The Green Cap


By Katie Elliot

I’ve always had a slight fascination with witchcraft. Whether it was fictional movies airing annually on television prior to Halloween depicting cackling women circling a black, steaming cauldron – an endless tornado of swirling black crinoline – or chapter 10 in my elementary school history book and its sugar-coating of the Salem Witch Trials, I was all in. That’s probably why at the tender age of nine when I stumbled across a Spell Book authored by a self-proclaimed “real” witch amidst the clutter in my cousin’s Pearl Jam-infested bedroom, I could not put it down. I’m not even sure why she had it, but I read the entire book cover to cover and took notes about which spells I thought I could tackle without having to purchase any odds and ends that my $5-per-week allowance could not possibly accommodate. 

The one spell that most piqued my interest required nothing further than some pins, my own hair and spending the evening alone, which all seemed doable. The tricky part was that it had to be performed on the evening of January 21, The Eve of Saint Agnes. The spell’s introduction explained that Saint Agnes was a thirteen-year-old virgin who was put to death for refusing to eschew Jesus Christ as her spouse despite multiple requests from high-power potential suitors; January 21 was the day of her martyrdom and it was said that even pagans wept as she was stabbed to death because she was such a beautiful, spirited girl.

At nine years old, I didn’t fully comprehend what all of that back-story meant – there’s no way I knew what a martyr was – all I knew was if I plucked two of my hairs and wrapped each around a pin, put them under my pillow after spending the evening alone and then chanted something to “sweet St. Agnes” as I drifted off to sleep, she would show me my future spouse in my dreams that night. I figured there was no harm in trying.

That afternoon at school I could barely contain myself and was so excited to go home and sit alone in my room until bedtime. I’d already worked out in my mind that I was going to feign being sick so my parents would leave me alone and then I could do as I pleased. This worked like a charm as I was able to eat a meager dinner before 6 p.m., the official start of evening, and then remain in my room for the duration of the night. I’d lifted a couple of straight pins from my mother’s sewing box, plucked and wrapped my hairs and carefully placed them under my pillow. I was all set. I followed the spell meticulously and memorized my chant, which I whispered to myself as I was falling asleep. That night I dreamt of a boy wearing a green baseball cap whose face I couldn’t really see, but whose smile I could just make out from under the bill of the cap. That image was all I remembered when I awoke, but I assumed the spell had worked since I had a dream about a boy and that he was my future spouse who I obviously didn’t know yet. This was my logical explanation for why I couldn’t see his face. I remember feeling proud and simultaneously ashamed because I was doing something that I was pretty certain wouldn’t be smiled upon by my parents or my church, for that matter, but from what I could tell it had worked. Did this make me a witch because I’d seemingly successfully completed a spell? I wasn’t sure and finally decided it was nothing and the dream was a coincidence. Not to mention, I really couldn’t be sure if it had actually worked until I got married, right? At nine, adulthood and marriage was ages away, so with that, I pushed my sinful act of spell-casting to the back of my mind.

Seven years later during my sophomore year of high school I met a boy who was a senior; mutual friends who were dating set us up and my first instinct was that I didn’t really like him. He seemed cocky and for what reason I wasn’t sure. He had a job, a car and an attitude and I was way too proud to let my big personality be eclipsed by some eighteen-year-old Cassanova. He always wore a baseball cap to tame his unruly, black hair and I never really paid much attention to it other than it was in pretty rough shape from years of everyday wear. I’m not sure how or why, but at some point that year I decided I liked this boy; his attitude had waned and he seemed to want to do whatever he could to make me like him. My little ego enjoyed the strokes. 

We dated throughout my remaining years in high school and off and on during college. My senior year of college we took a year off and dated other people, but kept finding ways back to each other, the final time when we were both in some friends’ wedding and were forced to attend sundry preliminary parties and other various nuptial festivities. After a solid decade of a roller coaster of a relationship and living in several cities, we got married four years ago and are back in our hometown, only about 20 minutes from the high school courtyard where we first met. I won’t say we were high school sweethearts or soul mates, that sounds too idyllic and frankly, a bit silly as I don’t believe in either. But, I will say one night about a year into our marriage, I sat up straight in bed in the middle of the night when I realized the color of the baseball cap my husband wore the year I met him. 

It was hunter green.


Katie Nance Elliott is a freelance marketing communications consultant and writer who left the advertising agency world in search of something a little less structured to nourish her creative spirit. Read her ramblings about popular culture, advertising and the ridiculous situations she finds herself in on her blog So You Think You Can Nance .



The A Word


By Michelle Brock

It was a typical weekday morning.  I had to get my three year old off to preschool and head to work where I teach fifth grade.  It was parent teacher conference week, so I was feeling a tiny bit anxious to make a good impression and have meaningful conversations with my students’ parents.  

We pull up to preschool, where my son usually hopped out of the car and made a mad dash to be one of the first kids in class.  Yet today, when I was feeling a little rushed to make copies before my conferences started, and I was wearing a more profession outfit that was a little harder to wrestle in, my son REFUSED TO GET OUT OF THE CAR.  “I don’t want to go to school today Mommy!  I want to play at home with DAAADDDYYYY!!!”.  

I was breathing deep and remembered to honor his disappointment and feelings.  “I know it’s hard to be away from Daddy.  He’s a lot of fun.  But you’ll get to play with Noah and Alessandro and that will be a lot of fun too.”

“No!”  Then he crossed his arms and refused to budge.  

I took another deep breathe and stayed the course.  I used the low serious voice.  “I’m going to count to three and you need to be out of the car.  1...2...3.  I see you still aren’t out of the car.  If you choose not to get out of the car, you are going to lose your show this afternoon”.  I brought out the big guns,  and waited.  But he was not going to budge.  In that moment, I knew I played the last card I had, so I had to resort to brute force.  I grabbed his upper arm, hauled him out of the carseat and made the humiliating walk of shame, dragging my pint sized boy while he was screaming bloody murder.  Thank god we arrived very early and my humilation was only witnessed by one other parent.  While I was marching my son to what outsiders must’ve thought was the gas chamber, I wanted to shake him like a rag doll and smack him all over.  How could he do this to me, when I was taking him to a place where all he has to do was play and have fun.  

I usually always have a smile on my face.  Even in high school, I was voted Everyone’s Friend because of my happy exterior.  However, recently I’ve been thrown a loop because of an intense emotion has been taking root inside me.

But in the last three years or so, I’ve been struggling with the most uncomfortable and scary emotion:  my anger.  Not just feeling annoyed or peeved, but feeling like I could rip a person to shreds with my bare hands ANGER!  

What could turn the sweet high schooler I once was into the Incredible Hulk?  I’ve been trying to figure it out.  I can pinpoint the birth of my anger to three years ago, because that was when my oldest child was two and a half years old.  The smiley, mommy-clingy toddler was gone, replaced by a curious, energetic, strong-willed child.  What was once a two minute activity to get his shoes and coat on to head to a park, became a thirty minute wrestling match and battle of the wills.  I hate to admit that 9 times out of 10, he would end up in his stroller with no coat and shoes, and I would walk out of the house looking like I just stuck my finger in a light socket.

Unfortunately, my anger was not contained to these stressful interactions with my two year old.  I started feeling angry that my husband was  a lot more patient and calm in these situations.  My anger would brew when I would get to a park and the other moms had beautiful put together outfits with full faces of makeup, and I looked like I just got mowed down by a pack of wild toddlers on trikes.

Then our building got inhabited by those lovely creatures called bed bugs.  My anger mounted when two tenants refused to get rid of those nasty little nuisances.  First they denied they had them, then they blamed other people for having them, and after we got so desperate we had to call the Department of Health, they wouldn’t let inspectors look inside their unit.

You must be wondering, how did my anger manifest itself?  Was I cursing out my neighbors in the elevator?  Walking down Valencia street with hour long rants about how people can suck?  No, I took out my anger on my husband and myself.  Yelling at him if he was five minutes late, or couldn’t read my mind when I needed help.  My sleep was almost non-existent.  I lay in bed, vaguely conscious, but very aware that I was not asleep, because if I were asleep I couldn’t be thinking about how I wasn’t sleeping.  And my lack of sleep just added to my anger, because I was pretty sure if I were well rested, I would have had the energy to calm myself and not get so ANGRY!

The act of me getting in touch with the anger of raising young children, really opened the flood gates to the anger I suppressed growing up.  I’m the second of four children, raised by a single mom, although we did get to see our dad on the weekends.  My mom worked tirelessly to try and provide for us, while also going to school, but she was often worn out and did not have much patience for us.  We were yelled at, hit, and woken up in the middle of the night to do the chores that didn’t get done while she was away.  Living that way as a child was very scary.  I was often angry at my mother, but I didn’t know how to express that anger.  I knew that if I showed my mom how angry I was, I would get yelled at and spanked, so it just got stuffed down.  Whenever I find myself in a frustrating situation with my kids and I’m taking my deep breaths so I’m not cursing my kids out, I feel outraged!!  Outraged that I really want to hit my kids (although I never thought I would feel this way and I hate myself when I feel this way), and bitterly resentful that my mom wasn’t able to get control of her emotions and not hit us.

So, I’ve been trying really hard to deal with my anger.  I often tell myself that anger is a valid emotion.  I need to help myself and my children channel our anger in appropriate ways.  The first line of defense that parents know so well is to use our words.  In my classroom, I have this sentence frame hanging on the wall:  “I feel ________________ when you ________________ because__________”.  It’s really easy for me to remember when my 10 year old students come to me seeking help with a conflict, but in my every day life I’m still trying to make speaking this way a habit.

When I feel myself getting angry, I try to recall the words an old boyfriend used to say, “anger is really just a way to mask our fear”.  So I try to figure out what I’m feeling scared about.  When I go this route, I often feel like I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole.  Asking myself what am I afraid of shakes me to the core.  I feel like an 8.0 earthquake has overcome me and the epicenter is my gut.  Thinking about the fear under my anger scares me so much because I’m really afraid of everything!  I’m afraid I’m failing as a parent because I’m a teacher that can’t control my own children. I’m afraid of the attention I get mid-meltdown from other parents and innocent bystanders.  I’m afraid my kids won’t like me when they are older.  I’m afraid my husband and I won’t be able to pay our bills, won’t be in love when our kids go off to college, will get divorced.  I’m afraid that I’m not a good enough daughter and that I will fail my children as a mother.  All of these fears are in my head, and it’s so painfully terrifying to face them, so I often choose not think of them and just be angry.

After I let my angry Hulk emerge, I feel so ashamed.  I feel like a monster when I’m imagining ripping someones head off, and even worse when I’m gripping my kids by the shoulders.  I don’t want to live a life of anger and irritation. I want to be compassionate and caring, in control of my emotions, able to walk away when I’m feeling upset.  

Speaking about my anger with other parents helps me to feel less alone.  Children asserting their independence is one of the hardest situations to hold and go through.  I’m learning it makes the most patient people feel crazy and upset.  

The road to managing my anger is sure to be a lifelong journey.  I need to honor, acknowledge, and figure out how to walk through the hot coals and glass shards of my anger.  I need to be brave and not stuff my rage down, ignore it or try to walk around it.  All of those avoidance techniques are just temporary solutions, that will leave my anger festering like a wound, that will later bubble up, reeking and infected.  

I’m learning to accept all parts of myself, even the fiery, fuming, jaw clenching monster, which is what I’ve come to view my anger as.  I’m nowhere near conquering or mastering my anger.  But I’m a lot closer to learning how to deal with it by naming it and acknowledging it.  



Broken Sonnets


By Trina Moyles

“You should write about it,” said Joanne.

The walls of her large counseling room were painted buttercup yellow and the corners stuffed with gigantic corduroy beanbag chairs. Joanne’s voice was soft and perky. She always made me feel like a kindergarten student and I liked it that way. If I had met her in the streets, out of context, I would’ve thought her to be a hippie. Someone whom you’d forgive of her airy fairy ways because of old age. It was hard to imagine Joanne working with sex offenders. Would she tell them the same thing?

Write about it.

The truth was I had tried to write about it. Many times. I had all the journals filled with a few sentences or a paragraph that usually said something like this:

An old story that starts the same as the rest.



I liked to cram the words together to hide the meaning, hoping it would give me time to hand it over to a reader and by the time she realized what she was about to read, I’d already have a good thirty-second head start running away.

I wanted to write about it, but I was too terrified to put myself inside the details.

Or I was too self-loathing to allow myself to get into the details because my story wasn’t so awful, not like, say, the stories of other women I had met. Why should I be complaining about a story like mine? I was pushed down and scraped my knee. Those women were pushed down and broke their legs, fractured their pelvises, even their bones split open and the marrow of who they were was washed away.

But I threw away the journals with the stories that died in childbirth because their covers were too bright, too flashy, too presumptuous and I felt they shouldn’t contain a story so ugly. Those journals were like expensive homes in the suburbs.

So I switched to writing half-eaten sentences in old university notebooks on lined paper with metal rings but then I realized those ones were so easy to erase in an instant. Ripping the paper from their metal bones felt so good. I tore out more pages than I wrote.

Poetry became a good way to obscure what happened. Instead of writing about me, I wrote about a woman from my home-town who’s teenage son had died years ago and she was still spotted by her neighbors, walking the length of the riverbank, holding a stuffed animal in her arms and searching the piles of stones and driftwood for his body, though he hadn’t drowned in the river, he had been hit in the back of a head by a drunkard.

I wrote dark sonnets instead of my story because a rule of fourteen lines felt like a safe place for hiding inside. I wrote those sonnets at unpredictable moments, on the backs of receipts, or napkins, or scratched into my memory as I pretended to be somewhere visiting with someone and nodding my head to something. When I stitched them together, they didn’t resemble my story – not the version people knew – and that felt somehow satisfying. I was tired of repeating that story to people who meant well but were only digging at a scabby wound whenever they asked.

Poetry was the perfect front.

No one read poetry in my hometown, anyways.

I had wanted to recite some to the dental hygienist who had burst into the room as I was tilted back in the dental chair, my mouth pulled apart with metal, hooked and the cavity inside dry and brittle as a leaf. Maybe she had read my name on the chart outside, maybe my story was somehow related to her story, anyways, for some reason she felt compelled to push into the room and say how sorry she was for me, and me, her captive audience could only nod and sound out an animal response.

“Uhhh guhh” I said to her, though I wanted to say:

May the sun never go down, may the light never leach from these summer skies.

How she would’ve responded with a polite nod as if she understood, which she didn’t understand, not at all, and nor any other person who felt the need to be nice and approach me in the streets and croon, “Oh, I heard what happened to you, and I’m so sorry.”

It was better that I was sleeping alone on those nights because they were dark, a new category of dark, that I wouldn’t have been able to explain to anyone else.

These days, I am afraid of what’s on the other side of light: the memory of light

stripped from me. His dead weight hand across my eyes, nose, his power dangling


I realized that too well one night, after mistaking the footsteps of my cat down the hallway for an intruder and dialing 911 and apologizing to the smirking police officer whom I bothered and I swear was looking at my tits from beneath my pajama top.

I remember lightning. The geese scattering, my breath

a cracked lake. The switchblade certainty of how I would take it:

Obedience, I fired quick.

Remembering my story made me act fast.

‘Trigger reactions’ was what Joanne called my episodes of throwing a pizza in the face of some half-drunk guy who made a comment about gang-banging a girl, or finding a blood blister on my foot and going to Emergency demanding they remove the cancerous mole, or screaming at some poor Nigerian guy to let me out of the back of his taxi.

My story became many broken sonnets that had piled up in the cellar like soft forgotten potatoes, and shot forth tangled sprouts that searched, confused, for light.

Knowing how we need the light,

knowing what I’d give for it.


Trina Moyles is a Canadian freelance writer and photographer currently living in southwestern Uganda. She writes about the collision of culture, community development, politics and creative sustainable living on her personal blog The Bean Tree -