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, November 25, 2012

Are We There Yet?

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:4-6

When I was growing up, our family took a lot of car trips.  We drove all over the state of Wyoming for camping trips, to visit family, and to attend swim meets.  Back then seat belts weren't really a big deal, so my sister and I just rolled around the back of my parents' van like badly behaved puppies.

On one memorable trip to Disney Land, my mother bought a foam bat.  Whenever my sister and I got out of hand she'd just reach back and smack us with the bat.  It didn't hurt, but it got our attention!

Of course, the most common question of nearly every trip was, "Are we there yet?" 

In a desperate attempt to keep us from asking that question over and over again, my mother made up games for us to play.  Back then, playing the license plate game or the alphabet game didn't work very well - Wyoming and the surrounding states weren't very well populated so there weren't a lot of cars and you could drive most of the day without ever seeing a billboard.  One "game" she came up with was counting the posts on the side of the road.  She told us there were a certain number of posts per mile, and that if we counted the posts we could tell how far we'd gone and then we'd know how close we were to "being there."

With our recruit at boot camp, I find I'm back to asking that question, "Are we there yet?"

We expected gaps in communication - and we have not been disappointed!  After the initial, 30 second phone call to assure us he had arrived safely, and that first letter, we have heard...nothing.  We keep reminding ourselves that no news is good news, but it makes the waiting harder.

In a little more than four weeks, we will getting in the car to make the long trip up to Great Lakes for Pass In Review, and all I can think of is, "Are we there yet?"

I want to see the great work that has been completed in my recruit!  I want to catalog the changes and rejoice over how he has grown.  I can only imagine how I'll be once our car is on the road and pointed north!

My scripture for today is Philippians 1:4-6 - because I KNOW that God has begun a good work in my recruit at boot camp, and He will be faithful to complete it!

With that in mind, this is my prayer today:
Loving Father, I know you understand my heart right now.  You have experienced separation from your Son, and eagerly anticipated his return to you.  When I am driven to ask, "Are we there yet?" and worry for my recruit threatens to overwhelm me, help me remember your promise to complete the work you have started, and your peace will help me carry on.  Amen.


Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord's coming.  See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.
James 5:7

I am not a patient person - my husband can attest to that!  And yet I find myself waiting.  And waiting.  And...well...waiting!

My son flew up to boot camp on November 1, 2012, and we immediately began the waiting process that seems inherent in parenting a Sailor.

We waited for the "Kid in a Box." The little box full of clothes (Pants, and socks, and underwear, oh my!), his cell phone, and the two books he took with him for the flight, was both funny and a little sad.

Then we waited for the form letter to tell us what address to send letters to and give us all the other information we needed - like his Pass In Review date for graduation! 

Worst of all was the wait for the first letter.

I told myself every day, "No news is GOOD news."

But I still checked my mailbox every single day, and grilled everyone in my house if someone picked the mail up before I got to it.

When it showed up on November 9th, I was THRILLED!  I had resigned myself to waiting as long as it took, understanding that someone had to be trained to handle the mail and then the recruits had to have TIME to write a letter...but it was only 8 days.  There was a mix of happy and sad, excited and anxious.  And oddly, that mix made me feel better.

Now that I've received that first letter, I find that I'm greedy as well as impatient.  I want another letter!  And I'd like it RIGHT NOW, please?

We're also waiting for a phone call, but we're not holding our breath.  OK, we're not holding it MUCH.

Repeat after me - No news is good news...No news is good news...

That's why I picked James 5:7 for my scripture today.  I'm waiting.  I'm waiting for the valuable crop of Sailors the Navy is busy creating right now.  I know that, like most things, the wait will absolutely be worth it.

My prayer for today:
Loving Father, I thank you every day for the blessing of my child.  I take comfort knowing that although he is far from me, he can never be far from You.  Ease my heart and give me the patience to anticipate the growth I'll soon see in my child, without allowing anxiety to overshadow its value.  Amen.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Love Or Money

“Not everyone can be bought,” she said.

Mark frowned and rubbed his forehead, where a headache was brewing.

“Gloria, that’s not what I’m doing and you know it.”

Her thin shoulders rose and fell and her gray eyes tracked away from his to scan the tiny kitchen.  Her leg was jiggling as she sat, rattling the dirty dishes stacked haphazardly on the sticky surface of the table.

The restlessness, the jerky movements, the inability to make eye contact: he’d lived with her schizophrenia long enough to know what they meant.  Mark sat at the table, careful to move slowly.

“Gloria, we’re worried about you.”  He linked his hands and rested them on the table, ignoring the likelihood that his suit would be irreparably stained by whatever coated the table.

When she just stared at the far corner of the room, he continued, “We just want to make sure you can get your medication.”

She jerked at the mention of her medication, and a quick grimace contorted her face.

“ there a problem with your medication?” He fought rising frustration when she didn’t respond.  “You can talk to your counselor.  Maybe there’s something else they can suggest?”

Her eyes flashed briefly to his, and in that moment he caught a glimpse of the Gloria he used to know. 

The older sister who told him stories in the dark to help him fall asleep, who’d made up games to entertain him on long car rides. 

He remembered her laughing encouragement as he pedaled away without training wheels for the first time.  And only a few minutes later, her gentle hands were smoothing a Band-Aid over his scraped knee while tears rolled down both their cheeks.

That person had been stolen away. 

It was the memory of the person he remembered that compelled him to keep trying.  It was the memory of the sister he’d worshipped that nourished the hope that someday they’d find the perfect blend of treatment and medication that would bring her back for good.

“Gloria, I’m not trying to bribe you into doing something you don’t want to do.  I want to give you money for your medication, so you can feel better.”

“No, you want to control me.” Her voice was sullen, and she picked fitfully at her fingernails. “You want me to be someone else.  Well I’m not someone else, I’m me, and you can’t buy a different me!”

Mark winced as she shoved away from the table and stormed to the bedroom to slam the door.  The snick of the lock carried clearly across the small apartment, the all-too-familiar ending to an equally familiar conversation.

He let the money fall onto the table and walked out.

This post is my response to a prompt from Write On Edge - we were supposed to write a story of 450 words, beginning with: "Not everyone can be bought," she said.  And ending with: He let the money fall onto the table and walked out.

Thank you for stopping by, and please let me know what you think!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Felonious Intentions

Rene Descartes famously said, “I think, therefore I am.”

I would like to add a corollary to this: “I read, therefore I write.”

When I read, I am pulled into whatever world the author has created.  Every story, even if I’ve read it a hundred times before, becomes an out of body experience for me. Even mediocre stories can take me out of reality for a while in a way that the most immersive movie experience can’t.

My mind is trudging along next to Sergeant Vimes, feeling the cobblestones of the streets of Ankh Morpork under my thin-soled shoes, when I read Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards!

My heart tumbles right with Eve and Roarke’s when I read J.D. Robb’s Naked In Death.

I’m reading over Candy Foster-Smith’s shoulder as she writes in her journal about post-apocalyptic America every time I open the cover of David R. Palmer’s Emergence.

My pulse pounds with fear and excitement during that final battle for Gondor as I devour J.R.R. Tolkein’s Return of the King—a book I’ve read at least once a year since I was ten years old.

And that’s why I write.

It’s not because I have a million and one stories bopping around in my head like kids jacked up on Mountain Dew and Pixie Stix…although that is a factor!

I’d like to be published.
I’d like to be one of the few authors
who “make it” and become seriously rich.
I’d like to make it a career.

But I don’t need those things.

I write because I need to recreate
that feeling of experiencing a different reality
vicariously through the characters on the page.

My goal when I write is to draw others,

          willingly or no,
into the world I’ve created.

I’m a wannabe literary kidnapper.

This post is my response to a prompt from Write On Edge to write about our writing goals.  Sure I want to be published.  Sure I want to have my writing on the New York Times Bestseller List (although the shine is off that one a bit ever since I saw Twilight up there, I have to admit).  But mostly?  Mostly I'm looking to abscond with your mind, your heart, and your soul. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Umbrella Of Hope

“Damn Mark, try to miss a few, would ya!”  Ellen rubbed at the elbow that had slammed into one of the cupboards in the back of the old ice cream truck.

The suspension was completely shot, and every bump or pothole Mark hit bounced Ellen around the back like a pinball.  It didn’t help that the roads down to the shanty town weren’t a priority for maintenance, so there were more holes than pavement.

“Nearly there, Ellen.  Just hang on!” Mark called back in his perpetually cheerful voice.

When the truck finally rumbled to a stop, she couldn’t wait to pop open the door and jump out.  The sad little cluster of makeshift houses had grown since they’d been there last.  The area was a patchwork quilt of materials—everything from sheets, to cardboard, to scavenged wood and metal had been pressed into service.

Ellen reached back into the closest cupboard to pull out her immunization kit.  New houses meant new residents, and they’d need to be inoculated.  When she turned around again, she caught sight of several wary faces peering at her through cracks in temporary walls.

Mark was more popular.  He’d be handing out food and water vouchers from the window that had, once upon a time, been used to dole out ice cream to excited children. 

“I’m gonna hit the new places.  See ya in a bit,” Ellen waved back at Mark and got an absent wave in return.  She checked to make sure the batteries in her radio were fresh, and then turned down one of the narrow alleys.

She’d learned how to knock on doors that didn’t exist, scratching at a sheet or strip of fabric, rattling a curtain of cans, or flicking a finger on a sheet of corrugated metal.  The occupants appeared reluctantly, if at all.

After several stops, she hadn’t managed to immunize a single resident.  That wasn’t unusual—the people living here looked at government-sponsored healthcare with distrust, at best.  What was unusual was the lack of children.  A feeling of unease followed her between the eerily silent homes.

Coming around a house made entirely of cardboard, Ellen stopped and stared at the structure in front of her.  She pulled the radio out, and fumbled for the call button.

“Mark…Mark! Come down to the new section, by the river.”

His reply came quickly, “Why?  What’s wrong?”

“Just get down here!”

She heard his shoes slapping against the dirt a few minutes later, and then he was standing next to her, gaping.

“What is it?” he asked.

It was larger than any other structure in the shanty town, and it boasted a collection of wood and metal walls.  There was a makeshift fence surrounding what looked like a play yard filled with children and old toys.

But what had captured Ellen and Mark was the roof.  Umbrella after umbrella, in every color and style imaginable, had been overlapped to create a colorful cover for the building.

“It’s a school,” Ellen whispered.

Image courtesy of treborwilson via Flickr CC2.0. Click image for source.

This post is my response to a prompt from  Write On Edge to write a 500-word short story using the picture above as a prompt.  I was sorely tempted to write a piece from the novel I'm planning for Nanowrimo (Mary Poppins & The Zombie Apocalypse), but I resisted!  Thank you for taking the time to read my story, and please let me know what you think in the comments!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Rodeo Reverie

I’m in the backyard I’d spent my childhood in.  I can hear the buzz of mosquitoes in my ear, and feel the cool breeze that carried the scent of bovine flatulence on my face.

The lucid part of my brain—the part that remains separate even when dreaming—notes the lack of cicadas.  For better than ten years I’ve lived in North Carolina, where the cicada’s metallic buzz provides a never-ending counterpoint to every other night sound.

But right now, in my dream, I’m back in Cody, Wyoming. 

And I’m listening to the rodeo.

In a few years the rodeo grounds will move to the edge of town, but right now it’s just a few blocks away from my house.  Its lights create a false sunrise over the tall fence surrounding our yard, and the sounds of excited people and irritated bulls carry clearly. 

I’ve been to enough rodeos that I can close my eyes and picture what’s happening.

A dip in the crowd noise means the next bull rider is in the chute—a tiny metal cage just barely wide enough to accommodate the two-ton bull.  The rider’s lowering himself onto furious animal, wrapping a thick rope around his right hand.  Things can go wrong badly and in the blink of an eye in that cage. 

A sudden rush of noise from the crowd means that the gate has opened. 

The bull is out, throwing the back end of his body high into the air, twisting wildly, bucking with the single focus of throwing the rider onto the hard-packed dirt.

I can judge how the ride is going by the noise.  High volume and lots of excitement means the bull is bucking and twisting for all he’s worth—it’s a good ride.

An extended “oooh” means the rider has come off the bull, whether he hit that magic eight seconds or not.

Silence after that means the rider came off and the bull stomped him or got him with those blunted horns.  It means the rodeo clowns are out there distracting the bull so the rider has a chance to get out.

It’ll stay silent until the rider stands up and waves his hat to signal he’s OK (even if he’s got a few broken bones he didn’t have before), or until the rider waves from the stretcher. 

If it stays silent too long…

Time to wake up.

This post is my response to a prompt from Write On Edge – we were supposed to write something in which a local item or industry plays a role.  Where I grew up, rodeos were a part of life.  One of my first (unofficial) jobs, was climbing all over the stands with a friend of mine, selling programs.  I chased sheep in the center of those grounds, watched barrel racing, and closed my eyes a lot when those brave men strapped themselves to two tons of pissed-off bull.

Thank you for stopping by, and please, let me know what you think in the comments!