How to shine this Christmas.

How to Shine Blog

Tomorrow for a Christmas picture at work, I have to decide what brings me joy. Someone already picked family, so I can’t use that. (I need to be original) So, I was trying to come up with something else. Coffee is too lame, and “unique cheese boards” would make me look weird. 

So, I was thinking.

What about sparkle?

Would that work?

Sparkle DOES brings me joy. (Office picture problem solved) 

It sounds a little frivolous but I love sparkly things. If sparkle was a colour, it would be my favourite. If sparkle was a job, I’d do it. If sparkle was a place, I’d go there on vacation. If it were socially acceptable for me, in this stage of my life, to wear sparkle from head to toe – I would. 


I especially love sparkly light that shines while I’m in the dark. In pretty much every room of our house during the holidays, I have something that lights up. I’d never just go sit in a dark room for no reason, but put a little light in there and soon it’s my favourite place. 

I’m drawn to light in darkness.

Beauty doesn’t shine in the dark, but light brings beauty to dark places.

I’ll be honest though, if I look around me it sometimes feels as though darkness is overcoming. It gets discouraging and often there is fear, pain, worry and hopelessness. Its like we’re all sitting in a big dark room, and we need some life to illuminate through. We can’t shuffle blindly for much longer, trying to find our way in the night. We’re getting too battered and bruised up.

We need help. 

We need light in dark places.

The light that shines through, is the light that we long to see.

The light we need to see. 

So, be that light.

Love others who don’t show love to you.

Forgive people who have hurt you. 

Let go of bitterness and replace it with peace.

Encourage those who are in pain. 

Extend grace when you least feel like it. 

You can help shine the greatest light this Christmas. 

I can’t help but remember what came out of the darkness when the world first began. God-spoken light. And later, a baby who carried that light.

The true light that gives light. 

In times of darkness He can shine through us as we serve, as we accept each other, as we open our arms in welcome, as we give to see change, as we speak words of love, as we live out kindness and as we work together to see light fill our world. 


Sparkle away. 

Let your life be a message board for light. 

Darkness won’t win.

Light shines bright. 

Christmas doesn’t own you.


There’s always a little bit of anxiety that comes on each year when the Christmas season approaches. I feel it late November as I pull out my holiday ornament boxes, reminding myself that I committed to only add one new decoration each year. I worry a little as I plan my shopping and hope that I can get the perfect item for everyone, because I love giving gifts. I think about all the gatherings and get togethers and I just pray that it all works out.

Can all the expectations placed on me be met? 

Will our budget carry me through the season?

Is it possible to navigate all the complexities of relationship dynamics to make everyone happy?

There have been times when these thoughts have kept me up at night. Perhaps I had the wrong ideas about what mattered. Maybe I just overthink everything. But finally I’ve realized that I can make choices and work hard to make sure that the Christmas season ahead for our family is one that doesn’t get out of hand.

We want to have joy in this season.

We want the true light that brings light to shine through.

Christmas can be simple and meaningful. 

Christmas is not in control.

Christmas doesn’t own you.

Christmas is what you decide to make it.  

Here are a few simple thoughts (ones I’m still working on myself) to help make the season more meaningful and to make room for joy and light. 

Make Christmas about others. It’s so easy to focus inward at Christmas. Christmas lists, an incredibly decorated home and Pinterest-perfect ideas are not what should measure your Christmas success. Lift up your eyes this season, and take a minute to look around you. How can you show some love and care to those that need it? Share yourself this season. Be a bright light in the life of someone who needs you. There are people alone, hurting and suffering. Be Christmas for them. 

Keep things simple. Make your holiday plans easy. Easy doesn’t mean lazy, easy means smart. This year, our extended family has decided to shake things up and do catered Italian for our Christmas Day meal. Different circumstances have made pulling off a turkey dinner really challenging and stressful, so we are making a switch. That simple decision has already taken Christmas stress down a level for everyone, and we are excited to be able to focus on spending time together as family. (I’m also happy I don’t have to have pre-Christmas nightmares about the inevitable lumps in my gravy) Being together is what matters and it’s ok to make that easier. 

Create special moments. Moments are what we remember, moments are what make up our life. There are tons of moment-making opportunities all around at Christmas. Often, you don’t even have to think them up because they are already happening. Look for events in your community, special places to visit and choose a couple activities that you know will be significant. Go to a festival, volunteer at Christmas event, take a walk in your neighbourhood and look at Christmas lights. Creating moments doesn’t have to cost any money, and often provide the best parts of our holiday experience.  

Take time to reflect. Whether you do advent, or a Christmas countdown – take time to celebrate what Christmas means to you. Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voscamp is my favourite Christmas reading. A chapter each day takes me on a beautiful and significant journey right to the manger on Christmas Day, I seriously can’t hold back my tears when I do the last reading on the morning of the 25th. This part of my Christmas is so meaningful each year, and I can’t wait for it to begin. Whatever makes Christmas special to you, take time for those moments of reflection. 

Christmas will never be perfect. Things will not always go as planned. But we do have the opportunity to set our season up and focus on the things that will bring joy into our lives.

This year slow down, look around and remember that joy can be found in the simple.

The memories and moments of Christmas and how you share that joy with others is what will remain in your heart. 

Reflect on the light that has come on Christmas.

The true light. 

Christmas doesn’t own you.

You can decide how to make this your most meaningful Christmas yet.  






When the world needs a leadership lesson.

We salute you-4

You only have to go to Twitter, turn on the news and read any feed of your choice to come to the conclusion that the world is in a state of disarray. In recent weeks, we’ve seen world leaders name-calling and threatening, learned of horrible abuses by those in powerful positions and almost daily we hear of a new scandal or situation that takes the world again by storm. 

Day in, day out. 

In the middle of this I can’t stop thinking about the responsibility that we have when we are a leader.

Not just a world leader.

Or a Hollywood producer.

All of us.

We need to be better. 

The world needs leaders right now. 

Mentors, parents, coaches, teachers, pastors, executives. We could make a long list of those who lead in some way every single day because leadership touches every facet of our life. If you’re not leading, chances are that you’re being led. And if you are leading, you have a responsibility to those in your care. 

When abuses of leadership run rampant, it’s a good time to take a breath and think about what a good leader does. When the lines in our culture are making it harder and harder to identify good leaders around us, it’s time to remember what it means to lead with purpose and integrity. It’s time to remind ourselves what those who lead well do.

The world needs a leadership lesson. We need to be a leadership movement.

Here’s a few thoughts – 

Leaders should be more concerned about the people that they lead than about themselves. Leaders don’t wave their own flags, they don’t beg for attention, they don’t ask to be praised and recognized. A strong leader is about those that they lead. They want to see others grow and succeed, always turning the spotlight away from themselves. If you are begging for attention as a leader, you have made yourself the most important part of the equation. 

Leaders don’t take advantage of people. Strength in leadership doesn’t equal power. A strong leader is one that is followed out of respect and loyalty, not because of position and fear. Your leadership doesn’t give you power, it means you have assumed responsibility. That responsibility needs to be taken seriously.

Leaders know that the way they treat people matters. A leader who thinks they can bully, intimidate, manipulate and mistreat others is not a leader. The word for that is abuser and there is no place in true leadership for that kind of behaviour. If you don’t value people, you have no right to lead them. 

Leaders live without reproach. Leaders know that they have a responsibility in how they act, how they live and what they do. A leader who is constantly covering their tracks, hiding truth, scheming and manipulating situations for their own good and protection doesn’t deserve to lead. You can’t live in the dark, and be a leadership light. Perfection is never possible, but integrity is something that any leader can choose. 

We work on many things in life. Our health, our careers, goals and future. Let’s also work on our leadership.

How you lead matters. 

Wherever you lead, choose to lead well.

Our world needs leaders right now.




Waiting for perfect.


There’s this list in my mind of goals that are really important to me. While I’m not quite structured enough to map out a 5-year plan, I can tell you without hesitation the top 3 or 4 things that I want to accomplish in the next couple years.

I think about them a lot.

I daydream. 

Go big, they say. 

So I do.

However, I’ve noticed that while I do tons of dreaming, I don’t always do much doing. 


I’m waiting for perfect. 

You know the drill. When money is good, when bills are all paid, when schedules are clear, kids are older, relationships are good, Netflix series bingeing is done, the dream job appears, etc.  When everything is perfect, the time will be right. 

And guess what?

Perfect never comes.

I’ve been waiting a long time. 

Currently, I have some writing that I know I need to do but I’m waiting for the perfect little writing spot in my house to completely come together. I have it cleared it out. I have some of the decor already. I have a plan. But, I’ve convinced myself that nothing can happen until I am sitting in the creative spot of my dreams (with my non-existent budget). No words can flow from my imagination in any other space. In the meantime, I’m wrapped up waiting for perfect and it’s so comfortable. I watch incredible storytelling, and read great books and get inspired and think – oh that’s part of my dream too. But I don’t move.

The quilt of procrastination is just so warm and snuggly.

But on the other hand…  

Waiting is getting boring.
I want to be about pursuing.
Who wants to be cozy all the time?

Pursuing our dreams is all about activating what is inside of us. It is taking that step into the unknown. It is trusting in our Maker, and in ourselves. It involves sacrifice, it involves determination, it requires us to work hard, it’s not always cozy and warm. It doesn’t wait for perfection, it makes the most of reality.

Pursuing is living with faith even when things look less than perfect.

I’ve decided that I’m no longer waiting for perfect. Perfect doesn’t exist. So, I’m breaking the self-inflicted pressure off of myself. Waiting for my Pinterest-inspired office space can’t control my creativity. The perfect temperature outside no longer determine my health. The perfect schedule won’t affect my relationships. The mess in my house shouldn’t rule my hospitality. The struggles in my life won’t change my goals. I’m throwing off the cozy quilts.

I don’t need to be perfect.
You don’t need to be perfect.
Perfect is over-rated.

When we wait for perfection, we accomplish nothing.
What we pursue in reality, we are planting in faith.
Sow in the wind.
Reap in the rain.
Stop waiting for perfect.

Ecclesiastes 11:4 (TLB)
If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.

Remember the Qualifier.


You know those judges at sporting events? The ones that look to see if anyone starts too quickly, or cheats and breaks the rules? Their job is to disqualify. To tell people they didn’t make the cut – for whatever reason.

I would be SO great at that job.

I am the greatest disqualifier ever.

Of myself.

A couple of weeks ago I had a huge disappointment. Something I had been working towards that I really wanted, part of a dream that I am continually pursuing. I put in the effort and I thought that I had a chance. Maybe this would be the breakthrough that I have been waiting for, perhaps this would be the person that believed in me.

Then I got the email.

I didn’t make the cut. I wasn’t chosen. Try again next time.

I usually take things as they come, I’m a go-with-the-flow type of girl but for some reason this really devastated me. I immediately retreated into the deep unhealthy spaces of myself, and quickly took on the role of disqualifier.

And then, I just went for it. 

I was crazy to think I could do that.

I’m not good enough.

I’ll never attain that goal.

I shouldn’t be doing what I am doing.

I have nothing to contribute .

I’m a big joke.

My dreams are ridiculous. 

I kept going. Before long I had disqualified myself out of pretty much everything in my life. My parenting, my marriage, my friendships, my goals, my job and all the things I love. It’s a slippery-slope when you start down that path. Negative thoughts can spiral into questioning every good and perfect gift that has been given.

So often, through the journey of identity that I have been on through life – I face situations that try to erase my memory of who I am. If I’m not careful, I get pulled back so easily into those lies that try to hold me down. To throw me out of the race.

Then, I remember the qualifier.

Right there at the starting line.

The one who says, “On your mark, Get Set, Go!” Standing there and cheering as we run our race. Handing us nourishment when we don’t think we can go any further, speaking words of life into our hearts when we want to give up. Most of all, standing at the finish line of each race – ready to help train for the next part of the story-journey.

Colossians 1:9-12 talks about this qualifier.

“We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.” (The Message)

Learn how He works, so that we can learn how to do our work.

Have strength to stick it out.

Not grim strength but GLORY-STRENGTH.

Be strong, take part in everything bright and beautiful that He has for us.

Run your race and don’t look back.

Stay on course.

We are qualified because we have a qualifier. 

4 ways to slow down life.

4 ways to slow down life

Last week I decided to do some baking on my day off. I grabbed the pile of bowls in the cupboard and instead of taking out a couple at a time, I went for the whole stack. As a result, the heavy glass one at the bottom got away from me and crashed down on my little toe.

I’m not sure if I screamed or cried, but whatever I did it was dramatic and appropriate for the situation. It was a classic “me” move, trying to do everything at once and in a hurry. 

Story of my life.

Well, my past life. I’ve been trying (bowl incident aside) to set a new tone for my everyday living.


I’ve always tended to go through life in a rush. Carrying all my groceries into the house in one trip. Frantically doing all the things I should have done on my day off, in the last hour before everyone gets home. Powering through tasks because of procrastination and poor planning, and leaving things until the last minute.

A big mess, trying to get through the day.

But why?

How about slowing down?

Is that even possible?

Anything is possible especially if you’re tired of dropping bowls on your feet. 

So, here are 4 things that I’ve been trying to do in my slow-down experiment. 

Look at the week ahead and plan accordingly. Time management has not always been my strength. For years I would take work home with me every weekend and cause stress to my family. My weekend was me running out and trying to get things done that I should have done at work. Now, I get everything off my list by Friday so that I can be present at home. When you look at the big picture of what you need to get done (at home and at work), you can break it down into manageable portions. Get the big things off your list at the start of the week to allow for balance throughout the rest, this naturally slows your week down. 

Make time for people.  How often do we tell people we’d love to get together, but we never do? I feel guilt at how often I’ve said that and it’s never happened. Of course, the reason is always busyness. So, I’m trying to slow down and make time for relationships and connection. Setting aside a specific time in my week/month with scheduled connecting time. People matter and neglecting that leads to isolation and loneliness. It’s ok to schedule in relationship time, it means it’s a priority. 

Set a pace. My natural pace is fast and furious. That has been what gets me in trouble. I lose things, I forget what I’m supposed to do, I lock myself out of places, wear shoes that don’t match and the list goes on. I am literally learning to talk myself down to a pace that is manageable where I’m still effective and productive. Otherwise, I’m a hot mess running through the streets. If you get into the habit of reminding yourself to slow down, you can do it. Take a breath and step back. You won’t get behind if you walk instead of run, and often you can think clearer and get more accomplished.

Care for self. There are a lot of things that I like to do, things that fill my heart and soul. This summer I got obsessed with our local beach and I just wanted to be by the water. So, we did that a lot. There are small, easy things in life that give me joy and I’m trying to slow down and do more of those things. We can race through life with all of it’s responsibilities but it’s important to make time for yourself and the activities that you love. Put those things on a calendar if you have too, and make time for heart-filling joy and fun. 

Slowing down doesn’t come natural to me. It feels too confining and goes against the free spirit part of life that I have always loved. However, the clearer I can see things around me, the more effective my life is.

I don’t do less, but I do things better. 

The more we slow down the more we actually see.

The pace that we set helps us define what we value. 

Making time for others and ourselves an investment that matters.

So, take a step back.

Don’t try to grab all the bowls at once, they will just crash in a mess. 

Take your time.

Take a breath. 

Slow down. 





30 Days of Walks.


It was my favourite season of falling leaves, lattes that taste like pumpkin, and trees filled with apples. I was excited for what was ahead in the next few months and I walked into work one morning in my cute boots and scarf all ready to take on fall. Little did I know what the day ahead would bring.

“We’re letting you go. We don’t have a place for you. We can’t keep you on.”

My season suddenly changed.

I was in a role that I loved, living in my creative, happy space. Continually learning new things, while being totally stretched out of my comfort zone. It wasn’t all perfect but it was a challenge that brought growth to my life. I’d never lost a job before, and right away my deep buried feelings of rejection came to the surface.

I’m not good enough.

I’m a joke.

I don’t belong anywhere.

There’s something about being told you aren’t needed that cuts to the core. When you’ve always struggled with finding your place, finding yourself without one brings a deep sense of loss. I didn’t know what to do so I prayed for direction and I felt like God asked me to do something rather strange.


Walk? Why would I walk? Shouldn’t I be out looking for direction and making contacts, polishing up my resume? I need to start planning my next steps. I don’t have time to walk. 

He spoke to me again.

Just Walk

Those are the steps I want you to take.

So, I did.

Each day I went out into the streets of my neighbourhood and put my feet to the ground. I loved the cool fall air, beautiful colours and soon I became one with the season. I prayed, I cried, I cleared my mind, I did some dreaming, I took pretty Instagram pictures and soon this time alone became the most treasured part of my day.

I kept going all month. 30 days of walks. As I travelled down paths and went through parks, I began to see the season change. I saw the leaves transform and stand out in a brilliant display. Slowly after all that beauty, I watched those same leaves fall to the ground to prepare for the next season ahead. It seemed a shame to see them all lying in the dirt. But even then, they looked incredible as they spread out all over the streets like fall’s glorious confetti.  

The season changed in front of my eyes. 

I understood why God wanted me to go on this journey. He wanted me to physically walk the experience that mirrored what I was going through in my life. He wanted me to understand that things change, and that even beautiful seasons end. I came to an understanding and acceptance in my heart. I wasn’t a failure; I was being prepared for what was ahead. I even felt excitement for the future.

Sometimes we have to let go of a season.

Sometimes we let things fall, so that we can prepare for what is ahead.

Sometimes we hit the dirt, and think it’s done.

But it’s still a brilliant display.

The letting go, is so that new things can come. 

I walked for 30 days.

Watched some beautiful things fall away.

Looked for my new purpose.

Pulled up what I had planted and got ready for what was ahead.

A season had ended, but there was hope.

A new one was on it’s way. 


Ecclesiastes. 3:1-2, “To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.” (ESV)





Part Three – Her name was Grey.

Grey pulled herself out of bed. She hated today and she was not happy that it had arrived. The days of summer and hiding out with her notebook in the tree house were over. It was the first day of school. Because this was the 5th place that Grey had lived, it meant that this was the 3rd new school. Grey hated being new. When you are new, it takes time to be old. When you are new, everyone looks at you. When you are new, you can’t blend in. You can’t disappear. You don’t know where to sit, and you hate standing alone. Grey wondered if she could just sneak out the back door and make it to her treehouse before her mother noticed she was missing. If she couldn’t be found, then she couldn’t go to school.

“Grey, are you getting ready? Get out of bed! You don’t have much time and you still need to eat breakfast!” called Joan.

Joan was Grey’s mom. As far as moms go, she was a good one. Everyone always told Grey how pretty her mom was, and how young she looked. Grey was proud of that, like she had something to do with it. When really, she didn’t. But she was glad to be associated with a pleasant mother instead of some of the other ones she saw dragging their children around.

“I’m coming” called Grey.

She went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. Eighth grade meant that she needed to care a little more, so she tried. Grey never went too close to the mirror. It scared her a little bit. It seemed that her hair never looked right, and that her face was weird if she got too close-up. She preferred to look at herself from far away with her eyes squinted, that gave just the right about of blur to make her happy. She took a deep breath, and did a hard squint.

“This will have to do,” she muttered as she went back to her room and grabbed her backpack.

As she headed down the stairs she was nearly trampled by the two pests.

“Watch out!” Gray yelled.

“It’s the first day of school!” hollered Ben, clearly not troubled about the fact that they were soon going to a building they had never been in before. Ben loved school. In fact; he thrived on it. He was the older of the two creatures and he was a little bit of a brain. Her parents were always talking about how smart he was. As she was thinking about how annoying that was, the other one grabbed her by the shoulders.

“We are SO excited, are you Grey?” asked Kale, getting right into her face.  Kale loved new. He was up for anything as long as it meant action and adventure. A school full of strange kids was the most exciting thing he could have planned for this dreaded morning.  

Grey was annoyed by the enthusiasm expressed by both of them, oblivious to the joy that comes with NOT being new.

“No, I am not excited. I’ll never be excited,” she said as she pushed by them on the stairs and went into the kitchen. Grey sat at her spot at the table and ate her usual breakfast of toast and peanut butter. She put her dishes in the sink and noticed her stomach was doing some flips, as she sat by the front door waiting to leave. Her mom was doing the final crazy run around the house to make sure everyone had everything they needed for the day. Ben and Kale weren’t listening as usual and Grey could hear her mom getting frustrated as she tried to get them to put everything in their backpacks. Dad luckily left early each morning for his job at the hardware store, so Joan had to perform this amazing feat on her own.

“Ok everyone,” said Joan, a little covered with sweat, “I think we are ready to go.”

Getting into the car, Grey took one last lingering look back at her treehouse. She was already counting down the hours until she could come back. As they drove down her street she saw the ice truck pull up, she glanced at the flickering electric house sign, and counted 3 diapers already on the lawn at the diaper house. Grey gave a big sigh as they drove away. 

“Time to be new.” she said

Her name was Grey and she didn’t want to go to school.

Part Two – Her name was Grey.


Grey was getting settled into her new house and had figured out her daily routine. Since it was summer, she had lots of time to explore her surroundings after she checked the chores off the list her mom made each morning. She could hardly wait to get everything done and make a run to her secret hideaway up in the trees, especially before her little pest brothers beat her there. From inside the treehouse she had a perfect vantage point that gave her a view of the entire neighborhood. From the very beginning she knew this wasn’t a normal street. She had lived in 4 other towns before moving here. Most streets just had houses, but this street had more. This street was different. Through the front treehouse window, she peered through her binoculars making notes in her purple fuzzy notebook.   

The first place of interest was the Ice House. It was directly across the street from where the treehouse was located. It seemed a little bit strange to Grey that there was a building making ice, right in the middle of her neighborhood – attached to a house where people were living. A big, flashing ICE sign out on the front yard. She figured that inside the house it must be very cold. Icicles hanging off the lights, and frozen furniture that wasn’t very comfy to sit on. Everyone always shivering, and wearing their warmest winter coats when they went to bed. She watched each morning as trucks would come and pick up bags of ice and then drive away. It all was very peculiar; they must be making ice inside all day long. She kept track in her notebook of ice pick-up times, and wondered how they kept up with the demand. Maybe they had a giant fridge inside the building filled with hundreds of ice cube trays, with someone bending each one just right to get the ice to pop out. Who did all that work? Who filled up the trays? She only ever saw teenagers coming from the house. Were their parents inside? Maybe they were made of ice too, and would melt if they came outdoors. It was fascinating to watch everything happening in that cold house, from her hot and stuffy treehouse.  

A couple houses down from the Ice House was the Electric House. Another strange combination of a home with a building attached right behind it. This house had a giant window in the front with a big yellow bolt of lightning painted on it, which obviously represented the power contained inside. It looked like one of those pictures on the toaster cord that warned you not to use it in the water or you’d get fried. Beside the big bolt there was another sign that came on and off that said “TV Repairs.” This sign made a buzzing sound like a fly touching a live wire. It never made sense to Grey that that electric store couldn’t keep its power from flickering. One day she counted how many flickers happened in one hour. She compared that hour with others during the day and according to her calculations, most of the flickering happened late in the afternoon. There must be something going on inside that house that was drawing all the power. But what could it be? She never saw much action going on there besides the sign voltage. Just a man that would come and go, always carrying a briefcase and whispering into what looked like a walkie-talkie. And never, not even once did she see anyone bring in their TV for repair.

The only other thing she noticed during her daily observation was the Diaper House. Grey called it that because there was always a diaper outside. Sometimes two. The mom that lived there seemed to have her hands pretty full with her four little kids, and was always doing a diaper change. Right in her yard. Then, she’d forget to bring the diapers into the garbage. Grey thought it was a little gross to have diapers scattered all over your lawn, but she had two little brothers and she knew that kids could be a handful. Still, she couldn’t leave anything to chance so she made note of each diaper and mapped it’s location. Thankfully, they always disappeared during the night.  

Every day she did the chores on the list her mom gave her.

Every day she went up into her treehouse and took notes.

Her name was Grey.

This was her street.

Her name was Grey.


It was an old house. A brick house. Her 5th house. The first time she laid her eyes on it, she was very pleased. It had many corners and cracks, and at every turn she discovered a new place to explore. Now that they had moved in and she had staked a claim to the room in the attic, she was filled with excitement. 

After all, a girl with an imagination surely could not live in a boring house.  

She was particularly fascinated with the wallpaper. It covered the walls like old dresses that had gone out of style. Her mother had decided that she hated it all. Every single room was met with disgust, and layers upon layers had to be steamed off piece by piece. Once part of a beautiful paper patterned story, now thrown in a mushy pile on the floor. She thought of the different people who had taken such care to match up all those gluey pieces and stick them precisely on the walls. Excited about how great it looked, standing back and declaring how it made the room perfect. Now their choices were outdated and the wrong color for her mother’s design pallet.  She wondered what stories those pieces of paper could tell. The things those dressed-up walls had seen. But it didn’t matter now. Her mother scooped the soggy scraps off the floor and stuffed them into a garbage bag, and just like that the stories were gone.

It was sad really. 

She had a moment of silence as she carried the bag down to the trash pile in the basement.

The basement was cold and had no personality. It had never been finished, so the walls were made up of exposed pipes, cobwebs and untamed wiring. The old wooden stairs creaked as she went down into the depths of the darkness, and she searched for the little chain that she’d pull to get the light to come on. Her heart pounded a little each time she made the descent and sometimes she wondered if she would ever come back up. One of the old cement walls had been spray-painted with graffiti, which made her think that a sinister gang had lived here before. What happened down here, she often wondered in this creepy, spider-infested concrete land. And did they do their laundry during their illegal activity? Fabric softener and crime didn’t seem to mix. But everyone needed clean clothes. Even Gangsters.

Leaving the bag of soiled paper stories on the floor, she quickly ran back up out of the darkness. The creaky off tune stairs each played a different note as she finally slammed the door behind her. The basement was not her favorite place. But the rest of the house captivated her. As she walked around, every part seemed to come alive. The old upstairs doors looked like they would open their wide mouths and start talking to her at any moment. She would peer through their old keyholes, wondering where those keys were. Did someone out there still have them? Was there one key that would unlock everything? The high windows, the winding staircase – she loved it all. Even the fireplace in her parent’s bedroom grinned at her with a smile, waiting for a lunch of burning embers to be served.

Going outside she headed to her favorite place on the property. Technically she was a little old for a treehouse. However, when she first laid her eyes on it, she was so pleased. There was just something about having a little place to get away. A spot to be by herself. A hidden location to read, and write down her thoughts. All she had to do was climb up the ladder into the sky and the rest of the world would disappear. What more could a girl ask for? It was a bit of a challenge to keep the little brothers out. But she had her ways.  Bribery and kicking them off the ladder worked fairly well. Besides, there was important work to do. She had discovered what seemed to be a code of some sort on the back wall. Her dad had tried to paint over it all, but she had managed to hold him off until she could figure out what it meant. Anything that had been carved into the walls of a treehouse had to be important.

This was where she lived now. Freshly peeled walls, a gangster basement, mysterious key holes and a secret-coded room at the top of a ladder.  

Her name was Grey, and she loved her new house.