“If you think the universe doesn’t speak to you, it’s probably because you haven’t been listening.” –Me
I visited Merryhaven today. For those of you who’ve been following me for some time or those who have read the book, you know that Merryhaven is the setting for my new adult novel Tattered Butterfly Wings. Merryhaven is a fictional group home for young, troubled teens. The four protagonists in the story have experienced various types of trauma and they’ve been thrown together in this group home setting. One was forced into a gang by his father, another was raped by her mother’s “friend,” another has unsuccessfully attempted suicide several times, and another has been self-mutilating himself.
This week, I’m in Chattanooga on a Department of Education externship. It’s an experience that brings educators together with major companies in order that teachers can take something from the experience that will allow them to teach real-world skills to their students. I’m visiting a disability insurance company. Yawn, right? Well, yes, but no.
The company, Unum, has a strong belief in corporate responsibility and they’ve formed a relationship with a local nonprofit called the Chambliss Center. Unum employees contribute time and money to help support Chambliss in its mission. The center offers twenty-four hour childcare which parents can pay for on a sliding scale fee. The center also offers before and after child care, pre-school service, and has a residential wing for troubled kids.
When I and my fellow educator signed up for the program, we chose to visit International Paper in Memphis. We weren’t thinking about wanting to leave Memphis. But we weren’t chosen, initially. Then we got an email saying that a group of teachers had decided to drop out of the program and we were invited to take their place. And that’s how I ended up in Merryhaven.
Merryhaven is a fictional place I created. But as I listened to the tour guide take us around Chambliss today, I could’ve sworn she was helping me re-explore Merryhaven. I don’t believe in random happenings. Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the universe senses our need for confirmation that we’re on the right path. All we have to do is listen and act.
Because I had the pleasure of visiting Merryhaven, I’m offering this excerpt from Tattered Butterfly Wings so that you, too, can visit Merryhaven today.
Kelvin runs his tongue along his bottom lip and looks up at the clock on the wall. It is broken. Or perhaps it just needs batteries. No one has ever bothered to check it since it stopped running two months ago. Maybe the people who run this place believe time only matters to those who are able to leave, like they get to do at the end of their shift every day. Kelvin seems bored with us already.
My thoughts move away from Kelvin, brush him aside like he has already done us.
The truth of the matter is that we are all damaged. Most people are just great magicians, masters of self-deception. Instead of reaching into their sacks and pulling out the bloody bones of their secrets, they pull out plastic roses or fake daffodils because what looks beautiful is oftentimes preferred to what is real.
While living on the outside, we tried to be accepted, tried to be like everyone else. Conjurers of disguise and deception. We were never able to figure out those sleight of hand maneuvers. Like those drivers who pass an accident on the interstate, we kept looking back at our past humiliations and hurts. And in the process of looking back, and trying to hold on to those bones, we turned our hurt and anger back on ourselves and engaged in self-mutilation.
Here’s a link to the book, so you can check it out: Tattered Butterfly Wings
Peace & Love,