How To Find What You Came Here For

Welcome to the worlds that populate my brain!
The short stories you find here are the product
of a vastly overactive imagination
powered by coffee and M&Ms.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Pomp & Circumstance

“Corey* you stop messing with that robe!”

I watched as the teacher of our four-year-old classroom moved the boy’s pudgy hands away from his zipper for the third time.  I could smell that special mélange that only children can produce – part crayons, part tempura paint, part plastic doll – and I tried to stifle my impatience.

I was new to all this.  Back home, in Wyoming, you graduated from high school.  If you had an ounce of drive you graduated from college.  You most certainly didn’t “graduate” from pre-school.

“Seriously?” I thought to myself.  “What’s the big deal?  Congratulations!  We’ve mostly taught you not to eat the crayons?”

I moved into action when little Cory reached for his zipper again.  We’d had to special-order his robe – he was bigger around than he was tall – so if he broke that zipper we were screwed.

“Hey Corey, show me your fingers…I think you’re missing one!”  I knelt next to the Little Debbie-scented boy and held my hands out.  He giggled and laid his smaller hands in mine so I could count them.

By the end of the day I’d watched seven incomplete graduation rehearsals, and I never wanted to hear “Pomp and Circumstance” ever again.

“Hey hon!  How’d the rehearsals go?” Dan asked me as I came through the door and collapsed on the sofa.

“Just shoot me.  It’ll be a mercy killing.”  I was almost kidding.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m not cut out for jail.  Sorry.”  He was right.  Adorable nerdy guys are probably like pixie sticks in jail.  “Do you want to eat before we head over?”

I thought about it.  The space we’d rented for our “graduation” was downtown.  Parking would be hell, and we’d probably have to pay for it.  “Let’s eat on the way, it’ll be faster.”

“Fine, but you’ll have to get ready right now or we’ll run out of time.”  Dan started pulling on my hand.

“I don’t want to.  Why…just tell me why are we “graduating” four-year-olds?”  I could hear the whine in my voice and I didn’t care.

One cheeseburger and a parking meter later, we were walking into the blissfully cool air-conditioning of the rented hall.  I left my husband to fend for himself in the rows of chairs and excited strangers and went to the back room to help get the kids ready.  I stopped at the door to take a breath and paste on my best Assistant Director smile.

A tiny sea of blue mortar boards milled aimlessly around the room, and last minute adjustments were being made.  As I bent to pin a cap on one small girl, I realized her hair had been styled at a salon that afternoon.  All of the girls had their hair done.  And the boys were wearing suits that still had creases in them.

“Ma’am?”  I turned to face the mother who’d spoken from behind me.  “They’re gonna play the song, right?”

“You mean, Pomp and Circumstance?”

“I guess…the graduation song, right?”  I nodded and her smile burst out.  “Nobody in my family ever graduated nothin’ before.  I wanna make sure I get it on the camera!”

My heart broke – this wasn’t Wyoming.  This was a big deal, because for too many of them this was it.  They wouldn’t hear that song played for their high school graduation because they wouldn’t make it that far.

When the CD played the opening bars through the sound system I watched twenty proudly beaming faces march to the risers for their graduation, and wondered which lucky few would get to hear Pomp and Circumstance again.

*Name changed to protect the sticky

This post is a response to a prompt from The Red Dress ClubThe assignment was to write about a memory of a graduation.  I thought about sweating my way through my high school graduation, and sweating my way through my husband's college graduation, and sweating my way through my son's high school graduation.  But the most vivid memory I had was of a graduation that brought home to me how much I took for granted.  As always, comments are very welcome!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Hide & Seek

I lived for the dark.  Daytime was alright, and you could have fun if you worked at it hard enough, but the real juice hit after the sun had dropped below the mountains and the last shadow lengthened and joined the velvet black.

In the summers of the mid ‘70’s, soccer moms just didn’t exist in my little suburb of heaven.  We didn’t have every moment of our lives scheduled for fear that our development would be impaired and we’d be…GASP…only normal.  Most of us had nowhere special to be, so we were everywhere. 

During the daylight hours we rode bicycles and skateboards all over our neighborhood and most of the adjacent ones.  Our mothers assumed we’d come home when we were hungry, and we did... unless one of our friends was having something we liked better.  But the real fun couldn’t happen until it was fully dark outside.

Other kids in other neighborhoods in big scary cities like Cheyenne might have been afraid of the dark.  Not us.  We reveled in it.  The dark was our place, our time. 

After dinner we’d gather on a porch in the neighborhood.  Ten or eleven kids – from seven or eight years old right up into high school.  The teenagers usually had a record player with a 45 on it – Love Will Keep Us Together, by The Captain and Tennille, was a favorite.  We’d wait, watching the light fade. 

When it was finally judged dark enough, it would begin.

“Not it!”

                        “Not it!”

      “Not it!”
                                                            “Not it!”

“Dustin, you’re it.”  One of the older teenagers would pronounce the judgment.  “Start counting – and NO counting by tens…we’ll be listening!”

The unlucky kid would bury his hands in his face and turn to face the corner of the porch.  “One…two…three…four…”  We’d all scatter like beads of mercury out of a shattered thermometer.

The rules were simple:
1.       Hide
2.      Don’t get found

You could hide anywhere except in a fenced yard, of which there were only two.  Both yards held dogs that were friendly enough in the day, but less welcoming when it was dark and a silent form was dropping over the fence unexpectedly.

Smaller kids had the advantage of being able to squeeze into tight areas.  But they were twitchy – likely to leap from a perfectly good spot in panic if the seeker happened to venture close.

Older kids found pockets of deeper darkness to hide in…often in plain sight in the middle of someone’s front yard.  So patient and calm, you could step on them without knowing they were there until your foot came down on something squishy instead of the crunchy grass you were expecting.  Screams and giggles bounced from yard to yard.

The last kid found was the new seeker, and the game went on.  Disputes arose and were settled without the interference of adults.  Teenagers hid in more obvious places, or sneezed conspicuously when the seekers were young, and then returned to their cutthroat techniques when one of their own came looking.

No worries about strangers.  No worries about terrorists.  No worries about mosquito-borne illnesses.  There was just the thrill of evading capture in the dark, the adrenaline of the familiar changed by darkness into an exciting battleground.

Play continued until the screen doors opened at some unheard signal, spilling light and revealing teenage bodies scattered on yards like casualties of a bloodless war.  Small, unkempt heads rose from evergreen bushes like woodland sprites.  Miniature mechanics slid out from under parked cars. 

Back in the familiar, we’d trudge for home and the waiting bath we all desperately needed.

This post is a response to a prompt from The Red Dress Club to write about a game we played when we were young.  Growing up in Wyoming, summer nights were cool (often chilly), and very very very dark.  Hide & Seek with all the kids in the neighborhood was a nightly ritual we loved.  Thank you for stopping by, and please leave comments and critique!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dog Days

                Sunlight was a fine thing, Winston thought, and he stretched his short, stubby legs out behind him and lay his head on his front paws.  The heat of the day soaked into his skin, through his smooth coat, relaxing his muscles until he was a furry puddle on the front porch.

                For a time, he kept his eyes half-open as he dozed in the sun.  The grandkids were visiting and they had some peculiar and occasionally alarming ideas about what sort of things were fun.  It had taken him three days to get the smell of strawberry lip gloss out of his coat the last time; that roll in the neighbor's compost heap had finally done it but Grandma Helen hadn't been happy about it.

                Sneakered feet pounded past him and down the steps.  The speed and energy, not to mention the smell of sugar, warned him the kids were close.  He opened one eye a little wider and warmed up his growl.  It was hard to growl when you were a puddle, so he hoped he wouldn't have to use it.

                "Winston!  C'mere boy!"

                Winston puffed out a breath of annoyance, too relaxed to work up the growl after all, and shut both eyes.  Small hands slapped down on his side and started pushing, rolling the skin and generous layer of fat up and down.

                "Wake up Winston!  Let's play!"

                Let's not, thought Winston.

                "Whatcha doin'?" a lighter, piping voice asked.

            "I'm gettin' Winston up so he can play," the boy's voice said.  The unrestrained energy and enthusiasm in both voices struck a chord of dread in Winston, and he'd have shivered if it didn't take so much energy.  Another set of small hands joined the first, and the combined effort started to rock his wide body.

                A couple of good shoves and Winston found himself sprawled on his back, legs splayed out to all four corners.  The sun warmed his belly nicely.

                "Is he…dead?"  A finger poked at a leg tentatively and Winston caught a whiff of cherry lip gloss.

                "No, he ain't dead.  For cryin' out loud Chrissie, you can hear him snorin' all the way up the block.  If he was dead he wouldn't be snorin', now would he?"  The older and wiser voice was sarcastic.

                "But Cory, he's not movin'.  Budgie wasn't movin' neither and he was…dead."  The small hand moved Winston's hind paw up and down carefully.

                "Budgie was dead.  And he moved plenty before you squeezed him!"

                A short, bitter argument followed that accusation, and Winston took advantage of their distraction to roll over so his bulk rested near the edge of the porch.  He sighed heavily and dozed in the heat of the sun.  The snap of the leash on his collar woke him.

                "Let's go, Winston!  Time for a walk!"  The boy tugged on the leash then leaned his full weight into it.  Winston snorted through his short nose and let his entire body go limp. 

                "Chrissie, ya gotta push his butt!"

                "I'm not touchin' his butt, you do it!"

                "Chrissie stop bein' such a Barbie and help me!"

                Small hands smacked down on Winston's hindquarters and started shoving.  Ten minutes of shoving and pulling succeeded in moving him to the edge of the steps.  An enthusiastic shove from behind pushed him just far enough to the side to tip him off the edge, and he rolled gently down the steps.  He oozed to a stop on the sunny sidewalk, legs up in the air and head back, snoring gently.

                Sunlight was a fine thing, Winston thought.

                "Is he dead now?"

This post is a response to a prompt from The Red Dress Club  to write about slothThe best example of sloth I've ever seen was a friend's bulldog.  At the time, he was one of the biggest dogs I'd ever seen (I grew up with miniature poodles...I know...pity me), and he never seemed to move.  Read, respond, critique, share dog stories if you have 'em!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cigarettes & Setting Lotion

My grandparents lived in Rock Springs, a mining town in Wyoming.  Everyone who lived there had something to do with the mines, which meant nearly everyone of a certain age had an oxygen tank.  I thought it was a natural development – turn sixteen, get a driver’s license…turn sixty, get an oxygen tank.

Most of the homes didn’t seem to have men in them – just elderly women.  Sometimes, it was because the men were out (probably on purpose, to avoid the estrogen therapy about to take place), and sometimes they’d passed away, existing only in the pictures and odd knick-knacks kept as physical memories. 

The women were always happy to see my grandma, and even happier to see me following along behind.  The spotless kitchens were always the same – towel hung from the handle of the stove, an empty dish drainer next to the sink, stair-stepped tubs holding flour, sugar and other staples pushed to the back of the counter, and a Formica table situated in the middle of the room.

The table would have matching salt and pepper shakers, a sugar bowl, and a clean ashtray neatly waiting at the center.  As my grandma got her curlers and setting lotion out, our hostess would pull the ashtray toward her and dig a colorful pouch out of her purse.  Inside the pouch was a pack of cigarettes and a lighter.  The first of many cigarettes would be lit, and the pouch and lighter would be laid next to the ash tray.

I would watch and listen as my grandma talked with her friend and combed setting lotion through thinning hair.  Between equal pulls on the cigarette and the oxygen next to the table, they’d discuss family and current events.  Each phrase was punctuated by a hiss and then a pop as the oxygen tank worked overtime to keep up with the demands of smoking and conversation.

Grandma would divide the hair into sections, and then quickly roll those sections onto pink and blue curlers.  With the ease of familiarity, she could set an entire head of hair in just a few minutes, and then pour a cup of coffee for herself and her friend from the blue enamel percolator on the stove top.  Stale butter cookies in a tin would be brought out, and I’d be given a glass of milk to go with the cookies I never ate.

When coffee was on the table, the current cigarette would be abandoned in the ash tray and pushed to the side.  Curls of blue-gray smoke would rise gently, form fluid shapes, and then disperse.  Hypnotized, I’d watch the shapes come and go as my grandma’s conversation drifted over my head, and the rhythmic hiss-pop from the oxygen tank slowed.

Once all the news and opinion had been exhausted, Grandma would rise to check on the curlers.  At a look from her I’d close the tin of cookies and put them back on the counter, and take the coffee cups and my glass to the sink to rinse out.  Behind me I could hear the curlers landing in the plastic tub; by the time I’d turned around a new cigarette would be lit.

Each distinct curl – molded by the setting lotion and its time on the form of the curlers – would be carefully combed into its neighbor.  Some curls smoothed over others, some were guided under, and others were guided up to make a stylish flip at the nape.  Hairspray’s flammable, so as my grandma retrieved her jumbo can of Aqua Net, the cigarette would be crushed out into the full ash tray.

The hiss of the aerosol spray would join the hiss-pop of the oxygen for a moment, and I would empty the ash tray and wash it out.  As we left, Grandma’s friend would hand a bag of something to her as thanks – usually zucchini or tomatoes – and we would leave the sounds of the oxygen tank and the smell of cigarettes behind…until the next house.

This post is a response to a prompt from The Red Dress Club  - we were supposed to write about a memory inspired by the picture you see at the beginning of the post.  My dad's mother was the queen of helmet hair; on the weekends she'd go to the homes of ladies who were too sick to make it to a salon every week, and make sure their hair was done so they could go to church.  I was a teenager before I realized that an oxygen tank wasn’t handed out to everyone who turned sixty, and that lighting a cigarette around one was a bigger risk than the hairspray was.  As always, comments and critiques are welcome! 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Apple Pie Magic

My grandma had an amazing talent - she could dump flour and lard and just a touch of water into a plastic tub in the sink, stick her hands in, and produce a perfect pie crust every single time.  No measuring cups or spoons were involved, something that - as a person who measures by weight and follows recipes to the letter - fascinated me.

As a child, when I saw her pull out pie plates and start cutting up apples, I'd pull a chair over to the kitchen counter and climb up.  She'd let me toss the apple slices with sugar and cinnamon and flour in a big bowl, reminding me to be careful when I got a little too enthusiastic and catapulted an apple slice to the floor.  While I stirred the pie filling with my wooden spoon, she'd get out a green plastic tub.

The tub fit into the bottom of the sink; the same kind we used on camping trips to wash dirty dishes and small children.  Following the tub would be a large container of flour, a tub of lard, and the salt shaker.  By the time Grandma had all the ingredients on the counter, my arm would be tired and I’d push the big bowl of filling to one side so I could watch the magic.

Scoop after scoop of flour was dumped into the tub until Grandma was satisfied with the amount, and then she’d open the tub of lard.  She’d spoon mounds of the white lard into the tub on top of the flour, toss in a couple of dashes of salt, and then pick up a kitchen fork and started pressing the lard into the flour.  In no time at all, the tub was full of pea-sized clumps. 

She would fluff through the mixture a few times to check for chunks of lard, and then turn on the faucet and run a little cold water into the tub.  Reaching into the tub with her hands, she’d push all the little clumps together until, between one blink and the next, there was a big ball of dough where nothing but flour and lard had been a few minutes earlier.

To make two apple pies she’d break the ball into four parts, then pick one at random and start rolling it out.  Her dough never tore, never cracked, never failed to roll out perfectly every time.  She’d lift the first circle and quickly lower it into a waiting pie plate and then repeat the process with a second ball. 

Once both pie plates had their covering of dough she’d come back to my bowl of apples, sugar, and spices and give it another quick stir, then scoop the filling into the pie plates.  The amount in the bowl was always exactly the right amount to fill the plates to the edge.

A waiting cube of butter was cut into pats and scattered over the top of both pies, directly on the filling.  The top crusts were rolled out and laid over the pies, centered effortlessly.  Grandma’s hands would move around the edges, rolling the top crust under the bottom and pinching it together until it looked like a rope all the way around.  Any extra dough was cut off, vent holes were made in the top crust, and then both pies went into the oven. 

I never knew how long they were supposed to take to bake until I had a cook book of my own – Grandma always seemed to know they were done by the way they smelled.  She was magic that way.

My grandma was a rancher's wife.  She had four girls (including my mom), and three boys.  For most of her adult life, she cooked for her family and ranch hands so she was used to cooking large quantities of food.  Grandma wasn't a gourmet cook; the food she made was basic and filling - designed to fuel you for a hard day at work.  Most of what I know about cooking without a recipe, I learned from her.  She is the reason I can occasionally turn away from my cookbook, beat down my OCD, and take a walk on the wild side when I cook.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Just Desserts

Norman Rockwell's Classic Take on Gossip
            “Did you hear about Susan James?” 

            “No, what happened?”

            “Well, I heard that…”

            Felicia moved closer to the two women, holding her plate in one hand.  She picked up a cookie at random and nibbled it as she carefully looked in a different direction so they wouldn’t think she was eavesdropping.

            “He’s in trouble, and everyone at the office knows…”

            A male voice cut through the feminine chatter and pulled her toward the buffet table.  Listening carefully, she absently picked up some fruit and a little chocolate as she worked her way down the table until she was close enough to hear the men’s conversation.

            “Well, I told him I was fed up with all the…”

            Felicia froze with a strawberry halfway to her lips, and her head turned to track the new voice coming from the open bar.  She quickly finished the fruit and tossed her small plate in a convenient trash can before she nonchalantly approached the bar and asked for a Sprite.

            She turned and casually scanned the party-goers as she eagerly absorbed the conversation just to her right.  As the women moved on to less interesting topics, she put her drink down and made her way back to the buffet table to pick up another plate.  She’d found that a plate of food or a glass was the perfect prop if you wanted to discretely listen in on others' conversations.

            “You should have seen her face!”

            “What did she say?”

            “What could she say?  I mean really…”

            Felicia moved quickly toward the patio doors, hoping that if she hurried she could find out exactly which member of their social circle the couple was discussing.  Her haste revealed her however, and to her keen disappointment the couple immediately changed the subject and she was forced into polite conversation for several minutes before she could break away.

            “I could have just died!  I never thought…”

            The overwrought voice drew her back to the buffet table to fill her plate again as she filed away the details of an acquaintance’s most recent trial.  When the speaker turned in her direction, Felicia quickly nibbled on a slice of pound cake, gave a little wave and smile to no one in particular, and wandered to the other end of the buffet table.

            “You know you can’t tell that woman anything!  I swear…”

            Felicia replenished the food on her plate as she attended to the words of the man a few tables away.  Small creme puffs were eaten without being tasted as she listened carefully to the family drama being described.

            “I saw them with my own eyes walking into the Grand Hotel.  I can’t believe how bold he is!”

            “It’s not the first time; you’d think he’d learn to be discreet.”

            Felicia swiveled back to the patio, pleased to find that the speakers were outside the doors which meant she’d be able to stand unobtrusively inside.  Details and desserts were devoured with equal delight as she listened intently.

            “Well, it’s not like she’d notice, anyway.”

            “True – Felicia’s so busy with other people’s business, I suppose she hasn’t got any time for her own!”  Derisive laughter floated through the doors.

                Felicia froze, then dropped her empty plate on the nearest table, hunted her husband down, and pulled him toward the door.
            “What the hell’s wrong with you, Felicia?”

            “I don’t feel well, I want to go home.”

            “Well, I can’t say I’m surprised.  The way you eat…”  He trailed off into silence at her killing look.

This post is in response to a prompt from The Red Dress Club  on gluttony.  I was inspired by that old saying that you never hear anything good about yourself when you're eavesdropping, and Ecclesiastes 7:21...which basically says the same thing!  Gluttony isn't just about food and drink - it's anything we want too much of - internet, television, sex, gossip - even when we know better.  Thank you for your comments and constructive criticism!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sand Trap

Growing up in Wyoming I didn’t see a lot of beaches, but we had plenty of sand – and I hated it!  Not because of its well-known ability to find its way into any and all available crevices, but because of the effect it had on my motorcycle.

            For people who’ve never been blessed by a trip through Wyoming, the most common image they have of the landscape is Yellowstone or Jackson Hole.  The reality is that a lot of Wyoming is what the Bureau of Land Management likes to call “high desert.”  Think shades of tan – dirt, sagebrush, rabbits, antelope, prairie dogs, and sand – interspersed with flashes of color provided by the red flowers of Indian paintbrush. 

            My favorite thing to do out in that high desert was ride my motorcycle.  It was a blue Kawasaki designed for an adult to ride on the road or off.  I started riding it when I was nine, and I had to lean the small bike at a forty-five degree angle to put one foot on the ground.  That didn’t matter – once I got going there was no stopping me.

I loved to fly over the prairie, bouncing off sagebrush and catching air off rocks and hills.  I never thought about wrecking the bike because I never had.  I slowed for cattle guards – metal poles than stretched across the width of the dirt road to keep cows and sheep on their side of the fences – but other than those moments of caution, I was Evel Knievel with blonde hair stuffed under my helmet.  I knew as long as that bike was moving I couldn’t fall.

Then one day, the bike stopped moving…and I fell.

I had the throttle wide open that day.  Not being on the road, I wasn’t concerned with the speedometer, I just knew I was going fast!  My jeans protected me from the stinging slaps of sagebrush and my worn tennis shoes gripped the pegs, one toe under the lever to shift gears.  The flannel shirt I wore over my t-shirt flapped behind me as I flew over the prairie. 

With no warning the handlebars jerked hard to the left, ripping my right hand away from the throttle.  In slow-motion I saw my front wheel spin sideways until it was perpendicular to my gas tank.  I felt the weight of my body shift as the forward movement of my bike stopped, and my own momentum propelled me toward my handlebars in a nightmare demonstration of Newton’s first law of motion. 

Reflexively, I tightened my grip on the handlebar still in my left hand.  My body rose in a graceful arc, my legs rising up and over my body as my left arm anchored me to the now-motionless bike.  As I reached the point where I was parallel with the ground, my left hand let go and I flew a few feet beyond the bike before landing, stretched full-length on my back, with a bone-rattling thud amidst the sagebrush and rocks.  My breath rushed out, and for a long moment I couldn’t remember how to breathe in again. 

For a frozen piece of time I lay on the ground and stared up at the blue-black sky, waiting for something to hurt.  Gradually, my breath came back and so did the feeling in my body.  The palm of my right hand stung where it had slapped down on a small cactus.  My right hip ached from taking the brunt of the fall when I landed.  My left shoulder was throbbing – no surprise since I’d nearly dislocated it.  I hurt everywhere.

Moving cautiously, I rolled over and looked back to the bike, lying on its side in a clump of broken sagebrush.  My first concern was that I’d damaged it; I pushed up to my feet with my good arm and limped back to where it had fallen.  I wasn’t looking forward to wrestling the heavy bike out of the sagebrush, but nothing looked broken.  I felt betrayed – why had it thrown me?

The scene of the crime
Then I saw the sand - puddled innocently around the front tire like it hadn’t just reached out and yanked my bike out from under me.  Minute crystals honed by the endless Wyoming wind into a lethal sand trap, waiting to catch the unwary antelope…or the cocky motorcyclist…and remind them that out there, Mother Nature doesn’t play fair.

This is a response to this week's memoir prompt from the Red Dress Club - SAND.  I've been to beaches, but whenever I think of sand I can't help but remember the day a little sand trap in Wyoming taught me my first lesson in humility.  Comments are always welcome!

Thursday, May 5, 2011


                Sara and Abraham walked out of the fertility clinic side-by-side.  A few years ago, when all this started, they would have been holding hands on their way to the car.  Hope would have had them smiling at each other as they walked across the parking lot.  Today, hope was something they couldn't afford.

                Abraham slid into the passenger seat out of habit.  His mind was on their new specialist - Dr. Gabriel was young, and the building was brand-new, but she had come highly recommended.  He wondered how long it would be before he started hating her office as much as he'd hated their last specialist's office.

                When he realized Sara hadn't started the car yet, he turned in his seat to look at her.  She was staring through the windshield, her hands gripping the steering wheel hard enough to leave marks in the leather cover.  

"Hon?  You OK?"  Abraham mentally smacked himself in the head.  Stupid question - of course she wasn't OK.  How long can you endure the reluctant rise of hope and the fall of disappointment and be OK?  

He turned his head to see what she was staring at so intently, and found himself looking at a playground directly across the parking lot.  Above the playing children was a bright sign declaring, "Precious Memories Daycare - Now Enrolling!" Abraham was horrified.  Who builds a fertility clinic next to a daycare?

Sara was transfixed; she couldn't look away from the playground.  She tightened her hands on the steering wheel as toddlers raced back and forth, their high-pitched laughter carrying on the clear spring air.  Jealousy wound through her, making her long to reach out and stroke silky hair and hold soft, tiny hands.

"Sara?" he called her name, gently.

"Do you remember when we got married?" She didn't wait for an answer, or look away from the children.  "Mom asked me when we were going to give her more grandkids.  I told her I'd rather be boiled alive by man-eating pygmies."

"Neither of us were ready for kids," he reminded her.

"I figured I never would be.  I'd look at my sister's kids and think, God I don't want any part of that!" Her eyes had fastened on one little boy, his blond hair sparkling as he climbed a little slide over and over.

"Well, who would?  Remember when the oldest painted the cat?  They had to shave it bald!"

Instead of smiling, like he'd hoped she would, she followed the progress of the little boy with her eyes.  She could almost feel her arms around his sturdy little body, and his pudgy arms around her neck.  When she realized she'd named him Isaac in her mind, she shuddered and dropped her forehead to the steering wheel.

A few moments passed in tense silence before she felt she could speak again.  

"Do you know what I was thinking, just now?"  Abraham shook his head.  "I was looking at those kids playing over there, and I was jealous - of people I don't even know!  We have such a good life…but it's just not good enough, so I'm jealous because those people have what I didn't even want a few years ago.

"I was halfway to convincing myself that someone else's child should be mine!  Maybe…maybe I can't get pregnant because…" she took a shaky breath, "because God knows I don't deserve…" her voice choked off with tears she hadn't cried yet.

Shock silenced him.  Seventeen years of marriage to the woman he thought of as his best friend, and he had no idea what to say.

This is a response to a prompt from The Red Dress Club which asked us to write about jealousy.  Sara, Abraham, and little Isaac (or whatever his name really was) are fictional.  And yes, their names were a deliberate choice - you're so smart for noticing!  That's why I love ya'll!  Please leave your comments so I'll know you were here.

New note:  If you came to this post from my newer post on Sara and Abraham, you can click HERE to go back.  Thanks for taking the time to read both!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ring The Bell

"A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."  John 13:34-35

When I was little, May 1st was a day when the kids in our neighborhood would make little cones out of paper and fill them with candy and flowers.  We'd leave them on a neighbor's doorstep, ring the doorbell, and then…RUN!  If the neighbor caught you before you could hide, they gave you a kiss on the cheek.

The practice of celebrating May Day seems to have fallen to the wayside - a casualty of living in a world where you can't trust candy left on your doorstep.  I'll miss it, and I regret not passing that tradition on to my children when they were still young enough to enjoy it.

As a young child May Day was fun and exciting.  We got those little cones on our doorstep, but the real fun was in giving them to other people anonymously. This was my first experience with Agape - more than twenty years before I first heard the term. 

Agape has been defined in a lot of different ways, but perhaps the simplest definition I've heard is that it is an expression of selfless love, given without any expectation of recognition or reward.  We can express this love through material gifts - a bill paid anonymously, an encouraging card with no return address, a candy bar left on a grumpy co-worker's desk, leaves that are raked while a neighbor is at work.  It can also be less tangible - forgiving a wrong without being asked (or even making the offender aware that forgiveness was needed), a smile on the street, a silent prayer for the stressed mother in the grocery store. 

How different would our world be if we all found ways to express an Agape love at some point in our day?  The candy and flowers of May Day may be only a memory, but we can still "ring our neighbor's doorbell" and pass on the gift of selfless love that God gave us.

Father, words cannot describe the love you have shown us.  Help us reflect that love to the world around us, in big ways and small, without the expectation of recognition or reward.  Help us love others, as You have loved us.  Amen.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Out On A Limb

"Hey, do you wanna do camp with me?"

I almost said no.  The performing arts camp at our church was a big deal - this wasn't Sunday School or even Vacation Bible School.  The camp started on Monday and ended on Friday, with a community performance on Friday night.  When the kids show up on Monday morning, they've never heard the music before, never seen the script, and in a lot of cases, never had to memorize a line of dialogue or even a song.  It's a lot of work, and if you don't do it right the performance on Friday night is a nightmare…I've seen it happen.

But it was my friend asking, and she was giving me that look.  I think of it as the Superman look.  You know:  "Only you can save us, Superman!"  They'd tried finding someone to direct the camp that year but word had gotten around about the amount of work involved, and there were no takers.  I'd helped with the camp the first couple years, and I loved it.  I didn't want it to die of neglect and apathy, or just plain laziness.

I took a deep breath and said yes.  Then I took a deeper breath because my inner voice (also known as: The Wicked Bitch of Self-Doubt), was screaming, "What the hell are you doing?"  (The WBSD cusses a lot, and at church too!)

I'm a competent person.  I've been the assistant director to a large childcare center.  I've run my own after-school care program.  I've designed and implemented a Sunday School program.  In addition, I have an effect on kids - from babies all the way through teenagers.  To put it in the vernacular, they "mind" me.  I don't really know why, but they do. It's actually a little creepy.  I can put down a rising insurrection with a look.  Absolute silence reigns the moment I raise my hand.  If there are children within eyesight they will be attached to my legs, whether they know me or not.  Kids I taught years ago who have become adults still squeal and hug the stuffing out of me if we meet in public. 

None of this matters when the WBSD starts up - I immediately see myself as failing, in an epic way.  I envision kids who don't know their lines stumbling painfully through an hour-long musical.  I imagine musical numbers with the tonal quality of a zombie choir.  The WBSD doesn't play fair, but she is effective and she knows how to run the movie projector in my mind.

I worked my tail off.  I planned everything out to the last minute, coordinating like a veteran general facing the battle of a lifetime.  I worked the kids' tails off.  Parents told us every morning that their kids had fallen asleep in the car before they'd left our parking lot.  Older siblings complained about hearing our music in their sleep.  I cajoled, poked, prodded, praised, lamented, and occasionally fell on the floor in exasperation.  The kids sang, laughed, danced, goofed around, giggled, got paint on everything except the set they were decorating, and occasionally fell on the floor in exhaustion.

Friday night came.  The windows were blocked to make our sanctuary dark, and homemade light poles were turned on to slowly illuminate the kids laying on hay bales and leaning on each other in a credible facsimile of sleep.  As the first notes of the opening song played over the sound system, I took one last breath and beat the WBSD into silence.  I said a quick prayer and prepared to go with the flow, determined to do what I'd told the kids to do and just enjoy the experience.

The lines I'd mercilessly drilled the kids on came out effortlessly, delivered like they were seasoned pros who'd had weeks if not months to learn them, instead of just a few days.  Musical numbers I'd worked on and tweaked all week long were right on time and full of energy and fun.

One hour later the audience was cheering, the kids were beaming, and pride filled me like light.  The WBSD was wrong - I could do this…I DID do this!

This post is my response to a prompt by The Red Dress Club to write about something we are proud of.  The camp I wrote about is on my mind right now - we're finalizing plans for this year's production and my stress level is rising.  It was a nice exercise to remind myself that the WBSD is wrong - not only am I capable of doing this, I ROCK at it!  LOL  Thank you for your concrit and comments!