A dragon, tethered to a bedpost with yarn. Will the Muppets’ rescue work?

She exists between two worlds, childhood and teenage-ness. Bryn, my youngest daughter, is torn between the urge to grow up and the desire to cling to the cozy, familiarity of youth.

She has a secret life now, one she would never share with her peers. The same girl that watches YouTube videos posted by cute boys from England still occasionally takes her toys out of the bin in the back of her closet and creates worlds, detailed worlds where a dragon is held captive and Muppets rally behind a duct-taped shield in a rescue effort, but fall asleep before they can free the dragon from a yarn tether. Bryn still plays, yes. But it must bring her a mix of joy and something complicated, too. Maybe a pang of guilt? Or insecurity? Or awkwardness?

But, I think that her between time is beautiful. She’s still got the bold imagination of a child, though now it’s paired with the skills of a grown up. She imagines a purse, and she crafts it out of duct tape, giving it to me for Mother’s Day. She watches a funny video on YouTube, then works quietly in her room, molding clay and tape and paper into figures, creating her own stop-action video, paired with music and animation. It’s as funny as the YouTube video, but won’t get a million hits, because she created it for her own enjoyment.

photo 3

The Muppets are dozing off on the duct-taped shield. The dragon is surely doomed.

Her time of being between inspires me. I’m inspired and at the same time, reminded to savor the in between, the pauses between projects when I can let my mind drift and reignite my creativity to make something just for me. Bryn, your in-between is beautiful.

photo 2

This dramatic scene unfolds beneath posters of hunky men and women, Catching Fire stars that Bryn admires.

Alfred, the Ghost – a Guest Blog by Patty Joslyn

As a poet, Back CameraI have ghost stories and I have GHOST Stories. For now, I will share the tale of the ghost of the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse. He needs a name. How about Alfred. I have a friend who lives in Negril, Jamaica. His hair is so thin you can see right through it. His name is Alfred.

Recently, I spent two nights at the lighthouse with three other women. It was pegged as a time to get lots of writing (and eating) done. The weather was cool and though it never rained, it threatened each day. The gray sky turned a shade of light purple a time or two, and then it went to dark. It was excellent for being inside and taking walks long enough to get your shoes and socks wet.

One of the ladies, after a wonderful dinner of leek soup, vegan macaroni and cheese and varied conversation, told us she did not believe in ghosts. I was amazed, truly amazed. What was she talking about? I guessed she also didn’t believe in the Tooth Fairy? What about Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer? Because I did and do believe in ghosts, fairies and myths. I sadly shook my head. She looked at me like she wanted to say something, excused herself and mumbled something about being in the middle of editing Chapter 18 of her book.  I ran my fingers over the gluten-free bread crumbs that had fallen to the table, all that was left of the mac and cheese.

That night I woke up with the distinct weight of someone beside me. It was a man. A heavy, quite large man. A snoring man. He had stolen some of the bed covers. I hoped that my husband had surprised me. But he was not invited, it was a woman’s weekend. I reached over to ask the snorer to roll over. I then had a better idea. I suggested he move on, into Norma’s room. She didn’t believe in ghosts, surely she would not mind.

Alfred left as soundlessly as he had arrived. The bed was warmer on that side, I rolled over and fell into a sweet deep sleep.

I woke early. I was the first one downstairs the next morning. Making myself a cup of tea I was startled to hear someone on the creaky stairs. In a house built in 1909 things creak and groan. Someone was making their way down in the weak morning, light. It was Norma. She looked exhausted.

“You will never believe this,” she said. “I woke up to the sound of water running, I’m sure I shut off the faucet after brushing my teeth last night and yet it was more than dripping, it was running. When I got up to shut if off I thought and felt that I wasn’t alone.” I hid my chuckle in my steam of peppermint.

“I was afraid to look up into the mirror” she appeared stunned with herself, with the possibilities of having encountered a ghost.

I told her about the heaviness in my bed, about  how the man I named Alfred warmed my bed and I didn’t think she’d mind the same loving kindness. Again, she looked at me with wide eyes and a slight shake of her head. She mentioned a new chapter, the editing that had to be done. When she left, I made another cup of tea, placed it in the windowsill to steep, hoping Alfred would know it was for him.

Patty Joslyn moved back to Mendocino County in 2012 from Vermont where she worked in End-Of-Life Care, she is fascinated by death, as she is with birth–as passages into new realms. A writer, she has been published in El Calendario de Todos Santos,, VOYA, several anthologies and has been a guest reader at many events. Patty has seven self-published chapbooks. She and her husband share four wonderful children. Patty still has not fully recovered from her empty nest syndrome.

Five Reasons Why Fifty Shades of Grey Will Never Be My Thing

01c83602e689905a6439a1c6346d42661. Set in Bellevue, Washington, the setting and its people do not inspire anything to moisten, except maybe the pre-glued lip of a manila envelope. Sorry, Fifty Shades of Grey, I’m not buying it. This homogenous community is about as sexy as plain tofu. Who could equate creative, raw and unleashed sex with this button-down, blue-shirt clad, Microsoft haven. From their obsession with The Black Keys to their singular pursuit of creating the perfect refurbishment of the Vanagon parked in their suburban garage,  the people locals refer to as Softies could never be sexy.

2. I’m not a fan of masturbation, so what’s the point? It might stem from my own sexual hangups formed as the child of an ousted Catholic mother determined to never have a pregnant daughter, I admit, this one’s all on me. I do know that my Women’s Studies class at UW didn’t help matters.

This was at a time before the class title changed to Wymyn’s Studies, which might relate to the hymen in some way I’m unaware of, but would be better titled as, “Why Men Are Scum.” We signed up for the class, my bestie and I, with two guy friends who thought it was a great way to meet chicks (or chyx?) and knock out five easy credits. Yeah, right.

From that first day in lecture hall, our guy friends came under the hostile gaze of the wymen in class throughout the hour. Every reference to ‘male priviledge’ made them sink lower in their seats. With the hour almost up, the professor announced our homework. We were to write our names in Sharpie on our dildos. If we didn’t yet own a dildo, we were to purchase one, along with said Sharpie. I didn’t even know the word, ‘dildo’ until that moment, so I was a candidate for option two – purchasing a plastic wonder wand. Problem was, it would never stir anything but confusion in me because after that class my dildo would be sporting a condom made up of man hate and wymen’s pride. That had the sure makings of icy loins.

So, no dildo, no point. Sorry, Fifty Shades.

3. Public sex = Ick. The thought of public sex makes me wildly uncomfortable. As a teen, I’d run the trail along the Columbia River after school, usually accompanied by my stepdad, Mike. One day, Mike bailed on me and I ran anyway – leaving him to watch the episode of All My Children he’d recorded on the VHS in peace. Thank you, Lord.

As I neared the entrance to the trail, I noticed a shiny sedan bouncing up and down. It was a sunny afternoon and my first thought was that a dog was locked inside the car, and was fighting to get outside to some fresh air. I approached, looked in the window and saw a chubby white butt bobbing up and down. I must’ve gasped, because the next thing I saw were two sweaty pink faces gaping back at me. I ran home and told Mike what he’d missed while watching AMC. Public sex. Ick. Sorry, Fifty Shades. I assume you don’t just contain condo sex, but public sex as well. And that makes me barf a little in my mouth.

4. My own failed attempt at PDA (public displays of affection) put me off Fifty Shades. Not sex, no. But, heavy kissing with a boy I’d been dating for some time. He was named Alfredo and was beautiful and delicious and shy. Oh God! He was shy. He’d been my friend for ages and then sometime during high school we decided to be a couple. He was the star of the basketball team, and gorgeous, and ohhhh soooo shy.

On a Sunday, God’s day, I invited Alfredo to my house under the guise of studying. Within minutes of walking in the door, I lured him down to the basement to watch football and “study.” Instead of falling all over me in the gaps between my mother’s trips to the laundry room, he read. He wrote on lined-paper. He studied.

I pinched my cheeks, pushed up my bra and licked my oh-so-willing-lips, but nothing. Alfredo studied.

Fast-forward to the summer. Alfredo came over to walk the river with me. I wore a cute swimming suit and teensie tennis skirt and we walked together, hand in hand. We spread our beach towels out on the dock and kissed. Oh, dear heavens, we kissed – physical, hot, lustful kisses. We were interrupted by someone standing above us, ahemming!

“Ahem!” said a purse-lipped old lady. She went on to explain that this was her dock. And we should take whatever this was leading up to far, far away from her respectable dock.

I can’t speak for Alfredo, but at that moment, all my lust spontaneously combusted, as did all hope for our budding relationship.

PDAs? Nope. Fifty Shade’s not for me. I’d squirm my way through the pages, in a bad way.

5.  My first, and only, exposure to porn was a fat failure. I’ll never try again, which means definitely no Fifty Shades.

It was the summer after my first year at UW. Me and my bestie traveled to Spokane to visit two of our best guy friends. It’d been revealed at the end of spring term that we’d never seen porn and they felt it was their duty to expose us to this life-changing media. (their words – not mine) Well, we didn’t care one way or the other, but it became the thing that our whole trip centered around. The boys had done research at numerous adult video shops and selected an award-winning (Yes! An Award!) video. They rented it, we ate dinner and they popped in the vid.

My bestie and I giggled our way through the opening scene. A woman’s television was broken. Oh no! She called a repair guy and he came over, tight shirt, tight pants and toolbelt. Well, while he was trying to repair the t.v., the woman unbuttoned her shirt, rubbed her boob, rubbed the other boob and then the movie faded out to nothing. We were in hysterics, laughing and rolling on the floor. THIS was the magical world we’d missed out on? Really?

On the other side of the room, sitting under a cloud of bitter, were our two guy friends. They were yelling at one another, “You just HAD to get an award-winner!” Etc. Etc. Etc.

Apparently, this was not typical porn. They were pissed that they’d completely blown their one and only chance to deflower two mostly innocent girls with the world of X-rated vids.

Porn, you and I were never meant to be. Sorry, Fifty Shades. I’ll never know if your best chapters fade out to nothing or thunder to a conclusion of  loud groans and noisy slaps.


If you’re in the mood for a more cerebral read, check out my novel – filled with friendship, mystery and psychological thrills, Four Rubbings.

Just Not the Dirty

It Was a No Good, Very Bad Week

It was a no good, very bad week.

But, I’m not gonna quit!

maya-angelou_D1TR3It was the supreme and brilliant, Maya Angelou that said,  “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

This phrase has gotten me out of some very toxic relationships. Maybe you think it’s only the callused and cynical that value her statement. But everything about me radiates softie. I give people not one chance, but decade’s worth, and the toll it takes on me and my family has been brutal. But Angelou’s words cut through the guilt and let me do an instant gut check. Who are you?  Okay then. I believe you. I’ll stop looking for something else that you cannot give/be.

This week I was slammed by not people, but people within businesses that I work with, one paid, one volunteer.  It wasn’t a rude nudge, either. No, I was thrown into a solid wall by a big Samoan. As a result, I spent three days disconnected to social media, email and cell phone. I needed some silence and some space to see clearly what these two places revealed about who they are. The complication is that I love both organizations, I do. I love what they stand for, the tenets they were founded on and the people, too. But, I needed to see who they were and believe them the first time.

As my heart hardened, and my inner voice whined, “Not fair!” and “Why me?” I did what has taken me 33 years to learn, I shut up. No easy task for the girl my college friends called, “Verb,” as in highly verbal. My voice strained to scream, my fingers to type long-winded and drama-laced emails, and my hands ached to strike out, shake, and claw.

The first night didn’t go well. It was as though all the negative thoughts had become toxins in my blood. My stomach twisted into knots and my heart literally ached, so much so that my husband asked if he should call the paramedics, twice. I let myself feel. The next two days went better. I spent time with my family and dug in the dirt and painted and scribbled in my sketchpad and did chores, all the while thinking, processing, sorting.

Because after 33 years of failing, I’ve learned how to be patient, how to lock down the worst in myself and wait for something better to seep in.

As of this writing, Day Four, I’m still waiting for the something better. But, at least I have  peace of mind knowing that I haven’t hurt anyone with my words. I haven’t damaged relationships with people and companies I care about. I don’t have a clear direction, but it’ll come.

I’ll recognize it when it comes because it will be something I never would’ve done on my own. I call it grace. I’ve learned to recognize grace because it whispers something foreign and strange when my humanness aches to lash out, hurt, and damage. And that’s how I know the thought is not from me, broken and flawed me, because it is the opposite of my thoughts. Beautiful grace.

So, if you’re interested, I’ll share what grace reveals from the two messes I’m facing. And maybe the next time life twists your guts, you can take a breath, or ten, or a thousand and see what grace creates in the pause.

Back Camera