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All Characters Are Important to the Story

All characters are important quote from the book on a desert background.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that you just can’t subtract a human from the story, no matter how hard you try. Even death doesn’t do that.”

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

In fiction and reality,
all characters are important to the story.

Yes, even the minor ones, the angels and demons, the good guys and bad guys. Everyone leaves a mark on your life, moves the story along, or simply creates depth to a moment in time.

My grandfather died. He was 86. Dementia took nearly ten years to fully claim his mind and he had been living in a memory care facility for the past year. So…to many of us…he was already gone. To those closest to him physically, his caregivers and my Mom, he was still a main character and his loss is strongly felt. To some of his family, he had faded into the background of their story long ago. And to others, he had been deleted completely, or so they think.

This quote reminded me of him and many other characters in my own life story, all of which are important and can’t be subtracted, even those I really wish could be. The cruel teacher from elementary school, the mean girl in junior high, the abusive boyfriend; heaven knows I’ve tried to erase those memories. Even if I were successful in erasing the memory of an event, I would still feel its effect on my life, like the way we “see” a blackhole in space. The event isn’t seen, it’s felt. To ignore that feeling, those clues, and continue your journey is a recipe for disaster.

The people in our past, the choices we’ve made, the opportunities we’ve taken or let pass, those memories aren’t all we have.

We have the imprint of those things on our life story. If we subtract people or events from our lives, the story is inconsistent. When we try to effectively work our way through the life we have today, we can feel like pages are missing. Things just don’t make sense. It’s extremely difficult, I’d say impossible, to work through a story with missing chapters or characters; to complete a puzzle with missing pieces.

He’s been gone from my daily life for many years now, but I still miss my Pop, more so now that he is physically missing from the world.

My grandfather was a major character in my life story, one of my biggest influencers growing up.

The older I get, the more I see him in myself. We both suffer from anxiety, a deep need to control the world around us, not to be in charge or the boss, but to make things easier for ourselves and hopefully the people in our lives. Our response to the overwhelming stress of trying to control outcomes typically results in anger and frustration, sometimes violence. We both feel things deeply and are known for our passionate responses. From the awe of a beautiful garden or majestic scene to the love of our families, from the excitement of a new experience to the frustration of dealing with troubles, neither of us has moderate feelings, only big, sometimes scary ones. In my case, I’m told that it’s part of my charm. In my Pop’s case, it was a demerit against him. I guess it just depends on who is judging, whether you are a positive or negative, a major or minor character in their story.

Characters, humans, cannot be subtracted from your story.

When you try to do so, you leave holes big and small. Holes are a mess to work around. A story with characters, paragraphs, chapters, or pages missing does nothing for anyone. Leave the bad parts, the rough parts, and the scary parts right where you can see and use them. Those people are part of you. For better or for worse, they made you who you are today.


Want to read this book? You can find it at Amazon HERE.
Want to read more quotes from this book?

Will We Lose Ourselves in the Virtual Reality?
Anxiety: The Lies My Brain Tells Me
Would You Want to Come Back for a Day?
Do We Have the Ability to Change the Meaning of Our Life Story?

A Recorded Life: Restored Memories – a short story

Nearly five-hundred years ago there was a book that came across my path. I know you’re thinking I’m speaking figuratively here but I’m not. A book literally came across my path. I was walking in the woods along a well-worn and shaded path when a book stumbled out from the underbrush.

Yes, I was taken aback, astonished you might even say. This kind of thing doesn’t happen every day, you know. What kind of a book keeps itself in a wooded underbrush? It’s fraught with danger even for the hardiest books! Dampness being the least of his problems, there were mice looking for nesting material (they can’t read you know) and hungry beetles looking for a good snack (book bindings are nutritious).

This book had obviously been neglected. As it pulled itself out into the path, I could see its binding had indeed been recently chewed. Its cover, once pristine and gold pressed, was faded, and so worn I could not make out the title. Its pages dragged along the ground as it used its cover to pull itself to a slightly upright position directly in front of my feet.

I stopped, and withdrew in disgust, blindly blaming the book for its condition. What degeneracy could bring a once proud book to this level? But then it sighed and slumped to the ground as if dead right before my eyes. My heart softened at the sight. Stooping to the ground, I gently gathered the poor weak thing into my arms. As I stood and brought the book up, it nestled to my chest like a lost and exhausted child and sighed its covers shut.

I resolved to bring it home immediately, in the hope of restoring it to health. I didn’t have much hope for it though. It seemed so weak and frail, possibly already expiring in my arms as I hurried my step. By the time I got home, all that would be left to do was cremate the poor thing, use it as a fire starter to keep my cabin warm. At least it would be useful one last time.

I quickened my pace further at the thought and got home as fast as my feet could carry me. I tried my best not to shake or jostle the (hopefully) sleeping book in my arms as I went. It shifted its weight and rustled its pages in response each time I stumbled or jerked too suddenly to avoid a low branch or diving bird.

When I reached my cabin door, I knocked gently with my foot, hoping my elves would be alert to my presence and come pattering in to help me. The book was completely asleep in my arms and its dead weight needed both my arms to carry it. I didn’t want to shift its weight and disturb it.

They came running as I had hoped they would, and seeing me with the poor tattered and torn book fainted dead away in my arms, both were moved to compassion and jumped to assist me as best they could. Being so small, it took both to open the door, but they achieved the task as quiet as mice. They instinctively knew what to do and bustled about the cabin, stoking the fire and getting a good strong broth going on the stove.

I moved toward the couch and gently laid the book down upon the cushion so as not to wake it. Arranging a few small throw pillows so that if it did stir as it rested it might not roll off the couch to further injure it, I set myself up in the chair across the room to start my vigil.

“What could I do?” I thought to myself as I sat in rapt attention to its every ragged breath. “Is there something it needs? Some spell I could use to insure its quick recovery, or at least its peace?” My elves knew my thoughts, they always did. It wasn’t that they had some extra special sense, a telepathy to read my mind. They’d simply spent their whole lives in my presence and in several hundred years, you learn things. But they, being older than I, seemed to have seen this kind of thing before. They knew what the poor thing needed; a quiet, safe rest for now, and some attention once it had gathered some strength.

My watch dragged on into hours. I was already exhausted from my travels and was looking forward to a long and quiet rest myself when all this trouble began. What trouble, you ask? I mean, really, how much trouble can an old book be? You obviously haven’t read many books. One book can change your life, lead you to another that changes you yet again. One well-written line, one finely crafted paragraph, one poignant and timely chapter, can change the world. And this book looked like it had seen some action in its past. Why was it even here?

I sighed a tired breath as I watched it rest upon my couch, my sweet and worried elves bustling quietly in the kitchen and pattering back and forth between us and their duties about the cabin. “Where could it have been? What brought it to my path? And what would be in store for both of us?” My eyes fluttered, I leaned back in my chair, resting my head on as I pondered, and drifted off into sleep.

I dreamt some sweet and pleasant dreams of my early childhood. A fishing pond with my long since passed grandfather. My mother’s face as she presented my birthday cake. My father’s kiss on my head as drifted off to sleep. The dreams got darker as my mind went deeper into my subconscious. The man that broke my heart. The teacher that hurt my feelings. The friend that betrayed me. I shifted in my seat, opening my eyes a bit to gaze upon the book. The sun had finally set, the room had grown darker, but it was still there.

With a pat of a small elvish hand upon my knee and the smell of a strong kettle of stew in my nostrils, my mind went back to the past in my dreams once more.

Witchery school pranks and antics, lover’s spats, children born and raised or passed on before me; my life continued to roll by in pictures like a flickering film on a silver screen before my mind’s eye.

I suddenly woke with a start. What had happened? How long have I been asleep?

The cabin room was filled with morning light diffused by the gauzy curtains I had hung over the windows last year when the morning sun had begun to shift and blind me with its brilliance. Birds twittered outside and I could hear the chattering of my elves in the kitchen, the smell of breakfast wafting in.

Was it a dream that I found the book in the path yesterday afternoon? Had I imagined the whole affair? I was exhausted from my travels. I’m not as young as I used to be. Maybe I should start traveling with a companion for safety’s sake. And then I heard a soft sigh from the couch.

There it was, sitting up on my couch with a hot cup of tea sitting next to it as if it belonged there, as if it wasn’t breathing its last just a few hours previous. I sat up and stared and it stared back. It shook its covers and fluttered its pages in response to my stare, as if to say, “What did you expect? You can’t leave a story in the cold brush forever and expect it not to come crawling back for help!”

Confused by its signs of indignation, I quietly rose and approached it. Standing over it, it shrunk back into the couch. Did it sense my confusion as hostility? A rustling in the doorway alerted me to the presence of my elves. They had come when they heard the commotion. Worried about my state of mind, how I might react to the presence and attitude of the book, they came to reassure and console me in the hopes of…what?

I looked at them. I looked at the book. Why should I feel such confusion? It’s just a book with faded cover and tattered…wait a minute.

I sat down on the couch beside the book and took a closer look. It seemed that in the night the elves had ministered to the thing in a way I had not thought to do. Its cover was clean. The dirt gently brushed away. Its leaves shaken out and smoothed over. Its dampness dried out. It didn’t smell half bad either.

I smiled at it and it straightened itself back up, almost seeming to reach for me. My heart softened. I had known from the start that this was no ordinary book, but my exhaustion, the darkness, had started my imagination and fear had set in instead of curiosity.

What was so familiar about this book? I couldn’t put my finger on it. We sat across from each other almost as friends would when something strange began to happen. The longer I sat, the slower and deeper my breath became. The book seemed to “breathe” with me, the front cover gently rising and falling like a chest. I couldn’t tell who was affecting whom. Was the book relaxing and copying me or was it the other way around?

Time seemed to slow, as if I were dreaming, when images began to flicker through my mind. Far distant childhood memories, adolescent dreams and plans, more of the same, like my dreams the night before. The images startled me, and I looked back at the book beside me. For the first time since I had found it, I could almost make out the letters of its title. I reached for it and it came into my arms and settled down into my lap.

It lay closed upon my lap, warm and heavy like a cat. I still could not quite make out the letters on the cover, so I opened it and began leafing through its pages. The images that came to me were far more vivid now. Whole scenes played out in my mind. The time I fell in a well and was stuck there all night. The moment I first fell in love. The day my father passed away. It all played out, not in real time, we’d have been stuck there forever, but like I simply remembered every moment all at once.

When I looked at the pages and began to read the words, I realized they were my memories written out word for word. The first chapters were the most faded and the hardest to decipher. Some pieces were bold and in a large font, some smaller and printed more like a romantic script.

I flipped through the pages. Hundreds of years all written here. Was everything here? Would I find memories written here that were so far back in my subconscious that they seemed like someone else’s story? And what about the future? Was my life already written out? Was there such a thing as fate?

I started to thumb through the pages faster and the book, stiffening in my lap, tried to shut its covers against my curious eyes. My hands grasped it tighter and brought me to this moment, holding the book and turning a page.

The next words were there but faint and shimmering, getting more and more faint with every page I turned until there was nothing but blank paper.

My hands loosened their grip and the book quietly closed itself. It sighed in my lap. I looked up from it and my elves were there beside me. They were curious too, but not about what was in the book. I think they knew the whole time. I sensed their tension the moment we had come into the house. No, I believe they were more worried about my reaction. What did they think I would do?

When I looked back at the book, the cover was pristine as if it had just then been created. The leather cover was soft and the binding clean and tight. The letters of the title were once again embossed with gold and I could clearly read the title now.

“Your Life”

Changing the World

“You don’t necessarily need to change the whole world. But you are capable of changing someone else’s world.”

13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do by Amy Morin

Damn skippy! I’d like to add that when you change someone else’s world, you ARE actually changing the whole world.

It’s something I realized when I became a Mom, and a feeling that grew in me over the years. Every interaction you have in this world, no matter how small creates a ripple effect. From a smile in the parking lot as you walk into the grocery store, all the way to doing a kindness for the people you live with, we have the ability to change something for the better every moment of every day.

Watering my plants, putting in a load of laundry, making up the bed, I mutter to myself, “What’s the point of being on this damn planet, if THIS is all I ever do?” I’m sure I’m not the only one. In this day and age when you can see what people are doing all over the world, you start to think that maybe you’re slacking as a human being.

My brother called me one day to tell me all about a Supreme Court judge’s accomplishments. “We look like idiots compared to these people! What have we done to make the world a better place?” It’s daunting looking at some people’s lists of glorious achievements. But…

We can’t all be out there as frontrunners. I mean…look how crowded the internet is with people vying for attention! Think about a stage with everyone out front trying to get the spotlight and deliver their lines. It would be a mess. There have to be some background characters, set builders, writers, soundboard operators, and don’t forget the audience!

We’re all part of the show called life and we all have a job to do, and all those jobs are important. Even the jobs no one ever sees. Even the jobs you think you completely messed up beyond all recognition (cleaned up version).

The picture of the flower in my yard that I send to my Mom, the dinner I make for my husband, the joke I send to my kids, the lunch I have with my Dad, the book I read, every tiny thing is part of the show. Do it with intention, love, and gratitude, and know that when someone pulls back the camera on this scene, the whole spectacle is glorious because you’re a part of it.

Complete Out of the Box – No Accessories Needed to Play

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Photo by Robbin Wong on Unsplash

You know how some toys are kind of boring if you just buy one part and so you have to keep buying accessories? The car, the clothes, the house, the spouse, the kids, the career. It just goes on and on.

There are video games like that too. Sure, you can download it and play for free, but you only get two levels and then you have to pay to upgrade. You play more but now you see that you have to buy a couple extras, charms that help you rack up the points and levels faster.

Humans aren’t like that at all. We’re a whole, functioning human being right from birth. We do need a bit of extra care at first, but we learn and grow quickly with good support and before you know it, we’re out in the world on our own, doing our thing whatever that is.

But lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of people that look like they are searching for their missing piece. They wander from job to job, adventure to adventure, and relationship to relationship, never really getting anything from the experience and lamenting that the whole thing even happened while they transition to the next. They proclaim loudly that they won’t give up, they’ll find that career, place, or person that will complete them and make their lives better. That job wasn’t right for me. This place doesn’t have what I need. This person didn’t give me their all and left, so they suck.

I don’t think you need any of that to be complete. You do have the power inside you to live on your own terms, for your own ends.

Every time we start a new job, try out a new location, or enter into a new relationship, we could be learning more about ourselves and the world around us. We could be using that information to make our lives more interesting and more comfortable for ourselves and for those around us. It doesn’t matter what the job is or how long the relationship lasts. It doesn’t matter what kind of a relationship you have: long or short term, purely sexual or platonic. It doesn’t matter if you buy a house and live there for ten years or rent out a basement and live there for three months. It doesn’t matter if you go to college right out of high school, wait until you’re 45, or ever go at all.

What does matter?

It matters that we learn something about ourselves and that we connect with other humans in as many ways as possible, that we live every day no matter what’s going on.

The Stoics have a decent idea, “Memento Mori.” Remember, we die. We don’t live forever and (as far as we know) we only have one life. We need to stop wasting time.

Nothing is a waste of time if you learn something from the experience. That one night stand you had with that hot babe you met? Not a waste of time if you enjoyed it and look back on the moment fondly. That two years you spent at an expensive university, only to drop out and work at an amusement park? Not a waste of time or money. You gained experience, you met people, and you had fun in ways you never knew existed. And money? You can always make more. Money was created to spend. And what about that “failed” marriage? Did it “fail?” Or did it just serve its purpose and now you’re both moving on to something else? That job you spent five years at and then switched careers gave you fresh insight about your abilities and a set of skills that you can use anywhere.

What exactly do we think we’re working toward? What are we stockpiling for the future? What will we do with all of this shit we’ve accumulated? We’ll die. That’s it. And all your stuff will be redistributed.

So why not stop working toward anything and just enjoy what you have? If you don’t like the job you are in, find another one. If you don’t like the area you live in, move. If you don’t like the relationship you’re in, move on. Stop collecting things and start experiencing things. If you have no friends or family to experience it with, do it alone! Maybe you’d find it more fun or fulfilling if you had someone to share it with? Then blog about it and post pictures on Instagram! Or start dating…anyone, right off OKCupid! Or join a club online or in person!

You are a complete package all by yourself. You don’t need anything to start living and experiencing the world around you. Just live, damn it! Why not?

Yes, We’re ALL Going to Die…Eventually, And Some Sooner Than Others

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“Memento Mori – Remember death,” the Stoics say, “for tomorrow is promised to no one.”

Death is always lurking nearby, no matter your health or situation. It matters not where or when you live. We all die.

Death does not discriminate. It comes but once for all of us and it’s distinct for each individual, like the proverbial fingerprint or snowflake. Each of us perceives the experience in our own way, and all of us face it alone.

Your feelings about death, your own and of others, are no more valid than anyone else’s, regardless of risk.

It sounds so gloomy, but is it?

“Remember Death” means to remember life.

Go and live today. Love as much as possible. Fully experience this life and share that experience with others; the ups and the downs, the boring and the exciting. Let others experience your version of this world.

For tomorrow we die and all that will be left is the memory of our existence.

Make it a good one.

An Old Analogy, Sure

Wool is an amazing thing. Thousands of tiny strands are woven into one long piece of yarn. Each fuzzy piece is brushed and lined up with others. As it’s twisted, each piece reaches out to the ones next to it and bonds to the next, and the next. It can go on forever if you kept feeding it.

Watching a video showing how wool yarn is made reminded me of this quote from Orson Wells, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”

Humanity just keeps stretching out over time like one long piece of yarn. Each new human is added to the spindle and it touches the lives next to it and the next, going on into the future. Only in fiction does a story start and end. We create it in our minds. This is the story of X and it starts here with this and ends here with that. It’s up to us whether or not the story has a happy ending.

Reality, or at least the reality that we perceive, doesn’t work that way. It’s continuous, never-starting and never-ending, a chicken or the egg thing. With every event that happens in this world we can ask, “What happened before that?” and “What happened after that?”

I used to believe my Grandmother’s story had a tragic ending until I zoomed out to see the bigger picture and found that her story never really ended at all.

My Grandma was the center of our family, the key to all our gatherings until suddenly she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Her health faded quickly and within a few months, she was gone. She was 70 years old. I don’t think any of had ever even begun to think she could be leaving us any time soon. It was a big shock to our whole family. A shock that, 15 years later, we’re all still recovering from in some way.

Did her story have a tragic end? Only if you end it there, but you’d be creating that ending, manufacturing it in your mind. In reality, her story is still being told. It’s being told in how her family reacted to her death and how her children and grandchildren adjusted without her physical presence. It’s still being told in family photos, holidays where we talk about her, and how we all, including her great-grandchildren, still feel the effects of her presence in our lives.

And if you zoom out, she is simply another small piece of wool in the yarn being spun, a thread in a tapestry that continues to be woven. We all are. We all die but no matter how far we zoom out, the picture never ends. No matter how far we zoom in, we keep seeing more of the details that make up our universe.

When things seem scary and overwhelming, I like to imagine zooming the lens out and make those things smaller, tiny details in an otherwise beautiful story. Suddenly, I’m not so worried.

My belief, my hope really, is that when we die, when we leave this physical world, we can zoom out even farther and see an even bigger, more glorious picture than we can imagine from this perspective.

A Few Grey Hairs

Why do we try to hide the fact that we’re getting older?

What is the shame in grey hair or wrinkles?

What are we afraid of?

Why not take it as a sign to get busy if we haven’t already?

And if we have gotten busy, why not take it as a sign of maturity and grace?

It’s far more attractive than pretending we’re young.

The “Black People”: A Camping Story

boys on trail

We found our camping spot without any trouble, compared to last time when we started late, couldn’t find the road, got turned around and then learned what a “soft shoulder” on the highway really meant. We had sat on the side of the road for hours with a man that had stopped to help, getting his own truck stuck in the process. Luckily, he had AAA and all we had to do was wait; all the while wondering if the “kind stranger” was really a psycho killer waiting for his chance to strike.

The tow truck driver was quick and efficient, pulling our truck and trailer out of the sand and then the stranger’s, righting both our vehicles on the side of the highway. When we told him where we were headed, he was happy to lead the way to the entrance road, stopping to give us a few pointers: head down the road about a mile and then pull off to camp, look for a better spot during daylight. It seems so simple once you know where the road is, but it seems that our memories of childhood camping spots, twenty years after the fact, aren’t as clear as we thought they were.

We went looking for the perfect spot at daybreak and have been returning to it for the last fifteen years.

This was the second time we had pulled our tent trailer, filled to the gills with three days worth of food and supplies for the five of us, out to what we now called “our spot” in the desert for a few days escape from city life.

Three kids piled into the backseat of the truck; my husband’s daughter, age 10, and our two sons, ages 3 and 5. They were so excited to be out in the wilderness again. The boys spent most of their days digging holes and playing army, bb guns within reach just in case there was an attack. Nikki spent her time reading and writing stories. She would play with the boys for a while when they begged her to join in their game. Listening to them was one of my favorite parts of camping. I wish I could have recorded them and all the fantastic stories they came up with together. From Indiana Jones scenes and Nazi invasions to Civil War reenactments and Star Wars scenarios, you just never knew what they’d come up with.

We took long hikes with the kids. I’d pack our adventure backpack, the one with all their favorite tools: binoculars, magnifying glass, baggies for collecting, bandanas, and first aid kit, with snacks for the “trail” and a few extra bottles of water. The kids all had their own canteen they carried, ones they got from Santa Claus the year before. The boys had their cowboy hats and camouflage on, bb guns slung over their shoulder for protection.

We’d head out away from the trailer in the direction of some rocky hill off in the distance. At first, the kids led the way and we followed along behind. They said they were “scouting” for a good trail to follow. We’d watch them walking and talking ahead. Every once in awhile, one of the boys would stop and stand alert, crouch down and signal for us to do the same. They’d pump their bb guns and fire a few rounds into a bush and then signal that is was safe for us to keep going. They’d scared off whatever bad guys that had been waiting to ambush us.

At some point in the walk, they’d get hungry and tired and we’d sit under a big creosote to picnic on salami and cheese or nuts and granola bars. That’s about as far as the trail went. From there, we’d begin to circle back toward the trailer, at some point ending up with us in the lead and the kids dragging along behind. The enthusiasm for the adventure had waned and they had reverted to simply three kids camping with their parents. We spent much more time getting back than going out, stopping every few minutes to let them catch up or to rest and get a drink of water. By the time we got back to camp, they acted like they had been dragged across the open desert for days, flopping into camp chairs and begging for someone to bring them a coke.

We got comfortable in our own chairs, thinking they’d be good to relax in one spot for at least an hour, but within minutes they were up and around again, digging through last nights campfire, looking for rabbits and birds in the bushes, and eventually back to being “bored with nothing to do.” Maybe we could play a game or build a rocket or pile these rocks up! We would have sworn they had been on the edge of death just a few minutes ago, but kids recover more quickly than their parents.

A “long” walk, a snack, a board game, lunch, another walk, a snack, a short foray into the wash on their own and then the sun started to set. I went inside the tent trailer to start getting dinner together while Dad and the kids built a campfire and dragged camp chairs around it.

When I came out to the fire, a bag of buns, a cylinder of Pringles, and a package of hot dogs in hand, they were all happily tending to a small fire in the fire pit they had dug out and surrounded with rocks the last time we were out here. Nikki was walking back and forth beside the fire relating the story of the ghost of a gold miner with pet goldfish that wandered the rocky desert chanting “Who’s going to feed my fish?” Dad and Tom were kneeling next to the fire poking it with sticks and finding little things to set on top of the logs to watch melt and burn. Jake, the youngest, was standing just at the edge of the firelight staring out into the darkness.

I set the hot dog fixings on one of the camp chairs and asked if anyone had seen the roasting sticks.

“They’re right here!” Tom said, reaching beside the fire to pick up the long wooden handled roasters his Dad had made the previous week.

Nikki threw herself to her knees beside her brother and reached for one of the sticks. Tom grabbed his stick and I slid a hot dog onto each. Dad helped them to keep them from burning up too quickly.

“Jake. You want a hot dog?” I called to my youngest, still watching the desert. No answer.

“Jake.”

“Jake!”

He just stood there, stock-still, looking. I walked over to him to get his attention. That kid always could get completely lost in his thoughts and not hear a word of the world around him. I walked up and knelt beside him, putting my hand across his back.

“Baby. Pretty out there, isn’t it?” I thought he might be watching the last of the sunlight seep out of the desert. He didn’t answer. He just stared out into the increasing darkness; his little brow furrowed.

“What ‘cha looking at, baby?”

Without looking away, “The black people.”

I laughed lightly and looked out into the darkness. “The black people?”

“Yeah.” He said in his tiny most serious voice.

“You mean the shadows? They do look like people.” Looking out at the bushes and trying to see what he saw.

“No. Shadows are under bushes.” He said, and then in a whisper, “The black people. They’re dancing.”

A chill washed over my body. What could he possibly be seeing? I turned his face to look at me and smiled nervously. “You have a clever imagination kiddo. Those are just shadows in the dark. The moon is coming up.” And I turned him toward the fire. “Let’s get a hot dog.”

He came with me but glanced back over his shoulder as we went. I refused to let his imaginings creep me out any more than they already had. I didn’t look back, even though the hair was standing up on the back of my neck.

As we joined the rest of the family, the kids were “sacrificing” a hot dog to the camping gods and Dad was dutifully putting blackened but cold hot dogs in buns because the kids said they were done and he wasn’t about to argue with them.

“Everything ok?” he asked as I reached for a hot dog to cook for Jake.

“Sure. He was just fascinated by the shadows.” I considered relating the story to him but thought better of it. I’ll tell it in the light of day, no need to freak everyone out with that. We had enough ghost stories already.

Jake sat beside me as I put a hot dog on the roaster and then helped hold and turn it as I kept it above the flames. When he said it was done, I put it on a bun, and he sat in a camp chair quietly munching it while staring out into the darkness.

Once we had finished eating and the kids had had enough of playing with the fire and singing silly songs, we all went inside the trailer to snuggle in for the night. Teeth brushed, jammas on, they all settled down in their sleeping bags, side by side, like three pigs in blankets. Everyone got a kiss goodnight and then Dad and I got into our sleeping bags on the other side of the trailer.

Once the lights were out, the giggling from the kid side commenced, followed by “Don’t touch me!” and “Mom!” and then more giggling.

“Ok, you guys. Settle down.” Dad’s business voice.

The ruckus quieted a little, picked up again, and then finally settled into quiet snores. They were asleep and I lay there next to my snoring husband, still wondering what in the world he could have been seeing out there.

Warning: Changes Are Ahead

What is the purpose of the yellow light at a traffic signal? There are two classic schools of thought, right?

“Go real fast!”
and
“Slow down!”

Honestly, though, the yellow light is a warning that a red light is imminent? What you do with that information depends on a lot of things; your personality, where you’re headed and why, how far from the light you are, etc.

The purpose of a yellow light is to warn you that things are about to change. It’s to prevent you from being surprised by a hard stop. If you’re paying attention, you won’t have to slam on the brakes at the last moment. If you’re close to the intersection, you’ll hurry up to get through and not be in the intersection when cross traffic gets there.

I think we get a yellow light in our lives from time to time as well. If we’re paying attention, we’ll get a warning that things are about to change suddenly and, hopefully, make some decisions based on our own needs and desires.

We meet people that change our lives for worse or for better. We get test results that make us think about the future and start plans. Our bodies slow down, ache and take longer to recover, making us realize that the ultimate red light may be just around the corner, prompting us to do the things we’ve wanted to do or say the things we need to say.

Don’t let the red light take you by surprise. Pay attention to your surroundings and the road ahead. See the warnings, not as a hindrance or a burden, but a reminder that we don’t have all the time in the world. Create the thing, go see the place, repair the relationship. There’s so much to do.

Success vs. Fulfillment

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What’s the difference between success and fulfillment?

Successful: adjective, accomplishing an aim or purpose.

Fulfilled: adjective, satisfied or happy because of fully developing one’s abilities or character.

Is it that others may decide if you’re successful but only you decide if you are fulfilled?

If someone asks me to do something, they decide if I have successfully accomplished the task. If I decide that I want to learn to play guitar, whether I’m successful at it or not is up to those that hear me play.

On the other hand, I decide if my chosen task fulfills me. I decide if the job I do is fulfilling. No one can answer the question “Is this fulfilling?” for me.

A relationship, a job, a goal can be successful but unfulfilling, or fulfilling and unsuccessful.

In life, I choose to work toward the feeling of fulfillment. I can choose to feel good about an unsuccessful attempt. I can’t choose if I’m successful.

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