Looking for Stars

We’re down here searching the night sky for your star.

I say we.

I know I’m not alone in this.

Do you hear our eyes asking? Is it this one? That one?

Do you see our faces confused and wondering?

Can you hear the hope in our pounding hearts?

I pick one and make a wish on light that left the source a million years before breath filled my lungs.

What else is there to do but wait another million years to stop searching? To stop wishing against reality?

In a world of endless sequels and reruns, accepting that a story has ended is nearly impossible.

So we tell your story as best we remember it,

And we look for stars.


Goodbye to a Young Friend & Don’t Use Tragedy as Ammo for Gun Rights

Not on the same day a tragedy occurs. Not now when friends and family are reading your troll-ish, shit stirring comments below the news articles which by the way got all the facts wrong and leave me shaking my head wondering if reporters do any fact checking at all.  You want to talk about gun rights do it on your own time. Do it on your own blog, your own Facebook page or keep your evil to yourself.  A child is dead, our friend is dead and he is not a trophy for you to use for your personal cause against guns.

No one who knew Shawn Kilker is surprised that he killed a relative and then killed himself. No one can get their head around whose life he took before he took his own.  No one can believe that he shot his own son Keith.  Not so hard to believe for those of us who work in domestic violence, sexual assault and child protection.  Not for those of us who can smell an unstable personality from miles away.  We know all too well that yes, yes they will kill their children and sometimes do. Yes, yes they will kill their wives and sometimes do. Yes it’s true they valued them and called them “the apple of their eye” but that was before Mother had enough and was leaving.  That was before shit got real when the cops showed up with a warrant.  That was before desperation set in and the need to destroy overrode the need to love.

Tonight we stood in a park in Keenesburg, Colorado (a town we just recently moved from but maintain ties to) with candles to say goodbye to Keith Dean Kilker Cowboy as he called himself as a child.  The same park where I walked my dog the last day of her life.  The same park where my husband and I watched our first amazing fireworks show together,  where we walked at night to play on the swings like kids and where we celebrated his birthday and we all discovered the cheese I had used in the chili was spoiled.

In the park now my husband sobbed for his lost “lil Keith” that he will never take fishing again or laugh at for wearing cowboy boots with shorts or grab a soda for as they work on an engine together.  Lil Keith who he will never hand money to for a job well done in the yard or plowing snow.

Tonight we watched 14 candles glowing on a table, one for each of his years on this earth and we cried. We listened to friends and his sister tell us that his last day was a good one, that he was happy and that he freely chose to stay with his quickly unraveling Father as they were sent from the house.  Perhaps like all sons he thought he could save his father Shawn Kilker.  Perhaps like all children he had loyalty to someone that didn’t deserve it.  I don’t know why he stayed, I just wish so hard that he hadn’t.

The preacher in the park said to look around at how many hearts had been touched by Keith’s short life. Keenesburg, CO is a very small town and everyone does almost literally know everyone else.  You really couldn’t live there and not know Keith even if he had never been in your house swiping sodas and snacks. Even as I was driving into town tonight I caught myself looking for him to go whipping across the railroad tracks on his bike as more than once I’d had to dodge him there.  There were a lot of people in the park tonight.  A lot of hearts broken by this loss.

Keith cracked me up with his total lack of self-consciousness.  I dropped some clothes off for his sisters once and he had two of the sweaters on before I could even get them out of the car.  He thought they were cool so he wore them and didn’t care one bit that they were girls clothes.  Keith would eat anything in the house that wasn’t nailed down and he wasn’t shy about asking.  He was so damn cute that you couldn’t deny his big eyes anything. He would come over and pet our fat dogs and talk sweetly to them years ago before they died then he would head out back to find my husband so they could go fishing or work on something together.  He later would come by and cuddle our cat Grit since she had lived at his house for a week or so when we all first found her as an abandoned feral kitten.  While she scratched most of us being a temperamental tortie I don’t believe she ever scratched him.

He was sensitive and creative something his father frequently ridiculed him about.  As he got older we could see him start to drift into areas that teenagers shouldn’t and I worried about him.  I worried when he would come over mad and talk about things that happened at home.  I hoped that his sports, his friends, mother and sisters would hold him steady through his adolescence.  Almost 24 hours ago now his father made sure that he would never have one.

People shared stories of Keith while his family, wrestling, football and baseball teammates openly grieved and I watched the sun set.  I listened to my husband choking on tears. I watched the people who used to be our neighbors wipe away sadness.  I watched our friends, huge tattooed men, share their pain for a lost child killed by a lost soul.

I seethed in anger over knowing that Keith was gone forever, over knowing that Shawn would one day do something violent again but never expecting this and over knowing that as hard as we try sometimes we just can’t make a difference. This was not about gun ownership, a background check would never have stopped Shawn from owning guns and would not have stopped his chronic and self-medicated mental instability.

Through my own frustrated tears I stared at the sky’s fading light while birds winged into the trees to settle down for sleep.  They were going home for the night.  Going home is how I have to think of wherever Keith is now or my heart will explode and my throat will howl the sounds of agony and wasted life for a thousand years.

I hope he wasn’t afraid. I hope whatever happened in that house as his world so rapidly came undone happened fast so that he did not suffer. I hope that he knew how loved and cherished he was by the people he was forced to leave behind.

I hope most of all that I will see him again when it’s my turn to go.






Passionate Singing: A short, short story

When she sang it was in this thin reedy voice that set everyone on the church’s teeth on edge. She was so tiny and thin and leathery that it was incredible and defied reason that such a sound could come out of such a body.  It did. It was awful. But seriously how are you going to tell a little old lady that she sounds like someone’s killing cats when she sings?  When she raises her skitchery and loud voice to the skies in praise of the Lord? No, you will not say one word and I myself chose not to sing for fear that I might sound terrifying too.

What you will do is this: you will suffer and sit there and contemplate the pain that Jesus went through when he died on the cross for you and even though intellectually you know his pain was worse you will find yourself debating the merits of yours versus his.

So if my ears actually start bleeding does that count as maybe 3-5 lashes of the whip? If my mind cracks in half does that come anywhere near the anguish of waiting to die? Of course not but we are born narcissists and we can’t help but think our pain is worse than anyone else’s on the whole planet even Jesus.

When I complained as a child about Mrs. Bunker’s reedy rampage called song, not giving a crap who it was she was singing to, I got a pinch for my troubles.

After that I chose to sit in the furthest back pew with my Grandfather who would give me paper and pen. He would listen, or pretend to listen, to the sermon while I drew pictures and wrote short stories about ladybugs and their houses catching on fire which come to think of it why do we say that anyway? What a horrible rhyme to teach children.

All children’s rhymes are pretty awful when you research them.  It’s kind of horrifying to realize that all the fun you had with your sister singing Ring around the Rosie was related to people dropping dead of the Black Plague. Gross.

I was about fifteen when Mrs. Bunker’s voice ended. Even then I remember during the singing, the following Sunday, that things felt wrong without her warbling off key tones.  It was Texas hot in the pews. I felt off kilter, grumpy and I wanted everyone to shut up and not sing since Mrs. Bunker couldn’t anymore.

Her daughter was sitting in front of me softly crying.  I felt awful for having hated her Mama’s songs for so long.  I reached up and patted her doughy shoulder and when I pulled my hand back I realized it was not only doughy but really sweaty too however I didn’t flinch at all.   I just wiped it on my skirt and was proud of myself for patting her shoulder at all given how much I hated touching most people, even my own family.

Mrs. Bunker’s screeching and its sudden silencing taught me about being gracious.  My mother would tell me often to take things with a bit of grace to which I would nod vigorously and then go about clomping my way through life as usual. I finally got it on that sweltering day.

Mrs. Bunker was, or rather had been, a person.  Listening to her and appreciating her efforts would have been gracious.  So what if her singing was horrendous?  She sang with all her heart and pure passion trumps skill any day of the week in my book now.  Recognizing that her high volume songs had value, even if I personally didn’t enjoy them, made me forever after aware that I didn’t know as much as I thought I knew on most days.

Even at fifteen I knew that her weeping daughter would give anything under the sun to hear her mother sing once more.  I supposed Mrs. Bunker was singing with Jesus now and I was more than a little certain that he didn’t mind how she sounded either.

I cleared my throat, took a deep breath and raised my voice to the rafters in song.



wolff den press:

A new book is out which means a new published writer is born! Check it out~

Originally posted on A Novel Journey:

My novel, The Inheritance, is now out in softcover, as well as Kindle, at Amazon.  I would be immensely grateful to anyone who feels led to share this on their blog to help spread the word. Thank you so much! It’s this writing community of amazing bloggers that has given me the courage and inspiration to keep walking the journey to completion of this baby. :)

The Inheritance

When Victor and Vivian Forrester meet their unexpected fate on their way home from hosting a charity dinner, it leaves their three estranged adult children with an unexpected fate of their own. Madison has the perfectly planned life of which her two young children are the center, leaving no room for anything or anyone else, including her husband. Her career as a psychiatrist enables her to validate her self-worth and give her children everything they need. She has made a promise to herself that…

View original 166 more words

Sales People

I was accosted the other day at Costco by a woman selling Juice+, some kind of supplement that probably has value but I wasn’t in the mood. Costco makes me grumpy on a good day much less when I feel attacked in the freezing cold produce dungeon.  She saw my basket full of vegetables and took it upon herself to try and convince me it would be better to take a pill than have to eat “all those vegetables”.

Who does that?  I can see trying to wrestle the carton of Ben and Jerry’s out of my greedy paws, although I would recommend that you not actually try this, but vegetables?  You want me to put back my whole basket of the healthiest food I could eat? You really think a pill can beat out green smoothies, juices and salads?

It wasn’t just her though that seems to get more aggressive the more I say no. I’ve been followed by the Dish satellite salespeople at Wal Mart, a magazine salesman was getting pretty mouthy with me on our porch until he saw my tall tattooed husband come around the corner of our house to see what all the fuss was about, and don’t even get me started on the Jehovah’s Witness people in our area. Does selling Jesus door to door really work anyway? Bless their hearts I know they mean well but I do have to restrain the urge to open the door fast enough that they fall off the steps.

Really I’m not a violent person…generally speaking.

I’ve just had it with aggressive salesfolk. If I see you approaching with your sales face on and I shout no and start backing away – do not keep coming! No means no and the more you push the less likely I am to even entertain the idea of getting some information on your product!  I sell things too – I sell my art, I sell my books, I sell Young Living essential oils and other than maybe sending out one too many tweets or going overboard now and then on Facebook postings (I mean you CAN un-friend me!) I don’t push and I never will.

Well I don’t push…unless you’re on my porch selling things I’ve said I don’t want and then I make no promises!


Logic and The Heart

I have a friend who misses something in the South. An unworkable situation tangled with regret and love and the knowledge that it can’t be made workable and life must go on as it is.  None of that stops the heart wanting what it wants, “Ulysses Everett McGill: Pete, it’s a fool that looks for logic in the chambers of the human heart.”  Truer words have never been spoken as I too have always missed people and things in the South: magnolias, soft summer nights, tea that is brewed as God intended and most of all my daughter.  Now she and her wife have given me two more people to miss. Twin girls to add to my list of things to cry about as I get out of the car at the airport to return to the dry beautiful elitism of Colorado.  Every time I say I won’t cry and every trip I do, just as I did every school year when I took Morgan to the first day of school and cried all the way to my school and then later work.  Leavings are just painful no matter what you do.

I grew up in Texas and while it’s different than Georgia (of course it is don’t be ridiculous!) it is also similar in many ways. I don’t miss the racism and dogs living outside on chains and the knowledge easily witnessed that the Civil War is alive and well.  Rebel flags hanging everywhere with their double and triple meanings some overt and others clandestine but very present.  I don’t like that social workers are paid about the same as fast food workers.  I don’t like that if I think working in the field of sexual assault issues is tough here it’s unimaginably uphill there where sports players are the 2nd ranking practitioners of religion right next to the Baptists. And I should specify Southern Baptists and also say not everyone is rigid and judgmental but things in the South move slowly and that includes attitudes toward women.

The South feels so damn old to me.  It is both majestic and romantically grand at the same time bent with age and crippled badly. I hate sentimentalism and war.  Noble ideas are one thing people dying from bullets and starvation and exposure to the elements is quite another. Open meadows bring to mind scores and scores of those who died slave and soldier alike.  Families changed forever in good ways for some and tragic for others and a little of both was had by all in my opinion.  Those kinds of changes take generations to heal from if they ever do.  I drive through the Southern states and in that swampy air I smell Sorrow, as if the air itself still softly weeps for it’s painful past.

Still the heart yammers on murmuring to itself in spite of your frequent admonishments to STFU. We can live years even lifetimes stuck in the circular path of conflicting desires. I want to be here in Colorado. I want to be in the Atlanta area with my daughter and her new family. I want to be here. I want to be there. I slowly go insane trying to solve what at this moment appears to be unsolvable.  I’m sure anyone reading this blog has felt the need to try and logically argue the heart out of its yearning nonsense.  I know for sure all of us who have tried have failed to some degree.

So what do we do? Pray. Meditate. Use Young Living oil blends by the gallon to handle the anxiety and conflict. Go to work, to the gym and breathe in and out.  Return again and again to the present moment ,as in “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34 NIV and what not.

Lately I’ve learned that the more hands off I am when life presents me with
confounded conundrums they almost miraculously resolve themselves with time.  Chop wood, carry water; slap on the Stress Away and nag the daughter for pictures of my granddaughters.


Complicated Grief

I am starting to think as a culture and a country we are suffering from complicated grief. We don’t seem to get over things anymore much as someone who has been hit time after time by life gets to a place where stuck-ness and sadness and rage become a constant state of existence.

We lack rituals for transitions unless you count sports events and I don’t. We don’t acknowledge that our children going from our laps to their peers hurts.  The little girl who you used to take with you everywhere becomes a teen who hates you.  It’s temporary but the little girl is gone and you must find something to love in this new creature giving you the finger.  Saying goodbye to the younger child can be critical to forming a new relationship with a teen and then an adult and then a newlywed, etc.

Much time when I was still a therapist was spent helping parents acknowledge the sadness underneath their anger.  Acknowledging that the 8 year child is gone and missed and this 14 year old isn’t much fun usually shifted everything to more solutions and less complaining. Rituals of saying goodbye and mourning the change helped immensely.

I saw and still see the same things with people in their 50s approaching retirement.  Mostly women come to therapy so that’s what I’m more familiar with but it’s hard for women to say goodbye to careers. Especially if that career has been long term.

The career has been there like an anchor through divorce, remarriage, children growing up, leaving and parents dying.  Your career was a lifeline through many storms and changes so when you see the end of the road approaching the fight to hang on can be extremely difficult if you don’t acknowledge it and say goodbye even if only in your mind.  If you don’t effectively say goodbye your transition into retirement can be pretty ugly.  These are the people that retire and die a year later in my opinion.  We must have something to move toward when we are leaving something behind.

It’s hard for some people to see the younger generation sweeping and making changes to all that you worked so hard to establish and they certainly don’t want to hear your war stories or why you created what you did.  It can blind you to the fact that sometimes old structures need to be knocked down and bit of chaos tossed around to create something totally new.

If you’re approaching any kind of transition say goodbye to what is leaving while you are welcoming what is coming in. It’s ok to be sad at losing anything: a friendship, a lover, a cherished pet, a child to a teen, a spouse and a career.  Hell it’s ok to be sad when trading your old car in for a new one and who hasn’t felt that little twinge?

Ritual. Use something to mark the end of a time. Write and burn letters. Plant a tree or dig up one that’s died. Hike a mountain and at the top shout into the wind what you are letting go. Just do something besides eat it, drink it or zone the pain away in front of a screen or worse let it turn into the kind of rage that burns you and everything you touch, away. Image

Call for Anthology Submissions

Wolff Den Press announces a call for anthology submissions. I want your creative, people-focused essays regarding your work in the sexual assault/abuse field. Tell me the true stories of your experiences in essay, creative non-fiction or poetry style.  I will be collecting essays until 12.31.14 or until there are enough for a book whichever comes first.

Some suggestions to think about: How did you end up working in this field?  Are you a law enforcement officer, nurse, therapist, advocate or prosecutor?  Are you a policy maker, director of an agency, a reporter?  Are you employed in probation/parole or social work? What experiences have helped form the worldview you now have regarding this sensitive subject?  What advice would you offer people choosing to begin working in this field?  What is an experience you had that still “sticks” with you?

  • non-fiction submissions only please.
  • 50 – 7500 words (please contact Michelle Wolff if your entry exceeds this limit so we can discuss)
  • submit by email to wolffdenpress@gmail.com and paste your submission within the body of the email.  Please write “anthology submission” and your last name in the subject line.
  • at this time there is no payment other than publishing credit and a free digital copy (.pdf) of the final book.  If this changes via Kickstarter success or sponsorship you will be notified.
  • Publishing rights are First North American Serial Print Rights (FNASR). All rights revert to the author upon publication. This means that if the story has appeared anywhere else (even your own blog!) I cannot accept it.
  • Please contact me at wolffdenpress@gmail.com if you need further guidance.

The Simplest Acts

It takes me five minutes and five dollars to run in an pick up these containers of grass for the cats. Junah loves them most and he will run over and start nibbling right away. For some reason it lessens my guilt a little that the cats can’t go outside anymore, other than in their catio, and wander the outdoor world like they used to.  It bothers me a lot to have them indoors all the time. I worry about their health even though outdoors their health was at greater risk in theory.  I worry about their mental health so I play with each of them every day to try and keep life interesting.  If we didn’t have coyotes the size of tanks around here I’d probably let them go but man, these guys are huge and since I have not seen a cat roaming since we’ve been here I have no doubts why they hang around the town home areas so often.

I don’t miss the house we lived in but I do miss the small town.  I don’t miss the commuting but I do miss the backyard and watching the cats chase each other in it.  I miss sitting outside at night listening to the sound of neighbors talking and watching the moon rise.  Someday it’s in my plan and hopefully the Great Whatever’s that we’ll own enough land to feel free again in the next 3-5 years.

So in the meantime I take the time to buy these little bits of grass for Junah and enjoy his enjoyment while he peacefully eats.Image

Choking on God

I have no idea what I’m doing.  I’m not a certified anything and have no theological training.  I’ve read the Bible in different versions and got lost in the contradictions although I did enjoy the rhythms of language in the King James Version. I’ve explored every religion or philosophy that has ever caught my fancy and what follows are my opinions, of which I have many and which I prefer to deliver unsolicited when you’re not looking.

The title for this post comes from the catch I get in my throat whenever I try to say the word, the name, God, out loud.  I hesitate. My throat closes even when I’m talking to Him, Her, It in the quiet of my own mind.

I thought for a long time it was happening because of my less than pleasant experiences with organized religion from childhood.  It wasn’t horrible it just wasn’t enlivening.  Frankly it was at best boring unless my Uncle George was preaching and because I swear he has a direct channel to G-G-God even as a kid you just had to put the tic tac toe game down and listen up.  His passion for Christianity is boundless and the most pure I’ve seen in a human.  Me, not so much.

I’ve tried calling God, God, Goddess, Mother-Father God, Great Spirit, Source, Spirit and finally to quote Martha Beck, The Great Whatever.  The Great Whatever sums it up for me but it’s hard to keep explaining what you mean by that in conversation.

On the other hand it’s hard to explain the word God as it’s used in popular culture and that is still the male deity similar to Santa Claus who watches us 24/7 and hands out rewards such as touch downs and victories in war if you’re good and say your prayers and takes it all away if you forget to brush your teeth one night.  Which by the way don’t do that, you’ll regret it in the morning and so will the person and/or pet sleeping next to you.

I don’t say God because I don’t want the package that comes with it.  I don’t want someone cursing next to me and then apologizing, like I give a shit about their use of profanity.  I don’t want the sideways looks or the catches of breath or the assumptions that I have a tiny Bible tucked in my bra.  Although I do sometimes toss a cell phone and $20 bill in there I can assure you there’s no Bible.

I don’t say God because I don’t want to be lumped in the small but astonishingly loud percentage of Americans who have turned the image of God into a rigid bossy little bastard who seems very concerned that I not have access to birth control, or any reproductive rights for that matter, but is making sure that every man on the planet can have a free lifetime supply of Viagra.

I don’t say God because I don’t want anything labeled for me especially something as deep and wide as God which when labeled is suddenly reduced to something which I cannot recognize. I also don’t want to be shoved in a box and ascribed a narrow set of behaviors that come with the word which typically follows God and that’s Christian.

I would love to identify as Christian if it simply meant I do think Jesus was one of a series of incredibly powerful dudes that have come along throughout time to help us stumble through our evolution without blowing up the entire world.  I don’t want to be in the syrupy harsh judgmental fakeness of the terrified masses who believe out of the fear of what might happen if they don’t believe.  Why our popular concept has become that group alone I don’t know but I don’t like it.  I’m guessing it’s because that group can get pretty loud at times.

Like many others I believe in something Other because I have felt Its hand on my back when I was in danger or near death. Or when I wanted to kill myself or someone else. Or give up entirely on everything. I believe because I feel a deep slow heartbeat when I quiet my restless mind enough to listen. It’s certainly not my heartbeat and for the reasons given I can’t and won’t even try to define what it is or where it comes from but it is there.  I hear it loud and clear.

I like what Jesus is recorded as saying. I also like what Buddha said and Mohammed, Lao Tzu, Martha Beck and that guy who wrote “Kissing Fish: Christianity for People Who Don’t Like Christianity”.  Smart, wise people who are doing their best to help the rest of us get there too are worth reading.

I do say the word God in my heart where no one can hear and interpret what I mean.

I say God when the color of the air at twilight strikes me with a peace so deep I can’t help but cry and think if my dying day is going to be anything like day dying into night then I don’t mind so much.

I also say Goddess, Yahweh, Christ and Abba.  I say Father and Mother, Source and Spirit.  Most of the time I say “Help!” hoping something or someone will hear me.

Here’s the thing that really burns my waffles the most though and that is – why does anyone care what I say or what I believe?  Say your word and I’ll say mine. I’m guessing I’ll see you wherever we end up anyway regardless of labels.

You can call me names, try to limit those I love, make a bunch of asinine laws and protest funerals but in spite of all that I’ll do my best to love you while we’re on the planet together.  Because that’s what Jesus really would do.Image