Sunday, January 30, 2011

How I Met My Hubby, or The Bartered Bride

Hubby's Portrait

I met my husband, Mark, in college. While I lived in the "Maple" dorm, he lived in Cedarcrest, the rowdy dorm on the edge of campus. As luck would have it, he lived down the hall from a friend of mine from high school, a guy named Mike. They became friends; how could two goofballs/pranksters not?

My friends and I had a fun college habit of going to Dunkin Donuts for 11:oopm. One night, we called to invite Mike to join us. In the background, we heard this completely goofy guy. He sounded fun, so we told Mike to bring him along. That was the night I met Mark.

At the time, I was dating a guy I affectionately refer to as "Satan". He, however, was too lazy to join us on our treks to the coffeeshop. Divine providence.

I was instantly smitten. Mark was funny and polite and sincere and a million other adjectives that could never be used to describe Satan. I lamented that I didn't have someone like Mark in my life. I lamented further that he seemed to have a crush on my friend, Sarah. I was thrilled for her; she was so sweet and kind, and she deserved a great guy like Mark. Still, when he put his arm around me while goofing around, I yearned for him to keep it around me forever.

Little did I know...

That night, Mark went back to his dorm with Mike. And he asked Mike for my number. Mike, ever the shrewd salesman, asked what it worth. Mark scanned his room trying to think of what he, a poor college kid, had to offer.

"You know that end table that you like? The one that belonged to my parents? I'll give you that."

Mike's eyes lit up and he agreed. 

The rest is, as they say, history. Mark got my number and pranked me. I started inviting him up to hang out with my friends and me. We spent hours just talking about school and growing up and life. We shared a first kiss, though debate continues as to when that actually occurred. I forgot about Satan and nearly forgot to unceremoniously dump him.

And nearly 16 years later, I'm helping him celebrate another birthday.

Mike once told me that he should have asked for more than just the end table, for a case of beer or something.

Yeah, he definitely got the raw end of the deal.

Though it was a very nice end table...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I: The Gathering

The birds were the first sign.

The gathering started with a quartet of blackbirds. They arrived in the middle of the afternoon, an innocuous time of day. Still, there was something in their silence, their watchful stares. I hurried as I crossed the road to the mailbox to grab the mail; I looked over my shoulder at the raven, the largest of the four birds, and shuddered under its glare.

As I went about my afternoon tasks, I kept glancing out the windows. The blackbirds were still there each time. The raven would turn his head toward the house with each opening of the curtains, but other than that slight movement, the birds were still, motionless.

Toward twilight, a cacophony of sound drew me away from the dinner table. I peered out the kitchen window. The sky cast a green and orange tint across my backyard. "Tornado sky," my mother would have called it. I looked upward, toward the swirling tornado of birds, spinning and spiraling around each other. In unison the four blackbirds turned to look toward me.

And that's when all hell broke loose. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Peeling Back the Layers

Mother. Wife. Daughter. Sister. Friend.
Teacher. Writer. Photographer.
Anger. Hurt. Frustration.
Joy. Inspiration. Creativity.

What's beyond the facade? We all wear one depending on the situation. Sometimes we're solemn and serious, even when laughter is echoing through the inside of our skulls. Other times we're laughing out loud, tears rolling down our cheeks, being the only one aware of the fact that the tears are for sadness and not joy.

I tell my students that there is a difference between the woman who comes to school and the woman who goes home at night. I use this when they need to understand that there is a time and place for certain words or actions. What may make me laugh at home will make me yell at school. They seem to understand when I put it to them in that way.

But there are so many other facades that we put in place. We wear them when we say that we are "fine" and that "nothing" is wrong. Why do we do that? Why do we build facades that hurt us rather than help us?

I think it is sometimes because we would rather be the ones who feel hurt...than to hurt the ones around us. I suppose it's easier to put on a happy facade than to say to a loved one, "You are causing me pain. And you don't even know it."

Several years ago, my husband and I went though a very difficult experience. We agreed that there were no hidden feelings, no emotions left unspoken. Whatever we were feeling had to be shared with the other person. No holds barred. It was a way to relieve the press of emotions within our hearts, to receive validation of our feelings, and to feel that we were not alone.

It worked. It worked so very, very well to just drop the facade and be in the moment, to peel back the layers of our emotions and just be true to each other and ourselves.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Today's Prompt

"Write about a shade tree"
A Writer's Book of Days, Judy Reeves

Several years ago, my husband and I traveled to Salem, Massachusetts. While on the trip, I insisted that we skip some of the touristy locales and visit places where history actually occurred. One of these place was the Nurse farm. Rebecca Nurse was one of the people accused of witchcraft during the 1692 Witch Trials that occurred in Salem.

On the site of the farm is a reconstruction of the original Salem Meetinghouse. The farmhouse is still standing. We saw someone in the backyard and were afraid that we were trespassing, so we didn't go too near. (Such chickens!)

As we were leaving, I saw this tree and snapped it's picture. I have an affinity for trees and liked the tableau set up by this shot.

I often look at this picture and wonder about the Nurse family. Did Rebecca ever sit under this tree, reading her Bible or relaxing after a long, summer day? Did her children play under the tree, having picnics and running around after each other?

How much history did this tree witness? Was it sad when Rebecca was arrested?

Was this tree even standing when the events of 1692 unfolded? Was it a sapling planted by the Nurses?

I wish it could have told me its story...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I am an introspective introvert. Despite my outgoing facade, I dwell a great deal within the depths of my own brain. I've been like this for as long as I can remember.

As a child, I think I was often happiest when I was alone with my daydreams. That's not to say that I didn't have friends and didn't enjoy time spent with my friends; I just enjoyed time to myself, as well.

I'm still an introspective person. I'd rather listen to a conversation than participate in it; I enjoy hearing other people's thoughts, opinions, and stories. Of course, I sometimes hold back to much and avoid saying things that probably should be said out loud.

I tend to bottle things up and just let them explode.

I think I'm on the cusp of an explosion. I need a break, and I just can't seem to get it lately. Last night was pretty good; I was able to just relax and be an introvert for an hour or two. It was nice to dwell in my own mind for a little while, to think and dream and contemplate. It was nice to have time to be creative without interruption.

It was nice not to feel crushed under the weight of adult responsibilities.

But then 4:00a.m. hit. That seems to be my witching hour, when I wake, wide-eyed and alert, feeling the weight of the world crushing down on my chest.

So now I sit, staring out the window at the falling snow, hoping beyond hope that the weather reports are wrong and that we'll get enough snowfall for an early dismissal today and a day off tomorrow. Knowing that neither is likely to happen.

Sheesh. I need to get out of this funk...

Monday, January 24, 2011

"Painting" with "Brushes"

It really started with that first image. I was participating in a Flickr challenge that centered on using a texture. The more I looked at the texture, the more I saw it as a landscape. So, I found some brushes for Photoshop and I began to play. I was so excited with how it turned out! And I even won the challenge!

So, occasionally, when I am suffering from a lack of photographs, I paint using Photoshop and the plethora of free brushes available.

I find that it's very soothing and challenging at the same time. It seems like an oxymoron, I suppose: a soothing challenge. But for me, it works.

I started "painting" again yesterday. And I really enjoyed it. So I made another one. And I worked and worked and made a couple more. And I think I intend to make more beyond that!

It really excites me to build a landscape from scratch. No, it's not a messiah thing. It's just the wonder of creating something from nearly nothing. Much like creating a painting.

I'm having so much fun!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Twilight for the Lamplighter

Not far from my house is a lamppost with a blue historic marker attached. At that site on July , 1875, Patrolman Benjamin Yost was shot and killed while trying to extinguish the light.

It was believed that he was killed by members of a group called the "Molly Maguires." Their fight for unionization for the jobs in the coal mines is a tragic story. It was chronicled in a movie staring Sean Connery.

I'd try to impart all of the details of this historic, local period, but I doubt I could do it justice because I just don't know the history well enough.

Still, it's enough to inspire a photo, and that's what I'm sharing today!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Fiction Project: Good Idea or Pipe Dream?

A sketch of the old family barn. Potential or risk factor?

I used to draw all the time. My parents bought me art books for Christmas. I took extra art classes in high school. I had sketchbooks full of images I had made up or copied from pictures I saw. I wasn't great but I wasn't bad. My art teacher had insisted I take his class, so I like to think that meant he saw some talent in me.

But then? Life. Gradually, drawing and sketching became doodling in notebooks. And lately, that's all I've done. In fact, I'd say that's all I've done for several years. There are other things that have taken my focus. That's life.

But now? The Fiction Project. It's a mixture of writing and sketching. And I want to do it. I've been wanting to put together a book of memories from growing up on the farm, and at some point, I intend to write these memories in a book of memoirs. But I think this would be a fun way to start putting some of these anecdotes together.

Except for one thing. The sketching part. I am so out of practice. I don't know if I could do that part of it. And then, like a dummy, I look at what other people have done, and I feel horribly inferior and sub-par. I can doodle; they're artists. The self-defeat sneaks in before I even get through the entire website.

I have a vision of a very simple book. Anecdotes. Simple drawings. Almost like I had kept the journal while a girl. But not written as a diary. I'm not worried about the stories so much. But the sketching really has me holding myself back...

I don't want to start something I won't finish. Or can't finish. I don't want to be disappointed in myself...but I'm afraid I'll also be disappointed if I don't try.

Argh!! What's a gal to do??

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Off My Back Porch: Number Two

I can't really think of any deep, enlightening, or even mildly amusing to write about in reference to this shot. It's a drop of water about to fall away from a giant chunk of ice hanging in one of the trees off my back porch. What can one say beyond that? It doesn't remind me of a story (although yesterday my friend from Canada was talking about warning signs about falling ice). It doesn't make me imagine the intricate details of a story.

It's a drop of water, sliding away from the melting ice, refracting and reflecting the light of my flash before it falls away.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Off My Back Porch: Number One

One of the most unused portions of my house is the back porch. And I'm not sure why it gets so little use. It's wonderful.

Two stories up. Surrounded by trees. An oasis that disguises the fact that we live in town. A place a country girl like myself can really relax.

Still, we rarely go out there. I think that we sometimes forget about it. Sometimes it doesn't seem worth the trouble to go out and do all the cleaning that's necessary to get full enjoyment of the space. We live in the "coal region" so all outdoor living spaces are usually coated with at least a thin layer of coal dust.

That shouldn't matter, though. We should use it more...well, when the weather is nice, anyway.

In the colder months, on days like yesterday when we were enjoying a day off because of the freezing rain and sleet, there are still some important uses for the back porch. An example? Photo ops!

I braved the freezing temps and snapped some shots of the trees and rain. I'll be posting them over the next several should buy me some time to figure out when and where I'll get some more time outdoors to take pictures!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Snow Days!!

There is nothing like a good snow day!

I remember being a kid. I'd wake up earlier than usual on those days when the potential for a snow day existed. My parents would have already been in the barn for about two hours by then, radio tuned to the local station. Mom and I had worked out a code; if school were closed, she'd turn on a certain light. I'd always race to the living room window to see if that light were on. If not, I'd turn on the radio and listen with anticipation.

It always seemed to take years before my school was finally added to the list of closings.

Now, I don't have to wait for that light to go on. I get a phone call from a colleague who has also signed up for the phone chain.

Like when I was young, though, I wait in anticipation for that news. I stay awake long after the school closing has been posted, anticipating the wonderful day ahead.

Today, after finally falling asleep again, I awoke with my little guy at 8:00. We watched cartoons together. I made waffles, bacon, and eggs for all of us, and we ate breakfast in front of the fire.

I can't wait until he understands the true nature and wonder of snow days. It'll be a new set of memories we'll build and share together!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Time to Fly

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise

I don't think my wings are broken.
Only clipped.
But that doesn't mean
it's not time to fly.
The moment has come.
It's time.

(I'm just trying to post something quick before work so forgive my crappy little poem and reread the Beatles's lyrics...)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Prompted to Be Creative

With some of my Christmas money, I purchased the book seen in the above picture. It's really quite wonderful so far. Reading it is like talking with a friend about the writing process. It's full of great ideas, not necessarily for writing topics though I'll get to that in a moment; more so, it's full of great ideas for how to live a writing life. I'm already bouncing some of the ideas off my husband so he realizes I'm serious about some upcoming plans!

In any case, there are some little prompts included along the way. They aren't spelled out in great detail. They're not meant to be. They are just little snippets to get you to write for at least a couple of minutes each day, and there is a prompt for every day of the year.

Today's prompt is: "The place where wings unfurl"

I intend to write about this is my daily notebook later as I have an idea for how to interpret it literally. Reading it for the first time, though, I began to think of the figurative nature of the prompt.

I need a place where my wings unfurl. Sitting in front of the fireplace on a Sunday morning is comfy and cozy. My coffee is within reach; my toes are warm; my little guy is my companion. But it's not conducive to unfurling my wings. They'd only start to unfurl before I was tucking them back in so I could jump up and replenish the cookie supply or change the DVD or find a missing toy.

I need a place where my wings unfurl. Where I can sit, uninterrupted, for at least thirty minutes a day. Where I can let my creativity out and accomplish more than a quick snapshot or a five-minute blurb of writing.

There are a couple of projects in which I want to participate through the Art House Co-op. I don't want to spend the money, though, if the projects are only going to go fallow sitting on the floor by the fireplace.

It's time to prepare. It's time to build my place.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

My Mom Hates Snakes

My mom is notoriously afraid of snakes.

Mice and swooping birds could probably be added to her short list, but snakes are definitely at the top. I remember a couple of times, whether it was while mowing the lawn or working in the garden, that she would scream for my father who would obligingly (if laughingly) come out and kill or chase off the offending serpent who dared to cross her path.

One summer, a very large snake took up residence in our lower pasture. Generally, it remained hidden, but it could sometimes be seen sunning itself on a large, flat rock on the edge of the creek that bisected the pasture.

On this particular afternoon, I walked out the lane with my mom in order to bring the cows in for the evening milking. She had convinced me to come with her with the tempting promise of seeing "the size of this snake."

The entrances to both the upper and lower pastures were adjacent to each other. A single, metal gate (similar to the one above) kept the cows in whichever field we placed them. That day, Mom pulled open the gate, allowing the cows out of the upper pasture. As they began to lumber down the lane, Mom and I entered the lower pasture, yanking the gate closed behind us. We didn't want the curious cows to think we were inviting them to join us.

We walked about forty feet to the section of the stream where the snake did most of its sun-bathing. Standing side-by-side, our toes at the edge of the overhang where a strong water flow had washed out the stream bed, we looked down at the flat rock on the other side of the creek.


Mom pointed and whispered, "That's where it usually is. Maybe it's nearby." We scanned the side of the creek to see if the snake were nearby. No sign.

Then we looked down. Inches from our toes was the snake. Curled up and snug on a smaller rock than its usual perch. Right in front of us.

Mom snorted with disgust. "You can't tell how long it is!" I stood over it, trying to gauge its size while she walked over to some small trees along the fence line. Grabbing a long stick, she rejoined me. "We'll get him to stretch out," she murmured.

Then, my mom poked the snake with a stick.

My mom poked the large snake that was mere inches from our toes.

It moved.

With a yelp, my mom threw the stick in the general direction of the snake while instantaneously spinning around. She began sprinting across the field in a style reminiscent of sprinters I had, to that point, only witnessed on the Olympics. As she dashed toward the entrance of the pasture, she screamed, "Run! Run!'

At that point, running was an impossibility for me. Not because I was frozen in fear but because I was laughing too hard.

Mom raced toward the gate at full-speed. Toward the four-foot tall gate blocking her escape. As I watched with a mix of laughter and awe, she went over the gate.

She didn't scramble over it. She didn't grab the top of it with her hands and hoist herself over the top.

My mom hurdled that gate. Cleared it by a good five inches. It was Olympian in the manner of Mercury rather than Flo Jo.

Unaware of the superhuman feat she had just performed, she grabbed the gate, yanking and jerking desperately to pull it open in an attempt to rescue me, all the while screaming, "Run! It's going to get you!!"

I finally reached the gate, gasping for breath, tears of laughter rolling down my cheeks. Mom scolded me. "What's so funny? It could've gotten you!"

Yup. Yup, it could have. But it would have been worth it just to see her clear that gate... 

Friday, January 14, 2011

You Can't Trust a Cow

Looks innocent and sweet, doesn't she? Just standing there in the shade, chewing her cud. You could walk over, pet her velvet nose, and ruffle the scruff of hair at the top of her head. She'd low at you before ambling away.

Don't be fooled.

She's watching you. Mentally documenting your every move. Noting your schedule and routine. Reporting back to the herd.

Growing up on the dairy farm, I usually tried to get out of all related chores. There were some things I didn't mind. I liked to teach the baby calves to drink out of buckets. Playing with new litters of kittens was always a good chore. And in the summer months, I didn't mind walking out the cow paths to bring the cows in from the pasture.

From the back door of the barn, I'd walk across the broad expanse of barnyard. One side was the mud pit; I steered clear of that. The other side was a wall of dirt and silt. The paths, themselves, were carved out of a hill by years of cows passing through. The bottom path was the widest and most flat. The rest of the hill was criss-crossed with about six or seven paths, most of them getting narrower as you reached the crest about fifteen feet above you. The lower paths were little more than dust; the upper ones littered with nettles and other thorny grasses.

The hill lasted about thirty feet of the walk before it widened into a ten-foot wide path, bordered by barb-wire fence on either side. At the end of the path were the entrances to the upper and lower pastures. A single metal gate swung between the two, blocking whichever pasture to which the cows had been sent. I once saw my mom hurdle one of those gates, but that's a story for another day.

Anyway, on this particular day, the heat was bordering on oppressive. It was still nice to just be outside, so I offered to go get the cows so my mom could attend to other chores. I meandered down the lane, taking my time. I was about halfway down the paths when I heard a banging ahead of me. I looked up. The paths lolled upward at that point and you had to go over a small hill before the gate was visible.

Above the crest of the little hill, I saw a dust cloud rising into the air. I stopped, head cocked to the left, trying to figure out why there'd be such a big cloud of dust on a day with no wind, not even a breeze. As I watched, it drew closer and I heard a thundering noise.

Over the crest of the hill came a stampede of about fifty cows. And they were heading straight for me.

I didn't pause to scream. I bolted. I doubted my ability to outrun the herd. They had a head start and were nearly upon me by that point. Instead, I ran straight up the hill of paths. Each individual path acted as a step to propel me upward to the next level. To pull myself up faster, I grabbed the nettles that were sticking out of the hard ground, the palms of my hands poked by the needles that cover the leaves and stems of those plants.

I reached the top of the hill and turned, gasping and sobbing, to watch the cows thunder past, racing toward the barn, tails standing straight up in the air. Ever a dutiful daughter, I stumbled down the lane to make sure all the cows had headed toward the barn. Two or three were still loitering at the gate, and I asked them why they hadn't tried to kill me with their friends. They just stared with their big, brown eyes before lumbering away. I closed the gate and followed them to the barn, tear trails leaving paths down my dust-covered face.

My mom laughed as she hugged me, saying she had wondered why the cows had gotten to the barn so quickly.

I know why. It was because they were evil.

You can't trust a cow.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


I'm a pretty private person. I know; I know. But I have a public blog and share details of my life and blah, blah, blah. That's all true, but there's quite a bit that I hold in and keep to myself.

I sometimes wonder why that is, why it's in my nature to be quiet and reserved. It's not necessarily that I'm shy (sure, there's a bit of that around new people but I get over that fairly quickly). I don't think that would be an accurate depiction of who I am.

Much of it, I think, is just a matter of...hmm...I guess it's time to do some soul-searching.
  1. Trust. That, of course, is something that has to be earned. And I don't give it easily, but when I do, I give it wholeheartedly. Sure, I've been burned a couple of times. That just means I never trust that person again; it doesn't mean I give up on trusting everyone else.
  2. Observation. I like to hear what other people have to say, and I don't feel the need to monopolize a conversation. I think that listening is a lost art. I think most people wait to speak rather than hearing what other people have to say. Sure, there are times when I have an opinion that I'm going to share, but I'd rather hear people out and form new opinions and ideas based off of it.
  3. Respect. There are sometimes some pretty mean things that go through my head. Sarcastic, snide, and just nasty. Why would I say those things aloud or share that side of my personality? People always laugh and tell me that I'm so nice, that I don't have a mean bone in my body, etc. See how good I am at keeping aspects of my self hidden?
  4. Love. I wouldn't have the people around me feeling hurt because of me. That's not fair and not right. And I understand people and psychology enough to know that sharing certain aspects will hurt them. Not intentionally. But perception plays a heavy part in how we process information. I could say something innocent and it can be taken the wrong way. So, sometimes I hold stuff in so as not to be misperceived and so as not to cause hurt feelings.
I think that's the main part of it. Sometimes I wish I were different. In fact, I've tried to dip my toes in the waters of outspoken people over the past couple of months. I think even that little change has made too many waves.

People are used to the person that I portray and when I stray from that? It throws their world off-kilter.

I think it best to stick to the tried and true. For now.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pity, Party of One

8:00 p.m.     Mommy and the little guy go to bed. Twin bed, Thomas the Tank Engine sheets.

9:00 p.m.     Phone call. Two-hour delay.

1:30 a.m.     The little guy wakes with horrible stomach cramps. Asks to go downstairs.

2:30 a.m.     The little guy sits up. "Mommy go to kitchen and get cereal."

2:40 a.m.     Mommy bursts into tears because she's tired and just needs to go to bed.

The little guy smiles.
Mommy says, "I'm sorry, honey. I can't smile. Mommy lost all her smiles."
The little guys says, "Um...I think Daddy can help you."

4:00 a.m.     Finished watching "Thomas and Friends." Mommy asserts that it is bedtime.

7:00 a.m.     Mommy crawls out of bed and wakes Daddy.

7:10 a.m.     Mommy starts to shovel out the truck.

7:30 a.m.     Mommy gives up and decides to just drive through the snow.

8:45 a.m.     Mommy leaves for work feeling tired and miserable.

9:55 a.m.     Mommy is ready to explode. Gets email.

Good morning Mommy,

Thank you for staying up with me last night. I had a good time watching Thomas. I know you were tired, but you stayed with me anyway. Daddy and I are eating honey crackers and watching Thomas now. I can't wait for you to come home.

I love you,

9:57 a.m.     Mommy remembers why she does this. Can't wait to go home. <3

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Baby, It's Cold Outside (All the Better to Kill the Germs, My Dear!)

Sputter, sputter, phompf!

And that was the sound of the propane in our fireplace running out last night. Granted, it's not our primary heat source. We have oil heat for the baseboards, but when your house is brick, cinder block, and plaster, baseboard heat only warms up the baseboards when the outside temperatures fall below freezing. We also have wall units that work better for their air conditioning in the summer than for their heat in the winter.

So we really largely on the propane insert in the fireplace. Which likes to play the nasty trick of running out just before big snowstorms.

Okay, so I exaggerate a bit. It's not going to be a "big" snowstorm; just three to six inches. But still! I want to be warm and snuggly while those three to six inches of snow fall! And lacking propane will not help me to achieve that!

That being said, the propane man brought a delivery this morning. He was a big burly bear of a man who smelled of dust and oil. It was a warm, comforting smell. I even let him stand on the rug just inside the front door while I wrote him a check so I could smell the fumes on his clothing.

Poor fellow. I probably subjected him to this stomach bug!

Good thing he works outside all day! Hopefully, it'll kill those germs!

Monday, January 10, 2011

I Don't Want to Miss a Thing

My husband and I didn't have a "traditional" wedding by most people's standards. We had started planning one: the church, the huge reception, etc. One night, he turned to me and said, "Why are we planning this. Let's just have a small wedding and get married sooner."

I cried. Then, I got over it because I realized that he was right. We were planning this huge wedding that wasn't really "us" and we were looking at a guest list that included people that we didn't even know (those friends of the family and former business partners that we would have had to invite out of that ever noble "tradition"). And at $28 a plate, it was getting a little crazy. Besides, we were trying to save money to buy a house. A huge wedding wasn't going to help that cause.

And the biggest reason? At the time, my maternal grandmother was ill, and we wanted to be sure that she could attend the wedding.

So, we got married a year earlier. An outdoor wedding to which only parents, grandparents, and siblings were invited. We had an acoustic guitarist perform the music and a sit-down meal inside a Victorian farmhouse (an oxymoron if I've ever heard one). My grandmother passed away just days before the wedding, unfortunately, but her spirit was strongly present. I credit her with keeping the baby skunks out of the backyard (they had been there all week) and with getting my fading flowers to bloom that morning.

To continue our unconventional wedding, our wedding song was "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" by Aerosmith. We had bounced around several songs, ones that were more sedate and romantic, but this one just seemed the best choice for us and our feelings for each other.

Fast forward to today. This song has a double meaning for us now because it encompasses our feelings about our son.

Never have I felt it more strongly than the last couple of days. Being terribly sick with a horrid stomach bug, I spent yesterday sleeping on the bathroom floor. In those periods when I was awake, I could hear my husband and son playing downstairs. They were laughing and giggling and talking....and I cried.

I don't want to miss a thing.

"I just wanna stay with you in this moment forever..."

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Ever have one of those days when you just feel off-kilter? When you just didn't feel right?

We're experiencing that right now. The area has been hit pretty hard by a nasty little stomach bug, and it finally invaded our house. My little guy has been sick for the last two days. Try to explain the nature of a stomach bug to a two-year-old. Poor fellow.

Well, needless to say, I've been feeling off-kilter as well. I think I'm using my Mommy Will Power to stay healthy enough to care for him. Once his fever breaks and he can keep some toast down, though? Ugh. I care not to think about it.

But illness isn't the only thing that makes one feel off-kilter. There are so many things that tilt us off the normal track of our daily lives. A break in the morning routine. An unintentional slight from a loved one. Dealing with a rude person.

I've felt off-kilter for a while now when it comes to merging the things that I have to do with the things that I want to do. I have to go to work everyday, and most days, I'm going to work at a place that has become toxic. Would I love to quit my job, find something else? Sure! But I have a family to help support and suddenly becoming unemployed would be toxic to our lives. Besides...I do have a good schedule and decent pay. Why would I give that up?

Why? Because I feel off-kilter. I'm not doing what I'm meant to do. But what I'm meant to do won't pay the bills for a long time...if ever.

Sheesh. Why is a prerequisite of adulthood a perpetual feeling of being off-kilter?

Still, I will say this. I've talked to my husband about this many times. He is unwaveringly supportive of helping me find a balance. And after a recent request, I think my off-kilter status has straightened by a couple of degrees. But more on THAT later...

Friday, January 7, 2011

Visiting Salem

When my husband and I decided to visit Salem a few years ago, it was surprisingly his idea. Part of it was the proximity to Boston, since he wanted to visit Boston University (where he got his Master's proud!), but part of the choice of Salem was because he knew I would enjoy it.

Ever since I first taught Arthur Miller's play, The Crucible, I have been fascinated with this period of history. It amazes me how it could have all went down...

In 1692, Salem was divided into two distinct sections: Salem Town and Salem Village. Salem Town was a bustling port; for a while, it was the main trading destination in the colonies. The people of Salem Town were largely wealthy merchants and they largely lived an easy lifestyle for that time period. The people of Salem Village tended to be poor farmers of low standing compared to the merchants of the town. The villagers were very pious and strict...and in many cases, quite jealous and judgmental of the lives led in town.

Rev. Samuel Parris was the village minister. In his care were his daughter, Elizabeth, and his niece, Abigail Williams, both of whom were under the age of twelve. They were largely cared for by a slave named Tituba, as Mrs. Parris was often infirm. To entertain the girls, Tituba would tell fascinating tales from her homeland and would teach them voodoo tricks.

Voodoo tricks would have been considered witchcraft to the strict Puritans of the village. And witchcraft was punishable by death.

One evening, a group of young girls gathered in the kitchen of the Parris household. Tituba was teaching them how to drop an egg in a glass of water in order to divine the occupations (and identities) of the girls' future husbands. As Betty Parris dropped her egg in...perhaps from an overactive imagination or from subconscious guilt...she saw the shape of a coffin. She believed this to be a sign that God was angry and that Satan wanted her soul.

The girls became terribly ill in ways for which the village doctor could find no cause or cure. Finally, three women were accused of bewitching the girls: Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba. Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne were outcasts within the community; they made easy targets. Both women refused to confess to a crime they had not committed.

Both women were hanged.

Tituba not only confessed but she spun elaborate tales of Satan's visits to the village. More so, she planted a seed of doubt and fear in the villagers. According to her, nine people had signed the Devil's book. The authorities had captured three...Who were the other six?

The Meetinghouse (Reconstructed)

The Salem Witch Trials were soon underway and very quickly spiraled out of control. Soon joining the young girls in making the accusations were men and women in the village. And very quickly, the accusations shifted from "reasonable" victims like Bridgit Bishop, who had been accused of witchcraft years prior, to "unlikely" victims...upstanding members of the Salem Town community.

No one was safe. Wealthy landowners. Pious grandmothers. Even a four-year-old little girl.

There are many theories as to why the accusations spun so far out of control. Some think the girls truly believed in their accusations and that witchcraft was present in Salem. I think this may have been true at the start, in those initial days. Some think that, as time went on, the girls liked the attention that they received and used the trials as a way to keep that glowing attention upon themselves. I think that this, too, is likely. Many think that the trials were used as tools of revenge and religious persecution and methods of stealing the land of wealthy neighbors. These, too, I think are likely scenarios...

But what I don't understand is why so many people stayed. Why those who suspected or knew they would be accused didn't disappear in the middle of the night. Did they feel that would make them look guilty? Or did they have such a strong faith that they believed the truth would come out and they would be found innocent?

And if that last is the case, then why did so many people break one of God's laws and give false confessions in order that they may escape the gallows?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

"Lottery in June, Corn Be Heavy Soon"

One of my favorite short stories is "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson. It's a creepy little tale about a rural village's method of keeping prosperous. I teach it to my classes and show them a clip of the made-for-television version, and they generally enjoy it.

Last year, I discovered a little assignment that I thought was pretty cool. So much so that I did the assignment along with the kids. It's called a "found poem." The original assignment had students using a newspaper, but I thought using a short story would be more interesting.

What you do is pull out words and phrases from the story. You then arrange the phrases to create a poem. Here is the one I wrote:

"Lottery in June, Corn Be Heavy Soon"

There's always been a lottery
Don't be nervous

Black wooden box
Slips of paper
Heads of households

"We better get this over with."

Humorlessly and nervously--
a hesitation--
a slip of paper
folded in your hand

There's always been a lottery
Don't be nervous

Slips of paper
Heads of households
The black spot

The sound of the whisper,
"Who's got it?"

"We better get this over with."

Blowing scraps of paper.
                       It wasn't fair.
The crowd of villagers.
                       It wasn't fair.
A great pile of stones.
                       It wasn't fair!

"We better get this over with."

The crowd of villagers
The children had stones

hands out desperately
the sound of the whisper
it wasn't fair
the villagers moved in
a stone hit

There's always been a lottery
Don't be nervous

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Seven Gables

My husband and I have started to plan our summer vacation already. Can you tell that we need a break? Last year, we only took day trips, and I think that took a toll on us. There's something almost necessary about getting away from real life for an extended period of time, I think.

So, we're planning a trip to Cooperstown, NY. He likes the Baseball Hall of Fame; I want to take pictures at the Farm Museum. After a couple days there, we plan to drive across Massachusetts and stay in Salem for a few days.

We visited Salem a couple of years ago. It is something of a tourist trap; I'll admit. As we planned that trip, however, I made sure to find actual historic places for us to check out. I teach language arts, and I've taught The Crucible for years. As much as the social commentary of the play might be important, I love the history of that time period, and I try to incorporate as much of it as I can.

Thus, as we explored Salem, we tried to find sites that related to the historic and literary elements of the area. The accompanying pictures are of the "House of the Seven Gables", supposedly the inspiration for Nathanial Hawthorne's book of the same name.

We didn't go inside; I'm not paying a high admission fee to look at old furniture. Besides, I was happy to see the outside, to visualize the events of the book playing out...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Pack My Bags and Run Away

I was about five-years-old when my sister was born. By then, I'd had quite a bit of time to get used to being an only child, so I wasn't necessarily thrilled with the new addition to the family. All I cared about was that my mommy didn't have time to play Barbies with me anymore.

What can I say? I was a brat.

One night, I'd had enough, I guess. According to my mom, in a fit of self-righteous indignation (is there any other kind), I announced my plan to run away from home. That's right. I was going to run away to my Aunt Shirley's house and I was never coming back.

Aunt Shirley lived about 100 yards away.

My mom could have handled the situation in a dozen different ways. She chose the best; she offered to help me pack. I packed up my little green suitcase with all my Barbies. My mom suggested some clothes or maybe a toothbrush.

By the time I was all packed and ready to go, my mom noted that it was Aunt Shirley's suppertime; perhaps I had better wait until after I'd had my supper before running away. That seemed reasonable.

By the time we had finished supper, my mom noted that it had grown dark. Was I sure that I wanted to walk down to Aunt Shirley's in the dark?

That didn't seem reasonable. I would run away tomorrow.

Tomorrow came and went, and I didn't run away. I won't say that there weren't other times that I wanted to; what teenage girl doesn't want to run away at some point.

I think there's still a bit of that five-year-old in me. Not the bratty part...I hope. But the one who just wants to take off at the end of a really bad day. Not forever. Just for twenty-four hours. Just long enough to check into a hotel under an assumed name, take a long bath in the whirlpool, order room service, and get a good night's sleep...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Lost Collections

Who doesn't collect something?

For some of us, collections are not physical displays of material objects. We collect memories, sensations, emotional scars. We collect slights and hold them dear as grudges. We collect single moments of bliss and hold onto them during those difficult times when we have nothing else to hold on to.

I hold many collections like that. They are probably some of the only collections to which I continually add and that I will always have. True, I do have some book collections that I keep adding to or that I intend to keep (though it'll be a long time before I can pass my Nancy Drew books on to a granddaughter), but most of my physical collections have long since been given up.

Let's see: Fossils and rocks? Threw those away long ago. Barbies? Nope. Pictures of Kirk Cameron and Corey Haim? What was I thinking?

What mattered to me in childhood wasn't what mattered to me in adolescence, I suppose. And what mattered to me in those awkward teenage years has drifted away, as well.

Now? I do collect books by favorite authors. They take up several rows on my bookshelf, but I can't bear to part with them, and I do go back and read them again and again. Several years ago I started a collection of white mini pitchers and basins; I have three. Finding them and buying them just became too much of a chore, I guess.

Yes, it seems that most of my collections are in my head and heart these days. Perhaps that is right; perhaps these are the most important collections to keep.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

I Resolve...

Every year for as long as I've known about the tradition, I have made new year's resolutions. I've gotten wiser about what I resolve to do and not to do over the years. Generally, however, I forget about them by the beginning of February. There are other things to do than worry over the status of a resolution, right?

Still, I'll make more resolutions this year. Just because.
  1. Finish writing Dust and Ashes. I may be "over it" but it still needs to be completed. It's not fair to my characters to leave them as is...
  2. Start seriously working on Memories of a Reluctant Farm Girl. It was supposed to be finished last summer, and I know my mom is getting impatient. Maybe by Christmas 2011?
  3. Take. More. Pictures.
  4. Do something with said pictures. They can't just exist in cyberspace.
  5. Procrastinate less. Do more.
Five. That's a fair number. We'll go with that and see what happens...