Tag: journey

The Bus Stop

The Bus Stop

May was rocking back and forth at the bus stop.  The butterflies in her stomach smoothed out for a few seconds when one of the other girls admired her new, pink, canvas shoes with blue laces.  May loved how her shoes matched her dress and the ribbons in her hair.

No matter how bus 4many times she changed schools, the first day didn’t get any easier.  May was hoping she would be at Sterling Elementary for more than a few months.  May’s father moved her and her mother around when neighbors were too friendly or too nosy.  “It’s time for a change,” he would say.  She counted the schools on her fingers; five schools in two years.

May’s eyes welled up with tears as she climbed onto the bus, her head spinning with questions.  Would anyone sit next to her?  Would she find any friends at school?  Would the teacher be nice?  Would she be smart enough to keep up?  Turning back, looking at her mother, May pleaded with her eyes, Please don’t make me go.  Her mother, Ellen, waved and blew May a kiss.

As the bus pulled away, three mothers crossed the street, headed for home.  Kim suggested they get together for coffee since they lived so close to one another.

Nora said, “I have to get home.  My husband is watching the baby and waiting for me to get back so he can go to work.”
Ellen thanked Kim, and said in a voice, barely above a whisper, “My husband is waiting for his breakfast.” Ellen looked at her watch and started home.

* * *

Ellen was allowed outside the apartment, unescorted, twice a day.  She walked May to and from the bus stop.  Nick, Ellen’s husband, knew down to the minute how long the journey took.  If she was gone a minute longer, there would be hell to pay.

Those few minutes in the morning and afternoon were the only time Ellen was alone with May.  After school, May did her homework while Ellen prepared dinner.  After dinner, Ellen would check May’s work, give her a bath then read to May before tucking her in for the night.  With Ellen’s sleeves rolled up during bath time, May could tell when new bruises appeared.  The two never talked about the bruises or the shouting when her father thought May was asleep.

One day, on the way to the bus stop May said wistfully, “Momma, maybe someday we can both get on the bus and never come back.”

“We have nowhere to go honey, no one to stay with,” Ellen said in a small voice.  But May’s suggestion started Ellen thinking.

That evening, Ellen ripped a sheet of paper from May’s notebook when they were going over homework.  The next morning she walked onto the bus and slipped the driver a note whispering, “Please read this later.”

* * *

The next day, the bus driver motioned for Ellen to come onto the bus. He slipped her a piece of paper.  Ellen read the note, looked into the bus driver’s warm eyes. With the smallest of movements she nodded her head.  The driver put another note in her hand.  Ellen stepped off the bus and waved to May as usual.

During bath time, Ellen told May to pick a toy to take to school for show and tell the next day.  May started listing her stuffed animals.  “Which one should I take Momma?”

“Which is your favorite?” Ellen asked.

May smiled, “Bunny.”  Her smile was quickly replaced with a frown.  In a small, sad voice May asked her mother, “Is dad moving us again?”

“No Mbus 5ay, dad is not moving us again.”  Ellen didn’t want to lie to May, but she was afraid to tell her about the plan for the next day.  Nick might overhear them.  May might say something to give it away.

* * *

In the morning, Ellen left the note the bus driver had given her on the kitchen counter as she and May left for the bus stop.  The note was from May’s teacher “reminding” her to come to school the next day to help in the classroom.

Ellen and May hung back as all of the other kids hopped on the bus.  It was a different bus driver than usual.  Holding on to May’s shoulders to keep her hands from shaking, Ellen looked at him, pleading with her eyes.  Gesturing toward the first row, he said “Come.  Sit behind me.”

Heart racing, Ellen kept looking over her shoulder as the bus pulled away.  What if Nick read the note before she was expected back?  He would pull her and May off the bus.  They would be moved out of the apartment by dinner time.  Nick was always planning two moves ahead.

As the bus drove off, Nora and Kim looked at one another.  “I wonder what that’s all about,” Kim said.

“I don’t know,” Nora replied, “but don’t you think it’s odd that May had a stuffed animal, and they both looked like they had on too many clothes for such a nice day.”

“Wasn’t that a substitute bus driver?  I have never seen that man before,” Kim added.

* * *

The bus made a few more stops to pick up kids.  When the driver pulled into the bus lane at May’s school, he told Ellen and May to wait for the others to leave.  Once everyone else was gone, he said, “Slouch down so no one can see you.”

May knew that something was happening.  She also knew not ask any questions.  She held tight to her mother’s hand clutching Bunny in the other.

“Remember how you wanted to get on the bus together and go away?  The bus driver is going to take us to a special place.  Somewhere safe,” Ellen whispered, trying to keep May from getting upset.  Several blocks away from the school, the driver let them know it was okay to sit up again.  bus 7

After a twenty minute ride from May’s school, the bus pulled into the parking lot of a plain looking building.  The driver turned to Ellen and May.  “My name is Dan.  I volunteer at The Haven.  It just so happens I used to drive a bus and I still have my license.  Once inside you will meet with an advocate who will ask you a lot of questions.  If anyone can help you, this is the place, these are the people.”

Hanging tightly onto May’s hand, Ellen entered the shelter.  “Welcome, my name is Tina; let’s go talk about how to make sure you two ladies are safe.”

bus 6

 

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The Cone Zone

The Cone Zone

Summer Sojourn 2016, Part Two

Of the six states and two continents I have called home, Kentucky is byky roads far the plushest and greenest of them all.  The rolling hills, narrow country roads covered by a canopy of trees and lined with fences speak of a gentle life style.

Both Lexington, Kentucky and Gainesville, Florida claim to be the “horse capital of the world.”  I’m not sure about the rest of the world, but between the two, Lexington wins, hands down.

* * *

Heading north on I75, just before you cross the Ohio River, a spectacular view of Cincinnati appears on the horizon.  Take a good look.  It doesn’t last long and it beats the view from ground level as you drive through. Once out of the Greater Cincinnati Area, Ohio is basically flat.

Ohio – it should be named “The state of Perpetual Road Construction.”  Orange cones, barrels and signs of “road work ahead” abound.  I intentionally did the drive on a Sunday to avoid construction slowdowns.  For the most part, it was a good strategy.

I’ve been travelling this stretch of road for decades.  One of my favorite land marks used to be “Big Butter Jesus” until it was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.

If you have never seen this edifice, the best description can be found in the following song on YouTube:  Before the fire…  I apologize in advance if you find it sacrilegious.

After the fire, a new last verse was written to the song and can be viewed here:  After the fire…  Fast-forward to the end.  It is worth it!

* * *

Michigan, My Michigan!  The very minute you cross the state line it’s hard not to notice how much more aggressively people drive here.  Keep your wits about you, an eye on your side mirrors and another on the rearview mirror.

I suspect there are more cars than people in Michigan.  One person may own an everyday car to get to work, a vanity car, and an SUV or truck to pull a boat or RV.  One word of advice:  plan your north- and southbound trips to avoid the masses migrating “up north” to their cottage/cabin on Friday and returning home/south on Sunday.

Michigan is also known for the prevalence of construction zones lined with orange cones and barrels.  The local news report includes a “Cone Zone” advisory.  With all of the construction going on you would think the roads would be in better condition.  The hard winters and number of cars on the road do take their toll.

And so as Part Two of the Summer Sojourn unfolds, I leave you with this from the Mitten State.

Welcome to Michigan Sign at State Border
AJ7400 Welcome to Michigan Sign at State Border
The Slow Lane

The Slow Lane

On the first leg of my summer sojourn I witnessed many types of fearlessness.  So this is less of a story and more of a travel log of the first four states on my journey.

us 19I left my home in Florida, north bound traveling the back roads.  Once off U.S. 19, a four-lane divided highway, it was two-lane country roads into Georgia.  A road sign indicating a town was often followed by a blinking light, no commerce, no residential district in sight.  No sign of civilization as far as the eye could see.

Fearless are those who have chosen to live on the road less traveled.  Where do they shop for groceries?  How often do they make the trek?  Do they have large gardens and farm animals for food?  Are they lonely?  Why have they chosen such an isolated existence?

* * *

One consistent sight along north Florida and southern Georgia roads was the plethora of Baptist churches.  Most were small, white buildings with steeples, the kind ybaptist churchou see in movies, very picturesque.  No two of them were of the same denomination.

Fearless were the missionaries who blanketed the south propagating the faith.  What was their motivation?  What population were they targeting?  Could there have been enough money to keep so many congregations alive?  How do they all still survive?

* * *

Once I joined fellow travelers on I 75 no words can describe the antics of fearless drivers on the road.  They seem to have no value for their own life or the lives of anyone around them.  What is waiting for them at the end of their trip?  It must be something special to risk everything to get there a few minutes sooner.

i 75
They send me to the slow lane, fearful I might be caught in bumper to bumper traffic crawling past them, their car crushed on the side of the road.  Hopefully no one will be injured.

* * *

Tcowswo fearless cows, one brown and one white, pushed their noses out the trailer window.  Traveling 70 mph, face in the wind must have been exhilarating for them.  Or maybe they just wanted some fresh air.  It was a comical sight I wish I could have caught on camera.

 

* * *

Are animals that try to cross a major interstate fearless or merely unaware of the danger they are in?  When they don’t make it, the fearless carrion birds show up, risking their lives for a fresh meal

* * *

Fearless were the crews thatt road 2 blasted through mountains to build the roads in Tennessee.  Not to be outdone by man, Mother Nature shows her fearless side in the plants and trees growing out of the rocks bordering the interstate.

 

* * *

On a respite in Kentucky, I am once again struck by the fearless beauty of the horse farms; miles and miles of fences.  Pastures glow sporting thirty shades of green.  Horses strut and gallop with fearless grace and glee.

horse farm

* * *

If you are fearless enough to leave home and bask in the beauty of this great country we live in, your efforts will be rewarded may times over.  You don’t have to go far.  Just look around you.  See the beauty you have driven by so many times before.  Look for the unexpected in the ordinary.

Go fearlessly on your journey.  I recommend the slow lane.

 

Eight Daring Women

Eight Daring Women

I spent last weekend in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with seven of my new best friends.  Our purpose:  explore and respond to our soul’s whisper and heart’s desire.  The journey within can be more fearful than traveling to the most remote corners of the world.  Here is my ode to my fellow travelers.

Eight daring women step into the arena.

Four stalwart horses stand at attention, electric with anticipation.

Eight daring heartbeats racing, pulsing through the sultry, arid ether.

Eight daring women eye-to-eye with one-thousand pound sentient beings.

Eight daring women exposed and vulnerable.

Eight daring women open to the possibilities.

Eight daring women supporting one another through tears and laughter.

Eight daring women forever changed.

horses 2

 

Thank you Beth Bryce, my fellow travelers and my two equine teachers, Dandi and Lilly, for helping me understand the importance of stillness and letting my bright light shine.

Retro-Fear

Retro-Fear

Retro-Fear.  I made that up, I think. Naiveté often looks like fearlessness. Or, “If I knew then what I know now, I might not have (insert act of fearlessness.)”

It all began with a lie, the decision to leave Atlantic City and move to New York City (NYC).

My boss sat on the other side of his desk and lied to my face. Unaware I knew the truth about the possibility of moving from the training department to the marketing department, he told me the job was a demotion and paid less money.

I’d met with the Vice-President of Merchandising beforehand to work out the details. Writing marketing copy seemed much more interesting than writing training manuals.

My boss lied to me.  I was sick to my stomach.  I pressed my lips together and took a deep breath.

Asking my boss to inquire about the job opening was a courtesy and the politically correct thing to do. Calling him on his lie would have been political suicide for me and put others in harm’s way. So I held my tongue.

Back at my desk, fuming on the inside, steam coming out my ears, I vowed to be gone in thirty days.

My college roommate lived in NYC. I called to find out if she knew anyone needing a roommate. She was looking for a new apartment and needed a roommate.  We hatched a plan.

I used vacation time and weekends to look for an apartment and look for a job. At the end of the month I had both. I borrowed the company van and moved my belongings to New York.

fear 2

Three important bits of self-knowledge came from that move.

  1. Personal integrity is important to me and a vital quality in the people I surround myself with.
  2. Like Frank Sinatra sang so eloquently, “If you can make it there you can make it anywhere.” New York offers a lot, but is not an easy place to live. After that, nothing scares me, much.
  3.  Big cities are not for me.  I am a small-town girl through and through.

I wouldn’t even consider moving to NYC today. Is it retro-fear or knowledge and experience?

Every decision takes us down one path instead of another. No telling where I might be today if I had stayed in my job and not taken the path to the Big Apple.

fear 1

You are Not a Tree

You are Not a Tree

It is no secret that I have moved often since college.  I am frequently asked, and wonder myself, “Why?”  In the quest to address that question and what appears to be fearlessness when it comes to moving, here is what I have to say about that.

Initially – Fear of never finding my genuine and perfect self.  Who was I, veiled under the image fabricated by attending the same school for 13 years (K through 12) with virtually the same people?

Instinctively – Fear of being stuck in my home town, living the life that was expected of me rather than the life that was meant to be.

fear 16

Innately – Belief in myself and my ability to adapt and survive.  I’m pretty sure some of this was instilled in me by my parents and childhood experiences.

Intuitively – Knowledge that, for me, change would be a good thing.

Inherently – Faith that it would be better on the other side.

Indubitably – Acceptance and support on all levels from two incredible parents.

fear 17

To those readers raising children, I encourage you to instill in them the confidence to follow their dreams with fearlessness.  Then back it up with your infinite support no matter how fearful it makes you.  You may be amazed at how far they can go.fear 4

 

Morey and the Green Boxes

Morey and the Green Boxes

“It’s almost perfect. I like everything about the neighborhood and this house, the size, floor plan, even the upgrades.  The only thing I don’t like is that,” Jim said, pointing to the big green box in the front yard.

“That is the electric company’s transformer for your house and the houses on either side of you,” the realtor replied.

Jim asked his realtor Sandy, “Is there any way to hide it, landscape around it, decorate it or disguise it?”

As the words left his mouth, an older gentleman stopped and sat on the green box.  He looked winded.  A couple of minutes later, the stranger stood and walked up the street to the next green box.  Again, he sat for a couple of minutes before moving on, working his way to the end of the street, one green box at a time.  The man turned around and made his way back, revisiting every green box along the way.

Sandy put the lock-box back on the door and drove out of the cul-de-sac.  “Let’s look at the last house on your list before you make any decisions.”

* * *

Two days later Jim and Sandy were back for a second look at the house with the green box.  Jim stood in the front window surveying the front yard as the older man, out for his walk, sat on the green box to catch his breath.  Jim walked outside and introduced himself adding, “It looks like you’ve found a good use for these transformers.”

“I’m Morey, Stanley Morris Stevens the third actually.  I live around the corner.  If weren’t for the green boxes, I would have to carry a camp chair with me.  Between my heart and lungs, I’m not strong enough to walk more than a few yards at a time anymore.  I used to run in 5- and 10-K charity events.  Now I have to be content to make my way to the end of the block and back.”

“I’m thinking of buying this house.  What can you tell me about it and the neighborhood?”

“I was one of the first to build here.  I know the history of every house.  Yours was owned by two generations of the Williams family.  They moved across town to something smaller. It was a great place to raise a family.  Still is.”

“How about you Morey, did you raise a family here?”

“I did.  I live alone now.  My wife passed a couple of years ago.  I have two daughters who live in town.  Both have kids of their own.  They take turns checking on me every day.  If they had their way, I would be wearing one of those necklaces that alert someone if you fall.  But I’m not ready for that yet.”

* * *

Jim bought the house and painted the green box to jazz it up a little.  Whenever Jim saw Morey out for his daily walk he would meet him at the green box with a glass of water.  Morey shared the history of each house.  Jim loved hearing about kids playing kickball in the park and fishing in the stream running through the neighborhood.  It was before electronic games and computer tablets.  Parents felt it was safe for kids to be outside till dark.  Summer picnics and holiday parties were a tradition that had fallen to the wayside as new neighbors moved in.

One day Morey had a companion on his walk, his youngest daughter Meg.  Meg stayed back to talk to Jim while Morey continued on.  “I can’t believe dad will be ninety in a couple of months.”

“Ninety!  He’s out here two or three times a day.  I admire his dedication.  Are you doing anything special for his birthday?” Jim asked.

“We’ll get the family together for a party.  We’re making a DVD of the different generations doing something for him.  It involves, music, dancing, jokes and interviews.  I think we’re having as much fun making it as dad will have watching us being silly.”

“I have an idea but I need your help.  Your dad has been filling me in on the history of each house, the families who lived in them and where they are now.  Can you get me contact information, or at least the names of the families?”

“I’ll see if I can find my mom’s Christmas card address book.  That will be the best resource.”  They exchanged phone numbers as Morey walked up to sit for a minute.”

* * *

On Morey’s ninetieth birthday he started out on his morning walk.  When he reached the first green box he found a smaller green box with his name on it.  As he caught his breath, he opened the box to find notes from old neighbors, photos of backyard parties and pictures of the families then and now.  At each green box he found more birthday wishes and happy memories.

Morey’s walk took a lot longer than usual as he read the notes and inspected the pictures.  When he turned the key and opened his front door, Morey was greeted by his family and faces from the past.  Old neighbors hugged one another; they shared pictures and stories, catching up on their personal journeys after leaving the neighborhood.

Jim stood in the background enjoying the warmth and electricity in the room, grateful for the beautiful green box in his front yard.

green box 1

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

Detours, Roadblocks and Speed Bumps

Detours, Roadblocks and Speed Bumps

The road to personal growth, self-awareness and enlightenment is not always smooth.  Here is a triptik about some of the things I have learned on my journey in the past few months.
detourI’ll be humming along on my journey through life and see the “construction zone ahead” signs and take a detour.  I find it appeals to my need for change and test my flexibility.  I have always considered my flexibility an asset.  No real lesson, just a pop quiz that keeps presenting itself from time to time.

I believe that if you do the right thing, you will be rewarded in some life, if not this one.  Pay it forward!  So I often choose to do what I consider the right thing.  Let the tough lessons begin.

roadblockSometimes I am doing the right thing on the outside but the voices in my head create roadblocks that must be dealt with. What looks like a selfless act is often negated by my inner attitude.  Aha, a lesson!  I will continue to ‘do the right thing’ while working on my inner voice.

audrey hepburnAudrey Hepburn said it well:

“It’s that wonderful old-fashioned idea that others come first and you come second. Others matter more than you do, so ‘don’t fuss, dear; get on with it’.”

 

 

 

Speed bumps are there to slow us down.  I suspect my speed bumps are there to slow me down and teach me patience.  I would go days on end and never take the car out of the garage.  Now I find myself out on the roads in high traffic times for anywhere from two to four hours a day.  It goes something like this: drop a child off at school, pick her up from school, take her to swim practice and then pick her up.  In between I will run errands, go to a part-time job a couple times a week and to my volunteer gig once a week.  All of this takes patience on the road.  Along with patience I am learning some less travelled routes that avoid the busiest roads and intersections.  With a minor child as a passenger in the car I am also working on my outer voice by not yelling bad things at other drivers.

speedbump

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.”  Douglas Adams

And so the journey continues.