Friday, December 2, 2011

Writing Prompt: The Word: Slip

This week’s word: slip

I‘ve felt her gradually slipping away, this bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh. Slipping like her silken hair through my fingers while I tried to make pony tails of her downy baby tresses. It doesn’t feel like that long ago that her hand filled the space in my grasp like a peach-fuzzed puzzle piece.  The hand (whose sting I still feel on my cheek) had once cupped my face while she told me a story that made no-and-perfect-sense.  It seems like mere minutes since she snuggled next to me on the frilly canopy bed she’d begged Santa for, and matched me word for word as I read the stories she’d memorized long ago. I think if I blink once or twice, there she’ll be struggling into her Power Puff Girls backpack waiting for me to drive car pool.

Where has that girl gone? Where has she taken the graceful little ballerina whose tutus are still stored in boxes in the top of her closet? The one who promised she’d love me forever, but would marry her daddy.

It wasn’t her daddy, whose tattooed arm coiled around her bare shoulder, flipping me off as he maneuvered himself between her and me. She’s leaving, and I don’t want to admit how long ago I lost her. She’s seventeen and hard in a way I could never have imagined when she was a sassy seven or temperamental twelve. She’s angry….so angry, and why haven’t I seen that coming before now? I knew we argued, no, fought. Okay, we fought loud and long, but all my friends talked about conflict with their teenage daughters, didn’t they?

Yet, there were also days when she still called me mommy, smiled prettily when asking for gas money. There were even times we’d cry through a chick flick, downing Dr. Pepper and powdered donuts.  She’d inherited my freckles, my quick temper, my sense of humor and my preference for men who weren’t good for me. I thought I knew her better than anyone on the planet. I wonder if I really know her at all.

I thought she’d be my girl forever, circling my world like a satellite in constant orbit held firm by a maternal gravity.

If I’m honest though, a part of me has always known this day would come.

I stand at the window through the dark night, hoping every set of headlights is the pair that leads her home. I stand till the sun rises over the trees we planted the year she was born. I stand until I can’t stand it anymore, and slip to the floor, cradling the last tennis shoe she’d kicked off in the living room that no longer echoes with her music.

Next week’s word: talk

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Other talents

I just designed this poster for our local high school musical. Hey, maybe, if I ever get it written, I can design my own cover!! Maybe I can help with yours....;)

I've Got Those Low Down, Mind Messing, Gotta Write Another Chapter For NaNoWriMo Blues

So it’s November. More importantly, it is National Novel Writing Month, and I’ve been gearing up all year. Okay, so really I’ve just had a note in my planner all year and began gearing up last Sunday. By which I mean, I made a long, gangly, over-enthusiastic teenager of a list of goals…no, more like strong suggestions which, as usual, will probably totally overwhelm me and I’ll end up just writing a little more than I have been writing, which is nada… for NaNoWriMo. After finishing the goals page, I promptly wrote a new blog post which I hadn’t done for weeks, nearly months, and felt really, really proud of myself.

Then it was Halloween, and well, who writes on Halloween, right? (If you do? Well, just shush, already.) Plus, Halloween had the ghouls and goblins out in full force, at least the ones that haunt my office and computer systems. (I actually only had 9 total trick-or-treaters.) To make a long, story short my computer was haunted as that day ended with the I.T. crew, who is supposed to swoop down in Superhero costumes and shoot their magic powers all over my computer/internet so it magically works again thus saving the day, instead saying to me (quite seriously, I must say) to call them if my internet begins working again. Um….Mr. Techno…aren’t you supposed to be in charge of internet workings?

Then, weirdly, the next morning it really was all magically working again, so maybe it was just delayed super hero action or something. There really seems to be a ghost in my machine!

Well, anyway, I said all that just to say that it is now November second and I haven’t written a single word. The goal of NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words in 30 days which is 1666.6666666+ words per day. I am now twice that amount in behind-ness, except for this blog which is, at this point, 292 words, so subtract that, Jack! Yes I will. ( I realize that the 50,000 words are supposed to be one consecutive novel. One NEW consecutive novel. I was already fudging that rules by saying to myself, “Self, you can write the NEW second half to your OLD, already existing novel, and that will count.” Now I can hear Self saying, snidely, “Well, you could count it if you had actually written anything yesterday, or today, but…” And I hear myself telling my Self to just put a sock in it already.)

Last year, I decided, with an accompanying little foot-stomping snit, that NaNoWriMo meant Nah, No Write More… and it was basically pretty true although I did write a few little dribbling chapters, and tried to feel good about that.

This year I can already see that my rules need revising what with the granddaughter’s out of town birthday that will take up my weekend, and Thanksgiving week, and, well… I probably won’t write 50,000 words. And it won’t be in a new novel, but will hopefully be good progress on my existing WIP. And “Self” will be relegated to a timeout chair in the corner. Behind a curtain. Where I can’t see her judge-y, rule-fixated little scrunched up face, but will only occasionally acknowledge a huffy little humph or frustrated sigh.

And I will feel good about writing more than I did last month. And writing it well. And throwing in a few good blog posts along the way, because, as Thomas Mann says, “A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” That is certainly true for me!

I think I hear “Self” over their muttering to herself in the corner that maybe I really am a writer after all.

Hmmm….I think I might feel a novel chapter coming on. Or maybe that’s just indigestion. I guess we’ll see…

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Writing Prompt: The Word: Pepper

This week's word: Pepper

I remember things about that night. Not the things I wish I remember, or even the things I should remember. There were the Red Hot Chili Peppers blasting from scratchy speakers, and far too many sparkly leg warmers. I remember the smells of cotton candy and water on cement near the Lazy River. The squeals of first time water-sliders, the splashing, and the whistles of lifeguards. It’s funny that the trivial things stand out as clear as day, but I can barely remember the face of the boy with the blonde spikes in his hair and the Tears For Fears concert T-shirt. The boy I thought would be “the one”. I remember the feel of his hand nervously holding mine, rough from hauling hay and mending corral fences. I can still smell the British Sterling cologne he wore just enough of, but the eyes that made me fall head over heels for him? I don’t know if they were blue or hazel. And I’ve tried for days to remember his name Adam or Andy or Anthony? I’m just not sure.

I remember not being able to catch my breath while riding the Spider and being too scared to try rickety roller coaster. I remember only the boys would ride the bumper cars hoping to show off their prowess to us girls who were too busy scanning the crowd for a glimpse of something…someone better. I even remember the stale urine smell of the bathrooms…the long lines, the dirty paper towels overflowing the dented trash cans. That I can remember, but not whether or not he liked algebra better than English, or whether he wanted to be a musician, math teacher, or mechanical engineer. The important things. How did I become the kind of person to whom these things only seem to be important now with the lack of him, or I should say the loss of him? How can a human being matter so much and so little at the same moment?

He deserves to be remembered, I know he does. He deserves to be more than a headline in a two-paragraph article about a juvenile male found frozen to death in his own backyard in my own hometown.

But I still can't remember his name.
Next week's word: slip

Friday, September 9, 2011

Wednesday Writing Prompt: The Word: Toad

This week’s word: Toad

She remembers like it was yesterday, her tow-headed son with his long body and short legs trying to catch the toad in the back yard. He would watch the toad gather its bulbous weight and hop, landing with a slurpy sound in the newly watered lawn.  Cody would giggle, and follow behind it on his chubby little legs. He’d bend down to grab it around its warty middle and just as his hands moved the air around the fat toad, it would leap away and leave Cody’s hands empty.
Cody was dedicated, though, and churned away to the toad’s new resting place. He’d bend down to grab the prize, which, time after time, jumped safely out of reach. She has nearly an hour of shaky,  8mm video of the tenacious attempts to seize the prize he so wanted to keep for a pet. But the frog would have none of it and eventually jumped beneath the bushes at the end of our yard and we never saw it again.

Cody didn’t cry, just sort of shrugged it off and said, “huh”,  and toddled off to find some new and interesting adventure to pursue.
She always admired that about him, his dedication to whatever he put his mind to coupled with a flexibility that made him both focused and creative as well as greatly admired. It’s hard to imagine those qualities now that he is mostly alive only in her memory. A thousand miles away in a cage of his own.

The letters are few and far between now, and the visits less than satisfactory as she sees his spirit hunched down like a toad in the box he is forced to live in now, wishing for the freedom of wet lawn and summer evenings in the back yard.

Next week’s word: Pepper

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Writing Prompt: The Word "Tape"

This week’s word: Tape

She cut the wrapping paper carefully, making sure to follow the pink polka dots so that the edges were razor straight. She placed the package in the exact center and folded the edges with neat creases until they overlapped on the top. She held the paper together with one finger while she tore the Scotch Magic Tape with the other, securing the seam with the side of her thumb. She folded the corners with the precision of a cadet making up his cot. It was important that this gift look perfect. It was a gift she’d waited a long time to be able to give, and she savored the moment. She would give her daughter the gift of a silver locket passed from mother to daughter for seven generations in her family. A gift her own mother had given her when she herself had turned 16.

She ran her fingers through the box of bows at her side and found a frilly pink and white ribbon she’d been saving for an occasion like this one. She wound the ribbon around the package, crossing the two ends at the bottom of the box and winding them into an elegant bow on top. She wove silk flowers and white raffia into the bow, then fussed with it until every strand was in exactly the right place.

It wasn’t every day a girl turned sixteen, and she knew how significant an event this was to her daughter. It was the day so many girls dreamed about, the day they’d receive their first driver’s license and be able to go on their first date (or at least the first date they’d admit to their parents). She wondered if her daughter was really “sweet sixteen and never been kissed” or if kisses had been stolen in secret at 15, or even 14. She closed her eyes and conjured the image, feeling the tingles and nervousness of her own first kiss. It made her smile. She imagined the soft blonde curls; the crystal blue eyes shut tight, the cupid bow lips pressed tight together, the nervous wonder of that moment.

She wondered what else she didn’t know about her daughter. In so many ways, a stranger to her mother, and yet their shared DNA insuring their similarities. She’d had no idea, at the conception, the depth and breadth of joy and love and fear and pain and connection there would be. It was so different from what she’d imagined. So far removed from her childhood play with baby dolls.

She wiped a tear from her eyes as she stood and lifted the package from the table. She sighed as she placed it high on the shelf with all the others, missing her daughter in ways she never knew she could.

Someday, her daughter would wonder about the woman who had birthed her. She hoped, and prayed with a sincere and desperate faith, for the day her phone would ring and she would hear a voice on the other end that sounded much like her own. And it would say “Hi, Mom? This is your daughter”.

Next week’s word: Toad

Saturday, June 25, 2011


(originally posted in 2009 to private blog)

I swear.

No, really. I. Swear.

I’m trying to quit, and sometimes I can go for long stretches of time without a single &$#!* doing a swan dive off my tongue. Seriously,  I’ve gone for hours before breaking my New Year’s Resolution never to swear again. Hours!! *SIGH*

I swear it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried not to do.

If I were a book of the bible, I’d be Leviti-CUSS.

I blame my dad really. An old cowboy of a man who lived on a farm where if it looked like *POOP* and smelled like *POOP* you could call it *(POOP), if you know what I mean. Since he long ago passed on the old western DNA I still keep tucked away in a shadowy corner of my inner cowgirl’s closet, I love me a good H#&*L or D@!*N. I shouldn’t, I know, and I’m truly trying to break up that word-love, but it’s so hard!!! *WHINE*

And really, it’s unattractive. Unprofessional. Unladylike. Un grandmotherly. Unacceptable. Un-

Til, I crack my shin on the steering wheel column getting into my car. #*@$($!

Or spill milk all down my leg as I knock a gallon of the *@$&* stuff off the fridge top shelf while reaching for the yogurt. #@*$(@!

Or if I really, really, really heartily agree with some other old cowboy. H-E-Double Hockey Sticks YEAH!

So, what’s a girl to do with such an addiction? There are no 12-step meetings for swear word addicts. No verbal version of Methadone or Suboxin. I can’t staple my mouth nearly shut like one does, say, an Overeater’s Anonymous member’s stomach. (If I were a dessert, I’d be CUSS-tard.) And I have yet to find a sponsor I can call on to that end.

I need help.


I’ve tried washing my own mouth out with soap, but keep having pictures of Ralphie’s dramatic blindness-by-soap-poisoning flash through my brain. Plus….YUCK!!

It makes me want to swear!!

(Did I just say that out loud?)

If I were a Macy’s department, I’d be LadieSWEAR.

If I were a writing style, I’d be CURSE-ive.

If I were a general, I’d be CUSS-ter.

If I were a job, I’d be a CUSS-toadian. On m outh clean-up duty!

If I had to choose between swearing and cussing myself for swearing, I’d choose bOATH.

Really, can you see what a problem it is?

I’ve tried making myself put a quarter in a jar every time I say a naughty word, but in reality since I’m the only one involved, it ends up being like paying myself to swear so I’ll have enough change for newspapers, sodas, payphones, and car washes.

I’ve tried inserting words like Oh! Fiddlesticks! Or my mom’s favorite – RATS! But if I have my hands full of a tall icy lime coke, and a really heavy book bag over my shoulder, and a couple of bags of groceries in my other hand and the heavy book bag slips off my shoulder, jarring the much-anticipated coke from my hand and onto the ground where it ricochets up and spackles my new white capris with syrupy stains….RATS! is not going to cut it. Especially when I then have to walk in sticky shoes to the nearest source of water to hose myself down. When that happens, it’s going to take more than RATS, DRAT or even HOLY CATS!

I need an intervention. Call A&E. Hook me up.

I’m $@#@!*^ Desperate?!

(And yes all of the above curse-inducing situations noted above? They happened.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Shirley's Novel "Leave. Stay" LUW First Chapter Contest 2nd Place Winner 2010

Grace Christian

I’m right here, to your left and a little in front of you. There. The woman staring blankly at the apples. You think I’m trying to decide between Jonagolds and Red Delicious. I pick up several apples, put them down again. It’s not that I can’t decide, it’s that I can’t remember why I’m here. I can’t connect the object with the word. The word with the task. Apple. You reach past me for the plastic bags so that you can choose your own produce and get back to your list of vital to-do’s. I used to do that too. Apple. I hear you huff a little, wishing I’d make it easier to get to the oranges, but you barely see me. I’m used to that. I’m easy to miss, even as disheveled as I am. Pajama pants, flannel-lined hoodie, flip flops. I think I combed my hair this morning, but it’s too much work to try to remember.

You see me again near the milk. Or, rather see right past me. I’m only partly here after all. My body’s here, hand on the gallon of 2%. Milk. But my thoughts, the part of me that really is me, whoever that is anymore, well it’s a thousand miles and months away. In my head is a rancid mix of sensory triggers: his cologne, her chocolate hair, a used condom in the back of the SUV I still drive, tears in my little girl’s eyes, Christmas morning alone, mortgage payments, apples, kisses, slamming doors. Milk.

I’m the woman you honk at who hasn’t noticed the light turn green. The woman whose clothes hang like thrift store garments on odd hangers due to the loss of weight that comes with the loss of appetite that comes with the loss of a life I thought I knew. I’m the woman whose bangs hang over glitter-trimmed glasses hiding red-rimmed eyes. The woman who sighs at the energy it takes to ignore the cell phone with its “Calling All Angels” ringtone blipped into a flashing voicemail icon. I’m the woman wearing mismatched socks, locking keys in the car. The woman not wearing lipstick on dry lips from which I’ve peeled layers of skin into scarlet splotches. The woman who shrugs and nods as you count out change because I haven’t heard a word you’ve said through the drive-up window. The woman who pays, but drives off without the Happy Meals. Who sits in the car in the driveway for 20 minutes until the porch light comes on and a boy who looks familiar walks to my window. “Mom. Mom. Mom!

You forgot milk.”

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Word: Writing Prompt "Tear"

In the Beginning (with apologies to Alison McGhee)

In the beginning, she wore dresses to school every day. (It was 4th grade before pants would be allowed). Dresses her mother made for her and her sister. In those days, her mother made most of her clothes: blue gingham a-lines with white collars and red bows, lime green pedal-pushers with green and white polka dot tops rimmed in wide rickrack, and butter yellow sleeveless dresses with sheer striped jackets and frilly petticoats that peeked out at the bottom. She loved them all…even the blue wool coat-dress with white fur trim that everyone insisted she take off thinking it was winter-outerwear.

In the beginning she took a cold lunch in a pink metal lunch box. Usually bologna or peanut butter sandwiches on white bread with a banana and carrot slices. Once in a while there was a store-bought dessert, but being the eldest of her then 5 siblings, that was rare. Even so, every day when she sat at the smooth, cold lunch tables, she opened the metal clasp on the lunchbox anticipating a sweet surprise as though she were opening a shiny, wrapped gift at Christmas, hoping for a Hostess Snowball or Twinkie.

In the beginning, she cried every time her mommy dropped her off at her kindergarten classroom, scared of leaving the safety of her mother’s presence, and oh so shy, she was. She loved the smell of crayons and lead pencils and smooth workbooks. She loved story time and sat quietly on her rug while Pippi Longstocking led Tommy and Anika on wild adventures. Every morning as her mother did her hair for school, she would tell her little sister “Today I will come home and read you a story because at school you learn to read.” And every afternoon, she would sit with her sister and pretend to read a story because in those days you didn’t really start to learn to read until first grade.

In the beginning, she walked the mile or so to school, often alone. She would skip along the asphalt, sometimes singing silly songs to herself. When she felt brave, she would go “the field way” and breathe in the scent of blue mustard and sagebrush as she scuffed the dust from the narrow trail.

In the beginning her teacher’s had names like Mrs. Staples, Mrs. Roundy, Mrs. Foot and if you were lying on the blanket embroidered with your name during rest time and noticed a tear in your skirt? Well, they would shhh you with a finger to their lips, pointing you back to you resting place until the bell rang before they would help you find a safety pin to close the gap that showed your red Tuesday underpanties.

In the beginning, the running to her mommy waiting at the flagpole was the best part of her day, her chubby round hand held firm in the slender fingers of her mother’s artist hands.

Today she holds her mother’s hand in hers, the fingers still slender but dotted with age spots and wrinkles. And it is still the best part of her day.

Next week’s word: “Tape”

Check out my poetry blog too!

I would love for you to visit my poetry blog as well. You can find it at:

Come soon. Oh, and bring your favorite dancing shoes!! ;)


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Honeymoon is Over

The Honeymoon is Over

So, it’s been 5 days and my FACSINATE-ing new phone (I’ll call him Sam, short for Samsung) and I are having issues. The honeymoon is over and we are in the gritty reality of negotiating our love-hate relationship. In the midst of a recent heated argument, he and I (with the help of a skilled counselor) worked a few things out. For instance:

Me: Are you always going to make it this hard for me to type a text message?

Sam: wel;, if u wld lrn. 2 typp or els cut yr fngermails, it wld hp

Me: I never had this problem with my ex, Flip.

Sam: Flip didn’t hav txting

Me: Nevertheless, the nails are staying and I can type fairly well with the side of the third finger of my right hand.

Sam: I cn c that *sarcastic grin*

Me: *may or may not have lifted third finger of right hand in response*

Me: I am so frustrated!! I can’t type a complete word let alone sentence, and every time I try to send a text message, I call the person instead (Sorry Liz!)

Sam: (silent mode ON)

Me: Well, what do you have to say for yourself, huh? We were so in love a few days ago, and now?

Sam: I thnk we may ned thrapy. *Calling Jake*’

Jake: What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Me: I’m trying to communicate. Sam won’t cooperate!

Sam: Hey, Im a comm..uni*catIOn dvice, babb.

Me: babb?

Sam: I mean, BABE.

Jake: Ok, you two. I have a suggestion. Look at Sam’s screen. Now do you two see this little microphone symbol?

Sam: I don’t hav eyes, bt I no it’s here sumwher.

Me: Oh this?

Jake: That’s it. Now press it and talk, and it will type what you say.

Me:*glimmer of hope* OK, "I love Lloyd."

Sam: void.

Sam: And who’s Lloyd?

Me: No, not “void," "I LOVE LLOYD."


Me: (tapping) No I said" I Love Lloyd!"

Sam: No Ice in the soy.

Me: Good grief!

Sam: Wood thief.

Me: *cocking back throwing arm*

Jake: Now now now. Let’s all take a deep breath and try something else.

Sam: *vibrating in fear*

Me: This better work!

Jake: I think it will. Have you ever heard of SWYPE?

Me: No.

Sam: I thot as mch. U Don t knw me at al.

Me: Can we do without the smug remarks?

Sam: *Silent mode ON*

Me: Hey, I’m trying my best okay?

Jake: Yeah, yeah , now just trace your finger from letter to letter without lifting it from Sam’s keyboard

Me: *swyping*

Sam: Oh, that feels good.

Me: You like that Sam?

Sam: It feels good AND it's spelled correctly. I think we could make this work.

Me: Me too, but I may have just accidentally taken a picture of my thigh.

Sam: *sending*


Sam: Oops, I thought you wanted to forward that to your co-worker.

Me: Really Sam? Really?! I can’t believe this!

Sam: *Static* I think I’m losing signal.

Me: You’re wifi.

Sam: I mean, I think my battery is dying.

Me: What a baby.

So, like any relationship, we are in the ebb cycle of ebb and flow. I’m trying my best, but if you get a photo message from me saying “Thinking of you, baby. See you tonight” and you aren’t Lloyd? Well, if you could just…uh…ignore that please. Thank you so much

Dear Verizon:

I will not be upgrading again anytime soon.

Very Sincerely,


Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Word: Writing Prompt "Leap"

Reminder: The Word: Writing Prompt

See the link above for an explanation of this exercise. Since I like doing this prompt weekly, I have my own drawstring pouch full of words that I choose for the weeks Janet Fitch doesn’t post one. Please join me and one of my favorite authors, Janet Fitch. Let us know when and where you have posted yours!

This week’s word: leap

She’s been leaping from crisis to crisis like a child trying not to step on sidewalk cracks, unwilling to risk the bad luck such missteps invited. She always meant to plan ahead, to center herself before the next fire to be put out, but she is always a step or two behind. Let’s face it, she’s a thousand steps behind, performing her own frantic quickstep and even then finding it difficult to keep abreast of it all: Her husband’s job change that resulted in their sudden move which ended up with a teenage daughter running away and two entire storage rooms full of stuff with nowhere to go in the house they’d downsized into.

Her husband was working again, the daughter safe and accounted for and the stuff…well, she was dealing with that little by little. Now, it seemed like it was the little things that might kill her. The oregano she was out of when she was in the middle of a Marinara sauce for her own and her neighbor’s family. The dog peeing on the carpet for the second time in one day. The tear in a favorite skirt. The unlucky telemarketer who bore the brunt of her frustration. She felt used up, tied in knots and cast in a moldy corner of an overstuffed closet. She tried to keep up, really she did! But she didn’t know how she could survive in a world that never gave her time to breathe, let alone dance.

She longs to find a quiet room where she could practice the long, liquid leaps and twirls of her youth—the delicate movement to music that spoke to her very soul. She wants to do bar exercises in the silence of a life without familial obligations. Not forever, of course. Just for long enough to see herself as herself again. To sharpen the focus on where the demands of life ended and she began.

Make no mistake, she loves her children, her family, the warp and woof of daily life that plays like a jukebox through her waking hours. Waltzing toddlers to sleep in the middle night, jitterbugging around the twins demanding play dates and after-dark tangos with the love of her life. She loves it all, but just for a moment, no an hour, or even a day, she longs to touch the height and weight and breadth of all that is beautiful and holy and quiet. She’d give her left arm for one beautiful arabesque in the misty white light of a spot-lit stage while a single violin note holds an audience rapt.

Just one.

But it will have to wait as the visual image is shattered by the shouts of kids piling into her van for afternoon car pool. She hopes she still has time to tend to her sister’s dogs and sew the sequins on the last three dance costumes for Thursday’s recital. She sighs, puts the car in first gear and pulls out into traffic.

Next week’s word: tear

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Link to Writer's Digest article" The Geyser Approach to Revision"

All Up In Dat in the 21st Century!!

I have finally succumbed to the siren call of the smart phone. Not that I will understand how to use it, but it will be in my technology-challenged little hands on Tuesday. I will be able to navigate by GPS, text, take pictures, have near-constant access to the internet and be on strong antacids, and maybe even tranquilizers, for the frustration of using a touch screen with long fingernails.

My hair, thank you very much will not be coming with me. It is choosing to stay firmly entrenched in the 70’s and is very happy there, I think. I have curled, flat-ironed, grown it to ever finer and thinner lengths, and even Instyled it all to no avail. It flatly refuses to resemble anything modern.

At least it is not a mullet, nor do I resemble Hillary Clinton any more thanks to my thoroughly modern daughters, but alas, I do not look sophisticated, attractive or even marginally like I even know what a flatiron is!

I need serious help. Intervention maybe. I’ve had a hairstyle relapse. Hmm, maybe it could be a reality show? And maybe I could watch THAT on my new smart phone! Yep, I’m workin’ it. I'm all up in dat, dudes. Holla’ at me, homey. I’m… was that a knock on my door?

What are you guys doing with that little white coat? Is that a new style or something? Straight-jacket you say? Hey, I think the sleeves might be too long…

Wait! I can’t use my hands. How am I gonna text my peeps?

Monday, May 23, 2011

When Saw Thee Me a Stranger...

or Stranger than Fiction: Don’t be surprised if you see a tepee in my yard.

Things happen to me. Things that don’t happen to other people. Take today for instance. I have a friend staying with me. A down-on-his-luck, recently-released-from-“the joint”*, 6’4”, bald, tattooed, should-have-been-a-standup-comedian-or-ultimate-fighting-champion kind of guy. He’s been no trouble at all. I mean, really, he sleeps probably 15 hours of every 24 in his room in the far end of the basement of my three-level home like a hermit in a remote cabin sort of thing. He comes up for dinner, and once in a while to borrow one or two of our 2,600+ collection of DVDs, and on weekends for NFL games. He’s polite (rushes, I mean RUSHES, to open my door for me), helpful (he does dishes, picks up trash in the yard), clean (never makes a mess and rinses all his own dishes). I mean, it’s a pleasure to have him.

And I feel good about myself.

Like the Savior I am trying to emulate, I am “doing unto the least of these” what the Savior has invited me to do.

Today**, he plans a trip with some old friends he worked with on drill rigs in the past. Camping. They get as far as Perkins***, a small little almost-a-town 12 miles away, and their truck breaks down. Will not go. And, to make matters worse, it’s attached to a large flat-bed trailer that holds a small fridge, camping gear and a tepee. Yep, you heard me right. A tepee. Twenty-foot poles with bright blue canvas painted with yellow stars for Father Sky, white in the middle for the Circle of Life and brown around the bottom for Mother Earth.

The trailer also holds a large pit bull.

That’s fine. After all it IS stuck in Perkins, 12 miles away from my house.

So I go to work, traa la la la lalala, and everything is fine and happy when my phone rings.

It’s my friend. He wants to know if his friends can set up their tepee on my dead-but-hoping-to-be-resuscitated-soon lawn near my trampoline. (Did I mention most of my neighbors are in supervisory positions at the local industrial plant with $350,000 houses, landscaped yards and NO TEPEES!)


My friend says they are waiting for parts for their car. They were going to just camp in the canyon that is within several miles of my house, but can’t stand to be separated from their trailer which has been towed (along with the broken down truck) to my driveway and carries all that is of value to them in this world.

“My friend wants to know if they can set up their tepee to stay in for a day or two until their car parts arrive.” *make your own surprised, empathetic or other appropriate noises here*

Now, I don’t know these people. But I want to be Christ-like. I’ve been stranded with car trouble before. I know how it is. And my friend assures me a “no” will be fine, but that feels mean and un-Christ-like ("who saw me there a stranger and took me in") so I concede as long as they don’t come into my house when I’m not home. After all, it's not necessarily the same kind of service if it's too easy right? I mean good Samaritan and all?

I picture a couple of guys my friend’s age, hanging out in clean jeans and white tee shirts drinking Coke and working on the truck.

I forget about it until it’s time to go home...

...and I drive up my road and see the towering, brightly colored tepee visible for miles around and anchored, securely, in my yard. I get out of the car and three bodies leap from their camp chairs on my porch in a cloud of dust.

For the next few paragraphs, I am claiming immunity from un-Christ-likeness for the sake of literary description. Please read accordingly.

The first thing I see is my friend jumping down the porch stairs to open my door and carry my bags.

Okay, good.

The next thing I see is a middle-aged man with stringy, balding, dirty blonde curls, or maybe just dirty. He has two or three visible teeth. Tobacco, grease and other should-have-been-sterilized-weeks-ago stains that create a redneck paisley pattern all over his clothes. He reeks of body odor, motor oil and bad teeth. He wears faded red suspenders. Of course he wears suspenders, and thank God for that!

Friendly enough guy. Immediately thanks me for my generosity. Let's call him, ...oh..Jethro. Jethro immediately starts telling me about why they are here, how he built and erected the tepee, where his dad lives, all the places he’s been and the people he’s met and he does not take a breath or even pause while talking and all the while his girlfriend is waiting to be introduced and his pit bull is DIGGING A HOLE IN MY LAWN!

Is this “Christ-like” or “Crazy”? I am trying to decide that very thing when the girlfriend takes a step towards me.

Joleen. Joleen Jo Lee-ee-eeen (Hear the Dolly Parton song playing in the background?).

Joleen is friendly, a little rough around the edges, but feminine, and oh, say 15 years younger than ole Jethro. Just sayin. She is part freckled, pink-lipped America’s Next Top Model raw material, and part crooked tooth, sitting on a hillbilly porch with a rifle kind of woman. I find myself imagining what she might look like in Relief Society with maybe a toddler on her lap or cashiering at the local WalMart to the accomaniment of MUSAK over the store sound system when she spies her pitbull, Keetch, out of the corner of her eye and in a truckdriver’s gravelly, LOUD voice yells “Keetch, you quit barking at these people or I’m gonna’ come down there and kick the S$%*! right outta you!” Then she turns back to me and smiles.

I’m a little scared of Joleen.

And Keetch.

Joleen asks if she can plug her fridge into the outlet on my porch. She offers to make me a deer roast or dutch oven cake.

She, who has so little, will share her store with the likes of me.

That takes me aback for a moment.

Joleen has spent more than one dance in the worn Capri jeans she wears with scuffed pink cowboy boots and a detergent-faded pink sweater. She has pretty blonde hair, freckled tan skin, crooked dirty teeth, a darling figure and the most beautiful sparkling dragonfly earrings I have ever seen.

Now, let me just say that for a long time dragonflies have been a sign for me. On a serious note, they are a sign of the presence of angels between my Savior and I. And they are on her ears. She glows when I compliment her on them.

In my head I’m having this discussion with myself. Okay, angel? Joleen? Now, I can welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, strength the feeble knees. Really I can. But aren’t there limits to what is required? What are my neighbors thinking? It’s one thing to help my friend, to be a good Samaritan to someone I could take to the grocery store and everyone would think he was my wayward brother. It's another to house the socially unacceptable. I mean, what if they attack me in my sleep? Or perform acts of random thievery? Do I really have to take in the loud, greasy, socially embarrassing, redneck strangers that are camping in a tepee on my lawn?

The answer is: Yes.

*SIGH* We are all children of God. This is my brother and this is my sister, and Lord help me, we are fam-i-ly (Thank you, Sister Sledge).

So I bring them into my kitchen and sit them at my table and feed them from my plentiful store. I give them a place to bathe, to avoid the hot sun and the “grip” (my friend says that means a whole lot of something in jail slang…) of flies. I give them a hand of fellowship, a chance to feel at home in a world where they will probably never feel they belong. In return, they, without being asked, clean up the trash in my yard, rake the dead grass and perform acts of service for me simply because they see I have a need.

I take a deep breath. And another.

And another.

And I think, “If ye have done it unto the least of these…you have done it unto Me.”

So don’t be surprised if there is a tepee on my lawn. Because things happen to me.

Crazy, beautiful, challenging, inspirational, God-given things.

When they leave, there is a pair of dragonflies earrings left on my kitchen table.

It’s a sign.

** July 2009
***name changed

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Well, hey there, You! Come on in. Sit right down here on the comfy love seat and kick your shoes off. Can I get you a nice virtual beverage? I'm so glad you came!! And I hope you come often!! Read anything you like, and I'd love a chance to read what you have too! We're all about words here!! Oh, and bring your friends!! The more the merrier, right?