May the 4th be with you!

As many of you know, yesterday was “Star Wars” day! And yes, I have become a huge fan of Star Wars. I love Yoda so much that I have a t-shirt with my favourite quote. I even had class discussions about him in my school age class several years ago!

Every morning during the summer break, we would have a meeting to discuss the plan for the day and to delegate the tasks in the classroom. Students would help set the lunch table, be in charge of organizing the book shelf, sweep the floor, etc.

And every morning one child would have the opportunity to choose a Yoda quote among those taped all over the room.

There were quotes such as:

Do or do not, there is no try“,

“(Luke):”I can’t believe it. (Yoda): That is why you fail.”,

You must unlearn what you have learned.”,

When you look at the Dark side, careful you must be. For the Dark side looks back.”

These quotes were the beginning of teaching the children about positivity, energy, the force. And what better way to relate to young people than through Star Wars? Most of the children had either seen some of one of the movies, or at the very least, heard of Yoda, or Darth Vader.

This led to teaching about word choices. There are books in the popular book stores showing how positive words have an energy signature and do affect living matter.

The children learned how to rephrase sentences to eliminate negative words from their vocabulary. They became so aware that they were listening to one another and helping their friends use positive and supportive words as well, even catching me!

And just what are some of these negative words? Keep in mind that negative is a broad term for these words, these words have a negative effect on us, how we think and/or how we feel which in turn affects how we emit energy, the force. This then leads to what we attract, be it positive or negative which affects how we feel…and so on.

Take a look at the few quotes mentioned earlier. “Do or do not…” This is perhaps my favourite quote of all time. If you are always trying to do something, you are never doing it, or succeeding. Your mind set is one of trying, not accomplishing or doing. Either do it, or not. There is no other option.

I can’t believe it.” Can’t. This is a very destructive word. “I can’t do this, I can’t be that, I can’t…” Then yes, you are right, you can’t. Your belief is your reality. Eliminate can’t and replace it with CAN. Your energy will shift, positivity will take place of the defeat or hopelessness once felt. The force will surround you. How do you feel?

When you look at the Dark side, careful you must be. For the Dark side looks back.” This quote was perhaps the most interesting to discuss. Teaching the children that looking at the negative, it looks back at you, they are actually inviting this type of thought, feeling, into their lives. Once you head down a negative path, you can easily be consumed with it.

Think about it. How often have you “tried” not to engage in gossip, or not to lash out or yell at perhaps poor drivers, or in your opinion, stupid people? You feel anger. This often sets your day, and/or mood. Then you feel irritated by almost anything. Eventually that is your day, one of racing out the door because you’re late, hitting traffic, not finding a good parking spot, someone bumping you, having a fight with a co-worker/boss/friend/spouse/child, etc. Then ruining dinner only to finally go to bed and start the cycle all over.

You are living in the dark side. And it’s not fun. I’m going to point out here, notice how “dark side” is now in lower case? Even how we write/type our words can either give something attention or not. A capital on a word gives it more power.

There are many words of which to be aware but one of my favourite words is: should. Should is a guilt inducing word. It tells you: you were wrong/you are wrong/you’re going to be wrong. Instead of saying what you shouldn’t do, say what to do. Focus on the positive, always.

When you watch how you phrase things and are aware of your word choices, and you beliefs, your energy will shift. It has to. It is the law of attraction. It is the force.

And this matters because all life matters.

We are all Mother Nature’s Heroes, all deserving of life, together.

Teaching children wild animals live In the wild

This article was first published on 5/28/2017. Stayed tuned for the upcoming interview with The Wildcat Sanctuary.


Have you ever asked children where exotic animals live? Lions, Tigers, Giraffe, Elephants, Polar Bears…. What was their response?

During the first days teaching a new group of children, this question always occurs and the answer usually is “In a zoo”!

I remember hearing this for the first time and being shocked. They had no idea these animals were wild, that they lived in different parts of the world and not behind bars, or in cages but in the wilderness, away from humans. To say this was upsetting would be an understatement.

Yet, how would children know where a Tiger originally came from if all she/he saw was one in a zoo, of course it makes sense.

What doesn’t make sense is that the child was not told the truth. Tigers don’t live in zoos, they don’t belong there, they never were born to be raised in a zoo. They are wild animals meant to live free, in the wild.

Now how am I supposed to tell my 3 year old where Tigers came from? How am I supposed to explain that Elephants, Zebras, Bears, live in the wild and not behind bars? Why explain at all? The animal is being cared for and we get to see creatures we would never see because we don’t live in: Africa, Asia, South America… There’s nothing wrong with them living in zoos, they’ll probably live longer here than if they were in the wild. Yes, I can hear you now! Please hear me…they exist in captivity, there is no life. Not a life these beings should have had were it not for the greed of humans.

This is why we need to explain. Letting children think this is ok leads to the acceptance of caged life for these beauties. And while there are some zoos that do care for these creatures, there are more that don’t. Behind “closed doors” these animals may have no natural materials in their enclosures. Some may never have set foot on real grass or soil. Some may never see the light of day. And some are starving to death.

There are facilities that are only in this for the money, not for education or the rescuing of wildlife. There’s big bucks in the animal trade and purchase. Tens of thousands of dollars. Capture a Tiger cub, rip it from its Mother and you can make a fortune through cub petting, circus acts, pay to play gigs and so on.

But they’re only animals, right? Exactly. And so are we! I always tell people, imagine yourself living behind bars for decades simply because of who you are. Sounds like jail, except you didn’t commit a crime. Well, neither did these creatures.

On the flip side, there is the belief that zoos are helping to educate. That if these animals weren’t in zoos, we would never see them in the wild. Take the Addax for example, last year there were only 3 left in the wild! 3! Why? Take a guess.

If you visit zoos, ask questions. Where did the animal come from? Did they purchase it as a baby? Was it because of their demand that it was torn from its home and family? Did you pay for it? Trade it with one of your animals? There are ways to ensure the safety and well-being of wildlife living in captivity. If your questions are evaded or ignored, the staff more than likely have something to hide. If someone ever says the animals like their small enclosures/are happy with performing…they are not telling the truth!

Most often if an animal has lived in captivity its entire life, it will never be able to be released into the wild. Never. It would have no hunting/foraging skills. It wouldn’t be able to defend itself if met with another of its species. It wouldn’t fit in with a pride/pack, etc. It would most likely live alone and starve.

So, do you educate your children about life in captivity? Yes. Be honest. Depending on their age will determine the direction and extent of your explanation. I tell my pre-school children that mean people take the animal from their homes and aren’t nice. When asked why, I again explain that these people aren’t nice. Go from there. Older ages can understand more, but keep it simple. These types of conversation often lead into climate change, pollution, and more endangered species talks. It is up to the next generation to fix the problems that ours and previous generations have all but destroyed.

This is only the beginning of this conversation. Wildlife is as important as our life. We are all connected, regardless of whether we can see it or not.

We are all Mother Nature’s Heroes, all deserving of life, together.

Teaching children about Birds of Prey

How often do you sit and listen to the sounds of Nature? Do you sit outside? Do you listen from your favourite chair on your porch or in your living room? Do you hear her at all?

How often does your child(ren) listen to Mother Nature? Are they aware of the different creatures outside their front door? Do they sit in front of the t.v., ipad, computer immersed in the latest video game or twitter feed?

Why do children need to be interested in Mother Nature in the first place? They are kids, playing, laughing, learning. And yes, they are playing, laughing and learning but what exactly are they playing? What exactly are they learning? Do you know?

It is important for kids to be kids. They need to discover themselves, their likes and dislikes, their interests and that in which they have no interest. They are setting the stage for their future, to become helpful, caring individuals who will go on to do great things.

So, what does this have to do with wildlife? What does this have to do with birds of prey? Why is this important at all? These creatures are just birds.

First, let me ask you this: What is your first memory of Mother Nature? Think about it… Put down your cell phone, turn down the t.v. and remember your first experience with her. Not playing outside with your friends but actually being aware of her colours, smells, sounds, sights, touch. I’m wanting to make a point here. When was the first time you were truly and completely aware of other life, non-human?

You may be asking yourself, does it really matter if children are aware of Mother Nature? Why concern themselves at such a young age, just let them be kids! And yes, I do agree with kids being kids. This also includes kids learning to care for one another, to be a nice friend, to be helpful and think of others and it starts outside their family, with Mother Nature.

Children love animals. They already have the joy when they see a kitten or puppy. When they see wild animals they often become inquisitive, wanting to know what it is, where it lives, and so on. This compassion is there, right from the beginning and it’s the job of the adult to foster this love and ensure it continues into adulthood.

Birds of Prey are quite often the first group of animals I teach as working with these magnificent creatures allowed me the unique opportunity to expose children to wild animals first hand.

When you have a passion or love of something, children often follow suit. Upon these children seeing their teacher’s love and passion, they also developed the same.

There are a few tips for introducing Birds of Prey to young people.

Pre-school tips

  1. Keep it simple -Birds of Prey “talk”, Songbirds “sing”. This will also help when it comes to size as there are several Birds of Prey that are similar in size to our songbirds.
  2. Choose the most common Birds of Prey to identify. The ones I chose were: Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Snowy Owl, Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle, Barn Owl.
  3. Differentiate between our Songbirds and Birds of Prey. Often children will be so excited when they think they see a Turkey Vulture when in fact the bird is a seagull. Choose your words carefully as focusing on how the child was wrong with their identification may discourage them in the future. Explain by saying: “Yes, that is almost as big as a Turkey Vulture! Good job! Remember Turkey Vultures are black…” or something to that affect.

When possible use visual aids. Bookstores, libraries, the Dollar Store, etc. have amazing wildlife books. Occasionally there has been incorrect information so beware when searching. For example: Birds of Prey have talons, not claws.

There are 4 main characteristics of Birds of Prey. Often varying degrees of information has been listed on different websites, usually with these features in the mix. Working with the Birds of Prey and learning from educators in the field, the main ones are:

  1. Hooked beak. All Birds of Prey will have a hooked beak, regardless of their size. At Mountsberg Conservation, one of their non-releasable Bald Eagles does not have a hooked beak due to damage caused when he was injured. His name is Phoenix.
  2. Strong, powerful grip. Raptor, derived from the Latin “rapere” means to “snatch, grab, carry off”.
  3. Keen eyesight. It is a misconception that Owls are able to turn their heads 360 degrees. However they can rotate their heads approximately 280 degrees. This allows them to be able to see in all directions without moving and alerting potential prey of their presence.
  4. Broad powerful wings. Regardless of the size of the Bird of Prey, as there are a few small owls including the Saw-whet, their wings are large and strong in relation to their frame.

Visiting sanctuaries such as Mountsberg located north of Burlington, Ontario or our Canadian Raptor Conservancy located near Lake Erie will allow you and your children the unique opportunity to learn about these magnificent creatures and how they can help protect Mother Nature. These rescue and/or rehabilitation sites provide care, medical attention and permanent homes for non-releasable Raptors due to injury or human imprinting.

Birds of Prey live all over the world. We are lucky enough to have over 2 dozen species right in our own backyard, including the fastest animal on the planet, the Peregrine Falcon! This amazing Bird of Prey has been clocked at close to 400km when diving for its prey! 400km! That is amazing!

There are so many interesting facts about our Birds of Prey. From Falcons, Hawks, Vultures, Eagles and Owls, we are fortunate to have the opportunity to see them in the wild. So, when you’re out for a drive or on your way to some remote countryside, take the time to look up at the sky. You may be lucky enough to see the Peregrine Falcon diving for its dinner before it disappears from sight!

After all, we are all Mother Nature’s Heroes, all deserving of life, together.

The Perfect Home -by Michelle Whitehead

Premeditated: Well-planned and thought out.

Parker didn’t know how well he liked the term. It always reminded him of the murderers whose names adorned the covers of numerous true crime biographies. And Parker Vane wasn’t a murderer. Parker Vane had no intention of committing the perfect murder. It was just an accident.

Accident: No plan, no malicious intent.

Parker found the word equally inappropriate. It made him think of the careless. Of those unfortunate souls who rushed through their daily routines with no thought or concern for their own well-being. Parker Vane was the most careful person he had ever known. He never did anything by accident.

Parker sat in his Lexus, staring out the window.

The clouds roiled overhead. Distant thunder could be heard rumbling over the western sky. Funnels of dust brushed up against the car, dulling the black shine.

He busily chewed his fingernails to their nubs, spitting the remnants into his hand and disposing of them out the window.

Premeditated…Accident…Premeditated…Accident. He played with the two words in his mind.

Neither fit his situation.

For a premeditated act, he would have to go through a lot of careful planning.

He would have to follow his victim for a few days to pick the perfect spot to commit the crime. He would have to sneak the knife into a well-concealed location, without bulges and bumps. And he would have to time the murder, making sure no one would be around to witness the fatal deed.

Parker laughed.

He had planned nothing.

He settled on the idea that it wasn’t premeditated.

Accidental. That word made Parker laugh even harder. The odds that he would be at the same place at the same time as either victim were high. And the chances of accidentally bumping into either of his victims while holding the knife were slim at best. He would have to be very stupid to pretend it was just an accident.

He wasn’t stupid.

He decided it wasn’t accidental.

Parker leaned back in the seat and stared at the roof of the car. He felt a slight pressure build behind his grey-blue eyes. He gently massaged his temples in an effort to alleviate the throbbing.

He took a slow deep breath and watched the brewing storm.

The word game still plagued him.

Normally he wouldn’t be so consumed with the English language. Words were words. He knew they couldn’t hurt him. But his conscience could, and would. And ignoring the tiny voice in the back of his brain was becoming more and more difficult each time the incidents occurred.

That’s it, he thought.

Incident: An event, a happening.

Parker realized this was the word he was looking for. The one word that would absolve him of any wrongdoing. And he had done nothing wrong. He was Parker Vane.

A slow smile grew across Parker’s face.

He looked at himself in the rear view mirror. His revelation calmed him. No more beating himself up over his most recent infraction.

He smiled at the reflection staring back at him.

His demeanor had changed completely. The concern that had resided in his deep set eyes quickly dissipated. The creases in his forehead didn’t seem as deeply etched as they had this morning. And his full lips weren’t pressed together in the harsh manner they had been.

The bags under his eyes didn’t vanish.

No matter, he told himself. A little sleep would work wonders. All he had to do was drive home. A short time from now and he would be safe in the confines of his four bedroom home with his wife and infant son.

Parker stared at the carving knife cradled in newspapers between his feet.

Dark rust-coloured stains covered the tip of the blade and continued halfway down towards the handle.

He reached underneath the passenger seat for the baby wipes. They always kept a box in both vehicles, just in case.

With a soft snap, he removed the wipe from the package.

Parker reached down between his legs and carefully picked up the soiled knife. He firmly held the blade in his right hand while he scrubbed with his left. Two more wipes were used before he was satisfied with his work.

He set the soiled cloths onto the dirty newspapers.

Parker stared at the ornately carved handle.

It probably had traces of blood imbedded in its grooves. Parker didn’t worry too much about that. He would thoroughly clean the weapon when he got home.

He gently place the dangerous antique on the passenger side car mat. He didn’t want any traces found on the leather interior.

And, he told himself, both mats will be disposed of as soon as possible.

Parker examined his hands. Nothing visible to the naked eye, but he knew there were microscopic traces under his fingernails. A hot shower would erase most of the evidence. And no one would suspect him of any crime. Nothing to worry about.

A big fat drop splattered across the windshield.

Parker looked up at the oncoming storm. He realized he must act quickly.

He opened the car door to a sharp gust of wind. Dust swirled around his feet as he stepped from the vehicle. Wind whipped through the car, stirring the papers and causing one of the wipes to fly up towards the ceiling.

Parker quickly snatched the soiled wipe and threw it onto the newspapers. He leaned into the vehicle, grabbed the blood-soaked newspapers and rolled them into a tight ball.

More drops began to fall. Larger. Faster.

Parker desperately scanned the area for a garbage can. Surely, he thought, there must be one around here somewhere.

He slammed the door and walked briskly to the side of the abandoned convenience store. He noticed a battered grey garbage can propped up at the back of the store.

Parker stuffed the package down as far as it would go. He dragged the tin can away from the sagging building and positioned it in the middle of the parking lot.

From his pants pocket, he withdrew a lighter and quickly lit the contents. He repositioned the papers and watched as the evidence slowly bean to burn.

Parker rushed back to the waiting vehicle.

He opened the trunk and carefully removed his blood-spattered overcoat. He held it at arm’s length and hurried to the growing fire. It dropped into the can with a quiet swoosh.

The blaze was extinguished.

“Shit!” Parker quickly shoved the coat to the side of the can and grabbed a partially burned piece of newspaper. He lit the sheet and set it on the jacket. He grabbed another piece and another until the topcoat was smothered in dozens of tiny flames.

He watched the blaze grow. All the incriminating evidence the authorities would have needed to charge him with was disappearing before his eyes.

Now, if they ever have reason to suspect me, there’ll be no proof, he told himself.

Parker grinned.

A deafening crash thundered directly above the dilapidated structure, followed by a blinding shot of lightning.

Parker jumped and spun around. His breath caught in his throat and sweat started to trickle down the side of his face.

He jerked his head up toward the mass of churning black clouds. He wiped away the streaks of perspiration and tried to calm his beating heart.

The storm had arrived.

This untimely display of Mother Nature sparked the tiniest pang of worry in the pit of his stomach. How unusual that his luck would falter at the most inopportune moment of his life.

He ran his hands through his thick wavy hair. He adjusted the collar of his cream-coloured shirt and rolled his shoulders. Keeping relaxed and stress free were of the utmost importance. It was when people allowed worry to take control that they lost the battle.

Parker never lost.

He started at the fire, hoping enough of the evidence had been consumed. The blaze had completely covered every bit of cloth and paper. But, he wondered, had it caused enough damage?

Parker refused to think about the tiny charred wisps of paper. No one knew a crime had been committed. And when they found the bodies, there would be no reason to suspect Parker Vane.

The light rain suddenly became a torrential downpour, flooding the deserted parking area with large puddles. Cold, sharp drops stung the back of Parker’s neck and coursed down his spine. He raced to his waiting haven and dove inside. His shirt was completely soaked. His linen pants, amazingly enough, still had the odd dry patch.

He turned the ignition switch and flipped the heater on high. He lightly rubbed his fingers together, drying the water as quickly as possible.

His watch made a quick beep-beep.

It was six o’clock. Sasha would be wondering where he was.

He pictured his wife pacing the floor.

Parker couldn’t help but smile at the thought.

His smile quickly turned into a frown.

Keeping silent about the occurrences was becoming more and more difficult. But he had no choice. Not if he wanted to keep his son, and not if he wanted to live as a free man.

Rain trickled down the side of his face and along his neck. He ran his hands though his dark hair, stripping away any excess water. He clumsily removed his sodden shirt and grabbed his jacket from the back seat.

A quick bolt of lightning struck one of the oak trees on the other side of the gravel road. Smoke billowed from the splintered wood. The yellow-orange flames that attempted to do their damage were immediately extinguished.

Parker jerked his head forward, half expecting his car to be the next target.

Nothing.

He stuffed his arms into the sleeves, adjusted the shoulders and buckled his seatbelt.

Parker picked up his cell phone from the passenger seat. A quick call home would alleviate any concerns Sasha may have when de didn’t arrive home at his usual time.

The phone rang…and rang…and rang.

No answer.

Parker tossed the phone onto the seat. He refused to speculate about his wife’s whereabouts. There was no reason to worry at this point in time.

He clicked on the CD player.

High pitched screams blared from the stereo system.

Sasha’s music.

Parker punched off the switch.

The music stopped.

The thunder continued.

He sat for a few minutes before he remembered the CD case in the back seat. He maneuvered around in the seat until he found the small leather container.

Parker quickly unzipped the case and stared at his wide selection. He followed his finger down the row until he found Tchaikovsky. He quickly inserted the disk and pushed play.

Parker closed his eyes.

He allowed the sounds to erase the images of the afternoon from his thoughts. He needed a clean, clear mind when he walked up the porch steps and into his perfect home. He knew if there was the tiniest look of stress on his face, Sasha would suspect something.

He took several deep breaths before he felt like himself.

The storm had briefly weakened, becoming a steady downpour rather than a lively aria of bellows and electricity.

Parker shoved the car into gear. The tires kicked up loose gravel as they exited the abandoned parking lot.

The tree shrouded side-road was slowly becoming narrower. Each ditch swelled with dirty brown water, coursing its way to the centre of the lane and making the driving conditions much more inconvenient.

Parker clamped his foot down on the accelerator and drove as fast as the road would allow. He maneuvered the machine along the diminishing path while paying close attention to the weather on the other side of the windshield. He knew the fantastical presentation wasn’t over yet.

A slight grin formed across his tanned face. Being in the centre of the storm was exhilarating. Most people would succumb to fear, anxiety or worse because of the terrifying weather.

Parker Vane wasn’t most people.

The first song on his CD ended. He glanced at the clock. Less than five minutes had passed since he called home.

Parker stopped the car in the middle of the road. He reached for the cell phone and quickly pressed the redial button.

“Hello?”

Parker smiled at the sound of her voice.

“Hi honey, it’s just me.”

“Oh…” She sounded quiet, hesitant.

“I’ll be home shortly.” He waited for a response before he asked, “Is something wrong? You don’t sound like yourself.” He kept his tone as light as possible. He didn’t want her to worry. When she worried she asked too many questions. Questions that would inevitably lead to answers he wouldn’t be able to give or to answers she wouldn’t like to hear.

“Ok, I’ll see you soon.”

Click.

She hung up on him.

Parker stared at the small handset. He gripped the tiny phone until the whites of his knuckles replaced his normal bronze colour.

“What the hell is going on?” He shouted. He couldn’t believe her evasion. Never in their five years of marriage had she ever dismissed him.

He cracked his neck from side to side. He needed to get home, now. He didn’t like being dismissed. He was Parker Vane.

Parker punched the car into gear and shot down the gravel road to the stop sign. He spun the wheel sharply to the left. The car skidded onto Cedar Springs road and raced down the highway. He pushed the accelerator to the floorboards until he reached Parkside Drive.

He his the brakes, tires squealing, skipping along the pavement in an effort to slow. He cranked the wheel to the right and slid into the oncoming lane. the car easily regained control, flew past a golf course, around several bends and up a gradual incline.

He clamped his foot on the gas and sped along tow miles of straight open road.

A large empty field came quickly into view from the driver’s side window.

Parker let his foot off the gas.

His home was one of five that lined the other side of the field.

He glanced out his window and found the only home with the weathered willow tree in the yard. He squinted and tried to narrow his field of view. All he could see was the house with one softly glowing light illuminating the trees.

As he turned back towards the road, he realized the car had veered to the left and was heading straight for the ditch. He cranked the wheel, slammed on the brakes and held his breath.

The beautiful machine careened to the other side of the road, drove up the steep embankment and stopped inches from the tree-lined fence. The right front end crunched into the ground, smoke filtering out from under the hood.

Parker slammed his hands down on the steering wheel.

He pushed open the car door and climbed from the front seat. A single tear formed in his left eye as he gazed at his damaged Lexus. He slipped around to the front of the machine and stared at the wreck.

Grey-white plumes billowed out from under the buckled hood. The rear end was stuck in the narrow ditch below.

Parker brought his hands to his face, ground the heels in his eyes and moaned. He slammed his fists into the hood of the vehicle and turned back towards the open door.

Never had he been in an accident before. Never had he acted as reckless as the likes of the careless. Never had he lost control.

Parker leaned inside the Lexus and reached for the antique knife. It was the only remaining evidence that could tie him to two grisly murders.

he rested his right foot on the car and carefully placed the blade in-between his leg and his slightly damp sock. He grabbed his dress shirt from the back seat, stepped back out of the car and slammed the door.

The house was only a few minutes away.

Parker stared across the road towards the open field.

The distance from the road to his home looked more like a small shallow lake than an abandoned wheat field. Crossing it would be next to impossible. The only other option was to follow Parkside Drive the few dozen yards to Boulding and race down the sidewalk to his street.

Parker didn’t like the choices. Either way would take too long. running through the sub-division was a more round-a-bout route. But trudging through the field would take just as long or longer.

The idea of resembling a grime-covered cave man turned Parker’s stomach. Rain didn’t bother him. Dirt did.

Parker rolled his shirt into a tight ball and stuffed it into his coat pocket. He awkwardly buttoned his blazer and pushed himself away from his car.

Thunder rumbled directly overhead, followed by a quick streak of lightning.

He quickly ran diagonally across the road to the sidewalk and followed the path to Boulding. It would take no more than five minutes to reach home.

He ran along the sidewalk, continually looking behind for any approaching traffic. He knew that if someone noticed him, they would undoubtedly want to help. And he couldn’t allow that to happen. Too many explanations would be needed and he didn’t have the time to indulge some stupid passerby.

He needed to get home.

Parker turned left onto Thornlodge and jogged past four homes until he reached his tree-shaded driveway. He hurried up the marble walk and paused underneath the entryway.

He straightened the collar of his jacket and wiped the rain from his face. He didn’t want to frighten his son with such a disheveled appearance.

Faint sounds could be heard on the other side of the double doors.

Parker clicked the lock and stepped into the foyer.

Darkness.

The only sounds came from the lullaby music playing softly in the background.

He called his wife.

No answer.

Parker remover his shoes and slipped down the stone tiled hall towards the kitchen.

Neither his wife or son were waiting for his arrival.

Parker carefully made his way along the floor to the laundry room. He retrieved the knife and set it on the dryer. His wet clothes were thrown into a green garbage gab and stuffed inside the storage closet.

Parker quickly stepped into his workout pants and picked up the knife.

His thoughts returned to his son.

He knew jumping to conclusions as to the whereabouts of his family would be what most fathers would do in his situation.

Parker Vane wasn’t like most fathers.

He shoved the knife into his pants pocket and exited the laundry room. He ran barefoot through the deserted kitchen, back down the hall and stopped at the foot of the stairs.

Parker glared at the second floor.

Everything was completely black.

He raced up the steps two at a time.

A loud crack of thunder and a quick bolt of lightning shook the windows. The storm was directly overhead.

Surely Sasha would come downstairs now?

Parker stuck his hand inside his pocket. The knife was still there.

He stepped inside their bedroom and flicked on the light. The baby bassinette was empty. So was the four poster king size bed.

He knew there was nothing to be angry about.

He left the room and stood in the middle of the hall. At the end was the baby room.

Lightning flashed through the skylight above the staircase.

Parker saw that the door to the room was open. He stood staring at the room for several seconds.

He quickly and quietly walked along the hardwood floor until he came to the doorframe. He silently stepped into the tiny room.

A quick bolt of lightning lit up the small space revealing his wife asleep in the rocking chair beside the window.

She was wearing his favourite bright red bathrobe. Her long blond hair lay in smooth waves down her shoulders. He hands were clasped together and rested in the crook of her neck.

He walked into the room and approached the crib.

Another bolt of lightning revealed a soft yellow blanket covering his son, his damp hair clinging to the side of his delicate face.

Parker loosened his grip on the knife at the sight of his child. He smiled.

“I did it for us son,” he whispered to the bundle of yellow.

He backed away from the cradle and stared at his Sasha. Beautiful Sasha.

Parker knelt down in front of his sleeping wife. He turned the handle of the knife over and over in his left had, took a damp section of her hair in his right.

Parker leaned in. He brought the golden locks to his face and took long deep breaths.

The smell was intoxicating.

He brushed her hair across his mouth and slowly let it slip from his fingers.

His grip tightened on the weapon.

Parker took one of his wife’s hand. He slowly brought it to his lips and gently kissed each elegant finger.

He carefully placed it on her lap.

He brought the knife to the side of the chair.

Lightning struck the ancient oak just outside the bedroom window. Flames flickered in-between the branches, allowing just enough light to filter in the room.

Sasha opened her eyes wide.

Yellow and orange light cast a soft glow throughout the room. Shadows danced across the wall above the cradle, and along the side of his wife’s hair.

Parker allowed a brief smile to cover his face.

He tenderly caressed her brow, her nose and her mouth.

He cupped his hand under her chin and gently brought it forward. His slightly damp lips met hers in a long, tender, passionate kiss.

Slowly he opened his eyes and gazed into her milky white complexion.

He raised the knife up behind the rocking chair.

Sasha forced a slight smile and stared to speak.

Parker gently placed his index finger across her full, moist lips.

He smiled.

The knife plunged into her neck.

In a deep ragged voice he choked out the words “Honey…I’m home.”

Interview: Jeff Harrison of Pedaling against Poaching

First, let me Thank Jeff Harrison for taking the time to answer a few questions about his passion, his mission. Truly someone who is driven to make a change.

What drove you to start Pedaling Against Poaching?

My name is Jeff Harrison. I am really just a regular guy… I am an avid mountain biker, married with no kids, and four wonderful dogs. I live in Arizona, and have discovered a passion for protecting wildlife.

It all began in the fall of 2017, when I stumbled across some images of a baby rhino that was standing next to the corpse of his mother that had been senselessly killed by poachers. My mind raced with thoughts of what this calf had just witnessed. I looked on in horror. I was sickened by the pictures and I began to get very angry. It was at that moment that I realized that we can’t just assume that “someone else” will cure the world of this terrible problem. It was time for me to take action. I really wanted to help, to really make a difference…but how can I juggle the normal day to day life in AZ, and help animals on the other side of the globe? I had to come up with a way…

What are you hoping to accomplish through PAP?

My Mission:

I want to prove that a regular guy, with a regular job, on the other side of the planet, can make a difference. My main focus right now is to increase awareness of the senseless and tragic poaching of Rhinoceros, for their horn. I also aim to help stop the false hype that drives the black market for rhino horns. Rhino Horn currently has a street value that is higher than any illegal drug. The trafficking of Rhino horn is fueled by wealthy crime syndicates and global terrorists, and it is used as a black market form of currency that is incredibly far reaching. I commit to spread the word about the Rhino poaching epidemic, and to let people know how they can help fight the good fight. These Critically Endangered Animals are in desperate need of our help now more than ever.

My Plan:

To ride my mountain bike the equivalent in miles, (per calendar year) the length of Africa, from the Northern most point to the Southern tip. Over 5000 miles. I will be riding most of my miles in and around my home state of Arizona. My journey will be logged, with progress updates along the way. Donations can be made based upon miles that I ride on my bike. Donors can select a time period (day/week/month/year) and pledge a monetary amount that will be multiplied by the number of miles compete in the selected time frame.

What has been the most rewarding part of it all?

The most rewarding part of this project is being able to transfer sizable sums of much needed money directly to the best organizations on the ground in Africa. The top three that I donate to at the moment are: The Black Mamba’s Anti Poaching Unit, The Zululand Rhino Orphanage, and Ol Pejeta Preserve. Every penny that I have raised has gone to help support these great people. Emailing them, or calling them to let them know that a wire transfer has been made is by far the most rewarding part. Making a real difference across the globe is what it is all about.

How can people get involved?

The best way to get involved is to start by following me on Instagram and Facebook. I typically post multiple updates per day. Another great place to jump in to help is on my Global Giving donation page. https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/pedaling-against-poaching/ and to visit http://www.helpingrhinos.org. There you can see many ways to help, ranging from a monetary donation, Rhino adoption and ways to support the Black Mambas.

What can children do to help bring awareness to friends and adults about these endangered species?

I think that the best thing children can do, is educate themselves about all endangered animals, and they need to talk about them with adults. More times than not, adults have no idea what’s going on in the world. It will be a strong message when they hear it from a child.

What is your response when someone states -Wild animals in zoo’s are helping save the species?

Some zoo’s are truly making a difference (not as many as people think) but the best ones are part of the species survival program, and they may be the best chance of keeping animals alive. Sadly, many zoo’s are in it just for the money…

How do you deal with the mental, emotional stress upon learning/witnessing the horrors of these beauties?

As far as how to be prepared mentally for witnessing the loss of these animals…I don’t think there’s a single answer for this one. I get super emotional when I am around a living Rhino. Coming up on one that has been poached has to be the most awful thing anyone can witness.

How many miles/hours have you ridden?

10,303 miles 9as of 11.20.19) and I average just over 100 miles per week.

What is your vision for PAP in the coming years?

I am already working on branching out beyond Rhino’s. I will strategically partner with other organizations to help protect other species. Currently we are on average, losing 3 Rhino’s, 96 Elephants, 12 Giraffe and 274 Pangolin per day to the illicit Wildlife Trade. The list of Critically Endangered animals is incredibly long, and every one of them needs our help. I foresee PAP growing into a multi state organization, that continues to develop fundraising events and ideas. I am now officially partnered with Helping Rhinos http://www.helpingrhinos.org. Helping Rhinos is a UK based operation and is on the cutting edge of Rhino conservation. I now sit on the board of directors, and we have some pretty aggressive goals for growing our presence here in the USA.

What is your next big ride?

Black Friday. We will be riding 100 miles off road, in the name of Rhino’s!

Any other detail you want to share or include?

I have to say that this project originally started out as a way for me to give something back. I never expected things to take off quite like they have. I have met so many incredible, like-minded people along the way. I have met some absolute true heroes. I am really looking forward to bigger and better things in the upcoming years! This has become a way of life for me, and I will continue to defend our wildlife for the rest of my life.

I must say it has been an absolute honour and a privilege to hear of your beginnings, your goals, your story… Thank you! Truly an inspiration for those who feel there is nothing we can do if we live great distances from those we want to help.

Hearing of your beginnings will hopefully spur others on, as I feel inspired, to make a difference, not matter how big or small.

We are all deserving of life, together

Michelle Boomer

What is meditation?

Meditate: definition by Merriam Webster.

Intransitive verb:

1: to engage in contemplation or reflection

2: to engage in mental exercise (such as concentrating on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness

On more than one occasion, I have attempted to focus on my breathing, relax my mind through guided and non-guided meditations and attend group meditations to no avail.

I have listened to soothing music, read countless books on mind over matter, practiced visual exercises and yoga to find how to “let my thoughts go” as I teach my classes.

Nothing works.

So, if nothing works, why bother teaching children how to meditate?

Simple. Giving them the tools and knowledge of why we meditate and methods on how to meditate will inevitably help them as they grow into adults, something I wish I had learned as a child.

Meditation need not be defined and practiced in a specific manner. Some may find listening to soothing music, a calming voice or silence, is what they need in order to focus and calm their mind.

Others, such as myself, find walking in nature the best way to relax, to hear messages from my inner self.

There is nothing more peaceful and calming than listening to the songs of the birds, twittering high in the trees, singing their joyful melodies as I walk quietly below their perch.

Or sitting beside a flowing stream, watching the water twist and turn around rocks, seeing leaves float by on their way to who knows where.

This for me, is how I “let my thoughts go”. Nature.

Spending time in nature is healing energy

-Emilyquotes

I must admit I don’t meditate as often as I would like. Why is that? What is my reason? What are the reasons for so many people?

There are so many excuses. Many of us read articles, books, blogs, ask for opinions or advice on how to meditate, thinking that maybe reading will help me to meditate properly.

Then there’s the reason: “I can’t focus my mind”, “I can’t concentrate”, “I keep thinking of all the things I need to do” and so on and so on and so on…

I believe one of the main reasons is that we simply don’t set aside time for ourselves. We believe that if we just finish this, or make sure of that, we will be able to take 5 mins. for ourselves.

Another reason, we’re afraid of missing something. What if so-and-so comments on my post/pic/blog/Instagram… What if the phone rings? What if my kids/pets/other half/someone needs me? What if, what if, what if.

The 2 worst words, ever!

For me, it has always been a challenge to relax and not let worry and fear dominate my thoughts.

I have lived with depression and anxiety my entire life, an issue I am currently addressing with the help of a new physician. Although I have dealt with this struggle in the past, there never has been any follow through or attempts to find new tools to help. Reaching out to our former physician never resulted in any solutions. Try this, it doesn’t work, that’s it.

Now, on my very first visit to a new physician, I was given a 2 page questionnaire, need blood work, etc. then another appt. to discuss the next steps. I don’t recall having done a mental health questionnaire before. Yeah! Action!

Meditating isn’t something my fear driven mind is able to deal with at the moment because of what I am dealing with in my life. I have since come to the realization there may be more to my personal struggles than once believed.

It is because of this thought that I wonder how I would have been able to deal with the challenges of every day life had I been taught ways to meditate in my younger years. Maybe my personal struggles wouldn’t have escalated.

Or better yet, had I learned that my love of dancing in the woods, smelling fresh cut grass and the earth after the rain were actually healing, I wouldn’t have thought myself odd. What if …..the dreaded 2 words.

Learning to let your thoughts go, relax, reflect and listen to your inner voice, your higher self, would help us all. And maybe, just maybe there would be less mental health issues.

Meditating is not as difficult as many believe, myself included. Giving this knowledge to young people, in my opinion, will help mental health for everyone.

Namaste

MNH Family

Hello and Welcome to Mother Nature’s Heroes Family! It is the intention of this blog to provide information and entertainment in the form of articles and my other passion, writing suspense fiction.

Please bear with me as I attempt to be consistent with this blog.

While I will post, this will not be a daily blog.

I will be interviewing wildlife advocates, obtaining information on why they do what they do, how we can help either through monetary donations or through another avenue.

I will also be stating my own personal opinions based on decades of experience working with children. And after all, this is one of the reasons I created Mother Nature’s Heroes in the first place!

Mother Nature’s Heroes began here, at this location in the picture, in Burlington, Ontario while I was teaching at a day care. The children were playing superheroes. And while I am a fan of the genre (Jean Grey and Wolverine being my favourite!), I wasn’t comfortable supporting play related to weapons.

So, I thought, why not be Mother Nature’s Heroes? Rescue and protect her creatures from the mean people who capture them? Save endangered species? Become the animal you wish to rescue or be an animal who rescues? And the idea took off! The children were Orangutan’s, Sharks, Lions, Gorilla’s, Whales…. The result was amazing. The children understood rescuing animals and returning them to the habitats when and if possible, and bringing them to sanctuaries when release wasn’t possible.

Mission accomplished!

All in all, what is a blog really? For one to share their knowledge, passion and thoughts as far as I’m concerned. After all,

We are all deserving of life, together.

Michelle Boomer

Meditating with Children

As adults we know how beneficial it is to meditate, helping with physical, mental and emotional issues. If we had learned about meditation as children, many of us may be better able to cope with daily life. Mental health was never given attention 20 years ago as it is today. Things are changing, thankfully. Now we need to teach our children, to give them the tools most of us never had in our early years.

The question is…
How do you gain young people’s interest in mediation? How in the world can preschool children sit long enough to meditate in the first place?

Much of what I have found from years of teaching is voice and tone make a difference. It’s all in the delivery. This is the first step in gaining interest. “Guess what?…” or in a whisper “You won’t believe who came to see me…” or “When I closed my eyes…” are only a few of the opening lines I’ve used when conducting a meditation. Now, I am reminded to meditate by my preschoolers. They are ready and waiting to begin!

After the voice and tone are set, how do you garner interest from a 3 year old? School age children will take a different approach, more conversational directed towards emotions, stress, anxiety, etc.

Step 1:Find a common interest between you and the child(ren). The most common and universal interest for children, preschoolers and school age most often, is wildlife. Many families have pets in the home. And for those who don’t, often the child has the desire for a pet. Children may have a favourite stuffed animal, watch a particular show with animals, and so on. Bring the stuffed animal into the meditation, have it participate. Animals are part of nature, meditate in nature. Wildlife may come to them when they meditate and tell them things they need to know. This is one of the ways I teach children to listen to their hearts, or in adult language, listen to their intuition/instincts. By introducing a wild animal, cool and exciting for children, they are eager to see who visits them. Several of my preschoolers have seen wild animals, even mentioning those we had yet to discuss. This tells me they were drawn to the animal and that it did enter their thoughts.

Step 2: Ask why we meditate. This opens up the conversation, allowing you a starting place. Have they practiced meditation before? What do they know about meditating? What can it do? How does it help our bodies? There may be several answers, there may be none. Always find a positive way to acknowledge their contribution. Children like to know they are right, it helps build their confidence, public speaking, and group participation. They may have a reason why we meditate that didn’t occur to you!

Step 3: Explain why we meditate, in their language! School age children are able to understand adult words such as intuition, instinct, energy, clearing, etc. These concepts are more difficult for the preschool child, although there are some children who are quite advanced for their years. “To get the yuckies out of our heads, to get the yuckies out of our tummies, so we can hear our hearts talk to us, so we can hear our tummies talk to us, to calm our bodies, so the animals can come to us“, these are the exact phrases my preschoolers have used in the past, words they understand. We review why every day and they know their hearts will talk to them when the yuckies are out of their bodies. A great concept for them to grasp as meditating will be of great benefit when they get older.

Step 4: Be prepared to clarify. Example: Yuckies in my body. Children can understand yuckies, but in their bodies? How do they get there? Will I get sick? Yuckies come from pollution, and from there gently explain pollution from cars, foods, and thoughts that make them sad. Again, their language.

Step 5: Set the mood. Close the curtains/blinds. Choose the appropriate music. One of our favourite sounds is Dolphins and Whales. Another is crickets. There are hundreds of sounds and meditation music, experiment, and always ask the child’s opinion. Our latest favourite is the lotus flower. This is a meditation with hand movements, the opening and closing of the lotus flower.

Step 6: Find a comfortable space/position. Have them close their eyes, cross their legs and listen to the music. Sometimes it is difficult for children to keep their eyes closed so they know they can put their hands over their eyes. Some of the children have went from crossing their legs to sitting forward on their knees, head to the floor. And if there is space, they lay on their stomachs or back. Ensure the child is comfortable.

End the meditation by asking them to share their thoughts, what or who came to them. There may not be any answer or there may be several. Always gauge the room/class/child and see if they want to share. Some may, some may not. Never push or give your thoughts, let them say what they like.

An amazing thing happened before meditation one day when we were discussing why we meditate. One little boy said that when our hearts are happy, we can help the mean people’s hearts be happy too. We, the teachers, were stunned. A 3 year old child was able to understand that by having a happy heart, they would be able to help those who didn’t. Miraculous!

Another day during meditation, one of the children had his eyes closed and was swaying back and forth moving his hands in the motion of in and out in front of his body. Was he subconsciously clearing the negative energy from his body? Was he listening to his intuition? My belief is yes, he was. Children at this young age act without thinking and are more likely to follow their instincts without knowing that is what they are doing.

Remember to make it fun. Children will request meditation and perhaps teach you things you need to know!

Michelle Boomer is a veteran day care teacher and Young Yoga Masters certified Children’s yoga teacher. She has dedicated close to 2 decades of educating young minds in nature literacy and physical and mental health.

Surprise -by Michelle Whitehead

originally published April 9, 2014 on Commuterlit under the name: Michelle Boomer https://commuterlit.com/

Abby left the cemetery the same way she arrived. Alone.

She slipped into her 1969 black Mach 1 Mustang and tried to find a comfortable position. She slid on the leather bucket seats, gripped the steering wheel and repositioned herself. The car felt alien. This was the first day it had left the garage since her mother’s death three days prior. She had never ridden in it before. She didn’t even know it had existed until her mother drove it into the garage the day before she died.

It was a nice car. Abby liked the car. Abby stared out at the hood of the car. It was nice and shiny and black.

Abby felt like she was going crazy. The car, the car. She sat in the infamous car, closed her eyes and held her breath. Maybe the car would disappear, taking her with it.

She opened her eyes and stared at the cold, bleak cemetery. Stark grey tombstones, bare trees. It was the perfect picture for a Hallowe’en movie. The way her life had been going, she wouldn’t be the least surprised to see a blonde bimbo run screaming past her.

Her life seemed to be spinning out of control. This too was alien. She was sued to a nice quiet life. Her nice organized apartment. No roommates. No boyfriend. And no friends to walk through her door with a bottle of wine or some other hastily bought gift of hospitality.

Abby slipped out of her high heels, pulled off her stockings and stretched her legs. She looked around the interior of the vehicle and tried to figure out the best way to change from her skirt and blouse and back into her jeans and t-shirt.

She wiggled and squirmed into her pants, legs outstretched hitting the passenger side door. She dug out her plain white t-shirt and pulled it over her head, arms bent at awkward angles.

Ah, comfort.

She reached into the glove box and pulled out the directions to some piece of land she now owned. She didn’t know where it was how to get there. The lawyer was of no help either. He had handed her the bundle of papers and quickly departed before she had a chance to ask any questions. Now it was up to her to find this plot of land. If that’s what it was. She hadn’t bothered to look through each and every paper. She didn’t really care. She just wanted to view the property and then sell it. She wasn’t exactly a country girl and from the look of the directions, that was exactly where her new found inheritance was located.

With her GPS miscalculating, it took roughly two hours to find. Two very frustrating hours of back roads, concession number what-evers, route number who cares and endless dirt how do you drive this, roads. But she finally arrived.

She parked the car in front of a forest of long grass, overgrown bushes, vine laden trees and an endless bounty of flowering shrubs. If the concession number hadn’t been there, she would have drove by the overgrown patch of land.

She grabbed the bundle of papers and climbed out of the car.

Abby stood staring at the structure hidden behind the mass of green. She rustled through the papers, finding a deed to a house. This house.

She sank to the ground. Abby wasn’t used to surprises. Staring up at the old home, realizing it was now hers, was a bit overwhelming. Especially on the very day she buried her mother. She should be used to surprises. After her Father passed one month ago, her Mother became alive again. She was actually warm and loving, to a point. Surprise.

She quickly stuffed the papers back into her baby blue purse. She wondered if this house was her parents or just her Mother’s. She didn’t see her Father’s name on the deed anywhere.

She knew she should be experiencing some kind of emotion. Sadness, grief, despair. She probably should be crying over her Mother’s death -maybe too at the overwhelming amount of information she had just received. But sitting there, amongst the weeds, she felt at peace. Happy, calm, even content. This was the most surprising feeling. She didn’t expect that out here, in the pollen-filled, dirt-covered land. She could actually say that she was eager to look inside the house.

Abby quickly began her march down the overgrown gravel drive. She occasionally glanced over at the house. Why keep this house a secret? She silently asked.

She carefully chose each step. Twice she felt something brush the back of her hair, causing her to jump back and look around. Not sure what she expected to see, she quickened her pace, only to barely miss ending the life of a friendly garter snake.

Okay, relax, she thought. It’s only a snake.

Abby followed a well-worn path through the growth to the back of the home. The yard behind the house was more overgrown than the front. A large willow tree stood in the centre of the overgrowth, branches swaying in the breeze.

A large newly stained deck extended approximately 10 feet from the back door, Abby calculated. clearly, someone has been here recently, she thought.

She reached into her purse and fished around for the key the lawyer had given her. She tripped and fell over a large root jutting from the ground. The contents of her purse fell in the brush.

“Son of a…,” she said. She crawled on her hands and knees, gathering the contents of her purse and stuffing them back inside the leather bag. She couldn’t find the key.

“Are you looking for this?”

Abby jumped off the ground and spun around, coming fact to face with a stranger dangling the shiny key.

“What the hell!” She took a few steps back and held her purse, ready to smack the guy if he came any closer.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you.” He reached out his hand, handing her the key.

She quickly grabbed it and remained guarded. “Where the hell did you come from? And what are you doing here? Who are you?” She asked. She was shaking. She reached for her cell phone. “I’m going to call the cops so you just better leave.” She began to punch 911.

“No reception out here, but you can try.”

Abby waited for the call to go through. It didn’t. He was right.

“You better leave, you’re trespassing.” She stood as tall as she could, hoping the intruder would listen.

“I didn’t mean to scare you but I noticed someone here and thought I’d stop by. Name’s Clark. Clark Wess.”

“Well Clark Wess, you didn’t scare me. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m busy.”

“Right, of course, taking care of your Mother’s estate.”

Abby stared at the stranger. Her mouth gaped open.

“Nice to meet you Abby. I’m sorry for your loss. I’ll leave you to your grief.” The stranger waded leisurely through the grass.

Abby rushed to catch the man. “Wait!” She tripped and fell again on the same root. “Seriously!” Her purse remained closed.

When she looked up, the stranger was gone.

She sat on the ground for several minutes, wondering who the stranger was and how he knew her Mother.

A loud caw of a crow brought her back to the moment. She brushed her hands on her jeans and picked up her purse.

The back door looked brand new. She inserted the key in the lock and pushed open the door. Stepping inside she walked a long dark hall lined with cabinets on the right. A door halfway down the tiled hall revealed a dark and dingy garage. She continued down the hall, reached the end and entered a large kitchen on the left.

An old sink lay in the middle of the room, and boxes labelled utensils, cookware and other kitchen essentials were stacked in a corner.

The walls were stripped of drywall, allowing Abby a clear view from the back of the kitchen to the front of the house. If she guessed correctly, there appeared to be a large front room with a smaller room off to the side. A bathroom lay off the kitchen and a set of stairs led up to the second floor.

Abby trekked through the dust and debris to the stairs.

The stops looked like they had been painted white a long time ago, worn with age and very slippery. She took off her shoes before continuing. She didn’t want to end up sprawled on the bare floor.

Shoes in one hand, purse in the other, Abby climbed the steep steps to the second floor.

A deep blue and brass trunk stood at the top of the stairs. It had been well used, with white smears on the lid and dented corners.

Abby looked around the room. Peeling blue-flowered wallpaper hung on three wall, the fourth was a wall of cabinets.

The pitch of the roof made it difficult to stand erect. She slowly walked to the centre of the room and brushed back a loose strand of hair.

Two doors stood to the right, both were closed. She hoped the room were empty. Then all she would have to do was sell the place, as is.

She opened the door on the left and discovered stacks of cardboard boxes, all labeled clothes. As she lifted the flap of the closest box, she found a brown leather jacket. She pulled it out and held it in front of her. Her Father never wore leather jackets, he was a suit and tie man who wore only dress coats.

Abby draped the jacket on the box and went to inspect the last room of the house.

As she opened the door, a waft of lavender filled her nostrils. She hadn’t smelled lavender since she was a little girl living at home.

The room had dark hardwood floors with soft green walls. A white rocking chair and side table stood near the window. There was a decorative pink floor lamp in the corner behind the chair.

Abby stared around the room. She detected a slight smell of paint. Baseboards, closet doors and the window frame all looked freshly painted.

Abby crossed the soft white area rug and looked out the window onto a grassy field. There standing in the middle of the field was the stranger.

He stood looking at Abby.

She backed away from the window and held her breath. Hopefully he would leave.

She kneeled on the carpet and waited a few minutes before inching to the window.

The stranger was gone.

She would have to come back tomorrow, when there was more daylight, only this time she would bring someone, anyone. If this stranger was going to cause problems, she didn’t want to be alone.

Abby sat back on her heels and breathed a sigh of relief. She pulled herself up on the rocking chair.

A small door, three feet high and just as wide, hid in the corner. She hadn’t noticed it before, it blended in with the walls.

For reasons she couldn’t explain, she felt the need to explore. She set her purse on the chair and crawled to the door.

A small decorative box embossed with daises was the only item in the dark cramped space.

Inside were stacks of letters, neatly tied in red ribbon, a small wedding album and a tiny box, big enough to hold earrings or rings perhaps.

Abby opened the tiny box and found two rings, both silver, a man’s and woman’s. There was no engraved date on the band, no name, nothing to indicate who owned the rings. She set the rings and box on the table.

She opened the photo album. There on the first page was a picture of her Mother in her wedding dress, standing in the living room of her parents home. She continued flipped the pages, wondering what her Father looked like 25 years ago.

The groom was not her Father.

Abby dropped the album.

Her Mother had been previously married.

She didn’t want to read the letters. No doubt they were love letters. It didn’t matter, sell this stupid house and get on with my life, she decided.

Abby stared at the neatly bound stack sitting in the box. The first letter on the pile was addressed to her.

With shaking fingers, she reached for the letter. She stared at the envelope in her hand.

“No, open it at home,” she said. She gathered the contents of the box and shoved them back inside the wooden container. She tucked the letter under her arm, grabbed her purse and picked up the box.

She quickly walked to the staircase and took a deep breath. She knew there was no way she would make it home without seeing what was inside the envelope.

She tucked the wooden box under her free arm and looped her purse over her wrist. She tore open the letter.

Inside were 2 items.

She pulled out the first item and saw a tiny 4X4 picture of a man holding a baby. The back of it read: Me and Abby, her first birthday.

Tears began to swell. She recognized the man from the wedding album.

The second item was an obituary.

She read the name of the deceased and let out a cry. She reached out for the wall and sobbed.

“Are you okay?” The stranger stood at the bottom of the stairs. “I thought you may need a friend.”

Abby choked back her tears. “Daddy?” She slid slowly along the wall, and carefully started down the stairs.

Her foot slipped on the shiny wood.

She fell hard on her left leg, twisted towards the wall, hoping to catch herself before she plunged down the steep staircase.

She lurched forward.

Abby desperately reached out in an attempt to regain her balance.

The contents of her purse clanged and scattered down the gleaming steps. The lid of the box broke. The letters tumbled and the ring box skipped down to the bottom, rings bouncing to the ground. The photo album flapped and banged into Abby as she rolled over and over.

She felt something snap.

Down she tumbled, her body banging from wall to wall. Her arms and legs flailing like a marionette. She landed with a loud thud.

The obituary fluttered to the ground beside the dead girl.

It read: Clark Wess.

Chocolate milk, nachos and guacamole -by Michelle Whitehead

originally published October 2, 2014 on Close 2 the bone http://www.close2thebone.co.uk/wp/?p=1826

Warren was pleased with himself.

After months of struggling, he had finally reached the end of his journey.

His latest drive into town for his reward and subsequent spur of the moment detour had given him the inspiration he needed to finish what he started.

He always loved late night, or rather, early morning drives. It helped to clear his head. Being the only soul out in the sleeping town gave him a sense of peace and calm. Knowing hundreds of people were tucked in their beds while he was out roaming the streets, stopping at the local twenty-four hour grocery store to pick up his favourite nachos and guacamole, made him feel as if he were part of some great secret. Maybe he was.

Warren stood staring through the huge picture window in the study. It was still dark. The cool Autumn sun wouldn’t rise for another few hours.

He sipped his chocolate milk and turned back to his computer on the other side of the room. His arms were still a bit sore from lugging the packages out of the car.

After setting down his glass and rotating his shoulders a few times, Warren decided it was time to finish what he had started back in March. After all, he was on a deadline.

He sat at his computer and poised his fingers over the keyboard. This was a special moment and he wasn’t about to rush through the end of his novel just to please his publisher. The end of a satisfying and lucrative career deserved special attention. And since this would be his fifth and final novel, he had taken great care to convey each character’s experiences just enough for the reader to feel their emotions along with them yet no so much as to draw out an endless scene and lose interest.

Warren began typing the last pages of his thriller suspense. He was actually surprised at how well it had unfolded. He had taken great pains to make sure there was drama and intrigue to appeal to the male population while at the same time incorporating romance and of course, the detailed sex scenes for the female population.

Uncontrollable crying broke his concentration.

He glared across the room, annoyed at the unwelcome interruption. Now, he would have to leave and deal with settling his nerves. Crying always unnerved him.

He decided to wander the grounds, maybe roll in the dew covered grass. That always settled his nerves and hopefully by then the crying would have quietened. He only had one more day to finish his book before the deadline.

Warren lay on the lawn and played with the ring dangling from the chain around his neck. It used to belong to the most perfect woman he would ever have the pleasure of meeting.

Emily.

He had brought her to this very spot, underneath the willow tree, and proposed. The wedding was under the willow tree. Years later she died under the willow tree. He loved the willow tree.

That’s when he decided to write his fifth and final novel, to capture forever the best and worst parts of his life. He realized experiencing happiness differed with each life event. Happiness from marriage wasn’t the same as happiness from winning the lottery, or enjoying nachos and guacamole. It was the same with sadness. Feeling sad over the death of a loved one wasn’t the same as feeling sad over spilling your chocolate milk.

That’s how he had written four bestsellers, he lived most of them.

He stood up, brushed several blades of grass from his trousers and headed back inside.

The house was quiet.

Thank god.

He returned to the study and walked over to the fireplace. After several minutes he succeeded in starting the fire. He repositioned a log with the poker then decided it was now or never.

Time to finish his novel.

He typed out the final scene, the one with the victim and the perpetrator.

The victim was sitting on a rather uncomfortable chair, no…couch, no…chair, yes, chair. Her hands were tied behind her back.

His fingers flew across the keyboard. He couldn’t type fast enough, the words were racing from his mind to the keys to the screen.

The vicitm, Sophie, would regain consciousness and be confused. She wouldn’t be able to talk, an old teddy bear would be stuffed in her mouth.

Oh, that’s good. Creepy old teddy bear.

The perpetrator, Peter, would sit grinning in front of her. He would explain how sorry he was for her. This wasn’t supposed to happen but she left him no choice. If she had just left him alone, stopped bugging him, laid off with the casseroles, then maybe she would still be in her tiny little home in the city instead of in the middle of nowhere.

Damn.

Warren stopped his flurry of typing and left the room. He had to pee.

He avoided looking into the mirror. He knew what was there. There was noreason to see the hollow face staring back at him. After his book was finished there would be time for sleep, and maybe some real food other than nachos and guacamole and chocolate milk.

He shook himself, flushed the toilet and washed his hands.

He walked back to the study and picked up where he left off.

The victim, Sophie, worked herself into such a state that she toppled over backwards and lay staring up at the ceiling, gagging on the teddy bear.

Good, that was good. Now did the perpetrator right the chair?

Warren thought about that for a moment. He took a sip of his chocolate milk.

Yes, the perpetrator would be the gracious host and right the chair. Maybe, for ole’ time sake, he would remove the teddy bear?

Warren didn’t have time to think about that. His fingers typed so fast he had to go back a few lines to fix a spelling mistake.

The perpetrator, Peter, removed the gag.

The vicitm, Sophie, begged and pleaded, apologizing for bothering him, asking what she could do to make things better. Anything he wanted, anything.

Now Warren was beginning to bore of the scene. Time to close out the book, end it.

The victim, Sophie, finally realized there was nothing to be done. She started to scream over and over. Somehow she managed to fall forward in the chair, her face smushed against the carpet. Her screams would fall on the shadows of the room, echoing into the night, perhaps bouncing from tree to tree.

Oh that was good. Warren couldn’t wait, almost done. Then he could reward himself with nachos and guacamole.

The perpetrator, Peter, would lay down beside her and stare at the green eyes red from crying. He would smile but do nothing to help.

The victim, Sophie, screamed over and over.

And now for the final paragraph.

Warren’s heart was racing, his palms were sweaty, the keys on the computer were moist.

Her screams ended with the fireplace poker smashing her skull.

Warren wiped his hands of blood and sipped his chocolate milk.

Time for nachos and guacamole.

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