Thursday, March 31, 2011

New Neighbors

The Bensons seemed nice enough when we bought the house from them. The elderly couple had offered to help us with nearly every step of the process. They even baked us a plate of cookies the day we moved in. Their kindness made us feel like we were truly home. Living next door, we continued to be friendly to them although our relationship ever passed beyond being neighbors.

We exchanged waves when we drove by and smiles if we were both out gardening at the same time. We swapped mail on the few occasions the mailman mixed it up. We may have borrowed a few cups of sugar or milk. I know we traded plates of cookies at holidays and the men shared some of their power tools when a project needed to be done. They were all neighborly things to do.

The, we had children. The Bensons began stopping by more frequently. Being older and with most of their grown children living out of state, we thought they were just feeling grandparently. We didn't mind offering our kids up for a few extra hugs and kisses. And the extra hands were kind of nice on those days when the child's cry was consistent.

Soon, the talk turned to where they would be educated. They happily brought over schools they thought were the right match for our family. I would glance at the brochures, smile, and tell them that preschool was still 2 years away, at least. Still the brochures began to pile up with the pressure. And then came the questions about if I had read them and what questions they could answer for me.

So I started to read them. It became quite apparent that they were not interested in my children, but only their souls. Every brochure was from the same church.

*** Daily Writing Practice: I hate this entry but am posting it anyway, as unfinished and boring as it is. If I don't get back into the habit of writing, I am afraid I will lose myself in other less important things. ***

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


My friend set her glass down on the polished surface of the table. "How do you do it all?" she exclaimed as if it were an accusation. "You must teach me!"

I sprinkled the last of the fresh herbs into the bubbling sauce as my son finished reading the last page of the book to my daughter, in Spanish. I turned to my friend, the large letter 'S' prominent on my shirt. "Do what?" I asked. 

Why didn't people realize their could only ever be one true Supermom?

*** One Minute Writer ***

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


She looked so sweet sitting on a blanket in the shade of the young Birch. The flowing leaf shadows seemed to taunt the solid lined shadow coming from the brim of her hat. "Come dance with us! Sway in the breeze! Be free!" they seemed to call out. I sat on the wooden edge of the bed and watched her. She pulled out small tufts of green grass and threw them merrily in the air. They fell like little flakes of confetti, further adding to the feel of joy and celebration in the day. 

Slowly she came to notice my quiet presence. I put down the yellow trowel and pulled off my gloves. She toddled over to me, more unsteady on the sloped ground than on the smooth even surfaces of the kitchen. Reaching for her, I pulled her into my lap. She pointed at the green leaves of the early summer plants that had already started to produce.

"I want," she said, her small hands clawing at the air and her eyes focused on the Sugar Snap Peas. With an awkward reach, I pulled one of the pods from the vine and gave it to her. Amazement danced in her eyes as my heart swelled with love.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Bridge

We were packed tightly against each other. Our fears and confusion rose chaotically into the wind. There was no where to go. At each end of the bridge were armed soldiers. The river below was ice cold and too shallow to allow us to plunge in. We continued whispering and calling out for friends or family. Some were down on their knees praying to God for mercy. Then we heard the first gun shot. It was answered by several more. Whispers rose to screams and chaos turned to panic. More of us were falling to our knees, our stomachs. There would be no escape, no mercy. We plunged, one by one, into our own deep river of blood.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***


He'd been walking around with his head in a bubble his whole life. Outside of the stars and the composition of planets, nothing else interested  him. Then a girlfriend introduced him to classic Michael Jackson. And that is what he said inspired him to do the Moon Walk on every planet he put foot on.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Friday, March 25, 2011


Tapestries covered every inch of the wall, pillows laid piled haphazardly in every corner of the room, and a red candle glowed on the low table in front of me. The room was too red and too stereotypical. I couldn't believe my friends had talked me into coming. Slowly I began to rise, leaving the cooled tea on the table. It had been bitter and I hadn't taken more than a few small sips when Madame Chaz excused herself. I wondered how long it had been just before I heard the door open and the shooshing of her garments as she approached the table.

"I'm sorry..." I started to say ands he settled into her cushions and I finished rising. "I'm afraid I have to go." Madame Chaz didn't even glance up. Perhaps she's hard of hearing, I thought. I was ready to repeat myself when she lifted my tea cup and swirled it ever so gently, the tea leaves dancing to the surface excitedly, before looking down.

"Oh my dear," she intoned, concern filling out her thin voice. "You've suffered great losses, but only you are holding yourself back. Let go of the sadness and let love fill its place. He's waiting patiently for you."

I gasped. No one knew about my losses. No one. So how could she?

*** One Minute Writer ***

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Tired from a long day of bickering and forced compromise, Johnny climbed into bed. As always, Tommy followed him. "Johnny, I'm not tired yet," he said in a half whine, half complaint."Let's stay up for a while yet."

Johnny ignored him, pulling the covers over his shoulders to make a point. Tommy pleaded. Johnny sat up slightly to readjust his position, causing Tommy to have to do the same. Then he reached for the light and turned it off, tunneling back under the covers as quickly as he could considering he had to fight the resistant body of his brother.

"Come on! Don't be like that! Look, I'll leave you alone and let you go to sleep if you hand me my book and turn the light back on." Tommy crossed his arms over his chest and stared hard at his brother. When Johnny didn't respond, Tommy reached over and poked him, repeatedly. He knew it would annoy Johnny to no end and he would get his way. 

Johnny finally groaned in frustration and flung the covers off. He sat up briskly, pulling the book off his side of the headboard and dropped it in Tommy's lap with clear disdain. Without a word, he reached up and turned on the light before flopping down as much as he could flop in the queen size bed he and his brother shared and pulled the covers over his head. He heard his brother smile.

Being a twin could be tough. Being literally joined at the hip seemed impossible most days.

***Daily Writing Practice ***

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Accountant

A black pencil skirt hugged her waist and creased the bodice of her white blouse as she walked to the desk. As she sat down, a simple silver chain dangled in front of the tan curves that peeked out from just above the next button. In an effort to divert my eyes, I followed the edge of her blouse, counting each button that was left undone: 3. Then came her well defined collar bone, the softness of the lines on her neck, and her beautiful oval face with eyes so deep in color I couldn't help but assume she wore colored contacts. I noted that she wore her hair swept up in what I can only call a sophisticated mess. I wondered how long it had taken her to make it look like that. No matter. She was a vision and I wasn't concerned with the logistics of her striking beauty. Her income level and social life, on the other hand, would be important to the overall scam.

"Mrs. Tainer, I understand you need someone to look over your business forms. Is that correct?" I said.

She blushed and fiddled with her left ring finger. "It's not Misses. And please, call me Laura." 

I smiled. This was going to be like taking candy from a baby.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sculpture of Self

She watched as the man took in the figure of the woman. The sculpted dress hung to her ankles, movement evident in the words that flowed around the hem. Looking closely, he recognized the quotes from some well-known and some obscure books. He followed the words up the seem to the nape of her bent neck,the line of her neck to her jaw, and then her eyes. The lids were half closed, her eyes focused on the locket in her raised hands. Inside the locket were a small boy and girl.

*** One Minute Writer ***

Saturday, March 19, 2011

At The Movie Theater

I could feel the heat falling from my scalp to my cheeks. I was grateful for the cover of dark and the expectation of silence. "I'm not sure what's happening," I lied to my fiance's grandmother as the actor and actress posed, in the nude, for their roles as porn stars. Love Actually, I thought. What says I love you more than watching soft porn with your fiance's parents and grandmother?

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Friday, March 18, 2011


Phyllis looked beyond the rolling fields of hay, the tall grasses and wild flowers, the streams, lakes, and rivers. She rushed through the marshes and forests, over the valleys and hill tops. She'd seen the sun rise and fall wearing glittering robes; heard coyotes howl as the moon pressed down on them and birds sing to fill up the expansive blue skies. Storms had rumbled overhead, promising nourishment to some and reminding others their was always something larger. She witnessed the rebirth of Spring, the celebration of Summer, the fight of Fall days, and the loneliness of Winters. The country had revealed its beauty and harshness, its many treasures her entire life. Still, she didn't feel it made her rich. Rather, she felt humbled by its greatness.

*** One Minute Writer ***

The Leprechaun

Annoyed, she hefted the heavy bag over her shoulder before dropping the thank you note on the floor. Her nerves were electric from the scare of the two large dogs that had chased her throughout the day. Now they lay on their beds snoring loudly. If she would have been welcomed, she would have climbed into the bed and gone to sleep herself. Fatigue filled her tiny, slender body. It was hard work to stay out of sight and still pull the pranks the taller versions of herself and family adored so much. 

She slipped her legs over the edge of the table and tossed her bag down on the broad plane of the chair. Rolling over to her stomach, she slid over the edge of the table until her toes felt the top of her bag. She let go, landing softly on her supplies. Next, she would move to the floor. Her muscles tightened in anticipation. As she felt for the first rung of the chair, she wondered again what had happened in the history books.

She looked at the card laying on the floor. A young male of the Leprechaun species smiled up at her. A pot of gold sat at the end of a rainbow. In shaky letters it read "Thank you!" At least the kids had used her favorite color green. With a small thump, she landed next to the card. Looking into the brown eyes of the drawing she said, "Why does everybody think Leprechauns like rainbows and gold? And why are we always depicted as males?"

She opened a flap on her bag and pinched a small amount of powder. Returning to the face of the young man she added, "Leprechaun juice, paper waterfalls, weaving, poetry, letters, scavenger hunts, and on and on. All of it carefully planned for a year, magical powders carefully measured, care for the children and elderly arranged, and the men are thanked. The men who have nothing to do with it. It's enough to make me want to scream." Sprinkling the powder over the card, she whispered a string of vowels and watched as it shrunk to a more manageable size. Opening the center flap of her bag, she packed it with all the other notes, then slipped out the dog door and headed for home.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The End

Sitting on the edge of the deck with a mug of hot tea in her hands, she smiled into the chill breeze of  approaching autumn. Birds sang parting songs in the trees and an occasional car rumbled by. Otherwise it was quiet. Jillene felt at ease with the silence for the first time in six years. She was more than at ease if she was being honest with herself, she was appreciative for the moment.

In the quiet sunlight, she closed her eyes and let her mind wander back over the last six years. She saw Mark's face in the garage shadows as he stormed off for the last time. She felt the heat of panic rise steadily as she checked each of the rooms the next morning. Anguish flooded her soul every time a news report said a body had been found. The hope and dread of the phone ringing. Gratitude for her mother's strength, the obsessive detective, and all the outpouring from anonymous supporters.

A bell rang in the distance and she called her mind back to the present. Warmth and joy flooded her as she walked into the house and placed her mug on the counter. Shirley was at her feet before she picked up the leash, excited for her daily walk to the school where they would collect her best friends. Patting the pup on top of her head, Jillene ushered her out of the house and toward the school.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Where I Have Been

At the end of February, I promised to write a post that specifically addressed the political climate in Wisconsin and why it scared me. I've tried to do that very thing four times now. My last three attempts ended in frustration and the deletion of everything that I had written. This is my fourth attempt. I suspect it to be frustrating; no maddening. This time, I intend to actually publish it (on this blog) even if it doesn't say exactly what I want it to.

The trouble is that this issue is complex and dynamic; it's always changing even though my opinions haven't. At least not much. There aren't any simple explanations. It's about my life, my children's lives, my extended family and their overall well-being, and in many senses the country at large. How can anyone write something object when it feels as though everything is on the line? Needless to say, it's heavily biased when I want it to be objective.

I am a proud American. I love this country and all it has to offer. I appreciate knowing I am safe. The car next to me is not going to explode. I can go to the grocery store without being mugged. Going to a friend's house in the evening, even by myself, isn't of concern because the streets are safe. Terrorists, mobs, etc. are not going to come to my door and demand to take my children or my husband. I can vote without fear of retribution or threat.  I am able to speak my mind publicly and not be thrown in jail. I have rights that are protected by a government that is "by the people and for the people."

I am a proud Wisconsinite. The winters are cold and sometimes unbearably long, but Wisconsin has long been a state of proud traditions and lofty ideals, most of which I believe in. Wisconsin has historically shown that it values its people. The state has remarkable programs for the poor, the disabled, the sick, the veterans, and others who are struggling. I know many people who have moved to the state in order to access these programs. It has long been a state that understood the need to educate future generations. The public schools push all students to strive for more. They have unique programming including dual language immersion programs and technology programs that start in kindergarten and expand throughout a child's school experience. Wisconsin, at large, is environmentally conscious. Mandated recycling programs, protection of forests and wetlands, initiatives for clean energy (such as wind farms), and strong agricultural programs that have regulations far stricter than the federal regulations and these are just a few pieces of evidence that supports this.

For these reasons, amongst many others, I am scared of what is happening politically. There have been problems for years, decisions made that I know of vaguely or am blissfully ignorant of that have lead us to this point. However, the suggested fixes go against the grain of Wisconsin (everything listed above would be dismantled or damaged beyond repair) and I see them as damaging the state and the people who call Wisconsin home. We are pitted against one another in a battle that has nothing to do with the functioning of the state, in my opinion, but for the political advantage of one party over another and the aspirations of the Governor to move on to the national stage.

It has been proposed that collective bargaining rights for public sector employees (nurses, teachers, snowplow drivers, social workers, etc) be taken away. They can keep the ability to negotiate for wages, but only to the rate of inflation. Now, I don't think unions are perfect. There are things I would like to see them change. But, I have come to believe that they are instrumental in maintaining a strong middle class.

Unions work to make sure employees receive a fair wage and benefits, safe working conditions, and job security. Unionized companies (private or public) tend to set the bar for non-unionized companies. In other words, they create a competition for fair treatment of employees. What does this mean? All workers benefit financially and in creating a work-life balance.

With fair wages and benefits, workers are able to live a quality life-style. The $75 gallon of milk at Target looks better than the $3 gallon of milk at the gas station. (Yes, milk at Target costs $75 because you can't go in to Target to buy just one thing. You always leave with other things.) Target then has a larger profit span and therefore puts money back into the community. More people, making decent wages, come in and buy more milk and the cycle continues. Bigger profit, more community support.

What happens when the $3 gallon of milk becomes the only option because a $75 gallon of milk isn't attainable anymore? Well, Target's profits begin to shrink, the community receives fewer and smaller financial gifts, Target doesn't have a reason to employ as many staff because their profits are down so they lay people. Now more people are unemployed which means even less $75 gallons of milk and we have a new cycle that continuously repeats. And the programs that received funding from Target are in more demand and have fewer resources to support the people who need their services. It's a downward spiral that hurts the already poor, the working class, small businesses, and eventually even the wealthy.

     *** A side tangent because it is important to me: For those who say I've just proven that public sector employees have cushy jobs, keep in mind that I was referring to unions in both the private and public sector. If you still think public sector employees have it easy, Google for a comparison between total compensation (which includes salary and benefits) and you'll find they make an average of 6-8% less than private sector employees per year and that the gap is widening quickly. Also, instead of being mad that the Jones'  have better benefits, you should be angry with your employer for not giving you the same. The Jones' don't decide your salary and benefits, but your employer does. ***

My other contention with getting rid of unions is purely political. Before I go too far into that, I want to help you understand the terms that I am going to use. 1. Democrats (a.k.a Dems): tend to be more progressive and represent the poor and middle class. 2. Republicans (a.k.a GOP): tend to be more conservative and side with corporations and rights for the wealthy. 3. Tea Party: a radical branch of the Republican party that falls completely on the side of large corporation's the wealthy elite privatization, and smaller governmental control. 4. Citizens United: in this case, I am referring to the Supreme Court case that determined that corporate spending is covered under the first amendment. Politically speaking, this means that they can give unlimited financial donations to any candidate they chose and not have to reveal themselves as the source.

Better funded candidates usually win elections because they can outspend on getting their name in the public. And the public typically choses who they are going to vote for based on the familiarity of a candidate's name or their party line (if they have one). Most voters are uninformed on a candidates platform and past voting record. Unions do fund the campaigns of some candidates and those candidates are almost always democratic. Corporations do the same thing, but their financial reserves are much deeper than that of the unions, and they tend to support Republicans. Over this last cycle, they have also begun representing Tea Party members in large numbers. None of this should come as a huge surprise since each group is supporting the candidates that most closely represent their interests.

Now, back to my point.

By getting rid of unions, the Republican and Tea Party can realistically win most elections, creating governments (locally and nationally) that rule under super majorities. It means that the Democratic Party becomes a permanent minority party, like independent candidates, and is therefore rendered powerless in protecting the groups of people they typically represent. It means that our political system of checks and balances doesn't work because our representatives all sit on one side of the scale. This is a dangerous form of government under any party: republican, Democratic, Tea Party, or Independent.

What does that look like in action? Wisconsin (and other states such as Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana) are prime examples. I am most familiar with Wisconsin and this is where we come full circle. The 'budget repair bill' and the budget bill are opposed by a majority of adult residents in the state according to polls. (I have looked at polls by democrats, republicans, and non-partisan sources.) They all show that 60-85% of Wisconsinites are opposed to these bills passing. Based on the requirement of a 2/3s majority to pass it through, if the elected officials were really doing what the people wanted (and in my opinion, what is in the best interest of the state based on history and the examples of states who have made similar changes already), it couldn't pass. There simply wouldn't be enough votes to make a quorum.

Rather, even though several have expressed concerns with various parts of the bill, they are voting along party lines. The Republicans have a super majority (the Governor, the House, and the Senate are dominated by Republicans). That has resulted in a flat out refusal to negotiate or work toward a compromise. And they don't have to because they don't need the votes of the Democrats to pass the bill. Our checks and balances system is off. The controlling party can do whatever it pleases.

The Republicans/ Tea Party are in control and are working to set up a system of maintaining that control indefinitely. They represent the interests of large corporations which represent only the wealthiest individuals in the nation. The official definition of this type of system is oligarchy: government or rule by a few. Some examples of countries that are oligarchical are China, North Korea, Tunisia, Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, and many communist countries. These are not places where I would chose to live and I doubt many Americans would chose this for themselves, their children, or their grandchildren. Yet, passing bills like the budget repair bill makes it possible to go in that direction.

It can't happen here, you say? This seems radical and far reaching? You're right. It does. Even as I am typing this I think it sounds kind of psychotic. Quite honestly, it scares me. But then I think about the lawsuits over the freedom of speech and right to assemble (constitutional rights) that have been filed against this administration in the last three weeks. I thought about the blatant breaking of laws (Open Meetings law) and ethics violations (assembly vote, locking the public out of their state capitol, refusing to hold public input hearings, threatening illegal actions against the Democrats who left) we've witnessed in the last three weeks. I though about the changing of public employee positions into government positions as appointed by the Governor. I thought about the utter contempt expressed for the Democrats and for those expressing uncertainty withing the Republican Party. If we are witnessing this behavior in a three week time period and these bills haven't even passed yet, then what will happen over the next 4 years? And what about in 50 years if things don't change?

My plea:

Regardless if you agree with unions or not, recognize that they do play a role in our economy because of their fundamental goal of employee rights. They play a role in our politics that balances the roles large corporations and the independently wealthy play.  Think about the consequences of losing them and decide which threat you are more afraid of: having unions represent public sector workers or what their absence means to you. Then stand up for what you believe in and make some noise. Worthy opportunities don't present themselves all that often.

*** Prompted by my life and taken from the blog I keep for my family and friends that live too far away. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


The basic idea of respect and concern for others seems to have become a thing of the past. I miss the days when we listened to each other and truly kept other's best interests at heart, even if we disagreed. The behavior of our governor disgusts me. I disagree with his ideals, but his disregard for the people of this state makes me want to cry.

*** One Word ***