Friday, December 23, 2011

A Gift For YOU

My Christmas gift to you:

Until December 31st, get my e-book, "A Gathering of Light"
FREE at smashwords.

Click here for your free copy.

You can get it in a version to read on your Kindle, Nook, Ipad, other e-reader or just on your computer.

Merry Christmas, all!

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Quiet Place

I don't exactly remember when I found my quiet place. It may have been when I was very small, and my older brothers and sister were too big to play with me. It may have been when I learned to read and could be transported anywhere...just by opening a book.

Maybe I found it when I first started forming my own ideas about religion. Or the first time a boyfriend broke up with me. Did I find it when my children were small and my patience was tested every day? Or when they were older and my desire to solve things for them vied with their need to make their own mistakes?

It could be that I found that quiet place when my father died. Or I may have found it when my children were born. Maybe I found it one of the times when I made a big mistake and had to face the fact that I am not perfect, even though I keep expecting me to be.

Whenever it was that I found it for the first time, I always seem to be able to return to it when I need to. When the demands of others press in on me like that giant trash compactor in "Star Wars" I can retreat to my quiet place. When my own fears (of which there is a rich abundance) crowd me I can close that comforting door on them and go back to my quiet place. When insomnia is turning my brain to pudding, I wrap my quiet place around me like a warm and cozy blanket.

It's my own imagination.

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ

Thursday, November 17, 2011

NaNoWriMo Halfway

We are just over the halfway point in the insanity that is the NaNoWriMo challenge. I feel like I'm doing pretty well, being at just over 33,000 words at this point.  The writing is going well. My Sweet Hubs is wonderfully supportive, assuaging my guilt about not paying attention to anyone except my imagination and my qwerty keyboard.

I have a confession to make. I am a pantser. I know that this is not the way a professional writes a novel, but I can't help it. It works for me. I figure out who my main characters are, the time and place for the storyline to evolve, and I put my hands on the home row. There may or may not be a general idea of where a story is going. For my NaNo project, I had a myriad of ideas, but settled on nothing. I just sat down and started writing.

For me, writing this is a lot like playing Barbies when I was a child. I didn't have a whole life figured out for them. I just put Barbie and Ken together and imagined what they would do. And what they would do next, and so on. Except, here I am not limited to how many dolls my parents could afford. I can put my dolls anywhere in the world and make them anything I want them to be. (What was that one episode of the Twilight Zone where the people find out that they are really just the playthings of some enormous child?)

Maybe I shouldn't admit that I'm a pantser. I imagine there are some readers out there who will say that they can tell I'm a pantser by my writing. Maybe they can, but I don't think so. I certainly hope not! The evolution of a story is not just a random thing for me. I guide it, I research detail I need as I go along, or else I write down questions for future research and revision. Where would a young man in the Bitterroot Valley go to enlist in the army in 1861? Writing takes research. Or maybe, revising takes research.

Don't think that this means I just dash off whatever comes to me and that's all there is to it. My first draft is pretty much pure writing-by-the-seat-of-my-pants. Then comes the work of revision, revision, revision.

With that in mind,  I'm going to share a small excerpt from "A Light In The Mountains", my NaNo project.
If you'd like to see the first chapter, click here.

June, 1861

     It was three more weeks before Genesis Nash pulled up his courage and spoke to his father about going off to war. Exodus waited to see what would happen before he considered it further.
    Abram was pitching hay to the milk cow when Genesis came to him. “Pop,” he began. “Um. Uh. Did you know that George Yeager and Amos McNeeley both went off to join the war?
    Abram put the pitchfork aside, leaned against the stall and took a deep breath. “And.?”
    “And... They’re both my age. Well, Amos is younger.”
    “And they’re going off to fight the Rebels.”
    “And I’m thinking about going, too.” Genesis hurried to continue before Abram could say anything. “I know you both think I’m too young. But I’m almost old enough and they won’t ask anyway. I’ve heard they don’t ask.”
    “Why do you want to fight the Rebels?” Abram asked.
    “Well. They shouldn’t be trying to break up the union this way. And they shouldn’t have fired on Fort Sumter.” Genesis’ answer lacked fire and he knew it. “Pop. If I don’t go off and see this, I might never get another chance. It will be the adventure I’ll remember all of my life. I’m a man now. I’ve got to go and join.”
    “What can I tell you, then, son? It won’t be an adventure. Oh, it will seem like one at first, and then when you get in your first fight and have to look a man in the face and kill him, the adventure will be gone and you’ll know that it’s hell on earth to war.”
    “But they’re Rebs! They’re the enemy! What’s so bad about killing an enemy?”
    “That’s what a young man thinks: that it’s easy to kill an enemy. But when you look right at him, and you see a face not unlike your own, and he speaks your language and maybe his father went to school with yours… and when you kill him and see the life evaporate from his eyes and you know you did it. Then you will know." Abram said, then continued.
   “I know you don’t believe me now. That’s alright. It’s just important for you to hear me so that you will remember my words on that future day when you will need them. Call him ‘enemy’ now, son, but remember always that he is a man. He is someone’s son, brother, husband… and to him you are the ‘enemy’. Never forget that whatever you are fighting over, he is still a man, just like you.”
    Now Genesis sat down and took a moment to collect his thoughts. “Did you kill anyone in the Mexican War, Pop?”
    “I did, and I will never forget it. I doubt I’ll ever get over it, either. He couldn’t have been more than 16. The way his eyes changed when he died…the light went out behind them, and he was gone. And it was me that killed him.” Abram’s voice trailed away.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dialogue Me

"I think you really have something here." She said, looking at the rough draft on the computer screen.
"Are you sure? It seems to be....missing.....something." She replied.

She scrolled down the pages, looking at how much was written. "Will you finish in time to complete the challenge?" She asked.

Big sigh: "I don't know. I hope so. There are just so many other things that call for my attention! I seem to the only person in the house who knows what dish soap is, or how to turn on the stove."

She smiled, nodding. "I know what you mean. Sometimes you have to choose your priorities, though. The dishes will still be there tomorrow. There's always a bowl of cereal, if they're that hungry. But YOU only have until the end of the month to get 50,000 words down. And I know you. You want them to be good words."

She patted herself across the face and scolded, "Stop talking to yourself, damn it! Start writing!"

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ

Friday, November 4, 2011

Chapter 1: A Light In The Mountains

Outside of Hellgate Trading Post,
Idaho Territory, May 1861

Abram Nash was rousted from his sleep by the dog tugging on his hand. She had his hand firmly, but gently, in her mouth and was trying to pull him out of bed.
“Peaches, what is it?” Abram said in a sleepy whisper. The dog pulled until Abram’s feet were on the floor. She waited in the hall until he slipped his boots on and followed her. Peaches trotted to kitchen door and looked back.
“Can’t you wait ‘til sunup like the rest of us?” He grumbled, thinking the collie-mix dog just needed to do her business. Abram opened the door and turned to go back to bed, but Peaches darted back and grabbed his hand again.
“What? Girl, are you smelling things again, or what?” But Abram followed Peaches, anyway, in spite of his grumbling. The whinny from the barn startled the sleep from his brain and Abram Nash figured out what his dog was trying to tell him.
The buckskin mare was having her foal. She was confined to her stall in the barn and the Nash family was keeping a close eye on her. This was her first foal and she was Geneva Nash’s favorite mare. Abram was anxious to see this foal, with a buckskin dam and palomino sire, it was sure to be handsome. It wouldn’t matter. Geneva would love it no matter what it looked like.
Abram whispered in his sleeping wife’s ear, “Geneva. It’s foaling time. Gen. Genny. Wake up Gen. We have work to do.”
He brushed the caramel strands from her face and waited for her green eyes to open. Geneva was a ranch wife and woke early every day with never a complaint; she worked cheerfully until the day’s chores were done. But when she slept, she slept like a dead thing. Hard, quiet and damn near impossible to rouse.
At last, she rolled to her back and opened her eyes.
“Wake up Mrs. Nash. There’s going to be a new mouth to feed this day.” Abram said.
“Is Cupcake having her foal?” Geneva was awake and on her feet in the same breath.
Abram smiled at his impulsive wife, running out to the barn in her bare feet and nightgown. Thirty-six years old and she still had the exuberance of a girl. The moonlight shining through her nightgown showed still had the slim, supple build of a girl, too, except for the softness of her belly, so newly after childbirth.
The early May morning was chilly, and within just a few minutes, Geneva was back inside to start the coffee and get dressed. First foals, like first babies, generally took a while.
When the bacon was fried and biscuits ready to bake, Geneva Nash rang the bell, waking her brood and starting the day. One by one, their sleepy faces appeared around the kitchen table. Daughter Patience helped Geneva get breakfast on the table and the oldest sons, Genesis and Exodus milked the two dairy cows before it was time to eat.
It was Leviticus’ job to fill the wood bins, and Deuteronomy had to bring in enough water to fill the reservoir on the wood stove, plus two buckets besides. On wash day, he had to fill the laundry tub, too.
Judge Nash was ten years old, and he helped Abram feed the stock. Temperance made the beds and Faith, Hope and Charity, ages 7, 6 and 5 respectively, fed the poultry and gathered the morning eggs. Joshua and Samuel, only 3 and 1, sat in their high chairs attended by Patience, while Geneva put the newborn twins Isaiah and Ezra to breast.
Morning in the Nash family was a whirlwind.

“I heard that George Yeager joined up to fight the Rebs.” Genesis Nash told his brother Exodus. Their milking chores gave them a little time for confidential talk.
“But George ain’t old enough to join. He’s only seventeen.” Exodus said.
“He told them he was eighteen, and nobody checked to make sure.”
“So? What are you saying?” Exodus knew it wasn’t just conversation.
“If he can get away with it, I can, too. I look older’n seventeen, don’t I? I know I look older than George. What you think Pop would do if I lied about my age and joined up?” Genesis asked.
Exodus thought a while. What would Pop do? “I don’t know what he’d do, brother. He might be mad, but then, he might understand, too. If I was you, I’d be more worried about what Momma would do.”
Genesis sat up on his milking stool and pictured what his Momma might do. She was only about five feet tall and maybe a hundred pounds, but the thought of crossing her gave him a sick feeling in the pit of his gut. The streaks of red in her caramel hair were a comment on her personality. Most of the time she was cool headed and warm hearted. But get crossways of her, and the red showed itself.
Thinking back over his seventeen years of life, Genesis couldn’t remember her ever actually doing anything in particular when that crimson fury showed up behind her green eyes. It was just that the feeling of having Momma displeased with you was so uncomfortable. She didn’t say anything, or whup up on you like some Mommas did. She wasn’t mean when she was mad. That just made it all the worse. She was always so patient and cheerful, that when she ever did get mad, you took notice. To have been the one who made her mad made you feel like a real snake. Momma didn’t have to do anything about it. You beat yourself up, feeling terrible that you could be so bad that you made Momma unhappy.
Now, Pop: he was different. Genesis could picture the way Pop’s black eyebrows came together in a frown, and how his almost-black eyes snapped with anger. He might use the bible to teach you the lesson he wanted you to learn. He might show you the verse that told you what was wrong with what you did. He might make you copy down that verse many times, depending on your transgression. You might earn yourself a long lecture that sounded and felt a lot like a sermon. Or he might just make you go out to the creek bottom and cut a switch from the willow tree. You could never tell with Pop.
“What about you? You’re sixteen. Ain’t you tempted to go join up and fight them Rebs?” Genesis asked.
“I don’t know. I’ve thought about. But it such a hard decision. I’d have to lie, and I hate to lie. Pop needs us both here. With all the little ones, he needs us bigger ones to work. Anyway, I bet that fight will be over by the time we can get all the way from the territory here to South Carolina. But then, we might never have the chance to have such an adventure again. We’d see places we might not ever see otherwise, and meet people from all over. Plus, those Rebels, firing on Fort Sumter: it makes me mad. It’d be like slapping Pop. You just don’t do that. They need to be punished, that’s sure. But I don’t know about us being the ones to do it. We’re just ranchers. What do we know about fighting wars?”
Temperance bounced her little blond pigtails into the barn and told the boys that breakfast was almost ready. At nine years old, she was already growing into a beauty and was so sweet that even her big brothers never picked on her. She didn’t flounce or priss around, but was such an angel child that no one could ever be cross with her.
“Mommy says the biscuits are brown and coffee is hot. Are you done with the milking, yet?” Temperance asked.
“This old cow is just about played out.” Genesis said. “We’ll need to get her freshened before long. Here, walk on this side of me, little cookie. Sometimes that cow kicks and her big foot would kick a little nubbin like you into next week.”
Temperance took his hand and bobbed along beside him like a kite on a string. Walking with her big brother was one of her favorite things in life.
The rest of the family was already at the table when the oldest two and Temperance walked in.  She slid into her chair, Genesis and Exodus plunked the milk buckets down and sat, too.
“We’ll bow our heads”, Started Abram. “Heavenly Father, King of the Universe, we thank Thee for the food on our table, the health in our bodies and the strength of our family. Forgive us our sins and make us worthy of Thy bounty. Amen.” The morning prayer was usually short and to the point with Abram Nash. He was homesteading a big spread and had a lot to do every day. God would understand.
“I think we’ll have a new foal around her by nightfall, youngsters.” Abram told his brood, while he slid four eggs from the platter onto his plate. Ten of his fourteen children were old enough to understand what that meant. The girls all squealed with joy, provoking a quick hush from their father.
“Piglets squeal, not girls.” He said.
They ducked their heads, but were still smiling, because Pop was smiling, too. The clinking of forks on plates and blowing on hot coffee replaced the chatter and giggling, until newborn Isaiah howled. He wasn’t quite full when the biscuits were done, but had to be put in his crib for a moment, anyway. He was not a tolerant baby. By the time Geneva could put him to breast, he was purple mad and hiccupping in his howls.
“Oh, are we all going to have trouble with this one, family.” Geneva smiled. “He is going to be the one to punch sweet Patience here in the nose, when he gets bigger.”
“And he’ll spit in Faith’s eye.” Patience said. She looked at Faith like she was passing the ball to her in a game.
“And he’ll pinch Deuteronomy on the arm!” Faith said, and looked at him to give him his turn.
“He’ll twist Judge’s ear!” Deuteronomy said.
“He’ll slap Genesis upside the head” Judge took his turn at the game.
“He’ll bite Hope’s finger!” Genesis said.
“He’ll pull Charity’s pigtail!” Hope said.
“And he’ll give Temperance a horse-bite!” Hope said, but she lisped it ‘Tempwance’.
“He’ll trip Exodus and make him fall down!” Temperance said.
“He’ll poke Leviticus in the eye!” Exodus said.
“And then what will he do?” Leviticus asked. “He’ll take little Joshua here and squeeze him until he sneezes all over Samuel, and Samuel will only have Ezra left to pick on.” Leviticus took Ezra out of his crib and cradled his baby brother in his arm. “And nobody could ever pick on Ezra because he is so handsome”
Geneva and Abram looked across the table at each other and smiled.
“I never heard such a bunch of silly children in my life.” Abram scolded, though he wasn’t really mad. “Now eat your breakfast and get to your chores. And I don’t want to see you all hanging around Cupcake’s stall and making her nervous, either. She has a big day ahead of her and it will just be harder on her if you make her nervous. You hear?
“Yes, sir.”  Even 3-year-old Joshua said it in unison with the rest. Game time was over, and Pop was serious.

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ


I took the plunge. I'm trying it. Close my eyes, hold my breath and jump into the deep end. Which is an especially appropriate metaphor because I don't know how to swim. Honest. I don't.

Do you know about NaNoWriMo? It's a competition with yourself. The National Novel Writing Month, to write almost 1700 words every day for the month of November. At the end, if I do it, I will have my sequel.

So until December 1st, my dear ones, don't expect to see a lot of new posts. I have a deadline!

Would you like to read my first chapter? I'll post it next.

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Failure IS An Option!

This week, we’ve asked you to share with us a special recipe. But, we’ve asked you to do more than just list out ingredients.
We challenged you to take us back…to take us into your memory, in 500 words or less

You'll never want to eat at my house again after I tell you this story.

I've been cooking with game meat for a quarter of a century, now. It's lean. It's healthy. In our area, it's as organic as anything ever was. It's LEAN. So one year, we added some beef fat to the grind when we made hamburger meat. That was the start of my undoing.

I found a recipe for Cornbread-Tamale Pie: a lovely casserole using ground meat. With hundreds of pounds of ground meat in my freezer, every new recipe was a treasure. It called for tomatoes, green chilies, onions, corn, spices and two whole pounds of ground meat! A winner!

I sauteed the onions. Then I added the meat and browned everything. Added the rest of the ingredients....what I didn't do was drain the meat. Yeah. Silly me.

Then I discovered I did not have enough yellow cornmeal. I did have a little bit of blue cornmeal, though.
Everything I knew about the color wheel left me, because I mixed the two together.

It smelled good. It was probably safe to eat. But when I pulled that dish out of the oven, it looked exactly like a bowl of greenish dog puke.

The undrained fat had bubbled up through the tomatoes and floated the corn to the edges. The greenish "cornbread" topping had greasy holes punctuating it, with tomato juice perking through like some weird geological feature at Yellowstone.

We stood as a family and looked at the abomination of a casserole, silent and frowning. Then we had Lucky Charms for dinner.

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ

Friday, October 14, 2011

Where Will The Flowers Go?

This week we asked you to write a piece – fiction or creative non-fiction – in which a tattoo figures prominently.
We wanted you to explore the many facets of tattoos: why someone would get them, what the meaning was, what the tattoo says about them. Word limit was 300

I stood in line at the grocery store and tried not to stare at the young woman in line ahead of me. Her blonde hair was dyed black and red at the tips, and was gelled up into a dangerous-looking row of mohawk spikes. A pack of cigarattes peeped out of the black leather bra, which was also peeping out. She was wearing "zombie leggings" and black leather biker boots.

Her groceries inched down the conveyor belt. Cigarettes. Cheez-whiz. Petron Silver. Tortilla chips. A bag of M&Ms. And an incongruous bouquet of pink roses.

She pulled her wallet from her back pocket, showing a flash of white wrist, with a tattoo of a rosebud on it. It was a pink rosebud, angel wings on each side, and the words, "Momma's Angel". As she reached out to hand the checker her club card, I saw the tattoo on her ring finger. It looked like a prison tat. A skull and cross-bones.

She took the divider bar from the slot and plopped it down behind her groceries and glanced back at me. She smiled a flashing, brilliant white smile that reached up to illuminate her bright blue eyes. I smiled back.

Thanks for the comments! I tried switching the last two paragraphs and it does seem better. Thank you!
(I am working on polishing my descriptive voice regarding people. I want to be better at showing my reader a true depiction of characters, in a way that will give answers and still inspire questions. This is one of my attempts.)

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Opening Day

Stephen King said, “The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.”
This week we asked you to write a memoir post inspired by that statement – in 300 words or less.

It happens every time. I plan. I worry. I walk to get ready.

I get out my backpack, my camouflage clothes and my 30.06 rifle.

Sleep eludes me that Thursday night, because opening day is Friday.

We rise early, Sweet Hubs and I. We want to be in our spot before sunrise.

My heart rises higher and higher in my chest until it feels like it beats at the back of my tongue, hard enough to make me gag.

The sky pinks up. The sun inches higher, at last showing its pop of yellow-orange above the horizon and turning the hills purple.

And there he is. A bull elk. The sun gleams on his pale coat. His antlers, polished brown with ivory tips, crown his magnificent head. 750 pounds of God's stunning handiwork. Several hundred pounds of potential meat for the freezer.

I lift my gun to my shoulder and look through the scope. I will my heart to slow. Deep breath. Find the "boiler room" and focus the crosshairs there. Calm down. Squeeze the trigger. (This is the part where I wince because my gun kicks like a mule and I just got knocked back into last week.)

I take a moment to thank God...and to thank the elk. Then the work begins.

My family is a hunting family. It's how we eat. We have raised our own chickens and beef, but we predominantly eat game meat. Arizona has Coues' Whitetailed deer, mule deer, elk, turkey, bison, Desert Bighorn and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, antelope, javelina and black bear. I figure I have cooked close to 6,000 meals out of game meat.
Just for fun, visit 

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ

Friday, October 7, 2011

Turkey Creek

This week we asked you to take us somewhere. Where was up to you -fiction or creative nonfiction- but we asked you to use your words to paint the setting as vividly as possible. In 200 words.

    Just off of Aravaipa in south-central Arizona is a cool, fragrant canyon. It's a gash in the desert, shaded from the harsh reality of the arid, rocky, cactus-ridden challenge above. Sheer rock walls angle over the canyon floor. Cottonwood and Sycamore trees filter the sunlight. In the autumn, those trees drop colorful, oval leaves and turn the blue granite boulders into mosaics of color.
    A lazy creek wanders from one side of the canyon wall to the other, ambling back and forth like a child chasing a butterfly. Coatis run amok in the canyon, a gang of noisy delinquents. I don't speak Coati, but if I did, I bet I'd be shocked at the names they call each other. Canyon Wrens stay above the fray and let their liquid songs fill the canyon. Dainty prints of whitetailed deer in the mud tell me that the little gray ghosts stopped to drink, before darting back up to the desert hills above. Black bears amble back and forth between canyon and desert, eating whatever looks good on nature's salad bar.
     It's a quiet place, ancient and delicate. If you listen carefully, you can hear the echoes of the ones who walked here before: Hohokams, Mogollons, Saladoans, settlers and ranchers and Basque sheep herders. The sounds of the bawling cattle, bleating sheep and even the sounds of a massacre have faded away to a whisper....a whisper of a road less traveled.

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What is it?

Your memoir prompt this week comes from Assistant Editor Galit.

Writing short posts is an excellent way to flex your word choice muscles. Which word is the most clear? Poignant? Direct?
This week I want you to conjure something.
An object, a person, a feeling, a color, a season- whatever you like.
But don’t tell me what it is, conjure it.

Soft, velvety smoothness against my bare skin.
A warm smell of newness and earthiness, inexplicably intermingled.
Hard and perfectly rounded, fuzzy and fragile in my right hand,
A firm and well-padded little bump in my left hand, he is light
And yet this is the heaviest responsibility I have ever held.
A dark fringe lying soft against his cheek as he sleeps,
A fleeting smile across his rosebud lips and then a crooked, sideways yawn.
My heart opens wide like a flower in bloom,
Bursting with a new love.

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ

Friday, September 16, 2011

April 20, 1994

Choose a moment from your personal history and mine it for sensory detail. Describe it to us in rich, evocative details. Let us breath the air, hear the heartbeat, the songs, feel the fabric and the touch of that moment.

The room was quiet. Only his halting breaths and the distant, low voices at the nurse's station. The blinds were closed and the midday light was a soft, creamy glow at the window.

His outline seemed so small, almost insignificant, beneath the white sheet: a mere shadow of the man he once was. That sharp, almost gasping breathing punctuated the air. I sat by his side and held his hand, just in case he knew enough to know someone was with him. His fingertips were still rough from his years at the jeweler's bench. Diaphonous, parchment-thin skin, prickled with black hair covered the back of his hand. It was so unlike the powerful, capable, hard-working hand I had always known.

Those halting breaths were bitter, adding to the smell of disinfectant and dying in the air. I thought of other days. The smells of campfires, jeweler's rouge, family dinners, sawdust, trout streams and Old Spice. I thought of a little boy who would be losing his cherished grandfather that day: a little boy who was, at that very moment, sharing his dinosaur birthday cake with his kindergarten class. How would I explain this?

A sudden, ragged, stuttered intake of air. A sharp exhale. The breathing stopped. And my father was gone.

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ

Orange Crush

Your assignment this week was to write a piece where you explore the first broken heart for your character – or for you.

Janna was picked for the cheerleading squad. She was only a freshman, but she'd been picked. Her heart pounded with joy and excitement as she put on her blue sweater and orange skirt, ready to cheer at her first football game. She held her pom-poms in front of her and looked at her reflection in the mirror. Her red hair was pulled back in a smooth ponytail. Her mascara was perfect. That was all Mom would let her wear: mascara. It had to be perfect. It was all she had to work with.

The bus ride to the game took 90 minutes. The football players and cheerleaders rode together. Janna sat toward the back. Every once in a while, the star quarterback, Jeremy, would turn around in his seat and smile at her. It made her feel like she could take flight, that the hottest boy in school was smiling at her. At her. At HER!

Then he got up from his seat and started walking toward the back. Janna's breath came faster. He looked down at her, she scooted over, and QB Jeremy The Hottest Boy In School, a senior, sat down. The blood pumped through her head so quickly that she could barely hear him. I noticed you before. Now you're on the cheer team, we can see each other more. Do you have a boyfriend? Is that what he said? Was he talking to her? She tried not to show him the colossal crush that she'd been carrying around for him all year.

Janna thought if the bus rolled over in a fiery crash right that second, she'd die happy. She was sitting next to QB Jeremy The Hottest Boy In School and he was talking to her like he liked her. He was looking into her pale blue eyes and .... and.... looking!

He leaned toward her. Told her she smelled good. He slipped his arm around her. And then he kissed her. He stroked her thigh and, accidentally it seemed, brushed her breast when he put his hand up on her shoulder. Janna gasped with surprise and thrilling excitement. When he tried to really get a feel, she pulled his hand away but kissed him harder.

The bus turned the corner into the high school parking lot. QB Jeremy The Hottest Boy In School darted away and everyone filed off the bus. Janna waited, trying to compose herself. She was the last one off the bus.

A group of cheerleaders and football players stood off to one side and didn't look at Janna. The others stood together and were laughing. Janna caught Jeremy's eye and beamed a smile at him. They laughed harder. Some of them imitated her lovesick smile and they laughed some more.

Hot tears welled up in her pale blue eyes and her face flamed red as the realization hit her.

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Back In The Saddle

For this week’s prompt, we want you to recall those early memories of being online.
But there are two catches:
Please do not use the phrase “I remember…”
Also? No laundry lists. Try to focus on one small memory and share that with us. Tell us how it impacted your life and what it meant for you
I had been a stay-at-home Mom for 10 years. The youngest was enrolled in school, the budget was tight and I was going to the insurance agency to sign papers on a new policy, one that would save us some money. I walked out with new insurance and a job.

My sister gave me a bag full of hand-me-downs, because I didn't have any office clothes from the current century, or the money to revamp my wardrobe.

While I was at home teaching colors, manners, shapes, potties and ABCs, somebody invented the fax machine. The desktop computer had become a fixture in every office. Nobody was using mimeographs to make copies anymore. Carbon paper was a dinosaur. And I was someone who had learned how type (remember touch-typing?) on a manual typewriter. Oh. My. Gawd.

I sat down and looked at this thing on my new desk. Oh, sure, I knew what a computer was. I didn't own one. I pushed the power button. I waited. I clicked on that big lower-case e with Saturn's belt around it. I knew that my job required me to tackle this unknown territory. The home page was the insurance company's site. I clicked on "agent log-in".

Everything I had learned in school about research was obsolete. Everything I thought I knew about what it takes to have other people read your words was a moot point. No need for a thesaurus, a dictionary, a translation dictionary OR a style guide. Everything I thought about privacy was proven wrong.

I was online.

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Denim Doubts

Jeans. They can evoke so much emotion in us: the hot jeans we wear on a date, the skinny jeans we can finally fit into, mom jeans we vow never to wear, the comfy jeans we’ll never throw out.
The assignment this week is to write a piece – fiction or creative non-fiction – in which jeans play a prominent role. You can even write an ode if you’re so inclined.
Word limit is 600

Wrangler came out with some new style of jeans that was supposed to give Janelle a J-Lo butt. She threw them across the footboard of her bed and tried not to think about it.

What's wrong with me? She thought. Shopping for clothes always gave her that feeling of frustration and despair.

Diets. Exercise. Shopping. Advertisements. Music videos. It seemed like every force on earth was lining up together to make her feel like a failure. The tears spilled out, and a little profanity along with them. Why was this so hard?

The phone rang. It was Suzanne, Janelle's best friend. How did she always know when to call?

"What's up, chickie pooh?" Suzanne was always cheerful.

"Not much. I just got back from the mall." Janelle's voice was flat.

"Oh. Well. I know how you feel about that. I bought a bottle of really nice Malbec. Can I come over? I have an idea." Suzane said.

"Sure. I'll make popcorn and we can talk."

An hour later, Suzanne revealed her idea. Janelle loved the idea, they spent the rest of the evening sketching out a plan for how to make the idea happen.

In only 18 months, Annie-Elle Jeans rolled into the stores. Real women's jeans. For women with real bodies. With pockets that could actually hold something, and zippers long enough that no one had to do the crawl to get into their jeans. Stylish, not blingy, nobody's name emblazoned across the ass. They didn't show your butt crack to the world, didn't ride up into your lady bits, the waist band was a little stretchy without looking like elastic pull-up jeans. And they came in a wide variety of size and length combinations, so that no one had to wear high-waters.

Jeans that felt so right on her body encouraged her to buy new lingerie and some hot new shoes. It wasn't nearly as painful anymore. She found out she had been wearing the wrong size bra. Looking in the dressing room mirror, wearing a sexy red bra that lifted the girls up high and round, she realized for the first time in her adult life that she was built. Why hadn't she seen this before? Janelle had the hourglass shape and womanly curves that turned heads everywhere she went. Great legs, gorgeous hair, an amazing rack... all things she had been ambivalent about because she was worried about a few pounds.

The realization that there wasn't anything wrong with her, that clothing makers were making clothes for mannequins and not women, opened up the windows to her life and let the fresh air in. Gone were the "I give up" ponytails, cheap flip-flops, yoga pants and over sized men's t-shirts. She bought clothes that pleased her, and found another hair stylist (one who did not say "very thick and wavy" like it was a bad thing). She got rid of every speck of heavy makeup in her bag, threw out every can of meal-replacement-shake crap in her fridge. She got to know the people at the farmer's market by their first names. Granny panties? In the trash! Self-help books? Goodwill! Exercise dvds? Gone! She bought a great vintage-look bicycle and started shopping locally, piling her groceries in the cute little basket on the handle bars. She stopped using the elevator all the time. She traded in her old sedan on a sports car and drove that to the city instead. She burned her punch card for Tastee-Freez. No one else was in control anymore.

Next  year, watch for Annie-Elle's new swimsuit line.

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Those Days

This week we asked you to write a memoir piece beginning with the words, “I miss my childhood”.
We also asked you to keep it to 500 words. Just a reminder word count limits are there for a reason: to help you self-edit, and also to help our community members read more than a post or two.

I miss my childhood innocence.
Before I knew that people died,
That people lied.
Before I knew there was poverty, pain, illness.

I miss my childhood naivete.
School was the biggest worry in my life.
My only strife
Was chores to do before I played.

I miss my carefree childhood.
No responsibilites except to be a child.
Never wild.
And only striving to be good.

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Four Seasons

For this week’s prompt, write about a season of change for your character or you. It can be literal or metaphorical.

We sat at the table, me with a glass of moscato and him with a bottle of beer. We didn't eat dinner. We didn't watch a movie. We sat across the table from each other and said very little...and drank. Not our usual reaction to life's crises.

Twenty-two years of our lives together were changing that day. All in one day. In one, rip-it-off-quick-so-it-won't-hurt-as-much moment in that one day. A season, began when our oldest was born, was ending. Our baby left for college.

We cried. We talked about what wonderful kids we had. We cried some more. Drank some more. Then we looked at each other, silently considering the same question: Now what?

The answers floated around us like autumn leaves swirling in the breeze.

Less cooking.
Less laundry.
Less laughing.
Done with high school.
Our youngest son's wit and fun, out of the house and far away.
An extra parking space.
The loud sound of silence, where video games and the beat of music used to echo.
Half-empty grocery carts.
An empty bedroom.
A half-empty house.
Learning how to worry long-distance.
No way to check up.
Don't know his teachers.
No need to leave the porch light on when we went to bed.
We could walk around the house naked.
Learning how to refocus our attention.
Sex in any room, at any time of day.

Just us again. Like it was in the beginning. But now we know each other better. Now we love each other more. Now we know how to live together. We just have to learn how to live alone together again.

The third season of our life.

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Unanswered Prayers

This week, we'd like you to write a scene that includes a happy ending.
Surprise us. Don't give us what we expect.

The address on the fat yellow envelope was shaky. That's because Anya's hand was shaking when she wrote it.

"WFM Publishing's editors are interested in the book proposal you sent on February 10th. Please send a hard copy of the full manuscript to my attention for further consideration." That's what the email said. At least, those were the words that mattered. Please send manuscript. Interested. Consideration. They seemed like magic words, the "abacadabra" that would make her lifelong dream come true.

Hazy, half-formed pictures of literary success floated around in her brain like watercolor dreams. Book signings, rave reviews, book clubs, bestseller lists...all the things a successful author enjoyed. Most of it scared her. Fame? Terrifying. Public speaking? Mortifying. Marketing? What was that? Getting published was the only part of the dream that Anya had focused on; she pushed the realities of it away.

Anya dropped the envelope in the mail. Should she tell her husband? Would it be better to surprise him if she sold her book? She thought about the look on his face if she just casually handed him an advance check of many thousands of dollars. (Big dreams! Anya smiled to herself.) Would it sell enough that she could become a full-time novelist? She could hire an au pair and spend blissful hours writing, in some sun-filled corner room.

Weeks went by, then months. Anya imagined how she would furnish her writer's den. She speculated on how many books she'd have to sell to make it into a higher tax bracket. She thought about a sequel. Movie rights!

Then she looked at her little daughter, four years old and freckle-faced. She looked at her husband. He was as much a part of her as her own heart was. They had developed the kind of marriage that simply works, with love and laughter filling their home as naturally as cool freshness filled it on a rainy day. There was room in her life to write, because he was so supportive. Anya had crafted the life she wanted. Writing that bestseller was an old dream, but she wasn't as sure about it anymore. Maybe it wasn't the right time for that wish to be fulfilled. Maybe she was just losing her nerve because change is so frightening.

She opened the letter, and smiled.

"Thank you for letting us consider your novel for publication. Unfortunately, it does not fit our needs at the current time. Please contact us again with your next project."

Anya didn't need a happy ending. She had a happy now.

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I wrote this as participation in the Red Dress Club. I'm also submitting to Free Fringes'  lovelinks because this one really felt good to me.... and because I love lovelinks (found some fun blogs there!).

We'd like you to write about what your character wants most.

Which reminds me of the scene in
Good Will Hunting when Robin Williams' character asks Matt Damon's character, Will, what he wants. And Will can't answer. Because he doesn't really know.

Do you know what you want most? Does your character? Write a piece of 600 words or less and come back to link up here Friday.
This prompt was inspired by a prompt from Writing Forward.

There is a golden moment at day's end. That fleeting time between the end of day and the beginning of night, when the sun is down, the sky is still light and the trees are black silhouettes against the comfortable blue of the sky...that is the marrow.

There is a peaceful calm just before I drift off to sleep. The day's worries leave me for a time, my hope rises that tomorrow will be an easy and productive day, my body relaxes into my cozy bed and the sound of my sweet husband's even breathing lulls me deeper into rest. That is the marrow.

When the holiday meal is over and everyone sits companionably around the table, stuffed and happy, when the cooking is successfully over and the evening sets in, we tell the family stories. We laugh and remember; we contemplate the distance between those treasured moments and the pleasant now. Everyone feels warm, supported and loved. That is the marrow.

After nine months of joyful anticipation, edged with anxiety for the momentous task ahead, after hours in the delivery room, I held a new baby boy in my arms. I did that twice, four years apart. They were beautiful, wet and squalling, and my wonderful new role wrapped around me like a warm blanket. That, too, was the marrow.

It's the tasty, chewy center to life's crunchy, difficult outer parts. It is the rich, life-giving, replenishing nucleus of a life dappled by the shadows of everyday challenges. I strive for it always.

Where ever I am and whatever I am doing, I look for those juicy moments of peace. Sometimes they flit near me, but stay out of reach, chased away by the trials of the day. Other times, they hang around patiently  and I have a long stretch of simple joy.

I chase those moments of marrow like my OCD dog chases her ball. I work for it each  day. I cultivate it and try to create opportunities for it to show up. I wait to see it coming, my ears perky and my eyes blazing. My heart speeds up and my anticipation rises and BAM! The moment is there. The only thing to do is to stop where I am and gaze with relief and pleasure on the brief interlude when all the world falls into place for a few glimmering seconds.

It is the marrow.


Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ

Monday, April 4, 2011

Pink Poodles in a Garden of Honeysuckle

This week, your memoir prompt assignment is to think of a sound or a smell the reminds you of something from your past and write a post about that memory.  Don't forget to incorporate the sound/smell of your choosing!

"Mom, I don't feel good. Can I stay home from school today?" I was eleven years old, and a student in sixth grade.

Mom felt my forehead, looked into my eyes, and decided I was faking it. She had good reason to decide that, because I was a talented faker. And she knew I had P.E. that day and I HATED P.E. Off to school I went. 

I wasn't really faking.

I threw up on the bus. The speed at which all the kids around me made it to the front of the bus would have broken land speed records. The trash can I threw up into sat right on the heater vent and the smell of warm vomit started to fill the bus. But that isn't the smell I want to tell you about.

The school nurse called Mom, Mom picked me up and took me to Dr. Raven's office right away. It turns out that I had mononucleosis, tonsilitis, strep throat and pneumonia. It landed my skinny little 11-year-old butt in the Eisenhower Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs. My first stay in the hospital.  My fever rose so high I became delirous. Even now, over 35 years later, I can still recall the delirium dream featuring pink poodles.

When I was well enough to receive visitors, my favorite auntie, Tante Cine (short for Francine), came by to see me. She was an Avon lady; she was my own personal cheerleader and has been all of my life. She brought me Avon Honeysuckle hand cream.

My first grown-up lady stuff! Up to then, I was allowed to smell like either dirt or Ivory soap and that was it. The hand cream came in a little tub. I unscrewed the cap and smelled it. My first grown up cosmetic. It was damn near worth getting sick for.

She took a dab of the cream and smoothed into my stubby little tomboy hands. My nails were chewed, I had callouses from where I held the handlebars of my bike. Cuts and scrapes and nicks and all seemed better because my Tante Cine gave me honeysuckle scented hand cream.

Tanta sat with me for an hour or so and we talked about all those things that are so important to a pre-teen. Time for dinner, if you could call it that, approached and Auntie went home. The nurses were kind; they ooo-d and ahhhh-d generously at my new treasure. I talked them all into trying it, as if I were the one who had invented hand cream, and gushed about what a miracle this fragrant stuff was.

To this day, the smell of honeysuckles takes me back to a moment in my life when I felt cherished, cared for and so very grown up.

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ

Monday, March 28, 2011

Odd Girl Out

For this week's RemembeRED prompt, we're asking you to remember kindergarten. If, after thinking about it for a while, you can't recall anything, move on to first grade.

Mine your memories and write about the earliest grade you can recall. What was special? What was ordinary? What did you feel? Hear? See? Smell?
I am the baby of the family and like all youngest chilren, I wanted to do all the things that my siblings were doing. The idea of going to school like my brothers and sister thrilled me. I thought school was going to be the coolest thing since round wheels were invented.

My sister, seven years older, had been playing "school" with me forever. I thought school would be like that: where I was the center of attention (a rare treat for the youngest in a big family), and where everything was fun and I would spend time on things I liked doing.

It was 1969. My sister would be going to junior high that year, my brothers would be in middle school and I...I would be starting kindergarten! I was so excited. I dreamed of notebooks and pencils and a lunchbox of my very own. Mom loaded us up in the Oldsmobile and off we went to register for school.

Mom saved me for last. At the time, I thought that made my registration the most special. I have since realized that she made a loop and my school was the last one before the grocery shopping trip.

While my siblings were comparing schedules and doing a "who's who" of the teachers they would have, Mom held my hand and we walked in to the elementary school office.

The first person to greet her was Mr. Hessong, the school principal. I was in awe of this important dignitary, the famous Mr. Hessong. He was short and balding; he smelled like Old Spice, wore a pinstripe, double-breasted suit and had a very kind smile. My sister liked him, but my brother thought he was a tyrant. I have since figured that out, too.

The receptionist handed Mom a big stack of papers. Is she up to date on her vaccinations? How long has she been a resident of the school district? Mom completed the forms in her neat backhand slant and we went to the next station. We walked past the restrooms, with their peculiar smell of industrial deodorizer, mingled with little-boys-who-miss and Pine-sol.

Mom and I sat at a long cafeteria table: you know the kind, with a formica top and picnic bench seats attached. A sign was taped on the end, "Kindergarten Registration", written to mimic a child's writing, even down to a backwards "K". The irony of that still cracks me up. A teacher waited for us to sit. This was the woman who turned out to be the one who would put a pin to my balloon. The dasher of dreams. My nemesis.

You would think I would remember her name, wouldn't you? She sat there in her round wire-frame glasses. Her flat, reddish hair was parted severely down the middle and a long ponytail that ended in a ratty, skinny tail of split ends. She was fairly young, but smelled like Geritol and White Shoulders. She looked at my forms, talked to my mother and then began to quiz me.

"Do you know what color this is?" she asked, holding up a pencil.
"Good. Do you know what shape this is?"
"A circle."
"Well, I would have expected you to say 'round', but I suppose that will do. Can you tie your shoes?"
"Yes, ma'am." (Mom taught us to be polite.)
"And what is this?" She held up a book.
"That's 'Little House on the Prairie'."
Dragon Lady frowned. "And this?"
"A Child's Book of Days" I was sure I was correct.

She shook her head, looked back at my paperwork and dropped a bomb. "I'm sorry. Patricia is a little bit too young to start kindergarten this year. She won't have the social skills to manage this transition yet, and since she can read, she won't feel challenged by the curriculum. She won't fit in. She will just be a disruption."

I could read, but I didn't understand what a "disruption" was. Whatever it was, it wasn't good, I could tell that much. Mom looked over at me and I was afraid I had done something wrong. Then she looked back at the Dragon Lady and over at the two books that had been my undoing. Then she levelled her green eyes on the teacher.

"Are you the kindergarten teacher?" Mom asked.

"Yes." replied Dragon Lady.

"Good. Because I don't want her in your class. She'll start first grade next year with Mrs. Vest and you can keep your kindergarten!" My Mom. The Great Defender, with a Dutch accent that made her twice as intimidating.

I cried all the way home. I had been rejected. My dreams of school were crushed. I would have to wait a whole year and that seemed like a lifetime. Dragon Lady didn't care that I was a good girl who would never have dared to be disruptive. She didn't care that I was so excited at the prospect of going to school that she would have been my hero. I was exactly the sort of child who would have come home with "teacher said this" and "teacher said that" until the whole family would want to drown me. She didn't care that, as my first teacher, she would have had an influence on my lifelong relationship with learning.

Instead, she took a short look at a skinny, timid girl and chose not to bother.

I'm sorry to say that this is only slightly fictionalized. I actually was rejected for kindergarten for those two reasons. As a kindergarten reject, I never learned to take a nap, color inside the lines, drink milk, share or cut paper in a straight line. It's been holding me back ever since.

I am not wonderfully happy with this piece. It feels clunky to me, and even after reading it a jillion times, I'm having trouble figuring out what is clunking. Ideas? Be tough, I can take it. I got over being rejected for K. I'll get over concrit, too. :-)

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ

Monday, March 21, 2011


This week's Remembe(RED) writing prompt was to write about forgiveness;
forgiving someone else, yourself...forgiveness.

I thought I was good at forgiveness. When my sweet husband annoys me or inadvertently hurts my feelings, I am able to let it go quickly. I had a great childhood, but my parents were not very demonstrative or encouraging. Instead of being angry or blaming, I taught myself to look for the love in their actions, focus on that and accept it as a token of love. I certainly didn't stay mad at my children when they made childish mistakes. I even found it in my heart to forgive a brother who had really let the family down in our hour of need. I thought I was good at forgiveness.

Then one day, when I was nearly forty and looking down the barrel of Mother Nature's aging gun, I realized I suck at forgiveness. I hadn't forgiven myself for putting my dreams on hold. I still lambasted me when I looked at myself in the mirror. I hadn't made peace with my flaws or my spirituality and I didn't feel like I had progressed as a human being to the degree I should have. Should have. Could have. Would have.  But didn't.

I decided I better learn more about forgiveness and acceptance and I started with me.

I looked in the mirror. I really looked. It wasn't easy, but I looked. OK, I do have oily skin and a bumpy nose. My hair is very fine and a mousy dark blonde. But I looked beyond that and decided I have nice, large, gray eyes. My lashes are fair but they are quite long and thick. The oily skin has protected me from wrinkles, so I don't think I look as old as I am. The occasional zits contributes to that illusion of youth. I'm not skinny anymore, but neither am I overweight. Just curvy. I'm short, but at least I'm taller than I am wide. All in all, I'm no beauty but I'm pretty damn cute.

Next I examined my faith. After long introspection, I decided that I had come to a closer approximation of true faith than many avid churchgoers will ever see. The heck with them, my faith is between me and God, and we are just fine.

My dreams. Oh, my many dreams. I wanted to be an anthropologist or an archaeologist and a journalist and a Pulitzer-prize winning novelist. I wanted a home and a family. I wanted to have a ranch.

Forgiveness and reality make good bedfellows, so I revisited those dreams. I don't want to be an anthropologist. I'd chip a nail. I don't want to be a journalist because I'd have to be unbiased. I worked hard for all these opinions; I'm keeping them. I'm allergic to animals and hay, so no ranches. I already have a home and a family I cherish.  The last thing was the Pulitzer-prize winning novelist. So I sat down to write the story that had been percolating in my brain. I finished it. I had it e-published. Maybe it will become a best-selling ebook. I'm still chasing that dream.

I am still working on being a better version of myself. I want to be more patient, more creative, more tactful and more energetic. I want to learn how to make chili that won't wound anyone. I want to be better at embracing my talents, instead of feeling different and disapproved of. I want to stop ending my sentences with prepositions. 

At least, I've learned how to forgive myself for not having those attributes now, and learned how to work toward them without scolding me.

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mom's Belgian Endive aka Witlof

This week's prompt asked us to describe your favorite fruit or vegetable: the first time you tasted it, where it came from, where you were, what memories it brings.

My Mom was born and raised in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and came to America as a young adult. She brought with her a heritage of Dutch cooking, which seem to come in two varieties: the potatoes, cheese, onion and cabbage type of meals or, thanks to Rotterdam's importance as a shipping port, spicy Indonesian type dishes.

When Mom was in the mood for comfort food from her childhood, she would make this dish that had black-eyed peas and Indonesian spices in it. It smelled exactly like the north end of a jackass walking south and we kids all hated it. It took all day to make, so we had the whole day to dread that pot of beans. After a bean day, we were a little scared any time Mom was going to make Dutch food.

And then one day, about 30 years ago, Mom came home from the grocery store with a treasure: a food she hadn't tasted since she left Holland. Belgium Endive.  They are easier to find now, but back then they were unusual.

I looked at the white and green endives, shaped like a bullet, and thought, "Oh no. I bet these are going to be like those damn beans." I liked vegetables, but I was afraid she was going to dip them in some weird spice that grows only on trees that get pooped on by some particular monkey. Or something. I also knew better than to show any reluctance, though, because Mom would not tolerate a decision on food until we'd tasted it. So I watched.

She steamed them for about 15 minutes, and then rolled them in heavy cream, then seasoned breadcrumbs mixed with parmesan cheese. She drizzled butter over the top, sprinkled on some more of the crumb mixture and baked at 400 until they were golden brown and fragrant.

Oh. My. Heavens. They were so rich in my mouth! More flavorful than a lettuce and milder than cabbage, they had a flavor and texture all their own. The butter and parmesan belong together in the dictionary under "Perfect". Of course, you could  roll pretty much anything in breadcrumbs, cheese and butter and make it tasty, but these were divine.

Mom told us about the little green grocer where Grandma did her vegetable shopping, and the cheese market where Grandma bought cheese. She told us about how excited she was at her first trip to a supermarket, a uniquely American invention. She told us how Grandma was a "calendar cook". You could tell what day of the week it was by what was on the table. Mom is a much more creative cook.

When I can get Belgium Endive now, I almost eat myself sick on them. I love the way they taste and I love their connection to my own roots. I even love that they taught me not to jump to conclusions.

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Beautifully Ugly

This week's assignment is to write a short piece, either fiction or non-fiction, about something ugly - and find the beauty in it.

They were ruined. Bent and gnarled and covered with brown spots, Grandma's hands were ruined. Arthritis had eaten away at the joints, a fall had damaged her wrist, years of toil had roughened and chapped her hands until there was nothing feminine left to see in them.

Once, they were the strong and unyielding hands of a determined young woman. They were hands that had lifted her firstborn baby, dead from diphtheria, from his crib. They were hands that had scraped together meals during a starving time and then rejoiced when peace came. She had dipped her hands in a bucket of soda-ed water to scrub floors so many times that they were permanently red. As she aged, the skin had thinned so much that the slightest scratch made a gash which left a scar. 

If Grandma held her hand up to you in warning, it looked as wide as a door and twice as hard. (She never did spank me, though.) If she shook a finger at you, that crooked digit waving in the air shamed you into "behavior". 

But when she held my infant son, her first great-grandchild, her sure touch and loving, gentle tenderness made her hands beautiful again. When I was a child and she used her work-wearied hands to guide my own hands to knit a stitch, or to dredge smelts in flour, or to squeeze butter cookie dough from the cookie press, her long-fingered, reddened hands were beautiful. 

When I was a bride and she held my hand to see my wedding ring, the soft stroke of her hand on mine was filled with joy for my happiness. The beauty of her came through her touch and filled our hearts. Her patience and wisdom could be found in her teaching hands. The knowledge of a lifetime was seen in her busy hands, accomplishing her tasks. The love that she felt for all of us was easy to see in the delicate touch of her hands. 

The day came when her hands were too worn out to even hold a book. I saw her in the nursing home. I sat next to her bed she beckoned me closer. I placed my hand on her blanket and looked into her ancient face, smiling. And on my own young, hard-working hand, she laid her ragged, sore, withered and beautiful hand.

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ

Saturday, March 5, 2011


 This week's writing prompt: Imagine you are meeting someone for the first time. You want to tell them about yourself. Instead of reciting a laundry list of what you do or where you're from, please give us a scene from your life that best illustrates your true self.

"Mommy!  Mommy! Come Quick!!"

My youngest son, three years old, came tearing into the kitchen at top speed. He grabbed my shirt and did his best to drag me out to the front yard. His big brother was lying on the grass looking skyward.

Thrusting his chubby finger up to the deep blue, he yelled, "LOOK! The cwouds!  They're moving!"

"Well, what do you know! They are moving!" I smiled at my excited son.

We went into the house, got a big blanket and a box of graham crackers and spent the rest of the afternoon looking at the clouds skittering across the sky. I told the boys a story about a little, puffy cloud who wanted to grow up to be a big rain cloud. And since one of Mommy's principal jobs is that of teacher, we talked about how water evaporates, rises to the sky and forms clouds only to rain and release all that moisture back to us in an endless, life-giving cycle.

Daddy came home and asked what we were doing. Still excited by his discovery, our little boy said, "Lookin' at the cwouds go!" And my sweet husband flopped his tired body down next to us. We munched on graham crackers and pointed out shapes in the clouds.  We didn't finish the dishes or turn on "Wheel of Fortune", we looked at the sky.

Maybe I should have patted him on the head, praised him for his keen observation, and gone back to the kitchen. Maybe I should have given him something to do so he wouldn't "waste time" looking at the clouds. I didn't do that. It is too important to me that my children, then and now, know that I will never dismiss their insights and ideas. The biggest gift we can give our children is a sense of being valued and respected, as well as loved

I believe in the innate power of the storyteller. People have been entertained, informed and whisked away by stories since the beginning of humanity. So I told them a story. Mommies are storytellers, and we are our children's first teachers. I wanted my children to know about things like why it rains, to show them how all things fit together in an intricate plan. I wanted them to ask that all-important question: "Why?"

Now that those two cherished boys are grown men, I see those early lessons bearing fruit. They are both intensely interested in the world around them. They are both well-balanced, confident, capable and honorable young men. They both make good decisions, because they learned long ago how to think for themselves.

My children gave me treasured gifts, too. They gave me permission to cast aside my chores for a while and look at the world through their eyes: fresh, young, innocent eyes to which all things are a revelation. They taught me that it is never a waste of time to stare in awe at some beautiful sight. They gave me a precious reminder that life is short, that we shouldn't waste those golden moments of being connected to the ones we love and our remarkable world. They taught me to slow down, to hold life with both hands and smile at the wonder of it all.

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Garden of My Hopes

This week's writing prompt:
Water gives life. It also takes it away. Write a short piece - fiction or non-fiction - inspired by one or both of these statements. Word maximum is 600.

My wagon was the fifth in line in a long train of westward-bound women. We were all alike and yet so very different. We were all unmarried, either never married or widowed young. A few had children. And we were all willing to throw away our cautions and sense of propriety, and take our chances with frontier men who needed wives. We were all willing to defy our families to make a new start. I think we were all privately sure that this was our only hope for building the lives we wanted. Opportunities back home had dried up.

I stepped down from my wagon on the third day of July. Spring rains had been plentiful; the plains were green and vibrantly alive. A line of some forty men stood about. Each one was freshly scrubbed, hair slicked and a fearfully anxious look of hope in their eyes. They looked us over and I, for one, felt like I was a calf on the auction block: being sized up, evaluated for the strength of my form, for my ability to work... and to bear.

Mr. Jonas Hayes was our wagon master and he was responsible for the pairings. He knew the men, and he had become acquainted with the women. It wouldn't do to have a free-for-all, with men fighting over women and women running off with the wrong men.

So in the most unromantic of meetings, Mr. Hayes shook the hand of Mr. Jedidiah Crosley and led him to where I was standing. Before I had a chance to run or hide, which is what my instinct told me to do, we were headed north to Mr. Crosley's farm. My farm. Me. Mrs. Crosley. Love at first sight be damned because I didn't have the faintest clue what was going to happen next. All I could do was to trust that Mr. Hayes knew a good man from bad one, and that I hadn't made the most colossal mistake in the world.

Two hours later, with no words spoken and my insides feeling bruised from the jolting, rutted wagon road, a little house came into view. It stood strong and solid on the verdant prairie, like a protective mother with her hands on her hips. Fields of wheat, rye and oats stretched to follow the sun's path and the river sparkled in its lazy bed beyond. A square of black, rich, bottomland soil was waiting for me. It was five fenced acres near the house.

Jedidiah helped me down from the wagon seat. He looked full into my face, brown eyes shining, and finally found his voice.

"I've worked very hard on this place these last five years. I have good fields and ample water. This land will grow anything. I've fixed up a place for kitchen garden, and I built a stout house to keep warm. I thought I was building all that for me, but when I looked into your beautiful blue eyes, I knew I'd been building it for you all along." That day and many times after, when Jedidiah finally found his words, they took my breath away.

I planted my kitchen garden and the river made it bloom. We planted our crops and the water brought forth the bounty of the earth. Jedidiah and I grew our family on that patch of ground; the rains and the river kept us all growing. The things we grew together started the seed of a lasting love. That quiet, strong, gentle man who said those loving words to me on that July day? He watered that first seed of love with his patience and devotion.

The memory of my bleak life in the east dried up and blew away like the seeds of a dandelion. I put my heart and my hands into watering the life I wanted, and I grew a loving family, a treasure of a husband and a life of fruitful purpose.

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ
Fiction, obviously. I'm pretty old, but I didn't come west in a wagon. My eyes aren't blue, and I've never lived on a farm.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Harvest Gold and Avocado Green

The week's memoir assignment asks you to think of the setting of your life. Settings are so significant in stories--especially our own, true stories.  How we create setting can make or break the feeling we are trying convey in our story.
YOUR ASSIGNMENT: Think of a room from your past.  It can be any type of room at all. Take a mental picture of that room.
What happened there?  What is it like?  What is the atmosphere there?  What are the smells, the sounds, the sights?  How does it feel? Now reveal that snapshot to your reader. Take us to that room. And try to do it in 750 words or less.

It was a large room. When Dad built the house, he changed the house plan, eliminating the wall between a family room and the kitchen. Instead, we had a giant kitchen. That was good because we had a pretty darn big family and where does everyone gather? You got it. The kitchen.

The windows looked out on Spring Valley Lake, far down the valley, with the Tarryall mountain range stretching along the side.  The Harvest Gold dial wall phone had a cord that was long enough I could talk on the phone and wash the dinner dishes at the same time. Mom cooked; kids washed.

On weekday mornings, Dad would make breakfast for the kids. Our Harvest Gold linoleum floors got so cold in the winter that we kids would perch up on our chairs like so many chickens, trying to keep our pink toes warm. The smell of Dad's coffee and french toast with maple syrup was especially comforting in the cold, dark winter mornings.

One end had the workspace of the kitchen: a big U with lots of cabinets and counter top. In the middle stood our huge family-size table with 8 chairs. At the far end was Mom's sewing machine in its cabinet, the two extra chairs and the door out to the enormous deck. There was plenty of room between the table and the sewing machine for forts made out of couch cushions, a folding table that became "the children's table" at holidays, the entire collection of Barbie stuff, including her camper and all the inflatable furniture. When Mom got a new refrigerator and range, the big boxes they came in stood in that spot and were a place to play for almost a week until Mom couldn't stand looking at them anymore. That was the spot in the house where we kept the little peeping chicks, in a box under a light to keep them warm, until they were big enough to go outside. It was where sick dogs were nursed back to health, and where fabric was laid out to pin down a pattern.

When we came home from school, we made a beeline for the kitchen. Dinner would be started, the kitchen would be warm from the day's use and fragrant with something good cooking. We sat at the table to do our homework, play games, eat, talk on the phone....everything.

When I smashed my finger in the oak door at school, the kitchen table was where my Dad drilled a tiny hole in my blackened nail to relieve the pressure. It was where brother bet me that he could put a whole peach in his mouth, and he did. He sat at the kitchen table while Mom cut the peach out of his mouth with a paring knife because he could neither get the peach out again nor chew it up. It's amazing how much drool a kid can create when he has a whole peach in his mouth and can't really swallow.

We played ping-pong on that table, and that same brother found out that he could stick a ping-pong ball in his mouth and shoot it clear across the room with the force of his air. That was where he found out he could hold over a hundred pieces of popcorn in his mouth. He had cheeks like Dizzy Gillespie. It was also where he got mad and quit at games he was losing. (He did grow up to be fairly normal, in case you were worried.)

We rolled out the cookie dough there, kneaded the bread, and that's where the work of canning took place. I loved to see the jars of peaches, pears, tomatoes and apples cooling on the kitchen table. For hours afterwards, we'd hear that satisfying "PING!" as the jars sealed.

It's been more than 30 years since my eyes rested on the Harvest Gold and Avocado Green of the wallpaper flowers, the butcher-block counters and the brittle cold floors of that kitchen. I have only to think for a moment, though, and I can see all the family there again. Many of them are gone now, waiting on the other side. I wonder what THAT kitchen is like. For surely, the kitchen is the heart of the home; it must be at the heart of heaven, too.

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Free For The Taking

This week's writing prompt:  "I don't know if you've ever seen the eBay or Craig's List ads by people selling things from someone with whom they've had a big argument or a breakup. But they can be hilarious.
We want you to imagine you've just had a fight with a friend, a co-worker, husband, significant other, child - you get the picture. You're mad. It's time for revenge. What would you sell?"

Free Items!
The first person who shows up to collect them:
  • About 100 grimy, slobbery tennis balls (I threw my arm out on this years ago and just can't take the pain anymore)
  • 1 used "Dog-gloo" dog house (I am no longer tough enough to drag her out of there when I have to take her someplace.)
  • 1 used, hairy, barfed-on dog bed. (Which explains why she's not allowed in the house.)
  • 1 blue dog. She's old and obedient, but entirely too smart. I want to be the dominant female around here for a change. Do you want a dog who will chase a tennis ball until one of you drops? Who will pee all over you when you try to put her in a vehicle? Who I am absolutely SURE can count? She never runs away, throws up several times a day (and always has), and bends her mighty will to your wishes on the rare occasion she feels like doing so. She doesn't eat too much, doesn't chew things up, but she does eat bird seed from under the feeder, which might be the reason why she doesn't seem to eat too much or chew. She also doesn't "sit" or "lay down", not because she doesn't know the command, but because she doesn't think I have the right to tell her what to do. Do you want a dog who doesn't bark at things unless they need barked at, but does occasionally howl in the most hair-raising, unearthly kind of way? She doesn't dig in the trash, and she doesn't poop where she shouldn't (usually), but she does barf just anywhere. She has the most amazing talent: she is able to barf more than she has eaten. I doubt it will win you any television appearences, but it might win you a bar bet.
If you want this blue, furry bundle of contradictions and all her accoutrements, please call 1-TAKE-MY-DOG

OF COURSE this is fiction...sort of. That really is my dog and I didn't even exaggerate. She really is a blue barf machine, but you can't have her because I am not willing to abdicate my crown as "Dominant Female" after having struggled so long and hard to win it....
and I actually do love her. I can't explain it.

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ

Monday, February 21, 2011

My Grandma's Lap

This week's memoir prompt was to write about a childhood memory. 

I sat on my Grandmother's lap. My little cream-colored felted wool Holiday dress had appliques on it and I can remember the thick wool-on-wool texture, but I can't remember what the appliques were of. The dress had red ric-rac on it and I am sure my Mom must have made the dress. I must have been 3 or 4 years old, because we were in the house on Raleigh Drive in Toms River, NJ.

My Grandma's lap was one of my favorite places to be on any day. Especially on Christmas. I remember her long-fingered, capable hands and the cameo ring she always wore. She had worn it so long that the cameo no longer had a face, it was just a smooth pink stone.

One of my Christmas presents was a toy like an EZ Bake oven, except it was a little griddle. It's funny when I think of it now, to give a 3 or 4 year old child a toy that gets searing hot. Recalls are for sissies. I sat on my Grandma's lap and slid the little drip tray in and out and thought of the lovely grilled cheese sandwiches I would make. Grandma ooo'd and ahh'd and acted like it was the most wonderful thing she had ever seen.

It's easy for me to know why that early memory is so cherished. I loved Christmas. I loved cooking, even then. But most of all, I loved my Grandma! She was a source of unqualified support, encouragement and love all of my life. I loved the way that she never mastered the English pronoun, "I". She always used the Dutch, "Ik". She made amazing cookies and taught me how to fry smelts and led by her stellar example. She was a tower of strength, a rock of patience, a fountain of wisdom and every other inspirational cliche you can think of.  These many years after her passing, she still inspires me to be a better version of myself.

But that day, I was a very little girl in a woolen dress, feeling quite grown up to get such a toy, and wonderfully treasured because of all the many children in my family, I had the place of honor on Grandma's lap.

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ