Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Don't Worry. Be Happy. Part II.

Voted top 30 stylish videos:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-diB65scQU&ob=av2e

Don't worry. Be happy.

Life is good.

I worry.  I worry during the day and, of course, during the night when things look the darkest, both inside my head and out.  This has been going on indefinitely.  It’s evidently the way I’m programmed.  I agonize over something I did or didn’t do, fret about things I may or may not do, and worry about things that have very little to do with me and over which I have no control. 

I decided to reprogram myself, and it’s going very well after 24 hours of time invested.

I’m taking up a mantra. 

Life is good.  Because it is.  I have a wonderful husband, a lovely home, great friends, and two of the sweetest kids there are.  I’m able to do what I love—take care of my family (even long distance) and write.  What do I have to worry about?

All day yesterday when a subconscious worry niggled its way into my conscious thoughts, I repeated Life is good.  Life is good.  I woke up numerous times last night—signs of my age—with this thought in my mind:  Life is good.  Life is good.

What else can I say?

Life is good.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Peeling back the layers

I love using a potato peeler; it beats using a knife any day.  But I never got the hang of peeling away from me. As a result, I peeled my thumb yesterday.  It hurt a tad, but I’ll recover.

Sometimes you have to peel away the layers to see what’s beneath.  Sometimes it hurts.  Hopefully, you'll recover.

When I’m trying to pinpoint the absolutely best way to present a story, it hurts my brain to think so hard.  With each new version, I peel back a layer; and yet a feasible solution eludes me.  But, finally, it hits when I least expect it—just like the name of the person you’ve known for years that you unexpectedly encounter in the grocery store.  You feel badly as the person asks about your husband, your kids, and your dog, all by name, while you’re thinking, “Who ARE you?  Do I even KNOW you?” 

Then, you wake up in the middle of the night with the name and connection firmly embedded in your mind.

It's a matter of peeling back consciously with the subconscious finally coming to the rescue.

Sometimes, you have to let the same thing happen in relationships.  You should peel away at layers, and then listen to what the subconscious tells you.   

But, remember, learn to peel responsibly. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The wheels of the bike go round and round

My mind works in mysterious ways.  When I think about writing a blog entry, I’m often stymied.  I sit down, write something anyway, and soon .  .  . voila!  The Jack  Sprat story came to me like that, for sure.

That’s happening today as well.  Just a short time ago found me in the garden.  While attempting to annihilate the weeds, I swung the hoe with purpose and puzzled over what to write.  I came up shorthanded.  After cleaning up, I nonetheless faced the blank screen of my computer.  I began to wonder how I could relate the rhythmic movement of my hoe—Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!—to something more meaningful.  The wheels began to turn. 

I was suddenly thinking of the turning of my friends’ bicycle wheels as they travel the countryside.  Joan and Mike first dipped their wheels in the Atlantic at Yorktown back in May.  The two of them made it through the Blue Ridge Mountains relatively unscathed, are currently crossing the lonely stretch of land called Kansas, and will soon face the Rockies.  Their ultimate destination . . . Astoria, Oregon.

Their trip has not been easy.  Besides Mother Nature throwing them curve balls in the form of severe thunderstorms and flooding and the forces of Mr. Bike Nature sending them flat tires and chain dilemmas, they both initially underwent physical issues that wouldn’t have happened had they undergone the TransAm trip a few years ago.  But the two of them—one 60, the other a bit younger—didn’t let their enthusiasm wane.  Instead, they viewed the issues as minor challenges to overcome.

And I’ve never known Joan and Mike to shirk a challenge. 

My ideal bike trip takes me 10 miles along a well used path in excellent weather.  But doing the TransAm is something these two want so badly that they’re willing to overlook discomfort.  They love the slow-paced sight-seeing, the adventure, and, most of all, the people they meet.

I think they’re crazy, but these are two crazy friends I deeply admire.  At the risk of sounding sappy, Joan and Mike are my heroes.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Put Your Alphabet Skills to the Test

I challenge you to write a 26-word story using the 26 letters of the alphabet in order.  Mine follows:

A Star Is Born:  An Alphabet Story


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Good fences Make Good Neighbors

In the poem Mending Wall, Robert Frost seems to question whether good fences make good neighbors.  I, on the other hand, don’t question the concept at all.  Considering my current living situation, good fences do make good neighbors.  To build upon the good fence idea, we added a privet hedge as reinforcement. 

Unfortunately,  my neighbors and I don’t see eye to eye—well, we can’t with this hedge in between.  That’s the point.  Even though I had Benjamin Franklin’s support—“Love your neighbor; yet don’t pull down your hedge”—they still balk at the rightness of it.  To my neighbors, my lovely green hedge is an eyesore; its branches poke through their fence, it encroaches on their territory.  It must come down—if not by me, they’ll poison it.  They’ve done it before.

So tear down the privet with its added cloak of privacy, we must.  With its absence, no doubt, will come accidental eye contact and an increased dislike on our part for their pit bull.

Good fences make good neighbors, it is true.  But only if they’re ten feet high.

Mending Wall
by Robert Frost
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors”.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there,
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tired? Bored? Reinvent yourself!

The maxim, necessity is the mother of invention, brings to mind innovations such as light bulbs and bug spray.  People invent things out of necessity, but they also reinvent themselves for the same reason.  We all do it. 

Reinventing myself started early.  A teacher fed me a steady diet of C’s in conduct as I transformed myself from a wild, little runabout to a stay-at-desk young lady. 

At a later date, I honed my skills and recreated myself into someone others wouldn’t ridicule.  Refusing to remain the poor farmer’s daughter who shared space with the only remaining outhouse in the States—or so it seemed—my first step involved snagging a boyfriend who didn’t know my circumstances.  (I was forced to look outside my school district.)  My married sister, with her fancy indoor facilities, aided and abetted me in a cover-up.  For the first few dates, he picked me up and delivered me at her house.  I kept my very real fear of werewolves under wraps, and by the time he caught sight of the outhouse, the poor guy was smitten.

Back then, boyfriends defined us girls, and I unaccountably flourished.  When the relationship didn’t last—quite a blow since small, Ohio farming communities sprouted happily-ever-after twosomes like fields of corn—I contemplated how best to fit in and realized I was clueless.

So I attended college where a speech class transformed me once again.  I learned not to go “acrost” the street without looking, that “fish” should not be pronounced f-e-e-s-h, that I never “axed” a question but “asked” it, and that “sell” should not be confused with “sail” (as in,  “He’d sail his own mother for a nickel,” and “Christopher Columbus selled the ocean blue.”  My efforts at enunciation paid off; I began to sound and feel more educated.

Like many others in today’s economy, I created new versions of myself in the jobs arena.  I worked as a secretary, a medical transcriptionist, a technical writer, and a teacher.  I free-lanced for the Huntsville Times.  Sometimes I held two jobs; on occasion, I requested that my full-time job shrink to half-time; at other times, I worked at home or not at all.  I studied court reporting and dancing—contemplating careers in both—but, after nineteen years, ultimately majored in English, followed by a master’s in education a decade later.

As a teacher, I first taught English as a second language but decided to switch gears and try my hand at Spanish.  Since I forgot everything I knew upon first learning the language twenty years earlier, I hit the books and taught myself.  And I sent myself to an immersion school in Costa Rica.  ¡Fantastico!

My latest makeover changes my path again in another attempt to mold the future to fit my needs.  Throughout the years, I’d write with sudden bursts of creativity.  In a go-with-the-flow mentality, I recently stopped teaching to concentrate on my inner author.  I now possess half-written novels crying to be finished and picture book manuscripts begging for publication.

Everything I’ve ever strived for has required reinvention.  I aspired to become a wife and mother—we farmers’ daughters all craved that—and, in actuality, became what I desired.  A common enough occurrence, that act alone has the ability to transform all of us from selfish individuals to those able to put the needs of others first.  

Proud of our enduring marriage, my husband and I have managed to periodically reinvent ourselves in order to work through rough spots.  When couples don’t reinvent themselves, it’s certain death for the relationship.

Proud of my children as well, I’ve decided that worrying whether I’ve screwed them up is a waste of time.  But can I stop?  No transformation there.  Middle-of-the-night anxieties continue to plague me.  But daylight hours brighten the world and bury my inner angst as I witness the successes of my children and bask in their love.

Will I continue to reinvent myself?  Life isn’t over so my answer’s yes.  I’m still a work in progress. 

Aren’t we all? 

Missed Opportunity

My name is Karen. I work as a reporter on The Courier. Just like everyone else on the news staff, I slave over my articles and sink into a deep sleep when the chance arises.

It had been ghastly cold in my apartment when I went to bed; my nose and feet felt like they'd been packed in ice like the silvery-grey catfish in the supermarket around the corner.

The call found me huddled under a pile of blankets with my head beneath a pillow. The phone rang shrilly several times before it pierced my coma-like state. When I finally identified its origin, my hand shot out from under the covers like a bullet. I groped blindly toward the phone and lifted the receiver gingerly to my ear.

"Karen Wilson?" asked the voice at the other end.

"Yes," I replied, disoriented, "what is it?" I studied the large, green, luminous numbers on my alarm clock, and the time registered on my brain in indignant, shock-like waves. "Do you know it's one a.m.?" My head took a beating when I sat up abruptly and hit the ceiling. More like a closet than a room, my bedroom slanted in a serious angle in the only place my bed would fit.

"Karen, listen up and listen good."

Despite my befuddled state, my journalistic ears perked up. Rubbing the sore spot on the top of my head, I strained to hear the nasal male voice. "Okay, shoot. I'm all ears."

"You don't know me. I picked out your by-line from The Courier. I liked your article on rabies."

"Gee, thanks," I said with as much sarcasm as I could muster at that indecent hour. "Did you have to call me in the middle of the night to compliment my work?"

"No. Shut up and listen. You've been chosen."

"Chosen? Chosen for what? Miss Prank Call Recipient of 2011?"  As I was about to slam down the phone, a single word jumped out at me.

"Murder."  The two syllables hung in the air like the single thread of a spider's web.

I gasped as if Bruce Lee had kicked me in the stomach. "What did you say?" I held tightly to the phone and jumped out of bed to check the lock on my door.

"You don't sound too good. Are you all right?" The disembodied voice spoke into my ear, filling me with fright.

I crawled back in bed and pulled the covers to my chin. My eyes darted to the window. I was glad the cold weather forced me to keep it shut and locked. "Yeah, sure. I'm just a little shocked. It's not every day that someone threatens me," I replied.

"So who's threatening you?"

"Didn't you say 'murder'?" I asked him, now fully awake. My heart beat wildly about like a large, black crow in a small gilded cage.

"Naw. You misunderstood me. People always tell me to get the marbles outta my mouth. That was Myrtle, my dog."

"Your dog?" I asked dumbly.

"Yeah, yeah. I said, 'Down, Myrtle!' She was after my samwich. You musta thought I said murder."

"Oh, yeah," I replied. My heart calmed down to its usual steady thumpety-thump. "Is there a point to this conversation?"

"Sure, sure. Don't get your pantyhose in a bunch. Like I said, you've been chosen."

"Chosen for what?" I felt a keen sense of déjà vu.

He took a deep breath and blurted, "We'll take fifty percent off your rates for six months if you'll switch to us for your long-distance phone carrier."

"You'll what?" I shouted into the phone.

"Yeah," he said proudly. "Hard to believe, isn't it?"

I sputtered into the phone. "You . . . you idiot!"

"No need to insult me, lady." He sounded hurt. "Just doing my job."

I took the receiver away from my ear and stared at it in open-mouthed wonder. Slamming it down, I derived a certain pleasure from the resounding bang it must have made on the other end.

Huddling once more under the covers, head and all, I tried to make myself comfortable for further sleep. Just when I was about to drift off, a thought sprang unbidden to my mind: fifty percent was quite a deal. My eyelids popped up like a testy window shade.

Maybe I’d been too hasty!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I wrote the previous story back in 1996 at the height of the MCI/Sprint wars.  We were getting calls just about everyday!