August 31, 2010

Post Office

Cars pull in and cars pull out, no space staying vacant very long. Old men in golf shirts and khakis, career men in oxfords and ties and dress slacks, teenagers in tank tops and sagging jeans, college co-eds in t-shirts and yoga pants, stooped-over grandmothers in brightly colored jackets and crisp white trousers. Each expecting something, though they all walk by with tired blank faces. Some walk in with big boxes in their arms or little packages of cheer, hoping to sell something or send a message of love somewhere. Some walk in to get their bundle of mail, hoping to find something sweet in the mess of bills and advertisements and junk mail. Some walk in to get information on passports or jobs or moving services. Each looking for some fulfillment in their task. The austere brick fa├žade of the building rises as a backdrop to this humdrum of motion, still and constant behind the brisk activity on the sidewalk.

August 27, 2010

Oak Tree

Outside my window
Stands a dear friend
Ever present through
Snow and rain and sleet,
Darkness of night and heat,
Steadfast and predictable
Like the earth revolving
Around the sun,
Giving moral support
Like parents on the sidelines
Of a first soccer match,
Bringing me a smile
Like a new baby
Cooing at its mother,
Imparting strength
Like a mountain that
Can never be moved,
Inspiring me -
That old oak tree.

Inspired by the tree outside my window and Joyce Kilmer's poem "Trees."

August 22, 2010

Close to Home

Prompt from Promptly: During your weekly housecleaning you find an unfamiliar cell phone in the cushions of your couch—but can’t recall having had any recent visitors. It rings.

My husband and I never lose anything to the sofa cushions: our pocket change is deposited as soon as we get home, our children are nonexistent, and our puppy isn’t allowed up on any of the furniture. So when I entered the living room that morning and noticed the cushions sitting crooked, I gave them a puzzled look and walked over to straighten them. As I reached down to lay them flat, my fingers felt a cell phone begin to vibrate, and the muted chords of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony announced a caller.

I paused for a second before I pulled the phone out from beneath the seat cushion. It certainly wasn’t my own cell phone, but no one else had been over in the last five or six days. My husband was away overseas, the neighborhood kids hadn’t stopped by, and I had met up with my friends elsewhere. But while I stood there uncertainly, the music halted abruptly. No voice mail message was left. And then the word unavailable flashed on the screen and the Fifth Symphony started all over again. I answered before they could hang up again, and an automated voice responded:

“Hello, Elizabeth. Something very important is going to happen today, and you must be a part of it. Be at 438 East Church Street exactly at 11 AM. Someone will give you further instructions at that time.”

My back stiffened and my forehead creased with suspicion as I listened. My first thought was a kidnapping or a robbery; that’s what would be in a novel or a movie. I racked my brain for anything important that could be happening, and came up empty. I decided it couldn’t hurt to at least drive by the address and check it out.

When eleven o’clock came, I was parking my car in front of Pete’s Grill. The sight of it brought a smile to my lips as I mentally replayed the first time I’d been there with my future husband. Drawing confidence from the memory, I got out of the car and walked purposefully toward the front entrance.

A man met me there, just as I put my hand out to open the door. He was a respectable looking gentleman with silvery hair and smooth skin and a smartly tailored suit. I looked at him expectantly and he silently handed me an envelope with my name on the front. I stood there and opened it, aware of the old man’s observation and of the sudden tremor in my right hand. A business card for a local day spa had been tucked in the envelope, with a piece of paper that instructed me to be there within the hour.

I drove slowly over to the spa, still completely puzzled by the whole game, unsure why I was going along with it. But I shrugged the hesitation off and boldly walked through the front door, looking around for another mysterious person with an envelope. Instead, a young woman’s voice called out a greeting and asked me for my name. I gave it to her, and she told me they would take me back immediately.

A few hours later, I headed out to my car practically glowing from the soothing facial I’d received. My scalp still tingled from the conditioning treatment they had given it, and my long brown hair had been expertly pinned into a twist on the back of my head. Even my hands and feet had benefited, for they had received a stimulating massage along with a full manicure and pedicure. It took me until I was inside the car and pulling the door shut to notice the yellow slip of paper tucked under the windshield wipers. This time, the note directed me to a little boutique that I’d passed by a hundred times during my walks downtown, but had never actually entered. I just barely stayed under the speed limit as I drove over, wondering at the progression of the day’s events, and enticed by the final instructions in the note: to pick out any outfit I wanted, accessories included.

An hour later, after trying on outfit after outfit, basking in the luxuries of rich silk and pure cashmere, I walked out with my prize. The owner of the boutique had guided my selections, and had suggested a delicate jeweled necklace and some diamond earrings to go with the fashionable dress. I didn’t find any more notes directing me anywhere, so I headed back toward the house. I was driving carefully, trying to focus on the traffic rather than the happenings of the day, when I noticed blue lights flashing in my rearview mirror. I signaled and pulled the car over, wondering what I had done to attract the officer’s attention.

The blue uniform approached my window. He bent down to speak through the window, and then he smiled at me as he verified my name, adding that I was to follow him to my “next location.” I rolled up the window and turned the key in the ignition, waiting for him to pull ahead of me. He drove us a few towns over – thankfully without flashing lights or siren – and pulled into the parking lot of a fancy looking hotel. The officer came over to open my door for me, then walked me into the hotel lobby, where I was greeted by a female attendant. She told me that a room had been reserved in my name for the evening, and that I was to array myself in my new attire before heading there. A whole powder room had been roped off and was mine for however long I needed.

After I’d changed and had my features enhanced by a makeup attendant, I glided back into the lobby, feeling like royalty. The attendant was waiting for me by the desk. She handed me a room key and pointed me toward the elevators. Then I was on my own again.

I rode up to the fourth floor and found my way to room 424. Our anniversary date, I realized with amusement. My fingers fumbled with the key as I entered it in the lock; the green light flickered and I turned the door handle, just as someone began twisting it from the inside.

The door was pulled open and my jaw immediately dropped, my eyes hardly believing what they were seeing. This handsome man in uniform, standing erect and smiling, with his hand stretched out to greet me – could it actually be my own dear husband, standing right there in front of me? As if in a dream, I felt myself falling forward into his arms and melding as one with his body. I pulled my head back to look into his eyes, to assure myself that it really was him, and started to ask him – but he put his hand over my lips to silence me and then closed the door to leave us in privacy.

August 20, 2010

Thoughts on a New Notebook

I. Upon Acquiring a New Notebook

A blank sheet of paper
begs me to fill it, like an
empty house sitting in a
vacant lot, no grass or shrubs,
colorless and plain. It cries like
walls without paintings or
shelves without books,
empty as a poor man's wallet
waiting for payday. It is
structurally sound and
uncluttered and neat, but
empty. It entreats me like a
kitchen without flatware or china, an
office without a desk,
begging to be filled. A
blank sheet of paper
begs me to fill it.

II. Upon Christening a New Notebook

Beauty where there was barrenness
Satisfaction where there was sterility
Delight in the opening of something
Never given to another
Pureness and wholeness
Only for one - and then a
Christening, and the empty is
Written upon and occupied
Given color and life
Filled with the essence of another.
Two become one,
Inseperable.

August 18, 2010

Baby's Got Her Blue Jeans On

Prompt from Writer's Digest: write a poem dedicated to your favorite piece of clothing.

Have you ever wondered
what comfort is made of,
what it feels like against your skin,
how you wear it?
It's a pair of jeans that fits just right,
just the right amount of stretch
to hug to my shape and
cover the tops of my shoes.
That’s my favorite piece of comfort,
what I pull out for a crisp fall day in the woods
or a cozy winter evening by the fireplace.
They’re my thing of choice for
shopping and working and hanging out,
that undemanding pair of slightly faded
partly cotton
petite length
boot-cut
blue jeans.

August 17, 2010

Piper Dreams

Prompt from Promptly: It was your birthday. Describe an event from the day in scene, using an airplane, an autograph, and a scream.

Candace couldn't stop smiling as she lay in bed that night, reflecting on what had been the best day ever of her 29 years. Her husband Gary had managed to surprise her beyond belief that morning, and the day had been a whirlwind ever since.

She had gotten up lazily that morning, savoring her day away from giving flight lessons. Gary had fixed her favorite breakfast - blueberry pancakes with real maple syrup, fresh squeezed orange juice, and rich hazlenut coffee - and had decked out the table with candles, fine china, and her favorite tablecloth. After a leisurely breakfast with each other, he suggested taking a bike ride to get some fresh air and time together. She readily agreed, and off they had gone.

Once out of the neighborhood, Gary led them away from their usual path, taking them instead toward the outskirts of town. She hadn't really thought about it then; after all, they had talked before about planning some new routes to ride. It was only when they neared the local airport that she began to wonder what he had really planned for the day.

And she was right to wonder. Gary had ridden ahead of her into the airport grounds, dismounted from his bike, and pulled out a key ring from his pocket. When she expressed a question, he had given her a quiet smile and told her to follow him. They had walked to one of the hangars, which he unlocked and entered. And there, sitting before them, had been a brand new Piper PA-28R-180, painted cherry red (her favorite color), with a huge bow attached.

Her mouthed had dropped open and then she screamed, just as Gary had turned around to hand her the key. He told her it was hers and that all it needed was her autograph, her signature, to make it official. She wasn't really sure what happened after that, just that somehow they got up in the air and flew out over the city and the harbor, and then later on they ended up back home. She'd put the key on her nightstand when they went to bed, and kept looking over at it to make sure it was really there.

She knew she'd have good dreams tonight - that was, if she could ever manage to fall asleep.

August 15, 2010

A Reasonable Retreat

Prompt from Promptly: The hotel was $19.99 for a reason. And you were there for reasons of your own ... but not the kind everyone might think.

Deadlines. That's what her life was all about. Deadlines for work, for picking up the kids, for getting the laundry done and the house cleaned. Deadlines for checking in with her parents, for responding to emails and phone calls. Deadlines for paying bills.

And now yet another one fell into her life: deadlines for her book. She hadn't realized when she started writing the memoir that she would be so crunched for time. She thought it would be a way to relax, to sit back and reflect on her life. She didn't know how the project would take off, how attractive her story would be to a publisher, how quickly she would be pushed to get it written.

So here she was. Taking a weekend away from the kids, the house, the grocery shopping and bill paying, just to write. In a way it was nice, like a present to herself. Never mind the fact that all she could afford was this run-down flea-infested hovel with shabby decor (if it could be called that), a window that was bolted shut, and a suggestion of cigarettes lingering in the non-smoking room. But she was here, away from all the day-to-day distractions and to-do lists, and she could write to her heart's content.

It was her own little writer's retreat, albeit one that was less than inspiring to the senses. But she had thought ahead. She pulled out her scented candles, her ipod and headphones, and imagined herself in some little coffee shop somewhere. She lined up her thesaurus and dictionary on the wobbly table, positioned a picture of her childhood home and one of her family from last Christmas, opened her notebook and started to write.

This was one deadline she wouldn't mind having to meet.

August 14, 2010

Her House a Home

She lived on the other side of the tracks,
the side filled with trailer parks and doublewides,
rusted old cars sitting in front yards
that could hardly be called lawns,
a mess of dirt roads and crumbling streets,
not really a neighborhood, but a
jumbled up bag of multi-colored jelly beans.

She lived across from a vacant house,
with its windows boarded up and
weeds hiding a broken chainlink fence,
hung with a "No Trespassing" sign that
didn't really keep away stray kids and kittens.

She lived in a rented one-story fixer-upper,
with a roof that leaked and floorboards that wobbled
and doors that didn't quite fit the doorways,
with gutters and shutters hanging loosely
and a mailbox that never stayed on its post.

She lived in a run-down place, but she was
richer than if she had a millionaire's mansion
with antiques and servants and manicured lawns,
for her house was bright with smiles and laughter,
her kitchen was warm with love and kindness.

She lived on the other side of the tracks,
but by her heart, her house became a home.

August 13, 2010

Excuses

Prompt from Poetic Asides: use the phrase "As I was saying" as a springboard into your poem . . . use it as the title of your poem or within your poem . . . [or] as motivation to write a poem about someone who's telling a story . . .

My brother stole my homework,
My sister stained my shirt,
My puppy ate my shoelaces,
I didn't do anything wrong!

My alarm clock didn't go off.
My printer ran out of ink,
My computer lost my work,
I didn't do anything wrong!

My neighbor kept me talking,
My street was filled with traffic,
My headache made me late,
I didn't do anything wrong!

My gym membership expired,
My cake just had to be eaten,
My cholesterol was inherited,
I didn't do anything wrong!

My paycheck was never enough,
My clothes weren't fancy enough,
My lifestyle needed more credit cards,
I didn't do anything wrong!

My problems aren't my fault,
My innocence is clear,
My stories are the truth.
I didn't do anything wrong!

August 11, 2010

To Fall Asleep

Prompt from Poetic Asides: write a monotetra, a four-line stanza written in tetrameter with 8 syllables per line, each stanza consisting of rhyming lines, with the final line of each stanza repeating the same four syllables.

Stay in bed and turn off the light,
It's time to try to sleep tonight.
It's not easy, may not feel right-
Oh, stay and fight! Oh, stay and fight!

Thoughts and ideas dance in my mind;
Why is it so hard to unwind?
Why does my body seem resigned
To lag behind, to lag behind?

I lie awake and wish to sleep,
No more to see the clockhands creep
And time go by, and counting sheep
To fall asleep, to fall asleep.

August 09, 2010

Barista

Writing Prompt from Writer's Digest: write the last line to an unwritten novel that's so intriguing that others won't help but want to read the book.

One week later, Annie opened the door to the coffee shop and looked around with jaded eyes. Never again would the savory aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans be so tantalizing and comforting. Never again would the brick walls feel like a refuge, or the leather chairs and low lighting feel like home. She hesitated in the doorway, tasting a memory that seemed so distant now, lingering over the now impossible refreshment that she had once felt here.

Maybe it was finally time to move on.

August 07, 2010

Alphabet Soup

The prompt for the following was to write a 26-word story where every word begins with a different letter of the alphabet. Here's my attempt:

My Xbox and I continually unite to zip past enemies. We desire greater scores or higher levels by quite vigilantly keeping justice. No resolutions fail.

August 05, 2010

Crafting Poetry

My eardrum pulsates
Constant meter in my head
Unspoken but heard

My heart plays along
Rhythmic beating in my chest
In sync with my ear

My mind will follow
Seeking words to fit the tune
Crafting poetry

August 04, 2010

Hobby Shopping

Crisp smelling paper
Arranged in a rainbow of hues
Brightly arrayed stickers
Each with a message all its own
Black and white stamps
Stark designs on wooden blocks
Bottles of glue
Standing like sentries on the shelf
Glimmering scissors
Tools to shape the paper
Flowers and ribbons and buttons
Embellishments for the message
Row after row of temptation:
Ideas overwhelm me.

August 03, 2010

A Dog's Morning

5:00 AM - Good morning! All's quiet. Maybe I'll sleep some more.
5:40 AM - Awake again! I still don't hear anything. I can't get comfortable either. Wish the master would get up and let me out of this crate. Guess I'll close my eyes while I'm waiting.
6:25 AM - Master! He's up! Maybe if I whine he'll come and let me out and we can play.
6:30 AM - Still waiting. Maybe I'll whine a little louder.
6:40 AM - Here he is! If I push the door with my paws maybe it will open faster. I can't wait to get out of this crate and have a nice long stretch!
6:45 AM - I'm free! I'm free! I'll go jump at the door so he'll let me out. I really have to go out right now.
6:46 AM - Grass! Ooooh . . . That feels better. Oh look, a cricket! Bet I can catch him! Oh, another cricket! Hey, there's a squirrel. What's he doing on my lawn? Better chase him away! This is great.
6:50 AM - Oh, the master is going inside the big house. Better go with him! He wants me to sit before he opens the door, but it's so hard to stay still. I've been still all night! I just want to run and jump and be free!
7:00 AM - He's in the kitchen. Maybe if I go in there he'll give me something. He's looking at me . . . I'll lay down so he thinks I'm being good. I'll wag my tail too.
7:10 AM - That was fun. He gave me some crunchy flaky stuff. It was better then that stuff they put in my bowl. I wish they gave me that all the time.
7:20 AM - He's getting ready to leave me again. But now the other Person is up. Maybe she'll give me some more food. Or maybe she'll play with me!
7:30 AM - Well she isn't playing with me so I'll try to play with my ball. Ooh, there's my rope. Maybe I'll play with that. No, the ball is more fun. But the rope is fun to chew. Ball. Rope. Ball. Rope. Oh, it's so hard to decide.
7:40 AM - Maybe if I bring my ball over to her and put it on her lap she'll throw it for me.
7:42 AM - Ooh, hands feel wonderful. Scratch harder! Oh, how about this spot over here? Yeah, that's great! I could get used to this.
7:50 AM - Hey, why'd you stop? Maybe if I nudge you, your hand will come back. Nudge, nudge, nudge. Nope, that's not working. Maybe if I jump in your lap you won't ignore me. Hey, you pushed me off! Oh, there's the hand again. Guess it worked after all!
8:00 AM - Whew, I'm getting tired. Maybe I'll lay down. Oh, I should eat something first. I'll go over to my bowl and get some food.
8:01 AM - Now that I'm over here I'm not really that hungry. I wish the master were here to give me more treats. They're so yummy. Well, I'll get a piece and go lay down.
8:02 AM - Ah, a comfy rug. Hey, I'm hungry again. I need another piece of food.
8:03 AM - There, I brought a few pieces with me so I can eat them when I want to. But I'll lay down for now.
8:07 AM - Listen! I hear a dog outside!
8:09 AM - He's quiet now. I'll lay down again.
8:14 AM - Oh, my other Person just got up. I have to jump up and follow her in case she gives me a treat!
8:18 AM - No treats this time. I'll lay down again. Hm, where should I lay? I'll circle around the room a few times until I know where I want to lay.
8:24 AM - That got boring. I have to move to a different spot.
8:31 AM - I hear something . . . I'll go over to the window to investigate. Oh, it's just a truck. Guess I'll go lay down again.
8:44 AM - My Person got up again! And she's getting food! Oh goodie! I'll wag my tail and look really cute so she'll give me something yummy! Oh, she wants me to sit. Okay, I'm sitting. No, I'll lay. Oh, she moved away. I have to follow her. What, she wants me to sit again? This is no fun. I want to play! I want a treat! I want . . . I want something! I'll jump on her and show her how much I love her and maybe she'll give me something!
8:55 AM - Well she scratched my ears a little but then she told me to lay down while she ate. And she didn't give me anything. It's okay though, I still want to play with her.
9:00 AM - Oh goodie, she's bringing me outside! Yay! Oh look! Squirrel!

August 02, 2010

Writing through Writer's Block

Most writers know that one way to work through "writer's block" is to write down anything and everything that comes to mind. Basically, rambling on paper (or on the computer). You're not trying to tell a story, or write an article about anything specific, just whatever passes through your mind. Although the content that is written may have no purpose, the exercise itself has a greater purpose - to nudge, to inspire, to motivate the writer. With that explanation, here goes some random writing . . . this could be more interesting that Willy Wonka's journey through the psychadelic tunnel.


So all I can think of right now is fish. Specifically, the fish header that one of my friends has on her blog. It has a bunch of little fish (fishes, fishies) swimming around and I sometimes get very distracted looking at it. Which makes me think of the piece of flair I saw on facebook. It depicted a line of ants marching towards a bookstore, with one ant in the middle somewhere breaking formation to look at something shiny. Kind of like having ADDDDEFGHIJK . . . I only joke about it because I'm sure I've got a bit of that in me.

Speaking of ADD (or ADHD), I know that can be a very controversial subject. It does indeed seem to be over-diagnosed all too frequently. I believe that many of the children who are "diagnosed" with an attention deficit disorder just need a good whack on the rear end and a big dose of discipline. On the other hand, I'm sure there are some people who truly have something hinky going on in their brains that really does constitute a physical (or mental) problem. These cases should by all means be treated with proper medication (although strict - and enforced - discipline would be helpful there too).

That's the problem with so many of these "psychological disorders" or "mental illnesses" that we promote today. How many people live with a "label" that pretends to excuse their behavior? How many of them have nothing more complex than a spiritual issue (true, that spiritual issue could be complex in itself)? The point is, a lot of these "disorders" or more like character illnesses rather than physical illnesses. I don't disagree that some people brains really have problems, that some of them really don't work the way everybody else's brains do. I believe there may indeed be problems such as bipolar, depression, or adhd that truly are medical issues that must be addressed and treated by doctors. But I also firmly believe that these labels are thrown on people to excuse weak character and undisciplined living.

I know I don't have a degree in the medical field which would qualify me to make definitive statements about these things; I'm just someone who enjoys reading about cognitive science. But it makes sense, doesn't it? Anyway, I suppose I should get off my soapbox. Speaking of soapboxes . . . is it "soap box" or "soapbox" or "soap-box"? My computer's auto-spellchecker didn't put a squiggly little line under "soapbox" so I guess that's right, but I'm too lazy (yeah I know, a lack of discipline) to look it up in the dictionary. Actually it's not really laziness; more like, I want to keep writing while I have the stuff in my head to write about. You know, do something while you have the inspiration to do it?

Of course, now that I said that I can't really think of anything else to write about. I don't know whether it helped my writer's block or not . . . and I have no illusions that any of you will really be interested enough in what I'm writing here to actually get to this point of my post. If you do, would you be so kind as to comment on it (haha)?

Speaking of commenting, can I just put out a big request for people to give me feedback here on the blog (kind of goes for my other blog too)? Just as actors need an audience and teachers need a class, writers need readers - and especially readers who will give feedback. How do I know whether people enjoy what I write if nobody tells me? How do I know if they hate or get confused by it if they don't let me know? I need feedback! I need to know what people like or dislike, what they think I could do better (descriptions, endings, storylines, word choices).

Since most of you who read this blog also read my other one (Dog Fur & Dandelions), could I request the same thing there? I know I share those posts on facebook, and sometimes people comment there, but I would LOVE to have some feedback on my blog that I could back and read later on (it's too hard to find it through older posts on my facebook page). If something I write is encouraging to you, let me know! If you think I should have made a point more clearly, or you disagree with something I said, let me know! Not getting feedback is like making a speech to a room full of blank faces; on the other hand, getting feedback is like chicken soup for the writer's soul (to use an overused cliche).

Well, that's two soapboxes now. Maybe I ought to stop while I'm in between thoughts. Guess the coffee is kicking in finally. Oh, speaking of coffee, let me tell you something else . . .