True Love In Action

The small coffee shop had a quaint atmosphere.  Patterned fabric chairs surrounded a stone fireplace in the corner while marble tables and metal chairs were placed sporadically around the room. Black and white photos hung on various walls creating a comfy yet homey feeling. Acoustic guitar music quietly played from the stereo.

In one of the chairs by the fireplace sat an elderly gentleman reading a book. Over at another table sat a young woman writing in a small notebook. She paused in writing and took out a quarter. With a graceful flick of her finger she flipped the coin. Glancing down at the upturned side she smiled and placed the quarter beside her coffee mug with the same side still facing up.

A bell clanged as a man in his mid-twenties sauntered into the coffee shop. “Hey there! How’s it going?” His words shattered the silence of the relaxing shop.

“What can I get you, sir?” asked the barista.

“Are you new?”

“Yes and no. This is my first day running the shop by myself..”

“Well, isn’t it your lucky day. What’s your name?”

“Kevin.”

“Well, Kevin,” he leaned forward, motioning for him to come closer, “Let me show you how to get the hottest drink you want.” He nodded his head towards the woman then sauntered over to her.

“You know, it’s amazing really.” He said standing in front of her table. “I came in here wanting to find something hot and here I find something hotter than coffee.”

The woman stared at him. After a second she simply looked down at her notebook and continued writing.

The man’s confident smile faltered for a split second but then it was back and he pulled out the chair across from her and sat down.

“That seat is taken.”

“I know.”

“Not by you.”

“Well that would be hard to prove since I’m sitting in it.”

She glanced up, “Just don’t sit for very long.”

“That is entirely up to you.” he winked.

She sighed and glared at him, “Look, I don’t know what game you’re playing but I am not interested.”

“It’s no game.” He leaned forward, “I take flirting very seriously.”

She closed her notebook and leaned back in the chair. “That’s what all the guys say.”

“I can prove it to you.”

“How?”

“Give me five minutes to convince you. If I can’t convince you in that time than I will leave you alone.”

“Fine.”

For a couple of seconds the man paused and scrutinized the woman. At first she met his gaze but quickly shifted and looked away.

“Okay,” she cleared her throat and reached into her purse, “I’ll set a timer.”

“No offense, but I don’t trust your objectiveness.”

He stood up and walked over to the elderly man, “Excuse me, sir,” he said, “My name is Austin. What’s your name?”

“Gerry.”

“Well, Gerry, I have five minutes to convince this beautiful young woman to go out with me.”

“That is quite a challenge, young man.”

“I know, she does seem like a tough one.”

“Hmmmhmmmm, well a beautiful woman is a worthy prize,” he winked at the woman.

“Exactly, but I want this challenge to be fair and honest.” He pulled out his phone, “Therefore, would you be willing to be my objective timer?”

Gerry laughed, “Not a problem, young man.”

“You ready, kiddos? On your mark.”

Austin swept his hand through his hair and straightened his clothes.

“Get set,”

He casually relaxed into the chair across from the woman.

“Go!”

“Hi, I don’t think I’ve met you before. My name is Austin.”

“Pleased to meet you, I’m Clara.”

“Clara, what a beautiful name.”

“Thank you.”

“Are you from this area?”

“That approach is gonna take you forever, boy.” said Gerry, “I’d speed it up if I were you.”

“Just warming up.”

“I agree with Gerry,” said Clara.

“Fine, fine. So….” Austin cleared his throat. “Clara, I pride myself on being able to read people, and from our brief interaction I have no doubt that you are a woman that I would love to know better.”

“Oh really?” Clara smiled, “What have you learned?”

“Well, my lady, despite your confident demeanor you are quiet and reserved. Yet you are also smart, creative, and feisty. You have a sweet, gentle spirit and a loyalty that could rival the best dog.”

Clara raised her eyebrows, “Really? A dog.”

“Bad move, son,” said Gerry, “Never compare a woman to an animal.”

Austin placed his hand on top of hers. “But you are also the kind of woman that would make the poorest man feel like the wealthiest of kings.”

“Nice save!” said Gerry.

Austen’s voice softened, “You are more than just a beautiful face and a beautiful body. You have a beautiful soul and that beauty is what drew me to you.”

“Is that all you got?” asked Clara. “So far you sound like a dating website.”

Austin let go of her hand and drew back offended.

“It was a little canned,” Gerry said.

“Kevin, help me out. Do you agree with these two?”

“Well…I have used that line myself,” said Kevin.

“See!” said Gerry.

Clara laughed, “Guess you gotta amp up your game.”

“How much time left?”

“Three minutes,” Gerry replied.

“Clara, I am not necessarily better than other men. There are plenty of wonderful men out there in the world. But I am kind and sensitive…”

Clara raised an eyebrow.
“Most of the time I am sensitive,” he continued, “but I am also a protector and a family man. I am moral and decent and hard working. I have all of the qualities that a woman like you would love to find in a man.” Austin stood up and began walking around ticking things off his fingers, “I am a leader, intelligent, funny, attractive” he winked at Clara, “fond of animals.”

“So are lots of men.” Clara replied a teasing glint in her voice. “Still not special enough.”

Austin stood up and paced.

“Time’s ticking!” Gerry called out.

Austin bowed to Clara and asked, “May I have your hand?”

Clara gave it with a smug smile as Austin pulled her out of the chair. He then twirled her and dipped her low, “I am also,” he muttered in a deep passionate voice, “full of surprises.”

Clara’s voice caught as she looked deep into his eyes only inches from her own. “Good to know.”

“Oh that was a good move,” whispered Kevin.

“Two minutes!” The old man called out.

“Out of ideas?” Clara taunted.

“Of course not. I just need to pick the next move carefully.” He turned to Gerry and Kevin. “Any ideas?”

“Show off your strength.” said Gerry.

“My strength?”

“Yes, women love a strong man.”

“Okay, what should I do?”

“Do some push ups.”

“Or lift a table,” said Kevin.

Austin moved to the table across from Clara and gripped each side of the table. He bent his knees and heaved. Nothing happened. Austin heaved again. Still nothing.

“I forgot, the tables are bolted to the floor.” said Kevin trying to smother a laugh.

Austin glared at him, “Thanks for nothing, buddy.”

“Sorry, remember, I’m still new.”

“I still vote for push ups.” said Gerry with a wink.

Austin’s voice took on a slightly desperate plea, “Clara, please, help me out here.” He motioned towards Gerry and Kevin who displayed innocent looks on their faces.“These guys are no help. All I want is to go on a date with you. At least one date and after that if you hate my guts than I will not force you to go on a second one. I just want a chance.”

Clara bit her lip and seemed to study Austin’s face. She smiled. “Alright, one date.”

“Time!” shouted Gerry.

“Yes!” cried Austin. He pulled Clara up and twirled her around as she laughed.

“Don’t get too excited,” she said, “It is only one date.”

“Yes, but it is the chance of a lifetime.” He offered her his arm, “May I?”

“You may.” Clara put her arm in his and the two headed toward the door.

Austin turned back to Gerry and Kevin. “Thank you for your help, gentlemen.”

“Any time.” replied Gerry.

The two men watched the happy couple stroll out of the shop.

Kevin’s mouth dropped open, “Wow, what just happened?”

“Austin and Clara.”

“What?”

“Tails, he wins.”

“Huh?”

Gerry held up the quarter, “Tails, he wins.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Austin and Clara McCalahan. They’re actors who perform improv for date nights. It was how they met. I saw them do this type of thing before at a bookstore. It caused quite a ruckus there.”

“You mean, this whole thing was staged?”

“No, not like a written script. Improv! When Clara flips the quarter whichever way it lands that decides who wins the argument. Sometimes it reminds me of my own romance back in the day. Me and my wife madly in love not caring what anyone else thought. Staging fights in public to make people talk. Makes me so happy to see a young couple like that so in love these days.”

Gerry sighed again then picked up his hat and headed to the door. He stopped and turned back, “Don’t forget what you saw today, boy. True love in action.”

A Fashion Show For Mothers

Welcome to the Mother’s Hat show. For this fashion show we will showcase the many hats that mothers wear that bestows upon them powers to accomplish any task no matter how small.

  1. Our first hat brings extraordinary powers of multi-tasking and responding quickly to commands. The Kitchen manager hat allows you to develop the art of the short order cook with an extra bonus power of knowing how to create masterpieces with dietary restrictions. You will be wonderful at making gluten-free, sugar-free, flavorless creations for even the toughest customer. You will also advance your skill of having something edible available for all teenagers no matter what time they become hungry and demand sustenance. You will also be able to transport food and cook it on the road as you will not be home to make a home cooked meal but instead learn the art of the slow cooker and the cook-the-food-over-the-engine method. Some experienced customers have even learned the art of breathing fire so you no longer need to use the microwave at Kwik Trip. And don’t forget the infant who is always hungry every three hours. With this magical power you will conquer the world and possibly remember to feed yourself.
  2. No need to worry about going to nursing school, our nurse’s hat will make you an instant medical professional. This hat will help you handle any injury or medical situation that comes your way. Bruises, scrapes, stitches, and broken bones happen to every child, especially the boys. The flu, chicken pox, stomach bugs, and the common cold will also be around to help you get your fill of taking care of children and trying to not get sick yourself. We all know the innate desire to become sick and call in sick from raising children yet the sick cells will not permeate your system. The hat of the nurse gives the wearer immutability from sickness. The other type of injury that the Mother Nurse heals are the wounds that are below the surface, the broken hearts, the bruised ego, and the crushed spirit. Mothers are able to heal these injuries and also heal the poor stuffed animals whose heads have been popped off from fighting the boogeyman.
  1. Once this Teacher’s hat hits your head, ladies, you will be astounded at the wonders you can accomplish. Not a teacher? You will be! Soon you will be teaching all sorts of fascinating subjects about God, manners, eating food, walking, speaking, sharing, and friendship making. Your students will challenge you in wonderful ways as they disobey, scream, cry, and throw objects. You will learn how to graciously pick up the pieces of training and formulate lessons out of thin air. As your student progresses you will be faced with more difficult subjects such as relationships and why it doesn’t matter what the other child’s parents let them do. These moments will help you to form an amazing bond and closeness. Perhaps you will walk away with also receiving your own lesson in patience.
  2. Our next magical item is the work and craftmanship of the seamstress. For some this becomes an amazing weapon as they fix wardrobe malfunctions such as ripped pants, faulty hemlines, and making hand me downs functional. But this power also helps give creativity for the poor mother who has suffered wardrobe malfunctions of a different sort—puke stains, coffee stains, ketchup stains, who knows what stains, but also disguising the blood shot eyes from lack of sleep, the left-over maternity clothes that could work with safety pins, and the salvaging of the makeup and jewelry that got into the hands of the three year old. All of these wardrobe issues come under the domain of the seamstress who gets to work her magic to make this mother the talk of the town.
  3. Warriors come in all different types and mothers are rare breeds in the prayer warrior category. These prayer warriors display what prayer means to their children and also get to explain that God cares about even the smallest of things as the prayer for the teddy bear, the bird with the broken wing, and for Johnny to no longer be a meany. All of these precious prayers are shown due importance as the mother strives to show her children that God cares and is always listening. Yet the mother is also forced to constantly be on her knees as she struggles through the frantic prayers for patience and calmness and peace as she deals with the random issues of a child’s life—the freak outs over somebody stealing their toy; the fearfulness of going to sleep at night; and the horror of eating green vegetables. With this hat each mother will be able to show off the strength of her knees as she bows in front of an almighty Gracious and loving God.
  4. Perhaps one of the most wonderful hats is that of the counselor/confidante. A mother enjoys sharing the confidence of her children as they share with her their secret treasure: the rock, worm, and dandelion; or what they are making Daddy for Christmas; or where their secret fort is or ruining Daddy’s secret anniversary trip. But as the children get older the counselor becomes more of a confidante as the children begin to have more difficult things to work through such as their feelings about life, friends, romance, and God. In this wonderful time the mother becomes more of a friend and partner in crime and the giggling days begin.
  5. Mothers do a lot of driving and sadly they do not get paid like an Uber or Taxi driver nor do they drive anyone of renowned importance such as celebrities or the President. Instead they chauffeur their children to sports events, friend’s houses, doctor’s appointments, and a variety of other places. This hat can transform a mother into an expert driver who never suffers from road rage or poor driving decisions caused by lack of sleep. Instead this mother turns into the safest race car driver who can get her children to events on time despite getting out of the house late or facing road construction. This hat also turns her into an expert at disciplining from the drivers seat and doing contortionist moves to pick up the dropped toy or hand back food for the hungry children.
  6. Not all of the greatest referee’s are in the sporting realm. Mothers look great in the black and white outfit as they blow whistles to keep the peace on the playground and pull children off of each other. Even though the mother may struggle with keeping her temper this hat helps her keep her calm, teach a valuable lesson, and turn violent children into docile lambs in only five minutes. This hat also gives the wearer keen eyesight that can catch the slightest movement of foul play. The Mother can catch the smallest foul whether it is sneaking the dog broccoli, pulling a prank on a sibling, or who really started an argument. With this hat the Mother becomes the greatest referee in the history of household sports.
  7. Sometimes life can get boring but with a switch of the hat the mom can become the greatest program and activity director who always keeps life interesting during summer break, sick days, and holidays. A mother gets the wonderful joy to come up with things to keep the kids interested and entertained as well as educational. However, this hat helps the mother create games for those events as well as the random moments with nothing to do and a mother has games ready at a moment’s notice such as the quiet game, the pick up toys game, and the eat the vegetables game. Even work days can become enjoyable and the most bored kid can find something interesting to do especially with the game “watch the grass grow”. With this hat car rides are no longer horrendous instead the mother can create games that keep the children peaceful and calm for the whole ride. Another valuable aspect of this hat is the tracking feature that helps the mom keep track of the sports and clubs each child is involved in and also reminds her to consider volunteer hours to earn her supportive parent gold star. Life would never be dull with this hat.
  8. One of our most popular hats is the Maidhat. This hat turns any cleaner into Mary Poppins. Always cheerful and always sophisticated the Mother becomes the maid she always wanted to be. With a spoonful of sugar her cleaning spree is no longer a chore. Her children follow her happily around the house cleaning up toys and singing songs. The hat creates a beautiful Disney inspired dreamland and the mother can clean even the worse mess with a smile. Exploding diapers, wet beds, throw up, and other disgusting messes no longer phase this mother. Last minute guests? Never fear, the Maid Hat allows her to snap her fingers and an instant immaculate house awaits.
  9. Do you ever feel as if you are losing your mind and forgetting all those important dates? No need to fret anymore, with the Birthday/Memory Builder hat any mother will be able to remember even the most obscure special day. This mother remembers not only her children’s birthdays but also her own birthday and anniversary, Great-Aunt Matilda’s Birthday, Coffee Day, Pizza Day, her children’s birth weights, her mother-in-law’s birthday, and her daughter’s friend’s birthday. The mother holds the responsibility to remember all of these important moments and dates and make each day special and with this hat this responsibility is not only a requirement but also a joy.
  10. Sometimes a mother has demands in the music department that concern her because of limitations…such as not having any musical inclination. Yet this hat solves those problems by giving even the most musically challenged person musical talents. This hat helps the mother create a beautiful lilting lullaby that can soothe and calm the most restless infant. Soothing tones and words can lull a restless child into the most peaceful deep sleep that can guarantee a mother three hours of uninterrupted rest. Not only will the mother succeed at lullaby’s but also create a song for any occasion. Happy Birthday becomes a glorious celebration of beautiful tones and beats. Songs are created for cleaning, sharing, and obedience to help the children learn and grow. This hat can also be used for helping the mother to survive through long musical recitals and helping a child learn his instrument. With this hat the mother can come alongside her children in preparing for talent shows and competitions and cheer her children on to musical greatness. Because as you know with this hat her children are always the musical geniuses.
  11. Some people wonder how they will ever have fresh food but with the Gardener’s hat you no longer need to worry about buying fresh produce. This hat allows you to transform into a master gardener as you deal with pests, rocky soil, no sunlight, and improper chemical levels. Several built in features notify you when naughty animals start eating your tulips, rhubarb, or other cherished plants and sends an electronic pulse that scares away all critters. Your garden will become the haven you always dreamed about and makes all the neighbors jealous. No need to worry about anything destroying your flowers, fruits, or vegetables instead simply relish the fact that your garden will always be perfect and will help you provide your family with fully organic and chemical free produce. This hat will also help you grow even those stubborn children. These children will grow from equal parts love and discipline as the little sprout is nourished to perfection and will look as wonderful as your perfect garden.
  12. Every mother knows the struggle to create the perfect bedtime story for her children. With this hat the Mother no longer has to worry about writer’s block or a lack of creativity. Instead the mother becomes a master storyteller. At bedtime the children willingly hop into bed each night ready to escape into the magical world the mother creates. The hat also helps the mother maintain the interest of all humans when she tells everyone the stories of what her children have done. Even the checkout lady at the grocery store will listen with interest as the mother brags about her child’s accomplishments. But it doesn’t stop with the check out lady, oh no, this hat helps the mother keep her children’s interest as she tells of her own childhood days. And don’t forget about the Bible accounts and other wonderful life lessons that the mother will now be able to give to her children with their full attention. Everyone has a story. And mothers are no different. Each one has a special story of the trials they have overcome and the blessings God has given them.

Thank you all for coming to our Fashion Show. May your hats always showcase the wonders of your life.

Adulting: The Struggle is Real Ep. 1

I’m not sure when I became an adult. I didn’t choose it. It kind of just happened. I was shoved out the door and told “Good luck!” Of course my parents were not that cruel and my mother would love for me to stay with her forever. But life just happened and before I knew it college was over and the “real” world was in front of me. I was forced to adult.

Adulting is hard. I didn’t feel prepared for the adult life even though I knew about taxes, rent, car maintenance, and phone bills. But there were some things that completely shocked me; for example, meal preparation. One day I realized that there was no food in the house because I didn’t go shopping the other day. I didn’t go shopping because I didn’t have a grocery list. I didn’t have a grocery list because I didn’t look through the cupboards and see what I needed. I didn’t look through the cupboards because I didn’t know what I was looking for. Suddenly, it clicked. I had to actually pick meals to prepare and walk through the steps of obtaining the right ingredients simply to eat breakfast.

Another example is laundry. Did you know that most apartments don’t just come with a washer and dryer that you actually have to use quarters? Which means that every time you want to do laundry you need to get quarters. So you can’t just realize you ran out of underwear and go downstairs to do laundry whenever you want. Instead you have to make sure that you have quarters and set a timer so you don’t forget your laundry and create a line in your apartment building.

I struggled to come to grips with the fact that life is hard. It’s not easy. We are not granted an easy life and suddenly when you are on your own you are faced with your own fragility. I am dust. I am human. Humanity is frail and each day is a struggle to live. Even small seemingly easy tasks take a lot of work. Every day is a struggle to simply get up out of bed and go through the regular rituals of life.

As an adult everything is now seen in a new light. Nothing is simple. Everything is complex and difficult and I was faced with the reality that I can not do it all. I am not super woman. This weekend was a great example. I was making hamburger while drinking a cup of coffee. I drained the grease from the meat and then started putting in my sauces. I reached for my coffee mug and took a sip. But instead of coffee it was grease. In case anyone wonders, grease tastes terrible.

So here is my encouragement: it is okay to not be perfect at everything right away. There is time for growth. There is time for learning. You can start simply and grow. Life is not a sprint but a marathon.

Good luck, fellow adulters! The struggle is real.

~C

Warrior Bear

The little girl sat on the couch with her bear clutched in her arms.

“Time for bed, Sweetheart,” said her Daddy.

“But what if the Bogeyman gets me?” whimpered the little girl with her lower lip trembling.

The Dad crouched in front of his daughter. “That’s why I gave you the Teddy Bear. Teddy is a mighty warrior and he’ll protect you from any monsters trying to get you.”

The little girl smiled at the brown bear in her arms with a little bow tie and squeezed him a little tighter.

The sun went down and the little girl snuggled under the covers with her arms wrapped tightly around the little bear. The rest of the house became quiet.

The little bear remained still, listening to the night sounds.

His ear flickered over to a creak to the left.

Nothing.

Just old wood.

Another squeak came from the right corner.

Nothing.

Just water pipes.

A bang came from above.

Teddy turned his eye to the air vent. A flicker of shadow occurred within.

He waited.

Slowly. Quietly. The vent lowered. Two gleaming silver eyes peered down. A pink tongue escaped the small mouth and licked its lips. Two spinely leathery arm-like tentacles lowered the slithering body to the floor of the little girl’s room.

Teddy waited no longer. As fast as he could he gently and quietly unwrapped himself from the little girl’s arms and plopped down to the floor.

“Stop, Intruder.” He said with a firm tone and a stern glare. “This little girl is under my protection.”

The creature turned his gleaming eyes onto the bear. “And who are you?” his voice dripped of slime.

Teddy raised himself to his full height. “I am a Protector. Created to protect little girls from monsters like you.”

“I’ve heard of the League of Protectors.” His oily slippery voice rasped, “I’m honored that I finally get to meet a legendary Protector. By all means–TRY to protect her from me.” With the last cry the creature sprang his tentacles unto the bear. Teddy rolled out of the way and ripped his bow tie off his neck. The small tie transformed into a sword. With a bound Teddy leaped toward the creature brandishing his sword in mid-air and sliced off two tentacles in one swipe. The creature screamed in agony and stared horrified at his amputated tentacles.

“Leave now and swear to never enter this house again and I will spare your life,” said Teddy.

The creature whimpered in pain replied, “I swear! I swear!”

“Then leave, foul creature!”

The creature crept back up through the vent and back the way he came. Teddy waited until all sounds of the creature were gone before transforming the sword back into the bow tie and placing it on his neck. He crawled into the little girl’s arms and remained watchful for the rest of the night.

No other creatures came that night or any of the following nights for a year. But Teddy still remained watchful and waited for the next sign of trouble.

The next year the nights began to change.

Whispers of terror flew on the wind. Eerie howls of trouble echoed through the night.

Teddy knew something foul was coming. He began a more diligent night watch over his charge.

Waiting and watching.

News began to come. Teddy heard the parents talking of little girls being snatched in the night. No one knew where they went or why they were taken.

As night came Teddy watched the little girl, her brown curly hair wildly strewed around her while her mouth blew little saliva bubbles as she slept. Teddy smiled, she was worth it all. His mission was important. He must protect her at all cost.

But fear began to build in his mind as he realized the magnitude of the fight he would be making to protect his girl.

A deep voice rose from the corner of the room, “She’s beautiful isn’t she.”

A chill ran up Teddy’s spine as he turned to the corner. Out of the shadows strode a tall man in a green robe. Ivy crept over the man’s arms and shoulders. A crude reef of ivy and thorns crowned his head. The man’s voice scratched the air. “Such a tiny thing yet holding such beauty.”

“Who are you?” demanded Teddy.

“Oh forgive me, I forgot to introduce myself. I’m so used to people knowing who I am that I become so rude meeting new people.” He swept into a low sweeping bow, “I am the Elf-King.”

Teddy’s heart stopped. He had heard legends of the Elf-king. None of them good. “I am this girl’s Protector.”

“Yes, so I figured.”

“What do you want?”

“Oh nothing much at all. I simply want to take the girl on a little trip to a wonderful land.” The Elf-King smiled revealing large yellow teeth.

“She’s not going with you.”

The Elf-king feigned a hurt look. “But you haven’t even asked her if she wants to go with me.”

“I don’t need to ask. I know what’s best for her. I’m her Protector.”

“Yes, so you’ve said. But you haven’t even heard the best part! I wish to make her the Queen of my Kingdom.”

Teddy scoffed, “I’ve heard what happens to your ‘Queens’. You rip their hearts out and eat them.”

The Elf-King laughed a dark evil laugh, “You make that sound like a bad thing? But they taste delicious if you ever want to try one.”

“You are not taking the girl.”

The Elf-King seemed amused. A large sinister smile graced his face and he began to glow. His robes glowed a deep pulsating green while the shadows joined in surrounding the king obscuring his face and hands and emphasizing the mesmerizing glow. Teddy’s senses became dazed by the glow and he struggled to fight the trance. The Elf-King’s voice laughed around him taunting him. “Is that all you got Protector? I’m disappointed. I expected more from you.”

Teddy summoned all his will power and focused on grabbing his bow tie and transforming it into the sword. With a grunt of energy he grabbed his bow tie and threw the sword at the robe. The robe collapsed onto the ground breaking the spell. Yet the physical body of the Elf-King was gone.

“Hmmm very good, Protector.” Spoke the Elf-King’s voice coming from all around him in the dark shadows.

Teddy raced to his sword and began circling the bed. The sword pointed towards the shadows.

Out of the shadows shot two ivy vines wrapping themselves around Teddy holding his arms tight against his body. Teddy struggled to free himself and wiggled back and forth. He sliced at the vines with his sword but the vines were too strong.  He summoned every last ounce of strength he had to hack at the vines. Finally his sword pierced through and he was free.

The Elf-King became enraged and shouted, “You can’t protect her forever, bear! I will be back! Today you have not won you have simply solidified her doom.”

The shadows grew thicker and thicker until they threatened to swallow Teddy and the girl. Teddy focused his energy on his sword and willed all the Protector energies into the blade. A burst of light shot forth from the blade and evaporated the shadows.

Years past and the little girl grew into a lady. Each year the Elf-King sent a minion to deliver the same message, “The Elf-King will be coming for her. The Elf-King will be coming for her.”

Other creatures tried to attack the girl but Teddy protected his charge with ferocity. Everywhere the girl went Teddy went with her. The two bonded as only a girl and her Teddy Bear could bond.

But the years passed, and the little girl was no longer little. College arrived, and Teddy feared he would be abandoned and she would be unprotected when the Elf-King finally came for her. Using as much influence as he could Teddy convinced her to take him with her.

The night finally came.

The Elf-King returned to claim his bride.

Shadows darkened and lengthened in the old dormitory. Shapes danced along the ceiling. But one shadow grew larger than the rest. The Elf-King was here.

“So we meet again, Protector.”

“It’s about time,” replied Teddy standing to his full height, “A bear can grow old waiting for you to strike.”

“Ahh patience is a virtue my friend.”

The Elf-King summoned vines growing out of the shadows sending them to surround Teddy. Teddy slid his bow tie off his neck transforming into a sword and held it out in front of him. The vines darted away back and forth toying with Teddy. One darted at his leg but he wiped the sword down slicing thru with ease. But just as he sliced through the one another vine wrapped itself around the arm holding the sword. Two other vines wrapped themselves around his other arm and his legs. Teddy felt his hands and legs become strapped together unable to wretch himself away. His sword clattered to the ground. Slowly the vines maneuvered their prey over to the heater in the far corner of the room. Teddy felt the heat rise from the heater as his body was maneuvered parallel to the ground until his neck was touching the hot surface. He screamed in agony as his fur burned and singed. The smell of burnt flesh filled the air. The scalding pain blistered. With a howling cry he jerked against he vines moving hard and fast forcing the vines to move away from the heater. He focused on his sword in his mind envisioning an intense light. In an instant a burning light emanated from the sword burning the vines and causing them to shrivel into dust. Teddy fell to the floor and grabbed his sword.

With a shriek of fury, the Elf-King finding himself alone produced a sword made of thorns and sprinted toward the Bear. The two swords clanged in mid-air pushing against each other. The Elf-King fought with intensity and strength pounding hard on Teddy’s sword forcing him into a corner. With each hit Teddy felt his strength giving away. His arms no longer had the strength to hold out. With another pound upon the metal Teddy fell to his knees yet managed to hold his sword above his head.

A high-pitched scream filled the air. Teddy looked to his right and saw his girl being pulled out of bed by two vines. A vine quickly covered her mouth forcing her to silence.

With a yell of anger Teddy grabbed his sword with both hands and pushed with every ounce of strength and willpower he had. His brown eyes filled with anger and rage. A bright light again beamed from the sword this time the light pierced through every particle of the room. The rays burned through the Elf-King causing him to scream in agony. The light beat back the shadows and consumed every inch of the room. Just as quickly as it came the light faded leaving the room free of all darkness.

~

Two Years Later

It was time. Teddy looked at the man and woman sleeping in the bed. The new gold bands glittered on their left hands. A new protector had arrived to take his place.

Teddy closed his eyes and sank into the young man’s dreams and whispered, “It’s your turn now. Protect her as you would protect your most valuable gem. Love her as you would none other. Believe in her as you would believe in your dreams. Protect her from all enemies including herself. I give you the job I loved so much. Protect my girl.”

The young man turned on his side and wrapped his arms around the girl pulling her to his chest a smile crept on her face as she slept. Teddy sighed. His job here was done.

~

Five Years Later

A little three-year-old girl with brown curly hair stood in the living room her lip quivering in a pout. “But Daddy, I scared. I don’t wanna go to bed. What if monsters get me?”

Daddy opened up his bedroom closet and reached for something on the top shelf. “I know something that will help you sleep.” The Mommy looked at what he grabbed and smiled. She took the old Teddy Bear from his hands. It’s bow tie was frayed and a long burn mark was displayed on it’s back. “This was my Teddy when I was a little girl. He protected me from all bad things. But now I have your Daddy to protect me. So I’ll give him to you to protect you from all the monsters that might scare you. With Teddy you will always be safe.” The little girl grabbed the bear and squeezed him in a hug. The Daddy scooped up the little girl into his arms and carried her off to bed. He tucked her in and gazed lovingly at her snuggled into the covers with the bear in her arms. Leaning over he kissed her cheek and whispered in Teddy’s ears, “Protect our girl.” He walked out of the room and shut the door.

Teddy’s ears twitched as he listened to the night sounds. A smile rose to his lips. He was back to protecting little girls.

There Was A Little Spider

Once upon a time there was a little spider who wanted to be a man. All of the other spiders laughed at his silly idea. They told him, “You can’t be a man! What a ridiculous thing to say!”

But the little spider wanted to prove to the other spiders that he could be a man. So he thought . . . and thought suddenly he had an idea! Men wore shoes! If the little spider wore shoes then he would be a man.

The little spider crawled to the man who made shoes. “Mr. Shoemaker, would you please make me a pair of shoes so I can be a man?”

The Shoemaker looked the little spider. “Make a pair of shoes for you? Well, I’ve never made such a tiny pair of shoes before. If I can make shoes for a little spider then I will be the best shoemaker in the world!”

So the shoemaker made a tiny pair of shoes for the little spider. The little spider was so excited! He raced to the other spiders saying, “Now they will see that I have become a man!”

But when the other spiders saw his shoes they laughed, “Silly little spider, wearing shoes does not make you a man.”

A tear slid down his face. “What can I do to become a man?” he asked himself.

Suddenly another idea popped into his head. “I know! Men wear ties. If I wear a tie then I shall be a man!” So the little spider went to the man who made ties. “Excuse me, Mr. Tie-Maker, would you please make me a tie so I can become a man?”

The tie-maker looked down at the little spider, “I’ve never made that small of a tie before. If I can make a tie for a little spider than I will be the best tie-maker in the world!”

So the tie-maker made the little spider a tie.

The little spider was thrilled! He raced back to the other spiders to show that he was now a man. But when the other spiders saw his new little tie they laughed and said, “Silly little spider, wearing a tie does not make you a man.”

The little spider was sad. What could he do to become a man?

Suddenly he exclaimed, “I know! Men wear hats. If I wear a hat then I will be a man!”

So the little spider went to the man who made hats. “Excuse me, Mr. Hat-maker would you please make me a hat so I can become a man?”

The Hat-man looked at the little spider, “Well, I’ve never made a tiny hat before. If I can make a hat for a little spider then I will be the best hat-maker in the world!”

So the hat-maker made a hat for the little spider.

The little spider was thrilled! He raced back to the other spiders to show that now he was a man! But when the other spiders saw his hat they just laughed and said, “Silly little spider, wearing a hat does not make you a man.”

The little spider started to cry. He didn’t know what else to do to become a man.

An older spider heard him crying. He asked, “Little spider, why are you crying?”

The little spider replied, “I wanted to be a man. So I wore shoes, a tie, and a hat. But the other spiders laughed at me and said that wearing shoes, a tie, and a hat does not make me a man.”

“Why do you want to be a man?” asked the older spider.

“Because being a man is so much better than being a spider. Being a spider is no fun at all. Men have all the fun because they can drive and ride bicycles and swim in lakes. All I can do is catch flies and climb up trees and buildings.”

 “Come with me, little spider,” said the older spider. “There is something I want to show you.”

The older spider took the little spider down to the stream. He showed the little spider how to spin a web across the stream to catch flies. The flies were so yummy! Next they crawled up a tree and used their webs to swing from branch to branch.

Then the older spider said, “See, little spider, we are the only creatures that can spin webs. Men can drive cars, ride bicycles, and swim in lakes but they can’t make webs from their bodies. God made us special. We can have fun that no one else can have.”

“I’m glad I’m a spider,” said the little spider and he never wanted to be a man again.

 

The End

Keeping It Simple–Day 1

Step 1—Get out of bed.

Easy—except for getting wrapped up in my blankets and getting so tangled I couldn’t work myself out of bed. I truly believe my bed decided to work against me and trap me in its wondrous folds. But what a cruel trick to play when I really wanted to get of bed. The blankets were so tangled around me that I fell out of my bed and hit my head on the floor. Sigh…

Step 2—Get Dressed and Go to work.

The curling iron didn’t like me. Need I say more?

Step 3—Work.

Sometimes I wonder how I ever made it into management. The promotion must’ve happened on a day of weakness for my head manager.

I started my shift trying to explain our sale of the day to a customer. Today’s sale was buy one get one 50% off. The conversation went something like this:

Customer: “What is the price on this pair?”

Me: “Oh those are Buy one get one free!”

Customer: “What? Are you sure?”

Me: “Oh no, I’m sorry that’s wrong. It’s Buy one get one $50 off . . . wait . . . no, I mean 50 cents . . . wait . . . that’s still wrong. Let me think.”

Customer laughing: “Do you mean 50%?”

Me: “Yes! That’s it! Buy one get one 50% off!”

Sigh…yes that is a true story. I can be that stupid. Thankfully, the customer was super nice and laughed hysterically.

After situations like this I ask myself, “Why am I in charge?” But I guess as long as I don’t give away free pairs of shoes I’m doing good.

One of the hardest elements of my job is dealing with shoeboxes. They can be the slipperiest things in the world! Sometimes I wonder if I’m just bad at carrying items in general or if the shoeboxes have all conspired against me! True, I do have a history of being a klutz, but these shoeboxes will be the death of me. In one hour I knocked over a stack of shoeboxes, caught my shirt on a shoe box and pulled the whole row out of the shelving unit, tripped over a box on the floor, stepped back and knocked a stack off the counter, and received a cardboard cut while packaging a box for shipping. Yes, that all happened in one hour.  Thankfully, shoes and shoeboxes don’t break by being dropped on the floor, knocked over, or stepped on, and yes, those are examples of the tortures I inflict on the poor, innocent shoeboxes. But trust me, they deserve it.

Well, break time is over. I must go back and face the dreaded evil minions seeking to devour me! Yes, I mean the shoeboxes . . . not the customers. Then again . . .

Until next time,

~Cecily

A Thought

Death.

What does it mean?

Sometimes we dread hearing the word, yet we see it all the time.

Movies. TV. Roadkill.

Death is all around us.

Yet we rarely speak the word.

To say the word out loud gives it power. By not saying the word we can hide its truth. Pretend it’s not real.

Others face death. A loved one might get sick or we hear of someone’s grandparents or relatives dying. Yet we don’t think it would happen to us.

Until it does.

Death seems like a stranger. Or a celebrity that is so far out of reach in our lives that we fictionalize him to the point where we don’t really believe he exists because we’ve never seen him in person.

But what about when he knocks on your door.

He swoops in with barely an introduction and threatens to shake your world and change your life forever.

What then?

Is he fictitious now?

 

 

 

 

Lenny the Llama

Disclaimer: Spitting is not a polite thing for people to do in buildings or at people. Spitting is only permissible for llamas or other animals known for spitting. Please, refrain from spitting in public. If you do get caught spitting, it is not the author’s fault.

 

Lenny the Llama was sad and lonely because he was the only llama in the whole county who could not spit. Lenny wandered around the pasture kicking dirt and mumbling, “I am such a horrible llama. No one will ever like me because I can’t spit.” He began to cry.

A frog, sitting on a lily pad eating flies, heard Lenny crying.

“Lenny, why are you crying?” asked the Frog.

Lenny wiped his nose with his hoof as he muttered in between sobs, “Because I am a failure at being a llama. I am the only llama in the whole county who can’t spit.”

“Spitting isn’t that hard,” replied the Frog, “I can show you how to spit.”

Lenny sniffed, “You can?”

“Of course! All you have to do is take a deep breath and puff out your cheeks like this, then you exhale and . . .” the Frog let out a perfect spit hitting a fly in midair. As the fly fell, the Frog’s tongue zipped out and snatched the fly before it hit the ground.

Lenny’s jaw dropped, “Whoa! That was amazing! Let me try!” He took a deep breath, puffed out his cheeks, exhaled and . . . nothing. He could not spit. Lenny burst into tears, “I’m a failure as a llama!”

The frog stared at Lenny, stunned by the sudden burst of tears. He had never been around a crying llama before. Confused, stunned, and uncomfortable, the Frog snatched a fly and jumped into the water.

Lenny bawled and bawled.

He was so blinded by his tears, he did not see the Goat chewing grass right in front of him. Lenny crashed into him. The Goat grunted and choked on a clump of grass. He gagged then spit the clump on the ground.

“You crazy, furry creature! What do you think you’re doing crashing into goats who are eating! Don’t you know that’s dangerous and unhealthy!” sputtered the Goat.

“I . . . I . . . I’m so sorry. I just . . . I was crying because I’m a failure as a llama,” exclaimed Lenny and he burst into a fresh batch of tears.

“Well, you got that right,” muttered the Goat. Lenny stopped crying. He stared at the Goat, then cried even harder.

The Goat shook his head. “Now, now, quit with the tears and tell me why you’re a failure besides the fact you knock into goats who are busy eating?”

Lenny brought his tears under control and explained his unfortunate predicament to the goat.

“So, you’re a llama who can’t spit. Well, that’s easy enough to fix. Just start spitting.”

Lenny’s eyes widened as he sputtered, “I can’t just start spitting. I’ve tried! It’s not that easy.”

“Come on, start spitting right now,” said the Goat.

Lenny focused on spitting. He tried and tried and tried. He puckered his lips every way he could think of, but to no use.

The Goat shouted tips, “Get as much saliva in your mouth as you can! Make your lips puffier! Suck your cheeks in!”

But… he still couldn’t spit.

After five minutes of watching Lenny try to spit, the Goat said, “Well, you’re right. You are the worst llama I’ve ever met. Good luck in life, kid. Don’t enter any spitting contests.” The Goat sauntered off into another pasture leaving Lenny feeling helpless and depressed.

As he watched the Goat leave, Lenny began to cry again. Suddenly from behind him, he heard a commotion.

“Help! Someone, please help him!”

Llamas, hedgehogs, frogs, goats and other animals had gathered at the edge of a cliff. The llamas were carrying branches to the edge of the cliff and dropping them over the side.

Lenny looked over the edge. Little Harry the hedgehog was trapped on a narrow ledge. Above Harry, a llama leaned over the side with a branch in his mouth. Little Harry opened his mouth to grab the branch but, before he could reach it, the branch, covered in saliva, slipped out of the llama’s mouth and fell down the cavern.

“You ridiculous llamas!” shouted an angry hedgehog, “If your mouths weren’t so wet from spitting all the time you might be able to hold a branch!”

“You try to reach him with your own neck then!” shouted a llama.

“My neck isn’t long enough to reach Harry!” shouted the hedgehog.

Suddenly Lenny had an idea! He raced over to a long branch, gripped it with his dry mouth, and dragged it over to the ledge. He reached his neck out as far as he could and slowly lowered the branch down to Harry.

Harry clamped his mouth on the other end of the branch.

Carefully, Lenny started to back up. His hooves dug into the grass as he stepped backward. His teeth clutched the branch as hard as he could. His mouth stayed dry helping him keep a firm hold on the branch.

Cheers filled the air as Little Harry the Hedgehog rose over the edge holding on to the branch with his teeth. The hedgehogs ran to Harry and covered him with hugs and kisses then grabbed Lenny and pulled him into the huddle covering him in hugs and kisses too!

“Three cheers for Lenny the non-spitting llama!” shouted a hedgehog. All the animals cheered.

Lenny began to blush.

“Way to go, Lenny!” said Larry the llama.

“You saved him, Lenny!” cheered Lindsey the llama and kissed Lenny right on the cheek.

“Can I have your autograph?” asked Hector the Hedgehog holding a piece of paper and a pencil.

Lenny didn’t know what to say. A warm feeling of pride swelled in his chest as he realized that he had saved little Harry all because he couldn’t spit. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing after all to be the only llama in the whole county who couldn’t spit.

The End

KISS Life “Hello World”

Keep it Simple, Stupid. I first learned this slogan in high school . . . I think. Such a simple saying yet so meaningful to my life. See, I’m the Queen of making simple things complicated. I tend to over analyze everything and over think every . . . little . . . detail. Life is complicated but for some reason I tend to make it even more complicated. You know how some people tend to always do things the hard way? Yea, that’s me.

I work at a shoe store and even though I’m a manager I still tend to make the simplest tasks complicated. For example, one day I took a pad of paper and wrote down every single style we had including the prices and sizes and then wrote on a separate sheet of paper the sizes we needed. I thought I was being super thorough and brilliant until my head manager came over and asked why I didn’t simply check the computer inventory. You think since I’m only 23 I would’ve thought of that but like I said I make everything complicated.

Someone finally turned to me last week and said, “Cecily, you really need to start simplifying your life.”  I had to agree with them. I have a lot of things on my plate and I am starting to get sick and frustrated from all the stress. So I thought about what I could do and I remembered the KISS saying from High School “Keep It Simple, Stupid” and determined to Keep It Simple in all areas of my life. It is time to show the world that Cecily Winters is not a Drama Queen and that she can lead a normal simple life!

(Don’t laugh, it’s not polite)

Cecily

The Black Mark

It was a small little mark the size of a freckle. Joseph McAllen viewed the mark as a natural part of his face. The slight blemish did not bother him, nor did it cause him any pain. After a few years, people noticed the unsightly blemish, now the size of a half-dollar. Mrs. Whitley, his housekeeper, suggested removing the mark. Every week before she began to clean, she would make a pot of coffee and sit down with Joseph and discuss life. She mentioned that the mark did not bother her but it might cause unease for some of the neighbors. Joseph considered her advice. Mr. Colby, a war veteran from across the hall, would play chess with him and discuss the Vietnam War. He did not seem to mind the mark. When Joseph went to the basement to do his laundry each week, he would run across Mrs. Benson, who occupied the apartment below him. They would do laundry together while she told him about her grandkids and offered him fresh baked cookies. The mark did not seem to bother her either. The more he studied it the more convinced he became that the mark gave his face character and did no harm. He believed people would eventually get used to the mark and agree with him that it improved his looks greatly.

Months passed and the mark grew. It no longer reserved itself to Joseph’s forehead. Instead, it spread vein-like threads down his cheeks, into his chin, past his ears, and down his shoulders. What once resembled a simple mark now resembled poisonous vines. The veins bulged and protruded with highlighted green edges. Mrs. Whitley begged Joseph to see a doctor. The mark must surely be infected now she reasoned. She never showed a twinge of fear at his ghastly appearance so he knew Mrs. Whitley’s cautions were for his own sake, not hers, which caused a surge of anger to rise in his soul. In his mind, the green highlights were a beautiful deep green shade that complemented his dark eyes. He reassured himself that, if the mark was an infection, his body was strong enough to fight it off. He was only twenty-three years old, and the mark had been with him his whole life. If it was a disease, it would have surely killed him by now. Therefore, he simply smiled at himself in the mirror and watched the green veins pulse.

Years went by and the black mark continued to grow. Every inch of Joseph’s body revealed evidence of the mark’s presence. The vein-like threads spread their spidery tentacles through his stomach, legs, and back. The skin around the veins swelled into a slimy film covering. Joseph could no longer deny the effect his appearance had on his neighbors. Mr. Colby hid behind the door whenever he heard Joseph on the stairs. The door would open a crack, as an eye peaked out, than slam close as Mr. Colby realized Joseph could see him.  When he did his laundry, Mrs. Benson would drop her basket, cross herself, and mutter prayers of safety as she rocked back and forth on her heels. Only Mrs. Whitley showed no fear at his gruesome state. Even though each conversation consisted of at least one warning about the mark, she refused to show fear at his appearance. Joseph could not hide the satisfaction his neighbors’ fearful reactions gave him. He could feel a sense of power filling his frame. The more terrified the looks, the more annoyed he became at Mrs. Whitley’s obvious lack of fear.

Mrs. Whitley came to his apartment at her usual time. She flung the windows open to allow sunlight to pierce the darkness. She washed the dishes, put away his clothes, swept the floor, and disinfected the bathroom. The sunlight pouring in through the window accentuated her smiling face and pure white hair. Joseph caught his reflection through the living room mirror. The veins bulged in his forehead. His eyes were bloodshot with tints of green. His skin had swollen to deform his face with bumps the size of golf balls protruding from his neck and forehead. He was beautiful. His mark would not harm him. It did not matter what anyone else thought, he loved his mark, it was his, and he loved it!

Mrs. Whitley’s soprano voice cut into his thoughts as she mopped the kitchen floor. “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found. Was blind but now I see.” The rich melody pained his ears. Hatred bloomed in his soul. He walked to the kitchen. A voice whispered in his heart. Mrs. Whitley should fear you like all the other neighbors. Joseph’s fingers reached out to Mrs. Whitley and surrounded her neck. The mop clattered to the floor. She shall fear you. He turned her body with his fingers to see the look on her face. Her eyes filled not with fear but with sadness and compassion. A surge of pure fury and hatred consumed his entire frame. The power funneled into his fingers causing Mrs. Whitley’s frame to collapse to the ground; lifeless, in a matter of seconds. The mark grew and overcame the last part of Joseph’s being, his soul. In an agonizing scream of burning pain Joseph’s body collapsed to the floor, dead.