Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Religious Experience

It was a deep black night, clouds blocking out the light of the stars that were so common place in that area of the state. Snow lay on the ground like a well used blanket. Icy air whipped around her ankles and over the tops of her hands. She steeled herself against the environment, pulling her worn coat tighter around her waist. Seeing approaching headlights, she turned her back to the wind, put one thumb up and extended her arm. A short prayer slid silently through her brain. "Hail Mary, mother of grace." The words were probably wrong, but that is how she remembered them from her limited days living in a religious household. The red lights of a car passed by, revealing there had been no pressure on the brake pedal.

She turned back to the wind and the south bound signs, taking slow measured steps forward. Under an overpass behind a cement pillar, she stopped, hoping to take refuge. She was so cold. Pleading with God to change her course, to help her find some warmth, to survive resulted in a big gust of wind pulling her coat open. She fell to her knees. A car approached, but she didn't move beyond the shudder of her defeated body. She was ready to give up.

The headlights threw shadows against the walls. They looked like demons. Falling forward onto the ground she cried out, "I'm sorry! I threw away all the opportunities that you have given me. I threw away my child, my life. Everything. I am dying lonely and with nothing to be proud of. Please, don't make me suffer anymore. I'm sorry!" She wasn't sure who she was talking to, only that she felt possessed to apologize since she couldn't make amends. With her regrets out, she laid down.

Everything went black as the night and just as suddenly, a bright light fell around her. She continued to state up, unblinking, even when the light grew so intense that it caused her great pain. A figure slid into her view, hovering blurred at the edge of her vision. Slowly it encompassed more of her field until she could see nothing else. She felt a warmth, the first warmth she had felt in what seemed like an eternity, as he wrapped his arms around her and began to lift her.

That's the story she told as she stood behind the podium, staring at the room full of families of teen drug users. "It's what", she said, "it took to turn my life around. I share this with you not to dissuade you from trying, but to tell you it is a journey your child must take. You can not do it without them, or for them, and it is likely you will not be the one that saves them, but salvation is possible. It starts with them forgiving themselves. Give them time. Be patient. Be understanding. Most importantly, let them know they matter. The rest is in their hands."

Saturday, February 27, 2010


It would be so nice not to wander around the parking lot, pushing the button on my key chain making the horn honk and lights flash alternately. If I could push the same button and have the car fold down into a little box, like my son's Transformers, I could put it in my purse and stop being the lost soul of parking lots. That's what I would have miniaturized.

Or maybe a diaper bag and all its belongings. The diapers, butt paste, wipes, bottles, burp rags, clothing.... all of it. A drop of water and it returns to a usable size. You want it small again, one spritz of Shrink-Em and voila, it's small and manageable again.

Yep, those would be the items I would want miniaturized.

*** From One Minute Writer***

Friday, February 26, 2010


We'd first met Chase when he was two-and-a-half. He had wandered off the street and into our house. I was washing dishes when his little body walked over to the refrigerator and opened it, his mouth dropping open. "Can I have something to eat?" he garbled in typical two-year-old fashion.

"Where are your parents?" was all I could say. Eventually, I learned dad had been out of the picture since before he was born. He only showed up to beat on mom. Mom had serious mental health issues, but refused to seek help.

We adopted Chase in our hearts. We watched him grow from a toddler to a teenager, frequently providing what his parents chose not to. He dropped out of school and was working full-time to support his mother. It was admirable, but he should have been enjoying his senior year and visiting colleges.

"What can we do?" I asked my husband as we digested the facts.

*** Prompt provided by One Minute Writer***

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Spaghetti Thief

To The Spaghetti Thief,

I know who you are. You passed me in the hall on your way to the bathroom. I saw the sauce around your mouth and down your chin. There were even a few spots on your shirt. You could say I caught you red faced.

At first I was upset, but then remembered I don't really like reheated spaghetti that much. At least now I don't have to eat it. I'll take the fact that you took it and appeared to enjoy it as a compliment. Having dined with you many times before, I know this is no easy feat. For these two things, thank you.

In the future, please tell me if you plan to take my food. I'd appreciate the notice.

Your Loving Mother

P.S. If the bowl is hidden in your room, put it in the sink.

(I am a stay home mom with two young children. My office environment is, therefore, a bit different.)

From Seven Days, Seven Answers

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New dance move: candle, rocky, spinach, yellow

"Breaking into the world of dance meant for rocky finances. There were times when Laura Heifter couldn't afford her electric bill and lived by candle light in the evenings. But she weathered the storm and landed enough dancing roles to make a good living. Entering her late 20s, she knew she needed to start considering a new career. Not too many agencies wanted to hire dancers who were in their 30s. They were always looking at the next young thing that walked through their door. Laura's experience counted little against those young able bodies.

hen there was the performance that changed the dancing community forever. Laura was a dancing banana in a child's production of "I'm Healthy, Eat Me!" sponsored by her aunt's dental practice when someone knocked on the door of her dressing closet. "Laura, the apple and grapes backed out. We need you to go on in 3 minutes. Be ready!" the voice said.

Laura sat her fresh spinach salad down and grabbed for the bright yellow handmade leotard. She put it on quickly and only then realized two problems: It was 10 sizes too big, fitting her more like a bag and there were no arm or head holes. "All well," she said. "The show must go on!" She looked through the relatively sheer material and headed to the stage. Entering in her costume, she tripped, summersaulting across the stage like a tumbleweed, her body masked by the enormity of the leotard. What the audience witnessed was an important inspirational moment.

Laura Heifter dramatically changed the way people performed dance. That single accidental dance move launched her incredibly successful and meaningful career. She worked diligently and developed Contemporary Dance, an entirely new genre of dance. She is the owner of Unique Costumes, the largest grossing dance clothing store in the world. And she is a highly praised and respected choreographer. It is with great honor that I award this year's Dancing Development Oscar to Laura Heifter!"

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Good Luck Charm: discount, faulty, compose, half, cabbage

She knew why she was drawn to discount stores. It had to do with growing up on the wrong side of the tracks. Buying something that was considered faulty for half price was what she had grown to know as a good deal. It's how her family had survived the local economic depression. Cabbage for dinner was the norm. And chicken broth. She stood there, looking at this new man in her life, trying to compose her thoughts and explain why the silly key chain she had carried since she was a child was the her good luck charm.

Fence: One Minute Writer

"Beautiful line. Yes. That's the idea, but push through your thighs more. Make them lift you over." He was demanding, more than I ever expected. I loved it. I could feel myself thriving under his tutelage. Outside, concentration was sitting heavily on my face while inside, my soul was smiling. I loved working with him, loved the soreness that I ached with in the mornings, loved the exhilaration of getting it right. "Again," he said and my soul soared. I nodded in response, pushed through my thighs as instructed, and flew over the fence on the back of my beautiful stallion.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Book Shmook

I wanted to make sure to write something tonight, but had no ideas. I've looked for a prompt that would inspire me off and on today. Just now, I opened The Imagination Prompt Generator and was struck by the prompt. How funny, I thought. Johnny asked me that same question today. He said he drew the question out of a hat in preschool. He didn't have an answer and was asking me to see what I would say. I didn't have an answer either. We both agreed that there were just too many possibilities and picking one would be a shame.

After pulling up the prompt "What is your favorite book?", I felt the same sensation I did while driving home with my son. A flooding of titles, plots, authors, and ever afters. I liked them all for a different reason, experienced each of them in a different situation, and honestly felt overwhelmed trying to compare the various fruits. The truth is don't have one favorite book. I have many. Sometimes I want fluff because it makes me laugh and pulls me out of my funk. Sometimes I need an excuse to cry or mourn. I may want to ponder philosophical questions or learn about something currently relevant to my life. Longing, distance, closeness, fantasy, denial, etc. There are books for all of it, but no one book can cover every need. However, there are a lot of perfect situations for a single book.

So, what about you? Do you have a favorite book?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Jealousy Prompt: garble, private, breathe, joy, wild

*** The rules of this writing exercise are simple. Take the list of words and write a short story within the guidelines of the situation. In this case, jealousy is the situation and the following words are on the list.***

I don't know why I was suddenly stuck on John. I left him a couple of months ago. It was a huge relief until I heard about the new girl. "You are the only one, " he had frequently said to me, "that can bring this much joy into my life." The first time it was corny and sweet. I had laughed and then kissed him. After that, whenever he said it, I wanted to retch into the nearest wastebasket. But the thought of him saying it to someone else made me wild with jealousy. I had to know if there really was another girl or if this was some master plan to win me back. So I came up with my own plan.

"So, what did you hear?" Linda, my best friend asked me when I approached the bar.

"Garble." I responded. My frustration was palpable. I had been so careful calculating my plan. I thought I had it all figured out! Come to find out, I didn't. I forgot to take into consideration that the water would be running and other men would probably be at the urinal after the game. John and his buddy would not be in there alone. Sneaking into the only private stall in the men's room left me feeling dirty and disillusioned.

Linda pat me on the back. "Breathe." she said. When I looked at her, she removed her hand and ordered me a stiff drink instead.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Strange Gift

I was pondering the question, "What is the strangest gift you've ever received?" How could I narrow down the crazy things I have received? I had options ranging from a shovel and the responsibility for using it when I was a kid to the dozen white elephant gifts including spray on muscles and taxidermy puffer fish decorated as Christmas ornaments. I had several answers, but none seemed correct. And then I remembered, a gift given before I was even born. Without doubt, the strangest gift I have ever received is the gift of life. As a strange as it is, I still have it with me and hope to for many, many more years.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Bad Love Limerick

There was a young woman from May.
People always thought her gay.
She met a man
Who became her fan.
And they married one bright Sunday.

Shortly after they exchanged their vows
and listened to familie's and friend's wows
They made a huge mess
Trying to change her dress
And were too embarrassed to explain the hows.

It was maybe nine months later came Gracie
followed in a mere three minutes by Tracey.
She tried to dream
while the kids did scream,
And ended up calling her friend Macey.

"Macey!" she said, "Please come save me!
It won't be enough to just have tea!
"Bring the wine
We'll be fine!
I can lock the kids out with the key!"

Macey came over with soda instead.
She needed to help clear her friend's head.
"You love Jim!
You love him!
Please say yes as its what you've always said!"

"I do, I think. Yes, I do" she winked
"Or I wouldn't have let us be linked!
I just miss
his sweet kiss
Without wondering if I've been hoodwinked!"

Man's Best Friend

Part 1

His parents gambled on the whims and need for instant gratification of pre-teens. They lost miserably. Frank had saved his allowance for months and had enough money to adopt a pet and purchase all of the supplies he would need to take care of one. He only needed them to perform the actions of approving the adoption. It was their signature they required, not his. Begrudgingly, they signed their names.

Frank was 13 years old when he first saw the rolly-polly yippy-yappy puppy at the Humane Society. It was his third trip to find the perfect pet. The little black hairball with one white leg and bright blue eyes had just come in the night before, but it charged Frank as if it had been waiting for him all its young life. Frank's eyes lit up. He spent an hour playing with the dog before walking up to the counter and slapping down his approval form and $65 on the counter. "I want that one," he said, pointing to the now sleeping dog.

The receptionist smiled warmly at him, grabbed a leash from the hook behind her and said "Let's go get this new friend of yours." She had watched him survey and play with the animals on his last two trips. She knew within five minutes that these two would be a successful match. As they played together, she had filed all the paperwork and set the pup up for his vaccinations. Frank gently picked up his puppy as she hooked the leash onto the collar. The puppy stayed asleep in Frank's arms.

"Okay Frank. It is Frank, right?" Frank smiled and nodded at her. "This little pup is all yours, but he has to have his vaccines and a health inspection before he can leave the shelter. The doctor will be in half an hour from now and I put Frank first on the list of his patients. You can help me walk him down to the puppy waiting room. Then I need you to go home and get some lunch. Come back with your parents this afternoon. You need to bring a receipt showing you've purchased a collar, a leash, and a bag of dog food. I wrote it all down for you so you don't forget anything. As long as the doctor says this little one is healthy and you bring in your receipt. you will have a friend for life. Okay?" He'd listened to every word intently, his pride growing with each step they took down the narrow hallway. He enthusiastically nodded his head yes without realizing they had reached the waiting room. "Well. We are here," said the receptionist. "You go get your lunch and I bet I'll be seeing you in a few hours."

Frank bent down and kissed the pup on his head before handing her to the receptionist. He stood for a moment and then said, "Bye for now Rover. I'll be back soon. Don't be scared. I'm sure the doctor is really nice!" Then he rushed out the door.

Part 2

Today was different. Frank had seen it coming for a while, but never spoke of it. He felt stupid and guilty that Rover's aging body and slowed responses took his breath away just as the disclosure of his dad's terminal cancer had when he was 21 years old. Rover was a dog. His dad was suppose to mean more. The emotions Frank was experiencing were just as raw and powerful when he recognized how ill his dad had become.

Rover had met Frank at the door as usual. He'd never missed a day in his life, but instead of greeting him with a jump or a lick, he merely lifted his eyes from where he lay on the floor. Frank could feel the tears well up even though he pretended they weren't there. "Hey there Rover. Are you feeling okay?" Frank's voice caught and he worked his muscles to suffocate the unrequested sounds building in the column of his throat. He put his things down and rubbed Rover's head with gentleness instead of the usual rough and play inducing petting he usually gave.

Rover sighed heavily and closed his eyes. A single tear escaped from Frank's eye, slowly following the edges made by the tightening of his mouth. He could feel a hand rest softly on his shoulder. His fiance was standing behind him silently. She patted his shoulder softly and then walked back out the door. "Hey Rover, big guy. Let's go for a little ride okay?" Rover half opened his eyes and closed them again.

His fiance pulled the car to the front of the house and Frank carefully lifted Rover and the blue blanket he'd bundled around him into the backseat. Frank slid in beside him, closing the door, and keeping one hand on him. His fiance drove the two of them to the Humane Society where Frank continued to take Rover to see the vet since he'd found him.

He knew the place well and the staff knew Frank and Rover well. When he walked in, the newest receptionist gave him a sad smile and opened the new security door to the back rooms. Frank carried Rover in his arms, his leash dangling to the floor, down the narrow hallway. He listened intently to every labored breath, his despair growing with each passing second. Farnk walked into the back room and greeted the doctor with a barely visible nod. Laying Rover on the table took all his strength. Not the strength one can build in their muscles, but the strength it takes not to break down in front of strangers. He took two hesitant steps backward.

The veterinarian looked at Rover and told Frank what he expected to hear. Frank grabbed onto Rover, his eyes and throat failing to hold back the emotions clawing to get out. He kissed him on the head for the final time. "Good-bye for now old friend. We'll be together again soon. Don't be scared. I'm sure heaven is a nice place!" Then he rushed out the door.

Friday, February 12, 2010

It Was Really the Skittles

Her stomach was growling. The pops, the squeaks, the deep rumbling sounds could all be heard across the room. Elizabeth sat in her bed, the covers pulled over her legs and the laptop resting on top of them, trying desperately to ignore the sound and write the promised poem. But the noises just became louder, more distracting. It was annoying.

Finally, she pushed the computer aside and threw her legs over the edge of the bed. Walking quietly to the kitchen, she hoped her roommate wouldn't hear her. She opened the fridge, the cupboards, and the freezer finding nothing appealing. Then she searched the top of the refrigerator. Her hands found nothing, but one of her fingertips brushed over something. It crinkled in response.

Elizabeth stood still, contemplating if it could be true. She brushed her hands over the surface of the refrigerator, afraid to believe. The familiar crinkle sounded again. A smile crept to her lips and her mind began to race over the possibility. She stood on her tiptoes, reaching for the bag. A few attempts later and she grasped it securely enough to pull it forward.

It fell over the side of the refrigerator, landing safely in her outstretched hand. Her smile widened until it owned her whole face. It was like falling in love. Exciting, somewhat taboo, and a temptation she could not resist. Quietly, she snuck back down the hall and into her room, closing the door gently behind her. She sat on the edge of her bed, laying the bag on her bland white comforter. Her tongue ran across her lips, an involuntary reaction.

She reached over and picked up a corner of the bag gently, causing a few of the bright spheres to spill onto the comforter. She lifted the bag a little higher. More fell out. "How do I love thee. Let me count the ways." Elizabeth said out loud. Then the first handful of skittles were tossed in to quiet her complaining stomach.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Valentine Message

He had been stewing all day. He hated writing his name over and over. The task was made worse when he didn't understand why it was necessary. What was the big deal about Valentine's Day anyway? "How many more do I have to do?" he whined.

"I don't know Eli. How many have you done since the last time you asked me?" I glanced at the small, messy pile of red, white, and pink hearts laying on the table.

"One I think." He slumped further down into his chair. His armpits seemed to be responsible for holding him up. I could barely see his eyes peering over the table. I knew his feet would still be dangling well off the floor. His resentment for the mundane task was beginning to spill over. I would have liked to see his boyishness for longer.

Oh to be five again, with the whole world before me I thought before answering his question. "Then you probably have four more left. You'll be done when that little itty bitty pile has your name on it and has been added to the big messy one on the table. It won't take long if you sit up and start writing."

He roared. Yes, a roar. No words were said. Just a loud noise coming from deep within his frustrations. I turned back to the sticky goo forming in the pot. As I stirred, I looked for the dark discoloration that would mean it had started to burn. I saw none. Few lumps remained and I dutifully stirred until they melted, completing the smooth mixture. I picked up the large bowl of carefully measured rice puffs and dumped them slowly in, whisking the two substances together. The bag said "strawberry", but the unnatural pink color made me think more of ecto plasm from Ghostbusters.

"I'm done!" His words echoed relief filled with irritation.

"Great! Are you ready to help me make the Crispie Cookies because they are ready for you!" I knew it would cheer him up. As expected, he bolted from his chair leaving the pen on the floor where it had been flung in his excitement. He climbed onto the stool by the island placed there in preparation of his participation. "Here. Take this glass and carefully smoosh this stuff down until you think a cookie cutter will fit through it."

He began smooshing the mixture, leaving many holes in some areas and huge towering piles in others. I worked quickly to help him without making it obvious that he needed my help. I knew from experience that it would set quickly. Once it set, there couldn't be any changes. After a few minutes, we managed to create an even and whole surface out of the Crispie Cookie mixture.

"Which one do you want to use first?" I offered my son two slightly different heart shapes. He took the bigger one and immediately smashed it down in the middle. It took him a lot of effort. He didn't have the strength or leverage to push the plastic edged cookie cutters through. I took over when he gave up, always reassuring him that if he was doing his best then he was doing a great job.

This is one of my favorite times of day. We chat amiably, share jokes, talk about the world and how the two of us fit into it, and generally really enjoy each other's company whenever we cook or create together. I suspect he enjoys this time as much as I do. But he is young and his attention span and patience are far more limited than mine.

Forty-five cookies later, he climbed down from the stool and ran off to his room to play. "They look grawsome! Thanks mom!" I smiled at the acknowledgement. After he was in bed, I would take the extra Crispie Cookies and decorate them with frosting and sprinkles. It would be my secret Valentine gift to him after he came home from preschool. Just a quiet way to tell him "I love you." One day, he would understand small gestures like that.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Love Continuing

MaryAnn was chilled to the bone. Her thin dress should have been adequate for the warm August evening, but sitting on the front stoop she found her flesh submerged under goose bumps. She kept rubbing her arms causing her body to collapse into itself in an effort to chase the coldness that had settled in her away. It was to no avail.

She lifted her body slowly from the stoop. Once standing, she didn't know where to go. She could walk a couple of houses down and see if Becky was home or she could just turn around and go into her own home. Becky's was a safer bet and MaryAnn began to blindly walk in that direction, letting muscle memory from the frequent trips guide her while she continued to shiver and shake.

She would have walked right by the house if Becky hadn't been sitting in the living room window enjoying the symphony of crickets, frogs, and night birds. "MaryAnn! MaryAnn!" she called through the open windows. MaryAnn turned to face her only to be greeted with a waving hand and an impossibly large smile. She returned the gesture meekly, stumbling over her own feet as she turned toward the walkway. "Come straight into the kitchen. I made up a pitcher of gin and tonics just before supper!" With that, Becky disappeared from her window.

MaryAnn walked up to the door of the house, reaching for the door handle and hesitating too long to open it. Becky pulled the door open from the inside and then jumped back a foot, surprised to see MaryAnn standing to close. She laughed. "I thought maybe you got lost. Come on." MaryAnn followed her to the kitchen and sat at the kitchen table, glancing at the bright colored walls and messy counter.

"Do you have a cardigan I can borrow?" They were the first words she had spoken since 3 that afternoon. They felt funny in her mouth. Wrong somehow and she suddenly wanted a tall glass of the tonic to rinse the words away.

Becky didn't seem to notice. "Yeah, I just folded one in the laundry room. I'll go grab it for you." She disappeared around the corner of the kitchen. MaryAnn stood up and pulled one of the tall tumblers from the top shelf above the sink. She poured herself a full glass and drank half of it down standing at the counter before Becky returned.

"Here you go. Kind of thirsty? What. Empty nest making you feel wild and free?" Becky knew something was wrong, but wasn't sure asking out right was a good idea. She knew how stressed MaryAnn had been about sending Jo off to school last week. She'd actually fretted about it for the last year.

MaryAnn felt the words sink into her abdomen painfully, as if a rabid dog had just attacked her. Tears began running down her cheeks rapidly. She covered her mouth and began sobbing. Her body convulsed and her knees buckled under her. Becky was unprepared for this strong of a physical reaction and could do nothing to stop it. She slid onto the floor next to her best friend, wrapping the cardigan around MaryAnn's shoulders and rubbing her back gently.

Slowly MaryAnn choked out: "Steve left me this afternoon. He came home and packed a suitcase. Told me he's been unhappy for a long while and he thought he had made it clear he was only staying together for the sake of the kids. I never suspected he meant it. I always thought he was kidding." She continued to cry until every ounce of moisture she had in her body was spilled down her dress and across the floor in the form of tears.

Becky said nothing. When MaryAnn's dry heaves turned into gasps for air, she stood her friend up and walked her carefully to the spare bedroom. She tucked her gently under the covers, kissed her forehead, turned off the lights, and closed the door quietly behind her. Tomorrow, they would deal with this more directly. She knew that MaryAnn would need her understanding and support. Heck, she knew MaryAnn needed to know she was still loved by someone.

If Becky knew anything about the high doses of pain that came with love, she also knew there was no deeper love than that between best friends.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Too Young Mother

I watched Ella with her baby and couldn't stop thinking that she was a baby herself. Far too young to have her own child. Even at such a young age, Ella was incredibly nurturing. She held her baby close to her, offering her a bottle while whispering calming things. When Ella finished feeding her, she gave her baby a little kiss then lift her up to burp her. She pat her back generally, rocking back and forth on her chair. I kept quiet, providing supportive smiles when Ella looked in my direction, but otherwise just watching her, admiring what a great mother she would become as she grew.

A while later, I heard Ella crying. I peeked around the corner and saw her trying to change her baby powder smelling baby. She had the diaper off. She was holding one of her little girl's legs in the air, but couldn't get the diaper under her without it crumpling. Each failed try made her that much more frustrated. "It's hard being a mom." I said as I finished walking into her room.

She turned and looked at me, tears filling her eyes. "Mommy, can you help me please." I remembered how many times I wanted ask for help as a new mother, how difficult it was to ask for help. More than anything I had seen, I was impressed by this. She was typically fiercely independent. This was a very different side of her.

"Sure sweetheart." I showed her how to do it, talked to her what it was like to change her diapers when she still wore them. Once the diaper was changed, Ella picked her baby up and dropped her in the crib. Then she turned and walked away. I smiled again. One day, when she grew up, she would make a wonderfully loving mother. For now, I would enjoy her two year old pretend mommy play and realize that even if she couldn't say it, she knew I love her. It was evident in the care of her baby doll.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

My Love Story

Jeff and I met in college. He said he saw me long before I knew who he was. I believe him. He has a very specific memory of me walking out of Aitchison hall wearing a white lace dress with my hair pulled back and bright red lipstick. I remember this ensemble. I wore it infrequently, but loved it all the same. Whereas he has a very clear moment, I have a vague assortment of might have been hims to choose from. I remember hanging out with a group of people in the lobby area. Sometimes we played cards, sometimes we talked for hours, sometimes we shot pool. He insists he was part of that group. He could have been. I have a vague inkling that he was there, but nothing that I can swear to.

A year after we apparently "met", he called me at home over the summer. Rather, he called me at the apartment I was subletting in my home state that summer. I worked at a factory making safety materials such as industrial glasses, gloves, etc. When I wasn't working my 9 hour shift there, I was rushing to my other job in the cosmetics industry. I disliked both jobs, but made good money. Unfortunately, it left little time to meet people in a place I knew only one other person. I was desperate for a real conversation. His phone call was that link, even though I wasn't entirely sure who he was. I spent most of my spare time trying to figure out how to get back in touch with him. I failed.

When college started that fall, I had largely forgotten about the phone call. A few weeks into the semester, I was sitting in the lobby when he asked me if I got his message. I was floored. Suddenly, I remembered him. We fell into a natural friendship and within a couple of weeks were inseparable even though we weren't 'going out'. We were just the best of friends, however unlikely it seemed.

It wasn't until after the winter holiday break that we actually 'went out'. It was the typical college dating experience. On again and off again. Honestly, on again, off again many times. We were always at different points of seriousness. Finally, we broke up for the last time. For the next year and a half, we dated other people. Well, I dated other people. He tried a few dates with a couple of people.

Then the antics really started. Fran, his good friend, spent many nights at my house. (By now I had moved off campus.) He was either telling me how much Jeff still liked me, how miserable he was without me, or trying to get Jeff to stop being a Lloyd Dobber under my window. I was both enamored and annoyed by Jeff's actions. Mostly, I ignored him. Drunken wake up calls from someone yelling beneath my window was only fun when I was drunk too.

Finally, I gave in and agreed to talk to him at 3:30 in the morning after he spent half an hour jumping around and making monkey sounds in an attempt to get my attention. I wasn't amused. Fran was freezing. Jeff was drunk. I was exhausted. We talked for maybe another half an hour and he went home with little more than when he arrived. He'd gained a conversation. It was huge for him. It was nothing for me. Outside of the crazy wake-up calls, we simply ran in different circles and rarely saw each other. I hadn't been ignoring him. Our paths just didn't cross all that frequently.

Slowly, we began to talk again. It wasn't for another 6 months that we renewed our previous romantic relationship. As they say, the rest is history. We were married two-and-a-half years later, have two fantastic children, and are still very much so happy with each other after 9 years of marriage. I predict 10 years will be the same.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Child's Love

She opened the book her son wrote in preschool. He told her it was a love story.

"I love dad."

"I love mom."

"I love Eva."

"Mostly, I just love mom."

She smiled at the last page. She could gloat about this, but knew a child's love was fickle. She'd hide the love story away because in an instant, that last line could belong to someone else. At least hidden, this would remain as a reminder that she was the 'mostly' at one point in her son's life.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Love Calculator

No one could remember who invented it or why. No one questioned the results. Everyone, on their 28th birthday, simply registered their name with the Regional Counselor. Then they waited for the red card that would arrive by transport at an unknown date in the future. The card would have the official seal of the Love Calculator and inside would be a life partner's name.

Li Ving had received her card a week ago, at the age of 29 years and 2 months. It was the average wait. The name inside was Cho Zen. Per the process, they would meet in a week and begin to plan their Commitment Ceremony. The ceremony itself is traditionally held one year to the date of the Calculated response. It was suppose to be an exciting time for both of them.

But Li was having difficulties coming to terms with Cho Zen. She told other's her tears were joyful ones and her distractedness was daydreaming. The truth was she assumed Chew Zing would be her life partner. No one else made her smile as often, laugh as hard, feel as beautiful, and well enjoy life as much as she did. She wondered how Cho Zen could be a better match. But who was she to question a system that had been successful for thousands of years?

A week later, Li met Cho at the local Commitment Chamber. She learned he was a business man from the far north who was fastidious about order. She wondered how the mess of her art would affect each of them. He was conservative. She remembered joking with Chew that she could never commit to someone who couldn't see new possibilities. He was also pessimistic, planning for the worst scenario instead of expecting the best. It meant the planning process left her doubting the results even more.

Still, she questioned who she was not to believe in her future. She was nobody and she knew it. She met with Cho every other week for three months, each time feeling she must be mentally ill. It was after her last meeting when Cho made it clear that they would be living in the north that she told Chew that she could not see him anymore. It was simply to painful to know she would be leaving him.

Cho was alarmed. Li had changed so much over the last few months. She had never acted like she was depressed before. He realized that his support of Li's upcoming Commitment Ceremony was only surface deep. He was hurting as well. Cho did not accept her choice to struggle through the process alone. He questioned her to no end. Finally, she broke down and disclosed how the process was making her feel.

*** I'm sorry. I know where I want to go with this, but simply can't get there. So, I am leaving it as is. Just pretend she is the first to buck the system. I don't know if it would end happily or not. Generally I see Li and Cho running away together, but being forced to live very isolated from society at large. ***

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Love from the Inside

Jake was anxious to meet her. His palms were sweaty and he kept rubbing them on his jeans. He ran his fingers through his hair before stubbing out his cigarette. There were only 3 hours left before their meeting. He wasn't sure what to do with them. The town was small. Main street was about 8 blocks long. There was a diner, an antique store, two gas stations, a bank, small grocer, salon, book store, strip club, three bars, and a church. The rest of the buildings appeared to be abandoned. He saw signs for a bike path. He went to explore it, but without the care it needed, the path resembled more of a rough terrain hiking path.

He decided to take his Hog to the next town about 20 miles north. Maybe there would be something to pass his time there. Pushing the kickstand off the ground, he revved his engine and set on his way. It was a hot muggy day and he could feel the water particles plaster against his skin as he raced along the crumbling highway. The scenery was picturesque but of little interest to him. Jake preferred the concrete abundance and anonymity of big cities.

Fifteen minutes later, he cruised into Russelville, Arkansas. The town was medially bigger, but it played host to freeway travelers and therefore boasted a slightly more upscale choice of amenities. He found a Carl's Jr and sought shelter from the heat. Ordering a coke, he sat at the small table in the only corner of the restaurant not to have a window. He slumped down in the seat, laying his head back against the cool tiles. He pulled out another cigarette and a carefully folded stack of papers. If anyone called them love letters, Jake would probably punch the offender in the face.

Still, he treated them with respect, unfolding them gently and smoothing down the wrinkles from frequent handling. He began reading the top one even though he had it memorized for over a month.

My Dearest Jake,

I went to my meeting this afternoon. I was terrified. I've had so many and none of them ever resulted in good news. Imagine my surprise to hear I earned parole! I'll be released on Tuesday, February 14th. I have no desire to see anyone from my former life. I consider that dark part of my life firmly in the past. You are the bright spot, my future. At least, I hope you are. I'm hoping to see you at noon that day, with your arms open wide and an offer of a life together.

With Hope, Desire, and Love

He hadn't responded until three weeks later and Jake couldn't be sure she had received the response. He didn't know what to think. He'd been writing to her for 6 years, ever since his college psychology professor told his students about the pen pal program for battered women sentenced for crimes of self-defense. Unlike his peers, he never stopped writing. Slowly, he began to see her as more than a psychology experiment and as a human being who had been betrayed by the judicial system. Even more slowly, he had fallen for this woman.

But it was a safe affair as long as she was incarcerated. There were no day to day life issues. No arguments over who watched the kids or which event to attend. There was nothing shared other than ink, paper, and thoughts. Could he really commit to someone who was as tangible as a character in a book? He didn't know. But, if he could maintain a relationship in this fact, would it be that much harder to attach a physical body to it? One he could touch, hear, smell, taste, and talk to?

Two hours and 156 letters later, Jake was riding back toward the prison. He parked his bike in the dirt lot outside the large gate, balancing his weight on it. His heart beat like the bass drum in a marching band, keeping a steady rhythm. He focused on the rhythm and matched his breathing to its steadiness. In a few minutes, Josephina would be walking through the gate. He wouldn't guarantee her a life together, but he could give her, and himself, an opportunity.

Love from a prompt: tutor, fourth, equate, regrettably

Everyone knows that boy meets girl plus boy and girl fall in love is suppose to equate to boy and girl marry and live happily ever after. Regrettably, that is not my story. Or rather, it is many of my stories... except the happily ever after part. I met John in high school. We were more than just dating. We were an item. I reveled in the jealousy of my friends over having such a great relationship. John and I married the summer after graduating from Washington High. I was a college student by day and a waitress by night. He was an auto mechanic, whom I found out later had a penchant for younger women. My sophomore year of college consisted of advanced biology and divorce papers.

My junior year, I met Ronald. He majored in physical education, but had no desire to work with children or in a school. He was hoping to become a personal trainer for the stars. I was caught up in his dream of meeting celebrities and living life large in California. After six years of marriage, I woke up and realized that he had a better relationship with the gym and that I desperately wanted children. He was opposed to making changes. I celebrated my 27th birthday with the legal papers noting our divorce was final and a plate of fried cheese curds.

Then, I met Mark, a police officer who pulled me over for speeding. He was handsome, stable, independent, interested in me and children. We dated for two years before setting a wedding date. I wanted to be sure this relationship included me as an important member and had plenty of expectation for additional members. After 38 months, it was still the two of us with little hope on the horizon. We tried everything to increase our family: home remedies, old wives tales, in vitro fertilization, adoption, surrogate motherhood, and others. Those four years were filled with disillusion and disappointment. Our relationship crumbled with each negative response until there was nothing but rubble and dust between us. Mark has remarried and has three beautiful children.

My options for men were unwanted. I no longer needed a relationship to define me. I realized my option for children was to change careers to one that involved them instead of rodents. I began working as a tutor and volunteering at the library when I wasn't assisting as a classroom aid in the schools. That's how I met Paul. His son was struggling in almost every subject area. Diligently, I worked on the team until he was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. Then I worked hard to support Paul in adapting to the educational and wider world demands that come with a child with a disability. After many intensive hours helping his son's grades improve and several cups of coffee with Paul, I knew this could be my new family.

Tomorrow, Sunday, I am giving this story a fourth try, and keeping my fingers crossed for a happily ever after ending with my husband and our wonderful son.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


She wiped away her tears as she sat her newest romance novel down and wrapped her arms around herself. Caroline knew what sex was. She'd even made love to a couple of men. She wasn't sure it rated as high as the just-for-fun sex she'd had, but it was certainly pleasurable and she wouldn't deny it if it came her way again. What she felt starved for was passion full of the energy only great urgency could cause. Passion, she thought, is what they portray in romance novels. She went to sleep with these thoughts in her head.

Two months later, she was dating a man who made her feel giddy, light headed, dizzy with the anticipation of just seeing his silhouette in the glass of her front door. The relationship was moving slowly, a change from the normal rush-to-intimacy she usually expected and kind of craved. He would hold her hand when they were walking down the street and he kissed her goodnight at the door or sometimes in the kitchen or living room, but there had been little else.

She was surprised when he came over a week later, unannounced, and told her he couldn't wait any longer to make love to her. Just the words sent a strong current of electricity through her body. He approached her, cupping her face between his hands and pulling her lips to his. Her body followed and they embraced tightly. She could feel the entire surface of her skin warm as they entangled themselves stumbling to her bedroom. She wanted nothing more than to be with him.

He laid her on the bed, his kisses following the curve of her neck to her collarr bone and down the line of her sternum. Her breath was quickening and she closed her eyes against the bright white walls, choosing to savor his touch. His hands moved from her waist to her hips and then under her dress. She could feel him slide her black lace panties over her thighs, her knees, her ankles with a single smooth action. She expected to feel his weight on top of her and him entering her like all the other men. Instead, he stepped back.

Alarmed, she opened her eyes, propping herself on both elbows so she could see if there was a problem. He stood about a foot away, looking at her intently, slowly unbuttoning his shirt. She smiled at him warmly. "It doesn't have to be rushed like this. Let's slow down." he said quietly. She still wanted to be with him, but she wanted him to be the hero from one of her Harlequin books. Part of her was disappointed that their path was changing so abruptly. Part of her was grateful for the different experience.

He approached her again, lifting her from the bed. She traced his well defined muscles, kissing his chest. She could feel his breath quicken again. He turned and sat gently on the bed, sliding her dress up and pulling her down so she was sitting on his lap. She moved to wrap her legs around him. He began to kiss her again, just as before. He reached around, unzipping the back of her dress. The straps fell off her shoulders, baring more of her breasts. He pulled her closer still. They fell into an easy groove.

It wasn't until every cell of her body fell into chaos that he entered her. The feeling made them both cry out and their movements quickened, moving well beyond the passion they had in the beginning. They clung to each other, giving more and more of themselves with each passing second. Her nails dug into his shoulder blades and he placed rough kisses wherever he could plant them. Finally, they laid trembling next to one another. She kept her eyes closed and felt the slowing of her heaving chest. She felt his fingertips lightly scraping against the side of her arm, the weight of his body draped over hers, the hotness of his breath still in the crook of her neck. Romance novels, she thought, had a lot to learn about passion.