Forgotten Art: Giuliana – Ayden

A reply to: A letter from Ayden

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Dear Ayden.

I’ve been thinking about your letter. I learned a new word: conundrum. Do you know that word? That’s what your letter is.

How come you’re now a dad, and last time you wrote you were a little kid, younger than me?

I’m not that much older, only about ready to graduate from third grade, and before I was in the middle of third grade.

Do you think you’ll still be alive when I’m in fourth grade?

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One of my pen pals was alive for a while, and he wrote me a lot then. He was moving really fast, and before I had a chance to write him back, he sort of got old and died. Or something. At any rate, I can still write him, but he can’t write me.

It’s weird.

Life is weird like that.

I was asking Jasper–did I tell you about Jasper? He’s my mentor. I was asking him about time. Because it isn’t fast for me, but it’s fast for you, and it was super fast for my other pen pal, the one that maybe died.

But I’ve got another pen pal, and I don’t think she even LIVES inside of time, because she lives forever. She’s a goddess. No, really.

And then, Jasper and I just got another pen pal together, and he says that “humankind” (that’s us) hasn’t figured out time yet.

Me and Jasper spend a lot of time trying to figure out time!

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We’re reading this big book called, “From Eternity to Here: something-something Ultimate Theory of Time.”

For example, the book asks, “How is the future different from the past?”

My answer is, In the future I will be the same me and my heart will be beating in the same way, only I will be made of all different cells and I will be bigger.

Jasper said, “Yup. That about sums it up.”

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What I really want to know is, What’s it like for you to be grown up now?

Do you still remember what it’s like to be a kid?

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And if you still remember what it’s like to be a kid, does that make it easier to not get mad at your own kids when they act like kids?

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Jasper says that he remembers what it feels like to be a kid. But he never had kids. So I wonder, if you have kids, do you forget what it feels like to be a kid?

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My mom says she doesn’t remember anything from before she had my brother. So that’s why when I call her up when I’m at Jasper’s and I say, “Mom. We’re in the middle of discovering something, and I can’t come home until we discover it,” she will say, “Supper is in half an hour, Gee-gee. Be home then whether it’s discovered or not.”

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No kid would ever say that. A kid would say, “Here! Have some chips! Let’s go chase the moon!” And off we go. That’s what Jasper is like, too, except he says that being friends is a privilege and if we want to keep that privilege we gotta play by mom-rules, too.

So. It’s home at supper time unless we plan ahead and make other arrangements.

Do your kids make other arrangements sometimes?

I guess I gotta go. I want to mail this letter to you before any more of your time passes.

Do you think you’ll be an old man when you write your next letter?

I’m kinda tired of losing penpals when their time is up, so I hope you don’t get old too fast.

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Tell your kids that I used to know you when you were as little as them! They will think that’s funny and weird, because that’s what it is.

Bye, Ayden!

Your friend (who’s still a kid somewhere in the past and the future),

Giuliana

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<< Giuliana’s Previous Letter

Forgotten Art: Meadow – Kaitlin 7

A reply to: A letter from Kaitlin

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Dearest Kaitlin,

There’s so much in your letter that I want to respond to, but let me put first things first.

I gather from your letter that you’re not feeling safe in regards to Newt, or Reid, either. It also sounds like you are ready to begin to take steps to divorce Newt.

It’s very important to have safety measures in place before you begin the procedures.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline, www.thehotline.org, is a great place to start, even before you begin filing any paperwork.

They can let you know how to develop a safety plan. Another valuable resource is  WomensLaw.org, which offers information about how to file a restraining order, if needed (and don’t dismiss this possibility, just because you know and care for these two brothers). WomensLaw can also connect you with programs near you, including free and low-cost lawyers. Both of these resources are great first-stops as you begin your plans.

They offer free online chats, too, so when you feel you need to talk with anyone, 24/7, they’re there for you. My friend Micah told me that she would often call the hotline (1-800-799-7233) when she started feeling panicky. She said for the first dozen times she called, she wouldn’t even speak. She just held the phone to her ear and listened as the advocate stayed on the line with her. Knowing they were there, Micah said, gave her the strength she needed during the roughest times.

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So I wanted to bring that up first because it’s the most important thing. You need to be safe. These resources can help.

I’m so glad that I can be on your support team! I know I’m not very good at giving support–like you say, I’m analytical! And my empathy doesn’t seem to translate into comforting words but into action-steps or intellectual theories.

Those websites I linked to also offer references to services near you that offer free support–nearly every town and city has a place like House of Hope, where those who have experienced domestic violence can go get support from others. This would be support that’s actual support–not like what I offer!

Guess what, though? I have exciting news! I’m ready to learn to be better at all of this! I’ve enrolled in a graduate program to get a master’s in art therapy! Classes start next month, but I’ve gotten a head-start on the readings and research. Oh. Man. Do I have a lot to learn! My dream is to be able to offer art therapy at HoH and the refugee center. I suspect that art offers a way to heal from past trauma, and so I want to learn how that works.

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The best part is that as I learn more, I’ll be able to be a better support person for you!

You are already in my top-tier support! You’re so kind, so sharing and giving, and… just you! It makes me smile to think how everyone who has you in their life benefits.

OH! The other important part! Congratulations on becoming a new grandma! Jordan sounds lovely, and Brooke does, too.

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I loved hearing about Dakota. You know that I’ve got a special spot for adopted kids. Ben sounds like such a good big brother. I know how valued a big brother can make a little sister feel!

Your feelings don’t sound like they are a mess to me, Kaitlin. They’re feelings! We have all sorts of feelings! And I can understand how you would still think of Newt with fondness and even love. It’s OK to do that and to also feel afraid of him and hate him, even, at the same time. We don’t have to have just one set of feelings! We feel what we feel. Our feelings don’t have to make sense.

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I don’t think you need to force yourself to open up to Leroy more than you feel ready to. It’s evident that you love him and that he’s there for you. You can just take it as it comes, sharing what you feel ready to share without pushing yourself in ways that make you feel unsafe. Sometimes talking helps, and sometimes it doesn’t. Trusting yourself to know what you need in the moment might be the best approach at this point.

Well, some big changes have come into my life in conjunction with my decision to go back to school!

First there’s Youssef! He’s our new nanny. Since I wanted to be able to have time to focus on my studies, I decided I’d hire him. We both felt it would be good for him to start right away so that Jena could get used to him before I had to leave for classes.

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She loves him! And he adores her! I feel so happy when I come home from the library to find them playing together or to see him reading her a bed-time story.

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When Jena first came to me, it seemed best for it to be just the two of us. That let us form close bonds. And now, it seems right for Jena’s sphere of care-givers to expand. This is helping her to build trust as she sees that more people than just me can offer her love and nurturing.

It’s been a big help for me, too. Youssef is wise, kind, and has a wealth of experience. Being able to talk with him about the things I’m learning provides me with every bit as much as what Jena gets. We’re so happy to have him in our lives.

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Just like with you, when you get one you get two, and our home circle seems to be expanding!

Did I mention my friend Mizuki Suzuki to you? (Don’t you love her name?) We met when she came to repair a broken stereo, and we became friends that first visit! Since then, our friendship’s deepened.

She is also going back to school when the new semester starts. She’s going to become a teacher! Because she lived all the way out in San Myshuno, and because she’ll be quitting her repair job to return to school here in Windenburg, and because Jena and I have this huge house all to ourselves, I invited her to move in with us.

And she accepted!

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I’ve been amazed how much it helps having another adult in the home. Mizuki is so thoughtful, too, always looking to see what needs to be done and pitching in with a smile.

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I think you would love her–she’s funny, childish, and creative. She will make a perfect primary school teacher! She’s focusing on the Waldorf method because, as she says, she wants to “educate the whole child!”

I joke that it’s a good thing. I wouldn’t want just half a child educated! Or just a third! And how would one decide which third? Shall you educate the right leg and stop there?

Whole is much better!

It turns out that for Mizuki there’s another benefit in living with us: She and Youssef have become an item!

I was so surprised to come home one day and find them in each other’s arms!

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I felt a little awkward at first. Then Mizuki said that it simply happened quickly. They met here at our place, when Mizuki would come to visit. Then one day, before she even moved in, she dropped by while I was out and Youssef invited her in to wait for me, and they got talking and felt they had a connection. She hadn’t mentioned it to me when she moved in because at that point, it wasn’t romantic. But in the days after she moved in, it became so.

I find it sweet, and I’m happy that Jena can be around a loving couple.

I don’t seem to have any interests in romance, myself, or any romantic feelings towards other people. So I am happy that Jena can have a model of a healthy romantic relationship without my having to provide it!

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Well, it seems there’s so much change in both our lives as our circles expand.

I want you to know that I’m always here for you. I’m enclosing my phone number, in case you ever want to call. It would be amazing to hear your voice!

Take good care of yourself, Kaitlin! I treasure you!

Lots of love,

Meadow
555.555.1212

<< Meadow’s Previous Letter 

Forgotten Art: Norman – Newt 8

A reply to: A letter from Newt

Hey, Newt.

So, read your letter. And I’m writing back.

While I was reading, I kept flashing on this story my uncle told me when we were hiking at the bluffs.

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It’s about the charnel ground. Have you heard of that?

It’s a burial site. But for Buddhists. It’s also a literal place for transformation. Figurative, too.

See, according to my uncle, that’s where the bodies would be left–above ground, so that vultures and jackals could feed on them and all the flesh and stuff would decay and then the sun would bleach the bones. So when the process is done, all that’s left are clean white sun-bleached bones. But the way there stinks.

My uncle had way too much fun describing it:

“Vultures descending, tearing the sinews, gulping down eyeball. Entrails stretching across the plain. Jackals sneaking in after dark, howling with their strange laughs that sound like a child’s cry, grabbing the muscles, gobbling the rotting fat. Hair, loose, dry, brittle hair, flowing everywhere.”

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My uncle is strange. I never know what he’s trying to say. Growing up, I called him “Uncle Obtuse.” He wasn’t going to volunteer the point of the story. So I asked him.

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He shrugged. “Life is messy,” he said.

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At one of the first group sessions I went to at HoH, they showed a film. The purpose of the film was to show how PTSD is PTSD, no matter from what or experienced by whom. So, they interviewed war vets. They interviewed witnesses of 9/11. They interviewed people who experienced domestic violence. They interviewed refugees.

Afterwards, the group talked about how they felt watching the film.

When it was my turn, I started analyzing the camera angles, which were generally really low, looking up at the person, or really high, looking down, and so the effect was one of disassociation, and then I started analyzing the lighting, which was weirdly bright, and then I started talking about the effects of digital film vs. celluloid. Everyone listened. I thought I was doing pretty well.

Then the group counselor asked, “What did you feel watching the film, Norman? What do you feel now?”

“I don’t do emotions,” I replied.

One woman spoke up, “If you don’t do emotions, emotions do you.”

I stopped doing emotions when I was was a kid. It was a day that started out as the best day of my life, and ended up as the day I stopped doing emotions.

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My dad took my sister and me out to see the wind turbines.  It was a big day–Dad was featured in all these articles for bringing wind power to Windenburg, and he was making a name for himself.

At the time, I kept half an eye on the sky. I was a big fan of raptors and other birds of prey. When we reached the field below the turbines, I spotted an osprey. At the time, they were my favorites. I had this idea they were lucky. I watched it soar. I was about to point it out to Meadow when it flew too close to the wind-blades. There was a white explosion of feathers. And then–nothing. Not even a trace.

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I didn’t know how to respond. Dad and Meadow were talking, facing the other way. I didn’t know how to tell them what had happened.

I decided to not say anything. I stacked the emotions. I didn’t know what else to do. My dad was my hero. He was this big environmental leader guy. And his big project that was getting all the attention was killing birds of prey. The dissonance was too much.

When I took over his business, I still had my emotions shelved. I knew ethically that I wanted us to find a way to do wind power without killing birds. Did you know that some years up to 250 birds of prey were killed? That’s owls, osprey, falcons, kestrels, eagles, vultures, and raptors of all kinds.

After I met Ira, I decided I had to do something. That’s why we switched to solar. It’s gonna cost us. It’ll cost the business big-time. If we encounter any delays or set-backs, we’ll probably have to issue bonds to see the project through. But even if it bankrupts us, it’ll be worth it. I can get a job as a chemist.

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We’ve been learning in group about the ways that trauma and stress change the brain. It’s true that if you don’t do emotions, emotions do you. Something got split off in me when I turned away from what happened to that osprey. That’s what allowed me to run the company for so many years.

We’ve also been learning that the heart has its own mind, and just like our brain can influence our heart, our heart can influence our brain. It’s a two-way path.

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Ira, Aari, and me, we each learned the same exercise in our groups. It’s called “heart breathing.” For a slow count of five, breathe into your heart. Hold it and rest. Breathe out for five. Pause. As you do this, start breathing from your heart, as if it is your heart breathing in, breathing out.

Don’t think about how it doesn’t make sense. Just do it.

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Aari does it when she starts getting mad. Pretty soon, she’s laughing again.

The trick is to remember to do it.

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I took Meadow up to the hills the other day. I wanted us to look out and see what it was like without the turbines.

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Yeah, I shut the turbines off two weeks ago. They’ve been dismantled.

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I looked at the sun. That sky stretched. Next time I see a falcon or osprey cross that sky, I won’t have to turn away. It’s safe. I can let myself feel the thrill of watching those wings spread.

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So, here I am writing. Newt, I think it’s probably best if you don’t count on me to help. I honestly don’t know how. I am not the kind of guy who helps other people or who even knows how to be helpful, especially when it comes to emotions and feelings.

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You’ve got your therapist for that, thank God.

I’m a friend. I stick. Maybe you can share with me what you learn about doing emotions. I got a lot to learn in that area.

Keep writing, buddy! Keep hanging in there through messy life.

–Norm

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<< Norman’s Previous Letter

My Digital Life: Ordinary Conversations

When I tell the story of my life the way I have been, shaping the tale around discovery and epiphany, it seems that each moment traversed mountaintops.

Actually, most days traveled quiet valley paths.

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My life has been built on ordinary days. I write a book. I publish it. I collect royalties. I watch a street performer for work. I paint a mural. I write a review. I get a promotion. I earn money. But not much, most of the time–not enough to buy anything new very often. Not enough to do much more than pay bills.

Not much will interrupt the steady traipse of the ordinary days in an ordinary life.

Of course, in the Art District in San Myshuno, what is ordinary?

A man in a garish floral suit, sipping a latte while he prances in his red shoes down the sidewalk.

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A guitarist in a purple turban playing flamenco tunes.

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Don Lothario disguised in glasses to put a move on Penny Pizzazz.

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Maybe a city dweller’s ordinary is a suburban Sims’ extraordinary.

“I’m trying to convince Eric to move here,” Alice confessed. “It’s not that expensive, is it? If we sold our home–have you seen our home?–if we sold it, we could probably afford a nice loft somewhere. How are the schools? Are they good? I’ve heard they’re good.”

I didn’t have advice for Alice Spencer-Kim. I didn’t know about schools or selling homes or finding bargains on lofts.

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“We don’t have any vacancies in my building.” That was all I could tell her. “And I don’t know very many kids.”

But it was interesting to see through her eyes and discover that even an Art Center pretzel could be exotically delectable.

With neighbors, we built the fabric of our everyday culture. It included the aromas of grilled cheese sandwiches, green tea, and taco casserole, the sounds of fighting and  making up from the couple in apartment 305, and the silly stories Salim told about the weird dreams he had during his afternoon naps while said couple was fighting and subsequently making up.

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For Salim, all of it was boring. It was home. It was everyday. It was ordinary.

I never grew tired of it. You’d think, after reading my accounts so far, that I was always seeking the stimulus of learning through new experiences. But that wasn’t the case at all.

During the early days, new experiences happened because everything was new. But later, it wasn’t my first conversation with Salim and the neighbors: It was the twentieth. And while Salim was bored out of his socks listening to me share my ideas with them yet again, I enjoyed the conversation. I like the quiet smiles of my happy neighbors. I like the ordinary round of complimenting outfit, brightening day, and talking about cooking.

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I liked listening to the neighbors, too.

“Why this old jacket? It’s nothing. Just something I spun into.”

We’d have the same conversation again the next day, and I’d still enjoy it.

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Salim had a better time when it was just him and the other key-holders hanging out in the apartment.

Something about the apartment–maybe it was the pop music we played or the endless glasses of water he drank–always put him in a good mood, even if he was bored, tired, or frustrated when he first arrived.

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We didn’t always talk about esoteric subjects, Salim and me. Sometimes we talked about squid. Or favorite authors. Or computer games.

Sometimes we had contests to see who could tell the weirdest story.

“The raccoons,” Salim said when he began one of his favorite recurring stories, “they are not really raccoons. They are government agents.”

“Is that why they’re so big?”

“Yes! Of course! Exactly!”

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I would counter with my favorite story about the masked swimsuit marauders, which never failed to infuriate Salim.

“No. Not the marauders!” he would say with a shudder. “They give me the creeps.”

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“They aren’t more creepy than raccoon secret agents,” I’d counter.

“True,” he’d reply. “But raccoons are cute. Even if they are conducting surveillance.”

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I had one friend that I especially enjoyed talking to. Maki. No conversation with her was ordinary. She was extraordinary.

She was the mixologist I sang karaoke with on one of my first days, and we remained friends. When she wasn’t working, she dressed in a pink turban, a purple halter-top, and ochre gloves with beaded spangle bracelets.

Maki was a prime vampire. Whenever she was in the neighborhood, I got the urge to talk with her. I gave her a key so she could come up anytime she needed to get out of the sun. I didn’t want her getting scorched.

“I’d really like to get to know you better,” I’d say.

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“There’s not much to know.”

But there must have been. Because after every conversation, I found myself wondering more and more about her.

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<< Previous

Forgotten Art: Norman – Mel 4

A reply to: A letter from Mel

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Dear Mel,

I’ve boxed up a treat for Gari and Zee and sent it in the mail. No need to wait for the birthday, though! These little guys will want to get out as soon as they arrive! I selected four: two ducks, one Bubba bear, and one cat. All but the cat are made of soft rubber. The cat’s made of vulcanized rubber. The ears feel good to bite on–not that I’ve ever bitten vulcanized rubber ears, I’m just saying.

They’re all from that organic, fair-trade toy company, so the rubber is natural, and even the dye is organic and biodegradable. Everything’s eco-this, eco-that. Get ready for fun.

I want to thank you for writing me back so quickly. Your timing was perfect.

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I got your letter right around the time I had a really tough letter to write. I mean, maybe the toughest letter I’ve ever written.

Before I wrote back, I talked with Ira. I sat with Aari. I talked with my uncle Jasper. I did some research, and I thought a lot. Then I got your letter, and I knew I could write my reply. I knew I could level up, take the high road, and write the letter that had to be written.

Now that I’ve sent it, I feel relieved. I don’t know if I said the right words, and I don’t know if my letter will help. But I stepped up as a friend to a guy who’s in a tough spot after doing some bad things.

Ira says she would’ve understood either way: writing him back or not writing him back.  Then she said some things about what it’s like to have me as a friend that made me feel pretty good. I’ve never thought of myself as anybody who had anything to offer anyone. I’ve got to admit: It feels good knowing at least one person is happy to have me in her life. And it feels even better knowing it’s the person who makes me happiest of all. That would be Ira.

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You mentioned you’re curious about her, her daughter Aaradhya, my sister Meadow, and my uncle Jasper. I will love to tell you about them! Of course it’s not crossing a line.

I think of you as something bright and positive in my life–you make everything better, like a new dishwasher. That sounds… not so exciting. But for me, an engineer who’s always looking for eco-this, eco-that, my new water-saving, low-electricity-usage dishwasher is the best thing next to my popcorn maker!

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Point is: You’re this bright spot in my life that makes everything better. Of course I’ll love to tell you about the people in my life. I just hope I don’t bore you to sleep doing so! I know I’ll go on and on.

Aari is something wonderful. She is very smart. She loves doing math equations. I’ve started showing her simple algebra, and she takes to it naturally. She’s got a logical mind.

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I wish you could see her smile. I swear: the room gets brighter.

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She gets a little sad sometimes. She had a rough few years before her mom took her and left her dad. Ira told me that Aari’s dad never hit Aari. But Ira has scars from what he did to her. I imagine that things like that scar a kid on the inside.

Sometimes when she’s sad, she likes to sit with me. We don’t say much. We just sit until she feels better.

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Now and then, she has a tough time at school, when the noise and other kids’ yelling gets to be too much for her. She lashes out sometimes. We’re working on it.

The main thing, from what I’m learning at this support group I go to for partners of people who’ve experienced domestic violence, is to hang in there with the person. Don’t take their words or actions personally when they’re triggered. Just be there. Don’t give up on them.

It comes easy to me so far. I’d do anything for Ira and Aari. I’ve decided that even if it gets tough, I’ll level up, best I can. They’re worth it. I’m lucky I’ve got this group, my uncle, and my sister. And I’m so lucky I’ve got them.

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My sister Meadow, by the way, has just decided to go back to grad school. She’s already got a PhD, but she wants a practical degree. Her other one’s in folklore. I think I mentioned that. Anyway, my sister started volunteering at the transition home that Ira and Aari used to live at. It was Ira’s suggestion. So, Meadow’s been leading art classes. And now, she wants to be become an art therapist, combining art and folklore.

My sister has always been about helping other people make their lives better. That’s why she adopted Jena. My niece Jena is smart, and she loves to talk about super heroes. Huh. I just realized that Aari is Jena’s cousin, in a way. Maybe we’ll make it official sometime.

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My uncle Jasper is a character. He’s an old hippie, beatnik, retired college professor. He’s read just about everything and synthesized it all into his own version of the meaning of life. I don’t mind. I listen. It’s the questions he asks that’ll get you.

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I saved the best for last: Ira.

What’s there to say about her? She’s everything. She listens. She questions. She encourages.

She worked as a barista when I first met her. But she stopped that job. She’s thinking about becoming a teacher. She’d make a great one.

She’s got the gift of making you feel like you matter. It’s not just with me: She does this for everyone.

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The best thing is she makes me happy. She seems pretty happy herself, too.

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So how’s it all going in your life? Zee and Gari doing OK? Have you tried anymore painting? Ira and I both love to paint.

And how about your neighbors? Are they acting more neighborly?

Anybody who knows you is lucky to know you.

And I’m grateful to be your pen pal.

Take care–and let me know what the kids think of their package!

–Norm

<< Norman’s Previous Letter | Norman’s Next Letter >>

Forgotten Art: Meadow – Dove 11

 A reply to: A letter from Dove

doveex205

Dear INWk,

Thank you for agreeing to be part of my support system! It means so much to me.

I hope that I can reciprocate. I’m not always sure that I have the skills that make a good support person. I’m discovering that I tend to approach life through analysis, analogy, metaphor, synthesis, and pattern-discovery, rather than necessarily feeling my way through life.

I guess I’m a thinker. I never actually realized that! I always feel so deeply on the inside that I assumed I was an emotional person. But the more I work with and interact with others, the more I discover that I am a thinking person. If someone who thinks her way through life can be a useful member of your support team, then I’d love to be on it!

I do think that I might be developing new skills, though–skills with feelings and emotions!

You see–this is so exciting that I get chills as I write this–I’m going back to school! I’m going to get my master’s in art therapy. Actually, my specific focus will be integrating folklore, art therapy, counseling, and trauma studies so that I can work more effectively with those who have experienced domestic violence and with refugees.

At first, I felt it was just being indulgent to even consider going back to school: I mean, I already have a PhD in folklore. But the PhD was entirely for me: it was my passion, and I knew all along that, since I’m not required financially to get a job, I’d work as a freelance scholar in folklore. And I tried telling myself that this was enough–it was misusing my privilege to get more education, especially now that I’m a mom.

But I kept thinking about trauma, resilience, and healing. I find this path of study fascinating–it seems to touch everything: everyone I know, everything I’ve experienced and witnessed, all of human life, especially in these challenging times.

Then, Micah–she’s my uncle’s organ teacher. I think I mentioned her to you in my last letter, and I was saying how, since she was in the group I led through HoH, she couldn’t be on my support team, but guess what? She and I are now leading a workshop together through HoH, which means we can be friends and on each other’s support teams! I’m so excited! Anyway, Micah told me she was going back to school.

“I want to study music therapy,” she said. “There’s all this exciting work being done on the spikes in the Schumann resonance, music, and the promotion of the brain’s capacity to heal from trauma!”

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She said I should look into the program, and when I did, I found the art therapy path, which seems like it is tailor-made. In a way it is, because University of Windenburg is set up to allow students and professors to create their own paths of study.

Anyway, HoH received a grant to incorporate music, art, and folklore therapy, and so now that Micah and I will be enrolled in degree programs, we can receive grant-funding for the work we do. I’ve talked with the refugee program coordinator, too, to see if they might apply for the same grant so we can also do work there.

It’s such a good thing that my support system is growing! I’ve been reading that counselors really should get their support in place first, before diving into the work.

Do you remember me writing about the repair person who came to fix my stereo? Mizuki Suzuki has become a great friend. She drops by often. We always wind up talking for hours before we even realize that we haven’t even moved out of the foyer!

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My brother likes her, too. Of course my brother is in a place right now where he likes everyone and everything. Things are going so well for him and Ira and Ira’s daughter, Aaradhya, that he can’t stop smiling. It’s like a lifetime of smiles are finding their expression on his face.

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With school starting up for me next month, I decided it was time to add another person to our support system: A nanny.

The nanny referral group sent Youssef over to meet us. At first, Jena wasn’t sure what to think. He has a big gray Afro, and I think he reminded her of a scary clown we’d seen in the city.

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He suggested that I give them a trial run for half-an-hour, and then we could talk about how it went and decide if we felt we would be good matches for each other.

I headed off to the library to pick up a few journals that I’d ordered, leaving him and Jena at home together.

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When I returned, Youssef and Jena were playing, and she looked delighted! He’s her new best friend.

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We decided we’re a perfect match! He’s starting right away, and he’ll come by on the same days that I’ll be having my classes. Sometimes, I’ll stay home while he’s here, and sometimes, I’ll head out to do errands or lead my groups at HoH or visit with Mizuki and Micah.

He says that by having Jena get used to the schedule of his visits now, it will make the transition smoother when I return to school. And we’ve agreed that once I’m in school, he’ll come by every day, so that even when I don’t have class, he’ll be here when I need to study.

Oh, dear. This whole letter’s been about me again. See what I mean about my not having the skills yet to be a good support person?

I think I can learn them, though.

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I’m so fascinated by the thought forums you mentioned in your letter. Tell me more!

I’m also really interested in the exchange of emotions that you experience. I’ve read that this is part of Buddhist psychotherapy, also, and it’s something I hope to learn more about. I’m interested in everything you have to share!

Your girls sound so wonderful! Imagine the resilience and creativity they’re able to develop through having the city neighborhoods as their playgrounds!

Thank you for the advice on picking up Taste of Diet! I was wondering why my skirts were starting to feel a little tight after eating Weight of the World.

I hope that your current research projects are also bringing a sense of discovery and accomplishment, and I’d love to hear anything you can share!

My brother is making big changes to the family business, but that’s something I’ll have to save for another letter. It’s getting late already, and I’ve got the house to clean and laundry to fold before heading off to bed!

Jena wanted to eat a picnic supper in her bed, so I’m expecting to have some crumbs to clean off her blankets before tucking her in.

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I feel like we’re both so lucky, INWk. You, me–and our families, too! And look at all the good things you’re doing with your good fortune. I want to use mine to help others, too.

All the best to you and yours! Thank you more than you can know for letting me share my enthusiasms with you!

Lots of love,

Meadow

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Forgotten Art: Gee-Jay – Tad 1

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Dear Tad,

We want to be your pen pal. We are me–you can call me Gee–and him. You can call him Jay. Together we’re Gee-Jay.

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We have a very good reason for wanting to be your pen pal.

Actually we have five.

One is that we like to get hand-written letters! We think that too much technology is stupid. We like technology, sure, because video games. But we also think it’s stupid because we like books and pipe organs.

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I also like rocks. When I say I, I mean me, Giuliana or Gee. And when I say he, I mean him, Jasper or Jay. And so when I say we, I mean us, Gee-Jay.

OK. Reason number 2.

I, that would be me, Giuliana or Gee, was very sad.

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I mean really super sad.

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And he, that would be Jasper or Jay, asked me what was wrong. Why was I so sad?

It’s because I miss one of my pen pals. I had this really great pen pal. His name was Dusk. Maybe you know him? Anyway, he can’t write me anymore.

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It’s not that he doesn’t exactly exist anymore. He does. Or maybe not. I can’t really tell. I think maybe he died.

I’m still writing to him, but I don’t think he’ll ever write me again. He says that where he is now, time doesn’t exist, and I figure that you need time in order to be able to write. What do you think?

We, that would be me and Jasper, or Gee-Jay, like to read about time.

Right now, Jasper is reading me a book called The Fabric of the Cosmos, and we’re thinking about, “Can the universe exist without space and time?”

I, that would be me, Giuliana, think yes. And he, that would be Jasper, thinks no.

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What do you think?

So maybe that’s the third reason we want you to be a pen pal, because we want a pen pal who can write to us about questions we don’t have answers for.

But back to reason #2.

When he (Jasper or Jay) found out that I (Giuliana or Gee) was sad because my (that would be Giuliana’s) pen pal wasn’t writing anymore, and was, maybe, possibly, probably dead, or at least existing someplace without time, then he (Jasper or Jay) thought that I (Giuliana or Gee–OK, you get the picture now, right?) would be happier if I (you know, me) had a new pen pal.

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So we (Gee-Jay) looked through the pen pal profiles and we found yours.

And Jasper said, “A spiritual guide!”

And I said, “A gardener!”

And Jasper said, “A gardener!”

And we both said, “That’s the one!”

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So reason #4: A spiritual guide.

And reason #5: A gardener.

Back to why do we (well, really him, Jasper or Jay) want a spiritual guide?

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Well, he (Jasper or Jay–you know) says that at his age, he’s seen a lot of coming and going. Mostly going.

He told me that his wife passed. (That’s what he says instead of “dead.”) And his brother. And his mom and dad. And his grandparents. And his uncles and aunts. And five cousins. And his brother’s wife. And his great-niece’s mom. And about twelve friends. And wow. That’s a lot of passing.

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I felt surprised because he isn’t often sad. But sometimes he is sad. And he says I should write that sometimes we’re all sad, and when you get to be his age, it’s time to make peace with comings and goings, and that’s where a spiritual guide can come in handy.

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Do you know anything about Buddhism? He (that would be Jasper, also known as Jay) talks about Buddhism a lot.

It seems like a lot for a kid like me to think about.

But he says that we will do this together, and it will be OK because I (that would be me, Giuliana or Gee) will get what I need out of it, and he (that would be Jasper or Jay) will get what he needs out of it, and together, we will both be able to learn and share, and then we started to wonder, what will we be able to give you?

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Jasper says that I can give you funniness, because he doesn’t know anyone who’s funnier than me. He also says that I am fun. Both fun and funny.

I say that Jasper can give you smartness because he is very smart and he has read everything. Or if he hasn’t read it, he will. And he will even read it aloud to you.

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That is really nice, to sit next to someone and have them read. It’s like the voice is the connection.

Jasper says that if you write, the energy of the voice somehow enters the words, and then the connection forms that way. I think it’s true because I felt connection to Dusk, my pen pal who is now where time’s not.

Jasper says that you said that you are asking for connection. And that is something that we (that would be Gee-Jay) can give you.

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Because Gee-Jay is all about connection.

But we’re also all about mystery. Especially those mysteries that can’t ever be solved. It’s because we (that would be Jasper or Jay and Giuliana or Gee) are very curious. You might say that we live for curiosity.

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We hope you choose us for a pen pal!

And if not, it was fun to write you anyway. (This means we both had fun, me–that would Giuliana–and him–that would be Jasper.)

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Adios, amigo!

–Gee-Jay

p.s. Jasper told me what your name–not Tad, but the other one–really means, and I think it’s cool! (This is from me, Giuliana or Gee.)