Monday, October 29, 2007

Encyclopedia of Me Monday: K is for...

An inordinate amount of time is spent in my kitchen, certainly not because of its charm or efficacy, or because I have such stellar skills to practice there. In fact, the kitchen here is cramped and slightly dark, designed poorly with a door to the backyard right in the middle which takes up much needed space. It's barely big enough for two people to sit down and eat together, and preparing any kind of complex meal is a challenge with about 12 inches of bare counter space.

But it's the place we seem to end up most often, whether to make coffee, grab a handful of cookies, let the dogs in or out (that ridiculous door), or just lean against the counter talking.

I harbor dreams about bright, spacious kitchens, with one of those cooking islands in the middle, copper pots hanging overhead. I imagine people gathered around, sipping wine, sneaking bites of whatever gourmet feast I'm preparing for them.

But whenever I'm tempted to blame my lack of culinary prowess on the size of my kitchen, I recall a television special a few years ago with Julia Child and Wolfgang Puck, cooking together in Julia's home kitchen. These two world reknowned chefs prepared a five course meal in a kitchen no bigger than a breadbox - a galley kitchen with not more than a square foot of empty counterspace anywhere. They were literally bumping into each other at every turn, and by the time they were done, not an inch of space wasn't occupied by a dirty bowl, pot, or dish.

Yet, they laughed, and talked, and sampled, and finally served a glorious meal.

So no excuses in my kitchen, which is grandiose by those standards.

Then again, I'm not Julia Child.

The kitchen is often called the "heart of the home," and for all it's shortcomings, I have to admit my little kitchen often serves that purpose.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Wedded Bliss

I'm a sucker for weddings, and always get teary eyed when the groom catches his first glimpse of the bride as she appears in all her glory at the foot of the aisle.

Yesterday was certainly no exception, since the groom in this case happened to be one of my son's best high school buddies, a boy who spent a good deal of time lolling on my couch watching TV and eating pizza, his ever larger tennis shoes parked at my doorstep where he always (politely) kicked them off when he came in. Of course, seeing my son standing at the altar beside his friend, looking so handsome in his tuxedo, certainly added fuel to my emotional fires.

The longer I'm married, the more meaningful weddings are. Seeing a couple just starting out on their journey together, the world in front of them with its wide array of choices and opportunities, knowing the kinds of joys and sorrows they will face, I can only smile in wonder at their blissful innocence. Marriage is such a mixed bag~some days you're so in love you can't bear to be apart for a minute, others you'd like nothing better than to send your mate on the next one way shuttle to outer space.

But for the lucky ones (of which I'd count myself) days like the former far outweigh the latter. Sharing life with a partner, a companion, a best friend, only makes the good days far sweeter, and eases the pain when the inevitable bad days come around.

So, I offer this traditional blessing to Jon and Corey, and this reminder to Brian and Nantana, and this thank you to my own Jamey, for the ways he has fulfilled these words in my life...

Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other.
Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you.
May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead and through all the years.
May happiness be your companion and your days together be good and long upon the earth.

photo ~ Jon and Corey Foster; Nantana and Brian Rowan


Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday's Feast

Name a great website you would recommend to others.

Very difficult assignment, since the prompt clearly states "a" (meaning singular) website. Hmmm. I may have to come back to this.

On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 as highest), how often do you dream at night?

Technically, we always dream every night, we simply don't always remember the dreams. (I'm being a bit peevish with today's entree's, aren't I?) However, I recall my dreams about most every day, or about an 8 on the scale. Last night, I was living in a huge, beautiful home, and continually yelling at people who kept coming in and messing it up.

Did you have a pet as a child? If so, what kind and what was its name?

Dogs - always. The first dog I remember was a cocker spaniel mix named Ginger. She was a patient and willing participant in my favorite game (playing school), in which she was forced to sit on the couch and listen to me expound the days lesson at my miniature blackboard. When I was 10 we got Honey, a cocker spaniel puppy, and then my heart was broken when my severe allergies forced us to give her up. Happily, she went to live with an elderly couple who treated her like royalty for the rest of her days.

Main Course
If you had the chance to star in a commercial, what would you choose to advertise?

Cars,~hopefully gorgeous, exotic, very fast ones. Zoom, zoom.

What is your favorite kind of hard candy?

I am an obssessive mint eater. I have a package of hard mints in every purse. Back in the days when I was "on the road" with my handbell group, I joked about living on Altoids - it wasn't far from the truth.

to enjoy more feasts, go here


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Writer's Island-The Stranger

Once it had been Anna's favorite time of day, this hour just after supper when the sun was settling in behind the stand of pine trees in the western fields, the length of the front porch cast in cool shadow. She would come outside after helping Mama wipe the dishes, pour pitchers of water over the huge ferns swinging gently from the rafters, and settle into the rocking chair, book in hand, ready to read until dusk overtook her page.

Yet ever since Clayton had been gone, Anna's restful evenings on the porch had been spoiled. She felt anxious sitting there, the long dirt road leading from town staring her in the face, the road that might bring an ominous stranger bearing the worst of all possible news.

Eleven months, fourteen days since Clayton left with Harrisburg's First Militia and sailed across the Atlantic to France. Anna smiled sadly, thinking of the dreams she had once harbored about France, her imagination filled with ideas of love and romance. And now, it could be the place where her beloved Clayton lost his life, fighting in this horrible World War that made no sense to her or anyone else in their small town.

Anna glanced nervously at the dusty road, squinting for a moment against the sun's glare. Her imagination was now preoccupied with tales she'd heard of smartly clad soldiers in dress uniform, black armbands adorning their sleeves, soldiers that always came in pairs, politely knocking on your door, hat in hand, to deliver news that would shatter your life forever.

Turning quickly away, Anna grabbed up the heavy glass pitcher that served as a makeshift watering can and hurried down the steps toward the back yard pump."There's no use in thinking about such awful things," she firmly lectured herself. "I just have to believe with all my heart and soul that Clayton will come home safely."

And so it was that Anna remained busy refilling her pitcher, pouring fresh water into each ferns dusty bed, while the sun eased itself lower into the evening sky ~ so busy that she almost didn't see the lonely figure trudging toward her, dressed in the unmistakable khaki colored puttee's that looked so odd on boys barely out of knickers and more accustomed to overalls.

Catching sight of this stranger, Anna literally felt her heart sink, powerless to stop the pitcher as it slipped from her hand, shattering in a million shards of glass on the wooden floorboards. The seconds passed like hours, her gaze fixed on this solitary man coming ever nearer, until the first glimmer of recognition began to dawn.

This lonely figure, thin and long legged, one arm swinging familiarly at his side, the other - wait, the other caught up in a sling!-but there, definitely there, and yes, the shock of blond hair catching the last flicker of sunlight. This was no stranger, she realized. Impossible as it seemed, it was Clayton.

He stopped abruptly when he caught sight of her slender body come flying off the porch, and he continued to stand stock still while she raced over the yard and down the road to meet him, heedless of any rules of grace or propriety, her dark hair unloosened from its pins and streaming in the breeze behind her.

"My God in heaven!" Anna cried, throwing her arms around him, almost pulling back in surprise at the frailty of his body, aware that she could feel every rib as she pressed her own sturdy torso against him, and then pulling him even tighter into her chest, willing him to take strength and sustenance from her.

Clayton's one good arm enfolded her and he buried his face in the fragrant smell of her clean, sun warmed hair. Anna felt a deep shudder pass through him, and she pulled back, raising her eyes to meet his.

And then her heart sank once again.

Staring off into the horizon beyond her were not the bright blue eyes of the boy she had loved and sent sailing off to war, determined to lead the victory charge for freedom. These eyes were empty and dim, filled with nothing at all like hope or pride.

They were the eyes of a stranger after all.

for more stories of strangers, go here


Monday, October 22, 2007

Cafe Writing- Timed Writing

Written for Option Three at Cafe Writing:

Take seven minutes (you have to use all seven, you can’t go over), and write about class. Any format (fiction, essay, verse) is acceptable.

Perhaps it's the perpetual student in me, but my first interpretation of the word had to do with a "class" in which you learn something. So, that's what I wrote about.

If Carol hadn't been so close behind her, Sarah would have turned around and gone right back out the door. The minute she opened it, she felt faint, overcome by the moist heat, the powerful aroma of garlic and olive oil, the festive clinking of glasses, the eager chatter of women's voices.

A cooking class. Why had she ever thought this would be a good idea?

Sarah pulled her jacket protectively around her neck, tucking her head inward, turtle-like, even as she felt Carol insistently pulling her forward into the room. She hadn't cooked anything substantial for months - why bother to cook without Scott there to eat? Scott was the one who appreciated cooking.

"Mother, this meal is a work of art!" he would exclaim, holding his plate up to the light, as if making an offering to the gods, while she smiled shyly, inwardly pleased that she could offer this one thing to the wondrous man who was her son.

How she had loved to watch him arrange the food on his plate just so, settle into his chair, gracefully placing the napkin (always linen) across his bony knees, as if he were laying an altar cloth. He would insert his fork gently for the first bite, and raise it slowly to his lips, savoring the ritual perhaps more than the taste.

Sarah's eyes closed, inadvertently taking her back in time to her own elegant kitchen, where she had lovingly prepared hundreds of meals for her son. How could it be that he would never eat from her table again?

Grief rushed over her, its power by now familiar to her, literally rocking her body and threatening to send her tumbling to the floor in a dead faint. Why was she here in a room filled with people who were happy, whose lives were normal and secure, when her world had been shattered forever in that one momen when her son had chosen to fling his own life away?

"Come, Sarah," Carol urged. "Let's grab a good place to sit before class gets started."


Encyclopedia of Me Monday: J is for...


Through hoops.

"How high can I jump" season has begun, with concerts, work ramping up, and, NaNoWriMo beginning in just 10 days. Pressure begins to build, and I went to bed last night with the heavy weight of obligation bearing down on me.

Women's live are filled with this kind of jumping, aren't they? We are multi-taskers extraordinaire, flitting from one responsibility to the next, caring for children, parents, homes, careers, paying bills, maintaining social obligations, scheduling doctor appointments...the list goes on and on.

Close your eyes and imagine this mental picture: women throughout the world, jumping through all the hoops necesssary to function in modern life.

You would think none of us would have a minute's worry about weight, with all that jumping going on.

How about you? How high are you jumping?


Sunday, October 21, 2007

I'm Dreaming of A Home Office...

My house has turned into one big office this week. My son is visiting, and he works from home all the time, while Jim and I both work at home at least 50% of the time, so my little house is bursting with business.

This has set me dreaming about setting up a real home office, as opposed to the dining room table, kitchen table, and small desk shoved in the corner of the guest room. So, in between writing my medical reports, I cyber trekked over to Furniture From Home office department. Within two seconds I had picked out the perfect credenza desk for Jim, one I would love to prop my feet up on as well.

Of course I couldn't resist shopping for some living room and bedroom furniture on this site, which offers a world of lovely pieces organized in nicely appointed virtual rooms.

Now, if I could only get a raise...


A Day of Rest

Once upon a time, Sundays were simple. Perhaps you rose early and went to church, spending a quiet hour in worship and reflection, or perhaps you slept late, waking to savor the newspaper and ponder crossword puzzle clues. In the afternoon, you might take a nap or prepare a special dinner, visit with family or take a drive in the country. There were very few stores open, so shopping was not an option. Nearly all places of business were closed, employees expected to spend the day resting and enjoying time with their families.

Does that sound too idyllic to be true? It really wasn't - that was how I spent Sundays as a child.

Not anymore. Too often, my Sunday's are a marathon of activity, leaving me to face another work week exhausted, irritable, and unsatisfied.

Today, for instance. It's a concert day for Jim and his men's chorus, a bigger than usual concert involving three other choirs. His call time was 1:00, so after church (from which we snuck out early since the service ran over the allotted 60 minutes we Presbyterians can tolerate) we dashed home and I whipped up an omelet and some strong coffee while he changed into his concert attire. While he ate, I packed dinner for him, since their dinner break between rehearsal and performance is expected to be minimal.

When he was safely out the door, I drove to my mother's where Brian and Nantana were joining her for brunch. I downed another cup of coffee, and then the four of us (plus dogs) drove over to visit my aunt and uncle. Not an uplifting visit (as their health continues to decline and it's difficult to watch) but certainly one that was required. After an hour with them (which feels much longer) I dropped the dogs at home and made a quick run to the grocery.

It's now nearly 4:30. Since I promised Jim I would attend his concert tonight, I have about 90 minutes to prepare some dinner, change clothes, and drive 30 miles to Eastern Michigan University in time for a 7:00 program.


I've just been sitting on my back porch, stealing a moment to admire a brilliant blue sky, and trees absolutely ablaze with scarlet and gold, feeling a warm sun on my face and a brisk wind in my hair. Breathing deeply, slowing myself down just a bit, allowing my heart to return to that restful state Sunday's should be about. In all honesty, I would love nothing more than to pour a glass of wine, prop my feet up on the table and take a nap in the sun.

I would especially love to do that without feeling guilty about it.

We need one day a week, I think, to throttle back, rein in, take foot firmly off the gas pedal. A day when we're not only allowed to slow down life's pace, but expected and encouraged to.

A day of rest.

What a novel idea.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Book Blocked

There's something a bit off in one of my most treasured relationships. I can't describe it, but lately we haven't been connecting at all. We sit down together as we always have, but somehow don't engage. My mind wanders, and before long I'm thinking about my "to do" list, or the grocery shopping, or worrying over a tough passage in a Mozart Sonata. Several times, I've been forced to simply walk away.

Books and I aren't getting along well.

Don't laugh- reading is a relationship with me. I count on the fictional world to help me escape from the dreary real world and entertain me with the antics of interesting characters. I expect poetry to elevate my senses, soothe my spirit, ignite my intellect. I come to non-fiction to inspire my muse and feed my creativity. Lately, none of this has been happening with any of my books. My book journal for the month of October is completely bare ~I've finished nothing.

However, here's what I've started and put aside in the last two weeks~The Lay of the Land, Still Summer, Keeping the World Away, Body Surfing, and The Jane Austen Book Club. These may be perfectly fine books, but every time I sat down to read I kept losing my place in the middle of a page, or going back to re-read the last three paragraphs because my mind hadn't registered a thing. Finally, disappointed in the book (and in myself) I placed each one back in the "to be returned" pile of my library stack.

I don't take my relationships lightly, and the one I have with books is no exception. Giving up on one is hard. There was a point in my reading life when I refused to do it, and would struggle through most anything until the end. Now, though, there really are simply too many books and too little time. If a book and I aren't enjoying one another after about 50 pages, we part company.

But it doesn't happen often, certainly not with five books in a row as it has this month.

I suppose reading relationships go throught difficult periods like human relationships. Sometimes we simply fail to give each other what is needed. For whatever reason, we don't find the sustenance, the comfort, the insight that's required. But during those strained times, there is definitely something missing from life, and I feel bereft and lonely.

Today, I'm off to the library to bring home a new collection of possibilites.

Wish me luck.

How about you? How are things in your reading life?


Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Feast

If you were a dog, what breed would you be, and why?

Probably a border collie, because I always seem to be running around trying to keep all my sheep in line!

What does the color purple make you think of?

Royalty. The majestic purple of velvet robes worn by queens and monarchs. Also eggplant, which I love to eat deep fried or baked in marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese.

Approximately how long does it take you to get ready each morning?

About 45 minutes. It takes longest to blow dry my hair and try and tame those natural waves into the smooth page boy I prefer.

Main Course
How many cousins do you have, and are you close to them?

I have more cousins than I can count, oddly enough. Most of them are of the second, third, and otherwise "removed" variety and are scattered all over the country. I do have three or four first cousins that I grew up with here in Detroit, and we were close as children. But as it the way of the world, now that we're grown up we never see each other.

Take your initials (first, middle, last) and come up with something else those letters could stand for. (Example: SFO = Sweet Funny Otter)


here are more feasts


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Poetry Thursday

I took my sorrow and placed it firmly into a paper sack
the kind you get at very good grocery stores
a heavy one with wire wrapped handles

I knew it must be hidden so I wouldn't be tempted
to take it out every so often and fondle it
worry it between the fingers of my heart
like those beads Indian women use to pray

I carried the bag by the handles
hoping I wouldn't hear the sorrow rattling around inside
bumping against the confines of its paper prison
searching for its own escape from darkness

Into the garage I carried it
my eyes searching furtively for the perfect spot
like a dog who needs to bury a bone
a place where I could retrieve it if I must (but not to easily)

There, behind a box of Christmas lights, used only rarely now
or no, on the shelf next to the catcher's mitt and car wash bucket
perhaps in the old fruit cellar
the warped wooden door shoved up against it

Panic rises, for there seems no safe place
so I stand holding this bag of sorrow, my palms moist on its handles
finally knowing it won't be hidden.


When I was a young woman, I allowed sorrows to consume me. If I were sad, or worried, or upset, I couldn't eat or sleep...I curled myself tightly into a ball and let life pass me by until I felt able to move forward again.

As I've aged, I've become more adept at compartmentalizing sorrow. It's not completely hidden, it's not ignored, it's simply set aside in a secret place, so that I can go on with life.

Thank you all for your kind comments and all the positive thoughts you've sent our way this week.

It helps more than you know :)


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Please Remain Seated

"Your vehicle has momentarily stopped. Please remain seated. Your vehicle will begin moving shortly."

If you've ever been to Disney World, you might have heard those words when your ride stopped in its tracks for some mysterious reason. There you sit, often in nearly complete darkness, perhaps perched on the edge of a precipice or tilted at an odd angle, waiting for some unseen technician to push the button that will send a surge of electricity and jolt you into forward motion.

I'm in that vehicle now, stopped in the dark.

My intention in this blog is always to illuminate life in its most positive way, to write about things that move me, inspire me, experiences that help me grow as a woman, a writer, a person. But the truth is, that life in general is not always positive, that difficult things happen and sometimes cannot be made rosy, must simply be lived through and learned from.

Last week, I wrote about the
exciting new ride our family was embarking on, about the baby my son and daughter in law were expecting. Yet, this week, that ride has stopped, the forward progress halted before the ride had barely begun.

Statistically, I know that more than 60% of women will suffer miscarriage, and that the vast majority of them go on to have healthy, happy babies, often rather quickly afterward. Intellectually, I know that when a woman miscarries early in a pregnancy, it usually means the embryo was "flawed" in some way, could not sustain life. Practically, I understand there are griefs far greater, sorrows much deeper, disappointments much harsher to bear.

Emotionally, none of that matters.

It takes so little time for a mother to endow her baby with an entire world of possibilities - whether that baby is still only a tiny bud yet to flower, or a freshly born, squalling bundle of life. While your body is suffused with hormones, your mind is flooded with hopes and dreams, anticipations of what this child will be like, will do in the world. It happens in a heartbeat, a finger snap, the few seconds it takes for the line on the stick to turn blue. You are a mother.

A friend wrote these words to me:

"Attempting pregnancy is to accept the whole spectrum of possible outcomes. It's emotionally terribly risky, as is parenthood itself. You leave yourself wide open to fate; your children hold your whole life in their hands, for good or for ill. You're open to feelings and experiences that are like nothing else in life. In the end, the early miscarriage may play out in a positive way for them -- they'll have far more perspective and depth than so many whose pregnancies occur as a matter of course. It will make their baby even more precious, even more of a miracle."

I believe this is true, that Brian and Nantana have already taken a deeper step into being parents than they realize, have already risked and suffered, have experienced a taste of the challenge and joy of having children. When this ride is once again set in motion (as I believe it will be very soon), they will be stronger parents and stronger partners when it reaches a safe and natural conclusion.

For now, we shed tears, take deep breaths, and remain seated.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Cafe Writing-Seven Things

Seven Things About~

~Fall Foliage- The marvelous spectrum of colors is one of the best things about living in Michigan. Scarlet, persimmon, and brilliant gold is etched against a deeper- than- usual blue sky. Sometimes it's so beautiful, it hurts.

~Fall fashion - I love the dark colors associated with fall clothes, love the look of sweaters and the textures of fleece and flannel. And being able to layer clothing hides a multitude of figure sins.

~Outside Walks-October is my favorite month for walking outside. The weather is usually just right for me and the dogs (especially if I'm wearing one of the aforementioned fleeces or flannels) and they love tramping through (the aformentioned) foliage that's lying all over the ground.

~Cider and Donuts - Michigan has worlds of apple orchards, and October is peak production month for cider. We have a local mill where we can watch the apples get mashed to a goopy pulp before they're turned into cold, sweet cider, the perfect way to wash down those warm (and slightly greasy) cinnamon spice donuts.

~Birthdays-October is my husband's birth month, and he's certainly worth celebrating! In an odd twist of fate, his two best friends from school days were also born in October. The boys birthdays are each 12 days apart!

~Allergies-Nothing's perfect, is it? October is my worst allergy month, mostly because the nights get chilly and we fire up the furnace, blowing all sorts of dust and molds about. So, while I'm admiring the leaves and partaking of my cider and donuts, I'm usually sneezing and snuffling too.

~Halloween-I confess, I'm not a big fan of Halloween, and I particularly don't care for all the decorations people have gotten in the habit of putting up, especially the kind where bodies are hanging from trees and lying in mock graves all over surburban front yards. Call me old fashioned if you like, I think it's distasteful. But, I know children love this holiday (my son sure did!) and I certainly don't begrudge them their fun in dressing up and collecting candy.

For this and other great writing ideas, check out the October project menu at Cafe Writing, a brand new site for writers.


Write on Wednesday-Goody Bag

In the spirit of filling your Halloween bag with goodies, here are some of the writing related books, sites, and activities I've been devouring:

~Cafe Writing opened for business TODAY, so make sure you stop in. Cafe manager MissMeliss offers a menu of six creative options to suit any and all of your writing/artistic talents. The prompts are good for one month, so you may partake of any or all of them, posting your individual "entrees" on your own blog. I'm torn between trying option two, three, four or many savory choices!

~I stumbled on Writer Advice while looking for their interview with Gayle Brandeis. Not only advice is featured here- there are writing contests, interviews with writers and artists, and products. Lots of goodies to explore.

~My new friend, Michele, chronicles her experiences as a freelance writer at Writing the Cyber Highway. Michele inspires me with her positive attitude, as well as her writing advice.

~In my own personal "writer development training course," (which I chronicle in my other blog) I'm currently working my way through "Courage & Craft: Writing Your Life Into Story," by Barbara Abercrombie. This book offers super exercises and advice for writing personal essays in a no-nonsense, approachable fashion. Barbara also co-hosts Writing Time, one of my favorite places to go on the internet for writing tips and inspiration.

~I admit it - I'm a writing book junkie, and lying in wait on my bookshelf are these tasty goodies...Fruitflesh, by Gayle Brandeis, Writing Begins With the Breath, by Laraine Herring, and Making a Literary Life, by Carolyn See.

You now have lot of things to keep you busy and inspire you to Write On Wednesday.

So, what are you waiting for??

How about you? Have you found any inspiring writing sites, or read any good writing books lately?


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Rewarding Posts

Reading blogs has turned me on to some great products - Adagio teas, Dansko shoes, Tartar Shield dog biscuits - all of which have become indispensable to me. Blog surfing allows me to meet so many people around the world, people who share not only ideas and emotions, but goods and services that make life more enjoyable.

In turn, when I find a product or service that excites me, I'm happy to blog about it, to send it out into cyber space never knowing who might come across it at the exact moment in life when it could most help.

I've recently signed on to Bloggerwave which allows me to not only discover some great new products and services, but also to share them with you ~ and be paid for doing so! I can choose from a huge list of "opportunities," do some research, and write about any that peak my interest. Bloggerwave is a European based company, so I'm excited about being introduced to some cool new European products .

There are no fees to participate, and no obligations to complete a certain number of posts. It's a fun way to spark some writing ideas, sharpen your writing skills, and earn some money - and it gives me another good excuse to blog!


Writer's Island-Renewal

Treesa cast a critical eye on her reflection, turning sideways to avoid the morning sun pouring into the sewing room.

"You'll never remake this dress to fit me," she said, plucking at the delicate ivory fabric hanging loosely from her slender waist. "It was a stupid idea for me to wear your wedding dress anyway."

Anna managed a gentle "tsk" from around the mouthful of straight pens gripped between her lips. What made her daughter such a worrier? she wondered. Always determined that things wouldn't work out, that nothing would go her way.
Sighing, Anna reached underneath the dress and folded at least two inches of fabric toward the inseams. Such a "skinny minnie", too, picking at her food, turning up her nose at the hearty meals Anna prepared for the family's table.

Of course, with all this food rationing, Anna thought, it's no wonder she's wasting away to nothing. Since the States had entered the war two years ago, Anna was hard pressed to cobble together anything fit to eat. Treesa's delicate appetite had waned even further, faced with dishes like Spam Casserole, Oatmeal Loaf, and boiled beef tongue.

Anna could feel Treesa's impatience as she knelt beside her, lovingly caressing the folds of fabric as she continued to work. She smiled, remembering the excitement with which she and her mother had shaped this gown from yards of satin, the tremble of her mother's hands as she sewed the last of the 100 pearl buttons, the shiver of anticipation Anna had felt as she imagined Andrew unbuttoning each one on their wedding night.

Treesa's deep sigh roused Anna from these pleasant memories.

"Really, Mother," she said, "shouldn't we give up on this once and for all? I'm perfectly happy to wear the floral tea dress I had for Aunt Rose's birthday."

"You will not be married in some garish flowered, short dress!" Anna exclaimed. "I don't care whether it's wartime or not, or that "all the other girls" are doing it. You have the opportunity to wear a perfectly beautiful, traditional wedding gown, and that's what you'll do." She jabbed one last pin roughly into the fabric, offering a silent apology to her precious dress.

"Well, at least get rid of this silly sash," Tressa complained, grabbing a fistful of the pale blue satin ribbon wrapped twice around her waist. "No one would use a sash on their wedding dress in 1943!"

"Fine," Anna muttered, trying not to think about the way Andrew had gently placed the ribbon against her cheek, comparing the delicate blue material to the shade of her eyes. Young people have no appreciation for history, she thought, for tradition, or cherishing the things that matter. Rising from her knees, trying desperately to keep the annoyance from her voice, she released Treesa from her obvious discomfort.

"You can take off the dress now," she said, smoothing her red serge skirt and tucking a pincushion into the pocket of her apron. "I'll have to start work on it right after dinner if there's to be any chance of finishing it by Saturday."

Anna glanced at her daughter, who continued to stand motionless before the mirror. The sun had shifted slightly, leaving the girl standing in the midst of one solitary ray, as if a spotlight were shining directly from heaven, setting her auburn hair alight with sparks of reddish flame, illuminating the satin where it lay in gentle folds.

Tears jumped into Anna's eyes-such a beautiful girl was her Mary Teresa, she thought, catching her breath. About to start a new life with a young solider off to war, embark on a future that held only God knew what. Could wearing this dress bring her the kind of love Anna had felt for her Andrew, a love that would ignite a spark of light and happiness into those dark, shadowy eyes?

At last Treesa turned from the mirror, meeting her mother's teary gaze. "You know," she said, smiling slightly, "perhaps there's still some life in this dress after all."

Anna grinned, briskly wiping a tear from her cheek. "There most certainly is," she agreed. "Plenty of new life to go around!"

for more stories of renewal, go here


Monday, October 8, 2007

One Deep Breath- Simple Pleasures

barefoot in the grass
one last time before frost~
indian summer

Today was a day of contrasts. It was almost 90 degrees (this is October in Michigan?), yet a stiff breeze scattered tiny elm leaves across the yard, making it look like fall. It was a day of "lasts" for me, I think- last tomatoes from the garden, last time to hang my sheets on the line, last lunch on the patio, and yes, last time to wander barefoot in the yard.
Tomorrow, the tide turns - rain is forecast, and a chill wind, dropping the temperatures into the 40's overnight. So tomorrow will probably be a day of "firsts" - first fire in the fireplace, first time wearing a jacket, and, sadly ('cuz I'm a barefoot girl at heart), first time wearing shoes and socks.

for more simple pleasures, go here


Encyclopedia of Me Monday: I is for...

Writers seek it constantly, as do artists, musicians, crafters, ministers, psychologists, doctors, mothers and fathers - every living thing is in need of inspiration.

In Christian teaching, inspiration means "God's breath," indicating this genesis of great ideas and emotions has a divine and mystical source. When I'm inspired, whether it's from the flaming crimson leaves that are beginning to explode across the horizon, a Chopin nocturne, or a well crafted novel, I feel a sense of excitement, an electrical surge of creative energy which seems other-worldly.

Of course, "inspiration" also means to "draw air in and out," the basic stuff of life for every human being. How awesome is a baby's first breath on its own, outside its mother's womb, that first inhale of the world in which it will live, filled with all the mystery of creation and nature.

There are times in life when everything around us is filled with inspiration, and with each breath we inhale ideas, beauty, laughter. At this moment, I am in such a place - whether it's the beauty of the season, or the promise of the new life that will be entering our family next summer - the world appears vivid with excitement and filled with infinite possibilities.

However, there have been times in my life when the world seemed flat and lifeless, with barely enough air to keep my lungs physically filled, let alone leaving anything left to fill my creative spaces.

I have learned to become cognizant of my inspirational cycles, to accept whatever stage I'm in, knowing that the cycle will one day return me to a different place, with new challenges leading to new mysteries and ideas for exploration.


Rewarding Posts

Reading blogs has turned me on to some great products - Adagio teas, Dansko shoes, Tartar Shield dog biscuits - all of which have become indispensable to me. Blog surfing allows me to meet so many people around the world, people who share not only ideas and emotions, but goods and services that make life more enjoyable.

In turn, when I find a product or service that excites me, I'm happy to blog about it, to send it out into cyber space never knowing who might come across it at the exact moment in life when it could most help.

I've recently signed on to Pay Per Post, which allows me to not only discover some great new products and services, but also to share them with you ~ and be paid for doing so! I can choose from a huge list of "opportunities," do some research, and write about any that peak my interest. It gives me a chance to stretch my writing wings a little bit, too. Best of all, Pay Per Post allows you to donate your earnings to one of several charities. Right now, I'm donating my fees to the Alzheimer's Association.

There are no fees to participate, and no obligations to complete a certain number of posts. It's a fun way to spark some writing ideas, sharpen your writing skills, and earn some money - and it gives me another good excuse to blog!


Saturday, October 6, 2007

Into the Future!

When I was growing up, my grandparents lived with us, and while it was perhaps not the greatest thing for my parents marriage, it was a gift for me. I was the only grandchild they had, so naturally they thought the sun rose and set at my feet. And yes, according to conventional wisdom, they "spoiled" me ~ not so much with material things, as with love and attention, which are certainly greater gifts in the long run. My grandmother often stayed up nights with me, comforting me with stories during my frequent asthmatic episodes. And she was the one who started me off on the piano, teaching me "Amzing Grace" and "The Blue Danube" waltz.

My son also had the benefit of a close relationship with his grandmother, who lived just a short bike ride away. My parents were literally the only babysitters Brian ever had, and he considered their house "home." My mom was always available with a listening ear, a hot meal, and, yes, some extra cash if needed. She still delights in pampering him with his favorite foods, and has been busy shoring up the pantry in preparation for his visit next week.

Grandmothers have been very important in this family.

Now, it's my turn. This morning, Brian and Nantana called with the splendid, thrilling, exciting, and joyous news that they are expecting a baby!

Grandchildren are marvelous additions to any family. But when you're an only child who is the daughter of an only child, the wife of an only child, and the mother of an only child~well, do the math. There are very few of us around the table at holiday time.

So I'm more than excited about this baby. In many ways, I'm just plain relieved. Brian has no siblings, no cousins, no aunts or uncles - when Jim and I are gone, he would be completely alone in the world. Thinking about that was heartbreaking to me.

But now - no worries. Children are the link to the future, your best "insurance policy" against isolation and lonliness.

And yes, selfishly, I wanted all those unique and wonderful traits I love about my son - his creativity, his intelligence, his independence and quirky sense of humor - to be passed along, to continue to exist in the world. Combined with Nantana's good sense, determination, and caring nature, and with who knows what combination of characteristics from his or her Asian-Armenian-English-German-Irish-Scotch heritage - well, this child is bound to be quite a person.

I can hardly wait!


Friday, October 5, 2007

Fascinatin' Faucets

We live in an old house - older than I am, and that's saying something lately. We've updated most of our plumbing at least once in the past 31 years, and I'm planning some more renovating in our "master bath," (a real misnomer in an early 1950's style ranch house!)

This time, I can use the internet for my shopping, rather than wandering around in Home Depot or Lowe's. I've been browsing this morning, and I'm completely astounded at the variety of bathroom faucets available. I've been looking at Delta faucets because we have those in our Florida home, browsing through 20 pages of sink faucets, ranging in price from $54.00 to $411.00!

Once I decide, I can make my purchase on line. There are handy information pages to help me choose the correct type of faucet for my sink, a toll free phone number for "real live" assistance, and free shipping options. What could be easier?

I love the internet.


Friday Feast

On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being highest, how much do you look forward to your birthday?
I used to look forward to it immensely, and I still enjoy the idea of remembering the day I was born (all those many years ago!). I just wish I didn't have to keep getting older. As far as a rating - hmmm, I'll say 5, somewhere safely in the middle.

What is one word you don’t like the sound, spelling, or meaning of?
Suck. Even when it's used for it's actual meaning, and not in the pejorative sense.

Do you wear sunglasses when you’re outside? If so, what does your current pair look like?
I wear sunglasses more often than I used to (its another one of those age things, I guess). I tend to lose sunglasses, so I have about six relatively cheapo pairs scattered around the house and in the cars.

Main Course
If you were to write a book, to whom would you dedicate it?
I have written one book (unpublished, but still...) and partly because of the subject matter and partly just because she deserves it, I would dedicate it to my mother. The book I'm thinking about writing now, the one that's marinating in my brain in preparation for NaNoWriMo next month, would be dedicated to my husband.

Name a beverage that you enjoy.
Coffee at sunrise, Chardonnay at dusk.

for more feasts, go here


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Travelin' South-A Free Raleigh, NC Get Away

I get the urge to take a road trip in the fall, to meander down winding country roads, visit small towns along the way, have homemade apple pie in "mom and pop" diners, and, of course, marvel at the palette of crimson and gold painting the landscape.

I've hankered to visit North Carolina for some time, and I was doing some cyber research the other night on the official tourism site for the city of Raleigh. I had no idea this was such a "happening" place for the arts lover...North Carolina symphony concerts, the Carolina Ballet, the Carolina Museum of Natural History and Art, Broadway shows, historic walking tours, Branford Marsalis in concert...some of my favorite things to do. All the attractions of city life, with the charm of a Southern small town.

Because I love fall, I was especially attracted to the fall getaway pages, and I eagerly registered for a chance to win a Free Raleigh Getaway that includes accommodations for two at the Courtyard by Marriott, gift certificates to Bloomsbury Bistro, tickets to the theater and to the Impressionist exhibit at the Museum of Art, and even more.

So now I have my heart set on winning this trip. But feel free to register yourselves - just promise to tuck me into your suitcase if you win!


Tagged (Again)-Eight Random Things About Me

Are there eight random things you don't know about me? I think over the past 18 months I've confided many of my most "interesting" secrets, but since Michele asked so nicely, I'll give it a go.
  • I can't stand loud, repetitive mechanical noises, like lawn mowers and gas powered edgers. They make me want to scream.
  • I'm claustrophobic, and get really edgy in traffic jams or wedged in the middle of the row at the theater.
  • I love animals with a passion, and am so tenderhearted I cannot bear to hear or watch anything where animals are hurt. When I was a kid, I couldn't even watch Lassie, because she was always in some kind of danger during the show.
  • I drive fast - too fast.
  • I'm not nearly the perfectionist that people think I am ;)
  • I have no talent whatsoever for art - drawing, crafting, etc. I really don't. Or for any type of needlework.
  • As much as I love working as an accompanist at the high school, I do not like teaching, and, not surprisingly, I'm not any good at it. Years ago, when I taught private piano students, I remember feeling an overwhelming urge to push them off the piano bench so I could play the piece the right way.
  • I don't like talking on the telephone or making phone calls, and will put off doing it until the last possible moment.

There you have it~I'm not tagging specific people, but feel free to play along if you haven't already done this one.


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Write on Wednesday-Addendum

Visit Writing Time to "cyber audit" a class called "Courage and Craft: Writing Your Life Into Story."

Author, teacher, and blogger, Barbara Abercrombie teaches this course at the UCLA Extension Writers Program, and she's sharing some of her class lectures and writing exercises with those of us who read her blog. The class is based on her newly published book by the same title, and promises to offer some exciting suggestions and inspiration.

So get yourself a new spiral notebook and a pen, and head over to class. Don't be late!


Write on Wednesday-Working Nine to Five

Each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I work in an office~a real business type office, where I have my own cubicle, complete with plastic desk protector, overhead bin, file folders, an "in-box," and a telephone extension. I spend those three days a week writing medical reports, summarizing medical records, preparing billing statements, and shuffling great lots of paper - bond paper, that is.

If one must work in an office, (and, at this juncture in my life, I must, for the checkbook demands the extra weekly feeding) my particular situation couldn't be better. I work with six other women whom I'm very fond of. They range in age from 27 to 67, they're all bright, personable, funny and easy to get along with. My work hours are flexible, I can do lots of my work remotely, and I have an "alter ego" who can trade off with me when I travel to Florida.

Perfect, yes?
And no. As much as I'm grateful for my job and all its conveniences, I have to admit that it's become awfully boring. Twice lately, I've literally fallen asleep at my desk after lunch! ( Luckily, my cube is in the corner so no one noticed!) Six years ago when I interviewed for my original position as a "medical report writer," the interviewer was concerned that I would become disenchanted with the pedantic nature of the writing required.

"Don't worry," I assured her. "I like writing fact based reports. I'm certainly not a creative writer!"
Hmm. At that time, I was being completely truthful.

But things change, don't they? Nowadays, my head is filled with poems and stories and ideas for stories and blog posts and books oh my.

And somehow, I don't feel as if I could ever explain this compulsion to any of the women I work with. I feel as if I'm harboring a secret life, that when they ask what I did over the weekend and I say, "oh, not much"- leaving out that I wrote three blog posts, or started a new story, or did some research for the novel I'm thinking about writing, or for the one I've already written- I'm denying them the ability to know who I really am.

A while back, I wrote about coming out of the writers closet, and this post is certainly reflective of those feelings. As much as I love and am grateful for the community of bloggers with which to share words and ideas, I'm feeling the need for the kind of interaction you can only have with people in the present.

How about you? Do you have a "day job" and does it hamper or inspire your creativity? Do your real world friends understand and support your writing?


Tuesday, October 2, 2007


I've been tagged by Jennifer with this meme - so get ready to learn more about my household than you've ever wanted to know !

What kind of soap is in your bathtub right now? I'm trying out a green tea and lavender body wash by Neutrogena~it's supposed to be relaxing.
Do you have any watermelon in your refrigerator? Not right now- I did have watermelon all summer. I keep a big tupperware container filled with watermelon chunks that I munch on like candy.
What would you change about your living room? The biggest change would be to get rid of the carpet completely and refinish the dark oak flooring that's underneath.
Are the dishes in your dishwasher clean or dirty? They are being washed as we speak.
What is in your fridge? Nothing old or stale, for a change. I cleaned it out today. But I generally have a pretty well stocked fridge - milk, OJ, beer, wine, cheeses, ground turkey for chili tomorrow, eggs, yogurt, romaine lettuce, celery, carrots, grapes, red onion, all kinds of salad dressing, apple juice, grape juice...well, enough already.
White or wheat bread? Multigrain.
What is on top of your refrigerator? A portable stereo/CD player and a wicker tray.
What color or design is on your shower curtain? I have icky gray tile with maroon flecks in my bathroom (old house), so my shower curtain is maroon with green and gold design.
How many plants are in your home? None. I have a totally black thumb.
Is your bed made right now? Yes, I have a real thing about unmade beds. Can't leave the house unless I make it first.
Comet or Soft Scrub? Soft scrub.
Is your closet organized? It's a totally unorganized mess!
Can you describe your flashlight? It's a red plastic lantern style that -oops, forgot to list it - on top of the refrigerator.
Do you drink out of glass or plastic most of the time at home? Glass.
Do you have iced tea made in a pitcher right now? Always! I've been making green iced tea, which I love.
If you have a garage, is it cluttered? It is cluttered to the max with more than 50 years worth of junk. Really. We still get two cars in in though.
Curtains or blinds? Blinds.
How many pillows do you sleep with? One.
Do you sleep with any lights on at night? No. I need total darkness.
How often do you vacuum? About once a week.
Standard toothbrush or electric? Battery powered.
What color is your toothbrush? Green.
Do you have a welcome mat on your front porch? Yes.
What is in your oven right now? Nothing. About an hour ago there were two chicken breasts roasting and a loaf of French bread baking.
Is there anything under your bed? Two flat plastic storage boxes with sweaters.
Chore you hate doing the most? Cleaning the bathroom.
What retro items are in your home? Ha! My whole house is retro! (LOL)
Do you have a separate room that you use as an office? I am lucky enough to have my own "office" with desk, TV, big overstuffed chair, and ceiling fan for hot days.
How many mirrors are in your home? Probably about 4.
Do you have any hidden emergency money around your home? No. I keep an emergency $20 bill hidden in my wallet.
What color are your walls? Off white.
Do you keep any kind of protection weapons in your home? No.
What does your home smell like right now? I don't use scents in the house very often because I'm sensitive to them. Usually if my house smells like something, it's food - e.g. roast chicken and French bread!
Favorite candle scent? As above, I don't use scented candles either. I do like the vanilla scented ones, though, and would burn them if I could.
What kind of pickles (if any) are in your refrigerator right now? Sweet gherkins.
What color is your favorite Bible? White.
Ever been on your roof? No.
Do you own a stereo? Yes.
How many TVs do you have? Three.
How many house phones? Three.
Do you have a housekeeper? Sadly, no.
What style do you decorate in? Probably traditional.
Do you like solid colors or prints in furniture? Both.
Is there a smoke detector in your home? Two, actually.
In case of fire, what are the items in your house which you’d grab if you only could make one quick trip? My dogs first, of course. After that, my pictures, jewelry, computer, and as many books as I could grab. My piano would be high on the list, but I know I couldn't get it.

Whew! I won't tag anyone specifically, but feel free to play along if you're so inclined.


One Deep Breath-Snips and Snails

boys play games of war
never anticipating
its grim reality
With apologies for the somber tone of this haiku, I've always been bothered watching little boys "playing war," although most of them seem to gravitate toward fighting games no matter how much we try to steer them away. It makes me wonder about the seemingly inherent tendency toward violence among men, one that leads even boys to "play" at killing and destruction.
for more haiku, look here


Monday, October 1, 2007

Encyclopedia of Me Monday: H is for...

I'm a homebody. With each passing year, I become more in love with being in my house, holed up in my cozy office or curled in the corner of my big green chair, puppies snoozing quietly beside me. My home is extremely important to me. It's my safe haven, my protection against the elements, my security blanket against the world. It's the place where I've had my happiest moments, really, where I've spent the most time with the people I love best.

When I moved into this house 31 years ago, I was barely out of high school, newly married, and wildly excited about being independent, free from the smothering atmosphere of my parents home where I was loved just a little bit too much. Finally, I was the master of my own universe, maker of my own meals, keeper of my own hours. I had a home-and a life-of my own.

It's unusual these days for people to live in one house for such a long time. And, even more unusual is the fact that his house was built by Jim's parents - he has spent his entire life in this place. When we bought our second home in Florida a few years ago, it was a thrill to have that brand new home of our own, one no one had ever lived in. For a time, I was captivated by the beauty of that new house, and our old home felt obsolete, like a tired old pair of shoes~comfortable, but no longer fashionable.

Lately, I've developed a newfound appreciation for this faithful abode. It's sturdy and strong, if a little worn around the edges. It's warm and snug in the winter, and the yard fills with breezes and birdsong in the summer. It's chock full of memories - of little boy laughter, and puppy dog barking. Within its walls are harbored all my hopes and dreams, the evidence of my triumphs and failures, the hopes for victories in the future. It's where I've recovered from illness, cried in despair and grief, rejoiced in good fortune.

It's home.