Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Through the Eyes of Grief

Thank goodness for the Writer's Collaborative in my city otherwise I might never get words down on paper. Our leader gave us a prompt called:
"Sweet And Sour"
Her instructions were to: Describe briefly a lake or a backcountry mountain trail (in other words, a beautiful natural setting) as seen by a person who has just lost a parent in a sudden, unexpected death. The last time this narrator saw the parent, they argued violently. In your narrative do not mention the death, the parent, or the argument. Do not tell a story. Simply show us what the lake or forest or street looks like to someone under these circumstances. 500 words.

When I was small we used to vacation up at Squam Lake in NH.  Those are some of my best memories but I also remember being terrified of the loons up there.  That terror is nothing compared to how I would feel about losing one of my parents.  I thought the loon was also an appropriate symbol because I would probably lose my mind if I lost my parents.  So, without furthur ado, here is what I came up based on this very very difficult prompt:) 

At dusk, a loon broke the water of Big Squam Lake.  His slick black and white coat stained the ripples with incongruous contrast.  It’s said that loons love shiny things.  If they encounter a human they’re likely to gouge out the eyes first, fixated on the gleam.  The teeth are next, depending on what condition they are in.  This loon had recently killed at least three minnows devouring the meat along with the sheen of their scales. 
The sun was setting now and the light made even the roughest rocks shimmer. The water slid off the loon’s back, eager to get away from his violence.  The loon dove again, slicing the dark water, pretending to disappear, only to pierce the surface just as the turmoil had settled.  A trout hung limply from his beak.  The bird’s eyes glittered like garnets. The beak itself shone and dripped. Each drop sunk back into the wake as the loon made his way to a pine needled shore.  
The yellowing sheaths of pine plants stuck to the bird’s flippers.  He threw the trout to the ground with a thud.  Dander of the wooded beach exploded upon the impact of the big fish.  It’s dead eyes no longer had a gleam but the beak of the crazed loon shot through the socket nonetheless.  The dagger beak then went to work impaling the body of the catch.  The gills ripped apart, the liver wrenched out, the heart cleaved into several pieces.  The red eyes served as fierce sentinels as the loon tore the body into mangled chum. 
The water lapped up to the blood soaked ground.  The remains attracted only scavengers.  They circled above, crept and crawled from below.  The loon did not bother to fight them off.  He turned away and returned to the glassy water.  The shore looked much as it had before, but the hum of scrounging insects twisted the land. The smell of fish just before rot drew crowds of vermin to the darkening waterfront.  The water too seemed unaltered but the war wail of the red eyed loon reverberated across the lake.  The warbling wail warned children to shut their eyes tight, to shroud that fatal gleam.  It commanded them to close their mouths around their pearly teeth, to protect their new found smiles.  
Night was fully formed on Big Squam Lake.  The loon’s white flecks reflected the moonlight and his black feathers faded into the shadows cast across the water.  Still, the gleam of red shone from his eyes and he wailed until the trout was nothing but a skeleton waiting to be bleached by the sun.  He called into small hours and beyond.  He whooped against the water that held him afloat.  And his signal went out to others, whose red eyes shone and whose voices hailed back the wail of the loon.  

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Animated Kiss

One of the most enjoyable parts of raising children is reliving what have become mundane everyday events as exciting “firsts.” 

I remember a friend telling me how awesome it was the first time her son saw a dog.  I mean, yeah, dogs are crazy creatures and so getting a glimpse of a lab for the first time must have blown his mind.  So, I try and watch out for these moments and while the trash truck is no longer the highlight of my oldest's week I am surprised by the things I forget he has never seen.

For example, when we watched his first Disney animated film with him , I, of course, picked my favorite; Beauty and the Beast.  I want to instill at an early age that brains are better than brawn or beauty.  I also wanted it to be extra educational so I rented it from the Library in Spanish.  This was very confusing since the story is set in France.  So we have like Frenglish going on.  I’m pretty sure that most of the story was lost on him.  But he loved the fight between Gaston and the Beast.  He has a strong sense of justice but a tender heart so the Beast exposing Gaston for the coward that he is yet not dropping him to his death was just right to him.  (Oops sorry spoiler alert).  

But then, Gaston sneaks up on the Beast and stabs him to death.  At this point I am a little uncertain about my choice to let him watch this.  But it’s okay because Belle is by the Beast’s side and tells him she loves him before the last rose petal falls.  Then, magic.  I am not sure how to explain this to a (then) three year old, so I said it was a type of special medicine where they shoot light out of your extremities until you get better and an added benefit of this medical procedure is that if you are a Beast the light therapy transforms you into a long haired French prince.  Again, keep in mind the movie is in Spanish and my son is 3 and not bilingual.  

Next comes the part that I had totally blocked from my mind.  G rated movies allow....gulp...animated kissing!  Horror.  What am I going to tell him about that?  My husband and I are not the kissing in front of your kids or anyone or ever type so my palms are sweating like crazy.  “Ugh No!!!”  I inwardly cringe and imagine all the awkward questions that will likely ensue.  All this as the Prince/Beast is spinning about.  

And then Belle holds his face, and he brushes away a stray lock of her brown hair.  The music crescendos.  Inwardly, I am in a fetal position trying to think of a distraction but I can’t seem to find my voice.  And then they kiss.  And somehow Disney makes the animated kiss just as sensual as a human one.  Their faces are practically one.  It seems to be lasting for at least 10 minutes.  I still can’t think of anything to say.  Then, at last it’s over and everyone is happy and all I can mutter is, “Why would they do that?” Like I don’t know what a kiss is. Like I haven’t conceived three children.  My approach is to play dumb.

What is that weird face smashing?  Must be part of the strange firework light therapy.  

Let’s never speak of this again.  

(Probably another bad mom moment)

Based on Prompt #2 from my writer's collaborative...Say It With a Kiss

Kissing uses all five senses, which makes it an extremely sensuous act. It is a beginning and an end—the kiss hello and the kiss good-bye. There are a variety of romantic puckers (passionate, wet, teasing, rough, slow), as well as thrown-across-the-room kisses, tentative kisses, friendly pecks, and the reluctant ones that children give relatives or parents' friends. The poet Tess Gallagher's book Portable Kisses evokes a buffet of smooches.

Your first kiss is often etched in memory, and so is the solitary, experimental kind that you may have practiced on your arm, your pillow, or up against the mirror. Do you remember when you first found out French kissing involved touching tongues? I thought I would gag if I tried it, and I couldn't figure out how adults, who were forever concerned about germs, would willingly do something that seemed even more likely to spread a cold than drinking from someone else's soda bottle.

Write about kissing. Besides being fun to write about, it is an especially good practice for writing scenes between two people. (Approximately 500 words)

Monday, October 26, 2015

Bad Mom

Prompt #1 from The Writing Collaborative

"Word Choice: One Syllable Words

Write a response (fiction, nonfiction, a scene, a description of a person or place, ect.) that is roughly 500 words and is made up of ONLY one syllable words. This exercise highlights the importance of word choice and pushes the limits of your vocabulary. You may even have to break out a thesaurus! "

When we walk, arms full of books, I try to keep my kids with me.  But right now the boy is out in front and the girl is way far back.  I am torn in two.  I yell at the far one, call to the slow one and then turn my eyes to the baby I hold and my phone.  
       Her eyes are closed.  A smile plays on her small lips.  I grin and try to take a shot of her sweet small face when an old maid walks by.  Her hat is fur and her eyes dark lined. 
“Get off your phone and get your kids!”  She snarls my way. Her paint red lips look cracked.
I look in front, I look back.  Where I saw smiles and slow walks I now see the rush and threat of the busy street.  My heart beats with shame.  
Witch,” I think (but with a B), but I know she is right and it hurts.   My shame grows.  I feel the title mom turn into the curse “fraud.”  I cringe and call once more to my small one who has run out in front. I turn off my phone to grab the one in back.
But, a new plain clothes judge gets off the bus and shouts, “Whose kid is this?  Where is her mom?  It is a shame, a shame the way some moms don’t seem to care.”
“She’s with me,” I call, “She’s okay.”  My girl smiles and takes short strides my way. But she is too close to the bus.  She may fall or worse this new rat may snatch her up. 
“It is not okay” comes the reply from the cavy queen.  She vents her shock and rage.  I reel from the force of her cold call down.  Much of what she says is true.  Risks I can not count come to mind.  I can not keep them safe.  Three is more than I can watch all at once. What can I do?  I am flawed.  I fail.   At last, she gives me a shake of the head and a silent boo. 
I can not move.  A pain grabs my heart and my breath is short and weak.  
My kids still smile and make their way at their own pace.  The fast boy stops in his tracks at the red WAIT hand and the slow one hops over each crack.  I love them all so bad it hurts.  
I start to breath a slow plea to God to give me grace, to help me just to be.  I ask the Son of God to let me take one step and then the next.  I ask Him to take the blame, the guilt, the fear that hold my feet in stone blocks.  
And He is there.  He is real.  I pick up my small girl and hug her tight.  I walk to my first born son and hold his hand.  I look at my baby’s face and her eyes are still closed in peace and sleep.  

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Writing Update

Here is a letter I wrote to my friend a few days ago.  As I was writing I felt like I was writing to everyone who reads this blog, so I decided to post it.  

     So it has been entirely too long since we talked!  We need to catch up.

     No word on my Glimmer Train submission but I have been writing.  I hope you have been too!   If there is one thing I've learned from reading "The Artist's Way" this summer, it is that everyone has something to say.  I mean you can paint it, glue it, dance it, sing it or write it but I (mostly) loved the challenge of writing 3 pages every day.  It definitely forced me to be more disciplined about writing. And it opened my eyes to the opportunities all around me.  Most of them are at the library which I love!  #nerdalert

          I was really wishing you were with me tonight because it was the very first meeting of the Writer’s Collaborative I joined!!!  The way it is set up is in a workshop style which means each time we meet we have all read one person’s piece (at least twice) and written comments.  The one we read tonight was a totally spooky Stephen King-like horror story.  I actually liked it which is very unlike me because usually blood and gore are not my thing.  Probably the closest thing I’ve read to “horror” is Harry Potter.

       But this workshop was such a cool experience. Everyone got there super early.  I was on time (which for me now that I have three kids is super early) but I was the last one there.  Plus we had a prompt that we could write about as optional homework and everyone did it but me!!!  Help me not become a slacker.  The prompt was...

Word Choice: One Syllable Words

Write a response (fiction, nonfiction, a scene, a description of a person or place, ect.) that is roughly 500 words and is made up of ONLY one syllable words. This exercise highlights the importance of word choice and pushes the limits of your vocabulary. You may even have to break out a thesaurus!  

           Anyways, I really need to get serious and write something that I can put up for critique.  I mean it takes courage to write but then to sit (silently) in a room while 20 people discuss what they thought was awesome and what they found to be BS (baloney and salami) takes a real solid backbone.  The main thing I loved about the format was that it was like being in a book discussion and in a writing seminar at the same time. I was reading really good writing (almost everyone in the group is published, excepted yours truly and learning new writing techniques like new ways to hook my reader.

       So my next blog post will be my stab at the one syllable story prompt.  Until then....onward and upward!

( And I'm always looking for guest writers, so shoot me whatever you are working on if you get a chance:)

Friday, October 2, 2015

Hold My Hand! Actually, Please Don’t By Jane Dietrich

Our blogger this week is my sister, the sculptor,  writer and one of my favorite guests on this blog (and in real life:)
Check out more of her work at

I’m walking along the sidewalk hand in hand with the man I love. It’s a beautiful day; 75 degrees and sunny. A light breeze carries the songs of the birds above to our ears. Our arms swing slightly with each step, telling the world “Hey! Look at this hottie. I’m dating him!”

Yet, something feels off. Is it the growing clamminess of my palm? No…(though that is a bit embarrassing). Is it that our steps aren’t quite in sync? I suppose, but there’s something more. 

It’s the feeling that I’m not centered. My internal compass feels askew. I want to walk a bit more to the right, but then he would be falling off the curb. Isn’t that better than me scraping my arm against the wall? Don’t I deserve to dodge pedestrians coming the other way on my own time?!  

Suddenly claustrophobia sets in. 

The buildings are too close. 
But on the other side l’ll run into the parking meters!
Our pace is too fast, 
now too slow. 
CAN’T YOU LET ME WALK AT MY NORMAL CADENCE?? People say I have a walk that is “so me”. 

Suddenly, the sidewalk situation morphs into a metaphor for my life. The spiral downward picks up speed.  

Is this what marriage is going to be like? Never having my own space? Always touching?   If I can’t get over this, how will I ever make it through a lifetime with you?! 

Now remember, I am madly in love with this guy and usually love him holding my hand. But there’s something about the sidewalk. It just doesn’t seem to be made for two. I need some independence here people. 

So there I am walking, internally freaking the hell out while Hunter observes how beautiful the clouds are.  Lost in my angst, 
I trip. 
Our grasp tightens and I don’t make a complete fool of myself. I snap back to reality.
I do love him. I do want to hold his hand. I can use my words like a five year old and ask to not hold hands for a hot sec. It doesn’t mean we won’t last together. When it comes down to it, I would always choose holding his hand than not having the option.

It is nice to walk on the sidewalk together… but sometimes, let’s not hold hands.