Why I’m excited to NOT give my kids the world


This post first appeared on my blog “Will Settle for Chocolate” over at http://moms.fortwayne.com/?q=blogs/post/why-i’m-excited-not-give-my-kids-their-dreamsIMG_0014

My daughter, Alli, came to me at the end of the fall last year, and was excited, yet prepared for a “No” answer to the question she was bursting to ask. Her 8th grade class was taking a trip over Memorial Day weekend to Washington, D.C. She was dying to be one of the kids reserving a spot the next week on the bus. Only 40 spots were open and a few for parents. She wanted me to go as a chaperone with her.

She knew how tight to the line we live. She knew it was a big dollar amount. She knew it wasn’t lying around to throw her way. She knows we say no to eating out all the time, other little extras, so how could I tell her what she wanted to hear? It was written in her eyes.

Standing with her feet barely able to keep still, her eyes flashing, her squeals barely contained, my heart wanted to give her everything she desired. I wanted to say YES, of COURSE we will go, you can go, how can you NOT go?

But I didn’t. I said something better.

I said: “OK.”

She looked at me and cocked her head slightly to the side. Her eyes searched and found the answer. She announced it before I had to, “I’ll do what it takes to get there.” I nodded. That’s all I needed.

“WE will do what it takes to make it happen then.” With that the deal was sealed. I signed forms and we got our ducks in a row, and she began planning and scheming. She would do whatever it took to make the trip happen. That means earning the money to go. I would make the down payment for her.

Our kids don’t get an allowance. The reason is two-fold. One, we flat-out don’t have extra to hand them to say, “Here, learn how to manage money with this.” Two, I believe kids should do chores to make a house run simply because the house needs to run, not because they do a chore. I don’t get a dime for doing laundry or dishes or making dinner. That’s just life. They should learn that early. A job well done, done right the first time so you don’t have to repeat it, that is reward enough in and of itself. Harsh? Maybe… but it’s a cold hard fact of real life out here in the adult world. It works for us. And in the end, our kids know that money is not something we throw around, it is hard to come by and it is earned by working your tooshie off for it.

I went to D.C. in high school and I too earned my money to go. It meant the world to me knowing I had earned the right to go, to be there, to experience it all.

Alli has babysat, worked odd jobs, cleaned houses, cared for horses and helped do carriage rides downtown in the freezing cold of winter. She’s earned nearly every dime of the $800 of her ticket and mine to D.C. What she didn’t earn was Christmas money she saved instead of spent. She won’t forget a second of this trip. She’s earned every minute of the experience.

So many times I have been frustrated as we tried to hand experiences to our kids only to have them barely acknowledge them while they were there. When they have to earn the trip, to feel the effort, the dollars, the investment, they take in the experience in a completely different way.

Alli is so excited she could pop. She is counting down the days. She and I will share a room, her choice, and she is proud that she is treating ME to four days and three nights in DC. She is paying for every bite of food she and I put in our mouths and every bus and subway we sit on. She wanted me there and she got me there. She wanted to be there and she got herself there. The confidence this has given her is not only striking, I’d dare say it is life-changing for her. She just proved to herself something she had no idea she could do.

Alli has a personality that matches her soccer position. She is full on, “I dare you to try and get one past me,” in life, and she just gained the confidence to say, I can do ANYTHING, no matter what stands in my way.

She was recently selected to go on an international trip abroad, for a three-week intensive program of learning and growing. She asked me, “Can I go?”

I looked her in the eye, squared her up, and said, “OK.” She grinned.  I winked and said, “We will MAKE it happen.”  With that, she knew what she needed to do. The next goal? Add a zero to that dollar figure. She has a year to come up with $8,000 dollars and I have NO question that she will do it. Why? Because she already proved to herself that there is NOTHING she can’t do if she wants to do it bad enough. She’s already planning and thinking of projects to do to earn money to go. The life lessons will be endless, and she is 14 years old. Where will she be by 24? The world has no idea what’s coming its way. No idea.

Sometimes, really, the best thing you can do for your kids is to not give them the world. Instead, give them the key to owning it, all by themselves.

The coach benched me


10978620_10206441483822354_3181254757290474852_nThis week has reared up and bitten me in the butt. The weather and the pressure fronts are to blame, mostly, and I’ve tried hard not to be insufferable to live with, but I am not the do-nothing type. I don’t do down time well. Living with an invisible chronic illness really stinks. A lot.

We all basically forget I have this thing. I have weeks and even months at a time that are good and I have virtually no issues that force me all the way down. We all get used to me doing all the mom things, doing all the this and thats, driving the mom taxi, running the errands, making dinners and cleaning house. Then a front will move through and weather will sneak up and it will bring with it a particular brand of harshness that seeps into my bones and changes me from the inside out.

I have something called Chiari Malformation. It’s a fancy name for “Squished brain” because my brain is too big to fit into my skull and it squishes down into the brain stem, causing nerve issues and pain galore. There is a day-to-day factor of this thing I live with, but mostly it’s livable. In general no one would know I have an issue. When these pressure fronts move in, however, things change. I’m sidelined, taken out of the game, subs put in.

This week my family got their reminder because the coach had to play them. I’ve been benched and the couch is where I’m doing all my parenting and have-to’s from. It stinks. They’ve really stepped it up this week, however, and I have to say I’m really proud of them. In spite of why I am seeing it all, it’s nice to know that they can take over and keep things going, doing the cooking and the chores, getting gone what needs done, and doing it all without a single complaint.

Thanks guys. When a mom is sidelined, it’s really hard. Knowing that things won’t fall apart and that you’ve got it covered really does ease the pain more than you’ll ever know.

1st Vlog – Raising future adults who can feed themselves


I am beginning a series, life hacks if you will, to raising future adults.  Everyone discusses raising kids. I get that. I however, see raising my kids differently. In the end, I am not really trying to raise kids.  No, I am trying to get them to adulthood with information that will take them out into the world so that they can survive. I won’t be MOMMY forever, and really, I’m not now.

My youngest is 11 and the girls are 14 and 16. In the midst of the craziness that is life, the hard stuff and the mundane, I still need to keep that goal in mind. So join me as I regularly Vlog in the moment, randomly, unedited, and completely off the cuff. I’ll post things that come to me randomly and in action.

Today’s I shot while I did the dishes and lived life around here.  Just a snippet.

Take a gander!

http://youtu.be/IzcTre_Y_IU

Beyond backstage – the unseen hurdles and what this play means REALLY


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The finished set of “The Savannah Disputation” – 2015

A couple of years ago, I came out of a motherhood-induced-hiatus and stepped back onto the stage again. I’d written and directed and been in plenty of church skits, silly sketches, and dabbled with doing drama at retreats, but I hadn’t been on a REAL stage for an actual play, in 17 years and there is a very distinct difference.

I assumed the dream of doing theater was dead. I didn’t see how I’d be able to do it again. It wasn’t because of motherhood, nor of schedules or the like. The reason wasn’t even the physical issues associated with my Chiari Malformation (where my brain tissue does not fit into my skull correctly and instead herniates into the brain stem, creating challenging issues and pain; to put it neatly) No, the obstacle was tied into my seeking help with Chiari pain management and how I was overmedicated and medically abused.

After being diagnosed, I chose not to do the surgery where they remove a part of the skull at the base and relieve the pressure, kinda like unbuckling a belt after Thanksgiving dinner. It was risky and I was told I had an 80% chance of walking out the same or worse than I walked into surgery. Every case of Chiari is different. Mine was not a good match for a “fix” and, sorry, but my kids were really young at the time, and I couldn’t afford to be worse than I already was. So I instead sought out a pain management clinic. A friend of mine, who also lives in chronic pain, gave me the name of her doctor and I made the call.

Long story short? The doctor (term I use LOOSELY) nearly killed me.

Luckily for me my own family doctor, who is my hero, as well as my fully involved family who loved me, took me to Indy, helped me get out of his clutches and saved my life. I was close to deathly overmedicated and at one point I actually questioned how much longer I had. Would I be here to raise my kids? I begged God one night to answer “yes” I’d be there for them. I didn’t tie Him to my ways of “being there” – but instead asked that he restore me – let them have a mom who the not only need, but let them know ME – the real ME – the one HE created once, and I no longer was. I wanted to somehow have that vivacious, courageous, spunky, bubbly, goofy, spitfire there for my girls to roll their eyes at and my son to be embarrassed by.

It was a long hard year when I began to get clean. I was one of those red ribbon “Just say NO to drugs” kids.  I’d never tried a single drug over Tylenol in my life. Then suddenly I was on all these hard drugs, muscle relaxers, and pain pills. I had every one of the most stolen and desired prescription drugs in my medicine lock box… All legally and completely hooked. My body was a mess. I had body tremors that came randomly and my arm or leg would even jerk and move on their own, waking me from sleep. I was a mess.

I detoxed one drug at a time, hiding for long periods in the bedroom so I could do the ugly stuff alone, out of my kid’s sight. I thought when I finally came off the drugs, and I was back on track with some management that was SAFE for me, that I’d be out of the clutches of this mess.  Then I realized… I had brain damage.

Yeah, the memory issues I had on the drugs were bad, but they didn’t go away. I had lost my ability to drive longer than 20-30 minutes tops in any given stretch. My brain can’t concentrate in intense periods for longer. It will shut down and I have a tendency to suddenly jolt to “consciousness” and realize I’m driving when my brain lapses.

I now had serious trouble with short term memory. I could no longer depend on remembering I’d even heard a conversation. Everything had to go into the long term memory, or be written down and reminders popping up on the phone for me to have a chance to retain it and show up to places and do things.

IMG_0097All that to say, while romping on the stage had always been a dream, it was never one I thought I could ever do again with any kind of success. How would I ever remember lines?  There was no way.  I struggled the first few shows to remember my 2-15 lines. I was trying to put them into my memory the way I always had.. and those methods didn’t work anymore for me.

IMG_0259I had a few moments of panic and freaking out, I’ll admit it. I was sure I’d never be able to do it. My family listened, but encouraged me anyway. My friends told me to shut the heck up and just go be AMAZING. I found little notes in my script that made me feel like I was no longer doing this for me… maybe I was doing it for us all… my kids needed to see me succeed. They needed to know that stress can good, not just not something to avoid; even thrive under.

I refused to give into it. Otherwise it was like I was letting this doctor steal a part of my soul, not just have robbed me of years of my life, and of quality.  I am a heck of a lot more stubborn than that!

I told my family all I wanted for Christmas was the chance to do this show with their support. I had won a role in a four person cast, with some amazingly talented actors. Every night was like taking a college class in acting.

IMG_0613My hidden fear, however, was that I’d fail them all. I was increasingly worried when the words wouldn’t come, wouldn’t stick. It’s always a struggle to get the words to stick. Now? I wondered just how much brain damage there was. Could I do it at all? Again, a few key friends told me to SHUT UP AND GO STUDY. I may not have believed in myself, but everyone else did.

Could I still do this? Could I be who I always wanted to be? Could I step back on stage and really be any good? YES… I can. I know that now. I overcame the limitations and while I may never forget these lines as they have been placed in a crazy hard longterm spot, well, maybe that means I wont forget them when I’m on stage! Ha!

We open tonight. The first of three weekends of shows will begin in just a few hours. I am excited, but not just because I am 40, finally back on track to live my dreams and enjoy my passions… but because I overcame a massive life obstacle, kicked my way through some pretty hard crap, and will get to romp across the stage, holler, smirk, laugh, and undoubtedly, have the time of my life.

What dream have you given up on? What refuses to die inside of you, or nags you? Maybe 2015 is the year to decide what controls you, what control you have, and how to change the balance of power. Be amazing. I know you can!

To hear the director chat about the upcoming show, check out this link: http://wboi.org/post/disputation-takes-comic-look-lines-divide-faithful

Give Yourself Away This Christmas


Today I helped my aunt make make magic happen. I was giddy as I drove to Grams house, knowing my aunt was on her way down from Wisconsin. She was brining with her a very special surprise. I was giggly inside like it was Christmas morning.

My Grams just celebrated her 90th birthday last month. I help her put out her Christmas things each year, and we both enjoy our (now) tradition of doing so. Even though she has several trees in her retirement home, she has mentioned how she misses sitting and looking at a tree. There is something magical about sitting and watching the twinkling lights and seeing the refection off the ceiling and windows; the glow of it by the drawing evening and the peacefulness it evokes as the memories of Christmases long ago swirl around it unseen.

My aunt decided there was absolutely no reason why she didn’t have a tree other than she hadn’t moved one with her here, and there was no practical reason to “need” it because there were several down the hall. Here’s the thing about that however… There’s no way to sit and let memories swirl as family members come to visit in the stillness of the light bathed tree, if only you can take time alone with it. My grams, you see, is the last of her family line. She is the oldest. She is our matriarch. She has watched everyone she knows go before her, all her siblings and extended family, as well as many good friends. While she knows she’ll one day be greeted by these cherished loved ones, well, she misses them. She misses the traditions, and she misses just sitting and looking back in time, to when she was a girl, anxious for Christmas morning to arrive, and to head out to Christmas services with her best dress on and proudly holding her daddy’s hand.

So this year for Christmas? This year we gave Grandma her memories. We gave her what she cherished most… a chance to travel back in time. Her time machine just happens to look a lot like a little three foot artificially lit tree decorated with special bows and shimmery balls and tinsel.

Christmas is not about what’s practical. Christmas is about finding out how to go about giving the one gift that seems impossible, and then finding a way. Christmas is about magic. It’s about love. It’s about giving. Christmas is based upon one very important gift.

God so loved the world… THIS world, that HE gave his ONE and ONLY son, in the form of a baby, so that He, GOD himself, would know exactly what it was like to breathe, live, crawl, walk, see, smell, love, and loose, just like us. He gave away His only child, to all of us, so that He could know us in a way He never could otherwise. He experienced everything this child, Jesus, did. He delivered unto this world a savior. One that would one day grow into a man so that he could CHOOSE to follow in His father’s footsteps and LOVE us enough, to give HIMSELF away, all so that we, YOU AND ME, might live… forever.

If that is not the ultimate gift, I surely don’t know what is.

Grace was delivered to the world, in the most unexpected of ways, through the birth of a tiny little child one long, lonely night, so long ago in Bethlehem. It is because of this ultimate and amazing gift that we now give gifts to each other, to celebrate the magic and, in some way, to say thank you for that beautiful act of such love from above.

Don’t get me wrong, I like receiving gifts, but oh, by far, it is my greatest joy to be the one finding new ways to creatively recreate magic… To spread the joy of Christ. In each act of giving, if given with the spirit of the first Christmas, a bit of that first holy night is reborn in each of us, as we give ourselves away.

May you be richly blessed over the holidays and remember, you are deeply loved by the One who created you.

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Pain is meant to be felt. It means something


picI was going along, minding my own business, attending meetings, a family gathering for a final Thanksgiving meal, birthday celebrations for my husband and daughter, and working on a plethora of stuff when, BOOM! Suddenly the world came to a halt.

Getting up from the chair I had sat in to enjoy my beautiful turkey coma sent a stabbing knife through my side that took my breath away. A few more steps, more pain. Not muscular pain like a pulled muscle, or how it feels when you throw your back out, but something deep inside of me. A place that muscles don’t move and I couldn’t put my hand on to ease the sharp pains repeatedly that came wave after wave.

I explained it away for a few hours, as they came and went. I went to bed and tried to relax.  I was starting to fall asleep when suddenly I straight up with a pain that was undeniable. I’d had this before. Four times in fact.

“Oh please, God, no.  Not this. Please no.” I said aloud as my husband put his hand to my back and wished he could do something.  With that began a long battle of kidney stone vs the tiny passageway to my bladder, wherein I would finally rid myself of this beast of a demon rock.

Sorry, “stone” is a sweet round little pebble of a thing. Mine are built like torture devices with wicked barbs that hang off each side, mean and vicious, tearing up my insides the whole way down. I christen them “demon rocks” from here forth.

Thus began the battle that would steal away all my holiday ugly-sweater and white-elephant parties. It would steal away time for work and for doing normal mom things. It would steal away my sanity!

My kids can’t handle seeing me in pain. They worry and stress.  Such is the life of a kid who knows their mom has a real health issue that has held her captive in the past. I have an invisible illness stemming from my brain. It is too big for my skull and the squished part herniates into the brainstem. It’s called Chiari Malformation. This can not be fixed or cured. There is a surgery to ease the stress of the “squeeze” but unless you cut off the “extra” brain, it’s a problem. Usually cutting off pieces of the brain is not something you choose to do unless life is unlivable. So around here, the worry crops up in a way maybe other kids would let breeze over them. I made a mental note that no matter how bad it got, I needed to be the mom they needed me to be.

I would not give into a little piece of demon rock.  No way.

So I curled up on the couch and took medicine to help ease the pains, watched movies with my son who needed to snuggle because I was in pain. I laughed and chatted with my daughter about her day at school and listened long into the night when there were things that needed to be heard again later. I was on the same big red couch for my oldest daughter to come have a much needed heart to heart. There were times she was in mental pain, dealing with her bipolar, and it made my pain manageable. I wanted to take hers away, and I couldn’t.

It’s hard to put into words, but I somehow felt like bearing this one silently gave me more power, strength, and peace. Life is hard enough around our house without adding to it with physical ailments. No one wants to have me down again. Cant have me down. Those were hard days and the kids really sense them when they come now. That feels good and overwhelmingly bad to me. I hate that they know the hard things so well. I really hate that. I appreciate that they are so intuitive and sensitive and caring kids.

So this literal pain in my side made me feel like I could do it one more day and I dug into it and really rolled with it, and didn’t let it overwhelm me like in times past. It may help that it was passable too!  I’ve had surgeries for them when they block vs pass. I focused on the pain being a GOOD thing – a no SURGERY thing. Pain equalled a blessing.

I’m rambling, but I really felt something strong through this unexpected detour. Pain is meant to be felt. It has a message. A story, a purpose. It’s not always a thing to be loathed and avoided. It can build a person, and it can define a person. I refused to allow it to define me.

It was simply passing through. Life would go on. And it did. I even had some quality time with the kids.  :-)

Ava-The Dancing Star


The following is a creative short story. Enjoy!

Ava’s eyes caught on the landscape out the back window. She let her mind fall away from the moment and drift. A leaf gracefully slid from the golden canopy. When would it change? Or would it? She shook her head and let it fall into her hands. She knew it wouldn’t. Not ever. It mattered not what everyone told her. She knew her reality. Her prison. It was like a steel cage with no key. She could peer out, but never escape.

She tuned reality out around her, instead choosing the peace of the music in her mind. She had the uncanny ability to replay songs, rich and full, like others played records or called up tracks on a CD. Whatever her mood, Ava could flip through the playlist within her heart. Like a slow and haunting melody, it would dance across her nerve endings, escaping from the ends of her fingers wherever they may lie.

Today, her fingers found the rough wood of her desk and she slowly tapped out the steady beat of Journey. She let herself be carried away on the word pictures that faded in and out of focus. She stilled her hands, then with care, slowed the tempo so each word was captured in time; each phrase hung like a framed picture against the blank wall of her hollowness.

 Just a small town girl

Livin in a lonely world

She took the midnight train goin anywhere…

Ava saw herself standing on an empty street, a light breeze washing over her. She was wearing a soft and worn out leather messenger bag across her shoulder and in it she knew every item and it’s significance. There would be precious little she’d take from here.

What she wouldn’t give to pick up and leave right now

A singer in a smokey room

A smell of wine and cheap perfume

For a smile they can share the night

It goes on and on and on and on

Her mind drifted over to “Him”. To his hands. She traced them in her mind, feeling the warmth and the hardness of them. They were rough and yet intensely soft. She knew, that made no sense at all, and yet it did. Her heart did a little skip beat when she saw him come into the room each time. He owned it. Completely. His was an unhurried and quiet presence. It calmed her, and yet it flustered her completely. She flushed now thinking of him. It made her glad, for once, that she need not try to impress him. His obvious acceptance of her was so unexpected and refreshing that she found she stopped trying and she just “was”. Did that make sense? It was as if her soul, often so tormented, simply relaxed and her whole being smiled. She smiled now. She smiled until she remembered herself…

Ava was both her mother’s greatest accomplishment and deepest failure, all wrapped up in one moment of weakness. Every single day of Ava’s life, the girl inside her mother screamed at her for being born. Ava was sure of it. Joy and pride had once brightly lit in the young mother’s eyes when looking upon her daughter’s blond head and creamy skin. It took a few precious years for that to turn that on a dime.

 Some will win

Some will loose

Some were born to sing the blues.

Oh, the movie never ends,

It goes on and on and on and on……

With unrestrained energy, yet grace, she let her fingers move the music as a maestro moves the symphony into it’s grand crescendo. She rocked back and forth and let her legs move and tap out new and stronger chords. A grin lit her face and she leapt to her feet.

Arms waving in the air, she moved the colors and magic that held the pictures around her in a static place and forced them to burst forth into life. The pictures came alive. She was no longer the sad girl on the corner, waiting while life passed her by, but she was the one with a full heart urging the girl to dance! To believe! Live!

Don’t listen to the world. Don’t let them take the joy! What right do they have to steal the music and write the ending? After all, HE saw her. She knew he DID. He saw past her bars and into her heart. In fact, maybe for the first time, there was a chance that the harsh steel bars didn’t hold her at all.

Ava had tried. She had. She’d done everything she could to make her mother’s eyes light up again they way they once had. But even though she could see love in her eyes… she never saw the unrestrained joy. It broke Ava. It did.

Lifting her arms up above her head she swirled them around and the colors danced in time to the music. Ava gave herself over to the music completely. She was done with reality. She wanted to run away with him. Right now. It was almost time, and she wanted to believe, if only for THIS moment in time, that it WAS possible. Why not? Why for everyone else in the world but her?

For now? She believed. She let her heart free from her prison. She took her fingers and pried open the bars, just enough, and set it free. It raced forward and it took flight.

Immediately the music took on a life of its own and it began to own her instead of her, it. She knew what kinds of looks she’d draw if someone were to happen by right now, but she cared not. Oh to be free! It was the most glorious feeling in the world! To be in love, and to race away with it! To imagine that he would look at her again, with those deep eyes, and truly SEE her! She never knew the power of the music until she allowed it freedom over her like this; and she let it move and flow, to twist and grow. She was like a bird in flight. It was beautiful. It was amazing!

The chorus spun over and over in her ears… in her mind.

 “Dont stop, Believin…”

She didn’t know exactly when the words had sowed themselves into her heart, but they had. Now all that mattered was that they were woven into the fabric of her very being. She had a will to fight against all the staring eyes and the negative voices that seemed to always believe her to be nothing worth noticing. She WAS someone… even if no one could see past these bars imprisoning her.

Ava reached out and took hold of the bars and she shook them. She wrapped her fingers around them till her knuckles turned white. She strained and pulled against them, but they held fast. NO! A tear slid down her cheek as she twisted against reality. It held firmly to it’s hold on her.

***

“Ava,” a voice called out as a knock at the door came.

A look of surprise washed over the older woman’s face, and then pity. Her eyes took in the gangly form of the young woman in the room, arms waving over her head, fists opening and closing. With a slight drop step, she took small circles in the room as she moaned to herself. Her blond hair was pulled back into a pony tail and had come loose around her face. She looked disheveled. There was gong to be some work to do to get this child ready if she was going to be on time today.

“Ava, dear! Look at you!” A woman dressed in neat slacks, with a colorful pull over nurse’s top, came into the room. Ava’s eyes registered her entrance, but she did not acknowledge her otherwise. Ava moaned louder and moved toward the window. “No honey, we need to get you ready. You have a dance lesson today!” She moved her away from the window and over to a mirror.

Agitated, Ava pushed the hand away that tried to help tame her stray blond curls that had freed themselves. She reached for a worn brown bag that lay near the bed.

“No, you don’t need to bring that with you. You’re just going downstairs today. It’s your dance lesson. You remember?” A few loud voices made their way down the hallway and a boy slapped the back of another as he yelled in agreement. Ava’s eyes followed them. “Here, let me fix you up. You want to look pretty, don’t you?” With that, Ava’s hands fell to her sides and her moaning slowed.

The woman shook her head to herself. Such a pretty girl, really. It was so hard her family that she couldn’t understand much and that she couldn’t communicate with most. But Ava seemed to have a connection with dance, and to music. She seemed to come alive when she was near either one. So Patty had fought for her to get into the music program here at the group home. She’d come so far since then.

***

Ava walked in the room. The music was already playing. The instructor was leading a group of awkwardly moving couples to the music by calling out steps of, “and a One, Two, Three, Four.” Ava looked around the room till her eyes fell to the one person who wasn’t moving to the music. It was HIM.

He walked over to her as if she was the only person in the room. His eyes held hers and he saw her. It wasn’t her imagination. He did. He saw her. Ava felt her heart speed up and her hands shake a bit. Calm down, Ava, she said to herself. Be cool here. She smiled up at him and offered her hand.

Looking down at her, he took her hand and swept her into the room.

For the next hour, there would be nothing else. There would be no prison. No walls, no awkwardness, nothing. There would be only him. He came each week to dance. To be her partner. To free her from the reality of her world. To be both her dream and her reality. If she couldn’t feel the hardness of his hand in hers, she’d swear he was an angel. She wasn’t entirely sure why he came, but she wanted to believe it was because of her… because he couldn’t stop thinking of her all week, like she couldn’t stop her mind from replaying this simple hour, every single one that followed it. She refused to be reasonable, but instead gave herself over to the music and to the feel of him, to the smell of his cologne, and to the nearness of his warmth as they moved in time to the music.

Ava sighed and smiled up at him. This was enough. For now it was. It really was.

***

Looking down at her, Larry couldn’t help but feel himself grin. She never really spoke much, but he seemed to understand her anyway. He felt lead to speak to her as if she understood what he was talking about. Maybe he was nuts, but he felt like she did. So in between songs, and during the break, he would look into her deep blue eyes and ask her about her week. He refused to do the easy thing and talk about surface things like weather and how dinner was. He filled in the gaps by telling her about his hectic week and telling her how crazy it was in traffic on the way here. About the guy who cut him off, how he restrained himself from yelling at him, and that it was because she came to his mind and he imagined the disapproval she’d show in her eyes and the way she’d turn her head and wag her finger at him. She had grinned at him then.

Ava always rewarded him each week by shining her award winning smile. It was a little crooked half smile that lit her whole face. One eye was a tad drooped, but the light in them when she saw him across the room more than made up for it. There was no way he’d ever want to put disappointment into those eyes. It’s what kept him coming week after week. He’d begun coming after he was asked to volunteer to come to dance classes as part of a program reaching out in the community… but now? Now it was for Ava. She was truly one of a kind. She was far more beautiful than most of the souls who passed through his days each week.

Ava was real. She was unhindered. She was like no one else. She didn’t seem to see the bars that imprisoned most people… she seemed so free. He wished he could show her off to the world. He wished he could somehow show the world how beautiful she was. Heck, he wished the world could be a little more like Ava.

He looked down at her as they stepped together in time to the music. She was beaming. He grinned. She was a shinning star. She was his dancing star.