It's been... a good day. Yes. It has. And it's over now, so I can safely say it! (Last time I was rejoicing inwardly about what a great day it was... R had a blow-up... and life stood still for a while. I don't know how the family can recover so quickly, or act so cheerful in the midst of such raw, brutal anger. I guess they're used to it. I'm an anger pansy.)

We had absolutely nothing to do today, and we definitely accomplished it. It's nice how not having any goals can make you feel super good about yourself when you get even one thing done! So I made curry and rice, and we went grocery shopping. K got her hair cut (and she really likes it!), and it's super cute. I tweezed her eyebrows and we had a semi-deep conversation. She shared a few secrets with me that have *thunk, thunk* into the bottom of my heart... And I wish those things were not so, but what are you gonna do about it?

She's been asking questions for the past couple of days, and I've just been answering her as best I know how. Questions about God, you know... mostly, I've been sharing my experiences with her, and what I've learned.

Tonight, she said something that lit a secret happiness within me. I was plunging a gross toilet as she watched, and it finally cleared up. She retreated to the doorway and said, "You better not touch me with that!"

I replied, "No way would I touch you with this! Super grody!!"

"Well, the old you would have... or at least chased me around."

"Actually, I was thinking about chasing you. ^_^ Can you get me some paper towels for this thing?"

The old me. Hah. Really? I talked to Mom about it a little on the way home yesterday... my anguish at discovering that, yes, I really am me after all. I asked her, have I changed? She said, "Yes and no. Your personality is still very much the same. You have the same sense of humor, you pronounce your words the same, and so on. But your interests are totally opposite. The things that make you happy are opposite. The direction your life is heading has done a one-eighty. But God made you the person that you are for a reason. You are... you." (Not exactly verbatim, but close.)

So, that's definitely food for thought. Yes, I have changed. But my basic personality, who I am intrinsically... is still the same. And that's okay. Hmm.

12-28, 3:47 a.m.

We roamed the streets at night, beautiful and laughing.
We talked for hours. Cars slowed and honked, and we laughed.
The pocket of her shorts was home to the eternal pack of menthols,
the smoke forming the backdrop, accent, and punctuation to our words.
Car rides, with hot wind pushing and pulling our conversations to and fro.
The familiar fumes wound themselves around our heads and out the window.
Just the three of us... and we were happy. 
The covered porch was long, narrow, and cluttered.
Here we gathered to sit long stretches of time and enjoy one another.
Stories, jokes, and the history of my life all rose and fell with the rhythm 
of inhalation, exhalation, and ashtrays slowly filling.
I smoked secondhand and reveled in our happiness.
A new life, a new porch, and the familiar acrid smell of menthol lights.
She got another job, out all hours of the night and day.
My already bleeding heart emptied bit by bit as loneliness pulsed through my veins.
A dimly lit room, Lonestar playing softly, and minty-chocolate candles, deceptively soothing. 
Surely this will calm the restless longing within me.
My head spun and my stomach heaved as I took my first drag ever.
The pervasive smell enveloped me, and my heart quieted a bit.
Best friends, fun times, boyfriends... all attached to that same cloying scent.
Each passed, in its turn, and still I ached inside.
We sat and talked once more. IHOP at all hours of the night, and coffee to boot.
I need a smoke.
The truth comes out, almost accidentally, as we sit and savor our habit together.
A harmless weeknight transforms into a nightmarish milestone,
and I chain-smoke through the confession and the ordeal that follows.
New friends, bound by the vaporous chains of our common secret.
We sneak off campus, sneak back on, and find ourselves to be kindred spirits.
A new life, a new start... with a no smoking policy.
My solace becomes my shame, and I leave it behind.
Yet I can never admit that the smell of smoke ignites me with a secret thrill of comfort .
Time passes, and I flounder. I ache. I wither inside.
The thought of comfort becomes a near obsession, and damn the consequences.
I light up, drag in, and realize... this isn’t what I’m looking for.
My hopes crumble dully, grey and lifeless, into the ashtray.
The stench of my disappointment clings to me, as stubborn as the smell I thought would bring me solace.
I still hurt.

Yes, we're back. Got in an hour or so ago. It's 1:30 Wisconsin time, approximately, so I really ought to get off to bed. (Not like any of us are getting up early, except my dad. He works.) Anyway, I did some blogging while I was off in painter-land.

12-28, 1:40 a.m.

I should be sleeping.
All that talk about wanting to go to bed early, and here I am... still awake.
I could say that I’m having a hard time falling asleep, but, truthfully, I haven’t even tried yet.
I feel like I’m turning inside out.
I invested so much time and energy in become a different person... a better person. Someone other than myself. Or someone better than myself.
I was smart. I got good grades. That’s me. I like to achieve.
I knocked on doors. I hate knocking on doors. But, oh, I acted so enthused... when people were looking... or when they cared.
I wore skirts and cute flats. I gave up the baggy jeans and flannel shirts. I parted my hair on the side. I used natural shampoo and toothpaste.
I became vegan. I passed out tracts and talked to strangers about God (whether they wanted it or not).
I switched my music styles. I stopped watching TV and movies, loathing even the occasional glance, as though it were the first step of a staircase directly to hell.
I threw away all my jewelry (preferably in the presence of those who would approve). I got rid of my books that weren’t on the “approved list”. I smiled. A lot.
I learned to fit everything I owned into my car. I disdained the thought of further education. 
I stopped joking as much. I stopped jumping around. I stopped quoting movies. I became less eclectic, more suitable and tame.
For 2+ years, I molded myself to fit the “acceptable” image. That’s what got hired as a bible worker. That’s what they saw as I carefully crafted my replies to the inevitable, “How are you?” or “How are the bible studies coming?” I was a master at manipulation. Of course they thought I was an awesome, on fire, motivated, canvassing-loving young woman!
And then it all went to hell. Everything that I so wanted to be... proved to be a veneer. The girl that’s got it all together is falling apart. The happy-go-lucky smile is wallpaper.
The fragile structure that I had erected caught fire and smoldered slowly down to ashes. What was left? A smaller version of myself... huddled, untrusting, longing...
And so I learned to love. To trust. To grow. But I still carried the veneer, the shiny polish of the girl who never was to fend off inquiring eyes.
And now I’m here. I’m in the past, though it fervently claims to be the present. And it’s all here... waiting for me... everything I ever was, it’s here.
I’m still the same person.
I can’t get away from myself.
I thought that the crisp air of Idaho had washed me clean... somehow removed my past and my choices and my hobbies and my hopes and my dreams and my family and my experiences and set them off on a shelf somewhere... still valid, still impacting, but afar off... kind of like watching the world from the bottom of a swimming pool. 
And now I’m here, with them, and I find that I still watch movies, and I still know all the lyrics to my favorite oldies songs, and I still drink my coffee the same way, and I still quote the same movie lines in the same situations, and I’m still... just... Cassie. I’ve ignored her, I’ve beaten her, and I’ve stifled her, but she’s still... there. She’s still me.
It’s like living in a scrapbook. I see snatches of our past all around us; photographs in my mind that play and replay in an endless loop. I am, once again, the teenaged girl in the bohemian clothes who sits and waits for the school bus. I live in the room with the bunk beds and the “wall of everything” (my collection of anything and everything) and the dresser that I sanded down myself. I still surround myself with the trinkets of places I’ve gone and things I’ve done and people I’ve loved.
But God, I don’t want to be her! I left her behind! She’s supposed to be gone- dead, buried, and decomposing. I hate that girl! She’s so weak, so clueless, so... everything I ever disliked. She’s not responsible. She sleeps in. She doesn’t know what to say at the right times, she doesn’t do the right things, and she is easily confused. She’s the one that was abused, not me. She’s the one that picked one loser boyfriend after another. She’s the one that never stood up for herself or her sister. She’s the one that didn’t even have the willpower to stop sleeping with C for a year after she called off the engagement. She’s the one that lives in my head, ever ready with a gem of sarcasm or biting wit.
I hate her. But here, I am her.
I can’t wait to get back to Idaho so I can be Cassandra again. Cassandra gets up on time. Cassandra learns new skills. Cassandra is responsible, clean, dependable, attractive, and funny. Cassandra is a good cook, especially considering her food limitations. Cassandra is a happy, harmonious girl who knows who she is, where she’s going, and what she’s going to do to get there (at least, mostly). Cassandra loves Jesus and it shows.
I am not Cassandra right now. I am Cassie... the disappointment.

12-29, 12:53 p.m.

Curly fries and roast beef. I haven’t had either of those in years. Oh, it was heavenly...
We’ve made awesome progress on the house. I have learned to mud walls, sand, spackle, caulk, roll paint, cut in edges without tape, cut out old caulk, annnnnd... I think that’s about it.
But seriously, I have a question that I’ve asked myself countless times before... How much is enough? I never feel like I’ve done enough. There’s always a reason to be dissatisfied with the job I’ve done-- I didn’t get enough done, I didn’t do it perfectly enough, I didn’t do it fast enough, and on and on and on. I’m getting sick of myself, honestly. What is enough? Will I ever reach the point where I can take a look at a job well done and say, “It’s enough. I am finished right now.”
This is a serious big deal, because it haunts the facets and corners of my every day life. I only feel as if I’ve done “enough” if I’m totally exhausted, or if I’ve done twice as much as most people would attempt in a day.
Why am I like this?
When is enough enough?
Why can’t I just be happy with the progress we’ve made instead of hating myself for not doing more?

...and shortly to be leaving. We're heading down to the "old house" tomorrow morning, so I can help mom paint and sand and drywall and whatever else needs to be done to get the thing into selling condition. It oughta be fun! And quite satisfying. And it will ease R's mind, I'm sure. I forgot, though, how much effort it takes to haul foodstuffs with me when I travel. Ugh.

I've thought about being homeless for a summer, just to see what it's like, but can you imagine me standing out there with a sign, "Will work for gluten-free, soy-free, almond-free, garlic-free, egg-free, dairy-free, (preferably vegan) food"? I think not.

I will have no internet while I'm down at the old house, so I'll have to suck it up and internet fast. (Like I haven't been this whole week lol)

I'm gonna help K paint and redecorate her room whilst I'm here. I feel my dream of reading two new books slowly slipping away, since I'm spending so much time cleaning and cooking. It's not a bad thing. It feels pretty good, actually... like I'm doing something for Mom that she can't really do for herself right now (and, in effect, for the whole family). I cleaned the kitchen tonight. I'm happy now. Almost in a compulsory cleaning mood, like I could go all night. But it's almost midnight here, and I need to get to bed.

Oh, good news, though. The family likes my cooking. I think it was J that said, "You used to not be able to cook at all. Now you're the only one that cooks, and it's good!" Haha. It's amazing what you learn for survival...

Oh, yes, and one more thing... I GOT A CAMERA FOR CHRISTMAS! Yay :) Let the games begin...
Had a dream last night that I married C. Well, actually, I didn’t realize it was C until after it happened. (I know, I know, how ridiculous is that?!) Anyway, I only saw the pre-stuff, and then walked down the aisle. During that time, I was very happy. I don’t remember the wedding itself, so I didn’t know I was marrying him. Then, when I got back to the house-thingy (‘cause I was getting married in the park across the street... almost like a suburban subdivision), Mom fixed me a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats, and Mlle C was running around, helping me get the house in order. It was while talking to them that I realized that I had married C. My heart sank. It’s not that I don’t like the guy, but I actually thought to myself, “Oh, man. There go my hopes of marrying a christian guy. And I can’t go and get a boyfriend now. I wonder if it’s too late to get an annulment?” That’s the point when K dropped by to say goodbye, ‘cause she was heading off to college. She was so grown up and beautiful! I started crying, because we were all going our separate ways-- her to college, me married and off to start a life with my husband... sigh. Anyway, I went with her to the bus/car that we had come in, and I collected my Bible and its case, and my “dream, hope, inspire” box. It, sadly, was dented and sagging (just like my dreams for the future, at that point). Then... my alarm went off. :)
Anyway, I’m just really glad that I’m single, that I didn’t marry C, that K hasn’t headed off to college (yet), and that it’s Christmas! (This is the first year that I am really understanding the Christmas season--Jesus’ birth and all that. Why? Because this is the first year that I understand two things: love, and salvation. And that makes all the difference.)
Well, I didn’t sleep well last night. And, quite frankly, I miss my “life”. I miss my routines. I  didn’t really realize before that at least half of what makes a day worthwhile are the people that are a part of it. I love my family- don’t get me wrong. It’s just different. In addition, I’m here for a different purpose... I’m here on vacation. This is NOT everyday life. I don’t have to accomplish anything. I just need to enjoy my family. So far, that involves watching alot of movies together, and then sprinkling phrases from the movie liberally throughout our conversations. We’ve always gotten a huge kick out of that. In fact, we sometimes have whole conversations in quotes. Some people think that’s wrong. Some people think I ought to try and change it. But that’s how my family operates. We have for years, and they do while I’m gone... it’s a link that binds all our separate lives and interests together. And my family is not to the point that they can really operate without that link. Perhaps someday. Someday soon, I hope. For vacation, it’s kindof a nice little diversion. But for everyday life? It’s... depressing. I couldn’t live like this.
But I am very proud of my family. I see a ton of growth. There are still flaws, tensions.. lots of bad moods and petty arguments, to be sure... but it’s way better than it was. And the tension and anger that formerly existed between Mom and R is dissolved. They actually love each other now, and they work as a team. It’s a sight to behold. I’m so happy!
As far as dashed hopes, well... I just had built this trip up in my mind, is all. We’d all be deliriously happy all the time, with no tension whatsoever. I’d have no emotions to process through except joy, and we’d all just get along famously. Well, as we all know, those kinds of hopes are unrealistic. I didn’t even really know they were there until I was disappointed to not be experiencing “the dream”. Honestly, I’m struggling a bit here with some depression, and so is Mom. I don’t really know how to reach out to the family members as I’d like to, and it’s really easy here to escape to something else when you don’t want to face up to something.
At least I’m not under my own condemning finger anymore. I’m still... down, somewhat. But I also think that’s natural and normal to happen after all the stress leading up to the travels, and the travels themselves, and the reorienting and all that... So I’m not too worried. My mantra for this trip is, after all, to just chill and enjoy my family. So that I will do.

I was supposed to arrive in Appleton around 9-9:30 pm. I got there at 2:30 am. Ugh. The irony of it all was the sign I saw during my last blog entry. It said, “United. #1 in on-time arrivals.” Boy, I’d hate to see what the other airlines are like!!
I say this in jest, because I know that the Christmas season is particularly difficult for the travel industry. They get swamped with people all trying to get where they need to go, and yet the weather can be the worst at this time of year. It’s a hard thing. My utmost respect goes to the employees who bundle up and brave the freezing temperatures to get us travelers to our destinations safe and (somewhat) orderly. My guitar did end up in Green Bay. (The sturdy plastic tupperware containers I had securely tucked into the case were shattered, and the contents were scattered all throughout my case. I can tell that my instrument was not handled gently, which I am not happy about. It’s pretty obvious that it’s a guitar, and anyone with a brain knows that instruments need to be handled more gently than your average piece of luggage. Actually, it was treated so roughly that my tuner broke. So, I’ve been tuning my guitar to the piano. Thank goodness for learning middle C!)
But I got home safely, and I’ve been hanging out with my folks for two days now. I’m very mer due to time change and jet lag and traveling for twenty one hours straight, and the kids are sick, and Mom’s run down right now too... so we’ve just been hanging out. Talking, finishing up a little shopping, I’ve been cooking... watching movies... I was looking forward to having part of the day alone at home with Mom, but it hasn’t happened yet. It probably will when we go down to Indiana to work on the house, since the kids’ll be off visiting friends. Anyway, we’ve had some good talks already. I’ve been able to share some of the revelations and changes in my life, and Mom has resonated with alot of them. It’s cool. I’m really going to start praying for some good, solid, safe people to enter my family’s life, especially Mom’s. She needs at least one good female friend to help encourage her and bolster her up... I don’t think she’s ever had that. I’m trying to be a safe person for her, and also for the kids. We’ll see. So far, I’m just trying to CHILL OUT and not try to “fix” or “run” the family while I’m here. I want to be safe, not judgmental and condemning or critical. It’s kinda hard. 
I’m really glad to be home.It’s really, really weird to not have anything I have to do... I almost don’t know what to do with myself. But I know I can find plenty to occupy myself... I think. There are a few books I want to read, a couple movies I want to see, a couple places I want to visit, a couple rooms of the house I want to clean... I did the upstairs bathroom this morning.
Being in a different environment has shown me that I’ve really learned alot at home. I’ve formed good habits that are carrying over to this “new” place. It’s cool to see that what you do over and over again (even when you really, really don’t feel like sweeping the floor after a meal, or wiping off the counters) really does follow you places. And, those little habits of cleanliness I’ve picked up really do help to keep the cleaning job down in the long run.
There hasn’t been much in the way of emotions... just a vague uneasiness, I suppose. There’s alot of tension between the kids constantly- alot of bickering and nitpicking. And, you know me... I hate tension! So I’m also fighting the urge to jump in and try to constantly smooth things out. It’s alot better than it used to be, that’s for sure. But I must remember that “my response is my responsibility”, and let them learn the same. Doesn’t mean I can’t give my input, or some guidance... but I am not in charge of making everyone feel good all the time so that I, in turn, can feel good.
I shared with mom my realizations about C. She said it was really interesting, because the emotions I’ve had to process through are the same as she had to deal with from the relationship with K’s dad, a highly abusive situation. (My first abuse. Yaaaay. :-/ I was between 2 and 3, and I remember it. Needless to say, he is not my favorite person.) Interestingly enough, he’s gotten back in contact with Mom and K recently, and he’s going to send K a christmas gift. I am neither enthused nor impressed. This situation has brought to my attention, however, that I have never forgiven him, or even dealt with that situation. As a matter of fact, I think I hate him as much or more than my ex-stepdad. He disgusts me. I despise him. Mom believes that he was jealous of me, because she put me absolutely first in her life, so he tried to get revenge. Against a 2 year old? Please. Grow up. Get some cajones, dude.
In my mind, he’s still the same guy that filled a bathtub with cold water and ice cubes, then tossed me in with all my clothes, refusing to let me out. My lips were blue by the time Mom came home and pulled me out. (I was wearing my hot pink tank top with the big purple polka-dots that day...) This is the same jerk that put me into a hot oven and burned my back. This is the same ******* that tried to force me to drink urine, who stuffed wadded-up socks into my mouth. Father of my sister? I think not. Sub-human piece of trash? A candidate. Possibly even the ambassador.
And, quite suddenly, I am no longer tired. Adrenaline is squirting through my veins. My muscles are tensed, and my jaw is clenched. My back is rigid and my breathing is shallow. A slow tide of anger rises and rushes through me, and I am, as they say, pissed. I was three.
This is me at that time.

Okay, so I was four in this picture, but you get the point. I have absolutely no patience for abusers of any persuasion. I don’t care what your excuse is. You do not do that to people. Especially to children.

Well, this is kind of a bad time to hit the hay, but I’m trying to acclimatize my self to WI time-wise, so I need to... Boy, I hope I sleep okay tonight.
So here I am, in the terminal of the Spokane airport.

The snow is flurrying around the large glass windows, and it’s fun to watch the teeny little flakes scurry about the skies as they make their inevitable descent.
I’ve been thinking about death a little. I always do, when I’m going to fly anywhere. It just seems so much more likely (even though plane crashes aren’t nearly as prevalent as we tend to think). The awesome thing is, though, that I have peace. I am okay with the thought of dying at this point. My room is neat and clean (including my drawers), all my papers are filed, and my presents have been given. The only regret I would have is Juneaux. Actually, that’s the only hesitation I have with this trip back home. I’m going to be gone for almost a month... and my sweet baby boy is going to be home. Not alone, but lonely for his mama. Well, at least he has Emily and George to keep him cat-company, and the rest of the family to keep him people-company.
I think my plane will be boarding soon, so I’d better wrap this up. (Not like I can post this online yet, anyway.) 
I’m excited. I miss my family. We really fit with each other well, warts and all. :)
No, they have nothing to do with fries. I have been blogging, but I haven't been able to hook up to internet until tonight. So, I'll be putting each one up on it's own, 'cause some of them are rather... lengthy. Heh. Sorry. My trip home has brought up some other... issues.

Anyway, Merry Christmas, all! (Even though it's almost over...) :)
I'm reasonably certain that I'll be back again, though.

I leave tomorrow to visit the folks in Wisconsin. So excited!!

We just had Christmas here at the house, opening gifts and all, and it was great. So much laughter, fun, and love. I notice that I still feel guilty receiving such nice things (such as a pair of Kamik boots!!!!!!!), but I also know that, if they didn't want to do it (or couldn't), they wouldn't have.

Must sleep. We're leaving at 4:30 to catch my plane. Gotta love country living :)
I'm sorry I made you cry. Twice.

It's not like I set out to ruin your day.

Sometimes you're just so stubborn... about stupid stuff... just like me, I guess.

Anyway, I'm going to try harder. I promise.
I dunno. I just have this urge to write. About what? Nothing in particular, I guess...

I've wanted to make something gourmet the last few days, but... eh. The effort just doesn't seem worth the end product. I'd rather dream of buying books.

I've had (and succumbed to) this urge to look up books that have really impacted me. I found them (and more!) on Amazon, and created a wish list : Some I have never read before, but I read the reviews and they look like they're right up my alley. I realized, in my compilation of this list, that the books I have liked the most throughout the years are ones with themes of redemption, growth, and healing. Not your sitcom style resolution-in-30-minutes, but a change in the core of the person. Granted, in some of the books, God is not a factor. But I know where healing and growth comes from, even if the author doesn't recognize it.

So I guess I'll go accomplish something now. Like organizing my documents... or creating my packing list...

I'm feeling a little angsty about my upcoming visit home. Will they see a difference in me? I hope so. I'm way different than I was before, and I'm not just talking about my hairstyle. So much about who I am intrinsically has changed. Less lies, more truth. And truth that is not lived is worse than pointless. I hope I am living it. I hope that I will be more loving and lovable. I hope that I will be able to help them heal, even if it's just a little bit.

Another thing: I want to help people so bad... but I'm so scared of it. What if I mess them up further? I mean, I get so tongue-tied when people have problems! What do I say? What do I do? How can I help? So I sit there, like a bump on a log, and just listen... offer what words I can... But here I go, off to school to learn how to help people, and I'm so intimidated by the thought that...

But I could never be happy knowing that I walked away from this calling. I mean... helping people who have been hurt like I have is what I wanna do for a long, long time, if not the rest of my life. The problem is... I'm just not so sure I can. I still feel so broken myself. And how do I explain the beautiful hope that is growing in my heart to someone who has never experienced it?

Once, when I was an infant, there was a small garden. It was full of tender little seedlings that showed great promise. They would grow up into delicately scented flowers and lush ornamental grasses and even berry-bearing bushes. But then came the storms. One by one, they came. The little garden could have withstood one or two, probably quite a few if there had been someone to help protect the fragile little plants. But there was no one who would or could consistently shelter the growing vegetation. On and on the storms raged, through the years. At times, there would be a sweet stillness to the air, and the sun would shine, and the battered little seedlings would stretch out their leaves and try to grow. The storms, however, had stunted and twisted the little plants until it seemed impossible that they could grow at all. Some of the grasses and flowers and bushes had withered and died beneath the continual onslaught, and their corpses littered the ground, making it difficult for the other plants to multiply as they needed to. Somehow, in the midst of the fierce weather, weeds had managed to grow profusely (as weeds often do), and they, too, choked the little plants, and stole their water, and soaked up the sunlight meant for the seedlings.

The years stretched on. The little garden grew more and more ragged. If a passerby had glanced over the fence, they would have thought it contained nothing but weeds, but a few saw the little plants hidden among the sharp grasses. They came into the garden and watered the little plants, trying to clear spaces among the weeds. Their efforts kept the little plants alive, but still they could not flourish. Storms continued to buffet the small patch of vegetation. By some miracle, the plants grew a little.

Then, new variations of the noxious weeds began to multiply and spread their poisons even more profusely throughout the little enclosure. It seemed that their was no choice but for the plants to give up hope and wither away, as many of them had already done.

But the gardener, who had faithfully attended this little patch through all the years, came in and whispered to the little plants. Weary and broken, they sighed their assent, and the gardener got to work. He brought in people who, though not professional gardeners, had a love for tender, broken little plants.  These he set to work nourishing and bandaging, while he pulled out the noxious weeds. Slowly, ever so slowly, the ragged, blackened patch of ground began to clear. Some of the weeds had been there for decades, and had quite the root system entrenched. Some weeds were simple byproducts of the larger, more firmly rooted weeds, and they came out quickly and quietly.

As the gardener did his work, the plants found that, for the first time in years (or maybe ever), they were able to stretch out their leaves in comfort. The nourishment and tender care given by the friends of the gardener did its work, and the flowers, the grasses, and the berry bushes climbed towards the crystal sky, centimeter by centimeter. Their tender rootlets drove deeper and deeper into the soil, now rich with nutrients. (The gardener had taken the uprooted weeds and turned them into a nourishing compost.)

As of today, there are still weeds in the garden. They are fewer, though, and they pale in comparison to the once-stunted little plants that now whisper and sigh their contentment in shades of green and silver. In the corner over there, a dainty flower joyously flings its petals wide to the sunlight (a sight rarely seen before in this garden). And the storms? Yes, they still pass through, magnificent in their fury. Now, however, the friends of the gardener stand watch over the plants, ready to take hold of tender stalks and stems when they are in danger of breaking. As for the gardener himself, it turns out that he has always been around to help protect this little garden from the storms. If it weren't for him, this little plot would have been wiped out long ago. And it must be global warming or something, because it would almost seem to me that the vicious storms sweeping through this area now make this little garden stronger. I know, I know... it's crazy.
It's amazing what a little thing can do for your self-confidence. You see, I used to have this problem of over-tweezing my eyebrows. Something about pulling hairs is just so satisfying, I find it hard to stop... which led to a near-bare face. (Now all I do is compulsively pull out the hair on my head. Hah.) The worst part was that this took place during high school--the time when one is most exquisitely conscious of physical appearance. So I stopped plucking and just let my brows take their natural shape, with a stray-hair guard patrol in place. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great. Then again, I have never really cared much about "creating an image", so who cares? I'm not into frilly froo froo stuff, anyway.

I have had a hard time coming to grips with my own attractiveness. I mean, I know that I must be physically attractive in some ways, otherwise I wouldn't have the man-hopping problem that I have had, right? But it is not until very, very recently that I have been able to look at myself in the mirror and say, "Yes. I am good looking."

So last week, I took a passing glance at myself and thought, "yeah, I'm okay looking... but... hmm... something is missing...." So I grabbed a pair of tweezers and proceeded to pluck my brows into lovely arches. It's nothing drastic. In fact, I think it looks quite natural--so natural that nobody noticed! LOL. However, just knowing that I have beautiful eyebrows has boosted my self-confidence wonderfully. Also, I have officially appointed Tuesdays as "eyebrow maintenance day".

It kind of goes along with my Sunday activity. I completely re-arranged my room. You see, I love love LOVE books and reading. (I just finished reading a book about twenty minutes ago. It took me about... two hours? Maybe? You can see why I go through them fast-- I devour books.) But I had no room in my room for books. They were stacked on either side of my dresser and just made my room look so cluttered and messy, even when it was clean. (If there's one thing that I absolutely must have to function, it's a tidy room. Not necessarily clean and orderly, but tidy. On my therapy days, I have to straighten my room before I can get anything done.) In addition to that, I had just kind of stored stuff in random places, because the room was a guest bedroom/storage room before I moved in.

So, I went to the thrift store, bought a pair of end table/cupboards for $10, and then moved every single piece of furniture in my room. I swept under everything, pulled it all out from under the bed and re-organized, and... you know what I found? I have SO much more room this way!! And I'm able to fit 3x as many books in my room! Plus I am using one of the cupboards to store my potpourri pie supplies, beads, thank you cards and the like.

It was great. Kind of like a purging/renewal process. C came in to see my room when I was done, and she said, "The butterfly is shedding its cocoon!" How right she is.
My beautiful eyebrows are another part of that process.
The book I read today is an old favorite of mine, and it's Cheri Peters' story of her transformation from a homeless bar dancer and druggie to the kind of person I want to be. I have always loved her book, but this is the first time I've read it since I started healing. Oh man. So amazing. I identify with her so much! And it's so interesting how God is taking us through different paths and channels for healing, but essentially doing the same thing! She had the same problem with dependence on men that I did/do, and she had to go through that fear of being "alone", too. Anyway, it's just really cool. I highly recommend it.
It's called....

A few things that are bothering me/that I have noticed that I'd like to write down so I can return to them at some point...

- I used to be almost addicted to trying to get every guy I met or saw to like me or think I was attractive/cute/sexy/whatever. Now I find that male attention causes fear to rise in my heart. Before, I'd be thinking, "Look at me. Look at me. Want me. Please, want me." Now the line running through my head is, "Don't look at me. Don't look at me. Why are you looking at me? Stop staring at me! I'M LEAVING!!" And then I book it as fast as I reasonably can, almost shaking.

What gives?

- I still find myself overeating. Then I get sick. Why, oh why, do I do this to myself? Just. Stop. Eating. Alright? It's OKAY to be hungry. It's OKAY to be almost-full. You don't have to gorge yourself to prove a point. Sheesh. I mean, aside from the fact that I get sick if I don't eat on time (i.e. if I'm hungry for too long), why am I so afraid of being hungry? Food is just food.. right?

So, yes. The butterfly is breaking out of the cocoon... but there's still work to do. That's good. I'd hate to think that I was perfect or something.

Realization #2

I'm so grateful to have cats. Last night I had horrible nightmares, and it was sweet Emily who came into my room and woke me up to pet her (which usually REALLY annoys me, but this time I was so very grateful to escape from my dreams). And just now my "son", Juneaux, came into my room to cuddle with me. It was just what I needed to settle me anxious heart.

That's not the realization, though.

After I had prayed from healing from my relationship with C, something was different inside my heart. Maybe just the act of praying for freedom was a step forward in and of itself? Either way, something was different. Then came the realization of C's brokenness. As I tried to explain these things to my friend Julie, as well to my group, I could tell that there was a bigger thought behind these things that I was trying to articulate, but couldn't quite figure out. Then, on the way home from group on Friday, it hit me.


This may be hard to understand, but I realized that he's just been this... giant. He was my life... for years. And our dysfunctions matched each other extremely well--like the two halves of a friendship charm. (Which gave birth to the thought, "we're perfect for each other! the relationship was so good!)

So, in my head, he's a giant. He's an intrinsic part of my past, and not one I want to get rid of, either. I loved him as deeply as I was capable of. Even in the throes of the relationship, and certainly in the favorable light of reminiscence, he was always wiser, smarter, more mature, more capable, stronger, more daring, more exciting, and just all around a step above myself. In my head, he wasn't a person anymore. He was the embodiment of... something. Maybe what I thought I was missing out on? I don't really know.

What I do know is that, when I recognized his pain and brokenness, I realized... he's a person. He's a person with a broken heart, just like me. And suddenly, the spell was broken. He shrank down to people-size, with people-motivations and actions and reactions... I see now that he, too, was acting out of his brokenness. He certainly reacted differently than I did, but it was still there.

Oh, my. You don't know how free I feel. I've been weighted down with chains that I couldn't see. Now, they've been lightened, and I feel like I can run for the first time!

I've also been reflecting on the future. It's coming quickly--more quickly than I had anticipated. I realize that this season of my life is drawing to a close. I can't camp out here forever... though I almost think I would like to. This intense healing session has been really hard, but very, very worthwhile. There are so many things in my past that I look at and cringe, or that I quickly "close the window" to, because I'm embarrassed by them. I speak of decisions I've made and had to live with. (Like my last relationship, for example... I try not to think about it.) However, I know that I will be able to look back on this period of my life with a smile.

There have been so many tears... so much pain... but I can now say that, for the first time, I'm happy. Not happy because my emotions are on that side of the spectrum. I mean, I enjoy that just like everyone else. No, I'm a different sort of happy... I'm happy inside, way down deep somewhere. Do they call that "at peace", maybe? I'm satisfied. I'm content. I am worthwhile. I am part of something bigger, and not as a wart. I'm actually enjoying life, rather than just trying to survive it by hopping from one happy-emotion-producing thing to another. Even when I have nightmares, and I wake up wanting to throw up because I feel so vile and violated and just gross through every fiber of my being... I have a view of reality that keeps those bad things from taking over my life, my thoughts, or my day.

I'm not just doing what I think other people will think is right so that I can get the approval I need to keep my soul from starving. I'm not just drifting aimlessly through life, hoping to stumble across happiness. I'm not mentally pointing fingers and ripping people to shreds for being different than I think they should be... or ripping myself to shreds because I want to strip off the facade and be like the person I'm ripping to shreds... (as much. Still working on that.) I'M A REAL PERSON NOW.

As I look to the future, I see this part of my life coming to a close. It's bittersweet. New things are always scary, and they inherently carry the risk of failure. I'm comfortable here, in my little cocoon... I've got a rhythm going. But this can't be forever. I'd eventually die. The butterfly can't stay in the cocoon forever, or it will starve.

As I look to the future, I see the possibilities... and as I look to the recent past, I see the growth. You know what I feel like? Like this:

Yep. Like a flower, bursting into bloom.

And about the nightmares? Check this:
"Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world." {1 John 4:4}

I know where they come from. But I can tell you that the very poison of those putrid emotions coursing through me is even more cause for me to run the other way. It will not destroy me- rather, it will motivate me. I'm done serving out of fear. My allegiance can only be bought with love.