Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Simple Morning Writing Exercise   

The sun was up, an enormous ball of yellow just above the horizon. Jake stood in the doorway, looking, drawn to a sky that appeared washed free of color, save for that sun. Soon, he knew, all would change. The sun would rise farther and farther until it would be a speck high in a wide and cloudless, cerulean sky. It was a California morning, cool and refreshing, the coastal air having slipped in overnight to caress the hills. Jake breathed in.
“Going to be a scorcher,” he said to his wife, Susie who had scooted up behind him. She squeezed his arm gently, his muscles tightening beneath her touch. Oh, how she loved him.
“Coffee?” she asked.
He turned to look at the woman who had said yes to him only two years prior. Her blond hair, in a tangle of curls, fell beyond her shoulders almost to her waist. He touched it, gazing as he did at her eyes, green today. His heart quivered.
“You have bed head,” she grinned.
“You too. Did you sleep well?”
“I did. I dreamed. We were at the beach running on the sand,” she said.
“It was nice. We were holding hands and laughing, as if we had not a care in the world, and we were so happy,” she sighed.
“Let’s make that dream come true,” he murmured, pulling her close.
“Today?” she questioned.
“Why not?”

Friday, June 19, 2015

Writing Practice On A Friday Morning

            As I often do, I began this piece with a first line. I had no idea where it would take me. Below is the result.

When the day ended with the sun slipping beyond the horizon in a blaze of pink and orange, Mary was satisfied. And why shouldn’t she be? She had accomplished everything she had wanted, including telling James he no longer belonged in her life. It had not been an easy decision, but now that it was done, she was filled with an alien, but luscious, sense of calm.
Theirs had been a calamitous coupling from the start. James was incapable of friendship. It was lust that drove him and though Mary reciprocated happily at first, in time she was left spent and alone. When he was done with her, day after day after day, he headed for work as a dock supervisor at the cannery only five miles down the road. He came home late . . . often . . . smelling of whisky and women Mary did not know. On weekends he escaped to the river, his fly rod in one hand, and a cooler of brews in the other. For endless hours he frittered his time away from her, coming home tipsy, sunburned, and angry. Mary had no idea why. No matter now.
For three years she had endured his demands, his belligerence, his curses, and the cold stares that made her fidget, her hands finding each other, fingers folding together like old friends. In time she learned to expect what surely followed . . . the palpitations, the rapid eye movement, a sweaty brow, and a voice as silent as the dead. As with James, Mary’s body betrayed her. That was until today.
Today had been different. She had awakened with a purpose: to face the truth. It was over. When James stirred beside her, before reaching out for the morning ritual, she moved away.
“What the hell?” he muttered.
Mary stood her ground. “We’re done,” she said. “You leave now, James. I don’t want you here.”
He stared at her as though he had been struck, his mouth twisting into an ugly snarl for a moment before it eased into a pouty frown. He was not stupid. He understood, soberly agreeing without a word. In only minutes he had pulled on his trousers, thrown on a shirt and jacket, sauntered silently to his pickup truck, and was gone.
“I’ll pack up your things,” Mary said behind him. “They’ll be on the porch.”
The boxes of his belongings disappeared days later. Mary did not see James again. It was as simple as that.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Arrogance vs. Humility

The Golden State Warriors won the NBA Championship last night and the folks in Northern California are jumping for joy . . . again! (We love our San Francisco Giants too.) The series was exciting, hard fought, and won by a worthy team. What I enjoyed most about the Warriors was just that. They were a “team”, working hard to make it happen. When they won, they were like a bunch of little kids jumping up and down and basking in that electrifying moment. What a thrill for the coaches, the players, their families, and their fans.
Along the way to the finish line, however, a couple of nasty traits reared their ugly heads. I don’t intend to dwell, but I noticed. First was acute bias. In my mind, the announcers were more than a bit one-sided in their calling of the game. At my house, in frustration, we had to mute them a few times. Two sets of players (that would be ten individuals) were on the floor at all times, but the broadcasters who called the game didn’t seem to notice.
This championship series was not about one player even though “he” has been dubbed a king. (Yes, it is fair to say he is a fantastic player.) This, though, brings me to the second issue: arrogance. LeBron James is arrogant, and that is an obnoxious characteristic. I understand he has contributed in myriad wonderful ways to his state of Ohio and has made a real difference in the lives of young people there; however, his profound display of arrogance and bravado, particularly when he (and I do mean “he”) was up against a wall was nauseating. I wish he had taken another tack. I, for one, would rather appreciate and remember his performance and his philanthropic deeds rather than his attitude, but, unfortunately, the latter overshadowed.
Arrogance in any form is annoying to me. Who is one person to announce to the universe that he or she is better than anyone else? Money, talent, station, or intelligence should not become pedestals on which one stands and lauds himself or herself over others. We all are different and each of us has our own strengths. It’s as simple as that. So here’s to a little humility and the realization that, yes, indeed, when all is said and done, we all will arrive at the same finish line.

Friday, June 5, 2015

A Bit About Judging

            I may lose a few friends on this one, but I simply need to say that I am so tired of the media, Facebook posters (that would be people), and even individuals in casual conversation who are hell bent on judging others. I know, we all judge; we all have opinions. Voicing one’s opinion is one thing though; indiscriminately judging is another. Today I am offering an opinion.
            I have been disheartened by the insensitive remarks made in regard to Caitlyn Jenner being transgender. It’s her life, her body. Let her be. Furthermore, why compare her courage to that of firefighters or police officers or war veterans or doctors, nurses, cancer fighters, ailing seniors, or folks with disabilities? They are all courageous. Why make courage a competition?
On another note, I was appalled by comments on FB about President Obama after he honored the San Francisco Giants at the White House yesterday. Why not just be happy for a successful baseball franchise? Why take this opportunity to attack the president? Why was the focus not on celebration? Why did so many people have to step over the line to spew their awful venom? (I’m afraid many of us know the answers.)
And of course, politics, as usual has raised its ugly head. I would love to see those who aspire to be President of the United States simply state what they plan to do to make this a “better” country. I haven’t heard any strategies specifically outlined other than Donald Trump’s woefully vague threat to take care of business. I am very tuned in to the news, actually, and find substance lost in volleys of criticism and condemnation. Where are the straight answers?
On a more personal note, several months ago, a critic condemned me in a review of my memoir, Tumor Me, The Story of My Firefighter. She was offended by my use of profanity . . . a teacher putting profane words in print? Horrifying! Unfortunately she couldn’t get beyond her judgment of my character to understand and appreciate the real story. In my mind, that’s a shame. 
My mother, bless her heart, was a sweet Southern woman who, like many others, liked to have her say. She died in 2010, just short of turning 96. She was loving, caring, sympathetic, empathetic, strong-minded, and very religious . . . Southern Baptist. All my life she supplied our family with tidbits of truth. “If you can’t say anything nice about a person, don’t say anything at all.” That was one. Another, straight from the Good Book was “Judge not that ye be not judged.” I’ve never forgotten that one. Perhaps a few other folks should take it to heart. The verse can be found in the book of Matthew (7:1-3), by the way. I don’t often read the Bible, but I did today, for reference sake. What it said made sense to me.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Wednesday Morning Writing Exercise

I began writing at 6:00 a.m. today. I began with a name, Mary Ellen, and had no idea where this piece would take me, but here it is. It could be the beginning of a novel, I suppose.

Mary Ellen wasn’t a little girl any more. She was thirteen, a teenager now, and she understood, perhaps more than most people, that life was not always easy. Growing up with Maude, her grandmother, had not been ideal, but Mary Ellen had been dealt that card only one day after she was born. Her mother, Sara, only sixteen at the time, had plopped her infant, baby girl into a broken bassinette and had left her on Maude’s porch. She fortunately had knocked on the door first, before turning from the child and rushing to the dented, pick-up truck driven by Denny, a buck-toothed, backward boy, who at seventeen had no clue he was the father.
“Just take me away, Denny,” Sara had begged him. “Quick.”
And he had. The two adolescents drove on a two-lane, winding road for miles through the Indiana countryside until the pick-up’s engine sputtered and quit. Just like that.
“What now?” Sara whined. “How are you going to fix this mess, Denny?”
“Reckon I’ll walk for a spell. Must be a town up yonder,” Denny said. “You wait here,” he added, wiping beads of perspiration from his face with a dirty handkerchief. “Don’t want you leaving my pick-up.”
He slammed the door of the truck forcefully and began trudging up the road. Sara, consumed by her own misgivings, and oblivious to Denny’s, watched him go. When he was a speck, he rounded a curve and was gone.
Sara gathered the mass of long curls that hung down her back into a ponytail, knotted it into a bun, and sighed. “Guess, I’m stuck,” she muttered.
After several hours of waiting, the warmth of the day lulled her to sleep; when she awoke it was dusk, and Denny had not returned. The fact was, he never did.
At daybreak, after a sleepless night in the front seat of the pick-up, Sara set off herself. “Can’t believe he just abandoned me,” she grumbled, angrily. Her words accompanied her, like a sad song for miles until her pace slowed and she sat, hungry, tired, and alone on the side of the road. Too weary to move, she waited and wondered, somewhat stupidly how she had arrived here, at this place, in the middle of nowhere.