Ani Tsalagi

When you have suffered a traumatic loss in life, grief can be stifling and all-consuming.  For me, I felt abandoned and totally alone.  There was nothing but darkness all around with no vision of light.  For seven months, it seemed like I moved through a fog.

During this time, I started the process of building my log cabin, but it was more of a project rather than realization of a dream.  It was a distraction but didn’t provide enjoyment or pleasure.  I wasn’t sure that I wanted to move into the cabin, but I was determined to build it.  Little did I know at the time that the log cabin construction would provide purpose to live life again.

In the seventh month of existing in a dark hole, the foundation was poured for the cabin.  A few short weeks later, the construction crew was ready to start stacking the logs.  It took all morning for me to gather the courage to drive out and meet the crew on their first day, but I did.  I never took off my sunglasses, but I forced myself to meet each guy.

Every day, I showed up to watch each course of the cabin be stacked.  It didn’t take many days before the engineer in me began to awaken.  I asked a lot of questions about the building process.  The guys began to expect me every day.  The more I became involved, the more interest I took in the cabin.  While I never took off my sunglasses, I began to slowly interact with the crew.  Funny how six blue-collar – some crude – guys melted my cold, impersonal nature.

In the crew, one man caught my attention.  He was the hardest worker and most experienced but the least vocal.  He was tall, dark, handsome, and I was mesmerized watching him.  As he worked, I was drawn to his hands which were strong, rugged and touched every log that was stacked.  I observed him through my sunglasses and caught him looking in my direction throughout the day.  One afternoon while he was working on the front corner of the house, he actually spoke to me and smiled.  I smiled back, all the while hiding my eyes behind my sunglasses.

Days passed and it wasn’t long before the rest of the crew sensed the attraction between us, not through words but through glances and smiles.  I noticed a tattoo on his left arm, but he never stood close enough for me to read what I thought might be his last name.  Finally, one afternoon I managed to make out the words above the feathers below – Ani Tsalagi.  That night while sitting at home alone once again, I researched Ani Tsalagi.

By now, the crew had been working on the cabin for about four weeks.  The tattoo gave me a reason to start conversation to the man to whom I was drawn to who was building my cabin.  The day after my research, I gathered up enough courage to speak.  We found each other standing alone around the house plans, and I asked the question, “so, are you Cherokee Indian?”  To his surprise, he looked into my eyes, no longer hidden behind the sunglasses, and said yes, “I’m half Cherokee Indian.”

That one question broke the ice between us.  From that point on, we smiled at each other more often and spoke to each other every day.  On April 5, he had my phone number.  At 6:30 p.m., I received my first text to which I responded, “you made me smile.”  His reply which melted my heart was “I have smiled since I first saw you.”

The log cabin is a fulfillment of a dream, “something to call my own”, a beautiful start to a new chapter in my life.  But it’s the man with the Ani Tsalagi tattoo who has given me a reason to love life again, a reason to smile and laugh again, but most importantly, a reason to love fearlessly once more and not be alone.

“My Friend A Part Of Me”

Growing up in a military family, you move around every few years. While it’s exciting to experience new cities, states and even another country, it takes a toll on your relationships, especially friends. As young girls, my sister and I did our best to make new friends and adjust to our new location throughout our school years. As we grew older, it became more difficult emotionally when we had to move again and leave friends behind.

For four years, our family lived in a little town in central Illinois where my sister and I attended high school. I think from the first time I met Lori, we were friends. We took the same classes, even got sent to the principal’s office together. We spent countless hours together on weekends and during summer breaks. We played the piano together, baked chocolate chip cookies together, listened to “Dark Side Of The Moon” trying to figure out the meaning behind every song. We even got our driver’s licenses together.

Not long after high school graduation, our family moved once again. Even knowing that graduation sends you and your classmates in different directions, you hope to stay close enough to see each other every now and them. Some go off to college, some start careers, some start families. . . Despite your good intentions, it becomes harder to stay in touch. You become absorbed in climbing the corporate ladder, raising children, maybe raising grandchildren, and chasing your dreams. And yet, there are some people who stay with you throughout all of life’s changes and challenges.

Today, I found a book that Lori sent to me many, many years ago called “Flowers of Friendship”. There is a poem on page 67; she addressed it to me and signed it, “Your friend, Lori”. Despite all of my travels and life’s twists and turns, she has remained my friend, never judging me nor abandoning me. What a blessing for me to say that I have a life-long friend . . .

“I am a part of all whom I have met,”

So, friend of mine, you are a wholesome part;

Our precious visits, lingering with me yet,

Are flowers in the garden of my heart.

Your smiles like violets, sweet beyond compare,

Your words, carnations, cheering me on my way,

Your deeds like roses, rich with perfume rare,

Bring faith and hope and love every day.

So, friend of mine, thou’ you are far away,

Between us may stretch mountain, plain, or sea,

Yet by my side you walk and talk each day,

Because you are a precious part of me.

~Charles Elmer Chapler

An Unlikely Pair

To the casual observer, he and she were an unlikely pair.  But to those in close proximity of the two of them could feel the attraction.  He was the south end of a magnet and she the north end, forming a permanent magnetic field of closeness.  It was this closeness that was the foundation of their forever love.

He loved the wild, wild west, cowboys and Indians. She loved the tropics and Asian culture.

He wore starched shirts, perfectly-knotted ties, and cowboy boots. She wore silk, lace and high heels.

He never had a hair out of place. She let her hair flow long, sometimes with a forced wave.

He loved bluegrass and R&B. She loved 80’s and classic rock.

He was self-taught on the guitar. She was classically trained on the piano.

He drove an SUV. She drove a two-seater sports car.

He worked for the same company for over 30 years. She had already worked for three.

He had some college, military and lots of on-the-job training. She had two college degrees.

He was a fitness fanatic and weight lifter. She walked her dog for exercise.

He was a father with two children. She had no children, only a “fur-baby”.

He had lived in Florida all but four years of his life. She had not lived in one place more than four years.

He had family and friends all around him.  She had family and friends scattered across the country.

This unlikely pair was me and my husband. Our paths crossed in a meant-to-be-moment through Godwinks and guardian angels. Our differences were the lure which led us to discover shared dreams and wishes. We fell head-over-heels in love and nothing was going to keep us apart:

“Our soul mate is one who makes life come to life.” Richard Bach

We made each other’s life come to life.  From the beginning and all of our years together, we were blessed with love that strengthened and deepened into our Bea-utiful love story – an unlikely pair of hearts joined together forever.

Two Hearts

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