The Story of Clairabella

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#weekendcoffeeshare – 3/29/2019

“Come on in, everyone, and have coffee or tea with me. It’s really good to be back to have coffee with you! You can have your choice of any of the hot beverages on the kitchen island. Then, please, join me in my writing studio.”

If I were having coffee with you this weekend, I would be really glad to see each and every one of you and to read up on how you are doing! It’s been a while since I’ve been here. I’ll try to catch you up on what’s happening with me.

I haven’t had much time for blogging, unfortunately, in the last few months. It is unfortunate because blogging and writing short fiction here really helped me hone my writing skills. Not just writing myself, but reading all your incredible stories on your blogs. When I come back, that’s what I do – read your blogs since I haven’t had time to write here myself.

If I were having coffee with you, I would tell you that I’m working a more or less full-time writing job now. It started out as part-time, but quickly escalated to full-time and that was fine with me. It is a pretty high pressure gig which is the only part I don’t like, but most writing jobs are as I’m sure you know. When I’m not writing for my job, I’m reading and planning my book. Some of you may remember that I was writing a book, but I abandoned that project in favor of a much more interesting book project. I’m in the research stages of it since the book is historical in nature and I have to learn all I can about the time period about which I’ll be writing.

I thought my book project was going to be a novel. It may morph into a creative non-fiction book – a memoir of sorts. Although I’ll be writing about other people more than myself. I’ll be serving as narrator, but my story will weave in and out of their story. At least, this is the way I’m envisioning it now. As book writing goes, it may change! I’ll be attending a writer’s retreat in the fall to get some help writing the entire first draft.

So that’s what is going on with me. Life continues on as usual otherwise. It is very early spring in Kentucky. It’s still cold and I’m ready for warmer weather. The new puppy, Tucker, a Cardigan Welsh Corgi, who I talked about last time I was here is now a year old and a real handful. We’ve started obedience class and he certainly needs it. I hope I survive it!

Some other news! I’m starting a new blog that I hope you will look at! It is about the issues facing the U.S. today and is called “life in pieces.” It’s located at https://usatheissues.com. We’ll talk about just that……plus my inevitable ramblings, but it’s not a fiction blog. Posts will not be daily. Just when I have time.

I’d love to hear about what all of you are doing. I’m probably just dropping in, but I’ll try to keep in touch. Thanks for stopping by for coffee today.

Timeless – #writephoto

She often came this way. She stopped and sat on the fence, looking at the single, timeless standing stone. It always caused her carefully controlled mind to wander. Back and forward. Backwards, she wondered where they came from. What they meant? Were other stones buried by the sands of time somewhere deep around this one, perhaps in a circle? Maybe this was a lone stone. Perhaps meant to cure sick children? How will we ever know, she wondered, what the prehistoric people who raised these stones really were doing.

Then there was that other theory. The one that some thought explained the pyramids as well as the standing stones. The theory that said that we weren’t alone in the universe. Perhaps other beings had helped those prehistoric people build these complex stone structures. Most discounted that theory of course, but she found herself thinking of it. It seemed so impossible that the prehistoric citizens could have done it themselves.

A timeless mystery of the universe. She started walking again, her imagination making her smile.

Renewal – #writephoto

Jane remembers the night they got to that island. They were just looking for a place to stay and they happened upon the bridge where signs told them of vacancies. They crossed the bridge, not really knowing where they were. Not really knowing they were going out into the Gulf of Mexico.

It was winter and even in the southern part of America, dark came early. Even so, someone was in the office of the first place they came to. After they secured a reservation, they went to their spot and crashed. Never really thinking about where they were. They had driven a long way. They knew it was warm and they could smell salt water. Sleep came instantly.

It had been a hard year for them before that winter. They were young. They didn’t know that the things that had happened, decisions they had made, would come back to haunt them many years later. They had the freedom of youth without the wisdom of age. Like most young people of ther generation, they worked hard and played just as hard. Too hard. It was the 1970s and their kind of fun seemed innocent then. They didn’t realize that it wasn’t. That the transgressions of youth would color their whole lives. They didn’t know that too much fun then would make the responsibilities of age hard and getting old so much more unbearable.

When Jane’s eyes came open, just a crack, the next morning, she looked around and saw the entire place enveloped in a warm glow. Bare tree branches were on one side of the place with palm trees towering over the other side. They had been lost the night before. She couldn’t imagine where they were.

Jane got up and dressed and walked out on the porch and down the road. The sky astonished her, layered in gold clouds. She had never seen anything like it. As she walked and nodded to the locals, she felt a weight lift off her shoulders, a sense of renewal wash over her. A decision she had been trying to make became clear to her as the tropical birds swooped in front of her. When she came to a general store, she found out the name of the island although in her mind, she’d already dubbed it her magical island. She’d been struggling with that decision for weeks.

After that winter, Jane knew they would spend many winters on that magical island. Looking back, she knows they will go back someday. It might be they should do it soon. Could it renew her once again?

#JusJoJan – Jan 3 – My Blog

“My blog” is our #JusJoJan prompt for today and that makes me smile. Why? I never dreamed I’d be a blogger! I started this blog in April of 2016. I can’t believe it’s been that long ago. When I started it, all I knew is that I wanted a place to write. A safe place to write on a daily basis. I fully intended to write in the same vein in which I’d always written. Non-fiction. Most likely in my field of business and finance. I hadn’t written much for awhile and I was going to polish up my skills to start selling my articles again. I did, indeed, do that for awhile. A short while.

There were things that I didn’t know. I didn’t know I’d find a community of writers here on WordPress. I didn’t know I’d read other people’s really awesome blogs. I didn’t know I’d become interested in participating in writing challenges. Most of all, I didn’t knnow I’d become interested in writing fiction. Fiction? Me? I had just spent thirty years doing academic writing. Terse and restrictive academic writing. Non-fiction – big time. Writing by formula to some extent. How do you jump from academic writing to fiction? It turns out it was not easy.

I had started writing, and getting published, as a child and then as a teenager. Then life and the 30 years of academic writing happened. My initial efforts at writing fiction here on my blog were terrible. Just awful. I started reading everything I could find about writing fiction. I started reading some of these awesome blogs. I gradually started getting more comfortable. I’m still not totally comfortable with fiction, but I’m better. I can knock out a non-fiction article very quickly. Fiction is a different deal. It takes awhile, lots of effort, and letting myself feel. Something I’m not very good at doing. Fiction involves creativity which I had not tapped into in a long time.

So, there you have my journey here with my blog. I’m not finished yet. I still have fiction skills to build. I’m even moving into different genres that I’m finding I enjoy. Magical realism anyone?

#JusJoJan – Jan2 – Prompt: One Liner Wednesday

”Talk to the ones who can hear you.”

Have you ever talked to someone and, suddenly, you realized that person wasn’t really hearing you? At the very least, they didn’t understand what you were saying and were just being polite? If you’re going to talk, talk to people who hear you. Really hear you. Your words are wasted otherwise.

We all have different kinds of friends and family. Some are more casual. Some are closer. The only ones that can really be closer are those who can hear you. Hear the meaning and feeling behind your words. Otherwise, it’s a superficial relationship.

I’ll tell you what I usually do. I usually let the ones who can’t hear me talk to me. If they ever stopped to think about it, they would realize they know almost nothing about me. Nothing of any importance anyway.

If you try to talk to the ones who can’t hear you, you’ll just be frustrated and you’ll grow to resent them. It’s not their fault nor is it yours.

Happy New Year – #JusJoJan Jan1 – Looking Back at 2018

Welcome to the 2019 version of my blog! A new year! I”m starting this year with a challenge I particularly like. Linda’s #JusJoJan Challenge. You’ll see a post here, based on her prompts, every day of January. It will be fun. Today is just a brief rundown of 2018. In some ways, it’s a year I”d rather forget. More about that in a minute. In one very important way, it’s a year I’ll always remember. I want to share this with you.

When I was growing up, I really only knew one side of my family. I knew them and will love them always. I never had the opportunity to know the other side of my family, mostly, I think, because they were far-flung geographically from me. My dad didn’t talk very much about his family. He died young and I didn’t have the chance to ask. As I got older, I had to do some research in order to try to find my family. In 2018, I worked on my genealogy using Ancestry. About that time, coincidentally, one of my first cousins who I had really never known had been looking for me too. He found me on Facebook and we connected. It has been such a great pleasure getting to know him! Gradually, I’ve connected with most of my first cousins and then, through Ancestry, some of my second and third cousins. How fun it has been to get to know this big family I never knew I had!

Besides that, which has been the highlight of my year, it’s been a tough year and I’m glad to see 2018 end. I have some health-related challenges that are serious and just cropped up this year. Getting old is not for sissies! Because of that, I haven’t made as much writing progress as I’ve wanted to make. I have a novella and a novel in the works and only now am I starting to feel like working on them again. I am even feeling like taking a job again and may be working freelance for awhile.

At my age, you start to lose people in your life and I’ve also had deaths among my close circle of friends. It’s seemed as if there has been one funeral after another. On the upside of that, I’ve had a chance to reconnect with forever friends.

I’m ready for 2019 and am hoping that it will be a better year! Here’s hoping all of you have a wonderful year as well.

Clouds – #writephoto

She doesn’t walk much anymore, but today, her dog needed to walk so off they went. He’s excited to be out and she hopes the walk will be good for her too. It’s hard for her to get outside her own head, but she looks around at the scenery and notices the beautiful, but darkening clouds ahead of her. She doesn’t think they look threatening, so she and her dog walk on. She tries to be in the moment mentally and he helps with that, smelling every smell along the way. It helps her to focus. As always, she’s thinking about many things while trying just to think about him and his joyous communion with nature.

The clouds are so beautiful that they cause an old song to pop into her head. She smiles as she remember Joni Mitchell’s original recording of “Both Sides Now.” The ultimate “cloud” song as far as she is concerned. She remembers lying in her parent’s backyard in the grass, looking up at the clouds as a teenager. She remembers the line “ice cream castles in the air.” As a young girl, she looked at the cloud formations and dreamed of such innocent and foolish things..

She and her dog stopped to rest. She gave him a drink out of his water bottle and he laid down to rest for a few minutes, looking around, drinking in the scenery. She watched the clouds as they moved overhead. As an older teenager, reaching adulthood, she still watched the clouds in the backyard, but the images became different. She remembers the words to the song. One stanza described her feelings at that time in her life, when she met a boy she thought she would marry.

“Moons and Junes and ferries wheels 
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real 
I’ve looked at love that way”

She had fallen in love and she thought he was in love. Something terrible happened. He was not the boy, she had found out very painfully, that she would marry. She reached down and touched her dog’s head. He was her touchstone now if her thoughts drifted to a bad place.

They got up and walked on. The dog was anxious to see what was over the next rise on their walk.

2018 had turned into a year of reflection for her. She hated that and thought it was brought on by her health issues which seem to have blown up this past year. She had spent the year frightened and it had made her look back at her life. She liked to look forward, but she was facing serious life-threatening issues. Looking forward had become difficult.

She had looked at the relationships in her life. Not just romantic relationships, but all of them. Family, friends. She saw the folly in so many of them. She and her husband seemed to finally be at peace. She had amazing friends. Something wonderful had happened with her family. She had found family members she hardly knew existed and some she had not known existed and she was getting to know them. That had made her year. There were other family relationships that were gone. Gone forever. That had hurt her terribly.

Love. Romance. Did it even exist or like in the song, was it just another illusion? She had come to the conclusion that love was very rare, that it seldom existed if at all. As for the rest of her life, however long that was, she found the song to be very relevant:

“But now it’s just another show 
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know 
Don’t give yourself away 

I’ve looked at love from both sides now 
From give and take and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all…”

They walked on home, leaving the cloud formations behind, to do whatever they had to do.

The Growling

It was a beautiful day on the beach by the village. The children could run out the door of their homes and reach the sand and sea in moments. Tourists who rented homes here and there could be spotted lazing in the warm sun. The setting was an idyllic as one can imagine. 

The small boy and his dog walked along the streets of the village that day. He was doing errands for his mother. The dog, normally so well-behaved, kept running circles around him with a low growl in his throat. The boy couldn’t imagine what was wrong. 

It seemed that the growl from the dog got louder. The boy felt the earth shaking. He’d felt this before. He knew it was an earthquake. The shake was a big one, but the damage to the village didn’t look severe. The growling didn’t stop. 

Someone shouted that there was a tsunami warning. The boy climbed up onto the roof of a shed and hoisted his dog up with him. They were hit by a wall of water. When it subsided, they were mostly alone, saved by the growling. Only a few others remained.

Thanks to Susan at Sunday Photo Fiction and to Anurag Bakhshi for the photo prompt.

A Christmas Story

The year was 1971. It was Christmas. Patricia was 19 years old, fresh out of high school and going to college in her hometown. The last year and a half had been painful for her, but she was traveling to her grandparent’s farm with her parents for the Christmas holiday. Because of the loss she had suffered and the way she had suffered it, she didn’t have much Christmas spirit that year. The trip wasn’t long, but she hadn’t wanted to go. 

Even though it was winter, the farm that her grandparent’s owned and still worked was beautiful. Stark, though in the summer it was lush and productive. Stark fit Patricia’s mood.  She’d felt stripped bare ever since “the incident” as her mother called it. Not only had Patricia felt stripped bare for the world to see, she’d felt lonely, afraid, and stupid, even amidst her friends at college. Since “the incident,” her mother had been more solicitous than usual, but her father, who she loved so much, had been distant and angry. It was decades later when Patricia finally understood that he wasn’t angry at her.

Patricia’s grandparents were getting old. They were still vital, particularly her grandmother. Her grandfather had been ill and was visibly slowing down. They were starting to sell some of the farm and its assets, knowing they couldn’t keep it up there for much longer. The parts Patricia loved were still intact. Once they arrived, Patricia realized she was glad to be there. She felt wrapped in a warm cocoon when she was with her grandfather.

Her dad was going to spend his time there fixing things around the farm that needed repair. Her mother was going to help her grandmother prepare Christmas dinner for the other family members who were coming on Christmas Day. Patricia had orders to read, study for her classes, and try to rest. They were all looking forward to the arrival of the babies on Christmas Day. Two of her mother’s sisters had little girls born in the same year. They were now six years old. Patricia couldn’t wait to see them. She couldn’t have loved them more if they had been her own.

Patricia awakened early on her first morning at the farm. She went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and found her grandfather dressed and sitting at the kitchen table. He was ready to go milk the two remaining dairy cows. When she sat down at the table, he asked her if she’d like to go with him, as she had when she was a little girl. She quickly said yes and he told her to go put on warm clothes because they might be a while.

Her grandfather grabbed his walking stick and they started toward the barn. He didn’t move as quickly or easily as she remembered, but she walked along beside him. He talked about farm-related issues and asked her if she wanted to try to milk one of the cows like she had in the past. He teased her about it and she said she would. She had never been good at milking. They pulled up side by side stools by the cows and Patricia tried to milk, but her hands just weren’t strong enough. Her grandfather laughed and quickly milked both cows.

As they left the barn, he stopped, turned, and looked up the steep hill behind the barn. He looked at Patricia, now almost grown, and asked if she would like to take a walk. He told her there might still be some hickory nuts on the ground for them to gather. Since she was a child, her grandfather had always sent her a letter when the hickory nuts were falling. She jumped at this chance to go with him, but she knew that climbing that hill would be hard for him now. She let him take the lead.

As they walked, Patricia’s grandfather talked to her. About life’s disappointments and hardships. About how she should hold her head high and never let them get her down. He told her to be proud of her roots. To get her education. To make him as proud of her in the future as he’d been in the past. All the while, he was breathing hard, struggling to climb that hill. When they reached the top, he rested against a tree and gave her a pail in which to put the hickory nuts. They would feed them to his two remaining pigs.

Patricia worked hard gathering those nuts while listening to her grandfather. He talked about his view of the world. How he wanted her to do well not only personally, but also for the world. He wanted her to never compromise her values. She heard every word he said and took those words to heart. Somehow she knew they were having a very important conversation.

As they started down the hill toward the house, she felt the burden of the last two years lifting off her shoulders. She felt better than she had in a long time. When they got back to the house, he went into his bedroom and said he was going to rest. He took a long nap. His morning with her had taken all of his energy. 

The next morning, the babies arrived and Patricia kept the two beautiful, blonde little girls entertained while dinner was being prepared. They were her little cousins and she adored them. Other family members arrived and the big family had a wonderful Christmas dinner at the long dining room table. The children all sat at tables prepared for them in the living room. The wonderful southern cooking and the love in that family was something she would remember all of her life. 

Patricia and her parents left for home the next day. She hated leaving the farm, her grandparents, and the babies. Her grandfather had given her the most important gift of all that Christmas. His wisdom and words of love. She went home stronger and she could hold her head up high.