Monday, December 30, 2013

Gratitude List: December 30, 2013


As the year ends, I’m linking up again with Laurel Regan’s Gratitude List at her wonderful blog, Alphabet Salad , to share a few things (large and small) that I’m grateful for right now in my life.


  Getting an email from my cousin in South Carolina, who’s been fighting cancer, telling me that she’s doing well, regaining weight, and feeling normal again.

  Not having another work project coming in till the second week in January—having precious time off!!!

  The smell of pine filling the house from the Christmas tree.

  Getting eight books for Christmas, plus two Barnes & Noble gift cards! I’ll be busy for a while.

  People in our neighborhood who, like us, leave their lights on and their trees up until well after New Year’s.

  Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime tea, Bigelow French Vanilla tea—just TEA!

  With no immediate family left, having a great extended family and wonderful in-laws on both my side and my husband’s.

  Having survived the losses of my brother and mother over the past five years, being caregiver for my mother for two years, and now being settled back in our own home; having had a relatively stable and peaceful 2013, I feel that I’ve accomplished my goal of “renewal” and am now looking forward to a good and productive new year.
I hope all of you have many things to be grateful for at this moment. Share them at Laurel's blog!

Monday, December 9, 2013



My Gratitude List for December 9, 2013


This post is a linkup with Laurel Regan’s Gratitude List at her wonderful blog, Alphabet Salad. Join us and share what you’re grateful for on this day, this moment.
Here is my list for today.

▪ Receiving a Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award nomination from Laurel Regan at Alphabet Salad—thanks so much, Laurel!

 Learning that a flash fiction story of mine will be published in the literary magazine The Quotable (this actually happened last month, but I’m still grateful).

 Having a warm, comfortable home as winter is coming on.

 Being able to share my good fortune with others who have less through our church’s wonderful “embrace a family” program.

 Living in a small city in a small state that nevertheless offers an abundance of cultural treasures: several theater companies, small-concert as well as major venues; art-film cinemas; art galleries; and many more.

▪ Having thriving small businesses—restaurants, shops—within blocks of our home.

▪ Being able to get back to crocheting and resume working on my many unfinished projects.

 At this time of year, seeing the bright colored lights begin to come on in homes and yards all through the neighborhood.


What are you grateful for in your life right now?

Monday, October 28, 2013

My Gratitude List  (October 28, 2013)

Thanks to Laurel at Alphabet Salad for originating the idea of the Gratitude List and creating a link-up! Visit her and join in, sharing what you're grateful for at this moment in time.

My list today:

The bright gold foliage outside my window, with the sun shining through it

The Red Sox in the World Series

Being nearly finished with my huge project—and having another one waiting for me

Having the week’s food shopping done and menus planned for the week

Living in a city and a neighborhood where it’s easy to walk so many places

My dog sleeping on the bed down the hall

The “undo” key in Word; I’d be lost without it!

And always: my wonderful husband, the best part of my life!


Sunday, October 20, 2013

I am inspired again this weekend to post 33 words for Trifecta. The challenge this time:

"Katherine Paterson, author of Bridge to Terabithia, wrote, “It's like the smarter you are, the more things can scare you.”  We are looking for a 33-word explanation of what scares you (or your character)."
The Long, Slow Amnesia
 My mother’s puzzled frightened eyes, searching for sense.
“Are you my sister or my daughter?” she asks me.
No terror can match hers, but mine is right there beside it, holding its hand.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


A Sixty-Plus Takes Up Belly Dancing

There are a few things you need to know about me. The first thing is that I am a serious klutz. I get bruises everywhere from bumping into things. Objects hide when they see me coming. My balance is tentative at best, precarious at worst, even when I’m only walking in a (semi)straight line. Last year I tripped over my dog and woke up in an ambulance with a concussion. This year I tripped on uneven concrete while running and ended up splayed on the sidewalk.

The second thing is that in my twenties, just after college, I took a modern dance class. I came down from a hop the wrong way and broke a bone in my foot; I was on crutches for a month.

The third thing is that I turned sixty-three years old last month. I’m not beautiful, not slender, not (see above) graceful. Nor athletic. I’m not Little Egypt (anyone remember her?) or Shakira.
Little EgyptShakira

With all this history, then, why would I sign up for a belly dancing class?

That was the question I kept asking myself for months, after an article in our local paper stirred up my latent dreams of myself as sylph-like and sensuous. Belly dancing had never been on my bucket list; in fact, the thought itself would have made me embarrassed and feel ridiculous in view of my aforementioned deficits.

But this article called it wonderful exercise “for all ages.” That got my attention. Then there were photos of a couple of local teachers and classes waving their arms, scarves (scarves!) floating from hands and tied around waists, jingling with coins. How lovely, romantic, graceful it looked!

And this was also exercise! Good for you!

My enthusiasm suddenly caught fire. I’m an occasional runner, but it’s hard for me, and I have to really motivate myself. This sounded like automatic motivation. I’m also a class nerd; show me a class that sounds interesting and I’ll sign up.

Since I lost my mom last year after several years of caregiving, I’ve been feeling the need to expand my world a little more. Maybe losing your last parent does this, makes you feel the years shrinking ahead of you. I knew I didn’t want my world shrinking as I age. I want to try to keep expanding it, keep learning, finding new interests.

So I found a class being offered through a local adult-learning organization. It was several months before it started, which gave me time to think about it, wonder, waffle a lot. Sometimes too much time to think can be dangerous. (Would I just be making a fool of myself?) Finally, a week before the class began, I decided to take the plunge.
We started in the middle of a July heat wave. No one had told us what to wear. I went for the least confining things I had: a white tank top and gray yoga pants. The seven-minute drive there was hot, but the studio nice and cool. I was relieved to see at least one other woman around my age. Her daughter was a belly dancer, and she already had a hip scarf. I was envious.

 Hip scarf

It surprised me how comfortable I felt. This was so different for me, yet I was excited, eager to start. The instructor asked us a little about ourselves, and I told my story of the broken foot to let her know not to expect too much. But for once it wasn’t a defensive move. I honestly didn’t care how clumsy I looked; this would be fun!

She began to show us basic moves, and the six of us tried our best to follow, but she was so graceful, moved so sinuously, that our own images in the mirrors made us look like Bigfoot by comparison.

Nevertheless, I kept reminding myself that I wasn’t doing this to become a dancer.

Through the following weeks we practiced new ways of moving: our hips, our chests,  in circles, up and down, in figure eights. Our muscles, our joints, stretched, contracted, in ways they never had before. We realized exactly how stiff we were—even the younger women among us. We practiced steps and found out how difficult it really is to move across the floor in a certain pattern of steps while raising, lowering, or undulating other parts of your body. My respect for the women who practice this ancient art grew greatly.

At the end of our second lesson the instructor told us, “Usually you have to practice at level 1 for a year or more before you really feel comfortable with the moves.” Ah, maybe I’m not hopeless at all, I thought, already projecting my thoughts farther ahead than I had considered before.

Sure, I thought, I can keep doing this!  

It isn’t easy. But at the end of each lesson I felt good, physically and mentally. And something else happened over the course of six weeks: I began to feel more graceful, whether or not I was. I began to feel the movements inside my body. I felt myself sitting up taller, pulling my stomach in, being aware of how I stepped and how my hips moved, began to stretch more and more deliberately. And I started to feel more feminine. I wanted to wrap things around myself. Shawls. Soft loose jackets. Bracelets. I started wanting to wear makeup again. I saw that the other women had painted toenails, and I wanted to paint mine, too—something I’d never really wanted to do before. Maybe even—someday—get a pedicure!

Ankle coins

Sometimes life outside your comfort zone isn’t so uncomfortable at all.

The next session starts in a few weeks, and I’ll be there.

Maybe I’ll even buy myself a hip scarf.




Sunday, September 1, 2013

This was written for the Trifecta Writing Challenge . I took the prompt literally and went back to a memory from elementary school.

"This weekend we're asking you to harken back to your grade school days and write a haiku (an unrhymed verse form of Japanese origin having three lines containing usually five, seven, and five syllables respectively)."
At Recess, Alone
Children play, but one
doesn’t join. She walks, content,
beside her own thoughts.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Confession

               They sit over coffee, friends of many years, both married half a lifetime now.

               “How’s Jack?”

               “Jack’s Jack.” Grace sighs. “Always the same—like his name. Do you know that’s really his name? Not John. Not Jackson or Jacques or Giacomo. Why would parents name a boy just Jack?”

               Anne shrugs.

               “Annie, do you remember when we were kids, how we used to play being grown-up and glamorous, married to exciting men? I was going to be Graciela and you’d be Anna Maria, and our husbands—“

               “Oh, wait! I remember. Mine was…Thorne, or something?”

               “Thorndyke. And mine was Sebastian.”

               “What romance-novel names,” Anne laughs.

               “And we were going to live in a huge castle on the moors, all of us, each in one of the wings, and we’d ride horses all around the desolate landscape and listen to the voices of the spirits in the air. And our children would be half-wild and beautiful and love the wind and the rain and each other, and they’d have a tragic and passionate relationship like Heathcliff and Cathy.”

               “Now why would we have wanted that for our children?”

               “Because it was exciting and full of life.”

               “Gracie, are saying you’re unhappy with Jack?”

               “No—that would be more interesting. I’m ahappy, I guess—neutral. Somewhere in between.” She leans over the table. “Annie. I have to tell you something.”


A few blocks away, Jack, Just-Jack of the plain name, to whom she is not Graciela but the grace of God, is getting ready to clean out his wife’s car. He loves doing little things for her. She walked to the cafĂ© to meet an old friend, so he’ll surprise her. Clean the interior, vacuum, wash the car.

               He opens the glove compartment and pulls out old badly folded maps, her registration card, the manual, a few miscellaneous papers.

               Then something drops on the seat. He picks it up and stares. For a moment he can’t grasp what he’s seeing.

And then he does.


Written for the Trifecta challenge. This week's word: grasp.


Thursday, August 8, 2013


They begin to hear the screams just after dark. People stop what they are doing, look up from their dinner or their reading. Spouses look at each other tentatively.

“What was that?”

“It’s that damn TV next door. Comes right through the walls.”

“That’s not a TV. It’s outside.”

They rush to their windows. All along both wings of the building curtains open, shades go up, lights are turned out for better vision. Two figures near the bushes inside the curve of the driveway. A man and a woman?

“They’re just having a fight.”

“I don’t know. Looks like he’s attacking her. Maybe we should call the police.”

“Police don’t want to get involved in domestic things. Neither should we.”

A few go back to what they were doing, raising the volume of their televisions a little higher to drown out the sounds. Most are transfixed against their will, bound to the sight in front of them. The woman is on the ground now, on her hands and knees behind the bushes, blocked from the sight of some of the onlookers. The man seems to be gone, but then comes back, running toward the woman, who screams again. The watchers are getting more nervous now. They are knocking on their neighbors’ doors, asking what’s going on, if they should do something.

Look, nobody’s out there. If it was something really bad, somebody would be out there, wouldn’t they? The police would be here. They look at each other and nod hopefully. Yeah, that’s right.

Rumors start. Maybe they’re filming a movie. I saw some trucks parked around back today.

You know, I think I did hear something about filming somewhere around here.

None can admit the argument is weak. The noise subsides. They go to bed reassured.

The next day’s paper reads Woman Stabbed to Death Outside Apartment House While Dozens Look On.

They drop their heads, cover their eyes with their hands.

God, forgive us.

We didn’t know.
Written for Trifecta Writing Challenge. This week's prompt was the third definition of the word weak: "not factually grounded or logically presented <a weak argument>"

Thursday, August 1, 2013

My entry for Trifecta Writing Challenge this week: using the word "band" in its third definition of gathering together into a group.


The last day of July, and I can only sit here and watch it go by. My favorite month of the year, my beloved summer, getting ready to disappear.

Soon I’ll begin to mourn for the sensuous nights, with their warm seductive breezes and the way the air smells, the leftover scent of the sun baked into leaves, grass, juniper shrubs. The way the crickets band together in the trees, their songs loudening as the days shorten, raging against the dying of the light.

Standing under green canopies in sudden summer storms, waiting for the brief chance to run to the next tree, the next doorway, trying to outrun the rain as we try to outrun the onrushing fall.

And when July turns over on its back and August eases in, with it comes the loss that will be one year old this month, the not-yet-over grieving, the longing for other years; and the cricket song repeats over and over “she’s gone, she’s gone, she’s gone.”

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Certain Shade of Blue

The center of a sapphire opens and spreads like a peacock’s tail; we fall into it and it embraces us like a fairy’s cloak that makes the rest of the world invisible.

This is my entry this weekend for Trifextra. The challenge is to write about a color in 33 words or fewer.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Cracks at the Heart of the World


The fears and loves of my life are defined by cracks: the ones my father has always made in the air around him, the ones in my own mind. 

When I was fifteen and he was in one of his tirades, I ran to my room, broke a bottle of cologne, and cut myself twice on the arm with one of the shattered pieces. I remember feeling happy at the sight of the blood and the terror in my parents’ faces.

My loves: the museum where I work, its broken pieces of ancient and medieval art. Paul, whose marriage shattered a long time ago but can’t be discarded, whose daughter is broken and needs the glue only both her parents can provide.

When Paul told me he was married, I went home and broke a set of wine glasses. But I stayed with him because he was my best hope for mending myself.

My father is dying, and I don’t know how I feel about it.

I sit by his bed in the hospital with my mother, holding her hand, marveling at how her love for him has never wavered in spite of his difficult ways. I think about Paul’s love for his daughter. And I wonder whether I will ever be able to love that way.

I see the breath trickling from my father’s lips, and suddenly it is as if something is escaping from him and flowing into me. I remember his stories about Vietnam. I feel their underbelly: the horrors he experienced and could never forget. I remember how he hated his job but kept at it to support my mother and me. I feel strength, sacrifice, love. I feel that my father is showing me how to survive.

Will it be enough? Enough to help me survive, too? If this is his legacy to me, I must accept it. I must forgive him, Paul, myself—and learn to love unselfishly. To mend my own cracks.



This was written for the Trifecta Challenge. This week’s challenge was the following definition:



Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Trifecta and Flash Fiction Challenges

Man of Wood, Man of Myth


 I feel the wind and the years fly over me, on this beach where eternity hangs so close. The sea seems still today, almost as thick as custard, as though from here I could walk with bouncy, sloppy steps across it to Europe. Where he is.

It’s my birthday, and I’m alone again. But not entirely, even though I’m without Michael. Part of him stands in front of me, in this once-living wood. No longer living, like the love he once claimed to have for me. At least the tree still has the life he gave it in this sculpture. He laughed when I called it the man of myth. But he never gave it another title. I told him what I saw in it—in the thick trunk, the abbreviated arms stretching out toward the sky—the image of Poseidon rising out of the ocean. The sea god, a man not tied by any cord to woman. Nor is the artist who created him.

It’s my birthday, and my gift is wisdom. The sea may alter the sand and the earth, weather and age may rot the wood, but only indifference can kill the heart. And if love lives on in one, it will not die.

I stand with feet spread apart in the sand and raise my arms in the air.

This piece was written for two challenges: Trifecta and the Flash Fiction Blog Hop.
Trifecta: write a piece of between 33 and 330 words using the following definition:
Flash Fiction Blog Hop:
Use the above photo and the words custard   cord   birthday   alter   myth


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Trifecta Challenge: Crude

This week's Trifecta Challenge

Write between 33 and 333 words on the following prompt, using the third definition:

1: existing in a natural state and unaltered by cooking or processing <crude oil>
2 archaic : unripe, immature
3: marked by the primitive, gross, or elemental or by uncultivated simplicity or vulgarity <a crude stereotype>



You pull me into your arms and days begin and end with bared teeth and resistance and tongues of fire and my father’s words you’ll regret it spooling out in winds over plains, flowing down the sweet river of all there is. I choose your crude love.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Shelter Pet
You turned away when I looked at you in your cage. Shy, they said. Unfriendly? I worried. Could I love you enough? Your turned-away head said Take me home. Take me home. Take me home.
This post was written for the Trifecta Writing Challenge . This weekend's challenge was to write an approximately 33-word post repeating a phrase three times.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Desperado (Waiting for the Train)
 A flash fiction response to two writing challenges (see below)

Another head-on collision with the morning, another coffee and croissant in the train station cafe. Crescent roll, Ellen thinks rebelliously, pulling at the dough. She hates pretentious words. She takes off her sunglasses and reluctantly looks at herself in her pocket mirror. Her eyes are rusty. The imprint of last night, of too many last-nights, on her skin, never satiny at its best.

“Ellen. I thought that was you.”

She flinches at the unwelcomely familiar voice but nods. “Ryan.”

 “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“Likewise,” she mutters. 

She’s silently willing him not to sit down. The kid thinks every woman in the office between eighteen and fifty enjoys being eyed by him.

“Oh, well, I spent the night with a friend.” His self-satisfied half-grin makes her want to smack him. A “friend?” Probably the new trainee he’s been chatting up at breaks. Poor girl, she thinks. Then: poor both of them.

His grin is more insinuating now. “Hey, we’ll probably be seeing each other here again.”

“I doubt it.” Then, impulsively: “I’m giving my notice today.”

Now it’s her satisfaction to see the smirk sink off his lips. “Oh. Wow. Better job offer?”

She doesn’t answer. She picks up her cold cup of coffee and downs the rest, trying not to grimace. “Excuse me. I have to use the restroom.”

She turns on the cold water and splashes her face. She looks up. She’s still careworn, but there’s an unexpected light in her eyes now, and she understands: she told Ryan the truth. Somehow he dug out what she needed. Relief comes rushing at her like the next train. Less is more, she thinks. Just one other—obstacle—to face, and she’ll take care of that tonight. Her life will be new, hers and no one else’s, from now on.
She puts the sunglasses back on and smiles widely. It’s the best she’s felt in years. She hears the train whistle. She opens the door, humming Richie Havens’s “Freedom.”
This story was written in response to the following two prompts: Nicole Pyles' Flash Fiction Photo Prompt blog hop , using the random words crescent, head-on, imprint, satin, and careworn and the photo below; and the Trifecta Writing Challenge, which is to write a story of 333 words or less using the third definition of a word. This week's word and definition: Rust: of the color of rust; dulled in color or appearance by age and use.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

This post was written for the Trifecta Writing Challenge. This week’s challenge is to write a 33-word story inspired by the idiom “third time’s the charm.”

I am falling asleep when my eyes open. I see the pores in his skin, the tiny dark hairs, the shining sweat. I smell us. How, where, who…? I sigh. The third time.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Trifecta Writing Challenge

Trifecta Writing Challenge—Week of June 10

I am entering this week’s  Trifecta Writing Challenge. The challenge is to write a story between 33 and 333 words using the third dictionary definition of a given word. This week’s word is light; the definition is “a source of light, as a celestial body, candle, or an electric light.”


The Jump Shot

The small forward with the sweet outside shot stands behind the arc, so far behind that it’s almost midcourt, leaps, feet kicking up behind him, and lets it go. The ball rises higher and higher, then pauses at the apex, a moment fractured, a sliver left suspended, like a newly birthed star. The points of light from the stadium ceiling gather around it, turn it silver, radiate outward, here and gone as your eyes gasp, breath held, waiting for it to concede to gravity, curving gently downward like a small comet, finding the inside of the rim without touching.

When love is on the rise, one man thinks, that fraction of a moment is waiting ahead of you, that point of gleaming light when time is held in suspension and only beauty exists. But there’s no holding it there, not the ball, not the split second of glittering light, not the joy. They rise and gleam and fall; the ball slips through, the lover walks away, and what they leave behind—an empty net, an empty heart—still tremble with what went before.





Thursday, May 16, 2013


Back on the Hook Again


I am officially off the DL after spending a few months battling tendonitis in my right wrist. I was finally able to get a cortisone shot from my doctor and, a week later, I’m happy to say I think I’m almost all healed.

This means, among other things, that I can crochet again! I haven’t done anything for a couple of months, and I’ve really missed it.

Coincidentally, during my convalescence, I learned that my local yarn shop, just a few blocks down the street, is going to close at the end of May. While this is of course bad news for the neighborhood, it also presented a yarn-stocking opportunity that I couldn’t miss. A friend and I had unused gift cards from this store, so, even though I had no idea when I’d be able to crochet again, we went. (She’s also having trouble with her shoulder and hasn’t been able to knit much, but yarnaholics aren’t about to be stopped by such considerations.)

So on that visit and a subsequent one, I happily added to my stash. However, this was not just willy-nilly yarn buying. I actually do have patterns to make with this yarn.

So here’s what I bought:



The light green on the bottom (isn’t that a beautiful color?) is Berroco Weekend, and as you can see, I’ve already started crocheting with it. The top picture (obtained at a great bargain price) is Crystal Palace Mini-Mochi, a yarn that’s very hard to find; it isn’t even sold online. About a year ago I downloaded an absolutely gorgeous free crochet pattern for a wrap consisting of squares made with Mini-Mochi. I hadn’t looked for the yarn because I wasn’t sure enough of my ability to make the squares. I would just sneak a look at the pattern every now and then and yearn over it. But now I have some experience with making squares, and when I saw this yarn, I jumped at it. The pattern is made with different colorways of the yarn (not exactly the same as these, but close enough), and I was thrilled to find out that I could buy enough and in colors that will go well together.

So. On top of the two projects I had to interrupt when I hurt my wrist, I now have plenty of crocheting to keep me busy for the rest of the year.

As long as I don’t land on the DL again.