Redemption of Hope

Redemption of Hope

The heaviness of my heart lands on my fingertips today.  I begin to move toward clarity yet the message that calls to be written hides behind a veil of obscurity.  

So many times confident words leave my heart driven by the power of a story I tell myself.  At times, this story is crafted as a wish for you as well so that you may not get caught in the sticky web of regret.  Memories of my past indiscretions forgotten by most observers live violently free in a world created by the harshest critic, me.

Yet the redemptive power of the word saves my soul.  Each word painstakingly chosen to craft a story of hope.

Hope is the answer for redemption.  Calling on deliverance, writing can move shattered hearts in the direction of a lifeline.

Your words and mine may intertwine to reach the same objective, to free people to be who they were created to be.  Dwelling on a hurtful past does not bring a good future.  And the work of my spirit today is to share hope.  A hope that carried me from harmed and harmful (to self) to helpful.   The pain of the past does not need to build a wall.

Breaking down the barriers between harm and help redeems us all. 

©Erika K Rothwell

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Odie, in his younger days

Love Story

I knew I shouldn’t have acquiesced.  But who can deny your little girl’s begging, “Please Mom, please…just for a minute.  I had always said no.  I did not like compromising situations, nor the call of my heart which often led to non-analytical decisions that could impact the rest of my life.

She didn’t give in.  It was if her whole world of happiness rested on me saying yes.  And so, I was coerced by my love for her to enter the forbidden zone.

And then, it happened.  I heard the cry.  A tiny little puppy, the size of a beanie baby, looked at me with his El Zorro mask and apparent underbite continuing to whimper.  I congratulated the lady holding him asking, “Oh, how cute, did you just adopt him?”.   

She then told me the most heart-wrenching tale of his first few weeks on this earth, by saying, “Oh, no…he’s crying because all of his seven brothers and sisters were adopted and he is the only one left.  He has no one”.  As if that wasn’t distressing enough already, she continued “These puppies were left by the roadside, so we don’t know where his mother is or what breed he is, possibly beagle.”

What happened next, I don’t think I need to explain.  It’s a love story.

He clearly wasn’t a beagle.  He was a maniac.  Most of the time a loving maniac, but he had a button that you didn’t want to ever push.  He was the classic, ‘bark worse than his bite’ type of dog.  We were always afraid that he might, but when he warned it was a snarl and rough kiss that you felt for a day.  His apology always came with a sad, downward glance, as if to say, “I’m not sure what I did or why I did it, but I’m sure I’m sorry.”

No, he wasn’t the perfect dog.  He was the classic ‘need the dog whisperer’ case.   And one came along.  He needed to be understood, and a dear friend took on the job.  We left him for a weekend and returned to an almost civilized companion.

As days turned into years, our research turned up that he may be a rat terrier.  He never chased rats, but the backyard squirrel crazed him.  He would spend hours barking and chasing it along the fence line.

We remember the few field trips he accompanied us on, picturing him riding nervously but sitting up proudly like the captain of the car, pushing excitedly forward to be in the front seat peering at the window, as if he was driving. 

He stayed small, but fierce as he continued to add badges of honor on his shiny black coat.  He once fended off a coyote, loyally saving his master during an early morning run…that same master who yelled and screamed when he was brought home by his love-struck wife.  Next, he barked an incessant warning as he stood by an enormous snake wrapped around our backyard tree.  And finally, he saved his little sister (a rather unsuspecting bichon-poodle) from a hungry bobcat that had jumped our fence, by using all of his napoleon-syndrome traits to corner it by our kitchen door, until his master arrived.

And did I mention the word walk?  “Oh joy”, sarcastically said, those words brought on the most intense yelps of delight and the, all too familiar, tazmanian dance.  It was not easy to get the leash on at that point.

This pint-sized fur ball of furious love was in our lives for almost 14 years.  He greeted us with emphatic tail wagging and learned to go with the family flow, which was pretty loud sometimes.  His anxiety issues stayed at bay most of the time, but when aroused he accepted his family’s love and it was enough to calm him.

He knew we loved him.  Although he was at home outside, his last days brought him inside most of the time, while he would stare out the window or door as if longing for the days of chasing the ‘dang’ squirrel. 

The last run inside and up the stairs to greet his master proved to be too strenuous for his overworked heart.  He went unconscious.  It appeared we had lost our beloved pet.  But not so, he heard my voice and lifted his head as to say, “I’m not dead yet!  Are you bringing me a treat?”

He went on for a few days, tiring with each routine step.  His last walk was actually a ride in the wagon.  Still, he wouldn’t give in to his weakness, jumping out a couple of times before submitting to his obvious lack of strength.  And yet, his fight wasn’t over.  Although, he had trouble getting up, his last evening he turned on his protect mode, when the doorbell rang,  jumping up to run to the door barking his warning as if he wasn’t even ill. 

He was a fighter, struggling to stay strong for us, but he was willing to surrender in the end and pass as he lay down on the grass in the sun for his final nap.

Grieving on the way to the vet,  my son shared that he had searched for proof that pets go to heaven.  I couldn’t help but tearfully relay what I knew in my heart.  Pets, especially dogs, are brought to us in love.  They teach us their whole lives how to be loving by showing unconditional trust in our care and giving us empathetic, and sometimes undeserving devotion.  I believe they come from love and go back to love when they leave us.

He loved us.  We loved him.  He was part of our family.  Odie, our little guy, we will forever miss you.

In folklore, the red cardinal is believed to be a messenger from heaven.  As I sat back down to write today, I looked out to the spot where he had laid motionless in the warm rays of early day.  A red cardinal was walking where he had this morning.

-Erika K Rothwell

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The white bird, egret it’s called.  It walks sticking its neck out with every step.  Around my pond, it spends its days reminding me of heaven, and I’m not sure why.

My husband feels the same.  On unsuspecting quiet mornings, the bird finds his mourning soul.  He smiles while he cries, remembering the man he admired.

My father was not only paternal to me, but he told me one day, “I kind of love him”.  Those words were strong, love was not a word used often.  My father loved my husband, and my husband loved him too. 

His 50th birthday would not pass, without the white bird and all his friends.  It was a white bird convention.  He cried and drove to the church, where my father’s humble memorial service had been held in a tiny room with a large bible and Jesus looking over.  Only the family was there, sharing the gifts of our hearts.  My husband remembered and relived it on his 50th.

Sticking his neck out, my father escaped a war-torn country to suffer homelessness and loneliness.  He arrived in our country as a migratory bird.  He walked tirelessly, not without aggravation to provide for his family.  His neck was strong.  He continued to stick it out, teaching the unteachable.  We loved him, but he did not receive the applause he deserved.  Like the white bird, he was always there.  We counted on him but we did not cheer for him.  He was a constant.  And then he left. 

We still feel him.  And the white bird reminds us.  Love never dies.


– Erika K Rothwell

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Potty Mouth

Potty Mouth

Potty Mouth

I’m here again,  trying to practice the art of consistency.  This awakens a strange memory, teaching my kids to change the toilet paper roll.  I’m not sure why I made such a lesson out of such a mundane task.  This memory is shared by my grown daughter, who now holds a master’s degree and is an R.D., (Registered Dietician).  Although I question whether I had anything to do with her success at all, she repeatedly tells me one of the reasons is because I taught her “to be the person” to change the toilet paper roll.

It seems like such a simple task but undertaken by so few.  The opportunity exists to consistently be the one.  This brings me to a stark realization; consistency doesn’t require a master’s degree, but a master’s degree requires consistency.  I watched my daughter grow and achieve by her consistent efforts to overcome the challenges and obstacles she faced.  There were times she grew weary and yet she pushed forward. 

Today, I am the student, still practicing.  I taught the lesson, but did I grasp its true meaning?  The lesson lies in recognizing opportunities to grow beyond the norm, pushing limits of established comfort zones, and not expecting someone else to do the work.  Yes, It’s difficult to keep showing up and consistently deliver results.  Planning is one thing, results need action. 

When a student signs up for a course, yet never attends class or studies for the exam, they most likely will fail.  It’s great fun to sign up, but when it comes time to do the work, do we show up?  

When life rushes by and excuses pile up, consistency itself becomes a monumental task.  Once again, I am reminded to consider the question, Can I make something happen when life keeps happening? 

Oh, the overwhelming weight of my realizations could derail me at this very moment.  However, I choose to stay present and continue sharing.  And now let me take you back to the toilet paper story.

At an early age, I had to teach myself how to change the toilet paper.  I was not prepared for the real world, having been cared for in an extremely protective manner.  There were days when I felt paralyzed, and it clearly showed in my inaction.  The more I sat, the worse I felt about my inability to accomplish.  The day came when I realized I may not be able to accomplish great things, but I can feel great about accomplishing small things.  The help came in words written by Helen Keller,  “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”  And thus the lesson of the most seemingly insignificant task on this planet, changing the toilet paper roll, was born. 

We teach our children what we have learned, in hopes that they embrace the message and it helps them reach greater heights than we could.  So the lesson was told as follows, “If you change the toilet paper any time and anywhere it is needed, you will have achieved something greater than most.  For how many times, have you come upon an empty roll?   That was someone leaving the job to you.  If you do this seemingly trivial chore, you will be able to achieve great things in life.”

Many other repetitive duties remind me of the importance of these words.  These tiny tasks are the cornerstone of our character.  Each time, I’m able to value an ostensibly insignificant task with an appreciation for how it helps me grow, I feel more capable. 

That humble lesson leads me here today, taking action by writing at my desk, and sharing what I know, in hopes that it may help you consistently grow and accomplish all the great things!

-Erika K Rothwell

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