Posted in Storytime

The Things We Aren’t Supposed to Talk About: Act II

He pushed the pencil to the end of the desk, making a clear path in the grit that covered it. I need to clean this s*** he thought.

He returned to the pad of paper sitting in front of him:

She was like a soft summer rain. Beautiful in every way. Her laugh could brighten my day. We would sit by the fire, swapping stories like we did as kids, her arms tangled in mine.

Tahir could hear those familiar footsteps trotting down the hall at full speed. He quickly whipped open the drawer by his right knee and threw the pad of paper into it, slamming it shut just before the footsteps reached the door.

“Tahir! What’s up, man?” Derek said as he peeked around the corner of the office door. He pushed his wiry frame against the doorway, leaning in like a curious dog, tail wagging and everything.

“Uh, not much. Just trying to write my short story for this week’s column.”

“Oh, come on. You know that’s not what I’m talking about.”

“I really don’t know what you mean, Derek.”

“The cutie at the front desk with the brown eyes, what you wrote about last night on your blog.”

Tahir stared, confused.

Derek tried again, “Short black hair, orange spring dress, beautifully tanned skin…”

“Ah, yeah, that one. Um, it was a story Derek. We never really talked at all.” Tahir said.

Tahir remembered her as he walked into the office this morning. She was a beauty, and he was in love. She had short black hair that hung straight, framing her caramel colored skin. Her eyes were like uneaten chocolate candies sitting on white porcelain plates, fringed with long dark eyelashes that curled to meet her thin brows. Her lips. Her lips is what took his breath away. They were a plush, soft baby pink that when it crept into a smile, they looked supernatural in beauty. The peach silk dress she wore flowed over her body like water, highlighting every curve with vigor.

She was beautiful in every way.

Derek interrupted Tahir’s thoughts, “What? So she’s up for grabs? Dude, I call dibs now.”

“Derek, you can’t!”

“Unless you want me to tell her you like her.”

Tahir sighed, “Don’t just…I got a lot of work to do, Derek. Send in Julia, I need to speak with her.”

Derek huffed, “Fine. But if she says no to you, she’s all mine.”

“Deal” Tahir muttered.

Geez, he’s annoying. It’s not a competition…but if he asks her first, I’m gonna punch his smug little smile right off of his boney face.

“Tahir, you asked for me?” Julia stood in the doorway, gripping a stuffed manila envelope.

She wasn’t anything that beheld much beauty. Her skin was pale, making her gawky in appearance. She had dull hair the shade of a fat-free chocolate and dark beady eyes hidden beneath large purple frames. Her cheeks had a rosy glow, but would be considered too pudgy by any fashion magazine. Her sweater was a bright pink that covered her overused, grey muscle shirt. Her muffin top was highlighted by the flowing khaki’s she wore almost every day, but she was so used to sucking it in, no one could barely notice anymore.

“Ah, Julia, yes. I wanted to ask you how your trip to Ireland was.”

“Oh” Julia hesitated to answer, surprised Tahir remembered, “It was good! I had a lot of fun. It was really beautiful there with the green and rolling hills. I would recommend it the next time you feel like traveling.”

“Awesome, sounds like you had a great time. We’re glad to have you back.”

“Thanks, I’m glad to be back.”

A moment of silence followed, Julia fiddled with the corner of the envelope she was holding while Tahir stared at his empty screen.

“Tahir…I…um…was wondering. Did you…um…want to go…” Before Julia could finish her sentence, Derek flew into the doorway like a hawk and shrieked,

“Dude! Do you know that gorgeous, blonde receptionist you like?

“What about it?” Tahir asked.

“I asked her on a date, and she said yes. Boo yah!” Derek said as he sprinted down the hall towards his office.

“WHAT THE F*** DEREK! Geez, what a prick. I even told him that I really liked that girl. She was the prettiest I had ever seen.” Tahir looked to his window. “I’m never going to find another girl that that.”

“Yeah. Sure. I guess there’s not enough pretty girls to go around.” Julia said.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Tahir said, surprised at the lack of emotion in Julia’s usually peppy voice.

“Nothing,” Julia took two hard steps forward and tossed the envelope she was holding in her hands. It landed heavily on his desk with a thud, sending dust flying up into the air. Before he could get out another word, Julia was gone.

Tahir immediately stood up and lurched for the door. He grabbed the frame of the doorway and used it to gain momentum towards her office. He counted three doors before forcefully turning the knob on the fourth and pushing it open.

Julia sat at her desk, she didn’t even look up when he came in.

“Julia. What’s wrong?”

“Go away, Tahir.”

“Julia, listen. I didn’t mean to say that you’re not, you know, pretty. I mean…”

“Seriously. You think I’m shallow enough to be upset that you don’t think I’m pretty?”


“Tahir, I like you.” Julia’s eyes looked straight into his soul as those words spilled from her thin lips.

“I’ve always liked you, Tahir. You’re smart, creative, and kind. I help you with drafts, grammar, spelling, and copying. I go out of my way to help you because I know that you would do the same for me. I like the way the one piece of hair always sticks up on the top of your head, no matter how much hair gel you put in it. I like the way you use your words to describe beautiful people and the love you hope to find. I like the way your awkwardly laugh whenever you’re with people you’re not too familiar with and so much more,” Julia sighed,

“But your view of love is as clear as dust.”

Tahir was stunned. His jaw nearly hit the floor.

“Julia…why didn’t you tell me?”

She paused her typing and moved her hands to her lap, spinning slightly in her chair to reveal her eyes glossy with tears.

“Because. I will never look like them or be like them, Tahir, the girls you always seem to write about. I hate thunderstorms, I can’t stand the bugs outside. I wear clothes for comfort. I’m not skinny. My hair doesn’t effortlessly flow down my back. I don’t wear glasses for fun, I wear them to see things. Dresses make me uncomfortable, and I would rather sleep 30 more minutes than put on a full face of make-up.” She paused and looked down at her hands in her lap.

“Plus, we aren’t supposed to talk about this kind of thing. If we like someone we have to keep it hidden like buried treasure. Because no one wants to take the chance. No one wants to get hurt. Please, just go away, Tahir. I’m already embarrassed enough as it is.”

“Julia, I’m…”

“Just, go.”

Tahir slowly backed up to the hallway and could barely feel his legs propelling him forward on his way back to his office. When Tahir got back to his desk. He sat there in some sort of trance. Here he was, thinking he was unlovable only to be loved by the last person he would expect it from.

He picked up the pencil on the edge of his desk and pulled his notepad out of his drawer. He looked at what he wrote earlier. Within seconds he ripped it from the bind, crumpled it up, and pushed the dust filling his desk to the side with it.

Then, he began to write:

Title: The things we never say to each other

“I like you” she said, her glistening brown eyes looking up at me…

Posted in Storytime

The Things We Aren’t Supposed to Talk About: Act I

I think it’s the sound the bottle makes when the pills rattle down the orange, plastic siding that gets me. It’s like a little bell that rings out across the room, announcing to those around of its presence. No, they’re not the drugs that you hear about in the news or see in action-packed movies and hippie dramas that focus solely on the crappy side of life.

No, they were the ones we aren’t supposed to talk about.

I sit on the edge of my bed, burying my toes into the fluffy carpet while my I squeezed a worn towel around my soaking wet hair. The smell of melons and coconuts wafted around my freshly cleaned body which was sporting smiley face PJ shorts and an oversized Brewers shirt.

After a good while of squeezing, I released the towel from my damp hair and tossed it across the room. It landed next to the laundry basket, on top of some books. I stared at it for a few seconds, deciding whether it was worth it to get up and fix, before shrugging it off and curling underneath the warm covers to protect my hair from the cold breeze coming from the open window.

I blindly reach for the bedside lamp switch before my forearm touched something and pushed off the table to the floor. It clattered as it hit the carpet with that unmistakable chime.

I groaned, picked my head up from my pillow, and rested my chin on my elbow while looking down to that orange blob on the floor.

I let out a frustrated puff of air before reaching down and scooping it into my hand. I pulled it close to my face and held it there. I fiddled with the white sticker plastered across it, bending the corner, then straightening it, and then bending it again.

With the repetitive movement, I zoned out, consumed in the thought of what exactly lead me to holding this bottle in my hand.

Maybe it was because of the long walks at night to the bridge and wondering if the water was as cold as everyone says it was. Maybe it was because of the naps I would claim to take, only to end up weeping while hugging a bottle of painkillers for comfort. Maybe it was because of the academy award winning performance I would put on every day, smiling and laughing as if I had never felt the sting of sadness before.

But I knew the truth. The truth that I couldn’t accept. That depression isn’t something that just goes away like a cold. It’s an illness, one that people have a hard time accepting as an illness that needs medication to be cured. Some think a good therapy session and friends is sufficient enough to rid you of this “first-world problem”.

But would you ever tell a cancer patient to “be happier, it’ll cure you” or a person suffering from MS to “walk it off, it’s not that bad” or an elderly patient taking their last breaths “keep breathing, it’s not that hard”. No. Because they are suffering from something that they can’t control. So why do people think it’s okay to say that to people suffering from depression, anxiety, bulimia, anorexia, etc. that it “isn’t something that requires medical attention” to just “work it out”, or “toughen up”.

But sometimes even if they believe that it is a true illness, pills shouldn’t be an option. No, that’s what weak people do. The strong people put a smile on their face and perceiver.

But when you take the box cutter from the office and hide in the bathroom, ready to end it all, it’s no longer something you can control on your own. It’s no longer something you can smile through. That’s not normal.

So here I am, laying in my bed holding my Sertraline, Zoloft, Prozac, whatever you want to call it, in a little, plastic orange bottle. Holding the thing we aren’t supposed to talk about. We aren’t supposed to admit we have because it makes you sound weak and privileged. But I knew for a fact, that if this little pill hadn’t come into my life, I wouldn’t have been here to celebrate my 21st birthday, hug my family, hang out with my friends, graduate college, travel the world, and meet the love of my life.

It saved my life. It has saved many lives. But, we aren’t supposed to talk about it.

I push the lip of the lid down and twist the white cap off while tilting the bottle toward my open palm. The pills trickle down the side, tolling like mini bells, until one lands on my hand. I close up the bottle, place it next to the lamp, and grab the water bottle beside it. In one motion, I toss the pill into my mouth and took a sip from the water bottle, with my lips immediately beginning to pucker at the surprising tangy twist the water held.

I gagged and spat, opening up the lid to reveal the over-powered lemonade I forgot I had made that afternoon before going on a hike with my friends. I rolled my eyes, scoffed at my own stupidity, and even cracked a smile at how funny I must have looked. I snickered for a bit before placing the water bottle back on the table and clicking off the lamp.

I snuggled back into my warm bed and listened to the sounds of a lively Saturday night on campus as they drifted in with the breeze. And in the distance, beneath all the laughter and shouting, beneath the sounds of cars and crickets, I could hear the very faint sound of little chiming bells that lulled me into a deep sleep.

Posted in Storytime

Have You Ever Tried to Fly? : A Short Story

Astronauts ready? Begin countdown. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4…

I remember it so clearly now:

The sun was creeping along the tattered deck. When it reached the tip of my gangly fingers I hopped down the stairs and laid flat on the warm crabgrass by the edge of the farmhouse. I watched the clouds inch by across the blue sky and geese flying in formation overhead, honking as if they were mocking me. There they were, flying high in the sky while my little body lay adjacent to the ground. Stuck.

“What’d ya doing Mei?”

“Nothing, Gran, just looking at the sky”

“At what? Ain’t nothin’ up there but air and birds.”

“I know” I said. I rolled over to my stomach and locked onto her old, faded brown eyes, “I was just thinking that it would be nice to fly like the birds.”

Gran plopped onto her rocker on the deck, “Who says ya can’t?”


“Yah don’t know unless ya try. So, have you ever even tried to fly?”

“Gran, I can’t fly! I’m a person and I don’t have wings!”

“Superman ain’t got no wings from the looks of it and he flies ‘round like a gnat everywhere and stuff…”

“But he’s Superman.”

“And you is a little girl, Captain Obvious”

I rolled my eyes and flopped my back against the ground. I could hear Gran mumbled choice words behind me as she creaked her rocker back and forth in rhythm. Her crackled voice pierced the silence of the late afternoon,

“Instead of just lying there ‘n doing nothing, why don’t you go on and get the mail for me.”


I let out a huge sigh, lifted myself up off the ground, and started down the long drive. Her mailbox was so far away that it took someone at least 40 minutes just to walk there and back. However, I enjoyed running to make it go by faster and release some pent up energy I stored like a winter squirrel, as Gran would say.

With the farmhouse out of sight, I began with a slow jog. Then it picked up to a slow run. When I was fully running down the gravel drive, I suddenly remembered what Gran said about flying. I guess she was right that I never really tried to fly at all. But that was about to change.

I picked up to full speed ahead and ran as fast as I could down the gravel driveway. My feet pounded the ground with each step and my hair flipped around in the wind. I kept running until I could barely feel my feet anymore and I launched my little body into the air with all my strength.

As soon as my feet left the ground, a sense of excitement rose in my gut and for a moment, I was flying. Soaring above the gravel road like a drunk goose. My arms were flailing in the air and my shout of excitement sounded like honk, but it was quickly deflated as the ground smacked a sense of reality back into me.

For a good minute, I let the fact that I just attempted to fly like a bird and failed, unsurprisingly, sink in for a minute. I eventually rose from the ground and assessed the damage. Bleeding, dirty, and shredded clothing. She’s gonna kill me.

It was near sundown by the time I finally limped my way back to the house, with one letter tucked under my arm. However, she didn’t say a word as I came in looking like I was tossed into a blender. She simply put her hand on my shoulder and led me to the hallway cupboard to retrieve her mini first-aid kit.

I was sitting atop the kitchen counter and Gran was on her knees tending to my wounds. As she slowly peeled the backing off each plastic bandage and placed then on my cuts, a smile began to cautiously make its way to the corner of her lips.



“Yeah right! Why you smiling like that?”

“‘Cause, I thought for sure you were gonna fly.” She let out a short snort before she burst into a fit of giggles.

“I did, though!”

“Ya did?”

“It didn’t last that long, but I did!”

She calmed down and wiped the back of her hand against her glistening forehead. She leaned back on her heels and let out a deep sigh.

“I’m glad you did, honey. It’s tough fightin’ gravity like that”


“Gravity. The thing that’s keeping those scrawny legs of yours planted to the ground.”

I had almost completely forgotten about gravity. All of those physics lectures in class started to flood into my memory. Mr. Montgomery mumbling as he fussed around with the Bill Nye VHS. The classic theme song pouring out of the television and my classmates lips. It was there I had remembered I learned about Space. Where people float rather than sink to the ground.

Gran interrupted my thoughts as she clipped the first aid kit shut. I hopped off the counter, looking more like a patched quilt than a person, and made my way back to the porch. I sat down on the stairs which Gran settled into her creaky rocker. She flipped through a few pages of a book and eventually settled on a starting point.

As we sat there in silence, my eyes never leaving the disappearing horizon, I thought long and hard about my little stunt earlier. When the sun became nothing but an orange glow on the horizon, I turned to Gran,

“Gran, I’m gonna try to fly farther tomorrow.”




Another moment of silence passed.

“And even further the next day. I’m not gonna stop” I said.

“Good. Ya know where to find the first-aid kit.”


Right here in my pocket…Thanks Gran.

…3, 2, 1, Lift Off.

Posted in Numbers

The Stages of Getting Addicted to an App

If you’ve ever owned a smartphone, these stages of becoming addicted to an app might sound a bit too familiar. If at any time while you’re reading this you find yourself relating to one at the present moment, please proceed to stage 8 for the sake of your wallet, time, and sanity.


1. Sounds interesting, I’ll download it. You’ve been browsing through the app store for 10 minutes now, wondering when your pizza that’s in the oven will be done yet. You stumble across a fun looking game with cute cartoons and a high user rating. You look up to the oven clock. It reads: “9:00”. You think, might as well. You download the app to make the time pass.

2. I like playing this game, every once in a while. During every break at work, as you browse through your phone, you may open it a few times and play it a bit. You will leave and come back to it periodically, trying not to ruin the app’s fun-meter by playing it too often.

3. This game is my life. Every second you can spare is put into this game. You have become invested in how the game ends up and the competitiveness in you begins to gradually rise. You have to get to the next level. You have to beat this game. You can’t waste time eating anymore, the game is too important.

4. I’m considering the in-app purchases. To make this game go faster and to get those cool upgrades, you will consider buying the in-app purchases. You will try to convince yourself that this purchase is worth it because “it’s only a few dollars”, but your inner conscious wins you over and you avoid purchasing anything.

5. I’m gonna get the in-app purchase. You ignore your inner conscious and purchase a cool upgrade.

6. No sleep, just play. Now that you have put real money into this game, you cannot lose this game or give up on it. You must put all your time and energy into it. There is no more time for you to sleep because you spend every waking hour playing this game.

7. I’m bored now, I’ve practically beat the game. You’ve finally played this game for a solid month without stopping. You have beat the game. Now you are bored with it and begin to forget that it is still on your phone because there is no sense opening up the game that you have already beat.

8. Delete it. It’s now been five weeks since you last opened the app, you have finally decided that it’s time to delete it off of your phone to save space. You have a final moment of sentimentality before removing it forever…only to download the second version.

Posted in Storytime

Why Spiderman?

In lieu of the new Spiderman movie coming out soon, I decided to give a little story explaining why Spiderman is my favorite superhero.

You’ve all probably heard me say that for at least 5 straight Halloweens, I dressed up as Spiderman. Yes, this little dorky girl dressed up as Spiderman and I loved every second of it. What kid doesn’t want to be a superhero?

But when I was a kid, Spiderman was more to me than just a superhero. He was someone that helped me learn to love myself a little more every day and it all started the first Halloween I dressed up as Spiderman.

I remember that the weather was freezing with a forecast of snow (typical Minnesota for ya) and my mother wasn’t about to let my sister and I outside without a coat. So, that night I dressed as “The Abominable Spiderman” and ran around fully costumed yet covered by a purple winter jacket. The only part of the costume truly visible was the mask that I was wearing.

My sister and I ran from house to house with a collection of neighborhood kids gathering candy like crazy. However, there was this one particular house I ran up to that was handing out little princess key chains and Hot Wheels cars (Ah, the good ole days). My sister got there first (dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz) and received a keychain. The others followed and received their respective items. But when my turn came along, the lady reached into her black, plastic caldron and placed a bright blue car into my pumpkin bucket, “Here you go, dude. I love the costume!”

I was only able to be taken aback for a few seconds for my sister yelled at me to hurry up. I quickly bounced down the steps and ran across the lawn to the next house where she was waiting. I thought, did that really just happen?

When I got home that night. I held that little car in my fingers, running the tires along the palm of my hand and first thought, I can’t believe she thought I was a boy. Then a large grin crept across my face, that’s the first time I didn’t have to ask for the “boy toy”. I thought about all the trips to McDonalds and my mom having to ask for one girl toy and one boy toy, even though she was standing there with two little girls. Honestly, if I wasn’t so hyped up on sugar in that moment, I would have cried.

To some, it may have just been a simple misidentification because of the mask. But isn’t that what Spiderman is known for? Being a dorky little boy whose always made fun of but then puts on the Spiderman costume and he becomes something else entirely, a super hero.

So every time during my youth that I put on that costume, I become someone else. My own superhero. A superhero with the power to hide their identity so people didn’t judge me by the way that I looked or for the gender that I identified as.

Especially when I was younger, people would always feel the need to tell me their harsh opinions on what I needed to change to “fit in” better. For example:

  • “You should wear your hair down, it makes you look more feminine and professional.”
  • “You should get contacts. That way you can see better and won’t have to wear your glasses.”
  • “You need to start wearing clothes that flatter you instead of those baggy ones.”
  • “You need to start wearing make-up to help with your acne.”

And so on…

But all of that went away for one single night wearing one single Spiderman costume.

So, now that I’m older and starting to use the “#adulting” phrase more often, I still think back to why my answer is “Spiderman” when asked who my favorite superhero is. And no matter how cheesy it sounds, Spiderman will always be my favorite superhero because he taught me that even though the world may treat you like an outsider, you have so much more potential then you realize.

To sum it up, just because the world thinks you’re nothing but a weirdo, it doesn’t mean you’re not still a superhero.

Who’s your favorite superhero? Why? Let me know in the comments below.

Posted in Love it or Hate it

Love it or Hate it: Movie Theaters

This is a little category that I like to call Love it or Hate it. First, I’ll tell you the reasons to love it. Second, I’ll tell you the reasons to hate it. Then I’ll tell you my final verdict and you’re more than welcome to comment which one you would choose and why. I would love to hear from you!

Love it

  1. Crystal the Clear Movie screen vs Smudges the Laptop screen. With laptops beginning to include touchscreens these days, the infamous finger smudges are becoming more and more common. Personally, smudges drive me a bit crazy and distract me from viewing my content in the way I want to. I would rather admire the cinematic excellence playing on my screen then the leftover pizza grease smudge from my previous night’s “I’m single and do what I want” pity party”.
  2. “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?” *Ears begin to ring with joy*. Being raised in a household where you could hear anyone from anywhere in the house, I have learned to appreciate the sanctuary of sound that movie theaters provide. Because trying to watch a movie while your sister is blasting music, your neighbor is mowing his lawn, and the backyard neighbor’s dogs are yapping, it can be a wee bit hard to focus on the movie. Yes, sometimes it can get a little loud in theaters, but it is better than straining your ear to understand what in the world each character is saying.
  3. Less Distractions (by that I mean your phone…you know who you are). We are all guilty of constantly pulling out our phones and checking all of our newsfeeds for no reason whatsoever. But it’s nice every once in a while to pocket the phones and be transported into another world. That’s what movies are known for, bringing you out of reality into another time and place where for a few minutes your problems/social media drama doesn’t exist. It’s more fun to think other people’s problems that make yours look like a piece of cake to handle. For example, an evil wizard trying to kill you, your father turning out to be a selfish planet, or whether or not to move out of your house after a demon tries to take over your whole family…just saying.

Hate it

  1. Breaks the Bank. Being a college student for over 4 years now, I can tell you that money is a precious thing that I never seem to have enough of. So after a long day of class and work, it would be nice to get together with the gang and go see a movie. But 9 out of 10 times, at least one of those friends will “pull that card”. The “I can’t afford to go to the movies because one movie ticket is the equivalent of about 40 packages of ramen and I need to eat to survive” card.
  2. Popcorn-osaurus Rex. If I had a dime for every time I wanted to turn around and sucker punch the person chomping on their popcorn during the quiet part, I would never have to worry about the cost of going to the movies ever again. Seriously, SHUT YOUR MOUTH! For the sake of my sanity, your unbroken face, and those suffering from Misophonia (look it up), please be respectful when eating at the movies. I don’t care if you scarfing it down during the intense battle scenes, but when my favorite character is taking their last breath, I don’t want to hear you enjoying your greasy buttery popcorn in the face of my personal tragedy (RIP *insert major spoiler here*)
  3. Previews for Days. I always seem to worry when I’m late to the movies. But I always find myself watching at least 30 minutes of previews before actually getting into the movie. By that point, my popcorn is gone and my patience has worn pretty thin with pent up anticipation. Although it is entertaining to lean to the person next to you and give your honest opinion on whatever preview you just watched, I would rather get to the movie I paid an arm and a leg to see. (Maybe they should decrease tickets by 50 cents for every preview you are forced to watch…or do they already do that…)

My Verdict: LOVE IT

To me, movies theaters have always been a place I love. I’ve had a lot of memories with friends going to the movies and without them, I would be lost. Reality sucks sometimes, I know, so it’s nice to relax and for only a few hours imagine what it would be like to be on a pirate ship, to be stranded in a foreign country, or to be madly in love (yep, I went there). Movies will always be magical to me and I will never stop going to them.

So, I just have one question for you:

Movie Theaters: Love it or Hate it? Let me know in the comments below!

Posted in Storytime

A Tree Growing in Winter

The soft crunch of the snow beneath my worn-out boots filled the quiet morning street with life. I watched snow flick off the tip of my boots as I marched across a sea of white. I exhaled and my breath became one with the cold in a burst of fog before thinning into nothing. But before long, my puffs of air disappeared altogether as the warmth of my inner pith faded.

I reached the lone stop sign near what I believed to be the end of the street and I climbed up on the snow drift beside it. Even though I knew fully well that not a single car would cross my path. I planted my feet into the solid ice shell covering the last snowfall and began my long wait.

To keep warm I kept my limbs moving and practiced my greeting.

“Good morning! How ya doing…no, to easy” I muttered.

“Oh, I got it! What about, ‘Hey! You excited for school’…nah too dorky.”

But my practice was cut short as the trudging and scraping of familiar boots interrupted my thoughts.

“What’s up?” he called.

“Hey…” before I could get another word out, he exclaimed, “Why the heck are you standing in the drift? Your feet are gonna be soaked ya know. Geez, your always such goodie-two-shoes, just get on the street.”

He motioned for me to stand next to him on the lightly frosted street, but I just looked down at the snow that was up to my knees. To be honest, my feet didn’t feel cold at all. They were safely cocooned beneath me and I felt no reason to move.

“Suit yourself…” He scoffed.

As we waited in silence, him attending to his precious Tamagotchi, I gently removed my hat from the perspiring crown of my head and nestled it in the canopy of my jacket. The cool air brushed through my hair and whisked it about my head. The fluttering strands danced along with the breeze keeping my mind occupied on pushing it away from my eyes until the bus arrived.

Right on time, as usual, the bright yellow bus appeared in the distance. Shining in dew, it roared to a stop in front of us. I shuffled out of the drift and climbed on. When it took off, I watched the world pass in a white blur until we arrived at school.

The classroom felt the same as it had always felt, a cold and empty space where others seemed to flourish and I fell short. They would fervently raise their hands whenever a question was asked. They would zip through math problems and scurry about in gym. I guess you could say I didn’t have enough energy to keep up.

Even in music class I couldn’t keep up with the beat of the song. I would move my lips to the songs, but never actually make any sound. I was as quiet as the morning snow, but down to the very roots of my being I was trying my best.

I worked harder than most of the students, focusing on how to best adapt my weaknesses. I was the bud that never blossomed at the right moment. Not at the same time when all the other students were being nurtured and cared for. When I finally understood something, it was a long past thought to the others and my accomplishments were flat lined by their taunting blades.

But on this particular day, something amazing happened. Not just any normal kind of amazing like when a child takes its first steps, or when someone catches a Hail Mary in a football game. No, it was more than that.

It was during a typical third grade English lesson discussing the basics of figurative language. My teacher asked us all to write a simile, using the words “like” or “as”. I watched as all the other students scribbled out one idea to the next. They shouted them to friends across the room in excitement proclaiming their brilliance. The car was as fast as a cheetah, the man was as tall as a skyscraper, and the train roared like a lion to name a few.

I sat there puzzled for a few moments. All of those ideas sounded perfect, but they all sounded so plain. Something that had been written before. I stared across the room for inspiration and found myself looking out of the teal-framed window. It wasn’t much of a view though because the thick branches of a tree filled the frame. The thick bark was bare as it held a part of the morning snowfall on its limbs. It cast a billowing, patterned shadow into the classroom as sun broke through the clouds.

After some contemplation, I jotted down a line on my notebook and tore it out to turn it in. But then the dreaded sentence came from my teacher’s lips as she told the class that we would be reading them aloud.

I froze in fear. There was no time to practice and I couldn’t just mouth the words of the poem. My thoughts swirled as each student spoke their sentence and a roar of claps spread across the room. When it came my turn, I gingerly stood up from the safety of my chair and fell into the spotlight.

My fingers gripped the piece of paper as my heart began to practically beat out of my chest. It’s paced beating a cold reminder of the time that was ticking by as I stood in front of all their cheeky expressions. I glanced over to my teacher and she gave me a soft smile and a quick nod of approval to begin. My lips parted, but no sound emerged. I was frozen with fear as the pressure of the eager eyes around me intensified. I drew in a short breath before I slowly and painfully moved my lips and tongue to form the words I had written down,

“The moon rose slowly like a tree growing in winter.”

I quickly sat back down into the comfort of my seat and held my little hand to my chest as if it would quiet the sound of the rhythmic pounding of my heart. When I finally gathered the courage to look at my teacher, she was standing in awe.

There was not a sound among them, not a single hand clap. I felt ashamed because I knew that it was too different. It was probably wrong and I would have to be put down gently by the teacher, again.

But then, the miracle happened. My teacher ecstatically jumped from her chair and exclaimed, “This is exactly what I’m talking about. That was amazing! I’m…I’m in shock…” She trailed off as she smiled at me with bright eyes glowing in pride.

She began to clap and the rest of my pupils followed as the sound of their hands rustled the silence out of the classroom. I felt a warmth spread across my cheeks as I blushed.

I never had thought it possible that being different could feel so good.

That night, as I lay in my loft bed tracing shapes on the popcorn ceiling, I couldn’t help but wonder if a tree really does grow in winter. Or if the moon really rises or simply appears to as it circles the earth. My finger caught a few loose pieces of the popcorn and they fell onto my blanket.

I picked one up and analyzed all of the rough edges and uneven white paint distribution. I rolled it between my index finger and thumb and imagined it as a little snowflake. A snowflake that fell millions and millions of miles only to be stopped from hitting the ground by my thin little fingers.

I then flicked it to the floor of my room, rolled over, and snuggled into the warmth of my sheets. Before I drifted to sleep, I imagined a forest covered in white snow and in the middle of this forest full of tall yet bare trees, there was a little tree, barely a couple feet tall, flourishing with bright green leaves.

Huh, I guess some of them really do grow in winter.

Posted in Storytime

100 Years of Dorothy

A frozen breath curled from my lips and vanished into the cold night air. Above the violet, neon signs and the clustered crowds slurring from bar to bar, I could just barely make out those three familiar dots in the sky. Uniformed in a line amidst the constellation Orion. Even through the clouds of dust, deceit, and murky breath the stars still made their routine appearance over my apartment building. Their twinkling eyes peeking through the fire escape like the steady orange glow at the end of a cigarette.

While walking past Leland and Cecile’s, a patron swung the door open and a waft of cigarette smoke filled my nostrils. Most would find it to be revolting, but for me it was the scent of a memory. Her laugh. Her laugh is what played in my head the most. The nasally, asthmatic chuckling of a dedicated smoker. She was so dedicated that she only quit smoking because the cost was too high. Even when the doctors told her she had throat cancer, she quit for a while, but went back to it as soon as she was cleared. It was this sweet, smell of dirty tobacco that rebelled against her body as she did society.

She lived by no one’s rules but her own. A tough and sassy rebel with the kindest of natures. We would sit in the gazebo out back after my parents would drop my sister and I off for the evening. Her, smiling and leaning in to our eager little faces as she whispered for us to keep this our little secret. Click, Inhale, Exhale. The dirtied breath leaving her lungs as the smell of tobacco invaded the springtime air. That’s when her stories began. How the barn blew away in a tornado, how she survived living in a house with only one bathroom (and raising four daughters in it), and how Great Grandpa Bert went to escape all the drama in the garage and danced around to The Eagles while building furniture.

There never seemed to be a dull moment in her life, that is, until her time on earth came closer to its end. Her lively attitude faded slowly as the twinkling stars did when the morning sun crept above the horizon.

She could barely get out of bed. She said that Bert needed her in heaven and to meet him by Orion, so she replied that she wanted a soda. The daughter by her side followed her bidding and gingerly took her time going down both flights of stairs to the basement. The daughter retrieved the drink and went back upstairs. How strange it must have felt to get a soda that was doomed to be left undrunk. I mean, this tough rebel hated soda. She despised soda. But she loved her daughter enough to leave a lasting memory rather than a lasting nightmare.

As my boots softly padded against the concrete with each step, I couldn’t help but wonder what stories she would have told now. Like how she would have laughed watching me try to swing dance, how she would have pinned my picture to the fridge to show me off to her friends, and how she would have hugged me and laughed when I told her I loved the smell of her cigarettes. The story possibilities were infinite, but this short life we live isn’t.

She would have been one hundred today. For one hundred years she would have been here, making memories. But instead I am left to reminisce the ashes of the ones she left behind.

To the world, these past one hundred years may have looked like progress, smelled like success, and sounded like innovation. But to me, it looked like her, smelled like tobacco, and sounded like a rusty laugh.



*1st place at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s Center for Writing Excellence Spring 2017 writing contest (Theme: Centennial or 100)*

Posted in Storytime


In today’s society, bravery seems to be defined as the absence of fear. A synonym of fearlessness. That when someone is faced with the choice to run away with terror or run head on with courage, they choose courage. It’s in almost every movie and storybook that allows our minds to escape our dull daily lives.

The story is simple:

The superhero starts off ordinary. Then they find out they are anything but ordinary. They have special powers that they decide to use for good. A villain comes around, someone who uses their powers for evil, and starts to wreak havoc on the citizens of the world. The superhero must then decide to run away with fear, or run head on with courage. They ultimately decide to face the villain and they win. The superhero is then considered brave and courageous.

But this definition of bravery being fearlessness is flawed. It is impossible to live through life without any fear. Fear is a constant storm that rages in our minds. It never ceases to exist so we must build a shelter to protect ourselves from its wrath. The shelter we build with our hope and strength, however, it’s only temporary. The storm of fear thrashes against it with raining bullets and thunderous punches. It shatters windows with its piercing screams and rams it with howling winds. It’s the temper tantrum of fear that desecrates the walls that we surround ourselves with. We can either let the fear take over our lives, or decide to be brave. To be brave despite the fright and keep building the shelter to protect us from the storm. The storm that is always there, but doesn’t always have to win.

Being brave is exhausting, it is the constant upkeep of our shelter. When someone is fighting a battle there is physical exhaustion of course, but the mental exhaustion is what gets them in the end. The constant battle against fear with the tireless effort to build up the walls that fear tears down. The terror will never go away, so why does society think that being brave means to be without fear?

Being brave doesn’t mean you don’t fear anything. Being brave means that even though you are entirely and absolutely filled with fear, doubt, uncertainty, and terror, you still decide to act with blind courage because there is something more important to you than those fears.

When you have a terminal illness you fear death, but life is more important. When you face depression you fear life, but happiness is more important. When you charge into battle you fear a brutal death, but protecting your people and values are more important. When you have fear, something is always more important.

I won’t be the last to say it, or the last time you think of it, but it is completely and utterly okay to be afraid. It is okay to fear because bravery is not easy. It is not as simple as one would like to believe. It may come more naturally to some than others, but that doesn’t mean that it is not possible for someone to be brave. Do not think for a second that you are not capable of being brave.

You have the ability to be a superhero, just look a little closer at the story of your life. You are led to believe that you are ordinary, but you are anything but ordinary. You have hidden special powers that you can decide to use for good. You have villains that try to destroy your world. You have the choice to run away in fear, or run head on with courage. You can defeat the villain and save your world. You can be brave and courageous.

We all have the capability to fear and conquer those fears. “It’s all in your head” is what they say about fear, but “it’s all in your heart” is what they should say instead about bravery.  Because bravery is not to be without fear, but to decide what is more important: fear or bravery. The choice is yours.