Monday, July 26, 2010

Lifeguard On Duty

It has been a while, but racing down to the water’s edge for the first time this summer is like greeting an old friend. This is the ocean I had played in nearly every summer as I was growing up. I’ve been in the Pacific and Caribbean as well, even the Mediterranean Sea. But this is the ocean I know. I let the water lap over me feet and I move out deeper, familiarity rising and falling over me with each wave. I brace myself against the strong undertow, gazing out at the wide expanse of sea where distant boats float on blue. A sandbar allows me to stay waist deep until a rising curl whips me off my feet and I feel that sensation of floating midair before I crash back into the white froth. I ride the waves for a while like this, jumping the smaller ones, diving under the larger.

And then the waves changed. The crash of water is more insistent, stronger than before. I barely catch my breath from one before I’m hammered by the next. The thought of moving closer to shore hits me only a moment before the whistle blows. I start swimming hard. The group I had been swimming with is now a wave ahead of me, and then two. The waves are striking me at different angles now, holding me back in a watery grip. With each big wave, I kick for all I’m worth, thinking this is the wave that will carry me all the way to shore, but I make no progress. Each time, I’m pulled back deeper into the ocean. I can’t see anyone else in the water anymore. I look to the shore. The lifeguards are standing now, not breaking eye contact, waving me in. I fight the water again, swimming, but in vain. A feeling of exhaustion washes over me suddenly, and I know I have nothing left. I can’t make it in. Another wave dunks my head under. I don’t fight it. After the crash, I let my body float back to the surface and gasp for another breath. Salt stings my senses. I look again to the life guards poised on the water’s edge. I slowly shake my head and wave an arm. I can’t do it.

Then suddenly, I hear a succession of short fast whistle blows. Two life guards hit the water, swimming at me faster then I thought possible. I have time to think of staying calm. Strong arms, stronger than the clutch of the water pull me from the riptide. I won’t recognize either of my rescuers later. I’m only aware of the arms that hold me on either side, bringing me to safety. In that moment, even before my feet touch the sand, I am at peace. I feel perfectly safe. 

Once the strong arms were there, nothing else mattered. It meant moving beyond the humiliation of asking for help. It meant moving beyond the feeling of insufficiency at not being able to help myself. It meant resting in a strength far greater than my own. And I think I'm learning to do that. Maybe this was all just part of the process. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010


I laugh at the gullible mind then wonder what it would be like to be so trusting.

"I want to go outside."
"You can't go out it's too hot."
"It's not too hot."
"If you go outside, you will melt and then there will be puddles all over the playground where all the children used to be."
Later when he went outside, I saw him scanning the playground area and realized he was looking for the puddles.

They'll buy anything.With little effort, they believe in beanstalks and Santa Clause, field cows and hill cows, monsters and aliens.

We torment the gullible, both the child and the blond. We feed them lies and laugh when they believe, but become jealous of their unquestioning faith. We pride ourselves on being above the gullible trap and begin to question not only the lie, but also the truth.

Salvation by faith?
A strength made perfect in weakness?
Love for enemies?

Sunday, July 04, 2010


I just got back from a camping trip, not the roughing it kind by any stretch. Not that I'm opposed to roughing it camping. That's just not what we did. I haven't camped in a long time. We did it a lot growing up, but it's been a while. And this particular campground was only about ten minutes from home. But it was camping just the same. I was excited enough to buy my own tent. Or maybe I just didn't relish the thought of sharing a tent with certain individuals who snore insistently. The tent I got was advertised as a 2 man tent, so naturally it sleeps one. If I ever get married, he'll just have to get his own tent. My new miniature abode has a base measuring 7 feet by 5 feet, but it isn't really. It's more like 7 feet by 3 feet and is rather like sleeping in a coffin.

Lot's of experience camping teaches you certain skills. I can now get changed inconspicuously in the backseat of a car (though that may have less to do with camping and more to do with three years of deputation and being required to arrive at churches in a skirt). I can roast marshmallows to perfection. And I generally don't forget the basic essentials anymore. The only things forgotten this trip that were deemed worth going back for was salt, aspirin, and the second bag of marshmallows.

The best part of camping:
Cooking "gourmet" over a wood fire.
Snuggled up in a sleeping bag reading by flashlight late into the night.
Walking along various campsites and watching people who have no idea how to set up a tent.
Guitar and psaltery by firelight.
Telling funny/scary stories--recalling the story Mom told me when I was eight that gave me nightmares for the entire rest of my childhood.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010 books

I was introduced to Lost at the end of its first season. My parents (who never watch TV shows) set up the computer with the TV because the parents (who never download anything) had downloaded every Lost episode off of iTunes. And they proceeded to watch me watch Lost. I watched the first episode with an eyebrow raised. By the fifth episode I was hooked.

And for the next 6 years, like everyone else, I kept coming back to it--because of the questions, because of the numbers, because of the name calling, because of the flashbacks, because of imaginary peanut butter and songs about the sea, because Sayid is really hot.

I almost gave up on the show a couple of times. Like after the first flash forward when I knew they got off the island, when we got gypped half our episodes in season four, when Charlie died, when in season five, I had more questions than in season one, when we pulled out an atlas and based on the flight plan of 815 and the size of the small plane carrying drugs, tried to locate the island and found it impossible, when the logic just plain didn't work, when they completely ignored and left Walt's character unfinished, unanswered.

But I stuck with it through the finale. Yeah--about the finally. I loved it and I hated it. The Jack/Locke fight on the cliffs in the rain on a shaking, sinking island simultaneous with Locke's operation was very cool. The quality of love being the very thing that triggered everyone's memories of the island was an interesting concept.  Hurley had some great scenes, love the spectrum of his character. There were lots of edge of the seat moments and lots of questions answered--finally. Basically everything the finale needed to be...until the last 10 minutes. They presented the whole dead thing and I was silently screaming No, no no!! That was the conclusion I had reached somewhere mid 3rd season. What if they're all dead, if they all died in the crash. And I spent the rest of the show hoping they would find a different way to end it. My biggest problem in the theory: You can't kill someone who is already dead. It makes every death we've mourned for nothing. Shepherd Sr.'s statement some died before and some after was key, but still, dead?

So Lost is over. Some people have written ballads of mourning and posted them on YouTube. I'll closing out these six years of "obsession?" a different way--with a reading challenge. I'm working my way through all the books Sawyer read during his six years on the island. Might give me an interesting perspective.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Books Read in April

I meant to post this a while ago, but the time got away from. Oh well. I suppose better late than never. I only read two books in April, not the norm. April was a busy month, although I honestly cannot remember why.

Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau
This is the forth in the City of Ember Series. I enjoyed the books, especially the first. City of Ember was made into a movie, terrible disappointment. Don't watch the movie first or you might not enjoy the book, and that would just be unfortunate. The series is a work of speculative fiction, a sort of primitive futuristic concept. Book four picks up where book two leaves off. Book three takes leave of the story line and gives a prequel view of the events that led the City of Ember to be built. Though I enjoyed it, I was ready for the series to end. For her to write another book would just draw it out too much and spoil it for me. This was a quick read and a satisfying conclusion to the Ember Saga.

The Host by Stephenie Meyer
Stephenie Meyer describes this book as science fiction for people who hate science fiction. I don't know if I hate science fiction. I haven't read enough of it to form an opinion. I roll my eyes at Star Wars and can't get past the corniness of Star Trek, so from that viewpoint, I guess I've always found alien stories a little silly. But, something in this story connected with me. Odd as it was to identify with a main character that isn't even human, I was intrigued and read for many late hours into the night. I like the idea of a reality outside the realm of possibility. I recognize that this is not what would be considered hard sf, but I think I might be opening up to a new genre. We'll see. Thanks Marilyn for the suggestion.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Love Triangle

A three-year-old girl comes up to me and tells me that the afore mentioned girl will not allow her to play with her. This surprises me. Four-year-old girl is usually friendly and plays nicely with everyone. Let me talk to her.

I say, "Is it true you won't allow three-year-old girl to play with you?"

Four-year-old girl says, "That's true."

"But why can't she play with you?"

Four-year-old sighs and says nonchalantly, "Because she's a witch."

"Well that's a pretty strong name to use on somebody, don't you think?"

Three-year-old interrupts tugging my sleeve, "No but I really am a witch."

"Why do you think you're a witch?"

"Just for pretend, I'm a witch. And I have a magic wand. And I'm going to point it at her and say "Ally-ally-o" and poof, she'll disappear."


"Yes, and then he (afore mentioned three-year-old boy) will be all mine."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spring is in the Air

If you want to be enlightened, discuss the matters of love with a young child. Their perceptions are original, honest, and untainted by reality. I was talking about love with a four-year-old girl today when she informed me that she was in love.

"In love, really?" I asked her, intrigued. "Who are you in love with?"

"With him." She pointed to the three-year-old sitting next to her. He was a good kid. I had to admit she had good taste.

"And is he in love with you?"

"Yes," she responded very matter-of-fact. "We're going to be married." By now the boy's ears were rising noticeably as his grin widened.

"Oh, you're going to be married."

"Yes, but we're going to break up first."

"What?!" I was surprised. The little boy was looking a little surprised and hurt as well. "Will you get back together?"

"Of course! We're only pretending to break up. And then we'll be married," she said dreamily.

"And when are you getting married?" I asked her.

"When I grow up."

"And you're still going to marry her?" I asked the boy. I wanted to make sure he was on the same page.

"Yes, in the summer." He said with a smile.


Unfinished Books

I'm having trouble finishing books that I've started. I'm not sure why. I think it has something to do with the previous book I read.

Some books I'll finish. I'll finish books that I feel an obligation to. Books that come highly recommended by friends even though I might not understand why. Classics that everyone is supposed to know but that may or may not withstand the test of time for me. Books I read just to say  I read them. And of course I'll finish remarkable books. You know the ones. The books that become your friends. Books that make you smile when you see their spines. Books that soon have rippled pages and cracked binding.

But what about the dozens of books that I hold with such high hopes, but never managed to see past the first few chapters. I blame the good books for my problem, the books that come to the dinner table with you, the flashlight under the covers books, the books that leave their imprint on your face with distinct 90 degree angle.

I finish one of the good ones, close the cover shut, and it's like saying goodbye. And even with the most perfectly plotted conclusion, I want more. I want to find a book with the same tone. I want to see my new friends, my beloved characters reappear on another page, in another story. I know they wont, but until I get caught up in a new story, I can't help looking for a while. When I can't find what I'm looking for in one book, I close it and move on looking somewhere else. I'm probably passing up perfectly good books in an effort to repeat a previous book's charm.

Here is my book breakdown so far.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone
(I know I only read one book that month, but I was just coming off of a movie streak, trying to get caught up on some films I've missed)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
This is my second time reading the Harry Potter books. I got the set for Christmas. The interesting thing is, by February the rest of the family started reading the same books. Between my sister and I, we have two copies of the books, three of book one. My sister has read the books I don't know how many times. My dad picked them up for the first time. He's on book five now which is saying something as I don't think he's read more that half a dozen books in all the years I've known him. And Mom, who's always been very skeptical of the series has picked it up as well. I'm not really concerned with what the verdict is when she finishes. I'm just proud of her for reading them before forming her opinion. And I started reading the first book to the six-year-old niece. It's fun because it's become a family event, kind of our own family book club.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Tales of Beedle the Bard
I came of the end of the Harry Potter books first, feeling a little depressed, like I'd been kicked out of the book club. I actually think I enjoyed reading them more this time than I did the first time. I was more alert this time to the structure of the books and trying to understand how JK Rowling did what she did.

Next begins my phase of starting and not finishing books. I read the first page of The Chosen. It's good. I want to read it, but not right now. I'm saving that one for later. I tried The Golden Compass. I didn't make it through the first paragraph, an all time record for quitting a book.
The Penderwicks
This book I finished within the day. I really enjoyed it. It was a very gentle story. That's the best word I can think of to describe it. It struck me the same way The View from Saturday and Criss Cross struck me. I didn't keep reading it because I wanted to know what was going to happen next; I read because I liked the language, and I liked the characters. It was charming.
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
I needed something that was going to take me a little longer to get through. I intended to read the whole set. I havn't read them since I was a kid. I only made it through the one book. I was ready to move on.

April continued with not finishing what I start. I started The Letter by Richard Paul Evans. I read and enjoyed the first two in his series. Not amazing books, but pleasant enough. This one I felt he was writing just to write one more. I'm not too impressed. I Started The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber. The first few pages were filled with positive reviews. I was sorely disappointed. I read the first few chapters. There were actually a few good lines worth underlining. I read them out loud to my sister. But then I was skimming paragraphs just looking for the author to say something interesting. I was bored. Maybe I'll try again another time, but it's going to require a personal recommendation. I started The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. This one's a little better. I might finish it. It's a vampire story. I don't usually read vampire stories. I'm not opposed to them. I've just never found one I really wanted to read. Speaking of vampire books, I started Twilight just to see what the big deal was. I didn't get far in that one either. It on my shelf of disappointments with the others. So I'm not glued to The Historian yet. But I think it might get better. It jumps back in forth between two time periods via one character telling a story to the other. It changes point of view and tenses at the same time which is leaving me just a little confused.

Now I'm reading Crafting Stories for Children. This one I'll finish. The NF is actually helping to break up my reading dilemma I think. I'm also reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I don't think I've read it before. Don't know why I thought to read it now. Maybe inspired by Tim Burton's latest film. I haven't seen it yet by the way. And my reviews were limited to "It was okay," by someone who is not familiar with the story and "It was boring," by someone who slept through it. 

You know how it is when you're in the mood for a perfect book, and none of the 1,300 books already lining your shelves are quite what you're looking for. So let me know if you have any good recommendations, something I'll want to finish.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

That was that

Saw a strange thing on the way home this evening. It was dark, 10:00, and the thunder showers predicted for the afternoon had finally begun, giving my wipers quite a workout. And I was straining to see through the torrents. Just before I pulled into my driveway, I saw a shadowy shape in the road. I slowed to a crawl, trying to make it out. At first I thought it was just another overturned garbage can, but it was two distinct shapes. One black, the other a lighter shade of the same. An animal? I crept closer. Two cats. They were staring at each other, nose to nose for the longest time. They were seemingly oblivious to the downpour. Then their heads came up in unison to look at me, their eyes connecting with my headlights and flashing. They actually looked perturbed that I had interrupted them. But still they just stood there. Finally, one darted to one side and the other off the other side of the road.

And I wondered briefly what they had been talking about.

And now I must go to bed, because such thoughts can only mean I am dreadfully exhausted. And when I wake up people will be people again and cats will be cats and that will be that.

Saturday, April 03, 2010


Darkness was over the face of the deep...And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.

The first words God uttered brought light into the world,
And darkness was abolished.
From the very first, God called light good,
And He separated it from dark,
And the two would never be mixed.
The light brought clarity to things obscured in the dark.
It brought beginning to each day.
It lit the path of the sojourners steps.
It symbolized a coming Redemption.
It emulated His glory.

And the light was greater then dark.
A light placed in a dark room would always shine through the dark,
But the dark could never overpower the light.

Until God turned His back on His Son
The Son hung from a cross
And for three hours, the light was extinguished.
Darkness hung heavy over the land.

I can only imagine what kind of darkness it was.
More than the opposite of light.
More than the absence of light.
A darkness that went deeper than the blackness
And into the heart and soul of everyone who wittnessed it.
With the first words God spoke, there was light.
With last words the Son of God spoke, the light was extinguished.
It was finished
For three hours, darkness
And in three days,
The Son was risen.
The Light shone.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

April 1

April Fools, 
A teachers worst nightmare.
Worse then the day after Easter when the Easter baskets are already mostly empty.
Worse then the morning before before trick-or-treating when the mere anticipation of sweets has been working its toll.
Worse then the last week before Christmas when the kids realize it's already too late to impress Santa, but their parents will cave and buy them presents anyway, or the first week after Christmas when they know they've still got a whole year to be good.

April Fools day outshines them all. Every teacher approaches class with trepidation, knowing they are about to be bombarded by an assault of pranks, thought up according to a child's perception of humor. They have probably been coached by Dad or big brother with all sorts of suggestions on how to aggravate the teacher. These will be misconstrued and come out worse or stupid. I hate April Fools.

Fortunately I work with preschoolers and all I really had to endure were the highly unoriginal There's a spider behind you and Your shoes are untied.

I told them that there was really no such thing as April Fool's Day, that the whole day was set up as a joke to convince people that first of April was a holiday, but it was just a fake, so really the joke's on them. They didn't get it. 

All around it was a pretty mild day. No short-sheeted beds, no stolen cakes, no bunnies painted purple, no pictures turned upside down. no clocks turned back or ahead, no dressers with their drawers turned upside down, no jello in the shower heads, no ice cubes in the teapots, no snowmen on the toilets, no bras in the freezer.

I survived this one just fine, and I've got another year before April strikes again.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Another from the toolbox

The cool thing about the toolbox is that it prompts you to write stories that you never would have otherwise dreamed of writing. For examples, check out my sister's The Exotic Dancer. Bit of steamy writing there. Or her newest addition, The Other Woman. Mom's put together some rather intriguing short stories too, but hasn't got up the nerve to post them yet. What if someone thinks I'm writing about myself?... She's right I guess. That would end up being quite the scandal. Stephen wrote one too that's just plain hilarious. Not sure yet if he'll be posting. This time I took three sticks, allowing about 10 minutes in between of writing. Of course the sentences you pick, never seem to have anything to do with each other. Forced writing? Certainly. Humorous results? You decide.

My sentences:
FS. He swore on his mother's grave, but then he swore on just about everything.
NS. Margaret had a habit of spitting, and it was getting on his nerves.
NS. "If you don't take chances," said the man in the striped pajamas. "You might as well not be alive."

Trouble with Tony
He swore on his mother's grave, but then he swore on just about everything.

"It doesn't matter," his friend was saying. "Your word is useless to."

"C'mon, Jacob. 300 bucks. I'll make it up to you. I'll pay back every penny. I swear on my father's grave."

Jacob scowled at him. "Your father isn't even dead. For that matter, neither is your mother. You can't swear on the grave of someone who isn't even dead."

"They will be," Kyle muttered under his breath.

"What do you need the money for anyway?"

"Just trying to pay off a loan."

"Bad interest?"

"You could say that."

Jacob eyed Kyle suspiciously. "Who do you owe?"

There was no sence hiding it from Jacob. He had just opened his mouth to answer when the little bell above the door dinged. They both turned to look. Kyle grimaced inwardly as Margaret sauntered in. Her too big jeans were muddy where they draped over her tennis shoes. Her t-shirt looked like it had been slept in. She waved as she joined them.

"Am I interrupting anything?"

At least she had the decency to admit she might be interrupting. She cleared her throat and spat, nearly missing the trash. She had a habit of spitting and it was getting on Kyle's nerves.

"I was just telling Jacob about a little conversation I had with Toni Spinelzi the other day."

Jacob's eyes grew wide. Margaret's jaw dropped.

"Are you in trouble?" Her eyes searched him. "Do you need money?"

"No, no," he said hastily. Margaret was the last person he would borrow money from.

"Toni's bad news. My cousin lost three fingers in a business deal with Toni." Her eyes flew to his prematurely supposing the worst. He quickly stuffed his hands in his pockets. Margaret grabbed a napkin from the nearest table and spread it out on the counter between them.

"We're going to need a plan if you don't want to end up with a horse between your sheets."

"It wasn't a whole horse," Jacob interjected. "It was just the head."   

Margaret ignored the comment. "Toni lives over by the Northside Condos. I'll wait over here." She was scribbling furiously on the napkin. "And one of you will sneak to his house and slash his tires."

"What?! No!" Kyle lunged for her napkin, balling it in his fist. "We're not slashing any tires or I'm gonna owe him more money."

Margaret looked unaffected. She had already reached for another napkin. "Toni takes his meals at the Wellington Diner. One of the cooks there owes me a favor. If I can get him to slip..."

"What? Poison?" Kyle looked over his shoulder, suddenly sure their conversation was being heard.

Margaret wasn't out of ideas. "I've got a friend, really big guy. Maybe I could get him to talk to Toni."

"This isn't working. It's completely outrageous. You are outrageous."

"If you don't take chances," Margaret said with conviction. "You might as well not be alive"

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Just Gotta Touch

I picked up a new game. It's called the Writer's Toolbox. With a series of writing prompts and an egg timer, it lends itself to a lot of activities. This particular one has you pick a fist sentence at random. Write for 3 minutes. Draw another sentence. Three minutes. Another sentence. You get the idea. Click here for my sister's story. This is my result.

Just Gotta Touch 

There I was just standing there when what I wanted to do was forbidden. My arms tingles. Anticipation? I was filled with a longing and as the seconds ticked, I scarcely trusted myself. I seriously doubted I would be able to restrain myself. The crowds moved behind me oblivious to the battle that played out in my mind.

In front of me, long and sleek, was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. I wanted to touch it. The sign above the cage warned people of the danger. Perhaps that's why the urge was so strong. Perhaps it was because it was forbidden. Perhaps it was the thrill of the danger, but I sincerely felt it was because so few can boast that they have actually petted a tiger. I wasted to be among the few. There was something so rare and exotic about it. There was something about the tiger that looked like just a giant pussy cat.

I slowly reached my hand between the bars holding my breath, my fingers trembling slightly. It was like placing the top block of a precariously stacked pyramid. It was like lighting a candle in a tornado. It was like skating on thin ice. So basic, so easy, so outrageously impossible.

The tiger wasn't the only danger. The zoo security riding around in zebra striped golf carts could have me thrown from the premises for violating a clearly marked warning sign. I was just building up the final ounces of  needed courage when a head popped up behind the tiger.--A second tiger! Now I would have to choose. Oh dear. Well, they were both the same, I decided.

Inches from the orange and black fur, I felt a strong hand grip my shoulder. I spun around now face to face with an orange and black striped shirt. The stranger wearing the shirt didn't say a word. He didn't need to. His left shirt stopped abruptly, armless.

These were the sentences I had to work with:
FS. There I was just standing there when what I wanted to do was forbidden
NS. He was walking on thin ice, that's all I'm saying
NS. Well it was all the same, I decided

Friday, February 26, 2010

Cot Monster

A little imagery and my mental creation has come to life. A three year old with a bad case of the wiggles and an urge to be anywhere but his cot ignores my ineffective promptings to go to sleep.

“The monster will get you,” I whisper.

“What monster?” Two little eyes grow wide.

“The cot monster of course. He’s long and skinny like a snake. And he crawls low to the ground. He has 195 feet and 42 sharp little teeth. And he’s brown and has green spots the color of bugers.”

“Where is he?”

I point to the corner by the door.


“He’s watching the children,” I say solemnly. “He watches them and then he bites the feet of children who get off their cots.”

“I can’t see him.”

“He’s invisible. Only teachers can see him.”

“Will he bite you?”

“No just children.”

He scurried back onto his cot. “Hide me,” he whispered.

“Don’t worry,” I said, tucking his blanket snuggly around him. “I’ll protect you.”