Weekend Words : Facing The Fire

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Facing The Fire

I do not consider myself to be an exceptional person. I am content with being average. I do not consider myself to be particularly brave, nor do I feel I am leaving any sort of mark on the world. However, when I tell people that I am a firewalker I get some strange reactions. Some say I am crazy, some think I am brave and one or two have even said I am an inspiration. I am often embarrassed by these reactions. I wave away praise and blush at the compliments because I feel so undeserving of it. I don’t think that I am any of those things. I just want to do what little I can to make the lives of sick children a little bit easier. Children like my son. My son is my hero. There are times when I am in awe of his strength and character. You might never realise to look at him, but my son has a disability. He has never let that stand in his way. He is captain of the basketball team, a Tae Kwon Do champion, an athlete and a boy scout.

Soon after he started school, my son began to have difficulties with his health. In the beginning it was brushed off as stress from starting school, but as the months passed his health deteriorated and it became apparent that there was a more serious problem. It took many years of fighting with various healthcare professionals before we finally found the support and the diagnosis we needed. Things improved quickly from then on and in the past few years we have finally managed to get things under control. Through it all my son has carried himself with the quiet dignity of someone much older. He made it through the bullying, the endless tests, the unpleasant medication, the stress, the therapy and the emotional trauma much better that I did. The number of times that he has complained, despite the pain and discomfort are very few. I wish that I had half of his strength. He is the reason that I chose to become a firewalker. His disability and the struggle we had to find the right treatment is what inspires me to raise money for the local hospital in the hope that more children can have better access to specialised paediatric care rather than relying on the family doctor, who might have no idea how to handle their illness. I wanted to do something that would require daring, something that would somehow measure up to the bravery of a little boy who could make it through all that life threw at him and do it with a smile on his face. I don’t think there is anything that I could do to match his courage, but fire-walking seemed like a good place to start.

The first time I ever walked barefoot across burning embers it was a bitterly cold November night in an otherwise ordinary hospital car-park. It may not have been the most glamorous of locations, but the scene was certainly dramatic! A fire eater was entertaining the small crowd of spectators who had gathered to watch the festivities and bright orange flames danced in the darkness at the far end of the car-park, just barely visible from the windows of the small room in the children’s hospital where the other fire-walkers and I were undergoing some intensive psychological training. At least, that’s what they called it. In reality, it amounted to a couple of hours with a motivational speaker, playing some silly games designed to make us relax. I had never held motivational speakers in high regard until that day, always believing that they were just pretentious know-it-alls full of their own hype, but at the end of those two hours I was a convert. I fully believed I could do anything at that point. I felt like a super hero, or at least I did until I walked outside.

When the hospital doors opened the first thing that hit me was the surprisingly pleasant smell of burning wood and it was somehow very comforting. The rich, slightly sweet smell echoed of happy childhood memories of times spent by a camp-fire, grilling sausages and toasting marshmallows. I inhaled the rich aroma of the smoke and it calmed me for a moment. That split second of inner peace was soon shattered when our motley crew of brave souls spilled out into the night air and caught sight of the bed of hot embers for the first time. I descended the stairs to the lower level of the car park never taking my eyes off of the dancing flames along the edges of what now seemed to be an endless path of glowing red embers being raked over by the fire master and sending sparks shooting into the air. The heat hit me when we were still fifty feet from the foreboding path and I suddenly heard the voice of our instructor echoing inside my head telling me that the temperature was around 1300 degrees Fahrenheit and that human flesh burned at just 130 degrees. That was the moment I was forced to remind myself why I had put myself in this crazy situation. Glancing back at the hospital building behind me I thought of all the children inside who were fighting all sorts of illnesses. I realised how thankful I was that my son wasn’t among them. Instead, he was down there by the fire lane. Knowing that he was out there in the dark watching was what spurred me on. I didn’t dare to look for him in the crowd of onlookers. We had been warned beforehand not to talk to our friends or family once we were at the fire lane, so there was no chance of anyone breaking down that confidence the instructor had just spent several hours building up. I knew if I saw him I would want to go to him and give him a hug.

There was a fairly large group of us waiting to take up the challenge even although we lost one or two somewhere between signing the rather scary liability disclaimer and arriving at the start of our blazing path. The waiting might not have been so bad had it been summer, but unfortunately it was the dead of winter and the temperature was hovering menacingly somewhere around zero. The contradictory feeling of the thick wall of heat rising from the fire and the sharp bite of ice cold tarmac on my bare toes made me giggle, and once I started I just could not stop. I was suddenly struck by the thought that I really was mad after all and had simply given into hysteria! Thankfully, in reality it was just a nervous reaction and I wasn’t quite at the stage where anyone had to slap some sense into me! The irony of spending several minutes dancing from foot to foot to keep warm was not lost on any of us as we waited our turns and by the time it came to me it was almost a relief to step onto the warm strip of turf at the beginning of the path. The instructor took my hand and gave it a squeeze while another member of his team raked over the path sending up a fresh shower of sparks and transforming the slightly dimmed walkway back into a brightly lit trail. He asked if I was ready and when I whimpered something that must have sounded to him like a yes he told me to prove it and gave me a gentle push and set me on my way.

It was over in a heartbeat. That seemingly never ending fiery road took just seconds to traverse. Before I had even had the chance to get used to the warm, and unusually wet feeling of the treacherous surface underfoot I was already stepping back onto the frozen concrete at the other end. A surge of adrenaline was pulsing through me and just as we had been promised at the beginning of the night, I couldn’t wait to do it again. I would have walked up and down that bed of burning wood all night if I had been given the chance. Grabbing my shoes I finally searched the crowd for my cheering section and found them jumping up and down grinning like Cheshire cats. I made my way over and was almost knocked to the ground as my son, best friend, her boyfriend and my fiancé all mobbed me! They were all telling me how amazing it looked and how proud they were of me, but I already felt like it was no big deal. It had been easy and fun and not scary at all. How quickly I managed to forget the knot of terror that had taken up residence in my gut previously!

We were called back together to be debriefed and get our certificates, and as we stood huddled together by the dying firelight the first flakes of snow began to fall, dusting the last smouldering remains with powdery white. It seemed appropriate somehow to have walked through the fire into the ice and snow. The snow that fell that night didn’t leave for nearly 4 months, but it did nothing to distinguish the warm feeling inside when I thought about the experience.

Weekend Words : I Am Born..

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Chapter 1 : I Am Born.

On May 18th, 1980, Mount St Helens erupted. One year on there was a different sort of eruption as I burst into the world and turned it on its end. I was the proud owner of “a fine pair of lungs”, according to my Father and I certainly put them to use. If my older sisters are to believed, I cried so much that no-one saw my face until I was 18 months old – just my gaping mouth. I completed our family – the biological part anyway. Imagine the shock when she was proclaimed 5 months pregnant almost 5 years after being declared infertile. A bittersweet gift considering my arrival put an end to the adoption of the son my father had always hoped for. I never got to meet my ‘brother’, he was taken away a month before my birth to ‘make room’ for me.

Silly really – in our house there was always room for one more.

 

Weekend Words : Fairtytale Rewritten

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Fairytale Rewritten

If I were to write,

The fairy tale of my life,

I’d not be the Princess,

I would just be his wife.

With a family at home,

There is no time for play,

Not to sit in a tower,

Brushing my hair all day.

I’ll cook and I’ll wash,

And take care of them all,

I won’t even mind

That I miss out on the ball.

I’d rather not be there,

There is a flaw in that scene,

Those dainty glass slippers

Are just too hard to clean!

I need no fairy godmother

Nor a pixie or elf,

I won’t wait for a Prince,

I’d rather rescue myself!

So while you were dreaming,

Of some fanciful thing.

I lived in real life,

And I married my king!

ents. We all know what the fairytale is supposed to be like; let’s shake it up a little!

Weekend Words : Falling Apart

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Falling Apart

Every beat of my heart hurts,

That means it must have broken.

Vomit rises in my throat,

Stomach tangling in knots,

My eyes burn with stinging tears.

When did I become afraid,

Of the man I’ve always loved?

His rage and hatred chill me,

I don’t understand the anger.

I love him, but it burns me.

He loathes my everything.

I just wish I could fix it.

I miss him. His smile and his

embrace. The sound of his laugh.

All that is left is this shell.

Depression consumed his soul,

Left him trapped in the dark.

I can’t bear to watch him dying.

I try so hard to be strong,

Faking smiles and hiding tears.

It gets harder every day.

It is inevitable.

I am going to crumble.

Inside I’m already broken.

Piece by piece I fall apart,

Secret pain I cannot share.

Often I am told to leave,

but how can I abandon him?

Weekend Words : I Come From

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I Come From

I come from a house full of children,

A mismatched group of girls and boys,

Some related by blood, some by circumstance,

A few stay only for a day while others never leave,

but all of them are family.

I come from a house that suddenly got quiet,

With a father who was too sick for all of us,

One by one they all found new homes,

They went to new homes and new parents,

Or grew too big for the nest.

I come from a house where sadness lurks,

Where we miss the ones who are no longer here,

Brothers, sisters, pets and our father.

Gone before we were ready to say goodbye,

Before we were grown.

I come from a house with new children,

A mismatched group of girls and boys,

Where a grandmother gathers them all to her,

And tells them of when their mothers were little,

And the house is happy again.

Weekend Words : We Meet Again…

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We Meet Again…

The door rattled violently in its frame as his heavy fists pounded on the wooden barrier. The blows seemed to match the rhythm of her heart as it pounded in her chest. She huddled on the dirty floor, pushing her body into the tiny space between the toilet and the sink. Squeezing her eyes tightly shut, she attempted to block out the increasingly irate curses coming from the other side of the door. She realised in hindsight that she should have ran outside, but instead she trapped herself in the bathroom with no hope of escape when the flimsy lock finally gave way to her assailants continuing assault.

Her eyes darted wildly around her prison, searching for something she could use. The floor and walls were completely covered in what had once been white ceramic tile, but the years had reduced them to shades of grey and green. Many of the tiles were missing completely and those that remained were cracked and broken. In the places where the tiles had come loose, a furry skin of mildew clung to the walls making the air thick and stale. It caught in her throat as she sucked air into her burning lungs which were fatigued from running. The ancient Belfast sink had a spiderweb of cracks around the yawning plug hole, ingrained with years of dirt. The victorian style taps had long since dried up and were rusted and crumbling. She prefered not to even think to much about the disgusting toilet which was filled with unidentified sludge, so she turned her gaze to the tiny broken window. The opening was much too small for her to stand any chance of squeezing through it, but as she looked at the jagged glass teeth that remained in the frame, an idea began to form.

It was then that the door finally gave way and he burst into the grimy bathroom.

‘We meet again little one,’he said with a sneer.

She swung her arm upwards in a strong, fluid movement, jamming the shard of glass into his fleshy throat. She watched as he spilled his crimson life force onto the dirty tile floor and smiled.

Weekend Words : A Picture Remembered

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255601_1970624458574_2247363_nWhen some people flick through a wedding album they might point out a favourite photograph. Often that image might be the exchanging of rings, the first kiss or maybe even cutting the cake. Whichever it is, the chances are fair that it will be one of the happy couple. However, if I was to show you just one photograph from my wedding album, you wouldn’t get to see me or my husband. There wouldn’t be a glimpse of my scarlet red wedding dress or my husband’s family tartan.

The image that sums up my wedding shows only my son Christopher, dressed up to the nines in his kilt with the faint white line around his lightly tanned face showing the previous day’s haircut to make his usual mop of unruly hair more presentable. His eyes are focused straight ahead as he carefully tries to contain his emotion, but a single tear escapes and rolls down his cheek frozen there for eternity in my favourite photograph, snapped at exactly the right moment. When I look at that image I can remember every detail of our wedding day. I can see our best man’s comforting hand on his shoulder. I can hear the tip tapping of the rain on the windows. I can feel the emotions I felt that day. I will forever treasure that image as a powerful reminder of our special day.

 

Weekend Words : Beautiful Insomnia

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Beautiful Insomnia

Midnight. The empty street lies still and alone,

lit only by a shining silver puddle in the sky,

resting regal in the heavens on her cloud throne.

The world is silent now, no-one watching it but I,

none dare to disturb the ghostly quiet of the night,

held in a lifeless calm, not dead, just sleeping.

The trees with their skeleton hands offer applause

to the nocturnal birds that dance with the soft wind.

A lone feline ventures into the open, then withdraws,

fading into black velvet shadows like a Cheshire grin.

Darkness wraps up the familiar sights in his embrace,

and distorts them beyond my recognition.

Only at night can I see the world through new eyes,

and I wonder if this is why sleep remains out of my reach,

so that I do not miss the studded diamonds in the sky,

or the haunting melody of the owls as they screech.

I feel no frustration at my restless mind tonight,

I am content to seek out the beauty of the dark.

Weekend Words : In The Bakery

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When I go to work in the early mornings, I like to watch him work. Once I set out my displays in the shining glass counters and turn on the ovens. I always retreat to the kitchen to prepare. From there I can watch him as he works in the long open room that runs off of my kitchen. The shiny silver stainless steel work table is where he will spend most of his time this morning. He sings along with the radio as he works the soft, pliable dough, sending clouds of white flour into the air. It falls like snow, dusting every surface and clinging to the dark hairs of his forearms. I take him a cup of coffee and he wipes his flour covered hands on his white t-shirt and nods towards the racks at the entrance to indicate I should bring him a biscuit. The flour gets every where. It’s okay for him with his white uniform. I have to be careful when I come back here that my smart black trousers don’t get dusted with the white powder. No matter how careful I am they always do, especially on the days when I sweep out the bakery for him once he is gone. Once he has lined up his little balls of dough on huge trays and left them to work their magic, rising and filling with air, ready to be baked come nightfall.