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Well then, I have been in beauty school for three months now and will have accumulated 500 hours in about 2 weeks, yay!  I was able to start working on real people (instead of just mannequin heads) at 300 hours, which was the beginning of April, and so far have done 2 perms and about 4 haircuts.  It’s been fun and a little overwhelming at the same time, mostly because they don’t really teach the way I learn, so I’m trying to figure out a lot of things on my own that they may or may not have told me already, lol.  But the customers have been nice and so far they’ve all been happy with the way they look when I leave so that’s a big plus.

I’ve made new friends!  Well, I’m friendly with everyone, that’s just who I am, but some people you connect with easier than others and I’ve found someone I’ve “clicked” with.  Kyle is one of the two guys at school, about 10 years younger than me, tall, good looking and while you wouldn’t know by just looking at him he is happily engaged to his boyfriend and they are getting married in July. I would have never expected that out of everyone at school he would be my closest friend at school and yet he is!

Kyle was the one to put the first “fun” color in my hair back in February – magenta pink with black tips which I absolutely loved – and he accidentally got a lot of the pink dye on my forehead and it wouldn’t come off.  He felt really bad and kept apologizing until I finally just grabbed him and gave him a quick hug and told him not to worry about it and that I loved my hair.

I was a little nervous about hugging him but in the last couple of years since I became single I realized that if I’m going to experience any kind of human touch at all I will have to have to initiate most of it so I became a hugger.  I hugged my Asian family and my friends back in the town I came from as much as I could but I don’t have anybody to hug here in Montana – except my folks and for some reason family doesn’t really count for things like this.  So I made a quick decision to give him a hug and was really relieved that he didn’t look upset afterwards.

Fast forward a few weeks to a Really Bad Day.  I was super stressed out, Beauty School, having mostly late teen and early twenty-something girls is FULL of drama, people talking loudly and lots of high emotions flying around all over the place.  Add to that the fact that I’ve been couch-surfing since October and was struggling with a bit of depression again along with trying to adjust to my new life here in Montana and it was just a really bad day.  I made it through school feeling fragile and ready to cry at the drop of a hat.  After school I posted something on Facebook to my friends about please hug everyone you know, often and randomly because you don’t know when someone is having a hard day and most people really don’t get enough physical affection.

The next morning I walked in the back door to school, which opens into the break room.  Everyone goes there first thing in the morning to put their things in their locker, their lunch in the fridge and hang their coats on the hooks so it was full of girls.  Kyle sees me and in front of  God and everybody he wraps me in a giant bear hug.  He held me for much longer than an “normal” hug, let me go and we separated enough for him to see that I was trying not to cry so he pulled me close and hugged me again, long but not quite as long as the first one.

All of the girls at school were staring at us, apparently this is not how he hugs everyone else and he does a fair amount of hugging because he’s a very friendly guy and just about everybody loves him – or is in love with him, ha, ha.  He is also quite handsome, most of the girls would like to sleep with him and tell him so to his face regularly – but besides not being interested in girls he is committed to his partner of 6 years and just laughs.

I wrote him a little note telling him how much I appreciated – and needed – the hug and that I noticed how he helps other students and the teachers, just a little encouraging note that said I was proud of him for being such a nice guy.  I’ve done similar things before and the recipients usually (not always) say thank you and it’s never mentioned again.  Kyle seemed to go around and show just about everyone important to him.  I know for sure that he showed the owner of the school – who told me later what a nice thing I did in writing the note –  and then Kyle told me that he showed it to his boyfriend and it made him cry.

I’ve never had anyone share my notes with other people before, that was pretty cool.  Because of his reaction to my note I’ve written three more to other students and while they each said thank you and really appreciated the notes it didn’t enable a connection between me and that student like it did with me and Kyle.  I don’t know if it was because they were girls or because Kyle and I have just clicked and I don’t connect as well with them… regardless I’m going to keep writing those encouraging notes and try to write one for everyone by the time I’m done with school

Ever since then he hugs me regularly, pretty much daily and sometimes often more than once a day.  I have become the envy of all the girls who swoon over him, which is entirely a new feeling for me that I’m torn between enjoying and feeling bad about, I’ve never been the girl that other girls are jealous of because of a boy!  And Kyle gives the best hugs, ever.  Even when I was married I never got a hug like Kyle’s from my husband.  Kyle hugs me long and tight, he holds on until I start to pull away.  There is absolutely nothing sexual about his hugs and I feel completely safe in his arms.  He talks to me sometimes and shares stories about his past, his childhood, what was going on in his life when he became homosexual, how some of his family reacted and a few other things that I doubt he tells very many other people.  Sometimes when we hug he tells me he loves me and I say I love him back but again, it’s not at all romantic.

I think that maybe he has never had anyone offer him friendship and affection without strings or sexual joking attached so he probably needs the hugs as much as I do.

We’ve even started messaging each other outside of school occasionally and Kyle said he would go to a movie with me.  I asked if his boyfriend would be okay with that and he laughed and said it was cute that I asked.  He says he’s looking for a boyfriend for me but that it will have to be someone super-special.  The feelings I have for Kyle are pretty much the same kind of love that I have for my best friend from high school.  Deeper than family or marital love; a total, unconditional love between friends.  Kyle’s hugs and friendship have changed my life and made every day at school a little brighter and the hard days easier and I hope that I make his hard days easier too.

I found a word, Cwtch.  It’s Welsh and it means:  A hug that feels like a safe haven.  It’s pronounced like “crutch” except without the “r” so say “cutch”.  Kyle is my Cwtch.  I wish everybody had one and he has inspired me to hug even more people because I know I’m not the only one suffering from lack of physical affection, even in my small sphere of influence.

So I’m going to encourage you too – Go Hug People!  Go be somebody’s Cwtch.  You may never know the difference your hug can make, the life you may actually save by reaching out and touching someone, by hugging them with affection regardless of how “good” of friends you are.  People need to be touched so become a hugger!  Hug hello and hug goodbye.  Tell people you love them, it means you care about them and it doesn’t have to mean anything else.  Be a safe haven for people.  The world needs more Cwtch’s.

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Last week I overheard a lady on the bus say:  “It’s terrible, there’s no shadows on the ground from the sun, it’s just terrible!”

She seriously sounded like the world was going to end if the shadows didn’t come back so I, of course, quickly glanced out of the bus window and was able to see the shadow of the bus on the sidewalk…  Whew!  That was close!  To be fair it was a really faint shadow because of the smoggy atmosphere but the shadow was most definitely there so I don’t think she had very  good eyesight.  But like many of the tangents in my life it made me think…

A shadow is essentially proof, in darkness, that something is standing against the light, blocking it from reaching the surface.  Shadows can be very dark or very faint, depending on your light source and the opacity of the object causing the shadow… and, apparently, your eyesight.

A shadow is not good or evil in and of itself, it’s all in how you perceive it.  Some examples are:  The lady on the bus viewed the absence of shadows as something terrible and unnatural, scary even but people under trees in the middle of a hot summer view shadows as a blessing.  At night, when a statue is lit from the bottom the shadows make the face look very creepy and it becomes a wonderful place to sit and tell ghost stories.  When that same statue is lit from the top it appears normal and your ghost stories have less umph.  Walking from bright light to deep shadows can be unnerving because you can’t see anything until your eyes adjust whereas going from deep shadows to bright light is usually quite nice.  Your perspective changes everything, eh?

My musings turned me towards wondering – where the shadows are in my life?  What bad habits are standing up, against the light and causing a shadow on my surface?  Where am I dark?  Is the darkness OK?  Am I providing people shade or scaring them with my shadows?  What I am using for my light source?

For me personally my light source should be my Bible because it is the standard of my faith and I believe it is the written word of God.  “Should” obviously implies that it isn’t… not really.

I had to apologize to God this morning because I haven’t been a very faithful follower of His for the last few years…  I allowed my circumstances, my bad shadows, to drag me down and I’ve just kind of stayed there for quite a while, having elaborate pity parties and pushing away the people who love me.  I’m trying to change but definitely can’t do it by myself, I need God’s help!  Thankfully His mercies are new every morning…

Next weekend, for my 40th birthday, I’m going out-of-town on a trip with my two best friends, (who are finally going to get to spend some time together, whoo hoo!) and I’m just going to bask in the shade of our girlfriend-ness.  We are all believers but my friend from high school has a very strong faith and I really need that encouragement, that renewing right now.  I’m ready to start my relationship with God over and want their support.  I need to reach back to the people at my church who have reached out to me and try to start over.  It’s time to come out of the bad shadows and make a new beginning!

This was the question of my small group leader yesterday morning.  Not specifically to me but to all of us – how do we pray?  Some ladies take Prayer Walks and talk to God while they’re walking.  Some ladies write their prayers down and call it Prayer Journaling.  Some ladies have lists of people they pray for and some ladies just talk to God all day long while they’re doing the dishes, folding the laundry and chasing their children all over the house.

Some ladies shared specific prayers like The Lord’s Prayer and The Tabernacle Prayer.  I know there’s also the Ripple Prayer, Arrow Prayers, Prayers you think, Praying the Word and several other prayer formats, most of them my church has taught from the pulpit or had classes on at one time or another and don’t get me wrong – sometimes good to have a format to follow just so you don’t sit there for three minutes thinking “Uh…I can’t think of anything to pray about so life must be OK and I’m done praying now”.

I didn’t actually share with the group yesterday about how I pray.  Throughout a normal week my prayers to God usually consist of conversations, me talking to Him about this or that, just whatever’s going on.  I know God already knows everything I tell Him but it helps me to speak out loud the things I generally bottle up inside.  But for the last six months or so  my basic prayer, the one I pray almost every day is “Save Me”.  I say it over and over again.  I think it over and over again.  “Save me, save me, save me…”.  When life just gets too overwhelming, too crazy and my brain looses it’s ability to think coherently all I can do to pray is say “Save me”.

And He does.

Not all at once, not like in fairy tales or movies where the hero comes swooping down and rescues the princess in one courageous battle and then they ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.

The saving comes slowly and softly so I have time to adjust to each little step of the change that is Being Saved.  My thoughts begin to change.  My heart begins to soften.  My soul starts to thaw.  The chains that bind me grow lighter and are closer to becoming breakable.  My goals and dreams, once nothing more than ashes and dust, show teeny, tiny signs of life returning to the pots I have kept them in at the back of the closet in the furthest recesses of my heart.  With a little water and a lot of faith they will grow into a beautiful plant and bloom once more.  It will just take time, lots of time.  And I guess that’s fair, it’s taken almost 40 years to get to this craziness I call “Normal Life” so why shouldn’t it take a few years to be saved from it?  To find a new “Normal”?

I’m still working on putting together a women’s retreat.  That’s a goal I think I can accomplish within this next year.  I’m also working on making prints of my paintings to sell them – I need to do some more research as far as cost to get started.  My art makes me happy when I look at it and other people say it makes them happy too so maybe there will be a market for it, who knows?  And I want to have my own band although finding the right people and equipment might take a few years to really get it off the ground.  But these are all things I want to do as a part of defining who I am separate from anybody else.  These are things that make me happy when I do them and so I will pursue them – and pray about them, asking for the favor of God and man to be successful in them.

Please support the people around you who are trying to accomplish their dreams – and say a prayer yourself.  Pray that they would receive what they need and that your needs will be met as well.  God hears you and He loves you, every little thing is gonna be all right.

I am beginning to learn that being whole is not found in being alone.  Wholeness is found in being open, not closed.  In being one tile in a mosaic, not a single art piece unto myself.  I need other people, friends, my family.  But I’ve kept myself separate and alone for so long out of self-defense that it’s very hard to let anybody in…  Did it really have to take until I am almost 40 to realize how important it is to connect with other people? <sigh>

Just as I am discovering that there are many facets to Who I Am, it is becoming apparent that each of these facets are tile pieces that fit in many different mosaics.  I have a tile that completes my Family mosaic, tiles that compliment my Best Friends’ tiles, a tile that fits in pretty well at work and a tile that, dare I say it, is improved by connecting with my husband’s tile and improves his tile in return.  Being Whole is giving away parts of yourself to other people who need them and being willing to receive parts of others who need to share.

Knowing this and living it are two different things and one comes far easier than the other.  Learning to trust my husband again is the first and biggest step… and it is not entirely up to me.  He has to prove himself trustworthy to be trusted.  He brought up a very good point that because I don’t trust him (and haven’t for years) that lack of trust has bled over into not trusting other authorities in my life – the church leadership and my bosses at work, as examples.  The more I think about it I believe he’s right but that will have to be another blog.

Tomorrow will be 20 days since I confronted him with his addiction, so far he has been Prince Charming and I’m really enjoying our new relationship… but I’m not ending the 2 months early either.  In fact, I kind of wish I had asked for 6 months instead of just 2.  I’ve lived through 19 years of life being all about him and I want to KNOW for sure that this change is real, that his putting our children and family first above his wants and desires is a permanent change and not something he’s doing just long enough to get me to agree to stay in this marriage and then go back to who he has always been.

Aside from my relationship with my husband being a Whole Person is sharing my friend’s burdens, rejoicing with them when they rejoice and weeping with them when they weep.  It’s supporting my children and encouraging their dreams, helping them to become adults.  Being a Whole Person is being part of a team at work and sharing the load when things get hectic. Being Whole is not actually completing yourself with only yourself.  It is fragmenting yourself to complete others and allowing others fragments to complete you.  How completely backwards from today’s world that teaches us, especially women, that we don’t need anybody else, that we are fully capable of being independent and that we are strongest when we are on our own, that we don’t need anything or anyone to complete us.

And there’s one more part to becoming a Whole Person – God.  I can have a tile in my mosaic from everybody I know but without God’s tile being in the center of the masterpiece that is me I will always feel empty and incomplete.  I am learning that too.  The faith I had as a child died years ago but a seed remained and I can feel it sprouting once again.  I can feel a change coming and soon, I believe I will be a Whole Person – for the very first time!