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.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Picture Perfect

I love to take pictures, but I will go to great lengths to avoid having my picture taken.

Despite my strong desire to avoid being photographed, it's nearly impossible to avoid completely.  Proof of that is a picture a friend took when I was in college. 

My friends surprised me with a birthday party, and someone snapped a picture as I walked through the door.  I wasn't prepared for a camera; I didn't realize the picture was being taken until the flash went off.  It was a completely candid shot, and it revealed more of me than I'm comfortable with even now, more than twenty years later.

There I am, standing in front of a door that has just shut behind me.

One hand is up, caught in the act of pulling my hair forward to my face.  I recognize it as a defensive maneuver; it bothers me that I felt the need for it in a room full of my friends.

I'm wearing baggy pants and an even baggier sweatshirt.  I wasn't skinny--I carried 135 pounds on a solid 5' 2" frame--but I remember feeling obscenely fat.  I'd kill to be that weight now.

My head is down, avoiding eye contact.  Again, a defensive move that makes me uncomfortable now.  An awkward smile is half-formed…I look ready to run.

I can be loud, funny, fearless.  I can be.  But it's just a well-crafted disguise, not who I am.  I put it on like other women put on makeup.

I am that awkward person in the picture, painfully shy because I've been surprised and haven't had time to put on the mask that makes me the person I'm supposed to be. 

This is why I hate having my picture taken--cameras can't be trusted to see the disguise.

This post is in response to a prompt from Write On Edge to write about a photograph of yourself in 300 words or less.  When you are captured in candid moments, what does the camera show that you'd rather it didn't?

Thanks for stopping by, and please tell me what you think in the comments! 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Open Letter To Reader's Digest

Dear Reader's Digest:

I started reading Reader's Digest about 35 years ago. My grandmother had a subscription, and she kept every copy in a headboard bookcase in her spare bedroom. When we visited, I would lay back on the bed and read through them one by one. I loved the stories, the articles, the anecdotes.

When I moved out of my parents' house, the first thing my mother did was get me a subscription to Reader's Digest. Since 1991, our family has looked forward to receiving the little package in the mail, and once our kids were old enough to read, it became a battle to be the first to read it.

I've watched the format of the magazine change over the years, with no small amount of trepidation. At first, the changes were small and easily adjusted to. Unfortunately, over the last year I have seen the number of pages devoted to advertising grow to alarming numbers.

My boys are now in high school and college. They grew up reading Reader's Digest every month, and fighting over the copy when it came. That stopped this year. Neither of them are interested anymore, and when asked the reasons they gave were simple: too many ads, and every issue is apparently the same (primarily, 10 things someone won't tell you--which was interesting the first ten or so times, but has since lost its appeal).

My last issue was the last straw for us. The articles, what there were of them, were small and poorly written. Quite honestly, I've seen blurbs on book jackets that were more detailed. Worse, I had to flip through four or five pages of ads to get to each article...sometimes even to get to the second page of the article I was reading.

My mother has maintained this gift subscription for me because she knew how much I've loved the publication. She renewed it for Christmas again this year, so I have one more year of receiving it. If the publication format doesn't improve--which would mean a return to the high quality of the articles, and a more reasonable advertising ratio--it will be my last.
 This is the letter I sent to what had been my favorite publication of all time.  Ever have something that you loved all through your childhood and teenage years (and even into your adulthood), changed beyond any recognition?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

It Begins!

Dominique Hens
I've talked about getting a few chickens for a while now.  A co-worker got some a few years ago, and our neighbors at the time had show chickens.

(Seriously show in chickens that don't really lay eggs, and mostly exist just to be pretty.  Like show dogs, but with feathers.)

Where we were living at the time didn't seem like a great place to have chickens, though.  Our yard was relatively small, not fenced, and bisected by a steep hill.  Plus, we were relatively certain our landlord wouldn't be thrilled since we had to sort of talk them into guinea pigs (which somehow turned into a bunch of rats, a couple of rabbits, and three crazy dogs...which pretty much proves that we are the sort of tenants landlords have nightmares about).

Then we moved to our new place last spring.  We share a sprawling piece of land with a nice guy that lives in a camper out behind the big workshop between the house and a little barn.  One day, he came home with a day-old calf.  Momma had died during the birthing--which happens a fair bit, thanks in no small part to mankind's inability to stop fiddling with nature--so he brought it home to raise.  We've been calling it Dinner.

Anyway, the cow got me to thinking about chickens again.  This is not as nutty as some leaps my brain takes, in my opinion, since both animals are typically denizens of the farm yard.

I started doing some research into chickens and found out about heritage breeds.  Chicken breeds that were once common but have been edged out thanks to the modern world's demand for egg or meat production at the expense of the overall health of the animal providing it.  I liked some of the breeds, so I started looking at what it would take to keep a few for eggs.

Not much, it turns out.

Yeah, there's a reason that just a generation or two ago pretty much everyone had a chicken or two or twelve.  I talked to hubby about it, and was pleasantly surprised when he didn't freak out.  The cow's been a good influence (or a bad influence, I guess it depends on how you feel about farm animals when you don't live on an actual farm).

I started looking at chicken house designs, and for a while I was pretty excited about the chicken tractor (or ark) model.  Basically, a chicken house with it's own enclosure that moves around so your chickens don't kill all your grass.  Lots of different sizes and designs.  Neat.

Then I started looking at the cost of materials, and I wasn't completely happy with spending a couple hundred dollars minimum just to get going.  I was thinking about alternatives when I saw a stack of pallets in the warehouse at work.  There was a huge pile of them behind the building...sort of a landbased coral reef for weeds and critters.  When I asked if I could have some (or all) of them, I got a confused shrug and, "Knock yourself out."

About this time, we decided to visit a hatchery to see actual chickens.  We were operating on the theory that finding out that chickens actually gave us the creeps after we had four or five of them in our yard would be bad.  The place we went, Sumner-Byrd Poultry , was great!  Lots and lots of different chickens of all ages, and a lot of different set-ups for housing.  Best of all, we found out we kind of liked the little (and not so little) bird brains!

On the way home, we started talking about a chicken house and pen again.  The idea of spending money on fences (now that I had access to free wood), wasn't appealing.  As we rounded the far end of our very long driveway, I saw the dog run sitting on the corner of the property and a little lightbulb went off.  It was perfect.  15' x 20', fencing already in place with a door, and far enough from the house and any neighbors for comfort, and still close enough for convenience.

So here we are, at the beginning.  We're going to clean the dog run out, build the chicken house ('cause that'll be simple, right?), get the chickens, and then start collecting eggs.  Not lots of eggs, just a few.  But I'll know where they came from, and what the chickens that laid them ate.

What do you think?  Have we lost our minds?  Are we starting on the slippery slope to that never-never land of compounds and twelve year's worth of jam stored under the house?  Or does this sound like fun?

Thursday, November 17, 2011


This post is an interstitial piece:  it describes what happened between Side-By-Side where we meet Abraham and Sarah for the first time, and the next step for them in HopeYou may want to read both before you continue...but I hope the post will stand on its own if you'd rather not!

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

Agency cars were always the same: white, state seal on the side, a little worn, and they all had a weird smell Isabelle had never been able to figure out, despite the number of times she’d ridden in one.

“Hey girl!  You ready for this?” Miss Angela was the happiest caseworker she’d had so far. 


And that pretty much took care of the conversation as far as Isabelle was concerned.  She stared out of the window from the back seat of the car and watched the houses go by.

The houses moved by quickly, and it was easy to imagine that they were the ones moving, and she was sitting still.  She played that game for a while, to entertain herself, imagining a world where the buildings moved and the cars stayed still.

She was only nine, but she’d made this ride six times…three that she remembered.  The bag with all of her stuff sat beside her, just like it always did.  The things inside had changed as she got older, but the only thing that changed about the bag was the name of the grocery store printed on it.

Miss Angela turned the car onto a quiet street, and nerves twisted Isabelle’s stomach.

Maybe this trip would be different.  Maybe this would be the last time she’d ride in the white car with four doors and a smell she couldn’t figure out.  Maybe.

The brakes squealed a little when Miss Angela stopped in the driveway, and Isabelle added the noise to the list of things that bothered her about agency cars, along with the creepy screech the door made when it was opened.

Miss Angela was talking to her on the way up to the door, but Isabelle tuned her out.  Maybe this was the last ride.  Maybe.

This post is a response to a prompt from Write On Edge - to write about a journey, a car trip, in 300 words or less.  I enjoyed going back to Abraham and Sarah's stories to tell Isabelle's story.

Thank you for taking the time to stop in and visit my little world, and as always, please let me know what you think in the comments!

Saturday, November 12, 2011


I was packing the suitcase when she came in, shoving clothes in without caring about being neat or wrinkling something…or even whether or not it was clean or dirty.

“Mom wants me to talk to you.”  She moved to the side to let my husband slide out to the safety of the living room.

“Great, talk then,” I shot a look at the Bible in her hand.  “But just you and me…don’t start on that sanctimonious crap.”

“Look, Mom thinks if we don’t get this straightened out, you won’t come to visit.” 

“Oh I’ll come, it just won’t be when you’re here.”  I concentrated on keeping my voice low and calm.  “We’ll trade off holidays.”

“That’s not what Mom wants.” She slid down the wall to sit on the floor and watch me pack.

“I really don’t care.  I moved 1700 miles to get away from people who thought it was acceptable to treat me like crap.”  I heard my voice shake, and added steel to it.  “I’m not gonna let you do the same thing and pretend it’s OK.”

“Maybe I was out of line, but…”

Maybe?  You don’t have any idea what our lives have been like, but you have no problem judging us…me!”  For the first time, all the hidden details poured out: the in-laws who hated my guts, endless struggles to make ends meet, the humiliation of welfare, the terror of a seriously sick baby and no insurance. 

Mercilessly, I compared my life to hers—supported by my parents until she and her husband could stand on their own.  Support I hadn’t thought to ask for, but they’d received without question, accepting it as their right.

The words stopped and we stared at each other across my suitcase, our relationship balanced in the silence.

“I’m sorry.”

This post is my response to a prompt from Write On Edge - we were asked to write a memoir piece on a pivotal conversation.

My sister and I are ten months apart (I'm the older one, thanks for asking).  We were as different as night and day growing up--even now it amazes me that two people, raised in the same house by the same parents at virtually the same time, can be polar opposites.

Hubby and I packed up our little family and ran from the state we loved to North Carolina.  We were following a job, it's true.  But more than that, we were looking for peace.  Nothing can twist you into a knot faster than family! 

Then, at our first Christmas with my whole family, I discovered that my sister had somehow gotten the impression that we were living some kind of fairy tale life out in Wyoming, sponging off welfare.  Nasty comments and little digs peppered the conversation like buckshot...until I snapped and did what I should have done all along.  I raised the curtain on the reality of our life.

We'd been too good at pretending everything was FINE.  Things are tough at the moment, but we're FINE.  I was mad and hurt--it wasn't until I started spilling the details that I realized I'd been expecting my family to know and understand our situation (and the stress we were under), when I'd never actually told them anything about it!

What about you?  Ever pretend everything is fine, only to get mad when you don't get the support you need...because it's not as fine as you're pretending?
Thanks for taking the time to stop by, and for commenting!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I'm Not Dead Yet!

You know, just in case you were wondering!

Actually, I'm participating in the NaNoWriMo challenge this month, so I'm trying to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days.

I'm trying to keep the plot for this novel in my head, because in order to actually write 50,000 words in thirty days you have to average a little over 1,600 words a DAY.  Which means I haven't been posting, and I'm probably not going to post much until after November which time I will probably post an update on either how awesome I am or how bad I suck. 

So, I have not abandoned the blog...I'm just taking a little hiatus.  I promise I'll be right back as soon as I'm done with this thing!