Friday, February 5, 2016

What's been going on: a mature room and a humor competition

After more than 14 years of marriage, my husband and I finally got a bedroom set.

Yeah, yeah. Big deal.

But, really, it is.

Before last week's delivery of our new furniture, our small dresser was one from my husband's childhood home. (And we thank you for giving it to us, Mom and Dad-in-law.) Our mattress sat on a box spring on the floor with not even a wall tapestry to offer it some dignity. Having our bed that humble way saved space, and for years it gave our nursing babies a safer place to rest by their mama in case of a roll off the bed (very rare!). Our other furniture was an old desk with sharpie decorations in silver and black marker embellishments, a file cabinet, and an old TV stand that held our shoes and discarded jeans.

Now our room is all grown up, hardly recognizable. "Whose room is this anyway?" Matthew and I ask each other. Beautiful. For a whole week I have been unable to stay away from this regal furniture. I stand or sit and simply stare in blatant admiration. I stroke its smooth finish. I admire its reflection in the large dresser mirror. I brush off the insolent dust. I am in love with this dark bedroom furniture.

We had waited so long - because of our wee ones - and my expectations had grown so high in that time, that I was certain we would have to get rare and unusual bedroom furniture from some renowned antiques dealer or some artist in Jerome, Arizona who constructs things out of abandoned barns and mine frames. But, no; we did the American thing, and found our set at a furniture warehouse. Since its purchase, I have scoured the furniture ads and smirked at their offerings; our bedroom set is surely the most beautiful of them all, even if it is mass produced.

So, you can understand now. This was a big deal for me. Not a necessity, but a big and beautiful deal.

Moving on to important things in an entirely different sense, I have been struggling for two weeks now - perhaps more - to write a humor entry for the Erma Bombeck writing competition that accompanies the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop I'm going to attend.

It has not gone well. Things are certainly not flowing. I am stuck in the detangling stage of my writing and, for the life of me, cannot find a cohesive or funny thing in the crazy, knotted threads of my thoughts. I wish that I could enter something I have already written. There are quite a few that I like a lot, and some that came quite easily. Inspiration was my friend then! But the entry must be pristine, unseen, a newborn babe not yet known to man. So here I am. Where are you now, o inspiration? It's a slog, believe me.

But I do recognize that any challenge, even this frustrating, is good for my craft. So whether my entry is worthy of a humor competition or not, I'm going to enter something.

Meanwhile, I have to tell you that, for my own good or ruin, I have checked out the past winners of this competition. I kid you not, they are hilarious. I laughed out loud at several of the pieces. I highly recommend checking them out if you need to lighten your load today. Here are some of my favorites:

Legacy

The Kotex Kid Strikes Again

Appreciating a Depreciating State of Things

Republican Hair

And you can find all the winners of past years HERE and determine your own favorites after a couple hours of laughter or smirks.

Well, now I must leave you, because after his papa stayed home last Friday from work and a week of his oldest sister being home from school and church with an entirely different but quite nasty virus, my youngest son has been throwing up all morning. No joke.

My poor little fella. I don't think Mama's sorry humor essays would cheer him up. I'd better work on that.



Monday, January 25, 2016

Preach to the choir

I met a prayer prophet.

At least that's what I called her, a new friend who is the mother of my son's soccer friend.

She was telling me at soccer practice how grateful she was that while having her family in town from Colombia these past few months, there had been very few misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Occasionally, disagreements had arisen, but she credited prayer in preventing them from getting overblown and causing lasting tension.

She got teary-eyed as she told me that she and her mother are spending as much of their remaining time together as possible, enjoying all they can. 

Then she confided that her mom had seriously misunderstood the meaning behind her words once. They had an argument, and my new friend told her mother to please go, pray and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, and if after prayer she still wanted to be mad, she could be.

"Do you think I would bring you all this way to my home just to make you suffer?" she asked her mom.

The situation was soon rectified.

"I think everything works out right with prayer," my friend told me. "Just prayer, prayer, prayer in everything."

On that evening that was something I needed to hear. Honestly, I feel God gave my friend the opportunity to tell me that precisely, to be a prayer prophet for me. And it wasn't a topic I had even suggested, but it led to a message I recognized.

I pray; I throw up thoughts to God sporadically throughout the day. Thank you. Thank you! Come with your mercy. Protect my family. Bless this person, Father. Help me! Forgive me. Guide me. Hold my hand.

So my friend was preaching to the choir, really. But this choir member was struggling anew with an old problem and had become weary of praying about it, had forgotten the grace and power of prayer. 

I think preaching to the choir is too often slammed as a resounding gong that does nothing, stirs no one and imparts no aid in the fight to be better human beings.

But is the choir perfect? Is their harmony so sublime already that improvement is impossible?

Preaching to the choir is still preaching, and if done with God's help, is effective and stirring and energizing. Because sometimes the choir has fallen asleep. Or the back row is gossiping while the front row is self-righteously pretending not to listen. Sometimes every single last person in that choir is bent over their phone playing a game, wasting time and effort on distractions and cheap rewards. Sometimes the choir is sulking because they don't get to sing the hymns they like today. Or they're singing mechanically, because they have been doing it for so long, they forgot why they loved to sing and glorify in the first place.

Preaching to the choir is very necessary sometimes, I think, and I have been thinking about it a great deal lately, because I have lately had people preach to me and have been truly very grateful. May no one ever say that Hillary is past the point of accepting and welcoming and reflecting on others' preaching!

After all, we live in community to share wisdom with each other, to share joy, love and hope and to say, "Soldier on! I'm coming, too." Or the never obsolete words: "You're not alone. I've struggled. But now I'm here to help carry you forward with my encouragement."

The choir needs encouragement, too. The choir needs each other and needs a good preacher (not always the same person from moment to moment). The choir needs, every so often, one member to stand up on a dreary day and belt out Amazing Grace with such beauty and truth that everyone is fortified and renewed, 



Thursday, January 14, 2016

Resolve

I think my phone is going to leave me someday.

I turn it off for church and leave it off for days. When I finally power it on, I forget sometimes to adjust the volume from silence, so I soon misplace it and can't find it. I drop it often and don't even apologize, because I could care less. I leave it at home by its lonesome while I'm out and about. I let it die from sheer neglect and don't notice til it's too late.

Phones are just not my thing. I wish it could understand.

Sheesh. I'm cruel. But I really don't like to be disturbed. Unless it's my husband or my kids.

The way I feel about my phone is how I feel about a lot of things come January. Every January as other bright and energetic people are making resolutions, excited for the opportunities of a new year, I am stuck in the blahs, ala Bill Murray in Groundhog Day:

"Blah-ba-blah-ba-blah....there is no way this winter is EVER going to end..."

It's not that I feel that way about winter exactly. I am fortunate enough to live where spring usually begins flirting with us soon after New Year's. It's not about winter at all. Nor do I think it is entirely about post-Christmas blues or travel fatigue. I just feel the blahs about anything that doesn't involve puttering around my home doing simple tasks and enjoying simple things and doing virtually nothing innovative or exciting.

During Christmastime I was off Facebook, email and NPPKS for over a week. The longer I stayed away, the more I wanted to run away. I didn't feel the urge to wish anyone a merry or happy or jolly anything unless it could be done in person. And I didn't feel guilty about not getting online to write, because I had written a short reflection just before Christmas. My email, I knew, was collecting junk faster than an old white guy in overalls with a farmhouse just off the highway. I really didn't want to view that mess!

It turned into an avoidance game, you see, and I was pretty sure that I was winning. I lived in a temporary blissful world where life was soothingly simple and old-fashioned. I had long conversations and laughed with family. I ate fudge and gingerbread cookies. I read. I baked. I did housework. I played games with my kids.

All without a computer.

But it couldn't last forever.

Because then I began to get worried. This pattern repeats each new year; my January malaise affects my writing. I get the blahs quite acutely there, and it's enervating. After fighting through December to carve out time for it, resenting the busyness of that month, I simply don't feel like writing come the New Year. I don't make resolutions, but even my steady goals elicit no greater reaction from me than an, Eh...bleh...maybe next month!

What's a writer to do? Stop writing? Surely, it's not good to be simply a housewife and stay-at-home mom? I always ask myself a little too earnestly (as if anyone ever could be simply anything!). Could I possibly get to all those photo projects, make elaborate meals every night, plant an expansive vegetable garden and maintain an immaculate, clutter-free house if I did?

No. I couldn't do that.

I had to get back in the saddle. And so I did.

Here I am, world!

Now I really must go find my phone.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Short reflections for a new year: a mother's love

"You can tell the children who are really loved. It comes full circle."

I had a teacher's aide from my youngest child's class say this to me last week as I was helping with copier pool.

It comes full circle.

Most of us love our children immensely. I think what this aide was trying to tell me was simply that you could tell the children who were shown lots of love, given their parent's time, affection and attention regularly in healthy and loving and, yes, even disciplinary ways.

I am no expert. One thing my children taught me almost immediately upon their arrival was that I needed to become a far better person than I was and that doing the loving thing often contradicted my impulses, those that gave me temporary satisfaction but made me feel guilty afterward for ignoring the quiet voice of reason and restraint, like yelling at them, for instance.

But I firmly believe that you cannot spoil a child with love. With things, yes. With a lack of gratitude for those things, yes. But not with love.

And so I would tell every new mother I could not to worry about what anyone else tells her. Hold her baby as often as she likes. Kiss that baby's sweet-smelling head a thousand and one times. Go and gather her into your arms every time she cries and as soon as you can (and can handle it).

Yes, I realize sometimes we have to lock ourselves in our rooms for a few moments every now and again, sleep-deprived and emotionally drained as we can become. Or we have to put the baby down near us and rest our heads on our hands and wonder how we will muster through the next few hours or days. Or that we must leave them with their daddy, crying or not, in order to get things done or to take a mental health break or a shower. But we bounce back with support, bringing our little ones back to our bosom where they belong.

I had many well-meaning people tell me that they thought I let my children cling too much to me when they were babies and toddlers, that I spoiled my babies by going to them each time they cried, holding them too often, and that it wouldn't hurt them to learn to be alone.

But do any of us really want to learn to be alone? Isn't that why we have family at the beginning? Isn't that why several studies have shown the adverse effects on children who do not receive attention and are not held often or at all as infants?

Yes, I was exhausted and sometimes scared by the lack of sleep as a younger mother. Yes, I did chores and cooking with babies on my hips and slept in a recliner with a baby on my chest. Yes, I nursed children every hour or two for years, and through endless nights - sometimes because they needed comfort, not milk.

I don't regret it. It cost me a great deal of time and patience and strength and sleep, but the art of mothering is sacrifice, I believe.

What I do regret are the times when I let them cry as they were weaning, even with their papa near them. Or the battles over nap time that were less than loving. (Those I finally solved by returning to an old policy of rocking my youngster to sleep on me in that worn recliner.) I regret the times I didn't make the little or not so little sacrifices, like going to a movie and leaving my very attached toddler with grandparents he rarely saw and knowing later that he cried himself to sleep for nap time. Or weaning my little girl too early. Or not stopping nagging chores quickly to tend to my fussing babies sooner. Oh, I'll just finish loading this dishwasher; hold on, Sweetie! Wait, I just want to start this last load of laundry please! 

But I comfort myself that I did indeed pour out my love more often than not.

Love is everything. True attention and loving human touch are everything, and a mother's is incredibly special. It pays amazing dividends with every person your child knows: teachers, coaches, peers, bosses, significant others and, someday, their own children.

It comes full circle.

That is always what love does.



Wednesday, January 6, 2016

I know some other Wise Men (and Women)

Happy Three Kings' Day!



Did you know that in Puerto Rico they get this feast day off? It's a national holiday. They know the holidays to celebrate, in my opinion. I wish we Americans would catch on.

I love the Three Kings or Three Wise Men, as you may know them. It's a celebration for Gentiles; Christ is for us, too. I have nutcrackers and wooden statues and even a tapestry depicting them and their journey and gifts. And around this time of year I stuff myself with figs, dates and apricots and make exotic homemade breads spiced with saffron and cardamom for my family and sometimes camel gingerbread cookies, too.


Speaking of important gifts, last year I wished to write a Thanksgiving post and then, when that failed to happen, a New Year's Eve post thanking people for the gifts they gave me in that good old 2015 of yesteryear. Obviously the post never got written, and so here I am in 2016 making a correlation between the gifts of the Magi and the gifts others brought to me when I needed them.

On this theme I must thank my dad for writing a Three Wise Men post. He knows how much I love the Wise Men, how I make a point to mark this holiday each year, fascinated as I am by their journey and their commitment and their grace (though, honestly, I really don't know why I love them so much). I am also enthralled by Dad's journey, and it is a great treasure to me that an important part of it is now written here. But, really, I think he wrote it to cheer me up, a gift! A great gift of the Magi.

My lovely mother
And, Mama, thank you for that long talk on the phone when you let your youngest girl pour out all her fears and insecurities, patiently listened to me and then responded with encouragement and wisdom and love. You pulled me back with all your might from a mental and emotional black hole. I wish I lived closer to you, so that we could have those conversations over coffee or tea in some quaint little shop, but I'm grateful for what you have given me, and your loving and calming presence could touch anyone across thousands of miles.

And, hey, sisters! I haven't forgotten you. Vinca, Annie and Natalie, thank you. Thank you for reaching out to me over the phone and online when you found I was struggling with myself.

Readers, my sister Vinca has a very demanding job, but she still gave her time to me, investing in a long conversation where she gently but firmly corrected some harsh opinions I was harboring in my angst. My sister Annie was working two jobs last year but still made the time to come see me for a weekend and to call late one night - when she had plenty of paperwork that begged for her attention after a grueling day - to stand by me, so to speak, and make sure I was making progress in my OCdemon adventures. Natalie has two twin baby boys, but she contacted me via Facebook from across the pond and seemed to understand just exactly where I was at and how I was floundering as we messaged back and forth. Wow. I love you all immensely.

Big bro Nate in the British Museum

Natie, thanks for being my big brother and for all the great memories I carried back with me from the UK. Boy, I miss you, but that overdue visit was such a gift that I don't feel as far from you as I did before. I cannot wait to meet your sons!

Last but certainly never least, I thank my husband for standing by me throughout...everything, and for allowing me to chase wild horses in my writing, for shipping me off to London on a grand adventure for 10 days and, most importantly, for supporting me all these years at home with our children. It was a great gift to them and to me to have that time.

And thanks, kids, for all that you are.

Even when it drives me bonkers.

Because family, faith and love really are everything, the most powerful and enduring treasures we can enjoy and share.

So, now that I have given thanks at long last, let me conclude by wishing a very Happy Three Kings' Day to all of you reading. If you don't know much about this feast, well eat some chocolate cake! That's always a good plan. And may God bless you this new year.



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Joy


Due to excitement my littlest boy, Daniel, had trouble sleeping tonight, this eve of Christmas Eve. I invited him to sit in the recliner with me, and I turned out all the lights save those on the Christmas tree. After a quite busy day, we sat there in silence watching the colored lights blink, and I recalled how I used to love it when my daddy would make the lights blink on our real tree from the woods in Tennessee.

My oldest boy came out shortly, too, and with both of them for company, I gave in to nostalgia, remembering when Berto, my oldest, used to sneak out to catch Santa Claus and how he tried more doggedly than any of our children to encounter the big guy. Then, of course, in typical mama fashion, I reflected upon how many years had passed since our teenage son woke us up at midnight one Christmas and fussed and fumed for the next two hours, because he was certain Santa had come and wanted to go out to the tree immediately.

How many more of those exhausting but cute and memorable moments do I have with my little Daniel? I wondered a little desperately.

The problem with children is that the bigger they get, the more time flies and the more we parents are trying to pull back the years, scared that our opportunities for witnessing that miraculous thing called the joy of childhood are fast disappearing. We are left clutching at fairy dust and puppy dog tails and chalk drawings.

But joyful memories are everything, and we keep them as well as we can, editing them ever so gently to make them even shinier like fragile Christmas balls.

I'll remember the kids' sticky faces after licking the fudge spoon. I'll recall how my oldest daughter Ana and I sang carols with all our off-key hearts as I played my guitar. Ella, my youngest daughter, has an obsession with Batman that will tickle my heart long after she has outgrown it and long after Santa no longer brings her things in black and blue. Berto's fascination with St Nick, from whom he got his middle name because of his great-grandfather who was born on Christmas Day, will stay with me and warm my heart when my ears are so dull I can no longer hear the bell myself. Daniel, my baby, is still generating little hand-print memories, and I can only pray and have faith that I'll appreciate them as I should.

After spending this Christmas season vacillating between Bah! Humbugs and Fa-la-la-la-las, I think I am now finally, just in time for the big day, firmly in the region of joy and expectation, looking forward to the new memories to be made this Christmas.

So to you, my family, friends and readers, I say:

Merry Christmas! 

And in the classic words of Tiny Tim,

May God bless us, everyone!





Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Wise Men Found Him in a Manger; But He May be Found Anywhere - by Daniel Hylton

Over the centuries, there have been many discussions, questions, and even arguments about the Three Wise Men who attended the birth of Christ, such as; did they actually attend His birth, or did they arrive as many as two years after that event, when He was a child?  Who were they?  Whence did they come?  How did they know about the advent of Christ?  Were they Persian, Babylonian, or Zoroastrian astronomers, perhaps?  And if Zoroastrian - did Zoroaster himself learn of the prophecy of the coming of Christ from the Hebrew prophet Daniel, as some believe?  Or were the Three Wise Men Chinese, as the Chinese - and many others - claim?

And, in modern times, the arguments continue - did the Three Wise Men even exist, or is the whole tale just a Christian fable?

Well, I frankly don't care.  In fact, for the purpose of this post, I will not address any of the traditions, questions, or doubts that attend the tale of the Three Wise Men. For; I know in my heart that they lived and that they saw the Christ Child.  And that is what matters to me.

They came from somewhere to the east, in that vast landscape of Asia that stretches from the Middle East to the Pacific Ocean.  It had been understood by most of the eastern cultures for several, perhaps many, centuries that the King of the Universe would someday come down and be born upon earth, as a man, specifically, as a Jew.  They knew that a special never-before-seen star was to herald his birth. The Three, like generations of wise men before them, diligently watched the sky for the sign of the advent of the King, hoping against hope that they, in their generation, would be the ones fortunate enough to witness the marvelous event.

And one day - or night - there it was.

Unique, bright, like nothing else in the heavens, it hung low in the western sky.

They had no doubt of its significance.

Their hearts bursting, their minds alive with anticipation, the Three loaded up their camels, gathered their servants, accumulated supplies for a long journey, and set out toward the west, following the Star, seeking a King.  And, at the end of two years, they found Him.  Astounded and awed by their immense good fortune, they presented their gifts, worshiped Him, and then, being warned by an angel of God of Herod's deadly animus toward the new-born King, they avoided the Israelite usurper and "went home by another way."

But they took with them an amazing gift; they had seen the King of Kings, born upon earth as a man.

Now, Jesus Christ is variously described as the Son of God, the Son of Humanity, a prophet, a kind and gentle Teacher, a Healer, the Savior.  And He is, of course, all of those things and more.

But I see Him, first and foremost, as the Wise Men saw Him - the King of all.

I was raised by Godly parents, good Christian people who taught me to live by His teachings.  I read the Bible completely through as a young man, many parts of it I read more than once and studied much of it diligently.  I even memorized at one time or another several passages of scripture.  Even so, I never had that deeper experience to which so many spiritual folk bear witness.

For me, for much of my life, belief was based not so much upon spiritual experience as it was upon intellectual reasoning.  It was faith founded upon the pragmatic underpinnings of knowledge and of all that I had learned about the various belief systems of humanity.

In the year 1986 I found myself living in an extremely rural part of Tennessee with a wife and four young children, and I experienced a startling, and rather abrupt comprehension that being a parent was not just about providing food, shelter, and clothing.  I needed to understand the meaning of human existence if I was to impart anything meaningful to my three daughters and my son.

So I set to work, educating myself on the subject of the Great Question; Why Are We Here? Learning what I could of every theory about the existence of life on earth - and I mean every theory - I eventually dismissed all of them except the Bible.  But all my dismissals, at the time, were based solely on rational thought, and upon those things which I had discovered of each theory or religion, not on any particular spiritual experience.

Understand: I am not touting myself as an authority on anything, especially religion.  I do not care what anyone else chooses to believe, and I long ago passed the point where any human can claim influence with me as it concerns the most basic questions of existence.

By late summer of 1987, I had decided in a rather cold intellectual sense that Jesus Christ was the answer, and that His teachings were the way to understanding.  So, I read the New Testament once again, this time as if I was reading it for the first time, without any preconceived notion of what any of it meant.  And I found that it satisfied, in a purely logical sense, all my questions.

But I wanted more.  I wanted empirical evidence of my Maker.

Then I happened upon a very old book called Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians.  Admittedly I was skeptical of many of the things expounded inside that book; nonetheless, after reading it, I craved an experience of my own - a personal meeting with God.

To that end, I made my way one day out across the field behind the house, down through the hollow and into the forest beyond.  Searching through the woods, I found a small clearing with a large rock jutting from the ground near its center like an altar.  I knelt and prayed.  After praying for some time, it occurred to me that, rather than yammering in God's ear; it would benefit me more to listen.

So, I listened.  And I heard - nothing.

After that day, and for every single day thereafter, in all kinds of weather, every evening after work, I went faithfully into the woods to that little clearing, knelt down, and told God simply; I am here.

Nothing.  Ever.  Nothing.  I never heard His voice.  There was never any kind of sign.

Through all those days, while awaiting a sign from the heavens, I read the New Testament again.  And yet again.  I spent an hour every day alone in the forest, listening.  Days turned into weeks, weeks became months.  After eight months of this, summer had cooled into autumn, autumn became winter, winter turned into yet another spring.  And I had had no experience.

I grew discouraged.  Discouragement eventually devolved into a sort of rebellious anger.  But, in fact, something had happened to me over this time period which had nothing to do with my earlier studies.  Nor was it related to any experience.  It was, in a very real way, miraculous.  The words of Jesus had passed through my eyes, worked their way through my brain, and had settled in my heart.

I knew now, without any doubt, that I was a created being.  I knew that God created me.  And I knew that Jesus Christ was His Son.  I knew now the reason I - or any of us - exist.

So, then - I wondered rather petulantly - why didn't He speak to me?

One fine spring evening in 1988, I had finished my supper and was about to make my way, once again, into the woods behind the house.  But as I went out the front door and onto the porch, the rebellious anger erupted.  

I am done with this, I thought.  It is pointless.  He will never speak to me.

Turning the other way, I abandoned any thought of going to my "altar" and I tromped down the lane toward the bridge over the creek.  As I walked on, and on, through the dappled sunlight that cast long shadows across the lane, my dark mood gradually lifted and after a while I began to quietly laugh at myself.  Who did I think I was, anyway?  In the great scheme of things, I would barely qualify as a worm; likely something even less.  Why then would The Almighty feel compelled to speak to me?  He would not, of course.  For in a vast universe of humble servants, I suddenly realized, I was among the humblest; perhaps the humblest of all.

I stopped on the bridge, gazed down into the sparkling stream, and smiled to myself.  The dark mood, its attendant anger, and the weight of needing to hear the Voice of God were gone.  As was the need for an experience.

I was abruptly and rather acutely aware of the warm spring evening and all the life it contained within it, all of it a testimony to the Creator of life.  Birds chirped in the thickets, wildflowers burst through the ground along the creek, the heady scent of honeysuckle filled the air.  The earth itself was bearing witness to its Maker.

Never again would I need to go into the forest, find an altar, seek a sign.  Every day of being alive was in and of itself an experience, a sign.  Nothing else was - or would ever be - necessary.  At last content, I turned toward the house.

And then, right then; when I expected - and needed - it least, He was there.

Right there.

With me, on the bridge.

Did I see Him?  No.  Did I hear an audible Voice?  No.

Yet He was there.  And He was there for me.

I have never related the details of that moment to anyone; nor will I ever do so.  It is meaningful only to me, is highly personal, and it can have no bearing whatsoever on anyone else in their striving after God.

Over the years, I have referred to it privately as my Thee Wise Men Moment.  For in that moment, upon that bridge, I, far less wise than they, far less clever, far less deserving, was given a great gift that has sustained me throughout my life.

I often find myself distracted by the cares of this life: the need to make money, the frustration with the contemporary state of politics, the anger over man's inhumanity to his fellow man that is daily seen, the worry over this or that or some other thing. And I more often than not forget that which matters most - that which, in fact, alone truly matters; living a life that pleases the King.

I lose my way.

So then, every so often, I must push the world aside and go back in time to that moment on the bridge, to touch that moment, to remember it and its meaning.  To remember what really matters.

Then, my priorities properly restored, my mind and my heart lifted, my feet back upon the right path, then, and only then, can I get on with my life "by another way."

Merry Christmas.



Daniel Hylton is the author of the Kelven's Riddle fantasy series.