Tuesday, December 27, 2011

On My Mind...

What an amazing weekend!  After posting my story on Friday, I received compliments from a ton of people who were astounded by the story...and plenty more who kept repeating, 'you should be a writer'.

In answer to them...I'm trying!  Someday, I PROMISE, I will be on a bookshelf at Barnes and Noble.  It's a promise to myself.  One I will keep.

The most important thing that came from that story, however...is that it helped people.  People who are hurting, people who can't move on.  I've recieved messages from family and friends who have shared it with others, people I've never even met...and it's helped them heal, helped them find hope again.

That?  Is exactly what I've always wanted to accomplish with my writing.  I write for myself, of course, but along the way, if I can touch someone who is reaching out...my job is done.  I consider that a success in itself.  I don't have to be famous.  My words matter to someone.

I'm not alone in this process.  Someday, I will have a dedication inside the front and back cover of a story that's all my own, but it will mean nothing without the people who helped me get there.  You know who you are.  I am endlessly grateful for your words of encouragement and inspiration.  My writing friends, even though I've never met you...you are family.  To my family and friends, soon enough, you will see. 

It starts now.

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas(My entire family is sick with either a cold or the flu...touche, Santa.)! 

Don't forget to sign up for the No Kiss Blogfest hosted by Frankie on January 2nd!  Third annual! Can't miss it!

What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?  Is it strictly for you?  Or do you write for something greater?  I would love to hear...

Friday, December 23, 2011

* Believe *

'Angels deliver fate to our doorstep' -Jessi Lane Adams

Coincidence or a miracle?  You decide...

My dad was the one you averted your eyes from.
He was the one who made you clutch your purse tight against your body, grasp your children's hands tighter.
He was the one you crossed the street to stay away from, the one you pretended didn't exist.
My dad endured stones being thrown at him, literally, simply for breathing the same air as the 'better' people.

My dad was homeless. 

For my entire adult life, I had no idea where he was, if he was alive or dead, warm or cold...safe or in danger.

Four years ago yesterday, I was called to the hospital where I said my final goodbye, where I held his hand, told him I loved him, and felt him squeeze mine back, the slightest of pressure but SO real...he died the following day, the 23rd.  Today.
I never truly moved on.

This year has been more than trying for me.  While I'm much happier than I was last year, the struggles I've had to wade through have seemed catastrophic and impossible at times.  In April, I lost my job after 12 years of dedicated service because of someone else's dishonesty.  In July, I had to find a new place to live because I could no longer afford my apartment based on unemployment.  I had nowhere to go but backwards, and I was determined to stay afloat unless living in a box was my only other option.

Then I met Christine.  She is a bartender at the bar I 'frequent', but we'd never spoken on a personal level.  She barely even knew my drink order.  One night, Christine was at the same bar where I was with friends.  Her own friends had just ditched her and she spent the night depressed and angry.  Somehow, we started talking and I learned that she needed a roommate to keep up with her mortgage.  I expressed my need for a room and by the end of the night, it was settled.  I was set to move in as soon as my lease was up the next month.

We have lived together since, but never really got into the nitty gritty of our pasts.  Then one night, we began to share.  I opened up, told her about my father and how I had to grow up earlier than most.
Her first question was, 'He wasn't homeless around Joliet, was he?'.
Yes.  He was.  She asked his name, and when I told her(Frank), she didn't recognize it.

Then she told me about the homeless men who would come into the bar for free drinks most of the bartenders would hand out.  How she never gave them free liquor, only free food. 
She mentioned one man, a man the whole bar knew as 'the dirty hippie', and how she could sense something different, more trustworthy in him. 
After a while, this man became her friend, a confidant.  She drove him to the store, brought him food and blankets where she knew he was staying, allowed him to sit in her warm car on cold winter nights.  She expressed how she longed to invite him into her home, give him a warm bed and a hot shower so that he wouldn't have to suffer in the cold, but couldn't because, after all, who knew who this man really was?

I was struck by my roommate's kindness.  How many people would do this for a homeless person?  Not many at all.  I'd always wondered if my own father had been greeted with such compassion.

She told me that this man had saved her life one Christmas.  She'd been in a dark place with her own family, her own father.  And this man shared his story with her, the story of his family, of his daughters he'd left behind.  He told her that fathers made mistakes, but she needed to understand that hers loved her, the same as he loved his own family.  Then he hugged her and promised her that she mattered.  She never saw him again.

Christine began describing this man...dirty, with longish graying hair, a chip in his front tooth...

"My dad had a chip in his front tooth," I interrupted, astonished.  But really, this couldn't be that uncommon, right?  Lots of people had chips in their teeth.  Especially alcoholics who were prone to falling down and having accidents.  It happened.

But just to see, Christine sent a text message to a former bartender, a guy who worked there at the same time.  She asked who the homeless man they called the dirty hippie was, did he remember his name?

His reply came in one word:  'Frank'.

This homeless man who saved Christine's life, this man who lived across the street from the very place I was working, this man who was a mystery to me....he was my father.

Today, my dad's ashes are in an urn in my bedroom.  I keep him with me because for the first time since his downhill turn, I know where he is.  I never have to wonder again if he's cold or hungry or hurting.  He is in my care and that is exactly where I've always needed him to be.  With me.

My father's ashes are in Christine's house, exactly where she wanted him to be, in a warm home where she knew he was safe and taken care of.  A stranger's compassion a surreal reality, four years later.

It's as if he's here right now, making sure I'm taken care of, helping me along this rocky path.  I'm convinced he is the reason Christine and I met that night. 
Everything happens for a reason...I was meant to meet Christine because she was the one person who showed my father that no matter what, he was important. 

My father saved someone's life days before he lost his own.

Now he's saving mine.

I've never been a terribly religious person.  I believe in God, I couldn't imagine making it through a day without some kind of Christian music flowing through my speakers in the car, and I pray often, but I don't attend church and I don't preach.  I just believe.
But I can't imagine how anyone could not believe in SOMETHING besides coincidence after this. 
There is no way that's what this is. 

What else could it be?

This is, without a doubt, the greatest Christmas gift I have ever received.  I now know that someone cared for my father, that someone gave him the kindness he needed...even if he wasn't father of the year.  I'm now convinced he lived across the street from my work because it was the closest he could be to me.  He was there and I never knew.

I owe so much to Christine.  I only hope that she knows how much she really DOES matter.

Whether you believe in God and miracles, or nothing at all, I hope that this story helps you realize how important the people in your lives are.  Never waste a day with them...tell them you love them. 

And never EVER write a person off as worthless.

You never know when they might be an angel in disguise.

Merry Christmas to all of you.

And to my father, Frank Kuiken...you were always meant to be an angel.  RIP.

Monday, December 19, 2011

~*~ Special Invitation ~*~

I'm still making my way around to all of the Deja Vu Blogfest entries since my computer isn't very Julie-friendly lately...
And I just wanted to invite y'all to stop by this Friday, the 23rd, for an extra special post.  If you want a Christmas story, I have the ultimate. 

I'll be linking to it through Facebook as well, so if you want a reminder, just friend me!  I never turn down blogging friends.  :)

Hope to see you on Friday!

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Deja Vu Blogfest!

Today is the Deja Vu Blogfest, in which everyone participating has to choose a former post to REpost.  Check out all the entries, there are TONS!

The following is a post I wrote last year when I was at my worst(at THAT point...yeah).  I was going through a horrible time and my friends here were such a huge help.  I love you all for everything you've ever said or done....you're all an inspiration.



For the Love of....!!!!

Everyone has heard that love conquers all.

And for a while now, I've strongly doubted that. In fact, I've scoffed at the very thought.
But very recently, I made a discovery: Love truly does conquer all. All doubt, all pain, all anger....it will all vanish if true love is there.

When I say this, however, I do not mean that love for someone else will conquer all of the darkness that hurt and betrayal leave behind. Because how can you love someone else before you learn to truly love yourself?

You can't.

I've been going through such a dark period of my life lately...darker than any other I've faced before.
I've given up the two things I love the most in my life: writing and reading. Because taking part in either activity left my brain boggled and my heart aching. I stopped feeling for these things and I knew it wasn't right.
How can the things I love the most leave me so stressed out?

I couldn't concentrate on fiction because I couldn't relate to it anymore. I had so much going on, so much tension in this very real world, the land of make believe no longer held the magic it once had.

The last time I posted here, one person said something that really made me think.

Candace at Candyland left a comment that stated, 'Sometimes the best stories are our own'.

It's not like I haven't heard that before. But when I saw it written before me, in response to everything I had poured into that one post, something clicked.

I was going about my healing process the wrong way. I couldn't use my current WIPs to get me through this. I couldn't escape into a book the way I used to because I couldn't relate.
You must write the story you wish to read.

And what more could I want to read than the outcome of my current situation? What would help me more than writing through my troubles?

Absolutely nothing.
Because writing is what I am. It's not just a hobby. It's a way of life. A lifeline.
And I finally grabbed hold of that rope. And I'm pulling myself out of the ravine, one word at a time.

Things won't get better as quickly as I'd like. But they will get better. And thanks to one person who helped me open my eyes, I'm going to get there the only way I know how.

I'm sure you're wondering how this ties into love conquering all. Writing is my one true love. It will always be there, will always be a part of me. Writing is a way of loving myself.
It's not selfish. It's self love. And you must must must have self love in order to make it through life happily.

I still doubt the notion that love will conquer all when used in reference to a romantic relationship or an outside relationship at all. There's always going to be dealbreakers.
But love for yourself absolutely will conquer all. Because I love myself, because I am taking the time to do what is right for me, I know that I will come out of this mess a much better person.

I don't plan on trying to publish what I'm working on right now because it's for me, but at least it will give me practice!

I'm slowly but surely making my way back into the blogging world. I don't feel overwhelmed anymore. Thank you to everyone who left a kind comment, to everyone who paused to think of me,even for a second. Your support means the world!

Until next time...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Yay For Exciting Things!

My first order of business when rejoining the blogging world was to go in search of blogfests, something to get me back out there. Of course, I knew that the 3rd annual No Kiss Blogfest was coming up on January 2nd, just like always and it's my absolute FAVORITE. Everyone should run over and sign up right away because it's just the best.
I also joined the Deja Vu Blogfest on December 16th, which means I'll be rereading all of my old posts. Could be fun! I can't wait to see what everyone chooses for this!

I'm really enjoying getting back into the swing of things, checking out what I've been missing and getting to know the writing world again. It's inspired me to write as much and as often as I'm physically able to. I can't wait to get started!

Are any of you joining blogfests? Which ones?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Well...Here We Go Again

I don't know how many posts I can begin with 'sorry I've been absent for so long'. I can't even imagine how irrelevant people must find my blog anymore. I would.
I'm going to try.
So much has happened over the past few months-some good, some bad, some horrible, some amazing.

If anyone is willing to come around after so long, I even have a story to share around Christmas that will hopefully inspire you as much as it's inspired me.

I'll try to stick to a schedule...once a week, most likely Monday since I'm off work(yay for getting a job! More later), and then I'll go from there.
The truth is, I miss all of you! My blogging friends feel like real life friends and I hate being away.

I feel as though I'm starting a new chapter of my life and writing is a massively huge part of it. So at least I'll have something to say! ;)

Just wanted to say hi, and let you know I'm around. Hope everyone is well and I can't wait to hear from you again!