Open Prose Letter to my Niece Chantel

Dear Chantel,

And so, it happened again. You got caught – this time by the police – with drugs. As tears welled up in my eyes, as we again had a conversation about making better choices and moving forward out of the fray, you are back to where you were a year ago. I don’t understand how someone like you, with their whole future ahead of them, continues to make these choices that do nothing but keep you down.

I keep asking myself why. As I thought about it, I think I nailed down your life motto, which seems to fit all the trouble you find yourself in as of late:

I do what I want. The rules do not apply to me if it conflicts with what I want.

I wrote this prose – more for me, than you – to get all of things feelings off my chest.

****language warning****

Late to high school
Skipping class
Maybe not show up
Truancy and tardies
Notes home for skipping
Your message to others
Has been the same
Since high school
I do what I want
Fuck them

Smoking pot in the house
Carrying at school for friends
There are rules and consequences of this
Your response
:
Fuck that
I do what I want
I am in charge
Not you
Fuck you
And get out of my way
Before I fuck you up

Stealing a car
And narcotics
May be against the laws of this state
But it didn’t matter right now
In the moment
Because you’d say
I do what I want
I needed the high
You have no idea
What’s going on in my head
Only way to get there was to drive
I do what I want
Fuck you for not understanding

Breaking the rules
Of the state or of your parents
Don’t mean shit
You’re only sorry you got caught
Sorry you’re going to get chewed out
And stonewalled at home
Showing up for a court date
Is a minor inconvenience
But it will happen again
Because you simply do what you want
Getting drunk
And getting home
Were top priority
What you wanted in that moment
Not your safety
Or the safety of others
The rules of the road don’t apply in these situations
You do what you want
Fuck them for getting in your way

If you’re prosecuted for intent to distribute
It won’t stop you from doing it again
If you want to do it
You fly under the radar to evade capture
You will still drive
You will still smoke
You will still do hits
You will still sell
You will still do what you want
When you want
Because you always have
Fuck them if they try and stop you
You are in charge
You do what you want
The rules serve as only boundaries
To remain undetected

If you kill someone in a car accident
Driving home from a party cuz you were legally drunk
But the least drunk of your friends in the car
It won’t change nothing
You do what you want
Someone dying won’t change your wants
Unless your wants change
History tells us it won’t
But I hear you loud and clear:
I wanna get high
I wanna get fucked up tonight
I wanna get laid right now
I wanna take nude selfies for likes
I wanna forget my pain
I wanna take hits til I can’t feel
Cuz that’s what I love to do
It’s what I want
I’m gonna do what I want
Fuck you if you get in my way

A trail of destruction
Strained relationships
Fines
Legal woes
Maybe even jail time
Will follow you
Until you decide
To want different things
Like abiding by laws
And taking care of yourself
Right now it’s all noise
It’s all a stalling tactic
Because in the end
You’ll do what you want
Over and over
And over and over again
That is your narrative:
I do want I want
The rules do not apply to me
If it conflicts with what I want
And fuck anybody
Who tries to stop me
From getting what I want

And with everything that’s happened
Everything is right on track for you
You’re getting what you want

But I am always here
Watching
And praying
For you
That you will seek help
From a therapist
From the Lord
From me
So we can help silence
The demons
The drugs cannot do

Bons baisers,
Aunt Simonne

 

Michigan Musings: Lake Huron Adventures of the Past

Nearly every summer in the 90’s was spent on the shores of Lake Huron.

They were all adventures.

My dad’s sister had a cottage on the lake in Port Austin in Broken Rocks – it was more of a house than cottage. I spent my days with my cousins, climbing on the giant boulders that jutted out from the land into the vast lake.  My one cousin and I would dig for clay at The Cove and then we fired the pots we made in that night’s beach campfire. I hunted crayfish in the shoals and attempted to net hundreds of fish that ultimately got away.

Swimming was by far my favorite. My feet adjusted quickly to Huron’s unfriendly rocky bottom and choppy waters. I couldn’t wait to get in the water.

My first brush with death happened in the lake when I was 9: the small sailboat my dad and I were on capsized when the wind changed directions and my dad wasn’t quick enough with the sail: I got trapped under the boat momentarily. My dad was freaked out, but I thought this was a great adventure. We had life jackets on, Dad was here, what could have possibly gone wrong? Ah, to view the world as a child.

I learned how to ride horses at the local riding stable. It was western trail riding on old nags, but that didn’t register to me. This was another adventure, quite different from my normal life. The trail leader said I was a natural on horseback and I began taking English riding lessons back home. The only problem was barnstorming: the horses knew the trail and once they realized they were heading back to the barn, where food was, they took off like they were wild mustangs. I had one horse take off into a gallop on me – mind you, I’m not wearing a helmet – and grabbed fist fulls of mane to stay on! I made it back okay, but ever since that time, I’ve been spooked with speed on horses.

We usually stopped for dinner at one of the restaurants in the small downtown – Chuck and Jane’s was our top spot. Evenings were spent eating ice cream and walking along the breakwater at the marina.  I loved the gift shops – Finan’s and the Dime Store – they had everything a preteen girl would want. I especially loved the cedar boxes – I have 2 of them with a horse on it – and Port Austin, MI was stamped in the lower right corner of the lid. My grandma couldn’t come downtown without stopping for bread and other delicious items from Murphy’s Bakery. For a special treat, we’d drive to Grindstone City’s General Store: they had the best ice cream in this hemisphere. This is not a hyperbole, this is fact.

Once I was a teenager, we began to stay at Ray’s (my mom’s cousin) quintessential cottage a few miles down the road in Caseville – its musty cottage smell is forever etched in my memory. The beach there had a sandy bottom, a welcomed relief from my aunt’s beach. This cottage is special to me because 2 things happened here that still ring true in my adult life: I officially became a Christian and began mapping out my family tree. I still walk daily with the Lord and am now writing down 20 years of genealogical research into a book.

As the years went on, it became me, my sister, mother, and grandmother in Port Austin trips. We’d stop at the IGA (a grocery store) in Bad Axe and get all the supplies we’d need for the week. Shopping with my mother and grandmother, this was a 2 hour excursion, which I always dreaded.  I wanted to get up to the cottage as soon as possible and see my lake! The foodstuff could wait.

Ray was there with his wife when we arrived. There were 2 cottages on the property – they would stay in one, we’d stay in the other. Ray was old enough to be my grandfather. My sister and I went fishing with him on his boat and caught so many lake perch our live wells were filled to the gills! Ray’s navigational systems weren’t working, so we had to stay within sight of land – but Ray started chasing schools of perch, as fishermen tend to do, and the next thing we know, we’re surrounded by water. It was I who got us safely back to shore after I found Sebewaing’s lone water tower in the distance.

There was no TV here. This was long before the internet was ubiquitous (I would go a whole week without checking my email!). I truly unhooked from the world I knew, the craziness of my household. And I loved every minute of it.

Watching the storms roll in on the lake was better than TV. I collected zebra mussel shells as if they were conch shells. The waterslide in Caseville proved I could get over my fear of heights. My 82 year old grandmother beat me in mini golf at Sandy Dunes. I would run the fitness trail at Port Crescent State Park, usually with my Dad when he showed up for a couple of days. Countless walks on the beach, watching the sunset, campfires every night – I never got bored and planned to move here alone after college.

These summers moulded my heart to love the beach life, which is part of the reason I live in the coastal Carolinas. Like so many others, I can sum up my childhood summers in 2 words: Port Austin.

If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

The Dovecote

It was popular in the nineteenth century to name your house, no matter if it were a cottage or an estate. I have embraced this tradition with my homes.

Our old house was aptly named The Burning Pinecone, after the fabulous firepit my husband built (many a nights were spent drinking and roasting marshmallows with friends) and the giant pinecones that fell from the towering long leaf pines. Most of our fires were fueled by the massive amount of pinecones on the half acre of land we owned. The new house is nothing like our old house. It is much smaller and less grand: it is the epitome of average. It faces the south, so less sunlight comes through our windows, but it keeps it cooler in the summer. Our yard is so tiny, in fact, the listing had the lot in square feet instead of acres. Because of all the other expenses, a firepit has not been built yet, but we have picked out its site. There will be more nights of roasting marshmallows soon.

Our new home needed a name. I didn’t want another firepit inspired moniker and so I considered what other people have named their houses for inspiration. From one of my favorite books, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, John and Meg Brooke’s house was named The Dovecote. Having no idea what a dovecote was, I looked up the meaning of it on Google and promptly went into silent laugh mode:

dovecotehaha

I thought this was a perfect description of our new property, especially after my husband and I failed to get the loveseat through the door (he and his co-worker managed to shove it through the other door with a millimeter of clearance, but not without damaging the walls in the process).

I then read the description of The Dovecote Alcott gave in the book:

And speaking of sentiment brings us very naturally to the ‘Dovecote’.

That was the name of the little brown house Mr. Brooke had prepared for Meg’s first home. Laurie had christened it, saying it was highly appropriate to the gentle lovers who ‘went on together like a pair of turtledoves, with first a bill and then a coo’. It was a tiny house, with a little garden behind and a lawn about as big as a pocket handkerchief in the front. Here Meg meant to have a fountain, shrubbery, and a profusion of lovely flowers, though just at present the fountain was represented by a weather–beaten urn, very like a dilapidated slopbowl, the shrubbery consisted of several young larches, undecided whether to live or die, and the profusion of flowers was merely hinted by regiments of sticks to show where seeds were planted. But inside, it was altogether charming, and the happy bride saw no fault from garret to cellar. To be sure, the hall was so narrow it was fortunate that they had no piano, for one never could have been got in whole, the dining room was so small that six people were a tight fit, and the kitchen stairs seemed built for the express purpose of precipitating both servants and china pell–mell into the coalbin. But once get used to these slight blemishes and nothing could be more complete, for good sense and good taste had presided over the furnishing, and the result was highly satisfactory. There were no marble–topped tables, long mirrors, or lace curtains in the little parlor, but simple furniture, plenty of books, a fine picture or two, a stand of flowers in the bay window, and, scattered all about, the pretty gifts which came from friendly hands and were the fairer for the loving messages they brought.

My hear swelled. As a writer, this was perfect! My new home reflected all the nuances of the Brooke’s home, save for the coalbin. It’s coziness (read: small quarters) and less than stellar landscaping (read: years of outright neglect) will be knit into the fabric of my life. Our front yard, which is about the size of a handkerchief, will hopefully be blooming with flowers and evergreen foundation plants this time next year. We have a wonky staircase as well, I’m sure I’ll go down it pell mell at some point.

And so, my new home is affectionately known as The Dovecote. I’m looking forward to entertaining friends and strangers over tea. When our house was blessed, the pastor likened it to the moon, reflecting the light of the Son. I hope everyone who comes through the doors of The Dovecote senses the love of the Lord in this space.

I also plan to frame this passage and display it in my new home.

Moving to the Castle in the Sky

Through this moving process, like everything else this year, I have to adjust and reestablish norms. The kitchen in the new house, while an eyesore, is set up as best it can be for the moment. The closet is filled with my clothes, but not quite organized to my liking. My sitting room is still a catch all room, that will take some time to sort through. I’m excited to start a new writing routine and not spend my days painting – although a few doors still need paint. And demolition day in the guest bath is just around the corner.

All this newness, this hobby house I’ve had for the past few weeks is on the verge of being my home for the foreseeable future. Perhaps for the rest of my born days on this earth. I’m still learning to love it and embrace all its quirks, like the hall of doors (Is it a closet, mudroom, or bedroom?!). Despite all this, it will be my home.

As I was driving the other day, I mused to God on what Heaven would be like. I marvelled at the thought of when I get to Heaven, I won’t have to adjust to anything. I would be Home – and more than that – it will be perfect. No more autoimmune or anxiety issues to deal with: my neighbors won’t be pesky, nothing to pack/unpack, or problems I need to pay for/solve/fix myself.

Rest. Worship. Jesus. Constant light. People I knew on earth. It sounds glorious. I have every intention of seeing my 108th birthday here on earth, so I’m in no rush.

But I do look forward to that final move and the rest that follows.

April in Review

April proved to be a month that was loaded with opportunities for confidence. We bought another house and plunged further into debt. The confidence to carry that took quite a bit of gumption to pull off, especially as we closed on our new house and the reality of how much I owe literally hit home. But here I am, still going strong. Even more so that we have a buyer under contract.

The money situation really bothered me, so instead of fretting over it and waiting for disaster to hit, I proactively sought a part time job. This job is one I held previously and left because the stress was too much with the panic attacks that followed. But the money is really, really good and the management deck is reshuffled; I’ve been reassured by a trusted supervisor things are better than what they were back when I was there. I don’t have a sunset date on this gig, but I know in my heart it is only for a season. While it looks like our house will sell, I am still taking the job. The money coming in will fund my upcoming adventures, investments (stocks and house projects), and above all, used to further the kingdom of God. That will be determined as the Holy Spirit dictates.

I lacked confidence in a couple of areas: our new garage floor was in a sorry state of grime and dirt. The cleaner I bought was complicated to use, and my test patch only frustrated me further. And so I stopped. Not so much confidence there.

I did find myself consistently praying to God for provisions, a buyer, and friends who are struggling against unfair odds. My relationship deepened with the Lord this month for sure. I completely relied on Him. I pray this does not go away when things get easier.

With all the big life stuff that hit me this month, I feel I did pretty well with confidence. I hope this carries over into the months that come.

Rolling On

With my self imposed spending freeze, as now I own 2 houses, I have become stricter than I ever have with money. No treats for myself, no indulgences (unless there is a gift card involved, Hello Starbucks!). I’m not drinking alcohol, not getting ice cream, not eating at restaurants. I spend money on food – sometimes I stop at the local grocery store for lunch – and gasoline outside of household expenses like electricity. Heaven help me if anything goes wrong with my old car.

This upcoming weekend our neighborhood is having a yard sale. We have many items to sell as we’re downsizing. A friend of mine who is always getting rid of things is also coming to man the yard sale with me like last year. I’ve always made a big breakfast complete with mimosas, which we sipped while people perused our wares.  My friend is pregnant and I am not drinking right now, so our mimosa breakfast is out. I thought I would make cinnamon rolls from Trader Joe’s – the best cinnamon rolls this side of a bakery. But then I talked myself down from that: I do not need to spend the money on breakfast for friends (under $10, but still). I’m on a spending freeze. They are also on a tight budget as well with the new bundle of joy arriving soon.

But as soon as I had squared all that in my mind, I felt a nudge from the Lord: maybe it was more of an eyeroll. “Make the cinnamon rolls.”

With our current house, and the new house, I strive to make it as hospitable as possible. I promised during this spending freeze that I wouldn’t become a miser, and it would not dampen my hospitable home, no matter how much I had in the bank. I may not be able to serve steak and bottles of wine to my friends, but I would do something budget friendly.

And so, “Buy cinnamon rolls at Trader Joe’s” appears on my to do list this week. It is a kind gesture and they are heavenly! I even texted my friend, “Does your daughter like cinnamon rolls?” as her pregnancy has dictated what she can eat. She responded the baby loves cinnamon rolls and is kicking with joy at the prospect of them!

That made my heart happy.

And I am so thankful I have a God, who despite entrusting me with 2 houses on faith and an hour glass of savings, told me to buy cinnamon rolls.

Like Led Zeppelin once immortalized in a song: “And I just keep on rolling along with the grace of the Lord above.”

Writing Challenge Day 17: A Quote You Try to Live By

“….yet not my will, but Yours be done.” Luke 22:4

When I was going through one of the biggest challenges of my life, this phrase was constantly on my lips. I said it through the river of tears in the aftermath of the door slamming shut. I said it filled with untethered hope at the prospect everything would work out just fine.

You see, I’m a go-getter kind of girl. I make things happen with my work ethic. As an academic and for the most part of life, this has served me well. But there are moments, years even, of complete and total failure that I cannot fix. Whether the situation is beyond my control, or there’s literately nothing can be done about it. I struggle hard in those moments. I only learned in the past few years how to fail. It still hurts, but I’ve come to accept it.

Those words of my Savior are such a comfort. Despite His status as God in flesh, He too struggled with the same thing: we knew what outcome we wanted, but we’re willing to forego that if God the Father wanted something different. And so my human condition remains.

May He get the glory in all things.

This Morning’s Prayer

After Communion this morning, as I attend church alone, I walked back to my seat and bowed my head to pray.

I struggled emotionally this service, as the holidays are always a bit hard for me, and I have no family here.  Everyone around me was trying to quiet their toddler, standing with their older children, or resting their hand on their ever-growing belly, having their own little Advent inside their bodies.  Alone, childless, and in the back – I was feeling low.

I spoke to the Lord about all this.  For reasons only He knows, I can’t have children.  It’s not even miracle worthy, it is just a simple fact of biology.  There is no fix.  It just is.  I’ve struggled to understand or at least get over this stupid concept.  I’m much better than I was at this time last year, I believe having a direction (writing) and keeping my quiet time with the Lord has improved that.

Anyway, as I’m on verge of tears, head bowed, with my thoughts circling around the fact that I will never have the experience of children, especially at Christmas, BAM! out of no where something large knocks into me.

I’m in the middle of a row by myself.  This was a tactical move.

Startled, I look up and see my friend’s three year old foster son, all smiles, with those sparkly blue eyes that are going to break hearts when he gets older.  He ran to hug my legs and exclaimed something I couldn’t understand.  I am not fluent in Toddler and it wasn’t English.  Maybe it was Tongues, but no one interpreted.

I couldn’t help but smile.  This kid usually pays me no mind, and honestly, I’m not the best with kids.  His mom quickly pulled him away, with that “Sorry for disturbing your prayer!” look in her eyes.  I just laughed.

Maybe that was God’s way of saying, “Buck up.  I Am enough.” or “This is My Way of reassuring you that everything will work out according to My Plan.”

Nonetheless, I got a hug from God today.  And for a non-touchy-feely person like myself, it was so very cool.

Merry Christmas.  And if you have children, hold them close, and bask in it.  For me.

The Chapel of Love

The one thing I love most about my church is how random it is.  It is a gathering of a bunch of misfits for Christ, and with the Holy Spirit blowing through, you never quite know what’s going to happen next.

Sometimes I feel bad for people who attend “normal” services with a dress codes and decorum; the ones who take a sanitized mission trip for 2 days out of the year with the youth.  Or the ones that have Sunday School which covers safe biblical topics and the correct answer is always Jesus.  It’s the churches who build giant buildings and with theatrical lighting and sound systems which rival that of my college: I want none of that, it’s not part of the gospel.  Life is messy and they’re missing out on the “get your hands dirty” message Jesus preached of relationships with others.  Our church does a lot of crazy, unconventional things in the name of Jesus and I could not be more proud.

Case and point: Sunday morning.

At the beginning of the service, our pastor announced there was going to be a wedding afterwards and to stick around for it.  It was for a couple who had done pre-marital counseling with our pastor.  They were in their mid-40’s or so, and while they weren’t homeless, they lived far below the poverty level.  The wedding was scheduled to take place several weeks ago, but it kept getting delayed for unknown reasons.  Today was the day.  We meet in a small room, so you always see what’s going on: the bride walked out of the bathroom in a big white wedding dress that looked like it popped out of the early 1990’s.

I should also mention this was during the sermon.

This wasn’t a typical bride:  her hair was down, unstyled, unwashed, with no make up.  She wore a Dollar Store-esque tiara on her head and her dress wasn’t ironed.  There was a stain on the back bow – and her dress wasn’t zipped up all the way.  I was hoping someone else was helping her and maybe she was just waiting to zip it so she could breathe.  She passed by me a couple of times, as I was near the back.  Finally, once I realized she didn’t have help, I jumped up and asked if she needed help zipping her dress. “The zipper won’t go up anymore,” she whispered.  “Let’s try,” I said, as I pulled the dress together and tried with all my might to zip it.  The dress was too small for her rib cage, but I didn’t give up until I took the skin off my index finger, attempting to make that zipper move.

The sermon was still going on, by the way.  I’m sure we were quite the spectacle.

Nobody had a safety pin, as another lady sent out a text to the ladies in the congregation (I learned this later).  I tucked in the sides of her dress that were unzipped so the back of it looked like a V.  Later, her train was in the way while we walked up for communion, so another woman and I tried to figure out her bustle situation.

Yes, this was in the line for communion.  We totally held it up.

We found the loops she could put over her fingers and we carried on, and she thanked me for my help.  Moments later, the bridal couple walked up to the alter and exchanged vows and rings.  I captured a few pictures on my phone.

I’ve never met this woman.  I’m as shy as they come and I’m usually the one hiding under my chair when the pastor tells everyone to stand up and shake hands with everyone.  But there was something about this bride that made my heart leap out to her.  Most wedding days are stressful, long-planned out events and everything has to be just so – surrounded by family and friends.  This was not the case at all here. I counted 2 friends and no family. It was all so random.  And beautiful.  A husband a wife started the long journey of marriage today.

That’s what I love about my church – there’s so much room for the Holy Spirit – sometimes you’re a walk-on bridesmaid for a stranger.  Those without homes are welcomed with open arms, complete with coffee and breakfast.  White, black, or a combination thereof walk through our doors.  There’s always someone there to one-up me on the awkward/weirdness scale.  This is what Jesus calls us to do: to come along side others, especially those who are less fortunate, and go through life side by side as equals, as friends.

I didn’t get a chance to congratulate the newlyweds.  The bride disappeared back into the bathroom again after the ceremony and I had along list of Christmas shopping to finish, as the family Christmas party is next weekend.  As I left, the pastor thanked me for helping the bride.

I’m still giggling about it.  It’s absolutely nuts!  Never in a millions years did I expect to be a bridesmaid at church for someone I never met!  But that’s exactly how the Lord works!

I am so proud to be His daughter and am looking forward to the next adventure with the Holy Spirit.

And here’s to the new Mr. & Mrs!  May their marriage honor the Lord and may their union be strengthened with each passing year!