Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake

Today’s post is in the “fearless, memoir” category.

When I think of facing fear and acting with courage, this is the earliest memory that comes to mind.  It was the first, but certainly not the last time I would have to take this walk.  It got easier each time, which is the point of the story.  In my own words…

Sometimes acts of courage are thrust upon us.
Sometimes we knowingly choose to take the courageous path.
Each act of courage gives us the fortitude to face the next opportunity
with the knowledge that we have the strength to overcome our fears.

Strawberry Shortcake

At seven years old I stand at the end of the driveway, one step away from the sidewalk.  I’m dressed in shorts and a tee shirt, sandals on my feet.  Biting my lower lip, I look at the kitchen window of the only home I remember.  Is anybody even watching? I wonder.  I turn my head and size up the one hundred feet to the next driveway.

In my right hand I’m holding a small, brown suitcase.  Normally it’s full of doll clothes.  Not today.  The doll clothes are piled neatly on my bed.  I’ve filled the suitcase with pajamas, a tooth brush and a change of clothes.  In my left hand, clutched to my chest, is my favorite stuffed animal, a tan dog with one dark, brown ear.  The other ear was ripped off in a tug-of-war with one of my brothers.

I take a big breath in and blow it out, making a sound like rushing wind.  My chest hurts; my heart is heavy.  So many thoughts are running through my mind.  Why am I the only one who has to leave? Why is mom in the hospital?  When will she come home?  When can I come home?  

Holding back tears, I step onto the sidewalk.  One foot in front of the other, I slowly take the longest walk of my life.  Approaching the neighbors’ house, I hear the family out back on their porch talking and laughing.  I stand outside the screen door, all forty-five pounds and forty-four inches of me.

“My dad told me to come over to spend the night,” I say in soft voice, quavering and uncertain, barely covering the sob that was about to leak out.

“Come in.  One of you boys take her suitcase and put it in the downstairs bedroom.   Would you like some strawberry shortcake?” the mom asked.

“Yes please.  That’s my mom’s favorite dessert.”

Paw Prints

Paw Prints

This story is for Peggy.  She asked me to write about a lost puppy shivering in the cold.

“Will the snow ever end?” Tricia said to the wipers, swishing back and forth, laboring to keep the windshield clear.  The main roads were passable with slushy, wet grooves dividing iced-over piles of dirty snow.  Tricia turned onto her unplowed street and leaned forward to see the tracks in the snow. She did her best to follow them, white knuckling the last two blocks home.

Coming to her driveway, Tricia let out a big sigh!  “Thank you Rodney,” she said blowing a kiss toward her neighbor’s house.  Her driveway was clear.  He must have plowed and salted, she thought.  I’ll make him some molasses cookies, his favorite.

After a long day at work, Tricia was looking forward to putting on her warm, comfy sweats, heating up some leftover meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and finishing the open bottle of Merlot.

Holding onto the handrail, she walked up the steps to her front porch.  Three inches of new powder blanketed all but the path to her door.  Dreaming of spring, Tricia looked wistfully at the porch swing.  She noticed a small, white, fluffy dog taking cover underneath it, creating an indentation in the snow.  If not for the brown eyes looking at her, she might not have noticed the dog at all.

“Where did you come from little one?”  The dog barked in recognition and walked over to her.  Tricia reached down to look for a tag.  The dog moved toward the steps and nodded for Tricia to follow.

“I don’t know where you live, but you can come in and get warm till we sort it out.”  She unlocked the door and set her purse and briefcase on the floor.  Tricia looked longingly at the couch before she turned around to pick up the dog.

As she paw prints 3got close to it, the dog took off across the street.  “That’s odd,” she said to herself.  “Mrs. Kelly doesn’t have a dog.”  Taking a deep breath and tightening the scarf around her neck to keep the snow from landing on her skin, Tricia followed the dog.  It disappeared through the back door of the Kelly house.

Tricia walked around to the front door and rang the bell.  The warm glow of the living room lights looked inviting.  No one answered.  She rang the bell again and knocked on the window.  Silence.

Tricia reached into the mailbox for the key and unlocked the door. Half inside, she called out, “Hello.  Mrs. Kelly. Are you home?”

The white dog was pacing between the front door and hallway, beaconing Tricia to the bedroom.  Mrs. Kelly was slumped down in bed, barely breathing.  Tricia called 911 and held Mrs. Kelly’s hand till the paramedics arrived.  She followed the ambulance to the hospital, and sat with Mrs. Kelly in the emergency department while the hospital staff ran tests.

“When did you get a dog?” Tricia asked.

“I don’t have a dog, dear,” Mrs. Kelly said softly, her breathing labored.

“Your dog was waiting on my porch when I got home.  She led me straight to your house.  What is it, a Bichon Frise?”

Stopping often to take deep breaths, Mrs. Kelly told Tricia, “When we first got married, my husband and I had a Bichon Frise, Sammy.  Cutest little dog.  She was very protective of me.  I spoiled her something awful.  My husband said that if he were to come back in another life, he would want to be my dog.  He would have my undivided attention and a very good life.”

“I saw the dog go in your house through the back door,” Tricia insisted.

“That’s not possible dear.  I replaced that door years ago.  There is no dog door in it anymore.  I would like to have another dog, but there will never be another Sammy,” Mrs. Kelly said, nodding off from exhaustion.

Before returning home, Tricia made sure Mrs. Kelly was settled in a room for overnight observation.  She walked across the street and used the key to go back in the Kelly house.  There was no dog to be found; no dog dish; no dog toys; no dog bed.  She checked the back door.  No pet door.

Shaking her head, Tricia turned out the lights, locked the front door and put the key back in the mail box.

Standing on her front porch ready to go in for the night, Tricia found no paw prints and no spot carved out under the porch swing.  There was no evidence of a dog having been there.

She looked out over Mrs. Kelly’s house to the starry winter sky.  “Goodnight Mr. Kelly.  Your sweetheart is safe and getting the care she needs.”

paw prints 1

It Takes a Village

This piece of flash fiction is for Elle.  She suggested dollarweed as inspiration for a story.  It may have been suggested tongue-in-cheek, but I accepted the challenge.   Thanks Elle!


 

It Takes a Village

Looking over town square from my second floor loft, steaming coffee mug in hand, I watch Marge, eating weeds as fast as she can pick them.  On my way out the door to join her, I grab a couple bottles of water, two bowls, two forks and a bottle of Italian salad dressing.

“What’s on the menu today Marge,” I asked.

“Dollarweeds and dandelions Sissy,” she said, filling the two bowls with fresh greens.  “You’re gonna like the dollarweeds, they taste like cucumbers.  Dandelions are always a good bet.  They’re full of vitamins and minerals. How do you think I stay so healthy?  And there’s plenty of the them right now.”

 

I sit next to Marge on a park bench, eating my salad.  We have the same conversation every day.  We talk about the weather, the condition of the park, what weeds are best for harvesting, who she saw cutting through the park, and what treasures she found in the alley behind restaurant row last night.

Marge opens a bag from the bakery.  “Looks like raisin scones today.  You want one Sissy?”

I look over at her, remembering Marge floating across the football field on the back of a convertible, an ear-to-ear smile, waving at the crowd.  Homecoming Queen 1989 blazoned across her chest on the white satin sash.

“No thanks Marge.  I had one for breakfast.  It was still warm from the oven.  So yummy!  Your gonna enjoy them.”

* * *

Unofficially, the town square is known as Marge’s Garden. Marge is our resident, homeless veteran.  She served during Desert Storm, returning home in the mid-1990’s.  She keeps the town square weeds in check and helps the squirrels survive and multiply.

After graduation Marge enlisted in the Army.  It was so unexpected.  Colleges and universities courted Marge for her track skills.  She turned down offers of scholarships, housing, and private tutors; whatever she wanted.

“I’m carrying on the family tradition.  I will be the fourth generation of women in my family to serve in the military,” she said, hand over her heart, tears of pride welling in her eyes.

* * *

Marge prefers to live outside now.  She turned down the offer of a one-room, garage apartment across from the square.  If someone brings it up, she whispers in a gravelly voice, panicky eyes darting in all directions, arms shaking from the shoulder, leaning forward, “Walls close in and I gotta get outside to breathe.  Gotta breathe!”

Strangers passing through town see Marge sitting on a park bench feeding squirrels and they look away.  Some are embarrassed.  Others are just rude and say, loud enough for Marge to hear, “Why in the world doesn’t someone kick her out of town?  What an eyesore!  Such a quaint town square ruined by a homeless bag-lady.”

* * *

Marge is one of us.  She is right where she belongs.  The public restroom on the other side of the square is left open all night.  Elementary school kids help Marge put in a vegetable garden every spring.  Blankets and towels show up from time to time, donated by the women’s club.  A roll of quarters can be found on the washer closest to the door on Tuesday, Marge’s laundry day.  The fitness club lets Marge in the locker room to shower.  She has her own chair at the library.  Our town is too small for a soup kitchen, so the restaurants take turns leaving a container of food in a cooler by their alley door.

We don’t get snow, but a few weeks out of the year it does get cold enough to freeze.  In 2004, the Town Council received an anonymous donation to build a gazebo in the square.  It’s made of cedar.  It has a tin roof and windows with screens.  There is no electricity or running water.  We refer to it as “The House of M.”  It’s a place for Marge to get out of the cold or rain, a place with no walls.  It’s a place to breathe.

gazebo 6


There is one more story idea in the queue.  Put your ideas in the comment space below.  You never know where I might take it.

In Spite of Fear

courage 1

Travel back to 1967 – 1971 with me, if you will.

It’s half-time at the state basketball finals.  The score is tied and the crowd is going crazy.  Eight cheerleaders are lined-up at one corner of the court.  The mini-trampoline is set-up about three-fourths of the way to the opposite corner.

One-by-one, each girl takes a running start at the trampoline, hits the center of a 38-inch circle on springs, flies into the air, performs a trick, lands on her feet and runs off the court before the next person lands on her head.  And the crowd goes wild!

courage 3

Now who thought this was a good idea?

I loved being a cheerleader.  I hated/feared that trampoline.  Every practice and every game was the same.  Shut out the crowd, the sounds, the butterflies in my belly.  Eye-ball the distance to the trampoline, start off on the right (correct) foot, aim for the center of the circle, stay balanced in air, do something, and stick the landing.   Oh ya, smile like you mean it.

BREATHE!

For me, this was truly acting in spite of my fears.  The only trick I ever attempted in mid-air was the toe touch.  See the photo below, which is clearly not me; she looks happy.  The school colors are right though.

courage 2

What do you fear?  How do you act in spite of your fears?

About A Tree

About A Tree

I suggested in my post on January 1st, What’s the Story?, that readers send ideas for inspiration and I will write a story for you.  Thank you Beth B. for your support and encouragement, and for the idea of a tree.  This may not be what you expected, but the story presents itself to me.  I just type it.

(Just saying:  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.)


About A Tree

“Hey Mike, what do you know about Camp In the Woods Summer Camp?”

“What brought that up Deb?”

“It looks like they’re in trouble and are asking alumni for donations,” Debbie said, handing Mike the postcard.  “Is that you?” She pointed to the picture on the front?”

“Oh my god, that is me with Jeremy and Jason.  They’re twins, but I guess that’s obvious.  My nickname was trouble and they were known as double-trouble.  Get it?”

“Ha, ha!  I guess that makes you guys a triple threat.”

“Something like that.  Let’s see what’s going on,” Mike said, turning the post card over.

oak tree 5

Dear Mike,

What is your favorite memory of the giant oak tree on Lake Liberty shore?

  • Stealing your first real kiss under a canopy of oak branches, heavy with leaves and acorns bending toward the earth?
  •  Laying on your back, gazing between the yellow-green leaves to the clear, blue sky on a lazy afternoon?  
  • Swinging over the lake on the old tire?
  • Ignoring the butterflies in your stomach while preparing to dive off the oversized tree limb reaching away from the shore?
  • The shock of cool lake water engulfing your body?  
  • Coming up, gulping for air, and giving a thumbs-up to your friends on shore?

We’re asking you to help make it possible for future campers to create memories of their own.

Last November, a tornado ripped through camp destroying the lodge, cabins, and trails.  Sadly, our beloved oak was uprooted.  Plans to rebuild include:  greater access for kids with disabilities, additional cabins for adults, a technology classroom, a wood-working shop, and a teaching kitchen for lessons on nutrition and healthy cooking.  Check out our website to see the complete blueprint for a new and improved Camp In the Woods.  You will want to be a kid again!

 Send a donation that fits your budget. 

Every donor will receive a special gift made from our precious oak and embellished with its image.  All items will be crafted by next summer’s campers, in our new workshop, under the guidance of J. J. Jacobs, a local, master craftsman and former camper. 

Category Donation Gift
Barking Up a Tree $1 –  $999 4 X 6 inch Photo Frame
Out on a Limb $1,000 – $2,999 Ink Pen
Branching Out $3,000 -$4,999 A set of four Coasters
Trunkful $5,000 -$9,999 Hand-carved 3 X 5 inch Box
Roots and All $10,000 and greater Your choice from above.  A weekend at Camp In the Woods for you and one guest. Recognition on the Family Tree in the Lodge lobby.

 Keep your memories and Camp In the Woods alive for generations to come.

Thanks for your support,

Jeremy Jacobs

Board President


 

WARNING:  This IS NOT an actual fund-raising solicitation letter.  DO NOT Send money.


 

Please feel free to send your idea to inspire a story in the comment section below.

Fearlessness

Fearlessness

I’ve decided to make Travels With Mary Sue 2016 a memoir about Fearlessness.

Why a memoir?  My life story would bore you and me.  Focusing on selected moments in time will feed my creative need to write and help me hone my writing skills.

Why fearlessness?  To foster self-reflection about how and why I arrived at this place in time.

For clarification, what is a memoir versus an autobiography?

Memoir – a themed collection of stories about moments or events in the author’s life.

Autobiography – the author’s entire life to the present.

Here is the first installment.  Some details may not be totally accurate because my memory for time and color is not exact.


 

Fearless Hair

“It’s fearless, what you are doing with your hair, letting it go grey,” commented a classmate at our fortieth high school reunion.

“Hmm!  I never thought of it that way,” I replied, not knowing if it was a compliment or not.

In fact, I did color my hair for years.  I went to the drug store the minute I saw those random, wiry, grey hairs coming in.  You couldn’t miss them amongst the chocolate brown strands. I stood in the store holding boxes of hair color products up to the mirror, looking for the closest shade to mine.

What a mess, coloring my own hair at home.  Dark brown dye splattered all over the gleaming white sink and tiles in the bathroom.  The frayed, white towel, splattered with cocoa brown hair dye, now had a singular purpose–protecting my clothing during the hair dying ritual.  I say ritual because short hair needs to be “touched up” at least every four weeks.

After six months, I asked my hair stylist if he would color my hair.  I was at the salon once a month for a cut anyway.  I liked this no fuss, no muss plan.  It did come at a price; the monthly cost of a hair appointment doubled.  I had a substantial income, so why not treat myself to this indulgence.  I added a manicure to the routine.  So much for being low-maintenance.

jan 16 2016

Why and when did I stop hiding the grey?  To save money and before it was obvious.

I made a career change and moved to Homosassa in 1999.  I continued having my hair colored for about a year.  Then my income dropped into the basement and I needed to live on less.

Over time, the percentage of grey hairs to dark ones was increasing.  I never wanted to be that women with dark hair and grey roots.  Not a good look.  I’ve heard it referred to as the skunk stripe.  Yikes!

My mother had thick, wavy, beautiful, white hair at a very young age.  Maybe I would be lucky enough to have the same gene.  So far, not so much.  My hair is salt and pepper, heavy on the salt.  It’s thinning some, with a little wave.

I avoid the mirror and the camera to minimize those who is that old lady moments.  You know the ones.  You are shopping and see your reflection in a window.  My favorite moment — realizing the two old women I saw on a closed circuit television in an art museum were me and my friend.

I totally understand why others enhance their hair color.  We all have to like what we see in the mirror and in pictures.  Our image of ourselves has a lot to do with our self-esteem.

Feeling down?  Make a hair appointment.  Let someone wash your hair.  Warm water flowing over your head chases the stress down the drain.  The feel of someone gently caressing your scalp can transport you to another place.  Refresh your hair color and you will feel like a new person afterward.

There can be something sensual about having your hair washed, by the right person.  Two movie scenes come to mind.   Robert Redford washed Meryl Streep’s hair in Out of AfricaOut of Africa  Enough said!  Kira Sedgewick washed and cut John Travolta’s hair then gave him a shave in Phenomenon.  Phenomenon  Hmm!

But I digress. Is it fearless to let my hair go grey?  Maybe!  I’m not afraid of aging or looking my age. I’m not afraid of what others think of my hair or me.  I’ve earned every one of those grey hairs.  I wear them as a badge of honor.  They remind me of where I am on this journey: more than half-way between the beginning and the end; more salt than pepper, with a touch of sass.

fear 3

 

What’s the Story?

What’s the Story?

I’m baaaack!  Hard to believe it has been a year since my last entry on this site.  I think of myself as a woman of few words, but a year without a post seems a bit extreme, even for me.  Guess I didn’t have much to say.

If you don’t know, I moved from Lexington, Kentucky to Homosassa, Florida last April.  Where is Homosassa?  It’s on the gulf side of the state, about an hour north of Tampa.  Known as the Nature Coast, the big attraction is the ability to swim with manatee.  Personally I think we should leave the manatee alone.  But that is another story.

manatee

Why Homosassa, you ask?  I lived here from 1999 to 2004 and it feels like home to me.  So I really am back.  I love the warm weather and southern life style.  I bought a condo, making life maintenance free.

So what have I been doing with all of my free time?  I have been reconnecting with friends from the twenty-four years I lived in Florida, 1980 – 2004.

I have also been working on my creative writing skills.  I believe I have found my niche or genre–flash fiction.  Flash fiction is a complete story in 1,000 words or less.  I told you I was a woman of few words.

One of my stories has been accepted for publication on a website that pairs flash fiction with photographs.  February 23rd is the big day.  I will put a link here on that day, so you can read it.

I am always looking for inspiration.  So if you have an idea or would like me to write you a story, put it in the comments.  It can be anything.  I have written about a rocker, a music box, fences, a dog, a great line someone said, a basket of yarn and fabric remnants, and canning jars.  Currently I am working on a trilogy of stories based on an observation – three women who walk their kids to the bus stop every morning and meet them in the afternoon to walk home.

Everybody and everything has a story.  Send me an idea or photo and I will do my best to write a story for you.

Here is to a few more words in 2016.  Cheers!

cheers 1

The Three R’s

The Three R’s

Reflect, Renew, Reinvent – that was the theme for the year. Renewal and reinvention have begun but are still in the works. I need more time for those.  My annual holiday letter is a summary of 2014 with some reflection built in.  If you received a holiday card and letter, this will be redundant.  If not, you may find the following post amusing.

2014 – All the World’s a Stage

This year has been like a variety show with me playing every role.  Along the way I have tried for some self-awareness.  The following is a summary of the various roles I took on and a self-assessment.

Shipping and receiving clerk for Pickett Brass – it turns out I’m not so good at this.  Too much detail for my big-picture brain.  I had to fire myself before things went from bad to worse.

packing

Call center operator enrolling Kentuckians in affordable healthcare plans – I responded to incoming calls, talked to people, filled out a lot of on-line forms.  I was really good at this, on my way to winning customer service awards, but had to cut it short to be a host mom.

call center

Host mom for a teen female exchange student.  Not so sure I was any good at this.  I honed my in-town driving skills and found short cuts getting her to school and swim practice every day.  It was challenging to watch her develop an eating disorder and not have the authority to do anything about it.

Training design and development is something I’ve been doing for so long I ought to be good at it by now.  I would be well-served if I updated my skills to be able to design e-learning modules.  Still not ready to take the plunge.  Is it denial, avoidance or procrastination?

Tour guide and visitor to local attractions in Kentucky, Washington, D.C., New York City and Hendersonville, NC.  Hopefully I was a good guest and guide.

dc

Author of a self-published book:  Your Holiday Coach.  I gave away more copies than I will ever sell.  I am just happy to check it off my bucket list.  I am also creating the first draft of a novel in November, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  Not sure if anyone will ever read it but me, and I’m not ready to reveal the story line.

YHC Kindle Cover

Student in yoga teacher certification course, a twelve month commitment starting Oct. 2014.  This is not my first teacher training.  I went through this in 1999 and eventually wrote the training manual.   I also attended Yoga for Kids teacher training.  I like to learn but I am usually an impatient student.  That probably comes from being a training designer.  Bad training makes me cranky.  So far, so good.  I was a pretty good yoga teacher at one time.  I’m not sure I will teach again.  But if I do, I should be awesome.

Blogger and social media novice.  I am navigating my way through cyberspace as a marketing strategy for my current book and any future books.  I suspect I am not so good at this.  But I will keep plugging away, attend webinars, workshops and on-line courses and hope to get better.   I now have Twitter and Goodreads accounts, multiple Facebook pages, and several blog sites.

See you in the funny papers!

Happy Holidays!

Everyone Has a Story

Everyone Has a Story

Today I began NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.

Participants work towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel between November 1st and November 30th.

NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel. National Novel Writing Month is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit (formerly known as the Office of Letters and Light). Their mission statement:

National Novel Writing Month organizes events where children and adults find the inspiration, encouragement, and structure they need to achieve their creative potential. 

One day in and I am exactly on track – 1667 words.  I’m still unsure what the novel will be about.  The first 1,000 words or so seem to be a warm-up and will probably be tossed out.  I will allow the plot to develop one day at a time and see where it goes.  See you on the flip side of November.

Do you have a story in you?

The Road to Om

Again, it has been awhile since my last post.  I am trying not to make this a “dear diary” sort of blog and stick to the high points.  Since last I spoke…

I have been busy writing a book and getting it self-published.  It was on my bucket list for about twenty years.  I can finally check it off.  If we are not connected through Facebook, Twitter, Linked In or some other social medium, the title of the book is Your Holiday Coach.  My intention in writing this book is to help you or someone you know prioritize what will bring joy, peace and happiness during the upcoming season.  It is full of tips and activities to craft a realistic plan to survive the holidays.  It is currently available in paperback and as a Kindle book on Amazon.com

Your Holiday Coach has its own blog site and I will be posting on that site about twice a week into December.  You can follow along at yourholidaycoach.wordpress.com.

Now that the commercial is over, what else have I been up to on my year of self-awareness?

I believe I was at my best as a human being when I was immersed in Yoga.  Yoga is so much more than the poses most people think of when they think of yoga.  Yoga is not a religion.  For me it is a spiritual compass.  The basic teachings and philosophy of yoga are based on ten ethical precepts that allow us to be at peace with ourselves, our family, and our community. They are known as the Yamas and Niyamas.  Rather than a list of dos and don’ts, they tell us that our fundamental nature is compassionate, generous, honest, and, peaceful.  If you want to know more about the Yamas and Niyamas, you can find explanations on the Internet.

My yoga journey began in 1990.  I was introduced to the poses and a specific guru.  I started going to classes and an occasional weekend workshop.  I must admit that I was more faithful to my weekly yoga practice than any other path I have followed.  In the late 1990’s I attended teacher training and moved to Homosassa to help manage a yoga retreat center.  I mainly taught seniors (before I was one) and special needs children.  In 2004 I moved back to Michigan and my yoga practice began to unravel.

Fast forward to the present day.  I have enrolled in Yoga teacher training in Lexington.  Since my first go-round, certification has become more formal and I will be an RYT (registered yoga teacher) with Yoga Alliance.  My goal is not to teach again, though I’m not opposed to it.  This time around I want to reconnect with the best part of me and strive to be a compassionate, generous, honest, and, peaceful human being.

Also on the horizon is NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month – November.  If you can write 50,000 in the thirty days of November, you will have a first draft.  That is my plan to get started on my next book.  More about that in my next post.

I will end this post with a traditional Sanskrit greeting used to begin and end most yoga classes.

Namaste (na-ma-stay) – I honor that place in you where the whole universe dwells.  It is a place of peace and love and light and truth.  When I am in that place in me and you are in that place in you, we are one. Om!

Om_Symbol