Good Friday

Hi all. I know you’re looking for my Flash Fiction Friday installment, but I’ve decided to take this Friday off in respect of the Good Friday holiday. Toni, Maude and Lou will be back next week – be sure and stayed tuned because it’s soon coming to the exciting conclusion!

If you’re still craving a bit of my writing today be sure and check out my guest blog about why it’s called Good Friday on the St. Davids Christian Writer’s Blog here.

Summer, where art thou?

Here in Pennsylvania it’s been a long, cold, depressing winter. I’ve lived here my whole life (4o years now – sheesh) and it doesn’t get any easier. I try very hard not to complain as the winter months drag on for I know spring and summer will soon be upon us. My friends complain and gripe, but I pull my coat collar closer, dress in three to four layers at a time, and make the best of it. As the wind whips my hair and stings my eyes, I dream of warmer months, pushed forward by the hope that they will arrive in time.

This year, however, I reached my limit around mid March. The multiple layers and eye stinging had worn their welcomes. I longed for short-sleeved shirts, sandals, and skirts. I had just had enough. Being cold every day is not my idea of fun and it didn’t help that every day that I got out of my car (in my nice, covered garage – something to be extremely thankful for during winter) I was mocked and accosted by my summer toys:

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Our lawn chairs. Stuffed into their bags – awaiting another sunny day. “Hey! What gives? We been hangin’ on dees nails for months now! Dees straps are startin’ to strain, you get me?” Apparently, my chairs hail from Staten Island… at least in my head. “Soon chairs. Soon. Forgutaboutit.”

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Our bikes, reflectors gleaming brightly in their dark abode, as if to garner my attention. Mine waits patiently for my, now slightly more padded, derriere to grace it’s seat.

“Mon chere! We are ready for zee bike ride my love. Pleeze come and take us for zee spin, yes?”

French bikes. Who knew?

“If you only knew bike how much I ate this winter… perhaps you would not be so eager.”

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Our kayaks. Oh, how I miss them the most. In dry dock on the cold cement instead of in the warm, pristine waters of a nearby lake. This seems the most cruel really. Like a wrongly accused surfer prisoner forced to sit in a cold concrete cell instead of languishing in the warm, blue-green waters they are used to.

“Dude! Let’s go hang! What’s the hold up? Righteous.”

“I agree kayak. I’d love to go hang with you in the placid warm waters, but alas, it is still too nippy. And I’m sure the waters are even more icy yet. But you will be the first that is freed from this confinement. I promise.”

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Here the prisoners huddle for warmth – nationalities be damned. It’s been a long winter for them too. Not used to being confined for so long in the harsh, non-heated garage.

“Where is summer?” they seem to scream at me.

“I know, little ones, I know. I’m anxious for the sun too. Soon… and very soon.”

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One lone prisoner sits quietly in the corner. He is not missed. No one cares about him and he feels the loneliness. The other summer items mock him and ignore him – no one misses this one. But soon my husband will take him out too in the sun, wipe off his joints, fill him with fluids and start up the once cold engine. He is quiet now, waiting his turn. Soon he will roar to life and fight back the grassy encroachments around our home. My husband will smile and the mower will fulfill his destiny too. Even though the mower is lonely now – his time will soon come.

 

O Summer, Summer, wherefore art thou Summer?

Deny thy cold and refuse it’s name;

Or if thou will not, be but sworn my love

Or I will move to a warmer state!

 

 

If I Could Turn Back Time… I Wouldn’t

I follow a Wordpress blog called The Daily Post. They give daily prompt’s like this one here. The purpose, I guess, is to stir up conversation and get bloggers… blogging when they’ve exhausted their own brain’s ideas. That’s me today and I saw this one:

If you could return to the past to relive a part of your life, either to experience the wonderful bits again, or to do something over, which part of you life would you return to? Why?

I’ve always said I wouldn’t want to go back in time. A lot of my past has been not so good bits and I don’t think I’d want to relive most of them now that I’ve gotten past them (many through lots of therapy.) I truly believe that the events in our lives spur us forward – good or bad. Every decision we make and every bad turn we take, puts us where we are now. If we didn’t go through those times, or experience those hurts, pains or even joys, we wouldn’t be in the now.

Lots of folks dwell too much in their past. They relive every tedious moment in their memory. Day by day it’s haunting them, causing them pain, and preventing them from taking steps forward. Or, their life now isn’t so great, and they relive better times. “Oh, the good old days!” Not many of us live in the now.

I did that for many years. After my fiance dumped me, I spent almost five years rehashing it to anyone who would listen. My relationships suffered. I lost friends. I sabotaged potential relationships. Because I couldn’t stop reliving it. Thank God, my now husband, was a patient sort. He listened. Over. And Over. And Over again. Until finally he asked me one day “Why does it matter? You have me now.”

Right. NOW. Living in the now means not turning back time. Remembering good and bad times are always useful – we can remember happy moments to give us joy and bad ones so we don’t do those things again. But actually turning back time and doing it all over… no thanks. I’d rather enjoy each and every minute I have right now.

For instance – I never used to be someone who would do something on the spur of the moment. I missed out a lot on wonderful opportunities. Living in the here and now pushes me to be more spontaneous. So when my god daughter’s mom called me the other day and told me she was having soccer practice that night it didn’t take me long to decide I was going. I don’t want to miss any opportunity in that little girl’s life if I can help it. She is already 5 (going on 15) and I feel like I miss too much already. I’m thankful that her mom and dad want my husband and I to be included. And later her mom told me that Miss Megan was very happy that “Sue came to see me.” *heart tripling in size*

Why would I pass that up?

But if I spent my time dwelling on past hurts and missed opportunities – I would miss other opportunities!

Let’s not do that. Let’s live in the now. Experience the joy you can have each and everyday of your life by just NOT turning back time. (Sorry Cher – now get OUT of my head!)

Flash Fiction Friday – “The Past Again”

“Hey I’m getting a little light-headed from doing this,” Toni says to Maude.

“Yeah, but you’ll get used to it.”

Toni really didn’t like how nonchalant Maude is about all this. What is all this time…is this time traveling?… doing to her body. Toni shook her head, she probably didn’t want to know.

“What now?” she said instead, “This looks vaguely familiar.”

Toni looks around at a small, dingy apartment—she doesn’t want to touch anything even though she is aware that she probably won’t feel the grime anyway. The T.V. stand has a thick layer of dust on it and a Himalayan cat is languishing across the nearby window sill. The cat she recognizes, but not the room. Although bits and pieces of the room seem to stir memories from deep in her subconscious, she is unsure of the exact location. She takes a step towards the cat and he glances up at her, as if aware of her presence. His back arches, he hisses and then leaps to the floor.

“Axel!” she yells, reaching out for him. It’s too late—he has scurried off to hide under the bed. Well, at least where she thinks the bedroom is.

As she is contemplating how the cat was able to see her, she glances up and sees herself walk out of an adjoining kitchen.

“Wow. That’s weird,” she says turning to Maude.

“Yep. That I never get used to,” Maude agrees.

Just then a young man bursts through the kitchen close on Toni’s heels.

“Hey! Don’t just walk away!” he yells.

“Watch me!” young Toni yells back.

“Listen to me!” he says, grabbing her elbow and swinging her around to face him.

Young Toni is obviously not happy by this. She gives him a glare that could freeze a glass of water on a hot day. He wisely lets go of her arm, putting his hands up, palms out in surrender stance. He takes a step back.

“Hey… just listen to me okay?” his tone is now softer.

He slowly lowers his hands to his sides and then shoves the hands in his jeans pockets. He glances down at the floor, mostly to avoid young Toni’s icy stare. He shuffles back and forth a bit before speaking again.

“Toni, I really love you. Don’t let this come between us—I really didn’t mean to forget, but I got so caught up at work. Please forgive me.”

He stares up at her with puppy dog eyes. Her stance also softens a bit and she heaves a sigh. She crosses her arms over her chest.

“I remember this,” Toni says to Maude, “She’s about to give him a lecture like my mother used to give me. He had forgotten to clean his house and I hated the way it looked. He was so lazy. He never did anything, except go to his job.”

“Maybe his job was hard,” Maude replies.

“Yeah… I guess it took a lot out of him, but I just couldn’t be with someone who couldn’t keep up with their house. I mean, what does it say about him in the long run?”

“You really have a high bar set don’t you?” Maude asks.

Toni turns to gape at her, surprised.

“No! Having a clean house is not a high standard!”

“But he was exhausted from his job. Look at the circles under his eyes.”

Toni turns back to gaze at him. He does, indeed, look exhausted. She had never noticed that when they were together. She remembers always being mad at him instead. That’s why she ended the relationship. Now she can see that perhaps she had been too demanding of his cleaning habits and not caring enough about the person before her. He was a kind man though and often bought her flowers and candies, but he wasn’t around much, which had also put a strain on their relationship. He worked two jobs just to make ends meet and he was always too tired to go out when they did have time together. Toni suddenly realizes that she had only cared about her own needs at the time, not his. It was obvious to her now that he just needed someone to understand and to be there for him when he did have down time.

And she hadn’t.

Instead she had reprimanded him and nagged him about his “bad” habits.

She watches as her younger self now hugs the man. His shoulders sag, relieved that the fight is over. Toni sees the exhaustion in the lines on his otherwise young face. He must have just gotten home from work when young Toni attacked.

“Why am I such a bitch?” she asks Maude.

“Oh honey,” Maude comes up behind her and grabs her hand, “You were raised this way. You’re not a bitch per se… You just didn’t know any different. You still don’t.”

Toni looks back at Maude with tears in her eyes.

“Help me,” she whispers.

“That’s what I’m doing dear.”

Why I Sometimes Hate Computers

Normally I am a big fan of computers. I grew up using them, I’m pretty savvy at using them and I even have a blog! (Who knew!?) Frequently my older co-worker uses me as his tech person and I can typically fix my own issues without calling on a tech. Plus, when a tech does fix my stuff, I watch. Then in the future, I try to employ what they did so I don’t have to call them again. Usually, it works.

So when I decided to sign up for Audible.com and download a few audio books, I thought it wouldn’t be any issue. Boy, was I wrong.

Saturday morning rolled around and my hubby was off to “work the lawn” with the promise of Spring (finally!) so I had the whole morning to myself to accomplish a whole slew of things. I was amped. One thing on my list was to select an audio book (harder than I had anticipated) and download it. I wanted to be sure I could burn it to a CD and be able to listen to it on multiple platforms. Easy peasy right?

Wrong.

Almost an hour later (after picking the actual book) I was still trying to make it work. Not only do you go through the arduous task of picking the best books (seriously, make sure you listen to a sample of each book. A book you think you might like to read is not the same as a book read to you. Depending on who is reading it makes all  the difference. Listen to the sample!), but you also need to download, like, two programs just to listen to the damn thing.

I wanted to burn a CD. So I had to download the Audible Manager. And Itunes. I… tunes. I’m a PC gal, baby. PC all the way. Do you know what it took for me to download an Apple product? Do you? I don’t think you do. That almost was the straw that broke this PC girls back. But I did it. To get my measly free audio book and one cheap one that I thought looked good.

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PC all the way, baby.

But after an hour I was beginning to wonder if I would ever listen to either of these books. I-tunes took forever to load. Audible Manager was a nightmare. It froze up on me twice – once during the download and once while trying to download the book (I went to take a shower and it was still downloading… my first clue.) And then, I seemed to only need the I-tunes in the end anyway.

The I-tunes tried to upload all the music on my computer first and I was able to stop it. I didn’t want the stupid program to play my music after all, I just wanted it for this dumb book! But I could find no button that led to burning a CD. I even did a Google search to no avail.

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There are my two books on Audible… if only I could actually listen to them.

I finally gave in and contacted the Audible tech through online chat. My last resort.

But guess what? Ernesto took about five minutes to get me to CD burning status.

Five. Minutes.

Why do we resist help? Why do we waste time, running in circles, trying to find our own way? Inevitably someone else has done it before and can offer help – why don’t we accept it. Ernesto received a boatload of praise (after he first had a boatload of attitude. Sorry Ernesto.)

In order to let happiness filter more into our lives here is the lesson: Listen to the sample! Get advice from others when you can and listen to what it sounds like. It’s worth it for your sanity in the end.

Why Writing Conferences Are Awesome

Last week our writer’s group got together to start planning our conference for this year. I’m relatively new to the group – about 3 years in – but apparently we’ve done these conferences in the past. It fell off for awhile and then last year we started it up again. There were some kinks to be sure, but we had about 60 people attend our “first” year and everyone expressed great thanks for the job well done. It spurred us to do it again this year.

Planning a conference – even a one day like we have – is no easy feat. It’s over 6 months away, but so much has to be planned, decided on and brainstormed that starting this early is key.

One thing I admire about our group is that we pull together and everyone helps out. Even our husbands & wives get in on the act. We have a couple of accountants and, this year, one engineering spouse. To be honest, they don’t know what to make of most of us writers, but they do a fine job helping out and being good helpmates for us all. What a blessing they are. Last year my husband and another husband worked the bookstore, sound and helped with lunch. Another members wife helped make our keynote speaker feel at home and became his “bodyguard” for the day. All so their spouses could try and actually enjoy the conference and help make the conference a success.

WBCW Shoulder Bag

Another aspect I love about conferences is that no matter what your particular brand of writing is; romance, speculative fiction, personal experience, devotionals or just blogging; you get exposed to a lot of other genres. Last year we had a lot of spec fic (or science fiction-esque) people and it spurred me, the blog-writing-personal-experience-chick, to break out of my box and try it. I’ve experimented on Fridays, as many of you know, with a bit of a paranormal type story. And it’s gotten some good feedback. I thank conferences for the push that it took to put that out there.

Finally, the aspect that I love the most is meeting all sorts of new people. Because our particular group is a Christian group it is a very loving and supportive group as well. We pray for one another, share in each other’s heartaches and successes, and give each other boosts when we need them. I’ve connected to many on Facebook too and, after knowing them in person just one day, I can touch base with them all the time and receive great feedback on my writing. They are like family almost.

It’s a network of people all helping each other. And it started at a one day conference.

>>>>>TWEET TO SHARE HOW WRITING CONFERENCES CAN EXPAND YOUR FAN BASE<<<<<<

If you’re interested in writing and want to check us out you can follow our group on Facebook here or check out our website here. Info on our October conference will be there soon. We hope you can join us!

Flash Fiction Friday – “No One Loves Anyone”

Toni shields her eyes from a bright light. Slowly it fades away and she lowers her hands. What she sees astonishes her.

“Are you okay dear?”

Toni jumps at the sound of Mrs. Wiggin’s voice. She hadn’t realized she was still beside her.

“I think so. Where are we, Mrs. Wiggins?” Toni asks.

“Well Toni, we’ve gone back in time,” Mrs. Wiggins answers, “And you might as well call me Maude. We’re going to be here awhile.”

“Where is here?” Toni asks.

Here is your past. I brought you back to see several ways you’ve made mistakes in the past. I’m hoping it will enable you to move forward in the future. You know, like A Christmas Carol.”

“Wow. Am I really as bad as Scrooge?”

“No… but you are definitely acting like no one cares. He didn’t think anyone cared. After he lost his partner, he hardened his heart. He didn’t let other people in to love him. You’ve done that too.”

Maude squeezes Toni’s hand reassuringly and smiles. Toni noticed that Maude (it sounded weird calling her that) was now dressed in more “traditional” clothes, but they seemed to be a bit dated.

“What year is this?” Toni asked staring at Maude’s bellbottomed pants and flower-print peasant top.

“1977.”

Toni realizes she is wearing similar clothes.

“Well… I was only 4 then,” she says, picking fuzzes off her own brown pants, “How could I have even made decisions?”

“It wasn’t your own decisions dear. But the decisions of those around us affect who we are; it teaches us how to behave – right or wrong. So… we’re here to see your mother and father.”

Toni’s knees almost buckle, but Maude holds tight to her hand and holds her up with her other arm. Toni has not seen her mother since she died two years ago. She misses her badly, but she had been difficult to live with. Her mother had always been depressed. She often accused Toni’s father of not loving her, and Toni had felt bad for her. Her parent’s relationship had always been tortured, but Toni had always felt loved.

Staring into what she realized was her parents’ kitchen; she was startled to see her father sitting at the table. He, too, had died several years ago, but here he looked younger, stronger.

“Can he see me?” she asks Maude.

“No.”

Toni let go of Maude’s hand and moves closer. His head is in his hands. He appears to be sobbing and then she hears mumbling.

“I can’t keep doing this. Oh God, please help us.”

“What is he talking about?” Toni asks, looking to Maude with concern on her face.

“You’ll see.”

Just then her mother walks into the room with little Toni in tow. It looks like they too have been crying, except her mother looks very angry as well.

“Bill, I will not go through this anymore. Toni and I deserve better. We deserve someone who loves us. We’re leaving,” her mother states and turns for the door.

Toni’s father leaps out of the chair and catches her mother by the arm.

“No! Please don’t go. You know I love both of you. How could you even think that I didn’t?” he pleads.

Toni’s mother yanks her arm from his grasp.

“You should have thought of that before you went out with the boys!” she spits into his face, then turns and leaves the room. The kitchen door swings wildly while Bill stands there, his hand still reaching forward as if to plead with her, giant tears rolling down his face.

Toni’s hand reaches out to touch him, but then she yanks it back and covers her mouth with it instead. She turns to Maude. Toni raises her eyebrows and tries to blink back her own giant tears.

“I don’t remember that,” she says through her fingers, shaking her head slightly.

“Thank God,” Maude replies, “She will come back in a few hours. But not before your father’s heart has been completely broken thinking that he had lost his wife and child over a simple men’s night out. You see, Toni, he loved you so much. He loved your mother so much. But she didn’t see that. Any small indiscretion or step he made, she jumped on and accused him of not loving her. It was like walking on eggshells. He never knew what was going to set her off. This isn’t the first time she left, or the last.”

Toni remembers other times she’d left, dragging little Toni with her each time. Hours spent in the car, driving towards nowhere, while her mother complained endlessly about how worthless her father was. Toni had grown to hate him over time, believing everything her mother had said. They had always ended up back home though. Mother hadn’t enough funds to go too far. And her father had always hugged them and welcomed them back.

She hadn’t remembered that part before now.

She turns back to her father, who has sunk to the floor. He is continuing to sob there, like a lost puppy without a friend. Her heart aches for him now, seeing him as he really is: hurt. Her mind screams hatred for her mother. How could she have treated him this way? Wasn’t it obvious he loved her? Why would she do this?

Then realization hits her.

“Oh my God,” she says, turning back to Maude, “I do that to Lou don’t I?”

“Yes,” Maude replies, stepping forward to once again take Toni’s hand, “But that’s why we’re here: to change all that.”