Another Legacy 1.27

“Now that the adoption’s final and Kiki’s settling into school OK, I think I should apply to college again,” Ira says to Case one morning.

“It’s a great idea,” he says. “I appreciate you waiting, for all this to settle out, but I think we’re ready, right?”

“I feel super nervous. I was so upset when I got rejected last time. I really took a big hit emotionally. Do you think I can handle it if I don’t get in again?”

“First, I really think you’ll get in. You’ve been working for years to prep for the entrance exams, and you’ve developed your painting so well, too. I know you’ll ace the logic portion of the test. And we can work on your essay together.”

“Moira was going to help me,” Ira says. “I just feel so sad going through with this stage without her.”

“True. That sucks. She would want you to go through with it. She’d want me to step up to give you the support you need, and I’ll do that, best I can. I know I don’t have Moira’s warmth or instincts for emotional support. But I’ll do what I can, and if I’m not helping in the way you need, just let me know, and I can do better.”

“I don’t really feel like taking emotional risks right now,” Ira says. “I mean, Kiki needs us to be stable, right?”

“Kiki needs us to take risks,” Case says, “especially emotional ones. Doing so, we show her that it’s OK if you don’t feel great and happy all the time. We can feel grief or disappointed or messed up or nervous, and the world’s not going to end. We’ll get through it. That’s the best thing we can do for Kiki.”

At supper that night, Case tells Kiki that Ira’s going to apply to college to study art.

“She’s already the best artist,” Kiki says, “but that will be cool for other people to find that out, too.”

“It’s about time,” says Aadhya, who’s dropped by and is helping out by catching up on the dishes. “You know it takes at least four years, sometimes longer, especially for older students, to finish a degree. We’re not getting any younger.”

“Older and wiser,” says Case. “Thanks for helping out, Aadhya.”

“Anytime,” she replies. “Always happy to help. Which is a good thing, as I expect you’ll be needing more of that around here, once Ira begins her studies.”

“That’s assuming I get in,” says Ira, who’s come downstairs to see if Kiki needs homework help.

“Oh, you’ll get in,” say Aadhya and Case at the same time.

“Of course you’ll get in,” chimes up Kiki. “You’re the best artist in the house!”

A few weeks later, and the entrance exam has been taken with scores en route, the application has been completed, and the essay has been written, torn and shredded, written again, ripped up, written another time, revised, edited, tossed in the trash, and written one last time, proofread, and ready to mail with the application packet.

“I have such a good feeling about this,” Case says. “Life is about to get very interesting!”

“I am not even letting myself feel,” says Ira. “Or breathe. I think I’ll hold my breath until I hear back. And if I don’t get in, I’ll sob and carry on, and then I’ll be breathing so hard, and if I do get in, I will sigh in relief. Either way, I’ll breathe then.”

But the application packet goes in the mail, with a wish and a prayer, and even when they wait, life goes on. And Ira does breathe while she waits.

And the weeks turn to months, and one sunny day, the postal delivery person stops by to raise the red flag, notifying the Donovan Mahajan Flores household that there’s something in the mailbox.

“Ah! Life is good!” says the postal delivery person. Most people feel that way in Port Promise these days–the air is just so clear, so pure, and even so quiet, you can hear the bees buzz.

“Thanks for bringing the mail,” Ira says, stalling, trying to calm down a bit before she sees what came. This is the week the university admissions said they’d be sending out acceptance letters, and hard as Ira has tried to distract herself enough to forget that, it’s about the only thing that’s been on her mind.

She fills a few moments with small talk until the postal delivery person says she needs to be going now, more deliveries to make, and so on.

Ira takes a big breath. Case has told her, nearly every day, that whatever happens, they can handle it.

At last, she reaches into the mail box. It’s a thick envelope this time, addressed to her.

Dear Ira Mahajan,
We are happy…

And that’s all she can read.

“We are happy” means she got in, and she can read all the details later, because right now, if they are happy, she is happy, for if they are happy, it means she got in, and if she got in, it means…

She, Ira Mahajan, first generation college student, at the ripe old age of nearly middle-aged, is going to college! She got in!

She got in, and she’s going to be an art student.

And she’s also have to take literature courses, and probably a math course, and history. Maybe economics. Film theory. Probably something with ceramics. Textile studies. Feminist theory. History of the Oppressed. Macroeconomic theory of nano particles. Oh, crap.

Who was she kidding? There is no way she’s ready for this. How is she even going to find the time to study?

And besides, Kiki and Case need her. And who is she kidding? College? Her? She’ll never amount to anything. Her mom was right. Don’t set your sights too high. Settle for what you’ve got.

OK, it’s not too late. She can just not accept. And Case and Kiki don’t even need to find out that the letter came. They’ll just carry on as if it never got delivered. “Oh, I guess my application must have gotten misplaced,” she’ll say.

It’ll be easier that way.

“She’d want me to step up and give you the support you needed,” Ira remembers Case saying. Case’s life hasn’t been easy, and he’s always been stepping up. Was it easy to go through the process of adopting Kiki? It was hard. But if they hadn’t done it, what would Kiki’s life be like? Has it been easy for him to be an ecological engineer? It’s been hard, especially when he needs to interact with other people, but look at what an impact he’s made.

“Kiki needs us to take risks,” Case had said. That was the most important point of all.

Though she didn’t like to admit it, and it didn’t fit with the image she projected, Ira was not always one to take risks. Growing up, she never felt she had the emotional support to do so. But maybe it’s time to change.

She’s got the emotional support now.

OK. She would do it! She would accept!

Maybe she’ll fail in a blazing glory of vermillion F’s, but hell or high water, she’s going to college!

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Another Legacy 1.25

Case rings the breakfast bell

Late one evening, a few days before Winterfest, after Kiki has gone to sleep, the social worker calls. It’s a go–the adoption is approved. There are still a few formalities left–the appearance before the judge and the receipt of the final paperwork, but those are mere procedures. It’s been approved, and Kiki’s no longer a foster child; she’s adopted.

Case and Ira are so excited they can barely sleep, and they arise early before dawn.

“I can’t wait to tell her,” Case says, looking to see if she’s stirring yet. She is such a sound sleeper.

“Let’s make a celebration out of it,” Ira says. “Let’s cook a fancy breakfast and all eat together and tell her then!”

They make pancakes and scrambled eggs and fruit salad with cranberries, oranges, dates, raisins, and Ceylon cinnamon. They make coffee and tea and hot chocolate, and when the sun comes up, but Kiki lingers in bed, Case can stand it no longer, and he pulls out the cowbell they use to announce suppertime, and he rings it so hard the windows shimmy.

“Breakfast!” he calls. “Sunshine! Celebration! Hurry! Fun-time! Breakfast!”

Ira busies herself at the counter, swallowing giggles.

Case rings the breakfast bell

But when they all sit down to eat, no one says anything right away. Ira has decided to leave it to Case to announce, and Case isn’t sure how to start. In his excitement, he forgot to script this one.

The family sitting at the kitchen table

He closes his eyes and just dives in.

“So she called last night and it’s going through!”

The family sitting at the kitchen table

“These are good pancakes,” Kiki says.

“Do you know what Case is talking about?” Ira asks.

The family sitting at the kitchen table

“I was eating,” Kiki says, “not listening. It sounded like grown-up talk.”

The family sitting at the kitchen table

Case tries again. “What I mean by ‘she called last night,’ is that the social worker called, and what I mean by ‘it’s going through’ is that the adoption. The adoption has been approved.”

The family sitting at the kitchen table

“For real?” Kiki asks.

“For real. We still gotta see the judge and get the papers, but it’s a real thing! You’re adopted! You’re out of foster care, and now, we’re a for-real family!”

The family sitting at the kitchen table

Kiki doesn’t say anything. With the quietest of smiles, she spreads the fruit salad on the pancake and eats it.

“We were so excited we could hardly sleep,” Ira says.

“It’s what we’ve been wanting forever. It’s what I wanted even before I met you, when I just knew about you. When I brought you home on the bus that day, I hoped then, more than anything, that I could adopt you. I couldn’t think of a greater honor,” Case says, while he thought, or responsibility.

The family sitting at the kitchen table

“Are you and Ira my mom and dad now?” Kiki asks.

“We could be, if you wanted. Technically, I’m your legal guardian, and Ira will be your godmother, which means if anything happens to me, she’s your guardian.”

“Like fairy godmother?” Kiki asks.

“Exactly,” says Ira, “only without the fairy part and the wish-granting part. No mice pulling pumpkins and spider webs turning into ball gowns or any of that nonsense.”

“I was thinking you’d like to have your birth mom and dad as your always mom and dad,” Case explains. “That’s why we’d be guardian and godmother. But what do you want?”

“I like that,” Kiki says. “That way, I can still talk to them.”

“Exactly,” says Ira.

“But what about my name? Will I be Kiki Flores?”

“If you want,” Case replies. “Another option would be to take all the names. So you could be Kiki Donovan Mahajan Flores, or any other order you wanted.”

“I like it! It’s so long!”

“We can practice,” Case says, so together, they chant the whole thing: Kiki Donovan Mahajan Flores! Kiki Donovan Mahajan Flores!

The family sitting at the kitchen table

“I bet nobody else at school has a ten-syllable name,” Case says.

“You’d be surprised,” Kiki answers.

The family sitting at the kitchen table

She recites them all: Rainflower Sunshine Jessamine Snowchild; Billy Bob Jasper Water Buffalo; Rebecca Sally Smith-Johnson-Snow-Tea.

“Are you making these names up?” Ira asks.

“Might be,” answers Kiki Donovan Mahajan Flores, as she takes another bite of pancake.

The family sitting at the kitchen table

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Another Legacy 1.14

Ira, Ulrike, and Tina in the tiny kitchen

On the night of Case’s birthday, while Case lies in his tent imagining what it would be like to lose your job on the docks because the warehouse shut down and to have to move because the land where your apartment house sat was determined to be below the impending flood line and all the properties in the hills above the flood line rented for thousands a month or sold for half a million and now you’re left with nothing, with not even a semblance of what your life was before–while he imagines all that, Ira cleans up after the party. She’s surprised they even own that many dishes, as she carries the toppling pile of dirties to the sink.

“You missed a cup!” says Tina, who’s stayed behind to help. “Never mind! I’ll grab it.”

Something Tina says gets Ira thinking

At last they dry the final one.

“I left your wine cup on the table,” Tina says. “There’s still some wine in it.”

“You’ve been such a help!”

“It’s my pleasure,” Tina says.

Ira and Tina engaged in conversation

They sit together at the tiny kitchen table. Tina pours herself a cup of wine.

“You know, I’m always working,” Tina says. “It feels good to take some time to just sit and relax. I like that feeling of having worked so hard, and my feet and hands are tired, and then I just sit, and let it all go. Look! My fingers are dishwater prunes!”

“I’ve never been much of a hard worker,” Ira says. “I’ve sort of just let life come to me.”

“But you’re a big photographer! At least, you were.”

“No, I just fell into that. I took photos of celebrities and sold them to tabloids. Nothing to be proud of, just a way to make some money without really working hard. I have no interest in that any more.”

“What would you like to do?”

“I’m not sure,” Ira says. “Something with art? Something visual. How did you get into the recycling innovation field?”

Tina explains how, ever since she was a little girl, this has been her passion–to find new uses for things and combine them in ways both practical and inspiring. “I just can’t stop doing it,” Tina says.

They talk long into the night, and when Tina finally leaves and Ira heads upstairs to her narrow bed under the west window, her mind swirls with dreams–nothing specific yet, just a feeling. A feeling of being useful. Or maybe, inspiring.

The next morning, Case is up early, eating leftover cake for breakfast.

Case sitting at the table

“Case,” Ira asks, “how did you figure out what you wanted to do with your life?”

“It never felt like a choice,” Case replies. “Individuals are born into a certain time. In that time, there are certain things that need to be fixed, to be changed, to be made OK so that life can be better, or at least continue. I’m just doing what the time I was born into asks.”

Ira is blown away. Her entire paparazzi career, if she could be generous enough to call it a career, fizzles. It was never anything she was called to do–it wasn’t what the time had asked. It was what society had asked, and that’s something entirely different, when the portion of society that’s doing the asking is sick, twisted, and delusional.

She wants to do something different.

She’s sitting outside, letting her mind empty so it can be filled with new visions, when Aadhya walks up.

“How are you?” Aadhya asks.

“I’m inspired!” Ira says.

Ira talks with Aadhya

“Inspired?”

“Yes! I think I’m on the verge of taking a big step, personally.”

“Well, good for you,” says Aadhya.

In the tiny kitchen, Ira dishes up leftover cake.

“So I guess congratulations are in order, you two?” Aadhya asks.

“What?” says Ira. “We’re not a couple.”

Ira and Aadhya talk in the kitchen

“My mistake,” Aadhya says.

“It’s a common one.” Ira explains the arrangement: best friends, room mates, her needing a place to stay, Case being a generous friend.

Aadhya becomes quiet, but before silence settles in, Tina steps through the front door.

Tina joins Ira and Aadhya's conversation

“Tina!” Ira exclaims. “I’ve been thinking about our conversation last night! I’m making up my mind to do something with my life!”

“Really? I mean, you’re already doing something with your life by living, but I mean…”

“You inspired me.”

“I did? For what?”

“I’m not sure yet?” Ira answers. “I mean I’ve got an idea, but I’m not quite ready to put it into words. Or action. I don’t know, maybe the action will come before the words.”

And all day, Ira seems like she’s two-inches-off-the-ground, just floating with a buzz. Her mind is turned on.

“I can be anything!” Case sings. “I can do anything! I am me! I am me!”

And Ira closes her eyes and joins him.

“We can be anything! We can do anything! We can be me! We can be you!”

Ira and Case doing singing a funny chant together

Quick on the heels of Case’s 33rd birthday comes Ira’s, like a game of tag and now she’s it.

At first, they plan a party for the evening, but that morning, something goes horribly wrong with the composting toilet and it actually combusts.

Ira on fire in the bathroom

Ira shrieks, Case rushes in, and before it even truly registered what is happening, he has the flames out.

Case puts out the fire

Or maybe not?

“Don’t stand there!” he yells.

“I-I-I-” yells Ira, “aye-aye-aye!”

Case talking with Ira while the fire dwindles

“There, OK. It’s out. Or nearly. Put water on it, OK?” Case says.

“Yeah, it’s out now. Nearly. Geez, Case. I think this design needs work. It’s supposed to be a composting toilet, right? Not a combusting one!”

Ira laughs from relief

They’re both a bit shook up. Plus, since they don’t have a working toilet at present, they decide it’s probably best not to invite guests over.

“I’m still a bit partied out, anyway,” says Ira. “If it’s just us, my mind won’t get crowded out, and I’m still buzzing inside!”

Case bakes a vanilla cake. “Candles?” he asks. “Or is it too much after this morning?”

“No!” says Ira. “Candles! I’m not scarred! I’m excited! I’ve got to make a wish! Thirty-three, man! This is going to be my year!”

Ira blows out the candles

The candles are lit and blown out without incident.

“I think I’m going to skip the grill for a while,” Case says.

They sit out front together as the sky darkens. Clouds have rolled in, and soon, they fall silent to listen to the drip-drips of rain on the awning.

“I’m gonna dance!” Ira calls. “Want to join me?”

She grabs her umbrella and runs out into the rain.

In an evening rainstorm, Ira dances in the rain

“I can do anything! I can be anything! I’m me! I’m me! I’m Ira! Free to be!”

Case spins in the rain, tilting his head up to the clouds and watching each drop gather and fall, growing larger and larger, falling slower and slower, the silver against the night, spinning, spinning.

Ira stops her dance and looks up with him. “It’s a mystery,” she whispers, as they watch the droplets spin and fall.

“I never had someone watch the rain with me before,” Case says.

“I’m glad I could,” says Ira.

“Not everybody stops to see what might be so amazing,” says Case. “I’m not used to sharing that with someone.”

Case encourages Ira

“Is it OK?” asks Ira.

“Oh, yeah,” says Case. “I’ve always wanted to share that.”

Ira’s quiet the next morning. It’s clear and hot, and she smiles while she sits at the little desk upstairs. Case doesn’t ask what she’s writing. He trusts she’ll share when she’s ready.

She folds it up carefully, slides it into the envelope, and addresses it to University of Britechester. Her admissions application. She applies for two scholarships, too. She’s going to go to college. She’s going to be a real artist. She can do anything. She can be anything. She’s Ira!

Ira puts her college application into the mailbox

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Forgotten Art: Norman – Newt 12

A reply to: A letter from Newt

normnewt1201

Newt,

Man. I am so sorry I blew it. Meadow tells me that I should have worked through my feelings first, and then written you. She says it’s OK to write, “Hey, I felt angry when blah-blah-blah,” but that should be written after the anger has been dealt with and dispatched, not in the heat of all the messy feelings.  She said I what I did was “unskilled,” but that’s really her code word for acting like a jerk.

I’m sorry. I’m new at this emotions stuff.

Let’s just put it past us, if we can, and move on.

Congratulations on proposing to Janet. Even bigger congratulations that she accepted! Ha! (Just kidding!)

Also, good move on getting your business plans together! Buying that bar sounds like a really smart decision. Finally, you’ll get out of your dad’s business and do something for you. Makes me happy that we’re both able to rework our careers into something that makes sense for us, rather than simply following our fathers’ plans for us.

I told Ira that you were getting married again.

normnewt1211

I thought it might make her upset, you know, given her past experience with her ex.

She got thoughtful and quiet for a while.

Then, over the next few days, I noticed she became more affectionate than usual. She started telling me what a good thing it was for her and Aari to live here. How she wanted it to be permanent-like. I told her she was a permanent fixture in my heart–there was no getting rid of her. I have become very corny; I’m the first to admit it.

normnewt1209

I noticed her and Aari having a lot of really serious conversations. Once, I overheard her say, “How would you like him as a real dad?”

I got the impression they were talking about me.

normnewt1202

She started dropping hints. Nothing too subtle, because, you know. I’m a guy. Subtle doesn’t work too well on me.

But they were subtle enough that I could pretend it was my idea without getting scared about getting rejected. Ira’s smart that way.

normnewt1203

So I thought about it.

I guess when I learned about Ira’s past, I pretty much kissed any dreams of being legit goodbye. It wasn’t that important to me. Her feeling safe and happy, Aari having a good home–those were the things that mattered to me. And I know, there all sorts of ways to make a family.

But, Newt–I gotta admit! The more I thought about it, the more it brought a smile to my face.

normnewt1204

I realized I should probably talk to Aari first, since it involved her, too. I mean, she and I had a pretty good deal worked out, with me being her designated “PCG” (primary care-giver). I didn’t want to mess that up, and I knew she had all sorts of conflicted feelings about her birth dad.

normnewt1207

But she gave me the green light.

“I know it won’t change anything for bad,” she told me. “Besides, I already think of you as my papa in my head.”

I can’t even express how proud that made me feel.

normnewt1208

Next, I had to be certain that I was sure. Was this really what I wanted for me, or was I just doing it for her, because she’d been dropping those hints?

So I talked it over with an old friend who’s a good listener.

normnewt1205

I realized that it was Ira who’d made me happy all this time. It wasn’t just me, making her feel safe. It was her, and all her magic, making me feel alive.

ira03

I thought of Aari, filling our home with the spunk of a brave and sassy kid, and I can’t imagine this house without her.

normnewt1210

I made up my mind. I’d do it. If you can do it, I can do it.

normnewt1206

Finally, I decided the right moment had arrived.

normnewt1212

I called Aari in to join us. You see, since it involves her, too, I wanted her to be there for the big moment. That way, she’d know I was really taking the whole family, her included, and she wouldn’t feel like she was in the way.

She knew what was up and started giggling like a maniac.

normnewt1213

I got cold feet. Could I really go through with this?

What if it changed everything?

normnewt1214

The old Norm would have left it alone. He would have chickened out and rationalized, “Why fix it if it isn’t broken?”

But the new me thought about what his coach, Newt Murdoch, would say. You’re the guy who encouraged and inspired me to make a change in our business so that it fits me and my ethics, not just my dad’s. You’re the guy who inspired me to get together with Ira in the first place, back when Windenburg’s Most Eligible seemed perennially destined to remain a bachelor.

Heck. I would do it. I thought of you, and I felt brave. Or at least, brave enough.

normnewt1215

I walked back into the living room, and I went the whole nine yards.

I even got down on one knee.

normnewt1216

I made a crazy speech, about collecting toys, collecting hearts, being big kids, being fools. Who knows what I said?

normnewt1217

All I know is that Ira’s eyes went soft and she let out this little noise like a purr, while all along, Aari sat and chuckled quietly.

normnewt1218

I don’t know if it was romantic. It was us. It was goofy and family and so over-brimming full of love, and my heart must have burst about a million times.

normnewt1219

“Catch her, Papa!” Aari yelled, as Ira leapt into my arms, just about knocking me off my feet.

normnewt1220

It wasn’t graceful. It wasn’t smooth.

But it was very, very endearing.

normnewt1221

And pretty silly, too. And so, yes. She did say yes. We haven’t fixed the date yet, but we are engaged. Ira, beautiful, strong, spunky, magical Ira, is going to be my wife, and she is going to let me be her husband.

normnewt1222

Ira told me it was because of you and Janet, moving on and moving past it, that she found the courage to give marriage another try. If the two of you could do it, we could, too.

Newt, can you even think back to our first letter, when both felt like we were living someone else’s life that had been handed to us with a note that said, “Take this, or else?”

Well, my friend, we have kicked those fake lives to the curb. I will say that now, for both of us, we have our lives. Thank you for being my hero, Newt. This is all because of you. You have no idea what a good life coach you are.

Thanks for it all. More than words.

Your soon-to-be-married pal,

Norm

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Forgotten Art: Norm – Newt 10

A reply to: A letter from Newt

normnewt1001

Hey, Newt!

Every time I think about your letter, I smile. I know, I know! It’s been ages since I’ve written! But it’s been a long time for good reasons, not bad. Things are finally coming together with the business.

I’ve been smiling because your last letter was just so normal. It cracks me up. When we started writing each other, we were so opposite. I mean, yeah. We both ran our fathers’ companies and felt like we were living someone else’s life. But I didn’t have any women in my life (except my sister, but you know what I mean). You had plenty.

Now, I’m finally turning around the business so it feels like my business, run the way I want it to be run. You’re getting your life together. I’ve got Ira. And you’ve got Janet.

Now, we’re just two normal successful guys. Happy, boring people.

I kind of always wanted to be a happy boring person. It looked so good from the outside.

It feels pretty good from the inside, too.

normpix12

This’ll  be a short letter. For one thing, I don’t have much to say. Life’s boring! It’s actually really good. No drama. Everything’s working out OK.

For another, I’ve got a little girl who’s waiting for me to read her a bedtime story.  She’s in the kitchen right now, having cereal for desert. We let her eat the junky kind, loaded with food coloring and all those sweets, but we don’t tell her that the food coloring is natural (beets and carrots and blueberries and stuff) or that the sweetener is malt syrup and honey. She likes it. It’s colorful. That’s what counts. It only matters to me and Ira that it’s healthy, too.

normpix13

I was glad to hear that your cousin is OK. It’s been a while since you wrote, so I hope his recovery is still progressing well.

Hope things are going well with you and Janet, too. How’d your Christmas trip to see your aunt go?

It’s a funny thing. When I was young, I always took family for granted. They were there–they were the people who were in the home, always there. Then my mom died and my dad died not long after, and I was out in the world, running Dad’s business, and family were the ghosts who filled the empty corners of my empty house. I don’t know how Meadow kept on, after Mom and Dad died. She leaned on me. She leaned on our uncle Jasper. She disappeared into her books and studies. But mostly, for me at that time, family was the ache around my heart. I tried not to think of them.

It’s so different now. Now family is the chatter in the kitchen. Family is the jokes at the end of the day. Family is that warm feeling of not being alone when I’m home.

normpix15

It’s like it was when I was a kid, except I don’t take it for granted anymore.

I liked that sense I got from your last letter that you don’t take it for granted anymore, either. It sounds like Janet really means something to you. Heck, you two are taking it slow! That’s a change!

I know from experience when you’ve got a good woman, she’s worth waiting for.

Whenever Ira takes a long time getting ready to go out, or is late coming home, or keeps us waiting for supper, I always tell her it’s no big deal. I’d wait forever for her.

But I got a sleepy little girl who won’t wait forever for me, and tomorrow’s a school day. I’d better wrap this up and find that sleepy-head so we can read tonight’s installment of Treasure Island.

normpix11

Take care, Newt! Maybe next time, I’ll have something more exciting to share. But truthfully? I hope not. I like the boring life just fine.

Be happy,

Norm

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Kaitlin 9

A reply to: A letter from Kaitlin

moremeadow204

Dear Kaitlin,

Thank you so much for writing! I’ve been wondering how therapy has been going, how you are, and how the kids are.

You know me by now: I always have to get to the tough parts first. It might be silly, but I always think that if you only read the first part of the letter–you know, if you get interrupted or if something important comes up–I want to make sure that I’ve written the part that needs saying.

I have to admit that I felt a little uneasy reading that your therapist has a long and close history with your fiancé. In my coursework, the professors have been emphasizing the importance of professional distance as an element of ethical therapeutic practice.

If you feel comfortable with Dr. Bailey, and if you notice continued improvement, then all is well and good. Just remember that you have options. Every city has many qualified therapists, including ones who specialize in trauma and PTSD and who didn’t grow up with the man you plan to marry. You have options.

moremeadow201

PTSD has the reputation in some professional circles of being “untreatable.” The program I’m studying takes the opposite view: people can heal their trauma and PTSD. The approach we use is called Somatic Experiencing, and, through allowing the body to complete the movements that were interrupted during the traumatic event, the brain is able to resolve and renegotiate the trauma, resulting in health. That’s a bit of an over-simplification, and we include many other steps in the total approach (including the art therapy that I’m involved with at present), but that’s the essence of the approach.

It works. I’ve seen it, and I’ve met people who’ve been through this course of treatment–and they’re healed. My friend Micah is one, and Ira is another.

Ira worked with an SE therapist before I met her. I always wondered how, experiencing what she did, she has managed to be so confident, funny, happy, and able to love.

I interviewed her for a paper I wrote on SE, focusing on the experience of those going through the therapy. She told me, “We get stronger. When we crack and then we heal, we touch life. We become more alive.”

meadow21

Knowing Ira, I believe this is true.

I can hear that energy coming through your letter, too, when you write about the property and all your dreams for the future. We’re resilient, Kaitlin! All us humans are resilient and full of goodness at our core.

Speaking of the resilient, little Jena is doing great! She is not so little any more. She just turned four! Can you believe it? She loves pink and jewelry and little bows and frilly, twirly dresses!

And she is quite a mischief! Sometimes I catch her with a certain expression, and I just know she is planning something. It usually involves Uncle Jasper–either as partner-in-crime or butt-of-the-joke!

jena106

Jasper doesn’t mind. He is so proud of Jena. Can you believe it? He’s already teaching her how to use the computer to play reading and math games!

I’ve been encouraging them to wait. Jena starts preschool next week, and that’s plenty soon for her to begin formal learning. But Jasper says that Norm and I were both reading, writing, and solving simple math equations by the time we entered kindergarten. And Jena begs to get on the computer and whines when I suggest she shut it down. When I think of how much I love to learn, I guess it’s all right if she enjoys learning, too.

jena101

We got to meet a famous poet the other day, Bucky Duckson. Have you heard of him? I was so thrilled! He’s one of my favorite poets! He’s been traveling and my uncle is putting him up for a while.

Jasper asked him to write a poem for me–a birthday present. I’m embarrassed by the poem. It’s beautiful and so well-written, and if it were written for anyone else, I know I’d love it. But that it was written for me makes me feel shy ten-times over. Fortunately, when I met Bucky, he hadn’t even written the poem yet, so I wasn’t self-conscious and we had a wonderful conversation.

Jena enjoyed meeting him, too.  They had a bit of a discussion about poetry.

“I don’t think poems do have to rhyme,” Jena said.

“No,” Bucky answered. “You’re right. Of course. But just because they don’t have to, that doesn’t mean that they can’t. Some of the best poems employ rhyming couplets.”

“I like them when they go ‘splat,'” Jena said.

jena103

Youssef is still our nanny. I can’t imagine life without him! Even after Jena graduates from high school and enters college, I think I will still have Youssef as our nanny. He just makes life better.

meadowpix15

And I hope that Mizuki Suzuki will live with us forever, too. She’s been a huge help while I’ve been busy with school. She’s a student, too, but she always seems to find time to pitch in with the chores. She calls it a good study break. But I think she’s just got so much energy that she can’t sit behind the books for more than twenty minutes at a time!

meadowpix05

I hope Reid’s trial isn’t too stressful for you and your family, Ben, especially. I’ve been surprised at the ways that children seem to be able to make sense of adults’ complicated lives–they sometimes seem to look past the complications and right into the person. I think that sometimes children can handle a lot more than we think they might be able to. At least that’s what Mizuki tells me, and she’s studying childhood education.

I’ve been so slow in answering your letter that I’m sure that many things have changed already! I hope that each change brings you closer to your dream of your home for you and your family on your beautiful property!

Take care, Kaitlin! And tell all your children and grandbabies “Hi” from me!

moremeadow202

With lots of love,

Meadow

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Forgotten Art: Norman – Newt 6

A reply to: A letter from Newt

newt616

Salut, Newt!

Sorry it’s taken me time to write back. I had no idea having a kid around would keep me so busy. No surprise to you, I’m sure.

The latest thing Aari wanted me to do was to make her a puppet theater. I took an old chest of drawers, sawed it up, put it back together, and now we’ve got a theater good enough for Punch and Judy. And I’ve got splinters to show for it.

Man, I am so sorry to hear about your cousin. I think I read about him in the Gazette. A real hero. Our company has a hero’s fund, so if he needs any help with medical expenses, or even paying mortgage or rent when he gets out, just let me know. I can pass on the word to the foundation president.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said about me being in denial about my feelings.

In fact, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.

When I think, I turn to art. I guess I never mentioned to you that I’m an artist in my spare time, did I? Maybe I did.

newt608

I haven’t just been thinking about Ira. I’ve been thinking about work, too.

Soon, Windenburg Wind and Sun is going to become Windenburg Sun. In fact, we’re going to do it before raptor breeding season. I’ve decided I can’t have another osprey, eagle, hawk, or falcon on my conscience. Even if it means losing money. A lot of money.

I’ve been thinking over the records and plans, over and over. We can do it. We’ve got enough in savings and investments to tide us through for a few years, to cover salaries and expenses, while we complete the conversion. I’ve worked out negotiations with power collectives in other areas to take up the slack until we’re back up to capacity. It’s going to be tough. But it’s also going to be really good.

I wish I could tell you what’s going to make it so good, but we might be going public. You don’t want to get caught up in insider trading scandals. Neither do I. Let me just say this: Imagine Tibetan singing bowls. Now dream big.

So, the other day, business was on my mind. And Ira was on my mind. And I was stuck between the end of the legacy of wind power and the beginning of something really big.

You know how they say some things are worth waiting for? I figure they’re right.

newt601

So I did what I always do when my mind is stuck and I need inspiration–I turned to art. I went to the art center in the city where my sister’s art group meets. Ira’s in that group, too, but she wasn’t there that day. She had to go to a parent-teacher conference. Something about Aari “acting out.”

I tell you, that kid has a mean streak. I love it. To me, it signifies strength. There is no way that what happened to her mom will happen to her. It’s the other guy we got to watch out for. Aari is not going to end up in a shelter for abused women, but anybody who tries anything with her might just end up with broken nose.

newt603

I found my sister in the studio. Class had just ended.

She could tell I was deep in it.

“How’s the painting feeling?” she asked.

newt602

It felt all right. Kinda twisted, actually. I chose all the wrong colors: blacks, grays, and red.

“Here,” she said. She handed me some clay she’d been working. “Don’t look at it. Just feel it.”

newt604

I pounded that clay for a while. I started loosening up. My mind got quiet. You should try it sometime, next time you’re stuck in the thoughts.  Grab a lump of clay and pound it!

I was starting to relax when one of Ira’s friends came up to me. She’s also in Meadow’s art group.

“You’re Norm,” she said. “You know, you should really talk to her.”

newt605

We sat down. She told me that Ira talks about me all the time.

“I don’t know what you’re waiting for,” she said. “I mean, you two live together, right?”

newt606

I told her I didn’t want to ruin a good thing.

She said there was a fine line between not ruining something and spoiling it.

“You know,” she said, “the Rose Petal Festival is tonight. You should ask her. I’ll watch Aari.”

“You’d do that?”

“Certainly,” she said.

newt607

So I called up Ira, and when her friend got to our house, Ira caught the speed rail and met me at the festival.

It had this really hip vibe. Everybody was feeling it.

newt609

Ira and I headed into the karaoke joint across the way. She walked right up to the stage, as if she were some rock star, and started singing.

The way she moved her hips. I’ll tell you. That Ira is something.

newt610

I sat at a table and watched her finish her song. When she joined me, I told her I’d never seen anyone so hot before.

I was feeling it.

She looked at me, and she went white. The whole mood changed, just like that.

“I can’t do this,” she said. “Not yet. I’m just not ready.”

newt611

Now she’s never told me what happened that caused her and Aari to end up at that shelter. I’ve never asked.

Once, I saw the scars on her lower back when she was getting out of the shower. She covered up real quick, and I turned away and didn’t say anything.

I don’t know how to ask about that.

I can understand that she’s not ready to go there. It hurts.

I also know that some things are worth waiting for, and I decided right then that will wait forever for Ira. I decided I would wait as long as it took.

I headed across the way to the festival. I found the easels they had set up for the public art event, and I painted, just so I could release some of these feelings.

newt612

As I was finishing up, Ira joined me.

Pardon moi, monsieur,” she said. “‘Ave you zeen mon petit chat?

It’s our running joke. I realize it doesn’t sound funny at all when I write it. But it cracks us up every time.

newt613

The tension dissolved. We ordered some phở from the vendor and poured ourselves some tea from the festival tea house.

And we started to feel pretty good.

newt614

It got late really quickly and we had to catch the speed rail home.

I slept on the couch that night. I wanted to give her space so she would feel safe. If that’s what she needs, that’s what I give. She’s worth it. Like I said, I’d wait forever for her.

The next morning, we had breakfast together in the study while Aari played math games on the computer.

Ira was full of stories and jokes. It was like she was a different person from that white-faced ghost that sat next to me at the table in the karaoke joint.

newt615

When we finished eating, I did the dishes and then helped Aari with her homework. She’s already doing elementary chemistry, and I get such a kick out of helping her work out equations and formulas.

newt617

When Aari went out to play with her new puppet theater, I joined Ira in the living room.

“I can’t believe it,” she said. “You’re amazing.”

I’m not making this up, Newt. She actually said that to me. I guess the little things make a difference. Things I don’t even think twice about, like making the puppet theater, scrambling eggs for breakfast, doing dishes, helping Aari with her homework–even sleeping on the couch the night before–those things actually mean something to Ira.

newt618

I felt a little weird when she told me how much those things meant.

“Cupcake,” I said, “I don’t do those things to make you think good about me. I don’t do them because I’m trying to get physical with you, if you know what I mean.”

She took my hands then. “I know that, Norm,” she said. “And that’s what makes them special.”

newt619

She told me then that when she’d said that she needed time, I’d given her time. And now, she didn’t need anymore time. Now she was ready.

Woot!

newt620

She was ready.

newt621

I tell you. I gotta tell you. Some things are worth waiting for. And I would still wait forever for this woman.

newt622

Newt, you gave me the courage to talk to her. It blew up in my face. And then once the smoke died down, there she was, smiling crooked at me.

I’ve got a feeling my smiles will never stop. I got you to thank for it. You’ve been here all through that awkward time when I first met her. I’m no lonely bachelor anymore. I’m somebody’s boyfriend. It was a long haul to get her, but with you on my “support team,” as my sister would say, it’s worked out great.

Thanks, pal.

Now: What can I do for you?

–Norm

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Kaitlin 6

A reply to: A letter from Kaitlin

kaitlin603

Dear Kaitlin,

Hi! Oh, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could meet sometime? I wouldn’t stop smiling the whole time! All the hugs!

I’ve had so many thoughts in response to your last letter, and I’ll share them with you. But first, I want to tell you thank you!

kaitlin601

In association with my volunteering at House of Hope, I’ve been examining my support system. And do you know what? You are one of my strongest points of support!

We’ve been using the materials available at the Soul’s Self-Help Central, an online resource center. I filled out a grid listing people I know that I thought could be part of my support team and their capacities to offer support. You came out so strongly in every category! I’m not surprised. You are an amazing person, Kaitlin–brave, kind, generous, and insightful! You’ve got a great sense of humor, too. I’m guessing that everyone who knows you has you on their list of support people.

And that makes me wonder. Who’s on your list?

kaitlin606

I would be honored to be, if you felt I had the skills and capacity. I am so inexperienced when it comes to life, and I’m discovering that my interpersonal skills are woefully undeveloped. I’m starting to suspect maybe I’m not very mature emotionally. But, you know what? I am eager to learn and grow and develop capacity! So, maybe if I’m not a very good support person for you now, I will be later, after I’ve developed more skills, maturity, and abilities with people.

At any rate, you can know that all my good wishes and gratitude circle you!

kaitlin604

Congratulations on Leroy’s proposal and your conditional acceptance! I hope soon the circumstances allow you to accept for real. Congratulations, too, on his adoption of Dakota. I guess, in a way, she’s a new daughter for you, too. Adoption is such a wonderful gift–I’m really happy that you get to experience it, too, and what a lucky girl she is to get to be part of such a big, loving, supportive family. See all the good things that have come out of your brave actions?

I can understand your not wanting to claim the word, “victim.” That word carries so much baggage–and none of it good! I’ve discovered that the women in my art group don’t like the word, either. During one of our painting sessions the other day, the topic came up.

Some of them use the word, “survivor.”

Ira says, “I don’t like labels, anymore. I like saying, ‘I’m a person who’s experienced trauma.'” She says that, since all of us living on this planet have experienced harsh situations, and the trauma resulting from those situations, that descriptor connects us with everyone. I like that insight.

kaitlin608

Jasper’s organ teacher uses the word “hero.”

“It’s what we are,” she says. “I am a female hero who’s made it through my journey of trials and tribulations with the help of all my helpers, and now, I shine brighter.”

kaitlin609

She says that when she read Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, she wept.

“This was my story,” she said. “All the patterns and steps of my journey, described here in archetype.”

kaitlin607

She and I are going to lead a workshop on “The Hero’s Path,” along with one of the counselors. I’m excited that we’ll be leading it together, because that means we’ll be colleagues, and we can become friends! When I only knew her through the painting group, I had to limit our relationship to “service-provider/client” due to policies of HoH, since I’m the leader of that group. But that restriction stops when we lead a group together!

kaitlin614

I’ve learned that when we’ve experienced trauma–and domestic violence is trauma–that any emotion can trigger it, causing us to re-experience all the fear, anger, and danger-signals we felt the first time we experienced it. It’s because when we feel deeply again, all the emotions can come rushing back. So please be gentle with yourself when you think about all you felt during your recent exchange with Leroy. It takes time to learn to trust again, and letting yourself feel whatever you feel seems to be one of the important steps to get there.

I don’t know much at all, but I’m learning. I’ve been researching trauma, grief, and shame and have discovered that they are very interconnected.

As best I can understand from what I’ve read, when we experience a trauma, our mind switches into survival mode. In that state, the focus is on survival–life doesn’t feel safe. In survival mode, the mind focuses all our energy on getting us out of danger, and so the painful emotions associated with the trauma are split off. We just don’t feel safe enough to deal with them.

kaitlin612

When the system works, later, when we’re safe, we’re able to feel and process the emotions, at a time when our very survival isn’t threatened. But what if we don’t feel safe again? Sometimes, we never reach that point, and the emotions remain split off.

kaitlin613

When that happens, we can sometimes develop guilt and shame, especially if the traumatic event left us feeling helpless. Guilt at least offers some illusion of control.

I didn’t really understand what I read about trauma, guilt, and shame, until I began to apply it to the most significant trauma I’ve experienced: the death of my mom.

kaitlin605

It was my first year in college, during finals week, when she died. I just couldn’t deal with it. I remember thinking that if I felt the pain, I would drown. I’d drop out of college and I’d die. I didn’t think I could survive it.

So I didn’t feel it. I focused on my finals. I aced all my tests.

Then, when I got my grades the next semester, and I saw all those A’s, I felt so guilty. “I shouldn’t have studied. I should have gone to the hospital more. How could I earn A’s when that happened? I should have been with my dad. I should’ve stayed with Norman. I should have dropped out of college.” I thought I could’ve prevented her death if I’d just been there more–if I’d dropped out and taken her to chemo. Or if I’d stayed with her in the hospital. Or if I’d brought her flowers. Or if I’d worn red tennis shoes, instead of black ones.

Then the shame came. “I’m a terrible daughter. I’m a bad sister. I’m such a selfish person.”

For about two years, I didn’t grieve, but I was guilty all the time and I felt so ashamed. I could hardly see my dad and brother because of the shame.

kaitlin602

What finally brought me out of it was in junior year when I took an Intro to Comparative Folklore class, and I discovered fairy tales from every culture dealing with the death of the mother. My favorites were about girls who lost their mothers just as they were coming of age. There are hundreds of these tales! I lost myself in them, and then I found myself.

kaitlin611

Around that time, Norman came to visit. We went to the botanical gardens on campus. When I saw a bromelia in the greenhouse, I began to weep. It was my mother’s favorite plant. Norm hugged me, and he began to cry, too. We slumped onto a stone bench, holding each other, nestled in the humid hothouse air, and we finally felt safe enough to grieve, and we cried until we hiccuped. And then Norman looked at me, and he said, “It isn’t 42.”

“What isn’t?” I asked.

“The answer to life, the universe, and everything,” he said.

“What is?” I asked him.

“Damned if I know.” We laughed so hard. We laughed as hard as we’d cried, and then we laughed some more, and then we cried again, and then we ate ice cream in the tea shop, and my eyes hurt and my chest hurt, and I had a knife through me. I cried a lot during the next year. And then my dad died. And I cried a lot more. But I stopped feeling guilty, and I didn’t feel ashamed. I felt safe enough to feel, especially when I was with Norman or Jasper, even when it was hard.

I’m not saying that grief is the same as domestic abuse. I’m just saying that I’ve experienced the splitting off of emotions and the guilt and shame that follow.

Feeling guilty is nothing to feel guilty about, and there’s no shame in feeling ashamed. It’s all part of how our minds and bodies are constructed to help us survive. Call it socio-biology. And when we understand the process, maybe then we can create the safety that we need to be able to move through the process and back into our healthy selves again, to find our own paths back to being the heroes that we are.

kaitlin610

I hope that I can help to create a safe space for you, Kaitlin, so that you can share with me how you feel. I would like to be able to do that. Maybe our letters can be your hothouse, with bromelias and orchids and roses blooming, smelling sweet, and safe, and calming. And then we could drink tea and cry and drink more tea and maybe even laugh.

Speaking of laughing, I have no idea what’s up with Ira and Norm. She calls him “Babe.” He calls her “Cupcake.” And he told me yesterday that they haven’t even yet shared their first kiss. At any rate, it’s plain to see that it’s love.

Kaitlin, I’m sending you all my thoughts and feelings of admiration, gratitude, and friendship.

Love, love, love,

Meadow

kaitlin615

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Forgotten Art: Norm – Mel 3

mel308

Dear Mel–can I use your full name? Semper Ad Meliora,

Always onwards towards better things!

That’s what my life has become since we started writing.

mel311

Did I tell you that my sister is a folklorist? Not just by training and profession, but naturally. She taught me how to listen to a story to hear it true.

It’s with half an ear and a whole heart, that’s what Meadow says.

That’s how I read your story.

Meadow always told me, “Truth comes through. Trust the story.”

She’s right.

I know she’s right because your story hit me that way. I see the difference in my life since I began receiving your letters.

mel307

Do you remember how lonely I was when I filled out my profile?

I wonder if that’s why you chose to write me.

It was after you wrote that my life started always onward towards getting better.

That’s when I met Ira. She’s my best friend, and more. She lives here now, with her daughter Aaradhya.

Yesterday, at homework time, Aari griped, “Why do I gotta do algebra again?”

“Always strive for improvement!” Ira replied, half-hearted with tongue firmly in cheek.

mel306

But Aari laughed. “OK, Mom!”

“No, she’s right!” I said. “That’s it! Always getting better! That’s life!”

I thought of you, though, Mel.

I don’t even consider your sister–I mean, why? When the other force is this–this movement towards improvement–why even give an ounce of attention to the other possibility?

mel305

I am not a lonely guy, anymore. I guess that’s what I’m trying to say.

mel304

And my best friend Ira has a home now.

And so does Aari.

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Do you know what sounds my house used to be full of? Crickets.

Now, my home is full of laughter.

mel302

I’ve never been religious. Are you religious? Are you made of faith or based on faith?

I’ve never had much truck with faith.

I had science. I had business. I had the bottom line.

But now, I’ve got gratitude. And it makes everything else feel like a pale substitute for life.

mel301

The funny thing: I don’t feel like I did anything to deserve this.

I filled out the pen pal profile. You wrote me. I wrote back. My life changed.

It’s like I’ve been playing a video game. (Well, actually, I have. Ira and I play all the time.) But it’s like I have actually been playing my life like a video game. One move. The next. It starts coming at you quick, quicker, you just respond–level up.

Always level up, that’s what it’s like, Mel.

mel309

Always leveling up.

Thank you,

Norm

P.S. When are Zee and Gari’s birthdays? I can see if I can find you llamacorns–or maybe even something better! Aari’s got these sweet rubber ducks made of natural rubber and to squeeze one! I know it sounds weird, but truly. You haven’t lived until you’ve squeezed one of the eco-friendly, fair-trade, Spanish-natural-rubber ducks.

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Forgotten Art: Norman – Newt 4

A reply to: A letter from Newt

newt406

Hey, Newt.

Ugh. You can’t tell from my keystrokes that the tips of my ears are bright red, can you?

Don’t worry. I waited to write. I wanted to make sure I got my cool back. Wouldn’t want you to know I was embarrassed out of my skin.

Dude! Where did you grow up? Antarctica? Didn’t you watch the Lambastic Legends of Llamacorns when you were a kid?

A Llamacorn, my friend, is a cross between a unicorn and a llama, and the vintage Llolicorn edition issues are special and very rare.

newt405

You have no idea how sought-after Llamacorn action figures are today. I’m talking triple–sometimes even quadruple-digits. Those things are keen, especially the Lollicorn editions.

Look ’em up online. And if you happen to notice the gold and blue one for sale anywhere, let me know. I need it to round out my collection.

newt404

That’s something Ira and I have in common. We both collect antique toys. Though she happens to prefer Mistress Mew-Meow.

Stop, Newt. Don’t even go there. It’s not what you’re thinking.

newt411

Ok. Now my ears are red again.

What was I even going to write?

Oh, yeah. My homework. Well. I blew it. Failed the course. It’s not for lack of effort. It just hasn’t been right yet.

Ira came over right after I got your letter. I was ready to do just what you instructed: “When you’re sitting next to her, yawn and let your arm stay around her shoulders.”

The thing is, she sits next to me, but not next to me. I’m in the love seat. She’s in the chair. Adjacent. Next, but not next.

newt403

She’s my best friend, man. I don’t want to blow it with her. Besides, once we get talking, I have so much fun, I forget about everything else.

Still. I gotta admit. She makes me feel… you know. Like, very much so.

newt401

We did almost have a moment the other day. We were playing Party Frenzy on the console. Somehow, our arms got tangled up. Like interlaced. Like linked. Arm-in-arm. I was so into the game, I sort of didn’t notice. I just felt kinda warm on one side.

“Um, Norm?” Ira said. “My arm? I can’t get my guy to the dance floor!”

We were on the dance floor level of the game.

newt412

I apologized and let her go.

I’m kind of not worried, though. I think I’m going to have plenty of opportunities to get close to her.

newt410

You see, I kind of asked her to move in.

Now, don’t go yelling at me about being too fast! Or putting the cart before the horse. Actually. I guess I put the horse in the barn before I even got the cart out. Or. Whatever. Don’t go there.

The thing is, she needed a place.

I asked her one day, “So we always meet up here. Let’s go to your place one day! How about tomorrow?”

“There’s just one thing,” she said. “I don’t have a place.”

newt409

Turns out, she’d been staying in some shelter, all this time. That’s why she always wore the same black outfit. That’s why her shoes are these old canvas worn-out things. Here I am, one of the guys with the most resources in town, and my best friend, the person I care most about, is half a step away from being homeless, living in a shelter for women and children.

Oh, yeah. Did I mention? She’s got a kid. A cute, spunky little girl named Aaradhya.

newt413

Well, they don’t live in a shelter anymore.

That’s right. I asked them to move in.

newt408

So, maybe I haven’t made my move yet, but Ira made her move–she moved right in with me!

I tell you, Newt. I’m starting to understand your feelings about being a family man. I may not yet have even gotten to first base with Ira, but she’s made it to home with me already: literally and figuratively. She’s sharing my home, and she’s planted herself right smack square in the hearth of my heart.

I never thought I had it in me to love this deep.

And I haven’t even yet started to tell you about my new sorta, kinda, maybe-one-day daughter.

newt407

I owe it all to you, man. I never would’ve had the guts to ask her to move in if you hadn’t inspired me to speak up for what matters. If I didn’t know how much a guy like you could have a soft spot for family and a good woman he loved, I probably would have let her go right on living there in the shelter and wished her well. Maybe I would have written the shelter a check from “an anonymous benefactor” and designated the funds for her. But it wouldn’t have brought near the joy that opening my home has.

Thanks, man. I only hope that you get to regain some of the happiness you lost. I owe you, big time.

Your flunking student, who’s learning more than you can know…

Norm

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