Winter’s gift 

Softness of snow

Cheeks aglow

Laughter’s melody

A mercies tea

Snow balls thrown

A child is born

Stables ready

Angels steady

The call is made

For faith this day

A king is born

Yet some scorn

Truth be told

A virgins heart is bold

Rejoicing can be heard

Because of what occurred

Heaven has bestowed

The softness of snow

Onto us is given

A new life we should be livin


Stepping over the Threshold Chapter 6

Stepping over the threshold Chapter 6

My Christmas was a mixed gift. I still miss my parents they have been with the angels for 5 years. I wish they could see me now, moving forward becoming more the person they had hoped I would become. Milly and I are making a life for ourselves in Harrison Michigan. My goal is by the end of this coming year I will have a little nest egg set aside. I was proud of myself for going to a Christmas Party with Michelle and Frank and I was thrilled to see Nick and Lori there. I spent part of the evening with my friends who introduced me to Scott Pierce. Scott is an instructor at MSU he teaches Criminal Justice and Forensics. Nick knows Scott from the time they spent together in the Marine Corp. It took me awhile to notice after Nick and Lori introduced me to Scott they slowly drifted away leaving Scott and I alone to get to know each other. Scott is widowed his wife passed away while he was serving in Kuwait. He knew of my problems with PTSD and Thad being the cause by what Nick told him. I told Scott that I did not think I was ready for a relationship. He told me he thought that I might be ready for a friendship and we would see if it blossomed into a relationship. I was fine with that but I do know how I get when I feel cornered. Something tells me that Scott would understand completely.

Scott and I agreed to meet at the Riverwalk  Restaurant in Gladwin for a New Year dinner and from there we would go to a local pub to ring in the new year.

The dinner was amazing we talked about Milly and decided she needed to meet Scotts shepherd Duke. Once at the pub we found a table in the corner, country music was playing loud enough for Scott and me to have a private conversation. It seemed we had a lot to talk about and much in common. Scott told me his first goal was to get me on a snowmobile I laughed at the thought being that my biggest goal in winter is to stay snuggled under a blanket indoors.

Suddenly the music was turned down and the television was turned up. I looked over to see what everyone was staring at. I heard people say “Ass hole was going too fast for the road conditions.”

Another guy said: “Idiot was probably drinking and driving.”

There was a massive accident; the reporter said a driver in a red Toyota truck slammed on the breaks spun out of control causing others to break. Cars are in the median there are wreckers and ambulances on the scene. The person in the Toyota had minor injuries and had been taken into custody for drinking and driving. His name has been released; Thad Parisi.

I looked at Scott and he smiled and said: “Another Christmas Miracle Thad will likely lose his license and quite possibly do some time. You know Brooke eventually you will stop looking over your shoulder and realize you are now in the driver’s seat of your life no longer giving Thad power over you or your emotions.”

I know he is right, in time I will move forward and not look back. Time does heal and love is still possible in my life.

The threshold of the past:

I cling to the threshold

As a child clings to its pacifier

At first not realizing

Growth is the next step

Yet even when I cross that threshold

Growth eludes me

Still clinging to what I thought

I controlled

Not realizing I was still suckling

Onto what caused me damage

Finally when I released my grasp

Allowing the past to wither away

As a used garment or as

A rite of passage

A sorority of derangement

The purpose of which eludes me

Yet after time, understanding

Clings to wisdom in the knowing

That this experience made me

Who I am

That person

God can use mightily to hold others

With less faith and understanding

Of whom He is

The one who saves you

For Himself

Sparing not the rod of Learning

But the perils of Death

Stepping over the Threshold Chapter 5

Stepping over the threshold Chapter 5

Things were going incredibly well, I am doing Michelle’s books, and also some purchasing for her antique store. Michelle has a doctor friend who comes into the market she told him about me; he called to speak with me and made an appointment for me to be interviewed by him and three other doctors who work the same building, all with different specialties. I now can work from home with Milly at my feet not needing to be in contact with the public.

After a few months of this, I decided it was time to venture out into the real world. I wanted to pick up something for Michelle and Frank for Christmas and also Nick and Lori. Midland is only a 10-minute drive on the expressway from where I live there is a mall, that I have wanted to explore.

All the bright lights and Christmas music made me feel closer to normal than I had felt in a very long time. I found my first purchase it is a red and black plaid comforter set. Pillow shams, dust ruffle, throw pillows and even a fleece throw to match I thought both Nick and Lori would love it. My next purchase was for Milly the pet store had reindeer antlers for her to chew on and a huge dog pillow that she may never get out of this winter. It took me a while to find something appropriate for Michelle and Frank; as I was walking, a specialty store which touted local beer and wine, I bought Frank 3 different six packs of beer and Michelle 3 different bottles of wine. I know they would enjoy these as children enjoy their advent calendars both excited to taste the next one.

As I was walking back to my car the parking lot was illuminated by carefully place lights but it seemed dark and desolate to me. I mustered my innermost being by saying a prayer. This is a habit I used every time Thad walked in the door hoping and believing my prayers would be heard and I would be safe. Fear started to rise slowly up my spine prickling the hairs on my body. I could never bring myself to question God as to why he did not save me from the abuse which occurred all too often.

I finally had all my bags in the car and as I climbed into the driver’s seat someone called out: “Merry Christmas” I called back to the person, I recognized her as the woman who stood behind me in a long line in the department store where I bought the comforter set.

I turned the key in the ignition my radio burst on singing white Christmas. Once on the expressway, I put my fears and anger out of my thoughts and gave a silent prayer to God thanking him for that woman who called out “Merry Christmas” My cell phone rang it was my attorney Janice Stewart.

I answered: “Hello Janice what is going on.”

Janice said” I thought you would want to know that Thad is doing a couple of days in county jail. He stopped by my office in hopes of coercing me into telling him where you were. He became belligerent and irate the police were called and he was taken to county jail for disturbing the peace. I have taken a restraining order out on him so I will assure you if he comes back he will do serious time. So rest easy and enjoy your Christmas.”

I thanked her but those words did not bring me comfort only fear that Thad will not give up until he finds me.

Just then something jumped out in front of my car. I slammed on the breaks which sent my car into a full circle spin. I heard other tires squeal and lost track of the deer that darted out onto the expressway. I started to scream and slam my hands against the steering wheel screaming at God: “I was a good girl! I saved myself for marriage! Thad cheated on me like it was a sport! He picked me up by my throat! Pulled me out of bed by my feet! Smashed things in my face! Why didn’t you hear my prayers! Why did you not save me??”

I continued driving as though I was on autopilot. By the time I arrived home I was calmer but the anger had not subsided. Michelle came out to the car to help me with my purchases, Milly bounded behind her. As we were walking up to my flat Michelle asked what was wrong. I told her about Janet’s phone call, my outrage directed towards God and fear that Thad will not give up until he finds me.

As I was taking my coat off Frank came in the door he had something in his hand he set it on the table I looked, it was matted fur still attached to the hide. Frank said: “He did answer your prayers he saved you from the worst of it, you are still alive.”

Tears quietly came down my cheeks as I apologized to God and thanked him for these angels of mercy in my life. I pulled out a chilled bottle of wine from my fridge, a beer and asked my angels of mercy to stay for a nightcap. I am truly looking forward to Christmas.

Stepping over the threshold Chpater 4

Stepping over the threshold Chapter 4

Harrison is hilly, as I came off the expressway turning toward the town a sweet peace came over me. Looking to the right where large homes that surround a lake, just beyond that was town. Harrison is a small town if you sneeze you already went through it. They do have a McDonalds and a gas station. There is a small plaza on the north side of the street next to the main traffic light in town. Or should I say the only traffic light in town. I saw Steve’s Country Market and realized I miss understood where the apartment was. I went in and found Michelle and introduced myself. That is all it took she wrapped her arms around me and said she was glad I was there. After introducing me to Frank, Michelle took Milly and me to our apartment. It was an upstairs flat of an old house; Frank and Michelle live in the bottom flat. There was a large fenced in backyard for Milly to romp.  I put our meager belongs into the flat and was relieved that there was some furniture left behind by the last tenant. A well-worn sofa sat against a wall from a large window. Fichus tree was set in the corner needing a major cleaning.  A small metal-enamel dining table sat next to the small counter near the kitchen. There was a small stove, small refrigerator, and a microwave on the counter. The microwave nearly took up the whole counter which was fine with me, more than likely I would use the microwave more than the stove. I decided to find a piece of wood and transform the stove into more counter space so I had room for my coffee maker.

Michelle came in while I was standing in front of the stove with my hands on my hips she asked: “Is everything alright?”

I smiled and said: “Oh yes I am thrilled there is furniture it’s perfect. I was just thinking about getting a piece of wood to turn the stove into more counter space. I will more than likely use the microwave instead of the stove. If I move the microwave I will have room for my coffee pot.”

Michelle smiled and said: “I have just the thing and just so you know if you want to use our grill go right ahead we use that more than we use our stove.”

I smiled and said: “now that is perfect, the board works and I love to grill. Michelle, you said you have a job for me at the market but it looked as though you had plenty of employees.”

Michelle said: “I own the antique store in town I could use your computer skills and any bookkeeping skills you may have. We just recently automated our inventory; anything coming in and going out is logged into the computer once the item is scanned. Frank and I thought you could actually work out of your place where we would set you up with the computer and a desk. I also own a shop in Gladwin so you would be taking care of both businesses. I can only pay you a small salary plus free room.”

I let out a sigh of relief and said: “I love the idea and whatever you can spare would be fine. I plan on looking for a job in my field I am also a medical transcriber I would be more than happy to find something along those lines so I could work from home. I am not ready to be in the public because I would feel too vulnerable.

Before she left she said she would ask a couple of the doctors who come into the market if they could use a transcriber.

I took Milly for a walk to get some of the kinks out of both of us. When I arrived back to the flat I threw the ball in the backyard for Milly. The weather started to change so Milly and I went up into the flat; I decided to call Nick letting him know I arrived and all was well.

Nick answered on the first ring. I told him everything about the place and how I felt blessed to have met Michelle and Frank. I knew by his responses there was something not right.

I asked: “Nick what is going on?”

Nick said: “I am going to be honest with you, while you were here Lori and I talked to the local sheriff and the deputies letting them know what you were going through they ran Thad’s name. Thad has been released the sheriff called down to the Gladwin sheriff’s department letting them know to keep an eye out for Thad the sheriff told them where you would be located. I felt this would be the best way to keep you safe in case Thad tracked you down.”

I told Nick that this made me nervous but that I knew he made the right decision. If I took out a restraining order I would have to give an address I did not want to give Thad a heads up as to my location or new name. One day at a time.


Stepping over the threshold Chapter 3

Stepping over the threshold Chapter 3


Milly and I stayed two more days. I sat down with my new friends to bestow my gratitude and let them know what I had decided.

“Nick you are right about the distance. I could go to the ends of the earth and never be far enough away. I know I need to walk through my past as though it was a graveyard and take the time to put it behind me. Make peace with who I am and grow from there.” I said

Lori hugged me and we both had a short cry. I love these two people and I told them so.

“You will always have a place in our home and in our hearts. We will stay in touch and if you ever need us we are a phone call away. Nick and I will come if you call.” Lori said

I told them that I decided to head to Harrison Michigan. I had already spoken with Michelle Eames; Michelle and her husband Frank own a small market in town. They have an apartment just above the market. Michelle offered me the apartment for free and a job in the market. Michelle is a kindred spirit, she came from an abusive family when she married Frank they decided to move to Harrison and start a new life together. I accepted her generous offer until I could find work in my field. I am an X-ray technician and would be looking for a job in the field. My old boss Doctor Stencil agreed to give me a good reference under my new name.

I told myself once Milly and I get on the road that I would take my time and not white knuckle it. Nick offered to follow me. I told him that I could do this and that I needed to do this on my own. I gave him my itinerary and promised to call at lunch, dinner and before bed for the next twenty-four hours.

Milly and I hit the road at 10 am after giving our tears and farewells we headed towards Gaylord we stopped at the Turkey Roost for lunch. I walked Milly gave her lunch before I went in for a hot turkey sandwich. From there we went to Houghton Lake. I did not want another meal but I sure could go for a hot cup of coffee. I pulled into the McDonalds parking lot and Milly started to squeal with delight. I always bought her a small order of fries. I went into the ladies room and as I emerged I was startled at the sight of a man sitting in a booth, his back was to me and I could swear it was Thad. My first thought was to run past him, my second thought was for the safety of Milly. I went back into the bathroom and called Nick. I berated myself for not checking the reflection in the window. Fear had gripped me giving my voice a choked sound. Nick had trouble understanding me. He told me to just breath don’t talk. I did as I was told and Nick just talked to me about the weather, about Milly and her silly antics. I cried, which surprisingly calmed me down enough to tell Nick why I called. He told me to stay on the phone and just walk past this guy.

It took everything I could muster just to open the bathroom door. When I came out the man was gone, my heart raced I looked everywhere to see where he went. I told Nick what was going on he calmly talked to me every step I took towards my car. I finally made it to the car without the fries or coffee. I decided to go through the drive-thru to get my coffee. By the time I went through the process of ordering and retrieving my order I had calmed down and decided that the man probably looked like Thad. Nick said that had it been Thad he would have recognized Milly in the car and would have waited for me to come out into the open. Milly has special markings that not too many Labs have. Her forehead is wrinkled and a golden color while the rest of her is pure white.

Back on the road and now headed to Harrison which would only take me another 40 minutes. I know Harrison to some degree because Milly’s breeder lives in Harrison, Nothing Butt Labs.

Stepping over the Threshold Chapter 2

Stepping over the Threshold Chapter 2


Once I put my things in their guest room I took stock of their shabby chick; Lori had a way with little touches to make this makeshift structure homey. I wanted to be the type of friend that I could stay in touch with them as good friends but I was afraid to leave a connection.

Since we all ate at the restaurant I had stopped at the local party story slash gas station filled up and bought what I thought my hosts would enjoy. I chose Jack Daniels and a case of Bush. We sat in their backyard beneath a combination of Jack Pines, hardwoods, conifers and scrub; it was more beautiful than the Caribbean there was peace here. No ocean in the world can allow you this peace; it is a frame of mind. I miss judged Nick I know it was due to his appearance. Nick is a Marine, does not matter if he has been non-active or retired Marine, once a Marine always a Marine. His dental was supposed to be covered by Veterans benefits as was many maladies he deals with. Nick and Lori were high school sweethearts when they lived downstate in Port Huron. Their love was put on hold when Nick Joined the Marines after 911. Tears stung my eyes as they told me of the countless letters they sent to each other especially when the internet was the norm and all things could be sent virtually. I want what they have, nothing you can physically erect could be this strong. Because of their love and devotion to each other, they truly live in Paradise.

They invited Milly and I too stay as long as we wanted. I decided to take them up on it so I can get the needed sleep I was so lacking. Milly has taken to Nick, he plays with her for hours. After taking up space in their lives for more than 4 days I decided it was time for me to move on.

Nick sat down and mapped out my trip for me. He told me that from where we were at it was best to go to Minnesota rather than Wisconsin and he and Lori have friends in Minnesota. Nick called his friends and told them about my need to get out of the state they agreed to put me up until I could find a job and a place to rent. Nick asked if I was in a hurry to leave, I said no but that I thought I took up enough of their time he then said:

“I need to say something to you and I hope you take some time to think about it. I can understand your need to get away from your soon to be X-husband but getting away does not need miles it needs time, soul-searching and change. The change needs to happen within you. Understanding how you chose him, why you stayed as long as you did and other issues which contributed to your sense of self. The best way to empower yourself is not in distance but the strength you gain from knowing and understanding yourself. I would suggest you stay in Paradise Michigan but the winters can be harsh and it’s not for the faint of heart. We also have friends in Harrison Michigan. It is hilly, wooded and a tightly knit community. Stay another day or two and think about what I said.”

I thanked him and realized when he told me this that he is right. I still have nightmares of my husband coming home after having a few drinks; I could hear his footsteps coming down the hall. I would pretend to be asleep hoping he would just crawl into bed and go to sleep some nights he would, while other nights he would drag me out of bed by pulling my foot if I would resist he would smash something in my face, usually food so I would be forced to get up to wash it off. These dreams wake me causing me to cry and wish I were on another continent. I still walk daily as though I am in an echo chamber trying to silence the memories of his harsh voice and abuse.

Stepping over the Threshold Chapter 1

Stepping over the threshold Chapter 1


My hands white-knuckle their grasp of the steering wheel my mind swirls in it’s introspective of the past 5 years. Falling in love giving yourself to someone without hesitation till death do you part never thinking how someone who professes to love you could be so corrosive to your being. Just thinking about such things as the time he brought home a puppy, my heart soars loving its beautiful soft wiggling tail. Lick kisses were bestowed onto the puppy as a lover on their honeymoon. Soon this beautiful moment ceased as my husband berated Milly for soiling the floor. I finally told him I would be totally responsible for teaching her to go outside. I enlisted help from those who have raised puppies for different organizations. It took merely days to have Milly quiet at night and asking to go out to do her business.

As my mind remained in the mire of urgency, crisscrossing over the inflictions that were repeated daily Milly stood behind me, on the back seat, licking my neck as if to say; “Thank you for getting me out of there.”

I instinctively recoiled at the sound of someone yelling at another driver when I stopped at a light. Milly’s whimper echoed my thoughts. I turned onto the on-ramp hoping the expressway would be our ticket to a faraway freedom that I could only dream of. Once I finally got past the self-loathing and my dilapidated self-worth I made the decision to leave. Many friends had given me advice as if it was the most elementary course to take none could phantom why I would stay.

Soon Milly and I were 50 miles away yet even at that distance we were too close. I needed an ocean apart from Thad. My plan is to cross the Mackinaw Bridge go up through the UP and cross over to Wisconsin; from there find a secluded small town and rent something small out in the middle of nowhere. I have changed my name and my appearance. My appearance can only be changed so much what helped was when Thad broke my nose, I filed a complaint they only kept him a year; my journey started two months before his release. That is when I changed my name and enlisted help from friends to have my nose fixed my hair color changed, colored contacts before I had my photo taken for my new driver’s license which I applied for in Ohio giving a temporary address. Milly and I have been traveling companions for some time now. She is comfortable with traveling to any destination. I am hoping Wisconsin will be the end of the line I need to nest and make my peace with the world.

By the time we reached Paradise Michigan I needed to stop for the night. Lodging was hard to find especially with a dog. I berated myself for not looking into places to stay but then I realized this was the best way to do it so I would not leave a virtual footprint to my location. I am hoping Thad will think I went south since I have an Ohio driver’s license.

I need to get used to my new name Brooke Lambert instead of Stella Parisi. I realize I can get away with the hesitation when someone uses my new name by blowing it off as distracted due to fatigue. I talk to myself using my new name to get used to the sound of it.

I pulled into the Paradise grill parking lot, before going in I fed Milly and walked her. Autumn weather can be fickle especially this close to Lake Superior. I did not want to meander but I did want to stay long enough to be folksy and have a bite to eat. I need directions and I am not averse to taking a route to a different destination. Wisconsin is not written in stone; it would only enhance my odds of making this escape complete.

I sat down in a booth next to the waitress station hoping to start up a conversation with one or more waitresses. Silly me, with the size of the restaurant there was one waitress and the cook pitched in. There was a gentleman (I use this term guardedly) I try not to judge people by their appearance; he was clean but broken down with little dental hygiene to put in respectfully. He was sweet and seemed sincere. The waitress did some familial banter with him so I assumed they were related. One never knows how small the gene pool is in some areas.

First, the waitress took my order as she was writing it I asked about accommodations that would allow a dog. She looked me over as someone would who was familiar with abuse. She leaned in and asked: “Are you, okay honey? Do you need help?”

I know my appearance was disheveled but I figured I would play on her sympathy. A Deputy walked in for a take-out he spoke to the man at the counter patted him on the back and gave my waitress a kiss on the cheek. Those gestures gave me the go-ahead to trust these two people.

We introduced ourselves I only gave my first name but they were forthcoming and gave their full names Nick and Lori Davis. I told them scant details as to why I am traveling alone with my dog Milly. By the time I was done with my meal Nick had my car keys went and introduced himself to Milly and I sat with my third cup of coffee waiting for Lori to get off her shift. They had invited me and Milly to stay at their place.

When we arrived at their humble abode which can be best described as a structure that had been added on that started with a trailer.



Softness of snow Chapter 2

Softness of the snow Chapter 2

By Christine Swiderski


They brought the large plastic tub up to the house with much fanfare from Kirby and Foster who were both beside themselves with excitement.

Mark was the first to speak “You will not believe what they found.”

Lauren added: “Mom this is right up your ally you are gonna love what the snow angel brought you.”

Mona lovingly scolded ‘Will you hurry up I cannot stand the suspense.”

I went slowly and quietly or so I thought back towards the table for another cinnamon roll, Mona calls out “Ray I know what you are up too, you better leave some for Mark and Lauren they just worked up a hunger for a warm cinnamon roll, don’t be selfish you old goat!”

Well, she had a point, so instead, I grabbed a couple of cookies, hey what could it hurt right?

Finally , Lauren and Mark put the tub down on the tile in the mudroom, Foster and Kirby were sniffing and wagging their tails, that is when we heard a squeal or was it two. The lid was lifted and there were three pups in the tub, they were each huddled together, seemed to be about 8 weeks old, our neighbor is a retired Vet, Mona got on the phone right away, Gordon said he would be right over. The girls just cooed and hugged the three pups. Mark went and got some dog food, put some water in each bowl, to wet the food hoping it would be easier for the pups to eat.

Those three little sisters scarfed that food down in no time, by the time they were finished Gordon was at the door, with his bag of Vet supplies. He also had his Nephew Steve in tow. Steve is a veterinary assistant, and going for his degree in animal husbandry.

They surmised the pups seemed in good health considering being left in the cold, did not seem to have any frostbite, they kept each other warm. Not knowing if the pups had their shots, blood was drawn and was being sent in for a titer test, also since they were pups they wormed them, checked for fleas. They seemed to be in good health.


You can imagine how much fun we had that day and night playing with these pups, the joy was back in the atmosphere, riotous laughter seems to come with puppies I guess.

By 8 pm the pups were exhausted as were Kirby and Foster, the adults were settled in for the night each having their liquid nightcaps, softly talking. Just the Christmas lights twinkling in the house. Mona looked out our North window and exclaimed, “Oh Ray look at the large snowflakes it is just beautiful.”

The morning of the 27th, actually it seemed as if it was in the middle of the night, the pups decided it was time for someone to get up. Mona volunteered, she is thrilled at the prospect of training these 3 girls, whose name will be Zelda, Wilma, and Karma. Gordon says he believes they are Rottweiler Lab mix. They are gonna be big girls, but sweet fun girls.

We were all surprised there was no mess in the box, the girls went out with a furry flight behind Kirby and Foster, into the snow, yapping, nipping then as suddenly as the ruckus started it stopped they each stopped for the moment to do their business. By this time the whole house was up, a bit groggily since it was 5 am, yet each of us had a stupid grin on our faces, you cannot help it with pups in the house.

I am amazed how Mona had already bonded with the pups, they are taking cues from Mona and it seems also from Kirby and Foster. They sat or tried to sit and wait for their breakfast, there was so much drool you could have squeegeed it into a bucket and washed a car. Once given the command, they dug into their breakfast with as much relish and scarfing noise as I do when there is bacon.

Coffee in hand, we each sat down and watched the antics of these five new friends, playing. All except for me, it was my turn to make breakfast, you put a man in charge of breakfast there will be platters full of meat, eggs, potatoes. Mona always adds some fruit to any combination I put out, she says it balances their digestion.


We were sitting around the table enjoying this carnivorous feast when Lauren started to laugh uncontrollably, we all turned to see what he was looking at and joined him in laughing. There was a line up of dogs staring at us eating this feast drooling. Mona gave the command “No kitchen, settle” Kirby and Foster knowing the command went to their pillows, Mona had left 3 folded towels sitting next to each other on the floor for Zelda, Wilma and Karma, very gently and patiently Mona got from the table taking each pup placing them on their towels and said “No kitchen, settle, lay down,” By the end of the day they got as far as their towels but stood, till they were too tired, then they curled up and slept. During the day Mike and Lauren went to town got each pup a large cage, each with their own fluffy pillows, we have a large room I used to use as an office which is practically taken over by the cages, from here on when the girls are told to settle we will slowly put them in their cages. I am enlisted as Mona’s assistant trainer it should go a bit faster.